ARCHIVE: STILL LIFE 28 – PLANTAIN (MONO)


Perhaps a still life in the true sense of the term – Plantain from our Bristol garden; 22 June 2014.

Taking my life (and my plant guide) in my hands, I’m going to identify this as the Ribwort Plantain.  And this is the first denizen of our front garden that I’ve pictured.  Not that it was in the front garden when I pictured it.  Seeing these plantains – plants that I’ve always liked – beside our front gate, I held back The Destructor (our petrol mower) from roaring and ravaging over them and instead let it roar and ravage around them, so that I could preserve them and bring a bloom indoors.

And if this is indeed the Ribwort Plantain, my little book tells me that its one of the commonest European plants – and also that it grows in “grassy and waste places”, which describes our diminutive and scraggy front garden to a tee.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 with 105mm Nikkor lens; 100 ISO; tripod; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Landscape preset.

ARCHIVE STILL LIFE

This is a new category on this blog – Archive Still Life studies.  The Still Life definition will certainly be followed loosely – e.g. some studies may only have been made “still” by the split second opening of the camera’s shutter – and my objective will be to use as many different types / genres of subject matter as possible.  Some images will be Minimalist and, in general, I try to make simpler images, rather than cramming them with visual content.

Some new Still Life studies will (hopefully!) continue to appear.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 70 – WALTON MOOR (MONO)


My penchant for getting in close for an animal portrait, in this case via a telephoto; having the beast looming large and filling – if not bursting out of – the frame.

As well as this creature’s great, shaggy presence, I like all the lengths of loose straw hanging from its thick woolly coat – it has recently been led down, probably beside the winter feed put out by the farmer.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 used in DX format with a 70-300 Nikkor lens to give a 450mm telephoto; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Wet Rocks preset; Walton Moor, south of the Polden Hills; 13 Jan 2016.

SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.



ARCHIVE: STILL LIFE 25 – JACKDAW WITH ELECTRICS (MONO + COLOUR)


Jackdaw near Perranporth, Cornwall, 14 April 2016.

What do I think about this image?  Well, to start with, it looks odd, and the more so perhaps because I’ve re-coloured the more colourful elements after taking the whole thing into slightly toned black and white.

Then there is a disparate assemblage of elements here, the living, natural bird on the one hand and all those decidedly non-natural electrics on the other – and those electrics are held up in the air, safely away from the likes of you and me, on wooden poles – which are formerly living (and now rounded for purpose) natural things.

And the bird is looking out of the picture, away from all the technology.  Is there disdain there, in that averted gaze, for the immobile, Unnatural World?  Or maybe there is the knowledge that that World has certainly, by one means or another, significantly reduced the numbers of this country’s wild birds within the lifetime of the FATman who, out of frame, is standing below this tableau and looking up.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Yellowed 1 preset and selectively restoring colour.

ARCHIVE STILL LIFE

This is a new category on this blog – Archive Still Life studies.  The Still Life definition will certainly be followed loosely – e.g. some studies may only have been made “still” by the split second opening of the camera’s shutter – and my objective will be to use as many different types / genres of subject matter as possible.  Some images will be Minimalist and, in general, I try to make simpler images, rather than cramming them with visual content.

Some new Still Life studies will (hopefully!) continue to appear.



ARCHIVE: STILL LIFE 23 – ROOFS


Tiled roofs at Stanton Drew, Somerset; 7 May 2013.

Repeating patterns have a great appeal to the human eye.  When photographing them, its often good to have an exception – something that breaks the pattern – to act as a focal point in the picture.

Here, the change in orientation of the patterns between the patterns on the two roofs helps, as does the bluish metal along their interface.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; rotated 90 degrees clockwise.

ARCHIVE STILL LIFE

This is a new category on this blog – Archive Still Life studies.  The Still Life definition will certainly be followed loosely – e.g. some studies may only have been made “still” by the split second opening of the camera’s shutter – and my objective will be to use as many different types / genres of subject matter as possible.  Some images will be Minimalist and, in general, I try to make simpler images, rather than cramming them with visual content.

Some new Still Life studies will (hopefully!) continue to appear.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 63 – BULRUSHES


Bulrushes; Walton Moor, south of the Polden Hills; 13 Jan 2016.

Crouching down low beside a grove of these reeds, I looked inside, looking into another world. 

Low angle sunlight reached through to me but much remained diffuse and mysterious, a dark world within, somewhere I could only peer and guess at, somewhere I did not belong, somewhere my attempts at entry would only cause chaos and destruction.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 49 – CROW ON FALLEN TREE (MONO)


Carrion Crow perched on a fallen tree; Tadham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 31 Mar 2014.

Early in the day, I pulled bleary eyed into the Magic Carpark, stumbled out of the car – and saw this crow.  Praying that it wouldn’t move, and all fingers and thumbs, I readied the camera, turned and – it was still there!  In fact it stayed there for sometime.

The tree is a casualty of the recent severe flooding.  It was probably not standing vertically before, but then its roots had been able to find sufficient purchase in the soil.  But, saturate that soil with floodwater for many weeks and turn it into something like blancmange or wet rice pudding, and the roots were simply not up to the task of keeping the great bulk of trunk and branches above them upright.

I went for a pure silhouette, with the sky completely burnt out, for simplicity – a Minimalist approach.  To me, the few branches entering the frame at upper right serve to balance the composition.  The adding of a blue tone takes the scene further away from reality.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Classic Portrait preset, and adding a Cyanotype tone.

SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 42 – SKYLARKS OVER TEALHAM MOOR

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My latest visit to the Somerset Levels produced something really of note. I was an enthusiastic birder for decades and have had many great experiences with birds – but 28 June 2013 certainly ranks up there with the best in recent years.

The weather was really not summery, with a stiff westerly breeze carrying in intermittent spits and spots of rain from the Bristol Channel, and I’d driven up to the low bridge where the tarmac of Jack’s Drove crosses the North Drain, a sizeable but totally manmade waterway. I walked across the tiny road towards the rough pasture on the other side and, as I got there, a Skylark exploded up from the grass immediately in front of me and, wings flapping frantically to hold its station in the teeth of the cold wind, it rose vertically up into the sky and hung there, right in front of me, singing its head off. If only I’d had the camera ready!

Click onto each photo to open a larger version in a separate window.

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But luckily this was not to be the sole such performance. These little birds are up to 18cm long, bill tip to tail tip – that’s somewhere around 7 inches to you and me – and the simple fact is that I’m staggered by the images I’ve captured. But, make no mistake, this post is not about my photographic prowess, but rather about the D800’s autofocus capabilities, which stun me. And the D700 has the same abilities. There’s no question, but that without these Nikons’ brilliant autofocus, I wouldn’t be able to attempt many of the shots that I do. Manual focus could never keep up with these situations – and the more so with my ageing eyes.

And as I’d forgotten how to use the D800’s 3D autofocus, all of these pictures were taken using a single autofocus point, in gusting wind and spitting rain. I took many, many shots and of course large numbers are complete failures – maybe if I’d got the 3D autofocus working the hit rate might have been higher – there was after all nothing else in the blank sky for the autofocus to latch onto. These images were taken with the long end of my 70-300 zoom using DX format, i.e. at a focal length of 450mm. They are not all sharp, but these few are close enough to it for me

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Skylarks have a special place in my heart. I never fail to be entranced and uplifted by the spectacle of their determined rise up into the heavens, and then their tiny specks soaring at great height over their territories – almost invisible, high up, showering the landscape below with their incessant, fast paced song which (I read in my birdguide) can last for anything up to 15 minutes at time. I regard them as something special in the English landscape, an integral and special part of my homeland – tho realising of course that they can be found all over Europe, where they are summer visitors to the colder parts.

The birds have their beaks open in these photos – they are singing their heads off!

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SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.

ARCHIVE: LEVELS 40 – EARLY IN THE DAY, JUST BEFORE MIDWINTER

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The first flushes of sunrise on 16th Dec 2016 –  just before the shortest day of the year.  I was heading towards the village of Mark, and looking eastwards across Binham Moor.

Composition: a noisy, grainy, blurry image – no more than an impression of what it was like being there.  And what was it like being there?  Well, it was ******* cold and, despite 1/250th and image stabilisation, I was lying across the outside of the car, hoping to high heaven that, shivering as I was, I could still hold the camera steady.  Did I have a tripod with me?  Yes.  Could I be bothered to use it?  Nope – but then that’s always the case!  This image is very much a series of horizontal layers, one on top of the other, the darkness of the ground moving up, in a series of discreet steps, into the first welcome tints of the day.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 25,600 ISO; 1/250th, wide open at f5.6; Lightroom.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 39 – SWANS OVER TEALHAM

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Mute Swans about to land on flooded Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 7 Feb 2014.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Much against good sense, I ventured down onto the Levels recently, to my habitual haunts on Tealham and Tadham Moors.  Not daring to take my usual cross-country route because of the many places where even small amounts of flooding might cut it, I drove down the main A38 road south from Bristol to Highbridge, and then went eastwards into the flatlands along another, relatively large road.  All was well on these main roads, but as soon as I got onto the smaller lanes, problems with water appeared.

Tealham and Tadham were mostly submerged, with just just the roads sticking up above the waters and little traffic about, but the floods in this more northerly part of the Levels are nothing like those further south, south of the Polden Hills, where whole villages are being overwhelmed, main roads have been cut for weeks, cutting edge pumping technology has been brought in from Holland, and the Army has been called in to help the local people.

This image is starting to look rather unphotographic, more like a painting maybe, and I always feel good when this happens.  Henrietta Richer and Dave Battarbee have both made suggestions about this image, which I’ve incorporated.  

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 32 – SUN RISING OVER GLASTONBURY TOR

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Sunrise over Glastonbury Tor, seen from Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 22 Nov 2013.

I’ve lightened the centre section to bring interest to the mid-ground with the two cows – but I’m sure they should have shadows … oh dear, digital … not always quite up to it are you?  Or maybe I’m not quite up to it – its probably me ….

And of course I’m pointing my magnificent if distinctly weighty telezoom straight into the sun’s glare, and so to a second, orange sun low down in the frame, and also some rather fiery glows between that sun and the real one.  I could have gone at it with software to try and make good these optical artefacts but, first, I can’t be bothered, and second, I think they add to the atmosphere and feeling of the shot – I mean, I’m pointing a x6 telephoto directly into Our Star’s incandescent face, so what do I expect, perfect and pristine optical rendition?

I like the 80-400 (but – Jan 2020 – have sold it now).  Large and unwieldy it may be and its not one of Nikon’s very quick AF-S lenses, but it is image stabilised and I can hand hold it, and it gives such reach and flexibility.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: D800 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO.

SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywordsthat will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.

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