ARCHIVE 267 – POLLARDED WILLOW (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 

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An ancient, pollarded willow by the side of Godney Road, west of Batch Farm, on the Somerset Levels; 29 May 2014.

Often when selectively restoring colour to a black and white image, I heave the slider all the way over and am in danger of producing what that glorious song terms a “technicolor yawn”.  But here the colours are muted.  The ancient tree is not too far off what it should be colourwise, but the leaves to the right are pale and with low colour saturation.  To the left of the tree there is almost no colour at all.  And thanks to the wideangle lens, the view stretches off across a grassy field to some other low trees, which are no more than faint impressions on the horizon.

This is a Minimalist image, perhaps – not in terms of actual content as it contains masses of intricate detail – but, rather,  in terms of its portrayal of colour.  What do you think?

Another image in this series, along with information on pollarding, is here.

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

D700 with 16-35 Nikkor lens at 16mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Triste 1 preset and restoring colour.

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ARCHIVE 261 – LOOKING TOWARDS THE EAST AND WEST WASTES (MONO)

 

 

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Looking towards the East and West Wastes, south of Godney, on the Somerset Levels; 29 May 2014.

I thought that they are just names on a map but, as I was pulled over in the entrance to this track and sucking down hot coffee in the rain, a farmer appeared and told me that the people around here call the flatlands out there the Wastes, the East and West Wastes.  And perhaps grateful for someone to talk to in this desolate spot on this wet and early morning, he started telling me about the big cats that roam this area – and another day I made an abortive attempt to find them.

There are several converging lines in this picture – the rough track (known as a drove hereabouts), the water-filled ditch (known as a rhyne), the horizon, and the pale wedges of pasture on either side of the rhyne and drove.  All of these linear features converge on that large and isolated tree, the nearest tree to us, which is the focal point in the composition.  For quite some time now, I have seen that rounded, dark mass not as a tree but as an explosion, as a shell or bomb landing maybe.  But how that interpretation fits in with this most tranquil of rural landscapes I cannot explain.

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

D700 with 16-35 Nikkor lens at 18mm; 800 ISO;  Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Strong Infrared Low Contrast preset.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 274 – SHEEP, EARLY IN THE DAY, UPPER GODNEY (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 

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Rising at 0430 yesterday, I drove on quiet, early morning roads through the valley of the River Chew and up over the Mendip Hills, and fetched up a couple of hours later beside the river, near the Somerset Levels village of Upper Godney.  And, as I backed the car off the narrow road, next to a little bridge, I found myself next to a field with sheep and their lambs.

I’d reversed the car quietly and slowly and, although regarding it with curiosity, the sheep had made no attempt to move.  But, thanks to a fence and vegetation, photographs from within the car were an impossibility and I knew that, once I emerged from the car, I’d be in a very different ball park indeed – the sheep would in all probability disappear over the horizon!

So everything was done very, very quietly and in extreme slow motion.   The car door was edged open a little and then a little more.  And then, the camera set up and ready, I inched – literally – out of the door, my eyes constantly searching the animals for the slightest sign of alarm.  Luckily it was an overcast but still and humid morning, and mild enough to walk around without a coat or sweater – it was a delight just being there.

The sheep glanced at me, stirred a little, and I froze.  Moving into a shooting position, a matter of a few feet, took over 10 minutes.  And I started very carefully taking pictures – wishing that the D800’s shutter didn’t make so much noise!

And here’s a first interpretation, heavily cropped, of one of the pictures.  As always, I like getting in close for animal portraits, but my 300mm telephoto didn’t get me right in there.  So I used the D800’s facility for producing APS-C sized images from its full frame sensor, a process which magnifies the focal length of lenses by 1.5 .  Nikon calls this DX format, as opposed to FX, which is full (35mm) frame size.

Click onto this image to open an enlarged version in a separate window.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor used in DX format to give a focal length of 450mm; 3200 ISO; Capture NX2; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Triste 2 preset, selectively restoring colour to the eye, and adding a heavy cyanotype tone; 8 July 2016.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 263 – DEATH OF A FRIEND 2 (MONO)

 

 

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Early morning, and a fallen willow lies beside the misty River Sheppey in Upper Godney; 1 Apr 2016.

Another take on this scene, and more context, can be found here.

Click onto this image to see a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 6400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Triste 2 preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 262 – DEATH OF A FRIEND

 

 

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This image is best viewed enlarged – click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window.

Fallen willow, a casualty of the recent storms, on the banks of the River Sheppey at Upper Godney; 1 Apr 2016.

A cold early morning, the frost still on the grass on the other side of this little river, but only a breath of breeze to make more penetrative the already incisive chill.  And an old tree, one I’ve known well, out for the count as they say.  Well, everything changes, nothing ever stays the same, and we must make the best we can of that “Fact of Life”.

The conventional thing would of course be to have had this image “the right way up”, in portrait orientation, and I have tried that.  But, although this is a picture of (more or less) reality, and a sad reality at that, I prefer it like this, to me it has more feel and impact to it in this orientation – and after all, if I’m going to show a sad event, let’s get something else out of it too – death can have its beauty too.

How do I see this image in my mind’s eye?  Well, if I let my mind go loose, that great, frosty wedge of grass on the opposite bank of the river looks like a sharp fang that is biting down deep into the picture’s heart; it is counterbalanced to some extent by the triangle of dark greenery at bottom right.  And, in this orientation, the tree is really not in too bad a position to be admired, not so flat out and fallen as it is in cold reality.

And finally, that great green fang biting down from the top of the picture has realities on either side, one real, one reflected – there are two cloudy skies and two trees down, and between them that great fang seems to me far nearer and more solid than either – its seems almost to be lifting up out of the image, almost as if it is biting down in front of the image.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 70mm; 3200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4; 90 degrees’ anticlockwise rotation.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 238 – WET MORNING

 

 

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Headlights on a wet morning; in Upper Godney, southeast of Wedmore; 14 Sept 2015.

I was down on the Somerset Levels again yesterday, early on a dark and wet morning.  Rain poured from leaden skies and there were large amounts of surface water on the back lanes .  Needing a warming restorative, I pulled the car off onto a rough track below the little bridge over the River Sheppey, next to Garslade Farm in Upper Godney.

Luck was with me on two counts.  First, I reversed onto the track so that, once stopped, I was left facing up the lane that carries on westwards to Godney and beyond.  And, second, I chose to reach for the camera, and to have it ready to go at a high ISO – before groping passionately for the hot, sweet coffee and thick cut, bitter marmalade on wholemeal sandwiches in the other bag.

The rain poured down, sluicing over the windscreen, and all at once there was a momentary gleam of light through the trees – a vehicle was coming down the lane towards me.  In panic, the mug of scalding coffee was precariously balanced, with prayers that it wouldn’t either fog up the windscreen or then again saturate my lap (I do suffer for my art on occasion).  I grabbed the camera.

It was hard to see much at all, but I spun the zoom ring to roughly frame the road out in front of me, roughly focused manually because even the D700’s autofocus wasn’t going to work in that streaming murk – and trusted to Matrix (i.e. multi-segment) metering because there simply wasn’t time for anything more considered or precise.

The car came around the bend and all was blur and glare.  I fired at it three times as it passed.

And here is the result – which is probably best viewed at larger size, in a separate window, by clicking onto it.

What can be seen?  Well, obviously, the blown out headlights, and their many reflections across my streaming windscreen.  The lane’s grey tarmac surface occupies the foreground, and a large puddle on the road shows as a slightly darker area in the left foreground, while the end of the puddle has caught the lights’ glare a little further to the right, below the car’s lights.

To the left of the headlights is the faint green tinge of the road’s rough grassy verge.  While in the background are the dark trees lining the little river, with the lightening sky showing through their upper branches.

And my feelings about this?  Well, I like the picture because it is unusual – which covers a multitude of sins! 🙂  – and because it reminds me powerfully of the moment.  And I very certainly enjoyed that moment – being there, in those dark and drear conditions, was certainly very, very real, and valuable too.  A feeling of Life In The Raw?  Well, perhaps, but remember that I was inside a car – maybe I’d have felt different  (and wetter, and colder!) had I been on foot …

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 170mm; 6400 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 222 – DAYBREAK, UPPER GODNEY

 

 

Daybreak, Upper Godney
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First light over Upper Godney, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 9 Jan 2015.

A grove of poplars, uncommon hereabouts and rather a landmark; a telephone line; and the bright windows of a farmhouse in which folk are up and about, getting ready for work on this cold and breezy winter’s morning.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 25,600 ISO; Dfine 2.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 171 – POLLARDED WILLOW 4 (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 

Pollarded willow south of Godney
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Pollarded willow, south of Godney; 29 May 2014.

I took this image into black and white, and rendering much of the tree’s skeleton black, restoring the greens of the foliage and superimposing a pale vignette, I’m left with two impressions.

First, a dark explosion within the tree is blowing it apart.  Second, some dark being within the tree is alive and raging.

There are other pictures in this short series here, here and here.

D700 with 16-35 Nikkor at 16mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Portrait preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 169 – LOOKING TOWARDS THE EAST AND WEST WASTES 2 (MONO)

 

 

Looking west to the East and West Wastes 2
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Looking towards the East and West Wastes, from the road south of Godney; 29 May 2014.

The open gateway to a field, on a wet morning.  The mud is covered in the tyre tracks of tractors, and a rhyne, this field’s water-filled boundary, makes off like a silver arrow up towards the horizon.

The first of these posts is here.

D700 with 16-35 Nikkor at 16mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 164 – POLLARDED WILLOW 3 (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 

Split trunk of an ancient willow on the Somerset Levels
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Another view of an ancient, pollarded willow by the side of Godney Road, west of Batch Farm; 29 May 2014.

This is a second view of the tree characterised as a laughing old lady, hereBut in this instance I’m presenting this creature in its correct orientation, and not making any attempt to make it look like anything but a tree.

Instead, this is an exercise in restraint – just as when, in that wonderful time when I helped person an office, I was able to inform an Important Someone who was looking for my boss that he was currently tied up with the auditor.   And, while that golden time is with me for a moment,  I remember us setting up a spreadsheet to record how many times daily our boss walked out of his office, looked harassed, and walked back in again.  Halcyon days …

Anyway.  Anyway.  Often when selectively restoring colour to a black and white image, I heave the slider all the way over and am in danger of producing what that glorious song terms a “technicolor yawn”.  But here the colours are muted.  The ancient tree is not too far off what it should be colourwise, but the leaves to the right are pale and with low colour saturation.  To the left of the tree there is almost no colour at all.  And thanks to the wideangle lens, the view stretches off across a grassy field to some other low trees, which are no more than faint impressions on the horizon.

This is a Minimalist image, perhaps – not in terms of actual content as it contains masses of intricate detail – but, rather,  in terms of its portrayal of colour.  What do you think?

Another image in this series, along with information on pollarding, is here.

D700 with 16-35 Nikkor at 16mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Triste 1 preset and restoring colour.

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