OUTER SUBURBS 47 – THE PATH TO SCHOOL (MONO)

 

 


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The path to school, one of Life’s Paths, one of the paths that we all tread (assuming we are lucky enough to attend a school, or are not schooled at home).  This particular path is through a rather utilitarian landscape.  Utilitarian? Google tells me it means “practical rather than attractive” which is perhaps a little hard; whereas picturesque might be a little charitable.

So what’s here for the children, on their daily walk towards learning?

Well, the wall on the right protects private properties: if they want to go in there (assuming they don’t live there already), they either have to go in for trespass and burglary (which might lead to far-reaching Life changes) or, later in life, get onto the housing ladder, as the phrase so happily puts it.  Getting onto the housing ladder?  Well, it means scrimping and saving to buy nicer and nicer homes for themselves, and thus getting themselves further and further into debt; prior to (at least partially) bankrolling their children to repeat the process.

Then straight ahead, at the end of the path, is the primary school: a state school, funded by taxes, with the wonderful aims of education, and of preparation of the young people for Life In The Outside World.

And to the left of the path, out of shot, is a church which, if at all possible, would like their souls.  Assuming, that is, that they – or indeed anyone else – in fact has a soul, which has long been a matter for speculation.  However, since the possession of an immortal soul is a cornerstone of this particular religion’s mythology, embarking on such speculation to the left of the path may become a little contentious.

So, looking at the options, I think that if I were the children, I’d stay on the path, I’d keep on walking straight ahead, at least until I’m old enough to make more informed judgements on both the worldly to the right and the divine to the left.

The first image in the Outer Suburbs series, with context, is here: 1 .  Subsequent images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Technique:  TG-5 at 25mm (equiv); 640 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Landscape preset; south Bristol; 2 Oct 2018.
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ARCHIVE 391 – DARK, BROODING GIANT ALONG CHASEY’S DROVE

 

 


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A misty early morning along Chasey’s Drove, Common Moor, just north of Glastonbury, on the Somerset Levels; 10 Aug 2003.

I have an ongoing love affair with the big, bold, black silhouettes of trees.  I probably find them very powerfully graphic, I don’t know, but I do know that they never cease punching me right in the eye – I can’t get enough of them – as witness some of the Mendip Hills posts.

I like this one particularly – the tree’s black bulk rises just about on the left vertical third and to the right of its vast trunk is a glimpse of misty, early morning countryside which, compared to this brooding, masterful giant, is insignificant, blurry backdrop, a pale contextual glimmer.

Technique: tripod-mounted OM-4 with 85mm-250mm Zuiko lens; Fuji Velvia 50 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO.

UPDATE: an image from what seems a long, long time ago, when I was using film – and when I was determined NEVER, EVER to change to make the change to digital.  How times change!  The appearance of Nikon’s “budget” full-frame D700 DSLR brought me over to digital at a stroke, and it is a change I have never, ever (those two words again!) regretted. Indeed, I feel incredibly fortunate, after 45+ years of film photography, including wet darkroom use, to be still photographing during the advent of the digital age: for me, the creative potential of photography has simply mushroomed. 

But now, having used optical viewfinders on Nikon’s superb D700 and D800, but then started using the really very good electronic viewfinders on Fujifilm’s X-T1 and X-T2 compact system cameras, I have a feeling that its electronic viewfinders that I want to continue with – and so to Nikon’s new Z series.  The 45MP of the Z7 are really far, far more than I need, and (with the experience of using the high MP D800) I know that using such high megapixel cameras need very careful camera technique – such cameras show ever little mistake you make!!!  So the 24MP Z6 might be far more my style – and then there’s just the “minor” problem of raising the necessary cash!!! 🙂

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SOMERSET LEVELS 314 – LOOKING EAST, TOTNEY DROVE (MONO)

 

 


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Looking eastwards along Totney Drove, a single track, tarmac road on Tadham Moor.  Tall Willows are silhouetted by the sunrise, and water-filled rhynes (ditches) flank the road on either side.  The distance is shrouded in fog, but the ghosts of cattle can just be made out in the background on the left.

This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Tin Type preset; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
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OUTER SUBURBS 42 – MODERN LIFE 6: SMARTWATER (MONO)

 

 


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Modern Life

Grass, in need of a cut as it happens, and the only natural thing on the menu here. 

Otherwise, a barrier to prevent the over enthusiastic from gunning their over powerful vehicles up and onto the grass.  

And a little glimpse of the adjacent pavement. 

And the detritus of a modern and civilised society that feels not only that its drinking water must come in bottles, but also that – thirst having been assuaged – local authority workers should then be left to dispose of / recycle said bottles.  If there is any thought at all behind this lifestyle beyond blank indifference, it is encapsulated by “Well, that’s what they’re paid for, isn’t it?“.

There are earlier Modern Life posts here: 1 2 3 4 5 .  Each will open in a separate window.

The first image in the Outer Suburbs series, with context, is here: 1 .  Subsequent images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further.

Technique: TG-5 at 43mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Monotone film simulation; south Bristol; 29 Aug 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 312 – SUNRISE BEGINS, ALLERTON MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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Driving south across the flatlands towards the village of Mark, in the early morning.

The landscape is low and dark, the night seeming unwilling to relinquish its grip.

But to my left, still below the horizon, the sun starts to light the clouds.

This picture is best seen enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 800 ISO; spot metering;  Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Sepia Landscape preset; Allerton Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 30 Nov 2018.
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OUTER SUBURBS 41 – SITTING IN DEB’S CAFE AND TAKEAWAY, ON A DULL FRIDAY (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

A dull Friday morning.  But, of course, to those working a five day week, Friday morning is never dull.  It is enriched with the promises of both edible treats to celebrate the working week’s end and, equally, to celebrate the start of the weekend, when all good things in life appear – for a day or two –  eminently possible.  But, weatherwise, this was a dull morning, with low, dark overcast and no sign at all of the rising sun’s glow.  In just over a week’s time we’d be in winter and, meteorologically, this Friday morning was getting all set up for it.

And also, for those into consumerism, materialism and our incessant manipulation by the mass media – and also, of course, those who know it as just plain, simple, good old shopping – this was indeed a dark day.  Indeed (there’s that word again!), no day could be darker, for this was Black Friday, when many hope to grab bargains (why does the word “grab” seem particularly appropriate here … ? …) and so accumulate yet more, “happiness inducing stuff”.  The more of it we have, the happier we are, right?

Anyway, oblivious to all this mass hysteria, I’d had a first breakfast before dawn, and then set off on foot into the dark streets with the little camera in my pocket.  And after an hour or so – and seeing that it was a Friday – I dropped gratefully into Deb’s Café & Takeaway and ordered a second breakfast – a thick, “doorstop” bacon sandwich, and a mug of hot, strong, sweet tea – ah, Life’s Simple Pleasures!

I’d been into Deb’s before.  Indeed I’d been into Deb’s when it was packed out, with no room to sit down, and so been forced to look elsewhere for what the more cultured gourmets of my social circle term “a good plateful”.  What’s Deb’s like?  Well, its a little street café  staffed by women whom I take to be three generations of the same family, it opens at 7am and closes after lunch, and it specialises in good, solid, simple English food, much of it in the full English breakfast vein.

And I like this place for three reasons.  First, obviously, the food is good, and not expensive.  Then, the women are natural and friendly – there are no airs and graces here – and since many of the early morning clientele are builders, scaffolders and other workmen, the atmosphere can be humorous, irreverent, ribald and earthy – in a word, three words actually, real and human: this is not the place to go if you like pretence, café au lait and croissants.  And that’s the third reason I like this place: there is a complete absence of the usual marketing, hype and bullsh*t that is so often a feature of the modern commercial/retail world – these women simply produce good, enjoyable, basic food and, as you eat it, likely as not there’ll be some convivial chat, gossip and banter around ……

So, as I sat there, taken aback somewhat by just how much of a doorstop I’d contracted to get outside of, I looked out at the grey morning and the grey urban landscape.  In that moment, what could I see?  A woman, head down, trudges through the parked cars towards the at best uninspiring (except for Deb’s!!!) row of shops.  Down left of her there is a litter (trash) bin, while the shining metallic semicircles immediately outside of Deb’s are the backs of chairs set around tables, for those who like to smoke while eating.  And further away, the suburban landscape: houses, a single decker bus, and bare, pollarded trees.  Rather a bleak scene, but one which was amply compensated for by the warmth and conviviality of the café.

And, grey and bleak though that view may have been, it was immeasurably enhanced by the absence of any hint of the burgeoning greed and materialism of Black Friday.

I downed the doorstop with lashings of ketchup, drank the delicious tea, struggled to my feet, made it to the door, and lurched off, heavily and uncertainly, into the gloom.

The first image in the Outer Suburbs series, with context, is here: 1 .  Subsequent images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 .  Each will open in a separate window.

Technique:  TG-5 at 25mm (equiv); 1,000 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Spectrum Inverse preset and selectively restoring some of the colour; south Bristol; 23 Nov 2018.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 311 – SCHOOL BUS OUTSIDE GODNEY

 

 


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The images in this short series from the Somerset Levels were taken on an absolutely beautiful morning, when the sunrise coincided with banks of thick fog.  Most if not all of the other images celebrate the natural beauty of that early morning, but here is one that simply looks at a facet of Levels life.

There is no school in the village of Godney, and so those who are not taken to their schools by other means go via the school bus, which is seen here waiting on the outskirts of the village early in the morning, prior to going into the village to pick up the children.

What can we see in this picture?  Well, obviously, the bus waiting amidst open farmland – it’ll be in a place where it does not block the single track road.  And the red triangle of the road sign to the right of the bus warns drivers that this narrow road is about to enter a series of sharp corners: the road is following the bends of the little River Sheppey – the raised river bank can be seen immediately behind the bus.  Then there is a telegraph poll, carrying landline phone cables.  And right of the road sign, part of the inverted umbrella shape of a pollarded willow tree.

A short while ago, my blogging colleague Harrie Nijland was talking to me about two distinct types of photography.  The first type of photo is simply a straight, factual representation of something, a record shot perhaps, or documentary photography.  This is such a shot, showing an everyday facet of Levels life, without any artistic ambitions or endeavour whatsoever.  But the second type of photo Harrie mentioned does use artistic / compositional / etc devices in an attempt to make images more attractive to the eye: and, for better or worse, the other images in this short series are all of this type.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 .

Click onto the image to open another version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Godney, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 310 – CATTLE, TADHAM MOOR

 

 


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Cattle grazing at sunrise: a scene that was almost silent, save for the animals’ faint shuffling, and the subdued sounds of birds, running water and a light breeze.

I’ve been turning out old papers, and have come upon copies of a long defunct birding magazine.  One of these has an article on the area of the Levels that I regularly visit, in which there are two quotes that I think really encapsulate the place.  I’d like to share them with you:

There are many features in common throughout the whole area; the quiet scene of grassland and cows, rhynes and pollarded Willow trees, windbreaks and thick old hedges and dead straight roads and droves.

And then, secondly:

All seasons have one important factor in common, that is a peaceful scene with very few people in it, no summer crowds and no traffic clogging the quiet roads.

These words say it all about the Tadham and Tealham Moors.  They are of course not natural landscapes, they are (fairly rough and untidy) open pastures that have been reclaimed, over the centuries, from large areas of lakes and marshland.  But they are plain and simple, what you see is what you get.  And I will end by quoting from this post’s opening sentence:

… a scene that was almost silent, save for the animals’ faint shuffling, and the subdued sounds of birds, running water and a light breeze.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 106mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 309 – LOOKING EASTWARDS, THROUGH A TELEPHOTO

 

 


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I’ve always enjoyed looking into the distance, looking out to the horizon.  Two of the beauties of modern (i.e. digital) photography are that even moderate telephotos not only allow me to do just that, but also allow me to see exactly (via electronic viewfinders) the result that the camera is going to record.

Here I was driving westwards in the early morning across Tadham Moor on the Somerset Levels, with the sun rising through shifting mist banks behind me.  As I drove, I kept looking in the mirror at the glowing landscape behind me and, on seeing this scene, I pulled off sharply into the open gateway of a field.

Jumping out of the car (well, as much as I can jump out of anywhere these days) I looked back, and the whole landscape to the east seemed ablaze with glowing, shifting colour.  My camera had a 305mm (equivalent) telephoto mounted on it, and I simply pointed it into the mist, started picking out details, and started firing.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 .

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet again – recommended.  Can you see the perched bird (top left!)?

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 308 – THE VIEW SOUTH, TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

So, where are we?  Well, early on a misty day, I’m standing on a rough track that goes off southwards across Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels.  The place that I’m standing in looks nondescript, but it is very special to me, it helped me through truly dreadful times long ago, and I call it the Magic Carpark.  There are four things to see.

First, there is on the left a bank of dark green, spikey grasses, grasses which love to grow in damp, marshy places.

Then, the rhyne (rhymes with seen), the water-filled ditch, which makes off straight as an arrow southwards, and which acts as the fence for the field on its left.  I’ve talked about rhynes in earlier posts in this little series.  There is another such waterway, out of sight, immediately right of the large tree on the right: this little, dark track goes off southwards between these two, thin, flanking bodies of water.

Thirdly, the large tree on the right, a Willow, is very special to me.  Following the fairly recent (natural) toppling and deaths of three others behind the camera, it still stands proud but, perched right on the edge of one of these water-filled rhynes, it too could topple in at any time and, arriving here, I’m always relieved to see it still standing tall.  Furthermore, on these visits, I never fail to go over to touch and talk to it, though never knowing if I’m heard, or felt, or mad.

And, on a purely practical note, since Somerset County Council have not been idiotic enough to install a nice, completely incongruous, modern toilet block here in this simple, rural setting, standing on the far side of this Willow is a very good place to, as our American cousins so succinctly put it, take a leak.  Behind this big tree, after all, being out of sight of passers by along the nearby lane … although not out of sight of the farmer and his wife as they drive slowly down to check their stock in the early mornings.  But then, you can’t have everything.  And they do always smile and wave.

And the fourth thing about this totally simple and nondescript little place is that – along this track – is where an old and valued friend is going to sprinkle my ashes when I finally, as the phrase so happily puts it, snuff it.  And what will happen after that?  Well, the feet of the cattle, the sheep and the farmers’ dogs, the wheels of the farmers’ Land Rovers, the boots of walkers and the torrents of rain, will press and flush what’s left of me further and further into this ground, a fate which, when I think about it, is just fine with me.  And, since this ground is just about at or even a little below sea level and sea levels are rising, there will come a time when these Levels return to the marshes and inundated areas that they once (not so long ago) were, and that’s fine with me too.  Even though I can’t swim.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 .

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.

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