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 34 – MURKY DAWN, TEALHAM MOOR (MONO)

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Dawn, mist and murk at the western end of Totney Drove, on Tealham Moor; 27 Nov 2014.

This Thursday past the Somerset Levels threw something new at me.  I’d set off from Bristol well before dawn and, as I crossed the Chew Valley and the Mendip Hills, had soon started encountering fog.  This dense murk thickened as I approached the Levels but that was to be expected and all was still fine – I was on familiar back roads and, even if I had to proceed slowly, I still knew where I was.  And then the road ahead was blocked by roadworks – the local council frantically making good drainage systems before what we hope will not be a winter as bad as the last one.

And so to backtracking, following diversion signs – and then I passed a left turn that I knew I should have taken – and promptly became totally lost and disorientated in darkness and dense fog.  This was a distinctly unsettling experience.  After all, I’ve been reading maps for most of my life and have a good sense of direction.  I drove on, I suppose for 30 minutes, recognising none of my surroundings at all.  At one stage, a huge tractor, covered in rotating lights, drove by, irresistibly reminding me of the alien spacecraft in Close Encounters of the Third Kind – what am I on???

Anyway, it was just after this that I was passing the entrance to a small lane – when there was a sudden hint of familiarity – I swerved into it, drove down a road I thought (hoped!) I knew – and was immensely relieved to emerge out onto the western edges of Tealham Moor.

Driving on south down Kid Gate Drove, I got to the western end of Totney Drove and, immensely relieved, left the car’s sidelights on and got out.  Walking along Totney Drove, I looked back westwards, and here is that view – mist and murk on the western edges of Tealham Moor, at dawn.  And was it murky?  Yes it was – I was shooting at 12,800 ISO with image stabilisation activated and the lens wide open.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 12,800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 2 preset.

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.

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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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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 28 – ENTRANCE TO A FIELD OF RECENTLY CUT GRASS

 

 


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I’m standing on the tiny, grassy bridge across a water-filled ditch – known locally as a rhyne – which allows access of man, beast and machine to the large, open field of recently cut grass to the left.  A period of dry weather is forecast and, almost to a man, everywhere, the farmers have been out cutting their grass.

The actual metal gate to the field is open and out of shot to the left, and such short sections of wooden fencing as the one here are erected on either side of gates everywhere in this flat landscape, to prevent animals trying to squeeze around the gates from either falling into the rhynes, or gaining access to the tiny bridges and actually escaping.

The dead straight rhyne makes off eastwards across the relatively recent landscape of Queen’s Sedge Moor, and just visible up to its right is the tarmac surface of the single track Long Drove, which accompanies the rhyne across this flatland.

In all of this wonderful flatness, two areas of higher ground can just be seen.  Look along the line of the rhyne, and there is a bluish escarpment – the uplands of Launcherly Hill and Worminster Down – and over beyond there, further to the right, well that’s where the Glastonbury Festival is held.  I have never been to the festival (tho watching lots of it on TV) but, quite simply, I think it an absolutely wonderful event, something of a shining light in an often dull world, and I can only hope that it will continue for many, many years to come.

Look over to the left and you will see a long line of more distant high ground topped by a towering TV mast – these are the Mendip Hills, the northern limit of the Levels in this area, and an important part of my early life.

And, as has happened to me many times before when viewing such pictures, the large upstanding tree near the rhyne’s vanishing point resembles nothing more than an exploding artillery shell.  Why I should receive this impression, I cannot imagine.  I’m not sure I believe in the possibility of having lived earlier lives than this one but – who knows?

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

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 27mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Astia/Soft profile; Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 5 July 2019..

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.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 27 – AT ROSE FARM, LOOKING EAST (MONO)


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The view out across a misty landscape, early in the day.

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 116mm; 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Vivid v2 picture control; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Tin Type preset; at Rose Farm, on the Somerset Levels south of Tarnock; 3 May 2019.

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.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 26 – STORM (MONO)

 

 


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Storm-blown trees on Tadham Moor, early on 23 Dec 2013.  Taken through my car’s windscreen, during heavy rain.

With a bad weather alert broadcast, I went down very early to the Somerset Levels yesterday, arriving there before dawn.  Sitting there in the dark watching all things materialise around me as the dawn crept up was magical, but there were downsides.  With a southerly airflow the day was mild, but whereas I’d left Bristol in dry and calm darkness, the weather forecasts’ warnings proved absolutely right with the advent of strengthening winds and worsening rain almost as soon as I’d pulled up and got stuck into my frugal repast – thick, bitter marmalade sandwiches, plain chocolate digestive biscuits (well its Christmas!) and hot, sweet coffee – in Swanshard Lane, near Polsham.

Dull light came and I pushed on westwards towards Tadham and Tealham Moors, but the little roads were already very wet and the rain and wind worsened.  I stayed quite a time down there, glorying in the wildness of the elements, but that wet place was just getting very much wetter, and with the waterways full to the brim and the roads actively awash and strewn with tree debris, I at last started for home.

This archive presents some of the pictures that I’ve taken on the Somerset Levels over many years.  More context can be found in the first post in this archive – 1 – and also in my first Somerset Levels post, from 2011 – here .  Further posts in this archive 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 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours 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 270mm; 25,600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro’s Film Noir 3 preset.

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.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 24 – RISING SUN WITH FOG, TEALHAM MOOR (MONO)

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Rising sun behind fog, Tealham Moor; 8 Apr 2015.

The view eastwards from the top of the low bridge over the North Drain (the waterway on the right), on a cool and still, April morning.

This archive presents some of the pictures that I’ve taken on the Somerset Levels over many years.  More context can be found in the first post in this archive – 1 – and also in my first Somerset Levels post, from 2011 – here .

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 200 ISO with 1 stop underexposure; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Portrait preset and adding a cool 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.

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ARCHIVE LEVELS 22 – RAIN STORM

 

 


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Rain storm photographed from inside my car at the Magic Carpark, Tadham Moor; 20 Jan 2008.  The prominent and upstanding dark object is the end of a line of trees, and the dull grey area that starts from centre bottom of the frame and moves left and then up past the left of the trees is a narrow road.  To the right of the tree is a pale, water-filled ditch.

This archive presents some of the pictures that I’ve taken on the Somerset Levels over many years.  More context can be found in the first post in this archive – 1 – and also in my first Somerset Levels post, from 2011 – here .  Further posts in this archive are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

The first Somerset Levels picture gallery, which shows the first 10 of these posts with short captions – ideal for quick viewing – can be found here .

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

Technique: F6 with 24-85 Nikkor lens; Fuji Provia 400X colour slide film, rated at 1600 ISO.

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.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 21 – EARLY MORNING

 

 


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Looking into the distance as a day begins.

This archive presents some of the pictures that I’ve taken on the Somerset Levels over many years.  More context can be found in the first post in this archive – 1 – and also in my first Somerset Levels post, from 2011 – here .  Further posts in this archive are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

The first Somerset Levels picture gallery, which shows the first 10 of these posts with short captions – ideal for quick viewing – can be found here .

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 1600 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait v2 profile; looking out towards Hay Moor from Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 2 Aug 2019.

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.

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