OUTLANDS 17 – FIELD NEAR WEST LITTLETON

 

 

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Ploughed field beside the track running northeast from West Littleton, 12 April 2017.

A wide angle lens, pointed down at the ground in front of me and, seeing more than the human eye is capable of, giving me detail right out to the horizon.

Context about this second Outlands trip can be found here, and there are other images here: 12, 13, 14, 15, 16.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto this larger version to enlarge it still further.

Technique: X-T1 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom.
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ARCHIVE 313 – TRACK, TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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Track heading south across Tadham Moor, Somerset Levels; 29 Aug 2009.

I bought my first digital camera early in 2009 and, with what’s left of my mind, have been thinking that I made a total and immediate switch to digital, with my film gear and remaining films becoming at once obsolete (my last, unused films are in fact still in the fridge).

However, some images that I’ve found this morning, including this one, show that this was not the case – and I know why.  Because while digital colour pictures were fine, I just couldn’t get digital black and white to be anything other than bland, characterless and antiseptic.

Bland?  Yes, bland, and for two reasons.  First of course, I wasn’t yet aware of the editing software – most notably Silver Efex Pro –  that would solve these problems.

But second, I’d also had a thing for using fast black and white films – Fuji Neopan 1600 is the one here, but also Agfa Scala Black and White Slides – and then having them commercially push-processed.  Push-processing involves uprating a film’s speed during development so that, for example, if I’d exposed a 400 ISO film at 400 ISO, I would ask the processing lab to develop it as if I’d exposed it at 1600 ISO – and this sort of processing gave wonderful contrast and grain – its made the images really atmospheric, moody and gutsy.  (I push-processed colour slides too, most notably Fuji Provia 400X, and loved the results).

And so, when I found digital black and white to really not be doing the business, I returned for awhile to slamming away with push-processed mono film in my Nikon F6 – and this photo is an example of that.  I mean, just look at the grain in those clouds – was I photographing in a blizzard???  And the whole thing looks old – this is definitely not antiseptic newness.

But there is an irony here – and the joke is on me.  Because when I’d managed to get digital black and white doing what I wanted, via various editing programs, and then thought that I should use those programs on scanned versions of my push-processed film images >>> failure was everywhere in the air!

Because although these pushed films look good as they are, they simply do not contain the vast wealth of image data found in a full colour, digital Raw file – full colour, digital Raws are really by far the best jumping off points when converting images to black and white.

Technique: F6 with 12-24 Sigma lens at 12mm;  Fuji Neopan 1600 black and white film, push processed 2 stops to 6400 ISO, to achieve a grainy effect.  The extreme wideangle lens (12mm focal length = 122 degrees angle of view) captures detail from almost beneath my feet to the far distance.

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ARCHIVE 309 – THE 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.  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.

An earlier image in this series is here .

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

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

UPDATE: that wonderful but rather bulky 80-400 Nikkor lens has now disappeared >>> in a part exchange deal to buy a Fujifilm mirrorless camera!  I wonder if it was a wise swap?  Probably, I think, probably, and certainly so in terms of size and portability.  And the (already, in our digital world, aged) D800 has a trick up its sleeve – using it in Nikon’s APS-C format, which Nikon calls DX format, it multiplies the focal length of lenses by x1.5, so that my lighter and less bulky 70-300 Nikkor (my favourite Nikon lens of all) becomes 105-450 – and 400mm is still covered!
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ARCHIVE 298 – BLACK AND WHITE IMAGES PRODUCED BY SILVER EFEX PRO 2

 

I’ve just put out a post urging readers of my blog to take advantage of Google’s free offer of the Google Nik Collection digital photography plug-ins.  I waxed especially lyrical about the Silver Efex Pro 2 program for creating black and white images, and said that very many images produced by the program can be found on this blog.  Well, here is one – I hope you enjoy it.  (And there are others in recent posts here, here and here).

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Inquisitive as ever, out on Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 29 Aug 2013.

My ongoing warm feelings for cows.  The main subject is making a dive for my shiny lens – I fired and jumped back just before his wet muzzle engulfed it.  The expression of the next animal right is interesting – distinctly doubtful and censorious.  Maybe he read my thoughts about gravy and roast potatoes …

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

Technique: D700 with 12-24 Sigma lens at 18mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2’s Fine Art Process preset.

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ARCHIVE 293 – TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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Misty morning on Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 10 Apr 2014.

A typical Levels scene.  The water-filled ditch forms the boundary of the grassy field on the left of the shot.  Immediately left of the prominent tree,  a little bridge across the ditch allows access to the field.  The actual field gate is barely visible, at the left end of the two short lengths of fencing left of the tree.  These short lengths of fencing prevent animals in the field from edging around the sides of the gate, and so gaining their freedom via the bridge.

A single track, tarmac road, Totney Drove, is just out of sight on the right of the shot, at the top of the low bank immediately right of the tree.

I was first attracted by the tree’s reflection, but I also like the thin mistiness, both back behind the tree, and above the water in the ditch.  And the cloud above the tree helps the composition, being far preferable to having featureless sky there.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 70mm; 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Harsh preset.

UPDATE: I will never stop loving this image, its as simple as that.
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OUTLANDS 16 – THE SMALL VALLEY ON MY LEFT

 

 


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Another look down into the small valley that was forever on my left as I walked up the track leading northeastwards out of West Littleton – there is another view of this scene here, its the first image in this post.

In the foreground is one of the dry stone walls characteristic of this area – dry stone walling being the type of constriction that has stones laid one on top of the other, so that their angularities hold them together, rather than relying upon mortar to do so – as described here.  This wall is old and has seen better days; its starting to decay – collapse might be a better word – back into its constituent stones, which have dark, weathered edges but very pale, unweathered tops and bottoms.  The geologist in me can tell you that such walls are common here because the local limestones occur in flat layers called strata, so that when quarried they readily form the flat, tabular shapes ideal for building such walls.  And yes, these limestones are Jurassic in age – dinosaurs roamed the world when the rocks in this wall were being created.

Composition: a composition of diagonals, the two lower ones dipping right, and the other two dipping left, and all four forming lines which converge on the far left of the image or further left – I could even see this image rotated 90 degrees clockwise for a different, more abstract, look.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 113mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, including the Classic Chrome film simulation; near West Littleton, South Gloucestershire; 12 Apr 2017.
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ARCHIVE 290 – THE VIEW SOUTH FROM BABOON CLIFFS

 

 


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The view south from Baboon Cliffs at Lake Nakuru, Kenya; 27 Apr 1980.

Looking out across the lake on a calm day – which, in this area of convectional rainfall, can often turn into a towering thunderstorm later in the afternoon.

Nakuru is a soda lake in the rift valley’s floor and this view looks southwards down the rift.  The hills on the horizon, below the white clouds, are a group of small volcanoes, and the freshwater Lake Naivasha is just over the horizon to the left of them. 

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens and polariser; Agfa CT18 colour slide, rated at 64 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

UPDATE: the polarising filter – arguably the most useful filter of them all in these digital days – produces the very deep blue of the sky at upper right, the good definition of the clouds below that blue and (even in this ancient, scanned slide), good clarity of view off into the distance. 

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OUTLANDS 13 – NEAR WEST LITTLETON 2

 

 


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Something Minimal, there’s really not much here, both in terms of content and colour, but straight black and white would lose a little I think.  And the bird – and getting focus on the bird – were fortuitous!

Context about this second Outlands trip can be found here, and there is another image here: 12.

Click onto this image to open it in a separate window, and click onto it again to further enlarge it.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Classic Chrome film simulation; near West Littleton, South Gloucestershire; 12 Apr 2017.
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OUTLANDS 12 – NEAR WEST LITTLETON (MONO)

 

 


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Early in the day: above the byway, east of West Littleton; South Gloucestershire; 12 Apr 2017.

More context on this second visit to the extreme south of the Cotswold Hills, and more images, can be found here.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 206mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Neutral preset.
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OUTLANDS 11 – ANOTHER VISIT TO THE OUTLANDS

 

 

The low valley opening out on my left

(click onto each image to open larger versions in separate windows – and click again to further enlarge each image – recommended)

Last December, I tore myself away from my usual haunts and visited somewhere new, not far northeast of Bristol – and started a new category on this blog – Outlands – for places I’d never visited before.  The rationale and context of that day out can be found here, and some of the resulting images are here: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 89 and 10.

On 12 April, I visited this area once more.  It was an early start, because of Bristol’s traffic and, more so, because the area I was headed for lies beside one of the main arteries between the city and the hurtling, London-bound,  M4 motorway.  It was really a case of leaving early and getting there in reasonable traffic conditions – and then diving down tiny country lanes before the main rush hour got itself into mechanised mayhem.  Anyway I did it, disappeared down a rabbit hole as it were, and left my car beside the common around which cluster the houses of West Littleton, a little Cotswold village.  Then, aiming for somewhere I hadn’t yet explored, there was a long walk up a byway, a kind of unmade, public track that is certainly ok for smaller vehicles.  Along this track, a shallow valley opened up on my left, I took some photographs, and met two people – a farmer and a jogger. And after the walk out, there was the long walk back again, into the teeth of a gusting northwesterly and then, feeling like some self-indulgent reward after all this slog – I was tempted by a wonderful hot English breakfast delivered by a flustered waitress of the old school, after which, a little later, the day ran on into being tempted by some wonderful Belgian beer – all of which did my waistline not the slightest bit of good at all!  But, who cares?  It was all most enjoyable.

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(certainly an image to click onto and enlarge) 

Down in the valley, there was a farmer on a quad bike, who was out early, looking for lambs that had been born in the night.  He was towing a trailer with two of these lambs and their mothers, who were being taken back to the farm for further care.  He drove up the slope towards me, and we chatted.  Its usually good talking with farmers, usually interesting – and this one had worked down on the Somerset Levels, where he’d found it hard to understand what the locals were saying – haha, wonderful, I can just imagine that!

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And then, although the quad bike was modern, the even more modern of this world appeared –  the jogger, pounding along the byway between the Cotswold dry stone walls that are such a feature of this landscape.  And oil seed rape, blazing yellow in the background.

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And so to the grub, which was not at all bad after a long, chilly walk.  The sausages (which can often be the blander than bland Achilles Heel of breakfasts) were good as was the bacon, and there was a good wedge of tasty Cheddar cheese too.  The tomato sauce was a bit dayglo but then I like colour, but the plate was a little on the cool side – hot food needs a hot plate!  A pot of Assam tea, sans teabags!, was good.

So, two final thoughts.  First, West Littleton is set in this little area of unprettified, working countryside, which is about two miles square, four square miles.  It is bounded on all sides by fast, direct roads, so that, it seems, only locals use the narrower and more wandering country lanes within the square.  Thus there is little traffic on these little roads, which with me is a decided plus, as is the fact that the little lanes have plenty of places where a small car can be pulled off to the side.  So that I may visit and photograph this “little bit of England” some more.

But I shy away from photographing the picturesque and, in many of their parts, the Cotswold Hills are decidedly picturesque – what to do?  Go with the flow???  Just picture “beautiful” (and simple) England?  Probably.  And I have a feeling there might be a lot of black and white images.

Technique: this was my first trial with both the X-T1 and X-T2 cameras, each with its own lens – the telezoom on the X-T2 and the wide angle zoom on the X-T1, so that there was no need to change lenses.  Walking around with two cameras around my neck didn’t really feel right, and (as usual) the telezoom captured the vast majority of the images – its simply how I “see” things.  But the X-T1 and its zoom is light, and carrying it in my rucksack worked well – wide angle shots don’t usually move around too quickly, so there was time to get it out and into action!  And processing?  Well, as is usual now, Lightroom – and Silver Efex Pro 2 for the black and white of course.

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