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 38 – THE BELLYBUSTER AT THE COTTAGE CAFE!

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The Bellybuster Breakfast at the Cottage Cafe in Burnham-On-Sea, where the Somerset Levels run down to the sea; 20 Mar 2013.

This has got to be one of the best breakfasts I’ve eaten for a long while – and perhaps the largest I’ve ever eaten!  Let’s see what’s here.

Well, a lot of very tasty food – but equally importantly all served on a warm plate – something which can make or break a meal.  Having this lot served up on a stone cold plate would have been dreadful!

And then the presentation of the food: fine by me, except for the fried bread – see below.  But then, having mentioned the fried bread, the chef was faced with the problem is how to cram as much food as this onto the plate  – even an over large plate like this one!  This presentation certainly stirred my appetite.

Then very tasty sausages containing a great proportion of meat, and sourced from a local butcher.  And more bacon than I think I’ve ever been served – that’s a stack of it and there must have been at least five tasty rashers.

The black discs at the top are Black Pudding – made from onions, pork fat, oatmeal and flavourings – and blood, usually pig’s blood (so Google tells me).  Its not something to eat a lot of, but what oh what a flavour it adds to the mix!  And beside the pudding are mushrooms, a wonderfully subtle flavour.

Then baked beans – which are always good, ALWAYS!!!

The tomatoes are canned and I’d prefer fresh ones, slightly blackened by grilling – but the combination of their taste with that of the bacon was, as always, purely magical!  Another such heavenly combination is bacon with fried egg, and that was there too.

I’m really neutral about Hash Browns.  They’re ok and I eat them, but but really quite bland and I don’t think they add much to the overall thing.  I’d rather have chips, but add chips to a breakfast this size and I might have been overwhelmed.  And underneath the egg is the fried bread, which had unfortunately lost some of its wonderfully crisp texture due to the juices of various overlying fodder.

Overall, not wildly healthy, but consumed from time to time, rather than daily >>> WOWEEE!!!

The Cottage Cafe unfortunately closed down years ago now.  I imagine that – with meals of this calibre – many of its patrons keeled over immediately after stepping out of its (necessarily wide) doors.  But, nonetheless, I value this photo, a wonderful reminder.  And a picture, I suppose, that talks about the simple pleasures and frank enjoyment of Life, a world away from Health & Safety, starvation diets, concerns about cholesterol, calorie counting, Political Correctness, body shaming and all the other sad traits that our modern society has so adeptly dreamed up.

And if you are feeling an urgent yearning to be face down and uttering little squeaks of joy in all of this moist and overt lusciousness, you can get somewhere near the effect by clicking onto it, when a larger version will open in a separate window – NOT recommended for those of a excitable disposition, as well as coming with a Government Health Warning about banging your face on your viewing device.  While admiring your boundless (and fairly mindless) enthusiasm, FATman Photos cannot be held responsible for anything untoward, although FP does not of course mind in the slightest being held responsible for anything enjoyable and deeply satisfying …

Technique: Canon G11 PowerShot at 28mm (35mm equivalent); 800 ISO.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 37 – QUEEN’S SEDGE MOOR, MORNING LIGHT 2

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Driving on the eastern reaches of Queen’s Sedge Moor, heading for the little hamlet of Barrow; and, suddenly, the road overshadowed by a giant – an oak I think – backlit from the east.

And so to standing back as far as the narrow lane permitted, looking up through a very wide angle lens; and to overexposing the scene – avoiding a pure silhouette – to retain some colour in the tree’s leaves and some detail in its trunk, while letting the rising sun’s glare burn out much of the backdrop.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wells; 24 May 2019.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 36 – THE RISING SUN THROUGH TREES, DE-FOCUSED

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The rising sun through trees, de-focused; seen from Hurn Drove, northeast of Godney; 28 Oct 2014.

Driving into the Levels early in the morning, when the sun started blasting over from the left. So found a place to get the car off the single track road, and ran back up the road to catch our star shining through a small copse. And so to spot metering for the sky next to the blazing disc (which is out of view, just left of this photo), focusing the lens on the ground at my feet, and taking this out of focus shot of the warm light streaming through the distant mesh of branches.

Fanciful maybe, but this reminds me of subdued detail in an Old Master painting and I like that effect. And yet another foray into the debate about photos necessarily needing some sharp detail.

This image looks better on a black background but my blog is white – and so to a thickish black border.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

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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 33 – POLLARD IN FLOODWATER (MONO)

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Pollarded Willow standing in floodwater on Tadham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 23 Nov 2012.

With its bulky, rounded crown, this tree is top heavy and well on its way to collapse.  The usually wet, peat soils provide little in the way of support.

More about the practice of pollarding can be found in my first Somerset Levels post 

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 165mm; 200 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2, using the Yellowed 1 preset as a starting point.

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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