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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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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SOMERSET LEVELS 306 – RHYNE BESIDE TOTNEY DROVE (MONO)

 

 


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Looking eastwards along the water-filled ditch, the rhyne (rhymes with seen), that runs along the northern side of Totney Drove, the single track road that can just be glimpsed to the right of the tree’s trunk.  The rhyne’s surface is mostly covered in water weed.  A very peaceful scene, yes, but there’s danger here too.  First, the tree (a Willow) is leaning slightly to the left, and the more this tilt increases, the more difficulty the tree’s roots will have in preventing its huge bulk from toppling right over.  The soils here are damp and loose, and should they become waterlogged or actually submerged, as may happen in the approaching winter months, then the roots’ grip will loosen and the giant will fall.  Second, a somewhat spindly wire fence at the rhyne’s edge aims to keep the cattle away from the rhyne: a cow falling into the deep water and ooze would certainly require a tractor to get it out again.

In the background to the left, cattle seen as ghostly shapes in the mist, with woodland further back.

And in the background to the right, there are several trees which are thick and heavy near the ground, but thinner further up.  These trees have been pollarded, they are pollards, which means that, one or more times in their lives, they have had the wood from their upper parts removed, for firewood, woodwork etc, while their lower parts are left unaffected.  Pollarding is an ancient practice, and more about it can be found here .

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

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 101mm; 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset and adding a light Coffee tone; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 305 – DRIVING WESTWARDS, TADHAM MOOR

 

 


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A car moves cautiously westwards across Tadham Moor, through fog turned incandescent by the rising sun.

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

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 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Totney Drove, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 304 – TOTNEY DROVE, TADHAM MOOR

 

 


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Totney Drove, a tarmacked, single track lane, disappears off eastwards across Tadham Moor into fog made golden by the rising sun.  Only a few hundred years ago, this area was all wild marshland, with no roads or farms.  When the marshes and lakes were drained to make agricultural land, the Levels’ droves were a system of tracks made between the newly demarcated  fields, so that farmers could move their animals and produce to and from their land, without having to go through other farmers’ land.  A few of these droves, like this one, have been given a tarmac surface.

The glint of water down to the right is a rhyne (rhymes with seen), a deep, water-filled ditch, which does duty as a field boundary, fence and drainage channel in this very flat and wet countryside.

A very small rise in the lane, to the left of the two posts, shows where it passes over another small waterway that empties into the rhyne.  A thoughtful local authority has painted white lines (faintly seen here) on this tiny bridge’s tarmac – the droves are often very narrow, and pulling off onto the verges to let oncoming vehicles pass is commonplace, but pulling off on this tiny bridge, perhaps in mist and darkness, could be catastrophic.

There are other images from this early morning shoot here: 1 2 .

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 83mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 302 – LOOKING WEST OVER TEALHAM MOOR, AT SUNRISE

 

 


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Having taken so many pictures of the Somerset Levels, thousands probably over the years, finding further photographic inspiration there is often not easy – and especially so when the light conditions are unexciting.  But on Friday, starting from home early, I got down there at the start of the day and instantly found myself in a visually mobile world of shifting mist and fog banks, with the sun rising behind them.

This is actually a shot from towards the end of the spectacle, looking westwards over Tealham Moor.  The sun was rising from behind thick banks of cloud along the eastern horizon, which had the effect of reducing the full force of its brilliance.  Here, looking westwards, the upper band of cloud is illuminated by the first of the sun’s rays as it emerged from the thick cloudbanks, while the thin ribbon of cloud below, and the misty surface of the moor, had yet to be fully illuminated.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 19 Oct 2018.
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ARCHIVE 381 – WILLOWS IN THE MIST, TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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

Misty morning, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 8 Apr 2015.

What can we see?  A line of fence posts angle into the foreground, with their reflections in a water-filled ditch.  And on a horizon which the fog has brought far nearer than usual, a line of bare, pollarded willows (more about pollarding, and the Levels, can be found here).

To the left of the willows is a solid, squat structure that resembles a pillbox, one the concrete strong points left over from World War II that still stand mute guard over these flatlands.  But in fact this structure houses a pump that helps control the water levels in the myriad wet ditches – like the one in the foreground –  that drain this often sodden ground.

And finally, to the right of the willows, the shifting mist grudgingly reveals short fences that mark the point where a small bridge crosses the water-filled ditch, so that the farmer can move his animals to and from his land.

Quintessential Somerset Levels – wet ditches,  pollarded trees – and mist.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 116mm; +0.7EV; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Portrait preset and adding a blue tone.
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MENDIP HILLS 42 – LANDSCAPES FOR A DEAD WIFE 3 (MONO)

 

 


Dead trees, early morning, storm

I’m remembering my dead wife, and photographing a place we shared together long ago: you can find the full context in the first part of this series, here .  The second part of this series is here .  This is the final part of the series.

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Road, speed, darkness

If you would like to see enlarged versions of these pictures, click onto each one to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it: recommended.

Technique: all pictures were taken with a Fujifilm X-T2 camera and 55-200 Fujinon lens.  All were processed in Lightroom, and then converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2.  On the edge of Priddy Mineries Nature Reserve, east of Priddy, on the top of the Mendip Hills, Somerset; 20 Sept 2018.

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