SOMERSET LEVELS 292 – 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, and click onto this enlarged image to enlarge it yet again.

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 25,600 ISO; 1/250th, wide open at f5.6; Lightroom.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 284 – MORNING MIST, TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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A misty and cold morning, along a rough track leading southwards across Tadham Moor; 16 Dec 2016.

A very simple place but one with great meaning to me, which has helped me through very dark days.  

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 3200 ISO.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 282 – MORNING, TEALHAM MOOR

 

 

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Morning on the far reaches of Tealham Moor, southwest of Wedmore; 16 Dec 2016.

A winter’s morning in fact, just days before the year’s shortest one.  And the light flat, cold and grey at the moment of a sunrise all too ably obscured by dense cloud banks low to the southeast.

Cows registered minor interest at my arrival, before meandering uncertainly away into the low mist.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 5,000 ISO.
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ARCHIVE 251 – MIST LIFTING, HERONS GREEN

 

 

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Early morning mist lifting at Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake, south of Bristol; 6 Apr 2015.

Driving through the Chew Valley, heading for the Mendip Hills, I came out onto an open stretch of road beside Chew Valley Lake and was suddenly enveloped in thick mist.  But over to my left the sun was starting to rise, the mist was lifting and changing colours in the most visually seductive ways – and I swerved into a layby, jumped out and started taking pictures.

I was there for about an hour, and this is the first of a short series of images from that misty morning.  I love images with little detail, and the telezoom that I’m married to was just right for picking out scenes in that warm softness.

Chew Valley Lake is a large reservoir, the 5th largest artificial area of water in the UK.  It was opened in 1956, to supply Bristol with drinking water.  It has many memories for me because it was here, in 1967, that two school friends first opened my eyes to birds and birdwatching, and so set me on a path and interest that continued through to 2002.  I no longer go birdwatching, but I retain a deep love and feeling for birds, and see them as an essential facet of all land-, water- and skyscapes.

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

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 78mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

UPDATE: ask me the sorts of pictures I enjoy taking and scenes like this would be high on the list.  I get a real buzz from pointing telephoto lenses at scenes like this.

Why do I like this?  Well, first, its a Minimalist scene, there’s really not a lot of hard detail here, not a lot to get a real, visual grasp on, and to me it is the richer for that – the essence of the phrase “less is more”, perhaps.  Its just a duck, swimming in front of some trees which are all but shrouded in some glowing mist.  Then its a natural scene (although the body of water is actually an artificial reservoir) and Nature is always big with me – although, having said that, I do seem to be swinging more towards built environments, city photography, since getting a smaller and handier new camera, the Fujifilm X-T1.  I’ve done a lot of city photography in the past, often in pursuit of abstract studies.

But, anyway, here it is.  A calm scene, something taking us away from “the busy modern lifestyle”.  Was that my mobile phone?  I don’t know, I’ve got it switched off, and the greeting on its answerphone is “Go away!”.

And, lastly, would this image work without the duck?  Well, put your finger over the bird and its wake, and see.  For me it still works, becoming an even more Minimalist study, something on the lines of – although still far from – a Monet maybe?  For you, this may not work, this may be a subtraction too far.  What do you think?
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SOMERSET LEVELS 269 – RAINY MORNING 4 (MONO)

 

 

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Westhay Moor, northwest of Lower Godney; 29 April 2016.

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

Previous images in this series can be found here, here and here.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Structure Harsh preset and adding a cyantotype tone; Color Efex Pro 4.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 263 – DEATH OF A FRIEND 2 (MONO)

 

 

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Early morning, and a fallen willow lies beside the misty River Sheppey in Upper Godney; 1 Apr 2016.

Another take on this scene, and more context, can be found here.

Click onto this image to see a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 6400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Triste 2 preset.
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ARCHIVE 226 – NAKURU DAWN

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Dawn mists rise above Lake Nakuru, central Kenya; January 1978.

The large, white birds with huge bills in the foreground are White Pelicans.  In the lake behind them are the trunks of trees that, flooded by the lake, have been killed by the high concentration of sodium bicarbonate in its waters. Cormorants (the same bird as in the UK) perch on these dead trunks, and a nest of sticks is also visible.

This lake is over a mile above sea level and so, particularly after a clear night, the whole place can be pretty chilly by first light – standing around taking pictures, waiting for the sunrise, we were well wrapped up!  At altitudes a little above this – and right on the equator – frosts can occur.

Clicking onto this image opens a (slightly) larger version in a separate window.

Vivitar 400mm telephoto on Olympus SLR, mounted on a tripod; colour transparency.

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ARCHIVE 225 – FOGGY MORNING (MONO)

 

 

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Foggy morning along the Wells Road near Broadwalk, south Bristol; 13 Mar 2014.

The huge Plane tree in the foreground has had its branches pruned many times, including recently, giving it its bare, knobbly appearance.  At top left, a pigeon perches, probably a Wood Pigeon, gazing down at the crawling traffic below.  There is another pigeon, further right.  The tree behind retains its growth of thin branches from last year – it has yet to be shorn.

Canon G11 PowerShot at 63mm (35mm equivalent); 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 1 preset.

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ARCHIVE 208 – EARLY MORNING AT TEALHAM, WITH A SMALL CAMERA

 

 

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The view eastwards from the Jack’s Drove bridge over the North Drain; Tealham Moor, Somerset Levels; 17 Sept 2010.

Just around sunrise, with mists lifting off the water and drifting over the fields.  A truly magical place.

Click onto the picture to see a rather larger version in a separate window.

Canon G11 PowerShot at 140mm (equivalent); 200 ISO.

UPDATE: I remember this day.  I’d decided upon a “Spartan” approach to the day’s photography and so, rather than taking full-frame Nikon gear, had carried instead just the little Canon PowerShot.  Only to meet a chap with a huge Nikon, and really the biggest telephoto I’ve ever seen, probably the 800mm Nikkor I guess.  So we talked photography while he fondled his gear and, finally – inevitably! – he asked what camera I was using >>> and, I’ll never forget,  on being shown the PowerShot, he said “Oh, you’ve got THAT have you!” – which was better than merely receiving a superior smirk! 

Of course the G11 was much newer in those days, in fact it may have just come out – and it was a little revolutionary in that, rather than Canon slavishly following the ever-more-pixels race, they’d actually produced a model with FEWER pixels than its predecessor, in a successful (yes, successful) attempt to improve image quality >>> so this was maybe what stirred this chap’s admiration!

But as I got up to the bridge, looked eastwards and saw this scene I cursed not having brought my very much loved Nikon 70-300 zoom along – only to be very impressed by what the G11 was capable of – I remember looking down into its fully articulated screen and saying “If I can see that on the screen, that’s how the image will look!”.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 252 – 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.

Misty morning, Tadham Moor; 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 Levels – wet ditches,  pollarded trees – and mist.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor 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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