ARCHIVE: STILL LIFE PICTURE GALLERY 4 – POSTS 31 – 40

I’m currently posting images from my large archive of (loosely defined!) still life photos.  These photos are being posted singly, with full text.

To make viewing of these images easier for those with little time to spare, I’m also posting groups of these images with minimal titles.  This is the 4th gallery – you can find the earlier galleries here: 1 2 3 .

Clicking onto each image will open a larger version in a separate window: doing this often enhances the image.

31: Trellises beside the front door – a cottage in Peaslake, Surrey; 2012.

32: Stella – flattened beer can, road kill from a Bristol gutter; 2006.

33: Phone boxes, Penzance, Cornwall; 2012.

34: Female Mallard, motionless but alert as I edge closer; Chew Valley Lake; 2017.

35: Low angle autumn sunlight grazes the pavement on a steep hill; Bristol; 2017.

36: Fisherman in early morning mist; Chew Valley Lake, near Bristol; 2015.

37: Mute Swan, posing for me or, more probably, threatening me; Chew Valley Lake; 2017.

38: Striped shirt, one of mine, hanging up to dry; Bristol; 2013.

39: Upstairs on the early morning bus: someone with buds in and phone out – misted, silhouetted, indistinct – someone anonymous who is, essentially, entirely somewhere else; Bristol; 2017.

40: City life: the clean, soulless hospitality of a corporate foyer, with reflections of traffic lights outside and more corporate architecture across the road; Bristol; 2016.

ARCHIVE: STILL LIFE 37 – SWAN (MONO)


Mute Swan in low key – an avian still life, posing for me or, rather, probably threatening me.  Swans are worthy of great respect.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Smooth preset; Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.

ARCHIVE STILL LIFE

This is a new category on this blog – Archive Still Life studies.  The Still Life definition will certainly be followed loosely – e.g. some studies may only have been made “still” by the split second opening of the camera’s shutter – and my objective will be to use as many different types / genres of subject matter as possible.  Some images will be Minimalist and, in general, I try to make simpler images, rather than cramming them with visual content.

Some new Still Life studies will (hopefully!) continue to appear.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 88 – SWANS OVER TEALHAM (MONO)


Mute Swans on the wing over the northern edge of Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore; 31 Mar 2014.

These great birds are flying low over typically flat and rough Levels pasture, with the characteristic shapes of pollarded willows – like huge lollipops stuck stick first into the wet ground – immediately behind them.

But further back is a sharp and immediate change in the landscape – much older rocks are sticking up through the flatlands’ wet clays and peats, and there is at once a hillside with houses, tidy fields and sheep.  This is the southern edge of the high ground around Wedmore.

This high ground gives the impression of an island set amongst the Levels’ wetness and, only some hundreds of years ago, not very long ago at all really, this is exactly what these high lands were.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Yellowed 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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 85 – LOOKING WEST, TEALHAM MOOR


Something of a milestone, I suppose, my 300th post from these lush, wet (often very wet!!!) flatlands.  What can I say?  I love the place.  I love the very basic, what-you-see-is-what-you-get simplicity of the place.  There is no advertising hype here, no marketing, no tourism, just a flat landscape, the local farmers, the occasional person walking their dog, the occasional person simply walking, the occasional birdwatcher or photographer, and that’s it.

Many years ago, I recall going into the single shop in Westhay (which has long since closed down) and saying to the shopkeeper “There aren’t many people about this morning”, to which I received the somewhat mournful response “There are never many people about round here”.  Bring it on!  The place is not of course immune from the noise of motor vehicles, but sometimes there are just the sounds of the wind, the birds, the cows, and the soft lapping of water.

And here on Tealham Moor, and on the nearby Tadham Moor too, great big open skies which powerfully remind me of the vast open skies above Africa – actually, more specifically, the skies above Kenya. For me, there are far too many people in England, but that’s not the problem it might be because in the main, and especially so away from tourist areas, most people stay relatively close to their cars.

So, what is pictured here?  Well, flat land, land at or just below sea level, that was underwater in the geologically extremely recent past – I’m talking of only a few hundred years ago – and which will be underwater again in due course, when the coastal defences along the nearby Bristol Channel can no longer totally hold back the sea.  In Roman times, seagoing boats regularly crossed this area, inland to Glastonbury.

As we look at this view, there is slightly higher ground up on the right.  Not long ago, that was an island.  And the dead straight waterway disappearing off towards the horizon on the left is the North Drain – a totally man-made channel vital to the drainage of the area.

The large white birds are Mute Swans, a species whose wings make a beautiful, rhythmic singing sound in flight.

And finally, not far beyond the horizon, along the muddy shores of the Bristol Channel, well, that’s where I come from.  If I have one, that’s my homeland.

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

Technique: X-T1 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore; 24 June 2016.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 58 – THE ROAD SOUTH ACROSS TEALHAM MOOR


 

Jack’s Drove, arrowing southwards across Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 30 Oct 2014. Water-filled ditches (rhynes) covered in green waterweed accompany the drove on its journey south.

My heartland, where I like to be  And this was a dark morning, the sun up but really not making itself felt; and occasional spots of drizzle falling through an unseasonally soft mildness.  Nothing but the sounds of the breeze and the birds – wagtails coming to look at me, a meadow pipit briefly by, lapwings overhead, mallards in a ditch – and always the great, arch-winged herons, splitting the morning with their rough and far carrying barks.

But there was excitement too, a missed opportunity perhaps.  I was in the Magic Carpark,  leaning against the car, sucking down hot, sweet coffee, when there came a noise that really ought to have immediately meant more to an ex-birder.  A rushing and thumping, something like an old steam train off in the distance.  I moved away from the car, turned questioningly and there, pounding up the rhyne for all they were worth, were a family of five swans, running on the water, intent on getting up into the air and very nearly there – wingspans upwards of 7 feet and each hurtling body weighing at least 20 pounds – and all headed straight at me!

I don’t know who was most surprised.  I remember standing there, clutching my coffee, “Oh ************ ….!!!!”.   And, as I’d come out from behind the car, they’d seen me too and then they were suddenly up above the water and desperately veering and swerving off to either side.  It was like standing in a shooting gallery – like the scene in Ghostbusters 2 where Winston Zeddemore has the spectral locomotive go right through him on the old disused underground railway. 

And one moment they were there, the next they were streaming past either side of me at shoulder height – and the next they were gone.  Leaving me, frozen to the spot, with my coffee spilled.

Oh if I’d only had the camera around my neck!  But what if I had?  What would there have been time for?  Lifting and switching it on in one often used motion, and frantically thumbing the (absolutely wonderfully useful) AF-ON button.  I always leave the camera with the zoom back at 70mm and Matrix metering set, so that would have been just the job but, really, three seconds of frantically blasting away, if that – to produce at best … “artistically blurred creations” …  in the heat of the moment, the wide angle zoom, as used in the landscape above, would have been a better bet.

I love wild things and I loved that encounter.  It was far better to be full on in the middle of it than to try and photograph it.

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

Technique: D700 with 12-24 Sigma lens at 12mm; 1600 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

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.



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 589 – SWAN, PREENING

 

 


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Mute Swan reaching back behind its wing to get at an itch or readjust its feathers.  

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 200 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom; Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.

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ARCHIVE 549 – MUTE SWAN (MONO)

 

 


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Mute Swan Cygnus olor, the common, resident and often tame swan in the UK.  The large black knob on the forehead shows this to be a male.

Composition: close in with a long telephoto, which often works for me.  The bird’s head and long neck form the left edge of the frame, the bird is looking down into the frame, and his body is only faintly seen; all else is water with a very faint surface texture.  Use of black and white simplifies things still further.

And perhaps there’s a feeling here that he’s too large for the frame, that he’s bursting out of the frame.  Or, then again, perhaps he’s coming in closer, to have a better look at us.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 2 preset and adding a light tone; 16 Feb 2018; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset.

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ARCHIVE 527 – SWANS, GRAZING (MONO)

 

 


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Swans grazing on pastureland; Westhay Moor, south of Wedmore; 2 April 2015.

Some see swans purely as waterbirds, and on or beside water is where they’re usually encountered, reaching down into the water’s depths with their long necks to feed on aquatic vegetation.  But they are often seen out on the fields of the Somerset Levels, quite at home grazing on short grass.

These are Mute Swans, the UK’s common and often tame, resident bird.  But in the winter they may be joined here by a few Bewick’s and Whooper Swans that have come south to avoid the Arctic’s bitter freeze.

And the pylon?  Well, 15 miles or so west of here, and in stark contrast to the Levels’ rural reaches, there is the Hinkley Point atomic power station, which sends lines of such gaunt metal towers snaking out across the surrounding countryside.  The two reactors there are ageing now, but a third is proposed and construction is underway.

And  – hot question! – am I in favour of nuclear power and especially, in this instance, so close to my favourite haunts?  Well, the jury’s out on nuclear, I guess, my only certainty being that we need to get power from somewhere – news stories talk of our electricity supplies being only just sufficient to cover winter demands.  

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 2,000 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset.

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ARCHIVE 502 – SWAN, PREENING (MONO)

 

 


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Mute Swan at Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, not far south of Bristol; 6 Apr 2015.

The bird is preening, busily rearranging its feathers in a flurry of activity that is sending concentric ripples out across the surrounding water.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; -0.3EV; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 2 preset.

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