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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ARCHIVE 285 – EARLY MORNING AT TEALHAM (MONO)

 

 


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Early morning on the Tealham-Tadham Moors, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 28 Aug 2013.

Rhyne (rhymes with seen) is the Somerset term for water-filled ditches that help drain the land and often, as here, act as field boundaries.  This rhyne’s surface is covered in floating waterweed and, in the foreground, are the tall, pointed leaves of wild iris, which love these waterside locations.

The two prominent trees are in the fact the ends of two rows of such trees that line the undulating, single track, tarmac road just visible lower right of them.  The two, pale sheets of corrugated iron set up against the rhyne’s bank on the right of the picture are held there by stout wooden stakes, in an attempt to prevent the road collapsing down into the mud and water. 

The point here being that there is no solid rock supporting this landscape.  Below this countryside are over 60 feet of sodden clays and peat – “rocks” easily demolished by your shovel if not by your bare hands – such that everything is soft, yielding and unstable.  Stand beside this road as a tractor goes by and you are suddenly rising and falling as if on some rural trampoline, which can be quite shocking for those unused to it.

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

Technique: D700 with Sigma 12-24 zoom lens at 12mm; 400 ISO; conversion to mono and split toning with Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Pinhole preset.

UPDATE: still a very favourite photo of mine, one that – in my eyes at least – will certainly stand the test of time.  No, it by no means depicts reality, but it is about a small, out of the way area of countryside that has a permanent place deep within me and, visually, it forcefully turns me on.  Technicalities?  Well, this image owes much to Silver Efex Pro 2 processing software, it would probably not have ended up looking like this without SEP2.  Reading about the photographic world, it emerges that SEP2 is very, very widely used by those with a love for black and white imagery.  And the other thing to mention here is my (now ancient) Sigma 12-24 zoom, which has facilitated this angle of view which is far wider than the human eye can achieve.  I call this lens ancient and, in digital terms it is – I first started using it with film cameras, shooting colour transparencies that I presented in slideshows – which maybe dates me a bit!  But since those far off days, Sigma has put this lens through two major updates, which have apparently improved image quality considerably.  The only downside to that is the cost of the latest update, £1600, which is significantly more than the cost of my recently acquired Fujifilm supercamera, the X-T2!  So I think I’ll just be sticking with my ancient 12-24 and, if it doesn’t give me “perfect” image quality, well, that’s just how it is – I’m not really into that degree of perfection, I don’t peer manically at pixels on screen, I’m more interested in the content of images, be it graphic or, sometimes, narrative.

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PEOPLE 257 – MAN WALKING (MONO)

 

 

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A man walks towards The Light, but his shadow hangs back, dragging behind him, dreading the openness and certainties of brightness.

But should the man eschew The Light and decide to walk back in the opposite direction, his shadow will strain and leap on ahead, eager for the concealments, anonymities and ambivalences of darkness.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Spectrum Inverse preset; The Haymarket, central Bristol; 24 Feb 2017.
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ARCHIVE 280 – MALLARD

 

 

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Mallard in Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 6 Apr 2015.

A Minimalist image – some ripples and a silhouetted duck.

The up-curled tail feathers show this to be a male (drake) Mallard, a very common and often tame waterbird here in the UK.

This is a colour image, albeit one with little colour in it.  And I’ve used CEP4‘s Cross Balance filter to give the effect of Tungsten (i.e. artificial light) film that has been used in daylight, which has resulted in the image’s cool, faintly bluish tints.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4, using the Cross Balance filter.

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BRISTOL 118 – EARLY MORNING, TEMPLE GATE (MONO)

 

 

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Looking up at a cloudy sky, just before sunrise; Temple Gate; 24 Feb 2017.

Post-apocalyptic perhaps?  Or fan as I am of the Terminator films, is this The Rise of the Machines?  That innocuous little line of cloud that was wafting gently overhead now looks more like the result of an air strike.

Well, it may be that, but what it isn’t of course is a true representation of reality.  It is how I choose to portray things – which gets back to yesterday’s post about freeing ourselves from photography’s conventions and “rules”, freeing ourselves from what we think is expected of us, from what others may expect us to do, and instead following our own creative feelings, emotions and gut instincts.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, including substantial underexposure.
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PEOPLE 253 – WOMAN AT A CASHPOINT (MONO)

 

 

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The morning stop for cash – Park Street, central Bristol; 2 Dec 2016.

Three dark elements, two for automatically dispensing and one for gratefully (or maybe even indifferently) receiving. 

I was struck by this tall, dark figure and the shadows (accentuated a little here) cast by her wide-brimmed hat: she is restocking her purse with the spending ammunition required for the day ahead.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and then click onto that larger version once again.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 12,800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Architectural preset.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 290 – THE SKY WARMS

 

 

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Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, the faintly seen track at lower left, as sunrise colours start high in the sky above the Somerset Levels.

Technique: it was dark!  The human eye is a wonderful camera, able to see in low light levels, but it was clear that most things here were still heavily engulfed by the gloom.  And when I raised the camera to my eye – WOW! – even allowing the brightening sky to influence the reading, 25,600 ISO still only gave me 1/140th, wide open at f4.8 .  So, working handheld as always, image stabilisation helped, as did the fact that this camera is mirrorless, so that it has no mirror slap – there is more on mirror slap here.  Many photographers prefer not to use their lenses wide open due to reduced sharpness and definition, but I always go for it – if the light conditions demand it  (and also if I’m looking for as narrow as possible a depth of focus).  The bottom line being that its far, far better to be left with an image that is blurred and/or grainy, than to be left with no image at all.  This is a part of the great and ongoing debate about the respective importance of the technical quality of images on the one hand – sharpness, definition, colour rendition, white balance, etc. – and image content and atmosphere on the other.  I’m 101% with the importance of content and atmosphere.  Compositionally, the faint lines of the track and the much brighter, water-filled ditch lead the eye towards that single tall tree – and I’ve used this same composition, in this same place, before.

There are other images from this bitterly cold morning here (with context), here, here, here, here and hereEach will open in a separate window.

Click onto this post’s image to open a larger version in a separate window, and then click onto this larger version once more.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; Lightroom; 27 Jan 2017.
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BIRDS 90 – JACKDAWS OVER TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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Standing out on the Somerset Levels, before sunrise.  Enjoying the (freezing!) moment, the stillness and quiet; a camera inert, itself freezing, around my neck.

All at once the silence was cut by harsh, garrulous calls – “TJACK! … TJACK!” – and, looking up, a small, dark and nebulous mass, shaped like a misty lozenge, was powering towards me high above that flat landscape.  To an ex-birder like me, the calls proclaimed the callers, Jackdaws, small black crows with white eyes, flying out from their roost at first light to feed.  They would have spent the night as a flock, perched safely up in tall trees, occasionally shuffling, occasionally calling, enduring the sub-zero temperatures of the long January night.  Some, of course, may not have made it through that ice box of a night, some may have succumbed to the deeply penetrating cold, and toppled silently from their perches, to lie frozen through now on the rock hard ground below.  But the rest, now, at dawn and with the sun about to rise, had left their roost and set off across country, to an area where they could find food to replenish the ravages of that stark darkness.

The camera, the Fuji X-T2, with its much trumpeted reputation for speed, was around my neck, switched off and with the telezoom at minimum.  Having appeared from nowhere, the flock was almost over me in an instant, there was barely time to do anything – in one movement my forefinger switched the camera on, got onto the shutter button and for the briefest instant held it half down for focus, and then fired off two frames – managing 1/350 at f4.5 and 25,600 ISO in the poor light.

And here is the result, which can be viewed in three ways.

First, and most trivially, it serves as a crude test of the X-T2’s start up and autofocus times.  The birds are more or less sharp, with some blurring of their flailing wing tips – and that’s good enough for me – I want the moment, not technical perfection.

Then second and far more valuably, this is an instantaneous picture of the Natural World, of relatively small, warm blooded creatures that have weathered many hours of darkness and sub-zero temperatures, relying on their feathers and whatever fat reserves they may have to ward off the biting, sub-zero temperatures.  Now they are out over that flat landscape, hungry, needing food to survive, and powering towards somewhere that, yesterday at least, there was food.  What can I say?  The Natural World never ceases to interest and excite me.

And finally, thinking more abstractly, this image shows a variety of bird shapes, silhouettes, set against a grainy blue background.  Perhaps it might serve as a pattern for a table cloth, curtains or an arty blouse, such is our world.

There is a much closer image of a Jackdaw here.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; 1/350, f4.5; crop shows just over a third of the total image area; 27 Jan 2017.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 285 – OH IT WAS COLD!!!

 

 

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Yesterday, I left Bristol in the dark, something I don’t feel totally comfortable with now, my eyes no longer being in the full flush of youth.  And the blackness was cold but, at least, there was no frost or ice – which would remove a definite danger from night driving.  And the bulk of my journey would be on a large main road, the A38, which would (hopefully!) be less prone to problems than the small country lanes I usually infest.

So, driving down to the Levels – and on arriving there the roads suddenly started appearing white in the headlights.  And, slow mentally as I can be, I started wondering what this whiteness might be.  Well, you can guess what it was – it was thick frost and ice – and in emerging from the car for my first, before sunrise photos, I was hit by bitter cold and road surfaces I had difficulties standing up on.

But, what do you do?  Turning around and heading home would be unthinkable, and, as usual (and this is an article of faith for Levels visits), I had a flask of hot, sweet coffee and thick, bitter marmalade sandwiches with me.  So, nothing to think about really, just get on and enjoy the place, get the camera out and see what happens.

So I did just that.  And although the Levels no longer inspire me photographically as much as they once did – most probably because I’ve photographed them so vastly much – I did take a few photos.  And, as always on these visits, I had a pair of binoculars with me too – having been an avid (and, ultimately, professional) birder 1967-2002, birds are still very much in my soul.  So rather than going down to the Levels with the rather stressful feeling that I must somehow find images, I just wander about with the bins – Leica 10×42’s, waterproof, heavy, excellent, rubber-armoured, built like a tank – and if photos appear they do, and if they don’t, well, they don’t.

Anyway, it was very early, a time of day I really like – and which I’ve recently been photographing in Bristol too.  It was fiercely cold, but a delight being there, and I pressed on.

I fetched up at the Magic Carpark. a favourite place on Tadham Moor, and the sun was just about to rise.  I drank the coffee, ate the sandwiches and conversed with the tall tree – a willow – that oversees all my visits.  Thoughts of photographing the rising sun came to mind – but my fingers were by now so numb that I could no longer even feel the camera’s trigger let alone press it.

I think that, another time, I might put my fingers in the coffee to warm them up but, in this instance, I was driven to walking around this little, rough place with two fingers in my mouth.  I was a bit like sucking an iced lolly, and I could only be grateful for the fact that no members of the tabloid press were on hand to document this undoubted example of the hedonistic and bohemian tendencies of the retired classes.

Anyway, here is one of the resulting images – the sun rising on 27 Jan 2017 above Tadham Moor, with a partly frozen water-filled ditch, a rhyne (rhymes with seen), bringing light and a little of the sunrise’s warmth to the foreground.

Technique: capturing Raw files as I invariably do (see below), it would of course be possible to considerably lighten the shadows in this shot, and to end up approaching something like a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image.  But I value shadows, I think that darkness adds greatly to many, many images – and in this case I’ve aimed at something like the way the scene looked like to my eyes, rather than illuminating every leaf and individual blade of grass.  Chiaroscuro is a term in art (and photography is certainly an art) that describes the interplay of light and shadow, something of vast value in an image.  There is a link to chiaroscuro in photography – here.  Some pictures benefit from being totally lit, some don’t, its as simple as that.

Technique: Raw files are undoubtedly the format to use if you are contemplating anything like extensive post-capture processing of an image, i.e. rather than using the image straight out of the camera, or with minimal tweaking.  I summarised the fundamental differences between Raw files and jpegs here.

Those with an eye for detail will notice (below) that I was using a Fujifilm X-T2 camera, rather than my usual X-T1.  More on that another time.

X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 84mm (equiv); 1600 ISO.
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PEOPLE 251 – GOING TO WORK 17

 

 

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Morning rush hour, Broad Quay, central Bristol; 11 Nov 2016.

Technique: spot metering is linked to the active autofocus point, always a useful thing to have handy; and I’ve used spot metering to expose for the highlights to create a low key image.

So, no detail, Minimalism, just two people going to work – anonymous – in the gloom.

Earlier images from this series can be found hereherehere, herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.  Each will open in a separate window.

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

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 400 ISO.
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