SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERY 6 – POSTS 51-60

SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERIES

I’m currently posting images from my large archive of photos from the Somerset Levels, an area not far from where I grew up that holds particular meaning and attraction for me.  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 6th gallery – you can find the earlier galleries here: 1 2 3 4 5

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

51: Water Lilies in the North Drain, Tealham Moor; 2009.

52: Sunrise, Totney Drove; 2018.

53: Early morning, Ash Moor; 2019.

54: Looking south, Tadham Moor; 2019.

55: The poplars at Godney; 2018.

56: In the undergrowth, Swanshard Lane; 2019.

57: Teasel along Tripps Drove; 2012.

58: The road south across Tealham Moor; 2014.

59: Trees in mist, Tadham Moor; 2011.

60: Sugar cubes in Baillies’ Cafe, Burnham-On-Sea; 2012.



SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERY 5 – POSTS 41-50

SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERIES

I’m currently posting images from my large archive of photos from the Somerset Levels, an area not far from where I grew up that holds particular meaning and attraction for me.  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 fifth gallery – you can find the earlier galleries here: 1 2 3 4 .

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

41: As the rain poured down, the view through my car window, towards a nearby tree; Tadham Moor 2013.

42: Skylark in songflight; Tadham Moor 2013.

43: A little piece of magic: charms over running water at Whitelake Bridge; 2019.

44: Godney Moor; 2014.

45: The shadow of The FATman, as he looks at the world through a fisheye; Tadham Moor, 2013.

46: New fence, rotated, or three people in a procession, however you see it; Westhay Garden Centre, 2005.

47: Looking into the distance as a day begins; Hay Moor, 2019.

48: The first shafts of sunlight light up the mists of early morning; Swanshard Lane, 2019.

49: Crow on fallen tree; Tadham Moor, 2014.

50: Sunrise, Glastonbury Tor, 2012.

ARCHIVE: LEVELS 42 – SKYLARKS OVER TEALHAM MOOR

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My latest visit to the Somerset Levels produced something really of note. I was an enthusiastic birder for decades and have had many great experiences with birds – but 28 June 2013 certainly ranks up there with the best in recent years.

The weather was really not summery, with a stiff westerly breeze carrying in intermittent spits and spots of rain from the Bristol Channel, and I’d driven up to the low bridge where the tarmac of Jack’s Drove crosses the North Drain, a sizeable but totally manmade waterway. I walked across the tiny road towards the rough pasture on the other side and, as I got there, a Skylark exploded up from the grass immediately in front of me and, wings flapping frantically to hold its station in the teeth of the cold wind, it rose vertically up into the sky and hung there, right in front of me, singing its head off. If only I’d had the camera ready!

Click onto each photo to open a larger version in a separate window.

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But luckily this was not to be the sole such performance. These little birds are up to 18cm long, bill tip to tail tip – that’s somewhere around 7 inches to you and me – and the simple fact is that I’m staggered by the images I’ve captured. But, make no mistake, this post is not about my photographic prowess, but rather about the D800’s autofocus capabilities, which stun me. And the D700 has the same abilities. There’s no question, but that without these Nikons’ brilliant autofocus, I wouldn’t be able to attempt many of the shots that I do. Manual focus could never keep up with these situations – and the more so with my ageing eyes.

And as I’d forgotten how to use the D800’s 3D autofocus, all of these pictures were taken using a single autofocus point, in gusting wind and spitting rain. I took many, many shots and of course large numbers are complete failures – maybe if I’d got the 3D autofocus working the hit rate might have been higher – there was after all nothing else in the blank sky for the autofocus to latch onto. These images were taken with the long end of my 70-300 zoom using DX format, i.e. at a focal length of 450mm. They are not all sharp, but these few are close enough to it for me

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Skylarks have a special place in my heart. I never fail to be entranced and uplifted by the spectacle of their determined rise up into the heavens, and then their tiny specks soaring at great height over their territories – almost invisible, high up, showering the landscape below with their incessant, fast paced song which (I read in my birdguide) can last for anything up to 15 minutes at time. I regard them as something special in the English landscape, an integral and special part of my homeland – tho realising of course that they can be found all over Europe, where they are summer visitors to the colder parts.

The birds have their beaks open in these photos – they are singing their heads off!

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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 13 – LARK (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Skylark in song high above Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 31 Mar 2014.

I love being out on Tealham Moor when these larks are singing.  Their music is far carrying and all embracing, somehow it is all around.  And, bird lover and enthusiast that I have been for these nearly 50 years, I never fail to be impressed by all of that sound emanating from such a tiny speck that rides the winds in another world, high above mine.  Often, with the song pouring over me in waves, my experienced eyes still fail to locate the singer.

This picture is a small part of a larger image.  In case you’re not sure what you’re looking at, the bird is hanging in the air, facing away from us.  Its wings are the pointed shapes on either side, and the prominent, slightly bulbous shape pointing towards upper left is the spread tail.

This archive presents some of the pictures that I’ve taken on the Somerset Levels over many years.  More context can be found in the first post in this archive – 1 – and also in my first Somerset Levels post, from 2011 – here .  Further posts in this archive are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 2 preset, with a little restoration of original colour.

UPDATE: I like this image very much.  Although it would be hard to show less of its subject, it is a portrait, a portrait of a small living creature high up in – and eminently at home in – the wild vastnesses of its element, the sky.  Unless we are lucky enough to be able to pick out this well camouflaged little bird on the ground, this is how we see it – a small dot, often far smaller than this, high up in the heavens.  Thinking of these little creatures high up there in the air belting out their songs really gets to me, I have to say.  This is both an integral part of the Somerset Levels, which is where this photograph was taken, and a picture of the Natural World – an entity which is never, ever boring – just getting on with it, doing its thing.

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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TALKING IMAGES 50 – USING THE NIKON Z 6 TO PHOTOGRAPH SMALL BIRDS IN FLIGHT

 

 

All images: Skylarks in song flight, Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 24 May 2019.

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Something that I’m interested to test on Nikon’s new Z 6 mirrorless camera is the accuracy and speed of the autofocus, and flying birds are – for an ex-birder like me – an obvious target.   To this end, I’ve already posted a picture of swans in flight here .

But down on the Somerset Levels recently, I aimed the camera at something far smaller and more elusive.  Skylarks kept leaping up from grassy fields all around me and ascending into their wonderful, towering song flights and so, using back button focusing (also described here ), I took a few potshots at them in silhouette.  These birds are about 7 inches (16-18cm) from bill tip to tail tip when laid out flat and, moving rapidly and erratically around, they presented quite a challenge.  The final image here shows the whole frame of the shot above it, to give an idea both of the birds’  size in the (electronic) viewfinder, and of how enlarged the first three of these images are.  All pictures were taken at 300mm telephoto, at 800 ISO.

There are two points to make here.  First, I used Dynamic Area Autofocus, where the camera takes information about the target not only from the focus point being used, but also from surrounding points if – like these small birds – the target is moving rapidly and erratically.  I used a single autofocus point, the central one, throughout.

And second, I used the lens I’m married to, the 70-300 AF-S Nikkor which – like me! – may be showing its age (from 2007) a little now.  To which end, I’ve acquired the 2017 upgrade, the 70-300 AF-P Nikkor – and time will tell on how this one performs!

The resulting images here are certainly not perfect, but to me they are in the right ballpark, and I’m looking forward to further testing.  Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window.

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ARCHIVE 244 – LARK (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 

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Skylark in song high above Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 31 Mar 2014.

I love being out on Tealham Moor when these larks are singing.  Their music is far carrying and all embracing, somehow it is all around.  And, bird lover and enthusiast that I have been for these nearly 50 years, I never fail to be impressed by all of that sound emanating from such a tiny speck that rides the winds in another world, high above mine.  Often, with the song pouring over me in waves, my experienced eyes still fail to locate the singer.

I’ve posted before on the Tealham Skylarks.  Those pictures were in colour and taken much closer in; you can find them here.

This picture is a small part of a larger image.  In case you’re not sure what you’re looking at, the bird is hanging in the air, facing away from us.  Its wings are the pointed shapes on either side, and the prominent, slightly bulbous shape pointing towards upper left is the spread tail.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 2 preset, with a little restoration of original colour.

UPDATE: I like this image very much.  Although it would be hard to show less of its subject, it is a portrait, a portrait of a small living creature high up in – and eminently at home in – the wild vastnesses of its element, the sky.  Unless we are lucky enough to be able to pick out this well camouflaged little bird on the ground, this is how we see it – a small dot, often far smaller than this, high up in the heavens.  Thinking of these little creatures high up there in the air belting out their songs really gets to me, I have to say.  This is both an integral part of the Somerset Levels, which is where this photograph was taken, and a picture of the Natural World – an entity which is never, ever boring – just getting on with it, doing its thing.

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ARCHIVE 87 – SKYLARKS OVER TEALHAM MOOR

USE YOUR PC’s F11 KEY TO VIEW THIS BLOG FULLSCREEN

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My latest visit to the Somerset Levels produced something really of note.  I was an enthusiastic birder for decades and have had many great experiences with birds – but 28 June last certainly ranks up there with the best in recent years.

The weather was really not summery, with a stiff westerly breeze carrying in intermittent spits and spots of rain from the Bristol Channel, and I’d driven up to the low bridge where the tarmac of Jack’s Drove crosses the North Drain, a sizeable but totally manmade waterway.  I walked across the tiny road towards the rough pasture on the other side and, as I got there, a Skylark exploded up from the grass immediately in front of me and, wings flapping frantically to hold its station in the teeth of the cold wind, it rose vertically up into the sky and hung there, right in front of me, singing its head off.  If only I’d had the camera ready!

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But luckily this was not to be the sole such performance. These little birds are up to 18cm long, bill tip to tail tip – that’s somewhere around 7 inches to you and me –  and the simple fact is that I’m staggered by the images I’ve captured.  But, make no mistake, this post is not about my photographic prowess, but rather about the D800’s autofocus capabilities, which stun me.  And the D700 has the same abilities.  There’s no question, but that without these Nikons’ brilliant autofocus, I wouldn’t be able to attempt many of the shots that I do.  Manual focus could never keep up with these situations – and the more so with my ageing eyes.

And as I’d forgotten how to use the D800’s 3D autofocus, all of these pictures were taken using a single autofocus point, in gusting wind and spitting rain.  I took many, many shots and of course large numbers are complete failures – maybe if I’d got the 3D autofocus working the hit rate might have been higher – there was after all nothing else in the blank sky for the autofocus to latch onto.  These images were taken with the long end of my 70-300 zoom using DX format, i.e. at a focal length of 450mm.  They are not all sharp, but these few are close enough to it for me.

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Skylarks have a special place in my heart.  I never fail to be entranced and uplifted by the spectacle of their determined rise up into the heavens, and then their tiny specks soaring at great height over their territories – almost invisible, high up, showering the landscape below with their incessant, fast paced song which (I read in my birdguide) can last for anything up to 15 minutes at time.  I regard them as something special in the English landscape, an integral and special part of my homeland – tho realising of course that they can be found all over Europe, where they are summer visitors to the colder parts. 

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The birds have their beaks open in these photos – they are singing their heads off!

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BIRDS 54 – LARK (MONO + COLOUR)

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Skylark in song high above Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 31 Mar 2014.

I love being out on Tealham Moor when these larks are singing.  Their music is far carrying and all embracing, somehow it is all around.  And, bird lover and enthusiast that I have been for these nearly 50 years, I never fail to be impressed by all of that sound emanating from such a tiny speck that rides the winds in another world, high above mine.  Often, with the song pouring over me in waves, my experienced eyes still fail to locate the singer.

I’ve posted before on the Tealham Skylarks.  Those pictures were in colour and taken much closer in; you can find them here.

This picture is a small part of a larger image.  In case you’re not sure what you’re looking at, the bird is hanging in the air, facing away from us.  Its wings are the pointed shapes on either side, and the prominent, slightly bulbous shape pointing towards upper left is the spread tail.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 2 preset, with a little restoration of original colour.
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