SOMERSET LEVELS 293 – RIVER BANK

 

 


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Bank of the River Sheppey, beside Ashmoor Drove.

I was standing above the river on a little bridge that farmers use to access their fields.  I looked down, and the big, spikey leaves sticking out from the Sheppey’s bank caught my eye.

As is often the case, this could so easily have ended up in black and white, but the faint colours add something.  And there are lots of shadows, lots not on view, but the picture was always going to centre around the (slight!) colours and textures of the water’s surface, and the silhouettes of those plants against the water’s brightness.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 238mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film preset; Ash Moor, Somerset Levels; 18 Aug 2017.
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ARCHIVE 313 – TRACK, TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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Track heading south across Tadham Moor, Somerset Levels; 29 Aug 2009.

I bought my first digital camera early in 2009 and, with what’s left of my mind, have been thinking that I made a total and immediate switch to digital, with my film gear and remaining films becoming at once obsolete (my last, unused films are in fact still in the fridge).

However, some images that I’ve found this morning, including this one, show that this was not the case – and I know why.  Because while digital colour pictures were fine, I just couldn’t get digital black and white to be anything other than bland, characterless and antiseptic.

Bland?  Yes, bland, and for two reasons.  First of course, I wasn’t yet aware of the editing software – most notably Silver Efex Pro –  that would solve these problems.

But second, I’d also had a thing for using fast black and white films – Fuji Neopan 1600 is the one here, but also Agfa Scala Black and White Slides – and then having them commercially push-processed.  Push-processing involves uprating a film’s speed during development so that, for example, if I’d exposed a 400 ISO film at 400 ISO, I would ask the processing lab to develop it as if I’d exposed it at 1600 ISO – and this sort of processing gave wonderful contrast and grain – its made the images really atmospheric, moody and gutsy.  (I push-processed colour slides too, most notably Fuji Provia 400X, and loved the results).

And so, when I found digital black and white to really not be doing the business, I returned for awhile to slamming away with push-processed mono film in my Nikon F6 – and this photo is an example of that.  I mean, just look at the grain in those clouds – was I photographing in a blizzard???  And the whole thing looks old – this is definitely not antiseptic newness.

But there is an irony here – and the joke is on me.  Because when I’d managed to get digital black and white doing what I wanted, via various editing programs, and then thought that I should use those programs on scanned versions of my push-processed film images >>> failure was everywhere in the air!

Because although these pushed films look good as they are, they simply do not contain the vast wealth of image data found in a full colour, digital Raw file – full colour, digital Raws are really by far the best jumping off points when converting images to black and white.

Technique: F6 with 12-24 Sigma lens at 12mm;  Fuji Neopan 1600 black and white film, push processed 2 stops to 6400 ISO, to achieve a grainy effect.  The extreme wideangle lens (12mm focal length = 122 degrees angle of view) captures detail from almost beneath my feet to the far distance.

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ARCHIVE 309 – THE SUN RISING OVER GLASTONBURY TOR

 

 


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Sunrise over Glastonbury Tor, seen from Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 22 Nov 2013.

I’ve lightened the centre section to bring interest to the mid-ground with the two cows – but I’m sure they should have shadows … oh dear, digital … not always quite up to it are you?  Or maybe I’m not quite up to it – its probably me.

And of course I’m pointing my magnificent if distinctly weighty telezoom straight into the sun’s glare, and so to a second, orange sun low down in the frame, and also some rather fiery glows between that sun and the real one.  I could have gone at it with software to try and make good these optical artefacts but, first, I can’t be bothered, and second, I think they add to the atmosphere and feeling of the shot – I mean, I’m pointing a x6 telephoto directly into Our Star’s incandescent face, so what do I expect, perfect and pristine optical rendition?

I like the 80-400.  Large and unwieldy it may be and its not one of Nikon’s very quick AF-S lenses, but it is image stabilised and I can hand hold it, and it gives such reach and flexibility.

An earlier image in this series is here .

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

Technique: D800 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO.

UPDATE: that wonderful but rather bulky 80-400 Nikkor lens has now disappeared >>> in a part exchange deal to buy a Fujifilm mirrorless camera!  I wonder if it was a wise swap?  Probably, I think, probably, and certainly so in terms of size and portability.  And the (already, in our digital world, aged) D800 has a trick up its sleeve – using it in Nikon’s APS-C format, which Nikon calls DX format, it multiplies the focal length of lenses by x1.5, so that my lighter and less bulky 70-300 Nikkor (my favourite Nikon lens of all) becomes 105-450 – and 400mm is still covered!
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ARCHIVE 305 – SUNRISE WITH THREE DUCKS (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Three ducks and the sunrise over Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 23 Nov 2012.

As with my pictures of crows aloft , the birds are dwarfed by the immensity of their element, yet quite at one with it.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; conversion to mono and colour restoration in Silver Efex Pro 2.

UPDATE: Minimalism once more, and the slightly unreal look of colour restored to a black and white image.

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ARCHIVE 299 – CROW SCARING STARLINGS (MONO)

 

 

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Starlings are flustered and scattered as a Carrion Crow flies in amongst them; Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 1 Nov 2013.

There is another image from these moments here.

Technique: D800 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro’s High Structure Harsh preset.

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ARCHIVE 298 – BLACK AND WHITE IMAGES PRODUCED BY SILVER EFEX PRO 2

 

I’ve just put out a post urging readers of my blog to take advantage of Google’s free offer of the Google Nik Collection digital photography plug-ins.  I waxed especially lyrical about the Silver Efex Pro 2 program for creating black and white images, and said that very many images produced by the program can be found on this blog.  Well, here is one – I hope you enjoy it.  (And there are others in recent posts here, here and here).

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Inquisitive as ever, out on Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 29 Aug 2013.

My ongoing warm feelings for cows.  The main subject is making a dive for my shiny lens – I fired and jumped back just before his wet muzzle engulfed it.  The expression of the next animal right is interesting – distinctly doubtful and censorious.  Maybe he read my thoughts about gravy and roast potatoes …

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

Technique: D700 with 12-24 Sigma lens at 18mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2’s Fine Art Process preset.

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ARCHIVE 294 – CROW ON A FALLEN TREE (MONO)

 

 


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Carrion Crow perched in a fallen tree; Tadham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 31 Mar 2014.

Early in the day, I pulled bleary eyed into the Magic Carpark, stumbled out of the car – and saw this crow.  Praying that it wouldn’t move, and all fingers and thumbs, I readied the camera, turned and – it was still there!  In fact it stayed there for sometime.

The tree is a casualty of the recent severe flooding.  It was probably not standing vertically before, but then its roots had been able to find sufficient purchase in the soil.  But, saturate that soil with floodwater for many weeks and turn it into something like blancmange or wet rice pudding, and the roots were simply not up to the task of keeping the great bulk of trunk and branches above them upright.

I went for a pure silhouette, with the sky completely burnt out, for simplicity – a Minimalist approach.  To me, the few branches entering the frame at upper right serve to balance the composition.  The adding of a blue tone takes the scene further away from reality.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Classic Portrait preset, and adding a Cyanotype tone.
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ARCHIVE 293 – TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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Misty morning on Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 10 Apr 2014.

A typical Levels scene.  The water-filled ditch forms the boundary of the grassy field on the left of the shot.  Immediately left of the prominent tree,  a little bridge across the ditch allows access to the field.  The actual field gate is barely visible, at the left end of the two short lengths of fencing left of the tree.  These short lengths of fencing prevent animals in the field from edging around the sides of the gate, and so gaining their freedom via the bridge.

A single track, tarmac road, Totney Drove, is just out of sight on the right of the shot, at the top of the low bank immediately right of the tree.

I was first attracted by the tree’s reflection, but I also like the thin mistiness, both back behind the tree, and above the water in the ditch.  And the cloud above the tree helps the composition, being far preferable to having featureless sky there.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 70mm; 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Harsh preset.

UPDATE: I will never stop loving this image, its as simple as that.
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STILL LIFE 97 – SWAN

 

 

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Close in with a male Mute Swan.  The large black knob above the base of the bill shows this to be an adult male, a cob.

Most of the bird was bathed in bright sunlight, and spot metering overexposed the highlights below its head.  Some very vague traces of its body are still visible, at upper right and lower left.  These would be easy to remove, but they’re left in to provide (a very little!) context. 

The first of these bird still life images, with context, is here: 1

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 215mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using Fuji’s Classic Chrome colour profile;  Herriots Bridge, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 3 Apr 2017.
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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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