ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 61 – HIGH SPEEDS DOWN NARROW LANES (MONO)

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Morning commute on the Somerset Levels: high speeds down narrow lanes.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in APS-C format at 450mm; in-camera processing of raw file, starting at the Graphite profile; further processing of the jpeg in Lightroom; Totney Drove, on Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wedmore; 9 Sept 2019.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 31 – KEEPING VERY STILL AND QUIET (MONO)

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A summer’s morning down on the Levels, and after a lot of early morning photography I was relaxing with hot coffee and a sandwich in a spot on Tadham Moor that I know as the Magic Carpark.  I’ve given it this somewhat strange name because, many years ago now, being in this little, quiet place helped me through terrible times in my life, and I’ve been coming here ever since.  And, after I’ve downed the very last of my very special Belgian beers, this is where my ashes will be scattered.  A wonderful and eminently simple little place.

On this particular morning, in the field next to the rough track that leads off south from the Carpark, there was a herd of cows, largely motionless, along with their calves.  And the more I looked at these cows, and at the morning’s light washing over them, the more I was drawn to them.  And so, putting down the coffee and picking up the Z 6, I walked slowly and quietly down the rough track towards them.

Arriving next to the cows, I kept very still and quiet and just looked at them.  Most were unconcerned by my presence, but this one, who had been lying down beside her calf, stood up to look at me, and advanced a few paces – and I was very glad of the water-filled ditch – the rhyne – that lay between us.  But, keeping silent and motionless paid off and, slowly raising the camera, I carefully started making images of this very placid scene.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 330mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 1 preset; the Magic Carpark, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 12 July 2019.

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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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 30 – ANIMAL

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OK, let’s start at the bottom line: I love cats.  A cat named George, aged two, was present when I was born.  My mother told me that he used to get up on his hind legs and peer in at me in my pram – probably wondering if he was allowed to eat me I expect!  And I grew up alongside him and, as an only child, he was effectively my brother.  Quite simply, he was always there, he was always around, and he died when I was 13.  I have never owned a cat but, equally, I have never forgotten George and, indeed, over 50 years later he is still frequently – and warmly – in my thoughts.  And whenever I encounter cats these days, I look on them with much affection.

And my feline odyssey goes a little further than that because, taking clients on safari in Kenya, I came into close contact with our moggies’ much larger cousins – Lion, Leopard and Cheetah.  Lions I could take or leave really, but I spent ages almost drowning in the deep, expressionless, amber eyes of Leopard and Cheetah.  And then there were smaller cats too – Serval and (most wonderfully) Caracal.

So what on earth has all this got to do with the Somerset Levels?  Well, recently, I was exploring on the southeastern edges of Queen’s Sedge Moor, when I hauled up at Redlake Farm – and promptly had two very pleasant experiences.  I’ll talk about the first of those experiences another time but, as I walked along the farm’s frontage there was a closed gate with six cats basking beneath it on the morning sun’s warm rays.  There is a picture – not a very good picture – of them below, but it gives you an idea of the scene.

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And, standing very still, I looked at these cats, they looked back at me, and – very softly – I started talking to them.  I certainly didn’t want to frighten them by getting too close and, anyway, looking at them, it was immediately apparent that these were not tame house cats, but rather working cats in a way, who earn their keep on the farm as fierce ratters and mousers.  Stroking one of these, even if I could get near enough, might not be a wholly joyous experience.

And so the camera went into APS-C mode, lengthening the reach of my telephoto and, from a distance, I photographed them.  And as I looked through the camera into those impassive and predatory faces, I was reminded of those much larger cats in Kenya long ago, and the title of this post came surely to mind.

Click onto the images above to open a larger versions in separate windows – recommended.

Technique: upper image – Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 1000 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Neutral V2 picture control.  Lower image: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 36mm (equiv); Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; 400 ISO.  Redlake Farm, Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 24 May 2019.

SOMERSET LEVELS – SOME KEYWORDS

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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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 29 – FLOODED FIELD

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The tips of coarse marsh grasses protruding from floodwater on Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 23 Nov 2012.

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

I’d had thoughts about cropping in more closely on this image, to better show the grasses, but I’m sticking with this version because I think that the surrounding negative space gives the image “room to breathe” – ie it is not cramped, and it gives more of a sense of the isolation and desolation that the floods have brought.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO.
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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 28 – ENTRANCE TO A FIELD OF RECENTLY CUT GRASS

 

 


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I’m standing on the tiny, grassy bridge across a water-filled ditch – known locally as a rhyne – which allows access of man, beast and machine to the large, open field of recently cut grass to the left.  A period of dry weather is forecast and, almost to a man, everywhere, the farmers have been out cutting their grass.

The actual metal gate to the field is open and out of shot to the left, and such short sections of wooden fencing as the one here are erected on either side of gates everywhere in this flat landscape, to prevent animals trying to squeeze around the gates from either falling into the rhynes, or gaining access to the tiny bridges and actually escaping.

The dead straight rhyne makes off eastwards across the relatively recent landscape of Queen’s Sedge Moor, and just visible up to its right is the tarmac surface of the single track Long Drove, which accompanies the rhyne across this flatland.

In all of this wonderful flatness, two areas of higher ground can just be seen.  Look along the line of the rhyne, and there is a bluish escarpment – the uplands of Launcherly Hill and Worminster Down – and over beyond there, further to the right, well that’s where the Glastonbury Festival is held.  I have never been to the festival (tho watching lots of it on TV) but, quite simply, I think it an absolutely wonderful event, something of a shining light in an often dull world, and I can only hope that it will continue for many, many years to come.

Look over to the left and you will see a long line of more distant high ground topped by a towering TV mast – these are the Mendip Hills, the northern limit of the Levels in this area, and an important part of my early life.

And, as has happened to me many times before when viewing such pictures, the large upstanding tree near the rhyne’s vanishing point resembles nothing more than an exploding artillery shell.  Why I should receive this impression, I cannot imagine.  I’m not sure I believe in the possibility of having lived earlier lives than this one but – who knows?

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

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 27mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Astia/Soft profile; Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 5 July 2019..

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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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 27 – AT ROSE FARM, LOOKING EAST (MONO)


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The view out across a misty landscape, early in the day.

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 116mm; 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Vivid v2 picture control; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Tin Type preset; at Rose Farm, on the Somerset Levels south of Tarnock; 3 May 2019.

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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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 26 – STORM (MONO)

 

 


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Storm-blown trees on Tadham Moor, early on 23 Dec 2013.  Taken through my car’s windscreen, during heavy rain.

With a bad weather alert broadcast, I went down very early to the Somerset Levels yesterday, arriving there before dawn.  Sitting there in the dark watching all things materialise around me as the dawn crept up was magical, but there were downsides.  With a southerly airflow the day was mild, but whereas I’d left Bristol in dry and calm darkness, the weather forecasts’ warnings proved absolutely right with the advent of strengthening winds and worsening rain almost as soon as I’d pulled up and got stuck into my frugal repast – thick, bitter marmalade sandwiches, plain chocolate digestive biscuits (well its Christmas!) and hot, sweet coffee – in Swanshard Lane, near Polsham.

Dull light came and I pushed on westwards towards Tadham and Tealham Moors, but the little roads were already very wet and the rain and wind worsened.  I stayed quite a time down there, glorying in the wildness of the elements, but that wet place was just getting very much wetter, and with the waterways full to the brim and the roads actively awash and strewn with tree debris, I at last started for home.

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 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 270mm; 25,600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro’s Film Noir 3 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.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 25 – RUBY RED DEVON (MONO)

 

 


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Red Ruby Devon cow on Peacock Farm, northeast of Westhay, on the Somerset Levels; 21 Mar 2012.

Having large animals fill the frame has always attracted me – I like to get in close to them, usually with a sizeable telephoto and, in a way, turn them into landscapes. 

Here the accent is very much on the animal’s pale and coarsely hairy face, with its bulging eye and odd strands of pale straw.  Then my eye is taken left to its wonderfully hairy ear and then, further left again, the dark flank fades off into abstraction.

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 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

The first Somerset Levels picture gallery, which shows the first 10 of these posts with short captions – ideal for quick viewing – can be found here .

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

Technique: D700 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 3200 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro 2.

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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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 24 – RISING SUN WITH FOG, TEALHAM MOOR (MONO)

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Rising sun behind fog, Tealham Moor; 8 Apr 2015.

The view eastwards from the top of the low bridge over the North Drain (the waterway on the right), on a cool and still, April morning.

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 .

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 200 ISO with 1 stop underexposure; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Antique Portrait preset and adding a cool tone.

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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SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERY 2: POSTS 11-20

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 second gallery – you can find the first gallery here: 1 .

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

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11: Looking eastwards into the mists along Totney Drove, a single track, tarmac road crossing Tadham Moor; 19 Oct 2018.
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12: Blackbird – a territorial male, clearly resenting my presence – down an English country lane, early on a morning in spring; 21 Mar 2012.
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13: Skylark in song high above Tealham Moor, bathing the landscape in beautiful sounds: 31 Mar 2014.
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14: Misty morning, Tadham Moor; 10 Apr 2014.
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15: Meadow Pipit singing, Tealham Moor; 5 July 2019.
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16: Winter floods, Tadham Moor; 20 Jan 2008.
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17: Squall coming, time to take shelter, Tadham Moor; 29 Apr 2016.
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18: The western end of the Somerset Levels – beneath the sea at Weston-super-Mare; 4 Sept 2014.
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19: Looking past grasses, towards a grove of trees; Common Moor; 19 July 2019.
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20: Dark, brooding giant beside Chasey’s Drove, Common Moor; 10 Aug 2003.
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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.

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