STILL LIFE 159 – ASSASSIN (MONO)

 

 


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Perception can so often be a matter of viewpoint. 

To our eyes, this may be a beautiful, even elegant, wild creature, the sight of which lifts our spirits and, indeed, our quality of life.

But in the real world, that thick, serpentine, muscular neck, and that dagger of a bill, are the tools of a precise and eminently stealthy predator – and any small creature moving under the water, if it sees this killer at all before being struck, views it quite differently.

Another picture of a Great White Egret at Chew Valley Lake, the first picture of this bird, is here.

Click onto this image to open a larger (and grainier) version in a separate window, and click onto that image to marginally enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 1 preset and adding a light coffee tone; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake; 6 Oct 2017.  This is a huge enlargement of an APS-C image, with the X-T2 working at its highest quality, native 200 ISO.
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STANTON DREW 37 – VILLAGE LIFE 4

 

 


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A picture from the edge of Stanton Drew, looking in towards the village from the surrounding fields.  And a picture very immediately depicting two very different ages of Man.

In the foreground, prehistoric standing stonespresumably erected for some ceremonial purpose, four or five thousand years ago.  Whereas in the background, and only 700 or less years old, is the Christian church of St Mary the Virgin.  Its intriguing (but by no means unique) to see Christian structures so close to far more ancient ceremonial sites.

Seeing these prehistoric stones at Stanton Drew positively does me good, just knowing that they are there does me good.  I do not of course have any concept of the rites or religion(s) that were practiced here in those very far off days, but if I find anything spiritual at Stanton Drew – and I do – it is without doubt amongst these very ancient standing stones.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1 .  Further images are here: 2 3 .

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 155mm; 200 ISO; Lightroom; Stanton Drew; 1 Aug 2013.

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STANTON DREW 36 – VILLAGE LIFE 3

 

 


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Old gravestones, barely legible now, in the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin, the parish church.

A lovely, tranquil rural churchyard, the church being in fact at the top of a dead end (ohhh, no pun intended!) road, next to a farm.  Wandering quietly in the churchyard – where I can’t recall ever encountering another soul – is a wonderful stimulant for reflection.  Inevitably, my mind turns, not unpleasantly, to thoughts of mortality; but then, I’m a geologist, and if I can’t be at one with life, death, extinctions and eternities, who can?

But I like this photo for two reasons.  First, the leaning, weathered, lichen-encrusted nature of the old stones, quite far from the ordered and sterile gentrification of modern days.  And secondly for the long, lush grass sprouting up around them: yes, mortality for sure, this exuberant grass is saying, but Life goes on.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1Further images are here: 2 .

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

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 195mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; Stanton Drew; 7 June 2016.
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BIRDS 95 – GREAT WHITE EGRET – AND A NEW BIRD FOR MY UK LIST!!!

 

 

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Last Friday, driving home past Chew Valley Lake, I saw a white heron out of the corner of my eye and automatically assumed that it was a Little Egret, a bird that was very rare here in my youth but which has flooded into southern Britain in recent decades.  But, all in an instant, it hit me that it looked far too big for a Little – and my car swerved across the thankfully empty road, I grabbed the bins, leapt out and, well, here it is pictured above – it is a Great White Egret, a bird of warmer, more southerly climes and, as far as I knew, a great rarity – tho not new for my UK bird list, as I’d already seen one on Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, in the 1990s.

Well, I will summarise what happened next.  I immediately met a birder from South Wales, a chap of my age, and as we looked out over this small part of the lake – the Herons Green Bay that I’ve often spoken of before – we found 18 Little Egrets, 12 of these Great White Egrets – and a single Cattle Egret, a bird I’d never seen in Britain before, but which I’m very familiar with from 12 years in Kenya.  Unfortunately this new bird was too far away for anything like a decent photo – I wished I’d been carrying a full-frame Nikon and 400+mm of telephoto reach!

I’m not a bird lister these days, its simply a type of collecting, and while I was reasonably into it during my birding decades, 1967-2002, a great chunk of my life really, I now have a far more relaxed attitude to birds.  I still enjoy them hugely, I love to see them and they certainly significantly raise my Quality Of Life – as do butterflies.  But I am now out the frenetic race to see more and more bird species – I’ve moved on, as the current phrase goes, and I’m different now.

But, nevertheless, seeing a new bird for my UK list so unexpectedly was quite a (nice) shock – and this welcome feeling was only enhanced by the setting, because Herons Green was one of the Somerset locations where I started birding all those years ago.  I’ve travelled quite a bit I suppose, including living in Kenya, but now I’m happy to be, more or less, “back where I started”.  Is it a “coming home” thing, well I don’t know, although I am now very close to where I grew up – but I do know that ending up here in southwest England – Somerset, and sometimes Dorset, Devon and Cornwall too – feels right.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Chew Valley Lake, south of Bristol; 6 Oct 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 299 – MISTY MORNING, ALLERTON MOOR 3

 

 


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Looking into misty light, early in the day.

You can find other images from this dark and mysterious morning here and here.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Allerton Moor;  22 Aug 2017.
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STANTON DREW 35 – VILLAGE LIFE 2

 

 


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A small, simple piece of rural life, and a reliance on honesty less common now.

The first image in this series, and some context, is here: 1 .

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

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 119mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom; Stanton Drew; 7 June 2016.
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STANTON DREW 34 – VILLAGE LIFE 1

 

Stanton Drew is a village of 800 or so people in the Chew Valley, not far south of Bristol.  Its a small, quiet village, pleasant to walk around, and notable for of its prehistoric stone circles.  As the title to this post shows, I’ve already published 33 photos –  of decidedly varying quality, it must be said – from this little place.  Now, having neglected it for sometime, I’m going to post some more photos, some seen before, some not.  And I might even manage to get myself sufficiently together to stroll around there photographing some more, maybe with a rather different eye than on my previous visits – time will tell.  If nothing else, there’s a wonderfully peaceful, rural churchyard, and a welcoming pub which has blazing log fires.
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Stanton Drew does have a narrow but reasonably busy road passing through it and, on something which is almost a large traffic island there is a garden, the surface of which is not far below eye level – which makes shots like this so much easier to take.  This garden has no fences around it, and the few chickens that live there seem to know that fluttering down from their elevated home will only bring problems.  They are reasonably tame, and I’ve found that crouching down out of sight below the edge of the raised garden, waiting until their calls are loud and near, and then very slowly emerging up beside them, pays dividends.

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

Technique: X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom.
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ARCHIVE 319 – MEADOW WITH WILDFLOWERS (MONO)

 

 


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Meadow with wildflowers beside North Chine Drove, southeast of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 27 Jul 2011.

The uncut grass with its abundance of tall yellow wildflowers first caught my eye and, and I was looking at how it might best be photographed when the sun broke through the clouds, producing this beautiful (and very lucky) shaft of light across the scene.

The photo is in three layers.  In the foreground there are more of the yellow flowers, but in the shade and unfocused.  Above this, the shaft of sunlight cuts across the shot, illuminating both the tall grasses and another grove of the wildflowers.  Finally, the third and upper layer contains the trees and bushes behind the field which (luckily again) are partly caught by the sun’s rays, so that this background is not wholly dark.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 400 ISO; converted to monochrome, and slightly tinted very pale yellow, with Silver Efex Pro.

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ARCHIVE 318 – CATHEDRAL (MONO)

 

 


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The West Front of Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 17 Sept 2009.

I’m at home in Somerset – I’m Somerset born and bred – and one of the good things about now living in Bristol is that its within quite easy reach of Wells, Glastonbury and Bath, all places that I’m very fond of.

I like Wells in particular for its antiquity and its small and very accessible size, for its absolutely glorious cathedral – and of course for its vicinity to the Somerset Levels – for me it is the gateway to the Levels.  I often visit Wells, and am never less than thrilled by the cathedral’s West Front, as seen from the large green out in front of it.   This towering, cliff-like face of the cathedral was originally painted in bright colours, to further impress the populace with their god’s majesty and beauty – a TV reconstruction of it as it originally was, hundreds of years ago, was simply stupefying.

One day I was standing down at the foot of this stupendous cliff of masonry, holding the F6 with the 12-24 attached and set at 12mm – and I clearly remember putting the camera to my eye and looking up – and being sent reeling by the epic vision above me!  This is the picture you see here.  There are absolutely no thoughts about correcting the converging verticals  – they make the shot, giving the effect of this powerful, stupendous, towering  mass of masonry reaching up into the heavens.

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

Technique: F6 with Sigma 12-24 lens at 12mm (122 degrees field of view); Ilford Delta 3200 black and white film rated at 6400 ISO.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 298 – WINTER MORNING, TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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The view eastwards towards Tadham Moor, just before sunrise on a morning in winter.

Two pale lines arrow off into the distance.  On the right, a single track, tarmac road, covered in frost: Totney Drove.  And in the centre of the shot, the silvery gleam of a water-filled ditch, a rhyne (rhymes with seen), between the drove and the dark, rough pasture off to the left.

The background is the essence of the Levels: flat, misty, partly flooded country, waiting mutely and sometimes mysteriously in the dawn.

And finally, right below the camera, right in the foreground of the shot, are some upright sheets of corrugated iron.  Both the road and the rhyne turn sharply off to the left here, and the corrugated iron has been installed to strengthen the low bank on which the road sits, to try to stop it collapsing into the rhyne under the weight of passing vehicles.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 12,800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset; 27 Jan 2017.
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