STILL LIFE 171 – THE END OF THINGS

 

 


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The year ages, winter looms, and Life dies back, beds down, readying itself for the months of cold and darkness ahead.

Dead sunflower, heavily frosted, in the back garden of the farm next to the church in Stanton Drew.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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BIRDS 101 – CHICKEN 3

 

 


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Another bird from the little flock that live on the traffic island garden in the village of Stanton Drew, in the Chew Valley south of Bristol.

As ever, my love of getting in close to living creatures.

Other pictures of these birds, and context, are here .

Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.

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STANTON DREW 44 – VILLAGE LIFE 11

 

 


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This is a tiny piece of England and, to me, this is simply wonderful.  We are here in Stanton Drew, beside a large and important Stone Age monument – and these are the only entry formalities!  This is what more of Life should be like!!!

The farmer has attached this box to the gate that takes us into the fields where the prehistoric stones stand, and there is a little hole in the top to receive the one pound entry charge – most people probably pay with a pound coin, a coin that is a little over two centimetres in diameter and which neatly fits through that hole.  There is a little keyhole so that the farmer can collect his pounds.  And that’s more or less it!

In a container on the gate there used to be some single page, printed leaflets that very briefly described the prehistoric site, but there were none there on my latest visit.  And a little further on there is a small, green Ministry of Works sign, informing anyone who damages or defaces these standing stones that the full weight of English Law will descend upon them – the penalties may not quite be on a par with those imposed for setting fire to Her Majesty’s dockyards, but they’ll still be pretty damned unpleasant …

After which you pass through gates which prevent livestock getting out of the fields – and you’re in the fields, and the stones stand, lean and lie wonderfully before you.
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Part of one of the stone circles, with a farm, cattle and sheep up on the hill behind – click onto the image to better see these.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1 Further images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .    Each will open in a new window.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens; Lightroom; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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STILL LIFE 170 – THREE HERONS (MONO)

 

 


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Left to right, a Little Egret and two Great White Egrets – three herons – processed with Silver Efex Pro 2.

And good news!  Google acquired Silver Efex Pro 2 (and the other Nik Collection plug-ins) sometime back, but had ceased developing them and was plainly losing interest.  The situation has (hopefully!) now been saved by DxO, who have acquired these plug-ins from Google, apparently with a view to further developing them.  I’m very happy with SEP2 and Color Efex Pro 4 as they are, and so just knowing that they’re not going to disappear will be a big thing.

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

Technique: the X-T2 firing at 200 ISO, and really quite a tribute to what this APS-C format camera can achieve with distant subjects.  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 Strong Infrared Low Contrast preset; Capture NX2; Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake; 24 Nov 2017.
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STANTON DREW 43 – VILLAGE LIFE 10

 

 

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Looking out from the village at sunrise, on a cold and very misty day.  Using a telephoto to isolate a small part of the scene.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1Further images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   Each will open in a new window.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet again – certainly recommended >>> can you see the two birds in the tall tree?  Woodpigeons, I think.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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STILL LIFE 169 – DARK CAR (MONO)

 

 

Dark car

racing from the light,

drawn down by the white line,

drawn down into darkness.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Architectural preset; fast road up over the Mendip Hills, above Compton Martin, Somerset; 24 Nov 2017.
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STANTON DREW 42 – VILLAGE LIFE 9

 

 


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In the cemetery of the Church of the St Mary the Virgin, in Stanton Drew, early on a very frosty, misty morning.

I have spoken about this delightful churchyard before.  Although neither Christian nor an admirer of church architecture, I love to come and wander here in solitude because this simple country churchyard speaks volumes to me, enriching both my eyes and my mind.  Wandering alone in this little churchyard always gives me time to think about the deeper things on Life, not least of which is the impermanence of everything, to which these weathered and leaning tombstones bear certain witness.  And, as I say, in solitude – this church is up at the end of a little road,  next to a farm, and I have never met anyone else there. I was going to say that I’d never met another soul there but, for all I know, they have been all around me as I walk and, if that is the case, then that’s absolutely fine by me.

I have often wondered what I would do if confronted by a soul or ghost – call it what you will – and like to think that my overriding emotion would be one of wonder, rather than fear.  But that scenario has yet to be tested although – if what I experienced is to be believed – I have on one occasion at least been very close indeed to a ghost.  I was with a friend in a roadside pub, parts of which are very old – dating back to the days when transport on England’s main roads was by coach and horses.  Sitting eating her meal, my companion suddenly became rigid and very pale – and dumbstruck save for “There’s something here …”.  Later she told me she had seen a tall woman, dressed in black, standing beside us.  After she had calmed down a bit, I walked around the many empty rooms of the old and rambling building, talking to the darkness, waiting to see if anything would appear.  Nothing did.  But later, a small child went into a room and immediately came out saying “Mummy, Mummy, come and see the little doggy!” – but the bare room was completely empty.  Someone told me that children are more sensitive to such phenomena than adults, but I don’t know if that’s true.

My attitude to ghosts is simple.  I know nothing about them but, because there have been so many reports over the centuries, I feel that there must be something there, though I have no idea what that something (or things) may be.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1 Further images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 .    Each will open in a new window.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 138mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Pro Neg. Hi film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.  I especially like the look this film simulation gives to this particular image.
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BRISTOL 127 – THE SUN BREAKING THROUGH

 

 


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A cold morning, and the rising sun starts to burn through the mists over Whitchurch village, on the southern outskirts of Bristol.

The first image in this series, along with context, can be found hereSubsequent 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 yet again.

Technique: TG-5 at 100mm (equiv); 320 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Vivid film simulation; Whitchurch, south Bristol; 2 Nov 2017.
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STANTON DREW 41 – VILLAGE LIFE 8

 

 


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This series of posts – looking again at Stanton Drew – is entitled Village Life, and really I suppose its just that, looking at little scenes and details around the village, trying to give a flavour of its life.  But there’s no getting away from the fact that this village is sitting on the immediate edge of a major stone age site – there are actually standing stones in the pub’s back garden.  I’ve already mentioned this in this post.

Two things get to me here.  Firstly – and delightfully! – although this is certainly an important Stone Age site, spatially at least on a par with the far more well known Stonehenge and Avebury, it is far from all but the most specialist tourist trails.  It does have much meaning for the local Pagan community, something which I respect and identify with very much, but the really lovely thing about these standing stones is that, most often, there are no other visitors at all, so that there is every chance to experience and savour them in peace, quiet and solitude – so different from Stonehenge and Avebury, and truly a wonderful gift.

I’m a geologist, with all that entails about understanding and being at ease with vast periods of time, and I also have a great interest in history, not least ancient history.  And the second thing that gets to me about the Stanton Drew standing stones are the great time periods involved.  The stones were laid out and erected around 4,000 or 5,000 years ago, in Neolithic times.  A line of low hills can be seen in the photo here, and up on those hills is the Iron Age camp of Maes Knoll, which is thought to have been built around 250BC – so the stone circles at Stanton Drew were already two or more thousand years old before that Iron Age encampment – itself remote in age to our eyes – was built.

Later in history, the Anglo-Saxons arrived.  I don’t have an exact date here, but somewhere around 650AD may be right.  And I mention them not only because of my great interest in their history, but also because the name Stanton Drew derives in part from their time – stanton – some sort of settlement or enclosure in the vicinity of the standing stones.  And so to the Christian church, parts of which date from the 13th century, ie some time after 1200AD.  I like Stanton Drew as a place, but the great, visible length of history here considerably adds to it for me.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1Further images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 .    Each will open in a new window.

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

Technique: X-T1 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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BIRDS 100 – AN IMAGE CLOSE TO MY HEART (MONO)

 

 


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So, my 100th post on birds, creatures that have in so many ways had a profound influence on my life.  I have many images that might have filled this 100th slot, but here is one, a very simple one, that has a very special place in my heart.  It shows a male Blackbird, a species of thrush, sitting on wires down a little country lane.

I have of course been a lover of birds for a long, long time.  But, beyond that, I am in love with natural things, with Nature itself, and to me this image powerfully evokes Nature’s elemental drama and grandeur.  Why?  Well, when I look at this I see this little creature, sure of himself, perched on his territory and singing powerfully to assert that fact.  And not overawed in the least by the stark and wild vastness of Nature all around, but actually eminently at home in it, a part of it all, and in his way just as wild as all the rest.

The original text for this image is given below:

Blackbird on telephone wires along Swanshard Lane, southwest of Wells, on the Somerset Levels; 21 Mar 2012.

I was out on the Somerset Levels again early this morning, toting my ungainly Nikkor telezoom once more.  My first stop, to try and get awake after the not too long drive via large infusions of hot coffee and marmalade sandwiches, was along Swanshard Lane, a little, winding back road north of Polsham.  This lane just allows two cars to drive past each other in places, but in other places it really is a better idea if one vehicle stops and gets up close and personal with the hedge, while the other vehicle moves carefully past.

And, of course, this is spring and the birdlife is really going for it.  Wonderfully active rookeries were dotted around, and a veritable crescendo of calls included Buzzards, Wrens, Green Woodpeckers, Pheasants and Blue Tits.  And the first Chiffchaffs, little, unobtrusive warblers, are back from sub-Saharan Africa – having flown across the world, they are very probably nesting in the same tree or bush they nested in last summer.

And as I turned a corner, there was this male Blackbird – all black with a bright yellow bill – sitting on wires and singing his head off.  As he caught sight of me he stopped singing >>> but he didn’t move – he was on his territory and he didn’t feel like being shifted!  So, very carefully, in slow motion, I brought up the 400mm, took a spot meter reading from the sky to produce a silhouette, and started carefully firing frames.

I might have been able to get him larger in the frame, either at or post-capture, but just left of him there was this big, shaggy tree trunk, a very exciting silhouette, and I knew at once that I wanted that in the picture too.  So here it is: down an English country lane, early on a morning in spring.

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

Technique: D700 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 800 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2.
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