ARCHIVE 580 – THE CHAPTER HOUSE STEPS (MONO)

 

 


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The Chapter House Steps in Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 7 Jan 2005.

I have to hold my hand up here and at once acknowledge that this photo has already been taken by hundreds of other photographers – just search for these steps on Google if you don’t believe me; an early (perhaps the first?) photo of these stairs was taken in 1900, by Frederick Henry Evans.

Near the top right of this photo, the steps can be seen turning right into the Chapter House. Straight ahead, through the illuminated doorway, is the bridge that allowed the clergy to come directly into the cathedral from their lodgings, rather than having to be exposed to worldly temptations by mixing with the townspeople.

See how the edges of the steps have been worn down by the tramp of countless feet over the centuries.

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

Technique: tripod-mounted OM-4 with 21mm Zuiko lens; Agfa Scala monochrome slide film, rated at 400 ISO.

March 2015 update: three things come to mind.  First, I like this image but don’t really think its “my kind of picture”.  Yes, its a beautiful and historic place, the image has nice tones and there are the worn steps to emphasise just how old this place is.  But, that said, its still just a record of an architectural interior, and I’m not sure that shakes my tree.

Second, it was taken on a now discontinued film that I used to regard as being one of the greatest casualties of the Digital Revolution – it started life as an Agfa Scala black and white slide.  Nearly all of my photography in those days used colour slides (aka transparencies), which I used to give slideshows on a Leica projector – and it was so good to be able to include mono shots along with the far more ubiquitous colour.  And Scala was a rough and tough film – rated at 400 ISO, it could be push processed to 1600 or 3200 ISO – and I was in my dark and moody, monochrome element!

However, I used to regard this wonderful film as a great loss – but now find that scanned versions offer far less potential for digital manipulation than full colour, raw files.  Most digital cameras can of course capture black and white images straight off but, particularly if substantial post-capture editing is anticipated – as it is in all of my mono photography – then shooting in full colour raw and then converting to mono is the way to go.

And, lastly, today is a minor anniversary, because this picture was taken with an Olympus OM-4 film SLR that I bought second hand on this day 12 years ago, as a means of getting back into photography once more.  Olympus OM film cameras and lenses were absolutely something else – light, compact and with excellent mechanical and optical quality.  I shot film, mostly as slides (transparencies), which was a great discipline – but in 2009 very abruptly changed to digital – since when I have never shot another frame of film.  The advent of digital photography has certainly been the single most important event in my “photographic life”, because it provides such vast scope for creativity.

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BRISTOL 164 – YOUNGSTER, LOST AND UNSURE

 

 


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Walking in the city centre, starting to descend a tall flight of steps – and finding this young lost soul.  This is a young gull, probably hatched on a nearby rooftop, that has now flown down out of the nest, to find itself in a totally alien environment of steps, streets, vehicles and people.

These lost young birds don’t know what to: and some walk straight out into the busy traffic and meet an instant end.  But others survive and, as evidence of this, the gulls breeding on Bristol’s roofs are an annual event.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Astia/Soft profile; central Bristol; 7 July 2017.
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PEOPLE 376 – YOUNG PEOPLE AND FALLEN LEAF (MONO)

 

 


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Young people walking – briskly, spritely, full of life – on their way to college, I think.  And a large, dead, autumn leaf, lying on a low flight of steps – its that time of year, after all.

And even as I took this picture I felt the contrast here, between the energies of youth, of people who may think they’ll always be young (if they think about such things at all), people who have scant awareness of ageing (which is a very pleasant and worthwhile mindset to be in, by the way, let’s be very clear about that!!!) >>> and I felt the contrast between these youngsters and the incontrovertible evidence of Life’s eternal cycle, lying mute and unnoticed on the steps beside them.

Can’t remember what I was on in Weston – maybe I was just running on hot coffee and enthusiasm! –  or maybe it was just an effect of being back where I grew up, prior to setting off into the outside world in 1968 – maybe all of that Life, all of the times and experiences since then, were getting to me.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 24-120 Nikkor lens used in APS-C format to give 180mm; 1600 ISO; in-camera processing of the raw file, including use of the Graphite profile; no further processing;  High Street, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 8 Nov 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS AT 400 – TIME FOR A LITTLE LOOKING BACK …

 

400 POSTS

Well, my 400th post about the Somerset Levels.  This feels like something of a milestone.  Questions arise.  What are the Levels?  What are they to me?  And why do I continue to visit and photograph them?

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And rather than post a new image, here are some pictures from my earliest Somerset Levels posts, eight years or so ago – I hope you like them.  Click onto them to open larger versions in separate windows.  LOL! >>> and two of them concern food >>> well, this is FATman Photos ……

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1 – The view eastwards along the North Drain from the Jack’s Drove bridge on Tealham Moor; 17 Sept 2010.  Early morning mists are starting to be dissolved by the rising sun, just after 7am.  I walked on up Jack’s Drove to the low bridge, which is a favourite place of mine – and this scene was unfolding to the east.  Canon G11 Powershot; 140mm; Silver Efex Pro.

WHAT ARE THE SOMERSET LEVELS?

In summary: the Levels are fens and wet lowlands that cover around 650 sq. km. of the county of Somerset.  In the UK, they are second in extent only to the fens of East Anglia.  They have only relatively recently been reclaimed from the lakes and marshes that formerly covered the area, and they have a rich history going back to Neolithic, Roman and Anglo-Saxon times.

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There is a good general source of reference here .

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And the link to my first Levels post – on 21 May 2011 – is here .   It also has much background information.

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2 – The Chapter House Steps in Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 7 Jan 2005.   Near the top right of this photo, the steps can be seen turning right into the Chapter House.  Straight ahead, through the illuminated doorway, is the bridge that allowed the clergy to come directly into the cathedral from their lodgings, rather than having to be exposed to worldly temptations by mixing with the townspeople.  Olympus OM-4; 21mm; Agfa Scala monochrome slide film, rated at 400 ISO.

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THOUGHTS

I was brought up on the edge of the Levels and cycled on their welcoming flatnesses as a kid – and then left my native Somerset for a long time, much of which was spent abroad.  And it was 25 years ago, in 1994, after my return to England, that I started visiting the Levels regularly once more – mostly for birdwatching but, increasingly, for photography.  I’m something of a loner, and this trait is increasing as I approach my 70th year – my psychological friend thinks I’m happy with my own company and, for me, photography is something mostly done toute seule – wandering with a camera, not straining things or anything, but just looking at anything and everything.

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And the Levels, at least the parts that I visit – between the Mendip Hills to the north and the Polden Hills to the south –  are wonderful for this.  There are never that many people around and, quite often, there are only quite muted, natural sounds – running water, the wind, birds, cows.  The Levels have a great simplicity, they have nothing to prove; in an age increasingly dominated by the relentless onslaught of hype, image, buzzwords and the mass media, I see the Levels as a great antidote to all of this rush and increasing complexity, a great antidote to the pace of modern life.

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You might say that I’m getting back to Nature and I suppose I am, but it must be stressed that the Levels are not a natural landscape, they are an artificial, drained and farmed landscape. They certainly contain natural creatures – willows, skylarks, roe deer and (xxxxx!!!) horseflies to name a few, but that is not the same as being totally natural places – but then, in the Anthropocene (google it!), very few places remain actually “untouched”.

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3 – Meadow at Allermoor Farm, on Aller Moor, south of Wedmore; 24 May 2009.  The meadow itself is a pale, yellow-green haze – a friend said that she could almost smell the air scented by the thousands of blossoms.  The sunlit branches of the tree, just starting to come into leaf, seem to be reaching out over all of this late spring colour.  Nikon D700; 300mm; 400 ISO.

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4 – A busy morning in the kitchen at Sweets Tea Rooms, on the Blakeway between Bleak Farm and Turnpike House, on Westhay Moor; 25 July 2009.   Note the still warm rock cakes on the tray-  absolutely delicious!  There are three tearooms in this area and this is the one I know best – friendly owners, excellent, simple food and drink, toilets, parking – and an intriguing Peat & Science Museum in the adjoining building.  Nikon D700; 24mm; 1600 ISO.

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5 – Irate bull, Westhay Moor Drove, northwest of Lower Godney, in the Brue Valley; 28 Oct 2009.  This bull was in a field along Westhay Moor Drove and, as I walked along the drove towards it, I could see at once that he resented my presence.  As a first show of strength, he did what I’ve seen large animals like Eland and Buffalo do many times in Kenya – he turned sideways on to show me just how big he was.  He didn’t have any trouble impressing me.  His hind quarters were lean and strong, in the peak of physical condition and,  if he had his way, I knew that those powerful hind quarters would soon be driving his front end ferociously towards me – and his front end was an enormous, bludgeoning battering ram of bone and muscle, that would be guided on its course by two, very irate eyes.  However, feeling halfway secure – mainly because he and I were separated by a fence, a gate and a water-filled ditch (albeit the gate was only secured by a single rope), I continued along the drove and drew up level with him, whereupon he advanced right up to the gate, giving me the most malevolent of glares.  Not being able to resist the photo – and also being not a little out of my head – I knelt down in front of him and focused on his right eye to get this shot.  He kept pushing the gate but the rope held firm – and I’m still here to tell the story.  I like this picture.  His whole mien radiates malevolent bad temper, right on the edge of unstoppable violence.  His right eye is sharp, as is all the wonderfully tangled hair on his face, and I have rarely seen a glare of such malevolence.  Nikon D700; 400mm; 800 ISO.

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6 – A Cottage Special served up in the Cottage Café, Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset; 29 Apr 2010. Though I’m prone to slightly high cholesterol, I’m a complete sucker for a full English breakfast, as long as its not too greasy. I don’t eat many of them but they are amongst my favourite meals, with the taste combination of bacon, eggs and grilled tomatoes often being more than I can possibly put into words. This particular breakfast was a slight disappointment because the beans had been poured over the fried bread, demolishing much of the latter’s superb taste and, especially, texture. But just look at the locally made sausages, the slightly blackened tomatoes …. the black pudding …two eggs …. the lean rashers ….…. DO I EAT IT OR GET DOWN AND MAKE LOVE TO IT!!!???  The Cottage Café’s breakfasts are in general superb, possibly due to all of the ingredients being fried together in same large frying pan, which makes everything extremely flavoursome. Since we first started going there over a year ago, this eatery has moved up market – so what used to be the Belly Buster has now re-invented itself as the Cottage Special!  And, quite apart from all that gastronomic gush, I like this as a picture.  Canon PowerShot G11; 400 ISO.

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7 – Pollarded Willow in the mist, Tadham-Tealham Moor; 8 Aug 2003.  Originally in colour, I’ve reduced this image to low contrast and misty monochrome, so that it more resembles a pencil drawing than a photograph.  Olympus OM-4; Fuji Velvia 50 colour slide; Silver Efex Pro.
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BRISTOL 145 – PERSON OF ILL REPUTE, APPARENTLY (MONO)

 

 


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Passing time in central Bristol: man ascending steps, past accusation >>> all of which, including the title, sounds like something out of crossword …  …

There are other pictures in this short series here: 1 2 3 .

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

Technique: TG-5 at 25mm (equiv); 1000 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the B&W 08 profile; steps off Baldwin Street, central Bristol; 25 June 2019.

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BRISTOL 131 – WALKING UP STAIRS, TOWARDS A DRAINPIPE

 

 


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Early for an appointment in the city.  Early for an appointment to road test a camera as it happens. 

And so to roaming the streets, looking at anything and everything, taking it all in.

A dark entry beckoned, sombre stairs disappearing up into loneliness, silence, gloom and shadow. 

I found myself nervously ascending between dimly seen, decorated walls, my little camera clutched close, clutched tight as a talisman.

But enlightenment, I was heading up towards light!  I was heading up – as it happened – towards a drainpipe. 

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

Technique: TG-5 at 100mm (equiv); 1600 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Vivid film simulation; St Stephen’s Street, central Bristol; 12 Feb 2019.

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STILL LIFE 150 – STAIRS IN AN ALLEYWAY

 

 


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Street art and a flight of steps, off Quay Street in the city centre.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Bristol; 19 May 2017.
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BRISTOL 123 – STEPS OFF BALDWIN STREET (MONO)

 

 


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Steps from Baldwin Street up towards St Nicholas Street.

And the effects of tilting a very wide lens slightly upwards – yes there’s a wide field of view, but see how the metal post at upper right is tilting drunkenly outwards, while less obviously the same is true of the wall at upper left.  Purists can probably correct such effects with software but I imagine this would reduce the overall area of view, and I’m happy to go with the effect as it is.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 2 preset; Bristol; 4 Aug 2017.
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STILL LIFE 103 – FLIGHTS OF STEPS

 

 


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Looking down flights of steps with yellow edges.

Originally taken in portrait format, the image has been rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise.  The last two steps of a flight with their yellow, high-visibility safety edges are seen on the right, and there is a small landing, floored with handsome granite slabs, in the centre of the picture.  A second flight of steps descends between dark walls on the left but, because of the angle of the shot, all of the yellow edges of these steps meld together to form one yellow mass.  Another landing is dimly seen between the walls’ shadow at extreme left.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 85mm (equiv); 400 ISO; image rotation;  Lightroom, applying the Astia/Soft film simulation; York Place, Clifton, Bristol; 21 Apr 2017.
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CORNWALL 87 – ROADSIDE STEPS (MONO)

 

 

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I’m looking up the busy main street of Penzance.  The pavement is set up above the road, up to the right, and the line of stylish black bollards at upper right support railings that prevent carefree shoppers from plunging down onto the hard ground below and spoiling their consumerist frenzies.  The road is on the left, and those wishing to cross it must first descend these little flights of steps to get down to road level.

The picture looks rugged, and I’ve used SEP2 to intentionally emphasise this, darkening the image somewhat and raising contrast.  And it is rugged – the pavement, the flights of steps and all of the cobbles along the road’s edge are made of very hard and rough, local granite.  To me, this is a scene with character, far removed from our usual bland, plastic and glass high streets.

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

X-T1 with  55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 200 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2; 22 Sept 2016.

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