ARCHIVE: LEVELS 91 – THE SKY WARMS


Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, the faintly seen track at lower left, as sunrise colours start high in the sky above the Somerset Levels.

Technique: it was DARK!  The human eye is a wonderful camera, able to see in low light levels, but it was clear that most things here were still heavily engulfed by the gloom.  And when I raised the camera to my eye – WOWEE! – even allowing the brightening sky to influence the reading, 25,600 ISO still only gave me 1/140th, wide open at f4.8 .  So, working handheld as always, image stabilisation helped, as did the fact that this camera is mirrorless, so that it has no mirror slap – there is more on mirror slap here.  Many photographers prefer not to use their lenses wide open due to reduced sharpness and definition, but I always go for it – if the light conditions demand it  (and also if I’m looking for as narrow as possible a depth of focus).  The bottom line being that its far, far better to be left with an image that is blurred and/or grainy, than to be left with no image at all.  This is a part of the great and ongoing debate about the respective importance of the technical quality of images on the one hand – sharpness, definition, colour rendition, white balance, etc. – and image content and atmosphere on the other.  I’m 101% with the importance of content and atmosphere.  Compositionally, the faint lines of the track and the much brighter, water-filled ditch lead the eye towards that single tall tree – and I’ve used this same composition, in this same place, before.

Click onto this post’s image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 300mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; Lightroom; 27 Jan 2017.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 90 – JANUARY, TEALHAM MOOR, JUST BEFORE SUNRISE


Tealham Moor, in winter, looking to the east.  This is winter: harsh and bleak.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 83mm (equiv); 8,000 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Astia/Soft profile; Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 27 Jan 2017.

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.



SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERY 8 – POSTS 71-80

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 8th gallery – you can find the earlier galleries here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

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

71: The bridge over the North Drain on Tealham Moor; the distant low hills were, until fairly recently, islands in a vast marsh; one day, as climate change continues, they will be islands once more; 2014.

72: The view southwest from Whitelake Bridge, looking towards the silhouetted Glastonbury Tor; 2019.

73: Sweets Tea Rooms on Westhay Moor – complete with tray of freshly baked rock cakes, and friendly local people; 2009.

74: Early morning mists rising, Queen’s Sedge Moor; 2019.

75: Cattle grazing at sunrise: a scene that was almost silent, save for the animals’ faint shuffling, and the subdued sounds of birds, running water and a light breeze; 2018.

76: Bad breath and bristles, a cow at Allermoor Farm; 2015.

77: Floating vegetation – arcing greens – on the dark water below the Jack’s Drove bridge; 2012.

78: A farmer and his wife, off to check their cattle as dawn breaks; Tadham Moor; 2014.

79: Daybreak and lights in windows: the day begins; Upper Godney; 2015.

80: Lapwings, a species of plover often found on the Levels’ wet grasslands; Tealham Moor; 2018.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 88 – SWANS OVER TEALHAM (MONO)


Mute Swans on the wing over the northern edge of Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore; 31 Mar 2014.

These great birds are flying low over typically flat and rough Levels pasture, with the characteristic shapes of pollarded willows – like huge lollipops stuck stick first into the wet ground – immediately behind them.

But further back is a sharp and immediate change in the landscape – much older rocks are sticking up through the flatlands’ wet clays and peats, and there is at once a hillside with houses, tidy fields and sheep.  This is the southern edge of the high ground around Wedmore.

This high ground gives the impression of an island set amongst the Levels’ wetness and, only some hundreds of years ago, not very long ago at all really, this is exactly what these high lands were.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Yellowed 2 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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 85 – LOOKING WEST, TEALHAM MOOR


Something of a milestone, I suppose, my 300th post from these lush, wet (often very wet!!!) flatlands.  What can I say?  I love the place.  I love the very basic, what-you-see-is-what-you-get simplicity of the place.  There is no advertising hype here, no marketing, no tourism, just a flat landscape, the local farmers, the occasional person walking their dog, the occasional person simply walking, the occasional birdwatcher or photographer, and that’s it.

Many years ago, I recall going into the single shop in Westhay (which has long since closed down) and saying to the shopkeeper “There aren’t many people about this morning”, to which I received the somewhat mournful response “There are never many people about round here”.  Bring it on!  The place is not of course immune from the noise of motor vehicles, but sometimes there are just the sounds of the wind, the birds, the cows, and the soft lapping of water.

And here on Tealham Moor, and on the nearby Tadham Moor too, great big open skies which powerfully remind me of the vast open skies above Africa – actually, more specifically, the skies above Kenya. For me, there are far too many people in England, but that’s not the problem it might be because in the main, and especially so away from tourist areas, most people stay relatively close to their cars.

So, what is pictured here?  Well, flat land, land at or just below sea level, that was underwater in the geologically extremely recent past – I’m talking of only a few hundred years ago – and which will be underwater again in due course, when the coastal defences along the nearby Bristol Channel can no longer totally hold back the sea.  In Roman times, seagoing boats regularly crossed this area, inland to Glastonbury.

As we look at this view, there is slightly higher ground up on the right.  Not long ago, that was an island.  And the dead straight waterway disappearing off towards the horizon on the left is the North Drain – a totally man-made channel vital to the drainage of the area.

The large white birds are Mute Swans, a species whose wings make a beautiful, rhythmic singing sound in flight.

And finally, not far beyond the horizon, along the muddy shores of the Bristol Channel, well, that’s where I come from.  If I have one, that’s my homeland.

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

Technique: X-T1 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Tealham Moor, south of Wedmore; 24 June 2016.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 81 – TEALHAM MOOR DROVE, LOOKING EAST (MONO)


Looking east along Tealham Moor Drove, southwest of Wedmore; 7 Feb 2014.

A track covered with chippings, and with some puddles too, and out to the left the reality of life on the Levels at this time – water and more water, and more rain forecast today and Monday.

The structure of this image has strong elements pushing in towards that large tree near top right.  There is the track, highlighted by its pale chippings and reflective puddles – and then that great silver wedge of floodwater, starting at mid to upper left, and curving and narrowing across towards upper right.  And, along with these pale items, the dark ridges of coarse grasses, and the horizon too.

The day was gusty, bleak, cold and inhospitable, with rain always a threat, but it was good to be there.  I love, and feel at home in, the simplicity and truth of this working landscape, whatever the season.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 200 ISO; starting at Silver Efex Pro 2’s Cool Tones 1 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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 80 – LAPWINGS, TEALHAM MOOR


Driving westwards across Tealham Moor, and a long line of birds, high up above, caught my eye.  There was no traffic on the narrow road, so I stopped, watched and waited, wondering where they might be headed.  They came lower and wheeled about overhead, and I saw them to be Lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), a type of large plover, that form large flocks in winter.  I started taking pictures.

Here, the flock is flying across in front of a bare, winter tree, and there are a few smaller, darker birds below them, which are Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris).

Compositionally, the flock is almost “resting on top” of the tree, the combination of the birds and tree making a ‘T’ shape within the image.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 300mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 30 Nov 2018.

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.



SOMERSET LEVELS PICTURE GALLERY 7 – POSTS 61-70

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 7th gallery – you can find the earlier galleries here: 1 2 3 4 5 6

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

61: Fantasy in infrared, 2015: what is out there, beyond those last two trees? (For Tolkien fans, the desolation of the dragon Smaug …?..).

 

62: Early morning, Tealham Moor; 2015.

 

63: Looking in amongst a grove of bulrushes, Walton Moor; 2016.

 

64: Before sunrise, on a frosty morning; Tealham Moor; 2017.

 

65: Roe Deer; a female on Westhay Moor, 2019.

 

66: The North Drain; looking west through an extreme wide angle lens; 2020.

 

67: Morning sky, looking north, again through an extreme wide angle lens; Queen’s Sedge Moor, 2019.

 

68: Hillside with sheep; Barrow Hill, 2015.

 

69: Painted Lady, Shapwick Heath, 2009.

 

70: Close in with a long telephoto; Walton Moor, 2016.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 77 – ARCING GREENS BELOW THE JACK’S DROVE BRIDGE (MONO + COLOUR)


Floating vegetation below the Jack’s Drove bridge, on Tealham Moor; 26 Aug 2012.

Jack’s Drove is a tarmac road that extends northwards from Tadham Moor up to the edge of the low hills around Wedmore.  It is a very special place to me – fresh, re-vitalising, wild, open –  and I always spend some time there when “out and about” on the Levels.

There is a little bridge on Jack’s Drove where it passes over the North Drain, and the top of this tiny edifice provides a good lookout across these flatlands, parts of which are below sea level.  Back in August, I walked up to the top of this bridge, looked down and, “seeing at 300mm” as I often do, there were these wonderfully curving, bright green shapes afloat on the dark water.

I’ve converted the image to mono and then re-coloured it, to produce something that is not reality.

The arcing greens are the subject here, and I’ve darkened the water and reduced its structure, to provide a completely non-distracting backdrop.

Looking at it now, the principal compositional elements here are the two curves that enter the frame top right, and then slice down to just about center stage – at a point that I call the “junction” – before having their direction taken over by another bright frond, that continues their trend down towards lower left.

Two other, rather dimly seen leaves splay off towards bottom right from the junction, balancing the composition a little.

Further left, other fronds provide more balance, the brighter of them echoing the main, upper right to lower left trend.  A carpet of floating waterweed brings different textures, and darkens towards the left.

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

Technique: D700 with 70mm-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 1600 ISO; converted to mono, and re-coloured, with Silver Efex Pro 2; other manipulation in Capture NX2.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 71 – THE BRIDGE OVER THE NORTH DRAIN (MONO + COLOUR)


 

The bridge over the North Drain, on Tealham Moor; 30 Oct 2014.

The little bridge on Tealham Moor, with its guard rails hanging on for dear life.  The area is below sea level, this bridge is the “highest” thing around – and the little, single track roadway of Jack’s Drove hurries us on northwards towards the safety of the higher ground up ahead, the low hills of the Wedmore ridge. 

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

Technique: D700 with 12-24 Sigma lens at 12mm; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Harsh preset and selectively restoring colour.

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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