ARCHIVE 285 – EARLY MORNING AT TEALHAM (MONO)

 

 


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Early morning on the Tealham-Tadham Moors, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 28 Aug 2013.

Rhyne (rhymes with seen) is the Somerset term for water-filled ditches that help drain the land and often, as here, act as field boundaries.  This rhyne’s surface is covered in floating waterweed and, in the foreground, are the tall, pointed leaves of wild iris, which love these waterside locations.

The two prominent trees are in the fact the ends of two rows of such trees that line the undulating, single track, tarmac road just visible lower right of them.  The two, pale sheets of corrugated iron set up against the rhyne’s bank on the right of the picture are held there by stout wooden stakes, in an attempt to prevent the road collapsing down into the mud and water. 

The point here being that there is no solid rock supporting this landscape.  Below this countryside are over 60 feet of sodden clays and peat – “rocks” easily demolished by your shovel if not by your bare hands – such that everything is soft, yielding and unstable.  Stand beside this road as a tractor goes by and you are suddenly rising and falling as if on some rural trampoline, which can be quite shocking for those unused to it.

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

Technique: D700 with Sigma 12-24 zoom lens at 12mm; 400 ISO; conversion to mono and split toning with Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Pinhole preset.

UPDATE: still a very favourite photo of mine, one that – in my eyes at least – will certainly stand the test of time.  No, it by no means depicts reality, but it is about a small, out of the way area of countryside that has a permanent place deep within me and, visually, it forcefully turns me on.  Technicalities?  Well, this image owes much to Silver Efex Pro 2 processing software, it would probably not have ended up looking like this without SEP2.  Reading about the photographic world, it emerges that SEP2 is very, very widely used by those with a love for black and white imagery.  And the other thing to mention here is my (now ancient) Sigma 12-24 zoom, which has facilitated this angle of view which is far wider than the human eye can achieve.  I call this lens ancient and, in digital terms it is – I first started using it with film cameras, shooting colour transparencies that I presented in slideshows – which maybe dates me a bit!  But since those far off days, Sigma has put this lens through two major updates, which have apparently improved image quality considerably.  The only downside to that is the cost of the latest update, £1600, which is significantly more than the cost of my recently acquired Fujifilm supercamera, the X-T2!  So I think I’ll just be sticking with my ancient 12-24 and, if it doesn’t give me “perfect” image quality, well, that’s just how it is – I’m not really into that degree of perfection, I don’t peer manically at pixels on screen, I’m more interested in the content of images, be it graphic or, sometimes, narrative.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 290 – THE SKY WARMS

 

 

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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 – WOW! – 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.

There are other images from this bitterly cold morning here (with context), here, here, here, here and hereEach will open in a separate window.

Click onto this post’s image to open a larger version in a separate window, and then click onto this larger version once more.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujifilm lens at 305mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; Lightroom; 27 Jan 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 289 – FROSTY ROAD (MONO)

 

 

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.Kid Gate Drove, Tealham Moor, before sunrise on a frosty morning.

Thick frost, bitter cold and the bare landscape of winter; I’m looking back up the road I’ve driven down, some of the tyre marks are mine.

Technique: strongly converging lines draw the eye into the image, all the way up the road to those dark trees, and in particular to that tall tree – which (as open happens) reminds me of a bursting artillery shell or bomb.  And the backdrop, behind those roadside trees, is faded, ill-defined and grey, with thin, dark mist drifting like smoke overhead.  The use of a slightly bluish Selenium tone hopefully(!) adds to the image’s cold feel.

There are other images from this bitterly cold morning here (with context), here, here, here and here.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 12,800 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Harsh preset and adding a moderate Selenium tone; 27 Jan 2017.
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BIRDS 90 – JACKDAWS OVER TADHAM MOOR

 

 

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Standing out on the Somerset Levels, before sunrise.  Enjoying the (freezing!) moment, the stillness and quiet; a camera inert, itself freezing, around my neck.

All at once the silence was cut by harsh, garrulous calls – “TJACK! … TJACK!” – and, looking up, a small, dark and nebulous mass, shaped like a misty lozenge, was powering towards me high above that flat landscape.  To an ex-birder like me, the calls proclaimed the callers, Jackdaws, small black crows with white eyes, flying out from their roost at first light to feed.  They would have spent the night as a flock, perched safely up in tall trees, occasionally shuffling, occasionally calling, enduring the sub-zero temperatures of the long January night.  Some, of course, may not have made it through that ice box of a night, some may have succumbed to the deeply penetrating cold, and toppled silently from their perches, to lie frozen through now on the rock hard ground below.  But the rest, now, at dawn and with the sun about to rise, had left their roost and set off across country, to an area where they could find food to replenish the ravages of that stark darkness.

The camera, the Fuji X-T2, with its much trumpeted reputation for speed, was around my neck, switched off and with the telezoom at minimum.  Having appeared from nowhere, the flock was almost over me in an instant, there was barely time to do anything – in one movement my forefinger switched the camera on, got onto the shutter button and for the briefest instant held it half down for focus, and then fired off two frames – managing 1/350 at f4.5 and 25,600 ISO in the poor light.

And here is the result, which can be viewed in three ways.

First, and most trivially, it serves as a crude test of the X-T2’s start up and autofocus times.  The birds are more or less sharp, with some blurring of their flailing wing tips – and that’s good enough for me – I want the moment, not technical perfection.

Then second and far more valuably, this is an instantaneous picture of the Natural World, of relatively small, warm blooded creatures that have weathered many hours of darkness and sub-zero temperatures, relying on their feathers and whatever fat reserves they may have to ward off the biting, sub-zero temperatures.  Now they are out over that flat landscape, hungry, needing food to survive, and powering towards somewhere that, yesterday at least, there was food.  What can I say?  The Natural World never ceases to interest and excite me.

And finally, thinking more abstractly, this image shows a variety of bird shapes, silhouettes, set against a grainy blue background.  Perhaps it might serve as a pattern for a table cloth, curtains or an arty blouse, such is our world.

There is a much closer image of a Jackdaw here.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; 1/350, f4.5; crop shows just over a third of the total image area; 27 Jan 2017.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 287 – DAWN, TEALHAM MOOR

 

 

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The view across Tealham Moor, with the first faint flush of sunrise starting to warm the cold dawn light.

The single track Totney Drove, covered in frost, ice, and tyre marks, makes off eastwards towards the trees of Tadham Moor in the distance.  This thin strip of tarmac is at best uneven, but between the two nearest trees it bulges slightly upwards where, on a little bridge, it crosses a manmade waterway known as the North Drain, which empties water from this sodden landscape into the nearby River Brue.  This tiny bridge has metal railings on either side, and glint of the North Drain’s waters can just be seen to either side of them, near the left and right edges of the image.

The striking shape of the tree is the result of being cut back by mechanised shears mounted on the farmer’s tractor.  Adjacent to the drove, within reach of the cutters’ teeth, its profile has been cut back to a sheer vertical, but beyond the cutters’ reach – higher up, and on the side away from the road – it blossoms out in more natural fashion.

More context about this bitterly cold, early morning visit to the Somerset Levels can be found here, and there is another pre-sunrise image here.

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

X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 8,000 ISO; 27 Jan 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 286 – DAWN IN THE HEADLIGHTS

 

 

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Driving in the dawn along Kid Gate Drove, on the western fringes of Tealham Moor; 27 Jan 2017.

I’d turned off the main road and all at once the narrow lanes in the wetter, flatter country were white in the headlights.  Someone had driven down this road before me on this freezing morning and, like me, had no doubt driven with great care.  It was difficult to stand up on this icy surface, and the strange thing was that this ice seemed to be affecting only the roads,  the surrounding fields looked quite normal.

So I sat in the car, turned the headlights onto fill beam, and took this photo through the windscreen.  Dead, yellowing grasses on the sides of the road lead down to a road sign blazing white in the distance – the road turns abruptly to the left down there, and anyone speeding southwards down Kid Gate Road, especially at night, needs to know about that.

There is more about this bitterly cold visit to the Somerset Levels here.

There is another, very different, image illuminated by car headlights here.

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

X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 25,600 ISO; illuminated by daybreak and car headlights.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 282 – MORNING, TEALHAM MOOR

 

 

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Morning on the far reaches of Tealham Moor, southwest of Wedmore; 16 Dec 2016.

A winter’s morning in fact, just days before the year’s shortest one.  And the light flat, cold and grey at the moment of a sunrise all too ably obscured by dense cloud banks low to the southeast.

Cows registered minor interest at my arrival, before meandering uncertainly away into the low mist.

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

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 5,000 ISO.
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ARCHIVE 244 – LARK (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 

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Skylark in song high above Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wedmore; 31 Mar 2014.

I love being out on Tealham Moor when these larks are singing.  Their music is far carrying and all embracing, somehow it is all around.  And, bird lover and enthusiast that I have been for these nearly 50 years, I never fail to be impressed by all of that sound emanating from such a tiny speck that rides the winds in another world, high above mine.  Often, with the song pouring over me in waves, my experienced eyes still fail to locate the singer.

I’ve posted before on the Tealham Skylarks.  Those pictures were in colour and taken much closer in; you can find them here.

This picture is a small part of a larger image.  In case you’re not sure what you’re looking at, the bird is hanging in the air, facing away from us.  Its wings are the pointed shapes on either side, and the prominent, slightly bulbous shape pointing towards upper left is the spread tail.

D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 2 preset, with a little restoration of original colour.

UPDATE: I like this image very much.  Although it would be hard to show less of its subject, it is a portrait, a portrait of a small living creature high up in – and eminently at home in – the wild vastnesses of its element, the sky.  Unless we are lucky enough to be able to pick out this well camouflaged little bird on the ground, this is how we see it – a small dot, often far smaller than this, high up in the heavens.  Thinking of these little creatures high up there in the air belting out their songs really gets to me, I have to say.  This is both an integral part of the Somerset Levels, which is where this photograph was taken, and a picture of the Natural World – an entity which is never, ever boring – just getting on with it, doing its thing.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 279 – ALLERMOOR DROVE (MONO)

 

 

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Allermoor Drove arrows eastwards across Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels south Wedmore; 24 June 2016.

Not long ago, these flatlands were covered in lakes and impenetrable marshes, in which higher ground like that seen at top left formed islands.

When these flatlands were drained and converted to agriculture, a network of these (often dead straight) droves was laid down across the newly emergent landscape, so that farmers could access their fields without crossing other farmers’ land.  A few of these droves have been (slightly!) widened to become tarmac roads, but most remain as rough tracks like this, which are quite adequate for their purpose.

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

X-T1 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 15mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 275 – SUMMER, TEALHAM MOOR

 

 

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Summer warmth and relaxation: a meadow on Tealham Moor; 3 June 2016.

The colour has been desaturated in CEP4 to give a slightly unreal look – must use this technique more often.

X-T1 with 55-200 Fujinon at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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