OUTER SUBURBS 142 – PICNIC TABLE AND SEEDING GRASSES, AFTER RAIN

 

 


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After an early shower, the sun rises above a children’s playground and autumn is just around the corner.

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

Technique: TG-5 at 80mm (equiv); 100 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait profile; south Bristol; 29 Aug 2019.
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BIRDS 111 – LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL

 

 


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This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window. and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Lesser Black-backed Gull – giving me quite a fixed stare!  The medium to pale grey upperwings are typical of this bird, and the dark markings on the white head appear in winter.

This is one of the common, larger gulls in the UK, being found around coasts and lakes, and also as a scavenger in towns.  I grew up alongside gulls in a seaside town and have always liked them and viewed them as a normal part of the landscape, but many think otherwise, both because of the mess that these birds can make around human habitation, and for their sometimes aggressive behaviour.  Walking around south Bristol, taking photographs for this blog’s Outer Suburbs series, I sometimes have these gulls come down to have a look at me, but as I’m never carrying/eating any food there’s no problem – although I do always invite them to come down and try their luck – if they’d like a spot of bother, that is …

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in APS-C mode to give 450mm; 800 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 18 Oct 2019.
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BIRDS 110 – MUTE SWAN

 

 


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This image is best viewed enlarged: click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

An adult Mute Swan rests beside the waters of Chew Valley Lake, Somerset – while keeping a watchful eye on me!  It was a stormy day, dark clouds, rain and bright sunshine following each other in quick succession, and I was drawn by the way the light washed over this bird, creating shadows and highlighting textures.  Adult swans have white plumage, but this one’s head and neck are tinged pale brown due to the bird up-ending in the lake’s muddy waters when feeding, and the underparts are also slightly darkened.

This is the swan commonly found in many parts of the UK, sometimes becoming semi-tame – as here – around inland waters and also harbours.  Two other species of swan are wilder and less common winter visitors.

Birds are big with me >>>  I was a highly committed birder 1967-2002 and, while a photographer of many things now, I have never lost my love for our feathered friends.  In this instance though, that love is tinged with respect: these swans can weigh up to 11.5 kgs (25 lbs) and have wingspans up to 2.2m (over 7 feet), and they can on occasion be distinctly aggressive.

One of the many fairy tales (aka imagined realities) that help provide the foundation of Our Great Nation is that all swans belong to the monarch.  Well, maybe there is actually some piece of legal paperwork somewhere stating just that, but having fairies at the bottom of my garden seems an eminently more realistic and desirable alternative.  However, for those believing differently, I do have an exciting range of bridges for sale/lease.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in APS-C format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake, Somerset; 18 Oct 2019.
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OUTER SUBURBS 141 – EARLY MORNING 23

 

 


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Due to my carelessness, this picture is most probably not sharp.  Thinking of other things (Full English Breakfasts … probably …) I loosed off at 1/13th second when using a 100mm equivalent telephoto >>> and later could only hope that the camera image stabilisation would make it all right.  Anyway, whether said stabilisation has done the job or not, this is my only shot of the scene and here it is!

So >>> walking beside a blaring main road and glancing eastwards, I liked the contrasts between the first faint pinks of the sunrise and the various colours of the house lights.  The Outer Suburbs were awake and preparing to take on whatever the day might throw at them!

Other images in this Early Morning series – from both rural and urban settings, and from Kenya too – are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 .

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

Technique: TG-5 at 100mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait profile; south Bristol; 3 Oct 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 419 – THE OLD PIER (MONO)

 

 

1: Weston’s Old Pier, falling to pieces day by day;  In the background, on the far side of the Bristol Channel, is the coast of south Wales; and at upper left the island of Flat Holm, with its prominent lighthouse.  This picture is best viewed enlarged – click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.  There is another recent picture of Flat Holm here.

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This is a sad story, and one that revolves surely around money, The Great God Cash.  In my youth, there were two working piers at Weston-super-Mare, the larger and more modern one – the Grand Pier – on the main part of the seafront that all visitors see, and a smaller and older one – the Old Pier (aka Birnbeck Pier) – further away to the north.  When I was a boy, Birnbeck was a fully working pier, with an amusement arcade and a RNLI lifeboat station (the slipway of which can be seen in the left forefront of the pier’s buildings), and Campbells pleasure steamers used to call in here, taking day trippers on voyages around the Bristol Channel and the coast of south Wales.  This pier was built in Victorian times and is apparently unique in linking a small island to the mainland, whereas most piers just reach out into the sea.

But the Old Pier suffered from competition with the larger and more modern Grand Pier, while also being affected by the decrease in popularity that has affected most of Britain seaside holiday towns – the heyday of the seaside family holiday has long gone, and the Old Pier is now in a totally ruinous state.

It has been on national At Risk architectural registers for sometime and regeneration plans have been made, but so far nothing has been done.  The Local Authority has now ordered the owners to repair the structure, but the case in contested – leaving the structure to continue decaying, to continue simply falling apart.

Technique (all images): Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens; 1600 or 3200 ISO and high shutter speeds, to counteract buffeting by the wind;  in-camera processing of raw files using the Graphite profile, with further processing in Lightroom in some cases; the Old Pier, seen from Upper Kewstoke Road, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 4 Oct 2019.
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2: The decaying decking on the main part of the pier – a death trap! – with a narrow corridor of maintained decking, for access by service personnel,  between the white railings on the left.

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3: The whole site now cordoned off behind safety barriers.

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4: The partially collapsed North Landing Pier, at which pleasure steamers used to call for day trippers.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 418 – THE ROAD BEHIND THE BEACH (MONO)

 

 

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A wet and windy morning, where the Somerset Levels run down to the sea at Sand Bay, just north of Weston-super-Mare.  This is the little road, scarcely wider than my little car, that runs along behind the beach.  There are puddles from the morning’s rain, bright yellow lines along the road’s edge that ban stopping – because any vehicle that stops here immediately blocks the road (its hardly rocket science!) – and there is the tree arched over the road that bears testimony to the strong westerly gales that often batter this low and very exposed coast.  The actual beach is off beyond the large bank on the right, while low, flat farmland stretches inland from the road’s left.

This image is best viewed enlarged – click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

This little road appears insignificant, but it has great significance to me.  For it was along here, probably around 1960 or so, that three of us keen amateur geologists rode on our bikes, making our first ever “geological expedition”, to collect samples of the brachiopods, corals and other fossils from Sand Point, the long promontory of Carboniferous Limestone that is behind the camera.

And later, in 1967-8, when birding had infected my very soul, it was along this road that our two highly enthusiastic biology teachers brought us out in the school minibus very early on Saturday mornings, to look at the birdlife.  I remember those two teachers – now long dead of course – with a lot of affection and admiration.  They were enthusiastic, they communicated their enthusiasm to us youngsters, and they contributed their spare time putting us in touch with – and getting us interested in  – the Natural World.  One of us (not me!!!) went on to become a Professor (in the British sense) of Biochemistry and, old as they then were, the surviving member of this biological duo, together with the Prof’s old chemistry teacher, actually attended the professorial inauguration ceremony >>> that everyone should have such dedicated and enthusiastic teachers!

And finally, also, far more recently, Sand Bay was the subject of my very first and rather uncertain post on FATman Photos, on 26 April 2011 – that post can be found here .

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 3200 ISO; in-camera raw processing and cropping; Beach Road, Sand Bay, north of Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 4 Oct 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 417 – WILLOW 4 (MONO)

 

 


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These images are certainly best viewed enlarged – click onto each of them to open a larger version in a separate window and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Pollarded willow, old and leaning precariously, beside the River Sheppey in Swanshard Lane.  These are mono versions of a previously posted colour image – see 3 below.

Technique:  these images, both captured by the Nikon Z 6, have been created in two different ways.  The one above was produced by in-camera processing of a raw file, using the camera’s Graphite picture control, and no further processing in Lightroom.  The one below was via the “traditional route”, i.e. via Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2,  using the latter’s Landscape preset.   They’re similar, but I have to say – purely subjectively of course – that I prefer the in-camera processing.  My reasons?  Well I think that the lower one is a bit too grey, with too many of the leaves visible; whereas the upper one has more of the leaves and branches burnt out, so focusing more attention on the gnarled trunk.  Which, if any, do you prefer???
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There are other Willow portraits here: 1 2 3 .

There is more about the ancient practice of pollarding here .

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OUTER SUBURBS 140 – MODERN HOUSING 10 (MONO)

 

 


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Sunrise glances across a trim front garden in the outer suburbs.  The baby bushes, all in a row, are lit by its welcome radiance. 

And there is a little fence too which, while hopefully not bereft of any hint of the ornamental, is basically the symbolic barrier between two privately owned residences.  The fence casts a long shadow, as well it might in this materialistic world.

There are earlier Modern Housing posts here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 .  Each will open in a separate window.

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

Technique: TG-5 at 49mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the B&W 03 profile; south Bristol; 18 Sept 2019.

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HOME 2 – HOUSE SPIDER

 

 


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Its that time of year again, and big House Spiders have started appearing here and there chez nous; this one was on the wall of our hallway at night.  There no sense of scale here but – particularly with that wonderfully outstretched, hairy leg – this one can’t be far short of 2 inches (5 cm) across.

A great Natural World enthusiast, I’ve had a lot of wonderful encounters with wildlife over the years, particularly – but far from exclusively – during 12 years’ residence in Kenya, where I worked as a safari leader for several years.  I suppose my most memorable encounter was being with Mountain Gorillas on the Virunga volcanoes in Rwanda: we were on foot, they looked at us, we looked at them, and that was an experience both powerful and moving.

But, on a far more local scale, memorable encounters have happened here at home too.  I’ll never forget offering my forefinger to a Red Admiral butterfly, motionless on our back lawn on a chilly autumn morning, and being enthralled as the insect climbed up onto my finger and remained there – perhaps glad of my slight warmth.  And then again, with these big House Spiders, out of devilment I sometimes get down on the floor beside them and give them the gentlest of prods, which instantly sends them off into totally chaotic retreat >>> a valued and enduring memory is actually hearing one’s hurtling footsteps as it rushed across an A4 sheet of paper lying on the floor – magic, simply magic!

There is another recent spider picture here: 1 .

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

Technique: TG-5 at 30mm (equiv), used in Microscope mode, which allows focusing down to 1cm; 1600 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait profile; south Bristol; 21 Sept 2019.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 416 – LIGHTHOUSE (MONO)

 

 


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The lighthouse on Flat Holm island in the Bristol Channel, on a stormy day.  In the background, the coast of south Wales.

The Somerset Levels run out westwards into the sea – into the Bristol Channel in fact – and on this low coast are two rather cheap and cheerful seaside towns, Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea.  The heyday of the family seaside holiday is long past, and both of these towns are rather feeling the economic pinch.  This coast is notable for having the second highest tidal range in the world – 43 feet (13 m) – and also for the fact that, since the Bristol Channel is in fact the estuary of the River Severn, in addition to some nice sandy beaches there are also vast amounts of glutinous estuarine mud – Weston-super-Mud being the rather unkind jibe.

But Weston is also notable to me for another reason: it is my home town, the place of my youth, some of it altered out of all recognition now of course, but still filled with a vast and undying store of memories.

And so to a visit there on a wet and windy day – its only 20 miles or so from Bristol.  And standing high above the sea, bracing myself against the gale, I looked out over the seascape of my youth.  There in the murk was Flat Holm island, not a part of Somerset (or even of England) at all, but rather the most southerly point of Wales.  A sudden break in the overcast, a fleeting moment of sunlight, and I managed several frames.

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Graphite profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Neutral preset; looking west from Upper Kewstoke Road, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset; 4 Oct 2019.

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