ARCHIVE: LEVELS 34 – MURKY DAWN, TEALHAM MOOR (MONO)

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Dawn, mist and murk at the western end of Totney Drove, on Tealham Moor; 27 Nov 2014.

This Thursday past the Somerset Levels threw something new at me.  I’d set off from Bristol well before dawn and, as I crossed the Chew Valley and the Mendip Hills, had soon started encountering fog.  This dense murk thickened as I approached the Levels but that was to be expected and all was still fine – I was on familiar back roads and, even if I had to proceed slowly, I still knew where I was.  And then the road ahead was blocked by roadworks – the local council frantically making good drainage systems before what we hope will not be a winter as bad as the last one.

And so to backtracking, following diversion signs – and then I passed a left turn that I knew I should have taken – and promptly became totally lost and disorientated in darkness and dense fog.  This was a distinctly unsettling experience.  After all, I’ve been reading maps for most of my life and have a good sense of direction.  I drove on, I suppose for 30 minutes, recognising none of my surroundings at all.  At one stage, a huge tractor, covered in rotating lights, drove by, irresistibly reminding me of the alien spacecraft in Close Encounters of the Third Kind – what am I on???

Anyway, it was just after this that I was passing the entrance to a small lane – when there was a sudden hint of familiarity – I swerved into it, drove down a road I thought (hoped!) I knew – and was immensely relieved to emerge out onto the western edges of Tealham Moor.

Driving on south down Kid Gate Drove, I got to the western end of Totney Drove and, immensely relieved, left the car’s sidelights on and got out.  Walking along Totney Drove, I looked back westwards, and here is that view – mist and murk on the western edges of Tealham Moor, at dawn.  And was it murky?  Yes it was – I was shooting at 12,800 ISO with image stabilisation activated and the lens wide open.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 12,800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 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.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 33 – POLLARD IN FLOODWATER (MONO)

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Pollarded Willow standing in floodwater on Tadham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 23 Nov 2012.

With its bulky, rounded crown, this tree is top heavy and well on its way to collapse.  The usually wet, peat soils provide little in the way of support.

More about the practice of pollarding can be found in my first Somerset Levels post 

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 165mm; 200 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2, using the Yellowed 1 preset as a starting point.

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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ARCHIVE 618 – EARLY MORNING 31

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Clear morning, early December.

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

Technique: TG-5 at 100mm (equiv); 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Vivid profile; south Bristol; 4 Dec 2019.

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ARCHIVE 617 – FOGGY MORNING 3

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Main road; early morning; fog.

Technique: selective desaturation of colour: the green lights are the main thing here and the morning was in any case very grey, but I’ve desaturated the yellows and blues of the crossing control boxes mounted on the traffic lights’ poles, and also the traffic cones standing on the traffic islands, to remove distractions and give the green lights greater prominence.  Another method would have been to convert the image to mono in Silver Efex Pro 2 and then restore the lights’ colours.

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

Technique: TG-5 at 100mm (equiv); 640 ISO; Lightroom, selectively desaturating colour; south Bristol; 30 Mar 2019

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ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 60 – PARKED CAR

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Click onto the “early morning” tag (below) to see more images from the early hours of the day.

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

Technique: TG-5 at 100mm (equiv); 800 ISO; spot metering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Vivid profile; south Bristol; 5 Apr 2020.


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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 32 – SUN RISING OVER GLASTONBURY TOR

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Sunrise over Glastonbury Tor, seen from Tealham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 22 Nov 2013.

I’ve lightened the centre section to bring interest to the mid-ground with the two cows – but I’m sure they should have shadows … oh dear, digital … not always quite up to it are you?  Or maybe I’m not quite up to it – its probably me ….

And of course I’m pointing my magnificent if distinctly weighty telezoom straight into the sun’s glare, and so to a second, orange sun low down in the frame, and also some rather fiery glows between that sun and the real one.  I could have gone at it with software to try and make good these optical artefacts but, first, I can’t be bothered, and second, I think they add to the atmosphere and feeling of the shot – I mean, I’m pointing a x6 telephoto directly into Our Star’s incandescent face, so what do I expect, perfect and pristine optical rendition?

I like the 80-400 (but – Jan 2020 – have sold it now).  Large and unwieldy it may be and its not one of Nikon’s very quick AF-S lenses, but it is image stabilised and I can hand hold it, and it gives such reach and flexibility.

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

Technique: D800 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO.

SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywordsthat 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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ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 59 – CAR PARK

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Stairs in a city centre car park: stark, utilitarian, unimaginative – the triumph of functionality and “the figure at the bottom of the spreadsheet” over any nod towards elegance or visual appeal.

Click onto the images above to open a larger versions in separate windows – recommended.

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 1600 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Vivid v2 profile; beside Redcliffe Way, in central Bristol; 10 May 2019.

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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 31 – KEEPING VERY STILL AND QUIET (MONO)

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A summer’s morning down on the Levels, and after a lot of early morning photography I was relaxing with hot coffee and a sandwich in a spot on Tadham Moor that I know as the Magic Carpark.  I’ve given it this somewhat strange name because, many years ago now, being in this little, quiet place helped me through terrible times in my life, and I’ve been coming here ever since.  And, after I’ve downed the very last of my very special Belgian beers, this is where my ashes will be scattered.  A wonderful and eminently simple little place.

On this particular morning, in the field next to the rough track that leads off south from the Carpark, there was a herd of cows, largely motionless, along with their calves.  And the more I looked at these cows, and at the morning’s light washing over them, the more I was drawn to them.  And so, putting down the coffee and picking up the Z 6, I walked slowly and quietly down the rough track towards them.

Arriving next to the cows, I kept very still and quiet and just looked at them.  Most were unconcerned by my presence, but this one, who had been lying down beside her calf, stood up to look at me, and advanced a few paces – and I was very glad of the water-filled ditch – the rhyne – that lay between us.  But, keeping silent and motionless paid off and, slowly raising the camera, I carefully started making images of this very placid scene.

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 used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 330mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 1 preset; the Magic Carpark, Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 12 July 2019.

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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ARCHIVE: LEVELS 30 – ANIMAL

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OK, let’s start at the bottom line: I love cats.  A cat named George, aged two, was present when I was born.  My mother told me that he used to get up on his hind legs and peer in at me in my pram – probably wondering if he was allowed to eat me I expect!  And I grew up alongside him and, as an only child, he was effectively my brother.  Quite simply, he was always there, he was always around, and he died when I was 13.  I have never owned a cat but, equally, I have never forgotten George and, indeed, over 50 years later he is still frequently – and warmly – in my thoughts.  And whenever I encounter cats these days, I look on them with much affection.

And my feline odyssey goes a little further than that because, taking clients on safari in Kenya, I came into close contact with our moggies’ much larger cousins – Lion, Leopard and Cheetah.  Lions I could take or leave really, but I spent ages almost drowning in the deep, expressionless, amber eyes of Leopard and Cheetah.  And then there were smaller cats too – Serval and (most wonderfully) Caracal.

So what on earth has all this got to do with the Somerset Levels?  Well, recently, I was exploring on the southeastern edges of Queen’s Sedge Moor, when I hauled up at Redlake Farm – and promptly had two very pleasant experiences.  I’ll talk about the first of those experiences another time but, as I walked along the farm’s frontage there was a closed gate with six cats basking beneath it on the morning sun’s warm rays.  There is a picture – not a very good picture – of them below, but it gives you an idea of the scene.

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And, standing very still, I looked at these cats, they looked back at me, and – very softly – I started talking to them.  I certainly didn’t want to frighten them by getting too close and, anyway, looking at them, it was immediately apparent that these were not tame house cats, but rather working cats in a way, who earn their keep on the farm as fierce ratters and mousers.  Stroking one of these, even if I could get near enough, might not be a wholly joyous experience.

And so the camera went into APS-C mode, lengthening the reach of my telephoto and, from a distance, I photographed them.  And as I looked through the camera into those impassive and predatory faces, I was reminded of those much larger cats in Kenya long ago, and the title of this post came surely to mind.

Click onto the images above to open a larger versions in separate windows – recommended.

Technique: upper image – Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 1000 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Neutral V2 picture control.  Lower image: X-T2 with 10-24 Fujinon lens at 36mm (equiv); Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; 400 ISO.  Redlake Farm, Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 24 May 2019.

SOMERSET LEVELS – SOME KEYWORDS

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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ARCHIVE 616 – MOLLUSC

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A Garden Snail (Helix aspersa … I think …), climbing a wall next to a busy road.  As usual, the internet overloads me with info about this beast, from which I can report that (a) it is very common, (b) that it is edible, (c) that its mucus has regenerative properties and as such is used in the cosmetics industry, and (d) that its top speed is 0.047 km/hour.

And why have I photographed it?  Well, I like the textures here, I wanted to try the TG-5 out on something diminutive, and I have something of a background in the Life Sciences, as well as being a total enthusiast for the Natural World.

The TG-5 also has a Microscope mode, in which the camera can be 1cm from the subject – and this comes with Focus Stacking, Focus Bracketing and other wonders – I’ve tried these out very briefly and the results are impressive but whether I’ll get into this frequently is anybody’s guess!

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 74mm (equiv); 1000 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Natural film simulation; south Bristol; 28 Aug 2018.

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