ARCHIVE 338 – THE VIEW SOUTH FROM RATTLEDOWN FARM

 

 


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The view south from Rattledown Farm, looking out over the Chew Valley, south of Bristol; Chew Valley Lake is in the background – looking for all the world like blue sky; 12 July 2013.

Another slice of the English countryside, on a beautiful morning.  I think that the line of taller trees take my eye up through the picture to the lake’s blue, which then pulls my gaze right.  And I like the wedge of vivid pale green cutting across the image, just about along the upper horizontal third.

Chew Valley Lake is an artificial reservoir, flooded in the early 1950s – Google tells me it is the 5th largest artificial lake in the UK.  It has something of a special place in my life in that it was around its shores, in 1967, that I took my first, hesitant steps to becoming a birdwatcher – “with a little help from my friends”!

I was useless at birdwatching in those days.  I was (and am) short sighted, wore glasses, and had only a small telescope bought for me by my parents many years earlier.  So, a bird would appear, I’d see it and whip off my glasses so as to be able to use my telescope – and then totally lose sight of it, casting blindly about with the scope.  For Christmas that year, my impecunious mother bought me a pair of 10×50 binoculars that could be used with my glasses on and – no pun intended – I never looked back.

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

Technique: D800 used in APS-C format, with a 70-300 Nikkor lens giving a focal length of 450mm; 400 ISO;  final manipulation in Colour Efex Pro 4.

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ARCHIVE 335 – SHOOTING INTO THE GLARE 2

 

 


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Shooting into the mist and light on Tadham Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 10 Apr 2014.

There is another recently posted image from this sequence, and more context, here .

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 220mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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ARCHIVE 333 – SHOOTING INTO THE GLARE

 

 

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Low angle sunlight shining through mist on Tadham Moor, south of Wedmore, on the Somerset Levels; 10 Apr 2014.

Driving westwards across Tadham Moor with the sun rising behind me, I started encountering low banks of mist which were decidedly mobile, appearing and disappearing with disconcerting rapidity.  I was heading for the Magic Carpark but suddenly became aware that the mist ahead was fast disappearing, and so I swerved into a field entrance, leapt out of the car and looked back behind me, into the glare – and started firing.

As usual, there was a short length of fencing beside the gate to the field, which extended down from the gate to the water-filled ditch that otherwise forms the field’s boundary.  So I placed this in the foreground as a silhouette for depth, focused on it with a large aperture – and let the misty landscape behind it look after itself.  This backdrop consists of the rough, rather greyish pasture of the field, behind which are a few thin bushes and shrubs along the field’s edge – these are standing above another wet ditch which is the field’s far boundary.

Beyond this boundary, the next field holds greener grass and, in the distance, the faint silhouettes of larger trees can just be seen.

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 200 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.

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ARCHIVE 332 – SQUALL COMING, TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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Squall approaching, Tadham Moor, Somerset Levels; 29 Apr 2016.

I was down on the Somerset Levels last week on a cold, wet and blustery morning.  There were bare winter trees, there were fierce hailstorms too and, to my astonishment, my journey over the higher ground of the Mendip Hills had been accompanied by snowfall.  And yet all of this was only two days away from (what we Brits can only hope will be) May’s rising warmths and softnesses!  There are times when you just have to laugh at our British weather – if only because the alternative would be to weep.

Anyway, I was out on Tadham Moor, having a hot drink while sheltering behind my car from the gusting wind, when there was a perceptible stirring behind me, followed by a sudden and urgent freshening of the air.  I turned, saw this scene, and had time for a few hurried frames before those dark, trailing curtains translated into what they so clearly were – and my car was buffeted and rattled by a furious, near-horizontal deluge that lasted a minute or two and then raced on.

I wonder if summer is actually coming this year?  You never quite know in the UK.

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

Technique: D800 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Full Dynamic Harsh preset, and giving the result the look of Kodak Plus-X 125PX Pro black and white film.

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STILL LIFE 183 – AUTUMN 2

 

 


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The leaf of a Horse Chestnut tree, on a frosty autumn morning.

Strange how things can move (or be moved) around, and strange too how we can take things for granted.  If you’d asked me about Horse Chestnut trees awhile back, I’d have characterised them as an essential and native part of “England” that has, for example, brought the “traditional” game of conkers to us, and which graces many a picturesque and “traditional” English village (I always deeply mistrust the word “traditional”, and especially so when its used in any type of marketing …).

Anyway, the fact is that these beautiful big trees were introduced to the UK from Turkey in the late 16th century so they’re not native at all – but they still are very beautiful.

Earlier autumn posts are here: 1 .

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 228mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Astia/Soft film simulation; Stanton Drew, in the Chew Valley south of Bristol; 6 Nov 2017.
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GARDEN 69 – ANGRY MORNING

 

 


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I was making a cup of tea in the kitchen, which faces due east, and being struck by the ferocity of the winter sunrise over to the southeast.  A wild morning, an angry morning, the sort of morning that has an undeniable wild beauty, but which takes some strength of resolve to get outdoors and get to grips with.

And in front of me an oak tree that I have watched grow up from a naturally sown acorn – perhaps buried and forgotten by a squirrel – over the past twenty or so years.  And although it does not know it yet, an unfortunate oak, a healthy and burgeoning tree that because of its close proximity to the house will have to be cut down in the near future.

But back again to that fierce, early light, which was transfixing as it radiantly backlit the few of the oak’s leaves that had managed to hang on during the recent gales.  The camera was to hand, and so to spot metering … and the wonderful luminosity of those last few leaves.

And although it is a rather underexposed caricature of the original, below is an idea, just an idea, of the angry sky that was producing this beautifully fierce, hard and cold light …
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Click onto each image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it further – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); spot metering; Lightroom; Bristol; 8 Dec 2017.
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STANTON DREW 43 – VILLAGE LIFE 10

 

 

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Looking out from the village at sunrise, on a cold and very misty day.  Using a telephoto to isolate a small part of the scene.

An introduction to this Village Life series can be found here: 1Further images are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9   Each will open in a new window.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it yet again – certainly recommended >>> can you see the two birds in the tall tree?  Woodpigeons, I think.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm; 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Stanton Drew; 6 Nov 2017.
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STILL LIFE 169 – DARK CAR (MONO)

 

 

Dark car

racing from the light,

drawn down by the white line,

drawn down into darkness.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Architectural preset; fast road up over the Mendip Hills, above Compton Martin, Somerset; 24 Nov 2017.
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BIRDS 100 – AN IMAGE CLOSE TO MY HEART (MONO)

 

 


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So, my 100th post on birds, creatures that have in so many ways had a profound influence on my life.  I have many images that might have filled this 100th slot, but here is one, a very simple one, that has a very special place in my heart.  It shows a male Blackbird, a species of thrush, sitting on wires down a little country lane.

I have of course been a lover of birds for a long, long time.  But, beyond that, I am in love with natural things, with Nature itself, and to me this image powerfully evokes Nature’s elemental drama and grandeur.  Why?  Well, when I look at this I see this little creature, sure of himself, perched on his territory and singing powerfully to assert that fact.  And not overawed in the least by the stark and wild vastness of Nature all around, but actually eminently at home in it, a part of it all, and in his way just as wild as all the rest.

The original text for this image is given below:

Blackbird on telephone wires along Swanshard Lane, southwest of Wells, on the Somerset Levels; 21 Mar 2012.

I was out on the Somerset Levels again early this morning, toting my ungainly Nikkor telezoom once more.  My first stop, to try and get awake after the not too long drive via large infusions of hot coffee and marmalade sandwiches, was along Swanshard Lane, a little, winding back road north of Polsham.  This lane just allows two cars to drive past each other in places, but in other places it really is a better idea if one vehicle stops and gets up close and personal with the hedge, while the other vehicle moves carefully past.

And, of course, this is spring and the birdlife is really going for it.  Wonderfully active rookeries were dotted around, and a veritable crescendo of calls included Buzzards, Wrens, Green Woodpeckers, Pheasants and Blue Tits.  And the first Chiffchaffs, little, unobtrusive warblers, are back from sub-Saharan Africa – having flown across the world, they are very probably nesting in the same tree or bush they nested in last summer.

And as I turned a corner, there was this male Blackbird – all black with a bright yellow bill – sitting on wires and singing his head off.  As he caught sight of me he stopped singing >>> but he didn’t move – he was on his territory and he didn’t feel like being shifted!  So, very carefully, in slow motion, I brought up the 400mm, took a spot meter reading from the sky to produce a silhouette, and started carefully firing frames.

I might have been able to get him larger in the frame, either at or post-capture, but just left of him there was this big, shaggy tree trunk, a very exciting silhouette, and I knew at once that I wanted that in the picture too.  So here it is: down an English country lane, early on a morning in spring.

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

Technique: D700 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 800 ISO; converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro 2.
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BRISTOL 126 – PARADISE

 

 


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As you open this post, I can hear you thinking “This is Paradise?!  Has FATman finally lost it???”.  Well, to me, in a way, yes it is paradise.  Why do I think this?  Have I finally lost the plot?  And, then again, how can I have lost something I’ve never really found in the first place?

OK, explanations.  This is a little cut through between two back lanes in south Bristol, that I regularly pass through during the 5 mile walks that I use to relax and free my mind and to (hopefully) reduce my waistline.  Its a very simple little place.  Just some grass that is roughly cut by the local council, and a stream flowing through a little culvert – water which, despite the houses close in upon either side, probably explains why this lovely little spot has never been built on.

And then there’s this absolutely beautiful and serene tree, with a canopy like some vast umbrella, which looks just ideal for sitting under on some reflective day, although I have yet to do so.  Add to all this a very friendly little ginger and white cat who has lost most of his tail, and for the brief times that I’m within this quiet little space, I feel uplifted and very much at peace, and so … paradise …

And you’re seeing this delightful little spot perhaps at its best.  The cat’s not there, to be sure, but the grass has been cut, the tree is ablaze with autumn’s hues, and all is shrouded by a soft, autumn mist.

I have for a long time, perhaps for all of my life in fact, hankered after the simple life – I warmly recall my first years in Kenya, without phone, TV or radio, but with geckos chattering back and for to each other across my living room –  and those feelings have only accelerated since my retirement from work four years ago.  Modern life and technology seem only to make things ever more complex and rushed, but I’m after far more simple pleasures and a far more leisurely pace – and maybe this little, unpretentious space goes some way towards symbolising those ideals.

The first image in this series, along with context, can be found here.

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

Technique: TG-5 at 57mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Natural film preset; Whitchurch, south Bristol; 2 Nov 2017.

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