STILL LIFE 170 – THREE HERONS (MONO)

 

 


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Left to right, a Little Egret and two Great White Egrets – three herons – processed with Silver Efex Pro 2.

And good news!  Google acquired Silver Efex Pro 2 (and the other Nik Collection plug-ins) sometime back, but had ceased developing them and was plainly losing interest.  The situation has (hopefully!) now been saved by DxO, who have acquired these plug-ins from Google, apparently with a view to further developing them.  I’m very happy with SEP2 and Color Efex Pro 4 as they are, and so just knowing that they’re not going to disappear will be a big thing.

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

Technique: the X-T2 firing at 200 ISO, and really quite a tribute to what this APS-C format camera can achieve with distant subjects.  X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Strong Infrared Low Contrast preset; Capture NX2; Herons Green Bay, Chew Valley Lake; 24 Nov 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 300 – LOOKING WEST, TEALHAM MOOR

 

 


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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 – birds which I recently portrayed at far closer quarters here and here.

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, and click onto that image to open it still further – 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.

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ARCHIVE 328 – AUTUMN ON THE HILLS

 

 


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Autumnal colours, lit by early morning sunshine, at the Priddy Mineries Reserve, high up on the Mendip Hills, Somerset; 15 Nov 2003.

The picture consists of three distinct layers. A band of golden reeds forms a thin strip across the bottom of the frame; and above this a band of slightly greener reeds, with their reflections in the still pool.

Above this, and occupying the rest of the picture, the black silhouettes of the trees stand up in front of a bright, straw coloured background with strong, greener vegetational elements (bracken) running upper left to lower right.

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

Technique: OM-4 with 300mm Zuiko lens; tripod; Fuji Velvia 50 colour slide rated at 64 ISO.

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STILL LIFE 159 – ASSASSIN (MONO)

 

 


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Perception can so often be a matter of viewpoint. 

To our eyes, this may be a beautiful, even elegant, wild creature, the sight of which lifts our spirits and, indeed, our quality of life.

But in the real world, that thick, serpentine, muscular neck, and that dagger of a bill, are the tools of a precise and eminently stealthy predator – and any small creature moving under the water, if it sees this killer at all before being struck, views it quite differently.

Another picture of a Great White Egret at Chew Valley Lake, the first picture of this bird, is here.

Click onto this image to open a larger (and grainier) version in a separate window, and click onto that image to marginally enlarge it further.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Film Noir 1 preset and adding a light coffee tone; Herons Green, Chew Valley Lake; 6 Oct 2017.  This is a huge enlargement of an APS-C image, with the X-T2 working at its highest quality, native 200 ISO.
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BIRDS 95 – GREAT WHITE EGRET – AND A NEW BIRD FOR MY UK LIST!!!

 

 

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Last Friday, driving home past Chew Valley Lake, I saw a white heron out of the corner of my eye and automatically assumed that it was a Little Egret, a bird that was very rare here in my youth but which has flooded into southern Britain in recent decades.  But, all in an instant, it hit me that it looked far too big for a Little – and my car swerved across the thankfully empty road, I grabbed the bins, leapt out and, well, here it is pictured above – it is a Great White Egret, a bird of warmer, more southerly climes and, as far as I knew, a great rarity – tho not new for my UK bird list, as I’d already seen one on Benbecula, in the Outer Hebrides, in the 1990s.

Well, I will summarise what happened next.  I immediately met a birder from South Wales, a chap of my age, and as we looked out over this small part of the lake – the Herons Green Bay that I’ve often spoken of before – we found 18 Little Egrets, 12 of these Great White Egrets – and a single Cattle Egret, a bird I’d never seen in Britain before, but which I’m very familiar with from 12 years in Kenya.  Unfortunately this new bird was too far away for anything like a decent photo – I wished I’d been carrying a full-frame Nikon and 400+mm of telephoto reach!

I’m not a bird lister these days, its simply a type of collecting, and while I was reasonably into it during my birding decades, 1967-2002, a great chunk of my life really, I now have a far more relaxed attitude to birds.  I still enjoy them hugely, I love to see them and they certainly significantly raise my Quality Of Life – as do butterflies.  But I am now out the frenetic race to see more and more bird species – I’ve moved on, as the current phrase goes, and I’m different now.

But, nevertheless, seeing a new bird for my UK list so unexpectedly was quite a (nice) shock – and this welcome feeling was only enhanced by the setting, because Herons Green was one of the Somerset locations where I started birding all those years ago.  I’ve travelled quite a bit I suppose, including living in Kenya, but now I’m happy to be, more or less, “back where I started”.  Is it a “coming home” thing, well I don’t know, although I am now very close to where I grew up – but I do know that ending up here in southwest England – Somerset, and sometimes Dorset, Devon and Cornwall too – feels right.

Click onto the image to open another copy in a separate window, and click onto that image to enlarge it – recommended.

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Chew Valley Lake, south of Bristol; 6 Oct 2017.
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ARCHIVE 322 – FLAMINGOS AT DAWN

 

 


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Dawn at Lake Nakuru, central Kenya; July 1978.

At around 6,000 feet above sea level, even this close to the equator, it was a cold dawn, and especially so for those of us who, living in Kenya, were becoming acclimatised to the place.  I had taken many pictures and was feeling the cold and sleepy, when suddenly this flamingo flock glided down over birds already in the water – and I just fired at them –  a very lucky, single snapshot with a 400mm telephoto.  I very much like the combination of the pale blues of the early morning light with the whites and pinks of the flamingos’ plumage.

The birds in the water are mainly Greater Flamingos, which are a little larger than the Lesser Flamingo, with less stridently pink plumage and paler bills.  A few Lesser Flamingos, very pink, are at the left hand end of the flock in the water.  The dark bills of the birds coming down to join those in the water identify them all as Lesser Flamingos.

Two dark Cormorants (the same species as in the UK) are flying right to left, low over the water, behind all the flamingos.

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

Technique: haha! can’t remember! >>> except that the great hulk of a 400mm telephoto, which I still have, was made by Vivitar.
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ARCHIVE 321 – LAGOON AT MAGADI (MONO)

 

 


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Alkaline lagoon at Lake Magadi, on the floor of the rift valley in southern Kenya; Nov 1977.

The water is made alkaline by high concentrations of sodium bicarbonate which have been leached out of the rift valley’s volcanic rocks.   This water is so alkaline that it feels soapy to the touch, i.e. it starts to dissolve skin on contact, and its high soda content gives it an awfully rank, chemical odour.  Add to that the fact that this is a very hot, low lying area of the rift, and Magadi becomes something of an acquired taste.  But, to anyone interested in the Natural World – wildlife, geology, landscape –  it is also a fascinating place.

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

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens;  Agfa CT18 colour slide rated at 64 ISO;  converted to mono with Silver Efex Pro.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 298 – WINTER MORNING, TADHAM MOOR (MONO)

 

 


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The view eastwards towards Tadham Moor, just before sunrise on a morning in winter.

Two pale lines arrow off into the distance.  On the right, a single track, tarmac road, covered in frost: Totney Drove.  And in the centre of the shot, the silvery gleam of a water-filled ditch, a rhyne (rhymes with seen), between the drove and the dark, rough pasture off to the left.

The background is the essence of the Levels: flat, misty, partly flooded country, waiting mutely and sometimes mysteriously in the dawn.

And finally, right below the camera, right in the foreground of the shot, are some upright sheets of corrugated iron.  Both the road and the rhyne turn sharply off to the left here, and the corrugated iron has been installed to strengthen the low bank on which the road sits, to try to stop it collapsing into the rhyne under the weight of passing vehicles.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 84mm (equiv); 12,800 ISO; Lightroom, using the Velvia/Vivid film simulation; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset; 27 Jan 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 297 – RIVER BANK 2

 

 


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Bank of the River Sheppey, beside Hurn Drove, northwest of Polsham.

A picture taken from the opposite bank of this little river, and rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise.  The plants on the left are on the river bank, while those on the right are in the river and aligned with the water’s gentle flow.

The first of these river bank pictures is here.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 215mm (equiv); 3200 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film simulation; rotated; 18 Aug 2017.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 296 – MISTY MORNING, ALLERTON MOOR 2 (MONO)

 

 


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Mute Swans in the water-filled ditch – the rhyne (rhymes with seen) – that runs along beside the mostly single track road across Allerton Moor.

A misty morning.  The rhyne, which does duty as the field’s fence in this wet part of the world, runs on off into the distance before starting to bear off to the left, where a faintly seen fence beside the road keeps the unwary traveller from the deep and glutinous clutches of the dark water and ooze. 

Up right of the swans, cattle at the rhyne’s edge: there may be a place there where they can get down safely to the water’s edge to drink. And behind the cattle, in the murk, farm buildings.

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

Technique: X-T2 with 55-200 Fujinon lens at 305mm (equiv); 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Provia/Standard film preset; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at Janice’s Infrared preset; Allerton Moor, west of Chapel Allerton; 22 Aug 2017.

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