SOMERSET LEVELS 229 – IN THE PARK BESIDE THE PALACE

 

 

In the park beside the palace
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While acknowledging  that sharpness and detail have a place in many, many images, I am also certain that blur and lack of focus can be equally important.

Lynn Wohlers at bluebrightly recently posted some great unfocused images from her local woods, and very kindly cited images of mine as her inspiration.  In my reply, I mentioned a blurred image that I’d recently taken but had not yet posted – and Lynn’s post has got me moving to post it.  Here it is – a tree in a public park beside the Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset.

And while I’m putting out a Somerset Levels post, I must mention the famous Glastonbury Festival, the UK’s premier music festival, which is blasting away in full swing right now down near Wells, and ending this evening.  What a vast and truly wonderful event, just knowing that its going on really does me good! >>> and my favourites this year, by a long way, have to be Florence And The Machine – wow! what music, and that lady can really move and sing!

6 June 2015; D800 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 500 ISO; Color Efex Pro 4.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 228 – SEATS OF THE FAITHFUL (MONO)

 

 

Seats of the faithful
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Seats for the congregation, Wells Cathedral; 6 June 2015.

Here I’m doing something I almost never do, which is using a 50mm prime lens.  Because it is (more or less) equivalent to the viewing angle of the human eye (on full frame cameras), it used to be known as a standard lens and was sold as such on all new 35mm camera bodies.  But the ways in which I “see” the world, that is the ways in which I make images from what I see around me, really shy away from this focal length. 

At the wide angle end of things on full frame, I’m happier with 21mm or less, even 24mm doesn’t seem quite low enough – and I can remember the days when 24mm was considered quite radical and hard to handle – how times have changed!  Telephotowise, I’m anywhere above 100mm – but especially at 300mm which, with 6x magnification, really seems to be how I view most things with image potential.  And 105mm must also get a mention – its wonderful for portraits.

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

D800 with 50mm Nikkor; 1600 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset.
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PEOPLE 208 – RALPH OF SHREWSBURY (MONO)

 

 

Ralph of Shrewsbury
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Ralph of Shrewsbury (1329-1363), reclining on his tomb in Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 6 June 2015.

Looking at this photograph again this morning, just before posting it, I suppose it might initially appear frightening, with the viewer recognising some of the elements of a human face while being shocked by the apparent mutilations inflicted upon it.  I don’t usually photograph statues or other artworks (and I include graffiti as artworks) because they are the creations of others and I see little value in replicating others’ creativity.  I suppose I feel that such things speak for themselves.  But I visited Wells Cathedral specifically for this purpose the other day and, well, I’ll just see where things go from here.

This effigy was carved in the soft mineral alabaster, a form of gypsum, which has left it open to abuse (or should that be “use”?) by writers of graffiti over hundreds of years.  There are names and dates from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but the defacing is thought to have started in the sixteenth century, when this tomb was moved from a protected location in the cathedral to its present easily accessible site – see details here.

This was an eminent man, a Chancellor of the University of Oxford, and then Bishop of Bath and Wells, with his headquarters here in this cathedral.  But looking at this I am reminded of the words of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) on the futility of human endeavour:

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

These words are part of a poem thought to reflect on the discovery of a great pharaoh’s shattered statue in the deserts of Egypt.  Ozymandias, the king of all kings, is telling those kings that, great and all powerful though he is, all of his mighty works have amounted to nothing – and that their works will surely do the same.  Absolutely right!  The sole exception being of course FATman Photos, which will be around until at least last Thursday fortnight …

D800 with 50mm Nikkor used in DX format to provide 75mm; f1.4; 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the High Contrast Harsh preset.
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ARCHIVE 133 – THE CHAPTER HOUSE STEPS (MONO)

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The Chapter House steps.

The Chapter House Steps in Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 7 Jan 2005.

I have to hold my hand up here and at once acknowledge that this photo has already been taken by hundreds of other photographers – just search for these steps on Google if you don’t believe me; an early (perhaps the first?) photo of these stairs was taken in 1900, by Frederick Henry Evans.

Near the top right of this photo, the steps can be seen turning right into the Chapter House. Straight ahead, through the illuminated doorway, is the bridge that allowed the clergy to come directly into the cathedral from their lodgings, rather than having to be exposed to worldly temptations by mixing with the townspeople.

See how the edges of the steps have been worn down by the tramp of countless feet over the centuries.

Tripod-mounted OM-4 with 21mm Zuiko; Agfa Scala monochrome slide, rated at 400 ISO.

March 2015 update: three things come to mind.  First, I like this image but don’t really think its “my kind of picture”.  Yes, its a beautiful and historic place, the image has nice tones and there are the worn steps to emphasise just how old this place is.  But, that said, its still just a record of an architectural interior, and I’m not sure that shakes my tree.

Second, it was taken on a now discontinued film that I used to regard as being one of the greatest casualties of the Digital Revolution – it started life as an Agfa Scala black and white slide.  Nearly all of my photography in those days used colour slides (aka transparencies), which I used to give slideshows on a Leica projector – and it was so good to be able to include mono shots along with the far more ubiquitous colour.  And Scala was a rough and tough film – rated at 400 ISO, it could be push processed to 1600 or 3200 ISO – and I was in my dark and moody, monochrome element!

However, I used to regard this wonderful film as a great loss – but now find that scanned versions offer far less potential for digital manipulation than full colour, raw files.  Most digital cameras can of course capture black and white images straight off but, particularly if substantial post-capture editing is anticipated – as it is in all of my mono photography – then shooting in full colour raw and then converting to mono is the way to go.

And, lastly, today is a minor anniversary, because this picture was taken with an Olympus OM-4 film SLR that I bought second hand on this day 12 years ago, as a means of getting back into photography once more.  Olympus OM film cameras and lenses were absolutely something else – light, compact and with excellent mechanical and optical quality.  I shot film, mostly as slides (transparencies), which was a great discipline – but in 2009 very abruptly changed to digital – since when I have never shot another frame of film.  The advent of digital photography has certainly been the single most important event in my “photographic life”, because it provides such vast scope for creativity.

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SOMERSET LEVELS 146 – GUNNERA … AS FAR AS I KNOW, ANYWAY … (MONO + COLOUR)

 

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Gunnera, a large and prickly plant – looking rather like rhubarb I suppose – beside the moat around the Bishop’s Palace, in Wells; 18 Apr 2014.

I’m going out on a limb here (no pun intended!) as my knowledge of plants is very far from substantial and, having called this Gunnera,  there is the very real chance that one of You Botanicals Out There will know better.  So, putting out the post … and going into a foetal crouch … now …

Wells is a beautiful little place with a long, long history.  Named after the vast amounts of fresh water that pour out from underground there, it has probably been inhabited in some form or other since prehistoric times, and they may be evidence of its use as a religious site since Roman times.  I have no great love for ecclesiastical architecture, but the West Front of the cathedral, viewed from the large green out in front of it, has to be one of the West Country’s most striking sights, certainly, for me, right up there with Stonehenge and Avebury.  It is a simply stupendous cliff of masonry, and you can see it in one of my earlier posts, here.

So, strolling around the moat that surrounds the Bishop’s Palace, a favourite walk of our’s, keeping an eye out for the kingfisher (and rats!) that we sometimes see here, and passing this great plant, snug and secure behind a fence, in its waterside location.

D700 with 70-300 Nikkor at 300mm; 400 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Low Key 1 preset and restoring some colour.
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ARCHIVE 40 – CATHEDRAL (MONO)

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The West Front of Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 17 Sept 2009.

I’m at home in Somerset – I’m Somerset born and bred – and one of the good things about now living in Bristol is that its within quite easy reach of Wells, Glastonbury and Bath, all places that I’m very fond of.

I like Wells in particular for its antiquity and its small and very accessible size, for its absolutely glorious cathedral – and of course for its vicinity to the Somerset Levels – for me it is the gateway to the Levels.  I often visit Wells, and am never less than thrilled by the cathedral’s West Front, as seen from the large green out in front of it.   This towering, cliff-like face of the cathedral was originally painted in bright colours, to further impress the populace with their god’s majesty and beauty – a TV reconstruction of it as it originally was, hundreds of years ago, was simply stupefying.

One day I was standing down at the foot of this stupendous cliff of masonry, holding the F6 with the 12-24 attached and set at 12mm – and I clearly remember putting the camera to my eye and looking up – and being sent reeling by the epic vision above me!  This is the picture you see here.  There are absolutely no thoughts about correcting the converging verticals  – they make the shot, giving the effect of this powerful, stupendous, towering  mass of masonry reaching up into the heavens.

Nikon F6 with Sigma 12-24 at 12mm (122 degrees field of view); Ilford Delta 3200 black and white film rated at 6400 ISO.
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ARCHIVE 22 – ABSTRACT 2

USE YOUR PC’s F11 KEY TO VIEW THIS BLOG FULLSCREEN

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ADL552X

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Corrugated iron in a car park in Wells, Somerset; 1 May 2005.

Nikon F6 with 80mm-200mm Nikkor; Fuji Provia 400 colour slide rated at 800 ISO.
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SELF-INDULGENCE 19 – WELLS ROBIN

USE YOUR PC’s F11 KEY TO VIEW THIS BLOG FULLSCREEN

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Robin near the Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Somerset; 18 Oct 2009.

I find birds in general attractive – not surprising after 30 years’ birdwatching I suppose – but the Robin is one of my favourites.  Getting distinctly sentimental, there’s something very English about it ; and having Robins and Song Thrushes breeding in and around our garden is wonderful.

This one haunts the vicinity of the seats beside the palace’s moat, and is very well used to obtaining tidbits from the many visitors that Wells attracts.  I’d had no thoughts about photographing anything when sitting gratefully down on the seats for a rest – and we were both astonished when this enterprising character flitted up to within a few feet of us – and with the 70-300 already on the camera, what else was I going to do???!

Nikon D700 with a 70mm-300mm VR Nikkor at 300mm; 1600 ISO.

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SELF-INDULGENCE 3 – THE WEST FRONT OF WELLS CATHEDRAL, SOMERSET (MONO)

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The West Front of Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 17 Sept 2009.

There was a time, before I became wed to my 70mm-300mm zoom, when I was a wideangle photographer too.  And, in pursuit of ever wider angles, I bought a Sigma 12mm-24mm lens and became enthralled with the new horizons (no pun intended!) it provided.  A combination of this lens and my Nikon F6 is simply wonderful!  Not some much can be said for using it on the D700 though, where jpegs are ok but Raw files are not!

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I’m at home in Somerset – I’m Somerset born and bred! – and one of the good things about living in Bristol is that its within quite easy reach of both Bath and Wells, two places that I’m very fond of.

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I like Wells in particular for its antiquity and its small and very accessible size, its absolutely glorious cathedral – and of course for its vicinity to the Somerset Levels.  And I often visit Wells, loving the cathedral’s West Front, as seen from the large green out in front of it.   This towering, cliff-like face of the cathedral would originally have been painted in bright colours – I saw a reconstruction on TV and it  really was awe inspiring!

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And one day I was standing down at the foot of this stupendous cliff of masonry, holding the F6 with the 12mm-24mm attached and set at 12mm – and clearly remember putting the camera to my eye and looking up – and being sent reeling by the epic vision above me!  This is the picture you see here.

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This picture has appeared in two places.  First, it is my only published photo – it appeared in that wonderful magasine, BLACK+WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY.  And it is also there with other eye-catchers on this blog’s front page.

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The blurb for this photo said:

Standing below this magnificent building, I looked up through an ultra wideangle lens and was assailed by this extraordinary image.  There are absolutely no thoughts about correcting the converging verticals here – they make the shot, giving the effect of this powerful, stupendous, towering  mass of masonry reaching up into the heavens.

Nikon F6 with short end of Sigma 12mm-24mm zoom (122 degrees field of view); Ilford Delta 3200 film rated at 6400 ISO.

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OLD 31 – LEVELS 5 – TREE NEAR THE BISHOP’S PALACE, WELLS

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Tree near the Bishop’s Palace, Wells, Somerset; 18 Oct 2009.

This has been heavily manipulated in Nikon’s Capture NX2 – I was trying for a painterly effect and its some way there.   The faint background textures either side of the trunk give the image a little more substance and body.

Nikon D700 with  70mm-300mm VR Nikkor at 300mm; 400 ISO.

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