ARCHIVE: LEVELS 73 – SWEETS TEA ROOMS (MONO)


 A busy morning in the kitchen at Sweets Tea Rooms, on the Blakeway between Bleak Farm and Turnpike House, on Westhay Moor; 25 July 2009.   Note the still warm rock cakes on the tray-  absolutely delicious!  There are three tearooms in this area and this is the one I know best – friendly owners, excellent, simple food and drink, toilets, parking – and an intriguing Peat & Science Museum in the adjoining building. 

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

Technique: D700 with 24mm Nikkor lens; 1600 ISO.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 69 – PAINTED LADY


Painted Lady beside the South Drain, on Shapwick Heath, south of Westhay, on the Somerset Levels; 26 Oct 2009.

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 800 ISO.

An absolutely beautiful and highly informative book which I recommend to anyone interested in butterflies and/or wildlife art is The Butterflies of Britain & Ireland, by Jeremy Thomas (a butterfly specialist) and Richard Lewington ( a very skilled artist); 1991; ISBN 0-86318-591-6 – highly recommended.  From this book I learn that this species is probably not permanently resident in any part of Europe, because it does not hibernate and  its caterpillars perish at any temperature below 5 degrees C.  Instead, the Painted Ladies that we often see in parks and gardens and in the countryside have probably bred around desert edges in Africa and Arabia, and then moved north up into Europe in huge numbers – something which I find impressive.

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 65 – ROE DEER


Driving west across Westhay Moor, when a deer ran across the road some way up ahead.  I noted where it had disappeared, drove carefully up to it – and there to my right, out in an open field, was a female Roe Deer.  The Z 6 was ready on the seat beside me, and in one (now quite practiced) movement I raised it, turned it on and flicked it into APS-C mode to increase the telezoom’s magnification.

She was very flighty, making to dash off one way or another, but every time the Z 6’s (really not loud) shutter fired, she stopped and looked at me.  I managed four frames, through roadside bushes, before she finally bolted, and by luck got this one.

This is a female (yes, that’s right, she’s a Roe doe!): no antlers, and with the quite rich brown summer coat.  Looking at her, I’m grateful for the catchlight in her eye and the raised foreleg; I’m struck by the very rectangular shape of her body, from the base of her neck back to her rump; and I see her simply as a creature of grace and beauty.  Her beauty is best appreciated enlarged >>> click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Roes are the smallest native deer in the UK, and fairly often seen out on the Levels, early and late in the day.  And they are also not at all uncommon in the leafier suburbs of our towns and cities >>> and so to the stag that I photographed recently in our fairly secluded back garden – you can see that post here .

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 800 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Standard v2 profile; Westhay Moor Drove, on the Somerset Levels northeast of Westhay; 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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 46 – NEW FENCE, ROTATED


Fence at the former Westhay Garden Centre; 30 Mar 2005.

A newly erected fence, still with its panels clean, fresh and roughly edged.

Even when I used to project this colour transparency in slideshows (anyone remember slideshows???), it was always rotated anticlockwise as shown here.  The direction of rotation can be seen from the shadows on the panels’ right edges.

And ever since I first rotated this photo, which is (UPDATE – far more than) 10 years ago now, it has always reminded me of three people in a procession, moving towards the right.  Religious people, monks in habits perhaps, with the whitish areas either portraying their hands clasped in prayer, or their devout, uplifted faces.

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

Technique: OM-4 with 75-150 Zuiko lens at 120mm; Fuji Velvia 50 colour slide push-processed to 100 ISO; tripod; rotated 90 degrees anticlockwise.

UPDATE: well, 16 years ago, that is a long time.  But what really gets to me here is not all the years that have passed, but the technique used – push processing of colour transparency film!!!  That really takes me back.  And of course I didn’t do the push processing myself but, rather, I exposed this 50 ISO film as if it were a 100 ISO film, and then informed the (commercial) processors to develop it as such.  

And also – wow! – Fuji Velvia 50, the absolute must have emulsion for all “serious” landscape photographers.  But push processing that most sacred of films?  Most would have probably considered that photographic heresy!  Hope so, anyway …  😎 …

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.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 25 – RUBY RED DEVON (MONO)

 

 


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Red Ruby Devon cow on Peacock Farm, northeast of Westhay, on the Somerset Levels; 21 Mar 2012.

Having large animals fill the frame has always attracted me – I like to get in close to them, usually with a sizeable telephoto and, in a way, turn them into landscapes. 

Here the accent is very much on the animal’s pale and coarsely hairy face, with its bulging eye and odd strands of pale straw.  Then my eye is taken left to its wonderfully hairy ear and then, further left again, the dark flank fades off into abstraction.

This archive presents some of the pictures that I’ve taken on the Somerset Levels over many years.  More context can be found in the first post in this archive – 1 – and also in my first Somerset Levels post, from 2011 – here .  Further posts in this archive are here: 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 .  All of these links will open in separate windows. 

The first Somerset Levels picture gallery, which shows the first 10 of these posts with short captions – ideal for quick viewing – can be found here .

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

Technique: D700 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; 3200 ISO; converted to mono in Silver Efex Pro 2.

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 581 – FISHEYE LENS MEETS IRON AGE HOUSE

 

 

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This is not some huge mushroom, although that’s what it reminds me of every time I see it.  It is in fact a side view of a house in a reconstructed Iron Age village, near Westhay on the Somerset Levels.

The house is round, with walls made of wattle and daub, which is a building technique over 6,000 years old where straw mixed with wet clay, dung, etc is plastered (daubed) onto a wooden frame (the wattle) and left to harden and dry.  The roof of the hut is thatched, and it overhangs the walls quite a lot, to help keep them dry in bad weather.

The photo was taken looking at the hut side-on, using a full frame fisheye lens.  The extremely wide angle view of this lens encompasses the full diameter of the hut, as well as some of the thatched roof.  But the thing which really baffles my eyes here is that cut logs – firewood – have been stacked around the house’s wall, to dry more speedily beneath the overhanging roof.  The pale, cut ends of these logs catch the eye and – for me at least – provide a distraction that prevents identification of what otherwise might be a reasonably straightforward structure.  The faintly bluish grey wall of the house can just be glimpsed between the tops of the logs and the gloom of the overhanging thatch.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended, for greater clarity.

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ARCHIVE 575 – WOOL, AND THE DEATH OF A SOCIAL CENTRE

 

 


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Wool on a sheep’s flank, photographed during a shearing demonstration at the former Willows Garden Centre, at Westhay, on the Somerset Levels; 28 May 2006.

The light and textures here get to me.  The dab of blue is presumably an identifying or ownership mark – it provides something of a focus in what appears to be a sea of softness – although wool on a sheep is of course a far cry from the soft material of our cosy clothes!

The Willows Garden Centre was a wonderful local social centre and hub, employing disabled staff, producing wonderful homemade food – oh the cakes, the breakfasts, the faggots and pies!!! – selling local produce including cider and plants, used for meetings of local groups and societies >>> only to be closed down and left empty for years by Somerset County Council, before becoming – of all things –  an arts and craft gallery.  Does that make my blood boil?  Yes it *************** does, as hot as the water in the ************ kettle!

And people in Somerset had their own local District Councils – which were conversant with local issues and needs, more in tune with them.  But Somerset County Council wanted to close those down too, to bring everything under its centralised, monolithic control – but that was thankfully stopped by sheer force of people power!

Somerset is my homeland.  I don’t live there any more, I haven’t done so for a very long time, but it is and always will be my spiritual home, and I am very grateful for that.  Hopefully some of these feelings come out in my Levels photography.

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

Technique: F6 with 80mm-200mm Nikkor lens at 200mm; Velvia 100 colour slide film rated at 125 ISO; given a slightly warm tone in Capture NX2.

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ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 9 – SELFIE WITH BLUE LORRY (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Self-portrait with blue lorry, near Peacock Farm, Westhay Moor, on the Somerset Levels; 24 Jul 2012.

I’m sitting very upright in the driving seat of my car, using a wideangle zoom to record both the scene in the rear view mirror, and the road ahead as seen through the windscreen.  Back home, I’ve converted the shot to mono using Capture NX2, but retained original colour – and added some brightness too – for the scene in the mirror.

The rows of small dots above the mirror are a device to help prevent dazzle when looking up at the mirror.

The Looking at Cars series: looking back through the nine years of the FATman Photos archives (and some new images too), I’m posting pictures of cars in various contexts and styles.  Earlier Looking at Cars posts are here: 1 (with context); 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 .  

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

Technique: D700 with 16-35 Nikkor lens at 24mm; 800 ISO; manipulated with Capture NX2.

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ARCHIVE 527 – SWANS, GRAZING (MONO)

 

 


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Swans grazing on pastureland; Westhay Moor, south of Wedmore; 2 April 2015.

Some see swans purely as waterbirds, and on or beside water is where they’re usually encountered, reaching down into the water’s depths with their long necks to feed on aquatic vegetation.  But they are often seen out on the fields of the Somerset Levels, quite at home grazing on short grass.

These are Mute Swans, the UK’s common and often tame, resident bird.  But in the winter they may be joined here by a few Bewick’s and Whooper Swans that have come south to avoid the Arctic’s bitter freeze.

And the pylon?  Well, 15 miles or so west of here, and in stark contrast to the Levels’ rural reaches, there is the Hinkley Point atomic power station, which sends lines of such gaunt metal towers snaking out across the surrounding countryside.  The two reactors there are ageing now, but a third is proposed and construction is underway.

And  – hot question! – am I in favour of nuclear power and especially, in this instance, so close to my favourite haunts?  Well, the jury’s out on nuclear, I guess, my only certainty being that we need to get power from somewhere – news stories talk of our electricity supplies being only just sufficient to cover winter demands.  

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

Technique: D700 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 2,000 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Dramatic preset.

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ARCHIVE 505 – TIN SHED, ROTATED

 

 


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Corrugated iron shed (its roof on the right) at the former Willows Garden Centre, near Westhay, on the Somerset Levels; 15 Jul 2005.

Minimal colour, not far from monochrome.

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

Technique: F6 with 80-400 Nikkor lens at 400mm; Fuji Provia 400 colour slide film rated at 400 ISO; image rotated 90 degrees clockwise.

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