SOMERSET LEVELS 467 – FOGGY MORNING (MONO)

 

 


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Pollarded willow appearing out of the mist, early in the morning, beside Swanahard Lane.  Pollarding of trees is a common practice on the Levels; I discussed it recently here .  Its shown well in this tree, which has a really thick trunk, with large numbers of much thinner branches emanating from it: pollarding has been carried out sometime back, possibly more than once, but then discontinued, so that the cut stumps of the branches have grown to great lengths.  The problem here is that the thick, original trunk is leaning slightly so that, as the weight of the thinner branched above it increases, there is the danger that the whole tree will topple over.

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: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 3200 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Graphite profile; Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 23 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 465 – EARLY MORNING LANDSCAPE

 

 


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Misty morning, sun just rising.

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: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 250mm; 640 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait v2 profile; looking out towards Hay Moor from Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 2 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 460 – POLLARDED WILLOW 2 (MONO)

 

 


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Pollarded Willow on the Somerset Levels.  More about the practice of pollarding, and about these Levels in general, can be found in my first Somerset Levels post .

The first of these images is here .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 300mm; 400 ISO; Lightroom, using the Camera Monochrome (Red Filter) v2 profile; Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wells; 26 Apr 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 459 – POLLARDED WILLOW (MONO + COLOUR)

 

 


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Pollarded Willow, shorn its true, but still very much alive.  More about the practice of pollarding, and about these Levels in general, can be found in my first Somerset Levels post .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 70mm; 400 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Neutral v2 profile; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Cool Tones 2 preset and slightly restoring colour; Queen’s Sedge Moor, on the Somerset Levels south of Wells; 26 Apr 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 417 – WILLOW 4 (MONO)

 

 


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These images are certainly best viewed enlarged – click onto each of them to open a larger version in a separate window and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Pollarded willow, old and leaning precariously, beside the River Sheppey in Swanshard Lane.  These are mono versions of a previously posted colour image – see 3 below.

Technique:  these images, both captured by the Nikon Z 6, have been created in two different ways.  The one above was produced by in-camera processing of a raw file, using the camera’s Graphite picture control, and no further processing in Lightroom.  The one below was via the “traditional route”, i.e. via Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2,  using the latter’s Landscape preset.   They’re similar, but I have to say – purely subjectively of course – that I prefer the in-camera processing.  My reasons?  Well I think that the lower one is a bit too grey, with too many of the leaves visible; whereas the upper one has more of the leaves and branches burnt out, so focusing more attention on the gnarled trunk.  Which, if any, do you prefer???
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There are other Willow portraits here: 1 2 3 .

There is more about the ancient practice of pollarding here .

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SOMERSET LEVELS 413 – WILLOW 3

 

 


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This image is best viewed enlarged – click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window and click onto that image to further enlarge it – recommended.

Pollarded willow, old and leaning precariously, beside the River Sheppey in Swanshard Lane.

And to me there is something human here, someone leaning with arms outstretched, though whether perhaps performing gracefully in some dance or ballet – or distraughtly in pain, anguish or panic, I cannot say.

There are other Willow portraits here: 1 2 .

There is more about the ancient practice of pollarding here .

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 82mm; 6400 ISO; spotmetering for high key effect; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait v2 profile; Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 13 Sept 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 410 – EARLY MORNING 16

 

 


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Early morning, and the first shafts of sunlight penetrate the gloom beneath the thick canopies of willows beside the River Sheppey in Swanshard Lane.

Other images in this Early Morning series – from both rural and urban settings, and from Kenya too – are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 .

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

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 140mm; 3200 ISO; spotmetering; Lightroom, starting at the Camera Portrait v2 profile; Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 13 Sept 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 405 – EARLY MORNING 11

 

 


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There’s a lot of detail here – this picture is best viewed enlarged – click onto it to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.

Pollarded Willows beside the River Sheppey, early on a misty morning.  Being top heavy due to the pollarding, all of these trees are leaning in towards the river; ultimately they will topple over  – there is more about the ancient practice of pollarding here .

Other images in this Early Morning series – from both rural and urban areas – are here: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor at 82mm; 6400 ISO; jpeg created and processed in-camera from a Raw file, using the Charcoal profile; further processing in Lightroom, including the use of a split tone; the River Sheppey beside Swanshard Lane, on the Somerset Levels southwest of Wells; 23 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS 401 – WILLOW 2 (MONO)

 

 


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These images will benefit by being viewed enlarged – there is a lot of fine detail here.  Click onto them to open larger versions in separate windows, and click onto those imaged to further enlarge them.

Two looks at an old Willow, leaning precariously, out on the fields near Swanshard Lane: the weight of its dense and heavy crown will soon cause collapse, and all the sooner if the soil becomes waterlogged by floods this winter. 

So many trees, some of them my old friends, have gone in this way. 

I liked the shape of this tree but it was far off and in the relative gloom of early morning: and thus to a long telephoto and, taking no chances with camera shake (despite using image stabilisation), 16,000 ISO gave me 1/400th at f8.
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The upper image results from processing of the raw file in Lightroom (details below), but the lower one has been entirely produced by in-camera processing of the raw file by the Z 6, using the camera’s Graphite profile amended by 1.7 stops of overexposure.  I suppose that the lower image is slightly the more radical of the two, being higher key, and – by a small margin – I prefer it >>> so, being a fan of the Terminator films, here is the Rise of the Machines or, to put it rather more prosaically, Camera one, FATman lost ….  And do I mind?  Am I going to take this offending technological gem outside and back my car over it?  Not in the slightest since, for me, the resulting image is always the most important thing in photography, completely irrespective of the means by which it was produced.

Which image, if any, do you prefer?  And, in photography, is the resulting image the important thing for you, or do you think means of production also a factor?

There is another Willow image here .

Technique: Z 6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens used in DX (= APS-C) format to give 450mm; 16,000 ISO; Lightroom, starting at the B&W Green Filter profile and adding a slight pale vignette; North Moor, southwest of Wells on the Somerset Levels; 30 Aug 2019.
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SOMERSET LEVELS AT 400 – TIME FOR A LITTLE LOOKING BACK …

 

400 POSTS

Well, my 400th post about the Somerset Levels.  This feels like something of a milestone.  Questions arise.  What are the Levels?  What are they to me?  And why do I continue to visit and photograph them?

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And rather than post a new image, here are some pictures from my earliest Somerset Levels posts, eight years or so ago – I hope you like them.  Click onto them to open larger versions in separate windows.  LOL! >>> and two of them concern food >>> well, this is FATman Photos ……

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1 – The view eastwards along the North Drain from the Jack’s Drove bridge on Tealham Moor; 17 Sept 2010.  Early morning mists are starting to be dissolved by the rising sun, just after 7am.  I walked on up Jack’s Drove to the low bridge, which is a favourite place of mine – and this scene was unfolding to the east.  Canon G11 Powershot; 140mm; Silver Efex Pro.

WHAT ARE THE SOMERSET LEVELS?

In summary: the Levels are fens and wet lowlands that cover around 650 sq. km. of the county of Somerset.  In the UK, they are second in extent only to the fens of East Anglia.  They have only relatively recently been reclaimed from the lakes and marshes that formerly covered the area, and they have a rich history going back to Neolithic, Roman and Anglo-Saxon times.

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There is a good general source of reference here .

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And the link to my first Levels post – on 21 May 2011 – is here .   It also has much background information.

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2 – The Chapter House Steps in Wells Cathedral, Somerset; 7 Jan 2005.   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.  Olympus OM-4; 21mm; Agfa Scala monochrome slide film, rated at 400 ISO.

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THOUGHTS

I was brought up on the edge of the Levels and cycled on their welcoming flatnesses as a kid – and then left my native Somerset for a long time, much of which was spent abroad.  And it was 25 years ago, in 1994, after my return to England, that I started visiting the Levels regularly once more – mostly for birdwatching but, increasingly, for photography.  I’m something of a loner, and this trait is increasing as I approach my 70th year – my psychological friend thinks I’m happy with my own company and, for me, photography is something mostly done toute seule – wandering with a camera, not straining things or anything, but just looking at anything and everything.

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And the Levels, at least the parts that I visit – between the Mendip Hills to the north and the Polden Hills to the south –  are wonderful for this.  There are never that many people around and, quite often, there are only quite muted, natural sounds – running water, the wind, birds, cows.  The Levels have a great simplicity, they have nothing to prove; in an age increasingly dominated by the relentless onslaught of hype, image, buzzwords and the mass media, I see the Levels as a great antidote to all of this rush and increasing complexity, a great antidote to the pace of modern life.

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You might say that I’m getting back to Nature and I suppose I am, but it must be stressed that the Levels are not a natural landscape, they are an artificial, drained and farmed landscape. They certainly contain natural creatures – willows, skylarks, roe deer and (xxxxx!!!) horseflies to name a few, but that is not the same as being totally natural places – but then, in the Anthropocene (google it!), very few places remain actually “untouched”.

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3 – Meadow at Allermoor Farm, on Aller Moor, south of Wedmore; 24 May 2009.  The meadow itself is a pale, yellow-green haze – a friend said that she could almost smell the air scented by the thousands of blossoms.  The sunlit branches of the tree, just starting to come into leaf, seem to be reaching out over all of this late spring colour.  Nikon D700; 300mm; 400 ISO.

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4 – 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.  Nikon D700; 24mm; 1600 ISO.

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5 – Irate bull, Westhay Moor Drove, northwest of Lower Godney, in the Brue Valley; 28 Oct 2009.  This bull was in a field along Westhay Moor Drove and, as I walked along the drove towards it, I could see at once that he resented my presence.  As a first show of strength, he did what I’ve seen large animals like Eland and Buffalo do many times in Kenya – he turned sideways on to show me just how big he was.  He didn’t have any trouble impressing me.  His hind quarters were lean and strong, in the peak of physical condition and,  if he had his way, I knew that those powerful hind quarters would soon be driving his front end ferociously towards me – and his front end was an enormous, bludgeoning battering ram of bone and muscle, that would be guided on its course by two, very irate eyes.  However, feeling halfway secure – mainly because he and I were separated by a fence, a gate and a water-filled ditch (albeit the gate was only secured by a single rope), I continued along the drove and drew up level with him, whereupon he advanced right up to the gate, giving me the most malevolent of glares.  Not being able to resist the photo – and also being not a little out of my head – I knelt down in front of him and focused on his right eye to get this shot.  He kept pushing the gate but the rope held firm – and I’m still here to tell the story.  I like this picture.  His whole mien radiates malevolent bad temper, right on the edge of unstoppable violence.  His right eye is sharp, as is all the wonderfully tangled hair on his face, and I have rarely seen a glare of such malevolence.  Nikon D700; 400mm; 800 ISO.

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6 – A Cottage Special served up in the Cottage Café, Burnham-On-Sea, Somerset; 29 Apr 2010. Though I’m prone to slightly high cholesterol, I’m a complete sucker for a full English breakfast, as long as its not too greasy. I don’t eat many of them but they are amongst my favourite meals, with the taste combination of bacon, eggs and grilled tomatoes often being more than I can possibly put into words. This particular breakfast was a slight disappointment because the beans had been poured over the fried bread, demolishing much of the latter’s superb taste and, especially, texture. But just look at the locally made sausages, the slightly blackened tomatoes …. the black pudding …two eggs …. the lean rashers ….…. DO I EAT IT OR GET DOWN AND MAKE LOVE TO IT!!!???  The Cottage Café’s breakfasts are in general superb, possibly due to all of the ingredients being fried together in same large frying pan, which makes everything extremely flavoursome. Since we first started going there over a year ago, this eatery has moved up market – so what used to be the Belly Buster has now re-invented itself as the Cottage Special!  And, quite apart from all that gastronomic gush, I like this as a picture.  Canon PowerShot G11; 400 ISO.

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7 – Pollarded Willow in the mist, Tadham-Tealham Moor; 8 Aug 2003.  Originally in colour, I’ve reduced this image to low contrast and misty monochrome, so that it more resembles a pencil drawing than a photograph.  Olympus OM-4; Fuji Velvia 50 colour slide; Silver Efex Pro.
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