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Life In A Somerset Landscape

A Somerset Photography project started back in 2012.

I started Life in a Somerset Landscape as a personal project with the aim to  capture various people and wildlife in the Somerset landscape.

The images are inspired by the county I grew up in and in which I learn’t my craft starting back in the late 1980’s

I’ve always been drawn and somewhat intrigued by the history of the land and the people who work it and wildlife that lives there.

The images here are approached by me either simply documenting what I discover while others are created to produce a vision I have for that particular location or person within it. The project is ongoing as I have time to to pick it up and continue.

Do you know of someone or somewhere in Somerset that you feel should be included? Please email me and let me know. [email protected]

Legion of the Stag, Somerset Medieval Fighting Group

A few days ago I completed another shoot for my project Life In A Somerset Landscape.

I had been told about a ‪Medieval Fighting Group based in Ilminster Somerset that specialised in 12-14th century fighting ‬re-enactments.
This sounded a perfect fit for the project and so I made a call to a chap called who ran the group called James to have a chat.

James explained the re enactment group Legion of the Stag was formed in 1998 through his interests in martial arts and early period of sword training.
They mainly perform around the south west and south wales at various charity shows from the 12th to the 14th century period.
They also perform at local festivals, schools, and have been involved in T.V. and film work.

The shows we attend are entertaining but very educational too, from knight training  talks on the weapons through history,and cookery  in living history sections to blacksmithing, clothing and archery.
He finished up explaining that all their training is about martial arts, but also a lot of safety aspects are involved as their weapons are blunt but very real as I discovered while holding one of the swords during the shoot !

When I talk to people about a potential shoot my mind often tends to run away with itself creating a visual story from the information I’m being given.
Creating a story line helps build up the idea for the image or sequence of images much like when scripting a video shoot but I do admit to having to rein things back a little sometimes !

For this shoot the concept that I imagined was a group of mercenaries heading home from a campaign, travelling over a dank muddy winter Somerset landscape.
It so happened that the very same week as my phone conversation we had several days of frost and heavy mist roll into the area.
I decided this was fate telling me it was the perfect time to find a suitable backdrop for the shoot.

I could have really gone to town on the location for this image but as is often the case less is nearly always more in my opinion.
The simplicity of the muddy winter field with atmospheric mist and trees was the perfect landscape for the Legion to be resting on their journey.

Legion Of The Stag Facebook Page

SMALL AND SWEET, CREST CYDER FARM SOMERSET

Chris And Carole Brown run a small family Cider Farm from their home in North Curry Somerset.
Their daughter Alice contacted me after seeing my request online for people for my project Life In A Somerset Landscape

 

Being a courteous chap I’m always aware not to take up too much of peoples time or be too much of an interruption to whatever they need to be doing.
This probably stems from shooting my corporate work where you are indeed imposing to some degree and need not to faff around but simply get the subject captured with the least fuss as possible.

The Brown’s like everyone I’ve shot for the project were a lovely family and full of passion for what they were doing.
I think they probably picked up on my excitement for the location and it’s history and I reckon I could have stopped there shooting for a week without overstaying my welcome…maybe!

I didn’t intrude that long but did shoot a lot more images than normal as the light was too beautiful to drag myself away from.
In fact every-time I shut the camera off to call it a day I’d spot something else and after the 3rd or 4th time even I got fed up with myself.

The Brown’s have kindly invited me back to the farm in a couple of weeks to photograph or just simply watch them press the apples in their historic barn complete with their old oak cider press.

Website Crest Cyder 

STEVE TRIMS SHOW SHEEP

Steve Trims Show Sheep..yeah try saying it after a couple of glasses of Scrumpy!

Liz Steve Rowe’s wife messaged me to see if Steve’s slightly unusual passion might be of interest to my Life In A Somerset Landscape Project and of course I was intrigued to find out more and we agreed to arrange something.


I had to wait a few weeks before a date could be arranged for the shoot due to my and Steves Calendars not aligning too well but it was worth the wait.

Steve and Liz own a smallholding in a village not too far from me called Stembridgehere in Somerset.
The location was lovely and after introductions a brief tour and a chat I decided to set up at the entrance to their small barn.
Lighting was ideal with some diffused sunlight backlighting the scene which is my favorite albeit sometimes tricky light to work in.
After a few test shots, I formulated a plan to create the image I wanted and we brought in the first of two sheep that were to model.
I always want my cake and eat it and after spotting the slightly used tractor in the field behind I politely asked Steve if we could move everything a couple of inches to adjust my composition.

 

Steve has been shearing show sheep for 10 years and the awards adorning the barn is a testament to his success.
He explained to me that shearing was used years ago to sculpt the sheep’s wool and to make them look more muscular at the market and help get farmers the best prices.
These days of course it is a dying art.
The sheep themselves were also in threat of being lost to history as not so long ago were a rare breed.
Steve has bred the Coloured Ryeland for several years now and thankfully stocks are now once again healthy.

Once again I was blessed with meeting some lovely people in a great location and came away very thankful for their time.

 

Willow Weaver Chris Beck

I’ve captured people in the Willow industry before for my Life In A Somerset Landscape project.
Chris doesn’t work for a company he is an independent artist working from home for a small selection of close clients.

His modest but well-stocked workshop is located in his garden in Stoke St Gregory near Taunton Somerset where he has lived all his life.

It’s here that he creates baskets, coffins and other bits of furniture from the locally grown Somerset willow.

He started to learn his craft at the age of 15 which he told me equates to over 41 years and it showed when I watched his masterfully with ease work the willow.
Watching him work was an absolute treat photographing and chatting to him a privilege.

See more of Chris work at his Facebook Page

 

STORYTELLING IN SOMERSET

In early August I posted out on social media that I was looking for people to capture lifestyle portraits of for my project Life In A Somerset Landscape.

The response was impressive and I found myself having a difficult time responding to everyone that reached out but Im glad to say I did out of simple courtesy.
In August shortly after my social media appeal, I captured Melanie Deegan but since then It’s been a slow burner arranging shoots in between what has been a very busy summer with assignments.

Getting dates set was also difficult due to COVID but slowly everything started to align.
This last two weeks I’ve managed three shoots including this one of Sarah Mooney a storyteller based near Glastonbury.

Sarah trained as an actress appearing on stage in productions like Clockwork Orange.
It was on stage delivering the line “Once Upon A Time” that she discovered her calling as a storyteller.
25 years on she still has the love of telling tales and is the Storyteller on residence for Roald Dahl Foundation.
She is the 11th Bard Of Glastonbury which is announced at Glastonbury’s market cross on the equinox each year and also appears now and again as the Witch Of Wookey Hole.

The location for the shoot was a 14th-century Tithe Barn at Pilton near Glastonbury which is best known for the location of the Glastonbury festival.
It’s a location that Sarah knows well and served as the perfect backdrop for the shoot complete with some great September light.

Find out more about Sarah at

www.sarahmooney.co.uk

MELANIE DEEGAN SCULPTOR

After quite a large gap last week I continued with my project Life In A Somerset Landscape.


using the power of social media I posted out a request for people who might fit the project and wished to have a lifestyle portrait in the project.
I must admit I underestimated the response I would receive and now have some amazing people lined up for the project including a Gamekeepers, Storytellers and even an Astrophotographer with his own garden observatory!

Have to say I feel pretty excited and blessed to have such a diverse group and interesting people wanting to spare their time.

The first person I captured was an amazing sculptor called Melanie Deegan based at an old chicken farm near Langport.
Melanie’s work was simply amazing her website can be found here

Her studio is a very simple and cool old commercial vehicle (well the rear end of it) situated outside the old chicken barn.
After and chat about her work we set up the shoot and captured some images and were all done in less than 30 minutes.

The biggest enjoyment in shoots like this for me apart from the enjoyment of capturing and creating the images is definitely meeting some wonderful generous interesting people.

 

Mud, Nuclear Power & The Mud Horse Fishermen

Brendan & Adrian Sellick who are father & son and at the time of me photographing in 2012 were the last two people still Mud Horse fishing a stones throw from Hinkley Point B Nuclear Power Station.

Having lived close to the coast most my life (mostly on the Bristol Channel) I know how dangerous this stretch of coast can be.
Firstly it has the second fastest fall and rise of tide in the world plus and more appropriate here the mud banks can be like quicksand.
The fishermen place their nets 2 miles out over the treacherous mud banks of the Bristol Channel. They use a wooden sledge known as a Mud Horse to help them not only carry back their catch but more importantly aid them to glide over the thick treacherous mud and not sink into it.

Adrian explained that the Mud Horse is stored about 1 mile out onto the mud banks of the channel weighted down by rocks as is to cumbersome to drag out.

We jumped into his 4×4 and started to drive cautiously over the mud which I have to admit was rather unnerving after the scores of cars I’ve seen submerged on this coastline by tourists driving on the beaches and ignoring the warnings.

I had as I always do planned to use my tripod but it quickly became obvious that I would have to go out my comfort zone and hand hold the camera.

Adrian directed me to where was safe to walk and pointed out the areas that would have me knee deep in mud which was a worry with £6,500 worth of camera around my neck !

I directed Adrian where I wanted him and set about shooting.

I retired with Adrian back to his rustic fish shop where I finished by shooting some headshots of him and his charismatic father Brendan.