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Picture Somerset - a magical snapshot

On Somerset Day (May 11th) we always ‘Picture Somerset’ and celebrate the amazing photography happening across this magical place we’re proud to call home. This year, we’re bringing together another stunning selection of warm and wonderful photos, and the stories behind them... so whether you’re living in Somerset or longing to be here, we can all enjoy the beauty, personality and creativity of our unique county.

It’s a strange time at the moment but wherever you're reading this from, I hope these amazing Somerset shots bring you some joy and inspiration - and if there's one place to go for lots of that, it's got to be Glastonbury Tor. Glastonbury is the home town of photographer Mike Jefferies, which is handy for capturing incredible early-morning scenes like these.

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Glastonbury Tor by Mike Jefferies

As Mike says:

"I'm very lucky to live so close by. It's only a 10 minute walk from my house to the top"

and I bet we all feel lucky Mike lives here when he shares this kind of view!  

When it comes to capturing views from the top of the Tor, Michelle Cowbourne is an absolute master. I always look forward to her daily perspectives posted on Twitter and her magical 'Mists of Avalon' photo was featured in several national newspapers. It certainly took my breath away when I saw it.

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Mists of Avalon by Michelle Cowbourne

As Michelle says,

It was quite a surreal morning when I took this photo. The mists were flowing across the levels in a wave like motion and it was bitterly cold, but I stood there taking photographs for an hour or so. It was difficult getting the right composition of land, mist and the sun rising, but I was really pleased with the results. 

Well, we're not surprised. It's simply beautiful and talking of sunrises, we're so spoiled in Somerset. I'd honestly never seen such stunners before the county became our home and this shot, by Paul Stockall, captures that sentiment perfectly.

Here's a mid-December sunrise over Cheddar reservoir, from Wavering Down on the way up to Crooks Peak...

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The sun rises over Cheddar reservoir, by Paul Stockall

... and as Paul says:

The sky and clouds were bright red when I parked at King's Wood, but unfortunately I didn't quite make it up in time to get that in the shot. That's the great thing about Winter sunrises though - you don't need to get up at silly o'clock to capture them!

Ha! Now that's definitely a plus point, Paul.

And we go from one shot bathed in stunning Somerset light to another... this wonderful picture of one of our Somerset icons, the wooden low lighthouse in Burnham-On-Sea. How beautiful is this capture by photgrapher Lloyd Evans? Lloyd tells me it was taken on his first trip there, a January outing a few years back.

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The low lighthouse by Lloyd Evans

As Lloyd says:

"We were greeted with some beautiful light as golden hour approached. Lighthouses have always intrigued me and I love the way this one has almost two different identities, with its distinct red stripe from one direction and the black and white from the other. It's a great spot to photograph at both sunrise and sunset".

It's a gorgeous spot for a stroll at those times too and we look forward to doing that again one day soon. For now though, we'll lose ourselves in Lloyd's photo and daydream a little!

Another favourite Somerset seaside icon has to be our beautiful Victorian Pier at Clevedon, captured beautifully in this photo by Rachel Price.

Again, this stunning shot was taken in January and as Rachel says:

Me and my husband loved, pre-lockdown, to jump in the car after work and drive the short journey to Clevedon to stroll along the the seafront and out and around Poets Walk. We find it so relaxing to be by the water and Clevedon has the most amazing sunsets, so I’m in my element snapping away as we walk! 

We really are spoiled for both calm and wild waters in Somerset... and this glorious shot by photographer, Clayton Jane, proves it!

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Sunset at Kilve Beach by Clayton Jane

If you haven't been, Kilve is a fossil beach between Bridgwater and Watchet and it's certainly a place for all seasons - whether you want to experience dramatic seascapes or have a calm Summer picnic! Clayton's incredible sunset shot shows the view across the Bristol Channel including Steepholm and as he tells us:

"On this particular day it looked promising and with the tide due to be in, I went there with hope, driving across the Quantock Hills. I managed to walk up the headland to the steps, which allowed me to get to the shore and I waited for the sun to set. With the tide and seascape, it worked beautifully".

Well, we can't argue with that! ;)

Since publishing a Somerset 'Picture of the week' every Monday on Twitter, Instagram and here on the blog, I've come to learn that some shots are meticulously planned whilst others happen quite by chance... something breathtaking glimpsed out of the corner of the eye, compelling you to stop and capture the moment. One of those moments was caught by awesome Somerset photographer, Rich Wiltshire, at Quantock Lakes on a Spring evening - just as the sun was setting over the Somerset countryside.

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A stunning shot of the Somerset landscape by Rich Wiltshire

As Rich tells it:

"I was driving past and saw the mist covered land in the distance, so I just had to turn around to go back and look. As I went into the field, I loved the lines of newly growing crops leading you into the frame and the shadows on the trees cast by the setting sun".

Now that's certainly a view worthy of a poetic description and talking of unexpected finds, Lucy Masters discovered a cracker when she went on a walk with her daughter Tyra, pictured here:

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A wood of wild garlic by Lucy Masters

The views of little discovered wild garlic gems are a source of constant delight on Instagram at the moment and this was taken on Lucy's first walk out, after two weeks in isolation. As she says,

"It was such a beautiful find - a tiny wild garlic woodland near the edge of Chew Valley Lake. You can just forget about all the worries of the world when you step into a little wonderland like that".

Lucy's words are so true and if wonderland exists in a photo then this shot, by filmmaker Jonathan Warner, would certainly be a contender. Just breathe in all that mellow yellow beauty!

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Somerset yellow by Jonathan Warner

For Jonathan,

"There’s no better colour than yellow to make you smile and feel good. Each year, I can't wait to take pictures of a rapeseed field to capture a vista of yellowness! Unfortunately, due to lockdown, I’ve missed out on seeing one this year, but this view from Dowlish Wake a couple of years ago almost makes up for it. Hoping to get more yellow next year".

We hope you will too, Jonathan. We definitely have some stunning fields in Somerset but next up, is a photographer who had a field day taking photos of one of our beloved Quantocks characters instead!

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Quantock pony by Usama Sajid

Usama Sajid was out taking photos at sunset on the hills and was struggling to find something worth capturing, as the light was fading. Didn't I mention there's something magical about Somerset though? In this case, fate decided to intervene...

"As luck would have it, I ran into a team of horses roaming the footpaths and it turned out to be perfect timing. For the rest of the evening, I had a field day capturing these guys from different angles".

Ahh - what a moment that must have been. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it. The light in the shot is so beautiful too and that's something Usama's photo has in common with our next picture of Somerset.

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Somerset lavender fields by Zoe Cox

Photographer, Zoe Cox, captures some of my favourite shots of the county and when I saw this one I definitely said "OH YES!" out loud ;). Again, it just goes to show that when you're about to give up hope, the unexpected often happens...

"I was out photographing a poppy field one evening, but the sunset wasn’t living up to expectations so I packed up my kit and left. Heading past Somerset Lavender Farm on my way home, all of a sudden, the sky became a carpet of fire and I quickly followed a public footpath into the nearby lavender fields. I had the wrong lens on my camera and time was against me, so I held up my iPhone and ended up capturing one of my favourite sunset photographs. I love the contrasting colours of the purple lavender against the fiery sky". 

Ahh we do too. It's simply stunning. The lavender farm in Faulkland is such a lovely place to visit and as James Clarke discovered, it makes everyone smile - whether human or canine! As someone with a bit of a soft spot for dogs (you might say ;)), I just had to include this shot that fills your heart with happiness!

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'Here Bella' by James Clarke

As James tells me;

We were at the top end of the field and no-one was about, so I thought it would be cool to see if I could call Bella back towards me through the field towards the camera. It worked perfectly (on a second attempt ha ha!)".

Yep, James - that sounds about right! ;)

And from one favourite animal to another... what is it about the humble Somerset sheep? Their faces are so expressive and we're back with Zoe again, who brought out all the personality and character possible when she photographed this beaut:

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Somerset sheep by Zoe Cox

As Zoe tells it:

"A dog walk to find a hidden waterfall led me up many a hilly path and all along the paths were fields full of sheep. This woolly one was very inquisitive, but that didn’t stop it from munching on its grassy lunch (as you can see)".

Ha! A sheep after my own heart... I mean what reason could there possibly be to interrupt a good meal?

Now, although we're in lockdown ( I think ;)), you don't have to go too far to see more characters of Somerset's natural world. Since the start of social distancing, fantastic wildlife photographer, Carl Bovis, has been taking photos of 'The Daily Goldfinch' spotted in his garden. He's been posting them on his social channels and they've really been lifting the spirits of thousands of people across the world. You can certainly see why, with this beautiful capture.

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The Daily Goldfinch by Carl Bovis. Check out the hashtag on Twitter

How hard is it to get shots like these? Here's what Carl had to say about this particular one:

"Every spring, there's a brief window of opportunity to photograph birds in my beautiful flowering cherry tree. Last year, I got a popular photo of a Blue Tit seemingly smelling the pink blossom... so this year, I hoped to take advantage of being stuck at home during coronavirus lockdown, by getting photos of the regular visiting Goldfinches in the blooming tree. I had varying degrees of success until this Goldfinch came and posed briefly in the perfect spot, allowing me just enough time to grab the photo I was after".

And it's an absolute beauty, that's for sure.

Now, the natural world is a huge part of Somerset life and one of the highlights is certainly watching the starling murmurations, as the birds head to our corner of the globe late in the year. We just couldn't have a Somerset Day blog without inviting them to the party!

Photographer, Mark Pickthall, studies the starlings with a quiet energy and commitment that blows me away to be honest - and they reward him with shapes like this incredible swan.

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The starlings and the swan by Mark Pickthall

As Mark says of this particular photograph:

"I’d been to see the starlings the night before and noticed a massive concentration on the west side of Shapwick Heath. I basically got myself into position the following night, in the hope they would repeat before moving on. The presence of Marsh Harriers and a Falcon helped create these spectacular shapes. It happened so quickly and I was luckily in the right place and ready. I’ve always believed that if you want to do this type of work you need to be patient, committed and lucky. This image of the swan turns into another amazing shape within the blink of an eye".

Mark goes on to say that he always spends at least two weeks visiting the starlings every dawn and dusk, and the sunrise is often spectacular...

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Somerset sunrise by Mark Pickthall

Well, that's definitely a stunning Somerset sky and another photographer who always appreciates a spectacular sky is Polly Skene. Polly photographed the sky over four seasons from one of her favourite places - the Willow Cathedral in Longrun Meadow, Taunton.

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Four seasons in one view by Polly Skene

As Polly tells me:

"I was fascinated to compare the change at different times of the year and my family say these are some of their favourite shots of mine - my best critics!"

And from one hand created icon, to one of our most famous natural ones. Paul Stockall's shot of Cheddar Gorge is breathtaking and we couldn't celebrate Somerset without it! Paul says:

"This long exposure photo was taken on a really cold December evening. The sunset did not disappoint and I managed to capture a few photos of the light trails and the sunset. We were there for a couple of hours experimenting with shutter times, 30 seconds was just right, and waiting for the right moment for the car light trails. We wanted to stay longer but started to freeze!"   

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Cheddar Gorge at sunset by Paul Stockall

As much as I love the Gorge, I probably wouldn't freeze for it either - although I'm glad Paul nearly did to get this shot ;).

And finally, we're finishing up with one of my favourite shots of last year - a unique, expertly captured picture of Somerset that's full of hope, which feels like something we all need right now.

'Halo tree' by Kieran Hanlon (founder of Keanu Drone) stars a well known Somerset tree which Kieran loves - but with a twist of his own. As Kieran tells me, the December weather had to be just right to get a shot like this, he asked Burrow Hill Farm for permission to fly a drone with lights over the tree and headed out with fellow photographers, Rich Wiltshire and George Braeger, to capture the moment.

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Halo tree by Kieran Hanlon

"We arrived at the hill, got the composition we wanted and set the drone above the tree, doing a perfect circle above it. I wanted this to look like a Christmas tree with a halo above because it doesn’t matter what’s underneath the tree or what you’ve got... it’s about being healthy and having the people you love around you. That means more".

Well, whether we're with our families or connected to the people we love online, here's to Somerset Day and every day in the beautiful places we live. May we stay safe, healthy and continue to appreciate the beauty in the little things all around us x


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