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Picture Somerset - celebrating our magical county

Yes, it's that time once again… Somerset Day! To be honest, we celebrate Somerset all year round but on May 11th, it’s great to take the opportunity to create a stunning snapshot of the county, as seen through the eyes of some of Somerset's brilliant photographers.

So, grab a cuppa (or a cider!) and join me (Jenna) on a tour of our incredible county, as we head to some of the iconic sights, drink in those breathtaking views, meet a couple of county characters along the way, and share 30 magical shots of the place I'll always be proud to call home.

First up, we head to Glastonbury Tor where the Avalon mists are rolling in, in this sunrise stunner of a shot by Jason Sturgess.

As Jason says:

“I remember looking out of the window one morning, seeing it was foggy, and I went to the Tor hoping I could get a great shot. It all just came together. The mist was drifting slowly around the Tor, with the sun's rays shining over it – pure magic, just like the location.”

Spot on there Jason… and someone else who has a very special connection with the Tor is Michelle Cowbourne. Michelle climbs to the top of it most days, at dawn, with her camera, and the views still take her breath away. She loves taking photographs of St Michael's tower and the surrounding Somerset landscape through the seasons, and you could say Michelle is also a bit of a sheep fan (me too!). As she tells me:

“My very favourite scene to photograph is when the sheep are up on the hill. They are so inquisitive when I get my camera out, and some of them seem to love posing.”

“On this particular morning I watched them as they came across to the steps, with the sun rising directly behind them. Two of them seemed to look at me as if to say "Take photos of us not the sunrise!"

Ha! I bet they would say that, and we’ll have more from a couple of the other characters of the county in a little while, but first here’s a stunning view out over the Somerset levels... this time captured by photographer, Matt Perks.

As Matt tells me, this isn't an obvious shot to take from the Tor and he took it because he stopped in a different spot to his usual one, and something beautiful caught his eye...

“I noticed the light cascading across the levels, showcasing the small inlets from the Severn. Many people don’t realise that many centuries ago, the monks dug these outlets to control water levels and to enable people to cultivate the land for crops. I love finding interest in the smaller details.”

There are so many beautiful details to discover across Somerset, whether it’s at historic landmarks like King Alfred's Tower near Bruton, captured here in all its glory by Bryn Webley...

... or in the minute details recorded from the sky above, in Bath, by Mario Nogales...

... or in something magical in a reflection at Wells Cathedral and the Bishops Palace, photographed by Rebecca Leyton.

Both of these places mean a lot to Becky, as she was a chorister in the Cathedral (one of the first girls in 1994) and she spent a lot of time in Bishops Palace with her children during their pre-school years. Of this particular shot, Becky says:

"I went with the aim of capturing the Cathedral reflected in the large pool there, but when it came to editing it was the reflection in the moat that spoke to me most. I liked the disjointed nature of it - probably because I felt a little disjointed myself. My youngest had started school in September and this was my first visit without any of my children to run around and play with."

Well, you can certainly see the emotion in the photograph, and another Somerset landmark which always inspires emotion (most often awe, I think) is Cheddar Gorge.

I love the detail of the winding road and incredible cliffs, as seen through the lens of Vitaliy Bobrovic.

As Vitaliy says:

"Cheddar Gorge is one of the most impressive landscapes in England, and I'll never stop visiting and photographing this place because you always leave with positive emotions and beautiful photos."

Ain't that the truth!

And talking of beautiful photos, check out this magical Mendip Hills bluebells scene captured by Mike Jefferies.

As Mike tells me:

"I was out walking my dog, Tegan. We parked up by the Mendip transmitter, walked down the lane, and just after a mile or so we came across this incredible surprise... a fantastic wood, filled with a beautiful carpet of bluebells."

And it's not just the bluebells creating stunning natural carpets across the county. How about this beautiful show of wild garlic taken by Lara Honnor? Wow!

Sheer beauty keeps on coming as well, with this stunner of a shot by photographer Rich Wiltshire.

It was taken at Thurloxton sunflower field on a beautiful summers evening and feels even more poignant at the moment, with sunflowers being the national flower of Ukraine.

As Rich tells me:

"The photo inspired me, with the sunflowers leading into the tree in the distance, complimented by the beautiful sunset.".

Well, now that you've mentioned sunsets, can we just take a moment to reflect on how incredible our Somerset sunsets are? I've never seen skies so ablaze with beauty or fiery drama, and this shot by Polly Skene certainly captures that...

As Polly says,

" The sunsets on Longrun Meadow in Taunton are simply the best, especially over this man-made pond."

And although Polly has moved away from this particular part of Somerset now, it's still etched on her memory...

"Even though I don’t live there anymore, I always have my photos."

Creating special memories at sundown is what the next photo does by the bucketload as well! Taken by Zoe Cox, this breathtaking shot of the lavender field at Faulkland is unforgettable.

"After the initial plan to photograph a poppy field hadn’t turned out too well, I aborted and traveled to a nearby lavender field. As I parked up, I could see a sudden change in the natural lighting. I grabbed my camera kit and rushed over a wooden stile to witness, in solitude, the most magnificent sky show I’ve ever seen. I didn’t have time to swap the lens on my camera, so I took out my phone and snapped the candy floss skies hovering above the lavender goodness. What a treat for the eyes to see."

An absolutely incredible treat to witness, Zoe... and there are more treats in our Somerset fields next, with this wonderful shot of mellow yellow goodness by Jonathan Warner. Each May, Jonathan heads to this field in Dowlish Wake, to capture a vista of sunshine!

We certainly do a cracking field in Somerset don't we? And as if we needed any more proof of that, check out this stunning landscape, captured by Lotte Worthy-Jarvis, on her grandparents farm.

"The oak tree in the photo is one of the oldest in the village of Barton St David. It’s at the top of Jarmany Hill, behind our recording studio and it's the perfect space for clearing the head after a day at the computer!"

Well, it certainly looks like a beautiful place to let your thoughts drift away at the end of the day... and that time is when a lot of our photographers head out and turn their thoughts to their favourite Somerset sights. For Jack, one of those is the Glastonbury festival site and I love this photo of the iconic pyramid stage skeleton. As you can see, Jack does too...

In fact, as Jack tells it:

"The heart I’m holding is actually a paperweight, and I’m also wearing my wristband from Glasto 2019 which I haven’t removed since then! I have lots of love for Glastonbury Festival, so this picture really combines a nice handful of meaningful elements for me, against the backdrop of a colourful Somerset sunset."

On to another colour-fuelled sky next, and a location that hobbyist photographer, Shane, had wanted to return to for some time - the beloved Ashton Windmill in Chapel Allerton.

As Shane shares with us:

"It was a last minute decision to go out this particular evening. I wasn't expecting to come home with a shot on the journey there as the sky was cloud-heavy, but luckily the sun just poked through and lit up the cloud. I'd previously shot at this location years before but was never really happy with the shots, so getting back there to improve was something I'd always wanted to do."

Well, I love the moodiness of the sunset sky, but what about an image that can bring the moodiness of a stormy Somerset afternoon to life for anyone who sees it?

I can't decide whether this incredible shot by Jon Rees, makes me want to curl up by the fire and listen to the sounds of the sea, or get my waterproofs on and feel the wind and rain on my face... and that's exactly what Jon did when he took it!

As he tells me:

"It was a high tide at Clevedon Pier (one of my favourite photography locations, such elegance!), so on with the waterproofs and wellies and down to the beach! I got a few odd looks, but for me it was well worth a soaking - dramatic conditions, moody skies... exactly what I was after."

We are blessed with coastal icons here in the county and a Picture Somerset blog just wouldn't be the same without the Low Lighthouse at Burnham-on-Sea. This is Edward Allistone's unique interpretation of it.

Edward had been picturing this shot for a while when he saw the driftwood, but the tide had never been high enough to get a photo until one particular outing...

"I knew I had to wait for a spring tide, so I visited on the next full moon. Judging by the seaweed line, my estimates on the tide height were well off and I dragged the log 30 metres to get it into a good position for the coming tide. Now all I needed to do was wait for the tide and sunset colours. When the water arrived, it was clear that I hadn't thought things through. I needed a long exposure to smooth out the water, but the incoming tide was rocking the wood and it ended up blurry in the frame. I had to put a timer on the camera and stand on the end of the log, just out of frame, to keep it still. The best colours were ten minutes after this, but by that point I would have been up to my hips and I'd already dragged the log to safety, ready for another photographer's still life."

I can just imagine Edward standing out of frame, on the log, to get the perfect shot!

And from one Somerset landmark to another now, as we head to The Nornen - the ship which ran aground on Berrow Beach 125 years ago. It's bones remain though...

They've been captured in this shot by Tracey Small and as Tracy tells us:

"I’m fascinated by anything that feels magical, looks strange, “other worldly”, or like it’s a scene from a fantasy novel or film - which is actually why I love Somerset so much. It’s such a magical, special county, with so many unusual geological features. The wreck on Berrow Beach inspires me because even though it’s the remains of a Norwegian sailing ship, in my mind’s eye it looks like the gnarly, rotten ribs of a beached prehistoric sea monster!"

I can totally see where you're coming from Tracey, and on the subject of "other worldly", Tracey captures another part of the diverse Somerset landscape perfectly too.

It might look like the mystical wilderness of a faraway land, but it's right here in the county and as Tracey says:

"Black Down is such a bleak, boggy and strange landscape. I started walking there and taking photos a lot during the pandemic because it really felt like I was escaping to somewhere wild and desolate. The big, open skies are a dream for someone who loves clouds and sunsets, and you get the most beautiful heather and boggy, grassy tufts up there."

Well, someone who likes big open skies filled with the sound of flapping wings is photographer Mark Pickthall, and every year in my Picture Somerset blog, I share photos of Mark's journey capturing how the starlings interact when they visit this very special county of ours.

This year, we have a dawn take off at RSPB Ham Wall...

... and in this next shot, Mark captures the incredible feathered detail of the starling at one of their daytime destinations - a farm near the Dimmer Recycling Centre at Castle Cary.

Just beautiful... but it's not just the promise of the incredible starling murmurations that capture attention here in the county. Brilliant wildlife photographer, Carl Bovis, finds inspiration all year round in his Somerset garden and in our local nature reserves.

This year, Carl has discovered a very special character too...

"In January, I became aware of a rather tetchy Blue Tit at RSPB Greylake. Whenever I fed the birds on a post in the car park, this Blue Tit would swoop in and chase certain birds off! I knew it was the same bird because it had a distinctive 'quiff' of upright feathers on his head! This little terror didn't like Chaffinches in particular, but I also saw it attack Robins and Great Tits. It wasn't until I saw the photos I'd taken of his antics that I noticed he was missing a leg!"

" I wondered if that was what was making him so aggressive. I gave him the name 'Bruiser', due to his feisty temperament, and shared photos of his shenanigans on my Twitter. He soon became my most loved bird character. Even Deborah Meaden told me she was a fan of Bruiser! In April, against all the odds, he paired up with another Blue Tit, and I hope they go on to raise a happy healthy family, preferably with all legs intact! What a survivor."

I love Brusier and Carl's stunning captures of him too of course, and from colourful characters to colourful dots on the landscape next... even when it's raining!

Debi Ann Moss takes this umbrella everywhere. It's definitely a recognisable element in her photography, and it always raises a smile.

This particular shot was taken up at Cothelstone Woods/Seven Sisters, and as Debi Ann tells me:

"I was having some quality time with my son and I loved how the sky looked, so I got him to sit on the bench with my now famous umbrella. As you can imagine he wasn’t particularly pleased, but once I showed him the results he loved it! Mum knows best!!"

Ahhhh... well from mum knows best to another of the best-known landmarks in the county, with another gorgeous capture by Matt Perks. Who says Glastonbury Tor has to have all the attention? ;)

Matt says,

"When I visited Burrow Mump, it was the morning of the full moon. I knew that Glastonbury Tor would be busy with people and my instant thought was to head here..and would you believe it, I was on my own (with a few sheep for company!). It’s only in the first few minutes of the sunrise that you can stare directly at the sun without it damaging your eyes... and with a bitter breeze in the air and frost on the ground, that’s exactly what I did. Fresh air, clear skies and watching another day dawn after another rotation on this little ball of water, floating through an infinite cosmos".

Well, talking of infinity and beyond, the universe seems endless under the starry Somerset skies up next!

Taken at Wimbleball Lake by Matthew Harris, Matthew decided to head here with fellow photographer Dean Whitehouse, to capture one of their first Milky Way shoots of the year.

"At the beginning of the night with no reception on our phones due to our location, we couldn't pin point where the Milky Way was. After shooting in the wrong direction for 15 minutes, we decided to turn and shoot again and then we found it! Although the cloud obscured the core, we were still happy that we managed our first shoot this year."

It's easy to see why the guys were happy. Such a stunning sky... and talking of nighttime photography, check out Taunton's Willow Cathedral against a backdrop of darkness, taken by Roger Shattock.

As Roger shares:

" I thought I'd try my hand at light painting, which is a form of photography involving waving torches or light sources around in front of a camera in the dead of night. For this shot, I've stacked different photos on top of one another after illuminating various sections of the Cathedral, to create a Cathedral of Light".

It's certainly a spectacular shot of a wonderful Somerset landmark and as the sun almost sets on this particular blog, we couldn't let that pass without sharing this incredible shot by Deborah Richards.

Yes we're back to where we started... with a view of Glastonbury Tor, this time from West Pennard, and a gigantic sun setting behind it! As Deborah says:

"When I saw the sun looking like a huge blood orange, I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and set off to catch it, with just 20 minutes to get to the correct position and set up. I then realised I’d forgotten my spare batteries as my camera flashed LOW BATTERY at me. Knowing I’d only manage about four shots, it was good training to know I had to line it up and get it right the first time using my eye... and what a sunset it was!

Absolutely magical, and light has been an ongoing theme throughout this blog... whether sunrise, sunset, or some of the characters that light up the natural world in the county. This year, however, I'd like to dedicate this feature to Justin @wanderjust_uk, who passed away earlier this year.

Quite simply, he lit up Instagram with his photographs, like this beautiful capture of a Porlock sunrise.

1 comment

1 Comment

May 12, 2022

A lovely tribute to this gorgeous place we call home. Thank you!

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