Picture Somerset is our way of celebrating the amazing photography happening across this unique county we’re all proud to call home - whether we're sharing it on social media, on the radio or last Somerset Day... when our Picture Somerset photography exhibition showcased the beauty and character of Somerset in all its ginormous glory! ;)
Our gallery exhibition featured over 80 handpicked photographs, ranging from stunning landscapes to smiling Somerset faces, and 57 photographers took part.
To celebrate this Somerset Day, we wanted to revisit the exhibition a little... to catch up with some of the talented people whose photos were at the heart of it. We gave them a simple but pretty tough challenge; choose your favourite photo you’ve taken in the past year and tell us a bit about the story behind it.
What we’ve got to share is an assortment of the unusual, wonderful, warm and captivating - a box of gems reflecting the love we all have for this often magical place, so let’s dive in!
We’re starting with a photo that’s as unique as Somerset itself.
Probably not what you were expecting us to kick off with, right? Well, we were surprised too, because lots of the shots we love by Kieran Hanlon (founder of Keanu Drone), are of landscapes, dense masses of trees and winding roads taken from a breathtaking angle. How completely cool is this, though? And does it remind you of anything? Well, as Kieran explains, after receiving their night time flying licence for their PfCO, they headed to the car park to take some pics:
“I’ve had this shot in my head for a while now after driving around the car park and seeing the circle, I thought it would make an interesting photo and this is actually 4 photos stitched together to get the one image. When I saw the end result I was blown away as it reminded me of C3PO'S head”!
We were too... and it made an impression on other people as well, because the guys were then invited to enter the photo in to two competitions, winning both!
“One was the UK drone photo of the year in the landscape category, sponsored by the CAA, and the second was run by footspeed, a printing and framing company – so we now have framed a print of this award winning photo hanging on our wall”.
C3PO would’ve been proud! :)
Next up, is another striking shot from one of our favourite photographers, Zoe Cox. We selected several of Zoe’s photos for the Picture Somerset exhibition and whatever she shoots, it’s always full of her personality and unique perspective. As Zoe tells us:
“I visited this location in Cotfrod St Luke, Taunton, a week before taking this shot and instantly envisioned the ideal photograph I could capture here. I went back a week later, arriving just before sunset as the sun was lowering, and through pure luck it was perfectly positioned behind the lone tree in the middle of the rapeseed crop. It shone beautifully through a gap in the tree, enough to create a sun burst effect. As soon as I took it, I knew it was the one!
From a beautiful old tree in the rapeseed crop, to a couple of trees you can barely see, and that’s because of the way the land at Porlock Marshes changes at different times of the day!
As Susan Locke, who took this beautiful shot, says:
“We moved to West Porlock five years ago and I still haven’t got used to drawing the curtains each morning and seeing Porlock Marsh and the sea beyond. The marsh only floods during high Spring tides, which take place early morning and evening, and it’s only a ten minute walk from the house. The whole area changes for a couple of hours and there’s a special magic there on a calm morning, when the sea invades the land... and then it is gone, as quickly as it arrived”.
Wow. Isn’t it amazing the way the landscape changes?
And we head even further into the blue now, with our next two shots... of bluebells, and they’re both absolute beauts!
One of Gabriel Gilson’s favourite shots taken over the past year is the one he calls: 'Blue flowers at the blue hour', to borrow from the author Robert Macfarlane.
The photo was taken in his local woods, near a hamlet called Rickford, just beyond Blagdon in the Chew Valley and as Gabriel tells us:
“We'd been on a family walk at lunchtime and stumbled across this amazing stretch of bluebells. I could see the woods opened out to the west, so I guessed it might be worth coming back for a twilight shot. I made my excuses after dinner and ran back to the woods just in time to catch the last of the light behind the trees. I love the light and what it does to the colour of the flowers. It's also typical of my photography. I never manage to plan a shoot down to the last detail but I try and manage the odds of a good shot by being roughly in the right place at the right time”.
And someone else who was definitely in the right place at the right time was Martin Waters, who captured his own carpet of bluebells just as the sun was coming up.
“I set my alarm for 5am to photograph the sun rising over these bluebell woods near Wrington, North Somerset. It’s such a special place, and this particular morning there was only me and a few squirrels there to appreciate the sunrise”!
Seeing the sunrise over the carpet of bluebells in the absolute stillness with only the squirrels for company must've been an awesome experience... and as we’re talking of sharing a moment with animals and wildlife, this shot by Emma Darnley features one very inquisitive character in nearby Ashton Court in Bristol.
As Emma says:
"I always love going to Ashton Court to see all the deer. They're usually relaxed around you (always staying on path and following the wildlife code). I took this photo back in February and most of the stags were together. I love it as we were both watching each other".
And there's a stunning Somerset character in this beautiful photograph, taken by Sue Kennett.
As Sue says:
“I love the vibrant colours of the horse and it’s taken on the Quantocks, which is a must for me for pictures of Somerset! Such a beautiful place and always good for the soul”
and we know Sue had to move out of the way pretty quickly after taking it! ;)
For Sue, the Quantocks hold a special place in her heart, and the stunning Somerset countryside is a constant inspiration for many of us, whether we're hobby photographers or professional. Awesome photographer, Rich Wiltshire, constantly amazes us with the way in which he captures the brilliant landscapes of the county. Rich says:
“I’m inspired by all the beautiful things and sights to see in Somerset and my favourite time of the day to shoot is golden hour through to sunset”.
And, in his own inimitable style, Rich brings to life the beauty of Robin Hoods Hut at Goathurst at that exact time. Doesn’t this shot just take your breath away?
Rich tells us:
“I just love Spring colours and the rolling hills in the distance, with the rapeseed and trees framing the subject of the hut, which is owned by The Landmark Trust. The reason I love this place is the beautiful countryside walks and the fact that from the house, you can look back across over Bridgwater. The views are amazing”.
They absolutely are... and photographer and teacher, Polly Skene, also has a massive soft spot for the beautiful buildings and gardens of Somerset. As she tells us:
"Barrington court has got to be one of my favourite places, especially at this time of year. I’ve joined The National Trust, so I can have different places to go with my camera and explore. When I took this photo, the reflections in the pond were perfect that day and the man was in the right place at the right time".
Many different buildings and landmarks inspire us in Somerset and there's no more famous a landmark than the beloved Glastonbury Tor. The Tor was the subject for Rose Atkinson's favourite shot of the past 12 months:
For Rose, the photo is significant in a couple of ways, and ever since moving to Somerset three years ago, she's always wanted to capture the Tor in the mist. As Rose tells it:
"I'm definitely not a morning person which is when you have to to do it! Back in the Autumn though, when the right weather conditions were forecast the next morning, I decided to get up early, go to Deer Leap on top of the Mendips and photograph the landscape. I was delighted to come home with a number of pastel images of the Tor with mists rolling around it".
This particular image is also one of the first photographs Rose printed herself, after investing in a professional photo printer bought with money left to her by her late uncle, who died in 2018 and as Rose says:
"The print was recently awarded Best Colour Print, and Photograph of the Year at Mid Somerset Camera Club; and is now hanging in pride of place in our home".
A special shot, with very special memories for Rose.
For James Godwin, Birnbeck Pier has been his favourite spot to shoot over the past year. As James says:
"Birnbeck Pier is amazing for sunsets. With the sun slowly disappearing behind island shore, it feels more like a tropical beach, than a pier in an estuary",
And ain't that the truth! ;) Just look at this belter:
On the day James took this particular shot, he grabbed his camera and drove to the beach - his default spot for unplanned, last minute sunsets as it's close to his home. Then, as James tells it:
"The tide was on the way out, and it was eerily calm, so I clambered down the slippery rocks in a pair of perished Converse (not recommended), just in time for the sun to fall out of the clouds and straight into my camera. For once, my timing was perfect - a rare occasion for someone who doesn't plan well".
And talking of planning, this amazing shot of the night sky near Illminster, by Jonathan Warner, was totally unplanned too!
As Jonathan says:
"I had set out to capture the night sky in a field about 5 miles from my home (near Ilminster), which I did for about 4 hours. But around 3.30am, I'd actually packed up and was about to walk back to the car when I turned around in the opposite direction to face this view. The best things in life often come from the unexpected - they are of the moment, a fleeting point in time that adds the wonders of life. This picture to me usurped all my preceding 4 hours of planned shoot of the night sky. It was by far my favourite image captured that night. It didn't matter whether anyone else was going to like it or not. This was a view that seemed to present itself to me alone, and I'm so grateful for it".
Ahh. We absolutely love that sentiment of a view that presents itself to you alone and the overwhelming feeling of gratitude when that happens - night skies can shine like diamonds here in Somerset and there's many an occasion we've stood, open-mouthed, staring at their wonder.
It's not just this beauty that inspires the county's best photographers though, as Len Copland, a local photographer for over 30 years, tells us:
"Without doubt Somerset is a county of outstanding beauty, but for me it’s our talented youngsters who breath life into it. I’m never happier then when I’m photographing artists, collectors or the opening of a simple village fete. Invite me into a theatre and I’m a very happy snapper!"
As Len says, South Somerset is blessed with an abundance of amazing individuals who spend their days organising dance shows and musicals, providing an outlet for young talent and for him, his favourite shot of the past year was of James and Beth rehearsing for Dance, Dance, Dance at the Octagon Theatre,Yeovil in November.
"People like James and Beth are the future of our county and I feel blessed to be a part of their story. Photographing dance ticks all my creative boxes. There is power, grace, story telling and emotional commitment for the audience. All I have to do is press a little button and my job is done".
We definitely know that's not all there is to it ;) and we love the passion Len has for capturing these amazing moments happening across Somerset.
In the Picture Somerset photography exhibiton last year, the gallery window display was built around Cally Stephen's photo of the swing on Burrow Hill and this past year, Cally's photography has gone from strength to strength. She won the overall prize in The National Garden Scheme Photography Competition for 2018 and although the picture itself wasn't taken in Somerset, we thought you'd love to see this award-winning shot, from one of our bright Somerset photographers.
"Taken in August last year on a lovely Summer afternoon, the low sunlight was perfect and worked wonders in capturing the sculpture’s immense detail. I’m so pleased I managed to capture this stunning lifelike sculpture, which is now located at Kew Gardens, London".
And finally... we couldn't have a Somerset photography blog without including one of our own favourite discoveries from the last year; wildlife photographer Carl Bovis (late to the party we know)!
Carl is an absolute expert at photographing the bird life in Somerset, his pictures constantly amaze us and he's chosen this photo, voted by his Twitter followers as his best of last year.
'Black Redstart after a fly' was taken at Brean Down and it's a stunner!
As Carl says,
"The Black Redstart is a rare bird, but one usually turns up every year on the rocks on the beach by the cliffs. This one was particularly confiding, and came quite close. It didn't mind my presence at all. As the rocks warmed up in the sun, flies and insects started emerging from the seaweed on the rocks. The Black Redstart had a feast, flying off and catching the bugs. I was thrilled to catch this picture, a split second in time (taken at 5000th of a second!)".
Wow. When we look at these amazing photos, that create a beautiful picture of Somerset, we just feel so lucky. Lucky to be able to share them and lucky to live in such an amazing place filled with stunning landscapes, beautiful wildlife and a fantastic community spirit.
Happy Somerset Day everyone!