2020VISION Assignment: Westhay Moor on the Somerset Levels

Westhay Moor is one of the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s flagship reserves. Wildlife photographer Guy Edwardes has been exploring this fantastic wetland habitat.

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Azure damselflies settled on bracken, by wildlife photographer Guy Edwardes
Westhay Moor is one of the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s flagship reserves. Guy Edwardes has been exploring this fantastic wetland habitat.
 
iWitness Assignment: Somerset Levels
Location: Westhay Moor
Photographer: Guy Edwardes
 
 
On the first day of this assignment my alarm clock went off at 3am. After an hour’s drive in the dark I had reached the edge of the Somerset Levels. It was just starting to get light so I stopped to assess the conditions.
 
It was overcast and just beginning to drizzle, but there was no breeze at all. With little chance of a colourful sunrise I decided to start the day with dragonflies. To be honest the conditions were just perfect!
 
 
I had checked out some of the best dragonfly locations on a previous visit, so I knew exactly where to head once I arrived at Westhay Moor. It wasn’t long before I had found several chasers, skimmers and various damselflies roosting in the vegetation alongside a small rhyne.
 
They were much easier to spot than usual as their wings were covered in dew and raindrops, making them shine in the pre-dawn light.
 
 
When the breeze began to pick up a little later in the morning I turned my attention to some sundews growing in vibrant green sphagnum moss in a more sheltered part of the reserve.
 
 
After three hours I was happy with the images I had taken and the rain was beginning to soak through my coat and my camera cover. It was time to move on.
 
In the afternoon I met up with the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s Reserves Officer Mark Blake, who had offered to take myself and fellow 2020VISION photographer Paul Harris, out in a small boat on one of Westhay Moor’s many lakes.
 
 
 
Our mission was to photograph the spectacular display of amphibious bistort in full bloom.
 
After dragging the boat through the stinging nettles, pushing it under the willow trees and maneuvering it carefully through the reeds we were finally in open water.
 
Then the wind began to pick up. It blew so hard that it overpowered our tiny two horsepower outboard motor and pushed us across to the wrong side of the lake! Paul suddenly announced that he used to row for his school, so out came the oars and at last we began to make progress!
 
The bistort formed a vast floating mat of flamingo pink flower spikes in the centre of the lake. It was certainly the best display I had ever seen and the resulting images were well worth the effort!
 
 
Top photography tip:
 
  • When photographing wildlife it also helps to know your subject.
     
  • This is especially true with dragonflies and damselflies as most are only on the wing for a brief period, and different species emerge at different times throughout the spring and summer.
     
  • Dawn is normally the best time to photograph them settled on vegetation, as they are fairly inactive until the sun begins to warm them.
     
  • There tends to be less wind at this time of the day, helping you to capture a nice sharp shot.
     
  • Use a telephoto lens and a wide aperture to help isolate your subject by throwing surrounding vegetation out of focus.
  

 

2020VISION is a multimedia project that highlights the link between people's well being and the restoration of natural systems.

Uniquely, it pairs the talents of 20 of the UK's most skilled outdoor photographers with writers, editors, videographers, sound artists and scientists to make a compelling case for rewilding landscapes - for wildlife and for people.

To see some of the best images taken on 2020VISION assignments so far, click here.

To find out more about 2020VISION, click here.

 

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