Meet Michelle Cowbourne – AKA Glastomichelle – whose stunning scenic landscape shots of Glastonbury Tor and the Somerset Levels, all captured with the PEN-F, have come to delight thousands on Twitter…
I moved to Glastonbury five years ago, but only became seriously interested in photography back in 2018. We were lucky enough to buy a house pretty close to the Tor, and I started walking up there most mornings. It was then that I started to think it would be good to be able to take photographs of the landscape.
A friend in Glastonbury is an experienced photographer, and he taught me the basics. He also suggested I try Olympus gear, as it is light and compact while offering great image quality, so I started out with a used PEN-F and the M.Zuiko 17mm and 45mm lenses. This was a great combination to start with: the PEN F is easy to use but still has plenty of manual features, and using prime lenses made me think more about composition as I wasn’t able to rely on zooming. Later, I added the 9-18mm zoom and the 60mm macro.
What I love about Glastonbury Tor is that it’s often different every day, and when the famous mists roll in, it feels very mystical and magical. The landscape around the Tor, particularly the Somerset Levels, is also breathtaking. For me, the best time to shoot the Tor is around dawn. As well as great sunrises and misty panoramas, it’s a lot quieter up there.
Although it was a steep learning curve at the beginning as I’d never used a camera seriously before, photography has been wonderfully rewarding and a great stress reliever as I have a demanding job. I’ve also been pleased by the response to a lot of my pictures. Several have been published in the local and national press, including The Times and Daily Telegraph, and I also sell a steady stream of images via my website. An author also recently used one of my Tor images for a book cover.
I am quite active on Twitter, and one of the most rewarding things about my photography journey is how my followers say that my photographs have brightened up their feeds in these difficult times. I think they enjoy the daily updates, and have said how they can feel the magic of the area through my photographs. I also love following other photographers on there, and picking up ideas and advice. My advice to anyone one wanting to start up photography is simply to go for it. For me, it was the Olympus PEN-F that really got me into photography.
Daffodils and Glastonbury Tor
I took this image in February 2019, and it was the first photograph that I took that I really liked. I entered it into a Facebook competition, and it ended up being published in a magazine. The mist, sunrise and daffodils seemed to compliment each other.
Mists of Avalon
To me, it captured the magical energy of Glastonbury and the Somerset Levels. It was taken in January 2020 when it was bitterly cold: I was up on the top of Glastonbury Tor well before dawn, watching the mists roll across the landscape. It was a challenging photograph as I wanted the right balance of land, mist and sun. The photograph was well received and got published in six national newspapers, along with a shortlisted entry in Landscape Photographer of the Year competition.
The following shots were taken during lockdown in the Covid-19 pandemic. I took my allowed daily exercise up the Tor, as I can directly access the lower banks of the Tor using a path near my house.
I called this one “Apocalypse Now” as it felt very apocalyptic. It was taken in March on the morning after lockdown in the UK was announced. I felt very grateful to be able to see such beauty in such troubled times.
This image was taken in April this year, when again the dawn felt very dramatic. I thought the lone figure against a dramatic sky, and the sun rising next to the tower, reflected what we were all going through. Social distancing in dramatic and tumultuous times but still surrounded by beauty.
I try to find different perspectives and takes on capturing sunrise on the Tor. I have been experimenting with the compass stone that sits on top of the hill: I quite like the way the light bounces off the stone at sunrise.
Into the Light
This image was taken in May. Again, it reflects troubled times and hope. It is quite a challenge to get the sun coming up over the hill in just the right place.