A Photo Walk Around Bristol

Yesterday I went on a photo walk around Bristol organised by Olympus and London Camera Exchange.  The walk was led by professional photographer and Olympus ambassador Robert Pugh.

I’d met Robert at Gadget Show Live earlier this year, and apart from being a thoroughly nice chap he knows all there is to know about the camera I have as he uses the same camera day-on-day-out as a wedding and portrait photographer.  I learnt a few neat tricks from Robert along the way about quick access to menus, using small focus points, and he even showed how he accessed all the key menus using just two fingers whilst also using the viewfinder.  It might take me a while to figure that out!

The group doing the walk started out from London Camera Exchange and walked to the market on Corn Street to start our photography, then through the city centre water features to the Watershed area, and onto @Bristol and the ice rink.  We were out for two hours, and although it was a tad chilly and grey, everyone in the group really enjoyed themselves and learnt some new ideas.

Robert mentioned that the Olympus stand at Gadget Show Live in 2015 will be bigger than this year and he’ll be running some live sessions showing how photographers work from setting up lighting, photographing a model, through to printing the finished product.

Red Pandas at Cotswold Wildlife Park

As promised in yesterdays blog post about A Chilly Day at Cotswold Wildlife Park, the red pandas were so active they get their very own blog post!

The family of three red pandas were mostly sleeping or hiding when I arrived at Cotswold Wildlife Park.  But they soon started running around to warm up and find food.  They looked very suspicious when a pigeon entered their area for a walk around.  It was great to see them playing together and a great opportunity for some photos.

A Chilly Day at Cotswold Wildlife Park

The day after visiting Westonbirt Arboretum (see blog post and photos here) I popped along to Cotswold Wildlife Park.  The weather was much chillier than the previous day and it was interesting to see how the animals outside were coping with the weather.  Some seemed to try hibernation and just slept, and others seemed to be active to keep warm.

The red pandas were particularly active.  So much so that they’ll get their very own blog post as I had so many photos of them.  Keep an eye out for that post coming soon!

For animals who were behind glass my Lens Skirt came into its own.  It really helped to cut out the reflections from the glass and get clear shots.  In the monkey enclosure the monkeys seemed intrigued by the Lens Skirt and came right up to the glass to take a look.  Unfortunately they were too close for the lens I was using at the time.

For this visit I was using my backup camera body, an Olympus E-PL3, with my normal lenses.  I’m very pleased with the photos I got from this body, and it goes to show much of the quality comes from the lens you use rather than the body.  The two drawbacks for me were the lack of viewfinder (using just the camera screen was quite awkward at times) and the body was too small to get a good grip of.  

The reason I had to use a backup body was that my Olympus OMD E-M1 and shiny new 25mm f1.8 lens were off for repair – the body was suffering from intermittent shutter lockups since fitting the new lens.  This was really annoying as it happened on a weekend away and left me with very few photos.  Luckily the E-M1 came with a Service Plus warranty and when I called about the issues I was having, Olympus picked up the camera and lens, zoomed it to Portugal for repair, and a few days later it was back in working order.  Great service!

Westonbirt Arboretum in the Autumn

Now that autumn has arrived in the UK, it’s a great time to spend some time outdoors seeing how nature responds to the change of season.  An arboretum is a great place to see nature and, of course, take photos too!

So I recently went to Westonbirt Arboretum with fellow photo blogger Sheila Morris (you can see some of Sheila’s photo’s on her blog) to spend a few hours getting photos of the amazing colours and wildlife.  Westonbirt is a very large place, and even with all the crowds we saw at the cafe, once out in the woods there was plenty of peace and quiet to focus on getting the best photos.

For most photos I used the Olympus 60mm macro lens, which allowed me to get in really close for detail in some of the photos below.  It’s probably the first time I’ve used the 1:1 mode on this lens, which meant that I physically had to move towards the subject to get it in focus.  But when you get it right, the results are outstanding.

The Cats of Lanzarote

This week the BBC has been showing a three part documentary about cats, called Cat Watch 2014 and presented by the lovely Liz Bonnin.  I’ve only seen the first part as I’ve come out to Lanzarote for a short break, however it’s inspired me to do a blog post about the cats of Lanzarote.  Anyone who knows me will know it didn’t take much arm-twisting once the inspiration sprang to mind, I’m a cat fan and self-confessed cat whisperer.

I’ve visited the Canary Islands a few times and have come to understand a bit more about the relationship between Canarians and the cat population.  Just like back home some cats here are kept as pets.  In Lanzarote there can be few cats more spoilt than those owned by Barbarella Buchner, aka The Mad Cat Lady.  Not only does Barbarella dote on her cats, she runs a cat photography business, and owns the excellently named thekitti.es web domain.  And if that didn’t qualify her for ‘mad’ status then her marriage to her cats surely does.  Look here if you don’t believe me!

Sadly not all cats are as lucky as Barbarella’s.  There’s a lot of feral and stray cats in Lanzarote which I guess is down to the environment here.  The year-round nice warm dry days are ideal for cats.  In Playa Blanca where I am right now, many of the strays live amongst the coastal rocks and use them for daytime shade.  In the evening when the cats come to life many tourists are around to feed them.  Some of the cats are so used to people that they’re quite happy to approach people dining on the sea front, and with a purr and flick of the tale they often get treats.

Some of the locals aren’t too keen on all the cats.  I know cats aren’t to everyones taste, and so luckily a charity has been created to help out.  9 Lives Lanzarote runs a neutering programme in an attempt to keep the population under control.  The 9 Lives team have also placed a few Cat Cafe’s (feeding stations) around the island, meaning that the cats get fed and watered, but away from the hotel complexes and the like.

If you like the photos in this blog post then please donate to 9 Lives Lanzarote via their donations page.  If you’d prefer to dontate to a UK charity then look no further than Cats Protection.