Bristol Balloon Fiesta 2015

It’s been a few weeks since the last blog post, due mainly to a wonderful trip to Canada.  Before I start to process the 700 photos from there it’s time to share these with you, just ten photos from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

In 2015 the Bristol Balloon Fiesta celebrated its 37th year, and although I used to live close by this was my first visit.  The hot air balloons do an early morning and late afternoon ascent on each day, and wanting to guarantee good photos I opted to check the weather and head there for the afternoon and evening.

The weather was perfect for taking photos, but it drew in people in their masses.  The Fiesta is a free event, and it got so busy that Bristol city centre became gridlocked and the organisers had to turn people away.  I’d heard an estimate for 250,000 visitors, and it’s by far the most people I’ve ever seen in one place.  It explains why it took me nearly three hours to get out of the car park after the event – I hope for better traffic management in 2016!

The majority of the balloons were a normal shape, amongst them balloons from Cameron BalloonsBailey BalloonsBristol BalloonsVirginthe Royal Navy, and Loughborough University.  The stars of the show were the penguin shaped balloons from Fly Penguin.

The afternoon ascent and gentle wind gave balloons the chance to take off and drift towards the city and Clifton Suspension Bridge.  After sunset the night glow started – tethered balloons firing their burners to light up the sky.  And to finish some fireworks.

I’d have liked to have gone up in a balloon to get some photos from the sky looking down but didn’t get the chance.  When I was a child my father worked with someone who was on the team that flew Richard Branson and Per Linstrand on the first transatlantic hot air balloon flight in 1987.  I had the chance to go in a hot air balloon with them, and at the last moment got scared and decided against it.  A decision I rue to this day.  I will fly in a hot air balloon one day!

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.

Bristol Zoo

A couple of weeks ago I decided to switch off from some recent stressful events for a few hours and head to Bristol Zoo.  The Zoo is home to a variety of animals in a relaxed and quite spacious area.  It’s hard to pick a favourite animal, but the red pandas, meerkats, gorillas, all seemed to be popular on the day.

The weather forecast for the day wasn’t great, but luckily it was wrong and I was treated to sun for most of the day.  This meant that most of the photos I got were better than expected.  For photos where the animal was behind glass I used my Lens Skirt to cut out the reflections.

The Twilight World section doesn’t allow flash photography, so I decided to play with the camera settings see what I could capture in the dark.  Hand-holding the camera I was relying on built-in image stabilisation along with appropriate manual settings (ISO of 25600, speed no slower than 1/60 second, and maximum aperture) to get the best photos possible using the display screen rather than viewfinder.  It’s fair to say that low light photography is challenging, and it’s one area where I expect cameras to improve in the future.  But the photo of the slow loris below is pretty impressive given how dark it was.  Someone walked past as I was taking photos and commented “That guy’s got a night vision camera”.