New Years Day at Didcot Railway Centre

New Years Day 2015 was quite dull, weather wise, but was brightened up by a visit to the Didcot Railway Centre.  Although I only live a few minutes walk from the Centre this was only my second visit.

It was lovely to walk around and see the trains on display and even ride on a couple of steam trains going up and down the track.  From a photography point of view the Centre offers rich pickings, whether outside amongst the rails and trains, or inside the buildings and sheds getting up close to the engines and carriages.

I took Olympus OMD E-M1 and shot with my Olympus 25mm f1.8 lens and the Samyang 7.5mm Fisheye.  As the weather was so dull, most of the photographs came out dull too… and so for the first time I processed the photos into black and white.  It’s great that the black and white grainy photos reflect the dirt and grime associated with the engineering of the steam age. 

Longleat Festival of Light

When I heard about the Festival of Light event at Longleat I knew I had to go and get some photographs for the blog.  In terms of night time light events I’ve experienced it’s second only to the ‘fire garden’ event at Stonehenge as part of cultural celebrations of the London 2012 Olympics.

The Festival of Light is the first cultural event of its kind in Europe and consists of twenty hand-crafted displays built and placed by a team of over one hundred from the Sichuan province in China.

The scale of the works, dotted around Longleat House, is simply amazing.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, of people on the evening I went and as you’ll see below there was lots of space to get photographs.

Because of the dark conditions and high contrasting lights I took my trusty Olympus OMD E-M1 and 25mm f1.8 lens (a great combination for low light and sharp photographs) and one leg of my Three Legged Thing tripod called Brian as a monopod.  Someone walked past and commented that it was the biggest selfie stick they’d ever seen… sometimes I despair!  Most of the photos were taken in aperture priority mode and using the monopod to reduce any camera shake.

I really hope Longleat do something similar next winter, I’d love to spend more time wandering around getting even more 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!