In the midst of one of the rainiest and dullest winters I can remember, today, Valentines Day, was forecast to be nice and the sun was due to put in a rare appearance. So I headed to Beale Park in Berkshire to see and photograph some of the many animals they have. Love was in the air…
I recently visited The Animal Experience in Cambridgeshire for a meerkat experience.
The Animal Experience is a family run business which specialises in education and entertainment using animals. The team run their centre but also undertake school visits, events, and the like.
Kayleigh and Lee made me feel welcome as I got into the meerkat enclosure to play with the meerkats, feed them their favourite treat of mealworms, and of course get some photos! The experience only lasted thirty minutes but it was plenty of time to meet the entire meerkat family and get clambered on by pretty much all of them.
As well as the meerkats, The Animal Experience have a wide range of other animals. Kayleigh was more than happy to get some of the animals out for photographs. I’d love to return one day to get more photos close up.
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!
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”.