Chessington VIP Photography Experience Review

Chessington VIP Photography Experience Review

When Chessington World of Adventures announced their brand new VIP Photography experience, I couldn’t resist buying this for myself and my partner. Last Sunday (1st March), we thoroughly enjoyed the whole day and are now even more keen to get out there and take photos using our SLR cameras.

After 3 sessions so far, we were in the trial phase. The whole experience is still being firmed down and finalised before an official release later on this year. Due to half the theme park being shut, we weren’t able to go down to Land of the Tigers to see the Amur Tigers or head into Lorikeet Lagoon. Whilst this was disappointing for us, it’s clear that this will be included later on this year when the park is fully open.

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SO, WHAT DID YOU DO?

The Chessington VIP Photography experience was split into a fun & jam-packed itinerary. First up was an hour brief with Sally Beard, professional photographer at The Photography Boutique, teaching us about the basics of photography and how to take professional photos of animals. This was perfect for me since it’s been well over 10 years since I was taught how to use SLR cameras at college.

Afterwards, we headed into Amazu & Penguin Cove to get ourselves used to Manual mode. This was almost a good starting point to adjust the settings for ISO, aperture and shutter speed. We had front row seats to the Animal Antics show & enjoyed spending an hour on a Safari truck, taking photos of the Giraffes & Zebras in their paddock. Definitely worth adding to the bucket list!

You’re given an hour for lunch. Don’t worry about preparing any lunch as you’ll be given a VIP lunch voucher. This entitled us to a standard meal deal at any of the available food and drink outlets at Chessington. This is great for fussy eaters who can choose their favourite F&B outlet in the park – we opted for Captain’s Fish & Chips because it was quiet.

The afternoon session was pretty much flexible with the whole group. We enjoyed walking through the Trail of the Kings, front-row view of the Sea Lion Show & grabbing some cool shots of the Otters & Reindeer. This added flexibility was great as we could take as many photos as we wanted of the animals we cared the most about. Especially when feeding time came around for the Lions & Gorillas.

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So what exactly did I learn from this VIP experience?

MANUAL MODE ISN’T SCARY TO USE

That’s right. Once you know the basics of ISO, aperture & shutter speed, the rest is pretty much simple to follow. It’s so easy to let the camera automatically adjust the settings for you. Sometimes that perfect shot can look overexposed or underexposed. With manual mode, you have complete control over how the photo looks. I’m now a changed woman and will opt for manual mode – it’s a lot easier to adjust than you think!

ANIMALS CAN BE FUNNY CHARACTERS

You’ll learn throughout this course that observing the animals can showcase their personalities. When I’ve visited the zoo at Chessington, I don’t really spend a lot of time observing the animals. Sometimes it’s a quick wander around and looking into the enclosures. Then it’s time to move on and see the next animal. Having my camera out made me think about the different angles and compositions of the photo I wanted to take. And you really see how funny the animals are, from headbutting each other to refusing to stay still!

NO PRESSURE TO TAKE LOTS OF PHOTOS

When you’re in Auto mode, it’s easy to get trigger happy and take 1000s of photos. In manual mode, you don’t take nearly as many photos. Why? Because you’ll be spending more time focusing on getting the settings right for that perfect shot. After taking each photo, I was always checking over what I took to see if the exposure was correct, my depth of field was looking sharp etc. It might take a bit more work but the finished results were amazing!

PERFECT FOR BEGINNERS, AMATEURS & EXPERTS

This course is perfect for anyone with an interest in photography. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never worked with manual mode on an SLR or you’ve taken so many professional photos that you want to branch out into animal photography, this course is designed for everyone. I would say I’m a beginner with an interest and passion for photography. Yes, there were 3 other photographers with way more experience than me (my partner included) but that didn’t stop me from doing this course.

To conclude, I’d highly recommend doing this VIP Photography experience from Chessington. It was priced at £100 per person (during the trial period) which I feel was pretty reasonable. Considering you get at least 5 hours of photography, 1-hour editing workshop & lunch included. Of course, the price & course structure will be different when the course launches later this year. Would I do it again? Almost definitely. Even if just to get some fab close up shots of the Amur tigers!

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That’s all for now!

LOTTIE TRAVELS

 

My trip to ZSL London Zoo | Review

My trip to ZSL London Zoo | Review

Two weeks ago I took a trip to ZSL London Zoo and had a lovely time experiencing what the zoo had to offer.  Sometimes it’s nice to get out of the house during January and enjoy the cool sunshine. Or maybe that’s just me? To be honest, most of the animals wanted to stay inside in their warm indoor enclosures. Likewise I don’t blame them one bit and can totally relate. January is that closed season lull for us theme park enthusiasts. All we want to do is hide away until the theme parks officially open again.

Anyway, a key goal of mine in 2020 is to visit more Zoos. My particular favourites in the past have included Kolmarden Zoo, Marwell Zoo and Chester Zoo. It’s always been on my list but I knew I needed to make a trip to ZSL London Zoo at some point. The zoo itself is located in Regent’s Park near Camden. Consequently it’s very easy to get to via the Tube. Don’t fret about the distance as it’s a simple 10-15 min walk from Camden Town tube station. We did have to use Google Maps to make sure we were walking in the right direction. Typical tourists ey! It wasn’t long till we arrived at Regent’s Park and saw the rather understated entrance to the Zoo.

So, how was ZSL London Zoo?

ZSL London Zoo isn’t a massive zoo. However after my visit to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo in October 2018, I expected more. I shouldn’t have tried to make a direct comparison. Subsequently I ended up feeling a bit disappointed from my visit. Just to clarify there were plenty of animals to see including Tigers, Lions & African Wild Dogs. In case you weren’t aware, I’m a huge lover of big cats! Some of the ‘theming’ around the enclosures were beautiful to look at. Rainforest Life was a brilliant exhibit as it gave you a chance to see both the daytime & nocturnal Rainforest animals of Madagascar including bats!

Personally I felt a bit underwhelmed of the whole day. This wasn’t helped by the long arduous journey to get into London. Rail replacement bus services are a nightmare at times! What normally takes an hour to get to London Waterloo, took double that time. It was bad planning on our part so I’ll remember that for next time! Sadly this meant we only had about two hours to explore the Zoo fully. Not enough time in my opinion. Most reviews I have read said that this was one of the best Zoos to visit in the UK. I didn’t get that vibe! In conclusion I think a return visit is what we need for this Summer. We had a lovely time and would love to go back to see more of what the Zoo has to offer.

Find out more information about the Zoo through their official website here.

Have you ever visited ZSL London Zoo?

What are your favourite Zoos in the UK?

And just for fun, what’s your favourite animal?

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That’s all for now!

LOTTIE TRAVELS

Festival of Light Review | Longleat Safari Park

Festival of Light Review | Longleat Safari Park

On Saturday 16th November, I finally visited Longleat’s Festival of Light event. After many years of wanting to go, I planned ahead this year & tickets were booked for my birthday weekend. I couldn’t wait. If you’re a theme park geek like myself, this is a perfect closed season trip to undertake. Longleat Safari Park is located just outside Warminster in Wiltshire. Right opposite Longleat Centre Parcs in Longleat Forest. There’s a lot to see and do at the park. And with the Festival of Light event, it’s clear to see why it’s so popular among guests. Of course any event has its high and low points. So let’s crack on with my full review of Longleat Festival of Light.

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Highlights from Longleat’s Festival of Light…

Beautiful Lanterns

I was in awe at the number of lanterns they had. Considering there were probably around 100 different lanterns in total! I thought they had a dedicated area for all the lanterns. Nope, they were dotted everywhere. This actually made it into an all-encompassing event where you truly felt immersed in the park. Nothing impacted the areas near any animal enclosures which was great. You can tell they’ve worked hard to ensure this event flowed as well as it could. From 4.30pm, the lanterns were turned on and it truly felt like a winter’s event. The theme for 2019 was Myths and Legends. Regardless of whether a theme is your favourite or not, you will still have a fantastic time regardless.

Safari Park & Animal Encounters

The Safari Park is an expansive area with a wide range of animals to see from the comfort of your car (or from a VIP truck – there is an extra charge for this). It’s best to allocate at least 3 hours for the Safari. Not only does it cover a vast area of land, but there’s also a stop-off point in the African Village featuring a shop, toilets, cafe and Lemur walkthrough. Not only that but once you’ve exited the Safari Park, your day doesn’t end there. There’s plenty more animals to encounter including Crocodiles, Bats, Koalas, Lorikeets and many more. Plus, there’s a Jungle Cruise located towards the back end of the park. Sadly we didn’t get to go on this during our visit as the queue was horrifically busy. Fingers crossed we can go on this on our next visit!

Projection Mapping

The projection mapping on Longleat House is new for 2019, and boy, I’ve seen projection mapping done really well along my travels. This is up there as one of my favourites. The facade of Longleat House is beautiful enough on its own but the projection mapping at night really adds to the atmosphere. It can be easy to miss if guests aren’t heading towards the front of the house once the lanterns have been turned on. Projections on the house included star constellations, mythical creatures and legends. It was beautifully portrayed and I couldn’t stop watching (and taking photos). If you are heading to Longleat Festival of Light this year, do not miss this!

Pizza Piazza

There’s plenty of eateries around the park which is very important when it comes to feeding the family. One place that delivered high-quality food, fantastic customer service and an all-round great experience was Pizza Piazza. This place was quite hidden without the help of the park map. Serving a fab range of Pizzas & meal deals. It’s perfect for families on a budget. The average price was around £10 for a Margherita Pizza, £14 for a Texas BBQ/Meat Feast Pizza and £2.50 for either a soft drink or hot beverage. Meal Deals were also available from £15 to £25 depending on your group size. The food was high quality and incredibly filling, highly recommend. If you’re on the move, you can have a takeaway which I think is fantastic for families/groups on the move or if you can’t find a table to sit at during busy periods.

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Lowlights from Longleat’s Festival of Light…

Too busy

Okay, I understand that this event has grown in popularity over the years. Saturday’s visit was incredibly busy. It was very difficult to enjoy the experience without getting in people’s way or trying to manoeuvre the crowds. I’m not a huge lover of crowds anyway and can get very overwhelmed in these situations. However, there was a distinct lack of crowd control. Having more marshalls in different places to help ease congestion. A lot of people were standing in the way or stopping in awkward spots. Consequently, this meant us photographers couldn’t get the shot we wanted. If you are a family with young children, please keep in mind how busy certain areas get. If you can, please keep your children close at all times or try to wait until a quieter period.

A lot to cover in one day

Take it from me, you’ll need a plan to make the most of your day at Longleat. We arrived at Longleat around 12pm so didn’t get a full day at the park. Longleat opens at 10am, Safari Park opens from 9.30am. There is a LOT to cover if you really want to make the most of your visit. Aside from the Jungle Cruise and Longleat House, we still covered at least 85% of the park. Something to keep in mind if you’re looking to attend in the future. The main Festival of Light event gives you around 3 hours to walk the park and see the lanterns. The lanterns are switched on around 4.30pm. I believe this is ample time to take photos and see them all. With plenty of planning before your visit, you’ll be able to enjoy everything that Longleat has to offer.

Lack of signposts

For an event that becomes incredibly busy at this time of year, the signposts around this park are either too small to see or lacking in different areas. Whilst you have a park map to guide you, it’s still tricky to find what you are looking for. The layout of Longleat Adventure Park isn’t very logical in my opinion. There’s a lot of different walkways that steer off the main path. Some places seem hidden away so make sure you have that park map handy! Some temporary event signage to guide people around the park would help massively. This would help with the crowd control as there were a lot of people stopping in the middle of pathways looking lost. Given the number of guests on park, this caused a lot of congestion and didn’t help with the flow for people who were looking for shops, toilets and food places.

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Despite the lowlights, I had a great time and would definitely recommend this event for anyone who’s looking for a weekend day trip with family & friends. Travelling from afar? There’s plenty of places to stay in the nearby area including Warminster, Salisbury and more. If this is your first time, enjoy it and make sure to allocate at least 3 hours for the Safari Park – it’s big!

Longleat Festival of Light runs on selected dates from 9th November to 5th January 2020. Hurry, tickets are selling fast and you don’t want to miss out on this amazing event – buy tickets on their website or find out more about the Festival of Light here.

That’s all for now!Lottie xoxo