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.

chessington VIP photography experience owlchessington world of adventures goatchessington VIP photography experience penguinchessington world of adventures capybarachessington world of adventures otters

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.

chessington VIP photography experience giraffechessington world of adventures zebrachessington VIP photography experience rhinochessington world of adventures monkeychessington world of adventures sea lions

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!

chessington VIP photography experience foxchessington VIP photography experience zebrachessington world of adventures giraffechessington world of adventures reindeerchessington world of adventures ostrich

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?

trip to zsl london zooflamingoes in a pondtrip to ZSL London Zootiger sleeping on platform in enclosuretrip to ZSL London Zootrip to ZSL London Zoolion lying on the groundtrip to ZSL London Zoomonkey sitting in the treetrip to ZSL London Zootwo lemurs sitting on perchafrican wild dogs eating their lunch

That’s all for now!

LOTTIE TRAVELS

Hogwarts In The Snow 2019 | Review

Hogwarts In The Snow 2019 | Review

warner bros studio tour the making of harry potter entrance

It’s been about 4 years since I was last at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. I must say, there’s been a lot of changes since my last visit! Every year I’ve always said to myself I will go during to the Hogwarts in the Snow event. And each time, I’ve either left it too late or just never found a suitable time to go. Until now…

Winter does tend to mean hibernating inside the warmth of my own house with a hot cuppa, wearing cosy clothes because it is too cold to travel anywhere outside. This year I’ve been more proactive in visiting some different winter/Christmas events. I’ve learnt not to let the cold bother me, just layer up and be on my merry way. So it was finally time to go to Hogwarts in the Snow.

I was in awe of the new areas (for me) including the Forbidden Forest & Gringotts. That’s the thing I love about this place. It takes your breath away at how grand all the sets are for the films. Not only that but everything is covered in Winter/Christmas decorations including The Great Hall being dressed up for the Yule ball in Goblet of Fire. Plus we were taught by the team on how Harry’s footprints were made in the snow when he’s wearing the invisibility cloak in Prisoner of Azkaban.

Of course, the main event is seeing the model of Hogwarts Castle covered in a dusting of snow – all done by hand from members of the crew! Did you know it takes 4 DAYS for them to transform the castle into a snowy masterpiece? It looks absolutely stunning in person, even if I’ve seen so many photos of it online. A true highlight and a perfect end to the tour in my opinion – except maybe the gift shop with too many gifts I want to buy.

dragon overlooking crowd of peoplehogwarts in the snowslytherin crest and school uniformyule ball ice sculpture yule ball costumes harry potterhogwarts in the snowgryffindor common roomhogwarts ticking clockweasley's kitchenhogwarts in the snowhogwarts expresshogwarts letters flying all over the placehogwarts in the snowgringotts bank auditoriumgringotts bank vault of bellatrix lestrangehogwarts in the snowdiagon alley harry potterfootprints in the snowhogwarts in the snowhogwarts in the snowThanks to Jared/James for taking some of the photos above.

I had a great time at the Studio Tour on Saturday. And with it being James’ first time visiting, it was also great to see his reaction to everything. I can’t explain how incredible the tour is. From all the animatronics to the photo opportunities around every corner. You need to allocate at least 3 hours to really explore the tour in depth. Especially if you want to take part in the interactive elements like flying a broomstick through London! Hogwarts in the Snow runs till January 26th 2020 – tickets are selling fast so get in quick. You can find out more info and book tickets online on the official website.

That’s all for now!

Lottie xoxo

Feed the Flames at Alton Towers

Feed the Flames at Alton Towers

IMG_2315Guys, I did it!

I went on the Wicker Man, after admiring the ride in a blizzard two weekends ago. And boy, I am impressed.

Alton Towers have done themselves proud to make this ride a great addition to the line-up. I would even put it up there with Nemesis, and that is saying something! It’s definitely been a long time coming since we got a woodie in this country. GCI (Great Coasters International) do make some impressive wooden coasters: Troy and Wodan, I am looking at you. I was very much looking forward to experiencing this for the first time.

 

“FIRST IMPRESSIONS – WOW!”

Obviously, I have already admired the coaster in it’s ‘glory’ whilst the snow fell very hard during ‘opening’ weekend. But when you have the audio in the area as well as the effects of the theming element, you start to feel immersed in the experience. The theming of the fences in the area and the Wicker Man entrance sign – LOVE IT! Also worth noting that the area does get very smokey.

The theming details inside the building was fantastic, the walls are made of actual wicker! It is just like being transported into another realm – and as a theme park enthusiast, we like this sort of immersion and detail. The flame effects of the fire torches are a nice touch too. Once you get into the pre-show area, I enjoyed it. I’m not going to post any spoilers but seeing the reactions from the General Public, it really adds to the anticipation and enjoyment of the experience.

Now don’t get my started on THAT station. In a good way I might add! Honestly, it was on par with some European parks in my opinion. Seriously, Merlin has done a great job with this ride and really making it as detailed as possible. The lighting within the station, I do like me some good lighting at a theme park.

 

“GREAT JOB TO THE RIDE TEAM!”

One thing I did notice that affected throughputs is the number of guests that are perhaps a little ‘large’ for the ride. Not too sure why this is a significant problem – certainly didn’t see this as a problem at European parks with the likes of Troy at Toverland and Wodan at Europa Park. Unless I am very much mistaken, please do correct me if I am wrong.

Hopefully with the addition of the test seat, this may help to avoid this issue becoming a significant. I must praise the ride team for doing their utmost best to get every guest on the ride but sometimes, safety does come first. Fab job guys, despite the breakdowns that the ride experienced during the course of the weekend, you were amazing!

In total I managed to get 7 rides on Wicker Man across Saturday and Easter Sunday, that just shows you how much I enjoyed it. I managed to get myself as close to the back as I could and front row – I think riding towards the back gives you the best chance of airtime however I did enjoy riding front row, just to experience all the elements coming right at you.

 

Just one more thing, that downwards S-bend after the second airtime hill… FAVOURITE ELEMENT OF THE WHOLE RIDE. 

I didn’t get a chance to go in the main queue line, and I know there are some good theming elements and photo opportunities of the ride but I hope to go through it at some point when I make a return trip. Yep, Alton Towers has given me more reason to make a return visit before Scarefest! I actually cannot wait to ride this in the dark – yes, I have seen some spoilers of the lighting within the area and WOW, October can’t come around soon enough.

That’s all for now!

LOTTIE TRAVELS

 

 

Center Parcs Woburn Forest | A weekend in the forest

Center Parcs Woburn Forest | A weekend in the forest

CenterParcsTitleIt has become a tradition with my family to make a regular holiday to Center Parcs. I have grown up with the place, remembering one of my first visits to Longleat Forest when I was a youngster – I’m pretty sure I’ve been to Elveden Forest when I was a baby, but I can hardly remember that! It is one of my favourite places to visit and honestly, I will be taking this tradition with me (yes, I have converted my boyfriend into enjoying Center Parcs too!)

In 2014, Center Parcs expanded their ‘portfolio’ of holiday villages by building a new one in the heart of Bedfordshire, now known as Woburn Forest. I was lucky enough to visit in it’s opening year (twice, I might add!) and to see how well it has expanded and grown is amazing. Despite the expensive nature of Center Parcs, you can’t deny that you get quality.

I was incredibly excited when my parents told me we were going for a weekend break for my brother’s 30th. I can only hope my 30th ends up being just as awesome! I get those excitement butterflies in the stomach once I see the signs for Center Parcs, like with any holiday destination I travel to.

I chose the location of our lodge – yep, I’m the girl that plans where we stay – and it was absolutely ideal! It was the perfect distance from The Plaza and Village Square. Plus having a lodge on the edge of a row was also ideal as you have the privacy away from having neighbours either side of you. Perfect for my family! We stayed in a three bedroom Executive lodge. There is a range of lodges to choose from including Woodland Lodges to Exclusive Lodges. You can enter your lodge at any time from 3pm, and you do have the option to enter your lodge early by adding it to your booking.

Honestly, the best thing about Center Parcs is the freedom you have to do what you want, when you want. You can choose the activities you want to do, there is no time limit on when you need to book (ideally, book as early as you can as many activities get booked up quickly!) We ended up playing Table Tennis & Bowling on the Saturday and Badminton on the Sunday.

The weather was a real mixture, WE HAD SNOW! Seriously, me and my family have always wanted to visit Center Parcs when it snows, and the weather didn’t disappoint. Of course, with it being January, rain was also on the cards too – which meant every Indoor activity including the Subtropical Swimming Paradise was very busy! Sadly, we did not get a chance to explore the swimming and the Rapids but I have done them before. Besides, I was happy to have one hell of a chilled weekend away from the stresses of real life.

When it comes to food, again it is up to you. You can eat out at the range of restaurants own resort, bring in your own food or buy from the ParcMarket which is Center Parcs’ supermarket! Be warned, it is VERY pricey compared to your average supermarket. TOP TIP: There is a Tesco in Flitwick which is approx. 5 min drive from Woburn Forest so you can always stock up before you arrive.

There is also the choice of getting a takeaway from the Center Parcs Dining In service. You will be spoilt for choice as there is so much to choose from, Chinese, Indian, Pizzas, Fajitas and more! In the end, me and my family ate out at the restaurants for two nights (Strada – Friday night and Huck’s – Saturday night) My parents went to Las Iguanas on the Friday night which is a new restaurant for Woburn. On the Sunday night, since the weather was VERY cold from the snow and rain, we decided to have a night in and ordered ourselves a Dining In Takeaway. I had the Fajitas and they were delicious!

Some people will say that Center Parcs is so expensive, and yes, it can be pricey but it is SO worth it in my honest opinion. You make the holiday as active or as relaxing as you want. There is plenty to do and you won’t be short for choice on where to eat. If you are in need of a staycation then Center Parcs fits the bill perfectly. I had such a fab time and can’t wait to make a return visit soon – hopefully won’t leave it for 2 years but we’ll see!

That’s all for now!

LOTTIE TRAVELS