2017 Pedal Car Grand Prix

This year the Pedal Car Grand Prix returned to town [it alternates with Ringwood] and once again the turnout and enthusiasm of both Teams and spectators was exceptional. It was a fiercely hot day – exhausting just to wander round taking photographs, so spare a thought for the contestants. We had a couple of minor spills and quite a few “racing incidents” – let’s just say that the “sin bin” saw a fair few visitors this year… On the whole, though, it was an entertaining spectacle and as popular as ever.

I took the opportunity to try out the Olympus OM-D EM-1 MkII “focus tracking”… To start with I found this to be remarkable fiddly – for example, give it an approaching pedal car and it will generally select the front of the car itself [usually the logo or race number] as the target. However, as the subject draws closer, so the camera’s built-in facial recognition software kicks in and the moment that it detects a person in the vehicle, the focus would automatically adjust. A little bit of patience and a lot of faith were certainly required. On the other hand, 16fps continuous shooting, with a ludicrously large capture buffer meant that burst-mode shooting was the order of the day.

The last time I was here I had my Canon EOS 7D with a 24-70mm lens [38-112mm equivalent] and I probably kept 2-3 images. This year I was using the Olympus with the 40-150mm lens [80-300mm equivalent] and I reckon that more than 60% were sharp enough to look to keep… OK, the Canon is quite a bit older, but it’s amazing to see how far the technology has moved.

Marvel-less Marwell

Having recently treated myself to a new lens (the ridiculously good Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm f2.8 Pro), I was in search of something interesting to go point it at when I saw an article relating to Marwell Zoological Park…

And no, before you wonder what a UK zoo has to do with the comic/movie mega-franchise, the answer is nothing. In fact, the title of this post is a reference to the remarkably dreary experience of visiting what is supposed to be one of the UK’s premiere wildlife attractions. The animals were listless, lifeless and looked to be mostly bored. The enclosures were poorly maintained and dirty, the “viewing areas” – most of which were glazed rather than fenced off with wired netting – included filthy glass covered with hand-prints, smeared ice-cream or chocolate and were overlooking empty views. I’d estimate that something like 20-25% of the exhibits were closed. I only bothered trying one cafeteria, which seemed to be offering a good range of hot food – but soggy and tasteless sandwiches [more fool me] all charged at obscene prices.

It was interesting to go somewhere different, but I came away wishing I’d spent my £20 admission and ~ £7 lunch money going somewhere slightly less oppressive. Oh well. Not many shots pulled out just yet – I took about 220 and just skimmed through quickly looking for a few examples. Lens did spectacularly well. Anything of less than stunning quality here is either as a consequence of the subject being a *long* way back [Snow Leopard, for example] or thanks to the idiot operating the camera…

December Afternoon

After several days of shabby, overcast weather or rain, yesterday afternoon finally afforded a brief respite in the form of a cold, crisp day, with mostly clear blue skies and completely still air. When I checked the beach, I found to my surprise a reasonable swell with some nice breakers coming in. The handy thing about this is that you can get quite close to the surf without having to worry about the spray being blown into your face. Even so, I decided that I’d take all my shots with the 14-42mm kit lens that came with the camera… just in case the salt in the air was worse than it seemed. Well, on the down side the results were nowhere near as crisp as I would have expected from say the 20mm f1.7, but these three seemed mostly OK…

Panasonic DMC-GX1 with 14-42mm (kit) Lens



Hurst Castle and Keyhaven

My original plan had been to venture out to this Henry VIII-era Gun Fort on the weekend of the Cowes-Torquay Power Boat Race, with the intention of setting up on one of the higher bastions and trying to capture the high-performance off-shore racers as they came thundering past… In the event the race was re-scheduled to avoid a conflict with the Olympics, and I missed my chance. Next year, maybe. So instead I decided to subject the pace to a slightly more leisurely wander today. Haven’t been here since I was dinghy sailing in my teenage years, and it’s nice to see that in most respects it’s in better condition now.

I took two cameras with me today (Panasonic DMC-GX1 and Canon EOS7D) and a clutch of lenses (all L-Series for the Canon, bit of a mixed bag for the Panasonic) and spent about an hour very quickly sifting through a total of 800 or so image files to get to this initial set (though I must point out that the GX1 gave me *6* files for every picture, since I was experimenting with exposure bracketing as well as capturing both raw and jpeg).

What’s fascinating is that all the shots you see here were taken with the Panasonic, which in every respect out-shone a decent Canon coupled with some very expensive glass. For sure, in these images I’m using the Panasonic-Lumix 7-14mm ultra-wide lens, which at £800 is not far short of Canon L-Series lens pricing… but the simple truth is that the entire Panasonic setup cost less than the Canon body… It’s probably worth acknowledging that other important factor, namely the idiot pressing the shutter release… but the acid test, at the end of the day, is which images you keep and which you throw away. Canon, if you’re getting this, it’s time to raise your game….