Sweets and Treats at the Making of Harry Potter

A couple of weeks ago we spent a wonderful evening at the Warner Bros Studio Tour in Leavesdon – The Making of Harry Potter previewing their Sweets and Treats exhibition that is on this summer.  Just down the road from us in St Albans, it’s somewhere we’d never been – mainly because it’s only in the last few months have the Sealion and Cheetah Keepers really got into Harry Potter.  I’ve been reading the books to them aloud almost every night for 7 months – we’ve got one chapter to go of The Half-Blood Prince – and it’s taken every ounce of my effort not to sob into the Kindle as I read!

Making of Harry Potter, Harry Potter World, Sweets and Treats, Review

Life at Hogwarts does seem to be rather food focussed – 3 hot meals a day and a feast at regular intervals (I suppose a good school must march on it’s stomach…) and we started our tour in the Great Hall which has some examples of the food they used for the films set out on the table.

Great Hall, Hogwarts, making of Harry Potter, Sweets and Treets, Review

The Sweets and Treats exhibition focuses on how the food for the films was created.  Some of it was real – the rest was created by just some of the amazing props team who created all sorts from resin and other tricks of the trade.  Not only was the food for the feasts required, all the sweets in Honeydukes were created and those sold by the Weasley twins – plus the slugs that Ron Weasley had to throw up!

Making of Harry Potter, Sweets and Treats, Review

We were lucky enough to be there with the lovely Kirsty from Damson Lane, Steph and her daughter from Steph’s Two Girls and Renata and her tribe from Just Bring the Chocolate (amongst others – I could write a whole blog post about the number of epic people that were there) – and we toured together.  The 3 girls are all in my Guide unit so were delighted to hang out togetherWand School, the making of Harry Potter, Days Out, Review, Sweets and treats

Hogwarts Express, Sweets and Treats, Making of Harry Potter, Review, Days Out

New for this summer is the addition of Butterbeer Ice-Cream to the goodies that are available in the Backlot Cafe.  For those with a sweet tooth this dreamy concoction is absolutely gorgeous (I *may* have helped the children eat up theirs *coughs*) – I would certainly choose this over Butterbeer.  Then again, I’d probably chose ice-cream over beer…  Moving on…

We could have easily spent far longer than the 3 hours we were there – the wow moments just kept on coming.  From the model of the ice palace at the Yule Ball…

Making of Harry Potter, Sweets and Treats, Review, Days Out

to the model of Hogwarts and everything in between – we had an amazing time.  The Cheetah Keeper’s face when he spotted the first of the Snitches was just lovely.

Hogwarts, Sweets and Treats, Review, Days out, Making of Harry Potter

Many thanks go to the Warner Bros team for inviting us to the preview – I’m not sure the Cheetah Keeper would cope if it was at maximum visitor capacity – so making it so accessible was absolutely awesome.

Heather Angel’s Macro Photography MasterClass

If you’re following me on Facebook (you’re not? – click on that handy little link I’ve given you there) you’ll have seen that I’ve embarked on a photography course over the past few weeks.  Heather Angel’s Macro Photography Masterclass to be exact from www.my-photo-school.com.

This course retails at £145 and is aimed at the “intermediate” level of photographer – it’s a four week course with a video to watch each week and then ‘homework’.  MyPhotoSchool asked me to review the course – by doing it.

Orchid, macro photography, heather angel, my-photo-school.com

Week 1 homework

I do love a bit of macro photography and was keen to improve my work – this course really focuses on lighting which is something I’ve always kind of ‘gone with’ rather than tried to control.  Of course, the answer with macro photography is that you have to control the light and this has been a steep learning curve over the last month.  I have entered a world of reflectors and difusers, become at one with my extension tubes, received funny looks photographing elderflowers using a flash ring in bright sunlight, realised that you shouldn’t buy a cheap tripod (save up and buy a good one) and that good macro photography does not come quickly.  Or maybe it will – in time.

Ceaonthus, single flower, macro, macro photography course

This didn’t make the cut as I failed on duplicating it in different lights

The course content is great and I chose to let the homework really challenge me.  Not only did I decide to try and get closer, better macro shots than ever before, I was also working to deadlines, at the mercy of mother nature and trying to use all the kit I’ve got at once.  I could have made life easier for myself but what’s the point of doing a course if you’re going to coast?

cucumber, macro, my-photo-school.com, macro photography

Week 3 – cucumber lit from the front and behind

Heather’s video lessons are clear and well presented – lots of useful ideas and tips.  They’re also quite long which is where I discovered I really struggle with staying focussed for that length of time.  It’s a problem I’ve subsequently found when trying to read long documents online as well – maybe I’m showing my age or maybe it just isn’t a way that I learn well.  I think I’d prefer more, bite sized chunks (5-10 minutes at a time) – it would certainly be easier to fit watching them into my work/life juggle.

Ceanothus, macro photography, my-photo-school.com

Trying to get rid of shadows using a reflector

Submitting my assignments was dead easy, as was adding the comments and my reasoning.  The interface looked suspiciously like the WordPress one I’m using now so it was very intuitive for me – but there is plenty of help on hand.  What I did find less intuitive was working my way around the comments and my classmate’s work – although I did seem to be the first to submit my work each week.

indoor macro photography, my-photo-school.com

Week 3 homework – macro photography indoors

Heather’s feedback on each assignment came quickly and was a really good mix of constructive criticism, next steps and some helpful hints or resources.  Her knowledge of the natural world is evident and her tone in her replies was perfect for me.

I would like to say that my photography has improved by doing the course – I hope Heather would agree.  It’s certainly made my photography harder – for now – as I think far more carefully about how I construct my images and use the light to the best advantage.  I’m hoping that will come more naturally with time.  It was certainly a commitment (as any learning should be I think) and I made sure I challenged myself throughout – if you want to take your macro photography to the next level and have 4 weeks where you have the time to watch the videos, take and edit your photographs, Heather Angel’s Macro Photography Masterclass could be course you’re looking for.

Hardy Geranium, macro, my-photo-school.com, Heather Angel

Final Project

Summer 2015 at Whipsnade Zoo

Oh Whipsnade Zoo – how we have neglected you over the last 3 months.  We’re sorry but that stretch from mid-May to the end of term is always the hardest point of the year to visit – and especially now the Sealion Keeper is doing her extended day at school (until 4.15pm) our sneaky after school visits for a picnic and an ice-cream are fond memories rather than reality.

We have yet to finish the academic year but this weekend saw us ‘practising’ for the holidays so we headed up to Whipsnade to catch up with our animal friends, see the new babies and visit the new butterfly house that opened in May.

First on our list – the adorable baby sealion Oscar – who was exactly one month old yesterday.

Oscar, Baby Sealion, ZSL, Whipsnade Zoo

Next time we’re hoping to see him swimming rather than just feeding and snoozing (it’s a hard life being a baby Californian Sealion)

The butterfly house is wonderful – a really lovely space and far less oppressive than the butterfly exhibit at London Zoo.  I was a very lucky girl and received a dedicated macro lens for my birthday – apologies (kind of) for the number of butterfly pictures that I expect will be on my social media feeds.

Swallowtail Butterfly, Butterfly House, Whipsnade Zoo

The West African Crocodiles have also moved into the Butterfly House and look far happier in their new enclosure with a deeper pool and more space.

West African Crocodile, Whipsnade Zoo, Butterfly House

We also headed over to see the baby Ring Tailed Lemurs – not so baby anymore – they’re about 12 weeks old and are growing in independence by the minute.

Ring Tailed Lemur, Baby Ring Tailed Lemur, Whipsnade Zoo,

We couldn’t miss a trip to the Birds of the World show (I reckon I’ve now sat through pushing 200 of these) and it was great to see so many of the macaws flying at the end.

Hyacinth Macaw, Whipsnade Zoo, Birds of the World

We were sat next to a group of Brownies who were awestruck by the whole experience – 6th High Barnet Brownies you were a credit to your leaders and I hoped you were suitably impressed by Apache the American Bald Eagle…

Apache, Whipsnade Zoo, American Bald Eagle

At this point I need to add that I was a complete div and dropped my keys in the Bird Show arena.  Mahoosive thanks have to go to bird trainer Leigh-Ann and Alison from Membership Services for reuniting us with them and being so utterly lovely about it all.

Butterfly garden, Whipsnade Zoo, Lavender

The planting around Whipsnade is stunning at the moment – this is in the Butterfly Garden by the Lemurs

If you’re heading up to Whipsnade Zoo this summer, you might like to read up on our top tips for visiting and also check their website – not only for 10% discount if you book your tickets online but also to see that the rather fantastic Steve Backshall is going to be there on Saturday 25th, Sunday 26th and Monday 27th July doing 4 shows a day.

Having been last year we would certainly recommend going to see Steve (it’s included in the price of your ticket) but allow extra time for travelling!