Festival of Light and Sound – Eden Project, 2016

We’ve been to the Eden Project quite a few times now, but this is the first time we’ve been to their annual Festival of Light and Sound. It’s a huge laser show and music event, centred in the Mediterranean Biome, but with lasers all around the site. I’ll tell you a bit more, but first, the best of the photos I took that night…

When we first arrived, the weather was pretty bad – not heavy rain, but persistent, and quite windy too. The forecast was for it to clear up not long after we got there, though, and it turned out to be accurate. We took the landtrain down into the site – a tractor pulling a set of trailers with seats. The main topic of conversation for everyone was that the weather was due to clear up soon. My guess is we were all British. It’s true, we go on about the weather all the time. Well, in the spare time we get between apologising to inanimate objects for bumping into them.

There were green lasers outside, firing across the entire site. The site is in the hollow from an old clay-mining pit. There were lasers on two sides of the pit, shining brightly across to the opposite sides.

The laser show was all designed by light artist Chris Levine. It must be a huge undertaking, with an impressive enough show outside, but far more inside the Mediterranean Biome where the musical acts were playing.

Walking around the Rainforest Biome in the near-dark was in interesting experience. It was mostly the same as it is in daytime (but darker, obviously) with a few additions. There were a couple of images of the moon lit up, and a shadow puppet setup so people could go behind a screen and make shadows for everyone else.

Inside the Mediterranean Biome was an even more strange environment. Lasers were set up all round the biome, along with live music. There were plenty of people, but it didn’t feel too crowded.

More photos – less good ones – further down. First, a bit about the gear I used – scroll a bit if you just want more pics, and don’t care about cameras and lenses…

The Gear

I used my Sony Alpha 7, which is a nice mix of portability and large sensor. I’d only recently bought a Lomography LC-A Minitar-1 lens, so I started with that on the camera, and used it a few times. The lasers, though, need a sharper look than that would capture, so I switched back to my Voigtlander Nokton Classic for most of the shots.

The most useful accessory for getting the best shots was another new one to me – a Manfrotto Pocket Tripod. It screws onto the bottom of the camera, and when folded flat, can stay there quite neatly. That’s where it lives now, ready for use any time. It’s of quite limited use as a tripod, but as long as there’s a reasonably stable surface at the right place, it can hold the camera at a good range of angles, and keeps it stable. I set up on tables, benches and the handrails on bridges.

The reason I needed to use a support was that it was dark, so I either had to push the ISO way up, which made for noisy images; or use a support so I could use long exposure times. Long exposures were perfect for the lasers, because they’d pick up the same laser in multiple places when it was moving, capturing much more of the feeling of seeing the show than a shot with a static pattern or beam would.

I haven’t done much long-exposure photography before, but this was a great chance to play, and I’m happy with the results. The only real difficulty I had with it was when I was using the bridge handrails as a stand. A few times, I’d just start a long-exposure shot when a family with kids would appear, and run and jump their way along the bridge, shaking the camera along with the bridge.

More Photos

The best ones were further up, but here are a bunch more photos from the night…

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