The UK premiere of the world-famous Magical Lantern Festival comes to the West London suburb of Chiswick for a whole month, spanning the New Year festivities. The Chinese promoters have chosen the 18th-century Chiswick House gardens as the stunning location for this massive display of traditional magical lantern art.
Yesterday I was invited to the preview and grabbed the Leica Q for a few random snaps. As it happens, I was very undecided what camera to take. Would it be an M evening or, even, an outing for the little D-Lux so I could have the choice of a variety of focal lengths from 24 to 75mm? But the Q (as usual) turned out to be a good choice and in the end I was grateful for the 28mm wide-angle lens because of the relatively short distance between the large exhibits and the narrow pedestrian walkways.
Since I am not normally a night-time photographer I decided to give the camera free rein. All these shots were taken at wide apertures (between f/1.7 and f/2.8) with shutter speed on auto. Autofocus was just as fast as during daylight and the camera coped brilliantly with the bright lights and extreme contrast. All in all, I was again impressed by the performance of this go-anywhere, do-anything full-frame shooter. No wonder it is in such short supply.
Chiswick House, built in 1729, is said to be the finest Neo-Palladian mansion in London. The surrounding gardens were an attempt by Lord Burlington to recreate a garden of ancient Rome, inspired primarily by the Emperor Hadrian’s Villa Adriana at Tivoli. As such, the grounds provide a breathtaking backdrop for the delightful magical lantern display.
The Magical Lantern Festival opens today, February 3 and runs until March 6. Public evenings will include a market, live performances and stalls selling a wide range of regional food. The centrepiece of the display is a 66-meter-long dragon while other exhibits recreate Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, a larger-than-life depiction of the Terracotta Army, an Eternal Tree of Life, an 8-meter-high porcelain Imperial Palace display and a Mount Huaguo lantern to mark the Year of the Monkey.
Tickets cost £16 if purchased in advance, or £18 on the gate. Concessions are available for students, families and groups.