Ashridge Estate - Pt. 1 - Ashridge House

Lone Tree | A7R & SEL55F18ZA | 1/400s f/5.0 ISO100 55mm

Someone (mentioning no names; a passive-aggressive trait I've inherited from my father) accidentally drowned their car keys, and so we ventured to St. Albans to pick up a new set. As the weather was nice, we thought "why not make a day of it", and took a short drive to Ashridge Estate on the Buckinghamshire/Hertfordshire border.

British Countryside | A7R & SEL55F18ZA | 1/800s f/5.6 ISO100 55mm 

The drive was a pleasant one, carving through the gentle slopes of a quintessential British countryside. Upon arrival at Ashridge, we had to stop the car due to ~100 deer running across the road...

 | A7R & SEL55F18ZA | 1/100s f/1.8 ISO100 55mm 

King of the Woods | A7R & SEL55F18ZA | 1/100s f/1.8 ISO100 55mm 

I had to creep up as quietly as possible in order to get the above shot; which is around a 100%-crop of the original file. A 200-300mm focal length would have been lovely here, but such lenses remain on my shopping list for now. The 55/1.8 Sony Zeiss lens is really marvellous though. Even at 1/100s and wide open at f/1.8, there is still enough detail to make out the points of interest in the image.

Entrance | A7R & SEL55F18ZA | 1/640s f/5.6 ISO100 55mm 

Unfortunately, Ashridge House itself is used as a management training college and is not normally open to the public. There appeared to be a wedding in progress when we passed the main entrance, but I find being outside more interesting than inside, in most cases. For one thing, it's easier to photograph outside, and one's usually less restricted outside. I like the freedom of walking around, without purpose.

Clock Tower | A7R & SEL55F18ZA | 1/250s f/5.6 ISO100 55mm

Looking at the clock tower above, I've remembered to mention that if you're in a "Daylight Saving" time zone, don't forget that your clocks have changed! Your phone will have done so, but your analogue watch, possibly your car, and oven/cooker won't have done. It's easy to get caught out—especially if you've been living in Asia for a number of years.

Shadows | A7R & SEL55F18ZA | 1/1250s f/5.6 ISO100 55mm

A polarising filter, coupled with a Zeiss optical formula, really brings out the blue in the sky, and the high contrasts throughout. Looking through the viewfinder or LCD really was like looking at some old Fuji Velvia slides. I've waxed lyrical about this before, but the contrast from a Zeiss lens isn't just some over-hyped, mystical property. It's a tangible, real quality. Of course, the lighting has to be right, but I know that if I were taking these photos with the very capable, and otherwise exemplary, Canon nFD 50mm f/1.4, that the images would lack the detail, contrast, and overall punch rendered by the SEL55F18ZA.

Red & Blue | A7R & SEL55F18ZA | 1/1600s f/5.6 ISO100 55mm

You may wonder why there's no photo of the front of Ashridge House in its entirety. The reason is twofold: 1) we were on the wrong side of the building and it's closed to the public, 2) there were too many ugly objects (cars, people, lamps, cones, floodlights, bollards, traffic signs) in view for me to warrant pressing the shutter.


Instead, I'll end the post with this wide-angled shot of some conkers, taken from under a nearby horse-chestnut tree.

 Conkers | A'R & Voigtländer 20mm f3.5 | 1/500s f/6.3 ISO500 20mm

Conkers | A'R & Voigtländer 20mm f3.5 | 1/500s f/6.3 ISO500 20mm