24 Aug 2012

Fairy House

I wonder how many times I walked past this little fairy house and never realized it was there.

 

Really, you see the damnedest things at the Ren Farie, like the 4th Doctor wandering around

And when you start seeing mini-marshmallows all over the ground, you know you are approaching the booth of Siege The Day, makers of hand held and desktop catapults.  Honestly, I love these guys.

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21 Aug 2012

A Quiet Moment

Bristol Faire is always busy and full of sound, except here and there you find moments of tranquility.  Usually you find these moments down by the Royal Court’s area in between their sessions.

They have several little tent “houses” set up for some the more major players in the court, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury.  I must say his is my favorite of these little tent houses; it set up as a parlor where he can meet with people, or play a game of chess.  Most of the time this parlor is passed by if he is not there, but every now and again someone takes advantage of the chess board just sitting there.

Early in the day I spotted the chess board and stopped to take a couple of quick photos, only briefly wishing my friends and I had split up to catch different shows.  To be honest I’d have gotten my butt kicked by either of them, I’m just not that great at chess.

Still, I always admire the more detailed chess pieces, and this set looks like they’ve received some good use while being well cared for.

Later on in the day I wandered back to court to see if there was anything interesting going, and I spotted a young couple who had sat down to take advantage of the shade, chairs and chess board.

I admit, it made me smile.

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19 Aug 2012

Falconry 2012- part the third

So in this final installment of falconry photos we have the big falcons.  Fast, strong and very difficult to photograph.  Ray has a Saker falcon that I’ve featured here before, Chula, as well as a pair of Barbary/Gyrfalcon captive bred birds named Sophia and The Phantom.

These bird are hard to photograph on the wing.  Chula is a bit easier, since I’ve been watching her for the past 4 or 5 years and kind of have a feel for habits in the arena.  The young ones, Sophia and Phantom, however are maddeningly frustrating to capture in a non-blurry way.  Phantom in particular, since he likes to live up to his name by vanishing in one direction behind the trees, climbing up and stooping from another direction.

Sophia kindly perched on the fence for a quick photo.

 

Here she just missed a pass at the lure

Braking and turning midair

Unfortunately for you the only good photo I got of Phantom was of him stuffing his face.

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17 Aug 2012

Falconry 2012- part the second

Last post I closed out with a quote from Ray, head falconer of Flight of the Raptor.  “Falconry is based on respect and trust, if you respect the birds, you will earn their trust.”  There is actually a follow up to that, “The bird will never respect you, and you can never trust the bird.”

Today we’re going to take a look at at the two smallest birds flown during the session, Ace the American Kestrel and Chica the Merlin.

To be honest, I didn’t really get anything too great of Ace, he is just too damn tiny and spent most his time on the other side of the arena.  I suppose this means that I need to get a bigger lens.  Kestrels are also known as sparrowhawks, though to be fair their main prey is grasshoppers and the like.  They aren’t really too “useful” to a falconer hunting for his own cook pot, but are great little birds to learn with.  Did I mention that they are as colorful as tiny?

Ace in flight-

Ace to the hand (you can see how tiny he is!  Dare I say “Squee!”)

Next we have the lovely little Chica.  She is a bit bigger than Ace, but not by much.  Merlins are not hawks but falcons, meaning they hunt other birds and have long tapering wings rather than the broad blunt wings of the hawks and eagles.  They capture prey in the air and bind to them, killing swiftly with a bite to sever the spine at the base of the neck.    Here Chica was chasing the training lure rather than another bird.

I like this shot mainly because it shows off that wonderful camouflage as she comes in from a shallow stoop towards the lure.

Talk about intense focus!  Remember the caveat Ray gave on the trust and respect of a falconer’s relationship with his birds?  Well here you can see how he keeps tabs on his birds if they should choose to just fly off and not return.   Which they do sometimes.  The wire hanging down from Chica’s leg a little GPS transponder, if she flies off they can load up into a car and track her down.  Once found she will most likely be willing to return to the falconer’s fist with the temptation of a food reward, something all the birds have learned to expect anytime the falconer asks them to return to the hand.

Next up will be the supersonic superstars of the show, the big falcons!

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15 Aug 2012

Falconry 2012 part the first

It is that time of year again!  Welcome back to the Bristol Renaissance Faire, one of my favorite places on earth.  I made a point of catching the falconry session twice in hopes of catching one or two good photos, I’m fairly happy with year’s turn out.

 

First let me introduce you via linky to Flight of the Raptor, please check them out.  They provide the educational sessions for Bristol’s faire pretty much every year and no matter how many times I visit the show I am always impressed, enthralled, entertained and educated at the end.

I’ll start with the Harris hawks, always fantastic birds.

 

One of the more interesting things about Harris hawks is they will often work cooperatively.   Here two of the capture the lure and battle it in an impressive display of strength.

 

One of the things I love about Flight of the Raptor is Ray, the lead falconer.  His love of the birds and passion for falconry is magnificent.  Here he calms his more nervous hawk before hooding her.

As Ray says, falconry is based on respect and trust, if you respect the birds, you will earn their trust.

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06 Sep 2011

Renaissance Horses

I’ve always been a bit horse crazy, and since I no longer work with them (BOO!) I soak up every moment I get to watch them in action.  In the past few years Hanlon-Lees Action Theater (the company that provides knights, squires and horses to pretty much every Ren Faire in the country) has worked with Laura Amandis as the horse trainer for the Bristol horses (not sure about the other horses around the country).  The end result is pretty much every horse you see the knights riding at Bristol Faire don’t use bits and Laura puts on a fairly nifty show twice a day with her personal horse, a grey Andalusian named Acierto.    Needless to say, I get a little shutter happy during this show, sometimes with rather hilarious results.

 

We’ll start the beginning, here we have a “collected” canter.  Not dressage ring worthy from my limited knowledge of dressage, but pretty flashy.  Of course, the audience doesn’t get it.

Next, Acierto has been learning to do a Passage.  This is the first time I’ve seen him do it and he’s a little bumpy in comparison to oh, say, an internationally competing horse, but again he is still damn impressive.  And again, the audience doesn’t get it.

Now things get interesting, Laura pulls his bridle off and they proceed to do a lap of the area at a cantering half pass!  Horse geeky me is cheering them on, the audience just sees a pretty horsie running.

Now for the at liberty portion.  Acierto performs at a working trot, extended trot, working canter, somewhat sloppy pirouette, backs up, backs in a circle and follows Laura’s every cue with only visual cues.  There is no bridle, no saddle, not a stitch on this horse.   What gets the audience’s applause?

Yup, rearing.  Nowhere near as impressive if you know what you’re seeing, but flashy.  My favorite shot of him rearing is when he coming up, before he is in full flex, just because the amount of power involved in this position is much more demanding than once they are all the way up.  I’m crossing my fingers that Laura will teach him a pesade or levade to demonstrate the true power, intelligence and control this horse has.

While Andalusians aren’t my favorite horses one thing I love about this fellow is his expressive face.

Oh yes, and did I mention unintented hilarious results?   As they were doing the cantering half pass I just put my camera in drive mode and shot like crazy as they came down the fence line towards me.  This photo is totally uncropped and had me laughing for the rest of the day.  Who am I kidding, I’m still laughing!

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05 Sep 2011

Falconry Show Redux

So my brother called me and surprised me with the suggestion we go the Bristol Renaissance Faire on the last day of the year.    Not having any Labor Day plans of note I figured I’d brave the crowds and go for it.  Armed with my trusty camera and a few weeks worth of internet research on taking photos of birds I figured I’d give the falconry show another try.  This time I walked away pretty damn happy with the results.

First I managed to get a shot of Jackson, a 4 month old captive-bred Harris Hawk as he took off from the pole I was standing under.

I also finally caught the moment of the lure strike, something that has eluded me every since I started taking photos.  This is Chula, she is a 10 year old Saker Falcon.

Best of all, I was finally able to track, pan and focus on Chula in flight.  Here she is turning to come back for another stoop on the lure.

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07 Aug 2011

Bristol Court

 

Visiting the court is something a lot of people skip, but it can be pretty entertaining.  We stopped by in time for dinner and entertainment.

 

Is it just me or does she look like she is hatching evil schemes?

 

Something you never thought you’d see, the Queen kneeling in the dirt.

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05 Aug 2011

Barely Balanced

Every year their show gets better and better.  If you should have the opportunity to see I strongly recommend you take it!

Not only are they a lot on the warped and whacky side, they also do some amazing stunts.

I just hate trying to take pictures of them on this stage since it is under a grove of old oaks and the light is painfully uneven.

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28 May 2011

>Almost Good

>
As promised, May Pole Dancers. I love this picture, it is so far from being a great shot but I can look at it and see where I captured the exact moment I wanted yet failed to expose the shot properly. Where to start? My aperture is way off, I was likely shooting f/8 here. I should have circled half way round the dance area so I would have a lawn and empty pavilion in my background, rather than a bunch of yokels in front of a shop. Also, had I moved I would not have ended up with that brilliant glare on everything in the upper left corner, the light would have been more even (everything would have been in shade with slight dappling) . Despite all of that (and a few other small issues) I love this shot.

I love the expression on her face, I love the movement of her skirt and legs, I love the colors of the dancer’s clothes. I love that I can try again this year with the knowledge that while I may not get THIS shot with better composition and exposure, I have a much better understanding of what to do to try and improve it.

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