Good people, good fun, and good light!
I made 280 exposures. Here are 87 of them.

24th Central Coast Renaissance Festival

The Queen's Cuisine

19 & 20 - JUL - 2008

Once again, in mid-July, El Chorro Regional Park (north of San Luis Obispo, California) was turned into a Renaissance Village, complete with artisans, vendors, entertainers, knights, royalty and peasants. Sunday offered an extra bonus: several hours of overcast sky, eliminating contrast issues for outdoor photography. No flash was used for any of the photographs on this page, and there are a lot of them. As a peasant, I roamed and photographed freely and discreetly, without the encumbrance, visibility, and disruption of an entourage. Such are the advantages of renaissance poverty.

The Music

Music was easy to find and easy to hear. There were soloists and groups playing mostly period music. I thought I heard Magic Carpet Ride on harmonica right after lunch, but that could have been the Tramadol hitting its stride. (It's medication I take for back pain.) The dance troupes always have a group of musicians with them, and Fingertip Beat is a tight shot of part of the rhythm section. The soft light of Sunday morning made possible the photograph of Richard Van Healey. Shadows and highlights are both within range of the proper exposure, and the image really pops with red, yellow, and blue tones. He was playing for some line dancers.

I saw the Bagpiper several times, but the photograph here shows him best. There are no distractions and he is framed loosely to good effect. In contrast, Strolling Minstrel and, especially, Recorder are framed tightly to eliminate distracting foreground and background elements. The more general view of Lady of the Harp gives a hint of the activity that surrounds most subjects at the Faire.

Although I couldn't find an ideal position for an uncluttered view of the singing trio below, I did have the benefit of soft, even light. Despite my constant moving about, they pretty much ignored me and never missed a note. Huzzah!

The Games

It seems that a stack of wood blocks can be found somewhere at all the renaissance faires. The game is particularly popular with the kids, but adults also frequently give it a try. The soft light of Sunday morning was ideal for photography. On the right, the The Gamemaster surveys and moniters the action of The Game and the Gallery. The shirts of the two boys at the stack - especially the white one - would be visually overwhelming in a photograph, so I pursued a set of images with the girl in green. Her ragged clothes are probably an accurate portrayal of the renaissance peasant wardrobe. Well done!

The table games, I assume, were typical of the renaissance period. The Boy's Move was photographed within one of the large tavern style tents, where the drama played out quietly. Elsewhere, outdoors, a more animated group reacts to the Turning Point of a different game. Good clean fun, and nobody gets pregnant. Especially when all of the players are men. It appeared that these games were played by "residents" of the faire, but I suppose that visitors would be welcome to participate.

On the left, a lovely lass lets an arrow fly at the archery site, and her boyfriend prepares to do the same while blocking the view of an ugly trash can. I wanted to get in front of the arrow for a portrait of him, but that would have provoked a concerned rebuke from the archery management. So, I didn't do it. Would have been very cool, though, with a wide angle lens...

I liked the light under the tree where people could be seen Choosing a Bow. I might have waited for the bright white shirt to move out of the frame, but I was hungry and it was time to eat. So, I made a quick photo and was then off to lunch. Later in the day, I photographed the Painted Archer at another location of the Faire. He looked very cool, and low contrast light delivers him easily onto film.

The Food

Well, ya gotta eat. Whether you're peasantry, royalty or a visitor to the shire, by mid-day you get hungry. In addition to the food, the colors and clothing of the "faire cast" are a feast for photography. Mid-day light is usually harsh and unflattering, but under the tents the light is soft and yields good color saturation. That, along with happy faces, is what we got with A Merry Toast and Conversations After Lunch. Those two photos benefit from even light from the front to the back of the tent. Visitors to the shire found several options from food vendors, including ales and desserts. The backpack girls are getting a Sampler of lime. My wife and I got a crushed ice cooler, also. I don't remember what flavor we got, but I do remember that I made a huge mess of it. I blamed it on my enthusiasm.

The Queen, too, had to eat, and she was far less sloppy than I was. The conversation at her lunch was "period correct," and as I made photographs the topic turned to Her Majesty's interest in finding a spouse. "But," the question became, "Where to find a man of suitable competence and repute?" To this I removed my hat and bowed, and offered my humble regrets that, even though I was over-qualified on all accounts, I was already married and unable to serve Her Majesty in the capacity of her husband. The Queen, and her court, appeared to accept this with some relief.

Henna Tattoos

The henna tattoos are all natural and all organic. They remain visible for two or three weeks. The designs are usually applied freehand, and they range from simple to ornate. And, parents, take note: nothing works to keep a kid still like sitting down while a henna tattoo is applied. From the neck down, nothing moves.

There were two locations for henna tattoos. Both delivered quality art and both drew a good clientele. The photographs here are all from the same henna tent, but only because the light was more manageable there. This set of images shows the artists and their patient canvases. I was permitted to get in close with a wide-angle lens. My hope is that one day we won't see any more flamboyant wrist bands on artists, vendors and actors of the Faire.

Trades and Crafts

If I'd known that the two photos at left could turn out so well, I'd have requested more refined poses. Instead, I made a couple of quick shots, thinking that the shaded space would be overwhelmed by bright outdoor light. But, as you can see, I was able to burn down the outside light for a nice balance. The chandelier and lantern are nice touches, and, of course, she is lovely. Sometimes I'm surprised by how well situations work, and sometimes I'm suprised by how clearly they don't work. With Braiding, though, I got what I expected: a quiet moment in soft light.

Once again, The Lady of Lace was on hand, demonstrating the art of lacemaking and Professing its history. She is skilled and erudite, and the information that she shared with us was interesting and enlightening.

We stopped at the Hair Pieces vendor for remedial instruction on properly fixing my hair tie in place. I hope my wife remembers how to do it, because 1) I couldn't see what they were doing with my hair, and 2) I'm a schmuk and probably wouldn't get it right even if I had seen what they were doing. And, by the way, there I am In the Mirrors, along with the vendor and another customer. So now you know: if you saw a guy in a long-sleeved tunic with a lens on his face, it might have been me.

The Judge and Penalty Stocks

I don't know what the charges were or who the plaintiff was, but the judge found her guilty. When I arrived, she was already in the stocks. And wet. If her smile and laughter is any indication, she didn't feel any remorse for her transgression, nor did she seem much troubled by the punishment. After a thorough soaking, she was released. She then returned to her friends and gave them each a wet and soggy hug, in a manner such that they might "feel her pain" (cough cough). I would say that she was a classy and endearing criminal, whatever her crime was.

Well, it was the sort of silliness and nonsense that I often run across at Renaissance Faires. Some of it is probably spontaneous (such as this dousing), and no doubt some of the silly stuff is planned. In either case, I don't know how many times I've wondered, "What was that all about?" But this time I arrived in time to get a reasonably clear idea of what was going on.

A Renaissance Faire Couple

Equally classy and endearing is this couple whom I first met at this fair in 2006. (You will recognize her from the archery segment of this page.) So many relationships can come and go before a good match is found that it pleased me to see that they remain "an item." They are now attending a university together. They have their heads on straight, and I wish them the best wherever life takes them. They are both photogenic, and we took advantage of Sunday's overcast light and also the warm light inside a vendor's red tent. The warm light proved to be much redder than I thought, but still worked out okay after some fuss with color balance.

The portraits, A Fyne Lass of the Faire and A Fyne Fellow of the Faire were made in the red tent, as were the two images at left. By that time, the sky had become clear and direct sunlight was harsh, so the even light within the tent was welcome. The two photographs at right were made earlier - late morning - and they benefit from the soft light during that time.

The Upper Class

Elegant and refined, they sat, talked, sometimes danced, and surveyed their domain and subjects. Their clothes and accessories were magnificent! On the left is an angelically beautiful and proper example of Regal Poise, and next to her is A Lord and His Ale. He, too, was very stately under the Royal Tent. The Aristocrats were reviewing the activities outside the tent, and I photographed them from a low position with a wide-angle lens. The woman of Fashion 1522 was prepared for any grand affair, complete with turkey-feather fan.

Faces of the Faire

Everyone brought a face to the Faire. Some were themselves and some were caricatures of a role they chose to present. When I saw the guy on the left, I already had the wide-angle lens on the camera and said, "I want to photograph a Big Hairy Face!" He immediately moved in close and this is the result. It is one of my favorites of the day.

Not everyone showed up in period attire, but it still wasn't too late to get properly dressed. Appropriate attire was available just past the entrance. I saw one girl enter the renaissance haberdashery and come out looking lovely and Dressed for Faire. Also near the entrance was A Pleasant Peasant Under a Hat. She is presented well here with a lovely slip of a smile and dark background.

Three fine men with three fine beards also caught my attention. Lots of hair at Ren Faires! These three men, and many other people whom I photographed were not posed. Quite often the candid, unposed photographs reveal the festive spirit of the Faire better than more contrived situations. There is some, undefined, "playful ease" that I often get with unposed photos at the Faire. I look for good light and try to compose with supportive elements and mitigate distracting ones, and when the moment seems right, I release the shutter.

Sharing Fun at the Faire

Good times are for sharing, and there was plenty of both. A second amber parasol, instead of white, would have been nice, but otherwise the photos work very well for two girls who are All Smiles And Partly Playful.

Two people with Different Interests shared a bench. They were clearly watching two different activities, with very different responses. I also found two lovely ladies Enjoying Drinks and a young couple enjoying the day Together at Faire.

Another couple, not seen here, was my wife and me. Although I kept watch for opportunities with the camera, we had plenty of time to enjoy music, shows, a bit of the joust, and random tomfoolery. We also reviewed the craft and trade tents, occasionally finding something we couldn't do without. For all that, I suppose that we were typical visitors to the shire.

Other Characters and Visitors

There was no shortage of people and color, and I photographed visitors and "residents" of the shire with egalitarian enthusiasm. I hope they had as much fun with it as I did.

I don't know what got their attention, but the two girls are Stepping Out to Take a Look. Maybe it was That Guy on Stilts. The woman at top right looks like she is at the edge of the forest in renaissance days. Below her, in the royal tent, is another elegant lass. I pointed at the camera, she nodded, and we got these nice images of a lovely and classy woman.

Waiting for the Faire to open on the Saturday, I noticed the girl in blue with no ugly stuff behind her. Huzzah! In fact, the only recognizable element behind her is chain, and it adds to the mystery of time and place of a girl Anticipating Faire.

The next five images in the same row show that the men were dressed (or nearly dressed) as diversely as the women. As usual, the big challenge was finding manageable light and surroundings for the photos. If everyone dressed properly for faire, there would be no chance of getting photographs with blue jeans or shirts with big ads plastered on them.

Parting Shots

With these incidental images from the 24th Annual Central Coast Renaissance Festival, I thank all who participated and contributed to a fun weekend. God willing and the creeks don't rise, I shall return for the 25th [waves hat] Annual event next year.

Lads, Lasses, Ladies and Lords: until then - Be well!

Images Copyright © Ed E. Powell
All Rights Reserved