Another Episode of Faire

Escondido Renaissance Faire 2010


Once again, fine weather prevailed for the Escondido Renaissance Faire. Everyone was greeted with warm enthusiasm at the gate, and music was in progress within. Bagpipes, violin, recorder and harp did abound offstage, and myriad other instruments did also contribute onstage. Further effects to please the senses included comedy, dance, and acts of skill and daring. A great many people were dressed in character with suitable vestments, and they did please the eyes and lenses of many. It was clear from the start that a pleasant day of play, comeraderie and photography would ensue. There were interesting activities of and for men, women, and children.

There was the usual assortment of piratey-looking characters. One could assume that the renaissance pirate business is going well, since all the pirates appeared to be in good—yea, even effervescent—spirits. They were a motley and merry group, singing and playing music. The Pirates Charles not only performed on stage, but were often seen in spontaneous music elsewhere.

In contrast to the crusty pirate men was a fine and magnificent assortment of well-dressed ladies. The Queen, and a violinist, are shown above, and each is dressed in fine style appropriate to her station. Here, we see a hierarchy of classes in a variety of apparel. Most of them, I believe, were patrons of the Faire, rather than actors or entertainers. Despite their "amateur" status, the patrons dressed in period styles contribute much to the appearance and character of the Faire.

Stage performances were scheduled, but games were mostly spontaneous. The kids are often attracted to the game of stacked blocks. (You might think that after so many Faires I would know what the game is called, but I do not. I learned, but have since forgotten.) At left is a game in progress. They are playing a pirate version, and are using a wooden sword to remove the blocks. Their intensity is palpable.

At right are two stage performers (and an assistant). These photographs represent exceptions rather than the norm: the light here, at the time, was reasonably manageable, without overwhelming hot spots and deep shadows. The outdoor stages are fine for watching the shows, but harsh light, particularly during mid-day, can be unflattering to performers and challenging to cameras. Not much you can do: it is what it is.

Bryan Sapphire is seen doing his comedy and juggling routine. His volunteer assistant, in the next photo, appears to be as much amused as helpful. At right is Scot Ryder. I believe the boy is his son, who quite dominates the photo with his blue shirt and white hair.

An important lesson for aspiring pirate drummers: Ya gotta hold your tongue right. This guy was playing with Pirates Charles, a vigorous band of pirates. They are an expressive group with strong stage presence. For reasons of light, mentioned above, my best photo opportunities were tight shots of the drummer. He was animated and expressive, providing good music and good photos. An important lesson for jugglers: Ya gotta hold your tongue right, as demonstated in the middle photo. Not shown here is a daring feat in which the Bawdy Juggler made it all happen without showing his tongue. [gasp!] An important lesson for a girl with an ice cream cone: well, you know. I saw her several times throughout the day (not surpising: Escondido Faire is not huge). Each time she was playfully engaged in some new activity, full of energy and personality. She seemed to exemplify what Faire can be for the kids.

Well, different people find different things of interest. Here are a few more of the younger set at play. The boy has found a fine place for a boy anywhere, above the crowd in a tree. We can see that his eye patch has been moved to his forehead, suggesting that he is off-duty. The burning and pillaging is left to others for now. The girls were playing on a renaissance see-saw teeter-totter kind of thing. The angle of afternoon light was beginning to improve, and this was a chance for some nice back-lighted photos without much distraction behind the subjects. The grass was a bit overwhelming, however, and had to be subdued out of the camera.

Spontaneous entertainment most often involved music and dance. During the afternoon, a large area of grass drew drummers and dancers. Theses activities seemed to be as much about relaxing and enjoying friendships as about performing. It was very loose; the activity might be replaced by conversation or a visit by a pet snake (!), and just as quickly resume again. People drifted in and out of the area to watch, making it difficult to isolate the performers. Nevertheless there were opportunities for a few nice photographs of the action, including a portrait of a thirsty dancer.

Observations as the Day Progressed

Near the end of the day, the normal activities of the tavern gave way to drumming and dancing. They entered the tavern and began their action on the periphery. But this brought spectators who, pressing in, pushed the action into the center of the tavern (where it was probably destined to be from the start).

At 24mm, the photos get right into the middle of it all. Exposure requirements varied with different positions among the action. I ultimately settled upon a manual setting for the people, ignoring background light. Focus was set to automatically track moving subjects. This worked fairly well, despite somewhat dim light inside the tavern.

The tavern action eventually moved to the gate, and grew along the way. More drummers, more dancers, and more spectators. It's a bit like the final blast of fireworks on the Fourth of July.

And so the opening day of the Escondido Renaissance Faire came to a close. As always, a huge thanks goes to everyone who made the day enjoyable, and particularly to those who faced my lenses. Huzzah! Good morrow and be well. Anon!

Images Copyright © Ed E. Powell
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