A Medieval tournament is being held at Scarborough castle this weekend, 11-12th August 2018, the highlight being a display of horsemanship and mock fighting/jousting.
Jousting was a Medieval contest of strength, skill and horsemanship. This reenactment was staged by a company called Historic Equitation and involved four mounted horses decked out in colours as they might have been back in the 13th century. Fighting on horseback clearly required great deal of horsemanship, and this was beautifully displayed during the reenactment of jousting and fighting with swords.
There was an initial demonstration of how the horses were trained for warfare in the 13th Century, followed by a mock tournament an hour or so later.
The horses were the stars of this show!
The horses seemed to enjoy it and were amazingly relaxed and happy to be petted by people in the audience after the first show.
The jousting and fighting was a bit of fun and allowed children to wave flags and root for one of the four mounted knights.
The contest begins!
It must have been very difficult to ride and maneuver the horse wearing a helmet with such a restricted field of view!
The jousting was done with wooden lances!
A Medieval knight had to learn to fight, but at the end of the day, he was only as good as his horse and horsemanship.
I took hundreds of photographs, handholding a Nikon F2.8 70-200mm lens; these are just a few of the more dynamic images.
There appeared to be some Medieval stable maids who removed the garments and saddles from the horses!
There were plenty of other fun things to do, like archery and wine tasting!
I recently did a short cruise to Norway on the Boudicca, a nice 28,388 ton cruise ship of the old style, meaning that it looks like a ship and not a block of flats! Unlike the choppy seas shown in the painting (above) from the KODE Art Museum in Bergen, we had excellent weather and the water was like the proverbial mill-pond on most days (below in Flåm).
The Boudicca is smaller than many cruise ships so it is able to enter some of the smaller fjords, such as the 42-km long Lysefjord (Light Fjord) in SW Norway (below).
The captain took a very hands-on approach to maneuvering his ship in this narrow fjord (below).
The spectacular granite walls of Lysefjord have created some remarkable features, like the famous Preikestolen, or Pulpit Rock (below) which is a near-perfect square, flat-topped rock with sheer drops (600m down) on three sides.
The ‘Pulpit’ is easier to see in this photograph (below). I must say that I was much happier looking up at it than I would have been standing on the edge of the precipice (no fences!).
What is so impressive about these landscapes is their scale. The sheer size of the fjord walls is simply breathtaking and has clearly inspired many artists over the centuries, as a visit to the art galleries of Bergen revealed (below).
Cruises of this sort are a mix of sightseeing and on-board activities, such as song and dance shows. The standard of the shows put on by the singers, dancers and musicians was impressive; there were two shows a night of the action-packed, in this case, rather British (below) programme numbers!
The next fjord we visited was Jøsenfjorden, another small fjord rarely visited by cruise ships. It was necessary to spin the ship round on its axis to turn it around at the end of the fjord.
There’s lots to do on the ship, from deck quoits to sun bathing, although sometimes there’s competition for the best places!
Our first port of call was the small town of Rosendal. There were lots of tours on offer from this location, but I opted for a hike around the countryside. I was first off the ship in the early morning, on a perfectly still day (below).
There were lots of boats and yachts in the harbour; Norway is a rich country with a GDP per capita above US$70,000, thanks to the oil they own and the capital they have wisely invested.
One of the best things about a cruise on a Fred Olsen ship such as this, is the food! There are lots of healthy (and sugar-free) options, and the vegetarian dishes were also very good. The problem is that it is hard to say no! And you very quickly get used to luxuries like fresh cherries in your salad!
The sea food was also good (even though I don’t eat it!).
For the first two ports of call we went ashore on tenders. It’s quite fun going ashore on these spacious crafts, although they are not easy to launch and recover.
There were many additional tours which could be booked on board (below), but for those who like walking, just mooching around for a few hours ashore, is a much cheaper option!
The geography of the Norwegian fjords is incredibly complex, with a myriad islands, rocks and shoals, so a local pilot is taken on board (below).
There were at least two ship’s photographers on board (both from Bali!) and they did a very good job of photographing everybody, such as when we got on (below) and off the ship and at all the special events such the Captain’s cocktail night.
If you want to go to some events, like the Captain’s cocktail night and formal dinner, it is necessary to dress up a bit (below). This was the first time I had worn a bow-tie for at least 30 years!
The second port of call was Flåm, at the head of Aurlandsfjorden (below), with a large cruise ship (the 115,055 ton Azura) berthed at the small dock.
It is said that nearly 500,000 visitors arrive at this tiny little village of Flåm, which is a gateway to many places and offers a variety of tours, including the famous Flåmsbana railway (£55 return!).
Once again, I opted for a long walk and enjoyed the local scenery, including these rather handsome Highland cattle!
We saw lots of local ferries moving up and down the fjords (below), and if I went back this would be the way I would try to see more of the country.
One of the last fjords we visited on this cruise was the spectacular Nærøyfjord (below). This 17 km fjord was appropriately narrow (Naeroy!) in some sections, the thinnest being only 250m wide.
Entrance to Nærøyfjord, if I remember correctly!
The scenery was very dramatic at dusk as we sailed up the Sognefjord on the way out to sea and on to the final port of call, Bergen.
This brief glimpse of the fjords of Southwest Norway stimulated my imagination and it was easy to see how people imagined the landscape to be full of trolls! It is however, a wild landscape with all sorts of living animals, including reindeer (below), elks, wolves, bears and last but not least lemmings! Lots to explore in the future if I get a chance.
Finally, a word about the crew, who were fantastic. They were from many nationalities, although predominantly Philippino, Indonesian and Thai and they all did a great job, cheerfully and efficiently.
Last year (October 2016) I was lucky enough to do a wonderful wildlife cruise in Indonesia, from Bali to Flores, on a small ship called MV Mermaid I (1). These ships are usually used as dive boats, but this trip was devoted to looking out for dolphins, whales and birds – which I described in my previous blog (1) – and we also had plenty of opportunities to go snorkeling.
I took these underwater photographs with a Olympus Tough TG-5 GPS Waterproof camera, mostly with a fish eye converter attached. Unfortunately, I let some seawater in at one stage, and it never recovered from being bathed in seawater. Fortunately, I managed to capture quite a few underwater images before it died!
I wish I had kept a note of where each of the shots were taken (!) but perhaps it does not matter. It was fun to try to capture some of the amazing underwater world, mainly within the Komodo National Park. For those wanting to know exactly where we stopped off to snorkel, the trip report is available online (3).
We were given instructions about the site before each snorkel dive and taken to the coral reef in the small ‘zodiacs’. The Mermaid I dive staff accompanied us and videoed each dive.
There is no question you see more whilst diving, but I have never managed to take a course and I am quite happy just snorkeling.
The water was relatively shallow, so it was quite straightforward to swim down and photograph the more interesting inhabitants of the reef, like this gorgeous blue starfish.
Fish were a little bit more cautious, but I managed to get fairly close to this trigger-fish (I think it is!). They bite! Feisty characters who think they own the place; well I guess they do!
It was a treat to see the famous Clownfish, which lives within a sea anemone’s poisonous tentacles, and has been immortalized by Disney.
The shoals of small iridescent fish – which darted into the crevices in the coral at any sign of danger – were mesmerizing.
I was very happy to see how beautiful and unspoilt the coral was – at least at the places we visited in Komodo NP – although outside the protected areas may be another story. How people can fish using dynamite is difficult to comprehend; so short-sighted and stupid; but blast fishing, as it is called, does still occur, alas. (4)
It was fun to see some giant clams. Some of them are so tightly cemented onto the coral that all you see is the beautiful soft mantle undulating along the rims of the shell.
I think, what I most enjoyed seeing were the corals. They come in all shapes and sizes, soft and hard, with a myriad of different textures.
The boundaries between different coral types were often sharp and I suppose they were competing with each other for space on the reef.
I should have made more use of the library of books on board the Mermaid I, and sorted out the names and species of all the different soft and hard corals, but it was more relaxing to just sit back and watch; just enjoying the spectacle without necessarily putting a name to it all. Next time perhaps! I certainly would like to know what this purple creature is (see below).
It was a wonderful experience, a sort of dream, but eventually we had to wake up and leave our underwater somnambulations. Here I am coming up for air!
And I can’t finish without a shot of the boat (sorry, ship!) Mermaid I.
Some incredible images in this National Geographic piece. There were more than 40,000 submissions from ‘My Shot’ contributors, including me! Only 39 images were chosen. Not one of mine – I’ll keep trying – but I think you will agree, the chosen photographs were all amazing!
It was a very hot day when I visited Doi Inthanon, Thailand’s highest mountain (at 2565 metres or 8415 feet), in early May this year. Temperatures in Chiang Mai city had reached 40 deg C the day before, but it was much cooler up the mountain. There are large tracts of different types of forest on this mountain – Doi Inthanon National Park covers an area of about of about 482 square kms – but it is often shrouded in cloud near the top.
Unfortunately, the top of the mountain was rather cloudy on 7th May, so we headed further down, stopping off at a number of waterfalls, where I hoped to photograph butterflies.
One of the most beautiful falls on the mountain is Wachirathan Falls, just over 20 km into the NP, which is a magnificent spectacle, even in the dry season. Unfortunately, there were not many butterflies about, or the ones that were flying about were rather inaccessible, so I decided to head further down to the ever popular Mae Klang Waterfall. This lies just outside the boundaries of the NP, so is more heavily visited by picnickers and sightseers.
There was much less water flowing than in previous visits; compare the photograph above (taken in May, before the rains have arrived) with that taken in November (at the end of the rainy season) in a previous year.
Mae Klang waterfall is at an altitude of about 1,200 m or so, so is much hotter than further up the mountain, and there were plenty of butterflies around! The problem was that because of the high temperatures, the butterflies were flying about so fast it was very difficult to photograph them! One of the more obliging species was the Common Leopard Butterfly (Phalanta phalantha), which were present in quite large numbers along the stream beds next to the river.
The butterflies were ‘puddling’ or ‘mud-puddling’ as it is called; they are trying to absorb sodium (in the form of sodium chloride, salt) or nitrogen (in the form of amino acids) from moist substrates such as mud, animal excrement, rotting fruits, carrion, dung, bird droppings, sweat, tears and so on (See 1: See you down the puddle). Curiously, many of these Common Leopard butterflies were sucking up moisture from the rocks themselves (below). There must have been a thin layer of water on the rocks, which may have produced a solution of salts or minerals attractive to these insects.
Despite being engaged in mud- or moisture-puddling, the butterflies did not stay put for long, and usually flew off as soon as the lumbering photographer approached them! I did not manage to get as close as I would have liked, but after taking dozens of shots, I managed to get a few usable ones.
These butterflies take about three weeks to develop from egg to adult (at 28 deg C) and the larvae feed on flowering plants in the Willow family (Salicaceae) including Flacourtia inermis and Salix babylonica (Links 2 and 3).
There were also quite large numbers of yellow/green butterflies flying about, at amazing speeds! One often sees pictures of stationary butterflies, which fail to do justice to the extraordinary vitality of these insects. Butterflies can be very fast fliers – especially the nippy little Skippers, which can reach speeds of up to 60 km per hour! Skippers are shaped like little jet fighters! As the following photograph illustrates.
I did manage to grab a couple of photographs of the lively yellow/green butterflies, which turned out to be Lemon Emigrants, feeding on nectar from Lantana flowers.
I also came across this little skink – a Streamside Skink (Sphenomorphus maculatus) – on the rocks near the waterfalls (below).
The waterfalls are a good place to cool off on a hot day, and people like to sit and relax on the rocks beside the streams. There are plenty of small restaurants and vendors nearby providing food and snacks for visitors.
So even when temperatures are unbearably hot, there are many places to go to chill out, whether you are a butterfly, skink or primate!
Rayalu, M. B., Kumari, V. K., Naidu, M. T., & Atluri, J. B. (2014). Life history and larval performance of the Common Leopard butterfly, Phalanta phalantha Drury (Lepidoptera: Rhopalocera: Nymphalidae). International Journal of Advanced Research in Science and Technology, 3, 191-195.
Anyone who has visited the beautiful temple – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – on the mountain above Chiang Mai, in northern Thailand, and has walked up the long flight of stairs rather than taken the funicular lift, will have seen the lovely little girls in Hill tribe costumes who sit on the bottom of the steps – and half way up – posing for photographs. They are dressed in traditional Hmong costumes.
Over the years I have visited this temple a number of times and have pictures of what must be different generations of youngsters sitting on the steps, going back to 2005.
The girls don’t just dress up in these gorgeous costumes for fun, although they clearly enjoy interacting with tourists, they usually ask for payment. A few coins. Although, being so young they are not very aggressive in asking. Nevertheless, in my estimation they must accumulate a fair bit of money over the course of a few hours. I could be wrong, but I have the impression that they are little gold mines!
Nevertheless, I was very surprised to learn that two of the girls had been accused of stealing a tourist’s watch! (Links 1 and 2, below) A British tourist who had posed for a photograph with the girls, subsequently found that her watch was missing and accused them of stealing it. In the photograph, one little girl has her fingers next to the watch, but the evidence is circumstantial. The photograph and story went viral, and like millions of other people around the world I was left with the impression that this was the end of the story.
It was a good story! Innocent-faced little ‘treasures’ pocket a tourist’s watch! But it turns out that it was false (See Link 3) The tourist eventually found the watch, but by then the damage was done. There are still articles on the Web accusing the children of theft (4).
This is one little apocryphal story (definition: of doubtful authenticity, although widely circulated as being true) which thanks to the power of social media, reached millions of people around the world, and left most of them with the impression that it was true. Well maybe there are child pick-pockets, and perhaps I am naive, but my impression is that they were innocent. What it demonstrates however, is that once a story has ‘gone viral’ there is very little that can be done to change it, whatever the facts may be. This is why politicians – who could I mean?! – are prepared to lie and promote falsehoods; they know that if the story is juicy enough, or salacious, it will get picked up by social medias – which we all use – and shared or spread by us all. I suppose all we can do is to remain skeptical, cautious about things until proven beyond reasonable doubt; perhaps not believing everything we see or read and remaining open to alternative explanations!
Spring has come early this year. The world is warming up; 2016 was the warmest year since record-keeping began (in 1880). (1) Perhaps 2017 will be even warmer? The countryside in Bedfordshire is waking up; shaking itself free of winter’s cloak and putting on a new dress of green leaves and spring flowers! Sprays of blossom are appearing, like this Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) twig (below).
One of my favourite walks, is between Sharnbrook and Felmersham and back, in Bedfordshire. An easy stroll along the banks of the Great Ouse towards the village of Felmersham and then back through the Felmersham Gravel Pits, which are a 21.6 hectare Site of Special Scientific Interest. I took these photographs along this walk on 1st April 2017, with a small camera (an Olympus Pen EP-3 fitted with a 17mm lens; 34mm equivalent).
St Mary’s Church at Felmersham was build between 1220 and 1240; it doesn’t look that old! (2)
The 5-arched stone bridge, on the other hand, looks very old, but was ‘only’ built in 1818!
The gravel pits in the Nature Reserve were dug out during the second World War when the gravel was used in the construction of local war-time air fields. (3) The pits are now lakes and much beloved of waterfowl, including ducks, geese, swans, grebes and so on. It is a magical place that I have visited for many years; very relaxing to walk beside the lakes and ponds and reflect on the reflections!
There are certain spots where I must have taken dozens of pictures, but the scene is always changing; not only through the year, but also from year to year as the vegetation grows, or is cut back by conservators to create spaces for nature.
Spot the goose! No fishermen at this time of year. Angling is apparently by Wildlife Trust permit only. (4)
Some new flowers were starting to appear on 1st April. The primroses have been out for some time, but this was the first time I came across cowslips. These had wonderful colours; were they wild or garden escapes? I don’t know.
The vegetation beneath the water was also blooming! Large water-lily leaves could be seen (below).
This year’s reeds have not yet emerged, however. The brown reeds are leftover from last year (below).
In one corner of a lake, reeds had been piled up by the wind along the bank.
Trees vary from species to species in terms of when their leaves first appear. The leaves on this bush overhanging the water, were just starting to appear, breaking out of their buds.
One of the pleasures of travelling a familiar path is that you see old favourites in a new light, as well as coming across new things. The world is always changing and it is our blessing to be able to witness it, albeit briefly.