Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Portland Pirate Festival 2009

This year we finally got the majority of the family to the Portland Pirate Festival. The first year of the festival, I attended the festival alone and covered the festival for the St. Johns Sentinel. The next couple of years, Wanda, Amber and Makayla attended with me, and Ryker attended last year even though he was only a couple of weeks old. This year, we went all out and even brought Greg and Nikki (and all of us were in costume, I might add). Unfortunately, Jeremy, Kristin and Jocelyn weren't able to be with us. Had they been, it would have been truly a terrific festival. Wanda and I hope we get to attend the Arizona Ren Faire with them in the spring of next year.

We did get quite elaborate this year. I had the idea to decorate one of the Radio Flyer wagons as a pirate ship and had thought to simply add some cardboard cutouts and a flag to the wagon and that would be it. Once I made the suggestion, though, Wanda, Amber and Greg took off running with it. Amber drew ship outlines onto plywood and Greg cut them out and designed a method to mount them onto the wagons, and added some neat modifications such as cup holders, restraints for the handles, mounts for the pirate flags, and cannons on the port and starboard sides. Amber designed images for the ships and Wanda painted them with bright colors. Amber and I added cannon balls and fake smoke to the cannons. Pretty quickly we had a two ship squadron of pirate vessels. They were certainly a hit at the Pirate Festival. We had to stop every few feet for folks to take photos. It certainly didn't hurt that we had a couple of cute pirates manning the rails.

Wanda made Ryker a cute little pirate's outfit and we bought one for Makayla some weeks before the festival. With all the costume materials at our place, we didn't have any difficulty coming up with appropriate outfits for all the adults. We remembered to bring blankets this year to watch the shows, and we even thought to bring a tarp for the wet ground.

When we arrived the the gypsies were on stage, and while they were quite fun to watch, the kids had little interest in them. So we spent the first hour of the festival checking out the shops, the food vendors, and the children's play area. There were definitely fewer vendors this year, and fewer activities for the children. Many of the same entertainers were there, though, including the Boom Pirates, Captain Bog and Salty, and the belly dancers.

There seemed to be lots more attendees in costume this year, though the Saturday crowd was smaller. I think the smaller crowd was due to the weather. The lack of vendors was probably due to the economic downturn. I suspect many of them went out of business over the last year. Still, there was plenty to see and do. The food was plentiful, there was a beer garden, and the weather turned out to be quite nice for the festival.

Of course, the reason Makayla came to the festival was for Captain Bog and Salty. For the entire week leading up to the festival, she had us playing the Captain Bog CD and specifically Nellie the Elephant and The Pegleg Tango so she and Ryker could dance to the tunes. Ryker especially loves the Nellie the Elephant song. It has a part where the song starts out on a long, low note and then rises to a very bouncy and bright chorus. During that crescendo he just starts giggling and laughing in anticipation and then when the chorus arrives, he bobs and dances his little heart out.

The band got off to a rough start. There was a power failure about 10 minutes into their show (their portable generator died), but they recovered nicely and put on an excellent show for the kids. Ryker and Makayla both had a grand time dancing to the songs, as did all the other kids there, including some "big kids" who looked to be well into their 20's and 30's. They seemed to be pirate groupies.

Rogue Brewery had a tent set up with several varieties of beer and wine and well as some quite delicious pizza. The Pirate Wenches serving there were easy on the eye, and the beer was easy on the throat. There were plenty of other food vendors with delicious treats as well. Chowder bowls made from bread and filled with New England style clam chowder seemed to be quite popular as did the African dishes. As can be expected with any festival there were also sweet treats such as elephant ears and a very interesting rosemary lemonade.

A big part of any festival for me, though, is watching, photographing and interacting with the people who attend and get into the spirit of the event. When you're in costume yourself, the interactions are friendly and fun, and I had a number of short conversations with various groups of people throughout the day. All of them were quite willing to pose for me and happy to have their photo taken.

Here are some of the images taken throughout the day:

Wanda had a lovely costume complete with boots, chains, a hat and a wonderful smile:

A small group of Pirate Wenches looking quite lovely in their festive attire:

Here's the lovely lass who ran the games for the smaller children. She's been a fixture at the festival for at least a couple of years.

The Beer Wench and a lucky customer from the Rogue Brewery Tent:

After we had been at the fair for a couple of hours, we met some of our daughters' high school friends, Holly and Jenny. They're sisters and Jenny spent quite a lot of time at our house when she was high school with our daughters.

Makayla and her grandmother had fun sword fighting. Makayla's favorite phrase was "Give me your treasure." She seem to be able to wrangle a few dollars out of me, so it must have worked.

Nikki enjoyed cuddling her nephew:

Of course, Papa had fun too - even though his earring got ripped off at least a half a dozen times!

THe Portland Pirate Festival is held every September in Cathedral Park underneath the St. Johns bridge. It's a wonderful setting for a fun event and I hope it will continue to be an annual festival for pirates of all ages for years to come.

Friday, September 4, 2009

August 2009 Roadtrip

Last weekend, Wanda and I decided to take a couple of days for ourselves and do some driving and shooting. We got up very early on Friday morning, 4 am if you can believe it, and drove down to Crater Lake for the day. My goal was to shoot some landscapes in infrared, and Wanda's was simply to get away from the house and spend some time in nature. She finds the lake a very restful and peaceful place, and wanted to get out of town for a a bit as well.

It's quite the drive from Portland to Crater Lake. It typically takes anywhere from 5 - 6 hours depending on the traffic and the road conditions. Because we left so early, there was very little traffic to impede our travel, and we made to the North Entrance of the park around 9 am. We checked the weather the night before, and unfortunately the forecast had changed from earlier in the week from mostly sunny to mostly cloudy with a chance of showers. Since we had made plans for the entire weekend which included some time in Bend shooting the Cascade Lakes and visiting with some friends, the trip was on regardless of the weather.

When we got to the Crater Rim, the water was so still and quiet that the clouds were reflected almost perfectly such that it looked as though you were looking down into the sky. We took the time to hike up to the Watchman's Tower which is where the above shot was taken. The hike took us about and hour, and it was quite windy at the top of crater rim where the tower was located, so we didn't linger too long admiring the view. It was kind of neat to look down into the small crater at the top of Wizard Island though.

After our short hike, we continued around the crater rim to the Rim Village where we had a cup of hot chocolate, purchased some souvenirs as gifts for the grandkids, and walked down to the Crater Lake Lodge. While there, I took the opportunity to take a few infrared landscape shots of the island. That image can be seen above.

From the Rim Village we drove down to the Pinnacles. These are geological formations created when fumeroles were fused, buried by subsequent eruptions and then years later exposed when the surrounding ash and soil were eroded away. They are strange and interesting formations, and Wanda had some fun shooting them with one of my cameras.

The Pinnacles:

As we wrapped up shooting the Pinnacles, it began to drizzle, and though we had planned a picnic lunch, we decided to finish the rim drive, exit the park where we entered, and then head on up to Bend for dinner and a good night's sleep. We had reservations for two nights at a hotel in the Old Mill District, and we knew there was a weekend concert and art show planned during the our stay.

We got into town around 5 pm, checked into our room and decided to check out the art show before dinner. There quite a number of booths set up and an eclectic collection of art on display - sculptures, photographs, quilts, paintings, crystal, glasswork, and much more. We didn't purchase anything, but we had fun walking around and looking at the various displays.

After the short walk through the art show, we stopped for dinner at Greg's Grill. The meal was quite delicious, but the most enjoyable part of the evening, was sitting around the large gas firepit outside the restaurant enjoying the music from the concert and chatting with the locals. While we were there savoring the company, the music and our drinks, the weather began to clear and soon we were able to enjoy a lovely sunset. Unfortunately, with our previous 4 am wakeup call, we had to call it an early night and head to bed.

The next day we met with some friends for coffee, then headed out to shoot the Cascade Lakes for another day of shooting. We managed to get in some photography at Sparks Lake and Devil's Lake, but not much at any of the other lakes because of the sheer number of people out enjoying the day.

On our way back into Bend from our day's outing, we stopped at a meadow by Spark's Lake and had our picnic of hummus, flatbread, fruit and cheese. It was a quiet and peaceful meal and most relaxing for both of us. Afterwards, we did a little more shooting, and Wanda managed to catch me in my classic "shooting a landscape pose." And here's the final shot from that day:

When we got back into town, we stashed our gear in the hotel room, then took a short walk downtown to the Deschutes Brew Pub for a locally brewed beer. Later that evening we met our friends for dinner, had another lovely meal with good conversation, and got a good night's sleep before our trip home the next day. Before we went to sleep, however, Wanda made sure we got the laptop out and planned our next few get-away weekends in advance.