Tuesday, June 15, 2010

cloudbusting



This evening , just before it got dark , there were interesting clouds in the sky above Nice.

A thunderstorm has been threatening all evening and the sky was full of thundery clouds. Not the usual thundery clouds, but Mammatus clouds - which are named because they resemble mammary glands or udders.


Of course, once I noticed I had to take a photo but by the time I got my camera, the cloud formation had softened and a few minutes later , it had disappeared altogether.

The mammatus clouds aren't very common but they usually signify heavy weather -unfortunately the storm hasn't started yet so its very clammy and headache-inducing weather.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Pretty Flamingo

A few weeks back, I visited the Var estuary bird sanctuary with my new camera.
The area is called 'la petite camargue' since it is like a very tiny version of the Camargue , an area of river delta and salt marsh , further along the coast.

Its an odd little bird sanctuary, sandwiched between a huge shopping centre and the airport with the river in the middle , but its a very important stopping off point for migrating birds.


While I was there, I was quite privileged to see two Greater or European flamingoes flying in.
I didn't get any photos of the birds of the birds in flight but I was able to watch them land while I fumbled taking my camera out of my bag.

The flamingoes were slightly off course on their migration trip from North Africa back to the Camargue.
One immediately retreated into the reed beds, but the other stayed in the open.


They have such amazingly flexible necks - they manage to twizzle into snaky 's' shapes with ease.

I find it hard to see flamingoes and not think of Alice and Red Queen playing croquet -even though I know they are just quietly filtering plantkon out of the water with their peculiar-looking beaks.




The flamingo flew over to the reedbeds , nearer to its companion. The reeds grow to an amazing height and its really difficult to see anything once it has penetrated beyond the first layer.


The flamingo fluffed up briefly, showing off its bright pink feathers.
I'd love to go to the Camargue at some point and spend some time viewing [and photographing] the giant flocks of flamingoes . That is definitely something on my wish list.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Arranged



A few weeks ago, the giant Marché d’Intérêt National de NICE. {MIN}, a kind of wholesale food and flower market for market traders and shops had an open weekend so that ordinary people see behind the scenes and buy merchandise.

I really admired this stall selling cacti and succluents. I thought the arrangment was really lovely but I wondered if people actually bought anything since the stall looked so much like a very ordered still life.

I like the different shapes, colours and spiny arangements on the cacti.
This huge cactus had a hefty asking price. I wouldn't fancy lugging something like that home on the bus.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Nine Inch Nails

A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Tourettes-Levens Mediaeval fair.

One of the acts was a comedy strongman/ acrobat/juggler team who kept the crowd thoroughly entertained.


We ended up right at the front of the crowd, so we got to test the nails and check that they weren't blunt or fake. The strongman also dropped oranges on the nails to show they were quite sharp.




The piece of yellow paper was part of the humourous banter - it was intended to make the bed of nails ''more comfortable''.



The strongman's partner went into the crowd and chose a victim to help with the act. This guy had to stand on the strongman's chest whilst the strongman lay on the nails. I always find these things worrying in case the audience member does something unexpected and dangerous -but it passed without incident, thankfully.
When the strongman sat up, we could see the many indentations in his back from the tips of the nails -though no blood or broken skin.


The strongman was also a fire-eater, he managed to produce some huge plumes of smoke and fire.

I suppose he must be used to the taste but the smell of the fuel was really quite pungent.


Saturday, May 01, 2010

Photo Friday -Sexy


I must admit that i couldn't think of any of my photos that could be described as 'sexy'.

So, I made a conscious effort to find something for the topic yesterday , though I was a bit limited by being in a forest.

Maybe, most humans wouldn't find the following images sexy, but I expect the photos might make spiders blush..

These are some Long Jawed Orb weaver spiders mating by a lake.



There appeared to be a fly wrapped in spider silk at about 8 o'clock on the web. I suspect that was a mating gift from the male spider.

It turns out that these Long Jawed spiders have an unusual mating strategy. Unlike some other spiders which requires the male to mate first, before all the other rivals; the Long Jawed orb weavers have a last male priority . So , its advantageous for male spiders to be the last spider lover, which accounts for the the voyeur spiders that were hanging arround the web , watching the antics.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sunshine




Our cat , Gandalf, toasting his face in a patch of sunlight. I loved the dramatic light and the reflections in his eye.




Saturday, April 10, 2010

Overcast -PhotoFriday

Hotel Negresco's famous dome on an overcast day.

This was taken a few weeks back when we had snow in Nice - very unusual weather for the South of France. Normally, we have blue skies most days, even in winter.

Nice and the South of France were originally winter holiday resorts as the  Victorians wanted to escape the dreary Northern winters.



The dome of the Negresco pictured here was supposedly designed by Gustav Eiffel but I'm not sure if that has ever been definitely proven. Edouard Niermans was the architect for the  whole hotel.

The luxury hotel opened in 1912 but was  requisitioned in 1914 and used as a war hospital for wounded WW1 soldiers  . The lack of high paying guests during the war  and the vast expenditure on the building work bankrupted  the original owner, Henri Negresco.

The Negresco Hotel is now classed as a Historic monument .


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Biot and the Templars

In 1209 , the Count of Provence donated the village of Biot and some of the surrounding land to the local Knights Templar. Biot became the most important and rich Templar stronghold in the area for almost one hundred years , until various Papal and Royal decress excommunicated the Templars and confiscated their lands.

Biot village celebrates the Templars every year with a mediaeval fair and re-enactments of the donation of Biot and other events in local Templar history.
There are classical music and choral music concerts, lectures and discussions, and religious services as well as the usual craftsfolk, living history troupes, acrobats and street perfomers, etc

These are some modern Templars marching off the field of combat at the fair.The costuming and attention to detail is amazing.

One drummer drumming out the pace for the marching Templars.
The standrard bearer marching in the procession.


Some other knights-I can't remember their exact allegiance but they were the opponents of the Templars in the combat displays so intended to represent the King at the time of the consfication of land in 1308.

The chainmail and helmets must have been swelteringly hot to wear in the sunshine while walking, never mind when running about with a big sword and shield.


The smith hard at work at his portable forge.


This was one of the beggar and leper troupe. They had an encampment in the village and at time wandered around announcing their presence with clappers, wooden rattles [like old fashioned footbal rattles] and bells and begging for alms.
This guy was wandering around begging kisses from people.

The makeup was excellent and even though we all knew the sores etc were fake, there was still an automatic reflex to recoil away from the affiction. It was very odd to react like that as I am not a squeamish person at all.

A very colourful character with a tame crow and a tiny terrier peeking out of the bag.
Maybe its meant to be a mediaeval version of the portable miniature chihuahua.

The crow was really amazing -raised from very young but this one wasn't able to mimic human sp[eech.

Several members of the crow family [ crows, magpies, jackdaws etc] are better talkers/mimics than the more exotic 'talking' birds and they used to be kept as pets by poorer people -right back to the middle ages.



Some of the female camp followers in the Templar procession.

On the right -the open sides of the pinafore type dress [surcot] were initially called 'Hell's windows' because it was thought that men would tempted by the daring cut away sides , which revealed the womans shape and potentially lead to men's hands wandering. Side lacing makes the surcot slightly more chaste.

On rare occasions, an elf is seen in the crowd. I've noticed one or two turning up at medieval fairs here in recent years.


The singer here was an incredibly jolly Italian chap with a very infectious grin. He was singing Mediaeval and renaissance songs and encouraging audience participation with the choruses.
The musicians in the background were trying hard to keep their faces straight.


This guy was one of several who had birds of prey for hawking. Its an American hawk of some kind, rather than a European species.


A sundial , sunny coloured house and sun dried washing on the line.



Close-up you can see the gnomen is an arrow shot into the sun. The Provençal motto translates as 'the sun shines for everyone'.




This arrow piercing a heart was on the roof of a different house.
One of the cobbled streets -fairly typical for mediaeval villages in this area.

I liked this carving of a lion or cat embedded in one of the village walls. It looked like it had been firedamaged at some point in its history but it had presumably been rescued and re-used.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Up above the streets and houses...

Some atmospheric shots of  the Nice observatory wreathed in clouds  with a rainbow stretched over it.

The full rainbow wasn't visible but the clouds and light were very dramatic.  



  The rainbow didn't last long - it just faded over a cuple of minutes . The clouds around the observatory dissipated quite quickly too.


I've had the Rainbow theme tune stuck in my head since I took these photos the other evening. Its always some madly annoying song , never something I actually like.Rainbow was the UK's answer to Sesame Street in the 70s and 80s and it now has a sort of cult following. There are lots of clips on YouTube of the puppets Zippy, Bungle and  George and the very odd-seeming  human presenters. 

You can even find the infamous risqué 'twanger' sketch that was filmed as an in-house  joke but never ever  broadcast. 

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Frosty

A lot has happened in the last few months , too much to sum up in a few words. Hopefully, the worst has passed.

This is a shot of York Racecourse in the snow at the end of December. I loved the shadows from the rails and the faded colours in the sky.


I couldn't resist taking some shots of the frost on the fence posts even though i didn't have a monopod or tripod with me. [All of the macro shots are all handheld with controlled breathing.]

Close-up, frost looks like anglar foliage or moss.


Closer still, the frost crystals show off their geometric shapes.

The crystals remind me of spun glass

Incredibly tiny , and far too small for human eyes to see without magnification , but breathtakingly lovely.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Speed Of Flight

Hummingbird Hawk-moths , Macroglossum stellatarum, regularly get mistaken for humming birds despite the fact that humming birds are never found in the Old World.


The moths are quite unusual as they fly during the day, even in the rain and hover when feeding from flowers.


The moths migrate to northern Europe but only breed in the warm south.
Their wings beat fast enough to make a humming noise and this also makes them very difficult to photograph.

These are the best humming bird hawk moth photos i've managed to take so far. I'm pleased I managed to get the details of eyes and long tongue.