Fringe time!

It’s Edinburgh, it’s August and that means festival time – the city is bursting at the seams with the Edinburgh International Festival The Art Festival, The Edinburgh International Book Festival and, of course, the world’s largest arts festival, the Fringe.

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And that means me taking a lot of photos, mostly on the Royal Mile, where the performers traditionally congregate to try to build an audience – with hundreds of shows you really have to fight for bums on seats at the Fringe, and a lot of shows often don’t get many while others sell out, so being noticed is all important, with many out in costumes and make-up, others perform small snippets from their shows on the wee stages set up along the Mile, and it’s just packed pretty much wall to wall on the section of the Mile along by the Cathedral. Happy hunting ground for taking pics, first year I have been using the new camera, which is still a bridge camera but with manual zoom and manual focus, which has been a real boon, much quicker and easier than relying on auto-focus, especially in a busy, chaotic street environment with lots of movement of folks.

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As always click the pics to see the larger sized versions over on my Flickr photo stream.

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That manual zoom and focus is proving damned handy for taking quick shots of moving performers, and the larger zoom means I can get in a bit closer for capturing this kind of shot:

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Sometimes masks must be used to protect the innocent…

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Plenty of singing on the Fringe too:

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Not to mention dance:

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And some enchanting smiles

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Watched over by the Fringe Police! You picked the wrong festival to haul ass through, boy!

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And of course there is some clowning around Fringe on the Mile 2016 089

Festival time

Yes, it’s August and in Edinburgh that means festival time – the Fringe started last week, the world’s biggest arts festival is underway, and this weekend the world’s largest celebration of the written word, the Edinburgh International Book Festival started. The city is buzzing and packed. And naturally, as usual, I have been clicking away with the camera, especially on the Royal Mile where performers get a space to advertise their shows, some doing small segments of their act to crowds or out in costume handing out flyers to drum up interest in their shows, always a happy hunting ground for taking photos. My Flickr stream normally goes nuts in August, often doubling the normal average views, mostly people looking for Fringe pics, from this year but also looking through the several hundred I’ve built up from previous years.

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(above: this very lovely puppeteer is performing in a stage adaptation of the wonderful children’s book The Velveteen Rabbit; below: actress from Pool of Blood)
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Some performers take it all lying down…

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This lady was doing body art and henna tattoos on the Mile while the performers strutted their stuff, the sunlight hit her and the woman she was working on just right and I managed to get this close up of her plying her art on the lady’s hand, sometimes you get lucky:

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And I got very lucky with this one as the actress held still in a pose with the sunlight hitting her just right, had time to frame her for a profile portrait shot. Quite pleased with how this came out, makes me think of a shot from a 1930s/40s fashion magazine:

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She was part of this troupe, preparing the electric chair from the looks of it:

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Who else do I see on a very sunny (yes, we have had a couple of days of sun! Finally!) Royal Mile but Spider-Man!

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And her majesty Queen Elizabeth I:

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It can be very tiring, the non-stop hurly-burly of the Fringe, so a nap is a good way to recharge – why not just carry your own bed with your for a wee lie down when you feel your energy flagging?

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Some very colourful dancers and musicians from Mother Africa:

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Very exuberant!

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I even saw a man playing the musical saw (and numerous other items from his tool box too!)

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Quick video to capture his playing:

These performers were putting on what looked like a WWII themed Macbeth

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I’ve seen this young chap several times now at the Fringe (usually always with a different hair style), I think I have shots of him going back the last two or three years juggling firesticks and knives, he’s very good

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And this was the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s director Nick Barley at the opening night party on Saturday night

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had a very nice time at the opening party (have several book fest gigs to look forward to over next couple of weeks), plenty of drinks on offer to us, got to chat to some book chums – here’s top science fiction author Ken MacLeod talking with author and academic JF Derry:

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It was too warm inside the Spiegeltent at the Book Festival so once the speeches were over we went back outside. My friend Melanie was at an author event which came out during the party and the book fest folks were nice enough to let her come in and join me, so we sat out under a glowing summer night sky as the festival buzzed around the city chatting and drinking

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And while we were out there I got this great shot of Scottish poet Ron Butlin (left) with my friend JF:

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Already shot ridiculous amount of Fringe photos and been uploading them steadily to my Flickr – quite often shoot another few dozen walking home along the Mile after work, but the weather is supposed to be back to horrid rain again for the next few days so suspect I won’t be walking along taking photos then! Still have a large amount waiting to process and upload though, so that’s not a problem! More to follow…

Festival time

It’s August, it’s Festival time, the city is incredibly busy and the Fringe begins properly this weekend, although some performers have been doing preview shows for several days already. Came out of work yesterday a bit late, rainy day had gone and sun had put his hat back on, so I thought I’d de-stress by walking up the Royal Mile with the camera out and start bagging my first Fringe pics of 2011, got a bunch already, doubtless as usual I will take far too many over the next few weeks. First Fringe with the new camera, which technically is a better camera than my old, deceased on, but I got some great work out of that old one so the new one has a lot to live up to. Certainly worked nicely last night as I bagged my first couple of dozen Fringe pics with it, starting with this group from Diamond Dick, who were all dressed and made up in the style of 1920s silent movie folks:

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(I am such a sucker for that Louise Brooks style...)

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and this scene with the Fringe performers trying to bring a smile to an infant’s face was just to cute not to snap as it happened right in front of me:

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If it runs like previous years I’m sure I’ll have plenty more pics to follow through August on my Flickr, which has now reached to a ridiculous more than 6, 000 images level..

Nocturnal cycling piano player

A couple of evenings ago I was drinking in the city’s Grassmarket, an area I rarely drink in these days – its mostly tourists and first year students who go there – but I was meeting some friends who have been working abroad and arranged to meet several folks there. The whole square has been done up recently to make it more open; if you don’t know the city its a square behind and below the imposing bulk of Edinburgh Castle in the Old Town, one side lined with pubs and inns, some of which are very old (going back to the 1500s), some of which, when they were actual coaching inns, played host to Robert Burns on visits to Edinburgh. And as we sat outside on a warm evening we heard music. Not unusual in a public square, especially during the Edinburgh Festival. And we all turn to see where it is coming from and we see a man in evening dress and top hat cycling his piano through the Grassmarket as he plays. When I told other people of this the next day I got the ‘oh, Joe’s off on one of his magical fantasy land tales again’ looks, but I have documentary evidence:


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I must apologise for the low quality of the pics, but shooting freehand (not that a tripod would have helped if I had it since he was moving most of the time) in a dark square at night is never going to give crisp, clear pics and the flash wasn’t much use in that situation either. But I had to try and grab some pics because even in Festival time Edinburgh you just don’t see a man cycling a piano through the city streets at night all that often. It was all wonderfully eccentric and delightful and magical and I loved it. Little bizarre delights like this that the city sometimes just throws up to you are part of what makes life fun. And here’s a very short video clip – its brief and even darker than the still pics, very murky night-time streets (and far away from the street lamps) but it was the best I could do on the spot to give you a tiny taste of this piano moving through the streets as he played:




Fringe time

Its Edinburgh, its August, its time for the first stirrings of the world’s largest arts festival. The Fringe starts officially over the weekend, but already most shows are in town and running their (much cheaper tickets) previews. The husband and son of Mel’s cousin are over from Norway and I met them all straight from work at the Pleasance, one of the main spots for Fringe life. Mel and I introduced the Fringe newbies to our laid back way of doing it, which is to park out bums on a seat in the cobbled courtyard of the Pleasance (a hub with dozens of shows going on all the time, from tiny rooms to proper theatre sized shows) and wait for the many people coming round giving out flyers and telling folks about shows until we saw one we liked and off we went to see Son of a Preacher man, a stand-up comedy with Markus Birdman, an aetheist son of a clergyman – it was brilliant and I highly recommend it if you’re going Fringeing.

Afterwards we headed back down to the Royal Mile to get some food at Wannaburger and as we approached the Old College Building we heard a powerful beat and decided to have a quick look. We found Binari, a Korean musical group pounding drums in the old quadrangle, the sounds echoing around the space as they performed a sound check, that wonderful, almost frantic and kinetic drumming and singing. And its just so cool that walking past somewhere you just come across something like this, but that’s what happens in Edinburgh at this time of year. Its a circus, its maddening, busy and crazy and at the same time brilliant.

Last time I was in this building was for the launch of a major Scottish history book in the gorgeous Neo-Classical space of the Playfair Library, this time it is Korean musicians in the quad filling the night with music. After we’d had a late meal we walked up the Royal Mile, even near 11pm still buzzing with people as the Fringe starts up then as we approached the top of the Mile we had another treat.

A rehearsal for the Royal Military Tattoo was finishing up at the Castle and the cavalry were leading their horses down towards the horse boxes to take them home. Imagine a warm summer night in the middle of the Old Town, lights from the Tattoo flickering across the Castle and bagpipes playing while the clip-clop, clip-clop of horse’s hooves come down from the Castle, creak of leather and clink of metal as cavalry troops lead their immaculately groomed animals down the cobbled street then round past the hub to the waiting transports. Even in Edinburgh this isn’t exactly an everyday sight.

How beautiful is this horse? Just think, this is all happening in the heart of a capital city at 11pm, with a huge castle right behind me as I took this while behind the horse you can see the floodlit Herriot’s School which at night looks like where very young wizards get sent before they are old enough to go to Hogwarts.

Even at that time of night you can see the sky just doesn’t get fully dark at this time of year. Shame I didn’t have the tripod to take these properly but obviously I wasn’t quite expecting this. A little bit on unexpected magic.