Olympia International Horse Show 2014

As has become tradition, the AD and I made our way to the International Horse Show at Olympia.  I was surprisingly organised this year and managed to secure decent seats for the Thursday evening.  I actually got to see the Puissance live! (But, then, the power of twitter may have already let you know that).

Here are some of my favourite photographs from the night, in roughly chronological order.

Four Time Penalties
Four Time Penalties
Soraya de l’Obstination, ridden by USA’s Reed Kessler, coming in just half an inch too low on fence 3 of the Christmas Pudding Stakes show jumping.

Mersley Chakotay flying by
Mersley Chakotay flying by
Ridden by Great Britain’s William Whitaker.

Madame Ballerina
Madame Ballerina
Madame Ballerina, trained by Tracy Flower, showing the rest of the field how it’s done in a winning round.

Cossack Attack
Cossack Attack

These guys – the Ukranian Cossacks – are ridiculously nimble on horse back.

… But it get’s nimbler!

Vaulting Display

The Metropolitan Police are, of course, not to be out-done.

Metropolitan Police Display
Metropolitan Police Display
Yes, real flames and a full canter crossing paths.

Now for the main event – the Puissance.

Making It Look Easy
Made It Look Easy
Fantomas de Muze, ridden by Belgium’s Karline De Brabander.

High Clearance
High Clearance
Noctambule Courcelle, ridden by Guy Williams playing at home.

Armani the Gun CH, ridden by Puis Schwizer for Switzerland.

Making it Look Hard
Made It Look Hard
Fantomas de Muze and Karline De Brabander again. They cleared it, and finished in a respectable second place behind:

The Winning Jump
Winning Jump
David Simpson on Richi Rich, winning it for Ireland.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Peruvian Street

It’s been ages since I did any street photography – but I managed to get back to it on my South American adventure.  Here’s some that made the cut; I’ll shut up and let them speak for themselves*.  Not having any better ideas, apart from heretically displaying them in colour, I shall show you them in chronological order.

Cyclist – Lima
Cyclist - Lima


Ollantaytembo side street
Ollantaytambo side street


Mercado Central de San Pedro  – Cusco I
Mercado Central de San Pedro  - Cusco I


Mercado Central de San Pedro  – Cusco II
Mercado Central de San Pedro - Cusco II


* Apart from the gas canisters you scrolled past to get to this note – I can’t figure them out either.  And that wasn’t the only bicycle I saw similarly laden.

The Uncollected Wildlife – Galapagos

IguanaPEG2014 - Iguana

Following from last week and the week before, this is the last set of images from by me from the Galapagos (for a while at least)*.  There’s less of a tightly defined theme – this set is mostly held together because I like all of them and they were taken in the same part of the world.

The first thing that springs to mind in the Galapagos is “Shooting fish in a barrel”.  The wildlife is everywhere. For example, the opening picture was taken within five minutes of making landfall on the first excursion.  And that wasn’t even the first opportunity: we practically had a booby waiting to welcome us.  I had barely got myself sorted after landing before seeing this guy.

Blue-footed Booby
PEG2014 - Booby

I was in a group of 14 (plus a our Glorious Leader, Ben), and this booby was completely unfazed by us.  Risking athropomorphization, it almost felt like he was posing deliberately.  He wasn’t our only ‘welcome’ party – the following morning we were greeted with a striated heron patiently waiting for us to clear off so he could get back to hunting.

Striated Heron
PEG2014 - Striated Heron

I’d literally** just finished with the avian subject when a marine iguana made an appearance on the other side of the rock on which I stood.  Shockingly, it was even in the water.  I moved round quickly before he got out.

Marine Iguana
PEG2014 - Marine Iguana

These are the only (modern) lizards that live in water, evolving from land-bound cousins like those at the top of the post.  It seemed to be a big leap to make the move into the water for lizards.  There must have been a strong driver to force them.  Personally, I think it was incessant bullying by birds.

Popular Spot
PEG2014 - Popular location

A bird (in this case a swallow-tailed gull) standing on a marine iguana, whilst not quite as common as one marine iguana sprawling over another, was not a rare sight.  This was the first instance I saw.

Speaking of first sightings: this was my first (and only) sighting of a Galapagos hawk – a large, swift, and graceful endemic raptor.

Galapagos HawkPEG2014 - Galapagos Hawk

Less rarely spotted were fregatas on the wing.  They seem to spend most of their time circling on thermals waiting for the next likely target to mug.

PEG2014 - Fregata

The frigatebirds were not the only very common sights; sea lions were too.  The nice thing about widelife, is – precisely because it is wildlife – ‘common’ does not mean ‘you’ll get bored of it’, rather ‘extra portions of wonder for you!’.  For example, these two sea lion pictures could hardly be more different.

Young Sea Lion
PEG2014 - Young Sea Lion

Sea Lion III PEG2014 - Sea Lion III

…. and here’s a different aspect to blue-footed boobies from the picture further up the post.

Boobies II
PEG2014 - Boobies II

The Sally Lightfoot crabs were also a common thread to most of the excursions.

Sally Lightfoot Crab
PEG2014 - Sally Lightfoot Crab

One sight that I suspect isn’t quite as common as some of the above is this:

Brown Pelican Night Fishing
PEG2014 - Brown Pelican Night Fishing
It was only pure chance that allowed me to spot this guy.  The AD and I made a habit of doing a lap of the sun deck before turning in each night.  On one particular night, there was a bit of commotion amongst a few fellow passengers to starboard.  It was the fellow above sitting on the ship’s railings, using the lights to do a spot of night hunting.  So I made myself comfortable, and waited.

There were a a few iterations of: take off; circle; dive; miss; return to perch. Eventually, the pelican was successful and caught a fish.  I had thought that was the hard bit done.  In my mind all that remained was a hearty gulp, and stomach acid would do the rest.  Nope.  The fish fights back. It took the pelican a couple of minutes to swallow the fish, all the while the fish was making comic-looking ‘outdentations’ to the birds pouch.  Fish swallowed, he flew off.

Given they’re the largest (up to 250 kg, apparently) reptile in the world, it would have been a shame not to mention the Galapagos giant tortoise.

Giant Tortoise
PEG2014 - Galapagos Giant Tortoise

I’ll finish with one of the most infamous of them all, and in true Galapagosian fashion it’s showing no fear of humans – even adapting to the presence of the hairless ape.

Small Ground Finch
PEG2014 - Small Ground Finch

* Next week will probably still have a South American theme, though.
** I mean literally, not figuratively.

On and In Water – Galapagos

Following on from last Sunday’s post, this post collects together some of the pictures I took whilst in the Galapagos, either when bobbing about in a RIB/panga or when snorkelling.

I found the snorkelling photography a bit of a challenge; partly because I wasn’t using my beloved dslr, partly because I hadn’t been snorkelling in ages so my control in moving water wasn’t as precise as it used to be, and partly because of the level of particles and overall turbidity of the water*. Shooting from a RIB also has its challenges – mostly my choice of side when getting in. I always seemed to pick the less suitable side.  Never mind all that though – it was bloody good fun.

First up are the turtles.  They were so wonderfully graceful underwater – ‘flying’ along and utterly unperturbed by a bunch of humans floating about and creating a ruckus.

Galapagos Green Turtle I
PEG2014 - Galapagos Green Turtle I

Galapagos Green Turtle II
PEG2014 - Galapagos Green Turtle II

Galapagos Green Turtle III
PEG2014 - Galapagos Green Turtle III
This last guy (actually the last two photos are the same turtle – look at the markings on the head) seemed to be very curious about me, and kept coming very close.  I had to keep backing off to keep the minimum distance of 2 metres instructed by our guides.

Mexican HogfishPEG2014 - Mexican HogfishI should have been able to provide a binomial for this fish off the top of my head.  I was told, but I couldn’t remember the name.  Fishbase probably knows, but I wasn’t able to make it divulge the information**.  The wider internet, where there are photos of the same species, just calls it a fish.  In the first draft of this post I apologised for adding to the problem.  Luckily, when I asked at the day job Kieran Green was able to provide an ID; so thanks to Kieran.

Despite Sea Lions being as predatory as Land Lions, I was much more comfortable with Sea Lions a couple of metres away than I would have been if I had been that near a Lion.  Such graceful and playful animals – a joy to be around.

Sea Lion I – in the water
PEG2014 - Sea Lion I

Sea Lion II – on the beach
PEG2014 - Sea Lion II
We didn’t land on this particular beach.  This was taken from a RIB about 20 metres off shore.

PEG2014 - Penguin
This is probably my favourite picture of the whole trip – and maybe of all time (I do like penguins quite a bit).  Not only is it the first picture of a wild penguin I managed to make (in a 2-foot swell to boot), it also shows the density of animals in the Galapagos. You’ve probably already noticed the Marine Iguanas and the Sally-footed crab sharing the rock.

And lastly, a photo I took when sticking my head out of the water to make sure I hadn’t got too far away from the panga.

Blue-footed Boobies
PEG2014 - Boobies
I couldn’t go two posts about the Galapagos without a picture of the infamous Blue-footed Boobies.

More to come next week.

* The Galapagos are volcanic, which leads to steep shores.  This means to see anything when snorkelling you need to be close to the shore, with all the attendant wave action.
** Note to self: take better notes.