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International M/s Couple Handler

Master Joe and slave kim from Melbourne, Australia, competed for the International M/s couple this year up at Southplains Leather Fest. They had asked me to be their “handler.” The problem with this was that I had no idea what was expected or required for this position, nor wise enough to ask anyone. They’d had no competition coaching and I had no handling coaching. That’s not good.

Joe didn’t need us to come up on Thursday, as it was the General Meeting for MAsT International and he, as MAsT’s Australian regional rep and president of MAsT Melbourne, had lots to do. We drove up on Friday and met with them in the late afternoon to schedule a time that evening to listen to their speeches.

There was a LOT of controversy swirling around the Australian Faction at this conference. Back in Melbourne nearly a year before, the VP for MAsT Melbourne got mad at Joe and quit the MAsT chapter and tried to form her own. Actually, she fomented a lot of trouble with MAsT International trying to take the chapter away from Joe on the grounds that he wasn’t providing enough “support” to MAsT members.

To shorten this very long story, I’ll say that this person then held an “Australian Master/slave Competition” and chose their titleholders. Now, at SPLF, this other couple (well know to Joe and Kim and people I’d met repeatedly when I was there in 2011, were claiming that Joe and Kim were not the only authorized international competitors. THIS is what had to be hashed out in the Thursday MAsT GM.)

We did what we could, but they did not win.  It may have been in part due to kim’s prepared two-minute speech. It referenced much of the challenges they’d been through over the past year and was not likely taken well by the judges.  She had been deeply hurt by the betrayal and bigotry of the “other group” in Melbourne and this was not likely received well by the judges.

Ultimately, Master figured out that a great deal of the “stumble” was cultural. Joe had been “doing” BDSM for decades. He had been a very active ProDom — a concept practically unheard of in this country. Here, there is a tremendous demarcation between ProDommes and “lifestylers.” Also, there is a very fuzzy line between BDSMers and M/s-ers in Australia. Here, the M/s people see themselves in a different sub-culture from those in BDSM clubs. The judges couldn’t tell whether Joe was really a BDSMer calling himself M/s or an M/s person who did an awful lot of work with the BDSM community.

Master and I thought both Joe and kim handled themselves extremely well, and we parted with long hugs all ‘round.

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Butchmann’s

c 34 butchmanns

I’d heard so much about Butchmann’s over the years that I wanted to go through it with Jen. It was held in Phoenix (it started in Tucson), I knew most of the instructors (Master Curtis, Master Bert, SlaveMaster, Master Trish) and also many of the support staff (slave samantha, working in the kitchen, and my Leather brother, slave mikey, serving as a general helper).

However, this was new territory for Master, and I thought we would benefit (as a couple) from going through together. For those not familiar with The Butchmann’s Experience, it is just that, an experience. Founded by SlaveMaster and Master Steve Sampson, it is the home of the spiritual approach to M/s and the events are usually sold out months in advance.

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Sandhill Cranes

This was another blog-worthy trip. We’ve just returned from a very long and circuitous trip that had us going from Austin to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, to White Sands, NM, to Carlsbad Caverns, to spend New Years Eve in Eve’s Garden in Marathon, TX, then back home.

For years, I’ve wanted to shoot the Sandhill Cranes at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. We decided on a really grand tour that would start at the sanctuary (spending the night in Brownfield) for a late-afternoon / early evening shoot, go to Casa Blanca B&B for the night, and get up to be back photographing by 7am.

c 26 sandhillcranes at dusk 2628 w

I was able to take many outstanding dusk shots of the cranes, augmented by the full moon that was in exactly the right place and right elevation to be captured with cranes flying under it. At one point, as we were changing positions, a fox trotted along a path parallel to the road. Quite spectacular.

c 27 sandhill crane moon

In the morning, we arrived before the cranes had left their roost. It was very cold out: Jen remained in the car watching the scene unfold. I knew what was about to happen and hoped to be able to capture it. I set the focal distance, practiced panning, set the camera for 8 images per second, set up he remote plunger and waited.

I was looking through the lens at 400mm with the ISO set up to about 1,400 and the shutter set at 250th of a second.

I didn’t have long to wait.

Suddenly, one bird rose from the nesting flock and suddenly the entire flock lifted off. I caught it. I hit the plunger and started rolling and panning simultaneously.

I walked over to the driver’s side window once I had finished shooting. Jen was nearly speechless. OMG she kept saying. That was amazing. How did you know they’d all lift off at once? OMG! “When it was over, I looked at the woman in the car behind you (just to Jen’s left) and we both had our mouths open. That was one of the most spectacular events I’ve ever seen in my life.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “It is.”

We ended our trip by spending New Years Eve in Eve’s Garden in Marathon, TX. This had taken a lot of pre-planning, but it was really worth it. Take a look at these:

c 29 eves garden 1   c 30 eves garden 2   c 31 eves garden 3   c 32 eves garden 4   c 33 eves garden 5

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Vacation beginning Leather Reign – Orcas – DC (Raven and Joshua) – the death of Jen’s dad

We decided to take a vacation. This is our first vacation, actually. We presented at Leather Reign in Seattle, spent a week on Orcas Island (about an hour north of Seattle, then an hour’s ride on a ferry boat. We came in to Seattle a day early so we could go down to Pike’s Place Market to do some photography. Here’s my version of an open fruit and vegetable stand.

c 18 pikes place market

Inside the Market, lower level, we found an arts/crafts store that had some very nice blown glass. One piece in particular caught our eyes. It was an a bright red apple, and the “stem” was a green snake. I asked the store clerk if I could set up my tripod and actually take my time with the shot. She said, “Yes,” and about half an hour later I had a few good images. This is among my favorite.

c 19 red glass apple snake

I really like Leather Reign (Master Duane and slave kelly). They put on a top conference that attracts some spectacular people. I enjoyed the time I had to sit down with Allena Gabosh and to catch-up with Alpha (Mac). Allena is the Executive Director of “The Center for Sex Positive Education,” also known as “The Wet Spot.” I’ve known her for a long time. Alpha, you may recall from earlier blogs, was the person who first got me started with kink photography back in 2002.

Far and away, the highlight of this period was our time on Orcas. We’d left the conference with enough time to drive up to Anacortes and catch the last ferry over to the island. I love this ride: super romantic, even though they reduced the sizes of the ferries a few years ago and these are more utilitarian and have fewer services. The ride takes about an hour and stops at Lopez and Shaw before docking at Orcas.

c 20 island ferry   c 21 coffee in ferry   c 22 happy jen

Orcas always has been special for me. Margo (my first wife) and I spent about two years working out the qualifications for the place we wanted to raise our children, and in those two years physically visited five cities. Orcas was the hands-down winner:

  • More than two hours from a major airport

  • Accessible to a city we would like

  • Has a “mountain” smell and feel

  • Has an exceptional school system (One standard deviation above the state average on the ACE exams in a state that was one standard deviation above the national averages on the ACE exam. When I was working for the National Institute of Justice studying crime in American schools, I had access to the National Bureau of Education Statistics and had my friend in that office run that analysis.)

c 23 orcas island hotel

Anyway, we landed at the doc, looking directly at the picturesque Orcas Hotel and turned left, heading almost to Eastsound but turning left one road past the turn into town. Margo had suggested this place: we wanted to be on the water. I wanted to be isolated. We got both. We were in a lovely cabin in the Beach Haven Resort without Internet or cell phone signal. No distractions! We could walk along the beach or take walks in the woods.

We drove in town to have dinner with Margo. I always have dinner with Margo when I come back to the island. I’d brought Karen here years ago; can’t even remember anymore.

The next day, when we went into Eastsound to look at the lovely stores, my Internet signal returned and I realized that I had missed a call from my brother (8 years my junior, he lives in Santa Cruz, CA). William reported that Robin thought that Father had suffered a stroke. He and Angela (my sister, 12 years younger than I) were flying out to Santa Fe.

Next, they arrived out there about the time that the lab and physician reports came in that they could find nothing wrong.

So Jen and I spent a lovely week hiking up to the lookout on top of Mt. Constitution in Moran State Park (the largest State Park in Washington) and photographing and reading.

c 24 winter leaf on twig

We ate in lovely restaurants that brought back all kinds of personal memories (Margo and I moved here in 1987 and I left on New Years Eve of that year to join Renee in D.C.).

The Orcas Island part of the trip came to an end. We were very sorry to leave: this island remains my ideal home. We took the ferry back to Anacortes, over to Mt Vernon and then south on Interstate 5. We had a flight to catch. We flew directly from Seattle to DC to take a weekend intensive that Raven (Kaldera) and Joshua (Tenpenny) were putting on at Castle Griffin (Master Griffin and slave ann).

c 25 raven and joshua

We were home on Monday, Thanksgiving was Thursday, and Jen’s dad died on Friday.

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Air B&B Houston Hot Air Balloon “Glow” Festival

Jen wanted to see a hot-air balloon glow festival and found one in Houston. This wasn’t a race, it was an event. They were going to fire their propane flames after dark in order to give a visual experience. Sounded very interested.

We looked up hotel prices and were slowed down a bit. Then, Jen looked up rooms using Air B&B and discovered a place only a few miles from the field. We took it.

It’s a hefty drive from Austin to Houston (or Dallas). I’m not fond of 3-hour+ drives. At any rate, we weren’t in any hurry to get there and arrived at the event around 4p on Saturday. Nothing much was going on, but a few of the balloons were inflated and a number of crews were actively setting up for the evening’s experience. I started working out how to capture useful/interesting photo images. I suppose I worked at that for an hour or so before we decided to go get a bite of early dinner, as the main event wouldn’t start until after dusk.

We got back to the field in plenty of time, and I ran around with my camera/tripod while Jen found things she wanted to watch. Finally, when they were getting ready to do a coordinated “lighting,” they announced it over the PA system, along with an introduction to the festival and acknowledgements to a variety of helpers.

The lit balloons were really spectacular. There were a lot of them — perhaps 30-40. It was hard to get them all in the shot, but I managed to get a string of them. Also, with my 100-400mm zoom, I took a number of shots of the backlit colored patchwork that made each balloon distinguishable from others.

c 17 setting up balloon   c 17.5 glow festival   c 17.8 full balloon

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