Thursday, June 30, 2011

POV: Photo Assignment RAW FILE

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Through Twitter, I've noticed a post by RAW FILE, Wired magazine's blog, which is starting a new series of posts called Assignment Wired, where the magazine will hand out photo assignments to its readers, and then eventually choose some submissions to publish and critique.

WIRED's expertise and interest is in reportage and photojournalism, and it expects its participating readers to get quotes, do some writing, do some research and take emotive photos.
"We want gritty, real and human stories. We want to throw you into new situations and give you a chance to sink or swim."
It actually just launched its first assignment, and it's to feature the corner store where the participating photographer buys his/her daily Coke, milk, doughnuts...whatever. It wants the story of this local corner store through photos and reporting. The assignment "sheet" lists the skills required for such a project, and there's a deadline of July 7th.

I think the experiment (as they call it) is a damn good idea! It will provide an impetus to budding photojournalists (and others) to go out there and actually work on a local project. As it says, it's hardly sexy or glamorous, but it's an interesting project that will teach basic photojournalism skills to those interested. I only wish they included audio recordings, and even expand it to short audio-slideshows...but perhaps that will come in time.

As always, comments from naysayers, cynics and skeptics have come in fast and furious....some accusing WIRED magazine of using this experiment to get work for free. To those, I say you don't have to participate...or participate and don't send in your material. Just take the time to learn something new...or refresh your skills, and if you do a good job, you might get a critique from the magazine. It will surely be worth it.

Theyyam: The Living Gods

Here's a trailer of The Living Gods, a film by Rupesh Tillu, which depicts the story of a father and a 6 year old son, and their hope to find new opportunities for the survival of a form of art. The young boy wants to become a Theyyam artist just like his father Rajesh, who performs a thousand year old ritual from Kerala, India.
"Theyyam is on the verge of extinction, since very few children are learning it."
Theyyam is a unique ritual which is performed only in Northern Kerala. After a complex preparatory ritual involving elaborate make-up and meditation, the performers are incarnated as deities, and dispense advice and counseling to the throngs of devotees who attend these rituals. It's a living cult of several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs, and is observed by all the castes and classes in this region.

I have used the Theyyam tradition as the core focus of my Theyyam of Malabar photo~expedition in 2009, and I (and its participants) was rewarded with incredible proximity to these living deities, and their traditional religious practices. The resulting photographs are possibly some of the most colorful of religious rituals I've made so far.

The gallery Theyyam: Incarnate Deities is one of my favorites.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

DIY Alcohol Stove-The Tuna Can Stove

A little over a week ago I reviewed the Brasslite Turbo II-D alcohol stove. At that time I told you that there is a DIY version of the stove, and that I will show you how to make it. Here it is:

Start with two cans, one smaller than the other. For the small can I have found out that a tomato sauce can works very well. For the larger can I am using some canned chestnuts, but any two cans will work as long as when one is inserted in the other, there is about 1/8 to 1/4 inch separation between the walls. The original designs were made from tuna cans or cat food cans, giving the design its name.


Take the larger can, but do not open it. Your goal is to cut out a hole from the top, center of the can, about 1 5/8 inch in diameter. To do this, take a knife with a sharp tip (a Mora #1 works well), and using a hammer, make a series a small holes, outlining the cutout. Then using the same knife and hammer, cut through the material left between the holes, making for a one large cutout.


What I like to do in order to get a smooth edge, is to cut out the hole an 1/8 of an inch smaller than I need it. I then take a pair of scissors or sheers and make small cuts towards the desired location of the hole in 1/8 inch increments. I then fold those tabs down and in, making for a smooth surface.

The next step is to turn over the can and made another centered hole on the bottom, this one being 2 5/8 inches in diameter. I use the same technique. Here you can see the tabs folded in. On the bottom hole I do not fold them all the way in, so I can adjust them to give me a better grip on the smaller can which will be inserted here. If your small can is of a different size, make this hole smaller or larger as needed so that the small can fits securely. (When measuring the size, account for the fact that the lip of the small can will be removed.)


Then, drill eight half inch holes on the bottom side of the large can. This is all the work you need to do on the large can.


Here you can better see the folded tabs I was talking about earlier.


Now take the small can. Open it and remove the contents. Cut down the small can, so that when it is fully inserted in the larger can, the top of the small can touches the top of the large can. Then drill out a eight 3/8 inch holes on the top side of the small can. As an alternative, you can just cut the small can about a quarter on an inch lower than the top of the large can. This way when the small can is inserted in the large one, its top is a quarter of an inch below the top of the large can. Both methods will work well.


Insert the small can into the large one. Use the tabs on the bottom cut to make sure the fit is secure.


This is how it should look from the bottom.


Here you have the completed stove. The theory is that air will enter through the holes on the bottom of the large can, travel in the space between the walls of the two cans inside, come into the stove through the holes in the top of the small can, mix with vapors from the alcohol that is stored in the small can, and create a flame, which in turn heats the stove and creates more alcohol vapor. No priming or preheating is required for this stove.


Here you can see it in action.


The stove, as I have made it here weighs 2 oz. It is one of the best designs I have found. It burns very hot, and if speed of heating is what you are after, this is a very good, solid design. With these particular cans it will hold up to 4 ounces of alcohol. That is quite a bit because the chestnut can was rather high. A shorter can of the same diameter would have worked fine.

Mugur Vărzariu: Egypt Adrift

Photo © Mugur Vărzariu-All Rights Reserved
Mugur Vărzariu is a photojournalist based in Romania whom I met at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Istanbul. I discovered he started as a photographer less than four months ago before attending the workshop, and it seems he has been extremely busy since then.

He traveled to India, Syria, Libya as well as Cairo, where he documented facets of the Egyptian Revolution in a photo essay titled Egypt Adrift, which is perhaps an apt description of the current development. I hope he's wrong, but so far it does appear that the ideals and values of the youth of Tahrir may be tossed to the side by the current "transitory" authorities.

One of the photographs in his Egypt Adrift essay is of a red car, with hood open...presumably stalled and needing fixing. It made me laugh, since the graffiti on the left of the frame says "The Central Security Forces robbed this store" with an arrow pointing to the shuttered store. The Central Security was the much hated entity used in suppressing any dissent, and was used to brutalize those who didn't toe the ex-regime's line.

I wonder what Mugur, being from Romania which suffered greatly under Nicolae Ceaușescu, felt documenting the Egyptian Revolution, which has some parallels to his country's December 1989 overthrow of its own dictator.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Leica File: The Show Stopper(s)

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Walking on lower Fifth Avenue a few days ago with traveler, gastronome extraordinaire and photographer Mervyn Leong, I came across The Show Stoppers performing at the First Presbyterian Church. Naturally, we sped towards them, and started photographing like a pair of demented paparazzi.

The Show Stoppers is a group of senior citizens who perform in more than 35 shows at more than a dozen locations around New York City each year. The all-volunteer group/band, which ranges in age from 60-95, rehearses at least once a week, and aims at lifting the spirits of older people. Their performing helps not just the audience, but the participants’ health as well. These are wonderful people who are an inspiration to others half their age.

Their repertoire consists of golden oldies (as they're sometimes called)...a combination of Gershwin and Cole Porter tunes, among others. I had seen them performing in the West Village, and if I recall correctly, the same woman in the photograph has sung Dame Vera Lynn's famous World War Two song "We'll Meet Again". This song is a superb classic, and is guaranteed to send shivers down the spines of any Brit.

Only in New York!

(For larger versions, go to The Leica File blog)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Post: Mora 511 Knife and Sheath Modification Tutorial

Recently I stumbled upon another great tutorial on Bushcraft USA put up by Jontok (Jon). Not long ago I had put up a review of the Mora 511, and showed that you can modify it by removing the finger guard. That modification however left the sheath with some unused space. Jontok has solved that problem in a very interesting way, and has allowed me to post it here. By the way, he is also to thank for the tang-view picture of the Hultafors HVK. So, here it is:

I've gotten lots and lots of PM's asking me to make a tutorial on modding the Mora 511... Well, I've actually only gotten one request for it, but I've read that one lots of times! :)

Anyway, this is how I do it with my limited supply of tools... Oh, and sorry for the crappy pics!

First you need a Mora 511. (I forgot to take a pic of it before starting)

Let's start with...


First thing I do is to mod the horrible plastic beltloop!
A little cutting, and here's what you get...(original on left for referance)


Then drill a couple of holes for attaching the new leather beltloop.


Logically I should now proceed with attaching the beltloop, but I like to get all my cutting out of the way first! :)

So Well come back to this later and, instead, move on to making the firesteel loop.

Just take your firesteel and see where, and how much, you need to cut off the sheath.


After some cutting...


Here you can see how the firesteel fits inside. Remember to leave some room around the tip! This will allow the cord to be passed over the tip (for retention).


For retention I like to swap out the cord on the firesteel with some 3mm elastic cord. I won't do it this time, but that's just because I can't remember where I put that darn cord! :)

Now, let's get back to that lea...WAIT! BREAK TIME!

Ok, now that we're back, let's resume with the leather beltoop!

Take a spare piece of soft leather, and cut it to the size you want your beltloop...


Punch two holes matching the holes you drilled in the sheath.


Now fasten it with some heavy-duty thread. I use pre-waxed linen thread.
Just pull it through the holes lots of times, and tie it off.


Now for the....


Needless to say, this can be done lots of different ways! My way is done useing a dremel knockoff...

I start with putting some masking tape on the blade. Then I put a piece of tape where I wish to cut. This is a very helpful guide for your cutting blade!


Then a little time with a grinding wheel (for dremel) and a file for the final shaping and to square off the spine.


This is a fine time to make some thumbgrooves on the spine (using the cutting wheel and a round needle pointed file). I didn't bother with that this time though...

Then you cut of the fingerguard. I use a modelling saw (?) to cut the guard, then do the final shapeing with a sharp knife.

The finished product:



Well, that's it.

Hope you enjoyed it! :)

Viviane Dalles: Kingdom of Mustang

Photo © Viviane Dalles-All Rights Reserved
This is the second time that work by the talented Viviane Dalles is featured on The Travel Photographer blog. Viviane quit her job at the archives of Magnum Agency in 2005, and booked a flight to Tamil Nadu in early 2005, following the devastating tsunami that affected the whole region.  Her clients include LeFigaro Magazine, Le Monde 2, La Tribune, Paris-Match, Internazionale, Le Figaro, Le Monde, The Guardian, among others and she's currently based in Sydney.

Not only is her work talented, but she also traveled and photographed in Mustang, the almost mythical former Kingdom of Lo and now part of Nepal, and has added its gallery to her website.

"Time rolls on, the sun which blurs into the horizon tells us to pick up the pace, otherwise the thick night will keep us prisoner in this immense and silent cage."-Viviane Dalles
Viviane's work in Mustang consists of 31 landscapes, documentary and portrait photography. There's precious little infrastructure in Mustang, and though foreign visitors have been allowed to the region since 1992, tourism to Upper Mustang, similar to Bhutan for example, is regulated.No more than 1000 tourists a year are granted permits.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Me With a 4lb Chihuahua

I’ve mentioned it before so you guys probably know, but my girlfriend and I foster dogs-we take them from shelters and try to find them homes. The one you see in the picture is a 4lb chihuahua named Lola that we were fostering but ended up adopting ourselves. My girlfriend thought the image was hilarious, so she snapped a picture with her phone. The dog does surprisingly well in the woods.

2011-06-26_10-40-33_587 - Copy


I watched Delia on a TV advertisement making Strawberry & Vanilla Pavlova, so next time I went shopping in Waitrose, I couldn't resist picking up the Waitrose Recipe Collection card.

I always use Nigella's pavlova recipe, which for me just can't be beaten, I looked at Delia's recipe and to me it's a meringue recipe and not a pavlova recipe. A friend brought us some homegrown redcurrants, I then returned to the Waitrose Recipe Collection card and made the vanilla cream and strawberry sauce. So basically, I have paired Delia up with Nigella!

The secret to a great pavlova is to make it the evening before and then let it dry out in the cooling oven. This way you will get a crisp outside and a marshmallow inner, bliss.

The vanilla cream, which is made with fromage frais and Mascarpone set to give a firm filling. Next time I would alter the recipe yet again and use my usual filling of softly whipped cream mixed with yogurt. The pavlova was delicious except for the cream filling which my husband wasn't very keen on. You must make the strawberry sauce though because it is so very, very delicious.

Has anyone else made Delia's Strawberry & Vanilla Pavlova?

Nigella's Pavlova recipe from How to Eat.

You will need: A large baking tray lined with baking parchment.

4 large egg whites, 250g caster sugar, 2 teaspoons cornflour, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar.

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt until they reach the soft peak stage. Whisk in the caster sugar a third at a time until the meringue is stiff and shiny.
Fold in the vanilla essence, cornflour and white wine vinegar.
3. Draw a 20cm circle on the baking parchment, put blobs of meringue on a baking tray, turn the greaseproof paper over and stick the baking parchment down onto the tray.
4. Spoon the meringue onto the baking parchment circle and flatten the top and smooth the sides.
5. Place in the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 150°C and cook for 1¼ hours.
6. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven overnight to dry out.
7. Take the pavlova off the baking paper, fill with cream and decorate with fruit.

Chico Sanchez: The Way Of St. James

Photo © Chico Sanchez-All Rights Reserved

As readers of this blog probably know by now (on account of the many times I've featured his work), Chico Sanchez is a Spanish photojournalist based in Mexico City. He previously worked in Venezuela for six years with Reuters, EFE, EPA and various newspapers. He's currently a freelancer represented by Aurora Photos.

He recently documented his pilgrimage walk on The Way of St. James in an audio-slideshow. A mix of landscapes and travel photography, with ambient audio of steps, running water, interviews and narration. It's in Spanish but full sub-titles are included.

"I walked 290 kilometers in northern Spain for two weeks from Astorga to Santiago de Compostela. It's a pilgrimage, and one of the best experiences I've ever had." -Chico Sanchez

The Way of St. James or El Camino de Santiago, is the pilgrimage route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the apostle James are buried. It existed for over a thousand years, and was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, together with Rome and Jerusalem.

For more information of The Way of St. James, Wikipedia has a informative write-up here.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

POV: Remembered For A Single Image?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
A comment by Paolo Evangelista on one of our Facebook 'conversations' gave me reason to pause. He expressed his view that it would be terrible to be remembered for just a single photograph...a photograph that was so popular that, in the consciousness of the general public, it eclipsed all others made by the photographer.

I agree. It is one thing to be remembered for a photograph of a non staged event that influenced the alteration of the course of history, that changed a perception, a bias or a policy, etc...and quite another to be remembered for a photograph that was popularized either because of the beauty of its subject or because it was relentlessly marketed...or both.

I would much rather being remembered for a project, for a series of photographs or for a style than for a single matter how good it was.

But that's me.

Oh, and the above photograph is of an orang asli, a member of the  "original people" or "first people" who live in Malaysia. Will I be remembered for this photograph? I hope not.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Workers’ Tent Camp 1893

The image shows a tent camp for hop pickers in Puget Sound. The image is dated 1893. The tents all appear to be a canvas A-wall design. Notice that the fire wood is fed into the fire from the side rather than being chopped to size.

Puget Sound area tent camp with hop pickers, Washington, ca. 1893.

WTF?! Be A Sucker And Publicize A Book...For Free.

The pre-ordained order of my posts was upended!

It's been a while I haven't ranted, and I was a little worried I had lost my acerbity. But the gods of mean answered my prayers, and the provocation for ranting appeared in the form of an email...perhaps not as good as a live real event, but close enough.

And since nothing turns me on as much as an opportunity for a juicy rant, here's the story in some detail...

A few days ago, I got an email from a book publisher (its website claims it's the world’s leading publisher of books on visual arts) asking me to feature a just published book of images by a photographer, enclosing a bunch of pictures of the book, and some background material.

Now, I occasionally receive such requests from book publishers who inquire whether I'd like to receive a book, review it and then post comments. This time...nothing of the book to review, no freebie of any type...just do it because it would make the corporate publisher and photographer happy. Truth be told, I've seen the work of the photographer ad nauseam, and if I had been sent the book, it would end up being a door stop...or prop a rickety desk...if not worse.

That being said, I figured that it was perhaps an opportunity to make money....and with whatever paid, I'd sponsor a deserving photographer to attend the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop. So I drafted a sweet short email that went like this...

"thank you for the email. i'd be glad to consider it against payment for ad space. you can choose either a post about the book, or a side bar advert. Let me know if you want me to send you my rates."
The response came in rather promptly, and it said that the world’s leading publisher of books on the visual arts didn't have any budget for advertising at the moment. 

Funny, huh? No, not funny at all. They ought to be ashamed of themselves....because they do and must have the budget. If not, they wouldn't be the world’s leading publisher of books on the visual arts.

For those who love analogies as I do, here's one that seems perfectly suited for the situation. I own a small modest building, and a large for profit conglomerate asks me to stick an enormous billboard for one of its products on the side of my building, and wants me to tell my tenants what a great product it is...and wants me to do it for free....and perhaps because they think I'm a sucker,  or because they believe they're entitled to exploit others, they won't pay for the privilege of using this space and for my time. An apt analogy, I think.

I should have suggested an alternative to the world’s leading publisher of books on the visual arts. In consideration of my hyping its book on my blog, it could market my own books, and peddle them on its own website and online stores. You see, it's because The Travel Photographer has no budget for advertising...just like you.

For all other buyers who are interested, my two books Bali: Island of Gods and Darshan can be found here. By the way, sales of these two books have exceeded my expectations (and were achieved without the support of the world’s leading publisher of books on the visual arts).

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hotel Chocolat Birthday Gifts

Here is the perfect birthday chocolate gift from Hotel Chocolat - The Sleekster Summer Desserts Selection which consists of 25 beautifully presented chocolates.

All of the chocolates are inspired by classic desserts including Chocolate Brownie, Chocolate Mousse and Eton Mess. My favourite chocolate in the collection has to be Summer Pudding which is a white chocolate truffle bursting with summer fruits and coated in strawberry powder.

There are lots more Birthday Gifts to choose from, including a wonderful Summer Goody Bag, Classic Champagne Truffles, Neapolitan Knickerbocker Glory and a range of birthday gifts for children too.

Condor Scout Hatchet Review

For 2011 Condor Tool & Knife has completely redesigned their line of axes. One of them is the Scout Hatchet. I chose to review this hatchet because its specifications came closest to what I would look for in a good hatchet. The next larger model offered by Condor is a hatchet with a 16 inch handle and a 1.5lb head. I find the head to be too heavy for such a short handle.

z (9)

Manufacturer: Condor Tool & Knife
Axe Head Weights: 1 lb; overall weight is 1 lb 3.5 oz
Axe Length: 10 inches
Axe Head Material: 1045 carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $50.00


In terms of cost, this is a mid range hatchet. While not expensive, I would expect a hatchet in this price range to be well designed and offer good performance.

I decided to compare the Condor Scout Hatchet to the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet, as they have the same head weight, but since I also had the Gransfors Bruks Mini Hatchet with me at the time, I decided to toss it in the mix as well. Here you can see the three hatchets next to each other.

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The handle of the Condor Scout Hatchet had fairly good grain. However, I found it to be too small for the size head, and as a result rather uncomfortable. It is not only short, but also very thin, which does not allow for a good grip.

The most serious problem with the hatchet however is the design of the head. The head of the Condor Scout Hatchet has virtually no poll. The back is squared off, but there is almost no weight behind the eye. All the weight of the head is concentrated in the bit. This creates a very poorly balanced hatchet. While I have tested other axes in the past that have had poor balance, this one exceeds all of them by a large margin. The weight distribution, combined with the small, thin handle, makes for a hatchet that is very hard to control during a swing. This is usually not a problem for small hatchets, but here the issue is so significant that it effects the performance.

z (30)

The other problem with the head is that it is shaped like a splitting wedge. There is zero sophistication in the geometry of this head. It is literally just a wedge to which a handle has been attached. It will split well, but that’s about it. An additional problem with the design is that the eye is very small. This will create large forces on the handle. I would have preferred a larger eye. Also, on the hatchet I bought, the metal wedge was inserted not diagonally to the wooden wedge, but perpendicularly. Clearly that was done because there was not room in the small eye for the metal wedge, but here I don’t even think it was necessary.

The surprising thing about the Condor Scout Hatchet is that from a production standpoint and quality control, it is actually very good. I have bought many more expensive axes that have had worse quality control. The problem is almost entirely with the design of the axe, not the execution of that design.

Overall, I don’t think the Condor Scout Hatchet is worth the money. There are better tools out there in that price range, and even lower. Clearly Condor is a company that means well, and is trying to create a good product, but just lacks the knowhow. I hope that for next year they just buy a few old Plumb hatchets and axes and duplicate those heads.

Arindam Mukherjee: Kolkata

Photo © Arindam Mukherjee-All Rights Reserved
Arindam Mukherjee is a freelance photojournalist based in Kolkata. Although he started his career as an advertising photographer, he was attracted to photojournalism and freelanced for The Times of India, and subsequently worked with Hong Kong-based EyePress photo agency. He's currently freelancing again, and is represented by Sipa Press. He gleans a number of awards, and his photographs were featured in Le Figaro, Stern, Der Spiegel, The Sunday Telegraph, Le Monde, Liberation, Le Point, De Volkskrant, Private, Forbes, Traveler Magazine (UK), Marie Claire and others.
"Kolkata stands personified with inherent contradictions and characteristic traits. For many, this is as good as love at first sight."
While Arindam's website features many galleries (most of which are of India), I chose his work in My City Kolkata, where he has lived all his life. This photographs in this particular gallery are of Kolkata's daily life...which only a native son can show.

In addition to Arinadam's website galleries. he also uses PhotoShelter for additional work, and has many worthwhile galleries including work of the Kathputli colony and the Honey Collectors of the Sunderbans.

I will pass on Arindam's Kolkata work to the participants of my forthcoming Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

POV: Upgrade To The New Leica M9-P For Just $0.25

The blogosphere lit up following the unveiling in Paris yesterday of the new Leica M9-P, which was described by various sources as having a "new look", as simple and clean, with no red dot nor any lettering on its front. The top plate of the M9-P now carries a Leica log0 in cursive script. The internals of the M9 and the M9-P are identical, though.

How much for this baby, you ask? Just $8000 or $1000 more than the "old" M9. A "bagatelle' as the French audience must have said. In the UK, it will cost you £5395 (the equivalent of $8700 at today's exchange rate, but that presumably includes VAT).

How many were sold in less than 24 hours? 1500. So $8000 x 1500 is $12,000,000. Not bad, heh?

Well, if you own a Leica M9 already, and you 'need' the M9-P but your bank account is sadly anorexic? Simple. You do what I do. You cover up the red dot and the M9 lettering with electrical tape (put a piece of paper underneath it to protect the lettering), and use a piece of protective film for a scratch-resistant back LCD.

Enjoy your new M9-P!

Craig Ferguson: Koa-A-Hi (Taiwan Drama)

Craig Ferguson is a freelance photographer in Taiwan who specializes in travel photography, cultural photography and environmental photography.

He recently produced an audio slideshow of the Taiwanese song drama known as Kao-A-Hi, which was one of the featured events at the Taipei City God festival.

Kao-A-Hi literally means "song-drama", and is the only form of Han traditional drama known to have originated in Taiwan. Taiwanese opera, like other forms of Chinese opera and theater around the world, often uses cross-dressed performers specifically women portraying male roles. The first recorded instance of opera being performed in Taiwan was in 1624. Interestingly, there is no script in Taiwanese opera, since actors in the past were illiterate.

Originally, traditional Taiwanese opera themes involved historical events, tales of gods and spirits, and stories of swordsmen and heroes. However romance stories, and love and hate themes, as well as comedic farces are currently more popular.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Leica M9-P (& Alex Majoli Tries It In Venice)

This is (to use cable news terminology) Breaking News out of Paris for Leica.

The Leica M9 now shares the limelight with its twin (well almost twin) the new Leica M9-P. Both share the exact same technical features, but differ is some details.

In terms of cosmetics, the new M9-P doesn't have the red Leica red dot on its front, but has an engraved logo on its top plate. This is something photographers who prefer the Leicas to remain unobtrusive will like. Not a big deal for me since I cover the red dot and Leica name with black tape on my M9.

The Leica M9-P also features an extremely scratch-resistant, almost unbreakable, sapphire crystal cover for its LCD monitor display. Leica claims it has antireflective coating on both sides which improves image reviewing.

The new model is available in the classical Leica silver chrome camera finish or in black paint, and vulcanite leathering cover.

Photo © ALex Majoli- Courtesy Leica

Leica has chosen Alex Majoli to shoot a feature in Venice with the new M9-P, of which the above picture is from.

Internal Structure of a Mat Tepee

This is an image of a tepee from the Northwest Pacific region. It shows a mat tepee being put together, so we are able to glance at the internal structure of the dwelling.


Note that it is not formed like we most often see depicted, with poles just coming together at a central point at the top of the tepee. There appears to be a frame with internal supports and a ridge beam on which the poles forming the sides are then placed. This allows for the structure to be expanded from what we customarily see as a tepee, into a long house like this one belonging to the Nez Perce Chief Joseph from the same region.


The second image was taken by Edward Latham ca. 1901.

Just Because...Les Autres Blogs

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I had non photography stuff on my mind my posting today will be to simply brag about my new other blogs.

I consider myself to be a sort of a purist with my documentary travel photography; no cropping, and minimal post-processing, so I thought I'd use The Travel Photographer on Tumbler blog as a space to let my post processing "creativity" shine. Naturally, the post-processing so far for the images on that blog is essentially done via an app called Flare App which, I explained in previous posts, is an easy way to achieve interesting results at the push of a button or two. It's even simpler than using LR Presets.

The above image of porters at the spice market in Old Delhi is an example of what I post on the Tumblr take a look and follow it if you like.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I also maintain The Leica File for my street photography in New York City. I am experimenting with the well-established techniques of street photography, which include shooting from the hip, amongst others. New Yorkers are the savviest people in many things, and they notice a photographer when they see one...some of them are so good that they recognize a Leica even if its logo is covered with black it's not that easy to shoot candid photographs in the big city. Don't be fooled by the "I'm engrossed in my own world" attitude or "I'm busy fiddling with my cell phone" posture...they possess antennas, receptors of some kind...that go active when a photographer is on the horizon.

The fellow in the above photograph was intently reading a Chinese menu stuck to the window, but somehow noticed me aiming my camera at him, and started to move away as I captured his startled expression.

In both these blogs, the size of the images is at least 1000 pixels wide.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Low Cost Leather Working Kit

I want to start of by saying that my main use for this kit has been to make axe sheaths, and as such it has been completely satisfactory. You can certainly make other items with it, but it is not suited for all projects.

You will also note that I use Tandy Leather Factory for my price points and links. That is not because I think their products are somehow superior, but because it is a good place to get all you tools and equipment online.

The kit is comprised of a piece of leather, a bottle of leather glue, a set of snaps, a set of rivets, and a setter kit.


For the leather, I usually get the cheapest tooling leather they have for sale at the time. I prefer a single shoulder cut, and I like mine to be about 5 oz in terms of thickness. That however gives a fairly thin sheath. I think most people would prefer 7 oz or so thickness for their sheaths. You should be able to get a whole shoulder cut for about $20.00. That will give you a good number of sheaths. For the type of leather I am talking about, you can look here. Keep in mind that some prices are listed for the whole cut, while others are per square foot.

The next item is the leather glue. You don’t necessarily need it, and can certainly get away without it, but I like to use it. A bottle will cost about $8.00 and will last a long time. You can see the one that I use here. I use it because it is cheap.

The thing that will actually hold the sheath (or any other project) together in this kit are the rivets. I like to get the extra small ones, and they cost about $4.00 for a pack of 100. You can see an example of them here.

Each rivet set is comprised of two parts. You will have to perforate the leather, and fit the parts, one on each side.


The snaps are also a very important part for an axe sheath. A great way to buy them is in a kit, which comes with its own setter. You can see the kit here. 20 snaps and the setter will cost you $10.00.

The snaps have four parts, two for each piece of leather.


The setter is just a small anvil and dye with which you strike the rivet or snaps. I find that the setter that comes with the above kit works well on the rivets I listed above as well as on the snaps.


The way to use it is to first make a hole in the leather, using either a drill or a hole punch or awl, and thread the rivet through it, making sure that the two parts connect, one on each side of the pieces of leather. Then place the rounded part of the rivet on the anvil. Place the dye on the other end of the rivet, and hit it with a hammer. The metal is soft, so the portions of the rivet that are inserted into each other will deform, creating a connection. Make sure not to hit too hard, because it is possible to drive the river through the leather completely. The same process works for the snaps as well.


Here you can see a sheath that I have made using this kit. I cut the leather with a pair of scissors, and the holes were made with a drill. For those wondering, the sheath is made of a folded piece of leather, which forms the sides, with a strip of leather inserted between them at the front and, being held by the rivets and glue. The strap is held by a rivet on the back side and a snap on the front side.


The total cost of the items listed above it $42.00, but that will give you a whole lot of leather sheaths. The thing you will run out of first is probably the leather, but you should be able to get 10 sheaths out of the cut I talked about above.

Next week, I will post the items needed for a more advanced kit, which will allow you to make a greater scope of projects, but these are items that in my opinion belong in every leather working kit.