Monday, October 31, 2011

GoLite Shangri-La 5-Snow Test

For the past few weeks I have been working on a series of post about creating a reasonably priced beginner three season camping/bushcraft kit. This past weekend I had scheduled a trip into the woods where I was going to show how you can use that three season gear for a standard overnight trip. Unfortunately, the weather had different plans. Here in the Northeast we got hit with a snow storm. So, I had to change plans, and instead decided to put my new shelter, the GoLite Shangri-La 5 (Flysheet) to a more serious test.

I managed to get to the mountain, but once I entered the park, the car couldn’t go far and got stuck quickly. At that point (not because of my car), NY and NJ declared a state of emergency because the snowfall was heavier than expected. In particular, there were a lot of trees down, some of which I encountered on the highway on the way there. The upside was that there was no one in the mountains. I left the car and proceeded on foot.


The axe you see on the side of my pack is an early prototype of the 2012 Condor small axe which I have been testing. I was able to get it thanks to Joe from Woods Monkey.

The snow was coming down hard, and it had taken me so long to get there on the unplowed roads, that the sun was going to go down in about two hours. So, I picked a camp site, and set up the shelter. If you look closely, you’ll see my dog making himself comfortable on my sleeping bag.


Using the GoLite Shangri-La 5 was a big improvement over the tarp. I had gotten it specifically because the tarp was giving me problem during winter camping. While it was fine while I was sleeping, for the rest of the time, there was no protection from the wind, which made things difficult. The GoLite Shangri-La 5 performed very well in that respect. Also, since it is a floorless design, it allowed me to do much of the thing I would do when camping with a tarp. Here you can see me cooking inside the shelter on my MSR Whisperlite International.


During the night there was a lot of condensation inside the shelter. The snow quickly burred the openings on the bottom of the shelter, so ventilation was out of the picture. Fortunately, though, since this is a floorless shelter, it wasn’t much of an issue. The condensation either froze on the walls of the shelter or dripped down to the ground.

Another feature of the shelter for which I was thankful was that the door can be opened from the top as well as the bottom. By the time the sun came up, there was no way for me to reach the bottom zipper. What you see in the picture here is the shelter buried half way up by the snow that came over the night.


Despite the heavy snow fall, the GoLite Shangri-La 5 held up well. During the night I could feel it shrinking due to the weight of the snow, but it did not fail in any way. Overall, I was very happy with the design, and with my switch to this type of shelter. 

Cheryl Dunn: 'Everybody Street'

Cheryl Dunn is a photographer and the director of "Everybody Street", a feature documentary on well-known NYC street photographers. The documentary is of real stories of the men and women, who can be described as the foundation of the street photography movement and of the medium itself.

A short intro is being shown on Kickstarter by Cheryl in an effort to raise funds to film the studios and out onto the streets where the working techniques of these photographers will be seen as they unfold in the theater of New York City. "Everybody Street" is expected to provide considerable knowledge and insight into the art of photography and the City of New York.

This is an interesting project for street photographers, especially those who, like me (although I can hardly describe myself as a street photographer despite of my Leica File blog) are passionate in their photographing the streets of New York.

I do not know Cheryl Dunn nor her background, so this post should not be construed as an effort to encourage anyone to contribute to the Everybody Street project, but is merely to mention it on this blog because it's about a discipline that I like and that I'm interested in; street photography.

via the click

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: DK The Slow Cook Book

If you have a slow cooker and use it on a regular basis, or your slow cooker is collecting dust at the back of the cupboard, this book will inspire you to cook some tasty meals with a minimum of ingredients and are low fuss too.

Good things about this book:
Timings and instructions are given for using both a conventional oven and the slow cooker.
Clear photographs and step by step instructions.
There is advice on braising, stewing, poaching, steaming and baking.
Recipes for tagines, curries, chilli, risotto and fish.
Classic recipes from bread and butter pudding to creme caramel, beef stew with Stilton dumplings to Boeuf Bourguignon.
A good mix of recipes from rich and decadent chocolate and prune sponge puddings, fruity lamb shanks, Greek Stifado to North African tagines.

Have you ever considered making risotto in the slow cooker? It is just so easy, and the wonderful thing is you don't have to stand over a pan and stir, stir, stir. Try the Asparagus and Taleggio risotto - it only takes just over an hour to cook on low, for a bowl of the creamiest risotto ever.

I made a huge pot of minestrone soup, it was hearty and flavoursome and took about 8 hours to cook on low. This soup can be frozen, but I don't think it will make the freezer because it is so delicious.

Anyone for pudding? A lemon syrup pudding both light and luscious with a citrus kick. Cook on high for 2-3 hours and hey presto a steamed pudding. The wonderful thing about a slow cooker is you can steam in it and you don't have to keep checking the pan to see if it needs topping up with water, because the water doesn't evaporate and boil dry.

Slow cooking is experiencing a remarkable come-back, with John Lewis seeing the sale of slow cookers rising by 64% in the last two years (

To look inside the book click on the link below.
The Slow Cook Book, Heather Whinney, £16.99

Thank you Sophia and DK.

Tony Smith: Kolkata's Cult of Durga

Photo © Tony Smith-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tony Smith-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tony Smith-All Rights Reserved

One of the first thing you'll find out about Tony Smith is that he's Welsh, and if it happens that Wales' rugby team is playing in the 2011 Rugby World Cup as it did during the Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop, you'll be reminded of that fact a few more times.

His biography is certainly interesting, as he “ran away to sea” on a cargo ship to South America when he was 15 years old, then he eventually mellowed and pursued a career in hospitality management that took him to Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), Johannesburg, and London before settling down in Winchester (that's in England, not Wales).

Tony is an Associate member of the Royal Photographic Society, and he traveled to Nepal, Bhutan, India, France, China, Spain, Morocco the USA and Canada and the West Coast of Ireland. He has attended Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and Gypsy events.

He worked quite hard during the Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop to produce an audio slideshow on the festival, with his own narration. It's compelling, not only for his still imagery, but for his narrative skills which are enhanced by his precise enunciation. I gather he's still working to further improve it but it hasn't been finalized yet.

In the meantime, I suggest you view his blog entry on his experiences at the Durga Puja during the workshop, which also has a number of his photographs of the festival.

New! Panasonic Lumix GX1?

As readers of this blog know, I'm a fan of Micro Four Thirds cameras, especially the Panasonic GF1 which I use a my 'walk-about' camera of choice. So my pulse ran a little faster when reading a post on the Gizmodo blog that featured leaked photographs of Panasonic Lumix's new Micro Four Thirds Lumix GX1 camera, which appeared on the Taiwan Mobile01 forum.

Panasonic signalled that it would split their Lumix GF line into consumer and professional models. The pro-oriented GX1 is rumored to have a 16MP sensor, ISO levels up to 12,800, a new image processing engine, a touchscreen display, an LVF2 electronic external viewfinder and will include the Lumix GX 14-42mm as its kit lens.

It's expected to be announced in a week or so.

I've said a few times already, so I'll be brief...but I believe the Micro Four Thirds cameras are the future of photography. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Chico Sanchez: Mexico & Saints

I am pleased that Chico Sanchez (whose work has been featured on this blog many times) has now self-published a book of his wonderful photographs of Mexico. Chico's photographs of religion, faith and spirituality are published here in full color. It shares his journey through Mexico, a country of faith, mysticism and religiosity.

He has also announced another self-published book, Saints. In this book, Chico documents the celebrations and rituals honoring Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and all the Saints in Spain. The first part of the book features images from Andalusia, while the second is of images of the Way of Saint James pilgrimage in northern Spain.

Chico Sanchez is a Spanish photojournalist based in Mexico City since 2007, who worked in Venezuela for six years with Reuters, EFE, EPA and various newspapers.

PLANET Magazine: Global Travel Photo Contest

PLANET Magazine has announced its 4th annual Global Travel Photo Contest, which is divided into two categories; General Travel and Portrait. Photographers are encouraged to submit traditional travel images, studies of the people and environs they encounter as they travel, and even explorations of their own local surroundings. 

The contest runs from September 1 until October 31, 2011. All entries must be received by midnight on 10/31/2011. Photographers may submit multiple entries. There is a fee of $20 per entry to cover administering the contest.

The prizes range from round-the-world ticket (or $1500 cash), to liveBooks pre-designed website or $500 toward a custom designed website, to Canon G12s, to coffee table photography books as well as the opportunity for all top 10 finalists to have their image shown in a special gallery exhibit and opening event at New York City's Clic Gallery in Soho. 

As I always suggest in my posts involving photo contests, make sure you read the terms and conditions very carefully to avoid any nasty surprises.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Halloween Baked Toffee Apples

Let's not forget about the grownups at Halloween. This recipe is easy to prepare and looks after itself in the oven. The best part though is the rum caramel sauce poured over the apples after they come out of the oven.

Serves: 6

You will need: 25g softened unsalted butter, 25g light muscovado sugar, finely grated zest of 1 lemon plus 1 tbsp lemon juice, 30g currants, 40g raisins, 6 red eating apples, 6tbsp golden syrup, 1tbsp rum, creme fraiche to serve.

1. Beat the butter and muscovado sugar together until creamy, beat in the lemon zest and juice (the mixture will look curdled), fold in the raisins and currants. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/Gas 4.
2. Using the tip of a sharp knife, score a circle around the middle of each apple (I didn't do this and they were still ok). Carefully cut out the apple cores using an apple corer.
3. Loosely stuff the cavities with the dried fruit to within 1cm of the top and place the apples in a baking dish spaced slightly apart. Drizzle 1 tbsp syrup over each one and bake for 45 minutes, basting every 15 minutes.
4. Transfer the apples to plates or a serving dish, spooning any loose dried fruit back inside and reserving the syrupy cooking juices in a small pan. Leave the apples to cool for 10-15 minutes.
5. Simmer the cooking juices until reduced by half and a light caramel colour, then stir in the rum. Pour the caramel sauce over the apples and serve with creme fraiche.

DIY Alcohol Stove-The Super Cat Stove

From time to time you have seen me mention certain DIY alcohol stoves. They are a good cheap way to have a stove in the bush without having to look at commercially available options. The one in this post, is one of the simplest stoves to both make and operate. It came out about 2007-2008 and since then has gained great popularity because of those characteristics.

All you will need for the project is one 3oz aluminum cat food can. It seems that all of the cat food cans that come in that size are about the same in shape and size. You will know it is aluminum as oppose to steel because it usually says it on the label for recycling purposes. It is preferable to get the aluminum cans because they heat up faster and weigh slightly less.


As far as tools, you will need some way to make holes. A drill with a quarter inch bit will work just fine, but since this is a thin aluminum can, a regular hole punch that you buy at Staples will work great as well.

The begin, open the can and empty it out. 


Then, along the side of the can, measure out and make marks about every half an inch. Using these marks to align the center of each hole, punch out a row of holes right under the rim on the can (in the area where the walls of the can straighten out).


Then, proceed to punch out a second row of holes under the first row, so that the new holes are about 1/8 of an inch under the first row, and align in between the original holes, forming a checkered pattern.


When complete, put some alcohol in the stove and light it up. Allow the alcohol to burn for about 30 seconds, to preheat the stove. At that point you can place the pot directly on the stove without any pot supports. The flames should now start to come out from the holes, creating a self contained stove/pot holder unit.


The project requires about 10 minutes and the only needed materials are the 3oz can and a hole punch.


The stove boils two cups of water at the seven (7) minute mark after it is ignited. What that means is that considering that it took 30 seconds to prime the stove, the two cups of water were brought to a boil in 6.5 minutes after the pot was placed on the stove. One ounce of alcohol lasted for a little over nine (9) minutes. There are many great websites out there which can show you in more detail how adjusting the holes can alter the performance of the stove. 

The biggest downside of this stove for me is that it can hold only one (1) ounce of alcohol at a time. I usually like my stoves to be able to hold at least two, so that I can cook more complex things without having to refill. However, considering that the stove only weighs 0.2oz, it is a price I a willing to pay. 

FUEL Chunky Breakfast Granola

FUEL is the UK's first natural energy cereal and comes in two varieties - 70% Cocoa Chunks and Fruit Loaded. It is a blend of both slow release and fast release energy to get your day off to a good start.

FUEL is aimed at time-starved people pursuing busy active lives and contains only natural ingredients, FUEL, whose brand strapline is "One Life - Live It", is rich in Vitamin B and E, high in fibre and contains guarana extract (a tropical energy booster).

Let's see what I like about this product:

First off, I have to admit I have been dipping my hand into the boxes whilst sitting at the computer they are irresistible.

Fruit Loaded Chunky Breakfast Granola - has large chunks of dried apple, peach and strawberry. A colourful and good mix of cranberries, redcurrants and blackberries also grated coconut and pumpkin seeds. It is loaded with dried fruit and is so colourful and tasty I could eat these all day. Good sized chunks of granola clusters and not too sweet, sunshine in a bowl the perfect way to start the day.

70% Cocoa Chunks Breakfast Granola - granola clusters in both chocolate and toasted oats, 70% cocoa chocolate chunks, grated coconut and pumpkin seeds. Is this the first breakfast granola with 70% cocoa chocolate chunks? I bet you will fill the bowl and then pick out all of the chocolate chunks and eat these first! There is a recipe on the side of the pack for a Power Packed Fuel Bar, I would have made this but alas, there has been too much dipping of the hand into the box and not enough left to make the recipe! The 70% cocoa is for taste, the guarana extract for energy and it is packed with vitamins for an active lifestyle.

The breakfast granola is described as the chunkiest, crunchiest most delicious baked muesli granola on earth and they certainly get my vote.

When these two granola's are tipped out from packet to dish you can immediately see a lot of research has gone into getting the product exactly right. These granola's are a feast for the eyes. For breakfast, pour over your usual milk and top with yogurt (that's how I like to eat mine) or put some into a bag for Pocket Rocket Fuel to snack on.

The aspirational packaging tells customer's to: "Throw off the shackles, sail away from the safe harbour, climb to the peak of your ambitions. Whoever you are and whatever you choose to do in life, be it jumping for joy, trekking the Amazon or chasing that business dream, you need the right FUEL to give you the boost that will get your day off to a great start."

FUEL retails at £3.69 and comes in 400g packs and has launched exclusively in 459 Tesco stores. It's launch comes at a time when sales of granola are booming in the UK with all sales up by more than 6% and Tesco seeing an increase of more than 20% year-on-year.

Thank you Lucy and FUEL.

Kolkata's Cult of Durga: Verdict & Epilogue

Photo © 2011 Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I wanted to write this post earlier, but I needed intervening time to be more objective and allow my thoughts to settle. Few if any photo workshops leaders take the trouble of publicly posting their verdict on their workshops...but I've always done that, and will continue to do so.

"Few if any photo workshops leaders take the trouble of publicly posting their verdict on their workshops...but I've always done that, and will continue to do so."

Planning the Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop, I knew full well that setting a photographic trip and workshop in a congested urban center such as Kolkata would be fraught with difficulties, and I was right for two main reasons. The congestion, traffic and the crowds (especially during the Durga Puja week)  in that quintessential Indian megapolis certainly exceeded my expectations, and occasionally took me by surprise with its severity. The prevailing weather was also a factor that I had to consider when planning the duration of the photo shoots, especially when leading a group of people unaccustomed to such high degrees of humidity and heat. For the first time in all my photo expeditions, I recommended to the group that drinking fluids with electrolytes was a necessity and not an option. It's very rare for me to schedule an off day during my workshops/expeditions, and yet I did on this one. Shooting all day for almost a full week in such humid and hot circumstances made me rethink our pace, and I was glad to see that a day of respite was welcomed by the group.

Photo © 2011 Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
But let's start from the top. Despite my travel agent's assurances to the contrary, I was somewhat apprehensive about the Lytton Hotel where we stayed for the two weeks in Kolkata, having read some negative reviews on a travel forum. My reservations turned out to be unfounded. My experience (and largely, that of the remainder of the group) was satisfactory. Sure, there were some minor hiccups here and there, but the staff were generally professional (especially Beryl at the reception, and Nicholas in the restaurant) and helpful. The Lytton is on Sudder Street right in the heart of Kolkata, and we couldn't ask for a better location. Whenever we felt the absolute need for a luxurious and posh restaurant, we popped in the next door Oberoi Grand, where we grumbled about its prices.
"If I had the luxury of rescheduling the photo expedition/workshop, I would have started it two days earlier, and ended it three days earlier."
If I had the luxury of rescheduling the photo expedition/workshop, I would have started it two days earlier, and ended it three days earlier.  It would have given us more time at the outset of the Durga Puja week to document the potters in Kumartuli more thoroughly, while they finalized their effigy making. As it happened, we only had a day and a half to document both the potters at work as well as the transporting of the effigies to the pandals, which didn't didn't give us space to photograph that particular chapter of the festival at a more relaxed pace.

Photo © 2011 Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Transportation was somewhat of a drag. Kolkata's traffic is notoriously bad, and while we had a van for a number of days during the festival itself, we relied on taxis for the rest of the time. Taxis were not difficult to find, but with no ac they were uncomfortable in Kolkata's heat. In retrospect, I should've jacked up the price of the workshop to cover the cost of the van, even if the seasonal price gouging seemed unreasonable in comparison.

That being said, I am gratified that my photo expedition/workshop was held during the appropriate week. I heard that another photographic workshop had mistimed the Durga Puja festivities by about a week, and its members arrived when it was winding down!

We had tremendous photo opportunities; some planned and many serendipitous. Being invited to a private home to witness and document the puja and rituals revolving around welcoming the effigy of Durga, and to another large home involving return of the effigy to the Ganges were serendipitous to a very large extent, and speak volumes to the hospitality of the Bengalis. On another occasion, leaving a cluster of Jain temples, I saw the perfect backdrop for a staged photo shoot, and quickly convinced a nearby rickshaw puller and a woman to spend half an hour as models.
"These slideshows were as good as those I see submitted by seasoned photojournalists!"
Along with Chhandak Pradhan, a freelance photojournalist in Kolkata who assisted us on the photo workshop,  contact was made with a Baul singer (a Bengali wandering minstrel) who treated us to a private demonstration of this ancient skill, and allowed us to record his musical prowess.

There were big time misses as well. Kolkata's Chinatown (at least where we went) wasn't worth the time, nor were the tanneries. Photographing in the Kali temple is prohibited, and the authorities kept a keen eye on us all through our brief visit. That again wasn't worth the trouble. However, the whole area around the Kali temple teems with photographic opportunities. Another area that I found fascinating in the Muslim area of Chitore...also teeming with tremendous photographic opportunities.

Photo © 2011 Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I don't know any other photographic expedition/workshop whose members were such media stars. We were featured in The Hindustan Times, along with some of our quotes. I was also glad to be featured in The Indian Express where I explained the objectives of the workshop.

Finally, a photo expedition/workshop is as good as its participants. I was very pleased by the quality level of the final audio slideshows. I knew the participants were all accomplished photographers, but I underestimated their quickness in mastering the techniques of slideshow making and audio editing.  Consequently, when I saw their multimedia work in progress, I was extremely gratified. These slideshows were as good as those I see submitted by seasoned photojournalists who attend my class at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dilla Djalil Daniel: Myanmar

Photo © Dilla Djalil-Daniel- All Rights Reserved

Photo © Dilla Djalil-Daniel- All Rights Reserved

Photo © Dilla Djalil-Daniel- All Rights Reserved
Dilla Djalil-Daniel is a photographer currently living in Jakarta, and just returned from Myanmar where she photographed the country's remarkable people and its stunning scenery.   

Although she travels around the world for her photography, especially in Asia and has a impressive portfolio that ought to be shown on her own personal website, Dilla has yet to have one. It's a shame really...but The Travel Photographer blog features her work as much as it can. Dilla is also an alum of the Istanbul and Buenos Aires Foundry Photojournalism Workshops. In Buenos Aires, she attended the class given by the incomparable Maggie Steber.

Most of her work is in black and white, which I think is courageous on her part especially when depicting countries as color-rich as Myanmar. The top photograph is of the famous Inle Lake fishermen, and is an obligatory scene for photographers visiting the region, however the lower two are different, in the sense that they are more photojournalistic in composition and vision. I particularly like the bottom candid scene of the Buddhist nuns. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Am Confused About Bushcraft!

I have been reading a few posts about bushcraft, and what we should do or not do so that we do not lose our way. Common themes of course include reliance on skill rather than gear, preserving the traditional ways, and rejecting consumerism and gear accumulation. Many of those articles are expertly written and make excellent points.

Something about all of this bothers me however. Our identity as bushcrafters and the bushcraft community in general seem to be centered around a phenomenon, which I must admit, I don’t entirely understand.


We seem to look back to a particular point in western history; that which spans the time between the mountain man of colonial times and people like Nessmuk and Kephart of the early 1900s. We then try to duplicate their equipment and skills. It appears to, at least from many of the forums and blogs I follow, that the closer we come to emulating those people, the more “true” we become to bushcraft. 

The reason why I find it perplexing is that we do not try to emulate the mentality and approach to the woods that those people had, but rather we try to literally duplicate their experience. We don’t seem to worry about how a mountain man of the 1800s would approach a situation in the bush today, but rather, we try to almost role play the life of that person. Furthermore, we seem to reject much of the thinking that those men had about the wilderness. Few of us would even think about killing an animal only to throw most of it away after one meal, or chopping down two trees a foot in diameter just to make an overnight shelter. (See Nessmuk) Even so however, we still strive to duplicate their kit.

For example, let us say that the mountain man of your choosing used to carry a wool blanket as his sleeping implement. Seemingly we ignore the reasons for why the person did that, and rather, just blindly duplicate the kit. Whether or not the mountain man would have chosen the same sleeping gear if he was alive today, does not seem to be a question we ask.

I find it even more peculiar because these were very practical men. In fact, as bushcrafters we tend to value that rugged simplicity and practicality. At the same time however, we are anything but practical. We forget that the men we try to emulate carried gear that was constrained by availability and the technology of their time. Just because it was carried by that person does not mean that it is a good piece of kit in the spectrum of history. It is true, if Nessmuk was living today, he may retain some items from his kit, but many would certainly change. We tend to forget that these men often tried to get their hands on the latest available technology, so that their time in the woods could be made easier.

Of course, if your stated goal was to duplicate a particular period in history, it makes perfect sense that you would try to duplicate the gear of that time period as precisely as possible. If you intended to be a Civil War reenactor, then closely following the techniques, tools and equipment of the time is exactly what you should do. However, I am not sure why bushcraft has turned into this type of activity. I am not sure why the technology of a particular, apparently randomly chosen period in time is favored over all others, and even more, is taken to define “true” bushcraft.

I wish I could tell you that this was leading somewhere or that I had an answer. Unfortunately, these are just my ramblings, based on what I perceive happening with the bushcraft community. I could be completely misreading the situation, so please do not take this as the last word on the bushcraft community.

Enrico Martino: Dia De Los Muertos

Time flies, and it's this time of year...once again! Observed on November 1st and 2nd, the Dia de Los Muertos is around the corner. Family and friends gather to pray for loved ones who have died. It is celebrated in Mexico, where it's virtually considered a national holiday. Traditionally, private altars honoring the deceased are built using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the dead. Visiting cemeteries, crypts and graves is also a tradition during these two days.

A common symbol of the holiday is the skull (known as calavera), which celebrants represent in masks, called calacas. Also common are sugar skulls, inscribed with the name of the recipient on the forehead. Other special foods include pan de muerto (bread of the dead), a sweet egg bread made in many shapes, from plain rounds to skulls and rabbits often decorated with white frosting to look like twisted bones.

For those who are interested in documenting the Dia de los Muertos, photography workshops in Oaxaca are almost a tradition as well, and are plentiful.

Enrico Martino is an editorial, geographic and documentary photojournalist specialized in travel and cultural assignments. He's a contributor to Italian and international magazines, to include Meridiani, "D"-Repubblica, Epoca, Espresso, Panorama, Focus, Gente Viaggi, In Viaggio, Airone, Panorama Travel, Sette, Traveller, Tuttoturismo, Elle, Marie Claire, Merian, Spiegel, Die Zeit, Jeune Afrique, Altair, Rutas del Mundo.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Competition - Tickets to Cake International NEC Birmingham 4-6th November 2011

I have teamed up with Renshaw to offer one lucky reader of Kitchen Delights two tickets to Cake International, NEC Birmingham 4-6th November 2011.

There are over 100 exhibitors and this promises to be a great day out. So, whether you are a beginner or an expert, there is guaranteed to be something for everyone.

To enter the competition:

Email: with Cake International Competition in the subject heading and your full name and address.

For another chance of winning: Tweet this post using the button at the top of this posting and comment with your twitter ID telling me you have done so.

The closing date is: Midnight on Sunday, 30th October 2011.

Good Luck!

This competition is Now Closed - and the winner is Lisa Cole by Email.

The Big Knit - 16-30th November 2011

This November the hats are back again - and they're more A-list than ever before!

From left to right: The Betty Jackson, The Heston Blumenthal, The Sienna Miller, The Sophie Ellis Bextor and The Savannah Miller.

Making Winter Warmer for Older People - 16-30th November

Every November for the past 8 years, millions of innocent smoothie bottles have donned little woolly hats to raise money for The Big Knit, and help keep older people warm in winter with our friends at Age UK.

The Big Knit Story.........

What it is and how it works...............

Who it helps..........and some useful facts.

Let's get knitting.........

So where should I send my hats to ..........and faq...........

The behatted bottles will be sold in Sainsbury's and Boots this November and the campaign launches on the 2nd November. For every behatted bottle sold, innocent will donate 25p to Age UK.

Ethan Knight: Faith

Photo © Ethan Knight-All Rights Reserved

Ethan Knight is a documentary photographer and a film maker whose work focuses on the impact of war and poverty on marginalized societies. Currently based in Auckland, New Zealand, his work has been published by The New York Times, the National Geographic, the Wall Street Journal, Lonely Planet Images, Australian Geographic and New Zealand Geographic amongst other publications. He also worked with NGOs such as UNHCR, ICRC, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Ethan suggested I viewed his Northern Sri Lanka/Jaffna gallery of images, especially those of the Festival of Murugan, The Tamil god of war, but I went further and viewed his entire Faith Gallery in which he features about 34 monitor-sized images of photographs made in Jerusalem, in Sri Lanka and Kenya.

I thought his most powerful images in the Faith gallery were those of the Thaipusam religious festival, especially those of devotees rolling on the ground for 2 kilometers to the entrance of a temple, and self-inflicting wounds to their bodies in the hope of redemption.

After doing so, you may wish to recuperate from the graphic images by viewing Ethan's photographs of the New Zealand Fashion Week 2011.

Air Wick Freshmatic Odour Detect Automatic Spray

With all the cooking that takes place in my house, and the occasional lingering cooking odours from strong smelling foods, I opened up yet another freshener, but would this one temporarily mask the odours or get rid of those unpleasant cooking smells for good!

I placed the Air Wick Odour Detect freshener in the hall because for some unknown reason this is where my cooking odours seem to accumulate and one of life's pleasures is opening the front door and being greeted with a fragranced hall.

Fresh coffee always lingers and so this was a good test - good news my hallway was wonderfully fragranced but perhaps a little too much, I needed to turn the product down on intensity.

Chilli con Carne was a good test too because it leaves a pungent smell in the house, lovely whilst it is cooking and you are eating it, but not great afterwards - anyway now for the test, the hallway had no traces of lingering odours, even the next day, but just beautifully fragranced.

Mine came with a Sicilian Lemon & Ginseng fragrance, the product comes supplied with batteries and is set up and ready to go in a minute or so. There is an automatic sensor and three levels of fragrance intensity. The device is streamlined and will look good anywhere in the house although my preferred place is in the hallway.

This product is the first air freshener that can actually detect if there is a bad odour in the home and will automatically release the air freshener leaving your home smelling fresh and clean. Air Wick Odour detect has been created after 5 years of research and development and uses the same odour detect technology found in luxury cars.

The Air Wick Odour Detect is available at all major supermarkets.

Thank you Sophiya.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Making a Buck Saw in the Field-Video

In this video I go over how to make a buck saw out in the woods using just a saw blade and some rope. The frame of the saw is constructed from wood you collect in the bush. The only tool you need for the job is your knife, although an axe will help when collecting the wood.

Here are some pictures of the finished product.




It is not pretty, but worked very well. The whole video of me making the saw was 35 minutes in length, including all the set up time for the camera. I would estimate that it took me about 30 minutes of actual work time to complete the saw. Of course that does not take into account the 15 minutes or so it took me to find the type of wood I needed. In this case I was using oak, but any strong wood will do the job.

Zara Bowmar: Kolkata's Pandal Mania

Zara Bowmar is one of the participants in my Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop, and produced a remarkably compelling documentary of the Durga Puja festival.

A native of New Zealand now living in Sydney, Australia, she is the founder of ZeeGlobe, an independent travel site featuring stories and photography, which highlights adventures in new places and cultures in off the beaten track locations or old favorites in new ways.

As featured in her audio slideshow (converted to an mp4 movie) above, Zara was one of the first participant to complete her project in Kolkata. You can view it in black & white above or in vivid color here.

A talented photographer who quickly grasped the photojournalism style in shooting and editing, Zara also provided me with a number of black & white photographs of the Durga Puja festivities. These are as follows:

Photo © Zara Bowmar-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Zara Bowmar-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Zara Bowmar-All Rights Reserved

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Jehad Nga: Cairo Corners

Photo © Jehad Nga-All Rights Reserved

One of my favorite photographers is Jehad Nga, and I've featured his work on many occasions on The Travel Photographer blog for his superb chiaroscuro work, for his distinctive photographic and visual style and for his choice of subject matter.

In recent interviews, Jehad shared that he was no longer interested in editorial work, but I'm glad he decided to feature recent work on Cairo on his website. Those who know his work will realize that the Cairo work is, in a way, more art than documentary-editorial.

There are two galleries relating to Cairo; one of which is Cairo Corners, in which his trademark unabashed shadow-play is clearly evident.

"I respond more to fashion and fine-art, carrying these fields and variables in photojournalism." -Jehad Nga

On a personal note...I've been urged by a number of Egyptians to photograph my homeland, and even to lead photo workshops there...not necessarily in Cairo, but to outer regions such as Siwa for example, which boasts a distinct culture. Such a workshop may well occur in the near future, especially as I pore over Jehad's beautifully crafted images. Is my hesitancy to photograph in Egypt caused by what I call the "native's blind eye"? I don't know....but Jehad's work certainly inspires me to see Cairo in a different light.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Time LightBox: Xavier Comas' The Rumoh Raja

Photo © Xavier Comas- Courtesy TIME Lightbox
LightBox, TIME’s photo department's blog, is really one of my top photo destinations almost every day, and one of its recent features is incredibly compelling.

The feature is titled The Rumoh Raja, and is by Spanish photographer Xavier Comas, who shows us photographs made in Thailand’s southern region. The people of the region are mostly ethnic Malay and Muslim, and are descendants of people who had lived once in an independent sultanate.
"Somehow, the house possesses its inhabitants, who merge into the darkness of its shadows."
Xavier spent three months living with an ethnic Malay Muslim family in the decrepit shell of a once splendid palace at the invitation of a local imam's helper and a shaman-healer. The Rumoh Raja (ie the “Raja’s house”) used to be occupied by Tengku Samsuddin, a turn of the century aristocrat who governed the semi-autonomous Malay state of Legeh until it and other territories were swallowed up by the kings of Siam in 1909.

The current inhabitant claims the upper floors of the palace are still haunted by he spirits of two women in red, court concubines who still dance in mourning for their fallen Raja.

Dark and brooding as befits the subject matter, this feature is will leave you wondering whether the building hosts ghosts or not.

Angkor Photo Festival: Updated Website

The Angkor Photo Festival website's just announced facelift is quite substantial, so have a look at the 2011 schedule of events and you may be tempted to drop by, if you aren't already planning to attend.

The festival is to take place in Siem Reap from November 19 to November 26, 2011. This well established event is the first photography festival held in Southeast Asia and for 2011, will exhibit the work of 110 photographers, out of whom 60 are from Asia. 

The 2011 list of exhibiting photographers includes Andrew Biraj, Pep Bonet, Paula Bronstein, Marco Di Lauro, Tewfic El-Sawy, Siddharth Jain, Yuri Koryzev, Liz Loh-Taylor, Wendy Marijnissen, Erica McDonald, Palani Mohan, and many more.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Barco Boy’s Axe Review

After reviewing the Barco double bit cruiser axe, I was very excited about their product line, and was eager to test their boy’s axe. My expectation was that it would be a single bit version of the cruiser axe. I had very high hopes for it. Unfortunately, the boy’s axe did not live up to the expectations.


Barco Industries
Axe Head Weight: 2.25 lb (feels like it is closer to 2 lb)
Axe Length: 27 inches
Axe Head Material: Unknown carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $40.00


The Barco Boy’s axe is very reasonably priced. It is in the same price range as the Council Tool Boy’s axe.

For purposes of this review, I have compared it to the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. You can see them here side by side.



The Barco Boy’s axe is heavier and longer than the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. The handle has fairly good grain orientation and fells comfortable. Unfortunately, the handle seems to be a little too large for the eye of the axe. If order to make it fit, the handle narrows significantly when it nears the eye. In my opinion the handle is just the right size for a boy’s axe, but he eye needs to be larger.


The head of the Barco Boy’s axe has a fairly good design. It does not have the convexed cheeks that we saw on the Barco cruiser axe, but there is nothing wrong with the design. The head is attached to the handle with a wooden wedge.


As with the other Barco axes, the bit of the boy’s axe comes unfinished. Again, I do not just mean that it is dull, I mean that it has not been ground down at all. As the shape of the head is good overall, and the cheeks are not overly thick, the edge can be finished with some file work, but it will require time.


The Barco Boy’s axe is well balanced. As with most axes, it is slightly bit heavy, but nothing that you will be able to detect during use.

kj (9)

The axe does not come with a sheath.

Overall, the axe is not bad value for the money. If this was the only $40 boy’s axe on the market, I would not hesitate to buy it and start working on grinding down the bit. However, we do have to consider that there is another $40 competitor-the Council Tool Boy’s axe. In my opinion, it is a much better value for the money. The head is slightly better designed. The handle is a little more comfortable and it certainly fits the head a lot better. Most importantly, while it is likely to come dull, it requires only minimal work to bring it to shaving sharp and properly ground condition. A task that will take hours with the Barco Boy’s axe can be completed within minutes with the Council Tool Boy’s axe.

Perhaps my disappointment with the Barco Boy’s axe comes from the fact that I had such high expectations. The axe certainly fell short of those. You can buy the Barco Boy’s axe here