Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New! First Images From The Fujifilm X-Pro1

It does appear the new Fujifilm X-Pro1 will prove to be a tough competitor, not only to the Leica M9 (as I thought it would), but also prove to be a decent alternative to DSLRs. Two Australian photographer who've had the opportunity to test it have extremely positive things to say about it. Take a look at the Vimeo movie above.

The eminent PetaPixel website featured a link to the first images from the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 on the websites of Australian photographers Christian Fletcher and Michael Coyne.

I really can't wait to test it myself!!!

Hotel Chocolat - Valentine's Day Chocolates

Head over Heels from Hotel Chocolat are a fabulous selection of chocolate truffles presented in a beautiful ribbon tied box. The box is classy and the chocolates look very classy too. Remove the lid and the aroma from the chocolates is heavenly.

A menu is enclosed with detailed descriptions for each chocolate. The chocolate flavoured truffles melt in the mouth and I especially liked Bakewell Tart with more than a dash of cherry brandy and the chocolate heart Raspberry Rapture with zingy raspberry, my recommendation is to eat the Strawberry and Black Pepper truffle last, otherwise I'm not sure you will be able to taste the others and that would be a waste of good chocolate............all that's needed now is the pink bubbly!

Here are some more Valentine's Day Gifts and lovely Chocolate Hearts to tempt you.

Thank you Hotel Chocolat.

Sharon Johnson-Tennant: Diffusion & Magical Mystery Tour

Pilgrimage Home (Ladakh)- © Sharon Johnson-Tennant-All Rights Reserved

Kitchen , Stok Monastery-© Sharon Johnson-Tennant-All Rights Reserved

Morocco-Photo © Sharon Johnson-Tennant-All Rights Reserved

Morocco- Photos © Sharon Johnson-Tennant-All Rights Reserved


Adjective:  Light, delicate, and translucent.
Here are a number of photographs by Sharon Johnson-Tennant, a multi-faceted award winning photographer in Los Angeles and a participant in my 2010 Tribes of Rajasthan & Gujarat Photo~Expedition.

These photographs are part of a larger number she sent me in connection with her forthcoming exhibition named DIFFUSION; a compilation of 9 years of Sharon's work from travel all over the world. She describes the photographs in this exhibition as "images that seem to have stopped in time, things in plain sight but not always seen" such as the two top ones made in Ladakh, a remote area of India. Apart from India, her travels have taken her to Malaysia, Burma, Borneo, Papua New Guinea, Thailand and the Philippines.

The exhibition's opening night is March 3, 2012 (7-10 pm) at the Robert Berman Gallery, in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. The exhibition will continue until March 31st.

As for the lower photographs, they're part of Sharon's larger body of work (still in progress) which she calls Magical Mystery Tour. Those were recently made in Morocco at twilight. That time of day in terms of light, coupled with the natural reticence of Moroccans to being photographed pushed Sharon to alter her techniques to meet these challenges.

On my blog, I frequently describe photographs as powerful, emotive, and/or well composed.  For Sharon's new photographs, I happily add diaphanous and ethereal to all these adjectives.

For further examples of Sharon's talents, visit her new website...you'll see the versatility of her work.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Thriving in Nature With the Help of Bushcraft

Warning: This is just another one of my rants, so don’t take it too seriously…

Many of you have probably heard the recent unfortunate story of David Austin, whose body was found in the Scottish Highlands. His family indicates that he had intended to live off the land for a year, using his skills and a small number of tools. It appears that he died from hypothermia less than a month after his adventure began.

The media has been quick to bring Bear Grylls into the fray, saying that the 29 year old David was trying to emulate Bear Grylls. For once, I can honestly say, I do not think this is Bear Grylls’ fault. As foolhardy and dangerous as his methods may be, his aim always seems to be to get out of the wilderness as quickly as possible, the opposite of what David Austin was attempting to do.


Not that there is any need for blame here, but if I was going to place it anywhere, it would be not on Bear Grylls, but rather on people like Ray Mears, and in particular the masses of followers who spend most of their time on forums, regurgitating half though out information with no experience to back it up. Inevitably, one is left with the impression that as long as you are “one with nature”, and “learn to understand her ways through the magic of bushcraft”, you can “thrive” under any conditions, armed with your knowledge and whatever bushcraft knife your favorite celebrity happens to be pushing this season.

All sorts of platitudes get espoused about how bushcraft is some transcendent knowledge that will make nature your loyal friend. If only you were one of the inner circle, and acquired this knowledge, then even after being stranded in the woods for months, the rescue team will find you living in a comfortable shelter, sipping spruce needle tea and relaxing by the fire. The proclamations about bushcraft get only more esoteric and abstract from there, to the point where reading a thread on “What is Bushcraft” can make you feel like you are in a cult.

To be fair, there is some truth to those statements, but anyone who has spent significant time in the woods, more than ten feet away from their car, knows that these are just overly romanticized musing. Unfortunately, as a culture we have lost the day to day connection to our more primitive living skills. Few people even go into the woods, let alone try to make a living there with their own two hands. As a result, we now look at the past with rose colored glasses, and just like an old man sitting on the porch, yelling at kids about the “good ol’ days”, we paint the lives of those who actually had to live that way in a light that removes all of the toil, suffering and hardship. We have lost all realistic grasp on what it takes and the hardships one has to endure when living alone in the woods for any period of time.

Being one with nature, and living off the land looks great on TV. It’s even great when you are doing it with a support crew on a TV show, where a set of cast iron pots magically appears so you can cook your food, and the Range Rover is right there to take you to the nearest hotel when you get cold.

By being so isolated from the reality, and having as our only source of information the limited amount we see on TV, or from someone who has made a few YouTube videos, and now styles himself a bushcraft instructor, we come away with the impression that the only thing that separates us from a glorious and harmonious existence and unity with nature, is the bushcraft knowledge that we have to acquire. The reality of actually feeding yourself off the land, and surviving for prolonged periods of time under harsh conditions gets whitewashed by the romanticism perpetuated by certain TV hosts, and especially those who self-proclaim themselves as their disciples.

The likely reality is that for our ancestors, trying to live alone in the wilderness was either a test of manhood, if done for a short period of time, or a death sentence if done for a prolonged period of time. People survived in communities, which together strived to gather resources where locally available, so that they can survive periods of the year where those resources could not be procured. It is not uncommon to see cultures where the well being of the group depended on one particular time of the year where a specific game was hunted, or food gathered, whether it be salmon run, reindeer migration, or acorn collection. Similarly, the image of the lone mountain man is largely an illusion. Trappers traveled and worked in large teams, separating from base camp only at the end of the trip in order to set traps. Living alone with no human contact or source of resupply has more to do with our imaginations than reality.

Lacking this local knowledge, and the ability to exploit the available resources at exactly the right time, and lacking the safety net and support structure of a community, or resupply chain, “living off the land” or “thriving in nature” becomes wishful thinking, no matter how well you can carve a spoon. It looks like we unfortunately have another person to add to the list of people who have proven that point. 

As you can hopefully guess by now, the title of this post was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I by no means intend to disparage the practice of bushcraft. I believe those skills should be preserved, and they can make a well planned out trip that much more enjoyable, and an unforeseen survival situation that much more manageable. However, we should make a strong effort not to get delusions of grandeur, and start thinking that living alone in the wilderness is firmly within our grasp.

My Work: Kushti In Kolkata

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
During my Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop, I chanced upon a group of traditional wrestlers near the Armenian Ghat on the Hooghly river. These were Kushti wrestlers, about to practice their sport in a small area, which was being carefully prepared for their bouts.

While I had known of Kushti being practiced in Delhi and Varanasi, I hadn't heard of it in Kolkata and after watching these wrestlers for a while, I concluded that it was different here. In contrast with the ground being moist (as in Delhi), the wrestling area (known as an akhara) here was dry, was swept with young tree branches then covered with bits of leaves, which I believe were from neighboring neem trees (which have medicinal properties).

Kushti is India's traditional wrestling, and is an ancient form of wrestling. It was held in great importance in Indian societies, but its popularity has dwindled over the years, although there are concerted efforts to revive it. Kushti practitioners face grueling daily training, a strict diet and celibacy.

The Armenian Ghat is probably the most interesting of all of Kolkata's ghats. It was built by a merchant of Armenian origin in 1724. Armenians dominated has spice in gem traders in ancient Kolkata. The Kolkata station and Ticket Reservation Room of Eastern Railways was situated in the Armenian Ghat from 1854-1874.

For those who're interested in tech stuff, I used a Leica M9 with an Elmarit 28mm 2.8.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

POV: Lost In Translation?

Photo © AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen- Courtesy DenverPost.com
I've seen quite a few errors in the captions of photographs recently, but this one is probably the most misleading. The photograph appeared in the Pictures of the Week on the Denver Post Plog

Underneath the photograph is a caption that reads "Eman Mohammed, 7, holds a placard that reads in Arabic, "our army is over our head, and the parliament belongs to the ousted," during a protest in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Jan. 23, 2012. The parliament elected in Egypt's first legislative vote after Hosni Mubarak's ouster nearly a year ago held its inaugural session on Monday, with Islamists dominating the 498-seat chamber that will oversee the drafting of a new constitution."

This is incorrect, and is at a 180 degrees divergence from what is on the placard. The correct translation of the Arabic words on the placard is "Our Army is over our head (ie a colloquialism for being held in great esteem)...The Council belongs (or follows) the ousted (for the ousted Mubarak)."

The Council referred to on the placard is not the Parliament, but is the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. This is totally divergent from what the caption incorrectly states. The child is presumably one of the protestors who took part in a demonstration against the military council, not against the civilian Parliament.

I always wondered whether in such a case, would the error be that of the photographer (in this case, an Arabic speaker) or someone else?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Josef Tornick: The Hebrides

Photo © Josef Tornick-All Rights Reserved
"I am deeply happy to have found my place, camera in hand, in this world."
I normally do not feature much at all of European subjects, however Josef Tornick's beautiful black & white photographs of the Outer Hebrides and of the Aran Islands (a widespread and diverse archipelago off the west coast of Scotland and a group of islands on the west coast of Ireland respectively) are so well composed, that I thought I'd redress this failing.

Josef describes himself as project-oriented humanist documentary photographer. After years of deep inward study and reflection, he tells is of an effortless flow of images from his camera, reflecting a long sought integration.

Having followed my blog's posts relating to the new Fujifilm cameras, Josef tells me he just bought a Fujifilm FinePix X100 and is amazed by its image quality, which he thinks is much better than his former Panasonic G1.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sticky Clementine Steamed Puddings

I'm definitely not trying to tease anyone who is on a New Year diet but steamed pudding, especially at this time of the year, is difficult to beat. The recipe was on the front cover of Delicious Magazine and I thought they looked just too good to resist.

These little puddings have a wonderful hit of ginger and cinnamon, surprisingly this isn't a heavy pudding, but light and sticky. They need turning out of the basins whilst they are still warm otherwise they will stay in the basins for ever. Once they are out of the metal basins they can be reheated perfectly in the microwave.

The pudding is served with a sticky clementine infused syrup and cold cream - delicious.

Slightly adapted.

Serves: 6

You will need: 6 x 175ml dariole or pudding basins, greased and base-lined with parchment discs.

Soft light brown sugar to sprinkle, 2 clementines(1 sliced into rounds and 1 squeezed), 125g self-raising flour, 90g golden caster sugar, 65g fresh white breadcrumbs, 1 heaped tsp baking powder, 90g shredded suet, 4 tbsp orange marmalade, 2½ tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 large free-range egg, 4 tbsp golden syrup, 3-4 tbsp milk. Cream to serve.

For the Syrup

You will need: Juice of 2 clementines strained, 75g golden caster sugar, 2 tbsp golden syrup.

1. Sprinkle the base of each basin with a little soft brown sugar, then put a clementine round(no need to peel) in the base of each pudding basin.
2. Mix together the flour and golden caster sugar with a small pinch of salt, the breadcrumbs, baking powder and suet. In a small bowl whisk the marmalade with the clementine juice, spices, egg and then the golden syrup, stir the wet mixture into the flour mixture. Add just enough milk to bring it together into a soft dropping consistency.
3. Fill each basin two-thirds full. Cut out 6 squares of non-stick baking foil and make a pleat in each one, place over the top of the basin and tuck firmly around the edges.
4. Place the puddings into a steamer and steam for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes.
5. For the syrup: Put the clementine juice, sugar and golden syrup in a small saucepan over a medium heat and allow the sugar to melt. Increasing the heat and bring to a boil until the syrup thickens.
6. Remove the puddings, cool for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Drizzle the syrup over and allow to soak into the puddings.

Making a Pot Holder

This is a short video, showing how to make a pot holder from a stick. With this holder you can move the pot around as well as pour water out without having to touch the pot. This will only work on a pot with a bail. The one I am using in the video is the Open Country 2 Qt. aluminum pot.

For a larger format of the video, you can visit my YouTube channel.

POV: 5th Anniversary...Yes, 5th!!!

I always write a post at this time of year to observe the annual anniversary/birthday of The Travel Photographer's blog. I've started the blog five years ago (in London actually, and probably only because I was stuck at home as it was raining) and since then, it attracted an astonishing number of readers and visitors.

On the poster above, I haven't added my 5400 followers on Lightbox, an Android app (and soon to be on iPhone too as well).

Over two million unique visitors! Two million!!!

It established itself as a blog to read amongst a certain segment of the photography industry, and earned me the attention of many photographers (pros, semi-pros and non pros), photo retailers and industry experts. Yes, it's time-consuming (much less so now because it's well known, and requests from photographers find their way to my inbox on a weekly basis), but I still have enough self discipline to attend to it on a daily basis (well, 99% of the time).

And one of the most pleasant thrills I experience is being accosted in public and asked if I was "The Travel Photographer"...and this happens not infrequently, especially in New York City. If I may say so, adopting the brand name "The Travel Photographer" is one of the best ideas I've had in years. A self-pat on the back for thinking of it. A lesson to the younger photographers: brand yourself!!!

Onwards towards the 6th year.

As they say in my country of birth...Insha' Allah!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mark Carey: Viet Nam In Black & White

Photo © Mark Carey-All Rights Reserved
"My photographic heart lies in documentary, showing things as they really are, not as someone has contrived them to be..."
Here's a photographer who shares my own photographic credo. 

Mark Carey is a London-based documentary photographer, and who tells us he never had an interest in photographing posed or set-up shots, whether for his wedding photography or during his travels. I suggest you view his wedding portfolio, and see this documentary/photojournalism style applied to the weddings he covered.

His travel portfolio consists of three main galleries; Rajasthan, Varanasi and Viet Nam, which I think has extremely well composed black & white (one or two are in color) street photographs. I don't know if Mark shoots from the hip, but the subjects in many of the photographs appear to be oblivious of his presence....street photography at its best.

It's been too long since my last visit to Viet Nam, and I am starting to lay out plans for a photo expedition/workshop at some point to take place in this wonderful country.

A highly recommended viewing stop for all those interested in Viet Nam and solid street photography! Great travel photography does not need to be in color!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Types of Winter Camping and Moisture Management

It had been a few weeks since I had made it into the woods, due to the unexpected family troubles. Well, this past weekend I finally did some camping. As luck would have it, I headed out into the woods just as a snow storm hit the area. It wasn’t bad once I got into the woods, but getting there with the car was a nightmare. It was also hard to shoot some of the videos I had intended to make because of the falling snow.

The temperature was about 10 degrees (F), so the moisture wasn’t too bad, but exposed areas formed ice immediately because the falling snow would melt from the body heat and then freeze. So that leads me to mention some different winter camping considerations. I know I seem to do it every winter, but I think it’s worth mentioning.


Of course, during winter the main concern is the freezing temperatures. We have to somehow preserve our body heat, so we can stay warm in the absence of an external heat source. The first step towards doing this is easy-get sufficient clothing for the temperature that you see on the thermometer. Like a friend of mine says, “There is no bad weather, there is only inadequate clothing”. It is a good first step, but after you’ve been out in the woods even once, you will figure out that this is not enough. An equally important factor in winter camping is moisture management.

From a moisture management stand point, there are very different types of winter camping. It all revolves around how easily snow will turn into water and penetrate your clothing. What I mean by that is that snow is a solid material, and because of that it’s actually dry. If you take a shirt which you have kept hanging on a tree branch, and toss it in the snow, you should be able to pick it up, shake off the snow, and have it be completely dry. If the snow however melts for any reason, or the temperature is warm enough to let the snow contain spots of liquid water, you will get wet, which will drastically alter your ability to keep warm.

From my limited experience I have noticed four different winter camping situations.

Cold Weather; No Snow

The first one is when there is no snow. Under such conditions, moisture management becomes fairly easy. Since there are no external sources of moisture, the only thing we have to worry about in the perspiration from our own bodies. Make sure to regulate your body temperature so you do not sweat. If you do, you will end up wet, and the insulation value of your clothing will decrease significantly. There are many myths out there about the abilities of different fabrics, but from my experience, I can tell you that you will be cold in all of them when you are wet. You’ve probably heard that wool keeps you warm even when wet. Maybe it keeps you warmer than some other materials, but from experience I can tell you, it will not keep you warm. I have spent many night out wearing wool clothing, and you will notice exactly which areas of your clothing have gotten wet. The best approach to managing moisture here is to regulate your body temperature by removing items of clothing when you get too warm. Relying on the alleged “magical” properties of whatever material is currently in fashion will not get you nearly as far as a bit of common sense.

Mild Weather; Snow

The second type of situation is where you have snow on the ground, but the temperature is only just about freezing, 32 degrees (F). Under such conditions, your priorities are much the same as when camping in the rain. You need to pay close attention to your water proof/resistant clothing. Many clothing items which are made for very cold environments will not do well under these conditions. For example, reindeer mukluks, while very warm, will get wet immediately, creating huge problems. Similarly, items like ventile/gaberdine, which are intended to function as wind proof layers and perhaps deal with minor moisture, will become waterlogged very quickly, again, leading to problems, as was noted by Nansen during his crossing of Greenland.

In my opinion, this is one of the most difficult conditions to deal with, because you always have to compromise between controlling perspiration and protecting yourself against outside sources of moisture. Wearing a waterproof layer will undoubtedly make you sweat more considering that the outside temperature is not that cold, but may be worth it if you are getting soaked from the outside by the falling snow.

If you are camping in such weather, do not get complacent. More people die each year from hypothermia in exactly such conditions that in extreme cold weather. That’s because people underestimate how quickly their bodies can cool down, especially when wet. While the weather may be mild, you need to pay close attention to any signs of your body temperature being lowered.

Cold Weather; Snow

The third type of scenario, which is what I had this weekend, is when you have temperatures that are under 20 degrees (F), and I would say down to about 0 degrees (F). Here any snow that is on the ground, is frozen well enough as to not provide a significant source of moisture. However, it is still not cold enough for it to never be an issue. Your body still produces sufficient heat so that when the snow comes in contact with your body, especially when you are working and not wearing a lot of layers, it will melt and get you wet. I’ve found that it then quickly freezes and forms ice. You also have to be careful around other heat sources like a fire, because if you get close to it with any snow on your body, the snow will melt and get you wet. This remains a consideration even in lower temperatures.

In such conditions, I still find good waterproof clothing to be extremely valuable. That is why you see me wearing Goretex boots instead of mukluks. I am sacrificing some insulation for the benefit of water resistance. Being wet in these temperatures will be a problem, no matter what materials you are wearing. It is even more of an issue because it becomes very hard to dry your equipment due to the cold weather.

At temperatures these low and lower, there are some additional issues.

Avoid touching metal objects with unprotected hands. At these temperatures, your skin will stick to them. This weekend I was making a video that required me to touch a metal pot. Because I was filming, I only had my fingerless liner gloves on. By the time I was done the exposed skin on my fingers was noticeably bruised from the contact with the metal. You will see in some books that people tell you to warm up your metal tools by holding them in your hand before using them. One part of the idea is good. In cold temperatures metal becomes brittle, and it is better if you can warm it up. However, doing it by holding it in your hand, will leave you with frostbite. A tip I got from a friend is to warm up your tools between the different layers of clothing you have.

Also keep in mind that you have to protect objects which contain water. Keep your water bottle insulated, or it will freeze. Wide mouth bottles have an advantage here because the opening is less likely to completely freeze. During night, flip the bottle upside down. That way any ice that forms will be on the bottom of the bottle. If you can not keep it in your sleeping bag during the night, burying the bottle in about a foot of snow will help to keep it from freezing.

Similarly, a water filter which has been used can freeze and crack. The water that remains in the filter element will expand when it freezes, causing damage. Make sure to keep it in an insulated container if you plan on using one. Chemical treatment of water also tends not to work effectively at these temperatures. The best way to purify your water under these conditions is to boil it. While during other times of the year, this is no where near my favorite method, it is not that bad during winter. First, you are usually getting your water from snow, so you do not have to time your fires with water sources. Second, it is not nearly as bad drinking warm water during winter as it is when it is 80 degrees (F) outside with 90% humidity.

Extremely Cold Weather; Snow

The fourth type of winter camping, and the one with which I have very little experience is when the temperature falls into the negative range. Here moisture almost entirely comes down to managing you perspiration. Even if any moisture gets on you from the outside, it will freeze before it can penetrate the clothing. Waterproof clothing plays less of a role under such conditions. Insulation and breathability are key. The only thing I will say here is that you should not overestimate the breathability of fabrics. Many people will claim that the outer layer they have chosen is the best for that purpose, but think about how much that will matter when you are wearing four layers of clothing underneath. The best way to avoid perspiration is good temperature regulation by removal of clothing during activity. For good sources of information of camping under very cold conditions, give the following two blogs a look: American Grouch and The Weekend Woodsman. Both of these guys are the real deal when it comes to the issue.   

A Year Ago...Egypt

Photo © Ed Ou - All Rights Reserved

In remembrance of those who fell in Tahrir and elsewhere. The Egyptian revolution started a year ago today, and is still ongoing.

And to the naysayers, neo-cons and the rest of the mindless individuals who prefer Arab dictatorships, and see democracy (as imperfect as it may be) taking its first steps in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East as an existentialist threat, go screw yourselves.

And to those who are optimistic, here are, via Foreign Policy Magazine, the young Egyptians who will eventually succeed in achieving what they started.

Valentine's Day Chocolates, Cookies and Cupcakes

Chocolates are a great way to decorate cupcakes and the Hearts and Kisses and Chocolate Hearts look really pretty. The foil cupcake cases are my own and I made the chocolate cupcakes too. The Chocolate Heart Lollipop could also be used to decorate a cake.

I fell in love with Mr & Mrs Love Bears Gingerbread and the Heart Shaped Gingerbread too. The box of strawberry and vanilla mini heart shortbread's smell wonderful and will go beautifully alongside some strawberry or vanilla ice cream.

A cute selection of goodies from Sainsbury's - and there are lots of other Valentine's Day products in their stores.

Thank you Sainsbury's.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Year Of The Dragon: Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Photo © Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images-Courtesy Al Jazeera
Ethnic Chinese, Koreans and Vietnamese across Asia are ringing in the Year of the Dragon with fireworks, festivals and family reunions. Legend has it that Chinese people descended from a dragon, and it's believed the powerful creature is auspicious. The tradition dictates that those born in Dragon years tend to be brave, innovative and highly driven, regularly making it to the top of their profession. In China, the holiday is known as 春节, the Spring Festival, and kicks off 15 days of celebration.

Al Jazeera's In Pictures, The Atlantic's In FocusThe Boston Globe's The Big Picture and the Los Angeles Time's Framework featured photo galleries of the celebrations all over the world.

Photo © Rungroj Yongrit/EPA-Courtesy LAT

I wish all the very best to my friends and readers in Asia and elsewhere who celebrate the Year of the Dragon.

In New York City's Chinatown, a Lunar New Year parade is scheduled for January 29 on Canal Street South from 11:30 to 4 pm. I bet many photographers will be there!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Les Stroud – Stranded Video

Most people are familiar with Les Stroud from the Survivorman series. Before he did Survivorman however, Les Stroud tested out the idea of making a seven day survival video that he films himself, in a two part video called Stranded. The first part features him trying to survive for seven days in the summer, while the second video has him do the same thing during the winter.



Both of these videos are excellent, and are particularly interesting because they show the origins of the Survivorman show that we have come to know so well.

POV: Fujifilm X-Pro 1 & Leica M9

One of my most popular blog posts is the recent FujiFilm X-Pro1: Is It A Threat To Leica? in which I thought that it might well be, depending on the X-Pro 1's image quality (of course) and price point. It attracted a large number of emails...some agreeing with me, and others disagreeing.

About two weeks into the announcement, a large number of websites have expressed first look opinions and reviews of the X-Pro 1, and the consensus seems to be that Fujifilm is indeed putting the Leica M9 in its crosshairs with this new camera. Some even say that with the M9 based on the classic rangefinder model, the X-Pro 1 (although not a rangefinder as such) is the future...a reincarnation of that classic model. After all, it's an all-new camera system, with a brand new mount and lenses.

Another clue into Fujifilm's strategic thinking is its announcement it will make available a Leica M-mount adapter for the X-Pro 1, trying to peel off consumers away from the legendary classic but providing photographers the option to use the excellent Leica lenses as well as Voigtlander and Zeiss glass. How many times have I heard from established photographers that they'd love to have an M9, but it was too expensive? Lots.

I recently read in PDN that the lens system for the X-Pro 1 will initially consist of a 18mm f/2, 35mm f/1.4 and a 60mm f/2.4, with more coming down the road such as a 14mm super wide, a 18-72mm f/4 IS zoom, a 23mm f/2, a 28mm f/2.8 pancake design, a 12-24mm f/4 and a 70-200mm f/4 IS zoom.

Quite a broad range of lenses to suit every photography type! Wedding, street and documentary.

On the negative side, I also read in a number of hands-on reviews (of the pre-production models) that its auto-focus will not be as responsive as we'd like it to be. Another thing, the actual retail price has appeared in the UK, and seems to be £1350 (the equivalent of about $2000 including VAT of 20%, or $1600 net pre tax).

Will this Fujifilm newcomer pressure Leica to come up with a mirrorless model of its own? Perhaps. We have all seen countless companies fall by the wayside because they couldn't (or wouldn't) grab the moment...because of managerial inertia, bad luck or arrogance...or all of those.

I am not "dissing" Leica by any means. I own one and I'm very pleased with it despite its shortcomings (and my own), but I have no second thoughts the X-Pro 1 will nibble into the rangefinder market. How much of a nibble remains to be seen.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

POV: An Evolution

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

It's a  curious thing evolution. Not the kind of evolution that most Republican Presidential candidates unintelligently profess (or pretend to) not to believe in, but our own visual evolution...our visual maturation.

Last night, I was going through my photographs from the week I spent attending the Angkor Photo Festival in Siem Reap and, whilst I hadn't any plans to seriously photograph there, I nevertheless did manage to grab a few hundred of shots. I had no specific storyline or photo shoots in mind, played the tourist and just photographed whatever took my fancy.

I left my Canon 5D Mark II in my hotel room, and only used my M9 fitted with an Elmarit 28mm f2.8 during that week wherever I went, and it was liberating -but also challenging to some degree- to be using a rangefinder with only one lens.

Looking at my photographs, I isolated the four you see above this post that I believe illustrate the visual maturation I've been through since I started photography in earnest some 12 years ago. The top two are the shots I used to prefer almost exclusively during the first few years of my photographic trajectory...simple, uncomplicated, candid, pure travel photography....those I call perhaps undeservedly the "lazy" shots. Although these are made with a rangefinder and a wide-angle lens, I used to make similar photographs using a 70-200 lens, staying at some distance from my subjects. I no longer do this,  especially with the gear I now prefer to use. That being said, this type of photography is currently my least favored.  It's a milestone in my visual maturation.

The one of the caretaker monk at Wat Bo is a chiaroscuro portrait; the kind I like when making a simple "one-subject" photograph. It takes a little more planning and setting up, and is obviously much more dramatic than the "plain-vanilla" top two.

The bottom image is the type of photography that appeals to me the most at this stage. It's far from being a great photograph, but comparatively is more complex. It's not as multi-layered as a street photograph, and is just of dance performers dressing up for tourists at Angkor Wat...but is much more interesting than the above three; at least to my eyes.

A few years ago, when I definitely moved to digital photography,  I decided -for space reasons- to cull my slides, and must've thrown out thousands of what -to my eyes then- were crappy shots. I only kept the "good" ones which are largely similar to the top two photographs...simple and uncomplicated. Who knows? Perhaps I threw a few slides that would have now been "keepers".

It's why I no longer trash any of my image files....unless they're really bad, really really blurry or beyond any fix. With digital files, physical space (as in filing cabinets or whatever) is no longer an issue, so all images are saved and archived....one day, they may be keepers after all!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Nigella Lawson's Chocolate Brownie Bowls

To make this recipe you really need to buy the 6-cavity dessert shell tin. The recipe is from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, it's just a shame Nigella didn't include a few more recipe variations because baking tins can be quite expensive and using them for one recipe isn't ideal.

I greased my tin with Wilton Cake Release to make sure the brownie bowls didn't stick to the tin and would turn out easily. Next time I make them I'm going to use cake release and then dust the tin with cocoa powder to see if this gives the base of the bowls more eye appeal.

An easy recipe to make and the cooking time is only 12 minutes. They turn out easily, can be frozen and reheat successfully in the microwave.

I made a chocolate sauce to fill my bowls (this isn't a Nigella recipe) and topped them with vanilla ice cream. Nigella says to eat the bowls warm and and then top them with ice cream. It just remains for me to say, delicious!

You will need:

125g unsalted soft butter, 125g caster sugar, 15g malted milk powder (Horlicks or similar), 15g best-quality cocoa powder, 125ml boiling water, 125 buttermilk or runny plain yogurt, 1 egg, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 150g plain flour ½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6 and either butter or use Cake Release to grease the tin.
2. Melt the butter over a low heat, add the sugar, keep stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve the sugar into the butter. Take off the heat.
3. Put the cocoa powder and malted milk powder into a basin and whisk in the boiling water, whisk until smooth and there aren't any lumps. Add this to the warm pan of butter and sugar, stir well to combine.
4. To a basin add the buttermilk or yogurt, egg and vanilla and whisk together, stir this mixture into the pan. Whisk in the flour and bicarb.
5. Pour the mixture into a jug and fill the 6 bowls.
6. Place in the preheated oven for about 12 minutes. When cooked they will feel slightly bouncy if you press on the surface - sit the tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes before turning out the little brownie bowls. Fill whilst still just warm or when cooled.

The bowls can be baked up to a day ahead and stored in an airtight container, layered with baking parchment. Reheat in a warm oven for 5-8 minutes before serving. I found they reheated well in the microwave oven.
The bowls can be frozen, layered with baking parchment, for up to 2 months. Defrost for 3-4 hours on a wire rack at room temperature. Reheat.

Chocolate Sauce

You will need: 25g butter, 142ml double cream, 75g good quality dark chocolate broken into small pieces, splash of brandy, rum, Amaretto or Baileys.

Place the butter in a pan with the cream and bring to the boil. Turn off the heat and add the chocolate pieces to the pan. Stir, leave for 5 minutes for the chocolate to melt into the cream. Add a splash of either brandy, rum, Amaretto or Baileys.

Gul Chotrani: Leica Talk

Photo © Gul Chotrani-All Rights Reserved
Gul Chotrani was just featured in an interview on The Leica Camera Blog, following his return from his July 2011 journey to Ethiopia's Omo Valley.

I met him when he joined my In Search of the Sufis of Gujarat Photo Expedition™ in 2011, and it was during it that he photographed using his M9, S2 and a Nikon D3.

Gul worked as an analyst/economist and later in investment banking in the UK, then spent several years in academia, teaching economics and finance in Singapore and South East Asia. He subsequently served as a consultant/advisor in trade, finance and development issues, and also participated in technical cooperation programs with several less developed countries in Asia, on behalf of the Singapore government, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.

"When I’m on a serious photography trip, my total gear consists of three bodies (Leica M9, S2 and Nikon D3X) with perhaps two lenses for each, all meant to complement each other."

He echoes many Leica owners when admitting that using its cameras in the beginning was frustrating, and that he almost gave up on it. However, realizing the superlative optics of the Leica M lenses, and presumably the resultant image quality, is what kept him hooked to the Leica brand.

Interesting thoughts (a second installment of the interview is due to appear soon on the Leica blog) by an enthusiastic and unabashed Leica aficionado, which may influence some photographers to jump in the Leica universe.

For further photographs by Gul, drop by his website.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cheap, Lightweight Backpacking Food Part 5-Mixing it Up

As you might have seen from my other posts on food, I like dehydrated food. It is light weight, it last a long time, and if done right, is very cheap. In particular, in Part 4, I talked about dehydrating your own meat.

Here I decided to do it with ground beef. I find that it is the easiest meat to add to your food due to the fact that it crumbles into small pieces, it is easier to dehydrate, and easier to cook/re-hydrate.

To start out, buy a pound of ground beef. Try to get it as lean as possible. Fat will not dehydrate.


Put it in a frying pan without any oil, and cook it.


When done, drain all the liquid that has been released by the meat, and rinse it with hot water.


Just like before, place it in the dehydrator. Wince the pieces of meat are small, you may have to place some paper towels on the dehydrator to keep them from falling through.


After a few hours, the meat should be dry. It will crumble between your fingers, and with some pressure you should be able to grind it into dust. If it is too wet to do that, leave it in the dehydrator for a bit longer.


Now, take a box of rice and beans. The one I am using here is Zatarain’s. I like Goya as well, but any brand will do.


I like to divide the box into two parts. I find the whole box to be too much food.


Mix in about three tablespoons of the dried meat, and you should have a very good recipe for the woods. Keep in mind that the rice has more calories that the meat. If you want more calorie dense food, you should keep a higher rice percentage.


To cook it, put two cups of water in the pot (or as many as the directions on the box indicate). I find that the meat does not require that much water to re-hydrate. Half a cup more than what is required by the rice should be enough.

Place the contents of the mix in the pot, and put it on the flame. Keep it boiling until the water is absorbed by the rice. It usually takes about ten (10) minutes after the water starts to boil.


I usually remove the pot from the flames when there is still a bit of unabsorbed water in the pot. I find that this keeps the rice from sticking. Leaving it to cool will give the rice a chance to absorb the rest of the water.

This is one of the best cheap, lightweight foods I have been able to find. It tastes good, and does not require any complex cooking. The amount of ground beef you see above was enough for five (5) portions, bringing the cost per portion (including the rice and beans) to less than $2.50 per meal. The total weight of each packet, stored in a ziploc bag is about 4.8 oz, and contains about 400 calories.

Using window light – part 1: The basics of light shaping

You can find an interesting article on using window light with portraits here...

Using window light – part 1: The basics of light shaping

Russia By Rail via NPR

Photo © David Gilkey- Courtesy NPR
I rarely post on Russia!

On the map that shows where The Travel Photographer blog readership comes from, every continent is dotted with thousands of dots of where the daily hits originate...the least (after sub Saharan Africa) dotted  area is Russia. So perhaps this post will redress the situation.

"Six thousand miles. Seven time zones. And endless cups of hot tea."

National Public Radio's David Greene along with producer Laura Krantz and photographer David Gilkey boarded the Trans-Siberian Railway in Moscow and took two weeks to make their way to the Pacific Ocean port city of Vladivostok, and produced this impressive Russia By Rail series.

The NPR series tells us that it's one of the world's longest train trips, and passes through one of the world's largest forests and runs along the shoreline of the world's largest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal, which holds nearly 20 percent of the world's fresh water.

Interestingly, Gilkey says that their gear included all sorts of recorders, microphones, high-end digital cameras and an iPhone 4. It appears the iPhone was essential because it could be used more easily than regular cameras that are viewed with some suspicion by some Russians. Many of the images in the galleries were made with the iPhone.

Equally interestingly, Gilkey also used new instant film material for the classic Polaroid cameras; results of which can be viewed in the Freeze Frame section of the series. Very atmospheric old timey images.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

HelloFresh - Fresh Ingredients, Recipes and Free Delivery

The HelloFresh website is the practical solution for busy food lovers who long to cook freshly made food at home but don't have the time to food shop or spend valuable time cooking complicated meals. All you need is 30 minutes to produce a simple and fresh meal.

It is far more sensible if we can buy the exact quantities of food for recipes rather than wasting valuable food.

HelloFresh offer free home delivery of recipes, designed by nutritionists, with all the matching ingredients which will save time.


Choose Your Plan
All you have to do is select the number of meals per week and how many people are in your household.

Free Home Delivery
Your recipes and groceries will be delivered Monday evenings between 5pm and 9pm. This means you can say goodbye to grocery shopping!

Become a Master Chef
Discover the joy of cooking with amazing yet simple recipes. The recipes have been created by world-class chefs and nutritionists. The recipes are simple and straightforward. They won't take any more than 30 minutes and you won't need any fancy kitchen equipment.

You can start enjoying delicious home-cooked food and spend more time with family and friends. Free up valuable time to relax and enjoy yourself!

HelloFresh can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Sponsored Blog Post

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Unconventional Uses for Oversized Logs

A while back a friend sent me some pictures of logging in the North West. Some of them included some rather creative uses for the large trees that were being cut down. I thought I would share them with you.

In this first picture, a moderate size log has been turned into the company’s mobile office. Seems like an excellent promotional tool.


In the second picture, a large log has been turned into living quarters for the crew.


The pictures date back to the early 1900s. I hope you find them as entertaining as I do.

Kolkata: Book In Progress

Photos © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
A few weeks ago, I featured a poll in which I asked my readers to choose which photograph I ought to use for my work-in-progress book on Kolkata.

Out of 270 votes, 78% (or 210) chose the wide-angled photograph of a rickshaw puller because it compositionally has more depth and is more "Kolkata" location-specific, while the close-up of another rickshaw puller was deemed more attractive...presumably because he's smiling.

I have listened to my readers, and have happily gone along with the results of the poll. However, I've made a few changes; I chose a different typography and location for the book's title, and decided that the portrait of the rickshaw puller would be horizontally flipped, and be the back cover of the book.

I am currently working (taking my time, I ought to admit) on the book, choosing from the tons of photographs I returned with from my Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop. I am hoping that the book will be approximately 80 pages.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Kalachakra via The Big Picture

Photo © Altaf Qadri/AP-All Rights Reserved

Damn! Why haven't I been to Bodh Gaya?!!! Afer seeing these wonderful photographs of the Buddhist event in the northern state of Bihar as featured by The Big Picture, what else can I say?

Kalachakra is an ancient ritual that involves a series of prayers, meditations, dances, chants, vows and the construction of a large sand mandala - all with the aim to bring world peace. It refers to the philosophies and meditation practices contained within the Kalachakra Tantra and its many commentaries. Bodhgaya is one of the holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites where the Buddha manifested enlightenment.

In 2012, the event began on January 1 and lasted for ten days in the northern Indian state of Bihar. The present Dalai Lama has given over thirty Kalachakra initiations all over the world, and is the most prominent Kalachakra lineage holder alive today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Artisans of Australia: Timbercraft

This is a short film made by Film Australia back in 1984. It shows some of the work involved with restoring a 19th century homestead in the Kosciuszko National Park, Australia.

The work being done is quite interesting, as it is being done only with traditional, hand powered tools. The movie is well worth a look for anyone interested in traditional wood work. The axmen you see in the video are Bill Boyd and Mark Garner.

Anthony Pond: On Yangon's Wharf

Here's an audio slideshow of black & white stills by Anthony Pond on the porters at Yangon's wharf. It's his first attempt to use SoundSlides and Audacity, and I am impressed.

Anthony Pond worked for more than two decades in the criminal courts in California as an attorney for the Public Defender’s Office. Now pursuing his passion for travel and photography, he traveled repeatedly to South East Asia and India, amongst other places, to capture life, the people and the culture.

His photography website has galleries of his work from Laos, Nepal, India, Burkina Faso, Mali, Cuba, Mexico and Cambodia, as well as others.

Anthony is joining me on my The Oracles of Kerala Photo Expedition/Workshop™ this coming March, and I certainly look forward to be working with him during it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mitchell Kanashkevich: Orthodox Christmas In Lalibela

Photo © Mitchell Kanashkevich: All Rights Reserved
 "Lalibela is Ethiopia’s answer to Jerusalem."

Most of my readers will know who Mitchell Kanashkevich is; either because they read his blog as well, or because they're read some of my posts about his work.

He's currently in Northern Ethiopia, whizzing along its bumpy roads on a motorcycle (yes, he's hardcore in that way), and has attended the Orthodox Christmas celebrations in Lalibela, which he correctly describes as the Ethiopia's Jerusalem. During his stay there, he made gorgeous photographs which are on his blog.

Lalibela is one of Ethiopia's holiest cities, second only to Aksum, and is a center of pilgrimage for much of the country. Unlike Aksum, the population of Lalibela is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. The town is famous for its churches hewn out the rock, which are thought to have been built in the 12th and 13th centuries. All told, there are 13 churches, assembled in four groups. Orthodox Christianity became the established church of the Ethiopian Kingdom in the 4th century through the efforts of a Syrian Greek monk.

Reading through Mitchell's blog entry, I pause at his statement that tourists' behavior, such as giving out of money for photos, is leading some devotees to beg for money after being photographed. Having been in Lalibela and Northern Ethiopia in 2004, I was relieved then that this was not my experience...devotees, deacons and priests welcomed my photographing them with no demands. However, I am not surprised at all this has changed with all the influx of tourists who don't know any better...or don't care.

Like Mitchell, I refuse to hand out money for photographs...unless (and that's an important qualifier) I specifically ask the subject(s) I want to photograph to go somewhere else with me, and there set them up for a photo shoot. In this case, I consider these people as models whose time I've taken, and some modest monetary payment ought to be in order. Now, like Mitchell as well, I mostly photograph documentary-style, so this is the infrequent exception.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

POV: The "Leica" Marketing Of The Fuji X100

You'd think there's no world recession!

Fujifilm is emulating long standing Leica's marketing tactics by introducing the Black FujiFilm X100 Limited Edition which will be limited to only 10,000 cameras.

This slick and glistening dedicated website for the new X100 is designed to make us salivate at the prospect of spending $1700 for this "limited issue" model, which is a $500 premium over the regular model.

Leica is well known to make its products as desirable as possible...by giving these the allure of being limited or exclusive...and obviously charging for the privilege of owning one. The recent launching of the M9-P is a classic example of Leica's marketing tactics (or techniques, if you prefer).

While I consider a $500 premium excessive for what is essentially a paint-job, I leave it to its eventual the end users to decide whether it's worth it.

And here's a clincher thought: Fujifilm and Kodak were in the film-making business, and competitors. Why aren't we seeing Kodak digital cameras as exciting as those by Fujifilm?

The Oracles Of Kerala Photo Workshop: Preparations

Well, the final touches on The Oracles of Kerala Photo Expedition/Workshop™ are being done, and with some of the participants having booked already their flights to India and even to Kochi (where the workshop actually starts), it won't be long before we meet on March 12th for its two weeks' duration.

I was advised by our agent in charge of logistics et al, that the dates of the two main festvals we were slated to document may have been changed a tad. These festivals are based on the Malayalam calendar, so this is not unexpected. If this is indeed the case, it means little in terms of the overall expedition/workshop, except that we will stay in one place a day longer, and a day less in another place.

The Thirunakkara Arattu festival and the Kottakal Pooram festival are the highlights of the expedition/workshop, however I have included photo shoots at a Kathakali academy, a Vedic school and hopefully during an obscure Sufi festival held at the Maulang Shah Auliya shrine, which we are still tracking.

In reality, this is one of the most enjoyable phase in setting up photo expeditions/workshops such as this. One needs to expect the unexpected, remain flexible and be able to change tack if need be.

As the Romans used to say...let the games begin!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Baked Camembert

I was given this Cheese Baking Crock from Sainsbury's by my son-in-laws Mum. I am very lucky because she has a very good eye for foodie gifts that I will be able to use on my blog. She knows my blog well because she has been following me for well over five years now.

All you have to do is place your Camembert into the crock pot, I would take the Camembert out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it or it will take longer to cook, top with two tablespoons of the caramelised onion chutney, replace the lid - such a brilliant idea and not one I have come across before.

Cook for 10-15 minutes on 200°C until wobbly and some of the oozing cheese is trying to break through. The recipe for this is on the side of the box the cheese baking crock came in.

Serving suggestions are sliced french bread and apple, waxy new baby potatoes and tiny cherry tomatoes on the vine - very, very delicious.

Thank you Lindsay!

Here is a similar Camembert Baker from Amazon.

Condor Woodworker Axe 2012 Prototype Review

As you know from my past posts, I have very mixed feelings about products made by Condor Tool & Knife. The company genuinely seems to care about their products, and closely follows consumer feedback, but at least when it comes to their axes, they have in the past fallen short. It appears that their dedication is paying off, as I ended up being quite happy with their new design.

I was fortunate enough to be offered one of their early prototypes for their 2012 Small Axe model (it now appears to be for sale under the name Woodworker axe). As you may remember, it is the axe I had strapped to my pack during the snow storm a few months back.


I have now done a fair amount of testing with the axe, and while my review was a bit delayed due to unforeseen circumstances, I figured I would give you my honest impressions.


Condor Tool & Knife
Axe Head Weight: Approximately 1.5 lb. The overall weight of the axe is 1 lb 14.7 oz. The current catalog lists the overall weight as 2.1 lb, with a 1.5 lb head.
Axe Length: 17 inches. The production model is listed as having 18 inch handle.
Axe Head Material: Carbon steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $55.00

a (23)

Assuming that this is in fact being sold as the Woodworker axe, the price is quite reasonable. It is not cheap, but is comparable with other mid range axes.  

In terms of performance, I decided to compare the Condor axe to the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe. The reason I did that is because of the similar head weight, and the fact that both axes fit somewhere between a hatchet and a boy’s axe. That being said however, the Condor axe is much closer to a hatchet than the Gransors Bruks Small Forest Axe. The handle is two to three inches shorter, which makes a big difference to the way you would use a small axe like this one. While you can still use two hands on the Condor axe, it is much better suited for single hand use.


a (9)

The grain orientation on the handle was very good. It is a straight handle design, but I don’t want you to get the impression that they just put a simple stick on the axe head. The handle has gone through significant testing, and it is reflected in the design. There are many fluctuations in thickness and shape along the length of the handle, and I found it surprisingly comfortable to use. Typically, I find axes with a 1.5 lb head to be too uncomfortable to use with one hand, but thanks to the handle design, the axe felt very comfortable and controllable.


The design of the head is also interesting. When viewed from the top, you can see that it is well designed. The cheeks are properly ground, and the convex of the bit is good for an all around axe. The bit and the head overall are a little thicker than the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe, so it will favor splitting tasks over chopping ones, but it is a good overall design. The head is attached using a wooden wedge and a circular metal pin.


When we look at it from the side however, the axe comes across as looking more like a shigling, or carving hatchet than a felling axe. That being said however, I did not find any draw backs to the design. The bit has a slight curvature, and the design of the head makes it easy to choke up on the axe. In my opinion the top part of the bit has slightly too much curvature, but I assume that is a grinding defect more than a design issue. While the general shape might resemble a carving or hewing hatchet, the bit is ground like an all purpose axe.


Overall, I am very impressed by this little axe. I have to admit, when I first saw it, I did not expect much. It looked like just another hewing hatchet. After a closer look however, it is clear that it is a well thought out design, that is in fact crated to serve as an all around axe. The performance reflected that. I would not hesitate to take this axe into the woods again.