Saturday, June 30, 2012


Many are familiar with the breathtaking movie Baraka... but now its film makers have produced Samsara.

Samsara is the new non verbal documentary film by the creators of "Baraka". It took five years to make, and was shot in over 100 locations in 25 countries. It is one of only a handful of films to be shot on 70mm film in the last forty years.

The documentary takes us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. It was photographed entirely in 70mm film utilizing both standard frame rates and with a motion control time-lapse camera designed specifically for this project.

It will be shown on August 23 in New York City at the Landmark Sunshine theater (143 East Houston Street), and subsequently in other major US cities.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Trip Report: Blades and Bushcraft Meeting 6/23/12 – 6/24/12

This past weekend was the first New York Blades and Bushcraft meeting. For those of you who are not familiar, Blades and Bushcraft is an online forum that focuses on, you guessed it, blades and bushcraft. :) It has separate sub-boards for different locations, including New York. Using the board, some of us organized this trip.

There ended up being five of us. Here I will be using their forum names. There was Zig, mibuwulf, beanbag, Son O’ (beanbag), and me, Wood Trekker. The outing was in the Catskills, specifically, the Hunter Mountain loop. The plan was to start out on the trail at 10AM, travel about four miles to the summit of Hunter Mountain at 4040 ft. and then go down another mile to an elevation below 3500 ft. where we could set up camp for the night. The following day it would be another three miles to our starting point… In the picture below, you can see Zig and mibuwulf arriving two hours late…


No worries, though, we had plenty of time. Even going slowly at one mile per hour, we would reach our destination with plenty of time to spare. So, we set off on the trail.

After few miles, we stopped by a water source to fill up. It was a spring that had been lead to a convenient location with some pipe. Even though it was spring water, we decided to play it safe and filter it. In the picture below you see the water source, and me trying to take my Sawyer Squeeze Filter out of the Ziploc bag.


In fact, between the five of us, we had four different filters. Zig had a MSR gravity filter, mibuwulf had a Platypus gravity filter, beanbag and Son O’ had an MSR Miniworks EX, and I had my Sawyer. The results… thanks to Son O’s furious pumping action, he had filled up first. Zig had some flow issues with his filter, so we all had a nice rest. And of course, some photo opportunities.


From left to right above, Wood Trekker (me), mibuwulf, Zig, Son O’, and beanbag.

If you are wondering, the reason why mibuwulf’s backpack is so hard to see, it’s because he was using what can only be described as a day pack. We all eagerly anticipated getting to camp and seeing what type of voodoo he used to get all his gear in there.

After another mile or so, we stopped for lunch. For the location we chose a leanto site off the trail. For those of you who may not be familiar with the area, in many forests, in specific locations there are set up shelter or leanto sites. The one you see in the picture is very typical of these shelters, although newer than most. Some people like to use them instead of carrying a tent, or go to them in case of an emergency. This particular leanto was located exactly at 3500 ft, the highest elevation where you are allowed to camp overnight in the Catskills.


What made this site particularly nice was plenty of space, and the view from one of the cliffs to the side.


Of course we couldn’t resist the opportunity for another group photo.


I kept lunch simple; just a granola bar, some mixed nuts, and a powdered drink mix.


After me ate, we set off on the trail again, and after another mole or so, we reached the summit of Hunter Mountain. The marker indicated that we were at 4040 ft.


The state maintains a fire tower on some of these peaks, and there was one here as well. Some climbing allowed for a great view of the area.



From there it was another mile downhill until we reached a lower elevation of 3500 ft. The location was marked with another leanto similar to the one you saw above. We had planned on camping in that area after finding a suitable location. Unfortunately, it turned out that the terrain was not conducive to a camp site. Even though we searched for quite some time, we could not find any flat areas large enough to accommodate five people. We decided to set up camp close to the leanto itself. I generally do not like to do that, but we did not have much of a choice. As always, I had my Shangri-La 5 with me.


Beanbag and Son O’ had a two man REI tent that they were trying out for the first time, and seemed to work out pretty well. Zig and mibuwulf pulled out their hammocks, and set up nearby. 

There was a fire pit set up close to the leanto, and we quickly made use of it to roast up some peppers that Zig had brought. There was plenty of birch in the area, which made for a quick, although smoky fire. The fact that it had rained the day before, did not help with the smoke.


For dinner, we all cooked what we had brought, and shared some hotdogs that beanbag had carried. I made my usual mashed potatoes with dehydrated ground beef. I’m still using the modified Kovea Camp 5. Ordinarily, when there is a fire going I would use it to cook and save the stove fuel, but there were too many of us for me to occupy the fire pit. It wasn’t well structured for group cooking.


Beanbag and Son O’ used a MSR Pocket Rocket for cooking, Zig, used a wood gas stove, and mebuwulf used a can of ravioli that he heated up on the fire, in part explaining the small size of his pack.

We kept the fire going and killed couple of hours talking about gear and other random topics.


After that, we called it a night. It turned out to be colder than we expected. The rain the pervious day had really brought down the temperatures. During the night it got into the low 50s.

I got up before the rest of the group, so I took the opportunity to filter some water from a nearby stream.


When I got back people had started waking up, so we all made some breakfast. As usual, I made some oatmeal.


When we were done with breakfast, we realized with great horror that we had not cooked any bacon by hanging it from a stick the whole trip, and we started to fear that it would be disqualified as a bushcraft outing. To remedy the situation, we quickly set off making some feather sticks to the shouts of “Bushcraft! Bushcraft!”. Here is my contribution to the cause.


Mibuwulf took the opportunity to teach us how to pick up the ladies by making a flower from a stick.


To keep it safe, I also decided to whip up some cordage from grass that I found in the area which seemed suited for the task.


When we felt secure that we had met the bushcraft quota for the trip, we packed up and started down the mountain. I had been recording the trip on my GPS, but I forgot to turn it on. I remembered a bit later, but you will notice the lack of record for this section of the trip in the GPS image further down.

The way down followed a section of Devil’s path. It is generally a very hard trail, but this portion was not too bad.


There were stinging and wood nettles (later distinguished by Zig) everywhere. Son O’ got it pretty bad, although it didn’t seem to slow him down.


I spotted some chaga on a birch tree off to the side of the trail. We stopped to collect some of it.


We divided it up. Incidentally, this is when I remembered to turn the GPS back on.


Further down, the trail started following a river, which lead us to a small waterfall.


We decided to stop there for lunch. Some of our more adventurous members, Zig, beanbag and Son O’, decided to go for a swim. I stayed up on the rocks.


Mibuwulf joined me. He in turn was joined by a butterfly which insisted on staying on his shoulder.


We finished lunch, dried off, and kept going. On our way, I spotted some strawberries. There was even an actual strawberry on one of the plants. Zig took care of it.


There were also some other berries we couldn’t identify.


Not surprisingly, not too far from the area, a bit further into the woods, there was a pile of bear scat.


We kept following the river almost all the way out. Soon we were back at our starting point. The trip had been about eight miles in length, with about 2000 ft increase in elevation. Below you can see the tracks recorded by the GPS. You will notice that for one of the section there is a straight line. That is the part where I forgot to turn on the unit. The red line I have added approximates the actual route that we took. The arrow on the left tip of the track was our starting point.


You can also see the elevation profile. It wasn’t anything too extreme, but made for a fun, challenging trip. 


I can’t say enough about how great all these guys were. Everyone got along great, and we all seemed to enjoy a similar approach to the woods. Usually I like to keep to myself whenever I go out, but I would go into the woods with these guys anytime. I look forward to the next trip, which will hopefully be soon. Lastly, please check out the Blades and Bushcraft forum. It is a great place for like mined people.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Mini Strawberry Victoria Sponges

I like mini pies, mini muffins, mini cakes, they always look so dainty, and from an era when ladies 'floated' into a restaurant or tea room to eat dainty mini morsels.

Afternoon tea has definitely made a come back and close to where I live there is a cafe that has taken  inspiration from the Lyons Tea Houses.  A while back hubby and I chose a beautiful sunny afternoon to visit a local hotel for afternoon tea and sat in the grounds with champagne in one hand and worked our way through finger sandwiches and cakes with the other.  We've enjoyed a few afternoon teas in various locations and it is a very relaxed and enjoyable way to spend a lazy afternoon.

The strawberries are from my garden and they taste sensational. Unfortunately, I have forgotten the name of the variety......I think they may possibly be Cambridge.

The recipe for the Mini Strawberry Victoria Sponges is on the Lakeland website.

My pretty polka dot plate is from the Bon Bon Collection by Sabichi, they kindly asked if I would review part of the collection a while back, and I love them. The mini sandwich tin is from Lakeland -  Chicago Metallic also sell a similar pan and this is available from Amazon.

Charlotte Rush Bailey: The WPGA Portraits Awards

Photo © Charlotte Rush-Bailey-All Rights Reserved

A third-time participant in my photo-expeditions/workshops, Charlotte Rush-Bailey was just short listed on the prestigious Worldwide Photography Gala Awards (WPGA) Portrait Awards for her monochrome portrait of Fatima. Naturally, I wish her the best of luck to win it!

This lovely portrait was made at the Kodungallur medrasa near the Cheraman Juma Masjid, during The Oracles Of Kerala Photo-Expedition-Workshop. I am especially pleased that this environmental portrait is in landscape I consistently encourage participants in my workshops to adopt it as much as possible as it lends itself better to multimedia, and allows a more layered composition. I'm also gratified that participants in my photo expedition-workshops, not only learn new skills on them, but enter serious photographic competitions, and frequently win.

Charlotte is a photographer who migrated to the world of photography from a corporate career that covered three decades of marketing and communications positions in a variety of global industries including energy, financial services, media, conservation, technology and professional services.

The Worldwide Photography Gala Awards (WPGA) provides a juried competitions for professionals and amateur photographers from around the world to compete in the WPGA Annual Award for the WPGA Photographer of the Year Award and the Humanitarian Documentary Grant

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Finnish Axes Part 2: History - Kellokoski

This is part two of Ozme’s set of posts about Finnish axes. For more indormation, please check out his blog Bush n’ Blade.



        This image is taken from the Kellokoski catalog of 1922.





History in brief:

(Note: My skill of Finnish language sucks; I might understand it wrong….)

- In 1750’s, the development of Kellokoski has started around the mansion of Kellokoski

- Starting from the development of farming and livestock industry, the are grew to become a viledge of kellokoski in 1795. The Kellokoski tehdas or Mariefors Bruk, knowne as Kellokoski was the first manufacturing plant build in the area.

- The production plant has enjoyed its peak in mid-1800 with rod metal as the major product. But toward the end of 1800, the production downsized. Only forge works were in production at that time and in 1895, Kellokoski ironworks bankruptcies.

- Following year 1896, the owner changes to John ja Carl Fredrik Carlander brathers and the Kellokoski factory was moved to new location.

- In 1962, the owner ship of the factory moves to Fiskars and in 1980’s, the mass production ends its work.


It seems so that Kellokoski was larger scale operation than Billnäs was. Also so far, I have seen Kellokoski’s axes and tools more available in flea markets.


In the above picture are three Kellokoski axes, From top right, No. 12.2, No. 20.3, No. 12.3

In the picture above, you can see 3 Kellokoski axes. All of them are similar in size as about 1.5kg. On the Kellokoski catalog of year 1922, N:o12.2 and N:o12.3 are listed as N:o12/2 and N:o12/3. According to my source, after the changes of lineups due to the production decrease, the numbering system has changed from using “/” to “.”. The model N:o20.3 is not listed on the catalog, so assuming that is a model came after the model lineup changes.

Among these axes, the model N:o20.3 has totally different shape from lest of axes. Because this axe is not a Finnish type. If look in to the catalog page 7, similar axes are categorized as an American axe.


The interesting thing about Kellokoski axes is that no punch out marking found on the axe. Only markings I can see are the forging marks.

Estimating that all of these axes are not that old, yet not new enough to be made mass production line. This makes me wonder "How late were they with implementing the mass production line…".

I have visited town of Fiskars last summer and I was lucky to run in to the special exhibition of “tools”. It was exhibited by Fiskars and had items that were come from Fiskars production.

Among those items, there was a display of axe forging process. And the sample axes were from Kellokoski. 


Above: Kellokoski axe forging process. Picture taken at “Fiskars tools exhibition” in town of Fiskars.

Unfortunately,  there was no mention of the Year made but being able to see such forging sample left for display and are in possession of Fiskarse, I am assuming that are from Fiskars era of Kellokoski.

Unable to see the punch cut markings on axes I own and those samples under Fiskars archive..., it is very much possible that Kellokoski has produced their axes by forging them till the end of factory history. 

Not having mass production line till 1980’s… I find it quite amazing.

To be continued to the next post "Axe Talk - Helve".

Jamie's Italian, Birmingham

Antipasti meat planks sitting on cans of tomatoes!
After a couple of enjoyable meals at the Brighton branch, we decided it was time to try our local (well nearly) Birmingham branch of Jamie's Italian.

Thankfully we had booked our table, because on a wet Saturday afternoon, everyone seemed to have the same idea and headed to Jamie's Italian. When you book in advance, a note on the email informs you there is 2hrs 15 minutes allocation for your table, but this is ample time to relax, sit back and enjoy.

There is a bar area immediately as you walk in and the eating areas are to either side of the bar.  The restaurant is huge and there wasn't an empty stool at the bar and all the tables appeared to be full with couples, families and groups of people, all enjoying themselves.  We felt the restaurant had been styled to look like a converted warehouse, the table tops are aluminium and the chairs are bright yellow, the high ceilings absorbed the noise and you could have a conversation without shouting - bliss.

Prawn Linguine
Chocolate & Vin Santo Pot

This dessert not only looked great but the lucky person who ordered this, said it tasted great too.  Unfortunately the same can't be said for the Tiramisu, which you can see in the background. The group on the table next to us were keen to know which dessert had been served in the cup, but agreed with us the Tiramisu had the thumbs down.  The coffee was good, no latte art, but the coffee beans were excellent quality.
The ham, veg and salad counter.

Artisan breads freshly sliced to order.
The staff are friendly, the waiters are knowledgeable and keen to explain the menu, the meal is cooked and presented well and I can recommend a visit.

Hopefully I am going to the Canary Wharf branch this coming Saturday, there will be two energetic small children in our party.........I'll do another blog posting and let you know how we get on.......!

Anthony Pond: Kathakali, The Story Dance

Anthony Pond is hardly a stranger to The Travel Photographer blog, as Kathakali, The Story Dance of Kerala is the newest one of his many audio slideshows I've already featured.

In this latest one, Tony has very ably merged stills, ambient audio with video clips to produce a 3 minute multimedia look into the backstage preparations for a Kathakali performance, and then the performance itself.

Tony was a participant in The Oracles Of Kerala Photo Expedition-Workshop during which I had arranged a private photo shoot involving the performers of this ancient art form. The 3 hours make-up session, and the 2-1/2 hours performance took place at the Kalatharangini Kathakali School near Cheruthuruthy. The performers' intensity was incredible, and I recall mentioning that earlier on this blog that it had been the best Kathakali performance I'd ever witnessed...Tony's stills and video have very well captured that intensity.

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 travels repeatedly to South East Asia and India, amongst other places, to capture life, the people and the culture.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Luj Moarf: Thaipusam

The Hindu festival of Thaipusam is about faith, endurance, mortification and penance. In Malaysia, it's an intensely devotional event which can stretch for 3 or 4 days, and is attended by about a million and a half people each year. It's a time for Hindus of all castes and cultures to be grateful to Murugan, a son of Shiva.

It was brought to Malaysia in the 1800s by Indian immigrants working on Malaysian rubber estates and in its government offices. The festival is celebrated mostly by the Tamil community, and commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a spear to vanquish the evil demon Soorapadam.

On the day of the festival, devotees shave their heads and undertake a pilgrimage along a set route while engaging in various acts of devotion, notably carrying various types of heavy burdens, while others may carry out acts of self mortification by piercing the skin, tongue or cheeks with skewers and sharp hooks. Not for the faint of heart.

Faith-Thaipusam is a 5 minutes video by a photographer called Luj Moarf who describes himself as a traveller, wandering into the world discovering places and people.

Some of the rituals followed during Thaipusam, including the red garments worn by some of the devotees, reminded me of The Oracles of Kodungallur.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Finnish Axes Part 1: History - Billnas

For a while now, I have been following a series of post by a fellow blogger, OZme. He is a Japanese guy who currently resides in Finland. He noticed, just like the rest of us, that there is very little information on Finnish axes, both in terms of history and characteristic features. The series of posts that I have been following, try to provide a bit more information on the subject. Since the subject is so rarely discussed, I thought I would share it with you here with his permission. I will go through the whole series here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Please visit his blog, Bush n’ Blade for more information.

Probably, I am not very suited person to talk about this topic as I am not experienced as much as other hundreds, if not thousands of axe man, woods man and bushcrafters out there.  But I have not seen much information about Finnish axes on internet and I start noticing growing interest on Finnish axes. So I decided to share what I know and my thoughts about Finnish axes.

Please understand that information you will see might not be true / correct because I am writing these post based on my research (which is very limited due to my lack of language skill and limited access to information) and observation. Some are what I see, feel and speculate and other are based on what I read or heard. I will provide the information source if possible. If not, I will state that the information is by speculation and/or observation.

Finnish Axes:

If you hear "Finnish axes", the first picture comes to your mind probably is the modern Fiskars axes. Those really are excellent axes; affordable, available, easy to maintain, cuts and sprits well, light weight and almost indestructible. But that is not kind of axe I am going to talk about it in here. What I would like to talk about is the good old / traditional Finnish axes.

Different Traditional Axes

In the picture, you see  Finnish axes and Swedish axes.  The one on right most is unknown in origin. There is no traceable making on it except that it most likely a smith forged.

As you can see that Finnish axes have quite distinctive look. Narrow and long blade shape, top tip of the blade edge is lower than top of axe, has sleeve on eye….  But before moving on to look at each axes, I would like to point out that all of these axes are factory made (except the right most one) and it is quite safe to say that these are “hardware store axe” of that time.

Let’s look at the each axes closer.



         The image is taken from the Billnas catalog of 1928.




History in brief:

- Billnäs Bruk or Billnäsin tehtaan osakeyhtiö (Billnäs Ironworks), knowne as "Billnäs" was founded in June 1641 by Carl Billsten, the founder of Billnäs Ironworks.

- Billnäs moved to Hisinger family's possession in 1723. Johan Hisinger was especially active in building and developing the Ironworks’ operations.

- In 1883 the ownership of the Ironworks moved to Fridolf Leopold Hisinger. With the influence of the new owner, the old workshops were turned over to production plants and the production focused on doorknobs, axes, picks etc. In the busiest year 

- in 1915 the Ironworks employed 1072 people. The production of the office furniture started in Billnas in 1909.

- In 1920 the Billnas Ironworks was incorporated into Fiskars Corporation. The manufacture of old tools was continued. 

- In the late 1970s the old manufacturing facilities of the Ironworks became obsolete to the use of modern industry and the operations in the Ironworks decreased in the mid- 1980s.

- And in 1983, the Billnas Ironworks has forged the last axe.



On the left in the above picture is a No. 300 (800g) and to the right a 1123 (1200g)

And here, I have got 2 axes from different period. The model N:o 300 has clear characteristics of mass manufacturing period. But the model seems to be existed since 1928 with different N:o.  checking from the Billnäs catalog of year 1928. There is a model N:o 61/2. Which has the same profile and specification. So it could assume that the one I got was after the reduction of product range.

The other one, N:o 1123. This was estimated as the model from pre-chainsaw era. (by the person who is more knowledgeable on this topic). As I have got this axe, it did not have the characteristics of mass manufacturing. Also the model number is punched with old numbering system.


In the picture above is a head with with the punch out mark on left and right without.

The N:o 1123 was little modified by me. The sleeve goes to helve as can see on  N:o 300 was cut off about 1cm short. I have done this to fix the unbalance caused by shortened blade length.

On the other hand, N:o 300 is varialble specimen as near perfect in condition. It has the head mass of almost same as when manufactured (assuming N:o 61/2 on year 1928 catalog is the equivalent model). Also the helve seems to be original Billnäs standard parts. (assumption based on “Luettelo Billnas'in Takeista 1928_01_01_1928.pdf” Page 77).


I must confess that at the time I got N:o 1123, My knowledge of re-handling Finnish axe was none. So the one you see on picture is fitted with Swedish style helve. Which makes this N:o 1123 a not great axe. Why? The reason was hidden in N:o 300.... but I will talk about that later.

To be continued to the next post, "Axe Talk - Kellokoski".

LGBT At The Pier (With The Fuji X Pro-1)

Having spent most of the late morning and early afternoon on Fifth Avenue photographing the Gay Pride Parade, I felt rather bored by the commercialization of the parade with the incessant floats carrying some form of corporate logo and, although having found a nice shady spot, being unable to penetrate the phalanxes of barricades, I decided to switch gears...and walk down to the West Village and get some street photography going.

From the West Village, I followed the young crowds along Christopher Street to the Hudson River Park, and once there, started the shoot from the hip.

Within an hour of my return home, I put together an audio slideshow of some of the photographs I made with the Fuji X Pro-1. Most of the photographs were shot from the hip...some were Hail Marys...and a few were composed through the viewfinder. I used the Vivid film simulation setting, and I'm very pleased with the results. None of the photographs were processed beyond a little sharpening.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

My Interview on Auto de Fe Is On The Web

"Tewfic El-Sawy is a blogger, travel photographer and champion of increasingly popular photography expeditions. He talked to Auto de Fe about what photography means to him, the much discussed death of photojournalism and what the future holds for lovers of the still image."
I am gratified that Auto de Fe magazine has featured my In Focus interview on its website, after launching its very first issue for the iPad a few days ago.

So have a read to find out what I think of the so-called 'death of photojournalism', the democratization of photography and how I came to set up my photo expeditions-workshops.

Auto de Fe describes itself as a cross-platform magazine of inquisitive journalism and intelligent photography. It showcases compelling writing, investigative reporting and visual documentary projects from around the world.

Note: This is a very quick post as I'm working on my images from yesterday's Coney Island's Mermaid Parade.