Friday, August 31, 2012

Amy Helene Johansson: A Lost Revolution?




"My heart is beating for this project and it would be wonderful if as many people as possible see it and get enlightened about the situation. " -Amy Helene Johansson

Prior to the boom in the garment industry, almost no women in Bangladesh worked outside of their family or marital homes, and had few opportunities to earn money. However today, the female garment workers are the backbone of the Bangladeshi economy in an industry that generates billions of dollars each year. It should be a women’s revolution, but is it?

While academics and economists agree to some extent that Bangladeshi women are in the midst of a revolution, they are still not empowered financially or socially. And are not strong enough to demand a fair remuneration. Multinational companies such as Nike, Levi Strauss and H&M are generally unaware of the life situation of sewing machine operators; their housing conditions, family structures, and food provisions.

Amy Helene Johansson is a photojournalist who studied film and theatre theory before earning a BA in fashion design. However, after a decade of working for H&M as a fashion designer, she discovered photography. Her work has been published in leading broadsheets and magazines in the UK and Sweden, including the Sunday Times UK, Dagens Nyheter and Sydsvenska Dagbladet. Her work has been awarded Asian Geographic Magazine ‘Faces of Asia Award’, the Foundry Emerging Photojournalist Award and the Swedish Picture Of the Year ‘Multimedia Category’ and been shortlisted for ELLE commission award and a National Geographic award.

She's also a Foundry Photojournalism Workshop (Manali, India and Istanbul) alum. A Lost Revolution was produced in collaboration with the Bombay Flying Club. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Yorkshire Pudding Recipe - Great British Chefs


Yorkshire Pudding is like a hug, it makes you feel warm and cosy.  We like to eat our Yorkshire pudding with either beef or lamb, but I know some people enjoy eating a Yorkshire pud with roast chicken too.

My Grandad used to eat his Yorkshire pudding with gravy before his main meal.  I used to save mine for later and would eat it cold with jam spread over, or dare I say it, butter spread all over and sprinkled with lots of sugar.  Better still, I used to ask my Nan if she would cook my Yorkshire separately and add some rhubarb to the batter mix, my Yorkshire pud then became Rhubarb Drop!

On the Great British Chefs website you will find the Ultimate Yorkshire Pudding recipe by Michelin star chef Galton Blackiston.  His version is made with strong bread flour and he also adds a pinch of ground nutmeg.  Next time you are planning a roast, how about trying out his recipe instead of your usual Yorkshire pudding batter and let Great British Chefs know if you cooked it and loved it!

This is a sponsored post.

Mark Carey: Muay Thai In Black & White

Photo © Mark Carey-All Rights Reserved

Here's a gallery of monochrome photographs of Muay Thai training made in Bangkok by the talented Mark Carey. These appealed to me as they were photographed away from the glitzy lights of the top Muay Thai arenas in Bangkok, but show the rather edgy side of the sport...as I tried to do in my recent photo essay of the Muay Thai ring in Loi Kroh Road in Chiang Mai. 

Mark Carey is a London-based documentary photographer, 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 think he somewhat bent his rule with some of the frames of the non Thai fighter in the Muay Thai series, but these are the exception and are well worth adding to the gallery...the fellow looks absolutely fierce.

Muay Thai is a combat fight practiced in Thailand, and referred to as the "Art of Eight Limbs" because it makes use of punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight "points of contact".

By the way, I credit Mark's Vietnam gallery (which I posted about earlier this year) as being one of the catalysts for my forthcoming/imminent Vietnam Photo Expedition-Workshop.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Backcountry Stoic Ti Kettle (700ml) Review

If you’ve been following my posts, you probably know that a few months back I decided to switch to a plastic cup instead of a metal one. Some of my reasons for switching were that it would be easier to handle when full of hot liquid, and would not freeze to my lips in winter. I’ve tried to use a kuksa style cup for some time now, and I just don’t feel as comfortable as I do with a metal cup. There is no good reason for it, I just miss having a metal cup. So, I decided to find one that I like. After some looking around, I chose the Backcountry Stoic Ti Kettle 700 ml. It used to be sold under just the name Backcountry Ti Kettle, so if you are looking online at older information, it is the same product.

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The term “kettle” in the title is misleading. It is a 700 ml cup. As the name indicates, it is made out of titanium. The cup comes with a lid, which has strainer holes and a holder that locks upright. Everything comes in a well fitted mesh storage bag. The handles are of course folding, and are welded on, not riveted. I like that because it minimizes the chance of leaks developing. The Backcountry Stoic Ti Kettle nests perfectly on the bottom of a Nalgene bottle. It will also fit a 4oz SnowPeak or Jetboil fuel canisters, but not the wider MSR canisters.

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The cup is very light, weighing by itself 3.1oz. Separate from that, the lid weighs 0.6oz, and the mesh holder another 0.4oz. Everything together weighs 4.1oz, although I personally only use the cup. The lid and stuff sack would be very useful if you used the cup for cooking, which I do not.

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I find the handles to be very comfortable, and I have no issues holding the cup just using the handles even when completely full. The small notch at the bottom of the handles works great to allow you to balance the cup. The handles also stay relatively cool when the cup is filled with hot liquid. The cup itself of course, gets very hot.

Overall, I am very happy with the cup. It is similar to the SnowPeak 700 and the Vargo Ti 700 mugs. I chose this one because it seemed to have simpler, more straight forward features. It ordinarily sells for $30-$40, but is currently on sale from Backcountry for $20.

Chicken Pesto Parcels

Served with a few crushed new potatoes garnished with chopped chives.
After eating out on numerous occasions recently, it's always great to get back to normality and eat home cooked food.  Hubby always says he prefers my meals, but then like most men, he has learnt the art of saying the right things.........

Tasty, quick, simple with just one ready made ingredient and all cooked together in a tray.

My ready made ingredient is fresh pesto from Waitrose, it's amazing and you can even see whole pieces of pine nuts in the pesto sauce. This is one of my finds that is nearly as good as home made.  I buy a pot and pour some into an ice cube tray and freeze for a rainy day.


The slightly adapted recipe is from The New Dairy Cookbook.

Serves: 4

You will need: 2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs, 2 tablespoons pesto, 25g grated mature Cheddar cheese, 4 boneless chicken breasts, 2 red and 2 yellow deseeded peppers, 4 tomatoes cut into wedges, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 15g butter

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Mix together, pesto, Cheddar and breadcrumbs.
3. Cut a pocket into each chicken breast and fill with the pesto mixture. Use cocktail sticks to close the pocket.
4. Arrange the peppers and chicken in a baking dish and drizzle over the olive oil and dot with butter.
5. Roast for 25 minutes or so until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables are charred at the edges.
6. After serving up drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and the pan juices.

Roger Anis: The First Stone





"He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." 

Roger Anis is a photojournalist at the Egyptian daily newspaper Al Shorouk, and is based in Cairo. He graduated with a degree in Fine Arts, and was awarded a scholarship for the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, during whch he attended Hemrik Kastenkov's Storytelling For An Online Audience class.

His project is titled The First Stone, inspired by the passage in the Bible in which Jesus confronts the Pharisees over whether an adulterous woman ought to be stoned. 

The project was filmed and photographed in Loi Kroh Road, a well known area in Chiang Mai where bar girls can be seen plying their occupation, providing company (and more) to Western tourists. The story is of Un, a 36 year old bar girl, who agrees to be featured in Roger's project and opens up about her life and her future.

I find it remarkable that Roger was able to gain the trust of Un and others to make this project in such a short time. Filming, photographing and editing this 5 minute movie was made over less than a week...in less than ideal conditions, and under constant pressure. It's a testament to the dedication and perseverance that Roger, and the rest of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop attendees, bring to it...and succeed.

Roger is thinking of smoothing some of the frames in The First Stone, and even translating it to Egyptian Arabic. That would be interesting! I think the title of the project is particularly smart...the perfect title. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Miguel Candela: Living In Darkness

Photo © Miguel Candela-All Rights Reserved

“If I could go to another place, marry someone who would know nothing about my past, maybe I could escape this shame that I feel”
In Bangladesh, on the banks of the Padma River, is Faridpur. It is here that the largest brothels in the country thrive. The sex workers have usually been kidnapped by gangs, sold by their families or step families or tricked with promises of good jobs. It's estimated that there are 100,000 women selling sex in Bangladesh despite Muslim strictures on sex outside marriage.

Brothels: Living In Darkness is a photo essay by Miguel Candela, a Spanish documentary photographer currently based in Hong Kong.

One of the most touching captions underneath an equally compelling image of a sad young woman is this "Society has forced them to live in darkness while men love them and hate them in equal measure, demanding their services while trying to get rid of them permanently."

Miguel Candela is interested in documenting the human drama of life, and to that end has traveled extensively to various countries in order to photo-document the people and their community way of life in Mali, Kenya, the Philippines, Bangladesh and across China, and in his current base of operations in Hong Kong.

His photographs have been published in CNN, CNNGo, South China Morning Post (SCMP), Grupo Vocento, Piel de Foto, La Voz de Galicia among others.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Bushcraft Fashion

Recently there was a thread on Bushcraft UK regarding the existence of bushcraft fashion. The question was whether there is in fact such a thing, or whether this look we see in bushcraft circles is just the result of practical choices, streamlined by limited availability of clothing options. I thought it was a very interesting question, so I figured I would write a note about it.

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I think the answer will come down to which bushcraft circles you associate with. There are different communities within bushcraft. Some are separated by geographical location, others by the approach to bushcraft people take. Here are three generic groups that I have noticed:

The first is the “naturalist” group. If this is you, you probably take the approach that you will more or less only wear natural materials. Your insulation is wool, your waterproofing is oiled canvas, your hat is leather, the pack is canvas and leather with a design from a century ago. You work very hard to make sure you look like you don’t care about your appearance and the choice of “traditional” materials over technology is usually defended in these group with a near religious zealotry. In short, you are a bushcraft hipster. Even within this group, there are differences based on geography. For example, in the UK ventille (tightly woven cotton) has become a hugely popular item for rain wear. In the US however, this material has not caught on. I believe the difference comes from the fact that the TV personality that popularized the material in the UK is not aired in the US.

The second is the “military surplus” group. If you fall in this category, odds are most of your clothing is from an army surplus store, or a modern manufacturer that produces military type gear. There are MOLLE and ALICE attachment points on your clothing and pack. Military camouflage is prevalent, but olive drab and civilian hunting pattern camouflage is also used. Gear is carried in army surplus packs or in more modern version made by companies like Maxpedition. Gear in this category may all look the same, but it can range from very cheap to extremely expensive.

The third is the “technology” group. If that is you, your gear comes from modern backpacking stores like REI and EMS, or from custom manufacturers. Your gear is at the cutting edge of performance, and next month when the new thing comes out, you will be all over it. Civilian colors are prominent with this look. Primaloft insulation and Goretex/eVent/Neoshell rain wear are common. Backpacks are of modern designs whether they be with intricate suspension systems and numerous features, or basic lightweight models made from cutting edge materials like cuben fiber.

Now, of course, some of these groups look at the other ones and say “this is not bushcraft”. Who you chose to disqualify from “bushcraft” I leave up to you. Call it whatever you want, but the reality is that the above “looks” are a very real thing in the larger bushcraft community, regardless of what any particular subgroup has chosen as the “one true path”.

So, is there bushcraft fashion, or is the look determined by practical choices constrained by limited availability? I think the answer depends on which one of the above groups you fall into.  

If we look at bushcraft broadly, then there is a huge range of very practical choices that are readily available on the market. If you are looking for a waterproof jacket, the choices are endless. I know, I know, bushcraft is special, and requires special waterproof jacket. No it’s not, and no it doesn't. The fact that people do bushcraft in everything from oil cloth to eVent should be a clear indication of that. People have gone to the South Pole and Everest with everything from wool clothing to ultra modern insulation suits. I think we can manage to carve a spoon in the local park with any of those options. Now, of course, if you want to look like an 18th century trapper, your options will be limited. However, at that point I think the fashion choice has already been made.

So, let’s look at each of the above groups, and see with respect to each whether there is a fashion, or whether practicality rules.

The “naturalist” group: In my opinion, this look is very much governed by fashion. Fashion of course doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The clothing may have been chosen for very valid reasons such as historical recreation or research. However, the insistence on natural materials, or particular period materials moves this look into the realm of fashion. Practicality takes a back seat to looking the “right way”. Many equally or more practical options are disregarded because they do not conform to the look. Even more so, this vary “basic” and “simple” look tends to cost more than the highest tech products out there. Now, once a person has chosen this particular style, the availability of clothing options is limited. There are very few manufacturers that will make you look like Nessmuk or your favorite 19th century explorer. However, the need to limit ones self to these clothing options is a fashion choice, not a practical one.

The “military surplus” group: Here I think the issue is a little more tricky. There are certainly people in this group that are guided by fashion. They go out of their way to look like a special forces operator. The look here matters much more than the practicality. There is little practical about getting a 35L Maxpedition pack and then strapping half of your gear to the outside of the pack, but as long as it makes you look like you can kill a man with your thumb, then it is good to go. On the other hand however, you have a lot of people in this group that fall within this look for very practical reasons, i.e. cost. Army surplus gear can be obtained very cheaply, so while it may not be the best choice for the task, the low price makes it a very practical option. You’ll have to look more closely at the individual to see whether their choices are governed by fashion or simply getting the best value for the dollar.

The “technology” group: From what I have seen, people in this group are very much governed by practicality, perhaps too much so. A lot of the clothing tends to look similar because it is developed with the same practical purpose in mind, but at some point the added “practicality” becomes meaningless. Improvements tend to be sought after to a degree that stops being practical. Spending another $300 on a new jacket just to save another half an ounce starts to border on fashion disguised as practicality. All that being said however, at leas the intent of this group seems more grounded in practicality than fashion. Of course, even here there are people who stick to the lower cost options, and fall within this look simply because they have tried to strike a balance between utility and cost.

So, is there such a thing as bushcraft fashion. Of course there is. In many bushcraft circles, people look right down like clones, even though there is a staggering amount of appropriate and practical clothing options available on the market. For most people in the community practicality is fairly low on the list of priorities; certainly much further down than “looking like a woodsman”. In many cases the clothing choices made go so far in lack of practicality as to render a person incapable of moving any significant distance on foot. What exactly the specific bushcraft fashion is will vary depending on your local group. 

Why does fashion tend to rule over practicality? Well, for starters it seems to be human nature. Looking the part is often more important than performing the role. Even more so however, in many bushcraft circles, so little gets done as far as practical tasks, that the practicality of the clothing is just not a major consideration. How are you going to carry around a 15 lb wool coat and a 10 lb oiled canvas poncho? It doesn’t matter when the bushcraft meeting/barbeque takes place 10 ft from the parking lot.

Look, we are all free to wear whatever we want. After all, this is a hobby. If we want to wear particular clothing because we think it makes us look good, or because it reminds us of our favorite woodsman, there is nothing wrong with that. What is wrong however, is trying to then justify the choice in terms of practicality rather than admitting that it was based on aesthetic preferences. It makes for a lot of poor information and it may really make a difference if someone actually tries to do something in the woods while wearing that clothing.

David Lazar: South Asia Collection

Photo © David Lazar-All Rights Reserved

It's not the first time that I post about David Lazar's excellent work on The Travel Photographer's blog. Far from it. But he has just revamped his website, and it has vastly improved the layout of his many collections.

He suggested that I feature his new Kenya gallery which he titled Wildlife & Warriors which has photographs of Masai tribal people, but since I have recently had a post about the Masai, I thought I'd choose his South Asia Collection gallery to headline this post instead.

David is a travel photographer and musician from Brisbane, who is drawn to locations with rich cultural backgrounds, and is especially interested in portrait and landscape photography. His work is frequently published in photography and travel magazines, and in 2012 he won the Travel category in the Smithsonian Photography Competition.

He has been travelling annually since 2004, the year in which he became interested in travel photography.

No two ways about it....this is travel photography in the very sense of the word!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ian Terry: Bangkok Offerings



Here's Bangkok Offerings, a short movie (with very nice time lapses) by Ian Terry, a Seattle-based documentary photographer and journalist, as well as an alum of Henrik Kastenkov's multimedia class at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop*.

Alms giving ceremonies around Bangkok involving thousands of monks are held to celebrate certain auspicious dates in the Buddhist calendar. However, on regular days monks take to walk along the streets of towns and villages on their alms round. This is done throughout the year whatever the weather.

You may also want to view Ian's photographs of a cockfight in Mae Khue, a small town in rural Thailand. According to his entry, the fights he witnessed were not to the finish, and ended when one of the roosters either lost interest or was too exhausted to continue the fight. This is different from those I've seen in India or Bali...where cockfights end with the death of one of the combatant birds.

* Bangkok Offerings wasn't produced for that class.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sasson Haviv: The Jewish World

Photo © Sasson Haviv-All Rights Reserved

Sasson Haviv is an Israeli photographer, currently living in New York. He is passionate about people and their life stories, and delves into rarely seen cultures and religions through his lens.

His website galleries include photographs made in the bars of New York, of the Occupy Wall Street movement, A Sikh community kitchen, an Orthodox Jewish family, and The Jewish World; a collection of images which Sasson describes as documenting the unique Jewish Orthodox world.

In this gallery, he sought to capture the intense spirituality and beliefs of the Orthodox people, and using a mix of fine art and documentary styles, these photographs depict the traditions of an extremely devout and spiritual community. The images were taken both in Israel and New York.

NB: It's pure coincidence that my recent posts were of monochrome photography. Color will shortly return!

Friday, August 24, 2012

London: Fabulous Coffee Shops

Delicious quirky sandwiches at Allpress Espresso
Allpress Espresso, Shoreditch was first on our whirlwind tour of coffee shops in London - not all in one day, I hasten to add. They serve their local community and tourists, who like us, make a special journey to visit them.  Allpress Espresso originates from both Australia and New Zealand.  The coffee is faultless, and the food on both occasions when we have visited has been freshly prepared. The sandwiches and cakes are some of the best I have ever eaten in a coffee shop, and if you visit be sure to try their legendary fluffy scones served with cream and fresh berries, and whilst there perhaps you would be kind enough to see if you can get them to give you the recipe and pass it on to me!  Would you also ask them for the recipe of the cake in the photograph too...... :)

Almond and Orange Cake with a Custard Filling

Allpress roast their own coffee on site twice a week.
The coffee dispensers for take out fresh coffee beans.

Kaffeine, Great Titchfield Street, London was our next call. This is an independent Australian/New Zealand owned cafe in Fitzrovia, just off Oxford Street. It is a tiny coffee shop and very cool. 'Suppose you could say far too cool for us'. Their website says they use a Synesso Cyncra espresso machine which is known as the holy grail of espresso machines. If you like your coffee and latte art, want to sit somewhere that is 'too cool for school' then be sure to check out this tiny coffee shop. 

Beautifully presented latte art - just how I like my coffee

Delicious moist Strawberry Friand

Terrible photograph but it does show I visited Kaffeine!

St David Coffee House, Forest Hill SE23 is possibly the quirkiest coffee shop we have had the pleasure to visit. This coffee shop is also quite small but very cosy and homely too and we were greeted with a warm friendly smile. The background music is played on vinyl and adds a wonderful ambiance to the room. Full to the rafters with vinyl records, old furniture and collectables you can sit back and imagine you are in a bygone era. Weather permitting there are a few tables and chairs outside where you can sit for a while and simply relax......We thought this was a really friendly coffee shop and on this occasion didn't feel like tourists.  Nearly forgot, the lemon drizzle cake was superb.

Lots of time and care is taken to execute a perfect coffee.
The outside of St David Coffee House hiding the outside seating area.

The kilner jar holds free dog bikkies!
Another great coffee shop, and one that is new to Beckenham is Fee & Brown, we visited this too and the Australian barista made us a superb coffee. I think my favourite coffee shop is Monmouth in Borough Market and even though I have never eaten here, the coffee definitely takes some beating.  I like the ambiance, the queues, the frantic pace of Borough, jostling to get a seat, people watching, and their fabulous coffee topped with amazing latte art.

Back soon.

Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe Review

I have been wanting to take a closer look at the Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe since it came out, but due to lack of funds have not been able to do so until now. Fortunately, the kind people at Omaha Knife informed me that they now carry the full line of Council Tool axes and asked me if I would like to review one of them. Of course, the Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe was my choice. In the interest of full disclosure, I have not paid for this axe. It was loaned to me from their display collection.

Just so you guys know, Omaha Knife continues to offer a discount for readers of this blog. The discount now extends to all items in the store. Just enter the code “Wood Trekker” to get your discount.

So, on to the axe.

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Specifications:
Manufacturer: Council Tool
Axe Head Weight: 1.75 lb (the head is listed as weighing 2 lb, but it’s almost certainly closer to 1.75 lb)
Axe Length: 22.5 inches as measured; 24 inches as listed
Axe Head Material: 5160 steel; RC 50-54
Handle Material: Hickory
Cost: $130.00 although it can be found for less online

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This axe is designed to compete with other top of the line axes, in particular Gransfors Bruks. The corresponding price is accordingly high, similar to Gransfors Bruks. The one I was provided with was taken as a random sample from a box of shipped axes, so I was interested to see how it compares to it’s closest rival, the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. Here you can see the two side by side.

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The handle of the Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe in terms of length falls between the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axes and the Small Forest Axe. It is 22.5 inches, making it an inch and a half longer than the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe and two and a half inches shorter than the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. Council Tool lists the handle as being 24 inches, but just like with all of their other axes, that is the length of the handle before the head is hung. Several inches are usually removed during that process. For this particular head the handle seems to be a good length. I prefer a longer handle (around 26 inches), but if you are comfortable swinging a Small Forest Axe, this one will fit you just fine. As with other Council Tool axe handles, this one is thin. I usually like that, but here I found the handle to be a little too thin near the eye for the width of the handle. What I mean is that i would like it to be a bit more oval and less flattened. The grain of the handle was good, at least as good as that of my Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. It does contain some heart wood. There is a lot of talk about whether than matters or not, but I leave that for you to decide. (Council Tool left; Gransfors Bruks right)

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Council Tool describes the head as being about 2 lb. I think that is an overestimation of the head weight, just like with the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. With the Scandinavian Forest Axe, I have actually weighed the head, and it is 1.75 lb. The head of the Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe seems to be about the same weight. It is hard to tell exactly without removing the handle, but it is probably under 2 lb, closer to 1.75 lb. Even though it was mounted on a shorter handle, it felt like a good fit, creating a well balanced, usable axe.

In terms of design, Council Tool and Gransfors Bruks took different approaches. If you look at the bit geometry, the Council Tool head is slightly thinner immediately behind the bit. It then continuously expands until it reaches the eye. The Gransfors Bruks head on the other hand uses concave cheeks shortly after the bit until the eye is reached. The immediate differences between the designs are not apparent when using the two axes. People have put forward different theories on whether the concavity of the Gransfors Bruks cheeks helps prevent binding and whether it on the other hand limits its splitting ability. Judging the differences becomes even more difficult because the two heads differ in overall design as well. I was not able to detect any difference during non strenuous use.

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The two heads are attached using the exact same method, a wooden wedge with a metal pin. The handle of the Council Tool axe protrudes over the eye just like that of the Gransfors Bruks.

The Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe is well balanced lengthwise, but despite Council Tool putting a heavier poll on it, the axe is still bit heavy, a feature hard to avoid with the Hudson Bay design. 

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The tests that I have done with this axe are relatively light, since it is not mine. That being said, it performed quite well. Like I said before, I prefer a longer handle, but this one was not uncomfortable. For a small backpacking axe, you can swing it quite well. I like the long cutting edge of the axe. The added cutting area made it easier for me when performing tasks from chopping to carving. The Hudson Bay pattern is also good for choking up on the handle when carving, although because of the smaller eye, you have a higher risk of the head loosening up.

The Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe comes with a very robust leather sheath. The axe slides into it, and it completely encloses the head. It can also be slid onto a belt. I personally prefer a smaller, simpler sheath, like that of the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe, but I know many have complained about how they would like a more solid sheath. If you are one of those people, then this sheath might be the one for you.

So, is the Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe worth the money. From what I have seen, the answer is yes. I think it is a very good competitor to the other top of the line bushcraft axes. In terms of size and weight it can be easily transported within a backpack, and can accomplish a wide range of tasks. If you have been looking for something heavier than the Small Forest Axe, but easier to fit in a pack than the Scandinavian Forest Axe, this model might be one to fit that role.

Once again, a big thank you to Omaha Knife for providing me with a sample of this axe.

Christina Malkoun: 'Loun' Steve




Christina Malkoun is another graduate of my Multimedia For Photographers class at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop held in Chiang Mai, and possibly influenced by the successful multimedia series One In 8 Million of the NY Times, she produced an exceptionally touching human interest story titled Loun (Uncle) Steve during the workshop.

The audio slideshow is a personal insight into the life of an American expatriate living in Chiang Mai, afflicted by Tourette disease and Huntington's Disease who, because of these genetic diseases, is unwilling to have children on his own, and consequently adopts a local family.

Getting up close and personal in the short time given to the participants on the Foundry Workshop is singularly tough, but Christina was able to do so very successfully with Steve and his family. It's not easy for anyone to be so open as he was, especially in circumstances such as his. This 'connection' is how and why human interest stories attract us as viewers.

Christina is Art Director at ELLE Magazine in Beirut, and is a graphic designer with over 7 years of art direction experience.

You can watch 'Loun' Steve on Vimeo as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Leica Monochrome...And Other B&W Thoughts



Through the PetaPixel blog, I viewed the video of Chris Niccolls from the Canadian camera shop The Camera Store who was able to test a pre-release Leica Monochrome M, and which shares his thoughts on the camera. He also reveals a new feature in the Leica MM which delays the shutter sound camera for stealthier street photography.

For further technical specifications, there's also DPReview's webpage.

This gives me the opportunity to share brief thoughts on the monochrome capabilities of the Fuji X Pro-1, and compare these to the Leica M9's color photographs converted to black and white. As the Leica M is rumored to be released at the end of this month, I don't know how the monochrome photographs generated by the Leica MM will compare to those altered by the traditional post processing, nor to those made in-camera by the Fuji X Pro-1...but I thought I'd post two monochrome photographs made during my recent trip to Chiang Mai.

One of these photographs (the top one) was made with my Leica M9, and post processed in monochrome in Photoshop, while the bottom one was made using the Fuji X Pro-1, and using its B&W film simulation setting, then sharpened (with some added contrast) in Photoshop. Click on the photographs to enlarge.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved


Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved


I pass no judgement at this stage on the merits of the Leica Monochrome, and whether its $8000 price tag is justified or not. For a few photographers, it will be...for the majority of us, it certainly isn't.

However what I can say is that I'm extremely pleased with the Fuji X Pro-1's film simulation settings, as I am pleased with the Leica M9's images when converted to monochrome. I found shooting monochrome with the X Pro-1 to be a cinch, and enjoyed every moment I used that setting. I didn't think I would before doing so in Chiang Mai's streets. But seeing the monochrome images on the X Pro-1's screen helped my visualization process, and reassured me that my camera settings were correct.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Les Stroud Survival Knives

Keeping with the Les Stroud team, many of you know that a while back he released a bushcraft knife called the Temagami, which is made by Helle. Well, recently he released a line of survival knives, which are manufactured by Camillus. From what I could see, he was using one of the knives on the first episode of Survivorman 10 Days.

CamillusEmailBlastLesStroud

Here is a statement released by Les about the knives:

“Hi all - I got to thinkin'....there was a press release already, but other than that there have been just a few questions here and there about me releasing a survival knife line. Firstly - yes - I have already released a BUSHCRAFT knife with the most excellent company: Helle out of Norway. The purpose was to design a high end bushcraft knife that is a one of a kind knife made by hand by the fantastic people at Helle. No two knives in this line are alike. I have even been able to visit the plant myself and sit at some of the machines hand crafting out my own blade. - In fact someone will unknowingly get one of these knives and it will be the one I worked on myself!!! I am very proud of these knives and very proud of working with Helle on them. Now. That said - Helle and I were not interested in developing a knife line together that was more specific to survival - including some survival attachments. That is where Camillus comes in. I had turned down a number of knife companies who had courted me (including one specific line of knives you could probably guess at - they went with someone else) simply because they would not adhere to my strict quality policy: "If I am going to design a survival knife for you to put in your hands - then it better be quality enough to put in my own". They were all more interested in profit and celebrity. Camillus is fully committed to working with my own designs to develop a line of survival knives you can trust with your life. So if you want that one of a kind bushcrafting knife then please enjoy what I personally designed with Helle....and if you want to outfit yourself with a survival knife designed personally by me and tested by me - then you will see the prototype we will unveil in Vegas at the Shot show in January - I think I will be there at the show on the 18th. ....Camillus had no issues with the fact that I designed a beautiful one of a kind bushcraft knife with Helle and Helle has no issue that I am designing a fully loaded survival knife with Camillus......Listen folks - whether I became Survivorman and created a whole new genre of TV or not - I would have eventually tried to write a manual (which I did called Survive!) develop a line of survival knives and develop a survival kit. As an instructor of many years - these three initiatives were always in my heart to do. So now I am able to do so thanks to creating survival for TV - ok fine - buts what's most important to me is that whatever I put my name on - it be of the highest quality. Know this: In my opinion - the survival knife...book...kit that I put on the market will be the best there is. The price point may be a little higher than those who are cashing in on the whole 'survival thing'....but our lives are worth it. For me its not about marketing or cashing in on celebrity....its about survival. Les”

Nicolas Lotsos: The Masai Typology

Photo © Nicolas Lotsos-All Rights Reserved

"Photography is my motive for travel."


The Masai Typology is one of the many gorgeous photo galleries of Africa by photographer Nicolas Lotsos. I'm not much of an African wildlife aficionado, but his fine art galleries of photographs of the handsome Masai, of Zanzibar, or of the African slums and townships are lovely exemplars of monochromatic imagery.

Nicolas Lotsos is  a fine art photographer (and in my view, a travel photographer as well) and a basketball agent. He co-runs a sports agency representing some of the top sports figures in Europe. He has been a photographer since he was 16 years old, and specializes in photographs of wild life and nature.

He also won an impressive number of awards, to include Gold Winner at the 2012 Grand Prix de la Photographie, Outstanding Achievement at the Spider Award 2012, the 2012 Veolia Wildlife Photographer Award, including two awards by the Travel Photographer Of The Year (TPOTY), amongst others.

A Nilotic group in East Africa, next to the Indian Ocean, the Masai society is patriarchal, and elder men decide most major matters for each group. A full body of oral law covers many aspects of behaviour. The Masai are monotheistic, worshipping a single deity.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Olympic Fun at Blackheath Village, London - Saturday, 11th August 2012

Children of all ages loved the fun fair.
Blackheath Village, London was busy, hot and fun.  It was a glorious day and there was the Big Screen to watch the Olympics, food stalls and great entertainment too.
Oops I have photographed the presenter and not the athletes taking part!

These ladies were Vanessa Mae lookalikes but with drum sticks!


Our lunch stop was Chapters All Day Dining, Blackheath Village - it wasn't too busy and is a great place to sit back, relax and do some people watching.

Burger with Gherkins, Onions, Tomato & Chips

Delicious Seared Salmon on a Bed of Stir Fry Vegetables (I think!)

Tagliatelle with Chives (we aren't sure about this because unfortunately it was bland).

Coming up:  Allpress, Shoreditch - Kaffeine, Great Titchfield Street - St David Coffee House, Forest Hill.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Multimedia Or Make Up Your Own Audio In Your Mind?


As my readers know, I've been privileged to attend the annual Foundry Photojournalism Workshop for the fifth consecutive time, every year teaching Multimedia For Photographers class.

But for those who don't know; the purpose and aim of this class is to show photojournalists how to make quick work of slide show production, using their own images and audio generated in the field, to produce cogent photo stories under the simulation of publishing deadlines, rivaling other multimedia forms in terms of quality.

At the end of Workshop, the instructors and staff gathered to discuss and suggest ways to improve it. The length of the multimedia presentations was one of the issues that came up.

As background, the majority of the remaining classes involved visual storytelling in one form or other, only two during the Workshop were actual 'multimedia', meaning they required photo (or video) essays AND field recordings gathered by students.

That said, this post deals with my class only..so back to the discussion.

One of the suggestions dealt with the length of my multimedia class presentations during the final evening of the Workshop. Although only averaging just over 2-1/2 minutes per project, it was felt by some that this was unfair, as the remaining non multimedia presentations were much shorter, causing the students not enrolled in either of the two multimedia classes to remark that they were shortchanged (that's my own interpretation) by being given less time to show their still photographs.

Looking back at the conversation, I have a couple of thoughts about this.

1. Setting aside other obvious differences for now, but audio slideshows (my kind of multimedia, and which is what my class is all about) provides much more 'magnetism' to photo essays/projects produced by my class participants. The audio carries the still photographs in a way that still photographs on their own cannot...especially with a large audience such as the presentation evening had. I certainly sympathize with the photographers who worked hard to present their very best photographs, but whose impact was lessened because of the absence of a meaningful aural accompaniment...an absence I call a "vacuum". To be honest, a part of me silently screamed my disappointment when I viewed a wonderful photo story with no sound to move along its linearity.

I highlighted the word meaningful in the preceding sentence...and that's a key word. There's an immense difference between the impact that ambient audio, as an accompaniment, adds to a photo essay....and just any kind of audio plucked from iTunes or elsewhere. I've viewed many wonderful photo essays spoiled by incongruous soundtracks that have absolutely nothing to do with the still photographs...and when that happens, my first reaction is always "huh?" then "noooo!".....certainly not the reaction the authors-creators of these projects hope for.

For presentations to a large audience, as the Workshop's last evening was about, I believe the projects with ambient audio will always steal the show. Being accosted by no less that two dozen photographers after the presentations, and told that they wanted to put their still photography work into a multimedia format and start ambient audio recording, not only reaffirmed this belief, but was also personally gratifying.

2. As for the duration of the audio slideshows, it has to be understood that it's determined by the story arc and/or theme...and by the logical pace of the project. It'd be foolish to force the pace of a story...and snip the audio down to a collection of incoherent babble clips just because the multimedia projects had to fit a cookie-cutter time frame. Editing an audio slideshow with no careful regard to the logical and measured pace of the project would be self-defeating, and impractical....and that is not going to happen in my class.

As I wrote in an earlier post: multimedia (whether as audio-slideshows -with ambient sound- or more elaborate productions) is the future, and photographers must hop on its train if they want to remain on the cutting edge of their industry, and retain the attention of viewers.

Unless, of course, they prefer to follow Yoko Ono who famously said: "All my concerts had no sounds in them; they were completely silent. People had to make up their own music in their minds!"

Survivorman Returns on US Television

Those of you who are big Survivorman fans already know that Les Stroud has been working on a new Survivorman season. Episodes have already aired in Canada, but last night, August 19, 2012, was the first episode from the new season to air on US television. It premiered on the Discovery Channel at 8:00PM E.T.

The new season has a slightly different format. While Les still gets stranded alone with his camera gear, this time he is doing it for ten rather than seven days at a time. Because of that, the title of the new season of Survivorman is “Survivorman Ten Days”. Each episode is now split into two parts. Part one covers the first five days, and the second part the second five days. I am not sure that I am crazy about the format. While it is good to see him survive for a longer period of time, splitting up each survival situation into two episodes seems to slow down the action a bit, and doesn’t give the sense of completion in each episode that we got from the earlier seasons. Even so, it is great to see Les back in action.

The first episode that aired last night was part one of “Tiburon Island” where Les is stranded on, you guessed it, Tiburon Island off the coast of Mexico. Part two will air on August 26, 2012 at 8:00PM on the Discovery Channel. That will be followed by parts one and two of “Norway”, to air on September 2, 2012 and September 9, 2012 respectively at 8:00PM on the Discovery Channel. The “Norway” episode was the first to premier in Canada, so it can already be seen online.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Art Of 8 Limbs With the Fuji X-Pro 1

Photo ©2012 Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Before going to Chiang Mai for the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, I researched locations and venues for muay thai (the Thai kickboxing), and the most prominent ones were unappealing for what I had in mind.

Despite its ancient history as a self-defense martial art akin to kickboxing, I had read that muay thai had gone through a rough patch. It was revived some years ago as a popular glitzy sport activity and held in large modern arenas...but it wasn't what I wanted. I wanted the bouts that had been relegated to seedy areas, surrounded by gambling and other nefarious activities. It was this side of muay thai that I had in mind.

It wasn't difficult to find what I wanted...the area known as Loi Kroh Road was the setting: a rundown gym with a decrepit ring amidst a "mall" of girlie and ladyboy bars, the boxing ring patched up with duct tape and tarted up with adverts for Jack Daniels Whisky, play-acting fights, the actual smell of sweat and the ambience of the sex for hire, ...and of course, shady nak muay, as the sport's pugilists are known.

I bought a front seat row for my first evening there, and subsequently discovered I could have a drink at one of the bars instead, walk a few steps to the ring and photograph at will. At some point, I wasn't very popular with a half-sober and rather beefy European spectator, who (rightly) claimed I was in his (and his -possibly underage- girlfriend's) line of vision, but the tense moment soon passed.

So here's The Art Of Eight Limbs, a collection of monochrome photographs made at the Loi Kroh arena, and made with the Fuji X Pro-1.

I've said it earlier, but I'm very pleased with the Fuji X Pro-1's performance, especially under the conditions I was shooting under. As one can imagine, photographing a fast-paced sports such as muay thai in dim conditions and under uneven lights is tough for any camera, but the X Pro-1 didn't let me down, except for an occasional slip with its slow focusing or because its auto-focus was fooled by the action.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Anthony Pond: Faith, Frenzy...



Readers interested in unique religious and cultural events will like this. I guarantee it. Not the faint-hearted though.

Following his participation in my The Oracles Of Kerala Photo Expedition-Workshop in March, Anthony Pond has been a frequent contributor to The Travel Photographer blog, and his Faith, Frenzy multimedia essay is the most recent of his many audio slideshows I've already featured.

Not only is it his most recent, but I wager it's his best production so far. Tony used a Canon 5DMk2, audio recordings were made with a Zoom H1, and was edited in Lightroom, Audacity, and Final Cut Pro. I'm not a huge fan of merging stills with video footage, but Tony succeeded in merging these two mediums quite seamlessly.

The Oracles of Kodungallur celebrate their festival in the Bhagawati temple, which usually occurs between the months of March and April. It involves sacrifice of cocks and shedding of the Oracles own blood, to appease the goddess Kali and her demons who are said to relish blood offerings.

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.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Andrew Skurka: Trekking the Wild North

This is a video presentation by Andrew Skurka about his Yukon expedition, where he spent six months traveling 4,500 miles through the Alaskan and Yukon wilderness.

It is certainly a spectacular achievement. The video focuses mostly on telling the story of the trip. I wish it covered more of the skills and gear required, but it is still a very interesting video.

Lisa Kristine: Bhutan

Photo © Lisa Kristine-All Rights Reserved

Lisa Kristine has been in the news with her recently published book Free The Slaves, and her talk at TEDxMaui about her photographic work. She has worked over the past 28 years documenting indigenous cultures in 70 countries on 6 continents around the world, and involved with Free the Slaves, an organization whose goal is to end slavery.

Notwithstanding the undeniable virtues of her involvement in using her photography to document the scourge of modern day slavery, I feature instead her lovely work of Bhutan which is representative of the best of  ethnographical fine art photography. Toned to perfection, these images are just superlative and were made with a large-format 4″x5″ field view camera.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

2012 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Finalists

Photo © Cedric Houin-All Rights Reserved

In Focus, the superlative photo blog of The Atlantic, features the winners of the 2012 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest in a much more satisfying format than the National Geographic. The finalists' photographs are shown in a 1280 pixel size; a size that will fill the largest monitors.

The winners consist of a group of 10 photos plus one Viewer's Choice winner. These images were chosen from more than 12,000 entries submitted by 6,615 photographers from 152 countries. The winners are from four categories: Travel Portraits, Outdoor Scenes, Sense of Place, and Spontaneous Moments.

First place went to Cedric Houin with the above photograph of the inside of a family yurt in the Kyrgyz lands of the Wakhan Corridor. We are told by the photograph's caption that the tribes living in the area are weeks away from any village by foot, and although located at an altitude of 4,300 meters in one of the most remote areas of Afghanistan, solar panels, satellite dishes and cellphones are prevalent.

It's not often that I agree with results of photography contests, but the judges' choice in this one is spot on. The richness of the reds of the yurt's interior, and the facial expression of the main protagonist along with the smaller details make a story out of that photograph. 

Cedric Houin is a French & Canadian documentary photographer, and a visual storyteller.

As for the Wakhan Corridor, it's an area of far north-eastern Afghanistan which forms a land link between Afghanistan and China. It's a long and slender area, roughly 140 miles long and between 10 and 40 miles wide. It also separates Tajikistan in the north from Pakistan in the south.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Narratively: Stories Of New York



Living and photographing in New York City when I'm not traveling means that projects such as Narratively never fail to turn me on.

Narratively describes itself as a digital platform devoted to original, true, and in-depth storytelling about New York, through writing, photography, documentary video, animation and interactive media. And the best is that Narratively is on the lookout for interesting stories and talented contributors.

And this sounds especially compelling:

Each week, we’ll explore a different theme about New York and publish a series of connected stories — just one a day — told in the most appropriate medium for each piece. We might feature a longform article with portrait photos on a Monday, followed by an animated documentary on Tuesday, then a photo essay, an audio piece or a short documentary film. Every story gets the space and time it needs to have an impact. We’ll bring you weeks devoted to New York’s waterways, hustlers, sexual subcultures, obscure pastimes and countless other themes.

What's not to like? So drop by Narratively's Kickstarter's page, and if the concept also turns you on, consider supporting it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Shooting From The Hip On LK Road

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Whilst teaching at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop the past week or so, I've also managed to set aside some time to fit some of my favorite style of photography, and shooting from the hip with the Fuji X Pro-1 has been high on my list to do, especially at night.

Here's LK Road, a collection of street photography scenes made in one of the grittiest mainstream streets in Chiang Mai; Loi Kroh Road. The photographs are grouped under the title page of Katoey Or Not?, but I chose not to title this post with that particular name to avoid having visitors being referred to it by search engines for purposes other than photography.

Loi Kroh in Thai means "washing one's troubles away", and it's one of Chiang Mai haunts for tourists principally for the preponderance of girlie bars on its approximately one-mile length...some of these bars are staffed by young women, and/or ladyboys known as katoeys.

Apart from the bars, Loi Kroh Road hosts some restaurants, massage parlors for tourists with aching legs and feet, and tattoo shops. That said, I found its ambiance a little sad and melancholic despite the blaring large screen television sets then showing some Olympics sport event, the occasional clicks of billiard balls, the forced laughter of the young women (or ladyboys) working the bars and the ubiquitous and hopeful "sawasadee...massage?" yells at every corner.

The areas seemed to me to be way past its prime...perhaps it was the off-season as well...but the bars were less than half-empty, even when there were muay thai fights held at the seedy boxing ring. Most of the fights seemed (at least to me) to be staged, with spectators generally consisting of drunken middle-aged European men.

I was asked why I chose to shoot from the hip on Loi Kroh Road, and if it was because it was risky. Not at all...although I imagine some of the bar clients wouldn't relish being photographed. The real reason is the same as whenever I choose to shoot from the hip: it allows me to capture the subjects unawares with natural expressions.

Lastly, the ladyboy in the above photograph, extroverted and very "sociable", reminded me of Ru Paul. I was super prompt in buying her a drink to get rid of her unwanted and rather heavy-handed attentions.

Finally, the Fuji X Pro1 performed extremely well at night, and I have nothing but praise for its performance. Its auto-focus let me down a few times, but its overall performance at high and very high iso is nothing short of spectacular.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Maika Elan: Ain't Talkin', Just Lovin'

Photo © Maika Elan-All Rights Reserved
Here's the work of Maika Elan titled Ain't Talkin', Just Lovin', which -in my view- is one of the three photo projects that attracted me the most during the final evening of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Chiang Mai.

Maika attended Maggie Steber's (known as "the incomparable Maggie") class The Power of Images in Today’s Media, and presented a photo essay depicting individuals living in Chiang Mai with close bonds to their animal friends. Whether these were cats and dogs, or exotic snakes, the mutual relationship and dependency between the two were brilliantly captured by Maika's lens.

While this photo essay most certainly stands firmly on its own two (or is it four in this case?) feet, I somehow wished it had been accompanied by an ambient soundtrack; perhaps a short snippet of a conversation between the young man and his cat purring...as an example. Imagine that!?

Maggie Steber used a wonderful phrase in one of our recent email exchanges...we (the photographers) need to go beyond the tyranny of the photographic boundaries. Yes, we do. Very much so. And adding ambient sound collecting to our panoply of skills is one way of doing it.

Maika will be soon working with me during my Vietnam Photo-Expedition-Workshop, and I'll make sure she's up and running insofar as multimedia is concerned.

The other two projects I particularly liked during the final Foundry Workshop presentation were Ulises Baque's Oui Nan, and Cheryl Nemazie's Night At The Naga.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ulises Baque: Oui Nan, 93 Years Riding



As per my latest blog post, the presentation evening ending the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop showcased all of the students' work, and I highlighted three projects which I thought were the best. Two of the three were multimedia, and here's one of these. Extremely well made and edited, this short multimedia piece elicited much praise from the audience.

The project was made and edited by Ulises Baque, a videographer based in Thailand. It was made for Henrik Kastenskov's multimedia class, and is about the oldest samlaw cyclist in Chiang Mai.

I intend to write a bit further about this, but the dichotomy of the multimedia and the non-multimedia projects during the Foundry's evening presentation could not have been more stark. Although some of the non-multimedia were interesting and compelling, few could compete for the audience's attention as powerfully as those presented from two classes: Henrik Kastenkov's Storytelling For An Online Audience or my own Multimedia For Photographers.

In short: multimedia (whether as audio-slideshows -with ambient audio- or more elaborate) is the future, and photographers must hop on its train if they want to remain on the cutting edge of their industry, and retain the attention of viewers. I heard this point of view over and over from students after the presentation night...wanting to put their still photography work into a multimedia format and start ambient audio recording.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Trip Report: Friday Mtn Airplane Crash Site 8/3/12 – 8/5/12 Part 2

If you haven’t seen Part 1 of the post already, please check it out. This one would make a lot more sense if you do.

So, I woke up at sunrise. I felt great. All the hydration and sleep had done a great deal to help me feel better. 

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After heating up some oatmeal for breakfast, I packed up and headed up through the cliffs again. The going wasn’t particularly though because there was very little vegetation in this area. After about an hour or so, I reached the summit of Friday Mountain, marked as #4 on the map I showed you.

I’ve mentioned before that all the peaks in the Catskills with elevation over 3500 ft that are not accessible through any trails, have a canister at the top where you can sign your name. Now that I was at the summit, I started looking for the canister. This proved to be a difficult task. I must have crisscrossed the top of the mountain several times in search of the canister. It took me over an hour to find it. Just as I was getting close to giving up, I spotted it on one of the trees, almost at the very edge of the cliff on the eastern side of the mountain.

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I signed my name in the book. It felt like an achievement, but I knew the day was just starting. I didn’t have any time to waste, so I took a compass bearing from the map towards my next location, the unnamed peak (#5) next to Cornel Mountain.

Unfortunately, there isn’t anything interesting to report from the next stretch of the trip. The whole distance from Friday Mountain to Cornel Mountain was covered in thick spruce. It was simply a matter of putting my head down, arms in front of my face, and forcing my way through the tangled branches blocking my way. The whole time I kept thinking about those beautiful forests that I see Ray Mears always walk through on his shows. How come none of them were in these mountains? This is not the type of forest where you can take a stroll with a billy can in one hand and an axe in the other. Often i would stop and just keep looking around in the hope of finding an area that was a bit less dense so I can actually move through it. More often than not, it was simply time wasted, and I would just have to push my way through some more tangled trees.

There was one spot where the trees opened up for a few feet, and I was able to see a few plants other than spruce and fir.

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Then, more pushing through the trees. It was almost impossible to keep a good bearing. Quite often the bearing would take me into areas where it would simply be impossible to get through. I would have to circle around and then try to find my way back on the bearing. Luckily, the fact that I was following along a ridge line helped a lot with that. Whenever I deviated from the bearing, I simply looked for the highest point on the ridge, and once there would re-establish the bearing.

It wasn’t easy to determine when I was at the top of the peak for which I was aiming. The gradient wasn’t that steep, and the vegetation prevented me from seeing more than fifteen feet in front of me. Judging by the tracks recorded by the GPS receiver, I had missed it slightly to the east. Either way, when I though I was on top of the peak, I took a bearing towards Cornel Mountain and headed in that direction.

Earlier during the day, when I reached the top of Friday Mountain, I knew I was going to be short on water. I had only a liter left. This was a result of me drinking more water than expected the previous day because I wasn’t feeling well. This meant that I had to carefully ration my water for the trip between Friday and Cornel Mountain. Needless to say, I was running very short when I took my bearing towards Cornel.

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After some traveling through the same type of thick tree cover, I reached a cliff side. It was too tall to attempt climbing. My only option was to try to see if there was an easier way up to the side of the cliff. I started moving towards the west. Soon, I saw what looked to be a way up.

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I started climbing up, and soon it became to appear that this was some type of path. I figured it was the result of other people trying to get up and down the cliffs, and this being the only way to pass through them, creating a funneling effect. I quickly however realized that this was actually the trail which lead up to Cornel Mountain. By moving west, it seems that I had intersected the trail right under the summit of Cornel. Here is me realizing that I am actually on the trail and out of the bush:

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After a bit more climbing up the trail, I started to see open sky. It was a very exciting feeling to finally be able to move around without trees constantly hitting you in the face.

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As a reward for making it to the top of Cornel Mountain, and through the hardest part of the trip, I finished the rest of my water. Now I headed down the trail in search of a water source that was marked on the map. There were a few plants worth photographing along the way.

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My big worry at this point was that the water source would be dry. It in not uncommon, and judging by the low level of the Neversink river, it was a likely scenario. My concerns were confirmed when I ran into two people on the trail going in the opposite direction, who told me that all the water sources till after Slide Mountain were dry.

At this point I started searching for any water I could find. I followed rock outcrops, looking for areas of pooled water. I was lucky to find one such puddle.

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I managed to filter almost a liter of water out of it using my Sawyer Squeeze Filter. This here is a prime example of why I favor filters over other water purification methods. There was everything from mud to amphibians living in this little puddle. There is no way I would have drank the water without filtering, no matter if it was drenched in chemicals or  boiled into mud stew.

With the water I was able to gather, I continued down the trail. I finally hit the marker indicating that I was at 3500 feet. This allowed me to pinpoint my exact location on the map.

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A little bit further down, I reached the marked water source. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was not literally dry. While it was not flowing, there was more than enough water for me to fill up for the next portion of the trip.

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Now, my original plan was to camp in this area for the night. This is location #7 on the first map I showed you. However, I had made faster progress than I expected. It was about 2PM, and it was way too early to set up camp. Now that I had water, I ate some food, and decided to hit the trail again.

The climb up to Slide Mountain was not particularly easy. It was very steep, and in some places required more rock climbing than I was happy to do while alone.

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By now, my legs were burnt out. I felt fine, and I didn’t feel tired, but even the smallest amount of pushing uphill, got my legs burning. At one point I fell down, and my face landed in a raspberry bush. As punishment, they were promptly eaten.

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Eventually, around 4PM, I reached the summit of Slide Mountain. There is a plaque there commemorating John Burroughs.

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I had the rest of my chocolate for an added energy boost, and some powdered drink mix.

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Even though this is what I believe the highest mountain in the Catskills, the peak is still heavily forested, so you can’t see much. However, a short distance off, there is a standing dead tree, and if you climb on top of it, you can get a decent shot of the surrounding area.

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After reaching slide mountain, the way from there was easy. I moved relatively quickly, stopping only to take a few pictures.

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The above picture seems to be some carpenter ants digging out a home into a tree. If you look carefully near the opening, you can see one of them.

Around 6PM I reached the Yellow trail, which would eventually take me out of the forest. There was another plaque on the trail crossing.

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It seemed like a good place to set up camp for the night. However, I was again running low on water. I would have enough for the evening, but not for the next day. On the map, there seemed to be a small creek in the opposite direction on the train from where I was going to go the next day. It appeared to be about half an hour away, so I decided to go see if I can get some water before setting camp. Unfortunately, this water source was dry as well. I decided to follow the creek bed into the lower elevation to see if maybe I could find some small pools. Not far off, I found one.

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Since I didn’t need water immediately, I dug out the area, and left it for the night to allow more water to gather. I then set up my shelter.

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I made a small fire to cook my food. Now, you usually see me cooking directly on a bed of coals when I use a fire. There are different types of fire and different ways to use them depending on what resources you have and what you are trying to do. In this instance, I had a lot of birch, which while burning easily, doesn’t make the best coals. I also had no intention of sitting by a fire the whole evening. I just needed something small to cook with. Suspending the pot over a small fire was the easiest way to get that done.

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By keeping the fire small, I cooked my food without too much mess, and with just a few handfuls of sticks. By keeping the flame small, only the bottom of the pot accumulated any sooth, making it easier to clean.

After dinner I went to sleep. I was starting to not feel well again. I figured another good night’s rest would take care of it.

In the morning I made breakfast. I wasn’t feeling well at all. All my stomach problems were back. I ate none the less, and packed up.

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Before heading out I filled up some water. The hole I had dug up worked great.

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Near that area I spotted some more chaga. I’m sure that if I was looking for some, I would never find it, but on this trip it was everywhere.

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It was very humid that morning. It seemed like it was about to rain.

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Here is a picture I wanted to share with you because it was the first running water I had seen since Friday.

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There was a toad taking opportunity of the water.

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There were a few mushrooms to be seen as well.

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It was a very uneventful day. The trail was easy, I had enough water; it was just a matter of making my way out. Shortly before reaching the road, I spotted a berry bush. It made for a good snack.

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After that, it was only a short distance before I was out of the woods and back in my car.

Overall it was a great trip. I am sure I would have enjoyed it more if I was feeling better. The first two days were very difficult, both in terms of navigating certain stretches, and certainly in terms of physically making my way through the bush. I stuck more or less to the planned route. The only deviations were to leave the bearing and follow the creek bed to the airplane crash site on day one, as well as leaving the bearing to make my way up Friday Mountain. I also moved faster than I expected, making it much further down the trail than on the second day. Here you can see my tracks as recorder by the GPS receiver.

a (3)

You can also see the elevation profile.

a (1)

That’s about it for the trip report. Maybe I’ll do some other posts going over the gear I had with me, and what things worked and what didn’t.