Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back Story | The Caretaker of Wangdichholing

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

One of my favorite locations for photography in Bhutan is the Wangdichholing Palace in Jakar. No longer a palace, it's now virtually uninhabited save for the morning classes for Buddhist monks-in-training and novices from the nearby monastery, and a caretaker couple who live in a small room at ground level.

A still beautiful structure, with turquoise-colored wood panels and typical Bhutanese decoration, the palace was built in 1857, on the site of the battle camp of the Trongsa Penlop Jigme Namgyel, father of the first King of Bhutan. It was the first palace in Bhutan not designed as a fortress. Both the first and second king adopted it as their main summer residence.

The woman, who could between 60 and 100 years old, and as deaf as a post, was quite voluble and seemed curious as to why we were photographing so much in the courtyard of the palace. We were actually photographing a lot...gathering novice monks to pose as naturally as possible against the wobbly wooden staircases, and having them run on the rough cobblestones. One of us was even photographing novice monks using slave strobes, much to their delight.

She must've seen many others come before us to this popular spot, but we were perhaps some of the first to arrive with such an array of cameras, lenses and strobes that it attracted her curiosity.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Justin Mott | Travel

Photo © Justin Mott -All Rights Reserved
" I hate and love taking pictures of conical hats; it really depends on the day." -Justin Mott
I was challenged (well, sort of) by Justin Mott if I could tell the difference between the photographs he shot for Conde Nast Traveler and those for The New York Times. I think I could tell, but it's now up the readers of The Travel Photographer to take up the challenge. 

A hint: if it looks too perfect and not too documentary-looking, then it's probably Conde Nast. In any event, you'll be certain to enjoy Justin's work which mostly spans 45 photographs of South East Asia (Viet Nam, Myanmar, Cambodia, etc) as well as Tanzania.

Justin Mott grew up in Rhode Island, and studied photojournalism at San Francisco State University but a year before graduating traveled to Southeast Asia, and eventually settled in Vietnam since 2006. He's been photographing regularly for The New York Times, among many others.

He is living in Hanoi, Vietnam and working throughout Southeast Asia on personal projects and assignments since 2006. In 2008, his work on Agent Orange Orphans was recognized in the PDN Annual and was awarded in the Marty Forscher Fellowship for humanistic photography given out by the Parsons School of Design in NYC. Justin is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and various other international publications such as Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Geo, L’Express, GEO, Bloomberg News Service, The Independent, UNESCO, Medecins Sans Frontieres, and the Discovery Channel. He won The Marty Forscher Fellowship Humanistic Photography Award. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Apple and Ginger Buns: Bread Machine Recipe

Fresh from the oven and brushed whilst hot with a sugar glaze
I've had my bread machine for years now, it makes perfect dough or a perfect loaf of bread, except for the annoying hole in the base of the loaf where the paddle comes out. You either love your bread machine or put it at the back of the cupboard for the rainy day that never comes.

The buns in the middle are the best because they are fluffy on all four sides.  Best eaten warm on the day you bake them but we couldn't get through all that lot and I froze the majority which is a shame.  Defrost and reheat gently in the microwave to refresh.

Diced fruits cooked with a minimum of liquid 
Cooled fruit spread over the dough 
The risen dough spirals before baking
Makes: 12

You will need:  2 beaten eggs, 175ml milk, 2 tablespoons room temperature butter, ½ tsp salt, 500g strong white flour, 50g caster sugar, 1¼ tsp fast-action dried yeast.

Filling: 400g cooking apples (peeled, quartered, cored and diced), 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 2 tablespoons water, 50g caster sugar, 125g mixed dried fruit, 50g quartered glace cherries, 2 tablespoons ready-chopped glace ginger.

Glaze: 2 tablespoons caster sugar, 4 tablespoons milk.

1. Add the dough ingredients in the order specified in your instruction book.
2. Place the pan into the bread machine.  Shut the lid and set to the dough setting.  Press start.
3. For the filling: place the apples into a saucepan with the lemon juice, water, sugar, dried fruit and half the cherries.  Cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes or until the apples are starting to soften. Remove the lid and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the apples are tender.  Stir in the ginger and leave to cool.
4. When the dough programme has finished, remove the pan from the bread machine, scoop out the dough and knead.  Press out the dough using the fingertips to stretch out into an oblong. Roll out to an oblong measuring 37 x 30cm.
5. Spread the cooled mixture over the dough to within 2cm of the edges.  Roll up starting from one of the longer edges.
6. Cut a slice of dough off both ends and then cut it into 12.  Place the dough spirals onto a greased roasting tin measuring 30 x 20cm.  Cover the dough coils with oiled clingwrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
7. Remove the clingwrap and bake in a preheated oven 200ºC for 20-25 minutes or until golden and the centre coils sound hollow when you tap them.  Sprinkle over the remaining chopped cherries.
8. Make the glaze.  Heat together the sugar and milk until the sugar has dissolved.  Boil for 1 minute, watching it very carefully, brush over the hot bread.  Leave in the tin to cool.

Soft fluffy dough

Recipe taken from Bread Machine Easy by Sara Lewis.

DIY Ultralight Fishing Rod Case

Some time ago I noticed that Backpacking Light was selling an ultralight fishing rod case on their website. For some time now, I have been trying to come up with a lightweight, full size fishing kit. Unfortunately my fishing rod had come with a good, but very heavy case. Naturally, I got excited about the ultralight case offered by Backpacking Light. Unfortunately, they were out of stock, and continue to be so as of the date of this post. So, I set out trying to make my own. This was the result:


Next to the fishing rod case, you can see my lightweight reel and tackle. Together they make for a fishing kit of under 1 lb total weight, but that is for another post.

I made the fishing rod case from a fluorescent light tube protector. They are available in hardware stores, and come 4 or 8 ft lengths together with the caps you see above. The use of these tubes, as the name designates seems to be to place the fluorescent light bulb inside it for protection.

The tube I used is a bit over 1.5 inches in diameter. It is designed for fluorescent lights that are 1.5 inches in diameter, so that is how they refer to it in the hardware store. More specifically, it is the protector tube for T12 fluorescent lights. There are also tubes in 2.25 inch diameters, for the T17 fluorescent lights, but I was not able to find one.

The 1.5 inch diameter tube weighs 0.7 oz per foot of length. I used about a foot and a half for the above container, which came out to 1.0 oz. Additionally, each of the caps weighs 0.1 oz, for a total weight of the above fishing rod protector of 1.2 oz. Of course, the exact weight will depend on how much of the tube you use. I used a pair of scissors to cut the tube, which wasn’t a problem.

There are however some issues with the protector; some general, and some specific to my set up.

The general issue is that the protector is not terribly strong. While it has worked very well to protect my fishing rod so far, it is not as strong as the protectors you can get from your fishing equipment supplier. The tube is strong enough so that it will not bend in half without very large force being applied, and it will protect very well against branches and other things that may hit your pack while you are raveling in the woods. However, the tube can compress when pressure is applied, so it will not protect your rod is you do something like step on it.


The second issue is the one specific to my set up, and that is that the butt guide on the rod was too large (sticks too far out from the rod) to fit in the 1.5 inch tube. I’m sure that would not be an issue with some other rod models, but it was with mine (St. Croix 6 foot Travel Spinning Rod). Unfortunately, since I was not able to find a larger tube, I had to figure out a way to make it work. The solution was to use the flexibility of the tube to my advantage.

The solution was to cut out a small slot, just large enough for the guide to pop out from it when that section of the rod was inserted in the protector. To insert the rod, I pinch the tube so that elongates, and slide the section of the rod until the butt guide reaches the cutout. After that section is in, the other sections are inserted easily.


The result was a very lightweight and compact fishing rod case, certainly much lighter than the one that came with the rod. I was also able to find some sources on the internet that sell similar tubes in different diameters. You can see one of them here. I have not ordered from them, so I’m not sure how they match up.


Why bother with any of this? Well, it was important for me because just like with most other things I do in the woods, I want to be able to do it while backpacking through the woods over relatively long distances. I could easily end up bringing my fishing gear on a trip, and not using it because the opportunity did not present itself. Because of that, I need fishing gear that is as light as possible so that it is easily portable in that context.

I’ve also noticed while doing research, that many people who do the same thing, and reduce the weight of their fishing gear, switch over to Tenkara fishing. I wanted to stick to spin fishing since my knowledge is limited and I want to master the basics before switching styles. On a similar note, I decided to carry a full fishing kit (rod, reel, and tackle) instead of the hobo fishing kit that I have previously used on trips because I wanted to get better as a fisherman and practice different techniques.

And finally, I know very little about fishing when compared to most other people, so when I give any advise, please ignore it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Funkin Brazilian Cocktail Mixer: Event

Fabulous Funkin Brazilian cocktails - would you like yours mixed with rum or vodka?
Posting Courtesy of Kitchen Delights London Reporter.

With all this cold weather – a ray of sunshine is always welcome – particularly if it comes in the form of a scrumptious cocktail (we can only keep praying for the sun to shine).

Funkin recently invited Kitchen Delights to a mid-week party for the launch of their brand new cocktail mixer – Funkin Brazilian.

As Brazilian beats played, and Brazilian girls danced in carnival costumes, we were invited with other food bloggers to taste the new Funkin Brazilian mixer.

The mixer is made with a sweet blend of mango, passion fruit and orange as well as guarana seeds for an immediate energy boost – handy to keep the party going. So all you need to do at home is to add a splash or two of white rum or vodka and not stress with any of the prep usually involved in cocktail making. They are also 100% natural, so no added nasties lurk inside such as preservatives, artificial colourings or flavourings.

For all the cocktail know how you need and details of the full range of products including the Funkin Brazilian Cocktail Mixer, please visit

A big thanks to Kate for the invitation.

The Frame | Holi |The Widows

Photo © AP / Manish Swarup-All Rights Reserved
Here's another installment of photographs from the Lathmar Holi and Holi festivals in Nandgaon and Vrindavan; the colors of which ought to sate anyone's color appetite for weeks to come. 

This time, these photographs are featured by the always impressive The Frame, the photo blog of The Sacramento Bee. It's quite an extensive gallery of photographs by Manish Swarup, Bikas Das, and Altaf Qadri.

Photo © AP/Manish Swarup-All Rights Reserved

I find the above photograph just hilarious! Even the woman's teeth have been colored by the dye and colored water, while the one next to her has preemptively and judiciously covered her face with a veil.

Photo © Vivek Prakash-All Rights Reserved

However, more important than color is the fact that this year for the first time, the festival of Holi was celebrated by the widows and other abandoned women living in Vrindavan. In a departure from an horrific tradition (in some parts of India) which deems Hindu widows as pariahs, hundreds of widows gathered to observe Holi and to cover each other with flower petals and colored powder.

More of the widows enjoying their first Holi can be seen in WSJ India.

For my own work on the plight of the Vrindavan widows, see White Shadows.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A Failed Summit Attempt of Mt. Everest and the Future of Alpinism

Last week I posted about the first successful summit of Mt. Everest by an American team. I also mentioned in the post that some have argued that the 1963 expedition marked the last expedition style mountaineering attempt.

Interestingly, the future of fair means alpinism would be marked by a much less known expedition that took place the previous year, in 1962. It was an attempt to climb Mt. Everest made by a team of four people, climbing without Sherpas, without permits, and without oxygen. The four men were Woodrow Wilson Sayre, Norman Hanseng, Roger Hart, and Hans-Peter Duttle. This American-Swiss team of amateurs managed to get to within 3500 ft from the summit before having to turn back.


At a time when mountaineering in America was little known, these four (what many at the time would consider amateurs), would take on the highest mountain in the world and come frighteningly close to conquering it. More importantly, they would do it in a way that the mountaineering community at the time considered impossible.

Just to give some perspective, in 1954, when Woodrow Wilson Sayre and Norman Hanseng applied to go on a winter climb of Mt. Washington, organized by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), they were rejected because they did not have sufficient experience. The two men’s response was to go climb Mt. Denali that year, and then plan a summit attempt of Mt. Everest. 



In 1962, pretending that they will be making an attempt at the Gyachung Kang mountain, the four men, carrying their own equipment and gear, snuck into China occupied Tibet, to make an attempt on Mt. Everest from the North, the route pioneered by Mallory and Erving in their failed attempt, and at that time still unclimbed. The men had no support, no Sherpas, and no oxygen. The Sherpas and government liaison who transported equipment in the forests, were left at base camp to wait for the team’s return, as they snuck into Tibet. In Sayre’s words, “We made three basic decisions in planning for Everest. We were going without permission, we were going without Sherpas, and we were going without oxygen.”

It appears that the team’s success was in part due to the progress in mountaineering occurring at that time. In his book, Four Against Everest, Sayre writes: “The usual reply to these drawbacks [lack of Sherpas] is to argue necessity… The loads are simply too heavy. Here is where the modern lightweight equipment has changed matters. I would guess that a climber fully dressed against the cold today is carrying 15 to 20 pounds less than his counterpart was carrying forty years ago; that is, his lighter boots, his down-filled parka and pants, his aluminum canteen, and pack frame, and innumerable other improvements, weigh 15 to 20 pounds less than what a climber used to need in order to stay warm. Mufflers and heavy sweaters snowball the weight very quickly. And incidentally, today’s climber is far warmer in spite of the lighter weight. Thus, if he carried a 30 to 35 pound pack, he would not really be carrying more on his person than a climber in the 1920s was carrying when he lifted a 15 to 20 pound pack. This means that today you have, as it were, a built-in Sherpa…


At 25,400 ft, 3500 ft below the summit on the North Col, out of food, and suffering from injury, the men decided to turn back.

Upon their return, they were soundly criticized by the mountaineering community for risking a spark in the Cold War by infiltrating the Chinese border, as well as for doing what was considered impossible.

Ironically, the style of alpinism used by Sayre and his team would prove to be the method of the future. Small teams of men, unsupported, and climbing by fair means, would become the aspiration of generations of mountaineers.

A good account of the expedition can be seen in an article by Maurice Isserman titled “Wired: Mad, Ill-Equipped, and Admirable: Everest 1962

Also, if you are able to find it for a reasonable price, as it is out of print, Sayre’s book, Four Against Everest is an excellent read.

Holi | Altaf Qadri | LA Times

Photo © Altaf Qadri- All Rights Reserved
The colorful Holi festival is about to officially start in India on Wednesday, March 27 and I expect we'll be seeing more coverage from Indian and foreign photographers in the coming few days and weeks.

To kick off this event, I start with Altaf Qadri's photographs as they appeared in Framework, the photo blog of The Los Angeles Times yesterday. The photograph that appealed to me the most is the one of Hindu priests loading up their water pumps with colored water to spray the devotees.

Holi is known as the Hindu festival of colors, and is celebrated in Spring by people throwing colored powder and colored water at each other. The tradition is based on the legend of Radha and the Hindu God Krishna. The latter was envious of Radha's fair complexion and in a mischievous mood, he applied color to his beloved Radha's face.

In Vrindavan (which is the place to be during Holi), the festival is celebrated for 16 days in commemoration of the divine love of Radha for Krishna. Many of Altaf's photographs were made at Krishna's Bankey Bihari Temple in Vrindavan. It's the most popular Hindu temple of Krishna in the city.

Altaf Qadri is a photojournalist based in Kashmir, who has been covering the conflict in Kashmir for several years.. His photographs and stories from events in Kashmir have appeared all around the globe including Time, The Guardian, New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Washington Post and The Times among others. 

As I did last year, here's Jim Shannon's Guide To Photographing Holi for those of you who are considering photographing there this year. It's invaluable.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Stellar 3000 Stir Fry Wok - Review

I've been sent a fabulous 28cm enamel coated high gloss non-stick Ruby Red Stellar 3000 Wok to review - also available in black and vanilla.  It has two stay cool easy grip handles, these make it far easier and safer to lift the pan when it is loaded with food.

All you have to do is season the pan with a thin film of vegetable oil and you are ready to go. The wok can go in the oven up to 180°C, which makes this a very versatile pan. The pan is also suitable for all hobs. Washing up is effortless, simply soak in soapy water for a few minutes and wipe, or the pan can be placed in the dishwasher.

All of my pans are stored away in the pan draw, but this wok has taken pride of place and is permanently on top of my hob, not just because it looks great but it's multifunctional too.  I've used the pan for cooking and reheating, any liquid in the pan doesn't evaporate away and you can cook efficiently using only a thin film of oil - the pan is a pleasure to use.

Stellar 3000 is known for quality, dependability and efficiency. Stellar 3000 pans benefit from Teflon Platinum Plus, a Triple Layer non stick coating with a raised textured base for healthier cooking.

There is a Stellar lifetime guarantee, non stick guaranteed for 10 years.

Available from Amazon.

Thank you to Stellar and Pam for another amazing review product.

Dabbawala | The Perennial Plate

I would really love the opportunity of following one of these dabbawallas for a day, and documenting his journey with stills and audio!

The word "Dabbawala" in Marathi when literally translated, means "one who carries a box".  In Mumbai, 5000 dabbawallas deliver around 200,000 lunches every day from people's homes to offices, and are members of the officious-sounding Mumbai Tiffin Box Suppliers Association. They are said to follow the the Varkari sect of Hinduism, and whose doctrine is the eagerness to serve others.

The concept of the dabbawala started in Mumbai during the Raj as many of the British bureaucrats and officials did not like the local food, and a service was set up to bring lunch (boiled potatoes and roast?) to them in their workplace directly from their homes. 

When the dabbawallas first started, a complex coding system of coloured threads and cloths was used, then this evolved to coloured paint, and now it's an alphanumeric code (which you can see in a sequence of the movie). The delivery system is highly dependent on Mumbai's railway lines as well as on bicycles..

The dabbawallas have been conducting the service for the last 125 years and incredibly have an error margin of just one in six million!

The Atlantic has more information of the dabbawallas.

The Perennial Plate is an online weekly documentary series documenting socially responsible and adventurous eating. Daniel Klein and Mirra Fine travel the world exploring the wonders, complexities and stories behind the ever more connected global food system.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Back Story | The Kendang Player

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Here's another digital "wet-plate" portrait which I've just added to my The Digital Wet Plates gallery. This is actually #73 of the 100 portraits I plan on having on the gallery.

The above portrait is of a kendang player in Denpasar, Bali. The kendang is a double-sided membrane drum used Southeast Asia and India. It has been used since ancient times as evidenced by being depicted in ancient temples in Indonesia, especially in Borobudur and Prambanan temples. The Balinese play it on either one or both sides using a combination of hands or sticks.  During Balinese dances, the kendang player must follow the movements of the dancer, and communicate these to the other miscians in the group.

This portrait was made in July 2005, during one of the my first trips to Bali. I was driven to a temple (used as a theater for musical groups), and asked the musicians to pose for me along with their instruments. At the end of the session, I expected to be asked for money...after all, they were performers...but all they asked for was a cigarette. A non-smoker, I had none on me but later on, bought them a couple of packs of Marlboros.  The Balinese fixer I was with later told me that they would eventually exchange these for local kreteks; the Indonesian cigarettes made of tobacco and cloves.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sharon Johnson-Tennant | More Exhibitions

Sharon Johnson-Tennant, a multi-faceted award winning photographer in Los Angeles and a participant in my 2010 Tribes of Rajasthan & Gujarat and my 2012 Vietnam, North of the 16th Parallel Photo Expeditions-Workshops is certainly on a roll.

Her first exhibition is part of the MOPLA Group at the Robert Berman Gallery, in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. The exhibition will open for the public on April 6, 2013, and she will be showing a collection of her new color imagery from a trip to Morocco, called "Unconscious Places." 

Her other exhibition is to be held on Friday, March 29, 2013, and consists of a monochromatic body of her work  This is a group show supporting the Venice Family Clinic, with 20% of the proceeds going to the clinic. It will only be held for the night of March 29.

The Business of Being a Mountain Man: Eustace Conway vs. The Building Inspector

If you make a habit of following outdoor related TV shows, you probably remember Eustace Conway and his Turtle Island household from the History Chanel show Mountain Men. As he is described on the show, Mr. Conway has been living on his 1,000 acre property in North Carolina in what could be called a traditional manner. He claims that he lives off the land, hunting and growing much of his own food, that he makes pants out of buckskin and stitches his own wounds.


In a dramatic climax of the show, Eustace Conway had to fight with the government over unpaid taxes, riding into town on a horse to city hall. Many viewers at the time pointed out that the image of Mr. Conway being portrayed does not seem to align too well with the facts about him. It was quickly pointed out that far from being an isolated mountain man, foraging the forests for resources, Mr. Conway was running a rather profitable business. A visit to his website here, reveals a well organized commercial enterprise with a “mountain man” theme, involving, carriage rides, classes, summer camps for both children and adults, etc. Prices can range anywhere from $65 for a carriage ride, to $1400 for a two week summer camp. It seemed unclear what someone who is living off the land is doing with all that money, and in particular why he is not paying his taxes.

Well, I’m sure we’ll get some more entertaining developments with respect to his taxes in the next season of the show.

A more recent development has been that last Fall, presumably because of increased attention due to the TV show, state officials, acting on a tip, performed an inspection of Turtle Island, and promptly shut it down for not complying with a multitude of health and safety regulation. Some of the violations range from failing to meet building codes, to failing to provide proper sanitation.

Much of the bushcraft community has been in an uproar about this, and the issue has been framed as one where “The STATE” has come to interfere with this man’s life and stop him from living his simple, traditional lifestyle.

I generally ignore such drama, but I wanted to post on this issue as I feel it is being greatly mischaracterized.

Despite the assertions to the contrary, the state government is not seeking to stop Eustace Conway from living his chosen lifestyle. Turtle Island is his property, and he can live there as he chooses, even if that entails him sleeping under a tree. While Turtle Island is currently closed to customers, Mr. Conway continues to live there in his chosen manner.

The real issue here is that Mr. Conway is operating a business at the premises that is open to the public. The moment he starts doing that, he has to comply with health and safety regulations just like anyone else if he wishes to operate that business. 


If he is going to run a camp for children, and for that matter adults, and is going to have them live there, he can not house those people in buildings that do not meet safety and health requirements. If he is going to feed people at the premises as part of a commercial enterprise, then he has to comply with health and sanitation requirements. He can not circumvent those requirements, no more than a restaurant can circumvent health and sanitations standards by saying it specializes in authentic 19th century foods. It can serve 19th century food, but it still has to refrigerate its meat, sanitize its cleaning surfaces, and be free of rats. Similarly Mr. Conway can teach traditional living, but he still has to offer facilities that protect the lives and health of his customers.

It may in fact be the case that it is impossible to teach “true” traditional living these days because of existing regulations. I have to say, I am perfectly okay with that. There are certain aspects of traditional living I would happily give up, including dysentery, dangerous living and working conditions, high child mortality rate, and so on. 

Imagine that instead of the current headlines reading “Mountain Man Takes on Building Codes”, it read “After the State Department Failed to Act, a Dozen Children Were Killed in a Building Collapse at Turtle Island”. What would we be saying then?

Being a mountain man is one thing. Making a business out of being a mountain man is a different story. We shouldn’t confuse the two. All that has currently been shut down is Mr. Conway’s mountain man business, not his lifestyle as a mountain man. Making money comes with certain obligations. As Watauga County Commissioner Perry Yates pointed out, it is not Mr. Conway’s primitive methods, but rather his less primitive ones that are the problem.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Nigel Slater's Hot Cross Bread and Butter Pudding

Nigel Slater may not be too thrilled about my little Easter chick but I think he's cute.
I had the last two packs of cinnamon and raisin Hot Cross Buns, a purchase one Sunday from Waitrose on the M6, and just a few miles away from where Nigel was brought up.

Making hot cross buns and then cutting them up for bread and butter pudding, that's just one step too far......they very conveniently come in a pack of four.

A generous handful of sultanas were sprinkled over the buns, the recipe says to sprinkle over peel too - not for us though.  The custard base uses egg yolks instead of whole eggs, a pot of double cream and the equivalent in milk, which makes a glorious custard. I always freeze my left over egg whites for a meringue making session.

The two of us couldn't polish off all this pud by ourselves, it heats up perfectly in the microwave and my husband said it tasted even better the second day, and he should know, because he's a bread and butter pudding expert.

Taken from Nigel Slater - The Kitchen Diaries II - sadly I can't find a link out to the recipe.

I am entering this into Dish of the Month - March 2013. Hosts are Janice at Farmers Girl Kitchen and Sue at A Little Bit of Heaven on a Plate.

Maarten Boerma | Myanmar

Maarten Boerma: Myanmar &emdash; Light and color
Photo © Martin Boerma-All Rights Reserved

While viewing Maarten Boerma's galleries, I was reminded of wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic concept that is centered on the acceptance of imperfection. It is sometimes described as one of beauty that is "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete". Not because of his images, but because he's starts off his artist statement by saying "I love beautiful photos, but they should not be all beauty, a little bit of decay, error, rough edges should be part of it."

Maarten's galleries span the globe, and he photographed in Myanmar, Spain, Bangkok, France, New York City, Bhutan, Morocco and his native Netherlands where he works as an IBM Cloud Sales Leader.

I chose to feature his Myanmar gallery because of this wonderful atmospheric photograph, in which the carefully positioned red Burmese umbrella gives the right amount of color to the otherwise monochromatic scene. It's one of his best work, and 46 photographs ought to please anyone interested in Myanmar...street photography, balloons over Bagan, monks and's all there. Some are candid and impromptu, while others are not.

Most of his photographs are made with a Leica M8 or M9, with a variety of lenses.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Making an Improvised Pack – The Roycroft Pack

In recent weeks there have been several videos released on YouTube about an improvised pack design, usually attributed to Tom Roycroft. Both Mors Kochanski and Dave Canterbury put out such videos recently. It reminded me of a guest post I had done about two years ago for Brian’s Backpacking Blog. I thought I would share the post here with you. I also encourage you to visit Brian’s blog for additional valuable information.

Backpacking technology has come a very long way in a short period of time. It wasn’t too long ago that most of use were dragging around packs with frames made out of steel tubing and a main compartment made of 1/8 inch thick, just short of bullet-proof, material.

In a matter of a few decades, our packs have become exponentially lighter, allowing us to move faster, go deeper into the woods, and visit locations previously unthinkable.

So, you find yourself on one such adventure. For the past three days you have been pushing into the forest, with each day setting a new personal best for the number of miles traveled. The trail is becoming less and less noticeable with each mile traveled. And of course, that is when it happens; a rock gives way under your foot, you loose your balance, and tumble down the side of the road, right into a patch of huckleberry bushes. You get up and dust yourself off. Luckily you are just fine, but you can’t say the same for your pack. The bushes have ripped it to shreds; the contents of your pack littering the hill. For a moment you start to miss your pack from your glory days as a boy scout-the one with the triple reinforced external frame that weighed 8lb.

You quickly shake those thoughts out of your head. There is no need for such drastic measures. A little bit of improvisation will do just fine. After all, worse case scenario, you can just gather the contents of your pack into your poncho or tarp, and sling it over your shoulder. There is however a way that you can make the trip back home a little bit easier. With just some minimal effort, you can put together a very serviceable backpack for the trip home.

Gather three branches. They should be just thick enough so they don’t bend too easily. Arrange them in a triangle on the ground. The triangle should be large enough so that when the bottom side is placed at hip level, the top corner sticks just over your shoulders, and the remaining two corners protrude on either side of your hips. Mors Kochanski recommends that the two long pieces measure from the tip of your fingers to your armpit, and the short piece from your fingertips to your elbow. That will vary depending on you and the type of load you have. I like the bottom piece to be a little longer than that so that the intersections between the pieces, which can be uncomfortable, are away from my body.


Make some crude notches at the places where the branches meet.


Using some string, or even remains from your pack, lash the branches together. You should now have a strong triangular frame.


Take the shoulder straps from your, now retired, pack. If they are sawn together at a central point, do not try to separate them. If they are independent straps, tie them together. Place the tied shoulder straps over the top corner of the triangle.


Then wrap them around the two branches and pull them through the frame. That way they will hold the weight of the pack without you having to tie them individually to the frame. Then tie the bottom part of each strap to the corresponding corner of the frame.


The result is a pack frame, ready for use. This is a good time to adjust it for fit. Loosen and tighten the straps until they feel comfortable. Some basic knowledge of friction knots will go a long way here.



Now that the frame is ready, we can start working on the pack itself. Pull out your poncho or tarp, and place it on the ground. Arrange your gear on top of the poncho.


Now, fold the bottom of the poncho over the gear.


Then fold the sides, and then the top. We are now ready to connect the pack to the frame.


For a small pack, one that is going to be somewhat smaller than the frame, I like to create a net on the frame so the pack is supported. To do that I simply tie a rope in the center of the bottom branch, and then do a cris-cross pattern going up the frame. The exact design, or for that matter how you tie it makes no difference. As long as there are ropes going back and forth, it will work just fine.


Then place the pack on the frame and repeat the same tying process over the pack, lashing it to the frame. Again, the exact pattern does not matter.


The one thing I like to do is to not tie the top of the pack, but rather simply tuck in the top flap under some of the ropes. That will allow the pack to be opened so you can get to the contents while you are making your way back home.


And here is the finished pack.


If you take some time and adjust the straps, it will be almost as comfortable as an old ALICE pack. Let’s not fool ourselves here. We tend to be very trend sensitive, and there has been talk about this type of pack in recent weeks as if though it is the next great innovation in backpacking technology. It is not. I would never consider heading out into the woods with this type of pack instead of a proper modern pack. For me this is an emergency technology to be used when the need arises.

As they say, knowledge weighs nothing, but a pack with a steel frame weights 8lb. Well, they don’t say that, but they should. Some know how and improvisation can allow you to leave the weight of that bomb-proof pack behind, and trust that on the rare occasion where the need arose, you would be equal to the task.

Pind Daan In Baneshwar

An online conversation with photographer Cathy Scholl yesterday reminded me of one of my earlier audio-slideshows, which I had titled Pind Daan in Baneshwar.

I realized that it hadn't received the view number I had hoped it would; perhaps because it was on the final page of my Vimeo channel. So this is an attempt to goose it up a little.

The Baneshwar mela is popular tribal gathering held in the Dungarpur district in south Rajasthan. The gathering is followed by a fair held at a small delta formed by the river Soma and Mahi. It's a relatively modest event, without the hype and the attendance of the Kumbh Melas, but it's nevertheless a deeply religious gathering with simple and traditional rituals.

Bhil and Garasia tribals come from the neighboring states of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat to offer prayers to Lord Shiva, to perform pind daan, and to socialize.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sanjay Das | Hola Mohalla

Photo © Sanjay Das. All Rights Reserved
I've been sitting on this post for a while now...mulling the right time to feature the wonderful photography of Sanjay Das, and today is the day.

There are a number of very interesting galleries on Sanjay's website; all of which will compete for your attentive visit, so give yourself the time to explore every one of them. Whether it's the color exoticism of his Theyyam images, the spirituality of the Bauls, the visual "clang" of Kolkata's trams, or the rarified air of Ladakh, you'll be amply rewarded.

I chose to feature Tales of Valour: Hola Mohalla for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's a visual and cultural topic that I haven't explored myself during my many trips to India; secondly, it's in monochrome (very courageous for such any colorful religious-cultural event in India) and thirdly, because there are a number of images in that particular photo essay that are really really good. Lastly, this year's Hola Mohalla is scheduled on March 28.

Hola Mohalla is a Sikh festival based on a tradition established by Guru Gobind Singh (22 December 1666 - 7 October 1708), one of the ten Sikh gurus. The festival is an occasion for Sikhs to demonstrate their martial skills in simulated battles.

Sanjay Das is based in New Delhi, and started his career as an advertising professional, and is now a freelance photographer with a demonstrated interest and passion for his native country. He held numerous solo exhibitions and group shows and exhibitions of his photographs.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wood Trekker Social Media – Google Reader Update

By now you guys know that I am horrible when it comes to dealing with computers, or even answering my email for that matter. The only reason why I have been able to keep this blog going is that Blogger offers a very easy template for posting. However, I still know almost nothing about any of the details of how any of this works.

As a result, when people in the IT world decide to mess around with things, it makes life very difficult for me. Recently Google announced that they will be shutting down their Google Reader service that many people use to subscribe to blogs, including Wood Trekker.

What does that mean to you?

Well, if you have no idea what I am talking about, it probably doesn’t matter to you. If you get to the blog through a book mark, a search engine, or some other means, then this probably does not effect you.

The people who will be effected are the ones who get blog updates from Google Reader. If you are not sure what that it, Google Reader is one of many e-readers that allow you to subscribe to blogs (the post feed from the blog) and then have the links and updates compiled in one location-the reader. You could have subscribed by manually adding the RSS feed to your reader, or by clicking the “Join this site” button in the “Followers” box on the side of the blog. Well, it is this feature that Google is disabling. If you use Google Reader, and you want to continue getting the feed, you will need to take some steps.

When will it happen?

Google Reader will stop operating in July 2013, about three months from now. If you use the service, that gives you an opportunity to switch services.

What should I do?

What you should do depends on whether or not you use the service. Like I mentioned above, if you get to my blog through a link, book mark, or a search engine, then you can keep doing what you are already doing. The blog itself is not going anywhere. Currently I have 265 subscriber, but get on average 3000 visitors per day, so it looks like most people already use means to visit the blog other than Google Reader. 

If you use Google Reader, and want to continue to use a similar service, you will need to change to a different reader.

I need to change to a new reader. How do I do it?

As I mentioned earlier, I am frighteningly incompetent when it comes to dealing with computers and tech related issues. However, I really value you guys as readers, and I appreciate that you continue to visit my blog despite my obnoxious style of writing and abrasive personality. So, I figured I would try to provide a solution so those of you equally technologically unsophisticated can give it a try.

Step One: Notice changes to the blog

I have made some minor changes to the blog itself, so you can more easily get to the information. The first change is that I have added a “Subscribe to Wood Trekker” box on the side of the blog, right above the “Followers” box, which I imagine will be gone once Google Reader is discontinued. If you click on the “Post” box, you will see a few readers listed with which you can subscribe to Wood Trekker.


I have also added a Google + box, where you can follow Wood Trekker on Google +. It can be seen on the side of the blog as well. As always, I still have the box allowing you to follow Wood Trekker on Facebook.


Step Two: Select a new e-reader

There are many readers out there which will provide the same function as Google Reader. I decided to use NetVibes because it is the first one listed in the post subscription box I mentioned above. All you have to do is sign up. When you get to the initial NetVibes page, click “Sign Up” in the upper right hand corner.


Once you have created you account, which requires just an email address, you can log in.


You can switch between the above view and the “Reader” by clicking on the “Reader” tab. The picture below shows an empty reader with no subscription.


If you are just interested in adding one or two subscriptions to your reader, then you are almost done. The only step left is to go to Wood Trekker, or any other blog of your choice, go to the “Subscribe to [Wood Trekker]” box, and select NetVibes out of the drop down menu.


Once you have created a NetVibes account, and have subscribed to the blog using NetVibes, you will be able to get the feed from the blog whenever you log into your NetVibes account.

Step Three: Transferring numerous subscriptions

If you are like me, you use a reader because you follow way too many blogs, and it is hard to keep track of them otherwise. If that is the case, it would be extremely time consuming to re-subscribe to each blog individually. Fortunately, there is a solution. In effect, you will have to download the feed from Google Reader, and then transfer it into NetVibes, or any other reader of your choice.

The first step is to go to Google Takeout. If the link I have provided here does not work, just use the search engine to look up “Google Takeout”. Once you have signed into your Google account, you will see a screen with al of your Google services.


From the options at the top of the page, select “Chose services” and then from the listed options, select the “Reader” tab.


Once you have selected the “Reader” tab, click on the “Create Archive” button. A box showing the progress of putting together the “Reader” file will appear.


When you see that the file is 100% created, click on the above box, which will take you to another window showing the created file. On that page, click the “Download” button, which will download the file in zip format in the your download folder.


Go to the downloaded file, and unzip it. Once that is done, it is time to go back to your NetVibes account. From the menu, click on “+Add Content” and then on “Import”.


When you click on import, select “Chose File”. That will open a menu, asking you to locate the file you wish to import. Find the downloaded and unzipped file from Google Takeout, and keep opening the folder inside the file until you find the one titled “Reader”. Inside the folder there will be a file titled “Subscriptions”. Select it and press “Open”.


It will take a few seconds for the magic to happen, but once the feeds are imported, your reader will look something like this:


All of your feeds should now be there. If something is missing, you can add it manually or just by re-subscribing to the blog. Going forward, the new posts from each blog should appear in your new reader.

I hope this has been of some help. It’s the best I could figure out from my limited understanding of the subject matter. For more detailed explanation, you can visit the write up by LifeHacker here.