Journal

Photographs from my travels. 

West Africa - April 2016

I've just spent two weeks in Niger and Senegal as part of a crew working on a documentary there. It was an incredible trip. We arrived in Dakar, Senegal to recce some villages north of the city and then headed to Niamey, Niger via plane through Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Dakar felt very positive, busy and progressive. Niamey had a much slower pace. From Niamey we flew north to Agadez. One of the main gathering points for Migrants from West Africa and other points. From Agadez we visited Dirkou, a very remote town in the middle of the Sahara. We arrived to 115+ Degree heat. Amazing that anyone can even survive in those conditions. Below are some photos from the trip. 

India - March 2016

I just returned from a one month work trip in India. I was there working on the documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously which will begin airing later this year on the National Geographic Channel. I traveled to New York to prep gear and then left with the two producers for our fourteen plus hour flight to Delhi. Upon exiting the plane and entering the jet bridge we got our first smell of Delhi. The air was thick, smokey and unlike anything I had experienced before. Within a few hours my lungs had adjusted, but that first hit was something that I will not forget. 

We worked in the north in Uttar Pradesh, primarily in and around Delhi and also in the city and villages around Lucknow, a one hour plane ride east. It was a fantastic experience and a lot of fun. The rest of the crew joined a week or so later and the actual shoot began. We were fortunate enough to be working with some local Indian producers who brought us to some great food spots. I really got to taste the diverse cuisine which was wonderful. Northern Indian, southern india, parsi and indian-chinese to name a few. The food is incredibly rich, tasty, spicy and filling. 

The people that we met were incredibly warm and kind. There is constant sensory stimulation no matter where you go. Smells, sounds and visuals. An incredibly photogenic place. In the mass number of people and seeming chaos, it all has its own order and I found that appealing. It was a fantastic trip and I look forward to exploring other parts of India in the future. 

 

Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding - February 2016

Over the past year and a half, I have been taking the Saturday class at the Arques School of Traditional Boatbuilding in Sausalito, CA. The program focuses extensively on traditional wooden boat design - construction, use of hand tools and wood technology. Donlan Arques endowed the program as part of his trust and vision to continue educating people on wooden boat construction. The school is now run by master boatbuilder, Robert Darr, or Bob as his students call him. 

I stumbled across the school onlineafter moving to Sausalito in 2014. I had always been fascinated by wooden boats and their construction and had looked into courses in Maine but found them to be prohibitively expensive. The Saturday class, of which I was a student, is made up of eight students and caters to each students individual skill level. The course enrollment is fluid, in that students come and go as they complete the course or move onto other things. 

Bob is a fascinating character, a great storyteller and an excellent teacher. I looked forward to going to the class every week. Each student must first learn to properly sharpen their tools. I spent the better part of a month of Saturdays learning to properly use the stone to hone my chisel and plane blade. Next I moved on to a simple mortise exercise. Although I grew up working in the trades and doing carpentry with my father, the skill, precision and attention to detail required far exceeded my past experience. I learned to properly chop and pare a mortise and then cut a tenon using a Japanese pull saw. 

I was fortunate to have already collected some of the necessary tools for boatbuilding of the course of several years doing carpentry work. Hammers, a combination square, bevel square and other tools I already had and was comfortable using. Bob gives recommendations on tools that he has used over the course of thirty plus years; he has the same No. 4 Stanley plane that his high school teacher gave to him when he was 18. In addition to the tools i already had, I purchased a set of chisels that I had wanted for a long time - Lie Nielsen bevel edge. A small low angle black plane. A Japanese pull saw. A Stanley rabbet plane. These were the primary hand tools we used in the course. 

After doing countless mortise and tenon exercises, I moved on and built a hollowing plane. The hollowing plane has a curved bottom and curved blade and is used to add “hollow” to planks and other objects. I made mine out of Pepperwood, or Bay Laurel which is local to Northern California. The process is fairly simple. You start with a block of wood, about 3x3x12 and then you transfer a template onto this block. The mortise is both angled and tapered and receives the blade, chipper and wedge. The design is such that the shaving comes out of the top and does not require one to reach in to remove material. After you have put in this mortise and added the necessary slots you shape the bottom of the plane. We used one half of a joint compound bucket with sand paper. This produces a fairly gentle curve in the sole of the plane. After the curve has been added, you can cut the plane with a band saw to the desired shape and then ease edges and clean up. I made two during the course. The first was okay. The second one I spent more time and it worked great.

The final step in the course was to spile, cut and fit a plan to a lapstrake student boat. Although it may sound simple, the process requires many steps and I spent several months working on one plank. The first step in the process is to spile the plank, or pick up a template that you will then transfer to your actual plank. The plank was made of coastal fir and was vertical grained, but a bit swirly in places. The process of transferring the lines from your template to the plank is fairly straight forward. The template is cut a bit smaller than the full size plank. When the template is on the boat you take a protector and place the tip on the top of the gain from the previous plank at a given station ( or mold ) and then outline a half circle onto the plank. ( The diameter of the circle is arbritary, it is just important that you keep track of the exact diameter somewhere on your template ). You do this at every station on both the previous plank and the line of your own plank. After you have these lines you simply lay this template over your plank piece and take your protractor, and transfer these marks on the plank by placing the protractor on two points, ninety degrees to each other on the half circle of the template. Once the point have been transferred I cut out the fir plank, planed to my lines and test fitted on the boat. Next is the process of adding gains so that the plank is able to lay onto the previous plan and receive the next one. 

I immensely enjoyed my time working at the school and learning both the hand skills, planning and theoretical side of boatbuilding.

 

Utah skiing - February 2016

I just returned from four days of skiing in Utah. I flew into Salt Lake City from San Francisco to meet my dad and our family friend, Bill. They were there with the Commonwealth Ski Club. We have been skiing with the club for over ten years now, in New England, Canada and Europe. It's a great club and good group of people who really like to ski. 

The snow in Utah was fantastic. It was bluebird skies everyday I was there. They had received about a foot of snow from a storm three days before our arrival. We skied at Alta the first day - loved it. Snowbird, Park City and then Solitude / Brighton. All of the places were great, but I liked Snowbird and Alta the best. . 

It was a great couple of days skiing and I'm feeling pretty good, physically, all things considered. Couple of shots below: 


Hawaii - The Big Island - January 2016

I'm going to try to journal some of my travels using this site. I tend to collect a lot of photographs and videos that don't really end up anywhere and this seems like a good outlet to share them. 

With that said, I was fortunate enough to spend a week on the Big Island of Hawaii for the start of the New Year. It was my first visit to the islands. I was invited by my boss and colleague, John Antonelli, to attend the Waimea Ocean Film Festival in Waimea and stay with Andrea, his girlfried. The Roots of Ulu, a film that John directed and produced and I edited over the last year screened at the festival and won the audience award. 

Andrea lives in Hawi ( pronounced Ha-vee ) a beautiful small town in North Kohala. As Andrea's son described, If you picture the Big Island as a diamond, North Kohala is the northern most point of the diamond. Andrea owns a small farm near the town center where she rents out a small cabin and tent to visitors. Hawi is about a forty five minute drive from the festival in Waimea over a spectacular mountain road. 

I was fortunate enough to have a vehicle that John rented and was able to get out and explore the area. My first few days, I spent time in Hawi and points south doing some hiking, swimming and snorkeling. It was only my second time snorkeling. The first was on a work trip to Haiti that I took last year. I finally got used to the experience of breathing under water and learned to really enjoy it. There were plenty of colorful fish and interesting coral growing in the reefs. 

The middle of the trip I spent a few days watching films at the festival. I saw a few good films including Nazare Calling and Matt Yamashita's film, Sons of Halawa. Matt also produced and photographed The Roots of Ulu. Following that, I took off for Volcano National Park which is in the southern part of the island. I drove down the eastern side through Hilo. It was a nice, but long drive -- about three and a half hours. The volcano was very cool and the first time I have seen one. I stayed in the village of Volcano, at a small guest house and departed for Kona early the following morning. On my way I hit "South Point" which is the southern most point in the Hawaiian islands but also in the States. Check out some photos of the trip below.