Wednesday, July 10, 2019

"Sharp, my bru". Hand-made by Hennie van Brakel (KGSA)

The original steel cutout and 
after it been cleaned with a disc grinder.
My knife was made out of N690,
German-made steel that is also used for surgical instruments.

Making sure that the blade is straight.
The blade is hardened at 1060 degrees
and then it is tempered at 180 degrees.
It is during these processes that the blade can warp
or become damaged.

Marking the bolsters and removing excess material

Fitting the pins through the bolster and blade holes

The finished bolsters.
So beautifully done that it almost looks like a single piece of steel.

Tambotie handle slabs ready for glueing and having the pins fitted

The Tambotie wood that I chose for the handle
is epoxied into place, clamped and left to set.

Profiling the handle.

Hand sanding the spine of the knife.
There is a LOT of elbow-grease that goes into the crafting
of the handle as well as the finishing off of the blade.

Hennie used 600,800,1200 and 2000 grit sandpaper.
No one said it was going to be easy.

The final product!
Stunning work produced at a very reasonable price.

Nipping the holes for the stitching...

Stitching the side of the sheath together.
You can see that although it has been kept simple,
there is a design embossed into the stitched edge.

My knife has arrived! 
And it is stunning. 
It came together with a certificate that identifies it as follows:
Category: Utility Club Knife
Model: BL145
Blade: N690 Stainless Steel
Bolster: 303 Stainless Steel
Handle: Tamboti wood.

Having watched WAY too many of the 'Forged in Fire' type of reality show
I decided to spoil myself and order a bespoke hand-made knife.

 I was in Howick at the time and I discovered that Hennie van Brakel
lived and worked there. 
My knife was handcrafted by him.

Hennie has been a member of the KGSA since 2005.
He works in 12c27, N690, Damascus as well as Damasteel.
He forges his own Damascus and does his own heat treatment.
Although he uses old-school methods, 
he has embraced modern technology in the form of Laser cutting
and computer-aided design.
Hennie's specialities include art and folding knives.
To find out more about Hennie and his art, visit:
Process images supplied by Hennie van Brakel.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

A review of the Pentax 15-30mm, f/2.8 lens.

Before I go any further, I have to state that I have been loyal to 
the Pentax brand since 1974!
I am therefore not making any comparisons between brands in this 'review'
This is a subjective and experiential posting about
 my recent use of this lens during a trip to KZN..
I have used the K1ii for some time and
 the 40meg images are crisp and sharp.
The focus (pun intended) of the review is the lens...

In all the images, the camera and lens combination remained the same.
The settings vary from image to image.
1/2000s, IS0 100, f/2.8. Tv setting
Lens at 30mm.
Looking towards Spionkop from a vantage point at Mount Alice.
In the right-hand side of the image is the Tugela River
And on the right is the Spionkop Dam.

1/100s, ISO200, f/2.8. Tv setting
Lens set at 30mm
Sunrise on a bitterly cold KZN morning.
The Aloe and the trees in the foreground were sharp and in focus.
The tiny white dot is actually the moon!

Long exposure of the night sky in KZN.
14,5 minutes, ISO 100, f/8, Bulb setting
Lens at 18mm
This type of photography has always been 'hit-and-miss' for me.
But with the camera on a tripod and the lens almost fully opened
I was able to achieve consistent results like this image.
The camera was triggered by remote control, 
so as to avoid camera shake.
The trees were lit by the existing security lighting at Spionkop lodge

1/4000s, ISO 100, f/2.8. Tv setting
Lens set at 30mm
Sunset from the deck at Spionkop Lodge.
Being Aloe season currently, they tended to feature in many of my shots. 

1/50s, ISO 800, f/2.8. Tv setting
Lens set at 15mm
I could have made this image lighter,
but I was looking to capture the look and feel of the pub at Spionkop Lodge
This lens weighs in at slightly more than 1kg.
This is the first time that I have used an f/2.8 lens on a DSLR.
Back in 1974, my Spotmatic F had an f/2, 55mm lens as the standard.
This is a solidly constructed lens that focusses quickly and quietly.
Although heavier than most, it felt balanced in my hand
and carrying it for extended periods was not an issue.

1/1600s, ISO 400, f/2.8. Tv setting
Lens set at 25mm
Even close up, the detail is pin-sharp.

1/400s, ISO 400, f/2.8. Tv setting
Lens set at 15mm.
As part of my job, I do a lot of accommodation interiors.
The 15-30mm is the ideal lens for that.
This lens is designed to be used in conjunction
with a full frame camera like the K1 range.
I, therefore, did not have the vignetting issues that
 I previously had with my non-compatible 10-20mm lens.
The edges of the image are not distorted and therefore cropping can be kept to a minimum.

1/1600s, ISO 100, f/2.8. Tv setting
Lens set at 15mm
To truly show what the combination can do.
Sharp and clear from corner to corner.
Howick Falls, KZN

This is a camera body that begs to be taken seriously!
Most DSLR bodies weight around 769gm, 
this beast is just more than 1kg, giving it a very solid feel.

Long exposure.
2 minutes, ISO 100, f/8. Bulb setting
Lens set at 15mm.
This was shot in the early morning and at a shorter time than the star trails
in order to get the stars to stay stationary.

Overall this combination exceeded my expectations as far as
 a wide angle lens on a full frame body is concerned.
In my next review, I will be trying the lens on a K3ii as a comparison.

For more information on this brand,
go to the New Teltron website:

or visist any of these fine photographic stores
 around South Africa.

All images are the copyright property of
and may not be used without permission

Friday, July 5, 2019

Birds of a feather...Howick, KZN

This is Leafy Lane in Howick, KZN
where my wife and I recently spent a weekend.
Set in a cul-de-sac that is filled with trees,
and set in a very lush garden, it came as no surprise 
that the property was filled with bird song from a variety of species.

Sometimes it is a good idea to STOP and smell the roses!
And we both did...for an entire weekend.

There is even beauty in the dead heads of plants.
Caught in the early morning light, it almost looks alive.

Balancing precariously, this female White-Bellied Sunbird
 looks for early morning sustenance.

Much like Wagtails, this cheeky Cape Robin-Chat
will walk into a room in search of a meal.
They have become habituated to the humans living here very quickly
and do not seem to be too bothered by interacting with them.

A first for me...
A Southern Boubou.
The largest of the birds that I saw at the feeding table
and it tolerated no intrusion from others while it ate.

One of my favourite species...The Dark-capped Bulbul.
We have them in our garden at home and 
they provide me with hours of entertainment.

The Common House Sparrow.
Although as far as I am concerned, there is nothing 'common' about them.
This one was gathering nesting material.

Watching the feathered guests enjoying their meal,
made me put down my camera and take time to enjoy mine.

I chatted to the owner, Richard Blyth about
being in the hospitality industry,
this is what he shared with me:

When we visited, the B&B was up for sale. (June 2019)
If you are looking to get into the hospitality industry,
this might just be the opportunity for you.
To find out more, visit their website:

A big thank you to each of these brands
 for coming on board.

This has been my constant travel companion 
for the past several years.
It might look worn,
but that represents the kilometres/miles
we have shared together.
From Kilimanjaro to the beaches of India.
To coach trips across Europe and Vietnam
and to a variety of game lodges and road trip destinations
 in South and Southern Africa.
Check out their Facebook page:

This torch has been turning heads!
The Olight SRS2UT Intimidator.
Marketed locally by:

My camera brand of choice for more than 4 decades!

When it is time to print out my special images,
this is the company that I rely on to do that.

Bush gear to make me blend in...
in comfort and style.

Breaking in my new pair of Yellow Veldskoen Shoes.
They are probably the most comfortable pair of shoes
that I have ever owned.
Now to try out the rest of the colours in the range.

When back home, I rely on this ISP
to provide me with high-speed fibre connectivity to
 enable me to get my postings published in record time.

This Powerbank is my constant companion
 while I am travelling.
It can do up to 4 full re-charges of my phone before
needing to be charged.
Supplied by...

ALWAYS choose to be Batman.
My constant travelling companion.
To find out more about the collectable Funko range of figurines,

I could not do without this awesome laptop bag from Solo.
Padded for protection and with enough pockets to keep
almost everything INCLUDING the kitchen sink in,
this is definitely a stylish addition to any business presentation.
Be it in the boardroom or the bush.
This bag can also be worn as a backpack. 
There are straps in a hidden compartment that can be deployed
when you need both hands for other purposes.
To find out more about the stylish Solo range,

This locally made product was indispensable when using a long lens.
The ball and socket might look simple...and it is, 
which is why it should be in the gear bag of every serious photographer.
This locally made, deceptively simple device is ideal 
for tracking birds in flight or animals in motion.
The base can be used on a beanbag or a tripod,
with the ball being fitted to the camera.
The simplicity of the device allows moving from supported
to handheld in a fluid motion.
There is also a version that can be used on a car window.
To see more about the product, 
visit their Facebook page:
Or order directly from:

To see who else were winners in 2018, visit:

All images are the copyright property of
and may not be used without permission