Monday, 31 March 2014

In The Field Review | Wotancraft Atelier's City Explorer Scout 006

Image courtesy Wotancraft Atelier
Hello, readers of The Travel Photographer blog...let me introduce myself; my full name is City Explorer Scout 006, and I'm manufactured by Wotancraft Atelier, the maker of top quality handmade camera bags.

Why am I here on these pages? Well, I accompanied Tewfic El-Sawy, The Travel Photographer, on his The Sacred Cities: Varanasi & Vrindavan Photo Expedition-Workshop! Yes, that's right...I went to India for 20 days. I hadn't been to India before, and I'm so glad I chose to go with Tewfic, who has many trips to this phenomenal country under his belt.

Flying directly from Taipei (my home town), l met Tewfic in his home in New York City and he put me through some endurance tests, explaining that if I failed them, he wouldn't take me along. He packed me with a few of his camera lenses, and a couple of cameras...and I was really nervous.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
But he told me how he liked my vegetable tanned cowhide leather/waxed canvas exterior, and how he appreciated my leather straps, the shoulder pad and the strong buckles. My two Y-shaped fastening straps are riveted and sewn to the bag, and this gave him the feeling that his cameras would never tumble out by accident. He seemed to particularly like my two outer pockets, and tested their snaps many times. Tewfic realized that these snaps were attached to me with small leather straps, which allowed him to slip a finger behind these straps when snapping close the pockets. Easy!

He tried how I felt on his shoulder straight down, or across the chest bandolier-style, and felt comfortable in both cases. We seemed to be a match made in heaven...except when he noticed that I didn't have a short handle. He thought I ought to have one, since it would help carry me when using the shoulder strap was inconvenient. A small flaw...but who's 100% perfect?

On the eve of our flight, he removed my waterproof inner pouch MK-lI and filled me with his 13-inch MacBook Air, an iPad Mini in the interior pocket, his Fuji X Pro-1 camera and a detached Fujinon 18mm lens (in one of the outer pockets). A couple of folders with all the necessary information for his workshop, an iPhone, his passport (I didn't need mine)...and we were ready to go. The rest of his camera gear was stashed in another bag.

At check-in, the Emirates agent noticed that I looked new, despite the 'distressed' look that Wotancraft Atelier gave me, and gave me a lovely luggage tag. Boarding the flight, I was nestled comfortably in the bin, and quickly fell asleep despite my excitement.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Now let's fast forward to Varanasi...the ancient city on the Ganges where Tewfic officially started his photo expedition-workshop. I have never seen such intensely powerful colors before!

It was here that I got my first in-depth experience with India, the river Ganges and the life on the ghats. Tewfic packed me with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens (boy, is that lens heavy or what?!), his Fuji X Pro-1 with the Fujinon 18mm lens, his iPhone and a small bottle of water...and we went exploring the riverside steps that are always teeming with daily life.

Photo Kaushik Ghosh-All Rights Reserved
Hanging from across Tewfic's shoulder, he had easy access to his lens when he chose to replace the one he had on his camera. He didn't even bother to zip up the compartment...he just closed one of the two Y-shaped fastening straps and that was enough to keep the contents safe.

The other group members kept looking at me...not only gauging my usefulness in the field, but also evaluating my overall style, and they obviously liked what they saw. After all, one of my sister bags would soon be won by one of these photographers in a fiercely contested photo contest sponsored by my makers Wotancraft Atelier.

Photo © Kaushik Ghosh-All Rights Reserved
Early dawn photo shoots are to be expected in Varanasi, and I was ready to go at a moment's notice. Tewfic always packed me up with whatever he needed the night before, so whether it was at 4:00 am or a little later, I was flung over his shoulder...and taken wherever he wanted. The most startling experience I had was when Tewfic and his group photographed a handful of sadhus on the banks of the river Ganges.

I attracted the attention of one of these ascetics, who kept touching my vegetable tanned cowhide leather/waxed canvas exterior and gently pulled at one of my straps. I didn't like that one bit, and neither did Tewfic. He told the sadhu to keep his hands to himself, but the man just smiled and gestured if he could have me! My heart sank...

Tewfic gently but firmly told the ascetic that I was way too useful to him to give away, and that he relied on me to carry his equipment during this photo expedition and many more to come.

He later told me that he considered me to be an excellent everyday bag, with ample room to carry a DSLR and a medium size zoom lens with ease...and perfect for those travel photographers who have opted to carry either rangefinders and/or mirrorless systems (such as the Fuji X series) on their journeys. He lauded my resiliency, my exterior water-resistance and the top-quality that went into my production.

I expect I'll be traveling the world with The Travel Photographer many years to come, and you'll be seeing photographs of me on this blog in the very near future. In fact, Tewfic let it slip that he'd take me to Guatemala and Vietnam this year!