As a writer and photographer I travel between my life in Toronto, my life in Antigua, and anywhere else my wanderings may take me ... writing my books and enjoying local arts and adventures along the way.

Arrival of Kiev 88 and Zeiss Lenses

Despite my apprehension at ordering goods over the internet from Eastern Europe, I was overjoyed with most of them when they arrived. The medium format camera was brand new, the lenses were in fair to excellent condition and everything was built as solidly as a tank. Strangely enough, although these Russian cameras are reputed to be temperamental, I loved them from the start. Firstly, they are an inexpensive route to the stunning potential for resolution that medium format cameras have. Secondly, they are relatively simple to understand. I read through the entire manual for each of them in only minutes while after many days I’m only slightly more than half way through the manual of my Nikon D3. The Nikon is without a doubt a far more capable workhorse, and I would likely be driven to drink by anxiety if I had to rely on the Kiev cameras for critical, once in a lifetime shots that people are depending on me for. But that’s exactly the kind of photography that I avoid being responsible for. When I take a photo of a sunset, that same sunset or one slightly different from it will be available again. When I take a portrait for a book, that same person will be available at a later date if I want to reshoot. Obviously this is an approach to photography that just won’t work for all situations. I’m thankful I have the flexibility to choose those situations where it does.

Tadpoles

I have never see tadpoles on any beach in Antigua.  In fact unlike the pristine beaches, fresh water ponds in Antigua have often seemed stagnant and polluted. Here in Canada the kids caught some tadpoles near the beach at Bluffer’s park. The squealed when they stepped in the muck with their bare toes, but still they were mesmerized and could not stay away. They had never caught tadpoles before this summer, and they were fascinated with the idea that the tadpoles would sprout legs and walk out of the water. I asked my daughter whether they would turn into a prince if she kissed them. My son laughed and said they were probably toads. My daughter laughed too, saying he was probably right … though she hoped he wasn’t. But from the look on her face I could see she wasn’t kissing any frog or toad or anything else slimy anytime soon. The kids kept the tadpoles in my empty 35mm film cannisters for the trip back. On the way we picked up a cup and carried them in more comfort the rest of the way home. My son wanted to watch them grow in his aquarium.

Jerk Turkey and Health

I must admit that the whole episode of Jerk Turkey was part of a holistic lifestyle health kick I’ve been on. Strangely enough this new direction has deepened some insights about Antigua and life there in the past. Many people know that Caribbean people have higher incidences of diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes, and some other ailements. After having been told about the near miraculous improvements in the symptoms of Diabetes than comes with a raw food diet (a diet consisting of vegetables you can eat raw along with fruit, nuts and cereals) I haven’t turned vegetarian, but I have been very diligent about dramatically increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables in my diet. The diet is reputed not only to reduce or eliminate dependence on drugs for diabetes, but also to have great positive impacts on a host of the circulatory issues that Caribbean people are prone to. Having adopted some aspects of the diet, I’ve found the resulting differences in my energy level and alertness to be wonderful. Energy level and alertness are pretty damned important if time spent sitting down to write is not to turn into time spent sleeping at a desk. But there are some complications of going from a plate two thirds full of meat and starch to a plate two thirds full of basically salad. Firstly, you get hungrier more frequently. You have to plan to be near food within an hour and a half to two hours of your last mostly vegetable meal, rather than three and a half to four hours between plates full of meat or poultry and lethargy inducing overloads of starchy carbohydrates. Eating meals more frequently is actually a good thing for your health and is likely more natural to the way human beings evolved. Early men I’m sure must have eaten this way, not having to worry about fitting their meals into any breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours allotted to them.

But it isn’t easy. One of the tricks of eating this way is that if you let yourself get really hungry then your body seems to get into some kind of “debt” and the plate of mostly vegetables just doesn’t cut it. Instead, you then need a quick infusion of stick to your ribs meat and starch to feel satisfied.

What has this taught me about the past in Antigua? Well the fact that most of the Antiguan foods I love are very rich in meat, chicken and savory sauces with plenty of starchy ground vegetables. This diet undoubtedly evolved in an dry climate in which leafy green vegetables were less common than ground vegetables, and in which heavy starch and meat was a not a bad thing when the remote possibly of obesity, diabetes, and hypertension were less of a concern than the certainty of going hungry from not having taken advantage of the opportunity to have a heavy meal. I’m sure that even today a lot of old timers look on a plate full of too much salad as a peculiarity of tourists, while looking on the sleepiness that comes with their normal diet accompanied by the usual sugary punch as a hallmark of a “good meal”. In fact some for sure (in fact some in my own family) would even be insulted if you attempted to feed them a meal full of too much of what they might call “empty salad”.

Jerk Turkey

Excited as I was about my upcoming trip to Antigua, and being an opportunist who could not pass up a great sale on whole frozen turkeys at the supermarket, there was only one outcome that could have resulted. And that was a Caribbean themed turkey … roast jerk turkey in fact. I must admit it took some leap of faith to roast an entire turkey in jerk seasoning, but having done it … I can tell you I wonder why I didn’t think of it sooner. I don’t want to exaggerate, as I have been accused of doing, but I must say that if you haven’t tasted Jerk turkey then your life is missing something. But I get ahead of myself. Let me take a step back to talk more about the wonder of this culinary creation. First of all, jerk seasoning is not likely an Antiguan invention so one might wonder what this has to with Antigua. Instead jerk seasoning appears to likely have originated in Jamaica. I say likely, because I don’t discount the possibility that an Antiguan somewhere might have given the Jamaican the idea. Regardless of its origin however, it is definitely popular all over the Caribbean, as well as with people all over the world who like West Indian inspired foods. And though I never ate much jerk chicken, or jerk anything else while in Antigua so many years ago, jerk seasoning is unmistakably Caribbean and came up in my mind when thinking about my trip.

How did I prepare it? Well I mixed about two thirds of a cup of jerk seasoning powder with some salt, pepper, and some olive oil to bind the mixture into a paste. I then washed the turkey and rubbed the mixture over the entire inside and outside. After doing so I then baked the turkey at 300 F and basted it lovingly until it was a succulent miracle of crispiness.

The dark meat portions (legs and wings) were permeated through and through with the jerk seasoning like the broiled jerk chicken one usually finds at food stands. The light meat (chest) was deliciously flavoured with the jerk seasoning on the outside and tender on the inside. It was beautiful to look at when it came out. But I thought only of taking pictures after I had eaten much of it, and by then I was too full of turkey to be able to manage it.

Desperate Measures and Escaping on Flights of Fancy

Now I went and did it. I purchased a Kiev 88 camera from eBay along with a 150mm Zeiss lens and a 45mm Zeiss lens (from Russia no less … one of the world wide hotbeds of internet fraud). I also made arrangements to buy short dated 120 film, which I may have to pick up before the camera’s scheduled arrival in about a week. None of this screams “risk averse behaviour” to me. The Kiev 88, I’ve been told, is a Russian knock off of a medium format camera that was quite popular in its day, back in the time of film. The camera seems to be prone to mechanical problems with heavy use and lacks many features that save professionals valuable time, making their work more efficient. With my planned new hypothetical “one shot one kill” approach to photography that will be less of a problem. In fact it won’t be a problem at all, since taking lots of medium format pictures gets expensive quickly.

Young Shooter

My son is quite a photographer for his age. I got an old Nikon F70 film camera for free and gave it to him. Since then he is rarely without it when we engage in any outdoor activities.

Some people seem to be born wanting to take pictures. His camera comes nearly everywhere there are neat things to take pictures of.

Some people seem to be born wanting to take pictures. His camera comes nearly everywhere there are neat things to take pictures of.

I also use a film camera, the Nikon F5 that was considered one of the top 35mm SLRs way back when the majority of professionals were still using film. When taking photographs as a hobby we use rolls of expired film that I bought by the hundreds for pennies a roll from a photographer who went digital. I pay next to nothing to get the film processed from a developer that I have a special deal with, and I don’t pay for prints since I scan the film myself directly onto the computer and share them via email or the web. In actual fact it has been a long time since I ever printed a photo. The process is labour intensive, but suits me just fine.

But given that I’m going to be shooting a photo documentary in Antigua, I’m getting some new lenses suited to that particular task. Today I’ve been deciding exactly which lenses to get, as well as whether to spring for a new DSLR. The lenses I already have for the most part obtained used at great prices. I let my son use all my lenses. I just stay near him with the irreplaceable ones so that I can be responsible for the treatment the lenses receive. He is always extremely conscientious about the treatment of equipment while enjoying it however and never seems to forget anything I tell him about it. I have to admit in fact, that his memory when it comes to technology is vastly superior to mine. I learn extremely quickly but forget even faster. He on the other hand will try a feature once or twice and noting what it does, seems to remember it forever. My knowledge is still much deeper of course, even though I forget at times and even though I occassionally fail to learn new things from following old remembered habits rather than following a good reason. Perhaps memories are indeed the weakness of the old as much as memory itself is the strength of the young.

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