It's March and that means two things. First it is the start of the trade show season for the photography industry. Yes the silly season for photographers has begun. The time we all drool over all the new toys none of us can truly afford. The first wave of new cameras has been released and I want to focus on two of the new releases. The Sony A7 III and the Canon M50 are mirrorless cameras both at 24 megapixels. The Sony is a full frame camera costing $1999 body only and the Canon is an APS-C camera costing $779 body only. I'm not going to spend time on the details of these releases there are plenty of sites out there dissecting these cameras but I want to talk about what these cameras represent in the grand scheme of things. First both Sony and Canon are positioning these cameras as entry level or as Sony calls it basic model. This is unique because at least on paper both of these cameras are far from entry level and in some areas actually have better specs than more expansive models in their manufacture's lineup. Why are they positioned this way? In one word competition. Canon is gearing up to challenge Sony in the mirrorless market and this is Sony's response. It is no accident that Sony "surprised" everyone by releasing their new camera a few days after Canon introduced their new camera. It is also no accident that the Sony A7 III is basically a full frame Canon M50 on steroids. With the release of the Sony A7 III, Sony is throwing down the gauntlet at Canon and saying what ever you can do we can do better. The biggest indication that Canon and Sony are gearing to wage war against each other is the response of the third party lens makers. Both Tamron and Sigma have mostly stood on the sidelines to see which way the wind was blowing. Now both companies have released a slew of new lenses for the mirrorless market. Which should address the biggest weakness of both of these cameras. The lens selection for both of these cameras leave much to be desired. Why is all this important? Because competition is good. It means you the consumer will be getting better cameras at cheaper prices with better lenses. So with Sony and Canon and soon Nikon duking it out the consumer will benefit and this should be the beginning of some interesting times in the photo industry.
The second thing about March is, Spring is in the air! Which is bad for me because my allergies are about to kick in and commence six months of misery. But all the things that are bad for my allergies are an absolute delight for any photographer. Trees in full in bloom, colorful flowers everywhere, bright green grass, and lots and lots of warm sunshine. Spring and summer are great times to be a shutterbug. One of my favorite things to do is just wander around town with my camera and take photos of all the colorful things I see. But as wonderful as spring and summer are, I want to talk about winter, specifically winter in Australia.
Of all the places I've been lucky enough to travel to, Australia is still one of my favorites and in my opinion the best time to see Australia is during their winter. For those who don't know the Australian winter is from June through August. So what's so good about Australia in the winter? Well for starters it isn't as hot. Australia in the summer can be scorching especially in the Outback. In the winter the temperature in Sydney and Melbourne is like late Fall here on the East Coast, cool but comfortable, think 40 to 60 degree range. The Outback and areas north which are closer to the equator are a comfortable 75 to 90 degrees. The cooler weather is especially important if you want to hike the Outback. The Outback was cool/cold in the morning and night (they do get frost in the Outback) and comfortable the rest of the time. In the summer the 100 plus degree temperatures can be very hazardous to your health and I don't recommend visiting the Outback during their summer.
The other advantage of winter is less bugs. Australia is legendary for the size of their insects. In the summer they spend so much time swatting bugs away from their face they jokingly call it the Australian salute. The final advantage to Australia in the winter is the price. I got some amazing prices on hotels and airfare. Now I can't guarantee you'll get as good prices as I did but there are some nice deals out there if you put the time and effort in to find them.
Are there disadvantages to winter in Australia? Yes there are, you won't be sunbathing on Bondi Beach, some of the vegetation and flora aren't as bright, it can be a bit rainy especially in June and sometimes it snows. The ocean water is colder. I would estimate the water is about 65 to 70 degrees. Being from the East Coast I'm used to the colder water. I was fine in a thin wet suit when I dove the Great Barrier and wore board shorts and rash shirt when I snorkeled. But I saw a lot of very cold people. The upside of cold water is almost no Man of War Jelly fish (PSA for our readers, a Man of War tentacle can extend over 100 feet, so you don't need to be near the jellyfish to get stung and this also applies to walking on the beach and stepping on a tentacle so watch your step.) You're probably wondering are jellyfish that much of a problem. The answer is yes, every beach in Australia is equipped with jellyfish first aid kits and in the more remote areas a phone to call for help.
In the end, I think the pros outweighs the cons. I had a great time in Australia and definitely recommend the trip. If you do go my one suggestion to you is don't try to see everything at once. Australia is huge and you have to fly everywhere. If you try to see everything you won't be able to really enjoy anything because you're always on the move. Instead choose three or four must see areas and spend extra time and resources in each area. For me it was Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, The Outback, and Melbourne. We basically made one giant circle around the country starting in Sydney and finishing in Melbourne. Even though we didn't see everything we had a great time in the areas we did visit and now we have an excuse to go back.
This month's recipe is Hungarian Goulash. I love goulash and I have tried many versions and I always circle back to this recipe. This recipe comes from the 1969 version of Betty Crocker's cookbook. This is significant because the newer version of Betty Crocker's cookbook significantly alters the recipe and in my humble opinion does not taste good. So straight from the 60's here is the recipe for Hungarian Goulash.
1/4 cup shortening (I usually substitute three tablespoons olive oil, cause I always forgot to buy the shortening)
2 pounds beef chuck or round, cut into 1 inch squares (I like to season my meat with a all american barbecue dry rub from char crust)
1 cup sliced onions
1 small clove garlic minced (I just use a heaping teaspoon from the jar)
1 cup of ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt (This can be adjusted to taste, I put 1 teaspoon of Hawaiian Sea Salt)
2 teaspoons paprika (smoked paprika is very good, just saying)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Dash of cayenne red pepper
1 1/2 cups water (I personally prefer 1 can of beef stock instead because I really love all things beef and a little extra gravy)
1/4 cup of water
2 tablespoons of flour
3 cups hot cooked noodles (I like egg noodles for this recipe)
1. Melt shortening(Or Olive Oil) in a large skillet (I use a 4 qt dutch oven). Add beef, onion and garlic; cook and stir until meat is brown and onion is tender. I always put the onions and garlic first to sweat the onions for about 4 minutes, then add the beef to brown, this way you don't overcook the beef.
2. Stir in the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, salt, paprika, mustard, cayenne and 1 1/2 cups water, mix thoroughly and then cover and simmer for 2 to 2 1/2 hours (I've found that stirring occasionally keeps the goulash from sticking to the bottom)
3. When the goulash is finished cooking. Blend flour and 1/4 cup of water, stir gradually into the meat mixture, bring to a boil stirring constantly for one minute
4. Serve over noodles