Buffalo of South Goa

From the hillside farms of southern Goa where I spent some time around the small rice fields and buffalo grazing grounds a few days ago. Hotter than hell, but beautiful, too. When I look at farm animals these days, I often feel a level of concern rise with in me about their well-being and if their treated respectively.


Thoughts on Sony A7III

I’ve been a Canon photographer for close to two decades. I was an early adopter of digital imagery and saw the potential with the underlying technology. In my mind, there was just no looking back. Digital photography was going to take over. Way back in 2002, I had one of Canon’s first fully digital SLR camera DSLR bodies, the 6.3 megapixel EOS D60. Today, compared with the new Sony A7III, my first Canon seems almost ancient. Before the Canon, I had primarily been a Minolta shooter, starting with their 100 series in the early 1980s.

Adding the new Sony A7III to my gear box

I currently shoot commercially with one of Canon’s top-of-the-line camera bodies, the 50 megapixel, medium format-wannabe, Canon EOS 5Ds, together with a meaningful range of the company’s professional L series lenses. Over the years, in between the D60 and 5Ds, I’ve owned a half dozen pro level Canon cameras, including the workhorses, Canon 1Ds Mk III and 5DMk III.

Today, for travel, I’m perfectly content with the full frame Leica Q I bought last year. It’s fixed 28 mm lens, and though basic, adequate feature set, fits most of my needs splendidly. It shoots decent video, though unfortunately not at 4k.

After selling my previous video camera, Canon’s C100Mk II, last year, I’ve been yearning for a replacement that would add excellent quality, flexibility and mobility – with emphasis on the latter. A seemingly utopian camera.

Honestly, up until just a few months ago, I’d never even considered Sony as candidate when musing about my »dream camera«. I was just too mentally invested in Canon yet frustrated that they refused to listen to their pro customers demand for more versatile camera with relevant features for those of us that had ventured into the wold of motion pictures.

First of all, I desperately wanted to keep enjoying the cinematic look and color reproduction I enjoyed my Canon lenses provide so wonderfully. Especially those beautiful skin tones and gorgeous bokeh I loved from the Canon 135mm f2 or Canon 35mm f1.4.

Secondly, I didn’t want to be forced into an additional brand’s eco-system. Canon and Leica are already very far apart insofar that each company has their own distinctive operating system as well as approach to things like color rendition and user experience (UX).

A few months ago, I happened to hear about the announcement of the Sony A7III. And since the leading third party lens adapter company Metabones had just come out with a new version of their Canon EF adapter which would allow me to use my L lenses without losing too many crucial features, or, more importantly, image quality, I started researching the camera – primarily by watching dozens of the overwhelmingly positive reviews about the Sony A7III on Youtube.

Though it’s been with me here in India, the Metabones adapter or either of the two Canon lenes I brought with me have left my camera bag.

The new Sony A7III, on the other hand, I’ve been using on a daily basis, testing it, checking out some of the umpteen available settings and numerous options. I needed to get a feel for the praised AF performance and overall handling to assess if it really can become my go-to video camera.

I bought the camera just a few days before I left Europe, together with two new lenses, a Sony E-mount Zeiss 18mm f2.8 and a Zeiss 85mm f1.4. I figured that if I also packed my Canon 35mm f1.4 and Canon 135mm f2.0, I’d be more than covered for most situations.

During the ten days I’ve been here, I’ve transitioned from skeptical to optimistic and finally to enthusiastic about the Sony A7III.

It turns out that the camera delivers astonishingly beautiful footage and stills – regardless of what I throw at it, including filming in near darkness, erratically moving subjects, or, even really harsh mid-day sunlight.

The auto focus is superbly adjustable (from slow to lightning fast), focus lock is fully reliable (locks on and focus tracks the subject in any direction) and the 5-axis stabilization means handheld shooting and filming is actually a usable feature. The battery life is phenomenal, the touch screen is very useful for tapping and locking focus and using the internal microphone is good enough to record reference audio (to use later when syncing with higher resolution audio recordings).

Werner, oh Werner!

Legendary German filmmaker Werner Herzog once said something to the tune of that he never lets his camera equipment get in the way of creating movies. I can’t find the exact quote, but the essence is nevertheless something I always think about. As long as your story is worthy of watching and your camera doesn’t thwart or obstruct the path you want to take the viewer on, even the simplest gear will suffice. The Sony A7III’s features and functions aren’t remotely simple to master, but once you do, the camera is genuinely uncomplicated to operate.

As film assignments by far outnumber my still photography engagements, a development or evolution I’m happy about and embrace, the Sony A7III is going to fit just nicely in my potpourri of creative tools.

It’s small enough, robust enough and competent enough to meet the technical requirements that allow me to work organically within my own artistic projects and also enable me to reach my clients goals and visions.

The shot above was taken with a two and a half year old iPhone 7.


Goa in a Tuk-Tuk

Here’s a short video from my adrenaline boosting tut-tuk adventure yesterday and today in the hills above Agonda Beach i south Goa, India. Shot using a DJI Osmo Mobile, a Gopro Hero 6, an iPhone 6s and an iPhone 7plus.


Easy Breakfast Sandwich

When it comes to food, I’m a reasonably easy fellow to please. An simple omelet, a few pieces of toast and a bowl of baked beans works just fine for breakfast. And a strong mug of coffee, of course.

And being that I have genes from two countries that eat almost anything on a single piece or in between two slices of bread, it’s no wonder I convert my breakfast ingredients into a sandwich of sorts without even thinking about it.

I’ve been eating extraordinarily healthy food whilst here in India. Especially during filming and after yoga classes. Aside maybe for the last couple of breakfasts in Agonda where I’m still enjoying local cuisine, but not eating as much raw veggies as I usually do.


Fresh Air with James Comey

I strongly recommend listening to former F.B.I. Director James Comey’s interview on NPR’s formidable Fresh Air. Mister Comey has written a book about key events leading to his falling out with President Trump and subsequent firing from the F.B.I.

As I’ve written in at least two previous posts, there is an ongoing norm shift taking place in the USA – noticeable now more than ever before – which is being sanctioned and spearheaded by the current president and his many buddies – many with dubious work ethic and often nefarious, self-serving intentions.

Norm shifts fueled by a kind of Darwinism

I see the current political events led by Trump as nothing less than a precursor to a seismic shift of long-lasting social norms with wide-reaching economical and environmental repercussions. We may be heading into a new era where sound moral guidance has been interchanged with an acceptance of the use of blatant lies by elected and appointed officials and an increase of corruption and nepotism. Though Venezuela instantly comes to mind, you could probably pick any country in South America right now as an example of what happens when all forms of checks and balances are tackled and benched. I think the trust in and soul of democracy is at stake. Hope I’m wrong.

The Fresh Air interview with James Comey is obviously self-serving as he’s on a promotional tour for his first book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, And Leadership. But it’s still well-worth listening to as you’ll soon understand why Comey sees Trump more as a cheesy boss in “La Cosa Nostra” than someone morally fit to be the Commander in Chief of the United States of America. I couldn’t agree more.

 

Colorful India
Here are three kind shopkeepers I chitchat with during my walks along the village road.

After a belated and painfully chilly Scandinavian winter, where most folks wear thick, hefty jackets and coats, invariably in fifty shades of black, it’s been visually liberating to be in India where bright colors and elaborate patterns are celebrated and embraced.

I hired a tuk-tuk yesterday afternoon and the driver, Sunja, drove me up to the Goan hillside where we saw and shot several beautiful valleys with small rice paddies, grazing buffaloes, bats and all kinds of fruit trees – including a few with cashews (which I learned from Sunja are not at all a nut).

To compliment what I’ve already filmed at the retreat, I’m visiting a local fish market here in Agonda later today.


South Goa, India

Aside from a morning shoot on Thursday, all principle footage has been shot and I now have a couple of days before it’s time to head back to Europe. That said, as soon as I see something that I think could be interesting to include in the final edit, I almost instinctively whip out a camera and capture it. And here in colorful Goa, that means there’s a camera in my hand basically all of the time.


Chewing the Cud

Not exactly sure where they’ll fit in to the final video, but I got amazing footage of these beach beauties on Agonda Beach the other day. They just lay there, chewing, re-chewing and chewing some more cud, the regurgitated feed from a previous meal.

It’s close to three years since I chose to eat a pescatarian diet and I can’t see myself ever returning to my old ways of eating mammalian flesh again.


Back in India

It’s been a couple of years since my last film project here in India. There’s a whole bunch of reasons why I enjoy returning. I am really inspired by how colorfully both culture and religion are expressed here. And though not new to me, I still get a huge creative kick out of the chaos upon each return to almost any country in Asia.

As the Dreamliner flew in over Delhi, a thick, greenish layer of pollution engulfed the capital, I was reminded of what it was like in  L.A. during the mid 1970s, before emission regulations were in place and gas came in a lead-free version and got “cleaner”. Back when the joke, “what happens when the smog lifts from Los Angeles? UCLA” was relevant.

But down here in the south, the air is clear and the sun is mostly shining from a clear blue sky. It’s hot and humid, though. Which means filming takes place during early mornings and later afternoons. Which suits me just fine as that is also when the south Asian light is at it’s very flattering best.

Full House with David Crawley

Came across this poker themed portrait with vertical safety climber/mountaineer David Crawley shot in the old studio a few years ago. I have no idea why poker, but it might have something to do with the beautiful card table with green fllt that I borrowed from artist, Johan “Giovanni” Carlsten.


Budhas Kafferosteri

From Lycksele with lots of coffee love. I visited Budhas Kafferosteri, Budha and Katarina Johannsson’s cool café last fall for a story and learned among many things, how much more flavorful coffee is than, for example, wine. I spent about three hours shadowing Budha, watching him make coffee and listen to him talk enthusiastically with customers and tirelessly evangelize about the benefits of avoiding traditional, big brand coffees and atrocious brewing methods in favor of more mindful and taste enhancing ways to enjoy a more fulfilling sipping experience.


Tango!

During spring and summer, weather permitting, of course, enthusiastic tango dancers congegrate at Scaniaplatsen here in Västra Hamnen, Malmö.

Though I used to enjoy dancing back in the 1980s and 1990s, when working at or frequenting nightclubs was an integral part of my life, I haven’t been on a dance floor in ages. I’m sure I was blissfully unaware of just how awkward a dance partner I was back then and would probably not look much better today. That said, I still appreciate dance as an art form and enjoy watching folks do the tango, rumba, salsa and mambo.


Amigos in Vejbystrand

My easter exhibit with photos of some of my favorite places and scenes from the quaint, seaside village of Vejbystrand went spectacularly well. Not only did all of the larger prints sell out, an additional four orders were placed on Sunday, the show’s final day. Most importantly, the winery’s owner Jeppe, master chef Frida and I proved our point that Vejbystrand decidely deserves more attention than it currently enjoys. And with the huge turnout, locals and visitors alike proved they appreciated our event.

As our usual overnight cottage/converted barn is still inhospitable, impractical and unhygienic (mildew, rot) and in unquestionable need of either being torn down entirely or being gutted and rebuilt, Charlotte and I took the opportunity to experience the comfort and generous hospitality at Vejbystrand’s Vandrarhem/Hostel. Truly inspiring to see how the owners have transformed their ideas and passion into something that so many make use of and write rave reviews about. The place is so genuinely focused on making guests feel at home.

I’ve collected some of my favorite motifs from Vejbystrand here.


Slow Barbecue

Shot during one of Chef Frida Nilsson’s preparations for the exhibit’s delicious culinary offerings. She slow cooked lamb, cabbage and grilled a whole bunch of other tasty treats in the Weber grill.


Easter in Vejbystrand

Frida Nilsson, one of Sweden’s most respected chefs, and Jeppe Appelin, a wine connoisseur and owner of one of Skåne’s boutique wineries and myself have joined forces this Easter weekend and produced an event focused on; fine food, fine wine and fine art photography. The exhibit is in the small seaside village of Vejbystrand (about an hour north of Malmö) at Jeppe’s cozy wine tasting local and right beside his small vineyard at Vejby Vingård.


Vejby Vingård

From the winery, Vejby Vingård yesterday, Easter Friday. Possibly a hundred visitors, four out of ten of my large images sold so far and about two dozen of my smaller photos. We also had 23 guests for a spectacularly popular dinner.


Learning to Fly a Drone

After years of hiring drone pilots and watching a few of them crash their aircrafts – and my cameras – to smithereens, I was understandably apprehensive about buying one of my own.

But as leaps in technological advancments in this category (obstacle avoidance, battery life, ease of use) trickled down to the smaller, more reasonably priced drones, I started taking serious notice. And about a month ago, I took the plunge and bought one.

It’s still surprisingly cumbersome to get the controller, the mandatory phone app and the drone itself all configured, updated and connected to each other. Keep in mind, I’m a Mac user, so the tinkering most PC/Android users are adapted to is foreign territory for me. I’m used to things working more or less straight out of the box without having to go through a bunch of reverse engineering just to figure out how to get it all to work. Like a computer, a drone is a tool. And if the tool is too hard to understand how to use, I’ll just find some other way to get the job done. Fortunately for those of us with limited patience and technical savviness, there are dozens upon dozens of tutorials available on Youtube. Some are genuinely pedagogical, too.

Once past the initial stage of frustration whilst trying to get the hardware and software to rock n roll, the flying while filming and shooting stills is fairly straightforward. I’m getting the hang of it now and letting go of my previous distrust issues – so that I can focus on the drone as a creative tool to allow me to get unique perspectives.

What I like best about the flying experience? Possibly using the “Home” button so that the drone flies exactly back to where it took off from – with out any involvement on my part.


Falsterbo & Skanör

Despite bone-chilling weather, I had an inspiring couple of hours of drone flying down by the cabanas at Falsterbo and Skanör (approx 30 minutes south east of Malmö).


Varbergs Kusthotell

It’s been possibly 7 years since I was last in Varberg, the seaside town about an hour south of Göteborg and a couple of hours north of Malmö. The image above is what Varbergs Kusthotell, where I’m staying for 24hrs, looked like early this evening. Shot with the Leica Q placed on a rock below the hotel.


Hypnotic Sunsets

Though I’ve probably seen hundreds of them before, sunsets like tonight’s still cast an almost hypnotic spell on me. So mezmeraized do I become that I have to at least try to capture in order to eventually share the amazing color range and stark contrasts between sky and sea, so aptly divided by the magnificent Öresund Bridge and to the right of it, a hint of Copenhagen’s skyline.


Sunday Swans

After yesterday’s tumultuous snowstorm (are there really any other kind?), it was fabulous to wake up this morning and see the sun shine from a clear blue sky.

I spent about an hour down by one of our round swimming bridges trying to cajole a couple of grand swans to be part of the cast in the above short video. And after a while, they agreed.

I tried out the new Gopro Here 6 for this ad hoc project and I’m mighty impressed by how well auto white balance, focusing and color renditions were. Will be most useful as part of my new kit.

I love when people start returning to Västra Hamnen. Not that it’s ever totally desolate here. But today, folks were sitting down, chilling with coffee or whatever and basking in the sun for most of the afternoon. Can’t wait to be able do some yoga/qi gong outdoors – hopefully in a few weeks.


Organic Ginger Snus

About 5 years ago, I decided to quit snus. I’d been a user for close to 35 years and just wanted the habit out of my life. While cooking a Thai dish one evening in Santa Monica, California, I took a bite out of some fresh ginger root and started chewing on it. After a few minutes, I pushed the mashed ginger up under my lip as if it were one those tiny tobacco pouches. The ginger root not only tasted better, it provided me with almost that same “buzz” as I was used to. I’ve since then been perfecting the production and this short video shows mys simple yet efficient process. You don’t really need a fancy food processor, but a good knife is a required to be able to fine chop the ginger root. You can obviously peel the root beforehand. I’m just couldn’t be bothered by the tedious effort that would demand.


Scenes from Chamonix

On a considerably lighter note, here’s a few frames from our recent travel reportage trip to what is arguably the premiere French alp ski destination, Chamonix – Mont Blanc. About a minute long.


With Madsen and Evil at Maxi

[This text is also available in Swedish here]

The other day, while walking up and down the isles in our local grocery store, a huge supermarket called Ica Maxi, trying to figure out something interesting to make for dinner, I was struck by a ghastly thought. A thought that wouldn’t subside for another week.

That morning, I’d read a few local and foreign newspaper articles about the first trial day of Peter Madsen, the suspected murderer of Swedish journalist Kim Wall. As I plowed through the various accounts, I felt uncomfortable  by how most of the journalists referenced Madsen, almost respectfully, with the nicknames that the Danish media has given him over the years. Sometimes he was called rocket Madsen, sometimes inventor Madsen or submarine builder Madsen. If he is convicted of all the crimes the prosecutor has accused him of, then shouldn’t he reasonably be referred with more relevant epithets, like, kidnapper Madsen, rapist Madsen, butcher Madsen or murder Madsen?

As a father to a daughter in her late teens with journalistic ambitions, it’s been tough to read about this case. The descriptions of what Peter Madsen is alleged to have done to Kim Wall makes me feel physically ill. And it didn’t get any easier when I realized how arrogant and disrespectful he was in court, especially when responding to special prosecutor Jakob Buch-Jepsen’s questions.

I also became aware of how tranquil he was – seemingly undisturbed by the horrific death of Kim Wall, the case itself and the fathomless sorrow among family and friends it continues to generate. Is it the apparent unbridled malevolence that helps him shield against having a guilty conscience, take inventory of his actions, and in essence enable Madsen to be so emotionally detached from what happened during the night between August 10 and 11 last year?

As I walked around Maxi with the plastic red basket rolling somewhat reluctantly behind me, I met several other customers and neighbors who looked as disinterested at the task at hand as I likely did.

Even though the sun had shown up for a peek during a few precious moments, spring still seemed mostly like a bleak idea. The afternoon darkness conspired with gusty, northeastern winds to keep an ice-cold winter’s grip on Västra Hamnen where we live, just a few miles from Peter Madsens’ workshop and where he had descended into the Öresund Sound, the body of water separating Denmark and Sweden, with his homemade submarine and its unsuspecting passenger Kim Wall, some seven months earlier.

Like many others in both Sweden and Denmark, we’ve followed the case from the very first day and often discussed it  during dinner. Not as an only topic, but it’s undeniably been one of our family’s more common dinner table subjects. Many of our friends have mentioned similarities to the Danish TV drama series, “The Bridge”. But since I haven’t seen it, I don’t get that reference. And even if I had, I know from first hand experience that reality almost always exceeds fiction.

I sometimes worry that we are slowly but surely becoming tainted by all the evil that surrounds us. That all the ongoing armed conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Myanmar and terror attacks as well as mass shootings in the United States will ultimately be too much for us to absorb. That we’ll stop caring and hide our eyes, ears and hearts from it all.

And it was just this, the thought of malicious, unrestrained evil which could inevitably lead us into a boundless, terrible darkness that mesmerized me as I walked under the supermarket’s bright lights. Can it be argued that the result of such abysmal perversity, which Peter Madsen seems to be so intensely consumed by, is within the realm of what we no longer get surprised by and can idly brush away – as if such horrific thoughts or events could never enter our lives?

Of all that has been divulged from the investigation against Madsen, I was particularly taken aback by how he and several friends from his Copenhagen workshop had cultivated an idealized fandom for the characters in the 1980s film, “Das Boot”, in essence a portrayal of the claustrophobic life seen from the crews perspective onboard a German submarine during World War II.

Together with the so-called snuff movies, videos where people are filmed while suposedly being murdered, which were found on one of the hard drives in the aforementioned workshop, the amount of violence Madsen consumed seems to have awoken a dormant psychosis which led to an addiction to the very concept of murder and, ultimately, an obsession to enact it.

Now I don’t think video games or even the most vicious movies evoking realistic depictions of violence affect the vast majority of “normal” people. At least not to the degree that they yearn to be physically aggressive.

That a few individuals with latent mental issues are influenced by immersing themselves into violence as their main source of entertainment over a long period of time, is at least for me, beyond any reasonable doubt.

Though perhaps a high price to pay, it’s something I suppose we just have to accept, at least in a free, democratic society. That a few people will take their liberties to an excessive, and unfortunatly sometimes tragically violent level, is, for lack of a more humble way to say this, inevitable.

While standing in line at the checkout counter, patiently waiting for my turn at the cashier, I more or less consciously scrutinized a few of those in front of me. On the surface, everyone looked perfectly normal. Neither happy nor sad, angry or visually displeased. We all had that bland, neutral look from what had been an unusually cold and windy spell.

No one seemed to be capable of any violence, except maybe when the person in front forgot to use the square rubber divider stick on the conveyer belt to separate their stuff from the guy behind.

 

 


PCH & Lincoln Blvd

Two super interesting film projects in various stages of pre-production and some other travel related assignments means I’ll have to postpone amassing new material for my documentary of Pacific Coast Highway (above) and L.A.’s ecelectic yet mostly unpopular Lincoln Boulevard, a throughway that runs from Santa Monica, via Venice close to LAX, for a few months.