Stockholm & More

I’m on the tail end of an intense, photography centrist weekend in Stockholm. Elle joined me and we’ve had an excellent time – despite the despicably cold weather.

Directly after my arrival on Friday morning (Elle arrived later on an evening train from Malmö), I headed out to the annual photography trade show in Alvsjö. Despite it being a much reduced show compared to previous years, I still only managed about two hours before feeling overloaded with stimuli.

Something that struck me as a bit odd while I walked in and out of all the booths, more or less consciously studying fellow visitors, was how many, primarily men, had brought their DSLRs with them to the show. My shoulders ached just looking at them lug around those huge cameras + lenses. Why would you bring your heavy gear to a photo show? I sure didn’t see much worthy of anything that a reasonably recent iPhone couldn’t capture.

I was a little “shocked” to see that neither Canon nor Scandinavian Photo had a booth on the show floor. Sony, on the other hand, had invested in a relatively large presence and I got some hands-on time with their new video focused camera, the A7III. I was so impressed that I ordered one right there and then. Sadly, the Norwegian sales rep from the German camera maker Leica discouraged all and any hopes of the “Q” receiving a rumored firmware update to enable 4k video.

After an excellent open-faced avocado-on-sour-dough sandwich and a couple of cups of java at the immensely popular Bageri Petrus in Stockholm’s Södermalm-district Saturday morning, I took an Über to the Hilton at Slussen where the Swedish Association of Professional Photographers had their yearly photo book conference. I think gatherings like these often get a little bit incestuous. Yet I felt compelled to participate and exhibit my latest book about Malmö Opera.

While there, I listened to the Dutchman Erik Kessels’ mostly entertaining talk about the importance of fuck-ups. However, this turned out to be a sneaky lead-in to the core of his talk which was about poking fun at family photo albums and amateur photographers snapshots. Half way through and two or three dozen slides later, I was bored and exited the auditorium.

After about 4 hours, I split from the conference and strolled over to Fotografiska where I, together with Elle, saw all three of the museum’s ongoing exhibits. Very inspiring stuff, indeed. Especially the South African photographer and activist, Zanele Muholi’s amazing work. The massive show with Ellen von Unwerth was a bit overwhelming, but inspiring nonetheless.

Slicing available time during a mere weekend here with all the things we must do, want to do, hope to see and yearn to experience – as well as eating well and meeting up with friends and family – is no easy task. I seem to always feel just a slight sense of guilt for not spreading myself thinner and meeting what is likely only imagined expectations. One day I’d like to live in Stockholm. In the summertime, when the weather is high.


Did Spring Arrive Today?

After a mere week of winter, albeit a pretty serious winter, this afternoon, an unapologetically confident spring sun parted thick clouds and within hours melted most of the fallen snow and the patches of ice that made sidewalks and cobblestones so deviously slippery. After a day of back-to-back meetings, it was absolutely wonderful to return to a calm, colorful sea.


Captured: Malmö Winter

Reaching Level 42

So, here’s a shot from Saturday’s short flight with my quadcopter. I wasn’t aiming to get much higher than this angle shows, but the wind, especially at that altitude, wouldn’t permit me getting any higher, even if I was.

Most drone pilots seem to desperately yearn to get as high as possible. I think that there’s a sweet spot somewhere in between what is obviously a shot taken at an otherwise unattainable level and a perspective that leaves you less focused on how it was captured and more so on the story you’re trying to communicate.


Snow dumped

Last night, while we slept and were literally kept in the dark about what was going on outside, a massive dump of snow landed here in Västra Hamnen, Malmö.

It’s been about six years since we last had this much snow and cold temperatures this close to spring. In my twenties, I spent some years working up at the ski resort Riksgränsen in Lapland, so I really appreciate when we get some snow. It lightens up everything so beautifully.

Check out the entire collection of today’s (and tonight’s) photos here.

 


Sunny Welcome & Duncan’s Mute

This beautiful scene welcomed us back when the taxi pulled up outside of our place from Kastrup International Airport yesterday afternoon.

The journey from Chamonix started super early, yet there wasn’t much time for anything than a quick bite to eat at GVA before boarding the northbound SAS flight. I slept most of the way.

I have plenty of gigabytes of footage and stills for an inspiring film and an article from the week in the alps. Most of the footage was filmed handheld using only DJI’s Osmo Mobile stabilizer and in some cases, just one of my ungloved hands. During one of my runs down the mountain, I strapped my old Gopro Hero 4 to my ski boot – just to get a really low-level perspective. All stills (and a few clips) were shot with the Leica Q which with its 28mm focal length turned to be perfectly apt for the location.

Feel very inspired right now. Especially after listening to an interview with director Duncan Jones (David Bowie’s son) and then watching his latest project, a film he’s been trying to get made for over 16 years, the very bizarre, noir-esque movie, “Mute” starring Alexander Skarsgård, Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux. It’s available on Netflix. But be forwarned, as the story unfolds, the level of un-comfortability is at times almost unbearable.

Even if the reviews on IMDB weren’t even merciful, and despite the relatively low score and that it’s not intended to be a mainstream commercial film, I wouldn’t be surprised if it eventually attains cult status. If for no other reason, I recommend Mute for the gorgeous cinematography – shot in Berlin – with plenty of visual cues and references to some other favorites, including Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (Mute was partially filmed in the same studio), Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, and, yes, Robert Altman’s M.A.S.H.

 


Scandinavian Airlines System

Here’s the retro branded SAS plane I mentioned in the post below (shot on an iPhone through a terminal window). I don’t remember what type of aircraft I flew in back in 1967 when I, as a four year old, journeyed from Los Angeles International Airport, via Seattle, London and Copenhagen to Torslanda Flyplats, but it could of been a DC-8.


Sunset in Chamonix

While the sun leaves the Chamonix valley in a shivering, cold shade at around 5:30pm this time of year, the day’s last light still illuminates the peaks for at least another hour.

Charlotte and I walked around the village for a few hours after returning from a magnificent day on the slopes today, discussing what we really like about Chamonix and compared our notes from last year’s trip to the considerably smaller village of Zermatt below the Matterhorn.

Though an unfair comparison when measuring sheer volume and size, both destinations still obviously have plenty of commonalities. Where Zermatt caters to a more exclusive group of patrons willing to spend more time getting there and budgeting a bit more for accommodations, dining and just about everything else connected to a Swiss ski resort, Chamonix is much more accessible (an hour and change from Geneva), socially relaxed and dare I say, charter-esque.

Don’t get me wrong, Chamonix is a picturesque village in a surreally beautiful alpine environment. A destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited both resorts twice in the last five years and hope to return some day. After checking off a few other ski resorts from my list…


Flégère & Brevent & Bergerie

Another glorious day on the slopes with mostly fabulous weather. After checking out the pists in Flégère for a few hours, we headed over to Le Brevent and ate a hearty (vegetarian/vegan) lunch at one of Chamonix’s most popular hillside bistros, the rustic Bergerie de Planpraz. It was a bit too cold to sit outside when we arrived, but after lunch, the sun had heated up the outdoor patio (above) rather nicely. With the Mont Blanc massive as a dramatic backdrop, I’d be hard pressed to come up with a more scenic setting.


Aiguille du Midi

From today’s excursion to the very top of Aiguille du Midi and the glass bottom terrace at 3,842m aptly dubbed, “Step Into The Void”.
With views of some of the tallest peaks in Switzerland, Italy and France – including Mont Blanc (above left) from one single place, this has to be the ultimate alp spotting venue.

Despite sunny weather, the air at this altitude was thin and cold (-18C/-0,4F) which made it a little challenging to film and shoot stills. At one point, I thought my left index finger had gotten frost bitten. After returning to Chamonix, we spent the rest of the day exploring the many excellent pists at Grands Montets.


On the slopes

The weather today provided a mix bag with patches of sunshine, a light snowfall and a generous amount of fog or mist. Not that stopped us from skiing and thoroughly enjoying about a half dozen pists.


Return to Chamonix

Back in the alps again. And this year, we chose to produce a story about the classic French ski destination Chamonix. It’s been five years since my last visit to Chamonix.

As the driver pulled up to the hotel shortly after lunch, the clouds hovering above parted and let the valley bathe in bright sunshine. After renting ski gear, I spent most of the afternoon shooting stills and getting some footage around the village.

Tomorrow we hit the slopes of Le Brévent with cameras, a small ski friendly stabilizer and a small drone.


Yoga in a Black Box

Shot this with model and yogi, Tora Rosenkjaer a couple of weeks ago in Skanska’s Studio building here in Malmö. It was project aimed to help Altitude Meetings visualize how excellently their Black Box is for filming and still shoots.

Most of the footage was shot on a Canon DSLR using Canon’s brilliant 35mm f1.4L glass which was wide open pushed to ISO 640. The smoke, spotlight rays and most movements were achieved in post (FCPX).


Chinese Pharmacy in Bangkok

Speaking of Bangkok and old and new norms, here’s a short video I created for Thailand Living a few years ago. Shot handheld on an iPhone 5 in the Thai capital’s bustling Chinatown.

 


Norm Shifts, NRA & Florida

Though a life-long proponent of peaceful solutions and a firm believer in diplomacy, reluctantly, I still have to be rational about that weapons, in one shape or another, will always be a part of human history.

The photo above is from the political unrest in Bangkok, Thailand in 2009. I was there on a press trip and instead of traveling to the far north in accordance with our busy itinerary, the government agency responsible for our safety determined it was unsafe to leave the capital. We were told that the risk for military action to bridle the increasingly violent demonstrators was imminent. And so, they checked us back in at the Intercontinental, a most comfortable detention center, I might add.

A while back, I wrote about how bewildered I was with all the norm shifts I notice each time I visit the United States. That I often feel that the country I grew up has changed more drastically than those living there seem to grasp. Obviously, some changes are evolutionary and stem from cultural, financial, scientific and technological development in society. But some of the new behaviors and opinions represent truly dramatic shifts. Yet they have permeated the collective consciousness so subtly, almost sneakily across years or decades, that few seem to take notice. Instead, many unabashedly subscribe to these new norms so wholeheartedly, that everything preceding them instantly becomes unrecognizable and even weird. That’s happening right here in Sweden with cash being displaced by Swish and other phone payements and the popular credit card swipe. Today I rarely see any cash, let alone pay with it.

One of the most current and dramatic norm shifts in the US is how increasingly normal it has become for Americans to not only buy weapons, but to also openly carry handguns (like in Texas, where it’s perfectly legal). How has this norm shift come about? Is it “smart” and persistent marketing from gun manufacturers? The National Rifle Association’s tireless campaigning to seduce their members into thinking that only when a Glock G19, S & W 38 Special or an Uzi is in the hands of all red-blooded Americans from age 9, can we secure the country’s long-term existens? Or, is it perhaps the media that through sensationalistic/exploitive reporting has managed to hypnotize folks into thinking that they really do need an AK-47 under their bed and an advanced alarm and CCTV system installed in their homes to feel safe and sleep well at night?

While the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms, the right to buy military grade rifles and other weapons clearly designed for shooting en masse, was surely not what the founding fathers had in mind back in 1791.

I can’t wrap my head around how so many folks in the US feel so strongly about their right to own military grade firearms at home yet don’t make the connection to the country’s increasing mass killings. Have these shootings become the new norm and with them the tolerance to buy and own such powerful weaponry?

In my opinion, it’s still too easy to a) sell these types of weapons to consumers and b) to let anyone with a valid driver’s license walk into a hardware store, a gun and ammo shop, or, even a Walmart, and literelly within minutes, leave with a weapon so powerful, they could use it to kill dozens if not hundreds of people in a matter of minutes.

And this boggles my mind even more: if you’re at one of the many, many gun shows spread across the US in the course of a year, a background check isn’t even required!

To add insult to injury, here’s a few of the questions someone looking to leave the gun store with an assault rifle under his or her arm needs to answer:

• Have you ever been convicted of a felony?• Have you ever been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence?
• Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any other depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
• Are you a fugitive from justice?
• Have you ever been committed to a mental institution?

How can questions like these possibly be intended to smoke out and prevent consumers with nefarious intentions from buying a seriously potent firearm?

I’m both sad and bewildered. As a father and a human being, I feel so much empathy for the many parents and families that have lost loved ones in the recent Florida school shooting. How many more massacres before the NRA, Congress and interest groups sponsor a bill that to begin with removes military grade weapons from consumer store shelves?

Here’s a list of all members of the US Congress that took campaign money from the gun and weapons lobby and then tweeted that their prayers were with the victims and their famililes in Florida. Appauling.


Mumsfilibabba

There is no fair way to translate the Swedish expression, “Mumsfilibabba”. At least I can’t find one that does it justice. Mumsfilibabba is used as a playful way to verbally pronounce when something tastes extraordinarily great. Usually confectionery.

When Nina, a fellow freelancer and long-time friend of the family, decided to commercially pursue one of her many passions, developing and marketing homemade, naturally flavored caramel, both Charlotte and I applauded her entrepreneurship and decided to support the project. The photo above, shot with the “Q” on our dining room table with LED lights from Rotolight, is just one of the many available flavors.

As you, tender reader, might of guessed, after the shoot, I tossed back a few of these tasty temptations. And yes, they taste absolutely wonderful.

I’m not much for sweets these days, but as a child, I endulged in all kinds of sugary candies, including, but not limited to the ubiquitous Tootsie Roll. Especially during the fall and leading up to Halloween where Tootsie Rolls were among the most popular treats neighbors would offer us kids when being “trick or treated”. And while Tootsie Rolls are a peculiar hybrid of taffy and caramel, Nina’s Mumsfilibabba are made from a secret recipe with ingredients that result in unapologetically bonafide caramels. She’s already soft-launched Mumsfilibabba, so check it out here.

 


Creamy Buns

If you live in Sweden long enough, eventually you’ll bite into one of these creamy buns, called “Semla”. According to legend, the not-so-onomatopoetically dubbed bun was mentioned as far back as when the bible was first translated to Swedish by Gustav Vasa in 1541.

I’m not a huge fan of dense marzipan, suger infused whipped cream or ever-so fluffy bread. But after all these years, I have to concede that once a year I’ll surrender to any health concerns associated with this obvious calorie bomb. And while some prefer to fork and knife them, I literally inhale my yearly intake. Shot the one above for a local café about a year ago. Need a recipe, here’s one.


Wine Radical Schneider

I’ve known Erik Schneider, his wife Mia and their family for as long as we’ve been living in Malmö. Like myself, Erik has an ethnically eclectic background. His interest and knowledge about all things wine has not only earned him a respected reputation among colleagues, peers and restauranteurs, late last year, it also awarded him the prestigious title of “Sweden’s Sommelier of the Year”.

So, when Erik called to hire me for a conceptual shoot on the ice covered shores of Ribersborg with Västra Hamnen in the background, I put everything else aside and headed out into the cold but sunny afternoon to execute his concept.

Erik’s day-to-day gig is managing his extremely popular wine bar, l’enoteca in Malmö’s old town.


Yuu Kitchen, London

We’re in the unusually sunny British capital for a couple of days. While Charlotte attends an affiliate conference, I’m here to shoot for a story about the super trendy neighborhood Shoreditch in East London. It was such excellent weather yesterday, that I went for a long walk along the embankment down to Tower Bridge. Hence the slideshow above (shot with the Leica Q).

We’re staying at a relatively new chic hotel called Leman Locke. Impressed by the generous room size here and more importantly, the thought-through, light hued, modern (and functional) decor. A diametrical opposite to the decrepit Strand where Elle and I stayed during last year’s visit.

Last night, Charlotte and I ate an amazing dinner at a wonderfully funky eatery called Yuu Kitchen in Spitalfields. We sat in the restaurant’s bar just in front of the open kitchen and enjoyed watching the chefs prepare a bunch of small albeit incredibly flavorful Asian-Mexican fusion treats for us. We left full and happy and mused all the way back to the hotel at how much we love popping over for a few days of work in London.


Tora in a Black Box

A composition from today’s test shoot in Altitude Meetings’ Black Box Studio here in Malmö with the always reliable model and yoga practitioner extraordinaire, Tora Rosenkjaer.


Gary Oldman is Winston Churchill

These images are from last night’s inspiring movie, “The Darkest Hour” with the always excellent, Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.  in his rise from First Lord of the Admiralty to Prime Ministor and the political turmoil and emotional struggles he went through days before WWII.

We saw the movie at Spegeln/Mirror here in Malmö – a beautifully decorated and well-kept boutique theatre with a currated repertoire focused on an adult clientel and where they among many tasty treats – including homemade popcorn – also serve beer, wine and cava.

The whole family has been glued our screens watching “The Crown” for the last several weeks and though John Lithgow’s Churchill is arguably more entertaining, Gary Oldman’s enactment is possibly more realistic. I think it’s his career’s finest work – so far.

Aside from the phenomenal prosthetics and makeup that provide a stunning resemblance that help augment his brilliant portrayal of WC, no actor I know of is capable of commanding as much rage as Oldman. Like in “Léon: The Professional” with another favorite actor, Jean Reno) from 1994, in this his latest role, Oldman’s given several opportunities to show us what being genuinely unbridled anger looks and sounds like.

The film’s cinematography, together with wardrobe and set design make this film a fabulous feast for the eyes. Every frame looks like a masterfully composed painting. And regardless of whether or not you’re interested in the historical aspect, the film is worth seeing for it’s homage to cinema as a form of creative expression.

I’m heading to London for an extremely short & sweet gig next week, and after seeing “The Darkest Hour” I can’t wait to be at least in the general vicinity of where it all took place, almost 80 years ago.


Dreaming of (good) Sushi

Just added a new slideshow that merges my impressions from visits to Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market – where much of the country’s high end fish and seafood is sold and from where much is exported to the rest of the world – as well as photos in the forefront that I shot for a now defunct take-away sushi shop here in Malmö.

As I was putting the slideshow together, I couldn’t help but ponder that over the years, I have eaten much more take-away sushi than I should have. At best, it’s been a barely palatable, albeit visually acceptable, experience. At worst, it’s made me want to regurgitate every sliver of fish, wafer of nori and bite of rice. I feel like a knucklehead every time I find myself being disappointed! Yet amazingly, I keep giving these subpar sushi places and their disinterested owners yet another chance. The lust for sushi is obviously much stronger than my ability to refrain from what will ineviteably dissatisfy me.

Like most other raw dishes from Japan, sushi and sashimi should be served “a la minute” by a passtionate chef that not only knows what he or she is doing, but that also takes great pride in serving a truly quality eating experience. Come to think of it, I think it should be manditory for anybody considering opening a sushi bar to watch someone like the sushi master, Jiro in the excellent documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi.


Visby in January

After yesterday’s workshop in Visby and before dinner, I went for a long walk along the coast carrying a backpack with my camera and a lightweight tripod. It was windy and cold, but bearable. Refreshing, even.

I haven’t been on the island wintertime for about 25 years but remember vividly how much I love this time of year here. And though a little sad that I didn’t get to photograph the snow that fell a couple of weeks ago, the barren trees, rough sea and beautiful moon light was enough to inspire me throughout my evening promenade.


Shibuya Crossing

From my last visit to Tokyo where I spent a few good hours figuring out how best to visually convey the intensity of Shibuya Crossing. I used a monopod for some of the shots and a Gopro for the ground level angles. The top level viewpoint was shot from a hotel that I managed to get into using some “American style” social engineering.


The Yoga Factor

This is yet another yoga pose with Tora Rosenkjaer – probably the most flexible individual I will ever photograph.

Speaking of yoga (as a Padawan Learner, it’s a subject I am delighted talking and writing often about), I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning just so I could attend a yoga class at 06:30-07:00. I had a meeting at 08:30 and after these last two days of intense restaurant shoots, I  needed a little extra boost to get me (and my bones) into gear.

Hardly unexpected, the remedy worked perfectly and I can once again attributed much of my current well-being to a few upward facing dogs, humble warriors and camel and pigeon poses.