Last Iguana Breakfast

Finally had an opportunity to capture one the hotel’s many chillin’ iguanas today during breakfast. Lizards are fascinating creatures and we’ve seen a lot of them here along the coast.

The Raboff’s are heading back to San José later this afternoon and hope that we have a safe flight. It’s been 10 very pleasurable days of surfing, practicing yoga, Qi Gong and enjoying a very agreeable climate. I’ve also worked a few hours on most days and eventually, I’ll cut together an inspiring video about our experiences in this relatively untouched/unexploited part of Central America.

Looking forward to exploring Costa Rica’s capital to see if I can find something intriguing or challenging to photograph and thereby counter San José’s reputation as a lackluster destination.


Morning View: the Pacific Ocean

My morning view from just outside our hotel as 2017 comes to a close. The Pacific Ocean has always and will likely always hypnotize me. It’s the combo of salinity, color and smell that puts me into some kind of spell.

As much as we’ve unreservedly savored our visit to this stunningly beautiful beach, and I think I can speak for the entire family here, we are now yearning for a less sandy existence.

A day after 2018 arrives we’ll depart this unforgettable coastline and fly back to San José where we’ll stay for a few days. On the agenda in the capital is a visit to a famous coffee plantation and a much anticipated tour at a sanctuary for sloths.


Tropical Yoga

Shot this during yesterday’s yin yoga class here in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica. Amazing weather and the perfect location for yoga.


Beachlife: Surfer Dude

Met this meditating fellow earlier today on Playa Carmen. Gratifying to know that I’m not the only middle-aged surfer dude on the beach here.


Koh Samui & Costa Rica

We’re almost a week into our first expedition to Costa Rica and I’m flabbergasted at how under-developed the beach communities along the coast are. No large resorts, high rise hotels or a single fast food restaurant or convenient store. That’s right, no 7Eleven or burger joint by the clown or king.

I find myself being reminded of Koh Samui, circa 1988, a few years before the airport was built and when both Chaweng and Lamai beaches were still dusty fishing villages which were mostly populated by transient backpackers. There might have been maybe two hotels on the entire island back then and only a few dozen dodgy bungalow resorts. I worked at one of them, the Golden Sand.

I remember how hard it was to find a restaurant on Koh Samui that served decent western food and that you had to drive a motorcycle or take a flatbed truck taxi ride to the ferry town Nathon and there wait patiently in line at Koh Samui’s only post office to make a collect call to wherever.

That was thirty years ago.

Santa Teresa is similar in a few ways and undeniably different in others.

Like on Samui three decades ago, we mostly have the beach here to ourselves. You pass maybe 20 people during an hour’s long walk up and down the coast. Half of them are surfers. This despite it being absolute peak season.

There are perhaps a dozen hotels scattered along the beach and a few bungalow places located on either side of narrow, unpaved lanes just above the main road.

Unlike Samui ´88, there are a plethora of really good restaurants here. We’ve enjoyed very tasty Japanese, Lebanese, Thai, Mexican and some seafood during our week.

We’re a little surprised at how expensive it is, though. So far, we haven’t been able to spend much less than $70-80  for a dinner for three. Which is almost as expensive as in Europe or even the US.

Then again, Costa Rica has been popular among affluent American families and well-to-do college kids for decades. So the high prices are likely a reflection of an upper middle class tourist demographic.

The thick, unmistakable smell of ganja is prevalent almost everywhere – especially on the beach just before and after sunset. Just as it was on Samui wayback when.

For a photographer and travel writer, there’s plentiful of things to be inspired by here. Including the dense jungle just a few steps beyond the beach and the large flocks of pelicans that soar majestically in fluid arrow formations just above the tree tops.

The weather has been great so far. Cool mornings with temperatures in the lower 20s and middays in the mid 30s. It’s a dry heat, though. Nowhere nearly as humid as in Thailand but significantly hotter than on the Hawaiian islands.

Finally, I think one of the main reasons why Costa Rica is enjoying increasing popularity is in no small way thanks to the friendly atmosphere among locals and guest workers alike.

It’s pura vida all the time.


Morning Surfride

Since arriving and renting a couple of surfboards, Elle and I have been catching the early morning breaks before breakfast. There’s a narrow surf spot just outside the hotel, but we usually opt to walk towards Playa Carmen where there’s less current and more importantly, less rocks.


Sunset, Christmas Day 2017

The view from our room on Santa Teresa Beach in Costa Rica earlier tonight.


Christmas Eve in Costa Rica

Haven’t been in this part of the world in several years. Last time was during an elaborate press visit to Guatemala which is a country (Nicaragua) north of here.

Of what I’ve seen so far here in Santa Teresa and during yesterday’s flight from the capital San José, Costa Rica is as beautiful as I thought it would be and then some.

The weather so far has been perfect. Not too hot or humid (as in South East Asia) and yet cool enough to warrant a shirt at night.

The lush flora reminds me of Hawaii (Maui and Kauai), the unbridled, kamikaze traffic along the main road is similar to Sri Lanka and the shape of the Pacific waves along our beach are only distant cousins to those in Southern California.


Today’s Turning Torso View

Here’s what my view looked like late this afternoon from the 53rd floor of the Turning Torso. Though I’ve seen it from this vantage point for more than a decade, I’m still mesmerized by how high up in the sky this amazing building reaches.

I’ve had an affinity for long exposure night images for many years. Several years ago, I took a series of New Year’s images from the roof of the aforementioned skyscraper. Some of which you can view here.

Freezing a fraction of time is one thing. Capturing movement over the course of several seconds – minutes even – takes some practice and the right gear.
I shot the above image with a Canon DSLR, but I could of taken it with the Leica and enjoyed similarly pleasing results. My only gripe with the “Q” is that the user interface is nowhere nearly as easy to configure. At least not by default.

The Last Jedi

There is no logic or rational reason in the universe to buy into most of our contemporary culture’s offerings. And being so infinitely busy with my own more or less remarkable creative endevors, I rarely take the time to discover even that which might actually be worthy of my focused attention.

But there are exceptions….

Likely because I was partially raised in Los Angeles, arguably the most culturally superficial place in the known universe, I still get extremely excited for each new instalment in the Star Wars franchise.

And so, tonight, Charlotte, Elle and I will be seeing The Last Jedi at a theatre in Malmö, Sweden. A place far, far away from my very first introduction to the operatic saga by George Lucas at Groman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard a long time ago in 1977.


Travel Map 2017

 

Here’s my interactive travel map for 2017. The year isn’t quite over yet, and I’ve got a couple of trips (one really short and one long-ass) before 2018 is upon us.

I’ve been traveling professionally for about 15 years now and was often on the road way before that. My first transatlantic flight was 1967 (LA to Gotehnburg) and I’ve so far been to 53 countries and 289 cities and seen many wonderfully interesting places and met some truly remarkable people all over our planet. I’ve also eaten more airplane food than I wish to remember…

I can’t think of anything I could buy or do that would give me as much long-lasting satisfaction as traveling does. Some call it rootlessness, but I prefer to look at it as a combo of plain ol’ curiosity and an ineptitude for dealing with boredom. For a comprehensive map with all the countries and cities I’ve visited for the last 20 years or so, click here.


Santa’s Workshop

Each year, Santa gathers his helpers and together, they work day and night to prepare for Christmas. Here’s a short behind the scenes video of the workshop 2017.


Vegan Dogs & Mash

Once a week, often on Tuesdays for no particular reason at all, the Raboff’s side-step the usual cuisine and splurge like there’s no tomorrow.

See, a couple of months ago, we discovered a package of smoke vegan hot dogs at our local grocery store and life on Tuesdays hasn’t been the same ever since. I know, technically, hot dogs have to be made of some kind of meat. But as most smoked foods taste decent regardless really of what they’re made from or of, I knew these dogs were going to be pretty tasty. At least when compared with ordinary vegan sausuges – which taste slightly better than wet wool socks (as if I actually know how wet wool socks taste like…), the smoked dogs are absolutely delicious.

The sausages we eat are organic as is the potatoes, mustard, ketchup and dry roasted onions. My recipe for delicious mashed potatoes? A squeezed clove of garlic, a few generous pinches of salt flakes, teaspoon of finely ground black peppar, a dash of nutmeg and a cup or so of almond milk and finally, a few tablespoons of organic olive oil.


Expression Session

After closing my studio this summer, I thought I’d miss shooting in an environment where I could control light, background and other variables of my choosing. Didn’t happen.

On the contrary, I’ve felt liberated by the freedom from less gear and challenged by relying on my imagination and creative/technical savvy to deliver whatever vision I or my client have had.

Yesterday, however, I rented a relatively large studio near Kastrup International Airport and shot model Diviana for a photo project I’ve been thinking about producing for a while: a series of facial expressions.

Not sure how many different expressions we managed to capture yesterday and it actually proved to be quite demanding to convey the at times small, almost granular nuances that define adjectives like, angry/irritated, embarrassed/shameful, seductive/interested and tired/bored.

The project’s genesis stems from my fascination with body language and how much of what we say – and how we look when we say what we say – is determined by the culture we are captive of.

The above video is a collection of some of the many facial gestures Diviana exhibited during yesterday’s “expression session”.


Froggies
Shot these poor froggies at an open-air market somewhere. I’ve eaten grilled frog legs a couple of times and, yes, they do taste like chicken. I will likely never eat any amphibian creature again.

I’ve always felt compassionate about all living creatures. Even those that are displeasurable to look at, that pose some kind of threat or that don’t seem to contribute anything meaningful to our habitat. Which they probably do, but I’m ignorant about exactly what.

Though I as late as last night enjoyed a hearty sushi/sashimi meal before going to a movie, I feel an increasing urge to take the plunge and delve into a fully plant based diet.


Yogaism

These silhouettes are part of a series of studio shots I took of the extremely elastic model and yoga enthusiast Tora about a year ago.

I was intrigued by the beauty of yoga and had started brooding with the idea that practising yoga and Qi Gong together regularly might actually prove to provide me with physical flexibility (and energize my mind) without overstraining my body in the process. The ultimate equilibrium.

I’m nowhere where I want to be, hope to be, someday. And needless to say my poses aren’t nearly as refined and visually appealing as Tora’s. But I’m now at a point where only a few of the basic poses are still really hard to achieve.

So it’s unequivocally clear to me that I’m heading in the right direction.


Bangkok’s Chinatown

Like most mega metropolis, Bangkok packs a huge punch. Many first-time visitors become so daunted and overwhelmed by the cacophony of jarring sounds, blazing heat, intense traffic and the millions of people that live, work and play here, they vow to never return.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn how to parse the good from the bad areas and where to avoid going altogether. I’ve also grasped how to appreciate the plethora of interesting, non-tourist focused neighborhoods in Bangkok, like Rattanakosin, Aria, Bangrak and Chinatown.

The narrow side streets and alleyways of Chinatown, where I spent some time yesterday capturing street life, textures, patterns and compositions of old automotive parts, is definitely one of my favorite hoods.

Chinatown, and particularly Soi Nana (not to be confused with the infamously seedy Soi Nana in the Sukhumvit district) has of recent years been one of the capital’s most popular spots to hang out at. Several of the street’s old shophouses (previously mostly used as warehouses) are being cleaned up and recast as cocktail bars, gallery-cafés and boutique hostels. According to a few owners we spoke with last night, Soi Nana’s guests are primarily younger expats, the trendsetting HiSo crowd (Bangkok’s affluent high society troupe) and a few middle-aged travel junkies, like Charlotte and myself.

Easiest way to get here is via subway (MRT) to Bangkok’s Central Train Station – Hua Lamphong Station. From there it’s only a few minutes walk to Soi Nana.


Splash on the Job

Admittedly, there are a few assignments now and again when I become cognizant that working as a photographer is as fun as some folks seem to think it is all the time.

Not that I don’t still appreciate how much freedom I have compared to many other occupations – even when I have to deal with repetitive tasks that are often physically tough on the limbs and leave my eyes tired and dry.

The video above is as good an example as any. It’ll eventually be distributed online as part of larger marketing push for a relatively new hotel in Bangkok. It was shot on an iPhone 6s, 7+ and a GoPro 4 (silver).


Marcel’s Blue Gate

The idea and reasoning of Marcel Duchamp’s “readymade” art has intrigued me since I first learned about it in art school almost 30 years ago. And for the last several years, I’ve been fascinated by how much of what surrounds us – stuff that we mostly consider to be just utilitarian objects or tools, can actually offer me a level of lasting aesthetic pleasure.

Exhibit A: The design of the blue shophouse gate above provided me with an appealing pattern, the foreground and background layers offered interesting dimensionality and the chipped paint itself created an intriguing texture. It was like a beacon and I just could not resist spending some time figuring out how to photograph it.

The gate itself obviously has symbolic implications in the context of, say, protection or incarceration. But more importantly, for me anyway, is to hone in on the readymades that cross my path, define what make them so fascinating and then figure out a way to convey the composition that pulled me in to begin with.

New Galleri Västra Hamnen

Just relaunched Galleri Västra Hamnen, probably the world’s largest online galleri entirely focused on our small neighborhood and a chosen few other fine places.

I’ve been documenting Västra Hamnen for at least a decade in books, videos and still images.

What’s new with the site? I’ve finally returned to WordPress after struggling for years with Smugmug’s mostly quirky backend-admin UI. I’ve also streamlined my pricing model, added my artwork and some of the most popular videos. The overhaul and migration have been long over due…but better late than never…right?


An amazing lunch guest

This spectacular shot is from an elephant sanctuary in Botswana called Living with Elephants. It was taken by my daughter, Elle Raboff during what I consider to be one of my life’s best lunch experiences. The bull I’m hugging came up to me quite graciously mid-lunch and poked around with his big-ass trunk until I gave up and gave him some attention (the hug). Read on to understand why I chose this particular favorite to illustrate some somewhat scattered thoughts.

Last night, an American friend and I had dinner at one of our local eateries. As per usual, the evening’s conversation hovered over a wide gamut of topics – most notably norm shifts and things that have changed since we lived in the US. I’m particularly mesmerized by some of the new “normals” and how impactful yet seemingly unquestioned they are.

One solid example is how totally reasonable it is today for tens of millions of Americans to finance their lifestyle, much of which they can’t really afford, by taking on huge debts and financial obligations that put them at the very brink of personal bankruptcy. The norm shift here is plainly that it’s perfectly okay to juggle a dozen or so credit cards and/or refinance your home in order to maintain a lifestyle that a lot of folks firmly believe they’re entitled to – just by virtue of being American. That it’s like a birth right to live way beyond your means – not to mention actual needs. And I have a hard time wrapping my head around that if you question any of this, some will instinctively consider you a commie. A socialist, at the very least.

Another interesting norm shift is how it’s become perfectly fine to spend more time shopping and television watching than any other non-work or sleep related activity. The most popular pastime in the US – after watching television has to be shopping. I would bet a pretty penny that the most common family activity isn’t enjoying time together during a communal dinner, playing a board game, a park picnic, a day at the beach or going for a weekend bike ride or a hike. Instead, it’s more likely, at least in urban America, that you take two separate, oversized cars and drive a few blocks to your local mall and spend several hours and a credit institution’s money on clothes, food, shiny gadgets and other stuff. And I just read here that the average American watches close to 5 hours of TV per day. Five hours? Really? How do you fit that in to a mere 24 hour life-cycle when there’s already a plethora of addictions like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and the aforementioned shopping mall – all competing for your attention (and wallet)?

There’s so much that has changed since I left the US. Of course, not all of it’s bad. But I fret that much of the country’s population is unaware of these shifts and in such a deep comatose state, that they just don’t see where the ship is sailing and that the current captain/commadner-in-chief is really just a simple pirate out to pillage and plunder as much as he can.

So, there’s no question in my mind that the current administration doesn’t see things through the lens of what was previously considered ethically acceptable, financially viable or emotionally reasonable. Trump and his trumpians have no moral compass nor do they choose to see nuances. It’s pretty much a black and white, off and on, stop or go, win or lose value system. Your either with me or against me. There is no genuine interest in fixing what’s broken – unless, of course, it coincides with a lucrative or strategically favorable deal.

Though obviously not communicated publicly, there is no doubt in my mind that the president and his cohorts have a distinct Darwinistic approach to every single decision they make. This a fundamental strategy that more or less all politicians live by regardless of where in the world they are. But in the US, it’s become more blatant and painfully obvious than ever before.

It’s all about making deals and coming out on top and Trump is prepared to say or do whatever needs to be done or said to get there. Even if it means reversing, back-tracking and conveniently forgetting past agreements. Each deal resides in an echo-chamber and all peripheral and long-term consequences are, of course, completely ignored as they are considered irrelevant to the deal at hand.

So when the Trump Administration is now considering lifting the ban on importing stuffed elephants as hunting trophies, it’s not for any other reason than to make a deal with the lobby group that has successfully persuaded The United States Fish and Wildlife Service that, yes, it’s perfectly okay to start hunting elephants for game again. To begin with in two unamed African countries. And to make things even crazier, this deal, should it go through, is being made – with all likelihood – with the president of one of the Africa countries who is arguably even more mentally challenged than the dude with the crazy hairdo currently in our oval office.

I think you’re strange to begin with if you think shooting an elephant is fun and exciting. I don’t really understand the thrill of hunting in general and especially not killing animals for shear amusement. That’s sick however you slice it.

In closing, I think we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Yup, we be in for some really rough tough times, Bubba. This is an era that looks to be defined by a freeforall or better yet a most deadly game of musical chairs. So the question is where are we and the planet when the music finally stops?


Beauty in the Details

As those of you that have stopped by here regularly over the years know well, I’ve had an aruguably absurd appetite for grand landscapes – irrespective of whether it’s a chaotic-mega-metropolis like Bangkok (above) or a hidden, ever-so picturesque sunset on an island in the Maldives.

Though soothing to the eye and thus easy on the brain, I’ve gotten really, really tired of looking at most of the many thousands of landscapes I’ve shot over the years. Generally speaking, landscape photography is just too easy, too unchallenging, hence too damn boring. Unless, of course, you count the physical effort and financial investment necessary to get to that perfect spot at the right time – a challenge. Which it often is in retrospect.

Aside from the wide variety of images I post here on the blog, the majority of my creative prowess is currently being poured into producing multidimensional pictorials or photographic “stories” that cover a wide-range of topics and themes. The one currently on the top section of this page is titled, “Collect Call from Lincoln” and consists of some of my favorite images from what might possibly be my favorite street, the extremely ecelectic Lincoln Boulevard in Los Angeles.

Anyway, this new phase is probably the most challenging thing I have ever pursued in my creative life. But it’s simultaneously incredibly liberating. I feel as free as when I painted with oils, acrylics, crayons, charcoal and aerosol sprays back in the 1990s.

So, now when I’m traveling or just out and about, I force myself to look at things a bit differently. I focus more on surfaces, textures, materials, shapes, layers and depth. I research, take my time and don’t worry at all about the big picture, the landscape. For now, beauty is in the details, the patterns, the patina. And soon, very soon, I’ll be in a place where a plethora or buffet of all of these newfound “ingredients” to my work are available in seemingly inexhaustible quantities. Stay tuned!


Nobis Hotel Copenhagen
So, here it is albeit in Swedish, my review of Nobis Hotel Copenhagen. The above shot is from the stairwell where a beautiful light installation hangs from the top floor downwards.
It was a short but sweet stay at one of Scandinavia’s newest design hotels. The Nobis is comfortable visually appealing and staffed by some really good folks. Interestingly the building next to where we live in Malmö was designed by the same architect that oversaw the renovations designed and decorated the Nobis Gert Wingårdh at Wingårds – one of the regions leading firms and one of my clients.

Avocadoism

Of all the hotels I’ve ever stayed at across the globe, the very first one to offer avocados as part of a breakfast buffé was yesterday at Nobis Hotel in Copenhagen. They were perfectly ripe and together with the salmon-cream cheese on toasted sourdough pastiche I had assembled, the avocado truly topped off my breakfast experience. You just can’t go wrong by serving avocados. More about this extraordinary hotel in a bit….


Yoga & Qi Gong

Now that most of the leaves have fallen and the landscape is colorless, I feel less inclined to spend time outdoors. For the past several weeks, maybe a month and a half at the most, I’ve been getting up super early. Often at 05:00 a.m. But instead of stumbling off to Kockum Fritid, our local gym to lift weights for an hour or going for a 10k run, as I’ve been doing for a few years, I instead put myself through a 30 minutes hybridized routine based on my rudimentary knowledge of Yoga and Qi Gong. Do I break a sweat? Barely. But it’s definitely strenuous and irrefutably gets my sleepy body warmed up.

Mentally, I now enjoy the exact same euphoric state of mind as if I’d been jogging or pumping iron, sans the pains and aches those routines consequentially have as by-products.

At Kockum Fritid, I regularly attend Yoga classes and once a week, I have a private teacher at HTA for my Qi Gong training. The more knowledgeable I get about low-impact exercise, the more comfortable I feel about applying what I learn to my morning exercise regimen.

As hard as it at times is to get my relatively stiff body to bend and twist that the movements, poses and stances demand, the learning experience is absolutely terrific. Mentally, I can’t think of a better way to kickstart the day right now. And I’m certainly improving my physical elasticity – although the progress is incontrovertibly incremental. But that’s to be expected.