Walking along the narrow winding cobblestone lanes in the old town, preferably in the early evening as the scorching sun is just about to retreat and the humidity begins to taper off, is nothing short of a privilege. With all its art galleries, small shops, tapas bars and beautiful courtyards, La Lonja is by far my favorite Palma neighborhood.
Palma Pee Pee & Poo Poo
On the other hand, while my eyes are preoccupied with taking in the immense beauty that is the labyrinth of ancient churches, forts and towering residential buildings, the smell of urine dominates just about every breath I take and step I make.
I want to think it’s the visitors – as opposed to residents – who are the main culprits. Yet even in less touristy areas of Palma, one’s nostrils are permeated with the stench from both freshly exuded as well as more vintage pee pee.
So I am not convinced this isn’t a socially accepted behavior among locals as well. And when I think about how often one sees dog poo on the sidewalks and park lawns, that theory might not be too far-fetched.
Maybe folks here feel strongly about this smelly yet for them important expression of personal freedom. To pee or not to pee. That is the question.
With a helicopter’s perspective, as in the short clip above, where you take in Palma’s amazing beauty as the light shifts from stark to subtle, it’s hard not to look passed and smell beyond the pee pee and poo poo and just enjoy the view.
Currently in Palma de Majorca – where we lived for a winter some 12 years ago. I haven’t been back since about four years and the last time was to shoot for a story about a hotel called Palm Suites that was inaugurated by the always fun-loving Swedish party princess and sister to the Swedish king, Birgitta.
In addition to a write-up about a hotel in Palma’s old town, La Lonja, we’re here to celebrate a good friend’s 50th birthday. Which we did ever-so thoroughly yesterday evening together with a group other pals, some of which had flown in specifically for the occasion, at one of the island’s most popular restaurants, La Perla by Emilio Ingrosso – a Swedish fellow from Stockholm with Italian roots.
After a few tasty starters, I enjoyed a classic yet still excellently sumptuous dish consisting of garlic and wine sautéed scampi on homemade penne pasta bathed in a cream sauce. Despite the full house and it being Saturday night, we received insightful recommendations and both attentive and entertaining service.
When the bill arrived some four hours after we we’re seated, it turned out that La Perla was surprisingly affordable – despite the ten of us doing our outmost best to empty the restaurant’s wine celler.
Just got back from an intense, albeit inspiring three day art focused trip to Germany where I stayed at one serioulsy cheap Berlin hotel. Of all the things I saw during the many hours I spent walking around Berlin, for some odd reason, the hotel Sickinger Hof stands out like a sore thumb. Let me explain…
As much as I enjoy guesting swanky boutique hotels with their thoughtfully decorated rooms and stylish, loungable public spaces, once in a while, I’ll actively choose to stay at a real dump. I do this mostly so I’ll appreciate my humble beginnings – and be reminded of when I spent months on end backpacking around Europe, the US and across Southeast Asia and couldn’t care less about where I slept – as long as the room rate didn’t exceed my frugally planned budget.
If I had to guess, I would wager that I’ve stayed in 350 different hotels, motels, guest houses and B & Bs around the world. I’ve spent a night in a rat infested dorm room in Penang (Malaysia), at a rundown, dustbin of a motel in the middle of Death Valley(Mojave, California) and, rented rooms with paper thin walls and crusty mattresses in one of Khao San Road’s (Bangkok. Thailand) many cheap guesthouses.
On a recent trip to Berlin, my third ever visit to the German capital, I opted to stay at one of the city’s cheapest hotels – a bare bones, bottom of the barrel place called the Sickinger Hof.
Here’s my take.
The Sickinger Hof won’t please most people. The opposite is much more likely. The hotel is located on the corner of a really noisy intersection, just off a highway, a huge bus terminal and a busy train station in one of Berlin’s most boring neighborhoods. Those are some pretty tough environmental issues to counter, I know. But given the circumstances, one would therefore think that a hotel in that location would at least try do something to offset the less-than-pleasant miljeu.
The drab building where the Sickinger Hof is located is so nondescript, that if you didn’t see the hotel sign above the entrance, you would easily think it was a small storage facility, an old laundromat or maybe a 24hr convenience store in a part of town you don’t want to be caught in after nightfall.
The hotel’s interior decor – from the dark, dreary reception and dining area to the stairway’s flimsy carpets, red drapes and robust pinewood furniture, made it clear to me that the owner of the Sickinger Hof either has a complete lack of taste. or, even worse, zero interest in creating anything resembling an atmosphere that is pleasing to look at – let alone be a guest in.
I had booked a room with a double bed and was therefore disappointed when I opened my door and saw only two twin beds next to each other.To remedy what I hoped was an honest error, I immediately returned to the reception and asked for the room I had reserved online. Surprisingly, the owner actually went ballistic on me – I mean, clearly visually upset for me bringing this up with him. And when I pointed out the details of my booking, he simply admitted that the hotel didn’t have anything but single beds. To be fair, though, he did offer to come up to my room and push the twin beds together – as of that would of instantly solved my little problem. Realizing there wasn’t much I could do about the situation, I schlepped my bag back up to my room, knowing I would survive and possibly live to write about the ordeal.
Though really small (circa 8 sqm), room 16 was reasonably bright but I’d be generous to claim that the ensuite bathroom was anything but comically tiny. You know those little plastic rectangular soaps packed in clear plastic? Well, at the Sickinger Hof you got two them! It’s probably just me, but each time I opened one the packages with my teeth, I inadvertently bit into a soap.
On a more serious note, what turned out to be an inexcusable issue with my room was the unmistakable stench of old nicotine from the walls, drapes and mattresses. The hotel must of had many years of cigarr and cigarette smoking guests in room 16. Or, maybe the owner just hadn’t bothered to clean the walls properly before painting over them. I didn’t bother to complain about this, though. What would be the point, right?
I stayed at the Sickinger Hof for three balmy days in June (2018) and the only way to keep cool after sunset, was to leave the window ajar all night and just deal with the amount of noise from the passing trains, the exhaust fumes coming from the highway below and the reeking walls inside.
The Sickinger Hof’s signature breakfast is extremely basic, even for German standards; two bread rolls, a thermos of coffee, a tall glass of concentrated. sugary orange juice, a plate with industrial sliced cheese and salami, a cold boiled egg and a bowl filled with small packs of jams, butter and honey. Nothing to write home about there, either. The coffee was pretty good, though.
The staff at this hotel were really friendly and helpful. That said, they seemed tired and not particularly happy with their work. Which is understandable. It’s not like the owners seem to have any ambitions whatsoever of improving their hotel. And the likelihood management would hire an external consultant for an analysis and then make suggestions of how to increase the level of hospitality at the Sickinger Hof is, well, highly unlikely.
Honestly, the only thing Sickinger Hof has going for it is the low room rate. There is just no other reason to stay there. No, I don’t regret my three nights. It was certainly interesting to see what €70/night will get you in a cheap Berlin hotel. Now I know.
Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the main train station in the capital of Germany yesterday afternoon before meeting up with friends Doris and Peter – former Västra Hamnen neighbors. I was able to walk around the giant train station and collect footage undisturbed for about two hours. Didn’t even see a single police or security rep and noone seemed particularily bothered by my filming – which wasn’t too surprising, considering I was shooting with an iPhone 7+ and not a RED Monstro.
Apps used: Instagram’s Hyperlapse, Apple’s Timelapse and Slow Motion and Apple Final Cut Pro.
It’s certainly interesting being a Swedish American and writing about the National Day of Sweden while in Berlin, Germany.
Maybe not so much as a kid growing up in the US, but as an adult, I’ve always felt skeptical about celebrating either of my home countries national day. It’s just so absurdly self-congratulatory, unreflective and fake.
Being proud about being born in Sweden or any other country is just silly and fuels more of the tribalism, nationalism and intolerance that’s sweeping across our planet these days.
Being proud means, at least to me, that you’ve achieved something significant or strived to reach a personal goal and succeeded. Like being a good role model for your children and seeing them grow up to become good people.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel genuinely fortunate to have lived most of my life in Sweden and it’s certainly a beautiful country with many wonderful traditions.
But I’m not proud about being a Swedish citizen. Because, inevitably, patriotism leads to people becoming seduced by the hype of their own superiority and often end up electing bigots and dictators. Look at Hungary, Polen, Turkey, the US and soon maybe even Sweden if the forthcoming election polls are an indication of how well the fascist party SD will actually do.
It’s been about five years since I was last back in Berlin and what has arguably been the world’s quintessential cultural capital since at least the 1920s.
Berlin is certainly a melting pot – a relentless, seemingly untamed urban jungle where much of everything happens all at once. An epic center where the high and the low, the new and the old are intertwined in an incredibly fluid, seemingly frictionless, organic symbiosis.
I walked 15k around the Mitte area yesterday afternoon and evening from my hotel to Potsdamer Platz – mostly through residential neighborhoods, parks and along the beautifully sunlit Spree canal. Somewhere during that trek, I met the fellow above whom happily posed for me – without even the slightest utterance about GDPR compliance.
The heatwave continues…thankfully. Shot this one yesterday with a birdseye view of Scaniabadet, a super-popular tanning and swimming area here in Västra Hamnen. I shot it while hovering at approximately 100 meters above the unsuspecting sun worshipers below.
This is a shot I took earlier tonight from above Ribersborg – a nearby park – and I’m calling the photo, “The Nightfly”, hoping Steely Dan and Donald Fagen fans out there will get the namesake. I waited until the very last light (and for folks to have left the park) to fire up the drone and hope it would find a stable moment or two to capture the view at just the right altitude.
I am in awe of how powerful the little sensor is and how the camera and stabilizer work so well together to provide such usable, clean images. So, how stable is the gimbal, you ask? Well, had I shot this with my Leica at 1/8 of a second and ISO 400, not even with that camera’s built-in stabilizer and full-frame sensor would it have been adequate enough to counter the amount of motion blur those settings would of inevitably incurred. Oh, and did I mention how windy it was at the height the photo was shot? Very windy, indeed.
Just back from a new 24hr weekend excursion. This time we travelled about an hour southeast of Copenhagen along Köge Bay where we stayed at a new rural BnB farmhouse, The Norrmans, owned and run by two Swedes, Anna and Lars Norrman.
Calling their place a Bed & Breakfast turned out to be a bit of a misnomer as we were able to enjoy both a sumptuous picnic sandwich for lunch, tasty plant-based BBQ burgers for dinner and a generous tray full of breads, spreads and treats as well as french press coffee for breakfast in the Norrmans’ lush garden. I suppose the BnB epithet is more of a positioning statement, referring to their very reasonable room and dining rates.
While Lars is at the helm of all culinary experiences (including classic cocktails and other well-chosen adult beverages), his wife and partner Anna Norrman has used her professional talent as a a sought after interior designer to thoughtfully decorate all public spaces and each of the partially refurbished farm’s eight guest rooms.
As we arrived a bit early, I had an opportunity to check out a few of the other rooms where color schemes, furnishings and lighting instantly reminded me of a small Riad I was once hired to photograph deep in the ancient medina of Marrakech. Warm, earthy hues and textures, natural, woven materials and a few fun, quirky design details that added both character and coziness to the atmosphere and comfort.
What was once a small Danish farm made up of several adjacent buildings, has over the past six months been tastefully renovated, refurbished and retrofitted to accommodate the farm’s newborn functionality. A couple of the older structures are patiently waiting to be converted – some as guest rooms, others to be made useful for other activities.
I think the Norrman couple have struck a resonating chord with what some guests are looking for today; originality, personality and comfort all neatly and consciously bundled into one thoughtful experience in a relaxing setting.
Folks, this is about as far away from the mostly numbingly boring, big-chain hotel experience you can possibly get in Scandinavia. As soon as I got out of the car, I started to wind down and was soon reminded of what is was like to just kick back for a spell in a comfy lounge chair, chat with other guests and eat all meals outdoors in a vast, green landscape accompanied by the occasional gentle hoot from a nearby owl or moo from a distant cow.
Though Denmark consists of a slew of small and large islands and is perhaps mostly known for popular destinations like, Copenhagen, Legoland, Louisiana, Skagen and the country’s picturesque coastline, two super talented Swedes smitten with tangible enthusiasm now offer visitors world-class hospitality and culinary experiences – right in the middle of a humbling and luxuriantly green Danish farmland. Highly recommend a stay at The Norrmans. More images from this lovely place can be enjoyed if you click here.
From last night at Scaniaplatsen here in Västra Hamnen where dozens of summer clad Tango dancers swung each other around rhythmically accompanied by another gorgeous sunset. We been enjoying outstanding weather for few weeks now and the forecast for the beginning of June looks promising.
While wading hip deep through a tsunami of emails from companies desperately trying to amend their future judicial liabilities to accommodate new requirements covering storage of customers and clients personal information before GDPR goes live today, I’m actually in the final stages of editing four short videos for a client. And this morning, I actually have a gig for a commercial. Not as a director or DP, though. I’ve been hired as an “actor”. As far as I can remember, I haven’t been in front of the camera since my days as a stand-in and extra on the sets of popular televsion shows, Moonlighting, Cagney & Lacey and Hunter. Yes, I’m a little psyched!
Shot this calm sunny side of Västra Hamnen earlier this morning from the bank of a small manmade island called Saltimporten in Malmö harbor. I used this exact spot when I hired a drone pilot for the cover shoot of the book, Västra Hamnen 2014 and I’ve had an urge to return ever since buying my own a while back. It’s a bit tricky to get the right angle to capture the reflections of both the little lighthouse and buildings along the waterfront. The Mavic’s camera gimbal has been a bit finicky recently for some reason, so it takes some fiddeling before I found the sweetspot.
According to the photo’s EXIF data, it was shot at 1/800sec at f2,8 and ISO 106.
For a bit more than 20 years, Charlotte and I have made excursions during the spring to Österlen, the beautiful agricultural region on Sweden’s south-east coast. Spring is the ultimate time of year for visits to Österlen. Most places are open on weekends and the hordes of tourists from Stockholm are thankfully nowhere to be seen.
It’s bit more remote than say, Vejbystrand on the opposite side of the country – and considerably further when driving to and from Malmö. But the extra road time is worth it nonetheless. Especially this time of year when the canola fields are in bloom and the air is clear and skies are blue.
I got a few shots from the ground and even more from above with the drone. Will eventually edit together a few of those clips.
Regardless really of the perspective, I think the yellow rapeseed fields offer a most hypnotic sight. And for the first time ever, I noticed that the flowers give off a really seductively intense fragrance. Almost too intense, for me.
This visit to Österlen, we spent the night at a cute, rural hotel called Karnelunds Krog & Rum in the tiny village of Ginslöv – not far from Brantevik and Skillinge, if you you’re familiar with that neck of the woods..
We enjoyed both excellent food, drink and the kind of personal service that we had heard they provide there. Österlen is often a bit of a hit and miss destination as far as service and food. Roughly 50% of the time we enjoy an awesome experience. The other half is filled with regret for picking the wrong place. Still, the region’s sheer beauty can’t be wronged.
Charlotte and I have over the years imagined ourselves owning and running a small hotel like Karnelunds one day. I doubt it will ever happen, but if it does, I’d like to have the same enthusiasm and positive engagement as our host, Janne did.
Turned out that Janne and I had actually worked at the same hotel in Göteborg, many, many years ago. Me in the bar and he in one of the hotel’s three restaurants. Our paths never crossed back then, at least as far as our memories would allow us to recall. But it was fun reminiscing about the wild n’ crazy 1980s and 90s working in the restaurant and hotel industry.
We ate super tasty, vegetarian, sour dough pizzas at Örum 119 before heading back home to Malmö with thankfully very light traffic most of the way.
I took this shot yesterday afternoon with the Leica Q in macro mode at f8 and 1/500sec near the Baltic Sea.
Longtime friend/creative collaborator and Swedish Sommelier 2017, Erik Schneider and I spent an hour yesterday afternoon in the beautifully bright yellow canola fields outside of Malmö. Shot on the Sony A7III with the 18mm and 85mm. Aerial shots courtesy of the Mavic.
This is from a casual chat I had with our neighborhood’s newest restauranteur, Eduardo Mondolfi of the Italian eatery, V.E.S.P.A. G.R.A.N.D.E.. I feel confident that Eduardo and his team will add both substantial culinary and atmospheric value to Västra Hamnen in a way that either of the previous owners of the restaurant were capable of
Aside from the drone footage somewhere in the midle of the segment, everything else in the intervju was shot on the new Sony A7III using just two prime lenses; a Zeiss 85mm (f1.8) and the Zeiss 18mm (f2.8) and recorded with a lavelier microphone wired to a Zoom H6. All edited in Final Cut Pro X.
Met these creepy dudes on the Seychelles last summer. Not sure if they’re tortoises or turtles. Seem to have missed that class (too) in Biology… I can, however, assure that those I met during our ten day stay were surprisingly curious and relatively harmless. As slow as they were, though, if you got too close to their snappy snout whilst feeding them with some leaves, you might risk losing a finger or two. Lots of pressure but no teeth required.
At some point as a child, I had a few baby turtles in a shoebox. I don’t remember how I got them or whatever happened to them. But I suspect they’d managed to tip the lid of the cardboard box under my bed and climb onto our carpet, venture into the dining room and there attract the attention and killer instinct of our otherwise sleepy house cat, Cesar.
Shot with at 24mm with a Canon 5Ds and the ultimate small zoom, 24-70 f2,8L.
After several gorgeous evenings without much wind, I feel comfortable proclaiming that were now ostensibly in the sunset season. At least here in Sweden, where the sun has been so rare for the past six months and like after most winters, we’d almost given up hope about ever seeing it again. Once again, everything is forgiven. Especially on evenings like tonight’s where those distinct Scandinavian hues show up as an incredible gradient covering the deepest to the lightest of blues.
Shot this with the Canon 5Ds and a Sigma 8-16mm with a 5 second exposure at fstop14 and ISO 100.
The filming process was fairly straightforward and it was a real pleasure working with the retreat’s staff and management. The story concept was to follow Myria, one of the resident yoga instructor’s and a former model from Hamburg, as she enjoyed a day and an evening at Bamboo Yoga Retreat.
As usual, an eclectic range of gear was involved in the shoot – most notably the new Sony A7III and Gopro Hero 6. I opted to not bring the drone to India after reading about hefty fines and even risk of incarceration. So, the initial drone footage was captured by a local fellow with a DJI Spark.
What isn’t immediately apparent in the video is how incredibly hot it was. The monsoon season had arrived a little early and during midday, the temperature nudged 35C. Which is fine if you’re snoozing underneath a parasol. Only late at night did it cool off a bit. I suppose it’s fortunate that the intense heat and humidity in Asia eludes me in between these gigs…
Charlotte has just launched a brand new range of earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings at her shop over at Vackra Smycken (which literally means beautiful jewelry in Swedish). Not that I know much about jewlery, but there are several pieces in Charlotte’s new batch that are just absolutley beautiful works of art. Check out the shop here.
I’ve shot most of the range with the Canon 5Ds in a small, foldable product tent and natural light with longish exposures of up to 2 seconds at f11 with the Canon L prime 35mm.
Shooting jewelry is hard. The photographers that work solely in the genre, probably spend more time tweaking and polishing their images in post production than they do shooting the objects.
Malmö. I shot the scene yesterday through a wireless remote control unit that connected me to the lens of a really, really small camera hovering steadily about 105 meters straight above me.
The live view over Malmö was spectacular and I used up most of the juice in my drone’s battery to compose an image that felt just right. Aside from the gorgeous light and beautiful green spring hues, the photo encapsulates three of my favorite landmarks; Malmö Castle (where Elle and I spent many, many weekends when she was a toddler), the skyscraper Kronprinsen (that arguably has almost boringly simplistic architectural design that would hardly be noteworthy in a city like New York, but is unique here in Malmö and therefor interesting) and the magnificent Öresund Bridge (which thankfully makes leaving from and arriving back to Malmö so much easier). More images from Malmö here.
After years of running with the Nike+ app, I’ve only just recently started keeping track of my walking activity. I suppose it’s the fact that measuring distance and elevation has become so effortless and is so handily available within Apple’s default Health app
Photographing and filming whilst trekking up and down the often steep hills of Lisbon turned out to generate a respectable amount of clicks (km) and consequently, a weekend of healthy cardio vascular focused exercise. Which in turned made enjoying a cold beer or two after each day an almost guilt-free experience.
The Leica Q isn’t exactly lightweight – physically or figuratively speaking – but not lugging around a bulky backpack with a DSLR body and a couple of lenses and a tripod, continues to feel liberating. Especially when I saw so many schlepping around a bunch of heavy gear.
Shot yesterday during a 8k walk around Lisbon.
For Charlotte. one of the main missions with our visit is to visit newly opened hotels to make a first hand assessment of if they live up to the self-proclaimed hype. Of the half dozen we’ve visited so far, both VERRIDE – PALÁCIO SANTA CATARINA and The Independente Suites & Terrace could really back up all the superlatives, and then some.
The stairway above leads to a rooftop terrace with a bar, a pool and a 360 degree view of the Portuguese capital.
I’m starting to appreciate the minimalist approach for how interior designers, decorators and architects are pushing the envelope and redefining the whole industry – starting with how a hotel lobby can look like and function. At least insofar that the approach doesn’t ensue too much confusion and chaos during checkin and checkout.
It’s just over three years since my last visit to Lisbon Portugal. Interestingly, there’s something indefinably pleasant about this city. For a European capital, it’s relatively small with only about a half a million people living within the immediate city limits. Maybe that’s it. Lisbon doesn’t seem dauntingly large or difficult to navigate. It’s walk-able.
I remember from my last visit that Lisbon has a whole lot of charm. Like the cute, narrow red or yellow trams that climb up and down the steep, winding cobblestone streets. And all the beautiful buildings decorated with colorful, patterned tiles that I seem not to be able to get enough photographs of.
After getting installed in the apartment, we walked over to Pois, one of Lisbon’s popular, laid-back, shabby chic café with great ambiance and an almost perfect Greek salad. Only almost perfect? Well, in my book, serving small, tasteless black olives instead of juicy Kalamatas, disqualifies it from being called a Greek salad. However, the feta cheese and sour dough bread were both luscious and succulent.
The sun has been shining off and on since we arrived. It’s warm, but not hot. Perfect weather for a weekend of exploration.
On my way to pick up a package from Amazon earlier tonight, I took the Mavic with me for a short photo flight to see if I could capture the amazing sunset over Denmark. It had rained for most of the day, so when the sun came out, I felt compeelted to get out and see if I couldn’t somehow get a good evening shot to share on my popular Facdbook group, I Love Västra Hamnen. An image that would work for an apt headline like, Peter Madsen and the Drone. But boy, was it a wind blown drone I had to navigate!
I was actually a little freaked out at 110 meters height as the powerful gusts of wind up there were occasionally throwing the little quadcopter across the sky and way off my course. But after self-correcting, I didn’t have much trouble getting a few shots.
The Peter Madsen trial ended today. At least until we know if the appeal goes through to a higher court. I don’t think the prosecution team will be celebrating tonight. Neither will the family and friends of Kim Wall. In a criminal case like this, where the perpetrator of such horrendous crimes has been thoroughly tried and then found guilty on all or at least most accounts, there’s only really cause to appreciate the judicial justification. I was hoping until the very end that Madsen would confess – if for no other reason than to at least attempt to alleviate the pressure from the guilt that must dwell somewhere deep in his conscious. As it turns out, the man’s mind and emotional being is distorted beyond what is measurable.
Today started with a cold, windy rain. It ended, thankfully, with a beautiful sunset over Copenhagen. I couldn’t help but see the poetic symbolism of the sun over Denmark forcing the dark, surrounding clouds to recede and make way for the light.