When the leaves fall

Here’s my short film from two of Malmö’s adjacent parks, Kungsparken and Slottsparken. I shot most of it in the beginning of October and the scenes with the two extras, Andrea Pålsson (22 yrs) and Kerstin Holmqvist (82 yrs) about ten days ago.

I really want folks that view my work to interpret it for themselves. I think that’s the only reasonable position one can have as an artist. Any other expectation is bound to disappoint. That said, I still feel I need to contextualize a little (spoiler alert!).

The genesis of the film’s concept was to make a visually compelling connection between the transformation brought on by an unusually vivid and balmy autumn, and a seasonal shift of sorts that we all go through biologically as we age. When the young girl sits down on the bench, closes her eyes, puts on her hat, life fast-forwards and she is transformed to an older version of herself. It’s a cliché how life passes so fast. But true nonetheless.

malmo park fountain

Slow Fluid Progress

Sunday morning. It’s quiet and windless. Which is unusual for this time of year. I wonder if that too can be chalked up to climate change.

There’s a lot of stuff going on right now – most of it behind the scenes. It’s not more than I can handle, but a distinct increase when compared to just three weeks ago when most of my mental capacity was dedicated to yoga, perpetuating a nutritional life and absorbing creativity.

I’m still maintaining more or less the same mindset, but also spending a lot of my awake-time figuring out how to design, structure and consequently launch two new sites: one for my short films and one for my paintings. I’m also transitioning the contents of www.raboff.com to two language specific domains: www.raboffphotography.com and www.fotografraboff.se and letting www.raboff.com become the bulkhead/switchboard for all of the companies online properties. It’s going to take some time, but should be finished by the end of November.

The shot above is from one of last week’s visits to Kungsparken/Slottsparken here in Malmö where this most magnificent fountain resides.


Kata Hot Yoga

Here’s the video from my assignment for Airline Staff Rates on Phuket at Kata Hot Yoga in southwestern Thailand. In what was literally one of the hottest projects I’ve had so far, I was both surprised and grateful that the cameras I used didn’t overheat. On the other hand, I was completely drenched in sweat after just a few minutes in the studio at 40C /40% humidity.

I shot the bulk of the footage with the Sony A7III using three primes; 18mm, 35mm and 85mm. A few of the scenes were captured with a GoPro Hero 6.

Thanks to Goovert at Kata Hot Yoga and gracious instructor Alexandra for  allowing me into their classes.

Kungsparken

Long exposures in the park

I shot this long exposure in the park of the wonderfully lit promenade – which is located along Regementsgatan across the street from Borgarskolan where Elle attends high school – last night at about 7:30 pm. For once it was completely windless in the park – which isn’t very far from the windy shores where we live.

I’d been meaning to return to this particular path before the leaves had withered or blown away, and last night was an optimal occasion for long exposures in the park. Have to mention that I did start the evening with a very juicy and tasty vegetarian burrito over at the Burrito Bar on Fersens väg. Probably the best I’ve ever had anywhere in Sweden. Aside from those I make at home…

Taking landscapes at night reminds me of analogue photography. I guess it’s the waiting for a long exposure to finish and the anticipation of how the photo turns out – which is not too dissimilar to what it was like developing a roll of film in a darkroom. You never knew for sure if you’d gotten all the settings right and if the image you had in your mind’s eye at the time the shutter button was released was what appeared in the tray. There’s more magic involved than during a daytime or studio shoot where instant gratification is, well, instant. My settings were ISO 100. f-stop 22 with an exposure time of 120 seconds.

Last night, I was focused on what is called “Blue Hour”, the hour that follows “Golden Hour” which in turn refers to the sunset hour. Whereas “Golden Hour” provides a warm, soft and flattering light with long shadows, “Blue Hour” is shadowless and colder but offers a gorgeous contrast when juxtaposed against a candescent light source or warm color hues, like fallen autumn leaves.

It’s clearly the case that I have fallen in love with Malmö’s public park with two names; Kungsparken and Slottsparken. It’s small enough to be walkable and offers astonishing variety that includes a moated castle, a couple of restaurants, a botanical garden, canals, beautiful bridges and even a casino. I’ve walked, biked, jogged and even paddled through the park – I was once a member of Malmö’s kayak club, which is also located there.

I spent about two hours photographing last night. It was the perfect distraction from my marathon video editing during the day.

Groove Salad

Groove Salad

Here’s a shot of one of the three salad bowls I made for the family for dinner last night. I call this particular composition, Groove Salad – which is the namesake of my long-running, favorite Internet Radio Station. I’ve eating raw vegetables as far back as I can remember and it’s just about the only food I recall my mother ever making for my brother and myself. I mean, I’m sure she cooked other stuff, at least once in a while. I just seem to have lost the memories of what the other meals were. What I do recollect, however, is that for the most part, we ate frozen dinners (called, TV Dinners), take-away junk from a local fast-food restaurant or, just a very simple salad – but nothing as elaborate as the one pictured above. If I feel pretty sure that if I hadn’t eaten at school, I think my body might of suffered from nutrition deficiency. Not that any of the schools I went to served great food. Just better than most of what we ate at home.

It might sound like I’m touting my own horn here, but I’ve always make an effort to prepare healthy and tasty food for the family. I don’t understand parents that buy, nuke and then serve prefab dinners to their families. I get that frozen meals are relatively cheap and represent a time-saver. But look close enough at what they really contain, and it’s plain to see how little nourishment is provided inside. Which essentially makes them more expensive than what the attractive price-tag suggests. It’s a Ponzi scheme orchestrated by the food industry. You buy a prefab dinner with the hope it provides sustenance. But what you get is crappy, over-processed, texturizing ingredients that taste better than they should – thanks to being doused with sugar, salt and a slew of chemically fueled enhancers.

Here’s the what went into yesterday’s salad: chopped cabbage, sliced carrots, diced tomatoes, finely cut rruccola, sliced leek, oven-baked sweet potato and asparagus, sweet corn, roasted sunflower seeds and black sesame seeds. I topped our salad bowls with a thick, feta cheese and avocado dressing.

More images of (less healthy but great tasting food) can be ingested here.
Listen to Groove Salad here.
How to edit video

How to Edit Video

Just thought of the old adage, “there’s no great writing, only great editing”. I’d argue that proverb applies to any creative process. As long as the material you’re editing is editable, that is. Shit in, shit out, so to speak. You can certainly package junk nicely and give the illusion that it contains something worthwhile. Like the Eurovision Song Contest which is absolutely beautifully produced, but is still shite.

I can totally dig that a lot of folks appreciate spectacles like the ESC. They’re packaged as premium quality goods, but the entertainment value is not based on the tremendous amount of talent on display. It’s the spectacle, the party and the world-class production quality that provides the illusive nature of big-ass, television extravaganzas. It’s so huge and popular, it just has to be good, right? Whenever I get a glimpse of so-called talent shows, what keeps me watching is the real-time editing that’s going on behind the scenes. Now that’s where the real talent is; behind the console in the control room and everyone running the show. I can watch a few minutes, just to learn more about how to edit video.

I’m currently editing video footage from my 10 day yoga challenge at Kata Hot Yoga. By noon tomorrow, I should have a rough edit of the final short film with material from a couple of the classes I captured. For documentary projects like this, I work organically and just try to go with the flow, gathering as much footage as I possibly can during whatever time I’ve been allocated for filming.

Editing video is much like writing or painting. You start with a clean slate and slowly create something from nothing. Choosing which video clips to use, picking the right words to express yourself with or selecting colors to use on a canvas, are all part of the same creative undertaking. These initial choices just have to be made. But you know from the get-go that you’ll be changing them, one way or another – once you’re in the editing process. And you have to give it some time to settle and simmer. Then go back and tweak it some more.

I see editing as a reductive phase. Similar to when reducing a sauce or cooking a broth. The objective is to cut the fat, get lean and focus on the essential. Tell the story in the shortest possible way. Respect the viewer’s time.

Cilantro Burritos

Cilantro Burritos on my mind

Not always, but often enough, it takes time for me to fully appreciate how good something is. I can’t explain it, but evidently, just like most other folks, I have a fear of the unknown, anxiety of the untried and an unwillingness to abandon my comfort zone. I’m fully aware of this and continuously try to overcome all of the above.

The older you get, I wager that it becomes even more important to quite literally force yourself into new experiences. Keeping the mind and intellect agile and fluid will fend off neurological decay and decrepitude.

I recently heard an interview with Adam Cohen, singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s son. I’ve never been a fan of the music, but as of recently, I started appreciating a level of soulfulness in his lyrics. In the interview, which you can listen to hear, Adam Cohen shared his admiration for his father’s strength and determination to continue writing new material, and, unlike many of his contemporaries, not just regurgitate his greatest hits.

Jokingly, I like to compare the enjoyment of sex with the taste of cilantro or coriander. Both are a little weird at first, but can eventually become an acquired taste – once you figure out the compatibility equation.

I made vegan burritos for dinner yesterday and served them with a deep bowl brimming with homemade salsa verde. The tidy bush of fresh cilantro, like the one above used for my salsa, wouldn’t have been part of anything I would cook when I was younger. Before I got a penchant for the herb, I thought coriander tasted and smelled strange – like a soap. But after a few really good cilantro laden dinners in Cancun and my native southern Cal

Not always, but often enough, it takes time for me to fully appreciate how good something is. I can’t explain it, but evidently, just like most other folks, I have a fear of the unknown, anxiety of the untried and an unwillingness to abandon my comfort zone. I’m fully aware of this and continuously try to overcome all of the above.

The older you get, I wager that it becomes even more important to quite literally force yourself into new experiences. Keeping the mind and intellect agile and fluid will fend off neurological decay and decrepitude.

I recently heard an interview with Adam Cohen, singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen’s son. I’ve never been a fan of the music, but as of recently, I started appreciating a level of soulfulness in his lyrics. In the interview, which you can listen to hear, Adam Cohen shared his admiration for his father’s strength and determination to continue writing new material, and, unlike many of his contemporaries, not just regurgitate his greatest hits.

Jokingly, I like to compare the enjoyment of sex with the taste of cilantro or coriander. Both are a little weird at first, but can eventually become an acquired taste – once you figure out the compatibility equation.

I made vegan burritos for dinner yesterday and served them with a deep bowl brimming with homemade salsa verde. The tidy bush of fresh cilantro, like the one above used for my salsa, wouldn’t have been part of anything I would cook when I was younger. Before I got a penchant for the herb, I thought coriander tasted and smelled strange – like a soap. But after a few really good cilantro laden dinners in Cancun and my native southern California, something happened and I started to dig how well it went with all kinds of other ingredients. Today, I would have no problem whatsoever muting down a salad bowl full of freshly cut cilantro. 

Read what Wikipedia has to say about Coriander/Cilantro/Chinese Parsley here.

ifornia, something happened and I started to dig how well it went with all kinds of other ingredients. Today, I would have no problem whatsoever muting down a salad bowl full of freshly cut cilantro. 

Read what Wikipedia has to say about Coriander/Cilantro/Chinese Parsley here.

Andra short film

Filming & Badmouthing

This is model Andrea from yesterday’s film project shot at Kungsparken/Slottsparken here in Malmö and themed on autumn and on change. While work is piling up on my desktop, I’d almost be committing high treason if I didn’t take advantage of the breathtaking weather and outstanding color pageant we’re being treated to right now.

Just to get a feel for the light, gear and milieu early yesterday before I started filming, I composed the portrait above (and few others) using my primary lens, the Zeiss 85mm at f2 and a shutter speed of 800.

The rest of the morning’s shoot with Andrea (22) and Kerstin (82) went really well. We wrapped at noon and as soon as I have a little time to start editing the material (captured on the Sony and the Mavic), I’ll publish the autumn themed short film here. So stay tuned!

And now a little note on something that’s been lingering for a while…

I love taking portraits. Both on location and in a studio environment. Over the years, I’ve shot several hundred portraits, and though admittedly, there have been a few duds, everyone bombs once in a while, the vast majority of my clients have been very pleased with my work and returned over and over again. The praise I received for my portraits in last year’s 240-page interview/portrait book about the folks working behind the scenes at Malmö Opera was constantly positive.

I mentioned this only because I have a former client I’ve heard has badmouthed me by claiming I shouldn’t be hired for anything other than photographing buildings and landscapes. That I am terrible at taking portraits. I’m assuming that he’s been saying this because of his discontentment with portraits I’ve taken of him in the past. As experienced as I am and as untrue as such a bold statement is, it’s nonetheless hurtful to hear it. Especially when you hear it second hand – both on a personal level but also the implications of shoveling bullshit like that could have on me professionally. I think the guy’s critique is unfair and unjustified.

Now, I don’t mean to be mean, but this fellow has really bad, but certainly not irreparable, teeth. They’re all over the place and regardless of how he smiles with an open mouth, his choppers just stand out like a cluster of sore thumbs. He’s a tall, athletically built dude with a reasonably good posture and hairdo, but as successful as he is at what he does, the thought of having his teeth fixed/straightened/whitened has apparently never come to mind. I don’t know if it’s because he’s a scrooge or just doesn’t want to acknowledge that his smile would look so much more pleasant if he just invested a few buckaroos to fix them. I’m surprised that no one close to him has suggested, or, at least hinted, that he should perhaps talk to a dentist about this.

Just to be perfectly clear, I’m not saying that fixing the guy’s teeth would instantly improve him photogenically. But I don’t think his self-confidence would suffer from such a procedure. And I think it’s just that, his insecurity, that makes him such a difficult client to please. And more importantly, at least from my point of view as a photographer, a little dental work would make the life of anybody shooting him a helluva lot easier.

Hot Yoga

Not so Hot Yoga

Woke up at 05:00 am again this morning, right before my alarm’s snooze reminder set in. Slept well and felt refreshed as I went through a 75 minute yoga session in our home office. I’d rolled out the yoga matt last night to help remind me (and motivate). Starting the morning in an energizing way usually makes all the difference to how I mentally tackle the bombardment of the day’s challenges and accomplishments.

This morning I practiced Bikram yoga with two sets of the 26 designated poses and integrated a couple of Hatha and Ashtanga positions as well in my usual mixtape fashion. I’d turned the room’s heater up to max, but it was nowhere near as hot or humid as it should be. I might have to invest in a small heater to put the “hot” back into hot yoga.

I’m still in awe of how much better I feel after a yoga session. After so many years of running myself silly outside or on a treadmill at the gym and lifting/pulling/pushing weights. I might not be building much muscle mass with my not-so-hot-yoga session – but the benefits are certainly paying off by flushing lubricating fluids throughout my ligaments and joints. For me, right now, anyway, it’s all about reducing stiffness and allowing me to feel flexible and agile.I took the image above at Kata Hot Yoga in Phuket a few weeks ago.

venice beach

Blackkklansman

About a year ago, on the parking lot where Washington Boulevard ends and the Venice Beach pier begins, at the most western point of Los Angeles county, I happened to walk pass the film director Spike Lee. As our eyes connected for a second or two, I heard myself say reflexively, “Love your work, man”. Mr Lee acknowledged me with a nod, smiled and said, “Thank you, man”. Visit L.A. often enough, and you’re bound to brush against famousfolks in the film industry from time to time.

I continued walking across the lot with the surfboard under my arm towards the north side of the pier where steady sets of crystal clear, four foot waves were beckoning. By the time the cold Pacific Ocean had reached the wetsuit’s waistline, thoughts of my brief encounter with one of the world’s most respected directors, had been replaced with anticipation of the curling waves in front of me. Fact is, I hadn’t thought much of the short episode until yesterday evening when a friend and I saw Spike Lee’s latest film, BlacKkKlansman.

The movie’s plot centers on Ron Stallworth,(played by Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington) the first African-American police detective in Colorado Springs, who came up with a genius way of going undercover to investigate a local Ku Klux Klan chapter. The movie takes place in the late 1970s and is based on Ron Stallworth’s experiences written in his memoir, Black
Klansman.

I thought the movie was really good. It was funny and suspenseful and had a brilliant cast. It’s a Hollywood studio film, but one with more sensibility than I’ve seen in many, many years. Some might find the depiction of the klansman as clichéd, but from my limited experience of talking to folks that have bought into contemporary conservative rhetoric, it’s now really just a fine line that separates the two.

Slowly paving the way for discriminatory values to become acceptable opinions was the film’s most important message.

The epilogue, with scenes from the Charlottesville demonstrations and murder of 32 year oldHeather Heyer by neo-nazi James A. Fields, left the entire theater completely silent. I’ve never experienced that before and I think it was a bold idea by Mr Lee. It sadly reminded us that though progress has been made, there is no doubt that racism in the US is still rampant. And I’d have to be mentally impaired to not see how the current president is directly and indirectly fueling a fire that should of been extinguished long ago.

The photo above is fitting insofar that it was shot right outside of Venice Beach police station one early morning a few years ago as I was heading to or from Breakwater, one of the most popular surf spots between Santa Monica and Vencie piers.