Malmö

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.

measuring distnace

Measuring Distance

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.

Lisabon hotel lobby

Stairway to Heaven

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.

lisbon, portugal

Back in Lisbon

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.

Peter Madsen and the Drone

Peter Madsen and the Drone

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.


Intro for Yogi Jenn Russell

Here’s an intro for yogi Jenn Russell who is one of Bamboo Yoga Retreat’s resident yoga and meditation teachers. She’s not only an inspiring instructor, Jenn’s also a successful businesswoman whom designs and produces retreats all over the world.

The above intro for Jenn’s forthcoming YouTube channel was shot with the Sony A7III one late afternoon on Agonda Beach in South Goa – only a day or so before she was to fly off to yet another one of her popular retreats – somewhere on the Indonesian island of Bali. Check out her elaborate website here.

Executive Class

Air India Executive Class

Back in Malmö again after a rare ride in Air India’s Executive Class on a 787 Boeing Dreamliner from New Delhi. What I think most folks don’t know about traveling in business is the slew of perks that precede the comfy flight itself.

Once I’d paid for the upgrade at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, (at a reasonable cost of $550), I was Fast Tracked through Passport and Immigration Control and then sailed through Security without the slightest hitch. Because I have so much camera equipment in my carryon, I’m usually the guy that gets pulled over and has every pocket, zipper and pouch checked down to the last seam. Not so this time. The abundantly decorated uniformed security dude sitting at the monitor didn’t even look twice as my Think Tank roller passed through the x-ray machine on the conveyer belt. Considring the world’s current political situation, I was kinda disappointed that my bags (and others) weren’t more thoroughly checked. That said, I don’t know much about airport security and just hope one day, it’ll once again become a smoother process.

Through the hoops with flying colors 

Once I’d jumped through the aforementioned tedious hoops, it was upwards and onwards towards the Premium Lounge where an abundance of snacks, sumptuous Indian dishes and a plethora of aptly chilled adult beverages awaited.

As boarding time neared, I headed to the gate at the far end the terminal. Half way there, I flagged down one of those white electric cars that whisk about most large airports and enjoyed a comfortable ride to the aircraft.

While the hundred or so economy passengers stood patiently (and anxiously) in line to begin their journey to Copenhagen, I was gently ushered through the gate and onto the plane where two smiling and colorfully dressed fight attendants greeted and guided me to my plush Executive Class armchair. Oh, by the way, if you haven’t already deducted as much, Executive Class is Air India’s Business Class.

Old 747 vs New 787

I once flew in Executive Class on a Brittish Airlines 747 flight from Heathrow to San Diego and remember how wonderful it was to be able to adjust my chair to an almost 75% reclining position. Well, on this relatively new Boeing Dreamliner, the seat could not only be fully stretched out to accommodate my entire length (178cm), in an upright position, I also had the option of turning it into a massage chair!

I’m fascinated – in a nerdy kind of way – by the underlying technology that goes into designing airline seats. Especially those in First and Executive Class.

After take-off, the few of us in the Executive Class cabin were served a choice of meals. Now, most folks consider airplane food to to be just barely editable. For the last five or six years, Charlotte has always pre-ordered vegetarian food and we usually enjoy every high altitude meal served. And Air India’s Executive Class service was definitely one of the best so far.

After dinner, I spent about an hour working on the yoga film and then slept horizontally for about four hours. As we flew over the Öresund Bridge and headed for landing at Kastrup International, I looked around the Executive Class cabin and once again promised myself to never fly coach again.

Banana Street Photography

Bananas & Street Photography

Street photography of my banana dealer at the local market in Chaudi, some twenty minutes or so from Agenda Beach in south Goa. What you don’t see or feel from the picture is the heat. Sauna level heat.

It’s the start of the monsoon season in South East Asia and unlike most westerners visiting India this time of year, the savvy locals dress loosely, keep relatively still and don’t seem to be nearly as discomforted by the humidity.

I remember adopting the same slow-paced mode when we were living on Koh Samui back in 2006. And a few years ago, during our prolonged stay in Bangkok, I would inevitably pace myself whilst moving outdoors. Especially in situations where there was little shade or even worse, no way to escape the scorching sun.

Truth be told, I had to negotiate with the woman above for her to agree to let me take a few street photography portraits. I paid a small premium for the batch of bananas and she posed for me. I tried to get her to smile, but apparently, that was not part of our contract.

This street photography shot was taken with the Zeiss 85mm at f1,8 and ISO 400 using the new Sony a7III. After importing the image to Lightroom Classic, I converted it to black and white using SilverFX and made just a few minor adjustments to brightness and contrast before exporting it to Photoshop CC where a few more tweaks were made. I’m one of those photographers that doesn’t like using higher ISOs. But ISO 400 looks really, really great.

Grandma Agnes’s eyes

Often when I photograph older women and particularly with the above shot, I am reminded of my maternal grandmother, Agnes Andersson, a farmer’s wife and mother of four who lived most of her life on the outskirts of a small city called Trollhättan in Sweden.

Agnes projected so much of her soul through here eyes. And I want to remember her look as being both serious and mild – yet never contemptuous or distrustful.

Like my banana dealer, Agnes’ eyes had seen and recorded a lifetime of happiness, sadness and tragedy. Of her four daughters, Solveig (my mother), Elvy, Lillian and Lillemor, only one remains alive today. At least as far as I know. An adopted son passed away just a couple of months ago.

As I look at the market woman, I wonder what her life has been like. Whats stories would she choose to share with me. What universal wisdoms would she convey – if we could connect and speak in a common tongue.

Street Photography vs Landscapes

I think there’s a level of surmountable anxiety involved in street photography. I thoroughly enjoy the genre, but don’t always feel up to the ineludable invasion of privacy associated with it. A prerequisite for taking “honest” portraits, regardless of where they are shot, is connecting with your subject on some level. There needs to be a mutual agreement that there are – if not objective, than at least honest intentions at hand.

It happens once in a while, but I rarely pay my subjects in any tangible currency. Instead, I either spend a few minutes with them and then, when the time feels right, ask for a short portrait session. Or, in more sporadic situations, where there is limited time to capture a unique yet fleeing moment or situation, I’ll flip on a huge American smile and nod intently their way – as if to coerce them into letting me take just a few quick shots. I’d say both methods work equally well. I’ve been rejected hundreds of times, but only once do I remember feeling a little threatened and being chased away by a woman that misinterpreted my nodding as an agreement of something entirely different.

Interestingly, of all my photographs, the ones of locals in their natural environments provide me with the fastest path to recollecting a particular trip. Using some fuzzy logic, I would then argue that the connections I make with my subjects help create a more vibrant neural path to my personal cloud storage facility – located a few centimeters behind my eyes – then say, a landscape or architectural image.

Map to Chaudi

buffalo

Buffalo of South Goa

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

Sony A7III

Thoughts on Sony A7III

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

Adding the new Sony A7III to my gear box

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Werner, oh Werner!

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

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

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

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