While in the Kenyan bush, I spent about an hour in a small Maasai village on the outskirts of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. The village’s warriors wanted to show how high they could jump and one our game drivers felt compelled to join in on the competition.
Tonight we dined with eccentric art collector, Peggy Guggenheim.
Well, at least she was omnipresent throughout the entire meal at the relatively new and for Malmö, certainly novel, movie theatre-bar-bistro, Spegeln.
The documentary, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict was directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland and highlights the most significant chapters of her life.
While most of the story comes from a massive archive of audio interviews, photographs and footage – which had been more or less lost by Peggy’s book biographer, Jacqueline Bograd Weld, for years – the film also includes thoughts and opinions from a few contemporary art critics.
If not quite as revealing as when Peggy Guggenheim herself exposes her extensive sexual escapades, it was definitely surprising to listen to Robert De Niro share with us that both his artist parents had exhibited their art in Guggenheim’s gallery, The Art of This Century on W. 57th St. in Manhattan.
While leaving the movie theater and slowly starting our way back to Västra Hamnen with a beautiful April evening sky above us, I felt enthused and inspired. As one should, after enjoying a good movie in a really classy theatre. Here’s the trailer to Peggy Guggenheim, Art Addict.
Just rented an excellent documentary, The Wrecking Crew, a tribute of sorts to the amazing studio session musicians that recorded – more or less anonymously – hundreds of top chart hits in the 1960s and 1970s for acts like, Elvis, The Beach Boys, Cher, Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkel, Glen Campbell, the Partridge Family, David Cassidy and many, many more.
This gang of LA’s elite, multi-instrumentalists could play almost any style and genre and were considered so disruptive by the established, contemporary studio players, that they were thought to ruin – or wreck – the entire music business – hence the moniker, “The Wrecking Crew”.
The doc was produced by Danny Tedesco – son of who was arguably the leader of The Wrecking Crew, guitar virtuoso, Tommy Tedesco. Among the film’s many gems, were stories told by “The First Lady of Bass”, Carol Kaye.
Carol played bass on thousands of hit singles, chart albums and TV themes including, The Streets of San Francisco,, Mission: Impossible, M*A*S*H, Kojak, Get Smart, Hogan’s Heroes, The Love Boat, McCloud, Mannix, the Cosby Show, Hawaii Five-O, The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, Ironside, Room 222, Bonanza, Wonder Woman and one of my personal favorites as a kid, Alias Smith & Jones.
For anyone seriously interested in pop music history, The Wrecking Crew is a must watch. Rent it from Apple here.
After a genuinely productive week shooting flora and fauna in the vast Maasai Mara National Reserve, I’m now headed back home to Sweden.
My return trip goes via jeep to Governors’ Camp’s private airstrip and their bush plane to Wilson Airport in Nairobi. Then, after 48 hrs back at the Muthaiga Country Club, I’ll climb aboard a Kenyan Airlines Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Schiphol and after a few hours in a crowded lounge, a KLM Boeing 737 will fly me to Kastrup where I’ll get in a taxi, head over the Öresund Bridge and be dropped off on Sundspromenaden in Västra Hamnen.
This is my third African safari and the first using the combo of Canon EOS 5Ds and Canon EF 100-400 mm Mk II which I used of the vast majority of all stills and footage. I also shot a few hundred frames with my trusted Canon EOS 5D Mk III in tandem with Canon EF 24-70 mm Mk I (or Canon EF 135) mm. And though I’d brought a monopod and a Gitzo tripod, 95% of my images and video clips were actually shot handheld. A little shaky at time, but the end results should be just fine with some software stabilizing in FCPX.
Having the right gear and being at the right place at the right are all significant ingredients of the week’s success.
The only “flaw” in my workflow has been the laptop on which these very words are being typed: a gentrified – but still 6 year old Macbook Pro 17”. I think it’s the fourth version I’ve owned and since Apple has discontinued the model, I’ve been having a really hard time abandoning it. The “lunch tray” still performs surprisingly well for its age and mileage – both Photoshop and Lightroom work acceptably well and I can even edit short film projects on it – but I’m definitely lacking the horsepower of a modern MBP.
Like many other photographers, I’m patiently waiting for Apple to update it’s line of pro portables – hopefully sometime this spring. Not holding my breathe, though. Apple has arguably ditched it’s pro users. And as understandable as that is – at least considering the company’s focus on continuing astronomical sales of consumer gadgetry, it’s nonetheless sad to feel neglected. Until a serious refresh arrives, this “ancient” 2010 Macbook Pro will just have to suffice.
Third day at the camp. It’s surprisingly chilly in the morning when we head out for our first game drive at 06:30 a.m. Feels like no more than 15C/59F. But it certainly warms up as soon as the sun gains some height on the horizon. By lunch, it’s burning hot.
For today’s Mara breakfast, Robert parked our jeep in the shade of a lonely acacia tree and spread out the buffet on the hood. For about 30 minutes, we sipped hot Kenyan coffee, ate cheese/tomato sandwiches and cinnamon muffins all the while surrounded by grazing impalas, zebras and a few stray buffalo.
The rest of the day was evenly shared with the usual suspects: an elephant family with two calves, a few hundred mischievous baboons, a female leopard, forty or fifty hippos along the banks of the Mara River, three different lion prides and a group of sunbathing, humongous crocs. Not to forget that the camp’s resident warthogs welcomed us right outside our tent as we returned from the Hippo Bar this evening.
The four days in the Masai Mara have provided me with one of the most spectacular nature experiences of my life. As impressed as I was from the safari in Botswana a few years ago, the wildlife is noticeably more abundant here in Kenya. And I have some 75 gigabytes of footage and stills to prove it.
The nightly rain I mentioned yesterday, fell until about 2 a.m., after which a perfectly out-of-sync orchestra consisting of a wide range of anonymous local nocturnals played a cacophony of sounds – mostly deep growls, mock roars, high-pitched screeches and a few lonely whines – all pretty much right just outside our tent. It took me a while to fall back asleep after all the racket – mostly because I kept trying to figure out who was making what sound. Unreal.
Capturing the cubs above was shear luck. We’d caught the sunset, spent some quality time with a about 700 common zebras, enjoyed breakfast on the hood of the Landrover – among impalas – and then our excellent driver, Robert, heard from a colleague on his cellphone that there was a lion pride not too far from where we were. I’ve shot several gigabytes of stills and footage with more than two dozen cats today – including a young lion couple in serious need of marriage counseling and two utterly disinterested, albeit gorgeous cheetahs.
Tomorrow I’ve asked Robert to focus on tracking leopards and rhinos. He seems confident on finding the former but only carefully optimistic about locating the latter.
Met this huge alpha male cat half way through the very first game drive here in the Masai Mara. Fact is, we got really lucky and saw three out of the Big Five in less than two hours. With any luck, I’ll have an opportunity to photograph the two that remain during tomorrow’s early morning drive, the extremely elusive leopard and rhino.
There’s a thunderstorm over the camp area right now, but still no rain. Apparently, it’s the pre-rainy season which means mostly nightly downfall. The tracks we drove on this afternoon were wet and muddy and the grass on either side of the jeep was spring green, knee high and thick. Perfect for lions and other sneaky predators.
Most of the area surrounding the camp is swampland with patches of forrest and bush. The Mara River which eventually runs into Lake Victoria, meanders ever so gently below the camp’s saloon, aptly named, The Hippo Bar.
Just before dinner tonight, during our gin and tonic at said saloon, a large female hippopotamus climbed up the river bank and stared at us for a few minutes at merely 10 meters distance before coming to her senses and returning to the river. An exhilarating experience, indeed.
Just now, the flood gates opened and the rain is pouring down with fierce intensity on our tent. What a day.
It’s been a staggering seventeen years since my last visit to Kenya. And this is my first time ever experiencing the country’s notoriously intense capital, Nairobi. I took the shot above early this morning about half an hour before traffic congests the city’s busy surface streets and highways. I would of stayed until the sun rose, but my driver insisted that we leave before its ascend or face the consequences of losing at least an hour in traffic on our way back.
We’re staying at the legendary Muthaiga Country Club for a few nights before flying south to the Masai Mara and an equally well-known fixture in the safari sphere, Governors’ Camp. There, for the second time in four years, I’ll be documenting what I’m hoping will be an an extraordinary amount of wildlife, hopefully joining the exclusive club of photographers that have captured images of the “Big Five” during a single game drive.
Well, the vernissage for my Malmhattan show was a huge success – on many levels. The challenges with hanging 17 huge aluminium plates were overcome thanks to Expocom’s and Clarion’s amazing expertise – and with some 100+ invited guests showing up for the event and two of my plates sold during the evening, I am happy as can be.
As much as I thrive on coming up with new ideas and concepts, if nothing comes from them, their really just intellectual exercises. And however stimulating that can be, it’s only after actually developing and then executing an idea that I get some kind of creative affirmation that my original concept was solid.
But what’s really got me excited right now – in the inevitable vacuity of Malmhattan – is all the positive feedback I’ve been receiving about the artistic path I’m now exploring.
It started with a piece called “Calatravaism” about a year ago where I’d blended roughly 30 images of the Turning Torso from various angles and lighting situations into an vastly abstract composition. Since then, and after some anxious dwelling in a creative vortex, Malmhattan has proven, at least to me, that this new abstract visual expression – which I have long yearned for but not felt audacious enough to research seriously – is where I need to be.