Currently in the midst of the picturesque villages along the breathtakingly beautiful Italian Riviera – a stretch of dramatic coastline in the Liguria region called Cinque Terre of western Italy. I’m here for a few days to shoot for a travel thing. Walked along a mostly steep, partially stepped path this morning from the village Monterosso al Mare to Vernazza – pictured above. If this place isn’t on your bucket list, it should be. The gentlemen in the collage were old friends, possibly old fisherman. As I walked by, I just couldn’t refuse asking them if it would be okay to take a group shot. Over the years, I’ve lost touch with most of my old buddies and these dudes reminded me of them.
I’ve been lucky/fortunate/careful – take your pick – when it comes to my camera gear. It’s basically worked like clockwork. My pro gear, that is. The pocket/compact cameras aren’t built to last and either become technically obsolete within a few years, or, just break way beyond repair.
I committed to Canon’s digital pro gear a long time ago with the D30 and over the last 15 years, I’ve only had a single repair. And that happened just last week when focusing reliably with Canon’s formidable workhorse, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, started becoming increasingly unreliable.
Strangely, it was impossible to reproduce the faulty focusing in the studio and it was at only some focus lengths that images tended to look just slightly blurry.
Through my gold membership at CPS (Canon Professional Service) I was provided with an astonishingly expedient repair process and via Kamerateknik here in Malmö, my repaired/renovated/realigned lens could be securely bayoneted back onto the 5Ds again. within a mere week. That’s impressive service, indeed.
The image above from a bunch of gears atop the old clock tower in Vilnius, Lithuania. Shot with the almost pocketable Fuji x100s.
Spending the weekend shooting in Vilnius, Lithuania – the third of the Baltic nations that I’ve visited in the last few years. Hard to compare, but I’ve found folks here to be very friendly and helpful. The width of old town’s architecture alone makes Vilnius worth a visit.
Thanks to my buddy Yigit and his friend Erika and her preferred makeup artist, I was put in touch with Karolina, a young, amazingly talented model with just the right look and level of professionalism I was aiming for.
So, with a great model, Yigit as my enthusiastic assistant, perfect weather (soft, cloudy filtered light) and a brilliant location on a platform with abandoned train tracks below at Vilnius Central Station, today’s first shoot could not have come together in a better fashion.
Nothing screams of spring louder than when every friggin’ dude in the hood with a Bbq starts grilling beef, pork and poultry practically every day of the week.
As much as I’ve enjoyed eating vegetarian cuisine for close to a year now, the smell from the neighborhood’s collective Bar-B-Quers is damn near torturous.
The shot above is from my lunch today at Green – created by yet another superb chef with impressive consistency, Johan Andersson. As good as it was to munch on grilled veggies, pasta, homemade pesto and deep fried tofu today, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I actually deeply long for a thin slice of lightly smoked ham with Dijon, a juicy, charcoal grilled burger decorated with a salty, kosher pickle and drenched in Hellman’s mayo and a side of coleslaw – or, why not just an inch thick, sirloin steak topped with a generous portion of Béarnaise.
Vegetarians dream of sheep. Grilled sheep.
Once the weather turns for the better and the temperature eases into t-shirt weather, which it finally, finally, finally has here Skåne, I half kiddingly joke that all is forgiven. The winter, I mean – which was mild and relatively dry – but lingered unusually long and was nearly unbearably windy.
After a chock full weekend of activities including an art show, an opera premiere and then standing mostly indoors selling a bunch of studio props, furniture and photography gear from within the old studio, it was tremendously invigorating to go for an 11k run early this morning. It’s been a few weeks since my last run – I usually workout at the gym 2-3 times a week with jogging as part of my warmup – yet the run went extremely smooth with a few pauses a long the way – just to capture the gorgeous sunrise over Malmö. Yes, all is forgiven.
Last week, I was hired by one of the world’s leading tire manufacturers for two outdoor, advertorial shoots in southern Sweden. The theme was centered around testimonials from reps of two trucking companies – both heavy users of the brand’s winter tires.
As the assignment took place during late April in Sweden, achieving the right meteorological circumstances wasn’t too much of a problem. In fact, during the course of the day, my assistent Jakob and I had just about every kind of downfall known to man: rain, snow, sleet and hale. Fortunately, there were a few precious dry moments for the required portrait and landscape images.
Finally, the renovation of our gallery and the move to the new studio is complete. There’s still a few minor adjustments and tweaks that need to be made before I’m entirely satisfied.
Since the new studio is a bit smaller, we’re having a studio blowout/garage sale this Saturday and Sunday between 11:00 a.m. and 05:00 p.m. to get rid of all the props and furniture that there just isn’t any room for. Some of which you can see above.
I have unusually mixed feelings about this hotel. The “luxury” in ION Luxury Adventure Hotel, which we stayed at for a couple of nights earlier this month, lays mostly in its stunning location.
It’s the lakeside and surrounding mountains that put this rural hotel on the map and not the nearby and, in at least one direction, visually dominating, geothermal power plant.
Over the years, the ION has been written up in many of the world’s leading travel magazines. The interior design, room decor and architecture have all won prestigeous accolades.
Yet today, unfortunately, I find the hotel’s look and feel to be both a bit tired and not very well kept. The scuffed or completely missing paint on the main entrance door and the sparsely vacuumed corridor carpets, were discernible indicators of how even the most basic maintenance is overlooked and neglected.
My room was small, but nicely fitted with thoughtful albeit somewhat dated furnishings and features (iPhone 3 connector to the bedside speaker). The windows were sparkling clean which provided an unobstructed view of the spectacular landscape.
One thing boggled my mind. Why on earth do the rooms have to be so absurdly small? Especially when at least some guest must plan on heading out into the wilderness for an adventure with appropriate garb and gear. I mean, it’s not like there isn’t any available real estate in the vicinity. And why hasn’t anybody thought of having a few of those beautiful Icelandic horses grazing in a corral nearby? Now that would of been a nice site to look upon.
The hotel’s staff seemed to be mostly freelancers from Reykjavik. While some had clearly been working at the hotel for a while, others gave the impression that they had just arrived and barely knew the routines they’ve been hired to perform.
Service is therefore a bit of a hit and miss experience at ION. In fact, our very first encounter with the front desk was a perfect example of this.
The two women on duty were more interested in finishing their discussion than greeting us with a warm, Icelandic welcome. It was as if we were brashly intruding on their private conversation. Obviously clueless to the fact that our very presence indirectly financed their employement.
On a brighter note…
The food at ION Luxury Adventure Hotel was simply fantastic. For all the reception staffs shortcomings, mixed level of professionalism among those working in the restaurant and in the bar – as well as the hotel’s somewhat failing upkeep – the crew in the kitchen were nothing less than supreme. They knew exactly what they were doing and provided me, during my two dinners and two lunches there, with one scrumptious and aesthetically pleasing dish after another. Particularly the seafood and fish was just superb.
I’ve eaten at several places on Iceland during both my visits. And I’ve got nothing but really good things to say about the country’s culinary offerings. My experiences at ION Luxury Adventure Hotel were no exception. But with so much great food to be enjoyed elsewhere on beautiful Iceland, I don’t feel that the hotel on a whole is worthy its past reputation as a place to visit beyond a dinner reservation.
Almost forgot about this. Saturday, good friends invited us to see the much talked about and rightfully praised musical, Billy Elliot at Malmö Opera.
I’ve not seen many live musicals in Malmö – or, in any other city, for that matter. And though the story line was captivating and ever-so relevant (following your dreams/pursuing your talent), the decor and choreography top-notch, it was the talented and forcefully, über-cohesive cast that blew me away.
Whilst following the plot (scored by Sir Elton John), I couldn’t help but stray into thinking how tight the cast must be now as an ensemble after first prepping and then performing so many live shows together. And that despite all the hundreds – if not thousands – of hours of practicing songs, learning dance routines and memorizing pages upon pages of dialogue – as well as endless repetitions and tweaking sessions, before and in between show dates, the cast must surely still have tremendous fun.
Now, I love what I do for a living – make no mistake. But I can’t help but fantasize, if only just a little, at what it would be like to be part of a troupe like the talented artists performing Billy Elliot. Here’s a link to Malmö Opera’s website – in case you want to see the aforementioned show, which I can wholeheartedly recommend.
The shoulder season. The hotel and tourism industry use that term a lot. Not exactly sure what it means – but I seem to remember it referring to a period in between low and high season.
We’re currently in a meteorological predicament – a shoulder season in between winter and spring. No big surprise – this is after all Scandinavia, where weather is notoriously unpredictable any time of year. It snowed yesterday in Lund.
On a brighter note, for the last several days, we’ve been blessed with troves of beautifully formatted, low flying cumulus clouds – the surrealistic kind you’ll see off the coast in South East Asia or as a masterfully painted backdrop in an old film like “Gone with the Wind”.
The above shot was taken yesterday evening right in front of our living room – just moments before the sunset far beyond what looked like a torrentially drenched Copenhagen.