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Poker Seat

The beauty about photography, at least when you are an “omnivore” like me, is that you constantly feel compelled/intrigued/absorbed in to trying to figure out the most interesting way to capture a particular subject – regardless of whether or not it’s animated or a still life.

I am invariably sweeping through my environment, using my eyes to frame or shape compositions of whatever it is I am looking at. I do this in real-time, but more or less subconsciously. For example, whenever I enter a room, or, stand in front of a building, without even thinking about it, I instantly move to an angle that just feels right.

For the last several years, Charlotte and I compete for what I call the “poker seat” when we visit restaurants or a café. As soon as we get in, we both immediately locate the best seat in the house. Though I’m a bit more anal about this than Charlotte, the best seat is always the one that provides us with the widest possible angle or overview of where we’re at.

Ultimately, I prefer to sit with my back against a wall, hence the poker reference. Because from there, nobody can peek at your hand (of cards). Also, if Charlotte gets to the prime seat first, which happens about 50% of the time in say, a diner on Manhattan or somewhere else in New York City, I might end up having to deal with a lot of commotion going on behind me. You know, folks literally talking behind my back, moving around and lots of noise that I can’t fully identify what it is until I turn around 180 degrees to look. Which can sometimes be a total deal-breaker for me.

Which is why I absolutely love diners and restaurants that have booths. Proper booths offer seclusion and intimacy and are usually quite cozy. I doubt it will ever happen, but should I decide to open a restaurant or café someday, you can bet on the layout of the dining area complying with my feelings on this touchy subject. Might even call the place “Poker Seat”…

The shot above is from Union Square Park during an assignment in New York where I was sent to produce a video installation for Kitchen & Table at Clarion Hotel Malmö Live. The video was to be themed on…yup, you guessed it, the Big Apple. It was one of four trips to NYC that year. Will be heading back to NYC for an assignment in October.


Ingvar’s Martin

As some of you patient visitors may have noticed, I’m currently updating www.raboff.com to include a bit more content than in the site’s previous, somewhat minimalistic incarnation.

Today, I found the above shot of Ingvar and his beloved Aston Martin parked on Scaniaplatsen in Västra Hamnen, Malmö. According to what I recall Ingvar telling me during the shoot, he was thinking of selling the Aston Martin and buying the same model Ferrari as the king of Sweden owns. Or, maybe it was the other way around.

Though the basic pose and car were shot as is, much of the image has been altered in order to add some drama and “pazaz”. Somewhere I know I also have a considerably less exciting car/owner in almost the exact same pose. Obviously, choosing between the two was a cinch.


Coffee

I didn’t start drinking coffee regularly until I was about 25. There’s a likelihood that the habit began around the time when the infamous “Galliano Hotshot” swept the planet’s bars and restaurants. Up until then, I didn’t think coffee was much more than a bitter beverage for grownups.

Swedes are one of the leading coffee consumers in the world and today, there are more cafés and more kinds of coffee than ever before. Last year, I paid a visit to my old friends Katti and Budha’s Kaffe och Rosteri – a gorgeous café waaaaay up north in Lycksele where coffee is the drink du jour. Budha is undisputably one of the country’s formost roasting experts and has a plethora of knowledge on how to uncover and enjoy all the aromas and tastes available – if you’re sincere and serious about roasting, brewing and serving coffee. Short video from the cafe can be viewed here.

Several years ago, I visited a coffee plantation in Antigua, Guatemala called Filadelfia which is now a full-fledged coffee resort. The beans above, however, are from a shoot I had yesterday afternoon right here in Malmö.


The French

Back from France. A country I’ve visited twice already this year and enjoy returning to whenever possible. Over the years, I think I’ve been to France around 20 times. Mostly to Paris, the Alps, Nice and Provence. Yeah, I really do dig the French.

Outside of Paris, the French really embrace traditions with an intense passion.

Some of the age-old tradtions and cultural antics we experienced seem so unnecessarily impractical – at least to a foreigner. Like why even low-end tourist restaurants stop serving food in the afternoon. Why many shops and cafés still don’t take credit cards and why so many find driving so ridiculously fast on narrow, single lane country roads the most reasonable way to get from a to b.

But there is so much I absolutely adore about the French. Including the language, the often amazing dining experiences (sans Foie gras) and the wonderfully regulated table etiquette (sans smoking). But also how the French invest so heavily in conversation – never shying away from sharing intellectual, albeit often controversial thoughts and opinions about everything and anything. I love that the French love to talk (in French, of course).

Since I haven’t improved much on my basic French since High School, my personal language barrier is sadly still in place. However, the French are much better today at speaking English than they were when I visited during my first Eurail Pass Tour back in the summer of ’83. Much better, even.

Though still often a bit arrogant and operatically dramatic in gestures and facial expressions, I’d argue that in general, that Frenchmen working in the hotel and restaurant industries have made noticeable strides with their attitude and behavior – even if you don’t speak their tongue. Much more so than Gemans outside of Berlin. Last I visited Leipzig, I remember it being really hard to communicate with the locals. Where the French get dramatic, the Germans tend to shy away. Or, in some bizarr situations that I’ve expereinced in Germany, folks just keep on chatting with you in German, as if you were joking about, nicht sprechen sie Deutsch.

In France, the age old rule still applies, though. You know, that if you just try to word a few things in French, the uneasiness wanes and you instantly go from being a foe to a bro. Especially among young folks in bigger cities. Not so much in the Languedoc region, where we just spent five days. Even young folks working in tourism there didn’t seem to speak or understand much English. Probably because the vast majority of their customers are French – hence little need to be able to parley (or, practice) Anglais.

Not saying it’s the only reason for the lack of interest in speaking another language, but the fact that French television (state run and private) have for eons dubbed foreign films and shows in French, has literally deprived the country of at least becoming somewhat familiar with a different way to communicate than just in langue française.

On the other hand, France is such a large, all-encompassing country, geographically speaking, that if you’re French and don’t feel the need to travel abroad for whatever reason, lack of language skills could be one, there’s just about everything you need right at home; alps, gorgeous, palm lined beaches, islands, a multitude of wine districts and a half dozen or so cosmopolitan cities. Which I suppose you could make the argument also applies to the United States and would also serve as an explanation to why so many Americans choose to vacation within the country. That and the fact that only 36% of Americans actually have a passport…

Anyway, the few villages we visited during our short stay in Languedoc were charmingly old and astonishingly beautiful – and most locals we met were genuinely friendly – if not always exceptionaally communicable. Last night we ate a couple of kilos of white wine marinated mussels at the main square in the beach community of Carnon Plage (near Montpellier). The service was excellent, the mussels and fries exquisite and when the bill arrived, our dinner was as surprisingly affordable as everywhere else we’d eaten during the trip to southern France. Except for the two poke bowls at The Beach Club along Carnon Plage which we found both underwhelming in taste and way overpriced.

So, what does this all have to do with the sunflowers above? Well, not much. Aside from the fact that they were shot just outside of the ancient Roman city of Arles in Provence in a field that had possibly attracted a certain Vincent van Gogh – a few years earlier.


20th Wedding Anniversary

Today, while working in southern France, Charlotte and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

We were married on this very day in 1998 at Brunnby Church, near Mölle-by-the-Sea, in southern Sweden. Charlotte’s family’s priest, Ola Stålnacke, performed the ceremony and there were around 100 invited guests at the church and wedding dinner which we hosted at a nearby Faulty Towers kind of hotell called, Turisthotellet.

I clearly remember the many heartfelt speeches, that the food was bland and how the after dinner music was awful (due to the crappy dj I’d hired). Yet for many, many years, several of our guests would mention to us how much fun they’d had and that our wedding dinner was what they used to benchmark and compare other weddings with. I’m obviously biased, but I can’t remember a wedding that has even comes close to that very special day on August 15, 1998.

Last night, we celebrated our anniversary with a late-ish dinner at one of Neffies’ most popular restaurants, Bistrot L’escampette where we enjoyed a tasty three course meal together with local patrons.

It was romantic insofar that we spent most of the dinner reminiscing about how we first met, our first few months together and how fast time has passed since. We agreed that the vast majority of our two decades together have been really fun and adventurous.

Like for any couple that have lasted as long as we have, there have been a few arguments and disagreements. But they pale when compared to the amount of times we’ve laughed hysterically together, revelled in our successes and rejoiced at how wonderful a life we’ve managed to carve out for ourselves. Of all of our accomplishments, we’re of course proudest of our soon 18 year old daughter Elle. Hope she’s as lucky as we have been and will one day meet her soulmate.


La Belle Vue – Neffiès

This beautiful old gate is on the same street as where Charlotte and I are staying right now, at Yvonne and Micke’s BnB, La Belle Vue in Neffiès – a small village in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southern France. We’re about an hour from Montpellier and three and some change from Barcelona.

I’ve been to Provence plenty of times and love that part of the country. Especially towns with Roman ruins, like Arles.

Neffiès, which belongs to the arrondissement Béziers, is tiny and quieter than any place I’ve ever been to in France. And as I understand it, it’s just one of hundreds of similarly small villages – scattered throughout the region – and that are around 1000 years old. Lots of patina to be enjoyed here, for sure.

Today, after a sumptuous breakfast on the patio, we spent a few hours discovering a slice of the coast called Sérignan Plage after which we headed to Pézenas for lunch. While there, we checked out the town’s biggest draw; antiques. Someone told me today during breakfast that on the main antique drag, there are no less than 54 shops selling vintage stuff.


The Patio

The backyard patio at 10 pm last night – which at 25 C was likely the warmest summer night in Malmö in many, many years. The condo’s garden is huge whereas our little oasis is enclosed and cozy. In the eight years we’ve lived on Sundspromenaden, 2018 is easily the summer when we ate most meals (95%) on the patio.

Though the heatwave has (thankfully) subsided, according to the most recent meteorological forecast I’ve seen, we will still get to enjoy another week or so of comfortably warm weather. Which means Charlotte and I can continue our ritualistic morning swim – even after our 20th wedding anniversary trip next week.

Shot this with a Zeiss 18mm lens mounted on the Sony A7III secured on a Gitzo Mountaineer tripod mounted with a Arcatech Nomad ballhead. Settings: 10s, f8, ISO 100


Under the Öresund Bridge

For the past few summers, Charlotte and I have ventured of the reservation (Västra Hamnen) and biked past the camping area Sibarp, under the Öresund Bridge and a few klicks beyond.

My agenda is clear and always the same; try to synchronize the visit with evening light so that I can get a few usable shots of the magnificent bridge. As this is a “no-fly-zone” I couldn’t use the drone for yesterday’s visit. Instead, we rode a bit further south and ended up in a rural pasture near Bunkeflo Strand. It was beautiful, but a bit too far. Heading back homewards, we stopped under the bridge and I finally got my fix of the bridge that connects Sweden with Denmark.

More bridge images here.


Worachak

Ah…Worachak, one of my favorite places to shoot in all of Asia. Never get tired of the diesel and brake oil fumes that hover over this Bangkok neighborhood. Not sure what’s going to happen to it when Chinatown once expands southward. Which I suppose is why I feel so inclined to shoot and film there. A sense of urgency.

View the current collection of images from the area here.


How to take drone photos

I often get the question, isn’t hard to fly a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles), let alone take drone photos that are commercially and artistically viable? Whether you like it or not, drone photography is here to stay. I’ve unmistakably embraced this enabling technology and saw the creative opportunities as soon as it appeared on my horizon.

My first drone shot was taken probably about 10 years ago when I hired a fella here in Malmö (whom had built his own drone) to fly roughly at the same height as Turning Torso. I’ve since taken several images – via drones – that have eventually been used as covers for my book series about Västra Hamnen and delivered countless photos and videos to clients.

The real trick to really good drone photos isn’t always to climb up as high as possible. That kind of shot is an instant give-away, if you ask me. You look at it and go, well, that’s obviously an aerial shot, big deal. I my opinion, the key to a really good drone capture is the sweet spot when it’s almost impossible to discern how a particular perspective was achieved. A uniuque view that’s somewhere in-between what could be shot from the ground but is just a little too high. In addition to the subject matter, the composition and color array, I also want the viewer to appreciate the angle – and in the case with the above image, some might even think it was taken from a treetop.


Vejbystrands Hamnen

Since we got here, I’ve  focused a good many hours on shooting for the forthcoming Vejbystrand book and today was no exception.

The afternoon light was just absolutely beautiful, possibly thanks to the cleaner atmosphere which I think came after last night’s well-needed rainfall. Aside from the aerial shots, I’m shooting mostly tight with either the 85mm or super wide with the 18mm. After last year’s hiatus, it feels genuinely good to be back in my favorite village.

One of the best things about Vejbystrand is that almost everyone here says hi when you meet along the meadow, by the beach or on the roads.  That may not be as unique as I think it is, but nonetheless a pleasantry in a typical small-town charming kind of way.


Vejbystrand

The heat is on – even here in Vejbystrand where I’m at right now to add images to my book project. I shot the above view from about 110 meters from where where we had drinks before dinner this evening with the always enjoyable Benestam/Pieplow family.

Lugging around my camera bag in this super-dry, super-hot climate – is taxing, to say the least. But with friends dropping by for lunch or dinner, there’s plenty of time for replenishing and cooling off under a tree or with a swim at the harbor.


Marstrand

Just started updatiing the Travel section here on the site. Eventually, my buddy Yigit will make the design changes to the Video section, too. Above’s the video from the enchanting island of Marstand that I produced for www.airlinestaffrates.com


Öresund Timelapse

Yesterday afternoon while the sun was beaming from a partially clouded sky, I sat for a while on the boardwalk just outside of our condo with a Gopro Hero 6 in timelapse mode (one photo every 10 seconds) placed on a big rock in front of me. I then looped the sequence in Final Cut Pro X with a short transition between each of the copied clips.


Titanic

Back in Malmö again after a few days working in Tylösand. I’ve been to several of Sweden’s most desireable beaches along the coastline and on Gotland. Heck, I’ve even seen a few of the most popular beaches around Sweden’s largest lake, Vänern. Bu the amount of visitors to Tylösand blew me away. It was nothing less than packed.

I captured the above aerial shot earlier today from about 30-40 meters above “Titanic”– a tremendously popular jump-off point among the youngins’. I’ve actually jumped from there once – during a stag party for friend, Erik Schneider, many years ago. Not exactly sure why it’s called Titanic. Perhaps the namesake is from the narrowest part of the triangular viewpoint.


A Milestone

At 30, I was honestly surprised that I was still around to celebrate that milestone. Not that I’d been doing too much crazy shit. No hardcore drugs (if you don’t count a one-off occasion in Forest Hills/Queens/New York back in 1986). There’s was, however, a lot of reckless partying. Way too much. Especially during my DJ and bartender years on the island of Gotland and in Riksgräsen. I was certainly burning the candle at both ends, trying hard to live life in the fast lane – as the Eagles song goes.

My 40th birthday was largely overshadowed by brother Tyko’s passing early that year. It would of been his 51st birthday yesterday. Hard to comprehend that it’s been 15 years since I spoke with him and heard his wonderfully contagious laugh.

After enjoying a sumptuous breakfast in bed served up by Charlotte and Elle, I started my 55th birthday diving head-first into the Öresund Strait, the narrow body of water that separates Sweden and Denmark. I’ve been doing that more or less every day and most evenings throughout this amazing summer. But today if felt extra fitting. There’s no looking back from here on out.


The Öresund Bridge

This is by far my favorite sea-level image of the Öresund Bridge. I shot it a couple years ago during a local excursion with Charlotte during one of those wonderfully warm summer evenings. An humongously enlarged version of this photo can be seen at our local supermarket, ICA MAXI.

During my pre-marriage stag party here in Malmö 20 years ago, a group of friends had arranged for me to sail across the Öresund with two blond sailing instructors to what was then the half-way point of the unfinished bridge.

Here are the architects and engineers for the 7845 meter long Öresund Bridge which was completed in July of 2000 after four years of construction.


Rosengårds Fastigheter

One of my clients, Rosengårds Fastigheter, just recently launched their sparkling new website. I started working with the relatively new company late last fall and we started filming four one minute portraits as soon as the snow (finally) melted away in April. Each video shines a some light on a key area within the company – through the lens of the individual responsible for it.

I’d been to Rosengård a few times before this project, primarily to capture stills of footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s childhood apartment, the soccer pitch, Zlatan Court and the surrounding neighborhood. These photos are now on permanent display in the Zlatan Suite at Clarion Hotel Malmö Live.

Clearly, this project provided me with a much deeper understanding of Rosengård and of how inspiringly eclectic the area is and, of course, insight into some of the socio-economic challenges that lay ahead for the area and the stakeholders that live, work and operate there.

I recently listened to an episode of the excellent podcast Hidden Brain which presented research within ecology and sociology. According to scientists findings, “The Edge Effect” is when eco systems and cultures blend and cross-pollinate, providing a ton of new evolutionary opportunities. No big surprise, perhaps and I saw some of this taking place in real-time whilst filming in Rosengård and it made my heart smile. I still think this is worth keeping in mind today when so much of society is polarized, fragmented and focused on bearing  tribalisms on our sleeves instead of building relationships based on shared commonalities.

In addition to the four aforementioned videos  I’ve also taken most of the company’s press photos and documented each of Rosengårds Fastigheter’s 35 residential buildings.


Marstrand Morning

Last night, I set the alarm for 6:00 a.m. to be able to capture some footage and stills of Marstrand in the early morning light.

The remote control isn’t working right now due to the charging port malfunctioning. I may have forced the micro usb cable in the wrong way.

So I’m controlling the Mavic via the DJI Go app. The on-screen controls are flimsy and somewhat unpredictable – but after a few test runs, navigating the drone actually works just fine and dandy – as long as I only fly it vertically.


Marstrand by Night

My view this evening at about 11:00 p.m. from across the narrow channel that seperates Marstrand from where our hotel is located.


Västra Hamnen

Here’s a collection of mostly aerial (drone) footage from Västra Hamnen that I’ve shot over the last couple of months. We really live in a remarkable neighborhood – especialy when the weather is as spectacular as it has been since April.


FIFA WORLD CUP

From yesterday’s broadcast of the FIFA WORLD CUP quarter final match between Sweden and England at Folkets Park here in Malmö. Not exactly sure how many were there, but somewhere above 10k would be about right. Sad for the loss, glad for the camaraderie atsmosphere at the event.


Copenhagen Poker Run

We had a bunch of “cigarette boats” visit our small little harbor earlier today. Unbeknownst to me, it’s an annual event. I took out the drone for a spin to capture a few of the above sequences. The popular 1980s pastel hued detective show, Miami Vice, obviously came to mind as these monsters eventually pulled out of the harbor and headed slowly out to the Öresund strait.

The equivalent on land must certainly be a dragster, no? On the one hand, it’s hard not to appreciate the sleek aesthetics of either the land or seagoing gas/diesel guzzling vehicle.


Safari @ Masai Mara

So this 60 second video represents some of the highlights from our phenomenal safari in the Masai Mara National Reserve. It was our third safari to date and I sincerely hope there will be plenty more.

It was an abstract, somewhat religious experience to be on the very planes of the African savanna where we all originate from – with an incredible diversity of creatures and humans that have roamed and lived out their lives there for millions of years.


Kronprinsen

From last night: at 87 meters, the high rise to the right is called Kronprinsen (the Crown Prince). It was once Sweden’s tallest building, replaced in 2005 by the 190 meter skyscraper, Turning Torso – the silhouette in the background. To the right is Malmö Live.