Thought I’d post a more comprehensive collection of the guides, articles and travel tips we’ve been engaged to produce for the last eight or ten years. It’s been a ton of fun traveling around the world and experiencing a wide range of countries and cultures. Today, there’s way too much competition for these kinds of gigs and you have to be pretty nifty-thrifty to make them work financially.
Print media continues to undergo a seemingly endless metamorphosis, editorially and financially. Digital only editions and paywalls have become commonplace and so-called, “Native Advertising” is the latest way to blur the line between what a journalist writes and a copywriter hammers out in attempt to lure unsuspecting readers into thinking an advertorial is actually an article. Of course, the travel press has more or less always been a bit conflicted – journalistically speaking, I mean. Curious to see how our daughter Elle will be ingesting editorial content when she is 25, in about ten years time. I have doubts there will be a lot of printed newspapers around by then. Some, sure, but not nearly as many as today. I do, however, envision even more niche magazines than today. That segment seems almost insatiable.
Don’t remember for whom I shot this, but it was created in the old studio using a 100 mm macro lens by Canon at f29 and 1/40th of a second. I’m using it to illustrate a recent, formidable restaurant experience in Malmö. Not only did the food taste great, the way we were greeted and served made us feel like we were loyal patrons – which is extremely unusual in this town where genuinely, personable service is sometimes an unsuspected bonus but more often a misnomer.
As a long-time enthusiast of Japanese food, at least the seafood and vegetarian dishes, it’s not ever really been possible to eat world-class sushi in Malmö. The kind of food you enjoy at one of Nobu’s restaurants or even at the simplest eatery in Tokyo.
There are plenty of pseudo Japanese takeaway joints here, sure. And over the years, a few of them have admittedly sufficed to satisfy our cravings.
But honestly, from my experience, the vast majority of Malmö’s sushi restaurants don’t really care or have very limited knowledge about what they serve. Therefore, creating a visually and culinarily pleasing experience even remotely close to what we were treated to at Saikō, is literally unattainable. Oh, did I mention the owner won the World Sushi Cup 2013 and was favorably judged by Jiro, the master sushiosopher of “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“?
Yesterday, Charlotte and I saw the musician and visual artist, Laurie Andersson’s latest film, “Heart of a Dog”.
In a way this is a tribute to her late dog, Lolabelle. But even if you’re not a dog lover, this is still a relevant film about relationships and how we deal with them when new perspectives arise. If you are a dog lover, you will truly enjoy her film.
“Heart of a Dog” is certainly an art movie without a traditional plot or storyline. Yet you still leave the theater feeling completely content and enthused. Laurie’s amazing voice and her thoughtful narrative, beautiful music and visual abstractions conjure some really interesting and provocative thoughts – ranging from post 911 America to the ultimate question, are dogs actually capable of creating listenable Christmas music?
Perhaps I’m injecting stuff that’s going on in my own life right now, but I made quite a few interesting tie-ins with Laurie Andersson’s thoughts.
Laurie Andersson’s life partner, the late Lou Reed, is present only with a song during the film’s final credits. Which made me wonder if it was either too painful for her to include both of her now passed companion Lolabelle and Lou Reed in the same film or if we can expect yet another tribute in the future.
Inevitably, I will own a Leica. It’s a process – mostly of identifying the tools that fit your creative needs and abilities and then accepting that everything else is, for lack of a better word, excessive.
It’s a cliché, but less is usually more. That’s no small statement coming from an American.
I’ve never shot with a Leica. Not a single frame. In fact, I don’t think one has ever been in my hands. Not even a consumer camera which the legendary German optics company co-produces with Panasonic.
A few years ago, I visited a Leica showroom in Bangkok and was really impressed by how beautiful the store’s design was. Let’s face it, retail space is usually a less than pleasant experience, regardless of what part of the world you’re at.
The amount of thoughtfulness that had gone into the showroom’s layout, choice of materials and how the cameras were displayed – each carefully placed in a square, wooden shelf and perfectly lit above by a small, aptly positioned, recessed spotlight – was, well, seductive. Just like at an Apple store, there was an irresistible level of visual draw . I just had to walk in and soak up the aesthetic experience.
As strange as it may seem today – as I’ve never used one – sooner or later, I still know I’ll feel extremely liberated when the only camera I bring to an assignment or on a trip is a Leica. And because of that iconic red dot on the camera’s front side, perhaps the client would still feel reasonably relaxed about my ability to reliably deliver the goods.
I can see a Q being my first Leica and the initial step along this inevitable path.
My images from one of last year’s (2015) huge photo projects has just been published. Kockum Fritid – an all-encompassing sports facility not far from where my studio is and near our condo – just launched their new website. I shot roughly 90% of the photos and had an inspiring time while documenting the various workout classes and a whole bunch of other sports activities.
Toughest activity to photograph? The hockey players. Partially because of the insane amount of colors in the arena and partially due to the cold temperature and slippery working conditions in which I had to try and track fast-moving players as they flew by me. I ain’t no hockey photographer, for sure. Still feel that I got a few inspiring images of which will be used both on their web site and as part of a slideshow on digital signage displays at the entrance.
Easiest were certainly the assignments when I’d hired dedicated models. like during shoots in the gym, squash hall, badminton and swimming pool.
Visit the new site here:
Take a look at the entire collection here.
I have no pictures for this post. Why? Because I didn’t take any. And more importantly, this about a review just published on TripAdvisor about our unlucky visit to one of Scandinavia’s more reputable restaurants; Copenhagen’s Höst.
Höst needs to hear our complaint and to take action so that other guests don’t fall into the same pitfall.
I’ve been a relatively regular contributor to TripAdvisor for quite a few years now. I feel the site offers folks a reasonably good opportunity to research and shine some light to whether a hotel, restaurant or tourist attraction is worthy their time and money.
You can’t trust everything on TripAdvisor (or, any other similar forum for that matter) and they certainly have their share of scam artists and contributors trying to game the system.
But if you read enough reviews, you’ll soon find that there are a great deal of honest folks spending time writing reviews that are well-meant – even if there not always well-written.
Here’s my review of Höst.
I met this fella near Turtle Cove northwest of Hanalei Beach on Kauai, Hawaii – a day or two before 2015 came to an end.
After an acid induced epiphany about the meaninglessness of working, he’d left all his earthly possessions in the Bay Area (S.F.) and bought a one-way ticket to Hawaii – carrying nothing more than what fit in a small backpack. He’d been living like a vagabond on the island more or less since arriving, back in 1975. A few shy of 75, he told me that in recent years, a monthly social security check afforded him a rented a room near Hanalei Bay and food from a local general store.
Don’t remember if he introduced himself, but after listening to a more or less coherent synoptic version of his life’s story, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of him. Not that I thought of it at the moment, but in retrospect, the old guy reminded me of a character from the classic Python film, Life of Brian.
While rigging a black backdrop in the studio today – for a shoot tomorrow – I stumbled onto the latest release from Prince, “HITnRUN Phase 2“, published last year. Maybe his funkiest album since, “Sign o’ the Times”. Really diggin’ it. At his best, Prince is as gifted a lyricist as he is a virtuous guitarist.
Now and then I’ve been working on new entries to my growing gallery of “Silver Surfers” and yesterday, I finally got around to publishing them on santamonicaimages.com – which I’ve admittedly neglected for quite some time.
I’ve had a web presence since 1999 – using first the jlrmedia.com domain and a few years later, www.raboff.com as my digital homestead and showroom for my work. I hand-coded my first site and produced several versions using Flash and Shockwave (authoring tools produced back then by, Macromedia). In 2006, ten years ago, I started blogging using the flexible WordPress platform.
I mention this to you, dear visitor, only in passing as my new website has already been launched – without much fanfare or ado. When completed, this will be – by a long stretch – the most comprehensive version of www.raboff.com so far. As I don’t participate in the social cesspool of Facebook or any other social media, this will continue to be the go-to place to catch up with my latest work, travels and blog posts.
Slowly going through and choosing which photos to save from over a thousand high resolution images shot during three weeks of traveling. Tedious but satisfying work. It’s a selection process that takes place over a series of days – sometimes weeks.
Basically, I have three criteria to define if a photo survives or is forever cast deep down in the digital abyss.
Firstly, I ask myself if the image emits anything emotionally on an artistic level. Secondly, I think about its historical value – is it a time stamp that represents a significant moment in my life? Lastly, I look at the photo to see if there could be some monetary value, either as a standalone print, part of a collage or as an addition to my micro/macro stock portfolio.
Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned this process so that it usually only takes me a few seconds to filter an image. The shot above? It hit all three of my criteria – sometimes, a blurry subject has just the right focus.
This is one of my last shots from Venice Beach. I took it just a few days ago, after a 3 hour surf session just to the left of these rocks in what is called, Backwater.
Now that I’m back in Scandinavia, it’s ever so gloomy. I seem to consistently negate how important color is to my well-being. After so many years, one would think that I’d be used to this grey and distressful, colorless environment. I don’t think I ever will. Today’s weather is what I’ve for years referred to as “classic DDR” – essentially, when the sky and sea are seamlessly joined and everything looks more or less lifeless. Erich Honecker is surely smiling from wherever Marxists go after they dematerialize.
Sad to hear about David Bowie. He was almost a generation older than me, but I certainly connected with his music during the early 1980s. Saw him live in concert once at Ullevi in Göteborg during the Let’s Dance tour. I think it was 1983.
According to an old NPR interview I listened to this morning, David Bowie enjoyed more of the creative process – writing music, drumming up events, designing alter egos – than he did standing on a stage performing the same songs over and over again. One tends to think of all musicians and performers as being pathologically extroverted and manic about wowing their audience to keep their egos afloat. The interview shone some well-needed light on this convention.
Kastrup – Los Angeles – Hawaii – Los Angeles – San Francisco – Los Angeles – Las Vegas – Los Angeles.
Arrived earlier today at LAX after a short but somewhat bumpy ride on a Southwest Boeing 737 from the neighboring state of Nevada where I partook in meetings at the massive CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas.
I’m not a gambler in the sense that I play poker, Lotto or any other game of chance where the odds are inherently low. But at the airport, mostly to kill some time prior to my flight, I actually sat down, inserted a twenty into one of hundreds of slot machines and on my very last dollar, won $75. Perhaps a sign that during 2016, I may need to roll the dice more often…
I’ve been to the consistently idiosyncratic Las Vegas several times, but never experienced a trade show there. And certainly not one as sprawling or intense as CES. On some anthropological level, it was certainly interesting to experience first hand one of the world’s largest trade shows and all the folks that participate in such a spectacle, i.e. upper echelon executives, sales reps (in various stages of exhaustion), presenters trying to lure visitors into their booths with loud music and young female hosts in hot pants, sparkly skirts and towering high heels.
Stayed once again at Mandalay Bay at the head of the Strip. This time with a nondescript view of the resort’s closed, but nonetheless gigantic pool. If you stay there, make sure to stay high up and ask for windows towards Luxor and the Strip.
Sadly, I did not get a chance to ask someone at the front desk of Cesar’s Palace if it was the real Cesar’s Palace.
It’s soon time to return to the Swedish winter’s meteorological doldrums after many weeks with mostly sunshine, balmy weather and lots of surfing. Charlotte and Elle are home already, hopefully recovering from the horrid trans-continental, multi-timezone induced jetlag and ever so slowly sliding into everyday life.
As per usual, I’ve worked far more than I had anticipated. It’s still so hard to relax and let myself go numb and forget about work. When you enjoy what you do as much as I do, it feels darn close to being a curse.
While Charlotte and Elle were out and about doing whatever they were doing, I retrieved my surfboard from the hotel’s storage room, screwed on the blue fin, waxed the board, slipped on my wetsuit and headed down to the ocean.
It’s hard to explain in a way that does the feeling justice, but after three hours and dozens of 2-3 ft sets, I left beach with a huge grin on my face a few minutes before sunset. I left behind me twenty or so surfers, still hoping to catch a few more waves.
Ironically, the surf in Venice was, if not better, than at least equally good and certainly more consistent to what was served up off the north shore of Kauai in Hawaii.
In the shower back at the hotel, It took me a good ten minutes to peel off my wetsuit. That’s how tired I was. But rest assured, it was a good tired.
I met a German couple among the folks in the water. They were stoked about the whole SoCal surfing experience and were seriously considering a move here. At least during the European winter. I sympathize entirely.
I can’t think of a better way to end the year than in the Pacific. And if I’m not too tired tomorrow morning, I may even start the new year the same way!
Happy New Year!
As per usual during visits to beautiful places, we’ve now fallen madly in love with Kauaʻi. It feels downright sad that we have to leave today. Particularly Hanalei Bay where we spent many hours surfing in the friendly waves. Fortunately for me, we’ll be traveling to one of my all-time favorites; the crusty and salty L.A. neighborhood, Venice Beach. Already looking forward to both surfing in Venice and adding new surf shots to my collection as well as producing what I hope will be a most inspiring video essay on the merits of winter surfing in Southern California for a client.
During our ten days here on Hawaii, I’ve shot many hours of HD footage and several hundred stills from all over the island. And for the first time ever, I’ve been able to successfully backup every clip and image to the cloud, in this case, my Dropbox account. I can’t give the folks at Dropbox enough praise. There are many “free” alternatives, but none that can match the ease of use and reliability that Dropbox provides at a most reasonable fee. It’s really become a ubiquitous part of my workflow.
As an extra precaution whenever I’m afoot, after offloading each card to my computer, uploading the roughly sorted material to Dropbox, I’ll let all the video and RAW files remain undeleted on the SD/CF cards – until I get back to the studio (where everything gets backed up once more to my Backblaze account).
In addition to my primary backup – a five year old 17” Macbook Pro – I’ve also copied everything to a 1TB external HD. After all this, I sleep pretty well at night.
The new Canon EOS 5Ds has performed well. I absolutely love Canon’s new, rather dampened shutter sound, the handy intervolometer (finally!) and the focus tracking feature in the otherwise somewhat featureless film mode. In reality, the Canon 5Ds is basically a Canon EOS 5D Mk III with double the resolution, crammed into a full frame sensor.
As each RAW file is a whopping 50MB large, I’ll probably delegate the 5Ds to studio work and use the forthcoming 5D Mk IV (rumored to arrive next spring) for travel work.I’ve not even tried editing any of the hires video or time-lapse clips on my almost vintage laptop. Just viewing a single RAW file in Lightroom takes far too long – even with the new 1TB SSD I added a few months ago.
The day is just about to break here on the south coast of Kauaʻi. I can here my young daughter breathing, almost in sync with the lapping Pacific waves below us. It’s time to make a cup of java and get ready for the year’s last journey – towards California!
From today’s excursion to Waimea Canyon here on Kauai, Hawaii. Shot this mystic view on the way down from from one of the wettest places on earth, Mount Waiʻaleʻale – a mountain with an elevation of 1,569 m and an average of 11,500 mm rain per year. Noticed that NASA has an observatory and what also may be a lab facility in the area.
For lunch, we thoroughly enjoyed succulent, seared Ahi (tuna) tacos with mango avocado salsa at the unassumingly styled yet ever-so aptly named, Island Taco in Waimea village. Can highly recommend a lunch there.
Got some really good footage today with a GoPro mounted on the front end of the hood of our Wrangler (jeep),
It’s raining several times a day – mostly short showers with light drizzles before and after. Lots of little fluffy clouds making for dramatic sunsets.
Recently, I was quoted in a local Swedish magazine as saying that I’m “damn bad at being bored” – a quote that in itself defines me as a somewhat erratic, unruly and maybe even a bit of a whimsical dude. All true. I am all those things. And then some.
Basically, I’ve improvised just about every moment of my entire life. I know no other way, have no master plan, definitely no mission nor any kind of long term vision. Aside from staying alive and keeping life as interesting as I can, that is.
My loosely assembled philosophy is to actively take advantage of the ad hoc, unscripted and unpredictable moments that life serves up. Inherently, this perspective steers most of my everyday choices and for good or bad, the vast majority of my decisions as a photographer, business owner, father and husband. Seize the moment. Don’t be a victim of circumstance. Use it to your advantage. Turn the page. Shove off. There’s nothing to see here – move along!
I’m rambling. On Christmas Eve, no less. Just needed to give the magazine quote some context.
Anyway, I started this most auspicious morning with a invigorating run along the Pacific Ocean just as the sun was on the rise. And yes, it was a spontaneous decision to slip on my joggers and hit the road…
Shot this with my iPhone during yesterday’s excellent trail trek along the bluffs that outline the dramatic southwest coast of Kauai. Used the Pano mode and some post production trickery to get the most out of that small, but oh so sensitive sensor.
It’s soon Christmas Eve here in the North Pacific. Surreal. No Santa, but many of the locals are wearing his helpers hats. We’ll celebrate Hawaiian style with no Santa – but at a luau with dinner at a beachfront restaurant we stumbled onto and made reservations at yesterday afternoon. Of course there will be a few holiday, well-wishing calls to both immediate and extended families and friends.
Wish you and your family happy holidays – however and wherever you celebrate.
First visit to the Garden Island, Kauaʻi. Fifth visit to the Hawaiian islands – when you include a week long stay back in the mid 1990s when I traveled around the world for 3 months with a remarkably small backpack and a lightweight mountain bike. Boy, was that a trip to remember. Flew -> Stockholm -> New York -> Los Angles -> Honolulu -> Fiji -> Auckland -> Denpasar -> Singapore -> Stockholm with a bunch of shorter domestic trips at each destination of which Kaikura on the south island of New Zealand was the most memorable.
It’s pretty breezy this time of year on Kauaʻi – so the waves on the south coast are fairly choppy and less than perfect to surf in. Elle and I still hope to enjoy a few good sets. And I would love to add a few good shots of local surfers to my portfolio during our visit. If not, then I’ll just focus on the amazing nature that quite literally encapsulates this garden island.
While Elle and I walked from Santa Monica Beach to Venice Beach early-ish this morning, I reflected on how little has changed in Venice. At least along the Boardwalk. Of course, they didn’t sell medical marijuana licenses back in my day – but in the grand scheme of things, for better or worse, very little has changed since I was Elle’s age. That’s almost forty years with the same mix of ramshackle storefronts, homeless, musicians, artists, skaters, surfers and street hawkers.
After a hefty breakfast near the beach, we walked eastward to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, arguably the trendiest/chicest/hippest shopping strip in Southern California. The above scene was from outside one of many cafes around lunch time today.
The video is from a recent afternoon visit to the studio of our favorite charity, Hang on Hangers, founded by the always thoughtful generous and kind friend, Annika Jonasson in Bangkok, Thailand.
Shot on an iPhone and edited in Final Cut Pro X.