Venice Pier

I + Won@Venice Pier

Venice Pier, early yesterday evening. I was out shooting surfers, which were few, and as the sun set in the Pacific, I found myself once again mesmerized, nay, hypnotized by the wide palette of hues and how smooth the in-between gradients joined them together. The clarity is amazing and though I haven’t yet looked at my shots and footage, I’ve surely captured some pretty good stuff.

The shot of me above was taken by Noah Youhee Won, a local photographer and graphic artist that couldn’t help but get a couple of images of me and the pier as silhouettes.

Hotel California

Some sun for Son of L.A.

Slightly nippy but still absolutely gorgeous SoCal sunshine welcomed us back to Los Angeles this mid December afternoon. Weather-wise, it feels just about the same as when I was here in February. That’s California for ya.

The sun really lifts my soul.

Staying in Santa Monica for a few nights before flying westward to the Hawaiian Islands. Both surfboard and camera gear survived the transatlantic flight with Norwegian. Brother Nick was kind to pick us up with his ginormous new truck at the unusually busy Tom Bradley Terminal.

I’m writing this literally a block away from the Santa Monica Pier, not far from where I’ll be filming local surfers these next couple of days. Excited to see what the new camera can accomplish.

Elvis in the building

Elvis is in the Building

For more than a year now, I’ve been contracted to shoot PR and marketing photos of Scandinavia’s most spectacular hotel, Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live. I’ve shot food, drinks, rooms, suites, bars and a whole bunch of other particulars – both throughout the final months before the grand opening and for the first six months afterwards.

One of many individual projects was to help market the hotel’s very first Christmas show. So, I scripted, filmed and produced the broadcast commercial and shot a slew of Press and PR images to help the marketing team generate interest and help sell tickets. The show has been sold out for quite some time now and I saw the first of four shows the other night. It’s certainly one of the most spectacular shows I’ve ever seen and surely one of the biggest productions ever produced in Malmö. I was invited as a guest, but after eating a belly full of sumptuous American and Swedish inspired Christmas food, I just couldn’t sit still. Above is one of the shots I got with my phone. Couldn’t make up my mind which I was more impressed with; my camera phone’s ability to shoot decently in such relative low light or the show’s Vegas level production.


Paris

In Paris for a weekend of travel photography. Enjoying both surprisingly good (warm, sunny) weather and seeing my sister (and her family) who’s here from Alaska as a delegate during the climate conference.

Haven’t been in the French capital for about 5 years and it’s probably twice as long ago since I was here wintertime.

There’s been a tectonic shift in the way Parisians interact with non-French speakers. I ascribe the change to both how today’s younger generation has more to lose by not learning at least a basic understanding of the language most visitors speak and that English, is the de facto lingua franca.

We’re staying in the 10th arrondissement, not far from Gare du Nord and where Canal Saint-Martin links the northeastern area of Paris with the River Seine. It’s a truly eclectic neighborhood with lots of Middle Eastern grocery stores but plenty of classic Parisian brasseries.

pintxos

Veggieisms

About a half a year ago, our daughter Elle saw a documentary on YouTube (where else, right?) that disclosed some extremely discomforting facts about the food industry in general and more specifically about how horrifically bad farm animals are treated throughout their miserable lives.

Right there and then, Elle decided to remove meat – all forms of animal meat – from her diet. Shortly thereafter, her mother Charlotte joined in and about a month or so later, I too took the plunge and removed chicken, pork, beef and all other forms of meat from my list of edibles.

Charlotte and I still eat seafood and shellfish, though. I mean, I completely concur with Elle in not financially supporting the food industry’s unacceptable methods and gut-wrenching practices. But to stop eating shrimp and sushi? That’s taking it a little too far. and probably ain’t gonna happen anytime soon.

Recently, Elle’s taken her self-imposed dietary constraints even further by insisting that we eat less dairy products – and to thereby extend our moral stance against the often unhealthy production processes used to produce stuff like milk, yoghurt, butter, cream, and cheese.

As I’m sure some of you can imagine, this is by no means an uninteresting culinary challenge we’re in the midst of. And though I often feel I fall short in concocting and serving meals to the girls that look nice, taste good but are unquestionably healthy, I’m slowly learning about all kinds of new fascinating ways to create food that caries health benefits way beyond the dinner table.

The above photos is from a recent food session focused on so-called pintxos.

Amazon nuts

Nuts for Nuts

As a nation, Sweden is decidedly at the forefront on many important environmental and human rights issues. But when it comes to food, however, this country is sadly pretty much slave to a few dominating corporations that dictate the relatively slim range (and contents) available in grocery stores.

Exceptions exist – and we’re lucky to both work and live near one of the country’s only Whole Foods inspired stores. And despite having a really good selection of organic, locally sourced products, I still order many of our kitchen’s basic ingredients via Amazon UK, including organic cashews, sunflower seeds, almonds, pistachios, sun dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives and a bunch of other specialty foods.

Ordering weighty stuff from Great Britain isn’t cheap and sometimes, my purchases are unreasonably expensive. Admittedly, a few times, when I haven’t been paying attention, the shipping charge has even exceeded what the products themselves cost. And one might rightfully question how environmentally friendly it is to order food from the UK.

Fortunately, my qualms are usually quite literally quieted by our loud, two horse power monster blender while it mashes, crushes and whirls nuts, seeds, coconut flakes, kale and almond milk into my breakfast smoothie…

Star Wars Premiere 1977

Star Wars

Though I’m not a hardcore Star Wars nerd, I’d lie if I didn’t admit to having a childish level of excitment about J.J. Abrams take on George Lucas space opera, arriving in (US) theaters in about two weeks.

The faux Sci-Fi tech is certainly intriguing, but more importantly – at least to me – are the over-the-top, incredulously bombastic visuals. Escapism at its best.

Buddy Ken Wegas sent me the above photo this morning from the premiere of the very first Star Wars film at Mann’s Chinese Theatre on May 25, 1977. I’m there, somewhere in that crowd, together with Marcos and his father, director and writer, Antonio Santean. I’d been babysitting his son Marcos for a few months, and as a bonus, Antonio kindly invited me to see the premiere showing of a movie starring mostly unknowns – but that had been generating so much buzz and that almost instantly created fans all over the world. Photo credit: unknown.

trip advisor travel map raboff

Still circumnavigating

The other day I was interviewed for a Swedish lifestyle magazine about my work and life as a photographer. And though my dedication to Västra Hamnen was the general theme of the piece, I’ve read the journalist’s first draft and it also gives an nuanced and factually accurate account of who I am and what’s important to me.

I put some extra emphasis on how I feel about traveling as compared with, say, spending a third of my life being entertained by what’s shown on an ever-so flat or gigantically wide television (and other viewing mechanisms).

During the interview, I realized and felt obliged to  vocalized how sad I felt about how there still are so many places, cultures and people that are difficult – if not life threatening – to experience.

The map above is generated by Google via TripAdvisor which then generates the absolutely absurd statement that I’ve visited 33% of our planet. I should only be so lucky to have covered that much in my life. It’s probably a single digit percentage, if even that. Still, I feel infinitely lucky to have a career that takes me to so many fascinating places.

One could easily presuppose that because I travel so much, I am not happy at home. That my need to constantly keep moving derives from a rootlessness of sorts. This may very well be the case as I’ve been traveling since I was very young and have had many, many “homes”. And perhaps I’m retrofitting the narrative of my yet-to-be-written autobiography here, but when I dig back into my memories or flip through some of my oldest photographs, I still feel mostly intrigued and inspired when I see how interesting my life has been thus far.

drinks malmö live

Sky bar Drinks & Dishes

Last Friday, I spent a couple of late afternoon hours high above the sea shooting cocktails and scrumptious meals in the sky bar and Kitchen & Table dining room at Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live.This is one of their signature cocktails, “John Doe”. Don’t recall all the particulars, but bourbon and chocolate was definitely in the recipe. Chocolate and whiskey. You just can’t go wrong with that combo.

Multipass

LED Panels to the rescue!

This shot is from Sunday’s mega-multi-class-workout-photo-session. Twenty or so models of all ages and sizes participated. Everything went super smooth and I have a whole slew of inspiring photos of folks in various stages of exercise.

Instead of traditional strobes/flashes, I opted for a fairly new solution: several high-powered LED bicolor panels on stands. I knew from previous projects in the same hall, that the wide spectrum of color (yellow floors, green walls, white ceilings and various coloured clothes) was going to be tough to deal with in post. But thanks to the extra exposure strength and relatively low ISO provided by the LED panels, I was provided with enough latitude in the images dynamic range to make all kinds of relevant adjustments.


My mother at 26

Earlier this evening, by sheer happenstance, I stumbled onto an episode of Groucho Marx’s classic series, “You Bet Your Life” from 1959 with my mother in it. She appears at 6:59 together with an elderly gentlemen.

I’ve always had a vague memory of hearing that she’d been in one of his game shows. But until today, I just wasn’t sure which.

Apparently, some heroic person has taken the time to upload all episodes and credit all of Groucho’s contestants. So after just a few clicks, there she was, a 26 year old Ina Solveig Anders (my mother’s stage name). I’ve not created it, but here’s her page at IMDB.

I haven’t heard my mother’s voice in almost 40 years, so watching her on a late 1950s TV show – more or less five years before I was born – was certainly strange, albeit exciting.

Elle was studying for a math test when I interrupted her with this news flash, but I have a feeling she’s going to revisit the show on her own time to see more of the obvious resemblance she shares with her grandmother.

I have no idea who the fellow she was competing with was. But he most certainly looked like he could have been her grandfather.

julklappar

Christmas Presents

I know this is a bit early, but can there possibly be two more appropriate photography concentric books to give away this holiday season to friends, family, employees, customers, clients, patients or partners? I’m just sayin’…

Each of these exclusive books include unique photos and insights into what makes Västra Hamnen such an inspiring place to live and work in.

Interested in buying a box of books for your company, organisation or institution? Get in touch!

Invoice to Ministry of Foriegn Affärs

Invoicing myself

So I’ve been freelancing for about 16 years now. Our small family business has the highest possible credit rating and no bank loans or debts. Heck, we don’t even have checking account. And like all good corporate citizens, we pay our business (local and government) tax each month on time – with barely any bitching. And thanks to a really good financial consultant, our company books are well-balanced.

Earlier this fall, I had an assignment for Sweden’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs via Sweden’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see a post about that most challenging, albeit interesting gig. And with the exception of being hired by Malmös city council on a few occasions, working with the Swedish government was both gratifying and surprisingly straightforward. But like IKEA, Ericsson or any other large organization that I’ve worked with in the past, it’s key to pace yourself and adjust the volume and rhythm to suit their tune.

Anyway, it’s now been a while since I sent my invoice to the Government Offices in Stockholm – to, in effect, my government which I help finance via  taxes. Optimistically, the administrator/controller responsible for payments to the state’s suppliers (like myself) will pay my invoice in an equally orderly fashion as I am expected to pay taxes. Not holding my breath, though.

Bangkok-infinity-pool

Restfully Home

What, no jet lag? Nope. Can’t remember when I felt so relieved from not having to deal with at least a week filled with sleep disorder. Considering how ridiculously noisy the hotel we stayed at was, I actually feel more rested now that we’re home again than I did during the entire week in Bangkok.

I wrote a brutally honest and scathing review about our guest experiences over on TripAdvisor about the hotel. We tried to change hotels about half way through our stay at the Shama on Sukhumvit, but management forced a severe penalty on us for departing early.

Ironically, my critique will doubtlessly cost them considerably more than what they would of earned – had we paid them to switch hotels. Their strict policy is typical for a desperate hotel in decline. The only really good thing I can say about the property is that the view from the pool was sweet albeit far from spectacular.

Halloween

All Saints Day/Halloween

I shot this a couple of years ago somewhere around the north east corner of Santa Monica – a mainly residential area within the city limits where well-kept streets are lined with small to medium sized mansions. One of the residents in one of the larger homes there works in the film industry and has for years pimped out the family’s garden and stretch of sidewalk with all kinds of goblins, ghosts and ghastly creatures. I really admire that “all-in” attitude.

Some interesting facts about this auspicious celebration from the History Channel’s website:

“Evolving from the ancient Celtic holiday of Samhain, modern Halloween has become less about literal ghosts and ghouls and more about costumes and candy. The Celts used the day to mark the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter, and also believed that this transition between the seasons was a bridge to the world of the dead.  Over the millennia the holiday transitioned from a somber pagan ritual to a day of merriment, costumes, parades and sweet treats for children and adults.”

Happy Halloween!

hang on hangers charity bangkok

Jet Sip Rai

Surprisingly, I’ve barely listened to any of my podcast subscriptions while in Asia. Instead, for whatever reason, I’ve reacquainted myself with oldies but goodies – like the Swiss harp virtuoso, Andreas Vollenweider.

I’m actually streaming his album “White Winds” via Apple Music as I type this. And though I’ve not listened to Andreas string plucking for probably over 20 years, his music still sounds so timelessly fresh and curiously relevant.

Yesterday, after a visit to the gym, a bagel with salmon and cappuccino breakfast at one of Sukhumvit’s two Dean & Deluca branches (a well-known New York delicatessen brand interestingly enough now owned by a Thai property development corporation), the girls and I headed to the sprawling slum area of Klong Toey’s “Jet Sip Rai”.

Nobody knows for sure how many people live in this vast shanty town near the Chao Phraya River. I’ve heard estimates of over 100k – but that number could be easily underestimated. The area’s busy streets, narrow alleys and concrete paths which  criss-cross Jet-Sip-Rai, are packed with people.

Most of the area’s inhabitants live out there lives here without any opportunity for social elevation. The majority live in simple shacks most without running water, proper ventilation and with their electricity needs coming from often haphazardly high-jacked power lines.

This is where our favorite charity, Hang on Hangers started five years ago. It’s where many teenage mothers and families live. Some of which now enjoy a relatively decent living thanks to the money they earn while making hangers and jewellery for Hang on Hangers. For some of the girls that help founder, Annika Jonasson and her staff, it means their children can get proper medical care and or attend school. For others, it means that teenage mothers can get treatment for drug abuse or stop working in go-go bars or massage parlors. The money they earn isn’t going to make them rich by any measure. But it will allow them to work from home.

While Elle and Charlotte visited Ms. Wasana and her daughter Fon (bedridden since birth with severe cerebral palsy), I filmed one of the staff during the process of turning a simple hanger into something that makes Hang on Hangers so unique; their beautifully hand-made, fabric clad, designer hangers.

The group photo above is from yesterday’s visit. Here’s a link to Hang on Hangers if you feel like visiting or donating.

khlong bangkok

City of Angels

Writing these very words while sitting on a huge white corner sofa in an apartment hotel on Soi 2 in the Thai capital, Bangkok – the city of Angels.

It’s five in the morning and impossible to know for sure if the noise coming from Sukhumvit Road below me is generated from late night or early morning traffic. There have been a few occasions with loud and boisterous laughter to remind me that I’m in a city that is never, ever quiet.

We arrived early yesterday morning with Norwegian’s direct (and mostly smooth) flight from Copenhagen. After an unusually long and tedious drive into downtown, we checked in, unpacked, showered and then headed out for a quick lunch at one of the city’s most well-known neighborhood eateries, Suda Restaurant on Soi 14 (BTS Asoke).

Needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, food plays an almost ridiculously   important part in Thai society. If for no other reason – and there are a plethora of honorable and morally justifiable reasons to visit this great city – Bangkok has quite possibly the most restaurants of any city in the world. The width and breadth of the selections is gargantuan.

The dishes offered at Suba are as simple and straightforward as the plastic, pastel colored plates and rickety tables it is served on. That’s not to say everything we ordered wasn’t amazingly tasty. It was. A bit spicy, but still full of harmoniously balanced flavours. I’ve never eaten anything remotely as good in Sweden, in the US or anywhere else. Thai food outside of Thailand just seems, well, counterfeit. Ironic, I know.

After an intense summer and fall of lugging around and handling heavy camera gear to location shoots both near and afar, my shoulders, neck and back have been in more or less constant pain. Maybe not really constant. But certainly nagging and reoccurring enough to warrant remedy. So, to kickstart what will hopefully be a quick fix, I began the week-long visit here with a two hour “Energize Me” session at Health Land –  one of the city’s enormously popular massage and treatment centers. The above shot of one of Bangkok’s few remaining canals, or khlong in Thai, is from right outside Health Land near Asoke. Highly recommend a visit there. Great staff and a pleasantly relaxing locale.

Next on my to-do-list was ordering a pair of new prescription glasses at the – at least for me – utterly in-navigable and disturbingly disorienting Emporia Complex – adjacent to the Phrom Phong skytrain station. With my printed prescription in hand, that project took only about 30 minutes to conclude and my new pair of specs should arrive at the hotel on Friday.

Finally, before heading back to the apartment, we ate dinner at another favorite; ISAO Fusion, a small, almost indiscernible Japanse restaurant tucked away between massage parlours on Soi 31. When we lived here for a few spring months in 2013, we loved returning to ISAO where food, service and ambiance enjoy a perfect balance.

So, in addition to eating several great meals, taking care of aches and pains infused by my occupation,  providing our  shopping addicted daughter with some new garb (from Pratunam, not Siam Paragon), we are also here to provide our friend Annika Jonasson and her staff at the Hang on Hangers project with new photos, perhaps a few videos and eventually, an updated web site shop. Looking forward to this latter part of our week here immensely.

Turning Torso Signing

Sign of the times

Late Saturday afternoon, I was invited to a conference at Malmö Live to sign the Turning Torso book I produced for HSB Malmö (the premier association for cooperative housing in Sweden) which is aptly titled, Turning Torso. At least a hundred people now own a signed copy of the blue coffee table book which commemorates the amazing skyscraper’s 10th anniversary and includes interviews with several residential and commercial tenants, interesting facts about the building, insights to some of its luxurious facilities, a few pages dedicated to Mr Turning Torso, the  always congenial, Jan Andersson, and of course, a wide range of interior and exterior photographs by yours truly.

NOTE: ABOVE BOOK SIGNING PHOTO CREDIT: HSB MALMÖ

wiCKED Wide WORK WEEK

Already Friday. It’s been an eclectic week, to say the least. Here’s a taste of what I’ve been working on. Monday: interior photography at Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live. Tuesday: Activity photography (gym and pool) at sports center Kockum Fritid. Wednesday: Filming a field test at BJ Trucks along a highway near Helsingborg for TerraNet AB. Thursday: Post production meeting with TerraNet AB prior to editing Wednesday’s field test footage. Friday: corporate studio photography and editing of a commercial for Sjobeck AB in Ystad.

västra-hamnen

Maintaining the vibe

Shot the above scene (with my pocket friendly Canon Gx7) tonight whilst strolling along the waterfront here in Västra Hamnen after dinner. Inspired by recent meals in New York, I made tempura fried fish tacos with coriander spiced salsa and a garlic infused guac.

I have to admit, after two inspiring back-to-back visits to the always inspiring New York City, it’s kind of hard to get back into “everyday Malmö mode” again. The New York vibe is hard to shake off! Having said that, I did enjoy a dash of genuine cosmopolitan ambiance during dinner at Clarion Malmö Live’s “Eatery” with friends this past Friday. Must of been our friends and the hilariously funny server, Stina, whom kept us laughing, fed us good food and saved our throats from drying out.

I’m pretty sure most everyone in Sweden is anxiously anticipating the inevitably forthcoming dark and dreary season. The colorless, DDR season, as I’ve come to define it. But right now, it’s still summer-like; mostly sunny skies, hardly any wind and the air is beautifully crisp and clear. So far, the Swedish autumn has been surprisingly endurable.

My calendar for October is filling up and I’ve got at least two commercials and a demo-documentary to produce before I fly off to Asia towards the end of the month for an exciting film assignment. And sometime in between then and now, a spanking new website must be populated and launched.

Listening constantly to Sam Smith on Apple Music – which I’ve finally decided to subscribe to – after years of denying Spotify room in my musical life. I’m such an Apple junkie.

“Writing’s on the Wall” – the new Bond theme by Sam Smith here.
His gargantuan hit (35,945,932 views so far), “Omen” here.