BLOG

ION Luxury Adventure Hotel

Review of the ION Luxury Adventure Hotel

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.

Billy-Elliot-Malmo-Opera

Billy Elliot

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.

clouds

Shoulder Season

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.

Prince Dies at 57

Nothing Compares 2 U

Like millions of folks, I’ve spent countless hours listening to and singing along with Prince’s many, many hits. His brilliant guitar playing and intelligent, often wonderfully erotic and humorous lyrics have been part of my life for more than three decades. No less than a musical genius, was Prince Rogers Nelson.

When one of your favorite artists pass, for whatever reason, it hits you like no other news does. I suppose it’s yet another jarring reminder of my own mortality and how fragile and uncertain life increasingly becomes the older you get.

Learning of Prince death was particularly tough – much more so than Bowie’s, just a short while ago. I’ve admired both artists for a long time – in recent years mostly for their stoic mentality: to keep pushing on and never shy away from redefining themselves creatively.

I’m sure it’s going to take some time to realize that Prince is gone – and how large of an impact he had on my younger self. I’m no musician, but during the last half of the 1980s and early 1990s, I worked as a traveling DJ for among other outfits, EMA Telstar/Dirocco and I always had a song or two from Prince in my playlist – wherever the gigs took me. Always.

More importantly, Prince’s music accompanied me during those intense years when I painted in Gotland, Göteborg and Riksgränsen. Especially “1999” and “Sign o’ the Times” would spin endlessly, all the while I experimented with oils and acrylics – to a varying degree of success.

I caught Prince live a few times in Göteborg and his epic concerts are still among my all-time favorites. Musically and visually. Here’s his half-time show at the Super Bowl XLI during a torrential downpour.

Here’s another classic Prince performance at the 2004 Hall of Fame inductions with Tom Petty, Stevie Winwood, Jeff Lynn and others jamming George Harrison’s, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Prince really tears it up at 3:28. What a virtuoso! And if you’re a Lenny Kravitz fan, you’ll love watching Prince and Lenny perform “American Woman. And here’s something really special: Prince, Michael Jackson and James Brown on the same stage.

Just a few weeks ago, I was turned on to his latest album, “HITNRUN Phase Two” from last year (2015). I’m listening to it right now and feel both blown away by how cohesive it is thematically and how sad that it is his last – though unreleased songs and albums will undoubtedly emerge in the foreseeable future.

Photo credit: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images North America

half moon

A New Phase

Shot this half moon whilst atop a hill in Spain last week. Amazed by how close I was able to zoom in from a 200 mm camera lens.

Change is good. And one of the new year’s most profound changes will certainly be the new gallery and studio space – both currently in a prodigious renovation phase.

By Friday this week, the new photo studio will be ready for two separate shoots. And sometime next week, I’ll be able to exhibit what’s left from my show at Malmö Live.

So, once again, I’m shooting for the moon. Half or full – it don’t really matter!

California Surfers

Surf Nazi in Lunada Bay

I’ve never surfed there, but I stood upon a hill overlooking Lunada Bay – a small, right-handed break just south of Palos Verdes and Redondo Beach – not much more than a year ago and practically salivated at what looked like a fantastic surf spot.

Turns out that Lunada Bay, which is getting national media attention as of today, has been dominated by a small, almost militant group of local surfers that allegedly both verbally and at times even physically – fend off outsiders attempting to enjoy “their” waves.

I’ve recently read a few articles about this group of middle-aged men and their ridiculous “Surf Nazi” attitude. Fortunately, I’ve never come across localism as brutal as what the New York Times reported about in Lunada Bay in today’s paper.

Sure, I’ve come experienced a few surfers around Santa Monica Beach’s Tower 10 with higher regards for themselves than the waves they surfed in. But that’s never happened around Breakwater or Venice Beach Pier where the above image was shot a few months ago.

The general rule of thumb is to give dibs to anybody that arrived before you – and to definitely not screw up potentially good rides for those clearly above your pay grade.

Sticking to those simple rules is the key to having a good time – which is really what it’s all about, needless to say. Read the NYT article here. More of my surf shots here. And finally, a map to Lunada Bay here.

Ryanair

Ryan

Generally speaking, I’m rarely worried about flying.  I used to be. Quite often, too. A hint of turbulence was all it took to set my alarm off and order a neat glass of whisky. Not that I don’t still react when the ride gets a little bumpy. But it just doesn’t freak me out as much.

I suppose with age, comes a more sensible psychological approach once you’ve realized your life is invariably at risk. I mean, once I’ve made the conscious choice to board an airplane or a helicopter, small or large, there just ain’t nothing I can do about it should anything go awry – so what’s the friggin’ point of worrying, right?

Having said that, I can’t help but feel a little less secure when flying with super-low budget carriers like Ryanair. I’m not worried about how they service their fleet of planes – old as they may be. In fact, I have a tremendous amount of faith (maybe too much…) that airline technicians know what their doing and make sure the planes they service are maintained so the cockpit crew can keep them airborne – at least while I’m a passenger.

No, it’s more the ramifications from all the quick turnarounds and subsequent hyper-stress the management of these no-frills airlines inherently imposes on the crew, that concerns me.

Flying to Malaga with Ryanair last Wednesday was therefor not a entirely pleasant experience. The cabin was jam-packed and throughout the 3.5 hour trip, the flight attendants were constantly trying to sell something to us – lottery tickets, duty-free confectionery, booze, snacks and what not. Fortunately, the fellow sitting next to me was an ornithologist with a passion for not only watching, but also photographing birds. And so, we ignored the many PA announcements and instead spoke at great length and depth about traveling, birds and camera gear.

After my three day shoot in the beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains, it was considerably more enjoyable to leave Malaga on board an old SAS Airbus 321 (likely from 1989 or 1990) with a more agreeable color scheme and less hurrying cabin crew.

hidden paradise

Andalusia

I’m currently filming a marketing video at a hillside retreat a few kilometers above the village Órgiva – a small, Spanish town nestled in between the Sierra Nevada mountains of Andalusia, Spain.

The retreat’s focus is yoga, meditation, development conversations and healthy cuisine – all of which I have had an opportunity to try firsthand – between sessions of capturing the participants experiences.

This is a family run retreat – the owners are originally from London – but they have been residents of the valley for more than 20 years. Just like the organizer, all of the current guests are Swedish and though I’ve only been here for three of the group’s seven day visit, it’s plain to see how much everyone has enjoyed their stay. From the storehouse where the kitchen and dining hall is (and where I am writing this post), I can see layer upon layer of mountains and hills – and at a distance, the Mediterranean.

The food in particular has been simply amazing. All vegetarian, mostly locally grown, tasty and beautifully presented.

Visited the village Órgiva below the retreat yesterday. On the one hand, it’s a typical rural Spanish pueblo with a slew of narrow streets, small squares, sidewalk restaurants and tobacco shops, a grandiose church – with a cathedral complex – and blocks upon blocks of hideously ugly, more or less decrepit, concrete apartment buildings.

But there’s more to Órgiva than meets the eye. The village also turns out to be this unique enclave where a few thousand “free spirited” foreigners, literally from all over the world, live, raise families and more or less contribute to society (work).

Had a deliciously strong brew of java at Teteria Baraka – Órgiva’s immensely popular rendezvous hangout – a Moroccan cafe where tourists, locals and the valley’s laid-back bohemians and hardcore hippies amass for tea, coffee and eats all day long. It reminded me of places like Bali, Koh Phangan, Goa and yes, even Venice Beach. Only now, the hippies are my age and older and most seem to employ the help of smartphones or laptops for their transcendental travels.

Kenya, Iceland and now Spain. Where to next, I wonder? Italy? Yes!

Iceland

Iceland Weekend Shuffle

After about six years, I’m back on this otherworldly island. This time to capture Icelandic horses deep in the hinterlands — which really isn’t too far from the capital, Reykjavik. Booked a helicopter and with any luck, I’ll get a few shots from above tomorrow afternoon.

 

Elephants-Masai-Mara

Blissfully unaware

Unlike many photographer colleagues, I’ve stubbornly refused to specialize. How could I? There are just too many interesting subject matters in our world – and so little time to photograph them all!

But seriously, if I had to pick a genre, it would likely be animals. I’ve always been particularly intrigued by elephants – like the two above from last week’s safari. And though I enjoy capturing dogs, cows, horses and just about any other domestic or wild creature, those I’ve encountered in Africa emit a unique soulful aura. They seem so blissfully unaware of how the planet has evolved and how their species has shrunken concurrently with their habitat.

Maasai-Mara-Warriors

Warriors – Come out and Play!

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.

peggy guggenheim art addict

Peggy Guggenheim, Art Addict

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.

The Wrecking Crew

The Wrecking Crew

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.

sunrise masai mara

Final Mara Morning

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.

warthogs

Warthog Love

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.

Lion-Cubs-Kenya-Goveners-Camp-Raboff

Marsh Lion Cubs

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.

Lion-Kenya-Masai-Mara

Masai Mara

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.

Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi

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.

Malmhattan-collage

Malmhattan and the Creative Vortex

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.

apple mail

TO LOVE AND HATE MAIL

As much as I hate, hate, hate all the ridiculously misguided and downright inappropriate junk that lands in my inbox every few minutes, I still prefer plain old email as my primary communication tool.

That’s not to say I don’t text or sms – I do! But for that type of “talk”, I use Apple’s often confusing, yet still reasonably useful app, Messages.

But lets get back to email – and more precisely, the default client on OS X, Mail.

See, I love Mail. Far beyond its intended use, even. Way, way, beyond, actually. Fact is, I’m writing this very post in Mail. And most of everything I’ve ever written these last five or so years were typed in an ordinary email window.

So, why is Mail my go-to app for hammering out more or less cohesive ramblings? There’s at least a dozen professional programs out there with tons and tons of super-duper features and amazing editing and formatting capabilities.

Three reasons. Three.

One.

The general interface of Mail is pretty clean – and if I close the app’s main window with all its busy mailboxes, columns, rows and icons, my writing environment instantly becomes spectacularly minimalistic.

Two.

Mac OS X has a phenomenal dictionary and thesaurus that can be accessed in just about any app and in Mail, all you have to do is highlight a word and…presto! You get a gorgeous selection of apt definitions, synonyms and antonyms.

Need a word from Wikipedia, Brittanica or the Urban Dictionary? No problem! Highlight a word, right click and boom! You’re browser immediately opens a page with Google’s slew of alternatives – waiting for you to copy and paste.

Three.

Ok, so this isn’t really a benefit of Mail’s…but the simple answer is, I just don’t like Pages, Word or any other word processor that I’ve come across (or, been forced to use). I’m sure they work just fine for most people. But I get so darn easily distracted when I’m writing and if the interface is in itself a distractor, well, the writing is inescapably going to suffer.

One day, when I get around to writing that book I’ve been thinking about since way back when, I probably won’t write it in Mail.

Or, if only to prove a point, maybe I’ll do just that!

eva-lotta-runfors-yoga

Balance

At 50+, I find myself constantly reevaluating and redefining stuff that adds balance and long-lasting value to my life. Everything else becomes, by virtue of this hardcore rational, either excessively superficial – and therefore unimportant or, even worse, detrimental to my well-being.

So, I’m repeatedly questioning my priorities – many of which were once based on the judgement of a younger self – and carried over to the older me. Dare I call this maturing process, wisdom?

Let me provide an apt example – my reassessment of food.

I’m nearing a year without meat (pork, beef, bird) and though I’d be hard-pressed to provide substantiating evidence of any tangible benefits, I definitely feel better about being more conscious of what the heck I put in my body for nourishment. I eat fish and seafood – so, a “pescetarian“, am I, for sure.

A another example is my exercise regime.

I’ve been an an off-and-on jogger for probably 30 years. And up until a few years ago, I spent at least two hours a week boxing and kicking myself sweaty at our local gym, Kockum Fritid.

As hooked as I was on the adrenaline rush from running and those intense sparring sessions with ‘ol Pete, I still get pumped and energized today – thanks to a couple of early mornings, twice or thrice a week, at the gym, lifting weights which is then complimented by a workout class or two. And as soon as it gets a little warmer, I’ll start running again.

But I’ve not quite found the right balance between what gives me the most physical and mental energy – and what doesn’t create long-lasting aches and pains in the process.

No pain, no gain. I know, I know. Somehow, I feel the answer could be yoga – in some shape or form.

Another gauging I’m preoccupied with is music.

Music is key to my ability to endure long work hours, intense projects and tedious travel. In addition to my growing podcast subscriptions, I also thoroughly enjoy listening to just about everything – with the exception of contemporary country music (which sucks so, so bad and in my ears seems only to get worse for every new song I hear).

I listen daily to an eclectic mix of jazz, trip hop, funk, rap and a few select pop acts. Not so much rock, though. And from the hard rock era of the 1970s, I more or less only listen to Zeppelin, Yes, early Genesis, some Frampton and a few others I can’t remember right now. And even if I own a few hundred gigabytes of music from the 1980s and 1990s, I find it increasingly difficult to appreciate or listen to almost anything from the glam-anthem-arena-rock genres. Think, Styx, Rush, Journey, Foreigner, everything but the first three albums of Toto, all of REO Speedwagon, most of ZZ Top’s later catalog and the same goes for bands like Aerosmith. I never got thrash, death or speed metal. Actually, most music I used to really enjoy just sound so nauseatingly predictable and regurgitated today. To think that a band like Europe can still earn a good living off music that was terrible already at its  inception, is mind-boggling to me.

Depending on what I’m up to creatively, today I mostly prefer listening to beat based music – preferably on Internet radio stations like, KCRW and Groove Salad.

Tunes by Fat Freddy’s Drop, DJ Shadow, Lemon Jelly, Thievery Corporation, Zero 7 and Massive Attack, Melody Gardot, spin more regularly via Apple Music – yeah, I’m surely one of very few Swedes not subscribing to Spotify’s music service.

Being able to ask Siri to play just about any song I can think of and have her stream it to my headphones, speakers or earbuds seconds later, is insanely convenient.

It’s Sunday evening and though I spent almost two hours at the gym earlier today, I’m now back at the gallery, working. And after writing all of the above, I’ve just now realized how little time I actually take off from working. That could just be the next big thing to reevaluate….

The above collage comes from images I shot of Eva-Lotta Runfors, an instructor of yoga and mindfulness, in the studio a few weeks ago.

Kaua’i

Another video collage for AirlineStaffRates.com composed of shots from the extraordinarily lush Hawaiian island of Kaua’i during a ten day visit this last Christmas.

Music by Joe Bagale, called, “Otis McDonald” a title which pays homage to one of my favorite indie musicians, Otis McDonald – which in turn may actually be a pseudonym.

The Race

The Race

As much as I try, I still find myself getting sucked into this year’s presidential race. As a subscriber to the digital edition of the New York Times, avoiding the crazy American primaries, is just about impossible.

It’s ironic that next week, I’m exhibiting images largely inspired by Donald Trump’s home town, New York – Manhattan, not Queens, where he’s from.

Amazingly, no one seems to ever reflect over how old the most popular candidates are. Even if Hillary’s or Donald’s tenure only lasts one term, they’d still be a commander-in-chief somewhere in their mid 70s.

And I don’t even want to think about Bernie’s age after two terms. Wonder why there are so candidates in the 40s or 50s this time around? Maybe the realization that the job isn’t all that it’s snuffed  up to be? That Congress, the Supreme Court and hordes of lobbyists and special interest groups can pretty much make the gig feel like you never should of run for office in the first place…despite the dubious joy of being commemorated with a library once you move out of the White House. Image above: Rickard B during a spinning class at Kockum Fritid.

The Verdictt

The Verdict

Every several years, I return to Sidney Lumet’s “The Verdict” – just to remind myself of what really good cinematic storytelling and excellent cinematography looks like.

Not only does Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling and the always marvellous James Mason turn out brilliant performances – everything from the choice of film stock, masterful camera angles and lighting to the perfectly modulated sound quality, makes this a film worth benchmarking others against.

I can imagine that many have been so inspired by “The Verdict”, that they eventually decided to become lawyers.

Come to think of it, I now remember having naively high hopes for a friend, who at the time of the film’s premiere was studying law, – would become a smart-mouthed, kick-ass defense attorney knocking off one important battle after the other against teams of corporate lawyers and pompous, unjust prosecutors.

He eventually did go on to become a successful judicial practitioner, but I’m sure he’d prefer to see himself as Ed Colcannon, James Mason’s portrayal of the ruthless, cynical, senior lawyer in “The Verdict” than Paul Newman’s underdog character, the self-pitying, womanizing drunk, Frank Galvin.

Curiously, one of the extras in the final courtroom scene, which is when Paul Newman makes his poetic, closing argument, is none other than a young, Bruce Willis – whom I was hired to be stand-in for and extra during the 1986 fall season of the then extremely popular sitcom, Moonlighting.

A stand-in is someone that replaces the principle actor in scenes where only an arm, hand, leg or foot will be visible. Like opening a car door, stepping onto an escalator and so on.

So, while Bruce and Sybille (Shepard) were in their trailers reading scripts and eating catered delicacies, parts of my body were busy playing the role of David Addison’s body parts.

As fun as it initially was to work on that show (and a few others, like Cagney & Lacey, Hunter), in all honesty, nothing can possibly be more monotonous than being a peripheral cast member on a television sitcom or drama series. Twelve hour days with short spurts of activity followed by endless hours of more waiting. Only watching wet paint dry could be more tedious.

The experience did, however, offer some insight to what it’s like to work in Hollywood, something both my father and mother had done, with limited success. The commercials and demo videos I shoot are usually produced with a small, nimble team and delivered with an extremely short turnaround – as opposed to anything one can say about film production in Tinseltown.

New York

MalmHattan

About a month ago, I was invited by the good folks at Clarion Hotel & Congress Malmö Live to exhibit images within the same theme as my film project – currently on display at the hotel’s Kitchen & Table restaurant on the 25th floor – called, MalmHattan. The scope of the film and the forthcoming art show is to visually merge the two cities – both with more in common than what most people might think.  Not all images, but where it is – to me anyway – visually interesting.

So, over the last week, I’ve created a collection of collages that merge Malmö with Manhattan in what I feel has turned out to be a pretty compelling way.

I’ve lived in Malmö for close to 20 years (a little depending on how you count our previous adventures in the US, Thailand and Spain). I’ve been visiting New York relatively regularly since 1986. Just last year, I was on assignment in Gotham no less than four times. And though I’ve never actually lived in New York, it is unequivocally the most interesting city in the world.
The venue for the art show is in the hotel’s “Living Room” – a cozy, public space that connects the hotel with Malmö Live and has several wide, concrete walls and high ceilings. I’ve got a few photos of the place here.

Over the years, I’ve exhibited art in both traditional art galleries as well as in several hotels. I honestly prefer the latter over the former.  Why? Well, because galleries tend to add more exclusitivity and pretentiousness than I can relate to on a personal level. I may be many things – but I am certainly not exclusive nor pretentious. Art in any form should be inclusive.

Anyway, I’m now in the final and creatively intense stage of deciding which of my images to show – and if these final candidates need additional work before sending them via FTP to the printer on Friday. Most of my Malmhattan images are close to two meters in height and will be completely different to anything I’ve ever shown before. Sort of.

Hotel Erwin

Hotel Review

Thought I’d share one of my most recent hotel reviews which will be published in a day or two. I stay at anywhere from 20-30 different hotels on average per year, so I’ve obviously accumulated a decent amount of guest experience. On a couple of occasions, General Managers and directors of Food & Beverages have called to thank me for my insights and complement me on raising issues they were oblivious of. Not certain if my critique had any long-term impact, but their engagement is a definitely a good sign. So, without any further ado, here’s my thoughts on what I think is a really good and recommendable hotel – located just south of the Venice sign above.

The Erwin is a smallish hotel (119 rooms) in the salty, eclectic and world-famous seaside neighborhood of Venice Beach.

Let’s start on top.

The Erwin has what must be one of L.A.’s most spectacular rooftop lounges – complete with sprawling 360 degree views of the area and beyond. In fact, more or less the entire rooftop has been dedicated to ensuring hotel guests and outside visitors can suck up the SoCal sun while chilling out high above palm trees and the hustle and bustle stemming from the Venice Boardwalk below. This laid-back vibe is, of course, accompanied by carefully curated tunes and a wide range of suitable beverages from the roof’s small cocktail bar-cum-cantina.

As an avid – if not particularly good – surfer, I love the Erwin for its proximity to what could be the most consistent surf spot in L.A.; Venice’s “Breakwater”. It almost took me longer to put on my wetsuit then to walk down the street and into the waves…

Once back from a surf session, the hotel can either keep your board in guest storage, or you can just bring it up to your room (the elevator even accommodates longboards).

Guest rooms are pretty basic with functional decor typical for the region (colorful) and all the practicalities you need. Rooms facing north can expect to hear some late-night rumblings from a couple of the nearby bars. Though nothing a pair of earbuds won’t cancel out.

If you’re into the beach scene, the Erwin’s location is outstanding. Perhaps not an ideal choice for families with small children. But for parents with teens, it’s spot on. Lots of stuff to do nearby, even if you don’t hit the waves. Bike, skateboard and inline rental places are abundant as are Venice Boardwalk’s more or less memorable restaurants and cafés.

Main Street and Rose Avenue in Santa Monica are both really close by – as is Venice Beach Pier with plenty of decent eateries and great views of the shoreline. Venice Canals (famous for one of the locations in the TV show, Californication) is definitely worthy a visit.

The Erwin’s onsite restaurant is small and though their offerings are nicely presented, well-made and tasty, the selection is fairly limited. The bar, on the other hand, has a really good breadth.

I can easily recommend the Erwin for a wide range of reasons. One of the most significant, though, is the hotel’s extremely friendly staff.

I stayed for a week and sincerely enjoyed interacting with everybody. The folks working the reception were all personable and plenty helpful – often going out of their way to answer my queries and accommodate my needs for dry cleaning, surfboard maintenance and what not.

The fellows manning the valet parking (free!) were also extraordinarly service-minded. But literally everyone I met or spoke with during my entire stay had a really positive attitude – without coming across as being superficially friendly or beaming a phoney facade – as so often is the case at many other hotels.

The Erwin is a genuine gem and a really good choice when looking for a place to stay in this part of Los Angeles.

Royal Crown of Stockholm

Stockholmia in February

Excellent good weather during a couple of days in Stockholm this week. Cold, sunny and absolutely perfect weather for walking to my meetings set on three of the capital’s many picturesque islets.

As big as Stockholm is, at least when compared with Malmö, it’s surprisingly fast to get around downtown on foot. And it’s not nearly as crowded as during the more tourist-friendly season – though Liljevalch’s Spring Salon (an annual art show since 1921) was extremely busy in their temporary exhibit halls near Stockholm’s Royal Opera House.

The last time I was in town, I stayed at the palatial Grand Hotel. And because I am someone that thrives on keep life full of inspiring contrasts, this time, the wallet-friendly boutique hotel HTL earned my trust. Great location, friendly staff and a decent breakfast that almost compensated for the claustrophobically small room.

editorial assignemnts

Articles, Tips & Guides, oh my!

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.

sushi shrimp

Saiko

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“?