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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“?

Heart of a Dog

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.

Leica Q

Leica

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.

Kockum Fritid

Kockum Fritid

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.

TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor: Höst

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.

Dude Hawaii Hanalei Bay

The Original Dude

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.

Raboffs Silver Surfers California

Silver Surfers

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.

Freedom Tower, New York City

RE-BUILD, RE-DESIGN, RE-LAUNCH, OH MY!

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.

Venice surfer

FILTERING MY KING SIZE ARCHIVE

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.

Venice Beach

WHERE DID THE COLORS GO?

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.

LAX Airport

FROM A DIRE HOTEL ROOM AT LAX

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.

Surfing Vencie

FINAL SURF FOR 2015

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!

surfer girl

BACKING UP FROM HAWAII

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!

Waimea-Canyon-Kauai-Hawaii

WAIMEA CANYON

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.

Morning on Hawaii

Morning of the Eve

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…

Kauai

Hawaiian Santa?

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.