Saturday, 12 October 2013

I JUST COULDN'T RESIST!

Sofia kyrka (church) in autumn color splendor
I have by now been busy documenting the views from my apartment for almost four years and start having problems with finding new views and topics. I know that I have dealt with autumn colors before, but this fabulous view from my balcony yesterday afternoon got the better of me.

It is said that many photographers get their best pictures while trying to replicate another photographer's take. In my case I am replicating myself. You have to judge whether the result is an improvement or not. Just take a look at the original and let me know your verdict!

Monday, 16 September 2013

AURORA'S LATE PINK LACES


As I am writing this, rain is pounding my window sills and autumn chill is creeping into my bones. But it was not always like this. Just yesterday, temperatures hovered around the twenties in daytime and did not surpass 15 degrees at night. Even this morning, a most beautiful sky with rosy clouds was welcoming my eyes half-asleep, as if Summer would continue another week.

It has been a long and warm Summer indeed, here in Stockholm, the longest I can remember. Only ten days ago, I got a call from my old friend Hans Christian, who is, with his wife Isolde, spending summertime in the Inner Stockholm Skerries, on Mjölkö. By the way, the word "Skerries" denotes the myriad of islands, large and small, that spread out in the Baltic around Stockholm.

Hans Christian sounded spritely enough on the phone, asking me, would I care to join him on a boat trip through Stockholm's Skärgård (Stockholm Skerries)? Post some hesitation – after all, I am an old Austrian and mountain man – I agreed, ready to grab an unexpected offer. My old friend, with whom I had sailed several times before in warmer waters, both in Turkey and Croatia, is nowadays operating a small boat rental and excursion business on Mjölkö, called "Tur till sjöss", but wanted to benefit from the Indian Summer to make a trip on his own for once, honoring me by inviting me along as company.

Nybroviken in Stockholm

So off I went, on a sunny Thursday morning (it was September 5) to catch the ferry out to Mjölkö. President Obama just happened to visit Sweden, so the berth was for once changed to the quay on Nybroviken. This gave me the opportunity of taking fresh pictures from the Stockholm harbor, in between some of the boats transporting  persons and goods to the islands.

Soon it was time to board one of the larger and more modern ones, called Sandhamn, which carries you to Mjölkö within two hours. The distance is not huge as the crow flies, but the boat has to take a rather circuitous trail, winding through the islands, with lots of shallows and cliffs lurking underwater. Due to the on-going land rise, it is getting ever more difficult to navigate your way out of Stockholm.

After one hour and a half, Waxholm was reached, the fortified town defending the Stockholm inlet. Well, as an old Austrian I love to tell stories and there is a nice one to tell about Waxholm. The Prussian General Moltke once took the boat out there, just as I did. It is said that he has laughed only twice in his life: first, when his mother-in-law died and, secondly, when he saw the fortress of Waxholm.

The "flagship" of "Tur till Sjöss"

From a more southern geographical angle, there is another intriguing story about Moltke. It is said that he once refused to take the train from Zurich to Vienna via Liechtenstein, preferring a lengthy detour via Munich. Apparently, he feared being taken prisoner-of-war in the "Ländle". In the mid-1860s, there was a civil war between the Northern German States and the Southern ones, in which Prussia and – as sometimes believed – Liechtenstein (with 8 soldiers!) were on opposite sides. Since Liechtenstein was "forgotten" when the peace treaties were signed, the Principality was supposedly still at war with Prussia at least until 1871, when the German States re-unified into an empire.

But enough of these serendipities! Back to our story line! From Waxholm it is but half an hour to go to Mjölkö, where Hans Christian gave me a cordial welcome. His residence is only 5 minutes' walk from the ferry berth, but beautifully situated just on the beach, with a splendid view of the sound between the skerries and the mainland. On mellow Summer evenings, the Cars family can be seen sitting on its veranda, sipping sun-downers whilst watching the sun set over the lonely ferries carrying travelers back home to Stockholm.

Isolde and Hans Christian carrying supplies to the boat

But now it was already noon, so no time to lose starting with our trip. Supplies were spirited away on the boat and it was boarding time. You can see the boat, a Bayliner, on the earlier picture. It is difficult to gauge its size on a photo, but it is quite large. It sleeps four comfortably, and contains a nice coffee table with sofas, as well as a toilet inside. More importantly, it can travel at up to 25 knots, if you are in a hurry or want to go far.

Not us, we had a more leisurely pace in mind, since the main goal was to reach a good restaurant located on Möja, an island not too far away from Mjölkö, going eastwards. That way, you would eventually reach Estonia, if you set your mind to it.

Möja it was for us. Across wide straits we travelled, being pummeled by the waves, as soon as we left the protection of small islands. But soon Möja beckoned and we arrived at this civilized centre of the mid-skerries, where hungry travelers and thirsty boats get their relief. Civilized it may be, but this is Sweden, so the harbor was still a cosy little layby, as made for relaxing in a busy world.

Ramsmora Harbor on Möja

With our bellies rumbling, we ascended the small hill up to Wikströms Fisk, a humble name for a restaurant, as befits the cosy surroundings. We were late for lunch but nonetheless admitted, sitting as the last and only remaining guests in the luscious inn garden. And now comes the big surprise! We ordered perch and fresh water whitefish (The Baltic is brackish, so they thrive also in this Sea!) and, let me tell you, this was the best fish I have ever eaten. The secret behind it is that IT WAS FRESH!

Father Wikström goes out fishing as soon as the last guests have finished eating and stays out all night, sleeping on the boat. So there is no delay between fishing net and luncheon table! A far cry from Stockholm restaurants. Did you know that all fish caught commercially in waters around Sweden is being landed and traded in Gothenburg? We never experience fresh fish in the capital, which is quite scandalous!

Father Wikström on his way to the fishing grounds

Whilst I was enjoying this fabulous meal, Hans Christian blinked at me with mischievous eyes and asked me, would I like to join him in continuing the trip all the way out to land's end, to the last skerries on the eastward route? Somewhat taken aback I saw before my inner eye a boat that suddenly appeared small, riding on rough waters far out, where the high waves of the untamed Baltic seemed to swallow the cliffs barely showing above the water, not to speak of the little vessel in which we would hover. But, "What the heck!", I thought, I have lived long enough and fruitfully, time to leave this world with clamor, rather than a whimper. So, rashly, I agreed to his proposal, which also would have to include a night out in the boat, somewhere among the thundering waves.

But this trip turned out to be most pleasant and educating. Granted that we had to slow down the boat the more the farther out we went, since, true enough, waves were getting ever bigger. But the boat (and skipper) dealt with all this splendidly and it was exhilarating to feel, blowing at our noses, the fresh unhindered winds traveling all the way from Estonia. Only one problem remained: where would we find a place to stay overnight in all this watery waste?

Fortunately, Hans Christian was no novice in those waters and knew how to stop our voyage in time, lest we embarked on a hapless drift towards Estonia in the dark. The very last island group before the Great Sea is called Björkskär and there we went towards a small sound that completely protected us against both wind and waves. This was literally the last chance to get such succor for the night, and the skipper steered to it with delicate precision. The enclosed maps show the precise position, as well as indicating what would have lain ahead of us, had we continued our journey eastwards!



Bjökskäret, Horssten and the Baltic            Source: Google Maps

Well arrived, serene calm was reigning over the sound where the boat was residing. The bare cliffs kissing the water reminded me of an old film that always has tickled my imagination, "Sommaren med Monika" by Master Bergman. By all means, don't miss this link, it shows Ingemar at his best at a time, when he was still young, and his instincts were still sound enough to urge him saying "Yes" to juvenile togetherness.

Berthing the Bayliner on Björkskäret

Hans Christian had hoped to berth the boat at a spot, where we could watch sunset and sunrise both, whilst drinking, respectively, sun-downer and morning coffee on the boat. But this was not to be, geography did not play along; no harm done though, the views were marvelous even without this possibility.

We attempted some exploratory hikes on the cliffs hinted at to the left in the above picture – much as Monika did in Ingmar's movie – but soon found out that vegetation got the better of our, due to age, unstable feet. So, back to the boat to have a nice evening snack, to prepare the boat for the night and, last not least, get the camera ready for the famous "Blue Hour"!

Bayliner on Björkskäret in the "Blue Hour"

Due to the late season, I kind of expected that there would be a lot of shivering during the night, but this was still Indian Summer time, so no hardship was involved at all. Instead, the gentle sound of waves lapping the boat and the cool salty air around us soon brought us to the realm of dreams.

What the cool air did, though, was to wake us up well before sunrise. But this was to the best, since it led me to search for a suitable position to paint the boat in Aurorta's first pink colors. It was a bit hazardous to climb the cliffs in the semi-dark to that effect, but the result seems well worth the effort, don't you agree?

Bayliner on Björkskäret at sunrise


















With some regret we lifted anchor from this lovely place. But there was no time to lose, new challenges awaited us. To gift me a true impression of steering a small boat in between the wild Baltic waves, we ventured out a bit into the light blue zone depicted on the two maps above. But soon I had enough of this experience and we turned back towards the safety of the islands. On the way I did observe, though, several small and large lighthouses, either placed directly in the water, or perched precariously on bare cliffs. Their task was, as explained by Hans Christian, to direct the boats and ships to the proper inlet between the first islands, so that the right – and only – route to Stockholm, would be taken.

Passing by one of these sturdy light bringers, I ventured a quick shot, with the camera in one hand, sitting in the back of the boat and taking a fast grip on the rail with the other hand. Here we have the result: a lonely beacon being battered by the Baltic!

A lonely beacon in the Baltic

And now comes a new surprise! Hans Christian confessed to me that he had an AGENDA with this trip. He had just finished an article about lighthouses for the Österreichisch Schwedische Gesellschaft's Christmas Journal. Would I mind taking a few pictures for his article, in particular of one favorite of his, the Grönskär Fyr (Lighthouse)? I was only too glad to oblige him, since photography is a secret hobby of mine – maybe not so secret?

So, with his eyes atwinkle and his hands firmly anchored on the steering wheel, Hans Christian set course on Grönskär. The island was not so far away, lying at the outskirts of the skerries just like Björkskär. It goes without saying that we nursed the hope of landing there and spending at least an hour exploring the sight of the monument, taking pictures from all possible angles.

But this turned out to be completely out of reach. Baltic's waves spurned our rash expectations. It simply was too dangerous to try accosting any of the narrow and stone splattered inlets and we had to content ourselves with circumventing the isle at a safe distance, rather far away from the action, I am afraid.

Eventually, we found a viewing angle accommodating enough to get me interested in attempting a suitable shot. With waves half as high as the boat, and the latter dancing about as if in joyous greeting of the lighthouse, it seemed almost impossible to get in position for a picture. Finally, I had to STAND in the bow to get a shot, grasping camera in one hand and the boat's roof with the other and, in addition, with Hans Christian holding on to my belt with all his might, to prevent me from falling over and prematurely meeting my Lord and Master. I barely managed a burst of three shots in quick succession before quickly sitting down again and taking a deep breath. The result of all these efforts?

Grönskärs Fyr (Lighthouse), Östersjöns Drottning (Queen of the Baltic)

Shere royal serenity! No wonder that Her Serene Highness goes by the name of Östersjön's Drottning  (Queen of the Baltic).

For all of you longing to see and hear more about the most royal of beacons, take a look at this little video of Grönskärs Fyr, filmed by a company of enthusiasts disembarking on the island in calmer weather and waters. And, if this should not be enough to quench your thirst for admiration, there is also a 360° panorama of Grönskär in store for you.

But enough of work, back to the pleasures of cruising the skerries. By now, it was 9 am and time to return to Mjölkö. The road back would pass by Sandön, Hans Christian told me, an island well known for its posh summer visitors, arriving with the famous yachting competition "Gotland Runt". In fact, despite the island being located far out on the borderline to the Baltic, its main settlement looks like a major agglomeration on the mainland, not unlike Sjöstaden, where I am living.

The settlement of Sandhamn on Sandön    Source: Wikpedia

We both felt a certain longing for anchoring in this civilized splendor, to get a  nice cup of coffee in one of the noble establishments there. Unfortunately, there did not seem to exist a berth for our humble boat that we could access without heavy fees, if only for an hour or so. But Hans Christian, never at a loss of ideas, recalled that friends of the Cars' had a bit of property not far out of town, lying on the tip of the peninsula reaching out from the island at the top of the picture. Should we give them a call to announce our visit? Said and done, and receiving back a cordial "Welcome!", despite the somewhat early hour.

It took but five minutes of leasurely boating to arrive at the long quay – or should I say pier – jutting out from the Jahnberg property. It was quite long, due a shallow sandy beach it had to span. The name Sandön (Sandy Island) in fact tells us that this used to be a quite desolate place in olden days, full of sand dunes and little else. About three hundred years ago, pines were planted on the sand and, as a result, the island is now adorned by a beautiful wooden interior.

Pier on Sandön

Peder and Ann-Katrin Jahnberg welcomed us with open arms and soon we were seated outside their house chatting, drinking coffee and – last but not least – savoring Ann-Katrin's cookies and homemade crumbles, which tasted just SO delicious after the night out on the Baltic. By the way, who is the photographer in the picture below? In fact, it is yours truly, using the miracles of digital processing to put myself in there among my friends!

Hans Christian Cars, Ann-Katrin Jahnberg, Emil Ems and Peder Jahnberg on the Jahnberg property on Sandön

After coffee it was time for inspecting the premises. To our surprise we heard that the Jahnberg property reached "from Sea to Sea", spanning straight across the peninsula. Actually this is not as large as it sounds, since you can walk across – through beautiful pine groves – in 5-10 minutes. Still, it is an amazing piece of land to own on the Skerries. Peder's forefather acquired it many years ago, when population was sparse on the island and land was still cheap. Nowadays, the larger family, with siblings and children, uses it as a common property – each having built their own summer house there – enjoying together this colorful summer idyll.

Flower and Grass Snake (Snok) on Sandön

On the beach opposite the one we were sitting at coffee, the wild wastes of the Baltic made themselves known all over again, with just a few isles lingering in the vastness of the Sea. Wind tousled our hair and we gave a last "Farewell" to the open ranges. On the picture you can see the big Skipper himself, with his eyes wide shut and with one of his beloved beacons in the background.

Hans Christian Cars, lighthouse in background

There were still three hours of voyage ahead of us, with many stories to tell along the way, but I am feeling your patience getting exhausted. So let's interrupt here and resume our tale just about when accosting Mjölkö again in the early afternoon, with the Cars property beaming at us from afar and with Isolde already waving us welcome.

The Cars Property on Mjölkö

As eager as Isolde was to welcome us back, as eager were we to greet her, since we had been unable to find a restaurant still open in late season on the return trip. To our delight she managed to get a very tasteful meal together in no time, with chanterelles from the island forest, egg and potatoes;  hungry as we were, we felt to never have eaten anything more delicate than this.

A great "Thanks!" to Hans Christian for this nice trip, as well as to Isolde, Ann-Katrin and Peder for their cordial welcome

What else remains to tell? Well, on the return trip to Stockholm, I was lucky to get SS Storskär as the carrier. Given a choice, I could not have chosen better; huff-puffing with a veteran steamboat through the skerries must appear as a glorious finale to anyone. Here below you can see its elegant saloon in mahogny. Isn't it nice to dream yourself back to 1908, when Storskär first rode the Baltic waves?

SS Storskär Saloon

This means the end of the trip, I am afraid, as well as the end of this post. But also an end to the longest Summer in memory. It is therefore only fitting to finish the essay with a heartfelt "Goodbye, Summer, you were sweet! See you again next year!"

"Hello and Goodbye!", from Emil Ems, exploring the cliffs of Björkskär





Sunday, 18 August 2013

MIDNIGHT FRENZY


Summer is approaching its end, but the "Latin" enthusiasm of Swedes is not yet abating. Have a look at the picture above, taken yesterday around 11 pm. You may believe the greenery along the quay to be a new park in the making. But, "No!", you are in fact seeing some thirtyfive thousand people rushing by during the annual Midnight Run around the Southern Island of Stockholm. 

True to the time-honored tradition of being exuberant in Summertime, this extraordinary event is accompanied by an enormous ruckus, with many more spectators than runners, filling the Island to the brim. Long after the Run is finished, the air is vibrating with the sound of festive ululations, keeping us more sedate citizens awake until early morning. 

This year I decided to take the devil by the horns and spend the evening and night with preparing a blog post, instead of throwing around in bed in a vain attempt to get some sleep. This turned out to the best for all parties, don't you think, and I may repeat the exercise another year. Better to use the event for some creative output than to keep getting angry at the outbursts of the "Summer Swedes".

Soon enough everyone will reconvert to their more natural "Nordic" temperament and cool restraint will again be reigning over Hammarby Sound. When I went out to the balcony early this morning, bleary eyed from keeping awake, I was very astonished to see that the cleaning crew had already been out in the wee hours: not a single sign of the night's excesses was visible along the quay opposite my apartment. And the morning sun greeted me with abandon, as if telling me that Summer was far from over.

But let's face it! We live in the North after all. With September approaching, it is best to start freshening up the odd pullover and warmer trouser. But, "Wait!", don't forget that there is one last occasion to indulge in exuberant "Summerism". This time I myself will be the cause of it. Next Saturday I will invite family to the annual big event in Hammarby Sjöstad, the Emil Ems Crayfish Party

You didn't know that us Swedes love to eat crayfish in August? Well, this is a time-honored tradition, ever since the days when the fishing season for this delicacy began first in August. We will indulge in those red little creatures, swimming in their tasty dill sauce and certainly won't forget to welcome each of them with high spirits or, rather, with strong spirits from glassy containers. 

Having said this, we should not forget to thank these little creeps every time we take a sip and sing a song to go along with it. Without them, no doubt, there won't be any strong spirit to consume in Sweden. Back in the beginning of the Roaring Twenties, the abolitionist movement in Sweden was in full swing, and a referendum on alcohol prohibition was held in 1922. The opponents won only with a slight margin, and only one single picture helped to sway the undecided. It was produced by Albert Engström and the connection to the crayfish is obvious, once you consider its message: "Kräftor kräva dess drycker" (Without strong spirits no crayfish!).

So, thanks to Albert, there will yet be a Crayfish Party next Saturday. To act as a warming up for the big event, permit me to present my personal version of the eternal truth:




Thursday, 20 June 2013

SÅSOM I EN SPEGEL



This morning, at 5.30, I tiptoed out into my balcony to admire the views. It was completely calm, not even the slightest breeze to disturb the waters. The wind would be born soon and grow into late afternoon, but for the moment, serenity was reigning over Hammarby Sound. Looking down was just like losing yourself in a giant mirror that replicated the sky above.

This scene brought suddenly a familiar wording to my mind: "Såsom i en spegel" ("As Though in a Mirror"). You know of course that this is the title of a path-breaking film by Ingmar Bergman. In that movie, Bergman's genial photographer, Sven Nyquist, set the tone by picturing a likewise calm sea outside Fårö in the Baltic, which triggered my memory. Of course, there is a difference: the movie was shot in black & white; in calm evening hours; and the sky was clouded. But why let minor differences spoil the analogy? Instead, let's honor the two artists by deleting the colors in the title picture. The mood in this new version is quite different, don't you agree? 


Unfortunately, I can't show you the corresponding scene shot by Nyquist, but this picture from the film at least shows the serene atmosphere of the surroundings. I realize that my humble effort does not even come close to the moody imagery that Sven had in store for us. But he was an artist, whilst I am simply a (hopefully gifted) amateur! 

So let's leave the visual arts for a moment and reconsider the title of the film. In fact, its English version ("Through a Glass Darkely") is not really up to the task, in my view. Can we guess the origin of this phrase! No? Well, it could stem from a well known romanticist author. In one of his novellas he is pointing out that the true meaning of one's existence could be glanced only by considering your life to be a theater play. But why not let the author speak for himself: 
"... it was necessary to find, in a little world known as the theater, a couple of people who were not only animated by true imagination, true inward humor, but were also capable of recognizing this state of mind objectively, as though in a mirror, and of introducing it into external life in such a way that it should have the effect of a powerful spell upon the great world which surrounds the little world. Thus the theater, if you like, could after a fashion represent the well of Urdar, in which people can look." ("Princess Brambilla", in E.T.A Hoffman, The Golden Pot and Other Tales, Oxford University Press 1992).
Now, this being out of the way, we can present Ingmar's movies in a new light. Let's assume that he had read Hoffman's novella at an early stage in his life; the mirror motive is prevalent in even his earliest pictures. To begin with, they appear only as short cameos, as if the director wanted to just hint at the urge to look inside himself and perceive his true inner being. A good example can be found in his early masterpiece "Smultronstället" ("Wild Strawberries").

Ingmar Bergman really came of age first with his grand masterpiece, in which the concept of "mirror" was presented already in the film title. Here, for the first time, he allowed himself to look deep into his soul and show the resulting insights for all the world to see. Who in "Såsom i en spegel" could be said to represent Ingmar and his inner thoughts and feelings? In fact, all four of the actors are involved: from the schizophrenic daughter to the introvert father preying on her; from the frigid and hapless husband to the newly awakened boy. 

With this film, Ingmar started a sequence of highly personal movies that got him international acclaim. But, in a way, they are but re-hashings of the main theme presented in "Såsom i en spegel" and you could do worse than limiting yourself to see only this of Ingmar's many films.

This movie still staying in my thoughts, I wonder whether other folks than great artists have the same ability of introspection. Are there mirrors to be found by us too, allowing us to explore our innermost being and make us, as well as others, aware of the often convoluted and sometimes frightening personality we really are? Of course, I cannot answer for other people. But, come to think of it, my old negatives that I mentioned in Shades of Gray, laboriously acquired in forty years of large format photography, come to mind. Aren't those like small mirrors that permit me to look into my soul?




Large format photography is not precisely a spontaneous exercise. After all, you are carrying along equipment weighing 10 kilos or more, which takes up to half an hour to set up before you can begin taking pictures. So the motives you choose don't come out of the blue; you tend to return to the same place over and over again, until conditions are just so to get you a result you can live with. Is it so far fetched to believe that this exercise is being governed by your subconscious and that the result is letting you glimpse into your soul?

As I have told you already in Shades of Gray, I have begun taking out my old negatives of the cupboard and bringing them to life. Looking at the result, I often feel forced to take a step back and consider what I am working on. It is as if I am looking down a deep well (or mirror, if you prefer) and discovering hidden traits in my personality that I hitherto have happily suppressed. To emphasize that point, why not take a look at this picture of an apartment building on Hornsgatan in Stockholm.


I feel inclined to dedicate this picture to my father. He grew up under atrocious circumstances during the Great Depression and came to adulthood in the inhuman depravations of WWII. Ever since he strove hard to overcome the wounds afflicted to his soul, so that he could shape a decent existence for himself and his loved ones. But, at not so uncommon occasions, you could see the hardly controlled facade cracking and the horrors of yore shining through.

Whom am I kidding? Is it not so that children inherit the traits of their parents? Am I not bound to always keeping a tight control of myself, like my father, to get to grips with a turbulent and hurting interior? Is this picture not really holding up a mirror, showing me my own troubles and despair?

But enough of these intriguing thoughts! Sorrow be gone! Time to cut loose from our journey into the Underworld, "instigated" by E.T.A. and guided by Ingmar. There is a more joyous theme to pursue yet before this post is finished. Have we forgotten that today is solstice day? As I am writing this, the longest day of the year is slowly journeying into evening; the sun is already hiding below the horizon but still in touch with the northern clouds, illuminating them with a rosy shine to raise our spirits from the deeps.



Tomorrow will be a big day of joyous festivities, when the Stockholmians get off their back and hurry out to sea, on boats ranging from the big vessels of the Wasa Fleet to the smallest barges full of festive parties.

HAPPY MIDSUMMER   –  GLAD MIDSOMMAR    to all my readers!



Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A NATION REBORN


In Sweden, the weeks of mid-June are pleasant to behold. After a long harsh winter and very short spring, suddenly, the heat comes to the rescue and it is time to go outdoors and start living again. Usually, the first two weeks of this enjoyable month experience a heat wave, with temperatures around 25° Celsius. The sun is shining most of the day and night and is heating up the atmosphere to please us all.

This year is somewhat different. Temperatures are a bit lower, but still above 20° when the sun is shining. This is being accompanied by intermittent showers that cool off and clean the air. All in all, a very nice experience. 

The Swedes are generally known as a rather reserved and taciturn crowd. But you would be amazed to see them now. It is as if a different people had moved in and replaced the ordinary citizens during those Summer weeks. All public spaces are being occupied by frolicking and sun-bathing crowds, as are the sidewalks outside restaurants and cafés. Youngsters aplenty clad with a white cap are celebrating graduation from highschool and college – waited upon by their parents with funny placards, depicting them as babies – and driving off, howling and hooting on big lorries with loudspeakers on full blast. 

















Would you think the ruckus is abating towards the late hours? Far from it, "I could have danced all night!" is the parole to follow, especially for the youngsters. To prove my point, why don't you take another look at an earlier blog post of mine, showing what people here are up to in the early morning hours?


Last friday evening, some suspiciously looking "hoodlums" were acting strangely on the street and sidewalk just below my balcony. In fact they were painting the asphalt with new lines as if trying to confuse drivers and walkers. I was almost tempted to call the police and have them arrest these malfeasants. But it turned out that they were preparing for one of those funky summer events, a street race for bicycles, on the streets and park of my narrower community. This race went on day long on Saturday, with all kinds of age participating in the event. Towards early afternoon, the real pros appeared, to be documented by yours truly for your benefit.
















As an aside, I arrived in Sweden myself for the first time precisely in those weeks of June, 51 years ago. Does it surprise you that I got enchanted and decided to move to this benighted country? Little did I know about the other half of the year and the other side of the Swedes! But you have to take the bad with the good and, on balance, I think I made the right decision. 

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

SHADES OF GRAY


"No!", I am sorry, this blog post is not about that book of recent acclaim, much sought after in the bookshops at the moment. Instead it is about the peculiar propensity of photographers to deprive the world of its colors, so that the viewer may concentrate on shapes and luminosity when considering views in their representation on fine prints. 

Even if this could be considered an ultimate artistic sophistication, the practice has its origin in a technical invention. That one consisted of spreading a porridge of silver nitrate on glass or paper, which turned, when subject to light, into shades of grey, the darker the more light received. Thus suddenly any person, able to afford the – rather expensive – equipment necessary to catch the light on the substrate, was turned into a magician that converted the world into shapes of grey, whilst still preserving outlines and luminosity.

For more than 150 years this was the utmost of photographic imagery, much longer so for the enthusiastic amateur. Even if color photography was invented eventually, it was cumbersome, expensive and not easily subject to manipulation. All this of course changed in the digital age. Nowadays, everybody and his/her grandmother are happily clicking away and sharing the result in glorious color, on paper or – preferably – on the screen of our precious new viewing machines.


Still, the old art of black-on-white is not dead. There is the almost limitless mass of pictures from the pre-digital age resting in our cupboards and in photo-books of yore. Now and then, but rarely, a practitioner of the old art can still be seen exploring the world, with tripod on shoulder and huge camera in tow. In addition, people have started converting digital pictures into shades of gray; in the real sense of the word, they are taking the color out of the world, keeping only shape and luminosity. 

I hate to admit it, but I am one of the old-timers whose photographic production was most active in the old days of black-on-white. I have been taking pictures for some 60 years now, but only started to take them in color since five years back, when I acquired my first digital camera, a humble Nikon D 60. 

Why have you never seen any results from my 55 years of color-less photography? The answer is simple: most of my photos were taken on large format film, with negatives of size 9x12 cm or larger. In my younger days, I could just about afford to buy a camera and lenses for those large negatives; no money left for the huge investment in equipment to enlarge the negatives and rendering them into prints! Furthermore, there was never room in any of my lodgings for the considerable space needed to create a functional darkroom.

So my thousand or so large format negatives from this productive period of my youth have been resting, patiently asleep, in my drawers all those years, without me being able to judge whether they would be worthy of a larger audience.

Comes the digital age to the rescue! I have recently acquired a scanner that permits me to download all those negatives into digital yes's and nos. Now, for the first time, I am able to observe what came out of my feverous activities of yore. I can tell you that I am very surprised about the quality of those pictures. Consequently, you will not be getting many blog posts from me in the near future, and neither will my website be updated as frequently as usual. Most of my time will be spent on developing – and printing – those old negatives. Who knows, even a book may eventually come out of this exercise.

That's all for today, I am afraid; off to the computer again to develop some more negatives!

POSTSCRIPT: The finished book can from abroad be ordered from my website emsvision.com. Swedish readers can order it from BOKUS or Liten Upplaga.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

THE LOOONG GOODBYE TO WINTER




















Meteorologists won't agree with me but, in my view, winter ends first when the trees acquire their first delicate greens. We are not quite there yet, spring still appears like a "lady in waiting".

It has been a looong winter, not exceptionally cold, just exceptionally long and it still refuses the right of way to a spring eagerly awaited by us suffering Swedes. You don't think this winter was exceptional? Well, look at the title picture above, taken yesterday around 15 pm and compare it with a picture taken the same day two years ago (SKIR GRÖNSKA).

I am just back from a three weeks' trip to Austria. The first days down yonder felt about the same as Stockholm does now; but since then spring has erupted there with a vengeance; the valleys have already turned into intensive green against the snowy white of the mountain tops. Day before yesterday, it was 28° C in Vienna, when I boarded the plane back to Stockholm.

It is wearing me down a bit to have to experience the whole sequence once again! But don't despair! In three weeks' time, all will be back to normal and I won't keep bearing a grudge against Father Frost any longer!