Tuesday, 31 May 2016

KITCHENHENGE

"Manhattanhenge", Source: New York Times


















Just a few minutes ago, I got a very nice e-mail from a friend who is a New York resident half of the year and lives in Stockholm the other half. The e-mail included a reference to an intriguing article in the New York Times. It so happens that on two days, twice a year, the sun is setting along the west-facing streets of the Big Apple. Sunday and yesterday were two of those days, causing hordes of photographers to congregate, tripod and camera in full swing, to capture this wonder of nature  – and spare some time to contemplate the passage of the ages, I hope.

In olden times, there was the habit of building stone circles to the same effect: Stonehenge comes to mind. In Sweden we have a much disputed counterpart, called Ales stenar. It is an impressive build-up of huge stones that the official state authorities claim to be a burial site, of some 1550 years of age. However, an independent researcher has a more intriguing claim: it was a temple dedicated to the sun-cult, with two of the some 50 huge stones of the circle placed exactly at summer and winter solstice. Furthermore, there is carbon dated evidence that this temple of the sun could be much older, 5000 years or more, which would place it in the same league as Stonehenge.

I am an agnostic, but feel nonetheless the urge now and then to worship the sun, photographically speaking. In this context it is unfortunate that my kitchen window, which forms the basis for photographic excesses on this blog, is facing due North. So no splendid counterparts to the title picture can be taken by me for you to admire. But wait! I have lived for more than seventy years already, and have more kitchen windows to show for! In particular, I am thinking about my splendid Brussels apartment with a view, from which I could produce sunset pictures from January to December.

I could produce sunset pictures alright, but mostly in theory only, since Brussels is the "Cloudy City", preventing photographers from taking such trophy pictures most of the time. This irked me, because there was one view from my apartment that I much admired, and where I longed to place a setting sun. I had made exact triangulations and knew, that 18 October (or the corresponding date in March) was the day to plan for.

Could you believe that it took me five years of bi-annual stand-by until I finally got a sunset where I wanted it to glow? During those years, I could experience clouds, light rain, heavy rain, even snow, but never a sunset. Finally, after long and patient waiting, there it was, and ready I was, with my big Toyota Field Camera on tripod, to get it on film. Please take a minute to contemplate the outcome. It took me five years to accomplish it!

"Brusselshenge". View from my kitchen window at Ave Gabriel Emile Lebon
on 18 october 2004



Saturday, 21 May 2016

YOUNG VIRGINS' SUMMER

A nice interlude to my morning walk

I have the habit of taking an extended walk (of about 45 minutes) every day after breakfast. Over the years, the track has been well beaten and I ramble around it almost without thinking. But, without fail, I surface from meditations at exactly one place every morning. There is a reason for it, since that is the only spot where I am greeted by a luscious grove of oak trees.

Although seeing the site in question should be a routine experience by now, two weeks ago I just had to stop and spend some minutes taking it all in. It was around 9 am, and the sun illuminated the landscape with its beneficial glow. And "glow" is the right word to describe also the scene itself. It almost jumped at me with its glorious shining. There was something special with the leaves having started to bud just the day before and I just had to immerse myself in their virginal freshness. 

A propos "virginal", this word reminds me of the very unusual month of May we are experiencing this year (On the other hand, isn't every month unusual nowadays, in this age of climate change?). Although the month started out with icy snow patches still covering our ski slope ("Yes! There is a slalom skiing facility just around the corner from where I live. We even had a Ski World Cup competition here February last), just a week later meteorologists declared that Summer had arrived in Stockholm (defined as a daily average temperature of more than 10°C). This put a lot of pressure on the vegetation to come forward with full speed. As a result, cherry blossoms appeared suddenly, adorning the squares in Sjöstaden, and tree leaves started to bud with a vengeance. 

There is no word in the Swedish language for such an early start of Summer, so I had to invent it for you. Inspiration came from the scenery I witnessed that morning, as well as from the German word for late Summer. They don't call it Indian Summer over here, for obvious reasons, the German word is "Altweibersommer" (Old Spinsters' Summer). So what better term for early Summer than "Jungfrauensommer" (Young Virgins' Summer). Thereof the title of this blog post. 

Fortunately I had a camera with me on that glorious morning. But it proved difficult to get the full scenery on screen. The title picture shows the full extent of the site I could take in with the lens on its widest setting. Still, this was a "tunnel view", far from the scene that had caused me to stop! The eye tends to rove and construct a much more encompassing view than can be caught with a fixed lens on camera. So I decided to construct a full panorama of the scene, as the eyes are roving, only possible to do on the fly with a digital camera. You may be surprised to learn, dear readers, that this panorama is the result of taking EIGHT pictures, and merging them together to obtain the full extent of my experience. You could not take it all in with just a glance, you would have to rove the scene with your eyes, but here it is, the full glory of my morning welcome. 

View of Hammarby Fabriksväg in direction of Sickla Lock

Invigorated by this photographic excess, I decided to repeat it on my way back home along the quays. When I arrived at the ferry boat quay, the boat coming from Central Stockholm was just about to dock. Rushing to a nice viewpoint, I quickly fired off eight shots again with my camera and put them together to get this wide panorama of Hammarby Bay.

Norra Hammarbyhamnen and Hammarby Bay seen from Luma Quay.

I apologize for the technical angle to this bucolic blog, but hope that the pictures can be judged on their own merit, irrespective of how they have been produced.

To finish the post in a more romantic timbre, why not listen to this song by a promising lady, singing about her time as "young virgin". I am sure that "young" is an appropriate caption for her, but am a bit unsure about the second term, considering her emphatic embracing of female lusciousness!

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

VERONIKA, DER LENZ IST DA!

Hammarby Canal at 5 am

I think I have mentioned this before: I have the habit of sleeping with a window slightly ajar, which does me a lot of good and provides for firm sleeping. Unless, of course, there is sudden noise in the middle of the night, which will get me wide awake.

This week, I was rather confident in expecting nightly serenity along Hammarby Canal. This was Ascension week after all, and most people had left town for a prolonged weekend. But to my surprise, heavy ruckus forced me out of bed this morning at the ungodly hour of 5 am! It sounded like a fire engine approaching with all alarms going at full blast. Thereafter, there was consistent noise as if a diesel-fired compressor was being put to good use.

Emptying the septic tank early in the morning

When I stumbled out on the balcony, still half-asleep, a beautiful morning scenery welcomed me, looking towards the west. The sun had risen just maybe 15 minutes earlier, but already managed to bath the quays in warm morning glow. But what about the ruckus? The above picture shows the source of it all. Apparently, the owner of the boat berching across the canal from my balcony had engaged a company to empty the vessel's septic tank! They thought nothing of doing the necessary at five in the morning!

Better rush away, lest people complain

The noise went on without relapse for a good 15 minutes. Thereafter, the lorry left in a hurry, as if afraid of being assaulted by angry residents. Well, they should have thought about this earlier. Considering the fact that a body of water, like Hammarby Canal, is bouncing sound waves upwards and around, residents in almost 500 apartments must have been disturbed in their well-deserved morning slumber by this sudden urge of house-cleaning. 

After stamping around in my apartment for a while, mightily enraged by this unthoughtful intrusion, I managed to calm down again and nourish my mind with positive thoughts. Hadn't this noise induced me to get up unusually early, and provided me with a nice morning view, to share with my readers? Furthermore, should I not consider this irresponsible intrusion as a sign that spring had arrived at long last?

Nobody in his right mind would order the emptying of a septic tank during an icy cold winter night at 5 am. It takes the mellow mornings of spring and summer to awaken the usually sedate Swede to untoward excesses. This ruckus was just the first sign of the "Summer Swede", changing into a Mediterranean "Happy-go-lucky" from having been a responsible Northener, whilst exiting his hibernation in glad anticipation of warmer tides ahead.  

Water valve cover on Hammarby Quay

I have to admit that even I, myself, am affected by this climatic influence on personality. Why not give in to the happy mood of spring and celebrate the arrival of warmer tides with a song that captures the fullness of the experience? I am thinking of a song group that could keep your spirits sprightly even in cold winter times, not to speak of welcoming the warmer season ahead. Like spring, these singers arrived with a flourish, but flourished only for a short while. The evil regime of the 'thirties put an abrupt end to it. But they live on for evermore in their songs, to delight generation after generation of listeners!