Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Pilgrimage to Fulltofta...

My son is practicing his driving skills so on weekends we try to find a destination we can aim for. After weeks of mixed winter weather; wet and cold, or snowing and cloudy, we finally got a break in the weather and headed for the nearby town of Hörby where the old church has a resident peregrine falcon during the winter. The word peregrine is French for "Pilgrim" because of the hood I believe, and what more fitting place for a pilgrim than on a church.

 I assumed a small town like Hörby with a population of 7,000 couldn't have such a large church, so I expected close-up shots of one of my favorite birds. But it seems the height of Swedish church towers has nothing to do with local population, and our friend the peregrine sat atop a 20 meter tower, making this a job for the big guns...

No sooner had we arrived then the peregrine took off at full speed. I expected her to target a duck from the flock on the river right beside the church, but instead she disappeared out of sight several hundred yards away, and then a few moments later was back on top of the tower with an adult blackbird in her talons.

While the peregrine made short work of her midmorning snack we set up the tripod about 50 meters away to get a reasonable angle and mounted the Canon 7D + 800/5.6 + 1.4 extender. As we dialed in the settings we filmed and photographed. Unfortunately I forgot my remote control, so it was nearly impossible to press the shutter release without shaking the camera. But we had enough time to test and retest and about the time we were ready Mrs. Peregrine was finished with her snack and launched herself from the roof of the church and I managed to get a couple of decent shots. Here at 1120mm f/11, 1/1000 sec, ISO1600.

I tried for a repeat visit two weeks later, hoping our peregrine living atop a bell tower kept regular mealtimes. But she was simply not home and after an hour of waiting and while doing some googling on Hörby I learned that the nearby church in Fulltofta from the 1100's was supposed to have fabulous ceiling paintings from the 1400's. It was a Sunday and I expected the church to be locked for the weekend if there wasn't a service going on, but it was worth a shot. And as luck would have it the church was open and the ceiling was a truly a work of art. I even had the place to myself long enough to set up my tripod and with my Canon 6D and Samyang 14mm take a series of photographs that capture some of the beauty...

Here using 20 images assembled into a panorama in Photoshop. One thing I have learned about photography inside old churches is that it's best done when the wheather is miserable. The darker the better so that the windows don't get too over-exposed, and the lighting is relatively even. Today's weather was almost bad enough.

There's no good way to capture the entire ceiling in a normal way, so this 180 degree shot will have to do.

Despite living in Southern Sweden for 27 years, no one has ever mentioned the beautiful church in Fulltofta and the fantastic ceiling. I have stood in line in other countries and paid too much for less interesting places. So do yourself a favour if you're in the neighborhood or have out of town visitors, make a pilgrimage to Fulltofta. Besides the church there is a fantastic nature area with hiking and beautiful landscapes along the Ringsjö lakes.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Candle for Paris

I started working on this blog entry on November 13; an attempt to catch up after too much work and too little time. But the tragic events of November 14th made it impossible to continue as intended. So I will simply share a few of my photos from our trip to Paris this summer, and offer my condolences and prayers to all those that have been touched by the violence...



Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Nightshift in Stockholm

A rare trip for client meetings in Stockholm in October had me booked morning till nightfall and left me few options if I wanted to take any pictures... A sturdy tripod, my Canon 6D and 17-40mm lens were included in my carryon bag. The weather in October has been either fantastic or windy and rainy, and as luck would have it I had a couple of fantastic evenings in Stockholm with almost no wind, making for some beautiful reflections along the waterfront. After a quick subway ride from Kista and a 10 minute walk I was on the shore of Malarstrand and began working my way towards Stadshuset (City Hall), then continuing on to Gamla Stan (the old town center) and finishing across from the sailing ship and youth hostel A F Chapman.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Joys of Jet-Lag

I admit I am an early riser; even on weekends I typically get up at 6AM. But when we visit my parents in San Diego with a 9 hour timezone change, I'm really lucky if I can sleep until 4AM, or at least I toss and turn until 4AM. But every cloud has a silver lining, and being up early in San Diego where the weather is almost always fantastic means having plenty of time to photograph the sunset.

This year I decided to try some downtown skyline sunrises. So after 17 hours of travel and 5 hours of sleep I was good to go, but still managed to misjudge the best time to photograph the sunrise. With the official sunrise at 6:43  I assumed 6:00 would be plenty early, but no, with clear skies the sky was already too light and the skyline was only a silhoutte. But I figured out where I would set up and checked lenses and exposure times and made another visit the next morning after again waking at 4:30.

Thanks to cloudy skies and being a few minutes earlier the lighting was better and the sunrise more colorful, but the mirror-like reflection of San Diego Bay was disturbed by an early morning cruise ship, akthough the cruise ship did add a nice touch...

By 6:15 the waters were still again and the pink sunrise made a beautiful backdrop to the Coronado Bridge and Seaport Village.

The next morning at 5:50 I went looking for a different foreground and wound up at the sailboat anchorage closer to downtown, which was a nice change but without any clouds the sunrise wasn't very colorful.

A couple more days of less than spectacular sunrises and then on the 20th of December I was pleasantly surprised by the rising new moon on Dec at 5:44AM where the entire disc of the moon was visible thanks to the clear skies, photographed here with the Canon 300/2.8LIS

But the sun and moon move very quickly this far south so it was only a matter of minutes before the moon was too high to shot with a telephoto lens and I had to use 24-105 at 47mm, but now the sky was coloring up beautifully...

A week into our trip and our jet-lag was almost gone, and there plenty of other late trips and activities to keep us busy around Christmas, but I had to photograph the sunrise on New Year's Day and from some place new. So it was a quick trip to Coronado Island to photograph the sunrise from beneath the Coronado Bridge...

Happy New Year 2015!


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In the Sanctuary of the Albatross

For our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary on Jan. 1 we wanted to go someplace special, and since we were visiting my parents during the holidays we had San Diego as our starting point. Since we have seen so much of the Southwest already it was time for something even more exotic, so I suggested Hawaii and didn't get any arguments from the rest of the family. And while this was intended as a family trip I couldn't help checking google for what kind of birds and wildlife we might find on the island of Hawaii. I have been to Hawaii a couple of times before and wasn't expecting anything new, but then I just happened to stumble upon information about an albatross sanctuary on Hawaii, and that their nesting begins in December. Apparently the population has been decimated in the past by wild dogs and off-road vehicles, but a few years ago the state put a fence across the peninsula of the albatross nesting site and since then their numbers have quickly increased.  Access to the nesting grounds entailed a 4 kilometer hike across open terrain that can get very hot, but as luck would have it we managed to time our visit with a real cold spell and the threat of continued storms and rain, YEAH! (not)... The girls were more interested in the shopping malls and generously offered to stay in Honolulu...

Johan and I, still under the influence of jet-lag, left Honolulu around 5AM with coffee and breakfast from Starbucks and made the 90 minute drive to the parking area. The weather did not look promising and we were sure that we would be drenched by storms on the horizon, and although we felt a few drops we probably found the least rainy spot on the island. During our one hour hike we saw no sign of albatross over the ocean, so we weren't completely convinced that they we were going to see any...

Even as we reached the fenced area we did not see any albatross, until we begin walking along the trail, and then suddenly only a few meters away a lone albatross sat in the grass obviously on a nest. We were very careful to avoid making any noise but the bird did not seem particularly concerned about our presence. After taking a few telephoto close-ups we continued our hike further into albatross territory.

Due to the storms the winds were hard, but that didn't bother the albatross and we saw more and more in the air performing acrobatics, hanging in the winds and then diving just over the ground before landing in their courting and nesting areas.

When they landed we observed the typical greeting behaviour as they shake their beaks together and sound like a noise maker.

But this behaviour was not just reserved for couples, but even extended to the neighbors, and after greeting their spouse the newly landed bird would also wander over and greet the neighbors

After making the rounds the spouses traded places and the sitting birds waddled off to the launching pad and pointed their beaks against the wind and began their wild flapping and running to get airborn...

Once up in the air they made a few passes over the nesting area, maybe to see who else was at home, before heading out to sea to search for food.

After three hours the activity died down and there were almost no flying birds over the colony, and we decided that was a sign that it was time to make the 4km hike back to the car and head back to civilization. Next time we will have to time our visit so that the eggs have hatched, probably February...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

From the Alps to the Volcanos of Clermont-Ferand

I keep thinking I need to finish this post but life got in the way. Now it's nearly Christmas and I haven't had much time to photograph due to the weather the last few weeks, so it's nice to reminisce about what a fantastic summer we had.
After leaving Venosc and the Alps on the 6th of July we headed west to stay with our friends Aurélie and Aurelien in Clermont-Fernad. Aurelien suggested we stop in Lyon and visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, and since I really love looking at old cathedrals it sounded like a good place for a break in our trip. Even though Aurelien said it was worth the visit, I try not to get my hopes up to avoid being diasappointed, but this was a real jewel...

And as a photographer the challenge is how to take it all in? No single shot can capture the how impressive this cathedral is, so panorama is the only option. First a 180 degree horizontal panorama

And then a 180 degree vertical panorama; I think the woman behind me was quite surprised with I continued my shots from front to back and wound up pointing straight at her.
I am really happy with how this turned out considering it is handheld; it would have been much easier with a tripod...

After spending an hour in the cathedral it was time to continue to Clermont-Ferand, and area of France known for its past volcanic activity. Arriving at the home of A & A we were treating to an assortment of French cheeses; I had to take a picture of the beautiful presentation, and it tasted as good as it looked.

From their flat A&A have a fantastic view of the cathedral of Clermont-Ferand, but it's a bit of a challenge to photograph it and capture the detail in the shadows, so every morning and evening I took a few shots.

Despite a few rain showers we made daily trips in the region including one which led us to the Château de Murol.

The clouds from the storm that trapped us in the château made the scene look much more dramatic, and Kristina looking out over the fields reminds me of Rapunzel letting down her golden hair. It was  a bit of a fairy tale day.

After the storm passed the skies quickly turned blue again...

After one of the longest summers I can remember autumn went by in a flash, and in three weeks it will be Christmas. I hope spring doesn't keep us waiting...


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Killer Marmotte of Alpe d'Huez

In search of a new adventure, and new scenery I jumped on a bicycling challenge proposed by Nina Gilljam from Höllviken CK (one of the two cycling clubs I belong to). Höllviken CK has all sorts of interesting cycling destinations and this one "La Marmotte" struck a chord;
thirty years ago in 1984 I visited the Alps around Alpe d'Huez and watched two stages of the Tour de France and since then have dreamed of crossing the Alps on bicycle in order to experience what the pro's really go through. My hero at the time, Greg Lemond, was the first American to have a shot at winning, even though officially he was working for Bernard Hinault and team "La Vie Claire".

So on the 15th of July, 1984 after spending the night in a tent on a slope my traveling companion Cathy and I spent the day watching the racers fly by, one every two minutes, during the individual time trial. A real festival atmosphere as thousands of fans lined the roads and waited for their favorites.

But "La Marmotte" is a very different animal, literally. La Marmotte is a cyclosportive named after a rather large rodent of the same name that makes its home in the Alps:

I have no idea why they named this cycling event after a rodent. Maybe someone thought a marmot would give associations to something soft and fuzzy, and that was probably a good marketing move, since the animal that best captures the pain of the world's most challenging cyclosportive (174km/108 miles and with 5,180 m/16,990 ft of climbing) would probably be the tasmanian devil, and who would sign up for a ride like that? But never mind the pain, the rewards are unforgettable.

The scenery in the alps and particulary along the route of La Marmotte, alpine meadows, quaint villages, wild orchids, and the comradery of 7000 cyclists climbing a 12% grade at 2600 meters to pass by this sign...

I was completely exhausted by the first 114km when I reached that sign, but from there it was 50 kilometers downhill which begins with sheer cliffs and hairpin turns at speeds of 60+kph before leveling out ahead of the final 13km climb up Alpe d'Huez.

Unfortunately inexperience put a stop to my race; I neglected to douse my head with cool water before starting the final climb and overheated 10 km from the finish. I didn't lose too much sleep over not making it up Alpe d'Huez that day though , since I managed to make it up another day:

Whether for cycling, photography or both this was a fantastic destination.

From our ski cottage we had fantastic views all day long, and beautiful sunsets that played out on the glaciers:

And while struggling up a hill on a training ride there were countless orchids lining the side of the road.

On the final night of our stay in the clear summer night, the stars were amazing...
But since most of this week had been dedicated to cycling, most of my photography started the day after the ride...