Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oriental Ecuador

Heading east from Quito, it doesn´t take long before the road starts to climb the heights of the Andes. The engine roars hoarsely, starved on oxygen as the bus gains more and more altitude. Less and less trees populate the hillsides and before long the road is veiled in banks of clouds. Vultures glide statically above the barren land and cold air streams through the open windows. We are reaching the summit.
Well on the ridge of the mountain range a knuckled terrain partly occluded in clouds stretches out around us. An immense volcanic cone appears around a bend; a silent, unquestionable dominator.
Shortly, the descent on the far side begins, and the engine goes quiet, replaced by the suffering sound of the brakes. With such a steep and long inclination, the brakes must be handled with care or they will overheat and burst into flames.
All this time, a reggaeton beat drums from the bus speakers and a Sylvester Stallone collection DVD plays on the onboard tv-set.
Going down, the vegetation thickens and colors shift from brown and grey to green and yellow. Water pours from the hills, leaping hundreds of meters, flowing into the bustling river deep down on the valley floor. Sometimes, a breathtaking view of the lowland ahead opens up.
Down there, a few hours away, is Tena, the capital of this tropic region.
To be continued...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ascending the Cotopaxi

Not far from Quito lies the majestic volcano of Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. Reaching 5897 m above sea level, it is surpassed only by Llullaillaco and Ojos del Salado (Chile). It has had at least 50 eruptions in the last couple of centuries, with lava flows, pyroclastic clouds and melted ice rivers. In 1534, it erupted in the middle of a battle between Spaniards and Incas and forced both sides to flee. It´s name is in quichua and translates to Moon´s Neck, so called because the moon travels up the side of the volcanic cone when it rises, and ends up right on top of the summit, becoming the head of the volcano in the eyes of the natives.
Together with a guide, I set out to climb a part of this beautiful mountain. Our goal was to reach the first base camp at 4800 m, starting from the parking lot at 4600 m. This might sound easy, but this small climb normally takes 45 min to one hour, and means a lot of effort. We were in luck and the clouded summit sometimes exposed itself, with it´s glittering glacier.
After a tough walk with a constantly maxed pulse we reached the camp. Time: 40 mins. Though a small victory, it feels great. Feeling like a real andinist, you try to ignore that also grandmothers and children are lingering at the base camp, annoyingly unbothered by the climb.
We also strolled around a little to check out the lower folds of the glacier.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Equatorial Experiments

Shortly after arriving to Quito, my second cousin Xavier Donoso took me to see the monument called "La Mitad del Mundo" - Half of the world - erected in honour of the 19th century french expedition that established the location of the equatorial line. Around this monument, a number of small museums and exhibitions have been installed, mainly about Ecuador and the equator. However, some years ago, the US Navy conducted GPS measurements on the site and concluded that the line is not exactly where the monument was built but actually some 100 m further north. So, a clever gentleman purchased a bit of land where the real line passes, painted the stretch and is now conducting experiments for curious tourists, on and beside the equator.
One experiment deals with the direction in which water swirls. First, the guide put a sink right over the equator, poured water in it and pulled the plug. The water was drawn to the hole in a straight fashion, it didn´t swirl at all.
Next, the recipient was moved one meter to the south. Here, with the same procedure, and adding some small leaves to show the direction of the water, the water swirled clockw
ise. Repeating the same thing on the north side gave a counter-clockwise swirl! All the tourists and myself were witnesses of this.
The guide proceeded to show that our resistance is less on the
 equator. She asked for the strongest man of the group to lock his hands high and she would try to lower his hands. One meter to the north of the line, she had no way of pulling them down. Then, she asked the man to stand on the painted  line and again hold his hands locked high. This time, she would only use one hand. Effortlessly, she pressed his hands down, to the great surprise of the man and the group. Me and Xavier also tried this out, and the effect was the same.
The third thing was to try to walk heel-to-toe with your eyes shut. This proved incredibly difficult walking on the line. Apparently, there is a lateral force missing on the line, which confuses the brain.
Now, do you believe this?

Quito Slideshow

Monday, December 01, 2008

By the Napo river

I am in the little village of Ahuano by the Napo river in eastern Ecuador. Right now I have two boys beside me, apparently curious about what I am doing. I had written a rather nice text about the bus trip from Quito, crossing the Andes, and descending into the rain forest, but mistyped and managed to delete everything.. Tomorrow the are two excursions, one features a visit in an "actual" aboriginal home. I dodged the "swing-yourself-in-a-vine"-excursion...
The jungle is very cool. Stay tuned for more info and pictures.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I´ve made so many lines today, and long ones too, that it has tested my patience. And I consider myself a rather patient person. I arrived in good margin to the airport and found a rather long line to the check-in desk. To my delight, it grew considerably moments after I took my place, advancing my position closer to the goal, relatively speaking. But when I arrived to the counter, it turns out I had to go the info booth and get a paper ticket... which I didn´t get, so I had to go back again and so forth. 
But he who waits shall receive, and I´m now travelling the whole distance in Business Class.
More to come...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flight Cancelled

Due to the fierce snowy weather that we´re having, a number of flights were delayed or cancelled today. Including mine. So, if things are better, I will take off tomorrow instead and stay overnight in Madrid before I can board the next available flight across the Atlantic.
On the car back home, Isabel saw the humour in the situation.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Packing for the trip

While the winter season has taken a firm grip of Uppsala and the wind whistles outside the window, I´m preparing for the trip to Ecuador and Chile beginning tomorrow. Naturally, I´m bringing the camera along. Stay tuned for updates.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Houseplant in bloom

The plants in my house, there are five, are of a varying vitality. One of them is a cause for serious concern, another that always had a happy face is showing early signs of stagnation, a couple are solidly indifferent to any kind of treatment and the last one is, for the first time in almost two years, blooming! 

Time passed between the pictures is 1 ½ years. As you can see it has grown quite a lot in this time.

Perhaps I could have the name for this plant?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gmail Video Chat

Finally, an alternative to MSN Messenger and Skype for video conversations. Once more, Google is showing the way with a brilliant piece of web application.
Now you can make smileys with your face! There are endless possibilities!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Veggie lunch expectations

Armed with a 2 for 1-coupon, Johannes and me entered the vegetarian restaurant near the train station. It was a first-time visit for both of us. Normally, you´d expect the guests of a vegetarian restaurant to be calm, orderly folks, providing an ideal acoustic background to a relaxed conversation with the opposing face across the table. You would think that this kind of place wouldn´t have much drama or heated arguments going on. That´s just the kind of image that pops into your mind when you see the sign walking by.
Well, in this case, that was spot on. It was really tranquil in there. 
We were also expecting the food to be especially good and healthy, being served in a dedicated vegetarian restaurant and all. And it was.
But if there was anything that we didn´t see coming, it was the tray of tantalizing desserts, elegantly offered to us by the staff. No, seriously, we didn´t see it. Ever.

We were both very pleased with the experience, and how well it had complied with our expectations.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More sketching

I now possess a Wacom Tablet. It is a pad with a digital pen, much suited for drawing in Photoshop for instance. It can adjust the brush´s size and opacity according to the pressure applied.

This is how happy I am over this tool.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Autumnal Uppsala

This blog is not becoming a postcard blog, I promise.

The two ducks that you see gliding serenely over the water reflection above are actually two males in a temporarily disengaged quarrel. Left is a view rewarding the few who manage to tear their eyes off the sidewalk.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Silvia, Viktoria and the other guy

As I strolled back from the shops I happened to bump into some royals; the King Carl Gustaf (chatting with Tuulikki Koivonen Bylund), Queen Silvia and Princess Viktoria. (that ought to generate some hits...) They were participating in the annual church meeting in the cathedral. I didn´t have anything in particular to talk about with them, so I just said "Hi".

Night Photography

I set out to capture the cathedral´s new facade illumination on "film". The sky was cloudless and there was a promise for an interesting photo. My aim was to do multiple exposures and later generate an HDR image, capturing the whole dynamic range from spotlights to starry sky. Well, as I had rigged the tripod and was looking through the viewfinder, something seemed odd. The towers were somewhat blurry. In a matter of minutes a thick, moist fog had engulfed most of the city. Adjusting to the changed conditions, I focused on light effects from the fog.
As often is the case, the unexpected makes the best picture.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Yellow Mile

Today was a beautiful late-summer day, perfect for a stroll in Mother Nature. We, and by that I mean Marco, Catty, Jessica, Carles, Johannes, Clara and me, set out southward and marched all the way down to the lake Ekoln, some 10 kms from the city centre following the so-called Yellow Trail. Marco and Catty actually joined at about 2/3 along the way, and refilled our draining energy supplies with hilarious remarks and gestures.

After some 3 ½ hours of walking, we arrived to the marina at Skarholmen and were able to enjoy some picknick in the sun.

I wish all August could´ve been this nice, shame on you August! But at least it went out in style.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Dancing Masters

Gunilla asked me if I could do a photoshoot of her band, The Dancing Masters. They play "folk baroque" music in a very dance-friendly manner. A combination of sensitive instruments and heavy rain forced us to find cover under a roof. Fortunately, we found a nice place with these old stone stairs leading up to the cathedral.
Don´t forget to head over to their myspace for a listening.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Congratulations Hanna and Andreas

A few weeks ago, Hanna and Andreas sealed the deal and I was there to capture the moment. It was a lovely ceremony just by the water in the outskirts of Stockholm. Thanks to Henrik for recommending me!

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Enjoying a bit of sun and swimming by the lake at Länna, outside of Uppsala, with Johannes, Clara, Jessica and Markos. Laying flat on the grassy beach, we played a very mind-wrestling game of chess. All of us furrowed our brows as the game was team-based. It was only necessary to straighten a few question marks, for instance; the Queen may not move like a Horse in special cases, and Pawns can´t go sideways. Apart from that, we could have easily been mistaken for expert players. To further impress any bystanders with our level of intellectualism, we also had a book with Rumi poetry and another titled "Introduction to Confucianism" laying around.
Oh, and in case you wondered, Marcos is wearing bathing shorts.

Also, if you haven´t seen them, check out some photos from my week in Provence.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Spanish Job

About a week ago, I traveled down to the southern end of Spain on a job related mission. In my company I had a very skilled Swedish film photographer named Ulf, and our objective was to capture some procedures in the loading and unloading of cargo at the very large port of Algeciras. Also joining in were some Danish fellows who represented the company that owns the facilities down there. As you can see, they were rather large and probably as awe-inspiring to the Mediterraneans as once the Vikings. They could be observed standing on deck with their weight equally on both feet and gazing across the bay to the rock of Gibraltar, guarding the entrance to the landlocked ocean, as it were. One must presume that the photographer and I imposed a slightly less towering appearance.
I, in turn, was very impressed with the scale of the cranes that haul containers from deck to shore and vice versa.
Before returning home, me and Ulf had time to take a little detour to the hills and visit the charming city of Ronda, see album.


Monday, June 09, 2008

Andreas and Rebecka

Rebecka and Andreas tied the knot in the church of Gamla Uppsala and I helped out by snapping some pictures of them. It was a perfect day to formalise a relationship and the bride and groom were ravishing, so the ground work for a photographer was already laid. It´s hard to imagine a better way to spend an evening than this.

Andreas & Rebecka

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Osnabrück Singers

Photo: Björn Jidell
Together with Gunnar and singers from Stockholm, I flew down to Osnabrück, a town not so far from Bremen, to participate in the "Catholic Days" being held there. Our job was to sing at a Nordic mass, and represent the musical tradition of the nordic countries. It was quite an experience to take part in such a large event.
We also had time to acquiant ourselves with Bremen, where we stayed at the Birgitte Cloister, in the care of the most hospitable nuns. The trip lasted only two days but rewarded me with some new friends and great memories.
From the picture, you can tell the basses were digging deep (far right).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Visit to Serbia

I spent last weekend visiting my cousin Filippo and his girlfriend Zorana in Belgrade, in the heart of Serbia. My stay was filled with delicious balkanic food, noisy brass music and new acquintances.
My hosts were very knowledgeable and updated me with current affairs. Zorana told me of interesting personal experiences related to the political turmoil in late 1990´s and the eventual ousting of their notorious president. Filippo, on the other hand, laid out the broader picture for me, starting from the early middle ages and working up through the turkish occupation and the serbian uprising, etc, making me hear the drums of war thundering in the distance.

It was wonderful to pop over and check out that place.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ye Olde Musicke

This Sunday, Ensemble Pian´e Forte performed in the church of Stenhagen, a residential area just outside of the city. It is also the place where I lived growing up, and made many good friends that I still haven´t lost. Gunnar invited me to join and sing a few pieces. I was also the designated drummer to a song I hadn´t heard before. Fortunately, they were so tight on their own that the beat was easy to find.
It was nice to bring this music to Stenhagen, hopefully we will have more opportunities.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Uppsala Sunset

This evening, light was especially promising and I took a little tour on the bike to see if any photo opportunities would arise. So many lovely views to capture - but you have to be fast, the light diminishes by the minute or quicker.

A classical view of the cathedral.

The old mill used to draw it´s power from this waterfall. Now it´s merely decoration. Thanks to a newly installed fish-ladder, the asp can now overcome this hurdle and reach it´s mating site upstream.

The concert hall is one of the newest buildings in the city. The event that just ended seems to have been well-visited. Six-photo panorama.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A weekend on the west side

The location of this year's Heinrich Schütz Society annual meeting was the most enchanting coastal outpost of Marstrand, not far from Göteborg. The society includes singers, musicians and directors who share an admiration for the German composer who wrote in the Italian style. The meeting is held in a different place each time and usually it´s crowned with one or more musical performances. This time our choir was joined with a local one. We performed a few pieces by Schütz and Giovanni Gabrieli, his teacher. Later at night, after our performance in the local church, we were given a small lecture on the topic "Schütz and Venice". This is a special interest group, no doubt about it.
The picture above shows the fortress of Bohus and some chorists practicing on their musical expression.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mormor´s 90th birthday

Last weekend we gathered in Avesta to celebrate my grandmother´s birthday, turning her 90 years of age. A handsome crowd of relatives, off-spring and friends feasted on many kinds of cookies (a tradition here) and cake. There were some girl friends of her´s from way, way back, and we watched photos from when they were young in the 1940´s. But, of course, the center of attention was as always little Aron, who sat in his great-grandmother´s lap for the first time.
It was a lovely day to spend in the company of family.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Aron goes to the lake

As the climate becomes more and more favorable and light slowly returns, we get a feeling to go out to the great out-doors. Martin and I rang up Dad and we teamed up to go to the nearby lake, Ekoln. Sitting in tranquility, enjoying the sound of waves and the occasional bird song, is like music to the ears of us, urban residents. Aron was also quite intrigued and with a notable lust for exploration.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Candles and roses

Heading home from my dancing lesson, I noticed a lot of candles in front of an apartment building on Bruno Liljeforsgatan. It was the memorial of a young woman who was recently slain by her husband. She was especially remembered on Saturday when hundreds of people marched through the city, manifesting on International Women´s Day.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Top 10 tips for better photos

I usually don´t write about things I find on the web, but this is a really useful list for all you photographers out there. 10 simple rules that are golden when taking a picture. Check them out (link in the title).