Charlie and the Photography Factory

December 11, 2009

This Alleyway…

Filed under: Jönköping, Sweden — charlieprator @ 9:50 PM

Has so many memories!

They call it Matchstick Alley because, believe it or not, Jönköping was the city that developed the matchstick! Cool, right?

Anyways, today it has many hangouts and clubs for students (as well has the Matchstick Museum, not pictured here).  It also houses the infamous “Akademien” the student pub for our university–so many good memories.  This picture is taken from the beginning of the area, and was taken on a walk with my good friend Amy, who came to visit me here last semester.  We had a great sunset, and I begged her to come with me to the lake to take advantage of it, but we ended up going to fika (Swedish coffee/pasty and catch up time). Either way, this wonderful photo resulted:

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May 26, 2009

Jönköping’s Very Own Dark Knight and Robin

Fields of GoldThis picture was made last weekend on one of the best bike rides I have ever done in my life.  I went with Emil (The Dark Knight, his chosen nomenclature in our abode), his sidekick, Pernilla, (aka Robin cause she got sucked into it), and my CARPOOL friend Amy (who graciously came all the way to little ol’ Jönköping).   In this picture,  is a rolling hill of tall green grass sprinkled with the golden flowers you see here.  When our caravan crested over the highest point of the hill and zoomed down to the low point (seen here), we couldn’t help but enjoy the serenity and blue skies. So, we cracked open our bottle of Spanish Rosé.  It was such a great moment to finally embrace this beautiful part of Jönköping after accepting the fact that I would be soon calling it my new home (at least for awhile).  It was a moment of intense euphoria. It was here when Amy began singing The Sound of Music, which was proceeded with our ridiculous skipping.  

Among the best parts, was being with great company. I hadn’t seen Amy in 5 months, and, thus, missed many many Monday night home dinners.  And, of course, I got the chance to ride with the Dark Knight and Robin.  You see the Dark Knight is seldom seen out of his bat cave–the room adjacent to ours.  If you’re lucky you can find him there usually around 4 o’clock,  in 100% darkness, wrapped in his Dark Knight cocoon (his bed sheets), with bed-head, fatigued from a night full of crime-fighting, huddled over a small laptop, and scheming on how to save Jönkoping from the Jokers of the world (i.e. playing random flash games).  Be careful not to disturb him for he is deep in focus.  

His counterpart, also a friend of mine , goes by (when she’s not crime fighting) Pernilla. She recently got sucked into the world of super-hero “crime fighting” as well. You can find her in the bat-cave at 4PM too.  

But, in all seriousness these three are really great people, and I am glad to have met them.  And, Amy, thanks for coming up! (And, leaving your mark in Jönköping! Haha!) I had a killer time reminiscing about Texas and CARPOOL life!

 

May 19, 2009

And, “Whooosh” Goes the Windmill

Filed under: Sweden, Visingsö — Tags: , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 10:38 PM

Windmill

On our bike trip over Visingsö our troupe had the pleasure of relaxin’ under this behemoth.  We laid down. Eyes gazing sky-ward. Sun toasting the atmosphere. Blades slicing through the air particles above.  It was kind of a cool sight to see up close.

If you get a chance, try it next time.  They’re immense works of energy harnessing ingenuity.  

 

May 18, 2009

The House on Visingsö Row

Filed under: Sweden, Visingsö — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 6:57 PM

House

Welcome back to the factory.  I hope you enjoy today’s story and photo–fresh off the factory floor.

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of venturing to Visingsö, the big island located in the middle of Lake Vättern.   After enjoying some sandwiches and wine near 16th century castle ruins, we embarked on our adventure through the many parts of northern Visingsö.

During our bike ride we got the chance to rest under an electric windmill, visit a secluded Swedish trinket and tea shop (Where I got a Jaw Harp. Does anyone know how to play it),  relax on the island’s beach, and enjoy a red sunset.  All of it recorded on my camera, and soon to be enjoyed on this site.

This whole island was filled with small cottages like these, and in these cottages were the stereotypical grandma and grandpas.  It was kind of like the place you would imagine every matured married couple dreams about retiring.  Somewhere quiet. Somewhere secluded.  Somewhere peaceful enough to rest.  It was almost, ¨too idyllic,¨ as Amy put it.

Although, Sweden is quite the dual world.  In the winter Sweden succumbs to cold covered skies of dreary clouds, and an overall lack of brightness and color. However, when that suns peaks for the first time everything transforms.  In thinking about this,  I believe I have experienced more perfect weather days in Sweden than I did back home. But, that could’ve been because in Texas we never really had the dreary weather to put perfect weather into perspective.

Speaking of home, I have finally made the decision to stay in Sweden.  It had been on mind for quite some time, and until recently I didn’t have the full scale of obstacles in front of me.   Be that as it may,  I decided to stick with my plan, and plow through the red tape (I mean thats all life is regardless of the locale–red tape).

May 13, 2009

Living in Jönköping

Filed under: Jönköping, Sweden — Tags: , , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 1:22 AM

Blue Skies

This house is located in my neighborhood, and on my walk home I noticed its beauty while seeing the sunset behind the hill.  I am very lucky to live where I live.  A five minute walk I can find an outdoor restaurant/pub, a soccer stadium (now showing games), a waterfall, and an animal farm!  As you’ve probably seen before, the view on the hill is quite splendid in the mornings, as I am able to see all of Jönköping. 

If you’re as lucky as Amy or Joseph to come see this place, you’ll always have a couch to crash on.

May 11, 2009

Once You Start HDR, You’re Raising the Bar

Group1

A long time ago, when I was still in highschool,  I had reached a plateau in my photography.  I had lost the interest in it, and the joy of finding those shots that can spur the rush of emotions it instigates in people.   For awhile, I had tried to figure out why my interest was waning in a hobby I used to love so much, and I had come to the conclusion that there was a lack of real world imitation that my photos had.  Time and time again, I would take shots of landscapes and people, only to find the shot never accurately portrayed what I saw.  The skys would be over-exposed losing all detail. Or, my subject was underexposed, thus not illuminating the correct colors of skin, eyes, clothing, flowers, etc.  I could never fully capture and show people the visually satiating image I had seen via the duller photographic representation I had taken.  It had become frustrating, and with time I stopped taking photos.

Then, years later along came HDR.  Although the process is many years old, it wasn’t until recently (I think) that HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography had come into professional acceptance and public demand.  I had stumbled on to Trey Ratcliff’s site and had my mind blown away.  For the first time, I saw correct representational photography of our world.   I read his “How To” on HDR, and found myself with a new project to embark on.  A week later I was in Kiruna, Sweden at the ICEHOTEL snapping away, learning about the process, and  enjoying the results 100%.  Finally, my joy of photography and post-shoot development had been rekindled.

If you’ve been around me within the last 3 months you’ve heard enough about my new hobby.  Understandingly, everyone pokes fun at the process by mocking me, “Okay, guys now I need you to stand really still.  There’s gonna be 3 photos…”  But, when they see the results they understand the difference.  So, here’s another chance to understand.  Above, is the final product of a total of 30 minutes of relaxed photo development.  The process, which uses an application called Photomatix, takes 3 differently exposed images, perfectly exposed, over-exposed, and under-exposed, and stacks them together.  Below, I have taken the three images (right half of picture) and bled them through for you to see the differences. 

Each photo explains some of my earlier frustrations.  The  first stripe is over-exposed, and has lost the details in the sky.  The middle stripe is perfectly exposed, but has lost a slight degree of color. Finally, the last stripe is under-exposed revealing the details in the clouds, but has lost all color in the trash-can.  In short, each photo brings it’s respective cards the table, and is then stacked together via Photomatix to get the above image–the closest representation of Råslätt that day.  We see the colors on the building. The grass is a vibrant green.  The clouds in the sky are seen. It is as vivid as I had seen it.  True photographic representation. The bar has been raised, has it not? Do you see the difference? 

Group1 Example

May 9, 2009

Finally, the Sun is Out. That Means BBQ Season!

Filed under: Jönköping, Sweden — charlieprator @ 10:33 PM

Leesa1

May, usually brings warm sun, BBQ grills, meat marinade and charcoal smells intoxicating the air, beer, music, and volleyball, right?  Well,  in Sweden thats partly true.  Unfortunately for us, this week has been rainy weather, and cold winds. Hopefully, it will change soon. I am itching to be on a beach with hot sun.

But! 3 weeks ago it was perfect weather. We all celebrated in style.  All the JIBS students got the grills runnin’, brought out the soccer balls, and drank booze on our perfect little piece of land close by Lake Vättern. 

As you can tell from the picture, it’s a really great view.  Vättern is Sweden’s second biggest lake, and at sunsets is perfect for photoshoots.  This wonderful model, Leesa Lynch, willingly accepted to put up with my nagging photography experiments.  I had heard from Trey Ratcliff (the master of HDR) that he personally doesn’t like to do portraiture HDR because of the intense detail the process brings in people’s faces.    So, I decided to test that hypothesis.  However, this an HDR, and I think it turned out beatifully!  Who says HDRs should be reserved for landscapes?! 

Although, this might be due to my model.  She gracefully turned this photo from a boring landscape to something even better.  From this picture, I’m beginning to think differently. 

What do you guys think? 

Oh yea, and the crazy thing, Leesa is a women’s boxing coach for Penn State!  Raised in a family of boxers, you would’ve never guessed she had experience in the ring.

The Little Ship that…Couldn’t – Part Två

Filed under: Stockholm, Sweden — Tags: , , , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 12:37 AM

Vasa Side

Lets conclude this story, shall we? 

As you already know, not even 400 ft from the shore, in front of thousands of on-lookers Vasa sunk, bringing down with her 30-50 of her passengers.  The catastrophe quickly spread around Sweden, and eventually to King Adolphus in Poland, who demanded punishment for the ship-builders.  But, whats funny is, Vasa, being so large had her masts sticking out Stockholm’s harbor for many days after its capsizing.  It served as a daily reminder of Sweden’s failure, and money gone to absolute waste.  Accounts tell that someone, by order of parliamentary officials, had to go out to the mast and saw it down!

Following the sinking, a formal investigation was initiated by King Adolphus to find someone guilty.  All the ship workers and sailors were interrogated only to find no one guilty. Why? Well, everyone pointed fingers to the guy in charge of them until it reached the original ship architect and engineer.  He was 6 feet under.

At the end of it all, people moved on.  Times changed.  Sweden went on to be a super-power. Then, they lost that status to the British. Later on, IKEA was founded. Then came the 1950s , and it was rediscovered!

Sweden, now in the 20th century finally had technology to properly resurrect the ship–with care, of course.  And, this is the real interesting part.  They excavated it by constructing 1 meter wide tunnels going under the entire ship (under/through the harbor floor).  Now, keep in mind silt had covered the ship all the way to the second gun deck.  And, the divers of the day wore atmosphere suits, worked in zero visibility, in 1 meter wide tunnels (talk about claustrophobia)–alone. 

Once the tunnels were complete, heavy gauged wire was looped through the tunnels, and it slowly hoisted up.  Today, after much preservation techniques, it is on display at one of the coolest museums I’ve ever been to.

May 8, 2009

Lappland, Samis, and Reindeers Galore!

Final Lappland Hut

By far the most worthwhile and memorable experience in my first semester in Sweden was our Kiruna trip.  We voyaged for somewhere around 16 hours to Northern Sweden (called the Lappland) to a little place called Kiruna.  There I did a multitude of things, saw the Aurora Borealis (twice, second time is funny story too), cross-country skiied, snowmobiled through forests and countryside, dog-sledded, the list goes on.Sami City

But! By far the most rewarding experience was the one night we spent in the boondocks of the Lappland.  In -20ºC weather (it was actually double that the weekend prior for another group of students).  In an authentic Lappland hut the size of your family’s living room. In a Sami‘s reindeer claim.  In the North pole! 

Nothing in my life equates to this way of living. No Ozarka water cooler to get water from. It comes from the Torne river (which was frozen over. God forbid you fall in with the current rushing you under the inescapable icy surface. Great way to go, huh?).  No iHop or BK Lounge.  We gotta cook everything scratch.  What’s that? You’re cold?  Go chop some firewood, and plan to chop enough for tonight.  Need to go the restroom?  Well, haha, we won’t go there. 

Looking back, I think that experience made me a little bit more of a man.  Actually, no. I know it did.  Be it only one day of rough living in a freezing forest, I walk with a prouder stride.  It was times like those that make me envy people like Bear Grylls.  I would do anything to apprentice him for a year.

Lucky you. Today, is a double whammy.  I wanted to give a view into our Sami, Lappland boodock, village, and here it is:

 

Also, you might want to stay tuned this week.  Today, I had to do a presentation about Sweden’s Pirate Bay–in Swedish.  I luckily got it recorded, so you get the chance to see me attempt to speak this crazy language!

May 7, 2009

The Little Ship that…Couldn’t

Filed under: Stockholm, Sweden — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 2:52 AM

vasa-11

Today let’s go for another history lesson.  This is Vasa ship, and for its age I would say it looks pretty good, right?   Well, you’ll be surprised to know that as of 2009 this ship is 382 years old.  Oh, and one more thing.  It laid, forgotten, underwater, less than 1 nautical mile away from Stockholm city centre, for three hundred years!

Before we go on, I must mention how enormous this ship is.  No matter what angle, what floor, which corner of this museum/warehouse I was in I could never fit the entire ship in my camera lens.  This sucker could house roughly 450 people, while defending them with 64 guns of varying size (did I mention at least 6 middle age “howitzers”?).  It weighed 2.6 million lbs (1,200 tonnes), and stood a little less that 200 ft (52.5 meters)tall!  The enormity of this beast is not justified by this 6×5 photo.  Of course, if you’re ever in Stockholm you gotta visit it.

So, How did this happen?  This too was interesting story.  But, probably longer than yesterday’s Nazi petit histoire.  Fair warning.

It was around 1628, and Sweden, by the help of King Gustavus Adolphus, is on its way to becoming a super-power. Little known fact, before Britain ruled the shores, Sweden use to make everyone its bitch.  Anyways, King Gustav, claiming territory in Poland, has his personally commissioned ship finally completed.  Not too match anyone’s ego, nor to compensate for anything else, he has the biggest and best ship in all the waters built for glorious Sweden. 

And, thats where it all went wrong.  This over-engineered (or under-engineered depending on how you look at it) monster never made it out of its own harbor!  Whats worse, is that its shipbuilders were aware of the problems!  In a common medieval ship control test, 30 men would run on the top deck, simultaneously from side-to-side to check for capsizing.  Now, the minimum for good ship was somewhere around 15.  The Vasa ship didn’t even make 8 before they had to stop the test. Yet, they trucked on through; creating the 2 gun decks seen here.  Accordingly, on the day of its maiden voyage, the shipbuilders outfit it with ballasts to evenly distrubute weight.  Interestingly, this pre-emptive control would end up causing its own sinking.

Hate to cut the post “shorter” than it is, but it’s getting late.  To be continued…

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