Charlie and the Photography Factory

October 5, 2009

My “Sojourn” in Texas

Filed under: Austin, Texas — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 6:23 PM

What a strange feeling it was to be back in warm Texas after 6 months with the thought that this was only temporary. It was a vacation–not a return home.  I would be going back to live another 6 months abroad in vackra Sverige!

Knowing this, I made the best of my time there doing what every Texan should do knowing that their creature comforts would be gone soon enough:

  • I ate Taco Bell, numerous times.
  • Drank Dr. Pepper at almost every meal
  • Coerced myself to enjoy a Bud Lite (hard to do after drinking quality beers such as Heineken and Carlsberg)
  • Drove. Everywhere.
  • Floated the river. Twice.
  • Visited Austin. Twice.
  • Came close to re-negging on my decision on going back to Sweden whilst visitng Aggieland–four times.

Anyways, I could go on, but it’s time for the picture.  Whilst in Texas I had the awesome opportunity to attend Trey Ratcliff’s (Yes, that guy that does HDR that I always mention here, stuckincustoms.com) Photowalk, and it was such a great event.  My buddy Raul and I both went, met other avid (HDR) photographers, and had a small chat with Trey.   Here’s one of my results from that night:

Capitol

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 9, 2009

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…

May 4, 2009

Bench Relaxing

Filed under: Malmö, Sweden — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 1:31 AM

bench1

Have you ever been walking along, talking to your friends, only to catch a glimpse of something extraordinary? Something photographic? Something you can put a frame around? Only to have it  escape your eye when you venture to look back at it.  Minutes later, you regret not enjoying it? 

Well, this picture was one of those occasions where that didn’t happen.

It was Easter weekend, and I was bike riding with the Wendts (see the blurb about them from my last post).  We had been through Malmö’s beach, enjoying the perfect weather.  Then, on our bike ride back home, in a somewhat bland neighborhood (void of any photo opportunities), in the corner of my eye I saw this shot flash by.

Now, in my more amateur days of photography, I would have started a mental-battle questioning whether I should stop the caravan to take the picture. Probably, second guess the quality of the photo.  Then, decide to just move on, and lose a potential opportunity.   But, I said, “No! Not this time.”  I stopped our moving caravan, and set up shop taking many many pictures of this single scene.  All the while, pleading in my mind that this old lady stay put in her spot.  Fortunately, she never did as I moved all around the trees, walkway, and grass behind her.  Like a sneaky paparazzi I snapped photos unbeknownst to her. 

This picture was among the best.  And, a reaffirming lesson in photography. Never ever second guess yourself on a shot.  It may be spectacular, and it may never happen again.

Just as a teaser for future stories,  I got a hold of a camera in Valborg, and took pictures of the many vackra flickorna (beautiful girls) around.  Why, you ask?  To prove to you that, Sweden, has by far the most gorgeous women in the world. Stay tuned if you don’t believe me.

May 2, 2009

Öresundsbron (The Sound Bridge)

Filed under: Malmö, Sweden — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , — charlieprator @ 2:48 PM

oresund

This weekend I ventured to Lund for one of Sweden’s biggest festivals, Valborg, a celebration for the coming of Spring/Summer.  It is celebrated bygrabbing a lawn chair, a 24  pack of your favorite beer, a blanket, food, and friends.  As you can probably imagine, it’s quite a fun time.  Roughly 10-15,000 Swedes gather in a park in Lund, and, literally, sit and enjoy the sun with beer in hand. 

Sidenote, everything in Sweden takes the sun seriously.  Aside, from everyone looking for any reason to be caught in the 6-month-absent sun, flowers are sprouting everywhere, and the grass is sprinkled with more floral decoratives.  In short,  when the sun comes out–everything is in full swing.

But, back to this picture.  This is Öresundsbron. A special bridge that symbolizes my first entry into beloved Sweden. On January 9th, I arrived into Copenhagen, and took a train into Malmö, where Rasmus and Jonas Wendt would pick me up and stay a night with the Wendts. I remember riding on that train, thinking to myself, “I am finally here. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time.”   But, as I look outside,  all was depressing, clouds hung close to the sea,  the water was a cold, uninviting, gray, and it was frigid.  Ironically, I remember thinking for a split second, “Wow, this is bleak!”  But, I kept my chin up, remembering that you never know what your future holds for you. 

Now, on the eve of celebrating my 4 month sojourn, I am in Malmö again relaxing with Wendts .  And, I could do it every weekend.  Even if Bo Wendt, (the Wendt paterfamilias), loves to put me to work. I gotta pay for my meals, bed, and internet somehow. For example, today was the first day I have ever mowed any lawn in life.  I know, I know!  I just never got the chance as a teenager. 

All in all, staying with the Wendts is always fun.  They’re always sarcastic (keeps you on your toes).  Always quirky: Ask them what they do at 22:22. Or, ask Hélène Wendt what her fake-out is in a family game of beer pong. One word:  “Schicka-doo!” And, finally, always hospitable. 

Here’s another treat for you: (courtesy of Rasmus’s photo-taking abilities and Emil’s naming convention) Charlie Shows Some Lawn-Mowing Skills!

img_1431

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