[…Coffee Shop Notes…]
Gamla Stan, Coffee House, 7:05 p.m.
The rain is really pouring hard. I was just out there taking a walk down Sodermalm, and I don’t need my sweet old woman from yesterday to tell me that today is even more depressing. The clouds are not gray but a mist of white and heavy, reminds me of that early rainy morning in Hallstatt. It’s been drizzling on and off since this afternoon but it is really coming down now. I’m torn on what my next move would be. I really don’t want to call it a day. After all, I did not come all the way from Germany to sit around and mope at the hotel.
In Sodermalm, under my cheap 50-SEK umbrella, I stared at the bridge where I was supposed to take my pictures tonight. I can’t imagine how it could drastically get any better from that horrible picture before me. I can already foresee myself looking like some kind of idiot taking pictures under the heavy rain – umbrella over me, tripod and camera on the wet ground – while traffic rushed past behind me.
This morning was not too bad, in a tourist point of view. I took the bus at Sergels Torg and visited the Vasa Museum down in Djugarden island. I can’t believe that I’m saying this but I enjoyed that one. I felt like a school girl on a field trip, only I’m armed with a big camera. This trip was really out of desperation as I was left with no other choice than to shoot indoors. Seriously, the Vasa was a nice solution to an otherwise sucky gray morning.
Armed with my high-ISO-boasting D700, I pushed my limit and shot past ISO 3200 — whoopee! I did not do it without any reservations though. I’m still traumatized about my D200’s noise handicap, and I still find myself not wanting to go past 400. Being a night photographer, I’ve been a tripod-hugger, and that has spoiled me to use the lowest ISO possible and not worry about noise. Anyway, from the LCD, my photos from Vasa don’t look too bad. I just hope I don’t get surprises when I view at full resolution in my computer.
The Vasa warship’s history is very interesting but I did not do the tourist thing of viewing the slide shows, listening to the audio guides and reading all that crap on the wall. I can always look that up in Wikipedia when I get home. I’m here to take pictures.
After the Vasa, I had the feeling that this day would turn into an indoor shooting event. By early afternoon, the rain started falling, so I decided to buy an umbrella and walk towards the Stadshuset or City Hall. Getting there at 2 p.m., I was informed by the clerk that I could not join the English tour as it was already full, so if I didn’t mind joining the Swedish group, I can go in. I wasn’t really interested in the tour but that’s the only way you could get in the building, so I told her I’d join the Swedish.
Both groups were actually going at the same time, so it did not make sense not to join either one, but the clerk insisted that it will confuse the tour guide. She said if she caught me and this other guy who was in the same situation as I was joining the English group, she’d pull us out of the building immediately. I think I mumbled something like,”Well, that doesn’t make any sense,” to the guy beside me and he simply smiled, a bit coyly.
“Where you from?” He asked me. There’s that famous ice-breaker again.
This time I replied, “Germany.” It’s like pulling something out of a hat – whatever comes out is what they get.
Naturally, I asked him the same question, “Where are you from?”
He looked around at first and whispered, “Colombia.”
I didn’t hear him, so I asked one more time. This time he looked around, leaned towards me, and whispered even more softly, “Colombia.”
“Okay,” I said, and pulled away from him. I thought that was a bit of a peculiar response, don’t you think? For a second there, it felt like some kind of a bad drug-dealing moment.
Well, Mr. Colombia seemed to want to hang out with me on the first half of the tour but I purposely avoided him. Soon, he strayed from the group and joined the English tour.
Hotel Room, 11:56 p.m.
When I left the café at 7 tonight, I headed straight to the hotel lobby to figure out what I was going to do. I stayed until 8 p.m. and armed with my gear, I went out the door towards Sergels Torg. Miracles do happen – the rain was reduced to a mere drizzle, something that I can handle. It wasn’t blue hour yet, but the lights at the square were on and the sky had picked up on it nicely so it gives that nice glow to the scene. I started shooting there, walked towards Gamla Stan and then to Sodermalm.
I had seen a vantage point on Flickr from the Slussen area which looks over the Central Bridge’s traffic and Gamla Stan. I had messaged the photographer and asked him where that was and he was nice enough to let me know that he shot it from his hotel room at the Hilton. Of course, I don’t have a hotel room at the Hilton, so I had to improvise. Yesterday afternoon, I scouted that area and found a spot on the same hill as the Hilton, a small veranda sandwiched in between 2 buildings. It was a lower vantage point but it will do.
So I was headed towards that spot tonight, but decided to stop at the Slussen bridge for a few shots. While doing that, I noticed a woman – heavier-set, dressed in dark clothing, a black scarf over her head – position herself about 6 feet away from me. She started talking to herself, almost like chanting in what I think might be Swedish. She leaned over the bridge while still muttering words, and I spotted her in the corner of my eyes. For a moment there, I really thought she’d jump over the bridge, or worse – push me over ! All I could think of was, “I’m not done with this exposure yet, please wait.”
Luckily, she eventually left and I thought that would be the last of her. About 5 minutes later, I started heading to the spot on the hill. Little did I know that it would be so dark there. On my way up, I saw a dark figure in the shadows – I immediately knew it was her. She started yelling at me soon as she saw me, but I ignored her and kept going towards the veranda. She was actually standing on the spot where I wanted to be – bummer! – so reluctantly, I set up my tripod opposite from where she was standing. I was thinking to myself, “Just a couple of shots, and I’m out of here. Please don’t stab me.”
In times like these, I always look at my gear as a weapon. At night most especially, I carry my tripod in a way that I’d be ready to swing it at a possible attacker. God forbid that happens, and I really hate to use it as a weapon especially with my camera attached. Either way, all my photography equipment (and myself) are insured and covered for loss, theft, accidental damage, and self-defense. I made up the last part, of course.
Anyway, I never turned my face towards this creepy woman, but I did watch her in the corner of my eye to see what she was up to. She was busy rifling through her bag, and eventually pulled out something that looked like a bottle of liquor. She was still mumbling something but very faintly.
All I took were three 30-second-exposure shots, and I was out of there. That was probably the longest minute and a half of my life.