Bear-land for dummies

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Reflections


My Brazilian friend J. came to stay with me in Milan last summer. I knew he was in to men, but I had not fully understood the type of men that he likes. A whole new world revealed itself to me; bear-land …the land of big (combination of fat and muscles) hairy, (the more body hair the better), bearded (this I a must) and in Jamie’s case also older. They call themselves bears, teddy bears or polar bears (older guys with grey hair), ginger bears (guys with ginger hair) or in Italian “orzo”.

In the bear community it is not about who’s the feminine and who’s the masculine…all are masculine looking. J. is a good looking and charming guy that get attention from attractive (what is commonly referred to as attractive) men and women…but he likes the “ugly beasts”. I remember how I came with him to the opening of a gay film festival in Milan and tried to spot a bear for him. I pointed at one big and hairy guy… -Not hairy enough. What about that one? -Not big enough. And what about this one? -Not old enough. Then, as a joke I pointed at the most ugly beast I could find…and he was sold.

During the month and a bit we stayed together I got a close insight in to a whole new world. It was with a mix of curiosity and disgust, horror and fascination, that I was shown the Internet dating/sex sites for bears.  Sometimes I got to see way to graphic photos of bears making out, adorned with leather and jockstraps, sometimes wrapped in gaffer tape, playing with enemas or urine or “just” happily naked hugging each other in bed…while holding a teddy bear. Many profiles mix “cute” “cuddly” photos with naked and hardcore sex photos.


Some J. quotes:

-The best is when the guy is big (read fat) enough that you really have to climb up on him to get on top.

-I love to get my mouth full of hair, when I bite a big hairy guy.

There are some other quotes as well…but they are x-rated


I love diversity and I love how it really seams to be someone for everyone… and these days thanks to Internet it’s easy to find whatever tickles your fancy. People don’t have to be alone with their “odd” preferences and fantasies. The down side of it is that people with preferences and fantasies that hurts, discriminates and abuses others also finds their peers and victims easily on the web.


“Gaydar” failure

April 6, 2011 by  
Filed under Reflections


My dear Brazilian friend J., who I met in Sicily last summer, has a well-developed “gaydar” (Gay Radar): meaning he is very good at spotting who is gay and who is not… even homosexual men that appears to be straight to the untrained eye.


Taorminas reputation as a hot spot for homosexuals comes from a long and interesting history of gay tourism, dating back hundreds of years. Now days it is a little different. At first sight it looks as if most men here are gay (of course it depends on where you are from). With tiny tight and often white see-through Speedos, waxed chest, back and crack. With very well-plucked eyebrows, a lot of hugging, wrestling, pose-striking to show off muscles and frequently adjusting the package to show it off in the most flattering way, it is easy to think that you have ended up in a gay-paradise. Even though my friend prefers the big and hairy bears, he still got exited when he noticed that Taormina was packed with possible lovers.


His “gaydar” failed terribly and he ended up being sexually starved during his whole stay there.  You need to totally reprogram your radar and realize that what in many parts of the world is considered a typical gay look and behaviour, just doesn’t apply here. You will find that many men here are metro-sexual, glamorous, playboys and macho… all at the same time…but most are straight… on the surface that is: I have heard from a few reliable and secret sources that a lot of men here are bisexual and some even prefer transsexuals…. But you just don’t show or talk about it openly.

Going Pro; Production

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Lessons

The process and management involved in a photo shoot.


The more practice you get, the bigger and more complex assignments you will be able take on; with peace of mind that your team is happy and safe, your clients are satisfied and you are able to create what you set out to do…within the time frame and budget planned for.


It’s a lot of things to keep in mind, especially when you do your own projects and don’t have assistants or a project manager to help you out. It’s all about multitasking. Don’t worry if you are a guy and terrible at doing two things at the same time; with the right questions asked, some planning, preparation and practice, you will be able to do it with bravura.


Ami in action. planning and practice makes perfect. Byron Bay Australia, Marstrand, Långedrag and Arendal Sweden



We will go through each one of the below questions in detail


Why? Is it for a client or yourself, what do you want to create

When? Weather, light, access, crowded or empty

Where? Photo studio, at home, nature, hotel, factory, castle

What? Photo equipment, lights, props, clothes, food, water

Who? Models, assistant, hair and make up artist, stylist

How? Transport, access, payment for location, contact person




What’s the reason for this photo shoot? Is is personal? Maybe for a learning experience, to express a vision, to build your portfolio, maybe for an exhibition or for a pitch; to attract a job.

Its always good to keep the “why” in mind and not to derail in to other ideas along the way. For instance; if you need to compliment your portfolio with a series of fashion photos to make it complete, but on the day of the photo shoot the model suggests some artistic black and white topless photos for boyfriend. Try to see the bigger picture and remember the reason you have put all this work, planning, maybe also money, involved people etc. to make it work. Ask yourself if it’s really worth it, just to see some boobs.


Maybe its for a client. A client can be a company a private person and adverticing agency, a magazine, a model agency etc. Try get as good picture of  the end-user as possible…the client of your client….the one who will buy the product, read the magazine etc. Get clear of what the desired end result is.


*I will talk about communication in another post; how to get your vision across and how to interpret the ideas of your clients.. Keep an eye ot for that….it’s very important!


Ami in action. In deep snow in Sweden, in a luxury resort in the Philippines, in a hoard of raindeers in Lappland or on the highway. Photo shots can take place anywhere.



Summer or winter, hot or cold? In the summer you might need to bring a hat and sun block if you are going to be out a whole day…in winter a thermos with hot tea and some extra blankets for the models to not freeze to death.


Night or day, dawn or dusk, rain or sunshine? The light changes a lot in different weathers and time of day or night. It you are going to do a photo series at dawn…you might want to split it in two days …as the dawn doesn’t last for very long.


Is the place empty or crowded? Maybe the day of the photo shot is a public holiday and the location is crowded with people…whereas when you first saw it was 10am on a work day and totally deserted.


By the sea; high tide or low tide can make a huge difference.


Empty or closed?…some areas have booms or fences that close the area off for the weekend or at night.


Damp or dry?….make sure your gear and the clothes and accessories are kept clean and safe.


The more you know about the location and how it changes in different lights, weather, days etc. the lower the risk of having to cancel the photos shoot, or having to work uphill trying to work around the problems….problems that could have been easily been avoided with some planning.




Studio, hotel, factory, ruins, beach, city, museum, under water, vehicle, church, barn, home, bar etc.


There are endless possibilities:

First you need your imagination, a good contact net can be very useful and for some places you need to have cash as well.


Ami at work. In a castle, in a restaurant, in a house, in a hotel.



If it is just a personal project it can involve you and any and all of the following:

Photo assistant, model, stylist, stylist assistant, make up artist, hair stylist.


If you work for a client the list can be a lot longer: art director, photo agency, advertising agency, producer, client etc.

Depending on the nature of the photo shoot it can also include more specific people like: a set designer, chef, lather expert, handyman, security, pet owner etc.


In other words the team can become very big…and the team have needs….everyone needs to eat and drink, be able to go to the toilet, the models need to be able to change in privacy and not freeze to death etc.



A checklist is always good to have. It’s very frustrating to be out in the countryside ready to shoot and you realize that you have forgotten the memory cards at home. This list works well for me, but these days it’s an internal check list that happens automatically…. you can add or remove things to make it fit your needs. It’s just to get you to start thinking.


Photo equipment: Camera, lights, reflectors, tripods, extension cord, batteries charged, battery charger, extra battery, memory cards, extra hard drive, laptop

Bits and pieces: Clamps, safety pins, needles, tape roller, nail polish remover, translucent powder, wet wipes

Energy: Food and drinks or check before where to refuel

Protection: Blankets, hat, sun block, umbrellas, right shoes, knee pads, protection for your equipment and the people

Logistics: Transport to and from location for everyone involved, filled up car, trolleys if the location is far from your transport, keys, passes, phone numbers, phone with battery

Legal bits: Model release form, property release form

Shoot enhancers: Props, music, clothes, accessories



You might wonder about some of the points, but I can tell you that I have been in many situations where all of these things have proven to be important….very important actually.

Imagine that the model shows up with black flaky nail polish when you have set out to do a clean natural health shot.

Hot summer day, far from the nearest kiosk…and you have forgotten to bring water.

Clothes are too big and everyone forgot to bring pins.

You show up at the building, doors are locked and you forgot the number to the owner/security guard.


You got to be one step ahead all the time and have back up plans. You don’t want to stuff up your first big job because you forgot to think. With practice this becomes second nature and actually quite fun.


Ami at work. In a greenhouse in Sweden, on a beach in Sri Lanka, climbing the Sicilian mountains, in a hangar and under a bridge.



This is just as important as the first question of why. It doesn’t matter if you have worked out that you want the photo shoot to take place in Madagascar a misty morning in an open field with lemurs and 5 naked women on motorbikes. You might also know what lights to use and even the name of the nearest hotel where you would like to stay…if you don’t have the budget for it (or the right contacts or a lot of luck).

A feasibility rapport is good to establish;

Is it doable? Is it worth it?

If the answer is yes, then you can start to plan how to go about doing it.


Transportation – Of the team and all equipment

Budget – What does it all cost? Can you afford it?

Who do you know? – That can be useful

Practically – Identify obstacles beforehand

Planning – Is it doable? How to go about it?

Access -Keys, codes, gates, private property, crowded?

Contact persons -Get names and numbers of everyone




Production is all about multi tasking. You got to think and keep thinking of the following


Planning: the why, when, where, what, who and how


Direction and Communication: with models, hair and make up and artist, stylist, assistant…(art director, client etc.)


Keep checking: the light, exposure, pose, expression, clothes, hair, make up, alignment and angles


Basic needs: Safety (for people and equipment), food and drinks, temperature, time, toilet



It’s recommended to start with smaller projects and then work your way up to more elaborate ones.


Hopefully  this proves to be useful for you


What are you waiting for?….start planning that next shoot!

Sri Lanka; The Fishermen of Talalla

April 5, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Travel & Adventures


Talalla in south west Sri Lanka. Photo: Ami Elsius


Imagine a place where time holds it’s breath and the hustle and bustle of modern civilisation seems eons away: A quiet place, peaceful and tranquil far away from stress, noise, traffic, news and information bombardment. Imagine a tropical paradise: clear turquoise blue waters, an almost deserted golden beach lined with swaying coconut palms and huge banyan trees. Giant sea turtles lay their eggs at night and the king fisher skilfully catches crabs during the day. Random cows stroll aimlessly down the beach as shiny white cranes catch a free ride on their backs, hoping to get a mouthful of insects on the way. An iguana takes an afternoon stroll while squirrels and monkeys watch from the trees.


Cow taking a stroll down the beach. Photo: Ami Elsius


Here you will find breathtaking beauty in hues ranging from a pale Cerulean to deeper Prussian blue, framed with fresh greens and golden sandy tones, highlighted by deep red hibiscuses, purple and magenta coloured bougainvillea and the white and yellow so sensually scented frangipani.


All accompanied by the most exquisite tropical symphony consisting of various colourful birds and insects, the gentle breeze caressing the treetops and rolling waves breaking in perfect tubes. The sky is clear, sun high in the sky and no one to be seen.

This could very well be the deserted paradise beach of your dreams…for a few hours a day, before the scheduled scene change.


Going out for the first catch of the day. Photo: Ami Elsius

In the early morning hours or in the late afternoon the setting changes tremendously; a new scene is rolled in for another story. This story is as old as mankind itself and has had little variation over the past centuries. It is the band of 20 fishermen that work here everyday the same way their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers did before them; it’s a story of patience, strength, endurance, trust and teamwork.




Looking for some movement in the water, to indicate where to lay the net. Photo: Ami Elsius


A nearly toothless man with a body that looks weak and fragile, gazes out over the ocean; skilfully scanning the surface for jumping fish. Once the fish shoal is spotted, a group of 6-10 fishermen drags a very narrow 2000kg canoe out in the waves and start rowing her out. No motor, no sail, just a wooden stabilizer on one side. The canoe is not made to sit in; you either sit on top of the bars that hold the stabilizer in place or stand up, but watch where you put your feet; a 700 metre net is nested in the belly of the canoe.


You have to be very quick and alert to not get tangled in the 700meter net, as it's swiftly laid out in a big half circle around the shoal. Photo: Ami Elsius


It wasn't entirely easy to stay out of the way, keep the camera safe and not fall overboard. Photo: Ami Elsius


Splashing water, moving boat, oars in all directions, 8 men moving around and a 700m net and I with the camera, trying to booth stay out of the way and get some good angles for photos.....all together in this narrow boat. Photo: Ami Elsius


The net is swiftly laid in a big half circle around the shoal before the boat returns to the shore, surfing in on the waves. People on the shore help to drag the heavy boat back up on the sand while others start pulling the net. Two groups team up in a tug of war with the ocean, pulling on the ends of the net. Passing villagers of all ages help the team of 20 in their 2-3 times daily struggle. What starts out as a huge half circle with the two teams far apart eventually ends up, with a lot of pulling and walking, on the beach and out in the waves, as a narrow U. The fish get channelled in to a snout and pulled up on the beach.

Some days the net is full but far to often the net is empty or sparsely scattered with fish. You can see the big trawlers on the horizon that are out for months on end, like giant vacuum cleaners pulling up every shoal they can see on their echo-sounder. Small-scale manual fishing has and is increasingly becoming harder to survive on.


With the big trawlers going up and down the coast like a giant vacum cleaners, it's not much fish left for the hard working locals. Photo: Ami Elsius


As soon as the net in its entirety is up on the beach, the snout part where the fish have been caught is separated from the rest of the net.  The 700m fishing net is spread out on the beach in a huge zigzag pattern and is scanned for tears.  Mending takes place on the spot if needed and this precious tool is neatly folded and stored on the boat again after some drying time.


The net is checked for holes after every use. Photo: Ami Elsius


The net is layed out in a big zig zag on the pattern to dry. Photo: Ami Elsius


The nets are treated with outmost care and attention. Photo: Ami Elsius


I love looking at the patterns that the nets make in the sand. Photo: Ami Elsius


The fish is sold right on the beach, as soon as it gets out of the water. I love looking at the patterns that the nets make in the sand. Photo: Ami Elsius


Two wooden oars are pushed into the sand, handle down and a third oar is tied in between them creating a big H. A balance is tied to the crossing oar and a locally made rattan basket full of fish is hooked on to the scale.


A scale is made on the spot with two oars and a rope. I love looking at the patterns that the nets make in the sand. Photo: Ami Elsius





Good-sized tasty fish is sold for about 200 rupees per kg (slightly over 1 euro) just minutes after its been pulled out of the sea. The owner of the boat takes half the money and the rest is evenly shared with the other 19 fishermen. They alternate between 5 different boats, each with it’s own net.



Even though the daily rowing, dragging of the boat and pulling of the net is physically challenging even for the fittest of men, you will find old bony men and young boys alongside broad shouldered men with big bellies.  Many need to supplement their catch by solo trips in smaller canoes, weighing 500 kg. A hand held fishing line, some cut squid pieces, a bottle of water and a home made lantern looking like a coffeepot for late homecomings is their only gear. It’s hard work with a calm sea, but during the monsoon season the ocean gets rough and the rowing and tugging becomes totally exhausting.


Many need to supplement their catch by solo trips in smaller canoes, weighing 500 kg. Photo: Ami Elsius


The fishing village was badly affected by the 2004 tsunami: all buildings were greatly damaged or totally washed away, and 25 people died, mainly women and children. One of the fishermen lost his wife and 3 children.


From dead calm to full blown tsunami; the sea has as many faces as man does. Photo: Ami Elsius


These men know that the ocean gives as well as takes life; sometimes it is generous with its fruits and other times it leaves you empty handed. Sometimes it’s still like a mirror, other times rough as hell…just like life. Even though it is hard to make ends meet, none of the fishermen would care to change their profession. It’s in their genes, it’s who they are, it’s their heritage, and hopefully their future. Humility, humbleness, acceptance, gratitude, hope and genuine team spirit are all qualities that the fishermen of Talalla possess. They are dedicated and proud family fathers, reliable friends, hard working and skilful, resilient and genuine men.


Theres always time for some quiet meditaion. Photo: Ami Elsius


More and more of us hit the wall, burn out, and suffer from depression, panic anxiety, a mind that is never quiet and a body that doesn’t know how to fully relax. As the whole world is speeding up and joining the information age it is becoming increasingly important to preserve pristine communities and unspoiled nature.


Everything here circulates around the boats, the beach, the ocean...and a great sense of community and team spirit. Photo: Ami Elsius


We all need to keep our eyes open, and take responsibility for our actions, just as much when we are travelling. Something seemingly trivial to you can be the snowball that caused the avalanche in a new place. If you want to appreciate your journey and genuinely help minimize your footprints along your travels, the best is to donate money to a village conservation fund or a reputable aid organisation. You can make all the difference!


Pristine communities and unspoiled nature are hard to come by these days. Photo: Ami Elsius



Welcome to Speedo land

April 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Featured, Travel & Adventures

Welcome to Speedo Land

Speedo land, Lido La Caravella, Spisone, Sicily. Photo: Ami Elsius

Before I went to Sicily a couple of summer ago, I had mainly seen Speedos on professional swimmers and lifesavers. I remembered when I first saw the south Italian men, how I couldn’t stop staring, laughing and shaking my head. But now, I have to admit that I am used to it, it’s very entertaining. Every shape size and age squeezes themselves in to tiny Speedos, often with little pockets, built in belts and in see-through materials. Sometimes completely worn-out and pulled up to the waist, other times low on the hips and just wide enough to fit a horizontally placed penis. Great care is taken to ensure it is well placed and comfortable and this is done on the beach, in public with the hands down the pants…grabbing, tucking, moving, lifting and readjusting the package. Once satisfied with the result, one of the show-off poses is being struck:


Pose Nr 1, pelvis tilted somewhat forward, hands in the sides, but only with the fingertips touching the hips, matched with a carefree, uninterested look on the face.

Pose 1, Lido Caravella, Spisone Beach, Sicily. Watch and learn, these guys are pros, they have a lot of pratice. Photo: Ami Elsius


Pose Nr 2, this is normally used whenever a camera is pulled out… hips slightly rotated and tilted forward, preferably with an open or cupped hand near the package to really emphasise the location, shape and size. If you got nice abs, this is when they are being squeezed to the max. As for the face, it’s the cool, sexy look that’s important in this pose.

Unfortunately I didn't get this pose at it's best. The hand is supposed to be a bit closer to the package. Bonus here is the waxed eybrows and the little pocket with the zip, Mazara del Vallo, Sicily. You see how the "sexy" look happens more automatic when you wear Speedos. Photo: Ami Elsius



Pose Nr 3, normally used in group photo sessions…in this pose it is important that the arms goes behind your friend/friends and the whole pelvic region and lower body is pushed forward and up in a bow. Facial expression is happy and friendly, showing you have many friends and like to party.


As you might notice, you got to wear Speeds to do this pose. Photo: Ami Elsius


With a bit of practice...of course having, small, wet, white see-through speedos helps a can pull this pose off with just a couple of friends. Photo: Ami Elsius

This is like the master level of this pose, when you manage to do it in a "spontanious" "playful" way even without anyone to put your arms behind. Photo: Ami Elsius


This how it’s done in Italy.  You still have time to practice before “beach 2011″!

Saved by Salsa

April 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Reflections


I have always loved dance. As a young girl I danced ballet, jazz and contemporary dance for a few years but got sick during a period and then unfortunately, I didn’t get back in to it. Not until a few years ago that is when I started to learn salsa and bachata.

When I moved back to Sweden in the middle of 2005, after ca 12 years abroad, and after I became single some year later…I felt totally out of place when I started to date Swedish men. I felt like a foreigner in my own country.

Most of my friends in Sweden have either travelled a lot, have lived abroad, come from another country or have immigrants in their family.  It often felt like the men that I met going out or went to date with could preferably have been exchanged for women. I was not used to awkward, fumbling, androgynous men who had no idea of female courtship, romance and how to be a gentleman.


When I started to dance salsa, I discovered a free zone from the grey zone. The men got encouraged to live out their masculine side, to lead, to court, to protect the woman.  The woman gets his undivided attention, gets seduced, appreciated, gets a shoulder to lean on and passes over the main decisions and responsibility to him. She follows and let herself get swept away; she interprets and perfects his movements.


Maykel Fonts and Kirenia Cantin. Photo: Ami Elsius


To be able to meet without words, being allowed to let your self get lost in the emotion, to be able to share an emotion without having to label it, without having to explain or interpret it…that’s freedom and pure joy.


More couples dancing to the Swedish people!

To everyone, everywhere really

Mushroom picking with guns in Sicily

April 1, 2011 by  
Filed under Travel & Adventures

Trui dressed for mushroom picking. Photo: Ami Elsius

One of my Sicilian adventures

My friend Turi from Osteria Nero D’Avola asked me if I wanted to go mushroom picking with him before the soil completely dries up the season is over. I liked the idea and told him to call me next time he was going. At 4am a couple of days later he calls me up and want to know if I feel like coming with him to pick some porcini mushrooms. For the first and only time here in my flat, mosquitoes had

Think Turi is even a stonger adventure magnet than I am. Photo: Ami Elsius

stung me and I was lying in my bed wide-awake scratchng away. As I had only brought very light clothes and sandals on the flight here to Sicily (was still waiting for some boxes to arrive with more clothes etc) I showed up in flip-flops, jeans and a singlet at Porta Messina where he picked me up. I thought it would be ok: I have been roughing it before… walking barefoot in rainforests, wondering around butt naked in the snake infested Australian outback and climbing sharp cliffs in bikini.

In turns out that in many paces here, the bush is filled with thorns and needles, prickly plants and blackberry bushes. Turi gave me an army jacket to wear and a pair of shoes he had in his boot, about five numbers to big. I ended up putting my flip-flops inside the shoes and on our way we went.


Found some stray dogs on the side of the road that also were up early. Photo: Turi


We drove around the Sicilian countryside, the slopes of Etna, valleys and plains in search of mushrooms. All we found was dried up ones. The temperature difference between the cost and some areas high up on Etna was as much as 20 degrees.

We drove further in to the Sicilian wilderness, more than a days walk from the nearest village, when Turi started to tell me about wild boars and bandits.

On the way to the woods. Photo: Ami Elsius

On the way to the woods. Photo: Ami Elsius




It turns out that last time he was in this area he was attacked by a group of men that was standing in his way, with Rifles pointing straight at him. He exhilarated and drove straight towards them and through them. Then he and his friend had continued to look for mushrooms from the car window (instead of watching ahead)… which resulted in the car driving off the “road” (it’s by no means a road…sort of a preferred but very bumpy route through the woods) rolling round a couple of turns and then landing on the roof. It took them the whole day to get the car back on the track and then finally, without the driver door (that got ripped off in one of the attempts to get the car out of the ditch) they returned very late, or maybe it was the next day, to Taormina again.

We went to 3 lakes as well that day, but none of them managed to convince me to take a swim. Photo: Ami Elsius

This is the area we covered to look for mushrooms

I asked about the attack and Turi proceeded to tell me that in the same area, around the same time as all this took place 2 years ago, 25 cars were stolen during armed robberies and some people even went missing. The bandits would normally block the path, pretending they needed some type of help, steel parked cars or as in the case with my friend, a classic robbery. He told me he got scared and had not dared to go back since it all took place two years ago. I, like I think most people in my situation would have wondered… why, all of a sudden he felt it was ok to go there now…and with me!?

Sicilian countr side. I didn't get any photos of the off road drving in the was just to bumpy. Photo: Ami Elsius

He told me that he thought it had calmed down a bit now since a Mafia boss was arrested recently in that area…and…proud like a kid dressed up in his first cowboy gear, he tells me that he brought a gun!? He took it out from under my seat and squeezed it in between his belly and his high-worn army pants.  A couple of minutes after he has pointed out the spot where he and his friend got attacked….we spot two Jeeps blocking our path and a third one driving up behind us. Three big and not very friendly looking guys gets out of the car in front. With no free escape routes and a very likely robbery scenario at hand, Turi wastes no time. He gets out of the car and start to talk about mushrooms with the guys, making sure they get a glimpse of his gun. To confuse them even more and to get some identification material I get out of the Jeep as well and ask if I can take a photo. They all look really startled, showing us all the big porcinis they have found, posing somewhat unwillingly for the camera (I quickly turned around to take out and hide the memory card…thinking that the photo can come in handy in case of an attack) and then proceeds to give us all their mushrooms before they drive off.

I am sceptic about their original intentions, but they ended up giving me all their musshrooms (a big tray). I would love to know what was going through their minds. Photo: Ami Elsiu

What a strange scenario.



..and that was just the beginning of a long and interesting day.

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