The awful Jolly Mountain Fire burning near Cle Elum, WA, has turned the skies of Seattle to a sickly orange, with ash fallout dusting the streets of the city.
I was out watering our plants this morning and heard a ruckus - it was this Steller's Jay, cavorting on and around our apple tree. A handsome bird, and now I know his call. I've heard him around before.
Although I was not able to make it to Oregon to witness totality, I did get to step outside with my coworkers (and post this on my lunch break) to see the eerie dim light of 92% solar eclipse. I can only imagine how disquieting and special totality must have been.
My friend Justin and I arrived early on Saturday in the rain - the rain stopped right after we got our tents up, allowing us one glorious day to explore unmarked trails up Rampart Ridge. Then, that night, a gnarly storm rolled through. Of that, I have no pictures, so shots of Rampart Lakes, Rampart Ridge, and Lila Lake must suffice.
Lima is a sprawling city showcasing Peru's poverty and wealth. Our friend, Juan Carlos, told us of Peru's historically massive economic divide and currently growing middle class - both were evident as we drove through the streets of Callao, explored near the city's old center, and toured wealthier areas such as Miraflores and Barranco.
Our time in Lima was really defined by the food we ate. Having sampled famed Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio's work at Chicha in Cusco, we went to his La Mar cevicheria in Miraflores and had one of the best dining experiences any of us could remember. No fewer than three and as many as five waiters attended to us - everything from empanada and ceviche starters to whole grilled fish to dessert was out-of-this-world good. We spent at least three hours there.
Barranco, I think, was the visual gem for us. Vibrant buildings, parading groups from far-flung reaches of Peru; Barranco felt like the welcoming, energetic, Latin locale grey-skied northerners like us would crave.
Only a couple of years ago, very few people knew about Vinicunca, the so-called Rainbow Mountain of Peru. I don't just mean tourists - the locals of Cusco, only three-or-so hours away, didn't market tours to Vinicunca and, if you'd ask them about it, wouldn't have known what it was. That all changed when a then-coworker of my wife and her friend (both of whom are coworkers still and were with me on this trip) somehow came across the hike, published a blog post about it, and started a company to lead tours there. Now you can't throw a rock in Cusco without hitting an ad for Rainbow Mountain hikes.
FlashPacker Connect, the aforementioned company, found Quechua partners for both guiding parties up the mountain and cooking breakfast and post-hike meals for their hikers. The day for us started at 2am when we were picked up - three hours of driving took us to 14,000 feet and a small house in which a Quechua man cooked us omelettes and quinoa drinks. A 20-minute drive past that and the fun began.
The hike is only around nine miles round trip, but with over 2,000 feet of elevation gain along that length, breathing - and therefore life in general (for us sea-level-dwellers) - becomes quite difficult. Justin and I were quite tired, but our Quechua guide (an incredibly interesting man with whom I spoke as much as possible when my lungs allowed it) was not - our wives, on the other hand, were suffering badly and elected to turn back before the top. A wise move, as the elevation gain only increased and we passed into rain, heavy rain, and then snow approaching blizzard conditions. Still, we reached the top (ultimately 16,273ft), and although Vinicunca's folded, metal ore strata were not brilliant, the alpine view was breathtaking (both literally and figuratively).
Being the only non-natives on the mountain, an elderly Quechua woman chatted us up near the top before bounding away with light-footed grace, making us look like the stumbling, oxygen-deprived oafs we were. I'll never forget it.
As a little kid, I was obsessed with Machu Picchu for a while. My school had large, glossy, color picture books of Incan ruins, and something about the way the city looked like a castle or its unlikely perch on top of a mountain ridge captured my imagination. Brushing against the stones of this ancient place and gazing down into multi-thousand-foot valleys from precipices delivered deep joy.
The town of Aguas Calientes at the foot of Machu Picchu, despite clearly being the result of the booming tourist economy, had a few gems. First, traveling to the town is only possible by train - my favorite mode of transportation. The tracks cut right through one axis of the town. There were also a couple of very nice beer joints, including one at which we quickly became favored clients, knowing a thing or two about good beer and staying long hours to play cards and eat guinea pig pizza. We only stayed two nights, and despite the general touristy tone of town, Aguas Calientes had its own charm and didn't lack surprises.
Although we spent one night in Lima, it was a very short sleep before heading back to the airport to fly to Cusco. The city sits near 11,000ft high in the Andes; airport billboards warn travelers (with images of puking gringos) to beware of altitude sickness. Coca tea, which is supposed to help, is abundant. None of us fell ill with altitude sickness, but we were all exhausted from travel, the lack of oxygen, and general excitement.
We left Cusco after one night to explore Machu Picchu and returned; we left again for a day to climb Vinicunca and returned to stay again. While in Cusco, though, we ate amazing food (Gaston's Chicha is fantastic; Bodega 138 has the best pizza; you can get street food - risky, I know - for 3 soles) and found the good beer spots (Cholo's is tucked away up a hill and has quiet, courtyard seating). We even found delicious breakfast (The Meeting Place - a Christian mission-based, not-for-profit, volunteer-run organization) with kittehs.
Having just returned from a mind-bending trip to Peru, many dozens of photos await editing. I began processing shots haphazardly, jumping from day to day, style to style - until I started on some stark, haunting images from Machu Picchu, a few days into our adventure. The first half of the day was still, quiet, and more intimate; tourist count was low, and although views were obscured, I think we saw a side of the ruins about which people don't normally gush. Although I'm excited to finish the rest of my frames from this trip, I decided to begin with these.
One of my favorite bands, The Radio Dept., released a protest album late last year in reaction to the rise of far-right, faux-populist politics in Sweden. One of the tracks, Sloboda Narodu, refers to the Yugoslav partisan rallying cry from World War II: Death to fascism, freedom to the people! I reflected on that sentiment repeatedly today.
Today, I marched with my wife - an American woman with Chinese immigrant parents - joining millions around the world (and more than 120,000 in Seattle) in a show of support for people like her, her family, and countless others being been told: immigrants aren't welcome here; your health, safety, and well being are trumped by the desires of the wealthy; and, in a truly surreal twist, that truth is relative.
The pictures below are what I saw on the streets of Seattle. Reflecting on the powerful joy I saw in my sisters and brothers today fills me with hope for the future and pride in my neighbors.
When I lived abroad, I made a couple of Christmas-themed images to share with folks back home. I created one more the year I returned to the U.S., but haven't done it since that year, 2011. Now that we have our own home and a little time on a dark, Northwestern Sunday, I've returned to the off-and-on tradition. Here's that image and the few others I created over the years.
Danny and I occasionally plan walks through interesting parts of the city. Today, it was breakfast followed by wandering through the Washington Arboretum, which I'd never really explored. With this year's more bountiful precipitation, the fall colors are on full display with the sun out once again.
My wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary by getting out of the city for a weekend and going to Langley on Whidbey Island. It was lovely; we ate delicious food and stayed in a quaint cabin. Our excitement came from a ferry that sprung a leak, caught fire, and required our evacuation.
I traveled with my wife and two best friends to meet two more best friends - Aussies - with whom we trekked up and down the east coast of Australia. Hundreds of frames later, here are some of my favorites:
My company sent my team along with one other on a quick sailing cruise around Elliott Bay. It was beautiful, of course, and a nice escape from work.
My good friend, Danny, and I walked around UW's campus and snapped a few frames. Check out what he did!
I just wanted one blossom photo this year. Most trees were already bare, but I did find this beauty (as did everyone else with a camera, it seemed).
I was super happy to shoot promotional shots of Kids Carpentry Seattle's website (they're not up yet). Owner Loren Kite's a fantastic guy, and his company is pure gold. A carpentry class for 8-10 year olds - I sure wish that was something that existed when I was a kid.
It's safety first all the way as the kids cut wood with hand miter saws, hand-cranked drills, and old c-clamps. They were making everything from sailboats to pachinko machines. And they were all adorable.
My wife and I were married 10/10/2015, but with the stress of buying a house, then getting married shortly thereafter, we held off on the honeymoon. Why Sweden in the winter? Why not? We don't mind the cold. Here are some frames from the trip.
My oldest friend, Elliot, got married this weekend. It was a blast, and I took a lot of photos. Instead of hiring a photographer, they brilliantly asked everyone to take photos, tag them with particular tags to make them easy to find, and then offered a cash prize to the winner. Here are some of mine:
Combine camping, motorcycling, and photography - stir well and enjoy.