One great screenshot

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This week, I had the totally insane experience of flying in a Red Bull Air Race aerobatic plane with pilot Kirby Chambliss. I’ll be editing together some killer GoPro footage from my flight (note: The G forces do gnarly things to my face.) and writing about the experience, of course, but for now I just want to share this incredible screengrab that does a little bit to capture the total awe and wonder I was feeling while Kirby made his plane flip and dance in the sky over Jean, Nevada.

Yes, that’s the horizon above my head. No, I didn’t get sick. Yes, I did have to wear a parachute. The whole thing might be best summed up by the word I couldn’t help repeating after every trick during my flight: “Whoa.”

The otherworldly oddness of Death Valley on film

Death Valley ... on very old film.

Death Valley … on very old film.

It happens to everyone. You wake up on the morning of a big adventure and realize you’ve forgotten to charge your camera battery. Guh. Sure, you have your iPhone, but your first trip to Death Valley National Park demands more. It demands real attention; it demands a real camera; it demands … film?

That was my hope as Tovin and I hustled out the door loaded down with water bottles and sweat-wicking layers for a visit to Death Valley. Just two hours outside of Las Vegas, it’s actually a totally manageable day-trip. Leave early, grab gas in Pahrump, BYO-sandwiches (and beers), and you can see the sites and be back in town in time for a late dinner (or in my case, in time for the debut of Snoop Dogg’s Snoopadelic Cabaret at Tao. Oh, Vegas.).

We spent our time in Death Valley taking is as much as we could. We bounded across the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, kicking up clouds of fine, enveloping sand; stopped for lunch and wildflower photos along Emigrant Pass; ducked into abandoned charcoal kilns in the Panamint Springs area; took a quick hike up Wildrose Peak; and ended the day with a sunset stroll over the salt flats of Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America. And of course, I took pictures. Film pictures using Tov’s old Nikon.

The problem with busting out your old film camera after it’s spent years in a box? Well, the film’s spent years in a box, too, in who knows what conditions and temperatures. When I got the film developed, half a roll of black and white had come out fine, but our color roll was a bit the worse for wear—orange and grainy, with an odd, almost photocopied effect.

Still now that I’ve give the shots another look or two, their weirdness is growing on me. With a sort of apocalyptic glow, they make Death Valley look like a stark, strange, alien landscape. Which, I suppose, isn’t too different from the real thing.

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Wildflowers along Emigrant Pass in Death Valley National Park.

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The Death Valley landscape, climbing out of the valley.

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Strolling out onto the salt flats at Badwater Basin, more than 200 feet below sea level.

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Floating on the sand dunes at midday.

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Me, in the hot, hot heat.

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On the run.