This is seal potato

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Looks can be deceiving. Take this guy. Is he a potato? Is he a clay sculpture? Is he an itsy bitsy seal that lacks eyes, a nose, a mouth and a tale?

He’s seal potato. And you know what, he ain’t mad about it.

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.”

Market moments in Vietnam

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I like this photo perhaps a little more than I should.

To me, that chicken is more than today’s lunch, destined for a last swim in some rich, bubbling broth. Its outstretched feet seem to punctuate the whole scene, shouting, “Hey! Wait! A little help here?!”

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A five-second photo tour of spring

I suppose good bloggers publish so many photos and posts that they have no need for these kind of wrap-ups. I am not a good blogger. All that writing and editing for a living makes it sorta hard to hit the blog when I get home.

Excuses, excuses, right?

Anyway, it’s been a wonderful spring, complete with two (!) trips home to Boston, two great races, lots of good food and some quality (and sweaty) exploration. With summer breathing down my neck, here’s a selection of photos that capture a bit of the last few months.

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Ah La Jolla. Yes, it’s high-priced and a bit precious, but this doesn’t suck. Palms trees, sunset over the Pacific, moisture in the air and sunny days that don’t feel like they’re melting your skin. This photo was taken in early March, the night before I ran the San Diego Half Marathon with my friend Katie.

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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.

Samba, beach dog

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This isn’t a new photo, but it’s the kind of moment I’m craving right now.

To celebrate my birthday a couple of years ago, Tovin and I drove to San Diego for a weekend of good food, sand and blessed moisture. We booked a hotel on Dog Beach in OB, and within minutes of our arrival, Samba was loose on the sand. We spent a good portion of the weekend watching her dash across the shore, soaring over puddles, splashing through the water and suffering the occasional epic puddle crash. It was sandy and dirty and totally joyful. I can’t wait to take her back.

Shall we take the stairs?

Walk on

I took this photo in a small village along the so-called Ruta Panoramica in central Dominican Republic last summer. We had just spent a night in a wonderful jungle ecolodge called Tubagua, and on the way back to Santo Domingo we stopped in the town of Pedro Garcia to meet with a local Peace Corp volunteer, who was helping farmers convert their land back to coffee after a failed, government-sponsored experiment in raising cattle. Stanley, the Peace Corp kid, was so passionate about his project I couldn’t help but feel inspired, and everywhere we walked with him we were greeted by neighbors inviting him to dinner, joined by teenagers who wanted to practice their English and followed by family dogs that seemed determined to adopt Stanley. Eventually, we came to these stairs, leading up to a ridge where we had a clear, lovely view of the valley below. The photos from the top where nice, of course. But I prefer this one from the bottom of the stairs—where it’s all possibility and anything might be waiting if you just start the climb.

Missing Mexico

Missing Mexico

It’s hard to complain about 70-degree January days in Las Vegas—especially when the rest of the country is being pummeled with snow. But today I took a glance at my pictures from a recent trip to the Yucatan Peninsula and just kind of sighed.

This shot is from an earlyish morning in Playa del Carmen, a bustling beach town just south of Cancun. In a few hours this stretch of sand would be overrun by sunburnt tourists and pineapple-based cocktails, but during my stroll it was blissfully calm and quiet—a glimpse of what Playa might have looked like before it became a default tourist destination.

A five-second fall photo tour

Ah, the blog. We had a good run there, all those posts, all that writing. And then, as per usual, I fell off the wagon.

It was tragic, of course. People kept commenting and emailing, begging for the blog to return. Oh wait, no one did that.

Regardless, I’m back for another crack at this self-indulgent little exercise—starting with a five-second photo tour of the fall you missed:

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This “mural” by Portuguese street artist Vhils was part of the Life Is Beautiful art program, and I’m fully obsessed with it. Rather than painting his walls, Vhils chips paint away to create his pieces, which are simply beautiful and incredibly expressive.

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I spotted this religious sculpture at the Broadacres flea market in North Las Vegas while Tovin was on assignment. The market is a vast, overwhelming consumer landscape, where you can buy everything from roast peanuts to cable TV packages to luchador masks and underwear.

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A co-worker’s desk cactus. I thought it looked like some freaky insect ready to spread its tentacles and attack.

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My bib number from the 2013 Las Vegas Ragnar Relay. This was my third year running, first year captaining, and my team ran like banshees from Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort to Lake Las Vegas, devouring miles at a far faster pace than we expected. We crossed the finish line (only mostly dead) about an hour and a half early and placed 38th in our division. But mostly we just had a crazy blast, which is really the whole point.

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Afterward, Tovin and I returned the vans and finally tried Lulu’s Bread & Breakfast, where I ate this fantastic creation, which was basically an open-faced caprese egg sandwich. I wish I could put it in my mouth every weekend.

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Speaking of food, check out this snapshot from the Friendsgiving 2013 spread. I’m talking two turkeys, 25 people, 32 biscuits, a couple of parents and a ridiculous amount of leftovers. (Not pictured: my first-ever lemon meringue pie, which mostly worked)

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And finally, a for-personal-use-only photo from our Neon Museum visit with Tovin’s parents. I always find something new to photograph and obsess over, like this gorgeous purple sign, which is currently the wallpaper on my phone.

Whoa!

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I can’t remember exactly what provoked this mid-air selfie, but it probably had something to do with the fact that Tovin and I were about to embark on a 10-day road trip across the Dominican Republic that would include jumping off waterfalls, eating giant fish, drinking cocktails out of pineapples and getting brutally lost in a city where the highway entrances looked like back alleys.

To more wide-eyed adventure!