National Geographic Expeditions, Travel

A Journey of Geoglyphs

Aerial picture of the Nazca Desert landscape

Like an ancient, arid Etch A Sketch, the flat plains of the Nazca Desert were the perfect canvas for the Nazca people to create geoglyphs, drawings or shapes created by moving rocks or other natural elements.

I’d been daydreaming of traveling to Peru for quite some time now. My visions were filled with Inca ruins set in steep, foggy mountain terrain (er, Machu Picchu), not of arid landscapes with a palette of browns. But the Peru I discovered while traveling south of Lima on a recent Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions voyage was a wonderful surprise filled with history and mystery.

I was sailing on the National Geographic Explorer as the photo expert, but also on board was Johan Reinhard, a guest speaker who shared with us his immense knowledge of not only the Nazca Lines geoglyphs we would visit in Peru, but also the Inca Ice Maiden mummy that we’d see later in Chile.

Picture of a boat pilot by the Paracas Candelabra geoglyph

The pilot of our sightseeing boat navigates us closer to view the “Candelabra” geoglyph on the Paracas Peninsula. This geoglyph seems like it might blow away on a seemingly sandy surface, but by some estimates it has held tight since around 200 B.C.

We saw an “appetizer” geoglyph called the Candelabra off of the Paracas Peninsula, before we got to the “main course” geoglyphs of the Nazca Lines. In small 12-seater planes, we zigged and zagged above the desert in a stomach-churning choreography designed to let us view the amazing shapes and forms on the desert floor.

Such an elaborate collection of drawings in the middle of a desert, ranging from lines and trapezoids to monkeys and whales, was both stunning and baffling. Whether the Nazca people were pleading to the gods for rain, or making landing strips for aliens (I lean towards the former), it was a flight of a lifetime.

Aerial picture of the Nazca Lines hummingbird

This stylized hummingbird measures 310 feet long and is one of the easier Nazca Lines drawings to spot.

Aerial picture of the tree and hands Nazca Lines

The Pan-American Highway and an observation tower help to give a sense of scale to the Nazca Lines drawings of a tree and hands.

Aerial picture from inside a plane over the Nazca Lines

The Nazca Lines flight isn’t for the faint of stomach, but absolutely worth a bit of wooziness to see this unusual landscape.

At Home, Photography, Travel

Willamette Wine Country

Sunset on a springtime vineyard

Springtime buds on grape vines in the late afternoon outside of Salem, at Witness Tree Vineyards.

I’ve always told aspiring photographers that if they can’t make a good photograph in their own backyard, then why should they be able to make a good photograph in some exotic land?

Lucky for me, my backyard is Oregon’s beautiful Willamette Valley, a land criss-crossed with evergreen forests, grass seed fields, filbert orchards, and other agricultural bounties, most notably the vineyards that have brought the valley fame. I’ve even gotten to go on assignment in my backyard, photographing the Salem area and the Pinot Noir trail for 1859 Oregon’s Magazine. Take a tour through the northern Willamette Valley with these assignment outtakes.

Zenith Vineyards and ripe grapes

Zenith Vineyards is tucked into the picturesque Eola-Amity Hills and boasts a view of Mt Jefferson (left). Grapes ready for harvest at Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner (right).

Woman pouring wine and vineyard view

Inside the tasting room at Willamette Valley Vineyards (left). The view from Ponzi Vineyards near Sherwood (right).

Vineyards and forest near Stoller Family Estate

Oregon in the springtime could be called fifty shades of green. View of vineyards, forest, and the Stoller Family Estate’s tasting room.

Amity, Oregon and pies at Blue Raeven Farmstand

The Willamette Valley isn’t only about wine. In the town of Amity, the main road (left) will take you to sweet eats at the Blue Raeven Farmstand (right).

Alpacas on a farm in Oregon.

Your path is guaranteed to cross many a vineyard, but I was surprised to also stumble upon quite a few alpaca farms. I got curious looks from these adorable guys at Wings and a Prayer Alpacas near Amity.

Wine bottles on a bar

Yamhill Valley Vineyards wine bottles are lined up in their tasting room near McMinnville. The YVV logo is made up of the state bird, the western meadowlark, and the state flower, the Oregon grape.

Landscape at Willamette Valley Vineyards and downtown Newberg

Willamette Valley Vineyards is has an enviable location outside of Salem (left). Downtown Newberg is full of quaint shops and restaurants (right).

Country road scene and wine barrels at Eyrie

Country roads, take me home in the Eola-Amity Hills (left). The entrance to Eyrie Vineyards in McMinnville is filled with wine barrels (right).

Willamette Valley at sunset

The patchwork fields of the Willamette Valley as the sun disappears towards the Coast Range.

P.S. It’s Willamette dammit!

On the Road, Photography

Memorias de Andalucía


One of the beautiful things about travel is being able to revisit familiar places and bask in old memories while making new. In January, I returned to the Andalucía region of Spain to photograph a story in the beach town of Marbella.

Most of my time in Andalucía was spent studying in nearby Granada, to where I’d returned a handful of times, as well as trips to Seville and another Costa del Sol town called Nerja. But certain sights and sounds can take you back, without being exact.

I left the glamour and glitz of Marbella’s new harbor and found my way to somewhere much closer to my memories of Southern Spain. A few paces into the pedestrian-only streets of Marbella’s Old Quarter and I was surrounded by fountains, orange-blossom trees, and white-washed walls lined with potted geraniums. Now this is the Andalucía of my memories. But one thing was missing; I desperately needed to find tapas.

I chatted up a local who directed me to a bar tucked down a narrow alley. The plates of olives, jamón, and croquetas that arrived took me back to pint-sized bars in Granada where I’d nosh tapas with new friends. We’d while away hours struggling to understand the strange sounding Spanish of the South. The familiar accent of Latin American professors who had taught me to critique literature in university classrooms was a far cry from the heavily accented, lazy Spanish found in Andalucía. Who knew back then that this difficult accent would one day sound like heaven to my ears and bring the past back to life?

So for a few sweet, sunny days I found myself time-tripping on the highs of memories past.

Old Quarter street in Marbella

Wandering through Marbella’s Old Quarter took me on a walk down memory lane.

Marbella's Old Quarter

Charming by night and day, the streets are filled with fountains, flowers, and the sounds of daily life.

Ladies in old town Marbella

Fashionable ladies wander through the heart of old Marbella on a sunny winter day. 

Plaza de los Naranjos in Marbella

The Plaza de los Naranjos feels sleepy on a bright January afternoon.

Old facade with young man passing

This town with an old soul has quite a young vibe and attracts jet-setters in droves to explore the glamour and glitz found in new developments. As for me, you’ll find me down a narrow lane in old town eating tapas and rubbing elbows with the locals. 

On the Road, Travel

Winter in Paris


Ah, winter in Paris! Last September I had the chance to explore Paris and photograph a story in the Marais neighborhood, which coincidentally brought about the chance for me to return to spend most of January and February in the City of Lights.

I had visions of long walks through picturesque city streets while bundled up in cute winter coats and scarfs. I dreamt about holing up in cafes drinking cappuccinos and eating three course lunches. I’d planned to brush up on my French and loll away afternoons in museums. But the thing I forgot to factor into the equation was the weather. Paris was cold.

My experience of previous winters spent in Europe had faded into distant memory, but suddenly the lack of insulation and heating all came back to me the moment I stepped into the Montmartre flat where I would be staying. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an absolute wimp when it comes to low temperatures, but the French just don’t have a love for indoor heating the way this spoiled rotten American does.

Holiday lights in Montmartre

The City of Lights adds on even more wattage around the winter holidays in displays ranging from simple, like that found in the streets of Montmartre, to extravagant.

Crepe stand in Montmartre

A crepe might take the chill off of a January evening in Montmartre.

I’m happy (ok, not happy, but willing) to get cold, if I know I can get warm. The rows of old buildings lining the hillside of Montmartre that look oh-so-quaint-and-French from the outside, aren’t as charming on the inside when the crooked doorways and slanting floors make icy drafts a frigid reality. During my stay, I’d often take a break from working at my laptop to look out from the single-pane windows of the flat to gaze down at the bundled-up passersby below. And I’d be grateful that I was inside and only wearing two layers of clothing and my stocking hat.

But without near-freezing temps, Paris wouldn’t get to flaunt an ice skating rink in front of City Hall and even one on the Eiffel Tower. The Champs-Élysées wouldn’t have a winter market where you could take the chill off with mulled wine or champagne. Cozy bistros wouldn’t have felt as snug without people piling in, peeling off their layers, and steaming up windows with body heat. And, clearly, I couldn’t have justified multi-course lunches of steak tartare or other decadent dishes, if I hadn’t shivered off the calories on my by-foot commutes around the city.

If winter is unavoidable, then one may as well spend it in Paris.

Mother and daughter riding carousel in Paris

If I had a Euro for every carousel I’ve run into in Paris, I might be able to pay for one of my fancy prix fixe lunches. This carousel is located across from the ice skating rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville, or City Hall.

Paris rooftops and Sacre Coeur

View of steely-blue city from inside the Picasso Museum (left) and the dome of the Sacre Coeur glows after dusk (right).

Colorful wallpapered rooms in Versailles

The extravagant rooms of the Palace of Versailles are a lovely cold-weather distraction.

Winter light in Versailles

Winter light shines into one of the palace rooms at Versailles.

Child taking photo in Hall of Mirrors

Winter means less crowds at tourist sites like Versailles, where for one sweet moment in the Hall of Mirrors it can feel like you are alone.

Taking an indoor break at the Pantheon (left) and the view from the rooftop of Notre Dame (right).

Taking an indoor break at the Pantheon (left) and the view from the rooftop of Notre Dame (right).

Ice skaters on the Eiffel Tower

There is a postage-sized ice skating rink on the first level of the Eiffel Tower. Don’t expect clean ice and sharp blades, but do expect to brag that you ice skated on one of the most famous monuments in the world.

On the Road, Photography, Travel

Oregon Road Trip, Part 1

Reflection of road in truck mirror

An object in motion stays in motion.

I decided to prove that Newton’s law was true last summer. After sailing around the world, bouncing around Scandinavia, and exploring the Galapagos Islands (post to come soon!), I was back in one place for a few months, or so I thought. Turns out, even while being “home” I couldn’t stay put.

Now, I knew that I came from a beautiful state and after seven years away, I was determined to explore even more of Oregon. The perfect opportunity came along when my dad bought a used camper and was itching to take it for a spin. We decided it was prime time to make a father-daughter road trip around the Beaver State.

We logged 1250 miles in one week, and traveled far enough south to dip into Nevada before making our way all the way north to cross the mighty Columbia River into Washington. Every time I’d become convinced that Oregon was covered in a carpet of evergreens, we’d drive into a land of endless sagebrush, and I’d start to think nothing else existed.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but in short, the things I learned are thus: Oregon is even more beautiful than I imagined, nothing beats a road atlas, and my dad, in addition to being the best dad, is also the best photo assistant I could imagine.

Phantom Ship in Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park is so amazing that I already dedicated an entire post to it. I think this view of Phantom Ship, the “tiny” island in the photo, is best at sunrise when you can watch the sun illuminate the massive caldera walls that hold the country’s deepest lake.

Cowboy at the Adel Store and cattle in field.

Heading southwest from the forests surrounding Crater Lake, we descended into cattle country in southern Oregon. I met this working cowboy at the Adel Store, a tiny market and cafe, in the crossroads that is the small community of Adel (left). Healthy cattle graze amidst stunning vistas of plains and plateaus (right).

Abandoned homestead in Oregon.

The ruins of a derelict homestead stand empty in a landscape covered in sagebrush in Southern Oregon.

Alvord Hot Springs caretaker and his parrot.

The caretaker of the Alvord Hot Springs warmly greeted us with his pet parrot.

Alvord Hot Springs at sunset.

The sun drops below the Steens Mountain and casts the Alvord Hot Springs into shadow. A dip in the hot springs costs $5 per person and allows you access onto the Alvord Desert playa via a private road.

Alvord Desert sunrise.

We drove the camper onto the Alvord Desert playa at sunset and found a place to park for the night. When we woke up the next morning we were bathed in a pastel sky and couldn’t help but linger instead of hitting the road.

Fields Station in Oregon.

The Fields Station is a grocery, diner, motel, and gas station known for its burgers and milkshakes in the small town of Fields in Southern Oregon. Here the local “sheriff” fixes his ride in the parking lot.

Irrigation and tumbleweeds.

Tumbleweeds cling to barbed wire fences along the edge of irrigated fields near the base of the Steens Mountain.

Sign and antlers in Diamond, Oregon.

Antlers decorate a building (left) in Diamond, Oregon, where the population is 5 (right).

Sunset in Diamond, Oregon.

Sunset over round hay bales in the fields of Eastern Oregon near the town of Diamond.

Pelicans at Malheur National Wildlife Reserve.

I never would have believed that there are flocks of pelicans in the middle of Oregon at the Malheur National Wildlife Reserve without seeing it for myself.

Wild horses at BLM corrals

Wild horses wait for adoption at BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro facility outside of Hines, Oregon.

Blue Basin at John Day Fossil Beds

My dad walks into the sunset (left) at the Sheep Rock Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds (right).

The Painted Hills

The appropriately named Painted Hills of the John Day Fossil Beds. We had the place to ourselves because forest fires had shut down the nearby highway and scared off potential visitors, but when the smoke began to encroach from both sides, we high-tailed it to Mitchell.

Prairie City Antiques

We made a stop in the quaint town of Prairie City and visited the local antique shop.

Kam Wah Chung and juniper.

During the gold rush, Chinese workers flooded to Eastern Oregon in search of quick riches. What they found was prejudice and exclusion, but a strong sense of community within the walls of Kam Wah Chung (left), a mercantile, post office, letter writing service, doctors office, boarding house, and gathering place for the local Chinese population. In its heyday John Day had the third largest Chinatown in the US. Juniper berries smell like home to me (right), as do evergreens, sagebrush, and fresh cut hay.

Wind farms in Oregon.

Windmills and wheat fields cover the landscape on the approach to the Columbia River Gorge in northern Oregon. I had no idea Oregon was ranked #5 in megawatt production from wind energy in US, but after passing windmills as far as the eye can see I can understand why.

The mighty Columbia River in Oregon.

The mighty Columbia River seen from Rowena Crest along the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Mount Hood in Oregon

No road trip around Oregon is complete without a glimpse of Mount Hood. Passing by the giant beauty took far too long because I had to stop to photograph each vista of the stunning mountaintop.

On the Road, Photography, Travel

The Bluest Blue

Caldera and water in Crater Lake

In summer months the National Park offers the only chance to get onto the water by taking a two-hour boat tour led by a park ranger. The tour was highly informative and the views were gobstoppingly beautiful. And it is a bit eerie to imagine the tremendous depth (1,943 feet) and volume (4.9 trillion gallons) of the water below.

I’ve seen Crater Lake in passing on a few occasions, but it was only as a quick stop on a road trip while hurrying to some other destination. This last summer my dad and I decided to do a father-daughter road trip and thought that it was high time to spend a couple days at Crater Lake National Park. I booked one of the few open slots I could find on the boat tours, reserved an RV space in nearby Mazama Village, and we aimed southwest in the truck and camper.


Fishing is allowed in Crater Lake without a permit and fishermen might hook a rainbow trout or kokanee salmon, though I was told the odds are a bit steep with the ratio of fish to water (left). A tour boat looks like a bathtub toy as seen from the top of the hike down to Cleetwood Cove (right).

Cleetwood Cove in Crater Lake National Park.

Cleetwood Cove is the only access point to hike down to the water at Crater Lake National Park and is also the departure point for the boat tours. Hearty souls were jumping into the brisk waters, whereas others were content to dip in a toe and bask in the sun.

I think from the moment I first saw the lake my father must have thought I was a broken record. “It is just so blue,” became my mantra.

If you’ve ever had the luck to see this lake in person, the blue I’m talking about is not the blue of skies or tropical waters, but more of a rich sapphire blue. It felt like I was looking at a photograph with the saturation level pushed to the max, only better, because it was real. Scientifically there is a reason Crater Lake is so dazzling. I learned that the water has such purity, coming only from snow and rain, that light penetrates quite deep. At those depths most of the spectrum is absorbed except for the blues which bounce back up and dazzle our eyes.

Over the next three days we saw the lake from every angle we could. We hiked down to the water’s edge and viewed the massive caldera walls from a boat ride. We hiked up to an overlook and watched the light fade at sunset. Going off the beaten track, we visited nearby waterfalls and a valley of volcanic spires that felt more suited to the American Southwest.

For two mornings we woke up nearby campers as we rumbled the truck to life and pulled out of our space before dawn so that we could see the sunrise on the lake. After which we’d find a stunning viewpoint where we could park the camper and enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Surprisingly, each morning until about 9am Dad and I felt like we had the magical lake to ourselves. And I think there isn’t a better way to start any day, than to be surrounded by the bluest blue I can imagine.

Pumice Castle formation

Tucked away off of an unmarked viewpoint on East Rim Drive is the aptly named Pumice Castle.

Wildflowers on the Crater Lake caldera.

Wildflowers are a colorful contrast against a landscape of green and blue, but many are invasive species which the National Park works to control and eradicate.


Crater Lake Lodge, built in 1915, is the only place to stay if you want to look out your window and have a view of the lake (left). Blue meets blue from a vantage point on East Rim Drive (right).

Phantom Ship in Crater Lake

At certain times of day, the island of 400,000 year old lava known as Phantom Ship can be difficult to spot, but it is easy to see from the Sun Notch Trail in the afternoon. To give a sense of scale, the island is 500-feet long and about 16 stories high and the white speck in the upper right on the lake is a school bus-sized tour boat.

Fire lookout at Crater Lake National Park.

A historic fire lookout is perched on top of Watchman Peak at Crater Lake.

Wizard Island in Crater Lake.

The view from Watchman Peak at sunset of Wizard Island, seemingly floating in the deepest lake in the United States.

Forest around Crater Lake National Park.

Although I was enamored with watching the sunset on Crater Lake, when I turned around to look across the forest, I saw another kind of blue.

On the Road, Travel

The Longest Afternoon

In my travels occasionally there are days that expand out of their actual boundaries of time to occupy much larger spaces in my memories. Cue Stockholm in mid-May.

In a city where navigating on or around water is a way of life, one afternoon my friends and I clamored on board a tourist boat for a 20 minute ride to Fjäderholmarna, the closest archipelago island to central Stockholm.

The dock at Fjäderholmarna.

The restaurant at Fjäderholmarna.

It was already around 5pm when we arrived to the island, but it felt like it was barely 2pm because the sun was still high in the sky. We ate seafood and drank wine at the waterside restaurant before wandering across the island, passing artist studios in quaint red houses, to find a perch on the rocks.

We spread out a blanket, listened to music, and sipped a little more wine. I was enamored with the intense blues and greens of the water and land surrounding Stockholm. The music inspired me to get up and dance a few times in the warm sunshine.

At 7pm I happened to do a double-take at my watch. How could it be so late, yet feel so early? I wanted to squeeze every minute from the extra daylight and dance into the longest sunset.

But we begrudgingly packed up our picnic and hopped back onto the boat, sailing into the sunset and towards the elegant outlines of Stockholm’s skyline. Though the afternoon actually lasted only a few hours, the memories of it will stay with me forever.

Sunset in Stockholm

Almost 9pm and the sun was just slipping away.