Explore the Elements


What are these random photos doing together, you’re wondering? Funny you should ask, because Explore the Elements is a contest being held by Thomas Cook–and if you look closely, you’ll see four elements loosely interpreted in all of my travel photos presented before the grand jury today. Hey, I could have used standard landscape photos to post about earth, fire, water, and air–but the judges specifically asked for unique interpretations. So here goes. Enjoy!


When I think of earth, I think of it not only as an element, but of our Earth as just a small speck in the grand scheme of the universe. Here is my photo from Joshua Tree National Park, in California–with a night shot of the here and now along with hundreds of stars. It’s that looking beyond in this very desert that has always made me feel very, very small.



While one would think everyone submitted fire photos, it turns out that not everyone has one–but everyone has a beautiful “fiery” orange sunset! In this shot of my photo of a Tibetan refugee in her one-room family home in Nepal, we realize just how important fire still is. The years of hard work etched on her face, the look in her eyes, the crouching position as she gets ready to grab the boiling water–it all revolves around fire and the concept of still doing everything by hand. While we have microwaves, ovens, toasters, waffle makers, George Foreman grills (does anyone still use those?), fire is the only method available to cook in these remote, electricity-less homes. Here she is boiling water to make yak butter tea. Yes, I sort of regret having tasted it. I originally shot this scene in black and white, because it helped my eye focus on the two most important aspects of the photo: Her and her fire.



I had so many lovely earth-meets-water-meets sky photos I wanted to post, but when I think of air, my mind goes to breathing, mountain bikers/snowboarders, and birds. Who hasn’t wanted to fly? Well, besides those who have a fear of flying, I mean. It’s incredible that only one type of animal on our entire planet has the ability to see from above, and personally, I wouldn’t mind being a bird for a day. While working on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I photographed this beautiful pelican just after taking off from the water (see the falling water droplets?). What I wouldn’t give to glide through the air and see the world from above like this creature.




Yes, I’ve been lucky enough to work on beaches around the world, photographing underwater life, weddings, and other things I’d rather not lay claim to (pet photography, anyone?). But it was during a recent work trip to West Africa that I worked with an NGO to photograph water well installments and maintenance, and met people who had little access to water. This little boy made a lasting impression, and surely the joy of being able to splash water all around for the first time in his life was a special moment for me to capture on film.


My many thanks to Savannah Grace for nominating me to enter this contest in the first place! She’s a lovely and talented young lady who is also dedicated to co-hosting #travelpics (the travel photography chat on Twitter) with me each and every Monday.

To take part in the contest, I’m to nominate five other travel photobloggers. So…

Alex Elliott, a talented photographer based in Scotland

Poonam Parihar, a friend and photographer from India and New Jersey

Alex Harford, a UK-based creative photographer

Joseph Cyr, an Arizona and South Korea expert

Jessica Painter, an adventurer living in Egypt




A Road Trip or a Baby? I’ll Take a Road Trip for 2, Bob.

Life is a balancing act. Are you a road trip or baby kinda balancing act?

Life is a balancing act. Are you a road trip or baby kinda balancing act?

I thought the past few years were busy, but apparently 2014 is Year of the Second Baby. Oh, and I also have 6 or 7 weddings to attend this summer alone. In fact, my dumbphone, Facebook, and Pintwittergram are filled with so many dirty diaper stories, horrific bridesmaid dresses, and baby mugs that it’s not even worth logging on anymore. Oh, stop taking offense. You feel the exact same way–or did before you got all preggers on us.

I thought to myself, you know what would look really great juxtaposed with your baby’s adorable double chin? Some rocky landscapes and arches. So I took off to California for a roadtrip to Arizona and Utah.*

*Presence of baby photos not actual reason for trip.

Off I flew to the America Southwest(ish) to visit my outdoor adventure-photography-food friend, Vic. As we started off with the eating part—we were attending the country’s largest food fair for 3 days while in L.A.—I started to realize that the thoughts, worries, and daily choices I was being forced to make while traveling were not all that different from my baby-readying, kid-rearin’, and/or wedding-planning friends. We all have choices to make.

The choices were pretty simple at first.

Them: What color do we paint the baby’s room: vomituitous pink or stale pale blue?

Me: What chocolate-covered berry flavor do choose: raspberry, acai, or blueberry?


Or a few days later:

Them: How do I hide the growing baby bump w/ a shirt?

Me: Which shirt do I wear at Food Show: Day 3 in order to hide my personal obesity epidemic?


And later still:

Them: The baby’s one year old. I should start getting my body back in shape.

Me: Nope.

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But pretty soon, we all face unforeseen challenges.

Them: After a few months of marriage, we realized that not every situation will be black and white; after all, marriages and parenting are often about compromise.

Me: After a few frames, I realized that black and white photography works really well in the desert

Them: He started to snore, and it ruined our sleep. What do I try: Breathe-Right nasal strips, sleeping in separate rooms, or gently waking him up?

Me: My camping buddy started snoring, so I immediately smacked him. When that didn’t do the job, I placed my pillow over his mouth and held it firmly in place for a few minutes.


Them: That bridesmaid looks so awkward in that photo! My groomsmen and I all look normal…what happened on that side?

Me: Every photo I’m in looks awkward. 


Them: Let’s make sure we get child #1 on a strict bedtime schedule. 8 p.m.?

Me: Let’s make sure I have no schedule so I can go out and photograph night timelapses at 8 p.m., 2 a.m., or 6 a.m.


Them: Let’s get another photo with the baby! 

Me: Why am I holding a baby pug?

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Conversations can get pretty ugly.

Them: Every time you say “jump,” am I supposed to say “how high”?! I’m not your servant, SWEETIE.

Me: How high do you want me to jump?


[Awesome photo by Victor Vic Photo]

But in the end, it often works out. Well, 50% of the time it ends in divorce and custody battles, but for the other 50%, it often works out! You see, we’re really not all that different, you and I.