Friday Photo: The Northern Lights

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Arctic on assignment when someone casually announced to an entire restaurant that the Northern Lights were outside. Everyone in the restaurant bolted, which was no small feat when dozens of people have to put on special snowsuits, boots, hats… and rifles, to scare off any prowling polar bears.

Outside, mesmerizing streaks and swells of bright green lit up the pitch black sky, morphing and flowing into different shapes. They were gorgeous. Every few minutes, they’d disappear and the whole world would go dark. Sometimes they’d come back, but eventually they all faded away.

I’d never seen the Northern Lights in person, so I didn’t realize that this was a particularly spectacular showing. Over the next week, I met plenty of people who woke up in the middle of the night to wait outside in sub-zero temperatures just to see more lights. They never came back, outside of a small whisper one evening.

Here’s the thing about the Northern Lights: they’re usually there, but you can’t see them unless the conditions are perfect, so they’re considered rare. Humans are funny creatures. It’s hard for us to trust that there’s something amazing right in front of us when we don’t have proof, but once we experience something spectacular and it goes away, we can’t believe we didn’t know what we had the whole time.

Friday Photo: Beneath the Andes in Chile

I spent the past week biking a few hundred miles around Chile, going from Santiago to the Pacific coast and then into Valparaiso and the wine regions. I’ve done plenty half-day bike tours but this was my first long-term biking experience of any kind. (I don’t even own a bike, and the last one I owned had rainbow streamers on the handles.) I met some passionate and inspiring people, learned a lot, ate endless amounts of avocados and even blended my own wine at one of the country’s oldest vineyards.

I only saw the middle part of the country yet I still can’t pick a favorite area. The coast is naturally spectacular, but its swanky mansions make it even more intriguing. Santiago has beautiful colonial architecture, while Valparaiso has street art at high altitudes. Then there’s the countryside, with its eucalyptus forests, beautiful horses and well-dressed farmers.

I chose this photo because Chile wouldn’t be Chile without the towering Andes Mountains, which are so massive that they barely show up in photos. Everywhere I went, the ghostly Andes were off in the distance, taking it all in.

chile

Friday Photo: Reflections from Xugana Island, Botswana

Xugana Island Okavango Delta Botswana

If you follow me anywhere online,* you know I just got back from Botswana. I have never been so excited to write about a country. Every day was an adventure full of unbelievable animals and some of the nicest, smartest people I’ve ever met while traveling. I have a ton of photos to share, but I wanted to start with this one, of Xugana Island.

Sometimes, as a photographer, you just really love a photo even though it won’t have the most mass appeal. This is a silhouette of the island in the Okavango Delta right after sunset. The waters of the delta are bursting with life – some of it expected, like giant crocodiles, and some of it very bizarre, like aquatic antelopes. Even so, this part of the delta gets very, very still. During the day, the sky reflects off of the surface like a mirror, creating very surreal alternate universe where everything is upside down.

Botswana is a lot like this photo: dramatic, beautiful, otherworldly, quiet. Communing with lions and elephants out in nature, with no other humans around, makes you question reality every so often. And that’s why I like this image: it is calming and serene, but you can’t quite tell where life begins and ends.

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Friday Photo: A man and his dog in the Arctic Circle

I mentioned this man in a recent article for the Boston Globe, and here’s the proof that he exists. I can spot a dog from a mile away; I noticed the Norwegian man and his dog from the ship’s balcony. As soon as we docked in Finnsnes, I went to check it out.

I wound up with way more questions than answers. How does someone find a pink dog helmet in the Arctic Circle? Why does a motorcycle company make pink dog helmets in the first place? Does the dog like her goggles? Does she like the motorcycle? Is that a cape?! Why is this man so impeccably groomed? Are they going somewhere afterwards?

He wasn’t much of a talker, but he did mention that he does this every time the ferry docks because the dog enjoys it.

If you lived in the Arctic Circle, this would all make perfect sense.

Finnsnes man and his dog Arctic Circl

 

 

Friday Photo: Foxgloves in England

Foxgloves

 

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a Friday Photo. In the past few weeks I’ve gone from Africa to Albuquerque, but here’s a little hint at what’s coming up on Life With Luggage. Prepare for lots of scenic countryside photos from all over England, like these wild foxgloves just outside the Yorkshire Dales.