An Afternoon in the Clouds

During my last trip to Chicago, my mom and I went for an urban hike in downtown (during the start of the polar vortex). I was proud of myself for making it a few blocks before I started complaining. We found ourself at the top of the John Hancock Tower. The sun had already gotten quite low in the sky... it created some cool shadows and provided a high contrast for these photos. I forgot what a nice view it was from up there. Although, I'm still not a fan of the Trump Tower (thought about photoshopping the building out). Enjoy!

A Hike Through the Utah Backcountry

Before heading back to California, we decided to go on a little hike through the backcountry. I had planned to climb to the top of a ridge to take a photo of the surrounding landscape... however, the snow was much too deep and I did not have proper equipment (needed snowshoes and pants!). Therefore, I was limited to taking photos from the trail. Next time I will plan better. Utah has a very beautiful landscape!

And the Light Shines Down Upon Us

Pulled off to the side of the road on our way up to the Brighton Ski Resort... and this is what we saw. The Wasatch Range is very beautiful.  

Sunsets Over SLC

Salt Lake City is one of the most polluted cities in the United States during the winter months. It's unfortunate, because there are some incredible views that get covered in haze. The reason for the pollution is not because of factories or cars... but rather a "Winter Inversion". Inversions occur during the winter months when normal atmospheric conditions (cool air above, warm air below) become inverted. Inversions trap a dense layer of cold air under a layer of warm air. The warm layer acts much like a lid, trapping pollutants in the cold air near the valley floor. The Wasatch Front valleys and their surrounding mountains act like a bowl, keeping this cold air in the valleys. The snow-covered valley floors reflect rather than absorb the heat from the sun, preventing the normal vertical mixing of warm and cold air. Fog exacerbates the problem, facilitating chemical reactions that create even more particles and higher pollutant concentrations. The longer the inversion lasts, the higher the levels of pollution trapped under it. The warm inversion air layer is usually displaced by a strong storm system which restores air quality to healthy levels.

One positive effect of the inversion is that it makes for some unique sunsets! The air almost glows... and it makes it seem like you're looking at an abstract painting. These are a few photos I took just as the sun had dipped below the mountains.

Sunrise Over SLC

I traveled to Utah for the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow... and instead of staying in one of the downtown hotels, I opted for a "Luxury Ski House" that I found on airbnb. The house was very well designed and was within a short distance of both the ski resorts and downtown. However, the best part about it was the view from the balcony. The house was perched on top of the foothills in Salt Lake City... and you had an incredible view of the entire valley. Unfortunately, the pollution was so bad that we could barely see the mountains the first few days (the smog did make the sunsets glow a bit more, but kind of ruined the sunrises)... luckily, a wind came through later in the week and pushed the smog away. These are a couple of photos I took on the last (and clearest) day just as the sun had risen.

Magnific Rock & More

A few of the final photographs I took in Nicaragua (during the smallest surf day of the trip).

The Colonial City of Granada

Granada is a city in western Nicaragua. It has a rich history and is perhaps the most important city, politically and economically. Granada is located on the edge of Lake Nicaragua, which has some scary freshwater sharks (didn't see any people swimming in the lake).

When I first visited Nicaragua several years ago, I wasn't that impressed with Granada. It didn't seem to have much life to it... and when I came back a second time, I wasn't planning to visit the city. However, my body needed to rest from the non-stop surfing (and my mom wanted to visit a market to buy some toursity stuff)... so we decided to make a stop. I was very impressed! The city has come back to life. Apparently, it is in the midst of a "real estate boom". There were a lot of new cafes, art galleries, restaurants, and beautiful hotels. It reminded a bit of the transformation that Todos Santos, Mexico went through over the last several years. What I liked most about Granada is that even with all the renovations, they managed  to preserve the colonial architecture.

These were a few photos I took while strolling around in the afternoon sun (I didn't make it too far before needing a cold Toña).

Ventana a las Olas

Reminiscing on villa I stayed at while in Nicaragua. Miss the view, sunsets, and food! (and the warm water)