Let’s Make Karaoke Not War

Phu Quoc Karaoke2

Kristi and I were watching a sunset on a local’s beach in Phu Quoc, Vietnam, when a trio of young men – armed with grilled shrimp, a giant karaoke machine, and enough beer to drown a mule – waved us over. At first we shyly resisted, smiled and said thanks but no thanks, but they insisted. We decided to join them and within a few minutes Kristi was singing One way or another, I’m gonna getcha getcha getcha one way, or another and I was taking shots of some mysterious moonshine. I never, ever, take shots. Kristi, however, sings Blondie with great frequency. Read More

Bubble Net Feeding is Awesome, Or I Got Covered in Whale Snot

bubble net black and white

During my 13 summers in Alaska, I have had my mind blown over and over again. From the otherworldly northern lights to the stunning fall colors of Denali to the towering glaciers of the southeast, I thought maybe I’d seen it all. Then, at the end of the tourist season this fall, a pod of humpback whales decided to do some bubble net feeding for several days as if to say, I’ll see your natural wonders and raise you some dramatic whale activity.

Bubble net feeding, in case you were wondering, is a unique and boisterous feeding behavior that is rarely seen in my part of Alaska. The whales swim in circles around a school of unfortunate fish, releasing bubbles and making screaming sounds. The bubbles corral the fish and force them to the surface. Then, the whales dive down and lunge up through the fish, breaching the surface with a mouthful of sushi. To add to the drama, flocks of scavenging seagulls circle overhead and swoop down to pick up the scraps because humpbacks, like me as a child, are very messy eaters.

I spent four hours aboard the M.V. Taz as a pod of whales circled the boat, surfacing dramatically every ten minutes or so. The whales popped up with different backgrounds in different light, a photographer’s dream. Read More

My Top 10 Photos from the Summer that Wasn’t

Glacier Bay Sunset Long Exposure

For most Americans, summertime is all about backyard barbeques, baseball games on hot evenings, lazy afternoons at the swimming pool and a vacation roadtrip to the mountains or beach. My summers in isolated Glacier Bay National Park have always been a little bit different, since I live in a rainforest on an island cut off from the world. Make no mistake, I usually love my summers in the frontier, but this summer was different for the simple fact that we didn’t actually have summer.

Glacier Bay is in a rain forest, but the summer months are typically the dry-ish season when you can count on a few days of glorious sunshine each week. When the sun shines in Alaska, there is no better place to be. However, this “summer” the sky was permantanly bruised with clouds and rain fell daily. Even longtime residents of the area marveled at the dreariness, saying it was one of the worst summers in 30 years.

As a result, I didn’t take as many photos as usual, hence my extended blogging hiatus. When the sun was out, I made sure to go out and hike, take photos and go on boat tours. The few sunny days were a gift from heaven, and everyone’s mood was lifted the few times the clouds parted.

My Top 10 Photos from Glacier Bay

1. Bubble Net Feeding
Bubble net feeding

The highlight of my summer was getting to watch bubble net feeding by a pod of humpback whales for about four hours aboard the MV Taz. To bubble net feed, one whale swims in a circle around a school of fish while blowing bubbles and making loud screaming noises. The bubbles work to corral the fish and the other whales swim up under the school and emerge from the water with a huge mouthful of fish. As this happens, seagulls flock to the spot to eat scraps of fish left by the leviathans and camera shutters click like machine guns on tour boats.

2. Halibut Point CloudsSunset at Halibut point

Although I am happy with the photo above, had I been there a bit earlier when the clouds were bright white I think I could have made a truly stunning photo. Since this was the first day to see the sun in about two weeks, I wasn’t complaining.

3. Salmon RiverSalmon River Gustavus

The Salmon River flows through the middle of Gustavus, the gateway town to Glacier Bay National Park. On this day at high tide it was completely calm, a rare sight.

4. Long Exposure Sunset Glacier Bay Sunset Long Exposure

I only have about two places to go in the front country to watch a sunset, which is a good and bad thing. I have been out to this spot dozens of times which means I’ve had many opportunities to get photos under different circumstances, but I also get a little bored of seeing the same thing. As a result, I used a neutral density filter and made a lot of long exposure shots this summer, which smoothes out the water, blurs the clouds and enhances the color. This photo was made with a one minute and six second exposure.

5. Glacier Bay Sunrise
Glacier Bay Sunrise

I almost never wake up for the sunrise in Alaska since it happens at 4am during the summer, but this one was different – I found myself up late and just stayed awake for it. As the first rays of light illuminated the Fairweather Range, a flock of birds came by which made everything a bit more dynamic.

6. Dramatic Oyster CatcherOyster Catcher

Oyster catchers keep their eggs and chicks in nests in the grass and are aggressively protective. I have been nearly attacked on a few occasions as I was innocently walking along and came too close to a hidden nest. On this day, I was keeping a respectful distance and using a 300mm lens. The guard bird was laying on the rock, aware of me but unconcerned. The bird’s spouse returned to the nest and squawked angrily at the guard bird, as if to say, “Why are you not scaring away that human!” The guard bird in the photo then turned and yelled at me, but we both understood he was doing it to keep his spouse happy and not to be rude. I moved away to give them some space and restore their marital bliss.

7. Fireweed SunsetGlacier Bay Fireweed Sunset

One of my favorite places on the entire planet is the beach and meadows in Gustavus. In the summer, the fields are filled with assorted wildflowers, with fireweed growing tall in July. Due to the craptastic weather I only made it here a few times, but on this day I was welcomed by a beautiful sunset and glowing fireweed.

8. Fairweathers and Tour BoatBoat in Glacier Bay in front of Mount Fairweather

The Fairweather Mountains, named ironically since it snows 12 months a year on the peaks, are the tallest coastal mountains in the world, rising up 15,325 feet (4671 meters) from the sea. This continuus snow is the source of the massive glaciers that carved out Glacier Bay.

9. The Curious Sea LionGustavus Alaska Sea Lion

The town of Gustavus is a fishing mecca, and each day charters return to the pier laden with halibut and salmon. This sea lion hangs out at the docks looking for scraps from the fisherman and is a bit of a celebrity since photographers can reliably take his photo.

10. Bubble Net Part IIBubble Net Feeding

I had to include one more bubble net feeding photo in my top 10. Did I mention that the whales worked in a circle all afternoon, popping up on different sides of the boat as we watched? As a result, I got photos of whales in all different angles of light, a photographers dream. On the downside, once they swam right up to the boat and I got sprayed with whale snot, which I can say smells like a mixture of briny morning breath and fermented salmon.

Thanks for looking at my 10 favorite photos of the summer. Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear your feedback.


Things I Saw in March (15 Photos)

Bangkok Street Photography Flower Market

I took a photo every day in February, and I intended to the do the same in March. I failed. However, I have a very good excuse Read More

Life As An Expat in Bangkok – Part 3: Language

funny thai bathroom sign

When I moved to Bangkok, I was already armed with a few Thai words acquired from previous visits, but I quickly learned that it is difficult to communicate with a vocabulary of hello, thank you, shrimp, and elephant. In order to get by in my new country, I started learning Thai so I could order at restaurants, buy bus tickets, and bribe the police – you know, the essentials.  Read More

Learning From the Masters at the APF Photography Workshop

Singapore Chinatown Temple

I recently attended an APF Photography Workshop in Singapore conducted by three of my favorite photographers, Vineet Vohra and Rohit Vohra from India, and Aik Beng Chia from Singapore. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself in photography, and that includes purchasing camera gear or any other instruction I’ve had. I have already seen an improvement in my photos and I am confident I will get a lot better in the very near future. Let me tell you about it.

APF Photography Workshop Review

The workshop consisted of shooting in the streets, educational and inspirational slideshows, and critique/discussion of our photos.

Shooting in the Streets with the Masters Read More

Behind the Lens – Pure Joy

Singapore boy with bubbles

This photo of the kids playing with bubbles in Singapore was recently featured on Discover, so I thought I’d give you the backstory on the shot. Read More