London Trip, 2016: Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

These photos are from my stroll through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens up to Kensington Palace back in February of 2016.

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Canada Trip, 2016: Cape Forchu

On our final full day in Nova Scotia we spent a foggy morning at Cape Forchu. The following photos were shot at the Cape Forchu lighthouse and a nearby beach.

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California Trip, 2014: A Drive Along the Coast

This is another set of photos from my ride along the California coast, courtesy of my cousin Tim, who picked me up in San Francisco to show me some of the beauty of southern California. This batch includes visits to a foggy beach, a lighthouse, and the city of Monterey. There’s also a rare photo of me (posing with my cousin in front of a restaurant that bears our family name—no relation, though).

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Seattle Trip, 2019: Whale Watching Cruise

These photos are from my ill-fated whale watching cruise out of Seattle. I should have known what kind of day it was going to be when my 8 a.m. seaplane flight to San Juan Island was delayed for an hour because of fog. The delay meant that I would no longer have time to eat breakfast at a nice restaurant in Friday Harbor, so I walked down the street to grab a quick egg sandwich at Starbucks. When I returned to the marina I learned that the flight would be further delayed until at least 11 a.m., meaning that I would now have no time at all to enjoy Friday Harbor before the cruise. On top of that there was a chance the flight would be canceled altogether. At this point they offered me a refund of both the airfare and cruise, and I really wish I had taken them up on it and just spent the day exploring more of Seattle.

Instead, I decided to wait it out because I did not want to regret passing on the opportunity to see killer whales in the wild (the company claimed to spot orcas on 98% of their cruises). With two more hours to kill I decided to make the long walk back to my hotel room for a while. When I returned, the weather had finally cleared and we were off. The seaplane ride itself was cool. The pilot offered to let one of us sit in the cockpit with him. I thought it would have been a neat thing to do as the only solo passenger on the flight, but one of the other men beat me to it.

So we landed in Friday Harbor and pretty much had to rush to the meeting area. The cruise started off well—we spotted a humpback right away and I had high hopes—but that single whale was about all we would see. The rest of the 3.5-hour cruise involved brief glimpses of a couple of porpoises and a seal, an extended period of time spent looking at some wildlife on islands, numerous returns to following the same humpback whale, and long stretches just riding around looking at nothing. We never came within a sniff of a killer whale, despite them being spotted off the islands on the previous day by some of my fellow passengers. So much for that 98% success rate–I guess we were the unlucky 2%.

Essentially, when factoring in the seaplane airfare, it ended up being the most expensive 3.5-hour harbor cruise ever, and you could see it on the faces of my fellow passengers. After a while most of them just stopped looking for marine life, opting instead for the warmth of the cabin, their faces painted with looks of dejection. And that was that.

I’m not writing this to find fault with the tour operators, which is why I am not using their names; I’m just recounting my experience. I understand that the seaplane company could not control the weather, and that the cruise company could not control the presence of wildlife, but that does not lessen the disappointment, and this whale watching cruise was the worst I’d ever taken in terms of sightings. It just felt like a wasted day. It was one of the only nice weather days in Seattle during my stay and I spent it in waiting rooms, planes, and freezing boats with very little to show for it. By the time I returned back to Seattle that evening, I was too tired to do much of anything else after waking up at 5 a.m. to make my pre-flight check-in.

I think this experience has turned me off of whale watching cruises for good. I’ve only been on one really good cruise and that was the first one I ever embarked on about 20 years ago in Maine. That particular trip out of Bar Harbor featured wall-to-wall whales, dolphins, and other marine wildlife, which obviously spoiled me because every cruise I’ve taken in the years since has been comparatively disappointing.

Anyway, despite the lack of sightings I ended up taking around 250 photos. Whittling them down to the few I’m sharing here was quite a chore (I’d hate to think how many photos I would have shot if there had actually been whales on this trip!). In the end, I managed to get a few nice shots of the humpback whale and some of the island wildlife.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Around Yellowstone

This is a collection of miscellaneous photos from my visit to Yellowstone that didn’t fit into the themes of any of my previous posts, including various wildlife encounters, landmarks, scenic pullouts, and some buildings. The shots featured here run the gamut from the Montana to the Wyoming ends of the park.

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California Trip, 2014: 17-Mile Drive

A few years ago I went on a business trip to San Francisco, where I decided to take a few extra days to myself to do some exploring. On my first day in San Francisco I met up with my cousin who lives nearby. He took me on a driving tour of the Pacific coast. These photos are from 17-Mile Drive, a scenic route along the Monterey peninsula, featuring rocky coastlines, large crashing waves; and islands of sea lions and birds.

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American Southwest Trip, 2018: National Park Wildlife

After so many consecutive Northwest trip posts, I’ve decided to start mixing in entries from my other recent trips to add some variety to my blog feed. This is the first batch of photos from my trip to the American Southwest this past summer, featuring shots of animals from Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, and the north and south rims of the Grand Canyon.

I shot a little bit of everything on this trip: mammals, birds, and reptiles. Many of the animals showed no fear of humans—one of the elk practically let me walk right up to her. I also saw bison on my way into the North Rim of the Grand Canyon but chose not to stop for photos since I already had so many bison photos from my Yellowstone trip. I believe that I heard rattlesnakes during one of my photo stops on Route 66 in the Mojave Desert, but I did not see them, and was not about to go looking.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Lamar Valley, Yellowstone

On my first day in Yellowstone National Park I detoured to Lamar Valley to take these photos before checking in to my hotel. Lamar Valley is supposed to be another prime wildlife viewing area, but in my case it proved to be less fruitful than Hayden Valley. Nevertheless, I did see a couple of bison herds here. On my way back out of the valley I stopped for a few shots of the Yellowstone River.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Hayden Valley, Yellowstone

These photos are from my visits to where the buffalo roam: Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park. There were herds of bison everywhere I looked—it’s easy to see why Hayden Valley is sometimes referred to as the American Serengeti. On a good day you can also see many other animals passing through the valley, but I wasn’t lucky enough to spot a wolf or bear. When shooting bison (or any wildlife) it’s helpful to have a good zoom lens because you definitely don’t want to get too close to them. They look mild-mannered enough but will charge you if they feel threatened. I saw some people with smartphones getting way too close for comfort.

I went a little nuts with the photos (what can I say, I love animals)—I took so many that it was quite a task to cull them down to the smaller batch I’m sharing here. I forgot to switch over to shutter priority for the action shots, so they’re not nearly as crisp as I would have liked, but I still managed to get some decent ones. In addition to the bison photos I captured some avian wildlife (including a great blue heron) and snapped a few landscapes along the Yellowstone River.

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American Northwest Trip, 2017: Wildlife Loop, Custer State Park

On the way to Mount Rushmore I detoured for several scenic drives, including Custer State Park’s Wildlife Loop, which takes you through rolling green hills reminiscent of the English countryside. For most of the drive I did not encounter much wildlife except for a lone antelope and a distant herd of bison, but toward the end I came upon a vast field of prairie dogs, antelope, and other animals. It’s a nice, pleasant drive, worth the diversion if you have the time.

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