Shi Shi

At the northwest tip of the US is Cape Flattery. Just south is Shi Shi. A two-mile stretch of Paradise. A soaking wet hike through the temperate Olympic rain forest reveals the beach, bracketed by smokestacks.

Seagulls fly across the Point of Arches

Seagulls fly across the Point of Arches

On this particular trip we emerged, drenched, to a drizzling sky and wet sand. The dark overcast reminded us that we were still in the Northwest, despite other signs to the contrary.

We quickly set up tents and Spence got his board waxed. This ritual inspired some change in the atmosphere. The clouds parted and we spent the next 36 hours under bright, warm sun and wispy clouds.


Spence waxes his board; the clouds begin to thin

Those next 36 were spent barefoot, aimlessly wandering the beach, combing tidepools, poking anemones, searching for sea otters and cooking steaks and bacon over open beach-wood flame.


Paradise, as far as the eye can see

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Light in Denali


Natural Lighting

Nikon D800; AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED @ 38mm, f/5.6, 1/800 (-1/3EV)

This photograph was taken from a ridge in the Toklat River Valley in Denali National Park. The weather shifts frequently and rapidly in Denali–a relatively well-experienced phenomenon. Here clear sky has been covered by a light layer of clouds, but the bright midday sky shines through on certain aspects. The contrast is exceptionally high, adding depth to the visage of a place that already awes in its endlessness. Watching these patterns unfold, flow over this place, it’s easy to get lost, a challenge to your significance.

East Fork, Upper Toklat, Denali NP


A creek edges off the east fork of the Upper Toklat River. Nikon D800, f/2.8G 24-70mm @27mm, f/7.1, 1/800s, ISO 200

A mile or so off the road in Denali National Park, we descended into this rocky river shoal. This creek flows calmly off the Toklat as winds start to creep up the valley. Just before starting in, we were warned of the wind tunnel this river valley could become. As we walked south following the river, the gusty breeze turned to a gale, sand and water whipping us in the face. Despite it being past 11PM, I put my sunglasses on to protect my eyes from the projectile mist. We stared west, considering a river crossing to escape the wind. The river was too deep this late in the day, so we decided to head back for the hills. There was no protection nearby. The only aparent hope far out of our way. Foolishly, we decided to set up camp behind a short corner and a large shrub that killed only a bit of the howling air, not nearly enough. We wondered if we would sleep as we dawned our masks. Hardly did.

The photo was taken earlier that day (around 10:30 PM AST) looking south up the east fork of the upper Toklat River valley. Below is a shot from the north side of the river, taken the night before we crossed daringly through. You can see the wind whipping a particulate of concrete off the shoal.


Nikon D800, f/2.8G 24-70mm @ f/9.0, 1/250s, ISO 160 (12:00AM Midnight AST)



Exploring Quebec City

Rue Haldimand

A world heritage site since 1985, Old Quebec City is one of the most beautiful, well-maintained and abundantly touristic places you might ever go. The cobbled streets, wet with melting ice, glimmer under the moon and a bright night sky. A person can walk these streets endlessly. Many turn and snake unpredictably within the ramparts of the old city, ushering visitors unknowingly in circles and spirals through streets cleanly lined with grey stone buildings. These buildings are mostly single-family homes or apartments, boutique hotels and shops. Restaurants, pubs, churches and government fill the rest.

Petit Champlain Streets

We stayed on Rue Saint Louis, just inside the Saint Louis gate and comfortably within Vieux-Quebec, seemingly in another place and time. After settling in, we put on our hiking boots to safely navigate the snow-and-ice-covered hills above the Saint Lawrence River. It was night and the streets were mostly deserted. We took our first left onto Rue Sainte-Ursule which humped concavely into our first bit of treachery. Sainte Ursule is the namesake of the Ursuline Convent which was built 1639 and is the oldest women’s learning institution in North America. The convent itself is unbecoming, it cleanly matches the typical homes in the city and fits nearly in the center of Vieux-Quebec.Other than its white-enameled metal roof, it would attract no special attention to the otherwise ambivalent.

Rue Saint Ursule

Somehow we reached Rue Saint-Jean without slipping on the only lighted-salted ice luge of a street. Rue Saint-Jean is probably the most touristy of the streets within the city, otherwise well-preserved. Boutique shops, Irish pubs, a Starbucks, a McDonald’s and other restaurants fill the street with brightly lit and colorfully painted signs. We were headed for poutine, something rib-sticking to help us recover from an eventful day of cross-country skiing in the mountains north of Quebec on route 175. At the recommendation of our exceedingly hospitable bed & breakfast host, we found Ashton, or Chez-Ashton, a Quebecois fast-food chain specializing in burgers, sandwiches and, well, poutine. At first glance its a mix between McDonald’s and Arby’s. This impression led to the awkward exchange of glances between two calorie-depleted souls. It was too late to call an audible, so we ordered a large poutine and got down to work. I’d have to say it was the rubbery cheese curds covered in Chez Ashton’s spicy gravy that replenished and rejuvenated me.

Quebec City Hall

Energized and ready to explore some more by the light of the moon. We continued down Rue Saint-Jean until we reached Saint Patrick’s Pub (there are a lot of Irish pubs in Quebec) and split left, onto an unlit street (Couillard) working our way toward the tip of the wall, where we would peer out at the confluence of the Saint Lawrence and Saint Charles rivers. The rampart (wall) was adorned with canons. As we continued to the right, up the hill along Rue des Ramparts, we passed twenty more canons, each facing perfectly out toward the river, where the British would most certainly come from when they invaded during the Seven Year War. Unfortunately the canons did little to protect French Quebec in 1759, as the Battle of Quebec saw British invasion from the hills west of the fort.

A wider perspective of Old Quebec

Walking against the ordered one-way streets, we passed the Notre-Dame Basilica and turned up Rue du Fort. Impeccably lit in the brisk winter night, the formidable Chateau Frontenac immediately impressed itself upon us. This is the most notable piece of architecture in Vieux Quebec. Built under Canadian sovereignty in 1893, it towers high above the great stone walls on the Saint Lawrence banks. After some lustful wandering around the Frontenac, we got on the next main street, which, to our great surprise, was Rue Saint Louis. We followed this a few blocks until we reached our bed & breakfast (B&B Saint Louis), where we comfortably retired, exhausted and without dessert.

The next day allowed for much more exploration, hours of walking about the city in bright winter daylight, a deep blue sky and yellow-cast stone buildings. I dragged Emily through a tour of the Quebec Parliament building, which was breathtaking and politically intriguing. We took a very affordable trip up to the Observatoire de la Capitale, where we caught incredible views in every direction around the city. We trudged our way through the snow-covered hill to the top the of citadel–Emily post-holed her way up a cliff while I took the well-traveled route and kept from falling. The Cathedral-Basilica of Notre-Dame, was destroyed during the Battle of Quebec, rebuilt from 1786-1822, and burned to the ground in 1922 but was again rebuilt and restored by 1933. Making time for a quick stop through was well worth it for glimpses of the elaborate interior–similar in elegance but smaller than its counterpart in Montreal.

The Glorious Notre-Dame Basilica

Our last meal in the city was designed for celebration. Legende provided our tastebuds with plenty of joy as we moved through nine seafood preparations (a shrimp nugget, scallops in pesto, sturgeon gizzard salad, sea snail salad, Arctic char terrine, smoked sturgeon, smoked salmon, mussel salad and a smoky sea clam chowder), seared duck breast and delicious bread with a meat jus butter. This grand display of local and traditional ingredients was the perfect way to end a week-long trip through wintery Quebec, matching our wonderment and indulgence at Au Pied de Cochon.

Chateau Frontenac Towers above the Quartier Petit Champlain

If I had to do it all again, I would.
During our trip in, we took a planned diversion to drive route 354, along Riviere Sainte-Anne. Covered in ice patches and with snow blowing off the crests of plowed embankments, it was a little treacherous and slow-going. But it felt worlds away, with small farms and quaint village centers marked by their church steeples and bridges. That feeling is what would compel me take more time to explore the coastal, colonial towns out past Saguenay, past the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River and along Atlantic Ocean. And after prefacing our stay in Quebec city with a two-night camp in the wooded Reserve faunique des Laurentides (in the Laurentian Mountains), I would happily do that again.

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X PRO,

Frozen Philadelphia

Philly Skyline Frozen River

AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8G ED @ 45mm, f/7.1, 1/250s, ISO 100

The cold can be painful. It can make an ordinary day, an otherwise great day, seem like something you should otherwise suffer through. People will talk about the cold, people will rehearse the lines you’ve heard a hundred times. But the cold is also generous, it forces a shift in perspective, offers another opportunity to look at things extraordinarily. Indeed there is something mystifying about the whiteness of snow, of ice and the mist that leaves as you exasperate.

Philly Skyline Snowy River

AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8G ED @ 42mm, f/5.6, 1/500s, ISO 50

And despite the cold, things still move along, just with a different bustle.

Nikon D800, AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED


Check out the Philadelphia Gallery to see these images in the lightbox!

Mostly from Narikala: Tbilisi, Georgia


Two weeks ago I spent the late afternoon climbing around Narikala, exploring the Old Town of Tibilisi. One of the most striking things about Tbilisi, and possibly much of the rest of the country, is the sheer number of churches. If you’ve been to Istanbul and experienced the ubiquity of mosques, you know the feeling.

There are churches everywhere. I dare you to count the churches you can see (in the “Tbilisi from Narikala” panorama). For me, I don’t feel particularly god-fearing being here, I don’t feel like I am betraying some religious rote with which I am unfamiliar. What I feel being here, looking at the city, walking through its veins, is a rich and deep history. Maybe it’s the churches, or maybe its something else (or just me).

But it is not misleading. In the treasury of the national museum, one of the first items displayed is a golden goblet, dated back to the 1800s, BC. And it is not the only thing dating so far back. In talking to some of my friends and colleagues, they can identify pieces of their culture: the way they act and think, that are the result of history dating back thousands of years.

I hope you enjoy this collection of Tbilisi photos, mostly taken from the Narikala, up on high.

Tbilisi from Narikala Fortress

Tbilisi from Narikala


First Impressions: Tbilisi, Georgia

Sameba Cathedral

It took two years, but I made it out here. Georgia (the country) doesn’t get a lot of press in the US, not a lot of buzz. But it deserves it. More importantly, the nation, the people, the history, they deserve it. I am by no means a sociologist, an anthropologist, a historian, but I’m going to share what I know, most are reflections from my first 10 days.

Peace. It’s not on anyone’s mind, but in their subconscious in their psyche. Take for example, the bridge in the gallery below, “The Bridge of Peace.” After years of war in the ’90s, and ongoing Russian occupation in two large regions of the country (Abkhazia & Ossetia), peace is a common theme. A visitor will find it in the names of monuments, but it is most striking in the people. People here are proud. Proud of their city, proud of their country, of their roots, of their growth, of their fortune, of their wine… yet there is no superiority complex.

The hospitality is astounding and everyone loves to share. Share their stories, share their culture, share the places they find exciting, the ones they are most proud of and most unproud of. While in many places a foreign complexion may attract unwanted attention, mine distinguishes me–to the point that I am known to be American despite my familiar attire–but does not demand stares, or special attention. That is to say, I feel somewhat at home here, I feel welcome to stay, to relax, to dutifully seek peace like my neighbors and friends.

There are many aspects of this place which are foreign to me, architecture being foremost in this regard. The new is rigid, square and dirty from outside. But within one will find all the modern amenities, nice finishes and furnishings; comfort. The old is old, yellowed, stone and brick, to be admired as a transcendence of many centuries. Much as corner stores and bodegas persist in abundance in urban American landscapes, so do churches and basilicas in Tbilisi. This is not to condemn the modern city, but to celebrate the rich history of the Post-Soviet Caucasus. A holy reverence is nearly ubiquitous, and one will find himself alone if not signing the Holy Trinity while passing by a church.

The new is mixed with the old, by chance, or maybe due to the market, informally following new theories of urban development. Streets are covered in dust and dirt, crossed by skybridge and tunnel for those who mind their well being. The US State Department says to get rabies shots: there are dogs in the street, but they are shy and mellow and require little mind. The city bustles with people and cars all times of day. Things are happening; the young and old are celebrating daily their accomplishments, or are anticipating doing so. There is a lot to celebrate, after all, much as there is anywhere. I suppose being from Seattle I am pre-accustomed to what I’ve found: lot’s of eating and drinking, some gray skies, rain and mountains.

Tbilisi runs along the Kura River, buried in a steep valley with hot sulfur springs. Tbilisi got its name from those springs after King Vakhtang came hunting in the 5th century from nearby Mtskheta. A pheasant fell into the water and was poached, leading the king to build a new city in Tbilisi, which then became the capital of Georgia.

The Beltane Ranch

I feel as though I’ve spent the last month wandering randomly around the states. I have two major things to show for all my wandering. 1) The completion of an intense work schedule. (I’m sure it’ll get better… right?) 2) About 3,000 photographs, 2,000 discarded straight-away, and about 300 more I’d like to eventually share.

Welcome!Though not the beginning of my journey, this series of photos is the start of a much needed two-day kick back, and my first time in California Wine Country. After much deliberation we finally settled on what appeared, through all accounts and photographs, to be the perfect bed and breakfast, at a price I could settle for: The Beltane Ranch. What ensued was all I could have asked for. Following a wet and foggy afternoon of cave-ridden wine tasting, this place was the perfect escape.

Beltane Ranch Main House

Emily and I bought some brie in Sonoma. We couldn’t decide which kind so we got both. And some pepper jelly. And crackers of course. The ranch gave us a nice wooden cheese board, we popped the cork out of a bottle of Alexander Valley Cab and sank in, absorbing the perfectly adorned everything in our corner room [this isn’t a review so I didn’t take a photo]. An hour later we drove the two whole rainy miles into Glen Ellen where we dined on carmelized onion soup, pumpkin raviolis, and boar shank. On a Thursday night in the late fall, it was packed by 8, but we still felt alone and away.

Emily at Beltane Ranch

The next morning we awoke for a slow coffee walk around the ranch, taking in the tennis courts, the horses, cows, tractors, mud, flowers, garden… There was a lot to see before the clouds covered up the blue skies and we returned for breakfast–a goat cheese omelette, fruit and blueberry muffins. This was accompanied with terrific company and conversation. Refreshed, we packed up and, regrettably, got on our way.

Nikon D800, Nikon AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 Pro AT-X