Photoblog: Juneau Whale Watching

The next shore day on our July 2013 Alaska cruise was Juneau. This was the day I’d been waiting for, as we were going on a whale watching excursion.

For years, seeing whales in the wild had been on my bucket list. We’d gone on a whale watching excursion in St. Lucia, but did not see any whales (although we saw a huge number of dolphin).

Knowing the huge number of humpback whales that feed in the Stevens Passage, I was expecting it to be a good day. I was not disappointed.

We were taken from the dock to Auk Bay via shuttle bus. On the way, we saw Mendenhall Glacier and bald eagles feasting on salmon.

The boat we were on had a large, heated indoor area with windows giving a nearly 360 degree field of view. A deck was available behind the boat for the entire trip, and a second deck was above the indoor area that could only be used when the boat was at trolling speed.

I stayed on the back deck, as I was using my 300mm f/2.8 on a monopod. The idea of climbing the ladder to the upper deck with such a lens did not appeal to me.

The idea of having to climb down every time the captain wanted to take the boat to a different place appealed even less.

After seeing a few whales, we stopped by a buoy that several sea lions were using as a condominium complex. I have no idea how the one got up high.

After that, one of the employees on the boat spotted a bald eagle sitting on a rock at the shore line. How she spotted it, I don’t know. I was only just able to see it with the 6x magnification in my 300mm lens.

The captain swung closer to the rock on the way back to Auk Bay, but the eagle had departed. Too bad. It would have made a wonderful photo.

Late in the trip, we saw a group of humpbacks what consisted of at least four animals. I could not even get them all in the field of view of my lens, the group was so large.

So, check one item off the bucket list. I’d still like to see orcas in the wild, but that day will have to come in the future.

The captain of our cruise boat announced that there were some port side of the boat on our first “at sea” day. Along with everyone else, we rushed to that side (lucky the boat didn’t capsize), but all we saw was some movement and a splash out of the corner of our eyes. That doesn’t count.

Tech Notes: Shot on a Nikon D700 using a Nikkor 300mm f/2.8 monopod mounted. Images were taken in RAW and processed in Photoshop Elements.

Photoblog: White Pass Railroad

The White Pass and Yukon Route railroad is a narrow gauge railroad between Skagway, Alaska and Whitehorse in the Yukon. Riding the line is a standard excursion for cruise ships porting in Skagway.

On our July 2013 Alaska cruise, we chose an excursion that took the train from Skagway to Fraser, British Columbia, Canada, and then took a tour coach back. This allowed us to differing scenery each direction.

The entire excursion took about 3.5 hours and was well worth it. Each train car had a platform front and back allowing adequate room for shooting pictures, as long as you were willing to share.

While the overhead narration could not be heard on the platform, a White Pass employee regularly informed us when photo opportunities were upcoming. She even had things timed down to the second, saying things like, “When we pass the first short opening in the trees, you’ll have 15 seconds until the second opening, which lasts 37 seconds.”

It was very helpful. And the scenery was amazing.

At the terminus of our train ride in Fraser, BC, we had to wait for a quick customs check by Canadian customs (you’ll need your passport). It was non-intrusive as such things go, but took a while.

We were in the last car of the train, and had to wait until the single agent had cleared all the cars before reaching us. Unfortunately, this meant little time for taking pictures in Fraser, as we were hurried to the coach for our return trip.

The tour bus driver was informed and entertaining, as the best drivers usually are. He stopped several times on the way back to allow us to take photographs.

At the end, he dropped us off back at the dock for our boat, although several people chose to disembark back in the town of Skagway (which was about a 20 minute walk from the dock).

Just a quite side note: Fraser, BC is now the furthest north I’ve ever been (not including plane rides) at 59.72 degrees north. I hope to bust that record at some point in the future with a visit to Reykjavik, Iceland.

Tech Notes: Shot on a Nikon D700 using a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 and a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8. Images were taken in RAW and processed in Photoshop Elements.

Photoblog: Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier

In July 2013, the family and I took a cruise to Alaska. One off the days was spent sailing up Tracy Arm Fjord to see Sawyer Glacier.

We signed up for a room with a balcony so we could sit out there as the little one napped in early afternoon. As it happened, we were stuck on the balcony as we visited Tracy Arm.

I thought ahead and had my camera and lenses out there with me, so got quite a few pictures.

Tech Notes: Shot on a Nikon D700 using a Sigma 15-30mm, a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 and a Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8. Images were taken in RAW and processed in Photoshop Elements.

Since switching to the D700, I’m seeing weaknesses with the Sigma zooms that weren’t apparent with the smaller sensor in the D200. May be time to look at upgrading to Nikkor glass on the wide-angle side.

Met Hugh Freeze

I’m in New Orleans this week for PubCon Spring 2013. My family came along, so we had Monday to run around the French Quarter together.

Hugh Freeze meets Ole Miss alumni

We ended up at Grand Isle Restaurant for dinner, and decided to sit outside, since there was a nice breeze. Across a narrow courtyard from us was the sports bar Manning’s, which was hosting an alumni event for Ole Miss.

My father-in-law is an Ole Miss alum, so I follow their football team a bit, more than any other SEC team, most likely. I’ve been impressed with the excitement that Hugh Freeze has brought to the program in the last year or so.

As we were sitting there watching people enter the party, wondering if anyone famous would show, an Ole Miss tour bus pulled up. That was an interesting development.

Off the bus walked what I assume is most of the football coaching staff, as well as head coach Hugh Freeze himself. He spent some time schmoozing with Ole Miss folks outside the party, then did a round of the people in the courtyard.

When he got to us, we talked for a few seconds and he was kind enough to pose with me for a photo. I wished him luck next season, and he moved on.

In retrospect, I should have wished him luck, except for the little game in Austin, but I wasn’t quick enough.

A little later, Deuce McAllister walked into the party. I didn’t get to meet him, but was impressed by the Superbowl Ring he had on.

Hugh Freeze and Brian Combs

Video: Texas Longhorn Enhanced Team Walk-in

For several seasons now, a crowd has been gathering to watch the Texas Longhorns walk in to Darrell K Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium before home football games. As the event has grown in popularity, it’s been harder and harder to actually see.

This year, they’ve expanded the event. Instead of being dropped off right at the north gate, the team is being dropped off at the corner of 23rd Street and Robert Dedman. They then walk about half a block through a roped off area to the gate.

It was still crowded, but we got there about ten minutes before the busses, and had no trouble getting a spot in the front. Here’s the video I took at the Wyoming-Texas game.

Astrophotography: Moon-Venus Convergence, November 27, 2011

I just got a new Nikon D700. One of the reasons I wanted it was for astrophotography. It is very strong at both long exposure images and at using high ISO.

Last night and tonight there was a convergence of the Moon and Venus. It was actually better last night (Saturday), but I wasn’t able to shoot.

So, I took the opportunity tonight to try out the D700 on astrophotography. It certainly performed well, but I can’t wait to try it out with a subject matter a little more interesting.

They looked to be five or six degrees apart, although they were a bit closer last night.

Tech Notes: Shot on my Nikon D700 with the Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 lens, tripod-mounted with a 2-second delay on the shutter (forgot my cable release). Post processing was performed in Photoshop Elements.

Review: Shibuya in the MGM Grand Las Vegas

There are certain restaurants I visit just about every time I come to Vegas: the oyster bar within Harrahs, BLT Burgers (for the milkshakes) and The Egg and I.

Sorry Carnevino, I’m over you.

My latest addition to this list is Shibuya inside the MGM Grand. It’s by far the best sushi I’ve had east of California.

On my most recent trip to Vegas, I was actually staying at the MGM Grand, so it made perfect sense to visit Shibuya on the second night I was there.

I was alone, so I sat at the bar and got a great shot of the very talented chefs working the sushi line.

Shibuya Sushi Line

I started, as I pretty much do at any Japanese restaurant, with the edamame. It was very fresh tasting with a nice crunch. It was topped with a very pleasantly flaked seasalt.

Then, I had the mushroom salad. If you’re a mushroom lover, this is a must have.

The sauteed mushrooms are served slightly warm, with a sauce of red pepper, sake, soy, and butter. They are amazing.

The first time I had them (with the Wife), we ordered another serving immediately. Somehow, I resisted doing that this week.

Mushroom Salar

For the main part of my meal, I had the Shibuya roll, the sweet shrimp (ami ebi), and the medium fatty tuna (chu toro).


The Shibuya roll is soft shell crab and jalapeƱo, topped with spicy albacore and ponzu scallions. I thought I had tried it before, but I remembered it being better. It wasn’t bad, but maybe I’m thinking of some other roll of theirs.

The sweet shrimp was fresh and very good.

The medium toro was amazing. Fortunately, I saved it for last. It had the richness and body you expect in a quality toro. I can only imagine what the oh toro tastes like.

3700 Las Vegas Boulevard South
Las Vegas, NV 89109-4319
Tel: (702) 891-3001