Tag Archives: sunset
May 10, 2012


A Cheetah in Kruger National Park, South Africa

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We spent four days on safari, driving through the Kruger National Park in South Africa.  Our guides drove us around for hours each day as Oksana and I hung out our respective windows, searching the countryside for the next amazing animal.

Before we arrived in South Africa, I never would have guessed that so many of the iconic African animals could be spotted in a single country.  For some reason, I thought you had to travel all over the continent if you wanted to see lions, wildebeest, rhinos, giraffes, leopards, hyenas, elephants, crocodiles, zebra, buffalo, baboons, and warthogs.  (We saw most of those the first day in the park.)  About the only big African animal I can think of that we didn’t have a chance of seeing was a mountain gorilla.

The highlight of the safari, for me, was spotting a cheetah.  After we stopped the car to watch him, his brother also emerged from the brush.  Both of those beautiful animals eventually crossed the road directly in us before disappearing into a ravine.

The next day, it got even better.  Oksana spotted another cheetah.  Our guides were blown away.  Not only are cheetahs among the rarest animals seen in the park, but we were the ones to spot them – not them, the more experienced guides!

It was nearly sunset when we spotted the cheetah on the second day and we were far from our camp.  Still, it was such an amazing animal, our guides graciously allowed us to stay as long as possible.  As we watched, the cheetah got up and stretched, then went about marking his territory.  Against all odds, his path again took him across the road we were on.


February 13, 2012

PV018: The Good Time Resort

When we were planning our trip to Thailand last September, we knew we were going to stay awhile.  After traveling across four continents, we were ready for a break and our plan was to rent an apartment for the month of October. We had new two goals in mind: Resting and relaxing.

We asked our Facebook friends and Twitter followers for recommendations.  “If you had a month to spend in Thailand, where would you stay?”  We got all the answers you might expect: Party in Phuket, stay cheap in Bangkok, visit the temples in Chiang Mai.  After our downtime, we would go on to tour all of Thailand, so our ideal location for October would be a quiet, out-of-the-way place with a solid internet connection.  Perhaps one of those picturesque islands with the white sand beaches, plentiful coconuts, and some snorkeling hot spots…

We read up on the suggestions we’d received: Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Phang-nga, Koh Samui.  Advice from my ex-girlfriend had me worried.  She told me that, years before, she’d passed up Phang-nga (too touristy) for Koh Tao.  There, she had found a quiet spot on the back of the island where she could relax and interact with the locals, but still take in a little SCUBA diving if she felt like it.

But Koh Tao isn’t like that anymore.  She told us that since she visited, the island has developed into yet another tourist hotspot with ATMs and 7-Elevens on every other corner.

The Thailand of yesterday sounded just like what we were looking for, but I wondered if we’d even be able to find it.  We did, but not until much later…

We took the easy way out and spent our month in Karon Beach, on Phuket.  It wasn’t the island getaway we’d imagined, but it was cheap and we had our internet access.  Come November, though, we were ready to hit the road again.

We traveled with friends up into Laos, then parted ways and traveled through Vietnam and Cambodia on our own.  We were in Siem Reap, visiting the temples around Angkor Wat, when we sat down to plan out the last few weeks of our round-the-world journey.  I wanted to see Kuala Lumpur and Singapore before flying to Australia.  Oksana petitioned for one last week of beach time.  Once again, we found ourselves pouring over a map of Thailand, looking for the perfect island getaway.

And then, a funny thing happened.  I was skimming updates in a travel blogger’s Facebook group when I came across something another blogger had posted.  She wanted to know if anyone was interested in managing a Thai island resort for a year.  She went on to explain that the owners wanted to embark on a round-the-world trip of their own and needed to find someone to run their business while they were away.

I didn’t think much of it at first.  In fact, I didn’t even mention it to Oksana until the following day because managing a resort just wasn’t something I thought we’d be interested in.  But then I started thinking.  We were planning to spend a year working in Australia… why not Thailand instead?  And since we had to pass through Thailand again on our way to Malaysia…

When Opportunity is knocking, one should at least open the door to see who’s there. (more…)

January 6, 2012

The Burj Khalifa

The World's Tallest Building, the Burj Khalifa

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We only had one day in Dubai, a 17-hour layover between Moscow and Bangkok.  Oksana and I left our bags at the airport and spent the day in the city.  We explored Dubai’s insane malls, giant hypermarkets, went skiing indoors, and tried (but failed) to ascend the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Late in the afternoon, we decided to give the Big Bus Tours company a try.  They run a “hop on, hop off” bus that we, despite the sky-high price they were asking, thought would be a good way to see the city sights.  It wasn’t.  They happily sold us two tickets (for a total of $120 US dollars!) at 3:30pm, failing to mention their buses only run until 5pm.

We chose our seats on the second level of the open-air, double-decker bus and put in our earphones so we could hear the guided audio tour.  We both pulled our cameras out of our bags at the same time and, to our horror (and shame, because we should have known better as Alaskans), watched every glass surface on them instantly fog.  Not only had our cameras been inside a cool, air conditioned mall for the last few hours, they’d also been with us when we went skiing.  By pulling them out of our bags, we’d effectively raised their temperature almost 70 degrees less than 5 seconds.

The air in Dubai is surprisingly humid and after half an hour of frustration, I worried that the inner elements of my lens would never defrost.  Our first few photos were ridiculously blurry.  Finally, by the time we pulled up to the third or fourth gigantic mall on the bus’s loop, the sun had done its job.  My camera was ready to take some pictures again.

When the bus pulled out again, we were the only ones left on the top level.  After 5 minutes or so, we realized that the guided tour was no longer playing through our headphones…

We forgot our worries when the bus pulled onto the highway.  There, in the distance, was the Dubai skyline with the sun sinking into the humid haze behind it.  Oksana and I moved to the opposite side of the bus, leaned over the rail, and tried to frame a photo – any photo – without a telephone pole or an electrical wire in it.

Of the dozens we shot, the one you see above is my favorite.

When we sat back down, we knew something was wrong.  No audio guide and we were moving further and further from the city.  Neither Oksana nor I wanted to go down and ask the driver if we’d stupidly missed the last stop, but of course, eventually we had to.  I walked down when he pulled off at a gas station – the lower half of the bus was also empty – and caught up to him at the pump.

“Um, is the tour over?” I asked.

He looked at me, shocked. “You were on the bus?”

“Yes, upstairs.”

“The tour ended at five! You were not supposed to stay!” He sighed. “Where did you planning to go?” His English wasn’t perfect.

I gave him the name of the mall where we bought the tickets because I knew it had a metro station nearby that would lead us to the airport.  He drove us back as soon as he finished filling up the tank.

I felt guilty, but hey, he should have checked his own bus at the last stop, right?  There was even a security camera on the upper deck, pointed right at us!

Canon 5D Mark II
Date: 5:38pm, 30 September 2011
Focal Length: 82mm
Shutter: 1/8000 sec
Aperture: F/4
Exposure: -1 step
Flash: No
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Minor rotate and crop, Slight crushing of blacks with Levels


March 23, 2011

PV014: Salar de Uyuni

The Salar de Uyuni is the most amazing natural wonder I have ever seen in my life.  During our two trips through the world’s largest salt flats, Oksana and I got so many good photos and videos that editing them into a single podcast episode was more challenging than editing the ones where I don’t have enough footage.  I worried that I wouldn’t do this amazing landscape justice.

This video is almost fifteen minutes long and that’s even after I decided to eliminate day two and three of our tour (I may make that into a shorter episode later.)  I had the great fortune to be able to interview not just Oksana and myself, but also our guide and every one of the new friends we met on these tour.  This isn’t just “Arlo and Oksana’s Experience on the Salar,” it’s “Arlo and Oksana’s (Alaska), Rémy and Aurélie’s (France), Wendy and Dusty’s (Ohio), Soledad and Joaquin’s (Buenos Aires), and Oscar’s (La Paz) Experience on the Salar!”

Not everyone is as comfortable as we are in front of a camera — and we’re far from comfortable talking into a lens, ourselves! — so I want to thank everyone who contributed to this video, especially Soledad and Joaquin who struggled with an unfamiliar language on camera.  For what it’s worth, I think that having a 2-to-1 ratio for English-as-a-second (or third!) -language to native English speakers in this video is pretty cool!

Fifteen minutes may be asking too much of some internet viewers.  If you find yourself bored by the setup, might I suggest you jump to the 9 minute, 45 second mark?  Spoiler warning: It’s awesome!

Finally, there are more stories and photos of our Uyuni trips on:

Rémy and Aurélie’s travel blog: NEWZ FROM THE WORLD
Wendy and Dusty’s travel blog: roamthepla.net



February 4, 2010

Diving in Culebra

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Back in November, Oksana and I spent some time in Puerto Rico. While visiting one of the “Spanish Virgin Islands,” Culebra, we managed to fit in a two-tank dive with Aquatic Adventures. They took us out to Lana’s Cove and Carlos Rosario’s “The Wall.”

Oksana and I used the dives to experiment with a new underwater housing for her Panasonic Lumix TZ5. While not the best underwater gear, the whole setup is small, light, and travel-friendly. While the lack of a decent flash unit blurred practically every photo, it seemed to record decent video when we kept our movements smooth.

Because of a late start, our second outing unexpectedly turned into a night dive. I didn’t anticipate that the camera would be much use, but I brought it anyway. Glad I did.

On the boat, we met a couple, Michael and Kimberly, from Kansas who were enjoying their first few open water dives after getting certified. We had dinner with them afterwards at Mamacita’s. I mentioned that I’d pointed the camera in their direction a few times during the dives and I promised to send them a video clip or two once we got home. Well, I barely had two weeks back in Alaska before I left on a month-long Ecuador trip. Last week I finally got around to digging up those video clips…


August 21, 2008

Catamaran Flare

Catamaran Flare

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We were in Key West to dive, but we hadn’t really planned how long we were going to stay.  Our first couple dives were okay, but nothing spectacular.  The water was a little murky, the coral a little sparse.  We paid a little more to go with a different company on the second day and were rewarded with friendlier staff, a better location, and more underwater sights.  We decided to stay for a third day of diving, even though it would mean getting up early on Oksana’s birthday.

While not as spectacular as the previous day, the dives were good (and, coincidentally, we discovered that another girl on our dive trip shared Oksana’s birthday!)  Still, Oksana likes to celebrate her birthday with parties and friend, and I was worried that diving wasn’t enough.  I decided to take her out on a sunset cruise.

Plenty of ships compete for your business in Key West; we walked the docks until we found one of the old schooners we’d heard about, the Hindu.  A sketchy but gregarious salesmen chatted us up and talked us into booking a couple tickets for the 6:30pm sailing.

The evening was gorgeous, the wind light.  While our captain and his college-students-on-summer-vacation crew lamented the lack of wind, Oksana and I relished the relaxed atmosphere on the bow.  Coolers of beer, flutes of champagne, and small panini sandwiches were available for the asking.  The only thing marring the serenity on the water was the loud southern woman who took the all-you-can-drink offer to heart.

As the sunset deepened, Oksana and I took turns walking the deck with the camera, taking photos of ourselves, the sun and sky, and the other sailing vessels tacking in and out of our wake.  Looking back over our pictures, I can tell you I took the one immediately proceeding this one (because Oksana’s in it), but I think she might have been the one who snapped this photo three minutes later.

And can I just say:  Best Lens Flare Ever!

Canon Digital Rebel XT
Date: 17 June 2008, 8:00pm
Focal Length: 88mm
Shutter: 1/500 second
Aperture: F/20
ISO: 100
Photoshop: Rotated & cropped (horizon-leveling),
 cloned out salt spray spots on lens, minor contrast adjustments

May 21, 2004

Sunshine… and the living is easy.

Actual Sunset from my apartment... but from a year ago (25k image)I just (re)discovered something that might have a detrimental effect on the newfound proliferation of my web log entries… 

Straightforward sunbathing is awesome.

The weather here has been truly spectacular lately – the bank thermometer next to my apartment read 77 degrees yesterday – and I’ve been taking advantage of it every change I get. Which isn’t exactly all that often when I have to work 40 hours a week. Nevertheless, I’ve been using my lunch breaks to plant myself in a warm, quiet corner on campus, crank up the tunes, and use my laptop to pound out these entries.

Today I was a bit hungrier than usual, so I went to Subway first and grabbed a sandwich. When I got back to campus, I had maybe a half hour left on my lunch break. I sat down on a bench next to the library and started typing Part III of that “Buying a House” thing I’ve been blathering on about lately. The day was hot, though, and wearing a black t-shirt didn’t help matters. What’s more, I’d left my sunglasses at work. With them it’s difficult to make out what’s on my incapacitated-by-sunlight LCD screen. Today I found that it’s pretty much the same without them, there’s just more squinting involved.

Anyway, after all of 10 minutes, I gave up and simply lay down on the bench and closed my eyes. The sun blazing down was heaven and if I’d had more than 10 or 15 minutes left, I’d have probably let myself fall asleep.

I’ve only been living in Juneau for 10 years or so (A decade already? Damn!), but I’ve heard that the best time of year is always in the spring. Thinking back to 2003, I can believe it. As it’s been the last couple months, April and May last year were exceedingly clear and sunny. Unfortunately, it was also quite cold. I remember taking advantage of the good weather by playing disc golf and having to skate on the icy trails well into May.

Not this year. It’s been perfectly comfortable with highs in the mid- to upper 60s almost every day. The only downside is that my apartment gets quite a bit of afternoon sunlight and if neither Oksana nor I remember to go home to open the windows and turn on the fans during our lunch breaks, we’ll come home to temperatures (seriously) around 90 degrees. Not that I’m complaining – it’s a fair trade, in my opinion.

In all likelihood, this divine weather will not last much longer. In no time we’ll be back to Juneau’s typically depressing wetgreychilly summer. It’ll be depressing, sure, but at least I won’t be tempted to sleep through my lunchtime writing sessions.