Butterflies and More Flowers

Well, I met my friend at the Flower Festival, again. We wanted to try going on a weekday and early enough to possibly have a few “people-free” shots. Dare to dream! Of course it didn’t go perfectly, but it was a huge difference compared to the previous time. Since we had seen the birdies the first time, we decided to skip them this time and enjoy the ability to move without bumping into people.

This time we headed to the butterfly garden. There was one last year, but I didn’t go at all last year. And that’s why I really wanted to go this time. I also happen to love butterflies. I used to joke that there were only a total of 4 butterflies here because we just don’t see them that often. This gave me a chance to see more variety as well as hold a butterfly in my hand which I hadn’t done since childhood.

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I kept holding my hand out, hoping one would land. Instead one landed on the bridge of my nose. But it didn’t stay long enough for me to get a picture though I would have loved to have gotten one. Truth be told, I would have been happy to spend most of my time there. But, we were there to also shoot the flowers, with our cameras of course! As we were leaving, we noticed one rogue butterfly that was determined to be free. My friend kept telling it to go the other way, but it fluttered its way out.

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It tried to hide between flowers as it continued on a journey of escape, but I saw it.

We left the butterfly garden and walked around, stopping here and there to take more photos. I changed lenses multiple times. I’d see something I like and then move a few feet and think that I need a different lens for a different shot. Indecisiveness, but that’s neither here nor there.

We took pictures, lots of pictures. But I won’t bore anyone with those because there were some in the last post.

When it started getting dark, it didn’t stop us. We used whatever light was available and made the best of it. It’s truly great to see how different things look when you take away the light. As you may guess, I like fountains. More specifically, the water rather than the design of the fountain.

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It was time to go home. My battery was getting low and I had forgotten to take my backup. My friend and I parted ways and I headed out, with the following as the final shot for the day.

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It was a good day.

Yanbu Flower Festival 2018

It has been quite some time since I actually wrote about life in Saudi Arabia, so what better time than the present? And what better topic than the annual Flowers and Gardens Festival held in Yanbu Alsinaiyah? It attracts people from various cities which is still strange for me because it’s where I live.

As I said before, it’s an annual event though I did not see it at all last year. I couldn’t be bothered even though people I know raved about it. So, this time I decided to ask a friend and colleague what she thought about this year’s. I trust her judgment and she’s also into photography so her opinion really counted. She told me not to miss it because it’s lovely. And lovely it is. The only problem? I decided to meet her yesterday, Friday. Note to self: Do Not under any circumstances try to go anywhere on a Friday, especially any “events” or the like which may be taking place.

To say it was crowded would be an understatement. It was as if everyone woke up at the same time and decided to meet me and my friend. It made taking photos a challenge. We both like to have shots without people in them. That was nearly impossible yesterday, but I did my best.

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Last year there was also a butterfly garden which I’m hoping to see on a different visit. And this year, there’s a bird “thingy”. Again it was, it was super crowded but we managed to get a few shots after bumping into a few people.

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Those who know me well enough know that I love birds, especially as a photography challenge. My favorite shot was of an Amazon Parrot that was apparently not feeling his handler/owner. He took off flying, as birds do from time to time. The handler was calling him, telling him to come back but he couldn’t be bothered.

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See you, suckas!

I followed as best I could and managed to get the shot above. He seemed to enjoy the fact that he was driving his handler crazy. And seeing this was probably the highlight of my time there.

Hopefully, I’ll get to make it back again when there is less of a crowd.

Newbie Kayakers at Spencer Glacier

After a wonderful experience seeing Columbia Glacier in Valdez, we were back in Anchorage. The official Alaskan holiday was over, but we spent a few more days there to relax and enjoy Alaska just a little bit more.

On July 11, my parents took a scenic train ride and my husband and I took a train from Anchorage to Spencer Glacier. We set out at 6:30am and were treated to a very different view of Seward Highway. We were quite fortunate that day also. It was cool, but that was okay. The best thing was that it didn’t rain and the water was nice and calm.

Once we arrived to Spencer Whistle, we had a kayaking adventure with Chugach Adventures.ย We had met our guide, Corey, on the train and were ready to go. Corey was a big help and seemingly made it easy for us to get through the experience. This was our first kayaking experience, and I hope it won’t be the last especially since it was by all accounts a success story. Hey, we didn’t tip ourselves over, so that is most definitely a win.

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Being new to kayaking, we were in a tandem kayak. And it was definitely the best thing for us. Also, since I was in the front when we canoed in Canada, it was only fair that my husband be in front this time which he enjoyed. We got somewhat close to a fairly sizeable iceberg and all I could think about was just how big it really was. A lot of people may not know that the ice we see above water is only 10-15% of the ice. The majority is under water. We were able to move across the lake and even had a chance to walk on the glacier. It wasn’t something I ever imagined myself doing. But, I also never imagined myself in a kayak.

Once we got back across, we had lunch and then a scenic train ride before heading back to Anchorage by motorcoach.

Lessons learned from this trip? Don’t be afraid to try new things, and don’t be afraid of a little adventure. And if you live in North America, even if you don’t, Alaska is worth every penny and the time and energy spent to get there.

Phillips 26 Glaciers Cruise

After spending the night in Anchorage, we headed to Whittier for another cruise through Prince William Sound with Phillips Cruises & Tours. This cruise was also supposed to be 6 hours. I was almost afraid to say anything about the 6 hours for fear my mom would complain. But then she asked, so I had no choice but to tell the truth.

This cruise was different. The weather wasn’t much different though. Of course I’ve mentioned before that for such cruises/trips, you really shouldn’t worry about things like rain as long as it’s not a deadly storm. We didn’t see whales on this trip, but we did see sea otters and steller sea lions along with tufted puffins and other sea birds. We also saw porpoises, but I gave up on trying to get a shot of one. They’re just too quick. I also managed to get a shot of a bald eagle, shown in the featured image, though he’s far away. At least it’s proof that I was there and saw it with my own eyes.

And on this cruise we also saw more ice dotting the waters closer to the glacier. And speaking of glaciers, we were able to see different types of glaciers and little waterfalls making their way down the mountains. What I learned on this trip is that I have become fascinated with glaciers and icebergs.

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We visited a glacier that calves a lot. Guess what? It calved, and I missed it. So close! What could I possibly do? I have an idea though. I need to make more trips like this one.

 

Bye bye, Denali

When we got back from our Denali adventure, we were finished. And by finished, I mean we were completely out of energy. We were hungry and tired. It was 8:30pm and all we wanted to do was eat and sleep. We ate, but when we wanted to sleep, my husband asked about the activity for the next day. I was sure it was a free day to drive back to Anchorage at our own pace. So, I decided to check the itinerary and lo and behold, we did have a scheduled activity for the next day. What?! That’s all I could say. What was worse was that it was an early morning activity which might have been interesting had we not been so tired. We all agreed that we simply wouldn’t go. It was paid for, but we were willing to take a little hit to get some rest. And so we did. And then the next morning we got a call from the front desk reminding us that we had a trip. My husband calmly said, “We canceled it. We all canceled.” We were a party of four and not a single one of us could be bothered. We decided to sleep and then get ready to head back to Anchorage.

Even though we didn’t go on our scheduled river float down the Kantishna River, we most definitely enjoyed the views on our way back to Anchorage.

We saw a moose along the roadside as my dad zipped by. There was no way to stop. But, it wasn’t a problem because I did get shots of one in Denali NP. So, by this point just seeing one was enough.

After 4 hours, we stopped at a Wal-Mart and made our way to the hotel which was the same hotel we stayed in when we first arrived to Anchorage. Funny thing was that my husband and my parents didn’t seem to get that fact. My parents both said, “I’m sorry but I liked the hotel we stayed in when we first arrived.” And it took everyone a minute to realize that it was in fact the same hotel. From that moment forward I had to start watching what everyone was drinking :).

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Kenai Fjords: Part 2

As we headed back, I was definitely satisfied with the trip and the time seemingly flew by. We had a nice meal on board and met interesting people. I was asked several times to take pictures of people and their families. You see, I’m really good at “looking” like a photographer, lol. And each time I was approached someone said, “You have a nice camera and look like you know what you’re doing.” Isn’t that great? I look like I know what I’m doing. One man asked me about my website that does not exist. And it’s a good thing or else he would have discovered that I am not a professional ;).

Apparently we had a really good trip because we saw plenty on the return trip as well.

We saw several whales. Have I mentioned that I love whales? I love seeing them. We saw one that was super close to a fishing boat. I could only imagine what it must have been like as a whale swam around them. They were mere feet away from that whale.

 

Afterwards we saw another pair of whales that seemingly waved in the water at times. Unfortunately due to my over excitement, the shots I got quite simply aren’t fit for this post ๐Ÿ˜œ.

 

I’m sure that everyone that was on that boat was more than satisfied. We sat down after some time and I watched my dad in his Cincinnati Reds hat check the photos he got.

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The Kenai Fjords cruise is an absolute must for anyone visiting this part of Alaska. Ah, one trip down, more to go!

Kenai Fjords: Part 1

Sea life, glaciers, waterfalls, mountains and more! Where to begin? I guess at the beginning. First of all, I have to say that this was one of the best cruises of this type I’ve ever been on. It was 6 hours and I had my concerns. Would I get bored, cold? Would my mom complain that it was too long or too cold? By the time we got started, I didn’t care. But please don’t tell my mom that.

We took the MMT Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise. Even before we boarded, I was happy. It was cloudy and it looked like there was a 100% chance for rain. There was no need to worry which I knew from a previous experience in Malaysia. It was sprinkling. It was super cloudy. There was fog. It was everything that had the makings of a potentially miserable trip. But with an enclosed area, we knew we’d at least be warm and dry.

 

Sitting on the boat waiting to get moving, I snapped pictures of boats. What a shock! But as we sat there waiting, we also saw sea otters. I think they were sea otters. Or maybe there was one sea otter and one seal. Honestly, they confuse me at times. Not to worry, there would be plenty of wildlife I did actually recognize. For example, bald eagles. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a shot of a pair of bald eagles because there were just too many people to compete with. I do believe my dad got one, but he did not share it with me.

As we moved through the water, we alerted to any wildlife that was spotted. And one of the first we saw was the puffin. I managed to get a few shots of them, but I am much too embarrassed to post those here because the pictures suck :). But we also saw steller sea lions, porpoises, and whales. And it was magnificent. The porpoises were much too quick for me to catch though I may have a picture of some water they splashed in. But the whales, oh the whales! We went on two different whale watching trips in the past couple of years and managed to see one whale on each trip. We saw at least seven humpback whales on this one. I was so excited. Though I enjoyed our previous whale watching experiences, this was definitely on a whole other level. Most of the whales we saw were in pairs as seen below.

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We also got to see glaciers and one in particular which often calves. The blue hues in the glacier were brilliant. I didn’t know that “ice” could be so mesmerizing. As we moved closer to the glacier, glacial ice seemingly hopped on deck. People were grabbing ice, taking pictures. We could hear the ice moving which was surreal. Looking at it, you’d never imagine that the ice is actually moving. And it calved! Twice! And all I managed to see was the movement in the water because as my dad said, “By the time you hear it, it’s already in the water. I present to you “Holgate Glacier“.

 

 

You know what? I was really liking this Alaska trip at this point. And this was only the first part of the cruise. It doesn’t include the trip back to Seward.

Bright and early on June 29th we left Lake Louise for Johnston Canyon. We wanted to beat the crowds, and we did ๐Ÿ˜‰. When we got there there was only one other car there. And it was c-h-i-l-l-y. I had on several layers to prepare for the cool, brisk air. And then we were off. As I mentioned before, we were there early. And my husband actually found it slightly creepy. I don’t know what he would have thought of my non-hike in Thailand then. That was actually beyond creepy, especially since I’m a chicken and there were monkeys swinging everywhere. But, back to Johnston Canyon.

I had big plans for us when we started. I wanted to make it to the upper falls since I’d read that the extra trek would be worth it. Well, I guess I have to take everyone’s word for it because we did not make it. Perhaps you may have read about us being out of shape and know the deal. We just didn’t have it in us to continue though I wished it had been otherwise.

If anyone is in Banff, I highly recommend a hike through Johnston Canyon. It is an amazing place to see. But I must say, you do need to be in shape. We were tired before we even made it to the lower falls which was only a half-mile hike. That said, a lot is also uphill. Fortunately, there are points to stop and rest as well as take in all that the creator has created.

Look at what you see before even reaching the lower falls.

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Honestly, I would have been happy to stop at that point. Listening to the water rushing through the canyon was relaxing. The palette of pale blues and white dancing around each and every crevass and embracing the rocks is something we should all be so lucky to experience. And when I see the never ending beauty in Banff and other parts of Canada, I often wish Canada was home for me.

And finally we reached the upper falls. โ€‹โ€‹

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โ€‹โ€‹As you can tell from the clip, we soon headed back. We tried, with zero success, to continue on but another mile just wasn’t happening.

I am glad that I got to see at least some of Johnston Canyon. And who knows, maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to visit again.

Puffins!!!

Once we got off the speedboat at Puffin Island, my mother rode up the little hill with our hostess while my dad, husband and I walked. Puffins were flying around and I could barely contain myself. We were there because of my obsession with puffins, so I couldn’t wait to get inside and settled a little bit so that I could go out and attempt to take pictures. Once we got inside with all our things, we were more formally introduced to our hostess Louise. She had a lovely accent and very friendly demeanor. She explained the ins and outs of how things would work. First, we were asked to remain on the paths so as to not disturb or possibly harm the puffins’ nesting areas. Also, she would be staying in the house with us. We’d all be sharing a bathroom. Not something I’m too fond of, but it was necessary and I figured I could deal with it for a couple days to see puffins. ๐Ÿ˜€ The toilet was a composting toilet which I was admittedly afraid of. I have my standards! But again, I was willing to deal with it because I knew I’d be rewarded with the opportunity to observe puffins in real life. And it turns out it wasn’t as scary as expected. Our bedrooms were upstairs, steep stairs. So, we all decided that we didn’t need to take our bags up. We simply took what we needed as we needed.

Since we were basically settled in, I wasted no time and I went out. The weather was perfect. I heard that it had been miserable the day before. So we lucked out. I was shutter happy. “Shutter happy” is an adjective used to describe an individual who, when in the midst of a photo opportunity, can’t controlย the urge to push the shutter release button. I was like a kid in the toy store, grabbing every chance I could to snap. And, it probably comes as no surprise, but I was not always so successful. My heart raced from the excitement. Who gets that excited about such things? Well, I guess I do. They are magnificent little creatures, and I enjoyed seeing them more than they enjoyed seeing me.

I also got a few pictures of guillemots that were also hanging out on the cliffs with the puffins. But let’s face it, they weren’t my real interest though I appreciated the added bonus.

Later my husband came looking for me. As if I could go anywhere. We were on a teeny tiny island in the middle of the water. And, I had no intentions of swimming for it. He walked with me as I continued to chase puffins with my camera, and then it started raining. We stayed out as long as we could without melting and then went inside. Louise was preparing dinner, so we all sat at the table looking out the window. Even in the rain, it was a beautiful scene.ย The rain didn’t last long, so I went out again.

Because we were caught up in the scenery, the weather, and the birds, we opted to wait a little while for dinner. The sun was setting and it was absolutely breathtaking. It’s not that I’ve never seen a sunset, but this was one I was able to truly revel in. There were no loud noises, except the sounds of the water and seabirds. There were no street lights. No cars going by. Nothing getting in the way of the view.

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Eventually, we would have to go inside. And soon we were surrounded by darkness. Dinner was ready, and we sat down to a lovely table setting. We started with fish soup. Yuck! I am not a fish person. When Louise wasn’t looking, I swapped my husband’s empty bowl with mine. She saw me. Oops! We were then served grilled chicken bruschetta and vegetables which included broccoli, my favorite. ๐Ÿ™‚ For dessert, we had strawberry mousse and there was something else chocolate, but I didn’t eat it.

Puffin Island really agreed with me so far!

 

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