A Philosophy of Radical Aliveness

A Philosophy of Radical Aliveness

"Yesterday is already a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision; but today well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and every tomorrow a vision of hope."

John Kerestes


Tuesday, December 31, 2019

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If you wish to leave a comment or want to contact me please do so using my email:
(If your interest is primarily biographical, and you want to see what my early adventures were, be sure to view the older posts. They go back seven decades to my childhood.)
Do not reproduce without my permission!

To see an archive of our personal artifacts,
as another way to peek into our history,
go to:  mholtby.blogspot.com

More of our travels go to:


Monday, April 8, 2019

FEBRUARY 2019: TANZANIA's Hadzabe Tribe

The last hunter-gatherers of Tanzania

I was selected to be on a four person team of photographers to spend four full days with the Hadzabe tribe. They now only number about one thousand people, and 90% of their land has been taken over by neighboring pastoral tribes.

This endeavor is a part of a larger mission to describe and photograph the indigenous cultures of the world before they disappear. It is part of the Jimmy Nelson Foundation based in Amsterdam.

The full website illustrating this project can be found at:

Here is a video introducing the tribe:

Monday, February 25, 2019


This was my sixth African safari. What was unique about this trip was the 1:1 attention I received from Ernest, a partner of Eagle Eye Safaris along with Karen Blackwood. https://eagleeyesafaris.com/ Although I am an experienced photographer and user of  Lightroom and Photoshop, Ernest was able to help me up my game. He also coached me on using the flexible spot for focusing in the bush, where the autofocus challenge was selecting the animal rather than the surrounding branches.

The accommodations were the best I’ve experienced, particularly the stopover at Loerie’s Call on the drive to Sabi Sands, and the place we stayed at the Park, the Nkorho Bush Lodge. The latter had two showers (one inside & another out), a huge bathtub, and two quite large rooms. I have stayed at a number of nice lodges in Africa, but it doesn’t get much nicer than this!

Sabi Sands itself was manageable in terms of size and did not involve long drives to find the game. The routine was relaxed in the sense that you had a break in the middle of the day when you could use the pool, or work with Ernest on your photographs, or just shower and have a nice breakfast and lunch. I’ve been to other safaris where the break was shorter and the drives were longer.

Sabi Sands can also be called “leopard city,” in that we saw leopards every day, usually multiple cats and sightings. On three occasions we even saw cubs, and I got a perfect shot of one peeking around the trunk of a tree after his mother had warned him of a hyena. In all of my other safaris what was typical was to see a leopard once, often fleeting or not at all. Another advantage of Sabi Sands is that drivers can go off road, which sometimes means crashing through the bush to get to a wildlife encounter.

The other nice thing about this trip is that due to the exchange rate between the USA and South Africa it is exceptionally affordable at the present time.

One of the most awesome of these events I’ve ever experienced occurred when hyenas had taken a kill away from a leopard, and a pack of wild dogs came and treed the leopard, and then tried to take the kill away from the hyenas. The sights and especially the sounds were quite incredible.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


It was hand warmer cold, and snowing much of the time. We would have highlights like seeing a pack of wolves, and just a little later watching river otters; but then we’d drive in a snowcat for five hours and not see any more wildlife – or they’d be only within binocular range. But we did see plenty of bison, coyotes, moose, bighorn sheep; trumpeter swans and to a lesser extent bald eagles, mule deer, elk and antelope. I hope the video depicts what it was like, and you don’t even have to brave the weather!

Watch my 3 1/2 minute video of the trip:

Sunday, October 21, 2018


Independence Rock, Colorado National Monument

Last of the season camping trip to Colorado National Monument, and Arches National Park


Sand Dune Arch, Arches National Park


The weekend after getting back from Alaska I attended a Hawkfest sponsored by Mike's Camera and Hawkquest Raptor Refuge. Above is a Eurasian Eagle Owl.

This one is my favorite, an Aplomado Falcon

We also had an opportunity to photograph a Harris Hawk in flight


I did a photo trip with Natural Habitat to photograph brown bears in Alaska. It was the end of the salmon run, and they were fat and happy. Being the end of the season we were often alone in Katmai Park - that is except for the 2-3,000 bears that live there. Apparently in the peak months photographers had a limit and had to rotate so others could get their viewing time. At the famous Brooks Falls there were as many as a dozen bears at one time to watch. The year before had been good for the bears, so the average sow had 3-4 cubs. 

The weather was either overcast or light rain, and we lost some time when our seaplane couldn't fly. Also on our return flight one of the planes was grounded when between the pilot and the plane full of our group was a bear on the beach.

I was able to get one photo similar to the famous one by Mangelsen of the jumping salmon headed for the mouth of a bear. 

However, being the end of the season, they more likely caught them in a less dramatic way - feeling them hit their feet.

For a complete slideshow of the trip go to:

Wednesday, August 8, 2018


I have lived in Denver, Colorado for forty-one years, and only in the last few weeks have I ventured up to the peak of Mt. Evans. It is the highest paved road in the USA, over 14,000 feet on a road with a steep drop off on one side. At the top, above timberline it is just a pile of large rocks. But the views are spectacular, and every time I've seen wildlife: mountain goats, bighorn sheep, marmots, picas, and birds (in addition to crows, a brown-capped rosy finch).

In the last two weeks I've gone three times. The first time was with my friend and fellow wildlife photographer Lynn H.  The weather was rough: dense fog, heavy rain, and hail. The second time I went was with Judy, but we didn't stay more than a few hours. It was pretty crowded with both traffic, and people at the summit. So I went yesterday for the third time by myself, getting up early on a sunny day, and staying several hours. I still didn't get the shots I had hoped for, but will certainly try again.

Monday, August 6, 2018


 We did a camping trip to Bear Lake, Southwest of Yampa, Colorado (and Steamboat). It turned out to be crowded, and lots of mosquitoes; even though we arrived on a Thursday afternoon. However, on the second day we were able to snag probably the best campsite there and stayed for two more days. Getting the trailer ready, and unpacking it at the end of the trip took a total of four days. It also took most of two days to get there and back. And we were only settled in for two days. We are questioning whether it was worth it, and considering buying a cabin.

We set up a hummingbird feeder, and got plenty of interest.

Sunday, July 1, 2018


This was my 5th safari, and Judy's 2nd. We picked Botswana because the first time we saw more wildlife in diversity and amount of any of the other countries I've experienced: Ethiopia, Namibia, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa.

Also, Botswana has more elephants than any other country in the world. And on this trip we experienced more elephants than we did even on our first trip. At a watering hole in Savute the elephants kept coming and coming and coming until we believed we saw 60-80 in more than one herd all converging on this one watering hole.

This was a safari highlighted by several elephant events. On the Chobe River we all of a sudden heard loud trumpeting, and witnessed a bull elephant trying to mate with a female who wanted none of it. He chased her crashing through the water straight at us. Katembo, our guide, had to move our boat out of the way. (Katembo's name means "baby elephant").

Speaking of baby elephants there was this little guy practicing with an improvised baton:

And of course there were many other animals: crocodiles, zebra, giraffes, lions, leopards, hyenas, vervet monkeys, waterbuck, bushbuck, kudu, impala, mongoose, hippo, wildebeast, ostrich, wart hog, lechwe, sable and steenbok; and a whole host of birds. We had a special treat with three different leopard sightings with the best one about a half hour long following a mother leopard and her cub.

Here is a video slide show of our trip:

Botswana Safari 2018 from Mike Holtby on Vimeo.

Friday, June 29, 2018


On our way to Botswana we stopped for two days in Paris. It was our first time there. We took a river cruise on the Seine, and visited the Louvre.

Of the obligatory sights at the Louvre was Venus de Milo, and of course the Mona Lisa. The latter was quite small, and there was a fence to keep the many visitors from getting too close. There was a crowd of people, all trying to see it or take a selfie with it in the background. I took the photo below with a telephoto lens, enhanced with Photoshop.

We also visited another very good museum in Paris which is housed in what was once a train station. It is the Musee d Orsay, which houses some very prominent impressionist paintings including Van Gogh, Manet, and Gauguin..
Musee de Orsay

Crowd trying to see the Mona Lisa

Sunday, June 24, 2018


 Car trip to California to pick up Judy after her latest 3 month gig as Director of Operations for Patient Care Services as John Muir Hospital.

Traveled out on Highway 50, called the "loneliest highway" in the USA. It travels the route also taken by the pony express a hundred and fifty years ago.

Along the way I stopped at Ely, Nevada for their small, but very interesting historical museum, and on the return trip on Highway 80 Judy & I stopped in Rock Springs, Wyoming to visit their museum in what once was the City-County building complete with an intact jail (including a padded cell).

Sunday, May 6, 2018


Denver's Cinco de Mayo celebration is reputed to be one of the biggest in the USA. It goes on for two days with lots of low riders, dancers, Mariachi bands, fancy dancing horses, & food trucks.

Sadly, it was not photographically covered by the Denver Post due to the gutting of the editorial staff by their current owners, a NY hedge fund.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


Sometimes it is not necessary to leave home to have a great wildlife encounter. I took this photo of a red-tailed hawk within a short distance from my home. I was walking my dog, Drummer, when I saw him sitting in a tree. I went home, grabbed my camera, put my 100-400mm lens on, and he was still there when I went out again. I set up, and encouraged a curious neighbor to walk up to the tree to get him to fly. My camera (a Sony A9) has a burst rate of 20fps, which increases my chances of the perfect shot. I got two tries at it (as he first took off and landed a short ways away on another tree), and the second time I got this one - three really usable shots with two bursts.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Judy is on a three month contract in Concord, California as the Director of Operations for Patient Care Services at a psychiatric hospital there. I went out to visit with her for the weekend. The first day we went to the Napa Valley for wine tasting with her California pals, Olivia & Kinzi.

The second day we went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We've been there before but never tire of one of the best aquariums in the world. The highlight is the tanks of jellyfish.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Life as a Grand Adventure

This New York Times video embodies some of what I believe: examine your life, figure out how to leave the rat race behind, and truly embrace the adventure of life!

Thanks to Karl Grobl for sharing this video on Facebook. Karl is the embodiment of this philosophy, leaving behind a career as a pharmaceutical rep in the States, becoming a  full time NGO photographer who also leads photo trips to Asia & India through Jim Cline Photo Tours. He now lives in Siem Reap with his Cambodian wife, their two kids, her mother and cousin. His life is exuberant and following his passions.

Sunday, February 11, 2018


Ankor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Water Blessing, Cambodia

This is a trip that took us to five countries: Singapore, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. I took over 9,000 photos and 75 video clips.

I have completed a separate blog page with 30 separate posts, and 167 photographs that depicts our trip in some detail:


What follows is a 6 1/2 minute video depicting much of our trip is photos and video clips:

Here is a 3:16 minute video I composed of the Muay Thai Kickboxing that I attended in Bangkok:

Muay Thai Kickboxing from Mike Holtby on Vimeo.

Here is our trip leader, Karl Grobl's video of the trip:

Southeast Asia 2018 from Karl Grobl on Vimeo.

This is an annual trip with Jim Cline Photo Tours: http://www.jimclinephototours.com

Friday, December 1, 2017


Trip to the Oregon coast driving along Highway 101.

Visited two aquariums, the largest was the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. It was large enough to take a good couple hours to go through. Then at Seaside their small aquarium had only local fish, but had a group of leopard seals that would splash water to get treats. The aquarium had fish available to throw them.

This photo has been the most popular on Instagram of those I've posted of the trip. At the time of this post it has gotten 299 "likes". It captures the mood of the broad, sandy beaches on the coast of Oregon.