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


Thursday, February 15, 2024

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If you wish to leave a comment or want to contact me please do so using my email:

I am phasing out my Denver email:


but that website still has all my personal work:


and is also linked to:


(If your interest is primarily biographical, and you want to see what my early adventures were, be sure to view the older posts on this blog. 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:


I now have a studio on Whidbey Island in Washington State
and am working on a photo book: the Whidbey Beard Project


Wednesday, February 14, 2024



Cecil is Pamela's father, and he had a hugely attended birthday party, hosted by his church. He danced with one of his granddaughters, played with his ukulele band, soloed on his harmonica, and showed himself in great form! Cecil lives independently in a house two blocks from Pamela. He is still driving, and still trucking along.

The top photo is just of those people related to Cecil, and the bottom one is most of those who attended his party.

Cecil on his harmonica solo.



Pamela and I were part of a small group on a tour with Jim Cline Photo Tours. It was the first time Pamela had gone along as well, and despite not being a serious photographer, she had a great time and did end up taking some good pictures.

This is Pamela in one of the classic convertibles.  We were on our way to the famous Tropicana nightclub pictured below. It was once owned by mob boss Meyer Linskey. After the first number an empty table right in front was filled by four big guys who promptly all lit cigars and drank rum. They sure looked like a wise guy and his three bodyguards.

We also experienced Afro-Cuban Dancing. As well as having two ballerinas to model for us from the National Cuban Ballet troupe.

We left Havana and went to Vinales, and Trinidad visiting the tobacco farms, and photographing companeros who showed off their cock fighting roosters, and offered me a chance to ride a horse - my first time in forty years. I was thrilled to find I was quite comfortable being back in the saddle again.


I have completed two 3 1/2 minute videos of our time in Cuba. 

One focuses on the profusion of music we encountered: 

and the other illustrates the variety of live dance we experienced: 

I hope you will watch them!

Friday, January 5, 2024



FINALLY!! After a project first started in early July, 2022 the “beards have landed”! The Whidbey Beard Project features multiple portrait shoots with men on the Island with interesting beards. The book’s subtitle is “Beyond the Cover” and features captions with the photographs that give the reader some idea of who the person is beyond their facial hair. The book’s theme is “Don’t judge a book by its cover – until you’ve read the book.”  I sent it to China for offset printing to insure that the highest available quality, which is part of why it took so long to complete. The book measures 11 1/4” x 12 1/4” and is 74 pages, including 71 portraits: a proud and proper coffee table version! It is a finalist for the North Street Book Award, an International competition. Featured in the book are men from all over the Island, from Clinton to Oak Harbor: men you inevitably know, or readily recognize. Here is a one minute video clip of some of the portraits featured in the printed version: https://vimeo.com/809267159
The books are available at the Moonraker Bookstore in Langley, or directly through me. If you want to pick up one, or two, or half a dozen call or text me to make sure I’ll be home: 303-396-3818. Or email me with a day and time you’d like to come by and I’ll confirm. The cost is $64.95 + 8.8% sales tax. If you want it mailed to you add on another $8. I’m set up to accept credit cards, Venmo or Zelle, and you can also order through my website: 
sales - Michael Holtby's Studio (whidbeyphoto.com). If you contributed to the GoFundMe page at $70 or more the only additional cost to you would be mailing expenses. I’m looking forward to your visiting my studio, and sharing in this exciting event!

Saturday, December 9, 2023


 I had hoped to have my book by the time of this reception, or at least before Christmas; but it has been shipped by container ship and is not due to arrive here until January 2nd. I have two expedited copies that came from China via air so I know how they turned out:

Nevertheless, we had the reception for the book: Beards: Beyond the Cover on December 8th and it was well attended by fifty family and friends. So Pamela and I read captions and I projected the book on a large screen. We were hosted by the Universal Unitarian Chruch of Freeland, WA and also in their foyer were nine large canvases of some of the portraits.

And a large number of the beard brothers attended, some in the costume they wore in their portrait.

Monday, November 6, 2023



This was a photo workshop lead by Joe McNally and Tamara Lackey, both very well known, accomplished photographers. Joe is known for his use of supplementary lights on location, and brought a number of light modifiers for us to try out. We alternated between photo shoots with professional models and wildlife excursions. It was the rainy season so we often used the afternoon rains to be indoors doing classes and critiques.

This is Danielle, my favorite model, that I had the opportunity to work with for a longer period of time than other models. She spoke very good English, and is a fulltime professional.

The photo below was shot in the hummingbird garden at the El Silencio Hotel in the Cloud Forest Region. Unlike hummingbirds around a feeder these birds flitted between hundreds of flowers, rarely perching for more than a few seconds.

Sunday, July 9, 2023


4th of July Parade: 

This is a relatively small, rural parade in Clinton Washington on South Whidbey Island. The kids bring bags because everyone throws candy. It is like a Halloween haul for them. Lots of creativity, costumes and enthusiasm.

Two minute video slide show: https://vimeo.com/843322470

Gay Pride Parade in Langley.

At the beginning of this year a photograph I took of Matilda the Pirate caused some controversy when exhibited in the Oak Harbor Library. Somehow a guy with a purple beard and fake boobs was going to corrupt young people. Here on the Southend of Whidbey Island he was prominently marching in drag and enjoying the parade which included both the mayor and police chief of Langley. Inclusivity & acceptance was the mode of the day, and everyone was having fun!

3 minute video slide show: https://vimeo.com/843707869

Friday, May 26, 2023

MAY 2023: PERU

 This trip goes beyond Machu Picchu, and focuses on the indigenous people of the country whom we found open and friendly. Some people make their living posing for tourists, but only want the equivalent of a quarter or fifty cents to pose for photographs.

 I am posting two links to more: a digitized version of the photo album I composed of the trip:


And a video of Peruvian dancing both professional and amateur:


Tuesday, April 25, 2023


Pamela and I went overnight in La Conner, WA to be at the Tulip Festival first thing in the morning. When we arrived, it was very cold and windy. We didn't stay long. A week later it was a totally different story when I went with the South Whidbey Photo Club. It was so warm and sunny I didn't wear a coat. The parking lot was full and there were many people there. I heard several foreign languages, and the Chinese were in great attendance with their wives and girlfriends dressed to the nines to model for their photographer partners, or for selfies on a pole. I think there must have been a tour bus bringing them. That said, the Roozen Gaarde is so large I was able to get these photos without the tourist crowds. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023


These are Dunlin birds, part of the sandpiper family. They travel in synchronized flocks that burst into the air like an undulating cloud. This was a flock of several hundred, and they can get to be ten thousand. They are migratory birds, and are only in Birch Bay for part of the year.


Visited Semiahmoo Spit on Blaine Harbor where a large salmon cannery used to be. It is now abandoned leaving this fishing boat (and the building behind it). At one time the cannery was a big operation - until they fished out the salmon. At the time it seemed like they were so plentiful no one thought it could happen. I discovered a small museum there where I was the only visitor and had a personal tour by a volunteer named Brian who explained the history of the cannery and salmon fishing in the area.

Monday, November 28, 2022



Pamela and I did a getaway weekend in Sequim staying in a B&B which was a caboose. It was great fun, but Sequim itself wasn't particularly unique. It has a reputation of getting the least rain in the Northwest, and has become a retirement community - with no particular character. It has a Costco, and Home Depot and looks like suburbs anywhere in the USA. We much prefer the Victorian homes and architecture of Port Townsend.


When I moved to Whidbey Island my brothers said there were two things I'd need: a chainsaw, and a generator. On November 4th at 10pm I needed both.

We had a terrific windstorm, preceded by softening the ground with rain. The 60mph wind came in the opposite direction from usual, and trees were pulled up by the roots. The truck pictured here fortunately wasn't mine. The owner also lost 42 trees.

I lost a half dozen trees, my Dish TV was totaled, and a branch speared a hole through my garage roof. Larry, a neighbor had a truck windshield & back window shattered, as well as the hood and cab top dented. He winters in Arizona so I covered it all with a tarp. One large tree could have crashed into my house, but instead blocked my driveway and sheered off part of my madrona tree. My brother Jeff and I spelled each other with my chainsaw and cleared a path to get my truck out. The next day Dylan (of the Whidbey Beard Project) came and cleared the tree the rest of the way out of the driveway. Jesus' crew came and spent two days cleaning up all the downed branches, leaves, and logs; which cost $2,040. I also had to have Jesse, a professional arborist come and take down one of my large poplars in the driveway which was leaning across the road. It was a tricky removal that cost me another $886. We were without power for three days.

Dylan with his large chainsaw making short work of the fallen tree.


 Since the completion of my new photo studio I have been working on a photo project, collecting photos of interesting men with beards on Whidbey Island. I have thus far photographed 48 guys and will continue to collect subjects through February. I also produced a 2023 Calendar featuring 24 of the men, at a press run of 250. I have, to date, sold or given away about half of them. They are selling in five retail outlets throughout the Island. I also have ordered a dozen 20" x 24" canvas prints with a walnut drop shadow frame. I have commitments to display them in both the Coupeville & Oak Harbor libraries. I hope I am accepted to attend the Chico book review in Montana this coming March to get portfolio reviews and lots of advice about publishing this collection as a book. You can currently see the entire collection at: https//:whidbeyphoto.com/whidbey-beards. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2022


This was my third trip to Papua New Guinea, and it will be my last. For a number of reasons this was one of the worst trips I've done:

1. I didn't receive my visa until literally the day before I was due to leave.

2. It involved 12 flights and the trip cost was twice what I had paid before. With long layovers, two cancellations and the rebooking involved I spent more time waiting in airports and on planes that I did actually at my destination.

3. Myself, Anny a woman from France, and Sandy a veteran traveler from New Zealand found ourselves lumped in with eleven people from Poland who treated us like we were invisible. After an initial confrontation with them where they kept an entire village waiting for them for two hours while they insisted on a hot meal for a second lunch, we spent the rest of the trip trying to avoid them. That meant constantly changing our itinerary, and them bumping us from the best accommodations.

4. We encountered "civil unrest" which closed down the airport for most of a day on our return trip, and the sound of gunshots. Sandy experienced even more violence when he returned from the post-trip scuba diving on the coast where there were riots in the town of Kimbe, and he needed a police escort to get to the airport with roads blocked by burning trash, and then the airport there was also closed for most of a day.

The highlights of the trip involved my travel companions Anny and Sandy, my reunion with Big Man Ronnie and his son Jonah in their village Kuminabit, and the primary reason I went: to attend the Goroka Sing-Sing.

On my first trip to PNG I photographed Jonah when he was eight years old in 2015. You can see that photo by going to that post. He is standing buck naked with a crocodile over his shoulder. When I returned in 2017 he knew I was one of his favorites, despite being deaf since birth, and when I left the village he presented me with a penis gourd. This time the gift was a crocodile skull wrapped in a woven enclosure. 

Here is Jonah, now fifteen years old. He has learned to read and write by attending school and just being very observant despite the fact that he can't hear or talk. He has developed his own sign language. His name for me is rubbing his arm, referring to my white skin, and then stroking his chin, referring to my beard.


The other highlight was the Goroka Sing-Sing. In 2015 I attended the Mount Hagen Sing-Sing and this was similar, although with some different tribes. They all spend hours putting on their makeup and costumes, then march, dance, drum, and sing their way into the arena. They don't stop once there and it ends up a cacophony of sounds, and a profusion of colors. At first only tourists (mostly with cameras) are admitted - which prove difficult to keep out of the background of my own photos - until 2pm when they let the locals into the arena. At that point it is packed with people. It is a two-day event and due to a plane cancellation, we were late arrivals on the first day. The total number of trip photos I came home with were a fraction of my usual.

The Sing-Sing experience is an explosion of sound and sights with many tribal performances going on all at the same time in a large field. Photographers are free to roam around and capture the action up close. Fill flash is important for stills because of the sun and time of day, but the best to capture the experience is video. Filmed in 2022.


Tuesday, September 27, 2022



On the way to Papua New Guinea and on the way back I had layovers in Singapore. I purposely took an extra day on the way there so I could visit my favorite bird park: Jarong Bird Park. I've been there before and this day spent my entire day there.

I stayed at a hotel actually in the shopping mall adjacent to the airport that is a convenient walk. It is called Yotelair, and provides very small rooms where you hardly need to get out of bed to go to the bathroom. But it is clean, the bed is motorized so you can sit up, and the shower is deluxe. The mall is called Jewel and is five floors built around a giant fountain that spews water from the top, and is lit in different colors in the evening.

                      Hotel room:

The bird park itself is going to be combined with the Singapore Zoo in the next few months. It has two great shows with birds that fly around the audience. One is primarily parrots and macaws, and the other is raptors. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Monday, June 13, 2022


Visiting Port Townsend for a getaway weekend. It is a very historic town with many buildings from the Victorian period when it was the main port in the Northwest. That changed when the railroad didn't come all the way there, and Seattle became the main shipping port. 

A paper mill saved the town, providing employment and it is still making corrugated cardboard.

It also still has a thriving boat building dry dock.

We stayed in the Starrett House (Air B&B) which was completed in 1898 by a boat builder. The home has been carefully restored and refurbished and was like stepping back a century.

Saturday, May 21, 2022


 A trip to attend the opening of Beatriz Bearden's paintings using my photographs of Buddhist monks.

Pamelagrace added musical entertainment, singing her classic jazz songs most of the evening.

Spent three days in the ancient town of Besalu.

Also did a day's tour of Girona.

And in Barcelona Toured Anton Gaudi's Granada Familia