2016 – A Year of Travel In 65 Black and White Photographs

In 2016 I catapulted across the 50 country mark with visits to several destinations that have captivated my imagination since I was a kid, but long sat neglected on my bucket list. The trips also included several very welcome surprises which reminded me that the more I travel the larger the world becomes and the more there is to explore and discover.

It has also been a year marked by exciting new achievements and significant growth in my photography, videography and photo editing understanding. Perhaps the most interesting pivot has been experimenting with back button focus, which is fundamentally changed the way I shoot.

I’ve also started to experiment more with filters (if on a limited level) and actively pivoted from shooting predominantly using aperture priority, to a shutter speed priority first approach which also uses 2-3x the speed the camera suggested via Av. For my Tanzania Safari, I also began to experiment more with a full-manual approach where and when I needed the speed, but also wanted to ensure a higher aperture.

This post is part of an annual tradition where I post my 65 favorite black and white photos from 2016 and my 65 favorite color shots.  For previous years, check out 2012, 20132014 and 2015 and of course, don’t miss the color post from 2016. As with last year, the photos from my end of the year trip fall on the following year. This means the 4,000 Tanzania shots from December 2016 will appear in my 2017 post and that in this post, you’ll find all of the shots from my 2015 December trip to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Questions about how I composed or took a specific photo? Feel free to ask in a comment. You’re also encouraged to check out my complete flickr albums here.

Ta Prohm - Angkor - Cambodia

Ta Prohm, Cambodia

Kirkjufellsfoss - Snæfellsnes - Iceland

Kirkjufellsfoss, Iceland

The Bangkok Skyline

Bangkok, Thailand

2016 – A Year of Travel In 65 Color Photographs

In 2016 I catapulted across the 50 country mark with visits to several destinations that have captivated my imagination since I was a kid, but long sat neglected on my bucket list. The trips also included several very welcome surprises which reminded me that the more I travel the larger the world becomes and the more there is to explore and discover.

It has also been a year marked by exciting new achievements and significant growth in my photography, videography and photo editing understanding. Perhaps the most interesting pivot has been experimenting with back button focus, which is fundamentally changed the way I shoot.

I’ve also started to experiment more with filters (if on a limited level) and actively pivoted from shooting predominantly using aperture priority, to a shutter speed priority first approach which also uses 2-3x the speed the camera suggested via Av. For my Tanzania Safari, I also began to experiment more with a full-manual approach where and when I needed the speed, but also wanted to ensure a higher aperture.

This post is part of an annual tradition where I post my 65 favorite color photos from 2016 and my 65 favorite black and white photos.  For previous years, check out 2012, 20132014 and 2015 and of course, don’t miss the black and white post from 2016. As with last year, the photos from my end of the year trip fall on the following year. This means the 4,000 Tanzania shots from December 2016 will appear in my 2017 post and that in this post, you’ll find all of the shots from my 2015 December trip to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Questions about how I composed or took a specific photo? Feel free to ask in a comment. You’re also encouraged to check out my complete flickr albums here.

The Fishermen of Inle Lake

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Cliffs on the way to Látrabjarg in Iceland

Western Fjords, Iceland

Kampong Phluk - Cambodia

Kampong Phluk, Cambodia

The Nearly Perfect 10 Day Trip to Myanmar – Leg 2: Bagan

**Sadly, due to recent events, I’m adding this note and suspending the series before completing Part III. In October and November 2016, an increase in violence in the northern regions has led to a number of village burnings and significant loss of life. As a result, I encourage anyone considering a visit to research events and the current status before making any decisions. For the time being, it looks like many of the recent gains made are being eroded.** 
Welcome to Part II of my three part series exploring Myanmar. When we decided to visit Myanmar, we wanted to explore a country we knew very little about. You can read up on all of the misconceptions we had before going in this post. Just joining? Jump back to Part I here.

Life in Old Bagan - Myanmar

Myanmar (formerly Burma), is a wonderful country that recently started to open up again to travel. To recap my previous post, it’s; 1) safe 2) easy to get around 3 ) easy to access 4) still very affordable and, 5) already has a comfortable tourist infrastructure. For some familiar with the earthquake in August 2016, the majority of the damage was to repairs that had been made during a controversial series of repairs 10-20 years ago. In essence, it wiped the slate clean. Everything I’ve seen and read says that most of the temples and pagodas impacted are being repaired rapidly and will re-open soon, if they have not already done so.

Bagan - Myanmar

It’s also worth noting that the famous balloons over Bagan only fly seasonally. So, if you go in July like we did, you will not see them. They’re also extremely expensive. Lastly, we didn’t fly, but apparently most of the material about the internal airlines being extremely unsafe is 2+ years out of date with the Government overhauling things and replacing aged aircraft with new ones.

Navigating Bagan - Myanmar

A Day and a Half Spent Driving Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Photos

Is a four day solo road trip through Iceland enough to properly explore the country?

Absolutely not. But, it sure does make for one heck of a brilliant teaser.

My visit to Iceland’s Westfjords left off as I hopped the small car ferry from the Ferry Baldur terminal. The ferry took me across perfectly flat seas, stopped briefly at the car-less island of Flatey, and continued on before docking at Stykkishólmur on  Snæfellsnes peninsula. The following day and a half was spent exploring Snæfellsnes, photographing waterfalls, walking old volcanic craters, and even spotting an Orca from the cliffs.  It was beautiful and included amazing experiences with locals as I stumbled into the local annual Fisherman’s Festival.  This post showcases photos taken during the ferry ride and my time spent on Snæfellsnes. 

A Visual Tour of Iceland’s Westfjords

Is a four day solo road trip through Iceland enough to properly explore the country?

Absolutely not.

Is it, however, enough time to run up into the largely deserted Westernfjords, roam brilliant empty fjords, see puffins, and then hop a ferry down to Snaefellsnes for a taste of more waterfalls, extinct volcanos and gorgeous Icelandic horses?

Absolutely.

I’ll talk a bit in a future post about just how powerful, liberating, and wonderful a solo road trip like this is. But, for now, I want to take you through a visual tour (in color) of my road trip through Iceland’s Westfjords. According to one statistic I read before the trip, fewer than 11% of visitors to Iceland visit the region in the far Northwest and in this instance, that lack of tourism is great news for people eager to explore a vibrant but more natural and less touristic Iceland.

The Beauty and Grace of Icelandic Horses

Ahh yes, the Icelandic Horse. Famed for their beauty, their charm and their long-flowing majestic Fabio-esque locks. For years I’ve seen dramatic photos of Iceland’s famed horses cutting the most perfect poses. At times they’d feature wild eyes and a raw untamed beauty which seemed to practically whisper “Iceland”. Other photos feature raven colored locks blown by the wind and snow that would surely put even Jon Snow to shame. Though, one can’t muse on Jon Snow’s obsidian locks without also paying homage to the rugged feminine beauty of Ygritte, but she too faces the most flattering of challengers in the bonfire-lit-beauty of many a native Icelandic horse’s flowing ginger mane.

The only problem was…when I got to Iceland, I seemed to find their B team. Who knows, perhaps the others had all been called to the East to film the final two seasons of Game of Thrones. Or, perhaps I just caught them celebrating having survived the final battle in Season 6th. Either way…these were MY Icelandic horses. Crazy beautiful? Or just crazy. I’ll let you decide.

Icelandic Horses - Snæfellsnes Peninsula
The inbred great grandson of Mr. Ed?

Icelandic Horses - Snæfellsnes Peninsula

Someone forgot to call?

Southeast Asia – What I Expected vs. What I Experienced

I felt the grinding sound of the landing gear lowering below my feet. That hydraulic rumble that reminds me you’re most of the way through your descent and about to return to terra firma. The palms of my hands were starting to sweat and I felt a rock in my stomach.  Despite previous trips, my last foray into a wildly different culture had been a couple years previous and done with family. This time, I was alone and couldn’t help by second guess my decision.

Exploring Koh Lanta

As the ground raced up to greet me, I looked out over Ho Chi Minh’s skyline.  It was strange…dry….brown…it almost looked familiar.  In fact, it reminded me of landing in Mexico. The buildings, their angularity, their coloration and the semi-organized chaos.

The Four Island Tour

Then with a bump, we made contact. The fear and second guessing subsided, replaced by excitement and acceptance. No matter if I’d made a good choice or not, what would follow would be roughly 19 days of exploration, wandering, and discover.

Lost in Bangkok - Thailand

Though elements of Ho Chi Minh continued to remind me of parts of Mexico – in no small part due to the mixture of humidity, heat, and oft-present sun – Vietnam quickly differentiated itself.  In this post I’ll share a few random observations that stuck out for me as I made my way through the trip, tasting Vietnam, skipping through Cambodia, and swimming just off the beaches of Southern Thailand.

A 7 Day Road Trip Through Rural Scotland – The Final Leg

This is the conclusion to my series documenting my road trip through Scotland’s remote rural areas. Start at the beginning (highlands), jump to part II (Skye), or see Part III (Ullapool to Durness). 

The crisp morning air made it difficult to drag myself out from beneath the mound of heavy down blankets the hostel had opted for in place of heaters. With a groan and a roll I pulled myself upright and then wormed my toes into my boots. It didn’t take long before I started to come back to life as I noticed that beyond the nearby windows, the weather looked pleasant. A revisit to Smoo Cave with its subterranean waterfall chamber had been one of the primary draws which had pulled me towards the northwestern tip of Scotland. With a yawn and a stretch, it was time to hurry down for one of the first cave tours of the day – all in the hope that I would beat out the inevitable flooding that came each afternoon as the Scottish summer rains dumped their load on to the rain-drenched hillsides of the rugged Scottish glens situated a few miles to the south. Inevitably, when the rains found their way to already damp creek beds it would quickly flood them and turn each into small rivers racing gleefully, like highland sprites, towards the coast.

A Cold Beach - Northern Scotland

The evening before had been uncharacteristically dry by the time I reached Smoo with naught but a gentle rain earlier in the afternoon. In the fading light of the late afternoon, I had paused to capture the beautiful colors and otherworldly visage of the waterfall from a wooden platform carefully constructed just inside the chamber long ago carved out by the falls’ hammering fists. Both that evening and the following morning found the falls relaxed, gentle, and calm. Nowhere near the raging torrent I’d encountered some years back during my first visit.  At that time, even to approach the railing left us with water in our eyes and our jackets soaked through.

The Portal to Smoo Cave - Durness, Scotland

To my delight there were only a couple of us waiting to commence the quick tour. With 4 GBP in hand I donned my hardhat and kept myself busy wandering the grand chamber that serves as the mouth to the cave. The chamber, carved by the sea, is a wondrous thing and the type of place that has shaped and inspired the greatest of stories through the millennia. From a dragon’s fossilized maw to a dark and treacherous home to trolls and sea sirens, Smoo Cave could easily serve as inspiration for it all.