2016 Year in Review

A review of my photography year for 2016.  This marks the fourth year in a row I have done a Year in Review.  You can check out my past YIR for 2013, 2014, and 2015 here Year in Review

2016 has been a very good year for me in photography.  I have gotten to see some great light, experience some wonderful dark skies, saw the aurora for the first time, and finally got a stamp in my passport!

The year in photography always starts for me going out for sunrise on January 1.  It is a tradition I started in 2000 and shows no sign of ending.  I have yet to get a great image at sunrise on January 1 but that has never bothered me.  Just getting up to greet the sunrise on New Years Day has become one of my favorite traditions.

January saw me out photographing locally and it also took me to Salt Lake City.  There I got to catch a sunset and sunrise on Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.  What a super location.  Just a 30 minutes drive from downtown SLC and you are on an island that with snow looks very, very far away from anywhere.  Almost other worldly.  In a way the water, ice, and snowy peaks looked like something almost polar.  Add in seeing a few bison and it was a great winter experience.

February and March had me photographing locally.  February marks the start of Milky Way photography season as the galactic core becomes visible again.  In February it is just for a few minutes right before dawn and I have been visiting a spot on the Brazos River where I can see it rising in the east.

March also took me to San Diego and San Bernardino.  It was not a photography trip and the traffic in So Cal is so bad I was never able to get to the mountains, when I got to La Jolla I was able to get out to see one sunset with the waves crashing on the rocky coastline.  It turned out to be a good sunset and made up for a few days of traffic frustration.

April brings bluebonnets to Texas and I spent a few days in search of wildflowers and sunrises.  The clouds did not cooperate on most of my drives but finally I did catch one very good sunrise and added another good bluebonnet picture to my collection.

I also did a trip to New Mexico and west Texas.  A quick visit to the Guadalupe Mountains.  Followed by a night on the Lost Mesa specifically for a Milky Way image.  Yes, I planned a trip and a drive of hundreds of miles for one image.  Then I drove down to Big Bend to spend a week in the desert.  I planned this trip for the new moon and am glad I did as we had little in the way of good light and lots of clear sky.  It made from some good changes for the Milky Way.

In Big Bend, I also did an overnight backpack to the South Rim of the Chisos.  Two gallons of water weighs about 17 pounds and I had to carry that much for just an overnight.  Well worth the weight as I was able to sit on the rim and stare off into the distance.

May took me on a trip to the Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks.  These are both very popular parks (for good reason).  I did a few hikes and caught an incredible sunrise at the Grand Canyon that made the trip.  I was also able to get a few Milky Way images from the Grand Canyon that I really liked.  I had wanted to see what my Sony A7S could do with the dark of the canyon and as always it came through with some great images.  On a no moon night, the canyon is normally too dark to be anything more than black on an image, but the might little A7S sees in the dark!  In Zion I did get in a few hikes, but did not get to wade the Narrows as the river was too high from spring snow melt.

As summer heated up I turn my attention to night photography.  Texas in the summer is hot, green and usually very clear skies.  I then plan new moon trips out to photograph the Milky Way.  I spent many summer nights out wading in the Nolan River chasing the Milky Way.  Standing there in water in the dark looking at the stars is fun.  If I get lucky I also see some lightening bugs.

Late summer I was in Ohio and went to to explore the Hocking Hills area south of Columbus.  Some great areas of dells, creeks, hills and small waterfalls.  Made for a great evening to get out with my camera in a completely new area.  This was one of those times I was not really on a photography trip but as I seem to always do, I took my little NEX6 kit with tiny Sirui 025x tripod which gives me a great travel kit so I can get some good images in a place.

Summer always seems such a long slow season here in Texas then fall just goes very quick.  Labor Day always marks the start of camping season for me as it begins to cool down at night.  I start chasing fall color, do some travel, and before you know it Christmas is here.   
September had me off to Wyoming for a week.  I put together a solo trip into Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  I timed it for the new moon and went specifically to get in some Milky Way photography in both parks.  I had several images planned.  The parks are beginning to shut down then and a few campgrounds were already closed but I was still able to see sights I wanted to see.  I caught an epic sunset in Yellowstone followed by a couple of nights where I stood out by thermal features in the dark with the Milky Way
shining above.  I even caught some bright green on the northern horizon.  It was my first siting of the northern lights!  Yellowstone at night was better than I could have thought!  Two nights was nowhere near enough and I know I need to go back.  The Tetons were also super for night photography.  In September the Milky Way is already in the southwest right after dark allowing me to get some great views of the Tetons with the Milky Way.  Now in neither park did I see a bear.  I had my bear spray and standing out there in the dark alone, I am always cautious and alert but no bears this trip.

I was only home a week from Wyoming in Early October and then was off to Alaska!  I had a week to visit Juneau and Anchorage.  This was my second trip to Alaska and it remains as fantastic as I remember it.  This was my first trip to Juneau and I got to see the Mendenhall Glacier.  It is just a few miles from town and is a short walk.  One of the things I hoped to see on the trip was the aurora.  After seeing a glimpse of them on the far horizon, I was hoping to see them in the sky above me.  Two clear nights in Juneau and nothing.

After making the hop upto Anchorage I was also hoping to see them but again there was nothing. We would drive out north of Wasilla around 10pm and look and look but nothing.  Finally one morning I was up about 0400, walked outside and saw the whole sky was dancing green with the aurora.

It was an incredible sight.

I stayed up the rest of that night taking images.  Alaska had wow'd me again. I am already giving thought to going to back to Alaska or Iceland in winter to photograph them again.

Late October saw me depart for one more trip.  I had been building my entire year around one trip and after what seemed like an eternity I boarded a flight to Scotland!  Like many people I have a list of "someday I will go there" places.  After years of thinking about those kind of trips, I decided to do one, got a plane ticket and went.  The Scottish Highlands is a place that has always fascinated me and so I built the trip around it.  Two weeks camping in the Highlands in the cold, wind and rain.  It was another solo trip as everyone thought I was crazy going then.

I loved it.  

It rained every day.  I only saw the stars twice.  I was very glad to have Gore-Tex boots as it was muddy, wet, mucky ground everywhere.  I ate porridge, fish+ chips, and scones a lot.  I camped by a haunted castle for Halloween.  

Rather than try to see it all, I picked four areas in the Highlands: Glencoe, Isle of Skye, Torridon and Assynt.  I spent about 3 days in each location.  That allowed me to explore some different areas and see some different sights.  If anything, I wanted an additional day in each area.  

All fours areas had great sights as well as castles to see.  While I am a landscape photographer, I am also fascinated by history and intrigued by castles.  So I visited several including photographing a supposedly haunted one on Halloween night.  No ghosts seen.

The mountains, rivers and waterfalls were a sight to see.

I am still looking through all the images.

It was an incredible trip and I know I will be going back again.

After a few months of travel, I spent the remaining few weeks of the year close to to home chasing fall color in north Texas.  I was afraid I would miss it this year while I was in the UK but it was a few weeks late.  I got some good days along the Trinity River, in our Japanese Garden and on drives south of Cowtown.

I sit here typing this on December 23rd (Festivus!!) planning a few last days of photography for 2016.  I will be out on Jan 1 again to welcome 2017.  I am also already putting dates and locations on the calendar for next year.  Places like Zion, Bryce, Big Bend, and maybe even Iceland.

Thankful for the what I was able to do in 2016.  Looking forward to the new year and new opportunities!

Happy Holidays and the best for the New Year!


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