50 of Our Favorite Photos of 2016

It was a bit of an odd year for us in 2016. While we did some trips around the Midwest in the first half of the year (and Kris went to Baja California by herself) we didn't do much until June. Two reasons for that: we bought a small condo in Saint Paul, Minnesota, to serve as a base of operations and the occasional respite from traveling. And, we welcomed our first grandchild, Arthur, on June 8. Of course that happened during our first major trip of the year to Quebec. So we had to wait a week to meet him.

You can read about our mixed feelings about slowing down here.

But, in June we picked things up again, traveling to Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, Canada for our first time to that part of North America. We then went all the way the other direction, to China and Korea. And we ended the year by going to Rome and Croatia with our son, our daughter-in-law, and grandbaby. I added on a trip to Spain with my old college friend to that trip.

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So, while we started sort of slow, we finished strong.

I chose 50 photos from the year. My goal was to represent most of the places we went. I tried to pick most of my favorites. But, honestly, I left out a lot of photos that I liked. If you like these, I encourage you to work your way back through the posts on the blog and see many, many, others that you might like better. Also, I still have lots of photos from 2016 that I haven't posted yet. They'll be coming along someday. In the meantime, I also encourage you to follow me on Instagram. I post there (almost) every day.

Empire state building new york city
New York City

Table of Contents

[1] Empire State Building, New York City

Our first trip of 2016 was to New York City for the New York Times Travel Show. We stayed in a hotel east of the Javits Center and walked home each evening after the show. The misty weather made this soft glow in the clouds from the brightly lit Empire State Building.

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Iowa along I-80

[2] Snow on a Field, near Adair, Iowa

Every year we take a driving trip or two from Saint Paul, Minnesota, where we live now, to Council Bluffs, Iowa to visit my mother. While Kris is driving, I usually aim my camera out the car window and fire a series of shots at the onrushing Iowa landscape. Those of you who think Iowa is flat like Kansas are wrong. It's one rolling hill after another, and in January, it's usually covered in snow.

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[3] Early Morning, Stone Arch Bridge, Minneapolis

When we're in the Twin Cities, we try to do a little bit of home tourism. Sometimes, that takes the form of just getting up early on a Sunday morning to take in the view across the Mississippi River's Stone Arch Bridge to the Minneapolis skyline. I got there early enough to see the low sun on the buildings, and the moon still hanging in the western sky.

Minneapolis grain elevators
Mississippi River view, Minneapolis

[4] Gold Medal Flour Grain Elevator, Minneapolis

The history of Minneapolis is inexorably tied to its location at the head of the Mississippi and its surrounding rich fields of grain. General Mills and Cargill, two of the world's largest food companies. And evidence of their earlier operations is preserved all over the Twin Cities, but especially along the river, the northern terminus of a world wide food shipping history.

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Joshua Tree National Park, California

[5] Night Stars, Joshua Tree National Park, California

My first real trip of the year outside the Midwest was to Joshua Tree National Park for a three day driving and camping extravaganza. We were provided cars to drive around Southern California, and I managed to put nearly 1000 miles on the cars seeing everything from Los Angeles to Palm Springs to some very strange art installations in the remote desert. But the real reason I went was to do some star shooting in the clear desert night air. Here is the result. It was worth nearly freezing myself to death to get it. Yes, the desert really does get very cold at night.

salvation mountain california
Salvation Mountain, Southern California

[6] Salvation Mountain, California

One stop on the above mentioned driving trip was the very strange painted rock and abandoned car religious monument called Salvation Mountain, near the Salton Sea. What was going through this guy's mind is hard to say. But I suspect he had an acquaintance with some of the mind altering substances the Mohave desert is famously noted for providing.

gunflint lake minnesota canada
Gunflint Lake, Minnesota

[7] Gunflint Lake, Boundary Waters, Minnesota

After making it back to Minnesota, Kris and I decided to spice up the late spring with a trip north to the Gunflint Trail and the Canadian border. It's one of the wildest areas of the United States, as the Boundary Waters Voyageurs National Park allows no motorized vehicles of any kind. We stopped short of the canoe trip we've taken in the past, because, well, the canoeing wasn't too good on the still frozen boundary lakes. That's Canada in the background on the other side of the lake, by the way.

north shore lake superior
North Shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota

[8] North Shore, Lake Superior, Minnesota

The trip to the northern part of Minnesota is usually based somewhere along the North Shore of Lake Superior, which is lined by one state park after another. Some, on the lake side, provide lovely hikes and vistas of the “Big Lake They Call Gitche Gumee.” Others have hikes that lead you away from the lake up the river valleys and waterfalls which feed Superior. Both are spectacular. This is from Split Rock Lighthouse State Park, north of the lighthouse itself.

SAC Museum omaha
Strategic Air Command Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

[9] Strategic Air Command Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

If you grew up during the Cold War, you know at least something of the Strategic Air Command. It was headquartered outside Omaha, and they've built a nice museum there full of bombers and missiles and all sorts of other airplanes just out to the west. The missiles you see here are retired versions of ones still in the silos across the northern midwestern states. A look back on our recent past, and we hope, never to be future.

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University of Nebraska, Lincoln

[10] Sheldon Museum of Art, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

We took a driving trip through the eastern part of Nebraska in late spring, and of course, ended up in Lincoln. We did tour the Nebraska football complex. It's hard to go to Lincoln and not do so. But as we walked the campus, we stumbled upon a beautiful little art museum designed by the famous architect, Philip Johnson. Some very nice exhibits of both frontier oriented and modern art, but, as often happens, I was struck by the building itself.

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Lincoln, Nebraska Air Show

[11] Air Show, Lincoln, Nebraska

We lucked out on our visit to Lincoln because it was the weekend of the annual Air Show. We got to see the Navy Blue Angels show their skills, but even more interesting to me was the appearance of three World War II vintage fighter planes, including this P-38 Lightning, here seen flying with a new Air Force F-22 Raptor. Note the size (and expense) difference. A sad footnote to this exciting day was that one of the Blue Angel pilots was killed the following weekend at another air show.

omaha durham museum
Durham Museum, Omaha, Nebraska

[12] The Durham Museum Lobby, Omaha, Nebraska

The old Union Station in Omaha has been turned into a combination railroad and Omaha history museum. It's another of the beautiful terminals that are no longer used for their original purpose, but we're grateful Omaha did such a great job of preserving the station and making it into a museum entirely worth visiting. Because, to a large degree, Omaha was the gateway to the west, and there's a lot of history there.

omaha johnny's steak house bar
Johnny's Steak House, Omaha

[13] The Bar, Johnny's Steak House, Omaha, Nebraska

Johnny's Steak House, bordering the old Union Stockyards of Omaha, is another remnant of an almost bygone era. The Omaha stockyards, once the largest in the United States, closed in 1999, but Johnny's is still an Omaha institution, serving up the steaks that used to be produced just across the street. Johnny's was one of the locations of the movie About Schmidt, starring Jack Nicholson, and directed by Omaha favorite son, Alexander Payne. The restaurant was closed when we showed up, but the manager graciously gave us a tour in the early afternoon.

iowa farm panorama spring
Near Ames, Iowa

[14] Farm, near Ames, Iowa

On our way back to the Twin Cities from the Nebraska jaunt, I pulled off I-35 just to shoot this. My new Sony camera has a panorama setting. This might be the first time I used it. I like it.

national eagle center wabasha minnesota
Wabasha, Minnesota

[15] National Eagle Center, Wabasha, Minnesota

I also took a brief trip down the Mississippi River south from the Twin Cities this year. I stopped for the tour at the National Eagle Center at Wabasha. There I found out that Minnesota has more bald eagles than any other state but Alaska. It's because of all our lakes provide good fishing for the big birds. In addition to studying eagles in the wild, the Eagle Center also cares for eagles that have been injured. Some are able to be released back into the wild after rehab, but others, with permanent injuries cannot fend for themselves. So, the Center gives them a permanent home and lets us visitors get a very close look at their magnificent profiles.

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Saint Paul, Minnesota

[16] Downtown, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Since March, we've had a small condo in Saint Paul that serves as our home base when we're here. One day, I decided to try out my new Sony camera and took the train to Downtown Saint Paul and just walked around, what I must admit, is relatively unknown territory. (We've always lived in Minneapolis.) Of course, Saint Paul has its own charms, such as the old buildings reflected in the windows of the new.

ship on saint lawrence quebec
Saint Lawrence Seaway, Quebec, Canada

[17] Saint Lawrence Seaway, near Quebec City, Canada

In June, we finally made it out of the US for the first time of the year, flying into Quebec City, Canada for our first visit there. The Saint Lawrence really is really big, as we could see from the air.

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Quebec City, Canada

[18] Le Chateau Frontenac Hotel, Quebec City, Canada

The so called Citadelle of Quebec is now a luxury hotel, framed by a statue of Quebec's founder, Samuel de Champlain.

quebec city sundown
Quebec City

[19] Looking up at old Quebec from the Saint Lawrence shore, Quebec City, Canada

We took the ferry across the river to get a look at Old Quebec lit up at night. I made a lot of exposures from the other side, but I think I actually liked this one as the sun set and before the lights all came on, the best.

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Notre Dame Basilica, Quebec

[20] Basilica of Notre Dame, Quebec City, Canada

Anyone who knows me knows that I can't resist shooting the churches of any city we visit. Notre Dame of Quebec is a fine example of North American baroque. Lovely and ornate, but not horribly overdone.

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Saint Lawrence Seaway, Quebec

[21] Fin Whale the Saint Lawrence, Tadoussac, Quebec, Canada

A tour of Maritime Quebec wouldn't be complete without a Zodiac boat ride far out into the seaway to see the fin whales who congregate there to feed on the rich river bottom. Fin whales don't breach like other species, so all we got to see was their arched backs. But the sun glinting off their shiny skin was lovely in its minimalism.

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Saguenay, Quebec

[22] Young Black Bear, Saguenay, Quebec, Canada

While hiking around the Saguenay area, we were able to stop at an observation post just to watch an area where bears often come to feed. The guides do leave food out for the bears to find and amuse the tourists–with the bears, not the food. We didn't have to wait long for a young male to show up and start sniffing around. The guide said he was recently separated from his mother and was probably about two years old. He was very wary, as young bears can often be killed by older males who are not their fathers. This guy checked out the area for a long time before he finally settled down to lunch.

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Saguenay, Quebec

[23] Mars River, Saguenay, Quebec, Canada

Yes, the water really was that color. Because of all the decaying vegetation recently uncovered by the melting snow, and the natural release of tannins from the pine trees. And, it was really that loud, too. There had been lots of rain recently, and it was roaring.

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Saguenay, Quebec

[24] Eternity Bay, Saguenay, Quebec, Canada

On our tour of Saguenay, we had a choice of hiking, kayaking, or rock climbing using the via ferrata method. Kris refuses to act her age and so went rock climbing. I took a 10 kilometer hike up and down some steep rocks overlooking the Saguenay Fjord. I'm not sure I took the easiest trek. But I think I got the most beautiful views.

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Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada

[25] Kris Rock Climbing, Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada

As you can see by the angle, I stayed on the ground to document my intrepid wife's insanity. There's no stopping her if she decides she's going to do something. She's the second from the top, if you are keeping score.

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Ste. Anne, Quebec

[26] Canyon Ste. Anne, Quebec, Canada

As Kris did even more rock climbing and zip lining, I climbed above it all at the private park at Canyon Ste Anne, and got this shot. I think I won that one. And my knees didn't hurt like hers did.

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Basilica of Notre Dame, Montreal, Canada

[27] Altar, Basilica of Notre Dame, Montreal, Canada

This is my favorite church in North America, probably because of its Neo Gothic style, combined with the brilliant blues afforded it by modern lighting techniques. Blue is the color of the Virgin Mary, and they don't skimp on it here in her French style church.

Context Travel Montreal forager marche jean talon montreal
Outdoor Market, Montreal

[28] Mushroom Seller, Marche Jean Talon, Montreal, Canada

Two of the things we always do when we can: visit local food markets, and take tours from Context Travel. In Montreal, we got to combine those pleasures and get a knowledgable intro to the local food scene. I took a hundred pics, and ate a hundred bites. But I was mostly intrigued by this shop that features things they've literally dug up in the local forests.

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Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada

[29] Tidal Flats, Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, Canada

After a brief return to the U.S. our Canadian adventure picked up again with two weeks in the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. These are the two provinces that border the famous Bay of Fundy, which has the highest (and lowest) tides in the world. When the tide is out, this is what you see.

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Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

[30] The Highland Games, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada

Again we lucked out as we arrived in Fredericton just in time for the annual Highland Games Festival, which included a lot of huge men throwing heavy things, and, of course, lots of bagpipes. One wonders how a town the size of this can have so many people who play the bagpipes. But, it's kind of a thing here.

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Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada

[31] Sunset, Dark Harbour, Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada

One of the unexpected pleasures of our trip to New Brunswick was the two days we spent on Grand Manan Island. It really is an island, with all that goes with it, including accents that vary from mile to mile up and down the small chunk of land. There's only one east-west road on the whole island and we took it one evening to the west side to get a look at the sunset. Here you go.

annapolis valley nova scotia
Nova Scotia, Canada

[32] Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, Canada

When we landed in Nova Scotia the first night, we were directed on a 20 mile drive to get the “best lobster in the province.” We ate a lot of great lobster in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but this ride along the ridge over the Annapolis Valley might have been the “best overlook in the province.”

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Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, Canada

[33] Statue of Evangeline, Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, Canada

One of the many sad tales of the history of North America is that of the French Canadians (Acadians) who were expelled from their Nova Scotia homes by the victorious British after the French and Indian War. The story of the Acadian exile is told in the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow epic poem, Evangeline. Evangeline is also immortalized by a statue in front of the Acadian church. The site is now home to a small museum and is designated a Unesco World Heritage site.

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Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada

[34] Cabot Trail, near Saint Ann, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada

I shot hundreds of photos as we drove along the Cabot Trail route around Cape Breton island in Nova Scotia. It was hard to pick my favorite to feature here but I settled on this one, because we just saw what looked like the perfect picture postcard to send from our drive.

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Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada

[35] Tidal Marsh, Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, Canada

We got to Lunenburg, the old preserved city that's on the Unesco World Heritage list, at low tide. We drove around the bay to get a look at the town and discovered that at low tide it was easy to walk out into the bay on the seaweed encrusted bottom. Two Lunenburg natives had the same idea. And the same hats.

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Near Santa Fe, New Mexico

[36] Near Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

When it comes to landscapes it is just hard to beat the American West. The scenes are everywhere. Sometimes they're worth stopping the car and backing up on the deserted highway a couple hundred yards to get them.

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Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

[37] Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, USA

The great western photographer Ansel Adams made the first book he ever published out of his black and white shots of Taos Pueblo shot in the 1920s. I don't think it's changed much since then, and I also like the look of it in black and white. (Click here to see my other photos of Taos Pueblo.)

yellow flowers horse mesa ranch nm
Raton, New Mexico

[38] Horse Mesa, Raton, New Mexico, USA

Kris and I have a friend who owns a ranch on the high mesa on the New Mexico-Colorado border near Raton. When we're lucky enough to get invited for a few days, we get some stormy weather and some views like this.

Honk Kong victoria Harbour
Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

[39] Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong

We booked our stay in Hong Kong at the aptly named Panorama Hotel. If you could stand all the people standing on the penthouse promenade smoking cigarettes, this was one of the views across from Kowloon.

macau pawn shops
Macau, China

[40] Pawn Shops, Macau, China

You see a lot of them in Las Vegas, too. The pawn shops that naturally spring up outside casinos. Macau, of course, is the gambling Mecca of China. And, should you want a very expensive watch for a relative bargain, there are hundreds of monuments to chasing inside straights in the brightly lit windows only a block from the Macau Wynn Casino.

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Taipei, Taiwan

[41] Confucius Temple, Taipei, Taiwan

The joy expressed by the exuberant colors of eastern temples is hard to deny. And this one is maybe more joyful than most.

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Taipei, Taiwan

[42] Baoan Buddhist Temple, Taipei, Taiwan

Compared to the almost deserted Confucius Temple just across the street, this Buddhist temple was bustling with petitioners. Every shrine had burning incense and clapping prayers. Don't really understand how Buddhism works this way. But, it's a beautiful temple. And that's what attracted me.

Seoul, South Korea

[43] Dongdaemun Design Plaza, Seoul, South Korea

Perhaps more impressive than the riot of modern design in Seoul is how this plaza serves as a natural gathering place for thousands of people every night. Food carts, live music, skate boarding exhibitions, and just a general festive atmosphere makes for a small community atmosphere within an enormous city.

Seoul, South Korea

[44] Jongmyo Shrine, Seoul, South Korea

Note, that this is a shrine, not a temple. The records going back centuries of the Korean royal family are kept here, and no one except the royals is allowed to step on the porch of the shrine. So, you have to sneak up on the side a little bit to get a shot down the red colonnade. And if the sun is just right, you get some nice effects.

Seoul, South Korea

[45] Women in Traditional Dress, Gyeongbokgung Palace, Seoul, South Korea

It was a national holiday in Korea, which meant that many people were visiting some of the Seoul tourist attractions such as the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Evidently, if you dressed in traditional Korean dress, you got into the palace grounds for free. And then you posed for pictures for yourself and anyone else that asked.

Great Wall, China

[46] The Great Wall, near Badaling, China

What can you say except that they have this really long and big wall in China. There've been millions of photographs made of it. This is one. I do kind of like it though.

Lhasa, Tibet

[47] Rainbow over Lhasa Tibet, China

I got lucky on this one. Lhasa is one of the sunniest cities in the world, with over 330 days of sun per year. But it rained while we were there, and when it stopped, I happened to be on the roof of our hotel with my camera.

Yangtze River, China

[48] Three Gorges Dam, Yangtze River, China

The largest public power project in the world, that flooded the home of millions of people in the river valley. Never, ever, underestimate the determination of the Chinese people to do whatever they want. That's what I thought of when I saw this.

Split, Croatia

[49] The Peristyle, Diocletian's Palace, Split, Croatia

I got up at 3 a.m. to make this shot of the signature element of the Roman Emperor Diocletian's palace in Split, Croatia. The Emperor put his stately palace on the temperate eastern shore of the Adriatic, and ruled from here as the economic power of the Roman empire moved steadily eastward toward Constantinople. Since then, the palace has become the building blocks of the center of old Split as the city has grown up around and in what used to be one man's summer home.

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Salamanca, Spain

[50] The Choir, Cathedral of Salamanca, Spain

My final trip of the year, by myself, to Salamanca, Spain. I love to shoot cathedrals, which are the repositories of so much of the very best of western art. Salamanca is one of the good ones, and I loved making this shot showing off the carved choir seats and backdrops, the organ, and the beautiful ceiling.

Home, Saint Paul, Minnesota

And finally, my real favorite pic of the year of my two favorite people in the world. My wife and partner, Kristin Henning, and my new grandson Arthur Bartel. They make me very, very happy.

We've done a year-end photo post since we started Travel Past 50 in 2013. Here are links to all the annual photo posts: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019.

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7 thoughts on “50 of Our Favorite Photos of 2016”

  1. Tom, these are stunning! You’ve brought back memories of places we’ve been and also of places on ‘the list’. As I wrote on Kristin’s post, we can so relate to your tale of change.

  2. I just stumbled across your blog and I’m glad I did! These are beautiful photos–they’re really inspiring me to knock out one of my major travel goals! I’ve been wanting to do a cross-country trip. America is such a big, diverse place and there’s so much to see.

    How was Taiwan? I lived over there a few years ago. Did you get to visit the National Palace Museum? My favorite thing there was that rock that looks kind of like a chunk of meat, haha!

    • Thanks, Angelica. America is certainly worth the drive. It’s a beautiful country full of beautiful people. Taiwan was a trip, too. We liked it very much. And yes, the Palace Museum is amazing. They sure got a lot of art out of the mainland before the complete takeover.


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