Sunday, January 1, 2017

Favorite Photos of 2016

2016 was a great year of adventure for us which included trips to Costa Rica, Yellowstone, & Brazil. Plus we had a lot of great nature at our home in Arizona.

We picked the following photos as our favorites for the year not because they were of astounding quality but because they remind us of great experiences.  That's probably what we like most about photography...looking back at the photos and reliving great memories.  So, here's a look at some of our best memories from 2016.

In March, we took a week trip to Costa Rica.  It was our 5th visit but our first to the central part of the country.  We spent a few days around Arenal enjoying the vastly different landscapes than we have seen in other parts of Costa Rica.  Our first favorite is of a grove of Eucalyptus trees taken on the grounds of Arenal Observatory Lodge:

Eucalyptus Grove

One of the goals of going to the central part of Costa Rica was to find and photograph the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog (also called the Blue Jeans Frog for obvious reasons).  We struck out at Arenal but saw them everywhere at Tirimbina.  So naturally, this beautiful frog had to make the favorites list:

Strawberry Dart Frog

In May, we headed back to Yellowstone for the 9th or 10th time.  Honestly, we have lost track.  These days the park is more crowded than ever, even in May.  But, that didn't stop us from joining other folks in staking out the area where this Grizzly sow and cubs were known to be.  We only had to wait a couple hours for them to come out of the trees and graze on a nearby hill.  Watching the boundless energy of the cubs was fantastic and we managed to escape the area before too many bus loads of tourists showed up:

Grizzly with Cubs

As we were leaving Yellowstone for the last time, we lucked into a seldom seem event.  Outside of Mammoth, an Elk had just given birth and was in the process of eliminating the evidence as we happened to drive by.  This once in a lifetime encounter is another favorite:

Destroying The Evidence

Each summer, monsoon storms sweep through Arizona and bring much needed rain to the desert.  Many people don't realize how wet the Sonoran desert is.  We actually had over 14 inches of rain in 2016 and it's raining right now on New Year's Day as I write this.  The monsoon storms bring lots of wind, thunder, and lightning with them that are both frightening and amazing at the same time.  Here is a good look at the power of nature in this one photo taken with a 6 second exposure:

Catalina Lightning

In September, we crossed the #1 trip off the bucket list by heading to the Pantanal in Brazil.  This place is fantastic and we could have filled up this post with just pictures from Brazil.  As we left our first lodge (Pouso Alegre) the excitement of seeing 3 Tapir and 1 Giant Anteater the night before had yet to fully wear off.  But, just as we were about to exit the property we happened upon another Brazilian Tapir in broad daylight.  We watched it drink and then wade into a pool to cool off.  We must have spent close to 20 minutes photographing it before it slowly waded out into the forest and disappeared.  It was truly a great encounter:

What are you looking at?

Another fantastic animal in the Pantanal is the Giant Otter.  We had seen them before in Ecuador but in the Pantanal we encountered a huge group of over a dozen.  They proceeded to climb out of the water and onto the bank for some great looks at this otter which is as big as an average sized person.  Incredible...

Giant Otters

The Pantanal is also home to some amazing birds.  From the huge Jabiru Stork, to all the colorful song birds, it is truly a birders paradise.  But, it's the Macaws that truly stood out for us especially the gorgeous Hyacinth Macaw.  Not only is it the largest Macaw in the world, but its blue color is amazing to see in person:

 Hyacinth Macaw

Of course, the main reason why most people go to the Pantanal is to see Jaguar.  We were lucky enough to see 8 different Jaguars over 4 days.  We watched them sleep, swim, hunt, and go about their daily lives as if we weren't even there.  As great as that was, nothing can compare to being about 20 yards from a Jaguar when they turn and stare right at you.  It was magical:

Jaguar Stare

The Pantanal is home to a lot of giants including Anteaters, Otters, Capybara, Macaws and yes even plants.  In fact, the Giant Lilypads we saw in the lake on the grounds of the Hotel Pantanal Norte were incredible and another clear favorite.  They bloom at night so you have to get up early to catch a bloom before it closes for the day.  But, it's worth the short night's sleep:

Giant Lilypad Bloom

Our last favorite in Brazil was taken at Barranco Alto which is an amazing lodge in the Southern Pantanal.  Each night we would stop for sundowners before spotlighting back to the lodge.  On this particular night, we stopped at the shore of a salt water lake and enjoyed our snacks or cocktails watching the sun go down as a Black Skimmer looked for one last meal of the day.  That's hard to beat:

Skimming at Sunset

Finally, just like last year, we are picking our favorite trail cam photo of the year to include in this list.  We have great fun monitoring the cameras on on property which continue to have regular visits from Fox, Coyote, Bobcat, Javelina, Skunk, Birds, Kangaroo Rats, and even the occasional cow.  This year we had our first visit from a tiny baby Javelina but the photo that made this list was another capture of a beautiful bobcat:


We actually started with 40 photos to consider for this post so it was quite hard to weed it down to a dozen.  We were very fortunate to have seen some amazing wildlife and nature in 2016.  It will be hard to repeat that in 2017 but with 3 weeks already booked in Borneo we are going to try 😊.