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Best Photos of 2016 – Our (and Your!) Faves

By January 3, 2017 24 Comments

I have done the impossible.  I’ve narrowed down what I believe are our best photos of 2016.

Some I consider to be the best because of the story of how I captured it.  Others because of the reaction it got from our followers.  And others because of what the photo means to me.  Regardless of why a photo is considered one of the best, I’m so humbled by the love my photos have received this year.  I’ve been published a few times (in both print and online media), we’ve gained an incredible following and built a great community of friends on Instagram, we’ve received messages from strangers about how our photos have inspired them to do something new.  These are all such wonderful things that I hope will continue forever.

Blogger challenge - Instagram

These were our Top 9 Instagram fan favorites from 2016. Be sure to follow along!
@TheManiniExperience

 

For 2017, I hope to continue to inspire with my photos and maybe, just maybe, use the photos to my advantage a bit and get hired to do some travel photography.  Wouldn’t that be the dream job?!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to see our photos daily!  Also, if you want awesome photos of yourself in an awesome location, *cough, Puerto Rico, cough* be sure to check out our upcoming group trip.  We’ll take you on some epic adventures, participate in a couple of volunteer opportunities, and photograph you doing it all.  You know you wanna!!

Without further adieu, here are my top picks for our best photos of 2016 and the story behind each.  Enjoy!

New Zealand

Did you know that my full-time gig is as a wedding and engagement photographer?! I shot both of these photos on Piha Beach on the North Island of New Zealand.  Perfect location, perfect setting sun, and perfect couple, who was so in love.

best photos of 2016 - New Zealand

Photo by Erica

best photos of 2016 - new zealand

Photo by Erica

 

This photo was taken while cruising through the Milford Sound.  That place is unreal.  Seals lounging around on the rocks, mountains so high that your neck hurts from looking up at them, waterfalls flowing beautifully off every mountain.  It’s like a dream.

best photos of 2016 - New Zealand

Photo by Erica

 

Wanna see more of New Zealand?  Check out my video recap!

 

Lesotho

This photo was taken while watching the sunset over the valley in Ramabanta, Lesotho (pronounced luh-sue-too). Lesotho is a hidden gem of a mountainous country in southern Africa.  Home to the sweetest people you’ll ever meet and the most breathtaking mountains you’ll ever see, it holds a super special place in my heart.

best photos of 2016 - Lesotho

Photo by Erica

 

I snapped this one during a soccer match that we hosted with BLOOM Africa while in Lesotho.  We had 6 teams from all around the country join us to raise awareness for AIDS resources in the country.  We also teamed up with Kick for Life, an organization that provides free AIDS testing at soccer events around the country.  Through our soccer tournament, we had over 200 people receive free AIDS testing, fed over 500 people (many of them children), provided all of the soccer teams with new uniforms and balls, and raised a substantial amount of awareness for AIDS resources.  Since Lesotho has the third highest AIDS rate in the world, this was a super important event for those who participated.

best photos of 2016 - Lesotho

Photo by Erica

 

South Africa

While on safari in Kruger National Park, I absolutely fell in love with elephants.  There is something so majestic and beautiful about their large, slow movements and the pack mentality they have.  This was taken just after we got caught in between a mother and her baby and thought we might be in for an attack.  Fortunately, she didn’t attack and instead we were treated with this spectacular sight.

best photos of 2016 - South Africa

Photo by Erica

 

China

I feel like I could include a million photos from China in our list of our best photos of 2016.  Spending three weeks in one of the most photogenic countries in the world left me with thousands of photos to go through.  It was so hard to narrow these down, but here goes.

Beijing was a city of sensory overload.  From the beautiful architecture to the polluted air to the honking horns and yelling vendors to the flashing neon lights, there was something happening everywhere you looked.  I shot this in a peaceful moment where the sun was coming softly through the polluted sky, creating a pink hue on these gorgeous buildings.  In that moment, I didn’t hear, smell, or see anything but peace.  It was a beautiful break from the chaos.

best photos of 2016 - China

Photo by Erica

 

The ancient village of Daxu was unlike anywhere I’ve ever visited.  Many of the people in the village still maintain an almost ancient way of living.  It was so calm and beautiful and rich.

best photos of 2016 - China

Photo by Erica

 

Meet Mr. Jhou.  He showed us around his house, showed off his treasures that he has collected throughout the years, and even played us some music on this little instrument.

best photos of 2016 - China

Photo by Erica

 

And then this beautiful woman invited us into her home.  She showed us her kitchen and her puppy and her chickens.  She was the sweetest.

best photos of 2016 - China

Photo by Erica

 

Have you ever heard of the cormorant fisherman?  Cormorant fishing is an ancient fishing tradition in China in which the fishermen use cormorant birds to help catch the fish.  Due to overfishing and pollution, it isn’t practiced much anymore so there are only a few living cormorant fisherman.  Today, rather than making a living from fishing, they make a living from photographers.  Very few photographers have the honor of photographing these men in their natural environments.  Many who do end up with amazing images that are published in magazines like National Geographic.  I got several shots of the men in action, but this was one of my favorites, as he sat there relaxing in between photos.

best photos of 2016 - China

Photo by Erica

 

Want to see more of this amazing adventure?  Check out these two videos – one from our time in Beijing and the Great Wall, and the other from our time in the southern part of the country.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is such a special place to me.  My fiancé is from there (and his family and friends all still live there), I’m getting married there, and we’re taking our first Manini trip there in June 2017.  Therefore, I love pretty much every photo I take while there.

This one, though, speaks to me in a way that many others don’t.  This surfer was resting on the sand, watching the waves.  What you don’t see is about 50 other surfers killing the waves in the distance.  It was interesting watching this surfer watch his fellow surfers.  It was strangely inspiring and calming, all at once.

best photos of 2016 - Puerto Rico

Photo by Erica

 

Yep, we have a Puerto Rico video, too!  I especially love this one 🙂

Hocking Hills, Ohio (USA)

I was actually at Hocking Hills for my “day job,” which is a wedding and engagement photographer (little known fact, I own a wedding photography company!).  I was in the middle of an engagement session and had a little break while my clients were changing clothes (yes, in the middle of the woods haha).  Hocking Hills is actually where I met my fiancé, so I wanted to snap a little photo of the beautiful park for myself.  Perfect timing, as the sun was coming through the trees just perfectly.

best photos of 2016 - Hocking Hills

Photo by Erica

 

Iceland

Oh, Iceland.  A photographer’s dream and a traveler’s paradise.  I could stay there forever.

This photo sums up Iceland very nicely, I think.  Beautiful little house, surrounded by nothing but gorgeous landscape and water.  That’s basically Iceland in a nutshell.

best photos of 2016 - Iceland

Photo by Erica

 

The Blue Lagoon is something I’m sure you’ve heard of.  We all know someone who has posted mud mask selfies from the rich blue water (I’m guilty of that, as well!).  However, most people haven’t seen a photo of the lagoon without a million people in it, hence the reason why it’s one of our best photos of 2016.  I found this little gem outside of the popular area of the lagoon and just had to have a photo.  Enjoy a quiet, peaceful area of the lagoon.

best photos of 2016 - Iceland

Photo by Erica

 

This path is such a perfect visual representation of my life and travels.  A beautiful path with an unknown ending.

best photos of 2016 - Iceland

Photo by Erica

 

And, finally, here we have me.  Obviously I did not take this photo of myself (I simply set up the shot and had my fiancé take it), but it’s still one of our best photos of 2016.  Another accurate representation of my life:  living on the edge, looking toward what’s next.

And, not surprisingly, this was considered one of our best photos of 2016 by our Instagram followers, as well!

best photos of 2016 - Iceland

Photo by Erica’s fiance, Antonio

 

Oh, and if you’re in need of some helpful planning info for your own trip to Iceland, check out our blog post, What to Do in Iceland – Top 10 Tips for the Southern Coast.

I hope you enjoyed our best photos of 2016!  As you can see, 2016 was full of amazing adventures, amazing photos, and amazing love.  I hope 2017 is even more full, for us and for you!

xoxo,

Erica

About Erica Kay

Manini girl Erica is our professional photographer, travel curator, and adventure designer. When she isn't busy working on Manini stuff, she's running two photography companies, petting her pup, eating her way around the world with her fiancé, or hanging with friends and family.

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