It's been a wonderful year for us and we'd like to share it with you, mostly in visual form. Use the scroll bar on the right side to see the images and read the text.
We traveled extensively to photograph some of the amazing places on our planet. Here is a quick recap of the year.
We went to Death Valley a few years ago in September when the temperature was 115 degrees. This time we went in January when it was a pleasant 70 degrees. That's salt or borax on the valley floor.
In a remote part of Death Valley, reached via a very bumpy road, is a place called Racetrack where rocks mysteriously slide leaving a track. We had to investigate this phenomenon to see for ourselves and what you see is what we found. Does the wind blow these rocks across the dry bed when it becomes wet and slick or are there unknown cosmic forces moving these rocks?
We've been to many of the national parks, but somehow managed to miss Yosemite until last January when we spent a few days photographing this spectacular place with friend Paul Renner.
Viewing El Capitan from the Merced River.
We had seen National Geographic shows about the snow monkeys of Japan so when we saw an advertisement for a photo tour that included a chance to photograph them we signed up.
The snow monkeys come down from the surrounding mountains to the small hot springs where they play and are fed grain. We took great delight in photographing them in and out of the water.
After the snow monkeys we flew to northern Japan to photograph a variety of birds.
We had the opportunity to watch large flocks of Japanese red-crowned cranes as they lept around in their mating dance.
White-tailed eagle eating "on the fly."
During a blizzard we photographed whooper swans as they searched for food along a small unfrozen section of a lake. In March we flew to Fairbanks, Alaska in hopes of photographing the Aurora Borealis, but the skies were cloudy and Rainer got pneumonia so we abandoned that trip.
We spent the month of April in India visiting some of the popular tourist sites and four national parks.
Of course we had to see India's iconic Taj Mahal. We photographed it from every angle possible. Unfortunately it was undergoing renovations which detracted from the building's stunning beauty.
A prime objective of our visit to India was to photograph tigers. We learned how elusive these animals are. We went on 22 half-day safaris before we got this shot of a mother tiger wandering across the road.
We had some preconceived ideas about what we would find in India, and some of those conceptions were upheld. The poverty is pervasive and heartbreaking. Here a woman begs and on the right women sort through the garbage at a large urban dump.
Contrary to our expectations we found the people of India to be ever so friendly. People on the street, the service staff at places where we stayed, and even the impoverished citizens were very kind.
From India we flew to Darwin, Australia where we hired a private guide to take us to Kakadu National Park which is just east of Darwin.
Kakadu is a large park with many huge termite hills like the one you see us standing next to.
We took a boat ride along the Adelaide River where the crocodiles were literally jumping out of the water. The reason they were is that the ship's crew would hold out a piece of meat on a string to bait the crocs to jump. We weren't too impressed with that action, but it did make for a memorable photograph.
After 5 days in Kakadu we returned to Darwin to begin a two-week trip in the Kimberley region which is the northwest part of Australia. We've seen most other parts of Australia, but this region is very remote and best accessed by small ships.
We were happy to meet up with our friends to share the experience of seeing the Kimberley together. In the front row are Anita and Andrew Scothern from England and the back row are Chris and Jack Halbert from Australia. Behind us is the Xplorer, a flat-bottom boat that took us deep into the backwaters of the region.
We took a helicopter into Mitchell Falls where we landed and then hiked to the falls to get some stunning views of this remote place.
The sharks liked to swim around our ship so we only swam in waterholes that were shark-free.
Our last trip for 2016 was to travel the Northwest Passage across the top of Canada. The long sought route to go from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific was not discovered until 1906, but it was not passable by ship until recent years due to global warming.
Our journey began by flying to Edmonton, Alberta and then a charter flight to Kugluktuk in the Northwest Territories where we took a Zodiac to our ship in a driving rain storm.
As we traveled east across northern Canada we saw at least a dozen polar bears. This one is on an ice floe which we slowly creeped up to. As the ice recedes in the Arctic, polar bears are finding it more and more difficult to hunt seals from these ice floes so they are moving to the land in search of food.
We visited five Inuit villages as we moved eastward. It was fascinating to learn more about how these hearty people survive in this harsh climate. The women in this photo came on board the ship and demonstrated throat singing for us. They mimic each other with deep guttural sounds.
As we approached Greenland we saw many more icebergs. We were eating on the ship when I looked up and saw this view with soft sunset light. I excused myself from the table, ran to my room for my camera, and got some of the best photos of the trip.
Julie asked if we would have a chance to see the Aurora Borealis on our Northwest Passage trip. I said no because it's summer and it won't get dark enough, but I was wrong! After chasing the Aurora Borealis in Iceland and Alaska only to come away empty handed, much to my surprise we got some fine shots of the Northern Lights.
You'll find this hard to believe, but there is more to our lives than traveling. After I retired from softball, Julie introduced me to pickleball and as with most people I've met who play this emerging sport, I'm addicted. This photo was taken in Minneapolis where we placed third in one of our first tournaments together.
Julie with her partner, Jane Athow, won the doubles tournament in their division this fall in Daytona Beach Shores, our home court. We've met so many fine people who play regularly at this facility. Pickleball is a very social sport.
Rainer, and his doubles partner Bob Ross, won gold at the Fall Brawl, a preliminary tournament to the World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. They also won gold in the Minneapolis tournament.
Julie and Rainer traveled to Asheville, NC to attend the National Physical Education School Sport Institute where Rainer was presented with the 2016 Legacy Award for his contributions to physical education. We both have been busy with our restaurant and hotel in St. Augustine, and have devoted some time to helping Human Kinetics adapt to the changing environment for publishers.