• My top travel photos on Instagram in 2016

It’s that time of the year again, when we look back on the year ending now and make plans for the next one. I have some incredibly exciting plans for 2017, beginning in January, but I’ll tell you about that soon.

For now, like I did last year, I thought it’d be cool to share with you my ten most popular travel photos on Instagram in 2016.

It’s fair to say that my Instagram account hasn’t grown much in the past year, especially compared to 2015. Since the quality of my photos hasn’t declined (at least I’d like to think so), I can only put the modest growth down to my posting frequency.

For reasons that are irrelevant here, I have hardly travelled in 2016, and have been heavily invested in learning coding and WordPress development. These two factors (and Instagram’s new algorithm, which I don’t like very much) have made me post a lot less on Instagram this year. And you know how it is with social media: you need to post often and regularly in order to grow your audience.

You will probably remember quite of a few of the photos on this list from seeing them in one of my posts this year, but three of them I’d only shared on Instagram previously. I’d say about 30-40 per cent of my photos on Instagram haven’t been posted elsewhere, so if you haven’t checked out my photos there yet, I invite you to take a look.

Also, if you have an Instagram account yourself, you’re most welcome to leave your Instagram handle in the comments so I can check out your pictures and follow you.

Now, without further ado, these are, in increasing order of popularity, my top 10 travel photos on Instagram in 2016:

10. Domes of Jehangir Mahal (India)

The domes of Jehangir Mahal Palace in Orchha gave me an excellent opportunity to shoot silhouettes against the late afternoon sun.

Silhouette shot of domes in Jehangir Mahal

Judging from the relatively few visitors I found three years ago, Orccha struck me as a very underappreciated destination. The old, Mughal-style palaces and fortifications in this small town are nothing short of spectacular.

If you didn’t catch my earlier post, you can see more photos from my visit to Orchha here.

9. Buddha head in tree roots (Thailand)

This iconic and much photographed Buddha head can be seen in Ayutthaya. In real life, it struck me as smaller than I expected, but impressive all the same.

Buddha head in tree roots, Ayutthaya

In post-processing, I removed a couple of pickets and a rope that cordoned off the area immediately around the tree roots. Removing anything from images is something I do very  rarely, but in this case it seemed appropriate.

You can see a different angle in one of my Photo of the Day posts from earlier this year.

8. Fisherman by Mt. Fuji (Japan)

The tiny silhouette of the fisherman (bottom right) is probably too small, particularly when viewing the photo in smaller screens.

Mt Fuji at Kawaguchiko Lake

I also had to dehaze the background in post-processing like crazy, and I would have gone further had the image not started to fall apart in those areas.

However, I still like the final result because it conveys a sense of how utterly massive Mt. Fuji is.

7. Maarjamäe Memorial (Estonia)

I had a great time photographing this old, run-down memorial from the Soviet era in Tallinn.

Obelisk at Maarjamäe War Memorial, Tallinn (Estonia)

Lots of lines and geometrical shapes to work with, and very few visitors to ruin the shot. The sky was interesting that day too. I went for a kind of gritty, saturated look in post, but a more desaturated look, or even black and white also seemed suitable for the subject.

6. Sunset over Bagan (Myanmar)

I had high hopes for this sunset over the Bagan plain, so I was dismayed to find that the sun went behind those low clouds never to reappear again.

Sunset over Bagan

It was barely two or three minutes between the scene shown on this picture and the complete disappearance of the sun. But hey, sometimes you have to do your best with the conditions you find.

If you want to see more photos and tips for visiting and photographing Bagan, check out my recent post here.

5. Entrance to Wat Phou ruins (Laos)

The Wat Phou site near Champasak (Laos) may feel like a “poor”, much smaller, imitation of the Angkor temples if you’ve been there, but I found it interesting all the same.

Wat Phou was undeniably built by the Khmer, and all the landmarks of their architecture are visible at first sight.

What caught my eye here were the giant twin palm trees down the path, and how they stood tall and proud amongst the ruins.

4. Lotus buds in Yuantong Temple (China)

I only had an overnight stay in Kunming (China), so I was glad I had time to visit Yuantong Temple.

Water Lilies, Kunming

It’s gorgeous, beautifully restored, and crammed with exquisite corners to photograph. Here, I used my fixed 23 mm lens wide open at f/2, in order to isolate the delicate lotus buds from the busy background.

3. Cliff top meadow (Iceland)

This is one of many more photos from the two posts about my trip to Iceland (here’s the link to the second one, which’ll take you to the first).

Cliff top, Iceland

I’ve always found this kind of pure, simple, almost minimalistic compositions very attractive. But “seeing” them is harder than it looks, at least for me.

We were driving along the southern coast of Iceland and had to make a pit stop. As I walked back towards the car, I saw this from the corner of my eye. I loved everything about it: the slanted green meadow, the white flowers, the rock and the stripe of grey-blue sea in the background.

The image quality (sharpness in particular) is a little iffy, but bear in mind I shot this almost 7 years ago with a low megapixel count compact camera. I had to make the colors pop quite a bit in post-processing, buton the whole the image turned out pretty much like I intended.

2. Brooklyn Bridge Park (USA)

I’ve been lucky enough to visit New York a few times, and, frankly, I don’t think there are many big cities in the world as inspiring for street and urban scape photographers.

The iconic view of the Lower Manhattan skyline from Brooklyn would be enough to warrant a visit to New York.

As soon as I saw the “Hills of Brooklyn!” fence I knew I wanted to use it as foreground for my photo. What I didn’t know back then is that the hills quote is taken from a Walt Whitman poem!

1. Solfataras at Hverir geothermal fields (Iceland)

And this is my most popular photo on Instagram in 2016. It shows some of the solfataras in the Hverir geothermal field, where the earth crust breaks to let out boiling materials and sulfurous gases.

Hverir solfataras, Iceland

Like many other places in Iceland, Hverir had an astonishing otherworldly quality that inspired me to take dozens of photos. This is one of the best I took that day, a whopping 7 years ago (almost)!

I used my zoom lens at its widest focal length (18 mm), in order to make the boiling puddles in the foreground look bigger and more threatening. This, together with the inclusion of several tiny human figures in the background, provided a sense of depth and scale to the image.

That’s a wrap. How was your year on Instagram? Tell me in the comments, and if you liked my photos, don’t forget to connect with me there!

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