South Georgia On My Mind

One morning on a faraway beach, I stared into the big, dark eyes of a stranger and fell in love on South Georgia Island.

In this case, those eyes belonged to a southern elephant seal pup who had lumbered up near me, all 250 pounds. The pup, known as a weaner for having been recently weaned from its mother, looked at me with pure innocence and curiosity.

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Elephant seal pups loll about in the “baby pool” at Gold Harbor with king penguins for neighbors. This scene is quintessentially South Georgia, except for maybe the existence of sunshine.

Flashback to the summer of 2009, when I was in my office at National Geographic in Washington, DC, working on a story called 50 Places of a Lifetime. My photo editor colleagues and I had drawn straws to divvy up the task of finding images for 50 different places from all over the world. I didn’t know how lucky I was, but South Georgia Island was on my list.

At the time, I had to Google this magical isle to locate it on a map. If you’re picturing somewhere in the state of Georgia, move your mental map much further south to the continent of South America. Picture the rugged spine of the Andes Mountains running all the way to the continent’s southern tip. Now imagine that 50 million years ago, a chunk of land broke off of that tip and swung out into the ocean, landing about 1200 miles to the east. This 102-mile long isle, with its jagged snow-covered mountains, sits in the churning, nutrient-rich waters of the Antarctic convergence and plays host to one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet.

At the editing desk, with a location plugged into my mental globe, I pored over images of albatross breeding colonies on rugged mountainsides, beaches where king penguins bounded out of the surf under psychedelic sunrises, and elephant seal weaners looking wide-eyed into lenses. There was no doubt this place was special and I had to make my way there one day.

Last November those efforts became a reality. I followed in the footsteps of Sir Ernest Shackleton on a hike into Stromness, the former whaling station where he arrived in search of aide 16 months after his ship the Endurance was trapped in the Weddell Sea of Antarctica. I toasted “the Boss” at his gravesite in Grytviken and then walked through the ruins of the whaling station there, the rusting tanks and flensing platform vivid reminders of the destructive period when South Georgia was the center of a prolific whaling and sealing industry. In the early twentieth century, this industry brought multiple species to the edge of extinction. According to A Marine Fisheries Review article, over 2.9 million whales were killed worldwide from 1900-1999.

But nature, when left to its own devices, has a remarkable way of bouncing back. That is how I found myself giving my heart away on the beach at St. Andrews Bay, home to the largest king penguin colony and elephant seal beach on the island. I looked out as far as my eye could see past over 100,000 breeding pairs of birds. I’ve been close to animals before (like in Galápagos where animals have no fear) and witnessed some unbelievable wildlife sightings, but nothing could prepare me for the staggering amount of life on that beach. It was a humbling, beautiful moment that brought me to tears and is seared into my memory forever and also happened to be captured on camera (see below).

Now, although I’m back in my office thousands of miles away and unable to travel, I still have South Georgia on my mind. As most of the animal populations of South Georgia have managed to rebound from tragedy, I know that humanity will rebound from the setbacks of the pandemic we are currently grappling with.

King penguins at Saint Andrews Bay on the north coast of South Georgia Island.

The king penguin is hands down my favorite penguin species. I’d happily sit all day staring at the beautiful patterns formed by their vivid hour-glass shaped ear patches.

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The colony is massive and busy, as seen in the main photo above, but there were still quiet moments occurring around me like this affectionate pair who wandered up to the edge of a pond. Without anthropomorphizing too much, the tenderness that I saw between king penguin pairs was touching.

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Elephant seal weaners are thigmotactic, or contact-loving. If ever there was a more adorable cuddle puddle, I haven’t seen it.

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Using the National Geographic Orion’s fleet of inflatable zodiacs, we explored Elsehul, a massive bay which is home to macaroni penguin colonies.

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Of course, exploring nature involves seeing both life and death. This giant petrel was washing his bloody face after feasting on a dead Antarctic fur seal.

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A massive Southern elephant seal bull hides his giant proboscis in the sand while snoozing. Although we never approached any animals, luckily the males were not aggressive because of breeding during our visit so they were not an impediment to making beach landings.

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After making landfall at King Haakon Bay, Sir Ernest Shackleton hiked with two of his men for 36 hours at Stromness in a successful attempt to obtain help to rescue his men left at Elephant Island in Antarctica. We took the easy version of his hike, from Fortuna Bay to Stromness, under much more forgiving circumstances.

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From the destruction of the whaling days, most wildlife populations have rebounded on and around South Georgia Island. Now whaling stations, like Grytviken, host living animals amidst their ruins.

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Tradition at Shackleton’s grave is to make a toast with whiskey in his memory. I hadn’t realized how many graves were at all of the whaling station, which shows the human toll of the whaling industry as well.

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A gorgeous striated piece of glacial ice floated in front of Nordenskjold Glacier.

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I loved the beautiful snow petrels resting on an iceberg.

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Glacial ice eaten away by the lapping and crashing of waves revealed a beautiful pattern of snow and sediment.

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The scale is hard to capture in a grandiose landscape like South Georgia.

If you still haven’t gotten enough of South Georgia Island, visit the gallery on my Photoshelter website. I plan to return in January of 2022, won’t you join me? Watch my page on National Geographic Expeditions for updates.

 

 

Baby Animals: Take a Time Out for Cuteness

My glamorous, jet-setting career of being a travel photographer has suddenly become not so alluring during this Covid-19 pandemic! All of the contracts and gigs I had lined up for spring have been canceled and I’m stuck at home for the foreseeable future.

Luckily, my silver lining is that I’ve had more time to dig through my archives and marvel at all the amazing places I’ve been. I find the most solace in images of our beautiful natural world, and of course, nothing cheers me like images of adorable baby animals! I hope to be sharing more images with you over the next weeks (or months?) of social isolation. Please enjoy these baby animal pictures and stay healthy and safe!

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If “stay-at-home” measures had me crammed next to my sibling and literally being sat on by a parent, I wouldn’t be so happy either. Luckily, these gentoo penguin chicks were made for these rocky, close quarters and the warmth of a parent’s belly. Port Lockroy, Antarctica.

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This young sloth is a vision of social isolation with its own cecropia tree for both eating and sleeping! Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Upper Amazon, Peru.

Zimbabwe.

These elephants huddle together to protect the newest member of their pack. Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

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Remember, we’ve got each others backs during these trying times. Two juvenile brown bear cubs stand back-to-back while their mother hunts for salmon in Southeast Alaska.

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Sea otters float in kelp beds in the nutrient-rich waters surrounding the Inian Islands in Southeast Alaska.

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Mornings are the most lovely time to be out on safari. I photographed these white rhino while on assignment for National Geographic Traveler. uMkhuze Game Reserve, South Africa.

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Downy Adelie penguin chicks must stay in the colony while their parents go out to sea to hunt. If your children are getting cranky staying home during this pandemic, you could always remind them that at least their next meal won’t be regurgitated! Brown Bluff, Antarctica.

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A Nazca booby safeguards its chick at Punta Suarez in the Galápagos Islands.

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A pod of orca, including this female and juvenile, swim off of Trinity Island, Antarctica.

Zambia.

Fat and happy lion cubs rest together after having feasted on a kill. Kids, don’t follow their example, because rules of social isolation don’t apply to cubs! South Luangwa National Park, Zambia.

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An Antarctic fur seal nuzzles her pup on a rocky beach at Fortuna Bay, South Georgia Island.

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This young southern elephant seal stole my heart at Gold Harbour on South Georgia Island.

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This family of noisy night monkeys is doing an excellent job at social distancing. Pacaya Samiria National Reserve, Upper Amazon River, Peru.

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Surprise, it is fish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! A female Great frigatebird feeds her chick in its nest on North Seymour Island in the Galápagos Islands.

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Young Galápagos sea lions frolic along the rust-colored shoreline on Rábida Island.

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A young guanaco in the grass at Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile.

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Remember when you grew as tall as your parents but you had acne and didn’t quite fit into your body yet? Well, teenage years are awkward even for blue-footed boobies. Galápagos Islands, Ecuador.

Safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya.

A tender moment between a mother giraffe and her baby. Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.

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Keeping six feet of distance between penguins would be impossible in this king penguin colony! Gold Harbour, South Georgia Island.

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Number 2 is in the lead! A young tortoise ventures down a path at the Galapaguera de Cerro Colorado reserve in the Galápagos Islands of Ecuador.

Krista Rossow Receives NATJA Gold Award

I’m happy to announce that I’m part of the photographic team behind the Morocco story for National Geographic Traveler magazine that won an Arts & Culture Gold Award in the 28th Annual Travel Media Awards Competition put on by NATJA (North American Travel Journalists Association). The article ran in the August/September 2019 issue of the magazine.

I wanted to also congratulate my friend and colleague Carrie Miller for the Bronze Award in Travel Books for her 100 Dives of a Lifetime: The World’s Ultimate Underwater Destinations book (which I was lucky enough to photo edit!).

And kudos to National Geographic Traveler for winning the Gold Award for the best print travel magazine! Despite the last issue having rolled off the press earlier this year, I feel golden for having been part of National Geographic Traveler’s print family over the years. Cheers to many more years in our virtual form.

See all the winners here: http://bit.ly/NATJAwin.

A man stokes the fire at a hammam inside of the Medina of Marrakech, Morocco.

Krista Rossow Speaking at OPTIC West in San Francisco

***UPDATE (March 9, 2020): OPTIC West has been postponed and will be rescheduled at a later date. Regardless, you should still save your space by registering via Eventbrite to be notified of updates and new dates.***

Lindblad Expeditions and B&H Photo Video have been partnering to bring the photo event OPTIC to New York City for the past five years. I had the privilege of participating in the 2016 events (you can see the program archive here). This year they are branching out to the West Coast and hosting the first OPTIC West in San Francisco from March 22nd-23rd, 2020.

Please join me and keynote speakers Art Wolfe and Frans Lanting, among others, in two days of photography learning ranging from lectures to photo walks. I’ll be speaking about photographing people, one of my favorite subjects.

Participation in these events is free! More information on the schedule and registration can be found on B&H’s website. I hope to see you there!

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Travel with Me in 2020

I’ve been enjoying the last few months at home, a much-needed respite after spending 199 days on the road last year. That being said, wanderlust already has me looking at my 2020-21 calendar.

I am excited to share my upcoming trips, which I hope you’ll join me on! You can always find my teaching travel schedule on my website, but here is the run-down.

Joining Lindblad Expeditions trips as the National Geographic Expert is always a pleasure because the experiences in the natural world are unforgettable and occasionally the Lindblad staff’s knowledge rubs off on me. I’m thrilled about my upcoming trips in April and May to French Polynesia because I get to leave my cold-weather gear at home and I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about Polynesian hospitality. In late summer I’ll return to Alaska, a forever favorite of mine, to teach guests how to improve their landscape and wildlife photography. I know we will have no shortage of subject matter.

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The Inian Islands are known for abundant wildlife because of the nutrient-rich waters that surround them. I’ll be visiting there on both of my Alaska trips with Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions in August and September.

Last year I traveled with Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours as the National Geographic Expert on trips along the Douro River and the Danube. This year I’ll be returning to Portugal to join the Douro River cruise in late September and getting in the holiday spirit while exploring the Christmas markets on the Danube River in December.

 

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Last year I arrived early to Porto to explore this charming city covered in blue-tiles before joining the Scenic ship to cruise up the Douro River.

 

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The Scenic ship was docked across from the Hungarian Parliament Building for the beginning of the Danube River cruise.

In late October, I’ll be returning to San Miguel de Allende to teach my workshop The Camera as Passport for the Santa Fe Workshops. I first fell in love with this colorful colonial town in Mexico over sixteen years ago! I can’t wait to discover the magic of the city again, this time with a group of curious photographers. Do you want to be one of them?

San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico.

The Jardin is the center point in town and is marked by the pink neo-Gothic spires of San Miguel’s Parroquia church.

It’s hard to think about 2021 when I’m in denial that we are already into February of 2020, but I already have some excellent trips on the calendar for Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions. I’ll be returning to one of my favorite destinations, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, in January 2021. In March 2021, I’ll board the beautiful four-masted sailing yacht, the Sea Cloud, to sail through the Caribbean Islands. And in May 2021 I’m going to Baja California on the National Geographic Venture on a photography-focused expedition.

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The Nazca boobies in the Galapagos Islands are not as famous as their blue-footed brethren but equally beautiful.

I’m also teaching two private photo workshops with my friend and colleague Jennifer Davidson; one in Coastal Maine and Acadia National Park and the other in Miami and the Florida Keys. If you are interested in a personalized photo workshop, please let me know.

I hope to cross paths with you in the not-so-distant future on one of these trips!

In Bookstores: 100 Hikes of a Lifetime

A few weeks ago I received a package in the mail from National Geographic. I hadn’t been expecting anything, but then it hit me…its the book!

Finally, my very own copy of the 100 Hikes of a Lifetime book, which I photo edited over the course of a year’s time, had arrived. The task of photo editing a book for mass publication is such a long process that by the time my role had ended in August of last year, I clearly had plenty of time to forget about all of the hard work and deadlines. Then the physical book arrived like a long lost surprise; a PDF magically turned into a real-life book!

Working on 100 Hikes of a Lifetime took me virtually around the world to beautiful mountaintops and arid deserts, ironically while I was often yoyo-ing back and forth from home to my next far-flung assignment. There was an intricate dance of multi-tasking going on at many points to keep all of my deadlines and obligations met.

I wanted to thank the author of the book, Kate Siber, for being efficient and endlessly helpful. I didn’t envy her the nearly impossible task of selecting only 100 hikes! Also, thank you to the team at National Geographic Books: Moira Haney, Allyson Johnson, Nicole Miller, Meredith Wilcox, Susan Blair, and Jill Foley.

A side-effect of photo editing travel publications is that I have a never-ending wish list of travel experiences. After virtually experiencing 100 hikes, I can say that at the top of my list are California’s Sierra High Route, Nepal’s Great Himalaya Trail, Egypt’s Sinai Trail, and Italy’s Alta Via Delle Dolomiti 1. Clearly, I’m up for a challenge! And inspired by my work on a previous book in this series, 100 Dives of a Lifetime, I’m finally getting my scuba certification this year and going diving in French Polynesia.

If you’re in need of an adventure or simply want to ogle the beauty of this wild world we live in, pick up a copy of 100 Hikes of a Lifetime here.

Hikes of a Lifetime cover

Now Online: Whistler for Nat Geo Travel

In June I had the opportunity to photograph Whistler, British Columbia, for an online feature for National Geographic Travel and Destination Canada. I spent a busy, beautiful week photographing in Whistler, which was made all the more rewarding by being teamed up with illustrator and animator Rachel Ryle and producer Carmen Kerr of Storm Films. Rachel kept us laughing, Carmen kept us on schedule, and through it all, I kept on clicking. We hiked, biked, zip lined, rode ATVs, soaked up art, dined well, and crisscrossed the region on a jam-packed schedule.

Visit the National Geographic website to see our article and be sure to watch the darling animation created by Rachel that sums up our experience using her illustrations and my photos. It was a treat to work with two creative powerhouses and I’m happy to share the final product, plus a few more of my favorite images below. Enjoy the fruits of our labors and I hope you get inspired to visit Whistler!

The Town Plaza in Whistler VIllage, British Columbia, Canada.

Whistler Village is the focal point of the region and the jumping-off point for endless outdoor adventures. The pedestrian-only streets are lined with shops, restaurants, bars, galleries, and museums.

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An American family embraces the sports theme at the Olympic Plaza in Whistler Village while playing a game of football.

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Whistler is a mountain bikers paradise and I loved seeing people riding up to the outdoor cafes, resting their helmets on the table, and grabbing a beer. Here two couples eat at Fernie’s, or El Furniture Warehouse.

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Small plates at Bar Oso in Whistler Village include the fresh charcuterie board (a must!),  warm olives with Marcona olives, and blistered shishito peppers.

People dine at cozy Bar Oso in Whistler Village, British Columbia, Canada.

At Bar Oso, I spotted this attractive young couple and they were happy to let me photograph them. Later they told me that they were grateful I’d provided a little levity during the first meeting of the young woman’s boyfriend with her parents!

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The Raven Room, owned by two local couples, is one of my favorite restaurants in Whistler. Not only do they serve inventive cocktails (like this Negroni served over Campari and blood orange gelato), but also because they have a seasonal, local, ethically sourced (and delicious) menu.

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I was a bit too busy photographing to be able to partake in the sauna and baths at Scandinave Spa, but on my next visit, I’m dedicating an entire day to enjoy this place!

Scene at Blueberry Beach Park at Alta Lake, Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

Most mornings I was up with the summer sun to photograph at one of the many lakes in the Whistler region. Pictured is a relaxing morning on Alta Lake.

Scene from the Cheakamus Lake Trail in Whistler, British Columbia, Canada.

Rachel Ryle hikes through the sun-dappled forest on the Cheakamus Lake Trail.

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These mountain bikers moved to Whistler to enjoy the abundant trails and the generous community of female riders empowering each other.

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I can officially add being able to photograph while ziplining (and screaming with delight) to my resume. We headed out with Superfly Ziplines and spent an afternoon flying above the treetops.

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Zipline riders carry their trolleys from line to line on the multi-ride circuit on Rainbow Mountain.

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My family sells Polaris ATVs so I felt quite at home hitting the rocky trail on an RZR Tour with the Adventure Group. Though I wasn’t so comfortable being attacked by mosquitoes when I got out to photograph other riders on the route!

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The Train Wreck Hike is a short hike leading to graffiti-covered railroad cars.

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Rachel Ryle‘s logo is a tiny red heart and she decided that she could “leave her heart” in Whistler by adding her drawing to one of the railroad cars at the Train Wreck Hike.

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The Xxays canoe at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

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The Audain Art Museum houses a permanent collection of artwork from British Columbia and is known for its innovative architecture.

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The Audain Art Museum holds an impressive collection of First Nations and contemporary artwork.

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Vallea Lumina is a night walk through an old-growth forest that tells chapters of a multi-sensory story via illumination and projections. I had been a bit skeptical about what this experience would be like, but it was one of the most magical human-created experiences I’ve ever been to. I have to admit that when I stepped into this scene, which was buzzing with laser lights like fireflies and pulsing with ambient music, I was completely moved.

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Dream team calling it a wrap! Thanks for a lovely assignment, Rachel Ryle and Carmen Kerr.