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.

 

Shiny Happy Asheville

I was first wooed by Asheville, North Carolina when I went to a friend’s wedding there in 2015. A year after, I fully fell for Asheville while on assignment there shooting a feature story for National Geographic Traveler magazine. What had resonated with me the most was the people. Whether they were native North Carolinians, visitors, or recent transplants, everyone loved the gem of a city tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

When I got a call earlier this year from Explore Asheville, the city’s tourism board, asking me to photograph the area as expressed through the people, it was an irresistible assignment. So in May, I found myself in Asheville and Black Mountain meeting people who were kind and open to a stranger with a camera. Over the course of a few days, I interacted with hundreds of strangers through fun conversations, small world moments, shared smiles, and a mutual appreciation for the area.

As a photographer, I’m continually surprised by the generosity of the people I meet and am forever in their debt for taking the time to be in front of my lens. Thank you to all the shiny happy people I met on this assignment who make Asheville a shiny happy place.

Enjoy this selection of some of my favorite images from my shoot in May.

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Hemingway’s Cuba in the Cambria Suites Hotel is one of many rooftop bars downtown that is perfect for watching the sunset. When I saw this woman in a green dress, I knew I wanted to photograph her and it turns out she lives in another favorite city of mine, New Orleans.

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Hearty barbeque rib platters at 12 Bones Smokehouse in the River Arts District. I know a restaurant is good when there is a line out the door the entire time I’m photographing there!

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Sip sake under colorful lanterns at Ben’s Tune-Up in the South Slope neighborhood and you might even run into a real-life “Ariel” from The Little Mermaid.

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The Asheville City Market in downtown serves up local food, drink, and produce and is filled with wonderful folks like these two women I met that morning.

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A young family does their early morning shopping at the Asheville City Market.

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When photographing for the National Geographic Traveler article, I met Josh Copus, the founder of Clayspace Co-op. Although Josh wasn’t around on this visit, I met ceramic artist Tristan Glosby at Clayspace while he was working at the pottery wheel. 

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Inside many of the studios in the River Arts District, you’ll often run into artists at work. At Riverview Station, painter Galen Frost Bernard works in oils for his contemporary paintings.

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These women were exploring the multitude of galleries and artist studios at Riverview Station.

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Downtown Asheville is known for buskers of all genres, from musicians and singers to jugglers and poets. Josh Lauth is a multi-talented busker who juggles while balancing on a board with his pet “Space Dog” on his head.

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Shannon Monaghan is a poet busker who writes poems on a typewriter for people downtown. She wrote me a poem on travel.

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Whether you drum, dance, or simply enjoy, a visit to Asheville is only complete after a visit to the Friday night drum circle. Here a young father dances with his daughter to the beat of the drums.

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People from all walks of life come downtown on Fridays to enjoy the drum circle. I couldn’t help but move with the beats while I photographed the musicians and dancers.

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These young girls try their hand at drumming with the Asheville Drum Circle.

Street scene in downtown Ashevillle, North Carolina.

Asheville is known for its beautiful architecture, including the Neo-Gothic Jackson Building in downtown.

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I met this young boy along with his father, brother, and pet dog one afternoon at High Five Coffee in Woodfin. He’d just returned from an outing to a street festival where he’d gotten his face painted with a unicorn.

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This was my first visit to the charming little town of Black Mountain, which is less than a half-hour drive from downtown Asheville. I was smitten with the colorful, quaint streets.

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Busker Kevin Ali plays guitar and sings outside of Dripolator Coffee.

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If I owned a garden shop, it would be like Mellie Mac’s Garden Shack in Black Mountain. Mellie’s is not only a plant nursery but doubles as a wine bar and local hangout.

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I met this adorable family outside of the Hop Ice Cream Shop in Black Mountain.

To see more Asheville images, visit my Photoshelter gallery or check out the article on National Geographic’s website.

In Bookstores: 100 Dives of a Lifetime

For all of you lovers of the underwater world, I’m pleased to share that a book I photo edited for National Geographic on the world’s best scuba diving locations is now in bookstores! 100 Dives of a Lifetime is written by Carrie Miller, a friend and colleague I last collaborated with on a project for Tourism New Zealand.

While photo editing over the course of a year on this title, my eyes feasted on imagery from 100 locations around the world, both above and below the surface. At times finding images from these remote destinations was elusive, like digging for underwater treasure. Luckily, with the contributions from the libraries of many talented underwater photographers, the treasures are now on display in the pages of this beautiful book.

Working on a book is a long process that involves extensive collaboration with editorial and design teams and a huge amount of organization. Thank you to author Carrie Miller (who is currently working on another travel book relating to scuba diving!) and Moira Haney, Allyson Johnson, and Sanaa Akkach at National Geographic Books.

After working on this project, I took away an urgency to get myself scuba-certified, a deep appreciation for the art of underwater photography, and an obsession with nudibranchs.

Pick up a copy of 100 Dives of a Lifetime here. And stay tuned for another book that I’m about to wrap up in National Geographic’s “Of a Lifetime” series, one which won’t require dive fins!

 

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Return to the Rainforest

If I’m being honest, I didn’t want to go on this trip. I was deep into a homebody rut after four months at home. And I had other projects in the works that I was hesitant to set aside for two weeks while I didn’t have any internet connection in the jungle. 

For me it is typical before every trip, even the ones I’m most excited about, to have a little freakout where I’m mentally kicking and screaming, “I don’t want to go!” But then the bags get packed and the passport comes out. Once I’m on the plane I am forced to set aside all of the things I wanted to get done before I left. Muscle memory kicks in and I transform into a traveler again, ready for another adventure.

This was my second trip to the Peruvian Amazon and although I knew better from my prior experience, I still harbored a fantasy that the rainforest would look like a Ravensburger puzzle where toucans and macaws dripped from tree branches, monkeys and sloths kicked it together, and butterflies flitted over the heads of caimans. The rainforest is indeed a riot of species, so abundant that it pulses with life, but that doesn’t mean all of that life will line up for the perfect photograph. 

As the National Geographic Photography Expert, I taught the guests I traveled with how to photograph in extremely challenging photographic situations where deep, dark forests and overcast skies called for drastic changes to exposures from one sighting to the next. And I hopefully instilled the idea that although not every wildlife sighting we had made a good photograph, it was always a worthy experience. 

So I shifted my expectations and did my best to just soak up the humid decadence of the rainforest. I looked again to reflections and quiet moments and would ask the skiff drivers to stop or multiple occasions to photograph something subtle like flowers or vines. I reveled in feeling like I was in a Dr. Seussian world when floating past islands of skinny palm trees in a flooded forest or navigating a waterway flanked by giant white-barked ceiba trees. On forest walks, I had the time to appreciate the small species and even discover leaves carved by hungry insects into modern art. I watched blackwater and whitewater rivers converge into a hypnotic, constant stirring of cream into coffee. The staff on board the Delfin II ship spoiled me again with their hospitality, amazing meals, and their patience for my rusty Spanish. And I was able to revisit locals I’d met and photographed the year before and gift them with prints.

And although it turns out we had blips of internet connectivity when we’d pass certain communities, I decided to remain blissfully unconnected and instead tuned into the sounds of downpours, choruses of frogs and birds, and took in the unique experience of plying the swollen tributaries of the mighty Amazon River.

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Brown-throated three-toed sloths, with their charismatic half-smile, were delightful to spot, especially in close proximity during forest hikes.

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Something as simple as a patch of water lettuce could transform into abstract art with the right background reflections.

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The sighting of this white-throated toucan was my favorite encounter of the entire trip. This bird, the largest of the toucans, had eluded our view earlier during a skiff excursion on Magdalena Creek, but on a return visit, we found it roosting in a nearby tree before it then flew into perfect view.

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I loved simple, beautiful scenes like these roots and vines hanging from the rainforest canopy. As much as I enjoyed photographing the wildlife in the Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, I think it was moments like this that conveyed the magic of the region.

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A naturalist looked for wildlife during a skiff excursion on the Pacaya River. Most of our mornings and afternoons were spent motoring on the glass-like tributaries of the Upper Amazon.

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Precise caterpillar holes formed a pattern on a tropical green leaf, turning the leaf into nature’s own artwork.

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A tiny saddle-backed tamarin, who is about the size of a squirrel, nibbled on fruit from a tree over Nauta Creek.

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Watching the woolly monkeys swing and play from trees was a highlight of each week. Unfortunately, the curiosity we experienced from these animals was caused by some tour operators allowing people to feed and pet these animals.

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A group of great egrets gathered in treetops at sunset on El Dorado River.

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The graceful tailfeathers of a great egret blew in the wind as it hunted for fish.

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Blackwater (colored by tannins) and whitewater (colored by sediment) converged and looked like cream being poured into coffee on the Pacaya River.

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During a night walk, we encountered plenty of insects, snakes, spiders, and frogs like this Manaus slender-legged tree frog.

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A walk on a suspended bridge at Amazon Natural Park was an interesting change of perspective on the rainforest canopy.

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A heliconia butterfly rested on a green leaf to lay tiny white eggs.

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I ran into many of the people I’d met last year when I visited the community of San Francisco de Loreto on the Marañon River, including Safira, the girl on the far left. I brought her father prints of the images I’d taken of his family as a gift.

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I met this woman, Nora Tapujima Chavez, while I explored the small community of Amazonas. She let me spend time with her while she weaved a basket using the plastic from old rice sacks.

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The Delfin II ship never anchored in the vast waterways of the Upper Amazon but instead tied up to familiar trees.

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Photographers knew that the bow of the Delfin II was the place to be at sunset on the Ucayali River.

If you are interested in this expedition to the Peruvian Amazon, you can find out more here. And to see more of my images, visit my Photoshelter gallery.

Learn Travel Photography in Santa Fe

At the end of next month, I’ll be teaching my New World of Travel Photography workshop for the second time at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. From June 24th to 29th, we’ll spend five full days exploring the city and surrounding areas of New Mexico while making time for lectures and critiques. I love seeing photographers learn in the workshop format, especially at a place like the Santa Fe Workshops because the learning is intense and inspiration is everywhere.

Last year we ventured down to the historic Plaza to challenge ourselves to capture an iconic place in a new way. We explored Canyon Road and the Farmer’s Market to capture local color. And we even hit the road to capture the landscape and towns nearby which helped to build a fuller picture of the area. Every student came away with a beautiful set of images that captured the unique sense of place in Santa Fe.

Spaces are limited, so be sure to sign up soon if you are interested in exploring this beautiful corner of the Land of Enchantment with me.

 

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It seems there is a photo around every corner in the charming residential neighborhoods near Canyon Road that are filled with adobe homes.

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Colorful dancers twirl in the historic Santa Fe Plaza on a sunny afternoon.

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The Santa Fe Farmers Market is a wonderful location to photograph the locals, especially those with a unique style. 

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Summertime brings locals and visitors to the Santa Fe Plaza to enjoy concerts and entertainment.

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Chile ristras decorate a colorful building in the funky little town of Madrid (pronounced Mad-rid) near Santa Fe.

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The landscape around Abiquiu inspired the famous painter Georgia O’Keeffe.

 

Into the Jungle

One of my travel habits is to compare the place I’m visiting to other places I’ve been. Cape Town reminds me a bit of San Francisco and New Orleans. The Oki Islands in Japan are reminiscent of the rugged coastline of Oregon. But when I found myself floating the waters of the Upper Amazon in Peru, I was shocked at where my mind went…..to Disneyland.

Specifically, the sounds of dripping water and calling birds, long sinuous vines, and vegetation that looks like tropical houseplants gone wild reminded me of being on the jungle ride in Disneyland. The allure that the ride hinted at was amplified in person and, to be sure, the humidity and mosquitos made it undeniably real.

During the two weeks I spent cruising the brown, and sometimes black, waters of the headwaters of the Amazon River, I realized that a tropical rainforest is a place of subtle beauty where patience and time are rewarded with sightings of exotic creatures. I saw brief glimpses of the elusive pink river dolphin, was tormented by macaws and toucans who always seemed to keep their distance, reveled in watching wooly monkeys swing from tree to tree, and fell totally in love with sloths, the slow-moving, wiry-haired guardians of the canopy. I learned to appreciate the quiet beauty of the rivers and creeks we explored on daily skiff rides, looking for splashes of color in a riot of green vegetation, staring into reflections as if in a trance, and I secretly loved getting caught in downpours where the rain forced me to do nothing else but enjoy the reason the rainforest gets its name.

As much as I enjoyed the natural beauty of the Amazon, I was absolutely surprised and delighted by our interactions with the local people who live along the river’s edge, the ribereños. The people were generous in giving us a glimpse into their daily lives.

Next year I’m fortunate enough to already be booked on two photography-focused departures in January with National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions on this itinerary. I’d love to explore the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve with you on board the Delfin II.

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On the still waters of the Yanayacu River, I couldn’t get enough of the reflections. Luckily every afternoon seemed to have these gorgeous pile-ups of clouds in the sky.

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We were able to spend time photographing groups of curious woolly monkeys as they swung from limb to limb hanging from their tails.

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Every time we came across the impressive Victoria amazonica giant water lilies, I had to make pictures. The blooms begin as white buds and then unfold into pink splendor before wilting away in a brief two-day life cycle.

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During this expedition, we maneuvered along the river, up creeks, and into flooded forests on skiffs, our reliable metal steeds.

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The tropical rainforest can feel like a verdant dream and one quickly learns that a flash of any other color means a wonderful find. Whether that is the spectacle of a toucan or macaw’s bright feathers or the pop of red from a passionflower bloom hidden below the canopy, it is always worth observing.

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After night fell on el Río Dorado, we used a high-powered light to spot caimans along the river’s edge by looking for the red reflections of their eyes from afar.

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Our local guides took us to a favorite roost of a family of adorable night monkeys.

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The hoatzin, or what I refer to as the prehistoric chicken, was one of the many animal species I came across which I’d been unfamiliar with before.

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I was entranced by the details of the jungle like the gorgeous curtains of bromeliads that adorned many of the trees along the river.

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Most of the sloths we spotted were perched high in the treetops except for this one occasion where we spotted a baby hanging out on a low cecropia tree, snoozing in between nibbles on the leaves.

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As much as it felt that we were far away from civilization during our explorations we often passed by small river communities. We were able to take time to visit San Francisco, a typical river village filled with wooden homes with aluminum roofs.

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During our visit to the community of San Francisco on the Marañon River, we were welcomed with smiles, waves, and curious looks, especially from children.

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I photographed this lovely woman during a dance performance in the community center of San Francisco.

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It was common to see local families living with pet monkeys, macaws, and sloths.

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I love to photograph people when I’m traveling and I try, as often as possible, to find a way to share the images with the people I photograph. On this trip, I knew emailing images wouldn’t be an option so I brought along a Fujifilm Instax printer from B&H Photo Video which enabled me to print and share photos I’d taken with the locals I’d meet. I won over these young girls who chatted with me and stayed by my side during the entire visit.

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In Puerto Miguel, these young boys enjoyed seeing the photos one of the Lindblad guests had taken of them. The boys kept telling him, “otro” and he would humor them by taking another photo and the cycle of giggles and grins would continue. 

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On Supay Creek we met this young boy who was keeping a coati, which is a member of the raccoon family, as a pet.

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Locals all along the river make handicrafts to sell to visitors. Tarantulas and frogs woven out of dyed chambira palm fiber were a popular item.

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The Delfin II was a luxurious home away from home while exploring the Upper Amazon of Peru.

To see more images from this expedition on the Peruvian Amazon, visit my Photoshelter gallery.

On Assignment: Japan for Nat Geo Travel

Last October I photographed in Japan for a branded content project with National Geographic Travel and Japan National Tourism Organization. I posted images from the field on my Instagram account and after the assignment wrapped up, Nat Geo Travel did a takeover on their Instagram account and recently published articles on the Shimane and Hiroshima regions featuring my photography.

This was my second time to Japan and I remain charmed by the beautiful, friendly country. Scroll down to see my favorite images from the assignment along with some insights into the experience.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

Unfortunately, when I arrived in Japan, I arrived with a typhoon which was lashing the country with high winds and heavy rains. Though this was not an ideal start to an assignment, luckily I had head-to-toe rain gear and protection for my camera. When I arrived at Dangyo-no-taki Waterfalls on the Oki Islands I was able to make this image of falls. Read more about my experience in a Behind the Lens article on National Geographic’s website.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

The Oki Islands, located north of Honshu, felt like a magical place to me. The countryside was dotted with traditional drying racks for rice, the coastline was rugged, and the forests felt ancient and wise. In one of those forests, I photographed the Chichi-sugi Japanese Cedar, which at over 800 years of age and 10 meters in circumference, was definitely something to behold.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

My favorite thing about being on assignment is meeting the people. I was invited into the home of Keitaro Nagaoka, a fisherman, painter, and herbalist who has lived on the Oki Islands for 38 years. He let me photograph him while he mended his fishing nets in his home.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

In Keitaro Nagaoka’s kitchen, I saw his shelves lined with herbal tinctures and some unusual remedies, such as pit viper alcohol. Although he offered me a tipple (which I politely declined), this wise man doesn’t use the alcohol for imbibing, rather for treating wounds.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

I loved the moody look of Dogo Island, the largest of the Oki Islands, from the Nagu-misaki Cape.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

From the Nagu-misaki Cape on Dogo, the typhoon weather finally eased at sunset and I caught my first glimpse of the other Oki Islands, called the Dozen Islands.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

At Teuchi Soba near Goku one can try their hand at making soba noodles and then feast on them for lunch. Soba noodles are unique on the Oki Islands because they use 100% buckwheat.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

The road leading to Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine is lined with shops, eateries, and sacred torii gates. I couldn’t resist photographing this adorable Japanese couple as they ate from a food stall near the famous shrine.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

The Izumo-Taisha Grand Shrine is one of the most famous shrines in Japan and claims to be the oldest. The surrounding region of Shimane Prefecture is known as the land of the gods because the gods return to Izumo-Taisha every October and the god of fortune, O-kuninushi-no-mikoto, is housed in the shrine.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

Before the Adachi Museum of Art in Shimane Prefecture opens to the public, a team of gardeners spruces up the famous gardens, which are considered a living painting that changes with the time of day and the four seasons.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

The gardens at the Adachi Museum are not for strolling, but rather for viewing. Around every corner is a carefully curated viewpoint for looking at the “living painting.”

Shimane Prefecture Japan

Tamatsukuri Onsen is a hot spring village located near Matsue in the Shimane Prefecture. I loved seeing families and friends, like these Japanese women, enjoying the public foot baths that lined the Tamayu River.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

Tamatsukuri Onsen glows during the blue hour. The hot spring’s water is used in various bathing facilities and ryokans (inns) along the main thoroughfare which follows the Tamayu River.

Hiroshima Prefecture

Visiting the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was both a heart-breaking and hopeful experience. Although the atomic bomb devastated the city, somehow one building near the hypocenter remained standing after the infamous blast on August 6th, 1945. The Genbaku Dome was left in the same condition as it was found after the explosion.

Hiroshima Prefecture

The Children’s Peace Monument in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park was built as a monument for peace and to commemorate Sadako Sasaki and the thousands of child victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. Ten years after surviving the atomic bomb being dropped on her city, Sadako Sasaki died at the age of twelve from leukemia, a common disease caused by nuclear radiation. During her illness she worked to fold over 1,000 origami cranes, hoping this would bring her a wish for good health. She did not survive, but her legacy of folding cranes has. Now children from all over the world come to the monument inspired by Sadako to deliver or send paper cranes to the memorial as a prayer for world peace and the end to nuclear weapons.

Hiroshima Prefecture

A man at his stand in the Omotesando Shopping Arcade which leads to the famous Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island.

Hiroshima Prefecture

Japanese deer wander freely on Miyajima Island and have been accustomed to tourists, like these Japanese women who had just come from a wedding.

Hiroshima Prefecture

The bright orange Itsukushima Shrine is known as the floating shrine because of its unique placement on the Seto Inland Sea. At low tide, the illusion of floating disappears as the water retreats and the local deer come in to graze for a bite to eat.

Hiroshima Prefecture

The bright orange O-Torii, or Grand Torii Gate, which stands in the Seto Inland Sea at about 16.8 meters in height, is the most well-known structure of Itsukushima Shrine.

Hiroshima Prefecture

At low tide, visitors flock to the base of the O-Torii to marvel at its size and to make wishes by placing coins into the wooden base of the gate.

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