Photographing Morocco with National Geographic Expeditions

This past May I joined the Morocco Photography Expedition for National Geographic Expeditions as the National Geographic Expert. Our trip was a combination of cultural exploration and photography instruction. We gathered in Casablanca and set across the pink-hued landscape of Morocco to discover gems like Marrakech, Ait Benhaddou, the Sahara Desert, and Fes. I’ll let the following photos give you a glimpse of the experience:

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A visit to Casablanca isn’t complete without a visit to the world’s third largest mosque, the Hassan II which is named after the king who built this mega-structure. The vast interiors dwarf worshippers and visitors alike.

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Morocco, and in particular Marrakech, can be challenging for photography because many locals and vendors refuse to be photographed or demand payment. With persistence and patience, I found that a few people were open to having conversations and were happy to allow for photography, such as this man at his dried fruit and nut stand in Djemma el-Fna Square.

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France has Monet’s Giverny and Morocco has Majorelle’s beautiful gardens. It is easy to see how the beautiful grounds here inspired the French painter during his time in Marrakech. We spent a lovely morning here exploring the grounds and visiting the Berber Museum.

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From Marrakech, we embarked on the “Road of 1000 Kasbahs” and encountered a crumbling kasbah in the village of Telouet. The exterior was in various states of disrepair, but inside the rooms remained awe-inspiring with the intricate tile work.

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On the southern slopes of the High Atlas in the Province of Ouarzazate, the Ksar of Ait Benhaddou is an ighrem, or fortified village, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. Wandering through the village at sunset felt like walking amidst giant sand castles and was a highlight of the expedition.

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A visit to the Atlas Film Studios in Ouarzazate, the Hollywood of Morocco, took us through Ancient Egypt and Rome and into Tibet on this set from the film Kundun.

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The small town of Rissani was an unexpected photographic delight on the way towards the Sahara Desert. I loved wandering through the main market and photographing the produce and spice stalls as well as exploring the markets where you could buy cows, chickens, and donkeys.

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We rode camels through early morning darkness to find a spot amidst the dunes of the Sahara Desert near Merzouga to watch the sunrise. A few of us photographed the Moroccan camel drivers who were passing time while waiting for their guests.

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The golden gates of the Royal Palace of Fes were well worth a photo stop.

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In Fes, we visited the famous leather tanneries. Although the tanneries are photographically interesting, it was difficult for me not to gag at the putrid odor (mint leaves helped) and I felt conflicted about watching the men work in such unsafe conditions while continuing the traditional method of their leathercraft.

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I had thought Marrakech’s medina was a maze, but I was wholly unprepared for the twisting, turning, seemingly endless lanes of Fes el-Bali. Of course, our guides wouldn’t allow us to get lost in the colorful chaos, but I look forward to returning to roam the narrow streets and make more discoveries.

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The Roman ruins of Volubilis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a half day drive from Fes. Driving into the countryside filled with wheat fields and olive trees felt familiar to me like the landscapes of Andalusia in Southern Spain. At the ruins, I was delighted by the families of cranes who had made their nests on top of ancient columns.

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One of the expedition guests gets approval from a friendly local man at the market in Rissani.

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Our expedition group enjoying a sunset and sundowners from a rooftop in Marrakech before one of our many delicious, decadent dinners. It was wonderful to travel with you all!

Morocco was a photographer’s delight! If you’d like to travel with National Geographic Expeditions on this trip in Morocco, I’ll be leading the May 12th-23rd expedition in 2018.

Krista Rossow named National Geographic Traveler Contributing Photographer

national-geographic-traveler-cover-august-september-2017I’m pleased to share that my name has returned to the masthead of National Geographic Traveler magazine. While working as a photo editor for Traveler I spent seven years seeing my name in print. Now I’ve been named as one of the contributing photographers to the publication (alongside talented folks I consider inspirations) and you’ll see my name listed again on the masthead beginning in the current August/September 2017 issue. I’m happy to be a part of the Nat Geo Travel family!

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In Bookstores: The World’s Most Romantic Destinations

Last April I holed up in a house in Seattle and took a trip around the world.

Well, not literally, but through pictures. While photo editing my first book project for National Geographic, I re-visited favorite destinations like Cape Town and the Burgundy region of France, but then also fell for places that hadn’t quite caught my eye before like the Azores Islands of Portugal, Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago, and San Sebastián in Spain.

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I enjoyed switching gears from photo editing for magazines and delving into the book publishing world. I’m looking forward to working on the sister book to this title later this year. Special thanks for making the photo editing process easy and enjoyable goes to National Geographic’s Moira Haney, Elisa Gibson, and Allyson Dickman.

I’m proud to say that the results are now in hard copy and, if I do say so myself, they look gorgeous. Pick up National Geographic’s The World’s Most Romantic Destinations in bookstores or online and start adding to your travel bucket list. I can promise you these tempting places aren’t only for lovers.

A small ship passes through a narrow passage in Alaska.

On Assignment with National Geographic Expeditions: Photography in Alaska & British Columbia

This past May I had the opportunity to travel as a National Geographic Expert on a voyage from Seattle, Washington, along the Inside Passage of British Columbia and Alaska. The National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions A Remarkable Journey to Alaska, British Columbia & Haida Gwaii photography voyage was one of my favorites because as a Pacific Northwest native I felt right at home experiencing the lush forests and moody weather.

On September 3rd-17th of 2017, I’ll be joining as a National Geographic Expert on another Remarkable Journey to Alaska, British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii on board the National Geographic Sea Lion. Come join me on this intimate ship as we get up close and personal with the beauty of landscapes, wildlife, and culture of British Columbia and Alaska. I’ll be working with a talented photo team to provide insightful lectures and give tips and advice while on photo walks and photographing from the ship.

Here are a few images from last May’s expedition as a teaser of what the experience is like. To see more images from that voyage, visit my archive.

Two photographers on the bow of a ship.

On these expeditions, you’ll often find the photo team, like Photo Instructor Ryder Redfield (right), out on deck giving photo tips, especially during the beautiful sunset we had while navigating Frederick Sound.

A glacier calves in front of a zodiac filled with people.

The morning we spent on zodiacs photographing the awe-inspiring Dawes Glacier calve was something I’ll never forget. It was an experience for all the senses, from the crackling sound like lightening in the ice to the giant aftershock waves that rocked the ship anchored over a mile away.

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I never tired of photographing bald eagles, like this one perched on a tree branch in the Inian Islands, which were ubiquitous in the rugged Alaskan landscape.

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In Petersburg, also known as Little Norway, we had a photo walk through the picturesque fishing village, capturing scenes of everyday life.

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On the last full day of the voyage, we spent over an hour photographing orcas as they swam around the ship in nearly still waters on the Peril Straight.

I’d love to see you join the voyage with me in September of 2017. I can promise beautiful vistas, amazing wildlife, and loads of photographic learning…….but I can’t promise the same beautiful weather I had last May!

Krista Rossow Speaking at OPTIC 2016 in NYC

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I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be speaking in New York City as part of OPTIC 2016, a photography event from June 5th-8th put on by the legendary B&H Photo Video and National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions. This “Outdoor Photo/Video Travel Imaging Conference” can be attended for free in person or via livestreaming. Simply visit the website to register for either option.

On Sunday, June 5th, I’ll be speaking for Fujifilm discussing my recent experience using the X Series mirrorless system while traveling in Asia this past winter. For those curious about making the switch from DSLRs to mirrorless, I’ll be discussing my experience while sharing the resulting photographs and teaching why bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to cameras. If you can’t make it in person, read a recap on B&H’s Explora blog here or watch the archived footage here.

Also on Sunday, I’ll be on the main stage speaking about how to “Think Like an Editor.” I will discuss how I believe that for travel photography, photo editing begins even before taking a picture. Today’s photographers are their own photo editors, and not in the sense of using Instagram filters or Photoshop, but in the sense of selecting the best imagery to share with an audience, whether that is in a family album or professional portfolio. I will give tips on how to “improve your photographic odds” by preparing to take travel photographs through research and planning. I will discuss considerations for capturing the best images while in the field and give insight on the process of curating the best images once the images have been made. From my experience as a both a photographer on assignment and as a photo editor needing to convey an effective story, I will give practical insight into improving your photography and telling your own story. Register here to livestream this talk.

Sign up to also hear talks by my National Geographic colleagues Erika Larsen, Jay Dickman, Flip Nicklen, and Ralph Lee Hopkins and many other industry professionals. If you are in New York City, make sure to visit the trade show and to register for portfolio reviews, a photo walk in Central Park, a photo cruise, and a dinner party sponsored by Nikon. All the information is on the website: www.optic2016.com.

I hope to see you in New York or virtually on the small-screen somewhere in the world!

UPDATE: The talks I gave in New York are now archived with B&H. To see my editing talk, click here, and to see the talk about shooting with mirrorless, click here.

Looking Back on 2015

In my (at times crazy) freelance life, I’m lucky to get to wear three hats: photographer, editor, and teacher. This past year had me busily swapping hats and it awarded me with some unforgettable experiences.

Last year I rang in the New Year overlooking the twinkling lights of Paris before heading to Spain to photograph a chilly Marbella on the Costa del Sol and then venturing to South Africa to shoot a feature story for National Geographic Traveler. February found me teaching photography in the Galápagos Islands for National Geographic Expeditions.

Fast forward to a summer spent teaching on ships on the Equator and in the Arctic Cirle and to my first workshop co-teaching with Jennifer Davidson in Austin, Texas. After returning home for the fall I put on my photo editing hat and got to work on multiple projects for National Geographic (did you see the Adelaide and Best of the World feature stories in the Dec 2015/Jan 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveler?). After Thanksgiving I headed south again to take part in the first Epic Photo Expedition in the Galápagos.

As the adage goes, pictures tell a thousand words, so I’ll let these images help tell the story of my most memorable experiences of 2015.

On Assignment: Durban Days

Scene on the Durban waterfront.

I fell in love with South Africa in 2013 and was delighted to be asked by National Geographic Traveler to head back to photograph Durban and the Kwa-Zulu Natal region for the May 2015 issue. I went on safari in a UNESCO World Heritage site, hiked into the jaw-dropping Drakensburg Mountains on the border with Lesotho, and explored the urban landscape of Durban. I ate plenty of curry and spent as much time as I could on the waterfront documenting the everyday lives of Durbanites. The photos from this assignment were also displayed in a gallery show in Durban during the INDABA travel show.

Most Obscure Destination: Jan Mayen

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I had never heard of Jan Mayen until the day before setting foot on the island while traveling as a photo expert on the National Geographic Explorer. Located at 70°59′N 8°32′W in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, we had the opportunity to explore this Norwegian island on a rare sunny afternoon. We walked on a moonlike landscape and admired the “shy” glacier-covered Beerenberg Volcano as it would occasionally emerge from its cloud cover.

Second Most Obscure Destination: Juan Fernández Archipelago

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Located 416 miles off of the coast of Chile is a land that inspired the novel Robinson Crusoe, the Juan Fernández Archipelago. While working on the National Geographic Explorer as a photo expert on a voyage exploring Peru and Chile, I was able to go on shore on Robinson Crusoe Island and even hike high into the foothills of this verdant, charming, and almost forgotten isle.

Most Exhilarating Experience: An Erupting Volcano

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A week before I headed to the Galápagos Islands in June, I heard news of Wolf Volcano erupting. I couldn’t wait to get down to the islands to perhaps catch a glimpse. Although nowhere near the full splendor of the initial eruption, what I saw was equally awe-inspiring. One evening, as the National Geographic Endeavour navigated closer to the island and the light faded from the sky, the lava hot spots illuminated the smoke and clouds in a terrific orange color. We stayed up late into the night entranced by the glow and trying our best to photograph a low-light situation from a moving platform (this was definitely the most difficult photographic situation of the year!).

Favorite American Experience

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As much as I love to experience other cultures, I always have loved American culture. During the Picture Austin photo workshop I taught with Jennifer Davidson, we took our students to the Bastrop Homecoming Rodeo to capture this American tradition.

Most Memorable Wildlife Experience

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I’d never before seen a polar bear in the wild, and although this fellow came right up to the bow of our ship (we think he smelled the bacon from breakfast) during my Arctic expedition, I’m sharing this wide-angle shot of him in his native habitat. It struck me as so poignantly beautiful that these powerful creatures live solitary lives in extreme environments. It reminded me that the way we live our daily lives has repercussions further away than we might imagine.

Best Teaching Team

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Last month I was part of an incredible team brought together for the first Epic Photo Expedition in the Galápagos. From left to right: Mark Thiessen, Ralph Lee Hopkins, me, Jonathan Kingston, Jennifer Davidson, Tui De Roy, Gabe Biderman, David Brommer, and Rich Reed. I’m heading back this December for another epic; will you join? Photo courtesy of Greg Cook.

So Many Miles

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In 2015 I took 68 flights, six expeditions by ship, and added four new countries to my list. The year was filled with new faces and places with a little editing here, some shooting there, and a lot of teaching others to love photography.

2016 already promises lots of adventures starting with attending the annual National Geographic Seminar tomorrow in Washington, DC, and leaving for an Asian adventure next week.

Stay up to date with all that is happening here and through my quarterly newsletter. I hope our paths cross in this new year. Happy 2016!

2014 By the Numbers

It isn’t every year one can say that they’ve been around the world.

Well, 2014 was a unique year for me. I made my way around the world, with a couple extra crossings of the Atlantic Ocean and Equator thrown in for good measure. Many photos were taken (around 50k) and the passport never got cold. Here is a bit of a round-up in numbers and superlatives.

Colorful time zone map of the world

Countries visited: 18 (In order of appearance….Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Myanmar, India, Mauritius, South Africa, Ghana, Morocco, England, Denmark, Sweden, Ecuador, France, Spain, Costa Rica, and Mexico.)

Number of airplane take offs and, thank goodness, landings: 45

Trains taken: 8

First class Mexican buses taken: 1

Favorite modes of alternative transport: horse, tuk tuk, Indian houseboat, Burmese bicycle taxi, zodiac boat, cable car

Miles sailed with Semester at Sea: 23,379.5 nautical miles

Number of days spent living on a ship: 143 (115 on the MV Explorer and 28 on the National Geographic Endeavour)

Amount of college students stuck on a ship with me (and me with them): over 500

Time zones crossed: all of them

Most interesting geographic coordinate: zero degrees longitude and zero degrees latitude in the Gulf of Guinea (yes, there is a buoy out there)

As I write this from Paris, I already know 2015 will be filled with more travels and many more photos. Stay tuned for adventures from France, Spain, South Africa, Ecuador, and who knows where else. Happy 2015!