2017 Year in Review

Although the sun has set on 2017, it isn’t too late to take a look back.

In putting together this post I was surprised by how much travel and adventure I packed into a year. I also realize that I’m slow to process my travels, both mentally and physically through words and images. So that brings me to New Year’s resolution #1: To remember, write about, and share my travels in a timely manner.

Now you can help hold me to that for 2018! But for now, enjoy a visual tour of the highlights from 2017.

Photographer

In January, I traveled with Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions as the Nat Geo Expert on two voyages to Antarctica. The penguins charmed me, but I simply fell in love with icebergs. I found myself running outside to photograph during meal times (without my parka on) and staying up until the wee hours (when the Antarctic summer light is best) and I simply couldn’t get enough. New Year’s resolution #2: Go back to Antarctica.

Photographer

My mom joined me on my last Antarctica trip and then we traveled to Mendoza in Argentina to sip wine and take horse rides into the foothills of the Andes at sunrise. When she flew back to the States in February, I stayed on to explore Buenos Aires.

Photographer

In April I visited New Zealand for the first time to work on a project with National Geographic Travel and Tourism New Zealand. I tacked on some free time in advance of the shoot to explore on my own. At Rippon Vineyard on the edge of beautiful Lake Wanaka, I was able to photograph their first day of autumn harvest.

Photographer

In New Zealand, the Nat Geo Travel team, which included writer Carrie Miller, director Tom King, marketing mastermind Andrew Nelson, and myself, joined up with actor/director Bryce Dallas Howard and Tourism New Zealand to produce a gorgeous package of work. Our efforts were recently honored as #2 in Ad Age’s 10 Best Branded Content Partnerships of 2017.

05-krista-rossow-national-geographic-event

In May, I returned to National Geographic in Washington, D.C., a place I’d called home for so long, to speak at a special event partnered with Asheville Tourism. I was able to share photos from my assignment there and afterward, we celebrated with live music and food.

Photographer

I hopped a plane straight from D.C. to Casablanca where I joined my first land-based National Geographic Expeditions photo trip in Morocco. With our cameras in hand, we explored souks, deserts, and kasbahs. And I’m lucky enough to be going again this May.

07-krista-rossow-prsa-travel-palm-springs

We didn’t let the heat stop us in Palm Springs during the annual PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) Travel and Tourism Conference. I was invited to lead a full-day photo workshop on behalf of National Geographic.

Photographer

While in Palm Springs I decided I had to visit nearby Joshua Tree National Park. I absolutely loved the Dr. Seuss-like plants in a landscape that felt like Mars. I think returning to JTNP has to be New Year’s resolution #3.

09-krista-rossow-yellowstone-national-park

In July, I went to Montana and Wyoming to lead my first National Geographic Student Expedition. Along with four student leaders, we taught photography to 30 high school students while exploring Yellowstone National Park. I was so impressed with the energy and vision of that group of young people; read about it here. This July I’ll be the Nat Geo Expert on the Yosemite and San Francisco Photo Workshop.

krista-rossow-santa-fe-photographic-workshop

It is lovely when things come full circle. In 2004 I worked at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops as a course assistant and 2017 found me teaching my first workshop there. I had a wonderful class who took on the challenge of photographing Santa Fe and ended the week with unique travel stories. I’ll be returning this June to teach “The New World of Travel Photography” for the second time.

12-krista-rossow-total-eclipse-diamond

When I found out that the path of totality for the 2017 Great American Eclipse on August 21st was only 16 miles north of my home in Oregon, I had to go. With family and friends, we watched near a historic cemetery in rural Oregon and discovered the absolute wonder of being in totality. New Year’s resolution #4: Get into totality again….and again.

13-krista-rossow-rainbow-glacier-alaska

The theme of natural wonders continued when I went to Alaska and British Columbia in September for Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions. While taking boat rides around the South Sawyer Glacier, the sun broke through thick grey clouds and bestowed us with the most magical moments of light and rainbows. Throw in amazing brown bear sitings, bubble-net feeding humpback whales, jaw-dropping landscapes, and Northern Lights, I think I still am on a high from all that natural beauty. I can’t wait to return to Alaska this June.

Photographer

I returned to Santa Fe in October to teach a private workshop with my friend and colleague Jennifer Davidson. Our timing allowed us to take our group to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to photograph “mass ascension” one beautiful morning.

Shimane Prefecture Japan

In October I arrived in Japan alongside Typhoon Lan. Being on assignment for National Geographic Travel and Japan National Tourism Organization, I didn’t have time to spare despite strong winds and pouring rain. Luckily, I’d packed all my rain gear from my prior trip to Alaska and was ready to photograph the Oki Islands in any weather.

Hiroshima Prefecture

But not all of my days in Japan were filled with rain! I explored more of the Shimane region including onsen towns and perfectly manicured gardens. And I ended the assignment near Hiroshima shooting the iconic O-Torii gate on Miyajima Island.

18-krista-rossow-galapagos-sea-lions

In November and December, I joined an outstanding photo team including Brian Skerry, Michael Melford, Jennifer Davidson, and Ralph Lee Hopkins for the Epic Galápagos Photo Expedition. We had an enthusiastic group of photographers on board and I was lucky enough to have my parents (pictured) in the group!

I’m excited about all the adventures that lie ahead for 2018. So far I’ve been photo editing a book for National Geographic and in a few days I pick up my passport and head to the Peruvian Amazon for Lindblad/National Geographic Expeditions. Wishing you a wonderful year!

Photo Tip: Get Eye-to-Eye with Animal Photography

One easy way to improve your animal photography is to change perspective. Think about getting the shot from the animal’s eye level; most often that will mean to get low.

Shooting from the animal’s eye level can make an animal portrait more intimate and about personality. An added benefit of shooting from a lower perspective is that it usually makes for cleaner backgrounds.

Galapagos sea lion at sunset

In the shot above of a Galápagos sea lion at sunset, I crouched down on the beach. Along with the position of the sea lion’s head, this made the animal look more majestic. This also caused the sea lion’s body to stand out against the lighter background of water and it filled the space in the frame. Lowering my perspective made the photo more dynamic.

Galapagos sea lion at sunset

Above is the “before” picture that I took from my eye-level when I walked up to the scene. The sea lion’s head and neck are lost against the similarly colored background of the sand. Also, there is a lot of empty space being taken up by the sand and water. I knew it wasn’t a great photo, but it was a good starting point for experimentation like lowering my perspective and waiting patiently for the animal to make an interesting shape and gesture.

Galapagos land iguana

Sometimes getting low means getting dirty. I saw this Galápagos land iguana (pictured above) on the move and got onto my belly in front of him using my telephoto lens. I then snapped away hoping that I’d catch his hand in a gesture that would show he was walking. By getting so low, I cropped out the distracting brush that was in the background and made this photo all about the animal.

A dog at a pub in Salem, Oregon.

Just because our pets aren’t as exotic as some animals we’ll encounter on our travels, it doesn’t mean the same techniques won’t apply. Try getting onto your puppy’s perspective or crouching with your cat. And this is where I’ll spare you from having to look at endless images of my own pet!

For more stories behind getting a successful photograph, head over to National Geographic’s On Assignment blog to read about capturing the essence of San Francisco and unexpected encounters.

And I’d you’d like to learn photography in person with me, come to the Galápagos Islands or Alaska on a National Geographic Expedition or meet me in Texas this summer. Read more of my photo tips here.

Marine iguanas at sunset

On Assignment with National Geographic Expeditions: Galápagos Islands

I’m recently back from my first trip to the Galápagos Islands. I was lucky enough to visit these islands located 600 miles off of the coast of Ecuador while working as a Photo Expert and Instructor for National Geographic Expeditions and Lindblad. Calling these pristine volcanic islands my “office” for two weeks while navigating above and below the Equator on the National Geographic Endeavour was an unparalleled experience.

With my background as a photo editor, you can imagine that I’ve seen quite a few images from the Galápagos Islands. I knew I’d be seeing giant tortoises (for which the islands are named) and the popular blue-footed booby. What I wasn’t prepared for was what it felt like to be on the islands.

My first impression was that I’d arrived in a prehistoric land, sans dinosaurs but, as Darwin learned over a few short months in 1835, teeming with a variety of species who have adapted quite uniquely to their environments. You could not only feel the age of the islands, but you could see it as we traveled from west to east, from the youngest to the oldest islands. At the young age of less than a million years old, Fernandina is still volcanically active and growing while nurturing scores of animals.Visiting older Genovesa you see only the crescent moon of a sinking caldera, an island in the final stages of life yet still home to thousands of seabirds.

During the two weeks on board I met guests from as near as Oregon and as far as Australia, children whose ages were in the single digits and retired folks who made being in their eighties look easy, and eager-to-shoot photo enthusiasts and people who didn’t know they’d have so much fun with their cameras while on the islands. I worked with a talented photo team, namely Jennifer Davidson and Jose Calvo, and for one week had the chance to work a legend of National Geographic, Annie Griffiths. During every outing I was impressed with the knowledge of Lindblad Expeditions’ naturalists, whose passion for the islands is palpable. And every time I was on the ship I was taken care of by a friendly and professional crew.

And the best part is that I get to go back. I’ll be returning to the islands for two more photo-specific expeditions on October 24th and 31st (details here). I hope these photos give you an idea of what it feels like to be on an expedition in the Galápagos. And I’d love to see you there in the fall!

A sea lion approaches people on a beach.

One of the most delightful things about the Galápagos is how close humans can get to the animals. Sea lions, like this one at Punta Pitt, are as curious about us as we are about them. Because the animals on the islands have few predators, they are unafraid. Using their energy to get out of our way would be wasteful, but visitors must keep a 6-ft distance to comply with national park rules.

National Geographic Endeavour ship at sunset.

The hull of the National Geographic Endeavour glistens in the last light as we return from a hike on Genovesa Island. The ship was our base as we explored the islands using small inflatable boats known as zodiacs to ferry us to shore or out on deep-water snorkels.

A red footed booby on Genovesa Island

Everyone hears about the blue-footed booby, but my personal favorite booby is the red-footed species. Their bright blue and purple beaks won me over.

Photographing a Peruvian booby in the Galapagos Islands

Speaking of boobies, we were lucky enough to be present for the first spotting of a Peruvian booby on the Galápagos Islands. Here naturalist Walter Perez and his zodiac full of guests photograph the surprising animal. Read more about the news on the Lindblad Expeditions blog here.

Snorkeling in the Galapagos Islands.

Snorkeling is an almost daily activity while on expedition in the islands. With visions of ancient pirates in our minds, we swam into a cave at Buccaneer Cove on Santiago Island and found a large school of fish. During the snorkels we not only swam with fish, but also with sea turtles, sea lions, sharks, penguins, and cormorants.

Naturalist on the Galapagos.

Naturalist Pato Maldonado explains to some young guests how different animals use the cacti growing on Santa Cruz Islands as food. Every hike, zodiac ride, or snorkel is led by a naturalist guide in groups of 16 or less. All naturalists in the Galapagos are required to be residents of the islands.

Joyful woman hiking in the Galapagos.

One of the guests expresses her joy at reaching the top of the hike near Darwin Lake on Isabela Island. This photograph of her happiness captures what it is like to explore these beautiful islands.

Guests on the bow of the National Geographic Endeavour

One evening before heading to the recap session, guests had a cocktail at sunset while the ship cruised near Daphne Major Islet. The nightly recap sessions in the lounge included a briefing on the next day’s activities and could include mini-sessions on photography or natural history and perhaps a short screening of underwater footage from that day’s snorkel.

The barrel at Post Office Bay

You’ve got mail! There are few signs of the history of man on the Galápagos Islands, but on Floreana Island there is a post office barrel where whalers and sailors would leave their correspondence to be picked-up and hand delivered by others who happened to be passing in the right direction. The tradition continues and I happened to pick up two postcards that I’ll be able to deliver in Oregon.

Lava cactus and landscape in Fernandina

Visiting the islands, you quickly learn how different each one can appear from the others. Fernandina is the youngest of the islands in the Galapagos. It is home to a large colony of marine iguanas and the endemic lava cactus species.

Walking back to ship in Galapagos.

A hike comes to an end as guests walk back to catch a zodiac to the National Geographic Endeavour. On the two photo-focused weeks I taught on, we spent as much time as we could shooting the islands at sunset and sunrise.

Krista photographing a sea lion in the Galapagos Islands. Photo by Naturalist and Photo Instructor Greg Aranea.

A photo of me photographing a sea lion in the Galápagos Islands. Perhaps I’ll see you in the Galápagos this fall? Photo by Naturalist Greg Aranea.