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.

The Shape of Ice

I’m very belated in sharing about my trip to Antarctica (which I took last year…in January), but I realize that I’m right on time in keeping with one of my New Year’s resolutions from 2018 which is to return to Antarctica. I’m pleased to share that in November of 2019 I’ll be the National Geographic Expert on the Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falklands itinerary with National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions.

Antarctica is one of those places that defies description and imagery. It is the most immense and remote place I’ve ever experienced. To get there you have to hopscotch down the South American continent all the way to the end of the world, the town of Ushuaia, Argentina. From there you board a ship which must cross the (occasionally dreaded) Drake Passage. After a day and change of navigation, depending on your fortunes with the crossing, you begin to see ice and then eventually land.

To imagine the Antarctic islands and continent, envision the majesty of an Alaskan mountain range, strip it of trees and other vegetation, pepper in some penguin colonies, and layer it with a thick frosting of glaciers and snow. What threw my mind for a loop was realizing that without trees and only an occasional man-made structure for reference, getting a sense of scale was nearly impossible. What I could sense, and what remains elusive from truly explaining to someone who has never been, is that everything around me was immense, remote, and beautiful.

I surprised myself with how charmed I was by penguins. It was pure entertainment to watch them tending their adorable chicks on rocky nests or scurrying back and forth from fishing duties. I loved watching the ruckus caused by thieving penguins, the lazy (or ingenious!) penguins who steal rocks from other nests rather than trudging down to the shoreline to fetch their own.

But what I was most enchanted with was the ice. I loved the patterns along the top of tidal glaciers, the artistry in icebergs being sculpted by waves and time, and the sheer awe inspired by massive tabular icebergs floating in an open ocean. I still daydream about the beautiful shapes of ice that I’m missing out on thousands of miles away at the end of the earth.

But now I know I’ll be back. Join me November 19th through December 12th, 2019, and experience the beauty of ice in Antarctica and unparalleled wildlife encounters in South Georgia.

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Guests stand on the bow of the National Geographic Explorer as the ship navigates through sheets of sea ice in the beautiful landscape of Crystal Sound.

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Have you ever peered into the heart of an iceberg? I’d paint my world in this blue if it could be reproduced from a can.

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The face of a tidal glacier looks like a castle made of ice in Paradise Bay.

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Two inflatable boats filled with guests are dwarfed by the immense icy waters.

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A favorite experience was “parking” the National Geographic Explorer in fast ice to have a stroll around Crystal Sound.

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Adelie penguins gather on the shoreline of Brown Bluff before diving into icy waters which harbor their predator, the leopard seal.

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During my January visit, there were plenty of chicks nuzzling underneath penguin parents in all of the colonies we visited.

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Three gentoo penguins walk in a row up a snow-covered hill with the National Geographic Explorer in the background.

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A pod of killer whales swim in the ice-filled waters of Cape Green.

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We were able to visit a few bases and historic sites, but my favorite was Historic British Base W on Detaille Island, which remains frozen in time since being abandoned in the 1950s.

To find out more about the Antarctica, South Georgia, and the Falklands itinerary, click here. To see more of my images from Antarctica, visit this gallery.

Patagonian Dreams

Once upon a time, I flew south in the springtime to find autumn in the Austral lands. I boarded a ship named Orion that took me through turbulent channels and calm coves on an expedition of wonder. I was enchanted by gnarled forests of windswept beech trees and lighthouses dangling over the ends of the earth. I was charmed by orchestras of elephant seals. I felt wind and mud in my face as I galloped a horse across the pampa. I was brought to tears by the sheer beauty of mountains. And I even licked a glacier.

It does feel like some sort of wonderful dream now, months later, as I write this while Christmas lights twinkle outside of my window. The trip I took in March as a National Geographic Expert for National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions to Argentina’s Staten Island and Chilean Patagonia was one of my favorites to date. Although I don’t yet have a scheduled return, I’m working on it and dreaming about Patagonia in the meantime. Here are a few images to inspire your own Patagonian dreams.

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A long cry from the other Staten Island in New York, Argentina’s Isla de los Estados is a rugged, unkempt landscape; just the way nature intended it.

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The weather in Patagonia can be capricious. We arrived under clear skies at the famed Cape Horn, the southernmost headland of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. But after climbing the wooden stairs from the landing to the top of the island, I could see a dark storm approaching. Most of my visit was conducted under torrential rains, but as I made a dash for the last zodiac to the ship, the sky parted and this rainbow appeared.

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This expedition was my first on the beautiful National Geographic Orion. Here she is looking especially dainty in front of the Garibaldi Glacier inside of Chile’s Alberto de Agostini National Park. If anyone ever thinks that I’m “roughing it” on these expeditions, don’t feel bad for me when I come home to a fully stocked bar and multi-course fine dining.

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Whipping winds couldn’t keep me from venturing onto the deck of the Orion to photograph the sunset along the Strait of Magellan.

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Southern elephant seals in Karukinka Natural Park blend into the beach like logs when they’re resting, but they cannot be ignored when they cause a ruckus. In fact, this bunch interrupted an interview I was doing with Video Chronicler Mark Coger (and you can see the blooper here).

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For the love of trees! I adored the shapes of the Southern beech trees in Karukinka Natural Park.

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I’ve seen the Torres del Paine massif in countless photos and nothing could prepare me for how overwhelmed I’d feel when I finally gazed at such beauty in person. I decided then that Torres del Paine National Park is in the top five most beautiful places I’ve even been.

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We took various hikes throughout Torres del Paine National Park and had many guanaco as willing subject matter to pose in front of the gorgeous mountain backdrops.

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Although I didn’t photograph while galloping on my horse, that experience is seared into my mind forever.

If you’re interested in coming to a photo workshop with me in Torres del Paine (the place that brought me to tears), shoot me an email to let me know. And if you’d like to see more images from this expedition, visit the full galleries of Chilean Patagonia and Argentina’s Staten Island.

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.

Come Learn with Me in 2018

If it weren’t for my Google Calendar, I quite literally wouldn’t know where I need to be. If I can barely keep track of my schedule, I doubt anyone can.

Here is a roundup of the expeditions and workshops I’ll be leading this year (and in 2019). Some are new and other are tried and true. You can always check which National Geographic Expeditions trips I’ll be on as an Expert here.

Coming up March 7th-21st, I’ll be on board the National Geographic Orion for the Best of Patagonia: From Torres del Paine to Cape Horn. I had a wee taste of Patagonia before my Antarctica trip last year and I am so excited for this sure-to-be-stunning journey!

On May 12th-23rd, I return to Morocco to lead the Morocco Photography Expedition for National Geographic Expeditions. To read and see more about last year’s experience, click here. We will begin in Casablanca, visit the chaos of Marrakech, climb into the Atlas Mountains, and then explore the Sahara Desert. We end in my favorite city, Fes, to get lost in the labyrinth of the souks.

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Tiles at the Ben Youssef Madrasa in Marrakesh.

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The famous (and pungent) tanneries in Fes.

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Sunrise photography in the Sahara with of our expedition guests.

Immediately following Morocco, I’ll swap out flip-flops for hiking boots and head to Alaska for two dates on the Wild Alaska Escape on May 29th-June 3rd and June 3rd-8th. This will be my third trip to Alaska for Lindblad/National Geographic and it personally ranks as one of my favorites. Read more about the trip here.

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Brown bears at Pavlof Waterfall.

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Bubble-net feeding humpback whales in Sumner Strait.

On June 24th-29th, I’ll be returning to the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops to teach The New World of Travel Photography. We will explore the Santa Fe area and learn to make our travel images stand out from the crowd.

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Feeling festive on Santa Fe’s famous Plaza.

Last year I had the opportunity to teach with National Geographic Student Expeditions for the first time in Yellowstone National Park. This year I’ll be leading another high school student group for the Yosemite and San Francisco Photo Workshop from July 17th-28th.

Late summer will find me in Aspen, Colorado, teaching for the first time at Anderson Ranch Arts Center on August 13th-17th. Join me to explore the beauty of Aspen in my Beyond the Postcard photo workshop.

In the fall, I’ll be teaching a private workshop with Jennifer Davidson in my home state of Oregon. If you’re interested in a customized, private workshop, please contact me.

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Last fall Jennifer and I led a private workshop for our friends the “Roadrunners” in Santa Fe.

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Fall foliage in the mountains surrounding Santa Fe.

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The magical Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

If you are already daydreaming about travel in 2019, I’ll return to the Upper Amazon and be joining National Geographic Expeditions on their new European river cruises on the Duoro River and on the Danube River.

I hope my travel path crosses with yours!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.