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.

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.

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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!

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!