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.

If you’d like to see even more images of Japan or license images for commercial or editorial usage, please visit my Photoshelter archive.

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!

On Assignment: New Zealand for Nat Geo Travel

This past April I went to New Zealand on assignment for Nat Geo Travel to make images for a special website, the Ultimate New Zealand Experience. National Geographic writer Carrie Miller and I joined actor/director Bryce Dallas Howard and Tourism New Zealand to explore the beautiful island nation.

The results of our explorations are now live on the Ultimate New Zealand Experience website. Every page is packed with inspiring content including short videos, my photography, and informative articles. I’ve broken out some highlights below to make sure you see it all!

A feast for the eyes:

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The Bay of Islands near Kerikeri on the North Island looks blissful at sunrise. To see just how diverse the many landscapes of New Zealand are, visit my 19 Epic Landscapes photo gallery.

Urban exploration:

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In addition to being New Zealand’s capital, Wellington is also the capital of coffee and beer culture, second-hand shops, friendly folks, gusty winds, and small-town vibes.

Maori culture:

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Discover 6 Ways to Experience Maori Culture and see images of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, sacred and spectacular Cape Reinga, and an ancient kauri tree named Tāne Mahuta.

Strap on your hiking boots:

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Watch Bryce Dallas Howard, Carrie Miller, and me walk amongst the clouds near Queenstown and venture onto the Routeburn Track, one of the 9 “Great Walks” of New Zealand.

For foodies:

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A visit to New Zealand will not leave you hungry. Inspire your appetite with images of impromptu roadside stands, bountiful farmers markets, and gorgeous wine regions. And read Carrie Miller’s 7 Ways to Eat and Drink Your Way Through New Zealand and don’t forget to look for us in the video where we dine al fresco one of the prettiest settings in the Bay of Islands.

Before this assignment, I’d never been to New Zealand and I now find myself daydreaming about how to get back there as soon as possible. I’ll be sharing more of my experience and outtakes from this epic assignment in upcoming posts.

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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On Newsstands: 100 Places That Will Change Your Life

If you were in a book or grocery store lately, you may have seen the cover of this magazine inviting you to change your life. Indeed, this”book-a-zine” (bigger than a magazine, 600px 100  Placessmaller than a book), changed my life for quite a while last summer as I photo edited images for all of the amazing destinations held within its pages.

It had only been a couple of years since leaving my staff job at National Geographic Traveler as a photo editor and it felt great to work on 100 Places That Will Change Your Life. And, as always happens when working on these projects, my list of travel destinations has grown with priority now being given to a culinary trip to Oaxaca, a trail-restoring trek to Torres del Paine, and a trip to see turquoise waters in Croatia.

If you need a little travel inspiration and you missed this publication, you can order a copy via National Geographic here.

Krista Rossow Speaking at OPTIC 2016 in NYC

optic2016

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!