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.

 

Learn How to Photograph Boobies (the Blue-Footed Kind)

Krista giving feedback during a one-on-one critique with a workshop participant in Washington, DC.

Krista giving feedback during a one-on-one critique with a workshop participant in Washington, DC. Video still by Steve Pickard.

Now that I’ve got your attention, no blue-footed booby picture here yet, but read on for a chance to learn how to photograph these unique birds with me in the Galápagos Islands.

A student photographs the Lincoln Memorial during a sunrise shoot on a weekend photo workshop Krista taught with Dan Westergren.

A student photographs the Lincoln Memorial during a sunrise shoot on a weekend photo workshop Krista taught with Dan Westergren.

For the last few years I’ve been working as an instructor on National Geographic Expeditions’ weekend photo workshops in New Orleans and Washington, DC. I’ve not only been able to share my love for these two fabulous cities, but also share my knowledge of photography and photo editing. It is honestly a delight to be surrounded by people eager to learn and immerse themselves in photography for four days. Recently we had a videographer join one of the DC workshops led by Mark Thiessen to put together a taste of what the workshops are like. Check out the video put together by Steve Pickard.

Also, I’m so delighted to share news that I’ll be working as a National Geographic Expert with National Geographic Expeditions on their Galápagos Photo Expeditions in 2014. From June 13th through 22nd we will be photographing the diverse wildlife and gorgeous scenery of the islands and spending time back on the National Geographic Endeavor ship delving deeper into learning photography. The next week I’ll be serving as a photo instructor with Expert Annie Griffiths and in October/November with Expert Rich Reid. Check out the full schedule here.

I’m looking forward to exploring the Galápagos with students, new and old. I hope to photograph blue-footed boobies with you there!

On Newsstands: San Francisco Feature

In September of last year I was given the opportunity to photograph a feature story for National Geographic Traveler magazine.  I was thrilled to get out from behind the photo editing desk and head back to my native West Coast to explore San Francisco with camera in hand.  Half a year later, the results of that assignment are hitting newsstands today.

For about a week, I chased sunshine and learned to embrace fog. I drank so much good coffee. I ogled farm-fresh produce and delectable dishes….and sometimes got to eat too! I started (and ended) days in a fleece and stocking cap and was basking in the sun by mid-day. I slept in a live-work warehouse, a cozy inn tucked into the Presidio, and a funky downtown hotel. I photographed in parks, parklets, and on top of gigantic living rooftops. I rode cable cars and rubbed elbows with tourists on Lombard Street, all of us clicking away with our cameras. And on my last night in the City by the Bay, I sat in Corona Heights Park and watched the fog roll over downtown, the sky turn pink, and the city’s lights come on and sparkle.

But what I enjoyed the most during this assignment was the people that I met along the way; like Daniel Scott, the yogi-acrobat-chocolatier I stumbled upon at an Off the Grid food truck round-up (and who ended up full page on the opener of the story), and Chan Quach, a local elementary school teacher who flies his two pet macaws around Mission Dolores Park on occasional evenings.  I talked with crab fishermen while patiently waiting for the tip of the Golden Gate Bridge to emerge from the fog, met a former ballerina stretching in Alamo Square Park, photographed a man taking his grandson on his first cable car ride, learned all about coffee roasting from the master roaster at Sightglass Coffee, and met so many others that I’m grateful to for taking the time to tell me their stories.

San Francisco Feature Spread 2 San Francisco Feature Spread 3 San Francisco Feature Spread 4 San Francisco Feature Spread 5

To read Andrew Nelson’s wanderlust-inspiring story and see these photographs in print, head to newsstands today to pick up the April 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler. The issue is also available on the iPad and to get my behind-the-lens perspective visit Traveler‘s website to click through an extra photo gallery.

Thanks to Andrew Nelson for taking us all to San Francisco through his words (and for his great taste in cities), to George Stone for his edgy editing, to Dan Westergren for sending me to California, to Leigh Borghesani for yet another beautifully designed feature, and biggest thanks to Carol Enquist for her expert photo editing.  Now, how do I get back to San Francisco?

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Taking the Leap: Welcome to Bloglandia

Taking the Leap

Self-portrait playing in the sand dunes on the Oregon Coast

I’ve taken the leap into Bloglandia! Welcome to my Krista Rossow Photography blog where you can keep up to date on work-in-progress, published stories, and other news. As I greet you in this new virtual home, I thought it only appropriate to start with a self-portrait taken on a beautiful summer day in my home state of Oregon.