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?

It’s Carnival Time

Woman dressed as Marie Antoinette laughs while looking into a mirror on Mardi Gras day.

It’s that time of year again, y’all!  Carnival time!  As I’ve been spending my evenings and weekends prepping for my fourth Mardi Gras trip, I’ve been thinking back to five years ago when my colleague and friend, Janelle Nanos, asked me if I wanted to go with her to New Orleans while she was writing a feature story on Mardi Gras.  She enticed me, “It is going to be a great time, and after all, they are going to need photos for the story!” While I’ve always have had a strange attraction to New Orleans–even before I ever stepped foot in the city–I’ve never had the actual desire to go to Mardi Gras.  Of course, I was a victim of believing the stereotypes of booze, boobs, and beads.

I went along with Janelle for a purple, green, and gold colored ride and have never quite been the same since.  I discovered kindred spirits in the people who live in or make yearly pilgrimages to the Big Easy.  Many of the people who I met on that first trip, including lovely Jenny (pictured above), have been friends ever since.  Our bond is no less strong even if we only see each other once a year.  We smile, we hug, we compliment attire, and we weave our way through the magic of Mardi Gras day, knowing we will see each other next time around.

New Orleans is a photographer’s dream at any time of the year, but during Carnival season, it is visual overload.  I rubbed elbows with families, college kids, and all kinds of parade lovers while snapping photos with one hand and catching beads with the other.  I prowled the quiet early morning streets with my new friends in search of a flash of feathers from a Mardi Gras Indian.  And then I fell down the rabbit hole when I arrived at the beginning of the St. Anne’s Parade.  I was told to bring a costume, but the costumes I saw were no Halloween-grade costumes, they were visual splendor.  Riotous convergences of fabric, glitter, quirk, and creativity.  I was hooked.

This Mardi Gras sceptic returned to DC with a changed mind.  I know the experience can take many shapes and forms, but what I really learned is that Mardi Gras is what you make it.  As the Rebirth Brass Bad sings, “Do whatcha wanna!”  And if you want to go and aren’t sure where to start, perhaps our story that was published in the January/February 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler is a good place to start.  I hope that it inspires people to see beyond Bourbon Street and find out what Mardi Gras is really about.  Take a look at the layouts below and go to National Geographic’s website to read Janelle’s full article and see more of my photos.  Clearly, it converted me!