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!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I loved the moody look of Dogo Island, the largest of the Oki Islands, from the Nagu-misaki Cape.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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A man at his stand in the Omotesando Shopping Arcade which leads to the famous Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima Island.

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Japanese deer wander freely on Miyajima Island and have been accustomed to tourists, like these Japanese women who had just come from a wedding.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Summer Escape in Santa Fe

Come join me July 30th through August 4th in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a 5-day workshop called The New World of Travel Photography.

Santa Fe holds a special place in my heart because in 2004 I spent a year working as a course assistant at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. Week after week, I experienced the wonderful intensity of the workshop environment and saw how it produced rapid improvement in people’s photography…. and occasionally changed lives. I credit my time in Santa Fe with putting me on the path to my now 11-year career with National Geographic as a photo editor and photographer. I’m excited to come full circle and return to the workshops next month as an instructor.

In my workshop, I’ll share insights into how I prepare and execute a travel assignment for National Geographic Travel. Most importantly, I’ll be spending time with each participant throughout the creative process, from shooting to editing, which will culminate in a unique travel story. Days will be a balance of time shooting in the field and classroom time filled with critiques, discussions, and lectures.

To find out more or sign up, click here.

I hope to see you this summer in Santa Fe!

On Newsstands: Croatia for National Geographic Traveller

This past September I had the opportunity to explore the coastline of Croatia. From past photo editing projects, I’d been clued into how gorgeous the country is, but it was quite something else to see it in person. I was smitten with the beautiful Venetian-influenced walled cities and dazzled by the shimmering blues of the Adriatic Sea contrasting with the fresh green of pines along the rocky Dalmatian Coast.

Now I’m fortunate enough to share part of the experience in a feature story I wrote and shot in the December 2016 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK Edition). In it I share images from Hvar, Korcula, and, the jewel of the Adriatic, Dubrovnik. If you happen to be in the UK, pick up a copy on newsstands now, but if not, enjoy the layout here.

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December 2016 feature story on Croatia in National Geographic Traveller UK Edition written and photographed by Krista Rossow.

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December 2016 feature story on Croatia in National Geographic Traveller UK Edition written and photographed by Krista Rossow.

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December 2016 feature story on Croatia in National Geographic Traveller UK Edition written and photographed by Krista Rossow.

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December 2016 feature story on Croatia in National Geographic Traveller UK Edition written and photographed by Krista Rossow.

Krista Rossow Speaking at OPTIC 2016 in NYC

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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.