Photographing Yellowstone with National Geographic Student Expeditions

A few weeks ago I joined 30 high school students and four fearless leaders on the 2017 Yellowstone Photo Workshop for National Geographic Student Expeditions.

I’ve been on many other photography expeditions for National Geographic but had never led a student expedition before. I was so impressed with how the students, who ranged in age from 14 to 18, brought their resilience, curiosity, and talent.

Just as National Geographic photographers push themselves when on assignment, we powered through long days where we chased the good light during early sunrises and late sunsets. We covered lots of ground to squeeze as much as possible out of each day. This often made for meals on the road and few hours of sleep, but we traded that for memories that will last a lifetime, stunning photographs, and new friends.

During our adventures together we explored the Bozeman area, went to a rodeo in Livingston, and covered as much of Yellowstone National Park as four wheels and two legs would take us. I’ll let the photos tell more of the story.

At the end of the workshop, we celebrated in Bozeman with a gallery show where we displayed large prints of the students’ images and also projected a slideshow. To see their fabulous set of images, click here.

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The 2017 Yellowstone Photo Workshop group at Montana State University. Photo by Evan Cobb.

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Teaching a group of students during a hike on the Hyalite Creek Trail outside of Bozeman, Montana. Photo by Anna Mazurek.

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Maggi and Jake, two grizzly bears from Georgia, play after a swim in the pond at the Montana Grizzly Encounter, a rescue and education facility located outside of Bozeman.

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Cowboys and bullfighters are at the ready to release a bull and rider out of the chute at the Livingston Roundup Rodeo on the 4th of July.

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Young cowboys are mesmerized by the fireworks after the Livingston Roundup Rodeo.

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The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River as seen from Artist’s Point, the view from where people mistakenly assumed artist Thomas Moran painted his 1872 depictions of the falls. The artwork of Moran, along with photographer William Henry Jackson, helped convince Congress to make Yellowstone the first national park in 1872.

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Due to the park’s popularity, traffic jams are not uncommon in Yellowstone, especially when a bear is spotted and many people stop their vehicles or park illegally to get a view. We encountered one of the more pleasant types of traffic jams, an early morning bison jam, where we had no choice but to drop the windows on the Yellowstone Forever bus and happily click away until the “traffic” passed us by.

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The historic Lamar Buffalo Ranch is now home to program facilities for Yellowstone Forever, a nonprofit institute which offers educational programs to enrich the visitor experience and preserve the park. The ranch was home to a bison breeding program which was started by the United States Army in 1906 to rescue the herd which had dwindled to numbers in the low 20s at the turn of the century. The program operated until the 1950s.

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Swallows swoop in and out of mud nests on Soda Butte Cone, a travertine hot spring formation in the Lamar Valley that still smells of sulfur.

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A female pronghorn with her babies pause before “pronking” away from curious onlookers. Pronghorn are the second fastest land mammals (after the cheetah) and can sustain speeds of 20-30mph for up to a half hour.

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A student photographs osprey in the Lamar Canyon. The Lamar Valley was named after the most magnificently titled Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar II, who served as U.S. Secretary of the Interior under President Grover Cleveland.

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Josh Welter, one of the informative guides from Yellowstone Forever, took us on a hike through the Little America section of the Lamar Valley. We passed giant boulders, or glacial erratics, which had been deposited by glaciers thousands of years ago, found remains of bison (pictured) and elk, and visited the abandoned den of wolves that played a key role in the repopulation of wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

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Wildflowers, like purple Asian flax, lupine, and yellow cinquefoil, are abundant in Yellowstone in July.

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Mountains make a stunning backdrop for the Canary Spring formation at Mammoth Hot Springs. The gorgeous travertine terraces are formed from dissolved limestone, or calcium carbonate.

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Two cowboys photograph Old Faithful as the geyser ends one of its near-clockwork eruptions.

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Sunset is a stunner at Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.

All this week I’ll be sharing more Yellowstone National Park images on my Instagram account @KristaRossow (which you can see without having your own account.) I’ll be showing two images a day that touch on the different facets of the park experience and delving deeper into issues that face America’s first national park.

On Newsstands: Asheville for National Geographic Traveler

“How quickly can you get to Asheville?” I read the email while thousands of miles away on the deck of a tall-masted ship in the Greek Isles. I looked up at the crystal blue waters of the Aegean Sea and thought, “Soon?” Flash forward two weeks and I found myself surrounded by a different sort of blue; that of the dusky layers of forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Arriving almost directly to Asheville from Greece’s famous islands, I have to admit this assignment didn’t have quite the caché. But for what this small town in North Carolina lacks in international name recognition, it makes up for with delicious eats, creative energy, big heart, and Appalachian charm.

I discovered that Asheville is an addiction, so much so that people from all over have come to call it home…with no intentions of ever moving again. And after being in a place like Santorini, where its fame has at times become its folly, I can see how locals, newcomers, and visitors alike revel in a small town life with world-class perks and a stunning setting.

To see a sampling of Asheville’s allure, enjoy a few asignment outtakes and a glimpse of the magazine spread below or pick up a copy of the April/May 2017 issue of National Geographic Traveler, now on newsstands. Also, on National Geographic Travel you can delve into my experience on assignment in a “Behind the Scenes” article.

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Happily Ever Asheville, photographed for National Geographic Traveler’s April/May 2017 issue.

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Happily Ever Asheville, photographed for National Geographic Traveler’s April/May 2017 issue.

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Happily Ever Asheville, photographed for National Geographic Traveler’s April/May 2017 issue.

 

A small ship passes through a narrow passage in Alaska.

On Assignment with National Geographic Expeditions: Photography in Alaska & British Columbia

This past May I had the opportunity to travel as a National Geographic Expert on a voyage from Seattle, Washington, along the Inside Passage of British Columbia and Alaska. The National Geographic/Lindblad Expeditions A Remarkable Journey to Alaska, British Columbia & Haida Gwaii photography voyage was one of my favorites because as a Pacific Northwest native I felt right at home experiencing the lush forests and moody weather.

On September 3rd-17th of 2017, I’ll be joining as a National Geographic Expert on another Remarkable Journey to Alaska, British Columbia, and Haida Gwaii on board the National Geographic Sea Lion. Come join me on this intimate ship as we get up close and personal with the beauty of landscapes, wildlife, and culture of British Columbia and Alaska. I’ll be working with a talented photo team to provide insightful lectures and give tips and advice while on photo walks and photographing from the ship.

Here are a few images from last May’s expedition as a teaser of what the experience is like. To see more images from that voyage, visit my archive.

Two photographers on the bow of a ship.

On these expeditions, you’ll often find the photo team, like Photo Instructor Ryder Redfield (right), out on deck giving photo tips, especially during the beautiful sunset we had while navigating Frederick Sound.

A glacier calves in front of a zodiac filled with people.

The morning we spent on zodiacs photographing the awe-inspiring Dawes Glacier calve was something I’ll never forget. It was an experience for all the senses, from the crackling sound like lightening in the ice to the giant aftershock waves that rocked the ship anchored over a mile away.

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I never tired of photographing bald eagles, like this one perched on a tree branch in the Inian Islands, which were ubiquitous in the rugged Alaskan landscape.

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In Petersburg, also known as Little Norway, we had a photo walk through the picturesque fishing village, capturing scenes of everyday life.

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On the last full day of the voyage, we spent over an hour photographing orcas as they swam around the ship in nearly still waters on the Peril Straight.

I’d love to see you join the voyage with me in September of 2017. I can promise beautiful vistas, amazing wildlife, and loads of photographic learning…….but I can’t promise the same beautiful weather I had last May!

Man riding horses on Costa Rican beach.

On Newsstands: Costa Rica for National Geographic Traveler

Last November I had the opportunity to photograph la pura vida in a tiny corner of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula for National Geographic Traveler magazine. In a rented 4×4 I bounced my way down potholed dirt roads to the tiny surfing villages of Santa Teresa and Mal Pais. There, nestled between the thick jungle and rocky coastline, I met local Costa Ricans, or Ticos, as well as folks from all over the globe that had come to this slice of paradise to soak up the surf, sun, and slow life.

Although summer isn’t quite over, the October 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler is in subscriber’s mailboxes now and will shortly be on newsstands. For more photos, stay subscribed to this blog where I’ll be posting outtakes from the assignment. Read the article by Johanna Berkman in it’s entirely here.

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La Vida Local, photographed for National Geographic Traveler’s October 2015 issue.

Costa Rica article in National Geographic Traveler

La Vida Local, photographed for National Geographic Traveler’s October 2015 issue.

Costa Rica article in National Geographic Traveler

La Vida Local, photographed for National Geographic Traveler’s October 2015 issue.

Costa Rica article in National Geographic Traveler

La Vida Local, photographed for National Geographic Traveler’s October 2015 issue.

Durban and Kwa-Zulu Natal in National Geographic Traveler magazine

On Newsstands: Durban for National Geographic Traveler

In January, I went Into the Zulu Kingdom with travel writer extraordinaire, George W. Stone, for National Geographic Traveler magazine. The folks at Traveler already knew I was in love with South Africa from a piece I shot for them a few years ago and I was more than happy to return to explore a different area of the country.

George and I, with the unfailing support of our fixer Rhys, made it our mission to discover the highlights of the province of KwaZulu-Natal. We ventured to the near unpronounceable iSimangaliso Wetland Park and were rendered speechless by the wildlife we spotted. We explored Zulu culture in the beautiful rolling hills outside of Durban. And while in the Northern Drakensberg Mountains, we went in search of the world’s second tallest waterfall only to be foiled by fog and spoiled by other gorgeous vistas.

And then there was Durban. We got to explore this breezy city on the banks of the Indian Ocean and its rainbow of cultures, flavors, and activities. We sniffed out the up-and-coming scenes and visited old classics.

I gauge the real success of an assignment on how badly I want to return to a place. This assignment has done nothing to abate my desire to return to South Africa and catch a wave in a pastel sunrise on Durban’s waterfront.

Click on a photo below to see it larger. Bonus: Can you find my cameo?

Head to a newsstand to read the full story in the current May 2015 issue of National Geographic Traveler magazine and see more photos in an online gallery here.

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Thanks to the team at Traveler for a great story, especially Dan, Christine, and Jerry. And kudos to George for being such a wonderful travel companion and collaborator!

Editor’s Note: The recent xenophobic attacks in Durban and other parts of South Africa are shocking and tragic. If I’ve learned anything from my visits to the country, it is that South Africans are proud, strong and resilient. I hope that this dark, passing cloud is brief over the sun of South Africa. I encourage you to visit this amazing country to see the beauty of its people and culture firsthand.

Vieux Port in Marseille

On Newsstands: Paris & Marseille in Virtuoso Life

Last September I was on my way to visited my talented writer friend in the south of France and was lucky enough to receive two assignments for Virtuoso Life in Paris and Marseille.

In Paris I meandered through the old streets of the Marais neighborhood, photographing beautiful shops and meeting talented designers. In Marseille, I ensconced myself in the old neighborhood of the Panier. Even though I was in the middle of the second largest city in France, I felt transported to another world where old men still played pétanque by the port, laundry was strung out to dry, and every shop was cute as a button.

The stories are both out in the January/February 2015 issue of the magazine, which you can find digitally here.

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Article about Purity vodka in Somm Journal

Saying Skål in Sweden

I once had a dream I woke up in Copenhagen, took a train to Sweden and was whisked away to a 13th Century castle where I learned about vodka distilling. Oh, wait, that actually happened.

Known for popular brands like Absolut and Svedka, Sweden is also home to Purity, a small-batch organic distillery located at Ellinge Castle, near Malmo, Sweden. Along with journalist Marguerite Richards,I journeyed there on assignment for The Somm Journal magazine for their August/September 2014 issue (see the PDF here).

Ellinge Castle is a 13th Century castle located near Malmo, Sweden.

Purity Vodka is distilled in Ellinge Castle, a picturesque estate still surrounded by a moat.

We delved into the distillation process (Purity undergoes thirty-four rounds) while hearing from master blender Thomas Kuuttanen about his obsession with Purity. Then we wandered the verdant grounds of Ellinge Castle, imagining the fairytale setting for a wedding that was busily being prepared for the next day, and pondering older times when estate workers were actually paid in vodka. And, of course, we tasted.

If it takes thirty-four rounds of distillation to achieve the results that reached my lips, I’ll happily wait patiently.

I don’t know if it is Sweden talking, but I just might have fallen in love with vodka. I’ll cheers, or as the Swedes say, skål to that.

The copper still at Ellinge Castle and the pure gold spigot for Purity Vodka.

The copper still at Ellinge Castle (left) and the pure gold spigot (right) for the final product.

Interior of Ellinge Castle and vodka tasting.

The inside of Ellinge Castle is filled with old paintings and furniture (left). We compared Purity to its rivals in a vodka tasting (right).