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.

 

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!

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.

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.

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.

Woodstock on the Rise

Dramatic view from the top of the Old Biscuit Mill of the surrounding neighborhood of Woodstock and the mountains of Cape Town at sunset.

Dramatic view from the top of the Old Biscuit Mill of the surrounding neighborhood of Woodstock and the mountains of Cape Town at sunset.

One of the perks of working on assignment for a travel magazine is getting to explore such wonderful places. I recently had two of my images published in the latest National Geographic Traveler magazine for a small article about the Woodstock neighborhood of Cape Town, but there were many other images made that have yet to see the light of day. Take a peek at the gallery of outtakes below from my time exploring this neighborhood home to artists and innovators, great food, and fabulous design.

And if you’ve missed my ravings about how wonderful Cape Town is, check out my travel blog entries including a photo gallery here, more delicious food here, my obsession with the Cape Floral Kingdom, and the funky neighborhood that I briefly called home.

On Newsstands: Cape Town in National Geographic Traveler

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Artists Dani Le Roy (left) and Laura Summs (right) work on one of their signature crochet rugs in the studio of Moonbasket. They create pendant lights, stiffened bowls, jewelry, and motif carpets using crochet and they hire and empower women from the Khayalitsha township to produce the bulk of their materials.

Last November while I was visiting Cape Town, I was given a short assignment by my friend and former colleague Carol Enquist to photograph the Woodstock neighborhood of Cape Town for National Geographic Traveler magazine. With Cape Town being named World Design Capital for 2014, it was the perfect time to explore Woodstock, a neighborhood filled with designers, artists, and innovation tucked at the foot of Devils Peak. I roamed the colorful streets and popped into old warehouses turned new, looking for subjects for my lens, falling more in love with this South African city by the minute. Along the way I was also lucky enough to get to meet up with the writer of the piece, the talented Sarah Khan who is now living in Cape Town.

Go grab the April 2014 issue of National Geographic Traveler off of newsstands and stay tuned here for a blog post of some outtakes from the shoot. Then be prepared to want to book a one-way ticket to the Mother City.

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The article on Woodstock ran in National Geographic Traveler‘s Best of the World section and a photo from the artist DALeast‘s studio at Side Street Studios ran on the contents pages of the April 2014 issue.

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.

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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?