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.

 

In Bookstores: The World’s Most Romantic Destinations

Last April I holed up in a house in Seattle and took a trip around the world.

Well, not literally, but through pictures. While photo editing my first book project for National Geographic, I re-visited favorite destinations like Cape Town and the Burgundy region of France, but then also fell for places that hadn’t quite caught my eye before like the Azores Islands of Portugal, Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago, and San Sebastián in Spain.

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I enjoyed switching gears from photo editing for magazines and delving into the book publishing world. I’m looking forward to working on the sister book to this title later this year. Special thanks for making the photo editing process easy and enjoyable goes to National Geographic’s Moira Haney, Elisa Gibson, and Allyson Dickman.

I’m proud to say that the results are now in hard copy and, if I do say so myself, they look gorgeous. Pick up National Geographic’s The World’s Most Romantic Destinations in bookstores or online and start adding to your travel bucket list. I can promise you these tempting places aren’t only for lovers.

Post Processing: Lightroom’s Graduated Filter Tool

The following was published in the December 2016 issue of the digital-only Photography Magazine produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK Edition). Download the free app on iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon to browse more of the articles in these insightful issues.

Although the graduated neutral density filter has long been an essential tool for landscape photographers, it is never one that I’ve owned myself. Ironically I’ve come to love the Graduated Filter tool in Lightroom to selectively darken or lighten portions of my images.

One of the difficulties with photography is that the camera can’t capture the range of light that our human eyes can see. Although I we see highlights and shadows in a high-contrast scene, the camera’s dynamic range can’t capture both ends of that spectrum. While using the aforementioned “grad ND” filter or an HDR (high dynamic range) technique can solve this problem when used effectively, my preference has been to learn when a scene is too high contrast for my camera’s dynamic range and decide to either return when the light is more balanced or look for a different composition.

Therefore, I’m not using Lightroom’s Graduated Filter to try to recover highlights or shadows where detail was completely lost, but I’m instead starting with raw images that are well exposed and using the tool to optimize the image.

For example, I photographed this landscape while riding a gondola up into the Wallowa Mountains of Eastern Oregon. I loved how from that perspective I could show the dramatic change of terrain from rugged mountains to the flat farmland. The camera, set to matrix metering, gave me an exposure that captured all tones of the image from shadows to highlights. Still, mottled clouds darkened portions of the foreground filled with trees while the clouds and sky in the background appeared much brighter. To darken the background sky, the Graduated Filter was the perfect tool.

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Version exported from original Nikon D800 camera raw settings.

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Final version after using the Graduated Filter to darken the sky, plus overall contrast.

  1. In Lightroom, with the above photo selected, I went into the Develop module. Before using the Graduated Filter, I first did universal adjustments to my raw image using the sliders in the basic adjustment panel. I darkened the overall exposure slightly by -.5 and added contrast of +22. I also opened up the shadows, to show more details in the trees, by setting the slider at +29. I gave the image a slight boost in clarity to +7 and gently bumped the vibrance slider to +10 (Warning: it is easy to make colours appear unrealistic very quickly with this slider).
  2. Then I clicked on the Graduated Filter icon in the row of icons above the basic adjustment panel, but I could also have used the keyboard shortcut M to activate the tool.
  3. Once activated, an adjustment panel popped up above the basic adjustment panel and I could see multiple adjustments options that were very similar to those in the basic panel. Although there are other uses for the Graduated Tool, because my primary goal with the tool was to recover some of the detail in the clouds and color in the blue sky, I decided to use the exposure slider to selectively darken a portion of the image. Before setting the placement of the filter on the image, I set my exposure slider at the extreme amount of -4 so that I could see the effect when placing the filter.
  4. I then clicked on the top of the image and pulled down with my cursor that had turned into a plus symbol. A horizontal row of three lines appeared, and I drug the lines at an angle until the middle line, which has a grey pin in the center, lined up just below the sky and clouds. By dragging the lines further apart, I was also making the transition of the filter effect more gradual. Tip: hold down the shift key while using this tool for a perfectly straight horizon or rotate the tool after placement by activating the double arrows when hovering your cursor over the middle line.
  5. With the middle line of the filter placed just below the sky and clouds, I next set the exposure to -.78 and increased contrast to +22. To toggle the effect on/off, I clicked the light switch button on the bottom left of the panel because I wanted to double-check that my adjustments were realistic. In general, I rarely change the exposure much more than one stop in either direction.
  6. I had the option to then layer on more Graduated Filter effects, each with their own settings. And if I had added one I didn’t like, I simply needed to hit the delete key while it was activated. Because I was happy with the one Graduated Filter effect, I clicked “Done” in the bottom right of the image panel.

While this post-processing tool cannot replicate the physical usage of a “Grad ND” filter in the field, nor can it effectively restore an poorly exposed image, I find it a useful tool to optimize my images. And as with any tool in post production, one has to be careful not to let the tool show.

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.

On Newsstands: 100 Places That Will Change Your Life

If you were in a book or grocery store lately, you may have seen the cover of this magazine inviting you to change your life. Indeed, this”book-a-zine” (bigger than a magazine, 600px 100  Placessmaller than a book), changed my life for quite a while last summer as I photo edited images for all of the amazing destinations held within its pages.

It had only been a couple of years since leaving my staff job at National Geographic Traveler as a photo editor and it felt great to work on 100 Places That Will Change Your Life. And, as always happens when working on these projects, my list of travel destinations has grown with priority now being given to a culinary trip to Oaxaca, a trail-restoring trek to Torres del Paine, and a trip to see turquoise waters in Croatia.

If you need a little travel inspiration and you missed this publication, you can order a copy via National Geographic here.

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.

Buds on grape vines in Oregon Willamette Valley

On Newsstands: The Oregon Trail to Pinot Noir

Last month, just as buds were appearing on vines, I explored Oregon’s wine country while on assignment for 1859 Oregon’s Magazine. Head to newsstands to pick up an issue of this Pacific Northwest magazine and get inspired to take “The Oregon Trail to Pinot Noir.”

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Road Reconsidered article shot for 1859 Oregon’s Magazine, May/June 2015 issue.

1859 Magazine Spread

Road Reconsidered article shot for 1859 Oregon’s Magazine, May/June 2015 issue.

For more images from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, see outtakes here.