Dan Westergren is the director of photography for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Here, he shares a recent assignment in Durban, South Africa, photographed by former Traveler photo editor Krista Rossow.
When we sent Krista Rossow to South Africa I knew she had the mindset necessary to bring back the pictures we needed for a story about Durban and its surroundings. Krista worked for Traveler for seven years, and when I edit her photos I can tell she’s looking through her camera with a photo editor’s eye. There is nothing worse for a photo editor than choosing a selection of great photographs from a photographer’s take only to find that, upon trying to lay out the story in the magazine, there is one very important photo missing. Maybe it’s the lack of a good opening picture, or something with a different point of view to keep the look of the layout varied. Krista knows that you can’t make up a photo you don’t have, so she shoots a great variety of images that she would like to have as a photo editor.
One of the destinations we chose to cover was the World Heritage-listed iSimangaliso Wetland Park (its Zulu name means “miracle and wonder”), which supports large populations of hippos and crocodiles. iSimangaliso’s Lake St. Lucia is a great place to see large gatherings of hippos wandering around in the water. You can take a boat to get relatively close, so it seemed like a great place to get photos. As I began looking through Krista’s work, I started to get a little worried about the photo situation. The image in my mind of hippos in the water looked in reality like a pile of brown lumps, like a herd of cows that had gotten lost on their way to the pasture and fallen into the river.
But then I saw that Krista captured a pair of hippos engaging in a toothy display of dominance, a burst of five or six shots, and she got just what we needed. It was a fleeting moment, but I was happy she had been paying attention.
A little later in the trip, she visited the Northern Drakensberg Mountains. One of the signature scenes there is Tugela Falls (regarded as the second highest waterfall in the world). Hiking up the Tugela Gorge along the Tugela River on a cloudy day, she only had a teasing look through the clouds and wasn’t able to photograph the cascade. But it was precisely because of those clouds that she was able to make this shot of a hiker resting at the base of a much smaller but very beautiful waterfall along the way.
Traveling photographers also need to show their photo editors shots that could only be taken in the part of the world they’re covering. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to find a truly unique view, but at an urban market in the city of Durban, Krista found these chickens tied to the top of a cage with little ribbons. Only in Africa!