Meet the Photo Contest Judges: Cole Rise

You’ve met Casey, you’ve met Cynthia – now say hello to….

Cole Rise.  Cole has spent the better half of his life taking pleasure behind the lens; stalking cows and lying in the grass to capture the landscape. You may have seen his work in a few magazines, art blogs, CD covers and the like. In his spare time he makes filters for Instagram (say hello at @colerise). He can’t tell you how big the universe is, or why we’re really here, but his work sometimes flirts with the idea of knowing.

NGC:  Favorite Instagram filter?
CR:  I’d have to say Sierra. The colors are literally from a photo of the sunset through the smoke of a giant forest fire in Yosemite National Park, so every time you use that filter, you’re adding a bit of smokey evening atmosphere from the Sierra mountains.

NGC:  Dream destination or favorite hidden gem of the Americas?
CR:  Patagonia. It’s probably the one place that’s currently calling the loudest. Huge mountains? Check. Untamed wilderness? Check. Likelihood of survival? Fair, if i’m smart about it. Likelihood of an amazing experience? High.

NGC:  Travel advice or wisdom?
CR:  People often wonder what the secret is to being able to travel so much, and see so many things. Well, there is no secret… they’re just called weekends. Weekends are the perfect time to go exploring. I work five days out of every week, just like everyone else. If you’re sitting in an office all week, why waste the weekend sitting around more? Go outside, get lost, get inspired. A three hour drive is super short and super worth it if there’s something amazing on the other end. Sometimes the drive itself is all you need. You’ll go to work monday feeling more refreshed than if you had rested.

NGC:  Favorite scene of Untamed Americas?  Why?
CR:  You know, of all the incredible footage, i think i my favorite was the hawk vs. squirrel scene in the Forests episode. I lived in Boston for a while, where we had a few hawks living on the Boston Common that survived on the local pigeons and squirrels. As proof that you can have a National Geographic moment not too far from home, one morning while walking to class, i was lucky (or unlucky) enough to witness the tail end of a squirrel kill – right there – in a park filled with people, surrounded by buildings. But, that was nothing compared to seeing the full chase, in nature, shot Braveheart-style in 120 frames per second. So. Epicly. Cool. Especially for an animal that we’re so familiar with, and, for the most part, we take for granted. I won’t reveal if the squirrel makes it or not, but i will say i’m still scratching my head as to how they got some of those angles in the show. Incredible.

NGC:  What can’t you live without when on the road?
CR:  A camera and a sturdy pair of hiking shoes. Roads are a great way to find a place to lose yourself – once i’m lost, those are the two things i rely on most.

NGC:  Your ideal travel partner is…..
CR:  My girlfriend and my iPhone, in that order. The device helps me find the adventure, and an adventure is always better with a partner in crime. Awwwwww shucks.

NGC:  Your most awe-inspiring moment in nature along your travels (in the Americas)?
CR:  Witnessing the recent solar eclipse in Lassen Volcanic National Park, from the top of an old cinder cone, hands down. We drove 7 hours from San Francisco, and hiked for an hour with 30 pounds of photo gear over ancient lava flow to position ourselves in the center of the Moon’s shadow. If the eclipse weren’t already amazing enough, what’s really nuts is how, as the sunlight dimmed, the surrounding forest lit up with the sound of birds chirping, as if it were morning, then went completely silent as the moon fully eclipsed the sun. What!? It was a powerful reminder of how connected everything is, and more importantly, how delicate and easily manipulated our natural ecosystems truly are.


  1. […] wait is over!  After much deliberation, our judges Casey Anderson, Cole Rise and Cynthia Drescher have chosen a winner for our Untamed Americas Instagram Photo Contest.  It […]