Q&A with National Geographic Photographer Dave Yoder

As a contributing photographer for National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler magazines, Dave Yoder has documented stories across the globe, from the high-tech search for a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting in Florence to the discovery of a forgotten city in the jungles of Honduras. Dave joins the May 29, 2019 departure of Cruising Legendary Rivers of Europe.

For you, what are some of the highlights of the Cruising Legendary Rivers of Europe itinerary?

It’s hard to choose which destinations are my favorite on this epic cruise! Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Salzburg, Bamberg, and Cologne are all incredibly atmospheric locations. Yet the landscapes between each of these places are also so full of color and history. I’d feel guilty judging any of them to be superior to the others; I could travel the same route over and over again, and see each place as if with new eyes each time.How do you hope the experience of visiting these destinations with you will change travelers? How would you characterize the people in this region?

Why are the Danube, Main, and Rhine Rivers inspiring places for photographers?

Cruising these rivers is like taking a trip through history, and the surrounding landscapes are easily romanticized, photographically speaking. Sunlit eddies border leafy shorelines, the people you meet along the way are friendly, and there are myriad things to explore at each stop. Or you can just sit back and take in the scenery, because exploring doesn’t always require extraordinary effort.

What motivates you as a photographer?

Whether photography is professional or just a hobby, it should be a pro-social and self-enriching endeavor. Photography can be so many different things—fun, exciting, introspective, scary, exhausting—all of which make it ultimately fulfilling. For me, it is an excuse to make new friends and see places that I might otherwise not experience. And these days you don’t need a great camera to take great pictures. In fact, the opposite is quite often the case: a large obtrusive camera may distract a subject, while a cell phone camera may go unnoticed.

Tell us about your favorite National Geographic assignment.

One remarkable project that eventually became the August 2015 cover story for National Geographic magazine involved photographing Pope Francis and the Vatican. I spent months shooting nearly 70,000 photos for the project. Editing them down to around two dozen frames was a challenge. I was often working right beside the pontiff. It was at times otherworldly, surreal.

How will you encourage travelers to approach photography during this trip?

I will encourage guests to take time between photographs to ask themselves what they want to capture—but not at the expense of missing a moment, of course! It should be fun, but it’s even more fun when you end your trip with a handful of photos that you’re proud of. There is no secret trick. And it doesn’t take years of practice to make a good, or even great, photograph.

What is one of your favorite travel memories?

There are many, but one that comes to mind is visiting the Aeolian Islands off Sicily. Standing on Stromboli was like being on a living, sleeping giant that coughs up lava every fifteen minutes or so. The sleepy island towns, beautiful water, and delicious seafood were utterly rapturous.