photography, travel, writing

A Crescendo, Part 2

02/18/22 – Our National Parks odyssey has shifted into a different kind of journey. Nearly 6 years ago we set off on an adventure to travel the country and see/ document all the national parks. Since then, 3 new parks have been created, 2 presidential changes, a 2 year (and still counting, in some states at least) pandemic raged, and in the midst, we found a new direction. We abandoned the goal of all the parks, though it is absolutely something we plan to revisit someday.

What the pandemic allowed us to realize in a very sobering way was that we were financially living on the edge. No money in savings, a fairly substantial pile of debt, living job to job, stressed constantly about how we were going to pay for this or that, and worst of all, no plan. It was exhausting.

Ellen and I dont care about being rich, we simply wanted to remove the burden of limited choices. So we made a decision together a little over one year ago to take control of our life. Take responsibility for our spending habits. Quit being victims of circumstance. And, as Ellen says, to work our lil hineys offand pay off every penny of debt we have.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Deep in Big Cypress preserve I found a gator hole that has become a favorite spot for me to fish and enjoy some much needed solitude, away from the crowds of south Florida. What I have observed over the years of visiting the Everglades ecosystem during the dry season is that the fish often get funneled into ever shrinking pools of water. If they are resourceful or lucky, they make it to a gator hole.

These small ponds stay deep year round and provide a perfect little habitat for fish, as well as myriad creatures. But for those who enjoy the freedom of roaming the vast waterways and floodplains of the glades in the bounty of the rainy season, eventually they will slowly get choked out of existence, as the water subsides day by day, hour by hour this time of year. It must be excruciating. The world begins to close in on them. Death does too.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Eventually they are literally sucking air, baking on their sides in the hot Florida sun.

When Covid hit, we realized we were swimming in the freedom of the road. Endless possibilities. No plan. It was magic, for a time. But what Ive foundagain and again, allowing myself to lose my way is sometimes the only way to find it.

Image © Andrew Slaton

03/24/22 – Im not backpackingI wish I was. Im sitting at the airport in Orlando waiting for a southwest flight to Tucson to pick up our new (to us) truck. A Hoss 2.0. Nothing super fancy, but we saved up and are paying cash. It feels momentous. Ive always had car loans. Like an annoying pet.

Last year we managed to get scrappy and pay off a huge chunk of the debt that was weighing us down so heavy. This year, we are still on track to change the trajectory of our lives within the next few years. Debt free, homeowners, continuing to live the life we love, on the road, this time with options.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Approaching the six year mark is exciting for us. Mostly to look back and reflect on the beautiful memories, to see how far weve come, and to renew our resolve. The road ahead is still long. And we plan to stay nomadic for several more years. But we now have a plan. Were not wandering aimless. And its working, at least for now. Good jobs continue rolling in and keeping us busy,focused. And beauty is always at our doorstep (literally). We found our little gator hole in a vast wilderness, during the driest of seasons. We could stay here through the worst of it.

Ive just recently started shooting for fun again. But I mix it in with time fishing. Both have the ability to fill up my soul. Fly Fishing is a lot like photography. It takes immense practice, patience, and perseverance. The payoff is never guaranteed. No matter how much preparation, planning and knowledge you employ, the angler, just like the photographer is at the mercy of nature. Sometimes the light just doesnt show up, and the fish just dont bite. But when either do, its all the magic you can hope to witness. Pure joy.

Image © Andrew Slaton

The gliding ghosts beneath the surface, taunting me to try my hand at enticing them to bite. Presenting the fly just so. Irresistible to the hungry or territorial specter in the shadows.

The apparitions of light, fleeting. Pastels and hues of delicate gradations of blue and pink. Sometimes orange. Clouds of immensity passing, revealing cracks, rays. Illuminating the beauty that surrounds us always, but in these moments, overwhelms the lens, and the witness behind it.

Im looking forward to being back in Wyoming in only a few weeks, roaming the mountains again in search of the most spectacular nooks and crannies rarely seen or photographedand of course, stalking those illusive, prized trout.

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops in the Everglades and Big Cypress. For more info, please visit www.andrewslaton.com/workshops

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photography, travel, writing

A Crescendo, Part 1

“Disfigurement is synonymous with the whole idea of frontier. As soon as we lay our hands on it, the freedom we thought it represented is quickly gone.”Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces.

01/19/22. The light filters through palms and dances seductively along the prickly- looking edges of the Spanish moss. It hangs in a pattern of almost perfect randomness on the ancient oaks above my camp. Florida feels like home. Hell, who am I kidding? So many places feel like home these days, it’s hard to decipher what “home” really means anymore.

This June will mark six full years of living as nomads. Gertie, our 29- foot travel trailer shows the scars to prove it. Both Ellen and I are bewildered that she’s still standing. Our 2011 ford truck, Hoss is a few inches shy of 300,000 miles. His noises attest to every hard mile and dirt road he’s traversed.

Image © Andrew Slaton

A transmission slip, exhaust leak, and front (and rear, for that matter) shot suspensions all announce our coming and going to anyone nearby. We must sound like a joke to all of these well-heeled, newly-retired boomers neighboring us on all sides at the RV parks. I don’t really care. As Townes Van Zandt once sang, “you cannot count the miles until you feel them.”

I’ve largely stopped shooting images for fun lately. Strange, I know. After shooting nearly every sunrise and sunset for 4 years (and staying motivated and interested), I needed a break. Last year, after making the decision to pay off all of our debt, I was consumed with working… shooting portraits, weddings, real estate, commercial. I really didn’t have time to shoot for fun. Or the energy. This year, I also have a lot of work to shoot, but something else is edging out my time typically devoted to honing my craft of landscape photography…fly fishing.

02/04/22 I awoke to the rhythmic patter of a woodpecker. Somewhere nearby, not far above, an owl. Palms sway and clatter with the gentle wind. Last night, my sunset ramble filled my soul, though I didn’t see the bear or panther for which I came.

I arrived at camp early – 2:30 or so. I rested in the shade of my tent for a bit, may have even dozed a while. As I felt the sun gain a lower angle, I loosely slid on my hiking shoes. Camera and 400mm slung over my shoulder, I set out with a relaxed vibe.

Image © Andrew Slaton

The sun was low enough that the landscape sang with accent light. On more than one occasion, it was necessary to place my left hand out before me to block the glare long enough to see the path ahead. My imagination skipped wildly with images of a panther sauntering down the two-track trail before me, backlit, or that distinctive bear butt waddling up ahead.

My tobacco pipe rests precariously between my lips, the loose grip from my teeth bouncing the stem to the cadence of my walk, like a just-released spring on a diving board. I like to smoke and walk; I’m beginning to find my rhythm again.

02/14/22 There’s a rustling near my tent. I’m a few feet away, cooking my dinner. It sounds like a snake. I slowly rise, back and leg muscles sore from the 15 mile hike in, to inspect the sound. Nothing. Or at least nothing I can spot. Likely a snake somewhere beneath the dense ground cover.

Image © Andrew Slaton

It’s now 4:43pm many miles deep on foot in the Everglades. I caught two decent sized Mayan Cichlids (pronounced Sic-lids) earlier on the fly, but that’s not what I’m cooking. I threw them back, like every one I’ve caught since I learned to fly fish in August.

But then I recall that Mayan Cichlids are an invasive species. I can’t for the life of me remember, though, if the park service wants you to kill them on capture or not. National parks are weird that way. A few years back, I came across a 14 foot Burmese Python not far from here. I tried to wrangle it but didn’t have anything with which to kill or capture it safely, and it slithered surprisingly fast off into the marl prairie.

I quickly made my way to the Flamingo visitor center and happened upon the “python ranger” to whom I told my story and showed a video to prove my seemingly tall tale. I wanted to know what the protocol was for such a find.

Image © Andrew Slaton

See, pythons are a highly destructive invasive species here in the Everglades. They have reproduced into the millions and are decimating the mammal populations. The python ranger looked at me sideways, “I didn’t tell you this, but if you find another huge one like that, kill it.”

Thankfully,  slaying these giants does not rest solely on my shoulders. A recent study in Big Cypress found a particularly brave bobcat preying on a clutch of python eggs. Returning over and over in the course of days, the native wildcat invalidated nearly all 40 plus eggs. It may suggest that the native fauna are beginning to “retaliate” against the successful invaders. It may take time, but nature’s ability to maintain balance is a powerful force.

To Be Continued

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops in the Everglades and Big Cypress. For more info, please visit www.andrewslaton.com/workshops

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photography, random thought, travel

SPRING RENEWAL

The pungent waft of wild onion dominates my senses. But the sights of early morning light through the bottomland forest in spring competes for my attention. And wins. Youthful leaves and grasses, deep greens. The odd palmetto. Wildflowers of white, yellow, pink, blue, red, purple, and so on.

The Brazos river below me runs muddy and slow. Meandering seemingly unknowing. Perhaps unknowable. Alligators lurk below the murky waters, unseen. Wild pigs and venomous snakes, hidden on the land above. White tail deer, woodland hare, squirrels, and nutria, their prey. Soaring above, the hawks and vultures watching us all with precision. And the wading birds… abundant and voraciously feeding all day.

As I walk the trail below, owls observe silently from their perches in the Spanish moss strewn oaks. These ancient, giant trees are impressive. I’ve stood beneath the redwoods and these southern brothers hold court. I move through this scene swiftly but quiet.

These hikes are my work, exercise, and holy communion all at once. Two cameras dangle from my neck and shoulders. One for landscapes and the other for wildlife, or any other presented beauty. My 16-35mm is quite straightforward in utility, but my 70-200/2.8 is more opportunistic. It is part vulture and part honey badger. It takes what it can and doesn’t care about it’s so called stated purposes. It is just as happy with portraits and details as it is with landscapes, or the occasional wildlife.

I haven’t visited this special place since we hit the road for good nearly five years ago. I needed this. It is my favorite spot in Texas, except for perhaps Big Bend country. But it is only by a narrow margin.

All of the seasons are noteworthy here, but spring reigns supreme. Winter has a strange chaotic life about it, that most other places don’t. It is the haven for almost countless species of bird. Summer slows to a southern drawl. Everything trying to regulate the insane heat and humidity. Autumn, is probably the least notable. Its just the short, in between phase from oppressive, high temperatures to the avian plague.

Spring is the renewal. When haunting grays and browns turn to green, and all other manner of vibrant color. If you stare for long, the ground seems to move with lizards, snakes, bugs. Stare into the middle and far distance and the water-logged landscape comes alive with rodents and gators. Deep and ghostly bellows fill the morning with the bass-line melody of mating calls. This time of year, the alligators (and many other species) procreate and give birth.

The rhythm of the frogs is the ever-present musak of the swamp. You only seem to notice at first, and then it seeps into you fully. The cool mornings boast blues and drops of dew. But in a short amount of time, it is flanked by the increasing heat of the day.

And as they days pass and grow longer, the season is quickly lost to the dominant phase of the year, summer.

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2021

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composition, education, photography, random thought, writing

PICTURE OF THE WEEK – MARCH 6, 2021

Background

So for quite a while I have admired Benjamin Everett. I mostly follow him on instagram for inspiration. He is a photographer, but more than that, he is an artist. He makes no bones about the fact that he digitally manipulates his images to achieve dreamy, otherworldly scenes. For the purist, set aside your expectations of what you think photography should be, and behold what is in the minds eye and skilled digital artistry of Everett. You will be enriched if you do.

Image © Benjamin Everett

Why I Think This Image Works (Color, Light, Subject, Moment, Emotion)

Maybe I am just naturally drawn to blue in general, but I love a cool toned image. It is also slightly desaturated, which is calming to the eyes. The light draws the eyes along the leading, wavy lines in the ice, growing lighter as they eventually reach the peak at center-right. The eye then moves to the upper left of the frame to linger on the gentle storm passing. It is reminiscent of the old romantic painters, like Albert Bierstadt. A characteristic of a Bierstadt, or any of the romantic painters of the day, was the trademark light vs. dark motif. Everett clearly evokes this sentiment, minus the settlers and natives that were common to the 19th century paintings. This is the dark and light of a desolate landscape devoid of the human presence.

Simplicity is Everetts forte. He is a master of distilling his scenes down to the most important visual elements, and this image is no different. Starkness. Coldness. However, I wouldn’t go so far as an emotional loneliness. The eyes are soon drawn to the blue sky with sunlit cumulus clouds in the distance, conveying a feeling of hope and warmth. The storm is nearly passed. All sweeping lines flow directly to warm rays of a sunnier day somewhere in the near future.

It is romantic, yet simple. Cold, yet hopeful. Stark, yet lovely.

Please, if you aren’t familiar with his work, go spend some time admiring the photographic artistry of Benjamin Everett.

I would love to hear your thoughts! Comment below to start a conversation about this image… do you like it? If so, why? If not, why not?

— Andrew


I had an idea a while ago to feature an image once a week by other photographers that I find interesting. In the effort to provide inspiration to myself by enjoying the work of others, I hope it will serve to inspire a wider audience as well. I will write a short bit about what I like about the image, and why I think it works.

You can expect a wide variety of photographic art, so not just landscapes and nature! I hope you find this as fun and enriching as I do.

Let me also offer an invitation… if you come across an image you would like me to see, and perhaps feature, please shoot me an email with the subject “Picture of the week.”


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composition, education, photography, random thought, writing

PICTURE OF THE WEEK – FEBRUARY 27, 2021

I had an idea a while ago to feature an image once a week by other photographers that I find interesting. In the effort to provide inspiration to myself by enjoying the work of others, I hope it will serve to inspire a wider audience as well. I will write a short bit about what I like about the image, and why I think it works.

You can expect a wide variety of photographic art, so not just landscapes and nature! I hope you find this as fun and enriching as I do.

Let me also offer an invitation… if you come across an image you would like me to see, and perhaps feature, please shoot me an email with the subject “Picture of the week.”

And now, to the first picture of the week…

Image © Ryan Dyar

Background

This lovely capture was created by a fantastic photographer I have admired and followed for years, Ryan Dyar. He is an accomplished landscape photographer with mastery of a post processing landscape style that is emerging as the new standard. But what I find truly sets him apart as a great photographer is his seemingly effortless mastery of composition. Knowing how difficult great landscape composition can be, I am certain he works hard to find his excellent arrangements.

This image of a pelican in flight is so different from what he usually produces, and I admire his exploration into unfamiliar territory.

Why I Think This Image Works (Color, Light, Subject, Moment, Emotion)

The soft light and tones are soothing and convey a sense of calm immediately. It is low contrast, but the pink/ orange complimenting the blue/ green seascape immediately grabs me. He allows the subject to dance to the middle of the frame, a usual no-no. But here it works because the subject makes direct eye contact with the viewer creating a feeling of connection and intimacy. There is also clear motion from the slow shutter speed showing us the path flown in from the top right of the frame. Another pleasing movement/ leading line in the image.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was considered the master of the decisive moment. That term has been described as a “split second that reveals the larger truth of a situation.“ This image for me captured that culmination of split seconds strung together to convey something deeper. A moment too early or late would not have had quite the impact. Now, one could argue with current technology, the art of the decisive moment is lost. Think “spray and pray.“ In Cartier-Bressons day of 8×10 cameras and single frame film holders, capturing that singular point in time had an element of supernatural patience to it. However, I would argue that the moment still exists, there are simply new tools and techniques to more easily capture them. It is no less artful. Its just different.

The slow shutter speed is utilized perfectly, as the birds head and eyes appear to be sharp, while allowing the motion of the flapping wings to blur, giving the viewer the feeling of flight. It is a lovely, and difficult moment to capture so elegantly, as Dyar has.

Lastly, how does this image make us, the viewer, feel? My immediate emotion is loneliness and melancholy, mostly from the muted color and low contrast of the gentle seascape, but also the direct eye contact. But then there is a lingering element of hope rising that seeps in, perhaps from the flight motion, and again the eye contact.

It is a simple yet complex image. I think that is what I admire the most.

It is no easy task to create an image like this! And often, these are the images that happen when one is prepared. They simply present themselves.

Now, I would love to hear your thoughts! Comment below to start a conversation about this image… do you like it? If so, why? If not, why not?

— Andrew


SPECIAL OFFER for my blog followers – 10% off everything by using code “BLOG10” at checkout
VIDEO TUTORIALS
Check out my free and paid video tutorials and learn from a 20+ year professional.
WORKSHOPS

Learn photography and enjoy a guided travel adventure.
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
BIG CYPRESS // OFF-THE-BEATEN PATH // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
GIFT CARDS
Give the gift of beauty, travel, and knowledge… buy a gift card. Help a small business.
The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
PRINTS
Andrew Slaton // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
STOCK
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
ASSIGNMENTS
andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2021, Unless otherwise Specified
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