photography, travel

ON THE ROAD: AN UPDATE

Oklahoma in the spring is awash with color. New shoots on budding branches green with rebirth. Skies of complex and ever-changing hues of blue, then textured white, then glowing pink and orange. Reflective water, mirroring the hue shifts of the sky. The daily ebb and flow of wildflowers, constantly changing like the tides, indiscriminate, showcasing every color of the visible (and invisible) spectrum. And the deep, earthen red-orange dirt exposed directly adjacent to the vibrant grasses and sedges exploding with renewed life. It’s fragrant out here.

It’s mid-May as I sit to write. Things are beginning to open back up, but the second wave of a global pandemic still looms as an inevitable possibility. So much has changed. 

The holidays in Dallas were what they were. A smattering of good and bad. Great to see friends and family, communing with those we love dearly and don’t see nearly often enough. But as I’ve mentioned, the city wears both of us down. And this year in particular, we experienced the loss of another beloved friend. I’ve mentioned the untimely passing of my dearest friend in Wyoming in September, and then on new years eve, the Colonel, Bubba passed away quietly under the bed in our guest room at Ellens folks. Ellen called him a dear friend for 16 years. He and I mostly tolerated each other, with brief moments of affection throughout my dozen or so years with Ellen. It was hard on her though. The end of an era. We buried him in a secluded corner of their backyard with a lovely candle lit service, and said our tearful goodbyes to him, and our family.

We spent the winter soaking up the sun, sand, and salt water in Florida again solidifying, potentially, our new dream, or next step. More on that later.

We filled our days with further exploration into new territory, as well as deeper into old favorites. I started a section hike of the Florida Trail, with a harrowing two-day 32 mile hike through knee deep south Florida swamp (the full story on my blog). I also was inspired to create a new Big Cypress workshop for 2021, as well as a few other brand new locations. 

As March rolled closer to April, the coronavirus, and fear from a lack of knowledge and highly sensationalized news, took over. All of our state and national park reservations were canceled out from under us, and jobs were postponed or canceled outright. The world, to most everyone, looked a bit more uncertain. But for us, not too much more uncertain. Let’s be honest here… Ellen and my life for the last four years has been a dress-rehearsal for many catastrophic scenarios. And here we are; lean, mean, and ready for Broadway.

As the cliche goes, when God closes a door, He opens a window. Well, when we had no where to go, no where to park Gertie, we jumped through the proverbial window and booked it for my brother’s in Chattanooga, TN, just before the world went on total lockdown.

We figured we would be there for a week or two. Then the Easter night tornado tore through the neighborhood just 100 yards from where our ultra-lite trailer rested precariously in their driveway. It was a terrifying experience for us, but we were the lucky ones. Many in Chattanooga and surrounding areas lost their lives and their homes that night. We just lost power for a week.

My brother, who is a pastor helped coordinate community service in the weeks proceeding. I helped with my chainsaw to cut neighbors trees and remove debris. No social distancing was possible in the wake of tragedy on top of tragedy. But the little we did was dwarfed by the response of the kind people of the whole area. They poured in to help, and truly made quick work of the devastation. Certainly not all was magically fixed, but the show of love and acts of kindness helped to heal a severely broken community.

We ended up spending the end of march, all of April, and the first few days of May parked at my brothers in Chattanooga. It was a special time of connection with family that we don’t get to see as often. Family dinners, games every night, hikes, basketball in the driveway with the kids. We will cherish that time, in spite of the pandemic quarantine and tornado destruction.

We even had the chance to sneak away a few times to the nearby Appalachian mountains of North Carolina to get a little car camping in. Replete with campfires, smores, hiking, swimming in freezing creeks, pipe tobacco smoke, Tolkien essays, etc. All the good stuff.

I received word that a few of my clients wanted to proceed with shoots that were intended for early March, now the first week of May. One in north Louisiana/ Arkansas, and the other in West Texas. I was overjoyed that the jobs didn’t disappear. We were really counting on that income. So we planned our route, and said more bittersweet goodbyes to the ones who embraced us so fully and graciously for over six weeks. We would miss them dearly. But as is often the case for us, it was time to move on.

With the volatile economy, I haven’t been sure what to expect, since much of my business depends on tourism. However, my workshops have started filling up again, and I am hopeful that we will pull through. 

So here we are now, in the ever warming days of high desert New Mexico, boon docking on a reservoir near Raton. The winds and dramatic spring storms kick up the dust and bring to the nose notes of cattle, and hard western living. We have planned and replanned and rerouted our next steps so many times, even I’m getting little confused as to what’s next. But its looking like we will explore and backpack the nooks and crannies of our beloved Wyoming next, and then up into Montana to revisit Glacier National Park. 

As we approach our four year anniversary of life on the road in early June, we look back with immense gratitude. Ellen and I both laugh and roll our eyes whenever either of us starts to look at the pictures and videos in our phones. It is a multi hour time-warp. We get completely lost for hours remembering the amazing adventures we’ve had. All on a broken wing and a heartfelt prayer.

Our next step is foggy, but seems to be coming in to focus more and more daily. It may be time for us to plant some roots, somewhere. Where exactly, were still deciding. But we’ve both come to the conclusion that we need a proper home base. The prevailing leader of the pack is Florida, at this point. Low taxes, warmth, beaches, gorgeous land, wonderful and interesting creatures to find, and it already feels a bit like home. My first choice was and is always Wyoming. But the winters are too long and brutal. We would prefer to continue our tradition of spending the milder months up there, while soaking the sun and warmth elsewhere the rest of the year. Nothing to prove here.

The last we left things, we were seriously considering buying the shuttle business in Wyoming after running it last season. That fell through and both Ellen and I are actually relieved. We realized we weren’t ready to share our time with a new all-consuming business. We have our own businesses that still need much tender loving care.

But what we learned from that experience, is that we are ready for a change. And this time, perhaps, a more grounded change. We don’t plan to leave the road until 2021. We want to finish our (potential) last year on the road strong.

— Andrew


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aerial, photography

ENERGY INDEPENDENT

Maybe it’s because I’m a Texan, or a simple pragmatist, but I’ve never had a deep aversion to the fossil fuel industry. For me it’s simple; we need petroleum based products, including gasoline and natural gas to propel our modern way of life. I’m all for renewable energy and the expansion of our understanding of modernity and energy efficiency, but as things stand, we all need oil and gas. And it is my firm belief that it is far better for us to achieve and remain energy independent, than to rely on foreign sources which can lead to unending and sometimes illegitimate war.

So with that said, I have taken on a good few clients in the oil and gas world, and I’m deeply proud of the work they do, and the work I’ve had the opportunity to produce for them. I’d love to share some of my favorite work with you here and would love to know your thoughts!

— Andrew


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

Learn photography and enjoy a guided travel adventure.
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
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 2020
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education, photography, random thought, writing

Photographic Trophy Hunting

“For me, it’s not enough to leave it up to authorities and governments. I believe in personal responsibility, first and foremost.”

A thought occurred to me recently as I was contemplating how to make my workshops better for my clients… There are a lot of photo enthusiasts and pros out there nowadays that are essentially “trophy hunters”.

You might be wondering, what is a photographic trophy hunter? It’s an individual who sees an image on social media or the internet, and travels to that location to come away with their own social media “trophy” shot.

Now, don’t take that the wrong way. Obviously, actual trophy hunting is not a very well-liked practice by the public these days. I’m not equating the general idea that many folks looking for the trophy shot are somehow shallow or calloused. It’s much more nuanced than this.

What I mean to say, is that even with actual hunting, there are positives and negatives to this trophy-type approach. First positive, hunters are one of the most conservation minded groups out there. They bring in massive amounts of cash that goes directly toward furthering conservation efforts all over the world. In fact, many species have been saved by the efforts and financial support driven by hunters. But trophy hunting clearly also has it’s draw backs.

For one, it feeds a desire to destroy, with little regard for the “why”. Notice, I didn’t say with no regard. In subsistence hunting, there is a clear why. Sustenance. Food. Clothing. Tools. Etc. There is so much that can be done with a deer, elk, moose, or other game species. Now, there are other reasons of course for hunting; population control, strengthening of the species, human rites of passage, etc., that reach symbiosis when coupled with utilizing the entire animal. Mismanagement (at all levels) and illegal poaching are the biggest concerns.

In the realm of photography, the same is true. The dollars brought in to local tourism are undeniable and absolutely necessary. Also, the awareness created through the sharing of these beautiful places, in theory, causes a broader audience to care enough to support protecting these special locations. However, the increased interest leading to the degradation of many of these incredible locations seems unstoppable, simply due to the sheer numbers of trophy seekers. That’s not even to mention the uneducated, or simply those who don’t care beyond their own desires who end up destroying places.

I see it first hand everywhere we go these days. I’d like to think it’s just a matter of educating people into proper outdoor etiquette, but I’m increasingly afraid that there are many folks out there who just don’t think beyond themselves, in this Instagraming culture we’ve created. And what that breeds is two things; closures of public places (which I despise) or destruction for no good reason (which I despise even more).

In each of my workshops, there are undoubtedly trophy locations that all of my clients desire to see and photograph. It is understandable. There are many great reasons why these places have become legendary. However, as a tour/ workshop leader, I do feel a responsibility to educate and minimize our impact. For me, it’s not enough to leave it up to authorities and governments. I believe in personal responsibility, first and foremost.

What this has caused me to begin to do in recent years is to seek out the “off-the-beaten-path” locations. The places I used to frequent, for instance Snake River Overlook (as pictured below), I rarely visit anymore. I have opted away from the easy locations, for the creatively challenging. And though it is markedly less fruitful at times, it is most rewarding to my soul and sense of adventure. And at the very least, it takes one person away from the crowds at these trophy locations.

There is a potentially harmful issue though that arises from this approach as well… at least with the “trophy locations” they are already well known and we as a society can mitigate the risk to the environment at these places more easily. But if we introduce more “off-the-beaten-path” spots to more and more people, they become less “off-the-beaten-path.” In an effort to self regulate, I have incorporated non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) into my workshops, so folks legally cannot share the locations. I know it seems heavy-handed, but I’m adamant about keeping some places sacred.

Over the years, I have changed my tune on the whole sharing locations issue. And I think we all have continually evaluate, re-evaluate, and re-re-evaluate our long held beliefs on how things are and how they should be. We have a drastically changing society and landscape out there, due to technology and social media. Some of it good, and some of it catastrophically bad.

But to me, just like with nearly any issue, it all comes back to the individual. To you, and to me. Personal responsibility.

If we want things to change for the better, we have to live it for ourselves, and educate others with truth and love. Photographic trophy hunting is an important issue we need to tackle head-on, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg for a society increasingly less responsible for our own actions, and more dependent on government or authorities to do the jobs we all should be doing. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have official regulatory practices and entities, it just means that for these regulations to work (and not shut the public out completely), we have to take responsibility for ourselves first.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to know what you think about this issue. Have you seen the affects on our public lands, or special places that you love? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!

— Andrew


SPECIAL OFFER for my blog followers – 10% off everything by using code “BLOG10” at checkout
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INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
BIG CYPRESS // OFF-THE-BEATEN PATH // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
GIFT CARDS
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The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
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Grand Teton National Park
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Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
STOCK
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
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advanced, beginner, education, instructional, photography

FREE TUTORIAL: FOCUS STACKING

One of my goals (just like everyone else) during this time of quarantine is to finish a few long put-off projects. And I must say that I am pretty happy with some of the things I’ve been able to accomplish when I’m forced to be indoors most of the time.
Once such project has been to create new tutorials for all of you interested out there. I’m pleased to say that I just finished a new one, and I’m offering it for FREE!
It’s a 15 minute video on Focus Stacking. the new technique to achieve hyper-focus. Check it out by clicking the screenshot below.
I have a few more in the works, some free, and some will be for purchase. Check out what’s available and what’s up next HERE. I hope they are helpful! Let me know if there’s anything specific you’d like to see.
— 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.
NEW WORKSHOPS

Learn photography and enjoy a guided travel adventure.
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
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 2020
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national parks, photography, travel

PARK PEEK // GREAT BASIN

Late in 2017, we ventured west from Wyoming to see new territory. New to us, at least. First up, as we crossed the Utah/ Nevada state line was Great Basin National Park. A relatively small, and unknown Park, Great Basin is a gorgeously diverse gem.

The visitor is likely first captivated by 13,000+ ft. Wheeler Peak. It is impressive from every angle.

But this is not just a mountain park. It boasts sage brush foothills, a bristle cone pine forest, and caves.

We boondock camped in the adjacent BLM land, but the park itself has several camping options for both tent campers and RVers.

The bristlecone pine forest is beautiful and ancient. These trees are gnarly, but the oldest living organisms on the planet.

We visited in October, so the temps were quite cold at higher elevations.

Great Basin is a really nice place to get a glimpse into the diversity of landscapes, plants, and animals in the Great Basin region. It’s a quiet park, remote and little visited, but it’s not because it doesn’t warrant interest.

— 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.
NEW WORKSHOPS

Learn photography and enjoy a guided travel adventure.
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
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 2020
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