photography, travel

#findyourpark | GRAND TETON

Where to begin?? Grand Teton National Park is one of the most magnificent 310,000 acres in all of North America. If there were ever a “bucket list” National Park… this is it.

I first laid eyes on the Teton Range, for which the park is named, nearly 15 years ago. It was sincerely love at first sight. But even more than that, there is a feeling of wildness I have never experienced anywhere else. I’ve spent years exploring the Colorado and New Mexico section of the Rockies, but there’s something quite different when you enter a land where the ultimate spirits of the West still resides; the grizzly bear and wolf.

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I have literally thousands of images from this awe-inspiring park, but I’m going to show only new images from my most recent trip in February. You can view every season in the park in this blog’s archive search bar to the right… just type “Tetons”.

When To Go

So which season is the best to visit, you might be thinking? Well, each is unique and beautiful and they have their own benefits: winter is haunting and quiet. Now, yes, it’s freaking cold too. Like, you could die if you’re not prepared kind of cold. It can reach temps of -50 degrees F in this part of Wyoming, so be prepared with layer after layer. But you will never see such amazing sunsets and sunrises as you will in the winter. And the crowds are few and far between. It’s my second favorite time of year.

My first is fall…. swoon. Fall is absolutely magnificent. The summer crowds begin to dissipate, the animals get energized for mating season, the leaves catch fire with color, the air gets a biting chill and the first snowfall hits. It’s just amazing. And… the mosquitos are mostly gone. Which brings me to summer :)

Summer is beautiful. Warmer temps, animals abounding… but so are the mosquitos and crowds. Don’t get me wrong, summer is fantastic. I just tend toward avoiding crowds in my special places of mountain goodness.

Now spring is a bit tricky. Locals call it “the muddy season,” and for very good reason. After the massive amounts of snow melt, the ground is super muddy for at least 1-2 months. Usually May and June are like this. And if you’re wanting to get up the high country, there’s way too much snow still until July. But even this time of year is pretty… deep greens and blues abound and wildflowers begin to bloom. And the masses have not yet begun to descend on the area for the summer season.

Each season has it’s benefits and pitfalls, so carefully look at the pros and cons and choose the right time for your trip that fits your expectations.

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Where To Stay

Grand Teton National Park is right outside of the town of Jackson, Wyoming. So if camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of hotels, motels, hostels, and even dude ranches in the area at which to stay. If you’re a camper like me, you’ll be overjoyed to find that most of the park borders National Forest, so cheap and/ or free camping is everywhere. There are just a few developed campsites in the park, and to be honest, I’ve never stayed at any of them… because… honestly… if you’re camping, why would you want to be right next to other people AND have to pay too much ($22/ night) for it? I dunno… call me crazy. But if you like that sort of thing, here’s the info you need.

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How To Get There

Luckily, even though small, Jackson, Wyoming has a decent sized airport (JAC) with many flights coming in and out daily. It can be pricey though, depending on what time of year you’re flying and where you’re flying from. Salt Lake City, Utah (SLC) is probably the closest, cheapest international airport and is about a 4.5-5 hour drive. But you may save a ton of $ flying and driving from SLC, so check it out if your a budget traveler like me. Keep in mind though when renting a car, if you’re planning to travel here in anything but summer, you may want an SUV or even better, 4 wheel drive. The mud in the spring and snow in the winter and fall can be treacherous. It is not uncommon, even among locals, to get stuck in the ditch. Just be prepared. It’s even nice to have in the summer too.

SLC has a ton of Subarus for rent, which I would recommend for the price and abilities. AWD but decent gas mileage. Not too shabby.

If you’re driving the whole way, be prepared for immense beauty and abundant wildlife as you get within 250 miles on any side of the park. You may want to spend some time working your way to GTNP to see all of the beauty the surrounding land has to offer. Be very careful and alert if driving in the area at night. It is common to see (very large) animals crossing roadways, and it could ruin your day (or life) to hit one.

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What To Do

Oh my, I could go on and on here, but I’ll try to keep it brief…

First thing’s first; bordering to the North of Grand Teton Park is of course America’s first and most famous National Park, Yellowstone. So you’re going to want to devote a few days to this amazing landscape. But we’re not here to talk Yellowstone just yet… that’s for another post.

Hiking, backpacking, climbing, fishing, rafting, skiing, photography, snowshoeing, wildlife viewing, camping, exploring, and so much more are all fantastic activities to see/ do in this park. But bring your A game. This park is rugged and wild.

Wildlife

Since wolves, mountain lion, and grizzlies have made a comeback, there is more to think about when you’re out there than just what’s for lunch. The chances of any kind of attack are so slim, however, for your safety and the animals, there are a few things you’ll want to know. Check out the GTNP website here for great safety tips.

It is pretty common to see bison, elk, deer, moose, coyote, eagle, hawk, fox, and more. Then, if you’re lucky, you may see wolf, bear (black and grizzly), mountain lion, mountain goat, big horn sheep, etc. Keep a very safe distance with all of these animals… they are wild. And as scary as bears, lions, and wolves sound, more people are killed by bison every year! Please treat the animals with respect.

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And if you’re out hiking or backpacking, please respect this beautiful park and practice Leave No Trace Ethics. If you are not familiar, please click the link and read more about it… but the gist is, leave a place as good or better than you found it. It’s a rule that I wholeheartedly use and endorse.

But don’t worry, LNT doesn’t apply to making snow angels :)

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And that brings me to my next important “to do”… have fun and make memories! This place is one of the most special places in the world, much less the U.S. It is meant to be cherished, respected, AND enjoyed. So please, go with your family and friends, teach them about how to protect it, and then make some killer memories in Grand Teton National Park.

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What to See

Just like most, if not all, of our Parks, there are several very famous spots, and for good reason. These places are amazingly gorgeous and oh so special.

Since like the rest of my #FindYourPark posts, this is simply an introduction, and by no means a comprehensive guide, I will only mention a few of my favorite spots. I’ll leave the rest up to you… And if you’re really interested in a guided experience, and you’d like to see all of my favorite secret spots, come with me this summer or fall!

The main ones, that are easy to get to and I have to visit every single time I’m there are; Snake River Overlook, Oxbow Bend, Schwabachers Landing, String Lake, Jackson Lake Dam, Colter Bay, plus a few others. Each are accessible by car or a very short hike, and most likely you won’t be the only person there. But these places are popular for a reason, so they make my list of ‘must see’.

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If you’ve read my Big Bend post, this part may sound a little like deja vu… The River Road is a most exciting (but very dangerous) 4×4 road that gives you access to the most remote, drivable areas of the park. Also some of my favorite views. Be warned however, that this is a remote, oft void of any human activity, 4 wheel drive/ high clearance vehicle road. Many people have gotten themselves stuck out here. It is not nearly as remote as the road of the same name in Big Bend, but be careful none-the-less. FYI, you are also NOT supposed to camp out there.

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In the winter, there is only one place to camp, and that’s at Colter Bay. Trust me when I tell you, if you don’t have the right gear (and even sometimes when you do) it can be pretty miserable to camp in the winter here.

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It is hard to sum up this park. The Tetons are supremely majestic. Too often, people see GTNP on their way to of from Yellowstone, but in my opinion, it is in the top 5 best National Parks in the U.S. And my personal favorite, except maybe for Big Bend.

This park offers the sights, the wildlife, and the wildness that many Parks in other places just lack. It is this western wildness that makes it so special to me. You may feel this too when you visit. And it is something that very few places in the Lower 48 possess anymore. So please join with me in enjoying, but also conserving and respecting this magnificent place!

— andrew


Ellen and I are hitting the road full-time in June! Help support our journey by gifting yourself {or a loved ARS_RMNP_141023_1606one} one (or ten) of my National Park prints for only $59. THURSDAY, APRIL 14 from 6-10PM CST ONLY! The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure, AND I’ll be donating 10% of the profits to the National Park Foundation! Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our beautiful Parks for generations to come! But be quick, these prints are limited and normally $250, so they may go fast… LEARN MORE HERE >>


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
 
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nature, photography

BRAZOS BEND | Working to Relax

Nowadays, at least in the U.S., we’re all expected to work more and more. The saying used to be “working 9 to 5”, but not too long ago it became 8 to 5… and now if we’re honest, most of us work a lot more than that.

Well all of this would be fine if we had no life outside of work, but we do. No kids, no spouses, no friends, no hobbies. But more than that, we need balance in our lives.

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When I get home from a 2-3 week road trip, I’m usually stuck in my dark office staring at a computer most of the day working. Contacting and working with clients, retouching, editing, blogging, updating websites, pre-producing new shoots, etc. For another 2-3 weeks. It’s very up and down, back and forth. It’s unhealthy.

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That’s when Ellen and I will take short trips to our favorite state parks, like Brazos Bend in Texas. Just a few days to get out. Away from the house/ office. We had one such trip recently between two long work road trips and it was exactly what we needed.

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Studies show that being outside and “unplugging” a little from our digital life is so good for us. It doesn’t mean we have to throw the smart phone in the lake, it just means intentionally setting aside time to reconnect our brains to nature.

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It is also now known that camping can help us to reboot our sleep cycles. There is something about going to bed when the sun sets and waking when it rises that connects with a primal part of our brains, that relieves stress and brings about true relaxation.

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The benefits of spending intentional time outdoors are still being discovered, but I can say as an expert :), that you have to experience it to believe it. And in this day and age, many of us don’t even need to be in an office setting, so we have more opportunity than ever to at least take the laptop or tablet outside to work under a tree. Try it!

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Well, okay, the alligator part of this may be a stretch for you… but I love these creatures, and in a strange way, they help me relax and reconnect to more primal parts of my brain. Perhaps it’s the “survival” part of my brain. But I’ll tell you this; when I’m hanging around photographing alligators, I never pull out my iPhone to check my email. Just sayin’.

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The fact is, we modern humans want to ignore or forget that we too are a part of nature, and even used to live in nature. But it doesn’t change the fact that all of this technological sensory overload is new for our brains. We need time outdoors for our physical, mental, and spiritual health. And that will trickle down to your work life too, I promise.

— andrew


In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation.. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
TELLURIDE SUMMER 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
TELLURIDE FALL 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
ULTIMATE WYOMING SUMMER 2016 – SOLD OUT, WAIT LIST ONLY
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agencies:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016

 

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photography, travel

#ontheroad

 

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Well, we’re officially announcing going on the road full time. We’ve been talking about it for a year now, and though we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, we’re moving forward. Starting this June 1, we will travel the U.S. and Canada, photographing the National Parks, shooting for several large and small outdoor brands and magazines, and living our dream! But it’s not going to be easy.

That’s why we need your help. In order to give us a little momentum, we would like to invite everyone to visit our online art show this Thursday evening starting at 6PM CST for the chance to get my National Park prints for only $59 (in honor of the 59 parks). They are usually $250+, signed, limited editions, so they may go fast. The show benefits The National Park Foundation (10%) and our efforts to inspire folks protect our wild places and to get outside!

Watch our video trailer to get pumped with us!

Check out the page now to pick out your favorites before hand, then bookmark the page so you can get what you want right when the show begins on Thursday. And please share with anyone and everyone you think would be interested! Living on the road will be amazing, but not easy to make it all work financially… so help us make this dream a reality!

http://www.andrewslatonphoto.com/print-event

Thanks so much for all of your support, and we look forward to meeting many of you #ontheroad!

— andrew


In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation.. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
TELLURIDE SUMMER 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
TELLURIDE FALL 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
ULTIMATE WYOMING SUMMER 2016 – SOLD OUT, WAIT LIST ONLY
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agencies:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016

 

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photography, travel

The Wyomingites | Genesis

When I first arrived in Pinedale in the winter of 2005, it was -40F. Not the most hospitable place I’d ever lived. Considering up until that point, I had only lived in Dallas and Austin, Texas. I had visited a few years prior in the summer, and immediately fell in love with the land. Ask anyone who’s ever been, it’s actually quite common.

I was 25, and I wanted to run away from the city, and people. My best bet was the Union’s least populous state, Wyoming.

There I was, in a town of 1400 people, no stoplights, permanently frozen winter streets, and beautiful wilderness on nearly every side.

I had gone to work for a small weekly newspaper. And in my first meeting with the publisher, Rob, I was given my first assignment… Go around town and ask whomever you meet about this particular issue of the day, and get their opinion and quick portrait. We called it “faces”. It was a recurring small section on page two or three. It was the bane of our existence, as we usually waited until the last minute to complete it, and it was common for folks around town to decline our interview. The paper isn’t always a beloved institution, especially when the publisher has rubbed most of the 1400 in town the wrong way. And me being a Texan, I wasn’t immediately accepted. I took both setbacks as a challenge.

Before I headed out “on the town” for that first assignment, bright eyed and bushy tailed, Rob stopped me, looked me straight in the face and said, with a tone of fear and fury, “Whatever you do, NEVER talk to Mike Ramsey.”

I had almost forgotten the name of this apparently nefarious character that my publisher had advised me against ever getting a quote from… until I sat down at the bar at our local watering hole. You see, there isn’t a ton to do when it’s -40 outside, except drink.

The stranger at the bar next to me was a stout, handsomely gruff, whisky drinking looking fellow. Handlebar mustache and all. You could’ve placed him anywhere in the world, and still immediately recognized him as a man of the Western Rocky Mountains, USA. He wore a King Ropes hat, and his pointed gaze could make you tell the truth.

“I’m Andrew,” I said in a young, overly optimistic way. He looked at me for a moment, as if to test if I were for real.

“I’m Mike,” he said in a raspy, gravely voice. “Mike Ramsey,” as he shook my hand.

I chuckled and immediately told him what my new boss had just said.

“If you want me not to do something, best not to tell me not to do it,” I laughed.

His experience with Texans up to that point was from the loud, rich Houston oil men who’d come up to hunt elk, and the few Boy Scout types that would get lost backpacking the Winds, only to be found weeks later as remains from a grizzly feast. He didn’t necessarily have a high view of my kind. In his mind, we come up with gusto, only to leave broken by the harsh wilderness. And that’s not far from the truth.

It was a slow conversion, but we became close friends.

What I’d come to find as I slowly got to know him over the years, is that he is a very good man, who has lived a wildly interesting life. So interesting and worthwhile that many of his stories demand retelling.

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Mike, Elk Guide, Wind River Range, County 23, WY, 2016

Over the years, Mike has been (or still is) an elk guide, snow plowman, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) petroleum engineer technician, fishing guide, cowboy, forest fire fighter, painter, avalanche safety, snow machine guide, and much more, I’m sure. He has a deep and unique relationship with the rugged land he chooses to call home.

So as much as I tried to avoid it because he is my friend, Mike had to be the first Wyomingite for my book. And don’t worry, I will explain why Rob so adamantly didn’t want me to talk to Mike, and a few harrowing and hilarious stories from his incredible life.

The Wyomingites, will explore the personalities and stories of the men and women who make Wyoming their home. From each of the 23 counties, come unique and challenging landscapes both shaping and being shaped by the (few) humans who inhabit its borders. The photographs are a unique mixture of landscape panoramic, and environmental portrait.

If you would like to learn more, invest to help make this book happen, or you think you have a wonderful Wyomingite subject for me, please email me directly.

— andrew


In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation.. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
 
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photography, travel

20 Below // Yellowstone

Life is all about adaptation. If you can’t stay flexible, especially when on the road, you’ll end up frustrated and angry. Plans are going to change. Your best efforts will be thwarted frequently. I promise.

This year’s winter Wyoming road trip wasn’t my first rodeo… But perhaps my first trying to camp in the beautiful, frozen hell that is the Yellowstone Caldera. It is common to reach dangerous temps of -60F here. Maybe we got lucky, it only reached -20 for us.

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Most people think I’m crazy… some of the things I do, get myself into. No, I’m actually relatively sane. I see a great human potential to do things that seem impossible or “nuts” to many, and I want to prove that they are quite normal. And maybe even fun.

Yellowstone is one of those places that immediately captured my heart. Love at first sight… smell, touch, feel. It is magical. But of all the seasons I have experienced in this place, winter was the untouchable. Most of the park is only accessible by snow mobile, snow coach, or cross country skis. It requires a lot of preparation and investment to make an overnight camping excursion into Yellowstone in the dead of winter. It demands to be taken seriously. Especially in winter.

I was looking for an opportunity to test myself in a new way.

Sounds dumb, I know. But I’ve always been this way.

When I was little, I wanted to be a stunt man. Often, I would jump off the roof of our house to practice my falls, or bungee a bunch of pillows around my body and throw myself down the stairs. I’ve always enjoyed catching snakes with my bare hands, only to identify them as poisonous or non, afterward.

It’s not that I don’t feel fear. Trust me, I do. Every time I sleep out in grizzly country, I lay awake most of the first night seeing terrible visions of ferocious bear(s) attacking me ruthlessly. Every snap of a twig makes my heart race. But all I have to do to finally get some shut eye is remind myself of the many hundreds of nights I’ve spent under the stars, and how I’ve never had a terrifying experience… with bears, at least. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, that’s just to point to the reality that it’s more likely that I get struck by lightning. An event about which I literally never worry.

The fact remains, my life is not my own. It is controlled and ordained by a much higher reality than my fears or eccentricities.

It’s really about testing my limits. It’s less about man vs. nature, and more man vs. himself. Testing one’s mental and physical resolve.

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So back to the point: I can scheme for months, but I’d better be ready to surrender each and every meticulous plan.

This whole trip was brought on by my random stumbling on a new program offered by Yellowstone. A few months earlier, while surfing recreation.gov I came across the brand new self-guided snow machine permit. I’d always wanted to see Yellowstone in the winter, but it never appealed to me to go on a guided tour. So this sounded perfect.

I lucked out and got a permit for the timing and area I wanted. Not easy to do since almost every permit was already taken. And it started a whole chain of events that led us to this point. I began planning everything; the road trip, the activities, shot lists, I started lining up sponsors, gear, etc. It was on. We were going no matter what, in my mind. It seemed to be providence.

When we arrived in Wyoming, after a night at Devils Tower, the plan was to head all the way up and over to Cooke City, Montana. Cooke City lies just across the Montana/ Wyoming state line along the Beartooth Highway, just a few miles from the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. It was going to be a long drive, but for me the payoff was well worth it. It was still a week until our scheduled permit date to enter the park from the South on snow machine. This would serve as our introduction to winter camping Yellowstone.

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I know that the road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City is open all year. It’s the only road they plow in the park. However, for some reason, the short drive from Sunlight Basin to Cooke City via the Beartooth Highway is not plowed. I had to learn that the hard way. We ended up adding 4 hours to our drive for that mistake. And it was already getting dark.

After a long detour up to I-90 through Montana, and an overnighter at a cheap motel, we finally arrived at the North entrance to Yellowstone at Gardiner, MT.

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Entering Yellowstone is like being dropped on to another planet. At first, it seems familiar; rocks, trees, mountains, rivers. But then you start to see colors and formations rarely seen anywhere else on earth. Steam rising from mountain streams. The smell of sulphur. Vast herds of bison, elk, pronghorn. It’s so unique. And in the winter, when the snow blankets everything and people are harder to spot than the wildlife, Yellowstone possesses even a more haunting spirit.

So there we were, on the doorstep of testing a new resolve in ourselves, a new level of resiliency. Could we take it? Would a wintry Yellowstone break us?

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We spent the night near Mammoth Hot Springs on top of several feet of snow. It was too cold to hang out long enough to make a fire that night, and we were tired from the days of driving, so we opted to burrow into the cozy tent and our sleeping bags early.

The wind, coyotes, and wolves howled through the night.

The temp when we woke was a solid -20 with the wind, so even the most enjoyable of morning tasks like making coffee became painful. We weren’t deep in the backcountry. In fact, we knew that there might even be fresh coffee to be bought nearby at Mammoth. At the very least, we thought, getting out of the wind and into a quickly warming car would be worth it. I would later come to realize that this moment would serve as the beginning of the end of the test of our resiliency. At least in the way I had imagined.

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Our time in North Yellowstone was short. We had friends to meet up with and clients to shoot for down in Jackson and Pinedale, so we left the park, expecting to return from the South in a week.

Over the next week, we spent a few more nights outdoors, but the cold and the snow was wearing us thin. It became harder and harder to sleep at night and warm up in the morning. On top of this erosion of the physical, several friends we had lined up to go with us on the Yellowstone excursion had to cancel.

The epic adventure was in danger of not happening at all. I was undeterred.

Something that once seemed so providential, so “meant to be,”started to feel cursed. Then I received an email from the snow mobile rental company that I was angling to trade marketing photos for free machines, stating that they would not be able to do the deal any more.

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We’d been on the road for two weeks already and were out of money. It was the last straw. The Yellowstone dream would have to wait. This fact, regardless of how obvious, would take a long time for me to accept.

How do we deal with our disappointments and failed plans? What I wasn’t realizing was that my test of resolve on this trip had now taken a new form. It was no longer the sexy physical test of manhood I wanted. It had become all of our worst nightmares… not getting what we want.

For someone who plans as much as I do, I can become fixated, even obsessed, with objective. The trip was such a beautiful success in so many ways, but from my myopic attitude, it looked like a failure because of the one unrealized objective.

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I learned from this trip that man vs. himself is more than just climbing mountains or wrestling alligators. Man’s true resiliency is shown clearly in his/ her ability to roll with the punches. To watch their carefully made plans go down in flames and still make something of it.

It remains one of the hardest things that I (and all of us will) consistently face in life.

— andrew


In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation.. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
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photography

BRANDS + CREATIVES // Why We Need Them, and They Need Us

Creatives and brands have always had a close relationship, but there’s never been a time in history when these two groups have been more dependent on each other.

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Content, content, content. 

We are bombarded daily with images and moving clips. It comes from everywhere; TV, billboards, social media, news articles, texts, etc. If there’s one day that passes in our modern lives when we don’t look at hundreds of images and short clips, we’re likely dead. Where does all of this content come from?

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Much of it is what is referred to as “user generated”. This just means, me and you, and every other Jo Schmo who snaps a pic with his iPhone and uploads it to Instagram. Well, this is a huge pool from which brands can draw. And it’s all free marketing.

So what about us? The professionals who make a living shooting for brands?

It’s the same old story since the beginning of commercial art… There’s always someone out there willing to give their work for free, and a host of creatives sit around bitching about how the market is flooded and so and so’s ruining our industry, and the sky is falling…. blah… blah… blah.

Well, I subscribe to the philosophy that we as creatives have an innate need to grow creatively and to work hard, contrary to popular belief. Clients will always recognize the inherent worth of our work, if we’re willing to create work that is worth anything! Even if it’s meant to look user gen.

So back to my point…. user generated content can only be taken so far. Companies know this. It is fantastic to mix in the user gen pics and video, but brands will always need professional quality and consistency. Even the big dogs can’t count on good user gen content everyday.

In the old days, a medium sized company would only license about a hundred images in a given year… now they will likely go through thousands. True, some of that is free content, but the amount of paid, licensed work a brand will purchase annually has skyrocketed.

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The Old Faithfuls

That’s where creatives come in. The ones they can count on, every time.

More and more, I am creating “image banks” for my clients and brands, where they are able to go and grab what they need, when they need it, to fill in the user gen gaps. They even find it useful for print and other marketing needs.

It’s a great relationship. We want to be out there being creative, pushing ourselves and growing. They need eye catching imagery, again and again and again…. So be sure you are there when they need you.

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The market is definitely changing. But in my opinion, there’s more of a need for us “old faithfuls” out there than there ever has been. The world is only demanding more and more content, and it does’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. So, as much as we need them (so we can continue to put food on the table and pay rent)… they need us, and our creative, beautiful, and consistent content.

— andrew


In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation.. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
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photography, random thought, travel

#FindYourPark | BIG BEND

Now we’re talking! Big Bend is my home park… So I’ve got lots of good insight for you here.

I’ve been making the 9 hour drive to this remote National Park for the last 15 years (over 20 times!), and I can’t think of a better place to go. What is it that keeps me going back?? Well, if you like to explore, find solitude, star gaze, hike… you’re in luck. And if you like 4×4 roads, there are over 150 miles of dirt roads (more than any other park in the continental U.S.!) for you to drive and explore.

driving the chisos basin road in big bend national park, texas

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During a few weeks in March/ April every year, the desert comes alive with color. Texas wildflowers dot the vast, wide open spaces of Big Bend, and the otherwise drably colored desert flora become neon green with life.

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agave americana (century plant) in bloom in juniper canyon, big bend national park, texas

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But it’s not only Spring that is magnificent in Big Bend… Winter is actually one of the favorite times of year for seasoned BBNP adventurers. And it’s really simple… the Chihuahuan desert stays quite mild in temp throughout the whole season. A great place for snow birds to escape the cold get a little r+r.

sunset over the chihuahuan desert, big bend national park, texas

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You know, come to think of it, I’ve been in every season… and they each have their benefits. Fall is nice and mild. Summer’s pretty hot, but you get to see some of the most spectacular lighting storms you’ve ver witnessed.

Let’s just get something out of the way here early… Yes, there are snakes. Well, and lots of other creepy crawlies. It’s a desert, so you can expect many of your phobias to run wild… unless you’re like me and you love these fascinating creatures. But let me calm your fears… Though they are there, it is pretty rare that you come across any snakes, tarantulas, locusts, centipedes, etc., unless of course, you’re looking for them. :)

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But you might not be expecting some of the other amazing fauna of Big Bend. There are javalina, jackrabbits, black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, deer, and so much more.

black-tailed jackrabbit in big bend national park, texas

giant millipede, big bend national park, texas

Getting There

So why is Big Bend the Nation’s least visited National Park?? Well, one of it’s greatest strengths is also a weakness in some folks’ eyes. It is REMOTE. The closest airport is in Midland, Texas (MAF), which is about 4 hour drive. You can also fly into El Paso (ELP), but you’re looking at closer to a 5 hour drive. From Dallas, it’s a 9 hour drive and from Austin, it’s 7.

But it’s exactly this very remote aspect that makes it so special in many ways. Ever visited Yosemite or Yellowstone in the summer? Then you’ll know how difficult it can be to hear yourself think! Even in the backcountry, it is common to pass dozens of hikers and backpackers in some of the more popular parks. I know, I know… it doesn’t keep me from going either. But the benefit of Big Bend is that you can have a once in a lifetime personal experience with nature in one of our Nation’s (and the world’s, for that matter) most spectacular natural treasures. If you’ve ever been, you know what I mean… don’t fool yourself by leaving this park off your bucket list because it’s a pain to get to.

Trust me on this.

Where to Stay

National Park tip #2: If you recall my NP tip #1 from Mount Rainier, you’ll be thrown a bit for a loop at BBNP. Big Bend is in Texas, which has very little public land left, so the park is surrounded mostly by private ranches. And it is such a huge piece of land (over 800,000 acres!), that you really do want to stay in the park, to get the most out of your time.

So where to stay??

Well, you may be drawn to the designated campsites, like Rio Grande Village, Cottonwood, or Chisos Basin, but in my opinion, the “backcountry” drive up sites are the best. You’ll pay around $14 per night for the maintained campgrounds and likely have loud neighbors. If you instead go to the office at Panther Junction and ask for a backcountry drive up site, you’ll pay $12 for a full week! No facilities, but plenty of nature and solitude… now that’s my kind of experience.

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If you need the amenities of home, well you too are in luck! The Chisos Mountain Lodge offers several rooms and private cabins, nestled in the beautiful Chisos Basin, at reasonable nightly rates. And with a restaurant just a short walk away, it’s quite a comfortable stay. We prefer to get away and rough it, but to each their own…

camping in the desert on the dodson trail, big bend national park, texas

What To Do

Hiking is one of the most common and popular activities at Big Bend. There are hundreds of miles of trails that span every ecosystem of the area including the surprisingly robust Chihuahuan Desert, the high mountain desert plateau of the Chisos Mountains, and the flood plains of the mighty Rio Grande river. Be advised though, depending upon what time of year you visit, it is recommended that you bring 1 gallon of water per person per day you will be out.

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Bird Watching is another popular activity in and around the park. Big Bend’s location, near the 100th meridian in the middle of the continent and along a migration route, is ideal for bird diversity throughout the year. It is also the year round home to some fascinating species, like the Peregrine Falcon, Mexican Jay, Colima Warbler, and Roadrunner.

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Backpacking

With 42 backcountry campsites in the Chisos mountains accessible only by foot, Big Bend boasts some pretty epic backpacking. However, due to rocky conditions, high temps, very dry air, and the extreme remoteness of the backcountry, novice backpackers are discouraged from testing their limits here. Each year, park rangers respond to emergencies when hikers are not prepared for the heat and extreme conditions of the desert. Please be sure to check in with the backcountry permit office before embarking on your journey… permits are required and will give you a heads up on any dangers you might encounter.

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Stargazing

Big Bend is known as one of the most outstanding places in North America for star gazing.  In fact, it has the least light pollution of any other National Park unit in the lower 48 (according to NPS). This is the best of surprises to visitors when they see the Milky Way in its full glory for perhaps the first time in their life. Realistically one can see approximately 2000 stars on a clear night here compared to perhaps a few hundred in a medium sized city.

So if you’re in to astrophotography like me, this is the place for you! You might even want to consider joining me for my annual Big Bend night and landscape workshop.

Starrs over the Chisos

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There really is nothing like Big Bend. You have to see and experience it to understand. And as you’ll surely come across, those who have been, never stop making their pilgrimages back to that magical swath of desert. Some more frequently than others, but it is said that “you never go to Big Bend just once in your lifetime.”

What to See

I’m guessing if you’ve read this far, you’re in. “So,” you might be asking, “what are the main sights to see?” Well, there are several very famous spots, but just know that there are also many hidden gems in Big Bend that may not be on any of your maps or guidebooks. That’s okay, you can definitely find some them… you just have to be a little resourceful and very respectful of these precious few secret places. People are usually happy to share their favorite off-map trails.

Since this is simply an introduction, and by no means a comprehensive guide, I will only mention a few of my favorite spots. I’ll leave the rest up to you… And if you’re really interested in a guided experience, and you’d like to see all of my favorite secret spots, come with me in March!

The Dodson Trail gives you unparalleled views of the Chihuahuan Desert and Mexico to the South.

panoramic view of the chihuahuan desert from the dodson trail, big bend national park, texas

The River Road is a most exciting (but very dangerous) 4×4 road that gives you access to the most remote campsites in the park, but also some of my favorite views. Be warned that this is an incredibly remote, oft void of any human activity for days, 4 wheel drive high clearance vehicle road. Many people have gotten themselves stuck out here and had to hike for days to get out without ever seeing another soul… Not naming any names here…

tent camping at dusk on the rio grande and the chisos mountains in big bend national park, texas

rio grande and the chisos mountains in big bend national park, texas

The view from Emory Peak is quite spectacular. It’s the tallest point in the park at just over 7,800 feet.

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The area around Panther Junction provides amazing views for sunset and sunrise. You can look back into the desert to the North or watch the light dance on the Chisos to the South. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. Dusk and dawn out here is well worth losing sleep, I promise.

colorful dawn over the chihuahuan desert in big bend national park, texas

Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most famous sights in the park. Ansel Adams even photographed this… it is a must see.

sunrise on santa elena canyon and rio grande in big bend national park, texas

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There is so much information on this lesser-known park, I could seriously spend months writing about this special place, revealing so many of its secrets. But here’s where I leave you… with a simple call to action. Go. See. Explore for yourself, and experience why this is one of America’s greatest treasures!

— andrew

P.S. with all of these #findyourpark posts of late (and many more upcoming), I wanted to let you know about a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation. In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to the Foundation. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
 
 
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