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

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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


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GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
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photography, random thought, travel

A REVERSAL OF OPINION

These days, most of us dig our heels in on the hottest issues. We rarely listen to the other side. We wait and formulate our counter argument, while we pretend to listen to the opposing view.

I assure you that I am no better. Nine times out of ten.

Let me briefly talk, though, about that one of ten moment. Well, I should say more accurately that I had a slow u turn.

Years ago, I wrote an article titled, To Share or Not To Share. I still hold to the majority of the stances and claims in that post. However, I have made a complete about face on the sharing issue. As many of you know, I am pretty libertarian. And sharing is a matter of choice, so I remain libertarian. But I do not think that sharing locations is a net positive any more, so I will no longer share locations publicly.

What I have witnessed on the road the last four years is degradation and disrespect for many of our special places. Places that deserve respect. Places that to us, and many before us, have been and are sacred. Do I have such a following so as to think that I am to blame for this? Of course not. But our over-sharing culture (of which I have been a direct participant) is. It saddens me that we, at this point in time, lack personal responsibility, but I unfortunately have to come to terms with this.

Many have argued this point for years, and I hoped they were wrong, but I now realize they were right all along, and I was naive and wrong.

I hope all of you will understand that if I do not personally know you, I will not under any circumstances share locations with you, and I suggest you do the same. I am even incorporating NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) into my workshops to ensure the safety and protection of these areas. I believe in being personally responsible on my part, so I don’t have to rely on laws and stricter regulations. I would prefer it this way.

Now, with all of this said, there is some positive to come out of this. And it is that we can now return to the good old days of finding places by studying maps, striking up conversations with locals, hours of in person scouting, and stumbling upon hidden gems. It really is a better way to explore anyway. There is nothing wrong with working a bit harder for the shot!

Please do let me know your thoughts in the comments below…

— Andrew


SPECIAL OFFER for my blog followers – 10% off everything by using code “BLOG10” at checkout
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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:
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Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
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Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
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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
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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