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


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photography, random thought, writing

METAMORPHOSIS: PART 1

Originally posted on December 15 at the Red River Paper Blog.

I’ve learned that stagnation often seems to be the natural state of humanity. But this is not how people thrive… it is merely how one survives. And Ellen and I need change.

Light changing as the sun drops behind the Tetons in our summer/ fall backyard.

Dallas in December is a crap shoot. For many reasons, really. First, the weather is often all over the place. Blustery and in the 40s one day, and the next, 75 and sunny. It wreaks havoc on my allergies. Also, we spend most of the year away from the masses and when we arrive in Dallas for the holidays, we are bombarded with work, social events, and family.

The breakup on Jackson Lake occurs with the changing of seasons from winter to spring in May and June.

Have I mentioned that we have 11 nieces and nephews between Ellen and myself? Well, with all those human interactions, not to mention those with illness-incubator kiddos abounding, I always get sick. Weakened immune system from under-exposure the rest of the year or simply the time of year, who really knows what’s to blame. Regardless, the holidays are a time of warm reception for us, but also extreme exhaustion.

I’ve escaped to Lake Whitney in central Texas, where Gertie is parked, to write this episode and recover from the busyness of city life.

“Have I lost the ability to live in the city?” I ask myself this question every year. I grew up in a city, but I’ve always felt drawn to the rural, quiet life. As time passes, I feel much more at home in our little Wyoming town of 2,000 than in the urban/suburban sprawl of nearly a million-and-a-half I’ve called “home” for 30ish years of my life.

With the ushering in of spring, deep greens and blues are the dominant colors of the landscapes in Wyoming.

The reason I bring all of this up is simply that as I reflect on the last leg of our nearly four year journey, this theme keeps surfacing: city vs. open country. The change seems inevitable for us.

Life on the road is not as romantic as you might think. I was criticized by one reader of this blog early on that I focused too much on the trials and disappointments of our new, transient life. Fair denunciation. Maybe I focus too much on the negative. Perhaps the struggle is a bit more interesting to some of us than the vapid mountaintops. I tend to think we learn more from failures than successes.

But it is abundantly accurate to say that the highs we experience on the road serve to inspire us and remind us that life does, in fact, grant us beauty and reprieve as well as truth and trial. So let me give you a little of both.

Light glides across the landscapes of Wyoming, constantly changing.

Our view from Gertie for much of May and June this year.

A mountain bluebird perched with the Grand Teton as a background.

Snow was falling in Wyoming last May when I wrote my previous installment. Spring is basically a more dramatic yo-yo-ing version of winter and it lasts through June. We agreed to manage (with the option to buy) a small tourist shuttle business for a friend this summer.

Great Outdoor Transportation Company (GOTCO) has been servicing our little area of Wyoming since ’97, shuttling people and their vehicles throughout the Wind River mountains, anglers up and down the Green and New Fork Rivers, and tourists and locals alike to and from Wyoming airports.

The dramatic metamorphosis of the Wind River Range in spring.

Skye darts into a seasonal pond created by the massive amount of runoff.

As summer begins to take hold, lupine abound across the prairie.

The momentarily changed landscape, scarred from the Boulder Lake fire of 2019.

Our home for the summer near the Wind River Mountains.

There was a ton of work to do to get ready for the season. Vehicles to buy, insurance to set up, employees to hire, marketing/ social media strategy, not to mention just learning a new business. It was a wee bit stressful for us, mostly because we weren’t used to moving at any pace other than our own.

But Ellen and I also had to learn how to be business partners, which created challenges of its own. I also realized I would have to set my own photography business aside for a time to focus on this new venture. What happened next gave us a whole new skill set and was far more rewarding than we ever thought possible. [To Be Continued in Part 2.]

–Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 60 National Parks in 3-5 years. We are currently in year 4 and half way thru the Parks. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
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EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE
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TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019
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photography, travel, writing

N O M A D // no 7

We only have so many summers so get out there and live.”

The towering rocks of Sedona were glowing red when the sun rose over the Verde River. The meandering rivers and endless red rock faces are what Jef (@jefalope) lives for. He’s the quintessential climber dirtbag / river rat, and a man of few words. He’s a leading guide for multi day backpacking in the Grand Canyon. He’s also a rafting guide for rivers all over the southwest, and in the off season, he picks up odd jobs from friends.

“Guiding life takes me all over the country for work. My free time is spent heading to climb between seasonal work.”

Jef lives in his 50 square foot ’92 Ford Micro Schooly. For the uninitiated, that’s a converted short bus. He’s been living in it for nearly two years.

He told me the story of how this home on wheels came to be… and I’m paraphrasing here.

“It was when the Super Bowl came to Arizona. Bud Light made this party bus, so it had wrap around couches and a stripper pole in the middle. And of course Bud Light branding all over the exterior. They didn’t need it anymore after the game, I guess, and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

  

I haven’t really had any hardships. Yet. You live in the elements every day. It just becomes natural.  I guess saying good by to new friends along the way is the hardest part, but you usually see them at the next crag.”

He tells me that he loves the freedom this lifestyle provides, and how it’s made him better at all the activities he loves. “As a guide you travel a lot. If you want to be a strong climber, you have to climb. Being mobile I can be at the crag for multiple days.”

His schooly has small mementoes and trinkets strewn throughout, but he singles out two feathers that were given to him.

“The Turkey feather is from my friend who’s mother just passed. The eagle is from Garrett, who mentored my into professional guiding. I couldn’t have done it with out him.”

  

I ask him if there’s anything he misses about the “traditional” lifestyle, he simply replies,

“No not really. I have a way better view now.”

And when asked how long he plans to do this, he simply states,

“I hope as long as possible. I have everything I need.”


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
BIG BEND// WILDFLOWERS + STARS
PHOTO 101 // LEARN TO SHOOT LIKE A PRO // SELECT CITIES // USA
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road
 
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
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019
 
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photography, travel, writing

N O M A D // no 6

I love this life, and although I may not have money every day, I know that everything will work out, and as long as my daughter and I are healthy and happy, that’s all that really matters!”

Shanti Roadrunner (@shanti_theroadrunner) is one of the most unique people I’ve ever met. And as far as this NOMAD project goes, she’s the most authentic and perhaps holds claim to a blood relation to the ancient Romani people (the original gypsies).

I met her in Sedona, and when asked, “Why a nomad,” she responded, “I’ve been a nomad my entire life, with the exception of living in a house for about 5 yrs altogether on and off. I think it’s just in my blood, I can’t help it! My ancestors and relatives are all gypsies, so, it’s kinda just a normal thing for us. Plus, in my opinion, it’s the freest we can be in this society!”

She struck me as a proud, hard working mother, whose main concern is cultivating a lifestyle of freedom and wilderness for herself and her daughter. She and Robyn live in her 1987 Toyota dolphin camper, all in all about 50 square feet. She said this camper was gifted to her somewhat recently. Before that, the pair lived in her van… She’s very glad to now have a stove and shower.

For me personally, this lifestyle allows me to raise my daughter myself, which is the most important thing to me! I don’t want to send her to daycare and work a 9-5 job. This lifestyle doesn’t require rent…or at least not as nearly as insane as house rent! It requires gas and propane, but yeah… A lot more feasible! I get to take her to my job which is everything to me.”

  

When asked what she does for work, she replied, “I do some crafting, I make water bottle holders (crochet) but I also do housekeeping gigs for Airbnb’s.”

I asked her a question that Ellen and I get all the time… do you ever plan to settle down?

“Really, no future plans of settling down! Although I wouldn’t mind getting some land if I ever save up enough money. The hardest thing (about life on the road) is probably the law, always trying to get rid of us! It’s unfair! And frustrating.”

She then told me a story of camping in a well known park in Sedona with her sister a while back. They’d been there for about a week when law enforcement showed up. She apologized and let the officer know that they were not aware that they couldn’t camp there. Regardless, he wrote her a ticket. When she asked if there are any signs that say “no camping”, he said, “yes.” But when she asked if he could show it to them, he said “no.”

I looked all around the park for any signs and saw none.

 

She carries few possessions. But one that caught my eye was a replica of Frodo’s blade, Sting, from Lord of The Rings. I find that every nomad carries at least one thing with them that doesn’t really have any utilitarian value. But it usually carries some emotional significance.

“Ok so Sting… my sister and I were huge, and I mean, huge, Lord of The Ring fans. Those are the only movies we would watch and everything in our life had to somehow relate to LOTR! We had many more swords and memorabilia, but we had to let a lot of it go. I couldn’t bring myself to leave Sting. It was the first sword I owned and I loved it too much to leave behind, plus it’s super cool to have a sword…” Shanti and her sister remain close. Her sister and father both live on the road as well.

Shanti also carries a banjo.

“I had an era of my nomadic life where it was just me and my pack. I was traveling across the country with my boyfriend at the time… he was a folksy bluegrass musician. We went down to New Orleans for a while, and he played on the streets to make money. I didn’t know how to play anything. But as soon as I could I bought my first banjo and it went everywhere with me, even if I don’t know how to play. It’s a comfort knowing it’s there to fiddle around with when I’m feeling inspired, and some day, I would like to play like a pro!”

“Being a nomad isn’t as hard as it seems! And as for myself, I own everything I’ve got in my rig! No debt! Not a lot of money, but i make it day by day. We don’t need a house, an endless hot shower or 3 crazy huge meals a day to be happy or comfortable,” she mused.

Living this lifestyle also puts a whole new perspective on how dependent we are on so many things, and really, how lazy humanity has become. It’s good to get out and connect to the wilderness, and really, our true and original state! Humans are tribal… we need community, we need to connect! We aren’t meant to be set in front of a tv in our lazy John, sending our kids to strangers so we can go to work to make money and never see them, all in order to feel secure.”


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:

 
BIG BEND// WILDFLOWERS + STARS
PHOTO 101 // LEARN TO SHOOT LIKE A PRO // SELECT CITIES // USA
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew Slaton // prints from the road

 
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
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019

 

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art, landscape, nature, photography, random thought, travel, wildlife, writing

the river of grass

They call the Everglades “the river of grass”, and a few weeks ago, I witnessed why.

Now just to clarify, the Everglades is not just limited to Everglades National Park.  The area is truly huge.

Much of South Florida is considered “glades” country.  It includes, but is not limited to, Big Cypress National Preserve, Collier Seminole State Park, and Picayun Strand State Forest.

All of which I had the pleasure to photograph over my 11 day, 4000 mile journey.

river of grass and hardwood hammocks near bear island campground

a white swamp lily in the river of grass in everglades national park

Mahogany Hammock trail boardwalk

barred owl at dawn

crows on a wire in pineland forest

The Everglades is a truly stunning landscape.  Very different from what my main focus has been for the last decade, the Rocky Mountains of the American West.

sunset at long pine key

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ARS_ENP_0913_0052-32_blog

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vegetation variety on the gumbo limbo trail

pineland forest of everglades national park

dead brown watersnake on the main road in everglades national park

morning at flamingo bay

air plants

air plants

anhinga

lily flowers

cattle egret near burns lake in big cypress national preserve

cattle egret near burns lake in big cypress national preserve

sunset over the river of grass and pine forests near bear island campground

sunset over the river of grass and pine forests near bear island campground

sunset over the river of grass and pine forests near bear island campground

coastal plain lobelia

sunset over the river of grass and pine forests near bear island campground

sunset over the river of grass and pine forests near bear island campground

As I mentioned before, Canon sent me the 5D MK III to test on this trip, and these are just a few of my favorites from my old 5D MK II.

The MK III images will be posted separately, and I’m so excited to share those with you.  I was absolutely blown away with the improvements made on the new 5D.

But next, I want to share an Everglades wrap-up video.  I plan to create episodic videos of all of my adventures from here on out…  “webisodes”, if you will.

I will release the Everglades episode first thing tomorrow morning, so be on the lookout!

Thanks for visiting!

— andrew

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level please check out my new workshop dates:

Big Bend Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2013-2014

More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2013-2014

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

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 © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

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