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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equipment review, photography

5D MK III // Field Review / Everglades

Before the Canon 5D MK III came out, I remember talking shop with a few other photographers about whether the change would be significant enough to justify purchasing a new camera body.  I thought not.

Wrongly.

Canon sent me new MK III a few weeks ago for my Everglades adventure, and from moment one, I was impressed.

It would seem impossible to improve on the color, clarity, and ease of use from the MK II, but they did.

And it is very quiet.  So, immensely helpful with wildlife.  I never realized how loud my MK II’s shutter is until I shot with the MK III.

roseate spoonbill

roseate spoonbill

a pair of burrowing owls on marco island

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brown anole on the anhinga trail in everglades national park

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lubber grasshopper

The color and the contrast straight out of the camera in RAW is incredible.  I would actually liken it to some of the more advanced Nikon bodies I’ve tested before.

I know, I know, sacrilege, right?  Well, I have always been a Canon guy… literally from day one (AE-1, 35mm).  But I have played around with Nikons as well, and I’m not afraid to criticize my brand and give credit where credit is due.  Often times the color and contrast that came out standard on raw files from Nikon seemed to have more punch to me.  Finally, Canon has an answer.  It is partly due to the lateral color fringe correction (that most newer Nikons have).

brown anole on the anhinga trail in everglades national park

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american crocodile at flamingo bay

american crocodile at flamingo bay

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road through pineland forest

I’m not much of an HDR fan, though I am asked all the time whether my work is processed as such.  The MK III has an in camera HDR function that I found fascinating and tastefully done.

And the internal processing is incredibly fast.

sunset at long pine key

sunset over the pines at long pine key

night sky and stars with palm at flamingo bay campground

The high ISO noise reduction is of course, phenomenal.  And truly, it would be difficult to see much of a noticeable difference from its predecessor, but you absolutely can.  It’s that much better!

night sky lightning storm through palms at flamingo bay campground

night sky and stars with palm at flamingo bay campground

morning at flamingo bay

green treefrog in dwarf palmetto

green treefrog in dwarf palmetto

american alligator

tricolored heron

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burns lake at dusk with passing storm

morning at flamingo bay

green treefrog

green treefrog

green treefrog

green treefrog

green treefrog

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centipede in dwarf palmetto

brown anole mating

white tailed deer doe at dawn near bear island campground

white tailed deer doe at dawn near bear island campground

nightfall over burns lake

sunrise over burns lake

green treefrog near big cypress bend boardwalk trail

green treefrog near big cypress bend boardwalk trail

stormy chokoloskee bay

men on a tour boat in chokoloskee bay

green treefrog

river of grass with pineland forest in the distance

orb weaver spider

great white egret

american alligator at long pine key

great blue heron in flight at flamingo bay

red shouldered hawk with kill

great blue heron

american crocodile at flamingo bay

red shouldered hawk drying off after rain

barred owl at dawn

cypress forest swamp landscape

boardwalk trail in big cypress national preserve

tricolored heron hunting

great white egret

mosquito on human hand

lingus tree snail

green treefrog on dwarf palmetto

giant swallowtail butterfly

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

 

I’ve never been one of those guys who just buys the new thing right when it comes out… I’m a little bit more cautious than that.  But to all those who did with the Canon 5D MK III… kudos.

Canon really changed the game with the 5D MK II, but after spending a week in the Everglades with the MK III, I’m reassured that they continued the game changing camera bodies with this one!

There are so many improvements made with the MK III like color fringe correction, copyright and shooter info embed (not to mention you can finally customize file name in camera!), and dual memory card slots.  I highly recommend it as a huge improvement over its predecessor…

The two main improvements though that I would like to see, and my only criticisms would be the lack of built in WiFi or GPS.  I would assume that the MKIV will incorporate these (now) necessities.  But I don’t see myself waiting until Fall 2015…

For further tech specs, please visit: CANON 5D MK III

– 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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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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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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equipment review, instructional, photography, travel, writing

planning an epic road trip // equipped

“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”
Ansel Adams
 

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Equipment

It cannot be said enough… the equipment is only as good as the photographer using it.  With that said, I am a lover of gadgetry and get really excited when I have the opportunity to learn a new tool that will help me achieve better, more consistent results with my imagery.

So for this trip, Canon is sending me the 5D MK III, TS-E 17mm, and the new Speedlite 600EX-RT to evaluate and review here on the blog…

I know the MK III is not very new anymore, but I’m excited to put it to the test in one of North America’s most extreme environments.  And I am really looking forward to spending some quality time  with Canon’s widest and highest rated tilt-shift lens, and the newest Speedlite technology.  

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But regarding other equipment, and being prepared for a trip such as this, I have had to plan accordingly, with weather as the biggest “x” factor.

From dry bags and applying scotch guard to as much as possible, to purchasing mosquito netting for my head, I have tried my best to think it all through.  I will be bringing multiple rain covers no doubt.

Check out this video that explains a bit more, and see some of the gear that will (hopefully) get me through the extreme conditions…

“Never forget that all the great photographs in history were made with more primitive camera equipment than you currently own.”
Brooks Jensen

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To know what equipment to bring and what to leave behind, I think carefully through my shot list.  What tools will I need to give myself the best chance to achieve each image?  Only experience helps me determine that with any accuracy.  And the more you shoot, the more confident you’ll be when practicing this.

It’s a very obvious, yet important part of the planning process.  There’s nothing worse than arriving on location after days of driving, only to realize you so wish you had brought that second tripod, or the 2x extender.

Don’t rush through this step, or chances are, you’ll be frustrated later…

— andrew

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.”
Ansel Adams

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, 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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landscape, nature, photography, random thought, travel, wildlife, writing

flashback | everglades

It was thirteen years ago…. I sat at a crappy, college-student computer, playing around on a new website called “Priceline”.

Back then, all you could do was bid on flights.

And so it was, a 19 year old aspiring photographer and travel junkie, bidding (really low) on random flights.

Well, I didn’t realize that if they accepted my bid, that I would have actually purchased my first solo trip.

And they did.

I think the winning bid of Austin, TX to West Palm Beach, FL, round trip was around $120.

I was going to the Everglades.

The next few months were marked with frustrating phone calls, trial and error planning, and no luck finding a reputable rental car company to rent an out-of-state nineteen year old a car.

But eventually I found a shady car company, and I was on my way.

With only a hand-me-down Canon AE-1, two lenses, and about 35 rolls of film (Fujichrome Provia 100F and hand-rolled Kodak T-max 100/ 400 b+w), I set off on my first solo photo adventure.

I know that I have already attached several of these Everglades images to earlier posts, but I thought it would be fun to see them again in light of the flashback…

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I have SO many more images from this trip, tucked away in dark closets, nested within box after box, like Russian dolls.

Perhaps someday I’ll dig them back up and share them. But until then, these will suffice, as will the new ones I bring home in just a few weeks…

I’m getting really excited!

— andrew

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, 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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instructional, landscape, nature, photography, travel, writing

planning an epic road trip // the plan

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
Leonard Bernstein

Once I’ve made a decision on the destination, the real planning begins…

I chose my route to maximize productivity, making sure I touch all the spots along the way that can yield the images I need.  Below is a visual example of the route I charted for my Everglades trip.

It’s important to note, however, that this initial route often changes and flexes as I move into the next phase of planning… research.

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Research

The first three items it’s typical for me to purchase are: a good map (I like the Nat Geo Trails Illustrated maps), a Falcon trail guide, and lately (though it looks cheesy), I’ve found “The Photographer’s Guide To…” series to be very helpful.  Though I do not use much of the photography advice in the last book, it has very specific location tips and times of day/ year information that can prove valuable to you,especially if it’s your first time in an area.  Think of it as the “Dummies Guide” to a place specifically for photography.

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Another great (and free) resource is the good ol’ internet.  In this case, it was a no-brainer to go to the National Parks Service official website for the Everglades.  I found it especially useful for answering many common questions.  But it also linked me to informational videos and outside resources that began to change the course of my trip.

Despite the poor acting and shooting (sorry NPS, no offense), I was really impressed with the amount of information I could take in from these short webisodes created by the Park Rangers at the Everglades… http://www.youtube.com/user/EvergladesNPS.  It provided me the info I needed to begin to plan in more detail.  It also led me to decide to venture into the backcountry via canoe, which I hadn’t considered before.

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All this research can lead you to several helpful conclusions in the planning phase:  it will keep raising your excitement level (as if it could get any higher!), the information will better equip and prepare you for success on your trip, and it will begin in your mind’s eye the visualization process.  By this, I mean, the concept of previsualization that Ansel Adams defined as “the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure”.  And to help myself along in the exercise of previsualization, creating a proper “shot list” is my next step after research.  In general, Adams was referring to previsualizing a final image while in the field, with the elements of the shot right in front of you, but I strongly believe the creative process starts when planning.

The Art of the Shot List

After all that reading and online researching, so many images will already be swirling around my head.  The infinite possibilities of perfect images.  Those creative juices are fantastic and often drive my plan, but we also need to be realistic.  You cannot be omnipresent nor can you control the elements, so a certain degree of planning and preparation should be considered.  As a fellow photographer/ blogger, Michael J. Flaherty stated recently, “Do not try to be strict about your plan.  You either chase the light, adjusting meal times, losing sleep, etc. or you miss the light.  It’s that simple.”

First things first; choose your locations, illustrations, and desired flora/ fauna.

What do I mean by all of that?  Well, since you’ve done your research, the books you’ve read and websites visited, you should have a great idea of what specific locations and important plants and animals you want to photograph.  And by illustrations, I simply mean, what’s your creative vision?  What images do you want to capture that might be outside of the normal realm of stock footage?

For example, I knew that I would be reviewing some gear on my RMNP trip, so I added a few self portraits using that gear in the field to my shot list.  I also added “art landscapes” to the list.  My style is more artistic typically than the traditional “postcard” images.  So although my stock agency prefers the traditional images (because they sell consistently), I wanted to be sure to exercise my creativity too and be true to my style.

So all that to say, be thorough with your shot list.  On that same trip, I added “iconic summer elk silhouette”.  Kind of specific, huh?  Well, I knew exactly what I wanted, and because of that, when the opportunity presented itself…. I was ready.

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Don’t be afraid to set the bar high.  Just be realistic with your expectations.

Your shot list will be somewhat general to start.  But it will gather momentum and specificity as you go…

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If I come away with 70% of the photographs on this shot list, I will be very happy.

The fact is, the more planning and research you do, the more prepared you’ll be.  But just as the weather changes at a moment’s notice, so too will your well made plans.

–andrew

“Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised.”
Denis Waitley

“You must plan to be spontaneous.”
David Hockney

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, 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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art, landscape, nature, photography, travel, writing

planning an epic road trip // the destination

“One’s destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things.”
Henry Miller 

The first thing, and sometimes one of the toughest to determine when planning a road trip is picking a destination.

Choosing should be very systematic and logical, but let’s be honest, a road trip is also a living creature that does not much appreciate the confines of a cage.  This dance needs to be predicated on realistic expectations… then, and only then, you can be prepared to have your expectations exceeded.

Now, we are primarily discussing a photographic work trip.  And that means that my primary goal can be at odds with what we traditionally view as the essence of a road trip, spontaneity.  But this doesn’t mean they cannot coexist.

Just a few weeks ago on my Rocky Mountain road trip, I had a very well thought out plan in place.  And… gasp… the plan changed several times.  About half way into my trip, I received an email from my awesome cousin.  He wrote a very kind note, sharing his fond memories of RMNP in some detail.  He’s a fan of what I do, and I consider myself blessed to have people out there like him.  So at that moment, I decided to change my plans considerably.

He mentioned his favorite spot to fish and camp… a small, high mountain lake in the backcountry of the park called Odessa Lake.  I wanted to capture a spectacular image for him, so I hiked in, spent the night, and was rewarded with a few of my absolute favorite images from the whole trip.  It really was the most beautiful spot in all of RMNP that I visited.

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And I never would have even seen that magnificent place had I not been open to suggestion, remained flexible, and kept the adventuresome spirit that comes with being on the road.

With that said, a plan is still very important.  Several factors go in to my choosing a destination:  my level of desire to visit a place, is of course highest on the list, but I also factor budget, feasibility, preparedness, how big is the need (either for my photographic library, or for client’s/ stock agency/ etc.), and the volume of work I think I can come away with (are there several spots along the way that I could easily visit and might help round out my work too?).  I am trying to make a living, after all.

So after much deliberation, a trip I’ve been planning for years, to Glacier National Park, quickly turned into a vastly different beast.

Due to more immediate stock needs, budget, and personal factors (i.e. the fact that my wife would be on vacation in Florida during the timing of my trip), I decided to plan an Everglades detour.

The dates of this trip have already shifted slightly several times, thus remaining flexible can really help you and your stress level.  :)

It also happens to be the height of hurricane season… so sometimes a good backup plan helps as well.  Believe it or not, I have two.

If I happen to be on my way to the southern-most tip of Florida, and the weather turns, Plan B is to head north and spend my time in the Smokies.  If, on the other hand, tropical storms and hurricanes begin to batter my original destination before I even set off eastward, I will be revisiting my original plan to head north…. way north.  To Glacier National Park.  But at this point, I really hope it doesn’t come to that.  As much as I truly do want to visit Glacier, most of my prep (and thus my enthusiasm) has been for this long-awaited return to the Everglades.  So keep your fingers crossed!

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 Budgeting

Thankfully, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time planning all three of the aforementioned trips, and have constructed a budget for each one.  And there’s even an art to that.

Bear with me for a moment; I have a lot of accountant friends (strange, I know), and they just love to tell me how they don’t have an artistic bone in their body.  I couldn’t disagree more.

Putting together a realistic/ successful budget takes logic/ reason and creativity.  And once I choose my location, it is absolutely the next thing I do, because let’s face it, unless you have an unending supply of cash, properly budgeting and allocating your funds is very important to keeping yourself profitable.  Photographers are business(wo)men too.  So here are my steps to a realistic road trip budget:

  1. Figure out your (realistic) mileage.  Use google maps, or similar, to chart your route, and tally the total miles.  If you think that route will flex at all to accommodate stops or detours along the way, add in several hundred miles extra to be sure.  For me, when it comes to mileage calculation and budgeting, I always overestimate.  I’d much rather be prepared for the worst and happily surprised when I spend less.  Again, it helps with stress.  Now, take the total mileage of your trip, and divide it by how many miles you get out of one tank of gas.  If you don’t know this number, it’s quite easy.  Next time you fill up, reset your mileage counter to 0.  Let it run until you are again on empty.  There’s your number.  Once you’ve divided your total mileage by how much you can get out of one tank, you have the number of times you’ll need to fill up.  Now you multiply the number of tanks by how much it costs to fill up your car.  For example:  my ENP trip will be 3500 miles rt (overestimate), my Subaru can get 350 miles per tank, and it costs approx. $60 to fill it up (overestimate).  So a minimum of 10 tanks, which at the most would cost $600 in fuel.
  2. Lodging.  How much will you spend on hotels/ motels/ camping fees.  This is something that you simply must evaluate realistically, knowing yourself and your tendencies.  Don’t set yourself up for budget failure by proposing to camp the entire time to save money, if you know that you’ll be dying for a hot shower.  I am very comfortable camping for three week stretches, but I always budget in at least 2-3 nights at a hotel just in case.  You just cannot predict how a trip will go with certainty, so it’s best to budget for the worst.  If conditions are good, I usually challenge myself to not use any of my hotel money the whole time so I can buy some other piece of equipment I want/ need without guilt.  Everyone likes a good reward.  Regarding camping fees… do your research.  Everywhere is different, including from one national park to another.  Thank God for the interweb.
  3. Food.  Once again, this is a very personal aspect of your costs that you should carefully think through to create a realistic budget.  It’s easiest to learn your road trip food habits through years of experience.
  4. Misc. Supplies.  Inevitably there are expenses that you simply cannot always foresee.  Camp fuel, bug spray, emergency medicine, mosquito net, spontaneous canoe rental.  It’s really good to have extra money budgeted in for the necessary unforeseens.  And if you end up being really prepared and don’t need the misc. funds for needs, it also comes in handy for wants, a good book, or a souvenir/ gift for someone perhaps.  Can’t hurt to over prepare when it comes to budgeting.

Once I arrive at the final, hard budget number… yep, you guessed it, I add a hundred or two in there for good measure.  Just in case.

It’s also not a bad idea to bring an emergency credit card with you.  I don’t advocate the use of credit cards in my own family, however, it can absolutely save you if your car breaks down or some other catastrophe befalls you.

Feasibility/ Preparedness/ Productivity/ Need

Is this trip realistic for you?  This is a tough question that we all have to ask ourselves.  It generally directly correlates with these three things: physical fitness, outdoor gear, and photographic equipment.  Do you have health problems that have rendered you unable to walk for long distances?  Then I wouldn’t plan a trip to a place that you will have to hike much.  I know it seems elementary and simplistic, but I think through these things every time.  For instance, a 50 mile hiking trek I did several years ago to Indian Peaks Wilderness in Colorado.  I did not take seriously the condition of my gear, so about 5 miles into the first day, the soles of my hiking boots literally fell off.  I had not worn them much that previous year, and over the course of time the rubber sole dry rotted.  So, I had to hike the remaining 40+ miles of extreme mountain terrain in my chacos.  Thankfully, I am very comfortable hiking long distances in these particular sandals, but it could have been disastrous!  A ruined trip.

For my ENP trip, I know that I will be there during the Florida rainy season, so I thought through that, and decided that I needed to re-scotch guard all of my outdoor gear.  It’s things like that, that can make or break an epic road trip.

Next, evaluate your photographic equipment.  Are you prepared to get the best images possible with what you have?  If you’re like me, you’ll never have all of the equipment you want, and you can always think of new gadgets and tools that will help you achieve new levels of imagery.  Don’t get mired down in that kind of thinking, all I mean is; do you have the necessary equipment (or the means to borrow/ rent) to make this trip successful?  And this brings me to my next point…. productivity.

You are going to spend some coin on this trip.  If you’re a professional like me, you have to make it pay for itself several times over to make it worthwhile, but even if you’re not a pro, you want it to be a productive learning experience/ portfolio booster.  I have a tendency to fall in love with a location and visit it several times a year.  Not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but often times it’s a creative boost to go somewhere new, and you can build an entirely new facet to your stock library or portfolio.

I am often guided (lately) on trips like these, by my stock agency’s “wants/ needs” list.  Why not all but ensure that my trip will be financially profitable?  And even more so if I can find stops along the way that will fulfill stock needs as well.

Everglades2

Everglades7

It’s a lot of information to consider, I know… but my approach is that if I do the tough work on the front-side, I will be freed up while on the trip to only worry about getting the best shots and having the most fulfilling experiences possible.

It’s funny… to hear myself makes me think that many of you might be thinking, “wow, this guy really knows how to sap the fun out of a road trip!”, but I’ve really come to enjoy the process and preparation.  It gets me excited in new ways for my upcoming adventure.  And it helps me be a better photographer.

Let me know what you think!

Thanks so much for reading,

— andrew

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