art, landscape, photography, random thought, travel, workshop, writing

big bend // revisited… part 2

Once again, I woke up before the sun…

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And witnessed a spectacular sunrise over the Chihuahuan Desert, with both Texas and Mexico in view.

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Everything in the desert seems to want to hurt you.  It’s an amazingly inhospitable place.

Maybe that’s why I love it.  It continually screams at me to leave, and I, unrepentantly scream back at it, “no!”

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Mariscal mine settlement.  When you visit this small village (seriously) in the middle of nowhere… it really does make you think about how beautifully tough our forefathers must have been.

This place is so difficult to get to and remote, that few people even nowadays visit.  What with our air conditioned cars and four wheel drive.

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So I finnally exited the River Road and hit pavement.  It’s funny the feeling you get when you’ve only felt super bumpy, unimproved dirt tracks underneath you for two days – driving 20 miles an hour, because if you drove any faster you’d surely bottom out or receive a flat for your insolence and disrespect to the road – finally being lifted up on to the smooth ride of a highway, and potential speed of 65.  I love it.  Kinda feels like you just won the lottery.  Undeserved and glorious.  Thankful you made it off that God-forsaken death trap of a road.  The reverse can also be true.  I LOVE THE RIVER ROAD!!

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So I spent the next several hours scouting a few different locations.  The first being my evening “epic” Big Bend landscape, that attempts to sum up the place.  Tough indeed, if you’ve ever been to BBNP.

The second shot was a night, road photograph I’ve had in my mind on this trip.  I got one in RMNP, but really wanted to try one here.  I had several nice spots from which to choose.

The third and fourth theoretically could be the same spot.  One shot would be in the very early morning hours… a star picture.  And the other was a morning “epic” Big Bend landscape.

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I finished my scouting with several hours to spare, so I decided to hike to one of my favorite little spots in the park, Cattail Falls.

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I always go when water is scarce, so I’ve never come away with the waterfall picture I want, but it’s a great little hike and the only place I’ve ever seen a bear in the park.

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By the time I got back, it was late afternoon… time to begin my work for the evening.

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I ended up with a few shots I like, so I called it a night… at least get a few hours of sleep.  Back up at 4 a.m. to shoot the stars and catch what would be a gorgeous sunrise.

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That morning was a sunrise-to-end-all-sunrises.  At this point, it was as good a time as any to quit while I felt ahead.

And besides, I was into my third week of being on the road…. living out of my Subaru, eating lots of peanut butter and honey, sleeping alone (an activity I used to love – that I am now quite weary of) on the hard ground.

It was time to go home.  Hard to leave, but definitely time.

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So I composed my last shots of the desert and mountains of Big Bend National Park, and bid it farewell… this time thankfully, it won’t be so long between visits…

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 + content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

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art, photography, random thought, travel, writing

big bend birthday, year 2

if something happens at the same time two years in a row, does it become tradition?  could we say “our annual big bend birthday extravaganza”?  well, i’m going to.  starting now.

elle and i took our annual big bend birthday extravaganza a little early this year.  you see, some friends of ours decided to get married out in marathon at the gage hotel the day before elle’s birthday.  “great!” we thought.

another good excuse to create/ continue, a short-run, but beloved “tradition”.

“what do you want to do for your birthday?”  i enthusiastically asked elle a few weeks before her birthday last year.

“i wanna go backpackin’!”  she screeched back.

well, there aren’t many places to go backpacking in texas, unfortunately.  and my favorite place, big bend national park is about a nine hour drive from dallas.

so… in spite of the drive, we decided we would hike the chisos mountains of big bend (see sharing big bend).

this year, it really wasn’t much different.  her enthusiasm was the same; wide-eyed, youthful, jubilant.

the main difference was that we decided to wander the desert this time, instead of the mountains.

we camped at a bend in the river, so our view (even though camping in texas), we could see the rio grande, mexico, and then the chisos in texas.  it’s one of my favorite views in the park.  makes you think a lot about borders and survival, and how small we really are…

as night fell, the stars caught our attention.  oh the stars.

the next day we woke up and my front left tire was completely flat.  the road we were on claims many tires, and personally, it has claimed more tires (and cars for that matter) than i care to remember.  the river road.  it’s a 50+ mile long 4×4 “road”, if you can call it that in some places.

three years ago, my fourth vehicle found it’s final resting place on that road.  long story… i’ll tell the whole thing if you ask me.

anyway, back to the task at hand… i put the donut tire on, and we fled the chihuahuan desert to find a new tire.

we had fun on the drive to alpine.  elle was a belle about it.  even though it killed an entire day for us.

there may or may not have been a few swigs of wine on the way back from alpine, but i’ll never tell.

the next day we hiked into santa elena canyon, one of the park’s many popular attractions.

later that day, we also hiked one of the hidden gems of big bend, cattail falls.

and then later that evening, we did another short hike up the lost mine trail in the chisos.

that night we stayed at grapevine hills, just like we did the first night one year before.

it caused us to be a bit reflective, and think on the past year.  and laugh a bit at how far we’ve come together.

we had some dinner and some wine, and talked about where we are going.  love and marriage, etc.  life.  together.

we can do this.  life together.  some of it will be mountain tops, and some will be the lowlands.  but we seem to have a knack, and more than that, a commitment, to hiking through all of it together.  and i think that’s pretty stinking beautiful.

we woke up bright and early.

we had to leave that day to make my friend’s rehearsal dinner in marfa that evening.

but we had just enough time for one more hike…

our sojourn to balanced rock wasn’t very long but we took our time, it was beautiful.

winding through earthen spires of stone and sage and sotol.  the desert began to funnel us toward something.  neither of us had hiked this before though, so we didn’t know where or what.  but we kept going, though the landscape at times was eerie and foreboding.

along the way, ellie would jump up on the tallest rock around and scream with joy.

and that made me smile.  how couldn’t it?

and then we reached balanced rock.  it’s somewhat of a big bend cliche.

but then again, aren’t cliches cliche for a reason?

it was really amazing.  like the stonehenge of the desert, though clearly not human-born.

massive boulders balanced perfectly with one another for centuries, millennia.

resting on one another.  creating something good.  awe-inspiring.

all images and content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2010

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photography, random thought, travel

renewal year

i’m not a fan of new years celebrations.  getting dressed up, paying inflated party fees, and sipping head-ache inducing champagne, is not my idea of ending or beginning any year.  so, a last minute decision placed me in big bend national park, alone, to ring in ’09.

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i climbed to the top of the dodson trail, on the outer chisos mountain loop, and received a clear view of the year passed and the year to come.

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my new year suite… a perfect little spot in the high mountain desert.  ocotillo surround and protect my tent.

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first cup of coffee of 2009.  what a beautiful morning… and hey… no headache!  i traded my tuxedo from the night before for the “german tourist” look – wool hiking socks and chacos.  sexy, huh?

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the mountains were magical as always.  it was a real treat to spend the first hours of 2009 in quiet reflection.

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i hiked up to cattail falls, a highlight of every one of my dozens of trips to this great park.  the flow was just a trickle… like usual.  but it was cool and calm in the small canyon.

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as i hiked down from the falls, i was again rewarded with an amazing view.  i am hopeful for 2009.  cliche or not, i am hopeful.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2008

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remembering travels of the recent past

a few weeks ago i posted about july being a boring month for me.  especially with the anticipation of an amazing upcoming august.  well, august has changed a little, but july remains the same.

so, with the “july-factor” in mind, i decided that reliving my recent travels might help lift my spirits a bit.  and just maybe for a minute i’ll stop whining and feel thankful for the wonderful places i’ve been to see this year.

’07-’08 was a blessed year for me regarding travel, and ’08-’09 is already shaping up to be exponentially better.

i guess dallas is where it all begins and ends for me right now.  and though i’m not so fond of her, dallas has enough work to allow me to travel more than most.  so i’ll think kindly of her for the moment…

austin is kind of my secret girlfriend.  we courted for over 5 years, but i had to leave her for a more practical lover.  so sad.  i do sneak around from time to time though… just to see her pretty face, and hear her alluring voice.

  

 

brazos bend, texas.  my favorite place to play with alligators in texas!!  if you want to see some prehistoric monsters, i highly recommend this park.  it’s just a short drive southwest of houston.

cabo san lucas, mexico!  my friends joe and erin got married there last summer, and guess who was able to go for free in exchange for a little wedding photography.  well worth it…

  

not too far from the city, somewhere out in east texas, is a private getaway, known only as “timado” to the few elites who know of it.  i was let in to the inner-circle last fall when i was invited to a double bachelor party extravaganza.  well, okay, so it’s not very elite, more like a good place to drink beer, go fishing, and grow out your mullet.  but it’s really fun.  and a great place to catch snakes and shoot fireworks.

big bend national park, texas.  ah, the big bend of the rio grande.  one of my classic favorites.  this trip was the first of two for the year, but it ended in tragedy.  my truck somehow found its way to the bottom of a four-foot-deep washout.  at least i only had to hike 18 miles through the desert before i saw someone to get help – hahaha!  what a great trip!

  

another friend of mine, adam, got married in wonderful savannah, georgia.  what a great place.  i had been once before, but rest assured that i could never get sick of savannah.

  

  

  

  

  

  

so, yet another friend, anna, got married in her home town of philadelphia, pa.  big year for marriage apparently.  and no offense to my other friends, but this was the best one yet.  i’d never been to philly, but it quickly became one of my favorite cities.  partially because two of my favorite people were there – anna and elaine.

  

another first-time favorite city, san francisco!  i lucked out with this one because of some awesome friends of mine, john and bd.  the brothers had an extra ticket to the 2007 baseball all-star game, and i got the invite.  we had a fantastic time at the weekend’s festivities, and we even made our way out to napa for a day.  amazing trip!

  

  

  

  

i lived in pinedale, wyoming a few years ago when i worked for a small newspaper.  it’s a tiny town just south of jackson (or to you tourists, jackson hole… hahaha!).  consequently, it is also very close to grand teton and yellowstone national parks.  doesn’t get much better than that.  so, since i reluctantly moved back to texas in 2006, i’ve made the pilgrimage back at least twice a year.  this was my first trip of the year, in the autumn.  and it was breathtaking – just the way i remembered it.  i hope to someday move back…

  

  

yee haw, boy howdy!  ARKANSAS |ˈär,kanzəs|!!  the white river in arkansas is incredibly beautiful, no doubt.  i went on a weekend trip up to northwest ar with some friends last fall to do a little fly fishing, and enjoy the scenery.  i don’t know how to fly fish, so i just enjoyed the eye candy, and made photos all weekend.  i think we’ll try to go again this fall.

  

  

  

  

 

oklahoma city, oklahoma.  we have tons of family in oklahoma – our rival state to the north.  and in all honesty, i don’t visit enough.  it’s really a great state.  though the university by the same name will always be my arch enemy.

the okc bombing memorial is stunning… a quiet experience… completely heartbreaking.

  

  

  

  

  

big bend, part deux.  i took my new ride to experience the land that claimed my previous truck’s life only months before.  wow, i really like my new car.  especially with gas prices the way they are.  i was able to do the entire 5 day trip for under $250!!  that includes 1500 miles of driving, four days of bland camp food, and priceless nights under a clear desert sky.  it was a really rejuvenating experience.  i needed it.

  

  

the quintessential western road trip, executed at the worst time of year.  my friend, bd, got a wild hair in early november, and decided to plan one of the most classic of american road trips, down the 101.  it was originally planned for the next spring, but neither of us could wait that long…

we set off just a few days after thanksgiving.  we left dallas, and spend the first night in denver.  then from denver, we made our way through blizzards, over togwotee pass to jackson, wyoming.  we had the privilege meeting up with my old roommate, emily, and previous editor, noah.  we had way too much fun.

the next day in spite of splitting headaches, we were off to boise, idaho and then to portland, oregon.  portland may be my new favorite city (i know… i say that a lot).  it reminds me so much of austin, but even prettier.  we spent a few days there, and then made our way up to seattle.  another great city.  somehow, we ended up at a seedy bar called “shorty’s” that night.  it was clown-themed, which made it creepy to begin with, but it also happened to be in, what i found out later to be, seattle’s “crack district”.  that was the first, and hopefully last time i’ve ever seen someone smoking crack.  right outside the bar, in the rain!?  interesting.

so we were ready to get back on the road after that night.  from seattle, we drove back to portland, then on down to eugene…  go ducks!!!  from eugene, we headed over to the coast, and that’s where we hooked up with the legendary highway 101, which we followed the rest of the way down to los angeles.  the scenery was absolutely amazing from the oregon coast all the way to big sur.  and even south of big sur to monterey was quite nice.  really, the trip down the 1 was so overwhelming in its grandeur and raw beauty, that for me (someone who is already a painfully bad writer), is too hard to put in to words.  plus, i’m a photographer anyway.  so i hope the images speak for themselves.

in spite of taking this trip in the most off part of the off season, it was incredible.  i can only hope that i have the opportunity to do this trip again at some point in my life.  i should be so lucky.

my virgin voyage to chitown.  seriously though, i was such a nerd on the flight there, and in my rent car.  the only two albums i listened to the whole weekend were sufjan stevens’ come on feel the illinoise, and greetings from michigan, the great lake state.  but they fit so well!  and they are two of the best albums of all time.  so at least they had that going for them.

chicago is certainly a cool town.  i need to spend more time there.  also, it was december, sooooooo, just a little cold.  maybe i’ll see what it’s like in spring…

  

  

  

  

  

 

ah, spring in wyoming… what a segue – damn, i’m good!!  so this was the second (well, technically third, if you count the short drive thru on the road trip in november) time for me to visit my old haunt in about six months.  what a treat!

yet another friend, kim, was getting married in pinedale, so it was as good an excuse as any to go visit one of my favorite places in all the world.  and it certainly did not disappoint.  i camped for the first time in single digit weather on eight feet of snow pack too.  so that was cool.  but i learned a valuable lesson:  don’t ever do that again!!

in all seriousness, there is something about western wyoming.  a special quality that lacks clear explanation.  ask anyone that has spent any time there, and they’ll tell you…  it’s a deeply spiritual experience.  and there’s something about the winter (which is much of spring as well).  it is what quiet looks like… if that makes any sense.

anyway, if you’re still reading, i feel sorry for you because you may have severe mental problems.  or into s&m or something.  but i promise that i’m almost done.

there are two innocence mission songs that always make me nostalgic about my travels, so i’ll end with some lyrics.  if you’re unfamiliar with the innocence mission, i would highly recommend you give them a good listen.  the first song is called, song about traveling.  really… go figure!?  and the second is the brotherhood of man.

“a man said, ‘why?’  why does traveling, in cars and in trains, make him feel sad?  a beautiful sadness, i’ve felt this before.  it’s the people in the city, you’ll never know.  it is everything you pass by, wondering will you ever… return.”

“waiting at the airport on my suitcase, a girl traveling from spain became my sudden friend.  though i did not learn her name.  and when the subway dimmed… a stranger lit my way.  this is the brotherhood of man.”

“i never can say what i mean… but you will understand… coming through clouds on the way.  this is the brotherhood of man.  this is the brotherhood of man.”

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2008

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