travel, wildlife, workshop

Totality // 5 Things I Learned Photographing An Eclipse

There was quite a bit of fervor leading up to the “Great American Eclipse” a few weeks ago, to say the least. The little town of 2,000 we call home in the summer and fall, Pinedale, Wyoming, was expecting to swell to nearly 10x its normal size.

And Jackson, WY, just at the center line of totality and home to Grand Teton National Park, expected nearly half a million people to flood in to the town of around 20,000! Knowing what the area was expecting, the hype seemed a bit overblown to me.

I was wrong.

I’ve never experienced, much less photographed, a full solar eclipse. I’ve seen and shot several full lunar eclipses, and I was comparing my expectations for this to those… WAY different. WAY cooler.

So, what did I learn as a photographer, shooting my first, full solar eclipse?

1. If you plan to shoot any portion of the eclipse other than totality, you really do need a solar filter. I initially thought this was nonsense… just another way to try to sell me something. I was wrong. Thankfully, I had a few good friends that joined us for the festivities of the day, and they were prepared enough to have extra filters. The reason you need them is pretty simple…. your lens acts like a magnifying glass and channels the sun’s light and heat straight into your sensor, potentially frying the cells. Just like when you were a kid and you used a magnifying glass to fry ants.

2. You’d better be quick on your feet if you want to get great shots. You really need to be super comfortable shooting in full manual. If you’re not, you will be thinking way too much and might miss the shots you want. Everything happens quite fast, and if you are frenzied or flustered, chances are, the moment will pass you by AND you won’t get any good shots!

3.  Shade your eyes every time you look in to your viewfinder. This was something that I would’ve never thought of. Your eclipse glasses will allow you to see nothing but the sun, so as a consequence, you will likely not wear them much as you are shooting. So that means you are very vulnerable to accidentally damaging your eyes. Every time you look through your viewfinder to reframe your shot, you are protected because of your solar filter, but it’s in the moments just before and after your eye contacts the eyecup on the back of your camera that you need to be careful. It sounds like overkill, but I promise it’s not. Just use your hand or a hat to shade the sun. Simple as that, but oh so important.

4. Have a second camera body and look around you just before, during, and after totality. Two bodies is not within reach for everyone, but for the professional, it is an absolute must. So, if there’s any way you can get your hands on two, it will be of supreme value. One camera can be set up on the tripod with a long lens… ready for the traditional, up close shots (this one will definitely need a solar filter!). But the second can be wrapped around your neck, with a wide angle lens, ready to capture the overall scene. Perhaps a unique landscape during totality, or even the onlookers reveling at the sight of it all. Which brings me to point 5…

5. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience! There really is nothing like this experience on earth. So be present, and enjoy the moment! It is possible to step out from behind the camera and take it all in…

The next full solar eclipse will be passing through my home state of Texas on April, 8, 2024. You can bet that we will be there, ready to take it all in. I hope you will too. Check out this great, interactive map to see where you can experience totality.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! Help us on our mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside by checking out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 2-4 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 // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017-18 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2018 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE!
SEE THE REST OF MY EXCITING DESTINATION WORKSHOPS
 
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 R. 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 2017
 
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random thought, travel

Our National Parks Odyssey

Originally appeared on April 10, 2017 on the Red River Paper Blog

Steam from the early morning chill rises off the Green River in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  Squaretop, an aptly named handsome granite mountain in the distance catches the first rays of the sun, rising somewhere I cannot yet see.

I sip my scalding, black coffee in our trailer and wait. This is what I do. I get paid to just sit out in some of the wildest places of the world until that unreal moment of light, weather, and circumstance all line up to paint a breathtaking canvas before my eyes. All I have to do is record it on a digital sensor. Well, okay, there is a bit more that goes into it.

Andrew, Ellen and their two dogs. The cat declined to pose. © Andrew Slaton

People have asked a lot lately how my wife and I ended up with almost no possessions, living on the road out of a travel trailer, with two Aussie pups and a cat. You can almost see their thoughts reeling: “What is it with these Millennials? Do they have a trust fund? Are they constantly fighting in those tight living quarters?” The truth is we knew there was a simpler life out there– and we craved to know it.

My wife Ellen and I, both in our 30s, are at the very front end of a… well, let’s just say interesting generation. We were brought up by boomers in suburban Dallas, Texas. I grew up a nature nerd, spending hours watching National Geographic documentaries and dreaming of far off places while Ellen was climbing trees and playing in the creeks surrounding her neighborhood. Early on, we both developed a strong appreciation for the outdoors.

© Andrew Slaton

I went on to get a degree in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and started a decade-plus career as a commercial photographer. Ellen got her degree in Art History, became a certified yoga teacher and worked as a creative consultant to non-profit organizations. Neither of us came from money so we both learned to be scrappy and work really hard.

Living in Dallas was going fine; just the usual ups and downs of the freelance life. We had settled into a little duplex near the lake and were traveling about half the month for location shoots when we began to realize that after being back for only a few days, we were ready to head out again for the next adventure. The noise and pace of the city was beginning to wear us down.

© Andrew Slaton

So one night Ellen had the idea to sell all our stuff, buy a travel trailer, and hit the road full time. Almost none of my work required us to live in Dallas, or any one place for that matter. It would be a total dream come true for us both. We decided to just do it with the objective of spending about five years visiting and photographing in all 59 national parks– a pretty ambitious undertaking. Time, we had, but money was another matter.

© Andrew Slaton

Life as a roving freelancer is completely feast or famine. That’s why, as a landscape and active lifestyle photographer, I’ve learned to have a multi-pillared approach to my business. There’s my commercial work, editorial work, teaching at workshops, shooting stock and to round it all out marketing fine art prints. The theory is that if any one (or even two) of these revenue streams slows down or dries up, the other two or three can continue to prop us up.

Once we finally became full-timers, we felt completely at home. On our inaugural morning in the trailer, I remember waking up, stumbling the four feet over to the dinette for coffee, looking out the window and seeing a bison grazing ten feet away from me. It was glorious. So here we are: almost a year down the road and neither of us have any regrets. Well, I take that back; we only wish we would’ve done this sooner.

Space is tight but very workable. © Andrew Slaton

Our travel quest spawned a fine art print concept that has helped keep us on the road so far. I’ve always loved creating prints. Especially in the darkroom days. For me, it’s a very tangible way of presenting my work to folks who appreciate photography. And it refines my work. Presenting an image on Instagram is one thing but printing it out large is another. For readers who have printed their own photographs, you know what I mean.

I typically sell limited edition 12 x18-inch or smaller prints through my web site, output on my faithful Epson 2200. I print on Red River Polar Matte Magna (see Resources) because it is a smooth matte with the heaviest weight on the market. Prints have depth and contrast and they also have a substantial feel to them. They remind me of the old fibre papers of the analog days. I also like Arctic Polar Luster (see Resources) for its heavy weight and incredible color and contrast.

© Andrew Slaton

I’ve sold more than 250 prints so far, shipping them weekly from wherever we are at the time. Printing on the road gives me another great way to promote and disseminate my work and to generate some extra income. Keeping connected, though, can sometimes be challenging.

Often, when on the grid at campgrounds, RV parks or cafes we have Wi-Fi, albeit very slow. When we are off the grid, I will create a hotspot from my phone that is often faster than the Wi-Fi we get from campgrounds. And then there are the times that we are so far off the grid, there is no internet or cell service. At times like these we simply enjoy the silence and rest.

It’s not all work– there’s time for relaxing, too. © Andrew Slaton

Before we hit the road, our lives were a bit more, well, all over the place. Ellen was running around the affluent Dallas neighborhoods conducting private yoga sessions for stay-at-home moms and retirees. I was working on corporate and commercial shoots, doing post-production, involved in website upkeep duties and more. Half the month was spent in my dark office staring at a computer, mostly, and staying up late watching television. During the other half, we were traveling, living outdoors, sleeping in a tent, cooking over an open fire, waking up with the sunrise and going to bed when it went down.

Now I awake nearly every morning an hour or so before the dawn and let my two girls, Islay and Skye outside to play together. My coffee bubbles on a little three-burner gas stove while Colonel Bubba, our cat, and I sit and enjoy the silence of the pre-dawn. I have previously scouted a location for the morning’s shoot so once I pour the rich, dark elixir into my large travel mug, I kiss Ellen and the girls goodbye, hop into the truck and head out with two Canon 5D Mark III bodies and an arsenal of lenses.

© Andrew Slaton

Dawn shoots are typically too early for anyone to want to get up for so that means I have the natural beauty of a new day all to myself. I rarely spend this time on my lifestyle, commercial or editorial clients. Morning is “me time.” The rest of the day consists of long hikes, social media computer time, truck and trailer maintenance duties, and afternoon/evening outdoor lifestyle shoots.

There’s a lot to learn being full time RVers. And the only way to learn it is as you go. I had a workshop to lead in Yellowstone last summer, so Ellen and I decided to find a nice, secluded spot in the National Forest near West Yellowstone to park our trailer. We set out down a dirt road with our 4×4 truck and 29-foot Forest River travel trailer.

We learned an important lesson only a quarter mile down that road: our trailer is not made to do rough, dirt roads. As we worked our way slowly down the dusty, two-track trail, we hit a small bump. Small enough that our four-wheel-drive Ford F-150 didn’t even register it. But it was a seismic disaster for our trailer and it took some time to set it right.

© Andrew Slaton

Life on the road has also taught me to be a MacGyver, of sorts. We don’t have the money to just take our truck and/or trailer into the shop every time there’s a problem. YouTube and my meager toolbox have become exponentially more valuable to me than I ever imagined they would. I guess the point is, that we are living the dream, but at a cost. And to us, the cost is so minuscule, we feel as though we’ve rigged the game on this one.

So how do we do it? Well, it’s pretty simple when I get to the heart of it. We changed our priorities. Dramatically. Now, instead of a mortgage for a nice home, we have a gasoline budget. Instead of working toward retirement, we do what we love so we will never want to retire.

My dad never overwhelmed me with a ton of advice. But one thing he told me–and that I have never forgotten–sums up the way I have lived my life: “Do what you love, and the money will come.” Right now all we want out of life is to live simply and be fulfilled. And so far, we feel like the richest people on earth.

About Andrew Slaton

Andrew Slaton is an award-winning photographer who has done assignments for more than 50 clients and specializes in lifestyle and outdoor images. He is a Red River Pro who outputs his National Parks prints in limited editions of ten each, printed on archival Red River papers with  fade-resistant pigment inks.

Resources

Red River Polar Matte Magna Card Stock

Arctic Polar Luster

What’s To Come

Andrew and Ellen will be sharing their adventures with us from time to time. You can help them achieve their goal by adding one or more of his prints to your collection. You can also subscribe to a collector’s edition of prints from each of the 59 National Parks he photographs.

Contact Information

Visit Andrew’s web site and view his work here.

Learn about and sign up for one of his future workshops here.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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:
 
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
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 R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017

 

 
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education, travel

The Silhouette

Canon EOS 5D MK II, EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, f/6.3 1/2000 ISO 500

Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!” ~ Henry David Thoreau

In communication, simplicity is king. Getting to the point, and leaving no room for misinterpretation is efficient and effective. We, as photographers, are visual communicators. And more specifically, we as nature/landscape photographers are communicating emotion through our images. So how do we keep the clutter down to get our core point across?

Well, one of my favorite techniques is, you guessed it… the silhouette.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/60 ISO 800

The “Why”

Why does this technique work so well? Well, simply put: it strips down our subject into fewer and fewer elements – mostly shape, light, and color. But even the light element is typically ultra simplified… a silhouette is nine times out of ten backlit. As a consequence, it can often more efficiently communicate an idea, emotion, or memory. It is supremely graphic by nature and it brings unparalleled drama to an image.

There are many instances that would lead one to use this technique. One of those would be when you simply want to accentuate color and cloud texture. This is often during sunset or sunrise. But it requires a simple, uncluttered landscape, like the example above. In this particular image, I wanted to set the viewer’s focus on an iconic landmark of Big Bend National Park, Mule Ears. Even if you’ve never seen or heard of Mule Ears, I bet you can pick it out, can’t you? And have an emotional response to the colors. Thus the beauty of a silhouette.

The Technique

Every situation will be a little different, however, one simple rule remains; get your exposure from your background. What do I mean by this? Take a spot meter reading on the brightest part of your image, usually the sky. Now this can get a bit tricky if you are shooting directly into the sun. You may have to play around with it a bit to get just the right exposure. Don’t be afraid to let the sun blow out just a bit. What you really want to watch out for and guard against is for the blacks to get muddy. Determine what will be your deepest, truest black in the image, and pay close attention to how it looks. Does it start to blend with the layer just behind it? If so, you need to open up your exposure a little. Try again.

One of the hardest parts about creating a truly wonderful and compelling silhouette image is the balancing of the highlights and the shadows. But unlike in a conventionally lit exposure, your range will be many fewer “zones”. If you are familiar with Adam’s Zone System, you know that a traditional exposure might have 9 or 10 “zones”, or distinct tones. Nowadays with digital, it is possible to achieve even more. However, with a silhouette, you may have as few as 2. But most often in nature photography, it will be more like 4-5 “zones”.

Composition is Key

Even more important than balancing tones in a silhouette is your composition. The rule of thirds and balance are supremely important to creating an effective silhouette. In the image below, the upper third is dominated by beautiful color and cloud texture, the middle third with warm, pouring light over rocky crags, and the lower third, an imposing, immovable mountain. The upper-middle left third, with it’s eye-catching light rays, is balanced by the lower-middle right third of the black peak.

Simplifying your compositions will make your silhouettes better. Go in tight, and get rid of clutter as much as possible.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/800 ISO 400

When To Use

On my most recent travels through the American South and Southwest I used silhouetting a lot. Like most nature/landscape photographers, I am often shooting at dusk and dawn, when the sky lights up with the day’s most pleasing light and colors. Silhouettes can help to accentuate and enhance the light and color. It also gives the photographer an easy way to shoot directly in to the sun, without the worry of needing a crazy dynamic range.

See the image below from Saguaro National Park. The saguaro cactus is an iconic symbol of the American Southwest. I could’ve chosen to photograph this specimen with front lighting or even side lighting, which would’ve allowed the viewer to see the color and some of the texture of the cactus. But I chose to silhouette it, placing the setting sun almost directly behind the subject to capture the light and color of the dusk, allowing the viewer to connect even more deeply to the well-known shape and spiny texture of the saguaro. To me, it is a more interesting and emotional image.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/16 1/250 ISO 400

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2.0x, f/5.6 1/5000 ISO 500

I often do this with iconic flora and fauna (like the heron in the image above or the opening elk shot). When I travel to a new place, it is almost an unconscious effort to make sure I capture a very graphic silhouette of recognizable, quintessential actors of the local landscapes.

See below… The giant palms of Florida, the straight, endless, tall pines of the Everglades, the migrating cranes of the American south, etc. They are all quick reads, accentuating the shape, light, and color, rather than the leaf, trunk, feather, etc details.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/4 1/30 ISO 400

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/11 1.125 ISO 100

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/5.6 1/1000 ISO 320

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/500 ISO 250

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/100 ISO 500

As we all know, the sun is not our only source of natural light. The moon can be a wonderful backdrop for a variety of silhouetted subjects. The key to a successful shot like this is a (at least near) full moon, close to the horizon, with a long lens (at least 300mm), and a compressed subject that is far enough in the distance that it will fit nicely within the confines of the moon.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/5.6 1/200 ISO 1000

Sometimes a partial silhouette is your best choice for an image. What I mean by “partial” is that instead of having a pure black subject, you might have several layers of tones. But it still constitutes a silhouette because there is no real detail in the shadows to speak of… they are simply shades of color (or gray in B&W). These work wonderfully well when there are layers of mountains in the distance. I use this technique often to convey distance, grandeur, and intense color. Below is a good example from a recent shoot in the Grand Canyon.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/80 ISO 640

The Active Landscape

Placing humans in your silhouetted landscape brings a sense of scale and a personal connection to an image that cannot be achieved otherwise. The photographer can now convey multiple messages, like a sense of activity or action, like the surfing couple below.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/125 ISO 320

People can add a new set of emotions to an image that without them is much harder to achieve. The man below, craning to capture the gorgeous sunset on his phone is universally understood and relatable.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/250 ISO 125

The lone man (or couple in love) quietly standing in awe and contemplation of the beautiful sunset before them (see images below).

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/16 1/40 ISO 250

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/400 ISO 320

Once you start practicing silhouetting your subjects, you will begin to see silhouettes everywhere. They are great to add to your repertoire and portfolio to mix things up, keep you creative, and to be a more effective communicator.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/1000 ISO 320

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/9 1/25 ISO 640

And you will be ready when the real magic hits like in the image below, when all the elements come together right before you… the early dawn sunlight filters through fog rising to create a moody and dramatic image that cuts to the soul of your viewers.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/11 1/500 ISO 320

Happy shooting!

— Andrew

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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:
 
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
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 R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017

 

 
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education, travel

The Photographic Guide to Grand Teton National Park

Well, it’s been a little while since I last posted… so much going on here with our new life on the road! I promise I will start posting again soon. But first, I wanted to share some exciting news…

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 9.53.17 AM.pngThis is for all you “do-it-yourselfers” out there! The long awaited second installment to my eBook series of interactive photo guides to our National Parks, The Photographic Guide To Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton is my backyard National Park, and because of that, I know it like the back of my hand. If you are planning a trip to this magnificent area, this is the guide for you.

Everything from clickable GPS locations on every photo and how to capture them, to lodging info and where to find wildlife… plus so much more. I have poured a lot of time and love into this eBook and I know it will make your next visit to Grand Teton incredible.

You can purchase and download it directly on my website right now. Put it on your phone, tablet, laptop, whatever. Do your research at home before the trip, and then take it with you in the field! There is no better way to make the most of your next National Park excursion.

Please check it out. I’d love to know what you think. You can also download a free sample HERE to see if you like it first.

Soon to follow, Big Bend and Yellowstone.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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:
 
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – 1 SPOT LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
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 R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017
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education, travel

An Information Dump

When a friend recently suggested I do an eBook, I was not immediately on board.

First, I know that they are a ton of work, with very little payoff. After all, eBooks aren’t making very many millionaires out there.

Second, I may be on the road now, but I feel like I have less “free” time now than I did when I lived in the city. And third, what the heck do I know about creating an eBook!?

“So what’s the point?” I thought to myself.

“Well, they’re a way you can give back a little,” he said. “You can reach a whole new segment of your following. The people that can’t necessarily afford the time or expense of doing one of your workshops… Or just the people who are the ‘do it yourselfers.'”

That part resonated with me. I’ve always been the “do it yourself” type. Opting to do the research myself rather than go on a workshop.

the-photographic-guide-to-rocky-mountain-national-park-coverI’ve since changed a little and take workshops at least once a year when I can, because I see the benefit of working closely with others, but I still relate to this other segment of folks who follow my work.

But I wasn’t satisfied with the “old way” of doing books. I wanted this to be an experience that puts all the tools needed to get the most out of a photo trip right at the finger tips of anyone reading.

So I set out to make a fully interactive, organized information dump that people can carry right on their cell phone, on location, or read on their tablet on a flight, or simply cross-reference and research from their home computer while in the planning phase. Wherever and whenever.

I am excited to announce the first in a (hopefully) long series of National Park photography guides, The Photographic Guide To Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s available for direct purchase and download on my website right now, and soon to be available on Amazon.

Please check it out. I’d love to know what you think. You can also download a free sample HERE.

Soon to follow, Grand Teton, Big Bend, and Yellowstone.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 2-4 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:
 
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2016 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT (Trip 2) // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LOCAL + PRIVATE WORKSHOP // 2016 – AFFORDABLE RATES FOR ME TO COME TO YOU
BIG BEND // LANDSCAPE + NIGHT SKY // 2017 – MOST POPULAR! 6 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // DALLAS // 2016 – 20 SPOTS!
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Rocky Mountain National Park sample when it releases!
 
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 R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
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education, photography, travel

#findyourpark | ROCKY MOUNTAIN

Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is the quintessential Summer mountain destination. With cool temps in the 40’s to upper 70’s, it’s a nice getaway from the sweltering heat of the lowlands. It is incredibly beautiful in any season, but Summer offers the most to see and do since the elevations can reach in to the 14k’s. And what better time to visit this iconic park, than the Summer of 2016, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.

I admit that I visited this park a little later in life. My family used to go camping in Colorado every Summer, but for some reason, we stayed mostly in the south/ southwest part of the state, in the San Juan mountains. I did not first visit Rocky Mountain National Park until 2013. But I’ve made up for lost time and visited many times in the last several years. It is a truly spectacular park with much to see and do.

There is so much to see and do, in fact, that this post is in no way comprehensive. It is simply a list of some of my favorites, and many of the “musts”.

ARS_RMNP_141023_1606

When To Go

As I’ve stated, Summer is definitely the most popular time of year, and for good reason; good weather (just watch out for afternoon thunderstorms!), abundant wildlife, easy access, etc. But Fall is spectacular with colorful foliage, no mosquitos, and energetic wildlife, frantically preparing for the harsh Winter to come. It’s moodier in the Fall. The weather is unpredictable and makes for more interesting photos.

Winter is quite nice in its own way as well, but very cold, and many of the roads are closed. The road to Bear Lake is open though. Winter transforms any mountain destination into a peaceful, quiet scene, and RMNP is no exception. Plus the crowds are virtually non-existent.

How To Get There

RMNP is one of the most easily accessed National Parks, as it is a short drive from Denver International Airport. Flights into DEN are relatively cheap, and so are rental cars. So whether you drive or fly, it doesn’t have to break the bank to get there.

From Denver, head north along I-25 until reaching Loveland. Take 34 to Estes Park, which is right outside the park. There are other routes to take from Denver, but I have found this to be the quickest, least trafficked.

Driving Trail Ridge Road at night, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Be prepared for many cars, trucks, and RV’s on the road into Estes Park, and RMNP, especially in Summer. If you’ve been to Yellowstone or Yosemite, reference these memories. Just take your time and relax. Enjoy the scenery, even if traffic jams aren’t your thing :) Chances are, if you keep your eyes peeled, even with all the people and automobiles, you’ll get to see wildlife wherever you are.

Where To Stay

If camping isn’t your thing, there are so many options in and around the wonderful little town of Estes Park. From cheap motels, to swanky hotels with all the amenities, there is no shortage of places to stay within 15 minutes of RMNP. However, even with an abundance of options, the wise traveler will book as early as possible to ensure their desired accommodations. This area receives over 3.5 million visitors every year, so plan ahead.

If you’re a camper, like me, you can of course stay at any one of the developed campgrounds within the park, though they fill very quickly, especially in the Summer. There are even several NPS maintained campgrounds just outside RMNP, that serve as popular alternative access points to the park. For NPS camping info, go here.

To download a full, detailed park map of Rocky Mountain National Park, click here or the image below:

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 12.16.56 PM

ARS_RMNP_0613_0249

As you can see in the map, the park is surrounded by National Forest. These can provide great, free (or low cost) camping as well, but keep in mind, it will be primitive. I’ve car camped several times in undeveloped Arapaho (west) and Roosevelt (east) National Forest sites, and really enjoyed the solitude and cheap living. Usually, the park can be accessed within a 20 minute drive from many of these sites. They are first come, first served though, and some roads may be too rough for low clearance vehicles and large trailers/ RVs.

What To Do

I feel silly writing about this, because it would seem obvious to some. But Rocky Mountain National Park really is one of those parks with so much to see and do, it may help to have a few things highlighted for the first-timers.

Driving

There is so much to see just from the car window, so a good bit of time can be spent driving. From Many Parks Curve and all of Trail Ridge Road to Old Fall River Road and Moraine Park, many beautiful scenes can be seen right from the passenger seat.

alluvial fan, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Driving Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Trail Ridge Road (TRR) is one of the great, paved alpine roads through the Rockies. Drivers can wind up from Deer Ridge Junction to top out at over 12,000 feet elevation. Keep in mind that Trail Ridge Road closes in mid-October, due to the high elevations. There are many stops along the way to get out and experience, including (but not limited to): Many Parks Curve, Lava Cliffs, Alpine Ridge Trail, Medicine Bow Curve, etc. The Alpine Visitor Center is your best spot for info, restrooms, gifts, and refreshments. It sits atop near the highest point in the road (12183 ft) and boasts phenomenal views. TRR is a must drive for anyone visiting RMNP. Just be sure to hydrate, as it is common to experience symptoms of altitude sickness at these elevations.

Driving Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Old Fall River Road is a one-way alternate route to the top of TRR. Starting about a mile past the Alluvial Fan, cars can switchback their way through forests past gorgeous flowing streams, up steep switchbacks to get a whole different view of the subalpine and alpine ecosystems. Eventually arriving up at the Alpine Visitor Center, at the top of Trail Ridge Road. Keep in mind that this road is only open from July 4 through September. Be sure to take it slow, and bring plenty of water!

silhouetted cyclists on trail ridge road, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Wildlife Viewing 

This is one of the best parks in the U.S., except possibly Yellowstone, to view wildlife. Rocky Mountain elk, moose, deer, black bear, coyote, eagles, hawks, fox, pika, big horn sheep, and more can all be seen in one day here.

Cow moose with baby Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

bull elk in velvet in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Slowly driving the main roads is one great way to see wildlife. Begin early and stay late are the mottos of successful wildlife watchers. Dawn and dusk are the best times to see animals, just about anywhere. It can be a gamble to see anything during the heat of the day. Animals are typically resting in shaded areas hidden by the dense forests and rocky outcroppings, making spotting them nearly impossible.

Bull Elk resting in high alpine tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Bighorn sheep crossing the road in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

For very specific tips on where to find certain wildlife, and how to photograph them, see my new eBook, The Photographic Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Bighorn sheep crossing the road in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Cow moose in the Colorado River, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

american robin, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Two Mule deer bucks spar on the side of the road during the rut in rocky mountain national park.

Rocky Mountain Bull Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Hiking

In 2013 massive flooding occurred in the town of Estes Park and parts of the eastern side of RMNP. Please check with a ranger station for up to date trail conditions before embarking on any hikes.

hikers, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

RMNP has  hundreds of miles of scenic trails throughout the park, ranging from very easy, to very difficult. Depending upon your skill level there really is something for everyone. Be sure always to hydrate more than you think you need to, and try to avoid late afternoon hiking in the Summer, as lightning is a very real danger.

A front rolls in over Long's Peak in spectacular color.

Long's peak from Bear Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

The Bear Lake trailhead offers several stunning, but heavily trafficked hikes. Due to its high volume of visitors, there are shuttles available to avoid the potential parking nightmare.

rocky-mountain-bear-lake-trail-map

The best (and most popular) from the Bear Lake trailhead is, of course, Dream Lake. Download the map above! This is a fairly easy hike and very heavily used, but for good reason. Starting at the Bear Lake trailhead, it is only a few miles to stunning alpine views of Hallett and other peaks. The trail passes Nymph Lake, then up to incredible Dream Lake, and if you keep going, the next reward is Emerald Lake. All three are beautiful and worth seeing and photographing in their own rights. You may not beat the crowds with this hike, but it is certainly a “must see & do”.

hikers at dream lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Sunrise at Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

waterfall near emerad laek, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

There are over 300 miles of trails to hike in RMNP. And all of them have merit. Consult the book recommended above for more great hikes, specific to what you’re looking to see/ achieve.

Backpacking

There are so many great backpacking opportunities within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park, well, and many more in the immediately surrounding areas for that matter. If you plan to backpack in RMNP, you will need a few things specific to the park: First, stop at the Wilderness Office for a permit and current wilderness information. For more info, go HERE. You will also need a bear proof food container. I recommend this one. Next, you will need a good map. The one provided above is great for basics, but if you choose to venture out in to the backcountry, you will definitely want this map.

Timber Creek, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

sunrise at Odessa Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Creek flowing out of Odessa Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Fern Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

This is clearly a Rocky Mountain NP specific, (very) short list. If this is your first time backpacking, I recommend reading up on what gear and clothing you will need generally, and how to prepare for several nights in the backcountry. Any time you step in to the wilderness, life becomes very serious, and all about survival. That statement is not meant to scare anyone away from enjoying such an experience, it is simply to highlight the fact that trekking into the wild, with none of the comforts/ securities of modern life can take many people by surprise. Search and rescue missions have increased exponentially in recent years, often due to the unpreparedness of people. Be aware! And enjoy responsibly.

night at Odessa Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

If you are looking for a beautiful, quick overnighter, Timber Lake, and Odessa Lake are my favorites. Both are under 8 miles one way and offer beautiful views, and a wonderful backcountry experience. The Timber Lake trailhead is on the east side of the park, just 10 miles north of Grand Lake. Odessa Lake can be accessed either from the Bear Lake or Fern Lake trailheads.

Fishing

Sport fishing is allowed in the park, and all that is required is a valid Colorado fishing license. There are many idyllic streams, lakes, and rivers within the park to break out the fly rod or spinner reel, where one can experience peace and solitude. But be aware of any regulations and or conservation efforts in place before packing up and heading out. All current regulations and information can be found HERE.

creek in forest, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Fly fishing Dream Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Dream Lake outlet waterfall in Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

creek near dream lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

timber creek, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Photography

This park is one of my favorite for all of its photographic opportunities. Regarding landscape, wildlife, stars, and general nature photography, it is one of the best.

Stars over dream lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

columbine, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

A front rolls in at dawn over Long's Peak in spectacular color.

There are of course the tourist spots, where you’ll be elbowing other people to get some of the classic postcard shots, but then there are the off the beaten path spots. I am now putting major time and effort into providing you with all of my favorite secrets within our National Parks, and I’m excited to announce Rocky Mountain NP as my first eBook! You can look forward to maps, locations, photo tips, and much more in this soon-to-be-released eBook. Pre-order it HERE to get a discount.

smooth rose, Rosa blanda, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO

Stars over Long's Peak and Bear lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I hope you have found this information useful. Even more than that though, I hope this encourages you to get out and experience one of our national natural treasures, Rocky Mountain National Park! As always, for the most up to date, comprehensive park information, please visit the official NPS website for RMNP.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! Help us on our mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside by checking out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 2-4 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:
 
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2016 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT (Trip 2) // 2016 – ONLY 3 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LOCAL + PRIVATE WORKSHOP// 2016 – AFFORDABLE RATES FOR ME TO COME TO YOU
BIG BEND // LANDSCAPE + NIGHT SKY // 2017 – MOST POPULAR! 7 SPOTS AVAILABLE
 
I’m excited to announce my “A Photographic Guide To Our National Parks” Ebooks:
 
See what’s NEW
 
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 R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
Standard