national parks, photography, travel

GLAMPACKING

I have this group of guy friends who every year around the same time, head up to Estes Park, CO for a backpacking trip. I have been lucky enough to be included on it the last two years.

We had a permit to do a few nights backpacking the northern end of Rocky Mountain National Park, but because of fires, much of the park shut down. The parks service rerouted us to an off trail section in the south of the park.

It was a beautiful, easy hike in. And because of this, the glamper contingent of our group decided to blow it out for us and bring copious amounts of gourmet food.

The first night, prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, and Perini steaks, as well as manchego cheese and other charcuterie. It was pretty epic.

With full bellies, the next day we day-hiked up to a lake surrounded by a cirque at 12k feet for some adventure and an afternoon of fly fishing.

I am not much of an angler, but the gents slayed like there was no tomorrow.

That night, the glampers made us a hearty soba noodle dinner with homemade popcorn for desert. We figured it was all over, but when we awoke the next morning, they outdid themselves with a portable hand-pump espresso machine and pancakes. Lattes and hotcakes for all.

That was enough to fuel us for the hike out. Now, I am used to going minimal when it comes to backpacking, so all of this was a bit unusual for me, but I must say, aside from actually gaining weight on a backpacking trip, I enjoyed the spoils of glampacking.

Our last day, after having come out of the wilderness, showered, devoured a lovely steak dinner with the family, and stayed a night in the cozy cabin, we hiked into the park again for another full day of recreation.

The group fished while I meandered the moraine valley in search of images, wildlife and other.

The elk were in full rut, and posing beautifully for me.

They even had a few curve balls to throw my way. Lol.

Overall, it was a supremely relaxing day watching the light move across the valley with a seeming lack of any urgency. The fishing was tough, but the time was easy.

It is a wonderful group of friends that continually challenge my thinking and priorities. They are the good men, that do still exist out there, who enjoy some of the finer masculine activities. And not afraid to enjoy a few of the feminine… thinking of you, lattes.

— Andrew


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photography, random thought

Autumn Rules // Top 10 Reasons Why Photogs Agree

I love summer, but in my opinion, nothing compares to the Fall.  Here are my Top 10 Reasons why professional photographers are salivating over the return of Autumn…

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10.  No Mosquitos… Okay, less mosquitos at least.

Depending upon where you choose to go this Fall, mosquitos could be the least of your worries.  Due to lowering temps, unfavorable for mosquitoes, they tend to hide in the autumn and winter.  They’re still there, but mostly inactive.  If traveling to more tropical locals, like the Florida Everglades, Fall could be the wet season, creating perfect conditions for the tiny insects to ruin your day.  Choose wisely, my friends.

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9.  Cooler Temps

It’s the reason for the lack of mosquitoes and other annoying bugs, but it’s also a welcomed relief to folks like me that appreciate the cool, dry air.  Whether you’re in the Smokies or the Rockies, the air begins to teem with a new, crisp energy starting in September.  It’s the coming of winter and the first snow that seems to charge the air with a sense of purpose, unlike the relaxed feel of Summer.  And the animals feel it too…

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8.  The Animals Are Active And Energized

The inevitable coming of Winter that is marked clearly by the changing from Summer to Fall, is perhaps the alarm clock for most animals, especially in the mountains and forests.  They come alive with the urgency of the moment.  Realizing they must feed as much as possible before the unforgiving Winter, they become bold and are easily viewed and photographed during the Fall.  And that’s not even to mention mating season… I’ll get to that later….

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7.  Less Crowds

I do enjoy people (sometimes), but when I’m on one of my nature/ landscape trips, I prefer to avoid crowds.  So if you’re like me, Autumn is the time for you.  The crowds of the Summer months dwindle away with the start of new school years, less hospitable weather, and reduction of seasonal services.  All is quiet.  And peaceful.  The way nature should be appreciated!

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6.  Catching The First Snow Is Exhilarating

Ah, the first snow.  It is something I strive to catch every year in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  There is something so magical about it, and as mentioned before, it is the first real indicator of the coming Winter.  The animals get energized and a beautiful dusting of contrast is added to a yellow and sleepy landscape.  Which brings me to my next point…

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5.  Dynamic Weather

With the colder air from the north and first snow comes weather and dramatic clouds.  Those bluebird Summer days feel long gone, and the beautiful “drama queen” that is nature, peeks out to show you her moody side.  The light becomes magic as it penetrates small openings in the clouds, kissing the land.  I’m getting giddy just thinking about spending a month in Colorado and Wyoming this Fall!

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4.  Longer Nights…

I know, I know, this seems weird, right.  But let me just say, if you’re a seasoned photographer, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  We are often slaves to the light.  And during the Summer months, the days are so long.  We must rise before the sun to capture the gorgeous pre-dawn and dawn light (4:30-5 AM), and then we cannot truly rest until the sun has again hidden itself from our little part of the earth (9-10 PM).  It’s exhilarating, but exhausting.  So when the shorter days, longer nights of Fall come, it’s a nice reprieve.  Well, okay, let’s be honest; I still spend the same amount of time shooting, it just allows me to also capture the night shots I so love to shoot.  And thankfully, I still get a solid 5-6 hours of sleep.

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3.  Better Light = Better Photos

What is it about the Fall light?  Well, for one, the sun is lower in the sky, so the angle of sunlight is generally prettier and softer.  But also, as I mentioned before, the weather creates a situation for the light to be filtered and fantastically interesting.  There’s a harshness to the summer sun that fades away with the advent of Fall.

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2.  The Rut… And the Animals Get Crazy

If you’ve ever hear elk bugling, you’ll know what is so entrancing about the rut.  The rut is the mating season of many mammal species, including deer, elk, sheep, moose, pronghorn, caribou, etc.  The shorter day lengths of Autumn are the trigger for many of these animals.  And the side-effects of the increased hormones are what make this time of year so exciting and interesting for wildlife observers and photographers.

Males often rub their antlers or horns on trees and shrubs, fight with each other, wallow in mud and dust, self-anoint, and herd estrus females together.  Bull elk, in particular,  will loudly and frequently bugle.  A bugle is a vocalization made exclusively by bulls and can be directed toward other bulls or toward cows (female elk). A  bull will direct his bugle toward his cows while gathering them or while chasing a cow in estrus.  A herd bull might also direct his bugle toward another bull to express his dominance over the herd, while a satellite bull may use his bugle to challenge the herd bull.  Yelping also known as “grunting” is usually only made by herd bulls when they are excited. Seeing the steam from the cold air streaming from the nostrils and gaping mouth of a massive bull elk grunting and bugling is truly amazing.  But it’s the haunting bugles in the distance that one wakes to that heighten your senses and keep you coming back to the mountains in the Fall every year.

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1.  Fall Colors

What can I say?  This is self explanatory.  The colors of the fall just can’t be beat.  The deep greens and blues (to borrow from James Taylor) of Summer are magnificent.  Totally.  But the colors of Fall, almost exclusively during a few magical weeks each year, awaken my soul.  Red, orange, yellow, and every hue in between.  It’s earthy and warm, but those old familiar cool toned skies and purple hued mountains make for supremely balanced images.

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Sometimes as I drive down the road to Cora in the Winds, the leaves fall and dance in front of my car, and I feel like I might be in heaven.  Or some cheesy car commercial.  But it’s amazing and I really can’t get enough.  I miss Fall as soon as it’s gone, and I can’t wait until it arrives again…  Every.  Single.  Year.

If you don’t believe me… join me this Fall for my Grand Teton Workshop!

~ andrew


 
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advanced, art, film, film making, landscape, nature, photography, travel, wildlife

rocky mountain np // motion

For fun, I decided to make a short video of some of my time-lapses and motion captures from the trip.

And yes, I just had to sneak some marmots in for a cameo or two….

I hope you enjoy!  For best results, watch in HD.

All motion clips are available for commercial and editorial licensing through Tandem Stills + Motion.

all images and content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

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art, photography, random thought, travel

wyoming | elk hunt

i was incredibly excited to be invited on Mike and Ellen’s elk hunt at the end of my trip to wyoming in september.

at that point, Elle had to head home, so i spent the last 10 days mostly by myself in the wild.  and of the last 3, my friends were kind enough to host me at hunting camp.

Jim also showed up.  he and Mike go way back.  and actually, he and i do too… randomly enough.

when i lived in pinedale in 2005, i tried my hand a few other jobs after quitting my job at the newspaper.

in this part of wyoming, everyone knows that able bodied folks can make a VERY good living roughnecking in the oil fields.  even i was tempted by the high pay they were offering.

one problem though…. no experience.  in steps Jim.

he runs a water well rig, which is very similar to the oil rigs out in the fields.  and Jim was looking for a bit of help.

long story short, i apprenticed with Jim for one day.  quickly realized i’m not the roughnecking type :)

but Jim was incredibly nice to this city slicker, and i will forever be grateful.  he’s a good man.

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buster found a good spot for a midday nap.

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only the essentials… whiskey, guns….. and a broom?

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unfortunately, there was still a fire ban… so we had to use camping ingenuity… thanks to Ellen, we were all warm.

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when you’re at camp with Mike and Ellen, you’re not going to go hungry, that’s for sure.  breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we ate like kings.

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we woke up very early on opening day to get the horses ready…

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it was a beautiful morning.  but opening day is a tough day to spot animals… lots of other folks out looking for them too…

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no luck.  we searched all morning only to find that we may want to look for a new spot.

so we decided to take an evening drive down from our camp to scout a new location…

along the way, Jim spotted a few grouse…. mmm.  dinner.

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tastes like chicken.  especially when smothered in bbq sauce…

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we found a great spot.  but we would need to return the next morning before dawn.

and on the way back… more grouse.

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so we went back to our spot early the next morning, before sunrise. it was the day i would have to leave wyoming.

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it turned out to be a great location… we saw several good bulls.  but one thing that i learned about hunting is that you don’t always get to shoot, even when you see what you’re looking for.

we never got the right looks, or they were never close enough.  the last thing a hunter wants is to wound an animal right before nightfall, or spoil the meat with a bad shot.

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so we explored a bit… and found a moose family.  a cow, calf, and bull popped out of the willows and we had a chance to see them on the move together.  a real treat.

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seeing the moose family was a nice way to wrap up the morning… but the sun was climbing higher, temperature rising.  not a great time for hunting.

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so i decided to say my goodbyes and get on the road.

i had a really long drive back.  but my route took me back through pinedale, and for one last stop at soda lake.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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art, photography, travel, writing

wyoming | the bounty of autumn

it’s been said before that fall in the mountains is a magical time.

the leaves are changing, the temperature drops, and the animals are energized with hormones for mating season.

moose populations in wyoming are declining because of the growing wolf numbers, and i’ve been seeing less and less of them every year.  so i was really excited to see a huge bull with two cows at our campground one morning when we woke up.  the state has recently opened a limited hunting season for wolves.  there are at least two lawsuits in the courts currently, brought on by environmentalist groups to challenge the state’s new policy.

because of the close proximity of fires, the sunrises were often very hazy but quite colorful.

i spent many days out on the river road looking for bugling bull elk.  and i found plenty.

the bears were apparently out in full force.  fall is the time when grizzlies and back bear are fattening up for the long winter ahead.

and grizzlies, in particular, are emboldened by the fact that hunters are out in full force and leaving their kills’ guts in the field.  it can be a dangerous time.

but i didn’t even see one bear the entire month i was there… just lots of signs…

mornings on the river road were marked by bugling elk.  they lead their harems up from the snake river to the high plains to strut at the foot of the tetons.

the evenings brought about the reverse.  the bulls, some with new females won from rivals, made their way back to the safety of the tall grass, trees, and water along the snake.

bugling is one of my favorite sounds in the natural world.  and spending the quiet times of my mornings and evenings listening to the haunting tune of elk replenished my soul.

autumn is a time of beginning and end.  the leaves fall from their branches, but not before they take on colors rarely seen so bright in nature.

bitter cold wind blows in from the north.  but not without it’s gifts.  the cold air brings with it the desperately needed moisture to alleviate the wildfires with the first snowfall.

i long for this time of year.  i already miss it.  and i’m already planning for next year…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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