photography, travel, writing

A Crescendo, Part 2

02/18/22 – Our National Parks odyssey has shifted into a different kind of journey. Nearly 6 years ago we set off on an adventure to travel the country and see/ document all the national parks. Since then, 3 new parks have been created, 2 presidential changes, a 2 year (and still counting, in some states at least) pandemic raged, and in the midst, we found a new direction. We abandoned the goal of all the parks, though it is absolutely something we plan to revisit someday.

What the pandemic allowed us to realize in a very sobering way was that we were financially living on the edge. No money in savings, a fairly substantial pile of debt, living job to job, stressed constantly about how we were going to pay for this or that, and worst of all, no plan. It was exhausting.

Ellen and I dont care about being rich, we simply wanted to remove the burden of limited choices. So we made a decision together a little over one year ago to take control of our life. Take responsibility for our spending habits. Quit being victims of circumstance. And, as Ellen says, to work our lil hineys offand pay off every penny of debt we have.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Deep in Big Cypress preserve I found a gator hole that has become a favorite spot for me to fish and enjoy some much needed solitude, away from the crowds of south Florida. What I have observed over the years of visiting the Everglades ecosystem during the dry season is that the fish often get funneled into ever shrinking pools of water. If they are resourceful or lucky, they make it to a gator hole.

These small ponds stay deep year round and provide a perfect little habitat for fish, as well as myriad creatures. But for those who enjoy the freedom of roaming the vast waterways and floodplains of the glades in the bounty of the rainy season, eventually they will slowly get choked out of existence, as the water subsides day by day, hour by hour this time of year. It must be excruciating. The world begins to close in on them. Death does too.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Eventually they are literally sucking air, baking on their sides in the hot Florida sun.

When Covid hit, we realized we were swimming in the freedom of the road. Endless possibilities. No plan. It was magic, for a time. But what Ive foundagain and again, allowing myself to lose my way is sometimes the only way to find it.

Image © Andrew Slaton

03/24/22 – Im not backpackingI wish I was. Im sitting at the airport in Orlando waiting for a southwest flight to Tucson to pick up our new (to us) truck. A Hoss 2.0. Nothing super fancy, but we saved up and are paying cash. It feels momentous. Ive always had car loans. Like an annoying pet.

Last year we managed to get scrappy and pay off a huge chunk of the debt that was weighing us down so heavy. This year, we are still on track to change the trajectory of our lives within the next few years. Debt free, homeowners, continuing to live the life we love, on the road, this time with options.

Image © Andrew Slaton

Approaching the six year mark is exciting for us. Mostly to look back and reflect on the beautiful memories, to see how far weve come, and to renew our resolve. The road ahead is still long. And we plan to stay nomadic for several more years. But we now have a plan. Were not wandering aimless. And its working, at least for now. Good jobs continue rolling in and keeping us busy,focused. And beauty is always at our doorstep (literally). We found our little gator hole in a vast wilderness, during the driest of seasons. We could stay here through the worst of it.

Ive just recently started shooting for fun again. But I mix it in with time fishing. Both have the ability to fill up my soul. Fly Fishing is a lot like photography. It takes immense practice, patience, and perseverance. The payoff is never guaranteed. No matter how much preparation, planning and knowledge you employ, the angler, just like the photographer is at the mercy of nature. Sometimes the light just doesnt show up, and the fish just dont bite. But when either do, its all the magic you can hope to witness. Pure joy.

Image © Andrew Slaton

The gliding ghosts beneath the surface, taunting me to try my hand at enticing them to bite. Presenting the fly just so. Irresistible to the hungry or territorial specter in the shadows.

The apparitions of light, fleeting. Pastels and hues of delicate gradations of blue and pink. Sometimes orange. Clouds of immensity passing, revealing cracks, rays. Illuminating the beauty that surrounds us always, but in these moments, overwhelms the lens, and the witness behind it.

Im looking forward to being back in Wyoming in only a few weeks, roaming the mountains again in search of the most spectacular nooks and crannies rarely seen or photographedand of course, stalking those illusive, prized trout.

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops in the Everglades and Big Cypress. For more info, please visit www.andrewslaton.com/workshops

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photography, travel, writing

A Crescendo, Part 1

“Disfigurement is synonymous with the whole idea of frontier. As soon as we lay our hands on it, the freedom we thought it represented is quickly gone.”Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces.

01/19/22. The light filters through palms and dances seductively along the prickly- looking edges of the Spanish moss. It hangs in a pattern of almost perfect randomness on the ancient oaks above my camp. Florida feels like home. Hell, who am I kidding? So many places feel like home these days, it’s hard to decipher what “home” really means anymore.

This June will mark six full years of living as nomads. Gertie, our 29- foot travel trailer shows the scars to prove it. Both Ellen and I are bewildered that she’s still standing. Our 2011 ford truck, Hoss is a few inches shy of 300,000 miles. His noises attest to every hard mile and dirt road he’s traversed.

Image © Andrew Slaton

A transmission slip, exhaust leak, and front (and rear, for that matter) shot suspensions all announce our coming and going to anyone nearby. We must sound like a joke to all of these well-heeled, newly-retired boomers neighboring us on all sides at the RV parks. I don’t really care. As Townes Van Zandt once sang, “you cannot count the miles until you feel them.”

I’ve largely stopped shooting images for fun lately. Strange, I know. After shooting nearly every sunrise and sunset for 4 years (and staying motivated and interested), I needed a break. Last year, after making the decision to pay off all of our debt, I was consumed with working… shooting portraits, weddings, real estate, commercial. I really didn’t have time to shoot for fun. Or the energy. This year, I also have a lot of work to shoot, but something else is edging out my time typically devoted to honing my craft of landscape photography…fly fishing.

02/04/22 I awoke to the rhythmic patter of a woodpecker. Somewhere nearby, not far above, an owl. Palms sway and clatter with the gentle wind. Last night, my sunset ramble filled my soul, though I didn’t see the bear or panther for which I came.

I arrived at camp early – 2:30 or so. I rested in the shade of my tent for a bit, may have even dozed a while. As I felt the sun gain a lower angle, I loosely slid on my hiking shoes. Camera and 400mm slung over my shoulder, I set out with a relaxed vibe.

Image © Andrew Slaton

The sun was low enough that the landscape sang with accent light. On more than one occasion, it was necessary to place my left hand out before me to block the glare long enough to see the path ahead. My imagination skipped wildly with images of a panther sauntering down the two-track trail before me, backlit, or that distinctive bear butt waddling up ahead.

My tobacco pipe rests precariously between my lips, the loose grip from my teeth bouncing the stem to the cadence of my walk, like a just-released spring on a diving board. I like to smoke and walk; I’m beginning to find my rhythm again.

02/14/22 There’s a rustling near my tent. I’m a few feet away, cooking my dinner. It sounds like a snake. I slowly rise, back and leg muscles sore from the 15 mile hike in, to inspect the sound. Nothing. Or at least nothing I can spot. Likely a snake somewhere beneath the dense ground cover.

Image © Andrew Slaton

It’s now 4:43pm many miles deep on foot in the Everglades. I caught two decent sized Mayan Cichlids (pronounced Sic-lids) earlier on the fly, but that’s not what I’m cooking. I threw them back, like every one I’ve caught since I learned to fly fish in August.

But then I recall that Mayan Cichlids are an invasive species. I can’t for the life of me remember, though, if the park service wants you to kill them on capture or not. National parks are weird that way. A few years back, I came across a 14 foot Burmese Python not far from here. I tried to wrangle it but didn’t have anything with which to kill or capture it safely, and it slithered surprisingly fast off into the marl prairie.

I quickly made my way to the Flamingo visitor center and happened upon the “python ranger” to whom I told my story and showed a video to prove my seemingly tall tale. I wanted to know what the protocol was for such a find.

Image © Andrew Slaton

See, pythons are a highly destructive invasive species here in the Everglades. They have reproduced into the millions and are decimating the mammal populations. The python ranger looked at me sideways, “I didn’t tell you this, but if you find another huge one like that, kill it.”

Thankfully,  slaying these giants does not rest solely on my shoulders. A recent study in Big Cypress found a particularly brave bobcat preying on a clutch of python eggs. Returning over and over in the course of days, the native wildcat invalidated nearly all 40 plus eggs. It may suggest that the native fauna are beginning to “retaliate” against the successful invaders. It may take time, but nature’s ability to maintain balance is a powerful force.

To Be Continued

— Andrew

Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com

All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2022

If you like the images and sentiment of the article, please consider joining me on one of several photography workshops in the Everglades and Big Cypress. For more info, please visit www.andrewslaton.com/workshops

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national parks, photography, travel

SLATON WEDDINGS

I shot weddings for over 15 years, but decided to take a break back in 2016. It was definitely needed, but starting early this year, Ellen and I began talking through what a comeback would look like.

We missed working together. We missed capturing the beauty of a bride walking down the aisle, and the look on a grooms face. Witnessing families come together to celebrate. One of the most ancient of celebrations.

So we planned our return… and here we are! If you would like to check out our work, you can find it all at www.slatonweddings.com

We are specializing in adventurous couples getting married in beautiful destinations, like, Telluride, Jackson Hole, 30A, Marco Island, Naples, Moab, and anywhere in the world we should be needed!

Here is our most recent wedding shot right here in Grand Teton National Park… enjoy!

— Andrew


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PARK PEEK // BIG CYPRESS

I usually stick to National Parks here, but I just had to share this incredible swath of land with you all. It is technically run by the US Department of the Interior as well, so really the only major difference between a National Preserve and National Park is that more recreation is allowed, like hunting and ORV trails, as well as regulated resource extraction.

Now, it may just be a National Preserve, but Big Cypress down is south Florida is every bit as beautiful and important as the Everglades, in my opinion. Situated almost equidistant between Naples and Miami, it is also quite accessible.

The plant life is much the same. Incredibly lush and diverse.

There are some more back roads though, which is a huge plus for me. However, you need to have a special permit to drive them and most of the roads are ORV only. But anyone can walk or bike them.

Masses of birds call this area home, some seasonally, and others year round.

And just like the Everglades, alligators and many other reptiles thrive here.

 

The mangrove swamps are vast and accommodating… to the birds and alligators, at least.

It is the buffer between the Everglades proper and where the water starts to flow south in Lake Okeechobee. The importance of the health and proper management of Big Cypress cannot be overstated.

  

Flora and fauna alike abound here. The winters are mild and inviting, and the summers (basically the rest of the year), are buggy, hot, and humid. But manageably so, believe it or not.

It’s an explorers paradise and a nature lovers dream. It’s a tough landscape. To hike and photograph. It’s flat, but general under water.

It’s one of those last places that is still quiet, where one can find solitude. And it’s only a short distance from major cities.

I love sharing this area so much, and it is so rich with photographic opportunities, that in January/ February/ March of 2021 I plan to have two Everglades (based out of Miami) and two Big Cypress (based out of Naples) workshops. As of now, dates are tentative, and registration is not yet open. However, if you would like more information, please email me to express your interest, and I will add you to the list of first notified.

–Andrew


N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
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Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
Andrew Slaton // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
 

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national parks, photography, travel

PARK PEEK // THE EVERGLADES

The Florida Everglades is not just a National Park, it’s an entire ecosystem stretching from Lake Okeechobee all the way down into Florida Bay and the Keys. It’s an incredible swath of land comprised of both public and private, as well as Native American reservation land.

For photographer and nature lovers, it is a heavenly realm.

I am obviously both, and I will try to share a small picture of what the Everglades experience is like. This land, like any worth preserving, is wild, and not for the faint of heart. It is for explorers and adventurers. It is for the people who bend to nature, not the other way around.

If you approach the Everglades from later perspective, it will break you. And you will have a potentially awful experience. However, if your approach is the former, you will roll with all of the wonderful and terrible surprises she has to offer the outsider. Once you step into this landscape, you are immediately aware that you are, in fact, an outsider.

Its flora and fauna are ancient.

Landscape photographers will find it challenging and frustrating, but also ultimately unique and rewarding. It is where the sky and water unite, and weather creates chances for incredible drama. There are rivers of grass, reflective lakes, pine uplands, cypress bottomlands, brackish canals, and wide open salty bays.

The opportunities for detail and macro images are everywhere.

And the birds… Especially in winter, the amount and variety of birds is astonishing.

The Everglades is also home to the endangered American Crocodile, one of my favorites.

It is also home to one of the most storied wildlife comebacks in history, the American Alligator. Once hunted to near extinction, the species was added to the Endangered Species list in 1967. Now, just over 50 years later, alligators populations are estimated to number over 5 million in the wild. It is, perhaps, the US Endangered Species Act’s most successful project.

Throughout the history of south Florida’s urban development, much of the natural flow of water was impeded. It was not until recently that the importance of this area was truly realized. Today, there are massive efforts underway to restore much of what was damaged.

Thankfully, the beauty and mystery of the Everglades is on full display for visitors. There is much work to be done, but what does remain of this place, is enough to inspire the young and old alike to cherish it.

I love sharing this area so much, and it is so rich with photographic opportunities, that in January/ February/ March of 2021 I plan to have two Everglades and two Big Cypress workshops/ tours. As of now, dates are tentative, and registration is not yet open. However, if you would like more information, please email me to express your interest, and I will add you to the list of first notified.

–Andrew

If you enjoyed this article and found it helpful, consider joining me on the adventure of a lifetime to learn so much more. I offer workshops and tours in many of the worlds most incredible locations, and on these trips, you will get tons of one-on-one time to ask me anything. In fact, I’m offering $250 off my Big Bend Wildflowers + Stars workshop coming up in March, for a limited time. Let me help inspire you to become the artist you’ve always wanted to be! 


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


N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
I’m excited to announce The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
Andrew Slaton // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
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