art, photography, travel

the goosewing ranch | part 2

the beautiful goosewing ranch had us out again for a week in september, and it was fantastic.

with wildlife abounding and the trees aflame with fall colors, this time of year in the mountains is my absolute favorite.

below are just a few of the images we captured during our week at the ranch.

to see more, visit our ranch HAND website, and check out our trip to the goosewing this past june!

a huge thanks to the goosewing, all of the amazing staff, and the gorgeous guests (who were kind enough to be our models).

we are so blessed to have clients that we enjoy working with so much!

we are really looking forward to the Dude Rancher’s Association convention this January, and to meeting all the new ranches that we’ll partner with next year!

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer & ranch HAND | photographic 2012

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ranch HAND | the goosewing ranch

we traveled back up to wyoming in june to service ranch HAND | photographic’s newest client, the Goosewing Ranch.

just minutes from jackson, wyoming, the Goosewing is a phenomenal guest ranch for the whole family.  they offer phenomenal views, amazing wildlife, horseback riding, daily activities, and even the finer amenities like massages and fine wine.  they have their own trout stocked pond, and the gros ventre river right in their front yard; a true angler’s paradise.  they are also at the doorstep of grand teton and yellowstone national parks!

here are just a few of the images we captured for them this summer… and we can’t wait to go back in september to shoot their fall photos.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer & ranch HAND | photographic 2012

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wyoming: day 5

elle doesn’t have the flexibility of schedule that i have, so her time up here was short.

we had to start heading toward jackson, where she would fly out early the next morning…

we hung around teton park for a while.

then i received a stern “talking to” for some reason i can’t remember… but i bet she can!  haha.

we stopped on pacific creek road and took a nap while the afternoon showers passed.

then we decided to go for a short hike.  it was a section of the jenny lake trail that we hiked last year the day before she had to leave.

we took a spur trail off the main, and found a fantastic overlook that elle said was her favorite view of the trip.

so we thought we’d see if we could find that spot again, and enjoy the view before she had to go…

sure enough, we found it.  no more than a 30 minute hike in too… great!

she looked out at the landscape, but this time didn’t cry.

last year when we were here (see “somewhere in the middle of montana… err… wyoming“), we weren’t engaged yet.

poor girl didn’t have much to lean on regarding us.  but this time, we’re married.  and i know she realizes that we’re both in this for the long haul.

and probably the only perk for marrying me, is that you for-damn-sure will get to go to wyoming… a lot.

so she knows that this is not the last time (by a long shot) that she’ll look out over this view…

and i am comforted to know that this is not the last time that she’ll be by my side up here.

seeing what i see, and reveling in all this raw, untamed beauty.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011

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wyoming: day 2 (riding the drift, etc.)

we woke before the sun came up… it was a big day.  i made some coffee and we set off to meet Mike and Ellen at kendall bridge.

from there we would follow the horse trailers towards union pass, then off-road in the direction of a cow camp near a bend in the green river.

we finally stopped.  all in all, there were 4 or 5 trailers and about 8-10 cowboys/ cowgirls.

Mike helped saddle pistol pete for Elle, and they were off!  riding the drift…

my Elle was kind of easy to spot with her sombrero and bright green patagonia jacket…

the two Ellens riding together…

now that’s some real cowboyin’!

can’t have a true cattle drive without the iconic western dust haze backlit by a slowly rising sun!

so they rode off deep into the sunrise… and Mike and i decided to go look for bears, like we’ve done so often the last 6 years.

good ol’ squaretop… such a handsome mountain.  i really don’t think i’ll ever get sick of looking at and photographing it.

we ended up seeing more dogs that morning than bears.  and i saw my first ever river rafting dachshund!

the Ellens finished their cattle drive early… round about noon, and my Elle was exhausted.

so after eating a little peanut butter and honey tortilla lunch, she caught  a nice afternoon nap.  much needed.

Mike and Ellen came back again that evening to have dinner with us.  we took a few more campfire photos… like we did the year before.

Elle got a really cool shot of me…

then i got a shot of her, and made a ghostly appearance in it…

and then i got to shoot another squaretop star photo.

it was another great day in our favorite place in the world, doing all sorts of fun things.

man, if you ever hear me complaining about anything at all, just punch me right in the jaw.  seriously.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011

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wyoming: day 1 (the greatest day of my wife’s life)

so it may sound like an exaggeration, but i promise that’s what she said to me!

no, not our wedding day, not the day we met… not even the day she finished reading the last harry potter.

this day, a few weeks ago in wyoming, was the “greatest day of (her) life”.

let me explain…

we woke early to the sun rising over willow lake at the edge of the wind river mountains.  she loves the outdoors, and more specifically, the mountains.  she also loves waking up in a tent next to me :).  what can i say?

so after yawning a bit, taking a sip of my coffee, she found a nice, soft patch of grass and started a short yoga routine.  she loves yoga.

after breaking down camp, we headed over to our great friend’s home just outside of pinedale.  Mike and Ellen (yes, i know, this may get confusing.  i’ll just call my Ellen, Elle for the remainder of the wyoming posts) took the week off after hearing that we were coming in town… incredibly sweet of them.  and it speaks to their faithfulness and kindness and friendship.  i hope someday to be as considerate as they are.

they invited us over for breakfast… and now back to Elle’s “greatest day”.  Ellen informed Elle that she could go pick out her own egg, straight from the coup.  now, since Elle is a huge fan of eating whole, natural foods, this was very exciting for her.  “a farm-fresh egg, seconds after it was laid (still warm!!!), and i get to pick it out myself!!!!!!???!!!”  i could just feel the intense excitement bubbling over in her mind.

but alas, the chickens hadn’t yet laid an egg this morning… so we played with Ellen’s goats.  another score for Elle.

patiently (sort of) waiting for a chicken to lay a precious egg….

the two Ellens trying to will the chickens into submission…

oooooo!  i think it might have worked!!

oh, false alarm.  let’s pet the goats some more…

alas!!!  one lone egg for Elle!!

lots of excitement and exclamation points!!!!!!!

so to top it all off, Elle cooked it herself, just the way she likes it.  and with breakfast, Ellen served homemade butter (another big plus for Elle) and goat’s milk, straight from the cute goat-friend she just made!

wow, this day couldn’t get much better… or could it?

during breakfast, Ellen mentioned that some friends of hers needed some help tomorrow “riding the drift”.  now, folks from those parts in wyoming know what that phrase means, but many of us don’t.  i was lucky enough to learn when i lived in pinedale in 2005… i actually got the chance to “ride the drift”!

so let me explain…

the green river drift is one of, if not the the longest remaining cattle drive in the country.  it’s an historic event that captures the essence of the old west cowboys.  Elle has always dreamed of riding horses high and free through forests and on mountainsides.  she loves horses, and even though we’re from texas, we never get the chance to be around them or ride (surprisingly enough to some of you, i’m sure).

so when Ellen invited her, i saw a new light in Elle’s eyes i had never seen…

“oh my goodness!” she exclaimed.  “but i haven’t ever really ridden a horse.”  she timidly chirped.

now just to clarify, Elle has been on horses quite a few times, but always in the “trail ride” scenario where she isn’t actually controlling the horse herself.  this is much different than riding alone and trying to herd cattle in the mountains.

silence.

“oh, well, we can just go get you on one of my horses,”  Ellen calmly replied.

and so it was.

so my Elle got to spend a few glorious hours on her favorite horse of Ellen’s, pistol pete.  she got to ride pete breifly last year when Ellen and Mike went on a pack trip with us into the winds (see somewhere in the middle of montana… err… wyoming).  and did i mention she loves horses.

so after that, we left Mike and Ellen’s place, and headed to the upper green to one of my favorite campsites along the river, just before the lower lake.  we spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the sunlight, enjoying our view and the cool, clean  wyoming air.

“let’s go for a hike!” she suggested.  admittedly, i wasn’t really in the mood for a hike.  but i reluctantly agreed.

Elle loves hiking through the forest.  i generally don’t hike for pleasure… i’m usually looking for images to make.  so hiking through the dense trees isn’t always my favorite.  but we did the east side lower lake trail anyway, and i’m so glad we did.

it was hauntingly beautiful.  massive lodgepole pines and peeking through the trees were gorgeous vistas of the lower green river lake.  we had a blast.

wyoming had a record snowfall this year, so all the creeks and rivers are surging.  just beautiful.

after our short hike, we headed back to camp to find our view even prettier than before.  and the sun crept lower on the horizon.

Mike and Ellen made the hour drive out to our site just to sit, drink a little whiskey, and cook us dinner.

what great friends we have.

we chatted and laughed well into the evening.  until the stars came out to greet us.

and this is what i’d been waiting for for a whole, long year.  last year, i camped at this very spot and attempted a star picture.  it did not turn out the way i planned.  so now, a full year later, i had my chance!  and i couldn’t have asked for a better image.

Mike and Ellen left… they had a long drive back to get some shut eye before the early day we had ahead of us tomorrow.

as you can see, it was a very good day.  perhaps the “greatest” day.  she kept saying it was.  but we still had a week to go up here in heaven.  so the days that followed just might provide a bit of competition… and tomorrow would be a big one.  Elle would get to play cowgirl on the last day of the green river drift…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011

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somewhere in the middle of montana… err… wyoming

i’m tired of this dirty old city.
entirely too much work and never enough play.
and i’m tired of these dirty old sidewalks.
think i’ll walk off my steady job today.

turn me loose, set me free, somewhere in the middle of montana.
and gimme all i got comin’ to me,
and keep your retirement and your so called social security.
big city turn me loose and set me free.

been working everyday since i was twenty.
haven’t got a thing to show for anything i’ve done.
there’s folks who never work and they’ve got plenty.
think it’s time some guys like me had some fun.

turn me loose, set me free, somewhere in the middle of montana.
and gimme all i got comin’ to me,
and keep your retirement and your so called social security.
big city turn me loose and set me free.

music © merle haggard

on special occasions, when my ipod decides to look kindly on me and bring me a gift by way of shuffle, this abrupt chorus of fiddle will perk my ears and lift my spirit.  merle haggard’s “big city” always brings vivid images to mind.  images with which i am quite familiar.

like i’ve said before, i go to wyoming at least twice every year.  and this year’s no different.  well, okay, so it’s a little different this time; to accompany me, i have a friend (who also happens to be a girl, and more, my sweetheart).

last fall i shared wyoming for the first time… with my brother (see “like brothers on a hotel bed”).

and this past winter, elle started traveling with me (see “january fan, july flame”).

and so it was… a perfect storm of relationship and forward progress.  it was time for elle and me to see wyoming together…

elle works a regular job, so time is of the essence.  as a consequence, she had to fly, whereas i drove.  no matter.  it may be too early to ride 24 straight hours in the car together.  maybe not, but i was okay with not finding that out just yet.

i love my time alone in the car on the open road.  lots of time to think.  time to allow shuffle on my ipod to make me laugh, cry, contemplate, remember.

i arrived at the jackson hole airport on time, unlike for my brother only a year ago.  i came up from the south, and avoided the painful crawl of yellowstone.

elle couldn’t believe she was finally here.

poor girl.

she’s had to listen to me “sell” the mystical land of wyoming to her for the past four years, with no way of judging for herself.

“so what’d’ya think!?” i asked when i first saw her.

“ohhh aaaannnndddrrruuuuu!!” she exclaimed, as she so often does.

“it’s wuuuunnderfullll!”

so we left the “bustle” of jackson and the parks, and headed straight for green river lakes.

the upper green is one of the most beautiful places in the world, by my calculations, so i figured it was worth a quick look.

it did not disappoint.  elle was floored.  but we were heading into the heart of the wind river mountains the next day from a different point of entry, so we had move on.

we awoke at soda lake, near pinedale, like i’ve done so many times before… alone.

for breakfast, we watched a bald eagle soar across the surface of soda lake.

we quickly made our way up skyline drive to elkhart park, where we were to meet mike and ellen.

ellen brought her horses, jazz, comanche, and pistol pete.  this was to be a genuine pack trip, though elle and i would be on foot.

quick backstory on my friend mike… although a very compelling novel could be written on this guy.

when i first moved to pinedale, wyoming, my publisher, rob, was giving me a run down of the newspaper, the town, and it’s people.  he made a very specific command for me not, under any circumstances, to take any info or quotes from a guy in town named mike ramsey.  he said it was because mike was always full of, you know what.  but i knew there had to be more to it.

big mistake, rob.

not more than a week later, i was enjoying a cold beer at the brew pub, and who do i get introduced to?  none other than the “infamous” mike ramsey.

if you haven’t gathered yet, i’m the type that immediately becomes intrigued when someone makes a point to tell me not to do something without a very good explanation.  now this can be good and bad.  luckily, this time it turned out to be good… i think.

we hit it off, and over the next few months we would spend hours in the car together looking for bears and telling stories from the backcountry.  whiskey was often involved.  it took a while, but in spite of me being a texan and a dumb kid, i think mike started to enjoy my company.

and now, over five years later, i still see him every time i’m in his neck of the woods.  for some reason he still puts up with me.

something else about mike you should know; he spent over twenty five years guiding hunters and fighting fires in the maze that is the wyoming wilderness.  the wind river mountains, teton wilderness, the gros ventre, yellowstone… he’s the guy you want with you if you want to make it out alive.

so months ago, when we talked about planning a pack trip for this summer for us and the two ellens, i knew it would be unique and memorable for all.

off we went.  into the wilderness.  from elkhart, we took the pole creek trailhead.

it was july 4th weekend, but there were still plenty of snowbanks.  elle was very excited to see snow in july…

the scenery was breathtaking.

and then we made it to photographer’s point.  easy to see why it’s called that.

freemont peak towered in the background as ellen and mike enjoyed the view.

then, possibly the highlight of the trip for elle, a ride in the mountains on pistol pete.

just five or six miles in, we made it to our first camp at eklund lake.  we went up to mary’s lakes, but there were no suitable corrals for the horses, so eklund it would be.

buster was a perfect camp dog.  and i swear he ate better that weekend than i typically do on a good week back home.

that’s definitely one of the joys of packing in your food and gear on horses…  usually i only carry what i can on my back, so as you might imagine, i eat a lot of peanut butter and ramen.

elle and i posed with our “bear spray”.  large caliber pistols and shotguns are better deterrents in my opinion than traditional pepper spray when you’re in grizzly country…

we took the horses to feed in a nearby pasture, and i think elle made a real connection with them.

it was a beautiful sunny afternoon in the mountains, so we relaxed, and enjoyed the quiet.

the next day, due to an ankle injury suffered the night before, elle and i decided to only hike up to mary’s to fish.  we would also stay at eklund as our base camp for the next few days.  no need to push ourselves to hard.  we were on vacation after all!

our time in the winds was over.  elle and i had to start making our way north to jackson, closer to the airport.  sadly, she would have to leave the next day.

we decided to spend the day in the tetons.  so we hiked jenny lake.

…elle’s favorite spot…  the view and the fact the she had to leave soon made her cry.  i wished i could make it all better for her, but i couldn’t.  i wished i could just make the world right, but i can’t.  so we decided to just enjoy what we could, while we could.  that seemed to help…

i no longer identify with certain parts of mr. haggard’s tune, like i have in the past.  i mean, i’m pretty blessed with what i do for a living.  i often get to go to the mountains, and it’s hard for me to say that i feel like what i do is “hard work” with a straight face.  don’t get me wrong; work is work.  but i’m fortunate to love what i do.

however i kept getting the feeling that elle could really identify with parts of the song.  you know, parts about too much work and not enough play, or dirty cities, or working every day since age 20, etc.  it made me sad for her… but it also made me really excited.  see, she has such a unique appreciation for this place that i love so much.  i’m excited that i got to be there to see it light her eyes, to watch it grow in her, and ultimately to see it make her cry.

it reminded me of my first experience in wyoming one magical summer almost ten years ago.  i’m happy to be with her as the magic of the memories start in her now.  and i was starting to enjoy the fact that i now could again identify with a song, through her eyes.

our time together was over… it was so hard.  normally i’d be happy to push someone off onto their plane… anxious to have wyoming all to myself once again.  but those days have passed for me.

after i saw elle off, i drove up through yellowstone to cooke city, montana.

yellowstone lake was surprisingly calm.

with no cell reception and a heavy heart, i made it all the way up to cooke city and lulu pass.

i climbed as high as the snowbanks would allow in my new car.  this forester had to be tested, and i’m happy to say it passed.

when the car wouldn’t go any farther, i got out and went on foot to the highest point around to get a better view of where i was…

i remembered my last experience in this place.

and it occurred to me that it was time to move on.

in more ways than one.

so i left montana as quickly as i came.

on the way back i watched a mother grizzly with two cubs lumber across the hillsides.

they started to get a little too close, so i moved on…

on a whim, i decided to take union pass back to green river lakes.  it’s a relatively deserted 4×4 road through beautiful and rough country.  a place that i’ve found myself stuck many times before.  where you may not see anyone for days.

when i finally arrived at the lakes, the area was shut down for camping due to a menacing male grizzly.

so i camped near pinedale.  and i forgot all about the big city that night.

i went back out to green river lakes the next day.  squaretop mountain greeted and seemed to call to me.

so i decided to leave the comfort of my car and hike deep in to the base of squaretop…

it was a dramatic journey.  the clouds began to form out of nowhere, as is their mood in the mountains.  a sow grizzly with two cubs had been seen recently near the trail, so i kept my .45 loaded and my hand near it’s grip.

only five or six miles in, i reached the park that sits at the very foot of squaretop.

the mood grew eerie.  and i grew increasingly lonely.

i felt dark days from my past crowd in on me.  i knew it was time to lay them to rest.

on my way back, far off in the distance, i noticed something large bobbing in the upper lake.

as i approached, i began to see that it was a moose swimming across the lake…. what a sight…

it started to rain as i neared the trailhead.  melancholy crept in with the changing weather.

but i had a feeling this too would pass.

there was a lot going on in my heart and head on this trip.  different than any other time i’ve been up there.

but it was good.

i know it was good… all of those thoughts to wrestle and subdue…

as i approached my car, i turned back for one last look.  and i noticed a man fly fishing by himself.

i took a picture of him because it was beautiful.

but also, because it made me sad.  the solitary life – that life that i’ve known so well, and that i loved.

and i thought to myself that all things must pass.  all things must move on and grow.

and i let go of it.

and i was happy.

happy that i had a wonderful woman, my best friend waiting back home for me.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2010

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family, music, photography, random thought, travel, writing

like brothers on a hotel bed

wyoming is not a place i share with other people.  i do it alone.  that may sound like a prick thing to say, but it’s true.

i go up there to experience solitude, peace, fear, loneliness.

this trip was a little different though.

i arrived to jackson hole airport late on tuesday afternoon.  i was supposed to be there by 3 that day to pick up my brother.

the inbound flight from austin arrived on time, so he took a taxi into jackson to get a beer.  i told him i’d meet him there as soon as i could.  the traffic coming down through the parks was miserable.  it seems they always scramble to make improvements to the roads just before the ground freezes.  thanks.

i finally made it to snake river brewery, after dark.  but the alone time in wyoming didn’t seem to bother my brother.

after a hug and a few beers, we were off.  it was dark, and i have a spot in teton park that i always go to camp when i arrive late.

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we woke up the next morning to a cool autumn breeze, and my brother’s 34th birthday.

two months ago he called me.  “there’s a fare sale to jackson hole.  $89 each way from austin,”  he said.  “you planning on going soon?”

“well, yeah.  i was planning a fall trip.  september or october.  why?  you wanna go?”

i started to get excited.  no one had ever expressed this much interest or determination to go to wyoming with me since my mother visited 5 years ago when i lived there.

i was excited at the prospect, but then nervous.  could i share this place with others?  would they understand it?  no matter.

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most guys have the idea that if they’re spending any time in wyoming and montana, they better have a fly rod or a pair of skis.  and i think they’re right.  it is world class skiing and fishing, after all.  no snow yet, so my brother brought a friend’s rod.

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we took a drive one evening up the beartooth highway outside of cooke city, montana.

regarded as one of the most spectacular drives in north america, the beartooth runs from red lodge, mt to the northeast entrance of yellowstone national park.

the beartooths are one of the highest elevation and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. the road itself is the highest elevation highway in wyoming (10,947 feet) and montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the northern rockies.

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we fished the lamar, the snake, the yellowstone, among others.  to no avail.  it may have been too late in the season, i guess.

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the fires in northwest wyoming were in full force this time of year though.  they even closed a few of the roads in yellowstone, preventing me from returning to the lamar valley.  very sad.

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but the drama of it all was truly impressive.

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the fire on the banks of jackson lake at dusk.  breathtaking.

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the next day, there was an unavoidable haze that covered the sky and mountains.  but again, to the naked eye, it struck as a little bit of a downer, but the dramatic effect can be artfully employed with a camera.

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it was my brother’s last day.  he had a flight out of JAC in the afternoon, so we found a section of the snake river, just 10 minutes from the airport.  he wanted to give it one last go.

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he didn’t catch anything, but i was happy.  i think i got a few shots of him in this unreal landscape that will draw others in, and take him back…  anytime he wants to go…

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i’ve never shared this place with anyone before.  but it was really nice to do so.  to see the look on someone else’s face the first time they see the sun rise over the lamar valley of yellowstone, or the moon as it hovers over the tetons before dawn…

the way the fiery autumn leaves shimmer in the cool breeze.  awaking in the cold to the sound of bull elk in rut, bugling.  or the sound of wolves.

it’s all so beautiful.  i’m glad i had my brother there to share it.

i hope there’s more sharing of this place in the years to come.  i’m ready for it.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009

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