photography, travel

20 Below // Yellowstone

Life is all about adaptation. If you can’t stay flexible, especially when on the road, you’ll end up frustrated and angry. Plans are going to change. Your best efforts will be thwarted frequently. I promise.

This year’s winter Wyoming road trip wasn’t my first rodeo… But perhaps my first trying to camp in the beautiful, frozen hell that is the Yellowstone Caldera. It is common to reach dangerous temps of -60F here. Maybe we got lucky, it only reached -20 for us.

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Most people think I’m crazy… some of the things I do, get myself into. No, I’m actually relatively sane. I see a great human potential to do things that seem impossible or “nuts” to many, and I want to prove that they are quite normal. And maybe even fun.

Yellowstone is one of those places that immediately captured my heart. Love at first sight… smell, touch, feel. It is magical. But of all the seasons I have experienced in this place, winter was the untouchable. Most of the park is only accessible by snow mobile, snow coach, or cross country skis. It requires a lot of preparation and investment to make an overnight camping excursion into Yellowstone in the dead of winter. It demands to be taken seriously. Especially in winter.

I was looking for an opportunity to test myself in a new way.

Sounds dumb, I know. But I’ve always been this way.

When I was little, I wanted to be a stunt man. Often, I would jump off the roof of our house to practice my falls, or bungee a bunch of pillows around my body and throw myself down the stairs. I’ve always enjoyed catching snakes with my bare hands, only to identify them as poisonous or non, afterward.

It’s not that I don’t feel fear. Trust me, I do. Every time I sleep out in grizzly country, I lay awake most of the first night seeing terrible visions of ferocious bear(s) attacking me ruthlessly. Every snap of a twig makes my heart race. But all I have to do to finally get some shut eye is remind myself of the many hundreds of nights I’ve spent under the stars, and how I’ve never had a terrifying experience… with bears, at least. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, that’s just to point to the reality that it’s more likely that I get struck by lightning. An event about which I literally never worry.

The fact remains, my life is not my own. It is controlled and ordained by a much higher reality than my fears or eccentricities.

It’s really about testing my limits. It’s less about man vs. nature, and more man vs. himself. Testing one’s mental and physical resolve.

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So back to the point: I can scheme for months, but I’d better be ready to surrender each and every meticulous plan.

This whole trip was brought on by my random stumbling on a new program offered by Yellowstone. A few months earlier, while surfing recreation.gov I came across the brand new self-guided snow machine permit. I’d always wanted to see Yellowstone in the winter, but it never appealed to me to go on a guided tour. So this sounded perfect.

I lucked out and got a permit for the timing and area I wanted. Not easy to do since almost every permit was already taken. And it started a whole chain of events that led us to this point. I began planning everything; the road trip, the activities, shot lists, I started lining up sponsors, gear, etc. It was on. We were going no matter what, in my mind. It seemed to be providence.

When we arrived in Wyoming, after a night at Devils Tower, the plan was to head all the way up and over to Cooke City, Montana. Cooke City lies just across the Montana/ Wyoming state line along the Beartooth Highway, just a few miles from the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. It was going to be a long drive, but for me the payoff was well worth it. It was still a week until our scheduled permit date to enter the park from the South on snow machine. This would serve as our introduction to winter camping Yellowstone.

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I know that the road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City is open all year. It’s the only road they plow in the park. However, for some reason, the short drive from Sunlight Basin to Cooke City via the Beartooth Highway is not plowed. I had to learn that the hard way. We ended up adding 4 hours to our drive for that mistake. And it was already getting dark.

After a long detour up to I-90 through Montana, and an overnighter at a cheap motel, we finally arrived at the North entrance to Yellowstone at Gardiner, MT.

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Entering Yellowstone is like being dropped on to another planet. At first, it seems familiar; rocks, trees, mountains, rivers. But then you start to see colors and formations rarely seen anywhere else on earth. Steam rising from mountain streams. The smell of sulphur. Vast herds of bison, elk, pronghorn. It’s so unique. And in the winter, when the snow blankets everything and people are harder to spot than the wildlife, Yellowstone possesses even a more haunting spirit.

So there we were, on the doorstep of testing a new resolve in ourselves, a new level of resiliency. Could we take it? Would a wintry Yellowstone break us?

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We spent the night near Mammoth Hot Springs on top of several feet of snow. It was too cold to hang out long enough to make a fire that night, and we were tired from the days of driving, so we opted to burrow into the cozy tent and our sleeping bags early.

The wind, coyotes, and wolves howled through the night.

The temp when we woke was a solid -20 with the wind, so even the most enjoyable of morning tasks like making coffee became painful. We weren’t deep in the backcountry. In fact, we knew that there might even be fresh coffee to be bought nearby at Mammoth. At the very least, we thought, getting out of the wind and into a quickly warming car would be worth it. I would later come to realize that this moment would serve as the beginning of the end of the test of our resiliency. At least in the way I had imagined.

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Our time in North Yellowstone was short. We had friends to meet up with and clients to shoot for down in Jackson and Pinedale, so we left the park, expecting to return from the South in a week.

Over the next week, we spent a few more nights outdoors, but the cold and the snow was wearing us thin. It became harder and harder to sleep at night and warm up in the morning. On top of this erosion of the physical, several friends we had lined up to go with us on the Yellowstone excursion had to cancel.

The epic adventure was in danger of not happening at all. I was undeterred.

Something that once seemed so providential, so “meant to be,”started to feel cursed. Then I received an email from the snow mobile rental company that I was angling to trade marketing photos for free machines, stating that they would not be able to do the deal any more.

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We’d been on the road for two weeks already and were out of money. It was the last straw. The Yellowstone dream would have to wait. This fact, regardless of how obvious, would take a long time for me to accept.

How do we deal with our disappointments and failed plans? What I wasn’t realizing was that my test of resolve on this trip had now taken a new form. It was no longer the sexy physical test of manhood I wanted. It had become all of our worst nightmares… not getting what we want.

For someone who plans as much as I do, I can become fixated, even obsessed, with objective. The trip was such a beautiful success in so many ways, but from my myopic attitude, it looked like a failure because of the one unrealized objective.

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I learned from this trip that man vs. himself is more than just climbing mountains or wrestling alligators. Man’s true resiliency is shown clearly in his/ her ability to roll with the punches. To watch their carefully made plans go down in flames and still make something of it.

It remains one of the hardest things that I (and all of us will) consistently face in life.

— andrew


In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation.. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
 
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
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
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photography, travel

#wyolove

So finally, after all of these years living in and/ or visiting Wyoming, I have the compelling idea I’ve been looking for to do a book.

Just google “wyoming photography books”, and I guarantee you’ll come up with a plethora of titles.  This was always the route I thought I’d take; the typical landscape/ nature photography book.

Well thankfully, I never felt settled with that idea.  Yet I keep returning to photograph the rugged beauty of this place.

So on my last trip in February, I began laying the foundation, making contacts, interviewing people, etc.  It will be very different from the traditional landscape book.  Sorry, I can’t reveal any more just yet… But what I can say is that it will challenge me to the core… Alas, friends, I will have to work with the most unpredictable of all species… people!

What I love perhaps the most about a project such as this however, is that I still get to roam around the great state and attempt to capture the essence of this place that has so completely entranced me for the last 15 years.  And to share it with all of you.

I will return in July and September/ October… so don’t worry… if you’re as obsessed as I am, you’ll get your fill.

So here are some of my favorites from February…

Lone Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

a hauntingly still winter day in snowy Grand Teton NAtional Park, WY

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Winter wonderland on Pacific Creek in Grand Teton National PArk, WY

Lone Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

Lone Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

Big Horn Ram detail

Lone Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

A bald eagle perched in a bare tree in Grand Teton National Park in the winter

A colorfull sunrise over the Gros Ventre near Grand Teton National Park, WY

A colorfull sunrise over the Gros Ventre near Grand Teton National Park, WY

Winter sunrise on the tetons from Teton Overlook

Lone male hiker looking out in the snow toward the tetons

A colorfull sunrise over the Gros Ventre near Grand Teton National Park, WY

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Snow covered Tetons form a frozen Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, WY

Snow covered Tetons form a frozen Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, WY

Snow covered Tetons form a frozen Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, WY

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Sunrise over the Winds from the Cora road in the Upper Green River Valley, WY

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Sunrise over the Winds from the Cora road in the Upper Green River Valley, WY

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The Wind River Range from atop the Mesa oilfields near Pinedale, WY

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morning light in the frozen desert near South Pass, WY

the dirt road to South Pass City ghost town, WY

dramatic clouds and road, south pass

dramatic clouds and road, south pass

White tail buck in the brush

Devils tower national monument, WY

Devils tower national monument, WY

dramatic sunset over Devils tower national monument, WY

a lone hiker enjoys a dramtic sunrise over Devils tower national monument, WY

dramtic sunrise over Devils tower national monument, WY

Devils tower national monument, WY

moon over Devils tower national monument, WY

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A man watches sunrise on Togwotee pass

coyote in the snow near moran junction in grand teton national park, wy

sunrise at snake river overlook, grand teton national park, wy

I love my job :)

— andrew


 
Take your photography to the next level… check out my NEW workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2015
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2015
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
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photography, travel

The Art of The “Workcation”

Every time I travel I get asked, “Business, or pleasure?”

Often my answer is “Well… both.”

A puzzled look frequently follows.

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It took Ellen and I a few years to find the proper balance of a true workcation.  One that could satisfy both of our insatiable desires… the desire to be productive, and the desire to relax and recharge our proverbial batteries.

It’s not an easy balance for someone who loves what they do, and would be doing it whether he was getting paid or not.  That’s why every single trip I ever took when I was single was simply work.  But you see, that’s no fun for another person once they get added into the mix… maybe the first few times, but trust me, it gets old.  What might have started as fascination in the beginning, quickly turns to frustration, when your traveling partner seems to prefer working to relaxing and being in the moment with you.

And as most adaptations grow from necessity, so too did the invention and refinement of the workcation.

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Look, we’re not made of money here.  Work trips are our vacations… and vice versa.

So how do we find equilibrium?

Here are 5 important steps to striking the perfect balance between work and vacation, illustrated with images from our last Wyoming workcation…

1. Proper planning.

Nowadays, Ellen and I set aside specific days/ times on our trip to work.  With her starting a yoga business recently, she gets something out of it too… free marketing photos!  When there is a set, realistic schedule, both of us have very well managed expectations…. and those of you who are married or in long-term relationships know how important these are!

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2. Use what you have to your advantage.

I feel productive when I’m getting photos that I’m confident can sell.  That’s how I am able to justify all of the travel, if I’m not on a specific client’s dime.

So Ellen becomes my model… a lot.  As I’m sure you all have seen.

But it’s great because we can do the things we love to do together, like hiking, and I can spend a few minutes in between our quality vacation time, working, snapping sellable images.

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It’s also important to note that Ellen is particularly sweet and understanding that when extraordinary opportunities present themselves, work takes the front seat.

But don’t take advantage of your partner’s generosity.

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3. Know when to put work aside.  Be sensitive to your travel partners needs.  

As previously mentioned, my wife gives grace like a boss.  So it’s only fitting that I approach her with the same tender understanding.

It’s never fun to play second fiddle to work with a loved-one.  So know when it’s time to put the camera or laptop down and enjoy your partner.

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4. Enjoy your work so much, it is vacation!  

Be so passionate and enthusiastic about what you do, your travel buddy can’t help but want to be involved.

They may actually grow to love the process too.

But it must be genuine… manipulation will be sniffed out immediately!

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5.  Be realistic, schedule dedicated work time.

What Ellen and I found works the best, so I’m not too antsy to shoot the entire time we’re trying to relax and be “in the moment”, is really quite simple…

I schedule a week alone, to focus completely on work.  I either fly her in a week after I’ve arrived at a destination, or she flys out a week before I return.

That way, I always know that I have at least a full week of work under my belt already, or ahead of me.

And it allows me to relax.  Which makes the time more enjoyable for us both.

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It is rare that we take a proper “vacation”.  Part of it is financial, but another part is that we both really love what we do for a living.

So workcations are our norm.  And we like it that way.

They are tax deductible, and if you are careful, they are oh… so… enjoyable.

Here’s to 2015: a new year of workcations to nourish our souls and share with all of you!

— andrew


 
Take your photography to the next level… check out my NEW workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2015
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2015
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
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landscape, photography, travel

WY // The Active Landscape

One thing I will most certainly be working on this year: active people within a landscape.

Though I have always considered myself a landscape shooter, I realized recently that in order to generate more sales in the nature/ outdoor photography arena, I need to begin incorporating people and activity into my landscapes.

And for me, the timing couldn’t be better.

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With the increasing assignments I have had the last few years, I have actually grown to enjoy photographing people… go figure.

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And I am ever more interested in the relationship people have to their surroundings.  How to visually convey a human’s relationship to a landscape, has become one of my favorite challenges of late.

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The icing on the cake:  there is a HUGE market growing for this kind of imagery, so it can be quite lucrative.  As a professional artist, I’m always looking for ways to continue doing what I love AND making the kind of living I want.

So, on this visit to Wyoming, Elle and I practiced a little active landscape shooting.  We realized a few things too.

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To keep the images fresh, realistic, and sellable, the gear and clothing have to be new and/ or current.  We realized that we need a few upgrades for the next trip :)

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We also realized we should shoot what we know.  Elle is a yogi, so we focused a lot on yoga poses in gorgeous locals.

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The key for me will be to keep shooting and keep adding people and activities to my landscapes… it’s a mental shift, but I really enjoyed pushing myself in Wyoming.

 

— andrew


 
Take your photography to the next level… check out my NEW workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2015
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2015
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014

 

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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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art, photography, travel

wyoming | the many faces of the tetons

my working title for this post originally was “l’obsession des tetons”…

you know, referencing western wyoming’s french explorer roots.

then, thanks to google translate, i quickly realized it was essential that i think of new title.

needless to say, i don’t speak french.

so last year, i had a photographic obsession with squaretop in the wind river range. this fall, i can’t believe i’m saying this, but i didn’t even visit green river lakes (where squaretop lives).

yes, it’s sad. but i was just too busy. i had a two hunts to attend, a ranch to shoot, lots of hot wings to eat in jackson, many pints to consume at deadman’s bar in signal mountain lodge, etc. so since most of my (very important) activities were near teton park, I decided to spend some much needed quality time with the beloved teton mountain range.

enter my newest photographic obsession.

it started the day we finished at the goosewing ranch shoot.

we had a burger and beer at deadman’s bar, then sat on the edge of jackson lake to watch a phenomenal sunset over the tetons.

i then ventured out on the river road, looking for elk.  and the interesting photographic opportunities expanded.  in the next blog post, i’ll show more of the elk photographs.

the clouds and smoke provided most of the drama for me.  but it is the landscape itself that always draws me in and keeps me coming back for more.

come on… you knew i had to.

a portrait with my subject….

more bull elk in the shadow of the mountain.

where the antelope roam…

i hiked to emma matilda lake for the first time.

and then, of course, oxbow bend.  there is good reason that this is one of the most photographed places in the world.  especially in the fall.

that night the stars were out in full force.  i could see the milky way stretching high above the tetons.

i’ve been going to this part of wyoming at least annually since 2001, which i know in the bigger scheme of things is not a long time.

but for me, it’s over a third of my lifetime, spending some of my favorite moments up there.

and honestly, i can’t wait to find out what gorgeous mountains will capture my obsession next year.

God bless wyoming.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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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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