national parks, photography, travel

PARK PEEK // GREAT BASIN

Late in 2017, we ventured west from Wyoming to see new territory. New to us, at least. First up, as we crossed the Utah/ Nevada state line was Great Basin National Park. A relatively small, and unknown Park, Great Basin is a gorgeously diverse gem.

The visitor is likely first captivated by 13,000+ ft. Wheeler Peak. It is impressive from every angle.

But this is not just a mountain park. It boasts sage brush foothills, a bristle cone pine forest, and caves.

We boondock camped in the adjacent BLM land, but the park itself has several camping options for both tent campers and RVers.

The bristlecone pine forest is beautiful and ancient. These trees are gnarly, but the oldest living organisms on the planet.

We visited in October, so the temps were quite cold at higher elevations.

Great Basin is a really nice place to get a glimpse into the diversity of landscapes, plants, and animals in the Great Basin region. It’s a quiet park, remote and little visited, but it’s not because it doesn’t warrant interest.

— Andrew

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photography, wildlife

THE GREAT GRIZ AWAKENING

Just around this time of year, grizzly bears start to emerge from their winter hibernation in our little part of Wyoming.
I get so excited in the spring for this ritual of nature. My heart is breaking that I can’t be there yet, but we are hunkering down until the coronavirus outbreak calms down. So for now, I’ll reminisce over a few encounters from the last several years… I hope you enjoy!
Last year, I got to witness sow 793 with her two cubs. The cubs are both getting to the age where they are preparing to leave mama and venture out on their own. But there’s still important play and learning from mom that has to occur.
They follow her everywhere. But frequently break into play fights with each other when they get bored.
This was a large sow with two younger cubs that I found in Yellowstone several years back. She was gorgeous. And the cubs were so playful and curious.
It was a brief experience, as they moved out of sight only shortly after appearing near the road.
Then there is of course my favorite bear encounter of all time. The other many sightings of these incredible creatures are most often with dozens of other people. Usually on main park roads.
But this one, was just me and this young griz.
It was probably his first spring alone, judging by his relative small size.
I was driving down (what used to be) a little known, inner park dirt road one morning, when I spotted him digging in the wildflowers, looking for food. I slowly pulled up in my truck. He glanced over at me, took a sniff, and then got right back to business.
I likely watched him for around 30-45 minutes… just us. Toward the end of this magical experience, he got within 10 feet. Don’t worry, I was in my truck the whole time, and I never moved closer to him. He never really seemed bothered by my presence. 
Just before he moseyed off, he raised his head and allowed me to make a quick portrait.
I loved being able to capture the raw vulnerability of such a feared and powerful creature, out in his element, all by my lonesome. I will never forget any of my bear encounters, that’s for sure, but this one in particular, is one of my absolute most favorite moments of my entire life.
I don’t expect anything like it will ever happen again, but I pray that it will. 
— Andrew
P.S. Im in the initial stages of putting together a brown bear photography workshop in Finland for summer 2021. If you are interested, drop me a note so I can put you on the early notification list. More info here.

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national parks, photography, travel

QUARANTINED IN APPALACHIA

With the Covid-19 global pandemic in full strength, our nomad dream has halted abruptly, just like everyone’s normal lives. The state of Florida closed down all of the state parks where we had reservations, so with no where to stay, we headed up to Chattanooga, TN to hole up with my brother and his family. There are much worse places to be.
It’s a beautiful area in Appalachia. Admittedly, we’re not getting out much. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is only 2 hours away, but is of course closed. So as we’re quarantined, I’m reminiscing about our spring trip to the Smokies back in 2018. Here are a few images from that month or two we explored the area.
  
  
  
Even though we can’t get out too much, I will still try to share the beauty of our wonderful world with all of you. I hope you all are safe and healthy… when we emerge on the other side of this, we will undoubtedly appreciate our wonderful parks and our freedom with fresh eyes and wearied hearts.
— Andrew

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travel, workshop

PARK PEEK // OLYMPIC

We had the pleasure of visiting several new National Parks over the last several years that I never got around to sharing in the ol’ blogosphere. Shame on me! And one in particular stood out to me as one of the most photogenic and interesting; Olympic National Park in Washington.

Here’s a quick peek at what I found, and why I’ll be planning our return as soon as possible.

Only a few hours from the Seattle area, the first thing you’ll notice when you visit or research Olympic is how large it really is. It has no road that intersects, so in order to see its several distinct ecosystems, you’ll do a decent bit of driving around the entire Olympic Peninsula.

It encompasses nearly a million acres. Within that, you have mountains, rainforests, and dramatic coastlines.

We happened to be there just in time for the Rhododendron bloom, which is pretty spectacular.

One of my favorite things, dirt roads, are abundant around the park. Lots of places “off-the-beaten-path” to explore. And much of the Park runs adjacent to Olympic National Forest, so there are tons of recreation opportunities, including camping.

And every so often, if the conditions are favorable, you’ll get smacked in the face with a view of Mount Rainier, over 100 miles away.

The old-growth forests are spectacular and transport the visitor to another time. One can imagine the terrible and beautiful creatures that must have roamed this lush area.

The flora is the most impressive visual at this park, even though it does contain a surprising amount of animal inhabitants. Surprising only because of the dense populations of people surrounding this vast wilderness. But truly, the plant life reigns supreme here.

And then, there are the Olympics. Majestic and rugged mountains. Not particularly high, the tallest in the range is Mount Olympus, clocking in at just shy of 8,000 feet. However, the eastern slope of the range rises up from sea level at Puget Sound, so the mountains are still quite steep and impressive looking.

On the western slope, the Hoh Rainforest dominates. It is the wettest place in the lower 48, in fact. And because of this, it is the United State’s best glimpse into the temperate rainforest ecosystem.

Unfortunately, I only had a moment during the middle of the last day on the coastline for this trip, so more to come on our next visit. I didn’t get to explore that section as much as I’d like, nor did I come away with any jaw-dropping images, however, it was clear that this section would be just as fruitful and inspiring photographically and from a sight seeing perspective, as the other areas of the park.

The big takeaway for me was that this park demands time. A lot of it, if you really want to get a feel for the incredibly varied looks it will give you. It was my favorite of Washington State, and that’s saying a lot if you’ve ever been to Mount Rainier or North Cascades, both spectacular parks in their own right. Olympic National Park is a truly special place.

— Andrew
 

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photography

Park Peek // A SUPER BLOOM in Joshua Tree

We visited Joshua Tree National Park for the first time in October 2017. I knew right then that it would be a “home” park for us. Ellen and I are both drawn to the desert, and Joshua Tree is a unique blend of Mojave and Colorado deserts. It is where the two meet, and mingle.

When we decided to do a desert tour, instead of our usual winter in Florida, Joshua Tree came to mind one of our focus areas. I knew there was BLM land close by, which for full-time nomads is like finding flowing water in the desert. We can camp for free (for nearly as long as we’d like) just outside the park. Little did I realize when planning that we would be arriving just in time for a rare experience, the 2019 super bloom.

It has been truly spectacular to witness this once in a decade event here in Joshua Tree. The lupines, sunflowers, poppies, and countless other species have been popping up everywhere.

  

  

But I assure you, there is much more to this huge park than just wildflowers. It is approximately 800k acres of desert and mountain terrain.

There are of course incredible vistas.

Amazing night skies.

Hidden desert gems.

Cholla cactus gardens, treacherous and beautiful.

And of course, the otherworldly Joshua Trees, for which the park is named.

I like to try to combine several elements for which the park is famous, all in one photo, if possible.

We’re here for a few more weeks, so I know I will have much more to show all of you… this is just a preview of what I’ve seen and experienced.

It’s a fascinating park. And one that I know will take me many years to fully explore. Good thing Ellen and I have both fallen for this massive desert parkland in the heart of Southern California.

–Andrew


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, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. 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 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:
 
PHOTO 101 // LEARN TO SHOOT LIKE A PRO // SELECT CITIES // USA
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
 
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 Slaton // prints from the road
 
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Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
  
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All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019
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