education, photography, random thought, writing

Photographic Trophy Hunting

“For me, it’s not enough to leave it up to authorities and governments. I believe in personal responsibility, first and foremost.”

A thought occurred to me recently as I was contemplating how to make my workshops better for my clients… There are a lot of photo enthusiasts and pros out there nowadays that are essentially “trophy hunters”.

You might be wondering, what is a photographic trophy hunter? It’s an individual who sees an image on social media or the internet, and travels to that location to come away with their own social media “trophy” shot.

Now, don’t take that the wrong way. Obviously, actual trophy hunting is not a very well-liked practice by the public these days. I’m not equating the general idea that many folks looking for the trophy shot are somehow shallow or calloused. It’s much more nuanced than this.

What I mean to say, is that even with actual hunting, there are positives and negatives to this trophy-type approach. First positive, hunters are one of the most conservation minded groups out there. They bring in massive amounts of cash that goes directly toward furthering conservation efforts all over the world. In fact, many species have been saved by the efforts and financial support driven by hunters. But trophy hunting clearly also has it’s draw backs.

For one, it feeds a desire to destroy, with little regard for the “why”. Notice, I didn’t say with no regard. In subsistence hunting, there is a clear why. Sustenance. Food. Clothing. Tools. Etc. There is so much that can be done with a deer, elk, moose, or other game species. Now, there are other reasons of course for hunting; population control, strengthening of the species, human rites of passage, etc., that reach symbiosis when coupled with utilizing the entire animal. Mismanagement (at all levels) and illegal poaching are the biggest concerns.

In the realm of photography, the same is true. The dollars brought in to local tourism are undeniable and absolutely necessary. Also, the awareness created through the sharing of these beautiful places, in theory, causes a broader audience to care enough to support protecting these special locations. However, the increased interest leading to the degradation of many of these incredible locations seems unstoppable, simply due to the sheer numbers of trophy seekers. That’s not even to mention the uneducated, or simply those who don’t care beyond their own desires who end up destroying places.

I see it first hand everywhere we go these days. I’d like to think it’s just a matter of educating people into proper outdoor etiquette, but I’m increasingly afraid that there are many folks out there who just don’t think beyond themselves, in this Instagraming culture we’ve created. And what that breeds is two things; closures of public places (which I despise) or destruction for no good reason (which I despise even more).

In each of my workshops, there are undoubtedly trophy locations that all of my clients desire to see and photograph. It is understandable. There are many great reasons why these places have become legendary. However, as a tour/ workshop leader, I do feel a responsibility to educate and minimize our impact. For me, it’s not enough to leave it up to authorities and governments. I believe in personal responsibility, first and foremost.

What this has caused me to begin to do in recent years is to seek out the “off-the-beaten-path” locations. The places I used to frequent, for instance Snake River Overlook (as pictured below), I rarely visit anymore. I have opted away from the easy locations, for the creatively challenging. And though it is markedly less fruitful at times, it is most rewarding to my soul and sense of adventure. And at the very least, it takes one person away from the crowds at these trophy locations.

There is a potentially harmful issue though that arises from this approach as well… at least with the “trophy locations” they are already well known and we as a society can mitigate the risk to the environment at these places more easily. But if we introduce more “off-the-beaten-path” spots to more and more people, they become less “off-the-beaten-path.” In an effort to self regulate, I have incorporated non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) into my workshops, so folks legally cannot share the locations. I know it seems heavy-handed, but I’m adamant about keeping some places sacred.

Over the years, I have changed my tune on the whole sharing locations issue. And I think we all have continually evaluate, re-evaluate, and re-re-evaluate our long held beliefs on how things are and how they should be. We have a drastically changing society and landscape out there, due to technology and social media. Some of it good, and some of it catastrophically bad.

But to me, just like with nearly any issue, it all comes back to the individual. To you, and to me. Personal responsibility.

If we want things to change for the better, we have to live it for ourselves, and educate others with truth and love. Photographic trophy hunting is an important issue we need to tackle head-on, but it’s really just the tip of the iceberg for a society increasingly less responsible for our own actions, and more dependent on government or authorities to do the jobs we all should be doing. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have official regulatory practices and entities, it just means that for these regulations to work (and not shut the public out completely), we have to take responsibility for ourselves first.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to know what you think about this issue. Have you seen the affects on our public lands, or special places that you love? Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!

— Andrew

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national parks, photography, travel


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.


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:
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:
Thanks for visiting!
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
art, landscape, photography, random thought, travel, workshop, writing

big bend // revisited… part 2

Once again, I woke up before the sun…



And witnessed a spectacular sunrise over the Chihuahuan Desert, with both Texas and Mexico in view.





Everything in the desert seems to want to hurt you.  It’s an amazingly inhospitable place.

Maybe that’s why I love it.  It continually screams at me to leave, and I, unrepentantly scream back at it, “no!”








Mariscal mine settlement.  When you visit this small village (seriously) in the middle of nowhere… it really does make you think about how beautifully tough our forefathers must have been.

This place is so difficult to get to and remote, that few people even nowadays visit.  What with our air conditioned cars and four wheel drive.








So I finnally exited the River Road and hit pavement.  It’s funny the feeling you get when you’ve only felt super bumpy, unimproved dirt tracks underneath you for two days – driving 20 miles an hour, because if you drove any faster you’d surely bottom out or receive a flat for your insolence and disrespect to the road – finally being lifted up on to the smooth ride of a highway, and potential speed of 65.  I love it.  Kinda feels like you just won the lottery.  Undeserved and glorious.  Thankful you made it off that God-forsaken death trap of a road.  The reverse can also be true.  I LOVE THE RIVER ROAD!!


So I spent the next several hours scouting a few different locations.  The first being my evening “epic” Big Bend landscape, that attempts to sum up the place.  Tough indeed, if you’ve ever been to BBNP.

The second shot was a night, road photograph I’ve had in my mind on this trip.  I got one in RMNP, but really wanted to try one here.  I had several nice spots from which to choose.

The third and fourth theoretically could be the same spot.  One shot would be in the very early morning hours… a star picture.  And the other was a morning “epic” Big Bend landscape.













I finished my scouting with several hours to spare, so I decided to hike to one of my favorite little spots in the park, Cattail Falls.


I always go when water is scarce, so I’ve never come away with the waterfall picture I want, but it’s a great little hike and the only place I’ve ever seen a bear in the park.


By the time I got back, it was late afternoon… time to begin my work for the evening.












I ended up with a few shots I like, so I called it a night… at least get a few hours of sleep.  Back up at 4 a.m. to shoot the stars and catch what would be a gorgeous sunrise.










That morning was a sunrise-to-end-all-sunrises.  At this point, it was as good a time as any to quit while I felt ahead.

And besides, I was into my third week of being on the road…. living out of my Subaru, eating lots of peanut butter and honey, sleeping alone (an activity I used to love – that I am now quite weary of) on the hard ground.

It was time to go home.  Hard to leave, but definitely time.




So I composed my last shots of the desert and mountains of Big Bend National Park, and bid it farewell… this time thankfully, it won’t be so long between visits…

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, please check out my new workshop dates:

Big Bend Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2013-2014

More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2013-2014

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:

Thanks for visiting!

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

art, landscape, photography, random thought, travel, workshop, writing

big bend // revisited

It didn’t take long to get back into the rhythm of Big Bend.

After all, it had only been 18 or so months.

But this lesser-known National Park, in the middle-of-freaking-nowehere on the border of Texas and Mexico, has been a refuge for me for the last 10 years.

In many senses of the word, I found myself in Big Bend.

I’ve found myself lost in the middle of the desert in 110 degree heat.

I’ve found myself 18 miles from any person or paved road in a almost completely submerged truck… in 110 degree heat.

I’ve found myself purposefully leaving civilization and humanity.

I’ve found myself at the top of the world on the South Rim looking out on the expanse of the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas and Mexico, in awe.

I’ve found myself coming to terms with my insecurities and problems.

I’ve found myself watching a total lunar eclipse from the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains.

I’ve found myself spending New Years Eve alone atop the Dodson Trail, happy as a clam.

I’ve found myself sharing my alone time for the first time with my (then) future wife.

I’ve found myself kissing said future wife in Boot Canyon in the fall with the maple leaves ablaze around us.

I’ve found myself returning annually to celebrate her birthday.

I’ve found myself pushing the limits on how many miles I can hike in 1 day… turns out, it’s at least 18 miles… done on two different trips :)

I’ve found myself chasing a black bear in a desert oasis.

I’ve found myself standing in the middle of the Rio Grande alone at 4 o’clock in the morning to get a star picture of Santa Elena Canyon.

I’ve found myself (more times than I can remember) talking with the God of the universe in all the glory of His creation.

I’ve found myself entering the park ill, leaving well… entering heavy hearted, leaving renewed… entering empty, leaving full.

Big Bend is a very special place to me.


I arrived in the middle of the day, so no sweeping, epic landscapes available to shoot.

I set up camp and focused on the details.





I decided to start with Santa Elena that evening, so I hiked out to scout my location.


Done.  That was quick.

I then went to Mule Ears overlook to hike the desert a bit.












Made friends with a black-tailed jackrabbit, then headed off to catch the sun going down at Santa Elena Canyon.


I went back to camp to shoot a few desert star pictures.



Got up well before the sun (4am) to shoot a star picture of Santa Elena.


Bats flew all around me as I stood in the middle of the Rio Grande until sunrise.









The sun rose high quickly.  So I moved on and headed for the infamous River Road.












Prickly Pear Cactus flowering late.


I hiked Pine Canyon.










After driving several hours on the River Road (where I drowned my truck a few years ago), I arrived at one of my old favorite campsites, Jewels Camp.

It overlooks the Rio Grande, Mexico, and the Chisos Mountains.

I would come to learn (the next day on my way out) by a border patrol agent who searched my car, that it also happens to be a favorite spot for the cartels to smuggle drugs into the U.S.

Good thing I slept that night with my .45.

On a serious note though, I have NEVER had any problems in Mexico, Big Bend, or on the River Road.  I think it’s important to draw from experience rather than fear.

Okay, so back to my trip….





Evening at Jewels was gorgeous, as it always seems to be.  The colors of the desert come alive at dusk.










I read a little that evening, and then crashed.  All this getting up at 4 a.m., hiking all day, then going to bed at 10 p.m. was truly exhausting.




But I was there to work… so before I could go to bed for the night, I had a few star pics I wanted to capture…






I slept SO well that night, once I actually went to sleep.  And I would need it… the rest of the trip would be jam-packed and one of the most productive adventures in Big Bend yet!

Stay tuned for the second (and possibly) third part of Big Bend // revisited!!

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, please check out my new workshop dates:

Big Bend Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2013-2014

More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2013-2014

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:

Thanks for visiting!

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

film making, photography, random thought, travel, writing

…last week in wyoming…



one of my first, and best, friends when i lived in wyoming was kim.  she recently got married and had a gorgeous little girl, kate.  first thing’s first… i had to go see them.


now on to my animals.  a coyote searches for food in the elk national wildlife refuge near jackson.




two ocean lake in teton wilderness provided fantastic scenery.





on the way out of two ocean and pacific creek, one of my favorite views of the tetons materializes quickly.  almost out of nowhere, the jagged peaks come into view with force and drama.





then, of course, the jackson lake dam provides unimpeded views of this beautiful mountain range, the grand tetons.



a lone big horn ram wandered, grazed.


early in the morning, the elk eat dew-covered grasses.




lamar creek.  the hidden gem of the lamar valley.  always one of my favorite spots to sit in the morning.


the lamar valley in the summer is a haven for the american bison.  they graze it heavily in massive swarms.


the lamar valley is also home to many bears.  this pair, one black bear and one cinnamon black were inseparable as i watched them cross miles of open landscape.  i saw this same cinnamon about four years ago in the exact same spot.  glad to see he’s got a lady to keep him company now…


bull elk are scattered across yellowstone this time of year.  typically alone, they seem to know that the autumn rut and breeding season will be coming in a few short months.


sulphur stained ponds dot the landscape of yellowstone.


a lone black bear on the northeast entrance road scavenges in the shadow of the mountains surrounding the montana/ wyoming border, near cooke city.


not even a mile away from the bear, a fox too looks for an evening snack.



on the road to lulu pass, just outside city limits, seedlings, clear cuts, mountains, and sky provide the backdrop for cook city, montana.




early morning, heading back from a night spent at the cooke city dump, the mountains and fog performed a ballet.  mist danced across the tops of trees as the light watched passively from behind the clouds.


and it only gained dramatic crescendo as i made my way back, further into the lamar valley of yellowstone.


after a long morning hike up the side of a peak in the lamar, a lone antelope kept his distance.



a 45 minute exposure at oxbow bend in grand teton national park, well after sundown.



morning glow over the tetons.  i love waking up to this view!!




mid-morning at oxbow bend.  light slowly makes it way toward me from behind, painting my canvas.



jackson lake was glass.  a rare site.




string lake, near jenny lake, grand teton national park.


back to my old haunt in sublette county… green river lakes in bridger-teton national forest.


the lower lake was in tumult, with wild winds from the south rumbling like a freight train through the valley toward the upper green.


the green river was calm the next morning, though the sky overhead read drama.


i hiked the highline trail toward the upper lake.  squaretop mountain spectacularly reflected the patches of sun.




i followed massive grizzly tracks all the way to the upper lake about three miles.  it was not alone.  two smaller sets of tracks alerted me to the fact that a sow with two yearlings could be around any bend.


on the way into little soda lake, the aspen groves catch a reflection more colorful than reality.


cactus patches keep me aware of where i place my feet…


just a few minutes from the front door of my old house in pinedale, soda lake reflects the wind river mountains, creating impressionistic hues that would make any artist salivate.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009