photography, travel

ON THE ROAD: AN UPDATE

Oklahoma in the spring is awash with color. New shoots on budding branches green with rebirth. Skies of complex and ever-changing hues of blue, then textured white, then glowing pink and orange. Reflective water, mirroring the hue shifts of the sky. The daily ebb and flow of wildflowers, constantly changing like the tides, indiscriminate, showcasing every color of the visible (and invisible) spectrum. And the deep, earthen red-orange dirt exposed directly adjacent to the vibrant grasses and sedges exploding with renewed life. It’s fragrant out here.

It’s mid-May as I sit to write. Things are beginning to open back up, but the second wave of a global pandemic still looms as an inevitable possibility. So much has changed. 

The holidays in Dallas were what they were. A smattering of good and bad. Great to see friends and family, communing with those we love dearly and don’t see nearly often enough. But as I’ve mentioned, the city wears both of us down. And this year in particular, we experienced the loss of another beloved friend. I’ve mentioned the untimely passing of my dearest friend in Wyoming in September, and then on new years eve, the Colonel, Bubba passed away quietly under the bed in our guest room at Ellens folks. Ellen called him a dear friend for 16 years. He and I mostly tolerated each other, with brief moments of affection throughout my dozen or so years with Ellen. It was hard on her though. The end of an era. We buried him in a secluded corner of their backyard with a lovely candle lit service, and said our tearful goodbyes to him, and our family.

We spent the winter soaking up the sun, sand, and salt water in Florida again solidifying, potentially, our new dream, or next step. More on that later.

We filled our days with further exploration into new territory, as well as deeper into old favorites. I started a section hike of the Florida Trail, with a harrowing two-day 32 mile hike through knee deep south Florida swamp (the full story on my blog). I also was inspired to create a new Big Cypress workshop for 2021, as well as a few other brand new locations. 

As March rolled closer to April, the coronavirus, and fear from a lack of knowledge and highly sensationalized news, took over. All of our state and national park reservations were canceled out from under us, and jobs were postponed or canceled outright. The world, to most everyone, looked a bit more uncertain. But for us, not too much more uncertain. Let’s be honest here… Ellen and my life for the last four years has been a dress-rehearsal for many catastrophic scenarios. And here we are; lean, mean, and ready for Broadway.

As the cliche goes, when God closes a door, He opens a window. Well, when we had no where to go, no where to park Gertie, we jumped through the proverbial window and booked it for my brother’s in Chattanooga, TN, just before the world went on total lockdown.

We figured we would be there for a week or two. Then the Easter night tornado tore through the neighborhood just 100 yards from where our ultra-lite trailer rested precariously in their driveway. It was a terrifying experience for us, but we were the lucky ones. Many in Chattanooga and surrounding areas lost their lives and their homes that night. We just lost power for a week.

My brother, who is a pastor helped coordinate community service in the weeks proceeding. I helped with my chainsaw to cut neighbors trees and remove debris. No social distancing was possible in the wake of tragedy on top of tragedy. But the little we did was dwarfed by the response of the kind people of the whole area. They poured in to help, and truly made quick work of the devastation. Certainly not all was magically fixed, but the show of love and acts of kindness helped to heal a severely broken community.

We ended up spending the end of march, all of April, and the first few days of May parked at my brothers in Chattanooga. It was a special time of connection with family that we don’t get to see as often. Family dinners, games every night, hikes, basketball in the driveway with the kids. We will cherish that time, in spite of the pandemic quarantine and tornado destruction.

We even had the chance to sneak away a few times to the nearby Appalachian mountains of North Carolina to get a little car camping in. Replete with campfires, smores, hiking, swimming in freezing creeks, pipe tobacco smoke, Tolkien essays, etc. All the good stuff.

I received word that a few of my clients wanted to proceed with shoots that were intended for early March, now the first week of May. One in north Louisiana/ Arkansas, and the other in West Texas. I was overjoyed that the jobs didn’t disappear. We were really counting on that income. So we planned our route, and said more bittersweet goodbyes to the ones who embraced us so fully and graciously for over six weeks. We would miss them dearly. But as is often the case for us, it was time to move on.

With the volatile economy, I haven’t been sure what to expect, since much of my business depends on tourism. However, my workshops have started filling up again, and I am hopeful that we will pull through. 

So here we are now, in the ever warming days of high desert New Mexico, boon docking on a reservoir near Raton. The winds and dramatic spring storms kick up the dust and bring to the nose notes of cattle, and hard western living. We have planned and replanned and rerouted our next steps so many times, even I’m getting little confused as to what’s next. But its looking like we will explore and backpack the nooks and crannies of our beloved Wyoming next, and then up into Montana to revisit Glacier National Park. 

As we approach our four year anniversary of life on the road in early June, we look back with immense gratitude. Ellen and I both laugh and roll our eyes whenever either of us starts to look at the pictures and videos in our phones. It is a multi hour time-warp. We get completely lost for hours remembering the amazing adventures we’ve had. All on a broken wing and a heartfelt prayer.

Our next step is foggy, but seems to be coming in to focus more and more daily. It may be time for us to plant some roots, somewhere. Where exactly, were still deciding. But we’ve both come to the conclusion that we need a proper home base. The prevailing leader of the pack is Florida, at this point. Low taxes, warmth, beaches, gorgeous land, wonderful and interesting creatures to find, and it already feels a bit like home. My first choice was and is always Wyoming. But the winters are too long and brutal. We would prefer to continue our tradition of spending the milder months up there, while soaking the sun and warmth elsewhere the rest of the year. Nothing to prove here.

The last we left things, we were seriously considering buying the shuttle business in Wyoming after running it last season. That fell through and both Ellen and I are actually relieved. We realized we weren’t ready to share our time with a new all-consuming business. We have our own businesses that still need much tender loving care.

But what we learned from that experience, is that we are ready for a change. And this time, perhaps, a more grounded change. We don’t plan to leave the road until 2021. We want to finish our (potential) last year on the road strong.

— Andrew


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photography, travel

LOCATION FEATURE: MOAB

The red rock desert surrounding the small town of Moab, Utah has become our unofficial resting place before the holidays. After a jam-packed summer of working hard and backpacking the Wyoming Rockies, then a fall full of epic workshops and constant travel, Ellen and I both need a little rest and relaxation. Escape from an overly hurried pace.

Enter Moab.

The mighty Colorado and Green Rivers meet and meander through this vast desert landscape. The weather is (usually) lovely when we arrive in mid-October. But it is high desert, so sometimes the altitude allows for wintery conditions. But compared to the insane cold of Wyoming, it’s still much nicer.

The first time we visited, it was summer. Hot as blazes. And we’re from Texas, so I believe that’s saying quite a bit. If you’re camping, I do not recommend that time of year. It’s also crazy crowded.

No, October/ November is our favorite time because the weather is typically mild, the crowds are greatly reduced, and it’s a good time of the year to slow things down. Off-the-grid camping, long desert hikes, two nearby national parks (as well as millions of acres of BLM and National Forest land), rock climbing, and long, slow drives, all help to make this the perfect holiday getaway for outdoorsy people.

For the dirt road junkies, like me, it’s heaven. Endless, remote, 4×4 roads to explore to your heart’s content. But be prepared, these roads aren’t for the faint of heart, and you’d better have extra gas and water, as well as survival supplies. You may find yourself a hundred or more miles from the nearest help.

And photographers… well, it’s unparalleled. Moab is another one of those places that just has a “magical” light to it. I’m sure there’s a logical, scientific explanation… of which I am unaware. It’s probably due to the geological formations, bouncing natural light omnidirectionally. Whatever it is, the quality of the light is uncanny.

For the herpers out there, in spite of having cooler temps, Moab still often reaches the warmth needed to find our slithering friends out and about. The midget faded rattlesnake is a favorite of mine, and quite common in the area.

But be careful, their bite carries an ugly punch of neurotoxic venom.

For the majority of folks who aren’t into snakes, don’t worry, I’ve spent months exploring and only seen two. It’s not likely you’ll ever come across one… you really have to be one of us crazies who actually go looking for them.

Perhaps the best thing about Moab though is the night sky. It’s reminiscent of another winter favorite of ours, Big Bend, for its incredible visibility and low light pollution. The perfect place to practice your astrophotography, or simply just sit out by the campfire to enjoy the big, bright night skies.

A long visit to Moab has become a yearly tradition for us. It’s one of those traditions that has become indispensable. We go to relax way out off the grid, but if that isn’t your thing, the actual town of Moab has lovely accommodations and a surprising line up of good restaurants. If you’ve never been, you really should make a point to go… and if you’re into photography, drop me a line. I’ve been toying with the idea for years to do a Moab workshop/ tour. You just might be the one who convinces me!

–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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photography, random thought

N O M A D // magazine

After three years of living and working on the road, I am so excited to announce that I have put together a wonderful magazine for all of you wanderers, dreamers, and adventurers out there! This 80+ page full color, photography heavy publication focuses on the lovely faces and places that we have been fortunate enough to experience since hitting the road full time in June of 2016.

Originally created as a printed promo for me to send out to all of my current and prospective clients, I was pouring so much time and energy into this project, it became clear to me that this would be interesting to a broader audience. And since I was trying to create a standout piece for photo editors, it’s really rad and well done, if I do say so myself.

These are just a few sample spreads…

What you can expect are poignant stories of the people we’ve met, our experiences leading up to and during our time on the road, traveling recipes, poetic prose, and of course, lots of pretty pictures from all over this great country of ours. Consider it a welcomed addition to your coffee table, or bathroom reading collection. It is sure to start conversations, and might even be that unique gift that you’ve been looking for.

If you’re interested, it’s on pre-sale right now for just $25. Go check it out and order your copies now!

–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



N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
 
Pre-order your copy today and receive this 80+ page full color travelgasm at your door by June 2019!
 
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 “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
 
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 2019
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photography, travel, writing

N O M A D // no 7

We only have so many summers so get out there and live.”

The towering rocks of Sedona were glowing red when the sun rose over the Verde River. The meandering rivers and endless red rock faces are what Jef (@jefalope) lives for. He’s the quintessential climber dirtbag / river rat, and a man of few words. He’s a leading guide for multi day backpacking in the Grand Canyon. He’s also a rafting guide for rivers all over the southwest, and in the off season, he picks up odd jobs from friends.

“Guiding life takes me all over the country for work. My free time is spent heading to climb between seasonal work.”

Jef lives in his 50 square foot ’92 Ford Micro Schooly. For the uninitiated, that’s a converted short bus. He’s been living in it for nearly two years.

He told me the story of how this home on wheels came to be… and I’m paraphrasing here.

“It was when the Super Bowl came to Arizona. Bud Light made this party bus, so it had wrap around couches and a stripper pole in the middle. And of course Bud Light branding all over the exterior. They didn’t need it anymore after the game, I guess, and they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.”

  

I haven’t really had any hardships. Yet. You live in the elements every day. It just becomes natural.  I guess saying good by to new friends along the way is the hardest part, but you usually see them at the next crag.”

He tells me that he loves the freedom this lifestyle provides, and how it’s made him better at all the activities he loves. “As a guide you travel a lot. If you want to be a strong climber, you have to climb. Being mobile I can be at the crag for multiple days.”

His schooly has small mementoes and trinkets strewn throughout, but he singles out two feathers that were given to him.

“The Turkey feather is from my friend who’s mother just passed. The eagle is from Garrett, who mentored my into professional guiding. I couldn’t have done it with out him.”

  

I ask him if there’s anything he misses about the “traditional” lifestyle, he simply replies,

“No not really. I have a way better view now.”

And when asked how long he plans to do this, he simply states,

“I hope as long as possible. I have everything I need.”


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:
 
BIG BEND// WILDFLOWERS + STARS
PHOTO 101 // LEARN TO SHOOT LIKE A PRO // SELECT CITIES // USA
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
 
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
 
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
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019
 
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photography, travel, writing

N O M A D // no 6

I love this life, and although I may not have money every day, I know that everything will work out, and as long as my daughter and I are healthy and happy, that’s all that really matters!”

Shanti Roadrunner (@shanti_theroadrunner) is one of the most unique people I’ve ever met. And as far as this NOMAD project goes, she’s the most authentic and perhaps holds claim to a blood relation to the ancient Romani people (the original gypsies).

I met her in Sedona, and when asked, “Why a nomad,” she responded, “I’ve been a nomad my entire life, with the exception of living in a house for about 5 yrs altogether on and off. I think it’s just in my blood, I can’t help it! My ancestors and relatives are all gypsies, so, it’s kinda just a normal thing for us. Plus, in my opinion, it’s the freest we can be in this society!”

She struck me as a proud, hard working mother, whose main concern is cultivating a lifestyle of freedom and wilderness for herself and her daughter. She and Robyn live in her 1987 Toyota dolphin camper, all in all about 50 square feet. She said this camper was gifted to her somewhat recently. Before that, the pair lived in her van… She’s very glad to now have a stove and shower.

For me personally, this lifestyle allows me to raise my daughter myself, which is the most important thing to me! I don’t want to send her to daycare and work a 9-5 job. This lifestyle doesn’t require rent…or at least not as nearly as insane as house rent! It requires gas and propane, but yeah… A lot more feasible! I get to take her to my job which is everything to me.”

  

When asked what she does for work, she replied, “I do some crafting, I make water bottle holders (crochet) but I also do housekeeping gigs for Airbnb’s.”

I asked her a question that Ellen and I get all the time… do you ever plan to settle down?

“Really, no future plans of settling down! Although I wouldn’t mind getting some land if I ever save up enough money. The hardest thing (about life on the road) is probably the law, always trying to get rid of us! It’s unfair! And frustrating.”

She then told me a story of camping in a well known park in Sedona with her sister a while back. They’d been there for about a week when law enforcement showed up. She apologized and let the officer know that they were not aware that they couldn’t camp there. Regardless, he wrote her a ticket. When she asked if there are any signs that say “no camping”, he said, “yes.” But when she asked if he could show it to them, he said “no.”

I looked all around the park for any signs and saw none.

 

She carries few possessions. But one that caught my eye was a replica of Frodo’s blade, Sting, from Lord of The Rings. I find that every nomad carries at least one thing with them that doesn’t really have any utilitarian value. But it usually carries some emotional significance.

“Ok so Sting… my sister and I were huge, and I mean, huge, Lord of The Ring fans. Those are the only movies we would watch and everything in our life had to somehow relate to LOTR! We had many more swords and memorabilia, but we had to let a lot of it go. I couldn’t bring myself to leave Sting. It was the first sword I owned and I loved it too much to leave behind, plus it’s super cool to have a sword…” Shanti and her sister remain close. Her sister and father both live on the road as well.

Shanti also carries a banjo.

“I had an era of my nomadic life where it was just me and my pack. I was traveling across the country with my boyfriend at the time… he was a folksy bluegrass musician. We went down to New Orleans for a while, and he played on the streets to make money. I didn’t know how to play anything. But as soon as I could I bought my first banjo and it went everywhere with me, even if I don’t know how to play. It’s a comfort knowing it’s there to fiddle around with when I’m feeling inspired, and some day, I would like to play like a pro!”

“Being a nomad isn’t as hard as it seems! And as for myself, I own everything I’ve got in my rig! No debt! Not a lot of money, but i make it day by day. We don’t need a house, an endless hot shower or 3 crazy huge meals a day to be happy or comfortable,” she mused.

Living this lifestyle also puts a whole new perspective on how dependent we are on so many things, and really, how lazy humanity has become. It’s good to get out and connect to the wilderness, and really, our true and original state! Humans are tribal… we need community, we need to connect! We aren’t meant to be set in front of a tv in our lazy John, sending our kids to strangers so we can go to work to make money and never see them, all in order to feel secure.”


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:

 
BIG BEND// WILDFLOWERS + STARS
PHOTO 101 // LEARN TO SHOOT LIKE A PRO // SELECT CITIES // USA
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
 
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

 
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
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2019

 

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