photography, random thought, travel


These days, most of us dig our heels in on the hottest issues. We rarely listen to the other side. We wait and formulate our counter argument, while we pretend to listen to the opposing view.

I assure you that I am no better. Nine times out of ten.

Let me briefly talk, though, about that one of ten moment. Well, I should say more accurately that I had a slow u turn.

Years ago, I wrote an article titled, To Share or Not To Share. I still hold to the majority of the stances and claims in that post. However, I have made a complete about face on the sharing issue. As many of you know, I am pretty libertarian. And sharing is a matter of choice, so I remain libertarian. But I do not think that sharing locations is a net positive any more, so I will no longer share locations publicly.

What I have witnessed on the road the last four years is degradation and disrespect for many of our special places. Places that deserve respect. Places that to us, and many before us, have been and are sacred. Do I have such a following so as to think that I am to blame for this? Of course not. But our over-sharing culture (of which I have been a direct participant) is. It saddens me that we, at this point in time, lack personal responsibility, but I unfortunately have to come to terms with this.

Many have argued this point for years, and I hoped they were wrong, but I now realize they were right all along, and I was naive and wrong.

I hope all of you will understand that if I do not personally know you, I will not under any circumstances share locations with you, and I suggest you do the same. I am even incorporating NDAs (non-disclosure agreements) into my workshops to ensure the safety and protection of these areas. I believe in being personally responsible on my part, so I don’t have to rely on laws and stricter regulations. I would prefer it this way.

Now, with all of this said, there is some positive to come out of this. And it is that we can now return to the good old days of finding places by studying maps, striking up conversations with locals, hours of in person scouting, and stumbling upon hidden gems. It really is a better way to explore anyway. There is nothing wrong with working a bit harder for the shot!

Please do let me know your thoughts in the comments below…

— Andrew

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photography, random thought, travel

#FindYourPark | BIG BEND

Now we’re talking! Big Bend is my home park… So I’ve got lots of good insight for you here.

I’ve been making the 9 hour drive to this remote National Park for the last 15 years (over 20 times!), and I can’t think of a better place to go. What is it that keeps me going back?? Well, if you like to explore, find solitude, star gaze, hike… you’re in luck. And if you like 4×4 roads, there are over 150 miles of dirt roads (more than any other park in the continental U.S.!) for you to drive and explore.

driving the chisos basin road in big bend national park, texas



During a few weeks in March/ April every year, the desert comes alive with color. Texas wildflowers dot the vast, wide open spaces of Big Bend, and the otherwise drably colored desert flora become neon green with life.




agave americana (century plant) in bloom in juniper canyon, big bend national park, texas


But it’s not only Spring that is magnificent in Big Bend… Winter is actually one of the favorite times of year for seasoned BBNP adventurers. And it’s really simple… the Chihuahuan desert stays quite mild in temp throughout the whole season. A great place for snow birds to escape the cold get a little r+r.

sunset over the chihuahuan desert, big bend national park, texas


You know, come to think of it, I’ve been in every season… and they each have their benefits. Fall is nice and mild. Summer’s pretty hot, but you get to see some of the most spectacular lighting storms you’ve ver witnessed.

Let’s just get something out of the way here early… Yes, there are snakes. Well, and lots of other creepy crawlies. It’s a desert, so you can expect many of your phobias to run wild… unless you’re like me and you love these fascinating creatures. But let me calm your fears… Though they are there, it is pretty rare that you come across any snakes, tarantulas, locusts, centipedes, etc., unless of course, you’re looking for them. :)



But you might not be expecting some of the other amazing fauna of Big Bend. There are javalina, jackrabbits, black bear, bobcat, mountain lion, deer, and so much more.

black-tailed jackrabbit in big bend national park, texas

giant millipede, big bend national park, texas

Getting There

So why is Big Bend the Nation’s least visited National Park?? Well, one of it’s greatest strengths is also a weakness in some folks’ eyes. It is REMOTE. The closest airport is in Midland, Texas (MAF), which is about 4 hour drive. You can also fly into El Paso (ELP), but you’re looking at closer to a 5 hour drive. From Dallas, it’s a 9 hour drive and from Austin, it’s 7.

But it’s exactly this very remote aspect that makes it so special in many ways. Ever visited Yosemite or Yellowstone in the summer? Then you’ll know how difficult it can be to hear yourself think! Even in the backcountry, it is common to pass dozens of hikers and backpackers in some of the more popular parks. I know, I know… it doesn’t keep me from going either. But the benefit of Big Bend is that you can have a once in a lifetime personal experience with nature in one of our Nation’s (and the world’s, for that matter) most spectacular natural treasures. If you’ve ever been, you know what I mean… don’t fool yourself by leaving this park off your bucket list because it’s a pain to get to.

Trust me on this.

Where to Stay

National Park tip #2: If you recall my NP tip #1 from Mount Rainier, you’ll be thrown a bit for a loop at BBNP. Big Bend is in Texas, which has very little public land left, so the park is surrounded mostly by private ranches. And it is such a huge piece of land (over 800,000 acres!), that you really do want to stay in the park, to get the most out of your time.

So where to stay??

Well, you may be drawn to the designated campsites, like Rio Grande Village, Cottonwood, or Chisos Basin, but in my opinion, the “backcountry” drive up sites are the best. You’ll pay around $14 per night for the maintained campgrounds and likely have loud neighbors. If you instead go to the office at Panther Junction and ask for a backcountry drive up site, you’ll pay $12 for a full week! No facilities, but plenty of nature and solitude… now that’s my kind of experience.


If you need the amenities of home, well you too are in luck! The Chisos Mountain Lodge offers several rooms and private cabins, nestled in the beautiful Chisos Basin, at reasonable nightly rates. And with a restaurant just a short walk away, it’s quite a comfortable stay. We prefer to get away and rough it, but to each their own…

camping in the desert on the dodson trail, big bend national park, texas

What To Do

Hiking is one of the most common and popular activities at Big Bend. There are hundreds of miles of trails that span every ecosystem of the area including the surprisingly robust Chihuahuan Desert, the high mountain desert plateau of the Chisos Mountains, and the flood plains of the mighty Rio Grande river. Be advised though, depending upon what time of year you visit, it is recommended that you bring 1 gallon of water per person per day you will be out.




Bird Watching is another popular activity in and around the park. Big Bend’s location, near the 100th meridian in the middle of the continent and along a migration route, is ideal for bird diversity throughout the year. It is also the year round home to some fascinating species, like the Peregrine Falcon, Mexican Jay, Colima Warbler, and Roadrunner.



With 42 backcountry campsites in the Chisos mountains accessible only by foot, Big Bend boasts some pretty epic backpacking. However, due to rocky conditions, high temps, very dry air, and the extreme remoteness of the backcountry, novice backpackers are discouraged from testing their limits here. Each year, park rangers respond to emergencies when hikers are not prepared for the heat and extreme conditions of the desert. Please be sure to check in with the backcountry permit office before embarking on your journey… permits are required and will give you a heads up on any dangers you might encounter.




Big Bend is known as one of the most outstanding places in North America for star gazing.  In fact, it has the least light pollution of any other National Park unit in the lower 48 (according to NPS). This is the best of surprises to visitors when they see the Milky Way in its full glory for perhaps the first time in their life. Realistically one can see approximately 2000 stars on a clear night here compared to perhaps a few hundred in a medium sized city.

So if you’re in to astrophotography like me, this is the place for you! You might even want to consider joining me for my annual Big Bend night and landscape workshop.

Starrs over the Chisos




There really is nothing like Big Bend. You have to see and experience it to understand. And as you’ll surely come across, those who have been, never stop making their pilgrimages back to that magical swath of desert. Some more frequently than others, but it is said that “you never go to Big Bend just once in your lifetime.”

What to See

I’m guessing if you’ve read this far, you’re in. “So,” you might be asking, “what are the main sights to see?” Well, there are several very famous spots, but just know that there are also many hidden gems in Big Bend that may not be on any of your maps or guidebooks. That’s okay, you can definitely find some them… you just have to be a little resourceful and very respectful of these precious few secret places. People are usually happy to share their favorite off-map trails.

Since this is simply an introduction, and by no means a comprehensive guide, I will only mention a few of my favorite spots. I’ll leave the rest up to you… And if you’re really interested in a guided experience, and you’d like to see all of my favorite secret spots, come with me in March!

The Dodson Trail gives you unparalleled views of the Chihuahuan Desert and Mexico to the South.

panoramic view of the chihuahuan desert from the dodson trail, big bend national park, texas

The River Road is a most exciting (but very dangerous) 4×4 road that gives you access to the most remote campsites in the park, but also some of my favorite views. Be warned that this is an incredibly remote, oft void of any human activity for days, 4 wheel drive high clearance vehicle road. Many people have gotten themselves stuck out here and had to hike for days to get out without ever seeing another soul… Not naming any names here…

tent camping at dusk on the rio grande and the chisos mountains in big bend national park, texas

rio grande and the chisos mountains in big bend national park, texas

The view from Emory Peak is quite spectacular. It’s the tallest point in the park at just over 7,800 feet.


The area around Panther Junction provides amazing views for sunset and sunrise. You can look back into the desert to the North or watch the light dance on the Chisos to the South. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. Dusk and dawn out here is well worth losing sleep, I promise.

colorful dawn over the chihuahuan desert in big bend national park, texas

Santa Elena Canyon is one of the most famous sights in the park. Ansel Adams even photographed this… it is a must see.

sunrise on santa elena canyon and rio grande in big bend national park, texas


There is so much information on this lesser-known park, I could seriously spend months writing about this special place, revealing so many of its secrets. But here’s where I leave you… with a simple call to action. Go. See. Explore for yourself, and experience why this is one of America’s greatest treasures!

— andrew

P.S. with all of these #findyourpark posts of late (and many more upcoming), I wanted to let you know about a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation. 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 the 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
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
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:
Thanks for visiting!
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
photography, random thought, travel

Winter in Big Bend

We just returned from our annual birthday trip for Ellen to Big Bend. And this one was extra special.

It’s always a special experience to spend time in nature at one of our national treasures. But Ellen and I are making some big changes in our businesses and life together, and we needed time to “recharge our batteries.”

See, we get our energy from alone time. I guess that’s the classic definition of introverts. But we’re not exactly classic introverts. We love people and social situations… we just don’t exactly get our energy from others.

The last few months have been busy with preparing to go on the road full time… getting rid of a lot of “stuff”, cold calling potential brand sponsors and partners, working overtime to increase our social presence, etc. It’s been so fun, but also utterly exhausting. It’s been work, I guess you could say. :)

So we headed out to the desert for 10 days or so. To of course get a little work done, but mostly to relax and recharge.














And as a bonus, a few great friends showed up to spend a little QT with us…








I finally started a series I’ve been wanting to do for a while now. Dave is the first installation of a portrait series I’m doing of National Park volunteers. Now, whenever we visit a park, I aim to meet and photograph one of our many wonderful volunteers. They give their time to help provide information to visitors and to keep the parks clean. Thanks Dave for your service, and for being my first!

ARS_BBNP_20151116_1914   ARS_BBNP_20151116_1920   ARS_BBNP_20151116_1930





















It feels like we never have enough time in Big Bend. But it is our “home” park, so when we hit the road full time, I know we will make it a base of sorts. Big Bend is a really special place. If you’ve never been, you need to add it to your park bucket list. Better yet, come with us in March and expand your photographic skills.

Hope to see you all out in the desert soon!

— andrew

Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
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:
Thanks for visiting!
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
music, photography, random thought, travel

And A Very Merry {Odd} Christmas To You

I’ve never much liked traditional Christmas cards… nothing against shiny happy families, just not for me.

So I had an idea while listening to Sufjan’s Xmas-Spirit Catcher waaaaayyy too early in the season. Like around Halloween…

It was a strange idea, I admit.

But if you really think about it, stop-motion desert dance parties always bring in the spirit of the Holiday season, right??

Well, we hope you all enjoy… and have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU, FROM US!!!


— andrew

music by the great Sufjan Stevens (buy {literally} ALL of his music now, or you will miss out on life itself)

Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
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:
Thanks for visiting!
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
photography, random thought, travel

To Share or Not To Share

The debate rages on.

You might ask, “exactly which debate?”

The subject of sharing is quite broad.

Well, let me explain…

And don’t be surprised if it opens some related subjects on which I too have opinions, and will probably write about later.

A few months ago I was scouting a location to which I was about to travel, like I always do. As a photographer, I spend many hours researching locations before I go, trying to find the best, most beautiful and pristine spots to capture.

So I came across a blog post that mentioned a beautiful waterfall.  And it recognized the fact that it is a little tough to get to and not very well known.  This is the holy grail for photographers. We are constantly searching for the “gardens of eden” that exist out there. Rarely seen. Even more rarely photographed, or at least photographed well. We want to have images and experiences that few others have.

First, let me put something out there.  And I think this provides a lot of confusion for some people. I am a conservationist, not an environmentalist. I line up more closely with Gifford Pinchot than John Muir, though I respect and admire Muir to the hilt. Muir is the heart, and Pinchot is the head.

And I believe wholeheartedly that the responsible use and enjoyment of our natural resources is necessary for nature’s healthy balance and an inherent right of humanity. The environmental movement has grown more radical (as movements led by pure emotion will) over the years, to include such theories as “the only way to preserve nature is to close it off to humans” and “natural resources are too fragile for mass human consumption” and “human beings are no more important than any plant or animal.” Somehow forgetting that human beings too are a part of nature, and in fact, the pinnacle of nature (as we know it), and therefore tasked with stewardship of the rest of the known, natural world. These facts are not inherently good or bad, just facts. It is what we chose to do with such knowledge that is so important.

The earth and its resources belong of right to its people.

Gifford Pinchot

So I believe we, as human beings (the only creatures that we know of with the capabilities of whole earth stewardship) are tasked with conserving the resources and beauty of the natural world for the sake of ourselves and generations to come. It’s pretty simple. And yes, I pump gasoline, use paper products, and eat meat. And no, I do not feel guilty for any of that. Though I do see the need to innovate in these areas and find more long-term sustainable alternatives.

Conservation means the wise use of the earth and its resources for the lasting good of men.

Gifford Pinchot


So back to the sharing. I decided to go explore this waterfall with the excitement and wonder I feel anytime I get to see a beautiful location.

It was truly awesome.

It made me feel small and thankful all at the same time. I was enriched for having seen and experienced this place.


And I wanted to share that with everyone.

Enter the debate.

Many of my kind (photographers, adventurers, explorers) are split on whether it is a good idea to share these lesser known, special places with the rest of the world, except by word of mouth.  And I get it.  I really do. I’m conflicted a bit by it in my heart.

But I want to examine the motivations first behind “to share or not to share” before I make my final decision on what’s right.

Why would I want to share:

+ The good: A genuine desire for others to enjoy the experience.

+ The bad, and the ugly: Selfish ambition and the desire to appear cool, or to be the “first” at something.

Why would I not want to share:

+ The good: A genuine desire to preserve the place.

+ The bad, and the ugly: Selfish ambition to keep it to myself, and to be “in the know” about something very few others have seen.

So both could very easily involve genuine, good desires, and also very selfish, ugly ambitions. Interesting. Well, since I can only know my own intentions, and it is futile to judge the heart and thoughts of another, I think it’s best to examine the eventual outcome of both scenarios.

What happens if I (we) chose not to share? Well, regardless of if I tell you (or anyone else) that I have a unicorn living in my backyard, eventually, people will find out. Whether the yard guy stumbles upon it, or the electricity meter reader, or my neighbor sees it, or a helicopter overhead catches the glint and shine from it’s iridescent rainbow horn, it will eventually become known to others. That is just a fact. Now, it may remain only known to a few for a longer while (if no one else shares), thereby preserving it perhaps a little longer. But the fact remains that eventually, it will become known to a wide enough audience that it may be in danger. So for that time of preservation, only a select few would be able to study it, enjoy it’s beauty, and even have the opportunity to learn something from the unicorn.

Okay, then what happens if I (we) chose to share? Can you imagine?? Immediately, upon finding a unicorn in my backyard, I share on Facebook and Twitter, and even a photo of it on Instagram that I found the earth’s only unicorn!! The world is in a frenzy for a week… news copters flying over my backyard, masses of people on foot peering over my fence, my street completely shut down with hoards of cars, anti-unicorn hate groups gain momentum online and plan attacks on my yard, etc. All of this lasts for a few days.  I have to keep a close eye on my backyard and prized unicorn to ensure that no one try’s to deface it, steal it, or worse, kill it. But before the frenzy even dies down, others start to come out and reveal that they too have unicorns living in their backyard, and it’s not really such a frenzy any more. In fact, a majority of people (except of course for the crazy anti-unicorners) would grow to revere, respect, and possibly even cherish the unicorns we have.  Maybe learn something from them, enjoy their beauty, and even teach their children about them.


God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fools.
John Muir

To me, it makes more since to share… to educate and inspire others with the beautiful places we have on this amazing earth. The fact is, these places are not unicorns. And a lot of people aren’t even interested to put their screens down long enough to go hike a few miles to see a waterfall. If I have the opportunity to inspire someone with a photograph to become one of us, those that revel in nature’s beauty and wonder and seek to responsibly enjoy and preserve it, then I think that is a wonderful privilege. Even a responsibility.

I cannot control the anti-unicorners out there. Neither can you. Neither can the government. There will always be those out there that have respect for nothing. That will seek to destroy the beauty. But we cannot try to hide all of the beauty and wonder of our world because of these few fools. If we do, more people become uneducated fools, and run the risk of hating the world’s precious “unicorns”. Even John Muir knew this…

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

John Muir


— andrew

Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
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:
Thanks for visiting!
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015