photography, travel

On The Road… Year 2

Before the year end, I always like to make a “highlight reel” of the year.

It is by no means comprehensive, but it gives the viewer a small peek into our world.

So here are a few of the highlights from our second year on the road… I hope you all enjoy!

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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 // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017-18 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2018 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE
SEE THE REST OF MY EXCITING DESTINATION WORKSHOPS
 
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 R. 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 2017
Standard
photography, travel

The Next 20K Miles // Reflections From a Year on The Road (Part 1)

Most everything means nothing, except some things that mean everything.” ~ Patty Griffin

Our journey from June ’16 to June ’17, took us over 30,000 miles of zig zagging our way across the beautiful USA and Scotland. Go ahead, check out the interactive map below to see our route(s).

Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho. 12 states down, 38 to go. Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde, Canyonlands, Arches, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Black Canyon of The Gunnison, Carlsbad Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains, Everglades, Biscayne, Big Bend, Saguaro, Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Rocky Mountain. 19 National Parks explored (plus a few in Scotland… Cairngorms, Loch Lomond and the Trosachs), 40 to go.

The first year is over… but we have so much more we want to do.

I find myself continually evaluating; why are we doing this? I’m not sure the answers are as simple as I once thought they were.

Originally, when we set out, the answer to the existential question “why” was because we wanted to see everything our beautiful home country has to offer. Simple as that.

But as we’ve been on the road, answers to big questions sometimes get lost in the mud. Our character and resolve have been tested. Our dreams have also been put to the test. Our feet to the fire.

Much of the first year was a bit idyllic. Yes, there were problems. Some, really gross problems (see The First 10K Miles {Part 1}). But overall, we were shown vast amounts of grace and mercy, which effectively helped get our “road legs” under us.

The First 10,000 Miles was full of wonder and growth.

The next 20k+ miles, was filled with intense struggle.

We returned home for the holidays on fumes. Financially and emotionally. You see, when you give up 60% of your business by hitting the road, it takes a bit of time to build back the clientele and income you need to make it all work. And when we got back, we took Islay in to our vet for a persistent limp. The vet found what she believed to be either bone cancer or a fungal infection in the pelvis. It was in such a place that they couldn’t amputate. After taking her over to the specialist, Islay was given two months to live. She wouldn’t even make it to her first birthday.

Islay was our mascot, our cheerleader, our friend. She made the first leg of the journey so special and at times she was one of the only things that brought us temporal happiness. We were devastated.

Back in Dallas though, the work came pouring in. I’m so thankful for all of my old clients. They were all glad to have us back, and I was so glad to have some work.

Our 2 month stint back home set us up financially for the next few months…. we were going to Florida for the winter!

I’ve mentioned it before… Ellen is a beach girl. So, since she gives me all summer and fall to enjoy the mountains, the least I could do is try to give her a season at the ocean.

But first, we made the difficult decision to go get another “mascot” for the next leg of the journey. We also laid up a “hail Mary” with an anti-fungal medication for Islay… and we knew it would be a long road before we even saw any results. She was lethargic and limping. Not her usual self at all.

Enter Skye Blue. She is Islay’s sister from a different litter. So now let’s do the math… that’s two humans, two dogs, and a cat living in a 175 square foot travel trailer.

It took a bit of adjustment to have another high energy dog, but thankfully, from day one, Islay and Skye were best friends. So in many ways, they now occupy each other’s attention and play like crazy together.

We worked our way across the Gulf Coast, visiting friends in New Orleans, exploring Mississippi and Alabama beaches, eventually landing in the panhandle of Florida.

We learned pretty quickly why everyone wants to be in Florida for the winter. And also what we should’ve already known; it is crazy expensive.

Typically, when we stay at an RV park, we spend between $10-40 a night. In Florida, the rates were $50-120 per night! Something had to give. We did well back in Dallas over the holidays, but not that well. Also, out west, there are millions of acres of public land. And public land equals free to low cost camping. In the east, public land is not so readily available.

The first important thing we learned was to lean heavily on the Florida State Parks system. We love our state parks back home in Texas, but I’ve got to say that Florida’s parks could rival any of our favorites back home. Average per night at the state parks was only $30, and they are beautiful and very well maintained.

The biggest problem was availability.

Chatting with a neighbor one day, I learned the most valuable piece of information I probably learned on our whole time in Florida. A little website called Wandering Labs. So, wanderinglabs.com uses an algorithm to constantly search for availability at the parks of your choice on the dates of your choice, and then it sends you an email when it gets a match, so you can immediately book it.

It saved our butts at least a dozen times. And it allowed us to stay at some of the most coveted parks in Florida…

We got some good camping and beach time in, before moving down the Gulf and across Alligator Alley to the Everglades.

Ellen had never been, and it’s one of my favorite parks, so we spent a good bit of time exploring and re-exploring this unique ecosystem.

As a bonus, Biscayne National Park is really close, so we got to check out another park while in the area.

It was time to explore the Keys. Again, Wandering Labs was crucial to us getting reservations all throughout the keys.

We stayed at John Pennekamp Coral Reef, Curry Hammock, Long Key, and Bahia Honda State Parks. It was absolutely idyllic.

Even Skye quickly learned the beach bum lifestyle.

Our time in Florida really felt too short. I had a workshop in Big Bend later in March, so we had to start the long journey back to Texas and all the way across the Lone Star State.

It’s hard to believe, but this was our first time with Gertie (our trailer) in Big Bend. We’ve been tent camping in the park for 15 years or so. As much as I love primitive camping, I’ll admit that it’s really nice to have a kitchen, bathroom, and bed everywhere you go…

The workshop, Big Bend // Wildflowers + Stars, went really well, and remains my signature workshop. Despite working when there, our time in Big Bend is always rejuvenating and restorative. And Islay was doing better. Her limp had gone away, and was back to her usual…. mmm let’s just say energetic, self. But the anifungals she was on can destroy the liver and kidneys, so we knew we couldn’t keep her on it forever. We were just praying that we could get her back up to Wyoming in June before things got worse.

Islay was excited to be back at her first National Park. If you recall, we picked Islay up from the breeders at 6 weeks old and immediately took her on a  month long camping road trip to Big Bend. This was just a few months before we would get Gertie and hit the road for good.

She spent her most formative weeks smelling creosote and getting pricked by all the cacti and spiny desert plants. But Skye was with us this time, and she took to it just as Islay had exactly a year prior.

We were a bit unsure about the next leg of the journey. I had an ambitious plan, as I always do, but money was becoming tight yet again. We had no idea if we could afford to go the route we wanted. Our plan B would be just to go back to Dallas, and I assure you, we did not want to do that.

We prayed and decided to simply move forward. It’s so simple, yet feels so reckless.

But isn’t that what faith is?

That’s another big takeaway from our first year on the road. Intellectually, I know that I’m in control of very little in this life. But on a practical level, it doesn’t always sink in the way I know it should all the time.

A few years ago when living in Dallas, on one of our monthly visits with Ellen’s grandparents, her Grandy told us how she and Papa will make their plans. They discuss and dream big, then they pray that the Lord bless the plans, and if it’s not His will, that He would stop them from going astray. Then they simply move forward. She said, “sometimes He will close the doors, and then we know to change direction… other times, He provides everything you need. But either way, pray that His will be done.”

So we’ve started doing that. He has never failed us. And we did this very thing for our great southwest trip that we were thinking about embarking upon. We decided to move forward. And He provided.

Seemingly against all odds.

— Andrew

NEXT: How we toured the southwest for six weeks and ended up in Scotland…. stay tuned!


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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 // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017-18 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2018 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE!
SEE THE REST OF MY EXCITING DESTINATION WORKSHOPS
 
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 R. 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 2017
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education, nature, travel

Scotland: Revisited

Many years ago, when I was still single… I decided to take a very unconventional trip. I knew the time was right to visit my family’s country of origin… Lebanon. I was half-Lebanese, young, and single, and I had a shoot in Spain, so I would already be more than half way there. This was my first big international trip, and of course, it triggered what would become a lifelong passion for travel and experiencing different cultures.

Fast-forward nearly a decade. Ellen and I were doing quite well and we wanted to do an international trip together. Her heritage is largely Scottish (I have a little bit in me too), and I happened to be obsessed with Braveheart growing up… not to mention we both love fine Scotch whisky and dramatic scenery… so it was really a no brainer. Scotland was in our crosshairs!!

Ellen and I fell in love with Scotland immediately. It’s green hills, craggy mountains, moody weather, crashing seas, remote islands, hearty and happy people.

The landscapes completely captivated us.

It was vacation, but it also turned into a 3 week scouting road trip. I knew that I eventually wanted to teach workshops in this dynamic and friendly country. We knew we wanted to make this an annual trip.

So, fast forward again to this year. I had a few folks interested in taking my workshop in Scotland, but they ended up falling through last minute. We were pretty sure Scotland wouldn’t happen for 2017.

Then, seemingly out of nowhere, we had a client who was all in! He wanted a private workshop, so I began tailoring an incredible trip to his likes and aptitudes.

We set out a week before his arrival to scout and re-scout, making sure our locations were singing… oh… and they were!

All in all, we had an incredible 3 week road trip through the Highlands, Isle of Skye, and Islay. It was magical, as always.

We even discussed moving to the UK after our 3-5 years on the road in the US, making Scotland our “home base” from which to explore Europe, and the rest of the world…

\

If you have any interest, consider joining us in May of 2018 for a magical photo workshop, touring the best of the Highlands, Skye, and a few of your favorite whisky distilleries.

I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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 // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2017 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE!
SCOTLAND // LANDSCAPE // SKYE + HIGHLANDS // 2018 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE!
 
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 R. 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 2017
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travel, wildlife, workshop

Totality // 5 Things I Learned Photographing An Eclipse

There was quite a bit of fervor leading up to the “Great American Eclipse” a few weeks ago, to say the least. The little town of 2,000 we call home in the summer and fall, Pinedale, Wyoming, was expecting to swell to nearly 10x its normal size.

And Jackson, WY, just at the center line of totality and home to Grand Teton National Park, expected nearly half a million people to flood in to the town of around 20,000! Knowing what the area was expecting, the hype seemed a bit overblown to me.

I was wrong.

I’ve never experienced, much less photographed, a full solar eclipse. I’ve seen and shot several full lunar eclipses, and I was comparing my expectations for this to those… WAY different. WAY cooler.

So, what did I learn as a photographer, shooting my first, full solar eclipse?

1. If you plan to shoot any portion of the eclipse other than totality, you really do need a solar filter. I initially thought this was nonsense… just another way to try to sell me something. I was wrong. Thankfully, I had a few good friends that joined us for the festivities of the day, and they were prepared enough to have extra filters. The reason you need them is pretty simple…. your lens acts like a magnifying glass and channels the sun’s light and heat straight into your sensor, potentially frying the cells. Just like when you were a kid and you used a magnifying glass to fry ants.

2. You’d better be quick on your feet if you want to get great shots. You really need to be super comfortable shooting in full manual. If you’re not, you will be thinking way too much and might miss the shots you want. Everything happens quite fast, and if you are frenzied or flustered, chances are, the moment will pass you by AND you won’t get any good shots!

3.  Shade your eyes every time you look in to your viewfinder. This was something that I would’ve never thought of. Your eclipse glasses will allow you to see nothing but the sun, so as a consequence, you will likely not wear them much as you are shooting. So that means you are very vulnerable to accidentally damaging your eyes. Every time you look through your viewfinder to reframe your shot, you are protected because of your solar filter, but it’s in the moments just before and after your eye contacts the eyecup on the back of your camera that you need to be careful. It sounds like overkill, but I promise it’s not. Just use your hand or a hat to shade the sun. Simple as that, but oh so important.

4. Have a second camera body and look around you just before, during, and after totality. Two bodies is not within reach for everyone, but for the professional, it is an absolute must. So, if there’s any way you can get your hands on two, it will be of supreme value. One camera can be set up on the tripod with a long lens… ready for the traditional, up close shots (this one will definitely need a solar filter!). But the second can be wrapped around your neck, with a wide angle lens, ready to capture the overall scene. Perhaps a unique landscape during totality, or even the onlookers reveling at the sight of it all. Which brings me to point 5…

5. Don’t forget to enjoy the experience! There really is nothing like this experience on earth. So be present, and enjoy the moment! It is possible to step out from behind the camera and take it all in…

The next full solar eclipse will be passing through my home state of Texas on April, 8, 2024. You can bet that we will be there, ready to take it all in. I hope you will too. Check out this great, interactive map to see where you can experience totality.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! Help us on our mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside by checking out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 2-4 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 // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017-18 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2018 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE!
SEE THE REST OF MY EXCITING DESTINATION WORKSHOPS
 
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 R. 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 2017
 
Standard
random thought, travel

Our National Parks Odyssey

Originally appeared on April 10, 2017 on the Red River Paper Blog

Steam from the early morning chill rises off the Green River in the Wind River Range of Wyoming.  Squaretop, an aptly named handsome granite mountain in the distance catches the first rays of the sun, rising somewhere I cannot yet see.

I sip my scalding, black coffee in our trailer and wait. This is what I do. I get paid to just sit out in some of the wildest places of the world until that unreal moment of light, weather, and circumstance all line up to paint a breathtaking canvas before my eyes. All I have to do is record it on a digital sensor. Well, okay, there is a bit more that goes into it.

Andrew, Ellen and their two dogs. The cat declined to pose. © Andrew Slaton

People have asked a lot lately how my wife and I ended up with almost no possessions, living on the road out of a travel trailer, with two Aussie pups and a cat. You can almost see their thoughts reeling: “What is it with these Millennials? Do they have a trust fund? Are they constantly fighting in those tight living quarters?” The truth is we knew there was a simpler life out there– and we craved to know it.

My wife Ellen and I, both in our 30s, are at the very front end of a… well, let’s just say interesting generation. We were brought up by boomers in suburban Dallas, Texas. I grew up a nature nerd, spending hours watching National Geographic documentaries and dreaming of far off places while Ellen was climbing trees and playing in the creeks surrounding her neighborhood. Early on, we both developed a strong appreciation for the outdoors.

© Andrew Slaton

I went on to get a degree in photojournalism from the University of Texas at Austin, and started a decade-plus career as a commercial photographer. Ellen got her degree in Art History, became a certified yoga teacher and worked as a creative consultant to non-profit organizations. Neither of us came from money so we both learned to be scrappy and work really hard.

Living in Dallas was going fine; just the usual ups and downs of the freelance life. We had settled into a little duplex near the lake and were traveling about half the month for location shoots when we began to realize that after being back for only a few days, we were ready to head out again for the next adventure. The noise and pace of the city was beginning to wear us down.

© Andrew Slaton

So one night Ellen had the idea to sell all our stuff, buy a travel trailer, and hit the road full time. Almost none of my work required us to live in Dallas, or any one place for that matter. It would be a total dream come true for us both. We decided to just do it with the objective of spending about five years visiting and photographing in all 59 national parks– a pretty ambitious undertaking. Time, we had, but money was another matter.

© Andrew Slaton

Life as a roving freelancer is completely feast or famine. That’s why, as a landscape and active lifestyle photographer, I’ve learned to have a multi-pillared approach to my business. There’s my commercial work, editorial work, teaching at workshops, shooting stock and to round it all out marketing fine art prints. The theory is that if any one (or even two) of these revenue streams slows down or dries up, the other two or three can continue to prop us up.

Once we finally became full-timers, we felt completely at home. On our inaugural morning in the trailer, I remember waking up, stumbling the four feet over to the dinette for coffee, looking out the window and seeing a bison grazing ten feet away from me. It was glorious. So here we are: almost a year down the road and neither of us have any regrets. Well, I take that back; we only wish we would’ve done this sooner.

Space is tight but very workable. © Andrew Slaton

Our travel quest spawned a fine art print concept that has helped keep us on the road so far. I’ve always loved creating prints. Especially in the darkroom days. For me, it’s a very tangible way of presenting my work to folks who appreciate photography. And it refines my work. Presenting an image on Instagram is one thing but printing it out large is another. For readers who have printed their own photographs, you know what I mean.

I typically sell limited edition 12 x18-inch or smaller prints through my web site, output on my faithful Epson 2200. I print on Red River Polar Matte Magna (see Resources) because it is a smooth matte with the heaviest weight on the market. Prints have depth and contrast and they also have a substantial feel to them. They remind me of the old fibre papers of the analog days. I also like Arctic Polar Luster (see Resources) for its heavy weight and incredible color and contrast.

© Andrew Slaton

I’ve sold more than 250 prints so far, shipping them weekly from wherever we are at the time. Printing on the road gives me another great way to promote and disseminate my work and to generate some extra income. Keeping connected, though, can sometimes be challenging.

Often, when on the grid at campgrounds, RV parks or cafes we have Wi-Fi, albeit very slow. When we are off the grid, I will create a hotspot from my phone that is often faster than the Wi-Fi we get from campgrounds. And then there are the times that we are so far off the grid, there is no internet or cell service. At times like these we simply enjoy the silence and rest.

It’s not all work– there’s time for relaxing, too. © Andrew Slaton

Before we hit the road, our lives were a bit more, well, all over the place. Ellen was running around the affluent Dallas neighborhoods conducting private yoga sessions for stay-at-home moms and retirees. I was working on corporate and commercial shoots, doing post-production, involved in website upkeep duties and more. Half the month was spent in my dark office staring at a computer, mostly, and staying up late watching television. During the other half, we were traveling, living outdoors, sleeping in a tent, cooking over an open fire, waking up with the sunrise and going to bed when it went down.

Now I awake nearly every morning an hour or so before the dawn and let my two girls, Islay and Skye outside to play together. My coffee bubbles on a little three-burner gas stove while Colonel Bubba, our cat, and I sit and enjoy the silence of the pre-dawn. I have previously scouted a location for the morning’s shoot so once I pour the rich, dark elixir into my large travel mug, I kiss Ellen and the girls goodbye, hop into the truck and head out with two Canon 5D Mark III bodies and an arsenal of lenses.

© Andrew Slaton

Dawn shoots are typically too early for anyone to want to get up for so that means I have the natural beauty of a new day all to myself. I rarely spend this time on my lifestyle, commercial or editorial clients. Morning is “me time.” The rest of the day consists of long hikes, social media computer time, truck and trailer maintenance duties, and afternoon/evening outdoor lifestyle shoots.

There’s a lot to learn being full time RVers. And the only way to learn it is as you go. I had a workshop to lead in Yellowstone last summer, so Ellen and I decided to find a nice, secluded spot in the National Forest near West Yellowstone to park our trailer. We set out down a dirt road with our 4×4 truck and 29-foot Forest River travel trailer.

We learned an important lesson only a quarter mile down that road: our trailer is not made to do rough, dirt roads. As we worked our way slowly down the dusty, two-track trail, we hit a small bump. Small enough that our four-wheel-drive Ford F-150 didn’t even register it. But it was a seismic disaster for our trailer and it took some time to set it right.

© Andrew Slaton

Life on the road has also taught me to be a MacGyver, of sorts. We don’t have the money to just take our truck and/or trailer into the shop every time there’s a problem. YouTube and my meager toolbox have become exponentially more valuable to me than I ever imagined they would. I guess the point is, that we are living the dream, but at a cost. And to us, the cost is so minuscule, we feel as though we’ve rigged the game on this one.

So how do we do it? Well, it’s pretty simple when I get to the heart of it. We changed our priorities. Dramatically. Now, instead of a mortgage for a nice home, we have a gasoline budget. Instead of working toward retirement, we do what we love so we will never want to retire.

My dad never overwhelmed me with a ton of advice. But one thing he told me–and that I have never forgotten–sums up the way I have lived my life: “Do what you love, and the money will come.” Right now all we want out of life is to live simply and be fulfilled. And so far, we feel like the richest people on earth.

About Andrew Slaton

Andrew Slaton is an award-winning photographer who has done assignments for more than 50 clients and specializes in lifestyle and outdoor images. He is a Red River Pro who outputs his National Parks prints in limited editions of ten each, printed on archival Red River papers with  fade-resistant pigment inks.

Resources

Red River Polar Matte Magna Card Stock

Arctic Polar Luster

What’s To Come

Andrew and Ellen will be sharing their adventures with us from time to time. You can help them achieve their goal by adding one or more of his prints to your collection. You can also subscribe to a collector’s edition of prints from each of the 59 National Parks he photographs.

Contact Information

Visit Andrew’s web site and view his work here.

Learn about and sign up for one of his future workshops here.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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:
 
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
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 R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
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
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017

 

 
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education, travel

The Silhouette

Canon EOS 5D MK II, EF500mm f/4L IS II USM, f/6.3 1/2000 ISO 500

Simplicity, Simplicity, Simplicity!” ~ Henry David Thoreau

In communication, simplicity is king. Getting to the point, and leaving no room for misinterpretation is efficient and effective. We, as photographers, are visual communicators. And more specifically, we as nature/landscape photographers are communicating emotion through our images. So how do we keep the clutter down to get our core point across?

Well, one of my favorite techniques is, you guessed it… the silhouette.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/60 ISO 800

The “Why”

Why does this technique work so well? Well, simply put: it strips down our subject into fewer and fewer elements – mostly shape, light, and color. But even the light element is typically ultra simplified… a silhouette is nine times out of ten backlit. As a consequence, it can often more efficiently communicate an idea, emotion, or memory. It is supremely graphic by nature and it brings unparalleled drama to an image.

There are many instances that would lead one to use this technique. One of those would be when you simply want to accentuate color and cloud texture. This is often during sunset or sunrise. But it requires a simple, uncluttered landscape, like the example above. In this particular image, I wanted to set the viewer’s focus on an iconic landmark of Big Bend National Park, Mule Ears. Even if you’ve never seen or heard of Mule Ears, I bet you can pick it out, can’t you? And have an emotional response to the colors. Thus the beauty of a silhouette.

The Technique

Every situation will be a little different, however, one simple rule remains; get your exposure from your background. What do I mean by this? Take a spot meter reading on the brightest part of your image, usually the sky. Now this can get a bit tricky if you are shooting directly into the sun. You may have to play around with it a bit to get just the right exposure. Don’t be afraid to let the sun blow out just a bit. What you really want to watch out for and guard against is for the blacks to get muddy. Determine what will be your deepest, truest black in the image, and pay close attention to how it looks. Does it start to blend with the layer just behind it? If so, you need to open up your exposure a little. Try again.

One of the hardest parts about creating a truly wonderful and compelling silhouette image is the balancing of the highlights and the shadows. But unlike in a conventionally lit exposure, your range will be many fewer “zones”. If you are familiar with Adam’s Zone System, you know that a traditional exposure might have 9 or 10 “zones”, or distinct tones. Nowadays with digital, it is possible to achieve even more. However, with a silhouette, you may have as few as 2. But most often in nature photography, it will be more like 4-5 “zones”.

Composition is Key

Even more important than balancing tones in a silhouette is your composition. The rule of thirds and balance are supremely important to creating an effective silhouette. In the image below, the upper third is dominated by beautiful color and cloud texture, the middle third with warm, pouring light over rocky crags, and the lower third, an imposing, immovable mountain. The upper-middle left third, with it’s eye-catching light rays, is balanced by the lower-middle right third of the black peak.

Simplifying your compositions will make your silhouettes better. Go in tight, and get rid of clutter as much as possible.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/800 ISO 400

When To Use

On my most recent travels through the American South and Southwest I used silhouetting a lot. Like most nature/landscape photographers, I am often shooting at dusk and dawn, when the sky lights up with the day’s most pleasing light and colors. Silhouettes can help to accentuate and enhance the light and color. It also gives the photographer an easy way to shoot directly in to the sun, without the worry of needing a crazy dynamic range.

See the image below from Saguaro National Park. The saguaro cactus is an iconic symbol of the American Southwest. I could’ve chosen to photograph this specimen with front lighting or even side lighting, which would’ve allowed the viewer to see the color and some of the texture of the cactus. But I chose to silhouette it, placing the setting sun almost directly behind the subject to capture the light and color of the dusk, allowing the viewer to connect even more deeply to the well-known shape and spiny texture of the saguaro. To me, it is a more interesting and emotional image.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/16 1/250 ISO 400

Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2.0x, f/5.6 1/5000 ISO 500

I often do this with iconic flora and fauna (like the heron in the image above or the opening elk shot). When I travel to a new place, it is almost an unconscious effort to make sure I capture a very graphic silhouette of recognizable, quintessential actors of the local landscapes.

See below… The giant palms of Florida, the straight, endless, tall pines of the Everglades, the migrating cranes of the American south, etc. They are all quick reads, accentuating the shape, light, and color, rather than the leaf, trunk, feather, etc details.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/4 1/30 ISO 400

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/11 1.125 ISO 100

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/5.6 1/1000 ISO 320

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/500 ISO 250

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/100 ISO 500

As we all know, the sun is not our only source of natural light. The moon can be a wonderful backdrop for a variety of silhouetted subjects. The key to a successful shot like this is a (at least near) full moon, close to the horizon, with a long lens (at least 300mm), and a compressed subject that is far enough in the distance that it will fit nicely within the confines of the moon.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/5.6 1/200 ISO 1000

Sometimes a partial silhouette is your best choice for an image. What I mean by “partial” is that instead of having a pure black subject, you might have several layers of tones. But it still constitutes a silhouette because there is no real detail in the shadows to speak of… they are simply shades of color (or gray in B&W). These work wonderfully well when there are layers of mountains in the distance. I use this technique often to convey distance, grandeur, and intense color. Below is a good example from a recent shoot in the Grand Canyon.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/8 1/80 ISO 640

The Active Landscape

Placing humans in your silhouetted landscape brings a sense of scale and a personal connection to an image that cannot be achieved otherwise. The photographer can now convey multiple messages, like a sense of activity or action, like the surfing couple below.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/125 ISO 320

People can add a new set of emotions to an image that without them is much harder to achieve. The man below, craning to capture the gorgeous sunset on his phone is universally understood and relatable.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/250 ISO 125

The lone man (or couple in love) quietly standing in awe and contemplation of the beautiful sunset before them (see images below).

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF16-35mm f/4L IS USM, f/16 1/40 ISO 250

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/400 ISO 320

Once you start practicing silhouetting your subjects, you will begin to see silhouettes everywhere. They are great to add to your repertoire and portfolio to mix things up, keep you creative, and to be a more effective communicator.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/11 1/1000 ISO 320

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM, f/9 1/25 ISO 640

And you will be ready when the real magic hits like in the image below, when all the elements come together right before you… the early dawn sunlight filters through fog rising to create a moody and dramatic image that cuts to the soul of your viewers.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +2x III, f/11 1/500 ISO 320

Happy shooting!

— Andrew

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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:
 
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
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 R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
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
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017

 

 
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education, travel

The Photographic Guide to Grand Teton National Park

Well, it’s been a little while since I last posted… so much going on here with our new life on the road! I promise I will start posting again soon. But first, I wanted to share some exciting news…

Screen Shot 2017-03-19 at 9.53.17 AM.pngThis is for all you “do-it-yourselfers” out there! The long awaited second installment to my eBook series of interactive photo guides to our National Parks, The Photographic Guide To Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton is my backyard National Park, and because of that, I know it like the back of my hand. If you are planning a trip to this magnificent area, this is the guide for you.

Everything from clickable GPS locations on every photo and how to capture them, to lodging info and where to find wildlife… plus so much more. I have poured a lot of time and love into this eBook and I know it will make your next visit to Grand Teton incredible.

You can purchase and download it directly on my website right now. Put it on your phone, tablet, laptop, whatever. Do your research at home before the trip, and then take it with you in the field! There is no better way to make the most of your next National Park excursion.

Please check it out. I’d love to know what you think. You can also download a free sample HERE to see if you like it first.

Soon to follow, Big Bend and Yellowstone.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! 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 and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild 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:
 
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – 1 SPOT LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
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 R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
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
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017
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