art, photography, travel, writing

wyoming | the bounty of autumn

it’s been said before that fall in the mountains is a magical time.

the leaves are changing, the temperature drops, and the animals are energized with hormones for mating season.

moose populations in wyoming are declining because of the growing wolf numbers, and i’ve been seeing less and less of them every year.  so i was really excited to see a huge bull with two cows at our campground one morning when we woke up.  the state has recently opened a limited hunting season for wolves.  there are at least two lawsuits in the courts currently, brought on by environmentalist groups to challenge the state’s new policy.

because of the close proximity of fires, the sunrises were often very hazy but quite colorful.

i spent many days out on the river road looking for bugling bull elk.  and i found plenty.

the bears were apparently out in full force.  fall is the time when grizzlies and back bear are fattening up for the long winter ahead.

and grizzlies, in particular, are emboldened by the fact that hunters are out in full force and leaving their kills’ guts in the field.  it can be a dangerous time.

but i didn’t even see one bear the entire month i was there… just lots of signs…

mornings on the river road were marked by bugling elk.  they lead their harems up from the snake river to the high plains to strut at the foot of the tetons.

the evenings brought about the reverse.  the bulls, some with new females won from rivals, made their way back to the safety of the tall grass, trees, and water along the snake.

bugling is one of my favorite sounds in the natural world.  and spending the quiet times of my mornings and evenings listening to the haunting tune of elk replenished my soul.

autumn is a time of beginning and end.  the leaves fall from their branches, but not before they take on colors rarely seen so bright in nature.

bitter cold wind blows in from the north.  but not without it’s gifts.  the cold air brings with it the desperately needed moisture to alleviate the wildfires with the first snowfall.

i long for this time of year.  i already miss it.  and i’m already planning for next year…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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art, photography, travel

wyoming | the many faces of the tetons

my working title for this post originally was “l’obsession des tetons”…

you know, referencing western wyoming’s french explorer roots.

then, thanks to google translate, i quickly realized it was essential that i think of new title.

needless to say, i don’t speak french.

so last year, i had a photographic obsession with squaretop in the wind river range. this fall, i can’t believe i’m saying this, but i didn’t even visit green river lakes (where squaretop lives).

yes, it’s sad. but i was just too busy. i had a two hunts to attend, a ranch to shoot, lots of hot wings to eat in jackson, many pints to consume at deadman’s bar in signal mountain lodge, etc. so since most of my (very important) activities were near teton park, I decided to spend some much needed quality time with the beloved teton mountain range.

enter my newest photographic obsession.

it started the day we finished at the goosewing ranch shoot.

we had a burger and beer at deadman’s bar, then sat on the edge of jackson lake to watch a phenomenal sunset over the tetons.

i then ventured out on the river road, looking for elk.  and the interesting photographic opportunities expanded.  in the next blog post, i’ll show more of the elk photographs.

the clouds and smoke provided most of the drama for me.  but it is the landscape itself that always draws me in and keeps me coming back for more.

come on… you knew i had to.

a portrait with my subject….

more bull elk in the shadow of the mountain.

where the antelope roam…

i hiked to emma matilda lake for the first time.

and then, of course, oxbow bend.  there is good reason that this is one of the most photographed places in the world.  especially in the fall.

that night the stars were out in full force.  i could see the milky way stretching high above the tetons.

i’ve been going to this part of wyoming at least annually since 2001, which i know in the bigger scheme of things is not a long time.

but for me, it’s over a third of my lifetime, spending some of my favorite moments up there.

and honestly, i can’t wait to find out what gorgeous mountains will capture my obsession next year.

God bless wyoming.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

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family, music, photography, random thought, travel, writing

like brothers on a hotel bed

wyoming is not a place i share with other people.  i do it alone.  that may sound like a prick thing to say, but it’s true.

i go up there to experience solitude, peace, fear, loneliness.

this trip was a little different though.

i arrived to jackson hole airport late on tuesday afternoon.  i was supposed to be there by 3 that day to pick up my brother.

the inbound flight from austin arrived on time, so he took a taxi into jackson to get a beer.  i told him i’d meet him there as soon as i could.  the traffic coming down through the parks was miserable.  it seems they always scramble to make improvements to the roads just before the ground freezes.  thanks.

i finally made it to snake river brewery, after dark.  but the alone time in wyoming didn’t seem to bother my brother.

after a hug and a few beers, we were off.  it was dark, and i have a spot in teton park that i always go to camp when i arrive late.

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we woke up the next morning to a cool autumn breeze, and my brother’s 34th birthday.

two months ago he called me.  “there’s a fare sale to jackson hole.  $89 each way from austin,”  he said.  “you planning on going soon?”

“well, yeah.  i was planning a fall trip.  september or october.  why?  you wanna go?”

i started to get excited.  no one had ever expressed this much interest or determination to go to wyoming with me since my mother visited 5 years ago when i lived there.

i was excited at the prospect, but then nervous.  could i share this place with others?  would they understand it?  no matter.

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most guys have the idea that if they’re spending any time in wyoming and montana, they better have a fly rod or a pair of skis.  and i think they’re right.  it is world class skiing and fishing, after all.  no snow yet, so my brother brought a friend’s rod.

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we took a drive one evening up the beartooth highway outside of cooke city, montana.

regarded as one of the most spectacular drives in north america, the beartooth runs from red lodge, mt to the northeast entrance of yellowstone national park.

the beartooths are one of the highest elevation and most rugged areas in the lower 48 states, with 20 peaks over 12,000 feet in elevation. the road itself is the highest elevation highway in wyoming (10,947 feet) and montana (10,350 feet), and is the highest elevation highway in the northern rockies.

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we fished the lamar, the snake, the yellowstone, among others.  to no avail.  it may have been too late in the season, i guess.

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the fires in northwest wyoming were in full force this time of year though.  they even closed a few of the roads in yellowstone, preventing me from returning to the lamar valley.  very sad.

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but the drama of it all was truly impressive.

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the fire on the banks of jackson lake at dusk.  breathtaking.

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the next day, there was an unavoidable haze that covered the sky and mountains.  but again, to the naked eye, it struck as a little bit of a downer, but the dramatic effect can be artfully employed with a camera.

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it was my brother’s last day.  he had a flight out of JAC in the afternoon, so we found a section of the snake river, just 10 minutes from the airport.  he wanted to give it one last go.

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he didn’t catch anything, but i was happy.  i think i got a few shots of him in this unreal landscape that will draw others in, and take him back…  anytime he wants to go…

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i’ve never shared this place with anyone before.  but it was really nice to do so.  to see the look on someone else’s face the first time they see the sun rise over the lamar valley of yellowstone, or the moon as it hovers over the tetons before dawn…

the way the fiery autumn leaves shimmer in the cool breeze.  awaking in the cold to the sound of bull elk in rut, bugling.  or the sound of wolves.

it’s all so beautiful.  i’m glad i had my brother there to share it.

i hope there’s more sharing of this place in the years to come.  i’m ready for it.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009

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film making, photography, random thought, travel, writing

…last week in wyoming…

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

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

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two ocean lake in teton wilderness provided fantastic scenery.

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

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

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a lone big horn ram wandered, grazed.

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

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

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

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

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

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sulphur stained ponds dot the landscape of yellowstone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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jackson lake was glass.  a rare site.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2009

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photography, travel

remembering travels of the recent past

a few weeks ago i posted about july being a boring month for me.  especially with the anticipation of an amazing upcoming august.  well, august has changed a little, but july remains the same.

so, with the “july-factor” in mind, i decided that reliving my recent travels might help lift my spirits a bit.  and just maybe for a minute i’ll stop whining and feel thankful for the wonderful places i’ve been to see this year.

’07-’08 was a blessed year for me regarding travel, and ’08-’09 is already shaping up to be exponentially better.

i guess dallas is where it all begins and ends for me right now.  and though i’m not so fond of her, dallas has enough work to allow me to travel more than most.  so i’ll think kindly of her for the moment…

austin is kind of my secret girlfriend.  we courted for over 5 years, but i had to leave her for a more practical lover.  so sad.  i do sneak around from time to time though… just to see her pretty face, and hear her alluring voice.

  

 

brazos bend, texas.  my favorite place to play with alligators in texas!!  if you want to see some prehistoric monsters, i highly recommend this park.  it’s just a short drive southwest of houston.

cabo san lucas, mexico!  my friends joe and erin got married there last summer, and guess who was able to go for free in exchange for a little wedding photography.  well worth it…

  

not too far from the city, somewhere out in east texas, is a private getaway, known only as “timado” to the few elites who know of it.  i was let in to the inner-circle last fall when i was invited to a double bachelor party extravaganza.  well, okay, so it’s not very elite, more like a good place to drink beer, go fishing, and grow out your mullet.  but it’s really fun.  and a great place to catch snakes and shoot fireworks.

big bend national park, texas.  ah, the big bend of the rio grande.  one of my classic favorites.  this trip was the first of two for the year, but it ended in tragedy.  my truck somehow found its way to the bottom of a four-foot-deep washout.  at least i only had to hike 18 miles through the desert before i saw someone to get help – hahaha!  what a great trip!

  

another friend of mine, adam, got married in wonderful savannah, georgia.  what a great place.  i had been once before, but rest assured that i could never get sick of savannah.

  

  

  

  

  

  

so, yet another friend, anna, got married in her home town of philadelphia, pa.  big year for marriage apparently.  and no offense to my other friends, but this was the best one yet.  i’d never been to philly, but it quickly became one of my favorite cities.  partially because two of my favorite people were there – anna and elaine.

  

another first-time favorite city, san francisco!  i lucked out with this one because of some awesome friends of mine, john and bd.  the brothers had an extra ticket to the 2007 baseball all-star game, and i got the invite.  we had a fantastic time at the weekend’s festivities, and we even made our way out to napa for a day.  amazing trip!

  

  

  

  

i lived in pinedale, wyoming a few years ago when i worked for a small newspaper.  it’s a tiny town just south of jackson (or to you tourists, jackson hole… hahaha!).  consequently, it is also very close to grand teton and yellowstone national parks.  doesn’t get much better than that.  so, since i reluctantly moved back to texas in 2006, i’ve made the pilgrimage back at least twice a year.  this was my first trip of the year, in the autumn.  and it was breathtaking – just the way i remembered it.  i hope to someday move back…

  

  

yee haw, boy howdy!  ARKANSAS |ˈär,kanzəs|!!  the white river in arkansas is incredibly beautiful, no doubt.  i went on a weekend trip up to northwest ar with some friends last fall to do a little fly fishing, and enjoy the scenery.  i don’t know how to fly fish, so i just enjoyed the eye candy, and made photos all weekend.  i think we’ll try to go again this fall.

  

  

  

  

 

oklahoma city, oklahoma.  we have tons of family in oklahoma – our rival state to the north.  and in all honesty, i don’t visit enough.  it’s really a great state.  though the university by the same name will always be my arch enemy.

the okc bombing memorial is stunning… a quiet experience… completely heartbreaking.

  

  

  

  

  

big bend, part deux.  i took my new ride to experience the land that claimed my previous truck’s life only months before.  wow, i really like my new car.  especially with gas prices the way they are.  i was able to do the entire 5 day trip for under $250!!  that includes 1500 miles of driving, four days of bland camp food, and priceless nights under a clear desert sky.  it was a really rejuvenating experience.  i needed it.

  

  

the quintessential western road trip, executed at the worst time of year.  my friend, bd, got a wild hair in early november, and decided to plan one of the most classic of american road trips, down the 101.  it was originally planned for the next spring, but neither of us could wait that long…

we set off just a few days after thanksgiving.  we left dallas, and spend the first night in denver.  then from denver, we made our way through blizzards, over togwotee pass to jackson, wyoming.  we had the privilege meeting up with my old roommate, emily, and previous editor, noah.  we had way too much fun.

the next day in spite of splitting headaches, we were off to boise, idaho and then to portland, oregon.  portland may be my new favorite city (i know… i say that a lot).  it reminds me so much of austin, but even prettier.  we spent a few days there, and then made our way up to seattle.  another great city.  somehow, we ended up at a seedy bar called “shorty’s” that night.  it was clown-themed, which made it creepy to begin with, but it also happened to be in, what i found out later to be, seattle’s “crack district”.  that was the first, and hopefully last time i’ve ever seen someone smoking crack.  right outside the bar, in the rain!?  interesting.

so we were ready to get back on the road after that night.  from seattle, we drove back to portland, then on down to eugene…  go ducks!!!  from eugene, we headed over to the coast, and that’s where we hooked up with the legendary highway 101, which we followed the rest of the way down to los angeles.  the scenery was absolutely amazing from the oregon coast all the way to big sur.  and even south of big sur to monterey was quite nice.  really, the trip down the 1 was so overwhelming in its grandeur and raw beauty, that for me (someone who is already a painfully bad writer), is too hard to put in to words.  plus, i’m a photographer anyway.  so i hope the images speak for themselves.

in spite of taking this trip in the most off part of the off season, it was incredible.  i can only hope that i have the opportunity to do this trip again at some point in my life.  i should be so lucky.

my virgin voyage to chitown.  seriously though, i was such a nerd on the flight there, and in my rent car.  the only two albums i listened to the whole weekend were sufjan stevens’ come on feel the illinoise, and greetings from michigan, the great lake state.  but they fit so well!  and they are two of the best albums of all time.  so at least they had that going for them.

chicago is certainly a cool town.  i need to spend more time there.  also, it was december, sooooooo, just a little cold.  maybe i’ll see what it’s like in spring…

  

  

  

  

  

 

ah, spring in wyoming… what a segue – damn, i’m good!!  so this was the second (well, technically third, if you count the short drive thru on the road trip in november) time for me to visit my old haunt in about six months.  what a treat!

yet another friend, kim, was getting married in pinedale, so it was as good an excuse as any to go visit one of my favorite places in all the world.  and it certainly did not disappoint.  i camped for the first time in single digit weather on eight feet of snow pack too.  so that was cool.  but i learned a valuable lesson:  don’t ever do that again!!

in all seriousness, there is something about western wyoming.  a special quality that lacks clear explanation.  ask anyone that has spent any time there, and they’ll tell you…  it’s a deeply spiritual experience.  and there’s something about the winter (which is much of spring as well).  it is what quiet looks like… if that makes any sense.

anyway, if you’re still reading, i feel sorry for you because you may have severe mental problems.  or into s&m or something.  but i promise that i’m almost done.

there are two innocence mission songs that always make me nostalgic about my travels, so i’ll end with some lyrics.  if you’re unfamiliar with the innocence mission, i would highly recommend you give them a good listen.  the first song is called, song about traveling.  really… go figure!?  and the second is the brotherhood of man.

“a man said, ‘why?’  why does traveling, in cars and in trains, make him feel sad?  a beautiful sadness, i’ve felt this before.  it’s the people in the city, you’ll never know.  it is everything you pass by, wondering will you ever… return.”

“waiting at the airport on my suitcase, a girl traveling from spain became my sudden friend.  though i did not learn her name.  and when the subway dimmed… a stranger lit my way.  this is the brotherhood of man.”

“i never can say what i mean… but you will understand… coming through clouds on the way.  this is the brotherhood of man.  this is the brotherhood of man.”

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2008

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