The Wyomingites | Genesis

When I first arrived in Pinedale in the winter of 2005, it was -40F. Not the most hospitable place I’d ever lived. Considering up until that point, I had only lived in Dallas and Austin, Texas. I had visited a few years prior in the summer, and immediately fell in love with the land. Ask anyone who’s ever been, it’s actually quite common.

I was 25, and I wanted to run away from the city, and people. My best bet was the Union’s least populous state, Wyoming.

There I was, in a town of 1400 people, no stoplights, permanently frozen winter streets, and beautiful wilderness on nearly every side.

I had gone to work for a small weekly newspaper. And in my first meeting with the publisher, Rob, I was given my first assignment… Go around town and ask whomever you meet about this particular issue of the day, and get their opinion and quick portrait. We called it “faces”. It was a recurring small section on page two or three. It was the bane of our existence, as we usually waited until the last minute to complete it, and it was common for folks around town to decline our interview. The paper isn’t always a beloved institution, especially when the publisher has rubbed most of the 1400 in town the wrong way. And me being a Texan, I wasn’t immediately accepted. I took both setbacks as a challenge.

Before I headed out “on the town” for that first assignment, bright eyed and bushy tailed, Rob stopped me, looked me straight in the face and said, with a tone of fear and fury, “Whatever you do, NEVER talk to Mike Ramsey.”

I had almost forgotten the name of this apparently nefarious character that my publisher had advised me against ever getting a quote from… until I sat down at the bar at our local watering hole. You see, there isn’t a ton to do when it’s -40 outside, except drink.

The stranger at the bar next to me was a stout, handsomely gruff, whisky drinking looking fellow. Handlebar mustache and all. You could’ve placed him anywhere in the world, and still immediately recognized him as a man of the Western Rocky Mountains, USA. He wore a King Ropes hat, and his pointed gaze could make you tell the truth.

“I’m Andrew,” I said in a young, overly optimistic way. He looked at me for a moment, as if to test if I were for real.

“I’m Mike,” he said in a raspy, gravely voice. “Mike Ramsey,” as he shook my hand.

I chuckled and immediately told him what my new boss had just said.

“If you want me not to do something, best not to tell me not to do it,” I laughed.

His experience with Texans up to that point was from the loud, rich Houston oil men who’d come up to hunt elk, and the few Boy Scout types that would get lost backpacking the Winds, only to be found weeks later as remains from a grizzly feast. He didn’t necessarily have a high view of my kind. In his mind, we come up with gusto, only to leave broken by the harsh wilderness. And that’s not far from the truth.

It was a slow conversion, but we became close friends.

What I’d come to find as I slowly got to know him over the years, is that he is a very good man, who has lived a wildly interesting life. So interesting and worthwhile that many of his stories demand retelling.

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Mike, Elk Guide, Wind River Range, County 23, WY, 2016

Over the years, Mike has been (or still is) an elk guide, snow plowman, BLM (Bureau of Land Management) petroleum engineer technician, fishing guide, cowboy, forest fire fighter, painter, avalanche safety, snow machine guide, and much more, I’m sure. He has a deep and unique relationship with the rugged land he chooses to call home.

So as much as I tried to avoid it because he is my friend, Mike had to be the first Wyomingite for my book. And don’t worry, I will explain why Rob so adamantly didn’t want me to talk to Mike, and a few harrowing and hilarious stories from his incredible life.

The Wyomingites, will explore the personalities and stories of the men and women who make Wyoming their home. From each of the 23 counties, come unique and challenging landscapes both shaping and being shaped by the (few) humans who inhabit its borders. The photographs are a unique mixture of landscape panoramic, and environmental portrait.

If you would like to learn more, invest to help make this book happen, or you think you have a wonderful Wyomingite subject for me, please email me directly.

— andrew


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 a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park 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 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
 
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: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
 

20 Below // Yellowstone

Life is all about adaptation. If you can’t stay flexible, especially when on the road, you’ll end up frustrated and angry. Plans are going to change. Your best efforts will be thwarted frequently. I promise.

This year’s winter Wyoming road trip wasn’t my first rodeo… But perhaps my first trying to camp in the beautiful, frozen hell that is the Yellowstone Caldera. It is common to reach dangerous temps of -60F here. Maybe we got lucky, it only reached -20 for us.

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Most people think I’m crazy… some of the things I do, get myself into. No, I’m actually relatively sane. I see a great human potential to do things that seem impossible or “nuts” to many, and I want to prove that they are quite normal. And maybe even fun.

Yellowstone is one of those places that immediately captured my heart. Love at first sight… smell, touch, feel. It is magical. But of all the seasons I have experienced in this place, winter was the untouchable. Most of the park is only accessible by snow mobile, snow coach, or cross country skis. It requires a lot of preparation and investment to make an overnight camping excursion into Yellowstone in the dead of winter. It demands to be taken seriously. Especially in winter.

I was looking for an opportunity to test myself in a new way.

Sounds dumb, I know. But I’ve always been this way.

When I was little, I wanted to be a stunt man. Often, I would jump off the roof of our house to practice my falls, or bungee a bunch of pillows around my body and throw myself down the stairs. I’ve always enjoyed catching snakes with my bare hands, only to identify them as poisonous or non, afterward.

It’s not that I don’t feel fear. Trust me, I do. Every time I sleep out in grizzly country, I lay awake most of the first night seeing terrible visions of ferocious bear(s) attacking me ruthlessly. Every snap of a twig makes my heart race. But all I have to do to finally get some shut eye is remind myself of the many hundreds of nights I’ve spent under the stars, and how I’ve never had a terrifying experience… with bears, at least. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen, that’s just to point to the reality that it’s more likely that I get struck by lightning. An event about which I literally never worry.

The fact remains, my life is not my own. It is controlled and ordained by a much higher reality than my fears or eccentricities.

It’s really about testing my limits. It’s less about man vs. nature, and more man vs. himself. Testing one’s mental and physical resolve.

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So back to the point: I can scheme for months, but I’d better be ready to surrender each and every meticulous plan.

This whole trip was brought on by my random stumbling on a new program offered by Yellowstone. A few months earlier, while surfing recreation.gov I came across the brand new self-guided snow machine permit. I’d always wanted to see Yellowstone in the winter, but it never appealed to me to go on a guided tour. So this sounded perfect.

I lucked out and got a permit for the timing and area I wanted. Not easy to do since almost every permit was already taken. And it started a whole chain of events that led us to this point. I began planning everything; the road trip, the activities, shot lists, I started lining up sponsors, gear, etc. It was on. We were going no matter what, in my mind. It seemed to be providence.

When we arrived in Wyoming, after a night at Devils Tower, the plan was to head all the way up and over to Cooke City, Montana. Cooke City lies just across the Montana/ Wyoming state line along the Beartooth Highway, just a few miles from the Northeast entrance to Yellowstone. It was going to be a long drive, but for me the payoff was well worth it. It was still a week until our scheduled permit date to enter the park from the South on snow machine. This would serve as our introduction to winter camping Yellowstone.

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I know that the road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City is open all year. It’s the only road they plow in the park. However, for some reason, the short drive from Sunlight Basin to Cooke City via the Beartooth Highway is not plowed. I had to learn that the hard way. We ended up adding 4 hours to our drive for that mistake. And it was already getting dark.

After a long detour up to I-90 through Montana, and an overnighter at a cheap motel, we finally arrived at the North entrance to Yellowstone at Gardiner, MT.

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Entering Yellowstone is like being dropped on to another planet. At first, it seems familiar; rocks, trees, mountains, rivers. But then you start to see colors and formations rarely seen anywhere else on earth. Steam rising from mountain streams. The smell of sulphur. Vast herds of bison, elk, pronghorn. It’s so unique. And in the winter, when the snow blankets everything and people are harder to spot than the wildlife, Yellowstone possesses even a more haunting spirit.

So there we were, on the doorstep of testing a new resolve in ourselves, a new level of resiliency. Could we take it? Would a wintry Yellowstone break us?

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We spent the night near Mammoth Hot Springs on top of several feet of snow. It was too cold to hang out long enough to make a fire that night, and we were tired from the days of driving, so we opted to burrow into the cozy tent and our sleeping bags early.

The wind, coyotes, and wolves howled through the night.

The temp when we woke was a solid -20 with the wind, so even the most enjoyable of morning tasks like making coffee became painful. We weren’t deep in the backcountry. In fact, we knew that there might even be fresh coffee to be bought nearby at Mammoth. At the very least, we thought, getting out of the wind and into a quickly warming car would be worth it. I would later come to realize that this moment would serve as the beginning of the end of the test of our resiliency. At least in the way I had imagined.

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Our time in North Yellowstone was short. We had friends to meet up with and clients to shoot for down in Jackson and Pinedale, so we left the park, expecting to return from the South in a week.

Over the next week, we spent a few more nights outdoors, but the cold and the snow was wearing us thin. It became harder and harder to sleep at night and warm up in the morning. On top of this erosion of the physical, several friends we had lined up to go with us on the Yellowstone excursion had to cancel.

The epic adventure was in danger of not happening at all. I was undeterred.

Something that once seemed so providential, so “meant to be,”started to feel cursed. Then I received an email from the snow mobile rental company that I was angling to trade marketing photos for free machines, stating that they would not be able to do the deal any more.

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We’d been on the road for two weeks already and were out of money. It was the last straw. The Yellowstone dream would have to wait. This fact, regardless of how obvious, would take a long time for me to accept.

How do we deal with our disappointments and failed plans? What I wasn’t realizing was that my test of resolve on this trip had now taken a new form. It was no longer the sexy physical test of manhood I wanted. It had become all of our worst nightmares… not getting what we want.

For someone who plans as much as I do, I can become fixated, even obsessed, with objective. The trip was such a beautiful success in so many ways, but from my myopic attitude, it looked like a failure because of the one unrealized objective.

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I learned from this trip that man vs. himself is more than just climbing mountains or wrestling alligators. Man’s true resiliency is shown clearly in his/ her ability to roll with the punches. To watch their carefully made plans go down in flames and still make something of it.

It remains one of the hardest things that I (and all of us will) consistently face in life.

— andrew


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 a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park 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 – ONLY 2 SPOTS LEFT!
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
 
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: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016

#wyolove

So finally, after all of these years living in and/ or visiting Wyoming, I have the compelling idea I’ve been looking for to do a book.

Just google “wyoming photography books”, and I guarantee you’ll come up with a plethora of titles.  This was always the route I thought I’d take; the typical landscape/ nature photography book.

Well thankfully, I never felt settled with that idea.  Yet I keep returning to photograph the rugged beauty of this place.

So on my last trip in February, I began laying the foundation, making contacts, interviewing people, etc.  It will be very different from the traditional landscape book.  Sorry, I can’t reveal any more just yet… But what I can say is that it will challenge me to the core… Alas, friends, I will have to work with the most unpredictable of all species… people!

What I love perhaps the most about a project such as this however, is that I still get to roam around the great state and attempt to capture the essence of this place that has so completely entranced me for the last 15 years.  And to share it with all of you.

I will return in July and September/ October… so don’t worry… if you’re as obsessed as I am, you’ll get your fill.

So here are some of my favorites from February…

Lone Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

a hauntingly still winter day in snowy Grand Teton NAtional Park, WY

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Winter wonderland on Pacific Creek in Grand Teton National PArk, WY

Lone Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

Lone Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

Big Horn Ram detail

Lone Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

Big Horn Sheep in the snow near Jackson, WY

A bald eagle perched in a bare tree in Grand Teton National Park in the winter

A colorfull sunrise over the Gros Ventre near Grand Teton National Park, WY

A colorfull sunrise over the Gros Ventre near Grand Teton National Park, WY

Winter sunrise on the tetons from Teton Overlook

Lone male hiker looking out in the snow toward the tetons

A colorfull sunrise over the Gros Ventre near Grand Teton National Park, WY

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Snow covered Tetons form a frozen Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, WY

Snow covered Tetons form a frozen Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, WY

Snow covered Tetons form a frozen Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, WY

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Sunrise over the Winds from the Cora road in the Upper Green River Valley, WY

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Sunrise over the Winds from the Cora road in the Upper Green River Valley, WY

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The Wind River Range from atop the Mesa oilfields near Pinedale, WY

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morning light in the frozen desert near South Pass, WY

the dirt road to South Pass City ghost town, WY

dramatic clouds and road, south pass

dramatic clouds and road, south pass

White tail buck in the brush

Devils tower national monument, WY

Devils tower national monument, WY

dramatic sunset over Devils tower national monument, WY

a lone hiker enjoys a dramtic sunrise over Devils tower national monument, WY

dramtic sunrise over Devils tower national monument, WY

Devils tower national monument, WY

moon over Devils tower national monument, WY

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A man watches sunrise on Togwotee pass

coyote in the snow near moran junction in grand teton national park, wy

sunrise at snake river overlook, grand teton national park, wy

I love my job :)

— andrew


 
Take your photography to the next level… check out my NEW workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2015
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2015
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // andrew r. slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
andrew r. slaton // photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015

telluride anniversary

we headed down to telluride after wyoming for about ten days.

we were working part of the trip, photographing a wedding, then we relaxed a few days to celebrate our 1st anniversary!

my first time to see a porcupine in the wild…

we were then off to aspen to see elle’s cousin, and then on to boulder to meet with backpacker magazine!

all in all, we put over 4,500 miles on my car…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

wyoming | winter wanderland

our new business ranch HAND | photographic is taking off quickly.

what began as a love for wildlife, landscape, and outdoor lifestyle photography has turned into a full-scale service that caters to the high-end guest ranching community.

we’ve already been blessed to do work for the largest guest ranch in the U.S., Vermejo Park Ranch.

so this year, we joined the DRA (dude ranchers’ association) and decided to go to the convention in cody, wyoming to get to know some new folks.

well, we did…  we are so thankful to have made a few new clients, and a bunch of new friends!

our newest client, the Goosewing Ranch in jackson, wyoming is a phenomenal guest ranch.  they offer a true western experience from late spring through the gorgeous wyoming indian summer.  they also happen to be at the doorstep of grand teton national park and yellowstone!  not too bad!

we are incredibly excited to visit the Goosewing in june and september of this year!

now, back to our travels…

since we were already heading up to cody, we had to stop by pinedale to see our friends Mike and Ellen, and my favorite mountain town.

elle got to see and walk out on to a frozen fremont lake.

the cracking sounds of the ice create an intensely eerie feeling as you walk out onto the 12 mile long, half a mile wide, 600 foot deep lake (crazy, right?)!!

winter is probably my second favorite season, photographically at least.

elle had fun sledding.

then we made our way up to cody for the convention…

there is quite a bit to see just outside of cody.  it’s beautiful country.

after a few days at the convention, we had to make our way down to telluride, co to shoot a wedding.

but first… we decided to spend a few more days in grand teton national park and pinedale again…

elk crossing the barren, frozen elk winter refuge.

big horn sheep high atop the cliffs.

bison trudging through the snow in the park.

the wild beast known as elle… making some weird version of a snow angel?

we walked out onto a frozen jackson lake.

our time was short.  we needed to make our way to telluride.  so we headed down through flaming gorge in utah.

such fantastic landscapes all the way.  and the snow adds contrast and depth that i rarely get to see.

all in all, we put 4500 miles on my subaru on this trip, and very few of those miles were boring.

i’ll look forward to sharing some of the telluride photos next post!

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2012

tELL(E)uride

well, it’s that time of year again; heading to telluride for my best friend’s birthday… no complaints here.

and this year, it gets even better.  i was able to share telluride with Elle for the first time!

wilson peak is beautiful, even socked in with snow.

the wine started flowing as the birthday celebrations kicked off…

we took the gondola from the mountain village back to town for some late night fun in telluride.

blurry telluride from high up on the mountain…

the next day i got to spend some quality time with one of my old friends, kona, a gorgeous chocolate lab.

it was a great time as always, and a refreshing quick trip up to the mountains for both Elle and me.  it feels like it’s been too long.  i’m really looking forward to the mountain trips planned for the summer and fall…

all images and content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011