big bend // revisited… part 2

Once again, I woke up before the sun…

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And witnessed a spectacular sunrise over the Chihuahuan Desert, with both Texas and Mexico in view.

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Everything in the desert seems to want to hurt you.  It’s an amazingly inhospitable place.

Maybe that’s why I love it.  It continually screams at me to leave, and I, unrepentantly scream back at it, “no!”

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Mariscal mine settlement.  When you visit this small village (seriously) in the middle of nowhere… it really does make you think about how beautifully tough our forefathers must have been.

This place is so difficult to get to and remote, that few people even nowadays visit.  What with our air conditioned cars and four wheel drive.

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So I finnally exited the River Road and hit pavement.  It’s funny the feeling you get when you’ve only felt super bumpy, unimproved dirt tracks underneath you for two days – driving 20 miles an hour, because if you drove any faster you’d surely bottom out or receive a flat for your insolence and disrespect to the road – finally being lifted up on to the smooth ride of a highway, and potential speed of 65.  I love it.  Kinda feels like you just won the lottery.  Undeserved and glorious.  Thankful you made it off that God-forsaken death trap of a road.  The reverse can also be true.  I LOVE THE RIVER ROAD!!

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So I spent the next several hours scouting a few different locations.  The first being my evening “epic” Big Bend landscape, that attempts to sum up the place.  Tough indeed, if you’ve ever been to BBNP.

The second shot was a night, road photograph I’ve had in my mind on this trip.  I got one in RMNP, but really wanted to try one here.  I had several nice spots from which to choose.

The third and fourth theoretically could be the same spot.  One shot would be in the very early morning hours… a star picture.  And the other was a morning “epic” Big Bend landscape.

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I finished my scouting with several hours to spare, so I decided to hike to one of my favorite little spots in the park, Cattail Falls.

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I always go when water is scarce, so I’ve never come away with the waterfall picture I want, but it’s a great little hike and the only place I’ve ever seen a bear in the park.

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By the time I got back, it was late afternoon… time to begin my work for the evening.

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I ended up with a few shots I like, so I called it a night… at least get a few hours of sleep.  Back up at 4 a.m. to shoot the stars and catch what would be a gorgeous sunrise.

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That morning was a sunrise-to-end-all-sunrises.  At this point, it was as good a time as any to quit while I felt ahead.

And besides, I was into my third week of being on the road…. living out of my Subaru, eating lots of peanut butter and honey, sleeping alone (an activity I used to love – that I am now quite weary of) on the hard ground.

It was time to go home.  Hard to leave, but definitely time.

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So I composed my last shots of the desert and mountains of Big Bend National Park, and bid it farewell… this time thankfully, it won’t be so long between visits…

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, please check out my new workshop dates:

Big Bend Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2013-2014

More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2013-2014

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 + content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

big bend // revisited

It didn’t take long to get back into the rhythm of Big Bend.

After all, it had only been 18 or so months.

But this lesser-known National Park, in the middle-of-freaking-nowehere on the border of Texas and Mexico, has been a refuge for me for the last 10 years.

In many senses of the word, I found myself in Big Bend.

I’ve found myself lost in the middle of the desert in 110 degree heat.

I’ve found myself 18 miles from any person or paved road in a almost completely submerged truck… in 110 degree heat.

I’ve found myself purposefully leaving civilization and humanity.

I’ve found myself at the top of the world on the South Rim looking out on the expanse of the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas and Mexico, in awe.

I’ve found myself coming to terms with my insecurities and problems.

I’ve found myself watching a total lunar eclipse from the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains.

I’ve found myself spending New Years Eve alone atop the Dodson Trail, happy as a clam.

I’ve found myself sharing my alone time for the first time with my (then) future wife.

I’ve found myself kissing said future wife in Boot Canyon in the fall with the maple leaves ablaze around us.

I’ve found myself returning annually to celebrate her birthday.

I’ve found myself pushing the limits on how many miles I can hike in 1 day… turns out, it’s at least 18 miles… done on two different trips :)

I’ve found myself chasing a black bear in a desert oasis.

I’ve found myself standing in the middle of the Rio Grande alone at 4 o’clock in the morning to get a star picture of Santa Elena Canyon.

I’ve found myself (more times than I can remember) talking with the God of the universe in all the glory of His creation.

I’ve found myself entering the park ill, leaving well… entering heavy hearted, leaving renewed… entering empty, leaving full.

Big Bend is a very special place to me.

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I arrived in the middle of the day, so no sweeping, epic landscapes available to shoot.

I set up camp and focused on the details.

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I decided to start with Santa Elena that evening, so I hiked out to scout my location.

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Done.  That was quick.

I then went to Mule Ears overlook to hike the desert a bit.

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Made friends with a black-tailed jackrabbit, then headed off to catch the sun going down at Santa Elena Canyon.

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I went back to camp to shoot a few desert star pictures.

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Got up well before the sun (4am) to shoot a star picture of Santa Elena.

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Bats flew all around me as I stood in the middle of the Rio Grande until sunrise.

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The sun rose high quickly.  So I moved on and headed for the infamous River Road.

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Prickly Pear Cactus flowering late.

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I hiked Pine Canyon.

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After driving several hours on the River Road (where I drowned my truck a few years ago), I arrived at one of my old favorite campsites, Jewels Camp.

It overlooks the Rio Grande, Mexico, and the Chisos Mountains.

I would come to learn (the next day on my way out) by a border patrol agent who searched my car, that it also happens to be a favorite spot for the cartels to smuggle drugs into the U.S.

Good thing I slept that night with my .45.

On a serious note though, I have NEVER had any problems in Mexico, Big Bend, or on the River Road.  I think it’s important to draw from experience rather than fear.

Okay, so back to my trip….

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Evening at Jewels was gorgeous, as it always seems to be.  The colors of the desert come alive at dusk.

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I read a little that evening, and then crashed.  All this getting up at 4 a.m., hiking all day, then going to bed at 10 p.m. was truly exhausting.

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But I was there to work… so before I could go to bed for the night, I had a few star pics I wanted to capture…

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I slept SO well that night, once I actually went to sleep.  And I would need it… the rest of the trip would be jam-packed and one of the most productive adventures in Big Bend yet!

Stay tuned for the second (and possibly) third part of Big Bend // revisited!!

If you are interested in learning more about photography, taking your art to a new level, and/ or Big Bend photography tours and workshops, please check out my new workshop dates:

Big Bend Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2013-2014

More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 2013-2014

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 + content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

guadalupe mountains // an overnighter

Another quick stop I made on the road trip was Guadalupe Mountains National Park, on the border of Texas and New Mexico.

Yet another first for me.  I mean, I’ve passed this park on the long drive from Dallas to El Paso a few times, but never stopped long enough to photograph.

So, on my way from ABQ airport, where I dropped Elle off, to Big Bend National Park, I stopped to stay the night at Pine Springs Campground the Guadalupe Mountains.

I arrived after dark… so the darkened outline of mountains against a big sky full of stars were all I could see…

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The Milky Way shone bright and colorful.

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I got a few hours of sleep, then woke before the sun to find a spot to photograph what is called “the signature peak” of West Texas, El Capitan.

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This exercise reminded me how insanely difficult it is to show up, in the dark, at a brand new location, and expect to find “the perfect” location for a sunrise shot.

I did my very best, but never really felt I came away with the image  wanted.  Oh well… a good excuse to go back and explore this beautiful park!

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I tried several locations, and then decided it was time to move on and high tail it to Big Bend!

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On the way, the ranches of the Chihuahuan Desert beckoned me to stop frequently to shoot…

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I was excited and anxious to get to Big Bend.  Like I’ve said before, I’ve been going to Big Bend every year for the last 10+, with the exception of 2012.

It was high time to get in a good visit to this desert/ mountain/ river paradise.

all images + content © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2013

nuevo big bend birthday

well, it’s that time of year again…

my wife’s birthday week(s) started at the beginning of november with our annual big bend birthday trip.

but this year was different.  we invited friends!

we had a little fun with long exposures…

erik waded over in to mexico.  illegal alien!!!!

  

my wife likes to make me nervous.

i thought i’d take the group out to cattail falls, one of my favorite places in the park.

i could have never imagined what we all were soon to experience.

we hiked our way through the desert.  soon the trail funnels it’s way into a small, dark canyon.

carol was ahead of all of us.  erik and i were hiking together, and the other girls were brining up the rear.

as we entered the lush oasis lining the small stream that carved this canyon, carol came running up to erik, terrified.

“something just growled at me,” she said.  “the most guttural sound i’ve ever heard!”

so erik and i went ahead.  nothing.

but as we walked around, i started to notice scat everywhere and mangled small trees.

then i heard my wife, who was up on a huge rock, say, “i see a bear,” in a whisper-scream.

we all jumped up on the rock, and sure enough, there was a big, beautiful black bear downstream where we just were…

i didn’t have the right lens on my camera, so you can barely see him (pardon the unintentional pun).

then i made everyone do a bear-spotting portrait.  yeah, i’m like a cheesy dad on vacation…

self explanatory.  but really, it is VERY rare to see a bear in texas.

i’ve been to big bend dozens of times, and never seen any solid evidence of a bear, much less a bear in the flesh.

it was a real treat.

carol chasing deer.  not sure what she would’ve done had she caught them…

happy birthday morning!

birthday cupcake eating, coffee drinking, and dancing!

so someone (carol & elle) had the bright idea to hike the entire south rim in a day.

that’s 16-18 miles round trip with 2000+ ft elevation gain.

so, off we went…

it was definitely worth it.  the views are amazing, but the hike is tough, for sure.

we really enjoyed our trip this year.  getting to know new friends better, and gasp, sharing a place we love with others!

what is it about this whole “sharing” concept that keeps coming up??  first family, then marriage, now friends?

next it would seem children are on the horizon….

…..hmm……

nah.  let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011

*vermejo stars*

my obsession with star trails continues….

this year in vermejo, new mexico i really got after it.  and i’m pretty happy with quite a few of them.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011

preview: vermejo

i’m sorry for all of these “previews”, but i’m just very anxious to share some of my newest work before i have full posts ready.

as you may know from previous posts (see vermejo, nm, bear encounter: proof, vermejo again, and 4 weeks in vermejo), i have been blessed enough the last three years to have great friends and clients that hire me to go out to vermejo park ranch in new mexico for a few weeks every summer to shoot.  and last year, vermejo hired me to come out for another two weeks to shoot for them.

well this year is no different, and i’m back for two weeks in august.

i must admit, it is one of my favorite jobs of all time.  i hope it never ends.

so this year, with my new star picture obsession, i decided to try to capture the beauty of this place at night.

here are a few i shot last night…

i’ll share a lot more images when i get back.  the internet here is very slow.

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011

wyoming: day 3 & 4 (a full-fledged squaretop obsession)

i’ve been admiring this view for quite some time now. if any of you know me, and/ or my work, then you’ve seen countless images of this mountain. i just can’t get enough of it.

i think Elle is under the impression that i might try to name our firstborn son (or daughter for that matter) squaretop slaton. that’s not the case… entirely.

but just as the title of this post suggests, i am a little obsessed with this giant slab of granite. at least photographically.

and for those of you that might be curious to know… yes, every single photo in this post has the distinctive profile of squaretop in it, except one.

so we woke up in my favorite campsite again… this time with some nice, dramatic clouds over the winds.

the green river was running high but glassy.

we decided to do an overnighter into beaver park… wait for it… at the base of… wait for it…. SQUARETOP!!

so we set off, with the handsome mountain (as i often call it) as our prize in the distance.

squaretop from the upper lake with an afternoon shower imminent.

the green was overflowing it’s banks at beaver park.

we set up camp very near the base of the mountain. the whole time, i was looking for just the right spot to shoot a star picture that night… think we find the right place… but i would have to wade out into the frigid overflowed green to get the shot i wanted.

the moon was out and slowly moving it’s way right over the plateau of squaretop.

elle enjoyed a front row seat as the moon jostled into position…

it was a spectacular sunset. couldn’t have asked for a prettier evening to spend with my best friend.

oh yeah, and my wife. haha, just kidding honey!

elle and i sat by the fire, under the light of the moon and talked about everything.

i really am lucky… my wife really is my best friend.

squaretop is only a lagging second.

and then, as elle fell asleep, i trudged out into the barely-above-freezing river, and planted my tripod for this 30 minute exposure.

it’s one of my favorites from the whole trip. that’s a pretty good looking model… i couldn’t have screwed that shot up if i tried!!

we woke up the next day with our quiet friend looming over us…

it’s hard to decide whether i like morning light or evening best on squaretop… or even just moonlight…

i guess i just like it all. like i said, i’ll never get sick of photographing the work of art that is squaretop.

we just had to get one last photo with our friend.

sort of felt like an awkward family photo with a shy uncle that just kind of hangs in the back of the photo not really connecting with anyone, unsure of whether he’s even in the shot or not, deer-in-headlights look on his face, and no one that’s actually in the shot smiling, even realizes he’s back there. you know?

but we knew. and if we had had big enough arms, we would have gladly pulled him in close and included him.

then it got creepy… he just stared at us as we kissed…

farewell old friend! i hope to see you again soon… perhaps october…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011