photography, portraits, travel, workshop

THE MAGIC OF BIG BEND

I feel very fortunate to have been to Big Bend National Park a lot. I really mean it. A whole lot.

I’ve been to Big Bend at least 2-3 times every year since 2001. I’ve experienced the park in every single month of the year.

But this past December blew me away.

I’ve heard of snow storms hitting the Chisos mountains ever so often, but never seen it myself. Well, December 2017 brought a unique situation to the otherwise temperate Chihuahuan Desert.

A gorgeous snow storm hit the desert and Chisos mountains, bringing a rarely seen blanket of white to Big Bend.

It didn’t stick around long… maybe a few days. But the magic of seeing such a rare sight was just incredible.

I can say, that in all the times I’ve visited, I’ve never regretted being there. Whether it was hot as hell, cold as the north country, stormy, windy, dry. Doesn’t matter. There’s a magic to this place that you cannot explain. You just have to experience it.

The light is just magic here. And that’s why it was one of the very first places that I started teaching workshops.

I love sharing special places with people. I want them to love it as much as I do. And to understand it. To become concerned with its health and well-being. To want to take care of it. To treat it with respect, like I do.

So, if you love photography, and special places, you should come out to Big Bend sometime.

Join me for a 4 day, 3 night epic adventure into the heart of Big Bend National Park to learn everything from scouting a new location, to processing your images, the “art of seeing”, and most everything outdoor photo related and in between. Fall in love with Big Bend.

There are only a few spots left, so register fast…

— Andrew


Ellen and I hit the road full-time in June of 2016. 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 on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our public 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:
 
EVERGLADES // WINTER // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
BIG BEND// LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING
 
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 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 2018
 
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nature, photography

BRAZOS BEND | Working to Relax

Nowadays, at least in the U.S., we’re all expected to work more and more. The saying used to be “working 9 to 5”, but not too long ago it became 8 to 5… and now if we’re honest, most of us work a lot more than that.

Well all of this would be fine if we had no life outside of work, but we do. No kids, no spouses, no friends, no hobbies. But more than that, we need balance in our lives.

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When I get home from a 2-3 week road trip, I’m usually stuck in my dark office staring at a computer most of the day working. Contacting and working with clients, retouching, editing, blogging, updating websites, pre-producing new shoots, etc. For another 2-3 weeks. It’s very up and down, back and forth. It’s unhealthy.

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That’s when Ellen and I will take short trips to our favorite state parks, like Brazos Bend in Texas. Just a few days to get out. Away from the house/ office. We had one such trip recently between two long work road trips and it was exactly what we needed.

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Studies show that being outside and “unplugging” a little from our digital life is so good for us. It doesn’t mean we have to throw the smart phone in the lake, it just means intentionally setting aside time to reconnect our brains to nature.

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It is also now known that camping can help us to reboot our sleep cycles. There is something about going to bed when the sun sets and waking when it rises that connects with a primal part of our brains, that relieves stress and brings about true relaxation.

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The benefits of spending intentional time outdoors are still being discovered, but I can say as an expert :), that you have to experience it to believe it. And in this day and age, many of us don’t even need to be in an office setting, so we have more opportunity than ever to at least take the laptop or tablet outside to work under a tree. Try it!

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Well, okay, the alligator part of this may be a stretch for you… but I love these creatures, and in a strange way, they help me relax and reconnect to more primal parts of my brain. Perhaps it’s the “survival” part of my brain. But I’ll tell you this; when I’m hanging around photographing alligators, I never pull out my iPhone to check my email. Just sayin’.

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The fact is, we modern humans want to ignore or forget that we too are a part of nature, and even used to live in nature. But it doesn’t change the fact that all of this technological sensory overload is new for our brains. We need time outdoors for our physical, mental, and spiritual health. And that will trickle down to your work life too, I promise.

— 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:
 
TELLURIDE SUMMER 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
TELLURIDE FALL 2016 – 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
ULTIMATE WYOMING SUMMER 2016 – SOLD OUT, WAIT LIST ONLY
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agencies:
 
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
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016

 

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photography, random thought, travel

#FindYourPark | BIG BEND

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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giant millipede, big bend national park, texas

Getting There

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

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

Trust me on this.

Where to Stay

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

So where to stay??

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

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

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

What To Do

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

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

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Backpacking

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

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Stargazing

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

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

Starrs over the Chisos

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

What to See

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— andrew

P.S. with all of these #findyourpark posts of late (and many more upcoming), I wanted to let you know about a wonderful organization that works hard to help preserve our Nation’s most magical places, The National Park Foundation. In honor of the NPS Centennial this year, I have put together a special collection of (some never before seen) my favorite National Park prints. Please check it out and know that 5% of all the profits from the sale of this artwork will be donated to the Foundation. We will be visiting almost all of the 59 National Parks this year, so check back often as we will be updating the page regularly. Thank you so much for your support!


 
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2016
 
 
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photography, random thought, travel

Winter in Big Bend

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you all out in the desert soon!

— andrew


 
Join me on an amazing adventure… check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
Big Bend NP // Night/ Landscape // 2016
Isle of Skye // S C O T L A N D // 2016
Highlands // S C O T L A N D // 2016
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
 
If you are interested in purchasing prints from this post, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2015
 
 
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city, education, photography

Blue Hour Teaser // Fair Day

If you hang around photographers long enough, you’re bound to hear myriad gushing tales about the “golden hour”.  And it is great.

But what you don’t hear as often, and I’m not sure why, is the blue hour.

It’s the period of time after which the sun has gone down and real darkness of night sets in.  And it is truly magical.  As a side note… it’s also commonly called “the magic hour.”  Go figure.

So Elle and I, like many Texans, have an annual tradition of spending a day at the famed State Fair of Texas.  And when the sun goes down, it is one of the best places to explore and photograph this fantastic time of day…

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So it gave me the idea to do an entire post on all things “blue hour”.  And since I’m spending the month in the Rockies, I’m working on putting together something informative and beautiful…. check back soon!

~ andrew

 


 
Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 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 and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014
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film, photography

Hummingbirds. By Remote Control

~ andrew

Music: Parlours Liars


 
Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 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 and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014
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film, photography

When All Else Fails… Time-lapse It

Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer – and often the supreme disappointment.” ~ Ansel Adams

Sometimes you get yourself out of bed at 4:30 AM and drive across town to get set up by 5:30 for a shot you need.

You have shown up, but the right weather hasn’t.

That’s okay… just get creative.

You’re already there… no sense in getting frustrated.

Make something unique and interesting with what you have.

Time-lapse it.

Over the last several months, I’ve been shooting time-lapses in tandem with my stills from all over the world… here are a few I wanted to share.

Some are the direct result of the still image never “showing up”.

~ andrew

Music: Parlours Slowly From The Earth


 
Take your photography to a new level… check out my new workshop dates:
 
Grand Teton Photographic Tour/ Workshops 2014
More Destination Photo Tours/ Workshops 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 and content © ARS Media, LLC 2014
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