instructional, random thought

STAYING HEALTHY, CHANGING HABITS

As we all face the unknown prospects of a COVID-19 global pandemic, rather than panic, we can see this as an opportunity to disconnect a little, and reorient our priorities. Changing some unhealthy habits, into healthy ones.

Health is much bigger than simply washing our hands properly and social distancing. Our bodies are incredible machines, and what we chose to put in them makes a big difference in their performance. But overall health is even bigger than this… we must focus on our mental health too, if we want to make it through a crisis such as this.

Just before this crisis began, through the help of Ellen, a close friend, and a book I read, Atomic Habits by James Clear, I began making some health and lifestyle changes in my life for the better. It has been hugely helpful to my mental and physical health, and I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned. I am by no means an expert, I’m simply along for the ride just like you. But I have acquired some helpful tips that think worth sharing.

I want to list out a few points and explain a little here. Some of this will seem quite obvious to many of you, but I hope that all can glean something.

First, we should definitely do what’s right. And what’s right is to follow the advice of medical professionals for simple ways to “flatten the curve.”

  • Wash hands thoroughly.
  • Practice basic good hygiene.
  • Stay home as much as possible, distancing ourselves from others.
  • Cover your mouth when you cough.
  • Avoid contact with high risk individuals, for their safety.
  • Think of others when you have to go out.

These are the CDC recommendations. They are certainly a great place to start. But by no means should we end there.

For general good mental and physical health, might as well start some excellent habits now, when we need them to potentially survive, like:

  • Eat foods rich in vitamin c and iron, like spinach every day.
  • Exercise. It helps activate and strengthen your immune system.
  • Spend time in nature daily. It’s really good for your mental health.
  • Practice deep breathing. This will relieve the stress and anxiety, as well as boost your immune system.
  • Call your friends and family. Make it a point to call a different person you care about daily to check on them. Especially while we are in the self-quarantining phase of this epidemic. Loneliness and isolation can be hugely detrimental to mental health.
  • Unplug. Don’t simply use this time to binge watch show after show or play video games for hours on end. Try simply reading or playing a broad game with a partner.
  • If you are religious, pick up your bible. Pray. Feeling connected to God actually affects your brain chemistry, not just your spirituality.

Now, this all sounds great, but how do we turn these into habits that we take with us long after this pandemic (hopefully) slows down and cools off? This is where the advice of my wife, my friend, and the book come in handy. Because let’s face it, all of these things are good for us to implement into daily life, except of course the extreme social distancing.

First, we need to identify what we want to accomplish by implementing these new habits. You can also look at it like this… what negative aspect of your life do you want/ need to change? I find either way works. So for example, I realized that I had gained weight and didn’t like how I felt. I was also struggling through depression, and not seeing any progress. So I began to list good daily habits that I could employ for my life to change this.

  1. Exercise
  2. Eat healthier
  3. Pray
  4. Read
  5. Sobriety

Simple, right? Well now we will dive into one example, and how to make it into a habit. You can apply it to all the new habits you want to create.

Let’s start with exercise. It wasn’t that I didn’t exercise. Or even that I didn’t exercise often. I needed to make it a daily habit, so it was almost automatic, and so my body would crave it. So first I identified what exercise specifically I could do anywhere, anytime. Take away all barriers. Don’t say, “Go to the gym everyday” if that’s unrealistic for you. Pick an activity that you have no excuses not to do. And then if you want to go to the gym on top of the other activity, great. Bonus.

Next, plan out your week on Sunday afternoon, and put your exercise on the calendar for each day that week at the optimal time. That time can even change from day to day, depending upon your schedule. Just make sure you PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR. Say out loud, “I will [behavior] at [time] in [location]. It really is important to be specific and to speak it. Studies show that you are much more likely to do something if you say it aloud and it is on your calendar.

This is making your new habit obvious. In Atomic Habits, the next steps are to make it attractive, easy, and satisfying. I highly recommend the book so you can get repetition, and deeper insights into each of these. For my purposes here, I will make things simple.

So how do you make it attractive? I’ll just use one example here that I find helpful, but there are several others in the book. Pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do. As most of you know, I have two Australian shepherds. They need a TON of exercise. So I have paired their exercise, which is an action I need to do, with my exercise, the action I want to make into a new habit. They begin to crave that certain time of day when we go for a run, and I am starting to as well.

Next, make sure you make it easy for yourself to accomplish this daily goal. Simply remove the roadblocks that may get in the way. Get the right equipment, make that time sacred, reduce the friction.

Now you can make it satisfying. Exercise in itself ends up being satisfying if you stick with it. You feel better and look better. But early on, you may have to entice yourself with other “treats” to get to that point. I am a list maker. I get supreme satisfaction from crossing something off my to-dos. So that’s one way I gain satisfaction. I also have an insatiable sweet tooth. So I allow myself a small treat of four peanut m&m’s when I’m done with my run. Even a small treat like this can really help motivate you and make your new habit satisfying in the beginning, when it kinda sucks.

Let this whet your appetite to begin making some changes. While we’re all stuck inside, away from others, let’s make positive changes for ourselves. We can chose to see this trial as a catalyst for change. An excuse to come out better than we were before.

— Andrew


N O M A D  Magazine // Issue 1
Order your copy today and receive this 100 page full color travelgasm at your door!
Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
GRAND TETON // FALL COLOR // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
I’m excited to announce 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 // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton 
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
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beginner, education, instructional, national parks, photography, travel, workshop

10 Comp Tips For Better Photos

As photographers, there is much that is out of our control; weather, wildlife, seasonal changes, road/ trail conditions, etc.

But one thing that we always have ultimate control over is our compositions. Just like a composer of music has the ability to manage the notes, tones, and rests of his/ her musical compositions, photographers have the responsibility of choosing what to include, what to leave out, and how the viewer will ultimately see and feel the final image.

Here are 10 major composition techniques that, if used properly, will make your photos drastically better, immediately.

1. THE RULE OF THIRDS

Imagine that your image is divided into 9 equal segments by 2 vertical and 2 horizontal lines. The rule of thirds says that you should position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect.

Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.

2. BALANCING ELEMENTS

Placing your main subject off-center, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more in- teresting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the “weight” of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.

3. LEADING LINES

When we look at an image, our eye is naturally drawn along lines. Being thoughtful and intentional about how you place lines in your composition can dramatically affect the way the viewer sees the image. It can pull the viewer into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey through the scene. There are many different types of leading lines – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance our photo’s composition.

4. SYMETRY + PATTERNS

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made. They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the sym- metry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.

5. VIEWPOINT/ PERSPECTIVE

Before photographing your subject, take time to think about from where you will shoot. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.

6. BACKGROUND

How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background, and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo. Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting – look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject. Silhouettes can be an incredibly valuable and striking way to do this well.

7. DEPTH

Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognizes these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.

8. FRAMING

The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focused image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.

9. CROPPING

Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background “noise”, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.

10. EXPERIMENTATION

Composition in photography is far from a science, and as a result all of the “rules” above should be taken with a grain of salt. If they don’t work in your scene, ignore them; if you find a great composition that contradicts them, then go ahead and shoot it anyway. But they usually prove to be spot on, and are worth at least considering whenever you are out and about with your camera.

— 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


Check out our new show, ONE WILD LIFE, and subscribe to our YouTube Channel! 


Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
REMOTE WYOMING // ADVENTURE + LANDSCAPE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLORS + LANDSCAPE
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2018
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photography, travel

On The Road… Year 2

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

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

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

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
BIG BEND // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017-18 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2018 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE
SEE THE REST OF MY EXCITING DESTINATION WORKSHOPS
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017
Standard
photography, travel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The biggest problem was availability.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Even Skye quickly learned the beach bum lifestyle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But isn’t that what faith is?

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

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

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

Seemingly against all odds.

— Andrew

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


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
BIG BEND // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017-18 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2018 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE!
SEE THE REST OF MY EXCITING DESTINATION WORKSHOPS
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017
Standard
education, nature, travel

Scotland: Revisited

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

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

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

The landscapes completely captivated us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

\

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

I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
BIG BEND // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2017 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE!
SCOTLAND // LANDSCAPE // SKYE + HIGHLANDS // 2018 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE!
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
all images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017
Standard
travel, wildlife, workshop

Totality // 5 Things I Learned Photographing An Eclipse

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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! Help us on our mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside by checking out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 2-4 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
BIG BEND // LANDSCAPE + THE ART OF SEEING // 2017 – ONLY 4 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // USA // 2017-18 – SEE IF I’M COMING TO YOUR CITY
EVERGLADES // LANDSCAPE + NATURE // 2018 – SNOW BIRDS UNITE!
SEE THE REST OF MY EXCITING DESTINATION WORKSHOPS
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton // prints from the road
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com!
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017
 
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random thought, travel

Our National Parks Odyssey

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Andrew Slaton

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

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

© Andrew Slaton

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

© Andrew Slaton

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

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

Space is tight but very workable. © Andrew Slaton

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

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

© Andrew Slaton

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

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

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

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

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

© Andrew Slaton

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

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

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

© Andrew Slaton

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

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

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

About Andrew Slaton

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

Resources

Red River Polar Matte Magna Card Stock

Arctic Polar Luster

What’s To Come

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

Contact Information

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

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

— Andrew


Ellen and I have hit the road full-time! We are on a mission to inspire and educate everyone on the importance of getting outside. Check out my workshops and my prints, made #ontheroad in my mobile print studio. The revenue will help propel us further and further on this great adventure. Enrich yourself and others… and feel great about it too as you’re helping to ensure our wild lands are cherished and to keep the wild spirit of the American Dream alive. Our goal is to visit all 59 National Parks in 3-5 years. LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT WE’RE DOING HERE



Want to learn photography and enjoy a guided experience? Check out my exciting, NEW workshop dates:
 
SCOTLAND // ULTIMATE ROAD TRIP // 2017 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2017 – 4 SPOTS LEFT
GRAND TETON // LANDSCAPE + FALL COLORS // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
YELLOWSTONE // LANDSCAPE + WILDLIFE // 2017 – 6 SPOTS LEFT
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Grand Teton National Park sample today!
 
If you are interested in purchasing a “print from the road”, please check my prints for sale, or email me directly for a custom request:
 
Andrew R. Slaton | photographer // prints
 
If you are interested in licensing any of the images/ video from this post, please visit my stock agency:
 
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew R. Slaton
Image Brief // Andrew R. Slaton
  
For assignment work requests, please email me: andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
 
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
 
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2017

 

 
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