photography, travel, workshop

LOCATION FEATURE // THE WINDS

In 2005, I packed everything I owned into a Nissan Xterra and headed north, leaving Dallas, my home off and on for almost 25 years. Sure, I lived in Austin for 5, and a short stint in Telluride, CO, but Dallas was HOME, all caps. It was February 13.
The next day, Valentines Day, I arrived in the sleepy, frozen town of Pinedale, WY. The reason; a job as photojournalist for the local weekly newspaper. I had no idea, however, that it would utterly change my life in so many ways. But all of that is for a later post…
My first week, it reached -20ºF every day. Needless to say, not much going on outside, except for the occasional parade of moose clopping through town. Part of my job, aside from community journalism, was to get outside and engage in outdoor activities. I would shoot it, construct a story, and then write about it. This forced us to do something other than sit in the office, the bar, or in front of the TV. Well, needless to say, summer couldn’t come soon enough for us at the Pinedale Roundup.
Cue the Hallelujah Chorus. Summer did not disappoint. Though I did not work for the paper throughout that season, I remained in Pinedale. The draw, you might ask?
The Winds, of course.
Huh?
Sorry, the Wind River Range.
I developed an immediate infatuation. Maybe I should say obsession. Yeah, that seems more appropriate.
Every year since 2005, I returned at least once, sometimes twice or even three times. And over the last four years since we hit the road full time, I have spent more time in the Winds than I have anywhere else. By far. It’s now my home. Even if we only spend the summer and fall there… It’s only because we aren’t quite hearty enough to weather the brutal winter in our trailer.
The area encompasses 2.25 million acres, so although I have extensively explored it over the years, I feel as though I havn’t even begun to scratch the surface. I could easily spend the rest of my life walking those trails, and still never see it all, I suspect. None-the-less, I have made it my life’s work to become one of the few living experts on these mountains. I’m surely on my way.
So, what’s going to happen here is that I plan to open the faucet of images I have made over the joyful years of stepping into this incredible wilderness. During this time of quarantine and daily bad news, I simply hope to bring you (and myself) a little beauty and some memories of better times. I hope it helps, even if for a brief moment. Below are tons of images, and some stories I wanted to share as well.
Maybe just to remind us all of the good that there is out there. And perhaps it will help you hear the wind through the trees, the mountain songbirds, the mighty rushing creeks and the deafening quiet of the wide open wilderness. Maybe you’ll catch a whiff of the lodgepole pines and clean air. Listen for the cry of the eagle, the chirp of the marmot. These good things still exist.
And when all of this ends, I’d love for you to consider joining me out there. Amidst the unending beauty. Check out my newest workshop of backpacking and photography in the Winds.
  
Ellen and I developed an affinity for skinny dipping in these secluded, high mountain lakes during the summer of 2016, when we first hit the road. I dare any of you to tell me of anything more naturally exhilarating than jumping head-first into a 50ºF lake, with towering granite surrounding your fragile frame.
We’ve learned another simple joy these past few years with our wonderful pups; they love nothing more than bounding through open mountain meadows. Witness the pure ecstasy!
    
 
The night sky still elicits awe.
Let me be the first to tell you that hiking these mountains is not always romantic. It’s difficult as hell. Mosquito swarms, submerged trails, freezing temps, grizzlies and other critters of which to be mindful, high elevation and the problems to the human system that can arise from that. These mountains are for real, and quite unforgiving. But the beauty and solitude one can experience are worth every ache and pain.
  
Islay and me in Titcomb Basin…
Only one year later… and one more pup added to the pack, Skye.
More skinny dipping. Actually, this was our first time! Islay loved it from the get go. After a brief, breath-stealing swim, Ellen, Islay, and I sat on the shore in the sun eating cherries as the sun warmed and dried our frozen skin.
A mother moose and her littles (there’s another just out of frame). This is one of my favorite pastimes in this mountain range; it’s full of wildlife. I can spend hours just quietly watching wild animals live their best lives.

The fishing’s damn good too. Islay hasn’t figured out how to help just yet, but she’ll get there, no doubt. She tries.

Every year we spend up here, I find new places that leave my jaw on the ground. So many spots that I want to return to in the “good light” to capture something truly amazing. That’s the plan, Lord willing.

I always felt like this tree somehow belonged on the grounds near Hogwarts.

I’ve spent far too many nights (and it’s not even that many) tent camping in the winter in the Winds. Very little sleep occurs though. I highly recommend NOT doing this.

I truly hope you’ve had a nice little break from the “real world” going on all around us. If you ever need a break, I encourage you to come back and daydream for a bit of this lovely place of immense beauty. It’s what I do.

— Andrew
** There’s still time to get 25% off everything right now at andrewslaton.com! Help me continue to bring you inspiring and informative content.

SPECIAL OFFER for my blog followers – 10% off everything by using code “BLOG10” at checkout
VIDEO TUTORIALS
Check out my free and paid video tutorials and learn from a 20+ year professional.
NEW WORKSHOPS

Learn photography and enjoy a guided travel adventure.
INTO THE WINDS // BACKPACKING + PHOTOGRAPHY ADVENTURE
BIG CYPRESS // OFF-THE-BEATEN PATH // LANDSCAPES + WILDLIFE
TELLURIDE // FALL COLOR // LUXE LANDSCAPES
GIFT CARDS
Give the gift of beauty, travel, and knowledge… buy a gift card. Help a small business.
The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
Rocky Mountain National Park
Grand Teton National Park
PRINTS
Andrew Slaton // Limited Edition Prints
Andrew Slaton // Canvas + Metal Prints
STOCK
Tandem Stills + Motion // Andrew Slaton
ASSIGNMENTS
andrew@andrewslatonphoto.com
Thanks for visiting AndrewSlatonBlog.com
All images and content © ARS Media, LLC 2020
Standard
photography, random thought, travel

INTO THE WINDS (Part 2)

Continued from Into The Winds (Part 1)

We arrived just as our friends were tying up their horses.

They came with gifts. Gifts of glorious food.

One of the things that inevitably occurs when backpacking is that you begin to fantasize about certain foods that you couldn’t possibly take with you into the backcountry. It may sound nuts, but Ellen was dreaming about fresh salad. I know, I know, let me explain. Nothing you take in a backpack with you is fresh. Most of it is high sodium, high protein, processed energy foods. And as we all know, when you know can’t have something, it tends to gnaw at you.

Ellen couldn’t imagine anything better than a fresh salad. Not even pizza.

Spoiler alert. They brought Ellen a huge, fresh salad in tupperware. Me? Oh yeah, they brought me some goodies too. Fried chicken and skittles. No, it’s not autocorrect. You read that right; fried chicken and skittles. And it was glorious. Not together, of course.

Oh, also beer and cookies…

We gorged and laughed with our friends all afternoon, smelly as we were. It was a real treat. In the evening light, our friends saddled up and headed back to town. The next morning, happy and with full stomachs, Ellen and I repacked our packs and hit the trail again. We were energized from all of the calories and conversation, but our packs were the heaviest they’d been that entire week.

And we still had 50 miles to go.

I had resolved that we were going to finish this hike together, come hell or high water. My shin would get to feeling a little better every morning, but by the end of a 10 mile day, it felt as though it were still day 2. We rationed the ibuprofen so I could sleep, and made the decision to keep pressing on.

My shin seared with the pain of a newly 50+ lb. pack. Thankfully, I had peppered in a few “day hike/ rest days” in to the 12 day trek. It was unfortunate, but I really did need to stay put and rest on those days.

It’s funny how difficult it was for us to chose to actually rest on those days. I felt a bit like a failure. I think our culture dictates a “never slow down” work ethic, and it’s done great things for our society’s productivity. But there’s something to say about the fact that even the Lord took a day to rest… just sayin’.

As we continued, we reached the high country. Towering spines of granite surrounded us, majestic and mighty. I spent my mornings and evenings wandering and photographing… not far from camp, just enough to change my perspective of the gray monoliths and reflective lakes. The clouds passed overhead without notice of us or our affairs.

With each day dawning, it was getting a little bit cooler. The mornings brought dew, and then ice to our tent and packs. The willows were fading from bright green to golden yellow.

One of the main things that I took away from this trip is that I’m not getting any younger. It is of utmost importance that I take great care of myself. Gone are the days of eating junk and somehow still feeling great. Gone are the days of taking a fall, and simply brushing myself off, unscathed.

I’m certainly not old by most standards, but as I approach 40, I’m realizing that the lifestyle I love will take more and more work to maintain.

As someone who is always up for a challenge, I welcome this new realization.

I remember sitting at my grandparent’s kitchen table as a young teen. My Papa sitting across from me and Nana making a sandwich for me, on a summer afternoon of mowing the lawn for them. “I can’t wait to be older. How fun will it be to say ‘I remember 20 years ago when X happened. Ah, those were the days!’” I mused. They looked at me smiling, glancing back at each other with a seemingly secret wisdom. At least secret to me.

Well, I may only be pushing 40. And I may be in arguably the best shape of my life. But now, I really can say that I remember 30 years ago, sitting at my grandparents kitchen table, admiring the passage of time. It feels good. Even with the aches and pains, weak shins and sore back.

We arrived at the Green River Lakes trailhead, where our truck had been delivered just days before. We were relieved to be done, but in a strange way, a little sad that it was over. A decade and a half of planning paid off, but all that time was suddenly cashed in. The reward was knowing that we could do something this grand and exciting, and that made us both happy and proud.

Into the Winds also reiterated the point that we would be doing this again. And other treks like it. No matter how many years we have under our belts.

Aches and pains will come and go, but there are few experiences like waking up to a fresh dawn in deep in the wilderness. And that’s worth all the struggle and work.

— 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
 
Standard
photography, random thought, travel

INTO THE WINDS (Part 1)

Nearly 15 years ago on Valentines Day, I rolled into Pinedale, WY on frozen streets. Who knew I would fall head over heels for this area at the time? But I did. In spite of the -40 degree winter temps.

It was my first “real” job after college, working for a small weekly newspaper at the foot of the Wind River Range. It didn’t take long before I met and interviewed a guy in town who had just come back from a pack trip spanning the entire 100 mile long range. I became obsessed with the idea of this trek.

Fast forward 10 or so years, and Ellen and I began seriously discussing the project we were now calling “Into The Winds.” A journey through some of the lower 48’s most spectacular wilderness. At the time, we had almost none of the gear that a hike of this magnitude would require, and our dog, Hunter Trek, a small, 11 year old, city beagle, was not exactly the best canine for an adventure like this. We also lived in Dallas, so we would need to drive 20+ hours, spend a week getting acclimated, and then another two weeks on the trail… it just simply wasn’t practical.

Life on the road has created opportunities for us where before there were only obstacles. In this case, the fact that we tend to base ourselves at the foot of the Winds most summers buried one of our biggest obstacles right away. Likewise, we are in the best shape of our lives because of our healthy lifestyle of eating clean and hiking almost daily. 

The other main road-block was the gear. Since we hit the road, several of the top gear companies have invested in our adventures by trading stuff for photos. I generally don’t like to do that, because let’s face it, gear doesn’t feed us or keep gas in the tank. But if I’m being honest, certain gear is just as good as cash to us.

As for the dog issue, our wonderful Hunter Trek lived a long, happy life, and passed away just 6 months before we hit the road, at which point we brought home our Islay Blue. Skye Blue came along a year later, when we realized that Aussies were the perfect breed for our lifestyle. Energetic and happy, adaptable and strong, and subsequently the best trail dogs a human could ever want.

So in 2018, everything came together to make our Wind River traverse a reality.

We set off on a bright, warm day from Big Sandy, a trailhead of increasing exposure and popularity in recent years, at the southern end of the range. It was late August. The night before brought freezing temps and snow to the mountains, so we were prepared for the worst.

Remarkably, the weather would hold steady for us the entire 12 days. However, on day 2, I fell, landing face first on my camera, busting my lip wide open, and worse, severely bruising my shin. Thankfully, my 5D MK IV with the L series 16-35mm sense attached seemed to still function just fine. I find Canon equipment to be very resistant to my clumsiness.

So from then on, only 16 miles into our 96 mile trek, I would have a persistent sharp pain coursing up my left leg every time I took a step. Honestly, until day 6, I was fearful that I may have to bail out on the whole trip.

Other than the minor injury, the adventure was going wonderfully. We were averaging 8-10 miles a day and seeing incredible country. The girls (our two Aussies) were having a blast, and Ellen was feeling her best ever.

When we weren’t hiking, we spent our days at camp watching the clouds pass, listening to the wind through the trees, and playing fetch in the myriad lakes with the dogs. It was idyllic.

Day 6 was resupply day. And just in case you were wondering, carrying 12 days worth of food and supplies is nearly impossible, unless you are an ultra-light hiker, which we are not. So we split up the supplies into manageable 6 day rations. The day before we set off, we made an 11 mile round trip supply drop to our proposed day 6 camp, hanging the rations high in a lodgepole pine to keep the critters from stealing our lifeline.

Doing a longer trek like this gave us a window into the joy one feels on a resupply day. Before this, the longest hike either of us had done was my week long, 60 mile traverse in Colorado’s Weminuche Wilderness many moons ago. No resupply needed.

So on resupply day, we were especially giddy. Our best friends in Wyoming were planning to ride their horses in to meet us. We were excited to see them and to have a fresh new pantry of food on which to gorge.

To Be Continued…


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 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
 
Standard
random thought, travel

The First 10,000 Miles

What I Learned From Life On The Road (Part 1)

Livin’ on the road, my friend, was gonna keep you free and clean. Now you wear your skin like iron, and your breath’s as hard as kerosene.” — Pancho and Lefty, Townes Van Zandt

When we set off in June, we didn’t really know what to expect… the stories, the landscapes, the people… the many, varied obstacles.

10,000 miles in, here we are; unscathed… relatively speaking, a little dustier, skinnier. Perhaps wiser, happier? Hindsight will be the judge.

The following are the first 10k miles in pictures and short stories, and what I’ve learned so far from life on the road…

The famous West Texas sunrise

We left Texas in early June, 2016 with great anticipation for the adventure before us. Besides our family and friends, the only thing left in the Lone Star State was a 75 square foot storage unit half full of our stuff. What I learned somewhere along the way in the first 10,000 is that 75 square feet is way too much.

Lesson 1. The less stuff you have, the less stuff begins to mean to you.

ARS_CCSP_20160605_0316

Our new Australian Shepherd pup, Islay (named after our favorite, peaty whisky soaked island in Scotland) was along for the ride. Living in our 200 square foot trailer with us and Colonel Bubba the cat. She is growing and learning and playing with every new mile.

She has slowly become the perfect dog for which we could’ve ever asked… you’ll see later.

2. Finding the right dog for you is nearly just as good as finding the right person.

ARS_GSDNP_160609_0982

We finally hit the mountains in record (slow) time. I’m not used to pulling a 6,000 lb. trailer and having to go 60mph. But we made it to Great Sand Dunes National Park regardless. Our first National Park of the 2-3 year 59 Park tour! We’ve been to GSDNP many times, so it felt like an old familiar friend welcoming us to this new way of life.

3. Old familiar friends are always a welcomed sight for the weary traveler.

ARS_MVNP_160609_1045

Our first new Park, and 2nd overall was Mesa Verde. And so far, it has been the biggest shocker. We expected nothing from this relatively small National Park, and it really surprised us with its beauty and mystery.

4. No amount of familiarity can ever take the place of a new experience.

ARS_DHPSP_160611_1187

We didn’t have long to stay though. It was on to National Parks 3 and 4, Canyonlands and Arches in Utah.

ARS_DHPSP_160611_1217

ARS_DHPSP_160611_1224

These two Parks are pretty spectacular, and basically right across the highway from each other. Pretty awe-inspiring and convenient.

5. Inspiration rarely knows convenience. But when it does…. oh boy, hold on.

ARS_ARCHESNP_160611_1556

We started to get our “hiking legs” under us on this portion of the trip. I’m really glad we did too, because by the end of the summer we would’ve logged more than 300 trail miles from Texas all the way to Montana’s border with Canada.

The heat of canyon country sped the whole process along. 3-4 mile days quickly became 8-12 mile days as we worked our way up to the cooler mountain temps. All the while, we were dropping unnecessary pounds.

6. Hiking every day is the best way to stay in the best shape of your life. No pricey gym membership needed.

ARS_CNP_20160613_1740

When we finally arrived at our “home away from home”, the Wind River Range welcomed us with open arms. Pinedale is the town in which I lived in 2005, and the place got in my blood. I’ve visited at least once or twice every year since I moved back to Texas, some years making the 20+ hour drive 4 times.

It would now be our home base for the Summer and Fall. I had workshops slated to happen in the surrounding areas, and we both really wanted to get out deep into the Winds, so it was the perfect “base camp”.

ARS_WY_160616_1866

Soda Lake was our first “off the grid” experience. If you’re unfamiliar with what that means, it’s basically just car camping, but with four walls, a bed, a toilet, a refrigerator, and a limited supply of running water. Not too shabby really.

Ellen and I have been primitive camping all of our lives, so this was an absolute luxury.

And to look out our window and see a scene that I frequently had to travel very long distances to see… well, that proved to be priceless.

7. A spectacular view each morning has an uncanny ability to lift the spirits.

ARS_WY_160617_2141

Hanging around Soda the first week was a great reintroduction to the mountain life. Every morning I would get up before dawn to watch the sun rise over the Winds. Every evening, we would enjoy our “dinner with a view”, play a game of dominoes or cards outside, and then I would go chase the sun’s last rays. Life slowed down to the basics.

ARS_WY_160618_2206

ARS_WY_160619_1009

During the day, our hikes grew longer and more challenging, taking us deeper into the Winds.

We headed out to one of our favorite places in the world, the Upper Green River Valley. The area is unique as it is the confluence of two ranges within the Rockies, the Gros Ventre and the Winds. grizzlies, wolves, elk, moose, eagles, antelope, and so much more call this dramatic landscape home. And we did too.

ars_wy_160626_2909

ARS_WY_160624_2616

We had the time to explore new trails and scenery.

Islay was becoming quite the mountain dog, learning to cross dangerously swift rivers and creeks, negotiating boulders, swimming in high, clear mountain lakes with her crazy parents.

ARS_WY_160624_2699

8. Nothing can prepare you for both the terror and delight of the breath takingly cold experience of submerging yourself in a mountain lake. 

ARS_WY_160625_1201

I spent my mornings scouring the area for wildlife. And I had some luck.

ARS_WY_160625_1286

From the Green River Lakes trailhead, we found many of our favorite hikes. And our favorite trail snack.

ars_wy_160626_2885

9. When in season, cherries pack the best punch of flavor and immediate energy on the trail.

We learned quickly how long our water (fresh, grey, and black) tanks and batteries could last… 4-5 days. There’s also no cell reception for 40 miles at our spot in the Upper Green. So it was time to “plug in” and reconnect with the world. We had reached our limits.

We found a little no-frills RV park near Pinedale that was part of a network we could join. For $150 a year, we joined the club, named this as our “home park” and could now stay for free, as much as we like, for the rest of the year. No electric, water, sewer bills… just free “on the grid” camping any time we needed it. All the other hundreds of RV parks across the US and Canada in this network are just $10-15 per night for us too. Best $150 we’ve spent so far.

So we plugged in and found new roads and trails to explore in the southern reaches of the Winds.

ars_wy_160627_1311

ars_wy_160628_3051

Since we could now stay plugged in for free, we knew it was a good time to do an extended backpacking trip into the Winds. 4 nights, 5 days of carrying everything needed on your back, sleeping underneath a blanket of stars, and being a part of the landscape.

So we left Gertie (the trailer) plugged in at our new “home park”, put a ton of cat food out for Colonel Bubba, and hit the trail, just in time to celebrate Independence Day. Fitting, I thought.

10. There is no better (or often more painful) way to see and experience the beauty and majesty of wilderness than on foot.

ars_wy_160704_3272

We hit Elkhart Park early and headed straight in for Seneca Lake, smack dab in the middle of the Winds. I’ve been wanting to do this trip for a decade… the infamous Titcomb Basin.

It was a moderate 8-9 miles in to Seneca the first day. Islay did amazingly well. This was her first backpacking trip, and though she’s too young to carry anything yet, she ran at least 2-3 miles for every one we did. She got to be off-leash the whole time, and she never strayed too far or got into too much trouble, and she got to sleep with us in the tent. Now this was a pretty big deal considering she’s slept in her crate every night of her life up to that point.

ars_wy_160704_3302

We made it to Seneca and set up camp. It was a beautiful spot.

ars_wy_160704_3311

ars_wy_160704_3321

But we did realize one important thing from that first day of hiking… our backpacks and shoes were way out-dated. It was going to be a painful trip.

11. The right gear is essential to a comfortable mountain backpacking experience.

I’ve known this truth deep down all my life, but I’d never done multiple extended trips so close together to really understand how important the right gear can be. We’ve also just never had the extra cash to throw at the problem. There’s always something else more pressing or important, and I don’t know if you’ve been in an REI lately, but outdoor gear is expensive!

ars_wy_160705_3744

No amount of pain at this point though was going to stop us or dampen our spirits.

12. Pain is mostly mental.

ARS_WY_160705_3807

The Titcomb Basin has been called one of the most beautiful and striking places in the world. I couldn’t disagree at all. We did’t get the best weather for photography, but it was spectacular none-the-less.

ARS_WY_160705_3926

ARS_WY_160705_4408

ARS_WY_160706_4450

Our bond grew incredibly deep on this adventure with Islay. She would wake early with me and “assist” me as I shot sunrise. During the day, she would explore right beside us.

ARS_WY_160706_4552

ARS_WY_160706_4786

ARS_WY_160706_4854

It was perhaps here, in the Titcomb Basin, that Islay Blue became a real part of our family.

I’ve never been “that dog person”. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved dogs, but I never treated them like a member of the family. Well… here I am… one of “them”. Islay has become an indispensable part of our family. And all it took was a few thousand miles sitting on the center console of the truck, her quirky personality, hilarious morning antics, a few near-death experiences, and a wilderness excursion for the ages.

Ask Ellen, I’ve become a total softy when it comes to that dog. She freaking gets away with murder when she’s with me.

13. Dog people have it all figured out. :)

… to be continued…

ARS_WY_160706_5018

— 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 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:
 
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT // 2016 – SOLD OUT
TELLURIDE // LANDSCAPE + MOUNTAIN LIGHT (Trip 2) // 2016 – ONLY 2 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LOCAL + PRIVATE WORKSHOP // 2016 – AFFORDABLE RATES FOR ME TO COME TO YOU
BIG BEND // LANDSCAPE + NIGHT SKY // 2017 – MOST POPULAR! 6 SPOTS AVAILABLE
LEARN PHOTO + CAMERA BASICS // DALLAS // 2016 – 20 SPOTS!
 
I’m excited to announce my “The Photographic Guide to Our National Parks” series of eBooks:
 
See what’s NEW + download your free Rocky Mountain National Park sample when it releases!
 
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 2016
Standard
photography, travel

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.

ARS_WY_20160131_3255-PanoF

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
 
Standard
photography, travel

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.

ARS_WY_20160118_9811

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.

ARS_WY_20160120_0837

ARS_WY_20160120_0912

 

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.

ARS_WY_20160120_0972

ARS_WY_20160119_0823

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.

ARS_WY_20160121_1146

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?

ARS_WY_20160120_0962-2

ARS_WY_20160120_0867

ARS_WY_20160120_0896

ARS_WY_20160120_0862

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.

ARS_WY_20160120_1042

ARS_WY_20160120_1106

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.

ARS_WY_20160120_1026

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.

ARS_WY_20160120_1072

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
Standard
photography, travel

#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

ARS_WY_150203_0891

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

ARS_WY_150204_1128

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

ARS_WY_150205_1236

ARS_WY_150205_1284

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

ARS_WY_150205_1290

ARS_WY_150205_1297

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

ARS_WY_150205_1320

ARS_WY_150206_1351

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

ARS_WY_150206_1372

ARS_WY_150206_1392

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

ARS_WY_150208_1622

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
Standard