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Our National Parks Odyssey: A New Door Opens

This is the sixth of an ongoing series about Red River Pro Andrew Slaton and his wife Ellen who, along with two dogs, Islay and Skye and Colonel Bubba, the cat, left the comforts of Dallas to hit the road full time in a travel trailer, with the goal of photographing all 59 U. S. National Parks.—

© Andrew R. Slaton

By Andrew R. Slaton—

The warm, early morning light filters through the cottonwoods. It’s a dreamy way to start our day. We’ve finally arrived back in the Rockies, where I feel most at home. The light is warm, but the air is still quite chilly. Summer feels near. But spring has been short and cold this year.

We spent a lot of time in Dallas over the holidays, as usual. But immediately after, I had some commercial assignments around Texas, so we lingered there most of January.

It was cold and wet this winter in Texas. Ellen was getting antsy to bail for the warmth and sunshine of the Arizona deserts. We decided to mix it up a bit this year and kick around the southwest, instead of our usual winter in Florida, but we had one stop to make along the way…Telluride.

© Andrew R. Slaton

February in the  San Juan mountains (almost 9,000 feet high), is not what Ellen had in mind, but we have friends who just moved there and were dying to see them and their new digs. So we left Gertie (our trailer), at an RV Park in Albuquerque and meandered up Route 555 to the quaint little box canyon town of Telluride, CO.

This  former mining town features skiing in the winter and golfing in the summer, along with other attractions such as a 1913 opera house and an historical museum housed in an 1896 building. In June, 1889, Butch Cassidy pulled off his first solo bank robbery here and made off with $24,580 dollars, a considerable sum at that time

Islay and Skye loved the snow, diving into it, romping around, running full speed and sliding into snow banks as they made sharp turns. Though they lost some of their beloved toys due to their devil-may-care attitude, they didn’t seem to care as they became more and more intoxicated with the snow.

Our friends bought a lovely home just outside of town, finally, after courting the idea for years and we all had a wonderful time reminiscing with them, photographing the frigid winter wonderland surrounding Telluride and skiing for the first time in at least a decade. But the desert was calling.

© Andrew R. Slaton

The last two winters we zig-zagged across Florida, soaking up the seemingly unending sunshine with the rest of the snow birds. We love Florida, but it can get quite expensive. And since we love the desert as well, we thought this year would be as good as any to save a little money, and explore the deserts of Arizona and Southern California.

Though we had already seen much of this part of the country, we were looking forward to digging in a little deeper, and probing the unexplored (at least to us) folds and corners of this massive area. I also was looking forward to continuing my new portrait series of our fellow, full-time nomads.

Jef Funch is a river guide, climber, and back country expert. His mini school bus home on wheels allows him the freedom to pursue them all. Image © Andrew R. Slaton

About a year into our living on the road I had an idea to start a portrait project. I wanted to flex a different photographic muscle than my typical nature/ landscape/ active lifestyle images for a few different reasons. First, I am fascinated by people in general, so I wanted to connect a bit more with the community that exists out here that does what we’re doing, traveling full-time.

See, Ellen and I can be perfectly content holing up with our little family, living the hermit life. But we both know it’s not the healthiest way to live. So I wanted to meet new people that shared similar interests and, at the same time, perfect my portrait style and compile a new portfolio.

Shanti and her daughter, Robyn, were camped outside of Sedona, AZ. She was cleaning Airbnb’s to keep both their bellies and the gas tank of her ‘87 Toyota Dolphin camper full.      Image © Andrew R. Slaton.

Photo editors and art buyers alike want to see that we photographers really know how to light and tell a story. It’s not enough to be able to take lovely landscape and nature photos; they need to see that you can really create something. And so my Nomad portrait project began.

In nearly two decades as a professional, I have never put together a promo piece. I know, crazy. But after shooting about a dozen or so of these people-on-the-road portraits, I had the idea to create something really unique. Something an editor would be really excited to receive, and hopefully not immediately throw away after a three-second glance.

The idea developed into publishing a magazine that would feature our stories from three years on the road, portraits with interviews, some healthy and tasty recipes that are so easy anyone could whip them up while traveling, and much more. I wanted editors and art buyers to live with this promo. Put it on their coffee table, try out the recipes, take it to the bathroom with them for a little light reading and so on. I wanted to make an impression.

Linda and Jay outside of Quartzsite, AZ this past winter. They haven’t been on           the road long, but settled right into the free-spirited lifestyle. Image © Andrew R. Slaton.

So what transpired over the course of two years was what I’m now calling Nomad Magazine, and I’m really excited about it! A few of our favorite boutique bookstores have picked it up, and I realized that a lot of people  might really enjoy everything that this limited-edition, art piece offers. In a digital world, it’s nice to see the physical manifestation of images and stories of our last three years on the road.

As we look back at those years of being on the go, there’s a lot to be thankful for. We’ve seen a large swath of this beautiful and varied country. We’ve torn down and rebuilt our businesses to match our passions. We’ve made wonderful friends everywhere we’ve been. And I’ve been able to create some work I’m very proud of.

Most of all, though, we’ll be forever grateful for the unending love and support of our friends, family, and clients who have stuck with us through the thick and thin of a challenging and exciting life on the road.

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.

Help Andrew and Ellen achieve their goal by adding one or more of Andrew’s beautiful prints to your collection. You can also subscribe to a collector’s edition of prints from each of the 59 National Parks he plans to photograph.

Contact Information
Visit Andrew’s web site, view his work and learn about his upcoming fall workshops in the Tetons and Telluride. You can also order a copy of Nomad Magazine ($25) and purchase prints.

Catch Andrew and Ellen’s videos at their blog.

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Last updated: July 17, 2019