Bluebonnets in Texas

One of my favorite things about Texas is the state flower: the bluebonnet. 

Somewhere in Texas :) | 2013

Somewhere in Texas :) | 2013

In the springtime, wild bluebonnets will begin to pop up everywhere on the sides of roads, especially along highways. You will see people parking on the sides of roads, wrangling their kids to capture family photos with the bluebonnets. They're beautiful and just pop when you photograph them! 

I captured this one above on a road trip in 2013 before we moved overseas. I just couldn't resist myself and had to get my husband to pull over the car. :) Sometimes you gotta do, what you gotta do! 

For you more techy people out there who are curious, I shot this on my Canon 5D Mark II, likely with my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8. This was the lens I used almost exclusively for a while before I switched to Primes. It's a great lens and would totally buy one again! 

Hope you're weekend is awesome!

-Ashley

Christmas in America

I always find it interesting coming back to America around Christmas time. Living in other places where Christmas isn't as widely celebrated makes this season a joy to come back to (although it's also a surprise in a lot of ways because we're not used to it anymore). I love taking part in traditions and festivities--putting up Christmas trees, making cookies, going to parties, etc. It's one of my favorite times of the year, celebrating the birth of Jesus with family and friends. 

Speaking of traditions, when I married my husband I was introduced to caramel chocolate covered pretzels by Joshua's grandmother. They are delicious (read: addictive!) and she makes them every year for her grandsons.

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2017.12.06 - Gram & Ash - for blog 02.jpg
Gram's Caramel, Chocolate Covered Pretzels | 2015

Gram's Caramel, Chocolate Covered Pretzels | 2015

We've had some great laughs while making these, so it's always enjoyable doing this with her (and they're fun eating afterwards ;). So far, we've already helped my family and Joshua's grandmother put up Christmas trees in their houses and everything looks so festive. This surprise return back to the States has been fun and we are trying to enjoy it while we're here.

What's your favorite holiday and what are your favorite traditions? Would love to hear how you celebrate!

-Ashley

Fatherscapes Project: Meet Nathan

Meet Nathan! He is a father to a rambunctious, car-loving-almost-18-month-old boy in the Houston, Texas area. He agreed to participate in my project and we had fun playing with cars and blocks on Sunday evening.

Just a side note--the boy, Zachary, is actually my nephew, so it was fun photographing him and his dad for this project! :) It's not too often that we're back in the States so I took advantage of the opportunity. 

"My son has taught me to be patient. If he decides he wants to do something his way, he will do it his way. He's very stubborn--I have four nephews and one niece and he's probably one of the most stubborn kids I've ever met."   -Nathan

"My son has taught me to be patient. If he decides he wants to do something his way, he will do it his way. He's very stubborn--I have four nephews and one niece and he's probably one of the most stubborn kids I've ever met."   -Nathan

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For a first time father, Nathan had a lot of wisdom to share. One of the things that have surprised me throughout this project is how every single father has something unique to say about fatherhood--the challenges, the greatest moments, and the advice they'd give. There have been some similarities of what people have said, but oftentimes each father has specific areas of focus and things that are important to them. It's always exciting to me to hear what they have to say and what activity they'll choose to do with their kid (as I leave it up to them to make it more personable and authentic). Honestly sometimes I feel I'm getting more out of the project than they are! I'll never be a father, but I sure am learning much about this vital role in families. 

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I'm currently adding in another element to this project, where I'm adding in objects (like toys, books, etc.) that the kids play with in order to bring in more context to the relationship between fathers and kids. So for Zachary, he loves playing with cars, trucks, and his blocks, so I had to take a picture of these items. 

"I never had someone I cared about so much before. He's barely been in my life and I care more about him than anyone else."  -Nathan

"I never had someone I cared about so much before. He's barely been in my life and I care more about him than anyone else."  -Nathan

The biggest challenge of this photo shoot was the lighting actually. So far in this project I have not used flash and I really wanted to keep it that way in order to not change the aesthetic of the images. Natural lighting is also what I'm comfortable with--I haven't really used flash except to experiment and learn, so I didn't quite feel comfortable bringing it in. Unfortunately some of the lights in this set were blown out in order to have correct exposure elsewhere and the images are quite grainy. I'll still use these for the project, but this is something I need to consider in the future--perhaps I need to experiment with flash in these situations in order to get cleaner images? This is the life of a photographer though--constantly learning and adapting to situations is a must!

Since I'm currently in Texas, my plan is to set up as many photo shoots as I can while I'm here, so...if you're in the Houston or Dallas areas and want to partake, let me know! I'd love, love, love to take your pictures and to show through your relationship with your child how important being a father is. I can't do this project without fathers collaborating with me in this. So, if you're interested, shoot me an email: ashley@transparentlifephotos.com. We leave in the beginning of January, so time is of the essence. :) Don't delay and email me today (ha, I rhymed! ;)

Have a happy Monday!

-Ashley

The Himalayas

The Himalayas are so beautiful. I've seen them in different spots and they've never disappointed me. Traveling in them though can be nerve racking as the roads aren't the best--very narrow and people can drive fast and crazy. But they're still beautiful to look at. :)

One day I'd love to travel to Nepal and do the Annapurna Circuit, which is a hiking trail that goes through a section of the Himalayas. It's a beautiful area, but it'd definitely require me to start getting in better shape! Apparently you can choose what sections you want to do (so you don't have to do the entire trail), but even then it would require for my legs to be stronger.

Do you like to hike? What's your favorite trail and why?

Have a great weekend!

-Ashley

Selfie Project Idea

Have you ever stopped to look around you in public places to see all the people taking selfies? Maybe it's more of a thing in South Asia, but I began thinking of a project idea while we were living there of taking pictures of people taking selfies. Like this one:

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When I took this picture, I could have easily taken 10 more like it. There were people everywhere taking pictures of themselves instead of taking pictures of the historic site they were visiting. It was such an interesting contrast of what people were giving their attention to and what they wanted to remember from their visit. 

I also had the idea of instead of me just taking pictures of people taking selfies, taking a selfie of other people taking selfies. That might be a more ironic twist. :) Anyways, it's an idea that I might pursue one of these days, particularly when my masters ends and I have a little more time to just try out different project ideas.

I have researched the idea a little and there are many people who have done selfie projects, so if I were to do it I'd have to make sure mine was relevant to society today, informed, and different than what others have done. I'd want to add something valuable, not just add more photos into the sea of images we live in.

What do you think? Good or bad idea?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

-Ashley

Fatherscapes Project: Meet Matt

While visiting some good friends of ours, I asked them if they would set me up to photograph a father in their area and they set me up with Matt. 

Matt has three adorable children and he graciously participated in the project. I honestly can say this was one of the best photo shoots for the project I've done. I feel like photo shoots with complete strangers can go really well or really bad. It definitely went really well! 

Matt's openness in sharing his struggles about being a dad, his willingness to be real and goofy with his kids in front of the camera, and his patience while I got all the shots I needed was just unparalleled. All the father's I've photographed have been very wonderful, but as I've done this project I've noticed that dad's aren't the biggest fans of having their picture taken! :) So thank you to all of you who have participated thus far! 

“Now that I'm six and a half years in being a father and have three kids now and not just one or two, I’ve learned that you have to lay down your life for them and assume that your life is not yours anymore. That's just how much effort having children take.”    -Matt

“Now that I'm six and a half years in being a father and have three kids now and not just one or two, I’ve learned that you have to lay down your life for them and assume that your life is not yours anymore. That's just how much effort having children take.”    -Matt

One of the things I tried out with Matt was pictures of things that were special to his relationship with his kids. I had done this with Andrew as well, but with Matt I dug a little deeper. The things that came out of it were really wonderful and I feel that they gave much more context for the project. 

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"I did not know that I was an angry man until I had kids; they just have the ability to bring out anger in me that no one ever has in my life. This is hard on a lot of levels. It's hard being angry, it's hard that their the ones that make me angry, and it's hard knowing that they're watching me be angry. It's like a trifecta that both my wife and I are working on."    -Matt

"I did not know that I was an angry man until I had kids; they just have the ability to bring out anger in me that no one ever has in my life. This is hard on a lot of levels. It's hard being angry, it's hard that their the ones that make me angry, and it's hard knowing that they're watching me be angry. It's like a trifecta that both my wife and I are working on."    -Matt

Overall moving forward, I'm excited about what I'm learning, the depth at which this project is going, and the relationships I'm building in the process. Hopefully I will have a beautiful photo book at the end of all of this work that I can proudly share with dad's all around the world! 

I have done two photo shoots recently that I will share soon! Have a great Monday!

-Ashley

Connecting with People

One of the things I love to do when I travel is connect with people. I think it comes more natural to me than it used to; in the past I was afraid to approach strangers, but I've grown in that area (although sometimes I still get scared). The fear that I feel though is generally washed away once I begin talking with people--I genuinely love meeting new people and hearing about their lives.  Like for example, this family I met in Thailand when I was there last year.

2017.11.24 - Connecting with People - blog 01.jpg

These two women are sisters, and their family has been running this small restaurant on the side of the road for a very long time. The sisters make the delicious food and take care of all the customers and their parents as well who live with them in their home that is attached to this restaurant. 

Going to the back of their restaurant was pleasurable--we chatted while they cooked and I took a few pictures. Unfortunately their English was limited and I have no Thai language abilities, but we were able to small talk some and it was an enjoyable experience for us both.

People are willing to connect with you if you just try to understand them; try to relate with them on some level about what they do, their lives, where they come from, what they believe in, etc. I know for me, when others ask me about my life and experiences I feel honored and loved--I hope these women did as well. If I ever get back to where they are it would be fun to visit them again!

-Ashley

Back in the Heartland

Two months ago I wouldn't have suspected I'd be in the States right now. I also wouldn't have foreseen our move to the Middle East either. Change can happen so rapidly--it's mind boggling! One minute life is a certain way and within seconds it can be completely opposite. I'm glad that God is in control and I'm not--I'd screw things up, that's for sure!

If you've seen my recent Instagram post, you will also have seen my mind exploding at all the goodies in America. The grocery store really makes my head spin. There are large grocery stores where I have lived the last four years, but for some reason large stores like Wal-Mart, Target, etc. in America really amaze me. I can never get over the variety, quality, and quantity of items you can purchase!

So needless to say, life has been very different the last week and a half. Everyone looks like me, talks like me, and life is familiar. It's a strange feeling (that I like, but it's still strange). I thought coming back this time I knew what to expect. This is our third trip back to America in the last 4.5 years, but I guess I was out long enough this time to forget nuances that make this place special.

For example, the other day after the funeral of Joshua's grandfather, we decided to get out of the house and just drive. As we drove we happened to see a sign about disc golf and decided to stop and see what the course looked like. As we went into the store, we ended up chatting with the owners of the place for a good 30 minutes, grabbed a cup of coffee from their in-house coffee shop, and chatted with the owner's son (who was the barista) for another 30 minutes.

We left filled up (as an extroverts tank is filled by people interaction :) and we were so surprised by the friendliness of these random strangers we had met. How are people so friendly? It was such an enjoyable experience; one that has been rarely experienced the last year and a half.

So we're definitely enjoying our time in the U.S. even though it's been a hard trip back. Besides celebrating Thanksgiving tomorrow (yay for turkey) and seeing family/friends, I'm really hoping to connect with photography societies here. It's something I've never done before, so it'll be interesting to see what is going on in the Houston and Dallas areas. 

A lot is happening and I'm sure I'll have more to share soon about my project, life, and our travels! Have a Happy Thanksgiving, my U.S. friends!

-Ashley