A Needed Break + Engagement Session

The last two weeks have been a breath of fresh air! Since finishing up my MA I have barely touched my camera, I haven't posted on my social media accounts until today, and I have not given much thought to really anything related to school or even photography. It's been freeing! I think somewhere in the back of my mind I'm expecting for the next module to begin soon....but it's not going to, so that will be an odd feeling. It's strange that something that has been a constant in my life the last two years is now complete. 

Even though I haven't been thinking about photography very much, while traveling recently I was able to do an engagement shoot. I have begun working on editing those and it has been a treat! I haven't done too many of these kinds of portrait sittings in the last two years--it's been mostly photo shoots for my project, which has a very different focus and feel to them. I found myself having to relearn how I did these kinds of sessions in the past. It came very quickly though and we had a blast doing the shoot together. I forget how much I enjoy these kinds of sessions. 

Here's a sneak peek of one of the photos:

 
2018.09.10 - C&E Sneak Peek.jpg
 

Soon, I am hoping I can begin diving into some new projects, but this break has really been needed. I'm unbelievably grateful for the opportunity of getting my MA in Photography--honestly I sometimes have to pinch myself that it actually happened. It's not every day that you get to pursue what you're passionate about, so I feel very fortunate. I also have great expectations for the future and what I will do with it. We'll see what pans out.

I'll be posting here more soon, so be on the lookout. 

-Ashley

(P.S. - If you're not following me already on Instagram, do so below! I have two Instagram accounts, one where I'm still posting images from Foreign Lands and the other one is my Transparent Life Photography Instagram account. Let's get connected!)

Foreign Lands: American Fathers Living Abroad:

 
 

Transparent Life Photography:

 
 

That's A Wrap!

I've been delaying this post because I was trying to let it sink in. 

I'm officially finished with my MA in Photography from Falmouth University!

I can't believe it. The last two years I have been so focused on finishing this MA that the time flew by. It has been my constant companion these two years, which has made the last few days feel awkward and empty. My schedule is now in need of an overhaul--one that doesn't include school. It's amazing and frightening at the same time!

Before I share what's next for me in the photography world, I want to celebrate the accomplishment and thank God and all of my family/friends for their support. I couldn't have done this without the countless dads who said yes to participating in my project, to my husband who made so many sacrifices (especially towards the end when I was in "do not disturb" mode), to all my amazing professors who encouraged and critiqued my work, and to all of my friends who have encouraged me to do this program. THANK YOU to all of you. What's amazing, is that I haven't just accomplished this MA, but have published a book! I am still in awe about that one and never thought I was capable of such a thing. I remember when I began this MA I had NO IDEA how I'd ever get to this point--but I did it. Whew. This is by far the hardest, yet most rewarding program I have ever done. Looking back, I can truly see how much I've changed--I am not the same as I was when I started. I feel more refined and certain about who I am as a photographer and how I operate within my practice. So all this to say, I'm so grateful for the opportunity I had and can't wait to see how it helps me in the coming future. I'm sad to see it go, but I'm thankful I made it through (although I won't know if I officially made it through until mid-September when I get my grades...but I'm pretty positive I passed; we'll see).

Moving on to the future, what's next? Several people have asked me that over the last few days and while I was trying not to rush to the next thing, I have thought a lot about it (of course!). Here are some of my ideas:

  • I am uncertain of the name of this project, but I really want to dive into my identity as a nomad. For the last five years I have lived abroad and it's really changed me. How I see people, culture, and situations are different than before--especially my home culture. So I really would love to do a project that communicates that change within me and I'd love to explore what has changed and how it has changed. It's a lot of self reflection and introspective thinking, but ideally I want to create images that reflect on my reflections about my life and thoughts, looking at expatriates and what happens to them when the live in other cultures. It's very different than my project over fatherhood, but I think it would be interesting to see what comes of it. I have some ideas technically how I'd accomplish this project, but I'll divulge those later. :)
 
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  • My project Foreign Lands: American Fathers Living Abroad is still active and going. I would like to keep up my Instagram account, so I will continue to post there. I also would love to continue in the theme of fatherhood--I've become very passionate about the topic and don't want to stop looking at dads. I've thought of doing other projects that look at other nationalities living abroad (like South African's or British dads maybe?), creating a series of books along the same topic. These are just some ideas, nothing is set yet. Follow me on my Instagram account here!
  • I'd love to teach or train photography in my city, so this is also on the agenda. I don't know at what capacity this will be, but I love teaching (especially cross-culturally). In the beginning, this is what motivated me to get my masters in the first place, so I'd love to end up doing this in the near future. We'll see! 

So lots of ideas! I'm trying to listen to the advice of some friends by celebrating this accomplishment and not rushing into the next thing, but this is hard for me. Anyone who knows me knows that I don't like to be idle. There is always something that can be accomplished. :) But rest is an "activity" too (apparently). :) 

Well friends, you will now hear more from me on this blog now that my essay-writing-days are over (can I get an amen!?)! Thanks for coming back after my long hiatus! Chat soon.

Ashley

Book Release!

If you haven't heard already, I have exciting news....

I have officially published my book. 
Foreign Lands: American Dads Living Abroad!

This has been a two year process for me of tons of shooting, editing, selecting, more editing, and even more editing (publishing a book is not for the faint at heart!). I didn't realize the work that would go into this, but it is so worth it. I am very pleased with the project's outcome and what I discovered about fatherhood in the process.

When I received the book I was so impressed with the quality. I decided to use the Print-On-Demand (POD) service, Blurb.com, as my audience is not just in one location, but in several countries. It is a great way for the most people possible to get their hands on a copy. If you'd like to view the storefront page, click the image of me holding the book!

Overall I am very happy about the work and so excited for people to see it. I really hope that it's an encouragement to dads out there who are struggling or just need to hear from other men who are in similar situations. Fatherhood is such an under-researched and overlooked topic and I really hope that I can help share the significance of this role in a family. 

Another piece of exciting news is that I have been interviewed by an Instagram user, @happywithdaddy. The interview should be rolling out soon, which I will post here when it's released. Thanks to everyone for their amazing support and to Hannah, who helped design the book. She did a fantastic job and really made the book come together. I couldn't have done it without her. 

Thanks for stopping by and I'd love to hear your feedback about the work. 

-Ashley

Whirlwind

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Life can be a whirlwind. So much can happen in such little time that it can make events feel like months apart yet they were only a week ago. This is my life lately. I can't keep up with what day it is, what time it is, or when things happened (or didn't happen in some cases). Is anyone else startled that it's already March 21st?! That is crazy! My parents always told me when I was younger that when you got older time went by faster--I hate to say it, but they're right. Life definitely feels more precious to me these days. Seeing that almost a quarter of the year has flown by makes me want to live every moment to the fullest. 

My grad program is going well, albeit I have found this module the most difficult of the program. We are finally at the stage of putting our ideas into practice, working to complete our final research project. I'm still doing a project over fatherhood, although I had to niche down to a specific aspect of fatherhood, rather than look at it comprehensively. I'll explain on this more later in another post.

The goal is still to complete a photo book which is very exciting. I'm also hoping to host an exhibition or two, we'll see. There are many milestones ahead of me, so I'm looking forward to seeing how all this pans out. 

I hope you follow along in my journey over this next year! I'm interested to see what happens. :)

-Ashley

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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 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

2017.12.04 - Nathan & Zachary - for blog 04.jpg

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