My Thoughts & Ramblings

Looking for the Special Moments

It can be really hard to have tourist-like eyes in your own city. Finding interesting things to photograph can be a challenge, especially if you see the same things every day. A trick for me to get out of that funk is to walk around a specific place with my camera in hand; looking for interesting scenes—whether it be textures, symmetry, interesting faces, interactions that are peculiar, or something beautiful. There is always something worthy to be photographed—you just have to have the eyes to see it! Take this for example:

 
2018.09.24 - Looking wih New Eyes.jpg
 

We were walking in a market and I just happened to see this rug hung up on the wall with these colorful poufs underneath. I loved all the colors and how it looked, so I took the shot and this is what I got. It’s beautiful! I think I’d normally miss this if I didn’t slow down and look.

I think this goes beyond photography and can be applied to our lives in general. Sometimes we can get so busy that we miss the beautiful or surprising things or people throughout our day. I, myself, am trying to slow down and “smell the roses”, as the old adage goes. I don’t want to miss those special moments because I was preoccupied with a task or schedule. Life is too short friends, so don’t miss out on the important things.

On that sobering note (sorry for the reminder of our short lives!), I hope that in the normalcy of the day you look and find something or someone new in your path. Enjoy your day!

-Ashley

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. :)
 
2018.0827 - What's Next Blog Post.jpg
 
  • 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

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:

2017.11.29 - Selfie Project idea - for blog 01.jpg

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

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

What's in my Bag?

I've had a few people ask me what's in my camera bag, and I thought I'd share! 

First off, let me just say that I am a minimalist (half by choice and half by necessity) so if you're looking for gadgets and techy items, I probably won't excite you much. But this all goes to show you don't need much to take good photos! As world and humanitarian photographer, David duChemin stresses all the time--vision is better! :) 

First off, the bag. Bags are important y'all. :) I have two bags that I love and have had for some time:

Jo Totes - "Betsy"

Jo Totes - "Betsy"

Crumpler - "5 Million Dollar Bag"

Crumpler - "5 Million Dollar Bag"

I've had my Crumpler bag now for six years and have practically brought it everywhere with no issues ever. It's a fantastic bag that I love taking on flights as it fits underneath the seats and it's a great bag for underdeveloped countries as it doesn't easily look dirty or look like a camera bag. There are tons of pockets to stash memory cards, gadgets, lenses, pens, etc. inside, as well as fits my camera with a lens attached and two prime lenses easy. It's a great bag. Good job Crumpler. 

My Jo Totes bag I have only used a little bit. I bought it three years ago because I didn't want to bring my Crumpler to weddings anymore--while it's an awesome bag, it's just not all that pretty. :) So I opted for a mustard yellow camera bag that looks like a pretty purse! This bag is great as it has tons of pockets to stash all kinds of stuff, fits my camera with a lens attached and two prime lenses, and even can fit comfortably up to a 15" laptop if I wanted to. Even with all of that stuff, it still looks nice and not overstuffed. 

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II

Okay, now gear. Again, I'm a minimalist.

The Canon 5D Mark II is a great camera. Yes, it is no longer being made as there is the Canon 5D Mark III and IV, but I will use this camera until it dies. Full frame, light, heavy duty, and takes great pictures in low lighting. 

I've had it now for five years and it has never given me any issues. It's gotten wet, been in dusty, dirty places, and has been dropped a few times (whoopsies), but it's still going strong! I love this camera and so glad that I got it as it's seriously a great camera. 

The lenses I carry always are:

 

 

 

Canon 50mm f/1.4

Canon 50mm f/1.4

Canon 24mm f/2.8

Canon 24mm f/2.8

Canon 85mm f/1.8

Canon 85mm f/1.8

When my Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 died on me, I decided to go all prime and I'm so glad I did. The quality of primes is excellent and once you get used to shooting with them, it's easy and you find yourself being more creative (especially since you are the zoom!). Sometimes I do wish I had a zoom lens, but for the kind of work I do it's not something I think about all the time. 

The 24mm is the lens I've been using primarily for my fatherhood project, which gives me those wide angles that I'm looking for. The 50mm has been great for street photography and portraits. The 85mm is also good for portraits and getting closer to longer-distanced subjects, but I don't find myself pulling it out of my bag as often as the other two. It might be something I sell one of these days.

The other noteable thing that I carry in my bag with me at all times is this handy gadget I bought off of Amazon--a shutter release! These are great for portraits that you want to be in and for taking pictures on a tripod that have a slow shutter speed. Speaking of tripod's, this is my favorite tripod I've ever owned by MeFoto. It is a fantastic tripod that is stable and has never dropped my camera or fallen over. 

Off Brand Shutter Release

Off Brand Shutter Release

MeFoto Tripod

MeFoto Tripod

I do have a lens reflector that I use on shoots at times, as well as off camera strobes, triggers, etc., but they're something I don't always pull out. The things listed above are items that I use consistently all the time and have had great success with.

So that's all I carry and have in the realm of equipment! :) Feel free to ask me any questions about it. 

-Ashley

End Goals | Work in Progress

If you've been following my work in progress posts, then you might have wondered what I will do with all of these photos and these father's stories. As I've wrestled with what I want to accomplish, I believe I've come to the decision of a photo book!

Photo books can be so fun to look at. I've really come to enjoy them and appreciate them in a new way. Kind of like KayLynn Deveney's book (that I wrote about here), a book really can bring a narrative to life by having one topic being discovered throughout the entire piece of work. It really focuses your attention and allows you to look through the pages and take in the subject matter without being distracted by other things. 

Initially I struggled with deciding if it should only be pictures and no text, but as I've interviewed these fathers I believe that their advice and experience needs to be told. It is just too good to leave it out. Images are powerful on their own, but sometimes when combined with text it can really bring the story to life and is not obtrusive or distracting.

“When we adopted Tacoa, I remember thinking, how can I have even more love in my heart for another child? When he came, my heart opened up more then I ever realized it could.”  -Chris

“When we adopted Tacoa, I remember thinking, how can I have even more love in my heart for another child? When he came, my heart opened up more then I ever realized it could.”

-Chris

There are values and ideals that these fathers are carrying that enrich the experience of fatherhood that I want to bring out and show the world. I want viewers of this book to end with a different opinion of fathers than when they started. I know myself, my thoughts have changed. Being a father is quite difficult and I never understood it before the project (not that I do now--I just have a better understanding). 

The photo book will roll out next year some time, so be on the lookout for my process and when it's finished. I'm really excited about it and feel that it will be a starting point for me as a photographer. Who knows what I will create after this project ends! :)

So out of curiosity, do any of you have photo books that you love/hate? Let me know, as I'd love to see what other people have done. Secondly, what do you think of this idea of making a photo book? Let me know--I'd love to hear your thoughts.

-Ashley

Surprising Moments | #ThrowbackThursday #tbt

It was a nice sunny day as we stopped to hike a trailhead that someone recommended to us. It didn't look like much, but the bright green trees, colorful vegetation, and fresh, clean air was calling our names, so we didn't even care if the views were nice wherever we were going. It was just nice to be outside in nature for a change (rather than a dusty, dirty, big city). As well, we were with great friends, which made anything we did that day worth it. 

As we neared the top, we began to see a wide opening in the midst of the trees and the view was absolutely amazing. We stayed their a while, looking out at the small quaint town talking while the kids played nearby. It was an amazing sight, one that we couldn't have anticipated (or at least I didn't know what I was walking into!). I really appreciated it though and as I look back at this photo I'm reminded of the enjoyable moment I spent with my friends on that hilltop.

2017.11.02 - Germany Scene for blog 01.jpg

What's been a surprising moment for you lately? I feel like sometimes we have to stop what we're doing and recognize that it's a special moment, otherwise we miss it. Fortunately I was in the position to just take in the beauty around me in this moment, but that's not always the case (and beautiful places that catch your eyes like this one does don't exist everywhere!). But I think there is value in noticing the beauty in the things around us. I know for myself, learning to slow down and appreciate what's around me is something I'm still working on. What about you? 

I hope that you have a surprising moment today that is encouraging to you!

-Ashley

By the way, for those of you who are wondering, this image was taken with a 24mm f/2.8 on my Canon 5D Mark II. This lens is a great one to have in your bag, especially for landscapes or tight squeezes, although you have to be careful of lens distortion. I'll share more about this another time. :)

New Territory | Personal Post

Living in a new country is always a learning curve--What gestures are appropriate? What do people find interesting to talk about? Where do you buy groceries--and what do you have/lack and what do you have change in your diet to go with what you can find? What do you wear? What's in fashion or what is inappropriate to wear? And so forth! The questions are endless.

Learning a new city is also an interesting experience. Some of our new finds include a local coffee shop that makes excellent coffee. We also found a bubble tea shop--something I haven't had in a long time (that was an exciting discovery)! We also have found that a lot of local places are closed between the hours of 1pm and 4pm. Larger grocery stores and shops are fine, but if you want to go to a market, don't plan to go at that time (we heard about this, but then forgot and learned the hard way--oops). You actually probably wouldn't want to go at that time anyway because it's so hot! Also the work week here is Sunday to Thursday with Friday and Saturday being the weekend. 

So we are in new territory folks--learning a lot and realizing also as we learn how much we don't know about life. It's interesting living in other cultures as it teaches you so much about the creativity of God and how different life can be done. I think every person should live in a different culture than their own for at least some season of their life--it teaches you a kind of respect and perspective that living in your home culture doesn't. Not to say that in some cities you can't get that "international" experience that I'm talking about; I'm fully aware that pockets of many nationalities exist in major cities. But for whatever reason, immersing yourself in a new environment and having to learn how to appreciate differences (because you can't change what's around you or escape from it) is a character building experience. :) 

October 2017 - This new place is starkly different from South Asia. So much space and no people to be seen. It's very different and taking some getting used to.

October 2017 - This new place is starkly different from South Asia. So much space and no people to be seen. It's very different and taking some getting used to.

The other day while looking for homes, we were invited into someone's home and we had the pleasure of experiencing their hospitality. After cardamom-coffee, dates, somosas, fried fish, other-unrecognizable-items, and juice (remember this was a spontaneous house visit--they were prepared!), we left their home grinning ear to ear, very honored, and stomachs full. Our host was very adamant that she show us hospitality and how they do it, relaying to us every detail that goes into serving guests in our new city. They were very proud to be the first locals to invite us into their home and we enjoyed it thoroughly. It was actually recognizable in a lot of ways from our previous place of residence. 

I look forward to more of these experiences as I have much to learn in this new place.! Follow me to hear more about it. :)

-Ashley