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Kohala Coast Sunset | Big Island Family Photographer

Kohala Coast Sunset | Big Island Family Photographer

I first came across Bre's amazing work when I joined ClickinMoms a few years ago. I have always been a fan especially of her family photography. She makes it look easy, fun and, well, breathtaking. I finally met Bre in person when I attended the Blair + Thurston retreat in Bainbride Island, WA (which I reviewed here). I knew quickly that she is a beautiful person inside and out! So when she asked me at the end of the retreat to capture her family during their trip to the island a week or so later, I was of course flattered and terrified at the same time! 

I arrived at the location half an hour early to make sure the tide was not too high and the waters were calm enough. But initially I couldn't even get in the path because of a few bees! And I am scared of bees--commence freak out mode! This specific spot on Puako could only be accessed through a 3ft wide path. If the tide was low, walking along the lava rocks from a path about six or so houses down the road would have been an option, otherwise we'd have to trespass and walk through someone's yard. But the tide was high enough to make the first option impossible and trespassing is a big non-no for me! Suddenly the trade winds started blowing a little stronger and the bees moved away! Phew! 

Bre's family is just a joy to photograph; they made it so easy and calmed down my nerves really quickly. I think at some point I sort of forgot that I was, in fact, shooting the Bre Thurston! The sunset that day was equally amazing and the trade winds blew just enough to give us a good breeze. Their session will be one of my favorites of all time! 

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Waipio Valley Dream Engagement | Hawaii Wedding Photographer

When Stacy and Jeff told me they wanted their engagement session at Waipio Valley, I kind of did a happy dance in my head! I have been dying to shoot at Waipio but the valley is very hard to get to. It is a rough 4wd drive (read: scary as F) and certain stretches boasts as the world's steepest! Hiking down is a possibility and actually what most visitors do; but the thought of hiking back up with my gear just sounds impossible. I'm pretty much at the worst shape of my life (except for that one time when I was about to have a baby!). I've hiked here twice and every time I sort of half regretted it on the way back up ;) Nevertheless, Waipio is my favorite place on the entire island so capturing their love and happiness and making timeless memories was priceless! 

Jeff and Stacy are an absolute dream couple to shoot and their session was nothing short of an adventure! So much so that my phone almost got soaked in water when we tried to cross a river to get to some wild horses on the other side. That idea was eventually nixed after multiple attempts because we had to risk getting everyone and all my gear wet! Needlessly, we still got some amazing photos from the valley! 

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Review: Blair + Thurston Bainbridge Island Retreat | Ann Ferguson Photography

I first heard about the Blair + Thurston Retreat when I was looking for a small photography workshop/retreat back in January. Not having been formally trained as a photographer, I spend most of my free time learning anything and everything about photography online. By the time I was wrapping up my first year in business, I knew it was time to do something in-person. This retreat was perfect for me; being a bit of an introvert, I was worried I would get lost in the crowd during a huge workshop or conference. I also loved that they cover both couples and families as I was struggling with direction with these types of sessions. I found the retreat in time to sign up for the Seattle location.

The Blair + Thurston retreat on beautiful Bainbridge Island was an amazing experience! It was the perfect combination of learning and relaxation that I sorely needed. From my first yoga class to the delicious chef-prepared meals, it was like a vacation packed with valuable business, technical and life lessons to get your photography on the right track. A track that is yours and that defines you as an artist.

Bre and Elena are not only wonderful people, they are effective mentors. I went home, my head full of so many plans and ideas. Before the retreat, I was still feeling a little lost-my work was a bit all over the place. I wasn’t always shooting with my heart. Instead, I was often shooting with an expectation other than my own. My portfolio was reviewed for the first time! Bre and Elena helped me find my artistic voice and its importance in furthering my career and my business. It was a surreal feeling to finally see that light, find my true passion and head back to Hawaii equipped with a more positive outlook for the future-my future as an artist and the future of my photography business.

In addition to Bre and Elena, I met six other wonderful ladies. The energy in that house was incredible! To be surrounded by these women, who are now dear friends and who share the same passion as I do, is exhilarating! There are not enough words to describe how thankful I am for this retreat!

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Hualalai Maternity | Kona, Hawaii Maternity Photographer

It is such an honor when other photographers reach out to me for sessions. Don't get me wrong, it's also a little nerve wracking. But Jamie and her oh so gorgeous family was just a joy to work with. We had so much fun at Hualalai for her maternity session and even ended the session in the water. This family of 3 is growing into a family of 4 in just a few short weeks! Congratulations to the Z Ohana :) 

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Ashley Sasak of Ashley Sasak Photography | Feature Photographer

Ashley Sasak of Ashley Sasak Photography | Feature Photographer

When I decided to launch a photography business on the Big Island, I felt very lost for a long time. I did not know where to begin, in addition to the fact that I did not know a single photographer on the island having just relocated a few months prior. I quickly turned to ClickinMoms.  From there, I found a small Facebook group of photographers in various stages of business but most of us were just starting out, a little lost just like I was! We got to ask our newbie questions, vent frustrations as struggling artists and new business owners and meet new like-minded people online. It was a great space to learn from each other, share ideas and meet new friends!

I met Ashley of Ashley Sasak Photography through the Facebook group. Ashley is a lifestyle newborn, maternity and family photographer based in the Cleveland area. Ashley's work in lifestyle photography is amazing! Her images, especially those from her newborn work, exude raw love and natural beauty. I have never met her in person but through the online photography group, it sure feels like we’ve known each other for months! I am so excited to feature her and her work on my blog today!

Let’s get to know her! And if you happen to be in her area, do check her out. Her work is incredible! 

Aloha Ashley! Thank you for talking to me today and allowing us to get to know you and your work a little bit more. Let's get started! Photographers have so many different stories of how they all got started on this journey. So tell me, how did you get started with photography?

I got my first DSLR, a Nikon d5100, as a Christmas gift in 2012. It couldn't have come at a better time for me - my son had just turned one - and he was ON THE MOVE - which left me super frustrated with every photo I took of him being blurry. That Christmas, after opening up that Nikon box, I remember turning that dial to Auto and pressing the shutter for the first time. The resulting image you will see below - I mean I could actually see my son's features! His beautiful blue eyes (well kind of blue, I would learn about white balance later ;) ), his eyelashes, his smile... He was no longer just a blur! I was hooked. It only took me a month to want more. I mean, if my photos were this good on Auto, how good could they be if I actually knew what I was doing? I turned that dial to "M" and never looked back. 

Of course, my photos of him have gotten a teensy bit better :) 

Ha! I can totally relate on shooting in Auto and still clearly remember the struggles as I switched to Manual!  So you started out photographing your family and then shooting professionally for clients. Why do you love being a photographer?

Where do I start? I love everything about it! I love meeting new people, holding new babies, and hearing my clients' stories. I love that with one click I can capture a moment forever for a family. I love making new moms look and feel beautiful in their photos - even if sometimes they don't feel that way on the inside. I love getting to see the love in the eyes of a new parent or parent-to-be. I love seeing the final images as art in my clients' homes. I even love the non-shooting part of owning a photography business - the editing of each photo to make it fit my vision, the marketing, the blogging, and designing albums and announcements for my clients. I love the learning, the networking, and yes, even the finances (ok, this one's my least favorite :) ). All my life, I've been waiting to find what I'm meant to do with my life (besides, being a mom, that is). And I'm so happy that I finally found it.

I haven't been in front of your camera and I am positive that is exactly how your clients feel just seeing every single photo you share of your work on social media! As I have said before your lifestyle work is amazing! You really capture your families and your babies so beautifully. As a photographer, what is your favorite location?

My clients' homes! In my opinion, their home is the perfect backdrop for a maternity or newborn photography session. This is where they make their everyday memories. This is where they live, where they love, where they are raising their family. I love capturing the details that makes a family's home their own - the nursery they worked so hard on, their beloved furry family member, the couch they hang out on as a family. These are the moments and the details that they will want to remember when their babies are grown.

You really do give your families something they will treasure for decades!  You shoot a few different subjects, tell me what is your favorite photo to date?

As to favorite client image: Fresh 48 sessions are my first love. There is just something about the newness of a baby that gets me every time. Plus, I'm slightly obsessed with baby feet. This image encompasses both of those things for me.

My favorite personal image would be this of my boys. This image might not be anything special to anyone else - but, to me, it's everything. It represents the small victories that I cherish as a mother. In our busy life of  "no, not now" and "maybe tomorrow" and "sorry, we have to go grocery shopping today", this image was the day I said "Yes, let's do it!" and took them to the carnival. It tells the story of them at this time in our lives. My 4 year old being his silly self and my 18 month old who is just happy to do anything his brother is doing. To me, it represents our summer of 2016 :) 

I have to say, I am a fan of baby feet too! It is my favorite newborn detail! And that image of your two littles is perfection! How do you describe your shooting style that really allows you to capture your subjects' personalities so well?

I shoot from the heart. I want to capture the moments that will make you look back and FEEL something when you turn the pages of your session album. I want you to feel the love of your family, your joy, and your home oozing off the page. My goal in every session is to capture the extraordinary beauty of your life at this moment in time. I love to capture the details - from the decor in your nursery to the way your baby clutches your breast when he nurses - no detail is too small to me.  I also have a special place in my heart for capturing the bond of babies and their mamas. Maybe, it's because Mom is usually the one behind the camera. Maybe, it's because in general Moms don't like photos of themselves. Maybe, it's just because I'm a mom myself. But, part of what I love with each session is providing each of my Moms with love-filled images of them and their babes to have forever.

And it really shows in your images Ashley! So let's imagine you could choose any photographer to take your photo, who would that be?

Hmmmm, this is a hard one. I love SO many!!! If I ever have another baby, I would love to have Michael and Sophie Kormos from Michael Kormos Photography - I'm obsessed with their in home newborn sessions. And to shoot my birth, it would have to be Bonnie from Bonnie Hussey Photography - the moments she captures are truly amazing. For a family session, Sara from Sara-Beth photography - I love the way she uses light and the connections in her images get me every time. And if I ever get back to Hawaii, Ann Ferguson Photography will definitely be doing a beach session for us!!!!

Ah I am flattered! I would be such a pleasure to capture you family during a Hawaii vacation! As a creative myself, I often wonder about what it is like to try out new things, those that are beyond our target genre. Is there anything on your photography bucket list that you’re dying to do?

I would love to start offering birth photography. Hopefully, this is something I will be able to offer to clients once my boys are in school :) .  

Indeed, birth photography holds a special place in my heart as well. The unpredictability does lead to a huge time commitment, and I hope you get to do it someday! So you opened you business just over a year ago and, already, you are having so much growth and success this year; what are your top two goals for 2017?

1. Continue to work on and grow my business. I can't wait to photograph more beautiful bellies and babies!

2. To try to find a better balance between work and family life. Being a work-at-home mom is harder than I would have ever thought. Those work hours creep into family time so easily. I would love to spend more time with my boys and maybe take a family vacation!

Help my readers get to know more about you.  Tell us five random facts about you?

- My first car was a blue 1971 Volkswagon Beetle. It cost me $650. I wasn't allowed to drive it out of my little town or in the winter because it didn't have windshield wipers or heat and the battery was bungee-corded to the back seat. But, man, I loved that car <3.

- I love to sing karaoke and have even won a contest or 2 ;) . Any songs by Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert are my favorite.

- I was a firefighter/EMT for 8 years before becoming an ER nurse.

- I am an HGTV addict. Especially House Hunters and Fixer Upper. I love ANYTHING Joanna Gaines designs.

- Craft beer is my guilty pleasure. My all-time favorite beer is Southern Tier Pumking. My husband even bought me a 1/6 barrel keg of it as a "push present" with my first son :). My current favorite for summer is Fatheads Brewery Bumbleberry. Such a refreshing beer at the end of a long, hot, summer day!

If and when you do come to Hawaii, we are definitely singing Karaoke at my house!  One last question, when you are not busy being a photographer, what do you love to do in your spare time?

During the week, I'm usually struggling to catch up on housework and laundry while trying to fit in a workout or two, play-time with my kids, and get in some Netflix or reading time. I'm also still working as an ER nurse 2-3 times/month. When my husband and I are both around, you will most likely find us (and our giant double stroller) exploring fun things to do in our city. We love walking to parks, playgrounds, concerts, festivals, and new restaurants. Weekends, when I don't have sessions, are spent at my parents' cottage in Conneaut Lake Park, PA - boating and beachin' it :).

Photo by Maria Manco Photography

Photo by Maria Manco Photography

Sounds like a super fun family time! Mahalo, Ashley, for taking the time to answer these questions and allowing us to get to know you better. I really hope you make it to Hawaii soon for some beach fun and Karaoke! To find out more about Ashley and her impeccable work, you can find her on Facebook, Instagram and her Website

 

 

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What's in my camera bag | Big Island and Hawaii Photographer

I confess, I am a bit of a gear junkie! And because I frequently get asked about what I shoot with, and what lens I used on certain photos I share on social media, I thought it would be fun to share my tools and how I use them to fulfill my creative vision. These do not actually fit into one camera bag--more like two or three! For weddings, I typically take two bags with me. I shoot with two digital Nikon bodies (Nikon gal for life!)-- the D4s and D750. I also own a film camera (Nikon F100) which I take on vacation and local trips! It helps me avoid the urgent want to upload my photos and edit when I really should be soaking up time with my family! I love this travel set-up and now most of my lenses work on all three camera bodies :) I started my career as a budding photographer with the D700 (used to take image below) and she is off to a new home with a wonderful local artist soon. 

I now own seven lenses (one is on the F100 above) and the last one was on the D700 used to take the shot below. So from left to right, and the images from these lenses:

70-200mm f2.8 - This is one of my favorite wedding lens! The compression it make is absolutely dreamy. I love how I can capture wedding moments without being intrusive and create portraits with creamy bokeh.

105mm 2.8 - This the macro lens I use to capture wedding details like rings and baby details like lips and eyelashes. Its my least used lens but the macro capabilities just cannot be replaced! See below: 

Sigma Art 35mm 1.4 - This is my newborn lens! Besides the macro lens, all my newborn work are taken with this. It also comes along with me on family sessions! 

85mm 1.8 - This is my favorite portrait lens! Sharp, and gives me creamy bokeh. I typically start my sessions with this and I also call it my bride lens!

Sigma 15mm 1.5 Fisheye - This is my newest lens and my current favorite! It is a fun lens and produces stunning beach images that I just cannot replicate with any other lens I currently own. 

50mm 1.4 - I now have two of these lenses. The D version stays on my F100. It is also an amazing portrait lens. I love how I can get good bokeh while not being too far away from my subjects. If you are looking for one I might be selling one of them soon!

And lastly...

Tamron 28-75mm 2.8 - Not pictured above because it was used to shoot the gear photos. This lens is one of the first I got when I started out. It is a pretty good zoom lens for the price! It is sharp and I always thank the flexibility of a zoom lens for family sessions.

Not pictured are lighting equipment that I only use for weddings. 

So which one is MY favorite? Well that will have to depend on where I am headed and what I will be photographing ;) I pretty much take them all to weddings! I take a couple with me to portrait sessions. Do you have a favorite? Leave a comment if you have questions or enable me towards my next gear purchase :p

 

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Dreamy Waikoloa Session | Hawaii Island Family Photographer

I met Tara through a mom group on the island and I was so excited when she asked me to do her family sessions this year. What an honor to document an adorable family! I had too much fun hanging out with them (especially Channing!) at the Waikoloa Resort for their session. We were blessed with great light and amazing sunsets (who am I kidding, that is pretty much a daily in Hawaii!). It was so hard to pick the best ones to share, I love everything about this session! 

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Mauna Lani Maternity Session | Big Island and Hawaii Maternity Photographer

Martin and Dominica booked their maternity session for a sunset at Mauna Lani. Unfortunately, the island was experiencing heavy rain on the coast (which almost never happens!). So we decided to meet up again the next morning for a sunrise session. They were both amazing people inside and out and I had the best time hanging out with them and capturing sweet and emotional images that perfectly embodies the happiness and anticipation that comes along with expecting a little one. Mahalo to both of you for the chance to capture these memories  <3

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