There are so many photos I took over the last month that will bring back such fond memories of our trip. There are photos that might stand out to photographers as ones with better composition or technical aspects. While those things are important to me, they are far from most important. I pick up my camera for so many reasons. It is my tool for artistic expression. It is a creative outlet. It captures the things my family does. Most importantly, it captures WHO those that I love are. While I appreciate beautiful portraits, I treasure those times I can capture an image that really tells WHO my kids are at any given stage.

The photos I wanted to share today may not be technically great. They have room for compositional improvement. But, they capture the “WHO” and that makes them my favorites.

It is hard to put into words my 6 year old’s personality. He is a perfect mix of quirky, intense and tender. Chris was playing his guitar while the kids were cooking over the campfire. The wind changed directions to push smoke towards my 6 year old. He immediately began laughing and dancing in the smoke. I imagine I will always smile at the sight of this image, it is just so him. (ISO 160, 1/630, f/2.8)

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Hiking, tree climbing, balance beam walking…always in pink and flip flops. She is tough and dainty all at once. This is the her I see everyday. (ISO 500, 1/400, f/3.2)7.14favorites-2

Peaceful sleep has been a long, hard battle for this little miss. Watching her nap, completely happy and peaceful in a trailer -  I love this photo. (ISO 125, 1/200, f/2.8)7.14favorites-3

This, perhaps, is my very favorite picture of the trip. I challenged the boys to jump from one bench to the other. Before my oldest would consider jumping, he started measuring out the distance on the ground and making calculations regarding the chance of him making the jump. As I was snapping a shot of him doing his measuring, his younger brother just went for it throwing caution to the wind. What I love about this is how perfectly it captures so much of their personalities. One way is not better than the other. They are just different and different is good. Seeing images like this also help me understand them a little better too. This will need to be framed in my house somewhere. (ISO 160, 1/125, f/2.8)7.14favorites-4

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  • Meg - I love watching our kids grown and seeing the beautiful differences in them! Such a fun perk of parenting!

  • Alex - You inspire me so much, Ashley! Not just to take pictures of life, but to really treasure it. And maybe to take a long trip in a trailer. Maybe.

  • Taylor - That last pictures is just fantastic! I love it!

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • danielle - These are great! I love capturing who they are right now :)

  • dana - Isn’t it awesome how God made each one so unique!? I often think how boring things would be if each one of my kids had the exact same personality! Love how these photos celebrate their uniqueness!

  • Michelle Hill - That last shot is perfection! Love reading and see pics of your trip :)

  • kris - I read your post this morning and then went about my work and saw, what looked to be a pic of your son, on the next website I went to–The Chronicle of Philanthropy: http://philanthropy.com/article/Charities-Try-New-Strategies/147167/ I thought you might want to see if it you didn’t already know about it. Love you blog, and hope you are enjoying a great Africa trip!

  • Susan - Ashley,
    I would say this trip was once in a lifetime, but I would be wrong. I imagine that your family will take many, many memorable trips.
    Thank you for sharing with us. It is a delight to see how you describe your children and your affection for each individual they are.
    Susan

  • elizabeth - i sooooo love that last photo. it really says a lot about those two. thank you for sharing these beautiful images!

  • Rebecca Harrington - Yes! This is what I love about photographs. Capturing a moment that so perfectly shows me something about a person, especially my family. Your girl is SO much like mine. I always assume a lot of that has to do with having brothers….. who knows. I especially love the last one of your boys. My boys have such different personalities as well. :)

  • renee @ savoring life through creativity - oh, i love love LOVE this post SO, SO much!! i connect with it SO much because the message you’re talking about here is the EXACT reason WHY I take pictures of my kids…i even have a category on my blog that’s called ‘who my kids are’ — to me, these pictures are so much more amazing that set up, ‘perfect’, portrait pictures, because what you captured here IS exactly what life IS!! i love them all…every single one made me smile!! thanks for sharing this awesome, awesome message!!!

  • Diana - Love love love this. Capturing “who” they are is so much more important than a perfectly composed & shot picture.

  • Emily - These are such lovely captures. I’d frame all of them ;-)

  • Rikki - This post.. and these pictures.. are just so perfect. Those candid, real life images are what my business is all about. I love it more than any other photograph. Great job mama!

  • gHina - There are also 4 of us..and each has different personalities too. Your kids reminds me so much of me and my siblings :D
    I love the way you capture life through camera :)

  • Analise - I understand the perfect moment of capturing your kids personality.I’m not a photographer like you, but I use my camera every day capturing the little moments. You have beautiful children and you inspire me with how you delight in them. Love this post.

  • Leigh Ann - These are great. :) I think you’re so good at capturing the ‘who’; it’s one of the things that makes your blog so approachable, and probably makes many readers who are really strangers feel like you’re an old friend!

    Here’s something I’ve been wondering for a while: do the boys have nicknames? Firecracker and Little One are mentioned this way a lot, but with the boys it’s usually age-related. If they picked their own nicknames, what would they be? :D

  • Paige - I just love how you just let them be themselves. I’m really working on being better at that. Instead of seeing that, “Oh my, I don’t think my son ought to be jumping with flip flops,” I really want to see his adventurous side and allow him to figure out life for himself with me just in the background for guidance. I’m working on it! Lord, help me see my kids (and myself) as you see them!

  • Debbie H - I LOVE every one of these. Priceless

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - This is awesome! I love the measuring!

7.14junpI like my iPhone. I do. It is quick, easy, and takes really great shot with the right light. While we were driving we randomly ended up in the Ashley National Forest. When I saw the headquarters sign, Chris made a quick U-turn (with a trailer) and snapped a shot for me.
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After that shot, I thought it would be fun to create a series on instagram of me/us jumping at national parks and forests. You can create your own hashtag on Instagram to compile pictures you want to see as a collection. Hashtags aren’t private, so anyone can add to your collection. I try using personal hashtags to make it a little awkward for people to use them on their own pictures. Good online etiquette is to not add your photos to someone else’s hashtag if it is obviously a personal one. For my jumping shots I used the hashtag #campbell7parkforesthappyjump If you do a hashtag search on Instagram for that hashtag you will see my jumping shots. The fun thing is I will be able to continue to add to those photos as we travel in the future.

When I posted the pictures on IG, I got several questions asking “how?” I took the shots with an iPhone, so I thought I would share that here today.

Yellowstone National Park: We were driving in Lamar Valley in the evening and no one was around. The sun was low on the horizon and the clouds were dramatic. Phones need lots of light to capture action. Since I had a lot of light, I knew we could freeze the jumping action. We parked in a pull-out and I looked for the angle I wanted. I decided I wanted low on the ground near the yellow lines. Next I asked my 8 year old to hop out of the car. I took an example shot and then explained to him where to hold the phone and what I was hoping he would capture. He nailed it. If I wanted a silhouette shot I would have had him stand facing the sun instead of the sun behind him.7.14jump-2

Glacier National Park: It was our last night in Glacier and the sun was setting so I knew we didn’t have much time. I scoped a location that had a glacier in the background and ‘empty’ space for us to jump in. Jumping shots work best when you don’t have a distracting background behind you. For this shot, I showed my 8 year old what I wanted again. Then Chris and I jumped off that ledge you see…this gave us extra height so the mountains weren’t behind us.7.14jump-3

Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest: For this shot, I convinced my sister to jump with me. We found two stumps that were somewhat close together that we could jump off. She chose the lower, level stump leaving me with one that was hard to stand on, but was higher. We had tons of bright light so I knew the jumping would be ‘frozen’. I took an example shot for Chris of what I wanted and then he snapped this photo for us. I find if I take example shots first it is much easier for Chris (and my kids) to really see what I am wanting them to capture.7.14jump-4

Mount Rushmore: I knew before I took this shot that it would be blurry and grainy because the sun was already setting and the light was not very bright. For this shot, I just counted and asked the kids to jump at the same time.7.14jump-5

Now just a few example shots related to jumping shots with your iPhone:

In Glacier, we arrived at a beautiful lake after sunset. I thought we would attempt a jumping shot just to see if it might work. It didn’t. Without bright light, an iPhone just can’t freeze action. You can see the difference in quality between the action shot and the one of Chris standing still. You need light for action shots, especially with a phone.

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When I find a place I think might work for a jumping shot, I usually do a test shot first. Chris jumped in a lot of places before I found the ones I liked best. The second shot is Lesley doing my test shot where we took our photo together. Isn’t she cute?7.14jump-9

The next two shots are not related to jumping, but are fun things you can do with your iPhone. Most phone cameras keep the majority of your shot in focus, so you can really do some unique things with them really easily.

We were at Glacier and my 8 year old laid down on the ground near the lake. He asked me to take a picture that looked like he was sandwiched between the mountains and the ground. He is so stinkin’ creative! I just adjusted my angle until I could fit him between the two. Then I coached him on keeping his hands flat. I love this shot because it was totally his idea! He also had me take about 20 pictures of him ‘eating’ random wildlife while we were in Yellowstone.7.14jump-10

So random. This was my attempt to make it look like Chris was drinking my lemonade/tea. It is how I entertained myself while driving. He is such a good sport.7.14jump-11

If you are interested in learning more about photography from the view that your phone is your main camera, you can read more about my SnapShop: Phone online photography course on the course website. Registration is open for the August course and there will be one more in the fall.

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  • Connie - I love this because you give really great examples. I’m already signed up for your course in August and am so very excited!!!!!

  • Caroline R - I loved the phoneography snapshop, and this post was such a great preview of it. I took it before I got my dslr because I was so eager to learn how to take better pictures. So glad I did because it really helped to have learned the basics of lighting and composition while I tried to learn how to operate the dslr. So, fun to see the creative ideas you and your family come up with, the holding up the lake/mountains pose was so clever!

  • Tiffany - Thank you! I love your photography tips, and yes, your son is so creative! That shot is great! I also love the reflection of the road in your glasses in the last shot!

  • Carrie Campbell - You are fun! Jumping shots in national forests! :)

  • Taylor - These pictures are awesome! I love the one of your boy “holding up” the mountains!

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • Addie - These are all so great and fun!

  • Ceri - Love this! So excited for the Snap Shop next month!!! :)

  • Mandy - You’re awesome; I just love these!

  • Michelle - I have been reading your blog for a few years now and have finally signed on to take the Snap Shop Phone Photography course! Your photos are always so inspiring . . . I can’t wait!!!

  • Christina - So much inspiration for our next road trip! I love the test shot suggestion. I have never thought to do that, I usually just try to explain or pass the camera, but now i’ll show my 6 year old what I want first before passing it off to him. :)

  • Diana - Jumping shots definitely take some work/practice but you seem to have it down (as expected). =)

  • happy jumps {phone photography tips} » ashleyannphotography.com - […] happy jumps phone photography tips » ashleyannphotography.com […]

  • Katie M - Wow…taking an example shot for the person who will be pressing the shutter is a brilliant idea! I always get frustrated with those types of shots, because I can never quite explain what I have in mind and the photo never includes the elements I want in the way I want them. Thanks for such a simple but great tip! =)

  • Angela - I love these photos! I love your creative kids! I love that YOU were in some of the shots, and that you shared those shots with us! Have a wonderful Monday!

  • Ashley - My name is also Ashley Ann.. with a Murphy at the end though! I had no idea there was a national park named Ashley and I will be traveling towards there next year and will be sure to make a stop! I have been reading your blog all day and cannot express enough how much of an inspiration you are! Your home is gorgeous, your crafts are so much fun and they are beautiful, you have a great family and I wish you all the best for your future.

  • Ingrid - your boy’s photo idea is genius!! love it :)

For a homebody like me, this summer is full of all kinds of surprising travel. This morning I leave for Ghana. Yep, you read that right. I’m headed to Africa for 10 days!

I can’t even wrap my mind around it. I’ve dreamed of setting foot on that continent since I was 17 and now the time has come. I’ve literally been waiting half of my life for this day. And all the sudden it is here. Though I am so very excited, this day is also bittersweet. My sister was supposed to join me on this trip. An epic sister trip…one we’d talk about when we are gray and our grandkids are running around our feet. Lesley shared on her blog yesterday why she is now unable to join me. I could never do justice to her story, you can click here to read her words.

So what am I doing in Ghana and how did this come about? It is a long story, but I really have to finish packing so I will fill you in on all the details when I get back. I’ll be there with a few friends and making so many more I hope. We’ll be at a home for women rescued from trafficking and I’ll see first hand what it is like when a community receives safe, clean water for the first time from a well. I’ve been warned that I might get asked to dance at church. That is possibly my biggest fear in going…that someone is going to make me dance. I can do the sprinkler and the running man. Scary.

Several of you have asked questions about our RV trip…about the trailer, hiking, our itinerary, etc. I’ve written posts answering all those questions and have them scheduled to post while I am gone. So, there will still be posts happening here, but I’ll be on another continent! EEEEKKKKK!

As excited as I am for this trip, it is always so hard to be away from my family. I’m trying not to be anxious about that part; their dad will make it the best week ever. I’ll sure miss them though!
Leaving on a jet plane….

These pictures have nothing to do with this post. They are just random shots of my niece from this week and they make me happy…

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I told her I couldn’t see her eyes and that I really wanted a picture of her eyes….7.14leaving-2

She’s super awesome. Just like her mom. And her Nana.

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  • Jenn - I am so excited for you. I know you will have a great time and bless everyone where. I have a feeling you will be blessed while there too. I am broken hearted for your sister but have a sneaky suspicion that she will be cheering for you from back home. have a great trip

  • Sprite - God is going to do such amazing things on your trip! I’m so excited for you – what a wonderful opportunity!
    My heart breaks for your sweet sister. Praying that the Lord would draw near to her and give her more peace than ever before during this time.

  • Kimberly Oyler - ahhhhhh!!! so excited for you! also really excited for all the scheduled posts. haha. so proud of you and can’t wait to hear all about it!!

  • Monique - Ha ha – the dancing… I have a feeling that once you are surrounded by those people with such genuine faith and joy in the Lord that you won’t be able to help yourself from dancing :)

  • Sue - Praying that God will bless this time away and for safe travel. I am also praying for your sister. That has to be hard for both of you. You bless my life with your words and photos and I hope that God will continue to bless yours!

  • Natalie - Safe travels! Love the pictures of your niece. My heart goes out to her and her momma.

  • Paige - I’m warning you, you WILL fall in love with the Ghanaian people. They are amazing people but their dancing is more like stomping and swinging arms so you should be safe! Prayers for you!

  • Megan - Best of luck for a safe trip and safe travels! I clicked over to your sister’s blog — incredible writing, incredible sadness, incredible faith. Praying for your family.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh sweet friend! I’m so happy for you. I hope you dance!

  • kelleyn - Hope you have a safe journey!

  • heather - i am so excited to see the pictures of your trip!!

    i have never read your sisters blog or posted so didn’t feel right offering my support to her directly, but i cry for her loss and yours too…it broke my heart to read her words…sending positive energy and healing thoughts her way and the rest of your families way

  • Theresa - Have an amazing time in Ghana. My fiancé started a school in a refugee camp for Liberian refugees. The school has closed because the Liberians in the camp finally got to return home. He will be in Liberia in the fall doing research for his phd. I look forward to hearing about your journey and sharing you experiences with him. Africa has a special place in our hearts.

  • Amy Rendziak - I am so excited for you to be going on this trip (and praying for your sister). My church, Parkview Christian in Orland Park, IL, just had two groups of people on missions trips there and I believe two more are planned. They go every year and we all sponsor children through CMF International. Praying for safe travels!

  • Ellen Tillery - Can’t wait to read all about your trip! The instagram pics are so great to see.