Screw Balance.

As I sit here in unkempt hair, tie-dyed yoga pants and a “partying is my cardio” tank a million to-dos run through my head. “Send client packages. Go to the bank. Schedule meetings. And for crying out loud update your website!”. As business owners all know when we worked for someone else time never seemed to go by fast enough but as we are our own bosses there are NEVER enough hours in the day. Ever. Typically, somethings got to give. Balance? Pstttt. I’ve thrown that notion far out the window in the past year and instead of trying to have it all do it all freaking BE it all, I’ve instead learned to prioritize, which means sacrifice. But not of the bad kind. When growing business here my priorities were simple: get clients. Make mooonayyyyyyy. Man, I miss Honeybooboo. Quickly, and thankfully, photography took off and I became inundated with wedding ideas + blog posts + edits + updated 24/7. I ditched any health goals, stay up late working deep into the night, skipped lunch and took my pups on less walks. I’d sadly even skip reading my Bible. This routine became my norm so much so that my husband would come home from work at 6pm, lay at the top of the stairs and peer into my office, asking “when are you going to be off work?” or on weekends “is your boss going to let you have a day off today?”. Nope, she’s a real B, I’d proclaim, explaining how important it was for someone who once struggled like me to maintain an online presence. He’d sigh and make plans to go golf while I’d put in effort yet still never succeed to tick everything off my to-do list. Then one day, it hit me. The house is always going to be messy, my inbox will always ding and new ideas will FOREVER flood my mind. That’s life of being an entrepreneur. I’ve learned to embrace it but not let it rule me. I was not born to work 12 hour days on the reg, and I CERTAINLY was not put in Hawai’i to stare at a computer screen. Gradually I found myself making more conscious decisions to take back my life while still growing into a prosperous photographer. To ask for help when I need it. To hire someone to  vacuum the carpets and scrub the mirrors when I have a lot on my plate (man, do you know how good THAT feels?) and to put my health above all else and hit up 6am yoga because it soothes me. Hot yoga is relaxing to me. Don’t hate. Yes, I am my brand, but I am not made by the success or failure of my business. It does not rule me. There’s a very fine line between working hard for a life you love and working your life away. As hungry, ambitious entrepreneurs we can quickly become blind sighted, seeing in tunnel vision. Live your life, dammit. And if it means commenting on blogs a little less, or skipping networking meetings to go to dinner with your husband, by all means make it happen, and order up a margarita while you’re at it. After all, it’s the freedom to enjoy our lives that we are working so hard for, right? So live em! (All this coming from a girl who has about 5 new ideas and projects in the works….hahah!).

…as I finish this post my husband, who has not been home for over a month just laid down in my office door and without a word gave me “the look”. I know what that means and I will accept it, time for an Aloha Friday, y’all!



May 22, 2015 - 12:14 pm

Jim Baker - love this: “I’ve instead learned to prioritize, which means sacrifice”

Clearly stated and lived priorities are what is going to make us not regret our lives on our deathbeds.

Thanks for this post. Being self employed is crazy, especially when you have a tendency towards perfectionism, which I bet most self employed people have.

Happy Aloha Friday!

May 22, 2015 - 12:50 pm

Tamika | Bajan Wed - I’m all for that! Of course, I’m sitting here staring at a computer screen on a Friday night with an exhausting to-do list- but I have promised myself that I will try to let go more often and live – life is meant to be enjoyed, I miss reading and sleeping and having a drink with friends! Sigh! Thanks for this reminder :)

May Obsessions

If one didn’t know me well, they’d probably take a glance at my crazy stashes and think I was hoarder status, reacting from a childhood of extreme poverty subsequently buying certain things in bulk. They’d be wrong…kinda. The only good reason I have multiples of items is because I quickly become hooked on things and out of fear they will be discontinued (like the Sun Tan candle from Bath and Body Works that smelled just like sunscreen!) if I fall in love, I stock up. I refuse to let my heart be broken. In contrast, I also go through seasons of my obscure obsessions, like scents. Or warm and fuzzy blankets. Or hot pink. While my affinity for tassels and all things gold will undoubtedly never change, here are the things I simply can’t live without this month:

1. Becca Shimmering Skin Perfector. Ladies. You can’t live without this stuff, trust me. Blot it over your cheeks, nose, heck your entire face with or without make-up underneath for some serious balmy, dewy goodness. It’s perfect. I use the color opal but would love the other colors as well.

2. Nike Pegasus 31 Running Shoes. I’d be partially lying if I said if I wasn’t running the marathon for the shopping excuses…and malasada at the finish line. These shoes are ridiculously comfortable and so damn bright it’s insane. No worries about getting run over, trust and believe.

3. Kiehl’s ultra facial overnight hydrating mask. Whatta name. But, it does everything it says! Hitting the big 3-0 got me into a “I gotta take care of my self” tissy, and this impulse purchase has proven to be worth it’s weight in gold! A little bit goes a long way, so it’s reasonably priced for all the hydrating it does to my face. I swear I can see a difference every morning!

4. Bath + Body Works White Sand Beaches Candle. I get some serious “Hawai’i guilt” when working inside all day. Hard life. Lighting this candle as I chug along helps ease my brain, creates a cozy work environment and maybe, just maybe, helps me pretend I am adventuring across the islands. Plus, after recently watching Parks + Rec and seeing Tom’s “Girl Heaven” apartment, I have become determined to create my own. Fuzzy blankets, check!

5. Clean Warm Cotten Perfume. Between all these candles and my other impulse perfume buy, I am in a season of “scents”. I believe everyone should have a signature one, and while I alternate between Bobbi Brown Beach + Bath, I have recently integrated Warm Cotton by Clean. It may sound crazy, but it smells just like fresh laundry and is some kinda good. You know how I feel about freshly laundered smells…I went to the ends of the earth to have fabric softener from Thailand shipped here! This isn’t too strong, stays all day, and can be layered with my “Beach” perfume for a winning combo.

6. Kimchi Blue Lace Bras. TMI? Maybe. But these cozy babies are perfect for work days, lounging, and even under loose dresses and tanks. I bought one and went back for them in every color. Naturally, they are on sale now.


I love sharing my favorites with others, what are YOU currently hooked on? Let me know below! 


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[Married] Erin + Jonas

Erin + Jonas, who met during mardi gras (amazing, right?!?!) traveled from Louisiana to the beach of Makapu’u on O’ahu to become husband and wife. Set against the crashing of waves, salty breezes sealed with a Hawaiian chant by Kahu Bruce, their elopement was nothing short of perfection.

Location: Makap’u Beach  |  Cordination: O’ahu Wedding  |  Officiant: Kahu Bruce  |  Film + Camera: Contax 645 + Fuji 400h


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May 19, 2015 - 10:28 pm

Urška Majer - So dreamy and beautiful!

Using Artificial Light to Shoot Film

Ohhh, film. You know how much I love it. It has the potential to be so soft and airy and if shot in natural light super bright and crisp. But as we all know not all weddings are outside during the coveted golden hour and as photographers we don’t always have the pleasure of photographing in perfect lighting conditions. I used to consider film restrictive, only able to be used in the best of the prettiest light but with some testing, trial and error have found that with a touch of extra planning film can still be beautiful in even the seemingly darkest of scenarios. If in low light some may instinctively think “increase your ISO and shoot Portra 800 instead of 400!”. Unlike this digital way of thinking, that can be useful but quite frankly isn’t always the best solution as different film ISOs have colors that don’t react the same in different light and, in my opinion, Portra 800 isn’t the best for low light….at all. The colors get kind of wonky. So unless you are going black and white picking up a faster ISO won’t always do the trick. This is where you can either decide to 1: shoot the film you have a faster ISO and have it “pushed” later in developing (which gives a totally different look) 2. Go digital or 3: light the joint up. I do whatever I can to continue to shoot film well into the evening, so here’s How I Use Artificial Light to Shoot Film:  (best part is, you need very little gear to get great results!)

**Note: ALL examples below are unedited film scans and Fuhi400h


SCENARIO 1: The room without windows

Recipe: 1 Lowel light on a stand + natural reflectors + 1 video light (when needed)

Shilhi of Passion Roots asked me to photograph her beautiful Christmas inspired tablescape in her home. I brought along both digital and film, hoping to shoot all film and just before I left grabbed my giant Lowel pro light and stand just in case. When I arrived I immediately knew I would be needing it, as there wasn’t a window in sight in her dining room. I opened the front door in hopes of brightening the place up but knew we’d need a lot more than that. So I got to work putting up my one light and praying for the best. Thankfully the walls surrounding the table were bright white and the mirror that lined the opposing wall from my light held a very large mirror. These natural reflectors mixed with ambient light from the chandelier and tree added all the brightness and pretty that I needed. I made sure to keep the very bright (but somewhat “spotlight”) light on a stand off to my side, as a “key light” of sorts, keeping it pointed toward the white walls and mirror so it could reflect and bounce around the room.

When I changed positions and photographed the florals in the opposite direction (photo below)  you can see my light source (the light stand set up to be about 6 feet high) behind the arrangement. I then used it to back-light the tablescape, again with the white walls and mirror now behind me as a natural reflector. During this shoot I rarely moved the one light on the stand and, if needed, used an assistant holding a video light for filler light on darker corners of the table.


Scenario 2: Mixed Lighting (+ no reflectors)

Recipe: 1 Lowel pro light + 1 window

To highlight the sparkle and shimmer of the Christmas gifts in our own living room (that has windows but not a lot of natural reflectors close by) an additional light source was needed to fill in the darkness between the falling window light and the space in front of the Christmas tree. I set my one, again bright and hot as hell Lowel pro light up about 12 feet away from the scene, shining directly onto the tree and the packages, with the window light coming in from behind the presents. This time, instead of keeping my main light source (the lowel light) to the side of me reflecting off white walls (like I did in scenario 1) I kept the lowel light behind me (over my shoulder). In doing this I had to be careful not to cast shadows with my big head, and being limited on my light sources I could not shoot from all directions unless I incorporated an extra video light into the mix to fill in shadows. In the photo below of the box with the pink bow I shot with the window to my right side and the light stand to my left. Shooting the light directly falling onto the subject with no other reflectors to soften it up as I did can be tricky, you don’t want it to look TOO artificially lit, so where you stand in relation to your subject matters. Also, you can see that the light I have doesn’t have barn doors on it, so it acts like a spot light. This is helpful if I am showcasing cropped scenes but when shooting the entire scene from a distance this type of light can create fall-off, like in the photo below of all the packages under the stocking. See where the blue chair and teepee aren’t as well lit? Barn doors on a bright light could help that.

In the photo below I cropped in tighter to eliminate parts of the scene that weren’t well lit and create some great bokeh with the ambient christmas tree lights.

Scenario 3: Ballroom Reception Details

Recipe: 2 video lights

Truth be told, large, dark ballrooms are typically where I bust out my digital camera and continue to document the day. However, there are some things I just can’t NOT shoot in film, so when I have a way to effectively light it, I will. It’s hard to photograph very large, dark scenes in color so instead I focus on capturing the details in my favorite medium by using an assistant holding two video lights. I love love LOVE food photographed in film, so whenever dinner is served I walk around and take shots of the plates and desserts, shooting onto a bright tablecloth (at a wide aperture) and getting my assistant to hold the two small but powerful lights on either side of the subject. Usually they are standing slighly to the left of me, getting an arm workout as they hold each video light above their heads in a “v” shape, kind of like a cheerleader with pom poms (omg don’t tell them I said that), with one arm slightly lower than the other, at an angle directly light onto the subject. I always look for shadows and ask them to adjust accordingly. Lots of light holding around here, they probably hate me for this. Sometimes I also directly mount the device onto the hot shoe of my camera and ask them to hold the other slightly off to one side.

Scenario 4: Sunset

Recipe: 2 video lights + a natural reflector

I find myself super excited during a shoot and as the sun is dipping below the horizon and dusk is quickly approaching I yell “just one more shot!” at least 12 times. You can’t just increase your ISO to accommodate low light when shooting film, and the look of sunset with a flash just ain’t my thang so when I am capitalizing on a couple having a great time well into the evening I’ve gotta find ways to make it work. This is when I bust out my cheap-o video lights again. Using any natural reflectors around me (usually sand) mixed with the last bits of sun I ask my clients to turn where the lighting is best and I use video lights to fill in the rest. The results can be beautiful, natural looking and super easy! Plus, it allows me to keep shooting justttttt a little bit longer. In the photo the awesome photographer helping me for the day on Maui stood off to my left, holding the video lights above her head, again, in a slight V with one arm somewhat lower than the other directly shining onto the couple. I love the shimmer and warmth it added with the last few drops of peachy sunset reflecting behind.


-Lowel Pro Light + Stand (these babies get HOT + are BRIGHT! Best for small, controlled shoots)

-Two Video lights (I use cheapos from NEWEER but Ikan makes awesome super bright, clean ones. Great for mounting on top of your camera in the hotshoe or having assistants hold them, or even on a stand if you don’t have extra help)

-Reflector: Whether it be natural (sand on the beach, a white wall), one you brought with you or a DIY one using a hotel bed sheet, these tend to come in handle to bounce artificial light and make it appear more natural.

Either beach engagement shoot or a ballroom wedding I always keep these lights on hand and have more often than not pulled out my inexpensive video lights for added oomph.

Some people opt for flash but when it comes to shooting both film and digital I prefer a constant light source that I can move and adjust as I see fit. 


April 16, 2015 - 7:11 am

Chelsea Bolling - I love this! It’s so informative and educational. And gorgeous example photos (as always!)

Ashley do you have any recommendations on what kind of a film camera would be good for a beginner? I’m really fascinated by film and it’s look but I’m not sure if it would fit my style- so before investing in something like the Contax- do you have any suggestions of starter film cameras?

Hope all is well and Hawaii is treating you well!

April 28, 2015 - 6:04 am

Robin - This is such good information! Thank you so much for sharing Ashley!