There are only a handful of young photographers that I feel like I can relate to. Over the past year and a half, Ashton Kelley has been one of those pros. She’s young, vibrant, and has a passion for bringing women photographers together, in the spirit of community over competition, to build their business and relationships.
I’m not completely sure how it came across my news feed on Facebook (the six degrees of separation is so real in the photographer’s world), but last year I saw images of her inaugural conference “The Rustic Retreat” which was held in the mountains of West Virginia. I was green with envy that a community like that didn’t exist in my area. So when Ashton announced late last summer that she would be bring her squad to the North Carolina coast for The Sunny Retreat, I knew I wanted to go!
I signed up and was added to a closed Facebook group of attendees and the relationships started to form even before we arrived on site. Fast forward to just last weekend and I (along with a van full of other NC girls) packed up and hit the road for an amazing weekend away.
Since I vowed to invest in my knowledge (not gear) in 2016, I felt this was a perfect opportunity to test out the conference waters. But what I walked away with was so much more than an educational. I met some simply AMAZING women, and I know that I walked away knowing that I have made some lifelong friends. But I also left with a TON of images from a beautifully styled shoot on the beach (can’t wait to share that on), attended a spectacular wedding for one of the attendees. An added bonus was the over 50 new head shots AND trash the dress (me at sunrise, in my wedding dress in the ocean!!!) shots I now have because of the swap opportunities that attendees were able to take advantage of!
Finding balance was the reoccurring theme for the retreat. Ashton spoke from the heart to us about her own highs and lows both in her business and personal space. At one point she said that her recent ah-ha moment was when she realized, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything”. Gosh, that resonated with everyone in the room. And then the collective tears started flowing. Then OBX photographer Amanda Hedgepeth started her lecture and it was as if she was talking directly to me; really speaking my love language when she said, “If you have to work a little less so you can love a little more, that’s ok”
Its amazing how some messages are delivered in exactly the time you need them!! THIS was one of those messages. Because Lord knows, I have been struggling with finding balance since taking on photography full time.
I also had a intensive editing mentor session with Miami photographer and personal editor, Courtney Jones. She helped me elevate my editing to the next level, and I can’t wait to start applying what I learned from her during our 2 hour session!! A game changer for sure!!
Thank you Ashton for an amazing time, and for all the tears, glitter, confetti, friendships, and Taylor Swift lawfully allowed in a 4 day period! Oh, and for this amazing group picture too!!! I plan on printing it and hanging it in my office.
If you are a photographer and looking for a creative community to connect with, I HIGHLY recommend the AKP Retreats. You WILL cry (like seriously, take lots and lots of tissues, trust me), and you will learn a lot, but most of all you will connect in a way that at least I thought wasn’t possible. Her next Retreat is in sunny Florida and details are found HERE. You can best believe that if I can be there, I will!!