Hi! I’m Ashlee, an excitable wedding photographer in Tampa, Florida. My style is vibrant, sharp, and fun! After traveling the world for a year, I returned home and started my brand in 2012.
I graduated with my BFA from UCF in 2008. I started college with the ambition of being the first person to photograph a living giant squid. But the chemistry labs were loathsome and accompanied by less-than great grades to prove it. My ambition to become the female incarnate of Steve Zissou was not meant to be. It was during this time that I realized that my fascination with the visual components of biology could be realized in a pursuit of the visual arts. I made a change and photography become my medium.
Flash forward to being asked to shoot a friend’s wedding. My professional and personal lives were changed forever. The experience was thrilling. The human emotions of the day, the management of a timeline throughout the chaos, and the demand to pull off various shots left me with an adrenaline high. I was HOOKED. Photographing a wedding is inside, outside, daytime, nighttime, people, places, things, fleeting moments, and orchestrated direction. It’s magic.
Most importantly, I am capturing someone’s love story. I’m head over heels for it. I still cry during ceremonies and father of bride toasts. Even though my relationship status now is firmly Cat Lady, I’ve had my own taste of true love and wild adventure. I’m romantically and hopelessly dedicated to capturing and conveying the love between others as beautifully as possible.
I believe that the tools we use are an extension of ourselves, as is the art that we make. In the beginning, gear was mystifying and I was beyond frustrated with not being able to make what I saw in my head happen in the camera. My first DSLR was a good old Canon Rebel XTi and it got me through my classes just fine.
After I graduated I worked briefly for Discovery Cove photographing dolphin interactions with a Nikon D300. I can’t explain it but when I used that Nikon it felt like home! The buttons and dials felt more intuitive in their placement and I adored the color. I also was obsessed with Strobist and Joe McNally at the time and relied heavily on making my own light long before I let go and fell in love with the wonders of the sun. The Nikon CLS system gave me confidence and the opportunity to learn how to shoot in any condition.
After returning home from my trip and shooting a few weddings, I upgraded from my D300 to the full frame D600. When the D750 came out I was overjoyed! Having the flip out LCD for live view, the ISO sensitivity and quality, plus the amazing focus in low light was a game changer. Since it came out I’ve been rolling with a full Nikon lineup in my Think Tank Airport Take-Off.
But times, they change and I felt a well-choreographed evolutionary move was needed to not only sustain, but also improve my brand. I am honored and excited to have the opportunity to share with you my change to mirrorless gear! Here is a breakdown of my previous/current gear followed by the exciting new Fuji gear I am beginning to incorporate:
This is my full kit and what I take to every wedding and session.
Holdfast Money Maker harness -for dual body shooting and to look cool, duh.
Shoot Sac – I have my assistant wear this to keep lenses, phone, keys, chapstick, and a copy of the time line and worksheet.
***I shoot solo 99% of the time and have a non-shooting assistant.
(1) Nikon D600 as my second body/back up
(1) Nikon D750
(2) Nikon SB-900’s – as back and key lights, set to TTL so they can be controlled manually from the 3rd flash on camera as a commander
(1) Nikon SB-910 – in commander mode for triggering the OCF and for bounced fill light
(2) Pocket Wizard Flex radio triggers – the eyesight CLS for Nikon is not reliable enough for most situations, especially receptions, so I set one 900 & flex to channel A and the other to channel B
(1) Pocket Wizard Mini for the 910 in commander mode
Manfrotto compact light stand
Gitzo Series 3 Monopod – inverted so that the light screws into the top and is held by my assistant with the squishy end
***I love OCF! Light is used to determine what is important in a photograph and I love that I have evolved my own lighting style and can use it to carve out my subjects in a flattering way.
MagMods: sphere, bounce, gel, and grid – I’M OBSESSED WITH THESE! I used to use a Rogue flash bender and a Westcott Rapid Box 26” but it was such a pain in the butt to set up every time & they were way more intrusive. Now with these I can get the same, if not better quality of light. They also take up way less space, in 2 seconds they’re popped on AND they look really good if they get caught in the frame. WIN!
Lenses – I love primes but I also use zooms for compression
Sigma Art Series 50mm f/1.4 – my most used lens until I dropped it last month. Currently using a Nikon 50mm f/1.8. I use this for portraits and details.
Sigma Art Series 24mm f/1.4 – I like this for getting ready, the ceremony, and groups. I usually roll with this on the D600 body all day so I always have a wide option.
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VRII – I love this lens! I used to use it for almost everything, I love the compression so much. Nowadays I use it during the ceremony, with the 24 on my other body. I like to be as unobtrusive as possible but also provide a thorough range of images. I then use it again heavily during introductions, formals dances and the toasts. I like to be out of the way and also getting that yummy compression. It also allows me to do fun things with candles bokehed out in the foreground.
Nikon 105mm Macro f/2.8 – this bad boy is for the ring shot and any other details only. It has also come in handy when my 70-200mm VRI decided the glass was going to slip out of alignment right before a first look.
(Not pictured) Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 – I feel like I have gone through every wide-angle lens out there! I have bought and sold so many. The 35 wasn’t enough and felt like a redundant 50. The 14-24 is way too wide and I don’t like the zoom. When I got the sigma 24 last summer I meant to sell this one but I ended up using it randomly for interiors when I shoot for my designer friend. I’m not even that happy with the Sigma either honestly. Even after professional calibration it is still soft or off on focus WAY too often.
***For engagement sessions I usually stick to just the 24 and 50, occasionally grabbing a ring shot with the 105 and haven’t used OCF for one in a long time.
Ok, so all of that brings me to a whole new list of gear. EEK! I’m nearly ready to switch to FUJI! Here’s why: Last year my travel bug and my business were finally on the same page and I traveled almost every month. I was in Turks & Caicos, Bali, Iceland, Chile, and around the US. I started to feel so exhausted by my gear. I was not only physically tired from trying to carry everything but also emotionally exhausted from constantly being worried about how, when, and where all that gear was going to go all the time.
What broke my back, almost literally, was when I hiked to the Torres Del Piane in Patagonia with my shoot sac, D750, 50mm and 24mm. It was horrendous. For photos go here. Nine hours, in the heat, up a mountain, down a mountain, ouch. And that was just day 2 of a 10-day epic trip and wedding with plenty more hikes and adventures to come. I realized I was bored with my tried and true gear and completely uninspired to pick it up when in far away places. It felt like a burden to shoot sometimes.
I have been interested in the developing mirrorless technology for a few years and whenever aspiring shooters asked me “what camera should I buy?” I’ve always touted the virtues of a mirrorless system with one good lens. “It’s the future!” I always suggest.
I went to WPPI this year specifically to get my hands on all the options out there and decide if I was ready for the move. I instantly fell for Fuji. They’re so light I could cry! And they have some features I didn’t even know I needed. Guys, it has live view double exposure, a gazillion focus points, dual card slots, incredible color control, aperture ring lenses (omg yessss!!!), the electronic viewfinder is amazing, the LCD flips horizontally and vertically plus more! In my opinion, the ONLY flaws being a crop sensor and poor battery life. But these issues are ever so trivial when considering its tear-inducing virtues.
The difference in DOF is not nearly noticeable enough to me let alone clients and I can carry extra batteries or get the cool grip. I am giddy with excitement! So far I have just about everything I need to make the switch and I cannot wait! It is so much fun to shoot. At this moment I use it to supplement at sessions and weddings. I had been craving a new system that felt more like an extension of myself, something that would give me a better feeling of freedom and ease to create my work. Here is what I have so far and what I plan to acquire before listing my entire Nikon bag on eBay:
(1) Fuji X-T2 body – I plan to get one more
Fuji X series 35mm f/2 (weather sealed what?!) (50 mm equivalent)
Fuji 23mm f/1.4 (35 mm equiv)
Fuji 56mm f/1.2 (85mm equiv, so far it’s my fav and I have been having a lot of fun making brenizer portraits with it!)
Fuji 50-140mm f/2.8 (70-200 equiv)
Once I get that second body and a lighting system it’s bye bye to Nikon. I’m picturing a symbolic Viking funeral to pay my respects. I’m eyeing a Nissin speed light set up, and they have built in radio! Sayonara stupid and expensive pocket wizards! The MagMods will fit just fine on the Nissins too. Oh, and ALL of that fits neatly into my new Vinta backpack and it all weighs a fraction of the amount! HAPPY DANCE!
I want to say thank you to ShotKit for featuring me and a special thank you to everyone reading this. I feel like 2017 is a big transition year for me. I am so excited to grow intentionally toward more risk taking and more dynamic images. I hope that a refreshed set of tools continues to open my eyes and my mind.