BE INSPIRED SESSION | Feature by Ashley Kaplan Photography

Tell us a bit about your approach to the work you do, your time in the business and a few personal facts about you.

I photograph to remember and to create a visual record of the people I love, the places that inspire me, and the pulse of the time period I am living in. Even though my business in family photography began only a couple of years ago, photography has been calling to me for a long time. I was a photography enthusiast after I received my first blue Kodak camera when I was about 8 years old. I love to live in nostalgic “remember-when” moments and I almost never tire of looking through old photographs. I was a film and darkroom girl in college and it was the first place I experienced “flow”. Before making the jump to become a professional photographer by trade, I used to be a high school teacher in Oakland, California. My thesis, when I was earning my Masters in Education, focused on photovoice (a very cool and powerful research tool) that I blended into a class I created called Photography for Social Change. Gordon Parks’ photography from the era of the Civil Rights Movement is some of the most profound work that influenced me early on and it inspired that course where the focus was using photography as a tool for social commentary, self-representation, and activism. My photography focus shifted after my daughter’s birth and with the recent political dredge of our time; I’ve been using photography to document all that is love, beauty, and connection in this world. My passion for photography is pretty eclectic but I love how my camera’s focus continues to evolve along with the different phases of my life.

What about this session was most memorable?

Being outside and hiking is our family’s version of going to Church or a Temple or a Mosque. It is our sacred space for celebration and reflection. We named our daughter after the mountains, and it honors our reverence for Mother Nature. The day I photographed these pictures, we were on the Lands End Trail that wraps itself along the coast of San Francisco where the Pacific Ocean meets the San Francisco Bay. San Francisco formerly had been our family’s home base but after nearly two years living elsewhere, we had just begun to put in motion our return to the city where our daughter was born.

The Lands End Trail winds its way through the verdant California coastal landscape and a side trail, which we took that day, leads to the gorgeous Mile Rock Beach. While I’ve been to this beach many times before, I had never spent much time in this small cairn-filled corner reflected in the majority of the photographs in this collection. I know these rock piles as Cairns and have come across them all over the world, mostly while hiking. They always move something inside of me. A communication with someone whom I don’t know personally, someone who left a guide, a clue, an offering, a remembrance. I find them so serene and deeply human. A stack of rocks. A story throughout his(her)story for as long back as humans go. We marked our own story of arrival that day.

Were there any hurdles?

These were taken on a Saturday morning during Spring Break. The trail and beach were quite busy that morning. I like to spend as little time as possible in photoshop, so I try to shoot in a way that won’t require cloning or heavy post-processing. The areas we explored and the angles I shot from were often determined by my attempts to crop out other hikers and tourists. Another hurdle with my daughter as my primary muse, and just an ongoing challenge for me, is the balance between witnessing and documenting with my camera versus being fully engaged and present in the goings-on of the day. Sometimes she wants the camera away and I try to respect that. It’s a dance, and one that I navigate as best I can. Camera away or camera in front of my face, I don’t want to “miss” anything.

Your best photographer/session advice?

My best advice is to help lift one another up! One of the most beautiful things I’ve learned through photography, namely through Instagram and other online photography communities like this awesome DP hub, is the critical role of sharing artwork and supporting one another on our unique artistic and professional journies. Aside from session time, running a photography business can be pretty isolating while working alone in an office. It’s pretty awesome to have built a network of friends, momtogs, and colleagues, that I find supportive and inspiring. It allows me to connect with others while I am working by myself editing, or doing the more mundane photography business tasks of bookkeeping, contracts, or the non-artistically oriented parts of my job. I’ve experienced, promote and really value the “community over competition” ethos that I find so special in this photography community. I remember reaching out and getting support from lots of awesome photographers when I was first starting my business. I still reach out and get lots of love. When I have folks reach out to me, it’s an honor, and an opportunity to share my passion for this work. So come to say hey and let’s grow as artists, together, in a beautiful and inspiring community!

What gear was used to achieve these?

I photographed these images with my Canon 6D and my Sigma 35mm Art lens. I freelanced a couple of the cairn pile images.

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Hi! I’m Ash of Ashley Kaplan Photography. I am a mama, a wife, an activist, a wanderer, a lifelong learner and a lifestyle photographer who resides in San Francisco, California. I specialize in family, maternity and newborn photography. I love photographing the connection, love and authentic moments that help to tell each unique family’s love story.   My inspiration comes from knowing that one day the photographs I take will be heirlooms – gifts to future generations and the people we hold most dear.

I am a believer in a better world and work toward positive social change whenever and however I can, I am an artivist, an outdoors(wo)man, a mountain lover, and a forever wanderlusting soul. 


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