We made it to the Graaaand Canyon!

     Even though we've done the trip across the United States before, we've never made it to the Grand Canyon. Normally, we take the northern route, through Colorado and over to California. This time, we took the southern route to avoid some winter weather (ironically, that didn't work at all...) and knock out a few states we hadn't yet been to.
     The Grand Canyon was about an hour and a half out of the way- due north of i40 on the Historic Route 66. It's a short drive for an amazing sight. The vegetation quickly changed again- with large Ponderosa Pines like we are used to seeing in California.
     Once you reach the Canyon, there's a short hike from the Visitor's Center (<.5mi) that is a great first view of the Canyon.

Be prepared for LOTS of people. (And I do mean LOTS.) Getting a clear view of the canyon without tons of people in your photo is tough. If you venture to other views of the Canyon that aren't at the Visitor's center, the number of people goes down significantly.

Once you go beyond the visitor's center, you can take a drive on Desert View Rd., that has lots of vista points and turn offs for amazing views of the canyon. (All photos below taken on Desert View Rd.)

You couldn't count the number of selfie sticks! HA! We got a huge kick out of this. I would venture to say there are more "selfies" taken in National Parks than anywhere!

We weren't at the Canyon at an ideal time for photos. At noon, the light is very flat, which doesn't allow you to see much depth in the canyon. Sunrise and sunset is where you get your amazing red colors, with beautiful shadows cast on the canyon walls. I did the best I could with the light we had!

The wide angle shots were my absolute favorite!

(Oh, look^^! We are representing PureJoy Yoga all the way in the Grand Canyon!)
 Kenna loved all the things at the visitor's center.

After a day of touring the Grand Canyon, we are on the road again!


Overnight and through the desert...

     Logan got off work at 7pm and at 7:45, we headed out. I spent the past two days packing the truck, cleaning the house, and getting ready to make our trip across America (for the second time.) We drove all night, (and stopped at a rest stop to get a couple hours of shut eye,) switched drivers, and kept on truckin'.
     We started the trip with an odometer of 131,777. Feelin' lucky!
We saw the most amazing sunrise- possibly of our lives, in the Mojave Nature Preserve. My favorite thing about watching the sun come up is how quickly the colors change. All of these photos were taken within five minutes of each other. When shooting the sunrise, don't blink. The beautiful colors change all around you- and quickly. A general rule for sunrise is to arrive half an hour earlier than you think you need to, and stay half hour later than you think you need to.

About twenty minutes after "sunrise," we stopped at a rest stop... and this was a perfect example of why you should not give up on sunrise after the beautiful colors begin to fade:

The sun was already up, but this backlit tree was beautiful! (I got some beautiful video of it you'll see later!)
Another thing that changed very quickly was the vegetation. The California redwoods and giant conifers gave way to low growing desert scrub and cacti and other interesting plants.  



Cross country camping trip #2

  When you have a two year old. Life is never quiet. I run all the time, serving snacks, retrieving crayons from strange places she has lost them, making bowls of oatmeal, and singing songs for Kenna. While in yoga class a couple of nights ago, I heard a still small voice that said : "be grateful." (I'm really good at talking to God, but sometimes I fail in being quiet enough for him to talk back to me. Anyone else have this problem?!) We have had a somewhat rough week with Kenna, (I swear she knows change is coming) and Logan has worked the last five days in a row; that makes for one tired momma. I'm guilty of finding myself dwelling on the trials of motherhood instead of just being grateful for being a mother. I'm guilty of not seeing the peaceful soul within while she sleeps (even if it is in MY bed- kicking me in the stomach.)  

     One place where I can always quiet the world and listen is in the outdoors. Traveling has been near and dear to my heart since I was a child and my parents would take us on awesome outdoor adventures. (hiking in the Smokies, beach combing at the Outer Banks, etc.). A few months ago, Logan and Kenna and I left Kentucky for a camping trip- a five day adventure through eight states. (2,300+ miles! approximately 34 hours total.) check out our video from the trip here, in case you missed it.  I'm grateful to have a child who also has developed our love for travel and the great outdoors.

     Tonight, we start the journey back to Kentucky all over again- this time for good. (Although Logan will be returning to California for one more month, I'll stay home to watch my baby niece enter this world! Yay, Piper!)

     The snacks have been bought, (and divided into single serving size baggies..) the car is packed, and the route is planned. This time, we will take the southern route to see five new states I've not yet visited (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas.). We will also detour to the Grand Canyon (and hopefully do some sightseeing and hiking there.)  I cannot wait. Traveling and seeing all of His wonderful creation is something that forces us to be still enough to hear His voice- in the sunrise and the sunset, in the red rocks of Moab, in the plains of Oklahoma, in the craters of the Grand Canyon.

     Don't forget to follow our journey via Facebook and Instagram (search the hashtag #campacrossamerica.) please join us in praying for decent weather once we head east. Kentucky has received an amazing amount of snow (15+ inches in some places) and driving through that is not at the top of our list! Thank you all for following us on this trip!



Beautiful mess.

     I have the bad habit of liking everything to be "perfect."

     This is a comical thought with a two year old. I can't tell you how many times I've bought the perfect outfit, fixed her hair, and taken her to the most amazing location in hopes for that perfect photo. I've tried and tried. I've bought matching bows, only to have her rip them out before the first shutter click; I've bought patent leather shoes that were dirty before we reached the photo location.

      I can honestly tell you right now, I've given up.

     I've given up my misconceptions on what a photo is "supposed" to look like. Perfectly crisp, eyes looking right into the lens, amazingly exposed skies, (oh, the dreaded blown out skies! NO!) and composition that draws the viewer in, allowing them to ponder over the photo before moving onto the next.  I've given up wanting my kid to be "clean"... free of peanut butter, yogurt, and dried spaghetti (the only three foods she will eat.) I've given up thinking that to be an amazing photographer, I have to be "right." Follow the rules. Do what they say. Be perfect.

     Great exposure, crisp images, and rules are great. For some.

     For a lifestyle photographer that lives in the real world, not so much.

I took this photo of my daughter while camping on North Shore in Oahu, and to this day, it's the most accurate representation of childhood I've ever captured.
     The photo was taken immediately after Kenna climbed out of the tent and declared, "I want oatmeal. I'm hungry." (Shocker! The kid eats four packs of oatmeal a day.) I begged and begged Logan to help me take a photo of her, full frame, looking and smiling at the camera. I got nothing. No smiles, just blank stares, as if she was saying, "Mom, really? This early? Come on." -- which is the same reaction my husband often gives to my camera. Logan tried redirecting her, we offered bribes and snacks, fun activities- everything. And still, I got nothing. The one smile she did give me, the camera was off center- only capturing half of her face (in the image above.) I hung my head, disappointed as usual. (Why can I always capture great images of other children, not my own?!)
     When I got home and uploaded my photos, they were some of my favorite Kenna shots ever. So raw, so real.

                           How many times in life have we not taken the shot because things weren't "perfect?" Too messy, too complicated, too scary. I often don't take my camera with me if I don't anticipate that there will be a special moment- or if Kenna doesn't have a matching outfit on and her hair hasn't been fixed.

The fact of life is: Beauty happens even when our hair isn't brushed. When it's sunscreen-matted and sandy and sweaty like Kenna's above. Do we capture the moment for what it is, or skip it because it's not ideal? Do we miss out on life because we want it to be "more beautiful" or do we take it for what it is, learning to see the beauty in everything?


North Shore & More...

     We spent the night at our friends house last night due to inclement weather- they had 50mph winds on the beach where we were supposed to be camping... which is not something that sounded fun in a tent with a two year old. (HA!)
^Our accommodations for the night :D     
 Jason and Matt live on an aquaponics nursery, which uses red tilapia to fertilize their plants, and in turn the plants feed the tilapia. In exchange for a room (and other expenses) they work on the farm 30 hours per week, and spend the rest of their time exploring the island of Oahu.

Kenna had a blast playing in the rain (and watching the fish!) while we checked out the nursery.
      The morning was nasty and wet, rainy, and not something you want to see on your third day in Oahu. We knew the weather would clear off (or at least we hoped it would) if we checked out some other parts of the island. (Usually, there is good weather SOMEWHERE on the island, and we were determined to find it.)
     As we headed to our campsite on the beach, the rainy skies cleared a little, and we got to do some beachcombing. (Whoa! Coral!) Thanks Jason and Matt for taking photos for me! It was nice to have a break from my day job. ;-)

Of course there was some beach yoga...

^Matt took this shot of a crab... Can you see him? Their camouflage is amazing!
     Halfway through beachcombing, the rain picked back up. We sprinted to the car, and mapped out our lunch plans. We chose a local spot on the way to North Shore, called Papa Ole's.  (This was our first meal out on the island, and I was both excited and nervous to see food prices, since everyone told us Hawaii was so expensive.) I ordered the "Big J Special" ($16) which was enough food for Logan and I both to split if we wanted. The Big J included "Pehula" (short ribs) and shrimp, (with the most amazing sauce ever) rice and mac salad. (Rice and mac salad are staples on the item, and come with most meals you'll order.) I opted for salad instead of the rice. The food was great, but if I had it to do over again, I would've gotten only shrimp. I think I could've eaten three pounds of the shrimp.
     We continued North to Hale'iwa, stopping at Ted's Bakery for a slice of pie. Ted's is a trendy little place where you dine outside and place your sticker from the box on the umbrella on your table. (Why? I don't know, but it's cool.)
 ^^I got the dream cake pie, (<$4) and Logan got the pineapple macadamia nut cheesecake pie. His was wayyyy better than mine.)


      After Ted's, we stopped at Ehukai Beach (home of the Banzai Pipeline) just to say we did it. The beach wasn't overly spectacular in my opinion, it was littered with tons of people. This is the beach that boasts huge, pounding surf in the winter months and is home to many surf competitions.

     Once into Hale'iwa, we stopped at lots of little souvenir shops, surf shops, and art galleries. This is a fascinating little town, but beware- tons of people, with very little parking.

    One thing everyone told us to be sure to try was shaved ice while we at North Shore. This was one thing on the island I thought was overrated. (I know, throw the tomatoes!) I even opted to get the sweet beans in the bottom like the suggest (hey, I'm going total Hawaiian here!) and that was a big mistake... they tasted exactly like sugary kidney beans, which just weren't my forte. Kenna, on the other hand, loved the ice. (The beans, not so much.)

     After exploring Hale'iwa, we headed to the beach where we would be camping. Our friend Matt built us an awesome beach couch, and Kenna helped me make a sea turtle.

     The beach was beautiful and remote; it doesn't offer set campsites or bathrooms, but there are lots of fire rings where you can tell people have camped before. (We chose one of these, and camped at our own risk.)
      One of Jason and Matt's coworkers (Sam) came down to the beach with us to do some body boarding, so I got to take some super fun shots of him.

     We spent the rest of the evening playing on the beach, doing a little beach yoga, some long exposure shots, hanging out around the campfire, and getting to know our new friends.

     I took a series of long exposure black and whites that I'm absolutely crazy about... These will hang in our house one day! (I've had people contact me about purchasing some of my images, please send me an email if that's something you're interested in!)

And did some fun color shots also.
Sunset was beautiful as always, and seeing it from the most north-western point of the island was amazing.

     The guys and I played around with some night photography, long exposure fun. Here was the result: