I thought I would combine a travel post with some photo tips. I’ll start with some travel info and then the photo tips are included with the photos.

While staying with family in Crested Butte, we ventured to a few surrounding areas. We spent one afternoon at Taylor Park Reservoir. It was a low-key, beautiful getaway. The drive there was stunning – lots of fishing in the river along the way. The majority of people we saw in the area were there to ride ATVs – tons of trails. We just hung out on the beach. I thought for about half a second I might fall asleep under an umbrella, but 5 boys made sure that didn’t happen. The water was FREEZING, but we had plenty of fun on the beach. We packed lots of food, fishing poles, and a few ‘beach’ toys.

All the photos below are from one area – where we hung out.

Photo tip: If you can, find an angle where your subject has ‘negative’ space around him. When I first took this shot I was at a lower angle. My son blended in with the mountains. By adjusting myself for a higher angle, I was able to get a shot where he really stands out. 50mm, ISO 100, 1/1250, f/5.0

8.15reservoir-01Photo tip: Pay attention to your horizon line. For the most part you want to keep your horizon line level. Sometimes photographers will slant a picture to make it more ‘artsy’. However, if you are slanting the picture for a specific reason it is better to keep the horizon level. In the next two shots, I was distracted by the boys and not paying attention to the horizon. When I look at both shots, I want to tilt my head to make them straight. You can often rotate an image on your computer to straighten it. If I try that with the first picture, I end up cropping out part of my daughter and the boys. Bummer..head tilting to view this it is.

8.15reservoir-02The next shot I was able to straighten the image on my computer without cropping out my son. You can see that straightening the shot did result in some cropping. To straighten this photo, used the beach line in the background to determine when it was level.8.15reservoir-03Photo Tip: Take advantage of the ‘burst’ function on your phone or the continuous shooting option on your camera. These functions allow you to take several images quickly with the press of one button. This shot was taken with my DSLR. Once he got up, I started shooting. The continuous shooting option allowed me to capture this image before he fell in the water.8.15reservoir-08Photo Tip: When your subject is looking to the left or right, it often works best to place them on the opposite side of the frame. Since he is looking to the right, I placed him on the left of the shot. This gives him room to ‘look across’ the image, keeping the viewer’s eye on my photo.


I don’t have a photo tip for this one. It’s just cute. She caught a lot of stuff other than fish and wanted a picture with her catch.8.15reservoir-04Like the shots above – I ‘framed’ her with the water and have her ‘looking across’ the image. 50mm, ISO 100, 1/640, f/3.58.15reservoir-10This girl spent a good hour with her uncle fishing. He taught her how to use his fishing rod and she was hooked. She didn’t catch a fish, but that did not matter to her. I took several shots of the two of them together, but I’m not sure if her uncle wants featured on my blog. My final photo tip is to capture your family/friends. It would have been easy to photograph just her in all her fishing cuteness, but I have a feeling one day she’ll like looking back at the photos with her uncle.

Also – swimsuit and a hoodie. Colorado, we are fans of you. 50mm, ISO 100, 1/200, f/3.58.15reservoir-09Just a reminder – this September will be my final SnapShop courses (phone and DSLR). If you are interested in learning more about how to capture every day moments, storytelling through photography and the basics of photography, click here to learn more about SnapShops.




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  • Tanya - Your photos are adorable! Great tips too, especially the ones about negative space and straightening horizons.

  • stephany - Ashley, I grew up camping and fishing at Taylor Reservoir!!!! We camped away from the lake, but would rent boats from the Trading Post and fish the reservoir!! So many great memories came flooding back to me when I saw this post!

  • stephany - Oops! We rented boats from the Marina at the south end of the lake, not the Trading Post! So much fun!!

  • Amanda - I love your photo tips. It’s helpful to see the “mistake” picture too. Like “do this..not this”. You make everything look so natural and easy, I never would of noticed the horizon line being slanted.

  • Emily - I love all of these! Also, last night I looked up your tutorial for painting subfloors. Thank you – many years later – for that one!

  • Jenny - Looking at your photos never gets old. You definitely have a gift!

  • Jenny B. - Great tips, Ashley! I just signed up for the Snap Shop phone course. I’m excited! πŸ™‚

  • RaD - LOL! The only problem I have with burst shots is I almost always want to keep the whole sequence because they tell a neat flipbook like story when you look at them on the computer. I took photos of my son doing long jump with the burst and got the greatest picture of him in the air preparing for his landing. It’s an awesome shot. But the rest of the pics are still on my external hard drive because I could not bring myself to delete them, they just look so awesome all together.

    So if you are like me and you do the burst too much you could end up with hundreds of pictures in a short amount of time. πŸ™‚

  • Desiree - Thanks for the photo tips!!

  • Christin - Thank you for breaking this down and sharing it on the blog! This was super helpful!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - You always give the best tips. Thank you!

Every now and then I get the change to wander in a craft store. It doesn’t happen, but when it does it is like a mini-vacation. I often wonder about the people that design the art, the paper, the kits. Well….this is so wild….my friend Amanda has a DIY House Pillow kit available at Jo Anns stores. I wanted to frame the packaging. I kept looking at her picture and smiling – Hey, I know that girl. Like she is my real life friend. I know her!!!

8.15HousePillow-01Amanda sent my oldest daughter a kit, knowing how much my girl relishes any chance at the sewing machine. I thought I would need to help her make the pillow, but she actually did 95% of the pillow completely on her own. I kept wanting to step in to help, but she was confident she could do it…even the detailed stitching.8.15HousePillow-03Everything in the kit is pre-cut and measured. Simple!8.15HousePillow-04This is the area I thought I would have to help her the most – sewing straight lines on those little windows. She did such a great job and was adamant that she did not need my help. She was right.8.15HousePillow-05Her little sister is slowly getting an interest in sewing, but she really was more interested in stuffing the pillow and making faces at us.8.15HousePillow-07She is so proud of her pillow. I could have helped her. She would have still been proud. However, when she tells people, “I made this all by myself! Well, my mom helped a little, but I made it mostly!” – I can hear the confidence and pride in her voice. Her pillow is now proudly displayed on her bed. A keepsake for sure.8.15HousePillow-09

She is pretty much on the same level as I am now in regards to sewing. I can thread the bobbin – that is about all I have on her now. Thankfully, my mom is quick to teach her. I imagine she is a much better student for my mom than I ever was!

You can find all the information on Amanda’s pillow kit on her blog at:


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  • Annemieke - Excellent job Firecracker, I am so impressed and now I am going to have to get this kit!

  • Julie - Well done! It’s darling! Would be fun to tranfer photos onto fabric for the windows, as well if used as a gift.

  • Cathy - I NEED to get to JoAnns!!! Well, I really don’t because I have SO many unfinished projects already, but this one is adorable!!

  • Jayme - This is so darling! I love that your cute daughter made this pillow! <3

  • Caroline - Wow! you know i’ve been hoping to sew something on the sewing machine but it never happened. im kinda scared to use it, because i never learnt how to use it in any way. im afraid i’d spoil it!
    but your daughter just inspired me to give it a try!!!

  • Juice - What a joy to see the sense of accomplishment on her face.

  • Diane - Nice job, Firecracker!!

  • Krystle - My daughter is 7 and really wants to sew with me. I’m pretty much self-taught, so I’m sure that I’m doing everything “wrong”, what’s a great way to teach her? Any starter projects that we could try to work up to something like this?? πŸ™‚
    Thanks! I love coming here every day to see what you’re up to! It’s like a daily dose of awesome πŸ™‚

  • Charity G. - I love her focused sewing face. What a cool project and she did an amazing job!

  • Maureen - Wow, I am impressed! With the confidence, skill and finished product…. It’s adorable! Way to go Firecracker!

  • AshleyAnn - Krystle – I think this would be a great project for you to do together. Really all I know how to do is sew a straight line. I would recommend trying this one together!

  • Rosalind - Oh very cool and well done Firecracker!

  • kimber - I’m so impressed right now. Her pillow turned out way better than mine probably will. And AMANDA! I’m so excited for her. That’s it, everyone is getting a pillow for Christmas.

  • Allison - Love this!! My 3 girls love to sew and the 2 oldest (12 and 10) are far better than me! Love reading your blog and seeing how your everyday life is filled with much happiness and joy! Living in Africa right now for 2 years…wish we had a Joanne’s fabric store:) I’m attempting a blog of our experience here…yours is such an inspiration!

  • Cathy - Thankful for all that you share! You have encouraged me to cherish the everyday moments. I have seen posts detailing camera equipment but could not find specifics on the sewing machine that you use (other than seeing the make of Singer). Could you provide which model you use or make a recommendation for a beginner?

Colorado is one of our favorite places to visit in the summer. The combination of seeing family and being outside in weather that isn’t blistering hot makes my whole crew happy. We mainly hung out with family, but we squeezed a few hikes in around the town of Crested Butte.

I’ve been trying to record snippets of our trips here as a way to remember them, but also for future reference (for me and others). As a parent, I always appreciate real life perspectives and tips on places and things. Traveling looks totally different as a mom of 5 than it did when I was a single 20-something. We still explore, but differently. These travel posts are extensive travel guides for everything in an area – they are simply a few notes and tips from our trips.

We didn’t have tons of time for long hikes, so we did a couple shorter ones near where our extended family lives. The first was a hike super close to Crested Butte South called the Caves Trail. We saw a handful of people on the trail and the boys were really hoping to see a bear in the caves (an adult verified first that a bear was not in the cave).


The view from the top was spectacular. This was our first high elevation hike with our dog. She basically pulled us up the mountain and then dragged us back down. Beagles are known for their energy for a reason. I had a Yorkie growing up. She couldn’t make it around the block before she’d just lay down and make someone carry her. Our beagle is the exact opposite. We love her, but I can’t imagine having a beagle without the entertainment of 5 kids!

The website says it is steep and strenuous. I didn’t think it was that bad, but it was in full sun most of the way. It isn’t that long, so you don’t need tons of stuff to take along. Water, snacks (my kids always need snacks), and hats were all we needed. Climbing inside the cave is steep, just a heads up.

You can see the caves from the main road between Crested Butte and Gunnison. The kids really enjoyed spotting them from a distance every time we drove by on the road.

8.15crestedbutte-028.15crestedbutte-03Their hats are from Honey Bee Tees.8.15crestedbutte-04

The kids were wanting to play in a river, but not go on a long hike. My brother-in-law took us to the perfect spot along Slate River. We were able to park nearby, the current wasn’t too strong and the water wasn’t too deep. The boys spent most of the time throwing rocks while the girls cleaned the rocks (washed river rocks in the river).

I can’t find a direct link to where we parked and hiked down to the water, but it was a dirt parking lot and there was a small walking bridge over the water. The majority of people we saw on the trail were riding mountain bikes. I think the trail loops from the town of Crested Butte. I told Chris in a few years we are bringing (or renting) bikes. The drive out to the river was gorgeous – natural beauty without all the ‘touches’ of man. I am sure you could just ask a local for directions, it was a single road outside town.

I sat on my bottom and watched the kids. Let me say that again, I SAT DOWN. It was awesome.

8.15crestedbutte-05My kids don’t believe shoes. The rocks were smooth and they were running in and out of the water. Shoes are so cumbersome to my kids πŸ™‚8.15crestedbutte-068.15crestedbutte-088.15crestedbutte-098.15crestedbutte-10My oldest daughter wanted so badly to cross the river, but it got a little deeper than she was comfortable crossing. We all told her she could do it, but she wasn’t so confident. When she is unsure, there is pretty much always at least one brother that comes alongside her. After crossing with his help once, she confidently crossed back and forth on her own. I hope her brothers are always there to help build her confidence and show her she can do it.8.15crestedbutte-11

We visited Crested Butte (the town) for a bit. Here are my two food recommendations: A cookie ice cream sandwich from the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (it is huge, our family shared one) and the gourmet vegetable soft tacos from Teocalli Tamale. My brother-in-law order the tacos and I very much regretted that I did not after tasting a bite of his. So good. There are so many other things to do in Crested Butte and places to visit….and hike….and explore. We didn’t have much time, so we tried new places this round.

Share your favorite Crested Butte tips in the comments…for those traveling later and for me next year!CLICKHEREtravel

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  • Kristin S - I think THESE brothers will always be there for her. You have fostered that in your children – so it seems.

  • Lacy - Thanks for sharing your family trip adventures. I can be a worrier and tehse posts always remind me that other families try things, like hikes, and they and their kids survive. One question – did your kids have any trouble with altitude sickness while you were in CO?

  • Lacey Meyers - I just love your travel posts, Ashley! Both because we get to see lovely places we might otherwise not, and also because it is a joy to see your family enjoying such wonderful adventures together. Thank you for sharing!

  • Lindsey - My family has a home in Crested Butte… been going there my whole life. Hiking Mt. Crested Butte is so fun, and there are so many places to just hike around the base. As far as food I have to say Slogars Chicken in downtown CB. Oh my… comfort food at its finest. Best fried chicken and best cottage cheese I’ve ever had!

  • Jenny L. - I love watching your youngest daughter with her father. I remember when you went to get her and looking at the picture of her sleeping on Chris’ chest and thinking she really likes this new daddy stuff. Every little girl should have that kind of Dad!

  • Ruth - I am always encouraged by how much your boys love and look out for your girls! I have two boys and a baby girl so I am always on the look out for great examples of loving older brothers πŸ™‚ When my girl is old enough she can do her bit by making them cookies like Firecracker does! You have such a beautiful family; enjoy your vacation!!

  • brandy - can you believe I actually chose beagles so that I would HAVE to run? 10 years later and our beagle perks up every morning with the hope for a run.

  • Amber - I share your kid’s disdain for shoes! Shoes are overrated! : )