AKP RETREAT | RUSTIC IN CANAAN VALLEY, WV | BEHIND THE SCENES | ASHTON KELLEY PHOTOGRAPHY

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Afternoon, everyone! I got to spend last weekend hosting an amazing photographer’s retreat and now that I am finally back home, the car is unpacked, and I’ve had a half night’s sleep-I’m ready to share some of that experience with all of you! This was truly a priceless moment in time and I will cherish each minute I got to spend with these ladies.

About six months ago, I started chasing a dream of taking creatives AWAY. I wanted to take a group of photographers for three days, put them under one roof, teach, have activities, bond, and take some gorgeous photos together. We most definitely did! On Friday, 12 photographers arrived to Hickory House in Canaan Valley, WV. Through the night, we talked about flat styling, detail shots, and made super fun personality collages that played into the next day’s lesson.

Saturday was full of lectures! While Lauren of So Lovely Weddings and Blooms created a gorgeous styled wedding, I kept the ladies entertained with industry information. We talked about branding, marketing, consulting with clients, vendor relationships, posing, and more. This relaxed atmosphere allowed the girls to ask questions when they wanted to, leaving me-an open book to them. That evening, we collectively shot a stunning session and the weather could not have been more perfect.

Sunday came so quickly. I woke up tired, but already dreading the end of the day. You see, I am easy to tears and had been somewhat of a fountain the whole weekend, so I was absolutely terrified of good-byes. I distracted myself by educating the group on boudoir sessions, while Lauren again created a spectacular set up (this time, sexy) to shoot. It was all SO LOVELY!

The icing on the cake came in the afternoon. I had pulled a little Taylor Swift and recruited a special guest to come and speak to the ladies as well. This was a new mentor to our Little WV Workshop community, and so everyone was surprised and excited. Miss Callie Lindsey of Callie Lindsey Photography took her Sunday off to spend the day with us. She led a short Q&A group with two small groups, and then joined us for lunch and our send-off. What send off? Oh you know, just personalized Coca-Cola’s and DIY confetti poppers. You’ll see below, the weekend truly ended with a BANG!

I get caught up in the moment and NEVER take enough pictures, but next time we are taking a staff photographer AND videographer. If you’re interested in traveling with us to the OBX next Spring as an attendee or our staff artists, be sure to comment below! We’re starting a mailing list and details will be coming out within the next week or so. Lauren and I are SUPER excited to coordinate and style another gorgeous retreat in sunny North Carolina! Who’s coming with us?!

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The pups traveled with us. Lily and Laila loved all the attention.. and glitter!marylandweddingphotographer_0274.jpg
We also totally gave away a surprise Kate Spade clutch in an Instagram challenge! Summer walked away victorious!marylandweddingphotographer_0278.jpg
Our Instax-station was a popular place to check out sponsor’s business cards and to add your own fun instant photo!marylandweddingphotographer_0277.jpg
This weekend was my grandparent’s 50th anniversary. I was sad not to be there, but made sure to frame some of their wedding photos around the house. :)marylandweddingphotographer_0281.jpg
Oh yes, we had TWO photo stations. One was Taylor Swift inspired. ;)marylandweddingphotographer_0283.jpg
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We loved hanging out on the deck in the evenings, and it was the perfect place to flat style.marylandweddingphotographer_0271.jpgLauren and Laila became very quick friends.
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Each girl received a custom floral crown from LoveSparklePretty. Each girl loved rocking it!
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Our swag bags were not only filled with goodies, but looked so gorg! Totes by DreamState and tags by Sincerely Amy Designs totally polished the look.

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Our gorgeous MUA for the weekend, Natalie!
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So many community and brand building exercises! Don’t worry.. we bunked the beds so we would have more room for activities. ;)
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Our patient and lovely models, who both happen to be photographers and AKP clients. :)
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Here’s where I get all mushy.

After the house is empty, all the photos are taken, the flowers have started to wilt, the food is eaten, the mess is left.. I walk away feeling humbled and inspired. It’s an amazing feeling to have 12 women show up and say “hey, we want to learn from you.” It’s crazy, but it’s an honor. A crazy honor. There aren’t words.. and from me! I can’t articulate how it feels to be sitting here writing this blog, talking about an AKP workshop that had such an impact. My creative soul feels like it has caught fire, and I hope I never lose sight of that feeling. It is one that can bring me to happy tears.. any time.

Check back over the next couple of weeks for more from the #akpRUSTICretreat! We’ve got a look inside swag bags, behind-the-scenes from attendees, photos from both gorgeous styled shoots, and a vendor spotlight for my guest speaker! I’m also rolling out a new segment next month and you won’t wanna miss it. Til’ next time!!

– Ash

BONUS! Here are some of my favorite Instagrams from the #akpRUSTICretreat hashtag:

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Swag, Sponsors, & Vendors:

Venue | Hickory House of Canaan Valley, WV

Photography | Ashton Kelley Photography

Coordination, Design, & Florals | So Lovely Weddings & Blooms

Paper & Signage | EAlexDesigns

Hair & Make-Up | Baltamour Artistry

Cake | Sorby Sweet

Rentals | Stash Rentals

Dress | Ava Laurenne Bride

Bridal Robe | Walkin On Air

Floral Crowns | Love Sparkle Pretty

Pocket Mirror | Modern Girl Blitz

Magazine | WV Weddings & Baltimore Bride

Vintage Stamps | Verde Studio

Earrings | Kate Spade

Giveaway Camera Bag | The House of Flynn

Macarons | Baked by Cari

Swag tote | DreamState

Quote Print | Lara Casey Shop

Flamingo Print | Laura Hooper Calligraphy

Notebooks | Homegoods

Custom Tumblers | Discount Mugs