Nags Head, North Carolina || AKP Sunny Retreat || March 18-21, 2016

On March 8, 2015, I met this spunky, fun loving photographer named Ashton Kelley.  I was an attendee at her very first photography workshop, and it was that very workshop that pushed me to start Laurel Hill Photography, and on March 25, 2015 I applied for my business license.  The past year has been an incredible journey.  At every turn over the past year, I have soaked up as much knowledge and wisdom as I possibly could from anyone who would offer it.  In August of last year, I attended Ashton's Rustic Retreat in Cannan Valley, West Virginia.  It was Ashton's first retreat, and it was incredible.  I gained so much confidence with my business, and made incredible friendships, so when Ashton announced the Sunny Retreat to be held in the Outer Banks, I knew immediately that I wanted to attend.  I busted my butt from August to February, and saved every penny I made so that I could pay for the retreat entirely with LHP funds.  It was so gratifying the day I paid off my balance knowing I had done it completely on my own.  

There was so much packed into the four day event.  A styled Little Mermaid inspired beach shoot, head shot swaps, lectures, even a LIVE wedding!!  Arrival day was so relaxing as attendees from all over the east coast rolled in to our amazing beach front house.  Friday night we successfully pulled off a surprise bridal shower for the Bride of weekend, Courtney.  Courtney and I were both attended Ashton's first workshop, and Courtney is one of most genuinely sweet gals I have ever met.  

The beach house was decorated with gorgeous, cheery, sunny flowers, and while out on the beach, I couldn't help but snap a quick photo of the puppy prints in the sand!  

The beach house was decorated with gorgeous, cheery, sunny flowers, and while out on the beach, I couldn't help but snap a quick photo of the puppy prints in the sand!  

I am glad I packed tennis shoes.  It was a smidge chilly the whole weekend.  

I am glad I packed tennis shoes.  It was a smidge chilly the whole weekend.  

These two beautiful gals, Kristin Hurley and Maryn Graves, were my traveling companions and roomies for the whole weekend and I seriously don't think I have laughed as hard as I did with them in all my life!!  So many amazing conversations and so many laughing tears.  We are truly bonded in retreat sisterhood!

These two beautiful gals, Kristin Hurley and Maryn Graves, were my traveling companions and roomies for the whole weekend and I seriously don't think I have laughed as hard as I did with them in all my life!!  So many amazing conversations and so many laughing tears.  We are truly bonded in retreat sisterhood!

On the first night of the retreat, as we all sat around and chatted and got to know each other, I couldn't help but notice how absolutely breathtakingly beautiful everyone's rings were, and I started to create this image in my mind.  Ring shots are in my top 5 favorite wedding images to shoot!!  On Sunday, while I started to stack all the rings up, and as I held each ring in hands and looked at each one, I was so thankful for each lady in attendance.  We are all unique and different and beautiful, like each ring, and like each ring, we all come from different places.  Despite how different and unique we all are, we all have one thing in common, we all have a love for photography that drives each of us to pursue our dreams!!  Thank you ladies for lending me your rings for bit, and allowing me to pursue my dream!

On the first night of the retreat, as we all sat around and chatted and got to know each other, I couldn't help but notice how absolutely breathtakingly beautiful everyone's rings were, and I started to create this image in my mind.  Ring shots are in my top 5 favorite wedding images to shoot!!  On Sunday, while I started to stack all the rings up, and as I held each ring in hands and looked at each one, I was so thankful for each lady in attendance.  We are all unique and different and beautiful, like each ring, and like each ring, we all come from different places.  Despite how different and unique we all are, we all have one thing in common, we all have a love for photography that drives each of us to pursue our dreams!!  Thank you ladies for lending me your rings for bit, and allowing me to pursue my dream!

Saturday we kicked off the day with guest speaker Amanda Hedgepeth!!!  I won't even try to lie, I had a total fan girl moment!!  I had been following Amanda on Instagram for a good while, and could hardly contain my excitement when she was announced as a guest speaker for the event.  As a mother myself, Amanda's real life posts and blogs about motherhood and business, really hit home with me.  I am so incredibly thankful for her no nonsense, honest posts.  It helps so much to know that people I admire, and look up to, struggle with the same things I do.  Balancing mom life with business life and all that entails.  Some days I feel like I am kicking butt and taking names at both, while other days, I just want to crawl under the covers and cry.  Some days, I feel like a such a failure on both fronts and it can be so exhausting.  Many of the other attendees are also mothers, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house when Amanda finished.  Her words are buried deep in my heart still, and I stop myself daily to make sure I am soaking up every moment with family that I can, all while building my business.  

After Amanda's amazing, inspiring words, and a quick selfie with her, everyone headed to the beach for the styled shoot.  Despite the rain and wind, it was gorgeous and our models were great sports.  Ashton wrapped up our day with a very personal lecture, and in true Ashton Kelley style, she shared her heart, and a few tears, with all of us.   

On Sunday morning we had our second guest speaker, Courtney Jones, share her story of relocation and rebuilding.  She too is a momma and business owner.  It was inspiring to be surrounded by so many mom bosses!!  Sunday's weather was not ideal, and the wedding had to be moved indoors due to rain and horrific wind.  Everyone rolled with the punches though and made Courtney and Jonathan's wedding absolutely stunning!  During a break from the rain, a few of us were able to get out and do a quick head shot swap!  Holly and Kristin are my girls!!  I had such a great time laughing and battling wind blown hair with them.  

Holly has to be one of the sweetest gals I've ever met!!  Thanks for the cuddles!!

Holly has to be one of the sweetest gals I've ever met!!  Thanks for the cuddles!!

Oh Kristin....I seriously will never be able to thank you enough for taking a chance on me in the fall of 2014 and inviting me to second shoot with you!  You have been an incredible mentor, and even more importantly, such an incredible friend!

Oh Kristin....I seriously will never be able to thank you enough for taking a chance on me in the fall of 2014 and inviting me to second shoot with you!  You have been an incredible mentor, and even more importantly, such an incredible friend!

I have to give a huge thank you to Kristin and Holly for these great head shots!!!  Check out the About section for more head shots from the weekend.  

It was truly an honor to be part of Courtney and Jonathan's wedding day.  I know most men aren't comfortable in front of a camera, and if Jonathan is one of those men, I couldn't tell you because he was so relaxed while getting ready and letting 20 some women photographers shoot everything he did!  Thank you for allowing me to be part of your day!!  

In the rain and the wind, on Monday morning, we packed the car, said our goodbyes, and made our way home to our precious families.    It was an unforgettable weekend.  I left with  more friends than I came with, and I left knowing I was ready to head into my second year as a business owner and mom boss lady!!!  

Here are a few of my favorite Instgram shots from the weekend!!