I first came across Samantha’s profile when I started working for BRO a couple months ago. Immediately I knew I had to reach out about an Instagram Takeover. We all love hiking. We all love dogs. When you combine the two, especially as beautifully as Samantha has, you’ve got a recipe for some of the most adorably epic photos from our region. Learn more about Samantha, her pups, and check out the photos from her takeover below.
Meet Aspen and Koa, two adventure (and ice cream) loving golden retrievers from Virginia. They enjoy camping, hiking, kayaking, and swimming all over the states (mostly limited to the east coast). When they're not adventuring in the Blue Ridge Mountains, you can find them hitting up ice cream shops across Virginia (small vanilla doggy cones only, of course!). Follow along as we share a few of their favorite adventures. . Words and photo by @samanthabrookephoto for this week’s #instagramtakeover . #gooutsideandplay #blueridgeoutdoors #myblueridge #goldenretriever #outdoordog
Where are you, Aspen, Koa, and Murphy from?
We split our time between Charlottesville, Virginia and Northern Virginia.
When did they become the stars of your account?
Aspen first started attracting attention when I posted pictures of her “smiling” in my kayak. I didn’t have any intention of stuffing her in my kayak; I didn’t think she’d fit or be interested, but one day she started chasing me in the water and I thought she was going to drown (she can swim but endurance is not her strong point!). I quickly went back to shore and stuffed her in the kayak cockpit with me. She’s been my greatest kayaking companion since!
Although they're not the rock climbing type, Aspen and Koa enjoyed the summit outlook at Seneca Rocks in West Virginia, an easy/moderate ~3 mile hike. . Words and photo by @samanthabrookephoto for this month’s #instagramtakeover . #gooutsideandplay #blueridgeoutdoors #myblueridge #senecarocks #westvirginia
What are the pup’s favorite spots to explore together?
They both love to hike and camp but they especially like to be off leash to swim. I’d have to say Lake Moomaw in western Virginia for camping, hiking, kayaking, and swimming. Virginia Beach for roaming the beach and swimming before Memorial Day!
Who is more camera shy?
Aspen is my star model because she will do anything for food, whereas Koa is less interested in posing and more interested in sticks.
And who is the leader of the pack?
Koa is more alpha and Aspen is more go with the flow.
How did you get started with photography?
I started photography shortly after college as a hobby; I originally thought I wanted to be a wedding photographer. A few years later I realized I enjoyed and wanted to pursue my full-time job long term (in IT risk and controls), and pursue photography as a part-time career focusing on travel/adventure and portraits.
Aspen and Koa proudly showing off their summit pose on Shenandoah National Park's Little Stony Man trail. This is a quick hike for breathtaking views – perfect for sunsets! . Words and photo by @samanthabrookephoto for this month’s #instagramtakeover . #gooutsideandplay #shenandoahnationalpark #myblueridge #blueridgeoutdoors
What do you prefer to shoot with (equipment)?
I’ve dabbled in both film and digital cameras and while I have an appreciation for film, my preference is a digital (DSLR) for its sharpness, convenience, and efficiencies. I shoot with a Nikon D850 and sometimes shoot with my Nikon D600, Pentax 645N (film), and Nikon F100 (film). I also recently upgraded my GoPro to a 6 and am trying to incorporate more action in my stories.
Animals can be a tough subject to shoot, but Aspen and Koa make it look easy. Any tips for our readers on shooting their furry friends?
They are tough to shoot but I have 3 main tips: 1. Spend 15-20 minutes daily practicing their “sit,” “stay,” and “free” commands if they’re not strong already. 2. Identify a high-value reward to lure the dog to look at your camera (or wherever you want them to look); for Aspen, this is any type of food but for Koa, it’s sticks, rawhides, and toys. I generally place the treat above my camera. 3. Use your dog’s favorite word to get their attention before taking the shot; e.g., “do you want a treat? bacon?”, “where’s grandma?”, etc. Outside of these 3 tips, be ready for a spontaneous shot which are usually my best shots. Aspen loves to stick her nose in the air and smell which makes for a perfect zen shot!
Aspen and Koa started their newest and youngest adventure buddy, Murphy, a 12 week old Basset Hound, on a short "hike" at the Ravens Roost Overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia. You can walk around the rocks to get amazing sunset pictures beside the lonesome tree or below on the rocks. . Words and photo by @samanthabrookephoto for this month’s #instagramtakeover . #gooutsideandplay #myblueridge #bassethound #blueridgeoutdoors #ravensroost
Tell us about your business and your plans for the future.
Since photography is my part-time business, my main business plans for the future are to 1. Go on more weekend adventures to new locations and vary the type of local experiences we have. 2. As our family expands, capture human-dog relationships on adventures. I mainly focus on the dog without many shots containing people as well. 3. Focus more on spontaneity and authenticity. Oftentimes, an unplanned, unscripted moment captured conveys the most interesting story.
You can follow Samantha, Aspen, Koa, and Murphy on her Instagram account.