Katherine Donnelly | 07.05.2018

As part of Outdoor Project's Women In the Wild series this summer, I have had the honor of working with outdoor women from all over the industry to dig a bit deeper into who they are, how they got to where they are now, how they approach the outdoors, and more. These women are all rad in their own right, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, or how "badass" they might be. Whether they're mothers, daughters, sisters, professional athletes, beginners, weekend warriors, "instafamous," or anywhere in-between, their unique stories, journeys, opinions, and perspectives are incredibly valuable and insightful as Outdoor Project - and the industry as a whole - progresses and evolves to become more inclusive to every type of outdoors person. 

Through in-depth and often thought-provoking interviews, I hope to highlight these women's stories, their work, their adventures, and so much more with an eye toward giving them their well-deserved share of the spotlight while inspiring and empowering even more women to get outside!

In this feature we talk to Ashley Scheider.

Photo by Ashley Scheider.

OP: Give us the skinny on who Ashley Scheider is.

Ashley Scheider: I am a family photographer specializing in outdoor adventure photography, previously the original Hike It Baby photographer, mom of two, and a regional coordinator and photographer for the nonprofit organization, Adventure Mamas initiative.

OP: When did you first know that you were going to spend your life in the outdoors?

Ashley Scheider: After my son was born, I had an overwhelming amount of postpartum depression. We had started our family in Oregon, while most of our family resided in Washington. I joined a mom's support group at the local hospital where my son was born, and I quickly made friends with some of those mamas. It had taken weeks, though, and it was only one day a week. I needed something or someone, anything at that point, to feel normal again...to feel like a human, a person, and not just a zombie trying to survive the early months of motherhood. Through this support group, someone had brought up Hike It Baby, a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting families out in nature. They had only been around for about a year, but they had already grown an amazingly supportive community. The first hike and meetup I attended, I was hooked. It wasn't just the community that inspired me, but the idea of getting outside. I felt peace, calm, and comfort in the outdoors, so I was sure this was where I was meant to be, and I was sure my child would feel the same. It was in that first moment that I wanted to dedicate my life to getting my son outside every single day. Not just for him, but for myself as well.  

OP: What does it mean to you to be a woman in the outdoor industry? 

Ashley Scheider: As a woman in the outdoor industry, I feel motivated to share our adventures to empower more women and moms to get outside.  

OP: What has the outdoors done for you, and how do you pay it back? 

Ashley Scheider: The outdoors has given me a tremendous amount of healing and comfort. I would love to give back to it by providing resources and information for others to learn to take care of our trails and our parks in order to preserve them and keep them wild for others to enjoy.

OP: Conservation and protection of our public lands are central themes in today’s outdoor recreation narrative. As someone who spends a significant amount of time outdoors and on public lands, what role do you think outdoor photographers and storytellers should play in this evolving conversation and landscape? 

Ashley Scheider: It is extremely important for us as photographers to display and practice the Leave No Trace principles, especially when sharing content on our social media. I've seen several famous photographers displaying photos in No Trespassing areas, wildflower patches, and fields that I've visited that have signs warning people that off-trail travel destroys the new growth that management organizations are working to restore. I would love to see other photographers provide information and resources to those who are also working to get outside to make sure they also respect the ways of the land and the laws put in place to protect our land and wildlife.

OP: Who has inspired you along the way? 

Ashley Scheider: My biggest inspirations right now are some of my closest friends as well as some friends that I've met through social media. They climb mountains, figuratively and literally. RyAnn Peverley has summited Mount Rainier, and her 15-year-old daughter just summited Mount Adams. She's inspiring, motivating, and drives me to be a stronger individual every day. Sachi Thornley has been through so much and still comes out strong and resilient with a hilarious sense of humor to boot. Marjorie Hout was the first person I had met in the Tacoma Hike It Baby branch that I instantly clicked with. She inspires me daily to be a better mom, a better friend, and a more thoughtful person. Taryn Barnes, Sophia Tolentino, Sheena Hass, Morgan Peirce, Jacey Bierman, Becki Farris, Justine Nobbe, Beth Easton, Allie Carr, Amanda Gandy, Chelsey Shaw, Shawna Crompton, Sarah Wittman and Andrea Laughlan are all people who inspire me, support me, and lift me up. I know I'm missing a few, but these are the core people in my life who give me inspiration on the daily. 

OP: What does adventure mean to you? 

Ashley Scheider: I used to think that adventure only meant climbing literal mountains, paddleboarding through shark-infested waters, or scaling the highest rock. While all of those are on my own personal adventure list, it's so much more than that. I believe adventure means to go out of your way to do something different than what you're expected to do. It could be floating down a river with your friends, summiting a mountain, learning how to boulder, or taking a walk through the forest with your kids. It could mean getting your newborn baby ready to go outside for the first time, and not even making it out the door because they had their fifth blowout of the day. It could be bringing your toddler on a 2-mile hike to only go about 2 feet from the trailhead because they've discovered a lake sized puddle. It's getting outside on a new trail, it's getting outside in general. It's setting your phone down for five minutes and looking up to listen to the birds. Adventure is what you make it, but in order to start, you just have to do it.  

OP: What does the term "badass" mean to you? 

Ashley Scheider: To me, you're a badass if you get out of bed and start the day no matter how hard it is for you. You're a badass if you're a parent just trying to make it through your day with fruit snacks stuck to your butt. You're a badass if you scale a mountain with or without your kids. You're a badass if you fail and get back up and try again. You're a badass if you're working toward your goals. You're a badass if you achieved those goals and are working on something new. You're a badass when you know when to take a break.  

OP: How have you managed to align your career with your passion for the outdoors? And do you have any advice for someone who is looking to do the same? 

Ashley Scheider: I had started photography a few months before finding Hike It Baby, and I started to bring my camera on those hikes. I loved capturing my new friends and their babies in the outdoors, and I wanted to give them the photos to always remember those magical, healing moments. Shanti, the creator, saw that, and took me on as the Hike it Baby photographer. For three years I was able to find my way through my postpartum depression while hiking with Hike It Baby, new friends, and my new-found passion for outdoor adventure photography. I spent countless hours learning, growing, shooting and bringing my camera everywhere. I had a lot of help from my friend Allison Berry, who would give me feedback, help me with my website, and give me the tools I needed to be successful. I love to photograph families out in nature playing, hiking, and loving on each other in the mountains or the valleys. It's where I feel the most comfortable and where I feel I excel. I spend a lot of time light chasing, seeking out the final rays of the setting sun, and bringing my kids along to find the joy in it too. The best piece of advice I have for someone who wants to start doing that would be to just keep bringing your camera. Put it in manual mode and learn the ways of your camera. I'm constantly learning and constantly growing, both in photography and the outdoors.  

OP: We are seeing a shift in what the term woman or female might bring to mind (LGBTQ), both in the outdoor community and throughout the world. What does being a woman mean to you? Femininity? 

Ashley Scheider: I personally don't believe femininity has anything to do with being a woman. If we focus solely on femininity, wouldn't we put more judgment out in the world showing that you have to be a certain way to be a woman? And a certain way to be a woman in the outdoors? What if we shift the focus to showing all different types? Then we can show, embrace and empower all women. Because we are all different individuals with different strengths, interests and personalities.  

OP: What mantra or set of words do you live by? 

Ashley Scheider: I try to live and apply The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, but the one I focus on the most right now is the third agreement: Don't Take Anything Personally

OP: In a perfect world, what does the outdoors (the people, the places, the community as a whole, etc.) look like to you? And what can outdoor brands and media companies, such as Outdoor Project, do better to help get us there? 

Ashley Scheider: I would love to see more of a focus on the different types of families and people in the outdoors. In the Pacific Northwest you see a huge focus on hiking, but there are plenty of other "adventure" activities people can do. I'd love to see a shift from hardcore to normal, and that way those who are intimidated to get outside wouldn't inadequate.  

OP: What is one thing that you never leave home without?  

Ashley Scheider: My knife.

OP: Let’s talk gear - what are your thoughts on women-specific gear? Love it, hate it? Are there any companies out there doing it right? And how so? When does it matter to you most to have gear specific to women versus unisex products? 

Ashley Scheider: I love my Deuter women's packs!! They fit so nicely, and there are so many gender neutral colors (I don't really like too many bright flashy colors, I like to blend in with the trees, haha).  

OP: What is the greatest piece of advice or direction that you’ve ever received, and what’s the story behind it? 

Ashley Scheider: Don't judge a book by its cover. It's one that I think everyone learns while growing up, but one that I've just recently started applying to everyone  as I've made my way through life.

I had been in a sexually and mentally abusive relationship right out of high school. I've been a co-dependent for 8 years to a (now newly) recovering addict while also giving birth to two beautiful children. I've gone through depression and postpartum depression and yet, unless I've been asked, I try really hard not to hold onto those feelings or let them affect who I am on a daily basis. I've had numerous friends and family who were surprised at the situation given my social media posts. I just don't share that part of my life. But because of this, judging people's feed or their lives just based on what you see shouldn't be important. Getting to know people has opened up a lot of new and very close friendships. But had I judged them by their appearance or social media feeds, I'm not sure I'd have had the confidence to approach them or talk to them. Everyone has walked a different path in life, and getting to experience someone else's, even just a little part of it, could be life changing.

OP: If you could give one piece of advice to yourself when you were just starting out with outdoor photography, what would it be? 

Ashley Scheider: Don't compare yourself to someone who has been doing it for a long time. Everyone starts somewhere. And everyone has been at that point at least a few times in their career. 

OP: In a world seemingly run by online personas, how do you approach social media, and how does it play into your lifestyle - both work and play? 

Ashley Scheider: I try not to share too many personal things on social media. I share photos of the kids and myself, but I try hard to not go too deep into my personal life. I'd love to start disconnecting more often and focus on being outside more than I already am.  

I generally stick to Instagram more than Facebook, and I use it as a means to connect and network with like-minded mamas and outdoor families. It's really hard to find a balance, but I'm super grateful for the people I've met using it.  

OP: What’s next for you in the coming months and years? 

Ashley Scheider: I'm hoping to invest in a tiny home as well as concentrate more on building my business and traveling the USA!

OP: The title of your autobiography would be...

Ashley Scheider: "I don't really know wtf I'm doing, I'm just tryna hike" 

OP: In your next life, you will come back as...

Ashley Scheider: A dark purple lupine in a wildflower meadow overlooking Mount Rainier.

OP: Tell us one thing about yourself that no one knows.

Ashley Scheider: The smell of freshly berried blackberry bushes cooking in the late hot summer sun is my favorite smell of all time.

OP: If our readers were to take one thing from this interview, what would you like it to be?

Ashley Scheider: I hope the readers take away that it doesn't matter what level of adventure you're at, or if you're just just starting out in photography, or even just starting to get outside. We all start somewhere. We've all been there or will be there again! Not everyone started out climbing peaks or knowing how to use their camera right away. It takes a lot of practice, and a lot of us are still learning. If you're an outdoor adventure photographer, take care of your land. Be kind to it.

And finally! Don't judge people and don't assume things, but most of all, remember that everyone has a story. 

Learn more about Ashley by checking out her website and following along on her adventures through Instagram.


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