Category: Vacations

Smoky Mountain National Park {St. Louis Landscape & Nature Photographer}

March 25, 2020 · Landscape & Nature, The Great Outdoors, Vacations

It’s hard to believe that just two weeks ago, I was exploring Smoky Mountain National Park with my parents, husband, and children. We were at the very beginning of the pandemic known as COVID-19, and on the brink of a very different way of life.

Upon our arrival home on March 17, 2020, we stepped into a new reality. I was grateful to have secured enough toilet paper for our family of five a week before leaving for Tennessee, as well as a decent amount of food, but I was still forced to make a few trips to multiple grocery stores over the course of the next five days in order to get more food to sustain us. I did thoroughly shower immediately upon returning home!

Photography events for which I was scheduled to shoot this Spring have been rescheduled for the Fall, many art shows have been canceled, and Spring portrait sessions are not being booked. My husband is working from home and the kids are soaking up as much screen time as they can before jumping into “Distance Learning” in a couple of days. Who knows what the next few months will bring! Until then, here are some images I captured during our time in Tennessee. I hope they bring a little bit of happiness and inspiration!

With Love,


I took this image by panning my camera downward with a long shutter speed.

We were lucky to see a mother Black Bear and her three cubs as we drove through Smoky Mountain National Park! Here’s one of the babies before she realized her mother and siblings were on their way up the mountain.

Mama Bear (with a baby in front of her):

Baby Bear calling for Mom:

We saw a lot of waterfalls as we drove through the park, some trickling down the mountainside and others only accessible by hiking on trails.

The trailhead to Laurel Falls is located 3.8 miles west of the Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg or 13.7 miles from the Townsend “Y” intersection near Cades Cove. To get to the falls, it is a 2.3 mile round trip hike and is rated 2.93 (easy).

Please be careful when you get to the falls. Not only is it likely to be crowded, but the slick rocks between the top and bottom of the falls can be slippery and dangerous. We saw a number of people fall on the slippery rock.

It was practically a miracle that I was able to get this image from the bottom of the falls without any people in it! What appears to be the top of the falls is actually a big rock in between the upper and lower cascades. It took a lot of patience for me to finally have a few moments when that area wasn’t filled with visitors.

Abrams Falls is located about halfway through the eleven-mile drivable loop in Cade’s Cove. To get to the falls takes a 5.2 mile round-trip hike with an elevation gain of 675 feet. You’ll be at 1,758 feet at the highest elevation point. The trail is rated 6.55 (moderate).

A lone tree stands in the valley of Cades Cove with low hanging clouds drifting by the mountains in the background…

Located along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina is Newfound Gap, a mountain pass near the center of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Tennessee and North Carolina state lines crosses the gap, as does Newfound Gap Road. The view below faces Tennessee.

Here are two of my favorite images, both taken along the drive through Great Smoky Mountains National Park…

Great Smoky Mountains National Park {St. Louis Landscape & Nature Photographer}

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  • Kevin Luecke · Posted March 25, 2020 at 5:14 pm · Link · Reply

    So beautiful! Makes me want to go back so bad!

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Fall Kayaking on the Meramec River {St. Louis Nature & Landscape Photographer}

November 26, 2019 · Landscape & Nature, Vacations

I am so happy that I was able to go on a kayaking trip a few weekends ago to capture the last of the Fall colors on the Meramec River in Missouri. Luckily, I had my trustee assistant (my awesome hubby) to make fires, cook, make coffee, and set up the tent while I took nature and landscape photos on the riverside. We went to Ozark Outdoors and chose The Bluffs trip, taking us down the Meramec River and past the Huzzah River. There weren’t nearly as many colors as I was hoping for, but I still had an amazing weekend. Although the morning was frigid and wet from fog, the weather was gorgeous during the day. Aside from one other couple camping down the river, we were the only people on the entire peaceful 10 mile trip, and we were even lucky enough to see four bald eagles, a hawk, and a snake. Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip!

Cooking dinner on the side of the river at sunset…

Sunrise on the Meramec!

One of the four bald eagles we saw!

I love trees with white bark…

This snake wanted nothing to do with me!

Fall Kayaking on the Meramec River {St. Louis Nature & Landscape Photographer}

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Hawn State Park in March {Missouri Nature Photographer}

March 26, 2018 · Pets, The Great Outdoors, Vacations

Somehow, during the last decade of camping with my family, we failed to venture very far beyond the two places that grew to be our “second homes” between May and September (Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort in Leasburg, Missouri and Twin Rivers Landing in Lesterville). However, after an incredible road trip through Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma last summer, my interest in National and State Parks was ignited. As I explore my home state of Missouri, I’m continuously discovering beautiful places, some of which I have not heard, and some that have been long forgotten since childhood.

I was told about the beautiful hiking trails in Hawn State Park (Ste. Genevieve) a couple of years ago, and finally got around to visiting during Spring Break this week. While researching the trails prior to my trip, I discovered that there was a campground in the park, and since camping is my favorite way to enjoy Nature, I decided to make checking out the campsites a priority during my first visit. I had so much fun exploring the cozy little campground and Pickle Creek (a shut-ins stream which flows along it), that I didn’t actually have enough time to hike the trails because it started to rain. So, I made a reservation for later this year, and can’t wait to visit with my family and see what everything looks like during the warmer seasons!

Here are some photos I took during my March visit. Since I had trouble finding visitors’ pictures of the campsites online, I took a couple of my own in case anyone else searched Hawn State Park campsite photos. Many of the sites were booked, but I’ve included images of campsite 17 (and possibly campsite 23 with my car on the concrete pad, but now I can’t remember where I was parked when that photograph was taken) and walk-in campsites 49 and 50. All of the campsites along the creek have nice views, tall pines, and Pickle Creek running behind them. The entire campground is pretty flat, so if you’re tent camping, you’re sure to find plenty of level ground no matter where you are. There are running toilets and showers in the shower house near the end of the campground and vault toilets throughout the campground and near the trailheads. There are four trails between 300 ft. and 9.75 miles (one good for backpacking and three for hiking).

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(LEFT) Pickle Creek behind the walk-in sites, (RIGHT) campsite 17: Hawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographer

(LEFT) Pickle Pickle Creek behind campsite 17: Hawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographer

(LEFT) campsite 17, (RIGHT) campsite 17 or 23):Hawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographerHawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographerHawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographer

Walk-in campsite 49:Hawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographerHawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographerHawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographerHawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographer

Luna running in the sand behind the walk-in campsites:Hawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographer

Walk-in campsite 50 (Pickle Creek is to the right; a trickle of flowing water runs along the front of the bluff):Hawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographer

Pickle Creek trailhead:Hawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographerHawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographerHawn State Park Hiking, backpacking, Nature photographer

Hawn State Park in March {Missouri Nature Photographer}

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Total Solar Eclipse in Leasburg, Missouri 2017 {St. Louis Child Photographer}

August 22, 2017 · Kiddos, Snapshots, Vacations

My family and I, along with some close friends, met in the path of totality, at one of our favorite campgrounds, Ozark Outdoors Riverfront Resort, in Leasburg, Missouri to witness and experience the amazing transformation of our sky during the 2017 solar eclipse. We were lucky to have 2 minutes and 5 seconds of totality surrounded by the beauty of the Meramec River.

One of the most memorable parts of my experience was the changing of the light, from a typical sunny summer day to a dimming warm light that casted detailed shadows like we had never seen. Hearing and feeling the shared excitement of family, friends, and strangers brought a unique feeling of connection and solidarity. Not only did the sky radiate with the colors of a sunset and the bugs start chirping as we had heard would happen, but our children actually decided to change out of their swimming suits and put on dry clothes because they were “done swimming for the day” as the moon continued on it’s journey past the sun. Only after the eclipse was totally over did they realize that it was still early afternoon and, with a hot summer sun once again blazing above their heads, there was still plenty of time to float down the river a couple more times.

Here are some moments I was able to capture…

Total Solar Eclipse in Leasburg, Missouri 2017 {St. Louis Child Photographer}

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Arkansas Spring Break {Family Vacation Photographer}

March 30, 2017 · Kiddos, Snapshots, The Great Outdoors, Vacations

A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to join her and her daughters (who are also friends with my children) in crystal mining and camping in Arkansas for a few days during Spring Break. If you know me, you know there’s a slim chance I’ll say no to an invitation to go camping. It’s my favorite thing to do!! We camped on Lake Ouachita at Joplin Campground and had a blast mining for crystals. It was such a beautiful few days away from home!

Arkansas Spring Break {Family Vacation Photographer}


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Field Trip to Hidden Valley Ski Resort {St. Louis Lifestyle Photographer}

February 12, 2017 · Snapshots, The Great Outdoors, Vacations

My sweet blog post about my son’s field trip was hacked so I had to delete and re-upload it. It’s too bad there are mean people in the world who don’t act in Love toward other humans.

Here are some photos I love so much!! “S” had a blast skiing for the first time!

Field Trip to Hidden Valley Ski Resort {St. Louis Lifestyle Photographer}


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Memorial Day Camping 2015 {St. Louis Vacation Photographer}

February 12, 2017 · Snapshots, The Great Outdoors, Vacations

I got hacked, so I had to delete my previous blog post with sweet memories of our Memorial Day camping trip with friends two years ago. Boooooo for mean people in the world. Here are the photos I had shared before!

Memorial Day Camping 2015 {St. Louis Vacation Photographer}


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Camp Ben Frankel {St. Louis Vacation Photographer}

October 25, 2016 · Kiddos, Snapshots, The Great Outdoors, Vacations

I was so lucky to visit my daughter’s Jewish sleep away camp for four days last summer with a mission to capture the joy and community at this very special place. Here are some of the moments I preserved! For more information about this sweet, small, wonderful camp, visit

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Everyone works together to clean up the camp in preparation for Shabbat.


And the boys begin a Shabbat Walk down to the girls’ side of camp for some photo opps with friends.


Havdalah was so beautiful!


I spent my last day at the Maccabi Games!


Thank you to “Chief” for allowing me to experience your amazing camp, and thanks to all of the staff, counselors, CIT’s, and kiddos for making me feel welcome!!!

Lots of love…Neshama

Camp Ben Frankel {St. Louis Vacation Photographer}



  • Kalanit Chappell · Posted October 28, 2016 at 2:05 pm · Link · Reply

    These pictures are fantastic, and perfectly catch the camp experience at Camp Ben Frankel. My daughter, who has been to Ben Frankel, for four years now, cannot get enough of looking at them! My younger daughter cannot wait until she is old enough. I love the variety of activities, the diversity of the children, and ALL THE SMILES!!!

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Rubin Israel Experience {St. Louis Portrait Photographer}

October 20, 2016 · Snapshots, The Great Outdoors, Vacations

Last month, I traveled to Israel with a group of nine other St. Louis Jewish leaders who had never visited the land before. The trip was jam packed with incredible people and places that have changed my life. Here are some beautiful moments of our time together. Thank you to Pam and Ron Rubin for making this experience possible.


We landed!


Our first stop is in Neot Kedumim where we herded sheep and goats on a biblical landscape reserve and planted trees.

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Ahhh…Tel-Aviv! What a fun city! I didn’t include photos of everything we did, but here are a few I took during our walking tour, graffiti art tour, and Segway tour!

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Israel is filled with what we affectionately like to refer to as squirrels. Here’s one of them!

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We got to surf in the Mediterranean Sea and then watch the sun set!


It was an honor to visit some of the border police…

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Here we are, spending a little time with women who live on a kibbutz…

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Making bread…


Learning and growing in Nature…

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Picking sweet potatoes to be donated! This was so much fun! For more info about the organization, Leket Israel, visit

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Moshe, who is 70 something years old, shared his incredible story of surviving a missile attack to his ship. Unfortunately, many of his friends did not survive. He runs a food pantry dedicated to the men who died.

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We came to a mountainside and pulsed our love across the world through a heart meditation and the sounding of the shofar.


I created this panoramic shot the old fashioned way by taking nine images and merging them together in Photoshop. It is a LOT harder than taking a panoramic with an iPhone!


Wow, wow, wow! United Hatzalah is an unbelievable organization of super-hero volunteers. Jews, Muslims, and Christians all over Israel remain on call in case of an emergency. There are so many volunteers available that someone can arrive on the scene within 90 seconds from the time a call is placed to Israel’s 911. Volunteers are trained to administer life-saving treatments until an ambulance arrives. You can learn more by visiting

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Here we are preparing to shop in the shuk (the Jerusalem market) for Shabbat dinner, which we prepared ourselves! What a great memory and deee-licious food!! You can do the same thing next time you’re in Jerusalem! Ruthie and her sister-in-law are SO wonderful!!

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I like the photo bomber in the background… The guy on the guitar was cool too. He told me something extremely profound, but I was too tired to grasp the concept.

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Camels can be found at gas stations in Israel…


Masada!!! We were really hoping to climb it, but people are not allowed to climb once the temperature hits 100 degrees. It was 100.4 degrees when we arrived, so we took the tram.

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This scribe, who was in the old synagogue on the top of Masada, shared a teaching with us and sounded the shofar!

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These are the remains of the old synagogue.

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Here we are, floating in the Dead Sea, which is ten times saltier than the average ocean and super healthy for your skin!

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These are all photos from my iPhone, which I decided should be my camera of choice during our ATV trip through the Northern Judean Desert (one of my favorite places in Israel).

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We visited an amazing school where Jewish and Arab children learn together (there was a squirrel at the entrance).

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Our first visit to the Western Wall was at the beginning of Shabbat, so I didn’t get any pictures, but it was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget. As soon as I entered the Old City, a wave of energy washed over me. I was inspired to not speak another word until I touched the Wall for the first time. We came back after Shabbat, and visited the egalitarian side as a group, and danced in Joy!

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I also went back to the women’s side one more time before our trip came to an end.


I slept almost the entire way home, but here we are after landing back in Newark shortly before sunrise!

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And here’s one of our last cuddly group photos from the trip!! I miss my friends so much, and can’t wait for us to all get together again!! Katie, Dave, Lisa, Steve, Lauren, Sharon, Matt, Mindee, Paul, and Jodi, I love you all so much!!!


For more details of our experience, visit

Rubin Israel Experience {St. Louis Portrait Photographer}



  • Kalanit · Posted October 21, 2016 at 3:57 am · Link · Reply

    Wow! Chills and longing.!!!

    • Neshama Roash · Posted October 21, 2016 at 8:24 am · Link · Reply

      Yes!! Desperate longing……. Thank you Kalanit!!

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Beach Bat Mitzvah Party {St. Louis Vacation Photographer}

September 4, 2015 · Events, Vacations

Three months ago, in a panic, my close friends called me because their Bat Mitzvah photographer was missing on the morning of Alia’s make-up rehearsal portraits (she had been sick during her real rehearsal just weeks before). Un-showered and still in my pajamas, I told them not to worry, and that I would be right up! Although I expected nothing in return, when I arrived at synagogue with my gear, a teary-eyed dad (my good friend Rob) invited me to join his wife (my good friend Kalanit), his daughter (Alia), and her best friend (Jillian) in Florida for Alia’s girls only Bat Mitzvah vacation celebration! I gratefully accepted the invitation, rearranged my schedule, and joined them in Florida two weeks later. Here are some highlights from our memorable experience!

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Notice the photo streaker?

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen these two so close!

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Sunrise at Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel Island…

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Window shopping!

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While sitting on the patio at a restaurant, I noticed how beautiful Alia looked in the sunlight and had to grab this shot!

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This image was captured while we were on our own private boat tour with Just Add Water and Fun!

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Mother and daughter watching the sun set on Captiva Island…

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Sunset on Fort Meyers Beach…

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Thank you so much for allowing me to save these moments of time for you to remember!! Mazel tov!

Beach Bat Mitzvah Party {St. Louis Vacation Photographer}


  • Kalanit Chappell · Posted September 4, 2015 at 1:52 pm · Link · Reply

    WOW!!! Amazing photographs!!! Love the energy and beauty you captured of Alia’s post-rehearsal, and her girls trip to Florida!!!

    • Firefly Universe Blog · Posted September 4, 2015 at 1:57 pm · Link · Reply

      Thank you SO much for bringing me along!!!!! What a beautiful time in your lives!

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