Local animal lovers will know them best as Trav+Ash — a pair of Lower Mainland blogger-photographers who have made it their personal mission to help Langley’s shelter cats and dogs find permanent, loving homes.
By photographing some of the cutest furry faces the Langley Animal Protection Society has to offer and posting them online for the community to see, the White Rock couple have been drawing attention to the plight of dozens of animals at risk of living out the remainder of their lives in the shelter.
Since Travis and Ashley Schulz began volunteering their time and artistic talents with LAPS, their images have melted hearts and helped some of the Patti Dale Animal Shelter’s most difficult-to-place inhabitants connect with caring humans.
“We love them,” said Jayne Nelson, manager of animal welfare at the Patti Dale animal shelter.
Trav+Ash first came to the shelter’s attention a few years ago, when they donated a photography package for a fundraising gala.
Then, a little over a year ago, the pair returned to offer their services, photographing the dogs and cats.
“Little did we know how talented they were,” said Nelson.
The photos are beautiful, and they definitely attract people’s attention, she said.
“That’s all we can ask for. Allowing the dogs’ and cats’ personalities to shine through in the images, that’s what it’s really about.
“They’re so creative and so tuned in to the animals,” Nelson said.
“They’re lovely together. And they’re so genuine and kind — to people and to animals — you just want to be around them.”
Travis, 26 and Ashley, 25 met around the time they were finishing high school. Since then, the couple have lived in Chilliwack and now call White Rock home.
Their images can be found on the LAPS Facebook page, on the couple’s blog at
travandashblog.com and on Petfinder.com.
The Times caught up with them recently to learn a bit about the couple and find out what drives them to donate their time and creative energy to helping shelter animals.
Langley Times: Maybe begin by telling us a bit about yourselves.
Travis (T): I’m passionate about doing anything that makes me feel alive. That includes art of all kinds, specifically photography. Also, spending time with Ash, with animals, in nature, exploring, getting my adrenaline pumping.
Ashley (A): I treasure quiet moments, filled with love. I spend most of my time trying to see in new ways, looking for the magic that’s really everywhere. I love to tell heartfelt stories, especially with the medium of photography. I like to surround myself with animals and I enjoy being in an organic element of some kind like a forest or by the water.
LT: How did you two meet?
A: We went to different high schools (Trav attended Walnut Grove Secondary and I went to Brookswood Secondary). A mutual friend was trying to hook us up and we talked online for awhile, but we didn’t meet face to face until right around graduation.
We actually ran into each other totally unplanned. I was caught off guard and well, I fell for him immediately.
LT: How, when and why did you get started taking photos?
A: I started playing around with the art of photography around 2009. I decided to explore it in a deeper, more impactful way around 2011, which is when Trav’s curiousity was spiked and we joined forces.
T: Once I realized that I could draw real, raw emotion out of people. I had an epiphany that I didn’t have to take photos the way that everybody else takes photos.
A: I was actually searching online for our wedding photographer when I discovered work that just absolutely blew my mind, like everything from Sarah + Chris Rhoads.
I didn’t know that photography could be so beautiful while being so sincere and a little unconventional. I became obsessed and later gave myself the permission to make my own impactful photographs.
LT: You specialize in wedding photography. Is that an area you’d aimed for from the outset, did it take that turn on its own or is it just that it’s the most effective way to make a living as a photographer?
Do you branch out from that area much, aside from the animal photos?
T: We certainly love the beauty of weddings and the sentiments around them, but we have found a deeper love for lifestyle work and we’re actually turning our focus in that direction.
A: What we love about lifestyle sessions is that we get to be explorers of the intimate, of who people really are and the connection they share. It is absolutely thrilling to evoke emotion and to document real memories.
And actually, volunteering at LAPS has hugely impacted what we want to photograph, too. We love every minute of our time spent with homeless animals and especially when we get to witness deep connections between humans and animals. Lately, we’ve been recognizing a need to photograph these special bonds. We both strongly believe that memories are the best thing we’ll ever have.
LT: Talk a bit about Trav+Ash Blog — why did you start a blog as opposed to a more traditional website.
T: The blog is a lot more personal and that’s the point of all of this for us. We want our subjects to cherish photographs that show who they really are — silly, weird, deep, whatever that may be. If we want sincerity from others, then we want to give that too. So, I think the blog says, “This is us. For real.”
We want our blog to be a megaphone for us to tell true stories of people and animals. We want to be a little unexpected, to show people what they don’t realize they’re missing out on. And of course, a tool where we can continue to help save animals.
LT: How and why did you become involved with LAPS?
A: When we moved into our first place, the first thing we got before we even had any furniture, was our sweet dog, Marley, who we adopted in 2008. We were so excited to rescue a dog and we really just drove to the first animal shelter that we saw which was LAPS.
Marley had been through a life of abandonment. Yet, he was so incredible and he showed us so much love.
In a tragic turn of events, Marley passed from a horrible accident a few months after we adopted him. He so quickly became our everything and that just really broke me.
But I made a promise to him that I would do everything I could to help other animals like him.
LT: What is it about LAPS that convinced you to donate your time and artistic energy to their cause?
T: With starting up our blog this past January, we just realized that we had this tool right at our fingertips to help animals. Choosing LAPS to work with was a no brainer. The whole adoption process with Marley was very educational and positive. The trainers help discarded animals become more adoptable, they seek the right match when placing an animal, and every staff member and volunteer is so kind and supportive.
A: Plus, LAPS united us with Marley and that’s something we’ll always be thankful for.
LT: Do you have any pets now?
T: We have two dogs, Soda and Pickles. And a cat named Crackers.
A: We’re in the process of rebranding our blog towards our focus of lifestyle and animal photography, and we’re excited to announce that Soda, Pickles and Crackers are going to have their own little blog features so everyone can learn more about who they are and the important roles they play in our lives.
LT: How much time do you spend at the shelter in a given month?
T: We go every second weekend. Depending on how many new animals need to be photographed and how much time we can give, we’re there anywhere between three and seven hours at a time.
LT: How has working with the animal models challenged you as compared to the human variety?
T: We have to find different ways to communicate. An animal, especially in a shelter environment, isn’t going to necessarily listen to direction the same as a human would.
A: I think there are more similarities than not. No matter if we’re photographing a person or an animal, we have to first build trust and get our subject comfortable with the situation. And just like people, dogs and cats each have individual personalities which requires us to discover different incentives that make that unique creature respond.
Just like people, some animals are energetic while others are scared, guarded or slow to warm up.
LT: What are some of the perks of working with animals vs. people?
T: Well obviously, they’re cute and cuddly. Most times, when you take a dog or a cat out to play, they’re just so stoked to be with you in that moment, totally present.
A: There’s just this totally free feeling I have around animals. I can completely let my walls come down and not feel self conscious or not good enough.
LT: What are you trying to convey in these photos? What stories are you trying to tell?
T: We’re trying to give you a glimpse into who these creatures honestly are.
A: Our hope is that you will see the essence of their souls through their photos and feel inclined to help that animal out in some way.
LT: Any favourite four legged models so far?
T: The big, misunderstood and misjudged dogs.
A: I always favour the underdog … the black dogs and cats, the ‘bully’ breeds, the seniors, the injured or sick, the scared animals that require more patience.
My heart goes out to the ones that the majority of us overlook. Gertie, the recently adopted senior pit bull was a long time favourite of mine.
LT: Obvious question, but I have to ask it… What do you hope your photos will accomplish?
T: Remind people every day what they have. Inspire people to be closer, live fuller, to love louder.
A: Everything Trav just said. Plus the desire to adopt an incredible dog or cat instead of buying one.