Rainbow Springs State Park and River Tubing Adventure


We adventured 2 hours north of Tampa to cool off from the August heat and enjoy the Florida Springs....our adventure included a 2 hour tube float on the Rainbow River, a picnic, and jumping and swimming in the Rainbow Springs.

With a little planning ahead, we were able to head out of Tampa around 7am, which got us to the Rainbow River tubing location at 9am, before the parking lot filled up. We had 8 families meeting up to do the 2 hour tube float and there was a little confusion within our group of the exact location - the address that will bring you to the correct launch for the 2 hour tube ride is 10830 SW 180th Ave Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432. The website with a bit of info is here. I found I had more questions about preparing for our trip....so here goes our summary! The link above does include some rules like kids have to be 5 years old to tube and that no coolers are allowed down the river. There is also an option for a 4 hour trip - different location and different rules apply. 

We headed to the main building to buy our tickets ($20 each, save your receipt), pick up life jackets, and use the restroom. After all 8 families completed the check in process we left all of our "stuff" in our cars, gave our keys to the office and waited for the tram. 

Here were all the variations of what we wore/carried with us:

  • Only bathing suits
  • Rash guards with shorts
  • Hats / Sunglasses
  • Flip flops / water shoes
  • A life-jacket was required (that they provided) that went along with the tube they provided
  • A long rope to attach tubes together
  • Goggles/Masks - kids loved looking into the clear water and seeing fish, turtles, and ducks 

We hooked the life jackets to the tube handles rather than wearing them. Those that brought flip flops also hooked them through. Everyone left their phones behind and I only brought along my Nikon I use for my professional business with my waterproof bag to keep it safe. (This is also what I use to go in the Gulf of Mexico during family beach sessions.)

NEXT TIME - the flip flops / water shoes are not needed. The walk back from the exit point to the parking lot was fine to walk barefoot. Also, the river was fairly deep so my feet weren't touching the bottom at all. While floating, the kids actually liked having their tubes separate - they could jump off, stand up, and enjoy freedom. When they were linked it was more challenging for all of that.

We waited for the tram for 10-15 minutes, then the tram ride was around 10 minutes. We each grabbed a tube and headed to the launch which lead right into the cool, brisk, beautiful water. 


Listening to everyone walk/jump/run into the water was hilarious. The water is a constant 72 degrees which is a bit chilly for us Floridians. With the sun shining on our backs we got used to the temperature quickly.

Here is a snapshot of our first few minutes on the river. I was immediately thrilled by the crystal clear water and the beautiful green colors of the grass on the bottom. 


We had read differing information of the length of the float, which likely varies due to the current. Our trip was 1 hour 45 minutes, but felt like only an hour as we enjoyed every second. The "I'm hungry" cries from both kids and adults started 10 minutes before the end as it was just after noon so our timing was perfect. 

After our tube ride we planned to drive to the main "headsprings" entrance of the park to picnic and swim in the headsprings.  Keep on scrolling for more info and tips on this part of our adventure. 


Exiting the river was obvious and easy with a 5-10 minute walk back to the main office. After depositing our tubes and life jackets we were back at our cars and driving the 10 minutes to the headsprings entrance. 

Still in our bathing suits, we took our coolers, towels, and changes of clothes into the park where we promptly picked a shady, grassy hill to chow down. **Bring your receipt from the tube payment as it will show you paid the $2 entrance fee, otherwise you will be paying again, or walking back to the car.**

The headsprings area of Rainbow River State Park  had so much to offer with pavillions, grassy areas, the swimming area and more places to explore (that we didn't make it to). 

After enjoying our packed picnic lunch we wanted to jump into the spring with the kids....then we quickly burned off some of lunch with the amount of treading water we had to do! The spring is deep with no place to rest -- which is why everyone had noodles. We weren't aware of this, so treading water was our only option! Noodles are the only approved flotation device allowed in the spring and next time we will definitely bring some along.


We were on our way home around 3pm eating the rest of our snacks and already discussing when we plan to return! 

My mini-session registration is open and they are filling up fast. Details here!



Anna Maria Island Extended Family - Summer Beach Vacation Photo Shoot

Preserving beach summer vacation memories for families visiting Anna Maria Island from around the country - well, it's the best job in the world.

(If you are here to be added to the mailing list click here - but also scroll down for your viewing pleasure.)

To be honest I'm a tad nervous each time - as I make the drive south toward Bradenton I switch between listening to a podcast and testing my memorization of the family member names (in this case 14 of them!), and I watch the sky.  It's how I prepare for an emotional, fun, energetic family beach session.

We typically meet when the sun is still bright - so I love finding some tucked away sea grapes to start our session. While the sun gets lower, I use this time to capture each of the families (during extended families), group pictures and individual images. Then, we head to the gorgeous white sand on the Anna Maria Beaches for the rest of our vacation photo shoot.  

Oh, and did you know...I now end sessions IN THE WATER. Like, I get totally soaked while using my waterproof protective gear and create images of the kids (and adults) playing in the gorgeous gulf water.

These beach vacation photo shoots leave me energized and exhausted (and salty) all rolled together. It's bliss!! Keep on scrolling for our whole adventure!

Nothing like a little ring around the rosie to end our gorgeous beach vacation photo shoot!!!

Nothing like a little ring around the rosie to end our gorgeous beach vacation photo shoot!!!




Tampa Family Lifestyle Session | Downtown Tampa and Curtis Hixon Park

At the end of this 2 hour family photo session the kids were not only still in a good mood, but they were asking to keep going! We met in downtown and adventured around with the goal of ending at Curtis Hixon Park. We played games, made up silly jokes, and there was running, hugs and twirling. And at the end (after we used soo many different backgrounds) we came across the coolest bus that had just been painted by children - it is called the Nomad Art Bus

If you look at a family session a few posts ago also in downtown Tampa you will see a huge variation! That means that your family photo session will be totally unique to you!

I hope you scroll through all of these amazing memories we made during our family adventure photo session!  Contact me if you are interested in your own family session!

Tampa Family Downtown photo session.jpg
Tampa Family Downtown  - urban.jpg
Tampa Family Downtown Fun Photography.jpg
Tampa Family Curtis Hixon Park.jpg
Tampa Family Downtown greenery Photoshoot.jpg
Tampa Family Downtown Laughing.jpg
Tampa Family Downtown Art Bus Photo session.jpg

Wow, that was a lot of images included in their Tampa family photo session. We had so much fun, the kids were full of positive energy and mom and dad were so much fun!!  

Cut the "Cheeses"

How often do you find yourself gathering your kids to huddle together and look at the camera and say “cheese”? Can you picture yourself begging them to listen or even yelling at them to get in line? Are they miserable looking - did their smile disappear? Does this interrupt the moment and feel forced?  It does for me. 

Is there a better way to document the childhood of our kids? YES! I am excited to share some ideas and a link to my e-course all about encouraging kids to play.

Here's the challenge I have for you. Don’t ask for eye contact or the cheese smile.  When you have the urge to pull out your camera, go ahead….but take a moment. Observe what they are doing and look for a moment of strong emotion or action and take that picture. This new kind of image (not the cheese smile) will elicit a happy memory in 1, 5, 15 years. Your child might even think it's a cool picture and ask for more! It will remind you of what your child liked doing, what your neighborhood looked like, how they moved their body, what silly faces they made, where you went to play, how they played, learned and had fun.

Here are some ideas (and picture examples) of how to capture your child playing rather than “cheesing”.

A few tips:

  • Eye contact is not needed
  • Use body language to elicit emotion
  • Include the environment to provide story telling
  • Minimize distractions in the background (other people, cars, etc.)
  • Move around to capture different angles. Get really low or shoot from above the scene. 

I am offering a photography e-course through Clickin Moms all about capturing children PLAYING. It is called Permission to Play and will be available May 1 for $25 (price increase after May 11th) and is packed full of information. A 100 page PDF, 4 videos of me shooting my kids, and editing videos. 


- swinging at the park or on a tree branch  -  walking with a grandparent hand in hand  - riding a bike through your neighborhood  - eating favorite foods or treats

- swinging at the park or on a tree branch

-  walking with a grandparent hand in hand

- riding a bike through your neighborhood

- eating favorite foods or treats

- balancing with out-stretched arms  - climbing a tree  - splashing in the tub, puddles, lake or beach  - spinning in a dress or on playground equipment

- balancing with out-stretched arms

- climbing a tree

- splashing in the tub, puddles, lake or beach

- spinning in a dress or on playground equipment

- running with legs in mid air  - creating art with paint or chalk  - squirting a hose for fun or at a sibling  - flying a kite

- running with legs in mid air

- creating art with paint or chalk

- squirting a hose for fun or at a sibling

- flying a kite