September Wrap-Up

Now that I am not swamped with work, editing, or sickness - I can try to get caught up on monthly wrap-ups!

I didn't take a lot of personal photos in September - I was usually working (a temporary job) and shooting clients - but here's a small sampling of what our last days of summer and first days of fall felt like.  Hiking, many trips to the river (including swimming in mid-September!), kids starting grades 5 and 1, my beautiful son turning 10, my own birthday, apple picking, a magazine cover!!!!! and spending as much time outside in the waning sun as we could.  September was hot and dry and I loved every second of it - I was born for summer weather!

It was a perfect start to our fall.  Coming soon: October. 

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Into Something Better - Central Blissville - October 2017

Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.


We as a group of artist mothers from all over the world are making it our priority to turn off the tv/video games so that we can give our children the sacred experience to connect with the fast disappearing natural world. We will freelens our adventures into the wild and share them through this monthly project.

 

Late October, carpets of leaves, oranges and yellows, fading green, angled sun, torn cattails with their fluff in the air.  This is not our first ramble to the power line, and it won't be our last. 

Click on through to see the next freelenser in our blog circle - Barb in Hawaii.  

http://barbtoyama.com/blog/into-something-better-maui-backyard-chickens/

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August wrap-up

Here it is October and I'm only now getting around to wrapping up our August adventures.

To be honest, my life has been so busy lately I have barely had time to take photos of my own kids.  When I eventually get around to an October wrap-up, it'll be pretty sparse.  I've been working a temporary job with a long commute, on top of my usual autumn client load, and just haven't had time to slow down.

Of course, something often comes along and forces you to slow down; in my case, it's a hacking cough that really isn't HORRIBLE, but enough to make me feel run-down, make my head pound, and cause lack of sleep.  An afternoon of laying in bed helped perk me up, and while I'm editing a family session I decided to sneak in an August blog post.

We fled to the coast and picked blueberries and spent entirely too much time at the river (and yet not enough).  Watched the sun set from Nanie's step, modelled some snazzy clothes, dressed up for acommunity parade.  We made hodgepodge and spent a night at "the camp".  We got our first taste of autumn apples and autumn breezes.  We ate tomatoes still warm from the sun.  It was a very very good month.  I would certainly love to go back.

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Into Something Better - Fredericton Junction, New Brunswick - August 2017

Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,

She took me back so tenderly

Arranging her skirts

Her pockets full of lichens and seeds.

I slept as never before

A stone on the riverbed,

Nothing between me and the white fire of the stars,

But my thoughts.

And they floated light as moths

Among the branches of the perfect trees.

All night I heard the small kingdoms

Breathing around me.

The insects and the birds

Who do their work in darkness.

All night I rose and fell,

As if water, grappling with luminous doom.

By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times

Into something better.

We as a group of artist mothers from all over the world are making it our priority to turn off the tv/video games so that we can give our children the sacred experience to connect with the fast disappearing natural world. We will freelens our adventures into the wild and share them through this monthly project.  The goal of this collaborative is to journey “Into Something Better”

 

Summer is winding down.  I am not ready.  There is less pain in summer, more promise.  I am a person who needs that sun on my skin, craves it.  Every winter I think about summer and all of the things I will do and how I will jam-pack it with trips to the river every day.  Well, it never happens, because life happens - but we go when we can.

Now the evenings are a bit cool for swimming, but the water is also low and gentle, and perfect for exploring bared rocks and their fossils and secrets.  The river is not the same as it is in July, when the air is crackling with heat, the water tepid but still refreshing.  But it's still there, still lazily carrying on.  It knows summer isn't over quite yet.  

And with the winding down of summer comes that gorgeous late-summer orange light, fifteen minutes before sunset.  Then comes September when we see the first frost and the sparkling of it all takes our breaths away.  October with its skies so blue they hardly look real, and then November, with its light milky as weak tea.  I have things to look forward to.  I don't like the routine of the fall, the re-introduction to germs, the long days and tired children and evenings spent packing backpacks, the dark that seems to creep in ten minutes earlier every day, the chill that goes right through to the bone.  

But there's always beautiful light and that illuminates a whole lot of wonderful things.

 

Next up in our circle is the wonderful Cindy Cavanagh.  Click below to see what beauty she captured this month.

https://www.cindycavanagh.photography/blog/sydney-lifestyle-photographer-into-something-better-with-a-family-bushwalk

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Into Something Better - Central Blissville, NB, Canada - July 2017

Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in water, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.


We as a group of artist mothers from all over the world are making it our priority to turn off the tv/video games so that we can give our children the sacred experience to connect with the fast disappearing natural world. We will freelens our adventures into the wild and share them through this monthly project.

This month we didn't go very far - just into our backyard, into the garden to help Daddy water.  It ended up being an hour of fun, of filling cans and watering vegetables, muddy toes and dashing through the vegetable plants.  We can hardly wait to be out there harvesting, too.  I love that we can go outside our door and be immersed in nature immediately.  Since then, the children have discovered how much they love racing through the corn, making little puddles with the hose to stomp around in, stopping to pick ripe strawberries.  I am thankful for my husband's gift of gardening to us - the joy we receive from it is unparalleled.  

Next up is the incomparable Heather Robinson - click on through to see what these freelensing mamas have been up to this month.

http://heathermrobinsonphotography.com/blog/2017/07/25/into-something-better-july-2017/

June Wrap-Up

June was a busy month, a mixture of delight and despair.  June has always been one of my favourite months, because the end of school is something I anticipate for months - I simply prefer having my children home and the flexibility that allows us.   It started out lovely.   Swinging - endless swinging!  Our first trip to the river to swim, and a visit to the coast.  Skinned knees.  The last day of school.   Lazy mornings, buttercups, dancing in Nanie's living room.  Three days by the coast in a rental house with my parents.  Then we headed for our annual family trip to PEI - and one by one, the four of us dropped with gastro.  I didn't take a single photo.  We spent two days in a cottage, leaving only to buy Gravol and popsicles at the store, all of us sick as dogs, and then we packed it up several days early and drove the 3.5 hours home.

It was a big blow to my idyllic view of June.  We were well into July before my digestive system began to behave itself again, and now our summer is half over, and it feels like all we did was recover.

However, while July has given us a few rough times (hello sickness again), when I'm back with July photos they are still full of joy, just like these are - the good outweighs the bad, the sun outshines the dark.  We still have six weeks of summer.   Time to go.

Into Something Better - Fredericton Junction, NB, Canada - June 2017

Sleeping in the Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,

She took me back so tenderly

Arranging her skirts

Her pockets full of lichens and seeds.

I slept as never before

A stone on the riverbed,

Nothing between me and the white fire of the stars,

But my thoughts.

And they floated light as moths

Among the branches of the perfect trees.

All night I heard the small kingdoms

Breathing around me.

The insects and the birds

Who do their work in darkness.

All night I rose and fell,

As if water, grappling with luminous doom.

By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times

Into something better.

We as a group of artist mothers from all over the world are making it our priority to turn off the tv/video games so that we can give our children the sacred experience to connect with the fast disappearing natural world. We will freelens our adventures into the wild and share them through this monthly project.  The goal of this collaborative is to journey “Into Something Better”.

Next up in the blog circle is the amazing Heather Robinson - my favourite freelensing mama, bar none.  Click here to check out where she explored this month.  

http://heathermrobinsonphotography.com/blog/2017/06/27/into-something-better-strathmere-beach-nj-usa-june-2017/

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This is one of our favourite summer activities (and I may feature this spot again this summer).  Sometimes we swim, sometimes we hunt for fossils, sometimes we fish, sometimes we just go because we feel the pull of the river.  We drop everything, wear what we've got on, go in cloud or sun, warm or cold, and go.  This place satisfies our wandering feet and calms our stress.  It's one of those few places that feel like home-outside-of-home.  

On this night the fog was rolling in off the coast and I remember standing there with my camera, willing the sun to come out so I could capture some amazing flare.  And then I remembered the whole point of this project - not to make amazing photos, but to leave our everyday lives behind for a bit.  So I ignored the imperfect conditions and we picked up bug skeletons and sticks and waded into the cool water and sat and listened to the sounds.  Turns out, the picture was perfect anyway.

April and May (!!!!)

Sooooo I got a little busy and didn't manage to get our April and May wrap-up done.  Actually, I had April's almost done, and then something happened and I lost the post.  Then I stomped off and refused to work on it again.  ;)

We had a couple of months of reasonably dreary weather, but we tried to make the best of it.  Maple syrup season was short-lived all over our part of the province.  On the occasional nice day, we skipped over the snow and played in the sun.  Easter came and went, my girl got a fat lip from dental work, and we began our river visits for this spring/summer.  We gathered huge bunches of mayflowers and went boating on the floodwaters.  We went lake fishing, beachcombing, and hand-caught gaspereau.  We picked and sold fiddleheads and spent an evening at Ganong Nature Park.

Now it is June and we are in our happy place - school is out, summer is here, nights are long, and there is nothing that smells like a June evening in the country.  Hopefully I'll be a little more prompt on our June update - but first, vacation!

Into Something Better - Central Blissville, NB, Canada - May 2017

Sleeping In The Forest by Mary Oliver

I thought the earth remembered me,

She took me back so tenderly

Arranging her skirts

Her pockets full of lichens and seeds.

I slept as never before

A stone on the riverbed,

Nothing between me and the white fire of the stars,

But my thoughts.

And they floated light as moths

Among the branches of the perfect trees.

All night I heard the small kingdoms

Breathing around me.

The insects and the birds

Who do their work in darkness.

All night I rose and fell,

As if water, grappling with luminous doom.

By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times

Into something better.

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I'm so excited to be a part of this amazing collaborative starting this month.  We are a group of artists dedicated to putting aside demands, stress, electronics, and our four walls, and going into the wild (whatever wild that may be) with our children and our cameras and our (detached) lenses.  We are from all over the world, intent on getting back to the basics, memorializing the times when we broke with the real world and did something otherwordly, even if just for a few moments.  We are freelensing what we see as our children commune with nature around them.  The beauty you'll see as you click through the other members of this blog circle will inspire you to do the same.

I chose to stay close to home for our first outing.  We ventured out into the trails behind our house and into the adjacent field on the first truly spring-y night (spring comes late here).  We are no strangers to this place, but every adventure brings us new discoveries and new delights.  We dig clay and find rocks and smell blossoms and pretend our old dog is a big black wolf.  We put our feet in the spring and name the tiny islands in the middle of the stream and we venture further and further into mayflowers and winterberries and the power line.  But this time, we slipped into the field to run in the growing grass and the warming breeze because that's what spring feels like.  After a long winter, it was like being freed after months of confinement.  

Click through to read about Léa Jones in Sturbridge, MA. USA.  http://leajones.net/?p=936

 

March Wrap-Up

March. 

We started the month by celebrating the birthday of our dear R, who turned the big FIVE.  It was a blast but also very bittersweet to think of my baby as a great big 5-year-old.  We did some portraits and had so much fun celebrating our little forest fairy.  We have eight family birthdays in March, so we had a lot of cake, laughter, candle-blowing, and visits.

March Break saw us heading to a museum with the kids, and ended with us getting stuck in the middle of nowhere in the snow (thankfully, my husband is skilled at digging out trucks, and we had a hotdog roast after the hard work was done).  

We took more photos at Nanie's house (I just can't seem to resist) and made several batches of lemonade.  There were pirates in my living room, and a couple of days of sunshine and warm air amidst the ever-present bitterly cold winds of March.  My husband showed us The Big Tree and made chaga tea and high bush cranberry jelly and made the best of a dismal maple syrup season.  

So basically, life went on as usual.  We spent a lot of time hunkered down inside away from the cold wind, but slowly, SLOWLY, the snow began melting and the sun grew stronger.  

A month of celebration and a little bit of hope.

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Candice & Derek

I wasn't convinced I could pull off pretty photos in April.  April in New Brunswick is known for rain, mud, dirty snow, and bare trees.  

HOWEVER, I underestimated how much the clients really *make* the scene.

My niece, Candice, and her fiancé, Derek, were perfectly suited for a somewhat-snowy April evening.  We had twenty minutes of sun and then thirty minutes of cloud and twilight and it all worked together beautifully.

Plus, in the words of my 5-year-old, they are "totes adorb".  So there you go.

Simplicity and Cute Babies

A lot of the time when I broach the topic of documentary in-home photography (or even in-home portraits), people immediately shrink back and say, "NEVER in my house!  It's too messy/cluttered/boring/whatever!"

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take photos of my great-nieces (and yes, I am super duper young to be a great-aunt, FYI ;)) at my sister-in-law's beautiful house.  Despite all of the lovely scenes I could have come up with, I stuck with simplicity: the bed.

Now, personally, my own bedroom is the most neglected area of my house and it would need some sprucing up before I let just anyone wander in there.  But it's amazing how many lovely, sweet photos you can get just by congregating on a bed.  It's such a simple backdrop, allowing for lines, neutral colours, space, and comfort.  Kids feel at home on a bed.  It's soft and inviting. And it makes for lovely photos.

Next time you decide to get some family photos done, try doing a few of them on your bed, even if it's just before we take off to an outdoor scene.  You won't be disappointed.  

And now, here are my darling nieces on their Mimi's bed.  Comfortable, unfussy, perfectly imperfect.  

February Wrap-Up

Somehow it's already March.  I'm not complaining, but wow, time is flying.

February was an interesting month.  Some hardships, some nasty weather (four feet of snow in eight days), some beautiful weather (+16 and sunny!!!).   

We played with basement light and found more dust in my grandmother's basement.  We took some portraits and Valentine's Day blew in with the worst snowstorm I've ever seen.  The kids had five snow days in two weeks.  We showed Nanie some iPad tricks and took pictures in her bedroom mirror.  We got some gorgeous drawings done of the kids, played in the snow (upon snow, upon snow), and bought a birthday dress.   We made lemonade, went for a balmy walk, and spent hours in the fog.  We made friends with branch-dogs.

We survived.

The Makings of a Portrait

I am part of a portrait collective this year in which we all submit one portrait per month to a collaborative post.   Most of my portraits are a bit unconventional so I wanted to make this one very simple.  So simple that I didn't even brush my kid's hair or put different clothing on her.  I told her to stand by the wall and look at me, and then I free lensed.  It was kind of a fascinating endeavour.

First, she looked down, distracted by where to stand on the dog's bed (related: I have very little blank wall space in my house).

I managed to get some eye contact.  However, combined with the messy hair hanging over her face and the tilt of her head, the feral-child-look was perhaps a little TOO obvious.

I think I patted it down slightly?  The beauty of freelensing, too, though, is that you can change the plane of focus juuuuust slightly and things look different.  This was the photo I ended up using for the collaborative, despite finding the lighting a tad too harsh (coming in from the right through a window on our side door).

Look up at the window!  Obscure your face with hair!  

I tucked her hair behind her ear but that made her face a little too open and clear for the mood I was trying to obtain.  (Not to say it's not a good portrait - I love it - but it wasn't what I was going for.)

Finally, I got the light on her face exactly how it should be, and her eyes in focus; the only reason this was not the finalist for my post was that her face was a bit more neutral and I wanted it to be wilder.

Isn't it fascinating how six portraits taken in the course of about 45 seconds can all look so different?  This is one of the things I love most about photography - the split-second change in expression, head tilt, light, mood that ends up with a photo that reads altogether different from the one taken two seconds previous.

Check out the collaborative blog post here:  

https://theportraitcollective.com/blog/2017/2/15/february-collective

Just smile

I always find it somewhat entertaining when I share a photo of someone in my immediate family who is not smiling.  Inevitably there is always one commenter who has to say something about the fact that my daughter looks grumpy or my husband looks scary or my son looks sad. They always say it in such a way that makes me think there are people out there who really would prefer to only see smiling, happy photos.

 

 

Why do I share sober/sad/grumpy photos?

Because it's real life.

Documenting family life isn't all sun flares and happy kids doing arts & crafts.  I make sure to grab those moments, too (who am I kidding, we don't do arts & crafts) but it's not real if that's all I get.

For my own family, I want a record of all of our feelings.  The grumpy child, the stoic husband, the injury, the fight.  The boring moments that don't really look like anything. You know, sometimes my kids give me the gift of their play and their eye contact to make a wonderful photograph, but many times they are irritated at being interrupted, or they don't even notice I am there and continue on yelling at one another, or what have you.  I also aim to do this with client documentary sessions, because - like it or not - they often have elements of control by both the family and the photographer, and glimpses of "this is our reality" can be looked back on with emotion.

I love to create a photograph - to have a vision and follow it through - and I'm thankful that my husband and children oblige me on a regular basis.  But there is something so wonderful in the off-guard, the moody.  The reminder that, despite what we show about ourselves on social media, we've all got problems.  We don't smile 100% of the time.  That's okay.  The smile photos are plenty.   The other photos have their place in our life, too.

It's okay if my kids look sad.  Sometimes they are.  Nobody in my house is expected to be happy all the time.  You don't need to tell them to smile - because I can guarantee it will sneak back in soon.  A photograph gives you a fraction of a second's glimpse into my life.  Sometimes that section isn't perfect.

I also happen to think we are beautiful in every emotion.  How I love my daughter's jutted-out chin and my son's brown eyes when he is feeling confused.  Kids are so wonderful at expressing exactly how they feel.  This is childhood, caught in a frame.   Don't worry - my kids are not miserable.  They are kids.

January Wrap-Up

My goals for January included survival and not freezing to death (can you tell I'm still not acclimated to Canadian winters, despite being BORN here!?).  Photographically speaking, my goals were...nothing.  I don't do a 365 project (though I love that other people do and I enjoy watching their days unfold) or a once-a-week project or anything of the sort because I prefer to approach my work without commitment or expectation as much as I can.  

What I DID do in January: document, document, document.  I dropped my camera in the snow. I fell in love with my grandmother's basement.  We celebrated personal victories and made a "bum slide" on a snow hill.  We survived being powerless for 35 hours (thank you, WOOD STOVE) during an ice storm that is still being managed in the northern part of the province.  We played outside when the sun felt warm enough and I fell in love with late-afternoon light on my couch.

We did alright.

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The first

We call you the firstborn.  You were actually born before we even got married, though only by six weeks.  We got married and thought a dog would be a good idea.  In the long term we were right; in the short term it was a hard few months, adjusting to married life, a full workload at school, a hard-working husband.

He wanted a lab, and we saw an ad in the paper for you.  A house in town, with three children and several cats, and this lab puppy who has just too much energy, the lady said on the phone, sounding wiped out.  Alright, we said, and we showed up at the door at suppertime, the height of chaos, because when Daddy gets an idea in his head, he doesn't budge.  There were children crying and people shouting and the man at the house tried desperately to explain your finer points.  Suddenly you barrelled around the corner, black as the night with a white star on your chest, and you launched yourself at Daddy's shoe, yanking on the laces with your sharp little puppy teeth, and for a moment he couldn't talk, until he was about to say you were ours.

You saw me through my final year of school, sitting and staring at me while I studied, barking to get my attention.  You survived getting run over by Daddy on his birthday.  You learned to retrieve ducks.  You laid your head on my lap when I cried and cried that March day.  A year and a half later we fretted over bringing home our new baby, and how you would react, and we even videoed the grand introduction, and you sniffed him once and carried on.  That kind of blind trust is what makes us love a dog.

You have seen us through illness and a second child and home renovations and a new truck and fishing at the brook and picking blackberries.  

Nowadays you are going on 13 years old, a grand old age for a dog, and your whiskers are grey and you sleep a lot and can't hear a darn thing.  

You also cannot appear normal in a photo to save your life.

I love that.