I don’t generally accept requests to take photographs at weddings, but not because I don’t like them. Being invited to document someone’s most important day is a huge honour, and there are always so many beautiful moments to capture. (Truthfully, it’s photographing wedding receptions that’s not really my jam, mostly because they occur to close to my bedtime for comfort. The travails of an inveterate morning person.)

So anyway, when Sarah and Richard said they were looking for a photographer to document their simple elopement ceremony, I knew I had to say yes. Informal, candid and playful — and did I mention it happened to be at the Manotick dog park? Most! Fun! Wedding! Ever!!

Elopement photography at the dog park

The late afternoon light was warm and soft as they exchanged their vows with the witnesses looking on. The maid of honour read a lovely poem about how falling in love is like owning a dog. It was delightful!

Elopement at the dog park

It’s not always easy to get two dogs looking at the camera even when you don’t have a park full of much more interesting things going on behind you. You see the look on the dogs’ faces? I had just warned the humans to beware of pending screech and then let out the most high-pitched, annoying squeal I could muster to get the dogs to look at me. Worked like a charm, and the humans laughed too. Win-win!

Ottawa photographer at the park

And then they lived happily ever after.

Elopement at the dog park

Thank you, Rich and Sarah (and furbabies Audrey and Timmy), for letting me be witness to your amazing wedding in the park!


When this family and I planned a fun family adventure photo session at the Log Cabin Orchard south of Ottawa in mid-September, we weren’t anticipating blazing heat and high humidity, but that’s exactly what we got. Lucky for me, we also got two adorable girls and two patient parents, and bunnies! And apples – lots of apples!

A family outing at the Orchard in Ottawa

I love everything this photo says about childhood: dirty knees and pretty dresses and chipped nail polish and careful fingers gently stroking a fuzzy bunny.

Family photography in Ottawa

Those eyelashes! Those freckles!

A family outing at the Orchard

Maybe it’s from chasing behind my boys all these years with my camera, but my favourite pictures of kids are often when they’re busy concentrating on anything BUT posing for the camera.

A family outing at the Orchard

A family outing at the Orchard

Candid lifestyle photography by Danielle Donders

Then again, there’s something to be said for candid shots that become poses with a quick hug and a bit of direction. 🙂

A family outing at the Orchard

Candid lifestyle photography by Danielle Donders

I’m booked up for fall family portrait sessions, but have some openings in November and December for holiday family tradition sessions. How about candid, funny photos of you and the kids making cookies, going for a hike in the crisp autumn air, or making a messy family breakfast? (Almost!) anything you do with your family that you want to remember in years to come, I can turn into an easy, informal photo shoot. Send me a note and we can chat about how!

Thanks to this sweet family for persevering through a July-like blazing hot day!


No lining up in a row! No poses! No stiff or cheesy smiles for the camera! No Sunday-best outfits! Just fun photos to remember your family as they really look and play in this beautiful moment in time.

This September, I’m offering candid family photography sessions at the delightful Log Cabin Orchard near Osgoode. These are documentary-style photos of you and your family having fun – and yes, YOU are in the pictures this time. Plus, you get to keep the apples!

The Log Cabin Orchard is lovely. There are tractor-drawn wagon rides, a little petting zoo, and yummy churros and cider for sale, as well as a nice selection of baked goods.

We’ll spend 30 to 45 minutes in the orchard picking apples. I’ll be your own personal mamarazzi, taking photos of you and your family picking fresh Lobo, Paula Red and McIntosh apples (depending on what’s in season.) Your package even includes one-quarter bushel of apples — feel free to buy more, though, or get some yummy churros or apple cider on site.

You’ll receive an online invitation to a private gallery, from which you can choose your favourite photos. The package includes 10 high resolution, fully edited digital images, with the option to buy prints or additional images.

The cost this package, including apples AND 10 digital files, is $325. This rate applies to the apple picking family photography session only, and is valid only during September. If you’d like more information or to book a session, please email hello@danigirl.ca or contact me via this form.


If you’re looking for a wonderful little spot to bring the family for lunch and a lovely view of the intersection of Ottawa’s two rivers, we had a really lovely lunch one summer afternoon at Ottawa’s new Tavern on the Falls.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

It might have been because it was a Monday, or because the sky was threatening rain, or because it was mid afternoon, but we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

It’s a cousin to Tavern on the Hill, in Majors Hill Park. It’s a little tricky to find the first time. It’s tucked behind the Royal Geographic Society building on Sussex Dr, right in between it and the falls where the Rideau river meets the Ottawa river. The menu is simple, with gourmet hot dogs and an assortment of pre-made salads and wraps. We were impressed with the options for the hot dogs.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

(They are so different in almost every way, and yet every now and then I catch the family resemblance!)

There’s also what looks like a full service bar, but we weren’t there for drinks. We did, however, imbibe in some ice cream after our hot dogs. It was spitting a bit as we finished lunch, but the umbrellas provided enough cover to keep us dry. In fact, it was a little hard to tell the difference between the sprinkles and the spray from the falls.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

It’s a lovely area to wander, not too far from Rideau Hall. We didn’t make it that far, but we did poke around the falls a little bit, talking about how they’re the reason the Rideau Canal was built, and how Ottawa came to be settled because of them. Here’s the view of the restaurant from the other side of the falls.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

You can really see in this photo why they called these falls “Rideau” – which means curtain.

Ottawa family fun: Tavern on the Falls

We spent a lovely, lazy hour or so having hot dogs and ice cream and poking around the falls. I can imagine the sunset views are stunning, and plan to come back when the fall foliage turns colourful – won’t be long now! All in all, a lovely if not inexpensive lunch out with a gorgeous view, even on a rainy afternoon, and highly recommended.

If you go:
Tavern on the Falls is open from early morning (with Bridgehead coffee and Maverick’s doughnuts!) to late night, through the end of October, weather permitting. The street address is 1 John Street, but we found it by looking for the Royal Geographic Society and wandering around behind it.


Planning an itinerary for London that equally engages two teens, a tween, and two kids-at-heart meant tempering some of the more traditional sightseeing options (“seriously Mom, another church?”) with visits to more manga shops than you could have ever imagined existed. It also meant bookshops, candy shops, and some unexpectedly engaging adventures.

In general, they loved to play “spot the cultural differences” and were somewhere between engaged and patient with the grown-ups’ interest in history and art. Lucas, at age 10, did comment at one point in Paris that maybe a little bit too much of our vacation had been about dead people. We used a LOT of pop culture and literary references to engage the boys in various activities, giving them meaningful context beyond the history books and top tourist attractions. Harry Potter, Les Miserables, the Beatles, Monty Python, Neil Gaiman, and Victor Hugo were but a few of the sources of our inspiration.

Here are five things my boys loved about London. (Stay tuned for the Paris edition!)

1. The Royal Observatory at Greenwich

The view from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich

This was my geek-out, and high on my list of things to see in London. The Royal Observatory at Greenwich, a UNESCO world heritage site, sits high on a hill (with a 60 degree incline for part of the climb!) a little bit east of the core. Not only did we learn the origins of Greenwich Mean Time, and admire some truly spectacular views out over London, but the boys were amused by the arbitrariness of standing with one foot in each hemisphere and the unresolved dispute over where exactly the Prime Meridian lies. If you’re at all interested in space or time, this is a very cool place to visit. There was an interesting looking retro market in Greenwich that I deeply regret we did not have time to explore — next time!

Feet on the Prime Meridian

2. A “cruise” on the Thames Clipper

There are plenty of boat tours and cruises on the River Thames from which to choose. Because they are more for commuting than for tourists, the Thames Clippers are a simple and inexpensive way to see London from the Thames. There’s no commentary or tour guides, but we still loved our trip from Vauxall Bridge to Greenwich, with a change at London Bridge. If you use Google Maps, you can more or less figure out what you’re looking at as you go along. There is no better way to see the Tower Bridge than going under it, in our opinion! And, we could pay using our Oyster cards, buying a paper ticket for Lucas because he’s young enough to ride the Tube, buses and trams without fare and therefore did not have an Oyster card. I think we paid about £7 for the grownups for our one-way fare, and half that for the kids under 15. The ride on the Clipper came in second to the Harry Potter studio tour on my boys’ list of favourite London adventures!

Passing under the Tower of London

3. Chasing Harry Potter

I’d started out incorporating all my Harry Potter thoughts here, but then they grew and expanded like someone had cast an engorgio spell on them, and they spilled out into not one but TWO separate blog posts, one on finding Harry Potter locations in London and the other on the Making of Harry Potter studio tour.

Needless to say, I know few teens (nor Gen Xers!) who wouldn’t love chasing down at least a little bit of Harry Potter while visiting London.

4. Camden Market

This was the unexpected gem of our visit. We had time to kill on the morning of our visit to the Harry Potter studio tour, and hit the Camden Lock Market on a whim. I only wish we’d left ourselves much more time to explore this delightful warren of indie shops, crafters, vintage sales and commercial outlets with an alternative vibe. We had fantastic street food for lunch, and I got my very first (and long-coveted) pair of Doc Martens – authentic Made in England brand with gorgeous embroidered flowers to boot, erm, shoe. We approached the Market from the much more subdued Chalk Farm station side, and on the way out enjoyed the funky vibe of the main strip on the way back to the Camden Town Station. Even earlyish on a weekday morning, the place was alive with edgy energy – I can only imagine what it’s like on a Friday night!

Camden Town

5. The Tower of London

I was surprised by how much we enjoyed the Tower of London. From the resident ravens to the Beefeater tours, and from the medieval torture devices to the ancient history of the place, we found the Tower a fascinating place to explore. We’d been told to avoid the crush of people wanting to see the Crown Jewels by arriving as early as possible and going straight to the Crown Jewels, so we did, and had them practically to ourselves. Although they were interesting, we were a little underwhelmed by them and had more fun making jokes about the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch and the Cloak of Visibility. (Touring London with kids who make Monty Python quips is an adventure in itself and ample reward for many long years of parenting.)

Family travel at the Tower of London

Bonus recommendation: our favourite wander

Wandering is hands-down my favourite way to explore, and there’s no shortage of amazing places to wander in London. We found ourselves drawn to the area around Covent Gardens, SoHo, the Strand and Trafalgar Square again and again during our visit. The pop culture megastore Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury Avenue was a hit – I bought a paper copy of Good Omens to augment my ecopy, but we decided against hauling home the heavy tome that contained all the Monty Python scripts. Hardy’s Candy Store has sherbet lemons and lots of other sweets, along with the eclectic shops on Neal Street, and if you’ve got £299 to blow on a life-sized Firebolt of your very own, The Nobel Collection had lots of interesting toys for big kids!

We were also sad that we couldn’t make the timing work on a Mudlarking adventure on the Thames foreshore or a graffiti street art tour and workshop in Shoreditch, both of which were on my kids’ want-to-do list and will simply have to wait until NEXT time.

Care to add to the list? What places or adventures have your teens and tweens loved in London?


Finding Harry Potter in London

by DaniGirl on August 9, 2018 · 0 comments

in Euro2018

If there was a leitmotif for our trip to London, it was Harry Potter. I have spent the last year reading the books to Lucas for the first time (after having read them to the older boys several years ago, and of course reading each book several times by myself) and we broke our cardinal rule of “you must finish the book before you view the movie” to watch all eight of the movies before we left, even though we’re only midway through reading The Order of the Phoenix. All that to say, we were well marinated in Harry Potter lore heading into this trip, and we all five love the books and the movies.

Kings Cross Platform 9 3/4

I have a whole separate blog post planned for our visit to the Making of Harry Potter studio tour, but even if you don’t opt for the tour, there is plenty of Harry Potter minutiae outside the Warner Bros. studio to enjoy. Here are a few of the places we enjoyed finding, either by specifically seeking them out or just recognizing them as we passed by, that have served as film locations in the eight movies of the Harry Potter franchise.

In our first day of wandering and exploring, we crossed the Millennium Bridge, otherwise known as the Wobbly Bridge, that the Death Eaters destroy at the beginning of The Half-Blood Prince, and also passed by the Lambeth Bridge, where the Knight Bus squeezes its way between oncoming double-decker buses in The Prisoner of Azkaban. And we passed both over AND under the Tower Bridge, featured in the Order of the Phoenix when Harry and the other members of the Order zoom down the Thames on broomsticks on their way to Grimmauld Place. (We never did make it to Islington to visit Clarendon Square, where the exterior scenes of Grimmauld Place were filmed.)

Harry Potter sites in London

A few days later, we found ourselves in Picadilly Circus, which was too noisy and crowded and busy for our tastes, but you might recognize it from Deathly Hallows Part One, where Hermione brings Ron and Harry to escape the Death Eater attack on the Weasley wedding. St Pancras station was our departure point, where we caught the Eurostar train to Paris. You’ll see its neo-gothic clock tower as Harry and Ron zoom past in Mr Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia in the beginning of The Chamber of Secrets.

Diagon Alley has two muggle locations in London. The first is the Borough Market, where Harry pops off the Knight Bus in The Prisoner of Azkaban. The second is Leadenhall Market, a gorgeous set of Victorian arcades that has been a functioning market since medieval times and also happens to serve as the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron in The Philosopher’s Stone. What we did not know is that Leadenhall Market, including all its cute shops AND restaurants and cafes, is closed on Sundays. It was still a fun place to explore, just not a great place to arrive hungry and hoping for a good spot for dinner on a Sunday.

Leadenhall Market for Harry Potter fans

And of course, there is King’s Cross Station, home of Platform 9 3/4 and one of my favourite scenes in all of the movies, where Harry and Dumbledore discuss life after death, and choices, and Voldemort. It also happens to contain two of my very favourite quotes from the movie franchises:

‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?’


‘Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.’

Platforms 9 and 10 (and, ostensibly, 9 3/4) are behind a barrier that you can only cross if you have a valid train ticket. However, they have mocked up a more accessible Platform 9 3/4, complete with trolley passing through the brick wall and nearby gift shop, where fans can queue to have their photo taken. They even supply scarves in the Hogwarts house of your choice, and have employees standing by to manage the queue (and your scarf) and take photos. A staff member takes photos of everyone, but you are also welcome to take your own, and you are not obligated to buy the official version. We queued for nearly an hour but found the staff quite accommodating, letting us take individual photos of the boys, then a group photo of just the boys, and finally one with the boys and me in it. (Beloved preferred to remain on the safe side of the camera!) Pro tip: you can save yourself the bother of queuing up at King’s Cross if you’re planning a visit to the Warner Bros studio tour, as they have the same set-up but with poorer lighting and basically no line-ups.

And even with all of that, there are Harry Potter film locations in London that we missed. If you remember Dudley and Harry encountering the snake in The Philosopher’s Stone, you’ll find the Reptile House at the London Zoo familiar. Scotland Place stands in for the Ministry of Magic and nearby Westminster Tube station was closed for an entire day when it was used as a location during the filming of The Order of the Phoenix. Though the movie shows the Leaky Cauldron as being accessed through Leadenhall Market, the books imply access off Charing Cross Road, and of course Diagon Alley is where one would see the imposing white marble of Gringotts, the wizard bank, but is better known to muggles as Australia House, the Australian high commission.

There are, of course, no shortages of Harry Potter souvenirs available in what seemed like almost every retail establishment. We were unable to resist the attraction of wands for each boy, t-shirts and Pop figures with Harry Potter themes. And I’m positively delighted with my Marauders’ Map scarf, as I do solemnly swear that I’m up to no good. We managed to resist the full set of Professor Snape’s dress robes (£299!) or a life-sized Firebolt at nearly £500.

One of our less-traditional Harry Potter souvenirs came from a candy shop near Covent Garden where we found sherbet lemon drops.

They’re Dumbledore’s favourites, you know!

Make no mistake, we did not (entirely) reduce one of the world’s greatest cities to a giant Harry Potter scavenger hunt. We also learned about everything from Londinium to Henry VIII to the origins of Greenwich Mean Time. I have to tell you, though, nothing quite came close to the magic of London through a Harry Potter cinematic lens!


Navigating London’s Underground with kids

5 August 2018 Euro2018

I would not have expected that navigating through London’s (in)famous Underground would be as significant a touchstone in our travel memories as were our trips to the Harry Potter studio, the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and the Tower Bridge. It was certainly something we were anticipating with interest, partly because Tristan, Simon and I read […]

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In which she tries to tell you all the travel stories at once and doesn’t know where to start

4 August 2018 Euro2018

We’re freshly home from our epic two-week adventure in London and Paris, and I have SO MANY stories to tell you that I don’t even know where to begin. So, let’s start — at the beginning! Although I’d worked myself into a veritable lather of anxiety by the time our departure day arrived, the overnight […]

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Photos of the day: Family fun at Manotick’s locks

24 June 2018 Mothership Photography

This was the third year in a row that I met up with this fun family for a “day in the life” candid documentary photo session. The first two were so much fun that they ended up being among my favourites of the year, and I was worried that we couldn’t possibly have as much […]

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In which she discusses gender fluidity with the Universe

10 June 2018 Ah, me boys

It went something like this: **ring ring** Hello? DaniGirl! It’s the Universe calling. Long time, no chat! Universe, you old dog star! It has been long time! What’s new? I’ve been having a grand time telling Stephen Hawking how the universe ACTUALLY works, and I think it’s safe to say I have literally blown his […]

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