October 2017

Like many of you, I’ve been listening to The Tragically Hip all week. Radio station CHEZ-FM in Ottawa played nothing but Gord Downie songs for a week, and even rebranded as GORD-FM for the week. When they returned to regular programming, I started gathering up all the Hip music I have collected over the years on various CDs and mixed tapes and cassettes to rip them into iTunes once and for all, as I only ever seem to listen to music on my iPhone and my Mac any more.

It’s been a while since I used the little stereo that sits forlornly on the credenza, to be honest. I use the radio function sporadically, but couldn’t even remember until I checked if it even had a CD player. When I took a closer look, I could see that it clearly had a CD function – but getting a CD into it turned out to be a bit of an endeavour.

Like most mini-stereos of its vintage, it’s black, with very faint silver text describing the various controls. I peered at for a while, poking various promising-looking buttons, (indicator #1 that I am one million years old – I can no longer make out the text on the buttons on the stereo) and even tried to pry the lid open. It resisted in exactly the sort of way that indicated if I were to force it, I would probably regret it. (Indicator #2 that I am one million years old – I can no longer remember how to open the CD player.)

Resignedly, I pulled open the cutlery drawer in the kitchen to grab my nearest spare pair of glasses. (Indicator #3 that I am one million years old – I keep sets of spare reading glasses stashed all over the house.) I was finally able to find the “push the magic spot” spot that opened the lid on the CD player, and insert the CD, and even make it play. (Indicator #4 that I am one million years old: at first, even though properly inserted, the CD would not play and I was >this< close to waiting for Simon to come home to help me with the technology when I realized that it was simply not plugged in.)

If anybody needs me, I’ll be sitting here blasting the music of my youth at full volume, not because I can’t find the volume switch but because I haven’t got around to fulfilling my prescription for a hearing aid yet.

Does anyone know when I got so old?

2017-10-25 14.48.15


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I think the paths along Hogsback Falls in Ottawa are truly one of the city’s overlooked treasures. I see photographers crawling all over the Arboretum but am surprised that I rarely see family photos being taken at Hogsback – there’s a stunning variety of backdrops and perfect places for posing and playing. It’s been a few too many years since we’ve been there, though I drive past it on my commute every single day and think about stopping. We took advantage of the incredible weekend weather to go out for a wander.

Taking photos of the boys is more of an adventure than it used to be. I told them to “go over there so I can take your picture.” The posing and art direction was left up to them.

fun family photos in Ottawa

I call it “Album Cover, Autumn 2017 edition.” 😉

I think this would be an acceptable alternate cover.

Autumn at Hogsback Falls

Some of them are more willing to pose for me than others. It depends on the day which kid is in which category!

Autumn at Hogsback Falls

(Oh my heart!)

fun family photos in Ottawa

autumn wander at hogsback simon

(Yes, that’s my camera. Good thing I carry a spare in my pocket!)

Did I mention it’s been a FEW years since we were up on the lookout?

fun family photos in Ottawa

We have a few favourite spots we go to year after year. I’m making sure that Hogsback Falls is put back into rotation from now on!


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I have often joked that I’m going to ban kids aged 18 month to about three years old from family photography sessions on the porch. Toddlers are willful and opinionated and challenging to reason with, they don’t generally laugh my knock-knock jokes, and they rarely want to pose nicely and smile for the camera. That’s also the reason they’re so great to work with – they make you earn your good photos!

Family photos in Ottawa 1

(I love the expression on her face as she gazes up at her daddy!)

This lovely little moppet was a lot of fun to work with, even though she was pretty much interested in doing only what she was interested in doing. I have photos of her enjoying her yogurt, watching a passing car, and walking away from me. When she ambled away with her hands behind her back like this, my heart melted a bit. And those curls!!

Family photos in Ottawa

But when she did sit still for a minute and gaze at me with those brilliant blue eyes, I was ready. Oh, the cuteness!

Family photos in Ottawa

Isn’t she adorable?

The season for family portraits on the porch is nearly done, but I’m offering a great new type of family traditions documentary photography sessions that can take place in your home or on location anywhere your family likes to hang out. And toddlers are more than welcome, especially the ones with just a hint of spunk and sass and sparkle like this one!


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When K and her family dropped by the porch for family portraits last year, it was so unseasonably cold that we wrapped the girls in my blankets originally intended for sitting on and then we couldn’t convince them to put the blankets down. When they came back this year, it was strangely summer-like for an autumn afternoon. Lucky for me, they were adorable either way!

Two sisters, just a hint of sass. And those matching boots – be still my heart!

Ottawa family photographer Danielle Donders takes fun family portraits

I probably should have forecasted that the apples would be all over the porch by the end of the portrait session. Maximum cuteness though!

Fun Ottawa family photography

I often get families asking for advice on how to dress for family portraits. I think this family nailed it. Three of four of them are in solid colours, and each of those colours picks up on a tone in the pattern in the littlest girl’s dress. The colours harmonize beautifully without being matchy-matchy, and the styles are complementary. The outfits were selected with everyone’s style in mind, and the family is dressed cohesively. Everyone looks relaxed and comfortable.

Beautiful family portraits by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

It’s possible that there was some tickle action going on.

Laughing children during a family photography session in Ottawa

The key to a successful family photography session is knowing when to quit. It’s possible that I might have gone one shot too far here!

Apple girls on the porch-6

But those faces! That’s a real moment, right there. That’s four people occupying different places on the “are we done yet?” spectrum.

Family photography doesn’t have to be stiff and torturous. Get in touch and let’s have some fun!


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I was wandering around Centretown looking at fall colours when I was enchanted by this bright blue morning glory, conveniently positioned with those crazy pink flowers in the background.

How could I resist?

What's the story, morning glory?

There’s something about morning glories and four o’clocks that make me thing they’re listening. I’d love some in my garden. Are they easy to grow?


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There are so many great family traditions that we enjoy in the autumn and early winter: apple picking and pumpkin carving, forest hikes to enjoy the changing leaves and then raking up the leaves at home. And then as we inch forward to the holiday season, there’s cookie baking and present wrapping and tree decorating. Chances are you’ve got your phone out taking pictures of the kids during a lot of these activities, right? (I know because I’ve seen them on Facebook!)

Wouldn’t it be great, though, to have a professional photographer come in and take those photos for you? A documentary photo session, also known as a “day in the life” session, is the opposite of everybody standing in a row looking at the camera and saying “cheese.” A documentary session is like having a friend with a camera in the room, taking care of documenting everything so you can have fun enjoying the activities. The photos you get will tell the perfectly imperfect story of your family at this moment in time. And when you hire me to take the photos, EVERYONE gets to be in the photos. There’s nobody hiding behind the lens except me – get the entire family in the photos. In fact, these sessions are great with extended families – bring the grandparents and get them in the photos, too!

Documentary photography sessions with Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

The idea behind the family tradition sessions is perfectly summed up by one of my favourite literary characters, Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables:

“After all,” Anne had said to Marilla once, “I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

I’ve been documenting my family at play for years, and it’s the sort of photography that makes my heart sing. Since this is a relatively new offering for me, for the rest of 2017 I’m offering an introductory special: the Family Traditions package.

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Tracking fall foliage in Ontario, Quebec and the USA

2 October 2017 Life in Ottawa

Now that it is October, the fiery reds, oranges and yellows of autumn are almost upon us! I think the fall colours are a little late this year, compared to other years. (One of many benefits of having an archive of thousands of photos taken in every season!) Whether you’re looking for a colourful foliage […]

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