Photography

If you’ve worked with me for family portraits, you know my sessions are always a mix of some shots that are more candid and some that are more posed. My favourites are ALWAYS the candid ones. To me, they’re the ones that tell the true story of your family in this moment in time. It’s how I document my own family: rather than posing the kids, which always looks a little stiff, I just give them something to do and step back, taking photos of them being themselves.

About this time last year, I had a super fun morning with this sweet family out playing in a local park. When they got back in touch this year, I was thrilled that they were looking for a session in their home. I suggested the idea of a ‘day in the life’ storytelling approach, and they loved the idea. Mom and Dad planned a bit of science fun with some corn starch (and maybe some flour?) and some food colouring, and I was ready with my camera.

Here’s a few of they key shots (there were so! many! more!) that do a good job of telling the story of the day.

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Candid storytelling photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Of course, there’s always a few minutes for some more traditional posed shots, too.

Candid family photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

A day in the life - fun with science!

Candid family photographs by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

There are a lot of reasons why this sort of session is better than lining everybody up and asking them to say cheese. It was raining while we did this session, so we did not have to worry about the weather. I was a little worried about the light, but with those big windows, even the diffuse light of a dark day was plenty – and lovely, in fact. And really, what’s a better backdrop for your family than your home? If your home is not perfectly tidy, that’s okay, too. It’s just more authentic *you* for the photos. :) (Trust me, I am never one to judge the mess level in someone else’s home. Glass houses, y’all!) Your family will be more at ease in front of the camera when they’re in a comfortable environment and have something fun to do. And there’s no shortage of things to do during a storytelling session: do a craft, bake some cookies, play in the yard, have brunch, plant some flowers — anything you’d do with your family anyway, just with your own personal mamarattzi sticking her lens into the middle of it.

If you’d like me to help document the story of a day in the life of your family, don’t hesitate to get in touch!


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A tulip story

by DaniGirl on May 16, 2017 · 0 comments

in Life in Ottawa, Photo of the Day

Five years ago, I got some of my favourite photographs of Parliament Hill, as seen over the tulip beds behind the Canadian Museum of History.

Pretty Parliament

Though I’ve taken many, many, MANY photos of the tulips and the Parliament Buildings since then, I thought this would be a good year to go back and revisit those iconic shots with a better camera, a better lens and frankly, better technical chops.

It’s a bit longer of a walk from where I’m working now to the History Museum, but I showed up for work early to buy myself some extra lunch hour, ate my lunch early at my desk, and set off with my camera into a perfect spring day.

It’s been about a week since the flooded Ottawa River crested, and parts of the foot path that had been submerged just last week were clear and dry.

(I quite liked this shot from last Tuesday, the day the flood waters crested. None shall pass on this submerged multi-use path behind the Library and Archives buildings!)

Photo of Ottawa flooding by Danielle Donders

When I crossed the Portage Bridge, the waters were still high and raging. The sound of rushing water was still powerful – but not as intense as last week.

As I crossed over to the Quebec side and picked up the multi-use path on the other side of the river, there were clues to which perhaps I should have paid more attention. But, I did not.

Photo of blocked path by Daniele Donders

You’d think this would be a clue to which I should have paid attention.

Photo of sinkhole in bike path by Danielle Donders

The water was washing right up on to the path in a few spots. Still, I did not take the hint.

Photo of flooded bike path by Danielle Donders

You’d really think this would have been a sign of things to come. (Get it? Sign? I slay me.)

Photo of underwater sign by Danielle Donders

Nevertheless, she persisted. And what she found when she finally arrived at the back lawn of the History Museum, looking out over the still-swollen Ottawa River and the Parliament Buildings beyond, was one sad little tulip, and the remains of a tulip bed that had been, until very recently, completely underwater. Ottawa’s great flood of 2017 was not kind to the flower beds.

Photo of tulip and Ottawa flood by Danielle Donders

Alas, poor tulips, I knew them well.

I guess we’ll have to wait until Spring 2018 to revisit that iconic tulip shot from behind the History Museum. If anybody needs me, I’ll be on Parliament Hill. They chose it for its elevation – the flood waters never came anywhere near these beauties!

Photo by Danielle Donders


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My big-hearted friends are fostering a mama cat and her brand new litter of kittens, and they were kind enough to let the boys and I come over for a visit. You didn’t think I’d leave my camera behind, did you?

This is Abby. I love this photo because her expression says everything I felt about giving birth and newborns. “What the HECK just happened here?” I think I had that look in my eyes until the kids were in school.

Hello kitties!

See how her paw is positioned? She reflexively strokes them to bring them in to nurse. So sweet!

There are five kittens in the litter: three tabbies, a black and a grey who reminds us a lot of Lucy. Abby herself is barely an adult at 18 months.

Hello kitties!

Don’t worry, Mama Cat, Lucas seems to be saying as she carefully watches (but tolerates) him holding one of her babies.

Hello kitties!

They are so! tiny! And can you believe at five days old they’re already double the size they were at birth?

Hello kitties!

Tristan is our cat whisperer. Lucy and Willie sleep on him at night, and this little kitten went right to sleep in his hands. Even Mama seemed less distressed when he was holding one of her babies than she was with the other boys.

Hello kitties!

This is my favourite though, I think. A wee little baby having a lazy suckle from a patient mama.

Hello kitties!

I’ve never seen animals so young before, so it was a real treat to be able to share them with the boys. And no, we didn’t keep any of them. Yet. Lovely as they are, and beautiful as the miracle of their arrival is, I’m still quite glad that Lucy and Willie are fixed. There’s enough kitties in the world!


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Back in 2008, I heard a story on the CBC radio program Spark about Jamie Livingston, who took over 6,000 Polaroid photos – one each day for 18 years. That story inspired me to start my own “photo a day” project in 2009, which lead in time to my photography business and so much more. I recently stumbled across the retelling of Jamie’s photo project in this video, and thought it worthy of sharing here. It’s really amazing to think of him taking these photos in the days before digital!

If you can’t view the video, you can see the original on Mental Floss.

If you’ve been reading along lately, you know I’ve been inspired to incorporate more storytelling into my photography. Over the years I’ve worked on my technical skills (exposure, focus, light, etc) and then my compositional skills. I’ve refined my digital post-processing skills, played with black and white, and worked on how to pose people.

Now it’s time to level-up once more and hone my storytelling skills. I’ve always valued a photograph with a “moment” more than a technically perfect photo, and lately I’ve started to move my photography business in the direction of less posed portraits and more documentary photography. And so, the very same story that inspired my Project 365 has motivated me to start a new project: the Story of the Day. I don’t think I have the stamina to do one every single day, but that’s what I’ll be looking for in my personal photography this year: photos that tell a story.

Here’s a great example! This is breakfast at our house. Lucas has made some freezer waffles for himself and instead of syrup has coated them in peanut butter and chocolate sprinkles. As he eats, he’s watching YouTube videos and Bella is watching expectantly for a stray morsel to drop. The light behind him is what brings it all together, I think.

"Are you going to finish that?"

I love this picture, and I’m excited about the idea of telling more stories through photography this year. I know from looking back on my archives, the photos that document the minutiae of every day life are the ones that resonate with me. And, I’m just a sucker for a new project. I think I’ll aim for one Story of the Day photo each week. One down, 51 to go!


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Last autumn, one of the final photo shoots I did before the wind turned bitter and the snow started to fall was a maternity session with a friend and former colleague at the Lime Kiln Trail. It turned out to be one of my favourite sessions of the year, and not just because of my deep affection for the subjects. It was a beautiful afternoon out with a gorgeous couple, and we had a lot of fun together.

Autumn maternity photos by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Autumn maternity photos by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

(Yes, they really are as sweet as they look. Seriously.)

Autumn maternity photos by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Autumn maternity photos by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Their beautiful baby girl arrived over the holidays, and last weekend I was able to pay a visit with my camera and tell the story of a quiet Saturday afternoon at home with a new baby.

Portrait of a sleeping baby by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Portrait of a young family by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Daddy kissing baby by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

I’ll let you pause to catch your breath after all that adorableness. I mean seriously!

Family portrait with pet cat by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Family portrait with pet cat by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Those last two are definitely my favourites of the day, but I honestly can’t decide between the black and white yawn, or that compelling green stare of derision. What do you think?


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I miss not working downtown anymore mostly because I miss creeping around with my camera. I’m sure the two most-photographed buildings in my archives are Watson’s Mill in Manotick and the Parliament Buildings, and I’m not sure which one would come out ahead quantity-wise. So when I had the occasion on Sunday morning to do a little poking around on the grounds of the Museum of History (after being unceremoniously chased off the grounds of the neighbourhing Kruger plant by a guard with a marked disinterest in my artistic pursuits) I was in my happy place.

There’s nothing I like more than finding a new and interesting way to take a photo of a familiar subject. I’d been looking for reflections of the Parliament Buildings on the melting river ice but they were patchy and didn’t have the effect I wanted. I love this one, though. This is my kind of selfie!

Selfie with Parliament

Beautiful, right?

Parliament from the History Museum-2

The light was flat and grey but that helps emphasize the interesting shapes in the foreground here, I think.

Parliament from the History Museum-3

More shapes – I think this could be better but I can’t quite figure out how. Vexing. I have said many times in my head recently that I am simply not a landscape photographer.

Museum steps

I upgraded to a desktop computer from a laptop recently, and had to upgrade all of my software, too. It was as traumatizing as you might imagine, but jumping from Lightroom 4 to Lightroom CC has opened up a world of neat new features, including dead easy panorama stitching. This is ten or so photos merged together.

Parliament from the History Museum

And finally, to wrap everything up, a selfie and the Parliament Buildings reflected in the History Musueum’s windows — as a pano! This is nine images stitched together.

Reflection pano

Like most people, I’ve found the past few days troubling and stressful. Getting out to play with my camera was truly a balm on my soul. I’m so grateful to have this creative outlet, and to live in such a beautiful and photogenic city!


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Photo of the day: Sunday art project

16 January 2017 Lucas

Nothing makes Lucas happier than creative work – drawing, painting, building. And nothing makes me happier than bright colours and interesting photo opportunities. That’s a win-win, wouldn’t you agree?

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Photo of the day: Lucy posing prettily

4 January 2017 Photo of the Day

When we first brought her home, Lucy decided that Willie had the right idea, and that cats lived in the basement in the big boys’ bedrooms while dogs lived on the main floor. Over the holidays, though, we saw her venturing upstairs more and more often. She still doesn’t have much use for the dog […]

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A free gift for you from Mothership Photography!

18 December 2016 Mothership Photography

I have just finished my fifth (!) year in business as a photographer, and if you’ve been around for a while, you know that the origins of the photography business are right here on the blog. Those of you who have followed along through the years have seen me go from a photo-a-day project to […]

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Seven years of Christmas tree quests

14 December 2016 Ah, me boys

The year we moved to Manotick was the year we swapped our almost 20 year old artificial tree for a (formerly) live one. Though I had never had a “real” tree, we have come to love our annual Christmas tree quest and I could not imagine ever going back to an artificial tree. Conveniently, 2010 […]

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