From the category archives:

Photography

I have been living in Ottawa for more than 25 years and recommending Rideau Hall as a destination and activity for free Ottawa family fun for nearly a decade, so I figured it was high time we actually headed over and checked it out. It was, to be honest, not at all what I expected. And even though I’ve seen it on the news dozens of times and you can hardly escape hearing about it if you live in Ottawa, I truly think this one qualifies as one of Ottawa’s Hidden Treasures!

I knew that we would see the Ceremonial Guard. They do a changing of the guard ceremony each hour through the summer tourist months, and we happened to arrive just in time.

A visit to Rideau Hall

And while I had a vague idea that there were lovely grounds to walk, I was delighted by the gorgeous green gardens with towering trees and unexpected treasures placed here and there like this totem pole.

A visit to Rideau Hall-2

The main building is well back from the front gate where the changing of the guard takes place. Because there is no entrance fee nor checkpoint through which to file, we didn’t realize that during the early afternoon access to the residence and main building is only by guided tour. A helpful guide stationed nearby explained that if we were to return after 3 pm, we would be able to take a self-guided tour at our own pace, and I would be free to take photos. Photos are not allowed during the guided tour.

A 40-minute tour seemed a little beyond the comfort level of my wrangy companions, so we decided to either come back later in the day or another day for a self-guided tour. As we were walking away, the boys wanted to check out the big fountain to “see if the water is warm.”

A visit to Rideau Hall-3

I had read that there were children’s activities, so we headed loosely back in the direction of the visitor’s centre near where we had entered. Just wandering the grounds without even entering any of the buildings is a lovely outing in itself.

A visit to Rideau Hall-4

A visit to Rideau Hall-5

The boys are headed toward a small playstructure tucked away in one corner. :) As I wandered around, all I could think was “oh my goodness, what an amazing location this would be for family portraits!” I wondered if there was a fee to shoot portraits on the grounds, or if a permit is required. (Did you know you now need a permit to shoot professional portraits in the arboretum?)

After a pause on the play structure, we headed over to the visitor’s centre next door to ask about the children’s activities. We stopped on the way to check out the flags. Lucas knew right away which flag represents Prince Edward Island – the whole family is truly and completely smitten with the province!

A visit to Rideau Hall-6

The children’s activities comprised, at first glance, a couple of small tables set up with colouring sheets, pencil crayons and markers, and some board puzzle cut-outs of various Governors-General coats of arms. The oldest and youngest boys are magnetically drawn to any artistic activity, so they were instantly engaged. So too was the middlest boy, who is magnetically drawn to anything with a screen and an internet connection – in this case, the gg.ca website!

A visit to Rideau Hall-7

I was flipping through the guest book, marveling at how far some travelers had come and enjoying their comments, when the young docent stationed in the visitor’s centre asked if we would mind if the official photographer came by and took some pictures of the boys colouring for potential use on the GG’s website. I laughed and said they certainly were experienced in that, and since they were still fully engaged in creating their coats of arms and didn’t mind, I said sure. A few minutes later, a photographer and his assistant with an arm full of model releases showed up.

A visit to Rideau Hall-8

Altogether, we probably spent the vast proportion of our time at Rideau Hall in the visitor’s centre between waiting for the photographer to arrive and Lucas’s insistence that we not leave until he finished his coat of arms, and the young docent’s easy chatter and eager explanations made the afternoon for us. He explained how it works when the Royal Family visit (we had speculated on that in the car ride over), the various seasonal activities for the public, and shared interesting insight and minutiae about Rideau Hall. We talked about the complexities of the Governor General living in the midst of such a public place, and he mentioned how you can always tell when the Governor General’s grandchildren are on site because of the row of bikes near the residence. He told us that His Excellency so loves to read to his grandchildren that they call him “Grandpa Book.” Isn’t that the most charming thing?

And then he pointed out that the boys could try on the knight’s helmets that I thought were merely decoration. Of course, the boys were all over that.

Sir Tristan:

A visit to Rideau Hall-9

And Sir Lucas:

Sir Lucas

(Sir Simon declined to be photographed.)

On my way out, I remembered to ask the question I had been wondering about: could we take formal family portraits on the grounds? Of course, answered the docent, “this all belongs to the people.” I love that! Who wants to do portraits at Rideau Hall???

So even though we never actually made it inside Rideau Hall itself, we had a lovely visit nonetheless. If you do go, be sure to engage the helpful and knowledgeable staff – they are everywhere, and the several with whom we spoke seemed to genuinely enjoy sharing their time and knowledge. If you’ve never been, I recommend this as a refreshingly low-key but entirely pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.

If you go: Rideau Hall is located at 1 Sussex Drive. Short-term parking is free on local streets. You can enter through several gates on the grounds. See the Relief of the Sentries at the front gate every hour on the hour from 9 am to 5 pm through August 23. Admission is completely free! See the Rideau Hall website for additional details.


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This sweet family came for portraits on the porch today. Aren’t they lovely – erm, I mean lovely and handsome.

Siblings

I am so used to chasing toddlers and preschoolers lately, it was a bit of a relief to work with people who actually sit still for more than three seconds at a time. :) Sadly, they weren’t too interested in posing on my little red wagon though. (Actually, they were such a fun and funny group that I am pretty sure that if I pulled out the wagon they would have totally rolled with it!)

Their mom had asked me for advice about how to dress for the session and I loved how she pulled everyone’s outfits together. I always suggest choosing two or three dominant and coordinating colours and dress the family as a unit, in the same way you try to coordinate your own outfit every day. They all had various tones of blues with bits of greys and white for accent, and they all came together so well!

I’ll share more photos from this fun family portrait session soon!


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How often do you get to see FIVE generations in the same room?

Five generations

That’s Beloved’s grandmother, his father, his sister, our niece and our grand-nephew. Isn’t that extraordinary?


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I am the first to admit that when I launched my portrait business four years ago this month, there was a lot I didn’t know. I’ve learned so much about using or creating light, posing, interacting with subjects, the effect of various focal lengths, and digital post-processing to name but a few.

In the end, though, sometimes all you have to do is show up and point the camera in the right direction, because the cute speaks for itself. I mean, really, does it get any cuter than these two?

Portrait of sisters on a red wagon by photographer Danielle Donders

Sometimes the hardest part of a photo session is not keeping the adorable kids for myself at the end of the day!

More photos from this fun porch portrait photo session soon – if you think these two are cute, you should see the whole family!


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About a week or two into the World Cup, Simon came home asking for a soccer ball called a Brazuca. He and his friends played World Cup soccer each day at recess, rotating who would be each country, and he wanted to play at home, too. My suggestion that he play with one of the 47 other types of ball we have stashed around the house was met with disdain. He really, really wanted a Brazuca.

I had put it on the vague to-do list that always runs in the back of my mind. If the boy wanted to play soccer, and buying him a soccer ball got him outside and moving more, I figured an official ball was a small price to pay. Imagine my delight, then, when that very week my contact through the Rogers Mobile Ambassador program mentioned she had a few official Sony World Cup soccer balls to share – did anyone want one? I think I may have replied in all-caps, I was so excited. Me me me me me, please!

It arrived when we were in PEI, but the boys have made good use of it ever since.

World cup fever

Simon loves it, and has called his school mates several times this week to see who wants to play soccer up at the school. Thank you Rogers and Sony for making me the coolest mom on the block – for this week, at least!


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One of the unexpected beauties of our trip to Prince Edward Island were the beautiful pink, purple, yellow and cream lupins growing wild almost everywhere we went.

Lupines at Basin Head PEI

These ones were growing between the dunes at Basin Head provincial park, but they were in just about every vista we saw. I don’t remember ever seeing them around Ottawa – surely we’re in a similar temperate zone, can I grow them here? Honestly, before we went to PEI, everything I knew about lupins I learned from Monty Python!

PS WordPress really wants me to spell “lupin” as “lupine” – but they’re not really wolf-like, are they? Hmm, today’s photo seems to raise more questions than it answers…


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Photo of the day: Beach jump!

7 July 2014 Ottawa to PEI 2014

I wouldn’t have thought a rocky beach would be preferable to a sandy beach. Luckily, the beach at Greenwich PEI National Park has both gorgeous sand and great big red sandstone rocks for jumping. This is one of my favourite photos of the trip. It says summer and sand and sea and play – all [...]

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A happy anniversary in Souris, PEI

7 July 2014 Ottawa to PEI 2014

Fifteen years ago on July 3, 1999 Beloved and I were married. It seems fitting that 15 years of marriage is celebrated with the most fun day of our adventure on Prince Edward Island. It also seems fitting that it was our favourite day not by design but happy accident. That’s pretty much how we [...]

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Photo of the day: Basin Head beach

6 July 2014 Ottawa to PEI 2014

So! Many! Photos! Now that we’re back home I’m hoping to work my way through a bunch of my favourite photos from PEI as the photo of the day over the next little while. This was from our last day. While we were visiting Chef Michael Smith’s Flavour Shack, some of the girls who work [...]

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Photo of the day: Stalking Chef Michael Smith at the Flavour Shack

4 July 2014 Ottawa to PEI 2014

Remember how my mom said I should call our trip to PEI “Stalking Chef Michael Smith“? Well we couldn’t very well come all the way here without making the drive up the coast to Souris, PEI, to see his brand new (9 days old!) shop the Flavour Shack, could we? Is it ironic that my [...]

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