From the category archives:

Mothership Photography

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!


Home-made Father’s Day gifts are the best, aren’t they?

Father's Day

I’ve got a whole post of photos about our Father’s Day ramble in Perth – stand by!


I was poking around in the “drafts” folder of my blog and realized I have over a dozen blog posts I’ve started to write over the past six months and never completed. Last autumn was so busy with fun family photo shoots that I plum forgot to share some of them with you.

This particular shoot was one of my favourites from the year, so I’m surprised I forgot to share it. The family were funny, sweet and introduced me to one of my new favourite locations. It was one of the first truly chilly mornings as winter tried to crowd out autumn, but we had a wonderful walk and I loved exploring this location on the Ottawa River.

Fall family photos

Fall family photos

Fall family photos

Pretty in a pink hat

Is she not adorable? They both were. Heck, all four of them were! And so nice! You know how I love taking photos, but I really really love the wonderful people I get to meet along the way.

It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter, but I’m delighted that portrait season is starting to heat up again, even if the weather isn’t exactly doing the same. I’m particularly enjoying specializing in these kind of excursion photo sessions, where we go on a little adventure and have fun shooting photos along the way. Get in touch if you’d like to book a picnic, park, walk or other photo adventure – spots for this summer are already starting to fill up! For more information, you can visit Mothership Photography or feel free to drop me a note any time at danicanada (at) gmail (dot) com. :)


I love Photoshop. I don’t always use it, but it sure is fun to play with sometimes when I feel like stretching the possibilities of a given photo. There’s a handful of blog posts I’ve been thinking about writing on the subject of Photoshop in a more philosophical sense, but this one is just for fun because I’m happy with how this turned out.

This photo of Lucas and Tristan from this past weekend was a nice enough photo. The boardwalk leads the eye nicely to the subject, their jackets pop nicely from the background, and I think it tells a lovely little story.

outdoor portrait of brothers on the jack pine trail in winter

But by the time I’d finished it, I took a hard look and thought, “Meh.” It was a perfect candidate for a little tweak.

Although I’m pretty comfortable with a lot of Photoshop’s tools, there are some menu items I’ve never clicked before. Up until last month, the Oil Painting filter was one of them. I kinda thought the idea of rendering a photo as an oil painting was kind of cheesey, to be honest. But then I saw some amazing work in a photography forum and I was inspired to try it. I don’t love it at full strength, but look at the dreamy quality of this as compared to the version above.

outdoor portrait of brothers on the jack pine trail in winter

I love how subtle it is – you don’t really notice you’re looking at something with a filter on it, but the colours are richer and there’s a lovely dreamy quality to it. When I zoom way in, you can see how the details have been rendered smooth and sort of swirly – I love the effect on Lucas’s hair and the winter grass.

portrait of brothers on a winter walk detail

I think this would be really neat on a portrait of a girl taken from behind with really long, curly hair, or a whimsical sort of shot with lots of details, like a little tea party in the woods or something. I can see hanging this on the wall as a canvas – it really takes an ordinary shot and gives it that wow factor, but I really think you need just the right photo to pull it off.

What do you think? Do you like the effect?


I love anniversaries. I keep track of the most esoteric dates so I can reflect and wax nostalgic on them, to consider the difference between then and now and to wonderingly consider all that has happened since. Next month will be the 19th anniversary of the day Beloved and I met, for example. In October, we’ll be four years in Manotick. And this week, I celebrate five years since I started my first photo-a-day Project 365.

It’s almost painful to look back at that first month of photos.

Project 365:  one-tenth of the way done!

There are only a few photos I like in that set – and quite a few more that make me cringe. That’s what progress is about though, right? There are a few I’d like to go back and re-edit, and a dozen I’d like to go back and re-shoot entirely. I wish I knew when the boys were babies what I know now about photography! And yeesh, I thought I was pretty good back then.

I decided to start taking a photo every day pretty much out of the blue, a rather random decision borne of a desire to learn to take better pictures and to document our lives in pictures as well as words. I’d say I’ve managed to achieve both of those goals. Still, never in a million years would I have guessed that one day someone would buy one of my photos to use on the cover of a book! *squeeee*

Watch for this book, featuring a cover photo taken by me of Lucas, in bookstores near you in June 2014!

My first book cover!

And it sounds like a pretty neat book, too. At first, I thought it was just a self-published memoir, but I when I read the description and author bio, I was intrigued. I was already planning on ordering one as a ‘trophy copy’ (my mom has already ordered hers!) but I think I might actually read this one, too!

From PEN/Hemingway award winner Brando Skyhorse comes this stunning, heartfelt memoir in the vein of The Glass Castle or The Tender Bar, the true story of a boy’s turbulent childhood growing up with five stepfathers and the mother who was determined to give her son everything but the truth.

From an acclaimed, prize-winning novelist celebrated for his “indelible storytelling” (O, The Oprah Magazine), this extraordinary literary memoir captures a son’s single-minded search for a father wherever he can find one, and is destined to become a classic.

Here’s the original photo on the left, and the book cover on the right:

Fun, eh?

So the moral of this story is follow your heart, no matter how silly and random an idea may seem. You never know where it might lead just five years down the road!

Edited to add: How does this story have an even happier ending? When the author of the book finds you via the big old Internet and sends you an e-mail to say thank you for your photo. “In short: THANK YOU. Your picture is an incredible gift that’s made my book complete.” Wow!


I was going to post my top 10 favourite photos from 2013, but I couldn’t get it whittled down to anything close to that. Oy, if there was ever a girl in need of an editor, it’s me! Oh well, it’s my blog and pixels are free, right? Heh, just be glad I didn’t post all 3,479 keepers in my Lightroom catalogue for 2013 – and there are another several hundred on my iPhone!

Some I love for sentimental reasons, some because they represent a special day or moment, some I think are pretty impressive from a technical perspective – and some just because they make me smile. In chronological order, here are my 50 favourite photos from 2013:


Whatcha doin'?

Feeding the chickadees

Cat's eye view

Ice tree-2

Mill on a frosty day

Driveway hockey

under the bridge redux

Family sledding

Tristan's birthday


Bella meets Granny and Papa Lou


Bella and Willie, not quite a love story

#fromwhereistand - with a dog on my feet!


Incoming porch dog!!

Parliament on the Hill

Boys on the stairs

Peace Tower and tulips redux

Bella and the shoe

This is what a perfect Mother's Day looks like (4 of 4)


Mimi and Pipi's wedding

Pretty in pink family (1 of 2)


Porch portraits for his first birthday!

Nature Museum family portrait



post for faves

ice cream with the cousins

Love letters to a sunflower farm

This is totally why I had kids.

Britannia Beach sunset (9 of 10)

Black and white beauties on the beach

Bumper car fun-3

A day at the beach

Imaginext dinos in Manotick!

Toronto the good

Family on the bridge

Lucas in the sunshine

Foggy morning on Parliament Hill

M's baptism

brother and sister

Postcard pretty Ottawa with the Rideau Canal, Parliament Buildings and Chateau Laurier.

Pretty in a pink hat

Weekend with the cousins

snowman redux 2

Playing together

Christmas Tree Quest 2013

It's a good Christmas when you can put your feet up!

Looks like a pretty good year, eh?

I wish you all a very happy new year, and a 2014 filled with beautiful moments of love, laughter and joy. With those, anything and everything is possible, don’t you think?

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Funniest use of a photo yet

27 December 2013 Mothership Photography

Ha ha ha ha! This may be the best, weirdest use of one of my photos yet! You know I license some of my photos through Getty Images, right? I’ve been collecting some of my favourites on my photography Facebook page – they’ve been used in calendars, flyers, websites, books and in magazines like Good [...]

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Beautiful Baby M’s Baptism

30 October 2013 Mothership Photography

Way back on the Thanksgiving weekend (seems like a year ago already!) while everyone was stuffing themselves with turkey and fixings, I was on my way out to a church in Orleans, where I had the very great honour of photographing the baptism of gorgeous, blue-eyed Baby M. I loved the idea of photographing a [...]

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How to turn a picnic, a bridge and a barn into a fun family photo session

13 October 2013 Mothership Photography

Each time someone invites me to take photographs of their family or special event, I am deeply honoured. However, there is little compliment greater than having the same family come back for portraits year after year. I first met this sweet family last year on a warm summer day in the Arboretum. Remember this? This [...]

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Extended family portraits at the farm

1 October 2013 Mothership Photography

Back in July, I received the kind of invitation that set my imagination on fire: an extended family including out of town relatives would be gathering on the family farm just outside of Ottawa, and they wanted photographs of each family, the grandparents and the grandkids together. There would be horses, tractors, gardens, tireswings, hay, [...]

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