Photo of the Day

Once upon a time there were two bloggers, who were also mamas, and who both liked to tell stories. They found each other in the big wide blogosphere, which was really not so big in the mid-2000s. One blogger felt the pull of words, and she became a writer. One blogger felt the pull of photos, and she became a photographer. Both loved, above all things, to tell stories.

Several years went by, and they each appreciated the other’s craft. And then, one day, like a bolt out of the blue, they realized that there was much fun to be had and maybe some mischief to be found and definitely some stories to be told if they were to come together and collaborate. And here we are!

Welcome to our new project, which needs an appropriately pretentious but as-yet unrevealed title. The game is simple. I supply a photo that holds the potential for a story, and the inimitable Christine creates a piece of flash fiction inspired by the photo. Ready? Let’s begin!

A photography game by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

The Plan

Lying in the forest of legs, I tried to look relaxed. I was playing the part of a stuffed animal and I was determined to pull it off.

I mean, I *am* a stuffed animal, so I already have the right look. I just have to pretend that I am just a stuffed animal, that this adorable face hides only a pile of fluff instead of a magnificent brain.

My client wanted the blueprints for their rival’s new office building so she could wire surveillance equipment in during construction. Her attempts to hack into their cloud had been unsuccessful, so a more hands-on method was needed.

Their company retreat at this downtown hotel provided the perfect opportunity. The CEO always brought her husband and daughter on retreats so they could turn them into a family getaway.

The plan was to β€˜lose’ me at the retreat so the only kid there, her daughter, would find me and bring me back to their room. Once I was alone, I would grab the jump drive with the blueprints on it, conceal it in my stuffing, and then wait for my opportunity to escape.

It was a flawless plan that hinged on my acting ability. I relaxed every inch of my fur and thought about listening to my client explain the plan again. My eyes glazed over with boredom.

I was ready.

Fun, heh? If you’d like to read more of Christine’s writing, visit her site. Stay tuned for another new photo and another new story next week!


Taking photographs at family events is always a treat, but for once-in-a-lifetime events, it can be a little stressful, too. This week I was honoured to be asked to document the Brit Milah (Bris) of twin baby boys!

Brit Milah

I was a little nervous about making sure I got the key elements of the ceremony, but having photographed a baptism and a bat mitzvah as well as a few weddings now, I knew I’d be mostly good if I kept my head up and my hands steady. A story is a story, and I do love to tell a story in photographs. (A bit of research on Google ahead of time helped me know what to expect, as well.)

It was a warm, lovely ceremony – times two!

Brit Milah by Ottawa family photographer Danielle Donders

Brit Milah by Ottawa family photographer Danielle Donders

Brit Milah by Ottawa family photographer Danielle Donders

Brit Milah by Ottawa family photographer Danielle Donders

Two proud big brothers and a big sister helped to welcome these new babies into the world. This big brother is clearly taking his responsibilities with baby brother seriously!

Brit Milah by Ottawa family photographer Mothership Photography

There were lots of friends and family nearby to help celebrate. Lots of amateur photographers, too! πŸ˜‰

Brit Milah by Ottawa family photographer Mothership Photography

Brit Milah by Ottawa family photographer Mothership Photography

Even as an experienced mom of three, I was in awe of how easily this busy Mama tucked two babies into her wrap and got on with her business, arms free and a beautiful smile on her face.

Brit Milah by Ottawa family photographer Mothership Photography

I won’t pretend to know which baby is which, but hello Koby and Jonah!

Brit Milah by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Brit Milah by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Mazel tov, beautiful boys!


Photo of the day: Dish pan hands

by DaniGirl on March 16, 2018 · 0 comments

in Lucas, Photo of the Day

We had a dishwasher catastrophe this week. I’d just started a cycle when I looked over to see thick, angry black smoke pouring out of the electrical panel on our GE dishwasher. It’s only six or seven years old, but it has been doing a mediocre job on and off for a while anyway, and I just couldn’t imagine ever trusting it again after spending hours agonizing over the “what ifs” — thinking of all those times you load up the dishwasher and start it up and fly out the door. Long story short, a new one has been ordered and will be delivered soon. I scored a pretty good deal, too, so I suppose the story has a moderately happy ending, except for the giant expenditure that was not in our March Break forecast.

In the interim, someone had to step up and clean the dishes. Lucky for me, Lucas happily volunteered.


This was my job when I was about ten years old, too. We didn’t get our first dishwasher until I was 12 or so. I instructed Lucas just like my mom instructed me: glasses first, then plates and bowls, then pots and pans and utensils. Mind you, I didn’t have to worry about dropping plates or glasses into an extra deep ceramic farmhouse sink. We are clumsy folk, after all. I try not to hover, and trust that he won’t drop anything. It’s a work in progress, this growing up thing.


Hi! Remember me? I used to post stuff on this blog. I’m back!

If nothing else, sharing photos of my favourite Ottawa places keeps drawing me back to the blog. You know how much I love the Manotick Mill, right? But I almost forget sometimes that Manotick has another gem of a location hiding in plain sight, the Long Island Locks. I spent a blissful couple of hours poking around this morning in peaceful solitude of a late-winter snow flurry.

Lockmaster's house at Long Island Locks, Manotick

There’s a lot of history in this shot. The house you see is the lockmaster’s house, built in 1915 and currently occupied by Parks Canada. The arch dam you see sweeping toward you in the lower right corner is the stone arch dam, built and virtually unchanged since 1830, during the construction of the Rideau Canal. The locks themselves were also built around that time, under the supervision of Colonel By. At one time, a small village called Long Island Village flourished here, but it disappeared in the late 1860s and 1870s when Moss Kent Dickinson built his grist mill up river and began buying up lots on the west channel of the Rideau, establishing the village of Manotick. Andrew King wrote a great blog post last year about the lost village of Long Island.

The locks are still cranked manually - Long Island Locks, Manotick

Like all the locks in the Rideau Canal system, the giant wooden doors that manage the water flow through the locks are still cranked by hand. As I crept around and down the locks on this snowy morning, I held one thought clearly in my head: “Do NOT fall in. Whatever you do – do NOT fall in!”

It’s a long way down.

Big door, Long Island Locks, Manotick

I took about 30 variations on these photos picture. I loved the ladders, the cranks, and the big-ass doors, to say nothing of the various textures. These two are keepers, I think. (Wouldn’t some of these make nice wall art? That’s what I was setting out to make as I was looking around.)

Locks and textures, Manotick

Long Island Locks, Manotick

I like how this one is sort of abstract. It could be a macro shot a couple inches across, or it could be the ice shelf off Greenland. I like how the snowflakes sort of hint at stars, giving it an otherworldly vibe.

At the water's edge

So while I don’t love snow in March, and I am pretty much done with winter, it is still lovely to know that a little fresh snow can turn something familiar into something quite beautiful. And I didn’t even get a good photo of the 115 year old swing bridge, or the weir that attaches Nicholl’s Island to Long Island.

It also reminded me what an awesome location this would be for family portraits. The snow won’t last forever – I’m sure I’m not the only one thinking ahead. Who wants to do outdoor portraits at the Locks this year? You know where to find me!


You know what’s really awesome about cold January days when the temperature is hovering near minus 40C? You look at your website and realize there are nearly half a dozen terrific photo sessions that you clean forgot to share on the blog!

Let’s go back to late October. The air had just started to turn chill – warm enough to be out without jackets if you threw on an extra layer or two. In the case of this fun family of five, it was layers of matching red plaid – soooooo cute! This was one of the “documentary” family traditions sessions that I offered at the end of 2017. I am so hooked! There is something wonderful about tagging along with a family having fun together, and sneaking in snapshots along the way.

A few of you have asked me how this is different from a regular family photo session. In many ways, it’s really not — I’ve always been drawn to the candid “in between” moments during a photo session that show the laughter and emotion and relationships between family members. The main difference is that the goal of a standard family portrait session is basically to arrange the family in pleasing static poses, usually with everyone facing the camera and smiling. The documentary sessions are more about telling the story of your family’s personality, and capturing that in candid storytelling photographs. In a standard portrait session, I’ll say “stand here, and do this with your hands – move a bit this way” and offer similar direction. In a documentary session, I’ll just come along, watch, and take photos based on what the family is doing.

The kids here were great. I could see that they’d been told not to “pose” for the camera, and could equally see that they couldn’t resist doing exactly that. Some documentary photographers are more strict about this than others, and won’t take a photo if the subject is actively engaging the camera. I’m not that strict. I just like to make pretty pictures!

Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders tells stories with candid documentary family photography

Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders tells stories with candid documentary family photography

Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders tells stories with candid documentary family photography

We played a little catch – and a little fetch. πŸ™‚

Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders tells stories with candid documentary family photography

Candid photograph of a family session at the park

Candid photograph of a family session at the park

Candid photograph of a family session at the park

And then we just played.

Candid photograph of a family session at the park

Candid photograph of a family session at the park

Outdoor family photographs in Ottawa

Outdoor family photographs in Ottawa

After an afternoon of playing (with each other and with me!) it doesn’t seem quite so torturous to stand together for one quick posed portrait that grandma (and mom and dad) will love! Five happy, natural smiles and I even got the DOG to look at me. That’s a major photographer win!

Outdoor family photographs in Ottawa

Y’all, I have to tell you – the more of “documentary” style shooting I do, the more it makes my heart soar. I LOVE these sessions! I love doing them, and I love how much the families love the photos. Here’s what they had to say:

Dani took amazing photos and was so fun to work with! She was very easy going and flexible going with the flow when our kids got too into it and decided to set up their own shots. She captured the unique personalities of all 5 of us plus our goofy dog! So much fun! Pictures we will cherish long-term and enjoy sharing this holiday season.

I’ve got one more Family Tradition documentary session to share with you from the end of 2017, and then I can tell you about the fun NEW project I’m planning for 2018. Stay tuned!


Happy 2018!

by DaniGirl on January 1, 2018 · 0 comments

in Photo of the Day

I completely missed taking – let alone sharing – a Christmas photo of the family, or even posting a holiday greeting here on the blog. 2017 was just sort of like that, you know?

But here we are in a brand new year, and it’s the coldest new year’s day ever in Ottawa, so we thought we’d celebrate by making some frozen bubbles, as one does when it’s near -40C with the wind chill.

Happy 2018!

And I thought I’d share this greeting from the inimitable Neil Gaiman, because it seems like not only a lovely new year’s greeting, but also a pretty succinct summary of what I’d like to achieve in 2018:

‘May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.’

Wishing you and your family a happy 2018. I am looking forward to an amazing 2018!


Photos of the day: The end of porch season 2017

7 November 2017 Mothership Photography

It has been a busy end-of-autumn run on the porch, so busy that I haven’t had time to blog about all the adorable kiddoes and their sweet families who came for portraits. Autumn is the craziest season for family portraits! It was still quite summer-like for fall when this little fellow came to the porch […]

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Photos of the day: Autumn colours at Hogsback Falls

25 October 2017 Ah, me boys

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 […]

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Photos of the day: Those curls, though!

14 October 2017 Mothership Photography

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 […]

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Photos of the day: Autumn porch portraits that felt like summer

8 October 2017 Mothership Photography

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 […]

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