From the category archives:

Project 365

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!


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Ah, the selfie. Celebrated. Reviled. International word of the year for 2013 and also at the top of words to banish for 2013.

Clearly it’s a polarizing idea. People love them or hate them. I love them and hate them. I really appreciate a well-done selfie – when they’re insightful and show something about the person both holding and in front of the camera. I love the creativity involved, especially when someone is doing a year-long 365 project of selfies. I love seeing what people want to expose about themselves, and I love when people who are usually behind the cameras are brave enough to step in front.

So what do I hate? My selfies. Ugh. I can count on one hand the number of photos I’ve taken of myself that I truly love, and maybe there’s another dozen that I like because I’m framed with the kids. Every single time I try to set up a photo of myself, I feel self conscious and ridiculous. To be honest, selfies play to my most visceral of fears: looking foolish. I cringe at the idea of someone looking at my photo of me and thinking, “Oh that’s so sad. She’s way too {old, fat, boring, plain, ugly} to pull that off.” While I don’t lack confidence in so many other areas of my life, I cannot imagine why anyone might want to see any more than the occasional photo of me.

Which is precisely why I joined the #365feministselfie project. Sometimes, ya gotta do what terrifies you, right?

Don’t worry, you’ll not have to suffer through hundreds of photos of me posed coquettishly with lips puckered and chin raised. There’s no way I have the tenacity to make it through 365 of them, but I am aiming for one a week for a year. One of my main inspirations is this article that I shared last year, something I want all my mom friends and photo clients alike to read. I read it last year and it has stayed with me, because it is oh so very true:

I’m everywhere in their young lives, and yet I have very few pictures of me with them. Someday I won’t be here — and I don’t know if that someday is tomorrow or thirty or forty or fifty years from now — but I want them to have pictures of me. I want them to see the way I looked at them, see how much I loved them. I am not perfect to look at and I am not perfect to love, but I am perfectly their mother.

When I look at pictures of my own mother, I don’t look at cellulite or hair debacles. I just see her — her kind eyes, her open-mouthed, joyful smile, her familiar clothes. That’s the mother I remember. My mother’s body is the vessel that carries all the memories of my childhood. I always loved that her stomach was soft, her skin freckled, her fingers long. I didn’t care that she didn’t look like a model. She was my mama.

So when all is said and done, if I can’t do it for myself, I want to do it for my kids. I want to be in the picture, to give them that visual memory of me. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped around them in a hug, how loved they are.

I plan to play just as fast and loose with the definition of “selfie” as I did with the idea of a 365 project after the first year was in the can. A photo taken any time during the week, posted maybe on Instagram or maybe Flickr or maybe Facebook. Maybe of my feet, or my reflection, or my shadow. But me, once a week, for a year. Let’s see where it goes!

Easing into this #365feministselfie thing cuz Angela dared me to. Apparently I am still 14.  Oh and #mo365 too!

Want to play along? It’s not too late!

What do you think of the whole “selfie” argument? Do you see them as narcissistic or celebratory? Is the selfie any more self-indulgent than endlessly loquacious blog posts? Should there be a “best-before” date on turning the camera regularly at yourself? What would keep you from doing a project like this?


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It has evolved into a tradition that since Beloved has to go back to work near the end of August, I take the final week of summer off to play with the boys. We try to cram as much summer as possible into this last week, and this year I think we outdid ourselves.

Before we could get started on the fun, we had to finish our chores. (I’ve had the idea for this photo in my head all summer long, but it took me until this week to get around to executing it. No five year olds were harmed in the staging of this photo, I promise!!)

This is totally why I had kids.

We finally made it back to Britannia Beach to watch another perfect summer sunset.

photo of family playing on the beach in Ottawa

photo of family playing on the beach in Ottawa

(Can you read what he is writing? “I love you mom.” I could barely get the camera focused for tearing up, I tell ya.)

photo of family playing on the beach in Ottawa

photo of family playing on the beach in Ottawa)

photo of family playing on the beach in Ottawa)

photo of family playing on the beach in Ottawa

I took a few portraits on the beach, thinking of the warm golden glow of the sun, but I ended up liking the black and white versions better. Go figure!

playful portrait of little boy on the beach

fun family portrait of three brothers on the beach

(Frameworthy, yes? This one may be coming to a wall near you soon!)

And remember the great drama camp drama? All’s well that ends well, said some old guy who wrote plays.

Drama camp

Drama camp 3

Drama camp 2

I was also in a black-and-white frame of mind when I captured the boys’ bumper car fun at Midway Indoor Amusement Park (with which I was highly impressed on our first visit, BTW. Lovely staff made our experience excellent.)

Bumper car fun-3

We also spent a nearly perfect afternoon at Baxter Conservation Area, which I will blog in more detail later this week. Here’s a sneak peek:

A day at the beach

And last but not least, another shot I have been thinking about for weeks. In between our many adventures this summer, I’ve been learning a lot more about Photoshop and refining my post-processing skills. Having mastered the head swap, I thought a composite shot like this would be a breeze. Um, not so much. But the boys and I did have a lot of fun making it, and I roped Beloved in to teaching me a few things to help me pull this shot together.

Imaginext dinos in Manotick!

The best part was showing it to the boys and asking them if it was anything close to what they’d imagined when I was taking the various pictures I used to pull this one together.

“Wow,” said Tristan, his eyes wide and a grin on his face. “Actually mom, this is way cooler!” I’ll call that a win!

I’m feeling a little sad on this Labour Day Monday that the summer of 2013 is more or less over. But at least we’ve got a boatload of photos to remind us how much fun we had!


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Another couple of weeks in pictures

by DaniGirl on August 24, 2013 · 1 comment

in Project 365

This summer is clearly too jam-packed full of fun for me to be able to keep up with my weekly photo posts! Here’s another couple of weeks in photos.

These two weeks have had a definite farm flavour to them. I was invited to join an extended family on their farm near Metcalfe one afternoon and I have to say that it was one of my most favourite photo sessions ever. More on that soon, but how could you go wrong with a family this adorable against a backdrop like this??

photo of a happy family outside on a farm

And then there was my visit to Kricklewood Farm. More on that soon, too!

Love letters to a sunflower farm

We’ve made great use of the new treehouse this summer. In addition to using it as a movie screen, we use it to exercise the dog. Bella has decided that the swinging rope is a dog toy. It’s pretty funny to watch her grab hold and yank, often swinging right off her feet!

photo of a dog outside pulling on a rope

Another reason there was no photo post last week was because I was having too much fun with my visiting brother and his kids. Having five kids in the house elevates the chaos level *almost* as much as it elevates the cute level. I do adore them so!

portrait of smiling happy brothers, sisters and cousins

And there were still pretty flowers just waiting to be admired and slathered with texture. I may love coneflowers almost as much as I love sunflowers.

Coneflowers again!

There’s just something about a shabby chic fence with flowers, isn’t there?

Happy Fence -- Sunday?

But then eek! This happened. I’m NOT READY!!!!!!

Too soon!!

And last but not least, the other night after a day of rain, there were lovely rainbows arcing across Manotick.

photo of a rainbow over a house with a big porch

It’s a good sign when you follow the rainbow and find it ends on your house, right?

It's good luck when the end of the rainbow is over your bedroom, right?

I’ll let you know if we find any leprechauns lurking in the treehouse. ;)


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Toward the end of July, I had the pleasure of back-to-back portraits on the porch: one little guy dropped by for pictures to celebrate his first birthday, and then a few days later a lovely lady honoured me with a visit to commemorate her 100th birthday. How awesome is that?

And how cute is this little guy??

Porch portraits for his first birthday!

portrait of a little boy on a red wagon

I laughed when I was downloading the photos from my camera and saw this one, the very last shot I snapped that morning. Although he was sunny and agreeable throughout our session (truth be told, he made me ache for the days when my boys were wee like that!) I think he was clearly done with me and my camera by this point!

Porch portraits for his first birthday!

Isn’t he adorable? And then a few days later, I had the great pleasure of meeting Mrs Walker. The last time she sat for a formal portrait was, I kid you not, when her husband went off to war. Could I be more humbled? She was clearly a little less than comfortable at the beginning of our session, but as we chatted about her life and family, I could see her relax and her personality began to shine through.

Portrait of a lady on her 100th birthday

Mrs Walker’s daughter, who had commissioned the portrait, sent me a lovely essay about her interesting life called, and I love this, “The first 100 years”. :) Imagine the work these hands have done!

photo of hands of a senior citizen

But there was more than porch portraits going on this week! There was, as I mentioned, a fun trip to the Museum of Nature:

"Hey boys, pretend the giant ants are attacking you!"

I think this is one of my more unique family portraits. Next time I’ll have to bring a tripod to make sure mom gets in the picture.

Nature Museum family portrait

I have not been able to resist the gorgeous flowers blooming all around me!

This is the new “matte” look that photographers seem to be gaga over right now. It means making the blacks very flat, almost grey, to pull the contrast out of the photo. I’m not a fan but I wanted to play with it. Hmm, not sure – what do you think?

Matte daisies

Now textures, on the other hand – I love the texture effect!

photo of coneflowers

(I love it even more since I got RAM for my computer as a birthday gift and Photoshop doesn’t choke when I try to open more than one file at a time!)

photo of coneflowers

These are straight out of the camera – too bad they’re invasive weeds, cuz they’re lovely.

photo of purple loosestrife

And squee! The best flowers of them all – sunflowers!!

photo of a Sunflower field

(I will have a great story about sunflowers later this week. Stand by!)

And of course, I love best of all the photos of the boys that will tell the story of our summer for years to come. Not formal portraits, not staged, not usually planned – just boys being boys.

photo of boys walking on a boardwalk in summer

photo of brothers sharing ice cream

photo of boys playing in a treehouse with a dog

picture of a boy learning to knit

(What, you don’t think that last one qualifies as ‘boys being boys’? One of his goals for the summer was to learn to knit, so I taught him!)

What’s your summer been like so far?

And by the way, I have a great family portrait session booked for next week (I am really excited about it!) but do have a few days left for summer portraits, or some early back-to-school portraits. The fall is lovely but insanely busy, so if you’re thinking of autumn portraits with the fall colours, please get in touch soon!


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Oops! Didn’t I used to post a weekly post with all the photos of the day? I got a little sporadic with the daily photos around the end of June and although I’ve been posting most days, I kind of forgot to do these posts. We’ve been having too much fun for me to get it all down on the blog! Okay, here’s one of two posts to catch up the photos from July you haven’t seen yet, and a story or two (ahem) to go with them.

This is my friend Todd teaching Tristan how to do a backflip off the diving board. I love this photo for several reasons. On a technical level, I love it because I love the tension in the photo, how you can almost feel how coiled Tristan is. It’s also the first day he mastered backflips! I remember trying to master flips off my friend’s diving board through most of my 17th summer and being woefully unable.

Backflip!

Todd and I have been friends for SO long that he is more like a brother to me, and I trust him like a brother. When each of the boys have been wee and just learning how to swim, Todd has convinced me to let them jump off the diving board in his pool (it was a lot harder to convince me with Tristan than with Lucas!) and either sink or swim to the ladder while Todd supervised in the deep end. Dads, even when they’re not your dad, are so much better at encouraging learning through risky activities, aren’t they? That’s how Lucas went from diving to backflips (with a helping hand) all in the same sweaty July afternoon. (Also my first Vine post!)

No story here, just purty!

I heart coneflowers!

No story here either, just cute! A boy, his dog and his DS. It was a “pick up the camera and hope they don’t notice you or move before it’s too late” kind of moment.

Lazy day

So this is a fun story that also needs a bit of background. I’ve been following Ottawa photographer Tony Fouhse ever since I got serious about taking pictures three or four years ago. He’s probably best known for his street photography, especially his USER and Live Through This projects. I find his work fascinating and I think it’s neat that such a creative mind prowls the same streets that I do. That’s what makes his latest project, “Official Ottawa”, so compelling to me. You know I love to try to express my love for Ottawa through my photos, and I think they’re mostly a love letter to the city. Tony is quoted in the New York Times’ Lens Blog (see, he really is a big deal!) as saying, “Most Canadians, when they think of Ottawa, they think of the Peace Tower or skating on the canal, or talking heads standing in front of the Parliament buildings. I think maybe by trying to keep things plain and simple, what I’m trying to do is strip it down and show the bones of the thing, rather than all the hype and the myth and the fairy tale that people usually project into this city.” Neat, eh?

So when I saw that Tony was looking for “civil servants” to photograph for the project, I was immediately intrigued. The word “subversive” came up in our e-mail exchange, and I knew I wanted to be a part of his project, but I was very nervous. I mean, doing social media for the federal government is already just a little bit subversive, right? But when Tony said yes, he would like to take my portrait, I was immediately overcome with doubt. I am not a typical civil servant. I don’t think. I mean, what is a typical civil servant? And how do I dress like one for the photo? In the end, I tried not to overthink it too much, although on top of the “how do I properly *look* like a civil servant” conundrum, I was also just a wee bit nervous about meeting Tony. If you read his blog you know he doesn’t suffer fools gladly, and I was somehow anxious that I had misrepresented myself in my e-mail. (I know, I know. My inner and deeply insecure 14 year old is never far from the surface.) All that to say, I fretted for nothing because it turns out Tony is the. nicest. photographer. ever. He and I chatted for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, he posed me where he wanted me and took exactly two photographs, and we were done.

One of the reasons he only took two photographs is because he was using a gorgeous medium format camera that, in Tony’s words, costs $7 every time you click the shutter. You can see the negative in his hand. So cool!

What fun to meet and be fotographed by amazing Ottawa fotographer @tonyfouhse - incredibly nice guy and not scary at all!! :)

And here’s how my portrait came out. He sent me a scan of the photo itself, but I love it more in context with the other portraits he’s taken for this part of his Official Ottawa project. Here’s the chief of police, a veteran of the Afghanistan war, Jeffrey Simpson (national affairs columnist with the Globe and Mail), a tour guide with the NCC and me doing my best civil servant impression. :)

Photos by Tony Fouhse

Photos by and © Tony Fouhse

I can’t help but contrast my experience with Tony against the encounter I had with another prominent Ottawa photographer last year. You might remember he called me a “mamarazzi” and “an icon of the ill direction towards which I believe photography may well be headed.” (Seriously!) And here you have Tony, an entirely better class of photographer and human being, who was not only patient with me pointing my iPhone at him, but treated me like an equal and spoke to me with simple respect as I scrambled hard to talk to him about photography without sounding like an idiot.

And finally (phew!) a few quick photos from our trip to Toronto last week. We started at the Ontario Science Centre to bring the kids to the Game On 2.0 exhibit. It was, to be honest, a bit of a reminder of just how awesome our Ottawa museums are and how lucky we are to have them. But did you know that if you’re a member of the Agriculture/Science and Tech/Aviation museum here, you get into the Ontario Science Centre for FREE? That saved us $80!! And teaching the kids to play Pac Man and Space Invaders did make for a fun afternoon!

Game On 2.0 at the Ontario Science Centre

The next day we headed to Canada’s Wonderland. I hadn’t been since I was a teenager (1987, to be exact!) and we’d been meaning to take the kids for a while. We had the BEST day!! Number of roller coasters I expected to ride? Zero. Number of roller coasters I actually rode? SIX! My brother and I started the day on the Leviathan, and after my knees stopped shaking I was suddenly back in touch with my long-dormant inner adrenaline junkie. Even the boys, who don’t particularly like rides, got into the act.

You know what else was amazing? I actually forgot my camera in the hotel room — and it was so liberating!! I took photos with my iPhone all day and didn’t have to worry about hauling my Nikon around everywhere. Here’s some of my favourite shots.

Canada's Wonderland 2013

And finally (did you think this post would never end?) on the way home the next day we stopped for lunch and a wander in Ganonoque. I love the timelessness of small-town Ontario!

Downtown Gananoque

So that’s four or five blog posts I’ve been meaning to write crammed all into one. Can you see why I’ve been too busy to blog lately? And that’s just the FIRST week of my summer vacation – I’ll try to catch up with another photo post in a day or two.

What have YOU been up to this summer?


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This week These weeks in pictures: Porch portraits and other pretties

29 June 2013 Project 365

I seem to be getting a little lazy with the photos of the day and the blogging thereof. There’s too much life in my life sometimes! But I have still been taking pictures and some of them are quite lovely if I do say so myself. Take a look at these porch portraits from a [...]

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This week in pictures: Catching up!

16 June 2013 Project 365

These past few weeks have redefined the word “busy” for me. There have been several presentations for work and outside of work, class trips, celebrations, BBQs, meetings, and everyone in the family has been taken out by one illness or another. I kept taking pictures through most of it, although I think I did miss [...]

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This week in pictures: Road Trip!

26 May 2013 Project 365

What a week! For the long weekend, we zoomed down to London and Windsor for a wedding – more about that in a minute – and a crazy-quick visit with family, stopped off in London for more family, and then zoomed back home again. 1750 km and 18 hours in the car over four days [...]

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This week in pictures: Love letters to spring

12 May 2013 Project 365

Tulips, kids, fuzzy puppies – talk about an easy week for taking pictures! Do you even need a narrative for this? First there was one silly kid on a stump. Then there were three silly kids on some steps with a puppy. Then the puppy rolled around in some flowers. Oh, did someone say flowers? [...]

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