Photo of the Day

Of all the things in nature, save for maybe PEI beaches, I think I have more photographs of coneflowers than anything else. There’s something about them, like sunflowers, that I just can’t resist. Heaven is 30 minutes in my garden on a quiet Sunday morning, creeping around them and playing with angles — and then hours spent with Lightroom and Photoshop, satisfying my curiosity on the question “I wonder what would happen if I tried this. Oooo, how about this?”

Apparently, THIS is what happens:

Coneflower studies

Coneflower studies

Coneflower studies

Coneflower studies

Coneflower studies

Coneflower studies

This next one, the observant viewer will notice, is not a coneflower. Somehow, a rogue clematis caught my attention. Isn’t it a little late in the season for clematis? Regardless, I loved the dreamy effect of the very shallow depth of field and the way the leaves seem to swirl around the purple centre.

Coneflower studies

You think this is repetitive? You should see the other 114 variations on my hard drive!

Do you have a favourite? The more I look at it, the more I think maybe that first one might be wall-worthy.


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Sometimes, I have an anecdote that I want to share like I did back in the day, but I don’t have a photo to go with it. Despite having my own stock library of nearly 6,000 images on Flickr alone, sometimes there just isn’t a photo that goes with the story.

And sometimes, I have photos that I like that don’t really have a story.

I’m really sort of appalled that it took me this long to marry the two of them together.

I like this photo, of a red fishing shack full of lobster traps. We discovered it wandering around the fishing village of French River, in Prince Edward Island.

image by Ottawa family photographer Danielle Donders

When Tristan first stayed in the house by himself, I used to make him text me when he arrived and about every hour. That lasted about a month before we both got tired of it. I was less strict when Simon started staying by himself, partly because I had calmed down a bit, and partly because by then Tristan was usually also home with him. They were both quizzed thoroughly on a long line of do’s and don’ts — don’t answer the door, don’t tell people you are home alone, don’t use the stove. Okay, maybe they were all don’ts.

This summer being home on vacation, Lucas learned how to prepare a tin of tomato soup for lunch. A few days later, Beloved and I returned from running a few errands together, having left the three boys with the elders more or less in charge, and saw the soup-rimmed pot and bowl in the sink. We looked at each other, at the intact stove, at the opened tin and dirty pot, and flinched.

As happens so often with the third child, the rules slipped a little bit. Maybe because he wasn’t staying home entirely by himself, or maybe just because he’s the third child and that’s the way it is with third children, Lucas didn’t get the lecture about not using the stove. It’s only the second or third time he’s ever used the stove. He’s not the most attentive creature when it comes to details. Or safety. Somehow, though, he’d remembered to turn off the burner, and to avoid putting anything flammable near the stove, and even put the dirty dishes in the sink.

Of course, everything was fine. I’ve got three more grey hairs, though.


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It isn’t every day that one gets to see a giant spider and a three-story tall dragon performed street theatre on busy Ottawa streets. I was curious to see La Machine, the unique street theatre presentation featuring a giant mechanical spider and a steam-and-fire breathing horse-dragon, but was leery of the crowds. In the end, we decided to go as a family to see Long Ma, the giant horse-dragon, “awaken” at City Hall this morning.

It. was. amazing.

This was the scene when we arrived: Long Ma sleeping in front of Ottawa City Hall.

Long ma awakens #lamachine

You can see the little fellow in front of me did not appreciate the efforts of the musicians playing to awaken the dragon. (You can see them on the pedestal.)

It didn’t take long for Long Ma to awaken and start moving, and then to start breathing fire and steam.

Long ma awakens #lamachine-2

Long ma awakens #lamachine-3

And then, to our surprised delight, it started moving – right toward us!

Long ma awakens #lamachine-7

We had to retreat to let it pass by. (Look at that tongue – how cool is that?)

Long ma awakens #lamachine-10

Long Ma rolled off down Laurier and then Elgin streets, in search of Kumo the giant spider. So. Many. People.

Long ma awakens #lamachine-12

It was truly extraordinary, and worth braving the downtown crowds to see it – although I’m not sure I’ll be able to entice the family downtown to go in search of Kumo the spider. I’d love to see their final “battle” on Sunday but I fear half the city will be there. If you’re curious, you can read the back story behind the event on the La Machine page on the Ottawa 2017 site. The gist of it is that Kumo has stolen Long Ma’s wings, and has been disturbed from her rest by the underground work on the LRT downtown, and now Long Ma roams the city in search of them.

If you do go, I’d suggest bringing water bottles and sunscreen, a decent camera and a bucketload of patience. We were downtown at least an hour early, parked four blocks away, and the crowds were still intense – but at least good-natured. I think it will only get more crazy as the weekend goes on. There are also a few more photos on Mothership Photography’s facebook page.

Have you been downtown to see Kumo and Long Ma? What did you think?


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Lighthouses are an iconic part of the PEI experience. In 2016, we even drove from one tip of the island to the other to earn our “tip to tip” lighthouse certificate! This trip, we visited no fewer than seven lighthouses in our adventures exploring PEI. They are as varied as they are beautiful, but after visiting the same places year after year, I felt like I should shake things up a bit with my photos.

There’s the “lighthouse peeking over the dunes” shot for some classic PEI flavour. This is Covehead Lighthouse, in PEI national park.

Covehead Lighthouse PEI

There’s the landlocked lighthouse. This is the New London Lighthouse, which we found while exploring near French River. I’ll have more photos from that adventure another day. We didn’t get too close, but it looks like the lighthouse keeper’s cottage is still attached to this one. How much fun would it be to live in a lighthouse? New London, by the way, is the birthplace of Lucy Maud Montgomery. One can imagine that the author of the beloved Anne of Green Gables stories gazed often upon this lighthouse!

Cape Tryon Lighthouse PEI

And speaking of iconic (did you say “cliche”?) shots, you can’t go wrong with some lobster traps in the foreground and a lighthouse in the background. This is the Souris lighthouse, and if you like seaglass, you simply must visit the wonderful seaglass exhibit inside the lighthouse.

Souris Lighthouse and lobster traps

This year, we paid our first visit to PEI’s oldest lighthouse at Point Prim. I thought a black and white treatment worked, and really like the addition of the silhouetted person walking into the lighthouse.

Point Prim Lighthouse, PEI

By the time we got to the last day of our trip, I had taken a LOT of pictures, of the boys and of lighthouses and of the boys with lighthouses. We started to get a little silly. I noticed that Lucas was just about the right size to make this forced perspective shot work.

Lucas and the Souris Lighthouse

About two seconds later, Tristan nearly gave me a heart attack by leaping from one boulder to another nearby, and a new idea was born. With a little bit of planning, a big leap and lot of luck, this shot worked out just about perfectly.

Tristan leaping over Souris Lighthouse

Lighthouses are awesome! Do you have a favourite? Which of these shots do you like best?


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We’ve just returned from our annual vacation in Prince Edward Island, and I have a *cough* few photos to share.

This might be my new favourite photo of the boys, taken in Souris.

Boys in Souris

I might have thought, years ago, that vacationing with teenagers would have been a very different experience. We’ve just spent the most part of 10 days together in close quarters, though, and it was great. The boys tolerate our ideas of “adventures” (“let’s drive across the island so I can take a picture from a scenic lookout!”) as long as they’re liberally paired with stops for ice cream and the occasional used book store or comic book shop. And when we’re “home” in the cottage, they have liberal device and screen time – it’s their vacation too, after all.

Stay tuned and I’ll share some of our favourite PEI adventures from this year over the next couple of weeks.


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I have been watching the progress of Manotick’s new Remembrance Park over the last few months. It’s a beautiful project in the town square beside Watson’s Mill, designed with six gardens to honour the branches of the Canadian military and those who support them.

I had no idea there would be a life-sized bronze sculpture in the park until I was commissioned by the sculptor himself to come out and take a few photos of him and his art the day after it was unveiled. Nathan Scott, a Canadian sculptor based in British Columbia, is perhaps best known for his sculpture of Terry Fox at Mile 0. He has pieces installed across Canada, and now, we have one of our very own right here in Manotick.

Manotick's new memorial garden

I can’t imagine a more beautiful, perfect addition to our community.

Manotick's new memorial garden

You know what’s especially cool? The figures are based on Nathan Scott’s own daughter and father. They are truly lovely, evocative and warm.

Manotick's new memorial garden

The sculpture, placed in the middle of a square without a visible base (it’s below the bricks), invite you to come closer to admire the details in the bronze work, or to interact with the figures.

Manotick's new memorial garden

Chatting with Nathan, an obvious family man with five (or was it six?) kids, made it easy to see where the warmth and love come from in the sculpture. I could have chatted with him about his inspiration and his processes all day!

I’m so pleased to have this amazing new gathering place at the heart of Manotick, where it can be seen and touched and admired. The sculpture is a loving tribute to both the aging veteran and all he stands for, and the power of family ties. I hope it provokes memories and conversations about the importance of remembering for generations to come.

Manotick's new memorial garden


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Photo of the day: First and Last Day of School 2016-2017

28 June 2017 Ah, me boys

Our annual first-and-last day of school photo is getting harder to execute – one boy finished school two days ago, and one biked off with his friends before the other was even out of school. But we still managed! We are getting quite the collection. Beloved was joking that in a few years, we’ll have […]

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A new approach to family photos: Documentary storytelling sessions!

19 May 2017 Mothership 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 […]

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A tulip story

16 May 2017 Life in Ottawa

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. 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 […]

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Photos of the day: Newborn kittens!

17 April 2017 Ah, me boys

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 […]

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