December 2016

I have just finished my fifth (!) year in business as a photographer, and if you’ve been around for a while, you know that the origins of the photography business are right here on the blog. Those of you who have followed along through the years have seen me go from a photo-a-day project to tentatively selling prints to stock photography and finally finding my true love in taking candid, playful portraits of people and families.

If you know me, you also know that I love free, and I love Ottawa, and I love PEI, and I love the bloggy peeps who make this blog such a fun place to come and play. So this year, I’ve wrapped all of those things up and put a 2017 bow on them to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you with a small token of my appreciation. I’ve created five downloadable 8×10 calendars that you can print out at home or through your favourite print lab. I tried to choose photos that were iconic for Ottawa folks, but also some that would be appealing to those of you coming from a little further away.


You can download them from my client galleries on Pixieset. Scroll down and click on the version you like, then click the download icon. It will ask you for your email address but I promise that I’ll never use the info to spam you. If you’re so inclined, you can also share the calendars on various channels with the share icon.

If you’re printing at home, they should fit nicely on a regular 8.5 x 11 page, or choose 8×10 photo paper.

Thank you for your attention, your insight, your participation and your affection through the years. Here’s to a blissful, bountiful 2017 for all of us!


The year we moved to Manotick was the year we swapped our almost 20 year old artificial tree for a (formerly) live one. Though I had never had a “real” tree, we have come to love our annual Christmas tree quest and I could not imagine ever going back to an artificial tree.

Conveniently, 2010 is also the year I launched my photography business. Fun to see both how much the boys have grown and how much I have grown as a photographer over the years!

2010: they were babies!!

The Great Christmas Tree Adventure 2010

2011: clearly I hadn’t unlocked the mysteries of white balance because everything is blue.

Searching for a tree

2012: the year we discovered Thomas Tree Farm, where we’ve gone every year since. Also, the year Tristan was big enough to take over one end of the tree.

Christmas tree quest 2012-6

2013: Lucas is wearing the coat today that Simon was wearing that day.

Christmas Tree Quest 2013

2014: I never noticed before that it’s always Simon’s task to carry the saw.

Christmas tree quest 2014-5

2015: that weird year we wore spring coats until Boxing Day. Also, add reindeer to all the things!

Christmas tree and reindeer

2016: where did all these man-sized children come from?

Christmas tree picking 2016-6

Do you have a favourite holiday tradition that you do every year? Our holidays are steeped in tradition, but hunting for the Christmas tree is probably our family favourite!


Things you see in this photo:

* three boys decorating a Christmas tree
* two boys who are nearly as tall as the tree itself
* my boys are still wearing pajamas even though this is late afternoon (lazy Sunday FTW!)
* a nearly triangular tree that is far wider than we expected
* that our tree is full of mismatched and home-made ornaments and though will never make it to the cover of a decorating magazine, each of those ornaments makes me smile

Decorating the tree

What you don’t see: now that it’s a few days later, the entire bottom section has been stripped of its ornaments by Lucy the kitten. We keep finding smaller, lighter ornaments stashed throughout the house where she has dropped them.

We seem to be in an ongoing cycle where the fragile ornaments are on the tree (the childless years) then off the tree (the toddler years) then on the tree (the Katie years) then off the tree (hello clumsy, exuberant Bella!) then on the tree, and once again back off the tree (Lucy has not yet actually scaled the tree, but we’ve caught her thinking about it.)

I’d say “this is why we can’t have nice things” — but maybe the nicest things are the ones that endure the likes of toddlers and boisterous puppies and curious kitties?


We are a family that loves routine, and the highest elevation of a routine becomes tradition. There’s few traditions more sacred to our family than the annual trip out to Thomas Tree Farm to get a Christmas tree – and the photographing of said trip!

Christmas tree picking 2016

This year, Lucas got to make the first couple of cuts. My babies are all growing up!

Christmas tree picking 2016-2

Christmas tree picking 2016-3

Christmas tree picking 2016-4

I love how Lucas has his own bough slung over his shoulder.

Family Christmas by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

Family Christmas by Ottawa photographer Danielle Donders

I didn’t realize until we got it home that the tree is nearly as wide as it is tall. It’s got a little junk in its trunk!

Stand by, there is a very good probability of a tree decorating photo essay in the very near future!

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I‘d mentioned in an earlier post that I’d fallen behind on sharing some of the photo sessions from this crazy busy autumn. When I looked at these together, I couldn’t help but notice that it illustrates the wide variety of family shapes and sizes that come to me seeking family photographs.

When Maureen called me (on the telephone!) to book a session with her family, I imagined grandchildren. Silly me, I should have been more open-minded. Families come in a delightful range of shapes and sizes. She wanted pictures with her adult children and their partners, and I have to tell you that it was a refreshing change of pace to have no toddlers to manage!

Ottawa family photography

Of course, sometimes you want a traditional family portrait: just mom and dad and the kids with a warm backdrop of autumn leaves. The leaves were warm, but the wind was cool and gusty on this late October afternoon – we had a pile of coats that kept coming off for photos and then back on in between shots!

Family photography in Ottawa

Sometimes, you want photos with the extended family: in this case, grandparents, adult siblings and their partners, and a couple of sweet kiddies to amp up the adorableness. We had so much fun at the Lime Kiln Trail on a lovely autumn Sunday. Although I love this extended family portrait, some of my favourites from this session were more candid moments we captured later when everyone relaxed and just played together.

Ottawa family photographer

And speaking of extended families, how’s this for a big group? I’m fascinated by large families because growing up I had only one brother, one cousin, one aunt and uncle and two sets of grandparents. I love the affectionate chaos of a big group like this one!

Extended family portraits in ottawa outdoors

Sharing this big extended family photo reminded me that there’s one other session I forgot to share, this one going waaaay back to July, just before we left for PEI. There were lots of planning hurdles to overcome here, not least of which were out of town guests and location challenges and then a rainy forecast. Sometimes it seems like the more challenges we face in setting up a photo session, the better the final photos seem to turn out. Big groups can be tough, but I loved working with this fun, funny gang.

Family portrait photography in Ottawa

On one hand, sharing only the posed family portraits doesn’t do these photo sessions justice, as it’s often the in-between moments that end up being my favourites. I think that’s why I find myself favouring a more documentary style instead of posed formal photos. I like to think that even these more posed photos can still tell you a little bit about the each family’s unique character and dynamics, though. I love that “family” is such a big word, subject to so many different definitions!