Week 29 – Teaching

purple flower
bumblebee sitting on a red flower
close up of a leaf
close up of sunflower

I was fortunate enough to attend a high school where a photography program was offered in lieu of music or visual arts. My technical skills were developed with a twenty year old SLR that had travelled the world with my father before I was born, and I spent endless hours in the darkroom producing my own negatives and prints. On my 25th birthday, I took the leap from traditional film to digital photography.  

Five years ago I started teaching Learn to Use Your Camera course and since the course started, hundreds of students have graduated.  Although photography is my job, it’s also a lifelong passion, which is one of the reasons that I love to teach. Although smartphones have put cameras into the hands of more people than ever before, I worry that the art of photography will slip away as more and more people gravitate towards social media snapshots.  Teaching courses and workshops is one way that I get to share my love of photography with others but it also gives me an amazing community of photographers who can continue to learn and grow together. In late July I taught a workshop on floral photography and we sweat through two amazing hours in the gardens, chasing the light and experimenting with different techniques.  

We tend to gravitate towards photographing the same subjects, which means that one of the best ways to develop your “eye” for photography is to challenge yourself by photographing subjects and scenes that are unfamiliar to you.  Stepping outside your comfort zone will help you develop the ability to see beauty and unique photo opportunities in everyday situations.

Week 30 – Mom Camp

moon at museum of nature in ottawa
butterflies on an orange at the nature museum of canada
boy at the museum of nature
butterfly on a boy's finger

Clients often ask if I slow down in the Summer and the answer is always something along the lines of “well, sort of”.  During the Summer months I still have as many sessions as I do throughout the rest of the year: July is one of the busiest months for newborns and because so many of my clients take vacation time and have more flexible schedules during the warmer months, I also have a lot of family sessions.  The only difference for me is that, unlike the rest of the year, my boys are home with me all day.

I run what I affectionately refer to as “Mom Camp”, which still allows me to get my work done while also giving me the chance to spend time doing fun activities and outings with the boys.   Every day we do something together for a few hours or half the day and then for the rest of the day I work. Sometimes it means my workday starts at 3 pm and ends at 10 pm and other times it means I work a split shift but the pieces of the work / Summer fun puzzle somehow come together.  The boys usually go to camp for two weeks, which gives me time to get caught up on my editing and administrative work, but now that they’re older I’m able to work during the day without 637 interruptions.  

During the Summer I no longer carry a purse but instead switch to a small camera backpack, which allows me to bring the essentials along with one of my cameras everywhere we go.  I find one of the biggest deterrents to people using their cameras is not having a bag to carry that they find comfortable, which is why I always encourage my photography students to find a small comfortable bag that they can easily bring along with them.  The best photos we take aren’t in our hall closet or kitchens, where we inevitably store our cameras!

Week 31 – Mother Nature

three boys in silhouette at sunset

So much of our life revolves around Mother Nature.  As avid campers we are always checking the forecast to see what we need to pack before we head out on our latest adventure (and how many tents and tarps we might need to set up around camp to stay dry).  As a photographer, my work schedule is dependent upon the weather and when babies are born, which basically means my schedule is not so much a schedule but more of a ‘loose guideline’ that dictates when I may or may not be working.

Sometimes I head out to work and the weather changes and I’m home earlier than expected.  Oftentimes I don’t know if I’ll be working until 2 hours before I’m scheduled to start shooting.  Sometimes my studio is prepped but a medical issue arises with one of my tiniest clients and I unexpectedly have a morning or afternoon off.

Over the years my kids have learned to expect the unexpected and that when mom says she’s going to work there’s nothing certain about it.  As they get older and their schedules get busier, we are finding it a lot more challenging to go with the flow but at the same time as they get older they find my unexpected (and expected) absences so much easier to cope with.  There’s a bright side to everything!

After half of my sessions were rained out I returned home earlier than expected to the most glorious sunset I had seen in weeks.  Even though it was bedtime, the boys humoured me with a quick session (in pyjamas) so I could capture them against the setting sun.

Photography sessions are a lot like other special events (e.g., weddings, birthdays, family gatherings).  The most beautiful light and backdrops are rarely available mid-day when our children are their most energetic but it doesn’t mean you have to avoid photography sessions that take place at times that are less than ideal for your family.  Preparing for them like you would any other special event will help make sure that your kids are happy and you get the beautiful memories that you want.

Week 32 – Milestones

teen boy bowling
preteen boy bowling
young boy bowling

When you think of milestones you tend to think of things like first tooth, first word, first step, first day of school, first lost tooth. “Not hating bowling” is not something that probably comes to mind. Unless you’ve bowled with small kids, then maybe you’re nodding your head empathetically as I read along.

Since our kids were toddlers they have loved to bowl. And we have committed to a yearly visit (sometimes every two years) because inevitability there were tears, tantrums, and rarely did it end on a high note. Yet they kept asking to go back!

Well folks, the day has finally come when a trip to the bowling alley didn’t end in a fight, tears, or me silently declaring “I’m never doing this again”.

We came, we bowled, we had fun, and a ball was only dropped on one persons foot.

Take photos of these moments. The ridiculous faces. The toddlers laying on the bowling alley floor in despair (I have many of those). The excitement. The disappointment. I love looking back at the photos I have of the boys at the bowling alley to see their hilarious facial expressions AND as a reminder of just how far we’ve come.