Showcase Child Session: The Cliveden Set Dress Up

What a fun day our Cliveden set have had!  If you are just joining them, check out the first part of their day here and here.  Isn’t it funny how quickly children recover? After just a short rest, they were off to do some dressing up. Really, the girls indulged.  Jonah curled up in a window with a book.

The story concept for this magical session was created together with Jemma Slevin, Editor of The Little Book – Windsor.  Styling by Jemma.  Photography by me. Fun and magic courtesy of the children.  The magazine is out now and available in stores throughout Windsor. Or you can pop by The Little Book website.  Stay tuned for the last instalment of our story…





Sunday Inspiration

Sundays are for…breakfast in bed…for long walks…for afternoon movies…and phone calls home….for friends…for family…no matter the weather.

Shortbread Cookies

It’s the time of year for cookies….if you are American.  Here in the UK, my friends are all starting to make their Christmas cakes.  I’m not such a huge fan of this fruit and alcohol-laden delight, but give me a baking tray and I’ll produce batches and batches of cookies.

Sadly for the cookies, this year Phoebe and I are heading back to the US to see my family.  I need to save my Christmas cookie indulgence for next year.  But to satisfy my craving, I thought I would make some shortbread.  The best thing about this recipe is that it can be whipped together in 15 minutes in the food processor.  And the only thing dirtied is the food processor bowl itself.

I made these for some clients to enjoy during their portrait viewing.  And I made them in the in-between-time while I was waiting for my daughter to painstakingly finish her lunch.  (She’s three…is this why mealtimes last FOREVER??)

SHORTBREAD COOKIES – Download the recipe card HERE

makes about 16 squares

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter softened

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

zest from one lemon or one orange or a combination

Preheat oven to 300F/150C. In a food processor, mix softened butter, powdered sugar, sugar and salt until just combined and ‘fluffy’.  Add flour and zest and whiz until dough starts to come together.

Turn into an 8×8 inch pan and press until smooth.  Prick with a fork to decorate.  Bake 45-50 minutes until slightly golden.  Let cool until barely warm before cutting.  If you like a slightly sweeter cookie, sprinkle lightly with 1-2 teaspoons sugar.

Good warm, but even better the next day with a cup of tea.


Unusual Thanks

Today is just a normal day here in the UK.  I went to work and to my daughter’s swimming lesson.  I did laundry and booked the car in for an MOT.  The strange logistics of today mean that I don’t have the chance to prepare even the semblance of a Thanksgiving meal.  And…I know that all of my family is getting ready to eat one of my most favourite meals of the year.

But even without the trappings of the holiday, this still FEELS like Thanksgiving to me. So today, I found myself quietly cataloguing in my mind all the things that make me thankful.

For all of the big and little things that make up the stories in my life…I am grateful.

For the opportunity to share them with you here…I am grateful.

For all of you that share your time, your thoughts and your stories in conversation back…I am grateful.

May your day be just as thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Yoga and my Camera

You might be wondering what yoga has to do with my camera. But first, let me just say…It’s so good to be back!  I been off-line and crazy-busy doing all sorts of things. The last few days have been fun, invigorating and inspirational…but oh! it is nice to be at my desk again.

This weekend, I was on an Ashtanga yoga workshop with David Swenson in London.  I just love David’s humorous approach to yoga.  He made the class laugh…a lot.  And while we laughed, he encouraged us into poses we never thought possible.  I even managed my very first arm balancing feathered peacock pose.  It certainly wasn’t as beautiful as the one pictured on Wikipedia, but it was fun to do.

I also love that David is very realistic when it comes to yoga practice.  There are not many of us who live an undisturbed life with buckets of free time.  A full first-series Ashtanga yoga practice takes 90 minutes.  But how many of us have 90 minutes spare each day? I certainly don’t! I don’t even have that in most of my weeks.

David encouraged us to ‘do what you can’.  If you have one hour free, then one hour is enough for yoga.  If you have just 15 minutes, then make those 15 minutes mindful, present and enough.  Then he said something that hit me over the head.

He said, ‘Yoga is a tool for life.’

Hmmm…I had always thought of my yoga and Pilates and running as something that I should do.  And I would feel guilty when I didn’t do them.  But if yoga is a tool for life, then really yoga is something that should flex and change and grow with my life.  Ahhh….and suddenly I had permission to do less or to do more…for many years to come.

The phrase ‘tool for life’ then got me thinking about all the other things that are tools for my life.  And now for the link between yoga and my camera:  Yes, my camera is a tool for my life.  You may be thinking, Denise, this blatantly obvious.  But as soon as I started to think about my camera as not only a tool for my creativity, and my work, but tool for my living, it shifted into something more meaningful.

Yesterday was another gorgeously foggy day here in Windsor.  I took my camera and metaphorically got on my mat.  I captured these images.  No.  I didn’t practice yoga yesterday, but this is living…

 PS. If you are interested in exploring Ashtanga yoga, I strongly recommend David’s books and videos.  His teaches the poses and many modifications to help make yoga right for you.  Yoga, he says, is not for the perfect body.  David also travels all over the world teaching workshops.  Check it out…I hope you like his teaching as much as I do.

PPS.  What are YOUR tools for life?? I’d love to hear….

All images taken with a Nikon D700 and the Nikon 105 Macro. 

Time and the Permission to Breathe…

Time. Where does it go? Especially in this month before the holidays??  This week has been one of those CRAZY weeks for me.  Everyone I speak to says that they feel the freight-train of the holidays rushing towards them.  So much to do.  So much I WANT to do.  Here on the blog and ‘out there’ for my photography clients.  Sadly, there are just not enough hours in the day.

I find myself going back to something we discussed at Shutter Sisters Camp.  Permission.  The permission to let go.  I’ve had to give this gift to myself.  It was so hard to do, but when I did…suddenly I found I could breathe again.  And when I started to breathe, magical things started to happen again.

This morning’s thick fog over the park gave me the image below.  And then I bumped into a prospective client who booked a family session for her boys. What a great day!

I may not be around much in the next few days.  I’ll do my best.  But, in the meantime…I leave you with magic.

On the Naughty Step – Time to be Three

When you are Mama to a three-year old, there are those days…those days when all you seem to say is, ‘No!’ and ‘To the Naughty Step You Go!’  Today was one of those days.

Being a Mama-Photographer, I just had to share this with you…

Here’s to a more peaceful tomorrow.

ps. Poor cow was banished too.

7 Tips for Taking Great Portraits of Your Dog

If you love your pets as much as I do, then you know…they are part of the family!  It’s super important to me to have great portraits of my entire tribe…and that includes my two dogs.

But how do you capture superb photos of our furry friends?  They are quirky and willful and funny shaped.  They don’t usually stand still, nor can they easily be posed. Last week, I had lots of fun shooting a pet-only portrait session.  If I’m honest, it was messy and unstructured and…not too dissimilar from most toddler portrait sessions!  (smile…)I thought I would share some of the guidelines that I used to make this last session a success.

1. Choose your location wisely:  Great portraits portray the essence of your pet’s personality and soul.  You have the greatest chance of capturing this when your pet is relaxed and comfortable.  For this reason, I strongly recommend that you do, in fact, shoot your session at home.  Or at least, somewhere your pet knows really well (ie. the park he visits daily).2.  Take time to create a connection: If your subject is not your own pet, take the time to introduce yourself and build a bond.  Ten to fifteen minutes of non-shooting time will pay dividends later in the shoot.  Don’t be afraid to stop shooting for more R&R time.  Animals, like children, find it hard to be in front of the camera.  (And trust me…they know you are pointing that lens at them!) If they become stressed, stop shooting.

3.  Shoot outdoors or in an area of natural light.  Flash is scary and distracting for animals.  Take your pet out into the garden where he can run, sniff and be his relaxed self.  If this is not an option, find a large window or an area of natural light in the house.

4. Get down on your pet’s level:  Seriously, I do actually mean get down on your knees and on your belly.  Lie on the floor and…(as was the case last Friday) in the mud.  This low perspective will help you to shoot straight into your pet’s eyes…something that is key in many striking pet portraits.  By being low to the ground, you will also capture the world from your pet’s perspective. This will help you to tell your story.5.  Don’t forget the detail.  Yes, it is important to have a photo of your dog…all of your dog.  But what about capturing bits and pieces of them?  An eye. A foot. A nose.  All of these are distinctive to each animal and can be powerful portraits in themselves.

6.  Be silly. Make noises.  Ah yes, this one is embarrassing.  You may not leave with your dignity, but if you can create an abundance of strange noises, you will successfully capture alert and interested expressions.  I carried one of Phoebe’s squeaky baby toys in my pocket.  Once the dogs became familiar with this sound, I resorted to blowing raspberries, making squeaks, creaks and all sorts of funny sounds.

7. And last but not least…expect the unexpected.  Every animal is unique and will probably do something unexpected during your session.  Do try to capture the unusual. It’s not always the traditional shots that best tell the story of your dog. Do you have any great tips for capturing pets? Please share them below…I’d love to hear from you.




Showcase Child Session: The Cliveden Set at Play

Cliveden may be fancy and formal-looking but it is a great place for a party.  Historically, well…let’s just say that the previous owners of Cliveden knew how to splash out.

Our Cliveden set wasted no time having fun in all of the ways children know best.  There were races….

And stunning views…

In the library, there was a fire and some toys…

…that needed only imagination to make pretend tea.

Until suddenly our set felt like they could do with a little rest and a story….

The story concept for this magical session was created together with Jemma Slevin, Editor of The Little Book – Windsor.  Styling by Jemma.  Photography by me. Fun and magic courtesy of the children.  The magazine is out now and available in stores throughout Windsor. So much more to come…Stay tuned.




Planning and Goal-Setting: The Infinite Gift to Yourself…

Planning and goal-setting…boring, right??  Spreadsheets. Budgets. Schedules. A business plan…Yuck!

The reality is that when you work for YOU, there is always WAY too much to do.  The list of should-dos and could-dos and wouldn’t-it-be-cool-ifs extends from here though the next century.

Unfortunately, this is hugely stressful and not so much fun for you.  It is also not so much fun for your loved ones.

Today despite my never-ending list, I took the morning to plan (again). This plan isn’t done yet, but the hours and the numbers and the goals are down on paper.  And I feel SO much better.

Yes, there is work still to be done.  And yes, this plan will change as I learn more, do more, grow more in my business. But today has become a new start….

As my 30 days of gratitude project continues, I am grateful today for the time I took to plan.  Our dreams may be real, but our plans give them breath.

When and how often do you plan? How do you do it? On paper? On your iPad? What things help you to get your planning done?  (for me, it was a friend and some coffee…mmmm….)