I had the incredible honour this month to photograph the Fort McKay NorthWind Dancers, and thought this would be the perfect day to share a few photos! Fort McKay has a special place in my heart, as I taught Junior High there for 2 years when I first moved to Fort McMurray, and met some of the most wonderful people I know. My heart is always full thinking about those wonderful years. When my family evacuated during the fire we went to Fort McKay the first night and were taken care of by many of my former students and their families, from them allowing us to park our camper in their driveway, bringing us blankets, air mattresses, food, toys and most importantly their support.
This post is also just in time to tell you about Treaty Days happening in Fort McKay starting tomorrow and going through to Sunday. The Treaty Days will include a traditional Powwow this year which you won’t want to miss! To see more photos check out my instagram and Facebook pages! The link to the event schedule is at the bottom of the page, so check it out! I enjoy getting out there every year to see the festivities and catch up with former students <3
Grass Dancer (and my handsome hubby!)
Fancy Shawl Dancer (and the wonderful woman behind organizing the Fort McKay NorthWind Dancers!)
It was almost a year ago now that we all urgently fled the city. That dark day and the weeks that followed were filled with constantly checking for updates and hearing heartbreaking news day after day, week after week. We were the lucky ones though. We came home, and not only did we come home, but we came home with the best souvenir despite not knowing it. Shortly after returning to Fort McMurray we found out we had a surprise stow away, and are so in love with our newest addition, Nova Willow. Like many Fort McMurray families we have a new light to shine through the dark memories.
And because Photographers need family photos too, I am very thankful to have the wonderful photographic community we have in Fort McMurray. Below is a photo I love, taken by the talented and very sweet Christine Gogolinski of Uncontained Photography.
And the next one, which I also love, was taken by Amie Roberts of Amie Roberts Photography, a talented photographer who first started out taking a momtography course with me a few years ago <3
The truth is I just didn’t know what to say. For a while I thought it would just come to me so I waited. I waited, and waited and nothing has come. I still don’t know what to say so instead I’m going to share a few photos instead. What I’ve been most inspired by through all of the devastation is the children. The children of Fort McMurray, the children of Alberta fro embracing them, and those from across Canada who have reached out to them. As they prepare to go back to school on Tuesday, for the first time since May 3 for some, I think it’s time we recognize and celebrate their resiliency.
Though this fire has taken so much from our community and loved ones, it has also given to us. It has strengthened bonds, clarified priorities, reinforced values, celebrated heroes, shown hearts, and it has also given my family the greatest gift possible; a new baby who will be joining us in February.
When I made the decision in the fall to focus my photography on children and families I joined the National Association of Professional Children’s Photographers so I could make sure I was always doing my best to improve. For a while I have known that I’d like to start entering professional competitions because you can pay to have the images critiqued by master photographers, which is an incredible opportunity to learn and improve. I had just missed the competition deadline when I registered for NAPCP so I started putting some of my favourite images as I shot them into a competition folder on my desktop this winter. I knew that I wanted to enter recent images, in order to receive critiques and tips on my latest work so they would be most beneficial.
Last week I had a dream that one of my images placed. I woke up and was a little bit sad that it was just a dream, but mostly I felt silly for thinking that one of my images would be capable of competing with the incredible work of other NAPCP members, many of which are my photography idols. I had entered the competition knowing that there was a possibility, but not getting my hopes up, mostly just excited to have feedback on how to improve my work.
I’ve been told that I have a very confident demeanour…like intimidating confidence even. Actually, the first time I realized I may come across too confident was during my teaching practicums when my mentor teacher told me he didn’t want to teach in front of me because he would disappoint me. I’ve had the blessing of being raised by parents who instilled confidence in me, but the artistic world is full of self doubt. Recently I attended the Canada Photo Convention in Vancouver, and realized it’s certainly not just me. In this room full of hundreds of awe-inspiring artists there was so much negative self-talk! We put our hearts into every image we create, so rejection doesn’t feel like it’s just an image being rejected, its a rejection of the artist and the artists worth. It’s all ridiculous really, and we all know it, but somehow the feelings persist.
So today I was wrangling 3 kindergarteners and my 3 year old as they raced through the obstacle course that is my living room when my phone vibrated. I had a message from one of my idol photographers Dana Pugh (Former NAPCP Photographer of the Year, and also a winner today) congratulating me on my performance in the NAPCP competition. I had no idea what she was talking about an my first instinct was that she must have me confused with someone else, but instantly began to cry anyways; that’s a perfectly natural reaction right? So I snuck away from the kids before they were able to notice the tears and red face. I raced to the website to check out the gallery and not only had one of my photos received merit, but another had placed 1st. My phone lit up with messages from another idol photographer Jennifer Kapala (NAPCP Photographer of the Year) as I managed to text my husband and message my mom. I stumbled through contacting the families from my two images (I don’t enter model images, only images from actual sessions) and post the announcement to Facebook.
The funny thing is that my clients are so supportive and encouraging that despite my shock, they mostly reacted something like “Oh cool, this doesn’t surprise us at all.” As thankful as I am to receive this incredible recognition for these images, I’m infinitely more thankful for all of you who encourage and support me every day. So thank you so much, for allowing me to do what I love, letting me into your lives, and cheering me on <3
But just in case, nobody pinch me!
Oh also a big shout out to Alberta Photographers! Whoop whoop! Alberta consistently has photographers winning and placing in international competitions, and really fosters an amazing artistic community atmosphere.
Photographing Angela is a bit like photographing a celebrity because she’s stunningly beautiful and a Mary Kay superstar! Even if you don’t think you know her, you probably have seen her around driving her Mary Kay pink Cadillac. Some super exciting news in Angela’s life right now though is that she and her husband are expecting a baby girl any day now. That means this handsome Lego Master Builder is going to be a big brother!
I think the first thing baby girl is going to learn is that she has a big brother who loves her, and nobody is going to mess with her because he has muscles!
As much as he loves being kicked by his sister right now that probably won’t last once her feet get a little more range. Angela already appears to be loving the relationship her children are building, and I know she is going to continue to be so proud of her big boy as she watches him embrace being a brother. I absolutely loved the expressions and emotions both of them showed during this session.
I’m so glad we had a chance to take a few photos of Angela and her son before they add another sweet child to their family. I remember in the weeks leading up to my due date with my second child really cherishing the time I had with my oldest before she was no longer an only child. Once the next baby comes along there are so many emotions, so much pride, so much thankfulness, but I also felt like my big baby had grown immensely in the short hours I was away from her to deliver.
Before I had my second child I had a very wise loved one tell me some advice, and while usually I really take advice with a grain of salt I’m going o share because it really rang true for me.
Take a mental image and make a mental note to really remember that last hug and kiss with your first born before you go to deliver your second, because it will be the last time you see them that little. You will be blown away by how incredible your big kid is, how much he has learned but also how grown up he is. After you hold your new baby and then see your big kid suddenly you will flash through all of the things your he has learned and been through since he was that tiny baby in his first minutes of life. It is one of the most emotional realizations I have ever been through, and although bittersweet it is so, so joyous.
Also, be nice to the nurses, they know too much.
Congratulations on what is soon to be a family of 4!
This beauty brings a whole new meaning to the phrase “Dirty Thirty!”
When she contacted me with the request to do a cake smash to celebrate her big upcoming birthday I was thrilled! I’ve been so anxious get someone who was enough fun to try this out and Renata was the PERFECT person for it.
First thing you should know is that this isn’t your toddler’s cake smash! Decor was inspired by one of mine and the birthday girl’s favourite pastimes, drinking wine! HAHA…
The cake was made for Renata by a friend and incredibly talented local cake maker Brenna Kimball, and wine bottles were painted with Fusion Paint from local shop Belle & Bee. (as were the wall and floor mat). Banner and cake topper are from Canadian paper artist Paper and Parties Co.
I know, I know, there’s no way she can be 30 right? Well, she’s not…not for a few more days anyways. She started off dainty but soon got into it, that cake was delish!
Gorgeous but not afraid to have fun and be silly!
After all that cake she was feeling a bit thirsty, and what 30th birthday celebration could be complete without a little bubbly?
after all that mess it was time to wash up, and why not do it like the little ones, in a vintage tub?
Thank you so much Renata for taking me through this wonderful experience with you! It was so much fun and I hope you love the images as much as I do! You are stunningly gorgeous, even with cake on your face 😉
Kids love getting mail (it’s a time before mail means bills), so when I saw a Facebook ad for a subscription based educational activity for kids in specific age ranges I figured we’d give it a try. I ordered the Koala Crate as well as the Kiwi Crate, because I have a 3 year old son and 5 year old daughter. My daughter had a friend over when the mailman dropped these off and was busy in dress-up-ville, so I took the opportunity to have some one-on-one time with my son. We both had GREAT time with his crate from the moment he got to excitedly open the mail with HIS name on it exclaiming “It’s for ME?!?”. I didn’t have the camera handy because I hadn’t realized it was going to be a photo opportunity until we were pretty far into the activity, but I did take the note that I better get it ready for my daughter’s turn!
After her friend went home and my son went to have some play time with his newly created toy I went into the living room to see my daughter had already anxiously gotten into her box so I grabbed the camera and sat down to help. I wish I had a chance to put the vacuum away, but nonetheless, this is what our house ACTUALLY looks like when I don’t get to prep the area haha.
There were excellent instructions with photos, this crate which is for 5-8 years olds still required a bit of help for my 5 year old but once we read the instructions together she was able to follow the photos herself. In addition to the craft projects below there is a colouring/activity/storybook that relates to the project.
She was constructing a wooden claw toy! There were little cardboard guide templates and stickers to help line up the holes properly, using her knowledge of colour and direction (right/left, top/bottom) in the instructions.
I’m pretty sure this is the first time she has successfully tied a knot by herself, I showed her a couple of times and then she did it on her own. We talked about why tying it twice works a lot better than just once (because the instructions said to do it twice and she wanted to know why) and then tested it out to see how easily it fell apart if only looped once.
The crate came with all of the premade pieces you see, all the accessories and even the scissors, so everything needed to complete the activity. It was great practice for fine motor skills as she was required to screw on these tiny nuts, and attach elastics to them.
Next she needed to create little pom-pom guys to be able to pick up with her new claw contraption. More fine motor practice, with winding the thread and cutting the loops.
Then for the grand finale, her claw hand works! She then cleaned up the pieces from this activity using her claw, which took her the better part of an hour ONE PIECE AT A TIME, but hey, if it makes cleaning fun I don’t care how long it takes! Thanks Kiwi Crates, we can’t wait until next month to see what fun is to come!
http://tinker.kiwicrate.com/Refer?i=CrystalM48 Her’s the link to save $10 on the crate, and save me $10 off my next subscription at the same time!
Anyone who knows my son knows he loves cars. He is specifically obsessed with hot wheels. When we go grocery shopping he refers to Save on Foods as “The hot wheels store” because he knows that there’s a selection of them near the checkout. I’m a bit of a sucker, so we’ve made it a tradition that every time we go grocery shopping he’s able to pick 1 hot wheels car as long as he’s on his best behaviour in the store. Lately his favourite place to play with these cars is in the living room window frame, which works out perfectly for me because there’s plenty of beautiful light for most of the day, no matter what the weather is like. Today I took advantage of his playtime to have my own as well, take some shots to truly capture this stage in his life, and play a little race car.
The Survival of the Professional Family Photography Business
It’s time I be honest with myself, and in doing so I’ve decided I’m going to be honest with all of you. This is VERY hard so I ask if you are going to take the time to read this, to please read all of it so there isn’t partial information being spread about. I originally wasn’t planning to post this publicly, but after sending it to my clients last week and receiving incredible support and encouragement I want to put it out there not only for prospective clients, but for inspiration for photographers to be honest with themselves.
This business of mine, that I love so much, was not sustainable in its past state. I entered the world of professional photography in a pretty typical way, through love of photography and children. The problem with entering the business world this way, is that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to business. I’d venture to say most early years photographers, artists and artisans are also about as clueless as I was.
Social media has a way of creating a false sense of success, so we may see someone who is busy and think they’re successful; then developing photographers find someone like this and somewhat replicate their business model. We all try different things as time progresses, because we know that it’s not working but most photographers never make it much past 3 years before they throw in the towel. The reason for this is that we are replicating a model that has zero chance of success, because it’s not based on math (and you all know I LOVE math so how could I insult it so much!!! Ack!).
So what brought on this sudden epiphany? Well it’s not sudden, I’ve been consciously burying it for a while, but I’m just finishing my first ever business related class (an incredible course with the amazingly talented, award winning, internationally recognized photographer Dana Pugh). I enrolled in the class because I knew I needed to be honest with myself, and this was a way of forcing that to happen. The experience has opened my eyes obviously (and made them red and swollen), but I realize I’m not the only one in this situation. So I write this to you because I want you to understand why I’m making the changes I’m making and not feel I am trying to take-advantage. It’s not about competition, and it’s not about greed, it’s about making a justifiable income and no longer running a business like a charity. But I also wanted to share because there is a lack of respect and appreciation for fair wages in photography and I want to help people develop an understanding that I didn’t even have last week. Many people (myself included) have scoffed at photographers charging higher rates, but the truth is they were being real, and we were trying to be popular.
The legitimate photographer (reporting their income) in North America is estimated to make an average annual income of around $15,000 per year (prior to tax deductions). I am right around that mark myself. We have become an industry of undercutting; but I can’t allow my husband to subsidize your photos any longer. I feel my clients are quite smart and fair in understanding that though you see me for 2-6 hours for your sessions; I spend roughly 5 hours preparing for your session, and 5-7 times as long editing as shooting, plus of course time spent learning to be better for you. There are obvious costs to photography; like equipment, licences, props, prints, products, child-care and photographic education, but also more hidden costs like website fees, gallery fees, association fees, equipment maintenance fees, bookkeeping/accounting fees, advertising fees, and time spent establishing all of the services related to these fees. So no, the money you paid me is unfortunately not all staying in my pocket. Believe me, I’m not implying photography is the only industry with hidden fees; almost all business have significant overhead, and this letter is to make us think about what goes into getting everything we often take for granted in our lives.
I am somewhat of an advocate again sweat shops, I refuse to buy knock-offs, I look at tags and avoid Made in _____, for areas with well known worker abuses, I buy locally or at least Canadian grown foods when possible; yet I am running my own business in a similar fashion to one of those businesses I refuse to support. I’m working for faaaar below minimum wage, and I won’t do it anymore because my family deserves better than me valuing spare change over time with them. I have set a goal of being able to make an annual income of $50,000 when I start photographing full time in 2017. If I’m unable to achieve this income Delightful Perception Photography will cease operations.
We Canadians are natural bargain hunters. However, I know many of you truly value your photography and hope you will continue choosing your photographer though their portfolio and not their price list alone, because I wish for all of you to have amazing photos of your family to share, celebrate and look back on. That said, if you find a great photographer for a great ‘deal’ know that you’ll likely be finding a new photographer every few years. I have so loved growing with your families, and am in tears whenever I think about losing the gift of seeing them regularly, but I have to make this change so I can have a CHANCE of success in business, because there is NO chance for this business without this change.
The one favour that I will ask, is that if you are going to talk about artist and artisan pricing you please help me stop the vocally devaluing of people around us. We need to pay our local artists and artisans for their high quality work but most of all we need to stop telling them they’re not worth more than big businesses pay desperate people overseas.
Yes, you read that right. Today my family went dogsledding with Tar City Kennels!!! First of all, this is not just a quick touristy activity, it’s an incredible experience that everyone in Fort McMurray should try to take in.
We started off by meeting some of the newest members of the team, who haven’t quite earned their racing stripes yet, but boy could they steal a heart quickly…and a mitten!
After meeting the adorable puppies we made our way to the sled, where my kids and I got cuddly and cozy while our sled dog racer Moe Ladouceur and his coworker got the dog team ready to go.
And we were off! We were cruising and the turns were a rush. The warm weather meant there was a tiny bit of slush being tossed at us, which only made the ride feel more authentic. We even got a little bit of air off of a couple of bump on the trail, which the kids quickly declared made it ‘just like Santa’s sleigh’ because we were officially flying!
After the ride we made sure to thank our gracious host Moe, but also the wonderful dogs who did such a great job taking us on this experience.
The day wasn’t over yet though, because Sawyer was infatuated with the sleds and when Moe noticed he didn’t hesitate in suggesting Sawyer try one out. Of course Brielle had to get in on the action too, which she comes by honestly because soon my hubby was hopping on to have his fun also.
Don’t worry, that truck is just my brother-in-law arriving to take my nephew and niece out next.
All in all I highly recommend this activity! Hopefully the weather cools for a little bit longer so more of you are able to have your own awesome dogsledding experience. The kids absolutely loved it, but so did we! Truly fun for all ages, and a unique opportunity that will have the city slickers jealous of all that fun up in Fort McMurray. If you’re interested you can contact Moe at email@example.com or 1(780) 370-0202
Do you have other recommendations for family outings that are somewhat unique experiences available in Fort McMurray? I’d love to hear about them and document to share our adventures!