a pocket full of posies

It's such a miserable night here - rain is pelting down, the wind is blowing the bins all over the place, and we've the fire lit for some comfort inside. Somehow it just doesn't feel like spring has sprung, even though the Google logos are trying to convince us otherwise! So in the name of encouraging spring along, I thought I'd share some photos I took of my friend Zoë teaching a group of fabulous women how to make a floral crown. Zoë is the owner of Zoë Conville Design House, based here in Bangor, and we're doing a little mutual Mother's Day giveaway on our Facebook pages which you might want to check out. Her floral creations are completely stunning yet she manages to make it all look so easy. I've had a go at it and I can tell you it's not!These images were taken at a party organised by another creative and talented friend, Janice of Gathered Threads, and the combination of creative women, sunshine and maybe just a little bubbly made for a wonderful evening all round. I highly recommend a nosey at the websites and Facebook pages of these two, as well as making sure you're all signed up to the giveaways. You can enter Zoë's via her Facebook page and mine by making sure you're on my newsletter list before Friday 23 March at midday. You'll find the link for that here. For now I shall leave you with these gloriously sunny photos and head back off to the fire, and maybe a wee gin!Don't forget you can sign up to my newsletter here for news, offers and general chit chat delivered right to your inbox! 

Hallowe'en :: Documented

Whatever your views on Hallowe'en, there's just no escaping it. And if Pinterest is to be believed, it is to be photographed to within an inch of its life. Every costume, pumpkin and sparkler must be the best ever and you must take 25 shots of each! But I don't think this needs to be how you spend this weekend or half term holiday, so I've compiled my own little guide to help you get the best photos you can without using up every memory card or your entire phone memory!Let's start with the pumpkin. My Facebook memories for this week over the past 3 or 4 years include the phrase, "I love carving pumpkins, said no mum ever!" Or something similar. But they have been a prerequisite of our half term holidays for many years now, and there are 3 sitting in the kitchen right now, awaiting this year's designs. But what's the best way to photograph them? I have a couple of suggestions for you.1 :: The tools of the trade. Let's face it, no one ever carved an entire pumpkin with just one of those £2 kits from Tesco! Last year I laid out all the knives, skewers and scoops I thought we'd need and took a photo of them altogether. It's an odd photo on its own, but as part of our pumpkin traditions it will serve as a reminder of the effort required for this particular activity!halloween-tips_00112 :: For me, the lasting impression of every pumpkin carving session has been the mess! So much mucky flesh and pumpkin seeds for days! And how come the kids suddenly disappear for this part? But it's impossible to do it without the mess, so why not include it in your photos, if only to serve as a reminder to your kids in 25 years time when they're up to their eyes in the same activity with their own kids, that what goes around comes around!halloween-tips_00013 :: Of course, it's the finished product that you're ultimately aiming for, and as any good parent, you'll need the customary shot for Facebook or Instagram so you can all compare notes and then wonder at how yours still looks like a 4 year old did it. Or is that just me?! My top tip for the pumpkin shot is simple - don't wait until it's completely dark to capture it, and most importantly, turn your flash off. The contrast between the bright design and the dark makes it tricky to capture perfectly or without blur. Instead, photograph it at dusk. You will still see the glow perfectly, but all those lovingly carved (by you, obviously!) details will be much clearer. If you're an Instagram user, a filter can add extra definition and a cool twist like in the photos below.halloween-tips_0004So now you've got all the required pumpkin photos in a mere 5 shots, you should have plenty of room to start thinking about Trick or Treating. I sort of hate that we've lost the tradition of Hallowe'en rhyming that we did as kids, so being the harsh parent I am, I make mine do the rhyme anyway! None of this "Trick or Treat!" nonsense at someone's door! And if you happen to come to my door, you can surely have the treat once I hear the rhyme!I digress! There's something I love about the whole traipsing around the neighbourhood business with a crowd of friends. Maybe it's a sign that community isn't dead and that we can all be generous, even to people we don't know. Or maybe it's just the excitement of watching our kids get excited as they wait for the all important treats to be thrown their way. Either way, it's worth a photo or two. But how can you get a decent shot in the dark with street lights dotted around, I hear you ask. Well, you can't really. And especially not if you have your flash popping off for every photo! My tip is basically this...4 :: Turn your flash off, follow the kids and wait for the door of the house to open. With any luck, there'll be light from inside that will highlight your kids a little. You may not get perfect shots and you may have a little blur, but you'll capture the mood much better without the harsh light of the flash.halloween-tips_0006halloween-tips_0007Which leads me nicely on to the costumes. I wish I had a greater variety to show you, but we've pretty much specialised in zombies from day one around here! Every year an old pair of jeans and a few school shirts bite the dust and are slashed and covered in much fake blood. I can't help it. I have boys. So there was never much hope of a Disney costume for us. And on the plus side, I could probably get a job as a make up artist for a second rate stage production of The Walking Dead if push came to shove! So costume advice.5 :: If it's a scary kind of costume, I'd suggest the good old dusk shot again, with no flash. Are you getting that no flash is key here a lot?! Really, I can't stress enough how big a difference it will make to your photos! The light at that time of night has an eerie bluish tinge that is perfect for the sort of atmosphere you want in your photos. However, without flash, you can still get a great shot of the costumes inside. Maybe think about getting your kids to stand side on to a lamp for a softer light than spot lights or downlights. And I'm sorry, but even as a zombie or covered in a shocking amount of fake blood, he's still quite the looker in my books!halloween-tips_0005Sometimes though, your opportunities are limited, especially with a toddler, and your best bet is to just shoot and see what you get. Because sometimes you get a gem like this...halloween-tips_0013Now many of you will be braving the 'Hallowe'en Party' at some point this weekend. And I send you all my best wishes for that!! I have been there and done it and while I nearly had a nervous breakdown, the kids had a blast. But beware the temptation to just photograph the kids and the costumes. Because what was the point of all that preparation if you don't remember to document the details? For me, the details are what marks a particular event. And as you will have spent hours on Pinterest stocking up on ideas, you should definitely capture your hard work.6:: So look for the details. What did you make for the party? Do you have decorations you and/or the kids made that you don't want to forget? A photo is much easier to keep than the actual decoration and you are much more likely to look at the photo than get the 10 year old decoration out of the memory box you put it in. It's a win win! Again, you need to shut that flash off! Some of these I took with my Canon but the bottom two I took with my iPhone 4 about 5 years ago. Go Instagram and the amazing filters! Also, thank you Pinterest for the best Hallowe'en craft ever with those lanterns!halloween-tips_0009halloween-tips_00127 :: And if you want to get photos of the kids, get one big group at the start of the party - before the sugar has kicked in - and that will surely do in place of tens of photos so you can concentrate on picking up the bowl of crisps that just fell off the table before you mop up 5 half spilt cups of juice! This is one of my favourite photos of my son and his friends from early primary school, and believe me when I say I have hundreds! All it took was telling them to pull their scariest face!halloween-tips_0008The final thing you may want to document is the good old sparkler. An essential in the half term break, who doesn't love a sparkler? Well, apart from parents with small children, some small children themselves and possibly your canine friend! But most of us do. I think! What advice can I offer you here? Well to be honest, I've only one tip.8 :: Turn the flash off (*snore*), point and shoot! That's it. I'm sure there are lots of technical YouTube videos you can watch with much more accurate advice, but when there is a white hot naked flame in the hand of your kids - and possibly those who aren't yours but are in your safe hands for the evening - you just want to get a shot and keep them from harm! Ideally, you would have someone ensuring the safety of the kids while you take the photos just to be sure, but you already knew that! Aside from pointing and shooting, you could try and focus on the kids' faces, which will be lit by the sparkler - you might just get a wee look of utter amazement as they wave this spark-shooting stick around in the air. And that will be much more fun to look back on in years to come than any amazing shape they managed to create in the night.halloween-tips_0003So there you have it - a brief guide to documenting all things half term and Hallowe'en-ish without the stress of capturing it all. Because it's so much more important that you be there and enjoy it. Get messy with the pumpkins, wave a sparkler in the air and actually make a few of those crafts you pinned. That's what the kids will remember, and you'll want to be part of those memories. But maybe just have your camera handy, because you never know what you might just capture in the spur of the moment.halloween-tips_0010Now off you go and have a wonderful weekend and half term! And if you capture anything wonderful, I'd love you to share your images with me on my Facebook page.  

Bethany and Mark

I think it would be fair to say that if you're booking an engagement shoot in Northern Ireland this autumn/winter, you've got to accept that it's likely to feature rain. And the only thing to do is get your smile on and embrace it! Which is exactly what this gorgeous pair did in Castle Park in Bangor at the end of November.Theirs has been quite the whirlwind romance and engagement, and the happiness and contentment they have in each other's company was palpable. Even had it been pouring, I am sure it couldn't possibly have had any negative effect on their smiles! I am positively giddy about their wedding next month.If you are planning a wedding this year or next, or you know someone who is, please get in touch for more information about my packages. And keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post about the reasons every couple should book a pre-wedding shoot! 

My favourite family

This would be the fourth time I've photographed this gorgeous lot, and without a doubt each session is more and more fun than the last! There is something so beautiful about documenting the growth of a family, as children are born,  grow older and develop their own amazing personalities. And with parents who are up for pretty much anything, photographing them is nothing short of a dream job!We took these photos at Stormont Estate during the autumn half term in near perfect conditions - blue skies, warm air and the most stunning array of golden leaves. Let's just not talk about the number of times we had to steer the boys away from quagmires of mud in the middle of the lawns!

A beachy wedding

It's absolutely freezing outside and it's blowing a hurricane to boot. Winter is definitely here, so I've decided this is the perfect time to share an end of summer wedding, just as a wee reminder of warmer days when the sand stayed still and didn't end up in your eyes quite so much!I've known Gemma since she was born and her family and ours go way back. So to be able document her wedding, on the beach at Downhill at the end of summer, was an absolute privilege. And it is going to take an awful lot for another wedding to top this in every respect! From the relaxed marquee with gin on tap to the amazing dress the bride wore, the train that honked right after the vows, the rainbow behind Mussenden Temple and the lone dolphin in the sea, this wedding broke every mould there was! And that doesn't even include their tiny and beautiful daughters who may just have stolen the show.So grab a cup of something warm and enjoy what might be my favourite wedding ever!

The Jolly Sandwich

Sometimes my job is really challenging. I mean, can you imagine how hard it is to take photographs of food that is literally begging to be eaten, in a location that you just want to spend an entire day in? Take, as an example, The Jolly Sandwich in Enniskillen. From creamy porridge and tea for breakfast, though a colourful myriad of salads for lunch to something sweet and indulgent for afternoon tea, your every whim is catered for! And who wouldn't want to squander at least a few hours in such a pretty setting? If you're bound for the lakeland area anytime soon, you will be doing yourself a disservice if you don't pop in!

It's all in the detail :: the flowers

I'm a sucker for the details on any shoot, but especially at a wedding.  Those little things that the bride (and/or groom but we know it's really the bride!) has spent hours deliberating over, pinning ideas and dreaming about for months.  So I thought over the next couple of weeks I'd share some of my favourite details from some of the weddings I've had the privilege of documenting.And so I give you, the flowers!!

That splash of red - perfection!

Sheer simplicity in a buttonhole.

Hand tied? Yes please!

I think this is my favourite floral shot evah!!

Buttonhole perfection right there!

Just. So. Pretty.

My favourite table setting from last year!

Those sunflowers were in total defiance of the rain!

Pink and turquoise bringing the tropics to the province!

I'm so excited to see how this summer's wedding flowers shape up over the coming months!  If you're looking for a photographer for your wedding and want someone who notices the details you've spent hours thinking about I'd love to chat to you about how we could document them for you, so use that button up there and give me a shout!

I wish that I could be like the cool kids

Really, I do!I had the absolute pleasure  of hanging out a few weeks ago with one of the coolest girls I've met in a long time. In fact, she's not just cool, she's Northern Ireland Young Musician of the Year, Cathryn Lynch! She is beyond talented, playing numerous percussion instruments like you wouldn't believe, but that aside she is just an amazingly confident young lady who has a real zest for life. It was a complete privilege to be able to capture this for her and her family!I bet you wish you were one of the cool kids now too, don't you?! 

Easter photo tips and ideas

I feel very bold even writing that title! This is by no means a professional 'how to' post. It's just a few ideas that might help you document your Easter business of egg hunts and days out in a slightly different way than usual. And they can all be taken with whatever camera you happen to be using, whether it's a fancy DSLR, a point and shoot or your phone. It's a true saying that the best camera for the job is the one you have with you! Get up closeAll too often we try to squeeze as much as possible into the frame of our camera, but the result is that there is no real focal point. The eye skips all over the image and doesn't really have anywhere to land. But when you start to zoom in, you create a real point of focus. So think about what it is you want to capture and then get in close! With phones  (iPhones in particular, in my experience) it helps to move physically close to keep your picture sharp. Get the actionI bet you've spent a lot of time and had a lot of arguments with kids over getting them to stand still for the camera - I know I certainly have. So I eventually gave up! And I'm so glad I did. To be honest, I'd rather have a slightly blurry shot of the kids having a great time running around than a perfectly sharp one of them glaring at me with red eyes from all the crying over smiling for the camera! So forget perfect and go for action. You really won't be disappointed!   Record the craftIf it didn't already come home from school, it's bound to be in progress on your kitchen table! Or maybe you have somehow escaped the Pinterest inspired glue-fest that happens most holidays in our house! When I was sourcing photos for this post, I came across these from a few years ago and they really made me smile. So even though the mess at the time had me running for the hills, I am glad I stopped to take these photos. Again I went in close and didn't even have the boys in the photos (Patrick was actually scowling in one of them and it has the potential to ruin our fragile pre-teen relationship!). I miss the days when they asked to do things like this.  Get up close with the animals If you have small kids, there's every chance you're going to encounter some animals this Easter! We are big fans of Castle Espie WWT and when the boys were smaller, The Ark Open Farm. The temptation when you're there, however, is to take the same photos you took the last time of your kids feeding the ducks or looking at the cows and pigs. For a change of perspective, why not let the animals take centre stage? These photos were all taken on my iPhone and edited using Instagram.  Don't forget the flowersThis is such a great time of the year to capture the beauty of spring around us. (Ok, I know it tried snowing on the first day of the holidays, but work with me!) Even in my driveway I'm met with the buds and blossoms of forsythia in my neighbour's garden, and I find it hard not to take a photo of cherry blossom trees anytime I pass them! Even the humble daffodil looks stunning when the light hits the petals just right. So go on, be brave and look foolish standing under a blossom tree to get the blue sky coming through the branches. If I can do it, so can you! The proof is right here - tree photos again taken with iPhone and a few odd looks!  Think about the lightI have a complete obsession with light, but that's a whole other blog post! What I will suggest for now is that you look at where the light is. Is it shining on your kids' faces? If so, they're going to squint and you'll have shadows everywhere in your photos. Early morning and late afternoon light is perfect for good photos, and I almost want to dare you to try shooting into the sun! If you get the subject of your photo in front of the light, you can get stunning silhouette photos. Honestly, it's worth a try and practice does make perfect.  Get in the shot!I know, you hate having your photo taken! It's the one comment I am guaranteed to hear on any family or wedding shoot. And I hear you! I hate it too. But you need to be in the shot. Even just one or two. Your kids will thank you for it in the future, and they won't think you look awful. They'll just be glad to have photos of them with their mum or dad. So stretch out your arm or grab a selfie stick, put the camera on the timer or give it to someone else, and then push the button. Be present and be documented. You won't regret it!  I hope these ideas are helpful to you and that you have a wonderful time over the Easter holiday whatever you're up to!  Feel free to share your photos taken using these tips over on my Facebook page, and if you've any suggestions for other tips you'd like to see in future blog posts, give me a shout!

The Jamaica Inn

Sometimes two things that you love just collide and it's like all your birthdays have come at once! That's exactly how I felt about getting to shoot the newly refurbished Jamaica Inn in Bangor a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't been before you are seriously missing out and need to get that rectified immediately! It's one of my all time favourite restaurants, and the fact that it's mere minutes from my house and has stunning views across the Lough are added bonuses. But it's the food and the atmosphere together that make it the perfect place for a meal or a night out. Don't even take my word for it - just look!! I really hope you do head to the Jamaica Inn sometime soon - I promise you won't regret it!