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! 

And baby makes 3

We all know that time flies, but sometimes something happens to make you realise just how fast it is actually going. This happened to me recently when I took pre-baby photos for my friend on her due date (she lives on the edge!) followed by a newborn shoot less than 2 weeks later. But it was the fact that I had also done an engagement shoot with them and had the privilege of being their wedding photographer that made me realise that not only had time whizzed by, but that life changes literally in the blink of an eye.From a carefree couple in love, through the precious vows of marriage, to the strange last days of it being just two, and finally to the exhilarating and exhausting days of being first time parents. It has been an absolute delight to watch two wonderful human beings I am proud to call my friends move through these transitions, and I can hardly wait to get my camera round to the baby chub that is now forming rapidly on these fragile little limbs!One of the things I love about this pair is their willingness and desire to be in the photos. All too often I hear clients (read 'women'!) say, "Oh don't get me in the pictures - I'm so unphotogenic/need to lose weight/hate my nose..." And I'll admit, I feel that too. But life is short, people. And your kids don't see what you see. And they will want to look back on photos so they can judge you for your hair style and fashion sense - indeed, it is their right, so who are you to deny it?!!I have some spaces available over the next few weeks for sessions out and about or at your home, so if you think you might need to get yourself in the picture, why not give me a shout? I mean, Mother's Day is just around the corner and it would make an awesome present - I even have gift cards if you would like to purchase a session as a gift and book at a time that suits.Don't forget you can also sign up for my newsletter, where there will be exclusive special offers and giveaways that you don't want to miss!

The Bolands

I am pretty lucky to have some really great people in my life, and some of them arrived in a sort of roundabout way. My friend Jo, is married to an old friend of my husband, but we've struck up a unique connection over the years. We've shared losses, laughs and had many an adventure with (and without) our boys. We've even managed to meet up wearing exactly the same top, shoes and earrings!Last year, I persuaded Jo to let me take photos of her with her boys in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast, and we had such a great time. From our iconic cranes, Samson and Goliath, to the quirky industrial buildings, from historic boats to the incredible Titanic Museum, there is just so much good stuff to photograph. And when you add good friends into the mix, it's a great combination!These are just a few of the highlights of our shoot around the area.Such a seriously cool location for photos! If you're thinking of updating your own family photos over the spring, I'd love you to give me a shout by clicking on the contact form at the top of the page. Or you can find me on my Facebook page over there on that tab on the left!

my loves

I have such mixed feelings about Valentine's Day. From the anxiety of much younger days when I pretended I didn't care if I got a card or not (when really I did!), to the frustration of the pink and red hype and overpriced flowers and chocolates that have been on the shelves for weeks and will be a fraction of the price again tomorrow. Typically, we aren't big celebrators of it in our house, but I thought it seemed like the perfect opportunity to share a few photos of the people who have my heart.Last summer, we asked Gillian and Tim of Gather and Tides, to capture our family on one of our favourite spots on the north coast - it was that day we will all remember as 'Hot Tuesday', when it actually felt like summer! Besides the whole shoot feeling like we were just hanging out with some great friends, what they captured of us is beyond words. They let us see what love in our family looks like, and that is a gift without price.So I'm happy to leave the roses in the buckets in M&S, and will happily pick up some bargain chocolate treats tomorrow. For now, I'll take these!

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.  

Home is where the heart is

It's funny how some things just sort of creep up on you, and then there's a moment, an epiphany, and you wonder how you hadn't realised it before. I've photographed so many different things, from weddings to restaurants, in amazing gardens, parks and locations. And yet, I've discovered over the past year that the thing which makes me happiest when I have my camera in my hand, is photographing families at home. Maybe it's because at home we are most ourselves. Our true selves, with messy kitchens and fingerprints on walls, toys spilling all over the place and more noise than you ever thought you could cope with!I've had some amazing lifestyle sessions with families at home and I really think I should start sharing them with the world. So lets me start with the O'Rorke family, an amazingly warm and open family with two adorable little sons. When I went to their session I felt instantly at home, coffee was brewing and a very cute two year old was excited to tell me all about his Transformer toys - so glad I had prior knowledge from my own boys! Really, it was a dream session.lifestyle-1lifestyle-2lifestyle-3lifestyle-4lifestyle-5lifestyle-6lifestyle-7lifestyle-8lifestyle-9lifestyle-11lifestyle-12lifestyle-13lifestyle-14lifestyle-15lifestyle-16lifestyle-17lifestyle-18lifestyle-19lifestyle-20lifestyle-21lifestyle-22lifestyle-24lifestyle-25lifestyle-26lifestyle-27lifestyle-29lifestyle-30I read a brilliant quote recently by another photographer, Tara Whitney. She said that her clients know how it feels to love their families, and that she could show them what it looked like. I admire her work so much, and I truly hope that the families I am lucky to photograph feel they get a little of that from their images too. If you'd like to know more about my lifestyle sessions at home I would LOVE to hear from you. You can use the contact form here or find me on Facebook, so please, give me a shout!

Festival faves

August 1 is both an exciting and daunting day on the calendar for those of us involved with Open House Festival. Exciting as we gear up for a month of non stop events, and daunting for the very same reason! 128 events in 40 different venues over 31 days, and that's not including the extra dates that have been added due to the runaway ticket sales for several of the events. That's a lot of fun going on around the town, planning and fine tuning in the office and photographs being uploaded to my laptop! In anticipation of a great month, I thought I'd choose a few of my favourite images from the festival programme just to get things going.Full details and tickets are still available on the festival website and you can pick up a programme from the office at The Fountain Centre on Queen's Parade, or in many local shops and businesses. For now, these are some of my favourite images showcasing some of the events I'm most excited about.Open House Festival Programme_0001

From Burgundy to Bangor - limited tickets available

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Festival Cookery School - limited tickets available

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Dear Agent - sold out

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Ain't No Sin to Love Gin - sold out (and I'm so glad I booked early!)

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Comber Gourmet Trail - sold out

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Irish Tapas - sold out

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Talking Out Your Arts - sold out

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Colin Middleton: The Bangor Years - limited tickets available

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Fish 'n' Sips - limited tickets available

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Party on the Pitch - tickets available

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Bluegrass Picnic - FREE, so you'd be a fool to miss it!

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Seafood and Sea Shanties - sold out

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Music in the Park - FREE every Sunday afternoon

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Whiskey Galore - all events sold out

Booking links - you're welcome! But I would get on that sooner rather than later if I were you! I'm off to charge my batteries (camera, physical and mental!) and prep my camera bag. Do pop back later in the week for a few more of my faves from the first week. And you can keep up to date with all the goings on on the Open House Festival Facebook page, on Twitter and on Instagram.

Abraham :: a newborn session

Sometimes it's true that a photograph speaks a thousand words. I'm going to let these photos speak for themselves, save to say that I've known Aly for many years and am lucky to count her amongst my close friends. And that makes a photo shoot very special. I've photographed all 3 of her boys as newborns, we've bemoaned and celebrated life as mums of boys, we've shared dreams and a lot of coffee and I love them all to bits! Her husband's pretty ok too!Anyway, this session took place when Abraham was one whole week old, the kids were running around, there had been one bloody nose (dad!) before I even arrived, and Aly was swanning around looking fabliss as always! And that is exactly my favourite way to shoot - in the midst of the crazy, wonderful mess that is life.Abe newborn_0001Abe newborn_0002Abe newborn_0003Abe newborn_0004Abe newborn_0005Abe newborn_0006Abe newborn_0007Abe newborn_0008Abe newborn_0009Abe newborn_0010Abe newborn_0011Abe newborn_0012Abe newborn_0013Abe newborn_0014Abe newborn_0015Abe newborn_0016Abe newborn_0017Abe newborn_0018Abe newborn_0019Abe newborn_0020Abe newborn_0021Abe newborn_0022Abe newborn_0023Abe newborn_0024Abe newborn_0025Abe newborn_0026Abe newborn_0027Abe newborn_0028Abe newborn_0029Abe newborn_0030Abe newborn_0031Abe newborn_0032Abe newborn_0033Abe newborn_0034Abe newborn_0035Abe newborn_0036Abe newborn_0037 If you'd like the crazy of your life documented, please give that contact button up there a push and we can make that happen!

Here's to the dads

Here's to the dads.The superheroes.The rescuers.The fixers and menders.The BBQ-ers.The tear wipers and plaster stickers.To the ones who make us laugh so hard we think we might be sick.And the ones who stand on sidelines and touch lines and boundary lines, week... after week... after week.Where would we be without the dads? Some of us know all too well exactly where we are without them. But lots of us are lucky enough to have the things they taught us and their sense of humour and their noses (lucky, eh?!) with us no matter where we are or where we go.So this one is for the dads. You rock our worlds and we love you to bits!dads_0001dads_0002dads_0003dads_0013dads_0010dads_0009dads_0007dads_0008dads_0017dads_0006dads_0005dads_0024dads_0023dads_0021dads_0016dads_0026dads_0020

We {Harte} Aly

I thought it was about time I got this blog back up and running, and what better way to do it than with a giveaway! If this is your first visit to my blog, hello! It's very nice to have you here, and I hope you'll pop back again. I promise to have posts more than once every 3 months!Living in Northern Ireland has its fair share of downsides (rain, grey skies and a minimal difference in seasons to name but a few), but over the past couple of years I have been more and more aware of the positives of living in this wee country. Obviously, we entered the Euros with the highest unbeaten rate in qualifiers, our landscape and countryside is beyond stunning, and we have an incredible amount of talented artists and creatives for all the size of us. Instagram, in particular, has introduced me to so many amazing and talented people. Folk like linesandcurrent, gatheredthreads and padhraic_mulholland to name but a small few.However, my own walls are pretty much sponsored by my amazing friend, Aly Harte, local artist, blogger and mumma to 3 beautiful boys. Aly's work is full of energy and passion and often highlights aspects of the everyday in a way you've never seen it before. These images are genuinely photos I took around my home earlier today - we really do love Aly's work!A limited edition print created for the Giro d'Italia in 2014 Aly-2 The iconic Samson and Goliath cranes at Harland and Wolff in Belfast  One of my absolute favourites is this of Mussenden Temple which resides on our landing The red wine print - no explanation required!PicTapGoAll you have to do to enter is comment below telling me which of the prints you would like and where you would display it. Easy! And to up your chances of winning, pop over to my Instagram account, @jblifedocumented, for information on how to enter there as well.Good luck with your entries. I'll pick a winner on Friday 17 June and announce it on my Instagram account at around 9pm, so be sure to follow so you don't miss out!If you'd like to stay in touch and hear about new posts and random snippets from me, please do sign up for my newsletter which I hope to get kick started again towards the end of the month.