Happy Women’s Day from South Africa.

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On the August 9th, 1956, over 20,000 women marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, to protest the ‘Pass Laws‘ during the Apartheid era. The women stood there in absolute silence for 30 minutes and then started singing the protest song, Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo! (Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.)

An adaptation of this phrase…

“You strike a woman, you strike a rock”

…has since come to represent a South African woman’s strength and courage.

National Women’s day has been celebrated every year on August 9th, since 2004.

It was then even more special that I had the privilege of photographing Deolandre: a strong, confidant young lady, on the eve of National Women’s Day as she prepared for her Matric Farewell.

(For our international readers, a Matric Farewell is South Africa’s version of an American Senior Prom.)

It marks the end of her high school career, the ceremonial coming age, the growth of an independent woman, the flourishing of hopes and dreams, the world in the palm of her hands. In South Africa it is a gift longed for by many, yet awarded to only a few. The moment I was tasked with, to freeze in frames for a lifetime. A blessing and a privilege indeed.

Camera: Nikon D4S

Lens: 50mm

Location: Clients home, Centurion

Time: 3 – 4:45pm

Lighting Conditions: A few indoor photos with good natural light, althogh most of the photos were taken outdoors with good natural light but before sunset. No flash.

Kids in tow, but I’m super thankful for the client’s little brother who did a superb job of keeping my 3 minions entertained and out of harms way.

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It’s a delight for me to be able to share a few of these photos with you. To celebrate this strong, confident woman and shine a light on many like her who are going through life changing moments. As women we need to lift each other up. We need to be each other’s biggest fans. We need to appreciate our differences, while at the same time enjoying our similarities.

This is one of the greatest parts of the friendship I share with Katie. She is always the first one to offer advice, guidance, and a prayer. She encouraged me even though we were in the same industry, she never once saw a competitor, she saw a friend and ultimately – a partner.

So, if you have a woman on your heart who has played a significant role in shaping the person you are today. Give them a call, give them your words, give them your love. It goes a long way.

Happy Women’s Day, wherever you are.

la

Have the last word

No one stops to think what their last words may be to someone they love. No one stops to think about the last words written either. I do.

The reason…

My mother Meryll, passed away due to complications from surgery at the age of 49. I was 27. My mother never got to meet my children. They will never get to know their grandmother. The last written words I have to remember her by are found in a hand written journal from her time in hospital. When she had a pipe down her throat she used this journal to communicate with visitors and nurses. Sadly, these are the last words I have from her. Not words a daughter would ordinarily choose to keep, but precious words none-the-less. The content of some of her sentences are really hard to read but just seeing her tangible hand writing makes me feel closer to her.

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My brother Warren, Meryll, Me

I sit here almost 8 years later reflecting on my own little family and I am faced with the reality that tomorrow is not promised to anyone. I have so many questions for my mom and would give anything to be able to sit down with her, I would drink coffee and she would have her favourite Rooibos Honey tea, as she always did, and we would talk for hours. I would ask her not only questions about parenting, but questions about marriage, too. She died 3 months before my wedding. So many things were left unsaid. So many big issues in life I have had to figure out for myself, moments where having my mom around would have come in handy. No offence Dad, but advice on birthing, delivery, and postpartum really can only come from a mom 😉

My last spoken words to my mom were “I’ll speak to you soon” – I never did.

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Below is the last entry she ever wrote in that book, what bothers me more than her last few written words, is the fact that there is more than half the book left blank; so many things left unsaid and still so many pages left open, waiting to be filled with words never written.

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My plan is to leave my 3 kiddos a journal specific to each child. Of course when it comes to generic news I will most likely type something up and print out 3 copies to insert, dated, into each book. I hope that one day when they’re old and grey these books will be relevant, but if life has other plans and I have to check out early,  I’m glad I will be able to leave them a few of their mother’s words. Good words, positive ones, funny ones, inspired ones, words of love and devotions. Words of pure heart. Memories that all too quickly seem to fade.

So I encourage you, if you have ever wanted to pen something, or a collection of somethings, to your children, do it! Do it now! Online images will move down your timeline, out of site and out of mind, but classic handwritten words, are priceless.

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“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart” – William Wordsworth

with love,

la

Celebrating seven years

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On May 14th, 2010, I became a mom. Our oldest son came into this world as the first (great) grandson on both sides of our family and the first of the next generation in our friends group. There is no doubt he is abundantly loved. In his short life he has lived in 3 countries and traveled to 7 others. He is clever, compassionate, kind, extroverted, and he has a great sense of humor.

Inspired by Lindy-Ann’s post about capturing kids parties, I thought it would be fun to feature his SEVEN birthday parties.

Every year, we (him included) choose a theme for his birthday and we go for it, I mean all in. This year we are treading on new territory with our first drop-off party (eek) and his theme of choice: disco water party, ha!

First, Second, & Third birthdays – Virginia, USA

For the first three years we were stateside and I was blessed to be able to throw these fantastic parties with the help of my girls. My friend Joy is an amazing cake artist and a my girl Melissa really knows how to execute a plan! Each year the theme was consistent throughout the party: invite, cake, and activities. It made the parties delicious, colorful, and fun!

Conditions – Outdoor at a park with a pavilion – both shade and full sun

Prep – These early parties taught me to pack camera, extra batteries, and SD cards the night before all events and shoots.

Lesson learned – Each year something would go wrong, but I learned (still learning) that, if I roll with it, it might turn out better than I planned. Also, high Shutter Speeds are crucial when capturing kids!

The Hungry Caterpillar

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Cars (the movie)

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Pirates

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Fourth & Fifth birthday – Kuwait

Our Kuwait village really stepped up to make these two parties really special, including baking cakes and cupcakes, as I am not a baker.

Conditions – May in Kuwait is hot! Both parties were indoors at our flat. In addition to natural light from the windows and artificial lights, an angled flash was needed at times.

Prep – Opened all the curtains and had extra batteries on hand. The backdrop was positioned out of the way of the flow of the party and opposite a window to get as much natural light as possible.

Lesson learned – Work with your space and conditions as best you can with a flash and high ISO and then adjust lighting in post production as needed.

Planes (the movie)

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The Lego Movie

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Sixth birthday – Virginia, USA

It was such a treat to celebrate stateside again! Our venue changed from our favorite park to Joy’s house in hopes of pool party. Those were dashed when we woke up to temperatures in the low 60s. We made the most of it though and had a fantastic time with the space for the pinata, scavenger hunt, and Jedi training!

Conditions – Outdoors, windy, and sunny

Prep – Back up batteries and SD card.

Lesson learned – Duct tape doesn’t always work, especially with fabric backdrops, try hot glue guns or staple guns and clamps for fabric backdrops. Again, be ready for anything, especially the weather.

Star Wars

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Seventh birthday – Tel Aviv, Israel

Our first drop-off party was a success! We may have been exhausted afterward, but the birthday boy said it was an “awesome party” and the decorations were “lovely.” Worth it!

Conditions – Outdoors in harsh midday lighting

Prep – formatted SD card

Lesson learned – Pulling the images together I realized that my biggest lesson learned is that with only the two of us we weren’t able to get a family shot this time. A tripod at the ready would have been helpful or of course a selfie would work too, ha!

Disco Water –

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In the end, it is fun to see how much we both have grown over the years. My precious baby really is a big kid now and I’m happy to say my skills have evolved. I can’t wait to see what EIGHT looks like for us!

We’d love to hear from you, please share your most memorable birthday party themes in the comments!

Cheers,

kdg

PS – I had to share my favorite shots of Lindy-Ann from the Lego party. Everything is indeed AWESOME! 

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When Lexi turned 2

I would not call myself a “kids party” photographer, nor do I see myself going in that direction professionally. But for my dear friends, it’s a privilege to capture the freeze-frames of celebration, endless amounts of fun, contagious laughter and abundant love. Not to mention that kids parties are full of one of my favourite things to photograph, – no, not the kids….COLOUR!

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Two years ago, when my new friend at the time, Debbie, asked me to photograph her daughter Lexi’s 2nd birthday party, I was a little nervous. I had never photographed someone else’s kid’s party before. My own kid’s parties, yes. However the pressure another’s once off, no chance of a reshoot, precious memories in my hands, that was new. I swallowed the nervous lump in my throat and went for it.

When I arrived at the scene, it was clear that this mom was skilled. I mean the put-Martha-Stewart-to-shame kind of skilled. The happy scene was infectious. I was even able to have some photography fun of my own, and truly capture the memorable event.

Camera – Nikon D90

Lens – Nikon 10-105MM f/3.5-5.6

Conditions – Indoor shoot, medium light with low light in places, shoe horn flash needed

Prep – To prep for this shoot I met with Debbie a few days before to have a conversation about what the job would entail, in this briefing we got to know each other better and laid out each others ideas and expectations. I then met with her at the venue the day before the party to take a good look at lighting and environment so there wouldn’t be any surprises on the day of the shoot.

I arrived early, brought a large water bottle, extra memory cards, extra batteries for both flash and camera, and wore comfortable clothing that did not attract attention. I was ready and settled with the decor shots out the way before the first guests even arrived.

Lessons learned – I only brought 1 set of extra flash batteries, it was about 3-4 hours total of shooting and I underestimated how much power the flash would use. Luckily when the flash batteries ran out for the second time it was at the end of the party and I was just getting a few extra shots here and there which I was still able to get with an adjusted higher ISO and a little extra love in Photoshop.

Top Tips – When photographing groups of children keep an eye on aperture – you don’t want the back row of kids in group shots to fall victim to depth of field blur, and Shutter Speed, kids move fast, enough said.

  • For anyone photographing kids indoor with a shoe horn flash or speedlight, you need to pay extra attention to your Shutter Speed. If you set it too fast you will essentially out shoot the speed of the flash and end up with half your image correctly exposed and half your image in black. So just keep that in mind.

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I went on to photograph two more events for Debbie and her amazing family before they moved on from Kuwait, but I will always hold this particular celebration close to my heart, as the first one.

Thank you Debbie for all your attention to detail and your impeccable style. Your love, joy, and friendship is a blessing to all who get a chance to know you.

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Her family really is every child photographer’s dream client.

Cheers,

la

Mindful Friendship & Inspiration

I have this friend we will call her Ms. Stacy, like the kiddos do. She is a super talented and energetic. She is one of those friends you like to have around because their enthusiasm for life is infectious and encouraging, so much so, that she has the power to encourage you right into volunteering for the Parent Teacher Association (PTA),  (of which she is the president). Yup, she hooked me the first day I met her.

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In addition, to being the PTA president and a personal trainer, Ms, Stacy is a teacher. This year she started her journey into teaching a mindfulness class at the American International School here in Israel. If you haven’t heard of mindfulness yet, you will, it is reaching schools across the world now. It is a method of intentionality and meditation. In kids they are using it help them put words to their feelings, learn how to help themselves settle down, self-soothe, and a number of things I wish I had learned when I was little.

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In January, she asked me to assist her with branding her Mindfulness curriculum; of course, I was honored. Then in February she successfully launched her ‘Zen Den’ in the elementary school. Each class has a Zen Den sign to post on their door as they practice 5 minutes of mindfulness using videos she developed. The students love it! She has had parents telling her that their kids are coming home sharing what Ms. Stacy had taught them and the parents are trying it out too. I’m so proud of her; she is helping shape our kids into better, kinder, and more conscientious, intentional people.

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She is also helping and challenging me to be better. Like most moms, I am woken up in the middle of the night by children, to-do lists, or simply a sound in the house that might be the children.  In the past couple weeks I have been plagued by these wake-ups and and could not peacefully go back to sleep. When I shared this with her, she challenged me to use the mindfulness technique of equanimity. Equanimity is calmness and level-headedness. In practice it means that you allow each thought to have equal value- not right or wrong, good or bad, just all equal. She suggested that I let bombarding thoughts float like a cloud over me, to not attack them as wrong or praise them as right, but to let them be and float away. It worked. I peacefully drifted back to sleep.

The concept of mindfulness is natural for me, possibly due to my faith and prayer life, years of yoga practice, or maybe simply because I love a good visualization. For a visual person, like Lindy-Ann alluded to in her post about raising artbrains, we see everything. Providing us a description of something we can picture in our minds brings it to life in a new way. Growing up I was always told to “think before you speak” and “slow down,” but without these tools I didn’t know how to. Now in my thirties, it’s clicking and I can share these techniques with my kids establish these good foundations in their thought-life.

I asked her to share one of her Mindfulness videos with us. I hope you take a moment to try it and let us know what you think. Did it help? 

Mindful Script Credit: CounselorChelsey, TPT Photo credit: Lucinda Keeler Foster, Music credit: unknown

Namaste,

kdg

Thirty-four years young

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As I bid farewell to thirty-three I have been reflecting on how I have grown this past year. We alway track our children and their development and as they grow from year to year, but somewhere along the way we forget to track our personal development. Ok, we do have annual reviews that discuss our professional development and many of us take stock of our physical status and capabilities, but I am talking about our mental and spiritual growth.

So often in conversations we discuss how life has changed or how we view situations differently than we did in our 20s or in college, but what has actually changed in us to make that true?

Reflecting on a few of my current feelings, I realize that last year I changed. The usual expat process of transition; saying see you later to family and friends and settling into your new routines is tough. We love this life, but it is not without heartache. Each move holds lessons that, if learned, will make us stronger and better at life.

Last year was especially bittersweet for our family as we had 6 months between posts abroad back home in Virginia. We cherished every moment with our family and friends, because we knew that season was short and may never happen exactly like that again. In the spirit treasuring that time with the people we love, I almost missed out on making a wonderful new friend. My parents live in a great neighborhood and my mom was convinced that one their neighbors would be the perfect friend for me. Thankfully it worked out and Kelly and I became friends and shared some fabulous times together before both of us moved away in the summer and I know we will see each other again. Lesson learned, keep your heart open to new friendships in all seasons.

In addition to the expat life lessons, parenting is one of the great refiners. Parenthood revealed to me that I don’t like to ask for help even if I am drowning. Receiving help is tough for me, because I grew up as a military brat and we pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and move on, as the saying goes, and I am stubborn. So this life lesson has been taken bit longer to learn than others. Thankfully I have been blessed with people who are stronger at saying “I will help you” than I am at saying “I’m ok.” In the past year, I literally had to go through situations where I need to ask and receive help at least once a month. Now I can truly say that I will accept help when it is offered and although I still struggle with it, I will ask for help. I also had an epiphany  about this that really made me get over myself. When we don’t let people to help us, because we think it selfish to ask, we are actually selfishly not allowing them to fulfill their calling and share their heart with us. 

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The other excruciating lesson that I am having to learn over and over is about overcommitting. It is like a compulsive disorder that makes me raise my hand when people ask for creative help! AHHH! I get involved and the perfectionist in me rears her ugly head, and there am at 2:00am working on my laptop, because a full night of sleep will come when my kids are raising my grandchildren and my to-do list is clear. Seriously, when I am in and I am all in, especially when it comes to photography and design. This last weekend of thirty-three however I made a decision to not put myself in this stress-filled space again. I am happy to report I just put my hand down, I’m actually sitting on it. I may actually be graduating from this course and moving on to conquer time management, ha!

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As you can see thirty-three was bittersweet and I grew up a little bit more. I learned to say no, and yes, to enjoy my people, to grow my circle of people, and learn from each experience good and bad. Now at thirty-four, I hope to be a better wife, mother, daughter, friend, puppy mom (eek!) creative, and entrepreneur. My birthday wish this year is for all of us to be more joyful and laugh often, even at ourselves.

Cheers,

kdg