Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Photographing a Hero

Photographing a hero isn’t hard, but writing about someone who has survived and thrived through unimaginable hardship is a difficult task. I find myself in a cloud of words, trying to portray how this man embodies the very qualities of a hero, but unsure of how to do justice to his story. And what a story it is… seriously.

This is Ralph. He is my husband’s grandpa. He lives in Calgary and unfortunately, is a Calgary Flames fan (I can forgive him for that.) Most of his grandkids (myself included) have lived with him, taking claim to the big yellow room in the basement. In fact, when I go back, simply smelling the air downstairs takes me back to the days that I was living there, attending photography classes at SAIT, dating Ryan (he proposed in that basement), and finding my independence for the first time living away from home. Grandpa was the best roommate. But I do remember one evening, becoming worried that he wasn’t home yet. See, grandpa didn’t see very well, but still went out on his own. My anxious mind couldn’t rest until he came home. He finally walked through the door, and (like the parent of an unruly teenager), asked him where he was and why he was late. Turns out, he just wanted to go watch a hockey game, so he took the transit down to the arena (solo) and watched the game. He’s never let anything stop him.

Grandpa grew up out East, signed up to go to war, and met his love (at first site) at the train station, surrounded by other soldiers. That is the very simplified version of what happened. But remember I said he has a story? Well, he went to war but was captured before entering battle. He spent FOUR YEARS in a concentration camp under Japanese rule. He got sick. His friends got sick. Most of his friends didn’t get better. But he fought. For years. Eventually he was freed, and that’s when he came home and met his forever love, Phyllis. (see the photo below that he still keeps by his bed) He doesn’t speak much about the happenings of his time in the Japanese camp, but over the years we have learned more and more about what he went through. What thousands of people went through… and boy, did he fight for his life. But he would deny and callings of a hero.

Many who experience what he has, become hardened. But Grandpa decides to love. Seriously, this man would give you anything if he saw a need. He chooses to be joyful. He chose forgiveness.

To read more about his story, his grandson, Mark Sakamoto (Ryan’s cousin) wrote a book. And it just won the Canada Reads award… it’s called Forgiveness. It’s powerful, and not an emotionally easy read, but it needs to be read. It tells the story, not only of Grandpa Ralph, but of his daughter marrying a Japanese man, whose mother went through the torment taking place in Canada, for people of the Japanese heritage. (I seriously had no idea that even happened until I read this book…) Mark did an exceptional job writing this piece and I’m thrilled that it is getting the recognition it deserves.

Ralph has made an impact on an enormous number of people… myself included.  I’m proud that I am part of his family. I’m happy to have spent time with him back in my college days, in the home he built and raised his family in. I wanted to capture him in photographs, in his uniform that he so proudly wears to the few engagements that he goes to each year. Grandpa will be 96 next month, and he isn’t able to do the things he was able to years ago (his vision is next to nothing, due to his sickness in the camp), but he still lights up when we come to visit, and offers what he can to make us comfortable. He cares deeply.

I drove to Calgary and got just a few photos of him in his uniform, wearing the medals he so dearly deserves. Some photos are meaningful and tell a story so simply. I hope these do it justice.

 

 

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

 

(This is Marilyn, Ralph’s daughter. She cares for him, and has for many years- taking him to his appointments, checking in on him, taking him to church, and she’s a nurse, so she made sure he had the best care… she deserves a medal too)Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Here she is. The one he spotted in the train station.

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

 

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

 

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

 

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

Red Deer Portrait Photographer

 

Stylized Photography Sessions

What are Themed Sessions? | Beloved Life Photography

Themed sessions are my jam.

I find them so inspiring and feel like I can be creative in any way I envision. My goal is to get photos of the child(ren) being themselves and uninhibited. Children love to play and pretend- whether it be a superhero, princess, artist, cowboy, ringmaster, or something they have fabricated in their imagination. Whatever it is, I want to grab photos of them in that moment that will portray them in a personal way.

When I mention ‘themed sessions’ to people, most can’t picture what I’m describing… the words ‘prop’ and ‘theme’ are usually associated with something cheesy or tacky. And I agree, they certainly can be. I am careful to include props that only add to the personalization of the photos- nothing to distract from the kids I’m photographing. The point of having a themed session is to show and include what is important or inspiring to these kids at this certain stage in their life. I want them to look at these photos down the road and remember what it was like to have child-like freedom and a busy imagination. (These are the essence of childhood, in my opinion.)

I tend to use wooden swords, bow and arrows, hats, blankets, or any other prop to give them something to interact with and do with their hands. Sometimes they bring their own props and outfits, and sometimes I supply them (I do have a small collection of kids clothes, accessories, and props).

Below are some photos from 4 kids styled sessions. The first is a ‘Wild Boys’ theme, based on the story of Peter Pan. One of the best parts of this session was watching the boys’ faces when we told them to go get dirty; to roll in the dirt and wipe it all over their clothes and on their faces. Kids are always expected and told to be still and smile during photos, so this was a very pleasant surprise for them! I adored showing these brothers that photography doesn’t have to be boring or stiff; that it can be relaxed and enjoyable, and they can just be who they are without standing still and smiling.

All the props and outfits were put together by the brothers’ mom and myself. We just compiled all of our ‘boy stuff’ and it came out beautifully. The wooden sword actually belongs to my husband and was made by his dad when he was young.

 

Stylized Photography Sessions

Stylized Photography Sessions

Beloved Life Photography

Beloved Life Photography

Beloved Life Photography

 

This next series is circus-inspred, which all started with this girl wanting photos with her horse. Instead of doing typical photos, we decided to incorporate lively props and outfits, which resulted in some fun, bold pictures. I found the pants and jacket at a local consignment shop ( Once Upon A Child). The top hat was part of a Halloween costume from Value Village, and the shirt, boots, and whip were provided by this lovely girl.

 

 

 

Themed Sessions

Stylized Photography Sessions

Stylized Photography Sessions

Stylized Photography Sessions

Kid Sessions

 

Inspiration for a themed shoot usually comes to me randomly while I’m driving, listening to music, or playing with my kids. Once I thought about how cool it would be to have an old bed in a forest… then I began visualizing it and knew I wanted to do a ‘Wendy’ theme, based on (yet again) Peter Pan. I had photographed this girl before, and knew she’d be perfect for it, so I sent her mom shopping for a nightie and I got to work on putting the set together. I have a friend who owns a vintage rental company (Something Borrowed Vintage Decor), so she provided the bed and bedding, and a family member of mine has a bunny and leant it to us for the afternoon. It all came together perfectly.

Kids Stylized Sessions

Stylized Photography Sessions

 

Some themed sessions use minimal, simple props, while others take a lot of pre-planning, crafting, and include more elaborate clothing and accessories. Last summer, a friend of mine and I planned a steam punk session, complete with handmade props, smoke bombs, and a trip to a tiny town in rural Alberta. This was a big vision- but the work paid off…

All props and outfits were provided by the girls, or put together by myself, or my friend, Candice. (And yes, her hair really is that blue!)

 

Lastly, my vision for these ‘Dorothy’ photos came from a dress and a dog. I believe I found the dress while shopping at Once Upon a Child, and knew I could use it for a future session, but didn’t have a specific one in mind. Then I remembered that a friend of mine had a huge sheepdog and an adorable daughter, and I thought it’d be perfect for a Wizard of Oz inspired session. I didn’t want it to be a typical outfit, so I thought I’d get some red Converse shoes, to replicate the ruby slippers in a more child-like (and comfortable) way. The underskirt was, again, provided by Tannis at Something Borrowed, as well as the picnic basket. This is simply my take on Dorothy and Toto.

Red Deer Kids Photographer

Red Deer Pet Photography

 

I have a list a mile long, full of ideas for different stylized sessions- like I said, this is my jam.

Thanks for checking out my work and blog… and remember to leave some love in the comments. Also- my Instagram handle is @belovedlifephotogrpahy… just sayin.

Red Deer Grad Photographer

Red Deer Grad Photographer

So what were your grad photos like? Polaroids in your parents’ living room? Awkwardly posed on your front step? Did you even get grad photos? Mine were taken on my dads film camera, rushed and last-minute, with our intoxicated neighbour outside, wondering if the limo was there for her birthday…

Even though the moment was a little stressful (starting with the salon not having my appointment in their books, me having to use duct tape instead of my ill-fitting undergarment, and the limo being late) it was still one I won’t forget. I remember my dress, my tiara, the whole thing… the feeling of finally finishing school and facing the big, scary world. It is a huge accomplishment and comes with feelings of both pride and fear.

Not only is it a goal achieved by the grad, but also the parents. See, my kids are still small. We are still dealing with diaper changes, cartoons, books and songs before an early bedtime, help with zippers, and teaching manners. But I know that it all goes by quickly, and I will wish for the nights that they wake up to cuddle, and prefer mommy and daddy over anyone else. Soon they will grow more and more into the people they were made to be- leaving their dependance on us behind, and taking on the world as best they know how. It’s a scary thought, but I am so excited to see them achieve it all. And one of those milestones they will work for is graduation.

We don’t have prom here, so the closest thing we have is high school graduation… the ceremony is in the morning (complete with the gown, receiving the diploma, and throwing the hat), then in the evening, we dress up in our fanciest gowns, get our hair done, makeup, the whole nine-yards, and have dinner and a dance with our closest family members. After this, there’s an all-night party. It’s a big day. As it should be.

See, this is a big deal. I remember my principal saying that this is the biggest day of your life, so far. And it will only be shadowed by your wedding day, and the day you may have kids. Most of us glazed over all the speeches, waiting for the party in a few hours- but that stuck with me. The biggest day of your life, so far….. and it deserves a celebration!

Grad photos can be anything you want them to be. They can be the simple polaroid taken in an out-dated living room, or a snapshot amidst the stress of the afternoon, or something professionally captured and mounted on the wall. Either way- you need to remember these special days. Celebrate your kids’ accomplishments. Grad is a time that they will always remember- it’s the time when life is simple and easy, and they are faced with a multitude of possibilities. Capture it.

I have had the opportunity to take some grad photos of some stunning girls… both in a casual setting, and in their fancy dresses. These sessions are separate from the actual day- because as I stated, the day of graduation can be very rushed. We set out an afternoon to grab some photos that show who they are, right now.

I would have loved to have had a graduation session like these; granted, I certainly wouldn’t have rocked it like these girls!

Special thanks to Deer Prudence Thrift for hooking us up with the clothes for the casual session, and Ever-Green Greenhouses for allowing us to photograph in their space.

So, what were your photos like?

 

Red Deer Grad Photographer

Red Deer Grad Photographer

Grad Photography Red Deer

Red Deer Grad Photographer

Grad Photography Red Deer

Grad Photography Red Deer

Red Deer Grad Photographer

Grad Photography Red Deer

 

Red Deer Grad Photographer

Grad Photography Red Deer

Red Deer Grad Photographer

 

Thank you for sticking around, and showing all the love and support with this new blogging adventure I’m on. I will have more posts coming up, including more sessions, why I believe in photographing kids and not just whole families, what is involved in the different types of sessions, and some that are just plain informative (all with some of my photos, of course.)

Cheers.

Salt Flats Stylized Session

Do you have one of those friends that is always there to kick you in the bum when you need it? Like, they see the potential in you, and don’t let you forget it, or give up, or give in….

I do. Her name is Candice, and we haven’t been friends that long, but it feels like we have. See, she’s a fellow photographer. Another boss babe. A mamapreneur. A goal digger. Whatever the label, she’s that. And she does not hesitate to remind me of what she sees in me (and she tends to see way more than even I do).

So, when she asked me to come to a Salt Flats Stylized Session workshop in Utah, my initial response was a big old, ‘nope.’ I don’t have the money. I don’t know if I can get someone to watch my kids. The guys putting it on mainly shoot weddings and I don’t want to learn about photographing weddings. I can’t get on a plane. (I don’t fly well. At all.) I don’t even know the guys putting on the workshop. Again, I don’t have the money.

And her response (that I knew was coming), was ‘we’ll figure it all out- you need to come.’ So that’s what we did. We drove 15 hours one-way (to avoid the plane). We figured out the finances. She talked to the photographers putting it on, and they weren’t teaching wedding photography. They were teaching about business development. And personal development. Two things I could use some help on.

The two photographers were Montana Dennis (montanadennis.com) and Chad DiBlasio (diblasiophoto.com) Both have some serious talent.

But, like I said, we weren’t there talking about wedding photography. Or anything technical. Not even social media. We were talking about value. What we put value on, and how it differs between people. And how to value yourself.

We all stayed in a house together for a few days. We ate and drank together. We talked about some really deep stuff. And laughed and even cried. It was well-needed. Not just for my business, but for me.

On the second day, we all packed into a few cars and took a 2 hour drive out to the Bonneville Speedway in the Salt Flats. This place is insane. It used to be this enormous salt lake, but it’s dried up and left this thick crust of pure salt. It’s huge. Like miles and miles of salt. And the Bonneville Speedway is where they break records for the fastest vehicles on earth. Seriously google it- it’s crazy.

Chad and Montana (neither of which are from Utah) had organized a few models for us to photograph and it was a dream. One model from Arizona, a boyfriend and girlfriend, and a couple girls they met the day before, working at Anthropology in the mall. We rotated between them all, taking unreal photos in this mystical place. I took my shoes off to feel it and it wasn’t super comfy. It hurt, actually. Super pokey. (Us Canadians compared it to the look of a frozen lake… but so much cooler)

And I tasted it. Cause hey, it’s just salt!

One thing that’s been on my bucket list for years, is to ride in a car with a professional driver and go ridiculously fast. I don’t want to drive it, cause I would be scared (and I don’t drive standard)… so, since we were in the best place to do so, we tried it. In a Honda Fit. The tiniest car that they have at the rental place. And probably the tiniest engine too. But Chad pushed it to it’s tiny maximum and we broke 100 mph. I was pumped. To see a video of us driving out there, check out my instagram (@belovedlifephotography)

And a trip to the states isn’t complete without visiting Hobby Lobby (Candice’s first time!) and Target. And Chick-Fil-A! That chicken is unbelievably tasty.

We turned back and drive another 15 hours home. Through an incredible snowstorm. Stayed in a bare minimum hotel in Montana, where we watched reality TV and ate pizza. And car karaoked 90’s songs like you wouldn’t believe.

I’d say it was worth listening to that friend who recommended this crazy trip- wouldn’t you?

 

 

 

I’d love it you stick around for future posts, and thanks for being here for this one.

Who is Danielle? Beloved Life Photography

Welcome to my first official blog post as Beloved Life Photography… Some of you may have noticed a change around here, including my business name. I have been “This Beloved Life” since 2006, but recently rebranded and dropped the first word, hopefully making it easier to remember…

Now that that’s out of the way- I’ll tell you a bit about me… Danielle.

I’ve been a photographer since 2006, when I mainly photographed weddings. I’ve now done over 100, and still love to make photos that the bride and groom cherish, but I’ve changed my role, and have been assisting other photographers for a few seasons. It really is a great part of what I do, since I am not wanting to stop wedding photography, but now have more time for my family and other sessions. I simply photograph for the day, then hand over my memory card and relax- no editing for me. And I work with some incredible girls who rock the whole wedding photographer thing… seriously. Shout out to www.candykoated.com and www.lindsaynickel.com

My new inspiration is portraits.

Single, powerful, connected photos of people from toddler to grad. Girls, boys, confident, shy, outgoing, or relaxed… I love themed photo sessions (think Circus-inspired, Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, or the Lost Boys… without cheesy costumes)

But I also feel that simple, natural portraits can portray something that the parents (or even the child) has never seen in themselves. And that is my magic.

 

Some random things about me:

  • I have a son that is six and he loves Pacman and Minecraft. He hates vegetables and haircuts.
  • My daughter is three and is easily bribed with candy and Paw Patrol. She eats anything and everything but is still teeny tiny (I envy this trait)
  • My husband (of 12 years!) works super hard so I can stay home with my kids (and support my thrift store shopping addiction)
  • I love anything that has to do with the Beatles
  • I love Jesus and have dreadlocks and tattoos…a rare combination
  • The Edmonton Oilers are my favourite hockey team and I’ve been a faithful fan throughout their terrible last few years.
  • If I could hire out one job I really dislike, it would be cooking. I hate cooking.

 

 

People sometimes ask where I came up with my business name… and it’s all based around the word, ‘beloved.’ This word has always been a powerful one to me. People always say, ‘I love you. I love her. I love him. I love tacos. I love….’ But when someone says, ‘She’s mine. He is my beloved.’ it just made it deeper and stronger. It’s my power word. So I wanted a business name that used that word, but wasn’t limited to weddings (since that’s what I was photographing at the time)… so I thought about what I wanted people to value.

This BELOVED life.

Another thing people ask me about a lot is my hair (or they just stare and try to figure it out, which is cool too). I’ve had my dreads since 2016 and I love and hate them. They are an excellent conversation piece (yes, I wash them. Yes, I’ll probably have to cut my hair to get them out. I get them maintained every few months, and yes, they are heavy. If it wasn’t in dreads, my hair would be almost down to my bum, and no, nothing lives in them. As far as I know.) But just like anyone else, I often think of changing my hair, but it took a long time and lots of work, so I’m not ready yet. (Sorry mom)

 

 

Beloved Life Photography

My first job was bussing tables at a restaurant on Gasoline Alley, Red Deer. My favourite job (aside from photography, obviously) was teaching preschool. I only did this for a year before I got pregnant with my first, but I’d love to go back one day. The stories those kids tell….and seriously, who wouldn’t want to play and read books all day?

Beloved Life Photography

I am super close to my parents. Not only do we see them multiple times per week, but they live literally 5 minutes from us. They help get my son to school, babysit when I have sessions, help with random projects (like completely gutting and renovating our whole house), and make us supper (remember how much I despise cooking?)… oh! And they randomly show up to shovel my walk and driveway. I know…I can’t believe them either. They are the hardest-working people I know. My mom works at a school AND runs her own home staging business. (Central Alberta Home Staging)

Red Deer Photographer

This is me photographing my daughter… she cried and fussed the whole time- so never feel bad if your kids act out during a session. It happens to ALL of us!

Beloved Life Photography

 

If you’ve read this far, you are a trooper.

Thanks for hanging out with me. I have some exciting posts coming up and would love to share them with you.

And in the comments: What was your first job? Dream job? And what job would you hire out if you could?

D

 

Photos by Candy Koated Photography