Growing roots on Canberra’s mountains

Canberra’s mountains are only hills by anyone’s standard, still we regularly hike up “Mount” Majura, “Mount” Ainslie and Black “Mountain”, so say what you will. Someone else called it that.

Hiking up a hill with our children is one of the funnest things to do as a family. It is also pretty ecologically happy, providing we don’t commute too far to the place of embarking. Even when it is a bit of a drive – say down into Canberra’s National Park area, Namadji – it seems to be worth it for the love of nature it is, hopefully, instilling in the kids and continuing to foster in us.

Hiking one’s own hills is an important part of growing roots, something that is continuing to grow my own thinking around “Connection to Country” and what this means for us today.

While my own childhood was spent frequenting the hill behind my parent’s house – and it is still a place I could walk around during the night with ease, in fact I used to do that – our children tend to climb the peaks that are the closest to us. They already know ‘the bandaid plant’ thanks to an excellent bush tucker tour they attended through their school and we explore other varieties of plant and fungus which pop up along the way. It all excites me and I love sharing this love with my children and seeing them get fired up about it as well.

As a bit of a change, I thought I’d share some pictures from a recent traipse up Mount Majura.

How to take Photos of Your Kids

While I do think a good family portrait session is due every year or two, kids grow so quickly that you want to be able to document their growth on the run throughout the year, at least I do!

There are two ways you can take children’s portraits:

  1. Force them, cajoule them, nag them, bark at them to “stand up straight and smile at the camera!!!”
  2. Let them run around while you play the stealth shooter taking snaps as they do their (beautiful, wondrous, magical) thing!

I’m a fan of the second method (can you tell?) and I’m going to give you a few tips that will have you photographing your kids with ease as you live your lives together.

To start with, the best camera is the one you have at the time! However, I’m a big fan of Fujifilm’s compact cameras. The x100s is a classic, compact and tough little camera. The versatility of the X-T1’s are also excellent for taking day-to-day family photos. They both have large sensors which means you are getting high quality, large format photos for a fraction of the weight (and cost) of the usual full frame DSLR cameras.

Tip 1.

Be conscious to take your camera with you when you know fun times are to be had, like picnics by the lake for example. Have it nearby-ish at home in case a beautiful, captureable moment crops up. Sometimes I can’t be bothered getting off the couch or exiting the moment to retrieve my camera and sometimes I do and the moment is over. It’s a judgement call. I think that sometimes It’s better to take a mental snap and forget the camera. It’s more important for your kids to remember you being a part of the action then always behind the camera.


Tip 2.

While it’s good to leave the camera alone sometimes, I also find taking my kids out on a determined and purposeful photoshoot is a great way to have a fun time together, focused solely on them – my daughter especially loves it, and I’m sure my son secretly does!

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Tip 3.

Don’t just take photos of faces (There’s a tip about capturing faces following). Hands, body posture and activity are just as expressive and show the character of your child. A photo of their knees with grazes and all shows they were active kids and you’ll want to remember that too.


Tip 4. 

Take photos of the details, a little flower in the hair, a cute hair clip or loved teddy, the detail of a well-worn shirt or dress. While the things in themselves may not be important, seeing them years down the track will bring memories of playing with hair, dressing your child, cuddling and even their cute voices and mannerisms from that time.


Tip 5.

Get down to their level! An easy way to drastically improve your capture is to make sure your camera is level with your subject. This is particularly important to remember when photographing a baby. Get down to their level and you get a truer picture.


Tip 6.

When taking photos of faces, don’t assume they must be looking at you. My favourite way to take natural photos of my children is to have them looking at something, searching for the bugs on a bush or drawing with chalk on the pavement.

Set them up so your background is pretty or at least plain and not garish in any way and talk to them about what they are exploring as you quietly snap away.


Tip 7. 

Photograph through some foliage. It softens the whole effect and adds colour and depth to your photograph. Just have it a little off to the side so it doesn’t obscure important details.



Tip 8.

Embrace their ideas. Embrace the absurd. It might work out. More importantly it gets them on your side so you aren’t the one just directing them around…they might not play along if that’s the case!


Tip 9.

When it comes to camera settings for kids make sure your shutter speed is adequate! Try photographing on a sunny day (but in the shade) so that your ISO (that’s your light sensitivity) is the best it can be (that is, the lowest it can be which reduces graininess). If you can set your shutter speed, do that – to at least 400 (which is 400th of a second), and let the aperture take care of itself.

If you’re a little more savvy with your camera, having a wide aperture (that’s a LOW number, 2.8 – 3.2) makes for some stunningly dreamy photographs.

But number one tip for all you novice photographers with a camera phone, just make sure it’s a sunny day and photograph in the shade, or a bright cloudy day is just as good (if not better)!

Good luck! I hope you take the time to have your own little photoshoot with your children. A professional can take photos like these with you included, but doing it yourself is an entirely different and special experience!

Merlo’s family

Merlo is Suze’s beautiful and beloved dog. If you follow her at Petticoat Studio (for the cutest handmade skirts and more) I’m sure you would be familiar with his face.

This is his family at their home in Young, NSW.hewitt-family-lr-15-of-89hewitt-family-lr-16-of-89hewitt-family-lr-21-of-89hewitt-family-lr-23-of-89hewitt-family-lr-30-of-89hewitt-family-lr-34-of-89hewitt-family-lr-40-of-89hewitt-family-lr-41-of-89hewitt-family-lr-50-of-89hewitt-family-lr-55-of-89hewitt-family-lr-63-of-89hewitt-family-lr-69-of-89hewitt-family-lr-71-of-89hewitt-family-lr-73-of-89hewitt-family-lr-76-of-89hewitt-family-lr-87-of-89hewitt-family-lr-89-of-89

The Van Daveys

I love this family. I met Hayley six years ago on top of Mt Panorama in Bathurst when she was registering downhill longboarders, including my hubby and hers, for the ASRA downhill longboarding race down the mountain. They were crazy days. She was so cool, had the best looking mohawk I’d ever seen on anyone ever and had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. Six month old Sophia decided Hayley’s jade necklace was her new best toy and was pretty much glued to her whenever she was around, so we became friends and I’m so glad we’ve managed to stay in touch and I’ve been able to watch her and Owen marry and become really awesome parents to two of the most vibrant kids around (that Juniper is a HOOT!). Yes, I love this family and I loved photographing them A LOT! Can’t wait for the next time!

Hayley is also a fabulous artist running under the name Haeli Van Veen, do check out her work. I can’t wait to have the space and the cash to buy one of her beasts down the track.


The Harricks’ Family

Here are the winners of my facebook competition from last month! As I too am one of six children, it was so great to gift these photos to another family of 8. Spending time with them brought back lots of memories, the fun and rowdiness of having many, loving people around.

I met them at Canberra’s wonderful Arboretum where they jumped straight into their photo shoot. I barely had to tell any jokes to make them laugh. They are pro-laughers! And big-huggers! I truly, truly enjoyed myself, I hope you did too guys and it was so great to meet you! Warm Love!

Vish & Mukta

Mukta & Vish’s photo shoot was done over two sessions. We did a portrait session at a beautiful public park in Young and then I was invited to photograph their housewarming ceremony on a morning a few days later. I had a lot of fun with these guys. They laughed at my non-jokes and played along nicely, I even managed to get a few of them into the fairly dry creek bed!

The housewarming was incredible. I am fascinated by other cultures. The Hindu culture is one I find particularly alluring. It is an old culture and has absorbed so many streams of thought over the centuries. I did a little study into religions through my uni degree and the fluidity of the Hindu ways extremely interesting to me. The Hindi word dharma, loosely ‘religion’, encompasses a broad understanding of ways and practices and the range within what we call Hinduism is extensive, so I don’t feel I can do it justice, simply take it as it is and be enthralled by it!

One of the beautiful things of Hinduism, and perhaps Indian tradition, is it’s celebration of life! The joy, the colour, the sound, the physical nature of their rituals and ceremonies, the way their traditions involve the whole family, I loved how during this celebration…which I think was all in Sanskrit? (so I didn’t understand a word!)…the children made noise, people were busy in the kitchen right next to the ceremony area, and everyone came and went either as they pleased or as the ceremony demanded it….I couldn’t have been sure. It just seemed like a lot of fun with everyone getting into it! Through it all the Priest just kept going and I kept on clicking away. What. A. Treat. I love that photography gets me into other people’s worlds like this!!

Lisa & Fred

When I think of Lisa and Fred’s wedding I think of the detail. Lisa put so much of herself into her wedding through each decoration, the flowers (one of my favourites, hydrangeas, simply done but packed with meaning), heartfelt messages, the care she exhibited to her guests such as providing individual fans and an enormous lolly table, I mean, who doesn’t need lollies at a wedding!

I continually find myself re-evaluating wedding photography, the industry just seems so overdone, so pompous sometimes, but the industry is not the individual, and a wedding is a wonderful thing. It is a celebration, the kind of celebration we in the West often forgo in our busy lives. Yes, it is important to celebrate LOVE (love is one of the best things we have got going down here!), it is equally important to invest some time and money into showing other people how much we care about them and it is not an extravagance to indulge each other on these occasions. Okay, often it is an extravagance, but it should be! That’s the point. We should spoil each other, we should go out of our way to get creative with these events, we should throw a party for other people, and that’s the vibe I got from this wedding. Love was indulged in and it came through in the detail, in each hug and touch, each paper pom-pom, each lolly bag. It made me love weddings yet again.

Thanks, Lisa and Fred for letting me be a part of your big day. I won’t forget it! xx

Wild and Free Kids

I am an advocate of children running wild and free through nature (it’s the hippie in me – thanks for that gene, mum!) and I love to watch my kids doing that too. I’m pretty happy that we managed to find this tangle of trees and plants just a hop, skip and jump away from our own home and the kids and I love to go and hang out there.

I’ve done this every year, take my children to do a photo shoot. As a mum it’s fantastic to do this, I am able to see and appreciate their incredibly fast growth year by year, sometimes us mums can miss this happening before our very eyes! And as a photographer I love to do this too. I can take as much time as I want, control the conditions (choose the day, timing and clothing…that’s as far as I can go actually!) and experiment (my kids are pretty patient with the posing!).

Here are the results. Such a privilege to watch children explore and create in their own worlds, they have such amazingly creative brains when they are young. Get your kids outside! Find a place to get muddy! I recommend it!


The Veikkanen’s

There’s a lot to love about family photography, one thing is capturing the love and relationship that has deepened and developed since a couple’s wedding day (speaking photographically from wedding to families and so on) and the other is the chance to take a family on a rumpus through the woods. The reality is that it’s really a chance for the kids to lead and they take us adults into the best of places. If you’re prepared to crawl and perhaps get a little muddy then it’s worth it in the end, if only for the memories! We had a lot of fun and mucking around with these kids was awesome.

The McIntosh Family

This family was just so fun and amazing to photograph. I was able to play with a few different ideas and they happily went along. In the end it was hard to drag myself away on a relaxing Saturday morning, and they kept trying to feed me, but taking the time was worth it as I ended up with some images which are now some of my very favourites!

If you book a newborn shoot with me this is very much what it will end up being like, in your own home with lots of interaction among the family. I love this, it’s the way it’s done around here!


The Windhorsts

Julie got off the plane looking a million dollars. After a few weeks on the Gold Coast they returned to Canberra and I grabbed them for a family photoshoot in one of Canberra’s many parks (Canberra is a photographer’s paradise for locations, lucky city!). I’m glad they were so game to get into it. We found some beautiful spots for the children to play where I could photograph them naturally and discovered on old bridge to climb on.

Finding spots like this is a great bonus of having a photoshoot in an unexplored park.

At the Cotter

I shot Keren and her baby bump many moons ago now. That bump has revealed itself as a delightful fourth member to their little family and it was my pleasure to photograph them recently.