Sunset in Lapland

Lapland trip to see Santa with Canterbury Travel

Lapland... the most wonderful holiday ever!

We have just got back from the most amazing trip to Luosto in Lapland.  It totally beat every expectation I had!  I was going to do a small blog about photography in Lapland for my beginners camera workshops (scroll down), but so many people have asked questions about whether I’d recommend it I thought I’d give a bit of an overview!

We did the Magical Interlude with Canterbury Travel and cannot recommend it enough!  More on them later…

What age is best for your children to enjoy Lapland?

We went with our 6 1/2 year old and our 3, almost 4 year old.  They both totally bought into every aspect of what we did.  From the elves showing them around their bedrooms, to the wise words Santa gave them.  Every part of the trip was magical for them.  Both my boys I would say are quite hardy when it comes to being outside, they are happy to get dirty and walk quite far as we go outside a lot as a family.  My eldest isn’t keen on the cold but I knew with the layers he would be fine and could decide how many layers etc he would wear.  So in terms of the general cold and the logistics of getting snow suits on and off and walking through thick snow, their ages were perfect.  We didn’t need buggies and actually even if our youngest had been younger we were given toboggans to get around the resort, so it would have just been on the excursions he’d have needed carrying.

hot chocolate in Lapland

What I would say, is that with our youngest you could notice that the tiredness and weather took its toll slightly more than it did the eldest.  He is still at that age where moods are dictated by food/sleep/routine etc and although he would go outside in shorts at home come December, in the more tired hours he was partial to the odd meltdown if his face felt too cold – fair enough, but we think that maybe a year older would have been the more perfect time for him perhaps.  This is hard though, as unless you have one child, you will never have a time that is perfect for all of them; I wanted them both to believe and as we have a baby on the way I didn’t want to wait another 3-4 years, so this was our perfect time and I am quite happy to sacrifice a few meltdowns for that (he was also more than ok on the whole, just not so keen in getting a snowball in the face from his brother when tired – totally fair enough when you’re three!).  He understood it all and the questions that came from him were amazing (wow how does Santa know my name?)! but there was also one moment where the cheeky elves raced the kids to the coach and joked they were going to steal our seats. That almost brought out a few tears as being 5 months pregnant I  honestly didn’t have the energy to run and beat them.  They beat us and he thought the elves were replacing mummy and daddy and he was a bit worried I’d disappeared (but after a quick explanation he was fine)!  My 6 year old thought it was the best, funniest thing ever, by comparison.  Other than that, the trip blew both of them away.

What clothes do you need to pack?  Is the cold unbearable?

We were told by Canterbury Travel to wear what you would on a cold winters day, and with the snow suits on over the top, this was perfect!  We did, however, over pack, massively!  We went for three nights and took two suitcases and we could have easily taken one, I think.  However, when we were there (8th-11th December), the majority of the day time was about -6 which wasn’t that cold with snowsuits on.  We had one day that started at -11 and went to -20 felt bitterly cold and I wish that day I had worn more. If  I had put on two pairs of socks and an extra top underneath I would have felt fine.  The rest of the time the cold didn’t bother us.

With our trip, we were not outside all day, we would do something outside, then get back on the coach or go inside for lunch or for a talk so you are constantly going from freezing weather to warm environments.  So I thought what worked better was wearing thinner clothes but layering up, rather than big thick jumpers, as when you did have a big jumper on, you felt like you were overheating when you got back on the bus or inside.  With thick jumpers it’s also harder to partially remove the top half of your snowsuit and sit comfortably.  My suggestions based on our trip with Canterbury travel:

  • Layers rather than big jumpers – vest tops for the kids, long sleeve tops, thin fleeces or sweatshirts (I got loads from Mountain Warehouse at a great price.  I also found hooded tops worked well as extra protection for the ears!
  • Thick waterproof gloves
  • Under layer gloves (only for the really, really cold days – I didn’t actually use these).  Lots of people spoke about silk gloves.
  • Thick ski socks, again I bought from mountain warehouse, and on the cold days I wore two pairs.
  • Snoods – I wrapped mine around my face/hat when it was snowing as you tend to get colder face then as it’s wet.  I could also take it off if my youngest was struggling and give to him.
  • Thin scarf – I took a pashmina type one that tucked under my snowsuit nicely and acted as an extra layer around my chest and neck.
  • Hats – We had at least two each just incase we lost one.
  • Leggins for everyone, so much easier to get snowsuits over and work great on cold days as an extra layer under trousers.

What you are provided with (remember this is based on our magical Interlude trip with Canterbury Travels):

One snow suit (which is an all in one and really lovely and warm and waterproof) and warm snow boots.  We wore these everywhere, even to dinner in the evening and then just removed the snowsuit once we got there.

We also had a warming cupboard which meant our hats / gloves etc would be try in half an hour if we needed them to be.  Definitely worth checking if you have one in your room.

 

EXTRA TIP – TAKE SNACKS!  With two boys and a 6ft 4 husband I tend to be laden with food most of the time anyway!  But snacks came in real handy for when on the coach.  I think the kids are so engrossed in what they are doing they don’t notice that are hungry but as soon as we got on the bus we had a lot of ‘I’m thirsty/hungry’ and we had biscuits, apples, water bottles, crisps, fruit bars etc to keep them going.  It’s very physical during the day and there are set times for lunch.  It also helped if the journey was a bit longer to pass some time.

Would I recommend Canterbury Travel?

100 million percent!

It is such a slick operation.  From the moment you are picked up, you are part of the most magical, well thought out secret that ensure the children will believe in Santa for years to come!  I don’t want to post too much about how they do things as I actually loved the element of not knowing, but here are a list of some of the things we did:

Husky ride (you drive, the kids are passengers)

Snowmobile rides with the kids and without the kids

Reindeer safari and talk from family that run the farm

Meet the huskies – we met a puppy!

Trip to the elves post office in the forest

Trip to the elves place of sleep

Story with one of the elves in their lounge

Trip to Wendy Woods house where you meet Mrs Clause and Santa.

We found Santa party (which was epic)

Plus our resort had toboggan runs, which the kids loved.  The kids go everywhere in toboggans at the resort as they are outside all of the buildings, it’s a great way to get them around.

 

The whole trip is focused on the search for Santa and there are 5 key elves that the kids come to know and love, that help you along the way.  There was also a brilliant song that gets repeated throughout your journey and keeps everyone in the Christmas spirit throughout.

The people that work there, are simply fantastic and I would say it’s money well spent to pay a little but extra and know that you are getting a completely hassle free, top of the range Santa experience.  After all if you’re going to go all that way you may as well make it a trip to remember!

There wasn’t one thing I would say was a disappointment.  We stayed in a log cabin with bunk beds and a sauna in the bathroom!  It was amazing and really added to the experience.

What were my favourite things to photograph in Lapland?

Snowmobile ride - settings: Shutter Speed 1/500th Aperture F2.2 ISO 1250

snowmobile ride in lapland

Lots of the activities happen in darkness or at dusk as we only had around 4-5 hours of light a day.  This makes for amazing photo opportunities when you have lights on snowmobiles or torches illuminating the paths!    In order to freeze the motion for this photo I needed a fast enough shutter speed – so I always had it at at least 1/250th or over.  Because it was so dark I bumped the ISO up a bit but you can see not a huge amount considering how dark it was, this is because of the lights from the snowmobile giving me more flexibility.  I wanted to keep it dark enough that you could see the pink colours too.  If I had made this photo much lighter I would have lost them.

Silhouettes in the sunset - Settings :Shutter Speed 1/800th Aperture f2.2 ISO 1250

Sunset in Lapland

Silhouettes against the sunset.  This can be trees, reindeers, your kids doing star jumps, elves, santas sleigh you name it!  Here I just loved the silhouette of the teepee against the purple/ pink sky (which by the way I have not edited at all).

In order to do this I needed to underexpose slightly as when I brought my exposure up (either by using a wider aperture/ faster shutter speed or bumping the IS0) The sky became lighter and the colour wasn’t as vibrant.

Fun in the snow - Shutter Speed 1/500th Aperture f2.2 ISO 1250

snowball fight in Lapland

Snowfights and sledging.  This is usually an easy shot to get if it’s during daylight as you can freeze motion with a fast shutter speed, whilst having a wide aperture and not needing your ISO up high.  For example, here I wanted to get crisp photos rather than capturing the blur of the snow or the movement so I used Shutter speeds of 1/500 and because it was a bright day I didn’t need to compromise the quality of the photo with a high ISO and therefore lots of grain.

Snow Bokeh - Settings: Shutter speed 1/160th f2.8 ISO 6400

Snow Bokeh

Falling Snowdrops or snow bokeh.  I like to shot wide open (a wide aperture) in most of my photography apart from when I have groups of people at different layers within a photograph.  So this was a fairly typical shot for me.  But in a nutshell, when the snow is falling, if you focus on something in the background (in this case the reindeers) everything in front will be out of focus which means that the snowdrops create this lovely blurry bokeh affect. I  also had my shutter speed fairly slow (the reindeer weren’t moving) which helped as it wasn’t snowing that heavily, had it been super fast I might not had got as much snowfall (to the eye, it didn’t look like it was snowing much at this point).  And my ISO was fairly high making my camera sensitive to the light it’s taking in.

What camera should I take to Lapland?

I was toying as to whether I should leave my larger camera at home (Nikon D750) and just stick to my Sony A600 which is a lot smaller.  However I was really pleased I took both.

The Sony A600 I find struggles in low light, which is most of the day in lapland!  I mean it’s fine if your subject is fairly still and of course you can use a flash, but for me I wanted to have the flexibility to photograph us whilst moving during the activities we did, or the boys having snowball fights and just generally feel confident that when I got home I would have some sharp (albeit it quite noisy because I had to use a high ISO at times) photos.  I do 90% of my work using my Sigma Art 35mm lens and this worked a treat for me as It’s wide angle and could get some amazing shots when outside, and still get nice close ups of the boys.  I just needed to do some cropping when I edited some of the ones from our times inside with Santa  or the elves as I couldn’t always move to where I wanted to be and got a lot of other people in some.  I could have also taken my 24-70mm which is a great allrounder for the types of photos I wanted but for me I prefer my 35mm.  Just personal preference.

I used my Sony A600 to photograph the build up of excitement on the plane and airport and also at home when we gave them the news that they were going.  It meant that I could pack my main camera in my case.

Another reason I liked having my larger body, was because I find it easier to hold and control with gloves on!  I actually got the hang of rotating the aperture dial with them on and my Sony would have been too small to do that and at times its as far too cold to remove the gloves!

I packed extra batteries but actually didn’t need them as when I was out I kept my body covered in a scarf (not sure if that helped). We didn’t have as cold a days either than some people I had read about whose batteries were draining quickly.  And it was always in a rucksack when not being used wrapped in clothes.  I did have to watch out for the condensation when going from outside to in but just checked the lens and body before I put the camera away.

5 tips when taking photographs in Lapland

  1. Get to know your camera, don’t just rely on your phone.  Cameras (especially those on the phone) need help working out light situations.  They overcompensate by adding more light or less light when you don’t want them to.  It’s worth getting to grips with your camera to get some photos you’ll actually print and look back on!  Learn what Aperture mode / Shutter mode are, learn about ISO and how to use your flash.
  2. Don’t be scared to bump up your ISO.  ISO is the cameras sensitivity to light and when you’ve got your aperture as wide open as it will go but you need a fast shutter speed – the ISO is your next option to make the photo brighter.  You will get grainy photos if it’s very high / especially if it’s high but still a darkish photo.  But these will still be fine to print 6 x 4 size or to put in a photobook.
  3. Don’t be scared to use flash. I used flash a lot, when outside, photographing the kids jumping in the snow and when inside at the party or seeing Santa.  It means I’m getting well exposed images every time and I didn’t have to keep adjusting my settings.  I chose to use my ISO when I wanted to get the feel that it was dark (more for my landscape shots) and use the flash when I was photographing the kids and wanted their faces exposed correctly or when I was inside.
  4. Switch to TV or S mode when photographing activities like the kids tobogganing or snowball fights.  This gives you complete control over how fast the shutter moves and will mean you can freeze motion when you want to and get nicely sharp, focused shots.  The camera will work out what
  5. Keep your spare batteries and camera equipment warm if you are going when it is very cold.  As I said I think part of my luck was that we didn’t have -30 like some!  Take cloths to wipe the lenses and to wipe the viewfinder as that also got steamy at times.

I hope you found this interesting!  You can book on to one of my latest camera workshops here


sisters laughing in leaves

Autumn Photography Tips

LOVE AUTUMN?  THEN READ ON TO SEE MY TOP TIPS WHEN PHOTOGRAPHING YOUR LOVED ONES IN AMONGST THE LEAVES THIS YEAR

FIND A GREAT LOCATION

In Buckinghamshire and Berkshire we are absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to autumnal spots.  There are the obvious places such as Clivedon    that are brimming with trees and forest walks for miles.

Larger places like this are amazing to visit particularly if you want to really take in the landscape and how the oranges and reds frame and form the spectacular views.

However, do not discount your local parks, I have found many local recreation grounds or parks are lined at the edges with large trees that change to spectacular colours at this time of year.  You normally just have to be careful when positioning yourself and whoever you’re photographing so you avoid the buildings / playgrounds in the background.  Or get up to your subjects nice and close.

Some of my favourite places to visit at this time of year are, Burnham Beeches, Kidwells Park (pictured below), Langley Park (pictured below), The Look Out

The things I look out for are lots of open space, so that there is enough light to give my subjects bright faces. But with the colours in the surrounding areas.  I like places with lots of leaves on the floor, rather than a green grass, the leaves add another dimension to the photos.  And I also look for trees / branches / logs to create interest in the photos and also to sit young children on, so that I can get lovely portraits with gorgeous blurry yellows and reds behind them.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT CLOTHING

Autumn is my favourite season for dressing up!  Clothing really can add so much to autumnal pictures.  There are a couple of things to consder:

1 – Colour

The main colours within nature at this time, are yellow, brown, red, orange, green. So I suggest that the people I am photographing wear a combination of those colours.  You don’t have to break the bank, places like Asda are really great at stocking fabulous burgundy jumpers, beige cords, orange pinafores.  There is so much choice out there.  Alternatively, what also works well, is to look at these colours on the colour wheel and go for opposite tones.  So the opposite of reds and yellows would be blues, green and purples.  Using these colours within your clothing can really make your subject stand out.

2- Accessorise

Is there anything cuter than a child wrapped up warm in a bobble hat?  Some of my favourite pictures of the kids are from autumn where they are in their wellies and hats.  Don’t just stop there though, fur gilets, scarfs, long knee length socks, gloves, cardigans look fab on the kids and obviously adults as well!

3- Don’t ignore the shoes!  Shoes in autumn, more than ever can really make an outfit.  Don’t dress the kiddies in lovely clothes and then put scruffy old trainers on if you can help it!

THINK ABOUT YOUR LENS CHOICE - AUTUMNAL BOKEH IS AWESOME

I like to use my 35mm lens for my family sessions which is a wide angle lens that picks up a lot of detail and gives a more contrasty affect to my images.  I like the fact that I can be far away from my clients and also get really close up.  I believe this lens allows me to capture the connection between families and focus on that and the light and not much else!

A 35mm or 50mm are also great to get shots of the kids lying in the leaves as well, you will have to stand over them.

I do use my 70-200 lens for a small portion of the session, if there is a low hanging tree, or branch that I can sit people on, to create a more classic portrait with some fabulous blur.

During autumn, I would definitely suggest trying different lenses to get a variety of different types of images.  Play with your longer focal lengths to see where you get the best bokeh (blurry background).  In autumn, the colours, mixed with the light, can create some beautiful results.

Obviously you can also do this using a 50mm or a 35mm if you are close to your subject and have them slightly forward from the tree/bush behind, as long as you choose a fairly wide aperture.  The wider the aperture, the less there is in focus in the picture (because the depth of field is smaller).  Both of the images below were shot at around f2.8-4.  On my 70-200 the widest aperture is 4 but because I have such a long focal length (200mm)  can create fantastic blur as below.

 

Remember, when photographing kids, you don’t want to use a shutter speed lower than 1/250th, ideally 1/500th of a second if you can. This will ensure yo get sharp images rather than blurry, soft images.

MAKE THE MOST OF THE LIGHT

I am always banging on about golden hour and scheduling my sessions toward the end of the day when the light is lower, but I find autumn light is just that much more twinkly and special!  Try to get out a couple of hours before the sun goes down which is so much easier in autumn with young children as it’s earlier.  You will find that the light is softer and as long as you are not shooting directly into the light you won’t get the haze, instead you’ll see the light making the reds and yellows more saturated and golden – it’s just lovely.

Don’t be scared if there is a lot of bright sunshine, which there often is at this time of year.  Make use of the low hanging trees or shaded spots and turn your subjects faces towards the open sky.  Local parks are often, as mentioned, lined with tall trees, so position your subject under one (at the edge of the shade).  Likewise if it’s a cloudy day, you can make the most of the natural light diffusion and pretty much photograph your subjects anywhere!

DON'T GO TO FAR NTO THE FOREST

If you go into the woods today…

Well you won’t be in for a surprise but you will get dull, dark faces and what we call ‘colour casts’, which is where the light is reflecting the colour of your surroundings onto your face.  For example if you are in the woods, you would get dark brown, yellow, green colour on your face rather than illuminating your face to show its natural colour with bright open skylight.

So always find autumnal colour within big open spaces if you can help it.

I hope you found this helpful!  If you'd like to book a professional photo shoot with me please get in contact fiona@fionanormanphotography.com or fill out the form below.  I also run beginners photography courses - next one is November 16th, click here to found out more


    White balance

    BEGINNERS PHOTOGRAPHY - WHY WHITE BALANCE IS IMPORTANT

       SETTING YOUR WHITE BALANCE

    So, on my beginners photography courses, we aim to get people out of the Auto shoot setting and using one of the harder settings, either Aperture mode (AV) or Shutter Speed mode (TV/S) or Manual Mode (M).

    beginners photography

    This gives users the control over how much they want in focus, how much they want to blur as well as getting sharp images if they are photographing a fast moving child / animal or sports for example.
    Once people master this, their results are automatically improved.

    However, before we even get to this point, we talk about the things people CAN keep on AUTO.

    I completely understand, that for many people, the idea of having a camera is exciting but the reality is that there are a lot of buttons and settings that they have no clue about.  As a result, when they start getting bad results, they panic and just put the camera away – too scary!  Plus the manuals are LONG.
    Well, this is the reason we go though the settings that we can effectively, ignore.  So that people don’t feel as though they are missing something and not doing a good job.
    But to ignore them, you have to understand what they do and why you can ignore them – and the why, is because we are going to keep them on auto and let then camera manage it for us.
    THERE ARE THREE THINGS I SUGGEST YOU KEEP ON AUTO, ONE OF THESE IS WHITE BALANCE

           WHAT IS WHITE BALANCE?

    White balance refers to the colour of the light recorded by the camera. Not all light is the same colour or what we call, temperature.  Put very simply, some light is more blue in colour, some is white, some is yellow/orange.  Midday sunlight, is what we would refer to as ‘normal’ in colour, where as a household light bulb, will be more orange and a cloudy day would render more blue.

    White balance

    THE IMAGE ABOVE SHOWS HOW A LOVELY WHITE IMAGE CAN BE RUINED BY THE WHITE BALANCE BEING OFF

    WHY IS WHITE BALANCE IMPORTANT?

    When we take our pictures, there are many white balance settings that can account for these different conditions, and compensate for the different colours, to make the picture seem “normal” or neutral.  For example, if you  take a picture in a house with a lightbulb on, the light is very orange, so the camera will add more blue to compensate, likewise if you are taking a picture in a very shady spot outside, the camera will add more orange to compensate for the ‘cool’ temperature, or the blue.

    white balance temperature

            MAKES SENSE, RIGHT?

    The problem with these settings, if you don’t know that they are there, is that if you accidentally knock one, you end up with awful looking pictures as the camera uses that white balance setting, no matter what the colour of the light!
    It is amazing how many people come to my courses with their white balance on a wrong setting, resulting in all of their images being blue, or yellow.
    So we talk thorough it, and then explain that we need to make sure it is always on AUTO going forward until they get to the point that they want to set the colour manually as I do.
    As you can see from the pictures below, the white balance settings I selected, really affected the colour and overall feel.

    1) INCANDESCENT
    The “blue” one was set on Incandescent (which is the lightbulb setting when you scroll through).  This colour temp was around 2600K.  You can see that because the camera thinks it has to compensate for lightbulb light (orange) it has included more blue in the picture, but because we don’t have the yellow/orange that it’s expecting the overall picture is blue.

    white-balance-blue

    2) DAYLIGHT
    The next one was set to daylight, this is around 5050k.  As you can see this is a nice white looking temperature.   It is more of a neutral colour, however because it was a bit of a cloudy day, it was still quite cool.

    3) AUTO
    The next image was taken using AUTO.  In this instance, it has warmed the image up nicely, as I was out on a cloudy day but there was a lot of sky above and infront of us.  This is definitely my preferred choice of white balance for this exercise.

    4) CLOUDY
    The last image, was taken using the Cloudy setting.  Here you can see the camera has added a lot more orange (As it thinks, rightly so that we are in a very cloudy place with lots of blue light).  As a result, the image looks a lot warmer at around 10,500k.

    As you can see, Cloudy worked fine although it was ever so slightly too pinky/ orange in my opinion.  Personally, I would have set it somewhere in-between the Cloudy and the Auto, because that’s my personal taste when it comes to the colour of my images.
    However you would certainly not be disappointed with AUTO in this instance.  It is 100% the best choice to use when you are trying to get to grips with your camera as it’s one less thing to worry about.  Especially if you are outside on one of those days where the sun is coming in and out of the clouds.
    And you can see, that if you knock your white balance onto the wrong setting without realising, that all of your pictures, whether inside, outside, sun or shade will be affected by the choice, and not represent what is actually needed.
    To find your white balance settings, you will either need to press the button that says WB on the back of your camera and then across through the choices, or go to your menu or info display until you find it.
    I hope you find this useful!

    There are two spots left on my next workshop which is on the 22nd June in Windsor!  BOOK HERE


    Best Photographer in Berkshire

    Best Photographer in Berkshire!

    I'm a finalist in the Muddy Stiletto awards for the Best Photographer in Berkshire!

    I am absolutely over the moon to share with you that I have made the FINALS of the muddy Stiletto awards for BEST PHOTOGRAPHER IN BERKSHIRE!

     

    Muddy stilettos is an absolutely awesome company that really value great local businesses and provide up to date info on the absolute best places to visit and best companies to use within the area.  I am included amongst some amazing companies that I really value myself, pubs like the Hinds Head in Bray and the Old Bell in Hurley (love it there), places to take the kids like the Little Gym, Windsor and The Jelly Lounge, spa’s like Nirvana Spa and Clivedon (my fave place ever!) and the other photographers in the category are fabulous also!

     

    I never really enter awards through lack of time really! but this means so much to me as I have been nominated by my clients and the votes since have got me to the finals!

     

    Please please please, vote for me.  I am not going to lie, it would mean so much! And I really want to win!!  It takes two seconds and I will appreciate it more than you know!

    https://berkshire.muddystilettos.co.uk/vote/


    Photographing the bluebells - hints and tips!

    If you're wanting to get out an photograph the bluebells, now is the time.  Read on to get the best bluebell pictures over this next week.  Top tips from me below!

    Time of day and weather

    This year we have had amazing weather and one of the things I always hear is that people think bright sunshine is the best for outside photographs.  This is definitely not the case, especially during the bluebell season.  Not only, does the sun create squinting in pictures and means you have to think twice as hard as to where to position your subjects, it also means that you have harsh shadows and bright distracting spots to contend with.  Instead, on a sunny day, choose 6pm onwards or get up very early, as the sun will be lower and you’ll start to get softer shadows and golden spots throughout the trees.  The bluebells will also be more prominent rather than the light bouncing off the green and reducing the impact of the blue.

    If it is an overcast day, fear not!  You can actually get some gorgeous photos still, and you don’t have to worry about the above, you can pretty much place your subject anywhere.

    Angle and positioning

    There are lots of distracting elements in the bluebell woods.  My top tip is to try to find a spot where there are not many branches behind your subject.  It’s very easy to get a photo with a branch or tree sticking out of someones head, and once you see it, you can’t ever un see it!

    One of the things you can do to help is get down low.  This gets your lens on the same level as your subjects head which hopefully might be below the branches, plus it means you are In amongst the bluebells and will get some lovely foreground blur.

    baby-photos

    Light

    Find as much open space as you can.  This is actually harder than it sounds as the best bluebell spots are often deep into the woods.  What you want to aim for, is a spot where there aren’t lots of trees directly in front of your subjects face.  You want clear sky, or open space in front, so that the blue and green colours are NOT reflecting light onto the face, but the open space is what’s being reflected instead.

    bluebells-berkshire

    Lens choice

    I usually shoot with a 35mm lens, which is a wide angle lens.  But the bluebell woods pose two related issues for this lens.  1) It picks up all of the distracting elements, like logs, branches, brambles.  I don’t want these in my pictures, I want the two dominant things to be the subjects and the blue/purple flowers.  2) The blur isn’t the same.  With a longer lens I can zoom in (I use a 70-200 and generally stay at the 200 end) which creates amazing blur, even at F4.  It’s much nicer to create a blurry purply, blue carpet or sea of bluebells rather than a picture with logs, trees, branches and the occasional bluebell surrounding them.

    Find clear paths!

    The bluebells are so beautiful but they are also precious and we need to preserve them.  Try to encourage your children to find clear pathways and spots to sit where there are bluebells either side of them but not in the siting space.  If you get down low as I suggest above, you won’t see the bare nature of where they are sitting, the bluebells with be covering it.

    bluebells

    My favourite places to visit the bluebells in the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire area near me

    Amersham, Chalfont, Beaconsfield region…

    Hedgerly Church Woods, Hedgerly

    Phillips Wood, Chorleywood

    Holyport, Binfield, Bracknell region…

    Popes Meadow, Binfield

    Ockwells Park, Maidenhead (this are scarce some years)

    Bisham Woods, near Marlow / Pinkeys Green

    Taplow, Burnham, Slough region…

    Clivedon woods, Taplow (go into the main house carpark and walk to the woodlands)

    Cocksherd Bluebell woods, Britwell

    What to wear

    IF YOU'D LIKE MORE INFO ON A FAMILY SESSION WITH ME, FIONA NORMAN, COMPLETE THIS FORM BELOW.

    You want to wear something that doesn’t contend with the blue of the bluebells and just compliments it.  For this reason I always recommend blue, denim, lilac, grey, cream and I actually also love yellow too as these are opposites in the colour wheel and look great together.


    Positive Parenting with Josie Meet up

    EXCITING OPPORTUNITY FOR ANY FAMILIES THAT LOVE BEING OUTSIDE

    Myself (Fiona Norman) and Josie from Positive Parenting with Josie are holding a very relaxed photo shoot on the 12th April to capture some natural, candid photos of children and families playing together.  We would like to invite anyone from Josie’s Private Facebook group to join us (we will need to cap it at ten families to make sure it’s worthwhile for everyone attending).

    We will use your photographs to promote and advertise our business, including (a) in our studio and in our printed publications, presentations, promotional materials (including leaflets, brochures, stickers, bookmarks, posters, factsheets, calendars); (b) on our website and other digital advertising of our services; and (c) in social media forums such as Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

    We will ensure every child that attends has a photograph taken and we will endeavour to take family photographs also if you’d like to get in the picture.  The majority of photos with be natural ones of the children interacting and playing with their friends and siblings.  We hope it will be a really fun afternoon, a chance to catch up with everyone and also support two local businesses.

    As a thank you, you will receive a free download of your favourite image from the session, a £50 voucher off a photo shoot with Fiona and 15 minute call from Josie.  You will be able to buy extra photos if you wish to at £30 each.

    Photos will be available to view around 3- 4 weeks after the session.

    If you would like to take part, please complete the form below and tell us how many of you and what ages your children are.

    Oh and just a few things we suggest for the session:

    HAVE FUN!

    DRESS HOWEVER YOU WANT TO (Fancy dress, weird outfit combinations totally fine if that’s what they like!)

    NO SAYING CHEESE! (we don’t need them to be on their best behaviour or doing fake smiles for the camera.  I am well equipped with appropriate jokes, stories and instructions to get the kids feeling relaxed and smiling naturally).

    BRING A PICNIC – We can all sit and chat and eat together!

    Josie Taylor

    Saville Gardens Windsor

    WHERE AND WHEN

    We will be meeting at 4pm at Saville Gardens, by the playground which is near the cafe.

    We’ll let the children play in the playground / run around in the open space by the playground and Josie will try to coordinate a few games to get the kids interacting and having fun.

    For anyone that wants to hang around a bit later, we may, depending on how the kids feel walk down to the lake and take some sunset pictures which, if it’s a nice day will be truly beautiful.

    So excited to meet you!

    Fiona

    PLEASE COMPLETE THE FORM BELOW IF YOU'D LIKE TO JOIN US SO WE CAN SEND YOU DETAILS!


    baby-sleeping-in-maidenhead

    What does a newborn gallery include?

    Every wondered how many different newborn baby photos are in a gallery?

    The answer is usually around 35 .  I like to keep it this around this amount because otherwise it gets a bit too overwhelming and my clients end up debating over two images that are very similar.  Sometimes it inevitably becomes more though.  I try to give as much variety as possible.

    To give you an insight, here are some examples of how my head works, when running through my sessions.  Obviously there isn’t a set list as such.  But I aim to get a range of different images within these categories:

    The details

    The newborn time is a unique one in photo shoot terms, as it’s a very short space of time before the baby will look totally different.  As newborn photographers we are quite privileged to be the ones that get to meet these little bundles before a lot of other people.  I also feel quite honoured to be able to give parents the space and time to just sit and watch their baby.  I know that sounds silly, but when you are at home with a newborn, you are busy when they are sleeping.  You are busy tidying, or replying to everyone, or showering, or sleeping yourself!  It’s vary rare to just get an hour to watch how beautiful they are uninterrupted.  This is why it’s important to get these images of the details, because it’s the things you end up staring at that will soon be gone.  The pouty lips, the bubbles they blow, the downy hair, the slightly greasy hair on the head, the dimpled hands, the flaky skin.  You just can’t capture these on a smart phone!  And if you don’t get them, one day they’ll be a distant memory.  But they are EVERYTHING that is special to this time.

    The baby sleeping

    These are the shots that grandparents love!  That we love to frame!  I want to give people the opportunity to see how amazingly cute their baby is just on their own with no distraction!  When I had my own newborn photos done, it was the one of my own asleep on his tummy that I absolutely loved!

    Baby with their parents

    Capturing the connection, the love, the amazement, often the story behind how they got to this point, is bloody awesome!  Everyone has their own unique story and I like to think of our photo shoot as a way of celebrating that your baby is finally here. The connection between a baby and their parents is probably the easiest thing to photograph and one of the most rewarding.

    Siblings with baby

    I guess, in business terms this is what we’d call ‘The Money Shot’.  These images are the ones that the grandparents will frame, the parents will frame, the parents that come to me will share on fb proudly.  No matter what the age of older siblings are, we can always get a fabulous shot.  If they’re older it helps as we can pose the baby on them, but if they are 2/3 like a lot of them are, I set the session up so that they wondering in and out and I snap them as and when they are showing an interest.

    Connection

    Often, the little in-between moments can provide some great images, that represent the connection between the parents, the sibling, and the baby.

    As you can see, I love these in black and white!

    Natural Moments

    At the beginning or the end of the session I will take pictures of your baby in their baby grow, this is another way we want to remember them!  With their little sleep suits on that are usually miles too big!  I also make sure I capture the moments in-between, like the yawning and stretching.

    All the family

    At the end of our session I’ll get you all together to have some pictures looking at the camera, as well as more natural ones together.

    I will also work hard to make sure we get some nice symbolic photos of the family, I.e with everyones hands over the baby.

    Significant items

    You are welcome to bring teddies, signs, blankets or anything else you think you might want your baby photographed with!  I have had all sorts, from train sets to transformers!

    baby with their name written

    Hopefully this gives you a nice oversight into what a session with me will produce.

    I really can say that I love newborn photo shoots and one of the best compliments (other than people loving their photos) is that people say they thoroughly enjoy the photo shoot as well.  That’s just as it should be.

    To find out more about a newborn session, please get in contact below.  Or click here for more info


      dad and sons cuddling

      2019 365 Project - January and February

      'You must have so many amazing photos of your kids'

      Is what I hear all the time!  Truth is I do, but it scares me how many have just sat on my computer because I never have the time to look at them, edit them, sort them or print them!

      This year, I have decided to challenge myself to take pictures of my kids every day with a 365 project.  I bought a smaller camera, the Sony A6000 so that I don’t have to carry my big DSLR about with me.  This way I can take decent images that I can print and not fill my phone with meaningless, useless photos that I can’t.

      I have made four rules for myself to ensure I stick to this:

      Keep the camera in my bag

      Edit the photos every month

      Share my favourites at the end of every month

      Set myself goals to learn for the next month

      This way I am accountable to my website and anyone that reads it to ensure that, unlike other years, my images store up and store up and become so overwhelming that I don’t ever edit and sort them.

      JANUARY 2019 TOP 5

      Next months goals…

      This month it’s been grey and cold so we have been inside a lot.  My key takeaway is that I would like to:

      Understand how to use my new camera better in really low light (I.e when the boys are asleep in bed and there is no window light and the bedroom light is low).  I know how to control my ISO but I want to play around with different light sources I think to create better opportunities to capture them inside…  Will report back next month!

      FEBRUARY 2019 TOP 5

      Yay the sun’s been out!  February was full of birthday celebrations, trips to the park after school, and lots of staying at home and chilling.  I love the picture of my boys painting, underneath the picture of them (taken by Yasmin Ann ).  Especially as that was probably 3 years to the day that photo was taken!

       

      I am still struggling with the A600 in really low light, I think that it’s probably better for me to use that more for outside work.

       

      NEXT MONTHS GOALS

      Angles Angles Angles, going to try some weird stuff!  Watch this space.

      DID YOU KNOW I AM NOW TEACHING BEGINNERS CAMERA WORKSHOPS

      FIND OUT MORE HERE


      baby looking in window

      Becoming a parent for the first time

      As some of you would have seen I’ve recently begun a partnership with Josie Taylor (Positive Parenting with Josie),  I thought I’d elaborate a little bit on why we want to work together.

      Like many parents, my confidence has grown over the years.  In my case I have been winging it for 5 years now but I do have a lot more moments of clarity and confidence than I probably did at the beginning.

      That first year obviously flew by as everyone says it does.  I was overwhelmed at times with lack of sleep, decisions about bottles / breastfeeding / was the colour of his poo ok!/ sleeping/ what should they wear/ are they too hot are they too cold/ when should I wean/ should they be left to cry or cuddled to sleep etc etc.  But ultimately we survived!

      At around 9 months to 18 months my gorgeous son, was not (in my eyes at that point) a baby any more.  He wanted to touch everything, he would hit me , he wanted to run everywhere and climb on everything, he could meltdown with frustration at most things.

      And where as before with the feeding / sleeping etc, I had trusted my gut after some research and I felt I had some element of control over the outcomes (apart from sleep – someone please figure that one out and share the magic secret with me!) with some of the new ‘behaviours’  and emotions I felt quite confused.

      When ‘babies’ start to act more like toddlers, there are so many possible ways that you can deal with things.  And when you are an over thinker, like I am, it’s hard to make a decision as to which way you should act in the spur of the moment, because ultimately, anything could work.

      For example:

      He’d cry when I left him at nursery, like scream the place down.  Or if I left him at a grandparents.

      -Was I meant to run out the door, or stay to comfort him?  Did I prepare him before hand or would that build it up so that he was anticipating the separation?

      He might push others over at soft play and it genuinely felt at times like no other kids did this!

      – was I meant to say gentle and show him gentle hands? Was I meant to remove him from there? Was I meant to ignore it and not give it attention? Did he even know he was doing it?

      He’d have a tantrums, which could be about anything…

      – did I hug him? did I ignore and not give the tantrum attention? did I give in and do what he wanted?  Was I being too soft or too strict?

      Sharing

      -If he took a toy did I make him give it back (that goes down so well), did I tell him ‘no’ firmly, did I softly say sweetheart ‘we share don’t we’, did I let him have it and give the other child something else (because let’s face it it’s rarely about the toy itself!), was it better to take turns?

      At times It felt like all I ever said was NO!

      This new stage as a new parent really threw me, if i’m honest.   What happened to that baby stage! I’d obsessively watched supernanny and three day nanny and all of those types of programmes for a long time pre parenthood, smugly thinking I would have it all nailed at the point it was my time,  but here I was, I had an extremely active, inquisitive boy and just trying to keep up with him was exhausting enough, never mind all these things that were going around in my head on a daily/ hourly basis!  My gut told me this was all normal and I didn’t have to tell him off but I also felt a lot of pressure to act on it when around others.  I found the line of discipline very ambiguous at this age, was he a baby still or did he understand?  I never thought I’d feel ‘played’ by a one year old but at times he seemed so clever!

      I’d give each thing some thought and think, this is how I’m going to handle it, only to change my mind very quickly after seeing how someone else does it, or getting advice from well meaning friends or family.

      Or, a new challenge would rear it’s ugly head when I was least expecting it (and always infront of a bloody  audience) and I’d have to think on my feet!

      I often felt the pressure to ‘nip it in the bud’, ‘teach him so he knows right and wrong’ etc whilst also wanting to make sure he was ok and not upset him when I knew he couldn’t help a lot of what was going on. Whilst some people are great at just trusting their instincts and going with it, I think I would want to ‘fix’ a lot of problems there and then and would almost panic at times if things didn’t work.  I never knew if I was making something worse, or ‘fixing’ it slowly, so I’d change to something else before I could find out.

      I think (with hindsight) what happened, is the poor boy didn’t know whether he was coming or going!  I have to be honest, I don’t think I had the most consistent parenting approach in my first two years.  I tried everything!

      Then, after having my second son, and struggling with a new business and a new larger family, I luckily became friends with Josie Taylor and managed to attend her workshops to learn so much about her wonderful approach to parenting.  The focus, is on connection with your children, on understanding their worlds, on being firm but fair and above all else, trust what you are going to do and see it through.  All of the things my gut would tell me to do but my (scrambled/ tired/ panicked) head would ignore because I felt ‘he needed to learn and quick’).

      To say it was life changing is possibly a dramatic thing to say.  But I actually think it was for me within my parenting and family life.

      Josie teaches a ‘positive discipline’/parenting approach which totally feeds into my love of psychology and really sums up how I want to parent.

      The primary thinking is that children only behave ‘badly’ when they feel bad and that the key is to fix whatever is causing that bad feeling in order to have long term improvements in the behaviour.  So, for example, when we were experiencing perfectly normal (but at times difficult) tantrums or attention seeking behaviour after his baby brother arrived, I was able to figure out the specifics of what was actually going on to cause this in our daily routine, reconnect with him and then correct the behaviours afterwards.  As my kids have got older we’ve experienced the odd challenging time and the tools I’ve got from Josie have really helped me understand why they’re happening and work through them without much stress.

       

      Most of the people that have used her just want to understand their kids a bit better, whether they are challenging or not.  I for one have learnt some amazing tools to help with the day to day dramas!

      However, I know so many people that have used her when going through tougher times; a divorce, or if there children have difficulty settling into school or any of those common life events that can throw children off balance and affect their behaviour and happiness.

      It made a real difference to me, not because it stopped my kids from doing any of these things I mentioned as babies.  Nor has it made them angels that never push the boundaries as they’ve got older, It’s all normal. They’re perfect but not always perfectly behaved, they never will be! I don’t want them to be either (although they could perhaps pick their moments from time to time!).

      It gave me an understanding of what I wanted to do and most importantly why they are doing it.  And I think knowing what you are going to do in certain situations gives you so much power as a parent (or anything in life) that it takes a lot of the stress away.

      We all want to be the best possible parent we can be and we all suffer similar challenges and experience periods of ‘what the actual hell do I do here?’ so if you’d like to check out her workshops – there’s some coming up soon I believe.

      Although I know that the hardest years are yet to come, I am really pleased I have worked on my confidence to be the best version of ‘mummy’ that I can be and I have actually met some great friends through her workshops too – bonus!

      Josie has a few workshops coming up if you’d like to check them out.

      For parents or babies 12 months and under click here

      For parents of preschoolers click here

      Check out the rest of her workshops here

      Josie Taylor


      Beginners Photography

      BEGINNERS PHOTOGRAPHY CLASSES IN WINDSOR

      WHO ARE THEY FOR?

      If you have a DSLR / mirrorless or compact camera but keep it in the box or at home because you’re scared of how to use it then this is for you.  Perhaps you have used it but the results you get are frustrating, too blurry, too bright, too dark?  This is where I come in!

      Get clearer, more creative photos of your family.

      BOOK NOW

      Plus meet new people, make new friends, learn a hobby that the whole family will benefit from!

      £99

      My workshops will cover everything you NEED to know, and tell you what you can just ignore and not worry about!

      YOUR WORKSHOP IN A NUTSHELL

      • The very basics – How to hold a camera and what do the buttons and settings mean?  How to attach a lens and what to do if the lens gets dirty?

       

      • What you need to know in order to take effective pictures – what is aperture and depth of field?  What is shutter speed?  What is ISO?

       

      • How to achieve that lovely background blur?

       

      • Composition and Light – How to position your subject in all sorts of different light and environments

       

      • How to get the best from your subject (no, they don’t need to say cheese).

       

      • Top tips on where to print your images and how to store them on your computer.

      Plus you’ll gain access to my exclusive Facebook group, which continues the support from me.

      YOU WILL WALK AWAY FEELING EXCITED TO GET THE CAMERA OUT, RATHER THAN SCARED OF BREAKING IT!

      CHECK OUT THE BELOW BEFORE AND AFTER FROM A RECENT WORKSHOP ATTENDEE

      What previous attendees say:

      ‘Thank you it was amazing and I can’t wait to put it all into practice over Christmas’

      ‘I have just got home and recommended you already!’

      Book now for the next Windsor Camera Workshops

      Saturday January 18th / February 1st

      girl laughing in lavender
      £50.00£500.00

      Gift Voucher

      TO BE NOTIFIED WHEN THE NEXT WORKSHOP DATE IS ANNOUNCED - SIGN UP HERE