Uncovering The Magic of Childhood

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Back in February I took a photography course about capturing the magic of childhood. The weather was pretty rotten all through February (which is to be expected in the UK) so I was unable to complete my last assignment until a couple of months ago. I am so excited about sharing these photos!

Through taking this course I wanted to refine how I captured children’s imagination at play. I do love to use props in my photography, but I felt I needed to give them a little more purpose and really be able to infuse the magic into my work. This course gave me the direction I was looking for, from brainstorming all the way through to editing. Below I share some of the assignments and challenges that I had to work though. 

My first assignment was about finding your ‘anchor’ for your photo session and planning around your theme. I had seen some gorgeous vintage style outfits inspired by Beatrix Potter’s stories, so I set about planning a little mini-shoot based on Beatrix Potter. Here I share my mood board and my final images. 

Beatrix Potter Moodboard
Beatrix Potter Styled Shoot Dartmoor

For the second assignment, I had to photograph the connection between two subjects. My anchor was a girl and her pony, but I also had to give some thought to the location, props and the wardrobe to support my idea. I knew the weather was going to be grey and drizzly, so working with the available light was my first concern. I looked for images on Pinterest that were taken under grey skies to get a feel for style of photos I would take on the day, and I wanted to create a soft feel through the use of light clothing. I helped my little model to pick out her outfit and we found this lovely wooly waistcoat in her dressing up box which worked really well alongside her sweet pony Mouse. I had to make sure that the location had trees to create some directional light, which is more interesting to photograph than the light available in a big open field. 

In the Wood Deer Moodboard
Merryn Pony Photos Dartmoor

The third week was lots of fun! It was all about being stuck in a rut and being able to get yourself out of it by working through a series of mini-assignments. There were so many great ideas to work with this week and I must make myself a note to go back to them. Some included using one lens only and seeing how many different photos you could create with it, or you could go the opposite way and use every single lens you own (which I tend to do anyway on my sessions – it’s always a mission to find all the lens caps afterwards!).

In the first mini-assignment, I had to challenge myself to take 10 unique photos while keeping the model in one spot. I did ok, but I got rather distracted by just how gorgeous and graceful my little ballerina was…I might come back to this one and take on the challenge of doing it properly. I did, however, get lots of beautiful photos of Grace. I've photographed her since and I am now working on a series of In the Wood sessions as I loved the mix of costumes, ballet and woodland locations. 

Woodland Ballerina Dartmoor
In the woods moodboard
deer woodland photoshoot dartmoor

The last assignment I had to work on (and just completed recently) was all about being spontaneous – me and my model. For this last photo shoot I was lucky to meet Phoebe, who is sweet, creative, full of energy, but at times over-eager to please others – more on this later. Phoebe’s task was to write down five topics that we could develop into a photoshoot on different pieces of paper and draw one out of a hat. Once we had done this, we were to set a timer to plan the shoot, i.e. find the location, the clothing, props etc. Phoebe pulled out ‘Circus’, and as she loves animals and Harry Potter so much, we had to throw a little bit of everything into the mix. Spontaneity was a little tricky for Phoebe initially. She was wanting direction from us and myself and her mum had to keep reassuring her that this was all about her and she could be whatever she liked – the Magical Ringmaster! She did fall into her role eventually and we came away with some great shots of Phoebe letting her imagination run wild. It was lots of fun for all of us.

Ringmaster Photo session Dartmoor
The Magic of Childhood Dartmoor Photographer

I hope you’ve enjoyed my blog about Uncovering the Magic of Childhood. I will be launching a series of mini-sessions early next year, so if you would love me to take some photos of your children please send me a message and I’ll make sure you hear about my exciting offers first.

In the meantime, enjoy the magic of Christmas!

Annie x

Eva & Frosty - Child Portraiture Dartmoor

Eva & Frosty, Dartmoor, Devon

If you’ve been following me on Facebook and Instagram, I’m sure that by now you know how much I love living on Dartmoor. There is so much to enjoy about living here, but I especially have a soft spot for the Dartmoor ponies. Over the past year it has been a real pleasure photographing children with their ponies. There’s something sweet and magical about children and pets anyway, but with ponies, there seems to be a real bond. It’s this connection that I love. It’s so pure. You’re not asking a child to pose for the camera, you’re asking them to just be themselves with their beloved friend.  

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Back in September, I met up with Eva and her pony Frosty (well, it’s actually her mum’s pony from when she was little which is extra special). Eva has grown up around animals and like most two to three year olds out there, they like to let them know who is boss – which made me giggle quite a lot! My youngest son is roughly the same age as Eva and he thinks he owns our cat…she often lets him know otherwise!

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There is no shyness to Eva! She was in charge of the shoot right from the start and I just did as I was told! We had a huge amount of fun. We worked out what clothes she was going to wear. I carefully went through her drawers, and then Eva decided that we couldn’t possibly see all the various options so she tipped everything on her bed. We agreed, then disagreed, and then finally came to a compromise (which she wasn’t willing to put on – anyone else out there have a similar problem with their three year old?). 

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A little bit of encouraging (aka bribing) and we are dressed and ready to head out to find Frosty. Until this point the weather was rather grey and dull, but it seemed that the clouds were clearing and they made way for the most beautiful sunset. Added to this a fantastic tree-lined meadow with long grass we also had a perfect location. We played silly games, fed apples to Frosty and took photos till the sun went down. And laughed a lot. What a fantastic photoshoot! I love the happiness and energy in Eva’s photos. Mummy was very pleased with them too!

If you love these photos and would like your own photos of your child with their pony I would love to hear from you. 

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Am I the right photographer for you?

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As winter slowly descends upon Dartmoor and I move closer to launching my family photography business, I’m taking a little time to think about who my photography style would suit.

About a couple of years ago now, I took an online course called Finding Your Voice. I knew that I had a recognizable photographic style, but it came from within; it was simply my way of seeing the world and therefore difficult for me to precisely pinpoint. I wanted to approach my photography as a form of art – from the planning of the shoot through to the editing – and this is where this course was a game-changer for me.

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Today’s world is very visual. There are photos everywhere. My first task in finding my own visual identity was to collect photographs and decide if I admired them or if I was attracted to them; an important distinction. Those which I admired were beautiful to look at, but weren’t how I would see myself taking photos. However, those which I felt attracted to, I was very much envious of their photography talent and was desperate to recreate it!

A lot more collecting and deciphering took place and luckily, I came to a few conclusions along the way! I needed to make my photos look a particular way and then I needed to figure out how to make them feel a certain way too.

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My look is ‘on location’, where my subject is bathed in natural light within a beautiful outdoor setting (and we are spoilt for choice here on Dartmoor, from open moorland, to woodland, to tree-lined meadows…). I like to keep clothing simple and timeless by avoiding heavy patterns and logos in order to keep the focus on my subject rather than on the clothes. My style is quite classical and still, rather than more documentary-style and full of energy. My photographs are a little more posed – or frozen still in a moment, but it doesn’t mean that my subjects are expected to stand and pose. Or to be serious! I get to know my subjects and play along with them until they open up to me and the camera, and it’s only once they are relaxed that I am able to capture these wonderful, whimsical moments of childhood. Your gallery would most likely include some big belly laughs (and maybe a few strops!) but the photos I would be drawn to are those still, reflective moments. They get me every time!

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This very much leads into the feel of my photography. I like to capture an air of yesteryear and the feeling of nostalgia in my child portraits. Childhood is a fleeting moment and it’s one I strive to capture for you as parents as much as for your children – to lock in a location, an inseparable soft toy or a pair of special wellies that will bring so many memories in years to come. I want to capture genuine emotion, natural expressions and your children being allowed to be completely themselves.

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I hope you have enjoyed this little insight into who I am as a photographer. If you would like to see more of my work, please visit my portfolio, and if you would like to know a little more about my photography journey click here.

A huge thank you goes out to Rebecca who gave her time and energy and shared her passion for hair-styling with these beautiful girls. If you love the look of these photographs please let us know and we will happily organize a weekend of beautifully styled shoots for you.

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Sunset in the Orchard

Dartmoor has always had a special place in our hearts. My husband’s grandmother lived here for years; we got married here and walked up Haytor on our wedding day. We have lots of wonderful memories in this part of the world. To cut a long story short, France wasn’t working out for us as a family and we started looking at jobs in the wine industry in the UK. Although the wine industry is growing here, it’s still nowhere near what it is in France and our options were quite limited. It wasn’t until a good friend mentioned the idea of the wine shop being for sale in Chagford that things started to take shape. We didn’t know Chagford at all, we had only driven through it a few times, but it looked like a great little community and it was right in the moors - ideal. It looked like a good option. Fast forward a few months, my husband is in ‘his’ wine shop, our boys have made lots of friends and everyone has been so welcoming. So many people have asked why we chose Chagford over the south of France…sometimes it’s more about where your mind and heart is.

So this lovely friend, Liz…she has been so supportive of our businesses over the years that we have known each other, we are so grateful. She is always thinking of ideas to help us out, and one of the things she likes to do is lookout for beautiful locations for me to photograph in when she goes out running. She found a couple of orchards which she thought I would love to photograph. So I suggested we take her girls there one evening. We had to postpone a couple of times because of the good old British weather, but in the end, we had to settle on a date before the apples were all picked! And we couldn’t have been luckier with the weather - we had the most beautiful sunset. Aren’t her girls beautiful? And the styling for the session was just perfect. 

If you have found a beautiful location you would like to photograph your children, please get in touch!

The Call of the Vines

Hi. It's so nice to have you stop by to look at my first blog post on my shiny new website. I'm so excited to have you here and I hope you like what you see. I thought I would use my first post as a little introduction of myself and my journey to Dartmoor.

Three years ago we were living the high-life (or so we thought!) in Hong Kong. We had a lovely home there and had gorgeous scenery and walks on our doorstep. We spent wonderful, memorable holidays traveling around South East Asia - I just love it there! But something was missing, we longed to grow our own vegetables, let our son run around in the fresh air, watch the seasons go by and generally live a more organic, low impact lifestyle.

And then came the moment my husband had his mid-life crisis (or that's what I like to call it to wind him up!). Almost overnight we packed up our home and headed for Southern France in search of vines and the prospects of a career in the wine-making industry. Him, not me! But I tagged along. Living in France had its joys and its complications, and we made the most of this opportunity to eat lots, drink lots of wine and explore the beautiful region of Provence while my husband embarked on a two year wine-making diploma with the vineyard Domaine de la Citadelle. In the meantime, I kept myself busy with my son, and then even more busy with a baby, all the while exploring and improving my photography.

I've included a few photos of my boys at the vineyard where they were helping to kick off the harvest a couple of years ago. These were eating grapes – so delicious! My eldest loves it in the vines, which is just as well seeing as he's likely to see a lot more of them...

If you'd like to find out how we came to Chagford from Provence, have a quick look at my next post...