Alex Bray Photography » From our daily adventures to our wild adventures!

If you are stuck for an idea for what to do this Easter Weekend, why not head to a National Trust site and take part in a Cadbury Easter Eggsploration!!

We headed to Dunstable Downs yesterday to take part in the trail and after our kids received their make it yourself pith helmet, a Trail Journal containing all the clues we needed to complete the trail and an Eggsplorer Passport we headed off an a 60+ mins walk.

Our boys loved the trail and the clues that had to solve, and they were rewarded at the end with a Cadbury Egghead at the end, which started to get unwrapped as soon as they had received it.

And remember to take you camera with you and capture a photo of your family on the trail!

If you want to find out more about this activity which is happening over the Easter Weekend, check out this website link to Cadbury Easter Eggsploration

Children walking in woods on Cadbury Eggsploration trial

Children taking part in the Cadbury Easter Eggsploration

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4 years ago I had a a month of people asking me for money to support this or that. Now, don’t get me wrong, when my friends are doing charity events I will put my hand in my pocket and support their cause. But after numerous phone calls and approaches in the street I had personally had enough.

I had been looking for a while for a charity or cause that I could support and that would be linked to photography. My looking coincided with going to a photography convention where Sandy Puc was talking about the charity Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. Whilst sitting listening to her talk, I realised I had found a charity I wanted to get involved with.

Quite simply Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep is a charity offering remembrance photography for babies who will never leave hospital. And as a photographer I volunteer my time and skills to the families requesting the service, and give them a collection of images of their precious baby.

These are no ordinary photo sessions. Throughout a session, each moment is treated like a last moment, and there are no second takes. I have to get it right first time and each time I press the shutter button, as the images I give to a family are going to become prized possessions.

Every affiliated photographer who works with Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (or NILMDTS for short) has had to go through an application process, where their photos are evaluated to make sure they can deal with all lightening conditions in a variety of environments. In the UK, at time of writing, there are only 28 photographers affiliated to NILMDTS, and it means that we frequently pull together, often going out of area to support families requesting the service of remembrance photography.

Usually I’m contacted at short notice about a session, with only hours or a few days to prepare. The preparation is not just pulling together camera gear and paperwork, but it also involves getting emotionally ready for what I’m about to see. And at times these shoots get far more personal than I ever thought they would when I started with NILMDTS.

I attended the funeral of Anastasia Joy recently, and this is the shoot to date that has affected and touched my heart the most. Not because of what I saw, but I got to know the family personally over a number of months.

In February I had an email and a long telephone conversation with a lovely lady asking if I would help her. Her little girl had been diagnosed with anencephaly …. Anencephaly is a condition that prevents the normal development of the brain and the bones of the skull, and actually affects about 1 in 1,000 pregnancies, although most of these pregnancies end in miscarriage, so the prevalence of this condition in newborns is much lower.

Anastasia’s mum was great with sharing information and photos about the condition, it was like she was not just preparing herself, but she was sharing this with me as she knew this was a big request and she wanted to give me an opportunity to say no if I felt at all uncomfortable by what I saw. Her sharing was the best preparation I’ve actually ever had for a shoot, and gave me a clear idea of what she was comfortable with, what she wasn’t sure about and let me prepare a mental list of shots I wanted to capture for them.

I personally got to know the family as they booked a maternity shoot, which took place several months before the due date. However, within a couple of weeks of the shoot we got a late night phone call. I was out at the time, but when Gavin phoned, the restaurant bill was paid and I jumped in a taxi home to find my bag and paperwork ready to go when I got home.

I arrived at UCH in London at around midnight. For me as a mum having two little ones, it was surreal to be on a maternity unit and not be the one having contractions. It made me realise what my husband, and other husbands / birthing partners go through whilst sitting there. All you can do is support, offer a hand to hold and encouraging words.

I was privileged to share this time with the family, help where I could, record the journey they went thorough that night, but most importantly I am only one of a handful of people who can say that I was there when Anastasia lived. And she lived for 1 hour and 20 minutes. That may not sound much to some, but for a baby with anencephaly this is a long time.

I know my photos helped the family as I saw them a few days before Anastasia’s funeral. And I went to the funeral not because I felt obliged to, but because I wanted to. However, attending the funeral actually made me realise how many people I had touched with this voluntary work. Far more than I ever realised it would.

The death of an infant happens more than anybody cares to talk about, and grief is a price we pay for love. So to end this blog post with a image, it’s not going to be an image of a baby, but it is going to be an image of the sky….. I remember that Anastasia lived when there was a blue sky, I remember seeing blue sky at her funeral, and today a month on, I look out of the window and there is again a blue sky.

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Now don’t take the title to this blog piece the wrong way. Our job is to tease out of our clients what they are wanting to capture from their session… whether it be a look, an emotion or a specific detail. And creative types, often like to change their mind…

6 1/2 years ago Liz from The Hat Thing and Pendants and Tiaras introduced me to Vickie at Artisan Hircutters, St Albans. I’d been looking for a new hair stylist and to be frank Vickie is perfect for me. She knows the colours I’ll love in my hair and a cut that is flattering. The salon cuts all our families hair, with Sam styling our kids hair. He is a genius with them, taking the wants of two little boys (whose wishes have included a rock star cut & a ‘diamond’ cut) to heart and has even sat on the floor with them to cut their hair.

We were privileged to be asked by Vickie a few years ago to start shooting their seasonal promotional images which adorn their salon on Holywell Hill, and we are now on the fourth year of seasonal shoots.

This summers shoot was to be a ‘picnic’ theme, but with less than 24 hours notice it turned into a soft, boudoir-esk shoot. And how do we cope with other creatives changes in direction? Quite simply we adapt as necessary.

For this shoot we actually raided our newborn backdrops and out maternity veils….. A simple set to let the hair stand out and be the focus of attention.

Over the years we’ve got more picky about getting the image right in camera before pressing the shutter button. And this includes making sure the hair is right…. So the below images show you a sneak peak of what the Artisan team did before the shutter button was pressed, as well as the salon selected images and the final display in the shop front……

We will next be shooting with Artisan Haircutters at their ‘Ladies Night’ on 21st June 2013. There will be hair shows, cocktails, makeovers and some very sexy hunks have been promised. Tickets are available from the salon on Holywell Hill in St Albans, and cost £5 with all proceeds going to the St Albans Women’s Refuge.
Commercial hair photography for St Albans Hairdressers Artisan Commercial hair photography for St Albans Hairdressers Artisan Commercial hair photography for St Albans Hairdressers Artisan
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A few years ago in America, a new idea started. Take a perfectly good cake, a toddler either celebrating their 1st or 2nd birthday and a photographer, and put them in the same location where real mess can be made. What was created is a collection of images marking a birthday milestone, and the memory of a fun filled time of learning and exploring.

‘Cake Smashes’ are fun sessions (not just for the toddler, but for the parents and us!!). The fun starts with the realisation from your little one that they are allowed to do whatever they like to a cake….. whether its diving into the delicious buttercream made just for them, taking two handfuls of cake and trying to cram as much as possible in their mouths, sticking their feet in a cake and feeling it go between their toes, or simply knocking over the cake to see what happens.

Our ‘Cake Smash’ sessions are fairly quick, as once the cake has been smashed, well it’s gone!! Sessions typically last between 30 and 45 minutes.

A session costs £45 and includes the cake. A minimum purchase of £100 allows for a great selection of prints, etc.

Contact us to book one of these fun sessions.

 

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So today our eldest turns 6. And I have to wonder where the time has gone….

‘Time flying by’ is an understatement for the last 6 years, but flicking back through the library of portrait photographs we have of him, there have already been so many moments that he’s been lucky enough to experience….

From meeting his great grand parents, to attending his first wedding at 10 weeks old, to being at the Herts 100 years of Scouting celebrations, to dog sledding in Churchill, Manitoba (Canada!!) and visiting his great uncle in Toronto, to singing a solo at a New Year’s Eve party (after midnight!!), to warming up the Olympic stadium… The list goes on and on, and we’ve already noticed he has mummy’s memory and can remember key events back to when he was 2 years old… But we’ve also noticed the power that a photograph has at unlocking memories..

And he’s been there since we started our photography business (properly) when he was only a few weeks old, and still will sit, stand or pose patiently whilst we test kit, complete photography ‘homework’, or try out new techniques.

Even at 6 he has big plans for what he wants to do in his lifetime… He wants to visit Namibia with the scouts (and he wants mummy to take his friends to Namibia too), he wants to be Steve Backshall and one day have his own ‘Deadly’ series, he wants to see polar bears with mummy, and he wants to see tigers with daddy. He wants to save whales and gets very passionate about those people who kill sharks. He wants to show people through photos all the bad things in the world as he realises he can only help a cause with words and images. And he also wants to show everyone what he loves and things that he does, and he’s already recording these moments in photos.

So I know that my eldest is going to be capturing memories and moments throughout this life, whether its will his camera or my camera. And I know I will keep taking photos of what he, his brother and we all do as a family…. And I’m sure he’ll keep taking photos of what mummy and daddy are up too….

Until later,

Finn’s mummy…..

Portrait photograph of boy

 

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  • 07/03/2013 - 8:26 am

    Laura - Gorgeous boy who is just growing up too fast. Wise beyond his years! So proud to call him my nephew :0)

As i write this I’m siting in an soft play area whilst our youngest is at a party. Our youngest loves speed and for the last half an hour all he’s done is gone on the slide… Up and down, up and down….

And this place is packed; lots of kids of course, but there are Dads whizzing down the slides holding small children and lots of mums around me, catching up and having coffee. Lots of moments that may seem insignificant now, but in the future they would be memories of family time, excitement, fun…

I’ve had a busy morning already today, but this party is giving me a few minutes to reflect on last week and plan everything for next week.

Last week whilst driving, I listened to a story about Sir Paul McCartney and when asked by a fan who he would see if he could travel back in time, he said his mum….. It was quite a moving piece of radio as they progressed into what words of wisdom had your mum given you.

As I drove in the car I easily knew who I would travel back and see.. Well with Mother’s Day coming up it would have to be Gavin’s mum who died of cancer 6 years ago. She would have been thrilled to see her grandchildren, would have bent Gavin’s ear about his ongoing inability to mow the lawn and probably have whipped up a much loved baked Alaska….

However, I also started thinking about words of wisdom from my mum….. If I had to describe my mum in a few words it would be competitive, driven….  am I allowed to say a little crazy too (!?!) She’s there when needed, and has brought me up believing that i can do anything and everything i want to do, so long as i apply myself to the task…

But what piece of advise did I get from mum that I will pass onto my sons??

I messaged my sisters,not because I couldn’t think of anything, but i wanted to see if the advise changed between the 3 of us… And actually it was prettier similar, ‘never give up’, ‘always try hard in everything your do’…. The most practical advise was ‘hands behind your back when you are in a shop full of breakables’ which one of sisters uses still, and advise that I’ve already passed on to my children.

Mums have a special place in our hearts… They are the ones who pick us up and tell us everything will be ok before sending us back out (ok Dad’s do this too!!). They will stand beside a freezing sports pitch or court cheering you on (or for me she’ll walk away because the pressure is just too much). They will be the taxi driver. And that is just a few lines of a very long list (well my list anyway!)

So in honour of mums we are going to run a competition and the prize will be a mini shoot and a desktop framed image from the shoot…. So it could be an ideal time to get a photo of you and your mum, or even a number of generations of your family…

All you have to do is visit our Facebook page and look for the ‘giveway’.

And to end with a photo, I’m sharing one showing three generations of my family…. My great aunt, my mum and our eldest taken a number of years ago… and its a photograph that reminds me of a moment that I’ll remember forever.

Remember photos capture moments in time that are too precious to be forgotten, even if you don’t think they are important at the time…

Until later,

Alex

Family Generation Portrait Photography

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How many times do you get together with all you family? How many times is this moment recorded?

Last weekend I organised lunch for my family…. It was a Christmas present to all of them, as it is very rare that we all get together, mainly because all our diaries are rammed with activities.  But surprisingly it only had taken me a few weeks to get us all sitting round the same dinner table, even if I did factor in cross country races, the rugby six nations, the F1 season and photography commitments.

As I looked round the table, checking that my kids were eating their food, chatting to my dad about landing planes on ice, seeming to have the casting vote on whether we were all ordering deserts or not, I thought that we don’t actually have a photo of us all together. There haven’t been any family weddings since my kids were born so there hasn’t been a reason to dress up, get together and take a family portrait photo.
But is that really a good enough reason? Like many families we fall into the trap of not having regular family portrait photography shoots. Now we have a lot (and I mean a lot!!) of photos of our family, in various combinations, but I think we probably only have a handful of even Gavin, my kids and a I altogether.
And really it is truly unforgivable….
We can all come up with excuses about not having the time, being too busy, but how long does it honestly take to find some dates that all your family could get together for a couple if hours, even if it is some months away?

Last year for Gavin’s birthday I purchased a voucher for a family portrait photography session with a photographer that I admire. I did it because I know we need to have some images of all of us, and without Gavin and I having a camera in our hands. And I know I can’t keep putting it off. If I keep putting it off, then when we look back at our family photos, there are not going to be any images of all of us, relaxed and having fun. And that will be an unforgivable problem and I know I’ll regret it.
But sitting round the table I realised that I need to also organise a photo of all of my family…. my parents, my sisters, my brother-in-law, my husband and my kids…. and that’s just  my side of the family, let alone getting together Gavin’s family. All it needs is a little organisation, but there is a goal. And the goal is simple, my family need at least one photo in our family album of all of us…… Actually we need more than one photo, but at least getting one photography session completed will result in more than I have now.
And if you have not had a recent family portrait, then look through our lifestyle portfolio (here) and give us a call to discuss your individual requirements.
Until later,
Alex
PS… A little photo from a few years ago, with my sisters no doubt thinking I was having another ‘mad’ moment…..
Sisters Family Portrait Herts
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Do you remember the list of things you either wanted to do or wanted to be when you grew up?

I remember I either wanted to be a vet or I wanted to be a pilot. Well I got my pilots license, but my flying only ever stayed as a hobby.

This year, as a personal project, I decided to capture portrait images under the title ‘When I grow up’. Ask any child (or even some adults) what they want to do when they grow up and the answers you get are ranging.

For example, I asked my two sons this question when it was cold and snowy. Now usually I would get the answer ‘Steve Backshall’ or various superheros. But this time I got ‘I want to climb a mountain’.

So the initial image I had in my mind is the famous image of Edmund Hillary reaching the summit of Mount Everest on 29th May 1953 with Tenzing Norgay, and holding the Union Jack above his head attached to a ice axe, which appeared on numerous newspaper front pages around the world.

But the twist to this project is I didn’t want to dress children up to match a photo, I wanted to recreate it with everyday items, so it would give the feel of an image, with the addition of appropriate lighting.

And for a dull February day, which was extremely cold, with a biting wind and falling snow, Gavin, my children and I created the following…..

Child Portrait photography Climb A Mountain

 

And with photos shoots, where you are capturing moments, there is usually more than one image that tells an important part of the story….

Child Portrait Photo Top of the mountain

Child Portrait Climb a Mountain

 

So ask your child what they want to be or do when they grow up. And if they come up with an interesting idea, leave us a comment as we’ll be looking for further ideas during the year…

Until later….

Alex

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