Good things come from sweaty palms

Good things come from sweaty palms

Fact: Good things come from sweaty palms

Last year, I made the decision to invest in myself, heavily. I am so grateful that the universe kicked me in the pants to go to an incredible pet photography retreat in the south of France. One of the biggest aha moments that I took away from the experience, is the fact that if I’m going to be successful, I need to shake things up. I was stuck in a safe zone and clearly I was going to have to start to look for and embrace photographic opportunities that made my palms sweat.

Welcome to the Year of the Sweaty Palms

This year, I’ve taken on several jobs that made me step waaaay outside of my comfort zone. No longer am I saying to myself, “yeah, a big no on that job. That sounds scary and complicated and like someone else should do it”. If I let that crazy lady hold me back, I won’t grow as a photographer and that, my friends, is my never ending objective. I was blessed to have found a path into pet photography and I will throw my heart and soul into it until I breathe my last breath.

Just this past week, I stepped further out of the old comfort zone than I ever have before. I had a pro bono photo shoot for a social impact company called Mother Erth. They upcycle discarded plastic materials, keeping them out of landfill… aaaaand, wait for it… they work with artisan mothers in third world countries to create gorgeous fashion accessories. Thus enabling them to become financially independent! I love that!

We are creating a movement of people wearing our bright bags as a statement of their commitment to care for others and the Earth.

It came together like it was meant to be

I was contacted by Co-Founder Sean Kelly and asked to create images that would appeal to Mother Erth’s hip, youthful, stylish customer and promote their line of pet carriers and beds. Pet photography has created a vehicle for me to give back, so when a good fit comes along, I’m all over it.

I reached out to friends, clients and colleagues to pull this shoot together and I have to say, that it all came together beautifully because of their generosity and kindness. The shoot took place in the ever gorgeous surroundings at The Good Earth Food and Wine Co.  My canine models were a breathtaking Papillon named Betsy (thank you so much Kait Ripley) and the fluffiest most adorable little Pomeranian Kismet aka Kitty Kat (can’t thank you enough Nikki Fowler). The dogs interacted beautifully together and with my stunning, stylin’ hoomans Eva and Loire, who along with Eva’s mom, coordinated their own hair, makeup and wardrobe selections. EEEEK, you girls ROCKED it!!!

For someone who works almost exclusively with four-leggeds, this really was a big stretch for me creatively and I’m proud of the final product. Even more importantly, my clients and models all had a great time and love the images. The feeling of accomplishment that comes along with doing something that literally gives you sweaty palms is so immense! I gotta say… I like it!!

Here are a handful of the final images, enjoy!

Barkjour part III  |  Out of this world – every single day

Barkjour part III | Out of this world – every single day

Out of this world – every single day

The best thing about embarking on an adventure billed as an “out of this world” pet photography retreat, is when it truly is an experience that you absolutely cannot get just anywhere. Apart from the excellent presentations, enlightening group conversations, and hands on learning, we had the opportunity to create imagery in locations that wouldn’t have been possible on our own.

For an italophile, this was extra special!

The Pont du Gard receives over a million visitors a year. It was built during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius, and completed around 60AD. This aqueduct ran water for 50 winding kilometres to the population of Nîmes and was built without a drop of mortar. It is an absolute masterpiece of Roman engineering. It’s also one of the most extraordinary backdrops for a pet photography session I could ever have imagined.

When I picked my jaw up from the ground, I looked around for a model. Of all the dogs I saw when we arrived, I only had eyes for handsome Giglo , a scruffy mix of lovin’ who made my heart sing. While trying to converse with his mom in French (not my forté) I didn’t realize I had slipped into Italian. When she answered in Italian I did a double take! That tickled my little “wannabe Italian” fancy, as I was able to chat more with her than with any of the other dog model parents. I discovered Giglo’s name was a variation on gigolo. It makes perfect sense! After all, he did seduce me at a glance! Purtroppo, his senora’s stylish footwear made it impossible to get down the water and Giglo was going nowhere without her. So we made do with where we were, which I have to say, was still pretty doggone amazing!

Seriously, this location put the “out of this world” into Barkjour’s out-of-this-world pet photography retreat. We had permission to remain long after the area was closed to the public and they even ran the light show for us. We probably would have stayed longer but it was dark and there was a sumptuous feast awaiting us back at the Chateau. What an experience.

“Let them eat cake,” she said, “just like Marie Antoinette”

Day 6: up at the crack of dawn (again) and so excited! We were preparing to welcome Saturday’s models to our very own 12th century chateau, St. Maximin for the last shoot of the retreat. I was so happy that we were shooting here because it was such an exceptionally stunning location – and who else do you know that has photographed dogs in an ancient French chateau?! What I wouldn’t give to go back and have a dog for a day, shooting in all the nooks and crannies that I missed!

I photographed my first Wire-Haired Fox Terrier, Monty, (love!) and Milord the dashing young Tervuren in the courtyard. Moovie the Sheltie reclined on centuries old stones with her perfectly dainty little mouth. I only got one frame of Nala the cocker spaniel before she was whisked off to another group of waiting pet photographers, boo. But, if that hadn’t happened… I would not have had the opportunity to create one of my personal favourite images of the entire trip… I’m talking about Poppy.

Poppy the chihuahua, or as I prefer to call her, Poppy Antoinette. Mascot of the lovely Cat Race and Michael Higginson from CatsDog Photography in Manchester, England. Her Mona Lisa smile, her pink tinted pearls, the grand hallway and chaise longue – gaaaa I can’t stop singing “Killer Queen” when I look at her image! I adore this little pooch who happily modelled each and every day. She is the consummate professional…as long as the “chicken train” is headed her way!

An “out of this world” experience, yes. Once in a lifetime? not if I can help it!

Nicole Begley, Charlotte Reeves and Kaylee Greer along with Kaylee’s equally talented photographer fiancé, Sam Haddix, provided the most spectacular experience imaginable through Barkjour. I can’t thank them enough. I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to meet and learn from them, as well as from the many other passionate and talented pet photographers who were there. I’m thrilled that I threw caution to the wind and invested in myself because this investment is already paying off. Education, contacts, experiences and new friendships – all things I am truly grateful for.

In my very first post about this adventure, I called Barkjour a once in a lifetime experience. Having now had the experience, from here on out I’ll refer to it as “out-of-this-world” – because, I can tell you, it won’t be my last.

Thanks for the memories Barka-family, I’m wishing we we all back there right now!

Until we meet again!

If you missed any of the blogs in this series, here are links!: The decision to goPart I – when I go to “les chiens”  | Part II – How pet photographers roll

Click here if you’d like to find out more about more about Indigo Pet Photography Sessions with dogs, or here you’d like to know more about my horse and rider sessions

Charlotte Reeves, Kaylee Greer, Karen Black and Nicole Begley at the chateau in France

Dog Photography | It’s how we roll | Barkjour part II

Dog Photography | It’s how we roll | Barkjour part II

It’s how dog photographers roll

Picture this, you live in small hilltop town in the south of France. Nothing overly exciting has probably happened there since WWII. You’re firing up your BBQ on a perfectly lovely September evening, when suddenly something catches your ear. You cock your head in an effort to make out what exactly you are hearing, a cacophony of sounds, strange barking and yipping, whinnying, meowing and – ducks? “What the…”  you wonder. You go to the window and look out, scanning the cobblestone street for a clue.

Oh there’s a clue all right, the street is overrun with men and women in dusty jeans and t-shirts, many with brightly coloured hair! All are lugging what appears to be masses of camera gear – and dogs – a dozen, maybe more – dogs that you’ve never seen before. There are dogs up on ledges, people crawling around on the ground, dogs running and jumping, people laughing and making the oddest collection of noises.

Bonsoir! That would be us! The Barka-family. Dog photographers one and all.

Day two of shooting

The Barkjour group was in Castillon du Gard, a hill top town with cobblestone streets, weathered doors and stone walls. It was one of my favourite locations and took me back to the times I lived in Italy and Germany.

First up was the schmooshy-faced, fabulous, Boxer-Cane Corso cross named Zoumba. He suited his kooky name and was serious and goofy all at the same time. The colours and textures in the streets were glorious and perfect for framing our subjects.

After Zoumba, we tracked down Marley the Aussie Shepherd (favourite breed of Charlotte Reeves who was shooting with us on this occassion) and headed to a narrow alley for some action. He had a blast roaring up and down the alley and, in typical fashion, we were all rolling around on the dusty stones, jockeying for the best vantage point to capture this gorgeous athlete. I loved his little face, but he was very nervous of the camera up close. But after a little conditioning I did manage to capture one close up of his sweet face.

The Jack Attack

Finally, I had to work with the pack of Jack Russell Terriers in my sights. I think I got an endorphin rush when I saw them LOL and it did make me miss my little guys (although I don’t think they missed me at all!). They were a gorgeous Jack Pack, adults and pups as well. I didn’t manage to sort out their names, but I think the pup on the manhole cover is definitely a Jacques (hee hee). Thanks to Wendy Fox Hudnall of Doggie Tales Photography for taking the sweet photo of me with the Jack Daddy!

This location was the perfect end to day two – a mind-numbingly full day of learning. We were able to put concepts discussed to good use and get our “yaya”s out in the process. Cue my invisible wagging tail.

It’s like falling off a horse

Which fortunately I did NOT do. I haven’t ridden in several years, but threw caution to the wind. Thursday we had the afternoon off, so what do a bunch of dog photographers do? Spend time with different four-leggeds of course! We set a course for The Camargue region on the coast and spent a couple of fabulous hours horseback riding. We rode on one of the oldest breeds of horses in the world Camargue horses. Through salt flats, water and on the beach… all the while the pink flamingos were just wading out of reach of my iPhone. It was so beautiful and a great way to chill out.

After the ride, we peeled ourselves out of our saddles and piled back into the cars. We set a course for Nîmes where we hobbled about looking for a bite to eat. (okay, it’s quite possible that I was the only one hobbling.) The town centre was ancient and I would love to go back and explore Nîmes more, so much Roman influence.

After pizza we stalked the streets looking to satisfy those with a sweet-tooth (Note: while I’m not a sweets person, I do tend to enjoy the hunt and, am easily tempted by the lure of pistachio gelato!).

As you can see, when you hook up a bunch of like-minded, passionate, kooky pet photographers you are likely going to release more than a few inner beasts… because that’s how we roll! 

Stay tuned for the next instalment of where we head to the ancient aqueduct Pont du Gard for Day 3 of shooting and Day 4 in the Chateau!

If you missed the first installment of my “out of this world” pet photography retreat, please click here!

p.s. thanks to Charlotte Reeves and Cat Race for a couple of the fun Nîmes iPhone images! And MANY thanks to Charlotte Reeves for the behind the scenes image of me and Zoumba!

Barkjour | Indigo Pet Photography goes to les chiens | Part 1

Barkjour | Indigo Pet Photography goes to les chiens | Part 1

Indigo Pet Photography goes to “les chiens” at Barkjour

Last weekend was Thanksgiving and I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on how fortunate I am. So grateful to not have to contend with floods, fires, food and water shortages and evacuation. Blessed to have my family and friends around me for love and encouragement. Over the moon to have the support of the local wineries with the Winery Dogs of Ontario Calendar. And frankly, insanely fortunate to have the opportunity to attend Barkjour last month in France.

Back in August, I made a split second decision to invest heavily in myself and my future. I applied for and was accepted to join Barkjour, a pet photography retreat taking place the first week of September in France – billed as an out-of-this-world experience. Goosebumps!

Wheels up

After a flurry of activity to prepare, on September 3rd I left Toronto and my comfort zone. I boarded my flight to Marseilles and was off to my adventure in the south of France. Destination… Chateau St. Maximin, a 12th century chateau on the outskirts of Uzès in The Languedoc region. Our very own chateau. Yeah, I did just say that 🙂

Planes, trains and automobiles

Long delays and many hours later, I landed in Marseilles. I’d made arrangements to connect with Mareike, from Germany, at the airport and catch the train with her to Nîmes. I was SO relieved that she waited for my flight because my brain was numb and the whole train situation was more than a little confusing. Conquering it together made it at least enjoyable. Eventually we got to the train station and finally we were on our way. Most importantly though, we managed to find ourselves in a compartment with our first “chien” of the adventure. Paco was clearly a seasoned train traveller and was eager to show us the ropes. Mareike wasted no time in chatting him up. Things were quickly going to les chiens.

When we arrived in Nîmes, we connected via a flurry of facebook messages with Bridget and Luke from the UK. Luke had rented a car and we all chipped in for the trip to the chateau. We made a quick stop for wine on the way (as one does) and in short order were pulling in through the massive iron gates to our paradise, Chateau St. Maximin.

There was such an exciting wealth of talent and personalities on this adventure that it was a little overwhelming at the start! The first night was spent getting to know each other, exploring the the chateau, and sipping wine. Of course, the evening would not have been complete without an impromptu sunset session on the rooftop with Poppy, more on Princess Poppy in a coming blog. 

Let the games begin: Day one

Up early and downstairs by 7:30 for what can only be described as a breakFEAST. I can’t go into it because just the thought of the French yogurt make me deliriously hungry. After breakfast we hunkered down to an intense day of learning – Nicole Begley, Charlotte Reeves and Kaylee Greer put us through the paces for hours (although we did break for a spectacular lunch!). At 5:30 pm we packed up and piled into cars to head to Domaine Malaïgue for our first photo session. Living here in Niagara I offer exclusive vineyard sessions to my clients, but oh la la, to shoot in a French vineyard? C’est fantastique.

We had a wonderful range of dogs to photograph, from Bell the stately Dogue de Bordeaux to little Ricky and his lanky and scruffy buddy, John Boy. Ricky had clearly had a rough go of it in his short life, but his adoptive family shower with love to make up for lost time and John Boy watches over him.

Looping the Shetland Sheepdog performed brilliantly through the vines, occasionally leaping over of the wall of bodies lying in his way – cameras firing like machine gun bursts. And handsome Erik, at first I thought Erik was a husky corgi mix, but no, he’s actually a Swedish Vallhund! Erik just looked plain adorable everywhere he went and was as easy going as you please.

After a dirty and dusty evening of shooting we raced back to the chateau, cleaned ourselves up and were treated to a truly mouthwatering dinner – the star being salt crusted leg of lamb, prepared by Chef Theo (yes, we had our own awesome chef too, drool!). After that and a “wee” glass of wine, I pretty much fell into bed and a deep and satisfied coma. 

Stay tuned for Part 2: Where we invade the hilltop town of Castillon du Gard, plus our afternoon off – horseback riding in the Carmargue!

Read the lead-up to the Barkjour blog here ›