Me and Mine - A Family Portrait Project November

Now I know... this should read December in the title, but this past month has been even more of a whirlwind than ever and I am determined not to miss a month of capturing my little family. Even if it is exactly a month late and the next one will follow tomorrow! This project is about to enter it's fourth year, which is an amazing achievement by Lucy who founded this group of bloggers who host every month and all the families who stop for just a moment and snap their changing and growing sons and daughters. It's the blog post I most enjoy writing, it's the one that makes me realise just how quickly time is passing, how important capturing our family in a photo is and each month I rush to frame our Me and Mine.

November for me was all about preparations. For launching the backdrop store at long last, trying to squeeze in as many photo jobs as I could to be able to have the Christmas holidays off and desperately trying to get our house as straight as possible before my sister and her family arrived for a week long stay on the 23rd December. And we had a special event.

We all gathered around a font in a lovely church in Berkshire for my nephew Logan, our Logibear's christening. Celebrating this beautiful little boy who completed their family. My sister was totally in love with him from the moment the midwife passed him to her and Sammy was just the same, even before he was born. He'd longed for a boy cousin and almost a year on the novelty has absolutely not worn off and he shows this powerful (sometimes overwhelming!) love for Logan. When we are together he can't help but stroke his face, asking to hold him over and over again and when we are not with them he's constantly making cards and drawing pictures for him.

He's protective, proud and just wants to help look after him and it's a pleasure to watch. Little did he know that when my brother in law stood up and gathered everyone together at the party afterwards to toast and thank the godparents, that he would be getting a very special mention.

They talked about how there was an extra person in the room who has loved Logan from before he was born, someone who is so kind and is so special, and as he spoke I glanced to Sammy who looked back at me with the widest grin and the brightest eyes, half believing they there actually talking about him and half hoping he was right! 

They presented him with an honorary godfather sash and he was deliriously happy! A role he takes so seriously, asking to speak to his godson on FaceTime and telling him how much his godfather loves him when he holds him. Although it really was more of a gesture, I have no doubt that Sammy will be the big brother and protector to Logan, guide him through his future and we can't wait to watch their bond grow.

I don't know anything other than raising boys. Boisterous boys with a sensitive side and as much as I want the boys to excel, it's their characters that are most important to us. 

Everything shapes who they are going to be. Their school, their friends, their grandparents, their peers. We know we have one more natural sportsman and one showman. We have one who shows incredible promise in Maths and one who struggles. We don't have geniuses we have happy, hard working young boys.

Every term we get their school reports and this term they made me want to cry. Not for the attainment grades but for the words right at the end. In fact I went straight to the last page before I read how they were doing in English and Science. Because that's the bit that matters to us the most. Whether school sees what we see. I think it's a wonderful thing that we have social media to share how proud we are of our children, not just for the photos of them coming first in a race on sports day or holding up a certificate, for the little things, the acts of kindness, the friendships they are making and the achievements that have nothing to do with how clever they are. 

And this is what they said. "Sammy has embraced life in Year 3 with great enthusiasm and energy. I am delighted with his attitude and wonderful, steady progress. He has made the most of every opportunity both with friendships, activities and lessons. I admire his positivity and the way in which he approaches every task by looking to make things more interesting, giving his very best. Sammy is the first to help a friend, lending equipment or leading them somewhere. He is a charming, happy child who has consistently given 100% to all he has encountered this term. He is a delight to teach!"

"Ollie is a happy, sociable little boy, with a gentle, easy-going nature and he is eager to please. He is an extremely polite, co-operative member of the group and enjoys the responsibility of helping in the classroom. He is very relaxed in the company of his friends and shows kindness and generosity towards them. I really appreciate his patient, tolerant approach to life and the way he is able to share and compromise in his dealings with his classmates. He is such a lovely little boy who enjoys playing with his friends and is kind and caring towards others. He is interested in all that is going on, is very well motivated and always gives of his best."

They may not be top of the class but this is all we want for our boys. Kind boys who are good friends to someone. Our big boys, our mini mes, in big boys suits. 

This project isn't a weight around my neck, it's the one photo I take each month that is the most precious. Thank you to everyone who joins in and to my cohosts Lucy, Katie, Alex, Jenny and Fritha who put up with my terrible lateness!

Happy New Year everyone! I'll be back with my festive photo for December asap! :)

LifeRichard Heath5 Comments
Preparing the home for Christmas • Featuring John Lewis

I know I’m not the only one. In fact I’d like to find someone who hasn’t walked around their house lugging boxes of decorations down from the loft or to-ing and fro-ing from the garage with a Christmas tree under their arms singing to themselves “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”

I love this time of year. I love the build up, the countdown to the end of term and the start of holiday playdates, drinks parties, family visits and sleepovers with friends on school nights without the school, nibbles at the neighbours and a trail of glitter on the floors, no matter how many times I vacuum. 

I love it all. Even the cleaning and sorting to get the house ready for all the decorations. 

I get almost a tingle of excitement in my fingertips when I unfold the dog eared tissue paper smothering my beloved baubles, all shapes and sizes that I have slowly built up over a decade of Christmases. Every year I add to it, taking an annual visit to my favourite department store for inspiration and browsing their festive displays to hunt out their newest gold and white and grey collections. 

Yes I am one of those people who like a coordinated tree and I am not ashamed to admit it. It’s funny how something you display for only a matter of weeks can tie a room together and then it feels so empty when it’s taken down. The twinkling lights make it instantly more cosy and I get to totally indulge in decorating every surface with garlands and greenery.

I should tell you I have lovingly kept every single decoration the boys have ever made me and their eyes light up when they head to their bedroom to decorate their very own tree. And I head downstairs and blast out some Mariah. They do help, I get about half an hour of over excited enthusiasm and then the reality kicks in that we are only half way through and they give me “permission” to finish hanging all the decorations for a big reveal and the big switch on. Tell me we are not the only family to give a comedy oooooh as the plug socket goes click?!

As we slowly renovate the house I keep wanting to decorate with greys, whites and blues. As we update door handles, window latches and light fittings we’ve fallen back in love with traditional brass and gold accessories and when I got the chance to collaborate with John Lewis this year to share with you their new Snowshill Range it was like it was meant to be. 

Sumptuous hints of rich golds, rustic natural textures mixed with shimmer and glass. The whole range manages to combine contemporary elegance and cool tones with countryside tradition. Owls and pheasants, mistletoe prints and a hint of copper which makes it ideal to mix and match with others in their 2017 collections. 

Christmas is a hectic time of year, we are hosting again this year, digging out the emergency chairs, blow up beds and spare bedding but decorating the house with a calming colour palette helps bring a little gentleness to proceedings!

The star and ice garland is one of my favourite and incredibly good value buys from the range and it works wrapped around the banisters, hung from tiny hooks along the mantlepiece and from the ceiling above the table! I think even Moose was impressed. And I am sure the glittery clip in antlers I spotted by the wrapping paper section were intended for all our fur babies...!

I've tried to balance being a more is more kind of girl at Christmas with Rich's preference for clutter free festive decorations. So instead of masses of candles and baubles balanced along the centre of the table I think I will go with a little greenery that looks as lovely dried as it does freshly cut and a few simple bud vases so the crackers can be the star of the show. Well them and the westies of course. 

Just like I did as a child, Ollie has written the name places (which we only ever seem to use at Christmas) ready for the big feast. He's also in charge this year of reading 'Twas The Night Before Christmas to his small cousins. They are both at an age where they lap up the responsibility of our little traditions and both know the national anthem for the Queen's speech!

One of the nicest things about recording our Christmases on a blog is that I will have so many photos to look back on in years to come. Of how the walls have got a little fuller with pictures and the window ledges are filling up with family photos. 

I feel like everyone has got into the Christmas spirit earlier this year, Facebook is full of tree photos waiting for presents to be stuffed underneath, nativity plays seem to be on school calendars even earlier and I cannot wait for the day next week when they run out of the gates and the Christmas countdown can truly begin. It's Ollie's turn tomorrow and we are heading on mass to school for their around the world nativity. I felt like Emma Thompson in Love Actually when he told me his part... not a lobster, he is the bullfighter! 

Cameras at the ready!

There's some beautiful accessories in the Snowshill range this year but be quick!

In collaboration with John Lewis 

Photo Backdrops • The Edit - Grey Planks

The last few days, few weeks really have been one of the most exciting and nerve wracking times in the life of my blog. I have finally, after almost two years (it might actually be almost three but that sounded so ridiculous) of fiddling and faffing with an idea, launched a product on a brand new new look site!

I have been so fortunate that this blog has led to some wonderful photography work, loyal clients where I feel like a remote but very real member of the team. I have spent the last few years getting to know my camera. I slap my own wrists for not reading the manual that still sits in the box in my office, but I have learnt what it can do, settings that feel like second nature, and each year I hope you see a little improvement in the quality of the imagery on this blog. 

I want to help others like me who often work from home as well as professionals who shoot for a living. People who might be like you, who take photos just for fun, style flat lays of pretty things, arrange products you have been sent to review, showcase gorgeous recipes you've made or take photos for a magazine or blog feature, stop motion videos or just generally have a good faff.

I've started with a first collection of textures and surfaces that I have photographed and made into vinyl backdrops that you can wipe, roll and store in the tube they get delivered in. I live with dented cardboard and foam boards and realise I spend more time editing out little marks and scratches sometimes than I do editing the overall image.

I share my work space with my boys and a lot of the time it's littered with Lego. I need to be able to set up a scene while they are at school and then whip it away for when they get home. And not have masses of enormous boards wedged behind my desk or under the sofa. 

Head on over and let me know what you think! What you love what is on your wish list for Father Christmas and what you think is missing. Tweet me, tag me, leave a comment. I want to develop the next collection with you in mind.

I don't want to flood the store page with too much information that it feels overwhelming, so instead I am going to share a series of blog posts here where I show you each backdrop in the range, one by one and some different edits. All my photos are taken in natural light and these have been edited using one of my favourite set of Photoshop Actions from Sarah Gardner.

Introducing the Grey Planks....

I spotted this set of planks hidden behind an old door in a garden section of a scrap yard at the back of an Antiques emporium. It has texture and age but was almost in pristine condition, protected from the weather by a peeling painted door in front. It can feel cold and moody or cleaner and airier depending on the light you are shooting in. 

My favourite detail is the subtle ombré effect from natural exposure to sunlight. You can't recreate this on a computer. Well I don't think so anyway. The planks aren't too close together to be real, I have photographed them true to scale. There's a slight variation from the original in the final printed version but I don't think you can notice it in your photographs. 

Smooth vinyl, but with texture and depth in the image. 

What feels more like you? My natural style fits with the first images, but I love how you can change the atmosphere of a photo with some simple edits. 

I've realised more and more as life gets busier and busier with after school activities, homework and party invitations I need a way to create general images for my social media accounts. I am most active on my Instagram feed and these style photos help let my gallery breathe. 

They give my more hectic captures space. Sometimes I look back at what I've posted and it's a mass of full frames, no negative space (which we all know the good people of IG love) and each one is practically fighting each other for your attention. Plus taking even five minutes out of a day to create something is good for my soul.

Next up I am going to show you one of my favourites, my old marble table that is currently drowning in paperwork, Christmas cards to write, car keys and uniform to stuff into pe bags tomorrow morning! 

It is such a pleasure to have this collection live, there's a few tweaks and bumps to iron out but it is such a thrill to see people ordering them! If one is coming your way with the postman next week I would love you tag me and use #cblbackdrops if you share a photo. It's like seeing your babies fly the nest! 

Happy shopping and happy snapping!