Say Cheese…!!!

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After becoming a mother to my sweet Adam, documenting memories has been a very important task, this is why I started this blog in the first place. Time was/ is slipping through my fingers while I watch my baby boy becoming this big kid, and knowing that yesterday will never come back is a very sad feeling that makes it very hard to enjoy the “now”. So that’s why I write! I created this little window to take me back on time every time I needed to. With the blog came the need to take plenty of pictures, to make the posts complete. I take an immense pleasure taking plenty of pictures everyday, because I know how happy it makes me to scroll through my phone and find these forgotten and long gone but very much cherished moments. I am no professional photographer though, but I try my best ;), and you can imagine my excitement every time I plan a professional photo-shoot, with photographers who capture magical moments and transform them into forever lasting memories. However, personally, I find it very hard to be myself in front of a camera, in front of a stranger who wants me to look at the camera, smile, pose and I don’t know what else!!! I feel so awkward, and I suddenly don’t know what to do with my arms, hands and …. Myself in general. I also find it very hard to “act natural” how can I act natural??? Some photographers though have this special gift of being almost invisible, which makes you almost forget their presence. One of these special gifted photographer is Makenzie! I worked with Makenzie once and I watched closely how people were slowly feeling relaxed and themselves under her gaze. I also saw how warm and sweet she was which makes you fee like you’ve known her for a very long time. So when I had a chance to be one of her “models” I couldn’t wait to see the results!

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We invited Makenzie over to take some pictures of me and my son, and we were so excited. She instantly connected with my son, who wanted her to take a picture of “Zang” his favorite toy, to which Makenzie happily obliged, and Adam couldn’t be happier!  She told us to go on with our day, and just do what we usually do, which is a little weird, because we usually have no audience in normal days, but we still pretended that we were alone. Few minutes later, Adam and I were all over the place, reading books and doing our morning school work, we couldn’t even hear Makenzie’s footsteps! She was gracefully moving doing her own thing, without asking us to pose, smile, move shoulders or chins! And guess what: It was AMAZING!! When she finally said “I think I’ve got plenty of pictures”, we were pleasantly surprised. Few days later I received a folder full of beauty, magic, and love! The pictures were so amazing! She managed to capture more than just a mother and her son taking few pictures together, she captured feelings too. The pictures were so vivid and alive in a very beautiful way. She has this unique style in taking the most mundane pose and turning it into an unforgettable moment! I will happily share some of these treasures with you , in this post, and you can see for yourself.

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I also had the chance to ask Makenzie few questions, to know a little more about her, and what she does. Here is what we talked about:

 

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First please tell us a little bit about yourself? Who you are, where are you from?

 

I am a wife and mom to two amazing girls, 4.5 and 2.5 years. We moved from Washington DC to Bahrain last July, so we’ve been here for almost a year and a half.  We are really enjoying living here and hope to stay for another few years!  Before becoming a photographer, I was a teacher for 4 years, and then worked for a textbook publisher as a sales manager for nine years.

 

How did your relationship with the camera start?

 

When my oldest daughter was born 4.5 years ago, like most moms, I wanted plenty of pictures of her so I bought my first DSLR camera.  I quickly became interested in going beyond just the basics of what my camera could do and read all I could online about different lenses, settings, and so on.  Lots of practice, reading online tutorials, and watching YouTube videos about editing got me to here.

 

How long have you been taking professional pictures for?

 

I did my first paid shoot in October 2016.  Before that I had taken photos for friends’ families a few times, but never as a paid job.  With the encouragement of friends, I decided to start the business about a year ago and started regularly taking clients.

 

Do you have a favorite style, field, things to take pictures of?

 

My style is lifestyle and a bit of documentary.  I like to do minimal posing, and gravitate towards very natural images.  I love working with families.  We are all so busy with work, school, and other activities: how often as families are we all in the same place to just relax and hangout with no distractions? I feel so honored that I get to share that together time with my clients’ families and to document it.  I love sessions that are joy-filled with lots of laughter.  I want clients to look back and not just say “the photos are nice” but also think “that session was a lot of fun!”

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I love to take pictures, yet I hate to pose, would you like to give me and the other mamas tips on how to look great on camera?

 

Relax, relax, relax.  Relax and be yourself.  Connect with your child, and that emotion will be the first thing you notice in the photo and not what you’re wearing or if your hair was perfect.

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And how to get more natural pictures?

 

See the above answer 🙂 Focus on connection, having fun, laughing together.  Focus on the people around you and forget about the camera.

 

Many moms love photography; what advice would you give them in case they want to pursue a carrier in this domain?

 

Take pictures every day!  The more you practice, the better you will get.  The more you’ll figure out what you like and don’t like.  You’ll start to notice which settings on your camera give you the results you are looking for.  There are lots of great free resources online.  Use those to your advantage, but nothing can replace 1:1 instruction and mentorship.  I love working 1:1 with moms to help them learn how to take better photos day to day of their children with whatever camera they have available. Besides lots of practice, also follow photographers whose work you love and notice similarities in the images you connect with.  It will improve your eye for what makes a great image.

 

How do you see yourself and your photography in few years from now?

 

I would love to start doing more documentary sessions.  Right now most sessions I do are at locations around Bahrain.  I’d really love to add in some at-home documentary sessions.  Much like the time I spent at your house, a documentary session means I come to a client’s home and take photos of the family spending time together doing a favorite activity together, whether it’s snuggling on the couch together with stack of books or making breakfast together on a weekend morning.

 

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How do you balance your work, and duties as a mama of two?

 

This is a great question and something I’ve been working on the last month.  In this first year in business I was saying yes to doing sessions at all days and times.  I was in business building mode and didn’t want to turn down any opportunity.  Over the last couple months though, I started to resent weekends when I was gone all day long or weekdays where I’d miss dinner rushing back from a sunset session.  So a few weeks ago I came up with a list of specific “yes” days and times when I will take sessions, and “no” days and times when I won’t take sessions.  I do a lot of my editing and computer work in the mornings while my oldest is at school, and in the evenings after my girls go to bed.

 

Do you do maternity and birth photos?

 

Yes!  I love, love, love all things baby and motherhood.  I would like to be doing even more maternity sessions.  I have not shot a birth yet but I really would like to.  I recently put together an investment guide for birth photography so that I will be ready when more inquiries come to me.

 

Any advice on which camera to buy, to take normal (not professional) pictures?

 

Oh this is a tough one!  There are so many good entry level cameras on the market.  I started on a Nikon D3200 and I still think that is an excellent series to start with.  (I now shoot on a Nikon D750 for all client sessions.)  Canon makes a comparable entry-level series which is well regarded.  If you travel a lot, check out Fuji mirrorless cameras which are lighter and more compact and produce fantastic images.  I travel with a Fuji XT10.

 

What are your favorite spots to take pictures at, in Bahrain?

 

Bahrain Fort is probably the most popular location with clients.  I’ve been loving the Sheikh Isa House in Muharraq lately.  Al Jasra Handicrafts Center – when the shops are closed – is a green-filled hidden gem (although the watchman there last time didn’t look pleased I was taking photos ;)).  The Royal Camel Farm is super fun.  The grounds of the National Museum are filled with beautiful and interesting architecture.  Tree of Life is still on my wish list, haven’t done a session there yet.  The Bahrain skyline over the water at Prince Khalifa Park, off Hidd Bridge, is amazing at sunset.  I could go on and on!  I’ve really enjoyed exploring all over Bahrain so far.

 

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I Hope you enjoyed this super cool interview with Makenzie, and the super cool pictures too! And guess what……That’s not it….. We have a great giveaway for you guys!! Check out my Instagram account and follow the steps, to win a fantastic mini-session with the very talented Makenzie!!!! YAAAAAAAY!!!

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Ouiam

How We Montessori.

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While sitting in my kitchen, I decided as I promised in my last post, to write about how we homeschool.
First , I need to talk a little bit about the Montessori method  itself, before we get any deeper in this. The Montessori method is an educational approach developed by the Italian physician Maria Montessori. This approach takes the child out of the traditional teaching system and puts him in a completely different environment, where he is the master of his own destiny. He has all the freedom he needs to thrive and to become a responsible, creative human being, armed with highly developed problem solving skills. The method emphasizes in making everything accessible to the child so he doesn’t depend on anyone to get through his day. Everything should be put in miniature or at least put in a way that the child (toddler in my case) is able to help himself by himself.

 

For example, he needs to be able to access the kitchen, and this is done by giving him a specific area of your kitchen where you can display his plates, cups, spoons, forks…etc. in a way that he can get whatever he needs alone without having to ask you for help. Of course all this is done while respecting all the safety measures. You do the same thing in his bedroom with his clothes and toiletries, and pretty much every area of your house. The child is also given the freedom to explore and gets to make his own choices. So in a way it is more of a lifestyle than an educational method really.

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The teaching is done through lessons (also called presentations), covering all subjects. Each presentation is done in a tray and explored on a rug (a normal small rug) or on a table. The tray is incredibly important; it teaches the child about boundaries. He can’t work outside that tray.  From my own experience, the tray has taught Adam to always work in a clean environment without making a mess. It also taught him to focus more because the space is narrowed to that tray now, and it is much easier to concentrate, plus it teaches him how to be disciplined and how to follow instructions.

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Lessons in general cover these subjects: Practical life (as the name indicates it is about the normal life, doing normal chores, like sweeping the floor, cutting vegetables and fruits, pouring, washing dishes, preparing the table… etc.). There is also Science, Math, History, Language, Botany, Geology, Zoology, Geography, Sensorial, and ecology.

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Currently I am doing a Montessori teaching course (almost done …Yaay to that!), So I have manuals to help me with the curriculum. We work 6 days a week (Friday is off), from 9:30am till 11:30am. Everyday we have a different subject. I prepare the lessons every Friday (for the whole week), and every night I just prepare the material needed for the next morning. During the session Adam gets two breaks, where we usually have dance parties (we just dance for few minutes), then we go back to our work. I lay the activities of the day in front of Adam and let him choose what he wants to do, I then explain to him what I need him to do, using very specific and clear instructions, and let him dig in. I do not interfere with his work, I do not try to rush him or push him to do what he is “supposed” to do, because there is no such thing in the Montessori method. It is all about observing the child and noticing all the little things that will tell you a lot about him. Even if I see that Adam is doing something wrong, I do not interfere (I must admit that this is very hard at times, because of course as a mother I have that absolute need to direct my child towards what is right and correct, but luckily most of the time I manage to stop myself). Once he says that he is done, we clean up, then move to a different activity. Cleaning up is vital! The kids have to learn that they can not have access to another activity unless they clean up. At times when Adam refuses to clean up, I put his picture (one that we always use) on the tray of the activity, and put it next to us, while we proceed to the next lesson, but we come back to it when he is in a better mood, and the picture is to remind him that he has some unfinished business over here.

 

Activities are simple and fun, because let’s face it, the aim is to have fun while learning, so if Adam isn’t enjoying himself, I stop and change activities immediately. They also need to be age appropriate, because while it is good to expose the child to new exciting things, if it is too hard they will lose interest and get bored very fast, which is exactly what we want to avoid at all costs.

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I started homeschooling Adam since he was 17months old, and honestly I love it! It has taught us both (Adam and I) so many things, plus I just love how independent Adam is (He makes his own breakfast, washes his own dishes after every meal, he also can dress and undress himself whenever needed without me even being in the same room, it also made potty training a piece of cake!).

 

On a totally different note, I think I love blogging from my kitchen, with the smell of freshly baked goods satisfying my senses and the tunes of Joe Dassin and french songs from the 20s taking me to cloud nine! So I guess this is something that I will be doing more often lol!

Thanks for reading and come back soon!

 

Ouiam