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

Let Your Children Fight Their Own Battles.


There is no doubt that contemporary parenting has become a minefield. With the peer pressure we all encounter as parents, parenting has become this huge competition, where each and every parent wants to do the “right thing”, go by the “book”, and raise their children to be the smartest and most brilliant kids of all times. Of course we all do it out of love, after all these little creatures are pieces of our hearts and souls.  All we want to do is love them, protect them and give them the best we can for them to grow and become responsible, kind, and happy human beings.  Yet what we tend to forget most of the time is that children are not our property, nor are they a trophy, they are these tiny human beings, who are trying to find their own way every single day. They just embarked in this crazy journey and with time they are developing the skills needed to be able to sail freely and smoothly. We are there to GUIDE them and to make sure they acquire the necessary tools to build their personalities, characters, and their own opinions. The trick is to decide when to step in and when to back off, and this is where most parents go wrong. As parents we are automatically wired to make these little minds and hearts avoid pain, sadness and sorrow at all costs. We can’t stand the thought that our little one is going through a hard time, through pain and suffering, so we get up and do whatever we can to skip that part and make them think that they live in a flawless pink world, filled with rainbows and unicorns. While this is not necessary a bad thing, but if done all the time, it robs the children the chance to live their own life, to fight their own battles. Letting them live their life to the fullest even at a young age, can be tremendously beneficent, it can teach them problem-solving skills, it can teach them to be confident and to love themselves, which is the key to having happy kids.

 

By giving the child a voice, you are arming them with the tools needed to build confidence and self-esteem for the future. When he learns that no matter what, he is the master of his own destiny you are giving him the chance to stand up for himself and face the consequences of his choices. By taking responsibility of his own acts you are also teaching him that he is worthy of your trust yet he is also accountable for his acts.

 

As a mother, this might be just about the most difficult thing on earth! Seeing your sweet little child in tears over something that you can fix in a second…. Man it’s hard! You just have to remind yourself everyday that you will not interfere and that you will let your child fight his own battles but you will still show him that you love him no matter what and that you’re there for him.

 

Letting your child go through their own heartbreaking experiences, pain and suffering might be the greatest gift you could ever offer them.

 

Ouiam

World War 3!!

 

 

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At the park, two little boys playing cheerfully together, life is great… Oh wait what was that? Toddler number one snatched a toy from toddler number two, and world war three just erupted!

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A playdate going really well, till the little boy decides that sharing wasn’t good for him, and that toy is the one thing he’ll hold onto as if his life depended on that!

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  • “Honey, that toy was with your friend, you should give it back to him”
  • Nooooo!! Crying, screaming, kicking and again world war 3!

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You, your little angel, at another playdate, and this other toddler who keeps on snatching the toys from him! The first time you understood that these are kids and that’s what they do, the second time you run to your child with another toy hoping he’ll forget about the first one, the third time, you run to the other boy and ask gently yet firmly to give the toy back to your son, the forth and last time……. That’s it!!!You had enough! You take your son and it’s time to go back home!

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Who doesn’t know all the scenarios above, who hasn’t lived something similar at least once a week? I thought so! We all have been there. We might act and react differently but we all stress, think and overthink, panic, and maybe even get pissed!

 

I have been in so many of these situations, I have gone through all the above yucky feelings. I left playdates because I thought it was too much to handle, I stopped seeing some other moms because their kids were too …hmmm …too much to handle. Then one day and in the middle of one of those yucky situations, I thought “Hey sit back, relax and watch!” A boy took a toy that Adam was playing with, Adam took it back, the boy screamed, cried, pushed Adam away, and ran to his mama. The other mom looked at me as in “Aren’t you gonna do anything about it???!” I smiled and did exactly what she feared I would: NOTHING! Two seconds later, Adam brought the toy back, the other boy  smiled, and went on playing, singing and giggling! I wasn’t encouraging my son to be a mean boy, if that’s what you re thinking, No, I was letting him go through his battles on his own. He can talk, he can say what he wants/needs and so can the other little boy. When I get up, freak out, run to my son, I will mirror those feelings to him, he will think that it is a really big deal, because that’s exactly how I made him feel, while think about it, IT IS NOT! !

 

From that day forward, I try to stay comfortable as a mom and as a mirror to my son’s feelings. “Adam had the toy, the little boy has the toy now” no big deal. I don’t try to distract him, because that will only  mask the problem , it will not fix it. If he cries, then I acknowledge his feelings and give him space to explore his emotions.

 

So far so good, right? NOW the real problem I face is with the mothers not the kids. You see the kids get their strength from their moms (dads/caregiver), they follow their leaders (again: mom/dad/caregiver), so when I am calm, comfortable, and not stressed they react the same way. However, some other moms who lovingly always want to protect their little nuggets, might be a problem. The looks I get when I don’t interfere are horrifying! They might think that I am a bad mom and that I am not disciplining my child, while I am actually doing just the opposite; I am teaching my child and possibly the other child too, some very precious problem-solving skills. I am telling them that it is OK to figure out a solution to the problem by yourself. I am there to watch and guide only if they needed my help, things like “Do you need me to help you give the toy back?”, or if my son keeps on reaching for that toy: “I see you keep on reaching for that toy, so I am going to stop you” again calmly, nicely and without the hint of anger or judgment. I am there but I am chilled, and observing and most importantly ready.

 

The journey of these little human beings has just began. The world is a big scary place for them, they are frightened by all these new emotions they deal with every day. They are trying to grasp as much as they can but boy is it hard!! The learning process will never end, and in parenting there is no clear cuts, no right and wrong, but we try our best. Today it might work and you might think that you’re nailing it as a mom, then the next day might be the worst day ever. What has helped me tremendously is to always keep an open mind, try everything, even if I am not really convinced, and see what will happen… You will be surprised! When kids have the freedom to explore the world they become more independent and more confident and sometimes they take the lead and that’s fine too. I learn a lot from my son and every day with him is a teaching experience.

 

How about you? What kind of moms are you? How do you react in one of these situations? I would love to know!

 

Ouiam

Less Judging..More Supporting Please!

 

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The other day, during one of the many “Mommy & me” meet ups we organise, and while in the middle of a very interesting conversation, the mother doing the talking stopped abruptly, her face went blank, as she frowned, and asked me a question that starts like this: “Why is Adam still………. ?”  I usually don’t discuss Adam’s routine, and almost never fall for the judgmental questions every mother seems to receive.  I believe that every family does what works best for them, and should never pay attention to the comments or criticism coming their way, however other people don’t seem to agree with that. The community we live in has these strict rules and regulations, that if you don’t follow, you will be shunned, rejected, and you will be subject to a great deal of judgment. Especially when it comes to motherhood. And what is even more surprising, is that most of the judgment comes from WOMEN, other mothers, just like you and me!! This covers so many areas, from the way you choose to raise your kids, to the way you choose to dress them, feed them, educate them….and the list is long!  Anyways, and back to my story, before replying, I still found myself in a state of uncertainty, and even though the person asking didn’t mean any harm, she still managed to make the ghosts of doubt and guilt creep into my head. It was only a matter of few seconds before I got hold of myself and responded calmly, explaining that we have a certain way of doing things that works perfectly for us, and we don’t intend to change anything for now, making sure the conversation ended right there.

You see, I always considered myself as a strong passionate human being, whose actions are based on deep thinking. I always trust my guts and I am always happy with the outcome of my choices and decisions. I wear the badge of motherhood so proudly and when it comes to Adam’s life, I do nothing randomly, everything I do comes as a result of a great research and a great deal of deep thinking and reasoning! However, this person still managed to make me doubt myself, even if it was just for a few seconds. How about the millions of other women who go through this cycle of judgment, criticizing, and scrutiny, every single day from their families, friends, and environment? This was the very first time I realize that sometimes you can’t just shut your ears and pretend that you haven’t heard that stupid remark, or just change the subject with a smile on your face; sometimes their words are not whispers that get lost in the air around you, they are loud and truly disturbing, that you just can’t ignore them.

We are still very far away from cheering to what’s different and applauding what’s unique. Some people still believe that there is one set of rules that should be applied on all of us, that we all should think, act, and live the same. How can we change that? How can we convince everyone that a mother, a woman or any human being for that matter, already leads a very stressful life, so why add to their misery? I believe the only true power we have, as mothers, is to raise our kids to be different. Raise them to appreciate diversity and respect it. Raise them to become passionate, understanding and kind human beings. It is a great responsibility but the outcome is fascinating. If every mother plants the seeds of compassion, sympathy, and empathy in her kids, the world will be a better place. But for now, somebody needs to come up with some great invention, like a small device that you place on your wrist and would beep every time you say something disturbing, mean, or just an inappropriate remark that would make the other person uncomfortable! I sooo would buy this device! In fact, I would by thousands of them and distribute them for free to every single person I know!

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