As we set up our studio we are faced with many, many choices.  Too many to count, even.  Well, okay, they are too many to count because I’m keeping track of all my projects in Omni Groups’ fantastic OmniFocus which I implemented after Jen and I both read David Allen’s terrific book on mastering stress-free productivity.  Whilst I’m uber-excited about finally having all the junk in my head neatly organised in a system I can trust – and let me tell you what a difference this has made ’cause no longer do I go to bed and fight with reminders of all the things I need to – this post isn’t about productivity systems.  Phew, that was a close call.  Just about went waaaay off track there.

Just a sec – chocolate break – Jen just brought me a hot chocolate…. yumm-o!

Okay, right.  So, setting up our studio, we’ve had a lot of choices to make.  One of the most significant choices was how to adequately display samples of our art.  This might seem fairly straightforward, but since our studio is in our home, our examples had to reflect our lifestyle and be art that we wanted to have as a part of our everyday lives.  Since we are passionate about the benefits fabulous wall art and albums bring to our clients having images we feel the same way about in our own home was really important to us.

When we were living in Australia, our best friends, the Cordys, became our “adopted” family.  Just before we left Aussie to come back to Canada we created some beautiful family portraits of our friends in the Outback bush near our home.  The image up top is our absolute favourite portrait of them and it now hangs in a central place in our home as an incredible 30×60 inch gallery wrap canvas mounted in a floating frame.

When I ordered this image from our awesome printer in Calgary and decided on top of the line Breathing Colour canvas, I wondered about how it was going to fit in to our home.  Would the size be adequate?  Too much?  Not enough?  I needn’t have worried.  It looks amazing!  I can’t begin to tell you how much joy having this art hanging above our stairs is bringing us, having our “family” with us and not tucked away in a corner or on a shelf to be seen on dusting day.  And yes, we have had a few cries too, as we miss these guys so much!

I’ll be honest.  This is the largest photograph I have produced.  Even as a photographer, I had my doubts about the ability to print large portraits from cameras today without the incredible resolution of medium and large format cameras.  But when I look at the quality of this print, I am in awe of what can be created with a great image, amazing media (the canvas) and a printer who is committed to excellence in his art of printing.


Yes, it’s that time of year again, with Thanksgiving around the corner, Scouts at the shops selling apples, freezers filled with local produce for winter, bellies filled with the most incredible sweet corn, pumpkins ripe in the fields, combines going like the clackers to get the harvest off the field before it rains or frosts, leaves turning a multitude of vibrant fall colours and the evening sun casting an incredible warm glow across fields, on trees, hills and barns.

I love this time of year in Canada.  Mornings crisp.  Days still warm.  Cool to sleep at night.  Mosquitos a faint buzzing memory of spring and summer.

As a photographer, the opportunities are endless and oh so fleeting.  Every day is different from the last as the first early turning trees go first, seemingly on by themselves, then a few more trees have a bit of colour.  Next thing you know there are trees without any leaves on them standing side by side with trees which are still green.  Bam, a hint of yellow and orange appears across the hills and down the streets.  Next day, it looks like the world is on fire (well, if you live in oak and maple country, anyway) with leaves fire red, glowing orange, and school bus yellow. Then, what’s this, snow?  Hmmm, you might think I’m jumping the gun on the snow whilst September is still on the calendar, but my good friend Marisa noted on facebook that it was snowing at the EKATI Diamond Mine today.  And so as a photographer, every day is an opportunity for a different photograph, even standing in the same place each time.

Dad and I have been out scouting for just such colour and opportunities.  Driving around the Horseshoe Valley area.  Went up to the cottage yesterday to fetch one of the boats home and took the back route home looking for whatever there might be to see.  The trees at the lake weren’t in their full glory yet, though the early sugar maple at Perkis’ cottage was already fully fire red.  Another week perhaps.

And that, I suppose, brings me to my point today.  If you are thinking about fall portraits for your family, there is still time to get organised, but don’t wait much longer.  Those leaves will be piled deeep on our lawns before we know it.


A couple of weeks ago one of my very best friends brought his family to visit for lunch.  Steve and I go a long way back. We met in our first year physics lab at Queens, puzzled over the labs together, shared brews, mountain bike rides and some very late night study sessions trying our best to survive Engineering.  We made it, graduated and then went our separate ways as so often happens with Uni friends.  We would get together when I would be back in Ontario visitng my family from time to time.  Its always been one of those really easy relationships.  Easy to fall out of touch, but just as easy to get back in touch.  No expectations and no hard feelings.  Everytime we get together it’s like we’ve been communicating daily every since we finished school.  You know, when you can just pick up a conversation or a joke and carry on without any of the awkward reminiscing about the “old days” because you have nothing else in common anymore.

A few years back Steve mentioned that he had met this incredible woman while on a business trip when he was working for a robotics company.  Fast forward a little bit and the next thing we knew Steve and Nue were heading to Thailand for wedding.  “We are SO there” was our immediate response…. Anyway, perhaps we’ll talk about that experience another day because I could go on about it for hours.

I talk a lot about how important our family is to us and how great it is to be back close to them.  Another benefit is being close to some of our closest friends.  We met Steve and Nue’s two fabulous little girls Matina and Aleena earlier this summer and now these two little darlings have already stolen our hearts.  Matina is painfully shy, but once that shell cracks, there is no stopping her.  And the stories that she told me as we explored the edge of the forest around our home were some of those wonderfully intricate fantasies that come so easily to children.  It is such a great gift to receive that trust, especially from someone so shy.

After lunch Steve and I took Matina to explore some of the Simcoe County forest and the Barrie to Orillia hiking trail that crosses through our neighbourhood.  Grabbing my camera on my way out the door I thought, just maybe we’ll get a chance to create some photographs…..  Well, regardless of how the images turned out, introducing Matina to wild blackberries was certainly the highlight of the walk for me!


Earlier this year, a photographer friend of mine, Sabrina Henry, posted an interview with me on her blog “the chronicles of learning photography”.  I rather kept the interview a bit quiet as it was letting the cat out of the bag a bit.  Several months prior to this article coming out Jen and I had come to the conclusion that we needed to make a change in our lives and that living in Roxby really wasn’t working for us anymore.  We hadn’t quiet decided what the change was going to be, when it would come or just where we might end up, but we did have a pretty good idea.  We hadn’t made any irreversible decisions so broadcasting this feature wasn’t something we could do at the time.

Regardless, when Sabrina asked me to answer a few questions she did warn me that I didn’t get a choice of questions and that I had to choose just one image to go with the interview post.  Arg.  At first I thought it would be a hard choice, but in the end it was pretty easy to choose this image from the Schubert’s family portrait session.  This image one of my favourite family portraits.  It was taken last winter in the Outback near Roxby Downs when the desert had exploded into massive bloom for the first time in decades.  The Schuberts were surrounded with wild parsnips and had a fabulous time exploring the flower-covered dunes while I captured these precious moments for them.  I love how this image portrays just how close Kara and Jay are with their children.

Now that we have launched Houlden Studios, I felt it was fitting that we bring this interview showcase at Sabrina’s blog out to the forefront again.  Check it out here.


All in all, a pretty exciting day for me today.  For the last couple weeks since finalising our identity package with Chad and his awesome creative graphic design team at Rhubarb Media I have been working pretty hard at laying out the website design, choosing images, formating, tweaking, curating, starting over, redesigning, etc etc. You get the idea. It’s been quite a challenge to get there.

Just when I thought I had a really good start on things, I sent my links over to my really good friend Pamela for some feedback.  Pamela, a fine art black and white portrait photographer who specialises in real life documentary photography, actually deserves a blog post of own, so maybe we’ll do that in the near future, eh?  Sorry, as I was saying, Pamela really helped me simplify the website design and then provided some awesome feedback that really helped me curate my collection of imagery to what you see now at our website.  And as if that wasn’t enough, I solicited feedback from a group of people with whom I’ve been studying business techniques with all summer and had a whole heap of more tweaking to do today.  Funny, when I went to bed last night, I really did think I would wake up in the morning and hit the publish button. Wrong!  It did go up today though, phew.

In reviewing my work from the past year to choose the best images for our website, it really struck me how my style has developed this past year.  I started out presenting almost all of my portraits in a vertical orientation with a few being presented square.  As the year progressed, I started embracing a horizontal format and eventually progressing to the ultra-wide aspect imagery you see predominately on the website.  I’m really excited about this format because, for me, it has incredible impact.  I just love the way an image looks and feels when displayed really wide like this.

Right!  Well, I really just want to say “PHEW!” out loud to the world that our website had been released into the wild.

Take care.



A Sister's Kiss

A Sister's Kiss

This image from a photo shoot in the Australian Outback remains one of my all time favourite images from a family shoot.  The love this young girl showed her brother as they explored an explosion of wildflowers in the desert was so sweet.  For most of the shoot, they ran and explored, then in a quiet moment she reached around her brother and gave him this sweet kiss.