A sunrise photoshoot with Wellness à la Maud

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Waking up before the sun rises is usually worth a photographer’s effort because of the special quality of morning light. If you’re not an early riser naturally (which I am not) it can also be painful, but I have Maud Urbas, founder of Wellness à la Maud, to thank for getting me to Mount Royal early one morning last week to help get her image library started for the new freelance business she is launching. Maud is a Kripalu Yoga Teacher (RYT) with a background in Psychology and Communications, passionate about health and wellness and her goal is “to empower people to reach their full potential through yoga, meditation, nutrition, and creative expression”. Sounds pretty worthwhile to me and we both agreed that a sunrise shoot on Mt. Royal would be a perfect way to showcase her style and provide us with some useful images to populate her website and social media channels (must haves for any freelancer launching any kind business today).

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When we got there we were surprised to find the lookout was actually rather busy. I had expected us to have the place to ourselves but not only were there a few healthy looking couples and other photographers out there before us, eagerly awaiting the sun to burn off the early morning mists, but also a few groups of teenagers who looked like they’d spent the night there partying.

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Happily, aside from a few photobombs, we found a space to shoot Maud demonstrating various poses with natural backdrops of Montreal and the sun slowly emerging through the early morning fog.

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We then took a little walk around, up and down some stairs, encountering more people up for morning runs and another photographer, who smiled and told us that the light was really beautiful just a little further along the trail we were walking on. And he was right of course.

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We were after natural looking settings to where Maud could demonstrate simple poses that communicate Maud’s belief that yoga is for everyone, regardless of age, experience, and mobility.

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Here are a few more shots from our morning session. If you’re interested in trying out yoga with Maud, you can reach her on Instagram @wellnessalamaud, Facebook, or by email directly.

 

 

Improve your visual diet

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At the beginning of every year a lot of people are working on resolution-driven changes to their lives and lifestyles. Do more exercise, eat more veggies, that kind of thing. Worthy goals, but something that often gets neglected is what we expose ourselves to visually.

As humans, up to 80% of our sensory data streams through our eyes into the visual cortex. And yet we often take our eyes for granted and pay little attention to what we look at, or for, in the world around us.

I believe that simply by looking at and for beauty in what we find around us – in other people, works of art, well-crafted pieces of furniture, landscaped gardens, raw natural settings – we improve our consciousness and ourselves.

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Take clutter, for example. A messy, cluttered environment (which currently describes the state of my home office) induces stress. The mere sight of books and hard-drives askew on my desk triggers tiny flickers of anxiety that get smoothed away when I tidy up and bring order to my work space.

Where I live in Montreal, this time of year can be visually draining. The sky is often grey, the ground white with snow and the streets a brown mushy mess of slush and grit. It’s no surprise that this is when those big colourful billboards for trips to Cuba pop up over the highways, showing endless expanses of blue sea and smiling happy people.

Advertising always works that way, creating an enticing contrasting world to the one you are in, but it’s a pity if the only way we expand our visual diet is through ads.

I am a big fan of visiting museums when I travel, and within my own city. I enjoy taking an hour or two to simply stand in front of works of art and let my eyes drink in the imagery, the colours, shapes, textures of something made by a human hand. I’m lucky to live in a city with lots of access to art, not just within museums but throughout the city.

A walk through Mount Royal park is also something that feeds me when my mind needs to look at something other than screens.  Looking at trees, watching sparrows and chickadees flit to and from branches, always lifts my spirits.

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My daughter’s face is another place I look to when I want to soak in the beauty this world has to offer. One of my favourite things to do is steal glances of her in the rearview mirror when I am driving her home from school. She is often looking out the window, quietly observing the passing views and she has such a thoughtful expression I am always intrigued and wonder what she is thinking about. It makes me smile just watching her watching the world like that.

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We all have images that fill us with a sense of something greater than ourselves. Something that can ennoble us and lift us up when we are feeling overwhelmed, or sad, or just tired with life.

There is much tumult in the world today, as ever, and much of the images we see on our screens stain the eyes with pain. Like the scene of that child face down on the shoreline, or the devastated scenes from terror attacks, like that toppled Christmas tree in Berlin, or the ripped apart streets of Aleppo.

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Faun – Pablo Picasso (1937)

I don’t believe we should turn away from the people in need when terrible things do happen, but we do need to balance these images of death and destruction with more beauty and more calmly restorative images that help bring peace of mind.

So if you’ve still got room on your resolution list for one more, make it to seek out and pay attention to what is good and beautiful around you. Fill your eyes and your mind with images that bring you a sense of peace.  We could all use more of it.

What’s an engagement photo shoot?

weddings-past 5Are you getting married this spring, summer or fall? If so, you may still be looking for a photographer to cover your wedding. As you search and meet with wedding photographers in Montreal, you will certainly be offered an engagement shoot in addition to your wedding shoot. So what is it and why would you want to do it?

As a wedding photographer in Montreal, I like the idea of an engagement shoot. One of the main benefits it yields is a great opportunity for you and your photographer to get to know each other and work together. As well, as much as it is important and fun to get wedding photos on your actual wedding day, it can also be a hectic and stressful day for bride and groom. Having a day or an afternoon to just focus on yourselves and maybe revisit places around town that are important to you as a couple can be both rewarding in and of itself, and yield some fun and truly memorable photos.

Engagement shoots can be done with studio lighting setups, but they are also fun to do out in the wild. By that I mean in places that hold special meaning to you as a couple. That may be a walk along one of Mt. Royal’s beautiful paths, or a drink at a cafe or bistro where the first sparks between the two of flew. You may even want to wander around the grounds of your soon-to-be wedding to help de-jitter the place for you and scope out areas you’d like to revisit in your full wedding clothes.

Whether you choose to include an engagement shoot with your wedding package is up to you. As usual the decision will entail balancing the additional costs against the additional gains you will make in terms of creative and highly customized photos of you and your beloved in those heady days leading up to THE BIG DAY. Whatever you decide will be the right choice (stay zen especially when making decisions about your wedding) but keep it in mind as a fun, and worthwhile option if your budget and time allow.