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Thank you, 2023.


2023 was a lot of things for a lot of people. On my end, there was joy and despair, challenges and overcoming, and a heck of a lot of growth, both personally and professionally. There was change, and still is, and there was resiliency.


2023 was not kind to so many, & I hope if that was you, that you still had little glimmers of good. If 2023 was your best year yet, I am truly happy for you & wish you a similar 2024.


At JEP, 2023 started quickly & urgently with Ramses' session. Lora, his magnificent human, contacted me on New Year's Day about this handsome, burly, sweet, turkey-loving Bulldog. His health had been declining, and she wanted some photos before the inevitable.


These types of sessions are hard to describe. There is an air of sadness, of course, but within that sadness is such love, such deep connection.


Lora & her daughter Claire were watching Ramses' every move, observing for any signs of discomfort or struggle. They fed him his favourite treats (turkey, of course!), let him have some good sneefs, and didn't argue when he lead them right back to the car once he decided he was done with the camera.


In our very short time together, he was a kind, solid presence who I'm certain has brought much comfort to his people over his lifetime, & I was so grateful to meet him. He has since passed on to the Rainbow Bridge, and I can only imagine how deeply he is missed.


Yogi & Katie were my next session, timed perfectly after a new snowfall. Yogi is a little mischievous: he tried to steal my gloves right off my hands (multiple times), successfully stole his human's headband (directly off her head) & popped a hole in his treat bag (piñata, anyone?), but I'll take the blame for that one because I wasn't paying attention.


One of my favourite parts of the session was finding out his name (when he's "in trouble") turns into "YOGURT!", said in an exasperated tone. This was a cold, snowy, sparkly morning well-spent!






Next was one of those sessions that was just for me. The 2023 winter was long, wet, and particularly dreary. Getting out for a golden hour session with these two amazing souls was just what this soul needed. Kaya is part fox & part diva, & one of the most chill pups I've ever met. She prefers laying to walking, & sticks close to her human.


She did, however, very much enjoy the session snuggs, & was trying her darndest to be a (slightly oversized) lapdog. I mean, I wasn't going to tell her she was a bit big for that...


Looking back at these photos, this session was a perfectly-timed & much-needed pick-me-up.



Then came Deacon, originally a west coast dog, chosen & loved by Jamie & Don (& now his two little human sisters) for his entire decade of life. How special is that?

Jamie reached out to me urgently because Deacon had sustained an injury & she was concerned for what his future may look like. She wanted photos of her entire family.


Deacon & his humans came to my house, to limit the distance he'd need to travel & to keep distractions low (even though we ended up being surrounded by his favourite thing: sticks!), & we had a lovely time talking about this amazing dog & taking some photos while his sisters explored & the sun lowered. Deacon is a sweet ole chocolate bar of love & I loved meeting his whole family. He is a pretty lucky pup.





End of May, I had the pleasure of meeting Fleecy, a Sheltie who, in personality anyway, very much reminded me of my first dog, an Aussie named Journey; a true Queen, with limited patience for shenanigans, a semi-reserved nature, and lots to say (whether it was through a "boof" or a pointed facial expression).


Fleecy has been with Judy for a long time now, & the way they compliment eachother is testament to that. I have a feeling they have a lot in common, even beyond what I could tell in our short time together. I know some people say owners look like their dogs (I never knew quite how to feel about this), but in this case it was more one's energy echoing the other: confident, capable, strong (although yes, both gorgeous).



With June freshly green, I met a very special family of four:



Kate, a German Shepherd mix with the most wonderful parents, was an absolute angel, taking everything in stride. She never even got sick of me & my camera.


& then there's bb Sol (well, a yearling now but still, bb Sol). It was immediately obvious how much work Reed has put into this little blonde horse. We joked that perhaps she had done TOO much desensitization, because goshdarn she made us all work for those wooly little ears! Sol was polite, albeit a bit bored with my shenanigans, & a pleasure to be around. She graciously allowed me to give her all the scritches, & didn't mind a bit as I used her to get my "horse fix" (I did however refrain from burying my whole face in her mane).


& finally, Reed & Lucas, an amazing team of humans for these wonderful creatures. Such deep respect between partners, as well as for their animals. It's always such a privilege to be amongst such love. They were both game for whatever I suggested, with a smile, & it almost seemed like I had just met some friends at the barn.


The whole dang family was so photogenic, I really just had to try to keep up.




Simon & Family: my last session before my temporary hiatus, and goshdarn it was a good one.



I first met Becky last Fall when I took some photos of her and her longtime equine partner, Oliver. She has a quiet way with her animals, & radiates a simple joy just being around them.


Simon is four and so, so spicy. He had me doubled over laughing on a few occasions, one in particular when he decided he'd rather Josh run so he could herd him, then sit quietly together for photos.


At one point I heard Becky ask Simon: "are you broken?" which I find myself asking my own herding breeds frequently. He clearly didn't want to be stuck taking pictures when he could be romping the family farm, getting dirty, & chasing balls... & who could blame him?



After Spicy Simon, was another session, just for me. It inspired me remember to do things that bring you joy, something I had heard so many times in my early career as a healthcare provider combating burnout. Later, as social media got more popular, I started reading it everywhere: "Do things that bring you joy".


The problem with career burnout is it thieves the joy from other aspects of life. You don't really notice until one day you realize, wow, I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard. Or, when was the last time I picked up a book, or a paint brush?


Seeing my friend Victoria become the human to bb Teo brought me joy. Seeing her as a horse owner again, and the timing of it all, has brought me joy.


Picking a clear evening where I knew the sun would be warm, the wildflowers romantic, & the budding connection between horse & human touching, brought me joy.


& doing this shoot, just for me, brought me joy.


So, here it is again: if you're struggling in any way, with life, love, burnout, shitty circumstances, uncontrollable factors, changes, tremendous loss, big decisions, or just getting out of bed, here is your reminder to find yourself some joy.


Whether it's in new things, or familiar things, don't forget to do things that bring you joy.


I ended up following one "just for me" session with another, featuring my sister with her dog, Maze.



I had recently been reminded not to forget about the little things, which now that I look at it, seems fitting after I discussed making time to do things that bring you joy. The seemingly little things, especially when they are connected to our animals, are all so important to our well-being, even if they don't seem monumental.


They are these little moments that happen so often we don't really recognize them after a while, & I caution you not to take them for granted because as we all know, our animals' lives are much too short.


I won't write them all out again, these little moments, as I wrote a blog post on this very topic, but don't forget about them.


They are tiny, soft moments of connection in your everyday.


They are moments we wouldn't even know we're missing if we didn't have these special creatures in our lives.


Next up were my Mini Sessions. It was hard not to throw open the car door & pepper Tartan's forehead with kisses when I first saw her and Cynthia pull up. She has the sweetest, most soulful eyes & the most distinguished grey speckling on her beautiful face. As Cynthia cleaned the sleep out of Tartan's eyes, she told me about her hesitancy to get out of the car sometimes, & how she had lost her sight and hearing.


Senior pets are so, so special, and yet so incredibly difficult at the same time. Often, we've known them from tiny little beings, & sometimes it feels as though we share a brain.


"I worry sometimes because she can't see me, and she can't hear me anymore", Cynthia said at one point, cradling Tartan's face in her hands.


But seeing Tartan's tail start to wag, slowly & then build in enthusiasm whenever Cynthia would turn her attention toward her, there was no doubt in my mind: Tartan knows, and I expect she will always know, that Cynthia is right there, and always will be.


Then, in a complete energy-180, came Ida. Her little body oozed a zest for life that was both palpable and contagious.


She brought along her humans, Sam & Pat, who are the kind of people who you immediately feel at ease around. Sam has this warm energy about her that makes you think you've maybe been friends in a past life, and Pat is such a kind soul, doting on his girls and not being shy about his love for them both.


Meeting Ida was special, both because, well, she's a Whippet and  and I've never met one... but moreso because of how much affection surrounded her and how these three clearly love spending time together.


Look at that smile. I think we can all agree that Ida lives for life, & her humans.


After Ida, I had a number of returning clients, & I can't begin to describe how much they mean to me.


Now, I never have the expectation that people will keep using me as their photographer. I don't assume, & I don't get offended when previous clients of mine use other photographers. Circumstances change, people move, gifts are given, giveaways won, and sometimes people's tastes change and they want photos in another's style. This isn't something you ever have to worry about with me, I just want you to get the pics!


Those who do stick around, through growth, breaks, moves, losses & gains; they mean more to me than they could ever know.


So when I took off to Ontario to capture Maggie's growing family for her, in her hometown, & it being our fourth session together, I was beyond honoured.



After Maggie's session, I got up before the crack of dawn to drive 4 hours across Ontario in my automatic rental car, & arrived unscathed at the Toronto airport where my good friend Megan picked me up. & yes, we had a session planned!


This was the first time I was able to see Megan ride her mare in person. My first thought: "she is so happy to work for you!" The calm & down-to-business look on Bea's face, paired with her "concentration ears", was really something to see.


Watching Megan & Bea's relationship flourish (from afar) has been so rewarding to watch. We both were "lesson kids" (adults, but you know what I mean) when we met, and watching her make her dreams come true has brought me so much joy. I know it has been a challenging road, but here they are, an amazing team that always tries their best for one another.


I can't really put into words how it feels to be able to witness animal-human relationships so intimately as when I'm invited in, to document and hear their stories, and to see the love, the connection. It's something I'll always be grateful for, and when a friend trusts me to do it, well, it's just lights up my soul that tiny bit extra.  


Back in Nova Scotia, I next photographed Sarah (owner at Dogwood Den Grooming in Mount Denson), who was the winner of my most recent giveaway.


& yes, this was THE Fisher, the Mini Poodle that so many of you laughed at in my Instagram stories. Tequila (Quila for short), is his older "sister", and a mix between an Anatolian Shepherd & a Standard Poodle. Let me tell you, while she may look like a Poodle (except that tail), her personality is allllll Anatolian Shepherd.


I met Sarah a few years ago through dog things, but we first met in person when her and her partner, Pat, came to check out our chicken setup. The first time I met them, and with each subsequent interaction, I'm struck by how open & kind they are. You know the kind of folks that feel like old friends, even if you've never met before? That's them. They so easily let you in, and not only that, you feel like they want you to be there.


Doing their photos brought me so much joy, not only because Fisher's face was the equivalent of a big CHEESE  the whole time & I about busted a gut over Quila's emo "I'd rather not be here" vibe, but because being around folks and animals like this family, where the energy is that of deep affection & mutual respect, is healing.

 

Then, my third session with Tessa & Puck of Puzzle Dog! She was the very first client to book my very first mini sessions in Enfield, Nova Scotia, which happened the day after a 30cm snowstorm at the end of January. Those mini sessions weren't especially popular (I thought everyone enjoyed cold, snowy, crispy, magical weather as much as I do ), and with the snowstorm, she ended up being my only client of the day. Fortunately for me, both Tessa & Puck adore winter weather just as much as I do, and I ended up having the best time with these two that snowy, -20°C day.



This session was much less cold, and despite having to reschedule for rain, we ended up with the most beautiful overcast day in the most beautiful area near Windsor, Nova Scotia. But more importantly, we ended up with some vibrant, gorgeous photos in Tessa & Puck's favourite place.


More returning clients! Robyn & Sam, along with Kip & Janie, had some very special news to share!


I first met Robyn last year, when we got together for a session with her senior boy, Ollie. This time, she was accompanied by her husband Sam, their pups Kip (adorable hound) & Janie (little ginger). Janie had eyes only for her humans (the giver of treatos), & Kip gave us some of his best bays. We chatted a lot: about their recent wedding, their upcoming tiny human, all things dogs ... & we wandered through the autumn colours while they showed me around one of their favourite places to walk.

Robyn & Sam have so much love for one another, it positively overflows. Over the eachother, over the dogs, and into the immediate vicinity. I have a feeling their upcoming little boy has no idea how loved he will be.


After meeting Kip & Janie, I met a wonderfully kind family of 6. Nate actually contacted me initially about a year and a half ago for a family session. Unfortunately, the timing didn't end up being on our side. I was overjoyed to hear from him again, however, & finally meet the rest of the family.


One thing that I noticed immediately is that these dogs simply love their humans. It didn't matter what ideas I threw out, the dogs were happy to do whatever the humans asked of them. They stood like models, waiting for their shot, or they sat down next to their people, happy to cuddle in for a chest scratch.


& the people? 100% devoted to these amazing, loving beings. Evident in every loving hand laid on a silken head, every cheek pressed against a furry ear, and every smile at a canine antic.


I always feel like a broken record when I talk about how much love I'm surrounded by when I do these sessions, but the truth is, I am! These six amazing souls shared with me such love for each other, & I can't thank them enough for letting me in.




Then: another year, another session with this wonderful family. They've all had a huge year, so we almost didn't do any photos, & understandably so.


But in true "just get the pics!!" form, everyone suited up and we got the freakin' pics!


It was much colder & windier than anticipated, but all were troopers, and with many coat/truck breaks to warm up, we ended up with some amazing memories.


Don't ever try to tell me November is a boring month to take photos. The skies never disappoint, & the grass, which may look dead to some, looks absolutely golden to me & my camera.


& it's always extra special when I manage to convince others of my love for November.



Now, the last time I saw Abbie, she was just a smol pup, so when Amy contacted me for a session with her and her partner, Matt, I was so excited!


Amy & Matt are just as I had remembered the first time we met: open, kind, warm & absolutely enamoured with Abbie. They treat me like I'm a friend joining them for a walk, and I ended up laughing almost the entire session.


Abbie has grown into a gorgeous girl, as you can see, & is a lady who knows what she wants: sticks, dirty paws, and her humans. She let us know that she was doing us all a favour by posing, and when it was time to keep it moving up the trail.


It was such a privilege to see Abbie all grown up, and to hang out with her humans again! This session certainly filled my cup.


My last session of 2023, I share with great sadness, because Dustin & Katie have since lost this amazing little soul. They had Tracker for 3 years, & had been busy letting him live life to the fullest ever since.


Watching Tracker sit on the dike, gazing out at the fields, like an old man in a rocking chair, had me crying laughing in the grass. In the short time I spent with him, he showed me his giant personality, complete with a few Beagle bays, and some airplane ears. I probably would have scooped him up and tucked in my jacket if I thought Katie & Dustin wouldn't notice, & if I didn't see the extent of the love with which Tracker looked at his humans.


Spending time with senior dogs is a privilege I take very seriously, and something I will never tire of. They are full of all of the best parts of their worlds, & the lives they've touched along their journeys here with us.




There it is, 2023's recap.


Looking back, I can see why so many photographers take part in this type of look back at the year. Revisiting all these sessions, remembering the connections, the stories & laughs shared, all the amazing souls I had the pleasure of meeting... well, what a nice way to start the new year.


I know I always tend to thank my subjects at the end of my posts, & maybe that gets old to some. I'm not sure people realize how special it is to be able to hang out with a group of remarkable beings, absorb their way of being in the world, then be able to show them what I see & feel while with them.


It will never get old to me. & so I extend my sincerest and most heartfelt thank you & appreciation. Whether you are a client, a supporter, or a lover of JEP, I see you, I appreciate you, and I wish you the best.

From me & my four-legged beings to you & yours, Happy 2024.



Danielle is a bilingual canine and equine photographer based in East Hants, Nova Scotia, serving the surrounding areas of Elmsdale, Enfield, Milford, Shubenacadie, Stewiacke, Windsor, Fall River, HRM & beyond. Connect through the contact page on JEP's website.

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