Raffy & The Christmas Tree

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On my favourite morning walk, through the woods by the river, stands a small spruce tree overshadowed by the larger beech trees that surround it. But at this time of year, the tree is decorated with colourful baubles, chocolate coins and glittering tinsel. It always brings a smile to my face, especially on a crisp winter's morning when the low light catches the sparkling decorations. I've often wondered who the secret tree decorator is.

A few weeks ago, for Raffy's shoot, we went on that walk, and stopped at the spruce for a few decorating tree shots. It was a quiet Sunday morning, there just a few dog walkers around. As I was taking photos, I sensed somebody behind us watching. I turned round to be greeted with a big beaming smile. Jean introduced herself as the secret tree decorator, she radiated warmth. She stood for a few moments and  watched Raffy carefully placing the baubles over the needles. And then off she walked further into the woods. We stopped and drank hot chocolate as the sun rose further into the sky. If you ever come across the little spruce, maybe there'll be a chocolate coin there waiting for you!

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Ethel and the Giant Wreath

Filming for this year's John Lewis advert took place in July & August, and the big department stores are often working a year in advance designing their glittering shop windows. So when Sarah from Simply By Arrangement approached us to collaborate on the Live Ribble Valley magazine front cover, and being Christmassy folk anyway, October seemed to be a more than reasonable time to be working on it!

Sarah had the idea that the cover should showcase a big wreath, held by a small child, and that the feel should match the muted tones that the magazine favours for its covers. As we'd worked with Ethel before, we absolutely knew she had the perfect safe hands for the job!

So one October morning, we all gathered around Sarah's kitchen table for pre-shoot tea and crumpets. Ethel is a big fan of a nice cup of Yorkshire tea! 

As we were choosing outfits downstairs, Sarah took Ethel on a little tour to show her the views.

Outfit decided, we ventured out.

Unfortunately the first outfit was a little on the itchy side, so we came back in for a rethink, and another cup of tea. I 'amazed' Ethel with my 'where's the top of my thumb gone' trick!

We tried a few more outfit and hat combinations.

And then rested on this, which was the shot chosen for the front cover.

Just before we left, Roger next door took us on a little tour of his barn (I had so many shoot ideas racing through my head!), and he also looked rather fetching holding the wreath too!

We're looking forward to making our own wreath under Sarah's expert guidance in a couple of weeks - we just might need to get a bigger door!

Christmas At Home - Ethan's Story

So, like it or not (and I do, a lot!), we are in the Christmas build up. The tree in Hebden Bridge has been put in its place, the shop windows are being dressed & titivated, and there is a fresh chill in the air.

But this is Ethan's story.  We've been documenting his life through the seasons over the past year.  We've had a spring shoot in the bluebells & celebrated his third birthday in the summer. But our journey started last year when we photographed the family's Christmas preparations. I have to say the low light played its part that day. Just seeing the family together in their home getting ready for the festivities, was a lovely thing to be a part of. There was dressing the tree, the opening of advent presents through Ethan's excited whispers, and time out for orange juice and colouring. We ended our shoot by having a wander into Leeds, looking at the shops, and stopping at their favourite coffee kiosk for a cuppa.

Although this all made a beautiful backdrop, it really wasn't about this. It was about their time together. A few times I caught myself holding my breath at those little moments. Those glances, the hugs & kisses, and the beaming smiles. And now there's a new addition to the family, and we're looking forward to welcoming her into the world on a shoot together next week.

What do you like to do as a family in the run up to Christmas? If you'd like us to document your preparations, it would be lovely to hear from you!

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