A Monday Night in the Mud | Kitchener Family Photographer

This family is so rad, I don't even know where to begin. I first photographed them about 5 years ago, after Michelle and I met in a local photographers' group and hit it off. She has photographed my family too and we try to get together as much as often our mutually-busy schedules allow.  But it had been a couple of years since we had a session together and I was jonesing to get them in front of my camera again, since we always have more fun together than we probably should.  Michelle read my mind and we set a date and planned to meet at their home. We got a perfect late summer's eve, full of sun and warm enough to end the session at their fave local swimming hole as promised - perfection.  When I arrrived, their girlies were just finishing an after-school snack and we caught up for a few minutes.  I met the girls' plants and was shown pictures of them as babies before we regrouped in the gorgeously-decorated living room to kick it off.

The one request the family had was to include Bronx, their huge, loveable St. Bernard mix, who gladly obliged by standing like a wall in front of them, soaking up their hugs and spreading his unique brand of hairy, slobbery love.  After he got bored of the adoration, we took a few more inside before moving out into their amazing little courtyard.  Bronx stared at us through the door as the girls climbed on the fence and we goofed around.  Then we made our way around their townhouse complex, laughing and playing until we decided it was time to get ready for the much-anticipated swim (read: the girls were DONE with the "official" photo session). We collected the excited Bronx and loaded aboard the family van for our adventure.

I am going to be honest here - I had such a damn good time riding in the van with the widows down and wind in my hair, happy to be the passenger, that I totally missed this part of the story in photographs.  Forgive me and just take a moment to think about wind in your hair... So good, RIGHT?!

When we pulled up to the swimming area, we soon discovered that it was more mud flats than water fun but we gamely hopped out for an adventure.  Little did we know what was in store.  Before we could blink, the girls were knee deep in mud and the dog was up to his belly.  The kids slogged through the slime and splashed in the shallows, while we adults stood a safe-ish distance away.  But in the end, we were all knee deep in the sun-warmed mud, laughing hysterically as it squeezed between our toes and trying not to land on our butts when we got stuck!  We managed to make our back to the water to rinse a bit before all piled back into the van, dirty, drenched and all happier for it all.  It was a damn good night.

Thank you all for being great friends, awesome people and just a really good time.  Love you.

M xo


2015 Year in Review | Kitchener Family Photographer

I can hardly believe that 2015 is coming to an end. What a year! I don't know what else to say to you all but THANK YOU.  Truly, I feel so blessed to have been a part of so many beautiful moments of love, connection, laughter and fun.  Between simple, heartfelt weddings full of love and high-energy, laughter-filled family sessions, I hardly know how to count my blessings. This coming year promises to be another one full of great memories, moments of love and joy, and watching people let their happy shine.  The weddings I have this year make me giddy with excitement and I simply can't wait to see all of my favourite families, another year older but with the some love and laughter that holds them together. This year I want to explore those places and moments that make a family or a couple who they are.  You backyard, a favourite park, going for ice cream, a day at the beach - whatever it is that defines your life and love.  Because those every day moments are where some of the best memories lurk, just waiting to be captured.

So if you want to continue on this adventure with me, I can't wait to find adventure with you and those you love the most.  Let your happy shine and I will find a way to catch it for you.

See you all in 2016!

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An Hour With My Girls... | Kitchener Family Photographer

It is not very often anymore that I photograph my own girls.  They are at ages where they are willing to stand still for a moment here and there for an iPhone photo, but tend to rebel a little bit when the "big camera" finds its way out of the bag.  But on this sunny late-spring evening, we hopped in the car to check out a little spot I found on a drive one afternoon, to splash in the creek, dig in the mud and just have fun together. They quickly got wet, muddy and silly, found a hiding toad and poked some sort of weird web-nest.  They threw stones, had a flip-flop "boat" race and generally played hard in the sunshine and water.  After they were tired of bumming around the creek, we sat in the meadow above, soaking up the sun and laughing at each other's silliness.  They tried hard to make a piggy back work, even though they are exactly same weight and while Emery munched on clover flowers like a rabbit, Brielle executed some of the wildest cartwheels I have seen.  And then I took a few photos of them together. Sisters, friends, bickering partners, protectors. Two-thirds of my heart.

I may have cried more than once putting this post together.  I am just a big sap when it comes to these two little blondies.  They drive me crazy - with equal parts frustration and love. It is these moments that I put in my heart for those days that aren't as sunny and smiley.

Love you, girlies.  More than you can ever know.

I also made a little video of our adventures but my blog is being difficult about the file size, so if you want to check it out, I posted it on my Facebook page! It made me cry just a little bit more...

M xo

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Snow Fort | KW Documentary Lifestyle Photographer

After one of the first snowfalls of the year, my girls were determined to build a snow fort in the back yard, despite the fact that each shovelful bared green grass beneath.  They made their own little sections, each with a bed, sofa and toilet (ugh, when will potty humour stop being hilarious?!), working both together and independently to construct exactly what they envisioned.  This fort has long since been buried in about 3 feet of snow, but you can still see the outline of the walls and beds, like a secret acheological disovery just waiting to be found.  Maybe when this cold nspa ends they will get out there and rebuild. I ran out in the late afternoon sun to watch them work and capture a few moments of their building project.

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Fall Sunshine | KW Family Photographer

It was a lovely, sunny evening when I met up with this gang to take some updated photos.  I first met their mom on a field trip last year with my youngest's class when we both volunteered and a few times since as our daughters became friends and attended the same birthday parties. It is always both fun and interesting to photograph kids who know you a little bit, with that unique mix of familiarity but in a new situation. We enjoyed a nice little walk to the location and then set about our business - which essentially meant chasing little Mr. H and trying to find things to keep him interested long enough to stay in front of my camera. The girls were champs though, gently (for the most part) guiding him back into the frame, but eventually we just let him do his thing and they had an epic leaf fight instead!

Thank you all for your patience and cooperation (and especially to Dad for fetching wagonloads of leaves when we needed more!).

M xo


Six Months | Kitchener Family Photographer

My lovely friend Michelle, from Miche L Photography, asked me to do a quick little session with her beautiful family this fall, to photograph her adorable baby girl around 6 months of age.  I love that 6-9 month age range, where babies are starting to sit, crawl, cruise and just develop the cutest personalities! We played dodge-the-rain for a few days and this day was not perfect, but the clearest we had in awhile, so we decided to make a run for it!  I am so glad we did, because the fall colours were just starting to come in and they made a lovely backdrop for this session along the Grand River Trail in Waterloo.

Miss E's adorable fly-away hair and her parents' adoring love were on full display and we laughed in between raindrops, having a wonderful time catching up and capturing the moment.

Thanks to you all for driving all the way from Kincardine to frolic in the rain.  So nice to get caught up!!

M xo


Urban Family | Kitchener Family Photography

When I first met this family, the little man was just 4 months old.  He was a bundle in their arms and now he is an active, chatty 3-year-old.  Who loves Thomas the Train.  And always gives me a run for my money.  Literally, a run. ;) I love clients who become friends and I count this awesome family among that group.  We keep in touch throughout the year and look forward to getting together for our annual session.  This year, we decided to ditch the fields and forests and hit an urban area.  And I am so glad we did!  I have been dying to work in the city core again and this was the perfect family to plan a session with - stylish, fun and super laid-back.  We just worked our way around the block, finding different textures and colours and having a blast.

And I think the final shot of them walking in the glowing light is one of my favourite images yet.  I am going to miss the sun now that winter is on its way...

Thank you all for being amazing friends, clients and willing subjects!

Love ya,

M xo


2014: Year in Review | Kitchener Photographer

At the end of each year, it always blows me away just how lucky I am.  I get to photograph people who are full of love, laughter and joy.  I am invited into people lives, even if just for a couple of hours and that is so very special.  This year has brought many return clients, giving me the opportunity to watch a family grow and change, which is such a cool thing to witness.  And there have been new clients as well, whom I look forward to meeting, year-after-year to see those wonderful changes.  Like I told one of my recent wedding couples, "You're stuck with me now!  I am YOUR family photographer!" The bottom line is that without all of your smiling faces, I would not be able to do this job that I love.  It is all of you who keep me smiling, laughing and crying along with you.  THANK YOU. From the very bottom of my big ol' heart.  Truly.  You are what inspires me to get better and learn more and find new ways to help you see your happy shine.

This year has seen a lot of firsts for my business, as I branched out into boudoir and wedding photography.  Now that I can make it through either of those without losing hours of sleep the night before, I am so excited to see where these paths will take me!!  I also worked hard to really bring out the storytelling aspects of my imagery, and to work in different locations that helped to guide these stories: the fair, the backyard, in the river, downtown Kitchener, in your home.  I am thrilled to keep moving in this direction of approach for 2015 - so get ready to have me storm your backyards and homes, people! ;)

Another huge part of this year was leaning on my amazing photography colleagues as I pushed into new and sometimes terrifying territory.  I probably wouldn't push myself nearly as far without their gentle nudges sometimes and having them to act as sounding boards is something I value beyond words and try never to take for granted.  To Hilary, the Oprah to my Gayle, the Scribsy to my Flash - I love being on the rocket ship with you and wouldn't want to be on this ride with anyone else. To Michelle B, Dana, Martina, Kate, Sandra, Lisa, and Michelle S - I love you girls so much and am so happy and thankful to have you in my life.

Thank you 2014, for being such a fantastic year.  Welcome 2015!

M xo


And Then They Were Four | Kitchener Family Photography

When I first met this lovely family, their little guy was on the eve of his first birthday.  I remember fondly singing Old MacDonald at the top of our lungs to get him smiling.  But this time around, we needed no such encouragement.  He was all smiles from the start, snuggling in his parents' arms and showing off his contagious grin. But we were not just there to capture his smiling face, but also his mama's bump, where rested his soon-to-be new sister.  It was such a beautiful warm night on the outskirts of Milton, where the summer sun filtered beautifully through the trees onto the boardwalk, highlighting that perfect belly and radiant happiness of this expectant family.  Here are a few from that night...



And then, a few short weeks later, she was here!  With a head full of hair and adorable button nose, she won over her unsure big brother and her wonderful parents.  I headed to their home to photograph the new foursome in her stunning nursery and to play some Wiggles guitar with big brother in between feedings.  I cannot wait to see this beautiful girl grow into her warm, welcoming, adoring family.  We already have her one-year session planned - I wonder if how much hair she will have by then??

Thank you all for welcoming me into your home and your lives.  I can't wait to see you in September to catch up!

M xo

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Friends | Kitchener Family Photographer

Often as adults, we don't make many new friends.  We tend to tighten down our little circles - school friends, work friends, social acquaintances.  But sometimes, you get the chance to make new, real friends.  Such is the case with this awesome family. We first met when our oldest daughters attended the same Sparks group.  Claire and I attended a couple of events with the group and chatted a little bit. Our girls also went to the same school, we later realized, but on opposite kindergarten days.

Then my youngest daughter and their son started in the same kindergarten class.  They became fast friends and were mostly inseparable.  In fact, they were more like siblings than friends - rough-housing and plotting sneak scare attacks in whispers, laughing like loons when their plans worked.  Our eldest daughters also had class together and bickered and loved like sisters too.  I would often chat with Steve or Claire as we waited for the final school bell to ring and a friendship was born.  With our kids in the same classes, we kept each other up on the in-class dramas of our oldest girls and commiserated over the younger ones' lack of desire to learn to read.  And all the while, their littlest, a social butterfly, would be merrily sharing lots of stories with me about her day.  Fast forward through several field trips, backyard barbeques and more than a few beers, wine and coolers while playing Dutch Blitz you see a couple of families who can spend a few hours together with no fighting kids (okay, well maybe a few arguments here and there - they are like siblings, I tell ya!) and crack each other up on those early breakfast club volunteer mornings.

We planned a little session together way back in June but I was waiting to blog these until their Christmas cards were sent, since I knew she was planning on using a few from the session as a surprise for long-distance relatives.  It is amazing how looking at these now, a few months later, you can almost forget the swarm of mosquitoes that was eating us all alive before the bug spray arrived, or the sensation of my hand coming up wet out of a fresh puddle of dog urine...almost.

I have to say, my very favourite part of this session was when we headed back to their house near the end, to capture some images in their backyard and on their front porch.  I think this has to happen for EVERY session from now on.  The home is where the heart is and to have those memories of the life they are creating together in that home are so precious.  Get ready for me to come to your house, people! ;)

Our family is so lucky to have found such wonderful, kind and hilarious friends and we look forward to many more years of laughter and friendship.  And chili with lots of corn.


M xo



The Last Days of Summer | Cambridge Fall Fair | Kitchener Family Photographer

This super cool family met me at the historic Cambridge Fall Fair on a gorgeous late summer night for some rides and smiles.  I loved the idea of heading to the fair - the lights, the roller coasters, the small of cotton candy, popcorn and caramel apples in the warm air, the laughter of delight and screams of terror, all underscored by a local band rocking the main stage.  A perfect end note to summer. I really wanted to do my best to capture this awesome family as they truly are, loving, kind and truly bonded.  They had a blast carnival games and riding the various amusement rides, stopping for a few quick photos in front of the fun house and then wrapping it up with some cotton candy and a few more stomach-twisting turns on the Tilt-a-Whirl as the fair's bright lights started to light the night sky.

Thank you all for being such great sports and for spending a great evening with me at the fair.  Enjoy the images!

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I have started taking my iPhone along to my sessions, capturing a few extra images to show some of the little moments that just seem to  be better translated through a less obtrusive lens.  I am loving the results!  Here a just a few of my faves from my phone:



Seven | Kitchener Photographer

Seven years ago today, I was welcoming my second child.  The one who had given me heartburn and ceaseless rib kicks and whom I was convinced was a boy. But then she arrived.  Another daughter, with a thick head of dark hair and the chubbiest cheeks.  And also immediately starving.  Little did I know that this was neither the first nor the last time that I would be meeting her never-ending nourishment needs...

She is the comedian - always being silly and saying things that crack us up - but quick to tears if she didn't intend to be funny.  She has the kindest, gentlest heart, the first to help you if you are injured or sick.  Thank goodness she keeps a calm head, effectively balancing her sister's tendency to overreact dramatically.  She is grounded and laid-back, much more her father's daughter in that regard.  Her smile is infectious and seen often, and when she laughs hysterically it is a sound that is indescribably happy.  She is fearless and tends to leap before looking, always the first one down the hill on her snowboard, laughing wildly as she showers me with snow at the bottom.  She is a klutz and is well-known in the school office, with an ice pack ever-at-the-ready in case she should happen to smack head-first into a wall, since she prefers to walk forward while looking backwards.  She hates ketchup and loves pickles, is always STARVING at bedtime and has been known to polish off two quarts of raspberries and half a cantaloupe as a light snack.  She loves to draw and paint and can play for hours on her own, living in her imagination.  She is the worst person to watch TV with, since she cannot sit still for a minute unless it is Animal Planet.  She rocks her own stye and couldn't care less if you think that stripes, flowers and paisley don't go together - she is wearing that outfit!  She taunts me with her hot-dog tongue and has never managed to control the impulse to stick it out at me when she is annoyed. Quick to apologize for any wrongs and the first to stick up for her sister (even if her sister is getting in trouble for bugging her), she is friends with everyone.  She has a scowl that would melt stone and a pouty lip that she can quiver just perfectly to melt her Daddy.  She brings laughter, comic relief and joy into our home and to our family each and every day.  And even at seven, she is a tiny anchor who can bring us all back down when we lose sight of the humor of daily life.

I love you my Emery and I am proud of the girl you are growing into each and every day.  Thank you for always bringing me a cool cloth when I have a headache and telling me to go to bed when I am tired.

Happy 7th birthday!


Mommy, Daddy, Brielle + Charlie xoxo

And of course, a photo for each of her last 7 years.

Birth. Our first family photo, taken minutes after her birth at home.


Newborn goodness.0

One. Piggy tails and a toothy grin.1

Two.  She never sat still long enough to get a focused photo.2

Three. That smile.3

Four. That crazy tongue makes an appearance.

Five. She is just pure sweetness most of the time...4

Six. She CRACKS me up!6

Seven. I am in awe of her.  I can see her maturing every day and I feel so fortunate to be her mother.7

Celebrating Motherhood | Kitchener Family Photographer

So far, this summer has been pretty spectacular, and the evening of this family's session along the Grand River in Kitchener was no exception. We met on a lovely Sunday night to celebrate motherhood with a session that was all about Mom and her kiddos.  Of course, Dad joined in the fun for a few as well, so we also celebrated the love and connection that this family has together.

We even got our toes wet in the river (okay, well, I got wet up to the knees, but that's my job!), tossing stones and checking out some nearby mama ducks and their ducklings.   I am really enjoying a slightly new way of photographing, a little more loose and casual, a style that is more about the moments and memories and less about having everyone smiling perfectly in my direction (not to say that I won't get that one for Grandma's fridge!).  I really want to capture the unique bonds and dynamics that make up a family, which is what draws me so intensely to photography.

All in all, we accomplished our goal of getting this wonderful Mama in the frame with her babes and we had a fantastic time doing it! Win-Win!

Enjoy the images,

M xo


Neighbours | KW Family Photographer

When we purchased our home over 10 years ago, we moved into a neighbourhood that was not exactly full of families.  There were plenty of kindly retirees and senior citizens to pinch the cheeks of our new baby, but not much prospect of a group of playmates for my children to grow up and create mischief with... Or so we thought. A couple of years later, a toddler wandered into our front yard, followed by his pregnant mama.  I was also pregnant with our second and we struck up a conversation.  She happened to mentioned that she may be offering child care once her new addition arrived and we would be looking for a new sitter soon.  It proved to be a rather fortuitous meeting.

Fast forward 7 years.  Our children, her boys and my girls, tear up and down the street on their bikes, built forts and argue like siblings.   In fact, as I type this post, I can hear them shouting gleefully together outside.  The doors of our respective homes are ever-revolving, and we are never entirely sure how many kids may be requesting a snack or drink at any given time.  My girls skate on their rink in the winter and we take turns accompanying the kids to the local skate park.  My kiddos still go to her house for after-school care - not because they need to but because they want to.

I feel so fortunate to have neighbours and friends like these.  You know that they will always be there when you need them and you will be there if they need you.  We love each other's children and treat them like our own (even when it means laying down the law!). And we never judge each other as parents - we know that sometimes you just lose your s**t and it doesn't make you a crappy parent.

We hung out on a gorgeous, sunny, slightly mosquito-y Friday night in Kitchener, along the lovely Grand River trailway.   We splashed and played and they did their best not to hit me with the stones they were tossing.  ;)  I am so happy to have this family in our lives and thankful that I was able to capture them as they are together - fun and loving.

Enjoy the images,

M xo


Winter Sunshine | KW Family Photographer

It was a gloriously sunny day, with warm(ish) temperatures and crystalline snow.  This fun family invited back to their gorgeous farm property to play in the snow and have some fun! We had a plan to have a little snowball fight followed by some family snuggles, a plan that was only slightly dampened by the fact that the snow was more like ice pellets than awesome packing snow.  Fortunately, ice pellets look really beautiful when then catch the sunlight!

Of course, boys being boys, there were a few overzealous ice balls to the gut and imagined guns made out of ice chunks - all in a day of play for this rough-and-tumble twosome!  After tuckering ourselves out wading through the knee deep ice drifts, we retired to the house to catch the Leafs game and sip on some hot beverages.  I am so fortunate to have amazing clients like these - they make my job so wonderfully easy and fun!

And since we are now into the sunshine and rain showers of spring, this post is my last adieu to winter!  See ya next year snow!

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Celebrate Motherhood | KW Family Photographer

If you are like me, you call your Mom every day. You know the smell of her face cream and can immediately call up an image of her laughing in your mind.  She is your friend, your guidance counselor, your cheerleader and sometimes your most honest critic. If you are like me, your kids are your world, even when you feel like you might lose your sanity if they track mud into the house one more time. You kiss them while they are sleeping and feel like your heart might burst when they are proud of their own achievements.  You want to them to stay young forever but are equally excited to see them grow into the people they are meant to be.  They make you laugh, cry, scream, feel the need to take deep breaths and above all they are a part of your heart and soul.

I know us mamas are not always kind to ourselves, wanting to wait until we look our very best before stepping in front of the camera, but just remember your kids love you no matter your wrinkles, muffin top, cankles, double chin, crazy hair or monthly acne break-out.  Just get in the picture!

I invite you to Celebrate Motherhood with me this spring. Evening session times only (after 5:30 pm), and times are available April through June, 2014.  Connect with me by clicking Contact above or at mandy@mandyblakephotography.com!


Here is one of me, my Mom and my girls taken last Mother's Day.  I cherish this picture and I am so glad I have it to pass on to future generations.   I am also pretty sure that my girls will be happy to show it to their children one day, certainly while saying, "WHAT was up Mom's hair that day?" ;)Mother's-Day-2013-Web

Nine | Kitchener Child Photographer

Nine years ago, I underwent a transformation that was equally scary and exciting.  I became a mother. As I sit and reflect on the past nine years, I can't believe how fortunate I am to have this beautiful girl in my life.  She is so much like me, in so many ways, and while sometimes that means she pushes my buttons (big time), I also take pride in knowing that she is MINE. My heart, my soul, my sorrow, my joy.

She is passionate, sometimes to the degree of Grand Supreme Drama Queen.  She is sensitive and easily bruised by unkindness.  She has a smile that melts my heart.  And an eye roll that makes every muscle in my body fight not to get angry.  She loves to stay up late, hiding under the covers so we don't see her.  She reads more than one book at a time, never losing the thread of the story.  She is an amazing big sister and a compassionate friend.  She loves to hug and snuggle and sing at the top of her lungs.  She dances in the shower and wears makeup that would put the 80's to shame.  She doesn't like math and laughs at her own miserable attempts at art. She gets distracted by shiny things... well, she gets distracted by anything really. She loves ketchup - especially on pizza.

I am so thankful and full of love for this girl.  She brings me happiness, pain, laughter and worry of the kind I never thought possible before I became a mother.  I love you, Brielle.  Even when you don't like me. ;)

Happy 9th birthday!


Mommy, Daddy, Emery + Charlie xoxo

Here are portraits of my girl, one for each year since her birth.  Sigh.  Why can't she stay little forever?

Just home from the hospital on day one.

One.  I thought her hair would never grow...

Two. Baby curls and pearly whites.

Three. With Grizzy and Special.  She still sleeps with both every night.

Four.  Forced grin and a blond bob.

Five. That smile gets me every time.

Six.  Rocking her own style, finding her independence.

Seven.  Those teeth are the BEST.

Eight.  Seriously, when did she get so mature?

Nine.  I m starting to see glimpses of a teen.  Makeup, jewelry, boys, frenemies.  I wish I could freeze her right at this moment.



Love Is In The Air | Kitchener Family Photographer

It was a misty, grey early winter day and I wasn't sure the light was going to hold.  But boy, was I wrong!  The light was some of the prettiest I have seen and it made all the colors so rich! After meeting in north Waterloo, we started the session with some family fun, with little man Q winning us all over with his adorable smile and giggles!  He is always cracks me up with his silliness!  I think some of his biggest smiles came when he was telling me about his girlfriend - lucky little lady!

After we had fun laughing and playing together, Grandma and Grandpa came to pick up Mr. Q so that we could celebrate this lovely couple's engagement with some more intimate images.  They were such good sports, as I made them trail through wet, cold grass and follow my bossy instructions! ;)  They are so connected and just good at being together that they made my job really simple.  And like I said before, the light was STUNNING.

I am so excited to be photographing this gorgeous couples wedding this spring - it promises to be a fantastic day!

Enjoy the images!

M xo