Is a relaxing holiday with children possible?

A review of Sani Resort Greece - a gem of a family destination

In my life as a mum and a family photographer in Berkhamsted, this is a debate that often comes up. It's a frequent discussion I have with clients - how life changes after children and the biggest bugbear is losing any hope of relaxation ever again.

In a previous life I was a magazine journalist and one of the many hats I wore was "Travel Writer". So what better place than here to share my finds with my lovely clients - and boy is this a find!

Review Sani Greece

Every year, since my own two monkeys arrived, we have scoured the internet for a holiday destination that might help us have that mystical and elusive relaxing family holiday. We've tried hotels, self-catering, villas - with and without long-suffering grandparents (aka take-along babysitters) - but this year we struck gold.

In June we jetted off to the Greek resort of Sani (http://www.sani-resort.com). It's basically a five-star baby heaven, where they cater for your baby's every whim. This kind of place that would have had us running for the hills five years ago (pre-children) when we favoured five-star, adult-only, boutique style hotels in exotic and far flung locations. But hey, things change.

Review Sani Greece

It's not cheap, but it's worth it. Our boys were just four and almost two, so pretty full on, but I literally can't fault this resort. They have four accommodations - Sani Beach Hotel (where we stayed), The Sani Beach Club, Porto Sani Village and Sani Asterias Suites. We had a beautiful ground floor suite - my youngest slept in a cot in our room and my oldest had a bed in the living room area.

A travel cot was waiting for O when we arrived and a bed guard and blackout curtains were delivered within an hour or two of us enquiring. Literally nothing is too much trouble. The hotel's restaurants includes a toddler menu, with seven or eight options - which can be served whole or pureed. Something I have never seen before which seems a fantastic idea if you're travelling with a weaning baby.

From the beach hotel there are two beautiful white sand beaches which are raked to stepford-standard perfection every morning. They have super-comfy loungers, with food and drink service and a fabulous service called "Babe Watch" where they watch your children for you. Yup, you read that right, there are two lovely Greek ladies who genuinely seem to love children and sit there all day, under an umbrella willing to share their beach toys with your little ones. 

When it comes to food time they have a system called "dine around". The resort is set around a pretty harbour and most of the restaurants are included in this scheme whereby you have an allowance to spend on a meal, instead of staying in your hotel every night. There is a fabulous selection of restaurants and we had some delicious meals. We particularly enjoyed Ergon which served Greek tapas, and the boys especially loved tucking into all the shared dishes. 

There are dozens of activities to entertain children too, there is a nursery and a kids club from age 4. We didn't try either of these as we felt our oldest was a little young for the kids club having not yet started school - but the kids there seemed to love it. There is also a packed sports timetable, evening entrainment and a bike and scooter hire shop who hire out adult scooters as well as children's (so. much. fun.)

Amazingly, on a holiday with a four and almost two-year-old I read three books! To me that's a sign of a very successful holiday. The boys also had a blast and there is no doubt we'll be heading back again soon. 

Rachel Powell is a family and newborn photographer based in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire. To find out more click here.

 

Old friends and new additions...

I was honoured when I was recently asked to capture a school reunion between Berkhamsted mummy Catherine and two of her school friends, Laura and Katie. They've been friends since attending high school together in Kent, but now live in different parts of the country.

Completely by chance, they all fell pregnant within a couple of months of one another and this reunion was a little bit special as they were introducing their little ones to each other.

The photoshoot was booked by Katie as a gift for the others (what a lovely friend!), and they decided on a Lifestyle shoot at Catherine's house in Berkhamsted so they got as much time to catch up as possible. 

That's the beauty of lifestyle shoots - I come to you - so you and your children have all the comforts of home and children are sometimes more relaxed in their own environment. You don't have to have a huge home - one of my all-time favourite lifestyle shoots was done in a lovely old two-up, two-down victorian terrace. 

We used the natural window light in Grace's nursery and some beautiful Quentin Blake wallpaper that I might have to find a home for in my own house!

I took some pictures of the babies kicking about and playing together before moving out into the garden to get some group shots, for the friends to remember their special reunion by.

Find out more about lifestyle shoots in Berkhamsted and the surrounding areas with Lightmonkey Photography here.

 

 

The tale of a 10 baby shoot

A few weeks ago I was asked to photograph a Berkhamsted NCT group of 10 gorgeous mums and their babies. Yup, that's right, 10 babies and one shoot - a definite first for me. Being a photographer in Berkhamsted obviously I see a lot of babies - but 10 in one go? I've never refused a challenge yet!

Nicola, a previous client, got in touch to ask if i'd be happy to photograph her NCT friends as a lifestyle shoot at her beautiful home in Berkhamsted. The babies were all aged around six months, but one of the families is moving away so they wanted a picture of all of the babies together. 

We started with some individual shots of the mums and babies to warm everyone up in Nicola's gorgeous garden.

The gorgeous mums and bubbas from a Berkhamsted NCT group photoshoot

It was one of the hottest days of the year with temperatures in their mid-30s, so we were quite glad to get outside and enjoy the shade in the garden. 

The gorgeous mums and bubbas from a recent Berhamsted NCT group photoshoot

Once the smiles were flowing we got all the babies together for a lovely group shot, but not before I'd had a little go at walking on water - just to prove I really do go above and beyond the call of duty for my clients (thanks for the picture Emily).

Walking on water, you got it

Walking on water, you got it

It was such a pleasure to meet such a lovely group of mums and the babies were so good. It seems like a 10 baby shoot was a bit of a cinch, maybe we should try 11 next time!

 

If you're interested in a shoot with your friends or family please check out my gallery here or contact me here.

Adventures out of the studio...

It's so nice to get out of the studio at this time of year - whether its out on a location shoot into the gorgeous Hertfordshire countryside, or to visit my lovely clients in their own home, which is how we choose to shoot this gorgeous family.

Leoni brought her beautiful newborn daughter Florence for a newborn shoot last month. Sometimes babies just won't sleep for their newborn shoot, no matter how well mum prepares them, no matter how tired they are or how many sleepy tricks I pull out of my sleeve (and believe me I have many!) they just won't shut those cute little eyes.

It might be that they're hitting their 10-day growth spurt early, they have a little reflux, an undiagnosed problem like tongue tie or oral thrush. But sometimes they're just asserting their little personalities. 

Florence decided that me and the studio were far more exciting than sleep and, thank you very much, but she would stay awake. 

The beautiful, but very awake, Florence

The beautiful, but very awake, Florence

We got a few beautiful awake shots and some stunning pictures of her and her big sister but I didn't have the variety that I like to provide to my clients. So I decided that we would try again another day. It's rare, but it happens.

As we had a couple of shots in the studio we decided to reshoot at Leoni's home and do a lifestyle shoot. So last weekend, one month on, I paid the family a visit.

Big sister Iris was on hand to show me around and we had a lot of fun playing in the garden and she proudly showed me her dolls house and fairies.

We also got some lovely Daddy and baby shots which were a bonus as Dad couldn't make it to the original newborn shoot. 

Lifestyle shoots are a lovely, natural alternative if the studio isn't for you and you don't have to have a huge, bright, neutral house - we can make use of the available light and the unique features that make your home just that. For more information visit www.lightmonkeyphotography.co.uk.


Mums get the best smiles - even royal ones!

So The Duchess of Cambridge decided to take her own "Official" photographs - good on her. This might sound strange from someone who makes their living photographing other people's children, but I can completely understand her decision. And you know what, they are lovely photographs, that she, her family and royal fans will treasure.  You see, as my clients will tell you, mums get the best smiles, and the best giggles!

Image taken by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Image taken by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

But this wasn't about getting the best smiles out of the royal babies, I suspect it was about normality, privacy and Catherine, as a mum, maintaining control in one of the few places she can. 

Why would she invite yet another photographer into her children's lives? And you know what, I hope she keeps this up. It lovely to see the smiles that George reserves for his mum and baby sister, and only she can capture those. There can't have been a parent in the world who saw the TV footage of Prince William arriving with Prince George at the hospital, who wasn't touched when George, a little overwhelmed by the crowd, reached up his arms to be carried by his dad. Acting like a normal 20-month-old with his father, who is obviously there every day, to pick him up when he tumbles and tuck him in.

For the first time in history maybe these royal children can have a lovely, relatively normal childhood, a proper relationship with their parents - something William's mother tried so hard for with her boys. I hope they can keep it up, even if it means keeping the 'pro' photographers away. 

Come on Catherine, show us some more pictures of those gorgeous children!

 

Rachel Powell, Lightmonkey Photograhy,

Berkhamsted based newborn and family photographer

Why you MUST photograph your pregnancy.

My one pregnant pic - to be fair he was 10lb2!

My one pregnant pic - to be fair he was 10lb2!

My biggest regret from my two pregnancies isn’t eating so much that I put on three stone (not including baby!), nor forgetting to use my bio oil to prevent stretch marks or even ignoring the very good advice to enjoy my sleep while I could (really, listen to that one) - it’s the lack of photographs. 

As a newborn and family photographer I treasure photographs, yet I have just one of my first pregnancy. I felt like a huge, inflated whale and I just couldn’t bear the thought of evidence of me looking like that. I live in Berkhamsted (aka nappy valley) so I was hardly unique in being pregnant, and I obviously wasn’t that huge because people on the tube seemed to happily ignore my bump *clears throat*. 

I wish I had some photographs to document that amazing thing that my body did

But now, almost two years after my last pregnancy ended and near as damn it to my pre-pregnancy size, I wish I had some photographs to document that amazing thing that my body did. I would love to look at them now. It’s amazing the transformation you go through and never again will your body do that.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend a BANPAS seminar on maternity photography with the award winning photographer Damian McGillicuddy. He captured some stunning images of our beautiful model Louise and I was so jealous of those images she’ll have. I so wish I’d had a professional shoot, with someone who knew how to pose and light a pregnant body, to celebrate that amazing thing my body was doing. Damien put Louise completely at ease, and despite being 32 weeks pregnant I’m pretty sure she felt stunning.

A gorgeous mummy-to-be from Lightmonkey Photography

Now I’m not saying you must write a blank cheque to the nearest professional photographer and bare all, but do take some photos. You can always do it yourself at home. Why not take one picture a month to show your growing tummy? Find a plain wall in your house and stand in the same spot in the same top once a month and document your tummy growing. Pinterest is full of DIY pregnancy picture ideas to remember this special time.  If you hate them now, you don’t have to show them to anyone, just keep them safe, look at them again in two years and I promise you’ll treasure them. 

 

Lightmonkey Photography is a Berkhamsted based newborn and family photographer. We offer maternity shoots for free when you book a newborn session. Click here for more information.