2016 – What a Year!


Sitting now and reflecting back on the year feels a little surreal. 2016 marked a time of love, adventure and busyness. The biggest event of all, the welcoming of our sweet Jasper. Impossible to think that at this time last year we did not know he existed and now here he is in all his cuddley babyness.

2016 marked a move to the suburbs. A truly grown up endeavour as we settled into a house with a proper garden so close and yet so far from our buzzing city life. Quieter, wholesome and an opening to new friends and routines.

2016 also marked the busiest time yet for Bear & Dragon. The first half of the year was absolutely packed with wonderful families. Friends, old and new alike, amazing events (Royals, Bluebells, Apple Blossoms) and lots of new ideas to come.

This morning I looked back through some photos from the year and was inspired all over again. Though I am savoring every moment of leave with my littlest man, I am excited to jump back in for 2017. Spring will find me dabbling and by fall, a new dedicated studio space. I am so excited!

Now a wish for you. May 2017 hold wonderful days for you. Dance, play and love. Say yes more and live everyday to its fullest!

Big eyes
Feel the music
New plaything
Bottoms up

A perfectly imperfect holiday session

A dream come true

For us Americans, the day after Thanksgiving signals the official start of the holiday season. One month of Christmas and I can’t wait to get started! To get you in the mood, I am glad to share our perfectly imperfect Christmas session that took us for quite a ride last week. Here is what happened…

Pretty much forever, I have wanted to hold a holiday session at a Christmas tree farm (check your mail for a Christmas mini session next October!). Like many dreams that grow in importance and magnitude over time, this day was a little doomed from the start. Spending way too much time gathering the perfect props, researching Belgian Christmas tree farms and picking out lovely matched outfits, the expectations were high. Too high.

The morning of, our many materials gathered into bags. Snacks, jackets, hats, hot chocolate in a thermos, three kids, lights. It was a seriously pile. As we loaded up and headed out, I just hoped it would all go smoothly and the lovely late fall light would hold.

The first hint of a coming disaster hit on the way to the farm.

Me: “Honey, can you give the kids a banana? They are in the snack bag.”

Honey: “Um, there is no snack bag here. I looked everywhere.”

Me: “What?!”

Next we arrived at the address. No Christmas trees! It seems this was the administrative office of the farm. They can’t be too far I thought so thus we drove in ever widening circles…with fussy, increasingly hungry and tired kids and now an awake and screaming two month old. Until finally, there they were! Gorgeous, green Christmas trees in sweet rows. The trees of my dreams!

So we parked and hopped out. Time to set up. A quick scan revealed that not only was the snack bag missing but also the one with all the props. A lone bag of fake snow luckily stashed in my purse was the only merry-making article to be found. Geez louise.

I will say we gave it our best but after a short time decided it just wasn’t meant to be. Sigh…

Finally home and fed, I reflected on the day. My perfect scene slipped away and here we were without the beautiful pictures I had in mind. Suddenly it dawned on me. We are not perfect. We don’t need a perfect setting, perfect clothes and perfect weather. We are perfectly imperfect. And we have a backyard…. and now all the fun Christmasy things we has left behind.

Thus I present our perfectly imperfect Christmas photos. Taken in our garden. Full of fun and love. Happy holidays!

What a scene
Little loves
Now time for some garden merry making
Let’s scare mommy! 
Monster face
Merry and bright
Don’t tell santa
The way we are
Berry kisses and fresh faces
Perfectly imperfect
Baby bear
All the love in my heart

A look back: Apple Blossoms part deux

Swing time

Its dark. Its cold. Its undoubtedly headed towards winter. You know what you need? A breathe of spring air. 🙂 And there is nothing more springy than playing in the hidden haven of apple blossoms in Sint Truiden.

Spring came late this year and a blossom checking trip the week before the scheduled sessions revealed tight buds and almost no flowers. Oh dear! Luckily everyone was able to make the switch to a later date and when the day dawned, it was more than glorious. Truly one of the most spectacular bright spring days you could imagine. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping and the blossoms peeking. We had a full day with nine families joining in on the fun.

After the session, I received the sweetest note from one of the families. It literally brought a tear to my eye.

Dear Nicole,

We  had a wonderful time amongst the apple blossoms today. Hayden said his favourite part was not being scared when I snuck up and surprised him. Your session today encouraged us to go out and explore a new region of Belgium, and spend the day together as a family. 
Normally my son is very shy and hates having his photo taken. Your playful approach really drew him out and encouraged him to express himself. 
Thank-you for such a fun and memorable day.
-Aww shucks, there I go again. :’)

Just taking a peek back through these images put a spring in my step. I hope it does the same for you. 🙂

Cherry blossom
Sprout 🙂
Adventure awaits
On the go
Three of a kind
The most beautiful girls
Make a wish
Hang time
Cousin love
Grandpa and the girls!
A spring breeze

A look back – Sea of Leaves 2015

sea of leaves-2
Sea storm

Its getting all springy and just in time, I am just barely hanging in there. Sun please!! But before we spring forward, I want to fall back (har, har) one last time with a quick revisit to the Sea of Leaves mini session. This was our second go around and once again. got super lucky with the weather, the deep fall leaves, and the beautiful families. And especially lucky as just a few days later, the magical Brussels leave vacuum visited the park and spirited all of our lovely friends away. Brussels efficiency strikes again. 🙂

Without further adieu, I present Sea of Leaves 2015

Sea of leaves blog-3
Row your boat
Sea of leaves blog-4
Little secrets
Sea of leaves blog-5
Little kisses
Sea of leaves blog-6
Fall revery
sea of leaves blog-7
Pile on!
sea of leaves blog-8
Heart and soul
sea of leaves blog-9
On wings of gold
sea of leaves
sea of leaves-3
Three of a kind
sea of leaves-4

Royals Sneak Peak: a very special Bear & Dragon Adventure


In a castle on a hill, from a time long ago. Princes and Princesses rule and dragons prowl. Here we are Royal and here we play. This morning the crew at Bear & Dragon Adventures took over Chateau de la Hulpe to capture this sneak peak of out first Adventure session open to the public. The official announcement coming this Monday. Enjoy!

Light of my life
Delicate things
Beware foul dragons
Tip toes
Fun and games
At rest
The protector
Gallant Boy
Royal rascals
All dolled up

10 more days of beautiful

Gentle – Remember when they just fit into the crook of your arm. I do

After a short (eh hem) hiatus, I am happy to bring you even more beautiful. A recap of days 11 – 20

did you feel that
Did you feel that? – It is so much fun waiting for your first baby to arrive. The wonder at the very fact that soon you too will have a little baby to call your very own. This sweet couple embodies everything about that moment. Thrilled, overwhelmed, having fun and in love.
My new favorite toy – This new big brother is a tiny bit into trains… Of course we had to include his new little sister in his favorite track. Here he gives her all the love he’s got until the train rounds the corner
face to face
Face to face – Another simple is beautiful post. Beautiful morning, amazing color and the sweetest smile.
Waiting – Now I share a beautiful mum to be from South Africa. Something about the softness of the light brings me back to those quiet moments of waiting and hoping for the days to speed by so you can meet your first baby
big brother
Across the gap – With a seven year age gap, this big brother has saved up alot of hugs, kisses and advice for his little princess. He just could not stop touching and kissing her! The sweetest boy and the sweetest little sister around.
Let’s play – This is the second time I got to work with these handsome brothers. Here featured in a winner takes all game of peekaboo
When worlds collide – A very special morning session with these beautiful Japanese girls decked out from head to toe in kimonos. It is a tradition in Japan to photograph your children at a shrine to bless their growth. Lacking shrines in Brussels, they decide to capture the combination of cultures that forms their life
just you
It’s you – Sometimes its just you. You are beautiful.
Flow – This photograph was taken towards the end of a really fun session in Parc Woluwe. It is actually based on another photo that the mother saw and loved. It took a bit of work on all sides to get the perfect shot of this lovely and wiggly one year old. Ta da!

First look: A day of play at Rouge Cloitre


Two days in a row? That’s right!

I just wrapped up editing this super fun family session today and I could not wait to share. Sometimes I feel like once our children get older, we just get too busy to arrange a photo session. I also believe that some parents are afraid that their older children will feel self conscious or quickly lose interest in being photographed. Though it is more of a challenge than working with new babies and toddlers, I absolutely love working with kids. Using a series of games, including some solo exploration time and treating them with respect like the young ladies and gents they are, we have a recipe for beautiful and truthful moments.

This session embodied all of these elements. At six and four years old, these lovely ladies came ready for action. And with a strong “that’s for babies” radar, they kept me on my toes. It was a great 90 minutes and I am happy to share some of the good memories with you today.

T minus 5
T minus 5
The story teller
The story teller
Lift off
Lift off
Daddy's girls
Daddy’s girls
Kelly green
Kelly green
The bond
The bond
On the fence
On the fence

Thirty days of beautiful

Simple is beautiful: Beautiful baby, bright clean color and a super smile. Simple is beautiful.

Wow, a month since I last posted. That was a crazy month! Wonderful holidays in Sweden, return to a very busy few weeks with lots of new babies and sweet late summer sessions. Now bababoo restarts school and a collective breath is released across Belgium. Time to catch up. 🙂

I was recently challenged to post 30 pictures in 30 days to show some of my favorite photos. The most fun part in doing this has been thinking about the why. Why do some pictures just stand out as exceptionally beautiful. There is a small conflict in my own family about this very question. The bear tends to favor energetic and beautiful smiles that engage directly with the camera. While I love these as well, I also gravitate toward those that emphasize details or quiet moments where you get to see the other side of a child or relationship. At times the bear looks at one of these photos and says, “that’s a Nicole photo”. Guilty!

Though on my facebook page I am posting a photo each day (only missed two so far!), I plan on putting them together here every 10 days. I hope you enjoy them. The funny, the energetic, the sweet, big and small. To me, they are beautiful.

Anticipation: This summer, the forest floor in Sweden was literally carpeted in heavily laden blueberry bushes. Many a morning were spend on long walks to collect the bounty and afternoons turning them in to treats, eating whole or making all the white in the bowl of vanilla ice cream disappear. Summer days.
On adventure: This sweet couple from Texas contacted me to take their vacation photos to the next level. This beautiful grate covers a shop down by Grand Place. The owner started to lift it as we walked up but was nice enough to give us a couple of extra minutes to capture young love against this very Brussels backdrop. Love
i love
I loved you before we met – I love the softness in their expressions and of course how very much they look alike. Totally at peace.
Laugh riot: Just weeks before her little sister is due to join, Imogen’s family scheduled a photo session to catch them just as they are now and to celebrate her as she is. I love working with grandparents. Here they are in a major tickle attack. smile emoticon
on the day you were born
On the day you were born: One of my favorite books to read my little ones goes, “On the day your were born and I put you to bed, I noticed the crown on top of your head”. This sweet kiss from a new mom reminds me of this passage and all the overwhelming feelings and love in your heart when you first meet your baby.
Peekaboo!: This little red headed rascal playing in the bed. Nuf said!
Quiet: There is no doubt that I love big smiles and big laughs but sometimes the most beautiful pictures come when you don’t even know I am taking one.
Last rays of light: After cruising the backroads in Leksand, Sweden for a couple of days, I finally found this gorgeous wheat field for a special session with my little ones. We borrowed traditional Swedish clothes and waited for the perfect sunset. Here is one of the first of the series. A story about fireflies. More to come. Happy Monday!
Surprise attack!: I love this picture because not only is it of a beautiful family but it comes from playing one of my favorite games, surprise attack! Step one: position unsuspecting parents next to each other and rascally children about 10 meters behind. Step two: On the count of three the kids get to run up and give a surprise hug from behind. They love it and the smiles speak for themselves.

A Swedish midsummer eve

On the road
On the road

These days are precious. So precious and wonderful and special as we spend time, love and energy just enjoying each other. In some ways, time goes slow and in some ways it goes so so fast and even whole periods of your life can seem to fly by in a heartbeat.

Despite occasional protests from the Bear, my camera is the tool that I use to grab these moments in time and store them away. I imagine pulling these out when I am 80 and marveling at all the beauty. All the love and all the moments bursting with the vibrant life we have. Exhausting, busy and at time past trying but I would not trade even one second. As you enjoy your holiday, I hope you also look around and take a more distant view for once. Imagine yourself in 40 years looking at this moment. Let your heart fill up and then jump in and enjoy every second of it.

Here we are in big sky Sweden with our beloved Farfar and Farmor. I am so glad to have had a chance to organize a little mini session to capture the loving relationship that is growing across these generations. This pond is just a short walk from the family home and we have spent many an afternoon throwing rocks and shivering in the cold Nordic waters and evenings enjoying a cold beer and getting eaten alive by mosquitos. Its a special place and I hope you enjoy it!

These are the moments
These are the moments
Vibrant life
Vibrant life
Cool water
Cool water
Love and laughter
Love and laughter
Little big man
Little big man
Flower girl
Flower girl
Before you know it
Before you know it
For you
For you
Our place
Our place