Bre + Josh :: A Typical Weekend :: Campbellville Pine Forest Fun-Shoot

Ah young love.   The good old days when you’d drag a mattress into the woods in your PJs, bring along 87 books and play ‘superman’.

Kinda like the good old days.   Yeah, these things usually only happen in movies…still super cute, right?    Maybe it will inspire you to surprise your loved one with an afternoon in the woods reading…or doing other things.

bre-josh-woods-matress-books-1bre-josh-woods-matress-books-b bre-josh-woods-matress-books-7bre-josh-woods-matress-books-a

This was from a session last year that was a back-up plan for a Chic Critique contest challenge!    It was too pretty to not share though.bre-josh-woods-matress-books-5bre-josh-woods-matress-books-6


Bre the Mountain-Woman :: Chic Critique Photography Idol Contest :: Halton, ON

Now that most of the paying work is completed I’m able to spend a little time going over the tens of thousands of pro bono images I took this year!   One of the most exciting such sessions was this one with one of my recent brides, Bre, and her new husband Josh.    This sessions was the 1st assignment for the Chic Critique Photography Idol Contest that I entered and won recently!    These images have never been seen–and I’ve been anxiously sitting on them waiting for the time when I could finish a few!
To be honest though, I’m mostly motivated because I have to submit the images to the magazine so they can figure out the layout for my spread in the January issue :)

*A little disclaimer though: if the images seem crooked to you, they aren’t.  It’s an old, homemade cabin, so the old fella isn’t as squared off as he used to be.
Without further adieu:

-models: Bre + Josh
 + plymouth rock chicken
-assisted by: Rita
-hair/mu: Bre & Anna
-wardrobe + accessories: supplied by White Elephant
-props + accessories: The Joneses!
-smoke: provided by the sweat and tears of Josh

And if that wasn’t enough there are more…

*Image submitted to contest*

Thank you to everyone who offering their help, ideas, clothes, wolf pelts and antlers!    Special thank you to Bre & Josh who happily came all the way from London on the hottest day EVER to wear multiple layers of pelts and pose by a FIRE.    You guys are awesome.

I’ll let you all know when the magazine comes out!  ***Please show me the love–leave a comment below!   I have really low self-esteem.***

Thanks for your support <3

I Won the Contest!

I’ve been secretly composing this victory email in my head for a while now…but didn’t want to write anything down just in case.
So here we go!

First off I want to thank a TON of people.  (And forgive me now if I’ve momentarily forgotten all your hard work promoting me!)

To everyone who voted–YOU are responsible for my success!   Without your support and loyalty I wouldn’t have made it past the first round.   If I could give each one of you a hug I would…in fact feel free to ask for your hug if you see me sometime!

To my husband, Ken, for being the best, biggest, most emotionally invested cheerleader for Team CDP!   I don’t see this guy get upset very often so it meant a lot to see him get angry for me when I was disappointed and get teary when I was successful!  (Oh wait…you weren’t teary.   My mistake.)

To my other big cheerleaders–my sister Catherine, my parents (my Dad opened an FB account just to vote for me), and my niece and nephews who actually posted stuff on their FB wall for me.  To my extended family Julia, Carolyn, Debbie & Kristi for totally having my back!   And thank you to the friends who tirelessly shared my FB posts—Annie, Tiffany, Bre, Christina, Susan and a ton of people I know I’m forgetting–actually about 30 of you.  Literally there are 30 of you who shared stuff and I can’t remember now…

Thanks to a few groups who took up my cause–like the 270 Sherman admin who always forwarded my emails and reposted my FB posts!  As well as the crazy gals at Dick&Janes and Charmed Events Toronto/Ottawa!

A HUGE thank you to White Elephant on James St N in Hamilton for the unlimited use of their amazing selection of vintage clothes and accessories!  Hollie–thank you for being excited with me and there for me to brainstorm with!

For every shoot I had to enlist the help of a lot of people!   First off, thank you to my assistant Rita and Huyen (and Anna) who helped carry crap, take care of dogs and chickens, fix hair etc.   Thank you to my nephew Caleb for driving his big ol’ pick up to my house in Hamilton for a 30 minute shoot and to my neighbour Kathryn who unquestioningly let me borrow her little dog, Moxy, for one shoot (that sadly never saw the light of day ):      Thanks to Ian and Anne Jones who let us all onto their property to use their amazing cabin for the first shoot—and for letting us stress out your chickens even further!    And again, thanks to 270 Sherman for the unlimited use of their building and property!

Thank you, of course, to my models!!!  Thanks to the ever-lovely Bre & Josh, the gorgeous Ruth and the mesmerizing twins Sarah and Jillian (and their amazing supportive parents Sheila and Doug!)   And special thanks to Karyn & Nic whose images didn’t make the cut for the contest–but certainly made the cut for ME professionally–you can see some of their lovely shots here.

Thank you everyone for every single Facebook thumbs up, wall post, comment, and message.  Thank you for every single text message, phone call and email and to those of you who have been privately following the action, watching webinars, asking friends and family to vote–I know who you are–thank you!  Every little nugget of encouragement and enthusiasm helped spur me on and pushed me to work harder, dream bigger and bug you harder for votes…

Thank you to my peers who I was competing against–especially Angela and Brittney.  Your amazing skill and creativity and drive really made me work by butt off!   Beyond the first round, I really had no idea who would move on because you’re all so talented!

Finally–thank you to the judges at Chic Critique and to Kelli (and Matt) France for all their hard work pulling this together through time zones, technical difficulties and delinquent participants!    You run an awesome magazine that inspires a lot of women and now you’ve successfully run a fun, exciting competition that hopefully I’ll be judging in next year…?  Please?

During the last webinar I was asked what I learned about myself…and what I kind of wanted to say was that I learned I have a huge support group behind me when, you know…being human, I just assumed I was more or less alone most of the time.   It’s the nicest thing to find out I’ve been wrong.



  • Prize pack (see below) valued at over $1000
  • Winner will become our next Celebrity Photographer (which will require at least one month of paid critiquing)
  • Images featured in January issue of Chic Magazine!

If you’re not a photographer you won’t fully appreciate all the amazing goodies I won–but on top of these awesome prizes I also get to work alongside a lot of women photographers who I have admired for a long time.  And that’s the biggest prize for me–just being able to be around some real heavy-hitters, soaking up their knowledge and learning from their experience.  I’m so pumped!  See–there I am below beside some awesome ladies include the editor of Chic Critique, Kelli France.   Here’s the link to my page on the site:

I am scheduled to start with Chic Critique in November–so if you or anyone you know wants to be my guinea pigs and receive constructive and entertaining feedback on YOUR work–sign up today!

Ok–I have to get back to reality and return about 40 emails and edit…um 15 sessions.   No biggie.



What a journey! Top Three here I come!

I made it to the Top Three in Chic Critique’s Photography Idol!

Wow.  I am so overwhelmed.   I’m not overwhelmed by my successes actually, it’s by the support that’s risen up around me.  It’s truly inspiring and humbling.

Here’s why:

-Yesterday over 40 of you shared my call for votes on Facebook.  Wow.

-When the contest first opened voting was Facebook-based and required that the voter ‘like’ the Chic Critique FB page.  That first day there were 10 entries and I saw Chic Critique’s ‘likes’ rise by 500 or so and I know for a fact that at LEAST 150 of those were votes for me.

-The other night when I got my bad critique I was pretty upset about it initially–but I wasn’t the only one.  I got tons of encouraging emails and texts from people I didn’t even know were following the contest!   And my sweet husband actually couldn’t sleep because he was so angry for me.

-Little communities of people online and in real-time have crowded around me in support–from all around the globe but especially in Hamilton!

-My Dad joined Facebook so he could vote for me.

-After I announced my advancement into the Top Three I received 38 emails in under 5 minutes.   Oh, and they were all from you congratulating me and wishing me well!

-The super cool shop in downtown Hamilton, White Elephant, has been there for me offering advice on styling and props as well as use of their amazing selection of vintage clothing, jewellery and accessories!

-The at least 2 executive directors of two large national & international corporations have voiced their support for me!  (And I’m only related to one of them…)

-My nieces and nephews think their aunt is kinda cool for once–I know because they texted me.

-The building and all the many tenants where I rent my studio have been behind me since day one–sending out emails on my behalf, posting on Facebook, offering use of the buildings and spaces etc!   (They’ve yet to offer paying my rent for the month…)

It hasn’t been all peaches and cream and warm feelings–it’s been tough and a challenge to my spirit & will everyday!   There are lots who have really disappointed me by not being there for me–it’s shown me who my real friends & supporters are.    And I don’t say that with any kind of  bitterness–it’s just been one more lesson I’ve learned through this process.   And golly have I learned a lot about myself, business, photography, working with models etc. in the last three weeks.

It’s a bit crazy…I feel like I’ve won so much already!

And on that note I want to THANK YOU again for all your support and cheering and sharing and voting and emails/texts/phone calls.   I wouldn’t be here without you all!


ps. the final assignment is due on Sunday night and then I don’t know how the format will rock n roll after that–but the winner will be announced on Sept 24th LIVE via webinar at 9-10pm.  I’ll share info once I get it.

I made it into the Top Five! Now go vote for me to get into the Top Three!!!

Well–part of my motto for this year was ‘Be Fearless.  Be Humble.  Keep Learning.’   
And I can say that this Chic Critique contest is really putting all of that to the test.

Most of you know I made it into the Top Five thanks to your votes last week!  THANK YOU!    This 2nd assignment wasn’t what I hoped it would be and consequently I have been humbled and am certainly learning!  My critique was a mix of love, like and serious dislike–it was a tough night considering I’d been at the head of the pack last week.

Voting has begun and we will be going from the Top Five to the Top Three–so two of us are “going home” in 24 hours.   I will freely admit the shot I submitted isn’t my best, and isn’t the best among the images from this week–yet I feel so strongly that I should be a part of the Top Three.   I know I have what it takes to ‘wow’ you again!

Please go vote for me now to keep me in the game!  I know, and I think a lot of you know, I can do this!  If anything go vote for the only Canadian who made it to the Top Five!  GO CANADA!


I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your continued support and enthusiasm in these exciting/challenging days!   I can’t wait to announce to you all that I’m in the Top Three!

ps. Here’s a shot that I chose not to submit but I liked a lot—go here to see what I actually submitted!!!

Chic Critique’s Photography Idol Contest!

Yes I’m entering a contest.  I’ll be posting the full preview from this session this week–now that I’m back from vacation.

This is from Annie’s maternity shoot a couple weeks ago.   Annie’s an old pal of mine so she gave me permission to totally take over her shoot start to finish–taking inspiration from some words she gave me: ethereal, vintage, boho.

Once I had an idea in mind that I liked I scouted the location over about 2 days, designed and built the swing and designed and sewed the skirt as well as guiding Annie, the model, in hair & mu.  (Comments from Annie about my shoddy sewing job will not be approved.  It’s my machine…it’s a Kenmore after all.  Be kind.)

I was hoping for ‘ethereal’ golden sunlight to backlight my subject most of the time, but instead we got this moody sky and threatening rain–which, of course, in the end was an unexpected bonus.

Isn’t she the most ethereal/vintage/boho mama you’ve ever seen?  I loved this shoot so much–can’t wait to show you all the rest!  No, for realsies–possibly one of the best sessions of 2012….so far!

This image was posted in response to Chic Critique’s call for submissions for their ‘Photography Idol’ contest.    Chic Critique is THE elite resource for women who love photography (yes, they’re biased!). “Our mission: critique | confidence | community. We’re all about our Celebrity Photographers who encourage, inspire, teach, and critique our members…”

Thanks Chic Critique for the fun!  All the best to the other entrants.

A Ladies’ Cocktail Picnic Party :: Hamilton Whimsy Photography

Dear Hilda was nominated by her loving daughters in my Mother’s Day Draw a few months ago–hoping to win a mini-session for their mother.   If you were around my Facebook page at the time you’ll remember that contest was hoppin’ towards the end–but after 111 votes Hilda beat out the competition and won the mini-session–which she chose to use with her daughters.

One of her daughters, Carolyn, is also a photographer, so she and I had fun planning the session and dreaming up something unique!  I think we achieved that goal and because of all the girls’ planning and creative energy (and actual energy moving furniture around!) we created a really whimsical little vignette for Hilda’s Mother’s Day mini-sesh.

Happy Mother’s Day Hilda!  You are very clearly much beloved by your girls.

iTunes card Sweepstake Rules!

1) Enter yourself into the sweepstake by ‘liking’ my new FB page.

2) Enter your email and name.

3) Share the link with your friends, if you want :)

4) Enter by 11:59pm on Jan 9th, 2012

5) Can only enter once.  Can only enter for yourself.  Must be over 18.

6) ‘Unlike’ the old FB page.

7) Winner will be determined by random draw of numbers.

8) Winner must meet the requirements & cannot have won anything from Claire Dam in the last 12 months.

Trash It or Treasure It Winners!

Wow!  Once again I was overwhelmed by all the activity surrounding this contest!

Not nearly as many entrants this time, and I fear it’s because of how complicated I made it to earn extra points.   But, live and learn, and congratulations to those who persevered!   You blew any competition you had out of the water!   THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone who voted.  It was a lot of fun!

So the winner of the Trash It photo shoot is

the wonderful

Liz McPhee,

from glorious Hamilton, ON!

And the winner of the Treasure It photos shoot is,

of course, the lovely

Liselle Dochstader,

from Mississauga, ON!


Congratulations ladies!   Both of them will have their own private photo shoot with me sometime in the next 6 months.

The Trash It photo shoot will involve just having fun in the wedding gown.  We might go for a dip, canter through a field of long grass, jump in mud puddles…who knows!  Stay tuned… :)

And the Treasure It photo shoot involves creating a more candid, relaxed environment that will immortalize the gown while preserving it (for the most part)!


If you’re interested in booking your own Trash It or Treasure It photo shoot get in touch ASAP!

The first 2 people to email me will

receive 50% OFF

their Trash It or Treasure It shoot!  (only one spot available for each type of shoot for a total of 2 discounted shoots.)

And finally, in case you haven’t heard, every new member to the Wdfotos by Claire Dam group on Facebook, will receive a 15% off coupon towards the portrait shoot of their choice!   But you need to claim it.  Go to my facebook page here and click on the offer icon on the left side of the page.  Or click here and go directly to this limited time offer!

Go to my website for my extensive portfolio and my contact information.  April is already booked SOLID and May is 1/3rd full.  So book today!

Looking forward to an excellent season everyone!


Lovely Esther

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some of you may remember the February Boudoir photo shoot contest, and our lovely winner Esther!   If you saw her photos you may have thought they weren’t very traditionally ‘boudoir’ for a contemporary photographer.

My perspective on boudoir photography came after I learned that in the early 20th century, when the boudoir was just becoming fashionable, it wasn’t necessarily a room to lay around in, dressed in one’s lingerie.  It was a lady’s private bedroom, sitting room or dressing room.  It was the first time a woman had the autonomy to her own space in which she was free to do and entertain who she wanted to.     The boudoir came to represent a woman’s true passion, interests, and where she could speak freely!   (And I’d also like to note this was the same time in history as women’s sufferage!)    So I hope that explains my unique take on ‘boudoir’ photography!

I’ve posted a few photos from her shoot over the last couple months, but part of the arrangement with Esther was that once she received her finished photos she would send me a little write-up about her thoughts and experience with the shoot.

I know how much I was blessed and touched and inspired and excited by this project-but I was eager to hear what Esther thought about this highly unusual opportunity!

These are her thoughts.  I hope you can take a moment to read her letter, and that it will give you a better understanding as to why she was nominated in the first place and why I had to photograph this beautiful, strong, amazing woman!  (text in bold is mine)


I am writing this letter in response to the beautiful photos that you took of me back in January. I want to begin by sharing with you my gratitude that you took your time to organize and offer this experience to me. This is something I don’t think I would have ever initiated on my own behalf. I have learned so much in the process and would like to share some of that with you.

Firstly, I want to express how much it meant to me to be nominated by my friend Rashmi for this photo shoot. She was able to recognize that this would be something that I would benefit from, knowing that it would be extremely meaningful at this point in my life, this point in my healing journey, to record and to document, myself. Her thoughtfulness and kind words reflect her deep support for me, for our friendship, and serve as a testament to her loving nature of helping the people around her. I know that I would have never gone about doing something like this for myself, on my own accord.

So… a photo shoot. I have to say the whole thing kind of scared me at first because I don’t like looking at myself. In fact until the last year, I was content to stay as invisible as possible. It is not to say that I didn’t like the way I look or my body, because I have never had much of a problem with that, but more so, I didn’t like to get any attention from other people.

During this last year there has been a tremendous amount of change in my life. I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer again (it came back after 16 years of being cancer free), thus leading me unto an existential questioning of my life, how I had been living… In the process of my personal change as I confronted many of the emotional issues surrounding my illness, my long-term relationship also dissolved as I realized that I needed to carve out my own space at this moment in time. I moved out, separated from my partner, and became a single mother with two children.  I went through surgery again over the summer, which led to me losing my voice for 6 months following. That period was marked by some fear, as here I was with children and barely able to raise my voice above a whisper. I couldn’t work, and wondered if my voice would come back. All in all, the time was much needed for me to process what had just happened. Without a voice I was forced to stop, listen, and reflect, which is exactly what I did. In this space of calm, and deep meditation, I re-connected to myself and rediscovered. I wondered where I had been hiding all these years.

My voice came back in December 2010, just before the photo shoot. It was interesting because the last six months I had spent focusing inwards but I think also taking more of a conscious decision to be more present with myself, to be more in my body, to honour, respect, and take of myself.

I was so frightened to do this photo shoot. I almost cancelled a few times. I tried not to think of it, and on the day felt very scattered. I hadn’t planned anything out, nor devoted any time to thinking about it. I don’t know if I really knew what was going to happen and what the pictures or the process would be like. I showed up and I guess that was what mattered.

When I met Claire I instantly knew that she was someone that I could feel very comfortable with, and that I could work with. She was so easy-going, encouraging, and made me feel right at home from the beginning of the shoot. When she began to take pictures, I felt gradually more and more comfortable, until the point came when I was actually having fun! It became really like a dress-up game… And the hours passed before I knew it. All in all, it was a very positive and enjoyable experience.

Receiving the photos was wonderful. They were really beautiful, some of them looked way better than I had imagined them to be. Claire is an amazingly gifted photographer.

I still find it hard to look at myself but this photo shoot was a beginning.

The power of portraiture into helping someone reclaim their identity is so important, especially in times of upheaval and change, when your body or your role in life is shifting. It is kind of grounding, in terms of freezing a moment, freezing yourself, in order for you to reflect upon yourself. A moment, a breath… a pause.

That is what this photo shoot was for me. A pause for myself, to treat myself, to pay attention to myself, to record myself, to have other people tend to me… What a treat and luxury to have this experience! And to take away with me photos of my body at this moment in time, photos that somehow chronicle this time period in my life, and affirm my health, and really my beauty.

All and all this was an amazing experience and something that I would definitely do again, and also recommend for others to do as well. Photographs are very powerful for me served a healing and life-affirming function.

I thank you Claire for all your hard work and all your talent because it comes through in the photos. You have opened my eyes to something that is very important and have created some amazing memories that I can share with my family.

All the best,


Blog at