I have spent the last two years trying to hone my photography skills. I have spent countless hours reading books & online forums, studying the work of photographers I admire, dragging my kids to fields and forests to let me practice on them, searching long and hard for crisp focus, perfect exposure, pleasing composition, beautiful lighting. I have had days of utter joy at the results and days in which I literally cried over my failures. In the search for technical perfection I sometimes begin to lose sight of why I love the art of photography. But you know what? As soon as that happens I come across something that reminds me what it’s all about. It happens every time. And for that I am so thankful.
Today as I was putting away groceries I glanced at a photo that sits on my kitchen counter. It has been there since late 2003 when we took the kids to Disney World. It’s one of those things that has been there so long I don’t even notice it anymore, but today it caught my eye.
It was taken before I went digital, before I knew what aperture was and before I had been introduced to Photoshop. Technically it is a mess. It is underexposed, a little out of focus, and has crappy composition. But it is one of my all time favorite pictures of my kids because of the memory it holds.
We took a day to drive to the Daytona area to visit my grandparents and it was Noah’s first trip to the ocean. Kayla is my risk taker. She is fearless. Noah, on the other hand, is much more cautious. He wants to know exactly what to expect and doesn’t like to try new things. Kayla convinced Noah to wade into the ocean and taught him how he could let the waves knock him over. It took some coaxing on her part but she eventually convinced him. He trusted her so completely that she even got him to raise his arms to add to the thrill. The pure, unadulterated joy warmed my heart. They would raise their arms and wait excitedly for the next wave to roll in. I can still hear their laughter. They didn’t know I had my camera on them but I am so glad I did. Whenever I look at this picture I can literally feel the breeze from the cool day, smell the ocean, and hear their laughter. I remember the moment.
And that’s why I do it. I do it to remember an instant like that. I do it because through all the imperfection in that photograph I see only a perfect moment in time. I do it because today a picture that has sat on my counter for years caught my eye and brought me back to that day. I do it because as I picked up the frame and stared at the picture it wasn’t the technical imperfection that I saw. As I viewed it through tear filled eyes I saw a moment in time I will never get back but that is now eternally mine. I do it to capture the moments that matter.
In fifty years I doubt my grandchildren will look at a photograph I took of their mother or father and say “the eyes are soft and the skin tone is a little blue”. And I am willing to bet that their favorite pictures won’t be the ones where I dressed my kids up and made them tilt their heads just so. I bet that their favorite pictures of their parents will be one very much like this: ones where they get a glimpse of who their parents were as children.
Today I made a promise to myself that in the pursuit of technical perfection I will not lose sight of the fact that the reason I do it is to capture life as it really is, crappy lighting and all.