I started taking photography pretty seriously in high school. I remember the very first photo I developed and printed on my own. It wasn't very good, but it was so satisfying to unravel my negatives and see the images, sharp and contrasting in the light. In college, my bathroom/closet/study was also a slash-darkroom. It was necessary! Little else compares to that magical moment in the darkroom when the projector is raised and focused, you're adjusting... you're adjusting... and then *pow* you see that perfect crisp line. You turn on the light, you say a little prayer. You plunge the paper into chemicals... developer, stop bath, fixer. Even in the red light, you see that it's perfect.
It's tough to maintain that level of focus when children come into the picture... I've forgone film for the ease and speed of digital. There's still a magic moment, but it's no longer in the technicality of the process, it's in catching that wry little smirk at just the right nanosecond. I live for that smirk.
I take so many shots of the babies, in pursuit of it- that it's sometimes easy to overlook the rest of the family. My parents, in particular. I've taken snapshots of them, sure... but I'm at an age now that I truly appreciate and admire them; I want portraits that reflect who they really are and what they mean to me. I had a very happy realization recently that in the past year, I had captured separate images of both of my parents that embodied exactly who they were, and what they are in my eyes. A magic shot. Technically-speaking- no, these are not my best photographs, but what does that matter if they're my favorite...
The first one is my mother. In the photo, she's holding Elliott when he's just ten days old. She was out of state when he was born, and throughout my very difficult pregnancy, and the look on her face here says everything about the worry of the past 9 months evaporating. I often worry about my mom and the stress in her life; but in this photo I see all of that just melt away. She's just completely serene, and it makes me so happy.
The next one is my dad. To say he's a beach guy is a gross understatement. He's a waterman. He comes to visit every year for James' Birthday (New Years Day) and they do the Polar Bear Dip in Cayucos. I captured this shot of him coming out of the water. Freezing! But look how happy he is. My dad's smile turns into a laugh, and that turns into this great, loud, "haHA" sort-of backwards cackle. I can actually hear it in my head when I look at this picture and it makes me giggle to myself.
I can't tell you how happy it makes me to have these. I highly recommend capturing your own magic shot of a parent or loved one. Take 25 shots of someone you love, heck, take 50, or 100! We all shoot digital now anyway, right? Then go through each of them until you see that special thing that there's no word for. That thing that captures the essence of them. It need not be particularly posed, or technically correct, or even perfectly dignified- it just needs to make you smile. :)