On a gray Texas morning in 2005, with a ten-day-old baby bundled in the backseat of the car, I kissed my husband good-bye and watched him walk across the parking lot to join hundreds of other soldiers headed for Iraq. The year that he was away was simultaneously the longest and shortest year of my life. Every parent knows the joy and heartbreak of seeing a child grow:
the sleepy newborn phase gives way to giggles, and that first belly-inch forward becomes a full-on crawl. “Enjoy it while it lasts,” strangers would say with a smile, “this time passes so quickly.” It only made me more aware that my husband was missing everything. The milestones wouldn’t wait. I ordered an entry-level DSLR and a kit lens, and I dove into shooting and learning. I took it upon myself to become a memory keeper. I sought out beauty in the details of daily life. I documented the nuances of emotion and expression that come and go in an instant. By the time my husband returned, photography had evolved from a way of capturing life to an integral part of my life altogether.
Everyone’s story is a little bit different, but when I ask other women why they first picked up a camera, a common theme emerges. Many point to the birth of a child as commencing their journey. For others, loss, growth, or some other pivotal experience precipitated the desire to become a photographer. It’s only natural that a heightened awareness of life’s transience would lead to an overwhelming desire to begin capturing the moments that pass so quickly and the beauty often overlooked in our fast-paced world.
As the camera becomes an extension of ourselves, we realize the many ways that photography enhances our lives. Not only can we collect a visual representation of our memories for our future selves and others, but we can also use the camera as a vehicle for personal expression. We shoot what we love, letting our photographs represent our values by each subject that we choose to capture and the way we portray it. We become empowered to transform the elements in the frame to convey our moods and emotions. We may embrace the social aspects of the craft, sharing and learning with an ever-growing community of fellow photographers or connecting and engaging with our subjects while shooting. We may discover or develop a business opportunity, using a well-defined style and skill set to provide a professional service to clients. Or we may simply take an introspective moment for ourselves behind the lens, focusing on the way we want to capture our world and the truth, fiction, or poetry we quietly choose to create.
This book is at its heart a compendium of art and visual stories drawn from the portfolios of photographers across the globe, many of them working professionals, some independent artists, most of them mothers, all of them women. Each image wonderfully exemplifies the compositional principle, artistic technique, or educational tip that accompanies it. These images were originally created, however, not to demonstrate concepts but to let the ordinary emerge as extraordinary, share a message, or capture a moment in time. The result is a collection of photographs infused with artistry and creative perspectives on beauty that might otherwise go unnoticed.
The images are organized within instructional topic chapters, and the accompanying tips within each chapter progress from elementary to advanced. On each page, our contributing photographers have shared the camera, lens, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO applied in the creation of the image shown. Creativity exercises at the end of each chapter encourage you to explore the chapter principles and coax out further experimentation, imagination, and expression. And if you are new to photography, you may find it beneficial to the review the photographer’s reference at the end of the book before you begin or when you come across a term with which you are unfamiliar as you progress.
It is said that photographers view life differently. Everything from the businessman striding down the sidewalk to succulent fruit at a farmer’s market to scuffed shoes on the doormat becomes a potential subject in our minds. We can hardly contain ourselves when dusk sets a child’s halo of curls aglow, and we love nothing more than an empty room filled with sunshine, the way shadows dance across our kitchen walls as daylight approaches, or the drama of tall trees enrobed in fog. We view rundown structures as feasts of textures and see evening’s rush hour as an irresistible collection of lines, shapes, and colors. This book intends to help foster this way of seeing: to make knowledge and instruction accessible, to provide the motivation to advance, to help you illustrate your world powerfully, and—above all—to empower you to embrace a passion as creator of beauty, keeper of memories, and teller of stories.