These days, with the advent of digital cameras and photo editing software, it seems like anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer. Just ask a professional what equipment he's using, buy the same thing, and you're all set.
I know better. It's like buying the same typewriter as Hemingway and expecting to write a literary masterpiece, or buying a racecar just like Mario Andretti's and expecting to race around a track as fast as he can . The equipment does not make the artist. We have a digital SLR and a decent macro lens, but I cannot create a decent bokeh effect to save my life. I can take dozens of photos of the same thing and hope that one photo will luck out and turn out halfway decent, while a true photographer can take one photo of the same subject, using a point-and-shoot camera, and end up with a far better result.
Some people just have it, and by some I'm talking about Anna Mayer. She's a fellow writer for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, and she recently invited some of the SV Moms writers to pose for family portraits. We met for our session in Mountain View's Cuesta Park, but Anna led us away from the park, past the parking lot, and into an abandoned field with wild grasses and a gnarled old tree at the center. Everything looked yellow and dusty, the sun was high in the sky and if I had been taking the photos, they would have all come out with an overexposed background and shadowed faces.
But then, I'm not Anna Mayer.
Under her eye and her lens, the tree turned into something graceful, and the hot, bright sunlight became golden and warm.
I don't remember those grasses looking so green, and I could have sworn we were in a field just beside a parking lot, in the middle of suburban Silicon Valley, not in a lush, green paradise in some untouched countryside . I saw an abandoned field, but Anna saw the perfect photo shoot location.
I would probably have cropped both The Pea's and my faces off in this photo, or enlarged it so that all of our faces were part of it. But an artist knows which elements to include in her work, and which ones to take away, in order to convey the emotion or story that she sees when she captures it. She also knows the perfect words to describe what she has captured: Loved.
As I said, the camera does not make the photographer.
Click here to see more photos from our Anna Mayer session and read more about what I thought of the whole experience!