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This past weekend a friend’s wife had asked me to photograph her family. I know her husband through work and she told me she had not had a family portrait done in quite some time. So I suggested that we do an outdoor portrait where I am much more comfortable capturing spontaneous and genuine expression. While Tracy and I were waiting at Baker Beach in San Francisco for them to arrive, we both noticed a young mother and her daughter on the beach. The mother was holding up a point and shoot attempting to capture a good shot of them together.

In my normal manner, I approached them and said, “You can’t go wrong with the subject matter you’re trying to get. Your daughter is just stunning.” She smiled and began to tell me that she worked as a portrait photographer in the past and could never get her own daughter to give her any expression other than ‘the glare.’ I laughed and asked if I could try and began shooting her young daughter. As Tracy approached the young girl immediately offered Tracy a smile. I’m certain it is because she could feel Tracy’s calm and naturally friendly demeanor. So I asked the mother if she would like to join her daughter for some shots.

Mother and Daughter

The family I had planned to shoot arrived later and since we had to wait until the sun was in just the right place, I told the girls to simply ‘play.’ Tracy and I were able to capture several shots as the girls were enjoying the warm and balmy ocean breeze.


When I arrived home and began to process the images of my friend’s family and the strangers I had photographed, I became overwhelmed with emotion. As I looked upon the families I had photographed, it reminded me that the familiarity and comfort of family is universal. Each of us yearns for the belonging that is uniquely found in a loving family. I was also poignantly reminded of why I so enjoy images of humanity. Each person deserves to hold memories of those they love. And I am so blessed to be part of so many of those moments.

The young mother whose images we captured wrote to ask me for the images we took yesterday. After we sent her our imagery, so wrote back to say, “You brought me to tears.  (I didn’t expect that to happen.) :-)” Little did she know that the palpable love of family from that day brought a tear to my eye as well.

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