Monthly Archives: January 2014

Clouds and Rain: Objects of Fascination

It seems that we always yearn for what we don’t have.  Around Christmas time I was fascinated by snow…I longed to try my hand at capturing a macro photo of a single snowflake.  But I live in a place where it never snows…I didn’t see snow fall from the sky until I was well into adulthood and I have never had a white Christmas.

This last week some of my fellow photographers at the iAnthology have been posting pictures of snow and ice in response to the prompt, Playing with Light.  One particular photo of an icicle lingers in my mind and I find myself wishing for an opportunity to photograph ice…and the play of light…for myself.  And then my teaching partner emailed me a link to some photos created by a man on snowshoes…intricate, gorgeous designs…made by his intentional walk on snow.  Oh…I know a trip to somewhere cold is in my future!

But I live in Southern CA…in a place where we are having a drought and unseasonably warm winter temperatures.  More people are wearing shorts and flip flops than sweatshirts and Uggs…and umbrellas have been stashed or lost or are coated in the dust and grime caused by lack of use.

The last couple of days have teased us with hopes of rain.  The air is moist and fog has been rolling in along the coast in the mornings and evenings.  And yesterday we had some hints of rain…that misty mess that muddies the windshield but doesn’t produce any measurable precipitation.

I awoke this morning wondering if it had rained overnight.  The app on my phone said no…and gave no suggestion of rain for the day.  But as I was dressing for no rain, planning to wear the kind of shoes you wouldn’t choose on a rainy day, my husband came upstairs to announce that it was, in fact, raining!

I rethought my wardrobe for the day, choosing my boots instead of my Toms, and headed out the door.  For those of you who live where rain is common, you would probably laugh that we were considering this rain at all.  But the first objects that caught my eye as I walked out the door were the poinsettias near the front door.  They were glistening with drops of rain.  I immediately pulled out my phone and began to photograph the droplets glistening on the bracts.


I love the way the black and white photo draws attention to the precious drops–something we see so rarely these days.

Honestly, this “rainy day” turned out to be not so rainy after all.  I would be surprised if we even measure a quarter inch of rainfall in the county.  But as I left work today, I found myself drawn to the clouds.  In some directions the clouds were white and wispy, sitting in a backdrop of blue.  In others, they gathered in tall white towers…and in others, gray and black framed the edges.


I was compelled to drive towards the clouds on my way home…and pulled off to the side of the road to attempt to capture the complexity of the clouds with my phone’s camera.  The clouds became the object of my fascination and I took shot after shot, trying different angles to take advantage of the varieties of light available.

I don’t think I am done with clouds yet.  And I hope the clouds are not done with us yet either.  We desperately need some rain, although the forecast doesn’t look promising.

What is the object of fascination for you right now?  Is it something within reach…or are you yearning for something you don’t have?  I’d love to know more about your object!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Intersections

Here’s the week 4 Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for the NWP iAnthology!  (Here are weeks 12, and 3 if you want to look back.)

I love the ways different aspects of my life intersect, crisscrossing and overlapping in unexpected ways.  The word intersection can have a literal meaning, as I visualize the crossing of roads or the beams of a bridge.


Or it can have a more conceptual meaning as ideas “bump into” each other and create new opportunities for understanding and learning.  They can be surprising meetings…like this image of the past intersecting with the present in my photo of the mammoth with the modern skyscraper in the background.


So this week’s photo challenge is to explore the idea of intersection.  Share a photo that represents intersection in some way for you.  Post either the photo alone or along with writing inspired by the photo.  I also invite you to use others’ photos as inspiration for your own writing and photography.  I often use another photographer’s image as “mentor text” for my own photography, trying to capture some element in my own way.

I like to share my images and writing on social media…and I invite you to share yours widely too. (You might consider Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+) Use the hashtag #intersection and include @nwpianthology to make it easy for us to find and enjoy.  You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kd0602.  I’d love to follow you if you share your handle.

You can also share your photos and writing by linking to this blog post or sharing in the comment section below.  I am excited to see how you interpret intersection in your photos!

I look forward to seeing all the intersections in your life!

Love to Play: February’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Since making play my word for the year, I find myself looking for opportunities to incorporate more play in the ordinariness of my everyday life.  How can I be more playful on my commute to work?  How can vacuuming and doing the dishes be more like play?  How can grant writing and lesson planning play with ideas I’ve always wanted to try?

So, playing around with the theme of love in honor of Valentine’s Day, (right smack in the middle of February), let’s put some love into playing with some photography techniques!  (Thanks, Janis, for the suggestion!)

So for February’s #sdawpphotovoices photo-a-day challenge, we’ll focus on a different aspect of photography each week.

After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some more playfulness, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, make a video or slideshow or try a learning walk!  (More about learning walks here and here) You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section.  It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Week 1:  Playing with Composition

1. Simplify the scene—move in closer to remove distracting details

2.  Rule of thirds (or simply avoid the middle)–what happens when you frame your subject off center?

3.  Use leading lines—frame your shot by letting the natural lines (fences, roads, walls…) direct the viewer’s eye

4.  Use diagonals—shift the angle, tilt your camera…

5.  Check your background—what’s behind your subject? Experiment with finding a background that works with your subject

6.  Fill the frame—zoom in or step closer to fill the frame with your subject

7.  Break the rules—experiment with your own compositional style

Leading lines

Leading lines

Week 2:  Playing with Light

8.  Shoot into the light to create a silhouette

9.  Capture a shadow

10. Find the light in a dark setting

11.  Make light the centerpiece of the photo

12.  Experiment with light and dark in one photo

13.  Include a reflection (water is useful here!)

14.  Try something new with light (either natural light or some other light source)



Week 3:  Playing with Perspective

15.  Get low

16.  Shoot from above

17.  Create an optical illusion

18.  Play with negative space

19.  Get close

20.  Try a wide angle effect

21.  What other perspective have you tried?

Looking Up

Looking Up

Week 4:  Playing with Genre

22.  Architecture

23.  Black and White

24.  Children

25.  Landscape

26.  Macro

27.  Nature

28.  Street photography



Our goal is to play, share with each other, and learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot.  Each week includes seven suggestions for exploring the technique.  You are welcome to follow them in order, mix them up, or exchange them for a technique you want to try on.  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Connected and Digital: A Reflection

Today I had the opportunity to be a panelist on a webinar entitled, “Connected and Digital: Improving Learning for All Students,” put on by the Alliance for Excellent Education in conjunction with Digital Learning Day and their Digital Learning Transition MOOC.

I’ve been exploring connected learning for a while now, and love the way the learning principles:

  • interest driven
  • peer supported
  • academically oriented

and design principles:

  • production-centered
  • openly networked
  • shared purpose

work together to create a powerful dynamic for learning.  In my view, connected learning is the embodiment of what it means to be a lifelong learner, learning because you want to, because you are interested, because you find it compelling and enjoyable.  And that is what I want for myself and for my students.  And just like my students, sometimes my interest in a topic or activity is piqued because someone drew my attention to something I didn’t even know that I wanted to learn about.

When I was invited to talk about connected learning and digital learning and the relationship between the two I had a little laugh at myself.  A couple of years ago I remember asking over and over again, as part of a group exploring connected learning, if connected learning meant digital learning.  And while I was given answers, it was this summer when I participated in the Connected Learning MOOC (clmooc) that I came to a firm understanding that all connected learning doesn’t have to be digital, but that digital tools allow for an amplification of learning that is often not possible without it.  I know it has had a profound impact on my photography as I share my efforts and connect with others across the nation and all over the world who have similar interests.

What I loved most about my experience on the panel today was the opportunity to think deeply and carefully about why I believe connected and digital learning are important in schools and their relationship to issues of equity and access.  Mary Ann Wolf, who moderated the webinar, took the time before the actual webinar to talk with each of the panelists separately about our experiences and views and then constructed a series of questions for us to think about a few days prior to today’s event.  I like the question/answer format, that while structured, still allows for a flow of ideas and responses to one another’s ideas.

I also like that although I was one of the panelists and had already done a lot of thinking about this topic, I found the conversation interesting, illuminating, and stimulating.  Comments made and information shared by Bud Hunt and Sara Hall have me thinking about aspects of connected and digital learning that I haven’t given my full attention just yet.  I left the hour-long conversation with a full brain and many more ideas to think about, as well as resources to explore and new contacts to reach out to in this journey.

If you are interested, here is the archived version of the webinar:

What do you think about connected learning and digital learning?  How are they enacted in your classroom?  In your life?

Undulating Clouds

As I commute to and from work I hear the radio reports of the polar vortex and the frigid temperatures in the midwest and eastern parts of our country.  Cautions of frostbite in ten minutes to exposed skin.  Wind chills and snow and ice…

And yet here the weather is unseasonably warm.  We’ve mostly forgotten where we put our jackets, and shorts and flip flops are back to being a common sight in the community.  And the worry is rising too.  The last day we had any measurable precipitation was December 19th…more than a month ago…and this is our “rainy season.”  (As much of a rainy season as you get in a place with annual rainfall of less than 10 inches.)  Drought has risen above a whisper and we are remembering the horrors of wildfires and water restrictions, not to mention the hardships on farmers and the agricultural community.

But yesterday I had the opportunity to share my latest find with my husband and we drove to Double Peak Park, not too far from home, and looked out over the county.

Clouds swirled and churned, creating undulating patterns in the sky.  It seemed that we could see rain falling in the distance…high in the sky…never reaching the ground.  We wished and hoped for rain that never did materialize.


It remained cloudy today, and the clouds gathered and churned in great gray billows in the theatre of tonight’s sunset.  But still we have no rain.  The forecasters are pointing to Friday for rain, but the percentage chances seem low and it wouldn’t be the first time that forecasted rain was canceled as we come closer to that day.

So I’m hoping for some milder temps for friends in the midwest and east…and I have my fingers crossed that we get some much needed rain here.  A bit every day would be ideal–our roads and buildings don’t handle large amounts well.  I’m sure my students would love to search under their beds for the forgotten rain boots, scour the garage for the misplaced umbrella…they might even locate that jacket shoved deep in the hall closet.  And I’ll even silence my complaints about the dreaded rainy day schedule at school and the mess of the indoor lunch–the rain will be worth it.

Think some rainy, wet thoughts for us!

Gardeners and Art: A Juxtoposition

I love museums!  These spaces highlight opportunities for learning and encourage an appreciation for curiosity and inquiry.  I’ve learned to not just look at the exhibits for what they hold, but to also think about how they are constructed and curated to tell a particular story.

Earlier this week I was in Los Angeles at the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum which sits adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).  On a sunny, warm winter day I had the luxury of wandering the grounds of both museums, enjoying the exhibits, the outdoor sculptures and art, the beautiful gardens, and the expansive well-groomed lawns.

As I explored the sculpture gardens I noticed the gardeners hard at work, mowing and raking…making sure the museum grounds were pristine.  They also seemed highly aware of the museum visitors and tried to avoid obstructing camera views or otherwise interfering with the visitors’ experience.

And I found myself wanting to capture the juxtaposition of the celebrity of the art with the unassuming work of the gardeners.


I noticed that the gardeners were highly aware of the visitors and made every effort to be unobtrusive as they went about the work of maintaining the pristine landscape.  I actually had to work to capture their photos…especially this first photo where I really wanted both the sculpture and the gardener with the lawnmower in the image.

And then I worked with editing apps to create images that featured the gardeners and captured the essential, beautiful nature of their work.


Why is it that we celebrate the work of artists and scientists, but ignore the work of gardeners, cleaning staff, waiters and waitresses?  These are the people who make our places comfortable and beautiful.  They make sure that things are in working order, that trash gets deposited out of sight, they make our places smell nice and look nice.

So this post acknowledges the juxtaposition…and celebrates the work of those whose work is just under the surface of our attention.  These gardeners are essential to the experience I had on the museum grounds earlier this week.  They contributed to the aesthetics of the art and are essential to the museum experience.

An Architectural Learning Walk

Sometimes I’m surprised at what interests me.  With my camera in my hand, I find myself drawn to shapes and angles, light and shadows, things that shine and things that crumble, the cute and the hideous…  Contradictions make for interesting photographs.

I mentioned earlier this week that I had gone exploring in the Los Angeles area on Monday with my son.  We headed into the hills in search of the Ennis House, a residence designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  This house is made of “textile blocks”–intricate patterns pressed into the concrete.  The concrete has deteriorated over time (it was built in 1924), putting the building in danger.   Since being purchased a few years ago by billionaire Ron Burkle, it is now being restored to its original state.


This is a huge place and has a history of being used by the film industry as a setting for movies, Blade Runner is one example.  I can only imagine what the view must be from the interior of the house from its perch on the side of the hill above downtown Los Angeles.


In our climb up to the house, we noticed other interesting architecture in the neighborhood. After parking and walking around, we examined the interesting collection of eclectic design built into the hillside.


This one that juts out at an angle also sports an interesting screen along the bottom.


The one right next door seemed to built on stilts, lifting the living quarters up high enough to catch the view below.


If you asked me last week if I was interested in architecture, I might have said no.  But after my day exploring through photography, I found myself looking up information about the Ennis House and interested in finding out more about other architectural styles.

This happens in my classroom too.  Once students engage in learning about something…especially in an active, student-centered way, their interest is piqued and they can’t wait to learn more.  They seem to notice the new information everywhere and make connections well beyond the classroom walls.

What new interests have you found recently?  What inspires your learning?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Playing with Light

Here’s the week 3 Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for the NWP iAnthology!  (Here are weeks 1 and 2 if you want to look back.)

As I continue to learn the art and craft of photography, I both wrestle with and delight in light. Lighting is essential to a great photograph and although there are “rules” about working with light, sometimes breaking those rules creates the most interesting effect.

I often hear that photographs are best shot with the sun behind the camera, with the light coming in over your shoulder as the photographer.  But sometimes I just can’t resist shooting into the light like I did this morning in my attempt to capture the sunrise flaming through the fog as I peered through my car window.


And sometimes I’m able to capture the just-right lighting, almost by accident.  This still life of a narcissus paperwhite plant on my dining room table is delicately lit by the chandelier above.  I love the way the light is refracted by the chandelier glass onto the walls.  This photo, taken with my iPhone, is completely unedited.


So this week’s photo challenge is to play with light.  Share a photo that features light in some way.  Post either the photo alone or along with writing inspired by the photo.  I also invite you to use others’ photos as inspiration for your own writing and photography.  I often use another photographer’s image as “mentor text” for my own photography, trying to capture some element in my own way.

I like to share my images and writing on social media…and I invite you to share your widely too. (You might consider Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+) Use the hashtag #light and include @nwpianthology to make it easy for us to find and enjoy.  You can find me on Twitter and Instagram @kd0602.  I’d love to follow you if you share your handle.

You can also share your photos and writing by linking to this blog post or sharing in the comment section below.  I am excited to see how you use light in your photos!

So, have fun and play with light!

Exploring: A Family Trait

Yesterday’s holiday offered me the opportunity to do some exploring…with my son.  Now that my children are grown, married, and living in cities away from me, I treasure the time we get to spend together in any configurations of our family.

So yesterday morning, with a day off from work, I got into my car and headed up the freeway to Los Angeles to spend the day exploring with my son.  In many ways, he is my inspiration for taking photographs.  He has fancy cameras and takes amazing photos.  I use my phone and continue to learn.  And he is quite the cheerleader for my growing skills and like me, enjoys looking for interesting photo opportunities.

Los Angeles has its downside: most notably, traffic!  But it is rich in interesting history, eclectic neighborhoods, memorable landmarks, and famous people along with a beautiful natural environment.  So after an amazingly quick commute in light traffic from my home to his, we set off for a day of exploring and picture taking.

We spent the morning at the La Brea Tar Pits (can you believe neither of us had even been…even though we both grew up in Southern CA?), the Page Museum, and the sculpture gardens at LACMA.  Then after lunch, we decided to drive the surface streets of the greater Hollywood area as we ventured off to find the Ennis House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural gems.  (More about that later this week!)

And in the process of driving up the narrow, winding streets of the hillside above the greater LA area, we found so much more than Frank Lloyd Wright’s treasure.

We found a place to park on the steep streets of an obviously exclusive neighborhood and set off on foot with lenses in hand.  As we walked, I found myself searching for a space where I could see the view beyond us.  I did sneak this view through the opening in a fence.


But I wanted more.  A side road beckoned with what looked like ruins of some sort.  A closer look revealed stairs leading to a door…to something that is no longer there.


But when I turned around…the view I was looking for revealed itself!  I’ve written before at how hard it is to capture distant landscapes with my iPhone (but it never keeps me from trying!).  With a little help from post production, I did manage to create a photo that gives a glimpse of what I was able to see!


I love that I could see the Los Angeles skyline in the distance.  And you can see what a beautiful sunny day we were experiencing (it was easily 80 degrees at its peak).

And best of all, Nick and I had a wonderful day together exploring his city through our lenses. The fun thing is that we don’t have to do something “special,” just spending time exploring and talking and being together was enough.  I can’t wait to see all the photos he took…and you’ll get to see some of the other photos I took later this week.

What traits do you share in your family?  How do you enjoy spending time together?