Monthly Archives: January 2014

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

Play is the Word

Today is January 18th…and I think I may have found my “word.”  Lots of people make resolutions for the new year to set their intentions and make change in their lives.  It’s evident from increased traffic at the gym and folks in exercise clothes walking in the neighborhood.  What I notice is that by the end of January, attendance in the gym is waning and best intentions are set aside…again.

My friend and SDAWP colleague Janet wrote about finding her word for the year here, and even though I read others’ blog posts about their words, it was reading her post that got me thinking about what my word might be for the year.  I thought about the usual suspects…focus, balance, love…but they weren’t resonating as the word.  And I let the idea of a word slip to the back burner.

This morning I woke up to find that Janet was authoring the writing prompt for the iAnthology this week, the same group that I am now posting a weekly photo challenge for, and that she had decided to riff off the photo challenge I posted for the week: frames.  Here’s what Janet wrote:

Kim Douillard has begun to curate a great Weekly Photo Challenge here on iAnthology,http://ianthology.ning.com/group/writingwithimages/forum…

and since we both hail from the San Diego Area Writing Project, I thought it would be fun to piggyback on her prompt this week with my own twist on Frames.

At the beginning of the year, many of us set goals and resolutions for the new year. I wrote about this on my blog http://writinginmyhand.org/?p=1082 at the beginning of January. Since we are about 3 weeks into the year, I figure many of those have already gone by the wayside. (For example I am on the couch writing this rather than hitting that 8 am cardio class this morning). But rather than frame my year as an “all or nothing” goal setting adventure, this year I have opted to frame my year with one or two focus words that guide my decisions this year.

My word to frame my year is PURPOSE.

It is quite an interesting way of looking at the world when I focus on my word. For example, rather than get down on myself this morning for not making the class, I remember my purpose for exercise is to stay healthy, and later today I can go walk the beach with my husband instead. It’s also healthy to write, to create, and to share, so all is not lost on the morning on the couch. See, framing your decisions with a word changes the perspective. It has influenced many decisions as I returned to the classroom this past week as well.

So I am asking you this week to set a word, or two if necessary that frame your thinking this year. How will you frame your world? You can use images, words, video, music, whatever you feel shares your word. In this busy time, a one word post or image will also give us all pause to think.

Looking forward to seeing how you frame your world.

Janet

As I read this invitation by Janet, I realized that I know what my word for the year is!  I will frame my year with the word play.  People who know me might be surprised by this decision. I’m often accused of being too serious…and working way too much.  But if you’ve read my blog over the last several months you’ll find evidence of my attention to play…both for myself and for my students.

In a #clmooc Twitter chat the other night, some of my colleagues and I talked about play…how we define it, why it matters, what it might look like in the classroom, and how we find it in our own lives.  Through that conversation, we found ourselves wanting to make more time for play in our lives…and to consider ways to infuse play into the things we do everyday.

In lots of ways, my photography has been a way of infusing play into my life. I find myself on the lookout for interesting photo opportunities while I’m commuting to and from work and making intentional plans to explore with my camera on my days off from work.  I’m taking time to pull off the freeway, find a parking place near something interesting and start shooting some photos.  Just the other day, after a routine doctor’s appointment, I followed a sign for a park I had never visited and discovered an amazing view of this region where I have lived most of my life.  I could see all the way to the ocean from this vantage point…and was surrounded by native plants, and even found a community of monarch butterflies dancing in the setting sun.

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The other morning when I headed downstairs to have some breakfast before work, I noticed the full moon peeking through the half round window in my living room.  I grabbed my phone and captured a shot…knowing, as I’ve mentioned before, that the moon is tricky to photograph.  But when I had a bit of time today, I played with the photo in Camera+ (cropping and adjusting) until I created something more interesting…and if you look closely in the left hand side of the window, you will see the moon peeking through.

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When I take the time for play, I find that I have more energy and a better attitude to apply to all the other parts of my life.  I also find myself eager to try new things, experiment, and push my learning.  I’m studying photographs I admire to incorporate new techniques in my own. And my play is not only about photography (although lots of it is!), I’m also playing with some other things, especially digital tools.

And I want play to infuse my teaching too.  I want my students to find the play in their learning and I want to create opportunities for play to be the goal.  When we have a passion for the things we do, new possibilities open in front of us.  So, Janet, I want play to frame my year…and thanks for asking.

How about the rest of you…what word or words will frame your life and learning this year?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Frames

Here’s the week 2 Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for the NWP iAnthology.  You can look back at week one here.

I take and post a picture every day, and have for over a year and half now.  Sometimes I find myself taking the same photo over and over again.  Somehow I stand in the same place and use the same angle…and the photos begin to look the same.

So to keep myself from falling into this familiarity rut, I try different photography techniques. One I have done some experimenting with is using the natural frames I find in the environment when I am shooting pictures.

Here’s a couple of my examples.  One of my favorites is this view of the ocean through the pier.  I took several other shots, but I love the way this one is like a door opening, framing the sea.

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Here is a playful one I took during my morning playground duty using the playground equipment as the frame.

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And here’s one of a window–that includes the window frame as a frame itself.

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Share a photo of a frame you have found…post either the photo alone or do some writing inspired by the photo.  And feel free to be inspired by the photos of others…and either write based on another’s photo or shoot another photograph of a frame based on the inspiration of someone else’s photo.

If you also share on other social media (Twitter, Facebook, google+, Instagram), use the hashtag #frames and include @nwpianthology to make it easy for us to find and enjoy!  You can find me @kd0602.  Be sure to share your media handles too!

And if you are reading this on my blog, feel free to share your photo/response by either linking your photo or your blog to the comment section below.  I am excited to see the frames you have explored through your lens!

While We Wait

We do a lot of waiting.  In line at the coffee shop, in the lobby at the doctor’s office, to get through the TSA screening at the airport, for meetings to start, movies to start, for our kids to get home…

Sometimes I welcome the opportunity to wait.  It gives me a chance to catch my breath, check in on my email and social media, read a few pages of my book, text my sons, daydream, or just take the time to reflect on my day.  These trees remind me of that good waiting…patiently waiting in line, enjoying the sunshine and the view…

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The worst kind of waiting is when you have to stay alert and attentive.  When you’re waiting in traffic, about to board your flight, trying to be on time to that afternoon meeting and behind the person with 50 coupons in the grocery store…  At those times you can’t turn your attention to something else and take advantage of waiting as down time.

My students do a lot of waiting too.  They wait in line after recess for us to pick them up and walk back to class, they wait for directions, they wait for their classmates to take their turns ahead of them…

So I find myself thinking about good waiting and frustrating waiting…and wanting to make sure my students have time for reflection and to catch their breath.  But not spend precious time spinning their wheels when they could be doing something more productive.

Today my students were amazing.  They were about to embark on a sewing project (I’ll expand on that in another post) and needed to wait for supplies and wait for help with needle threading, knot tying…  And yet, they were not frustrated.  Instead I saw them watching carefully as they waited, making plans as they waited, and studying every move of someone nearby who started before them.

Attitude is everything.  They were ready to wait today.  They knew waiting was inevitable given the complexity and newness of the task ahead of us…and they waited with joy and anticipation.  This is going to be a great project…my students demonstrated that today!