Monthly Archives: February 2014

Weekly Photo Challenge: STEM

Here’s the week 7 Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for the NWP iAnthology!  (Here are weeks 12345, and 6 if you want to look back.)

Probably because I have been busily writing a grant this week for state funding for our writing project site, all the current educational buzz words are bouncing around my brain.  One that has been getting lots of play lately is the acronym, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

So that has me thinking, what does STEM look like in my photographs?  Today I happened to attend a technology event at the new public library in downtown San Diego called Innovation Day.  The goal was to bring technology leaders of all sorts (from superintendents to ed tech and IT folks to classroom teachers) together to examine some products from vendors and to hear some short presentations about the use of a variety of technological tools.  Walking around the beautiful new library building was a treat in itself, featuring breathtaking views of the city and the bay and some unique architectural features.  This fits the “E” in STEM for me (could probably include some “M” too!)

SD library dome

The beach seems to fit every photo category for me.  This pairing of seashells shows symmetry and the fibonacci sequence.  We don’t always think about math when we look at seashells…but they are perfect examples of those mathematical concepts I just mentioned. Do you know which is which?


And then there are the intricacies of science.  The biology of grasses that grow on the sea cliffs, the slow and constant wearing of erosion on the geologic features, the physics of waves…


So this week’s photo challenge is to represent STEM in photos. Where do you find science, technology, engineering and math?  How does looking through your camera lens through the lens of STEM impact what you see and what you share?  Share a photo (or several) that pictures STEM 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 yours widely too. (You might consider Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+) Use the hashtag #STEM 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 represent STEM through your lens!

The Strength of Violet

Violet always seems so gentle, so calm…like flowers budding in the spring.

The color of these mussels surprised me.  Sometimes they can look almost black…other times a deep indigo or rich blue.  But on this day, in the warm winter sun they looked violet, understating their strength and resilience.

I admire these creatures who survive in the intertidal zone.  They live part of the time under the sea, covered completely by briny ocean water.  And they live part of the time exposed to the sun and wind and birds and people, holding tightly to the rock.  They have an otherworldly look…like they belong to a time before people walked the earth…and perhaps they did.


Sometimes we miss the beauty of strength, the ability to adapt, to hold tightly and conserve resources.  Mussels, like some of our students, are stoic.  They don’t complain or call for our attention.  They aren’t showy or dramatic…they’re almost common, easy to overlook.

Who are you overlooking in the classroom?  Which of your students takes care of business without attracting your attention?  And what would happen if you were to notice?  What would you see and learn?

A Place to Treasure

We often think about treasures as those tangible trinkets: an irreplaceable family heirloom, the lock of hair from your baby’s first haircut, the multifaceted diamond in your engagement ring, the lucky penny you wear in your shoe.  They often carry sentimental value far beyond their monetary worth, representing events, memories, and stories to remember.

As I was thinking about treasure as the topic for this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge at the Daily Post, I considered the treasures in my life.  Of course I have those tangible items infused with sentiment that carry treasured memories, but a walk on the beach today with my husband brought my treasure forward for me.

As someone who lives a few miles from the beach, it can be easy to take this treasure for granted.  I don’t think anyone would argue that the beach is beautiful, but there is so much more to treasure.

The beach is a chameleon.  It responds dramatically to nuances light and changes moods with even subtle weather changes.  It can be wild and ferocious or calm and playful.  Today was one of those picture-perfect February days that allowed me to roll up my jeans, tie my sweatshirt around my waist, and walk barefoot in the cool salty water.


I am continually fascinated by the wildlife, the geology, and the physics at the beach.  This egret caught my attention today and let me get quite close as it investigated close to the cliffs. Egrets more commonly hang out at the lagoon and I seldom see them on the beach.  This guy was quite interested in whatever lurked in the brush at the base of the cliff.  He seemed to move in slow motion, jutting his head forward with each step.  I tried to capture his movement in a short video, but he moved so slowly and deliberately I probably should have tried time lapse!


But what I treasure most about the beach is the opportunities it allows for time…time to think, time to reflect, and time to engage in deep conversation with a companion.  Somehow, no matter how many people are there, you can find space at the beach.

big sky beach

There is a vastness that has a way of wrapping itself around you, shouldering some of the tension that weighs so heavily.  Reflectiveness is a natural on the shoreline; the water and light play with each other, making connections and expanding views…creating opportunities for new understandings.


We left the beach after a long, meandering walk refreshed and relaxed having reveled in the natural beauty, the breaths of briny sea air, and the warm rays of sun that danced on our shoulders and cheeks.  I often play with my iPhone photos in editing apps, cropping and brightening or creating interesting effects.  All the photos in this post are completely unedited, shown the way the camera on my phone captured them, in their natural state.

I feel confident that those of you who live in other places, far from the sea, also have some natural treasures like the beach.  What are the places that you treasure?  What makes them special?  I look forward to experiencing your treasures through your lens and through your writing!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflection

Here’s the week 6 Weekly Photo Challenge prompt for the NWP iAnthology!  (Here are weeks 1234, and 5 if you want to look back.)

Reflection is one of those words that is layered with meaning for me.  It can be as literal as peering into a mirror or as abstract as considering the way that wind, light, and life transform an image.

In photography, sometimes reflection is obvious…sunlight on water is one of those I notice often, yet never tire of like this photo of the sun setting reflected in the lagoon.

lagoon reflection

Sometimes I only notice the reflections when I go back and look closely at a photograph after I get home.  In this shot of the fisherman my goal was to capture the sense of aloneness that comes with the overcast sunless sky.  But there is something significant about his reflection appearing wavering in the mirror-like water at the edge of the sea.

fisherman reflection

Similarly, this photo of the giraffe at the Oakland zoo almost suggests another life in the reflection where the fences are not visible, and you can see the trees and shrubs that are less obvious in the actual image.


I love this subtle reflection I found in a creek in the Muir Woods.  If you look closely, the forest is reflected in the water creating almost a multimedia collage with the leaves and sticks floating in the water.

forest view]

And today I was intentionally looking for a reflection to photograph and wondered if I was going to have to resort to a photo of the sun reflecting on water.  As I walked up to the Writing Project office I noticed the reflection of the courtyard in the windows of the building.  (It turns out that it is a bit of a “selfie” as well, you’ll notice I am there in the reflection as well.)


So this week’s photo challenge is to represent your image of reflection. Do you find reflection in water, in mirrors, on shiny surfaces?  Are your reflections lonely, filled with life, colorful? Share a photo that creates an image of reflection 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 #reflection 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 represent reflection through your lens!

Playing with Shadows

Sunday’s prompt for #sdawpphotovoices had to do with shadows.  (It’s part of our exploration of photography techniques…light is this week’s focus)

And of course, Sunday was overcast most of the day.  So when the sun peeked out from behind the clouds in the later afternoon, I headed outside in search of some shadows.  The first shadow I noticed was my own.  But I’ve taken that shot before (see my post of shadow selfies).

At first it seemed hard to find interesting shadows…and then I started looking for shadows of ordinary things and I spotted this leaf near the hose…a still life with shadow!


Further investigation led to me to the sidewalk across the street where the shadow of the tree on the sidewalk along with the shadow of the curb created a shadow tree…not a shadow of an existing tree, but a new tree.


Further down the street I noticed that the neighbor’s basketball hoop was making a shadow on the street.  If you look closely, you can almost see the net within the square backboard.


As I headed back through the fence to my backyard, I noticed the shadow on the fence.  I love the ways the branches intersect in the shadow.


The sun ducked back undercover shortly after my excursion outside, but not before I caught a shadow inside, as the sun shone through the slates of the window blinds onto the floor creating an interesting repeating pattern.


I wasn’t excited about taking a picture of a shadow, especially when the sun wasn’t shining when I was out away from home.  But once I headed out and started re-seeing my neighborhood in a playful way…on a shadow hunt…I discovered more than i imagined, and I was having fun chasing after shadows.  There were more that I didn’t include here…including a couple of accidental shadow selfies!

Over coffee with a friend this afternoon, our conversation circled around to play…and the need for teachers to be having fun and playing while they are teaching and working with students.  You know if you, as the teacher, are not having fun, then your students aren’t either. And I don’t know about you, but I always find that I learn the most when I am having fun…almost not even noticing that I am making an effort!

How do you make learning fun?  What are you playing with in the classroom? Chasing shadows seems like it might just be a metaphor for finding play in the classroom…

Ups and Downs

You’ve probably noticed that I love the beach–I take lots of photos there and it’s a wonderful place for walking.  There’s the sea breeze, the beauty of the surroundings…and it’s pretty much flat, making walking easy.

So today, we decided to take a walk away from the beach.  In fact we went to a place that we knew would have some pretty significant uphill and downhill climbs.

And while there is something to be said about staying on the flat and keeping things on a even keel, there is value in the ups and downs too.

As we started up the gently slope it was easy to set a brisk pace even as I was looking around at the native plants and looking out over the vistas.  I could walk and talk and breathe.


The first part of the walk continued on a gentle incline.  We walked quickly without feeling labored and then began down a pretty steep decline.  Walking downhill does’t feel too hard…but I was remembering that I was going to have to walk back up that same slope.  And at the bottom there was a pretty steep incline in front of us.  And rather than turning around, we decided to continue up for a bit.  I could feel myself slowing down and my breathing becoming more labored as I headed upward.  And then, about halfway up I noticed a mushroom growing along the side of the trail.  Of course I had to stop, kneel low, and take a photo.


When we turned around to head back, lots of steep uphill was in front of me.  I could feel my muscles, my heartbeat, and each and every breath I took.  And yet, I kept climbing and kept walking.  I had to give up talking for a bit…I needed my breath for the climb.  At the hardest point in the climb, the place I was ready to stop, I found myself noticing and naming the native plants.  I recognized the black sage, the lemonade berry, the alkali heath…

As the grade eased, so did my breathing and I began to enjoy the scenery again.  We could see evidence of the rain in the plants, tender green shoots and colorful blossoms decorating these often monochromatic plants.


As the walk came to an end, I felt good.  The ups and downs made my body (and mind) work in some different ways than walking on the flat.  The peaks and valleys made me work harder, and I could feel myself working on both my stamina and my resolve as I walked.

There are many more steep trails that we haven’t yet tried, and in spite of the fact that I know they will feel hard, I can’t wait to head back and explore some more of them.  I have great admiration for the woman I watched run the same trail I had trudged.  I don’t aim to run that route, but I would love to improve my fitness by including more of these challenging walks in my repertoire.

I find myself thinking about ups and downs, peaks and valleys in the classroom too.  There are some climbs that leave us all winded, laboring to get to the next flat stretch.  But, like my experience today, the challenges help us build our stamina, increase our “fitness” for learning together, and remind us that even when things are hard, there are reasons to continue on.

What ups and downs do you experience?  What do they teach you about your life and learning?  I know that I will be including more ups and downs in my walking routine, but don’t worry, I’ll still make time for walks by the beach.