Monthly Archives: April 2014

The Moods of May: An SDAWPphotovoices Photo-A-Day Challenge

In spite of being known for our mild, temperate climate and outdoor lifestyle, May is one of those months that can become monochromatic. Terms like “May Gray” and “June Gloom” describe those days when we are wishing for summer and sunshine, but plagued by a persistent gray, chilling marine layer along our coast here in San Diego. And with all that gray in mind, I’m thinking May be the perfect month to play with changing our moods. And thinking about weather and our attitudes toward it, I am reminded of a quote describing the teacher’s role in the classroom related to the climate.

I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather… Haim G. Ginott

As a photographer, I also make choices about the mood in my images. The ways I frame the subjects, how the light touches them, the composition within, all impact the mood portrayed. And with mood in mind, can we find interesting photos to capture that reflect a particular feeling? So for May, our challenge is to capture a mood through a daily photograph.  I’ve listed suggestions for each day by letter of the alphabet, with a few extras thrown in to add up to 31, the number of days in the month.  You get to decide how to portray the mood.  You can experiment with lighting, use apps to change the appearance, try different ways of cropping, shoot from different angles…the interpretation is totally up to you!  You can be literal or take liberties with the definition, let your inner artist play! After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twiiter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts. If you are game for some extra action, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, try a learning walk, or write some poetry or even a song! 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! Here’s a couple of my experiments with mood. Vibrant: vibrant ranunculus Tense: pirate's lair-tense Optimistic (maybe only Jack…Phil seems indifferent or defeated): begging cats Hopeful: hopeful- tidepools Tranquil: tranquil So now it’s your turn, here’s our list for May: 1. Anxious 2. Buoyant 3. Calm 4. Drained 5. Effervescent 6. Frustrated 7. Grumpy 8. Hopeful 9. Indifferent 10. Incredulous 11. Jubilant 12. Kind 13. Listless 14. Mellow 15. Narcissistic 16. Optimistic 17. Pensive 18. Playful 19. Quiet 20. Reflective 21. Solemn 22. Sad 23. Tense 24. Tranquil 25. Uneasy 26. Vibrant 27. Wistful 28. Whimsical 29. E(x)cited 30. Yearning 31. Zealous Let moods get your creative juices flowing as you explore through your lens during May.  Have fun, experiment, play with the limits of your photography…May is the perfect time for testing just how far you can go in controlling the climate through your images. 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!

Sometimes Process is the Product

It was quiet when I arrived, the coffee maker was percolating, the snake stretching up to explore its glassed-in space, and the empty exhibits waiting to be filled with the curiosity of children. There’s something magical about an empty museum…an experience I have come to love through our Intersections work, a partnership between the San Diego Area Writing Project, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, and the San Diego Natural History Museum (the NAT).  We, classroom teachers and museums educators, have been learning and working together throughout this school year to improve the field trip experience for students, and to explore the relationships between science and writing. And yesterday was our second field trip pilot, an opportunity to observe students, their teacher, and chaperones in action as they implemented the tools we developed to support the experience.  These tools: a chaperone orientation video, exhibit guides, and questions to invite student inquiry; a hands-free field kit, question card, and exhibit booklet for students; and all the experiences the teacher–one of our participants–had through our year together, were meant to support student inquiry and encourage exploration.  They were meant to support the parent volunteers/chaperones, helping them to facilitate student-driven conversations about their observations.  And in many ways, these tools did help to support these goals.

Student Field Bag...(Don't you love the sparkly pink leggings?)

Student Field Bag…(Don’t you love the sparkly pink leggings?)

My favorite part of the field trip happened at the very beginning when students were treated to a behind-the-scenes tour of the Nature to You loan library at the NAT, a room filled with taxidermy animals, insect specimens, and a geologic collection that are available for teachers to check out and take to their classrooms.  As we piled into the small space lined with glass cases of bobcats, birds, bats, possums, insects, and more, you could feel the energy.  Students spontaneously began asking questions, “Are they real?” “Are they alive?” “How did they die?” After a brief explanation that in fact, all these animals are real, but no longer alive…and that they either died of natural causes or were found dead and then preserved through taxidermy, students were invited to explore the collection and to consider which animals they might like to have visit their classroom.  The children and their chaperones spread throughout the room, eager to uncover the treasures within. looking closely interesections Student knelt down and bent in close to the glass, carefully observing the animals of interest. They told stories of animals they recognized…and their adult chaperones also told stories and pointed out animals of interest.  Everyone seemed to find favorites and called their friends over to see their finds. With Doretta Intersections This little girl was fascinated by the butterflies and desperately wanted this specimen to come to her classroom.  She asked if she could make a list of animals she wanted to bring back to school…and of course, she was encouraged to do so.  Students spontaneously took paper out of the field bags and used all available surfaces: shelfs, carts, the floor… to write lists and other information they wanted to remember about these animals. writing to remember intersections As they exited from the loan library, students gathered into their small groups and headed off to the museum exhibits.  They were free to explore in whatever order they decided, and our team of educator-researchers followed along, taking notes, listening in on conversations, documenting the museum experience. We noted the places where students lingered, where they seemed eager to spend more time and explore, and captured their questions and conversations where we could.  I found myself interested in the structures and spaces of the museum, thinking about the strategic placement of benches and stools and the height of information boards.  I loved watching students at this chalkboard that invited students to draw skulls that they had observed throughout the exhibit. skulls on a chalkboard intersections And I noticed students sketching and writing in their booklets–a space intended to invite student observations and deepen their thinking.  Unfortunately, in many cases students and chaperones seemed to view the booklet as a duty, often filling in spaces as quickly as possible with little thought and attention.  I did notice a student or two take some time…this little guy made himself quite comfortable in the middle of the floor, as he sketched and completed a page in his booklet. drawing my hand intersectionsBefore lunch, students had the opportunity to get close to a couple of snakes…and even touch them.  They moved in close, asking questions of the the docent as they reached toward the snakes. snake petting intersections After lunch, students headed off to the Fleet with the researchers in tow.  We continued our documentation and observations.  As the field trip wound to an end, the educator-researchers gathered in a conference room to debrief the process.  Reviewing our notes, we thought about the positives of the field trip experience and the places we still felt a need for change and improvement.  And then we gathered in groups and discussed our observations.  The conversations were rich and dynamic, noting the places where we observed students engaged and inspired and still finding missed opportunities for students to be self-directed and to delve more deeply into the questions the exhibits provoked. This process of designing field trip tools, testing them in an authentic field trip experience, and then reflecting on the implications of our observations in order to iterate and innovate has been a powerful one.  And while there has been frustration in our group that we haven’t yet produced a product that captures the depth and intensity of our work together, we have learned a tremendous amount and come to some startling ahas about the intersections of informal and formal learning opportunities.  As much as we’ve tried to support chaperones to facilitate inquiry, the reality is many of our well-intended parent volunteers are not prepared for that role…and our “crash course” in juicy and probing questions isn’t enough to make them feel comfortable and confident in that capacity.  Mostly, they do just what we asked them to do, they keep track of students, redirect them when needed, and deal with the safety and personal well-being needs that come with groups of children.  So, we are rethinking our tools…again.  And maybe we will never have the perfect product we wish for…and then again, maybe this process is the product we are searching for, an occasion to really see students in action and consider the roles we might play in supporting their curiosity, deepening their learning opportunities, and opening up time and place for playful exploration and inspiration both inside the classroom and in those wonderful spaces beyond the classroom walls.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Rule of Thirds

Enjoy taking photos? Love to share them with others? Welcome to this week’s photo challenge! (I post a new challenge every week…check in each week and join the fun!)

Taking and posting a photo every day is the perfect opportunity for me to not only pay attention to interesting things in the world, but also to  work on my skills as a photographer and to improve my craft.  There’s lots of factors that influence the outcome of a photo including lighting, angles, backgrounds…and composition.  One photography technique that I find helpful is the rule of thirds. (Here’s a short video that explains the technique.)  Here are a few examples that I think follow the rule of thirds.

When I headed out to work this morning, this dandelion along the curb near my house shouted for my attention.  (Yeah, I know, dandelions are becoming a obsession for me!) I actually took a couple of shots, but I like this one where the dandelion sits along the right third of the photo with my neighbor’s house along the upper horizon.

dandelion-thirds

Last week I was out in my backyard with my macro lens investigating the new growth.  I noticed this shrub budding and moved in close.  Both the lighting and the green of the bud lay along the lines of thirds, creating an interesting composition.

leaf bud-thirds

This odd rusty pipe-like structure at the beach attracted my attention.  I shot it from different angles and perspectives, but like this image the best.

pipe-thirds

And a few weeks ago I was down at Mission Bay watching my nephew’s crew team rowing.  I like the way the light lays in the left hand upper third of the photo.  I think one of the reasons I enjoy playing with the rule of thirds is because it offers so many options…and produces interesting results.

rowing-thirds

So this week’s photo challenge is to play around with composition using the rule of thirds.  Try one image a few different ways and then post the image you like best.  Or sort through some photos you’ve taken recently and see if you can find one that fits the rule of thirds.  Any subject you find interesting will work for this week’s challenge.  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 #ruleofthirds 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. Have fun playing with the rule of thirds–I can’t wait to see your compositions!

 

 

What’s in Your Pocket?

Tomorrow is Poem in Your Pocket day, the day when poetry is celebrated by carrying a favorite poem in your pocket and sharing it with others.  So before we left school today, my teaching partner and I gathered poems for our students to choose from and she made a darling display of pockets that we stuffed with poems and hung on the door.

And when I got home I started thinking about the poem I will carry in my pocket tomorrow.  And it’s hard…there are so many wonderful poems out there.  I love different poems for different reasons.  As I started thinking about poems I know and love, I remembered a favorite that I haven’t revisited in a while.

Valentine for Ernest Mann

by Naomi Shihab Nye
You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter, say, “I’ll take two”
and expect it to be handed back to you
on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, “Here’s my address,
write me a poem,” deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell a secret instead:
poems hide. In the bottoms of our shoes,
they are sleeping. They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up. What we have to do
is live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife
two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
“I thought they had such beautiful eyes.”
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the off sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.
– See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23872#sthash.CJvqErxc.dpuf

I love the idea that poems hide…and that you have to live in way that lets you find those
hidden poems.  I feel like photography is like that too.  It lets me look into the eyes of skunks
and find the beauty they hold.  It lets me see weeds as beautiful, tenacious survivors instead
of persistent pests.  Beauty is in the geometry, in the contrast of color, in the juxtaposition of
ideas, in the wonder that comes from noticing instead of just walking by.
I think I’ll carry a photo in my pocket tomorrow too.  To remind me to live in ways that allows
me to find poems…and pictures.
dandelion in the street
What will you carry for Poem in Your Pocket Day?  How will you live to let poems find you?

Made With Love

Food is love.  In so many ways, whether we grow it, buy it, prepare it, or serve it, the act of sharing food is a way of showing that we care for another. Our holidays and rituals often have food associated with them, and they involve rituals of planning and shopping and preparing that invest the food with memory and meaning far beyond its nutritional value, flavor, and calorie count.

And I don’t cook.  It’s not that I can’t cook, in fact, like many women, I learned to cook at my mother’s elbow and even went through a period in high school where i prepared dinner each night for my family in exchange for not having to do the dishes.  It didn’t last for long.  If I were going to cook, I wanted to create.  But I’m not interested in eating as much as I am in creating.

Luckily, I married a man who enjoys cooking and has cooked for me and our family since the beginning of our relationship.  He cooks for holidays and occasions, he cooks for my friends and family, and he cooks each and every day, day in and day out, even when he doesn’t want to, even when he doesn’t feel like it.  And each and every meal is made with love.

This morning, Easter morning, he had already planned to make buttermilk biscuits from scratch.  Inspired by a meal last week outside of Nashville at the Loveless Cafe, he looked up a recipe, bought a quart of buttermilk, and decided to see if he could make biscuits as good as the ones we ate last week.

And when he got ready to cook this morning, I got out my camera to capture the steps in the process.  (I’m lucky that he is a good sport about my photography–even when it gets in his way!) So I snapped some shots of the biscuits in process.  As I was taking pictures I was also thinking about my friend Karen’s Make With Me invitation at the NWP ianthology this month–which is all about making food.  I knew I was unlikely to contribute a food make since i really don’t make food…but with my photos in hand and Geoff’s great food make, I was inspired to use the photos to build a movie about the biscuits.

The biscuits were amazing…and delicious!  And he even made lattes at home to go with them. Making the video was fun too…completed start to finish on my phone.  This is my first solo video…I’ve done bits and pieces before, but never the whole thing and never on my phone.  So it felt good to put this together.  And it’s funny, I’ve written about making biscuits before…here...and the memories entwined in that process of making food in my childhood. Even for someone who doesn’t cook, food is associated with memories and with love. My Easter, with an empty nest and no kids at home, was filled with food and love today as Geoff cooked for me this morning and reveled in his own creation and my creation based on his creation…and then later cooked for my parents, treating us all to an Easter dinner made with love, creating space for talk and memories and full bellies.

buttermild biscuits

In many ways the video I made today was a love letter back to my husband for the love he puts into the food he makes.  And the process of making with someone else in mind fills me, as the maker, with love and appreciation.  Food is love.  And today, making this movie (about food) was love too.

 

On Top…Perspective Matters

There are so many ways to see the world and each has its own advantages…and drawbacks. All too often, we see the world by looking at eye level.  We often don’t consider that things will look different if we crouch down, climb up, or change our angle.

This week’s photo challenge from the Daily Post is On Top.  And that had me thinking about how my photos reflect that theme.

This first photo shows the scaffolding on the top of the bridge over the Cumberland River in Nashville.  But what I think is even more interesting than the bridge structure is the clouds on top of that.  I love the layers in this photo and the dimension and depth visible in the clouds.

clouds on top of bridge

And in another picture from Nashville, I looked up to see this fire escape on top of me.  I have found that I like to take pictures looking up into the sun through structures (both man made and living).  I notice so many interesting things about the sky, clouds, buildings…when I shoot from this perspective.

fire escape

This third Nashville photo captures the tourists on the different balcony levels of the honky tonk…as the country music blasted into the streets.  Even before noon, these folks seemed to be having a great time on top of the different levels of this establishment.

honky tonk in nashville

This final photo is from on top of the Ocean Beach pier looking towards the beachside community.  The funny thing about this photo is that it looks like the large kite is well off into the distance, over the beach goers on the shore. In fact, this was a tiny kite flown by a girl standing on the pier…probably not ten feet away from me when I shot the photo.

kite above ocean beach

When I look through my lens, I find myself intentionally looking in new and different ways.  I try to see places and things and people anew…through a fresh perspective.  And when I do that, I see what I had often overlooked or seen differently before.  On top, from below, up close, from a distance…perspective matters.