Monthly Archives: May 2014

One Photo, Two Ways: June’s Photo a Day Challenge

Not too long ago a friend of mine posted this article on my Facebook page…with the message, “Thought of you.” The article opens to unfold images of famous places…one the way you are used to seeing it, and then another from an entirely different perspective. Some are unexpected juxtapositions of the classics with modern life like the Pantheon through the windows of McDonalds while others expand your view like the picture of a tree-lined path in Central Park that pans out to allow you to see the park in the larger view of the city.

I love the ways that photography helps me see the world…and present the world in ways that are beautiful, unexpected, unique, and interesting.  And I like that I can take the same picture in many different ways. One of the most important lessons that I continue to learn as a photographer is that it’s up to me to create that image through my lens.

You don’t take a photograph, you make it. – Ansel Adams

As I considered this month’s challenge, I wanted the opportunity for us to play around with the idea of taking the same shot/image and doing something different with it.  So…will this mean posting two photos each day?  I think maybe it will.  And to encourage this experimentation, let’s try a different category of creation each week.

June 1-8:  Frame of Reference

Every day take two shots of your subject, each with a different frame a reference.  In this example I took this shot of the lighthouse in the distance.  It shows the rocky jetty…and people walking on it toward the lighthouse.  The second shot is much closer and captures more of the movement in the water.  You might use a collage app to post your pictures side by side, or you can post each separately.

lighthouse distance

lighthouse close

June 9-15:  Cropping

For this week, take a photo each day and use a cropping technique to create two different shots…the original and the cropped version.  With cropping you can eliminate some of what we can see in the photo, change the place where we see the central image, or draw our eye in a new way to where you want us to place our focus.  My original photo here was of the hot air balloon rising.  My iPhone camera struggles a bit with distance shots…and there is a lot of background in the picture.  Using Camera+ I was able to crop the photo, eliminating the ground, the trees, and the other balloon, focusing your eye on the balloon in the sky.

hot air balloon distance

up in a balloon

June 16-22: Filters

This week use a filter (or two or three) to create a new version of your photo.  There are many apps that offer filters…from Instagram and Camera+ to Vintique, Picfx, Snapseed and more.  Be playful…try something you hadn’t considered before.  With this photo, I loved the original and the way the tall palms play with the low-lying clouds.  And then I was playing with Picfx and found this brown filter that makes the clouds even more prominent.



June 23-30:  Use a combination of techniques

For the last week of June, try combining techniques to create a photo two (or three) ways.  You might crop and filter, shoot from different angles and crop…explore the ways that layering techniques change the composition and effect of your photo.  Here’s one I tried a few different ways.  The original was a long shot of the Cleveland skyline.  In the second version I cropped to eliminate the extraneous foreground and used a “scene” in Camera+ to brighten the photo.  And then in the third I imported the cropped and brightened version into another app to apply a filter.

cleveland skyline original

cleveland skyline bright

Cleveland skyline

So now it’s your turn.  Experiment with creating your own versions of one photo, two ways.  After you shoot, post a photo (or both) 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!

With summer beginning, it’s the perfect time for some playfulness and experimentation…try something with your photos that you have never tried before!  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!














Weekly Photo Challenge: Get Close

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

Just yesterday I noticed some unusual mushrooms growing in the garden box outside my classroom door.  I snapped a quick picture (you can see it on my instagram feed) and went into the classroom to prepare for the day.  Later in the day when I looked into the box, the mushrooms were no longer there.  Did someone pluck them out?  This morning I looked in the box and noticed just a couple of these same mushrooms growing.  I decided to take the time to attach my macro lens and get close to these mushrooms.  And I’m glad I did…once again, they seemed to vanish as the day began to warm.

mushrooms up close

And sometimes I like to get close even without the aid of the macro lens. The pines I met while I was in Ohio were different from the varieties I am used to.  I got close to this one as I looked through at the green beyond…and green like this is very unusual where I live!

pine tree

Sometimes there is an unexpected invitation to get close.  I couldn’t resist this sign asking museum visitors to lean in and pick up the items in the box…to really examine them closely.  It’s such a different message than the “look only with your eyes” message that is so common.

please touch

I’m not sure about this fence.  I got close to the fence…but is the message of the fence to stay back, don’t get too close?

through a fence

And sometimes I use cropping as a way of getting even closer than I’m able to with my ordinary camera lens.  In this case I took a photo of my oatmeal and coffee in the carry tray…and then cropped to make it fill the frame.  The other photos above all are unedited…but this one has been cropped (but no filters applied).


So this week’s challenge is to get close. You might pull our your macro lens and try your hand at magnifying something small…or you might lean in and see how close you can get.  You might even think about getting close more metaphorically…how else might a photo “read’ close? You can also consider using an editing tool to create the feeling of getting close from a photo that wasn’t all that close.

You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #close for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So snuggle up and get close!  I can’t wait to see what you find when you get close with your lens.


Loving Cleveland

I love seeing a place through the eyes of people who live there.  They help you find what makes the place special and unique as they tell the stories of living there.

This was my week to visit Cleveland, Ohio.  It’s one of the cities that I had never visited–in fact, never even had a plane stop through.  But I think I will be back! There were so many interesting places to visit, new sights to see…and of course, there were the people…

Here’s a few of my favorite experiences:

1. Beautiful downtown Chardon.  This is a quaint little township with an iconic town square. Historic homes line the streets and there is a park, complete with a gazebo, right in the middle of town. Of course, my son loves the antique store on the corner, there is everything a person could ask for in a small town…right outside a big city.

Downtown Chardon
2. Chagrin Falls, Ohio.  Who has a town that features a picturesque waterfall? That is Chagrin Falls. Another beautiful small town, and this one with natural falls right in the center of town. I’m told the stairways down can be closed when the weather is icy or wet, but on a warm day in late May, it was a perfect place to take photos and enjoy the uniqueness of the venue.

Chagrin Falls, Ohio
3. Hot air balloons.  As a part of its Blossom Time Festival on Memorial Day weekend, Chagrin Falls holds a hot air balloon rally. What I loved best was the “commentator” (this event was held on the local high school field) who explained all the ins and and outs of hot air ballooning. I learned about how they use cool air and super hot air to get the balloons off the ground…and while I’m not quite sure what made this a rally rather than just balloons in the air, it was fun to watch them rise. And who would imagine that Chagrin Falls in northern Ohio is the second largest hot air ballooning area—next to Albuquerque, New Mexico—in the US?

Hot air balloon
4. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, downtown Cleveland. Everything you didn’t even know you wanted to know about the history of rock and roll is housed in an amazing building designed by the same architect who designed the Louvre in Paris, I.M. Pei. The iconic pyramid-like shape offers incredible views of Lake Erie while housing everything from stage props and costumes of the most famous bands and entertainers we know, to hand written lyrics of rock and roll pioneers.

Rock and Roll museum
5. Free Stamp.  I love public art…those interesting sculptures that live in parks, drawing attention from locals and tourists alike.  They always seem to draw controversy, some people like the artwork and some hate it.  Apparently, the Free Stamp in Cleveland has such a history.  My brief research gives some conflicting stories of its significance.  But then again, that’s what I like about art, we get to figure out for ourselves what makes it meaningful.

free stamp cleveland
6. Historic architecture. I love old buildings…and churches are the best when it comes to historic buildings! We happened upon this one as we drove through the city of Cleveland to find a place for lunch. I couldn’t resist shooting a photo through the car window because of the interesting color and shape of the building. I honestly don’t know anything about it, but it looks cool!

old church cleveland
7. Cleveland Museum of Art. It’s so clever to build a building around a historic building to preserve the architecture and expand the museum. They have a wonderful collection at this museum (that we raced through in an hour!) that includes some wonderful contemporary art and some old pieces as well. Out front is one of Rodin’s Thinker sculptures that was damaged by a bomber in 1970. I loved the idea of displaying the damaged art and thinking about the role art plays in our society.

Cleveland Museum of Art

8. A Frank Lloyd Wright house. You might remember that my son and I enjoyed scouting out and photographing a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house (the Ennis House) in Los Angeles a while back. FLW also designed a home outside of Cleveland…which just happens to be on the same road we took to visit my son’s father-in-law’s business. I wish I had gotten a closer look at the Louis Penfield House, I understand it has a magnificent view of the forest and river behind it, but I am happy that I walked up the long gravel drive and got a peek at this historic treasure.

Louis Penfield House_Frank Lloyd Wright
9. Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light on Lake Erie. When my son and daughter-in-law said we were going to the beach, my first thought was, “how far is it to the ocean?” And then I remembered that lakes have beaches too! Lake Erie is huge…and this particular part of the lake is a favorite place for swimming, sunbathing, picnicking, boating, jet skiing, and enjoying a holiday weekend. We walked along the water’s edge, searching for colorful beach glass and noticing interesting rocks. Driftwood littered the beach and we even found a tree stump being lapped by the waves. We climbed the jetty and walked along the uneven rocks out to the end where an old lighthouse sits. There’s a salt plant that sits nearby too…I wish I had the opportunity to snap a few pictures there too!

10. And the highlight of the weekend was the reason we came…to celebrate my daughter-in-law’s graduation from medical school. We got to stay with her family and see their place, Cleveland and the surrounding areas, through their eyes. We were surrounded with warmth, hospitality, and friendship…and enjoyed every minute of celebrating this milestone event that means so much to both of our families (or are we now just one big extended family?).

graduation cupcakes
I’m already looking forward to my next visit to Cleveland! There was so much that we didn’t get a chance to see and experience…and we can’t wait to go back and spend time with these very special friends/extended family. My son and daughter-in-law will be out our way for residency…maybe we will get a chance to show off our city to her family one of these days!



Summer Enters, With a Twist

What is it about twisting and spinning that brings out the kid in all of us? spinner The Blossom Time Festival in Chagrin Falls, Ohio seems to be a celebration of the beginning of summer.  Memorial Day weekend, sunshine and mild temperatures, the smell of caramel corn, funnel cakes, and cotton candy…and the sound of the carnies enticing children and young men to win prizes filled the town. funnel cakes   carny This is iconic Americana, scenes from old movies and stories of days gone by.  Familiar yet unfamiliar as I watched people on a ferris wheel in the middle of town.  This county fair-like experience is different where I live.  Our fair has a specially designated space…more like an amusement park, where you pay admission and stay all day, separate from the daily goings on of the town. Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset I love this small town feel, walking in and out of local shops, peering over the railing at the natural waterfall in the center of town, licking an ice cream cone from the gourmet ice cream shop on the corner, and all the while noticing that the rides we like best all have something in common…they twist and turn, go up and down, slow and fast: scaring us, delighting us, and creating indelible images of childhood and summer. carousel And in this case, there was the added twist…a hot air balloon rally!  I’ve seen hot air balloons before–they take off not far from my house–but it has always seemed more like an industry, a sight-seeing opportunity rather than sport.  But here, as part of the festival, people gathered to watch the hot air balloons fill and rise, racing off in the still-light evening…it stays light here quite late…filling the sky with color and energy and excitement.  Welcome summer! up in a balloon

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

Do you speak in images? Enjoy taking photos to document your experiences or just to express what you notice in the world? Love to share them with others? Welcome to the weekly photo challenge! I post a new challenge each week…check in regularly and join the fun!

Have you ever found yourself with your head in the clouds, looking up, noticing what is above you rather than what is beneath your feet? It’s been that kind of week for me, maybe residue from last week’s fires and the sky watching that goes with it. As our weather cooled and returned to May-like temperatures, puffy white clouds began to appear. I found myself taking pictures of the sky, trying to capture the lightness and depth and roundness. I noticed on Instagram that others were also noticing the sky and the clouds.

I stopped on my way to school yesterday because i was mesmerized by the blueness of the sky and the way the clouds were sitting low and near the ocean. There’s this spot with a row of tall palm trees that begs me to stop and take a picture or two. Yesterday’s was of these tall trees with the clouds sitting low, beneath them. If you look closely, you can see the sliver of the moon up above.

palms higher than the clouds

But I know that I’m not always looking at the clouds with I am looking up. I couldn’t resist the “up” shot of this tall church in downtown Nashville. I love the way it seems you can look up forever as the building narrows the closer it gets to the sky.

up at a church

I’ve discovered amazing ceilings by looking up. I noticed some interesting ceiling tiles in a restaurant last weekend…and shot this picture of the gray on white structure looking up inside the atrium of the San Diego Natural History Museum.

ceiling structures

And sometimes up means catching a glimpse at the sun reflecting off a bubble. This one happened to be a big bubble that a guy was making at the beach…not by blowing but by using a big rope-like wand to throw out giant bubbles. He stood up high and the bubbles floated just above the heads of children who couldn’t wait to poke a finger at them.


So this week’s challenge is to figure out how to capture “up” with your photos. You might be up high looking down or be on the ground noticing something up above. Maybe it’s an image that makes you feel up…or like me, you might just have your head in the clouds. You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!)

I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #up for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Have fun with up this week. I can’t wait to see what’s “up” through your lens!


Up Close

It takes time to get close, to people and to flowers.  You have to pay attention, using all your senses, in order to really see.  Sometimes the prickly spines are the first things you notice, and you move away.  But then you are likely to miss the beauty and the unique qualities only visible when you get up close…nose to nose.

Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time – like to have a friend takes time.
Georgia O’Keeffe

Whenever I get my macro lens out, I think of Georgia O’Keeffe and her flowers.  I love the way she captured the inner beauty of flowers rather than the view most people see.  My camera helps me do that.  You may notice that I have a tendency to photograph the same thing over and over again.  I notice it…a fascination that keeps bringing me back to a particular subject.  It was definitely like that with dandelions.  (When I searched my blog for dandelions, I came up with 6 posts!)

In the past few weeks it’s been prickly pear cactus that keeps catching my eye.  Prickly pears are common in these parts.  And mostly they are ordinary flat round green pads with sharp spines. Some people like to deface them by carving their initials in them, scarring the plant for a very long time.  And right now, they are in bloom, sporting beautiful yellow and pinkish blossoms and they’re beautiful!

prickly pear yellow blossom

So each time I see a prickly pear blooming, I find myself capturing a new photo.  I watched a bee dive headfirst into a bloom over the weekend…and seem to disappear deep inside.  I noticed yellow and pink blossoms on the same plant.

prickly pear and torrey

And then I got up close.  Using my macro I leaned in close and got to know this magnificent plant in new ways.

blossom with spines

Each angle revealing something new.

pink prickly pear blossom

I looked from the outside in,

outside looking inand from the inside out.

inside the cactus blossom

And even this dried up blossom, well past its prime, displays the hints of past glory in its dignified demise.

dying blossom

Getting up close to the prickly pear reminds me of my students in the springtime.  They are blooming too.  And I’ve had all year to get up close, beyond the spines, and get to know them and support them as learners and people.  And I wonder if nobody really sees them either…they are so small, as Georgia O’Keeffe points out.  And the abilities of children are often underestimated.  It takes time to get up close and really see each student as a complex, beautiful, unique individual who will bloom on her/his own timeline.  Luckily, I get that chance in my classroom, even without my camera!

Having New Eyes

On Saturday I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the new exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum (the NAT) that will be called Coast to Cactus.  And while it is still months away from being open to the public, I was inspired by the ideas and messages I found there. This exhibit focuses on the ecosystems of San Diego county…their diversity, beauty, resilience…all that is often unseen and unappreciated.

This quote, scratched out in marker on a piece of paper and taped to a wall, spoke to me and has continued to resonate.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.      Marcel Proust

I’ve come to appreciate museum exhibits in new ways these days as I’ve learned about their conception and design.  Instead of consuming the content they offer, I see them as invitation to see my world anew.  The Coast to Cactus exhibit offered me views that I see everyday, and yet invited me to resee them…something I have also been doing through my camera lens.  In the emerging exhibit I saw native plants and animals…meticulously crafted (apparently by a company in Minnesota that hadn’t see many of the plants they were building) to look realistic. And in addition to seeing…there will be opportunities to smell, hear, and feel the environment as well.

On Sunday, we headed off to the Torrey Pines State Reserve to walk and enjoy the natural beauty of this magnificent place.  A few miles from home, this place is home to many native plants and animals, including the rare Torrey Pine tree.  And it is ruggedly natural, with sandstone cliffs and breathtaking views of the ocean, lagoon, canyons…and even the freeway!

This is my community…our school grounds host Torrey Pine trees, the ocean is the ever-present western border, hawks and other raptors cruise the skies, and native species like black sage and lemonade berry are frequently viewed as weeds.  I see them everyday…and yet often don’t see them at all.  Even the fires are a part of this ecosystem…and the exhibit features fire within it.  So many of our native plants depend on fire for regeneration, and rather than being destroyed by fire are reborn through fire.

As I hiked through Torrey Pines, I found myself looking for new ways to see this beautiful natural landscape.  Here’s a peek at some of what I saw.

beach cliffs torrey pines

Wind eroded cliffs, rich with iron oxide which gives it the reddish cast

sun through the Torreys

Sun through the Torrey Pines

succulent tree

The ocean through the yucca

prickly pear in bloom

Prickly pear cactus in bloom

prickly pear with bee

Bees pollinating cactus blossoms

ceanothus flower

Is this buckwheat or ceanothus (up close through my macro lens)?  It’s everywhere in the lagoon and at Torrey Pines Reserve.

As you might imagine, I took many more photos…and I’m sure you will catch a glimpse of a few more over the next days and weeks.  I love spending time out in my community, learning to see my everyday landscapes in new ways.  And in addition to what I see through my lens, when I am out taking photos I am also smelling, hearing, and feeling what these places have to offer.  I hope that the Coast to Cactus exhibit that will open in 2015 at the NAT will have a similar impact on others who visit it.  You don’t have to go to Torrey Pines to find this beauty…it is all over San Diego, you just need to look with new eyes.

En Plein Air: Beach Photography

As a writer, I’m trying to pay attention to the stuff the people aren’t paying attention to.

When this quote came across my Twitter feed today, I found myself thinking about how it applies to photography too.  And establishing a habit of taking photos every day…with the express purpose of posting at least one…pushes me to consider new ways of paying attention to the potential images around me.  It’s not that I don’t see what others see…I do, and I often see that others around me take photos and post photos that are similar to mine.  So that means I need to pay attention to the details of composition, lighting, angles…

I realize that I use photography for a variety of purposes.  Sometimes I am documenting events in my life, sometimes I am teaching myself some new techniques, sometimes I am relaxing and enjoying the outdoors…and sometimes I am working to create art.

Some photos turn out just the way I want them to, with the colors and focus and frame all in perfect harmony.  And some pictures benefit from some editing…cropping, light adjustments, filters and such.

When I saw the Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge today was “work of art,” I knew I would focus on photos taken at the beach.  I headed to the beach today as a break from worrying about the wildfires in our community.  School was canceled, the weather was still hot, and the sand, waves, and briny sea air called to me.  As I got closer to the shore I noticed the juxtaposition of the bright blue sky to the west and south and dark smoke rising from the north.  The fires on Camp Pendleton had flared this morning, and firefighters were hard at work knocking it back down.  As I walked in the cool salt water I aimed for the shot that would capture the brightness of the blue sky and also capture the dark, ominous smoke in the distance.

beach with smoke

The carefree playfulness of the children on the beach was contagious!  Even though the water is still cool…in the mid 60’s, it seemed that everyone was enjoying the water.  I saw this group of kids heading into the surf and wanted to get a sense of the activity.  It’s interesting to me that the photo looks like the beach is empty, just by the framing of the shot, when in reality there were lots of people on the beach today.  I also played with a filter in Snapseed, creating a bit of a vignette effect, highlighting the children at play.

beach play

I ended up back at the beach later this evening when my husband came home from work.  It was still quite warm out and I had enjoyed the beach so much earlier in the day that I wanted him to have the opportunity to feel the relaxation and the cool of the ocean.  As I walked down the ramp toward the shore I noticed this gull on the roof of the  beach building.  With this post in mind, I decided to play around with the image a bit, cropping to bring the bird closer and then using a black and white filter.  I’ve noticed that black and white is great for some photos…and terrible on others.  I like it on this one.

Gull on roof

It wasn’t yet sunset as our walk came to an end, but the sun was low in the sky and created a shiny reflection on the water below it.  As we sat on some benches on the hill above the beach at the end of our walk, I was drawn to the silhouette of the palm tree in the distance.  I’ve photographed this tree before, but not quite at this same angle or at this same time of day.  It’s funny that this filter is called redscale, it seems to give the photo a yellowish, sunset kind of glow.

sunsetting yellow filter

As a photographer, even an amateur, there is a lot to pay attention to.  And the more I practice my craft, the more I find that I am able to pay attention to the stuff other people aren’t paying attention to, resulting in some interesting works of art…or alternatively, some interesting prompts for writing.  The beach is a rich resource to draw from, a source of inspiration, renewal, relaxation and fun.  And for me, today, it was also a welcome distraction.