Monthly Archives: September 2014

Beyond Paint by Number: October’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Oranges, browns, yellows, reds, greens…the colors of fall are legendary.  Leaves turn, pumpkins grow, candles flicker, and we can see the sunset as we head for home after the work day.  In the midst of all this spectacular and extraordinary display, we live our mostly ordinary lives.  So what do we take photos of?  How do we challenge ourselves to pay attention to the colors and wonders that only October can bring?

Let’s spend October painting what we see through our lens by paying attention to the extraordinariness of the ordinary.  I used the term paint by number to play with that idea of the hum drum ordinary of taking that same uninspiring photo over and over again.  To avoid that burnout of boredom, you’ll need to pay close attention to what your photo might be if you move in a bit closer, frame it a little differently, or look under the rock instead of just at it! I’ve come up with a prompt for each of the numbered days of this month to suggest an idea for you to paint through your lens…by taking a photo.  With the extraordinary of the ordinary in mind, here are a few of my paintings for inspiration…

These red converse hightops highlight the shift to fall…and notice the hat with a splash of orange sitting on the floor under the chair.  (And you might even notice the other kid with the florescent yellow shoes in the distance!)

kid shoes

A walk on some hiking trails last weekend brought the dry and scratchy brush into full view…along with a tiny splash of color provided by the monkey flowers.

monkey flower

I love the warmth and glow of the sun on the cliffs bringing out the oranges and reds that often go unnoticed.

sun bathed cliffs

And what do you think of these whimsical pink stripes on the outstretched arms of the reader holding her book just so as her wispy bangs obscure her eyes and brush the side of her face?

young reader with stripes

Saturday’s amber brew was a perfect match for the locally grown veggies on the pizza…and a great way to view the community outside the window.

amber beer

Don’t you love all the hues of green this painter made using only the primary colors and a dab or two of white?

green dots

And I love the layers of oranges and yellows of this early fall sunset framed by the lifeguard tower.  If you look closely, you can see the people along the edge of the surf enjoying the last days of summer.

sunset tower

So let’s go beyond “paint by number” and explore the extraordinariness of the ordinary.  Here’s a list of prompts to help you look in some new ways…or create your own prompt and share it with the rest of us!

1.  brown

2.  dry

3.  scratchy

4.  wispy

5.  orange

6.  hollow

7.  alive

8.  dark

9.  growing

10.  yellow

11.  thumps

12.  falling

13.  spooky

14.  lit

15.  red

16.  fresh

17.  spicy

18.  morning

19.  crisp

20.  setting

21.  harvest

22.  scary

23.  hue

24.  flicker

25.  outside

26.  under

27.  golden

28.  light

29.  stacked

30.  delicate

31.  glow

Once you go beyond painting by numbers and take that shot, 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! 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!

So push past the ordinary, beyond paint by numbers and discover the extraordinary in your everyday routines. You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can play this game by posting your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it.  You get to make your own rules!  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!  So go out and use you lens to start painting!  I can’t wait for you to share what you are seeing through your lens!

Fall’s Nighttime Beach

As the season shifts from summer to fall

nighttime begins to stretch, lengthening shadows

and shortening the day

Light plays hide and seek with the sun and clouds

painting with colors only nature knows

seagulls in the blue light

seagull in soft light

The photographer frames the bride in the glow

of the setting sun

and she turns, and smiles washed in the soft warmth of the sinking sun

sunset bride

and the dog frolics, running the gauntlet of kelp

through the rivulets of salty water as the low tide starts to rise again

sunset dog

At the edge of nighttime, light creates silhouettes

shadowy outlines framed by light

a bicyclist

sunset bicycle

a seagull

seagull silhouette

As I head for home, the lights come on

darkness is near

stone steps lights

Those who play at the beach into the night

build their bonfires

and settle in

to enjoy

fall’s nighttime beach

sunset bonfire


Weekly Photo Challenge: Found

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 this morning one of my students found me just as I was heading out for recess duty…  “Do you want to see a really big spider?”  How could I resist that invitation?  As she led me around the corner from our classroom, this is what we found!

school spider

I’m not a big spider fan, but I do appreciate the wonderful striped legs…and couldn’t resist getting close enough for a picture!

I also had my camera (phone) out yesterday at school documenting our student readers at work.  There is something just so precious and powerful about finding a first grade reader engaged and hard at work.

first grade reader

I make lots of finds on the beach.  This week I’ve been fortunate that low tide (and beautiful, warm weather) has corresponded with the time I have left work, offering me a wonderful opportunity for some beach walks before heading home.  Yesterday I heard this urgent high pitched sound and then found these birds, seemingly engaged in quite a conversation (or perhaps a bird argument)!

bird argument

As I was heading up the stairs toward the parking lot, I found this hat and sunglasses perched on the railing.  It was fun to play with some editing tools to create an interesting effect…and a burst of light where the sun played with the water.

hat and glasses

Over the weekend, as my husband and I walked we engaged in two favorite beach walking activities…searching for beach glass (not easy to find) and being litterati: finding trash, photographing it, and disposing of it (unfortunately, way too easy!).  We did find this beauty of a piece of light green glass…

beach glass

and this mylar balloon bouncing along the shore.  We collected the glass and disposed of the balloon, both making the beach a little bit cleaner and the sea animals a little bit safer.


And sometimes my best photos come from things I find around the house.  One of my student’s parents brought these pomegranates for us from their tree.  I had tucked them into my refrigerator for my hubby to use in one of his recipes…until I was thinking about fall and realized they would make a great still life photo.  I love the way the light comes into my dining room in the afternoon, washing the table in warm light.  Here’s my little bit of fall find.

pomegranate in sun

So what will you find that catches your eye…and your lens…this week?  Will you stumble over it, be led to it by a student or child, pull it from the refrigerator, or find it on an outing?

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 #found for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What have you found lately?  I can’t wait to see what you find through your lens!

Developing Endurance

There’s nothing easy about the beginning of school.  As exciting as new beginnings are, they are also filled with uncertainty and maybe even a bit of fear of the unknown…on the part of the teacher, but also on the part of students and their parents.  Even in a class like mine where two-thirds of our students return each year, it takes some time to get back into the rhythms of learning together as a community.

And then there is the need to shift from the habits of summer…staying up late, sleeping in late, playing and vacationing, visiting with family and friends…back to the routines of the school year.  Further complicating the transition, it still feels like summer when school starts here.  It has been unseasonably warm (downright miserably hot in our non-air conditioned school), the kind of weather where the beach and the pool sound so much better than the classroom, for both teachers and students!

air conditioning

(This portable air conditioning unit was delivered Tuesday afternoon…the day of the peak highs! It helps, but its range and capacity do not match the size of the classroom!  Luckily, we should be near the end of unbearably hot weather.)

There’s also endurance that has to be developed; the ability to sustain focus for the work of school and learning that emerges alongside fluency, confidence, and stamina.  As a teacher I see this endurance grow as the school year progresses, especially in the area of writing.

Our writers are already surprising us this year, only weeks into the school year, with their endurance, creativity, and willingness to take risks.

reflection writing

With our returning writers, we see evidence of the layers of mentor texts and writing lessons they experienced last year, and for the third graders, the year before, along with the richness of stories they have read and listened to in their lives.  The first graders seem inspired by their older classmates, and are willing to put their emerging writing skills to use as they work through the challenges of transforming their thoughts and ideas into words on a page.


writing 2

We’ve been writing in all areas of the curriculum…to learn, to think, to remember, to express. We write indoors and outdoors…garden writing

and we are working on revising to improve our writing too.  (You can take a peek at a collaborative piece of writing we did in honor of International Dot Day on our class blog. (Our students always welcome comments!)

We often think about endurance when it comes to physical tasks…and there are those that definitely require endurance.  I’m still working on improving my hiking endurance–increasing my mileage and speed and capacity to hike up steep inclines and setting a pace that allows me to continue to improve over time.


I’ve definitely learned over the years that endurance comes with repeated opportunities to do something that you actually want to do.  It takes time and we don’t all progress at the same rate.  It helps to notice your strengths and focus attention on areas where you want to grow and improve…and it always seem to help to learn in a community of supportive others who are also learning too.  The writers and learners in my class are developing endurance…there’s nothing easy about the beginning of school, but then again, things worth doing are seldom easy!



Weekly Photo Challenge: Shine

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!

There’s nothing like a bit of shine to catch my eye and draw my attention.  Exploring the Segerstrom Performing Arts Center yesterday evening before an Ian Anderson (of Jethro Tull) concert,  I couldn’t resist the corner mirrors that extended up several flight of stairs.  Looking down over the top of the railing, I noticed interesting shapes, colors and reflections that felt fun and playful.  I find myself wanting to understand the physics of this arrangement.  Why do I not see my reflection?

mirror shine

Outside the same place, I couldn’t resist this shot of the building reflected in the windows of the other concert hall.  The setting sun provided the just right amount of shine to capture these two buildings wearing each other.

window shine

And because of our impromptu work-night concert adventure, we got home quite late.  But it was Thursday…one of the few days we are allowed to water our oh-so-dry lawn (for 10 minutes after 6pm), so by the shine of the flashlight my husband headed out after our concert adventure to water our backyard.

fliashing shine

Earlier in the week, I had a daily photo prompt to take a picture of water in a new way.  So I headed out into my backyard where the sprinkler was running (after 6pm on Tuesday, another of our watering days).  But the original photo lacked pizazz and frankly wasn’t all that interesting.  So using the app Big Lens, I was able to create some shine and add a light flare as I played with the focus and lens in my editing.  I think the effect is fun!

artificial shine

And a weekly photo challenge wouldn’t be complete without a beach picture.  Taken after sunset, I like the way you can see the remains of the shine, both in the sky and on the wet sand.

evening shine

So let your eyes wander and find the shine.  It might be on a reflective surface, caused by the setting sun, or even created artificially.  You might even find a new way to interpret shine and share with the rest of us!

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 #shine for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

What’s shining in your life right now?  Share it through your lens.



A Day for the Unexpected

I started my morning with an unexpected email from a former student…checking in, updating us on the new school year, and letting us know that she misses us.  And she reminded me that she had a couple of blog posts pending and would I please publish them.  (Her blog is still connected to my class since we haven’t started blogging yet this year in our class and her class hasn’t started blogging yet either.)

Last month she started celebrating a “person of the month”…her aunt was her person of the month for August.  Imagine my surprise when I found this afternoon that I was featured on Mallory’s blog as her September Person of the Month.  Here is a glimpse of the post:

Mrs. Douillard was very supportive of my writing career, yes I am very interested in being an author, she encouraged creative thinking and when someone said they were “done” she said you could always make things better! She taught me many different writing styles, and introduced me to blogging.

It is amazing to be celebrated publicly by a student for inspiring and encouraging her as a writer. This unexpected honor touches my heart and reminds me that the work of teachers is often not realized in the moment, it unfolds over time, often in unexpected ways.

The end of the post celebrates teachers and urges teachers to “take a day off and relax at the beach…”  By coincidence, I did stop by the beach after work today.  It’s been oppressively hot here in normally moderate San Diego, and with no air conditioning in my classroom, sweat has become part of my fashion statement!  So to cool off, I headed to the beach to dip my toes in the waves.  When I pulled up I noticed the large waves caused by the hurricane off the coast of Mexico and the towering white clouds in the sky…not just over the mountains, but more to the west and north than usual.  Of course I had to capture some pictures of the waves…although they don’t begin to capture the size and power I watched.

big surf

As I cooled my feet along the edge of the water with my sandals in my hand, still dressed in my work clothes (a skirt and top), a rogue wave surged and drenched me nearly to the waist! (Definitely cooled me off!)  I chuckled to myself as I walked back to my car and searched for a grocery bag to sit on as I drove home!

Thanks Mallory, for the honor of being named Person of the Month for September…and for encouraging teachers to “take a day off and relax at the beach.”  You definitely made my day today!

Beach Humanity

There is something magical about the beach.  Ears filled with the roar of waves, the backbeat of rocks rattling as they tumble against each other in the surf, the distinctive whistles of the sandpipers, and the urgent calls of the seagulls as they oversee the beach.  Blues, greens, turquoise, and greys fill my eyes as they mix with the bright white of the foamy waves crashing. And there is the pervasive energy of play…beachside games of catch, pickup jumprope with kelp as the rope, surfers and boogie boarders, swimmers and waders, sand castle builders, mud throwers, walkers, runners, bike riders–I could go on forever!

Summer on the southern California coast teems with humanity.  Every square inch of sand seems to be claimed by an umbrella, beach chair, towel or shovel.  But I’m reminded that as September arrived, the mornings and nights belong to the locals.

Last night we made an impromptu trip to the beach, arriving in the afterglow of the sunset. The tide was low, bonfires already glowing, exercisers still working up a sweat in the cooler (but not yet chilly) evening temperatures.  A light mist had rolled in along the shore, a relief to the record-setting highs we have been experiencing.

I was playing with angles with my camera last night.  And noticed this child dragging kelp…I love the way that the beach provides its own toy chest.

kid with kelp

You can see the emptiness…and the beauty of the evening beach in this shot of my hubby walking on the slant and reflected in the wet sand.

night walk on the slant

As we walked back up toward the parking lot, this little girl was attracting a crowd as she lifted bubbles from her bucket.  In spite of the darkness, you can still see the colors in the bubble…and the littler children mesmerized as they watched the giant bubble float.

night bubble

This morning, with forecasted hot weather–even on the coast–and a busy schedule for the day, we headed back to the beach early…arriving shortly after 7am.  While the crowds hadn’t arrived yet, there were plenty of people enjoying the beach.

I noticed this man playing with his dog in the surf.  The dog joyfully chased the disk and returned it to the man each time he threw it, asking for one more time.

man with dog

I was even able to catch the dog in action as he ran in my direction, seeming to show me the great catch he had just made!

running dog

I noticed this mom playing with her baby in the surf.  The baby would kick his feet each time the mom lifted him up and then tipped his toes into the water.

mom with baby

As I walked on I noticed this little boy with two surfboards.  As I looked out into the waves I noticed a man (his dad) heading in to collect his board so they could head back out into the waves.  The beach is definitely a place for families.

boy with two surfboards

Towards the end of my walk I saw this guy fishing.  The water was warm this morning (more than 70 degrees) so the fisherman was comfortable in trunks as he cast his line.


There were others I wasn’t able to document with my lens, but noticed as I walked.  Couples walking with their coffee, the cute older couple with matching sun hats, exercise walkers with earbuds, runners staying above the waterline to keep their shoes dry, a father and daughter stretching before heading out with their boards, the older woman in her bikini, tennis shoes, and sun hat out for a walk, someone meditating with crossed legs and fingers touching…

One of my favorites things about the beach and the humanity that inhabits it, is that each person finds his or her own way of interacting with it.  You can wear a bathing suit, a wetsuit, shorts, jeans…or even a wedding dress.  Shoes are optional and are often seen in pockets, hanging over shoulders, or held in the hand.  You can sit, stand, lay, run, walk, jump, dance, catch, throw, search, dig, build, chase…the options are endless.

I have quite a collection of images of #beachpeople this summer as I’ve noticed and studied the humanity I find on the beach.  And what I know for sure is that most of them seem to come to the beach for fun, for pleasure, to escape the heat, the stresses of work…it is a place filled with play and playfulness.  Adults playing with children, adults playing with other adults…enjoying the water and sand with the joy many often leave behind with childhood.

The beach is a magical place.