Monthly Archives: September 2014

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.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

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!

I continue to learn about and be challenged by light as I take pictures.  Sometimes the photos I take seem flat, without the detail and texture that I see with my eyes.  Just last week when I was walking at the beach in the evening, the sun was just right and I had to snap a photo trying to capture the softness and the glow of the moment (and those sandpipers I am always chasing with my camera).  This unedited result was even more amazing than I imagined, capturing the texture of the foamy edge of the wave against the smooth sand.

beach light

The light that pours into my dining room in the afternoon lit up the roses in the vase on table. I like that you can see the layers of petals and almost feel the softness through the image–even though the light creates a variegated effect on this solid-colored red rose.

rose in the light

Sometimes it is the breeze that creates the texture in a photo.  The Star of India is an old clipper sailing ship that now operates as a museum on the San Diego waterfront.  I like the way the sails…and the American flag billow with a roundness you can almost touch.

sails and flag

My macro lens is always good for capturing texture.  Getting close makes the textured details more apparent like in this photo of dandelion fluff.

dandelion fluff

Or this one of the intricacies of cactus spines on the plant in my back yard.

cactus spines

And then there is the visual texture of the pattern worn by this giraffe.  His distinctive coloring creates a texture all its own.


And I love the physical texture I can almost feel with my fingers as my students explored this mystery substance last week in a science lab.  They were mesmerized by the way it was runny and liquid-like sometimes and hard and powdery other times.  I used an app to filter the image that seems to bring attention to the texture of the substance on my student’s hands.


So now it is your turn to find and snap a photo of texture.  Will it be something oozy and wet, something soft and furry?  Will the light help to define foamy edges or expose the details of layers?

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

What textures will your lens expose?  I can’t wait to see what you find!




Self Portraits, Photo Style

I experimented with taking self portrait photos today.  The #sdawpphotovoices photo-a-day prompt for September 6th is self portrait, which got me thinking about how to be creative in my approach to creating a photo portrait of myself.  I’ve done some playing around with self portraiture in the past (here and here) and have been practicing the art of the selfie as a way to document some of the outings my husband and I take.  (Otherwise I have discovered that I am absent in my own photography.)

But what does it mean to take a self portrait?  And what does it say about me and my photography?  As I set out today, I knew that I was not going to be taking the typical hold your phone out at arm’s length and shoot a photo sort of self portrait.  Instead, I wanted to focus on ways to capture portraits of myself in less typical ways.

Walking along the waterfront, I noticed a monument to those who have served in the military that had shiny marble sides.  I could see my reflection as walked by, so decided to try taking a self portrait by framing myself in the shot.

Monument selfie

I like the way the grain of the marble creates a texture on the photo, and you can see how the shade also impacted the image.

Continuing our walk, I noticed a mirror used to help cars see around corners as I went to cross a driveway.  I stood and aimed my camera as I framed myself in the mirror.

mirror selfie

It’s interesting to me the way the mirror captures the urban elements of the setting, while the background features the branches and leaves of a tree.

As we walked down the Broadway Pier, I noticed the reflective glass of the building there. Along the side of the building I could see the USS Midway, a retired military aircraft carrier, reflected in the window.  I urged my husband to join me and capture this self portrait.

Midway selfie

Geoff noticed this star on a window of a restaurant as we headed back toward where we had parked our car, so of course I had to stop to snap a photo.  The long skinny window makes an interesting frame for the self portrait.

star window selfie

We had talked earlier in our outing about the possibility of me taking a self portrait by framing myself in my husband’s sunglasses.  So as we passed the park at Seaport Village we stopped to try this technique.  It took a few tries…and we left without knowing for sure if my image would be visible.  With a bit of post production editing, this is the resulting image.

sunglass selfie

Today’s focus on self portrait photography had me paying attention to light, reflection, texture, and composition.  I was working not only to capture an image of myself, but also to document my surroundings in interesting ways.  Sometimes I noticed that I held my phone in a way that obscured my face so then I experimented with holding it lower and tried to look into the reflective surface rather than at my shutter button.

I did some post production editing to crop away extraneous material and place the focus on the portrait.  Filters helped me brighten or tone down colors and create an effect that I found pleasing.

I took many other photos today as I walked the waterfront and explored downtown San Diego, but it was fun to experiment with the self portrait too.  Taking photos of myself in reflective surfaces made me aware of the many ways I can use those surfaces to create other kinds of photos as well–things I don’t always think about as I am shooting.  I know I’ll be doing some experimenting over the next week or so!

What do you learn when you take photographic self portraits?  What techniques are your favorites?  I’d love to hear from you!

Food Truck Adventure

I’m not much of a foodie…and that certainly won’t surprise anyone who knows me.  But tonight we decided to have an adventure of sorts…and chase down a food truck.  My husband has been following the Pierogi Truck on Twitter, desperately wanting to relive a childhood taste memory of eating pierogis–a Polish dish that his mom made when he was a kid.  These dumpling-like creations are not easy to find…and honestly, I haven’t expressed much interest in eating them.

pierogi truck

So tonight, with the Pierogi Truck not too far from our neighborhood, we decided to take this taste adventure.  Parked in a business park near a brewery, the purple truck was waiting.  We walked up and were greeted by the two women who worked the truck and Geoff immediately engaged in a conversation about the Polish foods of his childhood.

ordering pierogis

So I had my first taste of pierogis tonight, a potato and cheese dumpling served with a sour cream or yogurt sauce on the side.  They were pretty tasty…with a beer from from Iron Fist brewery on the side.

potato and cheese pierogis

Geoff went for the sampler plate with an assortment of Polish delicacies…pierogis and Polish sausage and more.

polish sausage and more

The food was good and the adventure was better.  It was fun to go out and do something out of the ordinary, to wander into a warehouse and sip a cold beer, watch some arm wrestling, pet some dogs, and do a bit of people watching.

Iron Fist kegs

And even though pierogis will not likely ever be my favorite food, it was fun to taste them, and to watch my husband savor the flavors he’d been remembering and imagining for so long.  It was quite an adventure to head out on a Friday evening in search of a food truck.  We’re already talking about other food truck possibilities…  Who knows where our next adventure will take us!