Monthly Archives: November 2014

A Gift a Day: December’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

While it often seems that December is all about shopping and buying, the spirit of the winter holidays is about giving.  I often think about photography as a gift to myself…it allows me to explore, to see the world anew, to get outside and interact with nature, time for reflection and relaxation, and more.  And I can also see that each image could also be a gift to others, an opportunity to enjoy a view through my lens.

There are so many gifts that are intangible, you simply can’t go to the store to buy them.  And yet, through a photograph you can get a glimpse of the possibilities.  I can think of many who would appreciate the gift of abundance.  I couldn’t resist this shot of the shelves at the Filippi’s Pizza Restaurant in Little Italy today.

abundanceAnd I know that I appreciated this gift of creativity from an artist who created this lighted sculpture that I found in front of the Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

lighted sculptureSometimes the gift is spending time with others who love doing what you love.  These surfers caught an occasional wave and seemed to spend lots of time hanging out together in the water on their boards.

surfer in the wavesThe gift of exploration is one that I treasure.  Something as simple as finding pieces of sea glass as I walk on the beach is a wonderful pleasure…and quite a gift.  Each tiny shard feels like a jewel mined from the sea.

green seaglassI often find the gift of design in historic architecture, in those buildings that somehow withstand years of weather and use and still maintain their grace and beauty.  I found this building in Alexandria, VA.

Athenaeum in Alexandria

And these in silhouette on the mall in our nation’s capitol.

buildings in silhouette

Sometimes it is the symmetry, somewhere in the image, that catches my eye and draws my interest.  These train tracks seem to point the way to the heart of downtown San Diego.

lines downtown

Time to play is another gift I wish for myself and others.  Children spinning on a carousel as the sun sets

carousel play

or adults sailing off cliffs high above the Pacific, play creates an attitude of possibility and offers relief from life’s stresses.

three gliders off the cliffs

And nature’s gifts are innumerable…whether it be watching geese in the tidal basin with the Jefferson Memorial in the background

across the basin

or lifeguard towers gathered together to winter on the beach, there is so much beauty, peace and joy in these sights.

wintering lifeguard towers

This month’s #sdawpphotovoices challenge is to gift the world with a photo a day.  To help you cast your photo net wide, here is a list of prompts to get your creative juices flowing.

1. Abundance

2. Light

3. Peace

4. Laughter

5. Symmetry

6. Courage

7. Generosity

8. Compassion

9. Silence

10. Time

11. Hope

12. Trust

13. Vision

14. Curiosity

15. Health

16. Patience

17. Gratitude

18. Creativity

19. Relaxation

20. Music

21. Design

22. Reflection

23. Empathy

24. Nature

25. Family

26. Food

27. Life

28. Community

29. Solitude

30. Place

31. Energy

So be on the lookout this month for images that represents gifts you would like to give to the world or to people you know and love.  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 would like to expand your gifts, write the story that the photo tells, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, or make a video or slideshow. 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!

Instead of fighting the crowds at the mall this month (or maybe just in addition to those trips to the mall), keep your eye tuned for possible gifts through images.  You can capture a gift in a single photo or in a series. (You might even try a 5-image story as a gift.)  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can post 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…after all, they are your gifts to give! Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! So go out and explore, what gifts would you give through your photography?  I can’t wait see the gifts you find and present through your lens!

When Conditions Converge

We aren’t hiking this week.  A sprained ankle (not mine) means no long beach walks and no hikes up hillsides.  But I was still itching for some photo opportunities…so we set off on an adventure this afternoon.

And without thinking the details through, we headed off toward a rest stop with an ocean view off the 5 past Camp Pendleton.  As we passed the last Oceanside exit, we noticed heavy traffic coming back toward the south and realized that turning back around toward home might be more complicated than we had considered.  As we pulled off onto the northbound rest area to take a look at the view, we thought we might have to go all the way to San Clemente to turn around and come back.

It’s interesting the way the dryness of the west and the blue of the ocean and the brilliant blue sky converge to create near summer-like conditions at the end of November.  I looked up and noticed this seagull sitting on a streetlight with the moon in the background.

seagull and moonAs we returned to the freeway, we were prepared for quite a drive ahead.  Lucky for us, there was one more offramp just a mile up the road that allowed us to access the southbound freeway.

freeway viewAfter creeping back in very slow freeway traffic for the three miles or so  back into Oceanside, we took the offramp off toward the harbor in search of the nearby pier.  With the short days of fall, the sun way already low in the sky.  And in spite of that (or perhaps because of it), the beach was teeming with people.  Surfers were thick in the water, families frolicked on the shore, tourists explored, and photographers were posing their subjects with the pier and beach as the perfect backdrop.  I headed under the pier, searching for the convergence of sunlight, shadow, pier pilings, and water.

sun through the pierWalking onto the pier we noticed this egret posed on the railing, outlined against the setting sun.

egretThe pelican seemed to be tame, unperturbed by all the amateur photographers and onlookers. At one point, the pelican noticed the small fish the fisherman had pulled up and extended its large wings and took flight…just as I pressed the camera shutter!

pelican in flightI couldn’t believe the numbers of fishermen on the pier.  I didn’t notice many fish, but there were fishing poles lined up all along the railing, some spread out and some gathered in small bunches.

fishing on the pierAs we headed out, the sun was low, washing a warm glow over the pier and palms…a perfect ending to an impromptu photographic adventure.  Conditions converged for a wonderful day!

pier and palms



Weekly Photo Challenge: Thankful

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!

It seems a bit cliche, but as I compose this week’s challenge on Thanksgiving evening I do find myself thinking about the richness and bounty in my life and feeling like this might just be the right week to take the time to express some of the things I am thankful for.

I’m so thankful for my family and friends, the people who surround me in my personal and professional life.  While you might find hints of them here on my blog, mostly they aren’t mentioned by name and seldom seen in photos out of respect for their privacy.  But they make everything else in my life possible.

I’m thankful for sunsets and the opportunity to travel and gather with smart professionals from all over the county.  I’ve seen this iconic landmark many times now, but it always captivates me with its stature and simple elegance.  (If you look closely you can see the Lincoln Memorial in the background!)

Washington Monument at Sunset

I’m thankful for long walks on the beach that allow me to decompress and appreciate the place I call home.  It’s different each time I go there… I’m constantly intrigued and amazed as I take in the sights, sounds, and smells of this watery wonderland.

Surfer on the beach

I’m thankful for work that puts me into relationships with interesting people and helps me understand my own work and my own city in new and different ways.  It’s too easy to take my city for granted and miss the rich history and intricacies like these beautiful buildings…

balboa park architecture

or dismiss these mallard ducks as ordinary.

duck in the light

I’m thankful for the freedoms that allow me to walk where I want, without fear of injury or reprisal.  And I wish for the same freedoms for those–even in our country–who don’t enjoy that same privilege.  The sunlight on these poinsettias remind me of the freedoms that are easy to take for granted…leisure to enjoy a day at a theme park, to spend time with my family, to have a few days off work…

poinsettia in sunlight

And I’m thankful for my pets…my cats…who are loving, entertaining, irritating and such available photo subjects.  As I was cleaning this morning, Jack couldn’t resist jumping up on this stool to check out the new view.  And I couldn’t resist a couple of shots of him.

Jack on stool

So what are you thankful for?  What makes your life more full, energizes you, or just simply brings a smile to your lips?

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

Whether you celebrated Thanksgiving or not, I hope you find some time this week to snap a shot or two of something that represents thankful to you.  I can’t wait to see thankful through your lens!

Angular: Teaching and Learning on the Slant

For the last few days I’ve been in Washington DC attending the National Writing Project Annual Meeting, a conference for those connected with writing projects all over the country. In this space we come together to reconnect, learn together, and envision and re-vision possibilities for both our national network and our local sites. And while I was in this rich, intellectually stimulating space, I found myself thinking about angles, the slant that is essential in the work of learning and teaching.

Tell the truth but tell it slant.  Emily Dickinson

The hallmark of writing projects has been their longevity (we’re in our 40th year as an organization), which attests to their ability to adapt to new mandates and contexts in education, their ability to remain responsive to changing needs in the educational community while holding on to their core beliefs, and their ability to innovate as they strive to anticipate upcoming needs and trends and develop more effective and relevant approaches to supporting teachers with the goal of improving the teaching of writing. And even in our own community, what that means and how that looks does not assume that we all agree or even that we all understand our charge in the same ways.

And as I consider my own learning experiences, my observations of others, and continue to think about presenting ideas to my own students and to my writing project colleagues I realize that the straight path is not always the best path. I can’t assume what I have come to understand over a number of years will be clear to others as I explain what I now know. I have to find ways to communicate the truth…but find the slant that gives others access. Sometimes looking straight up or straight ahead actually works to obscure your view and understanding.

straight up

As I spent some time at the National Cathedral yesterday, I started to see the embodiment of some of these slants. What I noticed as I walked into the nave…the main body of the cathedral…were the incredible angles.

cathedral inside

Columns reached high, curved, and then met in angular points. In that expansive and intricate structure, I could feel the careful study of architectural soundness. I felt reassured that this long-standing building would continue to stand, in spite of some damage from a recent earthquake. And so I’m thinking about the underlying structures that inform work some of us as educators do around the concept of connected learning.  How do we make the structures and educational soundness visible?  What experience will adult and student learners need to feel the expansiveness?

There is a beautiful infographic that I’ve seen shown over and over again and that I have used myself, but like the beautiful stained glass windows in the cathedral, it requires not only a close look but an understanding of the underlying design, accompanied by some personal experiences related to the concepts to truly begin to make sense of it.

stained glass

And like the stained glass window, light shining from outside reveals details and intricacies that are not otherwise noticeable. Rubbing emerging ideas and persistent questions against those of my colleagues works like that shining light, revealing nuances and pushing me to rethink and reconsider my own understanding. When I can see my thoughts reflected through the ideas of others, they take new shapes and create new possibilities like these intricate shadows the wrought-iron work reflects on the cathedral walls..

angles of reflection

And while that sounds pretty easy and productive, it isn’t always that straightforward. There are more slants and angles to consider. Sometimes the learners and teachers must wander down seemingly endless corridors, making false starts and running into dead ends before finding their way in. But repeated opportunities to try and stumble, reflect and reengage eventually reveal a pathway—maybe not THE pathway—to understanding.


Sometimes you have to crane your neck while your nose is right against the window to catch a glimpse of possibility like I had to as I searched for gargoyles. And sometimes that view might be terrifying, monsters seem to come into view, until you realize you are not alone and there are other meanings to be made of what you are seeing and experiencing.


As I have reflected on my experiences this week, I am reminded of the value in taking a step back, considering other perspectives and the role that resistance (my own and that of others) plays in learning. How do I play the doubting and believing game (Elbow) in productive ways that opens doors rather than closes them? And how do I facilitate processes like these for my students and my colleagues?

looking upI know it’s about the slant, the angular nature of our personal biases and the complexity of learning itself.  And just like the straight path isn’t for everyone, I know that there are many slants to consider as we continue to learn ourselves and to support learners in this fast-changing, information-driven, connected world we live in.  My trip to the cathedral not only allowed me to explore this beautiful national treasure and take interesting photos, it also helped me think about learning and angles and envision the role I might play in creating entry points and interactions to extend opportunities to consider alternatives to our current educational system. I’m looking forward to exploring the slants…and I’m appreciating the angular.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Out and About

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!

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-dayness of life and not head out with my camera in search of interesting photos, so I like to try to allow myself at least a few minutes every day to consider what I see when I am out and about…even if out and about is about getting to and from work…in an interesting way.

And then, it seems, I am also more ready for those shots when I come across something a little more out of the ordinary.  After spending the early part of the week in deep conversation with parents and students during parent-student-teacher conferences, I headed off to Washington D.C. for the National Writing Project Annual Meeting.  The conference is at the same time every year, but always in a different location.

When we arrived at our hotel in National Harbor, Maryland (just across the Potomac from DC), we discovered that our hotel room had a spectacular view of the river…as the sun was setting after a long day of travel.  And it’s cold here!  Seeing the gorgeous sky, a ferris wheel, and water…my friend and colleague Janis and I looked at each other, pulled on our coats and rushed outside to see if we could get closer, without any rooftop obstructions to take a few pictures before the colors in the sky dissipated.

And in spite of freezing fingertips and eyes tearing in the wind…we discovered a little sandy beach sculpture garden…with body parts protruding!


And I did snap shot after shot of the sun setting behind the ferris wheel.  Here’s one of my favorites!

into the sunset

But more typically, I grab my out and about moments in my familiar setting.  I took this one the other day after school.  As I drove away from the parking lot and headed home I simply pulled off to the side of the road and tried my best to capture the colors in the sky…I think I have newly discovered that the advantage of standard time and shorter daylight hours is that I see more sunsets!

sunset after school

And out and about on the weekend, I spent time walking at the lagoon.  It’s dry and winter is approaching, so the plants are mostly shades of brown.  If you look closely you might see the freeway that runs across the lagoon to the west in this shot framed by the eucalyptus tree.

framed by eucalyptus

And sometimes shots that seem ordinary can become something more by a bit of app magic.  I played around with some filters with this one and my view of the lagoon took on a much more dramatic tone.

dramatic lagoon

What do you see when you are out and about?  What do you pass every day on your way to and from work, while you watch your child’s soccer (or football or dance…) practice, as you walk the dog or head out for a jog?

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

Squeeze in some time for a few photos while you are out and about this week.  I can’t wait to see what out and about looks like through your lens!