Monthly Archives: January 2015

Follow Your Muse: February’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Sometimes I notice that I need to study my subject carefully through my photography.  I find myself taking photo after photo as I work to capture the mood, the personality, the intricacies of what I am photographing.

Last week, it was seagulls that served as my muse.  I worked to capture them in flight, up close, from behind…fascinated by their movement, their expressions, their antics.

Today it was a ladybug who happened to catch my eye as I knelt to study an interesting plant.  It climbed around and around…seemingly playing hide and seek with my camera lens!

Sometimes it’s light…at night.  Trying to figure out how to frame the glow, capture the shine, or the way light plays with dark.

So your #sdawpphotovoices challenge for February is to find your muse and study it carefully.  You might take a number of shots of your subject or follow you subject over a series of days.  Here are some possible prompts to help you find a focus:

Week 1:  (February 1-7)   Place

Week 2:  (February 8-14)  Nature

Week 3:  (February 15-21)  Light and shadow

Week 4:  (February 22-28)  Composition

So spend February following your muse.  Let your eye wander, and then settle on that subject that captures your attention and spend some time with it.  Try shooting from different angles, up close and further away, from below and above.  Pick a single photo to post or create a gallery of your efforts.  Post a photo or gallery 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 exploration, 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!

Take some time to be inspired by that ladybug, your furry friend, the buildings you pass each day as you head to work…   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–or make up your own prompt for the day or the week! You get to make your own rules…and find your own muse.  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Head out in search of that muse…and follow it for a while.  What will you learn by following your muse…and letting others see it through your lens?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Perspective

I love when I can see the world in a new way, from a new perspective.  Sometimes those opportunities pop up when I least expect them…like sitting in the window seat on my flight home from Seattle a couple of weeks ago.  I’m an aisle sitter…but when I fly with my husband, I tend to sit in the middle seat to sit next to him (and it’s easy to get him to move if I need to get up and wander around!). But on this day, I decided to take the risk and sit by the window, hoping the middle seat would remain empty.  And what an opportunity that happened to be…as we took off and gained altitude, I could see the top of a mountain rising above the clouds.  And even when I heard the ding signaling that we had reached 10,000 feet, that mountain was clearly higher.  As we continued to climb and came closer to the mountain…Mount Rainier…I was able to take this shot.

Mount Rainier in clouds

Earlier during my trip to the rainforest, I came across the world’s biggest spruce.  While I’m not sure how those determinations are made, it was a very large tree.  And looking up definitely gave me the perspective of big!

big trees

A trip I took early in January enabled me to take a surprise snow hike.  And on that hike I came across this sled, clearly broken and lodged between these trees.  I hope there were no injuries involved with the abandoned sled, but I can imagine the perspective of landing head first, upside down among the branches!


Over the weekend, after an inspiring leadership group meeting with our local writing project, my husband and I headed off to make a final decision on granite for our kitchen countertops (we’re deep in a kitchen remodel!) and choose flooring.  Once those stressful decisions were made, we headed downtown for an early dinner…and a lovely gelato just as the sun was beginning to dip low in the sky.  I like this urban perspective, watching the sun set beyond the street and traffic.

Gelato near sunset

And each day when I get home from work, the cats and I explore the changes to the kitchen.  At first the perspective was dramatic, tearing out cabinets and counters, appliances and more. Lately it has been more subtle as new drywall appears…and you can see Jack going in and between for a closer look!

Jack exploring

At the beach on Sunday I played with my telephoto lens.  It was fun to zoom in on birds and surfers and waves and planes and more.  I could capture images of seagulls and other birds that they don’t stand for when I have to come close.  I like this perspective of the seagull…looking out to sea.  And I love his little knock knees!

gull looking out

Yesterday took me out of my classroom to the university to work with a group of teachers exploring what “Smart Tech Use for Equity” means in their classrooms.  As part of our work we created paper bag “bricks” that included our hopes for our students, our strengths as educators, our fears, potential barriers, and ways we might create a bridge to climb over those barriers. We worked together to create a bridge to scale those barriers.  It was fun to hear folks describe this structure as a bridge…to possibilities for our students!  (It’s all a matter of perspective!)

Barrier or bridge?

So this week’s challenge is all about perspectives.  How are you viewing the world this week?  Any new perspectives?  From above, below?  Through the eyes of a bird, a cat, another animal?  What other images of perspective can you find?

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

What’s your perspective on perspective?  I’m looking forward to seeing perspective through your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growing

Even though January is deep into winter, I always think of it as a time of growth and growing. This is the time when my students flourish and they begin to display their independence and initiative  as learners.  And if you look closely, you can see evidence of growing all around.

Having spent time in the temperate rain forests outside of Seattle last weekend, I saw many evidences of growing all around.  I’m still thinking about these tree that seem to be covered with fur, as the mosses gather and grow.

moss covered trees 2

And I learned about the ways that even dead trees contribute to the growing process of the rain forest.  This tall tree in the center is actually dead…and yet is hosts fungi, mosses, lichens and more, contributing to the life cycle of the forest.  And when it finally falls down it will likely become the fertile nursery for tree seedlings to take root as new trees begin to grow.

even dead trees contribute

And there are also many kinds of mushrooms sprouting all around.  These particular mushroom grow very large and some are quite high on the tree trunks.  (You can catch a glimpse of some others in other posts about the rainforest, here and here and here.)

fungus on tall trunksEven as I moved away from the forest, nearer to the beach where plants seemed dormant, when I looked closely, I could see that they were still growing.

winter plants

And in addition to noticing plants growing, I am also working to grow my own skills.  I played around a bit with night photography on my trip, trying to figure out how to capture the glow of light in the background of dark…and the rainy weather added some reflective interest and challenge.

This shot was my attempt to capture the shine of the wet streets and the way the light reflected on them.

the glow of wet streets

It was hard to get a picture of this tanker ship, so I was trying to shoot through the chain link fence.  I like the effect of the edges of the fence framing the ship.

tanker through the fence

As I was getting back in the car, the gas station caught my eye.  I was reminded of Edward Hopper’s paintings of buildings and tried to capture the emptiness and the light in this space.

gas station at nightSo this week’s challenge is all about growing…what you notice growing or ways your are growing yourself and your skills.  Take some shots of what growing means to you right now.

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

What is growing in your life right now?  How can you document it through your lens?  I look forward to seeing what is growing through your lens!

Appreciating Stillness

As I waited for the passengers to board my flight home, my inbox delivered an article on stillness and its benefits…and the ways that we avoid stillness…by using our devices (to read that article, ironically enough) and keeping ourselves busy, busy, busy.

This weekend has been a nice exercise in stillness for me. Somehow, with my camera in my hand, I find myself watching and waiting, listening to my own breath and noticing nature’s breath too (even in the city). There’s so much around me that I don’t capture in photos, but because I am looking for interesting photos, I notice.  (I have written about this idea before here.)

A hike yesterday took us out in the rain and wind into a park in Seattle. Not quite knowing where we were going, we headed out for a shore hike hoping to catch a glimpse of a lighthouse way out on a point of land that we couldn’t drive to. The wind and rain made me zip my jacket up to my chin and tuck my camera inside my coat for a while. Bare trees swayed, rubbing branches against branches, creaking and groaning. Most seemed to flex, but there was also evidence of breakage along the way. We made our way down some steep twists and turns and were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of that elusive lighthouse. Knowing we’d have to climb back up however far we went down kept us from going all the way to the bottom for a closer view.

lighthouse in the distance

We got back to a trail that would loop us back toward our car and continued to listen to the wind, feel drops of rain bounce off our hoods, and notice winter’s rainy splendor of leave littered ground, bare branches, and evergreens shaking off some excess water drops. Geoff’s eagle eye spotted a bright yellow mushroom and some local hikers were amused as we squatted low to the ground to photograph this beauty.

another mushroom

Earlier in the day, as we left Port Angeles, we took a bit of a side trip out to the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge. Alone in the stillness, we noticed how weather batters the trees and cliffs and off in the distance we could see the mountains we had climbed the day before wrapped in fog.

clouds in the distance

We headed into the city center of Bainbridge Island to find a place to relax with a cup of coffee and check in for today’s flight home. Even in the bustle of the coffee shop, I found a bit of stillness as I watched people, sipped coffee and nibbled on a crispy ginger cookie. My mind felt relaxed, not racing ahead to the next thing that needed to be done. We wandered around the island a bit, finding a walking trail around the marina, watching sea birds glide on the currents as everyone else seemed to be hunkered down in preparation for the big game. Seattle Seahawks were playing the Green Bay Packers for the divisional title…at home. We tried to time our arrival in Seattle for after the game had begun.

As we waited for the ferry, parked in our rental car, the rain poured down, creating a little bubble of solitude around us. I noticed the bright yellow slickers and tall rubber boots that must be the uniform for ferry workers…having the right kind of clothes for the weather makes all the difference!

The rain stopped right before we drove onto the ferry, and once parked, we headed up onto the viewing decks. While it was warm and cozy with lots of comfy chairs inside, I feel better outside on a boat…and the picture taking is better there too! We found a spot under an overhang, with a bit of protection from the wind where we could watch Seattle come into view. The whistling wind sounded almost like native American flutes in the distance, welcoming us to the city.

seattle skyline

We checked into the hotel just as the football game went into overtime and by the time we were on the 14th floor, we could hear the roar that signaled that the Seahawks had won! Horns honked, people danced in the streets dressed in blue and green waving flags with a 12 on them (the city is clearly part of the team…the 12th member on the field at all times!). As we walked down to our favorite doughnut and coffee place a couple of blocks away, we could feel the camaraderie of the city, gathering together to celebrate this win that almost didn’t happen.

Strangers chatted and re-hashed the game as we navigated the powdered sugar and dripping jelly of the most delicious doughnuts…and even better coffee. There is stillness even in the hustle and bustle of the city, if you stop to find it.

top pot donuts

And we went to sleep to an amazing view of the Space Needle from the window in our room, knowing we would make one more trip to Top Pot in the morning to gorge on doughnuts and coffee before heading to the airport.

space needle at night

And after reading that article as people boarded the plane this morning, I gazed out the window, lost in my thoughts, watching planes coming and going, thinking about stillness. I’m grateful for a weekend of stillness, of quiet and reflection, and for the opportunity to spend time just being…with someone I love.

I’ll be looking for some moments of stillness to squeeze into my everyday life…and remind myself not to turn to my devices to fill that precious down time.

Exploring in the Rain

When you visit a rainforest, especially in January, you should probably expect rain.  I could hear the light rain falling even before I was quite awake this morning, lightly tapping on the roof of the lovely Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in the tiny town of Forks (of Twilight fame).  Light comes late here, with sunrise around 8am!

It was gray and wet as we ventured out, heading toward the Hoh rainforest and the Hall of Mosses.  But we weren’t the only rainy day adventurers.  As we registered at the ranger station I couldn’t resist this shot of the hiking boots from the other side of the sign.


All this rain results in spectacular displays of mosses.  Everything that stands still is covered in velvety coats of shaggy moss.  You can see the magnitude of the mosses in this shot of Geoff dwarfed by the mossy trees.

mossy tree

And of course, I continued to be on the lookout for mushrooms.  I wasn’t disappointed.  There were enormous shelf mushrooms that grew tall above my head and tiny mushrooms sprouting from cracks in logs.  This tiny fairy village of mushrooms caught my fancy today growing among the mosses.

mushroom village

As we left the rainforest my eye was drawn to the way the fog hung low behind the treeline.  It almost looks like snow out beyond the river.

low lying fogLeaving the rainforest, we headed north toward Port Angeles and another part of the park.  And after an unfortunate encounter with a park ranger (going too fast along the road near the lake) that resulted in a speeding ticket, we headed up to Hurricane Ridge.  This is the highest part of the park at over 5,000 feet in elevation.  We could see snow capped peaks as we wound our way up and could feel the temperature dropping.  And Hurricane Ridge lives up to its name, the winds were vicious as we got out of the car!  The fog and snow blended as we looked out across the ridge.

hurricane ridge

Away from the ridge, the winds calmed and it was fun to stomp around in the crunchy snow as the rain continued.  Geoff caught this picture of me enjoying my third visit to the snow in the last three weeks.  I think that is a record for me!  (I may not have spent as much time in the snow in the last decade as I have in the last three weeks!)

in the snow

On our way back down the mountain, we noticed a deer family crossing the road in front of us. We slowed to a stop, camera in hand, snapping pictures as they crossed…and then seemed to freeze in an effort to appear invisible to us.  This shot makes the deer almost look like a museum model rather than a living, breathing animal.  I got pictures of all three…

deer near Hurricane Ridge

We ended our adventure with a delicious and relaxing dinner at Next Door GastroPub…even sharing a rich and decadent dessert.  Before heading back to our hotel we took an evening drive around the seaport to try our hand at some nighttime photography.  I’ll end with this shot through the rainy car window of a small coffee shop.

coffee shop through raindrops

Another wonderful day exploring, can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

Rainforest Serenity

Where I live it seldom rains…and when it does, it creates all kinds of havoc because we are not equipped to deal with it.  And our environment reflects the lack of water, with plants that take the least water–cacti, succulents, sages and other brushes–thriving, while others only survive because we take the time (and expense) to water them.

Today we snuck away for the long weekend to a place known for rain–and specifically headed off to explore the temperate rain forests of the Olympic Peninsula in the Olympic National Park. We knew that rain was likely for the entire weekend, and still headed off to spend time outside in this environment so different from the one we are used to.

Somehow, we managed to avoid rain today, but had plenty of evidence of its presence.  As we walked among the giant evergreen trees (spruce, cedar, and firs) I could feel the calm settle over me.  Out in the cool, damp air among the towering trees, the sun had to work to reach the ground.  The serenity was tangible, but seems difficult to put into words.

light in the center

I started to notice the water droplets hanging from tree branches as I brushed against them and caused my own little rain storm.  And then I became fascinated with the jewel-like quality of the water, trying to capture it with my camera.

drops from the branches

I noticed ferns and mosses and lichens all around me and I started to play with my camera, trying to capture the light as it danced and played hide and seek in the forest.

moss in the light

And I started wondering about mushrooms…why hadn’t I seen any?  At about that moment, I came around the corner and noticed this beauty growing on a fallen log.

mushroom close up

There were more…and more as I began looking closely.  I love this entire colony we found growing on the flat face of this stump.

mushrooms on a log

Geoff caught a picture of me leaning in closely with my camera trying to capture the unique beauty of fungi!

leaning in close

We left the rainforest and headed toward the beach…hoping to catch both the low tide and sunset before darkness pushed us indoors for the night.  And you know that I spend plenty of time on the beach…but these wide, wild, untamed beaches are very different from the beaches I frequent.  The tide was low and sand seemed endless.  Instead of driftwood, drift logs were in evidence!  We spent only a short time walking the beach as we took in the sunset.

logs on the beach

And as we headed off to a tiny town that would be home for the evening, we made one last stop after sunset, but before darkness had settled.  I love this post-sunset glow that shines pink through the silhouettes of trees that frame the ocean beyond.

post sunset at ruby beach

I didn’t know I was looking for serenity today, but it found me as I explored the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring!




Weekly Photo Challenge: Outside

I don’t always think about the rhythms of my life…until they are disrupted. I’m now into my second week back to work after two weeks off, and my schedule is off. I usually write this weekly challenge on Thursdays in the afternoon after I get home from work. But last Thursday I woke in the early hours of morning, and was on the road to the airport before the sun began to stir. A long day of travel with a meeting sandwiched between pushed the challenge to the back burner…

After that refreshing winter break and lots of time exploring, I have felt cooped up, confined by my calendar and my schedule, not creating spaces to get myself outdoors to feel the sun on my shoulders and the breeze on my face. I love my work and my students, but I do need to remember to make time and space for inspiration and fresh air for myself too.

I’m reminded of the animals I saw at the zoo not long ago. Confined, but somehow seeming to find space to stretch out. This polar bear seemed to find rolling in the dirt comforting…like creating a disguise—a mask of sorts—to wear as people peered in through the viewing windows.

polar bear

This young panda seemed to make an exercise course of his enclosure as he lumbered in around the trees, in nonstop motion. It was hard to get a sharp photo because of the motion…but then this guy was not there for my photographic pleasure, this is the life he lives and because he lives and breathes and lumbers, we still have pandas among us.


Looking back at my time in our local backcountry, with the lake framed by snowcapped mountains, fills me with energy and wonder and reminds me that I have to make more opportunities to get outside the ordinary of my life. This winter wonderland is far from my everyday experiences!

snowy lake

A trek to the nearby beach to capture images of these common folks—the seagulls—has the potential to change my day, improve my mood, and inspire my thinking. I see seagulls every day, and often think of them as pests (especially when they are stealing my students’ snacks!), but when I take the time to watch them in their environment, they fill me with wonder at their adaptations and quirky posturing.

gulls on the beach

Even a simple stop along the side of road to appreciate the colors of the sky can be a treat. I still need to remind myself to pull over and take the few minutes to look and snap a few shots on a regular basis!

colorful sky

I’ve yet to master nighttime photography, but was mesmerized by the long train going by on our way home from the airport the other night…and by the colorful warning lights. You can’t really see the train, but the red lights sure stand out!

waiting for the train

So this week I looked back at the inspiration I get from being outside…either physically or maybe just outside my ordinary routine.  So head outside…physically or mentally and catch some images that inspire you, or offer you a break from your usual routines.

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

What does outside mean in your life?  You can venture near or far…take the prompt literally or use it as a metaphor.  I can’t wait to take a peek outside through your lens!