Monthly Archives: June 2015

Documenting Light: July’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

July is the heart of summer. Long days, warm nights, all filled with light. Morning light, light at dawn, midday and afternoon light, the dwindling light of sunset and twilight, and the glow of lights at night. July is a month to capture light.


Nature is painting for us, day after day,, pictures of infinite beauty.

John Ruskin

And inspired by the work of Paccarik Orue, I find myself thinking about documentary photography—photography that celebrates place, people, culture, and customs that uncovers and illuminates beauty that others may miss or dismiss.

Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s light shining somewhere nearby.

Ruth Renkel


So let’s explore the light of July, in all its variety and glory and document the places and people we experience.

Light can be gentle, dangerous, dream-like, bare, living, dead, misty, clear, hot, dark, violet, springlike, falling, straight, sensual, limited, poisonous, calm and soft.

Sven Nykvist

The harsh man-made lights at the end of the pier,


midday light illuminating a wave and its surfer,


filtered light through the windows of your house for the cats to discover (that’s Jack!),


and looking up into the clear blue sky at wild fair rides.


Lingering seems most at home in the late afternoon. Other words belong to other times. But lingering (like dawdling and dallying) works best when the day is slipping away, and we don’t care.

Jim Richardson


Here’s some prompts to get us started this month:

1. Home

2.  Shadow

3.  Outside

4.  Color

5.  Bright

6.  Undercover

7.  Discover

8.  Warm

9.  Night

10.  Dawdling

11.  Misty

12.  Clear

13.  Dangerous

14.  Bare

15.  Violet

16.  Dead

17.  Gentle

18.  Falling

19.  Dream-like

20.  Straight

21.  Hot

22.  Living

23.  Sensual

24.  Limited

25.  Poisonous

26.  Dallying

27.  Soft

28.  Calm

29.  Lingering

30.  Fear

31.  Care

So let’s explore the light of summer and document the people and places and things we encounter.  Our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. Every day of the month includes a word prompt to inspire and challenge you to document the spaces you inhabit as you explore the light. You are welcome to follow them in order, mix them up, or throw in a new word prompt for the rest of us to try. 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! You can share on Twitter (follow me @kd0602), on Instagram (@kd0602), in the CLMOOC community on G+, on Flickr, or even link back to my blog here.

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.

Maori proverb


And don’t forget to play around with nighttime light too!

Twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star.

Lucy Maud Montgomery


What light will you see and document through your lens?


I am definitely drawn to photograph some images over and over again.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly will recognize the beach where I walk regularly.  There is an endless supply of seagulls, surfers, sunsets, hang gliders, and more.  And I am drawn to photograph them again and again, trying new angles, different light, close ups and vistas.  But is the beach my muse?

Yesterday after a long and busy week keeping me mostly indoors and mostly away from my camera, I just felt the urge to go outside and take some photos.  I was exhausted, my brain full after finishing our first full week in the SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute AND still trying to keep up with and participate in the CLMOOC, and yet I could feel my camera calling.

My husband was in the kitchen performing his culinary magic, the cats lounging nearby (never wanting him beyond their line of sight), so I grabbed my camera and heading into the backyard.

I noticed the lavender first.  It’s not growing as well as I would like, but that didn’t stop me from learning in to get close to this beauty.


I love playing with macro, the way the lens focuses in on the near and blurs out the background. The afternoon sun allowed the vibrance of the greens and purples to come through.  As I looked down I noticed a succulent in a pot that I hadn’t paid any attention to before.  I got low–on my knees–and tucked in under the scented geraniums to get close enough.  I’m remembering that succulents use those small leaves to conserve water, a great adaptation for an environment like this one where water is scarce…and water restrictions are limiting our elective watering too.


I continued to wander, aiming my lens at whatever caught my eye.  I unlatched the gate and headed toward the front yard.  There are usually dandelions there–much to my husband’s chagrin…and my delight.  I noticed this yellow bloom.


and then later, played with the image with the sketch app.


And this later stage dandelion, with most of its seeds blown away caught my eye.  I found myself thinking about wishes and how we often make wishes on a dandelion puff just before we blow the seeds away.  Do those wishes take root or do they float away beyond our reach?


I like the idea that there are still a few wishes left hanging here…and posted this on a friend’s Facebook page to send her birthday wishes last night.  Later, I played with Waterlogue, a watercolor app just to see what effect it might have.

Preset Style = “It's Technical” Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = Technical Pen Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = High Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = Normal Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Minimal Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Wide Paper = Graph Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

But as I continue to think about this idea of muse, I find myself rejecting the idea that the dandelion is the muse.  I do and have taken plenty of dandelion photos.  But I think that the muse, for me, is the camera itself.

With a camera in my hand, my senses are heightened.  I notice my surroundings–with my eyes and my ears…all my senses seem to fire.  And even when I don’t capture an amazing photo, I feel like I see more, hear more, am more present in the moment.

And, as I seek an interesting photo, I find myself looking beyond the beautiful.  Those golden sunset moments are pretty reliable…and I think I will never tire of them, but I am also seeking images that make me think, that help me see beyond the surface and find the beauty in what I might have dismissed as ugly, disposable, a nuisance…


which reminds me as an educator and a human being that we all need to look past the obvious, make a connection and get under the surface to see what we haven’t noticed before.  This dandelion plant caught my eye and drew me into the dry remnants of the puff, the lone seed hanging on, the bud getting ready to reveal the brilliant yellow flower that doesn’t even hint at becoming a puffy seed ball.  It would be easy to yank this week out and toss it into the green waste (and my husband might when he heads out to mow the lawn), but I’m glad I got to lean in, look closely and discover some of the wonders I might have otherwise missed.

I feel lucky to have my camera as my muse…and even without looking through my lens, it’s teaching me to pay attention, look closely, and connect to better understand myself and my world…and better yet, give me insights into the experiences of others as well.  I may not walk in the shoes of the people I encounter, but by listening carefully, looking closely, and opening my heart, I can do my part to be inclusive, accepting, and strive to understand beyond my own experiences.

How does your muse influence you?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sky

Sunday marked the summer solstice (along with my anniversary…and this year, Father’s Day) and our gray skies are finally clearing to let the sun shine through.

And it was a beautiful first day of summer, especially as the setting sun gave a golden glow as I looked to the sky.


As the sun dipped low, the sky was painted in pinks with a tiny sliver of sun still shining through.


After a delicious celebratory dinner, we headed out for a walk on the pier.  And as we looked to the sky, the moon appeared above the palms, a sliver accompanied by two bring planets nearby.


The nighttime walk was a perfect ending to the day…as the lights of the city reflected on the ocean water.


Earlier in the weekend, a beach walk allowed me to catch the sky’s sun silhouetting these surfers…making this unedited photo look like it was taken in black and white.


As our San Diego Area Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute began this week, I found myself not paying as much attention to the outdoors as I focused, instead, on developing this community of educators, writers, and thinkers.  And then today, three days in, I had to take a few minutes at lunch to re-discover my surroundings on the UCSD campus.  It’s cold inside the building, but outdoors the skies are blue and the scenery spectacular.  I focused on this piece in the Stuart Collection (art on our campus).  The Fallen Star is perched atop the engineering building–visible from the room where we hold the SI.


And when I turned around, there was the Geisel Library–another favorite subject for my lens, framed by the blue sky and the tall eucalyptus trees.


So, look up.  What does the sky have to offer in your place this week?  What are you noticing when you look skyward?

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

So look up toward the sky…what does the sky have to offer or what does it draw your attention to?  I look forward to seeing what the sky will bring through your lens!


The word #object has come up a few times in the last week or so.  First I heard about composing with things…and started thinking about how “things”…particularly photographs help me with my writing.  And then Annelise Wunderlich at KQED offered a Do Now focused on selecting an ordinary object, experience, or material to represent or inspire you.  (You can join in by posting yours on Twitter, Google+, Instagram, or Facebook using the #donowobject and #clmooc tags)

A number of ideas came to mind when I fhought about how I might objectify myself.  Dandelions and other weeds come to mind…I love the way they thrive wherever they find themselves, rather than being dependent on others for ideal growth conditions.

dandelion puffball

But I think glass is the object I will pick.  Geoff and I have been looking for beach glass on all of our beach walks over the last year.  This glass on the beach is pretty rare–probably due to the ban on glass on the beach over the last decade.  But we do find it–and that search for treasure on the shore has helped me to pay close attention the the interesting qualities of the glass.


Beach glass is not transparent.  Unlike a window, it is not easy to look inside or through.  Time and tumbling have created an opaque quality, no longer shiny and clear but instead the surface suggests a history hidden in the sanded surface.

My favorite pieces of beach glass are smooth to the touch and feel good in your hand.  They are worn and rounded rather than sharp and angular.  We often categorize the pieces of glass as we pick them up…some are young and sharp, juveniles in the glass world.  But it’s the pieces worn smooth that are prizes in the glass game.


And beach glass plays well with others.  It mingles with rocks and shells, sea creatures and seaweed.  It hides in the sand, gets tossed in the tide, and reveals itself only when you take time to look.


Beach glass is my choice as an object of inspiration and representation.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Abundance

There’s nothing like going to the county fair to experience abundance.  And when your county fair is the San Diego County Fair…a huge extravaganza, it gets to be a bit over the top.

I’ve noticed that over the years, there seems to be fewer animals on display.  But I love to visit the ones that are there and see the young animal exhibitors working with their livestock.  There are so many different varieties of goats…and they’re all pretty cute.  I love the ways this one peered out to see what was going on beyond the enclosure.


There is also an abundance of food at the fair.  Everything from deep fried Starbucks (what?!) to huge turkey legs and corn on the cob dipped in butter, there are plenty of choices (although many are deep-fried or bacon covered).


And sweet treats are also in abundance.  We can never resist the cinnamon rolls that have become a family tradition over the years, but there are also options like cotton candy, ice cream, funnel cakes and more.


As we explored the abundance of talent from local artists–from woodworking to photography, graphic arts to textiles, we realized that we never spend time in the fun zone with the wild rides, bright colors, and flashing lights.  Looking up we saw people with an abundance of courage dive from a high tower with only a bungee attached to their legs.


And some with an abundance of disposable cash testing their gaming skills to win something from the abundant collection of stuffed animals.


And then there are the rides.  Crazy, fast, spinning, dropping, swooping…  We even saw one that covers up the riders as it gains speed (ugh!).  But they are spectacular to watch and to photograph!



And as the sun began to set, I wanted to capture the differences in light.



As we headed out after a long day having an abundance of fun, we paused to admire the fair in the dark with lights flashing and the sliver of the moon above.


So where is abundance in your life this week?  Maybe in your garden, at the beach, in your classroom (if you are still in school), in your community, or somewhere else.  It could be an abundance that frustrates you…an abundance of trash, mosquitos, traffic…

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

So take a look around and notice abundance.  I can’t wait to see abundance through your lens!

Learning Season

Officially I guess you can call this the off season for many teachers, the time when schools close for the year, graduations happen, grades are posted, and vacations scheduled.  But there is no off season for learning.

In my few days between closing my elementary classroom and beginning a fast-paced four weeks facilitating our SDAWP Summer Invitational Institute, I have taken some time for myself (most notably, a morning lounging in bed well past my usual 5:30am wake up time)…and for some off season learning.

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time driving the freeways between San Diego and Los Angeles over the last week, experiencing the traffic flow (or lack of flow), talking with people who live in the LA area, and spending time exploring this rich and varied place.  In some places driving great distances is the norm.  I have cousins in Washington state who think nothing of jumping in the car and driving for hours across the state to have lunch with a friend or relative and then head back home.  And then there are people in my own community who resist a drive south of the racetrack because they don’t want to deal with the traffic that is common on the nearby freeway interchange.

As I planned a trip to the LA area to visit my son this week, we brainstormed interesting things to do and places to take photos…and there are many.  I carefully planned my own commute to try to avoid morning rush hour (or is that hours?), and found myself thinking about the factors that essentially wall people in their communities…and traffic and transportation are definitely some of them.  With the luxury of a car, I can go places without scoping out bus stops or worrying if someone peed on the seat of the train (had a conversation about this with a lovely young woman who had to buy a new outfit at the conference I was attending because of this issue). But honestly, I’m not so sure just how far I would travel if I had to deal with this kind of gridlock daily.

As we headed out toward Malibu to explore the coastline, my son explained that he tries not to go more than 15 miles from where he lives (and sometimes that 15 miles can easily take an hour to traverse), that it just takes too much time and effort. And there really is no off season for traffic in LA.  But he’s a good son and humors his mom, and we did work to time our trip to avoid the peak traffic times.

Not too many miles from the urban centers of LA are long stretches of beautiful beaches and magnificent canyons.  I love the character of piers–it seems that each has its own personality. And in the gray overcast that if typical coastal SoCal June gloom, we met up with these seagulls who posed perfectly for my shot.


They’ve learned that most people are more interested in taking photos than in bothering them, letting us get quite close.  One of the things I hate most about the coastal grays of May and June is the way it washes all the colors out of the surroundings.  But looking down below the pier, I was able to see the turquoises, greens and blues of the water.


And some miles further north we found Matador beach, a place with huge rocks that jut out of the sand.  Gray weather doesn’t deter determined beach goers–there were plenty of people at the beach.  The tide was fairly high and people were tucked into openings along the cliff face watching children race the waves in hallways carved from rock.


In one of the openings sat a couple of lobster traps washed up on the shore.  I leaned in close with my macro lens to capture some of the complexities of the trap…and very nearly drenched my shoes with the wave that snuck up.  Luckily, I had a graceful moment and lifted my foot just before the wave broke…and still got the shot!


Rather than finding the freeway to get back, we headed down a canyon with majestic views of the hillsides.  In spite of the drought, you can see that we’ve had some recent rains.


And I love the way that urban flowers (some might call them weeds), find cracks in the asphalt to grow and blossom.


And like the urban flowers, humans also find ways to grow and blossom.  LA has a variety of unique communities and many many walls painted with murals, colorful artwork that speaks to the resilience of the human spirit.


And if you look closely you can find the beauty in the ordinary–the shadows cast on old brick buildings, the way the light plays in the treetops as the sun begins to dip…


And if I had been able to stay late enough, I would have seen these chandeliers lit as they hung from the old oak tree…but there is something beautiful and interesting about seeing them in silhouette on among the longest of days this year.


It’s hard to believe that I have lived most of my life in Southern California and only recently begun to explore Los Angeles.  You don’t have to go far to travel to new heights and experiences…mostly what you need to fresh eyes, and it doesn’t hurt to have a camera handy!  I love that there is no off season for learning…it’s a daily adventure!

(And #CLMOOC starts today…more ways to learn and play!  Feel free to join in the fun.)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Celebrate

This last week of the school year has been a whirlwind of activity.  An end of the year musical production, complete with cookies made by a beloved member of our community that reflected some of our classroom learning (like making mobiles) and also the unique qualities of our local community–like the Cardiff Kook (a public piece of art in our place),


added to our celebration of learning.  Our students sang and danced and described many things we learned this year with their families as appreciative audiences,


Celebration is definitely the word of the week!  And in the middle of the all of this end of the school year celebrating came the DML conference in Los Angeles and the opportunity to share insights learned from our Intersections work on field trips.  Yet another celebration…and lots of hours on the freeways between here and LA.


From the 19th floor I had an interesting view of the city below…and on Thursday looked up from the ground level and found these folks rappelling down the side of the hotel!  (A celebration of conquering addiction)


I celebrated the sunset in the city on Thursday…and then got up before dawn on Friday to share the last day of school with my students back at school.


And then one of my second grade students insisted on a cake “made with love” (not one from Costco) for our class party…staying up until 10pm to pour her love and effort into, a tribute to her passion for learning and appreciation for our learning community.


I headed back to LA Friday afternoon (with way too many others bringing the freeway to a standstill–iconic LA traffic) for two sessions today.  I ended the day celebrating the beginning of the CLMOOC next week…a wonderful, creative, provocative, stimulating opportunity for making and learning with folks from all over the world.  (I encourage you to sign up…even if you only want to take a peek!)  We played a making game with folks from the DML conference, rolling dice to determine words to represent with an image (or a collage in my case).


So what are you celebrating this week?  The days lasting longer?  Sleeping in?  The bounty of your garden?  Finishing the book you’ve wanted to read for a while?

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

What’s worth a bit of celebration in your life this week?  I look forward to seeing celebration through your lens!