Monthly Archives: July 2015

Weekly Photo Challenge: Night

When the sun goes down it seems that my camera does too.  Night photography is a challenge. How do I capture the lights without lighting up the frame and making it look like daytime? So I’ve been practicing.  And what better place to practice than in Chicago, a city that lights up the night–at least during the summer. There is something beautiful about the way that lights reflect on water at night.  Here’s a view of the city from Navy Pier. IMG_6266 And what a treat to be in a city that offers fireworks twice each week during the summer.  And what better place to try my hand at some night photography (or fireworks photography)…definitely not easy to get a good shot! IMG_6267 I live in a place where the sun sets in the evening over the water, making it easy to know where west is located.  And I found myself wanted to look out over Lake Michigan to watch the sun set here in Chicago too.  But that isn’t where west is…so I had to follow the sun.  And as luck would have it, we happened into the Signature Lounge of the John Hancock building just after the sun had set but was still in all its colorful glory lighting up the sky.  And even better, we were seated right at the west-looking windows on the 96th floor to enjoy our pricey cocktails (that were well worth the cost for the view alone!). IMG_6312 IMG_6310 As I noticed the Sears Tower (AKA Willis Tower), I also saw that the sunset was reflected in the windows in my image.  The app Painteresque helped me make that reflection even more beautiful. IMG_6321 Last night I was back down at Millennium Park, along with thousands and thousands of other people (I heard the number 20,000 thrown out) to try to catch a glimpse of the taping of the NPR show, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  And after watching for a while and then stopping for some dinner, we returned to the park for a nighttime view. IMG_6332 Looking into My Dreams, Awilda lights up the night, her glow offering a sense of serenity as you enter the park.  And over her shoulder last night, the blue moon came into view.  I wanted to capture the softness and glow…so used Waterlogue to soften the edges and create my own version of art from this sculpture. Preset Style = Vibrant Format = 6

So explore the night.  You might try your hand at capturing the lights of night against the dark sky…or maybe for you night will be an image that expresses what happens indoors once the sun goes down. 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 #night for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

As we head out of July into August, what does night look like where you are?  Look indoors or outdoors, at nature, at your place, in your home…capture an image of night for us all to see!  I’m looking forward to seeing night through your lens!

Urban Mountains

I’ve spent some time over the last year exploring mountains…and testing my body and my endurance.  I’ve walked for miles, enjoyed wildflowers, listened to birds, noticed clouds, smelled pine trees and the musky aroma of sage.  I experienced California’s drought, seeing hundreds of dead trees and dangerously low water levels and reveled in the beauty that nature has to offer.

As I walked through downtown Chicago over the weekend, I found myself thinking about how the skyscrapers are like urban mountains standing tall and proud, shading one side while the sun shines on the other, reflecting the sky and creating canyons and valleys between them.

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I’ve logged lots of miles in the last few days and I love the way that walking brings me up close with the city.  Old sits next to new, the homeless rubbing shoulders with the wealthy, sweet smells of Garrett’s carmel popcorn on one block, sour smells of trash and filth on the next.

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And I was seduced into joining the throngs of other tourists (from all over the world) to experience the view of Chicago from 103 stories above.  What was formerly Sears Tower is now known as Willis Tower, the tallest building in the US (and there are some who insist in the world).  110 stories tall with radio towers making it taller, this building is a feat of engineering that was built in the 1970’s.  And in spite of having been in Chicago a number of times before this, I had never gone up…or even walked by this building before!

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I was determined to not only brave the long lines and go up…but while up there I decided to battle my intense fear of heights and walk out on the plexiglass sky bridge, looking straight down at the ground so far below my feet!

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Yeah, it was scary…hand sweating, vertigo-inducing, catch your breath scary.  I’ve been up high before…the Space Needle in Seattle, the Empire State Building in NYC, but the sky deck took away the comfort of window ledges and railings, leaving me with clear plexiglass as safety from falling.  But I went out there not once, but three times.  Each easier than the one before, although I can still feel my hands dampen as I write this.

I was even able to snap a few playful selfies with my husband, who enjoyed every minute of this sky high experience.

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Once down, we circled the building to find those plexiglass outcroppings from the outside.  The height is even more impressive looking up–the sky deck is barely visible from the ground!  (Look closely–maybe even click on the photo to bring up a larger version to see them!)

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You don’t have to be in the wilderness to enjoy the outdoors.  There is lots to see and experience right outside the door.  And I fell in love with the interactive art in the park spaces in downtown Chicago.  The bean in Millennium Park encouraged people to come close, stand back, group up…and of course, take plenty of photos, while also reflecting the beauty of the urban mountains.

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And on a hot summer day it was fun to watch people interacting with these tall brick fountain structures that also include projections of faces, facing each other.

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I’m glad we spent time exploring the urban mountains of Chicago, walking miles and seeing the city up close.  It might not be a National Park, but it was fun exploring the great urban outdoors!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Golden

I’ve been noticing light a lot lately…especially when it’s not there.  We’ve had an unusual July–thunder and lightening and rain and cloud cover so heavy it feels like a wet towel around your shoulders.  (And record rainfall–although we are still deep in a persistent long-term drought!)

As a result, I feel like I’ve taken lots of gray photos, where the sky looks like the ocean that looks like the sand.

So as the sun began to break through this week, I wanted to head out to catch the glow.  The beauty of the summer is that the days are longer, making evening walks a treat…and giving me a chance to play around with the golden light that comes as the sun begins to set.

Giant kelp is always amber in color, golden and brownish.  But giant kelp has floats about the size of grapes, shaped sort of like teardrops.  Now and then I see huge floats–the size of our small playground balls–that I know as bull kelp, a variety of giant kelp.  I see these more often in the winter, maybe because it takes rougher seas to pull them up to shore.  But yesterday, maybe as a result of the storm earlier this week, there was definitely bull kelp on the beach. The sun brought out the golden qualities of this amber algae.

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I watched this boy for a while as he flipped his skim board out in front of him and then ran to step aboard and ride on the slim layer of water.  I was pleasantly surprised to catch this action shot…and the warm golden glow of the sun on his skin.

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Surfers come in all shapes and sizes and I often see them looking out to sea, watching.  I wish I could get inside their heads and know what they are thinking as they stand on the shore. I know that surfing is a physical sport, but I also suspect it is meditative as well.  I watched this surfer…and couldn’t resist a shot with her bathed in the warm, golden light of the early evening.

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And I the clouds were calling to me…and when I looked up through my lens, they opened up to reveal the golden light treasure inside!

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So, what is golden in your life right now?  You can be literal of figurative, examine the natural world or the artifacts of civilization.

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

Be on the lookout for a golden opportunity to snap a photo!  I can’t wait to see golden through your lens.

Public Privilege

I spend a lot of time on the beach, walking and thinking and taking pictures.  In this public space, even in a crowd, I feel a sense of solitude.  Wrapped in the sounds of the sea, the wind on my face and the sun on my shoulders I pay attention the rhythms of the earth.  I notice the ways the landscape changes, the habits of the seabirds, the movement of the sun and the moon, and the way the tides ebb and flow.  No two days are ever the same…and yet this place is always the same.

I also notice the people who come in many shapes and sizes.  I notice that they are more the same than different, looking like the people who live in my neighborhood and attend the school where I work. Of course there are visitors, vacationing along the shore…and the ever present #beachpeople who constantly interest, inform, and surprise me with all the things they do at the beach.

In this place, people shower in public,

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play in public,

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hangout in public,

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and learn in public.

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And with my camera in my hand, most people pay little attention to me even while I pay a lot of attention to them.

After all, this is a public place.  Everyone is welcome.  Or are they?

Sometimes I wonder about the gulls, often looked upon as pests.  I’ve heard them called “rats,” a nod to their role as scavengers…and maybe to their highly adaptable behavior.

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But who else is not welcome here?  I notice patrols on the beach, mostly lifeguards but sometimes sheriffs in their vehicles cruise the beach.  Are they keeping beachgoers safe or looking for troublemakers?  Do those mean the same thing?

And where does public end and private begin?  At the no trespassing sign?

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What does my privilege allow me to see?  And what does it blind me to?

So much to consider as I walk this beach…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Group

Friday marked the end of our 4-week intensive Invitational Summer Institute (SI), a leadership program in the teaching of writing that the SDAWP facilitates each summer.  We’ve been together as a group throughout that time, worked in small writing response groups, reading response groups, in pairs and triads all in an effort to stretch our thinking and understanding.

So as I started thinking about a photo challenge for this week, the idea of groups came up for me. And looking over photos I have taken in the last week, I came up with many that fit the bill.

Here’s a group of umbrellas at the beach last week.  it was bright and sunny and warm, a lovely San Diego beach day…and the umbrellas were out!

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And who can resist a group of sandpipers?  These little brown birds are pretty shy, but are such fun to watch.  They use their long skinny beaks to poke down into the wet sand for some delicious tidbits.  I often see them in pairs, but caught this trio earlier in the week.

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As I walk down the beach, I pass some iconic landmarks including Stone Steps and Beacons.  I’m always fascinated by the way that people coming down to the beach look like ants as they switchback from top to bottom.  Using my zoom lens, I was able to capture a glimpse of this group.

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This group of novice surfers appeared to be part of a surf school…and no, they weren’t at Beacons! They seemed to be segregated to a small area, well away from the more experienced surfers.

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On Thursday, I snuck out of the SI at lunchtime (with many of our participants) and headed up to the top of the engineering building to get a close look at Fallen Star, a unique installation of the Stuart Collection.  Once inside this tilted house, I noticed this group of toy cars on the fireplace.

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I had commented to my husband not too long ago that there haven’t been many sand castles on the beach this summer.  And then, last night to celebrate the ending of the SI, we decided to take a beach walk after work.  And as we walked we noticed this group of castles, a community of sorts near the shore.  They weren’t too fancy, but I think they count as a group of sandcastles.

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So, what group have you noticed lately?  Groups of people? Animals? Cars? Toys?  Examine some groups through your lens!

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

What group will you find as you focus your lens this week?  Be sure to share with the rest of us!