Monthly Archives: July 2015

Symbols of Place and Noticing Systems: A Photo Essay

Some places are instantly recognizable by symbolic landmarks…the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building…even the reflective bean (I don’t know its official name, but I know where it is), the London Eye, St. Louis’s arch or the Space Needle.  What systems allow us to know those symbolic places without having visited?  Systems of communications, news, arts…  Some I know firsthand, some I know from watching TV, movies, seeing art exhibits, social media, and more.

But when I think of my place, I can’t imagine what large landmark people unfamiliar with my place would immediately recognize as San Diego.  But there is this large body of water that extends along the western border of our place…the Pacific Ocean.

Most days I notice the ocean from the vantage of the land, looking over cliffs, walking in the surf along the shore, looking below as I cross a bridge or stand on a balcony above.  But over the weekend I had the opportunity (thanks Joe and Katie) to step aboard a beautiful sailboat and view the ocean, and discover local symbols and landmarks from a different vantage.

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A week or more of heavy overcast and summer cold and gray turned sunny and blue as we headed toward the open ocean.  Under sail with wind power, we breathed in the briny air and soaked up the sun, surrounded by every shade and hue of blue.  The ocean has its own rhythms as the sea interacts with the wind and the land, unpredictable and powerful.  As we moved further into the open sea, vast blue enveloped our sight along with a sense of solitariness…even though we weren’t alone.

Systems of ropes and pulleys interact with large sheets of sail, wind, weather, and the knowledge of the sailor.  A turn of the wheel is reflected in a change of course that changes the way the wind sits in the sails that impacts the speed of the boat.  An unexpected gust with an inexperienced navigator can cause the boat to heel unexpectedly or abruptly change direction! I noticed that sailors have lots of tools that help them with their systems…the obvious instrumentation that give readings of water depth, speed, direction and the less obvious colored strings that blow in the breeze, the different colored ropes, the sheen (or lack of sheen) of the water that indicates breeze, the feel of the breeze on the cheek.

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We passed buoys along our way where sea lions basked and sang in the sun,

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and seagulls served as sentry, overseeing the watery world.  And these too are part of the navigational system of the waterways.  They are symbols that show ships where to travel to avoid shallows, that mark the water in the ways that lane lines and exits mark our freeways.

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As we headed back into the bay, we had the opportunity to see our city skyline from the outside in rather than the inside out.  And it never hurts to have a beautiful sailboat as part of the view! The hustle and bustle of the city was replicated in the water with many people enjoying the water on every kind of boat: tour boats, speed boats, fishing boats, luxury boats, racing boats, tiny boats, large boats and even jet skis.

Invisible systems of etiquette acknowledge which seacraft are most maneuverable.  Sails have the right of way over motors…but like on our roadways, inexperience or recklessness remind us that right of way is no guarantee of safety.  Paying attention to others is crucial at sea, just as it is on the streets of our beautiful city.

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As we got closer the blue curve of the Coronado Bay Bridge came into view.  This is probably the closest thing to an iconic symbol that we have in our city.  And another view of its beauty is revealed from below as I noticed the way it snakes down in a gentle curve as it crosses the span of the bay.

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Coming back through from the other direction, I noticed the optical illusions of distance as it seems that the mast of the sailboat crossing below will certainly scrape the bottom the bridge.

Under sail we were at the mercy of the wind to keep us moving.  And since the wind doesn’t conveniently change direction when you want to go back the other way, a system of tacking or intentional turns allows the sailor to keep the wind in the sails by crisscrossing across the path to reach the desired destination.  (Remember those pulleys and the wheel?  They all come into play during the tacking process!)

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San Diego is a military town, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the San Diego Bay.  The Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier turned museum, is visible along the waterfront. From the street, it is an impressive sight.  From the water, it is spectacular!

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And what system allowed this majestic and enormous vessel to become a floating museum? And what systems interact to keep it functioning?  I know there are educational elements with school field trips, ceremonial elements with honoring of military personnel, tourism elements that bring visitors into contact with military history…

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As we headed back toward the marina, we noticed the tugboats heading toward the ocean. These brilliant orange workhorses are fast and powerful, churning water in their wake (and creating some waves for us aboard a sailboat!).  We knew they would be used to escort a big ship into the bay. What would it be?

What systems are in play when these small but powerful boats are deployed as escorts?  How do they interact with this enormous whale of a warship?

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We searched the mouth of the bay, waiting for the ship to come into our line of sight.  We were soon greeted by the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier, along with military police and two tugboats coming into the bay.  The deck was lined with people who looked to be in civilian clothes.  Was this the end of a dependents’ cruise (where family members go out on the military ship)?

Is this a system created to acknowledge the hardships of having a loved one at sea for months at a time, a way to allow families to reconnect by making the workplace more familiar and accessible?

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We had a front row seat as we watched this elegant gray giant enter the bay.  Other recreational boats gathered round, also taking in the view of this symbol of power and strength–our military might.  Earlier in the day we had passed other military vessels–but all were docked.  Seeing this ship under power is a less than usual sight.

And then there is the military as a system.  It is often invisible to those of us outside of it.  And yet, in this city where I live the military is ever present.  The ins and outs of military vessels are only a small part of the military system.  Behind each ship are interconnected webs of systems that keep them running, informed, stocked, maintained, staffed…

Our outing came to an end as the marina came into view and we navigated our way back into the slip that is home to this sailboat.  But the journey on a boat doesn’t end with the parking. There are sails to be furled, ropes to be tied, hatches to close, instruments to put away…more systems in play to keep the boat maintained and ready for the next use.

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A leisurely day on the ocean…not quite.  But a beautiful day on the ocean…absolutely!  Thanks so much Katie and Joe for including us and allowing us to experience so many symbols of our city from a different perspective.

I noticed so many systems that I don’t ordinarily pay attention to during this one outing (and there are likely many, many more that I didn’t even mention!)  What systems are going on in your place?  How do they impact you and others?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Formation

As I walk on the beach I often notice the pelicans flying above.  I never tire of watching these pterodactyl-like birds.  They are huge and graceful, soaring over the shoreline, often in formation with one or two or a dozen others.  They exchange places seamlessly, the front fliers moving to the rear, always regaining their formation. (You can tell from my photos that the marine layer has been thick here…gray and damp, blocking the sun.)

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Here’s a triad flying by in formation…

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Looking low formations also came into view.  These rock sculpture formations crop up now and then on the beach…this one was standing all alone and caught my eye.

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A demonstration lesson by one of the SI participants had us exploring wind and air pressure through an experiment with a soap cap on a coke bottle.  When we placed the bottle in warm water, a bubble formation appeared at the top!

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And today we engaged in an activity that requires the formation of thoughts and responses to some provocative quotes from readings we have done.  We still call it Chalk Talk even though we use markers on chart paper!

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So, go on a search for formation.  You might spy some that form naturally or they might be manmade.  Be on the lookout for esoteric formations too–you might find evidence of the formation of thought or action or change!

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

So grab your camera and find formation in your world this week.  You can look indoors or out…or maybe combine with last week’s prompt of #makeart and create a formation of your own!

Doors

Sometimes it’s hard to find openings, ways to get in and get out.

Not all doors look like doors—heavy wooden slabs with handles to turn or pull to open and close. And they are not all found on traditional structures like houses and office buildings.

Sometimes the walls that hold you out are made of reeds growing along the shore,

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and frame your view of the world.  You are bound by your idea of wall instead of freed by the open door.

Other doors aren’t doors at all, they are signs warning you of the rules, enter at your own risk,

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marking boundaries of beginning and ends.

Some doors are small, requiring you to duck low, risk the muck and slime

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as you get a glimpse at the light on the other side.

Some doors are bridges to go over or under or through, marking sides, taking sides, allowing access to both sides.

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There are doors on platforms, high enough to see above the fray, watchtowers of protection,

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hope, and possibility.

Doors can be wide angles, opening to vistas

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But you have to find them, recognize them

as openings

as doors

ways in and ways out.

Weekly Photo Challenge: #Make Art

Some days finding a photo to take and post is a challenge.  Most of the photos I take are “found”–meaning that I don’t stage them other than moving around to get a better angle or to change the light.  I seldom arrange things or stage a shot.  But yesterday was different.

First, I was thinking about the idea of re-mediation, a concept being explored in the second make cycle of the CLMOOC.  My photo-a-day prompt was shadow…and I had just gotten home from a full day at the Summer Institute.  As a break from working on my #beachpeople documentary, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to look for a shadow opportunity. Nothing was grabbing my attention–the shadows I noticed seemed ordinary.

That’s when I decided to pick a dandelion puff.  As I looked at it I wondered how I might photograph it in a different way.  I thought about blowing on it…but couldn’t figure out how to hold it, blow on it, and photograph it at the same time…and where would I get shadow from that?  Instead, I started holding the dandelion out to see how it cast its shadow.  I tried the sidewalk, the side of the house, my car mirror, and the shiny paint of my car.  I had to work to get the focal length of my lens right so some portion of the shot would be crisp.  I took a number of shots.

When I headed back inside to study my work, I noticed some interesting images…but I wondered if I might re-mediate them in some way.  I rejected my go-to apps and started to explore some that I seldom use.  PicsArt caught my eye–could I transform this experiment into something that looked like art…rather than a photograph?  (I do think photos are art–but I was looking for something that looked less like a photo and more like a painting or some other kind of art.)

Here’s what I started with–the original, unedited photo.

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And here’s the art I made as I re-mediated the image.

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I love the resulting image–the crispness of the near dandelion and the echo from the shadow.  I might need to print this one and hang it in my house somewhere!

So, make some art!  That might mean playing with some new editing apps, staging the perfect scene, or maybe even catching someone else making art like I did on today’s beachwalk!  (Love catching #beachpeople in action!)

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

So grab your camera and make some art!  You make the rules…and feel free to re-mediate and let your imagination run wild!

#beachpeople: a documentary

As I have worked to grow and stretch with my photography over the last few years, I discovered a genre of photography called street photography.  The idea is to document the people and activity on the street.  I haven’t studied much, but it seems that this photography comes out of cities…places where activity on the street is common, especially if you are paying attention.

This is a harder kind of photography for me, my natural inclination is to pay attention to nature and scenes rather than people and their activity.  It’s also about feeling intrusive, taking pictures of people instead of things.  I’ve read that many street photographers talk to their subjects and ask permission to take photos of them.  And this makes sense to me…but also takes away some of the candid nature of capturing the action in the moment.

So, I have been exploring this idea of street photography on my own terms, in my own place.  I started to capture interesting moments and interesting people on my beachwalks and hashtagging those photos with #beachpeople.  I love the variety of #beachpeople I come across.  They are interesting and diverse.  Some are obviously tourists visiting from other places–across the county and across the world.  And some are natives, the beach is their place.

As this week’s make cycle in the CLMOOC comes to an end, I’ve been considering what the idea of re-mediation means for me…and what my make might be.  And I started thinking about this collection of #beachpeople images.  I decided to I would take these still images and create a documentary-of-sorts.

That took some doing.  I considered using animoto and just tossing my photos in and letting animoto do the work.  But I felt constrained by the 30 second free movie and the lack of editorial control.  So I decided on iMovie–I’ve fiddled with it before (here and here)…but that also meant if I didn’t want to use the overly familiar iMovie music, I would have to figure out how to access open source music. I found this track called Folka Dot Tie by Mr Crispy–The Rat Room that created the sort of mood I was looking for and went to work.

As the mother of a filmmaker, I know what I want things to look like…but not necessarily how to do those things myself.  I did discover some options that I didn’t know about as I positioned the photos and got them to move.  And after spending hours getting to this point, I’m going to let this be good enough for now.  I hope this re-mediation captures the variety and character of this small subset of #beachpeople, documenting just a few of the many reasons I treasure my beachwalks…and enjoy viewing the world through my lens.

I’d love to know what you think when you take a peek at my #beachpeople