Monthly Archives: January 2016

Energize Your Leap Year: February’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Leap year comes only once every four years, bringing an extra day that evens up the calendar with the rotation of the earth around the sun. With all that rotating and leaping going on, it seems like a perfect month to continue the theme of energize with our photographs too!

Out hiking in San Diego’s back country today I noticed this sign advertising the dangers of entering the area…along with the bullet holes evident through the metal!  Luckily today was not a fire risk day and the hike was beautiful!


On a beach walk I took recently I noticed this surfer with his surfboard carefully balanced on his head.  I couldn’t resist snapping a picture…and he smiled when he noticed me.  It’s importance to practice balance in lots of ways.


I’ve been noticing other photographers “in the field” and have enjoyed photographing the photographer.  Watching others with their cameras gives me a way to think about and understand my own processes.  I couldn’t quite decide what this guy was focused on.  You can see the fisherman in front of him, but I never did confirm his subject–he might have been photographing the waves.


I love watching seagulls and capturing their antics through my lens. Many of the photos are static, making this one even more interesting as I caught the seagull wading as the rising surf moved into his space.


And here’s one from a while back when I went to watch my niece dance at her university. This recital ended with an exuberant African dance to the beat of music played by drummers in the room.  I love the energy of the dance and the way even the small movements seemed to leap from the floor.  (I loved my niece’s dance too…but this African piece was contagious!)


When I heard the giggles of these kids playing in the surf, I immediately turned my camera lens to catch them in silhouette.  I love all the ways to enjoy the beach–regardless of age–


from playing to meditating (like this guy crafting a meditative mandala maze)–there is something for everyone!


So for the not-quite-as-short-as-usual month of February be on the lookout for shots that energize.  Look for action both subtle and obvious. Capture the moment of the leap, figuratively or metaphorically.  To get you started, here is a list of verbs to remind you of the variety of action and energy you might find as you head out with your camera.

  1. Advertise
  2. Balance
  3. Bloom
  4. Craft
  5. Design
  6. Ease
  7. Flip
  8. Giggle
  9. Help
  10. Inquire
  11. Jot
  12. Knot
  13. Leap (of course!)
  14. Meditate
  15. Nurture
  16. Ooze
  17. Practice
  18. Question
  19. Revise
  20. Shine
  21. Think
  22. Understand
  23. Vanish
  24. Wait
  25. Wade
  26. e”X”amine
  27. Yawn
  28. Zip
  29. Your choice!  (This day only comes once every four years!)

As always, our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. The prompts are there to help you find new ways to look at your world, to find the unexpected in the ordinary and the beauty in the mundane. You can use them in order or pick and choose as you like–you are welcome to add a new prompt into the mix if you are so moved. 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.

Energize February with your photos of action, leaps of imagination, and innovative designs.  Let February be your muse as you view the world through your lens.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

As I looked through my photos this month, I noticed that many of them are monochromatic (grays and blues and whites).  Maybe this is a side effect of winter–a time when flowers are less likely to bloom, people wear dark colors, and the sun may be muted by cloudy skies.

And although my photo-a-day prompt for today was black and white, I went out in search of color when I stopped to walk after school.  I walked along the beach for a while, watching the extra large waves crash onto the shore (we’re expecting a storm this weekend).  I noticed this bright plastic piece among the rocks and bent down to investigate.  After taking a photo, I picked up the electronic chip to dispose of (in the spirit of #litterati) and continued on my way.


After watching kids playing tag with the waves, I headed up some stairs in search of a different view.  As I neared the top these orange plants came into view…along with the view of the ocean behind them.


As I continued my walk back through an alley, I spied a bouquet of balloons in the park that overlooks the beach.  They were tied to the top of a small doll house…and they glowed in the sun.  I did play around with some editing apps to see what I could create…and here is one version.


Yesterday I also did some filter play…enhancing the sunset that was already irresistible. The colors in the sky were inspiring!  (I do wish you could see the paddle boarder out there, silhouetted in the sunset.


I take lots and lots of photos of this tree near my driveway…especially when the sky calls out to me.  We’ve had lots of pink and orange skies lately…like this one I snapped earlier this week.


Last weekend I had my zoom lens out on the beach (you can read more about that here), and noticed this girl laying in the warmer, shallow waters of the tide pool.  I wasn’t quite quick enough to catch her laying down, but I did catch her brightly colored wetsuit as she flipped her hair forward and sat up.


And I love playing around with night photography–and the full moon offered a great opportunity over the weekend.  I love the bright red and yellow colors of In and Out Burger foregrounding the full moon.


So, even though it’s still winter and colors are harder to find, search out some color to feature this week.  Or you might do like I did, and experiment with some editing apps to deepen or brighten the colors you do 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 #color for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

So go out in search of color.  What will you find when you search for color through your lens?

Changing My Lens

Most of the time when I take photos, I use the same lens.  On my iPhone, it’s the lens that comes with the phone and on my Sony a6000 I usually use the 16-50 lens that came standard with the camera.  They are functional and work in most situations…and they’ve become familiar, I know the distances they can handle almost instinctively.

On Saturday I decided to use my zoom lens as we headed out to the beach for a walk.  I’ve used it before and know that it is great to zoom in on things in the distance, but it works differently than the lens I use regularly.  I knew when I made the decision to use another lens that it would mean looking at the beach differently.  I would have to look further out because of the change in range.  And I would have to pay attention to focus since the zoom doesn’t lock in as quickly as the other lens does.

The zoom definitely brings birds in close…if you can lock in a focus quickly enough.  I didn’t quite get the bird crisply here, but I like the way the background is crisp with the out of focus bird flying directly into my line of sight.


With the bigger than usual surf this week I found that the zoom brought it up closer, helping the camera see the impressiveness that is hard to capture with my usual lens.


And this one brought the rusty color and fluffy texture of the red algae alive against the foamy whiteness of the waves crashing in the background.


Seagulls let me come pretty close, but these little sea birds are pretty skittish, making it hard to ever get them in a photo.  Here you can see just how much smaller they are compared to your average seagull.


You can see how much of the reef has been exposed as the sand has been washed out by the winter tides and how often it is covered with water by the lush algae growth exposed only at low tide. (Notice how the zoom not only captured the surfer, but also the seagull taking off just to the side of him.)


I noticed this rusty pail wedged in the rocks.  At first I wasn’t sure I could take a photo using my zoom lens, but standing back a bit I was able to shoot this.  I’m liking the colors and textures most about this photo.


As I headed out on Sunday, again with my zoom lens, I was optimistic that I would see and capture interesting photos using it.  After stopping at our favorite donut shop for some donuts and the local coffee shop for some coffee, we pulled along the side of 101 to watch the surfers on the big waves.  The guy with a massive lens nearby was probably getting more interesting shots than I was, but I enjoyed the movement I captured in this shot of a surfer on a ride with another right below him.


And I’m not quite sure what to do with this one.  I like the view of the pelicans right above the surf, but the composition is not ideal.  Could I edit it some way to make the image more interesting?  More appealing in some way?


What I do know is that when I look through a different lens, I see the world differently. The colors change, what seems prominent through one lens recedes with another.  And what I didn’t notice or couldn’t see with my “regular” lens suddenly becomes visible when viewed through the zoom.

While the camera lenses are interchangeable and it certainly isn’t difficult to change them, it’s often inconvenient to change them “in the field.”  And at times I find myself wishing for the one I am not currently using, finding it frustrating (and annoying) to be looking through the one that doesn’t allow me to see as clearly as I would like.

Changing lenses reminds me just how important it is to get beyond my usual way of seeing things.  Sometimes I need to pull in close and get a macro view…exploring the small details while other times I need to step back and take the long view with sweeping vistas and full context.  And then there’s the zoom, bringing the far closer, limiting the context as I find that distant focus.

I can change my lens without physically changing my camera lens.  I’m optimistic that I can make the effort to look in different ways and try to see through the eyes and experiences of those around me.  Just knowing that there are other ways of seeing makes a difference in the ways I look and see.  And what I see can make a difference in the way I act.

And then this short video appeared on my email today.  Stop, Look, Go! Might just change your lens…and maybe your day too!






Weekly Photo Challenge: Quiet

Some weeks the noise and activity of daily life build up to a roar and I crave quiet.  Quiet doesn’t always means perfectly silent, instead it is a place where I can hear myself think…or not think at all.

It seems that when my feet are moving, my brain can quiet.  Sunday’s hike in the Torrey Pines Reserve helped me find that quiet space.  While it wasn’t isolated, the iconic beauty of these rare trees, the endless blue of the sky, and the calming white noise of the waves let me focus on the natural beauty and the movement of my feet instead of the much too long to-do list and the busy week ahead.


There is something about looking down on the freeway where I spend so much time commuting through the frame of a bare tree that feels calming.  The freeway was a whisper instead of a roar, my attention was drawn to the layers of hills and sky instead.


The beach called me all week, inviting quiet walks after work several days this week. I watched the seagulls playing in the wind currents as the sun settled into the sea.


I picked up a tulip plant at Trader Joes over the weekend, treating myself to the quiet beauty of the blooms.  It was also an opportunity to play with my iris macro lens attachment for my iPhone, looking closely from a variety of angles.


Pulling into my own driveway offered a moment of quiet appreciation of the sky framed by this crazy, interesting tree.  The tree doesn’t grow particularly well, but makes an interesting focus for sky gazing (I take way too many pictures that feature this tree!).


I was back at the beach again after work today, walking in the quiet, soaking in the sea air, enjoying the solitude.  I picked up this sea fan (not really sure what it is called) and played around with photographing it.  I like the way the sun peeks through this view.


I saw quite a few of these turban snail shells.  This one was snuggled into the sand…much bigger than the ones I usually see.  Instead of picking it up, I stooped low to collect the photo rather than the shell.


I noticed the colors…the green of the algae, the blues of the sky and water, the gold of the setting sun and the darkness of the shapes silhouetted by the light behind them…and I heard the quiet of nature’s beauty.  I felt my shoulders relax and dropped my burdens for a while.  I still have some work ahead of me…but the quiet allowed me space to recharge–both my energy and my spirits.


So, where do you find quiet?  Is it amidst the noisy clatter of the kitchen as you work magic preparing food?  In your garden, tending the plants trying to survive unpredictable weather?  On the playground watching your child at play?  With busy hands as you knit, crochet, sew, paint…?

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

How will you express quiet through a photo?  Where do you go when you seek respite from the busy of your life?  This week go out and find your quiet…and share it through your lens!




Erosion: Reading Nature’s Text

One of my favorite things about hiking is spending time outdoors, up close to nature’s beauty.  Today  I found myself pretty close to home, at a place I have been a number of times before.  We’d been thinking about venturing further out, but were having trouble finding the information we needed for the unfamiliar hike we wanted to try–so we decided to save that for another day and decided to head to Torrey Pines Reserve instead.

Apparently our idea wasn’t an original one…there were tons of people there!  After waiting in a line of cars to enter the park and making our way up the hillside to park, we headed out onto the trails.  I noticed right away the deep trenches in the trails, a visible impact of the heavy rains over a week ago.


It was clear that the rangers had employed sandbags and other tools to limit the damage, but nature is strong and water’s power is amazing.  I noticed erosion around me, thinking about the differences in this place over the years I have visited.  The landscape is constantly changing, pieces of the cliff are undermined by the wind and water and drop off to the beach below. Pathways move and are moved–directing the public away from danger and protecting sensitive ground and plants.


In spite of human intervention, the edge of the cliffs keep changing, moving east away from the sea.  As we continued our hike toward the ocean, I noticed all the ways people have worked to shore up and protect access to the beach.  Steps replaced the scary ledges I remember traversing on a field trip years ago.


Deep grooves become pathways up and over the cliffs, creating access to other less crowded stretches of beach.



This natural process of erosion creates new landscapes, new spaces to explore and to adapt. It’s a reminder that change is not a choice, it is a natural consequence of our interactions with the natural environment, with people and places, and with ideas. The rains and the wind and placement of our feet forge landscapes that didn’t exist before–some subtle and barely noticeable and some dramatic and barely recognizable.


And as much as we resist change and warn about its dangers, it will come. So maybe nature’s reminder is to pay attention, appreciate each moment, and adapt to the changes…maybe even anticipate the changes, allowing us to work with them rather than against them. Read the environment, nature’s text, the alphabet of rock and soil, as a way to understand both the story of the past and the one that will be written by those to come.


Change is constant, change is natural…so look for opportunities to notice change, to adapt to the changing landscape, and even to sculpt your vision for tomorrow. What will your story be?





Walking My Way In

I spent the last several days thinking and talking about leadership and the pathways that lead to and open into leadership opportunities—particularly in a writing project context. Settled in the rustic natural beauty of the hills outside Austin, I did a lot of walking, and talking, and thinking.


In the educational community, many teachers doubt their leadership—especially if it is situated outside of the classroom. Leadership feels like something bestowed, it comes with a recognizable title, and it means telling others what to do.

But in so many ways, my own experiences with leadership have involved making and doing. It has been about invitations that carry with them a sense of belief that I have something to offer—maybe something I haven’t yet recognized in myself. It has been about saying yes even when I wasn’t sure of what saying yes meant.

And like this weekend, sometimes I walk behind someone else, noticing the footsteps, watching where they sidestep the boggy places and climb over the branches.


Sometimes I break the trail, exploring through my feet on the ground, listening to the sounds around me, noting the running water and the squirrel that runs overhead. When I feel lost (and that definitely happens!), I stop to look and listen. What happened to my path? Can I find it again…or make my own in the moment? And there are times when I simply have to backtrack, retracing the steps I already took.


So I know how to support new leaders in the ways I have been supported to grow as a leader. But how do we recognize and make spaces for leaders with abilities and knowledge different from our own?

How do we make spaces so their leadership can take root and grow outside the groomed planter boxes that are easily recognizable?


All that walking and talking has me contemplating possibilities, and is lighting the fires of design thinking.  I’m looking forward to gathering a team at our writing project site to considering alternatives that will include those who haven’t found our typical entry points, creating new access–hopefully for those who bring talents and perspectives currently missing from our conversations and our planning.


I’m walking my way in to new understandings…and I hope that will also open up new pathways for others to walk their way into leadership at our site, enriching and expanding our community of learners and leaders.




Weekly Photo Challenge: Outlines

I was recently reading a newsletter from a blogger I enjoy ( and something she wrote caught my eye…that the word photography comes from Greek roots meaning writing with light. Now that makes sense to me.  Sometimes I feel like I draw with the light…and sometimes I feel like I am drawing the outlines between the light.

The other night I was walking back to my room at the retreat center where I was staying in Austin and started to notice the shadows of trees along the walkways.  As I stopped to take pictures, I also noticed that I entered some of the images as well, outlined in shadow.


The tree in front of my house has become a favorite of mine, drawing my attention upward. It’s bare branches outline interesting angles creating a perfect frame for viewing the sky and clouds, helping me notice the blues and grays and whites beyond.


Sometimes I find myself chasing the setting sun, trying to capture the nuances of light and color.  Hiking in Austin meant searching for the sun through the trees along the trails. This shot caught the sun outlined thickly in orange peeking through the trees.  (That’s not snow or water…those are rocks on the ground!)


Apparently prickly pear is as common in Austin as it is here at home.  I love the way the light outlines this view of the flat, spiky pads and the rounded red fruit.


Finding the word “Exit” outlined in thick black marker makes me wonder how many people have felt lost or confused trying to complete this loop trail.  I know when I climbed the many log stairs at the end of the loop, I was looking for the exit!  I didn’t need the sign…and actually overlooked it the first time I walked the trail.


And there is something about sunsets.  They seem to outline the landscape in color: rich reds and oranges and yellows.  And if you look closely, you will find the moon–a thin sliver outlined in light.


So, where do you find the light creating outlines?  Or shadows and color outlining images you see?  How do you write with light and see those outlines you find in your world?

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

Take a look around for outlines you notice.  Which are created with light? With shadow? With color?  How will you interpret outlines through your lens?