Monthly Archives: July 2017

Weekly Photo Challenge: Flanerie

Even when life is busy I try to make time to wander aimlessly.  Some days I am better at it than others.  When I head out with my camera without a specific goal in mind, I often find unexpected treasures…a slice of light, a shadow, a bird flying low, or something I can’t even imagine when I make the decision to wander.  And I love how the process of wandering sets off my wondering impulses, creating curiosity, leading me to further exploration and ultimately to new learning opportunities.

I didn’t know there was a name for this until I read Deanna’s blogpost the other day and learned about a course she is designing with flanerie at its heart.  The key to flanerie as I understand it, is the reflection on that wandering and wondering (through writing) that leads to new understandings of ourselves as humans and our connections in the larger world.

The past week had me wandering along the coast of northern California.  We had an overall game plan before we left home, we knew where we would spend each night but the rest of our time was unscheduled leaving room for exploration and spontaneity.  There is something magical about a redwood forest.  Trees that seem to reach up forever create their own climate.  Sun shines in slants, creating textures of light and shadow.  And there is the quiet–as dense as the trees themselves–I felt like I could hear my heart beat and focus on each breath as I walked miles through the forests.

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When I learned that architect Julia Morgan had designed a structure for a space in the forest, I knew I wanted to wander there.  We headed there early, a drive through trees, in some places so narrow we wondered if our car would fit through.  The early light was soft, bringing out the greens of the stones (from the eel river, I learned).  There’s something special about a person-made structure that takes advantage of all nature offers.  This piece, Hearthstone, was built to commemorate the efforts of a group of women to save old growth trees in this forest.

In 1900, as the earliest example of a Kickstarter campaign, 65,000 women raised $45,000 to protect a stunning grove of old-growth redwoods. Their grove abuts the Rockefeller Grove, donated by the largess of one very rich man, in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, a bit north of Garberville, about 228 miles north of San Francisco.

These women organized the California Federation of Women’s Clubs. They hired Julia Morgan in 1932 to design and build a central gathering space. She designed an amazing memorial, symbolizing the power of their gift, which she called a “Hearthstone.” It is a 4-sided outdoor fireplace with four witty, poetic medallions above the mantel of each hearth.

The four corner posts supporting the roof are tree trunks, while the center masonry chimney is a human deference to the massive strength of the heroic trees. More than a simple utilitarian fireplace for cooking or heating, the folded roof converts the monument into an elegant weather-protected shelter, symbolic of a humble abode in the forest, crafted with elegant joinery of wood beams and posts, celebrating this special Eden. (http://levinearch.com/redwood-grove-shelter-by-julia-morgan/)

Here’s my photo of this beautiful structure.

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And in the same space  where Julie Morgan designed a person-made structure, I found nature-made structures that inspired awe with their beauty.  I feel like I am learning about the beauty that exists in death this summer.  The redwood forest is a complex ecosystem that depends on both life and death for the health of the forest.  I watched new life grow out of decaying trunks, enriched by what was there before.  The timing was poignant as my mother-in-law died Monday morning, the forest reminded us that death continues to offer us bounty and beauty.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this upturned tree, nature’s art composed from the death of the tree.

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And then there is new life, springing up.  It is surprising to find the delicate flowers and lacy ferns thriving beneath the tall giants.  I love when nature creates her own still life, leaving it there for me to find and capture through my lens.

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From the redwoods we wandered to the beach, stopping first to explore the small town of Ferndale, CA.  The temperature dropped as we headed near the coast, making me glad I had packed some jackets.  We entered Ferndale by crossing a historic bridge over a river to enter a valley with farms dotting the landscape.  Cows were plentiful as well as barns as we drove into this Victorian village that felt like going back in time.  Our wanderings took us down narrow lanes, where we stopped off to snap a glimpse of the farming life.  (Hay bales like this will forever remind me of my cousins and spending summers in Castle Rock, WA where we rode along on the trucks as my uncles picked up and stacked the bales–something far removed from my San Diego life.)

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Beaches in northern CA are nothing like beaches here.  First, the weather is cold–highs into the low and mid 60s in late July!  There are lots of sand dunes and breathtaking cliffs.  This cliff near Trinidad, CA also featured wildflowers, a treat after a harrowing and twisty turny trip down a bumpy and often one-laned road to access it.  You can see the thick fog in the distance…there was no sunset on this evening as we drove back into the fog bank to find our lodging.

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We set our hopes low on the coastal journey the next day, knowing that the sunshine could be elusive.  But we were treated to a sunny day that brings out the brilliance of the blue of the sky and the sea.  It was fun to have this seagull fly right into my frame as I took this photo overlooking Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

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Further down the coast we stopped off to hike out to this lighthouse.  We could hear the sea lions vocalizing in the distance (even though we couldn’t see them) as we walked toward the point where the lighthouse sits.  You can see the light in the distance as this lighthouse continues to warn ships that land is near.

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The long stretch of highway home seems to go on forever.  There’s lots of time to think and talk and to pay attention to unusual points of interest.  I have pictures of tomato trucks, log trucks, cows and more.  A collection of working oil derricks caught my attention as we crossed the central valley from Salinas to intersect highway 5.  And then I noticed this corridor of electrical towers that seems almost like a fancy entrance to southern CA.

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So, enjoy some flanerie this week.  Head out and wander aimlessly.  Wander and wonder and write…and take some photos too.  What will you learn about yourself as you explore without a predetermined goal?

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

Grab your camera and experiment with flanerie this week.  Wander and wonder, write some poetry or just doodle a bit (doodling is the focus of clmooc this week!). Be sure to share what you learn with the rest of us!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Distance

Some weeks are about getting close, putting your nose up against the window, noticing every detail.  But for me, this last week has been about the long view, looking into the distance.

There’s nothing like a road trip to get you looking long.  The seemingly endless freeway laid out in front of you, promising hours and hours in the car until you reach that destination.  It seems a shame to waste all that time, lucky for me, my camera turns that long, endless highway into an opportunity for a study.

California is fascinating.  I live at the bottom of the state, the southern boundary, nestled right up next to Mexico.  We are known for our beautiful beaches and temperate climate. And who doesn’t love the beach?  Here’s sign in the distance meant for dog parents (although who is really reading when the beach is beautiful and the water feels so nice?).

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When the high tide prevents you from going in one direction, you simply turn around and head the other way.  This stretch of beach led us to a bridge where the river mouth allows the lagoon and beach to connect…and creates new playgrounds.  Can you see the floaters in the distance?

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I can never resist a sunset, although the marine layer along the coast has made them a bit unpredictable lately.  We thought we might not see any sunshine as we headed to the beach last weekend, but a bit of sun peeked through the thick clouds.  As we walked, we noticed the bubble man in the distance and I had to stop to snap some bubble photos.

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You can see the sun trying to make its way through the clouds behind the bubbles.  It’s such fun to watch the giant bubbles form and float into the distance just out of reach of all the hands trying to touch and pop them.

Another night I noticed the sun setting through the window at home.  I headed out with my camera to see if I could catch the colors I was seeing in the distance.  A bit of editing made the sky pop with the colors I was seeing.

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Back to the road trip.  We’re making our way up the length of the long narrow state, first crawling through LA traffic (with a quick stop for hugs and kisses from one grandson) and then back on the road, over the grapevine into the central valley to stop for the night.  Of course, again I needed to catch the sunset through my lens, and through the gas station parking lot.

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The next morning had us back on the road heading to see our other two grandson for the next leg of our adventure.  The tomato trucks always catch my attention (you can see that I’ve written about them before), there’s something about the open trucks piled high with red, ripe tomatoes that makes me pull out my camera.  I also learned that California grows the majority of tomatoes for the nation, with most of them farmed in the central valley area because of the hot, dry summers.  I watched and snapped truck after truck after truck as we passed them on the long stretch of highway.

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As we turned from highway 5 toward the 580, instead of trucks it was windmills that caught my eye.  The Altamont Pass wind farm was one of the first in the United States, a response to the 70’s energy crisis (something I just learned after taking photos of the wind turbines).  There are nearly 5000 perched on the distant hillsides as you make your way into the East Bay.

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And when I turned back to look behind, I noticed all these cows on the hillside too, seemingly undisturbed by the windmills in the distance.

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So, take the long view this week.  What do you see in the distance?  Will you look through a window, from the top of a hill, from the end of your driveway?

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

Gaze into the distance…what will you see?  I can’t wait to see what you find!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sky

Some days and in some places you just have to look up.  I’m always surprised and fascinated by what I see when I look at the sky.  The sky here where I live is often blue (or almost invisible when cloaked in the gray of a thick marine layer), so when puffy white clouds appear, I notice.

Last weekend I couldn’t help but notice that the sky almost seemed like the sea with these colorful octopi floating in the foamy white of the clouds.  Kites mimicking the ocean below.

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Drones have become prevalent in our skies along the coast.  During the surf contest a few weeks ago I counted four at one time hovering over the heads of the surfers.  I couldn’t resist this sign–not in the sky–restricting drones from the sky at our local state beach.  I suspect they are restricted here because this is a path often used by military aircraft flying back and forth from Miramar Air Station.

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I had the opportunity to spend time in the Denver area this week as I worked with National Writing Project colleagues.  Somehow at “mile high” altitude, the clouds seem closer.  I noticed them as I waited to take the light rail from our conference center into the city, billowing above the pedestrian bridge.

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I noticed the clouds and the sky reflected in the towering glass buildings when I explored downtown Denver.

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The sky fell away from my focus as my eyes followed the lines of this structure up, up and up.  I turned this way and that with my camera trying the capture the size and wonder of this…I’m not even sure what it is…going from the ground high into the sky.

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And there is never enough time.  Time to explore new places, to chat with friends and colleagues, to work on interesting project…and much too soon I found myself back at the Denver airport.  From the windows of the car as I arrived my eyes were drawn to the peaks of the white sails against the stacked pillows of clouds and I wished I could just ask the driver to pull over so I could take some photos, but I resisted, capturing that image only in my mind.  But as I walked into the airport, I caught a glimpse of one sail peak and some clouds reflected in the glass of the airport building and I stopped.  The contrast of the angular lines of steel and glass with the curves of the tower and the organic billows of clouds captured my imagination.  I find myself coming back to this image.

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Once near my gate, I kept walking, noticing large windows in the distance.  Would I get another glimpse at the sky?  Could I capture the closeness of the clouds and vastness of the sky through the airport windows?  Not really.  But here is a fragment of the sky as seen through the window of the Denver airport.

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So, this is your week to look at the sky.  What does it have to offer in terms of photographic interest?  Will you be looking at summer blue skies or the threat of storms brewing in the distance?  Maybe you’ll focus on a bird or an airplane or a balloon floating, soaring, diving.  As always, you get to choose.

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 grab your camera and point it toward the sky.  Be sure to share what you find with the rest of us!