Monthly Archives: July 2017

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!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Be Ready

I’ve noticed that my state of mind plays a role in determining what I see.  It’s so easy to overlook what is right in front of you, especially if you are looking for something else.  This week I’ve been working to pay attention to what is in front of me.  I walk past an art installation on the UCSD campus each day as I head to our Summer Institute.  Fallen Star is a tiny house (back before the Tiny House movement) perched on the top of the engineering building.  We’ve had many gray mornings (one of the downsides of being near the coast), the flat gray light seems to make things all blend together.  But some early morning sunshine this week had me looking more carefully and noticing lines, angles and shadows.

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The Independence Day holiday gave us some extra time to explore our surroundings.  We headed out to a local hiking trail–a bit inland where it is hot and dry these days.  This year’s rains mean the creek is still flowing, but our native foliage is drying out.  I noticed these dandelion-like puffs along the trail, bursts almost like mini fireworks spreading their seeds as they wait for moisture to germinate.

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There are lots of interesting cars in our area.  Near the beach we often see vintage cars, especially “woodies,” those fancy old station wagons that are often featured in surfing movies.  Low riders are much less prevalent.  I’m glad that I stopped to look closely as a parade of low riders drove through the drop off circle at the beach.  I watched the drivers “dance” with their cars, lifting and lowering, showing off and posturing to each other and the crowd.

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I’ve been finding a lot of glasses on the beach glasses.  Sunglasses are pretty common, often found with an arm missing, only one lens, bent and mangled from their time in the surf.  I almost missed this pair of prescription lens buried in the kelp washed up on the shore.  I’m sure that someone is bummed that these were lost!

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After running some errands last night, we stopped by for a quick dinner.  As we headed to the car afterwards my husband pointed to the almost full moon rising.  As we looked to the sky we also noticed the oranges and pinks of the sun setting in the distance.  We decided to take the coastal route home, hoping there would be a place to pull of the road and photograph the sky.  The sun had already dipped below the horizon, but the clouds reflected the residual color.

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And when I looked in the other direction, I saw the moon again, this time shrouded in cotton candy clouds.  With just a hint of pink from the setting sun and a hint of the blue sky not yet dark, the moon was blanketed in soft swirls.

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Earlier in the day, on my way home from work, I stopped by Torrey Pines State Beach for a walk.  The weather was warm and muggier than usual.  The tide was low-ish, but not too low.  I walked in the water, letting the salty water cool my feet and wash away the work week, clearing the way for the weekend.  As I walked I noticed a big brown rock-like structure in front of me.  Or was it a rock?  As I got closer it was clear it was an animal…a seal?  A sea lion?  Dead or alive?  I was relieved to see it moving.  It was a sea lion laying on the beach.  As I approached, keeping my distance, the sea lion got up to warn some people nearby not to get too close.  I started snapping, wanting to capture the movement and beauty of the wildlife.  I’m hoping the sea lion was simply enjoying the beach and not sick.

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So, be ready for what appears in your path this week.  What will you notice when your mind is ready to see what is there and not what you hope to find?  Be sure to keep your camera handy!

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

Open your eyes and your mind to all that is in front of you.  Be sure to grab your camera and take some shots to share what you find when you take the time to #beready!

 

Take Action and Keep Reaching

One of the things I love most about photography is its complexity.  There is a pretty low floor, everybody can participate in the experience of taking photos–just point and shoot–and you’ll have a reminder of the moment you just experienced.

Because I’ve been posting a photo every day for almost five years now on Instagram (August 1, 2012 was my start date), I can track my progress as a photographer.  I can see how my choices in subject, framing, light, and overall composition continue to improve.  I can see where I have experimented with different techniques–a summer spent with a focus on my version of street photography that I called “Beach People” –and pushed my creativity and skill development.   (See #beachpeople: a documentary) I give myself new challenges to keep my photography fresh and energizing, especially since I take pictures as part of my everyday life, meaning a lot of the photos I take are at places I frequent regularly.  For me, many photos are taken at Moonlight Beach, a place where I love to walk.

Today, on our nation’s Independence Day, I was immediately drawn to the volleyball courts.  The American flags were waving, lots of people were gathering, and volleyball players were in action.  At first I wanted to capture the flags waving with the beach in the background, but then I started shooting.  My goal immediately changed and I wanted to capture a shot that showed the intensity of the play in action.  I could see that I needed to time my shot to catch the ball in play right over the net.  After a few tries, I was pretty sure I had at least one shot with the action.  Here is my resulting shot.

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The flag, the ball, the arms, and feet…and the bonus: the puffs of sand under the feet.  This image has not been edited or filtered, this is how I shot it.

Last week I was intent on capturing surfers in action during a surfing contest.  You can see my photo of Rob Machado here.  I was using my zoom lens, which makes it hard to focus and “see” the just right spot in the distance.  But I persisted and got a few nice action shots of surfers at their best.

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Leaving the beach today, we noticed some low-rider cars pulling through the beach drop off.  I started taking photos before they started showing off their hydraulics and bouncing the cars.  I was fascinated with the dance of the cars…a sort of call and response…with bobbing. popping, and even turns up on one wheel.

My camera gave me the time and focus to appreciate what these cars and drivers were offering.  I could see the complexity of the art of the low rider as I watched them maneuver their cars into position, “posture” with the hydraulics, and play with the crowd.

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I love that photography has a low floor, I was able to get started with very few skills and only minimal equipment.  My first several years of photos were taken with my phone camera.  But I also love that photography has a high ceiling.  As much as I learn, there is so much more to learn and reach for.  I still take photos with my phone and I also now use a Sony a6000 (a light, mirrorless, DSLR-like camera).  I take most of my photos in the automatic mode, knowing that there are also endless possibilities for manual adjustments.  Even in the automatic mode there are many choices that I make, from the focal distance to the framing and light.  I can see years of learning and improvement ahead of me.

Through my camera lens I am reminded that learners need both entry points and opportunity to stretch.  And that reminder carries over to my work as both a teacher of students and a facilitator of professional development for teachers too.  Let your learners in…and keep them interested in pushing themselves, in challenging “good enough” by reaching for possibility–not just completing assignments.  Just as I know there is no end to learning about photography…I also know there is no end to learning about teaching and learning.  And the goal of lifelong learning is not just my personal goal, but a goal I hold for all the learners I touch as well.