It was a rare rainy morning, the kids had been in the auditorium before school since it was too wet to play on the playground. As they crushed through the outdoor hallways to the classroom, I heard one of my students call out, “Look at the millipede!” Sure enough, on the wall outside the classroom hung a pretty good-sized millipede. As we looked, our principal approached, always interested in creatures and eager to help move the millipede from the wall to a protected natural place. But before she moved it, I had to take a photo. On her suggestion, another of my students laid her finger alongside it to establish scale.
This idea of scale is one I have been thinking about all day. Relative size, importance, and impact can all be aspects of scale. And scales are variable. I often joke about the way our local weather newscasters talk so seriously about “storm watch” when referring to a chance of rain. A colleague seemed to be amused by all the concern as she referred to the storm warnings as “SD-style storms” in an email…perhaps because of her upbringing far from the mild weather associated with San Diego. (To be fair, the storm was a big one for us, bringing more than an inch and a half of rain at the airport and more in other places around the county. And since storms are rare, they definitely cause havoc!)
Scale comes into play when reporting student progress too. A conversation on Monday in a district meeting had us debating the relative merits of rubrics and role of the report card in teaching and learning. Do students need to be “above average” or at the top of the reporting scale to be successful learners? Is the scale relative to other children in the same grade or to the student herself? What is the difference between consistently meeting standards and steadily progressing toward those same standards? How does the reporting help or hinder the learning process?
I don’t have the answers to these meaty questions, yet understand the worries of parents, of the public, and of educators striving to do their best for students.
Back to the millipede, I’m glad to have a record of it being as long as my student’s finger. I’ve seen bigger millipedes, but not in the wild crawling up my classroom wall. But I also wish I had a photo without the finger to allow the focus to be on the creature itself, to appreciate its unique beauty, and consider what it has to offer in this world where we live.
While the midwest and east have been blasted with arctic storms and crazy wind chills, here in San Diego weather has been mild and warm with Christmas temperatures in the 70s on the beach. We had that moment in the spring where it seemed like the years-long drought was over only to have months without rain capped by devastating wildfires throughout California in late November and December.
After two weeks off for winter break, we returned to school today. Fresh faced kids greeted me with tales of their holiday exploits, eager to be back with friends and ready to get back to the business of school. I am grateful to teach a room full of kids who love to learn. And all day we could feel the weather change in the air. Clouds gathered and loosed a few droplets here and there throughout the day, but the real rain held off.
An after school meeting encroached on my afternoon walk, but I felt the urge to head to the beach, even for a few minutes, to see if I could snap a few photos of the approaching storm. It was gray but not yet dark as I pulled up to park at my favorite beach. I grabbed my camera and stepped out of the car only to have the wind slap me with a face full of sand. I made my way to the edge of the cliff to see what images would appear in my viewfinder and snapped a couple of shots when I was approached by a young woman with a microphone.
It turns out the woman was a reporter from a local news station in need of someone to interview about the weather. She told me I’d be doing them a favor if I would come over and answer a few question (on camera!). So, as the wind whipped and the raindrops started to fall, I talked about the weather on camera. When I got home, I turned on the news…and with perfect timing, my husband walked in the door from work in time to see my 15 second interview! And I managed to videotape it on my phone from our TV…thus my 15 seconds of fame! (Here’s a screenshot, you can see the video footage on my Instagram post if you are interested.)
As a photographer it’s easy to see the big things…the colorful sunset, the magnificent vista…and I’ve taken many photos of those, many that you have seen if you follow my blog. Lately I’ve been looking closely in an effort to notice the smallest of details in hopes of creating something different, more nuanced, through my lens.
The moon was spectacular in December, well before the super moon made headlines (unfortunately it was too foggy here to get a good view). My eye was drawn to the bright crescent and I worked to snap that crisp clear shot. With some light in the sky right past sunset, I was able to get a view that satisfied my inner critic.
A trip to the zoo with my grandsons had me searching for animals that they could spot…and it wasn’t easy since many hide in the shadows on a warm day. But looking up I kept noticing the Skyfari ride and the ways the buckets passed each other every so often. I particularly like this shot with the iconic palm tree in the frame.
Much to my husband’s dismay, our front yard has become a haven for dandelions. He cuts the grass and the dandelions pop right back up. I love the way the light shines through the puffs in this shot with the bicycle rider in the background. Sometimes my own front yard is the perfect venue for a photograph.
This week has been marked by extreme low tides in the afternoons, a favorite time for walking for me. I love the wide beach and the way the landscape is changed as the sea pulls back. This fisherman was way out on the algae-covered outcropping when I heard the helicopter overhead. The juxtaposition of fisherman, helicopter, clouds and light pique my interest. I haven’t tried any editing on this image yet, I wonder what might make it even more interesting…
The low tide has also brought out the playfulness of the pelicans. Walking out along the waterline brought me closer than my usual vantage. I stood and watched this guy float, then fly up and search the surf only to drop into a cannonball-like dive. I managed to catch this shot of the head-first dive.
I don’t usually do much food photography–mostly because I don’t eat very interesting (or photogenic) food. But today I decided to try the portrait mode on my iPhone to take this unedited shot of my Mexican chicken soup from Jorge’s Mexicatessen. I like the sheen of the fat on the surface of the broth, the green of the avocado, and the silvery aluminum foil that holds yummy hand-made tortillas. This is the BEST soup, a cure for all that ails you. Luckily, I’m not feeling sick, but it never hurts to have a dose just for good measure!
So, it’s your turn. What details will you find when you head out with your camera? The curve of a smile, the wag of a tail, a tender bud poking up through the snow? (That last suggestion does not come from my reality…but I am obsessed with snow pictures!)
Share your #details this week, in images or words…or both. 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 #details, you can also link your post in my comments.
Sharpen your vision and look closely for details. Be sure to share your image(s). I can’t wait to see the details you find through your lens.
Water. There is something about the sound of a splash, waves curling with foam before crashing onto the shore, the white noise of the ebb and flow of tides that brings a calm and focus to my brain, causing connections to build, ideas to generate, understandings to emerge.
Maybe it is the smell, briny molecules that tickle my nostrils. Cool, damp. Particles searching for their polar opposites, sticking together, forming droplets that create a film on my skin, a chemical change that soothes not only the body but also the soul.
Could it be the walking that makes the difference? Putting one foot in front of the other, the bipedal motion integrating the hemispheres of the brain, breathing in and out, swinging arms in rhythm. Or is it the combination of water, walking, and fresh air that energize the mind, replenish the spirit, and allow for creative thinking and problem solving?
As I walk the shore my eyes search the horizon, taking in the blues and greens and all the shades of white. I notice the ripples in the sand under my feet, the tiny bean clams sitting up on end partially buried, the uneven terrain of pools and islands revealed as the tides pull the water back. Seagulls squawk, shouting directions and warning to their kin, Sandpipers whistle their concerns. Pelicans dive and float, soar and scan, only to dive again. Children scream and squeal as they race into and out of the water.
In all of this commotion, there is stillness and space. I breathe deeply, taking it all in.
I’ve been taking at least one photo a day for many years now (I think I started in 2012), which adds up to quite a collection of photos over the course of a year. I do like to take the time to pick out some “best of” photos from the year, based on my own criteria of course! (Here’s a link to last year’s collection.) Instagram, where I post my daily photos, offers a #bestnine each year where the nine are determined by the photos that get the most likes. (You can see mine for 2017 on my Instagram account @kd0602) For me, those are not my best photos. Instead they are often related to an event that creates some traffic rather than images that stand out for their photographic merit.
It was hard to pick nine “best” photos for 2017. Initially I came up with eleven–but after some careful consideration I narrowed it down and I am sticking with nine! I went all the way back to the beginning of last year and found myself drawn to this photo of the ocean lighted by winter’s low sun angles and muted by the clouds, creating a colorful sky. I love the pensive mood it creates on the delightfully empty beach.
My annual trip to Washington D.C in 2017 happened to correspond with the blossoming of cherry trees. I absolutely love the delicate pinks against the brilliant blue sky. While I wasn’t there at peak bloom, this was close enough for some beautiful photos.
Some days my photo choices are limited to something in my house or yard. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I took this shot of the lavender plant in my back yard with the bee in action. The macro effect erases the background, creating a watercolor of greens and browns.
All the lifeguard towers that we see during the summer, winter near the jetty not too far from my house. This composition begged for black and white, a cluster of white towers against the dark of sky and sand. I feel like there is a whole story in this one image.
A spring trip to Joshua Tree National Park offered amazing opportunities to experience the desert in bloom. Everything that is ordinarily dry and brown was exploding in color. And the sky at sunset was up to the challenge, silhouetting the distinctive Joshua tree in its colorful descending light.
A local man is a regular at the beach near sunset creating enormous, soapy bubbles that reflect the setting sun. I love this particular bubble because of the swirl of color radiating in front of the light from the sun. This guy encourages kids to run in the bubbles, seeing how long they can stay in before the bubble pops. I have taken tons of photos of his bubbles, but only a few are this spectacular.
As you can tell from the previous six images, many of my photographs are of nature. But on the 4th of July I found myself captivated by the action of the volleyball players. I kept creeping closer, working to time the snap of my shutter with the ball centered over the top of the net. I am in love with the action of this shot…all the way down to the sand puffs under the players’ feet!
November took me to the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri. In spite of full days of conference sessions and meetings, no trip to St. Louis is complete without an opportunity to get close to the Gateway Arch. Night photography is always challenging for me, I love that I had just enough light to catch the arch as a frame for the cityscape in the background. Look closely, you can see the American flag off to the right!
And number nine was taken on New Year’s Eve, just a couple of days ago during a walk on the beach. I love when the tide is low and the beach is wide. Obviously, my friend the egret feels the same. I love the light and color in this image, showing off the vivid greens and reds of the sea grass and algae and the bright white of the egret’s feathers. If you lean in you might be able to see the brilliant yellow feet of this snowy egret.
I hope you enjoy my best nine of 2017, I’d love to hear your thoughts about my choices…and suggestions as I go into 2018. And I’d love to see your best of images for the year…feel free to leave a link to your post so I can enjoy your best of 2017! (Or even best of today!)
The past few weeks have passed in a blur…just where did 2017 go? School was in session right up through December 22nd, leaving only the weekend to finish last minute preparations for Christmas and the whirlwind that was about to ensue. And once family left on Sunday, I had time for a bit of celebrating before waking up yesterday to a new year.
In spite of the time warp, I have been thinking about a word to guide 2018 as well as reflecting on last year’s word. For 2017, I chose the word possibility. Possibility is a great word, and as I read last year’s post I could still feel the reasons I chose this word. But what I have learned about a word as a talisman is that I need a word that requires action, a word that reminds me to do something when the going get rough or stagnant and I need that proverbial kick in the butt,
So for some weeks now I’ve been trying on words. Even this morning I thought I had settled on my word, but found myself reconsidering as I pulled out my computer to begin writing. I thought reach would be that perfect word, encouragement to go beyond my comfort zone, to look past the edges of my sightline. But suddenly, reach seemed too stagnant, too grabby, too self-serving. I needed a word with more layers, something to encourage me to go beyond, but also to be flexible, introspective, and compassionate.
Stretch…somehow it feels right. I need to make space in my life for more stretching, allow this body to bend, to regain the flexibility that I’ve allowed to erode as yoga has faded from my regular routines. I want to stretch my mind and my thinking, remember to listen carefully to others and to consider perspectives different from my own.
I want to stretch time, gathering up minutes that turn into hours that I waste doing things that don’t matter and return to more writing, reading, and photography. While I still always fit those activities into my life, I know I can be more mindful and deliberate about making them a priority. I want to grow my skills, stretching to learn something new each day.
I intend to stretch my legs, walking and hiking into new places and seeing familiar places in new ways. And I want to stretch out my passport and travel, exploring some new venues–those places we’ve talked about visiting but haven’t quite gotten to. I will also keep stretching low, picking up those little boys who are almost not babies anymore! Stretch to reach those small hands that are so eager to explore the world, offering me new insights on teaching and learning.
I can already feel the muscles in my back and shoulders unknot and relax, knowing that each stretch will result in flexibility and strength–a combination that seems perfect for 2018.
And as a reminder, a photo from my New Year’s Eve beach walk of an egret stretching into flight. Like the egret, I will stretch my wings, pay attention to my surroundings, and even stir up the waters to uncover the tasty tidbits beneath. (Have you ever watched an egret hunt? I love the way they stomp and rustle the waters to get the fish to come into view as they search for food.)
What will you choose as your One Little Word for 2018?