Some of our beaches reopened this week–much to my delight. I’m back to walking the shoreline as often as possible (when the tide allows walking room that fits my work schedule). On Monday morning I noticed the mucky, murky waves…and remembered that we are in the midst of a red tide. A red tide is an algae bloom and all that muck is red algae.
During the day, the red tide is not particularly appealing…but at night, it’s spectacular! Last night we headed the beach after sunset, in the dusky light before darkness comes. We were surprised at the number of people at the beach–it had been a gloomy day and there was plenty of cloud cover. But then, people were not there for the sun…they were there for the light!
As we parked we noticed lots and lots of surfers heading to the beach. People kept their distances, but one glance at the waves told the story of why they were at the beach as darkness was settling over the sea. As waves crashed, the water glowed brilliant blue!
We watched surfers soaring through the electric blue of the waves, waders and swimmers trying to catch up to the light. Walkers and gawkers in their coronavirus masks kept their distances and tried to capture this bioluminescent phenomenon with their cameras.
I’m always reminded that I need to work on my night photography technique when I get these spectacular photo ops after the sun sets. But I keep trying anyway. Even if the photos don’t begin to capture nature’s beauty, they do give a glimpse into the wonders of bioluminescence. And it was a wonderful break from staying at home in my neighborhood!
What a light show!
Yesterday’s photography foray into the garden was still on students’ minds today. I always seem to be living (and teaching) on borrowed time, so after finishing up some other work I was able to give students time to go back and look through the photographs they took yesterday. I asked them to select their three “best” photos…thinking about the categories/compositional strategies they had tried yesterday. Then of the three, figure out which one would be best as a black and white image. I showed my own process, talking through the three photos I selected and showing my black and white image (you can see it on yesterday’s post). They were excited…eager to select, eager to edit, and I smartly limited the time to minutes in the single digits. I called them together, iPads in hand, and had them all hold up their images. Stunning, striking, interesting, and sometimes surprising…all words that described those photographs.
And with a few minutes until recess, I reminded students about the poem we had read and studied yesterday: Peeling an Orange by Eve Merriam. I started my own poem in front of my students, thinking aloud as I talked through what I saw in this mentor text and writing my poem’s first lines. I knew they were ready as they suggested ideas for my writing, questioned my decisions, and started asking questions about their own writing-to-be.
There is something magical about writing under the influence. EVERY SINGLE STUDENT in my class had a title and an path forward for their poem in less than 5 minutes…and were asking when they would have time to return to this writing as we walked out to recess.
Just enough structure and lots choice meant students took photos of what caught their eyes. Being outdoors, wandering through the garden felt more like play than work–offering opportunities for creativity and exploration. Selecting meant making some intentional choices–but choices again. And nothing makes my students happier than messing with filters in editing mode!
We read and study a poem each week, so my students are familiar with poetry as a mentor text. They know me well, expecting to write any time we do something creative and artistic. And there is something wonderful about writing short. Small poems invite students to try something new, explore language, and still know the end is in sight. The lift is somehow just right.
Here’s a tiny taste:
And on some crazy whim, I decided to have my students create a slide deck of their small poems and photographs this afternoon. (Reminiscent of something we did for #writeout and #clmooc) So here they are: first draft small poems and Ansel Adam-inspired photos from the garden. We were definitely under the influence: of nature, of photography, of freedom and choice, of a mentor text, and of a community of writers composing together.
I’m fortunate to teach at a school with a garden. No, I really don’t have a green thumb–and I love the idea of gardening much more than the practice of gardening. So, lucky for me, we have a garden teacher who directs a lunchtime club that gets things growing…and then I can take my students out to use the garden as inspiration for photography, art, and writing!
Today I started to teach my students about photography by reading them the book Antsy Ansel by Cindy Jenson-Elliott. (I’m fortunate to know Cindy and have her as part of our local writing project too!) My recent trip to Yosemite further inspired my teaching about Ansel Adams and appreciation for the natural beauty around us. Below is photo of El Capitan with the sun setting and casting its glow on these impressive granite slopes. If you look closely you can see a heron in the foreground who decided to hang out and watch the light change from its vantage in the Merced River.
I like to show students that photography can be more than just taking pretty pictures. Photography can be a form of activism–another way of expressing your views and spreading information to others. Adams’ photography played a role in the establishment of our National Park system, something I am grateful for!
So today after a quick lesson on a variety of composition techniques (rule of thirds, leading lines, bug’s eye view…), we headed out to the garden to take some photos. With iPads in hand, students explored through their camera lens. They got low, looked closely, climbed slopes, scrambled under bushes…all in search of an interesting photo. I haven’t yet gotten a look at their images…we barely made it back into the classroom in time to head out for lunch! Tomorrow will bring next steps…and some inspiration from Dorothea Lange.
And of course, I had to take a few shots along with my students. Here’s one of some students in action.
And another experimenting with black and white…something I will ask my students to do tomorrow to help them see the world through Ansel Adams’ lens. This is a bright yellow flower I found blooming in the garden.
We’ll be doing some writing tomorrow as well…hopefully we’ll get far enough that I can share a slice of student results soon!
I’m not sure why I need an “official” challenge to keep up the daily writing, but whatever the reason…here is day one of my entry in the Slice of Life Challenge. Thanks to those at Two Writing Teachers for offering this annual event.
After a week of above average temperatures, the weather suddenly turned yesterday afternoon. The wind picked up, the clouds gathered, and meteorologists are predicting winter storms. That actually means we have a chance of rain here by the coast and there are forecasts for snow in our local mountains! And as much as I love the summer-like mild temps and the fact that I have been venturing into open-toed shoes in the last week, we really need the rain and snow! Drought is unfortunately too common here–and drought means the likelihood of a fierce fire season. And that is terrifying!
I’ve been trying to walk everyday, for both my physical and mental health. My camera is my motivation…and the beach is my favorite location. I wasn’t sure I would squeeze my walk in today–my husband isn’t too keen in walking in the wind–and I had resigned myself to a lazy Sunday catching up on some work that got neglected during an overly busy work week last week. I didn’t even pick up my camera today. But as we headed out to run a couple of errands and to grab a quick lunch, conversation turned to the possibility of a walk–and I wasn’t saying no! My camera was at home–but my phone was in my pocket.
I love the moods of the beach. The sky and surf, the birds and wind, the sand and rocks create an ever-changing kaleidoscope of views and conditions. I pulled my hood up against the wind and set off down the beach. The seagulls were swirling and squawking above me as the salty wind rushed against my face and sunglasses. The waves chased me…teasing as the tide moved the shoreline away from the cliffs with an occasional push higher, threatening to drench my shoes. The sun played hide-and-seek, dancing with the clouds, swinging out now and then to brighten the day. I couldn’t resist a little game of chase with the ever-present seagulls…grabbing my phone to capture a photo or two of them in motion.
Can I maintain both a daily walk and a daily slice of writing through the entire month of March? I’m going to try!