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Best of 2022: A Year in Photos

Photos…I take them every day. Sometimes with my iPhone, other times with my Sony mirrorless camera, but without fail, I take daily photos. That means by the end of the year I have quite a collection.

Reflecting on the year seems to be the stock practice for the new year. For me, looking back over a year’s worth of photos is the perfect way to review the year. In both 2020 and 2021, I selected a photo for each month that I considered “best” and made my decisions simply by deciding which photo was best for each month. But this year, as I looked through my photos, I found that there were months where there was no best…for complicated reasons. So instead, this year, while I tried to select a best of the month, I let the months that didn’t have a photo that resonated simply stay blank. With a ruthless elimination process, I finally came to 12 “best of” photos and one bonus photo–more to come on that.

It seems that everyone loves a sunset photo…but honestly, sometimes sunset photos can be quite boring, each one indistinguishable from the next. My sunset photos are almost always at the beach–who can resist that ball of fire sinking into the ocean? I love when I am able to catch a bird in the sunset, and the bird almost always turns out to be a seagull since they are so common. I was delighted in January to have captured this sun, just barely above the horizon with a pelican stretched out in flight above. I love that you can see not only the wings, but also the bill in its long, oversized glory.

February was a bonanza month for me. Poor planning for my week off meant that airline prices were sky high, leaving us to scramble for a drivable adventure. We ended up exploring Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks and then continued on to Yosemite. As a Southern Californian, snow is not a part of my repertoire. Where I live it doesn’t snow, you have to go TO the snow. While we brought clothes and coats for cold weather, it seemed too much to hope for snow (and maybe a bit too scary since we are not experienced chain users or snow drivers). But when we woke up that first morning in Yosemite, the forecast was for snow and it wasn’t long into our drive into the park when we needed to stop and put on those chains that were still in their original packaging. As the morning went on, snow fell gently around us, decorating our hats and scarves and creating a magical hush as the world around us was coated in a frosting of white. As an inexperienced snow photographer, I experienced the challenges of the white and gray, struggling to find the contrast and definition in my photos. And photos while the snow fell also meant dealing with movement usually only present in action photography. Here’s on of my favorites.

And that bonus photo I referred to earlier was channeling my inner Ansel Adams. For much of the morning, Half Dome was not visible. Thick clouds created a monochromatic gray of the sky, obscuring most of the iconic peaks. But when the sky cleared enough for sunlight to penetrate, Half Dome appeared in all its glory–and who can resist a black and white filter when talking about Half Dome and Yosemite?

Spring brought a trip to the desert and another visit to Joshua Tree National Park. A decision to try our hand at night sky photography brought us into the park as the sun was beginning to set. Joshua trees have such a distinctive shape. Unlike the simplicity of cactus, Joshua trees seem to reach a multitude of bushy arms into the sky. I love the way the sun is peeking out, almost like a jewel below the Joshua tree.

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Regular walks on the beach create many opportunities to see native wildlife–especially sea birds. I often see egrets, osprey, pelicans, seagulls (of course), and the usual variety of shore birds like sandpipers and whimbrels. It’s not often that I see a heron, and definitely not up close and in flight. This one flew in close, landed and searched for food for a while and then took flight–all when I had my camera in hand! I love the curve of the neck and ruffle of the brilliant blue feathers.

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I’m lucky to teach at a school with a garden–and even more fortunate to discover that we have artichokes as landscaping between classrooms. I catch myself looking for photo worthy garden moments–and who can resist the green of an artichoke in the morning sun?

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I spend a day every week at our local university where I direct the writing project. To counteract the sitting that comes with office work, I frequently head out for a walk around the campus. This is a place I have known for many, many years and even so, it is constantly changing and often surprises me. This photo I took in June was one of those surprises when I discovered an area formerly used by cars had become a pedestrian zone and was now painted with brightly colored polka dots. Might it be like following the yellow brick road and walking into Oz?

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Summer is tomato truck season in California. I’m lucky (or unlucky) enough to drive up highway 5 a couple times a year through the central valley to visit family in the northern part of the state. For me, one of the highlights of the summer drive is photographing tomato trucks. Sometimes it’s possible to catch a stretch of several tomato trucks in a row. This last summer you can see that I caught a few–separated by another truck. It can be challenging photographing through the car window–and avoiding having a photo marked with the bugs that inevitably end up squished on the windshield. I really love the movement in this photo, along with the mound of ripe, red tomatoes visible in the truck bed.

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I love a great surfing competition and this past summer we watched the annual Oceanside, CA longboard contest. Longboard surfing is so different from a typical surfing competition. Instead of the sharp turns and quick action, you get long rides with lots of walking the board…and plenty of hang ten action if you stay aware. The other bonus of this competition is being able to watch from the Oceanside pier that allow a much more close up view of the surfers.

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Some of our best beach weather comes after school has resumed. September is an amazing month for beach going in these parts. Some people surf, some people play, and some people use the beach for fishing. I love the lines in this image–the poles in front and behind, the horizontal line of waves, and the surfer off in the righthand corner.

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In October, we found ourselves in Columbus, Ohio for a family wedding. Before the festivities began, we spent a bit of time exploring the city and caught the glorious reflections of the sunset over a bridge. This was one of those times that accidentally turning around presented the most amazing photographic opportunity! I do love a sherbet colored sunset.

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There’s something wonderful about an artist who is able to use the landscape around to bring a vision to life. Borrego Springs is well known for its large metal sculptures scattered around town. My personal favorite is this sea serpent/dragon that extends across the road into the distance. As the sun set in the west, you can see the light on the eastern mountains, creating highlights and shadows in the distance.

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The Bubble Man (@ibubbledesign on Instagram) is a regular fixture at our local beach. He seems to be the pied piper of bubbles, drawing a large crowd of children every time he starts making bubbles on the beach. He loves to do bubbles at sunset, when the light creates an array of colors through the bubbles. Some days when the conditions are right, the bubbles are magnificent. And sometimes the magic happens and you get a bubble, the sunset, and a bird who flies by at just the right time.

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So here is my best of 2022. Twelve favorites and a bonus in black and white. Which is your favorite? How would you select your best of 2022? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Ladybug: NPM #18

I’m always surprised when I find ladybugs crawling around on the beach. What brings them there? The shoreline just doesn’t seem like a place they would be! But then again, seeing ladybugs always fills me with wonder. These tiny perfect things are such fun to watch and to photograph.

Ladybug

When a poem lands on your shoulder

pay attention

watch the candy-apple red

fire engine bright

shiny cherry lollipop

crawl down your arm

Tiny black polka-dots

dance out

words

nature’s unexplained mysteries

compacted in this tiny jewel

®Douillard

Water Works: NPM20 Day 10

Will it ever stop raining? We have gone from impending drought here in Southern California to several inches over our rainfall average for the year. Today alone we may have gotten more rain than we often get in months!

The downside of the nonstop rain is that feeling of being cooped up in the house. We’ve had no real breaks in the rain today…so I finally decided I would walk, rain or not. I got into my raincoat, grabbed my (mostly neglected) umbrella and headed out. The skies opened up about halfway through my walk. I pulled up my hood and popped the umbrella and forged forward. The walk was just what I need…

So today I offer a water poem.

Water Works

In this place

where skies

are desert dry

and sapphire blue

water pours

rushing down streets

pooling on lawns

snails skate

down sidewalks

worms

rise up

birds duck and cover

and I walk

soaking up

sky tears

breathing in

water-saturated

air

fully submerged

in today’s

water works

®Douillard

SOLC Day 27: Exploring the Ordinary

As someone who takes and posts at least one photo a day…and has for years now, being under a stay at home order has been challenging. So in the spirit of making the best of a bad situation, I’m working to make myself pay attention to the ordinary, to find the interesting and beautiful in what I see around my house and in the neighborhood.

Walking to the mailbox has been a highlight of my days now. An opportunity to get out of the house and into the fresh air. Our mailbox is down the street, enough of a walk to feel like a break. There’s a house near the mailboxes that really has extraordinary landscaping. Fruit trees laden with citrus, colorful flowers, and lush, deep purple lavender.

I knelt low, deciding I wanted to capture that intensity of purple and in that moment I came face-to-face with with busy little pollinators! Bees hard at work. I took a few shots, hoping I had captured those buzzing beauties.

You can judge the result. (This is an unedited iPhone photo)

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I’m having to recalibrate my photographic eye–looking for interesting photo opportunities in the most ordinary of settings. But it feels like a good stretch–something may help me extend my photo skills and improve the breadth of my photography range as I explore the ordinary.

What are you photographing these days while you are stuck at home?

Finding my Spirit Animal

I think I’ve found my spirit animal, my patronus (to borrow from Harry Potter).  This is not the same as saying here is my favorite animal or here is the animal I identify with, this is the animal that keeps finding me and when it does, it brings me energy and calm, power and focus.  

Long walks along the beach have become a norm for me.  At first I started walking for a reason to take pretty photos.  But the more I walk, the more I need to walk and the more I want to walk.  I walk to burn off calories, to engage my muscles, and to breathe. I walk to think, to reflect, and to problem solve.  I walk to notice, to engage with the world, and to write. I most often walk on my way home from work, but I also walk on weekends, on vacations, and sometimes right before the sun sets.

Seagulls are a staple of my walks on the beach.  These birds are the ever-present, iconic bird of the beach.  They gather on the shore, they swoop and soar overhead, they keep a sharp eye on things…especially those snacks people think they have tucked carefully away for after their ocean dip.  Pelicans are a regular sighting as well. These bombardiers fly in perfect formation, shifting leaders as they speed along the coastline.  If you watch carefully, you may spot one over the head of the surfers waiting for the perfect wave as it waits and then suddenly drops, snapping up a fish in its huge pouch-like bill.  And there are the sandpiper category of birds (curlews, avocets, plovers) that love the low tide feeding opportunities. They are much shyer than the seagulls and much more fun to watch as they run up and back with the waves.  And I take lots of photos of all these birds, trying to creep up close without causing them to fly off.

But back to that patronus, the spirit animal.  Some people have always known their spirit animal.  For my husband, the bear is his kindred spirit. He takes comfort and energy from seeing bears and identifies with their fierceness, their lumbering ways, the way they protect their young, and their general good looks.  I have never considered that I might even have a spirit animal until lately. I think I started to make some connections about the possibility of animal totems when I read a post by a virtual friend, Molly Hogan over at Nix the Comfort Zone where she talked about the significance of some Baltimore oriole sightings outside her window.  When I read about Molly’s oriole, I immediately thought about the snowy egret sightings I had experienced–and the joy each sighting brought.  I’d been writing about egrets and photographing egrets without considering any connections I might have to them.

egret in the surf

I often come across these beautiful birds at low tide and spend lots of time watching their bright yellow feet stomp the murky water to bring fish and other food possibilities out of hiding.  I learned to creep close without disturbing the birds, clicking my camera lens trying to get a perfect shot. And lately, the birds seem to be finding me. Just recently egrets have appeared at unexpected spots along my beach walk, and we’ve hung out together on the edge of the surf.  Each sighting brings a sense of calm and intense pleasure, a camaraderie and comfort that comes from being with those you care about and who care about you.

egret close with ruffeld feathersegret looking

And then, as I started writing this earlier this week I came across an art print a CLMOOC friend had sent me a while back while I was looking for a container of sea glass I have on display in my house…a print of a heron.  I stopped and snapped a photo of it, remembering that when I had looked up animal totems on the internet that heron and egret were defined together.

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Later in the afternoon I headed out for my usual beach walk.  I was feeling good already, the sun was shining (something that can be a bit iffy in these parts in June), I found a parking place not too far away, and I was ready to stretch my legs and breathe deeply.  As usual my camera was strapped around my neck, ready for whatever shot presented itself. As I reached the mile mark along my walk I considered turning back, but decided since the day was so beautiful and the tide was cooperative I would continue on a bit further.  I am so glad I did…just at about the point I had planned to turn around I noticed the familiar shape in the surf. But wait, it wasn’t white. As I walked closer and watched carefully I could see that it was a great blue heron hanging out in the surf! I have never seen a heron on any of my beach walks, but there it was!  

heron in the surfheron flying

The coincidence seems too great to be a random sighting.  I am certain these birds are bringing me messages of calm and support.  They are certainly bringing me strength and inspiration and an incredible jolt of joy.  So I am claiming the egret and heron as my spirit animals, patronus if you will, there to call on in times of need.  

So now I am wondering, do we each have a spirit animal, an animal totem representing our strengths and bringing us power and focus?  Is there more to the heron/egret than I have yet discovered?  I’d love to hear about your experience with your patronus!

 

This is Just to Say…

Today’s poetry inspiration came from Williams’ poem of apology, This is Just to Say.  In addition to studying the original, we also read some of the poems written by 6th graders in the book also titled This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman.

Students had fun playing around with their own poems of apology.  Here’s a couple composed by the third graders in my class to give you a taste:

Dear Romeo,

I’m sorry I have to whip you sometimes

Also, I might tire you out sometimes,

but you’re always a handsome horse

lovable, huggable, gentle, and soft

Oh how I love your long mane

drifting in the sky

when we canter across the field

Love,

Tyler

I gave them a whole 7 minutes of writing time!  It’s conference week, so students are on a minimum day schedule…and time is short!

I’m sorry Kai for poking you.

Sorry, I really didn’t think it through.

Although we had fun doing it, I’m sorry Kai for poking you.

Cody

And one more student poem, this one inspired by yesterday’s Red Wheelbarrow.

The Thread

 

So much depends on

a brand new jacket

and a loose thread

 

Pulling

into bits and pieces

 

until it is

one loose

and wiggly line

 

Lauryn

I found myself returning to the topic I explore in my first two poems.  Today’s was written to that same egret I featured before–but from a slightly different angle.

This is Just to Say, My Friend

 

I have stalked you

my lens focused close

waiting for your head to turn

your neck to arch.

 

You seem so peaceful

and focused as you

stare out at the blue horizon

scanning for danger

or maybe appreciating the view.

 

I’m sorry for any disturbance

I cause with my close looking

and the click of the shutter.

 

I just can’t resist your elegant neck

and charming yellow feet!

 

Douillard 2018

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Maybe, dear reader, you’ll try your own poem of apology today!

Over My Shoulder

It’s there, a constant, even when I can’t see it, hanging out over my shoulder.  It follows me around as it changes form, exerts its influences on the tides, and even becomes invisible.

As our students learn more about the solar system and space, I realize how little I really know about these things myself.  Of course I know the names of the planets and some basic information about them.  I know that the sun is our star and that our solar system is heliocentric.  I know that scientists continually update their own understandings about space and its celestial inhabitants…that Pluto has been demoted and a new solar system was recently discovered.

But honestly, it’s the moon that fascinated me.  I love that it appears large and low, orange like a pumpkin at some times of the year.  I’m fascinated by that Cheshire cat smile that greets me on a dark, clear night. And I can’t resist those slender crescents that seem to wink into view in the warm, short nights of summer.  I constantly wonder at its presence during the day…and today was one such day.

I looked up during my walk this afternoon, the sky was particularly blue as the sun shone brightly.  This is really the first warm day we’ve had in a while.  Tucked under the large palm, there it sat…not as bright as in the dark of night, but noticeable all the same.

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I’ve struggled to photograph the moon effectively at night, but during the day, I’ve had a bit more luck.  But that doesn’t mean I will stop trying to take a portrait of this friend of mine.  I like knowing the moon is right over my shoulder, a constant companion I can depend on, even when I can’t see it and even when I can’t photograph it.  It’s there, and that’s enough.