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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.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Water

I know I often take it for granted–that precious liquid that fills our bodies, covers most of our planet, and that has been rare here where I live for the past six years.  Drought reminds you how much you depend on water and all the dead lawns in the neighborhood are visual reminders of the impact of ongoing water restrictions.  But it’s been raining a lot around here lately.  Normal rainfall is about ten inches a year…and this year we’re already over eleven and a half inches with March still to come.  We returned to school on Monday after a week off with the rain steadily falling–and it rained and rained and rained.  We had rain for nearly 24 hours straight–something our area doesn’t handle very well.  When it rains like that, a waterfall appears in front of my classroom door.  I noticed this overflowing drainpipe Monday.

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And needless to say, our students were not enjoying their usual lunch area–instead they were ensconced in our classroom all day long.

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You might notice that there are few ways to get around without getting wet when it rains like this.  Kids get soaked going to the bathroom, we all got soaked on our way to the school library.  Water was everywhere on Monday!

On the day before, it was pretty clear that a storm was coming.  A walk on the beach was an exercise in dodging raindrops (success on that point!) and reveling in the many shades of gray as the clouds gathered overhead.  The wind attracted an intrepid windsurfer with a bright green sail…and my camera followed him around as I walked along the shore.

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And after a rainy Monday, it was surprising how beautiful the rest of the week has been.  By Wednesday, I walked in the afternoon sunshine after work.  You can see that this seagull and the surfer in the background where also enjoying the water…and the sun!

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After work today, I knew I would head for the water.  But I also wanted a change of pace–a new view, something to spark my imagination and my photography.  I headed to a nearby beach–but not the one I walk routinely.  The tide wasn’t very low this afternoon so I had mountains of rocks to climb.  I also found flights and flights of stairs.  I climbed for  a view above the water–and was rewarded with a treat for the eyes!  (No editing was needed or used as I captured this view of endless water.)

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But I did play around with this shot of a paddle boarder enjoying the cool waters on a Friday afternoon.  I wanted to intensify the colors and highlight the way the sun was shimmering on the water’s surface.

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As I scrolled through my photos this week, water was ever-present in one form or another.  What role does water play in your life and photography?  Does it fall from the sky or flow from the hose in your garden?  Do bodies of water call your name or do you find water in less obvious places?

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

Take a look around for water–in any of its forms.  What will you discover when you look at that amazing substance through the lens of your camera?  I know I can’t wait to find out!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Best of 2016

The year is winding down, we can count the hours until the ball drops and 2017 enters.  That also makes it a perfect time for reflection…and a bit of curation of this year’s photos. Instagram is helping folks out this year…creating a #2016bestnine collection based on the number of likes your photos got.  Interestingly, my best nine according to Instagram did not make my best five I had culled to share here.  Don’t get me wrong, I like these photos and I’m excited that they are not all beach photos!  There are two images from UCSD, one from Atlanta and one from Tucson…and even one that I stopped my car and took a photo on a street near my neighborhood.

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I actually picked these photos for another reason…as my contribution to Bonnie’s annual year end video compilation (I’ll add the link once she publishes it on her blog).  She asked for photos and captions to represent myself.  I have found tremendous peace in nature this year, noticing the beauty and experiencing the wonders of the natural world.  I love this moss covered branch that I spotted on a walk around the reservoir when visiting my grandsons in the Bay Area earlier this fall.

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“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir

Many of my photos evoke connections to my precious grandsons…three 10 month old boys, sons of my two sons.  (You can read about my anticipation of their births here.) I take many photos of them, but none will appear on social media because of my sons’ request that I not post.  But I carry them in my mind and heart constantly.  When I saw this “found heart” on a prickly pear cactus, I loved the idea of the spines protecting the heart from danger.  I’m not sure I have those prickly spines protecting my heart–but I know that I will do anything to protect those sweet boys!  (I had them in my arms this week–and am already missing them terribly!)

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I love the ordinariness and simplicity of the dandelion.  I’ve taken many photos and written many posts focused on them.  This particular dandelion caught my attention as I walked out my front door to head to work one morning.  Instead of seeing them as weeds, I think of dandelions as wishes–and possibility.  They seem to be an icon of childhood, a symbol of nature’s playfulness.

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And it wouldn’t be a best of collection for me without a beach photo…or three!  I love the beach all the time, but it is special in the fall and winter when the crowds fall away and the sun’s angles change with shorter days and longer nights.  There is a sense of silence amongst the sounds of crashing waves, gusting winds, and calls of birds.

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“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Ansel Adams

And there is nothing like a photographic mentor.  Studying Adams’ photos helped me figure out how to create the contrast needed for this black and white view of a walk I take regularly.  I like the way the lack of color creates a mood just right for the concept of silence.

I do find myself looking at the sky as I walk the beach.  There is something about the clouds and the birds that draw my attention.  It’s hard to get good photos of birds in flight with my iPhone and even with my Sony since I seldom have the zoom lens on (too limiting for everyday).  I do love the crispness of this pelican–even at a distance as it swoops over the waves.  It also reminds me of all the photos I am not able to take, which helps me realize that there is more to photography than the photos I take.  I see so much more when I’m walking with my camera.

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But there is nothing quite as special as the beach at sunset.  This image is from Halloween–my husband’s birthday–and the romantic and peaceful walk we took before heading out to dinner to celebrate him.  The colors were spectacular as the sun sunk into the Pacific…and the reflection on the wet sand creates the perfect mirror image.  Ahhhh…

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So, take a little time and find your best of 2016 images.  You might look back through the whole year…or just the past few months.  If you haven’t taken many photos this year, you might just head out with your camera and take a best of today to get yourself started!

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 #bestof2016 for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Share your favorite images this week and create your own #bestof2016.  I look forward to seeing the best of 2016 through your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Down to the Ground

This week’s challenge intersects with #digiwrimo, popping up with leadership from #clmooc-ers, encouraging some collaborative digital play.  Last year we created a collaborative photo album called Our Eyes on the Skywhich turned out to be a world tour through skies.  To switch it up this year, the theme is Down to the Ground and we’re hoping to create another around the world tour!

With the ground theme in mind, I have also had my eyes to the ground. The tide has been low this week–right after school, so I have had walking opportunities before heading home.  With the tide way out, nature’s textures become evident, rippling the sand as the water pools around it.

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Walking at low tide means that rocks and shells are revealed…and my favorite, tiny pieces of tumbled glass.  I have found many treasures this week by keeping my eyes to the ground.  Here’s my haul from Wednesday.

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Even though dogs are not allowed on the beach, at this time of year it’s not unusual to see a dog or two.  (I guess the rules are less stringent in the off season)  I noticed these paw prints as I walked the other day.

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I love the light as the sun is setting, and yesterday was no exception.  I caught this golden glow with a solitary seagull silhouetted as the sun sunk into the sea.  I love the sense of stillness and solitude that comes with walks on the beach–especially in the off season in the early evening. It is really the perfect antidote to everyday stresses.

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Today as I walked, I noticed the seagulls gathered, basking in the warmth of the setting sun.  As people walked near, they began to fly–high enough to feel safe, but not high at all.  They simply skimmed the ground, flying less than a foot from the surface of the sand. I always love when I can catch the wings in a perfect flying formation (and the shadow is a bonus!).

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And believe it or not, I don’t spend my life at the beach.  I spend most of every day in my classroom surrounded by children.  In preparation for a field trip next week, we headed to our school library to practice taking inspiration from our surroundings…and the words we found on book spines.  I found this student sprawled on the ground, focused on writing, inspired by her surroundings!  I can’t wait to head off to the Children’s Museum to see how play and art will inspire our students’ writing!

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My grandsons (can you believe they are 9 months old already?) will arrive at my house right after Christmas…I can’t wait!  In preparation (and because the car can’t hold all the equipment the twins will need), baby things are arriving.  Phil and Jack (our cats) moved right into this huge box that held a couple of pack and plays.

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So, this is your week to get down the ground and explore those things that are low and close to the earth (or the floor).  You are welcome to share in the usual ways…and feel free to add your image to our collaborative photo album (you can find the link above).

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

 

So look down…and all around.  What will you find when your eyes are down to the ground?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Familiar

My feet retrace the steps I take day after day, so familiar that I notice the smallest of changes.  The reef that is uncovered by the autumn tides that pull the sand from the shore, the rounded and smoothed beach rocks tossed in piles by the powerful force of storm-driven waves, the thinning crowds replaced by locals who claim this place as their own. Familiar creates opportunity to see my world in fresh, new ways–even though I’ve seen it before.

The beach never gets old for me.  Some days the birds capture my attention as I revel in their playful dance with the sea.  Others, it is the texture and colors of the cliffs that frame this ocean community. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with the sky and the interplay of light, clouds, water, and color.

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And this focus on the familiar makes me more attentive in other aspects of the my life–away from the beach. As I walked from my house to my car the other morning, this dandelion grabbed me by the eyeballs.  I had to stop, offload the things from arms, and focus my camera on the single seed hanging on the empty husk.  I spent the day thinking about the idea of a single wish and the dream I might choose…

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Right in front of my classroom door, the garden box that is home to milkweed sits.  I wonder about the monarch caterpillars and what percentage actually make it from caterpillar to butterfly.  I noticed the new chrysalis earlier this week, worrying about its exposed location. And it caught my eye again a couple of days ago with dew drops like diamonds sparkling on the already jewel-encrusted casing.  Will this one survive and give birth to the beautiful monarch butterfly?

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Fall whispers in this place.  So when I came across these vivid leaves when up north visiting my twin grandsons, I just had to pick up a couple and take them back home with me.  A blogger I follow, Joyfully Green, did a series of “leaf portraits,” inspirational photos of individual fall leaves, so I decided to use these souvenirs to try my hand at a leaf portrait or two.

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So when I noticed leaves clinging to edge of the fountain at UCSD, I saw them as those subtle whispers of fall in San Diego.  You’ll note that the colors are not as vivid as in the leaf portrait above, but they do suggest a change in seasons.

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The library at the university is iconic, with a design reminiscent of an alien planet or maybe even a spaceship.  I take its photo pretty regularly, usually trying my best to capture the entire building in the shot. You’ll notice in this view I inadvertently included the top of the Cat in the Hat’s hat from the Dr. Seuss sculpture nearby.

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Nikki de St. Phalle’s Sun God sculpture is a familiar one on campus.  This week I noticed the way the sun reflects off the top of it in the late afternoon sun.  By playing around with the image in Prisma I was able to highlight the brilliance of the colors and show off the shine I saw as I walked by.

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So, how do you respond to the familiar in your life?  What helps you see it in new ways or notice the subtle changes in your familiar routines?  Head out with your camera and re-see those spaces you frequent.

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

Retrace your steps and walk those familiar paths…and while you do, be on the lookout for the nuances in the everyday.  Help us see the magic in your familiar–and help yourself rediscover that magic too!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Look Closely

Sometimes the most amazing sights are right under your nose…and you walk right past them regularly without even noticing.  Lucky for me, having a camera at my fingertips helps me pay more attention to my surroundings.

It also helps to have a classroom full of kids pointing out interesting things, like this insect sitting on the yellow cucumber in the garden.

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I love the way the composition takes advantage of color and texture…and still draws the eye to the winged insect in the center of the image.

And there’s that planter box right outside my classroom door, which has become a science lab for learning about monarch butterflies.  The milkweed attracts butterflies, who lay eggs on the leaves that hatch into interesting black and green and yellow caterpillars…and this week we have found three resulting chrysalises.  (Unfortunately one disappeared–likely nabbed by an over interested child, probably from another class.)  Two were still there when I left school this afternoon.  Here’s the one I snapped yesterday.

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I love the intricate gold detail on the brilliant green casing.  I hope a butterfly emerges!

This student performance by second graders at our school this morning had me looking closely at the light and the clouds in the distance (you can see that wall of marine layer just beginning to burn off in the distance).  As they sang about the constitution (School House Rock version), they waved tiny American flags in honor of Constitution Day and Patriot Day celebrated in September.

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Friday morning breakfast with colleagues has become a long-standing tradition at a local restaurant.  Parking is always at a premium, and today I ended up around the corner near this electrical box that I have seen before but never photographed.  So today was the day I looked closely and snapped a shot of this whimsical piece of found art.

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You already know that the beach is a source of inspiration for me, but sometimes I miss the ordinary beauty of something as simple as a sand castle.  This one caught my eye the other day.

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And sometimes we venture beyond the closest beach and explore other nearby places.  Out on the pier in Oceanside (to the north), I looked closely and noticed so much action out in the ocean including these sailboats seemingly racing on a beautiful holiday Saturday afternoon.

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Walking through coastal Oceanside also offered us the opportunity to see some street art up close.  Many walls were painted with murals…there were eyes, retro western scenes, and my favorite, this triptych of birds in flight in an alleyway.

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So, look closely.  What do you see?  You might have to look down from up high, get low and look under, or have a child point out something you might otherwise overlook.

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

Open your eyes and your mind as you look closely, you might be surprised at what you’ll see!  Take some shots and share them…we’d love to see what you find!