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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!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Close to Home

It’s hard to believe that the summer is coming to a close.  And even though I work during the summer, this last week has been filled with those beginning of the school year meetings and classroom preparation. All of that has kept me close to home, squeezing a few photos in here and there, mostly using my trusty phone as camera.

As I checked out our classroom garden bed in front of the classroom, I noticed the native milkweed has started to take off and the tropical milkweed is still going strong.  There weren’t any monarchs or caterpillars around, but I did noticed this tiny snail crawling on the plants.  (I did play around with prisma a bit, trying to create more color contrast to make the snail “pop.”)

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And then of all crazy things, my husband and I decided to go to a concert on a Tuesday night!  We are lucky to have this wonderful concert venue in town that is smallish and is outdoors.  I caught a glimpse of the sun going down in the distance as we headed to the amphitheater.

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It is such a treat to sit outdoors in the comfortable late-summer evening, listening to good music…and even singing along.  We saw Melissa Etheridge and Pat Benatar…two great shows in one!  It was fun playing around with trying to capture the action, distance, and lighting (this is unedited).

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Yesterday, to end my work week, I grabbed my camera (Sony a6000) and headed to the beach for a quick mental health break on my way home. The tide was high, so the beach was narrow, but there were still plenty of people enjoying the water and sand.  These sneaky seagulls found an apple…probably someone’s unattended snack and managed to carry it to the water’s edge.  They were having quite a party–snatching a bite, keeping an eye out for people and other seagulls, then heading back in for another bite.  At one point one of the seagulls picked the whole apple up, spread its wings and moved it down the beach.  It was quite a show!

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I see this rock pretty regularly as I walk down the beach.  D and T must be quite committed to showing their love to have spent the time to carve it so deeply in this sandstone.  I do wish they would have considered a way to show their love that didn’t mar the natural beauty of the beach!  You can see that my walk was shortened–there was no way to get around that corner ahead without getting wet!

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But the short walk was a perfect way to shift from preparing the classroom to coming home to enjoy a weekend of relaxation before the kids arrive on Monday.  And I couldn’t resist a shot of the ordinary–the railing along steep ramp up to the parking lot with the puffy white clouds in the blue sky.

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So, what are you noticing close to home? What might you capture with that phone in your pocket?  What do you see on that daily walk, at the corner park, or even from your car window (not when you are doing the driving!)?

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

You don’t have to venture far this week, what will you discover close to home?  I can’t wait to see what you find through your lens!

Blog Birthday: A Reflection

Reblogging this reflection on the first anniversary of my blog. Reminds me about the importance of paying attention to the little things. Would
Love to hear your Hughes and reflections too!

Thinking Through My Lens

Today marks one year since I began this blog.  I began with a 30 day blogging challenge for myself–creating an urgency to blog every day for 30 days in a row.  And in retrospect, that was a smart move to help me establish a habit of writing every day, day in and day out, even when I wasn’t feeling like I had anything to say.  In the last 365 days, I posted a blog post 293 of them…that’s a little over 80% of the days in the year!

This morning I had plans to read all 293 posts and then create some kind of reflection based on that reading.  And while I think it’s a good idea to go back and read all my posts, I only managed to get through the first 30 days before my life called and I was off to the beach and running those errands…

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