Category Archives: Weekly Photo Challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

It’s Earth Day, a day established in 1970 to appreciate all the earth has to offer and to raise awareness about the need to take care of the precious resource that we call Earth.  My camera definitely helps me appreciate the earth and notice more about this wonderful planet. This week finds me at home, back at work, instead of out exploring a National Park (like I was last week at Joshua Tree).  And still, there is so much life and beauty around me.

On my way to an evening meeting on Monday, I decided to take a side trip away from the crowded freeway (still with plenty of traffic even on the side roads) to stop at Mount Soledad and appreciate the view.  Now this is hardly a mountain, but it is a high spot that overlooks the city and the bay to the south and west and La Jolla to the north and west.  Wildflowers are blooming everywhere, creating a beautiful frame even if the haze and low clouds make the view less than crisp.

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The wild mustard has gotten tall this year, with vivid yellow blooms waving in the breeze.  I see this plant often along the side of the freeway (no, I don’t stop!) and other places visible from the car, but not convenient for stopping.  Before I left Mount Soledad, I noticed a patch of wild mustard and couldn’t resist leaning in for a shot.  I love the bokeh effect in the background, adding sparkle to the beautiful weed/flower.

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Later in the week I took another side trip on my way to an appointment. This time I headed to a place where I would have a view of the famous Carlsbad flower fields.  The ranunculus are in bloom, creating ribbons of color that stretch for acres right above the outlet mall with the old Encinas power plant in the background.  They charge quite a price to go in close, but there is a lovely view from a sidewalk outside the property.

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And when I turned the other way I noticed these brilliant tiger’s claw trees, bright against the blue of the sky.  As I moved closer, I noticed this hummingbird flitting from flower to flower–a pollinator in action!  I was lucky enough to catch a shot of this tiny bird at work with the help of my lens.

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I’ve been back to the beach this week too.  The tide has not been right for long afternoon walks, but a quick stop after dinner last night offered views of seagulls as the sun reached that golden hour.  With the help of a filter, I could emphasize the colors of the sun beginning to set behind the bird in flight.

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Today’s short walk drew my attention to the cliffs and the sky, and reminded me of a favorite Rachel Carson quote,

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery if the world we live in.

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I try to be that adult for kids in my class…for my own children and now for my grandchildren.  I know that I appreciate opportunities to explore the outdoors more than ever these days.  Nature is right here–right under our feet–when we take the time to look closely and appreciate each small treasure.

And sometimes within nature’s frame you see other interesting views.  I couldn’t resist these “wintering towers,” huddled together along the edge of the beach.  They begged for a black and white filter to emphasize the contrasts in light and dark…and I obliged.

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So, while Earth Day is officially celebrated on April 22nd each year, in my opinion every day should be Earth Day–taking time to appreciate and take care of our planet, even in small ways.  Head out with your camera and capture Earth’s everyday specialness.  What will you notice when you pay attention to Earth?

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

Celebrate Earth Day all this week.  Let’s create an album of Earth’s treasures and needs and help our next generation shepherd our world to health and longevity by sharing our fascination and appreciation of our planet Earth with them (and with each other).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sharp

There’s so much to love about living in San Diego.  The proximity to the beach offers unlimited opportunities to revel in all that the sea has to offer, and I never tire of it.  But sometimes it’s nice to get away and do something different.

This week has been my spring break–a whole week with no work, a much needed respite from the demands of my everyday routine and an opportunity to recharge.  I spent the beginning of my break with my twin grandsons–having so much fun, reveling in just what it means to be 13 months old and discovering the world of play, times two.  With my other grandson out of town, I talked my husband into a trip to Joshua Tree National Park after I got back.

Just a few hours away from home another world awaits.  High in the desert not far from Palm Springs is an expansive park that straddles the Mojave and Sonoran (Colorado portion) deserts.  Most noticeable are the trees the park is named for…odd, spiky trees that seem almost alive. They seem like the kind of trees that would move when you turn your head.  The sharp spines contrast with the wind smoothed boulders in the background.  This photo of the blooming Joshua Tree is lit by the soft light as the sun was setting over my shoulder.

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Looking west, you can make out the sharp silhouette of the Joshua Tree against the enhanced colors of the desert sunset.  The mountains look like small hills in the distance instead of the snow capped peaks my eyes could see.

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Sharp cactus spines and brilliant blossoms attracted my attention–and also attracted bees and other insects.  This Hedgehog cactus was quite a display of beauty…with sharp edges.  (And just one of many cacti variety in bloom!)727fd74f-f97a-466e-8974-2adadc81b2c1

The Chollas (teddy bear, silver, and other varieties) are known for their sharp, barbed spines.  Coming across an entire garden of them was breathtaking!  And then seeing them in bloom was even more spectacular.  This little ladybug was right at home, posing comfortably as I moved in close with my camera.

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Hiking is really the best way to appreciate this dry land of sharp contrasts.  We climbed steep rocky slopes that switchbacked up and over trails filled with wonder.  We spotted lizards scampering under shrubs and a couple of huge lizards sunning themselves on rocks as we made our way to a desert oasis marked by native California fan palms.

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It’s evident that some visitors decided to mark their visit with a sharp object, carving initials in these majestic trees.  While we rested in the shade of the palms, a casual conversation with another couple revealed a close encounter with a rattlesnake up on the path.  Made wary by their story, we were cautious on our hike back and definitely felt the jolt of adrenaline when the distinct rattle stopped us in our tracks.  My husband watched the rattlesnake (he counted 8 rattles) move off as we carefully made our way around it. (Sorry no picture…sometimes you just have to stay back!)

Another hike took us into a valley filled with rock formations.  I couldn’t help take a shot of this seemingly dead tree casting a sharp shadow, extending the tree both into the sky and across the ground.

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The rock formations in the park are popular with climbers and we often looked up to see people high above us.  After a relatively short hike to find Arch Rock, and an accidental side trip off the path, we found this interesting formation, rounded by the same conditions that cause plants to have sharp needles rather than broad leaves.  It was fun to watch my husband scramble up the sharp angle of rock to pose in the arch, giving a sense of size and space to the formation.

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Today on a drive into a far corner of the park, we found Ocotillo growing…and in full bloom.  Of course we had to stop to photograph these massive beauties reaching high into the sky, sharp red blooms against the cloudless blue above.

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And photo credit to Geoff for capturing a photo of me, dwarfed by this tall specimen…looking so sharp in my hiking boots and shorts!  (And as always, with my camera around my neck!)

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So, as you go about your week be on the lookout for sharp.  It doesn’t have to be the desert that inspires the sharp edges in your photos, you might find sharp in the crispness of your focus, in the wit of a family member, or maybe even in your kitchen.

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

Share the sharp in your life this week.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Moments

One of my favorite things about taking photos is that even without my camera in hand, the act of photography helps me pay attention to moments.  I find myself looking for light, looking for expressions, looking for color…and that moment of time that the click of the shutter freezes.

Not every photo comes out as an amazing work of art, but even the “failed” images teach me something.  Sometimes I learn about photography, sometimes about light and shadow, and frequently I learn about patience…and about seizing the moment when I have the chance.

Last weekend my husband ran in the Carlsbad 5000, a race of a bit over three miles through the streets of the village of Carlsbad.  It’s a beautiful setting, not far front the sea.  There were lots of runners, very early in the morning, going through their own pre-race routines.  As the start neared, I walked to the front where the fastest runners were poised for the start, the morning sunshine pouring in behind them.

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After watching my husband go by (not near the front…he’s a recreational runner, not a racer), I walked toward the finish line where I could watch runners as they had completed the course.  It was fun to watch the fastest of the runners who seemed to have sprinted from start to finish (this was the over 40 men’s race), finishing in just over 15 minutes.  And I think it’s fun that racers get to take home a medal for their participation, a reminder of the moments of the race.  (My husband had a respectable finish, one that he was pleased with, and that’s a fun moment too!)

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Sometimes when my week is busy, I forget to appreciate the little things, blaming no time as my excuse.  But I took time on Tuesday to stop to watch the sun set.  I guess my late meeting was a bit of a blessing, bringing me near home as the sun was dipping into the ocean.  I pulled off the freeway and found a parking spot near Torrey Pines State Beach just in time to watch the sun as it set behind the lifeguard tower.  The colors were pretty, the wind cool on my cheeks, and the white noise of the waves washed worries to the side.  I did enhance the colors with a filter, bringing the vibrance and energy of the sunset to the forefront of the image.

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And on the day that going anywhere other than straight home just seemed too much of a chore, I remembered that I needed to turn the sprinklers on in the back yard.  I ducked in for my camera and when I came back out I noticed the bees around the lavender.  I crouched, patiently waiting for the bees to come into my shot.  I love the way the light sits in the background while the flower and bee are more shaded.  I also love the moment of action, the bee frozen midair.

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Somedays I’m glad to have a bit of sunshine indoors…like these yellow tulips in a vase on my dining room table.  Trader Joe’s offers such a nice assortment of not-too-pricy cut flowers that I feel like I can splurge and bring into the house pretty regularly.  On this day I was able to catch the moment when the afternoon sun shined on the table, illuminating the sturdy yellow blossoms.

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What moments will you catch as you slow down with your camera in hand?  Look carefully, perhaps even staying still for a few minutes to notice all that is happening in your view.

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

Set off in search of some moments…and share them with the rest of us!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Yellow

In lots of ways it’s been a colorless week as I struggle to recover from a nasty cold that found me somewhere between the east coast and home, find myself pushing against the impending report card deadline, and anticipating the demands of next week’s parent conferences.  Luckily, opportunities to get outside always brighten my attitude…and that makes everything better!  And better yet, my week went from colorless to vibrant as yellow began to pop up everywhere!

As I left the doctor’s office earlier this week, the wildflowers growing along the side of the road called my name.  I had to pull my car over and pull out my camera.  The vibrant yellow of this sunflower-like variety screams sunshine.  I’m not sure what this little beetle like insect is (I don’t think it’s a ladybug) that has latched itself firmly to the bloom.

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As I started to feel better and with most of the report cards done, I set off midweek for a beach walk.  The #litterati in me couldn’t help picking up these abandoned minion sunglasses…after I took a shot or two of these yellow frames laying on the beach.

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And as I looked up at the cliffs as I walked I couldn’t help but notice the brilliant green growth along with the patches of yellow flowers.  This is such a difference from our usual drought year hillsides.

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For a change of pace, I headed to the lagoon the other day.  The sky had turned overcast, but that didn’t take away from the beauty of the scene all dressed up in yellow blossoms.

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I tried to capture the density and pervasiveness of these blooms…they are literally covering huge swaths of ground in their sunny yellow.

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I always admire the tenacity of natives that seem to grown in unexpected places.  I found these blossoms creeping up the fence line as I watched children play on recess duty.  I love the juxtaposition of the rusty chain link fence and the pretty yellow wildflowers.

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And just to shake up the prompt a bit, I found myself mesmerized by the yellow bees doing what bees do best…pollinating!  I stopped and watched and waited, trying to capture this guy in action.  My patience paid off!

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So what yellow are you seeing this week?  Don’t feel confined by the idea of flowers or blossoms…you might notice that banana shifting from yellow to brown as it sits on your counter or maybe it’s that scarf you notice your friend wearing.  Be bold!  Capture yellow!

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

Be on the lookout for yellow!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

As I fly through the air, heading back home, I imagine all of those Southwest Airlines lines crisscrossing the US map. I know I am on one of the routes, detouring south into Texas, before landing me at home in a few hours.

With lines on my mind, my array of photos taken while in Washington, DC also revealed lines. It’s impossible to miss the razor sharp edges of the Washington Monument rising into the deep blue sky. The iconic lines remind me that this is a place filled with history—both proud and shameful—and the seat of our nation’s government.

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It was exciting to be walking the floors of the Senate and the House of Representatives on Thursday amidst the scurry and hustle of the impending health care vote. We found ourselves greeted graciously by most of our local representatives’ aides, interested to hear about the work we do at our writing project to support local teachers and kids. Stairs and hallways curve and extend, a maze of lines leading (hopefully) to legislation that improves lives.

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The Capitol building, finally without its parallel lines of scaffolding, represents the government at work—and that we, as constituents, must exercise our democratic rights and let those who represent us know what we need and want from our government.

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When I travel, I find it hard not to cram every spare minute with outings. So after a long day on the hill, we headed out to the tidal basin in search of cherry blossoms. The day was cool and crisp, but sunny. Perfect for our long walk. I admire the resilience of these delicate buds. The snow and cold slowed them down last week—and there was evidence of some damage here and there, but for the most part, the trees were dressed in their best pinks and whites. The lines of the branches create an interesting view of the columns of the Jefferson Monument right across the basin.

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The long walk back brought us through the Mall and the busloads of kids from all over heading to museums in their matching sweatshirts. Lines of silver sent us on a detour into a sculpture garden where those lines led to a silver tree reaching crooked branches into the sky.

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And had us contemplate this pyramid like piece that seems flat on one side, but on the other side the shadows created lines of light and dark giving the structure texture and dimension.

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A break between meetings the next day sent us scurrying in search of the organic lines of a giant blue chicken. Lucky for us, the National Gallery of Art is an easy walk from the hotel where we stayed…and we spied the chicken from the street. It almost feels criminal to spend only a short time in a huge museum…but the chicken was enough for me. Why does someone sculpt a giant blue chicken? Maybe in the words of my friend’s refrigerator magnet,

“I look forward to the day when a chicken can cross the road without having her motives questioned.”

e3bcca14-be4a-4cb9-844e-4dded5b32ec2A quick trip to the gift shop led us to sparkling lights beckoning to the other National Gallery of Art building. We had no time for visiting, but we did ride the straight lines of the moving sidewalk as I took photos of the lines of lights twinkling all around.

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So, where have lines led you this week? A children’s book in the museum reminded me that lines are straight and curved, thick and thin, parallel and intersecting… (I might need to buy this one for my grandsons!) It also had me thinking about all the different ways I might consider lines, from those carefully planned in architecture to those organic lines that bend with the wind and curve toward the sun.

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

Uncover the lines in your life this week, what will you find?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Extreme

Just when it seems that one day is pretty much like the other, an outlier comes along.  In the case of my week, it started with the superbloom in the desert–an opportunity to hike in Borrego Springs–just a couple of hours from where I live.  Our wet winter has resulted in extreme beauty (and extreme crowds) in the desert right now.

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On our drive to the desert, we have to go over the mountains and past a lake.  It was unusual to spot a huge patch of fog, isolated to a particular place, far from the coast as we neared Lake Henshaw.  Something about the temperature differences resulted in this extreme condition…and we had to pull to the side of the road to capture its beauty.

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Once in the desert, in addition to the plethora of flowers we also found ourselves with extreme access to big horned sheep.  We watched them frolic over the rocky hillsides with their small and cute babies, blending into the environment.  I felt lucky to spot these three in the distance, framed by the ocotillo and the clear blue sky.

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A trip to Philadelphia midweek had me dealing with a different kind of extreme…once I finally secured a flight since mine was canceled!  I left the warming temperatures on the west coast to head into the chill of the east.  Although the snow had stopped, it was piled high making walking a bit like an obstacle course.  I spied these tulips…triggered by warm temps the previous week…trying to make their way in the snowy ground.

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The Rodin sculpture garden was beautiful, framed in white with the sun shining bright in the thirty degree day.

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I noticed the ice on The Thinker, with the sun shining through its crystalline structure.  I kept thinking about the juxtaposition of fire and ice (and Robert Frost)–and my own experience with hiking in the 90 degree desert on Sunday and walking in the thirty degree snow on Thursday!

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But this guy really captures extreme for me as he disrobed on the lawn near the Franklin Institute for a little cold weather sunbathing.  (I was in a thick, bulky jacket, a woolen scarf, and layers of clothes complete with boots–feeling the chill as I walked.)  Extreme sunbathing, for sure!

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So what extreme have you experienced this week?  Extreme beauty? Extreme weather? Extreme outrage, happiness, or sadness?

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

Grab your camera and find whatever kind of extreme is lurking in your life this week!  Take it in whatever direction the extreme leads you…and be sure to share.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Color

As the sun has come out, so have the colors.  The combination of a wet winter and some spring-like temps have plants growing and flowers blooming.  I noticed these native beauties near the beach the other day peeking around the railings near the parking lot.  With their vivid yellow color, they are almost like tiny suns on a stem!

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Later in the week, from my walk along the shore, I noticed this house on the hill.  Now I walk this stretch regularly, so the house is not a new sight, but I was drawn both by the seagull sitting on the rooftop and by the tones of green displayed on the cliff.  If you look in the foreground you can see prickly pear cactus in abundance.  Just wait til they begin to bloom!

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Sometimes the color I find on the beach is less desirable.  I came across this beautiful blue bottle in the surf, washed up or left on the beach.  As part the efforts of the #litterati (a group of people who post photos of trash they pick up and dispose of), I snapped this shot before picking up the bottle.

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Blue is not an unusual color on the beach.  I notice lots of blues there in both the sky and the water, like this shot with the sun coming through the cloudy skies.

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And this one of the waves curling and crashing in the hazy afternoon sun.

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And then there are the colors of a sunset, this one with some pelicans flying through.  In this case enhanced by a filter that took ordinary beauty and intensified the colors into these brilliant yellows and oranges.  I’m always surprised by how certain images are transformed by a filter (like this one) while others are not.

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So, take a look around.  What colors are you seeing this week?  Are they bright and vibrant, or subdued and muted?  You might consider capturing hues of a single color or maybe you’ll try to capture all the colors of the rainbow.

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

Turn your camera on the color around you, and share what you find with us!  What color is most prevalent in your place, or is it the absence of color that you are noticing?  I’m looking forward to your color this week!