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Weekly Photo Challenge: Whimsy

I love the way my camera makes me pay attention.  I’ve said it before–and it’s true.  On a walk last weekend I waited for a while at a crosswalk.  It’s one of those new systems styled to prevent serious injury by pedestrians hit by cars by stopping all the traffic at once and allowing people to cross not only from corner to corner at an intersection, but on the diagonal as well.  And as I crossed I noticed the fire hydrant–painted like a cow!  I couldn’t resist this bit of whimsy and knelt to snap the photo.

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On the beach not far from there I found myself watching a family with a kite.  It was sunny, but cool and breezy along the beach–perfect kite flying weather.  As they launched the kite, I noticed it was a panda…complete with long legs.  I snapped away eager to capture that panda in the air.  I do love the whimsy of the panda skimming the surface of the ocean.

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Sometimes you have to make the best of the errands you need to run.  I headed down towards the airport in the middle of the week to pick my husband up from a trip.  I had fifteen minutes before his plane landed…and rather than park and wait at the airport, I veered off toward the waterfront downtown.  I found a parking place, grabbed my camera and started walking.  The masts and rigging of the historic ships beckoned, even with the sleek lines of the massive cruise ship in the background.  I looked up and noticed the sun peeking through the sheets of the sail, with clouds providing background texture.  I love the whimsical interplay of nature and design, organic shapes and sharp angles.

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Sunsets are always a favorite, the golden yellows and oranges lighting up the sky as the sun dips below the horizon.  But sometimes, shooting near the beach, the view looks similar shot after shot.  Last week’s sunset photo had me searching for something more and I found myself kneeling near wildflowers, behind tree branches, framing the setting sun with a whimsical extra.  Here’s one of my creations.

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A meeting with our writing project state network had me on a quick trip from the southernmost corner of our state where I live to Sacramento, our state capital, about three quarters of the length of the state away.  With such a large state, there are many differences from place to place, including climate and sunlight.  Away from the coast I was noticing the heat…and smelling the agriculture surrounding us.  I love these little wheat-like plants I found growing near the parking lot.

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I’m always in wonder about the work of architects.  As I walked into the building for our meeting, I was struck by the high ceilings and the light.  There’s a wonderful whimsy about the blue beams framed beneath the white ceiling, making me wonder about the intents of this design by the architect.

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And I love that so many airports have embraced art as an iconic symbol of place.  I’m not sure why the Sacramento has a giant red bunny  perched between the escalators–but I love the whimsy of it!  And for me, it seems to represent Sacramento as a quick hop–a place I seem to bounce in and out of as I meet with colleagues across the state.

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So take a look around you, where are you finding whimsy this week?  What strikes you as playful or odd or a combination of the two?

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

Be on the lookout for the whimsical…and share your whimsy with us!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Path

As is typical in the morning heading to my classroom, I had my coffee in one hand, my backpack over my shoulder, another bag of “essentials” draped over my arm and my lunchbox hanging off the other.  At that moment, I spied the snail making its way down the hallway away from my classroom.  It’s wet trail caught my eye and I started juggling my piles of stuff to grab my phone from my pocket and crouch down low to capture that story in a photo.

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I love the tiny sharp antennae and the idea of leaving a trail marking the journey.  I was reminded of this Emerson quote and set out to find the words I thought I knew.

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson~

And so my week has progressed…thinking about paths and trails and the traces we leave.  My friend Janis has been working on a large art sculpture for the city of Vista, CA featuring her beach plastics and her message of advocacy for our environment.  When I saw the newspaper article showing its installation, I had to set out–in spite of the rain–to find the sculpture and see it up close for myself.

I love the paths this art has traveled.  Janis’s paths along the beach picking up trash, her visits to classrooms where she engages students with the trash into making preserved only by the photographs they shoot, and her own photographic displays that use the stunning beauty of her artistic eye to bring attention to a problem we must address collectively.  Into the Current is another stunning reminder that we must all walk the path toward preservation of our planet’s natural resources.

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My own path often leads me to the beach where my feet follow the familiar sandy shores and my eye is drawn to the ever changing ebbs and flows of the sea.  With my camera around my neck, I stop often on my walks to snap photos–of the stunning vistas, the playful birds, surfers in action, and anything else that catches my eye.  Sometimes I surprise myself with finding a new view of a place I frequent.

This week has been cold and rainy, so moments of sunshine feel like a huge boost of energy.  I love the way the clouds create a path that almost echoes that of the waves below.

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And then there’s the seabirds that seem to follow invisible paths in the sky, creating their own passing lanes and moving in precise formations. Huge pelicans are surprisingly agile, gliding with tremendous speed overhead as I walk.  I love when I can capture a crisp shot of these interesting creatures.

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My usual path to and from the university takes me near the Torrey Pines Glider Port.  Sometimes I veer from my singleminded effort to get home and pull off to watch the hang gliders in action.  Yesterday was one of the those days.  It was sunny (my weather app forecasted “lengthy sunny spells”) and breezy and the gliders were out enjoying the conditions.  I switched to my tennis shoes and headed out along the beach cliffs carefully navigating the precarious pathways to snap the gliders following their own invisible paths over my head.

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As I watched them swoop and soar, snapping shot after shot, I noticed the line of pelicans intersecting with the hang glider above.  I wonder what they thought of each other as they came into close proximity, crossing paths.

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Thinking about paths also leads me back to my students.  I often think about their paths and how our interactions make learning pathways possible.  Yesterday was a field trip day–we headed off to watch a youth production of The Lion King.  This version was a lot like the broadway version with intricate choreography and beautiful head pieces and make up.  An added bonus was that two of our students were part of the cast.  It’s interesting to watch students as actors–and students as audience members and all the learning connections that can happen in the theater. There’s something magical about the hush as the lights dimmed and more than 400 children settle into a live performance.

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This has been teacher appreciation week in our school district, a time when families send in notes and flowers expressing their care and love. Instead of the usual sweet treats, the families in our class coordinated and treated us to fancy coffee in the mornings–and a couple of families brought us a ready to heat dinner!  Today I came home with gourmet quality quiches that made a perfect end-of-the-week dinner…Yum!  There is something about the pathways that food carves that leaves a lasting impression, especially when a bit of love is added to the recipe.

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So, what paths are you noticing or traveling this week?  Which are you following and which are trails you are blazing?  Have you found an unexpected path, or one that seems invisible to others?  Perhaps the path is one of learning and exploration.  Keep your eyes open!

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

Use your lens to make a path this week…and share it with us!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nature’s Art

There is so much beauty around when you take the time to look closely. Sometimes I find that I need to stop, kneel down, and really lean in to find what I might have missed with a quick glance.  On the beach the other day I noticed the brilliant blue of sea creatures–I had seen these before, they wash up on the shore from time to time.  As I bent down to photograph them, I noticed the ladybug and the sea grass creating a sort of found still life…an interesting piece of living art.  (I did a bit of research and found that these creatures are called velella, they are propelled only by wind and waves so can’t get themselves back in the water once they are washed on the shore.)

img_6439A look up and the moon caught my attention above the cliffs. I love the browns of the eroded hillside framed by the greens and purples of the plants growing, all against the brilliant blue sky…with just the tiny hint of the moon just above the shoulder of the cliff.img_6417

I was surprised and delighted to find these stacks of stones all lined up. Someone had taken time to find some balance in the smoothed rocks, creating stack after stack along the ledge.  High tide made the beach narrow, pushing me up toward the cliff line…where I couldn’t miss this whimsical sight.

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And sometimes nature’s art is in the framing.  This seagull looks like it is “on duty,” a feathered lifeguard keeping an eye on all who are enjoying the beach!

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And I don’t have to go to the beach to enjoy nature’s art.  I noticed these same purple blooms that I had seen in my neighborhood on our school campus earlier this week.  We had invited our students to take a photo to use as an element of their Mother’s Day project.  I found myself looking with an eye to light and shadow, as well as working to capture the delicate brilliance of the bloom in the foreground.

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This lily-like flower also caught my eye.  The oranges and yellows seem to be highlighted by the diffuse light peeking through the shadows–yet another example of nature’s art.

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And in my neighborhood yesterday afternoon, on a walk to the park with my 14 month old grandson, I spied the brilliant red of this fuzzy guy.  A closer look brought the contrasting green and yellow bloom into focus. My friend called this plant kangaroo paws–such an oddly beautiful plant.

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So, take a look around…  Where do you find nature’s art?  I love that my camera reminds me to look at the usual in new and different ways–so be sure to look closely and consider light and shadow, framing, nature’s arrangement…and more.

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

What is nature offering up this week?  Take a look around and share your view of nature’s art with us!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Resilient

I find myself thinking about resilience a lot at this time of the year.  My students will take our state test next week and have been preparing for the test for the last couple of weeks.  While they already have the knowledge and ability to do well on the test, the way that tests are administered requires my young students to have plenty of stamina and resilience to deal with the intensity of the situation.  Long stretches of focus on a computer screen, sitting, and quiet are not natural for my learners. Neither are the pressures of time (even for an untimed test) or the inability to get coaching and reteaching when things feel hard.

I know that resilience can take many forms and be embodied in lots of ways.  Maybe paying attention to resilience through my camera lens will somehow help me as I shepherd my students through testing next week.

This tree in front of my house often seems on the verge of collapse. When other trees have leaves and are green, this tree is bare.  It has struggled with ivy trying to strangle the life out of it, and it still shows the scars.  But this week I was reminded again of its resilience.  I started to notice the green again, emerging delicately from the starkly empty branches.  This tree seems to hang in there, always finding a way to survive, spreading it’s beautiful leaves above our driveway.

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I also think about resilience when I watch seagulls.  They are social, smart, and adaptable…a lot like my students.  They seem to play–with each other, with the wind currents, and even with people–engaging through vocalizations, flight, and sometimes even posing like these guys perched on the top of the play structure at our local beach.

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I always think of native plants as resilient.  The ones in our area thrive on low water and plenty of sun.  They bend with the sea breezes and in years when water is plentiful burst into amazing displays of color.  Yellow is everywhere right now and these native beauties are a common sight this year!

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Surfers are a pretty resilient bunch too.  They head out most every day regardless of conditions.  I watch them warm up their bodies on the shore, running down the beach with the board under their arm, stretching arms and legs before plunging into the cool salty water.  It’s less usual to see a surfer building rock towers on the shore…it definitely felt like a meditation…a way of decompressing and enjoying what nature offered up.  Hmmm…makes me think of ways to encourage my students to decompress before each test and during breaks in the schedule…

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And when I don’t get out onto the beach or away from work and home, I build my resilience as a photographer by paying attention to the things I see as I drive to and from work…or what I notice at work, like these creamy white roses that grow near the playground where I watch kids play on playground duty in the mornings.  These white roses seem to be prolific, blooming regularly and then scattering their petals like confetti in the breeze.

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I notice these drought-resistant tall purple stalks everywhere right now. There are some that grow on our school grounds and quite a few in my neighborhood.  I wandered down the street not far from my house to see if I could capture the abundance of these tall stalks through my camera lens.  It doesn’t quite capture the density and movement of these blooms, but maybe you’ll get the idea I was trying for.

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And then on my own doorstep, in the bowl of cacti and succulents that has sat their for years now, my husband noticed the tiny cactus in bloom. I knelt low, pulled out my phone, and reveled at the beauty of the tiny flowers.

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So, what does resilience look and feel like to you? Do you see it in the faces of children, the curves of fruit hanging on a tree?  In the blossoms of a cactus or even ocean-smoothed rocks stacked in piles on the beach?

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

Grab your camera and take a look around for resilience.  I can’t wait to see how you capture it through your lens!  Wish my students luck with their testing…I have great faith in them.

 

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!