Tag Archives: appreciation

What Would You Hold?

During our first Make Cycle of the  SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute, we are each answering the question, “What would you hold?”  The make requires that we represent the answer to that questions with a photo of something precious held in our hands.

After too much thought and second guessing, here is my photo.


I’m sure that a photo of me holding my camera isn’t surprising to many of you.  But I want to press beyond the camera as a tool to make pretty pictures.  It isn’t the camera itself that is precious.  In fact, sometimes it isn’t even my camera that I use for photography…sometimes my phone works just as well (or even better).  But the camera represents a practice that I value.  Taking photos encourages me to slow down, to pay attention, to notice the value and beauty in the ordinary…and it gets me writing.

I try to get out with my camera every day: walking, breathing deeply, letting my thoughts roam.  With my feet moving and under the influence of fresh air, I can let my worries float away and use my senses to tune into the world outside of my head.  I seldom take photos of people, instead I try to capture moments that capture my attention.  (The exception would be the many photos I take of my grandsons–none of which I post on social media to protect their privacy.)  I often find that the photos I take become metaphors to express ideas I am thinking about.


With my camera I get low, checking out the vantage from the bug’s perspective.  I find myself thinking about times when teaching and mothering and living feels like pushing the world up a very steep hill.  Images of mythology fill my head and the strains and stresses of the day unkink, letting those tight muscles that run across my shoulders begin to relax.


Out on the playground with my students I get to bring my passions to my students.  Photography also helps my students look in new ways, and like it does for me, that looking generates ideas and language for writing.  This photo was an example of looking for natural frames for photos–a composition technique I wanted my students to explore.


With camera in hand, I learn…and sometimes I mourn.  Regular walks on the beach bring the realities of environmental damage front and center.  I see the daily human impact, the excesses of our disposable lifestyle, and get up close and personal with death and destruction. I am forced to pay attention to the lessons nature is teaching and encouraged to learn more as I walk with the rhythms of the tides and the seasons, appreciating the beauty and noticing the destruction.


And I see the power of small children making a difference.  Little efforts, like teaching students to compost their leftovers from lunch will help them make the world a better place. (My students thought this photo was gross–but when I explained what it represented to me, they found it more interesting.)


My camera also lets me celebrate life’s pleasures and express my gratitude.  My husband is an amazing cook and nurturer.  Some days result in food that doubles as works of art!

Mostly, though my camera helps me make space in my life.  Space for observation, space for an exploration of the senses, space for listening and learning, and space for making and creativity.  It gets me outside and keeps me moving.  It helps me connect with others–in person and online.  It reminds me to play, to take action, and to appreciate all that life has to offer.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciation

It’s so easy to get busy and overlook the bounty of everyday life.  School started this week for me so I’ve been totally immersed in the classroom over the last couple of weeks.  I’ve had to make an effort to take my camera out and find an interesting shot each day.  Lucky for me, a focus on appreciating small details has helped in so many way.  It has reminded me just how fortunate I am, pushing me to take a positive view even when I am feeling tired and overwhelmed with all there is to get done.  And I am actively searching for ways to document my appreciation, letting an image represent a bigger idea.

At the end of the first week of school, Geoff and I decided even though Fridays are the day we feel exhausted, that we would take the time to watch the sunset and go out to dinner.  There is something healing about watching the sky transform from blue to pinks and oranges.  And the bubble man was out again too, creating kid-sized bubbles and coaching kids to run inside of them, trying to keep it from popping too soon.  The kids delight in this game…and who can resist, especially when combined with the soothing feel of salt water on your feet?


Earlier in the week, one of my students came into the room with these beautiful flowers clutched in her fist.  “They’re dahlias, Mrs. Douillard,” she announced.  I love the geometry of these lovely blooms, my eye returns to them throughout the day as I notice new details.


I often complain about the gray of the marine layer we experience here on the coast.  The clouds seem to flatten my photos, making everything feel drab and dull.  This week, with a heatwave in our region–many areas of our county experience temperatures in the triple digits–I am appreciating the thick gray dampness that blankets the sky.  Without air conditioning in our school, the fog has kept things a bit cooler and more bearable.  I watched these seabirds frolic in the gray as I walked the beach on my way home from work the other day.


Getting home last night, after our late dinner following our sunset expedition, I got out of the car and looked up.  Through that one tree that grows along the side of our driveway, I caught a glimpse of the moon shining through.  My camera was in my bag, so I pulled out my phone, framed my view through the branches of the tree and clicked the shutter.  I appreciate the reflected glow of this celestial orb and the way it lights up the night.  And my tree created a perfect, interesting frame to look through.


So, what are you appreciating this week?  Take a look around for the little details that make a difference in your life or in the life of others.  And as I consider life’s bounty, I also realize that people are suffering, dealing with natural disasters like hurricane Harvey, illness and death, war and conflict.  Appreciation helps to keep me grounded and hopeful, and ready to reach out and help others in the ways that I can.

Share your #appreciation this week, maybe your photos will boost someone’s spirits or inspire them to take positive action.  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 #appreciation.

Take a moment to reflect on small details and appreciate how they contribute to life’s bounty for you.  Grab your camera and capture that appreciation in a photo.  I look forward to seeing appreciation through your lens this week.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciating the Ordinary

Some weeks just don’t lend themselves to extraordinary photography. Now I’m not complaining about my week–it’s been fun and busy, with lots of writing and thinking as we complete week two of our 4-week SDAWP Summer Institute.

Sunsets are not always a sure thing here on the coast–night and morning low clouds can interfere with sun sightings.  Last weekend, we decided to risk it and headed to the beach near sunset.  We were treated to some pretty orange as the sun dipped low.  If you look closely you might noticed the pelicans in the upper left corner flying through the frame.


It’s not unusual to see these flying billboards–banners attached to small planes that buzz the coastline mostly advertising alcoholic beverages.  I noticed these two different planes flying by and saw that they would cross paths right overhead.  They were not dangerously close, but I’m glad they were paying attention to each other!


We’re pretty fortunate that the beach we frequent is mostly free of garbage in spite of the heavy usage, especially in the summer.  Balloon trash is pervasive though.  This balloon looks to have been around for awhile–with most of the words worn off.  The #Litterati movement (and my friend Janis) reminds us to pick up trash where we find it and dispose of it properly.  I love the sky and the sea in this unfiltered photo, there’s something about the clouds and the sea foam of the waves that creates a texture and an echo.


The walk from the parking lot to the building where the SI takes place each day can be both ordinary and interesting.  I noticed these two small orange birds as they perched on the sign near the sidewalk where I walk. Using the app Colorsplash, I turned the photo to black and white and then allowed the bird color to remain in my hopes of highlighting them.


I was reminded of the power of nature…even just a tree in a parking lot…to affect my mood.  Rachel Carson’s quote captures the jolt of strength and sense of oasis that I experience when I look up through the leaves of the tree.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
— Rachel Carson


The practice of noticing makes an incredible difference in my life.  The photos I take capture only a fraction of what I notice, and noticing helps me appreciate the little things in the ordinariness of my life. So take a look around, how might you view the ordinary in new and more appreciative ways?

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

What will you find when you pause to appreciate the ordinary?  I can’t wait to find out!


In Appreciation: November’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

It’s so easy to take the beauty, the generosity, and the wonder around us for granted–or let them go unnoticed and unappreciated.  Like the service that this car carrier ship provides.  I’ve never needed my car to be shipped via a car carrier, but as I visited Catalina Island (26 miles off the southern California coast), I wondered how they managed to get cars to the island (there is no car ferry).  I did learn that they depend on barges rather than car carriers–but I noticed this car carrier in the Long Beach harbor as I headed out toward Catalina. (Notice the seagull flying overhead!)


Then there is the inexplicable connection that happens when people are playing.  This couple was in full costume for the Halloween festivities in Avalon.  They were just walking along until they saw me with my camera…and then they stopped and posed, making eye contact, so I could snap a photo of them in character!


And there is so much to appreciate about the almost invisible efforts of those who take care of our public outdoor spaces.  I arrived at the beach last week to find this tractor driver hard at work scooping up sand and creating a berm to protect the beach behind it (and maybe preserve the sand too).  The added bonus was the beautiful sky and ocean in the background!


I love this unexpected birthday “treat” from one of my students to her classmates to celebrate turning 8.  Instead of cupcakes or trinkets, she gave each of her classmates a milkweed “bomb” to plant to hopefully grow into a milkweed plant–the host for the monarch butterflies we have been learning about and working to help in our classroom.  What a delightful treat!


Sometimes I have to work on my own patience and persistence, and appreciate the outcome when my fascination with this pelican resulted in the snap of my camera shutter just as it took flight!


It takes a community to make sure our water is healthy and safe.  These often unappreciated signs on our storm drains are reminders that the water that runs down our roads and into our drains ends up in the ocean.  My students have been singing a song called Storm Drain (by the Earthworms), making me even more alert to the dangers we can impose on the ocean if we are not paying attention.


And a visit to the local water treatment plant the week before made us all aware of the work that goes into the water infrastructure we often take for granted (you can read more about it here).  We learned all about how the water is cleaned and the bio wastes are trucked out to be used as fertilizer for non-food crops.


So this month, let’s spend some time being thankful and appreciative by taking photos to document our appreciation.  And to get you started thinking, here’s some prompts to consider:

  1. Nature
  2. Gifts
  3. Energy
  4. Light
  5. Texture
  6. Sound
  7. Friendship
  8. Innovation
  9. Color
  10. Effort
  11. Service
  12. Ordinary
  13. People
  14. Connection
  15. Unexpected
  16. Music
  17. Growth
  18. Water
  19. Place
  20. Travel
  21. Wonder
  22. Home
  23. Health
  24. Kindness
  25. Warmth
  26. Family
  27. Relax
  28. Persistence
  29. Empathy
  30. Love

As always, our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. The prompts are there to help you pay attention to your world and think about all that you appreciate.  You can use them in order or pick and choose as you like–you are welcome to add a new prompt into the mix if you are so moved.  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.

Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! You can share on Twitter (follow me @kd0602), on Instagram (@kd0602), in the CLMOOC community on G+, on Flickr, or even link back to my blog here.

Let November be the month to document and share your appreciation through your photos!  I can’t wait to see all that you appreciate…and to share my thankfulness with you too.