Tag Archives: black and white

SOLC Day 3: Writing Under the Influence

Yesterday’s photography foray into the garden was still on students’ minds today.  I always seem to be living (and teaching) on borrowed time, so after finishing up some other work I was able to give students time to go back and look through the photographs they took yesterday.  I asked them to select their three “best” photos…thinking about the categories/compositional strategies they had tried yesterday.  Then of the three, figure out which one would be best as a black and white image.  I showed my own process, talking through the three photos I selected and showing my black and white image (you can see it on yesterday’s post). They were excited…eager to select, eager to edit, and I smartly limited the time to minutes in the single digits.  I called them together, iPads in hand, and had them all hold up their images.  Stunning, striking, interesting, and sometimes surprising…all words that described those photographs.

And with a few minutes until recess, I reminded students about the poem we had read and studied yesterday: Peeling an Orange  by Eve Merriam.  I started my own poem in front of my students, thinking aloud as I talked through what I saw in this mentor text and writing my poem’s first lines.  I knew they were ready as they suggested ideas for my writing, questioned my decisions, and started asking questions about their own writing-to-be.

There is something magical about writing under the influence.  EVERY SINGLE STUDENT in my class had a title and an path forward for their poem in less than 5 minutes…and were asking when they would have time to return to this writing as we walked out to recess.

Just enough structure and lots choice meant students took photos of what caught their eyes. Being outdoors, wandering through the garden felt more like play than work–offering opportunities for creativity and exploration.  Selecting meant making some intentional choices–but choices again.  And nothing makes my students happier than messing with filters in editing mode!

We read and study a poem each week, so my students are familiar with poetry as a mentor text.  They know me well, expecting to write any time we do something creative and artistic. And there is something wonderful about writing short.  Small poems invite students to try something new, explore language, and still know the end is in sight.  The lift is somehow just right.

Here’s a tiny taste:

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And on some crazy whim, I decided to have my students create a slide deck of their small poems and photographs this afternoon.  (Reminiscent of something we did for #writeout and #clmooc)  So here they are:  first draft small poems and Ansel Adam-inspired photos from the garden.  We were definitely under the influence:  of nature, of photography, of freedom and choice, of a mentor text, and of a community of writers composing together.





Writing and Photography Invitation: Black and White

We live in a colorful world, filled with blue skies, green grass, flowers of infinite variety and so much more.  But some days, it is by draining the color away that we truly notice details.

I like the way that black and white photos bring the focus to contrast and highlight light and shadow.  This lifeguard tower, empty now that summer has passed, becomes an intricate maze of ladders in black and white as the shadows blend with the actual steps.


I’m still working on my nighttime photography, something I just don’t get enough practice time with.  The other night the full moon was rising just before I headed to bed and I stepped out onto our deck to observe.  It’s hard to get a clear moon picture, especially with my phone camera.  Even though there was little color in the original, black and white seems to highlight the glow of the moon against the silhouette of the roof.


Low tides at the beach offers expanses of wet sand, another vehicle for reflecting light.  The tide was quite low last week, creating perfect conditions for long walks and interesting photos.  I love the way the wet sand reflects the cliffs in the black and white version of this image.


These white stairs to nowhere are a favorite photography subject of mine.  They sit at the beach below the Self Realization Fellowship and I imagine they were once an operational path to the beach.  Now, in their brilliant white, they create an interesting contrast to the sky and the cliff.  (I wonder if they are painted regularly, they seem to maintain that clean white quality over the years.)


Those weekend low tides also meant that intertidal creatures were on display.  This sea anenome was hanging out in a shallow pool of water in the exposed rocks on the shore.  You can see some of the other life forms that it shares its home with too.


And sometimes the beach itself is an exercise in monochromatic tones.  I used Color Splash to take away color in order to bring attention to this light blue soccer ball and its reflection.  Just a hint of color brings the focus to the ball, seemingly abandoned on the shore while people play in the background.


So play around with black and white this week, in your photos and in your writing.  You might take some new photos with black and white in mind or play around with some existing photos, noticing what changes when you drain the color out.  How does that work in your writing?  What does black and white writing look like?  How does focusing on light and shadow change your writing?

Share your #blackandwhite this week, in images or words…or both. 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 #blackandwhite.

So play around with your images…and your words.  Share your favorites with the rest of us!