Tag Archives: cactus

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!)


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.

Fresh Eyes

I live in a place where there are plenty of beautiful and interesting things to see…and I work to see my place anew each day.  But it’s hard sometimes.  And sometimes I end up seeing the same things I always see.

And I think that happens for students too.  The classroom becomes familiar and learning looks like the same old thing.  That’s where field trips come in…they offer opportunities for students to see learning through fresh eyes, in a different context, in a different place.

I was definitely feeling the need for some fresh eyes today.  After working for eight straight Saturdays, today was rare free one and we made plans for a “field trip” to the desert.  We’re lucky here in San Diego, we have coast–beautiful beaches–near where I live and not even two hours to the east, we have the desert.  So today, we headed to the desert to see what spring had to offer.

We were hoping for a riotous spring bloom knowing that we’ve had a bit of rain since the new year.  But once we arrived, we learned that spring had sprung…in February!  Luckily, there were still beautiful desert flowers in evidence–maybe not a riotous display, but definitely worth the trip.


Our first glimpse of the desert this morning came from above.  As we looked over the valley below, we noticed the quiet.  I caught this moment of my husband drinking in the silence.


The desert is already warm this time of year, so we set out early for a hike, knowing it would likely be near 90 degrees by the time we got back to our car.  We watched for desert flowers, for snakes (especially rattlesnakes), for big horned sheep, and birds and bugs too.  And we weren’t disappointed.


The cholla cactus (the first photo), was pretty plentiful and many were blooming.  The prickly pear was less obvious, and many were not blooming.  I felt lucky to catch this one right near the end of our hike!

Lizards skittered across our path, sunned themselves on rocks, and raced into cracks in the rocks.  Butterflies, moths, and bees were drawn to the plentiful yellow flowers.  I noticed this caterpillar hanging from a slender stalk.  (Love that caterpillars will pose!)


The snake we saw was slithering in the spaces between rocks…and luckily we only caught a glimpse…and it didn’t appear to be a rattler.  We didn’t linger–no sense tempting fate when it comes to snakes!  But we did catch sight of some big horn sheep.  There was quite a group–12, I think–coming down to a stream near the oasis we hiked to.  Here are a few we watched from some rocks above.


Their coloring is amazing–making them nearly invisible in the rocky locale.  We saw babies as well as adults…you can see them stopping to check out whether to bolt back up the hillside!

It was surprising to see a waterfall deep in the desert.  We could hear the running water before we saw it.  And the California fan palm, the only palm tree native to California, completed that iconic image of oasis.  Shade, water…and a nice place to rest before heading back into the hot sun to finish our hike.



My husband snapped this shot of me traversing a shallow portion of the small stream!

I feel like I got to view spring through fresh eyes today.  I was looking closely and responding to novelty.  I snapped photos and then when I returned home, looked up information about some of what I saw.  I had to try and retry framing my shots, not sure how to capture the tall ocotillo reaching up toward the hot desert sun with the desert cliffs as backdrop.

IMG_4834Today’s field trip was just what I needed…a chance to see the world with fresh eyes, to go beyond the familiar and rekindle my interest in learning about this place I call home.