Tag Archives: challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Out of the Ordinary

When people think of southern California, images often include sunshine, palm trees and sandy beaches. And while some of that is certainly true, it is also a place that is within easy reach of snowy mountaintops and deserts known for extreme heat and unusual beauty.

Even our usual palms were looking out of the ordinary earlier this week as they stood shrouded in dense fog, turning the sky from its predictable blue to shades of gray.  I stopped on my way to work to snap this foggy image with my phone.

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Just days earlier we had trekked to the top of our local mountains for a hike in the snow.  We weren’t entirely sure we would find snow–it had stormed the previous week, but had been warm and sunny during the week. But our luck held out and we found plenty of snow…and a few other out of the ordinary photo opportunities like this metal watering hole with ice floating in it.

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And this large metal ball-shaped thing.  I have no idea what it is or what purpose it serves beyond piquing my curiosity!

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A low tide walk on the beach revealed some out of the ordinary artifacts too. It’s not common to find an entire clam or oyster shell positioned on its hinge in the sand.  You can even spy a bit of algae growing on it!

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The classroom is often ripe for out of the ordinary possibilities.  Today our friend Janis came to share her passion for taking photos of trash she finds on the beach with our students.  She brought bins of color-sorted plastic debris for students to use to create still life arrangements to photograph as part of our study of photography and photographers.  The kids loved playing with the trash and created some beautiful and thought-provoking art.

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Yesterday we headed out with our devices to try something new photographically.  I loved watching students lay down under the play structure to photograph the polka dots they noticed when looking up and the delight on the face of a third grade boy when he managed to shoot down the baseball bat holder and capture the image of the spider in his shot.  I noticed this rake hanging on the fence by the dog park…getting close created an out of the ordinary view.

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I took a quick beach walk after school today to clear my head and welcome the weekend.  The sky was filled with clouds that created interesting textures and colors.  But my eye was drawn to the flock of tiny seabirds who moved in unison with the waves.  When I got low and focused on them, all the color seemed to drain out of the scene, taking me back to a time of black and white.  This out of the ordinary scene is unfiltered and unedited.

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So, head out with your lens and see what you can find that strikes you as out of the ordinary.  Perhaps it will be a new vantage on something you see every day or maybe you will turn your head and see something you’ve not noticed before.

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

Take a look around…what will you find when you look for the out of the ordinary?

Find it! January’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Keeping myself motivated to take photos and to write are dual challenges. Some days it seems that I’ve already taken photos of all the things around me, that everything feels the same–ordinary, boring, done–without inspiration.  But then I zoom in, turn my camera, snap from another angle, find a different frame, crouch down or climb a hill…and everything changes.

I’m lucky to live near the beach, just a short drive takes me to the beauty of the ocean, the waves, the birds, and endless sunsets.  But sometimes it seems that I have hundreds of images of those very same things. Yesterday I decided to use my zoom lens at the beach, hoping for some pelican and other sea bird sightings.  The birds were scarce, but as I looked up I noticed this wind flag against the brilliant blue of the December sky.

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The monotony of long car rides makes me prefer planes and other modes of transportation.  Some motion sickness keeps me from reading or using my computer in the car…and face it, there’s only so much to talk about on an eight hour drive!  So I started playing around with taking photos out the car window.  It’s not the best of photographic environments.  You have to dodge the bug splats, the reflection through the window, the rear view mirrors…you get the idea!  But sometimes, you can catch a moment that turns that monotony into something beautiful like the glow of the coming sunrise as we headed away from Walnut Creek toward the I5 to head home from a visit to my son and daughter-in-law.

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Or the sun peeking above the horizon, illuminating the power lines that stretch out along the long, straight freeway that connects northern California to southern California.img_8505

Sometimes I find that I have to open myself up to the serendipity of noticing something usual in a new way.  Finding kelp on the beach is usual…noticing the curve that reminds me of a smile is something quite different.  I got down low, kept my camera field large, and found this!

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And anyone who follows this blog knows that I take tons of photos of seagulls.  Seagulls in flight, seagulls in silhouette, seagulls alone, seagulls in groups…  And sometimes you find a pair of seagulls sitting on a railing that you simply can’t resist.  I love these seagull butts!

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So for the month of January, take our your camera and find it!  Find that new angle, the light that casts the magical glow you hadn’t noticed before. Find the treasure among the things you see everyday and take for granted. Find inspiration.  Find perspective.  Find ways to make the ordinary extraordinary, find the interesting in the mundane.

Here’s some prompts to get your creative juices flowing:

1. look up

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2. crouch down

3. inside

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4. through the window

5. beneath

6. find the light

7. on top

8. move closer

9. reflects

10. on the go

11. find a natural frame

12. movement

13. climb

14. something you can smell

15. a new angle

16. zoom in

17. seek color

18. play

19. get close (macro if you can)

20. texture

21. monochromatic

22. above

23. weather

24. people

25. a worm’s eye view

26. ordinary

27. under

28. try a filter

29. black and white

30. everyday

31. right in front of you

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 find new ways to look at your world, to find the unexpected in the ordinary and the beauty in the mundane. 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’s find it as we focus our camera lenses in January…whatever “it” might be that inspires, motivates, and keeps us all learning and growing–one photo a day!

Weekly Photo Challenge: #litterati

I’m working to get back to more regular exercise…more than just on weekends.  On Monday I made it to the gym and felt good about getting my heart rate up and logging some miles on the treadmill.  But when I considered heading back there on Wednesday, the beach called my name instead.  And because the low tide coincided with the time I had for exercise, I headed outside to log my miles.

I always walk with a camera–either my Sony a6000 or my phone, so taking pictures is always part of my beach walk practice.  Most often, I walk with my husband and his practice is picking up the trash he finds on the beach.  When the trash is interesting, I take photos of it and post it to Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #litterati.  Litterati is an effort to bring awareness to the problems of trash in our environment–they encourage people to photograph trash, throw it away, and post the photo to social media.  My friend Janis takes the most amazing photos of trash–they are truly art!  Some of them are currently on display at the Bay Model Exhibit in Marin County, near San Francisco, CA.  She also picks up pounds and pounds of trash on the beach.

This past week I have found lots of sunglasses.  Here’s a favorite from yesterday.

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Here’s a pair my husband found (and I photographed) over the weekend.

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And then there’s the random horse you find intertwined in the kelp.

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Today Geoff picked up a full bag of bits of plastic.  Wrappers, bags, cups, water bottles, plastic balls, and more.

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So let’s make this week’s photo challenge be about raising awareness about litter in our favorite places.  Where do you find litter?  Take its photo, pick it up and throw it away, and share the image with the hashtag #litterati to help others remember that trash is a problem for all of us.

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

Enjoy your favorite place (or places) and be on the lookout for litter!  Let’s all make an effort to keep our environment clean so it can be enjoyed for generations to come!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

Life is filled with curves–just when you think you see what is coming straight ahead, the path curves and brings something unexpected.

It’s been hot, hot, hot here this week…and yes, we do complain about anything higher than 80 in these parts.  Mostly we don’t have a/c…so last night after a sweltering few days in the classroom and sleepless nights at home, we headed to the beach to attempt to cool off.  And while it wasn’t really cool, it was refreshing to have those coolish waves lap at our calves and treat our eyes to the beauty of the sun settling into the curve of the waves.

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Earlier in the day my students were exploring water.  They used pipettes to place water drops on a penny…and in the process discovered that water drops stick to each other and create little mountains or egg yolk shapes (in their words).  You can see the curve of the surface tension in this shot.

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Last weekend’s adventures led me to some beaches I don’t usually visit.  And with high surf warnings, waves crashed in dramatic ways, shooting curves of salty water into the air…almost creating their own water version of a fireworks show!

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Meanwhile, this dancer stood nearby as a photographer worked to create beautiful photos of her in her skirt of curved leaves.

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A kite caught in a palm tree turned into curved ribbons of celebration–a festive sight to behold.

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And back closer to home, I found a half dollar on the beach…or half a sand dollar!  The curve that is visible suggests the curve that is missing, probably tossed and broken in the surf.

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And I am drawn to the brilliant colors and elegant curves the prevalent bird of paradise.  Using my zoom lens, I was able to focus on the bloom and yet, you can still see the ocean blurred in the background.

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So where are the curves in your life this week?  Did they sneak up and surprise you?  Delight you? Create chaos or celebration?  You might find your curves in the natural beauty of your surroundings or they might be metaphorical curves expressed in an image.

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

Take a look for your curves this week.  I look forward to seeing them through your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Night

When the sun goes down it seems that my camera does too.  Night photography is a challenge. How do I capture the lights without lighting up the frame and making it look like daytime? So I’ve been practicing.  And what better place to practice than in Chicago, a city that lights up the night–at least during the summer. There is something beautiful about the way that lights reflect on water at night.  Here’s a view of the city from Navy Pier. IMG_6266 And what a treat to be in a city that offers fireworks twice each week during the summer.  And what better place to try my hand at some night photography (or fireworks photography)…definitely not easy to get a good shot! IMG_6267 I live in a place where the sun sets in the evening over the water, making it easy to know where west is located.  And I found myself wanted to look out over Lake Michigan to watch the sun set here in Chicago too.  But that isn’t where west is…so I had to follow the sun.  And as luck would have it, we happened into the Signature Lounge of the John Hancock building just after the sun had set but was still in all its colorful glory lighting up the sky.  And even better, we were seated right at the west-looking windows on the 96th floor to enjoy our pricey cocktails (that were well worth the cost for the view alone!). IMG_6312 IMG_6310 As I noticed the Sears Tower (AKA Willis Tower), I also saw that the sunset was reflected in the windows in my image.  The app Painteresque helped me make that reflection even more beautiful. IMG_6321 Last night I was back down at Millennium Park, along with thousands and thousands of other people (I heard the number 20,000 thrown out) to try to catch a glimpse of the taping of the NPR show, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  And after watching for a while and then stopping for some dinner, we returned to the park for a nighttime view. IMG_6332 Looking into My Dreams, Awilda lights up the night, her glow offering a sense of serenity as you enter the park.  And over her shoulder last night, the blue moon came into view.  I wanted to capture the softness and glow…so used Waterlogue to soften the edges and create my own version of art from this sculpture. Preset Style = Vibrant Format = 6

So explore the night.  You might try your hand at capturing the lights of night against the dark sky…or maybe for you night will be an image that expresses what happens indoors once the sun goes down. 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 #night for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

As we head out of July into August, what does night look like where you are?  Look indoors or outdoors, at nature, at your place, in your home…capture an image of night for us all to see!  I’m looking forward to seeing night through your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Group

Friday marked the end of our 4-week intensive Invitational Summer Institute (SI), a leadership program in the teaching of writing that the SDAWP facilitates each summer.  We’ve been together as a group throughout that time, worked in small writing response groups, reading response groups, in pairs and triads all in an effort to stretch our thinking and understanding.

So as I started thinking about a photo challenge for this week, the idea of groups came up for me. And looking over photos I have taken in the last week, I came up with many that fit the bill.

Here’s a group of umbrellas at the beach last week.  it was bright and sunny and warm, a lovely San Diego beach day…and the umbrellas were out!

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And who can resist a group of sandpipers?  These little brown birds are pretty shy, but are such fun to watch.  They use their long skinny beaks to poke down into the wet sand for some delicious tidbits.  I often see them in pairs, but caught this trio earlier in the week.

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As I walk down the beach, I pass some iconic landmarks including Stone Steps and Beacons.  I’m always fascinated by the way that people coming down to the beach look like ants as they switchback from top to bottom.  Using my zoom lens, I was able to capture a glimpse of this group.

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This group of novice surfers appeared to be part of a surf school…and no, they weren’t at Beacons! They seemed to be segregated to a small area, well away from the more experienced surfers.

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On Thursday, I snuck out of the SI at lunchtime (with many of our participants) and headed up to the top of the engineering building to get a close look at Fallen Star, a unique installation of the Stuart Collection.  Once inside this tilted house, I noticed this group of toy cars on the fireplace.

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I had commented to my husband not too long ago that there haven’t been many sand castles on the beach this summer.  And then, last night to celebrate the ending of the SI, we decided to take a beach walk after work.  And as we walked we noticed this group of castles, a community of sorts near the shore.  They weren’t too fancy, but I think they count as a group of sandcastles.

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So, what group have you noticed lately?  Groups of people? Animals? Cars? Toys?  Examine some groups through your lens!

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

What group will you find as you focus your lens this week?  Be sure to share with the rest of us!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sky

Sunday marked the summer solstice (along with my anniversary…and this year, Father’s Day) and our gray skies are finally clearing to let the sun shine through.

And it was a beautiful first day of summer, especially as the setting sun gave a golden glow as I looked to the sky.

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As the sun dipped low, the sky was painted in pinks with a tiny sliver of sun still shining through.

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After a delicious celebratory dinner, we headed out for a walk on the pier.  And as we looked to the sky, the moon appeared above the palms, a sliver accompanied by two bring planets nearby.

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The nighttime walk was a perfect ending to the day…as the lights of the city reflected on the ocean water.

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Earlier in the weekend, a beach walk allowed me to catch the sky’s sun silhouetting these surfers…making this unedited photo look like it was taken in black and white.

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As our San Diego Area Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute began this week, I found myself not paying as much attention to the outdoors as I focused, instead, on developing this community of educators, writers, and thinkers.  And then today, three days in, I had to take a few minutes at lunch to re-discover my surroundings on the UCSD campus.  It’s cold inside the building, but outdoors the skies are blue and the scenery spectacular.  I focused on this piece in the Stuart Collection (art on our campus).  The Fallen Star is perched atop the engineering building–visible from the room where we hold the SI.

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And when I turned around, there was the Geisel Library–another favorite subject for my lens, framed by the blue sky and the tall eucalyptus trees.

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So, look up.  What does the sky have to offer in your place this week?  What are you noticing when you look skyward?

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

So look up toward the sky…what does the sky have to offer or what does it draw your attention to?  I look forward to seeing what the sky will bring through your lens!