Tag Archives: daily post

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: Shine

This week I’m borrowing the prompt from the folks over at the Daily Post since so many of my photos this week fit their theme: shine.

I had such a busy weekend last weekend–happily playing with my twin 7 month old grandsons.  We purposely took a late flight back to maximize the precious time we have with them, getting home near midnight on Sunday.  That meant that the alarm on Monday morning came sooner than I would have liked.  Surprisingly, I had plenty of energy at work and set out for a beach walk afterward.

The tide was low after work this week, creating perfect conditions for long walks.  Monday was cloudy–we’d had misty conditions during the school day.  Not enough to keep the kids in, but enough to wet the ground and make us feel a bit soggy outdoors.  When I arrived at the beach, I could see the shine of the sun in the distance, reflecting on the water, almost like there was a portal above.

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Further down the beach, I came across an algae covered reef, exposed by the very low tide. I started thinking about the way the algae creates the fall colors that others usually see in the foliage of trees–this really is fall on the beach–browns and oranges along with the blues of the sky reflecting in the shine of the water.

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As the week warmed up, the sun made itself more prominent.  You can see its shine peeking through as I leaned in to capture this shot of the tree roots.  I was thinking about how they remind me of feet and toes in the sand.

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I noticed that the sun and light kept changing this week.  The days are getting shorter, affecting the trajectory of the sun, making the shine feel more diffuse and muted.  This shot reminds of the light of those “endless summer” surfing posters.  Maybe when you can walk on the beach barefoot and in a sleeveless top in the fall, it is endless summer (if you look closely at the surfer, you’ll see he’s in trunks rather than a wetsuit)!

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I love it when light shines in a way that creates a mirror-like reflection. You can see this seabird has a colorful reflection in the wet sand.

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Things felt a bit less shiny when I spied this seagull with the plastic baggie.  The amount of plastic that ends up in and near the beach is staggering, even when people make an effort to reduce their use and pick up trash.  The beach I walk is pretty clean…and even though I got close enough to take the photo, this bird was not letting me get a hold of his treasure!

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Yesterday’s walk was near sunset–that magical time when the light shines softly, creating a wonderful glow.  I noticed this surfer sitting on her board watching her friend head into the water.  I like the way the sun shines on her face, while everything else has a soft glow.

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By the time I got back to where I began my walk, the sun was just about down, replacing the bright shine with an orange glow.  And I was lucky enough to catch a green flash in the moment the sun set into the ocean…confirmed by the cheers that went up by the other sunset watchers!

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So, where are things shining in your life this week?  What shine catches your eye? Although my examples of shine are from outdoors, I can imagine plenty of shine indoors as well.

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

Thanks Nancy Thanki and the folks at Daily Post for the inspiration this week…and feel free to share your shine with them too!  I’m looking forward to seeing all the shine that catches your eye this week.

 

The Path Not Taken

Sometimes I find myself in a rut–stuck in the mud, sinking lower and lower so that it seems that all I see are shoe tops.  Instead of appreciating the beauty around me, I get mired in the minutia of everyday–dishes and laundry, report cards and meetings, and traffic!

When I’m in that rut I don’t always see the possibilities.  I find myself traveling the same paths, butting up against the same barriers…and even thinking the same not-so-inspiring thoughts!

And I know that I am lucky.  I enjoy my work–most of the time–and all it entails.  My students are a source of energy, my colleagues keep me learning and growing, and the end of the school year means my work will change–adding variety and new stimulation to the mix.  But…there’s that rut…and at this time of the year lots of others are in it too.

Yesterday, after a long work day I was heading to a planning meeting with some colleagues.  And instead of the provocative thinking I knew I would experience when I got there, my mind was on the traffic and the frustration of the snail’s pace I would experience as I got on the freeway.

So I ventured out in another direction.  There was some traffic as I set off, but as I crossed the intersection that could have taken me to the freeway, I headed into the hills. The road was narrow and steep as it curved through neighborhoods with breathtaking views.  As I reached the top I pulled off into a park–well known in these parts.  A place I had been before, but never think to visit.  It’s off the usual path, less direct, with a lower speed limit.

And this path not taken led me to wonder and inspiration…and jubilation!

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I was treated to amazing views of my city.  I could look north to La Jolla shores and the Scripps pier, east toward the mountains and the communities between.  As I looked south I saw the iconic structures of our downtown and the bays and ocean that frame it.

I felt like I could touch the clouds from this place on the hill.  And in spite of the clouds I could see forever in all directions.  The sky was clear and the sun peeked through, brightening my outlook and my attitude.

I don’t have to stay in the rut, mired by routine and overwhelmed by the demands of the end of the school year.  But I do have to find the spaces of inspiration, make time for moments of vacation and renewal even when time is in short supply.

This is one of those lessons that I need to remind myself of over and over again.  It’s easy to stay in the rut, to do the same thing, travel the same roads, talk to the same people, see the same sights.  I’m already thinking about other ways I can shake up my ordinary and pull myself out of the rut…the view is so much better here!

Erosion: Reading Nature’s Text

One of my favorite things about hiking is spending time outdoors, up close to nature’s beauty.  Today  I found myself pretty close to home, at a place I have been a number of times before.  We’d been thinking about venturing further out, but were having trouble finding the information we needed for the unfamiliar hike we wanted to try–so we decided to save that for another day and decided to head to Torrey Pines Reserve instead.

Apparently our idea wasn’t an original one…there were tons of people there!  After waiting in a line of cars to enter the park and making our way up the hillside to park, we headed out onto the trails.  I noticed right away the deep trenches in the trails, a visible impact of the heavy rains over a week ago.

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It was clear that the rangers had employed sandbags and other tools to limit the damage, but nature is strong and water’s power is amazing.  I noticed erosion around me, thinking about the differences in this place over the years I have visited.  The landscape is constantly changing, pieces of the cliff are undermined by the wind and water and drop off to the beach below. Pathways move and are moved–directing the public away from danger and protecting sensitive ground and plants.

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In spite of human intervention, the edge of the cliffs keep changing, moving east away from the sea.  As we continued our hike toward the ocean, I noticed all the ways people have worked to shore up and protect access to the beach.  Steps replaced the scary ledges I remember traversing on a field trip years ago.

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Deep grooves become pathways up and over the cliffs, creating access to other less crowded stretches of beach.

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This natural process of erosion creates new landscapes, new spaces to explore and to adapt. It’s a reminder that change is not a choice, it is a natural consequence of our interactions with the natural environment, with people and places, and with ideas. The rains and the wind and placement of our feet forge landscapes that didn’t exist before–some subtle and barely noticeable and some dramatic and barely recognizable.

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And as much as we resist change and warn about its dangers, it will come. So maybe nature’s reminder is to pay attention, appreciate each moment, and adapt to the changes…maybe even anticipate the changes, allowing us to work with them rather than against them. Read the environment, nature’s text, the alphabet of rock and soil, as a way to understand both the story of the past and the one that will be written by those to come.

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Change is constant, change is natural…so look for opportunities to notice change, to adapt to the changing landscape, and even to sculpt your vision for tomorrow. What will your story be?

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Architecture as Inspiration

As I walked around Chicago last week I found myself looking up.  The buildings are tall and dramatic and command attention.  They reflect, they shine, they tower, they beckon.  And I noticed them in all their variety.

This billboard caught my eye, especially with the skyscrapers rising behind it, and I stopped to snap a photo.

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And I started thinking about architecture and its implications.  I hadn’t thought about architecture as a conversation–across time or otherwise.  I notice architecture and have written about it before in some different ways including this post, but hadn’t thought about how architects consider existing structures when they design new buildings.  Chicago is such an interesting collection of old and new, with more classical pieces from the past standing shoulder to shoulder with the new and shiny.

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I hadn’t thought about how space…whether the building fills the entire lot or allows space for people to walk in courtyards and open spaces below and between…can either make a city feel crowded and cramped,

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or open and airy.

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Or that reflections of other buildings can feel welcoming, like trying on what it feels like to walk in another’s shoes.

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Or that echoing aspects of a previous and nearby architecture honors and acknowledges that structure as the field also moves forward (and up)!

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Some buildings seem to take us back in time,

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and some take us back into history.

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And as I write this, I am beginning to see those conversations across time.  I am also seeing the ways that architects can ensure that newcomers are good neighbors and find ways to embrace the old while looking forward to the future.

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Can architectural decisions change the ways we interact with each other?  Do those tall buildings whisper in our ears, reminding us to be good neighbors, to learn from our past, to reach out and welcome change?  Inspiration can come in may forms…including the buildings around us.

In the words of Winston Churchill,

We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.

I know that architecture and interesting buildings inspire my photography…and now I am thinking about how it also inspires the ways we live, especially in big cities. Now I need to take some time and wander my own city center and explore its architecture more carefully!

Quiet Forces of Nature

When we think of a force of nature, our thoughts often turn to those terrifying and often devastating earthquakes, tornados, avalanches, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, and wildfires.  But sometimes in nature, forces whisper and almost go unnoticed.

In the solitude of the hiking trail, the rhythm of our boots joined the whoosh of the wind as it races through the tree tops.  When I look closely I can see how the wind shapes those tall sentinels, bending and curving them with its quiet force.

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Could have been wind or water (or the lack of water) or something else that worked this tree trunk loose from the ground.  Now it continues to contribute to life in the forest as it decays, providing a home to insects and fungi, enriching the soil…and providing a natural frame for this photo!

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Tiny flowers spring up, planted by the wind and passing wildlife, watered by the increasingly rare raindrops, and nibbled by the local inhabitants.  In the meadows they create a carpet of color, a delight for the eyes.

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Look closer and you can see the individual blossoms as they sway in the breezes, their beauty fleeting…it won’t be long before the blooms dry up and fall off and this colorful carpet will turn to dry brush.

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The barbed wire hints at the cattle that graze these spaces.  As I see the fences I remember a photo recently posted by a friend…and it becomes a mentor for one of my own.

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I hear birds and look up.  On this hike I have seen birds of prey floating on the wind currents and what I think are local woodpeckers, with bright red heads, chatting with one another in the tall oaks high above me.  I see other evidence of their presence, the creation of granary trees where they store their acorns.

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There are so many forces of nature at work in this magnificent place in our local mountains.  Nature’s forces weren’t roaring, but they whispered their power, begging me to take notice and appreciate the intricacies of her systems at work.  I’m part of this system too, and when I care I can make a positive difference, remembering that my needs and desires need to stay in balance with those of the trees and the birds and the wildflowers.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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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.

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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.