Tag Archives: dandelions

Weekly Photo Challenge: #Make Art

Some days finding a photo to take and post is a challenge.  Most of the photos I take are “found”–meaning that I don’t stage them other than moving around to get a better angle or to change the light.  I seldom arrange things or stage a shot.  But yesterday was different.

First, I was thinking about the idea of re-mediation, a concept being explored in the second make cycle of the CLMOOC.  My photo-a-day prompt was shadow…and I had just gotten home from a full day at the Summer Institute.  As a break from working on my #beachpeople documentary, I grabbed my camera and headed outside to look for a shadow opportunity. Nothing was grabbing my attention–the shadows I noticed seemed ordinary.

That’s when I decided to pick a dandelion puff.  As I looked at it I wondered how I might photograph it in a different way.  I thought about blowing on it…but couldn’t figure out how to hold it, blow on it, and photograph it at the same time…and where would I get shadow from that?  Instead, I started holding the dandelion out to see how it cast its shadow.  I tried the sidewalk, the side of the house, my car mirror, and the shiny paint of my car.  I had to work to get the focal length of my lens right so some portion of the shot would be crisp.  I took a number of shots.

When I headed back inside to study my work, I noticed some interesting images…but I wondered if I might re-mediate them in some way.  I rejected my go-to apps and started to explore some that I seldom use.  PicsArt caught my eye–could I transform this experiment into something that looked like art…rather than a photograph?  (I do think photos are art–but I was looking for something that looked less like a photo and more like a painting or some other kind of art.)

Here’s what I started with–the original, unedited photo.

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And here’s the art I made as I re-mediated the image.

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I love the resulting image–the crispness of the near dandelion and the echo from the shadow.  I might need to print this one and hang it in my house somewhere!

So, make some art!  That might mean playing with some new editing apps, staging the perfect scene, or maybe even catching someone else making art like I did on today’s beachwalk!  (Love catching #beachpeople in action!)

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

So grab your camera and make some art!  You make the rules…and feel free to re-mediate and let your imagination run wild!

Musings

I am definitely drawn to photograph some images over and over again.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly will recognize the beach where I walk regularly.  There is an endless supply of seagulls, surfers, sunsets, hang gliders, and more.  And I am drawn to photograph them again and again, trying new angles, different light, close ups and vistas.  But is the beach my muse?

Yesterday after a long and busy week keeping me mostly indoors and mostly away from my camera, I just felt the urge to go outside and take some photos.  I was exhausted, my brain full after finishing our first full week in the SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute AND still trying to keep up with and participate in the CLMOOC, and yet I could feel my camera calling.

My husband was in the kitchen performing his culinary magic, the cats lounging nearby (never wanting him beyond their line of sight), so I grabbed my camera and heading into the backyard.

I noticed the lavender first.  It’s not growing as well as I would like, but that didn’t stop me from learning in to get close to this beauty.

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I love playing with macro, the way the lens focuses in on the near and blurs out the background. The afternoon sun allowed the vibrance of the greens and purples to come through.  As I looked down I noticed a succulent in a pot that I hadn’t paid any attention to before.  I got low–on my knees–and tucked in under the scented geraniums to get close enough.  I’m remembering that succulents use those small leaves to conserve water, a great adaptation for an environment like this one where water is scarce…and water restrictions are limiting our elective watering too.

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I continued to wander, aiming my lens at whatever caught my eye.  I unlatched the gate and headed toward the front yard.  There are usually dandelions there–much to my husband’s chagrin…and my delight.  I noticed this yellow bloom.

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and then later, played with the image with the sketch app.

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And this later stage dandelion, with most of its seeds blown away caught my eye.  I found myself thinking about wishes and how we often make wishes on a dandelion puff just before we blow the seeds away.  Do those wishes take root or do they float away beyond our reach?

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I like the idea that there are still a few wishes left hanging here…and posted this on a friend’s Facebook page to send her birthday wishes last night.  Later, I played with Waterlogue, a watercolor app just to see what effect it might have.

Preset Style = “It's Technical” Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = Technical Pen Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = High Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = Normal Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Minimal Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Wide Paper = Graph Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

But as I continue to think about this idea of muse, I find myself rejecting the idea that the dandelion is the muse.  I do and have taken plenty of dandelion photos.  But I think that the muse, for me, is the camera itself.

With a camera in my hand, my senses are heightened.  I notice my surroundings–with my eyes and my ears…all my senses seem to fire.  And even when I don’t capture an amazing photo, I feel like I see more, hear more, am more present in the moment.

And, as I seek an interesting photo, I find myself looking beyond the beautiful.  Those golden sunset moments are pretty reliable…and I think I will never tire of them, but I am also seeking images that make me think, that help me see beyond the surface and find the beauty in what I might have dismissed as ugly, disposable, a nuisance…

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which reminds me as an educator and a human being that we all need to look past the obvious, make a connection and get under the surface to see what we haven’t noticed before.  This dandelion plant caught my eye and drew me into the dry remnants of the puff, the lone seed hanging on, the bud getting ready to reveal the brilliant yellow flower that doesn’t even hint at becoming a puffy seed ball.  It would be easy to yank this week out and toss it into the green waste (and my husband might when he heads out to mow the lawn), but I’m glad I got to lean in, look closely and discover some of the wonders I might have otherwise missed.

I feel lucky to have my camera as my muse…and even without looking through my lens, it’s teaching me to pay attention, look closely, and connect to better understand myself and my world…and better yet, give me insights into the experiences of others as well.  I may not walk in the shoes of the people I encounter, but by listening carefully, looking closely, and opening my heart, I can do my part to be inclusive, accepting, and strive to understand beyond my own experiences.

How does your muse influence you?

New Year, New Eyes

There’s lots of cliches about the New Year…resolution making, retrospectives on the year that passed, champagne at midnight, polar bear plunges on New Year’s day, and so many more.

And somehow, there is something about a new number for the year that encourages the idea of fresh starts, new habits…and maybe a new way of seeing the world.  I got ready for my new year by heading up to our local mountains for a rare…and wonderful snowy day.  You might remember last week that I said it never snows where I live.  Well, that is still true, it didn’t snow in most of San Diego…but we did get enough snow in the mountains and surrounding foothills to create a winter wonderland.

For someone who seldom sees snow, this was a treat!  The world looks entirely different when covered in a layer of white.

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Even the familiar…dandelions and native plants take on new dimensions against a snowy backdrop.

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And we couldn’t resist the urge to build a snowman…even if it was a miniature version!

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I love the way snow creates a quiet space, there is a sense of a hush and opportunity for reflection and introspection.

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Maybe that’s what the cows were thinking (although this was later in the day after lots of snow had melted…and at a lower elevation)!

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I’m sure I’m not going to be able to depend on snow to give me new eyes to view my life this year.  But maybe a ride high above the ground will help…like in these skyfari buckets at the zoo!

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But mostly, I know, I will need to stay on the lookout for new ways to see what is most familiar to me.  I couldn’t resist this shot of three seagulls as I walked to the parking lot at our local beach…seeing with new eyes in the new year!

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What will you see this year as you look with new eyes?

Reflecting on Weeds

I’ve been pretty obsessed with weeds over the last few weeks.  These much maligned plants are resilient, tenacious, and often quite beautiful…traits I admire.

On my way home from work today I noticed that the greenhouses I passed were ablaze with color, so I pulled off the road, parked and walked to take a closer look and a few pictures.  And on my way I noticed this weed growing along the cement wall in a crack between the sidewalk and the wall.

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When I got home I noticed that today’s Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge was reflection…and instead of thinking about the many photos I take of literal reflections (mostly involving water), my mind immediately went to this photo of a dandelion weed growing in the crack of a sidewalk.

I’ve reflected on many aspects of weeds in the last couple of weeks: their beauty, the role of a negative label, and about things that we see as expendable. Every time I see a weed I find myself thinking about its positive qualities…and wondering if a particular plant is seen as a weed depending on the context.  After I photographed the dandelion weed I also noticed the salty susans growing wild in the dirt where the sidewalk stopped.  I wondered…are these weeds or are they native plants?  And really, what is the difference?  If these yellow blossoms were in the crack of the sidewalk would that make them a weed?

salty susan

And as I finished my parent-student-teacher conferences today I was thinking about the qualities the educational establishment values in learners.  What about the students who don’t quite fit the profile of the ideal learner?

I heard a piece on the radio this morning about the rate of suspension and expulsion in schools of students of color…and know that there is no reasonable explanation for these statistics. These children are being seen as “weeds” in the system, intentionally or unintentionally, and this has to change.  How we talk about kids and how we define success plays a huge role in the ways kids are treated in schools and other contexts.  Plucking them out is not a viable solution…and there’s plenty of research to support that premise.

I think the answer lies in broadening our definitions of school success.  I also think we need to consider what we expect of students.  Do we want them to sit quietly or do we want them to learn?  Is reading from a textbook or listening to lectures the best pathway to learning?  How do we support students in finding their own experiences in the content we teach?  What environments do we cultivate to encourage the growth of students who are quite different from each other?  How do we engage families and learn from them and with them about their children?

For me, weeds are an object of reflection…and of fascination.  And they generate question after question for me to consider as I strive to improve my teaching practice.

And watch out…I might just have an entire garden full of weeds one of these days!

The Dilemma of Labels

I’m still thinking about weeds.  Probably because we read Weeds Find a Way in class today.  Our students were so surprised when they realized the puff balls they love to blow from dandelions are really seeds!

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We talked about the places weed grow…and I urged them to be on the lookout for weeds in unexpected places and to report back to us what they noticed.

The more I think about weeds, the more I realize that weeds are just plants that have managed to make pests of themselves.  One of my students pointed out that weeds are plants that we don’t try to grow–they plant themselves.  There’s a list of weeds in the back of Cindy’s book, most that I have never heard of (obviously I’m not well-versed in weeds beyond dandelions).

But then again, is labeling a plant a weed just a matter of opinion?  Is a weed a plant you don’t want?  I can remember as a kid my mom calling geraniums weeds.  They grew along the side of our garage and my mom was always trying to pull them out.  And now I see people trying to grow geraniums, buying them from the nursery, cultivating them for their beautiful colors and vibrance.

Yesterday I noticed this ivy coming through the fence to my backyard.

gate with ivy

Sometimes I think ivy is pretty…but it can be insidious once it takes hold and is very hard to get rid of.  We had some ivy wrap itself around the trunk of a tree in our yard…and nearly kill the tree!  And it took a lot of work to free that tree from the ivy, and the tree is just beginning to come back to health.

So just when does a plant become a weed?  Is ivy a weed when it chokes a tree, but a plant when you cultivate its growth? And does the label matter? What about students?  When we label them…gifted, learning disabled, autistic, dyslexic…does it change the ways we view and treat them?  Do they become metaphoric weeds in our classrooms when they become a nuisance?  When they take too much work?  When they choke someone else’s growth?

Can we change our perceptions by changing the labels?  Or by removing the labels?  Would we like weeds better if we learned their names and noticed their unique qualities?

Hmmm…weeds and labels.  I need to do some more thinking about this!

A Homage to Weeds

I’m fascinated by weeds.  They have a way of surviving in the most unlikely of circumstances, even when they are directly and persistently attacked…like the dandelions in our lawn!  And on a lazy Saturday, a day where I am trying not to have the cold this tell-tale runny nose is suggesting, I’m still looking for an interesting photo or two to snap.

So, after wandering around my yard, I spied a patch of dandelions and other assorted weeds that have hijacked an abandoned pot of dirt and the ground around it.

I love my macro lens when weeds are concerned, it takes me in close and lets me see the magic and beauty of what often is mistaken as ordinary.  So with the macro attached, my phone and I headed out to a corner of the yard.  I’m particularly interested in unfolding buds, like this one.

Dandelion bud-macro

The string-like petals remind me of a variegated ball of yarn or multicolored strands of thread. It’s hard to believe that this will bloom into that yellow, sun-like blossom that most recognize as a dandelion.  (I’ve written about dandelions before, if you’re interested.)  Here’s a few tiny blossoms trying to get a foothold in my lawn.

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SDAWP TC Cindy Jenson-Elliott just had her first picture book released recently.  Weeds Find a Way is a book that celebrates weeds in all their tenacity, beauty, and adaptions for survival. We’ll be using it in our class this week to both teach students about weeds in all their glory and to study the writing as a mentor text for our writing about some other plants in our school garden.

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So this post is an homage to weeds, a pause to appreciate these often maligned plants.  Taking time to find beauty, especially in what others have taught us to see as ugly or a nuisance, is refreshing and renewing for me.  And for me it transfers beyond weeds and helps me look at all aspects of life and living in a more appreciative frame.

What have you taken the time to appreciate today?

Dandelions: A Photo Essay

Dandelions fascinate me.  These pesky plants, often referred to as weeds, are hearty, resilient, and strong and at the same time delicate, graceful, and intricate.  During the winter I had the chance to watch a dandelion transform through its growth phases.  It somehow ended up thriving in an abandoned planter in my front yard—one of those spaces where I always have plans to have something beautiful grow—but lack of consistent watering and attention seem to spell doom for whatever I purposely plant there.  We’d about given up on the planter, planning to relegate it to the back yard where it wouldn’t be such an eyesore—its been just a planter of dirt for some time–when I noticed a dandelion flower blooming bright and yellow seemingly oblivious to the neglect of this newfound home.  I grabbed my macro lens for my iphone and worked to capture that sunny globe.

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Each day as I arrived home from work, before the daylight had dimmed, I noticed another phase of the dandelion’s life and attempted to capture it with my macro lens.  I love the way the macro forces me to slow my breathing, lean in close, and look carefully.  Steadiness is paramount to a successful photo—and I find myself angling the lens this way and that as I work to achieve the optimal focus on some aspect of my subject.

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As the dandelion turned from yellow flower to white fluffball, I realize how little thought I had really given to these two very different versions of the same plant.  Like so many people I had played with these “weeds” as a child, picking these little fluffballs and blowing while I made wishes, never considering that I was in fact helping their cause as those pieces of fluff, each with a seed, attaches floated to a new home.

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I got closer still and worked to capture what happened day by day as the dandelion naturally progressed.  And that’s when my view of dandelions was forever transformed.

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I became obsessed with taking pictures of dandelions…in all their states.  And I began seeing what had once been ordinary in new and extraordinary ways.

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Instead of my “go about my business without paying too much attention to the little things” stance, I suddenly had a caterpillar’s eye view, which opened up new ways of seeing.

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So my takeaway…look closely and pay attention to the ordinary, searching for the hidden beauty.  I feel like that’s also a lesson to heed even without my iphone in my hand.  In my classroom and in my work with teachers I also need to search for the hidden beauty masked by the ordinary–that’s where the treasures lie.  What treasures are hiding from you?