Tag Archives: explore

Savoring Moments

As much as I love my job, these last few days of summer vacation have flown by much too quickly.  I’ll still be in the amazing place that I call home…and have opportunities to walk on the beach, appreciate the natural beauty around me, and watch so many interesting people.  What I won’t have though, is the unstructured time with few expectations that allows me to unwind and relax.

But…what I’ve been learning over the last year is the importance of creating mini-adventures on a regular basis–to keep me from working all the time and to make spaces for play and exploration, as well as opportunities to connect and build relationships with the people I love.  And I’ve learned that taking time to play prepares me for work…and the focus on learning that I need in the classroom.

School starts tomorrow…and I’m excited to reconnect with our second and third grade students…and meet our new first graders!  And I consciously made a choice not to work today.  Instead, my husband took the day off work and we headed out on a local adventure.

I’m not sure why I have never visited Balboa Island in Newport Beach before…what a gem!  (And a Monday in late August was a great choice–light traffic and beautiful weather!)  A scenic drive up the PCH led us to the Balboa Island Ferry.  Only three cars can fit on ferry at a time…and when we arrived we were the only car, joined by some boys on bicycles, to cross over to the island. (This picture is the ferry bringing people from the other side as we crossed.)  I loved the short ride on this small ferry–it was fun to take pictures, feel the sea breeze, and feel transported back in time on this low tech feeling vehicle.

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And then we headed out to walk along the shoreline…and found this gorgeous expanse of beach.  Sand and sun and waves–my favorite combination.  We walked and walked and walked, soaking in the beauty and the calm that only the ocean can bring.

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And I’m ready to head back to work tomorrow, looking forward to the energy and enthusiasm of young students, ready to savor the moments as we live and learn in a community.  I’ll be paying attention, keeping my eyes peeled, trying not to miss anything!

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Urban Mountains

I’ve spent some time over the last year exploring mountains…and testing my body and my endurance.  I’ve walked for miles, enjoyed wildflowers, listened to birds, noticed clouds, smelled pine trees and the musky aroma of sage.  I experienced California’s drought, seeing hundreds of dead trees and dangerously low water levels and reveled in the beauty that nature has to offer.

As I walked through downtown Chicago over the weekend, I found myself thinking about how the skyscrapers are like urban mountains standing tall and proud, shading one side while the sun shines on the other, reflecting the sky and creating canyons and valleys between them.

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I’ve logged lots of miles in the last few days and I love the way that walking brings me up close with the city.  Old sits next to new, the homeless rubbing shoulders with the wealthy, sweet smells of Garrett’s carmel popcorn on one block, sour smells of trash and filth on the next.

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And I was seduced into joining the throngs of other tourists (from all over the world) to experience the view of Chicago from 103 stories above.  What was formerly Sears Tower is now known as Willis Tower, the tallest building in the US (and there are some who insist in the world).  110 stories tall with radio towers making it taller, this building is a feat of engineering that was built in the 1970’s.  And in spite of having been in Chicago a number of times before this, I had never gone up…or even walked by this building before!

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I was determined to not only brave the long lines and go up…but while up there I decided to battle my intense fear of heights and walk out on the plexiglass sky bridge, looking straight down at the ground so far below my feet!

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Yeah, it was scary…hand sweating, vertigo-inducing, catch your breath scary.  I’ve been up high before…the Space Needle in Seattle, the Empire State Building in NYC, but the sky deck took away the comfort of window ledges and railings, leaving me with clear plexiglass as safety from falling.  But I went out there not once, but three times.  Each easier than the one before, although I can still feel my hands dampen as I write this.

I was even able to snap a few playful selfies with my husband, who enjoyed every minute of this sky high experience.

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Once down, we circled the building to find those plexiglass outcroppings from the outside.  The height is even more impressive looking up–the sky deck is barely visible from the ground!  (Look closely–maybe even click on the photo to bring up a larger version to see them!)

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You don’t have to be in the wilderness to enjoy the outdoors.  There is lots to see and experience right outside the door.  And I fell in love with the interactive art in the park spaces in downtown Chicago.  The bean in Millennium Park encouraged people to come close, stand back, group up…and of course, take plenty of photos, while also reflecting the beauty of the urban mountains.

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And on a hot summer day it was fun to watch people interacting with these tall brick fountain structures that also include projections of faces, facing each other.

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I’m glad we spent time exploring the urban mountains of Chicago, walking miles and seeing the city up close.  It might not be a National Park, but it was fun exploring the great urban outdoors!

Documenting Light: July’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

July is the heart of summer. Long days, warm nights, all filled with light. Morning light, light at dawn, midday and afternoon light, the dwindling light of sunset and twilight, and the glow of lights at night. July is a month to capture light.

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Nature is painting for us, day after day,, pictures of infinite beauty.

John Ruskin

And inspired by the work of Paccarik Orue, I find myself thinking about documentary photography—photography that celebrates place, people, culture, and customs that uncovers and illuminates beauty that others may miss or dismiss.

Never fear shadows. They simply mean there’s light shining somewhere nearby.

Ruth Renkel

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So let’s explore the light of July, in all its variety and glory and document the places and people we experience.

Light can be gentle, dangerous, dream-like, bare, living, dead, misty, clear, hot, dark, violet, springlike, falling, straight, sensual, limited, poisonous, calm and soft.

Sven Nykvist

The harsh man-made lights at the end of the pier,

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midday light illuminating a wave and its surfer,

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filtered light through the windows of your house for the cats to discover (that’s Jack!),

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and looking up into the clear blue sky at wild fair rides.

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Lingering seems most at home in the late afternoon. Other words belong to other times. But lingering (like dawdling and dallying) works best when the day is slipping away, and we don’t care.

Jim Richardson

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Here’s some prompts to get us started this month:

1. Home

2.  Shadow

3.  Outside

4.  Color

5.  Bright

6.  Undercover

7.  Discover

8.  Warm

9.  Night

10.  Dawdling

11.  Misty

12.  Clear

13.  Dangerous

14.  Bare

15.  Violet

16.  Dead

17.  Gentle

18.  Falling

19.  Dream-like

20.  Straight

21.  Hot

22.  Living

23.  Sensual

24.  Limited

25.  Poisonous

26.  Dallying

27.  Soft

28.  Calm

29.  Lingering

30.  Fear

31.  Care

So let’s explore the light of summer and document the people and places and things we encounter.  Our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. Every day of the month includes a word prompt to inspire and challenge you to document the spaces you inhabit as you explore the light. You are welcome to follow them in order, mix them up, or throw in a new word prompt for the rest of us to try. 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.

Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.

Maori proverb

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And don’t forget to play around with nighttime light too!

Twilight drops her curtain down, and pins it with a star.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

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What light will you see and document through your lens?

Getting Ready for #CLMOOC

While I haven’t participated in #rhizo15, I have been intrigued by the ideas behind rhizomatic learning and the thinking that learners can direct themselves, learn from one another, and transform learning in the process.  (If I have that wrong…someone please correct me!)  And the Connected Learning MOOC, known as the #CLMOOC (massive open online collaboration) is starting up in a few weeks!

So instead of cleaning my house or working on report cards last week, I started playing with some photo apps, creating some photo art.  And then yesterday Margaret Simon initiated a #digilit challenge…with the first week being focused on creating #photoart.  How could I resist?

So I started with the image I had created using the app Waterlogue, creating a watercolor version of the photo I had taken.  Then, because Margaret modeled adding poetry to hers, I decided to create a haiku to express why I had stopped and snapped the photo in the first place.  I shared this image with her on Facebook yesterday.

Preset Style = Natural Format = 6" (Medium) Format Margin = Small Format Border = Sm. Rounded Drawing = #2 Pencil Drawing Weight = Medium Drawing Detail = Medium Paint = Natural Paint Lightness = Normal Paint Intensity = Normal Water = Tap Water Water Edges = Medium Water Bleed = Average Brush = Natural Detail Brush Focus = Everything Brush Spacing = Narrow Paper = Watercolor Paper Texture = Medium Paper Shading = Light Options Faces = Enhance Faces

And then today I decided to do some exploring and mess around with Thinglink to add some other media to the image.  I started by adding a link to the original photo I had taken before turning it into a watercolor painting.  I also decided to add a favorite piece of music, so I linked a YouTube video of Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World.  And then, just for fun, I added the link to Margaret’s Pinterest page where there are examples of other’s #photoart.  Here’s my result:

https://www.thinglink.com/scene/659592420828119042

I hope you will also join in the fun…create some #photoart…and join us at the CLMOOC starting in June!

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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Exploring Technique: May’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

It’s been a while since I’ve focused intentionally on photographic technique…lately I’ve been much more focused on exploring places than working on the more technical aspects of creating interesting photos.  So it seem to be time to create a challenge that encourages me (and you) to explore (my one little word) how the tools of the trade might impact the images created.

So for May’s #sdawpphotovoices photo-a-day challenge, we’ll focus on a different aspect of photography each week.

After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts. If you are game for some more playfulness, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, make a video or slideshow or try a learning walk! (More about learning walks here and here) You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Week 1: Playing with Composition

1. Simplify the scene—move in closer to remove distracting details

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2. Rule of thirds (or simply avoid the middle)–what happens when you frame your subject off center?

3. Use leading lines—frame your shot by letting the natural lines (fences, roads, walls…) direct the viewer’s eye

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4. Use diagonals—shift the angle, tilt your camera…

5. Check your background—what’s behind your subject? Experiment with finding a background that works with your subject

6. Fill the frame—zoom in or step closer to fill the frame with your subject

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7. Break the rules—experiment with your own compositional style

Week 2: Playing with Light

8. Shoot into the light to create a silhouette

9. Capture a shadow

10. Find the light in a dark setting

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11. Make light the centerpiece of the photo

12. Experiment with light and dark in one photo

13. Include a reflection (water is useful here!)

14. Try something new with light (either natural light or some other light source)

Week 3: Playing with Perspective

15. Get low

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16. Shoot from above

17. Create an optical illusion

18. Play with negative space

19. Get close

20. Try a wide angle effect

21. What other perspective have you tried?

Week 4: Playing with Genre

22. Architecture

23. Black and White

24. Children

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25. Landscape

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26. Macro

27. Nature

28. Street photography

Week 5: Play with filters and effects

29. Abstract

30. Adjust the color

31. Your choice!

Our goal is to explore, share with each other, and learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. Each week includes seven suggestions for exploring the technique, and the final days offer opportunities to play around with filters and effects. You are welcome to follow them in order, mix them up, or exchange them for a technique you want to try on. 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!

Exploring Symmetry…LA Style

I know that symmetry is a mathematical concept…one of precision, perfectly matched halves. But mostly, in the world, symmetry is not so perfect.  But there are echoes of symmetry all around us.  My eyes were hearing the echoes of symmetry the other day as I explored downtown Los Angeles with my son.

There is something so special about spending the day with my son and our cameras.  We walk and talk and take photos, noticing details, trying new shots, seeing the world through each other’s eyes.  And there’s a certain symmetry in that too.

My eyes were drawn to this old building visible from the parking garage.  The symmetry has been spoiled by graffiti, age and disrepair.  But there is still something beautiful about it.

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In contrast, this old historic building has been preserved, both inside and out.  Inside, the exquisite marble floors and intricate wrought iron frame the antique mechanical elevators.  And outside, I had to angle my shot to exclude the modern Subway sandwich sign and stoplights to capture the beauty of this elegant old building.

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We also ended up climbing flight upon flight of stairs as we explore the is old rail system called Angel’s Flight.  Built in 1901 it traveled up and down a block…and after scaling the stairs…I see why they wanted a railway!

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Grand Central Market was an explosion of colors and smells…and quite a tasty place for lunch! I was drawn to these cactus pads…there is a certain symmetry in these bins of produce and the jumble of price signs rising out of them.

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I’m not sure that any of my photos fit the mathematical definition of symmetry…but for me they communicate the idea of symmetry, the creation of purposeful balance and arrangement. Just like my day with Nick…the perfect balance and arrangement of time, exploration, and connection.  And the cherry on top…dinner with my daughter-in-law!  Symmetry!