Tag Archives: Instagram

Best of 2020: A Year in 13 Photos

As December winds down I start to notice people displaying their “Best Nine” on Instagram. And every year, my “Best Nine” simply doesn’t represent what I deem to be my best nine photos. Since the “Best Nine” uses an algorithm based on numbers of likes, they often include a flashback birthday photo or anniversary collage. I get why those draw the likes from family and friends–but they don’t get at what I am trying to represent in my photography.

So today I took a walk back through time, exploring my Instagram postings and selected a “best” photo for each month, based on composition, color, clarity, and other aspects of photography that I have been working on.

My January choice came from a trip to Berkeley for some National Writing Project work. Walking back to our hotel near sunset, I couldn’t resist standing in the middle of the street to capture the arrow, the light, and the colorful sky. This photo seemed to be suggesting all the good things ahead as we entered the new year…well before the realities of 2020 set in.

I’m fortunate to have a week off each February–a perfect non-holiday break during the winter. This year we decided to spend our time in Yosemite National Park–a place neither my husband or I had ever visited. We were treated to amazing views, strenuous hikes, and even some snowshoeing. One of my favorite experiences was finding a place to take photos of the sun setting on the iconic granite cliffs like El Capitan. We knew we had found a great spot when we found quite a few fellow photographers lined up to capture the magic. I love this view of photographers, all queued up for sunset shots of the beautiful Yosemite valley.

March brought the lockdown. Schools closed, travel stopped, and even beach access was restricted. Morning walks felt like an escape. And my backyard became the object of my photography. I discovered the wild garden of abandoned plants thriving just beyond our notice. That gorgeous fuschia that I was given as a gift had found a second life in the backyard…and became a focus of photography when home was the only place, day in and day out.

April brought the sadness of Spring Break with no place to go. Yes–I know I am so fortunate to live in a place where people go to spend their vacations. But staying home still feels hard, especially when work and home are the same place…and then a break just means more time at home, trying not to work! We turned Spring Break into small road trips, exploring our own county. This picture was taken from the side of the road above the Lake Hodges dam–a man-made reservoir in our area. I love the abundance of green–something we don’t see much of in our parts!

By May that morning walk felt like Groundhog’s Day all over again. How do you see the same path, at the same time, in a different way? I kept noticing the same seed pod hanging from the same tree morning after morning. So, of course, I had to take a photo. I loved the fuzz, the morning light, the long bean-like quality of the pod. And transforming that photo to black and white brought out the surrealist qualities of the image.

June brought more of the same. School was ending but I was still home. In between writing report cards, responding to student work online, and Zoom meetings with colleagues, I wandered my back yard with my camera. Sometimes a close look reveals a surprise inside. These white flowers that grow in my backyard seldom attract my attention, but on this day in June I was drawn to look closely…and to my delight, found a spider settled into the center! (And I may have screamed when I noticed it there!)

Most years July finds me in different places, often traveling for work or vacation–or at least at the university for our writing project’s Summer Institute. But this year all that work was virtual, taking place at my kitchen table–the same place I had worked every day since mid-March! Luckily, the beaches had reopened and all the regulars were back! I wandered all my old haunts, often timing my walks with low tide. I love photographing our local egrets and delighted in this image of the splash after the egret dove that sharp beak down for a quick snack.

I always try to squeeze in personal time in August, often spending time with my sons or on a trip away from home with my husband before the demands of the new school year begins. We did venture a bit beyond our county…taking some day trips just beyond the county line. We found beaches we had never visited and appreciated new perspectives…like watching surfers at Huntington Beach from the pier. Action is hard to capture in a still…and I like that you can see the movement in this one.

And a bonus photo for August. I couldn’t resist including this image of an osprey in action. If you look closely you can see the fish in the very sharp talons as I watched this bird swoop down, pick up the fish and fly off to enjoy its lunch. Luckily, ospreys are regular visitors to my favorite walking beach and I get to see them when my timing is right!

In a typical year, September is the time when tourists return to their homes and we can once again find parking places at our local beaches! The weather is perfect in September–warm and sunny, and the days are still long. It is definitely the time of endless summer…and this light captures that sentiment perfectly!

How many pictures can you take at the beach? Apparently hundreds and hundreds based on my camera roll! I take pictures of landscapes, surfers, and seabirds…and when the tide is really low and I look closely, I can photograph sea life in the tidepools. I love the colors of this sea anemone in its natural environment that I discovered in October.

November–was that really just last month? It becomes clear that that I spend much of my down time at the beach. I walk and breathe and photograph. I notice all the regular characters–the people I pass day after day, the landforms that appear and disappear depending on the tide level, and the birds. Oh, the birds. I love these royal terns. They always remind me of Groucho Marx and until someone taught me that they are royal terns, I called them Groucho Marx seagulls because of their big eyebrows! I love the animated conversation caught in this image. That near tern certainly has something to say!

With December comes short days and changing light. Trees drop their leaves (even in sunny San Diego) and weather is more variable than the usual night and morning low clouds with daytime temps in the 70s. An early morning walk (yes–those are still a staple after all these months!) revealed the most gorgeous sherbet-colored sunrise skies, the perfect backdrop for winter trees.

So instead of a “Best Nine,” I present a best of 2020 in 13 photos. Here’s to a fresh canvas beginning tomorrow. What images will paint your 2021?

Best of 2017, Photo Style

I’ve been taking at least one photo a day for many years now (I think I started in 2012), which adds up to quite a collection of photos over the course of a year.  I do like to take the time to pick out some “best of” photos from the year, based on my own criteria of course!  (Here’s a link to last year’s collection.) Instagram, where I post my daily photos, offers a #bestnine each year where the nine are determined by the photos that get the most likes.   (You can see mine for 2017 on my Instagram account @kd0602) For me, those are not my best photos.  Instead they are often related to an event that creates some traffic rather than images that stand out for their photographic merit.

It was hard to pick nine “best” photos for 2017. Initially I came up with eleven–but after some careful consideration I narrowed it down and I am sticking with nine!  I went all the way back to the beginning of last year and found myself drawn to this photo of the ocean lighted by winter’s low sun angles and muted by the clouds, creating a colorful sky.  I love the pensive mood it creates on the delightfully empty beach.

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My annual trip to Washington D.C in 2017 happened to correspond with the blossoming of cherry trees.  I absolutely love the delicate pinks against the brilliant blue sky.  While I wasn’t there at peak bloom, this was close enough for some beautiful photos.

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Some days my photo choices are limited to something in my house or yard.  Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I took this shot of the lavender plant in my back yard with the bee in action.  The macro effect erases the background, creating a watercolor of greens and browns.

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All the lifeguard towers that we see during the summer, winter near the jetty not too far from my house.  This composition begged for black and white, a cluster of white towers against the dark of sky and sand.  I feel like there is a whole story in this one image.

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A spring trip to Joshua Tree National Park offered amazing opportunities to experience the desert in bloom.  Everything that is ordinarily dry and brown was exploding in color.  And the sky at sunset was up to the challenge, silhouetting the distinctive Joshua tree in its colorful descending light.

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A local man is a regular at the beach near sunset creating enormous, soapy bubbles that reflect the setting sun.  I love this particular bubble because of the swirl of color radiating in front of the light from the sun. This guy encourages kids to run in the bubbles, seeing how long they can stay in before the bubble pops.  I have taken tons of photos of his bubbles, but only a few are this spectacular.

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As you can tell from the previous six images, many of my photographs are of nature.  But on the 4th of July I found myself captivated by the action of the volleyball players.  I kept creeping closer, working to time the snap of my shutter with the ball centered over the top of the net.  I am in love with the action of this shot…all the way down to the sand puffs under the players’ feet!

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November took me to the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.  In spite of full days of conference sessions and meetings, no trip to St. Louis is complete without an opportunity to get close to the Gateway Arch.  Night photography is always challenging for me, I love that I had just enough light to catch the arch as a frame for the cityscape in the background.  Look closely, you can see the American flag off to the right!

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And number nine was taken on New Year’s Eve, just a couple of days ago during a walk on the beach.  I love when the tide is low and the beach is wide.  Obviously, my friend the egret feels the same.  I love the light and color in this image, showing off the vivid greens and reds of the sea grass and algae and the bright white of the egret’s feathers.  If you lean in you might be able to see the brilliant yellow feet of this snowy egret.

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I hope you enjoy my best nine of 2017, I’d love to hear your thoughts about my choices…and suggestions as I go into 2018.  And I’d love to see your best of images for the year…feel free to leave a link to your post so I can enjoy your best of 2017!  (Or even best of today!)



Weekly Photo Challenge: Best of 2016

The year is winding down, we can count the hours until the ball drops and 2017 enters.  That also makes it a perfect time for reflection…and a bit of curation of this year’s photos. Instagram is helping folks out this year…creating a #2016bestnine collection based on the number of likes your photos got.  Interestingly, my best nine according to Instagram did not make my best five I had culled to share here.  Don’t get me wrong, I like these photos and I’m excited that they are not all beach photos!  There are two images from UCSD, one from Atlanta and one from Tucson…and even one that I stopped my car and took a photo on a street near my neighborhood.


I actually picked these photos for another reason…as my contribution to Bonnie’s annual year end video compilation (I’ll add the link once she publishes it on her blog).  She asked for photos and captions to represent myself.  I have found tremendous peace in nature this year, noticing the beauty and experiencing the wonders of the natural world.  I love this moss covered branch that I spotted on a walk around the reservoir when visiting my grandsons in the Bay Area earlier this fall.


“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir

Many of my photos evoke connections to my precious grandsons…three 10 month old boys, sons of my two sons.  (You can read about my anticipation of their births here.) I take many photos of them, but none will appear on social media because of my sons’ request that I not post.  But I carry them in my mind and heart constantly.  When I saw this “found heart” on a prickly pear cactus, I loved the idea of the spines protecting the heart from danger.  I’m not sure I have those prickly spines protecting my heart–but I know that I will do anything to protect those sweet boys!  (I had them in my arms this week–and am already missing them terribly!)


I love the ordinariness and simplicity of the dandelion.  I’ve taken many photos and written many posts focused on them.  This particular dandelion caught my attention as I walked out my front door to head to work one morning.  Instead of seeing them as weeds, I think of dandelions as wishes–and possibility.  They seem to be an icon of childhood, a symbol of nature’s playfulness.


And it wouldn’t be a best of collection for me without a beach photo…or three!  I love the beach all the time, but it is special in the fall and winter when the crowds fall away and the sun’s angles change with shorter days and longer nights.  There is a sense of silence amongst the sounds of crashing waves, gusting winds, and calls of birds.


“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” Ansel Adams

And there is nothing like a photographic mentor.  Studying Adams’ photos helped me figure out how to create the contrast needed for this black and white view of a walk I take regularly.  I like the way the lack of color creates a mood just right for the concept of silence.

I do find myself looking at the sky as I walk the beach.  There is something about the clouds and the birds that draw my attention.  It’s hard to get good photos of birds in flight with my iPhone and even with my Sony since I seldom have the zoom lens on (too limiting for everyday).  I do love the crispness of this pelican–even at a distance as it swoops over the waves.  It also reminds me of all the photos I am not able to take, which helps me realize that there is more to photography than the photos I take.  I see so much more when I’m walking with my camera.


But there is nothing quite as special as the beach at sunset.  This image is from Halloween–my husband’s birthday–and the romantic and peaceful walk we took before heading out to dinner to celebrate him.  The colors were spectacular as the sun sunk into the Pacific…and the reflection on the wet sand creates the perfect mirror image.  Ahhhh…


So, take a little time and find your best of 2016 images.  You might look back through the whole year…or just the past few months.  If you haven’t taken many photos this year, you might just head out with your camera and take a best of today to get yourself started!

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 #bestof2016 for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

Share your favorite images this week and create your own #bestof2016.  I look forward to seeing the best of 2016 through your lens!

The Silent Hand of Design: August’s Photo-a-Day Journey

I’m now just a few days away from a full year of participation in photo-a-day.  This daily practice of taking intentional photographs and posting each day has had a profound effect on my photography skills–and on my powers of noticing in the world.

For the last few months, my #sdawpphotovoices friends and I have been exploring different prompts to push our creativity.  We’ve been inspired by Picasso and Neil Gaiman and last month we spent each week focused on a single color.

I recently came across this Ted Talk by Rob Forbes who talks about design within reach.  He takes about 5000 photos each year, capturing interesting design elements.

I love the idea of the silent hand of design uncovered in the photos he takes.  Unexpected patterns and textures, angles and curves, symmetry and technology pop up in our everyday lives when we take the time to look.  Forbes suggests that the first job of design is to serve a social purpose and that the best design preserves diversity and culture.

For the month of August, let’s focus our photography on design.  Each week we will focus on a different element…and at the end of the week we’ll reflect on our photographs and curate our own observations and learning.  (I am cross-posting this at SDAWP Voices where Barb will create a link up for us each week)


Take a picture each day that somehow captures the design element and post it to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr using the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices.  (You can post anywhere—if you want others to be able to follow your photos, Instagram and Twitter are best!)  For more information about posting click here.  At the end of each week let’s add an additional challenge:  curate your pictures from the week and select one to highlight.  You might post it on your blog along with some musings about why you selected it.  If you don’t have a blog of your own, you have a couple of choices—you can create a blog (be sure to share it with us by including your blog address in the comments here—or better yet, tweet it using the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices) or you can post to the SDAWP Voices blog.

August 1-4:  symmetry

August 4 or 5: reflect on your week and share your thinking and picture (or collage) on the link up

August 5-11:  curves

August 11 or 12:  reflect on your week and share your thinking and picture (or collage) on the link up

August 12-18:  angles

August 18 or 19:  reflect on your week and share your thinking and picture (or collage) on the link up

August 19-25:  patterns

August 25 or 26:  reflect on your week and share your thinking and picture (or collage) on the link up

August 26-31:  repetition

August 31 or September 1:  reflect on your week and share your thinking and picture (or collage) on the link up

As an extra invitation, at the end of the month, pick your five favorites to inspire a bit of writing or art or something else you want to make.  Be sure to share your creativity and what you discover through the process.  I can’t wait to see what our focus on design elements will reveal!