Tag Archives: learning walk

Weekly Photo Challenge: Collection

Like a line of ants, the trucks follow the leader up the length of the state of California along Interstate 5.  An elaborate dance, faster trucks dart out knowing they will slow the flow of traffic then edge back in a bit further ahead in line. Vacationers and other travelers join the line too. Sometimes they patiently blend into the caravan of trucks, other times they show their frustration as they weave in and out of the line accelerating only to slow again and again.

Road trips are an exercise in balancing focus and boredom.  Endless hours in the car–especially when motion sickness limits acceptable activity–means coming up with creative ways to entertain yourself, and hopefully the driver too.  My husband’s old iPod meant an endless stream of oldies to sing along with and my camera reminded me to pay attention to the details of the environment.

The tomato trucks got my attention, double trailers filled with red fruit (or is it a vegetable?) in heaps visible from afar.  I started by taking a photo of one (through the car window as we drove) and sending it to my dad.  He’s always talked about driving tomato trucks in his retirement…  Then I started seeing tomato truck after tomato truck, of all varieties and colors and I started snapping photos.  I tried different angles and distances as we approached and passed these trucks, sometimes taking the photo from a distance and other times waiting until we came right up on the truck.  Timing was tricky, sometimes it was hard to get a crisp focus.

Like a learning walk, this was a kind of learning drive–an opportunity to pay attention to the trucks that drive up and down our state.  I noticed that tomato trucks going north were full, those going south were empty. Trucks carrying produce (tomatoes, nuts, garlic) were most prevalent in the mid section of the state.  I never see them in my part of the state.

Then I started playing with the Prisma app, turning photos of trucks into a series of truck art.  I started with the tomato truck.


And then moved onto other trucks like the log truck.


And the garlic truck (we had to pass several before I figured out that those were garlics in the truck!).


And even the hay truck.


So, to my surprise, I now have a collection of truck photos and a greater appreciation of the  truckers who move goods, particularly food, up and down our state.

As I think about this collection of trucks, I realize that I often create collections of photos.  I have quite a collection of seagulls.  I’ve collected sandcastles, sunsets, trees, flowers, surfers, and more.  So this week’s challenge is to share one of your collections–or create one!

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

As always, you can define what collection means to you.  It might be a couple of photos of the tree in your front yard, the birds on the fences in your neighborhood, your favorite flowers growing in the garden, the meals you ate in the last week…  What collection will you showcase this week?  I can’t wait to see your collections!

ABCs of Summer: June’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Unofficially summer has begun, and even though school is still in for many in this part of the world…summer is on the brain.  Ironically, the weather is cool and gloomy…it’s definitely not the atmosphere to inspire beach going or outdoor sports, so let’s hope that this month’s photo-a-day challenge will put you in the mood for summer!

Let’s let the alphabet guide us this month…with a word prompt for each letter (a few extra to add up to the 30 we need for June).

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!

Here’s the list:

1.  awkward

2.  beach

I love the beach…in all seasons!  There is something about the interplay of the sky and water and sand that creates interesting images.


3.  blue

4.  curious

5.  develop

I’m working to develop my photography skills.  Here is an attempt at night photography.  I like some things about this image even though it is blurry.  I need to do a lot more experimenting with shooting at night…you’ll likely see some of my trials this month!

night scene blur

6.  explore

7.  friends

8.  green

You can go literal–like this green succulent–or perhaps more figurative like green with envy or environmentally aware!


9.  hot

10.  honor

Love that this parking lot employs the honor system for charging for parking.  You slide your cash in a locked metal tube and depend on your own integrity to follow the intention.  (The Julian catholic church owns the lot and the proceeds supports people in need in the community.)


11.  idle

12.  jump

13.  keep

14.  lost

15.  mmmmm

16.  nature

17.  observe

18.  pause

We paused to take a look at these electrical towers…and then found ourselves thinking about where towers like this are found.  Are there any in your neighborhood?


19.  play

20.  quench

21.  relax

I love the aroma of lavender…and the beauty of the plant.  I wish I could get it to grow this beautifully in my yard!


22.  savor

23.  travel

24.  time

25.  unexpected

26.  vary

27.  water

28.  excite

29.  yell

30.  zen

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. Every day of the month includes a word prompt to inspire and challenge you to create beautiful photos. 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!

So let your photography get you in the summer frame of mind…and share those frames with us!

Beach Study: People

You may have noticed, I love the beach.  There is nothing like a long walk on the beach to clear my mind, relax my body, and stimulate my thinking.  And I take lots of photographs…many of nature’s beautiful handiwork.

On Sunday, instead of a focus on wildlife or other natural features, I found myself focused on the people at the beach and the diversity of activities they were engaged in.  In spite of the unexpected rain early in the day, the beach was full of people.  It was warm and humid…and by mid afternoon the sun shone brightly.

I noticed these two girls sitting near the cliffs…checking their phones.  I couldn’t resist a shot!

beach people-checking devices

As we headed further down the beach, I noticed these spear fisherman putting on their gear to head out into the surf.

beach people-spear fishers

And not far from them divers had their equipment spread out on the rocks as they chatted about their upcoming dive.

beach people-divers

There was lots of activity out in the water too, surfers and paddle boarders, body boarders, and swimmers.  And some people sitting out on the rocks watching the activity or just gazing out into the sea.

beach people-watching

beach people-gazing

And not everyone was into water sports.  This pair cruised by on their bicycles, taking advantage of the packed sand of the low tide.

beach people-bikes

And this couple was simply enjoying a walk on the beach, walking hand in hand, and then stopping for this selfie with the ocean as backdrop.

beach people-selfie

Still others settled themselves near the water’s edge for a shore-side picnic.

beach people-sand chairs

People come and go at the beach.  This couple finished surfing, hefted their boards and headed back down the beach toward the parking lot.

beach people-surfers

And of course, there were lots of kids on the beach playing in the waves, digging in the sand, and creating elaborate sandcastles.

beach people-building castles

And some of the kids haven’t been born yet…there are always pregnant women on the beach.

beach people-pregnant

As we finished several miles of walking on the beach, we headed back toward the parking lot…stopping off at the showers to rinse the sand from our feet.  The showers are another popular place as moms wash babies and people stand under the fresh water showers before heading for their cars and homes.

beach people-showers

As I paid attention to people on the beach, I became more aware of the variety of activities they engaged in…and there were so many more people not represented by this small selection of photos.  Taking pictures of people was a very different experience than taking pictures of nature.  I found myself creating stories about them, paying attention to their movements, their interactions, their equipment…  I watched teenaged boys tossing a football, a fisherman chatting with a friend, two little boys with flotation devices braving the waves, a little girl with a container picking up shells as her parents trailed behind…

Sunday’s beachwalk was a different kind of learning walk for me, with people as my focus.  The beach is definitely a playground with many things for people to do.

A Learning Walk: Relics

Inspired by an upcoming trip to Montana and an opportunity to explore Yellowstone National Park, I have taken up hiking.  It’s a pastime my husband has enjoyed–without me– for quite some time.  And yet, inspired by play and my photography, we make an effort to include some kind of adventure–with an opportunity to explore through my lens–on our days off from work. So for the past three weeks we have hiked, exploring the local backcountry with our feet.

What I like best about hiking is being outdoors, enjoying the sun, the natural terrain, noticing the native flora and fauna, and finding views and interesting photo subjects that aren’t available without hiking in at some distance.  It gets hot in the backcountry around here, so we headed out pretty early this morning to hike before the mid-day heat.  After climbing some distance, I looked out to see this view of the mountains in the distance veiled by the clouds that were just beginning to yield to the sun.

sky over the mountains

And there are relics of days gone by in these wide open spaces.  Evidence of the native peoples who lived here before the white settlers, knowing that the native plants served as a food source and pharmacy…that this arid place sustained life long before our modern conveniences.


Tucked up in the hills of the Daley Ranch, on an offshoot of the Sage Trail, we found this rusted old water tower.

water tower

After a much longer hike than we had anticipated (at about our 7 mile mark), we came across the old ranch buildings from the days when this land was a working ranch.  It’s interesting to me to think about how much smaller buildings tended to be in days gone by.  Compared to some of the surrounding homes, these buildings are barely the size of a single room of modern buildings.

ranch house

old house


But it was this relic that made me take a second look.  More than a mile from the trail head, near these old buildings, sat a more modern relic, something that is seldom used these days…a pay phone!

pay phone

We ended up hiking more than 8 miles today!  Much longer than we planned, but also entirely enjoyable.  The weather was warm, but not hot.  The trails were varied and interesting, but not incredibly steep.  It was a perfect learning walk and photographic adventure…with some exercise and fresh air thrown in as well.  And who can resist a shadow selfie…this one is a hiking shadow selfie!

Shadow selfie hiking

I wonder what relics future generations will find as they hike and look at evidence left from our lives.  How will our remains help them understand a life they haven’t experienced?  What will amuse and confuse them?


Exploring Natives…and Some Extras!

If you’ve been reading my blog, you may have noticed my obsession with weeds (here, here, and here are some examples). So when I heard that the Lux Art Institute was hosting an artist whose work features weeds, I couldn’t wait to visit.  And I wasn’t disappointed.  Beverly Penn makes exquisite sculptures by casting what others might classify as ordinary or weed-like flora in bronze and then creating beautiful art that seems to breathe, move, and reflect light.  I wish I could have taken photos of the art–but the museum requested no photos in the studio.

And as an added extra, when I had a minute to chat with the artist, she talked about how her current work (that she is working on as she is in residency at the Lux) uses the native plants that grow prolifically on the Lux grounds.  As we left the studio, we headed out into the grounds to see the sculptures installed in the native plant trail…also surrounded by even more native chaparral.

I took this photo of the native buckwheat.  And if you look closely you will see a little extra in the background–one of the fanciful birdhouses that is a part of the sculpture collection at the Lux.

native and extra

As I walked the natives, I couldn’t resist stopping to put my macro lens on to get closer to these often unappreciated beauties.  Seeing Beverly Penn’s sculptures inspired my curiosity and had me wanting to look even more closely at these plants that seem to grow like weeds…and many consider weeds.  Lately, they have been celebrated for their resilience in drought conditions, requiring considerably less water than the decorative plants that many like to cultivate around homes and businesses.

This Hummingbird’s Trumpet uses its brilliant scarlet to attract pollinators…and my eye.

monkey flower

I was surprised to learn that this vibrant yellow bloom is called the California Brittlebush.  I love the bumpiness of the centers when when you get close.

brittle yellow

I’m really not sure of the name of this purple flowering plant.  The bloom is interesting because it includes a spiky ball and then a delicate flower.

purple native

purple native 2

My interest in weeds has also allowed me to find the beauty in the stages of blooming that some might dismiss as ugly or uninteresting.  This plant, the Seaside Daisy, had a few blossoms in full bloom with white petals and a bright yellow center.  But I found myself interested in the blossoms that were past their prime, “gone to seed”–reminding me of dandelions and their tenacious seed dispersement and the beauty of the husks as the seeds blow away.

seaside daisy husk

seaside daisy seed

I was also drawn to the black sage…a common plant in these parts.  The blossoms are now skeletons, and yet somehow their intricate beauty draws me in and the fragrance evokes San Diego summer.

black sage

I loved the extras that presented themselves as I headed off to the Lux today.  I was reminded to appreciate the natives…and look closely to find their beauty and intricacy.  And one more extra: I ran into one of my students (and her little sister who will be my student when school begins in the fall) as they came out of the art studio and I was about to enter.  Their mom mentioned that they were there because we had studied weeds…they just couldn’t wait to see what the artist was doing with weeds as her subject!  What a great beginning to summer!

Having New Eyes

On Saturday I had the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the new exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum (the NAT) that will be called Coast to Cactus.  And while it is still months away from being open to the public, I was inspired by the ideas and messages I found there. This exhibit focuses on the ecosystems of San Diego county…their diversity, beauty, resilience…all that is often unseen and unappreciated.

This quote, scratched out in marker on a piece of paper and taped to a wall, spoke to me and has continued to resonate.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes but in having new eyes.      Marcel Proust

I’ve come to appreciate museum exhibits in new ways these days as I’ve learned about their conception and design.  Instead of consuming the content they offer, I see them as invitation to see my world anew.  The Coast to Cactus exhibit offered me views that I see everyday, and yet invited me to resee them…something I have also been doing through my camera lens.  In the emerging exhibit I saw native plants and animals…meticulously crafted (apparently by a company in Minnesota that hadn’t see many of the plants they were building) to look realistic. And in addition to seeing…there will be opportunities to smell, hear, and feel the environment as well.

On Sunday, we headed off to the Torrey Pines State Reserve to walk and enjoy the natural beauty of this magnificent place.  A few miles from home, this place is home to many native plants and animals, including the rare Torrey Pine tree.  And it is ruggedly natural, with sandstone cliffs and breathtaking views of the ocean, lagoon, canyons…and even the freeway!

This is my community…our school grounds host Torrey Pine trees, the ocean is the ever-present western border, hawks and other raptors cruise the skies, and native species like black sage and lemonade berry are frequently viewed as weeds.  I see them everyday…and yet often don’t see them at all.  Even the fires are a part of this ecosystem…and the exhibit features fire within it.  So many of our native plants depend on fire for regeneration, and rather than being destroyed by fire are reborn through fire.

As I hiked through Torrey Pines, I found myself looking for new ways to see this beautiful natural landscape.  Here’s a peek at some of what I saw.

beach cliffs torrey pines

Wind eroded cliffs, rich with iron oxide which gives it the reddish cast

sun through the Torreys

Sun through the Torrey Pines

succulent tree

The ocean through the yucca

prickly pear in bloom

Prickly pear cactus in bloom

prickly pear with bee

Bees pollinating cactus blossoms

ceanothus flower

Is this buckwheat or ceanothus (up close through my macro lens)?  It’s everywhere in the lagoon and at Torrey Pines Reserve.

As you might imagine, I took many more photos…and I’m sure you will catch a glimpse of a few more over the next days and weeks.  I love spending time out in my community, learning to see my everyday landscapes in new ways.  And in addition to what I see through my lens, when I am out taking photos I am also smelling, hearing, and feeling what these places have to offer.  I hope that the Coast to Cactus exhibit that will open in 2015 at the NAT will have a similar impact on others who visit it.  You don’t have to go to Torrey Pines to find this beauty…it is all over San Diego, you just need to look with new eyes.

Haunted Wedding Selfies

Last weekend I attended a haunted wedding. Okay…maybe not a haunted wedding, but a wedding that took place in an old southern mansion…that just might be a little bit haunted. The Riverwood Mansion is located in a residential neighborhood outside of Nashville, TN. There are the requisite beautiful tall old trees, long gravel driveway, and stately old architecture complete with a pillared front porch. (You can see a photo of the mansion in yesterday’s post, here.)

Don’t get me wrong, this was a lovely wedding. The early evening outdoor wedding in the garden area enjoyed a warm gentle spring breeze, sunlight just beginning to settle down into the treetops, and of course a gorgeous bride walking down the aisle to join my nephew in marriage. And the idea of haunted really didn’t cross my mind—at least consciously at that point. I knew the wedding would take place at a venue that was an old plantation house, and of course all things southern come with lots of history (and often a ghost or two!) as well as rich, and often complicated stories..

It wasn’t until the reception that ghosts and haunting crossed my mind. The sun had set and candles and twinkly lights accompanied the softly lit reception room and the house itself. We headed up the stairs for the buffet and found ourselves in front of an old, elegant floor-to-celling mirror. I immediately wished for my phone/camera (the downside of women’s dresses—most, including mine, lack pockets) as I saw the four of us in the mirror. Luckily, Geoff had his phone and snapped a picture of us in the mirror. As I looked at the photo, I kept expecting to see the image of a ghost in the background—like the hitchhiking ghosts on the haunted mansion ride at Disneyland.

4 of us

And I couldn’t resist. After dinner and the toasts by family and friends, I headed off with my phone on a photo walk. I found old upholstered furniture with that velveteen fabric and intricately carved wooden backs that seemed to be so popular in the past.


And an interesting staircase with solid wood banisters leading to rooms above with a stained glass window highlighting the landing below.


I peered out a window into the garden where the wedding took place and noticed the archway lit up with tiny lights. When I went to take a photo…an apparition appeared…me!

dark reflection

And from that point on, every photo I took seemed to capture my own reflection…in windows, in mirrors…

fireplace selfie

And then I had to pose just one…I dragged my husband back to that mirror I described before so we could pose in that silvered, antique mirror. And the result seems to me to be a new (or old and new) version of the famous American Gothic painting with the man and woman and the pitchfork. Our version replaces the overalls and farm clothes with wedding finery and the pitchfork with our cellphones…and I love the result.

american gothic selfie

My poor husband…I’ve been spending time over the last week or so working on improving my selfie skills—most with him included. And then, without even thinking about it, the wedding created unplanned selfies. I think I will call this series of selfies the Haunted Wedding Selfies.

Have you taken any haunted selfies? Or maybe just unexpected selfies? How are they different from your intentional selfies? Or is all of this just an exercise in narcissism and vanity? It probably is…but it’s also fun. I’d love to see an example of an unexpected or haunted selfie from you…share please..and link back to this post!