Tag Archives: macro

Tiny Surprises

Not too long ago I got a cool little photo gift–a small detachable macro lens for my iPhone.  It has a little clip (kind of like a clothespin) that fits the macro lens right over my phone’s native camera lens.  The fun thing about a macro lens is that it lets you get close up and magnify tiny things so you can really see them.

During Tuesday’s lunch break I decided to attach the macro lens to my phone and head out into the backyard in search of a photo subject.  The milkweed is looking quite sickly.  There are a few flowers, but the leaves have been stripped clean.  Upon close examination, I did find a caterpillar–the monarch variety–cruising the stripped branches.  I leaned in, took a deep breath, and held as steady as possible to snap a few photos of the yellow, white, and black crawling creature.  It was a pretty big one, so I ended up with a head shot rather than a full body portrait.

Then I turned my attention to the lavender.  I love the way that lavender has tiny blossoms that make up the bloom.  I aimed the macro lens at the individual blossom–and then I saw them!  The tiniest ants were crawling in and out of the blossom.  I moved the lens away and looked closely.  I could make out the tiny ants, just barely, without the lens.  I snapped a few different shots of the tiny ants exploring the blossom and then my questions started emerging.  Are these ants pollinators?  Do they help or hurt the lavender?  What about these tiny ants–are they a different species than the regular ants I’m used to seeing, just smaller?

I love the way taking photos also creates opportunities for research and learning, piquing my curiosity as I notice something new or unexpected.  Photography keeps reminding me to look at the world through fresh eyes, changing my angles…or just the camera lens!

Planting Seeds: SOLC #29

We’ve been writing in 7 minute intervals. Every day. Sometimes several times a day. There’s something about the timer that seems to help my students focus intently on the writing. And when the timer sounds, someone always wants to share.

Of course, that 7 minutes is only the smallest part of what it means to write. That timer-influenced writing usually follows a stimulus of some kind (often a picture book or poem), conversation as a group and in partners, studying a mentor text and the moves that writers make, and sometimes drawing or some other kind of art.

Today we wrote about a place we love. But first, last week we read My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero. We noticed how she focused on places she loved in her community and on her dad and family. We studied her writing. We marked the action words she used: zigzagged, cruised, revs, and roars. We notice the way she uses senses, including sounds and smells and textures, in her descriptions. We paid attention to her comparison of the experience of riding the motorcycle to a comet in the sky. Then we started to name places we love: Tennessee, Legoland, grandma’s house, the kitchen… We sketched a map of this place. And finally, after a quick demonstration of how I might use the mentor text to get started with my writing, I set the timer.

A hush fell over the room. Pencils raced across the page. And when the timer rang, hands started going up. Unfortunately, there was no time to share today. We’ll have to start there tomorrow. I can’t wait to hear how these much-loved places will be transformed into words on the page.

Writing with students is all about planting seeds. I can’t wait to see what blossoms.

Tiny Celebrations

It’s easy to get involved in all the chores and duties of life and leave the actual living behind.  Loads of laundry, stacks of dishes, the carpet that needs vacuuming, stopping by the gas station after work, the quick trip to Trader Joe’s for cat food and yogurt…  In that blur of activity, a focus on what matters most can easily slip.

For me, that’s where my camera comes in.  When I head out with my camera, even if it is only out into the backyard, I start to pay attention to the beauty and life around me.  I find an appreciation that might otherwise be overlooked.

Today, instead of a walk after work, I headed home.  But even though time was short, I knew I needed time outdoors, so to the backyard I went. The ground was pretty muddy from all the rain, weeds sprouting where grass used to grow.  Plants in pots have gone crazy, with succulents growing large and lavender beginning to blossom.  I leaned in, zooming close with my macro lens.  I love the way that this close up shot brings the lavender into focus, blurring the background into a beautiful abstract painting.  And I was delighted by the bokeh effect, scattering the light behind the lavender without using any special effects.


As I walked along the fence line, I noticed some blossoms on the pear tree that we thought had died.  The drought has taken a toll on our yard, killing most of the lawn and any other plants that were not well established.  This young tree is showing some signs of life…but is certainly neither robust or likely to bear fruit any time soon.  But the blossoms are delicate and dainty–reminders that spring is on the way.  Time outside helps me find focus and reminds me that there is more to life than daily chores.  Tiny celebrations make all the difference!


I read an article I found on Twitter the other day about the power of five post-it notes to make you happy, confident and successful.  I feel like I can achieve the same effects with my camera.  Look closely and find something beautiful, something unusual, something funny (like this photo of the little girl hula hooping in her tiara and long pageant gloves)


…all reminders of what life has to offer when you make time everyday to appreciate the world around you.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Along the Way

I’ve taken lots of photos this week, but most of them are of my precious new grandsons, which means I am not able to post them on social media. But I have taken a few shots along my way here and there this week.  Today was a rare southern California rainy day, the perfect day to head out for a trip to an indoor mall–and allow my son and daughter-in-law to have an outing with the baby (getting out of the house is still a challenge). When we arrived back home after a few hours out, I noticed the white roses in the front of their house with raindrops on them.  I rushed inside to grab my macro lens and snapped some raindrops on roses (yeah, that song runs through my head whenever I see raindrops on roses!).


I love this view of one perfectly focused raindrop–it’s not a great view of the rose, but the raindrop…


And the Bob Hope airport is a funky retro place.  When I arrived on Wednesday, it was unseasonably warm (over 90 degrees)…just to have a 20 degree drop of temperature today along with rain!  As I waited for my son, there was something about this sign that caught my eye, especially when planes took off in the background (although I missed those shots!).


At my other son’s house earlier in the week, we took the twins for a walk to the nearby park.  As I pushed the stroller I also noticed the enormous trees, brilliant green against the blue sky.  And I found this line from a Pablo Neruda poem that captured the feeling I had when I looked at it.

What did the tree learn from the earth to be able to talk with the sky?


Sometimes when I take a photo and later look at the results, I notice that the focus is not where I intended.  In this shot, the flowers in the background were focused, but the ones in the foreground were not…I played around a bit in Vintique to see what I could do with the image. Here is my result.


And as I headed to my car to leave (oh, how hard it is to leave those sweet babies), I noticed this thistle.  A weed…prickly…and beautiful, growing along the edge of the yard.


The beauty of carrying a camera at all times (most often, just my phone) is that you can take photos along the way–wherever you are, whenever you have the chance.  So this week’s challenge is just that, take photos along your way to here or there, with an eye for something interesting…or maybe even something ordinary in a new way.

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

What will you find this week along the way?  I look forward to seeing what you discover!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Small

I’ve been thinking small this week.  Not small as in narrow-minded or short-sighted, but appreciating smallness.  There’s the tiny hands of my newborn grandsons with their perfect miniature fingernails.  (I know, I’m obsessed with these new little people…I just can’t get enough of them!)


And then there’s the funky small Burbank airport where you walk out of your regular sized airplane outdoors onto the tarmac into an old fashioned small terminal building. And then discover that the baggage claim carousel is outdoors!


I’ve also been noticing all the small signs of spring–especially in my backyard.  I noticed the small plum tree beginning to bud and bloom.


And the lavender plant is beginning to flower.  I love when I lean in, I can see the tiny little flowers that make up the larger blossom.


Arriving in Washington, DC for the National Writing Project (NWP) Spring Meeting, I found myself thinking about how so often I think of myself as a small cog in the huge machine that is our government.  It’s easy to think that your voice isn’t important–that someone with a louder voice, a stronger opinion, or a bigger soapbox will take care of providing input to our legislators.  But as I walked down those long corridors of the House of Representatives, I realized that it is, in fact, small voices that matter. We can’t leave the government to the loud, to the privileged, to the moneyed.


Our government works best when we participate, even if it feels like my one small voice doesn’t matter.  Even monuments look small when you stand back and look from a distance.


But being here, in our nation’s capitol, I can see the ways that each small piece fits into the next–building strong, textured, and layered structures that endure.  In some ways I see that the elaborate and ornate architecture of this place is also a metaphor for the feat of social and political engineering that is our government.  And like our buildings, if we don’t care for them, pay attention to where they are wearing or have been neglected, government processes break down too.  It takes all of us–each a small part of the whole–to keep our elected officials true to their duties, to raise our small voices together so they can be heard over the fray of disillusionment and partisan politics and keep our country true to its beliefs and freedoms.


And like our capitol building, we have to expose the damage and build some scaffolds to reach out and make the improvements. I am reminded that my small voice matters.  I can’t sit out the election because I find it unpleasant or because it seems that decisions have already been made (yep–Californians seem so inconsequential in the primary process during presidential elections) and that my one vote doesn’t matter.


So…try thinking small this week…or at least looking small.  (I do realize that my small thinking turned into some big realizations!)  And remember that small is relative.  You might notice something tiny by using your macro lens…or something may simply seem small because it is dwarfed by distance or something even more monumental.

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

Take a look around and notice the small.  Share your small, however large, in a photo or two…maybe your small will result in some big new understandings!

Changing My Lens

Most of the time when I take photos, I use the same lens.  On my iPhone, it’s the lens that comes with the phone and on my Sony a6000 I usually use the 16-50 lens that came standard with the camera.  They are functional and work in most situations…and they’ve become familiar, I know the distances they can handle almost instinctively.

On Saturday I decided to use my zoom lens as we headed out to the beach for a walk.  I’ve used it before and know that it is great to zoom in on things in the distance, but it works differently than the lens I use regularly.  I knew when I made the decision to use another lens that it would mean looking at the beach differently.  I would have to look further out because of the change in range.  And I would have to pay attention to focus since the zoom doesn’t lock in as quickly as the other lens does.

The zoom definitely brings birds in close…if you can lock in a focus quickly enough.  I didn’t quite get the bird crisply here, but I like the way the background is crisp with the out of focus bird flying directly into my line of sight.


With the bigger than usual surf this week I found that the zoom brought it up closer, helping the camera see the impressiveness that is hard to capture with my usual lens.


And this one brought the rusty color and fluffy texture of the red algae alive against the foamy whiteness of the waves crashing in the background.


Seagulls let me come pretty close, but these little sea birds are pretty skittish, making it hard to ever get them in a photo.  Here you can see just how much smaller they are compared to your average seagull.


You can see how much of the reef has been exposed as the sand has been washed out by the winter tides and how often it is covered with water by the lush algae growth exposed only at low tide. (Notice how the zoom not only captured the surfer, but also the seagull taking off just to the side of him.)


I noticed this rusty pail wedged in the rocks.  At first I wasn’t sure I could take a photo using my zoom lens, but standing back a bit I was able to shoot this.  I’m liking the colors and textures most about this photo.


As I headed out on Sunday, again with my zoom lens, I was optimistic that I would see and capture interesting photos using it.  After stopping at our favorite donut shop for some donuts and the local coffee shop for some coffee, we pulled along the side of 101 to watch the surfers on the big waves.  The guy with a massive lens nearby was probably getting more interesting shots than I was, but I enjoyed the movement I captured in this shot of a surfer on a ride with another right below him.


And I’m not quite sure what to do with this one.  I like the view of the pelicans right above the surf, but the composition is not ideal.  Could I edit it some way to make the image more interesting?  More appealing in some way?


What I do know is that when I look through a different lens, I see the world differently. The colors change, what seems prominent through one lens recedes with another.  And what I didn’t notice or couldn’t see with my “regular” lens suddenly becomes visible when viewed through the zoom.

While the camera lenses are interchangeable and it certainly isn’t difficult to change them, it’s often inconvenient to change them “in the field.”  And at times I find myself wishing for the one I am not currently using, finding it frustrating (and annoying) to be looking through the one that doesn’t allow me to see as clearly as I would like.

Changing lenses reminds me just how important it is to get beyond my usual way of seeing things.  Sometimes I need to pull in close and get a macro view…exploring the small details while other times I need to step back and take the long view with sweeping vistas and full context.  And then there’s the zoom, bringing the far closer, limiting the context as I find that distant focus.

I can change my lens without physically changing my camera lens.  I’m optimistic that I can make the effort to look in different ways and try to see through the eyes and experiences of those around me.  Just knowing that there are other ways of seeing makes a difference in the ways I look and see.  And what I see can make a difference in the way I act.

And then this short video appeared on my email today.  Stop, Look, Go! Might just change your lens…and maybe your day too!








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.


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.


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.


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


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?


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…


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?

Finding Focus

Sometimes life is so busy, it seems to go by in a blur.  Images are out of focus and it’s hard to see with any clarity.  But mostly, when things get busy, I forget to take care of what matters most–my relationships with the people I love.

My one little word this year is explore.  And as the year has progressed, I have discovered that explore means more than journeying outside and exploring the world around me.  It also means exploring my interactions with others, the limits of my physical strength, and how I use my time outside of my work responsibilities.

Hiking in the mountains Saturday with my hubby offered me time and space to breathe deeply (even at 8000 feet of elevation!), spend time together away from chores and other work, and to appreciate the beauty of the natural world.

I took many pictures, but the ones I will highlight here are those that include both a sharp image and a blur–thanks to my macro lens.

The drought means that things are dry, even high in the mountains.  And while we saw a few lingering patches of snow, it’s clear that water is scarce.  But the manzanita was in bloom with its beautiful red wood and pinkish-purple blossoms.


I’m not sure what these little pods are that caught my eye hanging from the tree I passed.  Small and green and fuzzy looking.


This plant seemed to have found a water source…with some green buds visible.  If you look closely, you’ll notice a hair caught on the bud while the background is a blur.


These dry little thistly plants look like weeds…and I love that you can see the blur of the forest behind the crispness of the dry looking plant.


And here, the mountains are in evidence behind these dry branches.


It’s easy to get lost in the blur of the hectic pace of everyday life, yet these images remind me that we can decide where to place the focus if we choose.  Life’s too short not to take time to explore…and figure out what is important.  Sometimes the blur is the perfect backdrop, the broad overview, the hustle and the bustle.  And other times we need to focus on what matters most and appreciate what is right in front of us!

Considering Scale

Exploring different camera lenses changes my experiences with scale.  With the macro lens, I am able to magnify things that are small and make them appear larger than life.  The blossoms on this flowering tree look much different when you get up close.

cherry tree

cherry blossoms

Yesterday I was playing with my telephoto lens, and exploring the options it gives me when I take photos.  Pelicans up close are huge birds…here’s an old photo I took on the Oceanside pier with my iPhone standing pretty close to the bird.

pelican in flight

Here’s another I took yesterday using my telephoto lens looking out into the distance as I watched the pelican soar over the waves.

peleican in flight

I also noticed these hang gliders in the distance as the fog began to roll in.  They are tiny specks in the distance, framed by the beach cliffs.

hang gliders in the fog

I also had the opportunity to zoom in as the glider came closer and closer to me.

hang glider up close

What I know is I have a lot more exploring to do with determining which kinds of shots lend themselves to which lenses.  I was wishing for my smaller lens at some points during my beach walk yesterday when I had my telephoto with me.  And I definitely have moments when I am wishing for my telephoto when I have my smaller lens.  I’m not all that comfortable changing lenses in the moment…maybe I just need to accept that I will work with the lens I am using at the moment.

And as always, I find myself thinking about how this idea of scale works in the educational area. When do we need to pull back and look at the big picture, dismissing the fine details to see the overall view?  And when do we need to zoom in…with the telephoto to bring things that are in the distance closer or with the macro to magnify the small details and make them visible?  I definitely love the way my camera helps me think about my work…the macro, the telephoto, the big picture, and the individual learner.  Scale definitely matters.