Tag Archives: nature

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nature’s Art

There is so much beauty around when you take the time to look closely. Sometimes I find that I need to stop, kneel down, and really lean in to find what I might have missed with a quick glance.  On the beach the other day I noticed the brilliant blue of sea creatures–I had seen these before, they wash up on the shore from time to time.  As I bent down to photograph them, I noticed the ladybug and the sea grass creating a sort of found still life…an interesting piece of living art.  (I did a bit of research and found that these creatures are called velella, they are propelled only by wind and waves so can’t get themselves back in the water once they are washed on the shore.)

img_6439A look up and the moon caught my attention above the cliffs. I love the browns of the eroded hillside framed by the greens and purples of the plants growing, all against the brilliant blue sky…with just the tiny hint of the moon just above the shoulder of the cliff.img_6417

I was surprised and delighted to find these stacks of stones all lined up. Someone had taken time to find some balance in the smoothed rocks, creating stack after stack along the ledge.  High tide made the beach narrow, pushing me up toward the cliff line…where I couldn’t miss this whimsical sight.

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And sometimes nature’s art is in the framing.  This seagull looks like it is “on duty,” a feathered lifeguard keeping an eye on all who are enjoying the beach!

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And I don’t have to go to the beach to enjoy nature’s art.  I noticed these same purple blooms that I had seen in my neighborhood on our school campus earlier this week.  We had invited our students to take a photo to use as an element of their Mother’s Day project.  I found myself looking with an eye to light and shadow, as well as working to capture the delicate brilliance of the bloom in the foreground.

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This lily-like flower also caught my eye.  The oranges and yellows seem to be highlighted by the diffuse light peeking through the shadows–yet another example of nature’s art.

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And in my neighborhood yesterday afternoon, on a walk to the park with my 14 month old grandson, I spied the brilliant red of this fuzzy guy.  A closer look brought the contrasting green and yellow bloom into focus. My friend called this plant kangaroo paws–such an oddly beautiful plant.

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So, take a look around…  Where do you find nature’s art?  I love that my camera reminds me to look at the usual in new and different ways–so be sure to look closely and consider light and shadow, framing, nature’s arrangement…and more.

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

What is nature offering up this week?  Take a look around and share your view of nature’s art with us!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

It’s Earth Day, a day established in 1970 to appreciate all the earth has to offer and to raise awareness about the need to take care of the precious resource that we call Earth.  My camera definitely helps me appreciate the earth and notice more about this wonderful planet. This week finds me at home, back at work, instead of out exploring a National Park (like I was last week at Joshua Tree).  And still, there is so much life and beauty around me.

On my way to an evening meeting on Monday, I decided to take a side trip away from the crowded freeway (still with plenty of traffic even on the side roads) to stop at Mount Soledad and appreciate the view.  Now this is hardly a mountain, but it is a high spot that overlooks the city and the bay to the south and west and La Jolla to the north and west.  Wildflowers are blooming everywhere, creating a beautiful frame even if the haze and low clouds make the view less than crisp.

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The wild mustard has gotten tall this year, with vivid yellow blooms waving in the breeze.  I see this plant often along the side of the freeway (no, I don’t stop!) and other places visible from the car, but not convenient for stopping.  Before I left Mount Soledad, I noticed a patch of wild mustard and couldn’t resist leaning in for a shot.  I love the bokeh effect in the background, adding sparkle to the beautiful weed/flower.

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Later in the week I took another side trip on my way to an appointment. This time I headed to a place where I would have a view of the famous Carlsbad flower fields.  The ranunculus are in bloom, creating ribbons of color that stretch for acres right above the outlet mall with the old Encinas power plant in the background.  They charge quite a price to go in close, but there is a lovely view from a sidewalk outside the property.

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And when I turned the other way I noticed these brilliant tiger’s claw trees, bright against the blue of the sky.  As I moved closer, I noticed this hummingbird flitting from flower to flower–a pollinator in action!  I was lucky enough to catch a shot of this tiny bird at work with the help of my lens.

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I’ve been back to the beach this week too.  The tide has not been right for long afternoon walks, but a quick stop after dinner last night offered views of seagulls as the sun reached that golden hour.  With the help of a filter, I could emphasize the colors of the sun beginning to set behind the bird in flight.

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Today’s short walk drew my attention to the cliffs and the sky, and reminded me of a favorite Rachel Carson quote,

If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery if the world we live in.

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I try to be that adult for kids in my class…for my own children and now for my grandchildren.  I know that I appreciate opportunities to explore the outdoors more than ever these days.  Nature is right here–right under our feet–when we take the time to look closely and appreciate each small treasure.

And sometimes within nature’s frame you see other interesting views.  I couldn’t resist these “wintering towers,” huddled together along the edge of the beach.  They begged for a black and white filter to emphasize the contrasts in light and dark…and I obliged.

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So, while Earth Day is officially celebrated on April 22nd each year, in my opinion every day should be Earth Day–taking time to appreciate and take care of our planet, even in small ways.  Head out with your camera and capture Earth’s everyday specialness.  What will you notice when you pay attention to Earth?

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

Celebrate Earth Day all this week.  Let’s create an album of Earth’s treasures and needs and help our next generation shepherd our world to health and longevity by sharing our fascination and appreciation of our planet Earth with them (and with each other).

Weekly Photo Challenge: Sharp

There’s so much to love about living in San Diego.  The proximity to the beach offers unlimited opportunities to revel in all that the sea has to offer, and I never tire of it.  But sometimes it’s nice to get away and do something different.

This week has been my spring break–a whole week with no work, a much needed respite from the demands of my everyday routine and an opportunity to recharge.  I spent the beginning of my break with my twin grandsons–having so much fun, reveling in just what it means to be 13 months old and discovering the world of play, times two.  With my other grandson out of town, I talked my husband into a trip to Joshua Tree National Park after I got back.

Just a few hours away from home another world awaits.  High in the desert not far from Palm Springs is an expansive park that straddles the Mojave and Sonoran (Colorado portion) deserts.  Most noticeable are the trees the park is named for…odd, spiky trees that seem almost alive. They seem like the kind of trees that would move when you turn your head.  The sharp spines contrast with the wind smoothed boulders in the background.  This photo of the blooming Joshua Tree is lit by the soft light as the sun was setting over my shoulder.

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Looking west, you can make out the sharp silhouette of the Joshua Tree against the enhanced colors of the desert sunset.  The mountains look like small hills in the distance instead of the snow capped peaks my eyes could see.

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Sharp cactus spines and brilliant blossoms attracted my attention–and also attracted bees and other insects.  This Hedgehog cactus was quite a display of beauty…with sharp edges.  (And just one of many cacti variety in bloom!)727fd74f-f97a-466e-8974-2adadc81b2c1

The Chollas (teddy bear, silver, and other varieties) are known for their sharp, barbed spines.  Coming across an entire garden of them was breathtaking!  And then seeing them in bloom was even more spectacular.  This little ladybug was right at home, posing comfortably as I moved in close with my camera.

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Hiking is really the best way to appreciate this dry land of sharp contrasts.  We climbed steep rocky slopes that switchbacked up and over trails filled with wonder.  We spotted lizards scampering under shrubs and a couple of huge lizards sunning themselves on rocks as we made our way to a desert oasis marked by native California fan palms.

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It’s evident that some visitors decided to mark their visit with a sharp object, carving initials in these majestic trees.  While we rested in the shade of the palms, a casual conversation with another couple revealed a close encounter with a rattlesnake up on the path.  Made wary by their story, we were cautious on our hike back and definitely felt the jolt of adrenaline when the distinct rattle stopped us in our tracks.  My husband watched the rattlesnake (he counted 8 rattles) move off as we carefully made our way around it. (Sorry no picture…sometimes you just have to stay back!)

Another hike took us into a valley filled with rock formations.  I couldn’t help take a shot of this seemingly dead tree casting a sharp shadow, extending the tree both into the sky and across the ground.

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The rock formations in the park are popular with climbers and we often looked up to see people high above us.  After a relatively short hike to find Arch Rock, and an accidental side trip off the path, we found this interesting formation, rounded by the same conditions that cause plants to have sharp needles rather than broad leaves.  It was fun to watch my husband scramble up the sharp angle of rock to pose in the arch, giving a sense of size and space to the formation.

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Today on a drive into a far corner of the park, we found Ocotillo growing…and in full bloom.  Of course we had to stop to photograph these massive beauties reaching high into the sky, sharp red blooms against the cloudless blue above.

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And photo credit to Geoff for capturing a photo of me, dwarfed by this tall specimen…looking so sharp in my hiking boots and shorts!  (And as always, with my camera around my neck!)

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So, as you go about your week be on the lookout for sharp.  It doesn’t have to be the desert that inspires the sharp edges in your photos, you might find sharp in the crispness of your focus, in the wit of a family member, or maybe even in your kitchen.

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

Share the sharp in your life this week.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Organic

In a place where clear blue skies are the norm, clouds are a novelty. Puffy white clouds catch my eye, drawing it upward.  There is something about the organic nature of these floating shapes that captures my imagination.  I find myself taking photo after photo, like this one of the clouds reflected in the windows of the buildings at our local university.

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Or this one that makes if feel as if you are walking on clouds.

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I know that clear skies create perfect sunsets, but there is something about clouds that give dimension and the unexpectedness of organic designs to the colors and reflections of the setting sun.  Halloween is my husband’s birthday, and this year also included a perfect low tide for a sunset beach walk punctuated with organic streaks and shine.

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And when the sky isn’t enough, there are many organic treasures revealed by the sea. With low tides all week, the ocean revealed rocks covered in these organic skeletons.  I’m not sure exactly what they are, but I love the textures.

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And I always feel rich when I come across a sand dollar, especially one that is mostly whole.  I love the simple design, almost like a delicate pencil sketch.

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And then there is the human form, organically represented in these clay skulls arranged in alters celebrating ancestors in honor of Dia de los muertos found in our meeting room at UCSD last weekend.

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My students are currently fascinated with rocks and minerals as we’ve dived deeply into the study of geology.  Today’s “museum” featured a specimen from each student and created an organic opportunity for some interesting informational writing (I plan to feature some of that writing in a future post).  Here’s one of nature’s organic beauties.

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So look up, look around, maybe even catch a reflection of something organic.  What’s catching your eye because of it’s organic quality?

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

Head out with your camera in search of organic…will you represent it through the natural world? Express an organic idea? Explore the intersection of organic and geometric?  Take the prompt wherever it leads you and share your photos with us!

 

The Power of Community

Our students are writers, but even a few short weeks ago many didn’t see themselves that way.  They were worried that they didn’t know how to spell, that their writing wasn’t “right,” that others knew something that they didn’t about this mysterious practice called writing.

Like we do every year, we’ve been working to build a community of learners and writers in our multiage class of first, second and third graders. And like Margaret Simon reminds us all in her #digilit post this week, that requires practice, patience, and persistence. Margaret was talking about the use of digital tools–but I would argue, it is the same with or without the digital tools.  But I want to remind us (and myself) that practice doesn’t mean drudgery.  Instead it means establishing a practice, regular opportunities to write in meaningful ways.  It means low stakes opportunities to explore the possibilities of writing, to play with words, to share your attempts with others who are also trying on and experimenting.  And it means knowing that your first attempt is not your only attempt, that writing takes time and multiple iterations that come from layering inspiration, mentor texts, and supportive instruction.

A week ago, we were inspired by the life and poetry of e.e.cummings.  (If you have not yet read the picture book biography of cummings by Matthew Burgess, Enormous Smallness–you should.  It’s quite a treat!) Burgess’s description of cummings exploring the world with “his eyes on tiptoes” made an impression on our young writers.  After studying love is a place by cummings along with a few other poems by various authors as mentors, our students set out to compose a poem about something they love.

They wrote these poems in layers–a little each day over the course of a week–and in a community of other poets (including their teachers) working to express their thinking and visions about something they care about. We read our works-in-progress, noting language we loved, noticing techniques we could borrow, and learning how to “fit” something into a page already full.  (A major impediment to revision for young students…we continually work to show our writers how to make changes without erasing or starting over!)

The resulting poems are magical…and incredibly varied.  From the one that begins, “Shall I compare winter with a magical place…” (inspired by her own knowledge of Shakespeare and her love of snow and ice) to the one that ends, “Time doesn’t exist on a boat on the ocean when fishing,” my heart swells knowing that the power of our writing community has taken hold.

And sometimes you get the piece that feels momentous, a powerful expression from a student who previously didn’t claim writing as something he even wanted to own.  But he is feeling the magic of his words and wants to share them, giving me permission to share them with other writers and learners.  Surrounded by a community of writers and learners and inspired by the mentor text, Trouble, Fly by Susan Marie Swanson and the story, The Waterfall by Jonathan London, B knew he had something to say about writing that is worth sharing with others.

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B’s effort shows the results of practice, patience, and persistence.  But this didn’t come from a single lesson.  Instead, it is the result of cumulative effort now in its third year for this student.  B expects to write for many reasons and in many ways on a regular basis. That’s what we do in our learning community.  On Thursday, the National Day on Writing, students put some of those reasons for writing in print to express #whyiwrite to the larger community of writers on Twitter.

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As I think about myself as a writer and as a photographer, I know that practice, patience and persistence also apply to me and my own learning. I wrote last week about writing with light through my photography.  This morning as I walked the beach in a light rain, I wanted to capture the quality of light and feeling of expanse I experienced.  As I poured over and thought about the photos I took, my mind wandered back to one of my photographic mentors, Ansel Adams.  And I found myself inspired by his words…and by his use of black and white to express nature’s powerful beauty.  I took my photo and used a filter to transform it from color to black and white, capturing the mood and expansiveness…and the quiet I was looking for.

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

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Best of Summer

With Labor Day right around the summer, it’s time to step back, reflect, and curate some of those summer gems!

Some of my favorite images from the summer come from our trip to the Pacific Northwest, outside of Seattle.  There’s this wonderful town called Sequim that boasts a lighthouse accessible only at low tide.  And even though we didn’t time our visit to allow for the (long) walk the lighthouse and back, my zoom lens let me capture this view from a distance.  I’m in love the with monochromatic effect featuring all the shades of blue.

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And this is the same area where we glimpsed several bald eagles.  These magnificent birds were not easy to photograph, but I fell in love with this one perched on a piling recognizable by its distinctive white head.

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Back at home I continued my practice of taking regular walks on the beach.  This hasn’t been a particularly warm summer–in fact there were many days when the marine layer kept the sky gray all day.  I noticed this seagull on one of my walks with its head tucked in. Since the day was already so gray, I played around with black and white making the seagull and the shadow even more the focal point of the photo.

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Living in a place that others travel to creates opportunities for “happening” upon special events like the Switchfoot Bro-Am surfing contest and concert at our local beach.  We enjoyed exploring the exhibits on the beach, listening to the opening band of young teens, and watching the surfers paddle out to compete.  We were even lucky enough to watch a local favorite, Rob Machado, in action!

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I love it when I’m fortunate enough to capture the quirkiness of beach life in an interesting photo.  I noticed these wetsuits laying up along the seawall as I walked not long ago.  When I saw them I couldn’t help thinking of snakes, leaving their empty skin behind when they shed.  I like that you can see the flatness of the wetsuits against the depth of the stairs.  I took this picture as I walked one direction, and when I walked back passing this place again, they were gone.  Sometimes it’s all about timing!

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And no set of “best of” photos would be complete without a food shot. My favorite of the summer is this shot of Geoff’s homemade beignets and cafe au lait…a wonderful treat of a breakfast on a lazy summer weekend!  The overhead shot captures the contrast of light and dark–perfectly fried southern “doughnuts” awash in powdered sugar, yum!

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I ended my summer with some work in Tucson, AZ and managed to squeeze in a few photos before and after the long days of work.  The University of Arizona campus is an interesting one and the building I was in had many interesting architectural features.  I captured this unedited image of the endless corridor with brick walls.

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And who can resist the natural beauty of our National Parks?  We discovered that Tucson is home to Saguaro National Park, a place where the majestic Saguaro cactus grows abundantly.  I loved seeing these tall cacti up close, I’ve read many books and taught many children about these unique and special plants.  The monsoonal rain clouds and setting sun create the perfect backdrop for Saguaro silhouettes.

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So, here’s an invitation to take a walk down memory lane and relive a bit of your summer.  Take some time to curate your summer photos and pick one or two (or more) to share as your gallery of “Best of Summer” photos.

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 #bestofsummer16 for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.

And if you haven’t yet taken those summer photos yet–no problem! Head out with your camera and get snapping…don’t forget to share your best of with the rest of us!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vitamin N

Today is Earth Day, a day to celebrate the beauty of the natural world and remember that it is our duty to take care of this place we inhabit.  This week, for me, has been an odd juxtaposition of long days of meetings interspersed with intense periods out in nature.  Earlier this week I came across a blog post about a new book by Richard Louv.  He’s a local author who is known for writing about the need for kids to have experiences in nature (he wrote Last Child in the Woods).  His new book, Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life includes 500 ways to connect with nature…and it appeared in our classroom, signed by the author shortly before our field trip to the lagoon on Wednesday.

It is affirming to know that others recognize the powerful learning experiences that occur when kids head outside…and it doesn’t take much in the way of materials to make it happen.  And I am reminded that heading outside wasn’t just good for my students, it was good for me and for the other adults too.

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We watched lizards, found a beehive (a hole in a rock wall), saw an extraordinary display by some great white egrets, spied a fish (at least a foot long), smelled sage, and were treated to a riot of colorful flowers in less than an hour at the lagoon.  Students used binoculars and took field notes…and couldn’t wait to research what they had seen when they got back to the classroom.

To practice, the day before we headed out the garden with the same tools (a notebook and binoculars).  In addition the dead crow (eeewwww!), we saw ladybugs and other insects.

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We uncovered brilliant red strawberries, observed birds perched on fences and wires, and noticed the delicate laces of plants we don’t know the names of.

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And of course tall, stately sunflowers always catch my eye…and in this case directed my attention to the gorgeous clouds in the distance.

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I haven’t spent much time at the beach lately, but today, after school I rushed home so we could head back out for a low-tide beach walk.  Blue skies, gentle breezes, and mid 60’s temperatures created the perfect backdrop for walking and talking and exploring.

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Somehow I managed to forget to bring my camera with me–luckily my phone was in my pocket!  I noticed the wet cliff walls (even though the tide was low) and wanted to capture the abstract art quality of them, with the natural sandstone textures above them..

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In spite of my crazy schedule this week, I managed a substantial dose of Vitamin N!  (And I definitely benefited from the time outdoors and from observing the wonders of the natural world!)  So this week’s challenge is to give yourself a shot of vitamin N, head outside and explore a bit of nature around you.  What captures your attention?

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

 

Sometimes we need an excuse to treat ourselves to something wonderful–even when our schedules are feeling compressed and hectic.  A dose of Vitamin N might be just what you need!  Grab your camera and head outdoors…what wonders will you find? Share your discoveries with us and expand nature’s reach through your lens!