Tag Archives: noticing

Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

Sometimes a change of scenery can be the perfect push to increase creativity.  So, instead of heading to the beach, I got on a long sleek train and headed up to Los Angeles.  I’ve only ridden a train a few times in my life, but I wanted to explore whether or not the train would be a better option than driving myself through typical weekday LA traffic.


The Surfliner takes a coastal route as it leaves my place, offering spectacular views of the ocean.  A young woman sitting across from me on her way to Disneyland informed me that the views end when you can no longer see the ocean.  But I kept my eyes peeled for interesting images–and was rewarded by a rich palette of visual textures.

It’s interesting to see what occupies the places near the train tracks. Where the tracks are near the ocean, there are restaurants and homes…and lots of apartments.  As we moved more inland, the spaces near the tracks were filled with building goods stacked high. The rough rusted back of this sign made me wonder what it said from the other side and the stacks of yellow-tipped smooth black pipes caught my eye.


After some very slow going because of a freight train with a lopsided load, as we came around a corner, the LA skyline came into view. Short and tall, old and new, metal and painted, my eye was drawn to the arrangements that make up downtown.img_9741

As we pulled into Union Station, I caught a glimpse of the sun peeking out from behind the nearby building.  The milky clouds, the bright sun, and the dirty train window all create an interesting textural composition.


As we changed course and headed toward Burbank, I noticed all the lines of the electrical towers.  Vertical, horizontal, and crisscrossing lines create floating tic-tac-toe boards against the blue and white sky.


And the LA aquaduct came into view.  These mostly empty cement riverbeds run through the city bisected with bridges of different types and purposes. In some places you might notice the tags of graffiti artists along the cement sides and ducks floating in the shallow pools.


These iconic palms lined up in rows against the pinks and tangerines of the buildings signaled our approach to the suburbs.  And the blue skies became more mottled white as the weather shifted from summer in February to impending rain.


As I waited for the train to take me back home later that evening, shiny wetness reflected the lights of the station. And in the distance you can see my train making its approach.


So take a look around for some visual texture this week.  Will you find it in your ordinary outings or will you need to venture out into parts unknown?

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

Keep your eyes peeled for texture this week…it may be created with color, with line, because of the clouds or even a dirty window.  I look forward to seeing how texture fills your life…and your lens!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure

How many photos is too many to take of the beach? That question runs though my mind as I take photo after photo at this place I treasure. Looking through my lens I see the constant change…in light, in tide, in surf, in people, in rocks, in sand, in shells, in surfers, and more.

The unseasonably warm temperatures (80’s in February) and convenient after-work low tides collided to make perfect conditions for walking and taking photos all week long.  I found the most unexpected treasures as I walked.

The warm temps created different layers in the sky…and early in the week an almost misty condition.  These seagulls seemed to be playing tag, chasing each other into the sun.  I love the golden glows in this treasure.


Early in the week the tides were particularly low, exposing large expanses of reef.  I walked way out toward the end of this outcropping where the treasures of tide pools were exposed.


Walking north instead of south another day revealed the treasure of tiny shells instead of rocks under my feet.  I love the colors and textures of the thousands of shells.


There are lots of varieties of seagulls too.  These guys always crack me up…I swear they look like Groucho Marx with their thick eyebrows and funny hairdos.  And I caught this guy in quite a pose!


And thanks to my husband and my friend Janis, I can’t walk the beach without noticing the trash that washes onto shore.  This was a week for interesting trash…shoes, pvc pipe, electrical cord, and many surfboard fins.  I’m kind of a trash snob, I prefer to photograph and pick up the most exotic trash…like this piece of shoe that seems to be turning into its own island!  (Thanks #litterati for featuring this one as your Facebook and Twitter photo of the day on Thursday.)


Yesterday as I bent down to photograph this fin, I was in the perfect position to catch the surfer in the background.  I can imagine him thinking, “Where did that fin go?”  Once photographed, I pick up the trash and carry it to the trashcan (or sometimes take it home–I seem to be starting a surfboard fin collection!).


And I can never resist taking my favorite shot as I head toward the parking lot…one that features the sun setting behind the lifeguard tower, truly a treasure to behold!  (Complete with sun flare)


So where do you find your treasures?  Are they revealed as the snow falls?  As you dig in the garden? Exposed by the light shining through the window of your house?

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

The beach revealed many treasures for me this week.  I can’t wait to see the treasures you find through your lens!

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!







Weekly Photo Challenge: On the Street

I wander around my hometown with my camera (Sony a6000) hanging around my neck.  And I get asked now and then where I am from.  I always think it’s interesting that a camera somehow connotes tourist (of course I do live in a tourist destination–so maybe that comes into play).

With my camera around my neck, I feel like I see this place a bit differently.  Sure, I have lots of opportunities to take photos of the beach. But there are other interesting photo opportunities too.  Today I had a window of time and set out to wander the streets in downtown Carlsbad.

The sun was settling low in the sky…our days are nearly at their shortest right now.  I kept catching glimpses of the sun through the streets when I noticed this fire hydrant dressed in its beach finery (a “woody” with a sign for highway 101…exactly where it is located).


A couple of blocks further west the street opened to a view of the ocean, framed by palm trees.  If you look closely you can see the stairs that lead down to the beach…but I stayed up on the street today!


As I looped around to head back to get a cup of coffee before my appointment, I couldn’t resist a few shots of the classic Carlsbad sign.  We have signs like this in many of our San Diego communities.  (I love the way the setting sun is lighting up the historic building in the distance…it used to be a restaurant and is now a retail store.


Earlier this week I stopped to run some errands on the way to a meeting and couldn’t resist a shot of the way the sun was illuminating this building.  You can see how shadowy things are near the ground…and how bright the sun is (again, near sunset) up high.


And we ended the weekend last week with a trip to get a Christmas tree. The tree lot at Home Depot doesn’t have the charm of the one I went to with my son and daughter-in-law the week before, but we did find a nice tree.  Here’s my hubby with it hoisted over his shoulder in the yellowy light of the parking lot.


So what are you noticing on the street?  How does your camera let you see things you might not otherwise notice?  Take a look around and take a few shots to share.

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

So grab your camera and head out to the street…in your neighborhood, downtown, as you go about your everyday life.  I can’t wait to see what you find on the street!

Looking Closely to Look Back: December’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

We’ve reached the twelfth month, the last of the calendar year.  Traditionally, it’s a time for reflection, of taking stock of the year in order to make progress in the new year.

So…what if we look to the world around us, paying careful attention to what is currently in front of us–and use those images and related thinking to look back, to reflect on the year?

Just last week I had the opportunity to watch some college students dance (many thanks to my niece, a dance major).  Their energy and passion were obvious–and contagious!  Looking at this image reminds me that we are not attached to the the ground…we are also in flight, ready to follow our imagination.


We tell ourselves so many stories–including stories that fuel our frustration and impatience.  Sometimes we need to reframe a story, view it from a new perspective to change our feelings and perceptions. Traffic can be a pain…or an opportunity depending on how your look at it.


And sometimes doors don’t look like doors.  They might just be spaces you haven’t noticed before.  I’m determined to ride the train to Los Angeles one day soon…and this image will remind me to include this on my to-do list.


Those quiet moments of waiting and watching sometimes pay off in a beautiful photo, but always fill my heart with wonder and joy…even when the photo doesn’t happen.  I get just enough rewards like this one to remind me to stop, listen, watch, enjoy what is right in front of me.


I see dozens and dozens and dozens of seagulls–at the beach, when I drive down the freeway, at school–and yet I never tire of them.  There is a certain elegance about taking flight, gliding on the currents, and over the currents (and waves) below.  Does anyone remember reading Jonathan Livingston Seagull back in the day?


Going to different places means seeing things that are familiar…and well, ordinary.  I like to notice the new…the magnificent architecture, the iconic art…but sometimes find myself snapping a photo of the familiar, like this walk sign.  (Now I find myself wondering if walk signs are really the same all over, maybe I need to take some more photos of them!  This one is from Minneapolis.)


And then there is light.  Sometimes it is sunlight, sometimes moonlight…and sometimes a wonderful art piece that is all about light.  Add dark to the light and the camera creates effects that are even more interesting, reminding me that we can’t always capture images as we see them…sometimes they create themselves right in our own hands in front of our eyes.


To get you started, here are some prompts for the month:

  1. Spaces
  2. Places
  3. Movement
  4. Relationships
  5. Home
  6. Outdoors
  7. Family
  8. Story
  9. Favorite
  10. Gift
  11. Memory
  12. Dozen
  13. Night
  14. Nature
  15. Quiet
  16. Rhythm
  17. Sharp
  18. Warmth
  19. Flame
  20. Moment
  21. Light
  22. Sky
  23. Doors
  24. Ground
  25. Celebration
  26. Water
  27. Delicious
  28. Hands
  29. Reflect
  30. Dance
  31. New

As always, our challenge will allow us to learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot. The prompts are there to help you pay attention to your world and reflect on the year and your experiences. You can use them in order or pick and choose as you like–you are welcome to add a new prompt into the mix if you are so moved. You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.

Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them! You can share on Twitter (follow me @kd0602), on Instagram (@kd0602), in the CLMOOC community on G+, on Flickr, or even link back to my blog here.

Let’s look closely to look back and move forward as we bring 2015 to a close.  Enjoy the winter holidays, whatever version you celebrate, and let your camera help you find the joy and wonder of the season.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Through the Window

Family is everything.  And sometimes you do crazy things to make sure you can spend time with your loved ones.  Like battling Los Angeles traffic on the day before Thanksgiving, knowing that the drive that should take between 90 minutes and 2 hours will likely be at least double that.

We left early in the morning on our way up to LA, well before sunrise, and were treated to a huge and gorgeous full moon sitting over the Pacific ocean as it got ready to set.  I would have loved to have had time to park at the beach and try to capture this rare moon viewing through my camera lens, but this was a day for travel.  And since I wasn’t driving, I pulled out my camera and did my best to shoot through the car window.  In the dark, my camera shutter was slow–and the car was fast (yay…no traffic yet!), creating a streaking and blurring effect.  I was delighted to find this abstract portrayal of light as I shot the moon.


After a wonderful day with my son and daughter-in-law, we got back in the car to head back home knowing that traffic would be heavy–but wanting to get home not too late so my husband could start baking his pies for Thanksgiving.  And heavy was an understatement.  After inching along the I5 for about 30 minutes and covering less than 10 miles, we decided to let Google maps on my phone take us on an adventure.

As we moved from one freeway to the next, we glimpsed views of downtown LA, watched airplanes and helicopters in their own freeway in the air, and noticed public transport rolling by on raised platforms.  All along the way I pointed my lens out the window, trying to capture the interesting and beautiful things that caught my eye.


With the drought on our minds, we’ve been noticing the aqueduct system running below the power lines.  Without the ability to stop and frame shots, I had to focus and shoot quickly hoping that I captured the image I was envisioning.  This is my personal favorite, a serendipity of light and shadow and composition.


Part of the time we found ourselves on city streets, deep in an industrial area.  Street art decorated the walls of buildings–some sanctioned (like the mural on the Farmer John compound) and some probably not. As I looked up, I noticed the graffiti-laden train overpasses and snapped a few more shots.


Heading onto yet another freeway (we found numbers we didn’t even know existed in Southern California!), I noticed tons of white birds sitting in a nearly empty aqueduct.  Since I couldn’t see over the railing, I shot through the cement openings hoping to capture what I was seeing below. I’m pretty happy with the effect!


As the sun began to sink, the sky took on a gentle glow, silhouetting another of the miles of power towers that line the freeways.


And while our adventures in LA were fun and interesting, we were not alone or without traffic. Brake lights glowed red, lighting up the freeway like Christmas decorations.


Our trip ended much like it began as we watched the full, huge moon rise into the sky.  It played hide and seek, first with the buildings and overpasses and later with the clouds.


It’s hard to know whether our “fastest route” actually saved us any time (we’re guessing we saved about 30 minutes), and it certainly wasn’t fast.  But it was such a relief to keep moving and not spend hours inching in stop and go freeway traffic.  We explored, we chatted, we noticed, and I took photos.  We arrived home tired, yet relaxed.  And we might just try that choose your own adventure route through LA again someday.  There is so much to see when you take the time to look through the window.

So…what are you seeing through the window these days?  Is it a car window, your house, or someplace else?  Or is it a metaphorical window–the space between stormy weather conditions, phases of activity in your life, the break between holidays?

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

What are you seeing through the window?  Take out your camera and give us a glimpse through your lens!

Public Privilege

I spend a lot of time on the beach, walking and thinking and taking pictures.  In this public space, even in a crowd, I feel a sense of solitude.  Wrapped in the sounds of the sea, the wind on my face and the sun on my shoulders I pay attention the rhythms of the earth.  I notice the ways the landscape changes, the habits of the seabirds, the movement of the sun and the moon, and the way the tides ebb and flow.  No two days are ever the same…and yet this place is always the same.

I also notice the people who come in many shapes and sizes.  I notice that they are more the same than different, looking like the people who live in my neighborhood and attend the school where I work. Of course there are visitors, vacationing along the shore…and the ever present #beachpeople who constantly interest, inform, and surprise me with all the things they do at the beach.

In this place, people shower in public,


play in public,


hangout in public,


and learn in public.


And with my camera in my hand, most people pay little attention to me even while I pay a lot of attention to them.

After all, this is a public place.  Everyone is welcome.  Or are they?

Sometimes I wonder about the gulls, often looked upon as pests.  I’ve heard them called “rats,” a nod to their role as scavengers…and maybe to their highly adaptable behavior.


But who else is not welcome here?  I notice patrols on the beach, mostly lifeguards but sometimes sheriffs in their vehicles cruise the beach.  Are they keeping beachgoers safe or looking for troublemakers?  Do those mean the same thing?

And where does public end and private begin?  At the no trespassing sign?


What does my privilege allow me to see?  And what does it blind me to?

So much to consider as I walk this beach…

Symbols of Place and Noticing Systems: A Photo Essay

Some places are instantly recognizable by symbolic landmarks…the Golden Gate Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Building…even the reflective bean (I don’t know its official name, but I know where it is), the London Eye, St. Louis’s arch or the Space Needle.  What systems allow us to know those symbolic places without having visited?  Systems of communications, news, arts…  Some I know firsthand, some I know from watching TV, movies, seeing art exhibits, social media, and more.

But when I think of my place, I can’t imagine what large landmark people unfamiliar with my place would immediately recognize as San Diego.  But there is this large body of water that extends along the western border of our place…the Pacific Ocean.

Most days I notice the ocean from the vantage of the land, looking over cliffs, walking in the surf along the shore, looking below as I cross a bridge or stand on a balcony above.  But over the weekend I had the opportunity (thanks Joe and Katie) to step aboard a beautiful sailboat and view the ocean, and discover local symbols and landmarks from a different vantage.


A week or more of heavy overcast and summer cold and gray turned sunny and blue as we headed toward the open ocean.  Under sail with wind power, we breathed in the briny air and soaked up the sun, surrounded by every shade and hue of blue.  The ocean has its own rhythms as the sea interacts with the wind and the land, unpredictable and powerful.  As we moved further into the open sea, vast blue enveloped our sight along with a sense of solitariness…even though we weren’t alone.

Systems of ropes and pulleys interact with large sheets of sail, wind, weather, and the knowledge of the sailor.  A turn of the wheel is reflected in a change of course that changes the way the wind sits in the sails that impacts the speed of the boat.  An unexpected gust with an inexperienced navigator can cause the boat to heel unexpectedly or abruptly change direction! I noticed that sailors have lots of tools that help them with their systems…the obvious instrumentation that give readings of water depth, speed, direction and the less obvious colored strings that blow in the breeze, the different colored ropes, the sheen (or lack of sheen) of the water that indicates breeze, the feel of the breeze on the cheek.


We passed buoys along our way where sea lions basked and sang in the sun,


and seagulls served as sentry, overseeing the watery world.  And these too are part of the navigational system of the waterways.  They are symbols that show ships where to travel to avoid shallows, that mark the water in the ways that lane lines and exits mark our freeways.


As we headed back into the bay, we had the opportunity to see our city skyline from the outside in rather than the inside out.  And it never hurts to have a beautiful sailboat as part of the view! The hustle and bustle of the city was replicated in the water with many people enjoying the water on every kind of boat: tour boats, speed boats, fishing boats, luxury boats, racing boats, tiny boats, large boats and even jet skis.

Invisible systems of etiquette acknowledge which seacraft are most maneuverable.  Sails have the right of way over motors…but like on our roadways, inexperience or recklessness remind us that right of way is no guarantee of safety.  Paying attention to others is crucial at sea, just as it is on the streets of our beautiful city.


As we got closer the blue curve of the Coronado Bay Bridge came into view.  This is probably the closest thing to an iconic symbol that we have in our city.  And another view of its beauty is revealed from below as I noticed the way it snakes down in a gentle curve as it crosses the span of the bay.


Coming back through from the other direction, I noticed the optical illusions of distance as it seems that the mast of the sailboat crossing below will certainly scrape the bottom the bridge.

Under sail we were at the mercy of the wind to keep us moving.  And since the wind doesn’t conveniently change direction when you want to go back the other way, a system of tacking or intentional turns allows the sailor to keep the wind in the sails by crisscrossing across the path to reach the desired destination.  (Remember those pulleys and the wheel?  They all come into play during the tacking process!)


San Diego is a military town, and nowhere is it more obvious than in the San Diego Bay.  The Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier turned museum, is visible along the waterfront. From the street, it is an impressive sight.  From the water, it is spectacular!


And what system allowed this majestic and enormous vessel to become a floating museum? And what systems interact to keep it functioning?  I know there are educational elements with school field trips, ceremonial elements with honoring of military personnel, tourism elements that bring visitors into contact with military history…


As we headed back toward the marina, we noticed the tugboats heading toward the ocean. These brilliant orange workhorses are fast and powerful, churning water in their wake (and creating some waves for us aboard a sailboat!).  We knew they would be used to escort a big ship into the bay. What would it be?

What systems are in play when these small but powerful boats are deployed as escorts?  How do they interact with this enormous whale of a warship?


We searched the mouth of the bay, waiting for the ship to come into our line of sight.  We were soon greeted by the USS Carl Vinson, an aircraft carrier, along with military police and two tugboats coming into the bay.  The deck was lined with people who looked to be in civilian clothes.  Was this the end of a dependents’ cruise (where family members go out on the military ship)?

Is this a system created to acknowledge the hardships of having a loved one at sea for months at a time, a way to allow families to reconnect by making the workplace more familiar and accessible?


We had a front row seat as we watched this elegant gray giant enter the bay.  Other recreational boats gathered round, also taking in the view of this symbol of power and strength–our military might.  Earlier in the day we had passed other military vessels–but all were docked.  Seeing this ship under power is a less than usual sight.

And then there is the military as a system.  It is often invisible to those of us outside of it.  And yet, in this city where I live the military is ever present.  The ins and outs of military vessels are only a small part of the military system.  Behind each ship are interconnected webs of systems that keep them running, informed, stocked, maintained, staffed…

Our outing came to an end as the marina came into view and we navigated our way back into the slip that is home to this sailboat.  But the journey on a boat doesn’t end with the parking. There are sails to be furled, ropes to be tied, hatches to close, instruments to put away…more systems in play to keep the boat maintained and ready for the next use.


A leisurely day on the ocean…not quite.  But a beautiful day on the ocean…absolutely!  Thanks so much Katie and Joe for including us and allowing us to experience so many symbols of our city from a different perspective.

I noticed so many systems that I don’t ordinarily pay attention to during this one outing (and there are likely many, many more that I didn’t even mention!)  What systems are going on in your place?  How do they impact you and others?


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?

Looking for Signs…

Six weeks into the school year with unseasonably warm temperatures…I find myself looking for signs of fall.  Southern California is not known for spectacular fall colors: the changing leaves, colorful gourds, and orange pumpkins decorating doorsteps.  Instead, I notice things like the orange and red kelp washed up by hurricane Simon off the coast of Mexico,

orange and red kelp

the orange beach umbrella near the lifeguard tower,

orange umbrella

and the golden sun highlighting the surfer atop the bigger than usual waves.

golden surfer

And I’m starting to see some even more exciting signs of fall…and of the writing community growing in my classroom.  Some signs are subtle, like students settling into writing without any urging from us and sticking with the writing for longer and longer periods of time.  There’s a willingness to share writing with one another and with the class as a whole…even from our shyer students.  And then there’s the risk-taking…trying out new strategies for revision and composition with independence and confidence.

This third grader uses her reflection notebook to write about a tool we use in class to help with revision.  It’s clear that she sees the value of revision for improving her writing…knowing writers, even good writers, have to work at improving their craft.

elke's reflection

It’s also fun to see students bring their voice to informal, reflective writing.  They are writers whenever they put words to a page…like this student describing something learned from reading a Scholastic News magazine,

reflectionand the student who began her reflection on a writing and art project with, “It all started when Ms Boyesen read us a book called Flashlight.”

Like the more obvious brilliant crimson leaves, sweet apple cider, and crisp autumn evenings that signal fall, these subtle signs in the classroom represent our growth as a community of learners and writers.  We are ready to dig in, to stretch ourselves as learners, and to learn from and with each other throughout the school year.

I have to look carefully for signs of fall in my place…they aren’t easily recognized by those looking for the gorgeous iconic images we see represented in the media.  The same is true in my classroom, looking carefully uncovers signs that might be overlooked otherwise.  The signs are there and I’m looking forward to the journey with these young writers.

What signs of a developing learning community are you seeing in your place?