Tag Archives: observation

A Macro View: Texture

I love using the macro lens.  It magnifies subjects so that what is ordinarily unnoticed suddenly takes shape and comes to the forefront.  So when I saw the Daily Post weekly photo challenge topic of texture…I knew exactly what I wanted to post.

The macro lens on my iPhone is not particularly convenient, I have to take the cover off my phone and then attach the magnetic lens, so I don’t use it as frequently as I would like.  Earlier this week I was in a beautiful garden…meant to be a replica of a homestead garden…in Bozeman, MT at the Museum of the Rockies.  A bounty of flowers and vegetables flourished…calling my attention.  There were poppies, sunflowers, and myriad flowers whose names I don’t know.  And the onions were magnificent!

texture_red and white onion

And while we needed to head out to the airport for our flight home, I just had to steal away a few minutes for some macro shots.  Here is one of the onion above.

texture_onion macro

And here is one of the blossoms of a different variety of onion.


The brilliant red poppies also caught my eye.  They are gorgeous without looking closely, but magnification brings out the delicate tendrils and the distinctive centers.

texture_red poppy

And I also saw these same centers standing alone without the crimson petals.

texture_poppy bud

As I wandered through the garden I continued to move close and zoom in on blossoms.  This one with the spiky center looks almost like a bouquet of colored pencils

texture_red bloom

This fluffy tan ball revealed small individual flowers through my macro lens.


I’m not sure what this tiny purple ball wrapped in green spines will look like when the bloom opens.


When looking closely through the macro lens, centers pop, revealing intricacies of design.



Looking closely creates opportunities to pay attention.  Seeing the contrast between hard and soft edges and elaborate design with repeated patterns also seems to draw attention to the vibrance of color…like in this purple blossom.


Textures often go unnoticed when we look at flowers and vegetables.  Instead we tend to notice the overall shape and general color, and sometimes the fragrance as well.  I love the ways the centers of flowers uncover distinctive details about how the flower reproduces and unfolds.  What originally appears smooth and soft is more complex and nuanced with a closer look.

And that is true of life too.  Looking closely and paying attention can change our observations and our perspective.  Sometimes you just have to lean in and take the time to smell…and photograph the flowers!



In our classroom we like to give students lots of ways to process information.  They listen, they speak, they sketch, they observe, they write, they read, they move, they sing, they paint…

They are saturated with learning experiences.  Today we painted.  But it was just a part of a series of experiences to help students look closely, notice details, and then learn to sketch roundness by using curved lines and shading with their sketch pencils.  They started with pumpkins harvested from our school garden.  They moved to tomatoes, also harvested in the garden. They studied Vincent Van Gogh and learned about the concept of still life.  They arranged their own still life composition and photographed it using their iPads.  They used the photo as a guide for sketching their unique composition–and also learned some techniques for showing the overlapping of the fruits and vegetables.  And then today they tried the same techniques using watercolor paints.


These six, seven, and eight year olds saturated their compositions with the brilliant colors of fall based on their experiences with the actual objects.


In this photo you can see the gorgeous sketch (that the student made earlier this week) that guided this careful painting.  Saturating students in a variety of experiences related to a topic allows for deeper and more meaningful learning.  This learning is not just about art–although the art is beautiful–it’s also science and history and math and reading and writing…and so much more.

And conveniently, this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge is saturated.  It talks about color…but there is so much more to saturation than color, in my opinion!

How do you saturate yourself and your students in learning experiences?


Like tiny fireworks, sparks of light danced along the pathway as I took an evening walk the other day.  Fireflies!

If you’re from the Midwest, you’re probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?  We have fireflies every summer.”  But for a southern California native—a place where we don’t have fireflies, the opportunity to enjoy this natural spectacle is magical.

I’ve heard all the stories of childhood firefly wonders.  And the affection that those who know fireflies have for these gentle, easy to catch insects.  I was surprised when I first saw them up-close, they aren’t so magical or elegant when they aren’t glowing.  They are more of the sturdy, ordinary bug variety.  But when they do their thing…I am mesmerized!


I love the way something so seemingly ordinary can also be magical.  I think of my students that way too.  It’s easy to clump students together in categories.  There are the ones who are slow to start, there’s the ones who race through every task without much thought or care, there are those who spend their time in their own daydreams, and those that never stop moving.

But watch carefully, create spaces for inquiry and imagination and play, and we all might just see those sparks of light…that magical natural spectacle…learning!

Dandelions: A Photo Essay

Dandelions fascinate me.  These pesky plants, often referred to as weeds, are hearty, resilient, and strong and at the same time delicate, graceful, and intricate.  During the winter I had the chance to watch a dandelion transform through its growth phases.  It somehow ended up thriving in an abandoned planter in my front yard—one of those spaces where I always have plans to have something beautiful grow—but lack of consistent watering and attention seem to spell doom for whatever I purposely plant there.  We’d about given up on the planter, planning to relegate it to the back yard where it wouldn’t be such an eyesore—its been just a planter of dirt for some time–when I noticed a dandelion flower blooming bright and yellow seemingly oblivious to the neglect of this newfound home.  I grabbed my macro lens for my iphone and worked to capture that sunny globe.


Each day as I arrived home from work, before the daylight had dimmed, I noticed another phase of the dandelion’s life and attempted to capture it with my macro lens.  I love the way the macro forces me to slow my breathing, lean in close, and look carefully.  Steadiness is paramount to a successful photo—and I find myself angling the lens this way and that as I work to achieve the optimal focus on some aspect of my subject.


As the dandelion turned from yellow flower to white fluffball, I realize how little thought I had really given to these two very different versions of the same plant.  Like so many people I had played with these “weeds” as a child, picking these little fluffballs and blowing while I made wishes, never considering that I was in fact helping their cause as those pieces of fluff, each with a seed, attaches floated to a new home.


I got closer still and worked to capture what happened day by day as the dandelion naturally progressed.  And that’s when my view of dandelions was forever transformed.


I became obsessed with taking pictures of dandelions…in all their states.  And I began seeing what had once been ordinary in new and extraordinary ways.


Instead of my “go about my business without paying too much attention to the little things” stance, I suddenly had a caterpillar’s eye view, which opened up new ways of seeing.


So my takeaway…look closely and pay attention to the ordinary, searching for the hidden beauty.  I feel like that’s also a lesson to heed even without my iphone in my hand.  In my classroom and in my work with teachers I also need to search for the hidden beauty masked by the ordinary–that’s where the treasures lie.  What treasures are hiding from you?