Tag Archives: ordinary

Weekly Photo Challenge: Staycation

Sometimes I long for exotic vacations, opportunities to explore places I have never been.  I imagine wandering through iconic museums, looking up at skylines made familiar through movies and artwork, and a peek at a way of life different from my own.  And then I remember that I live in a pretty special place–one that is exotic for others!

Today I had a rare day off and set off with my mother, my sister and my niece to enjoy a wonderful staycation day.  We headed off to Coronado–best known for the Hotel Del Coronado (a historic, high-priced beachside hotel), a naval station (North Island), and miles of exquisite beaches.  Locals call it an island and mostly access it by driving across the iconic Coronado Bay Bridge, a curving stretch with breathtaking views of the bay and the San Diego skyline, but it is actually a peninsula.

We walked and walked, feet in the cool water while the sun (even pretty early in the morning) warmed our shoulders.  We noticed some posts in the distance and found the fence that separates the public beach from the Naval Air Station.

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We also found that this far end of the beach was designated as a dog beach and the dogs were loving the water today.  They chased and retrieved balls and chased and played with each other. There were dogs of all shapes and sizes, and like people, they seemed relaxed and happy as they played along the shore.  They were obviously enjoying their own staycation!

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After lunch at El Indio, a favorite San Diego Mexican restaurant, we decided to head to Old Town.  I can’t remember the last time I explored this part of our city.  It was HOT today, so the cool greens of the beautiful botanical art sculptures were soothing to the eye.  I love the way the plants were a growing changing part of the art piece.  (This is a full body, taller than me piece…but I was drawn to the face and the juxtaposition of light and shadow.)

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Earlier in the week, as a part of our Summer Institute, we took folks out around the UCSD campus for a writing marathon.  This University of California campus is a jewel, filled with natural beauty and with interesting art installations called the Stuart Collection.  As we visited different parts of the campus, we took time to study the art, consider it in relation to our own thinking after nearly four weeks together, and wrote.  We started with this piece by Michael Asher.  As often as I have been on this campus (weekly for years) and have walked past this piece, I never knew it was an art installation.  This ordinary looking water fountain is made of polished granite to look (and function) exactly like the metal ones we are used to seeing.  I find myself still thinking about its placement, its ordinariness, and wondering how it ended up in the UCSD collection–and I know I will never look at it in the same way as I did in the past.

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And then we headed off to another piece in the Stuart Collection–the whimsical, enormous engineering feat that is Bear by Tim Hawkinson. Made of local boulders, this bear stands more than 23 feet tall in a courtyard formed by three engineering buildings. This piece is a favorite of our young writers, an enormous reminder of childhood.

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So consider a staycation in your place.  What sights and sounds will capture your imagination?  What might others see as exotic?  Or how might you see your local place in new ways?

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

Share your place with us this week, taking us on a #staycation journey with you.  What hidden treasures will you uncover when you vacation (even for a few minutes) right at home?

Making Writers

Sometimes writing feels like standing all alone in the fog–shivering in the damp–uncomfortable and vulnerable, waiting for the worst.

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But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Writers write best in a supportive community, in a place where attempts are celebrated and seeds are planted–some intentionally and carefully like those meticulously cultivated gardens and some flung far and wide like dandelion seeds floating in the wind.

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And writers also need to play and break the rules, find their own voice in the cacophony of others.  Occasionally they need a nudge to take those carefully stacked plates and push them over, flinging the words here and there, then gathering them again to make meaning of the shards of ideas uncovered in the process.

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Sometimes writers need to lean in close, breathe in the sweet scent of what it means to create new life as ideas emerge from words rubbed together.

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At other times, writers need to step back and take in the long view.  What new understandings reveal themselves when you look from the heights, from places you hadn’t dare stand before? Writing can be a process of discovery, exploring new territory or old territory from new perspectives.

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Writers need inspiration, sparks that send them on wild chases and deep digs.  And to be inspired, writers must open themselves–listen carefully, look widely, pay attention to the mundane, and seek out the ordinary. Nothing is too lowly to inspire words and ideas. Consider even the cat, asleep, with its head in a box.

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But mostly, writers need to trust that they have something to say–to themselves, to their neighbors, to readers and other writers.  They have to trust that words matter, thoughts matter, and the world matters.  They must want to write, and need to writer, but most of all, they actually have to do that thing that so many resist, and WRITE!

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If you want to make a writer.

***Note:  This piece was inspired by the article Hey Matt by Molly Toussant where she writes about her beliefs about teaching writing.  This piece was created as a “found photo essay” inspired by a peek at my media library as a way to think about writing and writing instruction.

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciating the Ordinary

Some weeks just don’t lend themselves to extraordinary photography. Now I’m not complaining about my week–it’s been fun and busy, with lots of writing and thinking as we complete week two of our 4-week SDAWP Summer Institute.

Sunsets are not always a sure thing here on the coast–night and morning low clouds can interfere with sun sightings.  Last weekend, we decided to risk it and headed to the beach near sunset.  We were treated to some pretty orange as the sun dipped low.  If you look closely you might noticed the pelicans in the upper left corner flying through the frame.

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It’s not unusual to see these flying billboards–banners attached to small planes that buzz the coastline mostly advertising alcoholic beverages.  I noticed these two different planes flying by and saw that they would cross paths right overhead.  They were not dangerously close, but I’m glad they were paying attention to each other!

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We’re pretty fortunate that the beach we frequent is mostly free of garbage in spite of the heavy usage, especially in the summer.  Balloon trash is pervasive though.  This balloon looks to have been around for awhile–with most of the words worn off.  The #Litterati movement (and my friend Janis) reminds us to pick up trash where we find it and dispose of it properly.  I love the sky and the sea in this unfiltered photo, there’s something about the clouds and the sea foam of the waves that creates a texture and an echo.

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The walk from the parking lot to the building where the SI takes place each day can be both ordinary and interesting.  I noticed these two small orange birds as they perched on the sign near the sidewalk where I walk. Using the app Colorsplash, I turned the photo to black and white and then allowed the bird color to remain in my hopes of highlighting them.

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I was reminded of the power of nature…even just a tree in a parking lot…to affect my mood.  Rachel Carson’s quote captures the jolt of strength and sense of oasis that I experience when I look up through the leaves of the tree.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”
— Rachel Carson

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The practice of noticing makes an incredible difference in my life.  The photos I take capture only a fraction of what I notice, and noticing helps me appreciate the little things in the ordinariness of my life. So take a look around, how might you view the ordinary in new and more appreciative ways?

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

What will you find when you pause to appreciate the ordinary?  I can’t wait to find out!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.)

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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.

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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: In Search of the Ordinary

This week has been about looking for interesting, ordinary subjects for my photography.  I’ve been attentive to my surroundings, considering angles and frames as I look around.  This morning I was out on playground duty when the water fountain caught my eye.  I see this water fountain all the time, but today I saw it in a new way as I noticed the beads of water from the heavy, moist air.  I leaned in and took this shot.

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And even before that, as I chatted with the early arriving students in my classroom, I looked down at the floor and noticed this enormous moth!  It was bigger than my outstretched hand…and in retrospect, I should have framed my shot including something to give a sense of size perspective.  But I do love the wing detail that is evident in this view.

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I took the long way to my UCSD office this afternoon, noticing the detailed architecture of the buildings in the distance.  But my detour took me to a patch of mushrooms, a wall of fall-colored ivy…and then I looked up and noticed the angles of this eucalyptus (and a break in the cloudy gloominess of the sky, framing the branches in brilliant blue!).

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As I headed back to my car for my trip home, the sea of cars in the parking lot below where I parked caught my eye.

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Earlier in the week I couldn’t fight the urge to pull over to the side of the road to capture the beauty of the ocean and the sky on my way home from school.  The sun and the clouds and the sea and the train tracks created the perfect composition as the truck drove by.  (Feels like a perfect truck commercial!)

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And trains and train tracks are a constant in the coastal communities here.  We can hear them from school and frequently have to stop and wait as the train rushes past.  I don’t always get a front row view…but I did for this one!

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So go out into your everyday life in search of the ordinary.  What catches your eye?  You might have to kneel down, lean in, or stop and turn around to notice those things that you see everyday.  Try a new angle, look for different lighting, or pay attention to what a child or a pet notices. I’m sure you’ll find something magnificently ordinary!

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

I can’t wait to see what you find through your lens when you take some time to search for the ordinary!

Beyond Paint by Number: October’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Oranges, browns, yellows, reds, greens…the colors of fall are legendary.  Leaves turn, pumpkins grow, candles flicker, and we can see the sunset as we head for home after the work day.  In the midst of all this spectacular and extraordinary display, we live our mostly ordinary lives.  So what do we take photos of?  How do we challenge ourselves to pay attention to the colors and wonders that only October can bring?

Let’s spend October painting what we see through our lens by paying attention to the extraordinariness of the ordinary.  I used the term paint by number to play with that idea of the hum drum ordinary of taking that same uninspiring photo over and over again.  To avoid that burnout of boredom, you’ll need to pay close attention to what your photo might be if you move in a bit closer, frame it a little differently, or look under the rock instead of just at it! I’ve come up with a prompt for each of the numbered days of this month to suggest an idea for you to paint through your lens…by taking a photo.  With the extraordinary of the ordinary in mind, here are a few of my paintings for inspiration…

These red converse hightops highlight the shift to fall…and notice the hat with a splash of orange sitting on the floor under the chair.  (And you might even notice the other kid with the florescent yellow shoes in the distance!)

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A walk on some hiking trails last weekend brought the dry and scratchy brush into full view…along with a tiny splash of color provided by the monkey flowers.

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I love the warmth and glow of the sun on the cliffs bringing out the oranges and reds that often go unnoticed.

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And what do you think of these whimsical pink stripes on the outstretched arms of the reader holding her book just so as her wispy bangs obscure her eyes and brush the side of her face?

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Saturday’s amber brew was a perfect match for the locally grown veggies on the pizza…and a great way to view the community outside the window.

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Don’t you love all the hues of green this painter made using only the primary colors and a dab or two of white?

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And I love the layers of oranges and yellows of this early fall sunset framed by the lifeguard tower.  If you look closely, you can see the people along the edge of the surf enjoying the last days of summer.

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So let’s go beyond “paint by number” and explore the extraordinariness of the ordinary.  Here’s a list of prompts to help you look in some new ways…or create your own prompt and share it with the rest of us!

1.  brown

2.  dry

3.  scratchy

4.  wispy

5.  orange

6.  hollow

7.  alive

8.  dark

9.  growing

10.  yellow

11.  thumps

12.  falling

13.  spooky

14.  lit

15.  red

16.  fresh

17.  spicy

18.  morning

19.  crisp

20.  setting

21.  harvest

22.  scary

23.  hue

24.  flicker

25.  outside

26.  under

27.  golden

28.  light

29.  stacked

30.  delicate

31.  glow

Once you go beyond painting by numbers and take that shot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some more playfulness, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, make a video or slideshow or try a learning walk! You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

So push past the ordinary, beyond paint by numbers and discover the extraordinary in your everyday routines. You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can play this game by posting your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it.  You get to make your own rules!  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!  So go out and use you lens to start painting!  I can’t wait for you to share what you are seeing through your lens!

Finding Beauty in the Ordinary: July’s Wabi Sabi Photo-a-Day Challenge

Summer is about the ordinary, it’s often the time we rediscover our playful selfs as we encourage children (and maybe ourselves) to run through the lawn sprinklers, lick popsicles from the ice cream truck, and spit watermelon seeds as we sit on the front porch.  We roll up our sleeves, walk barefoot, and sip glass after glass of iced tea in tall frosted glasses that drip, almost crying with the pleasing coolness on a hot, summer day.

I first heard of Wabi Sabi from my friend Susan a few years ago when she asked her students to focus on the ordinary in research projects they were doing in her middle school English class.  I remember how excited she was that they were discovering the beauty in the “old school”—typewriters, rotary dial phones, handwriting…and so much more than I can’t even begin to remember now.  

Wikipedia offers us this definition:

Wabi-sabi (侘寂?) represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

My photography has heightened my awareness of the complexities of beauty in the ordinary as I have learned to tune my eye to seek out the familiar in new ways.  So when Margit gifted me with the picture book, Wabi Sabi by Mark Weibstein, I found myself thinking about the Wabi Sabi around me.  Weibstein pairs his story of a cat named Wabi Sabi with Haiku, following the Americanized three-line, 5-7-5 syllable pattern, that helps the definition-seeking cat understand its name…and adds this definition, for us slower to understand folks, as well:

Wabi Sabi: a way of seeing the world. It finds beauty and harmony in what is simple, imperfect, natural, modest, and mysterious. It can be a little dark, but it is also warm and comfortable. It may best be understood as a feeling rather than as an idea. 

The more I have been thinking about this concept of Wabi Sabi, the more I want to explore it more intentionally through my lens.  

Here’s a few of my ideas…along with a Haiku attempt with each.  Each of these represents my interpretation of Wabi Sabi, an appreciation of the imperfect, often fleeting beauty I find through my lens.  Letting 17 syllables speak for me is a challenge, but an interesting one, creating another layer of Wabi Sabi for me.

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A flurry and munch!

Time for posing and sunning

Scaly modeling

Mountains from Iron Mountain

Purple mountains stand

Off in the distance watching

Both desert and beach

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It’s a hard knock life

Reflecting privilege’s promise

Strong enough to thrive

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Kegs and art mingle

Chatting on a street corner

Exchanging cultural news

And to stretch my exploration (and yours too) I have come up with a list of potential prompts or categories to consider.  (I notice that I tend toward nature for my photographic exploration of beauty–these prompts are meant to push my thinking and seeing in new ways.)

1.  On the corner

2.  Nature

3.  People

4.  Celebrate

5.  Inside

6.  Under

7.  Home

8.  Outside

9.  Places

10.  Animals

11.  Food

12.  Personal

13.  Things

14.  Mood

15.  Looking up

16.  Sitting down

17.  Looking down

18.  Early

19.  Growing

20.  Morning

21.  Sound

22.  Growing

23.  Feeling

24.  Places

25.  Night

26.  Light

27.  Hot

28.  Early

28.  Travel

29.  Between

30.  Smell

31.  Icy

So now it’s your turn.  Explore what Wabi Sabi means to you as you examine the ordinary in your life this summer.  After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts. Try your hand at an accompanying Haiku and explore how it expands, defines, or changes the meaning of the image you share. You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section. It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time for some playfulness and experimentation…look for beauty and the unexpected in the ordinary–let it surprise and delight you!  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life. You can play this game by posting your pictures in the order of the prompts or post the one you find on the day you find it.  You get to make your own rules!  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!