Tag Archives: photo essay

Light Show

Some of our beaches reopened this week–much to my delight.  I’m back to walking the shoreline as often as possible (when the tide allows walking room that fits my work schedule).  On Monday morning I noticed the mucky, murky waves…and remembered that we are in the midst of a red tide.  A red tide is an algae bloom and all that muck is red algae.

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During the day, the red tide is not particularly appealing…but at night, it’s spectacular!  Last night we headed the beach after sunset, in the dusky light before darkness comes.  We were surprised at the number of people at the beach–it had been a gloomy day and there was plenty of cloud cover.  But then, people were not there for the sun…they were there for the light!

As we parked we noticed lots and lots of surfers heading to the beach.  People kept their distances, but one glance at the waves told the story of why they were at the beach as darkness was settling over the sea.  As waves crashed, the water glowed brilliant blue!

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We watched surfers soaring through the electric blue of the waves, waders and swimmers trying to catch up to the light.  Walkers and gawkers in their coronavirus masks kept their distances and tried to capture this bioluminescent phenomenon with their cameras.

I’m always reminded that I need to work on my night photography technique when I get these spectacular photo ops after the sun sets.  But I keep trying anyway.  Even if the photos don’t begin to capture nature’s beauty, they do give a glimpse into the wonders of bioluminescence.  And it was a wonderful break from staying at home in my neighborhood!

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What a light show!

 

SOLC Day 20: How Does Your Garden Grow?

I love plants. I’m drawn to their simplicity, their complexity, the subtle variations in color, the brilliant bursts of color, not to mention the smells and textures and the tenacity they exhibit.

At best, I’m a fair weather gardener. I always have the best of intentions and I love to pick out this plant and that one, sure that I’ll get it planted in the perfect place in my yard or in that beautiful ceramic pot I just have to have.

In reality, most of my plants arrive as gifts, frequently from students and their families. As they enter our home, they claim their position in the kitchen garden window (it’s one of those windows that pushes out, creating a sort of mini greenhouse). Lucky for them, my husband has a green thumb and works hard to keep all the house plants alive and well. He mists the ones that need mist, waters the ones that need water, and leaves those that need little mostly alone.

But every now and then, in a flurry of decorating and cleaning, I purge that window box exiling those that are overgrown or straggly or on their last breath to the back yard. (With the exception of the orchids–they get to stay in even if they are not looking their best!) The exiles take their place along the edge of the patio where they can take advantage of the sprinkling system, ensuring that they will be watered with regularity. (It doesn’t rain much here, so irrigation is essential!)

It’s been raining most of the month of March here (we seem to be trying to catch up on rainfall totals for the entire year), so we’ve turned the sprinkler system off for the time being. With a rain-free day today, I decided to take a break from endless Zoom meetings and worries about student remote learning (Google Classroom glitches) and wandered out into the back yard.

Who knew that dandelions can grow tall…like knee high? And that all phases of dandelion bloom can be represented at the top of a single plant? I love dandelions, so I left these to thrive…if only temporarily until my husband heads out.

Then I wandered over to the exile zone…and wow! Those exiles have banded together to become a beautiful wild garden! Lavender reaches high, waving its fragrant blossoms. Aloe, like a giant spiked serpent, peers out from beneath. Swirls of succulents show their perfect Fibonacci sequence–math and nature perfectly intertwined.

But the piece de resistance (imagine that said with the perfect French accent) is the fuschia plant that I was certain was dead. It is vibrant and healthy…and when I tried to turn the plastic pot it is growing in, it didn’t budge–the roots have reached out of the pot into the ground. Such a gorgeous harbinger of spring!

I can’t take credit for any of the beauty on display in the backyard. Luckily this wild garden mostly takes care of itself (with a little help from my husband). But I am delighting in it today as it lifts my spirits and brightens my day!

How is your garden growing?

SOLC Day 15: Light and Shadow

Gloomy weather makes this global crisis feel like a blanket of darkness, weighing heavily on our shoulders as we attempt to find some kind of normalcy with schools closed, work re-directed, and social distancing the new norm. I’m trying to keep a daily outdoor walk a regular feature of my day…so headed out this morning when the tide was low to walk on the beach.

The beach was a study in light and shadow today with dark clouds towering above the crashing waves. Slivers of sunlight transformed the wet sand into a mirror, reflecting images of the cliffs onto the shore.

As I walked today I remembered a tower of rocks I noticed yesterday–one that was knocked over (unintentionally) by a clumsy preteen just as I headed over to photograph it. My husband and I decided to recreate our own version of it today, balancing smaller rocks on a large rock pillar.

Finding the just right rocks was a challenge–one we were willing to undertake. He carefully stacked one atop another, checking for balance, noticing the flat spots, the round spots…looking for stability. I tried to talk him into standing one with a heart shape up on end…but it wasn’t happening today. We left it in the stack though and built on it with a few smaller pebbles.

As we left our tower of rocks, the sun peeked out, illuminating the water. Brilliant layers of turquoise were framed by the white froth of the waves below and the dark of the clouds above.

Light and shadow…and a bit of balance, somehow the beach is always a metaphor for life and its challenges. Fresh air, exercise, and my camera–the trifecta that keep me positive and ready for whatever curveballs life throws.

SOLC Day 12: A Break in the Rain

I’m fighting some kind of upper respiratory infection and the laryngitis that always seems to come with it. Luckily, I was able to work from home today (obviously not a teaching day for me!) and not even have to deal with commuting on a rare rainy day in southern California.

So I laid low, kept quiet, and got quite a bit of work done as the rain pattered its soothing rhythm on the roof tiles.

So when the light changed in my house this afternoon and I realized the sky had brightened and there was a break in the rain, I checked the weather app and then headed out to the beach for a much needed walk.

Sometimes I feel like I am solar powered, energized by blue skies and sunshine and depleted by days that are pervasively gray. I could feel my energy levels rise as I headed from the parking lot down to the shore. It felt so good to get outside in the fresh air. In spite of the rain, it wasn’t cold out…the conditions were perfect for a walk.

I love that the beach always surprises me. There were people like me, in jackets and tennies walking along the shore. There were those in jackets and bare feet, walking in the water or throwing rocks into the surf. There were the teenagers in bikinis, seemingly not experiencing the chill of water in the 50’s and air temps in the 60’s. And always, always, there are the surfers. Most wear wetsuits year round…and nothing ever seems to keep them out of the water.

And today’s treat was the cormorant. I’m always on the lookout for seabirds–seagulls are usual, but it’s tough to see seabirds close enough to photograph. I saw from a distance that there was a bird sitting on the tide pool outcropping. I had my camera ready and crept as close as I could without drenching my shoes or scaring the bird. I click and click, watching as the bird gets ready to launch. And I catch that shot…just at lift off!

Sometimes a break in the rain is just what you need.

SOLC Day 9: Finding Faces

Last week I wrote about my students and their foray into photography under the influence of Ansel Adams.  Going a bit deeper into both photography and activism, this week we’ve turned our attention to Dorothea Lange.  Starting with Ansel Adams felt easy.  He focused on nature, using Yosemite and other National Parks as his playground.  His photography feels akin to mine, paying attention to beauty in nature, noticing light and shadow, marrying photography to walking and hiking and moving around outdoors.

Dorothea Lange and her photography pushes me.  I seldom photograph people–with the exception of my three grandsons–feeling awkward getting close, zooming in to capture expressions of genuine emotion.  (Weirdly, it doesn’t feel awkward with my grandsons.  I’ve been photographing them since they were born–and they’re still little.  I think they just see my camera as an extension of me–they are fascinated with it and the idea of photography when I am around.)

So today…maybe to avoid the awkwardness of photographing one another, my students and I set out with iPads in hand to find faces.  I asked them to find faces rather than make faces or take photos of faces on a mural.  I hadn’t pre-scouted the campus to see if I could find faces, instead I just trusted that my students would be creative and find something interesting.

Because of Monday’s schedule, I haven’t yet seen what my students came up with, but I did capture a few of my own found faces.

Here’s one I noticed from a sideways view hanging out on the playground equipment.

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And there was this face, complete with sombrero!

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Looking up, I caught these eyes looking out over the playing field.

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And heading back to the classroom, I noticed this shy face hanging back behind the shrubbery.

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I’m not really sure where we will go with these photos…what writing we might pair with these found faces.  I do know that our next step is to consider how to use a photo to advocate for something that needs our attention…so stayed tuned.  There will be more to report soon! (I hope!)

SOLC Day 8: When the Tide is Low…

Springing ahead this morning meant the day was already shorter…and who needs a shorter Sunday?  Luckily, the day was sunny and relatively warm…a perfect day to enjoy the negative tide promised this afternoon.

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When the tide is low the sea pulls back and offers a wide walking beach.  New geography is on display: exposed tide pools, unexpected sandbars, and slippery algae covered reefs.

Egrets feast, using their bright yellow feet to stir up tiny fish.  As still as statues, they pose and wait…until the perfect moment arrives.  And then…mealtime!  The gentle sea breeze ruffles those pure white feathers, revealing the layers of texture.  As I crouch low we come eye to eye…and understand that we are not in competition.  The egret can hunt and I can take photos without disturbing one another.

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Crabs scurry, hiding in the cracks and crevices of seaside rocks and hive like reef structures. Sensitive to the tiniest movement, I stand perfectly still and patiently watch until I get a glimpse of the sideways reach.  A fist fight between two thumbnail sized green crabs suggests that territory may be in dispute.

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Anemones comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and varieties.  Some immersed in shallow pools, others exposed in the wet sand…all adapted for the harsh conditions of the tidal zone.

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The beach is an ever-changing wonder that I explore endlessly.  For me it is my gym, my photo studio, my meditation space, my therapist.  And on days when the tide is low and my schedule is flexible, it is simply a playground filled with delight!

 

Considering the Clouds: A Feldgang

It wouldn’t be summer without taking some time to participate in a CLMOOC invitation.  And who could resist an opportunity to engage in a feldgang?  (Yeah, it’s not an everyday term for me either, as I understand it, it’s about paying attention to something you might not otherwise notice.)

Yesterday was the end of an intensive 14-day period of work for me.  When Geoff got home from work, we headed out for a quick dinner and what I hoped would be a view of the sunset at the beach…a mini celebration.  But it was evident, from quite a distance, that a huge wall of clouds would prevent the sunset I was hoping for.

But…the wall was extraordinary.  It was thick and defined.  Not that ordinary gray blanket that obscures the sun that we so often associate with the marine layer in these parts.  The cloud wall did impact the sun and the light…and created a game of peek-a-boo with the sun and the sentinel palm tree that stands guard over my favorite beach.

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The surf was more cooperative than the sky.  Surfers were enjoying the larger than usual waves, showing off their expertise as they whipped and glided and ducked through the barrels formed by the curve of water.  As I snapped photos of the surfers in action, I also noticed the way the clouds and sun above them filtered the light, and depending on the angle changed the color of the water.  With the sun over my shoulder, blues and turquoises peeked through.

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With the sun in my face, sepia tones appeared.  The creamy white of the churning waves creating texture that my eyes could feel.

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Knowing that as the sun dipped lower, the clouds would block the sun’s light, we decided to stay long enough for the sun to be covered by the clouds…but not until official sunset.  I watched and waited and the sun lingered longer than expected.  Time enough to take some more shots of that favorite palm tree.  Even the pelican was enjoying the sky.

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While I didn’t get my celebratory sunset, I did get a chance to study the wall of clouds and notice all the ways it interacted with the sea, sky, palm tree, and sun.

What will choose to explore for your feldgang?