Tag Archives: photo essay

Paying Attention: #whyiwrite 2017

Fall is subtle in San Diego. Instead of a riotous celebration of trees dressed in their best fall colors I notice that the lifeguard towers have been moved from their strategic summer shoreline positions to a collection near the road. Instead of grabbing a sweater and drinking warm apple cider, we scan the horizon for evidence of wildfires as hot winds gust and whip the dry grasses and dust into a frenzy.

lifeguard towers

But in spite of these easy to miss markers of fall, there are seasons in San Diego. Not the two (spring and summer) that so many use to describe our temperate climate, but four distinct seasons that you might only recognize if you take the time to notice, document, and reflect.

fall colors on the ocean

It’s like that in my classroom too. As teachers (and maybe as parents and learners too) we all wish that learning came with recognizable markers of growth. That we could watch the leaves of learning change from green to yellow to brilliant crimson, celebrating new knowledge, expertise and confidence. We’d love for snowplows to mark the new pathways that allow for connections between new concepts and older understandings. But learning is often subtle. It is incremental, sneaking its way into our synapses and those of our students without fanfare.

To pay attention to these subtleties, I turn to my camera.  My camera has become my go-to tool for focusing my attention, allowing me to notice and document changes in my environment.  Through its lens, I pay attention to changes in light and shadow, notice moods and action, and see what might otherwise be overlooked.  Combined with writing, reflection becomes a daily habit with camera in hand.

black and white seagull

Writing helps me pay attention. It helps me record the small details that don’t seem to amount to much and notice how those details change, accumulate, and grow over time. And when paired with photography, writing helps me leap from concrete to abstract, considering why a photo of lifeguard towers stored for the fall and winter draws my attention to my students and their learning. Writing pushes me from the tediums of day to day, to examine the reasons I keep returning to those same topics. And even more importantly, when I write, I am reminded of the power of writing not just for myself but also for my students and that helps me search for ways to support them as they find their own reasons to write.

I write to support my students as writers, knowing that the power of the pen will open possibilities for thinking, learning, and problem solving. And when I pay close attention, I will not only learn about them but also from them. That’s why I write.

Writing and Photography Invitation: Black and White

We live in a colorful world, filled with blue skies, green grass, flowers of infinite variety and so much more.  But some days, it is by draining the color away that we truly notice details.

I like the way that black and white photos bring the focus to contrast and highlight light and shadow.  This lifeguard tower, empty now that summer has passed, becomes an intricate maze of ladders in black and white as the shadows blend with the actual steps.

img_8662

I’m still working on my nighttime photography, something I just don’t get enough practice time with.  The other night the full moon was rising just before I headed to bed and I stepped out onto our deck to observe.  It’s hard to get a clear moon picture, especially with my phone camera.  Even though there was little color in the original, black and white seems to highlight the glow of the moon against the silhouette of the roof.

img_8710

Low tides at the beach offers expanses of wet sand, another vehicle for reflecting light.  The tide was quite low last week, creating perfect conditions for long walks and interesting photos.  I love the way the wet sand reflects the cliffs in the black and white version of this image.

img_8759

These white stairs to nowhere are a favorite photography subject of mine.  They sit at the beach below the Self Realization Fellowship and I imagine they were once an operational path to the beach.  Now, in their brilliant white, they create an interesting contrast to the sky and the cliff.  (I wonder if they are painted regularly, they seem to maintain that clean white quality over the years.)

img_8760

Those weekend low tides also meant that intertidal creatures were on display.  This sea anenome was hanging out in a shallow pool of water in the exposed rocks on the shore.  You can see some of the other life forms that it shares its home with too.

img_8757

And sometimes the beach itself is an exercise in monochromatic tones.  I used Color Splash to take away color in order to bring attention to this light blue soccer ball and its reflection.  Just a hint of color brings the focus to the ball, seemingly abandoned on the shore while people play in the background.

img_8758

So play around with black and white this week, in your photos and in your writing.  You might take some new photos with black and white in mind or play around with some existing photos, noticing what changes when you drain the color out.  How does that work in your writing?  What does black and white writing look like?  How does focusing on light and shadow change your writing?

Share your #blackandwhite this week, in images or words…or both. 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 #blackandwhite.

So play around with your images…and your words.  Share your favorites with the rest of us!

Writing and Photo Invitation: Change

Change happens.  Sometimes when you least expect it.  It’s still warm and sunny and shorts are my go-to weekend attire, but on my beach walk Sunday I was thankful I had grabbed my sweatshirt.  The breeze was chilly…and honestly, it has felt fall-ish all weekend.

On my way to work each morning I drive along the coast.  Lately I’ve been noticing the field of pumpkins, bright orange and framed by the row of palm trees.  I read something today that informed me that these are grown by people at the Self Realization Fellowship (located just to the west) and they become a magnificent display of creatively carved jack-o-lanterns on Halloween each year.

985b8802-358f-4309-a45d-c77ee775ef28

Seasonal change is subtle in San Diego.  I’m starting to see posts and photos by friends who live further east and further north.  The trees are turning and color is dominating the natural landscape.  Instead of brilliant reds and oranges, I am noticing that the beach is wide open with many fewer tourists visiting and maybe many locals occupied by piano lessons and soccer games instead of those long lazy summer days on the shore.  I love this time of year with the sun warming my shoulders, my feet in the surf, and long stretches of open space in front of me.  The shore birds seem to enjoy it too, less skittish as I come near with my camera.

3ddcfa44-b5ec-4438-be98-46851d58efa6

There is lots of change in store decor these days too.  Supermarkets are filled to brim with pumpkin flavored this and that and those pop up Halloween shops are opening.  A trip to Home Depot over the weekend revealed lots and lots of fall flowers.  The bees were happy, flying around and doing their pollinator thing, regardless of the change around them!

fall flowers and a bee

And all change isn’t seasonal.  My teaching life is profoundly changed this year too.  After 23 years co-teaching a multiage class, I am on my own with third graders this year.  I am adjusting to the change in workflow and loving the intimacy of time alone with my students.  The rhythms are different, but the work is familiar and fulfilling.

img_8389What does change look like in your place, in your life?  You might consider the seasonal changes…or not.  There are lots of changes that we experience, some because of the change in the weather and some because of other changes in our lives.

 

Share your #change this week, in images or words…or both. 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 #change.

Take a look around and notice change in your life this week.  Pick up your camera, phone, notebook and pen and document all that you see and experience.  Be sure to share…I look forward to seeing and thinking about your change too!

 

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Appreciation

It’s so easy to get busy and overlook the bounty of everyday life.  School started this week for me so I’ve been totally immersed in the classroom over the last couple of weeks.  I’ve had to make an effort to take my camera out and find an interesting shot each day.  Lucky for me, a focus on appreciating small details has helped in so many way.  It has reminded me just how fortunate I am, pushing me to take a positive view even when I am feeling tired and overwhelmed with all there is to get done.  And I am actively searching for ways to document my appreciation, letting an image represent a bigger idea.

At the end of the first week of school, Geoff and I decided even though Fridays are the day we feel exhausted, that we would take the time to watch the sunset and go out to dinner.  There is something healing about watching the sky transform from blue to pinks and oranges.  And the bubble man was out again too, creating kid-sized bubbles and coaching kids to run inside of them, trying to keep it from popping too soon.  The kids delight in this game…and who can resist, especially when combined with the soothing feel of salt water on your feet?

img_8263

Earlier in the week, one of my students came into the room with these beautiful flowers clutched in her fist.  “They’re dahlias, Mrs. Douillard,” she announced.  I love the geometry of these lovely blooms, my eye returns to them throughout the day as I notice new details.

img_8249

I often complain about the gray of the marine layer we experience here on the coast.  The clouds seem to flatten my photos, making everything feel drab and dull.  This week, with a heatwave in our region–many areas of our county experience temperatures in the triple digits–I am appreciating the thick gray dampness that blankets the sky.  Without air conditioning in our school, the fog has kept things a bit cooler and more bearable.  I watched these seabirds frolic in the gray as I walked the beach on my way home from work the other day.

0f196d9f-2400-4ad2-8d7b-d3a551ef830d

Getting home last night, after our late dinner following our sunset expedition, I got out of the car and looked up.  Through that one tree that grows along the side of our driveway, I caught a glimpse of the moon shining through.  My camera was in my bag, so I pulled out my phone, framed my view through the branches of the tree and clicked the shutter.  I appreciate the reflected glow of this celestial orb and the way it lights up the night.  And my tree created a perfect, interesting frame to look through.

img_8262

So, what are you appreciating this week?  Take a look around for the little details that make a difference in your life or in the life of others.  And as I consider life’s bounty, I also realize that people are suffering, dealing with natural disasters like hurricane Harvey, illness and death, war and conflict.  Appreciation helps to keep me grounded and hopeful, and ready to reach out and help others in the ways that I can.

Share your #appreciation this week, maybe your photos will boost someone’s spirits or inspire them to take positive action.  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 #appreciation.

Take a moment to reflect on small details and appreciate how they contribute to life’s bounty for you.  Grab your camera and capture that appreciation in a photo.  I look forward to seeing appreciation through your lens this week.

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: Odds and Ends

This has been quite a week of ups and downs.  And the weather here seemed to reflect that too.  Last weekend was bright and sunny, enticing us to head to Torrey Pines (a beautiful local state beach and park with incredible views of the ocean) to do some hiking and photography.  This place is known for its iconic Torrey Pine trees, trees not found in many other places.  They are perfectly adapted for life on windy cliffs, have resources for collecting water from the ever-present marine layer (you may know it as fog), and are simply beautiful.  Here’s one I captured on our hike.

e2790be3-868d-423a-bd2d-e107b1049316

Giant flying beetles have become more prevalent lately.  Brilliant green and LOUD, they’re hard to miss.  As we hiked, I slowed down and took some time to watch this guy go about his pollinating duties, hunkering over some native plants.  I wish I could get a dragonfly to slow down a bit and let me get close enough to photograph it!

aa01af26-202a-49c8-9963-95075b705376

It wasn’t perfectly clear, but the view was still pretty spectacular from my vantage on the cliffs.  If you look closely you’ll notice the high tide as the waves wash close to the foot of the cliffs and off in the distance you can almost see the Scripps Pier near La Jolla Shores and the village of La Jolla jutting out at the end of the curve.

63c4905f-0517-40ed-8e8b-b70b26ebd94f

By Tuesday the marine layer had thickened so that it was essentially rain!  My errands left me soggy as I headed out without a jacket or umbrella.  Luckily it was still warm-ish, although not the summer weather we all imagine when we think of the beach.  But nothing could dampen my spirits–my son and grandson were on their way for a short visit!

I have enjoyed days spent with small boys this summer.  Now 17 months, all three grandsons are mobile and curious about the world.  By Wednesday the sun was back and we headed to the aquarium to take a close look at fish and other marine life.  We were greeted by the life-sized whale sculptures–part of a fountain–in front of the aquarium.  I am always amazed at how much the sky looks like the ocean…are we looking up or down?

b02452bf-eee4-43c6-ad1c-d78ad2a3f6db

We loved the jellies and the seahorses, weird and wonderful, floating effortlessly in their tanks.  And these enormous sea stars showing off their suction feet in the eerie blue light remind me of all the life I don’t get to see as I walk along the shore of the wondrous ocean.  It was fun watching my grandson delight in the sea creatures…and the glass and the lights and everything else he noticed!

4b7f1528-4679-4b95-851b-7b5a1804c3b2

But the highlight of our week was Thursday’s trip to the beach.  A year ago when my grandson was still a baby, our trip to the beach wasn’t much fun.  It was windy and cool and the ocean water was cold, resulting in a crying baby.  This year, a now mobile toddler on a warm and sunny day, couldn’t wait to run on the beach.  And his first touch of the salty water resulted in giggles and screeches of delight.  He couldn’t get enough of that salty, sandy ocean.  I can’t wait for his cousins to put their toes in the glory of summer’s Pacific!

342eb592-3449-4ded-b9b3-fc2325f2edc7

Friday was a sad day.  My son and grandson had to head home and our beloved cat of 17 years died.  Jack (and his brother Phil) were adopted at 16 weeks seventeen years ago and have been integral family members since that moment.  Phil passed in March, with Jack hanging on months longer.  Our house is quiet and Geoff’s lap is empty.  Jack would sit on him for hours and hours–we called Geoff “cat couch” since both cats loved to be in his lap.  We’re taking a break from pets for now, taking time to grieve and to explore life without cats.  We are truly empty nesters at this point!  (This is Jack from a couple of years ago)

img_8108

With our house echoing, we spent most of the weekend out and about.  Yesterday we ended up in Alpine, a small town midway up our local mountains.  We explored an outlet mall on an Indian reservation, had lunch at a local cafe, and turned down roads to see what we could find.  Geoff loves bears, so I had to get out and take some photos when we found this family of bears carved of wood in front of a home on a hillside.

ebfc26af-b332-462d-b932-a4b391fbcf02

My photos this week are a collection of odds and ends, with no real theme tying them together other than telling a story of my week.  What odds and ends might you find through your lens this week?

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

So grab your camera or look through your camera roll and see what odds and ends you can find to tell a story about your week.  Whatever life serves up, I’m always glad to have photography to help me process and understand my experiences.  I look forward to seeing and hearing about yours!

Plus, here’s a link to an article I read this week about how photography can actually help your stay in the moment.  I know it works for me!  https://www.wired.com/story/stay-in-the-moment-take-a-picture/?mbid=social_twitter_onsiteshare

Weekly Photo Challenge: White

Sometimes my photos are filled with color: brilliant blues of skies and water, greens of leaves and grass, and other colors here and there.  But this week, I noticed that a lot of my photos had a lack of color…and plenty of white.

Last weekend’s visit to downtown Carlsbad allowed for a delicious lunch at a favorite restaurant, a refreshing walk on the beach, and an opportunity to visit the Carlsbad Alkaline Water Company…a place that hosts the most healthful water, known for its alkaline (rather than acidic) quality.  I’ve been by the place a few times, its a few blocks from where I get my hair cut, but this time I spent some time focused on the water storage tanks and the top of the self-serve water dispensers.  The white of the clouds make the metallic of tanks and spire even more prominent.

img_7954

The death of Geoff’s mom meant an unscheduled visit to Alabama this week to spend time with family and say our goodbyes.  It also meant time in the sky high above the puffy white clouds, time to reflect and remember the woman who gave life to and raised my precious husband.  I was lucky to know and love her for so many years.

147aa7ff-3efa-4de3-b906-d3c76ee71647

I was surprised at how green Nashville was from above, but couldn’t resist using a black and white filter on the view from above.  I love the way the absence of color changes the view to give it an almost map-like quality…particularly focused on the river (the Cumberland, I believe).  The white seems to highlight the human-made aspects, where the dark seems to be the greens of the lush vegetation.

img_7975

You never know when you will find a parade.  The unexpected white police car with sirens screaming pulled up in front of the intersection we were about to cross, stopping traffic in all directions.  And soon we were treated to the Alabama A&M marching band, in their white t-shirts marching to the beat of the drums at the back crossing the intersection to get to another part of the campus to continue their practice.  A fun pause on our way to meet other family members for lunch after the inurnment service.

img_7995

And no trip to Huntsville, Alambama would be complete without a glimpse of rockets.  Known for the Space and Rocket center, there is evidence of space travel around the city.  We did get the opportunity to visit the center–a place we hadn’t been since our boys were quite little.  We visited a science of rock and roll exhibit, explored the space shuttle, and learned about other rockets and space related equipment.  I loved this view from the window.

img_8014

It’s good be home, easing back into my routine…such as it is deep into the summer.  In spite of warm weather, the beach was not sunny when I went today.  White clouds obscured the sun for most of my walk.  There were a few seagulls hanging out and lots of lots of beach-goers and a bunch of Junior Lifeguards (a popular summer camp program in our area).  The walk was refreshing and offered me a chance to breathe deeply.

snapseed-27

So where is the color missing from your life right now?  Will you find it in white clouds, pale walls, delicate flower blossoms?  Take a look around for white and share what you find with us.

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

Take a look around for that absence of color that we know as white.  What will you find and document through your lens?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Flanerie

Even when life is busy I try to make time to wander aimlessly.  Some days I am better at it than others.  When I head out with my camera without a specific goal in mind, I often find unexpected treasures…a slice of light, a shadow, a bird flying low, or something I can’t even imagine when I make the decision to wander.  And I love how the process of wandering sets off my wondering impulses, creating curiosity, leading me to further exploration and ultimately to new learning opportunities.

I didn’t know there was a name for this until I read Deanna’s blogpost the other day and learned about a course she is designing with flanerie at its heart.  The key to flanerie as I understand it, is the reflection on that wandering and wondering (through writing) that leads to new understandings of ourselves as humans and our connections in the larger world.

The past week had me wandering along the coast of northern California.  We had an overall game plan before we left home, we knew where we would spend each night but the rest of our time was unscheduled leaving room for exploration and spontaneity.  There is something magical about a redwood forest.  Trees that seem to reach up forever create their own climate.  Sun shines in slants, creating textures of light and shadow.  And there is the quiet–as dense as the trees themselves–I felt like I could hear my heart beat and focus on each breath as I walked miles through the forests.

c2562292-19fb-44fd-a3fe-90a8c15d146f

When I learned that architect Julia Morgan had designed a structure for a space in the forest, I knew I wanted to wander there.  We headed there early, a drive through trees, in some places so narrow we wondered if our car would fit through.  The early light was soft, bringing out the greens of the stones (from the eel river, I learned).  There’s something special about a person-made structure that takes advantage of all nature offers.  This piece, Hearthstone, was built to commemorate the efforts of a group of women to save old growth trees in this forest.

In 1900, as the earliest example of a Kickstarter campaign, 65,000 women raised $45,000 to protect a stunning grove of old-growth redwoods. Their grove abuts the Rockefeller Grove, donated by the largess of one very rich man, in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, a bit north of Garberville, about 228 miles north of San Francisco.

These women organized the California Federation of Women’s Clubs. They hired Julia Morgan in 1932 to design and build a central gathering space. She designed an amazing memorial, symbolizing the power of their gift, which she called a “Hearthstone.” It is a 4-sided outdoor fireplace with four witty, poetic medallions above the mantel of each hearth.

The four corner posts supporting the roof are tree trunks, while the center masonry chimney is a human deference to the massive strength of the heroic trees. More than a simple utilitarian fireplace for cooking or heating, the folded roof converts the monument into an elegant weather-protected shelter, symbolic of a humble abode in the forest, crafted with elegant joinery of wood beams and posts, celebrating this special Eden. (http://levinearch.com/redwood-grove-shelter-by-julia-morgan/)

Here’s my photo of this beautiful structure.

fbb322ad-bd77-48a7-8ba9-192228bf5424

And in the same space  where Julie Morgan designed a person-made structure, I found nature-made structures that inspired awe with their beauty.  I feel like I am learning about the beauty that exists in death this summer.  The redwood forest is a complex ecosystem that depends on both life and death for the health of the forest.  I watched new life grow out of decaying trunks, enriched by what was there before.  The timing was poignant as my mother-in-law died Monday morning, the forest reminded us that death continues to offer us bounty and beauty.  I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this upturned tree, nature’s art composed from the death of the tree.

27f769de-3fe4-4134-a4fb-a0dfd9aa5457

And then there is new life, springing up.  It is surprising to find the delicate flowers and lacy ferns thriving beneath the tall giants.  I love when nature creates her own still life, leaving it there for me to find and capture through my lens.

94193cd0-d6db-47a7-a764-ff2e00048692

From the redwoods we wandered to the beach, stopping first to explore the small town of Ferndale, CA.  The temperature dropped as we headed near the coast, making me glad I had packed some jackets.  We entered Ferndale by crossing a historic bridge over a river to enter a valley with farms dotting the landscape.  Cows were plentiful as well as barns as we drove into this Victorian village that felt like going back in time.  Our wanderings took us down narrow lanes, where we stopped off to snap a glimpse of the farming life.  (Hay bales like this will forever remind me of my cousins and spending summers in Castle Rock, WA where we rode along on the trucks as my uncles picked up and stacked the bales–something far removed from my San Diego life.)

dc3b365c-12c2-4094-820c-7297c4b2aff6

Beaches in northern CA are nothing like beaches here.  First, the weather is cold–highs into the low and mid 60s in late July!  There are lots of sand dunes and breathtaking cliffs.  This cliff near Trinidad, CA also featured wildflowers, a treat after a harrowing and twisty turny trip down a bumpy and often one-laned road to access it.  You can see the thick fog in the distance…there was no sunset on this evening as we drove back into the fog bank to find our lodging.

7834b2b2-536d-43ef-b000-29873ecc6981

We set our hopes low on the coastal journey the next day, knowing that the sunshine could be elusive.  But we were treated to a sunny day that brings out the brilliance of the blue of the sky and the sea.  It was fun to have this seagull fly right into my frame as I took this photo overlooking Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

a884cf7b-fad3-4780-9521-9ff0049c6bc4

Further down the coast we stopped off to hike out to this lighthouse.  We could hear the sea lions vocalizing in the distance (even though we couldn’t see them) as we walked toward the point where the lighthouse sits.  You can see the light in the distance as this lighthouse continues to warn ships that land is near.

img_7853

The long stretch of highway home seems to go on forever.  There’s lots of time to think and talk and to pay attention to unusual points of interest.  I have pictures of tomato trucks, log trucks, cows and more.  A collection of working oil derricks caught my attention as we crossed the central valley from Salinas to intersect highway 5.  And then I noticed this corridor of electrical towers that seems almost like a fancy entrance to southern CA.

a6243a64-280b-4bd8-888b-03370999eb2a

So, enjoy some flanerie this week.  Head out and wander aimlessly.  Wander and wonder and write…and take some photos too.  What will you learn about yourself as you explore without a predetermined goal?

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

Grab your camera and experiment with flanerie this week.  Wander and wonder, write some poetry or just doodle a bit (doodling is the focus of clmooc this week!). Be sure to share what you learn with the rest of us!