Tag Archives: photo essay

Weekly Photo Challenge: Details

As a photographer it’s easy to see the big things…the colorful sunset, the magnificent vista…and I’ve taken many photos of those, many that you have seen if you follow my blog.  Lately I’ve been looking closely in an effort to notice the smallest of details in hopes of creating something different, more nuanced, through my lens.

The moon was spectacular in December, well before the super moon made headlines (unfortunately it was too foggy here to get a good view). My eye was drawn to the bright crescent and I worked to snap that crisp clear shot.  With some light in the sky right past sunset, I was able to get a view that satisfied my inner critic.

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A trip to the zoo with my grandsons had me searching for animals that they could spot…and it wasn’t easy since many hide in the shadows on a warm day.  But looking up I kept noticing the Skyfari ride and the ways the buckets passed each other every so often. I particularly like this shot with the iconic palm tree in the frame.

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Much to my husband’s dismay, our front yard has become a haven for dandelions.  He cuts the grass and the dandelions pop right back up.  I love the way the light shines through the puffs in this shot with the bicycle rider in the background.  Sometimes my own front yard is the perfect venue for a photograph.

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This week has been marked by extreme low tides in the afternoons, a favorite time for walking for me.  I love the wide beach and the way the landscape is changed as the sea pulls back.  This fisherman was way out on the algae-covered outcropping when I heard the helicopter overhead. The juxtaposition of fisherman, helicopter, clouds and light pique my interest.  I haven’t tried any editing on this image yet, I wonder what might make it even more interesting…

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The low tide has also brought out the playfulness of the pelicans.  Walking out along the waterline brought me closer than my usual vantage.  I stood and watched this guy float, then fly up and search the surf only to drop into a cannonball-like dive.  I managed to catch this shot of the head-first dive.

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I don’t usually do much food photography–mostly because I don’t eat very interesting (or photogenic) food.  But today I decided to try the portrait mode on my iPhone to take this unedited shot of my Mexican chicken soup from Jorge’s Mexicatessen.  I like the sheen of the fat on the surface of the broth, the green of the avocado, and the silvery aluminum foil that holds yummy hand-made tortillas.  This is the BEST soup, a cure for all that ails you.  Luckily, I’m not feeling sick, but it never hurts to have a dose just for good measure!

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So, it’s your turn.  What details will you find when you head out with your camera?  The curve of a smile, the wag of a tail, a tender bud poking up through the snow?  (That last suggestion does not come from my reality…but I am obsessed with snow pictures!)

Share your #details 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 #details, you can also link your post in my comments.

Sharpen your vision and look closely for details.  Be sure to share your image(s).  I can’t wait to see the details you find through your lens.

Best of 2017, Photo Style

I’ve been taking at least one photo a day for many years now (I think I started in 2012), which adds up to quite a collection of photos over the course of a year.  I do like to take the time to pick out some “best of” photos from the year, based on my own criteria of course!  (Here’s a link to last year’s collection.) Instagram, where I post my daily photos, offers a #bestnine each year where the nine are determined by the photos that get the most likes.   (You can see mine for 2017 on my Instagram account @kd0602) For me, those are not my best photos.  Instead they are often related to an event that creates some traffic rather than images that stand out for their photographic merit.

It was hard to pick nine “best” photos for 2017. Initially I came up with eleven–but after some careful consideration I narrowed it down and I am sticking with nine!  I went all the way back to the beginning of last year and found myself drawn to this photo of the ocean lighted by winter’s low sun angles and muted by the clouds, creating a colorful sky.  I love the pensive mood it creates on the delightfully empty beach.

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My annual trip to Washington D.C in 2017 happened to correspond with the blossoming of cherry trees.  I absolutely love the delicate pinks against the brilliant blue sky.  While I wasn’t there at peak bloom, this was close enough for some beautiful photos.

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Some days my photo choices are limited to something in my house or yard.  Imagine my surprise and pleasure when I took this shot of the lavender plant in my back yard with the bee in action.  The macro effect erases the background, creating a watercolor of greens and browns.

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All the lifeguard towers that we see during the summer, winter near the jetty not too far from my house.  This composition begged for black and white, a cluster of white towers against the dark of sky and sand.  I feel like there is a whole story in this one image.

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A spring trip to Joshua Tree National Park offered amazing opportunities to experience the desert in bloom.  Everything that is ordinarily dry and brown was exploding in color.  And the sky at sunset was up to the challenge, silhouetting the distinctive Joshua tree in its colorful descending light.

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A local man is a regular at the beach near sunset creating enormous, soapy bubbles that reflect the setting sun.  I love this particular bubble because of the swirl of color radiating in front of the light from the sun. This guy encourages kids to run in the bubbles, seeing how long they can stay in before the bubble pops.  I have taken tons of photos of his bubbles, but only a few are this spectacular.

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As you can tell from the previous six images, many of my photographs are of nature.  But on the 4th of July I found myself captivated by the action of the volleyball players.  I kept creeping closer, working to time the snap of my shutter with the ball centered over the top of the net.  I am in love with the action of this shot…all the way down to the sand puffs under the players’ feet!

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November took me to the National Writing Project Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.  In spite of full days of conference sessions and meetings, no trip to St. Louis is complete without an opportunity to get close to the Gateway Arch.  Night photography is always challenging for me, I love that I had just enough light to catch the arch as a frame for the cityscape in the background.  Look closely, you can see the American flag off to the right!

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And number nine was taken on New Year’s Eve, just a couple of days ago during a walk on the beach.  I love when the tide is low and the beach is wide.  Obviously, my friend the egret feels the same.  I love the light and color in this image, showing off the vivid greens and reds of the sea grass and algae and the bright white of the egret’s feathers.  If you lean in you might be able to see the brilliant yellow feet of this snowy egret.

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I hope you enjoy my best nine of 2017, I’d love to hear your thoughts about my choices…and suggestions as I go into 2018.  And I’d love to see your best of images for the year…feel free to leave a link to your post so I can enjoy your best of 2017!  (Or even best of today!)

 

 

Writing and Photo Challenge: Reflection

Reflection in writing and thinking has become habit for me…and it’s something I emphasize for my students.  In fact, I did an extensive study of reflective thinking and writing for my MA quite a few years ago now.  I know that reflection helps learning stick.  It creates opportunities for problem solving and connections.  In the classroom we talk about reflection as a way of collecting learning.

Over the last week or so I’ve been playing around with reflection in my photographs.  It’s a bit different from reflective thinking and writing.  Instead of examining your thought processes and searching memory, this kind of photography requires a shiny surface of some sort to catch the reflection.  Low tide walks are perfect when there is some sunshine to create reflections.  I’ve had to tinker with angles, how close to get to the reflective surface, and what kinds of objects reflect well.  Yesterday, low tide was near sunset.  Perfect weather, warm and clear, allowed for a refreshing walk in the water.  I noticed the reflection of the pier, light posts, pilings, and even people, creating a perfect mirror image on the wet sand.

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I couldn’t resist trying to capture the color in this reflective photo of the buildings and palm trees along the shore line.  I love the brilliance of the blue sky reflected on the wet sand.

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I noticed this reflection as I worked to create an interesting photo of some trash on the beach.  As I turned my phone to find an interesting angle, I noticed the reflection of the palm trees.  While the angle isn’t perfect, I was able to get an interesting #litterati photo and get some plastic off the beach and out of the ocean.

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I’m a bit obsessed with seabirds.  I try to get as close as possible without spooking them, getting low if possible.  These guys are pretty perceptive and love to start walking away when they see me in the distance!  I particularly like the soft light of the setting sun warming up their reflection with the pier in the background.

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I captured this guys’s image earlier in the week.  The day was a bit gray and blustery, ruffling his feathers and making the texture dimensional. This is the only photo in the post that I have edited.  I found that by darkening and brightening the image, I could draw attention to the detail of the feathers, the beak and the reflection.

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Reflecting on all this reflection reminds me how much there is to learn from thinking about the processes we use.  While photography uses different skills and processes than writing, they both benefit from taking time to reflect on successes and frustrations.  And it always helps to study the work of another.

So, head out with your camera and try your hand at capturing reflection. Low tide created a perfect shiny surface for me.  Will you find another body of water?  A wet patio deck? The shiny side of your car?  And what will you learn when you take the time to think back and write about your experience capturing reflection through your lens?

Share your #reflection 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 #reflection.

I can’t wait to learn from your reflection photos…and your reflections on reflection this week!

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.