Tag Archives: photo essay

Rainy Days and Mondays: SOL22 Day 28

Some days are the perfect convergence of conditions–that can either make or break your day.

Mondays can be challenging. Coming off the weekend students are unsettled–some tired, some amped, some seemingly have forgotten what this whole school thing is all about. And somehow, I always start parent conference week with an early morning conference. Today was no different.

I like morning parent conferences. They feel almost leisurely in the quiet of the morning before the stresses of the day emerge. But…today I had to rearrange my lesson plans since someone would come in to teach my class while I attended an IEP meeting. And…I didn’t know who it would be until I was already teaching this morning.

Then there’s the forecast. Last week we had summer mid-week, with coastal temperatures in the 80s. Today’s weather called for wind and rain…maybe even thunder and lightening. Any weather in these parts is an event–and my rain boot, umbrella toting students came to school ready for it! (What is it about wind and the prospect of rain that causes students to lose their minds? They were definitely stirred up today!)

No breaks later, it hadn’t rained. I wrangled the students back into learning mode as we explored some poetry (reading and writing) and did some drawing (tulips) that we will paint tomorrow. A minimum day dismissal arrived before the rain–so all those boots and umbrellas were not needed at school today.

But the rain did come, wafting in sheets during one of my conferences. We could hear the wind and see the sheets of water through the windows as we chatted about progress and appreciated the child’s unique qualities. And I was thankful for a rain-free teaching day since cooped-up kids are not my favorite start to the week.

You can see the rain pouring out the drains after the downpour.

Once my conferences were done for the day, the sun came out and I couldn’t resist a bit of photography outside the classroom, trying to catch the sunlight on the damp flowers that were clearly enjoying some rainfall in this usually dry climate.

While there is still some more rain in the forecast for the evening, it held off long enough for a neighborhood walk once I got home this afternoon. The snails were out everywhere creating their own kind of obstacle course (how I hate that crunch when I accidentally step on one!) as I made my way up and down the sidewalks.

End result? This rainy day and Monday converged in a way I can claim as a good day. It was busy and hectic as all parent conference week days are, but the rain made its appearances at times when I could appreciate it rather than curse it. All in all, a pretty darn good rainy day and Monday!

A Contradiction? SOL22 Day 26

One of the things I love about walking on the beach is that it is forever different and always fascinating. Today was gray with a pretty thick marine layers covering the coast. I love low tides when the reef is exposed, the beach is wide, and if I’m lucky there will be more shore birds and other sea creatures visible.

Today it was the tiny sandpipers that caught my eye. They gather in groups, perhaps safety in numbers, and move in unison. I crept close today (they spook easily) and waited and watched with my camera at the ready. Their coloring helps them camouflage with the reef, making it hard to get great photos.

So many birds stand on one leg…and this one is a perfect example. I’m guessing it’s a way to rest. I know when I am standing a lot (like every day teaching), I find myself standing one one leg or resting one foot on the other.

As I was thinking about these birds that run and fly in perfect synch–their little feet almost like perpetual motion machines–I was also wondering about their collective noun. What is a group of sandpipers called? With a question like this, I did the usual and turned to Google. There I learned there are a number of names for a group of sandpipers including a contradiction, a fling, a hill, and even a time-step! Where do these names come from…and why? A contradiction?

If I were to choose from these nouns, I would definitely go with time-step. I love to watch their little legs move in a blur of constant motion and in perfect step with each other–definitely a time-step!

And…I was lucky enough to catch this guy mid leap! Notice the little drip of water from the tiny bird foot raised above the ground.

It’s fun to leave the beach wondering and thinking. No two days are alike and every day gets me thinking. Where do you go to think and wonder? (And maybe even walk and photograph)

Mini Vacay: SOL22 Day 23

Today summer arrived in March with warm Santa Ana winds from the desert bringing 80 degree temperatures to the coast. It was a typical work day–except that I had no after school meetings today. That is a rare occurrence and I took full advantage. I left school at a reasonable hour, called my husband to see if he was interested in heading out for coffee and a peek at the beach, and headed home feeling like we were embarking on a vacation–even if it was of the 60 minute variety!

I’d read on Monday that our beach was getting sand this week–part of an infrastructure project that involves dredging the local lagoon and relocating sand to sand deprived beaches. I wondered just what that would look like.

Sure enough, heavy equipment was parked on the beach and new sand was evident along the shoreline.

We weren’t sure just how much beach there would be for walking, high tide often means the water covers the ground right up the cliff (and walking too close to the cliffs is an accident waiting to happen–cliff failures are well-known in these parts and have been known to be deadly!). But after only a couple steps where my foot squished way down in the brand new muddy sand, we could see plenty of room for walking ahead.

Just like the winds, we headed in the opposite direction today–walking north instead of south. While the sea birds I love to photograph weren’t present, there was plenty of other action to observe. We came across lifeguards training on jet skis, roaring up and over waves, dragging a water stretcher with another helmeted lifeguard aboard. I watched them soar over the whitewater, doing donuts in the surf. I snapped and snapped and snapped, playing with capturing action in a still photograph. (My favorite photo is posted on Instagram, but this one shows the swirl of the water.)

With the sun a warm hug on our shoulders, we continued our walk to a popular surfing area. Like ants, we watched the trail of surfers going up and down to the water’s edge. The weather makes the beach irresistible, calling loudly with blue skies, warm air, and adequate surf, in spite of the not quite warm water (61 degrees).

We couldn’t quite make it to our turnaround point as we watched the waves splashing up all the way to seawall. I couldn’t help but snap these young people trying to time their move from the stairs of this private residence to the shore. (Note the seagull on lookout above).

This afternoon foray to the beach was exactly what I needed today. It’s been a stressful week following a too-short weekend, working on getting report cards finished for an upcoming week of parent conferences, not to mention those frequent after school meetings. Today was a perfect respite–a tiny vacation in the middle of the week spent with the one I love. Sometimes a mini vacay is the perfect solution to the mid-week blues. Thursday–I’m ready for you!

Wave Song: SOL22 Day 17

I hear them call from a distance, a ripple swish invitation to come and play.

We dance on the shoreline, chasing one another, pulling me closer then pushing me back while all the time singing a song of water and moon in my ear.

Some moments are a whisper, secrets of the sea lapping on the shore. Sun drenched stretches shattering the light into a million sparking diamonds.

And then there is the soaring chorus, pounding percussion in the background. Walloping drum rolls with cymbal crashes as the white foam curves and curls, unfurling toward the shoreline.

I notice the standing ovation in the background and the chants of encore as I prepare to leave.

Even as I walk away, the echoes continue to sound in my ears. The wave song beckons me in, sends me off, and calls me back with a melody that constantly changes with a rhythm I never forget.

Taking Our Photos Further: SOL22 Day 16

Back on Monday I wrote about my students and their foray into the garden to explore some photography techniques. We’ve been continuing our project, first by carefully examining each photo, noticing the technique used to take the photo, and then selecting their 3 favorites…one from each technique. Those three photos were then edited. I showed them two main function of the native iPad editing tool: how to crop and/or turn a photo and then had them use a filter to change their photo from color to black and white. (After all, we are studying Ansel Adams!)

Today, the choices got more difficult. They had to select their one favorite of the three edited photos to use as their inspiration for writing some captions–in the form of equations. One of my fellow slicers did a lovely photo essay (I wish I did a better job of keeping track of the blogs I read and leave comments for) where she used Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s This Plus That: Life’s Little Equations as her caption format. I knew this would be an excellent format for my young writers–and after reading and discussing what we noticed in Amy’s book, these 6 and 7 year olds set off to write their own–inspired by their black and white photos.

Here’s a few to share with you (along with the photo inspiration)…please keep in mind that these are first draft efforts!

I absolutely love B’s buckets–there is something perfect about the light and dark of them. Here’s one of his captions (he was quite pleased by this effort!):

Bucket + bucket = Buckets

Our warm weather obviously had an impact on A:

Fun + spring + warm = amazing

Only a few students risked subtraction, I love R’s sentiment!:

Trees – deforestation = Life

You’ve got to love the first grade angles! Here’s H’s view:

Love + joy + garden leaves = plants

This unusual view of sweet peas inspired C’s caption:

Plants + pollination = Flowers

In addition to the photography lesson, the actual photos, and the captions, students used technology to edit and also learned to upload photos to Google Drive, share them with me, and absolutely loved getting to choose from three different black and white filters.

And here is my own–I had to join in the fun!

Smooth stumps + tiny black ants = squirmy kids

Maybe you’ll want to head outside and give this a try! Be sure to share if you do!

Advice from a Willet: SOL22 Day 13

On this “spring ahead” day, I found myself watching a shorebird, a willet, and thinking about those “advice from” posters and bookmark you see around. Maybe after watching and taking plenty of photos of these guys over the years, I can write from a willet’s perspective…giving some advice.

A willet and its reflection @kd0602 2022

Advice from a Willet

Hang out on the shoreline, inhale its briny breath, breathe out the day’s worries

Take time to reflect, look back to move forward

In the light @kd0602 2022

Enjoy the light, energize yourself with sunshine

Stop to pose, let others appreciate your unique beauty

Over the shoulder @kd0602 2021

Look over your shoulder, remember where you’ve been and where you came from

Stretch, keep your body moving and flexible

Wings out @kd0602 2016

Dance and sing, even if you are the only one who hears the music

Spread your wings, be ready to take flight and explore the world

@kd0602 2022

Four Funky Finds Friday: SOL22 Day 11

Reading Margaret Simon’s post yesterday where she borrowed an idea about Three Things I’m Thankful for Thursday from another slicer, inspired my idea of an alliterative approach to today’s post. I knew it should be Four something or other. Margaret suggested “funny finds.” But funny wasn’t working…so I have changed the focus to four funky finds.

The life of a teacher is one of schedules and very little flexibility about when you start and stop working. That’s one of the things I love about my mixed work schedule that includes a buy-out of 40% of my teaching schedule to do local and national writing project work. Since I work from home of Fridays, I can arrange my schedule around calls…and even take a walk on the beach in the middle of the day just because the tide is low!

My favorite beach is just a few miles from home and you can find me there several days a week walking and exploring the shore with my camera. Today I noticed that the pipes that bring run off to the ocean are looking pretty raggedy and that the usual free flowing river mouth is pooled up, blocked by lots of small rocks. I’m wondering if nature will clear the blockage or if the city will need to intervene and bring in some large equipment to keep the healthy flow moving in and out with the tides.

Further down the beach I noticed how white the stairs look against the brilliant blue of the sky. I always think of these stairs as a stairway to nowhere. But actually they lead to the Self-Realization Fellowship gardens. They are not accessible from the beach and there are signs warning people to stay off. But they are also maintained, regularly repaired and painted–a necessity with daily exposure to the elements near the ocean. So I guess they do go somewhere–I wonder if anyone from above uses them to access the beach.

Near these stairs is a favorite local surfing spots called Swamis (named for the Self-Realization Fellowship). No matter the weather or the surf conditions, surfers can be found in these waters. Today the waves were small…and it seemed to be a longboard day. This surfer makes surfing look effortless…just hanging out on the board.

Heading back to my car, I took a picture I take often. There is an iconic palm tree in the walkway down to the beach. It’s big and bold…and is beautiful against the blues of the waves and the sky. I frequently frame the image with the lifeguard tower in view. And yes, the day was warmer today. I think it even got to 70, which means that people were in swim suits, sunbathing, playing on the shore and in the waves. It’s not warm enough for me yet–but some go with the theory that sun=warm, so off go the jackets and lots of skin is visible.

So there they are…my four funky finds for Friday! What four funky finds did you come across today?

Bird-spiration: SOL22 Day 9

I try to take a picture everyday…and most days I successfully take and post a photo on Instagram. But some days, getting out of my own way and out into the world to find something interesting to snap seems impossible, or the photo I do take doesn’t feel worthy of posting. On those days, I take a wander through my camera roll in search of a photo taken recently that hadn’t yet made it’s way into public view.

And, to be honest, photos help me write when I get stuck. And stuck I am today…I already wrote a post that I won’t post. It is simply too dull to impose on anyone! So instead I took a stroll through my camera roll and came across this pelican I photographed a week or so ago.

One of my favorite things to photograph on the beach are seabirds. Egrets are my favorite…and I post and write about them frequently. Seagulls are pretty common and royal terns are such characters they make me laugh. The occasional osprey fascinates, especially if I am lucky enough to watch the powerful dive and snatching of a fish from the sea. And pelicans…more often than not I see them from afar, often in formation above me or surfing along the waves. But lately, I’ve come across some pelicans hanging out on the reef along the shore.

On those days, I creep close, trying to pay enough attention to my feet not to drench my tennies in the cool, briny water. I creep and snap, afraid to wait to take my photo until I am where I want to be–knowing that anything may cause the bird to flee into the sky.

This guy let me get pretty close–even looking me right in the camera lens at one point, seemingly unconcerned. These birds are huge and so prehistoric looking. It’s hard to believe that a bird that is so incredibly graceful in the sky is so awkward-looking when you get up close.

Finally, unrelated to me, this pelican decided to leave as I watched it raise its wings and lift that enormous body into the sky. Luckily, I’ve learned to watch and snap photos at the same time, determined to capture some of the wonder I am feeling as I watch these incredible birds.

Writing this takes me back to the deep blue of that afternoon some days ago. I can almost feel the sun on my shoulders and the cool breeze on my cheeks. And I’m glad I can take a few moments of bird-spiration to share some of my wonder and appreciation of nature’s beauty with you.

After the Storm: SOL22 Day 4

I woke with a jolt at 2am to the rumble of thunder, the room lighting up even under my closed eyelids. The patter of water on the roof followed, the predicted rain had arrived. Forecasts for rain are often unrealized promises in these parts as we watch the rain percentages on the weather app drain away as the appointed rainy day nears. We were lucky this time, we did get close to half an inch overnight.

Friday afternoons are blissfully usually Zoom-free, with most people being done with meetings as the week winds toward the weekend. That also means I can often squeeze in a walk on the beach if the tide conditions are right. And today was perfect. With a negative tide around 4pm, we would have plenty of beach to walk and explore. There is nothing like heading to the coast to make that separation between work and the weekend.

After a storm is a glorious time. The sea is wild with wind-whipped whitecaps and the shore is often empty as sun bathers stay away and water lovers wait out a few more hours before risking the swim. With temps in the high 50’s, the time was right for some exploration and deep breathing.

The tidepools beckoned. I stepped carefully, making sure to avoid the exposed sea anemones. And I found myself mesmerized by the ripples in the water, catching the light and dancing in the light sea breeze.

Geoff is an avid beach cleaner, always with a bag in hand to pick up any trash we encounter. Storms push the trash to shore and we came across an assortment of styrofoam pieces (from surfboards and from food containers), straws, bits of colorful plastic, and even this mostly intact plastic food/drink container. I couldn’t resist a shot with the seagull in the background before Geoff added it to his trash bag.

I love the way a walk on the beach unkinks my shoulders and smooths my brow. The white noise of the waves crashing clears my mind and helps me set my work aside and be present in the beauty of nature. I leave windblown and refreshed and this week, ready to host our San Diego Area Writing Project (SDAWP) Spring Conference tomorrow morning. Another beach walk may be in store tomorrow afternoon…

Best of 2021: A Year in 12 Photos

I probably take thousands of photos in a year (I take photos every day–and some days I know I take hundreds of photos). Even though I post one each day, the photos build up in my camera roll, on my computer, and get a bit muddled in my mind. It’s sometimes hard to remember photos from last week, let alone last month. Last year after a battle with Instagram’s best 9, I curated a photo from each month of the year and wrote a “best of” post featuring 13 favorites from 2020.

So as 2021 was coming to an end, I sorted through my camera roll and picked out a favorite from each month. Some months this was an excruciatingly hard process–I had more than one that was my favorite. Other months it was a struggle to find a photo that I loved enough to be called favorite. But with some help from my hubby and some pretty strict criteria that I self-imposed, I narrowed my choices down to 12.

I probably could have done a best of in 12 birds or a best of in 12 seascapes, but I tried to include images from a variety of contexts–although you will notice that my images are heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean.

Like 2020, last year was also heavily influenced by the worldwide pandemic. The year began with most of us hunkered down, staying close to home. Vaccines were not yet available, we were still masked most of the time, and travel was limited (if it existed at all).

Finding interesting places to walk is an ongoing quest for us. Some days the tides at the beach simply don’t cooperate and there is no beach to walk at all. In January 2021 we found ourselves at our alma mater, UCSD, exploring old haunts and new construction, including the vending machines with COVID test kits that you swipe with your ID card to access. While we walked I couldn’t help but notice this gorgeous red leaf hanging on for dear life. Fall colors are neither dramatic nor timely in these parts, so this January gem seemed special and made for a beautiful harbinger for a new year.

Valentine’s Day happened to fall on the first weekend of our February break in 2021, so to celebrate we decided to be tourists in our own town! We drove downtown, masked up, and took the ferry across the bay to Coronado. The Coronado Bay Bridge is an iconic landmark here and I couldn’t resist photographing from below, especially since the third graders in my class happened to be studying bridges at that time. I love the perspective that shows some of the under-supports along with the sweeping curve of the roadway with the boats, bay, and clouds on view too.

Giant kelp, macrocystis pyrifera, is a common sight on our beaches. But bull kelp, with enormous floats the size of softballs or larger is less common. This amber algae is native to our shoreline and is home to many fish and other sea life. And when it washes up on the shore, it becomes a favorite subject for a still life photo. There are no bad months for beach walking and March just happened to be the month when I came across a bull kelp still life opportunity on my favorite walking beach.

Art takes all forms and can take you back in time. In April a short road trip to Palm Springs took us back to the time of the dinosaurs and brought us face-to-face with a life sized T-Rex. The Cabazon dinosaurs is a throwback roadside attraction with huge cement dinosaurs–some realistic like the one above and some less so, like the pepto-pink brontosaurus that also houses a gift shop. Sometimes photos feel like art and at other times they are a documentation of life experiences. What funky roadside attractions can you find nearby?

In May I headed up, climbing the stairs of another nearby beach. This place offers a vantage to watch seabirds above sea level. From this perch, pelicans come close, soaring by at eye level, bringing details into focus. The challenge is clicking that shutter at just the right time to freeze the image in sharp focus. I continue to work to achieve that ideal photo of a pelican in flight!

To celebrate our wedding anniversary in June we headed up the coast to San Clemente. If you know Southern CA, you know that June can be spectacular–sunny, clear and warm–or plagued with the infamous “June gloom” that grays out the coast, washing away color and cooling temperatures. Watching the Surfliner emerge from the foggy gloom around the bend with lights on created a mystical image. I love when the light is right and my camera is poised. You never know what may come out of the gloom!

As I write and reflect, I realize that 2021 was a year of many short road trips. July was a rough month for me and my family. After my dad died mid-month, I needed to get away. So we headed to Santa Barbara, three hours up the coast. We walked beach after beach, not thinking or planning, just feeling cool sea air, watching sherbet colored sunsets, and noticing… This family of ducks caught my eye. Mama mallard and her ducklings out for a swim in the surf was fascinating to watch. Mama urged her babies out, they tumbled in the white water then regained their footing and tried it again. I don’t know if this is normal duck behavior, but it was fun to watch and photograph.

In August we made that long, seemingly endless trek up I-5 through the central valley to visit family in the Bay Area. In the summer tomato trucks are a usual sight. These trucks always remind me of my dad–a person who loved big equipment, driving, agriculture and farming, and had this weird wish to drive tomato trucks. I have gotten in the habit of taking photos of these trucks through the window as we drive up the 5, sometimes sending them to my dad, just for fun. This year, just a few weeks after his death, taking these photos made me feel close to my dad. I would notice the rich red of the tomato haul visible in the northbound trucks, bring them into focus as we approached, and then try again as we passed truck after truck after truck. Southbound trucks were empty, heading back to pick up another load and make that round trip again.

September meant back to school and fewer crowds on our local beaches. September is a perfect month for Southern CA beach going–and I think the shore birds agree. The skies are clear, the weather and the water warm, and the parking–while not exactly plentiful–is not like searching for a needle in a haystack! I like to station myself close to the birds, waiting quietly and creeping close to capture an interesting and (hopefully) different image. If you look closely, you’ll notice this bird is standing on one leg.

A Halloween birthday means my husband has spent much of his life celebrating with costumes and trick or treaters. This year we decided to make a trip to the Channel Islands on Halloween. We boarded a boat in Ventura and were treated to an amazing play session with a humpback whale on our way out and to hundreds and hundreds of dolphins dancing around our boat on our way back near sunset. While photos do not even begin to represent the phenomenal experience, this image does capture some of the beauty and grace of these amazing mammals and takes me back to my memories of the day.

You’ve probably noticed that I seldom take photos of people, instead focusing mostly on nature with my photography. This November shot is a rare exception to my posting habit. I do take photos of some people–mostly family members and often my grandsons. But I tend not to post those on social media. We were lucky enough to have family gather with us during Thanksgiving week in 2021 and the week ended with a sunset visit to my favorite beach. I couldn’t resist this shot of my grandson mesmerized by the colorful sky as the sun sank into the sea.

And could I really tell the tale of a year without including a photo of an egret? This shot features an egret in flight above the sun cracked waters on a cloudy December day. You have to look closely to notice the egret in silhouette in the distance. I love their distinctive shape, both in flight and when they are standing.

Twelve months, twelve photos, a year in review. I selected the photos before Christmas–before we explored the redwoods at the John Muir Forest and before we visited the monarchs wintering in Santa Cruz. But I’ll still stick to these twelve–they are my “best of” for the time frame when I did the selecting.

How might you go about selecting a best of collection to represent last year or last month or even last week? I’d love to know about your curation process.