Tag Archives: photo essay

Into Negative Spaces

The paths we follow through life seem to be self-determined, crafted from deep thought and consideration.  Carefully groomed and plotted, they take use from where we are to the next destination.  We know where we are going and the most effective and efficient way to get there. Except when we don’t.

Negative space is art terminology that describes the spaces not filled in with color or design. They are the open spaces that often define those more deliberate lines, brushstrokes, carvings.

What happens when you lean into the negatives spaces?  When the spaces between become the path you follow?

I think about the ways that dandelions find the cracks in the walls, in the sidewalks, along the sides of the road, plant themselves deeply and blossom–spreading both their roots and their seeds to ensure that they thrive.

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I think about the blue that is visible through the openings in the clouds, where the sun seeps through and warms our shoulders and relaxes our minds.

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I spy the scented geraniums hiding between the spiky arms of the aloe vera, soft pink flowers intertwined with the sharp spines of the succulent.

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I notice the children who lay low, distinguishing themselves by the ways they blend in, quietly doing what they need to while others stand out, spreading their brilliant plumage like colorful peacocks.

But I know that these negative spaces are not negative, not less than, not inferior.  These are spaces waiting to be defined by the traveler, marked as the feet step on this road less traveled.  There are many paths that lead to fulfilling and successful lives…so why do so many insist that we all follow a single pre-determined path?

Let’s remember that sometimes the right path is the one that is yet to be discovered.

Royal Terns: NPM 2019 Day 26

Though it’s still April, we’re already dealing with what will soon become May gray.  It’s that pervasive marine layer that characterizes spring and early summer here in Southern CA.  But we really can’t complain.  The weather is mild and the ocean always welcomes.

Today I noticed the royal terns hanging out on the beach.  Before I knew what they were, I called them Groucho Marx seagulls.  They have big dark eyebrows and a bright orange beak. Distinctive, distinguished, comical.

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Today poem is a Haiku…short and sweet.

Groucho Marx eyebrows

atop orange beak and white wings

shore birds entertain

©Douillard

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A Noticing Day: SOLC 2019 Day 30

With reports cards written and parent conferences ahead of me, today was low-key. Sandwiched between errands, lunch out, and a chiropractic appointment, we fit in a noticing walk on the beach.

Today is part of a warming trend in our parts, sunny and clear, breezy with temperatures in the low 70s.  Beach goers were out in full force, taking advantage of a beautiful spring weekend.  (This has definitely been an in like a lion, out like a lamb March!)

Some days at the beach I have no idea what I’ll take a photo of.  I have tons of beach photos from all seasons, so I’m always alert to something new or unusual in some way.  We walked a different beach today, one further north than my usual Moonlight Beach, just because it was on our way from one errand to another.  As I walked my eyes were drawn to the maze of stairways from multimillion dollar homes on the cliffs zigzagging their way down the steep bluffs.  I took several shots, trying to capture that effect in my photo. (There are more–I was wishing to get an even wider view through my lens!)

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As I pressed the shutter, my husband called out to me.  “Do you see that?  Right there on the ladder…see the osprey?”  I didn’t at first (even though I had just photographed that very ladder!), my husband had to direct my gaze to see the bird in the distance.  We carefully moved closer, picking our way across the stones in our bare feet.  We photographed and watched, mesmerized by this majestic bird of prey.  After a few minutes of close observation, we walked back closer to the water’s edge.  As we took a last look over our shoulder, we saw it flying away in the other direction.  I am so glad my husband saw what I hadn’t noticed!

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We continued our walk, and I found my eyes alternating between watching the brilliant cobalt blue sky where sea birds soared and searching the sand and rocks for sea glass. Looking up, I saw a variety of gulls and terns, ravens, and even an egret in flight.  And always a favorite, pelican squadrons made their runs up and down the coast.

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As we headed back the car I couldn’t resist a close look at the wildflowers growing along the beach path.  I noticed the bees busily buried in the centers of these native yellow beauties.

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While I ended up spending the majority of my day out and about, it was a day for relaxing and noticing rather than hurrying and worrying.  I watched and wondered, taking time to breathe deeply and enjoy time out with my love on this perfect spring day.  I can feel my energy levels charging–just what I’ll need for the week of parent conferences that are just around the corner!

Blue #19: SOLC 2019 Day 29

I often find myself taking the same photo over and over again.  Obviously my eye is drawn to the subject.  I do try different angles, shifting every so slightly to capture the best light, something different in the background, or looking from another direction.

Sometimes I’m not even aware that I’m taking the same photo until I’m reminded–by a scroll through my images or a reminder of a memory from Facebook or my photo album.

But today I knew.

My Friday schedule let me take advantage of a nice low tide at midday.  I could feel the sun’s warmth as my bare feet traveled over the wet sand and was glad for my light sweatshirt in the low 60s early spring sea breeze.  When the tide is low and I don’t feel rushed for time, my turnaround point is lifeguard tower #19.  #19 is also a favorite local surfing spot and a popular dining spot for sandpipers.

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If you look north from #19, you can see Swamis–another popular (and famous) surfing spot with its iconic palm tree topped hillside.  I often take a photo or two with that view…like I did today.

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And as I looked through my photos, also back in November and December!

Occasionally, I find myself taking another perspective, giving yet another view of #19. (The tide was too high on this day for my usual perspective, I was forced up the hillside to avoid getting wet!)

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I’m not sure what all this says about either the lifeguard tower or me as a photographer. But I did find myself thinking about William Carlos Williams and The Red Wheelbarrow. (April is National Poetry Month and I’m planning ways to motivate my students to write a poem a day for the 30 days of April!)  So, using The Red Wheelbarrow as my mentor text, I played around with thoughts of the blue lifeguard tower.  Here’s my attempt:

Blue #19

 

I keep photographing

a blue lifeguard tower

sprayed with sea mist

watching the sandpipers and surfers dance

©Douillard

 

 

Something Fishy: SOLC 2019 Day 27

Just when we thought the week couldn’t get any fishier, it did!  You already know about the angle fish and the wire fish…today was all about real fish.

Wednesdays are our science lab day and our science teacher always goes to great lengths to make things relevant and hands-on for the kids.  I knew that she’d gone to a grunion run last weekend…and the grunion were running.  If you’re not from coastal southern California, you may not know about grunion.  They are small silver fish, about the length of a dollar bill…and they’re pretty special.  They are the only fish who come onshore to lay their eggs in the sand and they are found only along our coast from northern Baja to southern Santa Barbara.  They spawn from March to June, riding high tides onto the shore to lay their eggs.  A couple weeks later, at the next high tide, the eggs are washed back into the ocean, requiring the wave motion to hatch.

I remember grunion runs from my own teenaged days.  Since grunion only surf onto the beach late at night, it was the perfect opportunity for groups of preteens to head to the beach, hanging out in the moonlight, trying not to scare off the grunion.  (I don’t know who talked the adult drivers into that duty!)  If you’re under 16 you don’t need a fishing license to pick up the fish…not that I can ever remember wanting to pick them up!  Lucky for us, our science teacher was able to collect some grunion (and eggs) on her grunion run last weekend for our students to study.

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Students were able to touch the fish (yeah, they were dead), measure them to determine their age, and gently squeeze them to determine whether they were female (if reddish eggs came out) or male (if a milky liquid came out).

As you can see, they were eager to handle them, some with gloves and some with their bare hands.

We also took the opportunity to present our science teacher with a gift of fish from us. Each student contributed one of their wire fish (Calder inspired) to our collective fish mobile.  The best part was that each student figured out their own fish’s balancing point, tied a piece of fishing line to that point, and then small groups hung their fish together.  We tied each string of fish from a piece of drift wood that I found on one of my beach walks. The result was stunning!  I’m including a photo–although it doesn’t begin to do it justice!

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Next week students will string their own individual fish mobiles…and continue their study of grunion.  If we’re lucky, we will be able to get some of those grunion eggs to hatch…right in front of our eyes!

Sky View: SOLC 2019 Day 23

I couldn’t take my eyes off the sky.  Our usual monochromatic blue or gray skies were replaced by deep blue textured with white.  My first view this morning was as we headed off to run errands.  We have this quirky spiky tree near the driveway that I am obsessed with photographing.  It always makes an interesting backdrop to photos of the sky.  This morning I noticed the tree was beginning to get leaves (again–this tree gets terribly confused with year-round spurts of spring and summer weather) as I looked up into sun infused clouds, with the neighbor’s palm tree in the background.

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Later, after the errands and some shopping at the outlet mall, my husband offered to stop along the coast in San Clemente so I could get out and take some photos.  My eyes were drawn to the contrails playing with the clouds against the brilliant blue of the springtime sky.

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The coastline is always beautiful, and today was no different.  It was high tide when we stopped and I picked my way down close enough for photos–but trying to avoid another oops like I experienced yesterday!  The sky appeared to have stripes…and you can’t really see it in this photo, but the sea had dozens of sailboats in the distance.  I like the way the white of crashing waves echo the white of the contrails and clouds in the sky.

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Even the traffic couldn’t ruin the day.  Accidents and heavy weekend traffic made a 30 mile trip take more than 90 minutes, something that is unfortunately all too typical. (I suppose it is a price we pay for living near the coast.)  Our too-often-brown hillsides were wearing their springtime best and bursting with lush and vibrant green and so many yellow flowers…you can almost feel the softness with your eyes!

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Although I missed the photo opportunity as we left Costco and headed back home, my eyes took in yet another playful interweaving of contrails and clouds.  I looked up and noticed an enormous hashtag in the sky.  #skyview

Oops! SOLC 2019 Day 22

Ah!  The briny air filled my lungs as the gentle spring sunshine warmed my back.  There is nothing better than a walk on the beach at the end of the work day.

I wondered at the beach goers in bathing suits more than waist deep in the still cold Pacific ocean.  (Even in summer, 72 degrees is warm water–refreshing when temps are in the 80s.  Today’s water temperature of 60 degrees is hardly balmy.)  Low 60s do not constitute bathing suit weather in my opinion.  I was thinking about how San Diego is really not a spring break destination.  We’re often mistaken for a tropical location, with warm weather year round.  In reality, we are a temperate climate.  It’s seldom too hot here, and we don’t even know snow unless you drive high into the local mountains.  But March is predictably sweatshirt weather–and I almost always wear shoes on the beach at this time of year because of all the rocks.

I digress.  I walked quickly, trying to have this clear-my-head walk count as some kind of exercise in a week that left too little time to move my body.  I found myself on the uncomfortable slope of rocks thrown high by the surf as I climbed to avoid the waterline, slipping and sliding on the uneven piles.

I’m never bored along the coast, there is always something to see.  Today I watched surfers, dressed in their black wetsuits, as they headed out into the glistening sea.  There is seldom a day without surfers around here, even when the weather and waves are less than ideal.

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Looking up I noticed a modern day pterodactyl, our native pelican, gliding on the currents.

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At my turn around point, I got bold, walking further out away from the rocks.  Walking on the sand just felt so much better than slip sliding on the rocks.  I knew I was taking a calculated risk–walking in my jeans and relatively new tennies so close to the water.  I know all about rogue waves and watched as I was walking.  About halfway back to my car, I could see it coming.  Just as I reached the point of no return, I saw the wave rushing toward me.  I spied a rock jutting up higher than the sand and jumped on it.  Seconds later I felt the cool salty water rush over my feet, my ankles, wicking up my pant legs.  With nowhere to go, I stood, waiting for the water to recede.

My walk the rest of the way was of the squelchy variety as my wet socks and wet shoes squished with each step.  I was less careful at that point.  I was already wet, so I took the easier, if wetter, pathways on my way back to the car.  I had to laugh at myself, maybe I should have just taken my shoes off and walked barefoot for the entire walk.  If I were more like those bathing suit wearing beach goers, I wouldn’t be squelching my way back to my car!

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But neither wet pant legs or squishy shoes could take away my pleasure and delight in my beach walk.  There is something healing and rejuvenating about a walk on the beach!

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Now back home, my shoes have been rinsed, the insoles removed and are sitting on the spare bathroom counter drying.  I wonder how long til they’re dry enough to wear on my next beach walk?