Tag Archives: photo essay

Considering the Clouds: A Feldgang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What will choose to explore for your feldgang?

Beach Time

Everyone loves the beach in the summer.  There’s the sun and the sand, the salty water and the cool ocean breezes.  Just the smell of sunscreen brings images of summertime at the beach to mind.  But there is more to the beach than a vacation destination.  For some of us regular beach goers, the beach is a year-round place made up of many different kinds of regulars.

The obvious, of course, are the surfers.  The most dedicated of them never miss a day.  Rain or shine, fog or sun, whether the waves are “crumbly” or “blown out,” they are always there. They come in all shapes and sizes, all ages and all skill levels.  They carry their boards on their heads, under their arms, or in specially designed carriers on their bikes.  It’s a hobby, a passion, a profession, or a combination of all of those.

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There are the walkers, the exercisers, the ones who see the beach as a wide open outdoor gym.  Barefoot or in tennis shoes, they range the lengths of the shore, clocking their mileage, checking their pace, using stones as hand weights or racing up and down the steep beach staircases to test their cardio capacities.

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And there are the artists, who see the beach as their canvas.  With rake or rocks or bubble wands, they find their inspiration in the gifts the sea has to offer.  They know her moods, her rhythms, her offerings.  And they acknowledge her power and presence.  They breathe in the brine and spill out their visions, making art for others to interact with, not just seeing it but feeling it in its raw beauty and playfulness.

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This art, designed to be fleeting, washed away by its inspiration, also inspires my art.  With my camera strapped around my neck, I work to capture those fleeting moments of surfers and exercisers and artists in pixels and prints. I make my mark as I write my world with the light and shadow I see through my lens.

The beach is my place and I am happy to share it with everyone.

 

What Would You Hold?

During our first Make Cycle of the  SDAWP Invitational Summer Institute, we are each answering the question, “What would you hold?”  The make requires that we represent the answer to that questions with a photo of something precious held in our hands.

After too much thought and second guessing, here is my photo.

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I’m sure that a photo of me holding my camera isn’t surprising to many of you.  But I want to press beyond the camera as a tool to make pretty pictures.  It isn’t the camera itself that is precious.  In fact, sometimes it isn’t even my camera that I use for photography…sometimes my phone works just as well (or even better).  But the camera represents a practice that I value.  Taking photos encourages me to slow down, to pay attention, to notice the value and beauty in the ordinary…and it gets me writing.

I try to get out with my camera every day: walking, breathing deeply, letting my thoughts roam.  With my feet moving and under the influence of fresh air, I can let my worries float away and use my senses to tune into the world outside of my head.  I seldom take photos of people, instead I try to capture moments that capture my attention.  (The exception would be the many photos I take of my grandsons–none of which I post on social media to protect their privacy.)  I often find that the photos I take become metaphors to express ideas I am thinking about.

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With my camera I get low, checking out the vantage from the bug’s perspective.  I find myself thinking about times when teaching and mothering and living feels like pushing the world up a very steep hill.  Images of mythology fill my head and the strains and stresses of the day unkink, letting those tight muscles that run across my shoulders begin to relax.

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Out on the playground with my students I get to bring my passions to my students.  Photography also helps my students look in new ways, and like it does for me, that looking generates ideas and language for writing.  This photo was an example of looking for natural frames for photos–a composition technique I wanted my students to explore.

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With camera in hand, I learn…and sometimes I mourn.  Regular walks on the beach bring the realities of environmental damage front and center.  I see the daily human impact, the excesses of our disposable lifestyle, and get up close and personal with death and destruction. I am forced to pay attention to the lessons nature is teaching and encouraged to learn more as I walk with the rhythms of the tides and the seasons, appreciating the beauty and noticing the destruction.

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And I see the power of small children making a difference.  Little efforts, like teaching students to compost their leftovers from lunch will help them make the world a better place. (My students thought this photo was gross–but when I explained what it represented to me, they found it more interesting.)

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My camera also lets me celebrate life’s pleasures and express my gratitude.  My husband is an amazing cook and nurturer.  Some days result in food that doubles as works of art!

Mostly, though my camera helps me make space in my life.  Space for observation, space for an exploration of the senses, space for listening and learning, and space for making and creativity.  It gets me outside and keeps me moving.  It helps me connect with others–in person and online.  It reminds me to play, to take action, and to appreciate all that life has to offer.

 

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