Tag Archives: photography

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.

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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?

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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!

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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!

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

Flanerie and a Doodle

I’ve been around the edges of CLMOOC this summer, connected to the planning through Slack and google docs and twitter and Facebook, but mostly staying on the sidelines–watching makes rather than making.  I can come up with excuses, but maybe this is my summer of peripheral participation or lurking as some call it.

But in some ways, I would say I’m making on my own terms this summer.  I’ve made time for babies–joyously playing with those sweet boys who know me as grandma, rolling on the floor, scooping them up for hugs and kisses just because, reading book after book after book until I know (and I suspect they do too) all the words by heart, crooning very old songs in my off-key sort of way and relearning all the Raffi songs I have long forgotten (have you sung “Apples and Bananas” lately?).  I’ve made time for reading–sucking in words: light fiction, mysteries, kid’s novels and graphic novels…I just finished The Handmaid’s Tale (scary), I’m diving into Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and at the same time hanging out with an old favorite author Natalie Goldberg through The Great Spring (a find from a wonderful bookstore in Mendocino, CA).  And I’ve made time for walking–sometimes long aimless walks on the beach, some days of hikes deep into the redwood  forests of northern California, exploring the nooks and crannies of the amazing place I live, of course taking photos all the while.

Yesterday I just had to go to the local beach…that place most of you are familiar with if you read my blog even semi regularly.  I hadn’t been in more than two week, having been out of town exploring other parts of California.  It’s summer, our weather is hot, especially in areas away from the coast so the beach was crowded.  The parking lot was jammed as were the streets nearby.  So I cruised the nearby neighborhoods until I found a parking space, beginning my walk from there.

I walked from the crowds towards the beach space less frequented by visitors, my space, the space I feel called to explore and wander.  As I walked and wandered (using my new word flanerie), I found myself “doodling” with words in my head.  Worrying that I would forget the words at the end of my walk, I stopped and sat on a rock and typed some of the words into my phone to play around with later.

Here’s my word doodle, a poem of sorts.

She’s calling my name in cools

blues, greens, frosted white

singing tunes that synchronize with my breath and heartbeat

inviting me to soak my toes in her earthy tea with each step

Yes, she’s calling my name

And to top it off, I found a face in the cliff.  I walk here all the time and this is the first time I have seen this face.  Maybe she was calling my name.

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