Tag Archives: possibility

Take Action and Keep Reaching

One of the things I love most about photography is its complexity.  There is a pretty low floor, everybody can participate in the experience of taking photos–just point and shoot–and you’ll have a reminder of the moment you just experienced.

Because I’ve been posting a photo every day for almost five years now on Instagram (August 1, 2012 was my start date), I can track my progress as a photographer.  I can see how my choices in subject, framing, light, and overall composition continue to improve.  I can see where I have experimented with different techniques–a summer spent with a focus on my version of street photography that I called “Beach People” –and pushed my creativity and skill development.   (See #beachpeople: a documentary) I give myself new challenges to keep my photography fresh and energizing, especially since I take pictures as part of my everyday life, meaning a lot of the photos I take are at places I frequent regularly.  For me, many photos are taken at Moonlight Beach, a place where I love to walk.

Today, on our nation’s Independence Day, I was immediately drawn to the volleyball courts.  The American flags were waving, lots of people were gathering, and volleyball players were in action.  At first I wanted to capture the flags waving with the beach in the background, but then I started shooting.  My goal immediately changed and I wanted to capture a shot that showed the intensity of the play in action.  I could see that I needed to time my shot to catch the ball in play right over the net.  After a few tries, I was pretty sure I had at least one shot with the action.  Here is my resulting shot.


The flag, the ball, the arms, and feet…and the bonus: the puffs of sand under the feet.  This image has not been edited or filtered, this is how I shot it.

Last week I was intent on capturing surfers in action during a surfing contest.  You can see my photo of Rob Machado here.  I was using my zoom lens, which makes it hard to focus and “see” the just right spot in the distance.  But I persisted and got a few nice action shots of surfers at their best.


Leaving the beach today, we noticed some low-rider cars pulling through the beach drop off.  I started taking photos before they started showing off their hydraulics and bouncing the cars.  I was fascinated with the dance of the cars…a sort of call and response…with bobbing. popping, and even turns up on one wheel.

My camera gave me the time and focus to appreciate what these cars and drivers were offering.  I could see the complexity of the art of the low rider as I watched them maneuver their cars into position, “posture” with the hydraulics, and play with the crowd.


I love that photography has a low floor, I was able to get started with very few skills and only minimal equipment.  My first several years of photos were taken with my phone camera.  But I also love that photography has a high ceiling.  As much as I learn, there is so much more to learn and reach for.  I still take photos with my phone and I also now use a Sony a6000 (a light, mirrorless, DSLR-like camera).  I take most of my photos in the automatic mode, knowing that there are also endless possibilities for manual adjustments.  Even in the automatic mode there are many choices that I make, from the focal distance to the framing and light.  I can see years of learning and improvement ahead of me.

Through my camera lens I am reminded that learners need both entry points and opportunity to stretch.  And that reminder carries over to my work as both a teacher of students and a facilitator of professional development for teachers too.  Let your learners in…and keep them interested in pushing themselves, in challenging “good enough” by reaching for possibility–not just completing assignments.  Just as I know there is no end to learning about photography…I also know there is no end to learning about teaching and learning.  And the goal of lifelong learning is not just my personal goal, but a goal I hold for all the learners I touch as well.

Enveloped in Possibility

I love this time of the school year.  At least the part that is about my students.  (Yeah…there are too many meetings, too much drama about which students are going where for next year, too much paperwork…filling in forms, checking off boxes, signing off forms for this and that.)

As a friend of mine recently said in an email, this is a time when we get to witness a fuller blossom of our students.  We get to see what they can do when given time and space and opportunity…if we give them time and space and opportunity.

Like this slightly chewed and fully blossomed tulip, students open up at this time of the year. They dig into projects and expose their interests and thinking.  They are enveloped in possibility.


Our students recently went to the San Diego Natural History Museum on a field trip.  Their goal was to explore the new Coast to Cactus exhibit that features San Diego’s diverse ecosystems and find something that interested them.  When they returned to the classroom. they researched this interest and then create a movie or blog post to teach someone else about what they learned.  With time and a bit of technical support from us, our students inquired, composed, and created.

Here’s a couple of examples:

Ana (a third grader) got very interested in ghost shrimp…and couldn’t wait to learn more.  She researched and wrote…working hard to explain what she learned in her own words and voice…and included her own drawing of a ghost shrimp.  Here’s an excerpt:

Moist, murky water embraces the wetlands, cattails sway in the salty breeze, lush growth is everywhere. The wetlands are teeming with life. They are homes to birds, fish, and many mammals. However, many people ignore what’s happening deep down in the mud flats. The mudflat is a home to an amazing creature, the ghost shrimp

You can see her work here.

Eli (a second grader) noticed a mouse at the museum and couldn’t wait to learn more.  And when he didn’t find the answers to his questions during his time researching in class, he went home and got his parents to help him with his research.  He has also become our residence expert on iMovie…mentoring many of his classmates, helping them record and upload their own videos.  Here’s his movie.

And those two are just the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in the classroom.  Our students have cross-pollinated, pushing each other to consider new possibilities.  Like the bee on this sunflower, they depend on each other as they reach and strive for new heights, solidify what they already know, and reach with a helping hand to lift their classmates.  They are enveloped in a community of learners that allows them to bloom, to stumble, and to get up and try again.

sunflower with bee

And I am so lucky, because I am part of this community too…reaching and learning, enveloped in the energy and excitement of possibility.

Gaps and Possibility

While I’m still officially on vacation, today was a day spent catching up…on laundry, housework, email, and some reading.  I’ve been reading Onward, (a Christmas gift from my sister) Howard Schultz’ book about Starbucks and his realization that his company had lost its way. He describes the journey to transform Starbucks to be forward thinking, innovative, and successful “…without losing its soul” as requiring hard work, strategic planning, collaborative effort, and respect for employees and customers.  I’m only about a third of the way through the book, but I find his willingness to sacrifice short term gains for the greater long term good interesting and thought provoking.

I also read an article today entitled, We Need to Talk about TEDabout a recent TED talk by Benjamin Bratton where he talks about how little action results from the ideas presented in TED talks.  He describes the ways that TED talks oversimplify the problems we are confronted with and overly rely on inspiration as the take-away from their viewing.  If we talk about problems in inspiring ways, those problems will be solved. Bratton talks about the folly of seeing problems as a puzzle to be solved–implying that all the pieces are already here, ready to be assembled…and that this is a barrier to solving the very problems that need solving.  This talk definitely is worth thinking about…I know I’ll be giving it some more consideration.

This week’s Word a Week Photo Challenge is Gap, so as I was thinking about my reading, I was also looking through the pictures I have taken in the last few days for an image to capture gap.

I found myself thinking about gaps…gaps in understanding, gaps between problems and actions, gaps between beliefs and reality.  The word gap tends to give a negative connotation to space…it implies that something is missing, not closed properly, maybe even dangerous.

When I looked at this picture taken on the beach a few days ago, I saw the gap…and I saw the possibility that is positioned around the gap.  I also see the beauty in the gap, the space for imagination and innovation and appreciation of the complexity that surrounds us.


I also read a short article today, Use Language to Shape a Creative Culturearguing that changing language from negative to positive can dramatically impact the culture of the workplace (and other places as well).  I know that positive language makes a difference to me, it makes a difference in my classroom, and it makes a difference in our writing project.  When we consider, “How might we…” instead of getting mired in all the potential barriers, we are able to come up with creative solutions and move from ideas to action.

I like the way the gap in this photo also highlights the bridge above it.  I’m known to be optimistic…and yet I know that positive thinking alone doesn’t get things done.  But I do know that believing that something is possible allows me to find a way to figure it out…to dig in, try some things, connect with others and learn from their efforts, and then step back and reevaluate my own efforts, make a new plan, and try again.

So maybe we need to analyze gaps and consider redefining them as spaces…spaces to leap over, spaces where a bridge might work, spaces for the wind to soar through.  Change and action take effort, not just ideas.  But we do need spaces for ideas to grow, so look for the gaps in your life that offer opportunity and beauty, and consider, “how might we…”