Tag Archives: sdawpphotovoices

The Rule of Thirds

I woke up this morning thinking about where I wanted to go today to take some photos.  I wanted to stay close to home…and I didn’t want to head to the beach since I take a lot of beach shots.  I finally decided to head up near a golf course not too far from home, thinking about some greenhouses I pass every day and never take the time for a close look.

For February’s #sdawpphotovoices, we are playing with photography techniques and spending a week on each of four different aspects of those techniques.

I headed out this morning specifically thinking about the rule of thirds–the technique of placing the focal element of the photo off to the side rather than centering it in the frame of the lens. This is a technique I do pay attention to, and sometimes it creates spectacular shots.  I notice that when I move the focal point off the center, I also allow something else interesting into the shot.


In the case of this watertower, it also allowed the beautiful flowering trees and the mottled clouds to enter the stage.  In some cases, moving into the thirds also works to simplify the scene and allows the viewer to see what you are looking at and not everything your lens might otherwise see.

windmill on golfcourse

As I was thinking about the rule of thirds in photography, I was also thinking about the value of applying that rule to instruction.  Sometimes the best approach to learning is coming at it from the side, letting context take center stage.

We saw evidence of this at the end of last week when we asked students to reflect on the service learning project we’ve been working on.  While we did revisit the importance of some kind of introduction and conclusion to a piece of writing, as students wrote about something they were not only intimately familiar with but also something that they were engaged and invested in, the writing flowed.  And we even had that wonderful experience of having students beg for more writing time!

Sometimes you barely notice the rule of thirds being applied.  You might remember that I mentioned greenhouses at the beginning of this post.  The area where I live used to be covered with flower fields and greenhouses.  Development has pushed much of the agriculture out of our area, fields and greenhouses now replaced by million dollar (or more) homes.  As I explored this morning, I captured some shots of one of the remaining operations–surrounded by a suburban housing development and across the street from the golf course.

Greenhouses with bird of paradise

In this case my focal point was the bird of paradise in the foreground.  The greenhouses and the sky serve as a beautiful backdrop.  I was wishing for the sides of the greenhouse to open. There are many days when I drive by and notice the plastic walls open, offering a peek at the colorful flowers within.

And finally, it’s sometimes the simplest of things that makes for a beautiful photo.  This tree and fence and clouds taken from the back of the golf course seemed a perfect candidate for a black and white application.  I think the white fence and the white clouds create the kind of contrast that is needed with black and white.

Black and White from behind

I had a lot of fun playing with the rule of thirds and exploring the local community.  It’s interesting to drive down side streets and behind the places I see so often only from my car window as I commute to and from work.  I’m thinking that a month focused on photographic technique may offer me many new ways to play…right here, close to home.

Love to Play: February’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Since making play my word for the year, I find myself looking for opportunities to incorporate more play in the ordinariness of my everyday life.  How can I be more playful on my commute to work?  How can vacuuming and doing the dishes be more like play?  How can grant writing and lesson planning play with ideas I’ve always wanted to try?

So, playing around with the theme of love in honor of Valentine’s Day, (right smack in the middle of February), let’s put some love into playing with some photography techniques!  (Thanks, Janis, for the suggestion!)

So for February’s #sdawpphotovoices photo-a-day challenge, we’ll focus on a different aspect of photography each week.

After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some more playfulness, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, make a video or slideshow or try a learning walk!  (More about learning walks here and here) You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section.  It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Week 1:  Playing with Composition

1. Simplify the scene—move in closer to remove distracting details

2.  Rule of thirds (or simply avoid the middle)–what happens when you frame your subject off center?

3.  Use leading lines—frame your shot by letting the natural lines (fences, roads, walls…) direct the viewer’s eye

4.  Use diagonals—shift the angle, tilt your camera…

5.  Check your background—what’s behind your subject? Experiment with finding a background that works with your subject

6.  Fill the frame—zoom in or step closer to fill the frame with your subject

7.  Break the rules—experiment with your own compositional style

Leading lines

Leading lines

Week 2:  Playing with Light

8.  Shoot into the light to create a silhouette

9.  Capture a shadow

10. Find the light in a dark setting

11.  Make light the centerpiece of the photo

12.  Experiment with light and dark in one photo

13.  Include a reflection (water is useful here!)

14.  Try something new with light (either natural light or some other light source)



Week 3:  Playing with Perspective

15.  Get low

16.  Shoot from above

17.  Create an optical illusion

18.  Play with negative space

19.  Get close

20.  Try a wide angle effect

21.  What other perspective have you tried?

Looking Up

Looking Up

Week 4:  Playing with Genre

22.  Architecture

23.  Black and White

24.  Children

25.  Landscape

26.  Macro

27.  Nature

28.  Street photography



Our goal is to play, share with each other, and learn from each other as we shoot our own photos and study the photos others shoot.  Each week includes seven suggestions for exploring the technique.  You are welcome to follow them in order, mix them up, or exchange them for a technique you want to try on.  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

Taking Action in 2014: January’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Happy New Year!  The New Year is typically a time for resolutions and goals—generally aimed at improving your health or your life.  Unfortunately, they are also easily abandoned and left unrealized.  So maybe instead of focusing on weight loss or exercise or one of those other hard to realize goals, we can take some inspiration from Martin Luther King, Jr., whose birthday we celebrate this month, and focus on action each day instead.

So for January we have a list of verbs…one for each letter of the alphabet and five more thrown in…to inspire action through photography.  As always, you are welcome to interpret the prompts in whatever way inspires your creativity and pushes your photographic eye. Maybe the action is captured by the photograph.  Or maybe the verb reflects the actions you use to prepare your photo—with filters and editing, camera lenses or photographic techniques.  This might be the month  to explore light and shadow, the rule of thirds, and a variety of angles.  (Let us know if you’ve tried a specific technique so we can all learn from you!)

After you shoot, post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the better!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are game for some extra action, compose a blog post about a photo, a week’s worth of photos, write a photo essay, or try a learning walk!  (More about learning walks here and here) You are invited to create a pingback by linking to this url or post your blog address in the comment section.  It’s fun for me to see what others are doing with the same prompts I am using!

Here’s the list:

1. analyze

2. build

3. create

4. climb

5. dash

6. examine

7. focus

8. generate

9. help

10. innovate

11. jumble

12. kick

13. lick

14. mentor

15. make

16. nudge

17. organize

18. peek

19. program

20. question

21. resolve

22. renovate

23. submit

24. teach

25. understand

26. utilize

27. vouch

28. write

29. eXamine

30. yearn

31. zip

Let’s make an impact in 2014!  Have fun, be creative, explore the limits of your photography…January is the perfect time to follow through with what you have been meaning to do for a while.  You can post every day, once a week, or even sporadically throughout the month…whatever works in your life.  Be sure to share and tag your photos with #sdawpphotovoices so we can find them!

And here’s a photo to inspire you to get started!


‘Tis the Season: December’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

Short days, long nights, decorations, parties, presents, shopping, vacation, lights, food, family, and friends…  December is full of fun, frenzy, tradition, and celebration.  No matter your religious beliefs, December is filled with signs of the season–whatever that season means to you.

Let’s take this month to interpret the season in ways that make the most sense for us as photographers.  Here’s a list of 31 seasonal prompts to be used in whatever ways stir your creative urges.  You can use the prompts daily in the order they are displayed…or you can pick one to use all month, you can mix and match them, combine them, focus a week on one or two…it is totally up to you!

Be sure to post a photo each day with the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices to Twitter, Instagram, Flicker, Google+ and/or Facebook (the more the merrier!), so that we can all enjoy the posts.  If you are feeling daring, you might compose a blog post about a photo…about a week’s worth of photos…create a photo essay…the possibilities are endless!  Be sure to link back here to create a pingback by linking to this url…or post your blog address in the comments (or create your entire response in the comment section).  It’s fun to see what others do!

Here’s the list to get you started:

1.  green

2.  deal

3.  gift

4.  garland

5.  candle

6.  bargain

7.  decorate

8.  poinsettia

9.  feast

10.  red

11.  Santa

12.  hearth

13.  tradition

14.  elf

15.  tree

16.  present

17.  holiday

18.  star

19.  festive

20.  frosty

21.  winter

22.  candy

23.  celebrate

24.  bells

25.  wreath

26.  fruitcake

27.  retrospective

28.  light

29.  party

30.  parade

31.  new

Have fun, be creative, explore the limits of your photography…after all, 2013 is nearly over!  You can post every day, once a week…or sporadically throughout the month, whatever works in your life.  Be sure to share…and to tag your photos so we can all find them!

I hope you’ll join me as your photos help you express your experiences of the season!


Sense-ing Your World: November’s Photo-a-Day Challenge

November is a month that tickles our senses.  Delicious tastes of holiday traditions, the smells of fragrant fall spices, the sounds of crunching leaves, and the caress of breezes hinting of winter to come…

Alexandra Horowitz, in her book On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes, reminds us:

“To a surprising extent, time spent going to and fro–walking down the street, traveling to work, heading to the store or a child’s (or one’s own) school–is unremembered.  It is forgotten not because nothing of interest happens.  It is forgotten because we failed to pay attention to the journey to begin with.  On the phone, worrying over dinner, listening to others or to the to-do lists replaying in our own heads, we miss the world making itself available to be observed.  And we miss the possibility of being surprised by what is hidden in plain sight right in front of us.”

November’s photo-a-day challenge is an invitation to pay attention by “seeing” through your other senses.  How can you capture taste, smell, sound, or touch in a photo?

Each week we will focus on a different sense.  Feel free to interpret the prompt in the broadest possible way.  Be playful and creative…and most of all, have fun!

Be sure to post your photo each day to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or Flickr using the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices.  (You can post anywhere, but if you want others to be able to follow your photos, Instagram and Twitter are best!)

November 1-8: taste

November 9-15:  sound

November 16-22: touch

November 23-30: smell

I can’t wait to see what we all come up with!  You might also want to reflect on what you learned with each sense and curate your favorite photos.  It would make a great blog post!  Be sure to provide a link to your blog post in the comments below.

Here’s a preview entry from my time in our school’s garden today:

Young arugula will soon find its way into a #tasty salad.

Young arugula will soon find its way into a #tasty salad.

You are invited to post every day, once a week, or whenever you can find the time.  Join in the fun!  November is a great month to begin! (or begin again!)

Celebrating the Ordinary

I wasn’t going to post today…and if you’ve been following me you will know that is significant. In the last 98 days I have only not posted on one day, and the practice of writing and posting each day has become very important, so when I decide not to post it feels like a major decision.  And then I got a tweet from my friend Janis (check out her blog!) pointing me to Ruth Ayres’ Saturday Celebrations (this is the practice week).

This week I have been celebrating the ordinary.  You can see it in my blog posts here and here. And today was a blissfully ordinary day. I slept in, spent a quiet morning puttering about, ran a few errands, had lunch with my hubby, ran a few more errands…and bought a new book. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo.  The first few chapters are promising… elements of graphic novels right in the novel itself! It will be my bedtime reading tonight.

This month for #sdawpphotovoices we are using writing as our photo prompt.  And while writing is valuable to me…creating interesting photographs that reflect writing has been challenging.  How do you make something ordinary, like writing, look like art?  I’ve been experimenting with cropping and filters to get some new and different effects.  Here is collage of a few of of my photos from this month.


So thanks, Janis, for the nudge to think about what I have to celebrate this week…and for the nudge to write and post today.

What are you celebrating this week?

In Search of Silky

I’m usually pretty good at making a photo prompt work for me…or as my son says, I cheat. What that means is that I take the pictures I find interesting and caption it in a way that I can make the daily or weekly prompt “fit.”

But I struggled this week.  Silky was just plain hard.  I looked everywhere for that quality of luxurious smoothness that I associate with silky, but mostly I found fluffy and creamy and shiny…

Here is a collage of six of my silky pictures.  Which suggests silky to you?


Tomorrow begins a month long prompt: writing.  I can’t wait to see how I can make writing into wonderfully interesting photos!

Make it Write: October’s Photo-a-Day Experimentation

Maintaining an extended photo-a-day practice (mine has gone on for over a year now!) means figuring out how to keep it interesting and creative.  I depend on my friends to help me think through new ideas and consider whether my ideas are feasible or not.

So Abby suggested making this month about writing since it is the month of the National Day on Writing.  And I was thinking about what that would look like.  I know I don’t want to have to take pictures of hands and pencils all month!  But I love the idea of exploring all the ways we “write” our world.  What inspires our writing?  What impedes our writing?  Where do we find people writing?  Where do we find writing in the spaces we inhabit?  Where is writing absent? What is the writing on the wall?  (How will I incorporate macro photography with this prompt?  Hmmm….)

So all month in our photos I invite you to consider writing in the broadest sense.  Where will this open-ended experiment take you?  Will you find it restrictive or inspiring?  And as always, take some time each week to reflect on your photos, write a blog post or comment sharing those thoughts, select a favorite photo, or create a collage and share it on this post.

And here’s a photo to get you started:


This is Jack, one of my two cats.  He’s wanting my undivided attention and definitely interfering with my writing as he snoozes on my computer!  (He even managed to type a few letters with his body in the process of being in the way!)

Can’t wait to see all the ways that writing can be interpreted in a photo…

Be sure to post your photo each day to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Flickr using the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices.  (You can post anywhere—if you want others to be able to follow your photos, Instagram and Twitter are best!) For more information about posting click here.  At the end of each week you’re also invited to curate your pictures from the week and select one to highlight.  You might post it on your blog along with some musings about why you selected it.  If you don’t have a blog of your own, you have a couple of choices—you can create a blog (be sure to share it with us by including your blog address in the comments here—or better yet, tweet it using the hashtag #sdawpphotovoices) or you can post to the SDAWP Voices blog.

As the month goes on, come back to this post to link up your curated photos!  Click on the link up button below and add your favorites.  Or post a comment with an image on this post!

A #Scratchy Week

Taking photos of textures is tricky.  It’s easy to find smooth and rough…and even scratchy. But it’s much more challenging to compose an interesting photo that also highlights the texture intended.  For the last several months I have been working to push out of my comfort zone and NOT photograph the most obvious  thing associated with any given prompt.  This week was no different.

Here is a collage of my first 6 days (in random order thanks to the app collageit) of scratchy.


Monday’s photo was a scratchy old fence that I see on my way to work.  I’ve been eyeing this ramshackle construction for a while, waiting for the perfect time to capture its dilapidated beauty.  Tuesday I was in the school garden and couldn’t resist the scratchy pumpkin stems. Wednesday was probably technically cheating since I used scratching rather than scratchy to describe a student hard at work with writing…and scratching out ideas!  Thursday I was back to my mushrooms…and using my macro lens to capture the scratchy texture on the underside. Friday I played with shooting a tree through a screen to create the scratchy texture.  Saturday I used this snail–whose slow pace allowed me to capture it as it crept across the scratchy sidewalk in front of my house.  And I love my Sunday photo…the scratchy spine of an aloe plant with a spiderweb attached, highlighted by the use of the vintique app.

aloe w:web

It’s always a little bittersweet to move from one prompt to the next as I start to see the world anew.  It always seems to take a week to really see and notice the prompt in interesting ways.

How was your scratchy week?  Today I began to look at my world through the scaly lens, who knows what the week will bring…

September Smooth

The first week of September at #sdawpphotovoices had us looking for texture…specifically taking photos that focused on #smooth.  And while I could find photo subjects that were smooth, I found myself pushing to create more interesting photographic images.

I played with frames and framing and with cropping and the effects of filters using photography apps.  Here’s a fun one from yesterday that has nothing to do with smooth.


This bride and her groom were being photographed on the beach…and this guy on his bicycle rode by at the perfect time to get him in the shot.  I love the juxtaposition of these people in my shot.

I think my favorite image of smoothness is this picture of a smooth rock swirling in the smoothness of the surf.  It’s funny because I had bent down to capture this smooth rock and my sunglasses fell onto the ground before I snapped the shot.  When I grabbed them and reset myself to take the shot I nearly landed in the water–the surf had come back up without me noticing and surprised me as I remained low to the ground to get my shot.  Sometimes happy accidents make the best photos!


I was obviously not at my smoothest, but I like this #smooth shot!