Tag Archives: writing

Establishing Scale

It was a rare rainy morning, the kids had been in the auditorium before school since it was too wet to play on the playground.  As they crushed through the outdoor hallways to the classroom, I heard one of my students call out, “Look at the millipede!”  Sure enough, on the wall outside the classroom hung a pretty good-sized millipede.  As we looked, our principal approached, always interested in creatures and eager to help move the millipede from the wall to a protected natural place.  But before she moved it, I had to take a photo.  On her suggestion, another of my students laid her finger alongside it to establish scale.

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This idea of scale is one I have been thinking about all day.  Relative size, importance, and impact can all be aspects of scale.  And scales are variable.  I often joke about the way our local weather newscasters talk so seriously about “storm watch” when referring to a chance of rain.  A colleague seemed to be amused by all the concern as she referred to the storm warnings as “SD-style storms” in an email…perhaps because of her upbringing far from the mild weather associated with San Diego.  (To be fair, the storm was a big one for us, bringing more than an inch and a half of rain at the airport and more in other places around the county. And since storms are rare, they definitely cause havoc!)

Scale comes into play when reporting student progress too.  A conversation on Monday in a district meeting had us debating the relative merits of rubrics and role of the report card in teaching and learning.  Do students need to be “above average” or at the top of the reporting scale to be successful learners?  Is the scale relative to other children in the same grade or to the student herself?  What is the difference between consistently meeting standards and steadily progressing toward those same standards?  How does the reporting help or hinder the learning process?

I don’t have the answers to these meaty questions, yet understand the worries of parents, of the public, and of educators striving to do their best for students.

Back to the millipede, I’m glad to have a record of it being as long as my student’s finger.  I’ve seen bigger millipedes, but not in the wild crawling up my classroom wall.  But I also wish I had a photo without the finger to allow the focus to be on the creature itself, to appreciate its unique beauty, and consider what it has to offer in this world where we live.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Details

As a photographer it’s easy to see the big things…the colorful sunset, the magnificent vista…and I’ve taken many photos of those, many that you have seen if you follow my blog.  Lately I’ve been looking closely in an effort to notice the smallest of details in hopes of creating something different, more nuanced, through my lens.

The moon was spectacular in December, well before the super moon made headlines (unfortunately it was too foggy here to get a good view). My eye was drawn to the bright crescent and I worked to snap that crisp clear shot.  With some light in the sky right past sunset, I was able to get a view that satisfied my inner critic.

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A trip to the zoo with my grandsons had me searching for animals that they could spot…and it wasn’t easy since many hide in the shadows on a warm day.  But looking up I kept noticing the Skyfari ride and the ways the buckets passed each other every so often. I particularly like this shot with the iconic palm tree in the frame.

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Much to my husband’s dismay, our front yard has become a haven for dandelions.  He cuts the grass and the dandelions pop right back up.  I love the way the light shines through the puffs in this shot with the bicycle rider in the background.  Sometimes my own front yard is the perfect venue for a photograph.

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This week has been marked by extreme low tides in the afternoons, a favorite time for walking for me.  I love the wide beach and the way the landscape is changed as the sea pulls back.  This fisherman was way out on the algae-covered outcropping when I heard the helicopter overhead. The juxtaposition of fisherman, helicopter, clouds and light pique my interest.  I haven’t tried any editing on this image yet, I wonder what might make it even more interesting…

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The low tide has also brought out the playfulness of the pelicans.  Walking out along the waterline brought me closer than my usual vantage.  I stood and watched this guy float, then fly up and search the surf only to drop into a cannonball-like dive.  I managed to catch this shot of the head-first dive.

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I don’t usually do much food photography–mostly because I don’t eat very interesting (or photogenic) food.  But today I decided to try the portrait mode on my iPhone to take this unedited shot of my Mexican chicken soup from Jorge’s Mexicatessen.  I like the sheen of the fat on the surface of the broth, the green of the avocado, and the silvery aluminum foil that holds yummy hand-made tortillas.  This is the BEST soup, a cure for all that ails you.  Luckily, I’m not feeling sick, but it never hurts to have a dose just for good measure!

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So, it’s your turn.  What details will you find when you head out with your camera?  The curve of a smile, the wag of a tail, a tender bud poking up through the snow?  (That last suggestion does not come from my reality…but I am obsessed with snow pictures!)

Share your #details 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 #details, you can also link your post in my comments.

Sharpen your vision and look closely for details.  Be sure to share your image(s).  I can’t wait to see the details you find through your lens.

One Little Word 2018: Stretch

The past few weeks have passed in a blur…just where did 2017 go? School was in session right up through December 22nd, leaving only the weekend to finish last minute preparations for Christmas and the whirlwind that was about to ensue.  And once family left on Sunday, I had time for a bit of celebrating before waking up yesterday to a new year.

In spite of the time warp, I have been thinking about a word to guide 2018 as well as reflecting on last year’s word.  For 2017, I chose the word possibilityPossibility is a great word, and as I read last year’s post I could still feel the reasons I chose this word.  But what I have learned about a word as a talisman is that I need a word that requires action, a word that reminds me to do something when the going get rough or stagnant and I need that proverbial kick in the butt,

So for some weeks now I’ve been trying on words.  Even this morning I thought I had settled on my word, but found myself reconsidering as I pulled out my computer to begin writing.  I thought reach would be that perfect word, encouragement to go beyond my comfort zone, to look past the edges of my sightline.  But suddenly, reach seemed too stagnant, too grabby, too self-serving.  I needed a word with more layers, something to encourage me to go beyond, but also to be flexible, introspective, and compassionate.

Stretch…somehow it feels right.  I need to make space in my life for more stretching, allow this body to bend, to regain the flexibility that I’ve allowed to erode as yoga has faded from my regular routines.  I want to stretch my mind and my thinking, remember to listen carefully to others and to consider perspectives different from my own.

I want to stretch time, gathering up minutes that turn into hours that I waste doing things that don’t matter and return to more writing, reading, and photography.  While I still always fit those activities into my life, I know I can be more mindful and deliberate about making them a priority.  I want to grow my skills, stretching to learn something new each day.

I intend to stretch my legs, walking and hiking into new places and seeing familiar places in new ways.  And I want to stretch out my passport and travel, exploring some new venues–those places we’ve talked about visiting but haven’t quite gotten to.  I will also keep stretching low, picking up those little boys who are almost not babies anymore!  Stretch to reach those small hands that are so eager to explore the world, offering me new insights on teaching and learning.

I can already feel the muscles in my back and shoulders unknot and relax, knowing that each stretch will result in flexibility and strength–a combination that seems perfect for 2018.

And as a reminder, a photo from my New Year’s Eve beach walk of an egret stretching into flight.  Like the egret, I will stretch my wings, pay attention to my surroundings, and even stir up the waters to uncover the tasty tidbits beneath.  (Have you ever watched an egret hunt?  I love the way they stomp and rustle the waters to get the fish to come into view as they search for food.)

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What will you choose as your One Little Word for 2018?

 

Writing and Photo Challenge: Reflection

Reflection in writing and thinking has become habit for me…and it’s something I emphasize for my students.  In fact, I did an extensive study of reflective thinking and writing for my MA quite a few years ago now.  I know that reflection helps learning stick.  It creates opportunities for problem solving and connections.  In the classroom we talk about reflection as a way of collecting learning.

Over the last week or so I’ve been playing around with reflection in my photographs.  It’s a bit different from reflective thinking and writing.  Instead of examining your thought processes and searching memory, this kind of photography requires a shiny surface of some sort to catch the reflection.  Low tide walks are perfect when there is some sunshine to create reflections.  I’ve had to tinker with angles, how close to get to the reflective surface, and what kinds of objects reflect well.  Yesterday, low tide was near sunset.  Perfect weather, warm and clear, allowed for a refreshing walk in the water.  I noticed the reflection of the pier, light posts, pilings, and even people, creating a perfect mirror image on the wet sand.

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I couldn’t resist trying to capture the color in this reflective photo of the buildings and palm trees along the shore line.  I love the brilliance of the blue sky reflected on the wet sand.

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I noticed this reflection as I worked to create an interesting photo of some trash on the beach.  As I turned my phone to find an interesting angle, I noticed the reflection of the palm trees.  While the angle isn’t perfect, I was able to get an interesting #litterati photo and get some plastic off the beach and out of the ocean.

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I’m a bit obsessed with seabirds.  I try to get as close as possible without spooking them, getting low if possible.  These guys are pretty perceptive and love to start walking away when they see me in the distance!  I particularly like the soft light of the setting sun warming up their reflection with the pier in the background.

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I captured this guys’s image earlier in the week.  The day was a bit gray and blustery, ruffling his feathers and making the texture dimensional. This is the only photo in the post that I have edited.  I found that by darkening and brightening the image, I could draw attention to the detail of the feathers, the beak and the reflection.

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Reflecting on all this reflection reminds me how much there is to learn from thinking about the processes we use.  While photography uses different skills and processes than writing, they both benefit from taking time to reflect on successes and frustrations.  And it always helps to study the work of another.

So, head out with your camera and try your hand at capturing reflection. Low tide created a perfect shiny surface for me.  Will you find another body of water?  A wet patio deck? The shiny side of your car?  And what will you learn when you take the time to think back and write about your experience capturing reflection through your lens?

Share your #reflection 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 #reflection.

I can’t wait to learn from your reflection photos…and your reflections on reflection this week!

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.