Family is everything. And sometimes you do crazy things to make sure you can spend time with your loved ones. Like battling Los Angeles traffic on the day before Thanksgiving, knowing that the drive that should take between 90 minutes and 2 hours will likely be at least double that.
We left early in the morning on our way up to LA, well before sunrise, and were treated to a huge and gorgeous full moon sitting over the Pacific ocean as it got ready to set. I would have loved to have had time to park at the beach and try to capture this rare moon viewing through my camera lens, but this was a day for travel. And since I wasn’t driving, I pulled out my camera and did my best to shoot through the car window. In the dark, my camera shutter was slow–and the car was fast (yay…no traffic yet!), creating a streaking and blurring effect. I was delighted to find this abstract portrayal of light as I shot the moon.
After a wonderful day with my son and daughter-in-law, we got back in the car to head back home knowing that traffic would be heavy–but wanting to get home not too late so my husband could start baking his pies for Thanksgiving. And heavy was an understatement. After inching along the I5 for about 30 minutes and covering less than 10 miles, we decided to let Google maps on my phone take us on an adventure.
As we moved from one freeway to the next, we glimpsed views of downtown LA, watched airplanes and helicopters in their own freeway in the air, and noticed public transport rolling by on raised platforms. All along the way I pointed my lens out the window, trying to capture the interesting and beautiful things that caught my eye.
With the drought on our minds, we’ve been noticing the aqueduct system running below the power lines. Without the ability to stop and frame shots, I had to focus and shoot quickly hoping that I captured the image I was envisioning. This is my personal favorite, a serendipity of light and shadow and composition.
Part of the time we found ourselves on city streets, deep in an industrial area. Street art decorated the walls of buildings–some sanctioned (like the mural on the Farmer John compound) and some probably not. As I looked up, I noticed the graffiti-laden train overpasses and snapped a few more shots.
Heading onto yet another freeway (we found numbers we didn’t even know existed in Southern California!), I noticed tons of white birds sitting in a nearly empty aqueduct. Since I couldn’t see over the railing, I shot through the cement openings hoping to capture what I was seeing below. I’m pretty happy with the effect!
As the sun began to sink, the sky took on a gentle glow, silhouetting another of the miles of power towers that line the freeways.
And while our adventures in LA were fun and interesting, we were not alone or without traffic. Brake lights glowed red, lighting up the freeway like Christmas decorations.
Our trip ended much like it began as we watched the full, huge moon rise into the sky. It played hide and seek, first with the buildings and overpasses and later with the clouds.
It’s hard to know whether our “fastest route” actually saved us any time (we’re guessing we saved about 30 minutes), and it certainly wasn’t fast. But it was such a relief to keep moving and not spend hours inching in stop and go freeway traffic. We explored, we chatted, we noticed, and I took photos. We arrived home tired, yet relaxed. And we might just try that choose your own adventure route through LA again someday. There is so much to see when you take the time to look through the window.
So…what are you seeing through the window these days? Is it a car window, your house, or someplace else? Or is it a metaphorical window–the space between stormy weather conditions, phases of activity in your life, the break between holidays?
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 #window for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.
What are you seeing through the window? Take out your camera and give us a glimpse through your lens!
I appreciate the opportunity to travel and explore new places, although many of my travels are work-related and involve long hours of meetings in hotels that look very much like the ones in other cities.
Spending time in downtowns means lots of time looking up. Buildings are tall and the whole world seems framed in them. Downtown Minneapolis is no different than most urban cities, skyscrapers rise up overseeing the traffic, the tourists, the business people, and the homeless. Steel and glass giants rub shoulders with their smaller, older cousins who hold the memories of days gone by.
Cities stay up late, lighting up the night sky. Looking out the window of a hotel room brings the city up close, winking and twinkling with seemingly endless energy. I thrive in this environment…for a few days, then long for home and my familiar spaces and rhythms.
And yet, even in this urban space, I can find nature peeking through. The moon played hide and seek in the clouds last night as we headed out for dinner, framed by the bare trees.
And even as I waited…and waited in the Denver airport on my trip here, I could glimpse the mountains in the distance, already dressed in a layer of white.
I love exploring a place and thinking about how the pieces fit together and shape the lives of those who live there. And I love exploring my own place too–understanding the familiar as I examine it through my camera lens.
So this week, what place is calling you? Are you visiting family or friends to share a Thanksgiving meal or to appreciate those you love? Are you staying home–and looking at the familiar in a new way?
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 #place for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.
Take a look around at the place you happen to be this week…and share a glimpse through your lens.
This week was Veteran’s Day–that odd mid-week holiday to honor our service members from all branches of the military. It seems to be a day of lots of free breakfasts, lunches, and coffee for veterans…a few parades and some visits to cemeteries for some people. And I found myself thinking about the idea of service.
My dad is a Vietnam vet. He served in the navy as a medical corpsman. His high school diploma and military training allowed him to take care of all of the medical needs of a ship full of servicemen. He was gone for months at a time when I was a young child and made the decision to leave the navy while I was still in elementary school. It’s obvious that his years in the military made a lasting mark on his life…and I am proud to honor him for his service to our country. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this old snapshot that hangs in a photo collage on the wall. Taken before I was born, this shows my parents as 19 year-olds, shortly before their wedding. It was this #digiwrimo blog post by Michelle Pacansky-Brock that sent me in search of the photograph…there is so much about photos that evoke stories and memories and emotions.
And then I started looking around and thinking about service…how do I express service in a photograph? I know that I take my car’s service for granted–expecting it to take me where I need to go, to work when I turn the key. I had a couple of days last week when the sensors in my car signaled that my car was not functioning as usual…and I was lucky, thanks to my husband, that a visit to the mechanic took care of the problems. But even the little things like the rear-view mirrors are tools whose service I depend on. I use them regularly, not always appreciating the service they provide.
I spent my day off from work in LA with my son. We spent time exploring LA’s new art museum (that will be another post) and then wandered into downtown Burbank to explore an industrial area. I noticed this padlock, another of those ordinary tools that provide an important service.
I was surprised to find the drainage canal with water in it. We are already getting a hint of the potential of the expected El Nino conditions–and these canals will be of great service if we get the rain that is being predicted.
And there’s that dreaded freeway, unpredictable, persistently overcrowded…except in the early afternoon on a holiday. The 5 spans the state…a major north-south route. It can make my travels to see my sons easy–or a nightmare! Veteran’s Day was a good travel day on the 5.
These old telephone poles are becoming a thing of the past. And just below them are some large tanks emitting some kind of smoke or steam. I’m not certain about the need for the service these items provide but they are an interesting find just outside a suburban neighborhood.
So where do you see service? Will you photograph people: the local grocer, your favorite barista, the fireman you hope you never need? Or will you look to things: your car tire? The stove burner? The stoplight that keeps traffic moving smoothly?
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 #service for this week and include @nwpianthology in your post.
How will you depict service? I’m looking forward to seeing service through your lens!
This post was originally posted at Digital Writing Month: http://www.digitalwritingmonth.com/2015/11/09/re-imagining-oneself-through-the-lens-of-the-world/
A few years ago I noticed a colleague of mine taking photos with her iPhone. They weren’t the usual photos of a group of friends or of your cute child or even the requisite selfie to document a moment in time, instead, she took photos to a prompt…and posted them on Instagram. I was intrigued.
Photography was always something that interested me, but I simply couldn’t be bothered lugging around all that equipment, setting up for perfect shots…or even knowing what made a perfect shot. But with my phone (and camera) in my pocket, it was handy…and I was ready for a challenge.
So I found a photo-a-day challenge with daily prompts and set out to give it a try. Prompts like one, logo, spoon, and inside sparked my imagination and I started looking at my environment through different eyes. I not only took at least a photo a day, I also posted at least one photo a day to my Instagram account (you can find me @kd0602). I took photos for a month, then a year…and now I continue to take and post photos regularly to Instagram. Somehow the more I took photos, the more I started thinking about the idea of blogging—an opportunity to write and share my writing in a public way.
When I started blogging in July of 2013, my goal was to write a blog post every day for 30 days. I knew that was ambitious and I also knew that I needed to challenge myself and keep to it to create a sustainable habit. Even as I picked a theme for my blog, I already knew that making a connection to my photography would motivate me. I called my blog Thinking Through My Lens–a play on the double meaning of the camera lens and my own perspective on the world. What I didn’t realize until I started to blog every day was the power that the images I was snapping would have to stimulate my writing and help me frame my thinking. A yellow sign I photographed at a gelato shop featuring locally sourced ingredients became inspiration for a post about the importance of growing and valuing local leadership in writing projects and educational settings. Each image I took filled my head with language as I sorted through my thinking.
When I’m out viewing the world through my camera lens, I find myself thinking…about teaching, about life, about the world. My photos stimulate my thinking and my thinking sets me out in search of images.
Recently I was out in the mountains of Alabama, looking for the foliage that represents autumn in so many places–and that is mostly missing in my place (San Diego). Although the unseasonably warm (high 70s) and cloudy weather made the colors less vibrant, I noticed trees of gold and some touches of red. As I walked along some forest paths, I spied this brilliant red leaf among the brown, crunchy leaves and stooped to photograph it.
And as I look at it, I find myself composing the writing…about standing out in a crowd…about being different…about risk taking. t’s not written yet, but it’s brewing. I also found myself composing the photo, leaning in close to capture the details. And then later, maybe I’ll crop it, moving the red leaf away from the center of the frame, add a filter to brighten the red and increase the contrast… As with the writing, composing is a process and the framing, the editing, the balance of color and light all impact the ways the image will be read and understood. The images speak to me…and I hope they also speak to others, telling them stories that are likely different from mine.
Some images capture moods…the quiet introspection of a traveler with pant legs rolled up and his feet in the surf,
or the somber quality of birds silhouetted in a tree on a cloudy day.
And sometimes when it seems that there is nothing interesting to see and photograph, I head outside and explore. I push myself to play and re-imagine possible images. On one of those days not so long ago I picked a dandelion from my front yard (those glorious weeds seem to bring out my playfulness—and oh, does my husband rue their existence in our lawn!) and wondered how to photograph it in a different way. I noticed my car in the driveway and considered how I might capture the image if I blew on the dandelion near the rear-view mirror, but I didn’t seem to have enough hands for that. But as I was contemplating that idea, I noticed the reflection of the dandelion in the paint of the car…and I started snapping. I continued my play with some apps…and created this image.
And by embracing the ordinary, I experienced the exhilaration of exploration and play, which also led me to composing a teacher-artist manifesto using my photographs and my words to express the importance of play in the learning process. You can see it here.
So what comes first? The image or the words? It’s that age-old chicken and egg dilemma…it all depends on how you look at it, and the particulars of any given situation. And it seems to work that way for my students too. Sometimes they have a full blown idea that appears in words on a page and other times they see something, maybe even something they have seen many times before, and the image inspires their thinking and words. Even more fun happens when they start to really look closely at an image and they start to talk with each other and build on ideas presented by their classmates.
An Activity: Make Writing … Digital
Head out with your camera in hand (the one on your phone or iPad or a “real” camera) and take a look around. Let your camera lens give you “new eyes” and seek out the extraordinary in the ordinary around you. Get low, find the light. Tilt your lens up, try a new perspective. Watch and wait, take more shots than you think you’ll need. Then spend some time with your images, let your images release your imagination. Let yourself soak in them, let them wash over you, splashing you with inspiration and wonder. Then pick one. You can let it speak for itself and post it naked. Or you can let it whisper in your ear, guiding your words and your thoughts–framing an idea that you didn’t know you were ready for.
For inspiration, we encourage you to add a photograph of your “sky” to a collaborative project we are calling “Our Eyes on the Skies” — which uses an open Google Slide format. To add yours, just take a photograph of your sky. Head to “Our Eyes on the Skies.” Grab a slide. Upload your picture and label it. We hope to create a rich visual documentation of the world above our heads. You are invited. We look forward to a collection of skies from all over the world!
We hope you will share out your work across the various Digital Writing Month spaces that you inhabit. That could be right here at the Digital Writing Month blog; at your own blog or writing space; on Twitter with the #digiwrimo hashtag; in the DiGiWriMo Google Plus Community; at the DiGiWriMo Facebook page; or wherever you find yourself writing digitally.
Kim Douillard is a teacher-writer-blogger-photographer who also directs the San Diego Area Writing Project. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @kd0602 and on her blog at http://www.thinkingthroughmylens.wordpress.com