Thursday, December 8, 2011

The puzzle pieces for my empty spaces

I'm thankful for the teachers my children have in their lives.  As their mother, I often sorely feel the things I lack in knowledge, patience and experience.  The Co-Op school we attend when we aren't homeschooling provides puzzle pieces for those empty spaces I sense.

Here are some sweet photos of my kindergartener's first day back at school after our vacation.  Her Kindergarten Experience class teacher is a brave soul, allowing some 12 children to dip their fingers in acrylic paint to create a hand print christmas tree wall hanging.  Thankfully, there are usually 4 or 5 parents present in the room and everything went smoothly.  Saraiah couldn't stop peppering her tree with little red berries.  I'll be proud to hang her tree next to the one Eva made eight years ago in the same class.

There was also storytime yoga class that day.  Saraiah's teacher, Dawn, is the one I did photos of for her business.  You'll see the blog post in the side bar of my blog.  Storytime yoga is such a gentle and intelligent way to draw kids into calm physical activity.  Dawn does some warm up poses, reads a story that's usually around a theme like dinosaurs or gardens, does some more somewhat relevant poses, then reads more.  It's a great class and is my favorite part of our Co-Op day.

Saraiah then goes off to some other classes on her own and I occupy myself with caring for 3 year old Maia or attempting to organize our lives.  Meanwhile, my 3 biggest kids go independently from one outstanding teacher to the next, learning about things like Lego robotics, drawing, knights and castles, our North American neighbors, keyboarding, band, French and forensic science.  I'm so thankful for the resources that are available to our children in the rich selection of educators who share their knowledge so perfectly well.

Autumn Harmony

The clouds and hills followed the lines of the mountains so beautifully as the light danced on the newly fallen snow.
I love the photography class that I have the privilege of helping to teach.  It's inspiring to see kids understand concepts and to be able to improve the composition and aesthetics of their images by using the things we help them learn in the field and in post processing.  It's so much fun to create pictures alongside them, inviting them to move to the level of a tiny mushroom or bit of moss, to look at something from an extreme perspective, or to wonder at the beauty of a tree newly free of its leaves.  Then, when we download the photos to a computer, they relive the experience, and get to wow themselves and those around them by adding a little contrast or color vibrancy to make their pictures really even more stunning.

frost outlines each petal just so

 While we were away on vacation the students in our class were asked to make images demonstrating harmony.  Harmony is defined in Webster's dictionary as "a pleasing or congruent arrangement of parts."  This can be achieved in photography in many ways, including the use of the rule of thirds and the application of basic color theory.  

Fall is a wonderful season to do this because of its muted colors and filtered light.   Upon returning from Hawaii, I was impressed with how much simpler it is here to create a balanced exposure because of the cloud cover we have.  There is a gentle bluish gray to the light here, so different from the warm and vivid brightness of the tropics.  Color becomes unobtrusive as it fades.  We notice the shape and texture of things:  the way a tree curves to reveal the clouds and sky, the way frost makes its rough and sparkly way down a fence line.  We notice the beauty of single colors that remain, framing themselves against the earthy background of a resting autumn world.

the lupine leaves look like exuberant starbursts from a child's drawing

In the Rule of Thirds, points of emphasis fall on any of the intersecting points of 3 imaginary vertical and 3 horizontal lines placed in a grid over the composition.  Usually, if the subject is not in the dead center of the image, but instead off to the side, the composition is more pleasing to the eye.  We don't look at things dead on all day long, unless of course we are in a staring contest.  Thus, following the Rule of Thirds creates harmony because it shadows everyday life and also draws us into the image, asking our eyes to move around.  In a landscape image, we will find it interesting if the horizon falls in the bottom or top third of the image, rather directly in the center.  In this way, we are invited to examine either the sky or the earth as it is portrayed in the photograph.

Here is the mountain scene from the beginning of the post framed in a different way.  We can feel the heaviness of the cloud cover more intensely when it takes such a large part of the image.  The image is divided almost in half, creating some tension aesthetically.  It works well as an expressive image, but is certainly not very harmonious. The first image follows the rule of thirds well, with the line of the trees and clouds falling on the top and bottom horizontal line and the mountains offset a little to the right.

When using color theory to create harmony in visual art,  harmony can be achieved by remembering the 12 part color wheel.  When 3 colors sit beside one another on the color wheel, they will be harmonious.  The same will occur when 2 colors directly across from each other on the color wheel are together in a composition.  Nature is the embodiment of harmony, so if you're making images in nature, there will be an inherent harmony that resonates in your images.  Red/purple and green/light green are opposite on the color wheel and red and purple flowers are found often in nature framed by greenery.  Yellow and green are beside each other on the color wheel, and we all know how ubiquitous yellow flowers are!

coming up to the house from animal chores we noticed this beautiful sight.

If an image is just made as a snapshot and not well thought out, it is in danger of being dull and boring.  Harmony can do that.  There must be something to offset the comfort that is found in harmony.  This is why using things like leading lines, the rule of thirds and emphasis on a particular element in the composition can all create the balance that a great piece of art needs.  If we are careful to apply all the elements of composition we have learned, creating pleasing and balanced photos is very simple in nature and with a little thought, just as easy in the world shaped by man.  Just as a composer creates a feeling of peace with harmonious musical notes, so too can a visual artist evoke the sense of well being and rest that harmony creates.

Find more information on color theory here:

The clear defenses of a salmonberry stripped of its leaves
the delicious goo of pumpkin seeds, waiting to be hidden in the soil to become next year's vines....

While the deer is front and center in this image, the eye still moves as it looks at the light of dusk on the leaves in the foreground, then the green of the bed of grass.  This moment was fleeting.  I frightened the deer before I could get a better exposure.
I love the perspective that these clouds create
what's left of summer blossoms
A walk in the woods in the late afternoon light
moss growing on the tree the kids love to climb
A neighbor's field
The frost makes the summer plants succumb to rest
A leaf rake, left to languish in the leaf strewn yard

the beauty of her blue eyes and the memory of the lovely homemade pie...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why I cannot recommend Hawaiian Airlines

We got to the airport at 5:30 AM on Thursday.  We were still  there at this time the next day.
This is the full story of our over eighteen hour delay at the Seattle Airport.  In my initial blog post of photos of our over eighteen hour wait, I refrained from talking too negatively about them Hawaiian Airlines was nice enough to contact me to inform me they can do nothing, and then to state in a very intimidating way at the end of the letter that its contents cannot be shared.  Therefore, to keep their lawyers out of my hair, I am refraining from sharing the content of their lovely letter.

Actual stats from Bureau of Transportation Statistics regarding Hawaiian Air delays vs. Delta and Alaska on flights from Seattle to Honolulu from January-November 2011.  The orange bars are those of Hawaiian.  They represent far more minutes of delays.  They have few flights and more delays than the other major carriers.  

The broken plane.  It looked like they had Delta employees trying to fix it.
I cannot recommend them to anyone because I cannot guarantee your safety due to the fact that two of their airplanes had major malfunctions, which delayed us.  I also cannot guarantee that you will get to your destination on time.  You may end up missing an entire day of income like we did, while paying others to do your job and also paying for a condo you are not sleeping in while you lay on the floor of the airport with a blind man, his seeing eye dog, 5 grumpy children, 2 grandparents, 2 aunts an uncle and a cousin.   

On the floor of the terminal at 2 in the morning.


To Whom it Concerns,

I am requesting a full refund and free round trip e-ticket for each person in my family travelling on Hawaiian flight 21 from Seattle to Honolulu, November 17 2011.  

My young family of seven was among the customers affected by the major delays of this flight, caused by what we perceived to be gross negligence on the part of Hawaiian in planning for major mechanical breakdowns of not one, but two planes.  We are a very patient bunch, but when travel that should only take a few hours lasts 24 hours, it is exhausting.  I grew up in Hawaii, travelling often via Hawaiian air and other airlines to Indiana to see family.  Never in my life have I had a horrific delay such as this.  I would like to believe it is an anomaly, but from what other passengers on our flight were saying from personal experience, it is becoming the norm.  A blind man who was sitting in the terminal with us told us that recently he had the same unheard of length of delay with Hawaiian on another flight.  This was just one of many such instances we heard of while sharing our story.

We have five children, aged 3 to 13.  Our family was thankful for the food vouchers that were provided for use at the airport, otherwise the kids may have had a mutiny. They were the only thing that made the delay slightly bearable.  We have been preparing all year with our extended family for this trip.  We travelled not only with our five children, but with 3 aunts and uncles, 2 grandparents and a cousin.  You can imagine the expense put out for car, lodging and flight for all of us.  It took lots of eating beans and rice to be able to save for this special time for all of us to visit my parents in Makaha.  

 The hotel vouchers that were offered late into the delay were worthless.  We trekked with our family to wait in our Hawaii climate clothes for the Ramada van.  The van did not have functioning seatbelts, and we feared for the safety of our kids.  When we arrived, we found that out that this one van was supposed to transfer our entire flight of people back to the airport at departure time.  We were assigned a room on a smoking floor without our knowledge and a person from our flight was just walking out the door of the room as we tried to go in.  It was awkward and insulting to think that we with small children should be asked to stay in a room that reeked of cigarettes and would aggravate my husband's asthma.  The people from our flight who were leaving that room also had small children and asthma and had just asked to be moved.  We were moved to another room, but only stayed for 2 hours because we were concerned about the flood of people returning for the flight.  I was thankful for the half hour of sleep I got, however, and the fact that I didn't have to worry about losing my children in the airport for 2 hours.  My children, however, did not sleep and neither did my husband.  They were all cranky, sad and exhausted.  We returned to the terminal, only to board the plane for one hour, have 3 children and my husband fall asleep, and then have to wake them all to deplane due to another airplane mechanical failure.  My son thought we were in Hawaii and began to cry when he saw we were still in Washington.  My 3 year old begged to go home.  And the Hawaiian airlines employees offered us no hope, saying there was not another flight to be had.  We began to think we were going to lose our entire vacation.  We couldn't even go home because we had been driven to the airport.  We were miserable. We were forced to put our kids to sleep on the ground of the terminal.  The blind man and his seeing eye dog lay down near us.  The kids were cold, so I had to go ask the flight attendants to provide blankets.  We were thirsty, so we asked if water could be provided.  These things were provided only after our prompting.  Upon arrival in Hawaii, my legs and those of my husband's were grossly swollen for two days from all the sitting we did.  

I do not believe that the $300 vouchers we were provided for each ticket suffice to replace the loss we sustained by these delays.  Our family runs a business and we had to hire 3 people to take care of our affairs while we were away.  We purposely left early on a Thursday so that we would have time that day to rest, shop, and dive into vacationing on Friday.  Instead of arriving in Hawaii at 1:35 pm Thursday with lots of time to spare, we arrived somewhere around 8AM the following day.  I did not write it down because i was in such a haze of exhaustion from travelling so long with our clan.  We missed the first night of staying in our condo and could not get a refund.  We missed the first day of our car reservation.  My mom, a Hawaii resident, was going to spend Thursday afternoon with us, but instead we did not get to see her until the following day.  It took us that entire day to recover from jetlag.  My 8 year old did sleep walking and put himself in a dangerous situation.  He only does this when he is overly exhausted.  We understand that the emergency landing of the plane we were to originally to board occurred the night before our intended departure time and were appalled to find that there were no provisions made to inform passengers ahead of time of the situation or provide other means of transportation in the large amount of time Hawaiian had to problem solve.   We were shocked to find that Hawaiian does not keep airplane parts for repair at the terminals of each airport, and that Hawaiian used the precious time of its passengers to do repairs, rather than building it into their normal schedule. 

 I understand that Hawaiian is expanding its services with a nonstop flight from Hawaii to New York, and I noticed upon leaving Honolulu that expensive new check in computers and equipment has been implemented.  We can only assume that the bulk of Hawaiian's funds are being funneled into these endeavors instead of into maintaining their current fleet and managing its safety.  I write primarily out of concern for future flights.  If our flight was delayed not once, but twice by mechanical problems, it worries me that Hawaiian has a major mechanical failure looming on the horizon, one that would cost not only reservations and time, but lives.  I cannot knowingly continue to fly Hawaiian unless I can be reassured of the safety of its fleet, and that provisions have been made in case of unforeseen mechanical breakdown, so that I do not lose another precious chunk of time with my family in in Hawaii, and so I do not have to fear for the safety and lives of my children each time I fly.

Thank you,
Angela Donnelson, writing for my family


Oh Christmas Tree: portraits of family and festivity

Yesterday was the date of our annual Christmas tree cutting.  We met up with my friend Jeanette, who grew up with me in Hawaii and lives in Seattle with her husband Morgan.  My brother and his family always come along too.  I had promised a photo shoot for my niece's birthday, so we squeezed in some pictures of their little family as we searched for the perfect tree in the 3pm sunset light of late fall.

Stink Eye

the girl of many faces

pretend knock out


another photobomb

last photobomb

right size?

And she fell from the sky...


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