Friday Finds: What we See

As you know by now, the word See for me is a very active word.  Really seeing the world around us is a skill that needs to be cultivated.  We, too often, go through our days not really seeing the beauty, the awesomeness, that is right in front of us.

Recently there have been advertisements in photography magazines showing all the eye movements and thoughts that  go through a photographer’s mind when creating an image.  The idea had really stuck with me, so I did a bit of digging the other day and discovered the ad was actually based on a little experiment that Canon did.

The experiment involved special eye tracking equipment to record the eye movements of 3 different people while they were looking at an image.  Those 3 people were a non-photographer, a photography student, and a professional photographer.  It’s is really fascinating to observe how much each of the people sees.

This is not to say that non-photographers can never see at that level.  I believe it’s more a learned habit than innate. Though there may be some innate talent, photographers have also trained themselves through much practice to see all that is in a scene.  I think there’s no reason non-photographers couldn’t be equally observant if they cultivate their powers of seeing.

Watch the video and let me know what you think:

Canon’s Experiment Shows How Obsessed Photographers Are Over The Details

Gratitude for Super Powers

I’ve been taking a wonderful online photography course called Meditations on Gratitude. It’s been a good way to go a bit deeper with my photography and to stretch my thinking a bit. And mostly it’s been fun and uplifting to really focus on gratitude!

One of the lessons was about being grateful for our bodies. Even if there are parts that don’t always work so well, there are still parts that do work well. We were given the task of photographing something about our bodies for which we are grateful. There were a few examples of artists who work with self-portraiture, as well.

Oh no, self portraits!! I so resist being the subject of images so this was a challenge for me. It percolated under the surface for a week or so before I posted my response to the task. As I was thinking I realized that my favorite part about my body is my eyes, my sight. I think “seeing” is one of my super powers. I’ve always noticed things that other people don’t.

We were out for lunch and the sunlight was coming in a window onto our table and it was interesting the way it framed my glasses, so I took a photo on my phone. I kept thinking I couldn’t use that image, it felt like cheating. 🙂 But as I scanned through the images on my phone there were so many images of interesting light. Images I had taken just because I thought the light was interesting. I decided to play with all those. I put them together and this image is the result, sort of what it looks like to be seeing through my eyes all the time, constantly watching light.


I am so so grateful for my eyes and my vision.

I like to think that we each have super powers, those things that make us unique. Those things that we are generally better at doing that others. You might call them our gifts. What are your super powers? What about your body, your being makes you grateful?

Adirondack Colors

Fall is currently putting on a spectacular show in upstate NY.  We’ve had warm sunny days and incredible colors.  The only thing that is not good about Fall is the long winter that comes after.   We went on a little adventure to savor these amazing days and took a drive on the Powley-Piseco Rd. in Fulton County, NY.   It’s in the southern portion of the Adirondack Park.

If you live in the area and have an opportunity, I highly (Haile, get it?) recommend exploring this bit of paradise.

Here’s a few of my favorites from our day.

Powley Piseco Rd-1-©GailSHaile Powley Piseco Rd-2-©GailSHaile Powley Piseco Rd-3-©GailSHaile Powley Piseco Rd-4-©GailSHaile Powley Piseco Rd-5-©GailSHaile Powley Piseco Rd-6-©GailSHaile

Friday Finds: Jay Maisel

Jay Maisel is a photographer that I learned about when studying the history of photography in college.  So his work is not really new to me, though I hadn’t really spent time enjoying it in a long time.  And I did enjoy his work.  He has a very keen eye for details that would go unnoticed by many.


©Jay Maisel

What this Friday Find is really about is a video that I recently viewed in which Maisel talks about “How to Be a Better Photographer.”   If you’re not a photographer, don’t worry, it applies to simply being a human as well.    It’s a short video, only 2:43 minutes, but it is rich with wisdom.

Some of his advice:

“Be open.

Be open to what is in front of you.”

“Walk slow, slower that you’re walking.” 

“I’m trying no to look for anything.  I’m trying to have it come to me. “

Spend a few minutes looking at his work and listening to his advice.  It will be time well spent.

Jay Maisel website:

Jay Maisel on How to Be a Better Photographer:


Right under my nose

I spent 3 wonderful days last week in Rockport, MA on a little retreat.  Rockport is a small, very old and historic port north of Boston.  Anywhere near the ocean is heaven for me and three days with only myself and my own thoughts was an added treat.  I made lots of images, spent masses of time on a rocky, shallow beach that begs to be explored for hours at low tide, played with images of the bobbing dinghys in the harbor, played with my Lensbaby, but the most satisfying images were made in the last hour I was there.

The tiny cottage where I stayed had a spiral staircase and a string of driftwood pieces hanging along side it.  Just before I was to leave, I noticed some interesting light and all the lines that were being created in that spot.  Packing stopped and I spent more than 30 minutes making images of the lines and light.  Of a week filled with things I love, for some reason this slice of time was extremely gratifying.

Perhaps because I had spent a few days exhaling and relaxing, I was more able to notice and appreciate this little scene of quiet wonder.  But, noticing these small things is what fills our days with delight and gratitude.  It was a reminder to me (because we all need frequent reminding) to stop often and appreciate what is right under my nose.

Lines-1-©GailSHaile Lines-2-©GailSHaile Lines-3-©GailSHaile

Friday Finds: Ella Putney Carlson

Another Friday and the chance to share with you some work and artists, that inspire me.

Ella Putney Carlson is not a recent “Find” but a friend that I first met by sitting behind her in a Photoshop class about five years ago.  We’ve sat in several classes together since then and I am always inspired by her and her work.  Next week, I’m happy to be attending a class that she is teaching.

Five years ago when we first met, she had just completed a series of complex images with dancers.  I’d never seen anything like what she was doing and the skill with which she created those images was astounding.

From the Dancer Series - Ella Putney Carlson

From the Dancer Series – Ella Putney Carlson

Her more recent work is just as exquisite and shows her meticulous level of skill and vision. 

Scars Series by Ella Putney Carlson

Scars Series by Ella Putney Carlson

This is my favorite from the Scars series.  It’s so abstract, yet detailed.  I can look at it many times and see something different each time.  And it leaves me wanting to know more. 

From the Scars Series - Ella Putney Carlson

From the Scars Series – Ella Putney Carlson

The Reconsiderations series are all images of tea, highly manipulated.  

Reconsiderations Series - Ella Putney Carlson

Reconsiderations Series – Ella Putney Carlson

Ella inspires me with her amazing mastery of Photoshop and other digital imaging methods, I always learn something from her.  And yet, time and time again, she is sitting in a class to learn from  others.

I am most inspired by her unfailing quest to push herself and her work in new directions.

Spend some time with the works on her siteand see if you are inspired as well.

Being a Rookie

It’s really good for us to be a rookie, a beginner, sometimes.  I so enjoy my level of competence with photography but also love to challenge myself to learn new skills that have the potential to push me and my work a bit further.

I’ve been feeling like a total rookie lately.  I’ve been transported back to my early days of learning this craft, feeling like I don’t understand how my camera is working and how to control it, looking at my images and seeing more duds than successes.

What has caused all this?  The Lensbaby!   A Lensbaby is a specialized lens that, in the right hands, creates very dreamy images, which you know I love.  Heck, their motto is “see in a new way.”  Of course I’d want a piece of that!  I bought one of the early versions (on the left below) several years ago and could not master it.  To be fair to me, it was basically a lens on a squishy tube that you had to squeeze, bend, hold, and focus to get an image.   Just couldn’t get the hang of it.  But I still really admired the look of Lensbaby images that I saw.  Then a few years ago they came out with a more advanced version of the lens (on the right below).  It no longer had a squishy tube, but rather was on a ball that you could rotate and the lens would stay where you bent it.  Yay!

I thought this would be so much better and I’d have these wonderful images with soft, blurred edges and a sharp area of focus where ever I decided to put it. But I still just couldn’t get the hang of it.  It hung out in my camera closet taunting me.

So I decided to do something about that.  Kathleen Clemons is one of the photographers that is well known for her skill with a Lensbaby.  Her soft, impressionistic images are just exquisite. She teaches a 4 week online class covering the basics of Lensbaby photography.

We’re in our third week now, and while I understand now what I was doing wrong before there is still a bit of a learning curve.  This is where I feel like a total rookie again.  My images (mostly) don’t have good sharp focus where they should, the lens is much wider in scope (50mm) than I normally use. and more.  I’m getting there but I just generally feel like a beginner again.

But that’s OK!  I recently came across this great TEDx Talk by Andi Stevenson on Being a Rookie.   Take the time to watch it, it’s wonderful.  But two things she said resonated so much with me:

“When we stay safely within the boundaries of the things we already do well, we miss risk and innovation….We miss the chance to be afraid, to push through being afraid, and turn around on the other side and look back and see ourselves as brave.”

So here’s to risk, innovation, bravery, and being a rookie!

Here are just of few of the hundreds of images I have taken (most of which failed epic-ally) that are sort of a success,  I will keep risking and learning! 🙂

lensbaby-8013-gailshaile lensbaby-8041-gailshaile lensbaby-8055-gailshaile lensbaby-8074-gailshaile lensbaby-8056-gailshaile lensbaby-8078-gailshaile


Friday Finds: Ruth A B Clegg

A couple of years ago, I attended a day long seminar in the Boston area.  Ruth Clegg was one of the three speakers.   I was inspired by her work and her approach to photography.  She incorporated printmaking into her world, not just the darkroom kind of photographic prints but the process of creating prints by making impressions on paper.   At the time, I’d never seen anyone do that with photography, only with stencils.  I loved the quality of those carefully crafted prints.

What also inspired me about Ruth’s work was her sense of experimentation.   A great deal of her time is spent on the water in Rhode Island as well as the Adirondacks.  She shared with us a project that she had been working on to photograph underneath the water while in her kayak.   I was excited to be able to see the result of the project recently at the View Center for the Arts in Old Forge, NY.    I loved the work so much, I’ve been to see it twice.

What inspired me about Ruth’s exhibit is the uncommon view she provided of a world we don’t normally see.  The quality of light in the images, as well as her choices for printing, were also fascinating to me.

If you are anywhere near Old Forge, NY, even within a 100 miles or so, treat yourself and see her exhibit before it closes October 16.  If you can’t make it in person, enjoy a selection of the images here.

View Art Center-Under & Over, exploration of Adirondack pond life. Ruth AB Clegg

View Art Center-Under & Over, exploration of Adirondack pond life. Ruth AB Clegg

This says it all.

“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”                                                                                                                 Henri Cartier-Bresson

I’m busy taking a wonderful online class with Laura ValentiThis quote from famous French photographer, Cartier-Bresson, was used in one of the lessons.  Despite my predilection for quote collecting, I had never read this one before.  When I first read it, I was stunned as it sums up precisely what photography is for me.

That “great physical and intellectual joy” is so so true for me when I am creating with my camera.  This image, from an afternoon of creating with water and color and movement, is a result of that joy.

“Fleeting reality” is also what I work to capture, those moments that are here for a split second and then gone.  But then, isn’t that all of life?

I hope you find some joy in those fleeting moments this week.


Fall Water Abstract-03_©Gail Haile

Fall Water Abstract-03_©Gail Haile Prints available.

Friday Finds: Patterns in the City

Lately, my Friday Finds posts have shared how other artists are working with patterns.  I discovered Patternicity recently and am intrigued with the project.  An industrial design student at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, Yasemin Uyar, describes the Patternicity Project on her website :

“Patternicity is a 100 day project that I am working on as a part of my masters in branding at SVA.

Each day for 100 days, I am discovering patterns in overlooked noise through observation.

Besides telling a story, the representation of information has a huge influence on the decision making process. With this project, I am exercising how to see to discover, learn and tell. “


A sampling of patterns from Patternicity.

There are many reasons to be intrigued by Uyar’s project.

  • Of course, you know by now that I love patterns.
  • She also works in the way that I do to find these “patterns in overlooked noise through observation.”  She views it as an exercise in seeing,  Much of my work is about Seeing, finding what is right in front of us all along.
  • The varied colors and the beautiful presentation makes them a joy to view.
  • The simplicity of her presentation belies the complex process that she employs to develop them.  When you click on a specific pattern on her site, you are taken to a page that shows the genesis and process for that particular pattern.  For instance, the pattern titled  “WALKING ALONE OR IN GROUPS?”   The process is what was most intriguing for me.

Walking Alone or In Groups ©Yasemin Uyar

Enjoy some time looking over these lovely patterns.  I hope you find inspiration in the patterns and the process, as I have.