Category Archives: Second Look

A Glimpse of Spring

I was going through my image files today, getting prepared for an exhibition that I am applying for (more about that another time).  My files are full of images that I haven’t done anything with yet, just waiting for their time to be noticed.  Sometimes, when I create images they don’t really speak to me at that moment in time.  I have learned to be patient and revisit them at another time.  Not always, but often, the images will speak to me months or years after I’ve created them.

As I was reviewing image folders, I found several different groups that had a similar point of view.  They were all taken at ground level and very close up, sort of like an ant’s view.  So I began to put them into one collection and see where that leads.

Perhaps because we are on the cusp of spring, these four images particularly appealed to me today, so I thought I would share them with you.  Meanwhile, I will continue to think about the idea of shooting with the perspective of an ant.

Makeover Story: Portrait of a Cozy Cottage

Everyone loves a makeover.  The list of television shows based on the idea of a makeover , extreme or otherwise, is very long.  Before and after photos of kitchens, backyards, hairstyles, fitness programs, and more can be found all over the internet.  We love the the sense of renewal that comes with makeovers.

A makeover is a one description of what I like to do with my images.  What comes from the camera can be a bit flat and full of things that don’t belong.  For me, that is just the starting point.  What comes from the camera is not always what I envisioned in my mind when I first encountered the scene.  There is a category in this blog call Second Look, examples of images that I’ve revisited and given a makeover.  I’ve been particularly enjoying doing this with images of homes and buildings recently.

I happened upon this lovely cottage when we were visiting Connecticut last fall.   I knew it had the potential for an interesting home portrait.

Cozy Cottage RAW file_ ©GSHaile  This is the image just as it came from the camera.

Cozy Cottage RAW file_ ©GSHaile This is the image just as it came from the camera.

The image just as my camera’s sensor recorded it with no processing at all is a RAW file. Many cameras only give you a JPG file that had been compressed and lost information.   RAW files give you much more leeway to make changes and be creative.

Then the work (and fun) begins. To makeover this image:

  • I cropped out the bit of the house to the left, the little bit of car on the right, and some  of the road in front.  There was still some of the house on the left remaining when I got the proper crop so I added greenery over it, extending the wooded area.
  • There was still a bit of the road in the bottom right corner and I turned that into leaf strewn gravel like the rest of the foreground.
  • The messy power lines were removed.  (One of the most time consuming parts of the image.  Someone should invent a magic filter to take out power lines. 🙂 )
  • Color and saturation adjustments were made throughout the image, both globally and selectively.  Painting in brightness and contrast selectively gives more depth to the image.
  • The dark area to the left of the cottage seemed empty and my eye kept going there, expecting to see something.  I tried adding a bench but that didn’t really do what I wanted.  So I painted in a trunk to anchor the greenery there.
  • The sky was bright and colorless. It’s subtle, but I added a hint of blue to the sky to convey that bright, hazy October sky.
  • The window on the door had something covering the middle panes and I restored the glass in that area.
  • The roof of the firewood structure had the green tarp hanging down which wasn’t very pleasing, so I worked some magic and made it go away.
  • Finally I did some digital painting all over the image to take it even further from the realm of a straight photograph.

All of this makeover was done in Adobe Photoshop.  Sometimes, I also use Corel Painter.

The final image is much more what my eyes and my mind saw when I first came upon this lovely cottage. Not as much a makeover, as bringing the life back to the original image.

Cozy Cottage ©Gail Haile The final painting of this quaint cottage in Chester, CT.

Cozy Cottage ©Gail Haile
The final painting of this quaint cottage in Chester, CT.

Hanging like the Clouds

Sometimes you just need to stop and hang for a while.

As an artist, never mind that, as anyone, there are ebbs and flows to our energy and our creativity.  I’ve learned over the years to not get overly anxious about times when the motivation seems thin.  It will pass.  Looking back, those quiet times have  often just been incubation periods for something new.

While out walking, I was looking up at the evening sky and the clouds and was reminded of a series of images I took several months ago with the intention of creating a cloud panoramic.  I found those images and created this scene that I had in mind when I shot those images.  It’s a very peaceful image to me and reminds me of the wisdom of just hanging out like the clouds sometimes.

Cloudscape   ©GSHaile

Cloudscape ©GSHaile Click to Enlarge

A Way-back Machine?: Second Look

I found these images in a folder labeled “spring 05” inside my “flowers” folder (that’s a rather large folder! 😉 )  The images were taken in early May.  Obviously, I’d gone out to try to catch some of the spring blooms, especially the trillium.  On second lookI still wasn’t crazy about the trillium images but there were a few unexpected gems that I had dismissed at that time.

It seems I did find at least one bloom, a bleeding heart, a plant that loves the shady areas and often has pink blossoms but occasionally shows it’s white version like this one.  With some enhanced contrast and detail it was much improved over the SOOC (straight out of camera) version. A vignette to darken the corners and focus more attention on the blossoms was all it needed to finish it.

The rest of the images I found in that folder had nothing to do with spring blossoms and were not the type of images I’m usually inclined to make.  In my travels that day, I came across this rusty old iron machine.  It’s quite large, probably 10 or 12 feet high.  I included the shot of the whole rig so you could get an idea of the whole machine.

I found the shapes and colors sort of interesting so took a few detail shots but, again, dismissed them at that time.  Revisiting them, I decided they had a bit of character and were worth working on a bit.    A bit of cropping, a bit of detail enhancement, and creating a sepia tone pulled out that character even further.  I love the way “Reliance” stands out.  They are very evocative of the industrial age.

So, if you have any clues as to what this mystery machine is, please leave your suggestions in the comments.

Please remember to “Like”, Pin, Comment & Share.  Thanks!

Windows of Germany: Second Look

Some of my family is visiting Germany this week, so I was inspired to take a second look at some of the images that I took while I was there in 2008.  We’d gone to Germany to attend the German reception for our daughter and German son-in-law who had been married the previous month in our home town.  We had a few days after the reception to hit some of the highlights of Germany but not much more.  When I returned home, I was in the middle of high school senior portrait season so didn’t have the time to review the thousands of images that I came home with.


We spent one day in Heidelberg, Germany and visited the Heidelberg Palace that dates from the 13th century.  It was an amazing piece of architecture and history and so vast that it was hard to know how to capture it in images.  In one corner of the property I spotted this little face peeking out of the window.  It appeared that the room he was in was a storage room for all sorts of architectural pieces that were waiting to be restored and put back in their proper place.  I wondered how long this sweet face had been peering out of that window.

I only had a few seconds to capture his face and always wished that I’d had more time to play with different angles and compositions.  So I had sort of dismissed this image,  but when I went back and took a second look, I decided that there was something there.   (You may remember from this post that SOOc stands for “straight out of camera”.)©Gail Haile_Peek-a-Boo_SOOC©Gail Haile_Peek-a-Boo_SOOC

With a bit of cropping to improve the composition, then enhancing the color and the detail, I really like this image.  It does make you wonder how long he’s been in there and conjures up stories of being held captive during during one of the many periods of unrest that the palace was part of.

©Gail Haile_Peek-a-Boo

©Gail Haile_Peek-a-Boo

Windows and flowers!

Whenever I’ve been in Europe, I come home with hundreds of images of windows and doors.  (Perhaps I should do a blog post about those?) The architecture represents so many different periods, back to the middle ages, that the diversity of styles is quite profound.  And Europeans love to adorn their windows with flowers, especially geraniums, much more than we do here in the US.

This is a simple window image that I brought home from that trip to Germany.  SOOC and soon after the trip, I wasn’t impressed and dismissed it.

©Gail Haile_Wall of Geranium_SOOC

©Gail Haile_Wall of Geranium_SOOC

Upon taking a second look, recently, I decided it just needed a bit of detail and color enhancement and a bit of straightening and it was no longer to be dismissed.  I “painted” in a bit more contrast and detail in the plant to give it more dimension as well.

©Gail Haile_Wall of Geranium

©Gail Haile_Wall of Geranium

 Pay attention for interesting and  unusual windows in your travels this week.  

Please remember to “Like”, Pin, Comment & Share.  Thanks!

Revisiting Ireland: Second Look

If you’ve been keeping up with me, you might remember that I’ve been going into my archives and revisiting images that never got the proper attention that they deserved when they were first created.  I’ve been taking a second look.

Recently, I was asked if I might have any images from Ireland that would be suitable to decorate a family waiting room in a local nursing home.  A local family wanted to decorate this austere room in memory of their mother who recently passed away and simultaneously provide a warm, welcome environment where other families could visit.  Since the family had proud Irish roots, they thought an Irish theme to the room would create that welcoming atmosphere.

I’ve been to Ireland twice and both times have come home with thousands of images. Ireland is an image rich land and it is a photographer’s dream location. But, after the initial excitement of arriving home and downloading the images, life often takes over and I don’t have the time to thoroughly review and process all the images.  So, in preparing a selection of images for the nursing home, I had the pleasure of revisiting Ireland all over again.  And the gift of time gives me a different perspective regarding the images. That seemed to fit the bill of a second look, so I thought I would share a few of the images here.

If you are not a photographer, here is where I’m going to let you in on one of the industry’s acronyms, SOOC.  Well, I was going to tell you what it means but then thought it would be interesting to see if you can figure it out.  As you will see in this gallery of images, there is a “before” and an “after” image.  The “before” is without any processing or enhancements and the “after” is well, after.  I process the digital file to optimize the exposure and other settings (digital images are usually low in contrast and saturation in their original form), then do various enhancements to the image based on both my memory and my vision for the scene.  SOOC is the “before” image.  Any idea what that stands for?   Leave a comment with your guess below.  I’ll send a set of 4 Irish note cards featuring a few of these images to a randomly chosen person with the correct answer.

All of these images are available as prints in the Ireland collection here.

Please remember to share this if you know someone who would enjoy my work.  Thank you!

Hope in the Winter Woods: Second Look

Recently, I began a practice of going back into my archives and pulling out images that I had forgotten about, something I call Second Look.  There are 100’s of thousands of images in my archives. I am a classic over-shooter.  It’s not unusual for me to be on a trip and come home with 5,000 images. When I get back to the studio, I download the images, but often have to get back to other work.  It may be a while, sometimes even years till I took at those images.   So I have lots of material just waiting for that second look.   (more…)