Category Archives: Celebrating

Out There: News

It occurred to me that I forgot to mention some exciting news from the last couple of months.  When we first looked around Staunton, our new home town, we visited a great gallery that is the Shenandoah Valley’s largest cooperative gallery.  Co Art Gallery has been around for over 20 years and has many of the area’s most well known and loved artists as it’s members.  In my mind, I set it as a goal to be part of this wonderful space if we should settle in Staunton.

It had been on my TO DO list since moving in September to find out about applying to the gallery but I was more involved in new house adventures and it didn’t happen.  One day in late January, I looked at my TO DO list and, ignoring all the other things on the list, focused on the gallery and thought, “OK, just do this.”   I called the gallery, found I needed to drive down and get an application, so did that immediately.  I spent the afternoon , completing the application, updating my CV, and deciding what pieces to include for the standards committee to review.  The next morning I took it all down and left it at the gallery.  And then waited.  In a week or so, I was told that I had been accepted!  Woo Hoo!!  I was and still am so honored to be part of this wonderful group of artists.

March was my first month at the gallery, so I spent the rest of February deciding what to hang in my space and preparing those pieces.  Each artist is assigned a space that is approximately 5 or 6 feet wide and you can put whatever you choose in your space.  Every three months the whole gallery shifts around.  We change spaces and change art work to keep it all fresh and interesting.  I’m currently preparing new work for the next big shift on May 5. There are also bins for loose prints  as well as shelves for note cards.  I’ve placed some of my Inner Aperture Fine Art cards on the shelves and will be adding just a few prints to the bins this week.

Each day, a different artist, or two, is at the gallery as a  docent to assist people coming in to the gallery, located on the main street of downtown Staunton in one of the many architecturally fascinating buildings.   After serving as docent a few times, it’s been quite interesting to meet other artists whose work is in the gallery as well as the people who come in to see the work.

My display on the day I set it up in early March.

Close view of the pieces I hung.

Just last week, 3 of my pieces sold.  The first one, The View from Shore 10, I replaced with Flow. Flow sold the next day. and Calm Waters replaced that.  I few days later, Between the Mountains and the Sea sold and I replaced it with Golden Aspens 1.

It was a good week!  I’m happy that the work is speaking to people.

Road to the IPC Medals

People’s minds are on medals at the moment with the Olympics starting a few days ago in Brazil.  There was another sort of Olympics earlier last week that did not get as much press but was equally important to thousands of photographers, the IPC.

The International Photographic Competition, IPC, happened over the course of 5 days last week at a small college outside of Atlanta.   It was streamed live, and I dare say that productivity in the photography world took a big dive last week as people were glued to their monitors watching the live feed, waiting for their images to appear, or just watching and learning.

A VERY, VERY abbreviated version of the IPC process goes like this:

  • Choose 4 of your best images. (Alternately, photographers have an idea for a competition image and photograph with that in mind.)
  • Refine the images till they are the best you know how to make them. Often this involves soliciting feedback from other photographers. This is the most intensive part of the process.
  • Submit those 4 images to IPC (this is called your case).
  • The images are judged by panels of highly trained and experienced jurors using the standard of the 12 elements of a merit image,
  • images that meet or exceed those criteria are granted a merit (merits are accumulated and go towards degrees),  and are included in the General Collection (the Best Images) of the IPC exhibit, .
  • All merit images are then judged for the Loan Collection (Best of the Best images) of the IPC exhibit.  Loan images also earn an extra merit point.
  • Based on the results for your case, you can receive various Photographer of the Year medals.          Bronze = 4 merit images                                                                                                                         Silver = 3 merit images, 1 loan image                                                                                                   Gold = 2 merit images, 2 loan images                                                                                                   Platinum = 1 merit image, 3 loan images                                                                                             Diamond = 4 loan images
  • Loan images are judged for Grand Imaging Awards by the entire group of jurors and the top 10 images are selected in various categories.
  • At PPA’s annual conference in January, ImagingUSA,  the Top Ten in each category are honored at the Grand Imaging Awards and the top 3 are announced.  The top image in each category is in contention for the Top Image of the year which is also announced at that time.

A few years ago I wrote a post about why I compete.  I’ve since earned my Master of Photography degree from PPA.  Master Artist and Photographic Craftsman degrees are on my agenda at the moment.  But I don’t compete simply to earn degrees (though that is a valid reason).  I compete in order to challenge myself and my work.

Why I continue to compete has much more to do with pushing myself that earning degrees.

I really couldn’t say it any better than Dave Hunstman, a photographer and Affiliated International Photographic Jury Chairman.  “Image Competition is a competition you can’t lose… Image competition makes you think about everything. It makes you learn to evaluate images, it helps you see differently, it expands your vision, it opens up your mind making you try new things. It’s a community project, people critiquing, encouraging and elevating each other to achieve all that they can.”  

I had a goal this year and I failed to reach it.  Or did I?

Twice, I have been honored to receive a Platinum Photographer of the Year Medal, 3 Loan and 1 General Collection images.   Each year, I wonder how I can push myself beyond what I did the year before.  So early in the process, I decided I would go for Diamond this year, all four images going to the Loan Collection.  That meant I had to work hard to ensure that my work was the absolute best it could be.  I spent a great deal of time analyzing images, refining images, discarding images, asking for opinions on images, trusting my instincts about images, and finally making decisions about images to submit.

The final result for my case this year was Platinum and while I will admit to a momentary pity party, it didn’t last long.  The reward is not in the medal but in the process.  I’ve learned a great deal, met more great people, tried new techniques, and broadened my perspective. That is always a winning situation.

Below are my entries in the Photographic Open for 2016:

Symmetry: 2016 IPC Loan Collection  I love architecture and created a panoramic image of the ceiling of the library in Utica, NY. The result was one half of this image. (Look at the image sideways and look at the upper half to will see what I saw.) I turned it on it’s side and duplicated it to create a mirror image, and joined them to create the final image here.

Fine art photography of architecture of Utica LIbrary, Utica, NY.

Symmetry: 2016 IPC Loan Collection


Emerging: 2016 IPC Loan Collection  Sometimes I look through my older files and find hidden gems that I didn’t appreciate earlier. I photographed this Sunflower bud in the studio a few years ago and had forgotten about it. When I was thinking about IPC early in the year, I came across this and, knowing more now, recognized it’s potential.

Fine art photograph of sunflower bud.

Emerging: 2016 IPC Loan Collection.


Branching Our: 2016 General Collection  I was prepared to submit a totally different image but at the last minute decided that the other image did not have as much potential to achieve Loan Collection status. I had just created this mandala while experimenting with adding more repetitions to my mandalas and felt it might have more Loan potential. It didn’t go Loan but I don’t regret the decision.

Photographic nature mandala.

Branching Our: 2016 General Collection


One additional way I challenged myself this year was to create and submit an album.  The album is judged as a whole and every piece of the album has to adhere to the same high standards as individual images.  I always wondered why one would do this.  Why submit 10 or 12 images when one would do?  Aren’t you making it even more difficult to merit, and especially loan?  But at some point this year, I just knew that I needed to take a step out and challenge myself more.

I’ve been creating mandalas for several years now and have published several inspirational calendars of mandalas.   Creating an album of mandalas was a logical place to start.  Many of my mandalas use images of trees for source images so an album that celebrated trees came to mind.  This album went through several iterations before it came to this.  It actually received a merit at District Image Competion and if I’d sent it straight to IPC as it was, it would have been an automatic merit.  But I knew it could be better, so I basically threw away the guaranteed merit to make changes and submit a revised album.  I was confident that the revised album was the best of my abilities.  My risk paid off as the album, Trees, was selected for the Loan Collection. 🙂


I hope this has made a small amount of sense out of a somewhat complicated process.  

It always is much more about competing with myself and improving my work and vision.  It truly is about the journey and not the destination.

I’m already starting to plan for next year.  Diamond, anyone?

Be a Beginner

I was invited to participate in a group “Intuitive Monoprint Play” day.  It was a gift from one of the members of our creativity group.  Prior to the set day, we were emailed some links to read and videos to watch to “prime the pump” in preparation for the day of play.  I’d never done any kind of work with a printing press.  I carefully read all the links and watched the videos, and then, always one to do research, starting searching for more information.  The more I read, the more I researched, and the more I researched I noticed that I was getting this feeling that I had to create something amazing.  It had to be really good.  (Nothing like putting pressure on yourself.)  After about an hour of that, I heard this voice in my head whispering “Be a beginner.”

Yes!  I love to learn new things, to play, to be a beginner.  Why was I creating this pressure to produce?  Once I heard that whisper I calmed down, closed all the tabs in my browser and committed to just show up and be a beginner.

Since then, I discovered that there’s actually a Zen concept of Beginner’s Mind.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few”  ― Shunryu Suzuki  Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice

It was a fun day of play and more enjoyable for having lost the attitude of being “good” at it.

Here is a bit of the process, with one of the other beginners, after the plate had been inked:

Print Play

And here are some of my results:

20160117_105427 20160117_114359

Will I become a printer now?  I don’t really think so.  It was a fun day but the best part was the reminder to not be afraid to be a beginner.

In my photography, while I like being proficient and that is important, I frequently try out new gear or techniques to challenge myself.  It’s one of the reasons I like photography so much, there is never an end to what you can do or learn.  This is my next challenge below.  It’s a panoramic head to more precisely shoot panoramic images.  I’m still figuring out how to use it. But I will!

Nodal Ninja

Nodal Ninja

 There’s much to be gained by the willingness to be a beginner.    Have you been a beginner at something lately?

Windows on Spring

Despite the fact that it’s not a Wednesday, I couldn’t resist posting today because it’s the first day of spring!  In this part of the world, it doesn’t always look like spring for a few weeks yet, but the vernal equinox is a window of hope that warmer, sunnier days are coming.  Spring is my favorite season, with all it’s sense of possibility and potential, so it’s a reason for celebration.

Windows are one of my favorite subjects to photograph.  Windows are endlessly fascinating and full of symbolism.  I pulled some particularly welcoming, spring-like windows from my collection to share with you today and remind you of what is to come.  These windows are all in Switzerland where people take great pleasure in adorning their windows with color and pattern and, most often, flowers.

Happy Spring!

This window and flower box seem to be waiting for spring.   ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 1

This window and flower box seem to be just waiting for spring. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 1

©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 2

Primrose and mini daffodils in lovely pots adorn this city window sill. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 2

©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 3

Pansies and daffodils are some of the most delightful flowers. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 3

Even with just one small flower pot, this homeowner created a happy window on the world.  ©GSHaile  Swiss-Window-04

Even with just one small flower pot, this homeowner created a happy window on the world. ©GSHaile Swiss-Window-04

Geraniums are by far the preferred choice for flower boxes.  ©GSHaile  Swiss-Window-05

Geraniums are by far the preferred choice for flower boxes. ©GSHaile Swiss-Window-05

©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 6

©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 6

Such a happy shade of blue!  They even included coordinating Lobelia in their boxes. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 7

Such a happy shade of blue! They even included coordinating Lobelia in their boxes. ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 7

Even the trim on this window looks like a series of smiles. ©GSHaile  Swiss-Window-08

Even the trim on this window looks like a series of smiles. ©GSHaile Swiss-Window-08

More geraniums!  ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 9

More geraniums! ©Gail Haile_Swiss Windows 9

Even this old farmhouse had it's bit of flowers.  ©GSHaile  Swiss-Window-10

Even this old farmhouse had it’s bit of flowers. ©GSHaile Swiss-Window-10

Happy New Year

New Year Mandala 2015

New Year Mandala 2015 ©Gail Haile

I love to think of possibilities, ideas, and what if’s, not in a worrisome way, but in an “oh, think of all the wonderful possibilities!” way.  I firmly believe that each day is a new start, but the beginning of a new year certainly reminds us to imagine what’s in store.  May this new year lead you to some wonderful new “things that have never been.”

Happy New Year!

Celebration and Change

My first blog post was 9/29/2014, just 17 months ago, and 96 blog posts.  For someone who strongly resisted blogging for several years, I see this as a bit of a triumph. Scratch that, no, it’s a big triumph.              (Do you hear Kool & the Gang?  ” Celebrate good times, come on! ”  I do. 🙂 )  (more…)

More favorites from a Year of Mandalas: Mandala Monday

Last Monday I began a look back at a little over a year of Mandala Monday (MM) posts.  This week, I’ll share a few more of my favorites.

7. As I said in #6 last week, I spent several weeks playing with flowers and mandalas.  Before I started looking back through this year, I had completely forgotten about this particular mandala but couldn’t resist including it with my favorites.  It was the result of a good deal of experimentation and play where I just kept progressively building upon an image and it’s resulting mandalas,  One Last Tulip Trial.    It doesn’t have as close a touch with the original as many of the mandalas do.  You can just barely discern that it began as tulips,  but I just love the bright colors.

Tulips and Beyond_Gail Haile

Tulips and Beyond_Gail Haile

8. In the Blueberries was a real surprise to me.  I did it sort of tongue in cheek, not really expecting anything spectacular from mandalas of blueberries, but those mandalas seemed to touch people in ways I hadn’t imagined.

Blueberries Mandala_1_©GSHaile

Blueberries Mandala_1_©GSHaile

9. After 7 or 8 months of my regular mandala practice I began to see all sorts of possibilities for mandalas.  An evening in front of our outdoor fireplace inspired two weeks of fire mandalas, On Fire and More Fire.

Ring of Fire Mandala_6_©GSHaile

Ring of Fire Mandala_6_©GSHaile

10. Mystery Mandalas had everyone guessing but no one knowing what the source image was.  I’d been “playing with my food” on a recent retreat weekend with 2 other photographers and a macro image of a red onion resulted in some richly colored and patterned mandalas.

Mystery Mandala_09_©GSHaile

Mystery Mandala_09_©GSHaile

11. Two separate posts were about existing mandalas that I happened upon: Found Mandalas and Gifts.

Gift mandala_©GSHaile

Gift mandala_©GSHaile

12. Into the Forest had some light airy mandalas that, to me, had a very magical quality to them and to which many people responded.


Into the Forest Mandala_8_©GSHaile

Into the Forest Mandala_8_©GSHaile

That’s just a bit of the highlights of Mandala Mondays.  Have I left out your favorite?  Let me know in the comments if I have.

I’m excited to see what this next year will bring, not only in mandalas but in all things creative.  May 2014 be a creative year for you!




A Year (and then some) of Mandalas: Mandala Monday

October 8, 2012, just a few months more than a year ago, I began the Mandala Monday (MM) series.  I was new to blogging and trying to find a way to give myself some structure and accountability.  I knew that if I didn’t give myself a reason to write posts, they might never or only sporadically happen.  Mandalas seemed a perfect subject for a regular post.

One of the many unexpected results (there are always unexpected results) is that creating mandalas has become a practice for me. It has allowed/forced me to experiment with mandala source images that I probably would not have done otherwise.  I’m always on the lookout for potential mandala material and some very interesting mandalas have resulted.

Some weeks, when I’m particularly busy, for just a split second I think, “Maybe I’ll skip it this week”, but then I remember that there are people who are expecting their Monday morning dose of mandalas. So I show up again to do the practice.

At this start of a new year when we all tend to be  looking both backward and forward at the same time, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the highlights of Mandala Mondays. This week and next, I’ll revisit some of my favorites as well as those that drew the most responses from readers.  ( Looking forward, I’m planning a new series that will be starting in just a few weeks called Re-Inspired.  Each week during my creative time, I will be digging in to my image archives and finding images that call me to breathe some new life into them. )

1. The first Mandala Monday  explained why I am so drawn to mandalas and featured mandalas created from an image of tree roots.


SwissRoots Mandala 5_©Gail Haile

2. Very quickly, my process changed and the third MM discussed this change. While I had often used images of trees and usually images that were already in my archives, I began shooting images for the potential they seemed to hold for mandalas. This grouping of stones and leaves on a beach created some very interesting and beautiful patterns.

©GSHaile_Beach Still Life

Beach Still Life_©GSHaile_


3. Rather simple images of the ice wall inside a glacier from this November post created some surprisingly beautiful mandalas.

Glacier Mandala_1_©GSHaile

Glacier Mandala_1_©GSHaile

4. One of my favorite mandalas of all came from photographing melting ice in my garden,  Ice plus Sun. It reminds me of Irish Lace.



5. In an effort to avoid going out in the cold, I photographed stones that I’ve collected from all over the world and that are lined up on my window sills. I found some amazing patterns within those stones, Rock Formations.   I’ve used stones again several times to find mandalas.

Rose Quartz Mandala_4_GSHaile

Rose Quartz Mandala_4_GSHaile

6. In the spring, I played with flower images for several weeks to find what mandalas might emerge from them.  There were daisies, sunflowers, and lots of tulips. This one comment posted for this MM with Sunflowers expresses so well how I often feel about working with mandalas, “It allows me to see the parts of this flower differently and in a new way. It’s like rearranging the furniture in a room and suddenly you see the room, and all the pieces in it, differently and from a fresh perspective.”   Yes!  Fresh perspective!



I’d love to know what some of your favorites have been. Have I left out yours? Please let me know in the comments.

I’ll continue next week with six more favorites from a year (and then some) of mandalas.