Category Archives: Filling the Well

Seeing Beauty in the Ordinary

An ordinary stone, simple, smooth, small and white.  How many ways can you see that stone? How many ways can you create with that ordinary stone?  That was one of the tasks given to the participants of my Seeing with New Eyes Retreat for beginning photographers a few weeks ago at New Skete Monastery.

They were each given a small, white stone (remember my penchant for collecting stones?) and a card with instructions to carry the stone with them throughout the weekend and create a number of different images that included that stone.

“Quit trying to find beautiful objects to photograph. Find the ordinary objects so you can transform it by photographing it.” Morley Baer

Simple Stone and Instruction card ©Ginny Teed

Simple Stone and Instruction card
©Ginny Teed

It was really interesting to see how they used the stone is a wide variety of settings.  It makes you see not only the stone, but the often ordinary settings, in new ways.  (Be sure to click on the images.  They will enlarge and cycle through a slideshow so you can appreciate them more!)

“I am not interested in shooting new things – I am interested to see things new.”  Ernst Haas

Even without a camera, you can practice the art of seeing ordinary items in new ways.  Give it a try this week!

 

 

Another Photography Retreat

This past weekend found me at New Skete Monastery again, leading a photography retreat, this time with beginning photographers.  The first retreat I led was in July, also at New Skete, with advanced photographers.  This time there was more discussion about the fundamentals of photography and composition but still a great deal of time spent practicing the art of seeing.

A guiding quote for my work and my life comes from Marcel Proust, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” As a photographer, technical skills are vital but secondary to the capacity to see. 

October beginners photography retreat participants at New Skete Monastery.

October beginners photography retreat participants at New Skete Monastery.

For all of us, seeing what is right in front of us in all it’s wonder, is often the hardest thing to do. Slowing down and paying attention is a practice that yields great rewards in many aspects of life.

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”  Dorothea Lange

It was so fun to watch these women gain control and understanding of their cameras so they could create images that showed the world the way they were seeing it.  Below are just are few of the many wonderful images they created.

 

More retreats will be scheduled.  If you would like to be notified when they are scheduled, sign up for my newsletter here and be sure to check next to “retreats”.

How will you see the world with new eyes this week?

Retreat: Part Two

This week I share a few more images that I created at the first Seeing with New Eyes Photography retreat.  In last week’s post, I shared about my dream of leading a retreat for photographers and how that dream came true.

Here are just a few more of my favorite images from my time at New Skete Monastery while leading the first advanced retreat.  

As you may see from the first three images, I really enjoyed playing with a very shallow depth of field to create beautiful bokeh.

Oregano has this beautiful blossom that the bees just love.

Oregano has this beautiful blossom that the bees just love.

With an extremely shallow depth of field, just the edge of this leaf is in focus.

With an extremely shallow depth of field, just the edge of this leaf is in focus.

This Echinacea blossom is beautiful even in it's fading.

This Echinacea blossom is beautiful even in it’s fading.

The texture of the bark on this beech tree was quite interesting.  One of the exercises the retreat participants were given was to search for interesting textures in their surroundings. I joined them in the search and really liked this particular texture.  Reminds me of an elephant’s leg.

Very interesting patterns in the bark of a beech tree.

Very interesting patterns in the bark of a beech tree.

Because the first retreat was with advanced photographers, we did quite a bit of Photoshop work.  I shared with them how I create mandalas with photographs.  The beech bark texture created this most interesting, monochromatic mandala.

Beech Tree Mandala_©GSHaile

Beech Tree Mandala_©GSHaile

A beginner’s retreat is scheduled for October 2-4 at the monastery.  Perhaps you’d like to join us?  Click here for more information.

A Retreat: Part one

For a few years, I’ve had this dream to lead a retreat for photographers.   The retreat would focus on getting away from the noise of our everyday lives in order to nourish our capacity to see, to be fully present to the world around us, using the tools of photography.   “Seeing with New Eyes:  Women’s Photography Retreats”, my dream, became reality a couple of weeks ago.  Four other women photographers joined me at the guest house of New Skete Monastery for two days of retreat

This first retreat was designed for intermediate to advanced photographers.  Each of the 4 women who joined me have photographed professionally.  So this was not about exposure modes, or f-stops, or shutter speed.  These women are very comfortable with a camera and how to use it. (A beginner’s retreat is planned for October.)

But images are made in the mind and soul of the maker before anything is ever done with the camera. We have to stop to really see what is in front of us.  Then we can create the images.

Much of our time was spent practicing the art of slowing down and noticing.  I, just as much or perhaps more so than others, can also fall into the habit of not “seeing” when I am too busy with musts and shoulds.  So I appreciated the time to just stop and appreciate the beauty at my feet.  The images here (and some more next week) are a few that I particularly liked from the many I created while at New Skete.

I took the opportunity to play with a new combination of lens and filter that produces this incredible bokeh that is in the first two images of the Queen Anne’s Lace.

Queen Anne's Lace prior to  full blossom.

Queen Anne’s Lace prior to full blossom.

A meadow full of Queen Anne's Lace sparkles in the sunlight.

A meadow full of Queen Anne’s Lace sparkles in the sunlight.

Using camera movement to create interesting images is always fun for me, and I played with that to create the image of the birch trees.

Birch trees lit by the evening sun create a cool abstract by moving the camera while the shutter is open.

Birch trees lit by the evening sun create a cool abstract by moving the camera while the shutter is open.

The eerie looking house benefited from some fun Photoshop play to bring out it’s ghostly qualities.

I wondered if this house was haunted and then learned that is was used as a chicken house for many years.  Ghosts of chickens?

I wondered if this house was haunted and then learned that is was used as a chicken house for many years. Ghosts of chickens?

Notice how the word “play” showed up in each of those image descriptions?  Taking or making the time for play is one of the goals of these retreats.

Play is an important component in creativity.  

Next week, I’ll share a few more images that I created during the Seeing with New Eyes advanced retreat.  If you’d like to see some of the images created by the photographers who came to the retreat, see the albums on the Haile Fine Photography Facebook page. 

Seneca Lake Colors

Seneca Lake is one of the largest of the 13 Finger Lakes in New York state.  (Look at a map of NY and you’ll see why the group of lakes is so named.)  I spent last week on the shores of Seneca Lake at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.  Most of my time, however, was spent inside a classroom learning how to paint digitally using Corel Painter.  (I’ll talk more about that wonderful class another time.)

It’s a good thing that I love working with Painter so much, because spending beautiful upstate NY July days indoors when I was 100 yards from a lake would not be my normal choice.  But in the evenings, I took the time to get closer to the water and enjoy the summer breezes, the activity of the boats and the fishermen (and women) and the colors and light of the lake and to just play with my camera.

What are you doing to soak up  these summer days?

 

Wispy clouds brush the sky with color over Seneca Lake  in the NY Finger Lakes.  Seneca Lake Colors 1 _©GSHaile

Wispy clouds brush the sky with color over Seneca Lake in the NY Finger Lakes. Seneca Lake Colors 1 _©GSHaile

Reflections of sailboats lit up by the setting sun.  Seneca Lake Colors 2 _©GSHaile

Reflections of sailboats lit up by the setting sun. Seneca Lake Colors 2 _©GSHaile

What a difference a few minutes makes.  Light changes rapidly at this time of day.  Seneca Lake Colors 3 _©GSHaile

What a difference a few minutes makes. Light changes rapidly at this time of day. Seneca Lake Colors 3 _©GSHaile

Loved the shapes and colors of these lily pads as well as the clouds reflected in the water.  Seneca Lake Colors 4 _©GSHaile

Loved the shapes and colors of these lily pads as well as the clouds reflected in the water. Seneca Lake Colors 4 _©GSHaile

Light dances from the lake onto this colorful picnic table.  Seneca Lake Colors 5_©GailSHaile

Light dances from the lake onto this colorful picnic table. Seneca Lake Colors 5_©GailSHaile

Summer, Roses, and Mandalas

Summer is in full swing.  As much as I whine about winter here, I believe there is no more beautiful place than central NY in June.  

I’ve been enjoying the sunshine, even the rainy days, the soft breezes that filter in through all the open windows and doors, the lush green landscape that reminds me of Ireland, dining outdoors, and so much more.

Summer usually brings vacations for most people.  For me, it also brings learning and gathering with other photographers.  I’ll be heading to Hobart and William Smith Colleges for PPSNYS Workshop.  I’ll also be leading a retreat for women photographers at New Skete Monastery.

One of the activities that I have planned for the retreat is sharing how I create mandalas from my photographs.  In preparing for the retreat, I wanted to check the instructions and Photoshop actions that I developed to make sure they would made sense to other people.

I chose this summery yellow rose image as my source image.  The rose appears as a mandala already, don’t you think?

The results of my testing are these sunny, yellow, summery mandalas below.  They each start with a pie shaped section of the rose image and that is multiplied  6, 8, 12, or 16 times in Photoshop.  (Can you tell how many sections are in each of these mandalas?)  I then enhance certain areas of each mandala that I feel needs a bit more “oomph” (that’s a real artistic term, right?!).

Enjoy the sunshine-y feel of these mandalas.   I hope you’re basking in summer and that you take time to learn something new this summer.

 

Seeing Utica with New Eyes

Utica, NY is the nearest city to me.   In the late 19th and early and mid 20th century it was booming, but like many US cities, Utica struggles to find new purpose.  There is much good that is happening in Utica ( here, here, and here for example) but I will admit to having a prejudice about going there.  I’m more of a country than city person anyway.  So I rarely choose to go into Utica.
On a very cold, windy day last week, a friend and I planned on a play day with our cameras. Occasionally we will just head out and photograph whatever we are drawn to.  My friend suggested we go into Utica instead of our usual wooded locations.   Immediately I thought of one of my most favorite quotes and knew that Utica was the perfect choice for our excursion.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.   Marcel Proust

I would try to see Utica with new eyes and find the beauty that exists there.
As I said, it was a very cold and windy day, so instead of walking we chose locations where we could be inside and warm.  (We’re such wimps!)  We spent almost 2 hours in the library and were gifted with many beautiful sights, just a few shown in these images.  We had such a good time, that we vowed to go back on a warmer day and walk the neighborhoods finding bits of beauty that are present in that place that I had so frequently dismissed.

How could you “see with new eyes”?

 

 

Christmas Market in Zurich

The Christmas Markets of Europe are legendary.  We spent the better part of November in Zurich, Switzerland with family.  The trip was mostly for the purpose of greeting our second grandson and helping out, all great fun but not the usual tourist activities.  We did, however, take  a few hours one day to stroll around the city and enjoy the Christmas season atmosphere of Zurich and it’s Christmas Market.  I wanted to give you a glimpse of the sensory feast that is Zurich at Christmas time.   (Be sure to also read the captions included with many of the images.)

Many towns in Europe, large and small, have Christmas Markets.  Zurich’s is located in the main train station, though the nearby shopping district along the famous Bahnhofstrasse also takes on the air of a Christmas Market.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Zurich main train station, Bahnhofstrasse entrance.

The main train station is often teeming with people.  This was a “slow” Monday morning as we tried to avoid the crowds.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

A slow mid-morning on Monday at the Hauptbahnhof in Zurich.

The ubiquitous Mondaine clocks of the Swiss Railway, a smaller version of this clock can be found at every train stop in Zurich.  True to Swiss precision, they self correct every minute.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

The huge clock in the main station in Zurich.

As you turn around from the previous scenes, the Christmas Market fills the other end of the station.  Grüezi” is the Swiss German equivalent of “Hello”.   The huge central Christmas tree is dripping with thousands of Swarovski crystals. 

Zurich Christmas Season-1

All manner of items are on display.  My favorites were the intricately carved wooden decorations and the pop-up cards.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Zurich Christmas Season-1

The Christmas Market spills over into the outside corridors of the station as well as along the famed Bahnhofstrasse.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Just a few of the special foods that tempt in the Christmas market.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

In the US , our notion of “swiss cheese” is pitifully limited. This is a very small selection of Swiss cheeses.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

A plain pretzel from Brezelkönig (Pretzel King). You can also get them with butter, with cheese, with meat, and much more. There are pretzel stands on most every corner in Zurich.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

One of the many sources of chocolate. The Swiss chocolate shops are more like jewelry stores. This one even had a guard by the front door.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Läderach chocolate Santas.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Roasted Chestnut (Heisse Marroni) stands dot the city beginning in November.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Christmas cookies are an age old tradition in most European cultures.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

Christmas cookies with intricate “painting” of traditional Swiss farmers.

I found this little pocket for Christmas  solitude and meditation in a corner of a shopping area.

Zurich Christmas Season-1

 

I hope you enjoyed this tiny glimpse into the Christmas market in Zurich.  It’s always fun to be exposed to traditions that are unique to our own but it also makes me pause to consider what my traditions are.  Take time to savor and appreciate the details of your family’s particular holiday traditions.

Connecticut River Valley Colors

The Connecticut River Valley, specifically Chester, CT,  is where I was born.  It’s where my father’s family lived and farmed for generations.  On a perfectly picturesque day a couple of weeks ago, we met with old friends and enjoyed a steam engine ride along the shores of the Connecticut River, traveling past small towns whose names play a large role in my family story. Part of the trip included disembarking from the train and boarding a riverboat for a cruise along the Connecticut River, offering a wonderfully different perspective than the train.

The fall colors were putting on a show and I took the opportunity to continue my play with long exposures.  Either the camera or the subject and sometimes both, were moving during the exposure to create these impressions of that beautiful day along the Connecticut River.

Have you been able to get out an enjoy the fall colors?  What are the fall colors like in your area?

Connecticut River Valley Colors ©Gail S. Haile

Connecticut River Valley Colors ©Gail S. Haile

Connecticut River Colors 1 ©Gail Haile

Connecticut River Colors 1 ©Gail Haile

Connecticut River Colors 2 ©Gail Haile

Connecticut River Colors 2 ©Gail Haile

Hitting the Pause Button

Today marks a full 2 years that I have been writing this blog each week.  When I look back over that 2 years, a great deal has changed and evolved in the blog, in my work, and in my life.  For the next couple of months, I’ve decided to hit the Pause button on my weekly blog posts.  I won’t be posting each week, at most every other week.   Meanwhile, I’ll be busy with a lot of cool projects and devoting more time to creating new art work.  You can still keep up with a bit of what I’m doing on the Haile Fine Photography Facebook page or by signing up for my monthly newsletter right here at the bottom of the page.  The blog isn’t going away, just pausing a bit.

Both of these images are from one of my favorite spots to hit pause, Piseco Lake, in the southern Adirondack Mountains of NY.   How do you hit pause?

Piseco Lake Paused ©Gail S. Haile

Piseco Lake Paused ©Gail S. Haile, 9/30/2014, Long Exposure

Piseco Morning ©Gail Haile

Piseco Morning ©Gail Haile, August 2002, Digital copy of hand tinted BW print