Tag Archives: Celebrate

A Big Adventure

Is this a new decorating trend?  Or indication of something about to happen?




This week is a big one for my husband Michael and I.  We will be leaving our home of 33 years and heading towards a new home and a new chapter in our lives.

I thought I would share some of the journey here on my blog so that you can follow along as we set up a new home, a new studio, and have this big adventure.  Stayed tuned for more photos and details.

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?

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…)

Good Overwhelms

Today I am joining a blog circle comprised of some amazing, creative women from all over the world.  In deference to February, we have chosen the topic of Love.  Each blog post will be thoughts and musings on that same topic, each from the perspective of a different creative soul.  How’s that for an uplifting way to spend a bit of time… traveling across the globe reading about love?

Love is a pretty huge topic to tackle in so many ways.  My thoughts are always more visual than verbal so I decided to express an aspect of love in that way.  You may know that I have a collection of Inner Aperture note cards that feature carefully selected quotes and images whose purpose is to inspire, strengthen, uplift, center the receiver.   For this post, I have designed a new Inner Aperture card that expresses my philosophy on our ability to share our love with the world.  I’ve always felt that what we do day to day, minute by minute, right in our immediate surroundings with the people who are part of those moments has great potential to make a difference in the world.  If each person were to slow down and do good, share love, right where they are, the world would, indeed, be a better place.  Large acts of love, yes, are important but  too often we dismiss and grossly undervalue how much a kind word, a smile, a gentle touch, can make a difference to someone.

I chose to use this Lichen Mandala that I created a few weeks ago for Mandala Monday because it portrays a very ordinary, everyday thing, lichens on a tree.  They are quite common and ordinary but exquisitely beautiful when you really look at the colors and the patterns.  When transformed into a mandala, that beauty is multiplied and spreads off the edge of the mandala.  It seemed the perfect mandala, along with the wonderful quote from Desmond Tutu, to express how significant and, yet, so simple it can be for us to share our love with the world.


Good Overwhelms_©GSHaile

To continue the blog circle, head over to Jean Wagner’s blog , A Change of Art.

Enjoy your blog travels around the world and surround yourself and those around you with love!


Here’s the entire circle in case you get sidetracked. 🙂

1. Becky Cavender


2. Amy Riddle


3. Karrlin Bain


4. Naz Laila


5. Debi Minter


6. Chandra Merod


7. Nancy Lennon


8. Laly Mille –


9. Kathie Gadd


10. Gail Haile


11. Jean Wagner




2012 Top 10 Favorite Fine Art Images

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed my images from last year and posted my 10 favorite portraits for 2012.  In preparation for professional image competitions , I’ve been continuing to review my fine art images from last year.  I’ve been doing a lot more of this kind of work the past year, so there was a lot to go through and it was hard to narrow it down to ten.  These 10 made it to my favorites for a variety of reasons which I will mention with each image.  They are in no particular order.  (click on each image to see it larger)

Alexander and the Chapel_©GSHaile

Hamilton College is located in Clinton, NY, the village where I live.  I went out early one cold January morning last year to capture this iconic building  and statue of Alexander Hamilton.

There are some adjustments that I made to the image during processing in Photoshop that achieved this timeless quality.

Stormy HOrizon Mandala_©GSHaile

I probably created close to 500 mandalas this year as I explored this art form.  So it is natural that there would be a few mandalas in my top 10.  The original image for this mandala was taken on a grey March afternoon that produced some of the most amazing cloud formations I had ever seen.  The sky looked like rolling ocean waves.  I liked the contrast of the bare tree line against the clouds.  It is one of the few square mandalas that I’ve created.



I gained a new appreciation for the shapes and lines of bare trees last year.  I would constantly be watching for interesting shapes in trees and waiting for a day that might produce some interesting color in the sky.  Even with that forethought, there is always an element of surprise when I mandala comes together on my screen.  This mandala is probably my favorite of all the mandalas that have been created.  Something about the color, the pattern, and the quality of the light resonates with me.


The original capture on this image was in 2008, but I feel like I should include it in the 2012 favorites because that was when I finally was able to pull out the true image.  When I shot this originally, I knew there was an image there, but the raw file was a bit flat and lacked punch.  I played with the image over the next 4 years quite a bit and have at least 6 different versions of it.  After a couple of very instructive classes in 2011, I had a better idea of how to make the image reflect what I saw and felt when I was in that place.  I used that knowledge to prepare the image for competition last spring and was happy that it did very well, earning a Court of Honor award and being included in the PPA International Photographic Competition General Collection.  So, yes, this is one of my favorites of 2012. Sometimes, it just takes a while for the true image to be revealed.



This composite image, is also not originally from 2012.  I  was inspired to create it in 2011, when I saw the closets full of shoes that one of my high school senior clients had.  It took 2 takes, my first attempt at capturing the shoes didn’t work as expected.  She brought all her shoes back for another try and I photographed each pair separately and then combined them in Photoshop.  I entered it in competition and it was chosen to be published in the 2012 PPA Loan Collection volume, a collection of the best of the best in photography.  (This is a very large image, 8 x 55″.  In order to fit into the post, the thumbnail is relatively small.  Click on the image to get a closer view of the entire composite. )

City Reflections_©GSHaile

This post is actually the first time this image has been shown, but it still ranks as one of my favorites from last year.  We were visiting family in Switzerland at the end of the summer and spent a day in St. Gallen, a charming city in the northeast corner of the country.  As we walked past a book store, I was struck by the reflections in the store’s large front window.  I love all the bright colors and the double exposure quality of the image.  To me it is also similar to the way dreams appear.


Incoming Fog_©GSHaile

During that same trip to Switzerland we drove up into the Alps, through several amazing mountain passes where the roads snaked their way up one mountain and down another several times.  As we turned a corner at the top of one of these passes, a beautiful scene presented itself on the opposite shore of this lake.  There was a small village, complete with a little church, that was beautifully highlighted in fog.  In the 30 seconds it took to stop the car, the fog had completely enveloped the village as you see here.  Five minutes later the fog had streamed like a waterfall across the lake and enveloped us as well.

Calm Waters_©GSHaile

For some time, I have been intrigued with long exposure photography.  Instead of the usual fraction of a second that is used to capture an image, with long exposures, you leave the shutter open for anywhere from 10 seconds to hours.  With long exposures, as with the mandalas, I always feel like something is revealed that was always there but we couldn’t see it with our usual way of looking.  This image of Lake Ontario  was one of my first real attempts with this style of photography and I was extremely pleased with the results.  I plan on exploring this technique a great deal more this year.

Tree BArk Mandala 1_©GSHaile

In the first few months of creating mandalas, I enjoyed seeing what patterns emerged from using images of trees in various lighting.  After a while I began to look for other interesting patterns that could yield even more interesting patterns in  mandala form.  I started to look much closer at trees and often found interesting patterns in those details.  The bark of this willow had textures and colors that were very unique and I created several mandalas with it.  While I find this particular mandala very restful due to the soft, warm tones, paradoxically, it is chaotic with all sorts of images within the patterns.  As my friend Beth would say, “look at all the faces!”



Before I began this blog and specifically Mandala Mondays, creating mandalas was usually something I did when I couldn’t sleep or just needed to calm myself for a few minutes at the end of the day.  That is still the case sometimes, but I truly like that Mandala Mondays give me a reason to intentionally sit and create new mandalas each week.   I often make twice the number that you see on a Monday. This one, created with an image of an ice encrusted branch, was probably one of the last ones created in 2012 but is one of my all time favorites.  It reminds me of a crocheted snowflake.  There’s no lofty reason why it pleases me that I can discern.  It just makes me happy.  Sometimes, that can be a good enough reason.


This was an interesting exercise to review and revisit images from last year.  It helps to see where I might be going next.  I have a myriad of ideas about images I’d like to create this year and hopefully ideas that are yet to emerge.  I’ll continue to share as I follow where those ideas lead.

Christmas Mandalas: Mandala Monday 12-24-12

This is the first year in a while that we’ve put up a Christmas tree.  For the past few years we have traveled to where our adult children live to celebrate.  This year, our daughter and her family have joined us at home.  It’s been a joy to have a Christmas tree again and I couldn’t help playing around with my camera to see what sort of images I could get (when I wasn’t taking pictures of our grandson).

I think these mandalas capture some of the joy that the season brings to me.  Hoping this season brings joy to you and yours.


A Reminder

A magnet designed by Kathy Davis with the words “Each Day is a Gift, Make the most of it” has been on my refrigerator for many years now.  This is not a new idea.  We all know it and tend to glaze over and think, “yeah I know” but rush on to the next “important” item on our list.  But, it IS something that we must be reminded of frequently.

Two events this week have me remembering this life lesson.  I did a portrait session for a couple the other day.  They are, let’s say, over the age when we tend to think about or want our portraits done.  This couple wanted to honor their everyday life together by capturing it in a portrait.  They didn’t wait for a grandchild’s graduation or wedding but instead celebrated their life now at this point.   They celebrated the small act of taking a walk with their dog each day.  They celebrated the small stuff that is actually the big stuff.

The second event was attending the funeral of a friend who died extremely unexpectedly at a relatively young age.  This was quite literally a stunning occurrence for our whole community.

So, yeah, maybe it’s cliché but it is SO true.

Each day is a gift, make the most of it.

Each Day is a Gift
©Gail S. Haile, Haile Fine Photography