Tag Archives: Mandalas

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?

Seeing the Difference – Part 2

Last week I shared some fun, colorful mandalas that I created using several different mandalas, layers, and blending modes.  (See the post here to read what I did.)

It was so much fun and I loved the results so much that I almost couldn’t stop. There were so many that I decided to split them up and share some with you this week as well.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Do you have a favorite?  I’m having a hard time choosing a favorite!

Layered Difference Mandala-09©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-09©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-10©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-10©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-12©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-12©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-13©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-13©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-14©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-14©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-15©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-15©Gail S. Haile

Seeing a Difference

I’ve been working on images for the annual PPA image competition again. Seems like we just got done with the 2015 round, but the Northeast District competition is coming up next week.  Image competition is a way for me to challenge myself and keep improving my work. It’s not so much competing with others as it is competing with myself. (If you’re interested in why I compete read this.)

This year I decided to take a risk and enter an album of my mandalas.  It’s risky because now I’ll be judged on not just one image but a whole collection.  But I decided it was time to up the ante.

I can’t show you the album just yet, on the off chance that one of the PPA jurors would see it.  If they did see it, they would have to disqualify themselves if it came up to be judged while they were serving on the judging panel.

BUT…I can show you something really cool that I discovered while working on that album.

First, a quick Photoshop lesson.  In Photoshop, you can have multiple layers to an image.  It’s a way to add elements to images or to make adjustments that don’t destroy the original image. It’s one of the strengths of Photoshop.  Additionally, with layers, there are various blending modes that you can choose.  Very simply, blending modes affect how the layers interact with each other.  On Normal blending mode, the layer is opaque and you cannot see what is underneath.  Change to another blending mode and the layer begins to interact with whatever is beneath.

When I was playing with mandalas for my album, i had several mandalas in the same file, each on it’s own layer.  Difference is a blending mode that is often used to line up to layers.  I was using it to make sure the mandalas were the same size and in the same position.  The very pleasant surprise ( a delight!) was what it did to the colors in the mandalas and the new patterns that were created.

Here are the 5 very different mandalas that I chose to demonstrate the cool effect that Difference blending mode makes: Source mandalas

Some of the resulting mandalas are a combination of two of the mandalas above, others include three or four, with all layers on the difference blending mode.

Layered Difference Mandala-01©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-02©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-03©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-04©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-06©Gail S. HaileLayered Difference Mandala-07©Gail S. Haile

Layered Difference Mandala-08©Gail S. Haile

Can you discern which original mandalas were used to create each of the Difference mandalas?

I had such a good time playing with this, that I had to stop myself after a while.  These are some of my favorites and I’ll share more next week.   




Mandalas: A Gift of Stone

Mandalas have been on my mind this week again.  I’ve been working on my 2016 Mandala calendar and am really excited about it.

The theme for next year’s calendar is Wonder, so I went through my quote collection and gathered a large number of thoughts about what it means to utilize our capacity for wonder.  I had many more than the 13 needed (there’s one for the cover in addition to the 12 months) but I like to sense which quote goes with certain mandalas so give myself some extras to work with.  I then went through all my mandala folders to pull out ones that a.) hadn’t been used in the previous 2 calendars and b.) evoked a sense of wonder for me (honestly, they all do that to a large extent but some more than others.)

One would think it would be easy to find 13 mandalas to use for the calendar out of the hundreds, maybe even thousands, that I’ve created over that past several years.  But there needs to be a balance of colors and designs in the calendar in addition to evoking that sense of wonder.  I had 12 mandalas selected but was struggling to find the last one.  Nothing seemed to be “the one”.

And then I friend returned from a trip.  If you’ve been following for a while, you remember that I collect stones.  This friend and I bring stones to each other from our travels. They make the best souvenirs!  She had visited Straight Canyon in Utah picked up this colorful stone to bring back to me.


As soon as I saw the stone, with it’s warm and varied colors, I knew that I needed to make mandalas from an image of it.  And just maybe, I would find that last mandala that the calendar needed.  

I was feeling the need to break out of some boundaries that day, literally and figuratively, so played a bit with expanding the edges beyond the circle on a few of them.  The first two are some of the results of that play.

As soon as I saw the first mandala (it was not the first one I created, just got numbered that way), I knew that it was what I was searching for.  It became the cover and title image for the calendar.



The finishing touches are going on the calendar now and it will be available for order directly from my page on Red Bubble or at the calendar pre-order page on my website.  It will be ready to go in just a few days and I will post again here when it is ready.

Meanwhile, I wanted to share these warm mandalas with you and perhaps have you think about what evokes a sense of wonder for you?




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.

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.


Inspired by Springtime: Mandalas

I’ve been inspired by the blossoming of spring!  

True to the original meaning of the word inspire, “to breathe in”, I feel like I’m breathing in new life and spirit as each day unfolds.  The soft greens and reds that lightly color the hillsides provide such a sense of hope and potential.

Inspired by that color palette and needing to create some mandalas, I uncovered this close-up image of a Hydrangea blossom that I took last year at Sonnenberg Gardens.

Hydrangea Closeup_©Gail Haile

Hydrangea Closeup_©Gail Haile

The resulting mandalas do have that “inspired by springtime” feel, don’t you think? 

How are you inspired by springtime?

Be nice to a friend and to me by sharing this!  Thanks!

The Color of Water

Many years ago, I read the remarkable book, The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride.   I’ll leave it to you to check it out and see what “color of water” refers to in that unforgettable story.  But the phrase has always stuck with me and it came to mind last week when I was in the Adirondacks enjoying a warm-ish spring day, photographing details and patterns as the forest comes out of it’s deep freeze.

Water, in all it’s forms, was everywhere.  

Thick, dense, white fog floated above the streams early in the day.   Where snow had melted from the forest floor, there was still a coating of whitish ice but the colors of pine needles and twigs beneath showed through. The lakes were half water, half ice.  Expanses of water  reflecting the blue sky were interspersed with expanses of grayish ice in varying stages of melting.  Two feet of white snow covered one trail but was so close to melting that we just kept sinking into it.  Water was flowing and dripping everywhere.

The phrase, “the color of water” came to mind as I observed all these different forms of water and the variety of colors being presented.

Here are just a few of the water forms and patterns that I witnessed that day along with some mandalas that deepen the experience of the colors.  Perhaps you will be able to tell which images provided the source for each mandala?

Color of Water 1 ©GSHaile The snow is gone from the forest floor but a thin coat of ice remains giving a hazy, unfocused look to the pine needles underfoot.

Color of Water 1 ©GSHaile
In some spots, the snow is gone from the forest floor but a thin coat of ice remains giving a hazy, unfocused look to the pine needles underfoot.

Color of Water 2 ©GSHaile A patch of ice on the parking lot asphalt takes on a bluish cast from the sky reflecting in the highlights.

Color of Water 2 ©GSHaile
A patch of ice on the parking lot asphalt takes on a bluish cast from the sky reflecting in the highlights.

Color of Water 3 ©GSHaile Water streaming down to the lake from the snow melt creates interesting patterns in the sand.

Color of Water 3 ©GSHaile
Water streaming down to the lake from the snow melt creates interesting patterns in the sand.

Color of Water 4 ©GSHaile Reflection of the sky and trees in a patch of melting ice on top of Fourth Lake.

Color of Water 4 ©GSHaile
Reflection of the sky and trees in a patch of melting ice on top of Fourth Lake.

Color of Water Mandala 1 ©GSHaile

Color of Water Mandala 1 ©GSHaile

Color of Water Mandala 2 ©GSHaile

Color of Water Mandala 2 ©GSHaile

Color of Water Mandala 3 ©GSHaile

Color of Water Mandala 3 ©GSHaile

Color of Water Mandala 4 ©GSHaile

Color of Water Mandala 4 ©GSHaile