Tag Archives: Play

Right under my nose

I spent 3 wonderful days last week in Rockport, MA on a little retreat.  Rockport is a small, very old and historic port north of Boston.  Anywhere near the ocean is heaven for me and three days with only myself and my own thoughts was an added treat.  I made lots of images, spent masses of time on a rocky, shallow beach that begs to be explored for hours at low tide, played with images of the bobbing dinghys in the harbor, played with my Lensbaby, but the most satisfying images were made in the last hour I was there.

The tiny cottage where I stayed had a spiral staircase and a string of driftwood pieces hanging along side it.  Just before I was to leave, I noticed some interesting light and all the lines that were being created in that spot.  Packing stopped and I spent more than 30 minutes making images of the lines and light.  Of a week filled with things I love, for some reason this slice of time was extremely gratifying.

Perhaps because I had spent a few days exhaling and relaxing, I was more able to notice and appreciate this little scene of quiet wonder.  But, noticing these small things is what fills our days with delight and gratitude.  It was a reminder to me (because we all need frequent reminding) to stop often and appreciate what is right under my nose.

Lines-1-©GailSHaile Lines-2-©GailSHaile Lines-3-©GailSHaile

Being a Rookie

It’s really good for us to be a rookie, a beginner, sometimes.  I so enjoy my level of competence with photography but also love to challenge myself to learn new skills that have the potential to push me and my work a bit further.

I’ve been feeling like a total rookie lately.  I’ve been transported back to my early days of learning this craft, feeling like I don’t understand how my camera is working and how to control it, looking at my images and seeing more duds than successes.

What has caused all this?  The Lensbaby!   A Lensbaby is a specialized lens that, in the right hands, creates very dreamy images, which you know I love.  Heck, their motto is “see in a new way.”  Of course I’d want a piece of that!  I bought one of the early versions (on the left below) several years ago and could not master it.  To be fair to me, it was basically a lens on a squishy tube that you had to squeeze, bend, hold, and focus to get an image.   Just couldn’t get the hang of it.  But I still really admired the look of Lensbaby images that I saw.  Then a few years ago they came out with a more advanced version of the lens (on the right below).  It no longer had a squishy tube, but rather was on a ball that you could rotate and the lens would stay where you bent it.  Yay!

I thought this would be so much better and I’d have these wonderful images with soft, blurred edges and a sharp area of focus where ever I decided to put it. But I still just couldn’t get the hang of it.  It hung out in my camera closet taunting me.

So I decided to do something about that.  Kathleen Clemons is one of the photographers that is well known for her skill with a Lensbaby.  Her soft, impressionistic images are just exquisite. She teaches a 4 week online class covering the basics of Lensbaby photography.

We’re in our third week now, and while I understand now what I was doing wrong before there is still a bit of a learning curve.  This is where I feel like a total rookie again.  My images (mostly) don’t have good sharp focus where they should, the lens is much wider in scope (50mm) than I normally use. and more.  I’m getting there but I just generally feel like a beginner again.

But that’s OK!  I recently came across this great TEDx Talk by Andi Stevenson on Being a Rookie.   Take the time to watch it, it’s wonderful.  But two things she said resonated so much with me:

“When we stay safely within the boundaries of the things we already do well, we miss risk and innovation….We miss the chance to be afraid, to push through being afraid, and turn around on the other side and look back and see ourselves as brave.”

So here’s to risk, innovation, bravery, and being a rookie!

Here are just of few of the hundreds of images I have taken (most of which failed epic-ally) that are sort of a success,  I will keep risking and learning! 🙂

lensbaby-8013-gailshaile lensbaby-8041-gailshaile lensbaby-8055-gailshaile lensbaby-8074-gailshaile lensbaby-8056-gailshaile lensbaby-8078-gailshaile


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?

Autumn Colors – Part One

The autumn colors this year have been spectacular!  The light has been amazing and the colors have been so fun to capture.

Here in the northeast, the autumn colors are a regular treat, though some autumns seem more remarkable than others.  There are very scientific, change of season type, reasons why the leaves change color and drop from the trees that you can brush up on here.   If it’s been a dry summer, the autumn colors are often rather dull.  If it rains or snows a lot early in the season, the show is cut short.  I think one of the reasons this year has been so spectacular is the amount of sunshine that we’ve had.  It lights up all those colors and makes them glow.

I’ve taken a few days during this time to get out, with camera in hand, and immerse myself in all that light and color.  For me the color and light are more like paints to be applied to canvas.  I like to play and add movement and texture to create images that show them in ways that our eyes don’t see.

The challenge, for me, is how to capture that beauty in ways that cause us to see it in a new way.  

The autumn colors in these images all include leaves in some way.  I’ve used camera movement, changes in perspective,  and shallow depth of field to emphasize the colors and light.

Part two, next week, will be images that feature water with the autumn colors.

What will you do this week to see your world in a new way?

(Be sure to click on an image and scroll through them, so that they will enlarge and you can see all those colors!)


It would be great if you would share this with anyone you know that might be interested!  Thank you!

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?

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

Blue Indigo and Bokeh

Blue Indigo, aka Blue false indigo, wild indigo, or Baptisia australishas inhabited part of my garden for several years now.  I bought the plant at a garden club sale, only a few green shoots showing above the soil in the pot.  I had a vague notion of what it might look like but was in a “why not?” mood so purchased and gave it a home near the front of the garden.  It took a few years to reach it’s full glory, but glorious it was!  For a week or two in May the 4 foot high, narrow stems are covered in deep blue, almost purple blossoms.  The whole 3 feet in diameter cluster of blue indigo would sway gently in the spring breezes.  It was a brief ( I actually missed it a few years because of traveling) and oh so lovely show.

One thing that gardening over the years has taught me is how much change is a natural part of gardening and life.  

Last Friday was another of those lessons.  We decided to take out the garden that was home to the blue indigo.  Life now holds too many other adventures that take time away from tending gardens. Eliminating one of the gardens would give us more time for those adventures.

While making that decision, I realized I have never photographed the blue indigo.  I wanted to capture just a bit of the beauty that it has shared with me the past several years.

Before photographing any subject, there always needs to be a decision made as to how best to capture that particular subject.

Just putting the camera on automatic, standing back from the subject and snapping the shutter will most likely result in a simple document photograph of the subject.  To capture the character of a subject, the feeling associated with it, more thought needs to be involved.

For the blue indigo, I knew that I wanted to isolate some of the blooms as well as capture the light, airy quality of the plant.  To do that, I decided to use a lens that would give me really nice bokeh.   Briefly defined, bokeh is that soft blurred quality in the background.  It tends to focus your attention more on the subject but also, for me, gives more emotion to the image.  It often reminds me of my favorite art movement, Impressionism.  

For those interested in the technical details of how I photographed the blue indigo, I used a 50mm f1.4 lens and sometimes added a close-up filter  to capture some of the details.

These images truly capture the essence of the blue indigo for me.  

Blue Indigo-1 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-1 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-2 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-2 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-3 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-3 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-4 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-4 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-5 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-5 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-6 ©Gail Haile

Blue Indigo-6 ©Gail Haile


Open to Delight

Have you been aware of delight?  Where have you found it recently?  

I wrote about delight, here, at the end of January.  While I haven’t had a chance to write about it since, that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been anything delightful happening.

In addition to the images below, (make sure click on the images to enlarge and to read the captions for details) there were many moments that I couldn’t or didn’t capture a photograph.

It isn’t always about getting the shot but, more importantly, just acknowledging the delight-fullness of that moment in your soul. 


If you know anyone who would enjoy seeing my work, I would be delighted if you would share with them.  Thanks!

Play Mode: Mandala Monday

I rediscovered play this week.  We’ve all had those times.  They come into our lives for many different reasons.  We all have times when it seems the joy of doing what you love is either gone or a bit dimmed.  For a great many reasons I was there the past few weeks. My brain and body were tired from a busy month, some traveling, exciting happenings, family visiting, new ideas and projects to learn…all good things but I was tired.

I’ve never been good at taking that pause to just be and to let myself rest before moving on. There was a commercial for something or other at one time that used the tagline, “the pause that refreshes”.  There is refreshment that comes with slowing down and pausing instead of just barreling ahead full steam on to the next thing. (more…)

Frosty Blues: Mandala Monday 11/18/2013

The last few weeks have been busy with travel and family fun in Switzerland.  The posts for the past few weeks were done before I left but I didn’t do one for today, thinking that I might have some new images that could be used.  I do have some new images but most are of my grandson, which wouldn’t really work for mandalas.  🙂  The rest are panoramas of the Alps from the beautiful clear day we spent on Mt. Stanserhorn.  Again, those won’t really work for mandalas though I will share them another time.

So back into my files to see what I might have.  This source image is from a playful session of photographing food that I talked about in this post back in September. It is a closeup image of frozen blueberries that were put into water in a glass.  The frozen berries were quite frosty looking and caused condensation on the outside of the glass, all of which added an abstract out-of-focus feel to the image.   The frostiness reminded me of the chill that has crept into the air recently and the blue and purple hues add to that coolness.  And, randomly, they really make me remember the grape Popsicles that I loved as a child.  They were that rich, deep purple and had that frosty feeling when you bit into them.

Do you see or feel anything in these mandalas?