Tag Archives: Trees

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!

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

My Favorite Tree: Mandalas

I photograph a lot of trees , and many of my mandalas are derived from images of trees. But I’ve never photographed my favorite tree, until now.  My favorite tree stands in our front yard, a towering pin oak that was planted by the man who, in 1973, built our house, after the first tree he planted, a spruce, died.  When we moved into the house in 1984, it was still a relatively young tree.  I come across pictures from that time and barely recognize the slender trunk.  The oak now towers over our house and is at least 3 feet in diameter.

Why do I love that oak tree?   

It’s beautiful, yes, It is a grand oak, towering  4o feet above our roof with broad branches that reach out to shade our home.  But more than that, this oak has been a witness to our family. Even as a young tree, it provided a shady spot for the kiddie pool in the summer when our kids were small.  It was a nice place to put the porch swing we brought from our previous home and sit the 5 little kids from play group while we took their picture.  It provided a roof for the “house” where the neighborhood girls played dress-up.  Under the tree was a mechanic’s workshop for 5 days when a friend brought our 6 year old son an engine to take apart.  Our 10 year old daughter practiced her math skills with her Dad while they designed and built a tree bench that encircled the oak’s trunk for many years until the tree finally grew to lift the bench off the ground.  As it grew, the low hanging branches provided a cozy, private place to put a cedar swing that encouraged many long conversations during the teen years.  That oak tree has been a constant in the life of our family.  When we had the branches trimmed last year, we saved the wood from one of the larger branches to have made into something (not sure what yet) .

So, it was appropriate that on Mother’s Day, as we were sitting on our back deck, I was watching the evening light playing off the branches, and the cardinals and chickadees, and goldfinches dancing around and among the branches and thinking again how much I love that tree.  I ran into the house and grabbed my camera to capture those branches, knowing that they would become mandalas of my favorite tree.

Thoughtful question: Is there something in your life, like our oak, that has been a constant?

Silly question: Can you find the goldfinch in one of the mandalas?

A Wide View: Playing with Panoramics

For over 10 years, I’ve had this dream of traveling Virginia’s Skyline Drive in April and capturing the dogwood blossoms floating in the spring forest.  That wasn’t what we found when we finally made our way along the famous route. Instead we found a bare forest still waiting for spring’s warmth to arrive.   As we all know, life rarely goes according to the scripts that we’ve written in our minds so it’s good to have a plan b, or c, or more.  So I had to rethink what to photograph.

One of the plans I came up with was to play with panoramics.  I’ve played with them a bit in the past and have not done any in a while.  Many of you may have or know someone who has the iPhone that creates panoramic images by simply swiping the camera across the scene.  They are fun and a little quirky in their distorted view of the world.

To clarify, Google gives this definition of panoramic photography: “a technique of photography, using specialized equipment or software, that captures images with elongated fields of view. It is sometimes known as wide format photography. The term has also been applied to a photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio.”

So an iPhone would be “specialized equipment” along with cameras like the film camera Noblex  that my friend Andi Alexander uses sometimes. or these cameras from Lomography.   With these cameras, just one wide angle image is produced.

Or, as I do, you can use “specialized software” to stitch together multiple images to create one that has very wide angle of view.  There is a lot of different software available but in the past few years Photoshop has become quite adept at panoramics.

How I make panoramic images:

In each case, I take multiple images of a scene. Using my body as a pivot point, and carefully keeping the camera in the same plane while pivoting, I progressively pan across a scene, taking anywhere from 3 to more than 15 images, each one a slightly different section of the scene.  It is important to overlap each image just a bit so the software has something to line up from image to image.

The image below demonstrates one step along the way.  This started with 17 images that I took, slowly sweeping the camera from right to left and pressing the shutter 17 times.  Those 17 images were then processed in Photoshop CC with Photomerge to get something like what you see below.  I’ve separated each section a bit and added the orange so that you can see all the parts.  Actually, the sections fit quite nicely together (though they are each on their own separate layer) when the software is finished.

Pieces of Panoramic_Gail S. Haile

Pieces of Panoramic_Gail S. Haile (Click to enlarge)

I then merged all 17 layers together so I have just one complete image, straighten and crop a bit, do a few adjustments to the color and detail and the result is what you see below in Skyline Panorama 1.

©Gail Haile_Skyline Drive Panorama 1

©Gail Haile_Skyline Drive Panorama 1 (Click to enlarge)

Some more examples:

Skyline Panorama 2 is the blending of 12 separate images.

©Gail Haile_Skyline Drive Panorama 2

©Gail Haile_Skyline Drive Panorama 2 (Click to enlarge)

Skyline Panoramic 3, while it looks similar to #2 is 10 completely different images of the same scene.  I played around with it as a black and white and preferred it this way.

©Gail Haile_Skyline Drive Panorama 3

©Gail Haile_Skyline Drive Panorama 3 (Click to enlarge)

As our drive along Skyline progressed, we came across this stand of extremely tall trees where the afternoon light was creating interesting patterns.  I thought it would be interesting to do a vertical panoramic so took 16 images moving the camera up the trees from the ground to the sky.  The sepia tones of the final image highlights the light patterns better than the color version did.

©Gail Haile_Trees Panorama

©Gail Haile_Trees Panorama (Click to enlarge)

There are more precise and complicated ways to create panoramic images but this worked for me on that day when I needed to have another plan.

What do you do when your plans get changed?


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Cottonwood Tree Mandalas

In the past 5 weeks, I’ve been at home for only 2 of them. It’s a little hard to keep up with myself but it’s given me some wonderful opportunities.

One of those trips was to Colorado where spring was just beginning to think about showing up.  Just prior to spring arriving is when I appreciate the interesting shapes and lines of trees not yet filled out with leaves.  It’s even more interesting when you encounter trees that you are not familiar with, like I did when in Colorado.  On my drive away from the airport I began noticing all these tall, arching  trees with interestingly crooked branches.  I knew I’d want to find some to photograph during my visit.

I learned that these trees are cottonwoods, which apparently are a kind of poplar.  We do have poplars here on the east coast but I think they may be slightly different…something to investigate.

I was hoping for a colorful sky to backlight the branches but on the one day I had time to photograph, the sun merely set without any colorful fanfare.  The crooked branches still created some lovely patterns in this mandalas, though.

If spring has not yet brought leaves to the trees where you are, take time to notice the beautiful shapes and patterns that the trees make against the colors in the sky.



Prints of blog images can always be available.  If you see something that speaks to you and would like to have a print, just let me know.

Please share this post with any friends who might enjoy it.  

Reflections: Works in Progress

Today’s post begins a new category of blog posts, Works in Progress.  I’ll share bits of what I’m working on so you might see how it develops.

For some time now, I have been fascinated with reflections.  Colors can be stretched and morphed to beyond their true being.  Light and color shift shape and size depending on your point of view, becoming something new, creating something different.  Even without my camera in hand, I’m always watching and noticing reflections and being intrigued with the abstractions that are created.  With camera in hand, I’ve spent hours recording the ever changing colors reflected in a harbor’s waters at sunset or the city reflected in a highly polished floor.

I’ve been pondering why I am so drawn to these ephemeral visions.  They are transitory, fleeting beings.  When I photograph them, it occurs to me to wonder what I am actually photographing.  It doesn’t actually exist, it’s not a physical thing.  It only exists because I notice it and if I record it as an image, is it then a “thing” ?

I’m still working out what makes reflections so interesting to me but a few weeks ago, as we were driving home from dinner in a downpour that turned to snow by the time we arrived home, I was mesmerized by all the reflections on the dark, wet pavement. I took some time to write about them that night.

A few of my rambling thoughts:

Is my interest because reflections, in their ephemeral nature, reflect the nature of life?  Moments of our lives are like those reflections, fleeting, snatches of times, gone too quickly without our control. They can change quickly depending on our perspective. those small, fleeting moments can hold such beauty if we are open to seeing it.  How we view them, our attitude, filters the scene and our memory of it.

An interesting thing happened that rainy night as the rain turned to snow.  The roads no longer reflected the colors and shapes.  As the slush covered the road, the vivid  colors, the distinct shapes, were muted or gone altogether.  What is the “slush” in our lives that causes us to not see and hold these fleeting moments with all the beauty they hold?

All food for thought.  It’s a work in progress.

Just a few of the many reflected moments that I’ve captured so far:




Hope in the Winter Woods: Second Look

Recently, I began a practice of going back into my archives and pulling out images that I had forgotten about, something I call Second Look.  There are 100’s of thousands of images in my archives. I am a classic over-shooter.  It’s not unusual for me to be on a trip and come home with 5,000 images. When I get back to the studio, I download the images, but often have to get back to other work.  It may be a while, sometimes even years till I took at those images.   So I have lots of material just waiting for that second look.   (more…)

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…)

Sparkling Mandalas: Mandala Monday

Lately, I’ve been digging in to my archives of images.  I came across this one, taken after a 2 foot snowfall, on a bright sunny day (a rare combination in these parts 🙂 ).  The snow was particularly light and fluffy and the sun sparkled off it, almost illuminating each individual snowflake.  This one bush was still hanging on to it’s leaves, leaves that looked almost skeletal, and each leaf had a little sparkling snow cap.  These snowy mandalas capture a bit of that same feeling.

First Snowfall: Mandala Monday

A few years ago, I captured this tree after the first heavy, wet snowfall just prior to Christmas.  As I was getting in the Christmas mode yesterday, all of a sudden I realized I’d almost forgotten about this post.  And I hadn’t created any mandalas yet (at least not ones that I could share just yet).  For some reason I thought of this image of the snowy tree and began to play around with it.  I think I had used to make just one mandala when I was first figuring out how to make them, but have never created any more with this image.  As usual, some pleasant surprises were hidden there.