Monday, December 30, 2019

the promise of new beginnings

Barely There by Sara Harley
Barely There - Inspiration Collaboration Image for January 2020
The view along the river one day in December was a magical, misty scene. The stillness created a mirror like finish on the river, with hardly a ripple. The town was barely there, mysteriously shrouded in fog.

It got me thinking about the end of December...the slower days between Christmas and New Year's when the world seems to quiet in anticipation of the promise of a new year. 

As the year ends, I feel the need to re-group and think about what I want to accomplish, reviewing the year and perhaps re-setting some goals. No matter how I try to "live in the moment", I am a goal setter and list maker.

I feel a combination of excitement and anticipation that has nothing to do with the holidays. Numerous ideas and plans flit through my brain. I would dearly like to relax and nap, but the excitement about a new year just can't be tamped down.

Life is an adventure...we are who the past has made us, and we'll become who the future creates. Like the town shrouded in fog, we cannot see what the future holds in store for us no matter how many plans we make.
Barely There by Sara Harley
Barely There by Sara Harley

Friday, December 27, 2019

Point of View - 2019 in review

Point of View Magazine by Sara Harley
Point of View Magazine
I decided to put together a magazine to compile some of my favourite images from 2019, along with some thoughts.

To view it online, click on the link below and then just click on each page to move forward and backward. 

There are arrows at the top right that you can click on to make it go on full screen so it's easier to read:

Saturday, December 14, 2019

It never hurts to ask

In early December 2019 I was enjoying my weekly breakfast outing with a friend and noticed that the walls of the restaurant were completely bare. For some unknown reason I was feeling a little more confident that day than I usually do so when I was at the cash paying for my meal I asked if the manager was in.
I had to wait while he was speaking with someone else, but wait I did. I introduced myself and asked if he would be interested in seeing my artwork. He said yes, so as soon as I got home I put together a small sampling of my images and emailed them to him.
He answered back the same day with an enthusiastic yes. So I got busy printing and framing and four days later I was in the restaurant hanging 14 images.
Neither one of us expected any sales, but I was happy to get the exposure and he was happy to get some colour on the walls.
Bonus for both of us....there were sales and I had to go back and replenish the walls.
Proving the point that it never hurts to ask. You may just be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
My art will be hanging on the walls of The Biscuit Eater in Mahone Bay until the end of January.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Issue 17: RE Nature

I'm extremely proud to be included in this publication. Two of my images were chosen as companion pieces to poetry published in this magazine.

Issue 17: RE Nature focuses on environmental awareness. Check out the whole issue online at this link:

My images are linked to these articles:

The Sixth Extinction: a lament by Nadja Lubiw-Hazard


The Oriole by Virginia Boudreau

Monday, December 2, 2019

Sandscapes Magazine

From larger than life vistas to intimate landscapes, the tides and sand create visual art that is constantly in motion. If I was to wish for anything I might wish that I was more comfortable with change, adapting as well as the sands and comfortable with new challenges. But in the meantime, I find solace in the ever changing gifts and joy in the peace of mind that a walk on the beach can bring.

I have compiled some of my favourite images and verse into a magazine called "Sandscapes". Click on the link below to view the magazine online. Just click on the pages to move forward and back through the book. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Sandscapes Magazine

After years of making photographs during our beach walks, I decided to put my favourite images into one publication. A magazine seemed the perfect format....nice glossy pages, but not too precious to feel the obligation to keep for years on a bookshelf. 

From larger than life vistas to intimate landscapes, the tides and sand create visual art that is constantly in motion. More and more often, I focus my camera on the details in the sand, what I refer to as "sandscapes".

Sandscapes is available to view and/or purchase online.  

Friday, November 1, 2019

Seeing Double

Windswept by Sara Harley
I have been struggling with the concept of duality.

Brooding, monochromatic images versus colourful and happy ones. Vast horizons versus intimate landscape details. Shooting on location versus working at home. I could go on.

I believe that sometimes it helps to put things down in words, and I wrote thoughts in my workbook about layers. 

Our lives are built upon layers of experience. Each stage of life brings challenges that we may, or may not, have been expecting.

Either we are strong enough to deal wit them, or we falter. Success or failure creates the layers that are our essence. These layers of experience define who we are.

In my photographic journey, I am becoming more and more dissatisfied with capturing a pretty picture. I feel that simply composing a frame and clicking a shutter isn't enough for me. 

So, my dilemma has become how to create a multi facted image,something complex that is more than just a pretty picture.

As a first step, I have been experimenting with double exposures, combining two photographs taken from different perspectives on the same day, at the same location, into one image.

Is the concept a good one? Does it matter? I'm not sure.

The only thing I am sure about is that I want to play with this idea in the coming year.

Ribbon In The Sky by Sara Harley
Ribbon In The Sky

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Fabulous Fall

Splash of Colour by Sara Harley
Splash of Colour
It is a joy to live in a place that has four seasons. Each transition is different, and each season brings something special. Autumn is a beautiful time of year with endless colours. After the long hot days of summer, it feels wonderful to put on a cozy sweater and snuggle with a good book, or a cat, or both.

My town is filled with walking trails and they are magical in the fall. There is the smell of pine needles, and the sight of leaves falling, dancing in a gentle wind.

The kid in me comes out occasionally, and I swish my feet and crunch through the fallen leaves as I walk. The sun streams down through the trees, nature's spotlight.

In the middle of town, sometimes it's so quiet all you can hear is the wind rustling through the leaves with no evidence of the nearby traffic. It's calm and rejuvenating, and just a pleasurable for me as a walk along the shore.

Riley, my Wheaten Terrier, and I have an agreement. i wait patiently as she sniffs and explores. In turn, she has learned to wait for me as I pull out my camera and record whatever has caught my eye.

Nature's Spotlight by Sara Harley
Nature's Spotlight

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


Alone in the Crowd by Sara Harley
Alone in the Crowd
Everyone has a happy place, somewhere that completely relaxes them. A happy place is somewhere you go to get yourself re-balanced when things seem out of sorts.

Sitting in a favourite chair with a book, walking the dog, visiting with grandchildren, listening to the bird song in the woods, a simple cup of tea.

We are all different, and we all have our own place to go to when we want to celebrate life, or when we are feeling down and need to find solace.

My happy place is the beach. I don't go to beaches for sunny skies and sunbathing. Beaches, for me, are for walking and peace of mind. If something is bothering me, I head to the beach if I can. The wind seems to clear my troubled mind, and the sound of the waves reminds me that life carries on, no matter what. 

From larger than life vistas to intimate landscapes, the tides and sand create visual art that is constantly in motion. More and more often, I focus my camera on the details in the sand, what I refer to as "sandscapes". I have been working on a collection for a couple of years, and although I haven't had many beach excursions this year I did manage to capture a few to add to my collection.

If I was to wish for anything, I might wish that I was more comfortable with change, adapting as well as the sands and comfortable with new challenges.

But in the meantime, I find solace in the ever changing gifts and joy in the peace of mind that a walk on the beach can bring. 

The Dance by Sara Harley
The Dance

Thursday, September 19, 2019

How long does it take?

Out of Time by Sara Harley
Out of Time
Years ago I attended a photography exhibit and had a brief discussion with one of the exhibitors. he told me it took him years to create one of his images. At the time I thought to myself that he was being pretentious and ridiculous.

But now I know what he was talking about. He wasn't just a photographer, he was an artist. He had a vision that he wanted to create, and he went back time and time again to the location he had found until everything came together the way he had pictured in his mind. The elements were just as he wanted and he made his image.

Similarly, when I create composited images it can sometimes take months before everything comes together in my mind (in the future, I could probably say years, but I have only been doing this for 18 months). I had been thinking about and planning this image for a few months. Then, late one afternoon, I went to my office and pulled this image together in less than one hour.

A photograph of a tree from a trip along the Eastern Shore in 2010, a bird taken in kentville in 2017, and a staged photo of a pocket watch from early 2019, all came together on my desktop to create this image.

So, how long does it take to create an image?

In this case, I guess I could say it took nine years.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Summer Pondering

Summer Pondering by Sara Harley
Summer Pondering
Sometimes I have a specific idea in my mind that I want to capture. But sometimes things just happen. We went for a drive up the Medway River one summer day and came upon a small pond.

I asked John to pull over and reached for my camera. I spent the next 15 minutes photographing lily pads. I would have dearly loved to find one of the bull frongs that were croaking away, but only heard them splash into the pond as I walked too close for comfort. 

A few days later, I found a pair of thigh high rubber boots at a flea market, just my size. Too bad I didn't have them for this photo shoot, but I'll be ready for the next pond we come across.

A Splash of Orange by Sara Harley
A Splash of Orange
This pond is in my own backyard, situated just beside our deck where I can sit and watch the fish swim.  One afternoon the bubbles and reflected light caught my eye so I headed inside to get my camera. A fish swam by at the right time and added a splash of orange.

Monday, September 9, 2019


My husband often laments the fact that we are not day tripping as much as we used to. No, I'm not referring to a daytime drug event. 

I'm talking about road trips, or staycations, or whatever label you want to put on jumping in the car and driving...just driving until you see something that catches your eye or your imagination.

For various reasons, we are tied more closely to home these days. Some people might think it's boring to stay at home but my camera can keep me endlessly amused.

I believe that there are lots of subjects for image making if your keep your eyes, and your mind, open to the possibilities.

Even the winter months had me out in the backyard with my camera. Okay, maybe not frequently, but I have the photos to prove it!

Home is where you hang your hat, or maybe for me...home is where my camera is.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

I've got it covered

Margaret Atwood Neuf Contes cover image by Sara Harley
Margaret Atwood Neuf Contes
Last year I signed a contract to provide stock photography to a book cover company. In my opinion, it was a no-lose scenario. I supply whatever images I want, whenever I want. They decide what they want to accept. They look after all negotiations. I get paid if my images get used. Easy peasy.

Today I received my first payment for a book cover image, a milestone for me. An extra bonus...the author of the book is Margaret iconic Canadian author.

The ironic thing? If I made a list of the images I supplied to the book cover company, this one would be my least favourite!

my name on the back cover

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Mad for Monarchs

Canadian Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife-Friendly Habitat
I started gardening more than 25 years ago and, like most novice gardeners, made lots of mistakes along the way. When we bought our first "country home" that included a 1 1/2 acre lot, my dad gave me a good piece of advice. He told me not to make the gardens too big, or I might not enjoy them as much.

It was good advice, and he was proven right after we bought a 20 acre piece of land 10 years later. Although, unfortunately, I wasn't able to let him know that I finally learned my lesson.

Now we live in a town with quite a small lot. I still enjoy gardening, but I am now learning to garden just as much for the wildlife as for myself. 

I worked at obtaining all the things necessary to have our property registered as a "wildlife friendly habitat", and we achieved that in the spring.

A few years ago we bought some swamp milkweed, one of the few plants that monarchs need to survive. This year was the first year the plants produced pods. was the first year we had a monarch visit!

We were also very excited to see a caterpillar munching on the milkweed. He spent a day eating one pod, and then he disappeared. Although we didn't see him go through the pupation stage, we are hoping we helped the life cycle continue.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bee Happy

The Bee's Knees by Sara Harley
The Bee's Knees
I got a bee in my bonnet the last week of July. That is to say, I decided to photograph bees. It amazed me how many different sizes and types of bees we have in the yard.

Many happy moments were spent with camera in hand trying to capture bees in flight, harder to accomplish than you might think.

I experimented, and also had fun watching and learning about their behaviours. 

Bee happy, that was my motto for part of the summer.

Bee Happy by Sara Harley
Bee Happy

Friday, July 26, 2019


Ripples by Sara Harley
Constant change is a fact of life Nothing stays the same, even if we wanted it to. We grow with our life experiences and our tastes evolve over time.

I have a growing appreciation for abstract images, both in paintings and photographs.

I still struggle with the concept of abstract art. Since it's a picture with no "story", what makes it a good image? If I find it appealing, maybe that is enough reason.

I do love images that challenge our brains to look beyond the obvious, something that doesn't reaveal all at first glance.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Swinging on a Star

Swinging on a Star by Sara Harley
Swinging on a Star
I started into conceptual photography late in 2017 and I absolutely love it. I have always wanted to be "a real artist"....drawing or painting....but I could never produce what was in my mind.
Conceptual photography changed everything for me. I use my own photographic library and work with layers and masks to create images that exist in my imagination.
Working with an existing library of images means that I can play with my photography even whenI can't get out and about with my camera.
My oldest granddaughter will be graduating from high school in June 2019, and heading off to university in the fall. I decided to create a series to honour her life achievement and I asked her to pose for me.
She agreed without me telling her why I wanted her to pose for me. She had no idea that I would turn her poses into a magical world.
This image is my way of telling her that the sky is the limit and I will present it to her at her graduation.
I created three more images that I will gift her when she leaves for Ontario at the end of August.
I will miss her, but I am so thankful of the moments we have spent together creating treasured memories.

Original Image:

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Searching for Direction

Entangled by Sara Harley
When we are young, life is fairly simple. As long as our basic needs are met, we are content. If we have responsible guardians, they grant us more and more independence in order to prepare us for life to come. In fact, most of us continually test our boundaries in our steps towards that independent life.

Isn't it ironic that when we are older we sometimes long for the days of our youth when life was simpler. We had fewer choices and the decisions we had to make were much easier. 

Sometimes life seems too complicated. We wonder if we have chosen the right path. We struggle with options and are overwhelmed with choices "What if" is a question we ask ourselves from time to time.

Would it be easier if our choices were limited? Or if someone else directed our life and told us what to do?

Or would we then once again test our boundaries and be more willing to spread our wings and fly?

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

the origins of an idea

Possibilities by Sara Harley

Where do ideas come from? I often wonder this but haven't come up with any answers.
I don't think too many people would guess the origin of this image, which was a close up photograph of a spoon with dried rings.
I cropped the original image and brightened the whites. Then I added a bunny from a photograph I took several years ago.
Why not?

I posted this image on instagram ( and received this comment:

"I love how the bunny seems to be looking out into the world thinking about all the possibilities (my interpretation) but is trapped in a circle on concerns." - Kathryn

Yes! Isn't it wonderful when someone "gets" what you're trying to convey?

Confession: my original title for this piece was "Trapped" but after receiving Kathryn's comment I decided to change it to "Possibilities", a much more positive take on my idea.
Collaboration can make a good idea even better.

original image

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Monochrome Exhibit

Very honoured to be part of this exhibit!

Monochrome at the Dart Gallery

I just found out today and will be madly printed and framing 6 images for delivery in 4 days.

Friday, April 19, 2019


honorable mention: conceptual photography, amateur division

Fine Art Photography Awards (FAPA) recently announced the winners of their 5th annual photography competition. They hold competitions in 20 different categories, both for professionals and amateurs.

I entered 5 images from my "Stroke of Emotions" series into the conceptual category in the amateur division. I was thrilled to discover that I received an honorable mention! Did I say thrilled? That doesn't adequately describe my feelings. There were 4100 entries from 87 countries around the world for these awards.

Here is a link to my page on the FAPA site listing my entry as a nominee:

Here is a link to the conceptual category in the amateur division:

And here is a link to the full winners' gallery:

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

the frustration of labels

Cover Me by Sara Harley
Cover Me
Photography means different things to different people. Like many other groups of people, photographers seem to need to label themselves and others.
When someone asks me what kind of photographs I like to take, I often find myself unable to define what I do. My photography has evolved in the past ten years and many people don't consider what I do to fall under the label of photography at all.
I still make images that are relatively untouched by post processing. But more and more I find myself enthralled by creating images using a combination of photographs.
I was compiling a selection of images of windows that I have taken over the past several years.Then I was inspired to create this image using three different photographs....a moth taken in 2012, lacy curtains from 2018, and a rainy window taken in March 2019.
Some people refer to this as photo manipulation, or photographic art. Whatever label it falls under,I enjoy the creative process.
Did you spot the moth right away? I find myself more and more attracted to images that take some time to appreciate. In this case, perhaps you looked at the image, then the title, and then took a closer look at the image and found the moth.
Or maybe you saw something completely different. That, to me, is the beauty of photography. We all see things in our own way.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

the promise of spring

Winter's Last Standy by Sara Harley
Winter's Last Stand
Winters in Nova Scotia are a roller coaster of temperatures. The worst thing about this winter has been the freeze/thaw cycle but all in all it hasn't been that bad. We haven't been whacked with a big snow fall....until the night before I took this photograph...shadows of dried hydrangea flower heads.

We received about 12 inches of snow, but it was light and fluffy and lovely. And it was especially nice because I didn't have to shovel it this time! I decided it was worthy of our snow plow guy to come and move it.

Late in the afternoon the outdoors beckoned and it was just above freezing so I put on my woolies and took the dogs out into the back yard. I pulled out a bench and sat in the rays of the setting sun. We live in a busy area of town, but it was quiet and the only traffic noise was in the distance.

I watched as the occasional breeze sent bursts of snow scattering from the limbs of the trees in the park behind us.

I listened to a woodpecker hard at work somewhere in the woods.

I felt the tiniest bit of warmth in the sun, the promise that spring will arrive.

And I could smell the faintest whiff of roast chicken coming from the house.

It was time to go back inside with the promise of spring in my heart. 

Update: That feeling has been tested lately. We received 2 days of snowfall in April and it seems like spring is a long way away. 

Friday, March 1, 2019

the colour orange

Oranges by Sara Harley
Inspiration comes to me in many ways. When I'm out walking with a camera, I can be inspired by very simple things. Over the years, I have found myself becoming more interested in details than in the "big picture". 

But I don't always have to be out with my camera to get inspired.

A few weeks ago, a blogger friend (Helen Eaton from Word Weaver Art) posted a painting of oranges she created. They looked quite tasty, but the painting struck a totally different chord with me.
Oranges Still Life 2 by Helen Eaton
Oranges Still Life 2 by Helen Eaton -
The colour orange always reminds me of my mom. She passed away from breast cancer when I was just 21 but still....over 35 years later....the colour orange makes me think of her. Our home was filled with orange pottery vases, a focal wall in the kitchen filled with orange poppy covered wallpaper, orange shag carpet in our tv room, an orange coat she used to wear, she even painted our outside stairs orange :)

Today we had sunshine that was casting shadows through one of our windows so I decided to create my own image of oranges. I pulled out a small tablecloth that my mom used to use when setting up a table for bridge. I've moved it from home to home over the years but have never once used it but it seemed the appropriate time. I put everything on a chair and used a piece of blue bristol board for the backdrop.

Unfortunately, I didn't love the base of the bowl in the original photograph. I didn't pay attention to the angle and only two stones were showing which made the whole thing feel wonky to me. If you compare the photo below to the one at the beginning of the post, you can tell me whether you agree or not.
original photograph that I look at both, I kind of like the original photograph. Food for thought (lol).

There is a reason I've been cropping the photos to squares, but I won't go into that now.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Differentiation Book

Differentiation by Sara Harley
Differentiation by Sara Harley

Throughout 2018 I continued my exploration of emotional healing through photography and verse. I have posted about many of the images as I created them throughout the year.

I am a believer that it's important to print your images and one of my favourite ways to do that is in book format. Formalizing a series, and putting it together in one place, finishes off a project in a way that nothing else can.

I didn't publish a precious photo book, but instead chose a trade book format. This 5x8 inch book contains 60 pages of images and corresponding verse, with descriptions of how my images were created. 

Ranging from devastation through rejuvenation, many emotions are explored and expressed.


Friday, February 22, 2019

Window View

Window View by Sara Harley
Window View

brick by brick
I have built
these walls
offering a glimpse
for those willing
to see

I created this image & verse last year, part of the series I called "Differentiation". (more on this series below)

Our photo club is having a group exhibit this  April. I think I will be showing this image as my contribution. As part of the submission, I am required to write a 100 word (maximum) "story" about the image.

As I ponder just what exactly to write about, I gave some thought to why I find windows so intriguing.  

Several years ago I took a creative photography course. This involved assignments and we had to take in two printed images for evaluation during every session. After a few sessions, another participant turned to me and said "you have a thing for windows". Well, yes I do. I spent many years recycling old wooden windows, adding stained glass, and selling them. Now I just take photographs of windows that I find interesting.

But there is something more about this image that I need to find the words to describe.  I have to send in my "story" by March 9th.

Does the image say anything to you?

To create the final image, I removed objects from the two side windows and took away reflections of hydro wires. I also added a subtle texture layer which you can see in the windows if you look closely. Here is the original photograph:
original photograph

About Differentiation:

Differentiation is the series I created in 2018 and continues the theme of emotional healing by creating photographic art paired with verse. There are over 30 images in this series, varying from dark and brooding to light and inspirational. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Colour My World

Colour My World by Sara Harley
Colour My World
I mentioned in an earlier post that it is a goal of mine this year to intentionally create positive images. In the past couple of years I have leaned toward a monochrome, minimalistic world with my photography.

So...I looked back in my files and did a bit of playing to create the "Colour My World" image above. This photograph from a few years ago is where I started:
original photograph
This is a self portrait taken on Hirtle's Beach in Nova Scotia. I used a tripod and a timer set to take ten photographs. As you can see by the image, I didn't have the tripod set up quite right and my dog Riley managed to photo bomb all the photos. It was a dull day and the images didn't live up to the vision in my mind. I wanted to create a sense of freedom and joy with the wind blown scarves. And...I forgot to take off my Blundstones so I am wearing clunky boots which didn't quite set the right tone either.

I did a few things when re-working the image:
- I cropped Riley and my boots from the photo
- I removed the black scarf on the right and replaced it with a coloured scarf from another photo
- I removed the scarf from my left hand and added a coloured scarf from another photo
- I stretched my skirt so it billows more and I darkened the skirt to remove the leopard skin pattern
- I added a texture layer on top which was a close up of a sparkly table top...which is where the coloured "bubbles" come from
- I added a texture layer to make the image look painterly. 

All in all, it took about an hour or so working on the computer to come up with the revised image. So now does it convey freedom and joy?  Or is it just weird?