Friday, March 27, 2020

Strength and Hope

Strength and Hope by Sara Harley
Strength and Hope
Every day, I head out with one of my dogs and my camera. We walk along the LaHave River and through the forest trails. This year, I decided to record some of the sights along the way. I call this series "Trailings" and have just wrapped up the Winter section. I plan to do this for the whole year. Season by season, I will capture things that catch my eye. A few might be picturesque landscapes, but many will be tiny, intimate details that catch my eye. 

The above image is the final image in my Winter Trailings series. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that the world is facing the Covid-19 pandemic. One third of the world has shut down. New terms have come into our vocabularies...."social distancing", "self isolation", "flattening the curve", and we are facing a new life, hopefully temporary, that distances us from our families, friends,and loved ones.

I decided to create a double exposure of two images that I took on a recent walk. Trees have always been a symbol of strength for me. This cluster of birch trees are standing closely together at the edge of a parking lot of a park that has been shut down to keep people apart. The second image is a close up of a rusted vehicle sitting in the woods, just off one of the trails I walk on daily. An ugly piece of garbage, but full of lovely colours in shades of blue and yellow and pink.
I combined the two photographs to create one image, an image that says "strength" and "hope" to me. We may be physically apart, but if we stand together, we can be strong. No matter what the future holds, there will always be some beauty to be found and some hope to carry on.
Ten years ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wrote an inspirational piece to give myself courage. It seems fitting to recirculate it now.
My roots will ground me as I reach for my dreams.
With each new season, I will blossom and grow.
When ill winds blow, I will bend, but not break.
I will nurture and protect those who take shelter with me.

Friday, March 20, 2020


As I mentioned in my last post, I receive monthly inspiration from my online friend Helen, a painter who lives in Arkansas. We created a group called Inspiration Collaboration and anyone is welcome to join and create their own art...paintings, photographs, poems, quilting, stitching...based on our inspiration images. 

I had to think about how to deal with this inspiration from Helen:
Are you... ?
An ocean or a lake?
A babbling brook or still waters?
The diving board or the kiddie pool?
A rocky shoreline  or a sandy beach?
Gently rolling waves or crashing whitecaps?
Pine trees and grass or palm trees and sand?
A swimsuit and towel or windbreaker and boots?
Whitewater rapids in a kayak or picnic with a camera?

My first step was taking this photograph when I was walking my dog through the trail:

I could have worked with just this photograph, but I wanted to add some details to bring the scene to life and add some magic. First, some flowers:

And a butterfly:
And, lastly, a bunny:
I spent some time darkening areas, and lightening other areas, subtle changes to colour, this and that. Et, voila, the final creation:
Sometimes by Sara Harley
I am a stream, dancing through the forest.
I am a rabbit, timid and unsure.
I am a tree, grounded and strong.
I am a flower, unfolding with beauty.
I am a butterfly, dreams lifting my wings.

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Fairy Door

The Fairy Door by Sara Harley
The Fairy Door
There is magic deep in the forest, but you must tread softly and listen to your heart to find it. Only then, if you look very hard and are very lucky, you may catch a glimpse of where the fairies live. Their homes are full of joy and colour, happiness and love. The fairies are the protectors of the forest, and they will gently blow their blessings your way if you treat the forest as if it were your home as well.
Inspiration comes to me in many ways, and this year I receive monthly inspiration from my online friend Helen, a painter who lives in Arkansas. I mentioned Inspiration Collaboration in an earlier post, but basically Helen and I both submit images at the beginning of each month and anyone is welcome to use them as inspiration to create their own art...paintings, photographs, poems, quilting, stitching. Participants can create whatever they want, and we post it on our Inspiration Collaboration blog and instagram accounts. We're also planning on publishing a magazine at the end of the year, but that's another story.

The first image I decided to work on in March was this one:

March Inspiration 1: Door Beneath the Wisteria by Helen Eaton
 Who do you think might live in the door beneath the wisteria?  Surely it's a fairy... a sprite... an elf... a gnome...a regular lady with green thumb?  I think she sings while she tends to her flowers and smiles when she greets the mornings.  I think she laughs when she looks at her aqua door and is glad she chose aqua.  I think she is content. I think everyone who visits her feels welcomed and at home.

My biggest challenge was that it's March...and in Nova Scotia that means no flowers! How was I to come up with a photograph inspired by this lovely, summery painting?

I decided to go with the fairy theme and use my photographic library to create a fairy house in the woods.  This may seem like a simple idea, but it took hours and hours to create.
First, I used a photo of interesting tree roots that I took in May 2019 as my base:
Then I added elements from many other photographs...

...a door and hosta plant from a photo walk in July 2009 in Lunenburg:

I changed the colour from red to aqua (to connect with the inspiration painting) and then decided that the black door on the left was a little too formal for my fairy house. So I changed it with a door from 2009 photo of a fishing shed in Blue Rocks: 
and I changed the colour from red to purple as a nod to the wisteria in Helen's painting.
Then I added more details which are subtle but they are there....a window and siding from another 2009 photo...this time from Port Medway:

...a purple rhododendron from a 2009 garden tour (I have no wisteria photos!):
...flower pots from Lunenburg in 2018:

...a birdhouse from Annapolis Royal in 2009:
...and to add a bit of fairy magic....everything was overlaid with a colourful tabletop from a visit to a restaurant in Chester in 2017:

The final step was to soften the whole image to make it look a little unreal....after all, it is a fairy world!
The Fairy Door