Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Questions to think about


2021 Rfotofolio Selections - Sara Harley
In November, I was excited to be selected for a merit award by in the 2021 Rfotofolio Selections. (applicants had to submit a 7 image portfolio and artist statement). Part of this process means I will have an interview posted online sometime in 2022. I have just received the questions, and thought it would be interesting to share it with other creatives.

I'll be thinking about my answers over the next couple of weeks. What would your answers be?

Would you please tell us about yourself?

Where did you get your photographic training?

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson.

Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.

What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding. 

How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?

What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?

Is there something in photography that you would  like to try in the future?

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

How has the pandemic influenced your work methods ? Or has it?

Monday, December 6, 2021

Book Cover

I was thrilled to receive notice of a royalty payment recently. I supply images to a company for book covers, which is a very simple process after going through the initial application. I upload images online...the company decides whether to accept them or not...if accepted, the images are included in their library...I get paid if someone purchases them. In my case, this is not a "get rich quick"

I haven't found an image online for the actual book cover, but here is the image that was purchased:

The image will be used on a book by Chilean novelist Isabel Allende... El plan infinito (The Infinite Plan) originally published in 1991. There are many, many editions online and I'm not sure what country this will be published in. Hopefully someday I'll be able to track down an image of the actual book cover.

Here is the summary of the book from the website of Isabel Allende: A saga of one man’s search for love and his struggle to come to terms with a childhood of poverty and neglect, The Infinite Plan is Isabel Allende’s first novel to be set in the United States and to portray American characters.

Gregory Reeves’ father is a self-styled preacher who wanders the American West with his family in a caravan during the 1940s, preaching “The Infinite Plan,” a divine vision of the meaning of life and the nature of the universe. But when the preacher falls ill, the family abandons its nomadic ways and settles in a Hispanic barrio of Los Angeles. Gregory begins a new life in a Spanish-speaking world: school (for the first time), gangs, sex, books and ideas, and work. As he explores the mysterious world of the barrio, he meets the people who will shape his future, among them Pedro and Inmaculada Morales, who become his surrogate parents and provide him with the love and security his own family cannot give him; Carmen Morales, their daughter and Gregory’s friend for life, who grows up to be an earthy woman who teaches him about love as well as friendship; Juan José Morales, their son and Gregory’s buddy, whose experience in Vietnam will change the course of his family’s and Gregory’s lives; and Cyrus, the old Communist intellectual who feeds Gregory books and inspires him with a passion for social justice.

As Gregory’s story unfolds, we follow his struggle to survive—persecution by gangs in the barrio, the horrors of the war in Vietnam—and to be successful. After his return from Vietnam, Gregory becomes a lawyer in San Francisco, where he pursues money and possessions, looks for love with the wrong women, parties, abuses alcohol, neglects his children, and loses himself in an illusory and wrongheaded quest. Eventually, after many false turns, Gregory’s search for love and for his soul brings him full circle back to his roots and to a new life.

Original image (unedited): 

original photo file


Monday, November 29, 2021

Rfotofolio Selections 2021 - Merit Award

I am proud to say that my work has been chosen for the Merit Awards as part of the Rfotofolio Selections for 2021. Photographers were asked to submit a portfolio of 7 images, along with an artist statement.

The portfolio I entered:

The image featured by Rfotofolio:

The Gathering

My statement:

I create composite digital images using my own photography, curating various series that emphasize emotional healing. I enjoy the freedom and individualism of creating conceptual art, images that are based in reality with my own photography, but developed from my own imagination. Minimalist and surreal, frequently using my love of birds and nature, my creations often illustrate feelings we seldom discuss.

Over the past two years, our changed world has caused a myriad of emotions about the importance of home and family, which has led me to explore the concept of haven. The dichotomy between the safety of our own environment and the threat of the unknown from without has contributed to increased levels of social anxiety  Whether based in reality, or perceived, the situation has challenged us to examine our thoughts and ourselves.

What makes us feel safe? Where do we take comfort? The answers are sometimes surprising.

What is Rfotofolio? From their website:

Rfotofolio was founded in 2012 by Connie and Jerry Rosenthal as a way to build a photographic community,  to give photographers access to a larger audience, and to educate the viewing public about the diversity found in photography through our sites, exhibitions, interviews, and articles.

In 2014 Rfotofolio became a non-profit, 501( c )(3) organization and in 2015 established the Rfotofolio Grant.

To learn more about our grants please visit the Grants and Awards page.

Rfotofolio supports the work of photographers by awarding the Rfotofolio grant once a year to a photographer working to continue their photographic endeavors.

Our Mission

  • To build a photographic community.
  • To provide a positive forum.
  • To give photographers access to a larger audience.
  • To curate, and promote brick and mortar exhibitions.
  • To provide an educational and inspirational community for photographers and collectors through our meetings and forums.
  • To nurture the art of the printed photograph.
  • To establish forums to promote the craft of photography.
  • To sustain, maintain and grow the exposure of the photography through our websites, exhibits, and publications.
  • To award the Rfotofolio Grant.
  • To Award the Denis Roussel Award.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Sara's Garden Project

I have a few hobbies aside from photography, and one of my loves is gardening. I enjoy the little miracles I see every day when I'm walking around admiring the beauty. I tend to enjoy flower gardening a lot more than working with vegetables. I do enjoy pulling something fresh from the garden and eating it, but I have never been one for working in the kitchen and the thought of all the work involved with preparing things for long term enjoyment does not appeal to me one bit.

Back to the May I was digging up some weeds and out popped this little gem...

...a miniature oak tree :)  After much admiration, and going to the house for a camera to take a portrait, I replanted this mighty oak in the woods behind our house. I checked on it throughout the summer and it seems to be doing well so far.

Taking that photograph got me thinking that I should try to take portraits of everything in my garden. That thought led to taking flower portraits in situ with my professional set up (insert laughter here):

which turned into portraits like this:

or these (set up with a piece of white bristol board instead of black):

Then I decided it would be easier to pick some and take them indoors to photograph:

These were seed heads I had saved from the previous fall to photograph "sometime"

And then I tried to get artsy and creative in different ways:

The great thing about this project is that it can go on forever. I am nowhere near done photographing all the things in the garden....and not even close to scratching the surface on the creative side.

When other photographers tell me they can't find anything to take photos of, it always gives me pause. I have never had that problem, but I guess there is that expression...simple minds are easily amused :)

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Showing your work


As I mentioned in my previous post, I sometimes struggle with the question: how do I want to share my work?

This year I have shown my work in two solo exhibits and two group exhibits...all local venues within the province. Earlier this summer I decided to try something different and I answered an international call for a photography exhibit with the theme "Water". A Smith Gallery is located in Texas, and the exhibit was curated by Doug Beasley, co-editor of Shots Magazine.

I received notice in August that one of my images was accepted (Groundless - pictured above). There were 930 submissions and 55 of them were selected for exhibit, so I felt quite honoured. The exhibit opened on September 10th and runs until October 31st. A virtual walk through was held on September 25th, and Groundless is shown in the photos below, images that I received from the gallery owners:

As far as I know, there are no galleries in Canada that charge for submitting your work for a juried exhibit. Usually there are restrictions regarding the number of images you can submit for consideration. However, galleries in the United States seem to run differently. This particular exhibit cost $38 (US funds) for 5 entries.

So why pay to enter when there is no guarantee of being selected? Good question. 

In addition to the entry fee, if you are successful and you don't live in the area, you need to send in your framed image or pay for the gallery to print your image and rent a frame. Due to the cost of mailing a framed image, as well as the unreliability of mailing across the border, I decided to have the gallery print and frame my image. (a cost of $35 US)  

So by this time I have invested $73 US ($92.36 at today's exchange rate).  Although it's great to be able to put an international exhibit on my resumé, I really can't think of a reason to continue with this method of showing my work.

I would have loved the opportunity to meet with the other photographers by zoom and listen to everyone talk briefly about their work...that would have been a great experience. Otherwise, I can't think of a benefit to pay $100 to participate in an exhibit. Now....if my image sells I might change my mind about that. But I won't hold my breath for that to

Monday, September 27, 2021

Why do I create?


The Gift

Last year I was determined to add colour into my image making. This was a result of someone telling me that they found my images to be depressing since they were often black and white, or very muted, as well as minimal. 

So I involved myself in a few projects to get some colour into my photographic life.  I worked at these projects and started thinking...YES, I can do this! I can create with colour! And then somewhere along the way I realized that YES! I can create with colour! I can be an image maximalist! But you know what....I don't want to! 

Minimalism, subtle colour, high contrast black and white images. These are images I enjoy looking at, and these are the images I want to create, images that move me.

I love creating images and am lucky enough that I enjoy doing this in many ways. I enjoy discovering something with my eyes and capturing it with a camera. The technical aspect is not important to me. I could use a phone camera, a point and shoot, or my "good" camera. 

I also enjoy creating composited images on my computer by taking elements from several different photographs and creating something new that comes from my imagination. I have a vast library of photographs I've taken over the years...strange things that I captured without knowing why. Now I have a way to use all those elements to create something new, and I love it. I love creating something that no one else will ever be able to create because they don't have my library...and they don't have the same vision as me.

I belong to a photography club, and I have been told so many times that what I do is not photography. Why does everything need a label? Why can't I make the images I want to make without other people telling me that it doesn't fit into their notion of photography? I'm not entering into competitions with these images...I'm just creating images that I enjoy making.

Struggling artistically is something I do now and then. I go through this phase every so often when I want to throw up my hands, pull everything off social media, and beat a hasty retreat from the public eye. But I do feel the need to share my work in some way, so the question should that be done? Something to ponder.

The bulletin board above my desk is filled with printed images that I have created this year. I think they are good. I think they are leaps and bounds over the images I exhibited at a gallery in I created in 2019 and 2020. 

Maybe I'll share them someday. But maybe it's okay just to have them on a bulletin board for me to see.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Creating a still life

Balancing Act

I've talked now and then about generating ideas and how I get inspired. In January 2020, together with artist Helen Eaton, I created a group called Inspiration Collaboration. In a nutshell, we provide inspiration images at the first of every month and anyone interested creates any form of art using those images as their inspiration. 

This month, Helen's image was Basket of Peaches. I knew right away that I wanted to create a still life using peaches. I had two challenges...first, to wait for peaches to come into season here in Nova Scotia...and second, to think of a creative way to display my peaches. I decided that trying to stack my peaches was a good place to contrast to Helen's peaches which were spilling from a basket. 

One thing I learned: I need a lot more practice in still life photography. Aside from lighting, my biggest challenge is placing the items. How many peaches should be in the bowl? How many should be on the table? What kind of background should I use? How much (if anything) should be reflected on the table? Where should the light come from? Yikes!

Here are some of the things I tried:

As you can see, many of the images are too dark. I purchased some studio lighting earlier this year, and I have yet to learn the trick of using them. Either my images are too flat, or too dark. I want them to look natural. Maybe my trick will be to go back to using only natural

I did manage to balance five peaches (one is unseen in the sugar bowl), but I didn't like that image as well as my final selection. I want to post it here....all peaches balanced for a few seconds before falling on the table and floor.

I have been eating bruised peaches since I completed my photo shoot!

Monday, June 7, 2021

On Landscape Magazine Article

On Landscape Issue 232 - Sara Harley - The Trailings Project
I'm very honoured, excited, and basically just thrilled beyond belief to have an article published in the UK based On Landscape Magazine. You can read the complete article (including 16 photographs and approximately 2000 words) at this link:


Saturday, May 1, 2021

Exhibit Catalogues

The province of Nova Scotia went into a lockdown on April 28th to try to reverse the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and only essential services are open. Our public libraries are closed, which means my Trailings exhibit is also closed. can view my whole project online! 

I compiled a guide as part of my project....part exhibit guide, part project history. I created a 32 page magazine and ordered some hard copies for sale. I also put the whole magazine into pdf format and into an easily viewable online magazine. Details about the process are below...but is the link to view here:  Just click on the arrows at the top right of your screen to page forward and back through the magazine.

Exhibit Guide Sara Harley Trailings


Exhibit Guides - Part 4 of an ongoing series about preparing for exhibits

I have only participated in two exhibits that included an exhibit guide as part of the experience, so I have very limited knowledge about this whole subject. 

The first exhibit guide was created as part of a group exhibit that my photography club put together in 2017. I was in charge of the exhibit, and took it upon myself to create a guide. This guide was not for the general public, but the participants all ordered a copy of it as a keepsake. I created the guide using a print on demand company called Blurb Books, and I selected an 8x10 inch trade publication to reduce expenses. Each page of the exhibit guide featured one of the participants, and included the image title, large image, location and date under the image, a brief description/blurb about the image, and the photographer's name and bio at the bottom of the page. 

The second time was a 2018 exhibit at Viewpoint Gallery in Halifax, NS. A juried group exhibit called Picturing Health, it included work by 10 photographers. The cover of the guide was simple, and included the exhibit title, one line explanation "A Group Exhibition Exploring the Relationship between Wellness and Creatvity", exhibit dates, participating photographers, and gallery logo. 

The contents of the exhibit guide consisted of:

- a two page introduction to the exhibit

- a one page note from the President of the sponsoring foundation

- each of the 10 photographers had a two page spread, with their images on the left page and a brief artist statement and bio on the right page

- one page with information about the host gallery and the sponsoring foundation

Simple, straight forward, and professionally put together, the exhibit guide certainly made me feel like I was part of something special.

When I was putting together my Trailings exhibit, I was originally scheduled to show the exhibit in two locations. In the first location, I would be able to sell my work and I decided to create an exhibit guide to give people an item they could purchase at a much lower price point.  

I decided that my exhibit guide would be more than just information about the photos in the would include background information to explain the whole project. (In case you haven't yet taken a look....go to the top of this blog post to click on a link and view it online)  It took many hours of organizing...and reorganizing...but I finally got the document to what I wanted.

Then I found out that my first exhibit location fell through due to some unexpected renovations. I wasn't able to sell the guides at the second location, but decided to order a small batch of magazines to sell myself and then created the online magazine to share my project with everyone who was interested.

And...I'm happy to say....I have sold all but one of my hard copies.  In a non COVID world where I could have had an artist talk with the public, I'm sure I could have sold many more. 

Would I put something like this together again? In a heartbeat. I love creating books/'s one of my favourite hobbies. 

Would I recommend other exhibiting artists to spend the time putting something like this together? Only if you are creating the exhibit/project guide for YOU and your own satisfaction. It's not a big money maker and the time invested in the creation of the guide could be spent in more productive ways if you're looking at it from a financial payback point of view.

One last tip - creating online viewable books/magazines. If you create your guide using Blurb Books, you can simply select the option for the public to view your book. You can select a few pages, or the whole book, for viewing. However, I didn't want people thinking I was trying to push sales so I came up with another option. I created a pdf of my guide, and then I did a search for "free online pdf to flipbook converter". I selected  and chose the free version. That means they "brand" your flipbook with their big deal for me. You can easily add your project title, select the "sound" you want when the pages are flipped (I opted for no sound), and then you get a link you can share.

Easy peasy.

I hope this gives some insight into exhibit guides. There is no right or wrong. If you're part of a gallery exhibit, they will look after everything for you. If you're arranging your own exhibit, it's your choice whether to have an exhibit guide or not....and what to include or not.


Previous articles about preparing for exhibits:

1. Exhibits - Selecting a theme

2. Exhibits - Applications and writing statements

3. Exhibits - selecting images


Also from the Trailings Series: 


Barely There, Water Dance, I'll Cry if I Want To - The passage of Time

Skeleton - not everything has to be beautiful

Friday, April 23, 2021

not everything has to be beautiful

Skeleton - Trailings Series - Sara Harley

I stumbled across this quote a few years ago, and it's still one of my favourite quotes about art:

"Art is not always about pretty things. It's about who we are, what happened to us, and how our lives are affected." 

- Elizabeth Broun, Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum 1989-2016

When I was selecting images for my Trailings exhibit, I went through many iterations. Indecision was my enemy, but I kept coming back to Skeleton. Should I include it? It wasn't the typical photograph you might see in an exhibition. But it called to me, and could not be ignored so it made the cut.

In some ways, it makes me feel uncomfortable when I look at it. It's not pretty and it's not happy, but it intrigues me. It draws me in and tells a story of vulnerability. Bare to the bones, the lack of surrounding earth strips the scene down to a sense of loss. Maybe not a happy story, but perhaps a story that needs to be talked about and shared.

People seem to be drawn to it, or repelled. That's okay! Any response is a good one.  I felt particularly gratified when someone saw the image without seeing the title and said "it looks like a skeleton". Yes! 



Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Newspaper Article - Trailings Exhibit

Trailings Exhibit Article Sara Harley
Progress Bulletin article, April 21 2021

If you click on the image above, you'll be able to read the article in a larger size format.

Free publicity is always great. I've done a few interviews over the years and it's always interesting to me how a reporter puts things together. Gayle Wilson wrote a lovely article about my exhibit, with lots of background information as well. 

And I didn't realize that I still use the word "neat", as in "it was neat"!  

From Google: What does neat mean slang?
Slang. great; wonderful; fine: What a neat car!

Monday, April 19, 2021

Answering some questions

Off on a New Adventure by Sara Harley
Off on a New Adventure

A while ago Helen Eaton mentioned in one of her blog posts that my blog is one that she follows. She was asking her favourite bloggers to answer some questions. I use this blog for writing about my photography, but I thought it might be interesting to have a blog post that is a bit more personal.  Here are Helen's questions....and my answers:

Question 1: Silence, music, podcast, or something else when you create / work?

Complete silence! I love music, but I find it distracting when I'm creating :)  I don't think I have ever listened to a podcast. I'm a visual person, so prefer YouTube where I can view and listen at the same time.

Question 2: What's your favorite part of the process as you create / write?

All my troubles retreat when I'm creating....part of the reason I love what I do. Whether I'm out and about with my camera in hand, or sitting at my desk creating something on the computer, I become completely absorbed and everything that is going on (internally and externally) fades into the background.

Question 3: Where do you do your craft, and what's that space like?

I'm either outside with my camera, or I'm in my home office. My office is very small....7 feet by 8 feet. In our original house plans, the space was actually a walk in closet by the front door. I had the plans changed and moved the closet door to a side hallway and added a smaller front hall closet by the front door. Voila, a walk in closet became my office! It's snug, but I love it. I have a desk with computer and two monitors to create with. I have an old wooden tool chest that I use as a table for my printer. There are shelves filled with family photos, favourite collectibles, books that I have made, reference books, and books from friends (I love books!). And...two large bulletin boards filled with inspiration bits and bobs, and my own works in progress. My office is one of my happy places.

Question 4: How do you choose who to follow? (Blogs, Instagram, Facebook, etc.)

I have signed up to receive a couple of blogs by email, but apparently that won't be happening after June because I just received a notice from blogger that the "follow by email" feature is going away. I have a love/hate relationship with the internet and social media. On one hand, I find it inspiring to see what other people are doing. On the other hand, I tend to feel inadequate when faced with so many inspiring people. I spend less and less time following other people, and try to focus on doing my own thing. I dislike facebook and only use it when I feel I have to share a big milestone with my family and friends. Most of my internet time is spent scrolling through my instagram feed but I'm trying to break that habit as well. I subscribe and unsubscribe to accounts quite frequently. Currently I follow some photographers and some quilters who inspire me.

Question 5: Why do you write and post on your blog?    

I started blogging in 2007 when I owned a dog biscuit company. I sold the company in 2008, retired, and moved half way across Canada but decided to continue blogging to document our new life in the country. We moved into a town in 2015 and blogging went by the way side for a couple of years. I picked it back up again a couple of years ago to document my photography. I am fickle and am not a faithful blogger, but blogging helps me gets things straight in my own mind. Basically, I use my blog to try to inspire other people...and to keep a record of things I think are of value in my photographic journey.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The passage of time

Trailings series, continued

Barely There by Sara Harley, Trailings Series

Time can't be captured, but photos can tell the story of passing time. Photographing the same subject over months, or years, is a way for me to gain perspective. Nature has a way of teaching us that allowing time to pass can help us, and the cycles of life will ebb and flow. 

The three images in this post were all photographed in the same location, over a 2 month period. Barely There (above) was the last in the series.

The first in the series was Water Dance (below).

Water Dance by Sara Harley, Trailings Series

I stumbled on this scene by accident. I was looking for a gathering of trees with yellow fall foliage, part of a monthly project called Inspiration Collaboration that I work on with artist Helen Eaton. I wanted trees with yellow leaves as a response to her painting Aspens in Autumn. However, when I saw this scene it stopped me in my tracks and I forgot all about yellow. This photograph is full of colour and joy, a celebration of life. The leaves seemed to be drifting on the water in a silent dance, poetry in motion.

One month later, I decided to return to the same location and I photographed I'll Cry if I Want To (below). 

I'll Cry if I Want To by Sara Harley, Trailings Series
The party from Water Dance was over. The scene was more subdued but no less beautiful. The leaves had finished their dance and were submerged at the bottom of the stream. It was a grey overcast day and the rain was gently falling, nature's tears creating ripples on the water.

Three different photographs, three very different feelings, all from the same location. Some photographers search for new locations constantly, but I believe that some of my best work comes from places that I'm familiar with and can return to time and time again.


Also from the Trailings Series: 



Monday, April 12, 2021

Lacework - Trailings Series


Lacework by Sara Harley, Trailings Project
Trailings is now being exhibited, so I thought I would feature some of the photographs here.

Do you see beauty, or do you see destruction? 

I first saw these branches last year in mid August and I was fascinated with them. I thought they were beautiful and looked like delicate lace. A couple of months later, I was in the same area and took another series of photos. There were many trees in the same condition and the leaves were even more skeletal than my previous visit. 

Just a few days ago I was on the trail in the same area that I had taken Lacework. The sun was shining and the frogs were singing a beautiful chorus, but it will be a while before we have leaves on the trees. Apparently it's not too soon for the creators of the delicate lacework to be out in full force. I stopped in amazement when I saw them, not dozens, not hundreds, but thousands or millions of them!

Here are a few shots I took with my phone...the tiniest little artists you've ever seen:

Friday, April 2, 2021

Trailings Exhibit opened

Trailings Exhibit - Sara Harley
Trailings Exhibit - Margaret Hennigar Public Library

I spent part of yesterday morning hanging my Trailings exhibit at our local library. I had a few people who had asked for updates on my project (a result of asking for public involvement back in November...see this post for more info). I let them know I would be at the library, but I finished so quickly that I missed a couple of them who dropped by to see me in action. Oops. 

I had measured the space ahead of time, and had made a hanging plan of the order I wanted the images, so it was all smooth sailing to hang them. Planning ahead makes the job much easier. One thing I changed on the fly...I had planned to hang everything at the same height. I decided once I started hanging that...1. it would be very, very difficult to get them all at the same height using their wire hanging system...and 2. it would be much more visually interesting to have the images staggered. That decision made the hanging job so much easier!

Trailings Exhibit - Sara Harley
It's difficult to see in the photo, but there are a couple of things sitting on the shelves which are part of the display. I'll talk about them more in a later post....a comment book, and a couple of copies of a project guide I published that includes the images from the exhibit, as well as some details about the project.

Trailings Exhibit - Sara Harley