Friday, April 29, 2016

Rescue Me - Sight & Sound Essay

My photography club has a few competitions, all of which are voluntary. This year, I entered two competitions. I showed you my "Silent Essay" competition a few weeks ago (Gourds). This is my entry for the "Sight and Sound" competition....a challenge where we set our photographs to music. The photos are abandoned buildings in Nova Scotia and I have used the song "Tightrope" by Lynne Hanson. I love her music, and have seen her in Ontario as well as a couple of times in Nova Scotia. The music has been used with her permission. Here is the video on YouTube if you want to see it in a bigger format.

Rescue Me:

Lynne is such a great person. I contacted her before I shared the video online, and here is her response to my request for permission to publish it using her song: 

Hey Sara,
So great to hear from you.   And I really do need to get back out to the East coast.  It's been way way too long!!
I took at look at your photo essay.  What a collection of incredible shots!  Love love love it. Especially that shot of the bridge.   If I was a judge you'd win for sure.
Feel free to distribute as you see fit.  It's an honour to have my music used for a project like this - you made my day :-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Article #1

Really happy to say that I have written an article for the newsaper (and it has been published!) The Chronicle Herald newspaper has a weekly section called the "South Shore Breaker". It gets delivered with the daily provincial paper on Wednesdays, and is also distributed free with the weekly flyers that everyone gets around here. I wrote a little article about photography and am hoping to write an article every week or so. I most definitely will not be writing a "how to" series, but simply sharing my love of photography and my little adventures. I'm also hoping to raise awareness of our local photography club. Here is a link to the article online:
A Lifelong Love of Photography

But I'll also print it here in case the link stops working at some point in time:
Photography on the South Shore - Rissers Beach
The South Shore of Nova Scotia is the most beautiful place in the world to me. How lucky are we to live in such a postcard perfect community? My husband and I moved here in 2008, and we could have coined the word "staycation" if someone else didn't come up with the word first.

Living here has regenerated my love of photography, and I'd like to share that joy with you. You don't have to own a fancy camera or spend a lot of money to love taking pictures. You don't have to learn anything complicated. There are many excellent "point and shoot" cameras on the market. Or maybe you own a cell phone with a camera. You don't have to take award winning photos. Maybe you just want to capture the flowers in your garden, or your grandchild's face after eating spaghetti, or your dog running down the beach.

I don't have the ability to teach you how to work your camera. I do want to share my enthusiasm with you. But first, let me give you a little background about me.

My love of photography started at a young age when I received a pocket camera for Christmas. That was way back in the film days, and most of my photos were of Bitsy - our family dog. My first job was at the now defunct Woolco Department Store. I worked in the toy department, but it just happened to be next to the camera department. I saved up my money and bought my first serious camera. My dad and I took a brief photography course together, which holds very special memories for me. It was the only thing the two of us ever did together, just the two of us. I still display a printed portrait I took of him while we were out practicing.

Photography at Home - Charlie and Riley
I was a bit of a nerd in high school, and carried my camera around everywhere. I'm sure I drove my friends crazy. I became editor of our high school yearbook for a couple of years, and helped ensure the yearbook had lots of candids of the kids around school instead of just the posed portraits that were the standard thing for yearbooks back then.

Life moved on and my camera got forgotten for a while. Oh, it got brought out on holidays and vacations. But otherwise it languished in a closet.  Through lucky circumstances, I got to retire from bank management when I was just 37. I became a determined entrepreneur and ran a gourmet dog biscuit company which won an award for "Most Innovative Small Business in Ontario" in 2002. It also got me more involved in photography, but in a practical way. I was doing my own product shots and going out to dog events to help promote my business.

Life continued to change. Our son graduated from college and moved from home. We decided it was time to live a dream and move to Nova Scotia. We sold our house, I sold my business, and we made the move to the "right" coast. But what do you do for a social life when you don't know anyone? I decided to join the local photo club. Not only did I meet lots of great people, but it brought me back to my love of photography. And my camera came out of the closet.

So, I encourage you to take your camera out of the closet, out of the drawer, or wherever you have it stashed. And let's explore our love of our homes and families, our neighbourhoods, the South Shore, and Nova Scotia....together.

Photography in the Neighbourhood


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Peggy's Cove

John and I were trying to remember the last time we were at Peggy's Cove together. I went there with my photo club a few years ago. I was there again with a friend in January...a very short visit because the restaurant was closed and we were looking for lunch before exploring. Anyway, we couldn't remember the last time we were there. Isn't it funny how you take things for granted when you live someplace? People come from all over the world to see Peggy's Cove, and we haven't gone for several years! I must admit, I prefer going in off season when there are fewer people around. 
This visit was a first for me...we were there for dinner (aka supper in Nova Scotia ...6pm..."dinner" sometimes means "lunch", depending on who you are talking to). It was low light, which is something I have been wanting to practice with. It turned into a photo session of mostly silhouettes.

Here is the same photo processed in black and white:


Monday, April 18, 2016

Cherry Hill Beach

We went on a little tour yesterday afternoon so I could test out a new camera. One of our stops was Cherry Hill Beach, which is the favourite beach of a friend of mine who lives in Ontario. She's not sure if she'll be able to visit Nova Scotia this year, so I took a little video for her with our point and shoot camera:

As we were leaving, the sound of the spring peepers next to the parking area was amazing. I love the song they sing, and couldn't resist recording it:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Broken Wings

Sometimes I visualize a photograph I want to capture and go out to try to find it. Sometimes I find things to photograph when I'm out and about. But sometimes magic can happen when I'm at home doing the most mundane things.

I was vacuuming last week and found an insect wing on the floor. Hmmm.

Most people would vacuum up the wing without a thought, but my brain engaged.

I stopped vacuuming and carried the wing into the garage (aka my studio), got out my tripod, camera, and macro lens. Cleaned an old mirror and placed the wing on the mirror in front of a window. I started by propping the wing up with a glass glob. Took some photos. 

Decided I just wanted the wing and it's reflection. 

I took a series of photos, and then picked one to work with in photoshop. I did some simple adjustments...removed some spots from the mirror, and played with the brightness and contrast slightly. This is the result:
insect wing on mirror

I looked for a quote about broken wings on the internet, and decided to add some words from a Martina McBride song:
Broken Wings with Martina McBride quote

After thinking about it for a while, I decided to simplify the quote and use my own words instead. And the final outcome...
Broken Wings with quote by Sara Harley

And I did eventually finish the vacuuming.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016


Wounded: (definition)

1. An injury to an organism, especially one in which the skin or another external surface is torn, pierced, cut, or otherwise broken. 2. An injury to the feelings.
Wounded - the first in a creative photographic series about our environment
This image is my first creation for a project I'm working on. I haven't decided on a name for the project yet, but I will be creating images that depict our impact on the environment.
I created this image from two photographs I took in 2013. The first image was a clearcut nearby where we used to live. 
Clearcut - 2013
The second image was the mill in Pictou. I'm not sure why I took this image at the time, because it was totally out of character for me. I had never taken a photo of an industrial scene before...I simply wasn't interested. 
Pictou Mill - 2013
I combined the two photographs to create one image. I rotated the photo of the mill, to make it look like a reflection. I debated about whether to offset the stand of trees and the mill, but I decided to keep them as though one was a reflection of the other.
I converted the colour image to black an white to make it more stark, and I cloned some of the clearcut to make the transition between the two images to seem more natural.
Compilation - Black and White
As a last step, I decided that the image would look better square. Do you prefer the square image, or the image above? As I'm looking at them now, I'm thinking maybe the image above shows the impact of the mill on the sky better.
Wounded by Sara Harley
The first title I selected was "One Thing Leads To Another", but later in the day the word "wounded" popped into my mind. I looked up the definition, and it seemed to be a perfect fit.

1. An injury to an organism, especially one in which the skin or another external surface is torn, pierced, cut, or otherwise broken. 2. An injury to the feelings. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

One thing leads to another

As I mentioned earlier, I had been struggling with trying to ease back into some creativity. Last June, I had taken a workshop with local photographic artist Kas Stone ( The course was about layers and masks and I have recently started practicing what we learned (I am somewhat slow on the uptake sometimes!).

Last week, I decided to create a project for myself. It's rather ambitious, and will require me to stretch my abilities. And it will likely frustrate me to no end. Usually, I keep my creative plans in my head, but I felt strongly about this project and I actually told my husband what I planned to do. I put the idea out there to the universe rather than leave it inside my head.

A coincidence, perhaps, but a few days later I picked up a book from the library that had been put on hold for me.  I've only read half the book so far, but there are things in there that make me sit back and think "wow, that's me!". The first thing that really popped off the page for me was this passage: "It begins when you declare your intent. Stand up tall and say it aloud, whatever it is. Speak it. Let it know you're there. Hell, let you know you're there -  because this statement of intent is just as much an announcement to yourself as it is an announcement to the universe. Hearing this announcement, your soul will mobilize accordingly." That's what I had just done a couple of days before by telling John about my project.  Coincidence?

The book is "Big Magic - Creative Living Beyond Fear" by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Here is another excerpt from her book that particularly struck a chord with me:
"Something is carrying me along - something powerful and generous- and that something is decidedly not me. You may know this feeling. It's the feeling you get when you've made something wonderful, or done something wonderful, and when you look back at it later, all you can say is: "I don't even know where that came from." You can't repeat it. You can't explain it. But it felt as if you were being guided."

That has happened to me in the past, especially with my inspirational writing, and sometimes with my glass art. It has also happened to me twice in the past week. Totally awesome.

So...back to my project idea. This project that is beyond my ability to create right now. But I know, I just know, that I am going to make it happen. I am going to create a series of images of our environment, and how we impact it. Maybe it sounds boring. But I am beyond excited about it. One night, I planned 3 images that I want to create. Then I went to bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up with a 4th idea that was totally different than what I had planned the day before. I thought about it awhile, and then went back to sleep. In the morning, I couldn't wait to get to my computer. 

That was Saturday. I created the image that day. I'll post the image tomorrow.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Garlic to Gourds

I may have mentioned that I felt creatively "stuck" for quite a while. I kick started my creative juices last December with some gourds. Gourds? Yes, gourds. We had stopped to buy some organic garlic from some friends, and as things go in Nova Scotia, we stayed to chat around the kitchen table for awhile. Debbie showed us some decorative gourds that she had grown over the summer. I couldn't stop looking at them. They looked like long necked birds to me. I had to really focus on our conversation, because my brain kept wandering to thinking about the gourds and the many poses I could think of for them. Crazy, eh?

I asked if we could take some home with us, and ended up taking three. It didn't take long for me to set up my camera and start trying to replicate the images I had seen in my mind.

I took a series of six photos in December, and posted them on facebook. Then early in the year, I decided to create a bigger series of photos so I could enter the "Silent Essay" competition in our photo club (which requires 12 photos). This was a big, BIG thing for me to decide. I hadn't entered photo club competitions for 2 1/2 years. Taking the photographs wasn't difficult. Making the decision to actually hit "enter" and send my slide show into competition was a tough one. 

I can't tell you how many times I changed my mind about entering the competition. It's just ridiculous how we can get ourselves into such a state of lack of confidence in our abilities. Why do we make things so hard on ourselves?

Anyway, I did it. Created the slide show. Entered the competition. And now, here it is for your viewing pleasure.

And did I mention that I won the competition? "Gourds" won the Silent Essay Trophy at our local photo club. Woot!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Less is More?

When we were out and about in January, this scene caught my eye because of the trees and their reflections. 
January 2016 - Lunenburg Dog Walker

I decided to work with the photo as part of a "contrast" challenge at my photo club. I removed the visual clutter of the sky, golf clubhouse and dark clump of trees. This reduced the photo to the stark denuded trees with the snow backdrop and reflections. 
January 2016 - Lunenburg Dog Walker
The added bonus was the man walking his dog...they added a bit of life to the photo. Although it is a colour image, it is almost totally black and white except for man and his best friend.

Which photo is better? Well, that depends on the story you want to tell. I think both of them work for different reasons.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Reboot has been ages and ages since I posted anything on my blog. I started my blog to talk about our adventures after we moved from Ontario to Nova Scotia...from suburban life to country life. We had a lot of adventures along the way (washing the behinds of baby guinea hens, rescuing birds from our wood stove pipe, rescuing our dogs from porcupines, etc, etc).

But life moves on, and after almost 8 years in the country we have become "townies". We love it! But life is definitely different.

I decided to try to pick up the blogging habit again, in part to try to kick my own patootie and use it for a springboard for my creativity. Because along with not blogging, I haven't really done too much creatively for a long time. Oh yes, I dabbled here and there. I took a few photos. I did a few zentagled inspired drawings. This and that. Here and there.

But I'd like to try to invite creativity back on a more consistent basis. Maybe putting it into print will be that extra little drive I need. To start, I'm going to concentrate on my photography, and maybe my creative life will become more focused. 

Ha, I couldn't resist that little pun!