Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey

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Up a Gravel Road

Last summer, the quest to get to Hidden Lake faded with the leaves on the trees after one attempt was aborted due to bad directions from a well meaning person who had been there once.  Summer seems to come and go so quickly here in Oregon. It takes forever to get here – think rain and dreary weather into June. But here it is well into September, and we are still experiencing wonderfully balmy weather (for Oregon) – yesterday a nice 78 degrees.  So last week, I googled the lake, wrote down the directions for the forest roads involved, imprinted a visual map of the satellite view of the lake surrounded by green trees in my brain, and set off.

It was a bit too late for swimming for me at least, but I wanted to let my dog, Maisie get wet, take some pictures, and have a mini adventure. So off I set, past Cougar Reservoir, right on NF 1980 and up the gravel road.  I had stopped by a friend’s house on the way up, and the last words I heard were, “don’t get lost,” but I usually expect to get a little lost and as long as it’s not late at night or my gas tank is empty, I don’t mind the possibility.

The road wasn’t that bad for a gravel road, but it is hard to gauge distance and direction when the roads are winding upwards, and you’re driving only about 15 miles an hour, so I kept my eye for the appropriate turn-off.  As my car climbed higher, I decided I had probably passed it, but I wanted to see more.

There is a sense of isolation when one is surrounded by large fir trees high on a mountain that is quite wonderful.  There’s a point when I notice that the sounds and anxious energy of human existence have dropped away and instead there is a calm hum of the natural world around me.  I feel small and even inconsequential, a speck next to the trees that surround me and the mountain they grow from, and yet I also feel a part of everything that surrounds me, from the wildflowers that grow beside the gravel road, to the rocks, and trees and sky.  Finally I decide to turn back to find the lake so that Maisie can have a swim before the afternoon has slipped away.

The lake does have a few other human inhabitants and is surrounded by a marsh-like setting, which I discover when I decide to cut to it through the woods to find some solitude. After falling, and finding it difficult to get up with my camera bag on my back and the uneven reed covered ground (for skiers, think falling in deep powder), I backtrack and take the path.

There’s an old big raft on the other side of the lake with about 5 people fishing off it; it looks like something Huck Finn would have been comfortable with.  On my side of the lake, is a family.  At first I can just hear the kids’ laughing and playing in the water, but at one point while I am  watching fish jump from the water, the family comes into sight, a floating choo-choo train – the parents rowing in a medium size rubber raft followed by three plastic toy rafts for the oldest of the kids.  Excitable Maisie needs to be restrained from swimming out and sinking one of the kids.  So there is a bit of barking until the family makes their way to a dock to the north and then makes their slow way back again. For the most part, the afternoon is beautiful and peaceful, and there are dragonflies and damselflies galore! Here are my best shots from the day.

Next week I will write about my trip to Florence a couple of days ago.  Once again, to view larger versions of some of these photos and many more of my photographs, please visit my site at Etsy, Radiance Cards Photos or for prints including matting and framing at Belinda Greb Photography and Cards. Click on nature photos to see more photography by other nature photographers.

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In Search of a Dragonfly

After my one hike where I had captured a shot of an amber-colored dragonfly, I was focused on finding a more colorful dragonfly to photograph before the season was over.

The next week when hiking near the Blue River Reservoir (pictured here), no dragonflies were to be seen, although I did momentarily see on two occasions the large light-colored wings of an owl silently sweeping through the trees.  Later that same day, back at home, I walked down to the river, and there was a large blue and green dragonfly making wide sweeping circles along the banks.  It would come tantalizingly near as I was pressed the shutter halfway to focus, then dart away like in one of those videos you see of alien spacecrafts.  At my computer, a microscopic examination of my photos for the most part revealed either the bank of the river devoid of dragonflies or just a blur of blue-green.

The next day I changed my tactics.  I set my camera to shutter priority and a higher ISO, but along the banks my winged friend was not to be found. I headed into the darker recesses of the trees where there is a small muddy pond.  Alas, no dragonfly . . . . and then as if responding to my presence, suddenly I saw a darting shadow overhead.  He came from the far end of the pond, and began to make circles back and forth from one end of the elongated but narrow pond to the other.

The pond had the advantage of being a much smaller area to track his meanderings; however, the light was extremely low and he was still extremely fast. I began to follow him with my camera, jerking back and forth, up and down.  I would pause, deciding just to watch him and discover his rhythm, and he would choose that moment to pause in his frenetic path and hover just before me.  I’d hastily put camera to eye, and poof, he was gone. After a time, I did seem to follow his rhythm more fluently.  I’m not sure if it’s an instinctual thing that happens when we sustain focus, but I felt as if I begin to anticipate his movements and I managed to catch some shots that I could work with. Eventually my wrist got extremely tired and the light that was already minimal began to fade.

The next day, I attached my telephoto lenses.  Again, at first I did not see him at the pond, but after a few minutes, he was there.  It probably was coincidence, but I felt strangely as if this insect was waiting for my arrival.  My telephoto lens has two disadvantages: the light capability is much lower, not only because it’s telephoto and the lens lack the “L” quality glass of my other lens, but also my telephoto lens auto-focusing is pretty horrible, especially when trying to focus on a fast-moving subject – thus I had to manually focus, quite a feat especially when the object darts in and out of your small field of vision.  I caught a few good sharp close-up pictures.   Because the backgrounds were less interesting, I enhanced one photo to create a different piece of digital art (see first two photos below).

I had read that it is best to try to find dragonflies in the morning when they are still clinging to a stalk, unable to yet fly because the dew rests too heavy on their wings.  Yet despite venturing out a few mornings to look for my little friend’s sleeping spot, I did not discover this optimum photo opportunity.

Overall, because I was able to get closer in with the telephoto, the few good shots I got had better resolution opposed to the smaller cropped images, but the process and results were still less pleasing to me.  It’s made me want to add some sort of inexpensive flash system to my wish list and reinforced my desire for a better L series telephoto lens.  Perhaps this will happen by next dragonfly season.

More significantly, aside from the technical learning experiences of trying to shoot a small but extremely beautiful dragonfly in motion, my photographic exercises gave me a new appreciation of these odonates.  The experience of seeing a dragonfly stop in front of you and look momentarily into your eyes, demonstrating a consciousness of you and its surroundings, rendered a feeling that as foreign as that consciousness possessed by such a small creature may be to a human consciousness, it is a living unique being with a purpose.

Dragonflies spend most of their life in nymph form beneath the water’s surface (the larger ones up to five years), and only 5-6 months flying – but despite that brevity, what a glorious, joyful flight it must be.

To view larger versions of some of these photos and many more of my photographs, please visit my site at Etsy, Radiance Cards Photos or for prints including matting and framing at Belinda Greb Photography and Cards.

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Too Short a Walk

My goal was to take a long walk yesterday with my camera and dog before meeting my friend at the reservoir for a swim.  Unfortunately I overheated myself working outside in the yard at mid-day and got a late start so I chose a shorter walk.  There were a lot of dragonflies, mostly darting past, and a couple of brilliant blue jays that proved to be temptingly elusive.  They would chatter and hop from tree to tree hiding behind branches too high for me to sight them properly without a telephoto.  There was one little moth who seemed to be begging me to take his picture, and while he was a dull little thing I halfheartedly complied.  The picture did not turn out so well but I swear he was looking up at me! All in all it was a nice little walk, if not photo rich, and my dog appreciated the exercise. See a few of the pictures I got below.

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After the walk, I was excited to see the beautiful sunflowers in my friend’s vegetable garden, and the swim in the reservoir was refreshing (although the water is getting colder each time I go). My dog, part Labrador, is now a better swimmer than I.

I love photography and not just my own. It’s inspiring and educational to see another photographer’s vision.  I may be too shy to take a lot of photos of people on the street; it’s hard for me even to take pictures of family and friends (too self-conscious),  but that doesn’t mean I don’t like looking at compelling portraits.  And I love looking at places I haven’t seen or fauna or flora specific to a different locale. Again, one person’s style may not be one I use myself, but it doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate it.

Earlier in the day, I started a FPOE Pininterest page focusing on work from the FPOE team (Females photographers of Etsy) and later in the evening I made a FPOE treasury. You can click on the photo to be linked to the treasury.  Have a wonderful week, and be conscious of all the beauty around you.

Find my work at Etsy – Radiance Cards Photos or for prints including matting and framing at Belinda Greb Photography and Cards.  Thank you for visiting.

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Welcome to my blog about photography and life.

I don’t think I’ve ever strived for perfection – because it seems to me that things that people called perfect didn’t always fit my definition of what was beautiful or true. I’ve learned and come to accept that what I may find beautiful, someone else may not care for at all.  So this won’t be a blog about how to get the most technically stunning picture, but more about journeys out in nature with camera in hand and the musings that happen along the way.

That we may differ in how we perceive and judge an object, a value, the world at large, based on our experiences, how our ideas were formed or adopted, and our unique patterns of thought, is an intrinsic characteristic of our individual sensibility, not to be feared but embraced as just one more example of the wonderful varieties of life.  That being said, we all want to express ourselves and to make a connection with others, whether it be through our words, shared dialogues or creative works.

Photography for me was initially a way of trying to capture memories, primarily while traveling.  An image is an evocative way of finding the past and re-experiencing it with your current consciousness.  Thus you may notice something in an old photo that strikes you anew, just as certain passages from a book not read in 10 years will stand out more while your prior favorite passages fail to impress.

But photography is more than just capturing memories.  It is putting forth a perspective on the world – perhaps focusing on a small item that is usually not seen so closely or appreciated.  It may be stilling a moment that is often fleeting –  holding the brilliant colors of a sunset that fade too quickly to black or making the smile of a child eternal.  A camera can be a powerful tool, and the evolving struggle of trying to accurately capture what one hopes to express and share – a joyful and worthy endeavor, regardless of whether the result be perfect or flawed.

Find my work at Etsy – Radiance Cards Photos or for prints including matting and framing at Belinda Greb Photography and Cards.  Thank you for visiting.

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