Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey

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Easy to Overlook

Another short post as I’ve fallen behind on processing some pictures due to boring life maintenance things that have to be done (home, yard, etc.) and I’m going up to Portland tomorrow.   I noticed this week, that the three pictures I’ve recently posted on my sites, are things that would be easy to overlook.

Stream-Water The first photograph was of the water in a small stream.  What attracted me was its golden color due to the rocks and the clarity of the water. This picture took hardly any processing: a quick tonal contrast in Nik software and a high overpass in PS. I find I get attracted by color and depth, and I loved the various shades of rocks, and the golden green cast the stream had. The small ripples on the water’s surface didn’t hurt, and though I thought about cropping out the overhanging leaves, I decided I liked them as they supplied a context for the water, a link to the world beyond that the water nourished.

The second image I worked on was one I took of a moth.  I probably never would have noticed it, if I had not heard it and seen something fly downward to the ground out of the corner of my eye. It was not big enough to be a bird, but seemed large enough to make me almost think it might be a hummingbird.  White-lined-Sphinx-MothI looked down, and there this creature was.  I had never seen anything like it. Later, after looking at the photo I had taken before it flew off, I was able to google it and identify it as a White-Line Sphinx Moth. They undergo their transformation under the ground and then dig their way out.  You usually see them after dusk between the months of April and October, and they are pollinators of certain plants like petunias, orchids and evening primrose. Their wingspan can exceed 5 inches.

Again, this photo underwent the same processing as the prior one. I only wish I was able to get more of the markings on his wings that were quite beautiful. I was angling to do so when he took off. I liked this one the best of the few I got, because of his eyes and the leaf that might give you an idea of his size.

The final picture I took just a few days ago. I was taking my dog out for her morning potty run, and noticed this red leaf  10 yards away that really stood out.  I loved the abstract pattern it had.  These few leaves on the plant had the bright red coloring and almost etched like pattern, while the rest of the plant was green.

Be True to Your Own ColorsThis photo did take more post-processing because I wanted to add a texture and emphasize the one leaf. Because the leaf reminded me of leather, I created a leather-like texture for the background. Stuff like this always takes a bit of experimentation, and adjustments on opacity and layer masks, but I was pleased with the result. I entitled it, “Be True to Your Own Colors.” This leaf reinforces my belief that differences usually make life more interesting.

Be True to Your Own Colors to me suggests a person who takes the road less traveled, who wears their heart on their sleeve, who stands out from the crowd, and is sometimes an outcast and sometimes a hero, but who experiences life authentically. It’s something I’ve aspired to; and most often failed miserably, but still I admire people and leaves like that! I don’t want to be as flamboyant as this leaf, but I don’t want just be part of the background either.


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Blooms, Birds and a few Deer

This will be a shorter post!  I’ve been busy this last week, so I’m just going to post a few of my favorite pictures I’ve taken.

Winging-the-WaveFirst, I went back to Florence, Oregon, at the end of last week, but I must admit I was a bit distracted, getting a late start and just not being mentally quiet or prepared to use my new variable density, especially since I had my dog with me and I couldn’t let her off her leash initially as there were more people around.  Not that she’s not friendly – on the contrary, she may be excessively friendly, especially with small children. This picture was taken after the sun had set.  I liked the birds’ uplifted wings, and named this “Winging the Waves.” What that means, I don’t quite know, but it came to me and stuck.

The other picture I liked that day, was seeing a crow watching the setting sun.Black-Crow-Watching-Setting-Sun He seemed so contemplative and focused on the horizon. I just found him incredibly beautiful.

Of course, I’ve been taking pictures of flowers and birds.  There is a Mt. Fuji tree in the garden that every year is just gorgeous. It seemed to bloom a bit late, but as there are still cold and rainy days here, it’s not surprising. This picture is a closeup of a bloom. Fuji-Blossom-close-up

The next two pictures are actually from one photograph.  I loved the way the brilliant greens of the foliage behind the bird came out, and yet with my new lens, the bird is still incredibly sharp as shown in the closeup photo.

This little guy is a song sparrow, quite common, but with a beautiful song. Apparently they learn songs from their neighbors and can learn up to 20 with thousands of variations. They like to repeat the same tune again and again, before switching to another. I’m not one to know the names of birds and flowers; I’ve been learning them in order to identify the posts, and it’s always good to learn some new facts.

Song-Sparrow-1Song-Sparrow-2Just a couple of days ago I took a walk across the river, and sure enough, coming home in the car on this rural road, I saw a small herd of deer again.  Initially I just saw one, and stopped the car.  It was looking back – I thought at me. But no, it was waiting for two more does and a fawn.

They crossed the road, and went up into the densely foliaged hillside.  At first I couldn’t find them, but I did locate them, and was able to take some photographs.  I thought the fawn was just precious.  I liked the way they looked out for it; She was between two does when catching up to the other doe, and then they let the fawn go up the hillside before them.

All these pictures were processed in Photoshop with my usual processing, with the exception of the first, photo which I took into Color Efex and gave it a glamour glow which seemed suitable. Hope you enjoy!


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The Joy of Photographing Animals


There are many aspects of photography that I love – taking the pictures, reviewing them, using them as an inspiration point, and processing them. But I’ve realized in the last two days, that I get most excited when photographing animals.

The end results are often not my favorites in terms of aesthetics.  When you come upon an animal in its natural habitat, you often don’t have the time to compose, choose the lighting conditions or background, etc., aside from trying to adjust the exposure compensation on the fly.  Hopefully your ISO is properly set and the aperture range is good, but mainly you’re tracking and focusing, and this is much more difficult with a telephoto lens.

The last two days I had the good fortune to photograph a river otter and yesterday two beavers.  The river otter I spotted swimming about, a disturbance in my range of vision, that made me run, get my camera, secure my dog, and start taking pictures.

River-Otter-Fishing-Profile River-Otter-Eating

The river otter was swimming around: he would dive, come up in a different location, then dive again.  I had to look up from the eyepiece, locate him, focus and shoot while at the same time clambering over rocks to get a better angle (a dangerous feat in itself when one is focused on the animal and trying to move quietly and without too much movement).  Initially he was about 100 feet away, but eventually he did swim closer to about maybe 50-60 feet at the closest point.  It was morning, so the light allowed a good contrast (easier to focus), a lower ISO setting (about 100-125) resulting in less noise, and I was really pleased with the results.

River-Otter-DivingWhile the end results may not be as beautifully composed as say a landscape photograph, what’s so amazing is that you get to watch an animal’s behavior, and then when you review the pictures, you see all sorts of details that you could never see with your naked eye.  For instance, I never realized otters had such big teeth!  I love the way the fur looks – coated with water, and yes they do have bad hair days.  I also like the almost Zen state you’re in when you’re photographing the animal due to the intense focus. I was using my new telephoto lens which I’ve been been using almost exclusively for the last few weeks for shots of flowers and birds, mainly to get used to it.  I took a picture of a river otter this last January that was much closer with my old telephoto lens, but I’m very happy so far with my new lens and I think it was worth the investment.

River-Otter-Coming-Straight-On River-Otter-Eating-on-the-Swim

The beavers were much harder to shoot.  First the light was falling rapidly (around 7pm).  Again, I saw something swimming across the water that didn’t look like a duck.  I didn’t know what it was.  When I got my lens, I was excited to see it was a beaver.  The distance was initially probably closer to a football field (not good at estimating distances.) Again, with my naked eye, I could see a dark, large shape crawling out of the river, then two shapes!


Some of the end results are sharp; others a bit soft, others down right blurred, but I find I will keep even soft pictures if it shows a particular expression or behavior.

Because of the low light and the distance, I just prayed some shots would be in focus.  I did adjust my ISO and was shooting initially at 800, then 1600, then when it came closer at 800 -1250 after I opened up my aperture a bit.  While beavers don’t dive under the water, they don’t stick their heads as far out either, and they would swim closer to the bank at times that was out of my range (I was shooting from some rocks above – again nearly fell). The end results were not as sharp, especially at the far distances, but what a treat.  One beaver got out of the water at one point to cross some rocks, but my camera couldn’t focus quickly enough, so I will have to rely on my memory for that visual experience of seeing him move very quickly across the rocks and down into the water, carrying his branch all the time.

Beaver-swimming-with-a-branch Beaver-swimming-with-a-branch-2

These two pictures are similar, but while the beaver’s face is a bit sharper than the one on the left, I liked that the left picture does show the beaver’s flat tail.  At one point, I was lucky enough to hear the beaver slap the water, perhaps as a signal to his/her mate.

I had to crop these pictures to bring the animal up close, and in spite of the non-sharpness of the beaver pictures, I hope you enjoy them.  It’s just not something we get to see every day.

I will probably post these pictures on my Etsy or FAA site either later tonight or tomorrow, as I’m heading out to the coast.
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I’ve decided to try to post shorter blogs at least once a week.  We’ll see how that goes.  Emphasis on the word “try”.

So Spring is supposedly here, and last week there were two days that were beautiful, one of those quite warm as well as clear.  Now we’re back to rain in Oregon, as least for the next couple of days.  But the emergence of the season can be seen in the blossoms that are starting to appear and the increased bird activity.

I love going out and hearing their various songs. I’ve even seen a couple of birds gathering moss for their nests.  However, it does seem like Spring is quite tardy this year.

This Robin made me laugh as he was so plump. He just stood there looking at me taking his picture and his expression seemed to say, “So what of it?”

One thing I love about Spring is just that magical feeling of seeing dried out branches start to turn green or bud.  The trees are looking so beautiful – not only the ones that flower, but also the ones that are getting that vivid, light green glow about them as they grow new leaves.

Before-the-BloomI loved this photograph that I took of a Dogwood that had seemingly overnight burst into buds. I don’t have a macro lens, so I used my new telephoto which is much sharper than my old one, but I do have to stand about 5-6 feet back. Since it may be a while before I can afford the macro lens I want, I may have to break down and buy an extension tube, because I love getting close and capturing the beauty in the details.

GraceTwo days later, the buds had opened up.  I took a few pictures of the flowers, but the photograph I liked best was one I cropped from a larger photograph.  While I liked the  larger photograph as well, this flower just had a gorgeous structure that seemed like grace embodied.

It is pouring rain out as I write, so the last couple of days. when I’ve had some free time,  I’ve been working on a picture of a hummingbird that I took last Saturday.

I had gone for a walk on Friday and seen a beautiful red hummingbird in motion that I was totally unprepared for as I was taking picture of a flower and saw it from the corner of my eye.  When I got home, I saw one (red with a green belly – I like to think it was the same one that followed me home) that kept flitting and snacking on a red bloom.  I sat patiently with my camera, but the light was fading, and I couldn’t get the shutter speed fast enough when he did flit into view.  It reminded me of my prior mission to take pictures of dragonflies late last summer.

Then as if to give me a break, the next day  when I was sitting outside in the sun, this beauty came and alighted on a tree opposite me.  HummingbirdMy captures were quite sharp, and in this photo, his proboscis was out – an added treat.  However, I wasn’t really pleased with the background and decided to add a textured background.

Looking-for-Monet-1This was created by  using a photo filter, then adding another picture of branches and changing the blending mode on that layer, and also I created a layer of mottled colors (using various brushes and opacities) that I thought would look well with the bird’s coloring. The effect reminded me of an impressionistic style Ala Monet, so then I added some water lilies as well.

Looking-for-Monet-2Later, when switching on and off the photo filters, I liked the result without the photo filter as well, and perhaps even better as the bird stands out more, and I think the waterlilies also blend in better.  Anyway, it is a lot of fun and easy to be carried away, time-wise and detail-wise, and with all the layers, the working file is huge.

But then once I get focused, I am easily carried away – a little like this blog which was supposed to be short, but grew some (hopefully not gruesome – an old pun of my Dad’s that always made me grimace and now I find myself using it!)  Anyway, to any one out there, hope you enjoy. Have fun and stay creative.

PS: Logged on to buy NIK Software and found that since Google had bought them, they’ve lowered the price by 2/3rd’s.  Maybe it’s time for me to try Vegas again!