Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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Wild Horses – Part 2

My prior post, Wild horses Part 1, took you into the wonderful natural area of Harney County, in Oregon, where cattle, horses, and other creatures, large and small, roam and fly  free. I had told you that we encountered horses not only from the South Steens Mountain Herd, but also the Palomino-Buttes Herd off of Highway 20 between Burns and Ripley.

Before I continue on with that, I wanted to post a couple of photographs I captured of another horse I saw on my way to look for the Kiger Mustangs (which I never saw). This horse was in the general area, but outside the boundaries.  At first I thought he might be wild, but he ran towards me, although this could have been a protective move as he was with a mare that looked pregnant. Horse in Motion

One thing about photographing these horses, is that you really aren’t that close to them, so many of the photographs I took (with a 100-400mm zoom lens on a full frame sensor) are unable to render a sharp closeup. As soon as they see you, they usually start to move away. This photo is a composite of this horse’s movement, which is beautiful.

The Bureau of Land Management in Oregon actively adopts many of these horses out, so after viewing the one prize photograph I got, he could have been one of these adopted horses.  These horses, mares as well as the stallions, do show a lot of battle scars from living out in the harsh natural environment. The areas are very rocky, and in the winter, there is snow and not much to eat.  Also, they tend to get into scuffles with each other.

Resilience-w11x14I named this photograph “Resilience.” These horses are beautiful, and I love seeing them free, but it’s also important to acknowledge how tough their lives must be at times. When I zoom in on the photo above, for instance,  (the original of the horse in the foreground), you can clearly see some type of sore above his knee. I doubt it is from a fall since it is above the knee. I thought it was probably the result of a horse kicking him.

What amazed me about the Palomino-Buttes herd is how well the horses are able to camouflage themselves into the background.  We thought with the flat terrain spotted by sagebrush, it would be easy to spot them as we drove down the gravel road towards Harney Lake, but we almost passed them.  A truck was coming towards us with a plume of dust behind it, meaning I rolled up the windows to protect the camera gear. I had slowed down, and as the dust settled, suddenly they were there by the side of the road, perhaps 20 yards in.  But by the time, I had brought the car to a slow stop and rolled down the windows, they had moved back.  Palomino-Buttes

There were three adults and a foal.  Perhaps because of the foal, they were very alert.  One horse seemed to be in charge and stayed back while the other three moved off first. I got out of the car and tried to follow them, but they disappeared very quickly into the sagebrush.  When we returned we did see that they had returned to the same general area but were further away from the road.

We also saw two more horses further down the road – they seemed less skittish – the stallion taking his time to pee, before nonchalantly moving off, and again, disappearing very quickly into the brush, although they were moving at a slower pace then the previous horses.  One thing is that the sagebrush does seem to provide good cover. You don’t see them if their heads are down to graze, but again I couldn’t figure out why the cattle were so easy to spot, and the horses seemed much more difficult.

Palomino-Stallion This is the stallion (just after he relieved himself). He’s a beauty. He looked a lot alike one of the other horses we had seen earlier, except for the marking on his face. He seemed in very good shape.

We kept expecting to see a herd of horses, but it seemed we just ran across the smaller group or pairings. Perhaps, they come together in the herd at night. The Palomino Buttes Herd has 71,000 acres to roam and the herd is estimated to number only 32-64. (The South Steens occupy 130,000 acres with numbers between 159-304). This area seemed like it offered much less in terms of grass for the horses.

The final picture of the mare, also shows that she has a number of scars, an especially large old scar from a gash on her hindquarters.

Palomino-MareI found myself really longing to go back a day or two after I had returned home.  I would like to be able to observe them for a longer amount of time. Others might find it boring, but I’m fascinated and love just being able to watch them interact with each other.

More photos from my trip on the next post, including some of the birds and a few landscape pictures.  hope you enjoyed!

Palomino-Buttes-Moving-Away

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Wild Horses – Part 1

This last week, I took off for a few days and visited the Malheur Wildlife Refuge near Burns, Oregon, within Harney County. While I was there I also wanted to see and photograph some of the wild horses from the 11 or so herds in the area.  I focused on the Kiger Mustangs, South Steens, and Palomino Buttes herds as there were closer to the refuge and where I was staying and my time was limited.

The first day, upon arrival, I dropped my friend off at Crystal Crane Hot Springs, where we were staying and set out to try and find the Kiger Mustangs.  It was 5:30 pm, with 3 more hours of light. The turn-off for the Kiger Viewing Area was onto a gravel road, but I had already been on a gravel road to get there, so I wasn’t too concerned although my Jetta Wagon which has 184,000 miles sits fairly low to the ground.  A few hundred yards in, I was surrounded by cows that range free, including in the road.  I stopped quite a few times to take pictures of some pretty cute calves, and had to stick my head out the window numerous times to say, Shoo, shoo, so I could proceed! Cows

I had read that the shrubbery had gotten more dense in the area where the Kigers were, and that they were harder to see.  A very helpful woman at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had also indicated that it was not as likely that I would see the Kiger mustangs that are descended from Spanish mustangs. However, I wanted to try.

I had forgotten to look at my odometer when I started in on the 11 mile road to the Kiger viewing area – not smart, since with stopping for the cows and the condition of the road which had become a rutted dirt road by this point made trying to guess how many miles I had come very difficult.  I started to get nervous as the road became more rocky and more rutted, and the joints (suspension stuff) on my car was groaning in certain places, complaining about being treated as if it were an all-terrain vehicle. I imagined breaking an axle, getting stranded out there; I checked my phone – no signal!

I had come that far so I continued on.  When I first learned to drive, I lived down a dirt road that became muddy and rutted in the winter, so at least I had that expertise.  Yet it seemed endless, and as I started to climb one narrow, rutted, rocky portion of the road, I imagined that being stranded might not be the least of my worries.  I kept telling myself, you should turn around  (where?) and then, I’ve come this far.  I had seen a sign that said 3.5-miles, and finally another that said 1-mile.  The final hill was impassable, so I got out of the car and walked up. And no horses in sight.  But it was an adventure – with a few pronghorn antelopes, an osprey gliding, and an admirably mud-caked vehicle (it had started to lightly rain).

The drive out went much faster as I knew which parts of the roads were really horrible, and I had the confidence that I had already made it over the road once.  I was treated to a beautiful sunset on the way home and another sighting of a small herd of mule deer.

Wild-Horses-Steens-2The next day my friend and I had better luck catching sight of two horses from the South Steens Herd. A birder we had met earlier that day at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge later told me that the herd had been moved the day before to an upper pasture on Steens Mountain as the BLM was concerned about the health of the herd and the lack of grass on the pastures where they were at.

We took the South Steens Mountain Loop first, but the upper part was still closed due to snow.  We then took the southern entry to the Loop and were able to see these two horses in the distance. Whether they got separated from the herd or we were given misinformation, I don’t know.

Wild-Horses-Steens-1As soon as they sighted us, they moved off, up the hill and out of sight.  I followed the road up, but did not see them at the top.  My friend waited in the car, while I walked over the rocky terrain towards a valley where I thought they might have gone.  I did see a pond, but no horses.

As I was coming back across the rocky sagebrush-filled terrain, I spotted them on the ridge and they spotted me. They didn’t seem too alarmed, yet always stayed alert of my presence. I was probably at least 100 yards away. They moved a little closer and tolerated my presence for a little while, before moving away again.

Wild-Horses-Steens-3The South Steens herd ranges from 159 to 304 head and is made up of pinto, buckskin, sorrel, bay, Palomino, gray, brown, black-colored horses. The horses in this herd are between 900-1200 lbs and between 14-16 hands. The acreage this herd of wild horses is on is over 130,000 acres or a little over 200 square miles.

Wild-Horses-Steens-4Next week, I’ll continue on with writing about the horses we saw from another herd, and after that about the Malheur Wildlife Refuge, and maybe along the way, I’ll throw in some more pictures of deer, the Harney County landscape, and of course, those cute little cows.

My encounter with these two beautiful horses from the South Steens herd was one of those wonderful experiences I feel so thankful to have experienced.  Seeing their beauty, their wild eyes, their manes and tails blowing in the wind, just made me appreciate that natural world all over again.

Wild-Horses-Steens-5Just before the more dominant horse (the darker one) went over the hill, she  snorted a few times, as to say, “Okay, we’re off!”


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Not Enough Time

So there are those weeks when one always feels harried.  A long list of things to do, things that you forgot to even put on the list, extra hours at work, projects to do around the yard, and a frazzled mind that can’t quite keep up with it all.  And I know that I have it much easier than many, not having young children to tend. However I had one of those weeks, this last week, where I always felt like I was two steps behind, and as I’m taking a short (few days) trip next week, the pressure was on.  So needless to say, this post will be short.

A-Path-Through-the-WoodsYet I love it when I force myself to take a break and take a walk.  And I love it even more when I listen to myself.  So I grabbed my eager dog, drove up the highway, to the end of another road, where there was a gated path, and we went off for our walk.

It’s always exciting taking an unknown path.  It can be a waste of time, or some new place that you begin to haunt.  This one will be the latter.  The path is really probably an old logging road, that is now overgrown. But as you walk on, you can hear the river or stream running parallel to it, and the trees make a lovely canopy over the road. I didn’t explore the growth to find the river; it was just a nice auditory companion!  There has been a cougar siting near by, so I did pick up a big stick just in case, but after having regretted not having my tripod, I think I will just make a habit of carrying that along. Lilacs by the River

After a bit of walking, I felt my mind began to clear and my nerves relax.  It must be the rhythm of walking, of hearing the birds.  But I do find, even when my joints are sore from yard work or whatever, that after a nice walk (excluding uphill ones), my body also seems more relaxed. Anyway, the photo on the left is one especially nice spot on the walk, and the spot where I did regret not having my tripod or wide-angle lens, but what the hey!

Also stopped at some point in week to smell the roses – or lilacs in this case!


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Practice

The last week was one of practicing.  I’ve been trying to retrain myself to work in the manual mode as opposed to Aperture Priority or Shutter-Priority, and it can be frustrating.  You get used to operating your camera in certain ways, and then you have to try to form a new mode of operation that hopefully will become instinctive.  Needless to say, this can be frustrating, and I do think there are times when it makes sense to shoot in the priority modes, as in when trying to capture a moving object. Black-Peony

Last week, I was up at my sister and brother-in-law’s beautiful place south of Portland, taking shots of their flowers and birds. I really haven’t had a lot of time this week or right frame of mind to work on many of these photographs.  I want to take my time, to go through and look at the meta data to evaluate what I did in each photo and what the results were.  So I’ll just post a few of the pictures that I was pleased with.

This is a black tulip. It really is a burgundy color. It’s a beautiful flower.  I wanted to add a texture to the photo, so I created a linen background, and used a few layers to give the background more of a golden glow. You probably can’t see much of the texture here, but I do like it.

Run-Down

Coming home, I also took a detour for photography.  Along the I-5 corridor, there are many farms, with various crops, herds of sheep, old barns, and fields of mustard. In California, in the rural area where I grew up, there were a lot of mustard plants, and we used to consider it a weed. But the fields of mustard are very beautiful; however, I’m not sure yet whether I got any ones I feel really good about.

I did like this barn that I found. The place was so run down.  I processed it in Photoshop and used Color Effects to bring out some detail in the sky. I also captured some ewes and lambs, but they did have a tendency to move away from me as soon as I approached. Frankly, I didn’t feel I got any great pictures of lambs. This one, I liked, because they were a pair and they looked cute together.  I found the background boring, so I created a background, again utilizing the linen texture, along with some brushwork and blending options. LambsI’m not sure if this will be the final version or not.  Sometimes when I’m working on a photograph, I save various versions of photoshop file, take a rest and then come back.  If I’m at all tired, and not careful, it can be very confusing.

My favorite photograph I took, was actually two exposures com-posited.  My sister has a great pair of binoculars that give you a 3D effect – everything seems in focus. So I decided to take two exposures – one focusing on the magnolia bloom and one focusing on the sky.  I hadn’t used a tripod, so there was a bit of masking, but I actually really like the end result, shown here.

Against-the-Sky-13x19I have a lot of photos to go through. I want to toss the ones that are losers 🙂 but not before I try to see what I did wrong in each. With the camera set to full manual mode, I know that quite a few were just where I forgot to change the shutter speed or aperture, as I’m just so used to working in priority mode, setting the aperture or shutter speed I want and shooting.  However, I do hope to master this and discipline myself, in the situations where it makes sense.  So, in spite of the frustrating, and the sometimes, not so great and uneven results, it stimulates me to not to always rely on the old tried and true methods.