Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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My Usual Haunts – Exterior and Interior

I didn’t post last week, as my days off were filled with a couple of outings, but it should work out well, because as I review my photos from two weeks ago and think back, I’m in a similar frame of mind this week.

I find myself, at this stage of my life, more confined, so that when I look at photographs of others from far off places, I’m a bit envious, although I’ve been blessed to have traveled in the past. But the current situation can dim my spirits and I’ve been feeling like I’ve been running on empty. So I seek refuge in my usual haunts, and find myself traveling familiar grounds, physically and metaphysically.

Metaphysically speaking – I find myself on the verge of depression. I’ve been here and through it before. I’m isolated, geographically, from my closest friends, and I feel at a disconnect. I feel like I’m putting one foot in front of the other and just plodding through without any hope of getting to some place better.  I know this feeling will pass and come again and pass again, and I always seek to come to terms with it philosophically or spiritually.

I wish I were less analytical and lighter in nature.  My belief is that people who are tend to be happier. In the past, I’ve quit my job, moved, taken a trip, but those aren’t options I have the energy or money for and of course you never can really escape your self, not while you’re living!

And I don’t dislike my self, but I miss being near people who get me.  Any way, I know I’m in the midst of a poor me pity party, so I will move on. Maybe others reading this will find comfort in knowing that others also experience these blues and greys.

Physically, I return to my favorite walks with my dog and my camera.  Sometimes I take only a few pictures and discard the majority, thinking I’ve done that. Sometimes there are just a few that I care to keep, but the act of walking is a soothing one, and my dog, Maisie, appreciates it as well.

Sometimes, the walk alone will shake the inertia away. If not, it allows me to sit with the feelings I’m going through.  It settles the restlessness like a form of meditation. And since I haven’t been doing my meditation practice regularly, this is good.

At other times, although I’m walking the same road I’ve walked numerous times before, I see something new, or more clearly.  When we find ourselves in the same life patterns, it’s interesting to wonder if instead of a circle, our path is not instead a spiral viewed from a different angle. Are we reacting the same way to a similar situation, or trying to find a new way.  This is a challenge of both consciousness and discipline.

One morning, two weeks ago, I got up early (not easy for me as I tend to be a night owl) seeking to find the elk that a friend had said were visiting her yard. Though they had been there for two days in a row, and come 4-5 times that week, they were not there that morning. (A week later I did see some female elk, but my photos were lousy as the light was too low and I was unable to get any sharpness at the distance.)

Disappointed, I decided to take try to take some pictures of the fall color that was fading fast.  I came upon these beautiful rays shining down on the road.  Was it as great as the elk would have been?  No, but it was lovely and that will have to suffice.

So I will keep trying – getting up early, occasionally, to seek the elk and putting one foot in front of the other, trying to muster some hope that my path is not a circle, and spiraling upwards and not down.

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A Walk in the Rain

When my niece was visiting Portland in September, we decided to talk a walk. I wanted to visit Sauvie Island, never having been, despite having lived in Portland at one time. Since rain was threatening, we decided to take the shorter walk and chose the Oak Island Trail.

The dirt and gravel road was very rutted to get there, which surprised me as heavy rains have not set in yet. At one point my niece got out and used a stick to test how deep one water-filled hole might be.  It was passable.

Sauvie Island Wildlife Area is on the northern half of the island. I was expecting to see wildlife, birds, deer, maybe even elk, but the first thing we saw when we arrived at the Oak Island Trail was a lot of cows. Not too wild!  It is, however, very picturesque with two lovely buildings in the distance..

As you can see in the second photo, the cows were pretty wet. It was raining, at first lightly, and then later,  more persistently. I was hoping to see more birds, but now reading up, I see that there is another section of the island that has better bird viewing and I plan to take another trip. I did see one egret, that took off in the distance as we approached.

The landscape reminds me of an English landscape – think Lake District or Wales. It’s beautiful, and with the cows roaming about, very pastoral. I really didn’t take that many shots because of the rain.

I kept looking for wildlife despite the fact that my niece was scoffing at me by this time. There is also a lovely stand of Oak Trees, so we opened up one of the gates and went to walk there.  I think we thought we’d be drier underneath the trees, but that really didn’t work out as planned. It had rained enough where the water was dripping off the leaves onto us, and once away from the trail, our pants were getting wet from the long grass – not too comfortable after a while.

But our decision to go into the oaks did pay off as we encountered deer. I first saw one looking at us, camouflaged by the foliage. Then two more came from the right and they all ran away together.  Later in looking at the photographs of the first one, I was surprised to see a smaller deer next to the first.  That’s one thing I love about photography. Not only do you get to capture what you see, but sometimes what you don’t see as well.

My niece and I both enjoyed the walk.  When we got to the car, we got out of our wet jackets and turned the heat and fan way up to warm off. Driving out, we took the wrong part of a v and almost ended up in a lake. We also noticed  there were different types of cows, these gathering under a bunch of oaks. I don’t know if their plan to stay dry worked better than ours – I hope so.  However, I was too wet and cold to get out and take another photo. Sometimes I just don’t have it in me!

We were able to get pretty dry before we got back into Portland and got to the next stop – a great, reasonably priced, hole in the wall Mexican restaurant in the Alameda district. The food was great. However, I was most happy to get back to my sister’s house and change into warm clothes.

Despite the damp and cold, it was a wonderful walk made more wonderful by being able to share the time with my niece who lives on the East Coast.

Another image I got from the day, that I was pleased with was this landscape. I used a texture on it, and was happy with the results.


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Sea Air Does Me Good

It does me good to get away from my usual stomping ground and have a change of scenery, but I didn’t really have high expectations as I set up for Portland, OR, via the coast, as it was dreary, raining, at times very hard, and more rain was in the forecast. I had been wanting to take some sort of photographic outing as I had a couple extra days off work and was going up to Portland to see my niece who was going to be in town. I planned on either going up to a place where I could photograph some wildlife or the beach. To keep it simple, because of the weather, I decided on the beach as it was en-route. The gray weather and pounding rain continued until about 15 minutes from the coast. Then suddenly, as if entering an alternate world or the mysterious Shangri-la, the sun appeared! I got something to eat, and spontaneously decided to stop at the Yaquina Natural Wildlife Area. Luckily the government was still open then, since the area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. (9/21/13)

I wanted to see the harbor seals, so I made my way down to the beach via the wooden steps. Harbor seals sleep there, though during the day, they are out in the waves, bottle-nosing. I spent close to an hour just watching the 5-6 seals playing offshore in the waves.  This is probably the best shot I got of one with my telephoto.  There are also a lot of birds around: cormorants, pelicans and sea gulls. Maisie, my dog was with me, but of course on a leash due to the wildlife, and I’m happy to report, she was very well-behaved.

I find I have to adapt to shooting in a well-lit environment, but believe me, I wasn’t complaining. It’s so great to have an abundance of light equaling faster shutter speeds and narrower apertures.  I forget that a photographer can actually have too much light, so my polarizing lens was put to good use, and I later got to practice with the graduated neutral density filter I had gotten a couple of months before (only the hard edge one had arrived – no good in my usual environs that needed the softer edge one on back-order from Adorama).

I did two versions of my photograph of the light house and beach: one normal process and another version in a more painterly fashion. Judging by the feedback I received on two different forums, people seemed to like the softer enhanced version better.

For the special effects I used three or four filters in the Nik Color Effex. I don’t recall the exact combination – I always forget to save the recipes because I’m too eager to keep on with the processing. Not that it’s a cumbersome process – it’s more my own over-sightedness, I always mean to remember the next time and usually never do. So still trying to adopt better work habits. The downside of working with Color Effex is that if you’re using more than one filter, things slow down. Of course, you also need to make sure that you use a noise reduction before, and sometimes afterwards.

The nice thing about Color Effex is that it usually brings your changes in as a new layer, which you can tone down by adjusting the opacity or using a mask to adjust other areas. Although the control points are meant to make these adjustments and work well, I usually find I still want to fine-tune in Photoshop which just has a better interface for zooming in and out, and is much more speedy.

I loved the black stones on this beach.  When wet, they just look beautiful, and the black made a nice contrast to the beautiful blue-green of the ocean water and the lichen, seen in the next photo.

I did a few pieces of metal on the beach and wondered if they were part of the wash-up we’re getting from Fukushima. I understand up north, they are getting more debris, so I don’t know if this was part of it. While walking up to the lighthouse, I noticed this beautiful spider web in the dried flowers. I loved the way the web caught the light, thus the title, Caught.

I had to put my dog in the car to walk around the lighthouse which was built between 1871 and 1873 and still uses in 1868 French-made, 1st order, Fixed Fresnel lens.

By that time, it was almost 6:00pm and I needed to head towards Portland and stop along the way for what I hoped would be a great sunset shot. Unfortunately, up north, the clouds did not comply and hid the sun from view, although I did get a chance, as I said, to practice with the filter holder and the graduated ND filter.

But before I left the Yaquina Head area and the seals, I took what turned out to be my favorite photograph of the day, the one I call, Coming Together. Where the rocks, blue of the ocean, cliffs, and sky all conspire to create a harmonious atmosphere.

I grew up in California and miss seeing the ocean, so it was invigorating to feel the effects of the salt air and hear the sounds of the ocean and calls of the sea birds again. I enjoyed watching the young children in a family look at the seals, kick the black stones, and chase and run from the waves. The seals surfing and diving with each other in the waves was an added treat and also, on that day, I really enjoyed the sun and its light.

Next Week: Sauvie Island, north of Portland