Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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A Few More from Chincoteague

I think I will try to have some intermittent shorter posts with just a few images and fewer musings!

It’s funny when you come back from a trip with tons of images, there are some you just can’t wait to start processing.  But on the second or third round, it’s always the case that there’s one that was overlooked and you wonder how in the world you missed it.  This one of an egret landing on a pond is such a photograph for me.  I love the grace of the egret coming in for a landing and the background colors of the reeds and water.

Early Evening on the Chincoteague Bay

Early Evening on the Chincoteague Bay

This second photograph was taken just about sunset, as I looked eastward from the boat we were in.  The light was just so beautiful around that time and this image lent itself to a subtle watercolor effect.  As I often do, here I worked with layers and masks to blend in an effect for more control and artistry. Westward the sky was more dramatic but to me visually less appealing. This was looking towards Assateague Island, and I like the one post sticking out of the water and the trees in the background.

The next two photos use textures. In the case of the mallard hybrid, the background was just sort of light as I had spot focused on him to bring out the details of his feather.  Another thing I enjoy is researching the photos for more information. For instance in this case, I tried to identify the duck as he really didn’t look like a mallard.  I found that domestic ducks and cross breeds often result from pairings with a male mallard as the iridescent green head is apparently quite appealing to female ducks of all species. I used one of the fabulous textures by Jerry Jones.

In the final photograph for this week’s post, I have taken many photographs of this filly as she was young and beautiful of course! 🙂 I was shooting with a telephoto since we were in a boat and at a distance. I cropped one of the more sharper images to use as just a head shot, and used a free beautiful texture found on Deviant Art and created by env1ro. I loved the bold colors in this texture.  Generally when I use free textures, I do try and change them up by using more than one, or another exposure to blend in, and for the Portrait of a Filly I did add another texture in but the primary texture was so gorgeous, the changes were pretty subtle. For the mallard, the texutre was such a perfect background for the duck’s coloring, I also didn’t add in another texture. For me this is an exception rather than a rule. Generally I will try to personalize it. See my note on how  I usually do to that.

Note: For other textures or exposures to blend in, think blurred landscapes, flora, flowers, clouds. Or shoot texture found in metal, rocks, etc. Or try your hand at using the various brushes in Photoshop to create your own. Then experiment with the blends or use the masks to just brink in part of an effect.

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Revisiting the Past in Present Time

Last month I traveled back to New York and Washington DC to see family and friends.  For me, it is hard to go back to a place that holds so many memories and emotions. I loved seeing my aunt and friends again, but all the while there was a bittersweet feeling knowing that I will miss them soon again. It’s as if each moment contains not only the current joy of being together, but also the past memories and the future absences. Time is more precious and, on these types of trips, it is not abundant. There will never be the time to really catch up or to have the leisure of being able to relax into the moments spent together as if we were just hanging out together on a rainy afternoon, and could see each other easily the week afterwards, and the week after that.

I met one friend down at the September 11 memorial. I hadn’t been since the tower and pools were completed, and neither had she.  It was disorienting to try and find our old places (mine – the World Financial Center that housed Lehman Brothers) when the connecting structures are missing. I used to come up from the WTC subway and then take the Vesey Street Bridge over to the WFC, and there is a similar bridge down there still, which confused me, but the old one is gone.

I hadn’t wanted to spend a lot of time down there, too heavy, so we headed to the Metropolitan Museum which I had wanted to revisit. Throughout the visit, there were parts of the city that seemed as familiar as yesterday, and other parts that were new.  New York constantly seems to reinvent  itself- for instance the High Line walk between 14th and 33rd and all the new buildings that have  either replaced or have been built on top of the old buildings. Yet there are other spots that surprise you by still being there, like Zabar’s (in my old neighborhood) or the corner pizza restaurant I used to go, or the  hall in the Museum where one of my favorite paintings, Joan of Arc by LePage hangs.

However, this visit was easier than the first few visits after I moved where the feeling of displacement had been intense. I was reminded how tiring and distracting it can be to meet friends in the city as there are logistics, timelines, subways to work out. At least now we have cell phones.  I remember how one friend and I who had made plans to see a movie had ended up at different theaters on a very cold winter’s night.  And yet, it is hard to explain this, I was also reminded of that feeling of cosiness or sense of belonging (to the city?) when seeing a friend’s or friends’ face(s) when meeting up in that big city, walking around the crowded streets together, and then parting to go our separate ways.

The second part of the trip was visiting my niece, who lives in DC. I have been to DC before but I really never spent a lot of time there.  This time I was newly impressed by the subway system which is clean and easy to use.  I loved my niece’s neighborhood, Cleveland Park, that reminded me of city living. My niece showed me the memorials by late night (we started out at 11:30), which I thought was a brilliant idea.  It was a wonderful two or so hours walking around the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, and the campus of Georgetown University as well without having to worry about parking or crowds. It reminded me of when I worked graveyard in NYC midtown and got to see a completely different side to the city than most see.

I had suggested to my niece, when planning the trip, that we go down to Chincoteague Island for the weekend, and both of us really loved it.  The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has over 300 varieties of birds and of course the wild ponies, AKA Chincoteague Ponies and Assateague Horses.  They are really horses, rather than ponies, whose size has been dwarfed by the low nutritional value of their food. We saw some of the ponies during our visit to the Refuge, and then more later by boat. I used and highly recommend Captain Dan’s Around the Island Tours.

I couldn’t help but compare my Chincoteague Wild Ponies to the Pryor Mustangs experience. Both herds have been in a more or less confined area for probably hundreds of years, and so unlike some other wild herds, there is a lot known about the lineage of the herds, the horses are named, etc, and they are closely followed.  Because I had spent the whole day with the Pryor Mustang Herd, I definitely feel more connected to that herd.  Also I feel their “wildness” and “independence” comes at the harsher price of living in a much more perilous environment. The Chincoteague Wild Ponies (pertains to the horses in Virigina only) have two vet visits per year and people who can check up on them year round. Regarding photographing them, I had more access to the Pryor Mustangs, since I was walking around versus being either further away (in the refuge) or on a moving boat, but I did enjoy the beautiful backdrop of habitat of the Assateague Islands.  I do want to go back to Pryor Mountains in the Spring when the habitat is less dry.

Flock of Snowy Egrets from Chincoteague No. 1

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, as mentioned, has a lot more going for it then its ponies.  Coming from Oregon on the West Coast, it was a delight to see many birds that I haven’t encountered in person before, including the little blue heron, the green heron, the cattle egret, and, my favorite, the glossy ibis in breeding plumage.

We had walked more than 9 miles in one day around the Refuge, and this was a great way to encounter the wildlife, although the Loop is open to cars after 3pm.  My favorite encounter and one of my favorite captures was seeing a Red-Winged Blackbird start to harass a Great Egret who came into its territory. It may have been defending a nest, but the blackbird looked absolutely enraged by the Egret.  It darted so quickly the Egret couldn’t keep up.  I have several exposures, and in many, the Egret has twisted around to look at a spot where the blackbird had been two seconds before! The two Ibis, in this particular shot, went about tending to the daily need of foraging for food.

I really loved my trip and my only regret was that I couldn’t have quadruple the time I had to hang out with friends and for exploring city and nature in a more leisurely manner.  However I am so grateful for the experience and being able to see old friends as well as both old and new places. And yes, I miss it all, already.