Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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Buttterflies and Dragonflies

It’s the perfect time of year to photograph butterflies and dragonflies. The flowers they love: the crocsmia, the orange day lily, hydrangea and the butterfly plant are still in bloom. This year, I’ve seen as many as four or five Eastern Tiger Swallowtails in the air around me at one time, and it’s an enchanting sight.

I love photographing both of these winged creatures for a number of reasons.  Foremost, because they are beautiful, especially when they settle against a backdrop of blossom or flora. Using a telephoto lens, I’m able to capture beautiful bokeh, soft light filtering through the greens of the surrounding, and there’s a poetic quality about the results.

I also like the challenges they present. One of my first blog posts dealt with photographing dragonflies. The dragonfly’s flight is especially hard to predict, and certain types settle less frequently than others. Finding a dragonfly in a telephoto lens and focusing and framing before they move again can be hard enough, but catching them in motion is even more difficult.

During past years, there have been mainly Blue-eyed Darners or Red Dragonflies about.  This year I haven’t seen many of those, but instead have seen a white and black or white and brown variety. I ran to get my camera after seen a large black and white dragonfly settle on a grass  blade. As I was inching closer I realized I hadn’t seen my dog for five minutes or so. She has a habit of using my concentration on anything but her to make a dash to the neighbors to harass their cats.  I called her, without thinking, and of course when she cam running the dragonfly was disturbed.

For days I was on hunt for that dragonfly. While I haven’t seen as big a specimen; I have caught a couple of ones that are similar – an eight-spotted skimmer and I think a Common Whitetail (female has a brown body). I’m not sure (based on my google research). The one above was transparent with brown spots, while the eight spotted skimmer has white on its wings. The one below landed on a guest’s car antennae, so I added flora and texture layers for effect.

Another thing I like about both butterflies and dragonflies is that there always seems something mystical about them. The fact that each starts life in a form perceived as rudimentary and then evolves into something that is not only beautiful, but fleeting, elusive and can fly reminds us of the transformational possibilities and transitory nature of life.

Here are a few of my other recent butterfly photographs.  Thank you for looking.

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A Slow Down

I returned from my trip back East at the End of May and went through a flurry of processing images. At the same time, I was dealing with the start of a few technical glitches in my process.  First my tweeting software interface provider stopped working, so I had to switch from Tweetadder who I loved but who was shut down by Twitter. This entailed a lot of tedious work to get back and running on Tweet Jukebox, but after a week or so everything was sorted out and I’m very happy with the new provider. Then after getting through that, during the last week and a half, I encountered more technical issues – a whole slowdown of my computer which I’ve tried to fix by resetting prams, permissions, etc, backing up files, and I am now waiting for some software on a flash drive to arrive that hopefully will fix the problem before my computer crashes. (Wasn’t the Mercury in Retrograde supposed to be over?) Not fun.

Photographically I felt I was returning to my old stomping grounds – local woods, local birds, and remaining blossoms.  Not exciting yet still they are a faithful and true pleasure that I am learning to appreciate afresh.

I even resorted to returning to the zoo – always an exercise in conflicting my emotions.  I love photographing animals, but not as so much when they are behind glass or bars. It pains me to think of their imprisonment, and yet some conservation is being done in zoos which does have value – breeding programs and exposing people to animals so they might care about them are two benefits. Does it counteract the wrong that is being done to thousands of individual animal lives? I don’t know. Our world is such that their natural habitat is being destroyed – often the primary cause or one of the top causes for the animals on the endangered list or near threatened list.

A side effect of photography is that I learn while researching the image’s subject in order to write about it for an upload.  While I was working on some of my zoo animal photographs I was freshly horrified to see that some of the animals have a conservation status is either threatened (vulnerable or endangered) or near threatened. I decided to do a series that shows the conservation status so people are not only seeing an image of an animal that we don’t normally see in  our day to day lives but also realize that future generations may not have the opportunity of seeing that animal live, even if it’s only in a zoo.

This series will be a work in progress as I get better photographs of some other endangered species (the glare and dirt on the glass windows at the Portland Zoo wasn’t so great for getting  good pictures). These also were done before my computer had its slowdown and lately I am trying to to stick to things that have a straight ahead post-processing as my Photoshop CC is crashing a lot – from the Nik plugins which it never used to do.

The slowdown is frustrating, but maybe it’s good as well. I’ve decided to spend more time off the computer although when I’m on it every thing takes twice or three times the amount of time, so I’m not sure how that’s working out.

Anyway, another photograph I processed with multiple exposures before the slowdown was this one of a bird in my sister’s yard – a Black Headed Grosbeak.

The recent excitement I’ve had was seeing some new life in the form of some Indian Runner ducklings that my sister and brother-in-law added to their family and the birth of some Ospreys in the area.  I’ve been watching three nests.  One is atop a tall fir tree so the nest isn’t too visible, but the ospreys can be seen hunting and finally the young one was seen once it could fly.  The second nest was the one I photographed last year.  Only a few days ago the young in that nest made their appearance and this year there appears to be three offspring, which is the same number it had last year.  The third nest I visited today and while the mother is clearly there, I did not see any sign of offspring yet.

I posted the one photograph of the osprey family to Facebook and a friend remarked that the young osprey looked scary, and they do look pretty fierce. The ducklings on the other hand were cute and cuddly.  The Indian Runner Ducks are domestic ducks that stand upright like a penguin rather than waddling like a duck.  It was hard to photograph them as I was using my telephoto and one kept running after me and out of the focal range of my lens.

Sometimes while doing these blog posts, I like to find a theme, if only for the purpose of titling the post. I chose “Slow Down”, because while it doesn’t feel so great being forced to slow down, perhaps there is some reason for it that will make itself known. I’ve been moving around with a sense of urgency for the last six months and this may the universe’s way of saying, pause, look around, and reassess. Or it may not be the universe’s message, but just the universe’s glitches, but it really doesn’t matter as I don’t have a choice in the matter, so I’m accepting the slowdown.