Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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In the Garden

I’ve never been drawn to gardening; however I acknowledge the beautiful benefits of a garden, not only in the flowers and other beautiful flora that grow under the gentle guidance of dedicated gardener’s care, but also the creatures they attract.

Rufous Hummingbird Feeding No. 3

Both my mother and sister are wonderful gardeners, with their own unique styles with gardens that now span decades in the making. Both get weary muscles but immeasurable pleasure in creating a aesthetically tailored microcosm. My mother’s garden is definitely more instinctual. Bordering a wilderness, the garden has paths that wind through a mix of flowers and wild flora; the paths often changing from year to year, even week to week depending on my mother’s mood, like the staircases at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Her garden is constantly in a state of flux, a balance of attempted order and rampant growth by the side of a river. My sister’s garden is more designed and spatially organized, with various areas to visit (each with their own atmosphere), fountains, bird feeders, and sculptures amidst an array of color. I haven’t the gardener’s terminology to describe either of them well enough to do them justice.

Butterfly on Purple Flower

In my mother’s garden I find: irises, crocosmia, hydrangea, peonies, spider’s webs, butterflies, dragonflies, and hummingbirds beneath towering maples and douglas firs, and in my sister’s garden: tulips, lilies, exotic grasses, gladiolus, and a whole community of birds along with her two horses, three goats, five Indian runner ducks and her chickens. These are some of my pickings from their gardens.

For more of my work, please visit my main website at belindagrebphotography.com. This is through Fine Art America and offers framing, metal, canvas, acrylic prints as well as other products such as pillows, tote bags, and towels. I also offer selected signed prints up to 16×24″ at RadiancePhotos at Etsy and Belinda Greb Photography at Amazon Handmade . I’m also have selected prints and other products at Society 6 and Redbubble. In the UK you can find selected work at Belinda Greb at Photo4Me .

 

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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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To Enhance or Not: Part I – Using textures and other exposures

Once again, I missed posting last week. I was out swimming and taking a couple of hikes on my days off, and unfortunately, the time got away from me.

Looking back on the work I did in the last couple of weeks, I thought I’d talk about when I decide to enhance a photo in terms of bringing in another exposure or adding a texture or doing something more drastic than just my normal routine of post processing.

I might come away with as little as 10 or as many as 50 images from a single shoot. If I’m shooting something that is alive and moving. as opposed to a landscape, I often have no idea until I get home and put it on my big screen which photo will turn out the best.  My camera does have a screen and I can magnify it, but I often don’t take the time in the field. It’s just a lot more comfortable and precise evaluating the photo when I can see all of it, and zoom in and out on different sections more rapidly.

I don’t yet have a macro, so when I take a photograph of a butterfly or dragonfly, there is usually going to be some cropping involved.  Using my telephoto, a Canon EF 100-400 mm 4.5-5.6, I generally am at least 5-6 feet from my subject just to be able to focus with the lens and often more if I don’t want to disturb the creature!

I usually go through all the photos very rapidly with the slide slow in Bridge, first making them all with 1 star, and then just getting rid of the “no point in keeping this” ones by marking the picture as 0 stars.  Then I go through a second time and up the stars on particular photos.  If I have a series of one butterfly, I might just look at those together – flipping through them to see which one is sharper, what the position was, what is the background looking like.

Certain ones, I just know I want to do something with it.  The subject is incredible, but the background just doesn’t complement it at all or is too distracting.

This shot, after being cropped, just had a mottled brown and green blurred background. I first added a blend, and worked with layers to just either mask out the background either totally or partially. Then I added one or more layers, again workings with masks to keep the detail on the subject to some extent.  I generally like to keep the subject uncluttered by any additional textures or exposures I bring in, except perhaps along the outside perimeters. But I’ve seen some beautiful work where the textures are incorporated into the subjects or just overlaid.  It’s a matter of preference.

In this photograph, I used two textures and a blend. One texture was from Leanne Cole’s blog where she generously allowed her viewers to download some low res texture files she had created. She is a wonderful photographer and has a great blog and here is the link to one I’m referring to: http://leannecolephotography.com/2013/07/02/making-some-textures/.  The other texture I used was a photograph of a rusted water culvert I encountered on a hike.  I have a file full of textures, like moss, lichen, bark, rocks, crumpled paper, etc.

In the second photograph I liked the background colors, but I wanted to find a way of distinguishing the focal point of the photograph, a butterfly on a bloom, from the soft lovely colors of the background.  I ended up bringing in another photograph I had taken of the ripples of the river’s surface, to create a lovely effect.

This last photograph, today,  was one I did this week. The photograph shows a butterfly and a couple of bees on a wildflower. The background was very dark, as the metering was on the flower and butterfly.  Also, although the flower and bee were quite sharp, the butterfly had been a bit sharper in other photos, but in those, you didn’t get as clear a view. So this was going to be a photo I couldn’t bear to part with, yet it definitely wasn’t picture perfect.
This was the most complicated process of the three. I first got the photo into the best shape I could, added a blend as with the first photo, then I brought in another photo I had taken that day that had some wildflowers and added them using masks and blending options. I merged the layers as a copy, and then used a couple artistic effects, again using masks to paint them in and out as I wanted. Then I added a texture.  So this really is more digital art than photograph.

I will be going on vacation next week, so unsure if I will post, but in Part II, I want to show a composite I pulled together from 3 photographs, and also discuss when I choose not to enhance.  Thanks for visiting and be sure to visit Leanne Cole’s site (link above). I don’t get to read all her posts (she posts daily), but it’s a great blog!


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The Season of Butterflies and Hummingbirds is Upon Us!

I have been feeling a bit low-energy these last few weeks, and I can’t really blame it on the weather, since we’ve been having beautiful warm weather, not too hot and some wonderful breezes.

I was thinking that my malaise was really due to my spending so much time focused on trying to promote my work on one of the websites I’m affiliated with and not finding enough time to be out in nature and get inspired again. It’s challenging to find the time to do the things that need to be done (job, yard work, cleaning house, family obligations, eating, etc.), as well as the things that should be done in connection with trying to “sell” art, without having that impact the energy that you bring to the work that you love to do and trying to grow as an artist.

There are these energy depleters. In one of the groups where members try to support each other by promoting each other’s work, there are a few who say “I (as in the BIG “I”) don’t have time to do such and such”: as if their time is more valuable than the rest of our time. Yet we all have the same exact number of hours in the day. And it is our choice how to spend them. And there are those who don’t play fair, who take and don’t give. All of us come across this each and every day, and it’s easy to fall into a place of the “It’s not fair” and “what’s wrong with me” reaction.  But really what does that accomplish?

Last week, I was so tired, but wanted to get out and take pictures.  But I was coming from this place of: “time is short,” “need more pictures,” “so much competition,” “that person’s grabbing support and not giving any” and “hurry up,” and as a result, I wasn’t focused, I wasn’t enjoying myself and the result was a lot of mosquito bites, only a few photos and none that I really”felt” connected to. (Although I did chance upon a lost dog on July 4th and was able to reunite him with his family the next day, so something good came out of that outing.)

While still stuck in that mode, I couldn’t sleep at all on Saturday and woke up feeling horrible on Sunday.  I lost sleep not only over all the “why’s” and “it’s not fair’s” in life, but also my decision the previous evening not to reciprocate in supporting the few people who were not playing fair. After a couple of days, I knew I had to just  let “it” go.

My goal is to set boundaries, but I don’t want to take the time to worry about what others are doing or play watch dog.  I also need to change my normal habit of feeling guilty about the times when I say “no.”

What’s most important is that I need to set aside the time where I as in the BIG “I”  🙂 can find my nourishment and let myself be first sometimes. And I need to accept the fact that artistic growth is not consistent, that it comes in spurts and then stalls. I need just to slow down a bit. Time might be limited, but I don’t always want to be racing  – I’m more of the meandering type.  And besides, the season of Hummingbirds and Butterflies is upon us!

Here are a few of the photos I worked on or took after my “sorting my self out session” which by the way I sure will be a re-occurring thing!

Gray Butter on Pink – I added a texture to make the background a bit more interesting, and a verse that I found that seemed to suit the photograph.

Choosing the Right Bloom and Hummingbird Materializing were from the same hummingbird.  I had noticed the hummingbird flying around, so I waited for it to return to the spot.  The light was good enough that I was able to set my shutter speed high to capture the bird in motion, which was what I was going for.  Since I was using a telephoto, the first photo here, I had followed him, panning and shooting.  For Hummingbird Materializing, I let my camera rest on a bloom I knew he liked and waited until he came into view.

Ragged Wings – sometimes you have photos that there is something about them that you like, but in and by themselves, they don’t wow you.  This was one.  The focus was great, I loved the detail and the butterfly’s ragged wings, but it needed something more.  I need to ponder a photograph sometimes, and then decide how I will process it.  In fact, I may go back and rework Choosing the Right Bloom, so that the hummingbird stand out from the background more (have actually been in that process). Anyway, Ragged Wings, I used a number of textures and layers, masking in and out certain parts, which I think added a lot of depth to the image.