Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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The Love and Pain of Loving Living Things

Today, my heart aches. It feels full of love and full of pain, in thinking of animals, their lives, and how they are negatively impacted by us. This was caused by the juxtaposition of my day yesterday watching the Palomino Buttes wild horses and seeing a video about animal abuses in an “organic” manufacturing plant on Twitter today.

blog 3 groupYesterday I visited the wild horses over near Burns. I just did a day trip with the drive being 4 hours each way, so I only had time to visit the Palomino Buttes Herd. What I have come to love about visiting this herd, is that there are a few individual horses that I follow. Each time, I see just a day in their life and it may be 2 or 6 months since I saw them last. Sometimes, a family member is missing. Sometimes a new foal has been born. Sometimes bands have interchanged mares and foals – that is the way of the herd. It is different than watching a wild animal in a national park, because the chances are that in a national park, I will never see that individual animal again. Also, with many of the wild horse herds, they are somewhat used to having people watch them. They are still wild, still feral, but more habituated to people. Some bands are more at ease and will tolerate people at smaller distances. I’m not going to discuss the cons of that, though there are many, but for me, as an observer it is a blessing, as I’m able to watch these fascinating social animals without them immediately running away, although some still will, especially if they have a newborn foal. I don’t try to interact with them and for the most part I stay some distance away, although they can go by me, or I them, where the distance becomes closer to my exhilaration. They are aware of me, they tolerate me, but even that in itself can change their behavior, and if I feel they are too hyper alert I will pull back. Often they become acclimated and just ignore me.

Blog 1Photographing horses and wildlife in general, is a far different cry than photographing landscapes. It is imperfect. It is split second decisions, continuous shooting, trying to remember to adjust ISO to get the best exposure while keeping a high enough shutter speed to capture movement. In landscape photography, I compose my scene, set my settings, wait for the right light. The light may fail me or not, but the components of the scene are not constantly shifting before my eyes. When I am photographing wild horses, versus a wild animal in a national park or wilderness, I have multiple potential subjects. Some are drinking at the waterhole, while one is rolling in the dust, and in the background a foal runs in circles around its mother (this example taken from yesterday). Great photographs opportunities if I can capture them in the maybe 3-5 minutes that the horses are near me. Also, often I am in my car since the car acts as a blind , so I am stretching and contorting myself to get the best composition I can. Sometimes I do stealthily approach by foot but many times the horses will allow a closer proximity when I’m in the car. Once I come out of the car, the animals are more aware of me and my presence may startle them.

blog 4 lrg groupOften I will continue to photograph even though I know the horses are too far away or the composition isn’t that great. I do this, because with the horses, I am interested in have the photographs as a record to learn from; later I will review the band make-up and if it’s a band I’m familiar with, the differences in the band make-up or to try an identify certain horses since I saw them last. Later review also often brings about behavioral observances that can be overlooked in the moment. There are also periods when I’m just watching the horses and enjoying their presence and feeling a bit left out as part of me would relish being part of their camaraderie and really being able to know how they feel.

Traveler with his Bachelor BandI was pleased to see my favorite horse of this herd, Traveler, yesterday. (These horses are sometimes named by locals).  In May, Traveler was still with his family although his elder brother, Pallaton, had been kicked out from the herd, but later this past summer I read Traveler too was kicked out. Yesterday I did see Traveler with his new bachelor band yesterday. I read a blog where the writer had watched the eviction of a colt from its family herd, a natural event, take place. First the band stallion started chasing the colt away (usually 2 or 3 years old). The colt was surprised and kept wanting to return. Then the mares also started to chase him away until he got the message. It is a part of the natural world that is difficult and breaks one heart, but it is needed for the colt to gain independence and necessary for the stallion to maintain his band from possible competition from the colts whose hormones are kicking in. Perhaps in the future, the estranged colt will have his own band. It is what I hope for Traveler. Usually these colts join bachelor bands until they are mature enough to challenge another stallion for its band or a mare. Nevertheless, it is hard to witness the real love and affection between the parent horses and their offspring and to see the joy and energy of a young horse, and then to see that horse have to go out on its own and take on the responsibilities of fending for itself.

Blog foal 2a

Another thing that I saw yesterday that filled me with love and pain, was a very young tiny foal for this time of year. This was the one that was running circles around its mother. For October, the foal was very small and I worry that this little one might not be sturdy enough to make it through the winter. Foals born later in the season are more at risk as they have less of a chance to gain the weight and strength they need for winter.

Blog foal 2bEach morning on most days, I have a twitter routine, in which I retweet fellow photographers and artists’ work who I follow and try to respond to some of those who have tweeted to me. I often try to retweet things about issues to do with protecting our animals and natural places. This morning I saw yet another video about factory farming in which workers were intentionally and sadistically bringing more pain to animals in what is already a torturous process. Why do we have to be so inhumane? When I say we, it is because we are complicit if we eat meat whose source we don’t know. I count myself among the guilty. Why can’t we have laws that require our food manufacturing to be done in a way that respects each and every life. Many animals kill for their food, but generally they don’t go out of their way to make it more horrifying than it has to be. Seeing videos like this always affect me deeply. On one hand I don’t want to see them, but on the other hand I feel I need to as it reminds me to try not to eat meat, and to be more conscious about what practices I may be unconsciously supporting.

ThirstAnyway observing the joys and hardships of the horses yesterday and my feelings after watching this video this morning put me into a very thoughtful and sad mood full of conflicting emotions, and I felt like writing about it. I haven’t felt like writing in a while being so overwhelmed by what has been happening lately in this country politically. And there is so much is at stake. More and more animals species are threatened by loss of habitat, and though some would deny it, we are beginning to see the impact of changes to our climate. Wild horses have been mismanaged for a long time, but there has been a recent push by this congress to kill the horses that are in the holding pens and to lower the numbers of wild horses in the interest of ranchers and other powerful monied interests that want the use of our public lands. While many in any government (past and present) are not usually there for love of animals or ethics, this current administration and congress are even more blatantly for profit at the expense of animals, natural places and even safety to humans (e.g. getting rid of regulations, allowing drilling or mining, etc). So much so, they are willing to cut science out of all deliberations concerning climate change and environment protections. Most Americans profess to love our wild horses. I doubt anyone would say that it is okay to allow pesticides that we know are harmful to children, or to our water, or that end up in our food. Most of use even believe in climate change, but what I find horrifying and incomprehensible is why many can find this current administration acceptable in light of their appointments of people who seek to dismantle years of work to create laws that protect that environment. We cannot count on corporations to self-monitor.

CompanionsOne new Twitter follower commented that since many of my photographs are horses, I guess you love horses, or something like that. This struck me in a wrong way. As if it was the same as liking ice cream.  I know that wasn’t that his intention. In a way it has nothing to do with my love. My animal photographs are striving to show that animal as a living, conscious, feeling, experiencing being. Yes. I have always loved animals, but I love them even more deeply now that I’ve come to more fully realize their aliveness which I feel is the same as mine. What do I mean by that? I don’t even know fully what I mean myself or at least not in a way to put into words. I don’t profess to know their consciousness or to understand as much about them as say, Jane Goodall understands about chimpanzees, but when I watch and photograph animals I feel them as living beings, I feel their life force. And I respect it as much as my own. Sometimes they are joyful, at times they look worn out, at times they are tender and at other times fierce. They have love and they have pain. Life is not easy for them in the wild. In many respects it is harder, but it does seem to be a life more fully lived.  And I feel that for us, as human beings to dismiss their life as a thing that can be tortured for convenience’s or profit’s sake is a desecration of a sacred thing. For us or our elected, therefore chosen, representatives to trade their freedom, to monetize animals or just think of them as as a menu item, to threaten their future as an individual life, let alone as a species because we don’t like the inconvenience of actually having to share the planet, or because someone needs a campaign contribution from a special interest party, or because we’re promised a fucking tax break and are willing to overlook the price of that (because the drive behind doing away with regulations and so called “hand-outs” is really all about money, isn’t it?) is profane. I want to live in a world where love will help to heal the pain of life and where it is extended to all living creatures. That nearly half of this country wants to avert its eyes from the not so nice things that are being done in the name of progress and can accept politicians who are willing to sacrifice our environment and the living creatures who dwell there to the highest bidder, well, that indeed is sad.

To learn more about protecting Wild Horses: https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/

Recommended books: Rachel Carson – Silent Spring

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Back to Burns, Malheur and the Wild Horses

If I had the time and money, I’d make the trip to Burns at least once a month.  My heart is so attached to the wild horses that I see out there, in addition to the wide variety of birds to be sighted around Burns and at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s not a huge trip for me, four hours, but long enough to require at least one night’s stay, and better with two, since once you get out there, the driving doesn’t stop.  South Steens Mountain is about 50 miles south of Burns which will take you through Malheur NWR and the small historical town of Frenchglen.  To really see all the area has to offer is to take forays down gravel roads and I have even ventured at times onto deeply rutted dirt roads where I prayed that my car had the clearance to pass over boulders and ridges.  This last May trip, I also did a bit of walking by foot to reach the wild horses as the dirt road became impassable by my passenger car.  One note: I do try and stay at a respectable distance.  The horses will be aware of me from quite a distance, but I don’t want them to be uncomfortable with my presence.

This Spring the area looked generally much more lush than last year.  I stopped first to see the Palomino Buttes horses which are west of Burns.  I was looking forward especially to see a favorite, more approachable band, that as of Fall last year, consisted of the Palomino Stallion (some locals call him a Dunalino), his primary mare, Bella, two of her sons, Pallaton and Traveler, from prior years, and a filly from last year.  Also there was a bay mare and her colt, and another bay mare that had joined them sometime during the Summer or Fall.  (Some of the horses are named by the locals.)  I didn’t see any horses initially.  Then I spotted white spots on a very distant hill (both Pallaton and Traveler were white/light colored palominos).  When I walked out, I saw it was my favorite band with some significant changes.  Pallaton was not with the band.  This isn’t such a big surprise, since as a three year old, he would start to have conflicts with his father.  I was surprised this hadn’t started happening last year, since Pallaton had already started chasing fillies in other bands.  Instead, he and his father seemed to work as a team, protecting their band from another stallion on the couple of occasions I observed.  I also observed that when the band was on the move, Pallaton would the lead while the stallion brought up the rear; this year Traveler took the front spot.  Though Pallaton’s absence was expected, it was still a blow, as the bonds between the family, especially he and his mother, and he and Traveler, were affectionate and playful.  Even the bond with his father had been a special one.  I still don’t know whether the bay mare and her colt were with the band. I think so, but the horses coats change so much from season to season and this time I wasn’t in close enough to compare other markings from my earlier picture.  There were also two new foals and at least one other horse I don’t recognize at all.

Though I hadn’t made it over to Burns until May, I did see some Sandhill Cranes still in the area, one pair with two colts (what the “chicks” are called because of their long legs), along with various other birds.  I didn’t even see the colts until I reviewed the images on my computer.  The birds weren’t as plentiful as they would have been a few weeks earlier but they were much more plentiful than they had been last May.

While in the vicinity of Malheur I was excited to capture a couple mammals I had not photographed before in the area, including, not one, but two hares.  Last year the ones I saw had proven too quick for my reflexes.  I also saw the first marmot I had seen in Oregon as well – a yellow-bellied marmot.  These critters spend most of their time in their burrows (80%) hibernating or otherwise, so I was lucky to capture this one.  I had seen a flash of one about an hour earlier than this, so apparently the beautiful Spring day was too enticing to pass up.

I also saw the usual suspects, mule deer and pronghorn antelope.  Mule deer are distinguished from white-tailed deer as their tales are black, their ears are larger, and antlers fork rather than branch on the males.

Just past Malheur NWR, is the small historic town, Frenchglen, population 12, and continuing on Hwy. 205 you will find the south entrance to Steen Loop, a gravel road that loops around the mountain.  The road will usually be blocked at some point during Spring due to snow as the mountain rises over 9000 feet, although it does it in a fairly non-dramatic way.  If you’re lucky you will be able to view some of the wild horses in South Steens herd.  I’ve been lucky to see multiple bands together on two occasions and on other occasions, a small band by itself.  This time, I was not exceptionally close to them but it was wonderful to observe them – some playing, the more mature grazing or resting along with the foals.

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Is it hard to see why I’m in love with this place?  If you travel out there, don’t expect luxury. You will get the most basic of accommodations and a very limited assortment of restaurants.  In fact, you will need to be sure that you fill up on gas before you leave Burns to go exploring.  During summer, the temperatures can get quite high, so it would be advisable to carry water for both you and your car.

I’ve hoped you’ve enjoyed this post.  To see more of my work, please visit Belinda Greb Photography for all of my published work.  My next post will be on some of the beautiful Oregon waterfalls I’ve visited in mainly Silver Falls State Park.

 


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Yosemite in Spring

Early in April, I met my longtime friends for a vacation in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. It’s a lovely time of year to visit as tourist numbers are lower than summer, but the downside is that some of the trails and roads, including Tioga Pass and the road to Glacier Point were closed (seasonal weather closures).

I hadn’t been to the area since I was a child. We entered the park, and the famous tunnel view is a grand sight to behold.  Yosemite Valley area is splendid. I felt like I was in a long narrow amphitheater surrounded by these awe-inspiring views and granite cliffs. We had reserved rooms at Yosemite Valley Lodge, and I really enjoyed staying in the national park without having to spend the time driving in each day. It didn’t hurt that the Yosemite Falls was right behind our room. All the waterfalls were at high water levels due to the plentiful rainfall California had received that winter. At night I fell asleep to the sounds of rushing water.

Also, I enjoyed getting up in the early morning to take a walk around Cook’s Valley before cars lined the roads. The day was crisp and there were few people about and lots of water in the fields, so I was able to get some lovely reflective shots of the falls.

The weather was beautiful the first full day we were there, and we enjoyed the trail to Mirror Lake after we had let our fellow shuttle bus passengers move on past us. And that is the downside of Yosemite Valley: like Yellowstone there are tons of tourists, but unlike Yellowstone, at least at this time of year, they are concentrated into the much smaller area of the Yosemite Valley. This may not bother others as much, but now having acclimated to the less traveled terrain of my Oregon locale, it is a difficult adjustment having my nature intruded upon by so many other humans. I know I have to share. : ) It is a lovely trail that accompanies Tenaya Creek up to Mirror Lake, which is pretty small, although it used to be larger before a dam was built.

The next day I took a longer hike around the Yosemite Valley Floor Loop. While we did less than half the full 20 miles, it is an flat easy walk that gives some stunning views of El Capitan, Sentinel Falls, Cathedral Rocks and Merced River.

 

After visiting Yosemite National Park, my friends and I drove south to spend a couple of days at Sequoia National Park and one day it was even snowing. In the future, I would wait until later in the year to visit this park as some of the trails were snow-bound. But it was beautiful to see the majestic giant sequoias, including General Sherman, the largest tree by volume in the world, and also General Grant. These trees are among the oldest living organisms alive on Earth, with General Sherman estimated to be between 2300-2700 years old.

All in all it was a vacation filled with wonder and awe at the beautiful world we live in, and I loved being able to share the experience with my friends. And I also hope to explore more of these two national parks in the future!

To see more, please my Yosemite Gallery or Sequoia National Park Gallery .

 

 

 

 

 


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This is Our Home, Resist and Protect

This has been a pretty bleak winter on all fronts with a lot of cold, rain and anxiety. But on the days where the weather has permitted I have tried to get out to take advantage of the beauty the winter season can bring to our natural areas and to get away from the news.

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Icicles Triptych w

I have recently been reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – and this book should be a must read for anyone who would like to visualize the world without the regulations that so many have fought for over the last 60 years and that are now being threatened. These regulations not only protect our environment and wildlife but us as well (higher-ups on the food chain but still subject to it).

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Winter Lamb

Call your congressmen and tell them you do not approve of repealing regulations that have protected our wildlife, environment and you and your family in exchange for corporate profits. Our future, your child’s future should not be for sale. This site (back online 3/6/17) will help you track environment subjects –Click Here

All of these landscapes or nature images in the slideshow below (except the last composite image) are from areas that are our public lands – either federal or state. We start off from a heron landing in the marsh at Fern Ridge Wildlife Area (state); Willamette National Forest in Oregon (federal) including Carmen Reservoir and Fish Lake, then to the Neptune Scenic Area and Cook’s Chasm along the Oregon Coast above Florence (state). The last image is a composite of some woods and deer photographs I had and is entitled “This is Our Home” and meant to be a reminder that we share the planet with wildlife and flora, and I would hope we can learn to respect that.

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My next post will show some images from the Columbia Gorge Scenic Area up near Portland, Oregon.

Also, I have put together a sampler of some of my photography over the last few years.

I do rely on sales to further my photography journey. My photography is for sale at: Belinda Greb Photography (via Fine Art America); Radiance Photos (Etsy); Belinda Greb Photography at Amazon HandmadeBelinda Greb Photography at Society6 or in the UK at Belinda Greb Photography at Photo4Me. Some of these sites offer various products in addition to frames, matting, canvas, metal or acrylic prints. I fulfill the Etsy and Amazon Handmade site prints and offer prints up to 16×24 (signed on the back). Thanks for your views and patronage.


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Remember Who You Are

This piece was inspired by my recent fretting about our public lands and the wildlife that inhabit them at threat from “short-sighted” men who would seek to sacrifice land and species for immediate gain. First, I feel a defiant and courageous spirit is needed by those willing to fight on behalf of our environment and to protect the other sacred life forms we share Earth with, and secondly, there is my belief that there must be some eternal aspect of what is wild and free and God-formed that will not be bound by the small petty materialistic greed of those who would seek to dominate nature. I call upon that spirit to help us preserve what can be owned by none and should be shared by all, including the future generations that follow.

Do you believe you are a spirit who has a purpose more meaningful than amassing material goods and living in gold plated houses? Or are you here to think only about yourself? Do you respect life in all its forms? If so, join the resistance.