Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


Silver Falls State Park – Waterfalls

Late Spring and early June, I returned to Silver Falls State Park to take the Trail of Ten Falls Hike. Last year, I had my dog with me, and this particular trail does not allow dogs, so I was excited to finally be able to see the beautiful waterfalls on this 8-9 mile trail.

This hike does not disappoint.  It is relatively easy and there are plenty of beautiful waterfalls throughout the hike. I did took one wrong fork so I ended up on Maple Ridge Tail missed the Lower South Falls. I ended up with two uphill sections, in order to see South Falls, but it was well worth it! Also, there were lovely wildflowers about, the weather was perfect, and there was plenty of water in the falls!

These pictures and much more can be find at my main website – See the sidebar for other sites. Next month I will be featuring my trip to Alaska where I was blown away by the beautiful scenery and excited by my encounters with moose, brown bears, Humpback whales and much more! I hope you are enjoying your summer.

Behind South Falls

Behind South Falls

South Falls During Spring

South Falls During Spring

At the Foot of South Falls, No. 2

At the Foot of South Falls, No. 2

At the Foot of South Falls

At the Foot of South Falls

Splendor at South Falls

Splendor at South Falls

Lower North Falls

Lower North Falls

Double Falls

Double Falls

Middle North Falls

Middle North Falls

Looking Out From Under North Falls

Looking Out From Under North Falls


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A Day Spent Along the Columbia River Gorge

My niece and I drove straight to Multnomah Falls in the morning to try to grab a parking spot before the crowds -Success! However, the trail was closed due to icy conditions. We were able to view this most stunning falls from the bottom.  This is the highest falls in Oregon and 2nd highest in the nation, totaling 611 feet in two steps.

We next headed to Latourell Falls. I loved the basalt rocks that surround the falls (lower). The hike is lovely and fairly easy and will take you to the upper Falls and then loops back to the parking lot, passing some lovely views along the way. The best view of the (lower) Latourell Falls is accessed from a path that leads to the base of the falls. Beware if you are photographing, there is a lot of spray. Keep your lens away from the direction of the spray until you are ready to shoot and bring a wipe. Once the water level has receded, the spray level is probably not as bad.

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After the hike, we had a delicious lunch at Edgefields in Troutdale and then went back to Triple Falls for another short hike. However, after about 1/2 mile up the  Triple Falls Trail, perhaps as a result of the meal, we proved to have less motivation to deal with the steep, snowy and narrow trail and decided to leave that hike for another day.

To see more of my photography, please visit me at or one of my other sites!

Bridge over Sky

Bridge Over Sky – Along the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway

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To Enhance or Not – Part II – Using Textures and Other Exposures or Not

I was on a mini vacation in the Wallowas, last week in Oregon, and will talk about that in an upcoming post, but I do want to get back to Part II of “To Enhance or Not . . . ”   So continuing from the prior post’s discussion of when to enhance, when to use a texture or another exposure in a picture, members of a forum I’m part of shared some great sites where you can get free textures to use, and I will be sharing those sites at the end of this post.

This post will mainly be discussing enhancements or composites, and when I evaluate a photograph and decide a texture is not needed.  The first example I will show here is a composite photograph.  I had three photos I had taken, that just didn’t stand on their own.

The first was of an elk that I took in Yellowstone, last summer.  The elk was beautiful with a huge antlers, but there was a dead log with a lot of branches just behind him that were distracting and made the photo too busy.  The second photo was taken of the Leaburg Canal in the afternoon, and I had already post processed some similar photos, so just didn’t want to do one more. The third photo was of the moon and I have a file folder full of those.

I started with the daytime shot of Leaburg Canal, and using Color Effex and Viveza (both from Nik Software), I changed the photo to a nighttime scene.

Then I brought the elk in a new layer, and adjusted hue and brightness to match the scene. He was initially facing the other way, and I turned him around to face the water and moon as I thought that was a more pleasing composition. I also made sure that his hooves were covered by some of the grass from the first photo (using the cloning tool at different opacities to look more natural and blur slightly his outline, so he doesn’t just look pasted on top of the other photo).

Lastly I used the photo of the moon on a new layer, also working with the edges of the moon, and using another layer of the clouds over the moon with masks so that it would be more natural with the clouds drifting over the moon. Then I worked adjusting the brightness and colors of the sky and grass, again, so that it looked natural to my eye.  I’m not trying to fool anyone that I was out there at night shooting an elk under the moon. I’m just creating an artistic work using my photographs.

I used Photoshop as my main software, as I really feel most comfortable and more in control working with layers and masks.  I can tone down or change the effects very easily working with masks, without having to start from Square I.

Work like this allows me satisfies the creative part of me that doesn’t want to always be chained to reality or faithful representations!

However, there are times when I don’t want to enhance a picture (more than the usual post processing typically used by most photographers and akin to darkroom techniques).

This photograph, A Butterfly’s World, is similar to Butterfly Ripple of Part I of this post. Both with shot with a telephoto lens, at a 5.6 aperture (shallow for the telephoto) at a shutter speed of 320. I was a bit closer to the butterfly in Butterfly Ripple (BR) – 2.9m subject distance and 360mm focal length) than  to the butterfly of A Butterfly’s World (ABW) – the 4.2m subject distance and focal length 400mm . Also the ISO was 125 for BR vs the 100 ISO for ABW, but all in all, pretty similar shooting conditions.  However, in this photo, the colors of the background were not in competition with the butterfly’s orange, so the butterfly stood out more, and also the background, because of the further distance was more defined.  I liked the capture of the butterfly within its environment in this photo as opposed to not really feeling like the other background added anything besides beautiful color.

In the next photo, Making a Beeline, the background is diffused because of the shallow atmosphere as in the background of Red Dragonfly on a Dead Plant from Part I. But in this photo, there is some definition of the other plants, and in Red Dragonfly, the diffused area was mainly darker color, then lighter with no texture or anything of interest.  Of course, I’m only now analyzing while I did one thing or another because I’m writing this blog. 🙂 Generally it is going to be an instinctive choice on whether the photo stands on its own or needs something more or needs something less.

I’m not an expert or even close to one.  This blog is a way of sharing my journey with photography.  Textures are great to work and play with, and I really love enhancing photos, but only when they need it. I promised you some websites for textures where others have shared what they have created for others to use, but I do want to say, that as beautiful as some of these textures are, it will be better and more personal if you can in some way make it your own by combining it with another texture you may have, playing around with them to change the appearance and suit your own photo in a more individualistic way.  Remember to change-up the blending options and opacities and play around with blurring, levels, and of course the masks to bring in more or less of a texture or another exposure.

The one site I was most impressed with was:, textures by Jerry Jones who allows others to download and use his textures without attribution. But he asks that you do change it up, and that you refer others back to his website directly. Please read his terms of use, here:

Another site that is referred to by Leanne Cole in her blog (see reference in Part I – her post ) is a site set up by Joseph Thomas with multiple contributors and to which you can also donate your textures to:

There are some beautiful textures here, Jai Johnson is the creator of these beautiful textures, but as they are very high-resolution files, you may have problems downloading them as I did.  I had been on my computer all day, and realized I had more than one download going at once, so I will try again today.

Remember to read the terms of use of each site, and if you can, give back or pay it forward in some way.

Thanks for visiting and please check out my work at and I would love it if you would pass on any of the links to friends who may be interested.


Limitations, Inspiration, Perserverance

I’ve been busy the past few weeks since my trip to Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon, working on pictures, catching up with work and daily life.  In reviewing the photographs I’ve taken I’ve come up against the limitations that exist currently in both my ability and equipment. I’ll start with the second one first, since being outside my self, that’s always the easiest to identify and evaluate.

In spite of the fact that the new telephoto lens I bought is much better than the one I had, its reach is still never going to be as long as I want it to be!  As I’ve talked about before in this blog, I love shooting animals, especially wildlife in their natural habitat. And of course the challenge is that they’re not always near you (harder to focus on) and they move (requiring high enough shutter speed).  So I get home and look at my pictures (where I can actually see them on a full screen) and in the majority of cases, I’m often disappointed because when I zoom in to 100% or more if I’m cropping the picture, it’s less sharp, or the area that the animal encompasses is just too small to be able to crop into a compelling photograph.

colt-with-mother-20130606Here is the original shot I took of this cute little colt whose picture I stopped to take.  I have a 100-400mm and I don’t know how far away he was, but far enough, so that this was my shot at a focal length of 400mm. It was almost 7pm so the light was lower, but still acceptable.  I had raised the ISO to 250, had the aperture set to 11.0 and my shutter speed was 1/80 sec. At 100% I can see that the colt is a bit soft, so obviously my focus wasn’t spot on, but at its original size, it came out okay but it has a bit of noise.

This leads me to the first part of limitations – my ability or habits as a photographer.  In hindsight, I might have taken the aperture down to 8.0 or even 5.6 to get a higher shutter speed. But I still get so caught up with wanting to get the picture (in this case before the colt moved behind a sagebrush, or turned away from me) that I went into my snapshot mode. So I don’t have the ability now to crop and get a sharp picture.  colt-with-mother-crHere is the picture cropped to just the colt, and you begin to see the problems.  Of course these are low resolution files at smaller width and heights than the actual files, but the comparison should still be telling.

When I look back at pictures I took in Kenya with a film camera almost 20 years ago, I’m amazed at some of the pictures I got. I had a cheaper lens at that time (Pentax camera/Tamron 400 mm lens) but the differences are: 1) my digital camera now is a full frame, which means my reach isn’t as long – 400 is 400 instead of maybe 640; 2) film didn’t have the noise that digital cameras do; and 3) shooting in Kenya, I generally had much more light to work.  However, I still love my digital camera for many reasons, not limited  to post processing control (never had a darkroom) and ability to adjust ISO for each shot (whether I’m always great at doing that is another matter altogether) to name just the first two that stand out.  The fact is that I need to find a way as a photographer to form better habits in order to work both with the tools  I have (which are quite good) and the limitations that present themselves (moving animals, low light, etc).

So the disappointment in not getting the shots I hoped I had gotten turns into a learning experience and a resolve to get better. I still will cherish the photo and the others I took of this colt, because he was beautiful, and I loved the way he seemed to be trying out his legs. I decided to enhance the photograph in Photoshop and added some artistic/impressionistic type effects.  This is the result. Colt-with-new-long-legs-2

The following two photos are two more examples of a similar situation.  I shot this photo, and actually I do like it, but again, it was shot in low light at nearly 8pm. So I took up the ISO to 800. Since the mule deer did not seem particularly disturbed by me as they were at quite some distance, in retrospect, I probably should have used my tripod and kept the ISO lower to avoid the noise. The aperture was 10.0 and the shutter speed was 40, but the photo was still fairly sharp – there was just a lot of color noise.The-Gathering

However, I felt the photograph was a bit conflicted. Was the subject matter the herd of mule deer (not close enough to really be about them) or the landscape?  In the end, as the result of a suggestion from a fellow photographer in a forum, I decided to just concentrate on the beautiful colors in the landscape.

I reassessed the picture, erased the herd of mule deer from the scene, blurred the edges of the photo, and played with effects to give it more of an abstract feel, since the photo really lent itself to that. See the second reinterpreted photograph.

You can judge for yourself. Some will like the more true to life version, and others the artistic interpretation.  I always feel there’s room enough for more than one version.

Blue-Green-LandscapeLuckily, the telephoto lens did work quite well with some of the animals that were closer to me.  I especially like this capture of a little house sparrow that was taken at Malheur Wildlife Refuge, but wasn’t so crazy about the fact that he was just sitting on a metal plant protector thing. But I kept returning to him, because I was so charmed by his expression and the fact that he was looking directly at me.  This is the initial photograph.

Little-BirdIn this case, I was able to crop quite a bit, and have him remain very sharp, although I did add a texture and a color filter to make his background more visually interesting. The-Sparrow-questions-why

Next week I will move on from Harney County, Oregon, although I am sad to do so as it was a great experience on many different levels.  I did want to share a few more photographs.

This is of the Hot Springs where my friend and I stayed, Crystal Crane Hot Springs.Crystal-Crane-Hot-Springs


The next picture shows a close-up of a mule deer that was taken earlier in the day near the same spot where the herd was, and this deer was closer to the road (love it when that happens!)

And finally I wanted to show you a composite picture I did using the little calf from the first post on Harney County – Wild Horses, Part 1.  I had two landscape pictures I liked, (but not enough on their own), so I combined them with this calf. I wanted to create an image that reminded the viewer of one of those old paintings you see at museums. This is entitled, “The Lost Calf.”

So in closing – acknowledge and evaluate your limitations, be inspired by them to break through them, and persevere! I’m not usually this Ra, Ra, but sometimes we need to do that for ourselves, just so we can deal with expectations that get a little banged up along the way.