Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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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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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 http://belindagrebphotography.com/ or one of my other sites!

Bridge over Sky

Bridge Over Sky – Along the Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway


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My Usual Haunts – Exterior and Interior

I didn’t post last week, as my days off were filled with a couple of outings, but it should work out well, because as I review my photos from two weeks ago and think back, I’m in a similar frame of mind this week.

I find myself, at this stage of my life, more confined, so that when I look at photographs of others from far off places, I’m a bit envious, although I’ve been blessed to have traveled in the past. But the current situation can dim my spirits and I’ve been feeling like I’ve been running on empty. So I seek refuge in my usual haunts, and find myself traveling familiar grounds, physically and metaphysically.

Metaphysically speaking – I find myself on the verge of depression. I’ve been here and through it before. I’m isolated, geographically, from my closest friends, and I feel at a disconnect. I feel like I’m putting one foot in front of the other and just plodding through without any hope of getting to some place better.  I know this feeling will pass and come again and pass again, and I always seek to come to terms with it philosophically or spiritually.

I wish I were less analytical and lighter in nature.  My belief is that people who are tend to be happier. In the past, I’ve quit my job, moved, taken a trip, but those aren’t options I have the energy or money for and of course you never can really escape your self, not while you’re living!

And I don’t dislike my self, but I miss being near people who get me.  Any way, I know I’m in the midst of a poor me pity party, so I will move on. Maybe others reading this will find comfort in knowing that others also experience these blues and greys.

Physically, I return to my favorite walks with my dog and my camera.  Sometimes I take only a few pictures and discard the majority, thinking I’ve done that. Sometimes there are just a few that I care to keep, but the act of walking is a soothing one, and my dog, Maisie, appreciates it as well.

Sometimes, the walk alone will shake the inertia away. If not, it allows me to sit with the feelings I’m going through.  It settles the restlessness like a form of meditation. And since I haven’t been doing my meditation practice regularly, this is good.

At other times, although I’m walking the same road I’ve walked numerous times before, I see something new, or more clearly.  When we find ourselves in the same life patterns, it’s interesting to wonder if instead of a circle, our path is not instead a spiral viewed from a different angle. Are we reacting the same way to a similar situation, or trying to find a new way.  This is a challenge of both consciousness and discipline.

One morning, two weeks ago, I got up early (not easy for me as I tend to be a night owl) seeking to find the elk that a friend had said were visiting her yard. Though they had been there for two days in a row, and come 4-5 times that week, they were not there that morning. (A week later I did see some female elk, but my photos were lousy as the light was too low and I was unable to get any sharpness at the distance.)

Disappointed, I decided to take try to take some pictures of the fall color that was fading fast.  I came upon these beautiful rays shining down on the road.  Was it as great as the elk would have been?  No, but it was lovely and that will have to suffice.

So I will keep trying – getting up early, occasionally, to seek the elk and putting one foot in front of the other, trying to muster some hope that my path is not a circle, and spiraling upwards and not down.


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Preserving the Past for the Future, Part 2

Gram-scanI promised to go over two pictures in the last post, and therefore this post will be Part 2 and I will be writing about restoring a black and white photo.  Taking the same scan from the last post, I chose a picture of my grandmother when she was much younger, and I would guess that the picture is probably from the late 1930’s or early 1940’s.

You would follow the steps in regards to scanning at a high-resolution, straightening and cropping the photo you want to work with and then saving as another file name. You can see that not only has the photo faded, but also there are some major scratches..

My first step is to copy the background layer (leaving the original layer intact).  I initially tried to do a dust and scratches on this photo, but felt I lost too much detail in the face, since one of the scratches goes across my grandmother’s face.  Therefore, I worked mainly with the clone stamp tool to fix the scratches.  I chose this because the healing tool is too indiscriminate when filling in the lost data, and with a face, and because the original paper had a textured background, I need to use more care to make sure the repairs look natural.  I work at the most significant scratches first – my view, while working, will vary from about 400% to 800% magnification.

B4andAfterThe clone stamp tool is set to 100% opacity, although you can change this, but I usually work with a fairly small brush with hardness set to “0: and rather than just setting the source alignment and painting, I will keep on re-sampling my source again and again (with each click) to create a more natural repair and also to make sure I am matching the skin tones, since shadows and light affect the various planes of the face.  I can sample less, when I’m repairing the roof, say, but still you want to make sure the repairs are subtle.  I also often change my brush size and overlap the areas, again to prevent any obvious patterning from the repair work.

When you zoom out, you will see what I’m saying if you experiment a bit. I also vary the size of my brush on the fly. (Mac users, you use the open parentheses to change your brush to a smaller size and the close parentheses for the opposite. Windows users, check your Photoshop to see what the keystrokes are for this.) Also by clicking the “eye” of the current layer you’re working on, you will be able to check your progress.  You will see the obvious improvement in the before and after photo to the left.

Now that the most important scratches have been taken care of, I start at one corner of the photo and working at about 125%-150%, I work my way across to the right, scroll down, work to the left and so on until I’ve covered the entire photo, working on cleaning up the scratches or other marks I find along the way.

Next I add an adjustment layer – in this case levels and adjust it as follows:

B4AfterLevels

I still feel the face or upper portion of the photograph has faded and lost more detail than the lower part.  The face seems washed out to me. Therefore, I decide to copy my 2nd layer (post scratches) and change the layer effects to Multiply but take the opacity of the layer down to 30%.

However, I don’t want to apply this darkening effect to the whole photography, so I also add a layer mask.  In doing this, I can mainly apply the changes of this layer primarily to the face and house roof behind my grandmother.

Multiply

On the layer mask (make sure mask is selected – see Part 1) I first add a gradient, and then to clean up some of the picture border and sky area, I use a low opacity black brush to hide some of the multiply effects. I then used a blur tool to blend in the changes at the top of the layer mask. Also I have the mask set to a 5px feather.

See the results to the right:

I next applied a cyan photo filter layer to tone down some of the yellow from the aging.  I don’t want a pure black and white image.  I quite like the sepia tone on this photo.  The photo filter is at a density of 15%, and you can play around with the filters to suit your own tastes.

PhotoFilter

BWFinal

If you want a pure black and white, you can add another adjustment layer and this would be the result, after fiddling with some of the black and white settings.

To add a note to the prior post about color restoration, I wanted to point out that if you add a photo filter because you’re bringing back yellow or red to a photograph, you may find it changes the color in areas of the photo you don’t want changed.  This happened to me when restoring a photo of my parents – when adding yellow to warm up the skin tones that looked dead, a blue shirt turned to a muddy green color. I used a layer mask to mask out the effects of the photo filter’s change, so the shirt remained blue.

I hope this is helpful.  I know these photos are rather small, but hopefully if you click on them you will be able to see the changes more clearly.  As stated in the previous posts, there are always multiple paths to get to your desired results in Photoshop.  You can play with a saturation level, or curves.  I didn’t use curves here, because I felt the top portion of the photo was too light.  You can start with an auto contrast or using the white balance tool.  Again, I didn’t use here because I wanted to keep the sepia tone.  The thing with Photoshop is not to be afraid to experiment.  That’s why it is important to save the original scanned file as another named file and also to use layers.  You want to be able to experiment.  That’s how you learn!  And you have the “undo” and the history window which give you further leeway to make mistakes without getting too frustrated or having to start over from the beginning.

Happy Restoration and Happy Experimenting!  Next time, back to current photos I’m working on and more musings!

Please visit me at Etsy: RadianceCardsPhotos or Belinda Greb at Fine Art America. Thanks for visiting.