Musings with Camera in Hand

Belinda Greb – The Photographic Journey


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A Few More from Chincoteague

I think I will try to have some intermittent shorter posts with just a few images and fewer musings!

It’s funny when you come back from a trip with tons of images, there are some you just can’t wait to start processing.  But on the second or third round, it’s always the case that there’s one that was overlooked and you wonder how in the world you missed it.  This one of an egret landing on a pond is such a photograph for me.  I love the grace of the egret coming in for a landing and the background colors of the reeds and water.

Early Evening on the Chincoteague Bay

Early Evening on the Chincoteague Bay

This second photograph was taken just about sunset, as I looked eastward from the boat we were in.  The light was just so beautiful around that time and this image lent itself to a subtle watercolor effect.  As I often do, here I worked with layers and masks to blend in an effect for more control and artistry. Westward the sky was more dramatic but to me visually less appealing. This was looking towards Assateague Island, and I like the one post sticking out of the water and the trees in the background.

The next two photos use textures. In the case of the mallard hybrid, the background was just sort of light as I had spot focused on him to bring out the details of his feather.  Another thing I enjoy is researching the photos for more information. For instance in this case, I tried to identify the duck as he really didn’t look like a mallard.  I found that domestic ducks and cross breeds often result from pairings with a male mallard as the iridescent green head is apparently quite appealing to female ducks of all species. I used one of the fabulous textures by Jerry Jones.

In the final photograph for this week’s post, I have taken many photographs of this filly as she was young and beautiful of course! 🙂 I was shooting with a telephoto since we were in a boat and at a distance. I cropped one of the more sharper images to use as just a head shot, and used a free beautiful texture found on Deviant Art and created by env1ro. I loved the bold colors in this texture.  Generally when I use free textures, I do try and change them up by using more than one, or another exposure to blend in, and for the Portrait of a Filly I did add another texture in but the primary texture was so gorgeous, the changes were pretty subtle. For the mallard, the texutre was such a perfect background for the duck’s coloring, I also didn’t add in another texture. For me this is an exception rather than a rule. Generally I will try to personalize it. See my note on how  I usually do to that.

Note: For other textures or exposures to blend in, think blurred landscapes, flora, flowers, clouds. Or shoot texture found in metal, rocks, etc. Or try your hand at using the various brushes in Photoshop to create your own. Then experiment with the blends or use the masks to just brink in part of an effect.

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What I found on a Walk

Running behind on everything, so I thought I’d just show what I photographed on just one walk. (Actually I typed this short post in the  WordPress Quick post, but that disappeared – so I’m trying again!)

I find a walk is a great way to clear my mind and replenish my energy, especially when I’m feeling blah.  This walk was like that. I walked uphill behind the canal, where I took the photograph of a farmhouse, then feeling better, I decided to continue my walk along the canal.  The last photograph is my favorite. It’s a composite of an intentionally blurry landscape I took (not really knowing how I was going to use it – just focused, and then turned it to manual and turned the focusing ring slightly) and another photo I took for texture of a rusted part of the bridge over the canal with a great plate and bolt.

A walk in nature always makes me feel connected, to the world, the source, whatever – just connected as in “Only Connect” from E.M. Forster’s Howard’s End. That phrase always resonated with me.

Next week I will try to find more words, more time,  and the photos will of the Three Sisters, taken on a great birthday outing with good friends.

For a larger image or to read the photo’s description, click on the photo or title.


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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:  http://shadowhousecreations.blogspot.com/2010/03/creating-texture-tutorial-promo.html, 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:  http://shadowhousecreations.blogspot.com/p/terms-of-use.html.

Another site that is referred to by Leanne Cole in her blog (see reference in Part I – her post http://leannecolephotography.com/2013/07/02/making-some-textures/. ) is a site set up by Joseph Thomas with multiple contributors and to which you can also donate your textures to: http://publicdomaintextures.wordpress.com/galleries/.

There are some beautiful textures here, http://www.jaiart.com/freetextures. 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 http://belinda-greb.artistwebsites.com/ and I would love it if you would pass on any of the links to friends who may be interested.


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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!