An Interview with Nature & Wildlife Photographer Belinda Greb
From beautifully composed landscape images to jaw-dropping shots of animals in their natural habitat, architecture and more, Belinda Greb’s photography is distinguished. Belinda captures shots of nature with an adept knowledge of light, colour, composition, and aesthetics.
Images such as ‘Daisies‘ ‘Cathedral Rock and Spires‘ exemplify these qualities; whilst ‘Surrounded by Love’ (see below) is a beautiful photo of affection between horses, is a rare and special capture.
Besides stunning images of horses, and nature, Belinda also uses her post-processing talent to create elegant digital art, which like all of her work, would look stunning on any living room wall.
You can purchase Belinda’s work on her website: http://belindagrebphotography.com
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Please talk a bit about where you are from and where you live now…
I grew up in rural Calabasas, California, and that home figures large in my psyche in terms of a natural, wild, environment that I could roam with my dogs and that was a playground for my imagination. I’ve lived in other parts of Los Angeles, then Portland, Oregon, Upper West Side, NY, and now I live in a beautiful, forested and rural part of Oregon.
How did your passion for photography start?
You can say my love of photography is like one of those love stories where two people meet, are attracted to each other, but lots of obstacles get in the way until after years of being just friends, with the right timing and focus, the passion ignites. I always loved looking at pictures (initially paintings from one of the many LA museums I visited throughout my childhood and early adulthood). I signed up for a photography class in high school but alas my Dad’s old Leica was non-working so I dropped out. In my early twenties I purchased my first SLR (film) and loved taking pictures, especially when traveling, but frankly I never took the time to really learn all my camera features. While I was in NY, I worked in graphics center and there I learned the power of digital post-processing. This coincided with the advent of DSLR, so as soon as I moved back to Oregon and was working fewer hours, I started to concentrate more on photography, and learning more and practicing more, my love grew.
What do you enjoy most about photographing nature and wildlife?
First photography gets me out there, and being out there is like reconnecting with something deep inside me. All artificial constructs get dropped and being there and photographing is a form of meditative observation. I love animals; I love watching them and seeing them in a natural habitat.
Besides your camera, what equipment is essential to you when you are out in the wild?
If I’m photographing landscapes, then my tripod. I also like to bring along an ND filter if I’m going to be photographing waterfalls. Before I go I check to see my batteries are all charged and my lenses are clean. I check on the weather to see how many layers to wear and always have shoes with good treads. I usually have an extra battery and memory card. I also recently carry along at least one kneepad that I can strap on, so I can kneel down more easily. Since I use different cameras and lenses for landscapes versus animals, this can prove to be a heavy load if I’m hiking in a National Park.
What are your go-to lenses when photographing animals?
I have my 100-400mm L lens. I like the zoom as it allows me some flexibility because with wildlife, usually you really have to react and shoot very quickly and changing lens is not an option. I would love a 1.4x, and that may be my next purchase.
If you were teaching a wildlife photography student, what tips would you consider to be most important to tell them, in order to get great shots?
Know your subject and research the area where you’re shooting to give you the best possible chance of being in the right area at the right time to see the animals. Be alert out in the field to movement. I constantly scan the area around me and my eyes have become alert to movement or something that doesn’t look natural in the landscape. If you’re walking and talking, you may walk or drive right by an animal. Preset your camera settings as often you come upon an animal very quickly and don’t have time to set up your camera as you would for a landscape shot. I set my mode to continuous shooting and a higher ISO to take into account that my subject will be moving and sometimes quickly. I can always adjust on the fly if the animal is hanging around or more acclimated to humans. Often I will under-compensate on my exposure by 1/3 or a ½ to gain a faster shutter speed in low light situations. I also use spot metering. This is especially important if your animal is white. You don’t want to lose your details. Respect the animal’s boundaries. Pushing in too close will most likely cause the animal to leave, and you may stress the animal, or create a dangerous situation. If you maintain a distance, especially initially, the animal may relax and stay around longer and not consider you a threat. If you do work your way closer, do so very gradually and as quietly as you can.
Please talk about how you would post-process a landscape photo?
I shoot in Adobe RAW and neutral. My Lightroom adjustments come first. I have a preset landscape setting, which adjusts for the camera and lens distortions, bumps the contrast and clarity slightly, and also preliminary sharpens and reduces noise slightly. I can then adjust the highlights and shadows, adjust exposure, tone if needed. Then I take it into Photoshop with Nik filter for any further adjustments. I like the Nik Tonal Contrast, Detail Enhancer that can easily be applied to specific areas. I then further reduce noise and sharpen using layer masking again to selectively apply these adjustments.
What location that you have photographed is your favourite and why?
I think I loved Glacier National Park as it had such an abundance of stunning scenery and wildlife in addition to wonderful hiking trails that allowed me to really be immersed in the whole experience. I traveled with another photographer, so there was less pressure to keep up (pace wise with non photographers); we both could just focus on what appealed to us; it also made each of us feel safer when traveling in bear country; and we both so appreciated the beauty and animals experiences that we shared. My fellow photographer was a better hiker and pushed me to finish one hike I might have given up on as it was raining and the hike was uphill. I was grateful as later you don’t remember the pain, and I got some great photographs.
What online marketing strategies for your photography have you found success with?
I use Facebook, Pinterest and Google to a lesser degree, but I like tweeting the most. I like to share information about the animal or place or I like to use quotes often that pair with my photographs. I know that some of my sales have come from people introduced through my work through Tweets. I also know Pinterest, when I used it more, was helpful in that way as well, but I enjoy the Twitter community.
What plans do you have for the year ahead?
Photography is like a pet that needs to be fed. Every year I try to take a combination of local day trips and then other trips. Last year I went to Yosemite (twice), Mount Rainier, and Alaska. This year I will be traveling to Sedona, Arizona, and also hope to see the wild horses near Scottsdale/Phoenix area. I also will be returning to Mount Rainier for a few of days, and I will be Canon Beach area for a few days. I’ve been hoping I can plan another trip to return to Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Pryor Mountain but I’m not sure about that yet.