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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

The Empathy Project - XV

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

If you receive my posts by email, the audio won't come along with the image.....so, if you would like to listen check it out on the blog itself at howardgrill.com/blog

 
 

The Empathy Project - XIV

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

This gentleman, who worked on the railroad years ago, used the term 'gandy dancing' in his interview. I had to look that one up! A gandy dancer is slang for the workers which performed the laborious task of maintaining the rails and ties of the tracks.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

If you receive my posts by email, the audio won't come along with the image.....so, if you would like to listen check it out on the blog itself at howardgrill.com/blog

 
Ralph Baker
 

The Empathy Project - XIII

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

The defibrillator this gentleman refers to is an implanted device that shocks the heart back into a regular rhythm if a serious, life-threatening cardiac rhythm abnormality is detected.

If you receive my posts by email, the audio won't come along with the image.....so, if you would like to listen check it out on the blog itself at howardgrill.com/blog

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

The Empathy Project - XII

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

This particular fellow, a man in his forties who has a long life yet to live, is the survivor of an out of hospital cardiac arrest. I found his thoughts regarding how that event has affected him to be quite interesting and profound.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

The Empathy Project - XI

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind this 'humanism in medicine' project is that doctors often see patients without nearly as much time as they would like to have in order to get to know them  as 'people'.  It's easy for doctors to lose sight of the fact that patients have the same types of lives as they do, with the same ups and downs, and with interesting events that they have either witnessed or lived through. This project is an attempt to recognize 'patients as people' by having me take their portrait and record their stories at the end of their visit to my office.

As I make these posts, the portraits and audio will be added to my Empathy Project Portfolio, where all the entries can be seen and listened to in a group.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

Green Onions

Arghhhh....I had a whole blog post written reviewing a book that I had read and then I accidentally hit the wrong button and poof...gone! One of the few things that I don't love about Squarespace is that it doesn't auto-save intermittently and CTL-Z does....well, nothing. I can't bring myself to try to recreate the whole post again so it seems a great time for one of my occasional musical interludes. And somehow "Green Onions" just seems like the right title of a song to play in this circumstance. It's one of those tunes that is hard to get out of your head once it's in there!

To add a little interest, I thought I would show the 'then' and the 'now', though the now isn't really now since it was filmed in 2003 and bassist Donald 'Duck' Dunn died in 2012 (after having replaced Lewie Steinberg in 1965). The drummer, Al Jackson Jr, was murdered in 1975 and the band played with several different drummers after that. Booker T and The MGs was a band that formed in 1962 and was one of the earliest racially integrated rock groups.

Then (best I can tell the bassist in this video is Dunn and not Steinberg, but I'm not totally certain):

And 'now":

A Mother's Treasure III

I continue to work on my series of compositions making up a mini-project I call 'A Mother's Treasure'.  Details can be found here.  

This particular composition comes from an ornate area on the back of the regal clothes that are worn by the 'king'. I liked the repetitive rainbow shapes placed within the more complex engraving.

© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

The Year Of 100 Rejections By Charles Chu

Lately I have been taking a number of on-line courses trying to learn new types of photo artistry techniques, learning to use flash, learning to make composites etc. And the one thing that rings true for learning and improving at all these things is that the improvement comes from the doing. Doing over and over and over again. Defining what you want to learn. Forming projects. Setting deadlines.

One of the best ways of describing the process comes from an article I read by Charles Chu, whose method for becoming a better writer is to plan to have his short stories get rejected 100 times during the next year.  The idea is that by the end of the year he will have done so much writing without being concerned about rejection that he won't be able to help but become a much better writer.  As he notes in his post:

'Ray Bradbury, most famous now for his novel Fahrenheit 451, once advised that writers write one short story a week. Why one story a week? Because “It’s not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.”'

Intrigued? it really is a great article about how to get better at something...at anything really!

"The Year Of 100 Rejections".  It's a good and quick read that I wanted to share. And it pertains to photography as much as it pertains to writing fiction.

Seeing The Abstract

Lately I have found myself thinking about style, or, more specifically, about how people see.....about how I see. They are the same thing, style and how you see, more or less. I think it really is an interesting topic for everyone to ponder. What lenses you most often use gives some insight into this. For me, I tend to use a macro lens and lenses with longer focal lengths more than my other lenses. Of course that doesn't mean ALL the time, but there is a definite preponderance.

I tend to see things in little segments or abstract pieces. It's just the way I naturally see best.

 
Glass Abstract    © Howard Grill

Glass Abstract    © Howard Grill

 

The image above is a segment from a very large piece of glass art which was on display at a show in the botanical garden that I frequently go to. The piece is actually a massive pitcher plant, but I enjoyed the abstract shapes and colors that you could see in small portions of the glass even more than the piece as a whole.

 
Mural Abstract    © Howard Grill

Mural Abstract    © Howard Grill

 

Another good example is my "Mural Project", where I make photographs of very small abstract sections of large urban murals. I got to make some more of these on a trip to San Francisco a week or so ago. The Mission District is absolutely wonderful for murals (and food too)!

How do you see? How is that reflected in your photography? Give it some thought.....

A Mother's Treasure II

A couple of post's back I found myself wondering if there was a series to be had in photographing two decorative statues that were handed down to me by my mother, who is in poor health. That original post was entitled "A Mother's Treasure".

I think it will, in fact, end up a series. At least I find myself drawn to making more images of these statues (I'm sure that isn't the correct term for them). The only question is whether I will find enough to make it a short series or if it will capture my attention for a longer while. Even when doing a series, I tend to produce the finished images slowly....this is #2 and I'm sure there will be more to come.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

Keeping An Art Journal

Despite the fact that I love digital imaging, when it comes to some other aspects of 'digital life' I am sort of old fashioned. For example, digital 'To Do' lists on my phone or iPad have just never cut it. Frankly, for me it is easier and faster to just write things down on a physical piece of paper using a real pencil. My kids are probably cringing if they are reading this!

When it comes to pencil and paper, there is something about tactile writing and seeing the appearance of the written word that somehow just feels more personal and more thoughtful than a typed word on an LED screen. Plus, somehow, I think the act of writing cements ideas into my brain far more solidly than typing on 'digital paper' (but, then again, that could just be a generational thing). In that vein, I have recently started keeping an "Art Journal" and, it turns out, I thoroughly enjoy writing in it. In fact, one of my favorite weekend 'things' is to sit down with a good cup of coffee, my iPad to access some of the on-line courses I am taking, and my pencil and art journal. But the coffee has to be good :)

Lest you think I've lost my mind, let me tell you some of the things that I keep in this journal of mine:

i) Images that inspire me - if i see images in digital publications that really hit home and inspire me I take a screenshot, email it to myself, maker a small print and tape it into the journal. Then as I peruse the pages and comment on what I like and what I would change about the images it not only inspires me, but also gives me a clearer understanding of what type of imagery I am drawn to and would like to make

ii) Notes -  I take several on-line art/digital photography courses and I write notes and impressions related to the courses in the journal and also do some of the courses 'journal assignments'

iii) Ideas -  I break my ideas into various categories......for example, ideas for small or large photo projects, how I might promote certain projects, where I would like to submit images to, ideas for blog posts, topics, ideas, or techniques I might be interested in exploring further.....and then I might devote several pages to each and jot down ideas that I have that are related to each category

iv) Projects -  I keep track of various projects I am working on

There really is a lot that can be put into a journal and it helps me keep my ideas organized, so it is a practice that I'm glad I started. But, you have to have a nice journal (big enough to tape those inspiring photos into but small enough to take to a coffee shop...mine is about 7x9 inches), a pencil or pen that you enjoy writing with, some good coffee, and time to think. Time to think - if having a journal gets you that, than it's worth its weight in gold!

Why not give it a try?

 

A Mother's Treasure

My parents recently had to move out of their home, my mother to a nursing home and my dad to assisted living. It wasn’t an easy move. My mother is not one for material things, but she loved art and treasured two decorative statues for many years. I was given the statues and decided to photograph them. As I did so, I started to see many interesting compositions....maybe this will become a series?

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

Portrait

As I mentioned in my post entitled "An Admission", I have been taking an on-line course in "Photoshop Artistry" in order to learn some new techniques and experiment with opening up some new creative avenues to explore. This involves some weekly assignments and I mentioned that I would post some that turn out interesting.

The assignment that led to this image was to combine a portrait and a nature image along with two textures, an edge effect, and the use of selective black and white along with the ability to use any other Photoshop tools. And the composition was to be in square format. The 'base' image is actually a photo of a portion of an impressionist painting that I took last summer and it is combined with a scenic that I took in the Smoky Mountains that was rotated vertically. Rather than approach this as a composite, I used the scenic photo as a 'blend' to affect the texture and tonality of the original and the result of that blend, as well as the added textures, edges, etc is below.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

One of the things that I have been fascinated by is how images can be blended into each other to generate lighting, tone and texture effects. For example, that Smoky Mountain Image that is blended in is below....before being rotated vertically and made into a square. One would never identify it as part of the image, but it is in there as a 'texture and color' builder.

smoky mountains.jpg

Black & White Magazine People's Choice Award

I was very pleased to learn that my image "Cactus Spines" won the "People's Choice Award" in the Flowers/Plants/Fruit category of Black & White Magazine's 2018 Single Image Contest (Issue 125).

The photo is a focus stack of approximately 30 or so images, each focused a mm apart (using a focusing rail) in order to maintain sharpness throughout the entire length of the spines. Without doing this type of compositing, it would be impossible to keep the spines sharply focused from tip to base, even using a small aperture for maximum depth of field.

"Cactus Spines"    © Howard Grill

"Cactus Spines"    © Howard Grill

An Admission

In the past, I have spoken about having taken Sebastian Michael's "Photoshop Artistry" course, which is truly a superb course if you have an interest in learning more about 'grunge techniques' (though I really don't like that term since it seems to harbor negative connotations). But I have an admission to make, I haven't been doing my homework!  

While I have put some of the techniques taught into use, there are also a series of weekly exercises, or 'challenges', which gets one to use all the various techniques in order to really cement them in. I hadn't done them. One of my friends has started to take the course as well, and we have decide to do the weekly assignments and trade the files to see how each other work. The accountability to each other of doing the assignments is a motivating factor to actually get them done. In addition, I think that seeing how we each individually implement and interpret the techniques will be fascinating.

I don't plan to post my results every week, but thought if I end up with some images that I really like (the purpose of the assignments is to get facile with the techniques, not create masterpieces) I would post them. Well, I do like the result of this first assignment, which was to take an image and add two textures, an edge effect, a vector, and to utilize a 'painting with light' technique. In addition, any other adjustments could be used.

Here is the result:

Gone Fishing    © Howard Grill

Gone Fishing    © Howard Grill

Here is the fully processed image that I used for the assignment before adding anything, one that had been 'finished' and that I enjoyed even without any further manipulations. 

Gone Fishing    © Howard Grill

Gone Fishing    © Howard Grill

They are the same yet different and I enjoy them both. Which do you prefer? Is the transmitted emotion different between them?

Follow The Path To Miner's Falls

While on my trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula this fall, I had the opportunity to visit Miners Falls. The falls were great in their own right, but on the walk down to them from the parking lot I noticed how the path made an "S" shaped curve......and we all know to never pass up an "S" shape!

Walking along the path into the forest it felt sort of magical, so, in processing, I brightened the pathway to give it a "Follow The Yellow Brick Road" appearance. Because the trail dips down about halfway through the frame, you lose sight of it and really can't tell where it leads to. I felt that this too added an air of mystery.

 
Path To Miner's Falls    © Howard Grill

Path To Miner's Falls    © Howard Grill

 

The Rock House - Hocking Hills

Several years ago, I payed a visit to Hocking Hills, a wonderful area close to Columbus, Ohio and about a four hour drive from my home. It was a really great few days photographing with several of my friends, and over the last few years have posted several images taken there on this blog. However, making photographs in the Rock House, which is a cave that had been used by native Americans many years ago,  was very difficult because of the extraordinary dynamic range related to various openings letting the light in. I had tried processing the photo in the past by blending seven exposures using various HDR software brands as well as 'Merge To HDR' in Lightroom, but was never happy with the result because somehow the color just always seemed wrong.

I recently gave SNS-HDR a try, as there was a Black Friday sale for $18 and I had read comments in various forums that it gave natural looking results. Although there is still a bit of an 'HDR look" (which, frankly, I ended up intensifying a bit in further processing by adding contrast) it left the color very natural looking and requiring only a few tweaks in Photoshop to get it to look the way I remembered it. Overall, I like the result and am pleased with the intuitive SNS interface.

 
Rock House - Hocking Hills    © Howard Grill

Rock House - Hocking Hills    © Howard Grill

 

Post Thanksgiving Musical Interlude

It's been a while since I posted a musical interlude.....and right after Thanksgiving seemed to be a good time for some music. Does acoustic guitar and harmonizing get better than this?

Of course, inclusion in this blog seems particularly fitting, given Graham Nash's prestigious career in photography and digital imaging, as well as in music. Didn't know about that....check it out!

Empathy Project Opening

I have completed sharing the Empathy Project portraits and audio that I have processed thus far, and will return to posting them when I have then next group of five ready.

I am very pleased that the hospital I work for decided to make this project public. They recently renovated the lobby of one of the three hospitals in the system and chose to display the first five portraits in the project there and, to make it even better, mounted audio bars beneath each portrait so that visitors can listen to the stories. In a few months, they are opening another outpatient facility and the second group of five will be displayed there, also with the audio!

For the opening of the renovated lobby, we invited the patients whose portraits appeared and I had the opportunity to give them each an 8x10 of their photo. To conclude this second group of five portraits, I thought I would share a few snapshots from the opening.

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2 copy.jpg
 
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