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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 - X

Back in September, I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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.

 
empathy 10.jpg
 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it, at www.howardgrill.com/blog)

The Empathy Project - IX

Back in September I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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 interview was perhaps the most difficult one I have had to edit. We spoke for about 15 minutes and, frankly, there was very little I felt compelled to edit out.....but I had to to get it down to a reasonable listening time to go with one photo.

This gentleman is 95 years old and speaks truly eloquently about the many events he has witnessed in his life, from living through the depression to watching history unfold as a guard at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials at the end of World War II. He has truly led a remarkable life!

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 as a group.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it, at www.howardgrill.com/blog)

The Empathy Project - VIII

Back in September I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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 as a group.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 
 
 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it at www.howardgrill.com/blog)

The Empathy Project - VII

Back in September I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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.

I have previously posted my portraits and audio interviews for the first five patients in the project. I have now processed the portraits and edited the audio for the next five and will be posting them sequentially in this blog. I hope you will take the time to listen to their stories.

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.

 
empathy 7.jpg
 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it at www.howardgrill.com/blog)

The Empathy Project - VI

Back in September I had introduced my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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.

I have previously posted my portraits and audio interviews for the first five patients in the project. I have now processed the portraits and edited the audio for the next five and will be posting them sequentially in this blog. I hope you will take the time to listen to their stories.

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.

I find the story that accompanies this portrait particularly interesting, as it ends up touching on ideas regarding art and the process of creating.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it.).

NIK Software Lives!

The photographic community has, for many months, been lamenting the fact that Google decided to let the NIK Plug-Ins for Photoshop die on the vine after having acquired them from NIK Software in 2012. Google proceeded to slowly lower the price from $500 all the way to $0 in 2016. Then in May it was announced that Google would no longer develop, update, or support the software....relegating it to a slow death as computer operating systems and Photoshop itself changed over the years.

I am a big fan of NIK, use all their plug-ins, and have been pleased that the software has continued to work for me all the way through Windows 10 and Photoshop CC 2018. But, still, I knew I would have to give it up at some point. OnOne had even written a guide for NIK users as to what filters in OnOne software were similar to specific NIK filters in order to aid with migration to their product.

Well I am pleased, as I am sure many others also are, that NIK isn't dead yet!!

The NIK software has been acquired by DxO and DxO plans to continue with development and support and even plans to release a new version in 2018. So NIK seems to have been resuscitated and is alive and well.  It can be downloaded for free (at the current time) from the DxO website. If you aren't already a user, you had better get it while it is still free. Download it here.

On that same page you can also sign up to be informed by e-mail when the new 2018 version is released. I'm not a betting man but, if I had to bet, I would guess that the new version will no longer be free as a stand alone Photoshop plug-in but perhaps be incorporated for free into other DxO processing products.

The full details can be had on the PetaPixel website.

For my next five posts, I plan to show entries 6-10 of my Empathy Project audio interviews and portraits of patients.

Musical Interlude: The Joy Of Creation

It's been a while since I've posted one of my musical interludes!

Lately, I have been taking some inspiration from the music of Jimi Hendrix. It's hard, when you are feeling 'uncreative', to get the energy to go shoot or create in Photoshop. But if you listen to Hendrix (and of course you've got to turn it up), it's difficult for his explosive energy to not have an effect on you....well it is for me anyway. It' gets you wanting to do what it is that you do to express yourself, and for me that's photography.

And even better, he seems to have a pure joy in creating. I am sharing the video below not because it's his best music (Wild Thing was originally written by The Troggs, although Hendrix made it even more famous), or because the sound on the recording is particularly good (it's from 1967 and the sound quality totally sucks), but because I see something in Jimi's face. The joy of creating is what I see. The joy of experimenting with what sounds he can draw out of his guitar. Do you see it as well?

Here is a link to a description of an NPR episode that also has a wonderful short video about the album 'Are You Experienced?' being one of the most influential albums of our times and its induction into the Library of Congress National Recording Registry. You an watch that here. It is definitely one worth watching.

And you don't want to miss the story that Paul McCartney tells about Hendrix playing Sgt. Pepper either:

Be inspired to create!

As usual, if you subscribe to the blog by email these videos will not come over with the email. To view them you will need to visit the blog at www.howardgrill.com/blog.

Quick Quotes: Arnold Newman

"Photography, as we all know, is not real at all. It is an illusion of reality with which we create our own private world."

Arnold Newman


I am always looking for quotes about photography and truth. This one says it with no holds barred.

Newman is one of the greatest portrait photographers of our time. One of his most noted portraits is that of Alfred Krupp, a German industrialist who had been a Nazi and used slave labor during WWII. Newman was taking Krupp's portrait for Newsweek and took the opportunity to use photography to make Krupp look like the devil, and Newsweek did publish the portrait!

Here, from his New York Times obituary in 2006:

"................Perhaps the most famous was a sinister picture of the German industrialist Alfried Krupp, taken for Newsweek in 1963. Krupp, long-faced and bushy-browed, is made to look like Mephistopheles incarnate: smirking, his fingers clasped as he confronts the viewer against the background of a assembly line in the Ruhr. In the color version his face has a greenish cast.

The impression it leaves was no accident: Mr. Newman knew that Krupp had used slave labor in his factories during the Nazi reign and that he had been imprisoned after World War II for his central role in Hitler's war machine.

"When he saw the photos, he said he would have me declared persona non grata in Germany," Mr. Newman said of Krupp......."

 
© Arnold Newman

© Arnold Newman

 

And the story in Newman's own words, during an interview:

If you happen to subscribe to the blog by email, the video and its link will not come over....visit the main blog at www.howardgrill.com/blog to watch the two minute story.

Pete's Lake - Sometimes Things Stay The Same

I've just returned from a fantastic week long photography trip photographing fall colors in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with several of my "photo buddies". I have been to the Munising area of the Upper Peninsula to photograph four times, and it never fails to offer up a plethora of photographic opportunities. Even when I was there two years ago and we missed the fall colors with our timing, there was still plenty to photograph. I am glad to say that this year the colors did not disappoint.

I have not yet had the opportunity to download, keyword, or process any of the images. But while I was at one particular location I found myself fascinated by something. This image was made on my first trip to the Upper Peninsula in 2004, at a wonderful sunrise location called Pete's Lake.

Pete's Lake, Michigan's Upper Peninsula   © Howard Gril

Pete's Lake, Michigan's Upper Peninsula   © Howard Gril

I was able to photograph at Pete's Lake once again this year. Not only were the yellow trees on the left still there (I guess that really isn't all that surprising), but the same driftwood in the lake to the right of the trees was still there as well! It was like the scene had become frozen in time, and that made it feel like I was being transported back to 2004. Of course, once my shutter clicked, I was back in 2017. As Kurt Vonnegut Jr. used to say.....and so it goes.

Typography IS Important

Typography can be a bit intimidating. I, for one, don't have nearly the knowledge about typography that I should. It's not a very exciting topic, and that sort of makes things difficult. But with the wrong font things can go wrong.......terribly wrong:

As usual, if you subscribe by email, the video won't come along in your mail, so you will have to go the main blog here.  It's three minutes worth watching.....if you like laughing that is!

Quick Quotes: Painters And Writers Edition

Today, as a break from images, I wanted to offer some quotes that have moved me and made me think about expression in photography.....but this time from artists that are not photographers; though the medium really doesn't matter. From words to paints to pixels, the reasons for expressing are the same.


"I shut my eyes in order to see"

Paul Gaugin


"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun"

Pablo Picasso


"No great artist ever sees things as they really are. If he did, he would cease to be an artist."

Oscar Wilde


"The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable."

Robert Henri


All four quotes, I believe, really point to ideas worth contemplating.

The Empathy Project V

In my last few posts, I had the opportunity to introduce my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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.

Today I am posting the fifth entry in the project.  I like the idea of doing five at a time and then going back to work on more. For this reason, after this post I will go back to my more usual blog posts of varied subjects and images, and, after I have five more patients in the Empathy Project completed, plan to post the next five in sequence. I suspect this will take several weeks at least. I do hope that those of you that may have subscribed specifically because of this project will find continued interest in my posts until the next group of five patients has been prepared.

Today's 'patient' really isn't a patient of mine at all (though she is a patient).....she is my mother :)  She was a very devoted teacher in an inner city school. For those who are old enough to remember the show "Welcome Back Kotter", she too was a teacher at the school she had attended as a child.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, I don't believe the audio will come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it.).

Click here to listen to view and listen to the entire Empathy Project to date.

The Empathy Project IV

In my last few posts, I had the opportunity to introduce my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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.

Today I offer the fourth installment of the project. I plan to post a series of five and then return to other, non-Empathy Project blog posts as I prepare the next five, which will likely take several weeks to complete.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, the audio will not come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it.).

Click here to listen to view and listen to the entire Empathy Project to date.

The Empathy Project III

In my last few posts, I had the opportunity to introduce my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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.

Today I offer the third installment of the project. I plan to post a series of five and then return to other, non-Empathy Project blog posts as I prepare the next five, which will likely take a few weeks.

 
 Copyright Howard Grill

 Copyright Howard Grill

 
 
 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, I don't believe the audio will come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it.).

Click here to listen to view and listen to the entire Empathy Project to date.

The Empathy Project II

In my last post, I had the opportunity to introduce my Empathy Project. The idea behind the 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'. This is particularly true in this era of the electronic medical record. 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.

Today I offer the second installment of the project. I plan to post a series of five and then take a break as I prepare the next five.

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, I don't believe the audio will come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post if you would like to hear it.)

The Empathy Project

I would like to introduce a new project that I have been working on that really means quite a bit to me. As many readers may know, my 'real job' is as a cardiologist, and I have often thought about how I might integrate photography with my job as a physician. Recently, that integration has become a reality.

The idea for this project has been mulling in my mind for quite some time. The motivation to finally initiate it was based partly on a Brooks Jensen podcast (#962), where Brooks discussed the importance of going out of one's comfort zone and, instead of photographing things that are easily available, ASKING to photograph things that require permission to shoot. I decided it was time to do some asking.

The genesis of my idea was as follows:

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'. That's the idea....of course, moving forward, I will write a more formal 'Artist's Statement', but I wanted to share the project as it was coming together.

But on to the specifics. What I wanted to do was to take several (or more) minutes at the end of some of my office visits to talk to patients about themselves and their stories, not just their symptoms and diseases. I wanted to ask if I might take their portrait with a camera I brought in (nothing fancy, no time for big setups or flash, just the overhead office lighting and adjustments made in Photoshop) and record some of our conversation that I would then edit to 1-3 minutes in length to accompany their portrait in order to let people 'know who they were'. I really had no idea how people would react. The fact is that very nearly all the folks that I asked were very willing, and often excited, about participating.

Of course, in order to do this I had to do some asking. I had to both ask the hospital for permission to do the project and also ask the patients, if they said yes, to also sign consents. To my surprise, the hospital administration totally loved the idea. In fact, if everything went well, they wanted me to print the portraits large and display then in the main lobby of two outpatient facilities.  They even wanted to install permanent speakers into the lobby walls so that visitors could not only see the portraits, but also hear the audio that went with them. So, just by asking, I received not only permission, but also a more or less permanent display with plans to change the portraits and audio once or twice a year at two separate locations. Like Brooks said, just ask!

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 
 
 

With some help from our media department, I have decided to call the project "The Empathy Project". I was initially against this name because, though I liked its conciseness, I thought empathy implied 'pity'.  Turns out that isn't the meaning of empathy at all. It means "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, with a desire to help", and that just seems very fitting.

I have completed the first grouping of five portraits, and this is the first of the images and audio. The next four posts will complete this first series, and I plan on posting further series of five as I complete them. I hope you find the project and the portraits/audio interesting and meaningful! If you do,  please feel free to share it!

(If you are an email subscriber to the blog, I don't believe the audio will come along with the email.....so please visit the on-line blog post here if you would like to hear it.)

Flowing Petals

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

Flowing Petals    © Howard Grill

Flowing Petals    © Howard Grill

With my next post, I will be introducing a very special project that I have been working on. It is one that has been extremely meaningful to me. So I do hope you will 'tune back in' to see my first project post, I think you will find it interesting and worthwhile.

May I Take Your Photograph

One of the things that I have difficulty with is asking someone I don't know out 'on the street' to take their photo. For the last several weekends, the Pittsburgh Renaissance Festival has been ongoing. It was cloudy on Sunday and so I thought it would be a good time to go to make photographs. My goal was to ask people (well, the actors anyway) if I could take their photo, so as to get used to just asking. They were all happy to oblige and I started to feel more comfortable with the process. I'm not sure though if that will translate to feeling comfortable asking strangers on the street, but it's a start!

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

This lovely woman, who was was selling parasols, was one of many who were glad to oblige. I liked the idea of placing myself in a position where the lines of the parasol seemed to emanate from her. 

Foggy Morning

A few weekends ago the weatherman was predicting fog. So I got up early on Sunday morning planning to drive out to Moraine Lake, about 45 minutes from my home. There is a golf course close to my house which I decided to drive through in order to get to the highway. As I was driving through it, I noticed how heavy the fog was and how beautiful the trees looked in it. 

Then it struck me....why drive 45 minutes hoping the fog doesn't burn off and that it is still over the lake when I arrive, when there is a gift being handed to me right here and right now. As my teacher Nancy Rotenberg used to say, 'take the gift you are given'!

So I parked the car and starting making photographs on the golf course. Given the fog, it was pretty empty except for one crazy photographer and a couple of crazy golfers who couldn't see where their balls were going. I respected their presence in the deep fog and they respected mine...."Hey", the call went out, "we are hitting some balls in your direction and we really can't see you or where the balls are going very well".

 

Fog And Trees    © Howard Grill

Fog And Trees    © Howard Grill

This final image is my interpretation of the scene using some of the techniques I have learned in the digital artistry course I have been taking. I think it transmits the feel of what it was like to be out there that morning!

The John Lennon Wall In Prague

The John Lennon Wall is a wall in Prague, Czech Republic, that has been filled with Lennon inspired graffiti since the 1980s. The message it transmits is that of peace and love, and the politics that go along with that. Under the communist regime, there would often appear grievances in writing on the wall.

The original wall art and John Lennon pictures are now buried under layers of paint, but the message remains the same as layers continue to be added.  I found this small part of the wall to carry a strong message worth photographing!

John Lennon Wall I

There are also a good number of small bands that come to play and sing by the wall. While I was there I made a fun thirty second video of a group doing just that. But it seems difficult to put the video here in the post, as I would have to host it somewhere first. I did, however, upload it to my Instagram page, (the link is direct to the video), so feel free to have a quick look there if you're interested. Feel free to follow me there as well :)