Blog

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.

A Way To Portray

For many years, I have enjoyed taking pictures of trees and portions of trees that have interesting shapes. However, when viewing those images I have never felt that they demonstrated what I was trying to show or say. They never seemed to fully express my intent. That is, until I recently had an idea.

It suddenly dawned on me that if what I wanted to show was the shape of the tree, than I should just focus on the shape and make it an image about shape and nothing else. In my mind, the way I thought about doing that was to make the tree totally black and ‘blow out’ the background sky. Then I could blend the tree into a pleasing texture which would show off the tree’s shape. I tried it and really liked what I got:,

 
Two Trees © Howard Grill

Two Trees © Howard Grill

 

I am definitely going to be trying a few more of these.

More Ceiling!

When I was thinking about what to title a post with another photograph of the ceiling of the Cathedral of Learning, the first thing that popped into m,y head was “More Ceiling”, which was reminiscent (if you are old enough to remember) of “More Cowbell”. If you aren’t old enough to remember then you can give yourself a treat and visit a classic SNL skit just below the photo!

 
More Ceiling © Howard Grill

More Ceiling © Howard Grill

 

And as for the “More Cowbell”:

And see here for more info on this truly classic SNL skit!

100 Year Old Arctic Negatives

Sometimes I run across photography based stories that are just too interesting not to share. This is one of them.

2019-03-24_22-05-36.jpg

Here is a story about a box discovered buried in Antarctica containing never before seen negatives from Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1917 expedition that was stranded during a blizzard when their ship blew out to sea (they were ultimately rescued, but the negatives were left behind). Read about it here and get a closer look at some of the processed photographs here. More information about that expedition, known as the Ross Sea Party, can be had here.

Hogwarts Study Hall??

Yes, yes, it’s another image from the Cathedral of Learning. I had previously mentioned that shooting there has become ‘a thing…..a project’. I had never been to this side of the building before and was fully expecting more hallways similar to the last couple that I posted. But when I ran across this scene, complete with table and bench with mystical looking light coming in through the window and shaped by the curved ceiling, my first thought was ‘this looks like something out of Harry Potter’. So there you have it, a study hall at Hogwarts!

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

Cathedral Of Learning Ceiling

This installment of my Cathedral of Learning project (yes, it’s become that) is an abstract image of shapes and lines from the ceiling of the Cathedral. The ceiling is so high that it actually required my 100-400 zoom to isolate this segment of it. In addition to the lines, there is also an interplay of tones because the small lights and windows tend to illuminate the ceiling harshly in some places and much less so in others. I smooth out some of this in post processing in order to obtain a more pleasing look.

 
 Capture sharpened only
Canon IPG 2000
Ilford Gold Fiber Silk
Perceptual
Grill M0 Profile
 

Studying In The Cathedral

The Cathedral of Learning is an open and public area, but when I go there on Sunday mornings there usually aren’t many people there. Nonetheless, it is a place where students come to study. I know that photography is allowed, as my friends have asked, and there are frequently security officers around who have never hinted otherwise.

I was intrigued by the idea that there were people using laptops in this environment that seemed so ancient. I’m sure that when the structure was built there was never any idea of anyone studying here without books!

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

One More Detail

I’ve gotten to processing the last close up photo of the carved wooden hand rest on the first floor bench at the Cathedral of Learning. Now it can serve as a triptych with the other two characters. There was actually a fourth carving, but that one has become a bit damaged over the years. This one looks like he is in a state of dreamlike euphoria!

 
© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

 

Cathedral Of Learning: Above The Lights

My photographing at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning has moved from a random place to make photos, to a series, and I suspect is now a full-fledged project. I made this particular photo because I liked the way that the lights seemed to illuminate the column while also throwing a circle of light on the floor. The whole scene seemed to look fairly mysterious to me, particularly with the two arched and dark doorways in the background.

 
Inside The Cathedral Of Learning © Howard Grill

Inside The Cathedral Of Learning © Howard Grill

 

The Kiss, By Alfred Eisenstaedt

It is V-J Day, August 14th, 1945, and as part of the celebration in Times Square, New York, a sailor kisses a woman dressed in white who he doesn’t know. The image was captured by Alfred Eisenstaedt and became an iconic photo on the cover of Life Magazine:

© Alfred Eisenstaedt

© Alfred Eisenstaedt

At first the two kissers were unknown and over the years there have been several people who have claimed to be the iconic couple…..in the end though, it is generally agreed upon that they are George Mendonsa and Greta Zimmer Friedman (though this is still contested).

I came across an article I thought I would share that the sailor, George Mendonsa has passed away at age 95. The article is an interesting one, as is this one from Wikepedia that also talks about the other people who have claimed to be the couple in the photo.

Details, Details....

Most of the photographs I have taken at the Cathedral of Learning have been of large subjects: rooms, arches, hallways and doorways. But the last time I was there I ran across some small details that cried out to be photographed.

On the first floor there is an old wooden bench I found that had hand rests, with each one ending in a carved wooden caricature with varying tonality based on the grain of the wood. It was an interesting change from what I had been photographing while there before, and I found myself wondering what those caricatures would have seen over the years had they been ‘alive’.

 
Bench Hand Rest, Cathedral of Learning © Howard Grill

Bench Hand Rest, Cathedral of Learning © Howard Grill

 
 
Bench Hand Rest 2, Cathedral Of Learning © Howard Grill

Bench Hand Rest 2, Cathedral Of Learning © Howard Grill

 

Cathedral of Learning: A Hallway

The Cathedral of Learning has quite a few hallways that are lit with old fashioned incandescent lights. In this particular hallway, I was drawn to the zebra-like stripes of light and dark that the lights made on the wall. The emptiness of the hallway also gave me a bit of a ‘spooky’ and lonely feel that I tried to transmit in the image. It definitely looks like the Cathedral is turning into a small project!

 
Hallway at Cathedrtal of Learning
 

Cathedral of Learning: Nationality Rooms

Lest I’ve bored you with multiple photographs of the architecture in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, there is more than just architecture to be found here. Inside the cathedral are multiple “Nationality Rooms”. These rooms were designed to represent the culture of the various ethnic groups that settled in Allegheny County.

At this point I have only photographed in one of these rooms, the Austrian Room. I was taken with how it seemed like one was entering a separate world when going through the door from the poorly lit hallway. I wanted to try to convey that feeling by photographing the room from outside of it, rather than the inside.

 
Austrian Nationality Room © Howard Grill

Austrian Nationality Room © Howard Grill

 

Here is a short video about the room itself:

Cathedral of Learning IV

Two more of the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning photos are included in this post. The first is a new image and the second is one I have posted before, but it has been reprocessed.

 
Cathedral Of Learning © Howard Grill

Cathedral Of Learning © Howard Grill

 

I had previously posted the next photo as an example of color grading, but it was presented as a blue toned image. This version is sepia toned to fit in with the presentation of the other Cathedral images.

 
Cathedral Of Learning Stairwell © Howard Grill

Cathedral Of Learning Stairwell © Howard Grill

 

Over time there will be more to come!

Cathedral of Learnng

I have very much enjoyed the two times I have been out to photograph the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning with my friends. The architecture is truly wonderful. For more on the Cathedral see here.

It’s been a while since I’ve really felt drawn to photographing one particular thing, but I think I may be feeling a series coming on……

 
Cathedral Of Learning © Howard Grill

Cathedral Of Learning © Howard Grill

 

Using Channels To Create Masks In Photoshop

I’m not a big fan of having to make masks in Photoshop. It’s easy when you are just brushing in tones, saturation, contrast etc. But when it comes to having to make an actual accurate mask for, say, an extraction….well, just the thought is painful.

I ran across this excellent video about using the alpha channels in Photoshop to make accurate masks and really learned some interesting and useful techniques from it. It is a bit long at one hour and twenty minutes, but it is divided into individual chapters for easier digestion. It starts out simple but rapidly becomes quite advanced. I found watching it to be time very well spent and thought I would share it with those that might be interested.