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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.

Motivation Blog Birthday - 10 Years Old!

It is very hard to believe, but my "Motivation" blog is now 10 years old. My first post was on January 14th, 2007!!  Back in 2007 I was giving this a try, but I'm not sure I was really expecting to be blogging a decade later. If you are so inclined, there are literally over a thousand old blog posts for you to check out!

A recent birthday tradition I have had is to repost a favorite blog post from the prior year. The truth is that I really have two faves this year. Rather than try to repost them both, I am going to repeat one of them below and provide a link to the other. The 'other' is a post from back in February entitled "George Frena And The Big Wheel".  So please do check that one out if you're interested to see what it was all about - there is a bit of WWII history involved with it.

The other that I am reposting below is from June and is entitled "Celebrating New Life". I really enjoyed this one, not so much because of the image I made, but, rather, from the sheer joy of being there. So here we go with the repost:

Celebrating New Life

No, this isn't a post about a new baby (at least not a human one)......but it is about life in the world around us.

I was photographing in a cemetery near my home about a week ago. Over the last six months or so I have gone there to take pictures many times.  It is a beautiful and peaceful location. One of the places that I enjoy photographing in the cemetery is a pond that is surrounded by high reeds.  The pond, at this time of year, is filled with lotus flowers and various birds that live among the reeds and trees.

On this particular day I went down to the pond with plans to photograph the lotus flowers. Here is a quick cell phone shot that I took as I walked down to the pond.

I started taking photos of some of the flowers at the edge of the pond and then started to wonder if there were any interesting angles or compositions from around the other side, so I walked on the grass around the pond to get a different angle.  I couldn't see around the bend because of the tall reeds that were growing. As I rounded the corner I was totally surprised to see:

 

The Fawn At Dawn    © Howard Grill

 

This fawn must have just recently been born, as it could barely even stand. I used my 100-400mm telephoto lens to keep some distance between us and didn't stay too long in order not to stress it. My understanding is that the mother leaves the fawn for several hours at a time in order to forage for food and that it is actually safer for the young this way in terms of predators. Based on what I have read (some interesting information here and here), the fact that it could hardly stand and seemed able to only walk a few steps puts it at less than three weeks old.

It really was a privilege to be there and see this brand new life that had entered the world! 

Celebrating New Life

No, this isn't a post about a new baby (at least not a human one)......but it is about life in the world around us.

I was photographing in a cemetery near my home about a week ago. Over the last six months or so I have gone there to take pictures many times.  It is a beautiful and peaceful location. One of the places that I enjoy photographing in the cemetery is a pond that is surrounded by high reeds.  The pond, at this time of year, is filled with lotus flowers and various birds that live among the reeds and trees.

On this particular day I went down to the pond with plans to photograph the lotus flowers.  Here is a quick cell phone shot that I took as I walked down to the pond.

I started taking photos of some of the flowers at the edge of the pond and then started to wonder if there were any interesting angles or compositions from around the other side, so I walked on the grass around the pond to get a different angle.  I couldn't see around the bend because of the tall reeds that were growing. As I rounded the corner I was totally surprised to see:

 

The Fawn At Dawn    © Howard Grill

 

This fawn must have just recently been born, as it could barely even stand. I used my 100-400mm telephoto lens to keep some distance between us and didn't stay too long in order not to stress it. My understanding is that the mother leaves the fawn for several hours at a time in order to forage for food and that it is actually safer for the young this way in terms of predators. Based on what I have read (some interesting information here and here), the fact that it could hardly stand and seemed able to only walk a few steps puts it at less than three weeks old.

It really was a privilege to be there and see this brand new life that had entered the world! 

Stone Hands

Hands can be very expressive. Even ones made of stone.

Stone Hands    © Howard Grill

As you can surely have guessed, this image is from my cemetery series. I went out last Saturday as it was wonderfully warm and nicely overcast and I decided to explore another local cemetery that doesn't open until after 10 AM on the weekends.  During the summer the sun was too high in the sky by that time to get nice photos in wide open areas. Though I hate the winter cold, the benefit for photography is that the sun is lower in the sky making for better photographic conditions (in general) later into the day.  When it is both winter and warm......well, you get the best of both worlds!

Mausoleum Architectural Details

Recently, I discussed my evolving cemetery project and the types of images I was making. This particular photograph falls into the 'Mausoleum Architectural Details' type. It would also fit in well with my 'Geometry' series.  I am strongly drawn to repeating and interesting patterns and like to photograph them isolated and 'out of context' from what they are part of.

 

Mausoleum Architectural Detail    © Howard Grill

 

Why Photograph Cemeteries?

As I make more cemetery photographs and potentially see this series evolving into a project, I feel like I must ask myself what the project is really about.  What am I trying to say?  What am I looking for in the images? What is motivating me to make these photos? What would I like to make photos of but have not yet found a way to do so?

Sometimes getting a project started involves far more questions than answers.  But I think that is potentially a good sign!

"Patiently Waiting"    © Howard Grill

So here are some of the answers I have come up with so far, knowing that not all the questions have been asked and that not all the answers are complete.  A few weeks ago  was just going and shooting at a new place and I would not have even thought of any of the questions nor started to formulate any answers. The fact that I am thinking about these issues is what has clarified to me that this is likely a 'project in the making'.


What is this project about and what am I trying to say?

It seems to me that there are several themes underlying this potential project.  First, I know what it is not about.  It is not about cemeteries being scary, haunted, or creepy.  It is not even about them being spiritual. I am not interested in ghosts or in creating backdrop scenes for horror movies.

Most of all, it is a celebration of life.  It is about that we can be remembered by someone long after we are gone. It is about my bringing back memories of people who may have been long forgotten.  There is no way around the fact that it has to be a little bit about dealing with the fear of death as an inevitability.  It is about the fact that ultimately nature reclaims everything. It is about things that are likely dwelling in my subconscious that I don't even realize yet.

 

What am I looking for in the images?

After being out photographing numerous times I have broken down the image 'types' into several varieties:

  • gravestones that tell or hint at a story, such as the image "Patiently Waiting" in this post
  • gravestones that have a touch of humor, either subtly or blatant...believe me, they are out there
  • patterns within stones or made by stones
  • details of statues
  • mausoleum architectural details
  • a sense that it is not all gravestones; that there is nature in the cemetery as well
  • images that send the message that ultimately nature reclaims all

 

What would I like to make photos of but have not yet been able to do so?

This one is easy.  I have no images yet that include human interaction. That is hard for me because I am not one to ask people I don't know if I may take their photograph (though it doesn't necessarily require that). The cemetery is  a place where people come to visit their relatives and friends.  But it is also a pretty place where people go to walk, run, ride their bikes etc....at least the one I photograph in is that sort of place.  I would like to have some images where people are seen doing all those things in addition to grieving or remembering.  I would also like to have some images that depict wildlife such as deer and birds among the graves. We will see how it all transpires and what the project turns into.

Forgotten II, Homewood Cemetery

This is another in my series of local cemetery images.  It is not too different from another image I posted from the same location.  This one, however, seems to make a 'stronger' statement to me.  The apparent slow engulfment of the stone seems to say that no matter what man may do, nature ultimately reclaims all.

Forgotten II, Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA    © Howard Grill

"Our Daughter", Homewood Cemetery

This photograph brought into my head a line from, title of, and album name from Rod Stewart......"Every picture tells a story, don't it.....".  That's what enticed me to make this photograph in Homewood Cemetery. There is a story here.  The age of the daughter.  The placement in front of what I presume are the parents graves.  The years they all passed.  It may be a sad story. It may be a story we will never know.

"Our Daughter", Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA    © Howard Grill