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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 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 :)

Yet Another Mural

In my last post I spoke about pulling out sections of larger murals to form small, and sometimes abstract, pieces of artwork. I couldn't resist posting one more such image. As you might imagine, walking around New York City there were abundant opportunities to make these sorts of photographs.

 

New York Mural    © Howard Grill

 

Pittsburgh Skyline And Gulf Weather Beacon

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to take some more shots of the Pittsburgh skyline from Mount Washington. This time I went  more long than wide in terms of focal length.  For this shot I focused in tight to make a composition of a grouping of downtown Pittsburgh skyscrapers placed in the center of the photo with the edges of two other buildings making up the left and right edge frames.  Like the last image I posted from Mount Washington at sunrise, this one is also an HDR composite using several exposures blended into one because the contrast was otherwise too great to allow details to be seen in both highlights and shadows. The sunrise was really pretty amazing and lit the sky up in orange tones, though the temperature was a bit cooler than I would have liked it to be.

 

Pittsburgh Skyline And Weather Tower    © Howard Grill

Speaking of temperature and weather, see the building that is dead center with the multi-colored lights on top of it?  That is the old Gulf building and the lights are actually a weather beacon that relay information about temperature, precipitation, humidity, and wind velocity based on the color of the lights.  Here is a guide to decoding the information.  Using the information in the decoding manual we get a temperature of between 33-49 degrees Fahrenheit, less than 0.25 inches of precipitation, humidity less than 50%, and a wind speed of less than 10 miles an hour.

Personally, I think it's easier to open my Weather Bug app!

Simple Graphic Lines

I enjoy images that have simple, graphic lines that make up the composition.  I was carrying my little Olympus camera when I was walking in Barcelona on vacation this last summer. I was immediately attracted to this scene near Park Guell.

 

Street Corner, Barcelona, Spain    © Howard Grill

 

The photo is not really about the corner or the staircase (well, OK, it's about that a little bit). It is really more about the straight lines made by the staircase, banister, corner, and lightpost in contrast to the sweeping curve of stone at the top of the image.

The Demise Of Amsterdam's Snake House

A few months ago, I wrote two posts about the Snake House in Amsterdam entitled "The Snake House, Amsterdam" and "The Snake House - Follow Up". The Snake House, pictured below, was a building I photographed while visiting Amsterdam, but knew very little about.  It had such a fascinating looking facade that I tried to find out more, and as I wrote in the second post:

"It turns out that for many years the Snake House has been inhabited by squatting artists. Now, in Amsterdam, squatting apparently means something a little different than it does in the US. It means living cheaply and covering costs like heating and electricity, at least from what I can gather.  And the artist's living there made the first floor into something of an art and cultural center hosting events for the local community.

The Snake House is reported to have been inhabited by such squatters for over thirty years, long enough to make the building theirs (believe me, I don't have the slightest idea if this is truly the case based on Dutch law) but in 2010 squatting was made illegal.  In 2008 the building was bought by a group that wants to convert it into luxury condos (sound like a familiar story?). The court is apparently set to rule on the issue in January."

 

The Snake House in Amsterdam    © Howard Grill

 

So, how did the Snake House story end? I tried in vain for many months to find out. Only recently was I able to obtain some information and it doesn't turn out well for the squatting artists. Apparently the squatters lost the court case and the Snake House, as well as some of the surrounding buildings, were to be renovated and turned into 69 condos and 2000 square meters of office and retail space.

However, the artist/squatters did not leave without a fight which culminated in 19 arrests. Luckily there does not appear to have been any serious injuries sustained in the stand off. The full details can be found in this article from the NLTimes entitled "Amsterdam Squatter Demonstration Ends With 19 Arrests".  As you can see from the image below (from Zack Newmark of the NL Times), the Snake House will not be there on my next visit to Amsterdam.

The Demise Of Amsterdam's Snake House    © Zack Newmark / NL Times

The Doors Of Pittsburgh OR Why I Photograph

I have a fair number of photographs of interesting doors from in and around the Pittsburgh area.  These types of images are pretty common and, in fact, I am sure most people have seen those posters of "Doors Of (fill in the blank)".  But I guess those posters are around because interesting doors are, well, ....interesting.....and fun. They always makes you wonder both what and who is behind them.  

It occurred to me that, though I have a lot of this type of image, I have actually processed very few of them. As I started to consider the possibility of processing a few, I remembered this one photo in particular that I had been meaning to process "for a little while now".

In fact, though I don't remember the exact street in downtown Pittsburgh where I took this, I do remember taking the photo in vivid detail.  I remember the weather, I remember waiting for the cars to go by so I could get into the street to take it, and I remember it was a Sunday. I remember the whole process.  And at this point in life I can't say that I have the world's greatest memory. So I was surprised when I looked at the metadata and saw that the photo was taken just two months shy of NINE YEARS AGO!

And that is one of the reasons I photograph.  It makes life and memories that much more vivid and indelible.  Had I walked by this storefront without making a photograph I'm sure it would just be a faded memory long forgotten.

 

Big Science Recording Studio    © Howard Grill

 

The Snake House - Follow up

Some months back I visited Amsterdam in The Netherlands and posted two photos of the "Snake House" which I was drawn to while walking about the city.  At the time, I really wasn't able to provide much information about what the "Save the Snake House" issue was all about.

The Snake House, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Well, I have finally been able to find out a bit more from an article entitled "Snake House Has Final Decision In 27 Days" and a blog post entitled "A Snake In The Dam".    

It turns out that for many years the Snake House has been inhabited by squatting artists.  Now, in Amsterdam, squatting apparently means something a little different than it does in the US. It means living cheaply and covering costs like heating and electricity, at least from what I can gather.  And the artist's living there made the first floor into something of an art and cultural center hosting events for the local community.

The Snake House is reported to have been inhabited by such squatters for over thirty years, long enough to make the building theirs (believe me, I don't have the slightest idea if this is truly the case based on Dutch law) but in 2010 squatting was made illegal.  In 2008 the building was bought by a group that wants to convert it into luxury condos (sound like a familiar story?).  The court is apparently set to rule on the issue in January.

The details are in the articles linked above.  I will report back in January if I can find out what the outcome is!  

The Snake House, Amsterdam

A few days ago I posted an image of a door with urban art from my trip to Amsterdam. But the truth is that the entire building, of which the door was only a small part, was a work of art. Based on the sign however, it seems like the Snake House is in danger!  You can visit the website on the sign to find out more (though it really doesn't tell you why people want it removed, only that they want to save it).

Back From The Netherlands

I just returned from a very nice one week stay in the Netherlands.  This wasn't a photo trip, but I did bring along my small mirrorless camera and managed to take a few shots while touring. This one is from the walkway on the outside of the Euromast in Rotterdam showing a view towards the Erasmus Bridge. The architecture in Rotterdam was quite interesting and modern (because, unlike Amsterdam, most of the city was destroyed in bombing runs during WW II).

Erasmus Bridge

The Wall

When you are in your 50's, when you are a Pink Floyd fan, and when you suddenly find a tribute in your own area.....well, you can't help but post it.

Copyright Howard Grill

View Towards Mount Wahington

This is another in my continuing series of Pittsburgh, PA bridge photos.  This one is taken standing on the Smithfield Street Bridge but does not include it in the photo.  In this case, my interest was drawn to another set of bridges that could be seen in the distance, looking towards Mount Washington.  I was particularly intrigued by the layers of trees, bridges, and tones capped by the houses near the top.

Copyright Howard Grill

Smithfield Street Bridge Sculpture

When making photos of the Smithfield Street Bridge, I was surprised to find the metallic sculpture below incorporated into one of the steel beams.  I have been across the bridge in my car many times and had never noticed it.  I guess that is what photography is supposed to do.....make one see clearer and deeper! I have been trying to learn more information about this sculpture and what it represents, but no luck thus far.....

Sculpture On Smithfield Street Bridge

Copyright Howard Grill

The Smithfield Street Bridge

by Howard Grill I recently went to make photographs of  Pittsburgh's Smithfield Street Bridge and, from a compositional standpoint, found it a bit tougher to photograph than the Clemente Bridge. Of course, sometimes it is merely one's mental state and their receptiveness to seeing that is the issue.  I will be making more trips to the Smithfield to see what I come up with.

This image is one that I made at the Smithfield Bridge some time ago but never processed. Given my new-found interest,  I am going to be revisiting my older bridge images that I never 'did anything with'.  Such are the benefits of Lightroom keywording!

The bridge itself was designed by Gustav Lindenthal, built between 1881-1883, and was widened in 1889 and then again in 1911.  It was rehabilitated in 1994-5. The Smithfield Street Bridge is actually the third bridge to sit at this site, with the first one being made of wood and having burned down and the second being a wire rope suspension bridge that ultimately proved inadequate for the traffic.  The current bridge is of the lenticular truss type and is said to be the second oldest steel bridge in the US.

Smithfield Street Bridge

Copyright Howard Grill

Bridges

by Howard Grill If there is one thing that Pittsburgh has, it is bridges.  I have just started exploring the idea of how they might be portrayed photographically.  This, of course, is not an original idea, but one that has been played out many times by many people.  But I love the architecture, the 'rawness', and the abstract nature of the lines that these bridges make, so I am toying around with how one might get some 'different' perspectives on them as well as what type of processing might work. Here, I went for the 'vintage' look.  We will see what comes of these efforts.

Copyright Howard Grill

No Parking - Latrobe Banana Split Festival

Well, I stopped by the "Banana Split Festival" in Latrobe, PA a weekend or two ago.  "What", you say.  Yes indeed.....the banana split was invented in Latrobe, PA in 1904 by David Evans Strickler at the now defunct Tassel Pharmacy.  It is well documented.  And, this being the 100th anniversary of the invention, there was, of course, a festival! Unfortunately, sometimes bank robbers don't respect a festival..... I was working nearby so I decided to stop and have a quick walk around with my 'carry with'  Olympus micro 4/3 camera.  I didn't take too many festival pictures, as not too much attracted me from a photographic standpoint.  But I did find this brick wall with sign and vine growth inexplicably interesting.  By the way, I did use a 25% opacity blended black and white layer on this image as described here.

Copyright Howard Grill

Carrie Furnaces: Contemporary Views

I am pleased to announce that one of my Carrie Furnace images (below) was chosen as part of a multi-artist show entitled "Carrie Furnaces: Contemporary Views" at the Silver Eye Gallery in Pittsburgh.  The show opens on the night of August 2nd and will run until the end of the month. To celebrate the event I am going to offer my Carrie Furnace eBook, available here, for 50% off at just $4.00.  At check out simply update the cart with the discount code SHOW

Copyright Howard Grill

Mural Segments

I find colorful murals interesting.  You know, the kind that are painted on the sides of city buildings.  But I find just taking a photo of the mural a bit dull.  Or rather, the photo is only as interesting as the mural itself is, and such a photo becomes, in my opinion, simply a way to display another artist's work. After finding murals that I like, I tend to start to get close and see them in little pieces.  I find the abstract look of these small pieces interesting and, though it is still clearly the work of another artist, these photos seem to me to become another way of looking at the mural which is different from being there and taking it all in as a whole.

Mural (Segment)

Ruins Of Detroit

If you have seen my Carrie Furnace Project (get the e-Book), you know that I like photographing old, abandoned places.  French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have some amazing photos of old abandoned places.  Unfortunately, those places happen to be in the city of Detroit.  Nonetheless, they are quite stirring and conjure up images of what once was.  Photographs from their project "Ruins of Detroit" can be seen here.

Lee Plaza Hotel

From "Ruins Of Detroit

Copyright Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

Atrium, Farwell Building

From "Ruins Of Detroit

Copyright Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre