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.

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!

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

 

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

 

More From Carnegie Mellon University

A week or so ago I had written a post about a pleasant experience I had with law enforcement when photographing architecture at Carnegie Mellon University. In short, the officer turned out to be very supportive of the architectural photography I was doing. If you are interested, the full story can be found here.

But what about that building that the officer was guarding when I first arrived? It really is a special building....and here it is. Or at least one view of it. From the ground. Looking up! 

This particular building is Margaret Morrison Carnegie Hall and is the home to both the Carnegie Mellon University School of Architecture and the School of Design.

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!

Monongahela River - Mount Washington

A few weekends ago I was invited to photograph sunrise by a relative who lives on Mount Washington, which overlooks the city of Pittsburgh. Though the city is famous for its three rivers, only one, the Monongahela, is seen in this shot. It joins the Allegheny River just off to the left of the frame, at which time the combined river is called.......geography quiz time.......the Ohio River!

However, out on that balcony this is not the scene that the eye could see. It was before sunrise and the group of trees framing the bottom right of the image were barely lit and looked like a black blob on any single photo that I took.The sky, though dark, was the brightest part of the scene, followed by the water, the lit buildings and then the dark trees and distant hills. This was a classic situation for using HDR.  

For those unfamiliar with HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, it is a process whereby you take multiple shots of the same scene (preferably on a tripod to avoid movement since the images will all be blended into one) at different shutter speeds in order to allow optimal exposure for both the dark and light areas of the scene and then use software to blend them all into one image. This can be done in a way that gives a natural appearing result or a gritty, grungy, comic-like result. I tend to favor the end of the spectrum that is more natural appearing.

The Monongahela River and Downtown Pittsburgh  from Mt. Washington    © Howard Grill

The photo above was made by blending 5 photographs with shutter speeds ranging from 2 seconds (the exposure for the sky) to 30 seconds (the exposure required to allow detail to be seen in the patch of trees). The five images were merged into a 32 bit file by using the "Merge To HDR Pro" function in Lightroom. That 32 bit image was then processed in Adobe Camera Raw and finally converted to a 16 bit image. From that point, there were a few more routine adjustments made in Photoshop to yield the final result.

And there you have the city of Pittsburgh at sunrise. The blue color of the water is 'real' by the way. That is what it looks like when you photograph it when the sky is a deep blue before the sun is up. The deep blue sky is reflected in the water and imparts the color.

Time for the city to wake up!

Mosaic Abstract, Piazza Lavoro

A few weeks ago I had posted an image from my mural series, taken from a portion of Pittsburgh's Piazza Lavoro mural by Ned Smyth.  I had the opportunity to visit that location again recently and became fixated on another aspect of the mural; something I hadn't seen before.  It is interesting how at times one's mind sees one thing and on other occasions at the same location it sees things which are totally different.

On this occasion, rather than seeing 'stand alone' portions of the mural (as in my prior post), I kept seeing very small segments which made abstract patterns and lines.  I couldn't help but take a whole series of compositions.  This is the first of the bunch that I have processed.

 

Mosaic Abstract From Piazza Lavoro    © Howard Grill

 

Homewood Cemetery, Pittsburgh

I live not too far away from two local historic cemeteries and a short car ride from a third. Though I have always found them to be interesting, I always hesitated to make photographs walking through them.  I guess it always made me a bit uncomfortable because I wasn't sure if it was disrespectful in any way. Then a friend of mine (you know who you are) explained some things to me that convinced me that it really was OK as long as the photos were respectful.....maybe even a positive for those that have passed by bringing their existence to light again.

And so I gingerly started taking some photos.  Making photos in these cemeteries is something I would like to explore further. Below is the name of the East End Cemetery carved into a concrete entry.

 

Entrance Marker, East End Cemetery, Pittsburgh, PA  ©Howard Grill

 

Will the person who rests here ever be remembered?

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

It seems like there are images to be made, that while somewhat limited in scope, have the potential to be fairly emotional.  It is something I plan to explore and see what I can come up with.