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.

Welcome

I have written about photographer's rights several times in the past.  The reason for this has been the multitude of times my friends and I have been told to leave when making photographs in downtown Pittsburgh by misguided private security guards working for large downtown office buildings.  We all know (well, except for some security guards) that if you are on a public sidewalk you can make photos of almost anything you want (yes, I know there are a few exceptions, but those were not the case when we were shooed away).  Well, today I get to tell another story, a story that is much more pleasant.....a story of welcome! So, it was one of those Sunday's when, instead of doing nature photography with my 'Sunday morning photo group', we decided to do some urban shooting.  Walking around Downtown Pittsburgh we happened across the historic First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh (curent building construction started in 1903).  We were taking pictures of the exterior using our tripods when someone came to open the Church doors at 8 AM.....naturally enough they asked what we were doing and, of course, we stated the obvious....the same as we have told many security guards.....that we are amateur photographers who enjoy taking pictures of Pittsburgh architecture.  As usual, we prepared ourselved to be asked to leave the premesis (the PPG Building is the absolute worse in this regard as I have been told to leave there several times, even though you can find thousands of pictures of the building on line).

But this time we had a surprise.  Instead of being asked to leave we were told "Oh, well if that's the case why don't you come in and take pictures of the inside as well.  You can bring your tripods, nobody is going to be here this early".  And he welcomed us in and left.

It was quite dark inside, with the only light coming from the incandescent fixtures and whatever came through the stained glass windows.  I took a number of  HDR sequences inside the church.  On the way out, we were stopped by a church member who saw that we had been taking photos and wanted to tell us about the two 80 foot beams in the church that had been cut from two tall trees that had been imported all the way from Oregon.

That chance meeting made me change the way I wanted to interpret the photographs.  I had originally planned to keep them quite dark, to reflect the actual appearance of the interior.  However, this gentleman made me realize that for him the beauty was in the interior details and wood. With that, I decided to portray the interior as filled with detail, even though most of it could not be well discerned when we were there.

The interior image is from a 5 sequence tripod mounted HDR bracket, merged to HDR Pro in Photoshop, brought directly back into ACR for tone mapping, converted to a 16 bit TIFF and then adjusted with a few curves, a hue and saturation layer, and some minor adjustments in the Nik Color Efex Pro tonal contrast filter.  This has really become my favorite way to process HDR images as it lets me produce a very natural looking photo in a very intuitive way.

The exterior door photo is from a single exposure.

Doors, First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh

Copyright Howard Grill

First Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh

5 Photo HDR Bracketed Sequence

Copyright Howard Grill

Completion

I have been taking my New Year's resolutions pretty seriously this time around!  The resolutions included getting out in the winter cold and snow to photograph.  Check.  Have a look at my last few posts and you can see that I have been doing that.  Another was to focus on finishing some projects.  I have written about my Carrie Furnace Project before and have made it into an e-Book.  But I still hadn't made it a complete 'portfolio' of prints.  Well, that is now also completed! There is now a complete and formal presentation of the project in the form of a 44 print portfolio.  It comes in a beautiful Pina Zangaro anodized aluminum case that is reminiscent of the steel industry with one of the portfolio images on the front.  The inside of the case is lined with acid free material to give a nice contained fit to the forty four 8.5x11 inch images that are printed on hot press, archival, matte finish fine art paper that is quite thick (330g/m2) with a luxurious tactile feel.  The folio also contains a 4 page explanatory pamphlet about the project and the location, as well as a list of the prints.

The Carrie Furnace Portfolio Box

The image below is one of the forty three portfolio prints.  Each print has an image, the image title, and the project's name on it.

The folio is for anyone with an interest in Western Pennsylvania and its history, the steel industry, or urban exploration and is now available on my website.

Carrie Furnace eBook Now Available

I am pleased to announce that my Carrie Furnace eBook is now available!

I have written several posts in the past related to my photography project at the Carrie Furnace.  In short, Carrie is a blast furnace in Rankin, Pennsylvania (close to Pittsburgh) that was used to generate iron back when Pittsburgh was at the center of the world's steel production.  It was closed in 1978 and has lay dormant since.  It is now being restored and developed into a national historic landmark by the non-profit Rivers Of Steel organization.  I had the opportunity to photograph there early in the restoration process.

I was able to interview and show the photographs from the project to Mr. Ron Gault, who worked at Carrie in the 1970s, and he told fascinating anecdotes about life at the facility.  These comments were recorded and are included with the photos as part of a multimedia eBook presentation.

The eBook is available for immediate download and contains:

  • 63 pages of content
  • High resolution images
  • Embedded audio content - click on the audio icons to hear Mr. Gault's commentary and anecdotes
  • Easy, rapid navigation
  • Formatted for display on desktops, tablets, and smartphones
  • Information about Carrie and Rivers Of Steel

The book can be securely downloaded for $7.99 with 25% of the purchase price being donated to Rivers Of Steel to assist in their mission to preserve the furnace.

Click HERE to go to the purchase page.

The Carrie Furnace XVIII

Another image with audio from my Carrie Furnace portfolio. For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project.

To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes how the manual valve seen in the photo was opened and closed by a man that actually did the job.   It wasn't an easy task!

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XVII

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes how the iron making process was essentially unchanged from the Civil War up until the 1980s.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XVI

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes how clean the rooms in the plant were kept.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XV

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes how the large popes seen were used to bring air into the stoves to be heated prior to passing it on to the furnace.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XIV

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. In case anyone is wondering how many images are in the project's 'final cut', the answer is 47.  But don't worry, I will take breaks each time several images are presented.

To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes the incredible amount of noise that one was exposed to when working in the Stove Room, which is seen in this photograph.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XIII

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes the dangers of working in the Stove Room and how work would be done with two man teams to help alleviate the danger.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XII

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes what the purpose of the stoves, one of which is seen below.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace XI

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes what the workers were told instead of the fact that they were being laid off.  In addition, the burning of coke gas, instead of natural gas is discussed.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace X

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes how the laborers would heat their lunches on the furnace and share what they had.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace IX

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes how the men who constructed the furnace took immense pride in their craftsmanship, as evidenced by the purely decorative diamonds welded around the seams of these stack pipes.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace VIII

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes the incredible size of the pipes that are seen in the image.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace Project III

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project. To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content describes what the equipment seen in the image was used for and how the plant would try to reclaim as much iron as possible.

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

The Carrie Furnace Project I

For background information about this project see my post entitled The Carrie Furnace Project.

To hear the 1-2 minute audio content click on the link below the picture, which will open the audio content in a separate page.

This post's audio content contains an amazing description of how the furnace was opened to get the molten iron out.

The Carrie Furnace Project By Howard Grill

The Carrie Furnace Project

Copyright Howard Grill

CLICK HERE FOR 1-2 MINUTES OF AUDIO CONTENT

As an aside, I was searching for a WordPress plugin that would let me embed an audio player on the page but could not find one with instructions that were comprehensible to the non-coder.  Any suggestions?

Fall In The 'Burgh

When many people think of fall color they think of New England or perhaps the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I have been to both areas in the fall and they are really terrific.  However, I have to say that Western Pennsylvania isn't at all bad when it comes to fall  color.  In fact, I think it really rivals both those locations, though it doesn't seem to have the same notoriety.  This image was taken just a couple of weeks ago in Schenley Park, one of our urban parks.  Think Central Park, though much, much smaller.

Fall Color In Schenley Park

Copyright Howard Grill

The Carrie Furnace

The Carrie Furnace, located in Rankine, PA,  is a blast furnace that was used in iron production.  It was built in 1881, and from 1907 to 1978 was able to produce up to 1250 tons of iron daily.  The site, which at one time contained 7 separate blast furnaces, was bought by Andrew Carnegie in 1888 and was subsequently acquired by US Steel in 1901.  In 1988 it was purcahsed by the Park Corporation and both Park and US Steel were to remediate environmental concerns. In 2005, Allegheny County bought the entire site from Park and there are hopes to develop it into a national historic landmark.

The site is closed to the general public, and only furnaces 6 and 7 remain.   However, I was able to go on a tour of the facility and take some photos (hand held).  What remains is truly the 'stuff' of industrial abstract imagery.

For more historical information see here.

Carrie Furnace

Copyright Howard Grill