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.


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