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 thought I would put up a quick post to let my blog readers know that I have started to post on Instagram. I had set up an account there years ago but never posted anything. I'm giving it a whirl and trying to post one photo daily. 

If you are interested in following me, click here for my Instagram feed.

I appreciate everyone's interest in my blog and photographs!

A Request ........ And A Freebie

A note a blog subscriber recently sent me made me realize that some folks think that subscribing to this blog via email means that they are on the mailing list for my newsletter as well. Maybe I set things up wrong, but I didn't arrange things that way because I wanted to make sure that everyone on the newsletter list really wanted to be on it. Why? Because I hate getting spam and certainly don't want to spam anyone else either.  So, the facts:

  • I only send out my newsletter a couple of times a year and it typically has information about interesting photographic topics, links to sites of interest, information about some of the things I have been working on, and often some discounts or freebies. If you like my blog, I think you would enjoy my newsletter as well.
  • If you would like to be on my newsletter email list please sign up here.  
  • As part of my appreciation for your signing up, I would like to send new subscribers a free copy of my Carrie Furnace eBook. You can find out more about this 63 page book filled with photos and audio content right here.
  • Though I do use MailChimp to send out my newsletters, I don't use the expensive automated version, which means I will be manually sending you the link to download the Carrie Furnace eBook. So, while the link might not arrive in your email inbox within the hour, it should arrive within the day.
  • There are two separate email lists, one for the blog and one for the newsletter.
  • By the way, if you would like to sign up just for the blog posts by email, there is a link at the end of every post that lets you do just that. 

I would love for you to help me grow my newsletter and hope you enjoy the eBook if you do decide to sign up.  The one thing I can promise you is that MailChimp and I abide by the strictest anti-spam regulations. Double opt in, opt out at anytime by unsubscribing, and I never ever give your email address to anyone else for any reason.

The next post will return you to your regularly scheduled programming :)

A Website Update

In September, I updated and totally redesigned my website.  There are several new items that I added, but they are buried within some of the drop-down menus, so, since this is my blog, I thought I would give them a shameless little plug :)

There are a few new menu items hidden under the mysterious "Etc" drop-down menu:

1) Free desktop wallpaper for your computer.  You want it; it's yours to download and use.  If your monitor has a different resolution than the ones I have listed just let me know and I will add your resolution to the list.

2) Print Of The Month.  A different print each month at half-price.  If you see something you like go ahead and grab it because prints will only be a "Print Of The Month" once.

3) Blog Subscribe And Search.  This is a quick way to scan the titles of recent posts and to search back for posts over the last....yikes, have I really been posting since January of 2007??? You can subscribe to the blog from here or from the subscription link at the end of each post. When I redid my website I, unfortunately, lost my over 1000 subscribers because the blog URL had to change.  I now have 60.  You other 940....I know you are out there LOL!

4) Want to know what additions have been made to the website at a glance.  They get listed on the "What's New" page so you can know where to go for the new stuff.

5) Articles - Yeah, I know that was on the old site, but I plan on adding some new material soon!

6) After long last, I sent out my very first Newsletter recently and am planning for more in the future.  Want in?  Sign up here.

And finally......

7) My Carrie Furnace Portfolio is not only posted as a complete project, but also as a series for those that are just interested in the images that have audio content. this post was just a big plug for some of the new material on the website.....but, hey, I do that very rarely and just wanted to tell folks about some of the new offerings.

My webhost seems to be having trouble accepting blog comments from SOME Safari and Internet Explorer browsers. If you try to make a comment on this post and are unable to please feel free to send me the comment via my contact page and I would be glad to post it for you!

A Request

Lately I have been rethinking my website options.  A few years back I designed my current website using Dreamweaver in order to create a site with my own vision.  My idea was to present more than just also present some of the thoughts and ideas behind the projects as well as specific information and stories about each image to allow greater reader 'involvement'.  However, the downside to this approach is that it is more difficult and requires more time to update in terms of adding new images, removing older ones etc.  In addition it is difficult to keep up with new coding like HTML 5, SEO issues, adding sharing to social media etc.  It is just more labor intensive than I had anticipated, though I do continue to add to this blog regularly. I have therefore been considering migrating to a more premium but 'template based' site, such as those offered by PhotoShelter or SmugMug.  My request to you is for some feedback.  Given that I think most people 'surfing' the web are looking at things for a relatively short period of time, I am wondering if what I had perceived as the benfits of  the individualized website are outweighed by the relative non-updating of the site, blog notwithstanding.  Also, are the template based sites to similar to each other compared to the type of individual coding I had done.

Any input would be very much appreciated as it would be quite helpful to me before I make any decisions.  My current site can be seen here.

Happy Birthday!

It is really hard for me to believe, but as of January 14th I will have been writing this blog for SEVEN years!  This is mind boggling to me, as I started it as a quick decision 'let's see what happens' sort of thing.....before blogs were 'big', before they were actively used as marketing tools.......back when they seemed to mostly be used for sharing.  Here is a link to that very first post. This year I have decided that from now on that on the blog birthday I would flip through the posts of the last year and pick one to repost that was the most.....the most something.....whatever that is to me.

So here is this year's repost.  It isnt the 'best' or even my 'favorite' picture of the year.  Not at all.  But what it represents to me is something that I believe is important in art and photography.  Actually, it is important in life! It represents a willingness to go out on a limb, to risk, and possibly to fail.  So here we go (there were comments on the original post, but they didn't come along for the ride with the cut and paste...the original post with comments can be seen here):

The post was titled "Unfocused" and ran on March 12, 2013.

I was photographing some tulips at a local botanical garden's spring flower show this weekend.  While doing so, and surrounded by orange tulips, I thought that the feeling I would like to convey was that of a dreamlike state, surrounded by flowers, shapes, colors and smells.  As I was trying to do so, I realized that, to me, having the flower out of focus seemed to do so the best.  So I took a number of images of one of the tulips in various stages of blurriness by unfocusing the lens.  Going through the results, I actually liked the 'blurriest' one the best, as it seemed to most clearly convey that stuperous dreamlike state I was after.

The problem is that, although to me it seems to convey the message, the two or three people I have show it to simply do not like it.  And so I ask myself, is that because I am not conveying the message well or is it because the message is conveyed but the viewer but simply don't 'like' what it says.

And so I am posting the image here in order to get some feedback on what the photo makes people feel and whether they like it.  Does it convey what it was intended to or does it simply give a headache because it is out of focus?  Or perhaps both?  Or perhaps something else?

I ask these questions with the full knowledge that this type of image can simply not appeal to everybody.  But does the image 'work' for anybody?

Copyright Howard Grill

Photoshop MSVCP110.dll Missing Error Message

By Howard Grill A note to my blog readers who use Photoshop and Nik Plug Ins and are now experiencing the error message upon starting Photoshop that says there was an error and that file MSVCP110.dll is missing.  Apparently a lot of people are getting this error message out of the blue.  Not to worry.....the fix is easy.

Apparently it is caused by a Nik update which was unannounced and 'forced' to the computer (which, by the way, now includes Nik Analog Effex) a few days back.  It has nothing to do with Photoshop so don't uninstall and reinstall.  It has to do with the update assuming that all computers already have the .dll in question installed.

The fix is very, very easy.  There are several ways, but the easiest is to download the Nik Collection trial from their website and install the trial version (should be v  If you already have the Nik Collection on your computer the trial version will simply overwrite the old files and you will not have to reactivate or retype serial numbers etc.  It will just work.  This newest version has the .dll files in it and they will be installed with the Nik Software.

Got this info when I went searching because I was getting the error message.  I had the same error.  I have done the above myself and can verify it worked.

Anyway, hope this is helpful to some folks out there.


For me, becoming involved in social media as it pertains to order to share images, see images, and generally connect with people who are passionate about photography as art..... has been less than fulfilling.  Let's face it, Facebook is mostly for semi-personal communication among friends (despite the artist and company pages), Twitter is for communicating in short half sentences with link sharing, and, somehow, Flickr just never did anything for me. But I recently tried exploring Google+.  Now, social media may not be the end all and be all, but I was very pleasantly surprised at how the Google+ network works for those with an interest in photography (and I would assume for those with other deep interests as well).

So what are the differences between Google+ and Facebook, particularly when it comes to photography?  In my mind there are lots of them:

1) For starters, as opposed to "Friends" you have "Circles", or groups of people that you pool together under a single category (and the people in it, while they know you have them in a circle, have no idea how you define that circle). And isn't that how it works in 'real life'?  You want to tell some things to your kids, but not to the rest of the family...fine, set up a circle and call it 'Kids'. Want to announce something to close family members but not to all your friends and acquaintances....fine, set up a circle called 'Family'.  Want to share your fine art photos with other photographers but not force your friends to see them....fine, set up a circle called 'Photography'.  The point is that it is VERY easy to  share specific posts, links, images etc with just who you want to and not everyone else. You can share a post with the world or just one of your 'circles', or anything in between.  As a result of this, it is easy to make connections with people you don't know because you and they both know that  they are there for a mutually agreeable reason.  It isn't a big deal to "friend' someone you don't know because they only see what you think is appropriate for them to see and vice versa.

As a result, it is far easier to follow others and to gain 'followers' that are interested in seeing your work.  In fact, circles filled with people interested in a specific topic are often shared so you can get 'introduced' to a large number of photographers very, very quickly.

2) Storage and display of photographs are, in my opinion, far superior than what is available on Facebook.

3) In addition to the above there are 'Communities'.....groups of people that come together with a specific interest, like landscape photography or black and white photography, sort of similar to the groups on Flickr

I would definitely recommend giving it a try and I don't think that you will find yourself going back to Facebook except to send small blurbs to your friends.....and to post that photo of your friend stinking drunk!

If you do give it a try, look me up and put me in your photography circle.   I think you can start by clicking the red G+ sign on the blog sidebar.  I just put it up so I am not sure what it really does, but I don't think it will wreck your computer :>)

PhotoPlace Gallery Show

I am pleased to announce that one of my images was selected by juror Emma Powell for inclusion in the "Online Gallery Annex" for the exhibit entitled "Visions: Dreams, Fantasies, and Mirages" at the PhotoPlace Gallery in Vermont.  There were 40 images selected for placement in the show gallery and an additional 35 selected for inclusion in the published show catalog.  Mine was one chosen for inclusion in the catalog alone, but still an achievement as far as I am concerned. The image, posted below, is one that is part of my Dreamscapes Portfolio and was taken with a zone plate, as opposed to a glass lens.  All of the images selected for the exhibit and catalog can be seen here.

Dreamscapes #1

Copyright Howard Grill


A few days ago I attended the opening of another portion of the outpatient facility belonging to the health system where I work.  This phase was even larger than the first and I was honored to again have the system purchase my artwork to decorate the facility.  From an artist's standpoint, I don't think there is anything quite like walking into a building and seeing 79 of your prints on the wall that you yourself have printed after hours and hours of work to ensure that they communicate your vision.

Particularly alluring were the four images that were blown up to almost 6 feet and printed (these I did not print myself) by a specialty company on some type of polished aluminum.  This was arranged by the hospital's art consultants and therefore I don't really know the details of the process.  Interestingly, the company that produced these only wanted the files at 100 pixels/inch, not the usual 240-360 that I typically print on paper with.  Nonetheless, given the dimensions, it still required some significant 'uprezzing' of the image files, which I did using OnOne's Perfect Resize.  It was with a bit of trepidation that I went to look at these, because there was no specific color profile supplied for softproofing, no clear directions as to how the files should be sharpened and, of course, no proof print to see if the sharpness would hold up on the aluminum at that size and resolution.

Well, I am usually a pretty strong critic of my own work, but I have to say that the aluminum prints really looked great and I was quite pleased with them.

The image below is not one that was printed on aluminum, but is one of the prints that hang in the facility that I don't recall having posted on my blog before.


Copyright Howard Grill

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday.  Well, not to me....not really.  My birthday is in March.  But it was 6 years ago to the day that I came home from work with the idea of starting a photography blog.  At the time, I am not sure how long I really thought I would be able to keep it going. But here it is, 571 posts later and still going strong. To reiterate my original 'Motivation' for the blog, I thought I would put up a link to that original  post from January 14th, 2007 that started this journey.

End Of Year Update

The end of the year has been filled with some happenings for my photography. I don't usually 'toot my own horn', but I will go ahead and do it anyway, if just for one post. I have been quite busy making large prints of my nature images.  Several months back, I provided Excela Health with 47 images for their outpatient medical facility.  These were large prints, larger than any I had ever made before.  In fact, I had to use onOne's  Perfect Resize software to uprez even my big Canon 5D MkII files in order to print the images to about 23 inches on the short side (my printer 'only' goes to 24 inches).  The prints were framed to 30x40 inches.  At any rate, it was really amazing to see one's work printed to that size.

Well, I guess they liked them, because I just finished printing more of the same for Phase II of their outpatient expansion, and this time there were 76 images!  It took quite a bit of time and I have to say that the job would not have been completed without having a specific deadline.  Brooks Jenson has pointed this out in his podcasts many time and it sure is true.  Nothing works like a deadline when it comes to making sure the job gets done.

I am really pleased that my work can be seen in a health care facility, where setting a positive mood is so important.

Here is one of the images from the group, which I have not posted on-line before:

"Covered Bridge"

Copyright Howard Grill

The image was made using a neutral density filter to allow for a long exposure time, which is what generates the interesting water pattern.  For those in the Pittsburgh area, this is the bridge right next to the mill in McConnell's Mill State Park.

That bridge is actually the same one I used to make this image from my 'Dreamscapes' series (except I was obviously standing inside the bridge for this one):

Dreamscapes #3

Copyright Howard Grill

No lens was used to make that photo, but, rather, a zone plate was used to focus the light. Needless to say, this is not one of those images being used for the health care project!

I am also pleased to report that one of my Carrie Furnace images was published in the most recent issue of Black & White Magazine, having been chosen for the 2013 Single Image contest/issue.  This is the photograph that was chosen:

Stove Room VII

Copyright Howard Grill

And that is the update!

Designing A Product I

Those of you who read my Facebook Photography page will have heard this already (but read on because that is not what this post is about) .....but  the Rivers Of Steel organization is going to be co-marketing my eBook "The Carrie Furnace" with me.  They not only want to sell it from their website, but also requested a physical product to sell in their brick and mortar gift shop. What a great opportunity!  But it raised some challenges that I had never really thought about.  Providing the finished product via download was relatively easy.  By simply uploading your file and paying a service like e-junkie 5 bucks a month, one can get an attractive check out cart for your website and you are done.  But think about what it would require to put together a physical product.  You can't exactly just burn the file to a CD and be done!  There needs to be a professional appearance to the final product.

The disk needs to be attractive and have some sort of identifying label.  Then what do you put it in?  You can't just slap it into an empty clear jewel case and throw it on a shelf.  There needs to be some type of packaging that will serve to catch a potential customers eye and make them want to investigate and learn more.  There are also other informational nuances.  Customers will want to know what exactly is on the disk, what equipment will they need to play it, and why they should want to buy it.  And then there is the cost.....disks, packaging etc all add to the cost of the product.

Needless to say, these issues engendered quite a bit of thought on my part and I decided that I definitely wanted a professional appearing presentation.  What would I need?

1) A LightScribe CD/DVD burner (about $40) to inscribe a label and image onto the surface of the CD itself.  I thought an inkjet printed label would look too unprofessional and its application would be a bit irregular from disk to disk.

I had to choose a photo that would look good on the disk with the title and my name inscribed on top of it.

Oh yes, and I would need to buy LightScribe disks....about $45 for a hundred disks.

2) DVD/CD case.  I decided to go with the type that movies come in as opposed to a jewel case.  These movie cases come with a clear plastic pocket that spans the case.  It would be a bit of work, but I could use photoshop to design what I thought would be an attractive and eye catching insert.  Again, the image used would need to look good with words over it.  My plan was for an image that had no top, bottom, left, or right so that I could wrap the image around the front and the back of the case.  In the best of all worlds I thought I could use the same image for the disk and the case cover to give a consistent feel.  The cover insert and the clips inside the case would also allow me to at least have my website URL visible to further market my work.

The cases, in lots of 100 were also about 50 cents each.  Designing the insert was going to be difficult, but it would only have to be done once.  Having it look good by printing it on photographic paper would add a bit to the expense.

3) Finally, I wanted to use the opportunity of creating a physical product to give the buyer a little something extra that might not normally be expected and that might whet their curiosity to see more of my work as well as  to potentially differentiate my product from others on the shelf.  One cover of the CD case has two little clips on the inside. My idea is to include with the CD a small original signed inkjet print of the furnace's cast room that is a bit smaller than 5x7 inches.  It is small enough that I don't feel I am 'giving my work away for nothing' but large enough to show the quality of the work.  The actual cost and time needed to add the photo is pretty minimal (though the overall time input to assemble the product is not) and will help justify the added price the customer will have to pay compared to the downloadable version of the eBook.  This price increase is because I will have to charge for the physical materials and, more importantly, for the time involved to assemble the entire product (burned disk with files and picture, CD case insert, the print etc).

So there you have it.  The more I thought about it the more I started to realize how much thought and effort has to go into producing a physical product instead of a downloadable file.

I haven't had a chance to take a picture of the finished 'objects', so I will follow up this post with the next one which will have a few photos of the completed product.

Spammer Rant this is going to be a bit of a rant.  Why, oh why, are these people so intent on spamming?  In the last several weeks this blog has been overrun by spammers.  Well, not exactly overrun, but that is only because I have been weeding them out.  I had been getting tens of spam comments a day....probably fifty.  All filled with nonsense, but with web addresses that all seek to sell something ridiculous.  They got through to me despite my 'arithmetic' problem that had to be solved in order to submit a comment.  Then I switched to another type of spam blocker and, while that was much more effective at blocking spam comments, now I get fifty trackbacks sent in for approval a day, all from websites I do not want my blog associated with. The problem is that it takes time to sort through all these and ensure they are spam.  When rushing through them, it is also possible to accidentally mark a real comment that is amongst fifty spam ones as spam by accident.  If that has happened to anyone, I apologize.  I even entertained closing the blog to comments for a period of time to see if that might stop these idiots.  However, I have decided against that for the moment.

What do these people hope to gain, when I have not published a single bit of their nonsense on the blog?  I suspect the whole process is automated and is really no effort on their part. Anyone else out there have any experience with dealing with this nonsense easily and effectively?

The Center For Fine Art Photography

I am pleased to report that one of the images from my "Dreamscapes" series was chosen to be part of a themed exhibit at The Center For Fine Art Photography in Fort Collins, Colorado.  The subject of the exhibit is "Dreams".

Dreamscapes #1

Dreamscapes #1

Copyright Howard Grill

The other images that were chosen for this juried show can be seen here.

Getting Work Out There II

I would definitely encourage anyone interested in publishing their work to go ahead and submit it to an appropriate venue (and finding that venue can itself take some effiort). And remember, if you submit you can be 100% certain that you will get some rejections, and that is a fact that just takes some getting used to. It may mean absolutely nothing in regards to the quality of your work. Issues such as what was recently published, the fit of the submission to the venue, available space, and other factors all play a role that may be as as important as the quality of the photographs themselves.

Read More


Today's post is just a quick announcement that I have recently completed work putting together my first folio. The project made into folio format is my "Scene In Stone" project. What is a folio? What is the "Scene In Stone" project? Please do check it all out here.

Most Popular Post

It is hard for me to believe that I started this blog almost three years ago, in January of 2007. At that time, I really wasn't sure how long it would last. Surprisingly (to me), I now have written just over 300 posts, and plan to continue.

In thinking about bygone posts, I wondered what would be the most 'popular' one. That turned out to be very easy to find, at least if one gauges popularity by the number of comments a post receives. Frankly, I usually don't get all that many, with the usual number being 0 to5 ( bloggers love come on folks, feel free to write them). However, one post, believe it or not, has gotten 110 comments. In addition, my statistics counter tells me that it is also my most read one, with continual daily hits despite it being written back in September of 2007. The fact that it is still getting continual daily 'hits' despite its age tells me that Adobe still has a bit of work to do. Wondering which post it is? Check it out here.


Today, I have a bit of a personal note. I will be giving a slideshow presentation on Wednesday, June 6 at the REI store on Pittsburgh's South Side. The topic is nature photography in and around the Pittsburgh area and is sponsored by REI and Venture Outdoors, a great group whose mission statement can be seen here. In association with the talk, I am also taking a group out Sunday, January 10th to Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve for a nature photography field session. Though the program is aimed at beginners, anyone out there who is in the area is certainly welcome to attend.

This is my first attempt at any type of photographic teaching, so I am really looking forward to it. I tend not too be 'big' on public speaking, but am excited about doing this. I just hope that I am able to convey, in some small way, how much I enjoy photographing and how it can really open up a deeper appreciation for and understanding of nature. I hope it goes well, as I think that it might be something that I would really be interested in doing more of.

I'll let everyone know how it goes in a future post!

Public Service Announcement

Somehow or other, I managed to not know about Alec Soth and his work until recently. If you haven’t seen his photographs, you should consider having a look.

Since discovering his rather unique style, I have been wanting to buy a copy of his monograph “Sleeping By The Mississippi”, which was published in 2004 by Steidl Publishing. Unfortunately, the book is no longer available from either Amazon or Magnum, the two sources he notes on his website. Searching for a copy at the usual locations such as Abe’s Books, e-Bay etc. is not for the faint of heart, as copies are priced at $300 and up. However, I am here to report that Tim Whelan, whose brick and mortar store is right down the block from The Maine Photographic Workshops, has copies available for 50 bucks. I received mine a few days ago and, at the time I made the purchase, I know he had others available.

Incidentally, Tim also intermittently has very interesting photo memorabilia for sale on e-Bay. For approximately $20 each I have purchased two mint condition posters, one from a John Sexton gallery show and the other from an Arnold Newman show,.....both autographed by the photographers.

So, where do you go if interested in Sleeping By The Mississippi? Right here, about halfway down the page. Enjoy!