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.

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

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.

Burnt Embers

One of the nice aspects of having a blog is the ability to share 'discoveries'.  As I have mentioned in prior posts, I have been doing more black and white work as of late.  I recently ran across the Burnt Embers blog by 'Ehpem' and was immediately drawn to his black and white images, though there are plenty of gorgeous color photographs there as well.  Enjoy 'Burnt Embers'!

Cow Bay Boat Houe

Copyright Ehpem

Art. Happenings.

It is amazing how many really interesting and worthwhile websites and blogs are 'out there' that one doesn't know about until someone else mentions it, you happen to find a link, or run across it by accident.  That is one of the reasons I like mentioning interesting sites that I happen to that others might discover and possibly enjoy them. And so it is with "Art. Happenings".  Truth be told, "Art. Happenings" came to me in order to write a post about my Carrie Furnace Project, and for that I am truly flattered.  But what is "Art. Happenings."?

"Art. Happenings." is a blog written by the art librarian at the Central Library in Rochester, NY, who develops their collection in several art forms, one of which is photography.  The blog itself is best described as......well, perhaps the blog's masthead describes it best: "A happening is a performance or event that is considered to be art. This blog covers world art events, art news and publications, and will expose the reader to all areas of the art world. The fine arts will be covered such as painting, sculpture, assemblage, installation, photography, conceptual art, large scale craft related events, handmade/altered books, and printmaking. Blog is maintained by an Art Librarian at the Rochester Public Library (NY)."

The blog is a great way to keep up with events in the various arts, with a healthy helping of photographic happenings in the mix.  It is definitely a spot that I plan to visit frequently!

Artwork Is A Personal Journey

Over the years that I have written this blog, I have frequently noted other photographers and other blogs that I have enjoyed.  Today, I would like to point out a blog post from a photographer whose work I have enjoyed (and purchased) and who I have had the opportunity to meet personally.  This particular post really made me think about the uniquely personal aspect of artwork.  I think you will enjoy this post by photographer Cole Thompson about comparing your artwork to the work of others. If Cole's writing touches a chord with you, then you will most assuredly enjoy reading Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking.  This book is really a must-read for all who take their art-making seriously.  In fact, I found the book so meaningful that I reviewed it in the past.  Click on the following link to check out my review of  David Bayles and Ted Orland's book Art and Fear from back in 2007.

Photography Book Ideas

Like many people who enjoy the art of photography, I also enjoy collecting photography books of all sorts.....fine art photography, photojournalism, essays etc. I don't think there are many photographers who don't also have a photography library. Sometimes, I will just get in the mood to buy a new photo book and start browsing or looking for ideas. I thought I might write about the sources from which I get ideas for book purchases and also ask anyone who might be reading this to contribute other ideas as to where they go to find out about photography books.

There are several sites that I use as information sources. Here are the ones that I use most frequently and enjoy the most:

1) Photo-Eye Bookstore: A great resource! Also, one can sign up for their e-mail newsletter, which comes about once a week. So, with no effort at all, you can have a steady stream of information about the newest quality photography publications.

2) The 5b4 blog...another great resource with book reviews.

3)Podcasts: A good number of photography podcasts, at one point or another, have book recommendations. In fact, I learned about my latest purchase, a book called The Printed Picture, from a recent LensWork podcast. In fact, the last three LensWork podcasts have been related to photography books.

I also look forward to Paul Giguere's Thoughts On Photography podcast. I purchased a real favorite of mine, Secret City, based on Paul's interview with photographer Jason Langer. In addition, every December or January he has an episode about his picks for the best photography books of the year. Granted, it will be eight or nine months until the next book review episode.....but the old ones from years past are still there for the listening. And the podcast is great, so don't just listen to the book review episodes!

4) Finally, I also get ideas from several photography magazines that contain book review sections. The three that immediately spring to my mind are Photo Life, B&W, and Color but, of course, there are others.

Writing this, it occurs to me that I don't typically peruse the websites of the prominent photo book publishers. Nor, and I guess this is a sign of the times, do I generally find photography books by browsing in bookstores. However, that may simply be because your typical brick and mortar bookstore generally has a very limited selection of these types of books.

So, what are your favorite resources for finding out about photography books?


Now hear this. There are Lensworks blogs. And I do mean plural. Not one, not two, but three Lenswork blogs have just been introduced. Given the excellence of each and every LensWork 'product' that I have had the opportunity to read or view, I have no doubts that these will be blogs well worth reading regularly.

#1 Lenswork Technology Blog - In the words of Brooks Jenson, "random collection of thoughts, discoveries, explorations, hard-won experience, and — I fully anticipate — some technological failures and struggles as I wade through this world of technology and its use to create photographic artwork."

#2 "Ask Brooks" Blog - Not simply an ask a question to Brooks blog, as Brooks actively seeks reader partcipation and input to answer the questions.

#3 LensWork Vision Of The Heart Blog - An opportunity to more fully appreciate photographs. In Brooks own words "In this blog we will take a bit of time with an image to look at it more closely, to understand the photographer's point of view in their own words (transcribed from our LensWork Extended interviews), to savor the subtleties and enjoy a photograph to its full, well, or at least "fuller" potential."

I am definitely looking forward to reading and following these.

Your Photo Tips Blog

This blog was recently featured on another photography blog called "Your Photo Tips", which is published by photographer Damien Franco. I hadn't heard of Damian's blog, but found it after Motivation was mentioned in a post of his.

Interesting, the way we come across things we hadn't known about. I was quite intrigued with Damien's blog and its wide variety of interesting topics. It has something for everyone and is one that is certainly worth keeping up with. I plan to read it regularly and added it to my "Favorite Blogs" list. So check it out, I think you will enjoy it!

The Simplicity Of Snow

I was intrigued by fellow blogger Mark Graf's recent post about how snow tends to simplify scenes that would otherwise be quite disorganized and distracting; morphing a scene that would be difficult to photograph into something that looks much more appealing in a two dimensional image. Have a look at that interesting post if you haven't had a chance to read it.

After reading Mark's post, I found myself wondering if I could use snow to simplify an image even further....right down to bare graphic shapes. I would obviously have to look for very specific, uncluttered, and focal scenes (by which I mean picking out a small area of landscape that had very basic graphical qualities).

As I have mentioned many times before, I am not very much of a cold weather person, but I thought this would motivate me to get out into the cold with a specific idea in mind.

I have to say, it was quite enjoyable to walk around looking for these bits of ground that could be simply represented as abstract shapes. Thanks, Mark, for getting me out into the cold!

Copyright Howard Grill

Copyright Howord Grill

Copyright Howard Grill

Five Question Interview

I was interviewed by Pittsburgh photographer John Craig as part of his "Five Question Interview" blog series. Click here to check it out.

And while you're there, also check out his terrific blog and peruse some of the images on his website.

Actually, I was quite surprised and very honored to be included as part of his series. Turns out that John lives only a few miles from me. We've never met, but I hope we get a chance to at some point in the near future.

Thanks for the very kind words, John!


G-L-O-R-I-A, Glooooooriah…can’t you just hear Van Morrison belting out that song? Well, since I would like to intermittently post about other blogs and websites that I have enjoyed, I am going to talk about another Gloria. I just couldn’t help myself with that opening, as every time I think of her name I just can’t get that song out of my head!

Well, if you don’t already know of her, let me introduce you to a different Gloria, and quite a unique one at that. Gloria Hopkins is that rare breed of person who excels in more than one artistic endeavor. She is a painter, a photographer, and a writer.

I have never met Gloria in person, but you really feel as if you know her from her blog entries, which run the gamut from the artistic to the personal, and from her images.

Copyright Gloria Hopkins

This is one of my favorite photographs of hers, and one which won an award from Nature’s Best magazine. She has kindly given me permission to use it in this post. For me, it works not only as an image of reality, that is to say of a gorgeous valley, but even moreso as an abstract composition of lines and color.

Check out her paintings as well, which she is currently devoting a major portion of her time to.

Finally, she has written a superb series on photographic composition that is well worth a careful read.