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.

Awake Photography Magazine

I am pleased that one of my images from the Cathedral of Learning was published in the Awake Photography Magazine. The two magazines published by Sebastian Michaels, “Awake Photography” and “Living The Photo Artistic Life” are both wonderful magazines loaded with fantastic imagery, and I was glad to have my image selected. “Awake Photography” (published quarterly) deals with ‘straight’ photography while “Living The Photo Artistic Life” (published monthly) is dedicated to digital artwork. Moreover, both are completely free in digital format…..I give the download links below the photo.

Cathedral of Learning © Howard Grill

Cathedral of Learning © Howard Grill


Download the current issues, as well as any or all back issues, at no charge. I think you will enjoy both.

AWAKE Photography

Living The Photo Artistic Life

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!

Photographers i

I always have my eyes open for interesting and high quality photography magazines.  They are hard to come by.  However, a few months back I got an iPad and ran across a magazine edited by Michael Freeman that is formatted specifically for the iPad.  Actually, perhaps I should say for tablets, because I really am not sure if it is available for Android based tablets or not. At any rate, what makes it very interesting is that it is one of the new breed of multimedia publications made specifically for electronic devices.  The magazine has interviews, portfolios, informational articles etc.  But each article typically has some type of multimedia component, be it an interview, teaching points, audio etc.  That itself would not merit mention as it needs to be quality, not just fluff.  This one is definitely quality.  I am not sure that the multimedia options in the 'magazine' are being utilized to their full potential and it will be very interesting to see how this whole genre of multimedia publications evolves over time.  And I am sure they will evolve.

This one is definitely worth checking out.  It can be purchased via subscription or single issue.  After reading the first one I went ahead and subscribed.  Check it out in the Apple App store and Newsstand.

Two More Magazines

Ages ago, I wrote a post about what I thought were photography magazines that were worth subscribing to.  At the end of that post I said that I would add to the list if I came across others that I thought were really worthwhile.  In the last few weeks I have run across two more that I can also recommend.  Interestingly, these two magazines could not be more different. Adore Noir is an e-magazine, meaning that there is no hard copy version available. It is a fine art, black and white photography magazine whose mission is "To provide a stage for photo artists around the world to showcase their work. To gather information from prominent figures in the art world. To provide inspiration to both collectors and photographers."  They publish black and white portfolios, interviews with photographers etc.  Samples are available for download and they are currently running a special whereby all 5 of their 2011 issues can be downloaded for only $9.95.  Definitely worthwhile and a source of ideas and inspiration.

c't Digital Photography is a hard copy magazine  (with an ipad app) that is published in Germany.  The focus here is on in-depth articles related to techniques, equipment and software.  It is quite worthwhile, as the articles are in-depth and tend towards the intermediate to advanced imager.

I haven't seen much in the way of new and worthwhile magazines since I wrote the original post, but these two newcomers are definitely woth a look!

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

B&W Magazine Award

I am quite proud to have been awarded a "Bronze Award" in this years B&W Magazine Single Image Issue! I have posted the image before, though the submission to B&W obviously required a conversion to black and white.

Copyright Howard Grill

In addition, friend (though we have never actually of the wonders of the internet) and fellow photography blogger Andy Ilachinski had not one, but two images published in that same issue! Check out his thought provoking and exceedingly well written blog here. It is a regular on my reading list.


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.


I was very pleasantly and unexpectedly surprised to find that an image I had submitted to B&W Magazine many months back had been awarded a 'Silver Medal' in the Seascapes/Water category. This image is a black and white conversion from a photograph taken as part of my "Twin Jewels Project".

Copyright Howard Grill


Since my last post was about a new photography magazine, I thought I would keep to that subject for one more day. I hadn't been planning to do so, but I discovered the inaugural issue of a new magazine that I think holds real potential.

I read about a new magazine named Fotoblur that was associated with a 'photographic community', and the images are chosen for publication by that community. The first thing I did was give a big yawn......sounds just like JPG Magazine. But then I took a look at the preview of the print on demand magazine.......and I was extremely impressed! Impressed enough that I went ahead and ordered it, though I hadn't been planning to do so. I received it in the mail yesterday.....and was blown away. The images were really superb and the printing was terrific. In my opinion, this is a whole different genre than JPG, with the photographs being much more of a 'fine art' genre.

I have not yet checked out the community, but, as I said, am extremely impressed with the magazine. So much so that I intend to buy the next issue and see if the quality is maintained. The stated goal is for publication on a quarterly basis, and I do hope that they are successful. I would imagine that the print on demand, while it makes for a higher priced magazine for the consumer, probably insulates the publication from the type of financial problems that are apparently affecting JPG. Nonetheless, I think the quality justifies the $16.20 price tag.

Want to check out the magazine.....see here and just click on the 'Show Preview" button to view the whole issue. The community can be checked out here, with a much smaller preview of the magazine.


I am always on the lookout for interesting photography magazines, as there seem to be relatively few really good ones. B&W magazine is one that I find worthwhile and enjoy getting. Recently, the publishers of B&W introduced a new magazine entitled "Color". Being a subscriber to B&W, I took the them up on their invitation to also subscribe to Color and recently received the magazine's premier issue.

Overall, I am quite pleased with it, both in terms of the quality of the photographic reproductions and the image content. The issue had a diverse selection of well-known, as well as somewhat lesser known, color photographers as well as a nice cross-section of subjects including nature, street photography etc.

My opinion on what might have made it a bit better? The layout and presentation is exactly the same as B&W magazine. On the one hand, why mess with a formula that has done well....on the other hand, it might be nice to have had something a bit different or imaginative (along with the associated risk that it might not work well). In addition, I personally find the writing a bit bland. But, hey, given the relative dearth of good quality photography magazines available, why complain. After seeing the first issue, I am definitely glad that I subscribed.

Two Hot Photos Over At JPG Magazine

I received an e-mail yesterday from JPG Magazine that two images I had uploaded quite some time ago have become "HOT".

Check them out here and here. If you like them and are registered I would certainly appreciate your throwing a vote my way!

If you haven't discovered JPG Magazine, this is also a chance to familiarize yourself with it. It is, in my opinion, a magazine worth getting. I have a subscription myself and look forward to each new issue.

Focus Magazine Collectors Edition

One of the photography magazines that I have been reading regularly is Focus Magazine. It is, in my opinion, an excellent and very worthwhile publication. I am writing about it now, however, because I wanted to call attention to a very special issue that I just finished reading and is currently available at news stands. Well, actually, I have never seen one at a news stand per se, and while I have a subscription, I do know that it can be found at Barnes and Noble.

What is so special about this issue? This month, the editors have grouped together a large number of past interviews with various photographers from older issues and reprinted them together in one location. There are interviews here with some of my favorites including Michael Kenna, Paul Caponigro, George Tice, and an interview with Arnold Newman that took place just prior to his recent death.

Definitely a worthwhile read!


In the beginning of the year, having had some small shows of my work, I decided it was time to start submitting images for publication. Truth be told, I ended up putting off the process for some time. But I did ultimately send out some images to two magazines. It was my first attempt and I therefore wasn't going for any of the big names. After my blogging friend Marc Graf had written about Whisper In The Woods Nature Journal, I decided to send them a few photographs.

I am pleased that two of the images were published in this months issue. So, I am motivated to try submitting more and elsewhere. I am not one to toot my own horn, but I am happy with this accomplishment and so thought I would share the images:

Wild Blueberries
Copyright Howard Grill

Last Leaf Of Fall
Copyright Howard Grill

Louie Palu

One of the many reasons that I enjoy reading LensWork is that the magazine introduces me to photographers that I otherwise would be unaware of. At times this is because the photographer has not been widely published and at other times it may be because I simply have not been exposed to them, despite their having achieved recognition.

This month, I was particularly intrigued by the work of Louie Palu, who spent years on his project photographing coal miners in Canada. Every aspect of this project , from how he managed to get access to the mines themselves (pure persistence in the face of repeated resistance), to the dangers of being in the mine (which makes for a fascinating discussion in the LensWork interview), and the challenges of photographing in a dark and hostile environment (equipment literally blown up, dropped down shafts, makeshift lighting etc.) is truly fascinating. I couldn't stop reading the interview transcript and am looking forward to hearing more in LensWork Extended.

Finally, the images were absolutely superb! My description and opinion are meaningless compared to having a look for yourself. So here is a link to the portion of Mr. Palu's website that contains images from this project, which he entitles "Cage Call". But don't stop there, the rest of the projects and images on his site are wonderful as well.

The project turned into a book, which I plan to buy. Unfortunately, it currently seems to be unavailable at Amazon and I can't seem to find one for sale anywhere else either.

Recommended Photography Magazines

Given some of the great recommendations and comments that have been posted in response to this entry about photography magazines, I thought it would be worthwhile to put up a list, in one location, of the recommendations people have made for photography magazines worth looking into. With the title of this post being "Recommended Photography Magazines", it will be easy for anyone to find and one that I will edit; adding further interesting recommendations as they come in.

So here goes:

Adiemus and Latoga recommended JPG Magazine,
Chris recommended American Photo, but with some reservations,
David recommended Photographica (Japanese language, available at Amazon Japan, which is linked)
Gary recommended B&W Magazine and Photo Life,
George recommended Phot'Art International and Black and White Photography,
Howard recommended Photo Life, Nature's Best and has hopes for CameraArts,
Mark recommended Digital PhotoPro, and
Everyone recommends LensWork

I will add more to the list if people make further recommendations. Again, I would like to complile a list of photography magazines, published in any country, that are more focused on creativity and actual images as opposed to techniques and equipment.

Photo Life

It seems to me that there is a relative dearth of top quality photographic magazines available, at least in the US. Sure, there are plenty of magazines around for the following:

relative beginners (I’m not saying these aren’t important),
reading about digital/Photoshop techniques,
that serve as a forum for the presentation of advertisements,
rehashing the same type of articles year in and out.

However, there aren’t many that deal with the more creative, artistic side of photography. At least that is my opinion.

I have already mentioned LensWork, which, again, in my opinion, is the single magazine I would subscribe to if I were limited to just one. In a prior post, I had mentioned that I recently subscribed to CameraArts. Thus far I have only received one issue, but I did enjoy it and have high hopes for future issues as well.

There are two other magazines that I enjoy and strike me as worthwhile, and I though that I would mention one of them.

PhotoLife is a Canadian photography magazine that I subscribe to. Though there are occasional technique and equipment review articles, they tend to be brief and to the point. The remaining articles and portfolios I find to be very worthwhile. The magazine’s focus is rather broad and can range from ‘traditional’ subjects such as landscape photography to more contemporary photographic topics. It really provides a nice overview of what is going on in many different photographic ‘realms’ at the current time.

It is a magazine that I enjoy getting; the details and more information can be found here.

I also thought it might be interesting to ask if anyone else could recommend magazines (from any country) that they have found worthwhile……a link to the magazine site would also be great if you have one. It might enable myself and anyone reading here to find out about magazines that we don’t know about and might enjoy looking into!

I guess if I am asking others to make recommendations I will also have to throw into the list the second magazine of the two I mentioned above. Its scope is much more limited than the others and focused solely on nature and wildlife photography. The website for Nature's Best can be found here. Definitely worthwhile if you enjoy nature photography.

The LensWork Podcast

Brooks Jensen, the editor of LensWork magazine, puts out a wonderful podcast, usually several times a week. If you are familiar with the magazine, (and if you aren’t, see my post here) then you know what the LensWork philosophy and mission is. That same philosophy, which is to say the discussion of the creative aspects of photography, carries through to the podcast as well.

Unlike some of the others I have previously reviewed, the LensWork podcasts are fairly short, usually only 3-6 minutes min length. They are quite focused and to the point. Most importantly, they are extraordinarily insightful and though provoking. In addition, Brooks has a great ‘announcer’s voice’ which is a pleasure to listen to. In short, the podcasts are simply a pleasure to hear and offer a lot to think about. If you have not yet had the chance to experience them you really owe it to yourself to check them out here.

Administrative Note: I have been able to make daily entries since I started this blog just over 2 months ago. I have many ideas for upcoming posts, but feel as if I don’t want to dilute the quality of the postings by feeling absolutely compelled to post on a daily basis. Needless to say, it does entail time and energy to prepare them. I would much rather write something of interest and that is well thought out than try to simply ensure that there is a daily blog entry. Though they might not be daily, I do plan for them to be very frequent (perhaps even daily at times). I surely hope that this will not deter folks from checking back in frequently!

Photoshop And The Creative Process, Part II

This is Part II of this topic. If you haven’t already had the opportunity to read Part I, I invite you to do so here.

As I was thinking about this issue, the following occurred to me. Have any of these Photoshop ‘gurus’ ever claimed to be fine art photographers extraordinaire? Have they ever published fine art books of their images. For the most part, the answer to this is a resounding NO. In my mind, most don’t really claim to be fine art photographers. They are ‘software people’. The few that are fine art photographers are well worth paying close attention to.

Along the same lines, is Photoshop, the software, about photography? Well, sure, but only to an extent. Adobe never claimed it was only meant for photographers. It isn’t a program for photographers; it is a program for artists, of which photographers are but one subset. It is there for graphic artists, digital artists, layout designers etc.

I am not so sure that we should be complaining about the craziness surrounding the program (and, certainly, it can get pretty nutty), rather, I think it is the job of the photographer not to stop “tricks” from being developed, but to be wise enough to sort through, learn about, and adapt the techniques that are useful for one’s own vision. I am not so sure I need to be concerned that there are folks coming up with a million and one techniques that I, and perhaps even no one else, might ever have a use for.

Besides, who ultimately knows what one’s vision might become and what trick, while useless today, might ultimately become an important vehicle for our own expression? History is filled with discoveries and ideas whose use only became apparent at a later date. I have not been involved with the creative arts long enough to know if a seemingly unimportant or inapplicable aspect of Photoshop has ever ultimately been found to have a useful photographic application, though my guess would be that it probably has.

My feeling is let’s not lambaste those whose jobs are to develop, push, or impress using Photoshop. Instead, let’s be selective enough to sort out what is integral in achieving our vision and learn to use those tools to their utmost potential. No one says we have to listen to the snake oil salesman. If we fork over our money, perhaps it is our own fault.

Photoshop And The Creative Process, Part 1

I recently subscribed to CameraArts magazine without really knowing too much about the publication. A few weeks ago I received my first issue, and one of the first articles I read was an editorial authored by George DeWolfe entitled “The Master Print: The Photoshop Medicine Show” (CameraArts, January/February 2007). After finishing the article, I immediately knew two things:

i) that subscribing to the magazine was a good decision and

ii) that I wanted to write a blog post about that particular article.

Writing about the article, however, turned out to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. The reason for this is that I have changed my opinion about it several times and, in fact, it still seems difficult for me to sort out my feelings on the topic. I actually scrapped the idea of writing this post, but have come back to it with the realization that if I have trouble sorting it out in my own mind, then it would probably be interesting to others and hopefully make for some thought provoking commentary. I would certainly be interested in hearing peoples’ opinions.

Before I get further into this, I do, however, want to make a few things clear. First off, I have a deep respect for Mr. DeWolfe, even if I don’t necessarily agree with him 100%. I can only aspire to be as accomplished an artist and photographer as he is. In fact, I own his book entitled “George DeWolfe’s Digital Photography Fine Print Workshop”. Secondly, I e-mailed Tom Gibbons, the assistant editor of CameraArts, who encouraged me to write about the DeWolfe editorial, even if I didn’t totally agree with what was said. He even went further, agreeing to post DeWolfe’s entire article on line so that that readers of this blog could have a look at it for themselves…….thanks Tom.

The reason I was so sure that it was wise to have subscribed to Camera Arts is that you just have to respect a magazine that will print something that is non-mainstream and, in fact, potentially inflammatory to a large number of people who reside in the mainstream.

OK, OK, I have beat around the bush long enough. What is this all about?

Mr. DeWolfe’s thesis is essentially that a whole “cottage industry” has grown up around Photoshop to extol the virtues and abilities of the software, to the point where the creative process is pushed aside and the ‘tricks’ have become what is important. These tricks are then used with the ultimate goal of selling books, software and other miscellaneous items. The real problem is that these tricks have been developed as an end in and of themselves, not as solutions to a creative problem. He implies that in order to sell Photoshop paraphernalia the cart is allowed to come before the horse; a technique in search of a use is born.

He certainly comes out with gloves on and ‘swinging’ when he states that, in regards to Photoshop, “Unfortunately, there are those who spend much of their time talking too much about it, and they are (unnamed of course) the focus (target) of this article.” From what follows, it is clear he is speaking of the NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) and the so-called Photoshop gurus. The annual Photoshop trade show is likened to the “selling of snake oil”.

The specific issue called into question is that these ‘gurus’ are really software people and not photographers. Their goal is to come up with tricks that Photoshop can do and essentially sell the trick and move on, whether or not the technique has a creatively useful application. Soon, the ultimate goal of making creative and emotionally stirring images is forgotten or made secondary in the minds of these gurus. DeWolfe feels that the true goal of Photoshop should be to enable the photographer to take their images, their art, and “make it human, making it match what the eye sees.”

Ultimately, he states that “Photoshop is a necessary evil in the photographer’s arsenal of tools today. It is a bloated application that contains much more than you need to make a masterpiece. As a point in fact, very few tools are needed to make a masterpiece, only the ones that you absolutely need to get the job done and no more. Keeping Photoshop simple and its use maintained with clarity should be a photographer’s mission in life. Lightroom, the new Adobe application for photographers, is making a decent dent in this problem, and I applaud its simplicity and workflow ease.”

When I first finished reading DeWolfe’s article, my initial response was “Bravo, someone has finally said what needs to be said!” Of course, I felt, everything that he states is true, and no one until now has had the guts to come right out and say it. I mean how many Photoshop ‘how to’ books, tutorials, and podcasts are really necessary?

However, upon thinking about these issues further, I am not so sure that I still agree with my initial gut response. I would like to wait until tomorrow to finish this post and talk about my current thoughts regarding this issue. In the meantime, I am hoping that anyone that might be interested will click over to the pdf file that Tom Gibbons at CameraArts has so graciously provided and give it a read…..perhaps take the opportunity to think about it overnight. I would be interested in hearing what others think about the editorial.

The article can be accessed by clicking here and then clicking on the title of the article (“The Master Print: The Photoshop Medicine Show) that is listed under ‘Web Exclusives’.

By the way, while you are over at the CameraArts website, it might be interesting for you poke around and see what else they have to offer. Take a look at the magazine and consider subscribing. As I mentioned, I have only received one issue so far, but look at what that one issue has led me to do……….TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW

LensWork: A Journal, Not A Magazine

If you have a passion for photography, or, for that matter, any artistic medium, and do not read LensWork magazine, I would highly recommend that you stop reading this post for a moment (yes, it's that important :>) and visit this page of the LensWork website instead.....but please do come back!

LensWork is a magazine (actually, journal sounds like a better word, as a magazine sounds like something you throw away, and you won’t) that deals purely with the creative aspects of photography.

What you won't find:

Equipment reviews
How-to articles
Technique articles

What you will find:

Articles about creativity and the creative process
Wonderful black and white photographic portfolios (usually three or four per issue)
Cutting humor (c’mon, you know it’s there….Bill Jay’s endnotes, what a great way to end each issue!)
Ideas worth thinking about and discussing

In my opinion, it is simply the best photography journal available today. I look forward to the arrival of each and every issue and can say with total honesty that I read it, literally, from cover to cover. My only complaint is that I wish it were published even more frequently than every other month. It is a bargain at any price.

By the way, take a look at LensWork Extended as well. It is a multimedia extension of the magazine with extended portfolios, interviews with the photographers, exceptional video presentations and articles that are not in the print version. When I first purchased Extended, I wondered if it would be repetitious paired with the print version. Trust me, it is not. It is a whole additional experience that, again, would be worthwhile at many more times the actual cost.

LensWork, the journal as well as the Extended Version, will keep you thinking and open your mind to new possibilities. I don’t know of any better compliment that one can give to a magazine, er.....journal.