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.

More Pete's Lake

This is an image that I have actually posted beofre, but as a straight photo. I reworked it using several techniques in order to better have it reflect what it felt like at sunrise at this beautiful location (Pete's Lake near Munising, in Michigan's Upper Peninsula).

© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

What did it look like before I attempted to go beyond a 'straight' photograph? It was an equally valid image that I believe also transmits, in a slightly different way, what it was like to be at this idyllic location at sunrise. However, I believe that one has to recognize that the 'straight' photo is also really just my interpretation of the RAW file meant to transmit my impression of what it was like there. So perhaps I shouldn't call it a 'straight' photo, but, rather, a 'straighter' photo. No photo is truly 'straight'; not in the digital age nor in the analog age.....but that is a discussion for a different day. 

The 'straighter' photo:

© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill

Again, I think they both work in different ways. Which one works best for you? Why? I would love to know!

Follow The Path To Miner's Falls

While on my trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula this fall, I had the opportunity to visit Miners Falls. The falls were great in their own right, but on the walk down to them from the parking lot I noticed how the path made an "S" shaped curve......and we all know to never pass up an "S" shape!

Walking along the path into the forest it felt sort of magical, so, in processing, I brightened the pathway to give it a "Follow The Yellow Brick Road" appearance. Because the trail dips down about halfway through the frame, you lose sight of it and really can't tell where it leads to. I felt that this too added an air of mystery.

Path To Miner's Falls    © Howard Grill

Path To Miner's Falls    © Howard Grill


Pete's Lake - Sometimes Things Stay The Same

I've just returned from a fantastic week long photography trip photographing fall colors in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with several of my "photo buddies". I have been to the Munising area of the Upper Peninsula to photograph four times, and it never fails to offer up a plethora of photographic opportunities. Even when I was there two years ago and we missed the fall colors with our timing, there was still plenty to photograph. I am glad to say that this year the colors did not disappoint.

I have not yet had the opportunity to download, keyword, or process any of the images. But while I was at one particular location I found myself fascinated by something. This image was made on my first trip to the Upper Peninsula in 2004, at a wonderful sunrise location called Pete's Lake.

Pete's Lake, Michigan's Upper Peninsula   © Howard Gril

Pete's Lake, Michigan's Upper Peninsula   © Howard Gril

I was able to photograph at Pete's Lake once again this year. Not only were the yellow trees on the left still there (I guess that really isn't all that surprising), but the same driftwood in the lake to the right of the trees was still there as well! It was like the scene had become frozen in time, and that made it feel like I was being transported back to 2004. Of course, once my shutter clicked, I was back in 2017. As Kurt Vonnegut Jr. used to say.....and so it goes.

Blue Period

Don't most artists have a 'Blue Period"? Well, here is one from my own blue period :)

Lake Superior Abstract

This is a long exposure of Lake Superior from my recent trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula.  I liked the simple juxtaposition of the different shades of blue with the hard edge between them contrasted with the soft edge of the clouds. The long exposure was to smooth out and simplify the water in order to make the image a contrast of colors alone without having to think about 'what it is'. I also willingly broke the 'don't cut the frame in half' rule.

Michigan's Upper Peninsula In Fall

The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is one of THE places to see and photograph fall foliage.  I had the opportunity to visit the Upper Peninsula during fall about eight or nine years ago, but haven't been back since.  This is the year of my return!  In fact, by the time this is posted I may well be on my way back home. 

Timing is always somewhat hit or miss (like the time I showed up for spring wildflowers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few years ago when we had a very warm and early spring, only to be told that the wildflowers were gone, having bloomed three weeks earlier than usual). I am hoping that we will have arrived there in time for some great color.

In the meantime, I have posted some of my photographs from that trip I took eight or nine years ago.

I will let you know how the conditions were upon my return.

Addenda: I wrote the post above before actually taking my trip.  Unfortunately, I had to cancel the fall visit to Michigan.....but why not show the Upper Peninsula images anyway?  I am looking forward to rescheduling this adventure next year!

Fall colors at Council Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Lake Superior shoreline at sunset in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

An autumn leaf at AuTrain Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

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Pete's Lake And Red Rock Falls At Northland Adventurer

I am pleased that the website Northland Adventurer, the mission of which is "through illustrious photography, art and story we bring the awe of the Northland to you, wherever you may be", has recently written articles using three of my photographs from Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The site defines the Northland as Northwest Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, most of South Dakota, Noertheast Montana and Northern Iowa.

The three images used were among my favorites and are shown below.  Click on the link to read the two articles about the locations and while you are there check out the whole website. It's pretty neat, and a fun place to browse!

Autumn scene at Pete's Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.


Sunrise at Pete's Lake in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Rock River Falls in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Here's the short article on Red Rock Falls from Northland Adventurer.

All Images Are Copyright Howard Grill

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One More From Michigan, 2004

One more image 'brought to life' from my hard drive from the 2004 Michigan Upper Peninsula workshop I spoke about in my last post.  In this one I was intrigued by the lines and shapes in the foreground made by the flow of the water during the long exposure.

Red Rock Falls

Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Copyright Howard Grill

Michigan, 2004

It was pretty close to this time in 2004 that I attended my first photography workshop.  The location was Michigan's Upper Peninsula and the workshop lasted for a week. I remember it quite fondly, as it was the first time I was really able to immerse myself in photography for a prolonged period of time. Every so often I like revisiting old images that I never had a chance to work on before. Not working on them doesn't mean I didn't like them, just that it is hard to keep up with editing and refining what one produces.  This one, though taken in 2004, has just being 'given life'.

"Bog Sunrise"

Copyright Howard Grill

Photograph America

In my post about my trip to Cuyahoga National Park, I mentioned that my friend Bob and I had picked out the locations we planned to photograph based on an article in Photograph America. I mentioned that Photograph America was a great publication, but that it was a topic for a different post……

So let me tell you about Photograph America. It is a quarterly newsletter put out by photographer Robert Hitchman. Hitchman travels the country on photo journeys and documents his experiences. This includes what he found worthwhile photographing, how to get around the location and often places to stay and where to eat economically. I find his descriptions of what to shoot the best aspect of the newsletter. If you are making a relatively short duration trip to a location, you can put together an essentially completely planned itinerary prior to actually going, so you don’t waste a good deal of time ‘wandering’.

Of course, that isn’t to say that you will find all of Hitchman’s choices perfect for you. For example, on the Cuyahoga trip, we found that we really weren’t all that ‘taken’ by one of Hitchman’s top locations to shoot in the park. But that wasn’t a big problem for several reasons. First of all, because we knew exactly where we were going we didn’t waste much time getting there, and were able to tell pretty quickly that the location didn’t hold as much interest for us as it did for Hitchman. We were then able to move on to the next location, which we found much more enjoyable to photograph.

In addition to subscribing, Hitchman also offers the opportunity to purchase back issues of the newsletter. You can either purchase them all or just the ones that are focused on a specific area of the country that you might be interested in.

I recommend Photograph America very highly to anyone who is interested in traveling to locations for nature photography. The newsletters are very detailed and extremely helpful in planning a photography trip. They are, however, somewhat more focused on the West and Southwest since that is where Hitchman lives. That isn’t to say there isn't coverage of the South, East or Midwest, there certainly is, though not as frequently or to as many locations as in the West. Subscriptions are now available in PDF as well as in print format.

The Image Within

I was planning to use a second photo for yesterdays post about monochromatic images. This picture, which was also taken on a workshop to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, is another example of the monochromatic presentation. I didn’t use it yesterday because I remembered something totally different about it that I wanted to share.

Pete's Lake
Upper Peninsula Of Michigan
Copyright Howard Grill

Almost two years ago, I attended Alain Briot and Uwe Steinmueller’s excellent Print Summit and Workshop. As part of that experience, the participants were to bring, for a private critique session with either Uwe or Alain, five or ten images that they had completed prior to the workshop. There was something that really appealed to me about this print, and it is one that I brought to the critique session. It is not easily seen on the small screen, but there is subtle visible detail in the distant land and trees on the right side of the photo. This, as well as the gentle tonal and color changes within the fog, really appealed to me.

The critique I received from Alain was very interesting and quite unexpected. He generally liked the photograph, but with reservation. To him, it didn’t seem to convey a particularly unique vision. One very nice aspect of this session was that he and Uwe actually spent a good amount of time with each participant. The quick “its OK” was therefore not the end of his analysis. As he spent more time with the print, he said that an interesting approach, and one that would more fully ‘personalize’ the image, would be to totally crop out the left side, thereby removing the identifiable land and trees, and use the remaining portion as an abstract involving color and tone. He felt there was a more unique and personal vision contained within the original image.

Abstract Crop
Copyright Howard Grill

I have mixed feelings about this version. Sometimes I really like it, as it focuses on the content of the image that attracted me to it in the first place. Other times I think that it misses by not conveying the experience of having been at the location. However, that might be a feeling that would only be meaningful to me, having been there. I am curious as to what others think about this version of the photo.

Either way, the session was a superb learning experience and one that gave me insight into another way of looking at and thinking about images. I learned an interesting approach and one that I will keep myself aware of in the future.


In photography, the term monochrome is often equated with black and white. However, if one looks at the root of the word, it can clearly apply not only to images that are black and white, but also to pictures that are, for all intents and purposes, just one color. I tend to find such images very interesting. To me, they always seem to be very moody and emotive. I also find that, for some reason, my feelings about individual images of this genre tend to be rather strong; I either really like them or really do not care for them at all.

I have noticed that a good many of these types of images tend to be fashion photographs. But I also have seen monochrome used in this way, to a lesser extent, with landscapes, as well as with almost every other kind of photograph. It is a presentation that I don’t use very frequently because I just don’t find that many of my images are, for lack of a better term, harmonious with this technique. But, every once in a while, I find that there is a photograph that seems to work well with the monochromatic presentation. When this is the case, it seems to be very obvious from the start.

Image Taken In Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Copyright Howard Grill

This image was taken in a bog at sunrise. At the time, the whole landscape seemed very magical. It was one of those images where the monochromatic approach seemed to fit from the start. The color seemed to complement the image, allowing it to convey the beauty of the landscape bathed in the light of the rising sun.

If your feelings about these types of images are similar to mine, you probably find that the photo is either quite striking or that you strongly dislike it.

The idea of ‘monochromatic color’ doesn’t seem to work all that often for me, but when it does, it really seems to resonate. I think that, when scanning through one’s images, it might be a worthwhile idea to keep alert for situations where this type of presentation might be applicable. It could make for some interesting images. Images that people will likely either love or hate.


As humans, we tend to think of time in years; as measurable portions of our own lives. Though we know that the ‘grand landscape’ is a ‘work in progress’ that has been formed by millennia of continuous exposure to wind, water and the other forces of nature, we nonetheless tend to consider it as static. I suppose that is a fair, even utilitarian, way of thinking; one that I am just as ‘guilty’ of as the next person. After all, we are unlikely to see any obvious changes to the appearance of the Grand Canyon in our lifetime.

Nonetheless, perhaps once or twice in a lifetime are we are able to see a sudden and significant change in what we had considered in our thoughts to be immutable. Such was recently the case for me.

On the same trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on which I took the picture discussed in yesterday’s blog entry, I also had the chance to photograph Miner’s Castle. This distinctive rock formation is very easy to get to and is one of the more famous of the many that can be found along the Lake Superior shore. At the time that I happened to be there, the light was not particularly amenable to taking dramatic images. Like the rest of the tourists that dropped by that day, I clicked off a snapshot or two while enjoying the view. The image below is not much more than a documentary type photograph of the location (see below for an explanation of the black circle). It is not a site that I had expected to change very much.

Miner's Castle
Upper Peninsula Of Michigan
Copyright Howard Grill

But it did change. Shortly after I had been there, one of the rock turrets collapsed into Lake Superior. The formation will never look the same. Though I have not been back since the collapse, I was able to find a more current image. The image below is from the National Park Service, and was taken after the collapse. On my photograph, I have circled the area that is now lost forever.

Miner's Castle
Current Appearance
National Park Service Photo

This is not an overly dramatic change in the rock formation, as the main structure still stands, but it is one that means something if you have ever been there. And it is enough to illustrate that nothing ever stays the same forever.

Rocks In The Big Picture

In a prior post, I spoke about photographing rocks as macro subjects. In those images, the rocks served as a source for abstract compositions. However, it goes without saying that rocks themselves can become a central part of a grander landscape photograph. I am not talking about merely the obvious example of, say, an image of huge mountains, where the interest lies in one's amazement at the grandeur of the mountain range. I am also speaking of where the rocks themselves are so beautiful that, in aggregate, they become one of the image’s focal points. This is typical of many pictures taken in the American Southwest. Not too long ago, I had the opportunity to photograph at a slightly more obscure and less traveled location that, like the Southwest, has rocks that, because of their rather unique appearance, can become a central part of an image.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Copyright Howard Grill

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a 70,000 square acre park located along 42 miles of Lake Superior’s shore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan . Along much of the lakeshore there are beautiful sandstone cliffs which are constantly changing, being eroded by the powerful waves of Lake Superior (whose waters are freezing cold, even in August). These cliffs are panoplies of odd color, which is a result of mineral staining that has turned them various shades of brown, tan, and even green. From what I have read, the staining is caused by iron, manganese, limonite, and copper dissolved in the waters of the lake. The color is even more intense in the evening because the warm light of the setting sun directly illuminates the cliffs and almost seems to make them glow.

Pictures often bring back memories to the photographer; memories that play no role for the viewer. This is one of those pictures. I had to hike through about a half mile of thick mud along a narrow trail to reach this particular location. But it was well worth it.