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.

Going Through Old Files

Interesting, what one can find when going through old files that have never had the opportunity to see the light of day.  I have found a bunch of photos that I will ultimately want to process but simply had not had the time.  It is definitely worth revisiting the old hard drives from time to time! Here is one from 2008, in Zion National Park:

Copyright Howard Grill


I love when I run across a scene in which the camera records a truth that our minds simply can not believe. Such scenes force you to reassess what is real and how our minds are able to change reality. I find this idea fascinating and have previously written about it on Uwe Steinmueller's Digital Outback Photo.

When I first photographed this waterfall, I thought I was just taking a picture of the flowing water. But when I looked at the image on the LCD screen on the back of my camera I was truly surprised at the colors I saw but hadn't recognized in the water. Nonetheless, when I looked carefully at the moving water, there they were! I hadn't seen them because our brains tend to present 'filtered' information to us which is why, for example, a sheet of white paper still looks white to us even when it is next to a brightly colored object. However, when we take a two dimensional photograph of that paper and look at it out of context, our eyes can recognize the color cast on the white sheet.

Canyon Reflections

Copyright Howard Grill

So where is the color coming from in this image? On this particular morning in Zion National Park, the sky was a deep blue which was being reflected in the waterfall. The falls were located right next to a large canyon wall made of the region's famous 'red rock', and it is the light reflecting off of this red rock and striking some areas of the water that imparts the pink coloration.

The other thing that I enjoyed about making this image was the location. I am delighted when I can find something beautiful in a location where I wouldn't expect it. True, this image was made in Zion National Park, but it happened to be located in the unlikely location behind an old maintenance shack where a good portion of the grounds were being used for storage


This is another image from the recent workshop that I attended in Zion National Park. I think this image has, in one shot, many of the characteristics that are so special about Zion.....the cottonwoods, the canyon walls, and the Virgin River. When I look at this photograph I really get a feel of the 'Zion Experience'. The park is truly a place that everyone should get a chance to visit.

Copyright Howard Grill

In addition, this is another of the type of images that I mentioned in my post entitles "Seeing". Though these exact elements are obviously not present where I live, there are very reasonable replacements...trees, water, rocks......all that I need is the right mindset. That mindset, as opposed to a lot of nice images (though it is nice to get them as well), is the most valuable item that can be brought home from any workshop!


As I mentioned in my last post, I recently returned from a Photography With Heart workshop in Zion National Park. Scanning through some of my favorite images from the park, I noticed something interesting. Though the presence or 'feel' of the park was in them all, when I broke the images down to their basic components they consisted , for the most part, of things that I could find right here in Western Pennsylvania where I live.

Consider this image entitled "Backlit Cottonwoods". At its most basic, it is 'simply' an image of colorfall backlit trees with fall foliage. I was drawn to the scene not only because of the intense color of the backlit trees, but also because I enjoyed composing it with the diagonal lines of the mountains on either side of the trees along with the hazy, distant canyon wall in the background. I felt that the diagonals added something special to the image and that the canyon wall in the background, together with the classic cottonwoods, gives the photograph a decidedly 'Zion' feel.

Backlit Cottonwoods
Copyright Howard Grill

When I go on a workshop I go with a mind that is hopefully open and 'ready' to try to be creative. I think it is quite natural to have that feeling when going away on a trip. But when I think about it, the basic components of the "Backlit Cottonwoods" image are all around me, even now that I am back home. There are plenty of trees with fall foliage here, and one only has to go at the proper time to find them backlit. True, I may not have a canyon wall available to put in the background, but is that really the essence of the image? Wouldn't the image also work well with the terrain that I have available here at home used to frame the trees or provide leading lines? I think it would!

One of the things that I hope I have accomplished at the workshop is to learn to discard the state of mind that says you have to go 'someplace special' to make special images. Sure it is fun to go away, and a change of scene always spurs creativity, but that should only serve as a stimulus to return home and harness that creativity to make images where you spend most of your time living. One of the things that I hope that I have brought home with me from the workshop is an enhanced ability to be open to 'seeing' what surrounds me the 99% of the time that I am home. If one can do that, I think the odds of making meaningful images increases quite dramatically!