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.

Blazing Stars - The Annual Pilgrimage

Every year, at the end of July through the beginning of August, my 'photo friends' and I make our annual pilgrimage to Jennings Environmental Education Center to see the blooming Liatris spicata, more commonly known as Blazing Stars. While you can perhaps find them growing in gardens, the open prairie of Jennings is the only place in Western Pennsylvania where they grow naturally. The open prairies of the Midwest is otherwise their natural habitat.

Every year, besides the 'standard' type photographs, I try to do something a bit different. This time around, I tried to not only photograph the plants, but to also photograph what it felt like to be there surrounded by them out in the open fields.

© Howard Grill

© Howard Grill


Someplace To Go

I enjoy images that give the viewer 'someplace to go', or a way to meander into the photo.  Using a wider angle lens generally takes some thought and effort on my part as I seem to be more naturally drawn to looking at things from a telephoto or macro viewpoint. This is one of those shots where a wide angle lens invites the viewer to stroll through the image.

This particular shot was taken during one of my annual pilgrimages to Jennings Environmental Area to see the Blazing Stars in late July and early August.

Walking Through Jennings    © Howard Grill


I know I have posted this photo on the blog before, some time ago.  But it sees to convey what I am feeling, so out it comes again.  We need spring here in Western Pennsylvania.  I know people have worse winters than ours.......but it really has been a brutal and never ending frigid winter here.  It has to end soon.....I just wish the Earth would get through this tilting thing and get us oriented in the right direction. This is what we need.  Some warm green growth with flowers that you can walk among without being bundled up.  And a nice tree to sit under as well!

This particular photo was taken at Jennings Environmental Area.


Copyright Howard Grill

Blazing Stars 2013

Last weekend I went on my annual pilgrimage to Jennings Environmental Center.  Yes, every year around this time the Blazing Stars (Liatris spicata) are in bloom. They are out of place in Western Pennsylvania, as they naturally grow on the prairies of the Midwest.  But many years ago a receeding glacier cut a prairie through the area where Jennings now stands and it became the only area in Pennsylvania where the plant grows naturally.

They grow in profusion and among all the other prairie plants, so the challenge photographically is to isolate them and provide a non-distracting background to the image.

Here is this years contribution.....

Annual Pilgrimage To Jennings

Every year in July/August I visit Jennings Environmental Center.  Jennings is an environmental anomoly.  It is a midwestern prairie that was formed in Western Pennsylvania by glacial movement during the ice age.  And with that comes prairie vegetation....most notably Liatris spicata......the "Blazing Star".

Blazing Star

Copyright Howard Grill

This year, I felt like I was being a little repetitious, making compositions that just involved the Blazing Stars.  So I 'forced myself' to make photographs of the other things around me on the prairie.  I particularly enjoyed this photograph of the trail and a small wooden bridge surrounded by wildflowers.

I made this visit with several friends.  Though it is barely visible in the small web image below, two of them managed to get into the photo and I hadn't noticed them when I took it (they are just under the branch of the tree).  But they are quite visible when the photo is printed, even to 8x10.  So, Tim and Bob, if you happen to read this.....prepare to be cloned!

Jennings Environmental Education Center

The end of July means it is time for my annual pilgrimage to see the prairie in bloom at Jennings Environmental Center. Jennings encompasses approximately 20 acres of prairie, which is distinctly out of place in Western Pennsylvania.  The prairie was apparently formed by prehistoric glacial activity and is the only such ecosystem in Pennsylvania.  As such, one can see the so called "Blazing Star" flower (Liatris spicita) typically seen on the prairi in full bloom at this time of year.  In addition, this is the home of the eastern massasauga rattlesnake, one of the three poisonous snake species found in Pennsylvania.  The snake is fairly shy and I have to say that I have  never actually seen one during any of my visits.

The image below is that of the previously mentioned "Blazing Star".  As a follow up to my recent post entitled "Out Of Your Comfort Zone", this image was taken with the lens wide open (in this case at f2) giving a blurred background with an out of focus 'echo' of the in focus flower.

Blazing Star

Liatris spicita

The Blazing Star

Copyright Howard Grill

Interested in visiting Jennings?  Here is a map of the grounds.