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.


Several days ago, I went out to Moraine State Park, a location that I have gone to photograph frequently. It was a foggy morning and the prevailing feeling I felt there, alone in the morning fog, was peaceful solitude. Although I frequently prefer higher contrast and more saturated images, I let the feeling of that morning guide me in the processing of the photo. I think that’s probably a good idea in general.

“Solitide” © Howard Grill

“Solitide” © Howard Grill

Moraine State Park; The Many Moods Of Lake Arthur

I have written many times (for example here, here, and here among others) about mornings at the 528 Boat Ramp in Moraine State Park and how most of them turn out to be rather unexciting, but that every so often spectacular things happen. A few weekends back, I was at 528 for what turned out to be the most magnificent morning I have seen there in years. The image below was made before the sun actually rose and demonstrates that the 'best' colors can often be captured during the hour before sunrise actually occurs. Plus, because the sun has not yet risen, the contrast is lower, allowing details to be well captured in both highlights and shadows.

Foggy Morning Sunrise Over Lake Arthur    © Howard Grill

That morning was also a great example of how quickly the light and conditions can change. Believe it or not, the image above was made only minutes before this one which I recently posted.

Lake Arthur Sunrise    © Howard Grill

Lake Arthur Sunrise    © Howard Grill

You have to be prepared and move quickly when the light is changing rapidly. I have other photos that I have not yet processed from that morning that are also 'keepers'.  If only all the mornings I woke up early were like that........

Not The Smokies

I have always loved going away to new locations to photograph, either with friends or on a workshop (where I meet new friends.....met quite a few on this last Death Valley one!). Nonetheless, when photographing 'away', there are always only a limited number of days, seasons, light conditions, and times of day in which one can photograph that location.  You can never assemble a true portfolio in the same way that someone who lives nearby can.  No wonder some photographers have chosen to live near iconic photo locales.

I have always felt that the place to truly assemble a portfolio in which a location can be portrayed in full is near your home.  Only then can you photograph in all the conditions I mentioned above.  Don't get me wrong, I love travelling to photograph, but when away the simple fact is that you can only capture what is offered in a limited time span.

The title of the image below is "Not The Smokies" because, well, it's not the Smokies even though that might have been the first thing I would have guessed, having been to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park several times.  It is actually a glorious morning sunrise through layers of fog in Moraine State Park; a place I frequently go in order to make photographs. Does it look like this often?  Not a chance.  But on that morning it did.  Because I am able to photograph there frequently, I was lucky enough to catch it like this. And I didn't even have to fight the crowds at Morton's Overlook!  In fact, as far as I could tell there was nobody around for miles. Mornings like this always remind me not to overlook places near home......

"Not The Smokies" Early Morning Fog In Moraine State Park    © Howard Grill

528 In Moraine State Park.......Yet Another Mood

I have previously written posts about the Rt. 528 boat ramp on Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park. More specifically, I had explained how on most mornings the scene is quite bland, but on some special mornings it just comes alive.

Well, several weeks back it went and did it again....strutting its stuff and showing what it can do when the sun and clouds cooperate.

For this image I used a neutral density filter to obtain an 80 second exposure, allowing the clouds and the water to blur.

Sunrise at Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park, Pennsylvania

528 Sunrise V

Copyright Howard Grill

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Moraine State Park: The Many Moods Of Lake Arthur

I have previously written about the 'secret' 528 boat ramp that my friends and I often visit to photograph sunrise.  Of course it is not 'secret', every fisherman in Portersville, PA knows about it as a way to get their boat into Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park.  But the boat launch is quite small and poorly marked.  It is one of those places that you just have to 'know about'. 

I would estimate that about 90% of the time the landscape there is dull and uninspiring. However, it is that other 10% that calls us back.  Last Sunday was one of those times that waking up at an ungodly hour was richly rewarded.

If you would like to see more of the 528 boat ramp during those 10% of the times when it is magical you can have a look here and here.

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High Key At Moraine

I woke up to fog two Sundays ago, which was a day I planned to go out photographing. This is one of the few times that I actually knew exactly what I wanted to make a picture of before I got there.  The fog (and perhaps a bit of looking at Huntington Witherall's work) had me interested in making a high key image.  My original thought was a wharf jutting out into the fog.  But when I got to Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park, the wharf I had in mind was not fogged in.  The fog seemed further out on the lake.  So I put on my 400mm f5.6 lens and went for my second choice.  A fishing boat emerging from the fog.  And with the idea of high key, black and white just seemed to suit the photo:

"Fishing In The Fog"

Copyright Howard Grill

Lake Arthur; The South Shore

About two weeks ago, I took an early morning trip to the South Shore of Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park, one of the areas I frequently go to photograph.  The sunrise was simply spectacular. 

It seems like when I go to photograph sunrise in the McConnell's / Moraine State Park area I get overcast or foggy, to the point where there is no color or 'drama', about 80% of the time.  Then you get one of these and it makes getting out of bed at 5AM worth it!

As they say, "f8 and be there"!

The South Shore

Copyright Howard Grill

A Lesson Learned

Two weekends ago I went out to do some photography in Moraine State Park.  Moraine is one of several parks that are about an hour or so from Pittsburgh and which I go to frequently for photography.  The creative muse was, however, not with me that day and I seemed to be driving around unable to find anything to photograph.  I had turned around and started on my way back home with nothing but a few forced shots on my card when, before I exited the park, I happen to see a small side road that usually had a shut and chained gate saying "Road Closed".  Today, the gate happened to be pulled wide open.  Not really expecting much, I decided to turn onto the road and see what was there. From a road standpoint the answer was 'not much'.  It was actually more of a long driveway to a parking circle than a road.  I suspect it is usually closed because it is only meant for official park vehicles.  But it did run through a field/meadow that had some amazing red grasses growing that gave the field a special feel and appearance.  In the middle of the field was an isolated small tree with leaves that were already turning yellow, despite the fact that it was still August.  I had noticed this tree from the main road but, because the tree was on a small hill,  there was no way to photograph it without a bland grey sky as the background.  From this new vantage point on the road that was usually closed, I could shoot downhill towards a backdrop of green trees, which contrasted nicely with both the yellow leaves and red grasses.

I could have easily left and missed making this photo, which I particularly like.  Sometimes we are given a gift at the last second....this one made the trip worthwhile!

The experience made me recall what my teacher, the late Nancy Rotenberg, used to say.  She would always remind us to "take whatever gift you are given".  It seems fitting that her lesson came back to me on what was approximately the one year anniversary of her passing.

Yellow Tree

Copyright Howard Grill