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.

Black & White Magazine People's Choice Award

I was very pleased to learn that my image "Cactus Spines" won the "People's Choice Award" in the Flowers/Plants/Fruit category of Black & White Magazine's 2018 Single Image Contest (Issue 125).

The photo is a focus stack of approximately 30 or so images, each focused a mm apart (using a focusing rail) in order to maintain sharpness throughout the entire length of the spines. Without doing this type of compositing, it would be impossible to keep the spines sharply focused from tip to base, even using a small aperture for maximum depth of field.

"Cactus Spines"    © Howard Grill

"Cactus Spines"    © Howard Grill

More Cacti

The "Cactus Project" continues, in black and white of course!

The focus stacking that I talked about in my last cactus image has gotten me thinking much more carefully about the idea of focus in a composition. Is the image really one where I think selective focus with a limited depth of field would best portray what I am trying to convey, or would front to back sharpness better convey what I am trying to transmit? I had previously been 'bothered' when I wanted to use front to back sharpness and things were 'almost' all sharp. It's not easy being compulsive :). Now, I am more apt to use focus stacking when I seek true front to back sharpness, with the caveat being that compromise is necessary in some situations, such as where there is subject motion. I think my photo buddies and I would be willing to pay Phipps to just turn those fans they use to ensure air movement off for two hours on Sunday mornings :)

In this first photograph of Senecio talinoides flowers, I wanted the depth of field to be limited so as to have the stems and background fade away.

The Flowers of Senecio talinoides    © Howard Grill

On the other hand, in the image below I wanted sharpness throughout, at least for all the spines. That couldn't be achieved in one shot this close up because the angle the cacti were growing at precluded the option of getting the camera parallel to the surface of the 'stem'. Therefore, this image is a blended focus stack of probably 10 or so shots, each made two mm apart without adjusting the focus of the lens.


Opuntia 'Pricckly Pear' Cactus    © Howard Grill


Cactus - Black And White

In the winter I tend to visit Phipps Conservatory quite a bit. For one's warm in there! And their array of flowers and plants allows one to escape winter, if only for a short time.

Recently I seem to find myself drawn to the cactus room, and, because cacti and succulents are more about line and shape (to my eye anyway), I enjoy portraying them in black and white:

Cactus      © Howard Grill


I often have ideas for several photographic projects floating around in my mind. Sometimes the idea comes first and I have not yet made any photos that would fit it. Other times the idea comes after I have made a series of photos, when it suddenly occurs to me that I might have the start of a small project without having planned it. 

Such is the case with this cactus photo processed in black and white. This is the first photograph I have chosen to process from a small series of cactus images I already have taken.

Euphorbia species of cactus

I will simply have to see if I am able to make and process enough photos of this subject to actually put together a full portfolio. Time will tell!