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.

In Camera Multiple Exposures

One of the nice features that are on recent Canon cameras, including the 5DsR that I purchased, is the ability to do in-camera multiple exposures. I believe that this ability has been present since the 5D MkIII (and way longer if you are a Nikon owner), but, since my prior camera was the MkII, that was a creative option I never had. Sure, it is something I could have accomplished in Photoshop, but the spontaneity of the whole thing in-camera is something that I find interesting and more akin to the feel of shooting multiple exposures on film.

So I think it will be fun to experiment and play a bit with this option as a creative tool. The image below is one of the first ones that I have made and was taken on my recent trip to Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The leaves did finally start to show nice color the day before we left!


This is certainly not the greatest multiple exposure, but it does get my creative juices going a bit and makes me wonder what interesting images could be made by combining multiple images into one frame.

Using A Texture To Add Warmth

Some time back I had posted an image of the interior of The First Presbyterian Church Of Pittsburgh, along with a short story about how I came to be able to photograph the interior of the church that day. I always liked that picture of the interior, but in that same post I also showed a photo of the beautiful exterior doors of the church.....however, I never really felt that the photo of the doors was quite right.  It just didn't pull out the deep warm hues and the depth of the wood of the imposing doors.

In the past, I had tried several things to try to achieve the effect I felt the door deserved.  This included increasing contrast with an "S" curve, increasing saturation, painting with a warm color on a separate layer using the color blend mode and blending the image with itself using soft light or overlay blend modes. No matter what I tried, the image just never seemed .....well, I think "rich enough" or "deep enough"  are probably the best words I could use to describe it.

But I finally got it to look the way I have always envisioned it.  And I did so in a bit of an unusual way.  I had been playing around with some textures and wondered if one with warm, rich colors might give me the effect I was looking for. I picked one that I thought might work and tried blending it into the image with the soft light blend mode.  Lo and behold, it gave me the exact feel and color depth I was looking for without really screaming 'this is a texturized image'.  In fact, even viewed large, for all intents and purposes, you really can't tell that there is an underlying texture applied at all.

The final image is seen below, and I will show you what came before.


Doors of The First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh

© Howard Grill


Below is the image before the texture was applied, but after I had made all Lightroom and Photoshop adjustments. There is what appears to be a bit of glare off the surface of the varnished wood and not as much 'depth' as I had hoped for.

Doors of The First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh

Doors of The First Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh


The texture below is the one that I used for the blend.  Nothing else was done to the image other than blending in the texture using a soft light blend mode at 100% opacity and making a very trivial curves adjustment .  The difference exhibited by the final image is relatively subtle, but I think very important to its feel. Sometimes the little things do make a difference. 



Technibition......sure it's a word.  But I wouldn't try using it in Scrabble just yet because I just coined the term.  So do your best to make it go viral and don't forget to attribute it to me! What is technibition?  It is when the various choices made available by technology leads to the 'paralysis of analysis'.  Perhaps it can best be explained by example.  You are out in the field and presented with a beautiful landscape.  In the old 35mm slide days you found the best composition and took the shot after deciding on the appropriate aperture and shutter speed for the exposure. Maybe you take two or three photos, bracketing the exposure. After all, film is expensive and in the end you can only choose one exposure (of course, as we moved later in time there was the opportunity for scanning the slide and making more decisions from there).  But these days, if one is technically savvy, there are more options. One can do exposure bracketing for HDR, multiple exposures for focus stacking, and since there is no cost for each exposure why not multiple shots changing the point of focus a bit to see what works better in the final image.....same with the aperture and depth of field, multiple shot panoramas, multiple shot HDR panoramas, can get a headache just thinking about it.

And then when you get home and download the images you will have a whole array of the same shot to choose from.  And that is where things get difficult, because it is now work to choose the 'right' one from the bunch.  Do you compare every single one to see which is sharpest.  Do you really need focus stacking or did that shot at f16 have adequate depth of field?  Is that f22 shot better or is it softer because of diffraction?  Or maybe the image is good, but not good enough to merit going through the work of doing all those comparisons.

There you have it. That last sentence is the result of 'technibition'. Technology has thrown a sandbag in your path because of all the options it offers and perhaps for that reason you end up not making a print at all.    And technibition is far more common when the lighting is perfect or when you are on that once in a lifetime trip.....because you want to make sure you got it right. I know, because I have been 'technibited' many times!

Having been technibited, I have given this some thought.  I believe the answer is not that there is too much technology at all.  It is simply the result of the photographer's uncertainty as to what the goal or endpoint is.  If one has a better idea of what their vision is and exactly why they are making an image then the technology becomes a partner to achieve a superior result.  If the vision isn't clear, then the technology becomes a confusing distraction.  That is not to say that one can't have a clear vision but also have more than one usage in mind and therefore make the photograph using more than one technique or technology.  But in my mind, the key is to then have multiple discreet, thought out ideas and not do random shooting.  One thing is for sure, it isn't always easy!

Well, that is my opinion.....and it is just that, one person's opinion.  I would love to hear other opinions.....what do you think??

Black And White Layer Blend

Those that read this blog regularly know that I don't post very often about Photoshop techniques, as there are many superb blogs dedicated to that alone.  However, I did recently learn of a technique that can provide a subtle but interesting effect, particularly, in my opinion,  for 'vintage style' images.  It could, of course, provide some interesting looks for other image types as well. The effect tends to bring in greater contrast or 'punch' while also giving the colors a bit more of a 'vintage' look.  But it does it in a reasonably subtle way.  For example, in the following two images compare the look of the bricks, the doors, and the sidewalk/concrete at the bottom of the wall.  I think they have a more interesting appearance in the second image.  If you like it as well, read on and I will tell you how this was achieved with the addition of one simple layer in Photoshop.



Copyright Howard Grill



Copyright Howard Grill

This relatively subtle effect is easy to achieve.  Simply add a black and white adjustment layer to convert the image to black and white.  Obviously, you will now see a black and white version of the photo.  Change the blend mode to Soft Light.  Now you have your color image back with the effect applied.  You can go back to the black and white adjustment layer and make further refinements to the conversion while still seeing the final color result on screen and watch as the effect changes.  The layer opcaity can also be tweaked to taste.

Give it a try....


Every photographer has a different style.  It usually takes a good deal of time to understand what exactly that style is when the photographer is yourself.  As I have mentioned in the past, one of the things I understand about my own photography is that I like portraying clean, simple lines and shapes in my images.  One of the ways to do this is to simplify the photograph.   By this I mean removing clutter and isolating the parts of the image that portray just what you are feeling about the subject. It is often said that what is outside the frame can be just as important as what is inside the frame.  I first saw this demonstrated almost 10 years ago when I 'returned' to photography after a long hiatus (see my bio).  At that point, I attended a photography workshop by John and Barbara Gerlach.  During one of their lectures, John showed a photo of a cluttered, messy forest scene with no organization whatsoever. It revealed what the location looked like when he walked into a forest clearing.  He asked the workshop participants if they could see a picture within the clutter.  He then showed a series of images that slowly honed in on the final composition, with each photo placing more and more of the landscape outside the frame until he ultimately ended up with a beautifully composed image.  Truth be told, I don't even remember what the final image was anymore.  But I don't think John would mind; the fact is that I remember that very important lesson......a lesson that was meaningful enough to me that it ultimately became part of my style of photographic expression.

What brought all this to mind?  In my last post, I showed this photo that I took at Jennings Environmental Education Center (for more on Jennings see the 8/3/11 post):

Blazing Star

Blazing Star

Liatris spicata

Copyright Howard Grill

What I didn't show was what the prairie scene looked like when I first came upon it.  When I looked out on the prairie, the first thought that came into my mind (after admiring and being amazed at its beauty) in regards to composing a picture was the lesson that John Gerlach had taught that day.

Some photographers have styles that are very effective at communicating a feeling using the whole prairie at once.  But without a foreground that could be set apart from the rest of the image, I felt a strong need to simply simplify.

Out Of Your Comfort Zone

One way to move forward with artistic expression is to push outside of the 'comfort zone'.  Depending on how far 'out there' one is at baseline, that push outside the comfort zone might be what some people consider unique or it could represent what many might consider bland.  But,  in this sort of exercise what matters isn't how different the results appear to one's audience.  What matters is that it is something different for the photographer. So, in going over the types of images that I make, I realized that I typically try to maximize sharpness throughout the photo.  For my 'exercise', I decided to try the exact opposite approach.  Which is to say, I wanted to make photos with minimal depth of field.  To take it to an extreme, I thought the best approach would be to simply shoot with the lens wide open.  This particular photograph was made at f2 using a 100mm lens.



Copyright Howard Grill

I find that I really enjoy the photos I made with limited depth of field.  The exercise has introduced me to a new approach which I think I will be definitely be using more frequently.

So, try something new just for the fun of it.  It's's free.  And you don't necessarily have to show the results to anyone.  But you might just find that you want to!

Lloyd Chambers

There is a sense that everything available on the internet should be free of charge.  Well, there is certainly a lot of free material, but how much of it is good....I mean really good. When I first found the information that Lloyd Chambers makes available as subscription sites, I wasn't overly interested because you had to pay.  But something kept nagging at me.  The "Table of Contents" to his on-line writings sounded good.....I mean really good.  I figured what could I lose but a few bucks, and so I subscribed to one of his subscription only sites.  It was well worth every cent.

Lloyd has put together material that will educate you, help you make choices, and help you to become a better photographer.  His work centers around the technique and technical, as opposed to the aesthetic.  His in depth writing covers topics deeply, leading to your having truly garnered a better understanding of any subject he writes about.  Within a short time I ended up subscribing to three of his topical sites and am glad that I did.  My favorite?  His work entitled "Making Sharp Images".

Check out all his writing.......

His free blog is here.

"Making Sharp Images" is here.  VERY HIGHLY recommended!

His "Guide To Digital Infrared Photography" is here.  If infrared is an interest of yours, this contains a wealth of information.

The "Guide to Zeiss ZF/ZE Lenses" is here.  Don't bother spending your hard earned money on a Zeiss lens until you read what Lloyd has to say about each one.

Finally, his "Guide To Advanced Photography" is here.

Here is a selection of Lloyd's articles that he makes available as sample freebies.

If the table of contents of any of these series captures your interest, just will definitely be glad you did.

Using The Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo Filter

I own the Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo filter and find it quite a useful creative tool.  I thought I was using it properly, but then ran across a YouTube video of photographer Jason Odell explaining how he uses it.  I found the video very helpful. While I had been using the filter reasonably correctly, I did find a few great tips in the video that I will put into use, such as picking a specific white balance setting and not using auto-balance (which is good practice anyway, but more important here) and picking your aperture and shutter speed manually and then rotating the filter to achieve the exposure, instead of vice-versa.

Anyway, I found some nice tips here and thought I would share it.  If you own and use the filter, have a peak at this instructional is well worth the 5 minutes.  Check it out at the link below:

Var-N-Duo Filter

A Rainy Day

Readers seemed to like the  last time I went through the steps of how I processed an image, so I thought I would do so again. I do most of my nature photography early in the morning.  The reason, besides the light being best in early morning and late afternoon, is that it is easiest to get out in the morning while the rest of the family sleeps.  So, this last weekend when it was just me at home  and the rest of the family was away, I saw the opportunity to get out and shoot in the early evening hours instead.  I decided I was going late no matter what, even if the weather report did call for rain.

I headed out to Moraine State Park, about an hour from my home and, of course, the skies opened up with pouring rain just as I arrived (doesn't it always happen that way).  However, since no one was waiting for me at home, I decided to 'wait it out'.  During the rain, I drove around looking for the type of scene I had in my mind when I drove out to the park.  I wanted to make photographs of the soft appearing, pastel colored buds that were emerging on the trees.  And I wanted red ones!

After a bit of driving with the windshield wipers going, I found exactly what I was after. So, I pulled over onto the grass and waited until the rain turned into just a drizzle.  Once it was a drizzle (it never did actually stop), I got out the tripod and equipment and started taking some photos, all the while planning that the final image was going to be an interpretive one.  By that I mean I wanted the final image to depict not just how it looked , but also how it felt to be at that location.

It felt light and airy, as there was a gentle breeze, and it felt bright in a strange way since the sun was just starting to peak through the clouds.  The rain made all the colors very saturated.  And I had an image in my head of the whole scene being very soft focus.  That's how it felt, and that's the way I wanted the image to look.

And so here is the way the photo came out of the camera with no adjustments in the RAW converter.  Not terrible, but it definitely didn't convey the feeling I was looking for:

Straight Out Of Camera

Copyright Howard Grill

How then to get the image to 'speak'?  I used the sliders in Lightroom to make it brighterr and actually added negative clarity in order to give it a soft, ethereal feel.  This was somewhat of an experiment for me, as I don't often dial in negative clarity.  By the time I was done using the RAW converter the image looked like this:

After Processing in Lightroom's RAW Converter

Copyright Howard Grill

I am getting closer here, but it still isn't as bright, open, and airy as I would like it to be.  I brought the image into Photoshop and

1) made the whites whiter using curves

2) added contrast to the midtones using curves

3) removed a bit of the yellow/green cast from the whole image and even more from the tree trunks

These manipulations yielded the final image, which seemed to convey what I had in mind!

Trees, bloom, buds

Final Processed Image

Copyright Howard Grill