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.

The John Lennon Wall In Prague

The John Lennon Wall is a wall in Prague, Czech Republic, that has been filled with Lennon inspired graffiti since the 1980s. The message it transmits is that of peace and love, and the politics that go along with that. Under the communist regime, there would often appear grievances in writing on the wall.

The original wall art and John Lennon pictures are now buried under layers of paint, but the message remains the same as layers continue to be added.  I found this small part of the wall to carry a strong message worth photographing!

John Lennon Wall I

There are also a good number of small bands that come to play and sing by the wall. While I was there I made a fun thirty second video of a group doing just that. But it seems difficult to put the video here in the post, as I would have to host it somewhere first. I did, however, upload it to my Instagram page, (the link is direct to the video), so feel free to have a quick look there if you're interested. Feel free to follow me there as well :)

New York, Zoomed

A few weekends ago I visited my son in New York City. Up in the hotel room there was a pretty nice view out the window. But it was the typical big city buildings and lights type of view. I decided that in addition to the standard shots from the window I would also try to do something a bit different. Something that might give the 'big city' feel but be rendered a bit abstract. So I decide to zoom the lens while shooting handheld long exposures.

Needless to say, I had to take quite a few photos before I got any that just looked 'right' and that appealed to me. But, by looking at the results on the LCD, I was able to make adjustments to the zoom speed and eventually I did make some that I liked. And thus we have "New York, Zoomed". It's always fun to play a bit and see what happens!


New York, Zoomed    © Howard Grill


Pittsburgh Skyline And Gulf Weather Beacon

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to take some more shots of the Pittsburgh skyline from Mount Washington. This time I went  more long than wide in terms of focal length.  For this shot I focused in tight to make a composition of a grouping of downtown Pittsburgh skyscrapers placed in the center of the photo with the edges of two other buildings making up the left and right edge frames.  Like the last image I posted from Mount Washington at sunrise, this one is also an HDR composite using several exposures blended into one because the contrast was otherwise too great to allow details to be seen in both highlights and shadows. The sunrise was really pretty amazing and lit the sky up in orange tones, though the temperature was a bit cooler than I would have liked it to be.


Pittsburgh Skyline And Weather Tower    © Howard Grill

Speaking of temperature and weather, see the building that is dead center with the multi-colored lights on top of it?  That is the old Gulf building and the lights are actually a weather beacon that relay information about temperature, precipitation, humidity, and wind velocity based on the color of the lights.  Here is a guide to decoding the information.  Using the information in the decoding manual we get a temperature of between 33-49 degrees Fahrenheit, less than 0.25 inches of precipitation, humidity less than 50%, and a wind speed of less than 10 miles an hour.

Personally, I think it's easier to open my Weather Bug app!

The Doors Of Pittsburgh OR Why I Photograph

I have a fair number of photographs of interesting doors from in and around the Pittsburgh area.  These types of images are pretty common and, in fact, I am sure most people have seen those posters of "Doors Of (fill in the blank)".  But I guess those posters are around because interesting doors are, well, ....interesting.....and fun. They always makes you wonder both what and who is behind them.  

It occurred to me that, though I have a lot of this type of image, I have actually processed very few of them. As I started to consider the possibility of processing a few, I remembered this one photo in particular that I had been meaning to process "for a little while now".

In fact, though I don't remember the exact street in downtown Pittsburgh where I took this, I do remember taking the photo in vivid detail.  I remember the weather, I remember waiting for the cars to go by so I could get into the street to take it, and I remember it was a Sunday. I remember the whole process.  And at this point in life I can't say that I have the world's greatest memory. So I was surprised when I looked at the metadata and saw that the photo was taken just two months shy of NINE YEARS AGO!

And that is one of the reasons I photograph.  It makes life and memories that much more vivid and indelible.  Had I walked by this storefront without making a photograph I'm sure it would just be a faded memory long forgotten.


Big Science Recording Studio    © Howard Grill


The Snake House, Amsterdam

A few days ago I posted an image of a door with urban art from my trip to Amsterdam. But the truth is that the entire building, of which the door was only a small part, was a work of art. Based on the sign however, it seems like the Snake House is in danger!  You can visit the website on the sign to find out more (though it really doesn't tell you why people want it removed, only that they want to save it).

Back From The Netherlands

I just returned from a very nice one week stay in the Netherlands.  This wasn't a photo trip, but I did bring along my small mirrorless camera and managed to take a few shots while touring. This one is from the walkway on the outside of the Euromast in Rotterdam showing a view towards the Erasmus Bridge. The architecture in Rotterdam was quite interesting and modern (because, unlike Amsterdam, most of the city was destroyed in bombing runs during WW II).

Erasmus Bridge

The Wall

When you are in your 50's, when you are a Pink Floyd fan, and when you suddenly find a tribute in your own area.....well, you can't help but post it.

Copyright Howard Grill

View Towards Mount Wahington

This is another in my continuing series of Pittsburgh, PA bridge photos.  This one is taken standing on the Smithfield Street Bridge but does not include it in the photo.  In this case, my interest was drawn to another set of bridges that could be seen in the distance, looking towards Mount Washington.  I was particularly intrigued by the layers of trees, bridges, and tones capped by the houses near the top.

Copyright Howard Grill

Smithfield Street Bridge Sculpture

When making photos of the Smithfield Street Bridge, I was surprised to find the metallic sculpture below incorporated into one of the steel beams.  I have been across the bridge in my car many times and had never noticed it.  I guess that is what photography is supposed to do.....make one see clearer and deeper! I have been trying to learn more information about this sculpture and what it represents, but no luck thus far.....

Sculpture On Smithfield Street Bridge

Copyright Howard Grill

The Smithfield Street Bridge

by Howard Grill I recently went to make photographs of  Pittsburgh's Smithfield Street Bridge and, from a compositional standpoint, found it a bit tougher to photograph than the Clemente Bridge. Of course, sometimes it is merely one's mental state and their receptiveness to seeing that is the issue.  I will be making more trips to the Smithfield to see what I come up with.

This image is one that I made at the Smithfield Bridge some time ago but never processed. Given my new-found interest,  I am going to be revisiting my older bridge images that I never 'did anything with'.  Such are the benefits of Lightroom keywording!

The bridge itself was designed by Gustav Lindenthal, built between 1881-1883, and was widened in 1889 and then again in 1911.  It was rehabilitated in 1994-5. The Smithfield Street Bridge is actually the third bridge to sit at this site, with the first one being made of wood and having burned down and the second being a wire rope suspension bridge that ultimately proved inadequate for the traffic.  The current bridge is of the lenticular truss type and is said to be the second oldest steel bridge in the US.

Smithfield Street Bridge

Copyright Howard Grill


by Howard Grill If there is one thing that Pittsburgh has, it is bridges.  I have just started exploring the idea of how they might be portrayed photographically.  This, of course, is not an original idea, but one that has been played out many times by many people.  But I love the architecture, the 'rawness', and the abstract nature of the lines that these bridges make, so I am toying around with how one might get some 'different' perspectives on them as well as what type of processing might work. Here, I went for the 'vintage' look.  We will see what comes of these efforts.

Copyright Howard Grill

No Parking - Latrobe Banana Split Festival

Well, I stopped by the "Banana Split Festival" in Latrobe, PA a weekend or two ago.  "What", you say.  Yes indeed.....the banana split was invented in Latrobe, PA in 1904 by David Evans Strickler at the now defunct Tassel Pharmacy.  It is well documented.  And, this being the 100th anniversary of the invention, there was, of course, a festival! Unfortunately, sometimes bank robbers don't respect a festival..... I was working nearby so I decided to stop and have a quick walk around with my 'carry with'  Olympus micro 4/3 camera.  I didn't take too many festival pictures, as not too much attracted me from a photographic standpoint.  But I did find this brick wall with sign and vine growth inexplicably interesting.  By the way, I did use a 25% opacity blended black and white layer on this image as described here.

Copyright Howard Grill

Mural Segments

I find colorful murals interesting.  You know, the kind that are painted on the sides of city buildings.  But I find just taking a photo of the mural a bit dull.  Or rather, the photo is only as interesting as the mural itself is, and such a photo becomes, in my opinion, simply a way to display another artist's work. After finding murals that I like, I tend to start to get close and see them in little pieces.  I find the abstract look of these small pieces interesting and, though it is still clearly the work of another artist, these photos seem to me to become another way of looking at the mural which is different from being there and taking it all in as a whole.

Mural (Segment)

Ruins Of Detroit

If you have seen my Carrie Furnace Project (get the e-Book), you know that I like photographing old, abandoned places.  French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have some amazing photos of old abandoned places.  Unfortunately, those places happen to be in the city of Detroit.  Nonetheless, they are quite stirring and conjure up images of what once was.  Photographs from their project "Ruins of Detroit" can be seen here.

Lee Plaza Hotel

From "Ruins Of Detroit

Copyright Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

Atrium, Farwell Building

From "Ruins Of Detroit

Copyright Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

James Maher: Street Photographer

I don't do much 'street photography' myself, but it is a genre that I appreciate and have great respect for.   I happen to run across the street photography of James Mahr, whose work is mostly centered on New York City.  I guess it didn't hurt that I had just recently spent a long weekend there and lamented the fact that I didn't have my camera with me. At any rate, his is a site that is well worth digging into, and not just for the photography (which is great).  There are a host of informative articles, a very worthwhile eBook (which I purchased), and an interesting newsletter that you can sign up for.  So check out the photography of James Maher!

The View From Mount Washington

As many readers likely know, Pittsburgh is a city of bridges.  These bridges are integral to crossing our three rivers (for you geography buffs, those would be the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers). Pittsburgh is also a city of hills.  One of the most noted heights in the city is Mount Washington, where lucky condo owners on one side of Grandview Avenue overlook the city below.  But if you live on the other side of the street or, in my case, another part of the city, there is no need to fret.  There are plenty of public viewing platforms along the avenue. Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to awaken at 4:30 AM to meet my "Sunday Morning Shooting Buddies" at 5:15 to watch and photograph the sun rising over the city.  This image is from before the sun came up over the horizon:

Pittsburgh Sunrise Seen From Mount Washington