Rolling Hills Of The Palouse

Posted in Abstract Images, Nature Images, Palouse, Workshops on June 20th, 2014 by Howard

As I mentioned in my last two posts, I recently returned from a superb workshop in the Palouse region run by John Barclay and Dan Sniffin.  The workshop started with a visit to a location meant to orient us to how to see and photograph what is so characteristic of the area…..rolling hills that seem to go on forever.  The best way to portray them, at least in this particular area which did not have barns or grain elevators (and, yes, we visited many areas that did have both and that added another dimension to the photos), was as abstract images using a long lens.  The long lens (in this case a 400 mm f5.6) was able to isolate interesting areas of the landscape while also ‘compressing’ the distance between the hills.

As you can see from the crop, even a 400 was barely long enough on my full frame camera.  So if you visit, bring the longest lens you have and/or a body with a crop factor that uses less than a full frame sensor.

hills2 Rolling Hills Of The Palouse

Rolling Hills

Copyright Howard Grill

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Trout Lily

Posted in Botanicals, Nature Images on May 12th, 2014 by Howard

One of the wildflowers that I seem to have missed in years past is the trout lily. They are quite small, which is one reason I may have missed them, but they also have beautiful speckled leaves.  This year I was a bit early, as they were out, but the flowers had not yet fully opened.  However, even closed they possess a very dainty beauty.  They are a bit tough to photograph on their long stalks with the flowers drooped downwards, as the slightlest breeze makes them bounce all over.

It was this constant movement that made me want to make a photo with a shallow depth of field, which I felt would impart that feeling of motion by blurring most of the flower but still show the delicateness by leaving a small area of the plant sharp.  The connection of the stalk to the flower seemed to me to be the best area to focus on.

trout lily Trout Lily

Trout Lily

Copyright Howard Grill

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Let Wildflower Season Begin!

Posted in Botanicals, Nature Images on May 7th, 2014 by Howard

After a somewhat late start, the wildflower season in Western Pennsylvania has begun!  These trillium were growing in Cedar Creek park (finally an image from this year!) on May 2nd.  I used my 24mm tilt shift lens to obtain front to back sharpness.

trillium Let Wildflower Season Begin!

Trillium In Cedar Creek Park

Copyright Howard Grill

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Photographic Personality

Posted in Arizona, Nature Images, Workshops on April 6th, 2014 by Howard

Over time, I have been to many photographic workshops that I have really enjoyed. But several years ago I went one that was was the only workshop that I did not like attending.  And the reason for that helped me to understand a bit about my photographic ‘personality’.

This particular workshop was about five or six days in duration, and during that time we photographed at Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Monument Valley, and Canyon De Chelle.  What could be bad?  Well nothing really, as long as you like moving from spot to spot fairly rapidly and are OK with ending up being at some prime spots during the bright afternoons when conditions for photographing are not optimal.  It made me realize that my photographic ‘personality’ is to move slowly and take in all the nuances of a location; to steep myself in the feel of a place and photograph it under many conditions and times.  I would much rather have spent the entire week, or at least half a week, at one of those locations and gone back to multiple areas within it for sunrise and sunset and to get an opportunity to explore it more fully rather than get the classic roadside shots that have made the locations famous for being a photographer’s paradise.

Please understand, I am not complaining about or denigrating this particular workshop.  I am just talking about how participating in it made me realize more about my personal photographic technique.  Not that it’s always good.  I often do need someone to push me along a bit, lest I not move for hours to see what is around the bend.  But it is the way I am most comfortable working.  Others like to shoot and run, and that works for them.  But I do think it is helpful to understand the way you work best and plan accordingly.

This particular image was one where we ended up at the right place at the right time.

mittens1 Photographic Personality

Monument Valley ‘Mittens’

Copyright Howard Grill

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Spring

Posted in Nature Images on March 18th, 2014 by Howard

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.

spring Spring

Copyright Howard Grill

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Springs A Comin’

Posted in Botanicals, Nature Images on March 4th, 2014 by Howard

To quote The Beatles, “it’s been a long cold lonely winter”.  Yes, this winter has been quite bad, particularly in my neck of the woods, and perhaps in yours as well. Sub-zero wind chill, constant snow, and gray skies.  I know some people thrive photographically in the monochrome of winter, but I am not one of them.  Call me a wimp, but I just find it difficult to be creative when I am ….well, cold and uncomfortable.  And this year has been worse than most.

But we can soon put that behind us because, as the title of this post suggests, springs a comin’.  And soon.  And spring is my absolute favorite time of year for photographing.  One day I look forward to being able to photograph throughout spring and not just a day here and a day there.

One of my favorite spring subjects are trillium.  I find it particularly difficult to make compelling trillium images because of the forest debris that typically is scattered all among the flowers, but, still, every year I go out there and try.  Even when you don’t come away with winning shots (why does it always seem windy on the days I get to go out) it is hard not to enjoy shooting on a spring morning.  It’s the process, not necessarily the product!

The following trillium photos from years gone by were all taken at one of my favorite spring wildflower locations, Hell’s Hollow, an out of the way area that belongs to McConnell’s Mill State Park.

trillium 2 Springs A Comin

White Trillium

Copyright Howard Grill


Trillium erectum forma luteum Springs A Comin

Trillium erectum forma luteum

Copyright Howard Grill


20070506 XO9F5775 orig1 Springs A Comin

Sea Of White

Copyright Howard Grill

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What Is Real?

Posted in Creativity, Essays, Nature Images, Photoshop on January 13th, 2014 by Howard

Way back, in 2005 I believe (well, that IS way back in digital imaging years), I wrote an article entitled “Photography And Truth”, which was published in Digital Outback Photo. That article can be read and downloaded in pdf format here.

In the interim, software has become even more advanced.  What made me think about my 2005 article is a recent purchase I made of Thomas Knoll’s  (the developer of Photoshop) Knoll Light Factory.  It certainly isn’t inexpensive but I was very intrigued with what it could do.  It allows lighting effects with exquisite control of every aspect of a digitally produced light source.  Any and every aspect of the artifical light and its artifacts, including many that I would never have thought of, is under software control.  The developer really knows and understands light.  For an example of what the software can do, see this short training video by Mark Johnson.

I believe the main users of this software are those that use artificial lights as part of their images (ie portrait and product photographers) but there is also the possibility of using it to enhance landscape photography. This is my first attempt at trying this software.  It is easy to use and very deep in terms of control. Below is my original photograph of the 528 Boat Ramp at Lake Arthur in Moraine State Park.

528 What Is Real?

Copyright Howard Grill

My first attempt at using Knoll Light Factory was to add some sun, causing a subtle, but nonetheless important, change to the image, as seen below.

528 sun copy What Is Real?

Copyright Howard Grill

I was able to add the sun on the left, controlling the size of the disc, the clarity of the edge of the disc and the haziness of the glow around it to reflect the cloud cover and could have added flare effects had I wanted to.  For a first attempt I think the effect is realistic.

Will the sun ever, during the course of the year, be in that position……I don’t know.  Is it “OK” to do this with ‘fine art photographs’ that are not photojournalistic?  I certainly can’t answer that for everybody.  The thoughts and conclusions in my article “Photography And Truth” reflect my own thinking.  Is it OK for a painter to paint the sun into his image if it isn’t out?

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More Black And White Botanicals

Posted in Black And White, Nature Images on November 18th, 2013 by Howard

By Howard Grill

It has been ‘between seasons’ here lately.  Fall color has pretty much moved on but the trees are not yet bare (I like photographing bare trees) and (thankfully) the snow has not yet arrived.  So it has proven to be a good time to photograph at my local botanical garden in order to add some images to my black and white botanicals collection.

This mum had beautifully pristine white petals with bright pink at the center. The minute I saw it I wanted to process it using  a ‘high key’ approach.

20131027  MG 9932 orig as Smart Objectsilver toning copy 2 More Black And White Botanicals

Mums II

Copyright Howard Grill

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The Farmhouse

Posted in Fall, Nature Images on November 8th, 2013 by Howard

By Howard Grill

A few days back, I mentioned that I had taken a week off to photograph fall colors in Western Pennylvania.   I also mentioned that this year was perhaps the least colorful that I can remember since having moved here.  But that won’t stop me from posting some photos from the week.  This is from our first day out….the warm up phase, so to speak.

After two friends and I were shooting from the side of a rural road, the owner of this house drove out to us because he thought that perhaps our cars had broken down and he wanted to help.  When we told him that we were photographing the question (you can predict this one) was “Well, what are you taking pictures of”?  We explained we were taking pictures of the trees and fall color.  He looked a bit puzzled at that idea but was nice enough not only to offer us the unneeded car rescue, but also to invite us onto his property to photograph the trees and forest up a hill he owned.  By that time we were already starving and about to pack up for lunch (and didn’t see any stupendous scenery around) so we thanked him heartlily for his kindness and went on our way.

Interestingly we picked a random and pretty isolated place for lunch.  It looked like it might be a dive and so it was with some trepidation that we went into Rachel’s Roadhouse.  It turned out to be an absolutely fantastic place for lunch with great fresh cooked food and the inside looked like anything but a dive.  I would go back there in a heartbeat and the folks making comments on Trip Advisor seem to agree!

farmhouse The Farmhouse

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High Key At Moraine

Posted in Black And White, Nature Images, Twin Jewels Project on September 11th, 2013 by Howard

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:

high key1 High Key At Moraine

“Fishing In The Fog”

Copyright Howard Grill

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