The Virtues of Translucency

Normally, to create the illusion of transparency against a single background is feat enough. In this image I “upped the ante,” by adding white roses above an existing floral arrangement that was already translucent. The second layer of roses makes an additional level of transparency: you can see through the white roses, as if they were a veil, and to the flowers below, which themselves only partially conceal the white backdrop.

Veil of Roses © Harold Davis

Veil of Roses © Harold Davis

One of the tricks with an image like this is to end up with something that looks painterly and elegant, not smudgy. If you try it for yourself, you may find that this is tougher that you might think!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Rain on Variegated Bamboo

Last week there was a much-needed overnight rain. Early in the morning I prowled the neighborhood with my camera and tripod, and as the showers were winding down photographed these water drops on a leaf of a variegated bamboo.

Rain on Variegated Bamboo © Harold Davis

Rain on Variegated Bamboo © Harold Davis

You can learn more about water drop photography—in the spirit of “shaken, not stirred” these are natural, not artificial water drops—in my Focal Press book Photographing Waterdrops.

Posted in Photography, Water Drops

Old and New: A Tale of Two Kirk BH-3 Ball Heads

My Kirk BH-3 tripod ball head has served me well on four continents on the trail, in the studio, in mountains, deserts, and along the rugged Pacific host, from the barrios of Havana to the souks of Morocco and the Boulevards of Paris. So one day recently, when my BH-3 reported to duty with a definite kink in the retaining plate bracket and knob, it was with sadness that I replaced him in favor of a brand spanking new model. Time goes by, and since change is incremental one doesn’t see the markings until there is a new one for comparison.

Old and New - Kirk BH-3 Ball Heads © Harold Davis

Old and New – Kirk BH-3 Ball Heads © Harold Davis

As I’ve noted, technique is not at the apex of the Maslowvian triangle of photographic needs (vision is), but technique is still my craft, and I am very fond of the tools that help me practice my craft, and want to give my old BH-3 ball head the most honorable send off possible, as it retires and becomes a paper weight and conversation piece rather than an ongoing part of my day-to-day photographic life.

Kirk BH-3 Ball Head - Facing Retirement © Harold Davis

Kirk BH-3 Ball Head – Facing Retirement © Harold Davis

Posted in Bemusements, Equipment, Photography

Hierarchy of Photographic Needs

The American psychologist Abraham Maslow famously wrote of a hierarchy of needs, with basic physiologic needs at the bottom of the hierarchy and self-actualization at the apex of the triangle of needs. Love, connection, and cathexis come somewhere in the middle of the Maslowvian hierarchy. A recent blog story of mine about a photo of a red onion seems to have brought up some issues related to a photographic hierarchy of needs, based on both what I wrote originally and on some comments.

Old-Fashioned Rose  © Harold Davis

Old-Fashioned Rose © Harold Davis

Many folks liked the story about the onion and everyday objects: “Your onion photograph, together with your comments, was an extraordinarily clear re-enforcement lesson.” One reader wanted to know why their personal inner world, or vision, should interest anyone else (you can read the full question and my lengthy response in the comments to the story). A comment on my Facebook timeline for this post suggests that “finding subject matter is no problem. It’s everywhere. Shooting it well, well….”

Which leads me back around to the hierarchy of photographic needs. The basic “physiologic” need is to be able to make a capture. Because without a capture you don’t have a photograph.

So many people starting photography assume that if they get a “better” camera they will make better photos because their captures are better, with more megapixels, or whatever.

So what happens when you get the more expensive gear and you discover that your photos are still not what you are looking for (or perhaps even seem banal)? The next category up the hierarchy of photographic needs is technique. If you are the kind of person who is not very self-reflexive you might assume that if only you could learn to be a better photographer technically, your images would get more interesting.

The disappointment here is that photos can be technically impeccable and still ultimately banal. So up the hierarchy some of us go one more time, with the realization that it is important to bring one’s own unique vision into the work.

Ultimately, any photo worth its salt is both about something external—this essentially comes in the definition of the photographic process—and a personal way of seeing that bespeaks the holistic person behind the vision. As I wrote in the comments to the Red Onion story, this necessitates a balance: “Work that is too preciously about oneself is ultimately shallow—Cindy Sherman comes to mind. On the other hand, work that is not self-revelatory to some degree is unlikely to have much real emotional power, and it is important to truly live and to imbue one’s art with one’s life.”

Ultimately, photographic gear is necessary, but very far from sufficient. Photographic technique is only the framework for exhibiting vision, and not the vision itself. Vision must come from a well-lived life—even when the image is of an object as ordinary as a red onion, or as apparently simple on the surface as the Old-Fashioned Rose photo shown above.

Posted in Photography, Writing

Flora Exhibit at Photo Oakland

Welcome the summer with PHOTO’s beautiful and curious new collection of plant imagery! The exhibition will run May 14 – June 20, 2015. I’ll have a few pieces of my botanical art in this exhibition. Please consider joining me at the artist’s reception on Thursday, May 21, 2015, 6PM – 8PM. Here’s more information about the exhibition.

Papaver Somniferum and Friends © Harold Davis

Papaver Somniferum and Friends © Harold Davis

Exhibition: May 14 – June 20, 2015

Reception: Thursday, May 21, 2015, 6PM – 8PM

PHOTO Fine Art Photography

473 25th Street, Oakland, CA 94612

info@photogalleryoakland.com

For further details: www.photogalleryoakland.com/exhibition/flora-show/

Tulip Pano © Harold Davis

Tulip Pano © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers

Photograph Italy with Harold Davis this Autumn

I am offering a unique opportunity to join me and a very exclusive group as we photograph Italy this autumn (the dates are October 28 – November 11, 2015). If you are tired of being part of the photographic herd, then this is the trip for you! The group size is strictly limited to six participants. We only have two spots left!

Harold Davis-2015 Italy TourWe will be photographing in Cinque Terre, Naples, the island of Capri, and in Positano and the Amalfi coast. Accommodations, transportation, and many meals are included. I will be working with a top-flight local Italian licensed tour guide with an art history background to make sure that we have the best experience possible. Please see www.digitalfieldguide.com/learning/workshops-events/italy for full details.

As a workshop leader, my goal is to is to facilitate a community of photographers, have fun photographing in interesting and exciting places, share some technical information, and—most importantly—encourage each participant’s unique and individual creative expression. As one of my workshop participants has put it, “Harold is genuine, generous, and gracious. He has a world of knowledge and expertise that he loves to share. His wonderful books show his monumental talents and skill set, and his workshops show the depth of his connecting with others in a very real and personal way.”

Please join me in Italy this autumn. I look forward to working with you one-on-one in exciting locations to realize your photography dreams and goals.

Posted in Workshops

Hyper-Reality

It is certainly possible to capture a world in a grain of sand, or a water drop. Perhaps less obviously, there is also a chance of rendering the apparently mundane and seeing worlds, clouds, and maybe mountains within it. The technique here is to make the subject over-the-top clear, so the detail in the photograph seems hyper real. I find myself baffled by students who seek help finding subject matter, as the everyday world around us is always full of source material that is grist for the artistic mill.

Hyper Reality © Harold Davis

Hyper Reality © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Flowers at a Restaurant

I photographed these orchids through translucent etched glass at the handsome Murray Circle Restaurant at the Cavallo Point Inn, part of Fort Baker in Sausalito, California. The location is right across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. If you are interested, you can read my review of the restaurant on Trip Advisor (opens in a new window).

Flowers at a Restaurant © Harold Davis

Flowers at a Restaurant © Harold Davis

Photographed using my iPhone camera app, and processed in Waterlogue.

Posted in Flowers, iPhone, Photography

Palace of King Charles V in the Alhambra

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain was first a fortress, and then a fairy-tale palace built as a citadel on a hill by the Moorish rulers of Andalusia. Conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella at about the time Columbus sailed the to the “new” world, the place fell into neglect until it was rediscovered by the romantic movement (and the author Washington Irving) in the early 1800s. Alhambra, California is named after this place, and the genuine Alhambra in Granada is today one of the most popular tourist attractions in Spain.

Alhambra © Harold Davis

Alhambra © Harold Davis

The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V was also the King of Spain, and ruled the largest empire in terms of land mass of all times. He ordered an imperial palace to be build within the footprint of the Alhambra.

Palace of Charles V  © Harold Davis

Palace of Charles V © Harold Davis

The exterior of the Palace of Charles V is massive. It is fairly regular and unspectacular on the outside, and seems (unsurprisingly) quite imperial in its aesthetic. What is unusual is the curvilinear nature of the interior courtyard putting the building (as Wikipedia puts it) in the avant-garde of its time. You can see the image of the Palace of Charles V above in a larger size by clicking on it.

Palace of Charles V (color) © Harold Davis

Palace of Charles V (color) © Harold Davis

Posted in Monochrome

Creative Portfolio Weekend Workshop

We have a few spaces available in the Creative Portfolio Weekend Workshop, Saturday May 9 and Sunday May 10, 2015. Click here for information and registration.

The gist of this workshop is how to you edit work, how do you put it together into a cohesive body, and what are the mechanics of creating an effective presentation—whether it is for marketing the work, or for creating something that is unique and beautiful in-and-of itself.

This is not a printmaking workshop per se, or a workshop limited to a specific printer, or even necessarily to those making their own prints (although of course I do think this is a good idea)—so the term “portfolio” is conceived broadly to cover the both online presence, and work presented as a cohesive, printed portfolio or book. The group will be working on exercises before the workshop—so sign up to get started now!

Each workshop participant will receive a copy of the Creative Workbook that is the companion to my new book from Focal Press, Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer.

Click here for information and registration.

Scoring the portfolio

 

Posted in Workshops

LAB Inversions

I am often asked about my technique for obtaining creative effects using LAB color adjustments in Photoshop. While the theory behind this set of techniques is a bit complicated, there’s nothing complex in practice about using LAB color adjustments creatively. I’ve written about these techniques both in The Photoshop Darkroom and also in The Way of the Digital Photographer.

To make your life easier if you want to experiment with creative LAB, I’ve also written a Photoshop action that you can download for free using this link (check out the included readme file for installation instructions). This action essentially presents the possible LAB channel adjustments as a palette of possibilites for you to choose from when making your creative choices, and I’ve used my own action—Photoshop’s word for a macro—to create the different creative versions of the images shown here.

For example, with the cone flower (Echinacea) shown here, last year I planted it in a pot on the porch, assuming it would essentially be an annual. Somewhat to my surprise, it has come back strongly for a second year in its pot. We water it with recycled water—such as unfinished water bottles started by the kids. The young flowers are translucent and striated, like the day-old blossom shown. As the flowers mature, the petals become opaque, and a mono-colored shade of pink magenta.

Echinacia © Harold Davis

Echinacia © Harold Davis

The miracle of LAB channel inversions and adjustments leads straight to the alternative, colorful versions you see below:

Inversion on white © Harold Davis

Inversion on white © Harold Davis

I plan to print these images as a quadtych, with the four images arranged in a sequence, pairing the original version on white with the Inversion on White, and the two black versions together.

Echinacia Inversion © Harold Davis

Echinacia Inversion © Harold Davis

Inversion in Blue © Harold Davis

Inversion in Blue © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

What do Harold Davis and Georgia O’Keeffe have in common on Pinterest, and how is Pinterest going to make money, anyway?

Actually, I don’t really care how Pinterest plans to make money, although in the light of the rest of this story it is worth noting that Pinterest has a private market value believed to be north of $10 Billion. Yes, that is Billion, as in a ten with nine zeros after it.

In case you’ve been doing your best to ignore social media on the Internet, the idea behind Pinterest is that users create virtual bulletin boards, and then “pin” images that are copied from a variety of sources onto these boards. I haven’t heard any cogent analysis of how this will make money, but I do know that plenty of my images are used this way without my permission…including one photo of a rose that is commonly mistaken for a Georgia O’Keeffe painting

A rose is a rose is a rose, except when it is not. A Harold Davis rose photo is apparently a Georgia O’Keeffe rose painting when you search Google Images for “Georgia O’Keeffe” (opens in a separate window, may be a number of rows down) except when it is actually Kiss from a Rose by Harold Davis (shown below). I’m really pretty flattered by the association, as Georgia O’Keeffe is certainly one of my great artistic heroes.

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

I was alerted to my photo made in homage to O’Keeffe being mistaken for a literal O’Keefe by a reader who wrote, “Hi Harold! Love your Rose Photography. I see on Google your work is confused with Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings!” While this case of mistaken artistic identity mostly involves Kiss from a Rose, some of my other images such as Eye of the Rose and even the book cover for my Photographing Flowers also occasionally show up categorized as O’Keeffe’s.

The conflation of Harold Davis photos with Georgia O’Keeffe paintings get even more pronounced on Pinterest, where a number of “boards” have “pinned” my image as a Georgia O’Keeffe’s. (See www.pinterest.com/terper1234/georgia-o-keeffe/ (my rose is called “a lush red O’Keeffe”), www.pinterest.com/nicolenotch/artist-o-keefe/ (once again my rose is ascribed to O’Keeffe) as examples, although this Pinterest Fakes and Mistakes board notes correctly that “NOT GEORGIA O’KEEFFE >>> this is a photo by Harold Davis”).

I am in fact of two minds about this issue. On the one hand, obviously it is good publicity for me that people like my work enough to pin it on their Pinterest boards. And, as I noted, I am certainly flattered to be compared with O’Keeffe.

On the other hand, it is hard enough to make money as a living artist these days when one is up against the common Internet dogma that information “wants to be free.” Ascribing to this theory across the board leads to a rush to the bottom. As a hint folks: ultimately this means no more quality visual art, literature, or music.

The TOS on Pinterest claims that each user (e.g., someone who creates a board) is responsible for obtaining permission to use work, but of course people just ignore this, and go ahead and scrape imagery off the sites where I post. I doubt anyone at Pinterest really believes that users are going to get permission, and posting this TOS is just el poo-poo del toro to try to ward off copyright lawsuits. Which someone should really do, and take Pinterest to the cleaners for the intellectual property scamsters they are.  Or, Pinterest could prove they care about artistic creation by setting up a financial pool to reward artists whose work is used on their site.

What do you think about this? I know that many of my readers are Pinterest users. Am I out to lunch on this one?

Posted in Writing

Digital paintings that use photographs as the medium

Harold Davis’ talent as a painter is evident in this beautifully rendered photograph of the Jamaa-el-Fnaa marketplace in Marakesh, Morocco.  © Harold Davis

Eileen Fritsch, a writer who often covers the visual arts, profiled me recently in relationship to digital printmaking. In her profile, Eileen notes that I regard my work as “digital paintings that use photographs as the medium.” She continues: “With his unique style, Davis is at the forefront of an emerging art movement in which creative photographers can do far more than capture an elusive moment in time. Thanks to Photoshop (which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary), photographic artists such as Harold Davis can now create images that depict almost any type of scene or subject they can envision in their mind’s eye.”

You can read the extensive full article on the Moab Paper blog.

In this multiple exposure image, Harold Davis envisions image “Hekatonkheires” the three mythical Greek gods of violent storms and hurricanes. The artisanal pigment print takes full advantage of the qualities of Moab Slickrock Metallic Pearl 360 paper. Photo: © Harold Davis

Pages for the Kumano Kodo portfolio are printed on the roll and hand trimmed, scored, signed, and bound. Photo: © Harold Davis

Posted in Writing

Antoni Gaudi and the shell game

Antoni Gaudi, the architect of the fabulous Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Catalonia, liked to use organic shapes of nature in his designs. Hence the pillars in the Sagrada Familia cathedral bear a striking resemblance to trees, and the interior of the spires in the church bear the stamp of Gaudi’s life-long fascination with embodying nature in architecture since these spiral stairs resemble the interiors of spiral shells.

Inside the Sagrada Familia Spire © Harold Davis

Inside the Sagrada Familia Spire © Harold Davis

You’ll see what I mean if you check out the interior and exterior views of this spiral shell of the Architectonica genus, shown below, and compare with the Sagrada Familia spiral.

Architectonica Spiral (inward) © Harold Davis

Architectonica Spiral (inward) © Harold Davis

Check out the macro photo shot straight up and through the Architectonica, and compare with the view inside the Sagrada Familia spire at the bottom of this story:

Architectonica Spiral (outward) © Harold Davis

Architectonica Spiral (outward) © Harold Davis

If you are curious, here’s the way the Architectonica shell spiral looks from the outside:

Architectonica Spiral © Harold Davis

Architectonica Spiral © Harold Davis

Incidentally, the views inside the Sagrada Familia spire shown at the top of this story and below were shot hand-held at ISO 51,200. You can read the related blog story to see why this was my best technical choice in the circumstances, and the only way to get a photo in the location—and an approach that would not have been feasible even a few short years ago.

Inside the Sagrada Familia Spire (looking up) © Harold Davis

Inside the Sagrada Familia Spire (looking up) © Harold Davis

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

We are not afraid of color

I photographed these flowers on my light box using the bright and sharp Zeiss Otus 85mm lens, then created a number of variations in Photoshop. The colors in flowers give me a palette to experiment with saturation and contrast, and I herewith proclaim: Bring it on! I love color!

We are not afraid of color © Harold Davis

We are not afraid of color © Harold Davis

Patterns in the Zeitgeist © Harold Davis

Patterns in the Zeitgeist © Harold Davis

Flowers are the jungle © Harold Davis

Flowers are the jungle © Harold Davis

Beyond the blue light  © Harold Davis

Beyond the blue light © Harold Davis

Solarized Flowers © Harold Davis

Solarized Flowers © Harold Davis

If you are interested in my flower photography techniques both in the camera and in post-production, there are still a few spots left in my Creative Flower Photography workshop at Maine Media in Rockport, Maine this coming August (2015). This is a five-day workshop that will cover light box photography, creative field flower photography, and Photoshop techniques.

Related story: An Amazing Amalgamation of Anemones.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Photoshop Techniques, Workshops