Orchids in a Blue Bowl

I photographed these Cymbidium orchid blossoms in a blue bowl placed on a black velvet background. Lighting was natural, ambient sunlight bounced off white boards and reflectors. Exposure and processing info below the image. I like the way the image looks like a mandala!

Orchids in a Blue Bowl © Harold Davis

Orchids in a Blue Bowl © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D810, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4, six exposures at shutter speeds from 1/10 of a second to 1.3 seconds, each exposure at f/11 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; exposed using mirror lock-up and the Nikon MC-36A remote release.

Processing info: Exposures initially processed in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) and combined in Photoshop as layers using layer masks and manually painted-in with the Brush Tool.

I added a “kicker” layer for additional punch created by running five of the six exposures through Nik HDR Efex Pro.

The resulting layer stack was merged down, cropped to a square format, retouched, and spotted in Photoshop.

Next, I applied creative color and sharpening effects selectively, and at low opacity, from Nik Color Efex, Topaz Adjust, and Nik Viveza.

Merging the layers down again, a final pass applied filters—once again selectively at low opacity—provided by Topaz Simplify.

Posted in Flickr, Photography

Upcoming Travel and Workshop Opportunities

Many of my 2016 travel and workshop opportunities are already full, but we do have some selective spaces and also some travel adventures that are pretty wide open, as indicated below. Do take note that even wide-open travel workshops can fill up quickly (in part because I keep each group so very small). So please don’t wait if you’d like to join me.

If I am not for myself who is for me? And if not now, when?

Click here for my complete 2016 Workshops & Events Calendar.

Paris in May

We still have room for two more in my very small group photographic tour of Paris beginning May 1, 2016. Please let me know right away if you are interested in joining us, since we need to confirm our reservations for the group soon. Here’s a link to the detailed packet of logistics information that is going out to the lucky participants (PDF).

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Trip highlights include: Paris in the Spring, an inside tour of the Opera Garnier, photography of panoramic views of Paris from the Tour Montparnasse, Paris at night, Monmartre and Sacre Coeur, Monet’s Garden at Giverny with special after-hours access, and Paris, Paris, Paris!

Click here for registration information and here for the Registration form.


From iPhone to Art

From iPhone to Art is a full-day workshop on Saturday May 21, 2016 in Berkeley, California.

The iPhone is the most used camera in the world. As they say, the best camera to use is the one you have with you, and this is often your iPhone camera. But the fundamental rules of photography still apply, and you can become a powerful photographer with your iPhone by learning the fundamentals of exposure and composition.

Still Life in Silver Bowl © Harold Davis

Of course, your iPhone is more than just a camera. The computing power within a contemporary iPhone is greater than the computing power that sent NASA to the moon—and many photography apps take advantage of this “darkroom” in your pocket.

In From iPhone to Art, we will learn how to leverage our talents to make the best iPhone imagery we can. Demos, lectures, and hands-on exercises will explore the principles of photography as they relate to the iPhone camera.

Click here for information and registration!


Creative Landscape Photography on Point Reyes

This is a weekend workshop under the auspices of Point Reyes Field Seminars, held on the Western tip of Point Reyes, California Friday June 17 – Sunday June 19, 2016. The very reasonable tuition includes accommodations (meals are bring your own and pot luck).

In a Blue Hour © Harold Davis

In a Blue Hour © Harold Davis

Jutting more than thirty miles out into the Pacific Ocean, Point Reyes National Seashore is a spectacular, world-class place to photograph nature. This three-day weekend workshop is hosted in the unique and historic Coastguard Boathouse near the outermost cliffs of this rocky shore. It is an area that is ideally suited for photographing the ocean, the rugged landscape, and sometimes wildflowers. We will turn our lenses to waves, beaches and the unique windswept and sometimes foggy landscape. We’ll also focus on the close-up universe of wildflowers, and learn field techniques for capturing the miniature worlds that can be found in a single petal.

Click here for more information and registration.


Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer at Maine Media Workshops

I’ll be teaching a week-long version of my popular Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer workshop in Maine from August 7 to August 13, 2016. Immersing oneself in photography for a week on the beautiful Maine coast at MMW is a life-transforming experience!

Have you ever wondered what it really means to be the best photographer you can be? Do you feel blocked by petty circumstances, or lack the creative space to do the work you know you can do?

This workshop is for every photographer who wants to draw their line in the sand to become the best photographer and artist they can be.

Reflections in a Maine Pond © Harold Davis

Reflections in a Maine Pond © Harold Davis

The workshop will include group and individual exercises and assignments. There will be guided field sessions, and work in the classroom. Technical and practical skills and topics will be covered.

Click here for information and registration.


Under the Tuscan Skies—Tuscany in October

Please consider joining me at an organic olive oil farm near Sienna for a week of landscape photography!

Imagine photographing the autumn vistas under the Tuscan skies! Where fertile land meets the patterns of traditional farming we will photograph olive groves and cypress trees. A deluxe, renovated antique farmhouse will be our home base as we experience great Italian cooking and the fellowship of talented photographers.

Florence and the Arno River © Harold Davis

Florence and the Arno River © Harold Davis

While we photograph, we will be surrounded by the intimate details of the working farm, which produces organic olive oil and wine. If it is chilly, we will move in beside the word-burning stove, otherwise we will discuss philosophy and photography on the veranda under the Tuscan skies.

Click here for the detailed itinerary, and here for the Reservation Form!


Photography in Venice

In November, most of the people are gone, skies can be atmospheric and cloudy, and photography of Venice is at its best! Please consider joining me for a fantastic photographic visit to this most incredible of destinations.

Venice is the largest preserved antique city in Europe, and possibly the world. Extravagant, decadent, charming with ever-changing light, Venice is a photographer’s delight with its fairy-tale canals and endless maze of footpaths and bridges.

Bridge of Sighs at Night © Harold Davis

Bridge of Sighs at Night © Harold Davis

We’ll focus our lenses on canals, reflections, and the infinite wonder found around every corner in Venice. There will be special emphasis on techniques for impressionistic rendering, and several sessions will be held to teach the related post-production techniques, as well as how best to use an iPhone camera in Venice.

Click here for the detailed itinerary, and here for the Reservation Form!

Posted in Workshops

Congratulations to those folks who found the Easter Egg

There are some really sharp-eyed members of my photographic community! I posted a contest regarding an Easter Egg in a photo in my book Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer a short while back. Kerry Joy McGehee, Mark Mattson, and Mike Pomeroy have each won an 11 X 14 ($1,000 retail value) print of mine of their choice. Thanks everyone else for playing! The Easter Eggs are in the image End of the Berkeley Pier, shown below and on pages 76-77 of Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer, with the detailed answer to the puzzle below the image.

End of the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

End of the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

Easter Egg #1 (across, with first name and last name on a separate row): Harold Davis

Easter Egg #2 (in white characters, about 1/3 down the fifth full column counting from the left, you may need a magnifying glass for this one): LOVE YOU ALWAYS PHYLLIS ♥

Note: I’ve been asked by a number of people whether I tagged the fence at the end of the pier myself. You can’t go out there anymore because the pier is off-limits due to safety concerns, although you can still crawl underneath the Berkeley Pier. And, no, I didn’t engage in real-world tagging—this tagging is virtual, and is Photoshop work!

Posted in Writing

Many Hands Make Light Work

Finger and Hand Study 1 © Harold Davis

Finger and Hand Study 1 © Harold Davis

Finger and Hand Study 2 © Harold Davis

Finger and Hand Study 2 © Harold Davis

Posted in Models

Totem and Taboo

The title I’ve given this image, Totem and Taboo, is in part a reference to Sigmund Freud’s collection of essays of the same name. Freud combined anthropology with concepts of psychoanalysis to compare the states of mind of “savages” with those of neurotics. My image makes no such grandiose claims, but visually it does seem to represent animism and a totem (the pole that is, if not in the totemic animal sense).

Totem and Taboo © Harold Davis

Totem and Taboo © Harold Davis

Totem and Taboo is a single in-camera multiple exposure that the model and I choreographed. Although the model is different, I processed the image to pair with Gates after Rodin. If you are curious, my blog story about Gates after Rodin has a more detailed description of how this kind of image is made.

Posted in Models, Photography

Comparative Motion

Dead Tree, Seascape, and Sunset is an exercise in capturing comparative motion over the course of a fairly long exposure (ten seconds). The surf was rolling in below the bluff, and the motion caused it to blur; while the dead tree was standing fairly still, and is shown in stark outline without the motion blur.

Dead Tree, Seascape, and Sunset © Harold Davis

Dead Tree, Seascape, and Sunset © Harold Davis

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Harold Davis Interview about Pixsy on the ASMP Business Blog

www.asmp.org/strictlybusiness/2016/02/an-interview-with-pixsy-client-harold-davis/

Once I began putting my work up on the Web, it didn’t take me long to realize that I was on the horns of a very serious business dilemma. Everything I posted was subject to image “appropriation,” a polite term for people using my images without compensation or a license. On the other hand, if I didn’t post images to my blog or Flickr stream, then no one would know about me, and I would lose a large part of my assignment and licensing business.

With no better choice, I decided that posting my imagery and accepting a certain amount of theft, just as retail storekeepers accept some “spoilage,” seemed like the best of the two options.

In early 2015, I was approached by Pixsy, www.pixsy.com, which uses automated image recognition software to discover infringements on the web, pursues commercial uses, and splits the eventual license fee with the photographer. I have to admit that I was originally somewhat skeptical but after evaluating Pixsy’s offerings, I decided to see how well the service worked on a trial basis, particularly since there are no upfront fees, and Pixsy only gets paid if they recover money on my behalf.

Read more!

Water Drop Selfie with Camera © Harold Davis

Water Drop Selfie with Camera © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

What’s in Harold Davis’s Camera Bag?

Curious about what’s in my gear bag when I’m in the field? Check out this story from Zeiss! (Thanks Zeiss so much for the wonderful glass.)

Harold Davis - In My Camera Bag

Posted in Photography

Contest: An Easter Egg in Achieving Your Potential

An Easter Egg is a secret; for example, in software often it is a hidden pop-up window with an animation. In software, usually the Easter Egg is activated using a combination of keyboard and mouse actions.

We’ve embedded an Easter Egg in one of the color photographs in my latest book, Achieving Your Potential: A Photographers Creative Companion and Workbook.

To be more precise, there is one photograph in the book with two hidden messages. One is easy to see, the other a bit less so.

02-04-2015-Achieving-Cover

If you think you’ve found both parts of the Easter Egg, send us an email. The first person to correctly identify the two parts of the Easter Egg (by page number in the book, and contents of the Easter Eggs) will receive a signed, original 11″ X 14″ Harold Davis print of your choice, retail value $1,000.

Offer only open to United States residents, void where prohibited by law, and blah, blah, blah.

Frilly Tulip © Harold Davis

Frilly Tulip © Harold Davis

Posted in Writing

Last chance for an incredible trip-of-a-lifetime photo tour to Paris

We still have room for two more in my very small group photographic tour of Paris beginning May 1, 2016. This is your last chance to register for the trip since we need to confirm our reservations for the group soon.

In case you may still be considering joining me for this unique travel-and-photography experience to Paris in the springtime—or if you simply want to armchair travel instead of the “real thing”—I am providing a link to the detailed packet of logistics information that is going out to the lucky participants (PDF). Please let me know right away if you are interested!

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Trip highlights include: Paris in the Spring, an inside tour of the Opera Garnier, photography of panoramic views of Paris from the Tour Montparnasse, Paris at night, Monmartre and Sacre Coeur, Monet’s Garden at Giverny with special after-hours access, and Paris, Paris, Paris!

Giverny © Harold Davis

Giverny © Harold Davis

We will be staying in the luxurious and discrete 4-star Hotel de l’Abbaye, which is located on a side street near the Luxembourg Gardens and San Sulpice, a peaceful home-away-from-home in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Who could ask for more?

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

Click here for registration information and here for the Registration form.

Here’s what some folks who have been with me on photo tours have said:

  • “Harold navigates foreign countries with astuteness and cultural sensitivity. His choice of guides, hotels, locations and restaurants is always impeccable. I returned from our trip with a much better sense of how to photograph in a diverse and wonderful array of locations, and had a great time with a compatible group while I learned.”
  • “Harold is a distinguished author of many books, educator, and photographer. It was amazing to spend so much one-on-one time with him in these great photographic locations.”
  • “Harold is a gifted artist, AND a great teacher! A rare combo, IMHO.”
  • “Harold has great skill, but without the ego of most master photographers. Travel arrangements were perfect.”
  • “One thing I really liked about the photo tour that Harold set up is that we had plenty of time to photograph in the best locations, and really prioritized when the light would be good.”

10-Paris

Posted in Workshops

Belying Apparent Simplicity

This image of Tulips in a Vase on White derives its power from its apparent simplicity. In fact, behind the scenes, I constructed the image with a certain amount of calculated deviousness. Let me explain.

Tulips in a Vase on White © Harold Davis

Tulips in a Vase on White © Harold Davis

Tulips in a Vase on White is actually two composited photos. The camera was fixed in position on a tripod for both exposures, and the tulips didn’t move between the photos. I used my extraordinarily bright 55mm f/1.4 Otus lens on a Nikon D800, and both exposures were shot at ISO 100.

Both captures were focused on the frontward tulip. One exposure was wide-open for minimum depth-of-field at f/1.4 (and 1/20 of a second). The second exposure was stopped down to f/16 (for high depth-of field). The exposure time for the second exposure was 1.6 seconds. Both exposures were made using natural light from the windows, with the vase placed on a roll of seamless white paper.

To make the final image, I used the low depth-of-field (f/1.4) exposure as the background. Using layers, a layer mask, and the Brush Tool in Photoshop, I selectively painted-in the tulip flowers (but not the vase or stem) from the in-focus, high depth-of-field exposure on top of the background.

The final effect, with the vase out of focus, and the rear flowers selectively in focus, is not optically possible in a single photo in the real world.

Fortunately, as artists we are not bound by the strictures of the real world. Part of my intent in constructing this image was to create something apparently simple and straightforward. The relative complexity of the construction—and optical impossibility of the results—should not be apparent to the lay person viewing my image.

Related images: Irises in a Vase (in Using Light for Emotional Impact) and Tulips on White (in We Happy Flower Few).

Posted in Photography

Learning to Photograph Flowers for Transparency (article on Pixsy blog)

I’ve written an article now posted on the Pixsy blog about my technique for photographing flowers for transparency on a light box:

What are the steps to mastering the process? Surprisingly, it combines classical photography and modern digital best practices. When applied with a dedicated, delicate, and skilled hand, the results can be luscious and luminous. Here’s how my Photographing Flowers for Transparency process works out, step-by-step:

  • Understanding the role of the light box
  • Selecting and arranging flowers on the light box
  • Photographing a high-key bracketed sequence of exposures
  • Combining the high-key bracketed sequence to express transparency
  • Finishing the image in post-production
  • Creating a high-quality print of the transparent flower image

Let’s take a look at each of these steps in order.

Read more of the article on the Pixsy blog.

Nature's Palette © Harold Davis

Nature’s Palette © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Writing

Steep Ravine

The past several years during the great California drought the waterfalls on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais have been fairly dry, even in the rainy season. So what a wonderful joy to hike up the Steep Ravine trail yesterday on the western slope of Mt Tam in a break in the El Nino wet weather to see the torrents flowing down the mountain’s flanks!

Steep Ravine © Harold Davis

Steep Ravine © Harold Davis

Special thanks to my friend Mark, who put up with me, my camera, and tripod along the muddy trail.

Posted in San Francisco Area

Stargazer Lilies

Stargazer Lilies © Harold Davis

Stargazer Lilies © Harold Davis

I photographed these Stargazer Lilies on a light box to show them on a white background. With one version (above) I added them in Photoshop to a scanned paper background. With another version, I used LAB inversions to show the flowers against a black background (below)

 Stargazer Lilies on Black © Harold Davis

Stargazer Lilies on Black © Harold Davis

Related resources (FAQs): Photographing Flowers for Transparency; Using a High-Key Layer Stack; Backgrounds and Textures.

Posted in Flowers

Pentaptych of Tulip Petals

Inspecting some pink tulips the other day, I noticed that the demarcation behind petals and leaves was not as clear as I had thought it would be. With this flower, the difference between the leaves and petals was gradual and a difference of degree rather than an absolute—the closer to the flower core the more petal-like it looked.

Pentaptych of Tulip Petals © Harold Davis

Pentaptych of Tulip Petals © Harold Davis—click to view the image larger

So some of these petals are leaves, and some of these leaves are petals. Be that as it may, and referring to all as petals, I noticed that the petals were wonderfully colorful when placed on the light box.

I photographed each of the five petals separately as a high-resolution vertical image, using a macro lens with an added extension tube to get sufficient magnification. I then combined the five horizontal images to make the single horizontal shown.

Obviously, this is a very high resolution file (although the reduced JPEG shown here may not give much sense of that). Putting it together in post-production strained the resources of my twin 6-core 128GB RAM high-end Mac.

You can view the image a bit larger by clicking here, or by clicking on the image itself.

My thought is to take advantage of the resolution, and make a really large print, perhaps twenty feet wide, which would let the viewer really see the details in the petals.

A triptych is a work of art divided in three sections, a tetraptych is a work of art in four sections, and a pentaptych is a work of art in five sections (the numerical prefixes come from the ancient Greek number words). So it seemed natural call my image Pentaptych of Tulip Petals—one “tych” for each of the five petals!

Posted in Flowers