Photographing the Paris Skyline

Photographing the Paris skyline at dusk would seem to be pretty straightforward. The rooftop observatory on top of the Tour Montparnasse is open late, and there are gaps in the plexiglass allowing one to shoot without worrying about reflections. With a camera on a tripod, what then could be the big technical issue?

Paris Sunset 2 © Harold Davis

Paris Sunset 2 © Harold Davis

Not so much if all you need to do is display your images at a small size, but plenty it turns out if a large reproduction (print size 60″ X 40″ or 150cm X 40cm and up) is the requirement.

In the spring of 2013 I shot Paris City of Light and Les Lumières de Paris from the top of the Tour Montparnasse. By the way, the Tour Monparnasse is a hideous high-rise built in the 1970s that doesn’t fit in with the elegant Paris skyline in the slightest. The joke is that the best thing about the Tour Monparnasse observatory is that you can’t see the Tour Montparnasse from it. Bus loads of Chinese, Korean and Japanese tourists ride the elevators up to the Tour Montparnasse observatory, but most of them stay on the floor below the plein air top deck.

Anyhow, my 2013 shots were good enough for a couple of publications, but there was “trouble in Paradise” when an art publishing client of mine ran some really large test prints. These images just weren’t sharp enough.

What can cause lack of sharpness under these conditions? First, in any landscape shot that includes a distant vista diffusion due to atmospheric conditions is always a factor, and there isn’t much you can do about it except wait for a really clear day (not always possible). Paris is often moist, and has some pollution from cars and other sources, so this limiting factor is a real consideration.

From the viewpoint of photographic gear and the craft of photography, the issues are camera motion, optical sharpness, resolution (sensor size) and sensitivity settings.

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

As I’ve noted, my camera was on a tripod. But my observation and analysis was that the real problem was slight camera motion, caused by the wind coming through the gaps in the plexi, even using my tripod. Absent the ability to come back with a heavier tripod, which wasn’t possible, the fix in 2014 seemed to be to use a faster shutter speed.

So in the two images of Paris Sunset (far above, above and also shown here) I shot at 1/100 of a second for a relatively short duration shutter speed. This implied bumping the ISO, to 1250 in each case.

The good news: my files this time stand up to the blow-up that is required!

Posted in France, Paris, Photography

San Francisco Weekend Photography Workshop with Harold Davis August 23-24

Saturday August 23 and Sunday August 24, 2014

The San Francisco Bay area is one of the places on our planet most visited for photography. If you live here, why not spend a weekend photographing San Francisco as if you were seeing it for the first time for the wonder it is?

If you have always wanted to photograph San Francisco but are coming from far away, what better way to go about it with the guidance of master photographer and Bay area resident Harold Davis?

Click here to register for the Harold Davis San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

100 Views cover

Following a brief orientation, we will carpool and photograph around the Bay area in an exciting and fun weekend with locations depending on weather, lighting and group inclinations. Group size is limited to twelve photographers. There will be time for image review, and Harold will make suggestions for image improvement and creative thinking about image making.

There will be a night shoot on Saturday, and Harold will present material on photographing San Francisco in both color and black & white.

Why not get the imagery of San Francisco you have always wanted?

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

When: Saturday, August 23 and Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where: The orientation and classroom sessions of the workshop will be hosted in Berkeley, California. We will car pool to field shooting locations.

Cost: Tuition is $745 per person. Workshop is limited to a maximum of 12 participants.

Registration: Click here to register for the Harold Davis San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Workshop Demo on a Light Box

The Gloriosa Lily is a notoriously poisonous—and extremely beautiful—flower. We had the Gloriosa and many other exceptional flowers to play with at the recent  Creative Flower Photography workshop sponsored by the Heidelberg Summer School of Photography in Germany. I shot the image shown here as an in-class demo using the excellent Zeiss Makro-Planar 50mm f/2 macro lens. This was a great workshop with excellent participants, and much fun was had! Special thanks to Carl Zeiss for lending the superb lenses for participants to try.

Gloriosa Lily © Harold Davis

Gloriosa Lily © Harold Davis

Want to learn how to photograph flowers on a light-box, and process them for transparency? Please consider the October 4-5, 2014 session of Photographing Flowers for Transparency.

Gloriosa Bouquet © Harold Davis

Gloriosa Bouquet © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography, Workshops

Creative Use of LAB Color Webinar

Please consider joining Harold Davis for this exciting, new live webinar offering that will help you unlock the creative potential of floral imagery (and more)!

01-title-LAB

Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 3PM PTCreative Use of LAB Color (the cost is only $29.95, and includes unlimited access to the post-session recording)

Understanding the creative use of LAB color in Photoshop unlocks a vast treasure trove of under-utilized and under-explored possibilities.

This webinar explains the structure of LAB color, and demonstrates inversions and LAB equalizations for both image optimization and creative fun.

You will learn how to combine Blending Modes with LAB equalizations for an unlimited and powerful palette.

 The Creative Use of LAB Color with Harold Davis webinar covers:

  • Understanding LAB Color
  • LAB Color in Photoshop
  • LAB Channel Inversions
  • LAB Channel Equalizations
  • Combining adjustments with blending modes
  • Creative LAB in a workflow
  • Examples and case studies

Learn how LAB is structured in Photoshop, and how to use the incredible toolkit that LAB unleashes to add a world of practical and creative effects to your imagery.

Each live webinar session has ample time for questions and is limited to twenty participants, so seating is very limited. The $29.95 fee includes unlimited access to the recording of the session.

Photoshop layers throwing you for a curve? You may also be interested in our upcoming (Saturday, August 16, 2014) live session, Photoshop Layers 101with Harold Davis. Demystify Photoshop for once and for all.

Check out our webinar recordings ($19.95 each for unlimited access):

Click here for more info about Harold Davis webinar recordings.

Posted in Workshops

Afternoon of the Faun

Faun © Harold Davis

Faun © Harold Davis

Captured in the castle garden at Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany.

Posted in Germany, iPhone

Speyer Cathedral Dome

I spent my last night in Germany at a hotel near Frankfurt airport in a somewhat depressing industrial neighborhood. A few blocks from the hotel I found a nice place for dinner, and ate outside at the communal tables. While I waiting for my food I worked on this photo of the Speyer Cathedral Dome.

Speyer Dome © Harold Davis

Speyer Dome © Harold Davis

The interior space in the Cathedral in the imperial city of Speyer, Germany is built to a huge scale. Although mostly reconstructed rather than original, the sheer magnitude of interior volumes is worth experiencing, and this city along the Rhine River is steeped in history.

Posted in Germany, iPhone

Heidelberg Student Jail

Mostly aristocratic students at Heidelberg University were not under the jurisdiction of the normal authorities. The University handled disciplinary matters. Facilities in the old University buildings included a jail (now a museum), with one of the cells shown here.

Heidelberg Student Jail © Harold Davis

Heidelberg Student Jail © Harold Davis

For the most part, sojourns in the Heidelberg student jail were the result of frat-boy pranks, and treated as something that was part of the accepted tradition of student behavior. Part of the tradition was to add one’s name and maybe some art—so in later years as a “good old boy” one could come back and point to the scene of one’s incarceration.

It was all one big lark. But making things a little more poignant, note that I photographed the cell shown here in a state of “arrested decay” (just as I did with the California ghost town of Bodie in Arrested Decay and Gone with the Wind). At the Heidelberg Student Jail, “arrested decay” means most of the carvings and painting date from the decade before the first World War—where many of these pranksters must have perished.

Special thanks to Francis, who showed me the jail and explained its background.

Posted in Germany, HDR

Castle Stairs and Glass with Candle

It was a rainy drive from Heidelberg to Aalen, Germany. Once I got off the autobahn, the countryside was lush with  moisture, but going was slow. I stopped for lunch in a small town, and ate at an informal place across from the train station with German food but a Greek chef and Greek music.

Castle Stair © Harold Davis

Castle Stair © Harold Davis

While I waited for my food to arrive I processed the two images shown here. The image above is of a spiral staircase in the castle at Heidelberg. The staircase happens to be next to a giant beer barrel. Go figure! I always say, grab your photos where you find them—even if it means ignoring context, such as one of the world’s largest beer barrels.

Glass with Candle © Harold Davis

Glass with Candle © Harold Davis

The image above was shot at a meal a few days ago, and is an abstraction of a candle refracted in a drinking glass, as you’ll see if you look carefully. The glass was green and held some kind of fancy drink. The shape of the green glass occupies the rights side of the image.

Posted in Photography

Deux Chevaux Engine

The Citroen C2V was fondly known as the “deux chevaux,” or two horses, after its putative power. Actually, the C2V engine has something like twenty horse power, and this is a car that is fondly remembered by many. Macho car it was never, more cute and cuddly, and therefore fun to give its engine a full HDR treatment with a bracketed exposure sequence. Thanks to Primo, who pulled it out in his garage so we could photograph it!

Deux Chevaux Engine (color) © Harold Davis

Deux Chevaux Engine (color) © Harold Davis

Do you prefer the color or the black and white version?

Deux Chevaux Engine (black and white) © Harold Davis

Deux Chevaux Engine (black and white) © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Stairs in the Heidelberg University Library

With a few of the students in my Black & White workshop I headed into the ornately decorated Heidelberg University Library. We asked if we could photograph in the library book stacks. No, we could not: approval by a higher authority was needed. The “higher authority” was not currently available.

On the way back out of the library building we found these stairs. Proving once again that you don’t always get what you want, but if you are open to the adventure sometimes you get what you need.

Stairs, Heidelberg University Library

Stairs, Heidelberg University Library © Harold Davis

The image above is looking down the stairs. Here’s one in the opposite direction, looking up:

Heidelberg Library Stairs © Harold Davis

Heidelberg Library Stairs © Harold Davis

 

Posted in Germany, Monochrome

Girl in a Blue Dress

I set my camera up on a tripod and framed a sidewalk with some windows and a bicycle in old Heidelberg, Germany, waiting for pedestrians to come by. It was afternoon, but still quite bright. I dialed the ISO all the way down (to ISO 50) and stopped the lens all the way down to its smallest opening (f/25). This yielded a shutter speed (shutter speed is not really a speed, and is more coherently described as “the duration of time the shutter is open” ) of 1/5 of a second. The idea was to make the exposure as long as possible to display the motion of any humans that entered the frame as a blur.

Girl in a Blue Dress © Harold Davis

Girl in a Blue Dress © Harold Davis

With this kind of photography, you have to take many shots to get a good one. Fortunately, a pretty girl in a blue dress came along without too much delay, and did a nicely positioned twirl in my frame, leading to an elegant motion blur.

Posted in Photography

Maulbronn Monastery

Maulbronn Monastery, Kloster Maulbronn in German, is the best-preserved medieval Cistercian monastery in Europe. It is a World Heritage Site. Happening to get there so soon after my visit to the Cistercian monastery in Cadouin in the south of France is a wonderful coincidence, and I will explain how it happened in a future post (thank you Dieter and Gerhard!).

Church Ceiling, Maulbronn Monastery © Harold Davis

Church Ceiling, Maulbronn Monastery © Harold Davis

Maulbronn Monastery was founded in 1147, the first example of Gothic architecture in Germany. The ceiling of the church partially shown in this photo is presumably from a somewhat later period of construction.

Posted in Germany

More Cheap Shots

Mastarbeiten

 

Kunts Passage

 

Fahrtgasse

Posted in Germany, iPhone

Cheap Shots

Design Schmuck

 

Rathaus

 

Posted in Germany, iPhone, Photography

Very fun Flower Photography Workshop in Heidelberg

A very fun four-day creative flower photography workshop was had at the Heidelberg Summer School of Photography. This was a great group of compatible people and talented photographers genuinely excited by the subject matter. English was spoken (because of me) and also German (my feeble attempts at German were lovingly corrected). Italian was also spoken—not to mention the universal language of “photography.” The agenda included field trips to a lovely horticultural nursery and to the greenhouses at the Heidelberg University Botanical Gardens. We also practiced studio flower photography, and followed the full workflow of my method for capturing and processing flowers for transparency on a light box.

Pilea ovalis and Ancona muricata © Harold Davis

Pilea ovalis and Ancona muricata © Harold Davis

The image above is a study from the Heidelberg Botanical Gardens field trip. Since it is in monochromatic, it is a fitting segway to the next workshop, Creative Black & White Photography that starts in a few days. I hope it is as much fun and fosters gemütlichkeit as much as the Flower Photography did. You can see some of this gemütlichkeit, umlauts and all, in the row of wine glasses I shot at our farewell dinner, shown below.

Wine Glasses at a Dinner Party © Harold Davis

Wine Glasses at a Dinner Party © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Germany, Workshops