A Short Course in Translucency

Images that verge on the transparent and convey translucency can appear miraculous. If you want to learn my techniques for photographing flowers for transparency on a light box, but can’t attend an in-person workshop with me on the topic, please consider my sequence of informal webinar recordings.

Painting in Transparency Using a High-Key Layer Stack explains the photographic strategy and post-production (click here to register, and click here for more info).

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Creative Use of LAB Color shows some of the techniques I use to add color effects, invert the backgrounds, and more (click here to register, and click here for more info).

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Using Backgrounds and Textures explains many of the techniques I use to create finished artwork from translucent images (click here to register, and click here for more info).

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Finally, if you are having a little trouble around working with layers in Photoshop, Photoshop Layers 101 may be for you (click here to register, and click here for more info) as I guide you and explain how I work with layers in Photoshop. It is really a great deal simpler than you may think!

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Each webinar recording costs $19.95 for unlimited access. Please click here for more information about my webinar recordings.

If you are unfamiliar with my techniques, my FAQ explaining Photographing Flowers for Transparency is a good place to start.

Translucency of Rosa © Harold Davis

Translucency of Rosa © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photoshop Techniques, Workshops

Pre-Publication Review of Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer by Harold Davis

I’m pleased to see a positive pre-publication review of my new book Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook in the May issue of Rangefinder Magazine. The reviewer, Jim Cornfield, notes that that Achieving Your Potential is “vintage Harold Davis: graphically lively, amply thought out, and informed by Davis’s unique sense of organization and creative vision.” Thanks Jim! Read the complete review by clicking here (opens in a separate window).

02-04-2015-Achieving-Cover

Translucency of Rosa on Black © Harold Davis

Translucency of Rosa on Black © Harold Davis

Posted in Writing

Pont Valentre

The ancient Pont Valentre crosses a loop in the Lot River at the city of Cahors in southwestern France. The tower in the middle of the river of this fortified and impregnable bridge was held even when the surrounding city was overrun. I recently converted the image to black and white (click here to see the color version and blog story) for a chapter on black and white workflow in a new book I have started to work on.

Pont Valentre © Harold Davis

Pont Valentre © Harold Davis

Related stories: Valentre Bridge; Impregnable.

Posted in France, Monochrome, Photography

Essays in Translucency

Translucency of Rosa © Harold Davis

Translucency of Rosa © Harold Davis

Practicum Perluciditatem © Harold Davis

Practicum Perluciditatem © Harold Davis

Miraculum Flores © Harold Davis

Miraculum Flores © Harold Davis

Veil of Roses © Harold Davis

Veil of Roses © Harold Davis

Clematis © Harold Davis

Clematis © Harold Davis

Related stories: The Virtues of Translucency; Clematis; Miraculum Flores.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Miraculum Flores

Flowers are a miracle! This is a spring in Berkeley, California that is wondrous in terms of blossoms, and I have been enjoying it and photographing up a floral storm, almost entirely with flowers Phyllis and I harvest in the neighborhood. The top image is an LAB L-channel inversion, and the middle image is simulated black and white infrared (“ultrarubrum” in Latin)—both images derived in post-production from the “straight” light box image at the bottom. More on these techniques in this earlier sequence of images of a lone Clematis, and more floral imagery to come when I have time to develop and process it.

Miraculum Nigrae Flores © Harold Davis

Miraculum Nigrae Flores © Harold Davis

Miraculum Nigrae Flores Ultrarubrum © Harold Davis

Miraculum Nigrae Flores Ultrarubrum © Harold Davis

Miraculum Flores © Harold Davis

Miraculum Flores © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Small group photo tour in Italy this autumn with Harold Davis

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. If you are interested, please inquire right away as there is very little space remaining (and arrangements have to be finalized soon)!

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

Clematis

To photograph this Clematis Bee’s Jubilee blossom, I placed it on a light box and photographed it straight down using a tripod with a Nikon D810 and my special Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4 lens. The settings were 1/4 of a second at f/16 and ISO 64 (middle image). The top image is an LAB inversion of the L-channel, and the bottom version is simulated infrared (IR), via Nik Color Efex Pro.

Clematis on Black  © Harold Davis

Clematis on Black © Harold Davis

Clematis © Harold Davis

Clematis © Harold Davis

Clematis in IR  © Harold Davis

Clematis in IR © Harold Davis

There seems to be some controversy about where to apostrophate  (where to place the possessive apostrophe) in Clematis Bee’s Jubilee. Well-known horticultural nursery White Flower Farm does it Bees’ Jubilee, which of course implies that this flower is the jubilee of multitudinous bees or of someone named Mr. Bees. However, the plural apostrophization may be incorrect, as this striking flowering Clematis seems to be named after the botanist Rupert Bee (spelled without a trailing ‘s’) of Colchester in the United Kingdom, who first introduced this cultivar in the 1950s.

Related story: We are not afraid of color.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Black and White Masterclass

There are only a (very few) spots left in my Black & White Masterclass in Heidelberg, Germany July 2-5, 2015. Click here for more information and registration. Note: the workshop will be conducted in English.

Alte Brucke, Heidelberg © Harold Davis

Alte Brucke, Heidelberg © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

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