An amusement park for adults

Downtown Porto, Portugal’s second city, has aspects of an amusement park for adults, without being cloying. There’s a great river with boats of old kind, and old town with ancient structures—some a little scruffy, but nothing too disreputable—funiculars, cog railway elevators, and a number of bridges, including a great 19th century cast-iron structure coming from the incomparable Gustav Eiffel’s studio. Not to mention great food, and plenty of port wine to taste.

Ponte Luis I  © Harold Davis

Ponte Luis I © Harold Davis

On the Eiffel bridge—Ponte Luis I—cars are relegated to the bottom. The upper level is a vertigo-inducing walkway for pedestrians, and a platform for the light rail system.

Porto via IPhone © Harold Davis

Porto via IPhone © Harold Davis

It’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying walking around the waterfront area of this city at night. As the wind and weather changes, so do the reflections in the Duoro River—but each time and in every way the view is charming.

Ponte Luis I  © Harold Davis

Ponte Luis I © Harold Davis

Interested in seeing the world with me, and making unusual photos in night time as well as during the daytime? Check out my upcoming autumn photography trip to the Sea-Girt Villages of Italy.

Related story: Travels with Samantha.

Posted in Digital Night, iPhone, Monochrome, Photography, Portugal

Book Review: “Forever Changed” by Linda Mornell

Forever changed coverForever Changed tells the story of psychiatric nurse Linda Mornell, who founded Summer Search. Summer Search is a national organization with a comprehensive program that gives “high school students what they need to develop the personal and practical skills to become college-educated leaders who give back to their families and communities.”

The subtitle of Forever Changed reads as follows: “How Summer Programs and Insight Mentoring Challenge Adolescents and Transform Lives.” While there’s certainly some information on this important subject in the book, neither the subtitle nor the Summer Search mission statement quoted above give an adequate idea of the rich content and compelling stories that await within.

The epigraph for the first chapter of Forever Changed quotes Salman Rusdie: “Those who do not have the power over the the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, to rethink it, deconstruct it…and change it as times change…cannot think new thoughts.” This begins to hint at what Mornell is really after in her book: how understanding the stories that make up our lives gives power to change.

The stories in Forever Changed are, in fact, juicy. Mornell uses her own story of starting Summer Search on a shoestring and growing it into a national organization—truly new territory for her—as the framework for telling the stories of participants in the Summer Search programs, often in their own fascinating words.

This is a book that gives hope. The lives of adolescents that Mornell worked with through Summer Search have in many cases been profoundly changed for the better. There’s also insight. What kind of person sticks with it and makes it despite incredible privations? How do you best interview adolescents from troubled backgrounds, and get them to open up and tell their stories? It turns out that even the intake interviews that Mornell and Summer Search conducted have been transformative, and Mornell explains why, her accounts leavened with a sense of humor about the process of growing up in less than privileged situations.

Read  Forever Changed for the stories of the triumph of hope and persistence over adversity and an increasingly sclerotic class system. Come away with insight on a number of fronts, most of all how we can make a difference.

Forever Changed is published by Triumph Books, ISBN 978-1-62937-022-4, illustrated, $24.95. Click here for the link to Forever Changed on Amazon.

Full disclosure: I am a friend and admirer of Linda Mornell and the work she has done at Summer Search, and had several discussions with Linda about her book while it was still in manuscript.

Posted in Book Reviews

Cotter Pin

The cotter pin, also sometimes called a split pin, is piece of metal separated into two tines. The tines are bent outwards in installation, and the cotter pin is used to hold two pieces of metal together where the design implies some movement—or even rotation between—the metal segments that are attached.

Cotter Pin © Harold Davis

Cotter Pin © Harold Davis

While the cotter pin is attributed as an invention of Dr Rudolph Cotter in the 1834, there is little doubt that informal variations of this kind of fastener have been in use ever since the very earliest days of the industrial revolution, when the need to flexibly but strongly attach two pieces of metal became important—probably the 1750s or 1760s.

As such, the cotter pin is a great symbol and proxy for the good side of industrial humanity, namely the inventiveness and improvisational ability with which as a species we can approach the mechanical universe. It’s a simple but supple solution, strong, and easy to implement with materials at hand.

The cotter pin shown is at one end of a counting device, probably used in a 19th century industrial assembly line.

I wanted to use my wonderfully sharp Zeiss Otus 85mm lens to photograph the small cotter pin up close and personal, but I needed to get a little closer. So I used an old Nikon PN-11 52.5mm extension tube (Nikon has long since discontinued this part). I retrofitted the extension tube with a tripod collar and tripod plate, which helped to balance the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4, which is a truly extraordinary lens with a weight to match the quality of the optics.

Exposure data: Nikon D810, Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4, Nikon PN-11 52.5mm extension tube, 5 seconds at f/16 and ISO 64, tripod mounted.

Related story: Workbench.

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

LAB Color Adjustments

I’m often asked what I mean by LAB color adjustments, so I thought I’d show a simple set. These adjustments are based on a likely suspect, the succulent from my front porch I shot in September. The image is shown in its original version in the linked story (check out the color version) and at the bottom here. The LAB color adjustments I used are shown in the caption of each version. Incidentally, these adjustments are pretty thoroughly explained in The Photoshop Darkroom; you can also download the Photoshop action I wrote to generate this set of adjustments.

Succulent-LAB-All Channel inversion © Harold Davis

Succulent-LAB-All Channel inversion © Harold Davis

Succulent-LAB-L-channel inversion © Harold Davis

Succulent-LAB-L-channel inversion © Harold Davis

Succulent - LAB A-channel equalization-inverted © Harold Davis

Succulent – LAB A-channel equalization-inverted © Harold Davis

Succulent - LAB A-channel equalization © Harold Davis

Succulent – LAB A-channel equalization © Harold Davis

Succulent-LAB-B-channel equalization © Harold Davis

Succulent-LAB-B-channel equalization © Harold Davis

Succulent-LAB A-channel inversion © Harold Davis

Succulent-LAB A-channel inversion © Harold Davis

Succulent, original version  © Harold Davis

Succulent, original version © Harold Davis

Posted in Photoshop Techniques

What do mountain men, trains, and old barns have in common?

What do mountain men, trains, and old barns have in common? Come find out in a unique photography tour of California’s Gold Rush Country April 9-12, 2015 conducted by my friends Harvey Abernathy and Gail Berreman. Both Harvey and Gail have often worked with me as facilitators for my workshops, and you may already know them.

Mountain Man © Harvey Abernathy

Mountain Man © Harvey Abernathy

Harvey writes, “During the mid-1800’s California saw an explosion of growth from the discovery of gold in the Sierra Mountains. Towns popped up overnight with tens of thousands of people of all cultures rushing in to claim a part of this new life, bringing with them the customs and styles of their life at the time. Come step back in time to experience and photograph the glory of the California Gold Rush from within the heart of the Gold Country in the Western Sierra Foothills. We designed this photographic tour to capture the feeling and flavor of life in the 1850’s during the height of the Gold Rush.”

Click here for detailed information and registration.

As part of the workshop, special access has been arranged to Railtown 1897 State Park in Jamestown, California. Harvey notes: “Here’s an image [shown below] that I captured on the interior of one of the rail cars that we accessed at the rail yard. A number of the cars and engines at this facility have been fully restored, with some utilized for movies.  Volunteer engineers and crafts people restore and maintain the equipment, which is used to provide public excursions along a line of the tracks in the foothills of this region.  Many of the parts are actually made within the facility, which still houses a working blacksmith and machine shop.  There are numerous types of passenger rail cars, steam engines and other rail equipment available to access for overview and close-up photography.”

Passenger Car © Harvey Abernathy

Passenger Car © Harvey Abernathy

This will be a small and intimate group of photographers with unparalleled access to a number of exciting and unique subjects. Whatever your area of photographic interests, you’ll find something to shoot on this tour. I know that Harvey and Gail will take good care of you. What are you waiting for?

Click here for detailed information and registration.

Posted in Workshops

The Photoshop Doctor is in: take two webinars and call me in the morning

Stymied by the nuts-and-bolts of creative photography and post-production in Photoshop? Try my webinars for a different approach to jump start your success. Unlimited access to these recordings is $19.95 each. Here’s a comment after watching Photoshop Layers 101:

“Watching Harold work on his imagery, as he would in ‘real-life’, has helped me lock-in techniques that I had read about, but were only theoretical to me. It’s great to have multiple delivery channels for Harold’s information, and I now feel confident I can succeed.”01-title-layers101

Click here to see more feedback about these webinars!

We currently have seven webinar recordings available:

Posted in Workshops

New span of the Bay Bridge

When the new Sheriff comes riding into town, everyone needs to adjust. The same thing is true for photographers when a new public structure goes up, particularly when the change is striking and vast enough, like it or not, to totally change the landscape. When this kind of change happens we must assess the alteration to our familiar landscape, and seek out new vantage points to include the new element in our photographs.

New Span of the Bay Bridge © Harold Davis

New Span of the Bay Bridge © Harold Davis

The new span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge, from Yerba Buena Island to Emeryville and Oakland on the East Bay side, is this kind of change. Driving across the new bridge is a compelling experience, with the structured and regular lighting, and a mostly open feeling. In comparison, the old 1930s bridge was a bit closed-in, and far less expansive feeling.

Walking the new bridge is exciting, although the walk is mostly in the shadow of the old structure (the old roadway is shown in this linked story). With the last of the old bridge scheduled to come in staged demolition, the walkway will eventually no longer be dominated by the shadow of the past.

But none of this prepares one for the impact and resonance of the tower of the new Bay Bridge, which can be photographed from a variety of interesting locations around San Francisco Bay. I made the image shown in this story while leading a night photography workshop from Treasure Island, just across the small isthmus that connects Treasure Island with Yerba Buena Island.

Old and new  © Harold Davis

Old and new © Harold Davis

Related stories: Out with the OldBay Bridge Lights. For a pattern I observed on the new Bay Bridge walkway, see Broken Arrow.

Posted in Photography, San Francisco Area

If not now, when?

Harold Davis-2015 Italy Tour

Sea-Girt Villages of Italy Photography Adventure with Harold Davis is 15 Days and 14 Nights. The cost is $6,495.00 per person. With a maximum group size of 12, places are limited. So don’t delay. Click here for Prospectus and complete details, and here for Registration instructions.

Download this advertisement as a PDF printable e-card. Click here for Harold Davis 2015 Workshop schedule, and here for the Making Memorable Travel Photos Harold Davis webinar recording.

Posted in Workshops

Making Memorable Travel Photos and other Webinar recordings

I’d be the first to admit that my series of webinar recordings are home-grown. These are not highly polished, and they show the actual techniques I use.

01-title

Many of us like to travel, and when we travel we bring our cameras. But there’s a strange paradox: no matter how unique and photogenic our destinations, mostly the photos we come back with are pretty dull. Your travel photos do not have to be boring!

Featured Webinar recording: Making Memorable Travel Photos (unlimited access to the recording only $19.95).

Description: In this presentation, noted photographer and digital artist Harold Davis shares his spectacular imagery from many places around the world as well as “abroad at home.” He’ll share the backstories about how many of his images were made, and what was going on at the time of the exposure. Hint: If men in military uniforms come toward you pointing automatic weapons, stop photographing whatever it is that you are photographing, and turn around slowly!

While showing his award-winning imagery, and sharing his travel photography stories, Harold will explain topics including:

The Making Memorable Travel Photos webinar covers:

  • How to research and prepare for any travel destination
  • Planning tools that Harold uses to maximize his chances of photographic success
  • Figuring out where the light is coming from to get the best photos
  • How to be “at home abroad” no matter what your destination
  • Making travel photos that rise above the mundane
  • Photographing people when you travel
  • How to ask a stranger permission to take their photo
  • Making travel photos with a personal viewpoint
  • How to get good shots when you are with a group
  • Editing and presenting your photos when you get home
  • The presentation will conclude with ample time for Q&A.

Want to move your photographic imagery from the mundane to the artistic? Then maybe this webinar—is for you! Learn to find the special at home and abroad in this extraordinary presentation from Harold Davis, one of the living masters of digital photography.

What some viewers of our webinars have said:

  • “Your webinars are very educational and inspiring!”
  • “Watching Harold work on his imagery, as he would in ‘real-life’, has helped me lock-in techniques that I had read about, but were only theoretical to me. It’s great to have multiple delivery channels for Harold’s information, and I now feel confident I can succeed.”

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

Click here for more info about Harold Davis webinar recordings.

Posted in Workshops

Wabi-Sabi Anemones

Beauty should never be a hostage to perfection. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that recognizes the beauty in transience and imperfection. These anemones were beautiful in their prime. They are also beautiful, in a different and perhaps deeper way, as they age.

Wabi-Sabi Anemones © Harold Davis

Wabi-Sabi Anemones © Harold Davis

Photographed on a white seamless background using sunlight with my Nikon D810 and Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 at 1.6 seconds, f/16, and ISO 64.

Related story: Tulip Wabi-Sabi.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Preview my Craftsy Photographing Flowers course

Click here to watch the trailer for my Photographing Flowers course on the Craftsy platform. Use this link to sign up for Photographing Flowers with a special 50% off today.

Red Tulip at Giverny © Harold Davis

Red Tulip at Giverny © Harold Davis

If you like flower photography, you might also be interested in my books Photographing Flowers (Focal Press) and Creative Close-Ups (Wiley).

I’ll also be giving two flower photography workshops in 2015, a Masterclass in Creative Flower Photography in June at the Heidelberg, Germany Summer School of Photography (class taught in English) and a Creative Flower Photography workshop at Maine Media in Rockport, Maine in August.

Tulips on White © Harold Davis

Tulips on White © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Workshops

Bouquet of Anemones

These pretty anemones come from Thomas Farms, and are organic (as well as locally sourced). The potential advantages of eating organic food are pretty clear, but why buy organic cut flowers? According to Thomas Farms, “Most cut flowers available in the U.S. are grown, assembled and packaged in third-world countries, where pesticide regulations are lax. Because flowers are such a high-value crop, they are doused with insecticides, fungicides and growth regulators, including chemicals that have been banned or restricted in the U.S. due to health or environmental concerns.” You can read more on the Thomas Farms website.

Bouquet of Anemones © Harold Davis

Bouquet of Anemones © Harold Davis

This bouquet of anemones was photographed with tender love on my light box for transparency using my Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 lens using a Nikon D810. Click here to see close-ups of a couple of these anemones.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Anemone Fun

I am always amazed when I start a flower photography session: no two flowers are ever the same, and there are always an infinitude of possible ways to imagine a flower photo. Once you take up flower photography there is little chance that you will ever be bored.

Anemone 1 © Harold Davis

Anemone 1 © Harold Davis

These anemones interested me because they both showed red marking on a fairly white background. I photographed each with my Zeiss Otus 85mm lens, using three bracketed exposures. The darkest exposure was for the outer petals, and the lightest exposure was for the dark—almost black—core of each anemone.

Anemone 2 © Harold Davis

Anemone 2 © Harold Davis

The layer masks I created to combine the exposures bear some resemblance to bullseye targets. Either that, or to Kenneth Noland paintings without the color.

Want to see more of my anemone images? Check out Anemones ReduxNature’s Palette, Tulips and Anemones, and Anemones.

Click here for the Flower Photography category on my blog.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Interview with Rick Smolan

It’s always fun to change things up and do new things, so from time to time on an ongoing basis I will be interviewing prominent photographers and folks involved with publishing on my blog. I’m pleased and honored to kick off this series with a discussion with photographer and well-known book producer Rick Smolan.

Rick Smolan is a former Time, Life, and National Geographic photographer best known as the co-creator of the “Day in the Life” book series. Today, Smolan directs massive crowd sourced projects which combine creative storytelling with state-of-the-art technology. Many of his books have appeared on the New York Times best-seller lists and his projects have been featured on the covers of dozens of publications around the globe including Fortune, Time, GEO and Stern.

The primary focus of my discussion with Rick Smolan relates to his recent Kickstarter funded book project, Inside Tracks.

©2015 Rick Smolan via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

HD: Tell me about Inside Tracks.

RS: Inside Tracks is the extraordinary story of Robyn Davidson, a twenty-seven-year-old Australian woman who set off to cross the desolate outback, accompanied only by four camels and a dog. It was a trip that began as a pure and (many said) lunatic gesture of independence and quickly turned into an all-out battle of wits against the forces of both nature and civilization. Cocky and outspoken, Robyn Davidson’s tale is at once the probing journal of a daring and stubborn woman and a wilderness adventure of the most exhilarating sort. It’s also the subject of a stunning new feature film called Tracks from the Oscar winning team behind “The Kings Speech”.

HD: What did you have to do with Robyn’s story?

I was assigned by National Geographic to document her journey, and tracked Robyn down in the desert five times during her nine-month journey. As I photographed the outback of Australia, and tried to see the landscape through Robyn’s eyes, I found an ancient awesome landscape swept by rain, heat and dust and inhabited by all varieties of marauding life, from poisonous snakes and wild bull camels to swarms of tourists clamoring after their newest heroine, the “Camel Lady.”

©2015 Rick Smolan via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

HD: This sounds like a great story. But why revisit it now?

RS: Of all the assignments I shot as a freelance photographer, Robyn’s timeless story has always been the one that seemed to touch people the most deeply.   It’s a love story, a dog story, and an epic adventure. The that fact that it has now been turned into a much-loved movie makes it a great time to revisit the original journey and feature images never seen before.

via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

Inside Tracks is also quite unique in that it’s one of the first smartphone-enabled coffee table books and combines images from the original story together with images from the movie.

HD: I’d like to get back to the interesting and exciting extended features of your book in a moment. First, please tell me a bit more about the film.

RS: When Robyn and her caravan reached their destination nine months and 2000 miles of outback later, their arrival marked the end of a true odyssey, an unforgettable journey and now an extraordinary film,  In the movie, Robyn is portrayed by Mia Wasikowska (from Alice in Wonderland) and I’m (gulp!) played by Adam Driver (in HBO’s series Girls).

Mia Wasikowska and Adam Driver are two of the fastest rising young movie stars.  Mia was nominated for her role in TRACKS as Best Actress at the recent Gotham Awards, and Adam will appear in the next Star Wars film.

The filmmakers were incredibly meticulous in casting all the actors to look like the original people (not only Robyn and me, but her father, the aboriginal elder she traveled with, and so on) — they even manufactured clothes to match the ones people wore in my photos. In fact, they built many of the sets based on my still photos and the side-by-side comparisons are fascinating.

via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

HD: This must be very exciting for you.

RS: It’s great to have a major movie built around a story I played a role in, and yes, it is a real kick to be played by a major movie star. I think I know how Mark Zuckerberg must feel, minus the ten billion dollars part!

HD: How does your life today compare with the life you were leading when you created the images shown in Inside Tracks?

RS: My life is completely different. When I documented Robyn’s journey, photojournalists were sent out on assignments that sometimes lasted months. I traveled with Robyn for three months during her nine month trip.  Today that kind of in-depth coverage is very rare.  I was also 28 years old and single at the time, living in hotels 11 months of the year.  I was footloose and fancy free.  Today I have two wonderful kids (12 and 14) and a brilliant wife plus two dogs and two cats.  I travel about half as much as I’d like to and twice as much as my family wants me to!

©2015 Rick Smolan via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

HD: Do you miss the Australian outback? Would you go back? Do you enjoy wilderness experiences?

RS: I loved the outback. The quiet, the clarity of the light, the lack of light pollution so you could see stars was unlike anything I’ve ever seen anywhere else.  I did go back during the shooting of the movie and it hadn’t changed at all. Just magical!

©2015 Rick Smolan via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

HD:  If you could do this story over again, what would you do differently?

RS: I wish I had bought a movie camera back then, but was worried I’d be shooting movie footage just when I should have been shooting stills. I didn’t want to risk being distracted.  Now I so wish I had shot movie footage anyway.

HD: How does Robyn’s take on this adventure in her book Tracks differ from yours, or are they the same? Same question for the movie, or are there substantive differences?

RS: We compared our very different memories of the trip in this wonderful video produced by Emmy Award winning director Brian Storm. Actually, since human memory can be so malleable, one of our biggest fears is that the movie version of events will begin to change the way both of us remember the actual journey.

HD: You mentioned earlier in this interview that your book has some unusual features. Please tell me more.

RS: The coolest part of this book is that it comes with a free app which allows your iPhone or iPad to recognize one of my original photos of Robyn’s trek, and then immediately play a scene from the movie based on that photo. The effect is reminiscent of the Harry Potter movies where you could tap a character in the newspaper and have them turn around to tell you their story.  It allows readers to feel as if they are joining Robyn on her journey (and the actors as they bring her legendary trek to life.)

©2015 Rick Smolan via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

HD: I understand that you self-published Inside Tracks via a Kickstarter campaign, even though I’m sure you could have found a conventional publisher to work with. What’s the thinking behind your decision? How do you feel it has turned out?

RS: Even though over the years conventional publishers have sold more than five million copies of my books, I decided to self-publish Inside Tracks via Kickstarter because, despite my track record, no publisher would commit to the size, the heavy matt paper, and to the 6-color printing plus spot varnish that I felt Robyn’s story deserved.  The good news is that Inside Tracks has already sold over 11,000 copies, which probably makes Inside Tracks the best-selling Kickstarter coffee table book to date.

HD: Do you have any advice for someone contemplating a Kickstarter, or a self-publishing venture?

RS: Yes, I’m now convinced it’s the only way to go.  You have a direct relationship with every backer (unlike when you work with a publisher), and you make much more per book, so you can make the book much more affordable.  When a $45 book is sold through a publisher you might make $2.  When you sell that same book for $22.50 directly you make $10.  So you make as much selling 1,000 copies via Kickstarter at half the price as you would selling 5,000 via a publisher at full retail. Also with a publisher, you need to guess eight months in advance how many copies you “think” will sell, and if you are wrong, you end up with a warehouse full of unsold copies.  With Kickstarter, you only print the number of copies that your backers paid for, so there is minimal risk. I think most photography books in the future will be crowd funded.

©2015 Rick Smolan via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

HD:  What projects are you involved in now, and what are your plans for the future?

RS: My younger brother Sandy and I are just finishing a one hour TV documentary based on our Human Face of Big Data project and I’m working on a dramatic TV series based on Robert Heinlein’s classic science fiction novel “Tunnel in the Sky” (which I own the rights to).

HD: Thanks Rick, it is been really interesting finding out what you’re up to! If someone wants a copy of Inside Tracks, where is the best place to get one?

RS: Your readers can buy Inside Tracks from Amazon.com using this link. And, thank you.

©2015 Rick Smolan via Rick Smolan/INSIDE TRACKS

©2015 Rick Smolan via INSIDE TRACKS

Posted in Interviews Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , |

Wanted: A few good photographers for Italian Photo Tour

Harold Davis-2015 Italy Tour

Sea-Girt Villages of Italy Photography Adventure with Harold Davis is 15 Days and 14 Nights. The cost is $6,495.00 per person. With a maximum group size of 12, places are limited. So don’t delay. Click here for Prospectus and complete details, and here for Registration instructions.

Download this advertisement as a PDF printable e-card. Click here for Harold Davis 2015 Workshop schedule, and here for the Making Memorable Travel Photos Harold Davis webinar recording.

Posted in Workshops