Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy New Decade

Eye of the Rose

Eye of the Rose, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a more extended version of Kiss from a Rose presented with my best wishes for a Happy New Year and Happy New Decade!

Alstroemeria Medley

Alstroemeria Medley

Alstroemeria Medley, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I shot these alstroemeria blossoms (Peruvian Lilies) on a lightbox. I combined seven exposures at shutters speeds ranging from 1/4 of a second to 5 seconds. Each exposure was shot at f/64 and ISO 100, all were (of course) tripod mounted with great care taken not to move the camera between exposures. I used my 85mm perspective correcting macro lens.

I used layers and masking in Photoshop to combined the exposures. The hand-HDR process was biased towards overexposure because this tends to emphasize transparency.

The black background was accomplished with a LAB channel inversion. You’ll find this technique explained briefly on my blog and in greater detail in The Photoshop Darkroom.

Overall, I think the result looks much more like a painting than a photograph—a good thing in this case.

Related stories: Meditations on Transparency; Cherry Medley; Poppies En Masse.

Kiss From A Rose

Kiss from a Rose

Kiss from a Rose, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

The lighting, photography, and post-processing of this image all had the same goal: to increase saturation and tonal contrast and create a kind of “Georgia O’Keefe” effect. This is a set of techniques I’ve already used in my Variegated Rose (shown at the top of Photoshop Credo).

Lighting: I positioned the rose (a cut flower) so the light source (in this case the sun) went obliquely across the top of the flower so it created deep shadows. I controlled the shadows by positioning some sticks in front of the flower to selectively deepen the shadows.

Exposure: I used the tripod collar on a telephoto macro to mount the lens on the tripod, and pointed my camera-lens-extension-tube rig straight down on the rose. I used a magnifying eye piece for precision focus.

I combined three versions exposed at different shutter speeds to create the version shown, but all the versions were biased towards underexposure.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 200mm f/4 macro lens, 24mm extension tube, 3 combined exposures at 1/2 second, 1 second and 2 seconds, each exposure at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Post-Processing: As noted, I started by combining three captures using layers and masking to increase the tonal range of the composition. After collapsing the composite, I cleaned it up—it’s amazing how little “gribblies” tend to show up in extreme macros.

Next, I combined the background rose layer with itself twice, using Multiply and Screen Blending modes—once again with the idea of increasing contrast and tonal range. Layers and masks controlled the scope of the effect to specific areas.

I used two of the Nik filters from Color Efex Pro in my next pass—Glamour Glow and Tonal Contrast—to further my goals of enhancing both contrast and saturation in a selective and attractive way.

The most important Photoshop move meant converting the image to LAB color, and blending it selectively (using Normal and Soft Light modes) with an Equalization of the AB channels of a duplicate version of the image.

You’ll find more about my flower photography techniques in Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques and more about my post-processing ideas and workflow in The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing.

Needless to say, this level of Photoshop work in a house teeming with kids over Christmas break requires a good set of headphones and some great music—in this case Rosanne Cash’s The List.

Second Christmas of Katie Rose

Second Christmas of Katie Rose

Second Christmas of Katie Rose, photo by Harold Davis.

Katie Rose enjoyed her second Christmas with full comprehension of the important role that presents play in the festivities. Those of you that have followed her story since her birth will understand what a miracle this represents. There’s some delay in gross motor skills, but Katie has perfected the “commando” crawl. On a wooden floor this looks a great deal like swimming. Katie’s vocabulary increases day-to-day, with “ight” [light] and “oor” [door] frequent favorites.

We don’t normally dress Katie Rose in girly outfits like the one shown (a Christmas gift from her Grandma Barbara). For one thing, it isn’t easy to crawl in a dress. Our policy is to treat Katie just like we did her three brothers. Perhaps it is something innate—she seems to enjoy being dressed up. And also the freedom to crawl when we took the dress off and put her back in “normal” clothes.

Remembrance of Things Past

Remembrance of Things Past

Remembrance of Things Past, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a high-key image, in the sense that it is predominantly overexposed from the perspective of a smack-dab-in-the-middle “proper” exposure histogram. In other words, the exposure histogram is right-biased to a considerable degree.

In addition, the photograph features a largely white background, typical of high-key imagery.

When shooting something like this, I bracket like crazy—so I have a number of choices when I process the RAW captures. I can even pick and choose passages from several of the bracketed exposures if it seems like a good idea (it did not in this case).

When I started to process the photo, I considered adding some detail to the shadow “flower”—but everything I tried seemed a bit hokey. So I left the shadow of the flower as what it is, an undifferentiated flower.

This is not a glamour photo of a fresh-cut flower in an elegant crystal vase. The Gerbera is shown below photographed against black in the callow days of its youth.

The flower is past its prime and has already lived a full life. The point of the photo for me is the association of the shadow with memories—so the photo has a spare, elegant, and nostalgic feeling. Appropriate as we face the waning of the year and the dawn of a new decade.

Gerbera B

View this image larger.

Joy

Yosemite Storm

Yosemite Storm, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger. Read the original story featuring this image.

Greetings of the season! May your new year be filled with peace, prosperity, creativity—and joy. Merry Christmas from me and my family to you and yours.

My Night Photos on Nikon

City Dreams

City Dreams, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger. Read the original story featuring this image.

Night Lights, a story about my night photography, is running on the Nikon USA website in the Insight & Techniques section of Learn & Explore.

Solstice Sunset

Stinson Beach Sunset

Stinson Beach Sunset, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

A virtue of the short days of winter is that one doesn’t have to wait long for sunset. This photo—of a brief but spectacular sunset over Stinson Beach, California—was taken shortly before 5PM on December 21, the winter solstice and shortest day of the year.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18mm, circular polarizer, 1/50 of a second at f/9 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; multi-RAW processed using five versions of the original RAW capture.

Escape from the Shadows

Escape from the Shadows

Escape from the Shadows, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

A few weeks ago there was a freak snowstorm in the coastal hills above Berkeley and Oakland, California. It doesn’t usually snow here, so I rushed up with my camera.

Temperatures were above freezing, so the snow on branches took on a look almost like ice.

This tree was lit with subdued sunlight in a nook with towering dark fir trees behind. I intentionally underexposed to let the background go dark, and to bring out the contrast between the white branches and tha dark background. During the black and white conversion process, I worked to bring out the subtle properties of the light.

Havana Waterfront

Havana Waterfront

Havana Waterfront, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I desaturated this image of waves battering the Malecon along the Havana waterfront, and also added some virtual grain, to give the photo an old and worn feeling.

Bestsellers

The initial three titles in our Creative series—Creative Composition: Digital Photography Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley)—have been appearing recently on the Amazon Top 100 Computer Bestsellers list.

Leaving aside the issue of categorizing digital photography within the computer category—which actually does make some sense since a digital camera is a special purpose computer attached to a scanner and a lens—the success of these titles feels like really sweet validation. This is not an instant publishing success story. Our series concept was years in the making, and rejected by a number of publishers, before it found a home at Wiley.

We owe a special vote of thanks to those who believed in us and our ideas, including our agent Matt Wagner, and Courtney Allen, Barry Pruett and Sandy Smith at Wiley.


Creative Close-Ups: Digital Tips & Techniques

Creative Night: Digital Tips & Techniques

Creative Composition: Digital Tips & Techniques

Note: I’ve completely revamped my Flickr profile page. It’s a good starting place to learn about all things Harold.

Photoshop Credo

Variegated Rose

“I believe that digital photography is an entirely new artistic medium—it is as different from film photography as film photography was from what came before it.” Thus starts my credo about working in the Photoshop Darkroom.

This credo—or statement of beliefs—about digital photography and post-processing is the introduction to a new series of columns about making creative use of Photoshop.

The columns so far:

Enjoy!

Stair to Heaven

Water Drop Crossing

Water Drop Crossing

Water Drop Crossing, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

These two images of blades of grass wet with raindrops illustrate a digital solution to a technical photographic problem that could not be solved using film—and cannot be achieved in a solo digital capture. Some things just take more than one.

Consider that as you get very close to a macro subject that depth-of-field gets very shallow. Now suppose you want a great deal of your subject in focus—like all the drops of rain on the blades of grass shown in these two images. At the same time, you want a nice, soft focus background. Yum!

You can try a conventional approach: stopping your macro lens all the way down to the smallest aperture. Unless you are truly parallel to the subject, and the subject doesn’t have much width, you will not be able to get everything you want in focus. And stopping the lens all the way down probably means that the background soft focus will not be quite so dreamily soft.

The digital answer is focus stacking, which involves shooting multiple images at different focal points. Eac individual image can be shallow in terms of the depth-of-field.

The top image is made up of five orginals, and the bottom from seven. If you magnify the bottom image enough you’ll see a bit of unsharpness—but this comes from movement of the blade of grass in the wind, not technical focusing issues.

Once you have your set of originals, they can be aligned and combined in a Photoshop stack, as I explain in detail in Creative Close-Ups on pages 124-131.

Blades of Grass

View this image larger.

La Vie En Rose

La Vie En Rose

La Vie En Rose, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

If you look at this Photoshop composite, the building blocks I used to create it may not be immediately apparent. Some viewers have thought apple peels, others have suggested a shell, combined with an ornate column.

Astute readers of this blog will recognize Straight Shot (in a color version) combined with the variegated rose in Curves (turned on its side). Creating a complex composite like this one in Photoshop reminds me of nothing so much as doodling—perhaps proving that those painful years in graduate school were not entirely wasted!

Straight Shot

Straight Shot

Straight Shot, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This decorative central shaft presents a straight shot up to a skylight in the Edificio Cuervo Rubio—a stunning art deco apartment building now a little the worse for wear, located in the Vedado section of Havana, Cuba across the street from the Hotel Nacional.

When I first walked into the dim lobby of the Edificio Cuervo Rubio, I assumed this shaft was a spiral staircase. It’s not, and the function is merely decorative. There’s a elevator (not confidence inspiring but I rode it up anyhow) and the staircase shown here and here.