Monthly Archives: August 2010

Shell Spiral

Shell Spiral

Shell Spiral, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: Close-up of a very, very small shell—photographed on black velvet, positioned upright using a pin, underexposed with an LED light used during the exposure to provide highlights. Exposure data: 50mm macro lens, 36mm extension tube, 30 seconds at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Sea Palms

Sea Palms

Sea Palms, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: Another version of the Sea Palm Forest, this one processed in a Photoshop Statistics stack using only four captures—with a few details layered on top—more in keeping with the Wynn Bullock monochromatic inspiration mentioned in my previous story.

Sea Palm Forest

Kelp Forest

Sea Palm Forest, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Along the rugged northern California coast, on BLM land near the Point Arena Lighthouse, I stopped to photograph a bed of kelp as it was struck by surf in the intertidal zone. This form of kelp is Postelsia palmaeformis, commonly called the Sea Palm for reasons you can see. To get a sense of the scale, one of the Sea Palms in the foreground of the image was about one foot high.

I was alone on a rocky cliff with Nicky facing the pounding ocean; he was worried that I would be swept away and kept running up to higher ground.

The image is made from 45 stacked layers using the Photoshop Statistics program. With the camera on tripod, I exposed when I thought the wave action on the Sea Palm forest looked particularly good. Each exposure was in the 1/6 of a second to 1/20 of a second range with the lens stopped down to f/32 (it was near to sunset). This was slow enough to render moving water as somewhat blurred. As opposed to the star stacking paradigm, I did not use a timer, and I did not expose at fixed intervals—I fired the shutter whenever I thought the scene looked good. Essentially, this is compositing over time rather than over space—as far as I know a new way of looking at things other than star circles. As a technique, HDR accomplishes the same thing with exposure dynamic range, but not because it extends the time frame of the resulting composite image.

After the Statistics composite stack was created, I layered in a few touches from individual exposures to finish the image.

My inspiration for this attempt was the classic (1968) Wynn Bullock photo of Sea Palms in the surf—long one of my favorite images.

Sneak Preview: Photoshop Darkroom 2

Phyllis and I have finished our new book The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations.

In the tradition of The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Post-Processing, the emphasis of the new book is improving and changing digital photos—starting with retouching, moving through changing the context of an image to make the unseen visible, and finally creating entire new worlds using Photoshop.

It will be some months before the book is available, but here’s a sneak preview.

Photoshop Darkroom 2 Table Of Contents (PDF)
Photoshop Darkroom 2 Introduction (PDF)
Content Aware Fill (pages 38-39, PDF)
Harold’s Manifesto: Losing the Chains of Reality (pages 152-153, PDF)

From the introduction to The Photoshop Darkroom 2:

The goal of The Photoshop Darkroom series is to inspire you and provide you with techniques to try. A digital image starts with a capture or a scan and proceeds through post-processing towards its final state. How well your image comes out depends upon your mastery of the craft of digital post-processing and—far more important—your imagination. I’d like The Photoshop Darkroom books to be your guide and companion on this exciting journey.

A digital camera is a special purpose computer attached to a lens and a scanner. It makes sense to process imagery in the more powerful context of a desktop computer (and Photoshop) rather than in the camera.

It also is just common sense to make the best photos you can using your camera. Relying on Photoshop to fix sloppy photography is a waste of time and creative energy. Therefore I’ll give you pointers about how to photograph with digital post-processing in mind—which is very different than being a lazy photographer.

The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations follows The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing and can be read either as a sequel to the first volume or on its own. We’ve worked hard to make this volume self-contained—however, we didn’t want to be overly repetitive of material that is amply covered in the first volume. Where appropriate I’ll provide page references to the earlier PhotoshopDarkroom book for more in-depth coverage of certain topics.

The emphasis in this volume is on creative transformations. This involves a wide range of image creation challenges from cleaning up an image that is “almost there”—and requires a little retouching—to creating entirely new fantastic digital images that are derived using compositing and other techniques.

From the back cover of The Photoshop Darkroom 2:

The Photoshop Darkroom 2 was written and designed by the same team that created The Photoshop Darkroom:
Creative Digital Post-Processing
, a best-seller that has been acclaimed as “wonderful,” “unique,” and “the best Photoshop book ever!”

Are you looking for amazing results for your photos using Photoshop? The Photoshop Darkroom 2 shows you how
to create awe-inspiring images. Step-by-step directions help you achieve the results you want from your photographs, whether you’re retouching, color correcting, or photo compositing.

The Photoshop Darkroom 2 will take photographers beyond the expected and ordinary. It will challenge
your creativity and give you the tools you need to achieve things you hadn’t thought possible. Your results will be extraordinary!

The images in this book will inspire you and help you unleash your creative powers. You’ll learn to see the potential of digital photographyin ways you never imagined.

  • Take advantage of the possibilities available in RAW image files
  • Use Adobe Lightroom to multi-RAW process your photos
  • Correct flaws and improve the tonality of your images
  • Improve and enhance portraits and glamour shots
  • Extend the dynamic range of your photos
  • Create High Dynamic Range (HDR) images by hand
  • Use HDR to create perfect black backgrounds and to enhance transparency
  • Composite images together to create entirely new, fantastic worlds

Dahlias and Echinaceas

Dahlias and Echinaceas

Dahlias and Echinaceas, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: An arrangement of Dahlias and Echniaceas from my garden. I love photographing flowers—and it is great that I don’t need model releases!

Reclining Nude

Reclining Nude

These two images of the female nude are abstractions—the female forms are composed as if they were sculpture or even a still life.

In the Photoshop darkroom, to create the monochromatic glowing effect you see in these images I converted to monochrome, duplicated each shot, and applied the High Pass filter to the duplicate. Next, I blended the High Pass versions back into the original using both Normal and Exclusion blending modes at partial opacity.

Legs

Creative Portraits

My new book Creative Portraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques is now available. This is a book about portrait photography techniques with a somewhat different slant. It’s not just about lighting and pretty models (although there is nothing wrong with those!). It covers the gamut from candid photos at birthday parties to street photography to glamour and fashion. One of my special interests in the book is the psychology of portraiture—both from the viewpoint of the photographer and the subject.

Creative Portraits on Amazon
Creative Portraits Table Of Contents (PDF)
Creative Portraits Introduction (PDF)

From the introduction to Creative Portraits:

To what extent is a photographic portrait “real”? Does the portrait represent the subject fairly and accurately? Put another way, do you know something that is true about the subject after looking at the portrait?

These are excellent questions. If you are not involved in the serious pursuit of making photographs, you’re likely to assume that there is a correlation between the photo and the reality of the subject, and that you’ve learned something about someone by looking at their portrait. But as photographers, we know that many photographic portraits are superficial and plastic—and highly subject to manipulation.

The truth of a portrait depends upon the insight and integrity of the photographer, the honesty of the subject, and the photographic and digital techniques and manipulations used. Not all photographic portraits are intended to be truthful, nor should they be. For example, if you are hunting for a job, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with putting “your best foot forward” by using an overtly flattering professional head shot.

My point is that in portrait photography it is crucial to be aware of your intentions and goals. A glamour session in the studio is a very different affair from a gritty portrait that attempts to reveal the truth about a complex personality, warts and all. Also, unlike most other kinds of photography, great portraiture requires collaboration with your subject. If you are taking a photo of a blade of grass or a railroad station, you don’t really care what the plant or the building thinks of you. But if you are photographing a person, your relationship with the person—their life experiences, how they feel about photography, and what they think of you—plays an important role in the process of photography.

Speaking of intentions and goals, Creative Portraits is unlike other portrait photography books you may have seen. My assumption is that you are seriously interested in photography—or you probably wouldn’t have picked up this book. But this isn’t primarily a treatise about studio portrait techniques. Instead, Creative Portraits aims squarely at the heart and soul of portrait photography, which is what most of us really care about: how do we create meaningful, interesting, and compelling portraits of our friends, family, and kids.

From the back cover of Creative Portraits:

Taking portraits of men, women, and children is a passionate undertaking. By capturing a person through a photo, you can explore the subject’s character.

This book aims squarely at the heart and soul of portrait photography and shows you how to create meaningful and compelling images. Each photo is taken from Davis’s personal collection and is accompanied by an explanation of how and why he made it. Composition, lighting, exposure, and camera technique are all discussed, taking you beyond the basics.

Still, the best way to craft memorable, lively, and stunning portraits is sometimes to break the rules. Davis also demonstrates how to do this in a way that is both informative and inspiring. He encourages you to define and develop your own photographic style by shooting creative, unique images. You’ll be moved to try new techniques, empowering you to truly define someone with a photograph.

  • Capture emotion to create a compelling image
  • Learn about clothing, hair, and make-up
  • Choose the right lens and shutter speed
  • Utilize the best lighting techniques
  • Have fun photographing kids
  • Retouch your images and add special effects

Star Circle Workshop November 5-7, 2010

Imagine photographing stars and star trails under the clear night skies of the Eastern Sierras with the guidance of two masters of night photography! Under the auspices of Star Circle Academy, www.StarCircleAcademy.com, the Alabama Hills Star Circle Workshop will be a chance to hone your night photography skills, learn new skills both behind the camera and in the digital darkroom. You’ll come home with spectacular, unique images based upon the stunning clarity and unusual topography of California’s Eastern Sierra and the autumnal night skies.

The workshop will be based in Lone Pine, California and will use the Alabama Hills area, with its background of Mt Whitney and the High Sierra crest, as the primary shooting location. You can register now with an early-bird discount or get more information about the workshop.

Starry Night 3

Starry Night 3, photo by Harold Davis. Original story about this photo.

The Alabama Hills Star Circle Workshop is for anyone who wants to learn more about the exciting world of night photography, or who wants to take their night photography to the next level. The workshop is geared to provide specific information about photographing star trails using an intervalometer (a programmable timer) and using stacking software to create a single composite low-noise image of star circles.

Here are some links for more information: Star Circle Academy; Information about Alabama Hills Nov 5-7 workshop; Workshop syllabus (PDF); Registration.

Tuition is $425 if you register by September 11, 2010, $500 if you register by September 30, 2010, and $600.00 thereafter. Click here for more details or to register.

Based on past experience, we expect this workshop to sell out as it is strictly limited to 20 participants. A waiting list will be available once the workshop fills.

Class room portions of the workshop will be conducted at the Best Western Frontier Motel in Lone Pine, California where rooms are available to workshop participants at a discounted rate of $80 per night.

I am lucky to have my friend Steven Christenson as the co-leader of this workshop. Steven is a geek by day and a photographer, hiker, backpacker and magician by night. He is also a co-founder and an organizer of the very successful Bay Area Night Photography group where like-minded, low-light photographers find interesting subjects and challenges. Those who have been lucky enough to photograph with Steven know that he is generous with sharing his knowledge—and a great deal of fun!

Steven’s love of astronomy, technology and photography have found an outlet in night photography, especially star trails. Steven is expert at photographing star trails and his images have been selected by the Greenwich Royal Observatory for the short list for the Astronomy Photographer of the Year, 2010 competition. He has built custom components to power a camera for all-night unattended shooting. Steven freely shares his knowledge of astronomy and software tools for choosing the best celestial subjects, weather, dates and vantage points to capture everything from star trails to unusual astronomical events.

Please consider joining us for what will be a glorious and fun nightime adventure—not to mention highly educational.

Low Tide at Dusk

Low Tide at Dusk

Low Tide at Dusk, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is an image taken in the China Beach area of San Francisco Bay as dusk was fading into night. The scene shows mud flats at extreme low tide, facing northwest on an overcast mid-winter evening.

I shot bracketed originals and combined six exposures in Photomatix, with some additional hand layering on top in Photoshop. By eye, the scene was more gray than blue—but each of the original frames shows distinct blue tonality.

For comparison, here’s a monochromatic version of the scene:

Low Tide

View this image larger.

Here’s an HDR image looking in the opposite direction:

China Beach at Low Tide

View this image larger.

Related story (same location): Lonely Islet.

Annette’s Eyes

Annette

Annette, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: The reddish light in this portrait of the beautiful model Annette comes from a parasol she was holding while in a swimming pool. I used a fill flat on the left to add light to her face, and a polarizing filter both to cut the glare of sunlight on the water and to intensify the colors of the image.

If you look carefully at Annette’s striking eyes, you will see me reflected in her pupils.

Romance of the Dandelion

Romance of the Dandelion

Romance of the Dandelion, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I created this composite image in Photoshop to illustrate a book, Lane Von Herzen’s The Unfastened Heart. Here’s my description of how the image relates to the book: Mariela waits and wonders when Addison will return, or if he will return. In Anna’s untamed garden she bides her time and contemplates the dandelions, roses and poppies in wild profusion. She knows she cannot only wait and that out there is a world to respond to her magic.

Creative Portraits

KT Cover

KT Cover, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

My new book Creative Portraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques is now shipping. Amazon will get it to you anywhere, even if you don’t plan to read it like Katie Rose while sitting on top of an egg.

It’s a family tradition to photograph Katie Rose with our new books as they come in. Some other images:

Katie Rose and Creative Black & White.
Katie Rose and The Photoshop Darkroom
Katie Rose and Creative Close-Ups
Katie Rose and Creative Night
Katie Rose and Creative Composition

Here’s the description from the back cover of Creative Portraits:

Taking portraits of men, women, and children is a passionate undertaking. By capturing a person through a photo, you can explore the subject’s character.

This book aims squarely at the heart and soul of portrait photography and shows you how to create meaningful and compelling images. Each photo is taken from Davis’s personal collection and is accompanied by an explanation of how and why he made it. Composition, lighting, exposure, and camera technique are all discussed, taking you beyond the basics.

Still, the best way to craft memorable, lively, and stunning portraits is sometimes to break the rules. Davis also demonstrates how to do this in a way that is both informative and inspiring. He encourages you to define and develop your own photographic style by shooting creative, unique images. You’ll be moved to try new techniques, empowering you to truly define someone with a photograph.

  • Capture emotion to create a compelling image
  • Learn about clothing, hair, and make-up
  • Choose the right lens and shutter speed
  • Utilize the best lighting techniques
  • Have fun photographing kids
  • Retouch your images and add special effects

Kate Rose says, “Order Creative Portraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques from Amazon today!”

Katie Rose on the Half Shell

No Yolk

No Yolk

No Yolk, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

It’s not often you see a green wasp the size of a hen’s egg. If you do, it is certainly no yolk.

Live By Technology Die By Technology

Sunny Side Up

Sunny Side Up, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a post about technology. Mostly, I like to write about photography and Photoshop in my blog—but sometimes in this modern world you got to get down and hands-dirty. It’s a rotten job, but someone has to write about the mechanics of what makes this stuff tick. Without the software stack my blog wouldn’t be available to all of you I hear from who read what I write. If the mechanics of blogging bores you to tears you can skip this one—there’s plenty of other stuff to read on my site, like several thousand blog stories, mostly about photography.

Before I get there, let me briefly note the image above of a flower reflected and refracted in a water drop caught in a spider web. Shot with my 200mm f/4 telephoto macro, a 36mm extension tube, and a +4 diopter close-up filter: very, very close. A companion shot: Orbit.

Now to the live-by-technology bit so here’s where you should click a link into my archives if you are a technophobe. Hey, 2008 was an interesting year—here’s May, 2008 the month my daughter Katie Rose was born.

I’ve noted before that my blog is an electronic version of a daybook, such as the one kept by Edward Weston. See also Nearly Naked Women for a related story. With its thousands of entries, this blog is an important part—and explanation—of my work and life. However, it is inherently fragile—as are all electronic constructs. A WordPress blog needs many “moving parts” to keep running—a web server, database, and the PHP language to name a few of the more obvious.

A few days back I decided to add a plugin to my WordPress installation that would allow me to keep better track of readers of my blog who are signed up to get daily emails via the Google Feedburner service. Among other things, this service turns my syndication feed into an email for people who sign up for delivery this way. By the way, if you’d like to sign up for the service, follow this link to my subscriptions page.

More specifically, the Feedburner Stats WordPress plugin uses the FeedBurner Awareness PHP API to access the FeedBurner feed data and the Google Visualization API to show this data in my WorPress control panel—at least theoretically. The problem I had was that the plugin crashed with an internal syntax error. Its developer very nicely pointed out to me that PHP 5 was required—and my web hosting service was running PHP 4.4.9.

Well, I could probably live without the Feedburner Stats plugin, although why should I have to do without my toys? But its developer also brought to my attention a much bigger issue: with WordPress version 3.2, WordPress will stop working on PHP versions below PHP 5.

This is something that should make anyone with a WordPress blog sit up and pay attention. By way of background, WordPress is a wonderful, open source blogging tool written in PHP—and there has always been an “arms race” between the large WordPress development community and the probably equally large number of hackers out to corrupt and infiltrate blogs. This partially accounts for the rapid, incremental versioning of WordPress. We’re now at version 3.01, and version 3.2 is not far away, maybe six months at the most.

One pretty much has to keep one’s version of WordPres up-to-date. To not do so is to ask to be spammed.

To repeat, if you are not running PHP 5, your WordPress installation will not be upgradeable—or will mysteriously “Go South” when you try to upgrade it—in a matter of a few months. Very serious indeed for a committed blogger.

It turned out that getting my PHP upgraded to the current version was a much more complex issue than simply bringing this to the attention of my webhosting service—for reasons mostly having to do with the internal architecture of the hosting company. It took a couple of headaches and hours of my time, and the webhosting service was really pretty good about helping me along. I’m glad I upgraded, because this way my “blogging lights” won’t go out mysteriously when I try to upgrade to WordPress 3.2—what a mess that would be. It’s much better to have a little lead time on these things, so I’m writing this by way of warning to anyone who is in a similiar situation: upgrade to PHP 5 now!

Using Image Apply Image

First Blush Variation

First Blush Variation, photo by Harold Davis.

Photoshop’s Image Apply Image command is one of its least understood—and most powerful. In my latest Photo.net column, I explain how to use a duplicate LAB color Lightness channel to auto-generate a powerful layer mask—a powerful technique that you won’t find explained anywhere else.

Here’s the article description:

Imagine a Photoshop world without the ability to select. Impossible. There would be no way to work on parts of an image. You would be forced to make changes on the entire image or not at all. Basically, selecting is comparable to creating a mask for a layer. You want the easiest way possible to isolate an area of an image. In some cases, making an edge drawing to create a selection or a layer mask takes a great deal of time. However, by isolating a channel of your image, you may simplify the selection process. In this article, Harold breaks down the important application in Photoshop that allows us to apply a channel as a layer mask—Image > Apply Image.

Read Using Image Apply Image.