Monthly Archives: June 2011

Flowers in a Green Vase

Flowers in a Green Vase

Flowers in a Green Vase, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I enjoyed photographing these flowers in a green vase as much for rendering the textures and colors of the vase and table as the flowers! The vase contains safflowers and thistles, along with variegated gladiolas from my garden. Who knew that safflowers are pretty besides making cooking oil?

The digital darkroom techniques I used to create this image are covered in Photographing Flowers.

Through a Glass Lightly

I took Katie Rose for lunch yesterday to Ikea. We both had Swedish meatballs and french fries. Then we started fooling around with my iPhone camera. Altogether Katie and I had lots of fun!

Through a Glass Lightly

There are some advantages to a really small lens: it is easy to stick inside a glass. With one of my hands holding up the glass and the other holding the iPhone it helped to remember that the iPhone camera app takes the photo when you release the button, not when you first tap it.

Thistle while you work

Thistle

Thistle, photo by Harold Davis.

Things have been getting a little thorny around here as we come in on the final design, editing, and production tasks involving my new book from Focal Press, Photographing Flowers.

Speaking of thorny, photographing this thistle was definitely a matter of handling with care. I went up to the median strip of Arlington Avenue with my pruning sheers to cut a few stalks, and the thorns drew blood all the way through my gardening gloves. Ah, but one must suffer for one’s art!

After arranging the thistle stalks on my light box—another opportunity to give my blood for my work—I shot eight exposures, bracketing the shutter speed always to the high-key side of things in a hand-HDR approach explained in Papaver and Iridaceae. After processing the image, I placed it on a textured background.

I think the finished result, while obviously formidable, is also beautiful—and shows that not all lovely flowers are soft and cuddly.

And the Winners Are…

Judging the landscape photography contest organized by Light Stalking has proved to be no easy task due to the formidable quality of the entries. The winning three photographers were to receive a copy of my Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques courtesy of the publisher, Wiley Publishing.

In reviewing the massive numbers of images submitted,  I looked at the photos with creativity, technical qualities including exposure and composition, uniqueness, originality, and interest of the landscape as the judging criteria. Over a period of several days I was able to whittle the original entries down to 45 images in the following three Flickr galleries (the reason for three galleries is that there is a maximum of 18 images per gallery on Flickr):

If you look through these galleries, you’ll see that I had quite a task to pick the final winners. Obviously, it is to some extent subjective. In any case, here (in no particular order) are my three winners, and some of the reasons I chose them from this extraordinary pool of imagery.

Chris Gin’s Relics. Chris is a New Zealand photographer who is particularly skillful with seascapes. What I like most about Relics is the evocative and unusual shapes of the driftwood on the beach, and the dramatic lighting as well as the overall clarity of the image.

Relics
Relics, © Chris Gin. All rights reserved.

Helminadia’s Cape Kiwanda. Helminadia says that she is not a “professional photographer. I just enjoyed traveling around, seeing different countries and places and taking photos with families or friends. Photography is always an amazing hobby!” In pursuit of her hobby, Helminadia has photographed around the world in places as diverse as California, Bali, Qatar, and Indonesia.

Cape Kiwanda was shot along the Oregon coast on the second of two visits: “The first time I did not get any shots from there because of the Tsunami warning. So I went back, and I was so lucky, because just after the rain the light was so beautiful.”

I am awarding one of the prizes to this image because of the lovely light, and because of the perfect rendering of the surf in partial time-lapse due to the 1/2 second shutter speed.

Cape Kiwanda
Cape Kiwanda, © Helminadia. All rights reserved.

The panorama Brighton by Bryce Hughes is my third choice. This wonderful image has it all: technical chops as a panorama, great composition and cropping, and very nice saturated colors. Most of all, it is both humorous and tells a story about human foibles, as each beach cabana is decorated differently, reflecting the tastes of the different owners.

Brighton

Brighton, © Bryce Hughes. All rights reserved.

Thanks everyone for submitting your wonderful landscapes to this competition!

Bi-Monthly Print of the Month

Our June and July, 2011 offering is Following the Path. This unusual high dynamic range image of a country road in late afternoon light suggests the possiblities ahead if one thinks positively. The image makes a great print and is printed large on 17″ X 22″ paper. With its overall lively tones it will add an inspirational, light, and festive air to almost any room.

Following the Path

Following the Path is made by hand and giclee printed with tender, loving care in my studio on 325 gsm Epson archival Exhibition Fiber paper. This print is available only in a limited edition of twenty prints that will be signed and numbered, guaranteeing the unique characteristics of owning this work of art.

The special price for this archival print is $195.00. The normal retail price is $450.00, but you can save money and help support a living artist by buying directly from us.

Here’s the link for ordering your print in the Following the Path edition, and for more information about shipping and our discounted direct-from-artist print program. Purchase Following the Path now.

I’m not comparing myself with the great masters of photography, but consider that during the many years that Edward Weston and Ansel Adams were active, you could have bought one of their prints for a few hundred dollars (at most). These prints sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction today.

Orchid

Orchid

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

I shot this orchid on our front porch using a wood log as the background. It was late afternoon—or early evening—and I shot the flowers in deep shade. As I composed this image, I moved the flowers into the single patch of sunlight that was left. I used a small metallic reflector to make sure the light was uniform on all three blossoms.

I made three exposures, at 1/10 of a second, 1/20 of a second, and 1/30 of a second. Then I combined the images by hand in Photoshop, starting with the darkest version first. The exposures were shot with my 200mm macro lens at f/8 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

My pre-visualization of this image was to make an orchid portrait that looked a little like a Georgia O’Keefe painting, and I think this succeeds somewhat, particularly with the topmost flower.

HDR Wringer

Wringing Mangle

Wringing Mangle, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a side view of an old industrial clothes washing machine of the type that used to be called a “wringing mangle,” or sometimes simply a “wringer.” I’m thankful for many things in life, and one of them is that we do not use a machine like this in our house. We’ve been averaged three or four full washer loads a day, seven days a week, for years now—and I just can’t imagine what it would have been like in the old days using a wringer, or even by hand.

The wringer was in a small vineyard museum in California’s wine country. Covered with cobwebs, in dim light, it was clearly a subject that called out for HDR: parts of the machine reflected light from an open barn door, but the lower portion of the equipment was in deep shadow.

With my camera on my tripod I got down fairly low to the ground so that I could be parallel to the wringer’s mechanism. Using my 105mm macro lens, I made three exposures, all at f/36 and ISO 100. The shutter speed durations were 8 seconds (the darkest version), 15 seconds, and 30 seconds, with long exposure noise reduction turned on.

In my pre-visualization of this image, the thing that interested me most was the contrast between the soft, white dust and cobwebs, and the hard edges of the old machinery. With this contrast in mind, I knew I wanted to create a monochromatic image.

Back at my computer, I started processing the images by loaded the RAW files into Nik HDR Efex Pro. I created two versions with Nik, one a fine structured color version and the other an HDR monochrome, which I put aside for the time being.

Using the color version as the background layer, I then layered in by hand dark details (from the 30 second exposure) and light highlights (from the 8 second exposure).

I converted the color version to monochromatic using several Nik Silver Efex presets as well as Photoshop Black & White adjustment layers. I then blended the HDR monochrome created from the RAW files over the top of the monochromatic conversion at about 20% opacity.

This kind of HDR wringer is not always a trivial process, but then neither was washing clothes with a wringing mangle in the good old days.

Carnivore

Carnivore

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

It’s amazing how everyday objects can take on associations that are very different from the mundane reality. Seeing these different realities is a matter of letting go of familarity.

To an intelligent sentient being from another, far away galaxy this well-used pliers might truly seem like a carnivore—until, of course, further examination with a tricorder discloses that the pliers are not living….or maybe they are?

Shooting Duds

From my email bag: “I recently bought several of your books in order to learn something and I got really intrigued by Creative Night and night photography. Here’s my question: You presented lots of nice and successful pictures taken at night; however, how many weren’t nice and successful so that you could get the good ones?”—Wants to Improve

Dear Wants to Improve: A perfectly fair question, and with night photography in particular there is a great deal that can go wrong (and often does) when I shoot. I think the bigger question is not how much I might shoot in a night but rather how long it took me to get there in terms of my life experience. If you look at my blog and my Flickrstream you’ll see that I haven’t removed my older work, which in some cases isn’t up to my current standards. There’s some discussion of this point and related issues in Darwin Wiggett’s interview with me on his blog.

As a discipline, night photography doesn’t always give one that many chances at shots in a single night. As a case in point, with From Sunrise to Sunset, since the aggregated exposures lasted all night there was literally only one shot I could make per night. I was either going to get it or not. Also, the celestial conditions were only going to right one or two days a month because I needed a night without significant cloud cover in the dark of the moon.

While the shot worked, in fact, I screwed up the same shot up the preceding night. “Screwed up” is used as a technical term, by the way, in this context: My camera was in mirror-lockup mode from a previous session, I forgot to reset it, so each of my four minute exposures was missing the one minute it took for the shutter to open in mirror-lock-up mode.

The important things are to be aware when one makes a mistake, to take responsibility for it, to not beat oneself up, and to be a good editor of one’s own work.

So, yes, I shoot plenty of duds, and I’m proud of it! Nobody can consistently create only perfect images, it just can’t be done, and trying too hard for perfection all the time is a good recipe for creative block.

Separation Anxiety

Some mistakes are a hallmark of experimentation, but I do also like to think that I am growing technically and creatively, and that the histogram of the quality of my work is moving steadily up and to the right.

I believe that this is how you should judge your own work, no matter what stage of photography you are at: Not all photos are perfect. Nor should they be. What’s important is to learn and grow, both technically and creatively. If you are continuing to learn and grow, then you are on the right track. Wanting to improve is a great starting place.

About the photo: My kids found this rather exotic dandelion, with the blossom gone to seed stuck to its own core. Maybe it was trying too hard to be the perfect dandelion!

I brought the dandelion inside very carefully and shot it on a white background under a light tent. You can view the image in a larger size by clicking on the link.

Exif data: 100mm macro, 1 second at f/16 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Skinny on Fatherhood

Katie Rose

When Katie Rose was born she weighed less than two pounds. She’s still small for her age, and likes to fit in small spaces like the bathroom towel storage shown in the photo. Proving that size isn’t everything.

The biology of fatherhood isn’t everything, either. I occassionally joke around with Phyllis about our kids—”What did I have to do with them?” Being a DNA provider is often a brief matter and hopefully enjoyable. I keep in mind the Shakespearean conceit that if the parents had a good time conceiving, the child is likely to be of happier disposition. In King Lear the villainous Edmund therefore describes the “lusty stealth of nature” as providing more “composition and fierce quality” than a “dull, tired, stale bed.”

My point is that Phyllis did the tough work of pregnancy, and does a great deal of the grunt-and-scut work of day-to-day parenting around the house.

Fatherhood is more volitional. There are men who are great father figures to kids with whom they have no biological connection and—the opposite side of the coin—biological fathers who completely abandon their kids.

True fatherhood is a state of mind. Personally, I love being a father. It is the toughest job in the world—or second toughest after being a mother—and also the most rewarding!

Go Van Gogh

Starry Night Sunflower

Starry Night Sunflower, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This image is from a demonstration in Photographing Flowers about how to recreate Vincent van Gogh sunflowers. In Photoshop, starting with a pretty normal photo of a sunflower on a black background, I worked on the flower with the Topaz Simplify set of filters and (most importantly) the Pixel Bender OilPainting filter.

You may be interested to know that Pixel Bender is a free download from Adobe Labs. You get a whole bunch of filters and effects including OilPainting when you download Pixel Bender.

Having gone this far, I decided that my Go van Gogh Sunflower needed a starry sky. So I did the Pixel Bender thing on a stacked star circle image—with a little Photoshop Liquify filter magic thrown in as well.

The great painter Vincent van Gogh often signed his works “Vincent,” so I felt that the least I could do in this homage was to add a digital “Harold” signature.

Photographing Flowers

I’m pleased to announce that Focal Press will be publishing my new book Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis. I love to photograph flowers, and it is very special for me to have a book devoted just to my flower photography. I think you’ll enjoy my photos in this book. If you are interested in photographing flowers yourself, you’ll also find ideas, techniques, and inspiration!


Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis

Here’s the description of Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis:

Capture stunning macro floral images with this gorgeous guide by acclaimed photographer Harold Davis. You’ll learn about different types of flowers, macro equipment basics, and the intricacies of shooting different floral varieties in the field and in the studio.

Harold also shows you techniques in the Photoshop darkroom that can be applied to flower photography to help you get the most out of your images.

Beautiful and authoritative, this guide to photographing flowers is a must read for every photographer interested in flower photography. Photographing Flowers will also win a place in the hearts of those who simply love striking floral imagery.

With Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis, you’ll get:

  • An authoritative guide to capturing breathtaking flower images
  • Tips and techniques from master photographer Harold Davis
  • Stunning photographs to inspire your creativity and give you ideas for your own flower photos

Finding an Audience with Twitter

My new Photo.net column Using Twitter to Find an Audience for Your Photos explores how best to use Twitter as a platform for garnering an audience for your photos. Actually, the tips in my article go beyond photography—and really explore how to make the most of Twitter no matter what you want to promote.

To write this article, I interviewed some of the most successful practitioners of the craft of using Twitter to support photography-related businesses. The tips they share will be valuable no matter what your arena of work.

From Sunset to Sunrise

Check out my original story about From Sunset to Sunrise.

Here’s the article description:

Finding an audience for your photography is a very important topic to consider in the digital arena. Harold Davis continues to share his very informative and valuable tips and tricks in his monthly column on this very topic.

This month, he covers maximizing your exposure via Twitter. Can the word-based Twitter be a successful promotional vehicle for a photographer’s image? Harold thinks so and the thousands of pageviews his images receive because of Twitter are hard to argue with. How does he do it? Read the article and find out.

Read Using Twitter to Find an Audience for Your Photos.

Mathew

Mathew is my almost-seven-year-old son. Sometimes he is a ball of energy and sometimes he is abrasive. Often he is full of love and affection and wonder at the world around him. I love Mathew very much.

It is a joy to me to have three boys (and Katie Rose). But sometimes I look around and say, “Who are these kids, and why are they calling me ‘Dad’?”

Each child is different, and each is wonderful in his or her own way.

Mathew

When I made this photo, we were visiting a house with frosted glass on either side of the front door. I asked Mathew to pose for me looking through the glass. I knew I wouldn’t have much time with this mercurial child. I bumped my ISO slightly (to 250), set the camera to programmed automatic, and set the exposure adjustment to minus one f-stop to compensate partially for blow-out from hot spots where the sun was hitting the glass.

I was able to make four exposures before Mathew got bored, and only this one came out. There’s minimal post-processing involved, primarily spotting in Photoshop for dirt on the frosted glass.

Exif data: 200mm, 1/50 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 250, hand held.

Digital Black & White Workshop

Please consider joining me for a hands-on black and white weekend workshop in beautiful Carmel, California, from Friday October 14 through Sunday, October 16, 2011 under the auspices of the Center for Photographic Art (CPA).

This workshop will examine the craft and vision of digital monochrome in the context of your own work. Field sessions will teach participants how to best see the world monochromatically. We will explore the craft of shooting for black and white in a world-class location that has undeniable associations with the history of black and white photography.

Bixby Bridge 2

Here’s some more information about the workshop—you can also check out the CPA website. Registration is $350 for CPA members ($400 for non-members).

Digital Black & White: Vision and Craft with Harold Davis
October 14th (6:00 – 9:00 pm)
October 15th (9:00 am – 7:30 pm)
October 16th (9:30 am – 4:30 pm)
Sunset Center
Carmel, CA

Monochromatic imagery is deeply tied to the history of photography, and indeed some people only recognize photography as art if it is in black and white. However, in today’s digital photography world, digital sensors “see” the world in color by capturing RGB data—even if the resulting exposure is converted in the camera or computer to monochrome.

This paradox gives rise to a new way of approaching black and white photography. How do we see monochromatically in a post-film world? What kinds of imagery work best in digital black and white? How should you prepare for photography if you know your work will be presented monochromatically?

This hands-on workshop will examine the craft and vision of digital monochrome in the context of each participant’s own work. Field sessions will teach participants how to best see the world monochromatically. We will explore the craft of shooting for black and white in a world-class location that has undeniable associations with the history of black and white photography.

Classroom sessions will demystify the monochromatic conversion workflow, and explain monochromatic conversion techniques including in-camera conversion, RAW conversion, Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop adjustments, the “Ansel Adams” effect using Photoshop’s Channel Mixer, and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

Nautilus in Black and White

An optional night photo shoot on the Big Sur Coast is included. Price, including lunch: Members: $350. Non-Members: $400. Workshop is limited to 16 participants.

About the Instructor
Master photographer Harold Davis is the author of Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), which has been the number one selling black and white photography book on Amazon for more than a year. He is the author of many other bestselling photography books, including Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley) and The Photoshop Darkroom series from Focal Press. Harold is a contributing author at Photo.net, and writes the popular Photoblog 2.0. Harold’s workshops and presentations are highly acclaimed, with many of his workshops selling out quickly.
 

Click here for workshop schedule, what to bring, and registration (scroll to the bottom of the page).