Monthly Archives: January 2012

Spruce Street House

The parents of one of Katie Rose’s buddies at pre-school are architects who  just bought a classical Berkeley shingle house from the early 1900s. In recent years this grand house has suffered from neglect, and been used for single room occupancy. So it’s a good thing that the new owners are architects who know what they are doing and can reverse the damage of the years.

Spruce Street House by Harold Davis

Spruce Street House © Harold Davis

When the owners gave me to permission to shoot inside the house before renovation began I was very excited because I love the sense of possibility in empty architectural spaces. Once a building has been restored—and worse yet, furnished—this sense of potentiality is gone forever. It is lost in the specifics of a single sensibility of decorating aesthetic (if one is lucky) or just cluttered (if one is not).

This shot down the stairwell had the usual difficulties with getting the camera in position—although this aspect wasn’t quite as treacherous as the stairwell in the Edificio Cuervo Rubio in downtown Havana, Cuba where I had to perch on top of a toilet tank (the full story is in The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations).

My life was made a little more difficult by a contracting gentleman (I think he was quoting a price for shingle repair) who kept putting his notebook down on one of the newel posts as I was shooting!

This image is a blend of seven exposures. I used my 10.5mm fisheye. Each exposure was at f/22 and ISO 100. I used a tripod throughout, and shutter speeds with durations from 1/60 of a second to 2 minutes. I blended the exposures to create an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image by hand, and also using Nik HDR Efex Pro. When I converted to monochromatic my hope was to create an effect that was almost Escher-like in feeling, although without the surrealism of many of Escher’s famous etchings.

Thistle While You Workshop

Arlington Avenue is a divided street that runs a block away from my home from Marin Circle in North Berkeley to downtown Kensington, California—a quaint low-key strip that hosts a friendly post office in the drugstore and California-Spanish style architecture. Arlington Ave is notable because the Hayward Fault, a major earthquake fault zone that is “capable of generating significantly destructive earthquakes” (as the Wikipedia puts it), runs right along the center road divider as it passes through Berkeley, California.

In summer months, when plant growth around here begins to be so prolific as to be excessive, the median strip of Arlington Ave that lies above the Hayward Fault also becomes one of my sources for photographic subject matter.

I watched a clump of thistles growing for several weeks and then decided I needed to capture one to bring back to my studio for photography. My oldest son Julian came with me on the thistle-gathering expedition. We wore our most thorn-proof clothing and inner and outer gloves, and used an extra long pruner. Even so, this thistle drew blood when I cut it down, and carried it away for photography.

In the studio, I placed the thistle upright in front of a lightbox. I then lit the front of the thistle with a warm, Tungsten photo light. I bracketed exposures to create and effect of layered transparency and extended dynamic range when the exposures were combined in Photoshop.

Thistle by Harold Davis

Thistle © Harold Davis

From the moment I began to see this image come together in my viewfinder, I knew I had something. This thistle’s motto may have been “we always hurt the ones we love,” or at least the ones who photograph us, but there’s a thrill in creating imagery when everything goes right and when one is “in the zone” that is hard to beat and makes the pain of a thistle’s thorns seem like nothing!

I look forward to sharing my joy in photography and the fantastic high of successful image making when I give a workshop—hence the offerings you’ll see below.

The day after I shot this photo city crews came along, chopped down all the wonderful weeds including my thistle patch, and put them through a shredder. If I’d waited a day more, the thistle would have been gone. One of the lessons I’ve learned in a life largely devoted to photography is carpe diem—to seize the day. In other words, when you see a photo, take it. There are always good reasons for procrastination and delay, like one has to be somewhere, or it is too much trouble. Eschew these lame excuses! If not now, when? This is a good way to live life generally, a good way to be a photography—and in my admittedly biased opinion a good way to approach signing up for workshops!

Please consider these new workshop offerings (note special early-bird pricing through February 14, 2012):

Digital Black & White Master Class: Full Day Workshop with Vincent Versace & Harold Davis

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to learn from two of the masters of contemporary monochromatic photography. Registration.

Vincent Versace is the author of From Oz to Kansas: Almost Every Black & White Technique Known to Man and Harold Davis is the author of Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (in addition to other bestselling books from both master photographers). 

Creative Black & White by Harold DavisTopics covered in this workshop will include:

  • The monochromatic vision: learning to see the world in black & white
  • The craft of digital black & white
  • Digital black & white workflow
  • Monochromatic conversion in Lightroom
  • Nik Silver Efex 2
  • Working in Photoshop to perfect your black & white images
  • Monochromatic HDR
  • Tips & techniques from both Harold Davis and Vincent Versace
  • Making fine black & white prints

In addition, there will be time for individual portfolio reviews (plan to bring no more than six black & white prints or six images in JPEG format on a USB drive).

Workshop fee includes a finger-licking BBQ lunch from Everett & Jones. Vegetarian dishes and salads will also be served.

Who is this workshop for?

If you are interested in black & white photography and would like to take your work to the next level this is a rare opportunity to perfect your technique and be inspired by two legendary photographers and teachers! This workshop is primarily intended for serious amateurs and professionals who already have some experience with digital black & white photography.
Where: MIG Meeting Place, 800 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94710

When: Saturday March 10, 2012, 9:30AM

Tuition: Early-bird Valentine’s special! Register by February 14, 2012 to save $100. The cost of the workshop is $295 per person until 5PM on February 14th. Thereafter the full cost of the workshop is $395 per person. Workshop limited to 25 participants. Information and Registration.


Full Day Workshop: HDR (High Dynamic Range) Bootcamp with Harold Davis

Are you curious about HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography? Do you want to learn the gamut of techniques for extending dynamic range in your photos? Would you like to unleash the full power of HDR photography but don’t know the “secrets”? Registration.

Creating HDR Photos by Harold DavisIf the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” then HDR (High Dynamic Range) Bootcamp with Harold Davis is for you!

In this intensive, full-day workshop, Harold will show you how to shoot for HDR, how to extend dynamic range using multi-RAW processing, using automated HDR software including Photomatix and Nik HDR Efex Pro, and hand HDR processing in Photoshop.

In this workshop Harold reveals the secrets of HDR that you can’t learn anywhere else. With the HDR techniques taught in this workshop your photos will never be the same.

Besides mastering HDR techniques, and most important of all, Harold will help you develop your own style of HDR photography. 

Who is this workshop for?

This workshop is intended for intermediate to advanced photographers who are new to HDR, or have tried HDR and want to learn more about it (or are unhappy with their results).

Please contact us for clarification if you aren’t sure if this workshop is appropriate for you. 
Where: MIG Meeting Place, 800 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94710

When: Saturday March 24, 2012, 9:30AM to 5:30PM

Tuition: Early-bird Valentine’s special! Register by February 14, 2012 to save $50. The cost of the workshop is $145 per person until 5PM on February 14th. Thereafter the full cost of the workshop is $195 per person. Workshop limited to 18 participants. Information and Registration.


Other Harold Davis workshops

Please also keep in mind these workshops. There are only a few places left in each of these workshops and we expect them to sell out completely (so if you are interested in attending please don’t delay in registering):

You can learn more about Harold’s workshops and free events at the Photography with Harold Davis meetup; here’s the link to Harold’s calendar.


About Harold Davis

Legendary master photographer Harold Davis has been described as a “great teacher,” as someone whose “passion for teaching about photography is only second to doing photography in a creative way,” and as having “great skill without the ego of most master photographers.”

Harold Davis is an award-winning professional photographer and widely recognized as one of the leading contemporary photographers.

He is the author of more than 30 books, including Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography,  Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis (Focal Press), The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (Focal Press), and The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing (Focal Press).

Harold is the author of the Creative Photography series from Wiley Publishing.

“Harold Davis’s Creative Photography series is a great way to start a photography library”—Daniel Fealko, PhotoFidelity.

The Creative titles include: Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Portraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley). He’s also written a book on the fundamentals of exposure, Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O’Reilly Media).

Cherry Dance

Cherry Dance is manifestly a digital art creation. This collage combines a photo of blossoms on a cherry branch with two flat-bed scans of paper—using Photoshop to create a whole that resembles Japanese brush painting as much as it does tradional photography.

Cherry Dance by Harold Davis

Cherry Dance © Harold Davis

There’s no doubt that cherry blossoms are among my most popular subjects and widely viewed. I’m amused (and flattered) that in one case an attractive lady has had a facsimile of one of my cherry branch images emblazened on her own epidermis.

By the way, check out Creative Flower Photography Q&A with Harold Davis on the O’Reilly YouTube channel.

You Are What You Photograph

Are you what you photograph? They say, “You are what you eat.” In a certain simplisitic sense this is obviously true. Therefore, if you photograph what you eat then you are what you photograph—as in the case of the leek I photographed below in cross section that became a flavorful part of our dinner soup.

Leek by Harold Davis

Leek © Harold Davis

More generally, I believe that one can learn a great deal about a person by looking at their photos. It’s well known that historical fiction writers are really writing about their own times—in disguised or metaphorical terms. Similarly, no matter what one photographs—even if the images aren’t explicitly autographical—one is really telling a story about oneself.

So what does this macro shot of a leek say about me?

Do you agree that photos tell the story of the photographer making the image? Disagree? Please add your comment. Feel free to include a link back to your photos, edible, autobiographical or otherwise.

Getting Off Automatic

As a professional photographer I almost always use my camera in manual exposure mode. Most of the time I have no use for programmed automatic or semi-automatic modes—or, God forbid, one of those exposure modes beloved of lower-end cameras such as “Sunset Mode” (yes, there really are cameras with such pointless exposure modes).

One reason for learning to use your camera without relying on the prop of automatic exposure is because setting the controls yourself is the only way to really learn about the fundamentals of photography.

I run into many photographers in my workshops who want to become more creative photographers, and want to learn to take control of their cameras, but are stopped because they don’t really understand either basic photographic principles or how these principles are implemented in their camera’s controls.

So I decided to address these issues head-on in a one-day intensive workshop, Get Your Camera Off Automatic with Harold Davis, to be given here in Berkeley, California on Saturday, February 25, 2012 in the spacious and convenient  MIG Meeting Room. Click here for more information and registration, or see the full description below the image. 

Star Gazer by Harold Davis

Star Gazer © Harold Davis

 Full Day Workshop: Get Your Camera Off Automatic with Harold Davis

Have you always wanted to take fantastic photos, but somehow they never seem to come out as well as you see them in your mind’s eye?

By leaving their camera in one of the programmed automatic modes many photographers fail to realize their full creative potential. At the same time, if you don’t shoot manually you won’t learn the basic concepts of photography. In this intensive one-day workshop you will learn all you need to know to successfully support your creative vision by using your camera to its full potential.

Besides presentations from award-winning master photographer Harold Davis, this workshop uses hands-on exercises to “cement-in” the concepts you will learn. So please bring your camera, camera manual, and tripod (if you have one).

Who is this workshop for?
If you’ve been enjoying shooting digital photos, but don’t really understand the underlying photographic concepts or what the camera settings do this workshop is a fun way to get quickly up to speed.

Perhaps you are used to shooting film and want to get up to speed on the concepts of digital photography. Then this intensive “Digital Photography 101” workshop may be for you.

Intermediate digital photographers may also be interested in this workshop as an easy way to help them reinforce and remember what they’ve previously learned.

Where: MIG Meeting Place, 800 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94710

When: Saturday Feb 25, 2012, 9:45AM

Tuition: $99 per person. Workshop limited to 20 participants.

What to bring: Your camera, camera manual, tripod (if you have one), and a sense of fun and wonder!

Registration: http://www.meetup.com/Harold-Davis/events/47725812/

Curriculum
9:45AM – Workshop orientation
10:00 – Fundamental concepts: Exposure, the exposure triangle, aperture, f-stops, shutter speed, sensitivity (ISO), sensor size, focal length, focus
11:00 – Setting your camera using the basic concepts
11:30 – Hands-on exercises
12:30 – Lunch break
1:15PM – Exercise review and concept refresher
2:00 – From camera to computer and digital post-production
3:00 – Hands-on exercises
4:00 – Review, wrap-up and Q&A

About Harold Davis

Harold Davis is an award-winning professional photographer and widely recognized as one of the leading contemporary photographers.

He is the author of more than 30 books, including Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis (Focal Press), The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (Focal Press), and The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing (Focal Press).

Harold is the author of the Creative Photography series from Wiley Publishing.

“Harold Davis’s Creative Photography series is a great way to start a photography library”—Daniel Fealko, PhotoFidelity.

The Creative titles include: Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Portraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley). He’s also written a book on the fundamentals of exposure, Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O’Reilly Media).

Floral Tapestries

Floral Tapestry Panorama by Harold Davis

Floral Tapestry Panorama © Harold Davis

To create these images, I arranged flowers on a lightbox that was proportionally much wider than it was tall. Next, I shot straight down with a macro lens, bracketing for an HDR effect. I discarded the dark exposures, so my brackets essentially went from “correct” exposure to way overexposed (almost white).

I shot the arrangements in segments, moving my camera parallel to the arrangement on the lightbox. Here’s the full exposure data for each segment: 50mm macro lens, six exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 3/10 sec. to 15 seconds at f/11 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

In post-production, I first combined each segment into a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image, using hand layer painting in Photoshop to create a transparent effect as I explain in Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis on pages 182-185.

Next, I composited the HDR segments together in Photoshop. This took a measure of warping and related transformations to get the alignment exacttly right, even though I had tried my best to shoot the segments carefully so they could be easily aligned.

In other words, this process created an unusual kind of HDR panorama—HDR because the dynamic range has been extended, and panorma because each image is far wider than it is high.

By the way, if you click each of the HDR panos shown in this story you’ll see a larger version of each floral panorama. Here’s an earlier blog story I wrote about Making an HDR Floral Panorama.

I also have provided more information about how I made these images in my forthcoming Creating HDR Photos on pages 82-85. I even included a setup shot!

Check out my Floral Tapestry set on Flickr for more of the images that I’ve been making in the past year that include various kinds of photographic techniques, scanned papers and fabrics, and post-production work. Most of these images are not panoramic, but I think you’ll agree that the effects are quite appealing and unusual.

Floral Medley Panorama by Harold Davis

Floral Medley Panorama © Harold Davis

Workbench

Over the winter holidays I took our boys on a “field trip” to Fort Ross State Historic Park. Fort Ross marks the furthest point south of the expansion of the Russians down the California coast in the early 1800s. It was erected as a counter-point to the burgeoning Spanish colony of Yuerba Buena, later to become San Francisco.

Part of the natural defences of Fort Ross lie in the remoteness and rugged nature of the Sonoma Coast. This is beautiful country, and I plan to come back for some extensive photography when I don’t have four boys in tow!

Workbench by Harold Davis
Workbench © Harold Davis

Fort Ross has been extensively restored. The ongoing effort is a jointly financed venture with a Russian organization—a very good thing considering the service reductions at California state parks.

The artifacts within the buildings are not all from the original fort, but they are from the right historic period, and make a natural subject for High Dynamic Range (HDR). I particularly enjoyed photographing the workshops and this workbench.

As with Agaves, I tried to achieve an effect closer to that of an etching than a conventional black & white photo when I photographed the workbench. I shot seven exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/8 of a second to 25 seconds. I used a tripod, and made each exposure at 46mm, f/9, and ISO 100. The exposures were combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and hand-HDR layering Photoshop. Then I converted to black & white using Nik Silver Efex Pro, Photoshop Black & White Adjustment Layers, and the monochromatic presets in Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Multi-shot HDR photography does take a bit of care, not to mention some time. So I was lucky the boys were happy playing in the fort, and clambering on and off the canons. They are shown with one below.

Davis Boys at Fort Ross by Harold Davis

Boys at Fort Ross © Harold Davis

Liz

This is a shot of professional model Liz Ashley. The lighting is from one strobe, hand-held to the left of the camera.

Liz by Harold Davis

Liz © Harold Davis

Agaves

In the dead of winter there’s not much color, even in California’s usually highly saturated gardens. The Tilden Park Botanic Garden emphasizes California native plants. It’s always a wonderful place to wander, but at the turning of the year I looked for texture and form rather than color.

Agaves by Harold Davis

Agaves © Harold Davis

The succulent gardens, and in particularly these agaves, seemed to answer my needs. I multi-shot the images for High Dynamic Range (HDR) in black and white using my new 40mm macro lens. My idea in processing the image was to create an effect almost like an etching rather than a photo, as in Tomales Bay and Choosing the Path.

Full exposure data: 40mm macro lens, four exposures at shutter speeds from 2.5 seconds to 1/6 of a second, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and hand-HDR.

Related image: Succulent.