Monthly Archives: December 2013

Learn Photoshop this year

Make this the year that you finally learn Photoshop!

It’s time to bend Photoshop to your creative will. Whether you want to enhance your existing digital workflow, create black and white images with high tonal range, or composite incredible and fantastic landscapes from disparate elements, stop fighting Photoshop—and make Photoshop your creative ally and partner!

Kick off this resolution by reading Harold Davis’s acclaimed books about Photoshop’s creative side: Monochromatic HDR Photography, The Way of the Digital Photographer, The Photoshop DarkroomCreative Black & White, and other titles.

And if you’re really ready to go for it, bring your creative Photoshop ideas to Harold’s unique seminar in January, Mastering Creative Photoshop: The Way of the Digital Photographer. There will be plenty of time for individual attention. Guaranteed: you will learn Photoshop. And your photography will never be the same!

So enough dithering! Make your Photoshop resolutions come true! If not now, when?

Workshop Description: Mastering Creative Photoshop: The Way of the Digital Photographer—This workshop covers developing a personal digital Photoshop workflow. Topics explained in detail include archiving and checkpoints, RAW processing, multi-RAW processing, HDR, hand-HDR, stacking, LAB color creative effects, monochromatic conversions, using backgrounds and textures, layers, layers masks, working with channels, Photoshop filters, and plugins from Nik Software, onOne Software, and Topaz. If you’ve ever wondered how Harold does it, or wanted to learn how to incorporate his techniques in your own digital workflow, this is the workshop for you!

Dates: Saturday January 25 – Sunday 26, 2014

Location: Berkeley, California

Space Availability: We have some current openings, but to avoid disappointment please do not delay, as class size is strictly limited to permit individual attention.

Tuition: $695.00 per person for the entire weekend.

Registration: Click here for more information and to register.

Church at Auvers © Harold Davis

Church at Auvers © Harold Davis

About this image: One of my heros, the great painter Vincent van Gogh, spent his last days in the village of Auvers-sur-Oise outside Paris, France, where he painted many of his great works. Wandering the streets of Auvers-sur-Oise, now a suburb of Paris, I found many signs reproducing a van Gogh painting in front of the literal scene that he painted.

It seemed to me that it would be fun to create an image that showed an impressionistic image like the ones that van Gogh created on one side of the frame, along with a photographic capture of the signage showing the image. To implement this thought, I created a bracketed sequence of exposures, which I combined and manipulated using Photoshop and plugins from Nik Software and Topaz.

About Harold Davis: Harold Davis is an internationally-known digital artist and award-winning professional photographer. He is the author of many photography books. His most recent titles are The Way of the Digital Photographer (Peachpit) and Monochromatic HDR Photography (Focal Press).

In addition to his activity as a bestselling book author, Harold Davis is a Moab Master printmaker and a Zeiss Lens Ambassador. Harold Davis’s work is widely collected, licensed by art publishers, and has appeared in numerous magazines and other publications. His black and white prints are described as “hauntingly beautiful” [Fine Art Printer] and his floral prints have been called “ethereal,” with a “a purity and translucence that borders on spiritual” [Popular Photography].

Harold Davis leads popular technique and destination photography workshops to many locations including Paris, France; Heidelberg, Germany; and the ancient Bristlecone Pines of the eastern Sierra Nevada.

Monochromatic HDR Photography

The two images shown in this blog story are both examples of monochromatic HDR photography. Each was shot using a bracketed exposure sequence. The exposures in each of the bracketed sequences were combined using various HDR and RAW processing techniques, and the resulting composite image was processed and converted to monochrome to extend the grayscale and tonal range of the final monochromatic (black and white) image.

Post Auto © Harold Davis

Post Auto © Harold Davis

As you can see from the two images that accompany this story, monochromatic HDR techniques can be effective with a wide range of subject matter. For example, the image above was created from a bracketed image sequence shot peering down into the abandoned span of San Francisco’s old Bay Bridge from the walkway of the new bridge. Below, I shot a bracketed image sequence to capture the massive and ancient moss covered tree roots and stone work on the grounds of a temple in Kyoto, Japan in the early evening light of an autumn day.

I’m pleased to see several new reviews begin to recognize the extended context of the techniques I explain in my new book Monochromatic HDR Photography. On Amazon, reviewer Larry Goldfarb notes that “while the title invokes the world of HDR photography, this book is really bigger than that, it’s about light and tonal depth. Other than subject matter, that’s photography. The author presents a variety of methods for exploring and expanding your ability to adjust both.” (Click here to read the full review.)

I am also pleased with a new book review in the January 2014 issue of Fine Art Printer Magazine. Fine Art Printer is a prestigious German publication primarily devoted to high-end photographic printing. The review says in part that Harold Davis’s photos are bought by collectors around the world. …We can highly recommend this book due to the very high image quality and the excellent text. The subject of the book is the combination of two photographic trends: HDR photography and black and white….These insights are illustrated by hauntingly beautiful black and white images (click here to download the full review in PDF format).

Old Tree Roots in a Temple Yard © Harold Davis

Old Tree Roots in a Temple Yard © Harold Davis

Related stories:

Out with the Old

As the new year approaches I am reminded of the saying “Out with the old, in with the new.” As an immigrant to California, this truly resonates for me because—as has often been pointed out—the spirit of California is one of self-reinvention.

Old Bay Bridge Pylons © Harold Davis

Old Bay Bridge Pylons © Harold Davis

What applies to people can also apply to structures. The massive, depression-era pylons of the old Bay Bridge are shown here, photographed from the pedestrian walkway of the white, futuristic new Bay Bridge structure. Sometime in the next few years the old Bay Bridge is coming down, and the Oakland-to-Treasure-Island passage will be spanned by the spanking, brand-new structure alone!

Samadhi Mudra

The hand gestures of representations of Budhha are significant, and have specific meanings. The Dhyana mudra (hand gesture of Buddha), also called the Samadhi mudra, is shown in the photo below. This hand gesture invites meditation and a sense of deep involvement with the universe.

Dhyana Mudra © Harold Davis

Dhyana Mudra © Harold Davis

I photographed this statue of Buddha in the garden outside Senso-ji, the oldest temple in Tokyo (also known as the temple of the Asakusa Kannon). Click here to read my story about having my fortune told at this temple!

White Chrysanthemums at Giverny

At a casual glance, this is a fairly simple selective focus image of lush white flowers in an autumn garden. Actually, there’s more to it photographically than meets the eye. (Knowing me, this probably won’t surprise you!) Let me explain.

White Chrysanthemums Japonicum at Giverny © Harold Davis

White Chrysanthemums Japonicum at Giverny © Harold Davis

First, and somewhat unusually, this is a close-up of a flower using an extreme wide-angle lens (my Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 on a full-frame DSLR). This means that the front element of my lens was only two inches from the flower that is in focus (and central to the image).

Next, I created the slight blurring in the out-of-focus blossoms by intentionally creating motion in the flowers. I had my camera on a tripod, manually located the point I wanted to focus on, and outside of the frame I pushed the flowering plant with my free hand. When the flower entered my in-focus zone I snapped the exposure using a remote release at a shutter speed fast enough to stop some of the motion but still render the attractive blur. The settings were 1/125 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 200.

It takes a bit of doing to pull off this partial motion blur and selective focus technique. You can find some more information in my online Photographing Flowers course.

By the way, the chrysanthemum—particularly white chrysanthemums—are important symbolic flowers in Japan. I feel there is some significance in photographing this very Japanese flower in Giverny, the garden of Claude Monet (whose work was so influenced by Japanese art), shortly before my own trip to Japan.

Check out photos of Japan on my blog.

Check out photos of France on my blog.

Negative Space

Negative space is often defined as the space around and between the subject of an image. From a formal design perspective, learning to see negative space helps one to visualize the impact of the positive, or actual, subject of a photo. Taking this towards its limit, in some imagery the design and composition can become more about the formalism of the negative space than the positive subject matter depicted. In a black and white photo, depending upon the context, negative space is generally rendered as either all-black or all-white.

Structure to Noise © Harold Davis

Final Tier © Harold Davis

It’s possible to walk up to the second deck (about 65 floors up) on the Eiffel Tower. From there, if you want to go to the very top, you need to buy a supplemental ticket and ride the elevator. Walking up as far as one can has some visual interest, and of course avoids the lines at the bottom for the elevators.

Looking up from the second deck, I composed this off-center composition. Exposing to render detail in the structure of the Eiffel Tower made the sky on this overcast day become essentially white. It was clear to me that I was looking at a photo where interaction between positive space (presumably the Eiffel Tower) and negative space (preemptively the all-white background) would be crucial (see image above).

Negative Space © Harold Davis

Negative Space © Harold Davis

But wait! Which space is actually negative, and which is positive? White space—the sky—seems like the absence of the subject and should therefore be the negative space. It’s easy to test this presumption by swapping the L-channel values using the LAB color space. Black becomes white and white becomes black, as you can see in the version of the image immediately above.

Clearly, the inverted Eiffel Tower is spread out against the sky, which still seems like the negative space, even though it is black rather than white. But also newly made black are elements such as the night lights of the Eiffel Tower, appearing as small “chocolate-kiss” structures on many of the girders. In addition, the underbelly of the top platform now shows details as opposed to the stark negative space aspect of this underside in the original image.

These image variations show the interplay of positive and negative space—and are a good illustration of both the usefulness of looking at the world with negative space in mind, and also of how complex this interrelationship can be in the real world.

Happy Holidays!

Harold Davis holiday card

Harold Davis Photography Workshops in 2014

I hope to see you at a photography workshop in 2014. I have the following workshops scheduled for 2014:

2014.01.25—2014.01.26—Mastering Creative Photoshop: The Way of the Digital Photographer—This workshop covers developing a personal digital Photoshop workflow. Topics explained in detail include archiving and checkpoints, RAW processing, multi-RAW processing, HDR, hand-HDR, stacking, LAB color creative effects, monochromatic conversions, using backgrounds and textures, layers, layers masks, working with channels, Photoshop filters, and plugins from Nik Software, onOne Software, and Topaz. If you’ve ever wondered how Harold does it, or wanted to learn how to incorporate his techniques in your own digital workflow, this is the workshop for you!—Click here for info and to register.

2014.02.22—2014.02.23—Photographing Flowers for Transparency: Two Day Workshop with Harold Davis—a unique opportunity to learn Harold’s techniques, workshop location is Berkeley, California (Click here for information and registration).

Tulip © Harold Davis

Tulip © Harold Davis

2014.03.15—Achieving Your Potential As a Digital Photographer: A Multi-Modal Ongoing Six Month Workshop

This workshop provides a platform for ongoing mentoring in the context of a supportive group environment. Customized individual assignments will be given. After the initial intensive two-day in-person session, we will keep in touch with monthly private group online webinars and individual phone or email consultations. A final dinner to review work and celebrate our progress will be provided at the conclusion of the workshop. Limited to 12 photographers. A portfolio review is required—Click here for info and instructions on how to apply.

La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre © Harold Davis2014.04.26-2014.05.04—Photograph Paris with Harold Davis featuring Paris at night, the gardens at Giverny, black & white, and more. Click here for detailed information and itinerary, and click here for online registration. Here’s what one participant in a previous Harold Davis Photograph Paris workshop had to say: “Had an awesome time with Harold, Mark, and the workshop participants.  Itching to go back.  If you’re a photographer, Paris at night is a ‘Must Do!’.  Put it on your bucket list ‘cause you may not see this in Heaven.”

2014.6.27-2014.6.30Creative Flower Photography, in Heidelberg, Germany. An on-line registration link will be available soon.

2014.7.04-2014.7.07—Creative Black & White Photography and Monochromatic HDR, in Heidelberg, German. An on-line registration link will be available soon.

Also of note: We’ve had many requests for information regarding the Bristlecone Pine workshop. This workshop will not be given in 2014, but we hope to be able to hold a Dark of the Moon Bristlecone Pine workshop in the summer of 2015. Please check out the linked discussion thread to learn more about the status of this event.

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

What folks have said about Harold Davis workshops and events:

  •  “A great artist and speaker!”—W. Anglin
  •  “Harold is genuine, generous, and gracious – He has a world of knowledge and expertise that he loves to share – his wonderful books show his monumental talents and skill set- his workshops shows the depth of his connecting with others in a very real and personal way.”—P. Borrelli
  • “Awesome! He patiently addressed questions from the audience which contained photographers of all levels , molding his answers to the level of understanding for each of us. His presentations covered a wonderful range of technical knowledge as well as emphasizing the need for images to have an emotional quality. The images he shares are breathtaking and he is generous in sharing many facets of how he captures such beauty.”—J. Phillips
  • “Not all photographers are good verbal communicators. Harold is someone who can DO and TEACH. A rare combination of talents.”—B. Sawyer
  • “Inspiring!”
  • “He was very giving of his talents and time. The course was very organized and thorough. Loved it! Learned so much! … I also wanted to let you know that I have more than paid the cost of the workshops I’ve done with you by selling some photos! I have sold three prints already.”—L. Beck
  • “Very creative and a marvelous instructor.”—Kay S.
Nautilus in Black & White

Nautilus in Black & White © Harold Davis

Photographing the Unusual in Paris

I am looking for a few select photographic souls who are Parisian at heart to join my wonderful group of photographers in Paris in April and May of 2014. Click here for details, or drop me an email.

La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre © Harold Davis

La Basilique du Sacré Cœur © Harold Davis

One of my goals in traveling with my camera is to seek out views that are off-beat and seldom photographed, such as this somewhat unusual image of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica dominating Montmartre, the highest hill in Paris.

Click here to see more photos of Paris!

A studio is a frame of mind

A studio is a frame of mind, not a place. When I tell people that I am in my studio, it means to me that I am working as an artist—and not where I am doing that work. By now, it is pretty generally understood that cameras don’t make photos and people do. A physical room doesn’t make a photo, either. Having a creative eye is always more important than having the coolest gear, and the best photographers improvise using the space they have, rather than the studio they wished they had.

Red Tulips in a Glass Vase © Harold Davis

Red Tulips in a Glass Vase © Harold Davis—Click here or on the image to view it larger

The tulips looked great in their glass vase, extended and drooping. But when I positioned the tulips in front of my light box there was a clear problem as you can see in the frame below: the composition extended above, below and to the right of the single frame.

_HLD4451 setup shot

To build this image, I shot a left panel and a right panel, using my high-key technique for creating transparent floral images. Each panel was shot at 62mm at f/13 and ISO 100, with five exposures ranging from 1/30 of a second to 4/5 of a second. In Photoshop, I painted with a white brush on the lightest exposure of each bracketed set to remove the unwanted background areas. I then used layers and layer masks to finish each panel, and composited the finished panels together.

With the combined image on a white background, I added some filter effects for a painterly quality, then placed the image on a scanned background with a light texture overlay.

Red red rose

As many times as I photograph roses I never have enough! There is always a different way to approach a rose, or any other flower for that matter. Verily, there is a world and a universe in a single bloom if you look hard enough.

Rose center curves © Harold Davis

Rose center curves © Harold Davis

With this red rose, it came home with me following the December Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop I just gave. This was a great workshop, with good participants and I had a lot of fun. (By the way, there’s still some room in the February 2014 session of Photographing Flowers for Transparency.)

So essentially, the decision to photograph this particular rose was a bit random. But when I saw the internal curves of this specimen I could not resist. Let’s face it, roses are just so sexy.

To make this image, I put the rose in a vase in a shaft of sunlight. I used a small silver reflector to bounce some light back into the center of the flower.

With my camera on a tripod, I then used my Zeiss 100mm f/2 macro lens to make a bracketed sequence of exposures at f/22 and ISO 100. To make the final image, I used two exposures, one shot at 2 seconds and the other at 4 seconds, combined in Photoshop using layers, layer masks, and the Brush Tool.

If you are interested in my approach to flower photography, please consider my online Photographing Flowers course. This is an ongoing course that you can take on your own time. Click here to register for my course.

My book The Way of the Digital Photographer contains a great deal of information about how to work with flower photos in Photoshop.  I am excited that my book has recently been named a best photography book of the year. Click here to read the press release, click here to purchase my book on Amazon, and click here to purchase it directly from the publisher (Peachpit).

As time goes by

At first glance, this image has been mistaken for an iPhone shot (after the pattern of the special effects iPhone photos in my iPhonographie de Paris). The banks of the Seine River are shown just after sunset. Selective lamplight shines downward, illuminating the river and a couple in the distance embracing (it is Paris, after all!).

As Time Goes By © Harold Davis

As Time Goes By © Harold Davis

Look closer, and you will see that this is really a high resolution image. It was shot with my Nikon D800 with its 36MP sensor. I used my top-of-the-line Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens. The impressionism of the image comes from the handheld long exposure (4 seconds at f/11 and ISO 50) and deliberate up-and-down camera motion.

Distant Japanese Landscape

About half a mile before reaching Hyakken-gura, I paused in the steady rain. Peering out from beneath my umbrella, I could see through the pine trees to a distant landscape in which the cloud cover seemed to be breaking up. The view seemed to call for a panorama, so I mounted by camera on my tripod. Holding the umbrella over the camera, and ignoring the cold rain splashing on me, I panned from forest edge to forest edge, encompassing the entire view spread out below me. I knew there would be time enough later to warm myself in a hot communal bath, and to clean my camera lens from the drops of rain that were inevitably falling on it.

Distant Japanese Landscape © Harold Davis

Distant Japanese Landscape © Harold Davis—Click here to view larger

You can click here, or on the image, to view it wider than it is possible to see it on one of my vertically-oriented blog pages.

Related story: 3,600 Peaks of Kumano

Islands in the Seine

I woke to a foggy autumn morning in Paris. No matter what the weather, there is always something to photograph in Paris—so I headed out to the islands in the Seine to photograph the mood of the day.

Ile de la Cite from Ile St-Louis © Harold Davis

Ile de la Cite from Ile St-Louis © Harold Davis

Please consider joining me on the 2014 Photograph Paris with Harold Davis Workshop, from April 26-May 4, 2014. Click here for the complete itineraryterms and conditions, and online registration.

Photography begins with the medium of light, which the artist captures and applies to the canvas in endlessly surprising ways. And what better place to explore this medium than Paris, the City of Light, and one of the birthplaces of photography?

When we work together to photograph Paris, you’ll experience firsthand the places and sights that have inspired artists for centuries, and find new creative and unusual ways to make photos of the City of Light!

We’ll focus our lenses on Paris in bloom, Paris at night, and Paris in black & white, reinterpreting for ourselves some of the images that have been captured in paint and on film by many great artists, including Daguerre, Monet, Atget, Picasso, and Erwitt. We’ll have a grand time photographing and we’ll return home with many priceless shots to treasure!

We’ve included many of the highlights from previous workshops, such as the visit to Monet’s garden at Giverny with after hours access (one of my personal favorites), as well as new places to explore. If you check out the itinerary, I think you’ll find many wonderful locations, such as the view from the top of the Tour Montparnasse at night, Père Lachaise, and Vaux-le-Vicomte.

As one of the participants in last year’s workshop said, put Paris “on your bucket list ‘cause you may not see this in Heaven.” Another workshop participant added, “I already admired Harold Davis, and had confidence that he would lead us to fantastic places – and he did!”

3,600 Peaks of Kumano

During a short break in the very wet weather, from Hyakken-gura, a lookout high on the Kumano kodo, I shot this panorama of the “Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po”—which translates to “view of 3,600 peaks of Kumano.” When the wind gusted, rain splattered my face and my camera lens and tripod, so it was pretty hard to make notes to keep track of the positioning of the frames in the panorama, but fortunately Photoshop is pretty good for sorting this kind of thing out!

I don’t think there are actually 3,600 peaks—it’s important to remember the role of metaphor in life, particularly when you are on a pilgrimage—but as you can see there are certainly quite a few mountains. You can click here, or on the image, to view it wider than it is possible to see it on one of my vertically-oriented blog pages.

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

This is a high resolution panorama, shot in separate sections with my 36MP Nikon D800. The final processed archived original file measures 12,256 X 4,747 pixels (about 40″ X 16″) at 300 ppi (before any interpolation and enlargement). So I can’t wait to print it on a long (but not very tall) strip of Moenkopi Kozo washi made by Awagami on Shikoku Island. It might even make a good scroll.

Related image: Misty Mountains.