Monthly Archives: February 2014

Flowers Squared

I have been thinking about square compositions, for example, with these Nautilus Shells. So why not create some square versions of my light box flowers? This is actually harder from a composition viewpoint than it might seem, but here are a few I have come up with!

Tulips 3 Squared © Harold Davis

Tulips 3 Squared © Harold Davis

Tulips 4 Squared © Harold Davis

Tulips 4 Squared © Harold Davis

Tulips 5 Squared © Harold Davis

Tulips 5 Squared © Harold Davis

Today’s Nautilus

I’ve been photographing split Nautilus shells yesterday and today, these make such lovely spirals. Check out the monochrome version first:

Nautilus February 20 2014 © Harold Davis

Nautilus February 20 2014 © Harold Davis

It’s hard to think of another still life subject that is as classical and inspiring as the chambered Nautilus. I am looking forward to photographing a whole shell that hasn’t been split in the next few days. Here’s my recent color version:

Nautilus February 20 2014 © Harold Davis

Nautilus February 20 2014 © Harold Davis

Do you prefer today’s Nautilus in black and white or color?

Related story: Nautilus by Halves.

Nautilus by Halves

To make this image, I photographed two split halves of a Nautilus shell on a mirror placed on a black velvet background. I lit the composition using natural light and a silver metallic reflector. The wonderful bright and luminescent quality of the shell in contrast to the black background is partly due to the lens I used, my Zeiss Otus 1.4/55mm.

Nautilus by Halves © Harold Davis

Nautilus by Halves © Harold Davis

I really enjoy photographing shells with spirals, such as this image of my Nautilus in Black and White and this Architectonica. If shell spirals intrigue you, also check out this playful version, Spirals!

Otus and me

I shot this photo of tulips in a crowd with my new Otus. Otus’s more formal designation is the Otus 1.4/55and is, in the words of the manufacturer Zeiss, quite possibly the absolute best lens in the world today. According to Dxo Labs, on a full frame DSLR, the Carl Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 “is categorically the highest performing standard-type prime in our database.”

Tulips in a Crowd © Harold Davis

Tulips in a Crowd © Harold Davis

Subjectively, Otus is a big honking prime lens with a smooth-as-velvet manual focus—and a wonderful, bright and cheery quality when you look or photograph through it. As I noted in The Way of the Digital Photographer, a lens is to a photographer as a paintbrush is to a painter. I am lucky to be friends with Otus, and to have Otus as my photographic “paintbrush.” Thank you, Zeiss, for the honor!

Click the image or on this link to view it larger.

Current Harold Davis Photo Workshop offerings

I have only two spots left in the Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop this coming weekend (Feb 22-23, 2014) here in Berkeley, California. This is an opportunity to photograph your own light box composition and process it for translucency from beginning to end with my assistance.

Achieving Your Potential as a Digital Photographer is an opportunity for ongoing mentoring limited to 12 photographers. The initial meeting is the weekend of March 15-16, 2014. I have very limited space availability remaining. Admission is by portfolio review only, please click here for instructions about how to submit a portfolio.

Poppies Galore © Harold Davis

Poppies Galore © Harold Davis

I am extremely excited about my upcoming Black & White workshop. If you are interested in shooting black and white with me in the Bay area on the weekend of April 12-13, and learning my techniques for processing digital black and white, please consider joining me.

Mastering Creative Photoshop, to be given May 31 – June 1, is a chance to learn my ideas about the way of the digital photographer, and the “secret sauce” that makes my Photoshop post-production “play-flow” unique.

Workbench © Harold Davis

Workbench © Harold Davis

Maybe you don’t want to go as far as Heidelberg, Germany to take a workshop with me, but if you do (or if you are based in Europe) there is still some room in my Creative Flower Photography (June 27-30) and Creative Black & White and HDR (July 4-7) workshops at the Heidelberg Summer School of Photography.

Also please note my free presentation at Photo Oakland on Saturday, June 7 at 4PM. In this event, I will show my botanical prints and talk about how they were made.

My Photographing Flowers online course now has almost 1,000 students and many exciting projects. Use this special link to take $10 off the normal price of $59.99 for the course, with 2.5 hours of HD video and a number of interactive features.

Questions? Wondering if a particular workshop is appropriate for your level? Don’t hesitate to drop me an email. As always, you can find current information about my technique workshops and destination photography trips on my Workshops & Events page.

Graced with Light at Grace Cathedral © Harold Davis

 Grace Cathedral © Harold Davis

Tulip Pano

This tulip panorama was shot on a light box in three segments. Each segment is made up of six exposures, so there are eighteen exposures in all. In post-production, first I combined the exposures and then stitched the segments together. My idea was to create a cheerful image that promotes health and happiness to the viewer. It makes a nice print on Moab Slickrock Pearl. You can click here, or on the image, to view it larger.

Tulip Pano © Harold Davis

Tulip Pano © Harold Davis

If you like this image, you may be interested in some other Tulip imagery I created at the same time!

Tulips

I have been working on a series of Tulip imagery that I shot almost a year ago, and haven’t had the time to process before now. These were shot on my light box in a bracketed high-key sequence, so combining the RAW captures takes craft, effort and creativity—which is what it is all about, after all!

Tulip 1 © Harold Davis

Tulips 1 © Harold Davis

The tulips themselves came from the organic farmer’s market in North Berkeley that takes place each Thursday in the “gourmet ghetto.” I am looking forward to the coming of spring so that there are more wonderful flowers to shoot straight from the growers.

Tulips 2 © Harold Davis

Tulips 2 © Harold Davis

Once I have three or four of these Tulip images processed, I am looking forward to printing them. There is a brightness and optimism that they show that is very heartening—maybe these images even have healing qualities!

I think the series will make nice prints, possibly in a group or as an installation.

Opium Poppies

It’s perfectly legal in this country to cultivate the Opium Poppy, Papaver somniferum, for decorative purposes. But this pretty flower, shown in the image below, has long caused wild dreams and flights of fancy. For example, the poet Samuel Coleridge wrote his poem Kubla Khan in 1797 following an opium-inspired dream that was interrupted by a bill collector. Equally, this innocent-looking flower is responsible for much human misery, from the killing fields of Afghanistan to the addictions and overdose deaths caused by the stronger products refined or synthesized based on opium.

Opium Poppies © Harold Davis

Opium Poppies © Harold Davis

When you buy an opium poppy plant from an American horticultural nursery, the name is likely to be changed, as if naming this flower something other than what it is makes it less deadly, or more licit. So one nursery I know calls the Opium Poppy a “Purple Breadseed Poppy,” and there are other cloaked names in use as well.

By whatever name, it is an easy flower to grow (the ones shown here are from my garden, for decorative purposes only of course!). In case you are curious, opium is refined from the paste that accumulates inside the seed pods that form after the flower has bloomed. A single poppy pod wouldn’t be enough—it takes a great many poppies to make a usable quantity of opium.

Want to learn how to make images like this one from beginning to end? There are three spots left in my Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop next weekend (I won’t be giving this workshop again in this country until 2015).

Louvre Reflection

I shot this image last year during a night photography session with my Paris photography workshop. Paris is a great city to photograph at night, with many opportunities for dramatic image making!

Louvre Refections © Harold Davis

Louvre Refections © Harold Davis

Quince by Moon

Here’s my red flowering quince shot, with the moon in an alternate position. Good argument for archiving one’s layers unflattened—that way it is easy to go back and move the moon!

Quince by Moon © Harold Davis

Quince by Moon © Harold Davis

 

Sunrise in the rice fields

Waking up just before dawn in the small Japanese village of Chikatsuyu (see bottom image), I threw my clothes on and hurried out with my camera. There were pockets of fog, and crystalline ice structures on some of the plants. As the sun rose, moisture evaporated up from the earth, and I headed for the nearby rice fields.

Field, Chikatsuyu © Harold Davis

Field, Chikatsuyu © Harold Davis

The trick when shooting into the sun is usually to radically underexpose—otherwise your image will be overexposed and full of blown-out highlights. The exposure data for this image in the rice fields using a 300mm lens on a full frame camera was 1/3200 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO, hand held. As you can see, I purposely selected a wide open aperture for shallow depth-of-field. My underexposure was by about 2 EV relative to what the light meter indicated.

Morning Mist on the Hiki River © Harold Davis

Morning Mist on the Hiki River © Harold Davis

Back along the Hiki River, the morning mists were rapidly clearing. I turned my camera away from the fields, and shot an image back towards the mountains.

Chikatsuyu © Harold Davis

Chikatsuyu © Harold Davis

The Minshuku—a budget version of a ryokan, roughly speaking a Japanese bed & breakfast—where I stayed is to the left in this photo, right along the river.