Monthly Archives: May 2014

Painting in Transparency Webinar Recording Available

Click here for unlimited access to the Painting in Transparency Using a High-Key Layer Stack Webinar Recording (the cost is $19.95).

01-titleAre you intrigued by transparent flower photos? Ever wanted to know how to make them? Well, here’s your chance!

With photography on a light box, once you photograph a bracketed high-key exposure sequence, then the the next step is to assemble a layer stack. As you build your layer stack, successively darker layers are masked and painted in to create the illusion of transparency. The results surprise and delight!

Digital artist and master photographer Harold Davis states, “My transparent botanical art has been greatly acclaimed and emulated. Flowers can create the most beautiful compositions. Photographers who are interested in photographing flowers should give this technique a try. Certainly, one of the most sensitive parts of the process is painting in the high-key layer stack.”

Learn this exciting technique from its creator!  This webinar is chock full of inspirational examples and have ample time for Q & A

The Painting in Transparency Using a High-Key Layer Stack Webinar with Harold Davis covers:

  • Photographing a bracketed high-key sequence on a light box
  • Workflow considerations and options
  • Multi-RAW processing layers as needed
  • Creating the layer stack in Photoshop
  • Adding a layer mask
  • Using the Brush Tool
  • Using the Gradient Tool
  • Next steps after the layer stack has been created

Click here to register for unlimited access to the webinar recording today for only $19.95.

Note: Now that we have solved the gremlins that plagued the video in our early webinars, we are opening second sessions of the early courses. If you register for each live sessions ($29.95) you also get access to the associated recording, which otherwise will be available after the session for $19.95.

Register by clicking here for Using Backgrounds and Textures—Second Session with Harold Davis (Thursday June 5 at 7PM PT).

Register by clicking here for Selective Sharpening with LAB Color—Second Session with Harold Davis (Sunday June 8 at 3PM PT).

Boss Coffee

Boss Coffee © Harold Davis

Boss Coffee © Harold Davis

Solace for the Wild Rest

Unlike Being and Becoming, there’s rather little Photoshop in Solace for the Wild Rest. This is an in-camera multiple exposure, using eight individual exposures with auto-gain turned on, using the shooting progression explained in Being and Becoming. True, I finished the image with a Photoshop texture overlay, pretty much the same texture and blending mode that I used in When Dahlias Dream (see the bottom image in this story).

Solace for the Wild Rest © Harold Davis

Solace for the Wild Rest © Harold Davis

Opening reception for Best of Botanicals Show in Oakland

Please consider joining me for the opening reception for the Best of Botanicals exhibition at Photo Oakland on Saturday, June 7, 2014. Best of Botanicals is a national juried photography exhibition, also with a small display of my botanical work. At the reception I will be speaking on “Making the Botanical Photo: The Digital Print As an Artifact.” All sales from the Best of Botanicals exhibition will benefit the San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Tulip Pano © Harold Davis

Tulip Pano © Harold Davis

Photo Oakland is a dedicated gallery space for fine art photographic prints in the East Bay opened in December 2010. It is located at 473 25th Street, between Telegraph and Broadway, Oakland, California. Click here for directions to the gallery.

Peonies mon amour (with inken) © Harold Davis

Peonies mon amour (with inken) © Harold Davis

On Saturday June 7, 2014, the reception will begin at 2PM. My presentation will start at 3PM. Following my remarks, the gallery judges will award the best of show prize.

Irises in a Vase © Harold Davis

Irises in a Vase © Harold Davis

Click here for more information about the Best of Botanicals exhibition and the June 7 reception.

Photographing Flowers for Transparency FAQ

I often get asked questions about my Photographing Flowers for Transparency on a light box technique. Frequently asked questions range from how the technique works, to where to get (or make) a light box by way of where has Harold Davis explained his technique anyway, and many more questions.

Phyllis and I have decided that the way to deal with this ever-increasing onslaught of email is to create an information repository, hence our new FAQ: Photography Flowers for Transparency. If you have a question about light box photography, please check out the FAQ as a first step. If your question remains unanswered after reading the FAQ, feel free to drop us an email.

Also please keep in mind the October 4-5, 2014 session of the Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop.

Tulips in a Crowd © Harold Davis

Tulips in a Crowd © Harold Davis

Being and Becoming

To make this image, I started by photographing the beautiful models Kira and Merrique together on a black seamless background with studio strobe lighting. The lighting was set up with a big, soft light on the left, and a smaller, less powerful light through an umbrella on the right.

Being and Becoming © Harold Davis

Being and Becoming © Harold Davis

I made ten in-camera multiple exposures. Each multiple exposure consisted of either five or eight individual exposures. I had auto-gain turned on in my camera, so each multiple exposure was automatically adjusted to compensate for the number of exposures in the sequence. I counted out each individual exposure, and the models paused on each shot.

In Photoshop, I stacked the ten multiple exposures (as if they were star trails!).  I tweaked the result a little to get rid of anomalies, like fingernails appearing in mid-air, but mostly this image comes from an “out of the box” in-camera multiple exposures followed by stacking in Photoshop to create a composite.

That makes Being and Becoming a combination of old and new techniques, one of my favorite themes in photography. In-camera multiple exposures are about as old as photography, but the ability to create stacked composites over time is an artifact of the Photoshop era.

Creative Use of Shutter Speed

If you know what shutter speed does, then you know how to control one of the great creative aspects of photography. Shutter speed is not actually a speed at all—it is a duration of time. In fact, shutter speed refers to the duration of time that the shutter is open, and during which light hits the recording medium (sensor or film). Generations of photography students would not have been confused if the term “shutter speed” had never been used!

Behind the Wall © Harold Davis

Behind the Wall © Harold Davis

With this image of trees along the River Seine in Paris, after much experimentation I found I got the ideal partial blur at 3/10 of a second shutter speed, er, duration of the shutter being open—assuming a slow and steady up and down vertical motion of the camera.

Giverny

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Monet’s gardens at Giverny three times in the past year, and each time they’ve been very different. The spring this year was good for tulips, and in the water garden area the wisteria were glorious.

Giverny © Harold Davis

Giverny © Harold Davis

There is a problem working in Monet’s gardens. These gardens are themselves are a work of art. Of course, they have been the most important subject of a great and world famous artist (Claude Monet himself). It’s hard not to look at Monet’s gardens, or to imagery depicting the gardens, without thinking of Monet’s great waterlily paintings.

Giverny Watercolor © Harold Davis

Giverny Watercolor © Harold Davis

In the shadow of the legendary, my best advice is to have fun—and not worry about the context or comparison too much. That’s what I did this year in Giverny. I had a blast, and look forward to processing more of my images from this very special place.

Related stories: Giverny via iPhone, White Chrysanthemums at Giverny, Dreaming of Giverny, Meditation at Giverny.

Overlooking the Dordogne River

I got to talking about photography with the couple who ran the B&B where I was staying in the ancient monastery town of Cadouin, France, and they suggested I check out a spot overlooking the Dordogne River a little way above the old riverside village of Tremolat. There was a little path from the parking area leading to the cliffs overlooking a bend in the river. By the time I got there rain was moving in, and the sky to the southwest was diffuse and soft, while the clouds to the the northeast were dark and ominous over the village of Lumeuil and the confluence of the Dordogne and Vezere Rivers.

Bend in the River - Dordogne in Black & White © Harold Davis

Bend in the River – Dordogne in Black & White © Harold Davis

I ignored the oncoming weather, and mounted my camera on the tripod. Looking left, straight ahead, and right and shot bracketed sequences of exposures for later HDR processing. I did my best to take my time and shoot following a proper and patient protocol despite the raindrops falling on my gear.

Bend in the River - Dordogne © Harold Davis

Bend in the River – Dordogne © Harold Davis

Combining the three images into a panorama meant first combining the exposure sequences, then using Photoshop’s Photomerge capabilities. You’ll find Photomerge in Photoshop on the File > Automate menu. After a bit of experimenting, I found the the Reposition layout setting with the Blend Images Together option checked worked best. There’s always a bit of manual retouching after blending images together using Photomerge, and this set of images was no exception, but generally the Photoshop automation got me about 95% of the way!

The final image is really quite high resolution, about 50 inches wide at 300 ppi without any enlargement (the file size is about 450 megabytes). It’s hard to see in an online version the level of detail this implies in some image areas, but you would see this detail if you were looking at a good print. You can begin to see the resolution in larger versions that will fit on the horizontally-oriented pages of my blog, click here to see a larger size black and white version, or here for the color version.

Speaking of black and white versus color, which version do you prefer?

Papaver Somniferum and friends

Returning home from travels abroad in mid-May, one great pleasure was to find poppies still in bloom in my garden. The large one as big as a platter towards the top of the composition is a Papaver somniferum, the notorious opium poppy. Other species shown are Papaver rhoeas (corn poppies), garlanded with campanula. You can also see poppies in the process of popping (on the right, coming out of its pod).

Papaver Somniferum and Friends © Harold Davis

Papaver Somniferum and Friends © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4, eight exposures shot on a light box, each exposure at f/11 and ISO 100, shutter speeds ranging from 1/40 of a second to 4 seconds, tripod mounted; exposures combined via layering and hand masking in Photoshop.

Making the Botanical Photo: If you are in the San Francisco area, I am presenting on this subject on Saturday June 7, 2014 at Photo Oakland. This is in conjunction with a “Best of Botanicals” exhibition, with print sales partially benefiting San Francisco Botanical Garden. My presentation at 3 PM is free of charge, but I do expect a crowd, so plan to arrive early. Click here for more info.

Photographing Flowers for Transparency: Due to many requests, I’ve just opened a new session of my weekend Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop, scheduled for Saturday, October 4 and Sunday, October 5, 2014. The Papaver image that accompanies this post shows an example of utilizing this technique, and is the kind of image that is created in the workshop. This is a fun and popular event. Previous sessions have been attended by photographers from all over the world, and sold out quickly. Click here for more information and registration.

Shadow of the Glass

For me, one of the nice things about traveling with my iPhone is that I have a camera always with me—and a post-production digital darkroom always with me too. So I am never bored when by myself waiting for a train or sitting in a restaurant. In the restaurant, I can photograph the place setting, and shadows that are created, then process the photo. With luck, if there is connectivity, I can post the finished image online before my entree arrives!

Shadow of the Glass © Harold Davis

Shadow of the Glass © Harold Davis

With this image, I was primarily interested in the differing way the shadow from my glass fell on the table cloth as opposed to the way the shadow falls on the wood of the table itself. The bright, curved lines within the shadow are created by bright reflections off the water in the wine glass, but they aren’t quite aligned at the borders of the cloth and wood, due to the differing refractive qualities of the two surfaces.

Room in Bourges

The old city of Bourges, France is known for its cathedral. This structure, a World Heritage Site, is probably the largest Gothic cathedral ever built. I think five Notre Dames would fit inside. The vast, soaring interior space is amazing, held in place by tiered flying buttresses—and built to emphasize the status of the church of Bourges as representative of the ancient kingdom of Aquitaine.

Room in Bourges near the Cathedral © Harold Davis

Room in Bourges near the Cathedral © Harold Davis

My first task when I got to Bourges was to find my lodgings, an apartment at the top of the watch tower that guarded one of the palaces in the old town. This was not easy to find in the maze of narrow one-way streets of the old city, but when I did, and I had been handed the key, I was pleased with well furnished chamber and the view of the famous cathedral in the late afternoon light.

Impregnable

Today the city of Cahors in the southwest of France is a slightly gritty provincial capital—but back in the middle ages it was fabulously wealthy. Protected on three sides by the river Lot, Cahors was nevertheless sacked, abandoned and rebuilt. But glory was never regained entirely (the Black Death didn’t help matters). You can see the remnants in the palaces and monuments of the old quarter, where today they have a wonderful fresh food market. I got my lunch today in this market. You really can’t beat a fresh loaf of bread, a tranche of locally made pate, strawberries and a tomato!

Pont Valentre Waterlogue © Harold Davis

Pont Valentre Waterlogue © Harold Davis

Cahors may have fallen to brute force and treachery during the hundred years war during the convoluted battles between French and English monarchs, but the Pont Valentre, shown above and below via iPhone captures, was rightly regarded as impregnable. Originally a fortress in the center of the river, it was expanded across to both banks with ample fortifications to make direct attack well nigh impossible.

Pont Valentre Tower © Harold Davis

Pont Valentre Tower © Harold Davis

All this seems to me a bit like Game of Thrones—or maybe life is stranger (and more interesting) than fiction, at least in this case.

What’s new is old again in Paris

Les Deux Magots © Harold Davis

Les Deux Magots © Harold Davis

Paris is a city with a tremendous and varied historical legacy from many eras. But after you are here for a while you realize that it is also constantly changing. Construction and renovation is continual. There’s scaffolding on almost every block.

With some notable exceptions, retail decors change quickly to keep up with fashion. The laundromat I tried to go to this morning has disappeared in the year since I last washed clothes there, replaced by an upscale boutique.

With this continual reinvention against a backdrop of history in mind, it is fun to use a new technology (my iPhone camera in the image shown to the left) to capture an old landmark, Les Deux Magots—the Saint-Germain-des-Prés watering hole of Hemingway and a whole cavalcade of literary and artistic types of yore (today it is more the touristic types!). Likely the waiter dressed in much the same way back when Hemingway frequented the joint.

Shot with my iPhone camera and processed on the spot with Filterstorm, Lo-Mob and Plastic Bullet as I was out “flaneuring” today.

Splash

Rain left puddles along the paths and trails of the Parc de Sceaux, on the outskirts of Paris. I positioned my camera to capture the perspective generated by the reflections of rows of trees in one puddle, and—splash!—tossed a pebble in to the water to take advantage of the concentric rings that this generated.

Splash © Harold Davis

Splash © Harold Davis

The underlying exposure for full depth-of-field and low noise was at ISO 100 and f/22 to capture the reflections in the puddle, while the exposure for capturing the splash part of the image was at ISO 2,000 and 1/25 of a second. Obviously this is the kind of image that usually takes some trial and error to get right—not only in terms of photographic exposure, but also where one aims the splash.