Category Archives: Digital Night

New York is a stage

I’m passing through New York with an appearance at PhotoPlus Expo on behalf of my sponsor Carl Zeiss, for whom I am a Camera Lens Ambassador. PhotoPlus is at the Javits Center. I am enroute to Barcelona, Spain, where I am headed tomorrow. My timing in New York overlaps with Halloween, and it seems that all the world’s indeed a stage!

Bethesda Fountain © Harold Davis

Bethesda Fountain © Harold Davis

So yesterday to get some air after being at the convention center all day I walked up to Central Park, and shot this image of the plaze behind Bethesda Fountain by moonlight. It does indeed look like a stage, but a deserted one at night!

Night at the Louvre

Photographing after dark in the grand courtyard of the Louvre is always great fun. The pyramid becomes an abstraction, and is an interesting contrast in its modernity with the ornate structure of the grand old palace.

Pyramide © Harold Davis

Pyramide © Harold Davis

Do you prefer this image in color or black and white? I started with the color version (above), then thought that the lines and shapes of the diamonds within the pyramid, and the triangular-shaped reflecting pool, would make a strong composition in monochrome (below).

Pyramide in Black and White © Harold Davis

Pyramide in Black and White © Harold Davis

Abroad at Home

Photographing with a group at Kirby Cove waiting for the full moon to rise behind the Golden Gate Bridge, it seemed to me that I live in one of the most beautiful areas in the world. Wherever I travel, for beauty it is a hard comparison with the San Francisco Bay area—and yet, part of the trick is to look at what is near at hand with the same wonder and curiosity that we automatically give to destinations that are more distant.

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Looking back and thinking forward

I’ve been looking through my archives from last year in Paris—and finding many images that I want to process! Looking back at the crop from the spring of last year helps me to understand what I did right, and what I didn’t get to do. I am using the inventory to check plan my photography this year. Both the images below are essentially unmodified (other than RAW processing) from the straight shots—these were about being there and getting it right in the exposure, not about post-production.

Paris Carousel © Harold Davis

Paris Carousel © Harold Davis

About the image: I used a moderate wide angle focal length, and stopped down enough (to f/18) to get both the carousel and the Eiffel tower in focus. Since this was at night, a moderately long exposure was required (3 seconds) to be able to stop the lens down and get the depth-of-field I needed.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens at 18mm, 3 seconds at f/18 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Arc de Triomphe © Harold Davis

Arc de Triomphe © Harold Davis

About the image: Cars, trucks and busses whiz around the Arc de Triomphe endlessly. I wanted to show these cars as streaks, but with the sunset in the sky there was insufficient light for a long enough exposure. I added a polarizer and a +4 ND filter to cut down the light reaching the sensor so I could adjust the exposure proportionately to allow a longish (30 second) shutter speed.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens at 18mm, polarizer and neutral density filter, 30 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

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

Yunomine Onsen

Yunomine Onsen is an ancient spa town in the middle of Kumano kodo territory. A hot creek runs down the middle of the town next to the road; you can see an old stone bridge crossing the thermal creek in the photo below.

Yunomine Onsen © Harold Davis

Yunomine Onsen © Harold Davis

Onsen means bath, which in Japan is usually a communal affair. In Yunomine Onsen there are public hot springs—you pay a small admission fee—and private hot springs associated with individual guesthouses. Most of the guesthouses have traditional gender-segregated bath houses in addition to the hot springs. It’s amazing to think that pilgrims have been enjoying the restorative properties of these thermal springs for literally thousands of years.

Sayonara Kyoto

It is with sadness that I leave Kyoto behind. I hope I come back soon to this mysterious city (both ancient and peculiarly modern)—so I can learn more of its secrets, and spend more time photographing its beauty.

Gion at Night © Harold Davis

Gion at Night © Harold Davis

Star light, star bright, stacking star trails tonight!

Star trails are magical. It’s amazing to see the stars circling in the sky, reminding us that our planet is rotating in space. For many folks who want to get started with star trail photography, it’s something of a mystery and seems inherently difficult. Not so!

Click here to read my article Stacking Star Trails in Photoshop Creative Cloud (posted on to learn methods for turning night-sky photos into star trails in Photoshop CC.

Saline Valley Star Trails © Harold Davis

Saline Valley Star Trails © Harold Davis

Bixby Bridge by Starlight

I’ve enjoyed photographing the dramatic Bixby Bridge on the Big Sur coast at night over the years, and it is always fun to take a workshop group to the location. Getting out of the car, it is hard at first to see much in the inky blackness except that it is a long way down to the Pacific Ocean. As things resolve, it becomes clear that one can create interesting images, provided one keeps the camera open long enough, since there really isn’t much light. But in this case the camera sees more than we do!

Bixby Bridge by Starlight © Harold Davis

Bixby Bridge by Starlight © Harold Davis

Exposure information: Nikon D800, Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 lens, ten exposures, each exposure at four minutes, f/2.8 and ISO 500, tripod mounted; exposures stacked using the Photoshop CC Statistics script.

Related stories: Bixby Bridge Blues; Steep Slope; Big Sur Coast.


Château de Saumur

In Saumur I stayed in an old hotel on the banks of the Loire River. My room was on the back of the hotel, and a bit cramped, but when I threw open the old-fashioned windows I saw this great view looking up at the old Château de Saumur.

I waited until after dark, then pointed my camera and tripod out the window to capture the old structures in the foreground as well as the lit castle behind.

Château de Saumur © Harold Davis

Château de Saumur © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Five exposures, each exposure at 22mm, f/8 and ISO 200, shutter speeds ranging from 8 seconds to two minutes, tripod mounted; processed and combined in Adobe Camera RAW, Photoshop CC, and Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, and converted to black and white using Nike Silver Efex Pro 2.

Les Lumières de Paris

The lights of Paris, laid out below in this photo, remind me of a geometric pattern, thanks to the energetic city planning of Baron Hausmann back in the 1860s. Hausmann, and his employer Napoleon III, liked order and regularity. They felt the wide boulevards were attractive, and would be good for marching troops into Paris to contain the rabble.

Les Lumières de Paris by Harold Davis

Les Lumières de Paris © Harold Davis

Be that as it may, from above the Parisian cityscape is special. I shot this view from the roof deck at the Tour Montparnasse as twilight turned to night. Behind la tour Eiffel, you can see the modern towers of La Défense. Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides is visible on the right, along with the Arc de Triomphe if you look carefully.

According to one recent email, “Enough of Paris already Harold. Come down to earth!” On this topic, I make no promises.

Please keep in mind the 30% pre-publication discount from the publisher for my new book, The Way of the Digital Photographer. Use discount code PP-DAVIS30 (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Wouldn’t you like to know my night photography processing secrets? Star Circle Academy is offering  for a limited time $5 off my Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis, which features a night shot from above the East River in New York City. Use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Lighting the Eiffel Tower

The normal night lighting for the Eiffel Tower up until midnight is pretty nice, but every hour on the hour after dark it is additionally lit up like a kind of LED firecracker. I have mixed feelings about this light show—it is a bit vulgar, but then Paris is famously the City of Light.

Issues of taste—or lack thereof—aside, the extraordinary light display does present an exposure conundrum for two reasons: the lights on the Eiffel Tower are much brighter than the lights of the surrounding cityscape, and also the LED lights are in constant motion, like a giant sparkler, so one needs a fast shutter speed to freeze things in place.

Eiffel Lights by Harold Davis

Eiffel Lights © Harold Davis

I was lucky that I was in the middle of an extended bracketing exposure sequence when the light show went off at 10PM from the roof of the Tour Montparnasse. Combining the exposures as an HDR sequence led to decent results, but I still had to work in post-production to treat the resulting image with finesse and creativity.

Creative Night Photography Post-Production by Harold DavisSpeaking of the craft of night photography post-production, you may be interested in the video recording of my recent Creative Night Photography Post-Processing webinar. Thanks to Star Circle Academy,  this video presentation is now available for download. The cost is $19, but readers of my blog have a (limited time) $5 discount. Click here for more information about the video, and here to purchase the video. Use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Here’s the video description: Creative Night Photo Post Processing with Harold Davis Video: 1 hour, 15 minutes. Harold Davis, author, professional photographer, and workshop leader presents his approach to Post Processing Night Photos.

This video includes detailed discussions of:

  • Stacking using the statistics capabilities of Photoshop Extended;
  • An explanation of gamuts and color space – and why you do not want to work in sRGB (default space)—how to tweak your workflow to keep as wide a gamut of colors as possible
  • Creative sharpening of night images using LAB color
  • A look at a workflow to make an East River night scene in New York City stand out by applying multi-RAW processing, and a handful of filters and special effects.
  • Please bear in mind that this is not a video recording with Hollywood production standards. But, as one webinar participant put it, “There is information about processing night photos in this video you can’t get anywhere else!”

Click here to learn more about the Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis video, and here to purchase the Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis video. Don’t forget to use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) to get your discount!Davis- The Way of the Digital Photographer

Also please bear in mind the 30% pre-publication discount from my publisher for my new book, The Way of the Digital Photographer. My new book has quite a bit of detailed information about working with layers, creative post-production, and how post-production possibilities should inform your choices at the moment of exposure.

Use the discount code PP-DAVIS30 (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount. Click here for more information and to buy The Way of the Digital Photographer.


City of Light

Paris is often called the “City of Light”—perhaps it should also be called the City of Lights. Plural. As in many. You can see in this photo that everything is lit at night, like a giant playground for adults. But wait! There’s more. Every hour on the hour la Tour Eiffel starts giving off sparks like a giant fireworks candle. Stay tuned, many more photos of Paris to follow.

Paris, City of Light

City of Light © Harold Davis

Bay Bridge Lights

In this image of the Bay Bridge the moon seems to be “captured” within the tower of the Bay Bridge. The image is a hand-HDR blend of six exposures at shutter speeds from 1/2 of a second to 8 seconds. During one of the exposures the lights for The Bay Lights, an art installation and project by Leo Villareal that will come on “for real” on March 5, 2013 appeared briefly (in testing mode I guess), and I painted them in on a layer at about 30% opacity. Note that this light show has nothing to do with the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge, which has come and gone—and is simply a rather wonderful art installation.

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge - Black & White by Harold Davis

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge – Black & White © Harold Davis

The sequence of exposures in this image was shot during Saturday’s smashing moonrise adventure workshop—which I feel was good photographically and a very successful workshop despite the break-in of my van. I started with color images, combined them, manipulated them in post-production to create an image with an extended range of tonal values—withthe results shown below. To finish the image, I then converted it to black and white, using layers and masking to control how each section of the image converted.

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge - Color by Harold Davis

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge – Color © Harold Davis

Smashing Moonrise Workshop

The San Francisco Moonrise Adventure workshop on Saturday was a smashing success. Despite some unexpected logistical difficulties—due to a demonstration on Market Street—we settled into our Embarcadero waterfront location in good time. The moon rose mostly where it was supposed to, and is shown here over Port Oakland. The photo was shot under the Bay Bridge using my 300mm lens. I’ll be posting more photos of the moon interacting in complex and photographically interesting ways with the Bay Bridge itself!

Moonrise over Port Oakland by Harold Davis

Moonrise over Port Oakland © Harold Davis

Not to take away from the workshop and how much fun it was, but unfortunately “smashing” applies to what happened to my van, parked near the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco while the workshop was transpiring. The rear window was smashed. The bad guys got a briefcase with my iPad and the prototype of Botanique—currently, the only existing copy.

Well, we’re assembling the actual copies of the edition this week, so there will soon be more copies.

It’s hard to imagine that the smash-and-grab thief has much interest in an archival box filled with oragami-like botanical art. So my fantasy is that it was immediately discarded, and will turn up in twenty years or so when the rest of the copies in the edition are in major museums. There will be much debate about the provenance of the prototype before it is auctioned for megabucks at Sotheby’s.

Returning to earth, if you happen to be wandering in downtown San Francisco and see a box of botanical art in the gutter pick it up! Let me know!

I’m not giving up on San Francisco photography, but will be more careful about where I park in the future. Please consider joining me in the Mission on Saturday February 23—I know it will be a fantastic shoot!