Category Archives: Digital Night

Carcassonne at Night

Coming back to my base in Carcassonne after a long day of exploring Cathar castles—more on this later—I took my gear out on the old bridge after dark. Photographing back at the the old city of Carcassonne, the well-lit ramparts contrast in a visually odd way with the modern buildings and pollarded trees below the fortifications.

Carcassonne at Night © Harold Davis

Carcassonne at Night © Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Cordes sur Ciel at Dawn

I set the alarm for an hour before sunrise. When it rang in the darkness well before dawn, I put on the warmest clothing I had with me and made my way into position to wait for the light of dawn to illuminate the ancient hilltop citadel of Cordes sur Ciel, France.

© Harold Davis

Cordes sur Ciel at Dawn © Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Piazza San Marco at Night

One reason to photograph at night in a tourist destination is, as I explained in Photographing the Bridge of Sighs at Night, to avoid selfie-stick-toting tour groups. Another reason is to present a different emotional aspect of the place, as in this image of the Piazza San Marco.

Piazza San Marco © Harold Davis

Piazza San Marco © Harold Davis

During daylight hours, and well into the evening in warm months, San Marco is of course jam-packed. Competing classical schmaltz bands strive to drive tourists into over-priced outdoor cafes. Public events are staged in the square. But at night, when it is foggy and chill, the piazza empties. Symmetrical lighting adds to the symmetry of the architecture, and it is possible to capture an entirely new view of the Piazza San Marco.

Also posted in Italy, Monochrome, Photography

Photographing the Bridge of Sighs at Night

The Ponte dei Sospiri, or Bridge of Sighs, is one of the most famous landmarks in Venice, Italy. It connects the Doge’s Palace with a prison on the opposite side of the canal. The name, coined by Lord Byron, comes from the idea that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice through the window before being taken across to their grim cells, often to remain imprisoned for the rest of their lives.

Bridge of Sighs at Night © Harold Davis

Bridge of Sighs at Night © Harold Davis

Today, the main problem confronting the photographer wanting an interesting image of the Bridge of Sighs is other photographers. Specifically, groups of tourists, many of them Chinese, jostling with selfie sticks on the Ponte della Paglia, with the Bridge of Sighs in the background.

During daylight hours, it is almost impossible to place a tripod in position for this classic view without having the legs knocked into by an eager tourist-with-selfie-stick. In this situation, the photographer is often solicited to shoot group selfies (is “group selfie” an oxymoron?) with someone’s phone camera.

But on a dark, damp, and foggy night there is no one around. What a perfect time to capture a somewhat different version of the famous Bridge of Sighs!

Also posted in Italy

Positano

Positano has rightly been described as a town of cliff dwellers because it seems to defy the laws of gravity, with buildings connected via stairway after staircase. There are no flat roads. In the 1950s author John Steinbeck, who is more generally associated with Monterey, Salinas, East of Eden, and The Grapes of Wrath, wrote a travel article for Harpers Bazaar magazine that included this memorable line: “Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone.”

Positano © Harold Davis

Positano © Harold Davis

We are here on the cusp of autumn. Most of the hotels and restaurants are already closed for the season. But the warm and sunny Sunday weather has brought crowds from Sorrento and Naples, and for me a swim on the beach along side of kids kicking balls, and couples enjoying a last snuggle in the sun before winter sets in.

As Steinbeck wrote, this place is like a waking dream, and I expect to cherish my time in Positano through the days of winter that lie ahead.

About the church and photo: Made from the balcony of my room just after sunset, this image shows the church of Santa Maria of Assunta from behind. The church features a black icon of Mary from the 1200s, supposedly stolen from Byzantium by pirates. A terrible storm came up, and the pirates heard the icon moaning and saying “Put me down, put me down”—“Posa, posa!”

The pirates landed the icon and settled in Positano, which took its name from the words of the statue. E.g., “Posa” became “Positano.” Or so they say.

Made with my Nikon D810, 28mm, 30 seconds at f/9 and ISO 200, tripod mounted, and minimally processed in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop.

Also posted in Italy

San Francisco Dreams in Black and White

San Francisco dreams in black and white. Please come visit my new virtual gallery of San Francisco in Black and White!

Noir City Dreams  © Harold Davis

Noir City Dreams © Harold Davis

What goes on behind the shades in the lit window of an anonymous apartment in the big city? Meanwhile, the moon rises over the proverbial skyline.

San Francisco Moonrise © Harold Davis

San Francisco Moonrise © Harold Davis

And the sun sets on a day of low tides behind the Golden Gate…

Sunset at Minus Tide © Harold Davis

Sunset at Minus Tide © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, San Francisco Area

An amusement park for adults

Downtown Porto, Portugal’s second city, has aspects of an amusement park for adults, without being cloying. There’s a great river with boats of every kind, an old town with ancient structures—some a little scruffy, but nothing too disreputable—funiculars, cog railway elevators, and a number of bridges, including a great 19th century cast-iron structure coming from the incomparable Gustav Eiffel’s studio. Not to mention great food, and plenty of port wine to taste.

Ponte Luis I  © Harold Davis

Ponte Luis I © Harold Davis

On the Eiffel bridge—Ponte Luis I—cars are relegated to the bottom. The upper level is a vertigo-inducing walkway for pedestrians, and a platform for the light rail system.

Porto via IPhone © Harold Davis

Porto via IPhone © Harold Davis

It’s hard to imagine anyone not enjoying walking around the waterfront area of this city at night. As the wind and weather changes, so do the reflections in the Duoro River—but each time and in every way the view is charming.

Ponte Luis I  © Harold Davis

Ponte Luis I © Harold Davis

Interested in seeing the world with me, and making unusual photos in night time as well as during the daytime? Check out my upcoming autumn photography trip to the Sea-Girt Villages of Italy.

Related story: Travels with Samantha.

Also posted in iPhone, Monochrome, Photography, Portugal

A room with a view

When I travel I always try to select hotels that are likely to have interesting views, and to request a room with a view if possible. Of course, my idea of an interesting view doesn’t always coincide with the normal tourist vista! I do look around carefully to see what I might like to photograph when I get to my new “home away from home.” The photo below was taken out of the ninth floor window of my hotel room in Barcelona, Spain at the Avenida Palace Hotel facing south towards Montjuic. I like the collage of heating ducts as much as the details that show that the scene in is in Barcelona.

View of a Barcelona Roof © Harold Davis

View of a Barcelona Roof © Harold Davis

Some other examples of my passion for photographing from (or of) hotel room windows include this view out a back window of the pre-renovation Hotel Lutece in Paris showing (once again) complicated duct work, this view of my window on the cathedral in Bourg, France, as much about the lighting as about the incredible church (the related iPhone capture shows a bit more of the room itself), this view down on the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona from the Hotel Espanya showing an unusual angle on the medieval section of town, and the view from my room over the Bay of Tangiers at night in Morocco shown below.

Bay of Tangiers at Night © Harold Davis

Bay of Tangiers at Night © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Travels with Samantha

I’m normally a map, or a map-and-compass, kind of guy. But when I rented my car in Portugal I also rented a navigation system. Getting lost in obscure foreign parts where I didn’t speak the language was definitely getting old.

The man who set up the navigation system for me at Europacar wanted to know whether I wanted British or American English, and also whether I wanted the Jack or Samantha voice. I picked Samantha.

In some respects, Sam is a navigational prodigy, getting me places on a wing and a prayer that I would never have accomplished on my own. For example, the route Sam took me on to the door of my hotel in the historic district of Porto involved several one-way alleys, numerous roundabouts, the lower deck of the famous bridge in Porto, and—strangely—a vacant lot.

Porto at Night © Harold Davis

Porto at Night © Harold Davis

When she’s good, Sam is very, very good—but the price for her help is that she wants control. Occasionally she also gets things wrong, directing me up roads closed to traffic, or alleys that are only intended for foot traffic. In these cases, she gets repetitive, and there is clearly a shrillness to the directions, as if she’s asking, “Why can’t you even follow simple instructions?”

She’s also not very sympathetic to the stops I make for photography. She calculates an arrival time for each destination. Apparently, my photographic stops throw this off. “Recalculating,” she announces, and you can almost see the virtual eyeball rolling. “You are now fifteen minutes later than the original time-to-destination.” It certainly sounds like she gets more annoyed the more photographic stops I make.

Once today I reached a new highway that wasn’t in Sam’s database. Her display showed me and the car rolling across open fields, and her directions to correct my course were increasingly implausible, until at last the real world and her maps coincided again, and there was peace in the relationship once more.

Like any neurotic relationship there are communication problems, and as I mentioned, a battle for control. But I’ve grown accustomed to the strident, dulcet tones of my Samantha, telling me she is recalibrating, and to go right in 100 meters on a street whose name in Portuguese she has totally mangled—or often, turn in 250 meters on “Road” with no other name. It’s relaxing knowing I can blunder anyplace in this country, more or less, and Sam will get me to where I need to go no matter how lost I am.

Also posted in Photography, Portugal

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!

Also posted in New York

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

Also posted in Paris, Photography

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

Also posted in San Francisco Area Tagged , , |

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.

Also posted in Paris, Photography

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

Also posted in France, Paris

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.

Also posted in Japan