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Category Archives: Flowers
My online course Mastering Flower Photography is going live soon! In the meantime, you can be entered in a random drawing to win a free course by clicking here and following this link.
The daffodil is also a narcissus, and is a member of the Amaryllis family. The flower is a harbinger of spring. As a narcissus, the flower speaks to self-absorption: in classical mythology the beautiful youth Narcissus spurned the nymph Echo, who died of a broken heart. Narcissus then saw his own reflection in a pond, leaned over to possess himself, drowned—and became the flower.
To make this image, I photographed the daffodils using a lightbox for the background. Leaning over my tripod, I did not fall into the lightbox and drown!
After shooting a bracketed sequence, I used my special post-production layering techniques to combine the sequence of photos. Finally, I added the flowers to a scanned paper background to add an archaic look—almost like an old-fashioned botanical painting—and to complete the image.
Interested in learning this set of photographic and processing techniques? There are spaces available in the February 2014 session of my weekend-long Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop. Click here for more information and registration.
Due to many requests I have added a new session of the Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop, Saturday, February 22—Sunday, February 23, 2014. Click here for information and online registration for the February Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop.
Synopsis: In this unique workshop offering master photographer Harold Davis shows the techniques he uses to create his floral masterpieces. Arrangement, composition, photography, post-production will all be covered, as will Harold’s special techniques for shooting on a lightbox.
Some details and curriculum:
Master photographer Harold Davis is well-known for his often imitated—but seldom equaled—digital images of luscious transparent and transulent flowers.
In this unique workshop offering master photographer Harold Davis shows the techniques he uses to create his floral masterpieces. Arrangement, composition, photography, post-production will all be covered, as will Harold’s special techniques for shooting on a lightbox.
Who is this workshop for?
The workshop is intended for photographers of all levels with an interest in flower photography.
Harold is only planning to give this workshop once this year. There is no better way to learn the floral transparency techniques that he has pioneered. The two-day format will give participants the chance to complete their imagery using the techniques that Harold will demonstrate.
Here are some comments from the 2012 Floral Transparency Workshop:
- “Loved the pace, in-depth instruction and generous sharing.”
- “EXCELLENT PRESENTATION AND COVERAGE OF MATERIAL. MR. DAVIS WAS PATIENT TO ANSWER ALL QUESTIONS.”
- “Harold, thank you for the time, expense and effort it took to put on a great one-day workshop….You are a wealth of information and share it so graciously.”
- “Outstanding workshop!”
- “A very packed day! Harold is very clear and organized; an outstanding photographer who is also an outstanding teacher.”
Where: MIG Meeting Place, 800 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94710
When: Saturday February 22, 2014, 9:30AM to 5:30PM and Sunday February 23, 2013, 10:00AM to 5:00PM
Tuition: The cost of the workshop is $695 per person. Workshop limited to 16 participants.
Curriculum – Day 1
9:30AM – Workshop orientation
10:30 – Glory of the tranlucent petal (understanding translucency and transparency)
11:30 – Introduction to Floral arrangement and composition
12:30 – Lunch break
1:30 – Advanced floral compositon
2:30 – Shooting on a lightbox
3:30 – Understanding high-key hand HDR post-production
4:30 – Advanced HDR topics
5:00 – Review, wrap-up and Q&A
Curriculum – Day 2
10:00AM - Day 1 recap
10:30 - Individual post-production guided practice
11:30 – Backgrounds and Textures
12:30 – Lunch break
1:30 – LAB Color effects
2:15 – Individual practice
4:00 – Fine art botannical prints
4:30 – Review, wrap-up and Q&A
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
- “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.
About Harold Davis: Harold Davis is a well-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 is a featured columnist for Photo.net. He has been acknowledged as a Moab Master printmaker and is known as a Master Printer. His limited edition artist book Botanique was featured most recently in Fine Art Printing, the only magazine devoted exclusively to fine art photographic printmaking. Harold’s work is widely collected, licensed by art publishers, and has appeared in numerous magazines and other publications.
Harold’s technique and destination photography workshops to such diverse locations as Paris, France; Heidelberg, Germany; and the ancient Bristlecone Pines of the eastern Sierra Nevada are widely popular and usually sell out quickly.
To get a shot like this of waterdrops means getting wet, particularly when it is raining. And raining it was in Hudson Gardens in Littleton, Colorado where I was taping an online course in flower photography for an up-and-coming powerhouse in photographic education, Craftsy.
If you are interested in learning how to make images like this one, please check out my book Photographing Waterdrops: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis, or wait for the course—which will be online in October.
Pattie Logan, the producer of my flower photography course, is holding an umbrella over my head and camera as I photograph this waterdrop, below left. The Craftsy production crew is shown sheltering from the intermittent rain under umbrellas and a portable tent between takes (below right) with the flowers and waterdrop I photographed in the foreground. Both iPhone shots by Adam Speas, part of the production team.
Flowers of Late Summer was shot on a lightbox using my Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 lens and the full-frame Nikon D800. Layering the 36MP RAW captures brought my computer down to a crawl begging for mercy (EXIF and processing info below). Upgrade one piece of hardware and, alas, the logic of workflow implies that other upgrades will follow!
Exposure data: 35mm, six exposures at shutter speeds from 10 seconds to 1/10 of a second, all exposures at f/13 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and hand-HDR in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop; this version added to a scanned paper background and lightly texturized.
Please note that I will be on assignment next week in Colorado, so don’t expect to hear too much from me!
I’m giving a workshop that will cover Photographing Flowers for Transparency in December, 2013 it is sold out, but I may add a second section (add your name to the Waiting List and/or send me an email if you’d be interested).
I’ll also be giving a workshop in Heidelberg, Germany in June, 2014 that will cover this technique as well as other kinds of flower photography (more info will be posted on my Workshops page as it is available).
Please also consider joining my email list if you are interested in keeping up with what I am doing!
I am pleased to announce a new Harold Davis poster from Editions Limited. It is called Vibrance, measures 24″ X 36″, and is shown below.
See related story: Editions Limited Publishes Two Harold Davis Posters (10/1/2012)
I am judging a flower contest on Photo.net: “Flowers find a way into vacation, portraiture, wedding, landscape, fine art and nearly any kind of photography collection you can think of. How DOES nature create such beautiful, perfect, magical living things?”
The flower photo with the most Photo.net member votes gets a nice Sigma 120-400mm lens (I want one!), and I get to choose a winner who will receive a copy of my new book The Way of the Digital Photographer.
About this image: I started with some beautiful tulips from the North Berkeley Farmer’s Market. I placed the tulips on a black background.
I’ve written previously about using my 18-200mm zoom lens with a 36mm extension tube to create a kind of poor person’s macro lens. This kind of setup can get you very close, and it has a neat soft focus feeling and cool bokeh. Of course, I wouldn’t use it if I wanted end-to-end precision macro sharpness. The odd thing is that optically what works best is to set the lens manually on infinity, find your distance, and then “focus” using the zoom ring.
My next step was to add approximately 8 f-stops of neutral density to the front of the lens so I could make quite long exposures, in the 5 seconds to 30 seconds range with the lens stopped down.
Finally, I timed each exposure so that the lens was fixed and “in focus” for about half the exposure, and then a carefully and smoothly rotated the zoom dial to get an out-of-focus effect for the remainder of the exposure.
In other words, the effect combines the hardness and definition of a fully stopped-down in-focus lens with the soft focus of a motion blur and an image thrown intentionally out-of-focus.
Exposure data: 18-200mm zoom lens, starting at about 135mm, 36mm extension tube, 15 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.
Please check out my new column on Photo.net, Placing a Flower Photo on a Background. Stay tuned for the sequel, coming next month to Photo.net, explaining how to add a texture to a flower photo to get painterly effects.
Have you ever wanted to turn your flower photos into fine art design pieces? With a little bit of Photoshop know-how, a few inexpensive tools, and the techniques explained in this column, it’s easy to create unique art imagery, guided only by your vision and creativity. Read more.
You may not be aware of the extensive archive of my columns available on Photo.net on a wide variety of topics related to creativity, photography, Photoshop techniques, and marketing your photography. Links to this material can be found below the image.
Photo.net columns by Harold Davis
- Placing a Flower Photo on a Background, June 2013
- A Spiral Model of Creativity, Aug 21, 2009
- Advanced Photoshop Tutorial: Hand HDR, Aug 21, 2009
- Aging Photos Roundup, Sep 13, 2010
- Becoming Composition Conscious, Jul 08, 2009
- Becoming a More Creative Photographer, Apr 20, 2009
- Converting to Black and White, Feb 17, 2010
- Creating HDR Images by Hand: Part I, Dec 09, 2009
- Creating HDR Images by Hand: Part II, Jan 14, 2010
- Creating Photo Books, Nov 02, 2010
- Creating a Photo Book Proposal, Dec 07, 2010
- Creativity in the Photoshop Darkroom, Dec 15, 2009
- Expecting the Unexpected, May 18, 2009
- Finding an Audience for Your Photos, Jan 19, 2011
- Focusing on What Matters, Jun 09, 2009
- HDR in Adobe Photoshop CS5, Jun 28, 2010
- Harnessing the Power of Flickr, Apr 17, 2011
- Harold Davis Column, Aug 21, 2009
- Intro to Compositing, Jun 02, 2010
- Inverting Backgrounds with LAB, Apr 28, 2010
- Knowing When to Quit, Aug 21, 2009
- Making Colors Pop in Photoshop, Oct 08, 2010
- Making the Unseen Visible, Aug 11, 2009
- Multi-RAW Processing, Sep 15, 2009
- Nik Color Efex Pro 3.0 Review, May 12, 2010
- Setting Limits, Aug 21, 2009
- Sharpening in LAB Color, Feb 03, 2010
- Using Email to Find an Audience, Mar 11, 2011
- Using Image Apply Image, Aug 05, 2010
- Using LAB Color Adjustments, Mar 17, 2010
- Using Twitter to Find an Audience for Your Photos, Jun 09, 2011
As long as I can remember I have admired Claude Monet’s waterlilies, so finally getting to visit Monet’s garden at Giverny was like a pilgrimage for me. My group (shown here on the steps of Monet’s house at Giverny) was lucky with the weather—the sky was bright but overcast, with intermittent patches of blue. We were also lucky that the gardens at Giverny were not very crowded on the day we visited, and when our after-hours access (arranged by Mark Brokering) had kicked in we literally had the place to ourselves.
In Monet’s time, a train track bisected his garden in the horizontal direction, with the water garden on the other side of the tracks from his house and primary flower garden. There still are essentially two distinct areas, connected via an underground passage, but the trains have been replaced with a fairly busy road.
I spent the bulk of my time in the water garden area. Sure, the flower garden was nice, and the tulips were in bloom—but in some ways it was fairly conventional, organized in rows and beds. But there is nothing in the whole world like Monet’s waterlilies.
There’s a sense in which the views and vistas at Giverny evoke a subliminal memory of Monet’s paintings just by the elements that are present, such as the green, arching bridge. I tried to present that almost Proustian feeling of a visual memory at the threshold of recognition in my photos.
My approach and philosophy was to photograph the pieces that I thought I would need, taking my time with my camera on the tripod. The goal in post-production would be to combine the exposures, and to use the arts of digital post-production to create imagery that evoke feelings that might perhaps be worthy of the setting, and the connection with Monet.
With this image, I used the long exposure times combined with elements that were moving in the fairly stiff breeze to add an intentionally impressionistic effect. Combining multiple exposures allowed me to extend the “impressionism” across a broader swath of the image than would have been possible in a single exposure.
Exposure and processing data: 200mm, five exposures (two at 3/5 of a second, one each at 1/4 of a second, 1.3 seconds, and 2.5 seconds), circular Polarizer, +4ND filter, each exposure at f/29 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; processed and combined in Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop, with effects added using LAB color adjustments, Nik Color Efex, Topaz Adjust, Topaz Simplify, and PixelBender.
Hard to see among the debris at the forest floor, the tiny Calypso orchid can be photographed when conditions are right on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais for brief periods in the spring. I have been photographing the Mt Tamalpais Calypso orchid, Calypso bulbosa, also sometimes called a ‘Fairy slipper,’ for years. You can see a couple of my other photos of this marvelous flower, and read a bit about its background, in Close Encounters with Calypso.
Yesterday Mark and I headed in search of the elusive Calypso as a dense fog swirled around Mount Tamalpais. By the time we found the first specimens, hiding among old leaves beneath tall trees on a steep and muddy slope, the clouds were intermittently breaking up.
As I got to work I found that I was struggling to get my tripod low enough to the ground. Photographing this flower from above just didn’t work. So I improvised a sling made of my hat, twigs, and some raw earth, and finally got the camera stable enough to make this fairly long exposure (2/5 of a second).
Here’s an iPhone photo Mark snapped of me at work photographing Calypso:
Exposure data: 105mm macro lens, 36mm extension tube, 2/5 of a second at f/18 and ISO 200, improvised earth-and-hat camera platform.
Wabi-sabi is a name for a Japanese philosophical and aesthetic movement with a key tenet of acceptance of the transient nature of all things. According to wabi-sabi, everything passes, and in that passage and imperfection lies the possibility of true beauty.
As I write in Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis, “in my work with flowers, I seek to understand how ephemeral life is, and to translate this sense into the emotion we associate with time passing—which is a deeper sense of true love than that associated with the first blush of early, often fickle and shallow, beauty.”
In other words, the syllogism goes as follows:
- Expressing emotion is one of the most important things any photo can do.
- Flowers are often a vehicle in art for projecting our feelings about love and beauty.
- If we are to progress beyond the infatuations of shallow youth towards the meeting of true minds that is mature love, then flowers as they age with all their imperfections are as much a valid subject as blossoms in the first sensuous blush of opening.
- Flowers in decay are therefore a valid subject for photographic interpretation.
With this composition of Tulip Wabi-Sabi, I watched my tulips over the course of a week as they gradually matured, lost a few petals, and curled—beautiful at every step of the way.
The resulting image, shot against black velvet, is a little mysterious and exotic, as though birds with colorful plumage were descending through the dusk. No birds, these are just my lovely tulips, subject to gravity and aging like all of us.
Exposure data: 85mm tilt-shift macro, nine exposures at shutter speeds from 1/60 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures processed via Adobe Camera RAW and Nik HDR Efex Pro, and finished in Photoshop.
The tulips that I found last week at the North Berkeley Farmers Market have transmogrified into fantastical shapes and forms as they age and illustrate wabi-sabi in action. Like the anemones, these flowers started out somewhat closed, and grew into their beauty as they opened.
With this tulip, a petal fell to the ground while the rest of the flower was still radiant. This missing petal allowed me to peer inside with my camera, and to capture the beauty within the tulip.
It’s hard to imagine two subjects that are more over-photographed than sunsets and flowers. Of course, there’s a reason that something is a popular subject for photography. It’s wonderful to make images of flowers, and as I ask in the introduction to Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis, “How can we not want to capture this ephemeral and bold stand against the entropy and chaos of the universe?”
The virtues of sunset to the serious photographer are also greater than one might suppose based on all the awful images of sunsets out there, and also the disdain of the professional cadre for imagery that depicts the setting of the sun. Each and every sunset reminds of us of our place in the solar system, and also the passage of time. I am reminded of Galen Rowell’s remark that every photographer only has a certain and fixed number of sunsets—so one should witness every single one of them. This may be overkill, but leaving metaphysics aside it is true that some of the most interesting light in the field occurs right around sunset.
So as a photographer I love the sunset time of day. Also, it’s fun to turn the double cliché on its head, and approach combining sunsets and flowers in an unusual way. With this shot of a setting sun seen through a cherry blossom I relied on the fact that throwing the sun way out-of-focus makes it appear much larger. With my camera on my tripod, I used my 105mm macro lens combined with an extension tube. My aperture was wide open, and I focused on the very close cherry blossom to make the sun seem even larger than life. I finished the image with a texture overlay to make it seem even more painterly and dreamy.
The North Berkeley farmer’s market, on a stretch of streets sometimes known as the “gourmet ghetto,” is certified organic throughout. Cruising with my camera, I spotted a flower vendor, Thomas Farm, with some wonderful tulips on display. Closer inspection also revealed some anemones, which mostly hadn’t opened yet. The anemones were one bunch for $5 and five bunches for $20. I “haggled” and got six bunches for my $20—a good deal indeed for my inner photographer since once these flowers started to open they displayed gorgeous translucent colors!
Anemones are named for the wind, using the Greek word for wind, anemos. They are supposed to open best when it is windy. Placing them in a sunny room, I found that they are also highly heliotropic—they open with sunshine and close up again at dusk.
So in the middle of the day, using sunshine for front light, I photographed them on my lightbox. For the image shown above I used eight exposures, with each exposure at f/32 and ISO 200. Shutter speeds were between 1/15 of a second and 10 seconds. (If my photographic and post-production techniques for shooting flowers for translucency interest you, you might want to consider the Photography Flowers for Transparency workshop I am giving at the end of 2013.)
I used my 85mm tilt-shift macro lens to make this shot, a lens I once described as “channeling” Edward Weston because it is completely manual and the kind of lens Weston used—you even have to stop it down yourself when you are ready to shoot because there is no auto diaphragm.
I’ve been spending time in my garden this week, getting it ready for spring. Actually, around here it is spring already, with sunny weather in the sixties. My poppy seedlings are growing briskly, reminding me happily that soon it will be time to photograph Papavers once again—like the backlit flower below (two different washi paper scans were added as a decorative background).