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Category Archives: Flowers
The pages of Botanique—my hand made, limited edition artist book—have all been printed. Some of them are shown here on the table formerly known as our dining room table. You can read about assembling the Botanique prototype by clicking here, and click here for the Kickstarter campaign that used crowd-sourcing to fund this unique project that uses cutting-edge technologies in combination with hand crafting in a made-in-the-USA cottage industry project. I also like the way the aesthetic combines the old with the new, and echoes both 19th century botanical prints and Asian art while looking towards the future of digital photography.
The next step is to assemble the actual copies in the edition, and deliver the ones that have already been sold.
I am excited about the level of interest in Botanique. At the risk of being immodest I understand why, every time I take my prototype copy out of its box. It’s fun to show it to people and watch their jaws drop! We’re of course very pleased by how many of the copies in the edition have already sold—Botanique is already a huge success—and thank you to everyone who has supported my art via this venture.
There are only two copies left in the $750 price tier. Please contact the studio if you would like to reserve one of them.
I can’t wait to post some photos of the finished Botanique—probably early in the coming week.
This Magnolia stellata was clipped from a flowering hedge in my neighborhood that borders a major avenue and photographed for maximum translucency. It makes a great print on Kozo washi (rice paper).
We are busy prototyping our handmade limited edition book of floral images, Botanique, and a reproduction of Star Magnolia on Kozo will be included.
In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle ice-nine is a crystal with the power to freeze all life on earth, perhaps as I did with these yellow roses. Not really! Nor were they shot through a wet shower door.
An expression of joy and hope with the coming of a new year can be lavish in size, or small indeed. This dandelion, shot from below and skyward, exhibits points of exploding light like fireworks, but on a very small scale. Enjoy!
A collector just ordered a copy of my Hellebore Stems (shown below). Originally, I shot the hellebores on a white background. To print the image on Moenkopi Kozo Washi I added a scanned paper background with a texture overlay. The technique is explained in my forthcoming book, which is tentatively titled The Way of the Digital Photographer and due to be published in mid-2013.
Shopping for groceries at Berkeley Bowl the other day I came across these dahlias and asters that called out for photography. Taking the flowers home, I shot them on a light box (this version with a white background is second from the top) using eight exposures. Click here for more about this technique. To see a larger version of any of the images below, just click the image.
To finish the image and relieve the starkness of the white background I virtually “placed” the image of dahlias and asters on a paper scan and added a texture to warm the image (above, top version).
Next, I used a LAB color inversion to create a composition on a black background (bottom version). Since my idea was to create a painting on canvas with this version of When Dahlias Dream, I worked to add a textural feeling to the background.
As noted in Photographing Flowers, dahlias and asters are part of the same flower family. In particular, dahlias are named for Dr. Anders Dahl, a Swedish botanist who worked with Linnaeus and first classified this genus. Originally native to the new world, dahlias were a show plant for the Victorians because of their over-the-top visual attractiveness.
So far as I know I am the inventor of my process for creating images of flowers using a lightbox that are transparent—actually, images that seem translucent. This process relies on digital capture and post-production techniques and would not have been possible in film photography.
Like all photography the technique relies on illusion. Specifically, the illusion in this case has to do with the fact that lighter areas in an image can appear more translucent to the human eye—whether or not they actually are. The reality is that the effect has to do with color differential rather than degrees of opacity, but this is not the way the difference is perceived.
The technique for creating these images involves four distinctive stages, with aspects worthy of commentary at each stage:
- Manually bracketed HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography using backlighting
- Combining the bracketed exposure sequence using hand-HDR
- Adjusting the combined image
- Placing the image on a scanned or textured background (this step is optional)
The key observations about the HDR process I use in this technique are that it is high-key and that it is manual. High-key means that I throw away everything to the right of the histogram, I am really only looking for frames that are “overexposed” (at least according to the in-camera light meter). Manual means that I am not using an auto-bracketing program. There is more information about this style of HDR in Creating HDR Photos on pages 82-85.
In my book Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis there is a spread showing both the photographic setup I use for this technique and the manually bracketed exposure sequence that I used with a specific image (pages 184-185).
Putting together the bracketed exposure sequence is also a manual affair. Essentially, I start with the lightest image (to use as the white background) and use Photoshop to selectively paint in the contrasting areas I want for the final image. Usually this involves 4-6 different exposures and layers. I then often very selectively paste in some structurized details from an automated HDR program such as Nik HDR Efex Pro.
With Schizanthus grahamii and Iceberg Roses (shown above) I used a 40mm macro lens, and with my camera on a tripod shot six exposures with shutter speeds ranging from one second to 1/100 of a second. Each exposure was at f/10 and ISO 100. I combined the images starting with the one second exposure version (the lightest capture) as the bottom frame.
The image was finished by placing it on a scanned paper background. The formula I usually use is to blend the floral on white into a scanned background at 15% opacity using Normal blending mode, and (using a duplicate layer) also at 85% opacity using Multiply blending mode.
My technique for placement on a scanned paper background is shown and explained on pages 190-193 of Photographing Flowers.
Of course, another issue is the paper I print the image on—using special Washi such as the Moab Moenkopi Unruyu I used to print Peonies mon amour (shown above) can increase the appeal of an image greatly.
If my technique for photographing flowers on a lightbox intrigues you, may I suggest the Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop I am giving in December 2012? This is a one-time special purpose event that will include demos and a chance for participants to try their hand at the technique with my guidance.
I’m excited about having my large botanical Washi prints in the Botanicals group exhibition at PHOTO in Oakland. The exhibit runs from August 23 through September 29, 2012. Note that a percentage of sales from this exhibit and at the opening will benefit the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society.
Please consider joining me at the Artists Reception on Friday, September 7 from 6:00 to 9:00 PM and/or attending the benefit opening on Thursday, September 13 from 6:30 – 8:30 PM. Click here for gallery location and directions.
Please also give some thought to my Botanique Kickstarter project, which only has a few days left to run.
On the topic of floral photography, I’m excited to let you know that my book Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis has been rated the “best guide to flower photography” by Digital Photographer magazine. This is a UK publication with one of the widest circulations of any photography magazine in the world. Besides the “Best in Class” rating, the review of my book goes on to state that my book is “superb…with excellent attention to detail and infused with the author’s passion for his subject.”
If you want to read the full review here it is in a PDF download.
Since I wrote my story about our handmade botanical art book project on Kickstarter, I’ve had a number of questions. If you are one of the people who wrote me, I appreciate your interest. Great questions!
Also, a very big thanks to those who have supported the project already—we are already more than one third of the way towards our funding goal for the project.
I’ve done my best to answer the questions I’ve been asked below! Please check out Botanique—a handmade book of art prints by Harold Davis on Kickstarter. Feel free to contact me with comments, questions, and concerns.
Q: How do I sign up?
Q: What do I get out of it?
I hope that the idea of supporting my botanical art and handmade printmaking appeals to you.
I am also offering some tangible tokens of my appreciation for your support. These start at as little as $5.00.
For example, a $100 pledge gets you a phone session with me that you could use for Photoshop tutoring (or other subject of your choice). There are a limited number of $500 pledges that get you a numbered copy of Botanique (see the question below for more information about the availability and pricing of Botanique).
You’ll see a complete list of the rewards I am offering on the right side of my Kickstarter project page.
Q: What if I’d like an incentive I don’t see on your Kickstarter project page ?
Please contact me and we’ll see what we can arrange.
Q: How will the book be priced after the Kickstarter project?
We haven’t fully worked out the pricing of Botanique following the conclusion of the Kickstarter project—but you can be assured that we will never sell it for less than the pledge prices you’ll see on Kickstarter. As is customary in the art world, we intend to price earlier numbered copies lower than the later copies in the edition. Since the edition is strictly limited (to 25 numbered copies plus 5 artist copies) it is likely that the value will go up over time.
At this point, two copies have already been committed in exchange for a $500 pledge. Via Kickstarter, there are 8 more copies available at the $500 level, 5 copies at the $1,200 level, and 5 copies at the $1,750 level.
Q: When is the Kickstarter project over?
The Harold Davis botanical art book Kickstarter project is over on Monday August 27, 2012 at 2:55PM EDT. If the funding goal ($3,000) has not been reached at that point, no money changes hands. If the funding goal has been met, then your credit card will be charged the amount you have pledged.
Q: When is my credit card charged?
Your credit card will be charged on August 27, provided that the funding goal has been met. Credit card payments are processed by Amazon.
Q: Does Kickstarter take a portion of the money I’ve pledged?
Kickstarter takes a 5% fee and Amazon Payments takes another 5% fee of all pledges that are paid for a project that has successfully funded.
Q: If I’ve sponsored you and am expecting a reward, how do I get my reward? Don’t you need my address?
Provided the project is funded, address information for each sponsor is provided to us, and we will ship your reward to you (with my heartfelt thanks!).
Q: What happens if your project raises more than the funding goal of $3,000?
It’s all good because there’s no limit to the amount a Kickstarter project can raise. Some Kickstarter projects do raise more than their initial goal, and I’m hoping that my project will be one of these success stories (we’re only a few days into the project and off to a good start already!).
Q: What about shipping rewards overseas?
The pledge amounts for the tangible awards are based on shipping within the continental United States. If you would like a reward shipped outside the continental United States please contact us for the additional shipping amount, and then add the additional shipping charge when you make your pledge.
Q: Where can I learn more about how Kickstarter works?
You can “dip your toe” into the Kickstarter universe by pledging a small amount to my project (or to someone else’s project). Here’s a short summary of how Kickstarter works, and a link to the Kickstarter FAQ.
Phyllis and I have created many conventionally published photography books. Recently, we’ve become interested in the possibility of using new technology to create a hand made, limited edition art book, reminiscent of the botanical art of earlier centuries. You’ll find some of the details of our Botanique project below. We’ve turned to Kickstarter to, well, kickstart our project and help make it a reality—and if you are interested in our idea we’d greatly appreciate your support!
Project details: Botanique is an homage to the botannical art of the nineteenth century, and combines old and new craft and technology in the format of a handmade book presented on exotic surfaces. This project is conceived, designed, and fabricated by master photographer Harold Davis and well-known book designer Phyllis Davis.
The 9″ X 12″ book features 12+ plates on surfaces such as vellum, Washi rice paper, and pearlized metallic substrate. One extradinary feature is the double-wide pull-out of one of Harold Davis’s well known floral panoramas on Unryu “Dragon’s Breath” Washi Rice paper.
Botanique is presented in a presentation case suitable for display and includes a hand-signed and numbered colophon with information about the materials and processes used, as well as the edition information. The book is limited to 25 numbered copies (plus five artist’s copies).
Harold Davis states: “My wife Phyllis and I have collaborated on many successful bestselling photography books published conventionally. However, we both love using the latest technology along with the tradition of one-of-a-kind crafting, and have been experimenting with handmade art books. Botanique is a labor of love.”
Click here to view the Botanique project on Kickstarter.
About Kickstarter: If you are curious about Kickstarter, it is a “crowd-sourcing” platform for funding creative projects. Kickstarter is powered by an all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands.
I love to photograph dahlias—and, as I wrote in Photographing Flowers, it is “not for their good taste. Rather, I see these flowers as extravagant: wonderfully different from each other, and wild in their colors, shapes and exotic forms.”
This time of year there are a great many dahlias to choose from, and it is great fun arranging and assembling them. I shot this image of purple dahlias intending it to look a bit like a botanical illustration as well as a photo—and thus to accompany Peonies mon amour, Red Poppies, Easter Lilies, Dahlias, and Gaillardia, and White Irises (among others!).
The Vertical Panoramic Format
I’ve been creating a number of horizontal floral panoramics, for example my Star Magnolia Panorama and Floral Tapestries, but this image, Peonies and Matilija Poppies, is my first high resolution vertical floral pieced together from more than one frame.
The horizontal format is much more typical than a vertical format when it comes to panoramas. Maybe this is because panning from left to right comes naturally, and up to down less so. Also maybe there aren’t that many spaces that lend themselves to a really tall vertical print.
Creating the Image
I shot the image in two frames straight down on a lightbox. The lighting comes from behind via the lightbox, and from in front using controlled natural lights and reflectors.
Each frame consists of ten exposures, with each exposure shot using a 40mm macro lens at f/14 and ISO 100. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/30 of a second for the darkest image to 5 seconds for the brightest image.
I combined the twenty exposures that went into this vertical panorama by first layering together each frame. I started with the brightest (5 second) exposure, and used layers, layer masks, and the Brush Tool in Photoshop to paint details in—with some assistance from a layer constructed using Nik’s HDR Efex Photoshop plugin.
Once the top and the bottom of Peonies and Matilija Poppies had been combined I stitched the two panels together to construct the final image. I then placed the image in Photoshop on a scanned paper background, with some added texture on top of the final image.
Making a Print on Unryu
I shot this image at the same time as Peonies mon amour, and am only now getting around to processing it. Like Peonies mon amour, I think Peonies and Matilija Poppies will make a great print on Moenkopi Unryu Washi rice paper.
Please let me know what you think of this image. Click on the image or here to view it larger (opens in a second window).
Shooting the other day at Blake Garden I notice a glorious stand of red poppies. I asked for permission to cut a bunch and bring them home to my studio, which was very graciously granted.
Using my lightbox, I shot this arrangement with my camera on a tripod using eight exposures. Each exposure was at f/13 and ISO 200. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/100 of a second to 2 seconds. The flowers were lit from the front by controlled natural light.
The idea of this kind of High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing is to throw away the dark side. By processing only high-key exposure for HDR I am able to create an image with an illusion of transparency.
To finish the image, I used Photoshop to place it on a background of scanned paper. I added a texture to the top of image using Saturation Blending mode to help partially give the image the feeling of a botanical illustration—albeit a botanical illustration created with the new tools of digital art and a modern sensibility.
My print of this image on Washi rice paper will be on exhibit at a forthcoming exhibit of botanical photographic art that benefits the San Francisco Botanical Society.
This is an arrangement of Peonies, Hydrangeas, and Campanulas—mainly Peonies—arranged on my lightbox and shot straight down in pieces. Each piece was shot using high-key HDR, with ten bracketed exposures.
I used Photoshop to stitch the pieces of this panorama together. Between all the HDR exposures to hand blend and the panoramic stitching, putting all the elements together took quite a bit of planning and work—at least one entire episode of Prairie Home Companion, and maybe two. Thanks, Garrison!
To finish the image, I added a background of scanned paper, and a warming texture.