Florence and Venice, two great Italian cities, one photographed at the beginning and one at the end of my recent trip to Italy!
Related story: Harold in Italy.
Related story: Venice of Dreams.
Florence and Venice, two great Italian cities, one photographed at the beginning and one at the end of my recent trip to Italy!
Related story: Harold in Italy.
Related story: Venice of Dreams.
Ravello sits about 1,000 feet above the town of Amalfi on the stupendous Amalfi Coast of Italy. Back in the 1200s and 1300s, when Amalfi was a geopolitical powerhouse, Ravello was the summer home for the Amalfiese aristocracy. Later, it was hard enough to get to that it fell into decay.
Rediscovered toward the end of the 19th century by itinerant British travelers on the Grand Tour of Europe, many of the great villas were restored, including the Villa Rufolo. I made this image from one the the belvederes in the extensive gardens of the Villa Rufolo, which was restored by Scottish industrialist Francis Neville Reid, with an eye towards encouraging vistas of romantic decay in his restoration.
Of course, today Ravello is well known and beloved by many, and hosts a famous music festival.
Coming into Naples, an incredible snarl of traffic. This is take-no-prisoners driving, and really kind of fun to watch in a madcap way. Particularly since it wasn’t me driving.
We were met at the train station by Fabio, our unflappable driver, and Lavinia, our wonderful guide. They drove us to the heights above Naples to photograph the great Bay of Naples as the sun was setting (you can see Vesuvius the volcano in the photo).
Naples is a fascinating, noisy, incredible, and underrated city. It is the most densely populated city in Europe. There are some wild and wonderful things to photograph near our hotel, which is located in the heart of the old city. I am glad to be getting to know Naples a bit, but think it would take much time to really understand this city.
Please join me for a free Creative Landscape Photography webinar sponsored by Topaz Labs. The webinar is free, but seats are limited, and pre-registration is required. The webinar session is on Tuesday October 20, 2015 at 2PM Pacific Time, and lasts for about one hour, with time for questions and answers. A description follows below the image.
Webinar Description: Join us for an inspiring session as Harold Davis, well-known photographer, author and workshop leader, shows how he uses Topaz plug-ins to enhance his landscape photography. Harold will cover his workflow from photo to finished art, showing how he uses Topaz Adjust, Simplify and more, both as tools with specific visual goals in mind, as well as a jumping-off place for endless creative opportunities.
As October begins and the year inches toward autumn, I thought it was appropriate to share this image, photographed early on a foggy morning on the grounds of the Bussaco Palace Hotel early in November last year in central Portugal. Never have I stayed in a hotel that was so much resting on its laurels in a 5-star atmosphere of genteel—and not so genteel—decay.
Staying at the hotel allowed me to photograph the palace and surrounding park at twilight and in the first light of dawn. Really, if you have a taste for this kind of thing, the whole experience of staying within the grounds of the Bussaco Palace was great fun in a kind of funky former glory, upstairs downstairs vibe.
The hotel restaurant was the only place to eat within many dark miles, and I endured (or enjoyed) the infinitely expensive, infinitely slow meal with close to inedible food. I was served by an astounding array of costumed wait-person staff, each with a separate function apparently not coordinated with any of their colleagues. In other words, the ratio of gilt epaulets to farm fresh edibles was way skewed toward the gaudy.
The hotel was almost devoid of other guests, and my room was at the end of a long, drafty hall. Half the time I expected Count Dracula or werewolves to come out of the foggy night to complement the ruined elegance. I slept with the door to my room locked and barricaded as well as I could, and eked out a lukewarm bath in a huge clawfoot tub.
In other words, this was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I would return in a heartbeat. The stone angel shown below in the morning fog is part of the front facade of the Bussaco Palace.
Related story: Travels with Samantha.
On Point Reyes in the spring, I photographed the details of the deteriorating buildings in the historic (but abandoned) D Ranch. Walking back towards my car I turned and saw the ranch buildings against a dramatic sky. There was no choice: I had to pull out my camera and tripod again. The ominous appearance of the clouds was exaggerated by adding a polarizer, and by creating a long exposure by using a neutral density filter.
I like the image best in black and white, but the color version has some appeal as well.
Poet William Blake wrote about building a Hell in Heaven’s despite, and the cognitive dissonance of traveling in Japan often put me in mind of this poem of Blake’s (which also describes building a Heaven in Hell’s despair). In Japan, there’s an aesthetic that embraces remarkable beauty, and at the same time is able to create landscapes that bear a passing resemblance to Hell itself, from the vast human ant piles of the urban Japan to the industry on the shores of the Inland Sea.
Less the thirty miles apart as the crane flies, the peaceful, serene, and fern-filled landscape along the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail (above) somehow manages to reside in the same consciousness as the heavy industry in the port of Wakayama (below).
I photographed the image of the Fern Forest on a wet and dripping day, with the sun starting to come through the overcast skies. Everything I needed was in my backpack, and I waited for the wind to still as I used my umbrella to protect the camera on its tripod from raindrops. Exposure data: 36mm, 1/13 of a second at f/8 and ISO 400, tripod mounted.
The photograph of industry on the shores of Japan’s Inland Sea is from the “Big Tuna” ferry heading from the port of Wakayama on Honshu to Tokushima on Shikoku Island. In processing this image, I regarded the industrial landscape as a kind of abstraction, almost mirroring the kind of calligraphy sometimes used in Japan. Exposure data: 300mm, 1/800 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200, hand held.
Related: Japan category on my blog.
The long overdue official renaming of Mount McKinley to Denali, Alaska, and the resulting outcry from the State of Ohio (the birthplace of President McKinley), puts me in mind of my fine art poster Denali, the Great One, Alaska, published in the 1980s.
Denali, the Great One, Alaska was one of a trio of fine art graphic posters that I self-published as Wilderness Studio, Inc., following licensing and publication of my artwork first by Modernart Editions, then Bruce McGaw Graphics and Dryden Gallery. This initial trio included The Dance of Spring is the Dance of Life, and all three were wildly successful. In fact, thousands of copies of Denali, the Great One, Alaska went to Alaska, where they were sold by the leading chain of framing stores to locals and tourists alike.
This image of Denali was photographed from Wonder Lake, pretty much from the position of the famous Ansel Adams image, in the middle of the long sub-arctic summer night with faint alpenglow still illuminating Denali. The perspicacious viewer will note that the moon is wrongly sized and wrongly positioned relative to Denali. In the pre-Photoshop era I accomplished this visual sleight-of-hand using an in-camera double exposure. The landscape of Denali was photographed with a 35mm lens, I moved the camera, and photographed the moon on the same piece of film using a 200mm lens.
Obviously, were I able to be in the same position and to remake this image today, I wouldn’t need to resort to the rather incredible legerdemain implied by aligning two exposures with different lenses in-camera. But I would need to think ahead enough to make all the captures I might eventually need to post-process the image in keeping with my vision.
Actually, the biggest impediment to making this image were the mosquitoes, which around Wonder Lake assumed legendary Alaskan proportions. I had driven up the Alaskan Highway in my old 1960s Volvo Station wagon, which even then was an antique, and I got permission to drive it down the Denali road, and to camp at Wonder Lake until the light was right for me to photograph. But the full tale of my Alaskan adventures is a different story for another day.
By the way, in the years since The Dance of Spring and Denali, the Great One I have continued to create poster art. Giving me the sense that there may be some continuity in life and art, a great company that was a big distributor of my Wilderness Studio posters, Editions Limited, has published my posters recently. Click here to see my posters that Editions Limited has recently published.
“To be calm, to be serene! There is the calmness of the lake when there is not a breath of wind. . . . So it is with us. Sometimes we are clarified and calmed healthily, as we never were before in our lives, not by an opiate, but by some unconscious obedience to the all-just laws, so that we become like a still lake of purest crystal and without an effort our depths are revealed to ourselves. All the world goes by us and is reflected in our deeps. Such clarity!”—from the journals of Henry David Thoreau
On a great bend in the Neckar River, about 15 kilometers up-river from Heidelberg, Germany lies the town of Neckarsteinach. Four dramatic castles sit atop the crags overlooking the Neckar. Julian, one of my workshop participants, brought me here the day I was flying home, and together we explored the area.
From the top tower in the castle I shot a series of seven hand-held bracketed HDR exposures. Each exposure sequence had eight images. I used Photoshop to merge the seven sequences into a single panorama, which (doing the math) consists of 56 individual images! Since each capture was using a 36MP sensor, quite a bit of information has gone into this pano, and I am looking forward to printing it large.
Related story: Check out the panorama I photographed overlooking a bend in the Dordogne River in southwest France.
Getting to Prague from the Bay area took a bit of travel time. I know, less than in covered wagon and sail ship times, but still it was into the next day, and the seat on the airplane was truly lived in. Alas, I made the change of planes in Frankfurt, but my suitcase did not—and flew on with Lufthansa into the unknown. So I arrived on a new day on a Prague afternoon with the clothes on my back and a single camera. Which I took out to explore right away. As I neared the Charles Bridge I saw clouds and maybe a rainbow forming, so I dashed up the spiral stairs in the bridge tower, added a polarizer, and snapped a few frames before my rainbow disappeared.
The Yoshino River is one of the three great rivers of Japan. Located on Shikoku Island, it is nicknamed “Shikoku Saburo,” Sabaro being a popular first name for a third son. The photo shows the wide sweep of the Yoshino near its outlet in the ocean near Tokushima. The landscape is actually much more built up than it seems in this image—typical of Japan, most flat areas such as the lower Yoshino Valley are heavily populated.
Exposure data: 28mm, circular polarizer, 1/500 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200; hand held, processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Photoshop, and converted to black and white using the “Ansel in the Valley” preset in Perfect B&W.
Hokusai, the famous Japanese woodblock print artist of the Edo period, created many views of Japan that included Mt Fuji, but the one shown here was probably not in his contemplation as they didn’t have air travel back then. I made the photo on an internal Japanese flight from Tokushima on Shikkoku Island to Haneda Airport near Tokyo.
For my own homage to Hokusai in the context of San Francisco, check out my book 100 Views of the Golden Gate.
As part of a chapter in the new book I am working on, related to black and white photography, I’ve been looking through my photography of Japan. These are some of the iPhone photos I’ve found, mostly of subject matter that I also photographed with conventional, high resolution cameras.
For example, the view of misty mountains long the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage on the Kii peninsula shown above can be seen more extensively in Distant Japanese Landscape.
The somewhat bleak courtyard shown next is in Koya-san, where I stayed for a couple of rainy autumn days as a guest in a monastery.
If you’ve ever visited Japan’s ancient imperial capital of Nara, you’ll know that the deer of Nara are a big touristic deal—which is why they are portrayed in the attractive design on the manhole cover that I found on a Nara side street.
I liked wandering around Nara. There was a great deal to look at, such as Kofuku-ji, a Buddhist pagoda temple with origins dating to the 669 AD, once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. Today, even monuments as important as Kofuku-ji radiate a palpable sense of time having moved on, and despite all the hustle and bustle in Japan Nara seems like a delightful backwater.
On my way to teach a weekend Seascapes and Wildflowers workshop at the western tip of Point Reyes, California I stopped to photograph the well-known row of Monterey Cypress trees at the Marconi operations center. This tree tunnel is one of the largest in the world made up of these trees, and marks a historically significant wireless location. Certainly, there is something very dramatic about coming upon these trees standing by themselves in the windswept landscape of Point Reyes.
By the way, the workshop was great fun with a truly compatible group of photographers. Many photos were made, participants came from as far away as Florida and New Jersey, and the sense of community that marks the truly successful workshop was indeed present. The workshop base was the historic Coastguard Boathouse, where we were surrounded night and day by elephant seals and sea lions. Thank you Point Reyes Field Institute for hosting this—and many other—memorable workshops over the years!
Here’s an iPhone capture from the classroom window at the Boathouse of the ramp used to guide out rescue boats when the place was operational, with the window cloudy with salt spray.
If you are like me—and most other professional photographers that I know—you will have acquired over time an extensive collection of camera bags. Some bags fit some gear, but not other gear. Some are backpacks—which means better ergonomics for trekking, but less access to gear on the fly—and others are shoulder bags. Still others are hybrids, or designed particularly with transiting through airports, or being able to submerge in water, in mind.
I am always looking for the perfect camera bag, and with my Domke Next Generation Chronicle I may have finally hit the jackpot.
The Domke bags were originally created by photojournalist Jim Domke, whose hobby was collecting camera bags. Started in 1976, the Domke company was acquired by Tiffen, a leading manufacturer of photo accessories, in 1999. You can visit the Domke page on the Tiffen website by clicking here (opens in a new window).
Over the years, many professional photographers have provided input into the design of the Domke camera bags, and they have received numerous professional accolades, such as being named the official bag of the White House News Photographer Association.
It’s clear that no one bag will ever fulfill all of my photographic needs, or hold all my camera gear—and, as Jim Domke would be the first to admit, it is highly unreasonable to have this as an expectation. Within the constraints of a soft-sided journalist-style shoulder bag, my Domke Chronicle Camera Bag is truly wonderful. This is not an inexpensive camera bag (the discounted retail price is probably about $300), but the old saw about getting what you pay for applies, and the materials, finish, and detailing are top-of-the-line throughout.
The outer material is a durable, water repellent form of thick coated cotton duck, manufactured to military standards. Hardware, such as zippers and clips, are very high quality. One thing I like best is that the exterior, while attractive, is non-descript. If you remove the external Domke badge, which is easy to do, no one would ever know this was a camera bag. I carry thousands, or tens of thousands, of dollars of camera gear through all kinds of environments, and an extremely important component of personal security is not giving away what I have with me unnecessarily (partly for this reason, I also replace the branded straps on my camera bodies with plain straps).
Inside, the bag is flexible and expandable, and also protects my gear. Did I mention that this is a softside bag that is lightweight? I’ve carried it happily with one camera body and two lenses, and I’ve also used it fully loaded with several bodies and five or six heavy lenses. The customizable divisors allow a great deal of flexibility about how much gear I carry, and how it is laid out.
The layout of pockets for things like filters, memory cards, extra batteries, iPad and iPhone, and so on is very well thought out. Two features I particularly like are the excellent and secure strap for placing the bag on a wheeled suitcase extension handle, and the closure of the main compartment. The main compartment is secured with heavy-duty steel clips, but if you forget to clip it and just throw the top over, velcro takes over, and your gear will still be safe.
My one complaint about the bag, and I have only one, has to do with waterproofing. The material the bag is made of is inherently highly water resistant, and the main compartment is designed with flaps that can be arranged so that water does not leak into the bag. This arrangement is probably more than sufficient for the intended primary users of the bag, who are photojournalists. If it starts to rain hard, the photojournalist probably stops into a handy cafe and interviews sources while sipping a Pernod or Ouzo, and maybe puffing on a cheroot.
In contrast, my way of working sometimes requires me to be out with my gear in extremely foul weather. My requirements for a bag include a completely waterproof (not water resistant) cover, either included as integral to the bag, or carried as an accessory in a pocket. Domke does not provide this, so Phyllis helped me sew a jury-rigged elasticized waterproof raincoat for the bag that I always carry in a pouch in one of the pockets.
Full disclosure: I was provided a Domke Next Generation Chronicle Camera Bag for the purposes of writing a review by the Tiffen Company, and tested it under many widely varying field conditions. While I didn’t pay for my Chronicle Bag, I never would have trusted my gear to it on several continents if I didn’t think it was a great, convenient, and well-made camera bag, and my opinions are always honest and outspoken.
As a matter of principle, and so I can stay objective, I do not carry advertising or affiliate marketing links on my blog. Domke Camera Bags can be purchased from most quality professional photo suppliers.