Category Archives: Monochrome

Beneath the Pont de la Concorde

Beneath the Pont de la Concorde © Harold Davis

Beneath the Pont de la Concorde © Harold Davis

The modernism of the underpinnings of this bridge over the Seine River in Paris, France belies the ornate fancifulness of the bridge from above. This is one of the joys of photographing in Paris—styles with huge inherent differences are cheek and jowl together, and somehow work in harmony.

From a formal viewpoint, this is a photo with a great deal of symmetry in lines and construction. But for me the composition works because of the unusual negative space cut-out, across to the opposite bank of the river.

Exif data: Nikon D800, 35mm, six exposures at shutter speeds from 4 seconds to 1/8 of a second, each exposure at f/3.5 and ISO 50, tripod mounted; combined and converted from RAW in Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop, processed in Photoshop, Nik Color Efex, Topaz Adjust, and Topaz Simplify; converted to black and white using the LAB color space in Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Also posted in Paris, Photography

Unmade Bed in homage to Lilo Raymond

My friend and mentor Lilo Raymond died a few years ago. Lilo was a wonderful photographer with a wonderful eye, who fled from the Nazis as a youth and ended up settled in a small Hudson River village. Probably Lilo’s most famous photos are of pillows and unmade beds—so this iPhone shot of my empty bed taken in my hotel room on Monhegan Island, Maine should be seen as homage to Lilo.

Unmade Bed © Harold Davis

Unmade Bed © Harold Davis

Phyllis describes meeting Lilo for the first time as an “encounter with a force of nature,” which is apt enough. I truly miss Lilo.

Regarding unmade beds, the question is always what was in them before they transitioned into the unmade state. Lilo’s photos manage to convey graphic compositional perfection with the suggestion of rumpled love-making, adding the human touch to inanimate objects.

But I’ve also seen one of her photos licensed to a programming text book, with the caption, “An unmade bed is like an uninitialized variable, you never know what you’ll find in it.” So there is a universality to these images that belie the modest apparent subject matter.

In some ways, the beds, tangled sheets, and curtains in front of stark windows that form Lilo’s images make up the “day material,” to use Freud’s term, that can be used as a projective device for the deeper material lying below the conscious that bubbles up in dreams. In other words, there is more to Lilo’s imagery than meets the eye.

Also posted in iPhone

Happy Birthday Mom

The other day we celebrated my Mom’s 86th birthday. My Mom, Virginia Davis, is a working artist, deeply interested in the textiles and art of Mexico. So it seems appropriate that her reflection in this photo is apparently examining the reproductions of paintings by Frida Kahlo on the walls of the restaurant where we held her birthday party.

Happy Birthday Mom © Harold Davis

Happy Birthday Mom © Harold Davis

Old Train Bridge

Old Train Bridge © Harold Davis

Old Train Bridge © Harold Davis

I photographed this old train bridge in Maine, with the idea of extending the apparent length of the bridge visually as far as I could. To achieve this goal in post-production I used a similar technique to that in World without End, namely compositing the background image with successively smaller versions of itself. In World without End, the endless doors yield ultimately at the single pixel level to a wall with my initials carved in it. In the current image, I pasted a silly selfie rather than my initials.

You can see what I mean in the screen capture below since you won’t be able to get close enough to see me via the image on your monitor. To see my selfie which is at the pixel level, you’d need a good print and a magnifying glass, or a high resolution file and a good monitor.

I fancy this fantasy makes me a little like a train, and I am mindful of a few of the Stephen King novels in which “Blaine the Train” and others of his ilk have rather nasty personalities. But bear with me: I promise to be a nice train!

Photoshop CCScreenSnapz001

Reflections in a Maine Pond

“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

Reflections in a Maine Pond © Harold Davis

Reflections in a Maine Pond © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape

Spiral Inside the Pemaquid Lighthouse

Today I visited Pemaquid Point, Maine and its well-known lighthouse. This is still an operational lighthouse, run by the United States Coastguard. After I visited the top of the tower, the docent was kind enough to let me set my tripod up under the spiral stairs leading up, provided I didn’t block traffic. This was a simple tripod-mounted, single exposure using my Nikon D810 and a Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 lens, for 30 seconds at f/22 and ISO 64, processed in Bridge, Adobe Camera Raw (ACR), and Photoshop, and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop.

Inside the Pemaquid Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Inside the Pemaquid Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Monhegan Island Storm

Monhegan Island is a small island twelve miles off the coast of Maine. There are a handful of year around residents who mostly fish for lobster, many artists who come here in the summer, and visitors like me who come for a brief respite from civilization. The island clings to the edge of the ocean, and the coast of the mainland is only a smudge at the edge of vision. Today a storm rolled in, and I photographed the outer edge of the island near Lobster Cove as waves crashed against the shore.

Monhegan Storm © Harold Davis

Monhegan Storm © Harold Davis

Schloss Shadow

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go—so its the perfect time to work on some back images on my production machine. This castle shadow is from my recent stay in Heidelberg, Germany, photographed on a street as I wandered around after I gave my workshop.

Schloss Shadow © Harold Davis

Schloss Shadow © Harold Davis

Also posted in Germany

White Dahlia

Every time I am away for an extended trip Phyllis seems to embark on a home improvement project. This time, while I was in the Czech Republic and giving my workshop in Heidelberg, she outdid herself with a great reconfiguration of the living room. Outside, she put a small cast iron table on our front porch for breakfast and the like surrounded by pots of flowers. In one of the pots she planted a white dahlia.

Dahlia #2 © Harold Davis

Dahlia #2 © Harold Davis

I photographed one of the nearly perfect white dahlias on my light box using the Zeiss 50mm f/2 macro lens, which is truly one of the best macro lenses in my kit (and I have many macro lenses, my joke is that had I been Imelda Marcos I would have collected macro lenses rather than shoes!).

In the version above, I used an LAB inversion of the L-channel to show the white flower on a black background. The version below is more like how the flower would normally look on a white background in a monochromatic rendition.

Now, the only question is what will Phyllis improve while I am in Maine the first half of August?

Dahlia #1 © Harold Davis

Dahlia #1 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

Engine at Primo’s Garage

This is a photo of an engine-in-progress at Primo’s Garage, photographed during my recent Black and White Masterclass in Heidelberg, Germany, and used as in-class post-processing example.

Engine at Primo's Garage © Harold Davis

Engine at Primo’s Garage © Harold Davis

Also posted in Germany, Photography

House of Mirrors, Prague

On top of Petrinske Sady (Petrin Hill) in Prague, Czech Republic is a tower built to replicate the Eiffel Tower at 1/5 scale. From the top of the tower, it is one of the best views of Prague, and apparently the place in Prague to take a romantic date for a kiss. Next to the foot of the Petrin Tower is a maze and House of Mirrors.

Hall of Mirrors, Prague © Harold Davis

Hall of Mirrors, Prague © Harold Davis

Within the House of Mirrors, a technical problem for photography is the low light, since tripods are not permitted (flash is also obviously impractical, even if it were allowed). I resolved this issue by boosting my ISO to 2,000, with the intention of processing the image to make the resulting somewhat noisy aspect of the photo an attractive part of the final look. In other words, this was never intended to be a highly sleek image, but rather one with a bit of grunge in its DNA.

Rather more trying of my patience, the Hall of Mirrors was full of people on a rainy Sunday, and the mirrors picked-up all the kids and families running through the maze, and replicated them over and over again even when I thought they were out of sight, and magnified their presence.

I found a location and position within the mirror maze in which I wasn’t reflected (more difficult than you might think!) and then lurked. It took a while as I waited for a split instant in which no people were apparent in the system of mirrors, but finally it happened. I was ready, and quickly made the exposure before another reflected person came into the frame.

Exposure data: Nikon D810, 28-300mm lens at 32mm, 1/40 of a second at f/4.5 and ISO 2,000; handheld using Vibration Reduction.

Also posted in Czech

Oh, Heidelberg!

The other evening I strolled along Heidelberg’s Philosopher’s Walk with my camera and tripod. I stopped to make several photographs, including this exposure blend looking down on the Alte Brucke. Today I used the image in my Black & White Masterclass to demonstrate a fairly complete high dynamic range black and white (“monochromatic HDR”) workflow. I think the class was great at following along as this workflow involves a non-trivial effort and is definitely not for the faint of heart!

Oh, Heidelberg! © Harold Davis

Oh, Heidelberg! © Harold Davis

Exposure information: 135mm, seven combined exposures (at shutter speeds between 1/160 of a second and 0.5 of a second), each exposure at f/9 and ISO 64, tripod mounted; exposures combined and processed using Nik HDR Pro, Adobe Camera RAW, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex, Nik Silver Efex, Topaz Adjust, Topaz Simplify, and Perfect B&W.

Also posted in Germany, Workshops

Prague Metamorphosis

With Prague’s grand castles and elegant squares overflowing with happy visitors and marquee shopping it is easy to forget that this is also the city of Franz Kafka. Metamorphosis happens here, whether it is a human turning into a bug, or the curved shapes of a nearly empty street altered in the reflection in a traffic mirror. The outer world is unaltered, but inside the metamorphosis the lone pedestrian wanders down a twisted street towards an uncertain end.

Metamorphosis © Harold Davis

Metamorphosis © Harold Davis

Also posted in Czech, Photography

Yoshino River

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.

Yoshina River © Harold Davis

Yoshina River © Harold Davis

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.

Also posted in Japan, Landscape

Gem of the Drakenberg

Wandering with the kids over to Indian Rock I came across some really nice spiral specimens of Aloe polyphylla. The plant is originally from Lesotho near South Africa, and is sometimes called “the Gem of the Drakenberg.”

Spiral © Harold Davis

Spiral © Harold Davis

I snapped an iPhone photo, and processed it while the kids played in the rocks. Then today I couldn’t resist going back with the big camera! Processed, like my Agaves, to look as much like an etching or a lithograph as a photo.

Gem of the Drakenberg © Harold Davis

Gem of the Drakenberg © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone, Patterns