Category Archives: Monochrome

Lot River Valley

Today we walked to the small town of Calvignac, France perched on a rocky crag, and about 3 kilometers from the Mas de Garrigue. The weather threatened rain, and was misting when we set out. But along the way the clouds opened up, the threatened rain never arrived, and from the ledges in Calvignac there were glorious views across the valley and the bends in the Lot River.

Lot River Valley © Harold Davis

Lot River Valley © Harold Davis

This is a seven exposure blend shot on a tripod using the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4. Each exposure was shot at f/6.3 and ISO 100, with shutter speeds between 1/40 of a second (for the dark trees in the foreground) and 1/2,500 of a second (for the bright clouds in the sky).

I used the image as a black and white demo for the group, first processing the seven exposures using Nik HDR Efex Pro. Next, I tweaked the color version. Finally, I converted to black and white using a layer stack, layers, masking, and a number of different conversion filters and presets.

Also posted in France, Landscape

Metamorphosis

A metamorphosis is a transformation. In this image, a model, also shown in Nude Descending a Ladder, is transforming into a portion of Multnomah Falls (or vice versa, the waterfall is transforming into the model). More abstractly, there is a larger view in which the waterfall is itself becoming a figure—vengeful Goddess or otherwise!

Metamorphosis © Harold Davis

Metamorphosis © Harold Davis

The two images I combined to make Metamorphosis are Waterfall (below) and Shout to the Soul (far below). Waterfall is a fairly straight photo of a portion of the upper Multnomah waterfall, while Shout to the Soul has been manipulated and transformed to fit together with the falling water.

Waterfall © Harold Davis

Waterfall © Harold Davis

Shout to the Soul © Harold Davis

Shout to the Soul © Harold Davis

 

Also posted in Models

Yaquina Bay Bridge

In the fog, the Yaquina Bay Bridge seemed to stretch on forever. The ending was obscure, and vanishingly difficult to find.

Yaquina Bay Bridge © Harold Davis

Yaquina Bay Bridge © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape, Photography

From Darkness into Light

Photography is famously about “writing with light”—or rendering light. In fact, light is integral to photography. You can’t photograph a physical object. You can only capture the light reflected or emitted by your subject.

Upper Horsetail Falls © Harold Davis

Upper Horsetail Falls © Harold Davis

How interesting then that the choice of rendering can lead a subject—such as Upper Horsetail Falls, shown in these two images—from darkness into light. Keep in mind that the choice is yours. But often the dark side is more mysterious, and therefore potentially more interesting!

Behind the Waterfall © Harold Davis

Behind the Waterfall © Harold Davis

Related stories: Fairy Falls; Cold is the colour of crystal; White River Falls.

Also posted in Landscape, Photography

Fairy Falls

Yesterday, after photographing Multnomah Falls, I walked up the icy path to Benson Bridge. From this bridge, I climbed the numbered switchbacks to the top of Multnomah Falls. From the vertiginous overlook I peered down the rushing waters to the floor of the Columbia River Gorge.

© Harold Davis

Fairy Falls © Harold Davis

From this cliff-top vantage point I continued up the trail past Dutchman Falls, Weisendanger Falls, and Ecola Falls. I turned right on a side trail to contour round towards Wahkeena Springs. From Wahkeena Springs, I headed down the long loop trail back to the Multnomah Falls lodge. Along the way I passed many waterfalls, including Fairy Falls, shown in the image.

As I started photographing Fairy Falls, I was struck by the way the light funneled from the top of the falls, almost as if the arc of lighted was flowing with purpose with the water.

Waterfalls are one of those subjects that are inherently uplifting—the majesty of nature is easily apparent. When it’s possible I’d like to try for something more in my waterfall imagery, a suggestion of the spiritual and a deeper echo of the emotional resonance that waterfalls have for us. Here’s to falling water, and here’s to something deeper than a pretty face!

Also posted in Landscape, Photography

White River Falls

On my long drive up eastern Oregon, shortly before I got to the Columbia Gorge, I passed White River Falls, shown in the photo. White River Falls State Park was still officially closed for the season. I parked beside the locked gate, put on my hiking shoes, grabbed the tripod, and clambered down to a spectacular view of the falls. The sun set (and it does set early this time of year!), it started to get quite cold with the wind and spray off the water, and I made a few exposures.

White River Falls, Oregon © Harold Davis

White River Falls, Oregon © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape, Photography

Human Spiral—Nautilus

This nine-image multiple exposure, combined in-camera another image in the same series, Rondo, reminds me of a living organism, or spiral shell such as the Nautilus.

Nautilus © Harold Davis

Nautilus © Harold Davis

Also posted in Models, Photography

Blast from the Past: Sacré Coeur Passage

Originally published June 26, 2013:

La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre sits high on a hill overlooking Paris. Controversial from long before the start of construction, the design of Sacré Coeur was a response to the supposed “moral decline” of France in the century following the French revolution, with the more proximate cause the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

If this defeat represented divine punishment, as asserted by Bishop Fournier, then Sacré Coeur was an iconic response by the hard right-wing allied with monarchists and the Catholic church to the democratic rabble of Paris and the commune. This was not the first, nor the last, time that the forces of repression and the church were on the same side against their common enemy, the people when empowered—but it still was a bitter pill for some to swallow standing tall above the city of light.

Sacré Coeur Passage © Harold Davis

Sacré Coeur Passage © Harold Davis

Visited by millions of people a year, Sacré Coeur gets surprisingly little traffic up in the passage that circles the grand dome.  Perhaps the narrow and twisting stairs—all 280 of them—inhibit guests. The views are superb, as you can see in another image of mine from the dome that includes that other Parisian icon, the Eiffel tower.

Up in the passage around the dome of Sacré Coeur, the “rabble” has had its revenge. On the one hand, it is sad to see the elegant surfaces defaced by layer upon layer of graffiti and a general patina of neglect over time. On the other hand, this defilement—at least in part a deliberate statement—stands as mute testament to the true sentiments of many of those who visit: as much as a holy temple, Sacré Coeur is a political symbol created by those who would keep the people in their place.

Patina of Time © Harold Davis

Patina of Time © Harold Davis

Exposure data, Sacré Coeur Passage: 22mm, eight exposures at shutter speeds between 1/20 of a second and 3 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures processed in Nik HDr Efex Pro and Photoshop, and converted to monochromatic using Photoshop, Topaz Adjust, and Nik Silver Efex Pro; Patina of Time: 82mm, seven exposures at shutter speeds between 1/30 of a second and 1.3 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures processed in Nik HDr Efex Pro and Photoshop, and converted to monochromatic using Photoshop, Topaz Adjust, and Nik Silver Efex Pro

Also posted in France, Paris, Photography

Patterns in Fishnet

The quest for an interesting photographic image is in large part the need to find order in an inherently chaotic universe. Even if that quest ends up showing disorder, it is usually in an orderly way. The search is a search for patterns, for that brief moment when the entropy of life reveals itself as not random after all.

Fishnet Stockings and Gloves © Harold Davis

Fishnet Stockings and Gloves © Harold Davis

The subject matter is irrelevant. If the patterns are exciting, they can range from Manarola and the Rooftops of Paris to the arms and legs of a model in fishnet stockings (shown in this story)—and beyond!

These fishnet stocking photos are fairly straightforward from a photographic technique perspective. I placed the model on a black background, and used two diffused strobes (one on either side) for lighting.

It’s not hard to make out the subject matter—arms and legs of a model in fishnet stockings and gloves.

Fishnet Stockings © Harold Davis

Fishnet Stockings © Harold Davis

What’s a little less obvious is that the intent is essentially sculptural. These are not particularly suggestive or erotic photos. The idea is to use the pattern generated by the rectilinear stocking design to create a sense of sculptural volume. The model’s arms and legs can easily be seen as abstractions, and I like to imagine what these would be like if they were recreated on a big scale as literal three-dimensional sculptures. The feeling would be rather different than as photographic prints in a photo frame!

Leg and Arm © Harold Davis

Leg and Arm © Harold Davis

Also posted in Patterns, Photography

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 Digital Night, Italy, Photography

And now for something completely different…

This is an in-camera double exposure I made on Saturday. The model is Anastasia Arteyeva.

Shelter Within © Harold Davis

Shelter Within © Harold Davis

Related images: View more of my Multiple Exposures (slide show).

Also posted in Models

Lost City in Sorrento

Adjacent to the center of picturesque Sorrento, Italy two chasms meet. Long ago, rivers in these gorges flowed cleanly down to the ocean, and were the original settlement in the area. Over time, and thanks in part to construction of the new town of Sorrento, the area became isolated from the harbor and increasingly damp. In modern times, it has been abandoned to the ferns and other vegetation, although the old mill shown in these photos was in use until the late 1800s.

Lost City © Harold Davis

Lost City © Harold Davis

Known as the “Valley of the Mills,” a very short walk from the Piazzo Tasso in central Sorrento leads to a vista point. The Valley of the Mills itself is surrounded by luxury hotels. For me, the most interesting thing visually about the scene is the way the modern city sits right on top of the ancient lost city, with little to differentiate the two—except that the lost city is buried in ferns and slowly and romantically reverting to the materials of the rugged chasms in which it lies.

Lost City 2 © Harold Davis

Lost City 2 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy

Hieroglyphic or La Dolce Vita

Sunbathing on the boat ramp in Riomaggiore harbor could be La Dolce Vita—the sweet life, and the name of a 1960 Fellini film. Except that the angle of repose causes most of these couples to anchor themselves using wood slots to stop from sliding into the water. Alternatively, as one commentator noted, photographed from above, La Dolce Vita looks for all the world like an abstraction, or a hieroglyphic.

Riomaggiore, 2015 © Harold Davis

Riomaggiore, 2015 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Abstractions, Italy

Canyon Conundrum

The seaside village of Vernazza, Italy makes its living from catching fishes and catering to tourists. Carved into the rocky ledges of the Ligurian coast, behind the village facade facing the sea is a warren and maze of narrow, dark passages with twisting stairs and low tunnels.

Canyons of Vernazza © Harold Davis

Canyons of Vernazza © Harold Davis

Wandering into this maze with my camera and tripod, I felt an eerie sense of having faced similar photographic challenges before. With the narrow, enclosed spaces and the mere glimmer of the sky, the compositional and lighting challenges were much the same as those in the slot canyons of the American southwest.

Both environments present a dynamic range from blackest black to brightest white, and both involve creating images that turn narrow spaces into interesting creative expressions. Strangely, while taking my time in the depths of Vernazza I could almost feel the dry, sandy breath of Antelope Canyon, on Navajo territory near Page, Arizona.

Structure of Time © Harold Davis

Structure of Time © Harold Davis

Related stories: Orange Juice on the Cinque Terre Trail; Structure of Time; Slot Canyon.

Also posted in Italy

Leaning Tower

On our way from Florence to Cinque Terre on the Ligurian Coast of Italy, we stopped to climb the Leaning Tower—Torre Pendente in Italian—of Pisa. It’s a marvelous structure, even if it does “lean in” (as they say these days)! But experientially, the visit has some disorienting aspects across several domains.

Leaning Tower © Harold Davis

Leaning Tower © Harold Davis

First, there’s the physical disorientation of climbing a spiral stair that is on an angle, and passing windows that are successively just a little bit sideways. By the way, I saw a woman climb these stairs in the highest of heels, quite a feat! But I digress.

Something about this disorientation leads to a popular phenomenon: the “selfie” with the Leaning Tower that uses perspective to distort the scale of things. In these selfies, the perpetrator is either “pushing” the tower over, or “propping” it up with gigantic figures out of proportion compared to the tower.

There always seems to be a crowd at the Leaning Tower’s piazza: sellers of plastic models, police, tourists, crowds. Gated admission is by advance ticket sales in groups every 15 minutes, with security pat-downs. This is not a quiet place, in fact it is a bit overwhelming. Security is very tight, no bags of any sort are allowed up the tower (don’t even dream of taking your tripod!).

So this is the other facet of disorientation: modern life seems to intrude in an objectionable way in a place that is visited because of a structure that didn’t perform to specifications and is almost a thousand years old. Go figure!

When all is said and done, if you get the chance, don’t miss climbing the tower.  It’s worth the disorientation and logistical hassles.

Also posted in Italy