Category Archives: Monochrome

Sunflower

Sunflower on White in Black and White © Harold Davis

Sunflower on White in Black and White © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

Handsome Gargoyle Devil and the Pinhole Effect

A gargoyle is a carved grotesque, with (sometimes) the practical function of serving as a down spout for rain, and often the emotional purpose of warding off evil spirits. The world’s most famous gargoyles are those on the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris—which, however, are probably as much due to the Gothic romanticist architect Viollet-le-Duc as they are to historical veracity and antiquity. When Viollet-le-Duc reconstructed Notre Dame in the 1860s, it was tumbling down and virtually abandoned. Violett-le-Duc’s renovation was strongly inspired by Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame—a work of romantic fiction not particularly based in historical realities.

Gargoyle © Harold Davis

Gargoyle © Harold Davis

Whatever the historical authenticity of the Notre Dame gargoyles, they are a marvelous subject for photography, and a “must see” on any first visit to Paris, particularly if you have kids with you (my fourteen-year-old son Nicky joined me for my last visit to Paris in the spring, so I got a refresher in all things gargoyle, and hot chocolate as well!).

The first cameras were pinhole cameras. Pinhole cameras don’t have a lens.  Instead of a lens, light passes through a tiny hole; the light passing through this hole forms the image inside the camera. A camera obscura is a large pinhole camera where light passes through a tiny hole—the smaller the hole, or aperture, the sharper the image—and is projected on the back wall of an otherwise dark room.

The projected image is upside down, but perspective and other characteristics are preserved, so a camera obscura can be used to create detailed drawings that are accurate representations of scenes.

The first camera obscura was created by Arab physicist Ibn al-Haytham in the eleventh century. In the west, the optics of the pinhole effect were imported from the Arab world, and understood as early as the fifteenth century Renaissance (they were described by Leonardo da Vinci and others). The use of the optical pinhole effect in the camera obscura was one of the key discoveries leading up to the invention of photography; if you get the chance, don’t miss the opportunity to visit a large camera obscura, found in public parks in a number of major cities (adjacent to Seal Rocks in San Francisco).

I processed my image of this gargoyle as a demonstration of the post-production pinhole effect (adding the pinhole look-and-feel in the Photoshop darkroom rather than in the camera) for my forthcoming book The Photographers Black and White Handbook. The result is a blend of the Nik Silver Efex Pinhole preset (70%) and the Topaz B&W Effects Pinhole (30%).

Also posted in Paris, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Kira in a Cafe

For the demonstration of how to add a post-production selective soft focus using an Iris Blur for my forthcoming book from Monacelli Press, The Photographer’s Black and White Handbook, I used this portrait of Kira, photographed in a café near the Eiffel Tower in the City of Light.

Kira in a cafe © Harold Davis

Kira in a cafe © Harold Davis

Also posted in Paris, Photography

Rooftops of Paris—Split-Toned Version

I used my image of the Rooftops of Paris as a demonstration image for my new book, The Photographer’s Black and White Handbook. In my book, I use the image to show how to accomplish split-toning via a color range that selection that is converted to a layer mask. Using the layer mask, whatever tone is desired can be applied to the image. With the layer mask inverted, a different tone can be applied to the portions of the image that weren’t toned the first time.

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Exposure and processing info: 90mm, 1/320 of a second at f/9 and ISO 200, hand held; processed in ACR and Photoshop; converted to black and white using a Photoshop adjustment; toning added for mid-tones to dark-tones using Nik Silver Efex High Contrast Preset with Cyanotype and to light-tones using Full Dynamic Preset with Sepia (both toning effects at partial opacity).

Click here to see the color version. I’ve been surprised to find the color version reproduced without authorization or licensing, which makes me glad to have Pixsy on my side.

Also posted in Paris

As Time Goes By

On a late November wet afternoon, as dusk turned to sodden night, I wandered the banks of the Seine River with my camera. My idea was to render the street lights as an important graphic element of the scene, so I intentionally used a long exposure and introduced camera motion into the composition, then processed to exaggerate the impact of this lighting. Note the couple doing the romantic Paris kissing thing in the light of one of the street lamps.

As Time Goes By © Harold Davis

As Time Goes By © Harold Davis

This image was originally presented in color in December 2013. As part of the Black & White photography book I am working on fro Monacelli Press, the chapter on special effects is set in Paris. I’ve reprocessed the image as part of a technique demonstration in my book.

Exposure and processing info: Nikon D800, Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon, 4 seconds at ISO 50, hand held; processed in ACR and Photoshop, special effect added in Nik Analog Efex, converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex High Contrast and Antique Plate presets.

Also posted in Paris

Inside Prague’s Old Town Square Tower

For a book about black and white photography I am working on, I needed a few more images from Prague in the Czech Republic.

This image shows the inside of Prague’s Old Town Square Tower. From the deck outside the tower there is a great view of Prague, and inside the tower the elegant spiral stair with an elevator in its center is really nifty, too! Click here for the original story from my 2015 visit to Prague (with the image in color).

Inside the Old Market Tower in Black & White © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower in Black & White © Harold Davis

Exif info: Nikon D810, 15mm Zeiss 2.8 Distagon, 1/60 of a second at f/2.8 and ISO 2,000, hand held; multi-RAW processed in ACR and Photoshop; converted to black and white in Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Also posted in Czech

Magic Reflections

Warped, photo-composited with a horizontal mirror of itself, and converted to black and white with a partial etching effect, the Abbaye Sainte-Foy in Conques takes on an illusion and appearance almost like a work by M.C. Escher. The color version is also shown at the bottom.

Magic Reflections © Harold Davis

Magic Reflections © Harold Davis

Window on the Ancient Abbey © Harold Davis

Window on the Ancient Abbey © Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Succulent from our Garden

Succulent from our Garden © Harold Davis

Succulent from our Garden © Harold Davis

Fortunately, this succulent was in a planter so I could bring it indoors and out of the wind to photograph. 85mm macro, nine exposures at shutter speeds from 1/4 of a second to 2 minutes, each exposure at f/64 and ISO 100; tripod mounted; processed and converted to black and white in Adobe Camera RAW, Photoshop, Nik HDR Efex Pro, and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Old Train Bridge near Calvignac, France

I clambered up the steep embankment, and followed the faint path that ducked under the barbed-wire fence. Once on the train tracks, I headed onto the old bridge across the Lot River rural France.

© Harold Davis

Old Train Bridge near Calvignac, France © Harold Davis

Clearly, these tracks weren’t in use. Still, there’s something about being planted squarely in the middle of train tracks on an old, rusty bridge high above a rushing river that gets the blood flowing (almost as fast as the water below)!

Old Train Bridge near Calvignac, France (Black & White) © Harold Davis

Old Train Bridge (Black & White) © Harold Davis

Zeiss 35mm lens at f/16 and ISO 100, ten exposures at shutter speeds from 0.4 of a second to 1/500 of a second, tripod mounted. Processed in Adobe Camera RAW, Bik HDR Efex Pro, and Photoshop. Black and white conversion using Photoshop, Nik Silver Efex Pro, and Perfect B&W.

Related image: Old Train Bridge, Maine.

Also posted in France, HDR

Nanzenji Aqueduct

Nanzenji is one of the Five Great Zen Temples of Kyoto, Japan. Wandering through the grounds at Nanzenji, I came across a huge red brick aqueduct, built in the 19th century, and designed to carry water to Kyoto from Lake Biwa (it is still in use today). The mammoth nature of this structure seemed incredibly interesting to me, so I moved underneath the aqueduct with my camera and tripod to capture its supports, which seemed oddly out of place, almost like an ancient Roman engineering project in the heart of Japanese Zen.

This image is brought to mind because it is one of the illustrations in my new book The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook, which will be published by Monacelli Press.

Under the Aqueduct at Nanzen-ji

Under the Aqueduct at Nanzenji © Harold Davis

28mm, 4/5 of a second at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; processed in Photoshop, and converted to black and white in Photoshop and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Click here for more blog stories about Japan.

Related image: Under the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Also posted in Japan

Gourds

I realize that I never blogged this iPhone image of gourds, which I rather like. It was photographed locally at the wonderful Berkeley Bowl produce market. I processed in on my phone in the Snapseed app.

Gourds © Harold Davis

                                               Gourds © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone

Remains of the Clematis

What happens when the bloom on the clematis fades? When the leaves fall off, and all that is left is the wabi-sabi of the central flower core?

Remains of the Clematis © Harold Davis

Remains of the Clematis © Harold Davis

Shown here photographed on a light box, in Photoshop converted to monochromatic, and duplicated—with the duplicate L-channel inverted in LAB color to substitute white for black, and black for white.

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Fetish

Technically speaking, a fetish is defined as “an inanimate object worshiped for its supposed magical powers or because it is considered to be inhabited by a spirit.” I photographed the fetish object shown here in the lobby of my Paris hotel with my iPhone, then processed it on my iPhone to convert to black and white, and to add the background texture. By the way, if you noted that my iPhone itself is a fetish, you might not be far off.

Fetish  Harold Davis

Fetish © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone, Photography

Eglise Sainte Jean

The doors to the church in Najac, France are closed tight—which helps lead to the visual sense that one never really knows what goes on behind closed doors. The entrance to the church of Saint Jean is photographed here with my 16mm rectangular fisheye to emphasize the circular effect of the placement of the doors.

Entrance, Eglise Sainte Jean, Najac © Harold Davis

Entrance, Eglise Sainte Jean, Najac © Harold Davis

Also posted in France, Photography

Opera Garnier Stairs

It was fun to photograph again today in the crazily ornate Opera Garnier. This one is nine exposures using a fisheye lens. Since no tripods are allowed, I very carefully placed the camera on a ledge. I used auto-bracket mode and a remote trigger to fire nine exposures separated by one f-stop each. The bracketed sequence was combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Opera Garnier Stairs © Harold Davis

Opera Garnier Stairs © Harold Davis

Also posted in Paris