Category Archives: Monochrome

Hohenzollern

Hohenzollern Castle, located in Swabia about 80 kilometers south of Stuttgart, Germany was home to the family that eventually spawned the emperors of Germany. Destroyed and rebuilt a number of times since its construction in the 11th century, the current version dates to the mid-19th century, where it was a conscious architectural folly and anachronism, modeled in English Gothic revival style, and after the chateaus of the Loire.

Hohenzollern © Harold Davis

Hohenzollern © Harold Davis

It had been raining all week. On a gray day, I parked in the parking lot below the castle, and paid my 5 Euros fee. I ignored the shuttle bus, and schlepped my camera and tripod up to the entrance to the castle, maybe a twenty minute walk. It was sprinkling lightly, and as I entered the lower levels I looked up at the swirling mist with a few beams of sunlight coming through, and proceeded to capture a number of views with monochromatic HDR in mind.

Stairs in the Heidelberg University Library

With a few of the students in my Black & White workshop I headed into the ornately decorated Heidelberg University Library. We asked if we could photograph in the library book stacks. No, we could not: approval by a higher authority was needed. The “higher authority” was not currently available.

On the way back out of the library building we found these stairs. Proving once again that you don’t always get what you want, but if you are open to the adventure sometimes you get what you need.

Stairs, Heidelberg University Library

Stairs, Heidelberg University Library © Harold Davis

The image above is looking down the stairs. Here’s one in the opposite direction, looking up:

Heidelberg Library Stairs © Harold Davis

Heidelberg Library Stairs © Harold Davis

 

Jesuit Light

The old Jesuit Church in Heidelberg, Germany has been remodeled in a high-key. It’s been sandblasted and the interior painted white, and practically gleams of lightness—except the confessionals, which are shrouded in dark black curtains. There’s enough of the Catholic symbolism around so that it can be seen—barely—as an old-style church.

Scouting for locations for next week’s black and white workshop with Gerhard, my host and the director of the Heidelberg Summer School of Photography, we explored the nooks and crannies of this somewhat unusual church. Definitely a good place for the monochromatic vision, particularly in a high-key—and I photographed from behind the pulpit stairs, bracketing and overexposing with the high-key light in mind.

Behind the Pulpit Stair © Harold Davis

Behind the Pulpit Stair © Harold Davis

Alte Brucke in Heidelberg

This is the Alte Brucke (old bridge) in Heidelberg, Germany. It crosses the Neckar River and leads through an arch in a tower to the pedestrian-only area around the cathedral. I photographed the bridge after sunset, and used a one minute exposure.

Alte Brucke Heidelberg © Harold Davis

Alte Brucke Heidelberg © Harold Davis

Sisters

We are all sisters (and brothers) and the skin is only the surface. As human beings, let us be tender with each other.

Sisters © Harold Davis

Sisters © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D800, Zeiss Otus 55mm/f1.4, 1/160 of a second at f/8 and ISO 200, hand held. Two-strobe lighting on black seamless, with large soft box on the left and less powerful unit through an umbrella on the right. Photographed at The Lighthouse in Berkeley, California.

Related images: Multiple Exposures.

 

Overlooking the Dordogne River

I got to talking about photography with the couple who ran the B&B where I was staying in the ancient monastery town of Cadouin, France, and they suggested I check out a spot overlooking the Dordogne River a little way above the old riverside village of Tremolat. There was a little path from the parking area leading to the cliffs overlooking a bend in the river. By the time I got there rain was moving in, and the sky to the southwest was diffuse and soft, while the clouds to the the northeast were dark and ominous over the village of Lumeuil and the confluence of the Dordogne and Vezere Rivers.

Bend in the River - Dordogne in Black & White © Harold Davis

Bend in the River – Dordogne in Black & White © Harold Davis

I ignored the oncoming weather, and mounted my camera on the tripod. Looking left, straight ahead, and right and shot bracketed sequences of exposures for later HDR processing. I did my best to take my time and shoot following a proper and patient protocol despite the raindrops falling on my gear.

Bend in the River - Dordogne © Harold Davis

Bend in the River – Dordogne © Harold Davis

Combining the three images into a panorama meant first combining the exposure sequences, then using Photoshop’s Photomerge capabilities. You’ll find Photomerge in Photoshop on the File > Automate menu. After a bit of experimenting, I found the the Reposition layout setting with the Blend Images Together option checked worked best. There’s always a bit of manual retouching after blending images together using Photomerge, and this set of images was no exception, but generally the Photoshop automation got me about 95% of the way!

The final image is really quite high resolution, about 50 inches wide at 300 ppi without any enlargement (the file size is about 450 megabytes). It’s hard to see in an online version the level of detail this implies in some image areas, but you would see this detail if you were looking at a good print. You can begin to see the resolution in larger versions that will fit on the horizontally-oriented pages of my blog, click here to see a larger size black and white version, or here for the color version.

Speaking of black and white versus color, which version do you prefer?

What’s new is old again in Paris

Les Deux Magots © Harold Davis

Les Deux Magots © Harold Davis

Paris is a city with a tremendous and varied historical legacy from many eras. But after you are here for a while you realize that it is also constantly changing. Construction and renovation is continual. There’s scaffolding on almost every block.

With some notable exceptions, retail decors change quickly to keep up with fashion. The laundromat I tried to go to this morning has disappeared in the year since I last washed clothes there, replaced by an upscale boutique.

With this continual reinvention against a backdrop of history in mind, it is fun to use a new technology (my iPhone camera in the image shown to the left) to capture an old landmark, Les Deux Magots—the Saint-Germain-des-Prés watering hole of Hemingway and a whole cavalcade of literary and artistic types of yore (today it is more the touristic types!). Likely the waiter dressed in much the same way back when Hemingway frequented the joint.

Shot with my iPhone camera and processed on the spot with Filterstorm, Lo-Mob and Plastic Bullet as I was out “flaneuring” today.

Splash

Rain left puddles along the paths and trails of the Parc de Sceaux, on the outskirts of Paris. I positioned my camera to capture the perspective generated by the reflections of rows of trees in one puddle, and—splash!—tossed a pebble in to the water to take advantage of the concentric rings that this generated.

Splash © Harold Davis

Splash © Harold Davis

The underlying exposure for full depth-of-field and low noise was at ISO 100 and f/22 to capture the reflections in the puddle, while the exposure for capturing the splash part of the image was at ISO 2,000 and 1/25 of a second. Obviously this is the kind of image that usually takes some trial and error to get right—not only in terms of photographic exposure, but also where one aims the splash.

Under the Pont de la Concorde

A pedestrian esplanade runs from the Musée d’Orsay to the Tour Eiffel along the left bank of the Seine River. This walk way has been reclaimed from vehicular traffic only fairly recently, and it is the scene of art exhibitions, music, and much general festivity.

Under the Pont de la Concorde © Harold Davis

Under the Pont de la Concorde © Harold Davis

Wandering with my camera on this esplanade I was caught in a heavy spring downpour. Along with a crowd, I took refuge under the Pont de la Concorde. There was no place to put my tripod, so I  placed my camera on the stone railing. I added a neutral density filter, and shot this six minute exposure to soften the water while keeping the detail in the stone work that supports the bridge.

Spirals at the Hotel D’Orsay

If you know me, you know that I am nuts about photographing spiral staircases. The Hotel D’Orsay in Paris has two, one with an elevator running up the middle, and the main stairs, which has five flights in a narrow spiral formation.

Stairs at the Hotel D'Orsay © Harold Davis

Stairs at the Hotel D’Orsay © Harold Davis

This kind of staircase tends to be harder to photograph than meets the eye. First, they are rarely well lit. This means a long exposure if you are stopping the lens down to get enough depth-of-field for most of the spiral to be in focus. The problem with a long exposure is that this kind of old staircase is usually they are rickety and transmit vibrations. If anyone comes up or down the stairs, they are likely to spoil your exposure just by walking past.

Spiral Stair at the D'Orsay via iPhone © Harold Davis

Spiral Stair at the D’Orsay via iPhone © Harold Davis

Another issue is holding the camera steadily above the stair for a straight shot down. You need a good tripod and steady nerve, but you can usually brace the tripod against the railing to make this possible. To make life easier and avoid all the trouble, simply shoot the spiral staircase with your iPhone!

Pont Royal

Spring in Paris means that sometimes it rains, which can make it all the more romantic. I took advantage of the moody light today to photograph along the Seine River. From time to time rain squalls hit, and my camera and I went for cover under one of the bridges. I used a long exposure (two minutes) to flatten the moving water and give and old-fashioned appeal to this shot of the Pont Royal.

Pont Royal © Harold Davis

Pont Royal © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D800, 35mm Zeiss lens, circular polarizer, +4 ND filter, 120 seconds at f/13 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Apartments on the Boulevard Haussman

I was struck by the regularity in this apartment building. Nobody had planters out, no bikes were stored, and old shoes weren’t resting in the window embrasures.  This kind of tidiness is what you might expect from the haute bourgeoisie along the Boulevard Haussmann in Paris. I photographed the facade to emphasize its evident symmetry, and processed it using the same set of techniques I used with Room with a View (where there were old sneakers outside the windows!) to make the image look as much like an etching as a black & white photo.

Apartments on the Boulevard Haussmann © Harold Davis

Apartments on the Boulevard Haussmann © Harold Davis

With the image I had pre-visualized, and in this kind of situation, in both shooting and processing I am very glad to have the monochromatic HDR toolkit at my beck and call!

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 18-200mm lens at 130mm, five combined exposures at shutter speeds between 1/13 of a second and 1/800 of a second, each exposure at f/8 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Banks of the Seine

Using the same lens (my Zeiss 35mm) and the same camera-in-motion technique as In a Paris Park creates a moody and atmospheric image in monochrome of the banks of the Seine River and the Ile St-Louis in Paris. This could be an image from the dawn of photography—when long exposures were the norm, and it was difficult to get a crisp image in twilight—rather than a capture made with a state-of-the-art sophisticated DSLR.

Banks of the Seine © Harold Davis

Banks of the Seine © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D800, Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 at f/8, 4 seconds at ISO 50, hand held.
Related image: Ile de la Cite from Ile St-Louis.

French Gardens in Sepia

Villandry © Harold Davis

Villandry © Harold Davis

I was asked to prepare these monochromatic images of gardens in France with a slight sepia cast for possible use by an art world client. I like the way they came out—very mannered and apparently old-fashioned, but of course they are not old.

Once again, as I observed in Photographer as Poet, these images are creative anachronisms that combine a classic aesthetic with modern technique and ideas. There’s no need to analyze, however. The imagery can just be enjoyed for what it is. The fact that there is a deeper layer to the construction and thinking behind the imagery may interest those who like to think about issues of self-reference and meta-cognition, but should not interfere with straightforward visual enjoyment.

Hotel de Sully © Harold Davis

Hotel de Sully © Harold Davis

Parc de Sceaux © Harold Davis

Parc de Sceaux © Harold Davis

The Road Goes Ever On and On © Harold Davis

The Road Goes Ever On and On © Harold Davis

Photograph San Francisco in Black and White—also Workshop Updates

Photograph San Francisco in Black and White

Please consider joining me the weekend of Saturday April 12 and Sunday April 13, 2014 for a black & white photographic tour of San Francisco. I like to think of this as the film noir workshop of San Francisco, although of course we will be working in digital. Click here for details, curriculum and registration.

Sunset on the Bay

Sunset on the Bay © Harold Davis

Depending on light, weather and group inclinations, we will shoot famous locations and those known only to locals, possibly including (but not limited to) the Golden Gate Bridge, Marin Headlands, Fort Point, the Cable Car Museum, Urban Ore and Market Street at Night. We will photograph in the daytime, and include at least one night shoot (Saturday night). Classroom sessions will cover black and white conversion, monochromatic HDR, and creating high tonal-range imagery.

The workshop will be based in Berkeley, California (we will carpool to locations) and the tuition is $695 per person. Click here for details, curriculum and registration.

Cable Car Wheels © Harold Davis

Cable Car Wheels © Harold Davis

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

Updates

My understanding based on email responses is that the Photographic Caravan to Spain and Morocco is almost full. However, we are taking firm registrations when we get completed applications and deposit checks—so if you are on the fence, send yours in now because there may still be a possibility of getting that last spot, and also we will be taking a waiting list.

Nearer to home, I am giving two extraordinary workshops on the coast of California you may wish to consider in August, 2014. I am very excited about both these workshops. Night Photography in the Big Sur Landscape is hosted by the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, CA the weekend of August 1-3 and Creative Landscape Photography on Point Reyes will take place at the historic and romantic Coastguard Boathouse the weekend of August 8-10 under the auspices of Point Reyes Field Seminars.

Perhaps needless to say, we do expect these workshops to be popular. To avoid disappointment, I urge you to register early.

Bixby Bridge by Starlight © Harold Davis

Bixby Bridge by Starlight © Harold Davis

Here are the related Meetup groups for these workshops:

If you are interested in flower photography, please keep in mind the Best of Botanicals National Juried Photography Exhibition partially benefiting the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Related to this exhibition, I will be presenting and discussing my botanical prints on Saturday, June 7 (this event is free). Finally, I am pleased to offer my Photographing Flowers online course at $10 off the $59.99 price (use this link for the special discount).

Tulip Pano © Harold Davis

Tulip Pano © Harold Davis