Category Archives: Photography

digital photography: techniques: thoughts: photographs

Valentre Bridge

In an earlier story illustrated with iPhone captures, I wrote: The city of Cahors in the southwest of France is a slightly gritty provincial capital—but back in the middle ages it was fabulously wealthy. Protected on three sides by the river Lot, Cahors was nevertheless sacked, abandoned and rebuilt. But glory was never regained entirely (the Black Death didn’t help matters). You can see the remnants in the palaces and monuments of the old quarter, where today they have a wonderful fresh food market. I got my lunch today in this market. You really can’t beat a fresh loaf of bread, a tranche of locally made pate, strawberries and a tomato!

Valentre Bridge © Harold Davis

Valentre Bridge © Harold Davis

Cahors may have fallen to brute force and treachery during the hundred years war during the convoluted battles between French and English monarchs, but the Pont Valentre was rightly regarded as impregnable. Originally a fortress in the center of the river, it was expanded across to both banks with ample fortifications to make direct attack well nigh impossible.

I made this photo of the Pont Valentre from the banks of the Lot River with my camera on my tripod, and my hat held over the camera and lens to protect it from the spring rain.

When two rivers woo

I’ve been playing with poetry, puns and stories in my mind about two rivers coming together, hence “when two rivers woo” and “a tale of two rivers,” and so on. Shown here: The Vezere River coming in from the left and the mighty Dordogne River from the right shot from the castle-turned-exhibition garden high above the town of Lemeuil in southwestern France.

Confluence of Two Rivers  © Harold Davis

Confluence of Two Rivers © Harold Davis

Rain was falling softly and the air was fragrant on the spring day this year that I shot the image, with my camera exposed I was mindful of the brooding clouds in the distance. If you look carefully, you can see the rain skittering across the wind-blown surface of the water at the confluence of the two rivers.

This is an HDR blend of nine exposures, each shot at a moderate wide-angle, ISO 100, and f/11. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/5 of a second to 1/320 of a second. I used a polarizing filter and a tripod.

Related images: Morning on the Lot River and Overlooking the Dordogne River.

Wheel of Life

This is a single, in-camera multiple exposure using the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 and a Nikon D800 on a tripod. Looks great printed large on Moab Slickrock Silver metallic paper.

Wheel of Life © Harold Davis

Wheel of Life © Harold Davis

Related stories: Dance in the RingsA Rorschach for MFAs and Multiple Exposures.

Morning on the Lot River

Meandering by slow roads, I crossed and recrossed the Lot River in the southwest of France. Parking by the river, a trail led me back along cliffs for about a mile. There were ancient steps carved in the rock down to the water, and I descended. Pausing, I looked down in the almost still reflection of the river—losing myself in water that seemed directionless and mystical in the early morning light.

Morning on the Lot River © Harold Davis

Morning on the Lot River © Harold Davis

Catching the full range of light

This shot from within an abandoned building on Point Richmond, California is a good demonstration of capturing an entire dynamic range of light. There’s quite a range between the bright and sunny San Francisco Bay exterior, and the far less bright interior (it is hard to describe the interior as “muted” though, considering all the colors on the walls).

Abandoned Building, Point Richmond © Harold Davis

Abandoned Building, Point Richmond © Harold Davis

I used my Nikon D800 with the extremely bright and sharp Carl Zeiss Distagon 15mm f/2.8 lens. There were six exposures, with shutter speed duration ranging from 1/1600 of a second (for the bright exterior) to 1/5 of a second for the comparatively dim interior. This amounts to a range of 320:1 from lightest to darkest. Each exposure was shot at f/16 and ISO 200. I combined the exposures using default settings in the Nik HDR Efex Pro plugin from within Photoshop.

Related story: Craneway Pavilion.

Last week for the Japan special print offer

Special Japan special offer. I am eager to get the Photographic Odyssey to Japan well-launched by the end of August. So this offer is intended for you, if you are sitting on the fence. If you follow the simple registration steps, fill out the registration application and pay the $500 trip deposit (by check or Paypal) before September 1, 2014, I will send as a gift to you a signed, original 11″ X 14″ print of either Dawn in the High Fields, Takihara or Buddha Samadhi. The archival pigment prints are handmade in my studio on Awagami Kozo washi, and have a retail value of $495 each. The images are shown above in this story. (The Awagami Factory is where we will make paper on the trip!)

You can find the full trip itinerary here, and trip costs with registration info here.

Dawn in the High Fields © Harold Davis

Dawn in the High Fields © Harold Davis

The “fine print” on my print offer: There really isn’t any. If the trip doesn’t run, of course your deposit will be returned, and you can keep the print as my gift. If you have already signed up, of course you are entitled to your choice of either print.

A friend writes, “Would love to go on the Japan trip; the trip looks like excellent value for the money . . . and I have been to Japan easily 25+ times.”

When you review the detailed itinerary, please keep in mind:

  • Japan is an expensive place to visit.
  • There is a tremendous amount included in this trip. It runs for eighteen days. This is a long trip, it includes most meals, airfare from Hiroshima to Tokyo, a workshop at the fabled, 700-year-old Awagami Paper Factory on Shikoku Island, the hotels I really wanted (in Kyoto during cherry blossom season this is a big deal), many admissions (which in Japan really add up), all kinds of transport, and bilingual guides throughoutPlease take a careful look at the itinerary to see all that is being offered.  You will see that it is assembled with a great deal of care, and that those lucky enough to join us will have unique experiences, and come home with many great and unusual photos–not just the typical tourist photographs.
  • The kicker is the small group size. Many things cost the same amount no matter how many people are in the group. This goes for guides, buses, and more. The more people, the lower the per-person cost. Of course, in a smaller size you also don’t get substantial group discounts.

Generally, I want to lead smaller groups when I travel with photographers, and it is a fact of life that this leads to higher costs. The point is a more personal experience, so that I can spend ample time in a collegial fashion with each photographer on the trip.

In the case of the Photo Odyssey to Japan, some of the very special places we will visit and stay at can only accommodate the smallest of groups. So if I wanted to present this fantastic trip, I had no choice but to keep the group size small. All that said, I have worked hard to keep the costs as low as possible.

Buddha Samadhi, Tokyo © Harold Davis

Buddha Samadhi © Harold Davis

So what are you waiting for?

Visit a Japan that most westerners never get to see with special, once-in-a-lifetime photographic opportunities.

Harold Davis

For the itinerary: www.digitalfieldguide.com/japan-workshop

To register: www.digitalfieldguide.com/japan-registration

Space available this weekend!

Don’t miss this opportunity to photograph San Francisco and the Bay area with a local master photographer!

Saturday August 23 and Sunday August 24, 2014

The San Francisco Bay area is one of the places on our planet most visited for photography. If you live here, why not spend a weekend photographing San Francisco as if you were seeing it for the first time for the wonder it is?

If you have always wanted to photograph San Francisco but are coming from far away, what better way to go about it with the guidance of master photographer and Bay area resident Harold Davis?

Click here to register for the Harold Davis San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

100 Views cover

Following a brief orientation, we will carpool and photograph around the Bay area in an exciting and fun weekend with locations depending on weather, lighting and group inclinations. Group size is limited to twelve photographers. There will be time for image review, and Harold will make suggestions for image improvement and creative thinking about image making.

There will be a night shoot on Saturday, and Harold will present material on photographing San Francisco in both color and black & white.

Why not get the imagery of San Francisco you have always wanted?

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

When: Saturday, August 23 and Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where: The orientation and classroom sessions of the workshop will be hosted in Berkeley, California. We will car pool to field shooting locations.

Cost: Tuition is $745 per person. Workshop is limited to a maximum of 12 participants.

Registration: Click here to register for the Harold Davis San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Current and Upcoming Harold Davis Workshop Offerings

  • 2014.08.23-2014.08.24—San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop. Click here for more information and registration.
  • 2014.08.26—Harold Davis presents “Digital Black & White” at the Alameda Photographic Society (7:30 PM).
  • 2014.09.13—Creative Photoshop Fun Day with Harold Davis. Click here for more information and registration.
  • 2014.09.22—Harold Davis presents “Making Memorable Travel Photos” at the Golden Gate Computer Society
  • 2014.08.19—Harold Davis presents “Photographing Flowers for Transparency” at the Peninsula Camera Club
  • 2014.10.04-2014.10.05—Photographing Flowers for Transparency, weekend workshop in Berkeley, CA, click here for info and registration. This is a unique opportunity to learn Harold’s techniques for photographing flowers from beginning to end in the context of a hands-on workshop.
  • 2014.11.03-2014.11.20—Photography Caravan to Spain and Morocco. This is an exceptional opportunity to travel to exciting Spain and then all over colorful Morocco.  You will seldom have the chance to capture so many wonderful images from both of these countries (and continents) with help from two top professional photographers (Bill Bachmann and Harold Davis) leading the way. Click here for the detailed itinerary. Trip is full, but we are taking a waiting list.
  • 2014.012.13—Photographing Waves sponsored by the Point Reyes Field Institute. Each year I’ve given this workshop it has been fun and different. Register early to avoid disappointment! Click here for more information, and click here for registration.

2015

Harold’s workshops are often sold-out, and fill up quickly. To avoid disappointment, please register early. Feel free to contact Harold Davis if you have any questions about our workshops!

Please also consider Harold’s online webinar recordings and his Photographing Flowers course with Craftsy.

We arrange many of our workshops and events using the Photography with Harold Davis Meetup group. Click here for Group and Workshop reviews on Meetup. Please subscribe to our list and/or blog feed for early notification about new workshop offerings.

What folks have said about Harold Davis workshops and events:

  •  “A great artist and speaker!”—W. Anglin
  •  “Harold is genuine, generous, and gracious – He has a world of knowledge and expertise that he loves to share – his wonderful books show his monumental talents and skill set- his workshops shows the depth of his connecting with others in a very real and personal way.”—P. Borrelli
  • “Awesome! He patiently addressed questions from the audience which contained photographers of all levels , molding his answers to the level of understanding for each of us. His presentations covered a wonderful range of technical knowledge as well as emphasizing the need for images to have an emotional quality. The images he shares are breathtaking and he is generous in sharing many facets of how he captures such beauty.”—J. Phillips
  • “Not all photographers are good verbal communicators. Harold is someone who can DO and TEACH. A rare combination of talents.”—B. Sawyer
  • “Inspiring!”
  • “He was very giving of his talents and time. The course was very organized and thorough. Loved it! Learned so much! … I also wanted to let you know that I have more than paid the cost of the workshops I’ve done with you by selling some photos! I have sold three prints already.”—L. Beck
  • “Very creative and a marvelous instructor.”—Kay S.

A Rorschach for MFA’s

This image, with the working title Gates after Rodin, shows one model many times. The model, Jacs Fishburne, is a self-described “tornado disguised as a woman.” In the studio, Jacs was posing on a large metal hoop, sometimes called a Lyra. The Lyra was suspended by two ropes about six feet above the ground, with a black background. For some of the exposures Jacs was kneeling on the ground “holding up” the Lyra.

Gates after Rodin © Harold Davis

Gates after Rodin © Harold Davis

To make the image, I shot five in-camera multiple exposures, with Autogain turned on so that each multiple exposure was properly calibrated. Each of the multiple exposures consisted of five to eight individual shots, with Jacs changing her pose between each one. I used basic studio lighting for an even, consistent look and my D800 with the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4.

I then combined the in-camera multiple exposures in Photoshop, using both stacking and selectively pasting bits from various versions in using layers and masking. By some ways of counting, this makes for a total of somewhere between 25 and 40 different captures of Jacs, when you multiply the number of files by the number of times she appears in each.

Before finishing the image by adding a texture, I retouched out the ropes from above holding the Lyra, leaving the circular Lyra mostly in place.

A friend writes: “It brings up associations with five or six classic paintings from earlier eras. I see the Winged Victory of Samothrace on the left, and the hand of the Sphinx on the center right. Cardinal Richelieu is in the center. The face in profile at the upper left comes from something I can’t quite place and the depictions of hell by the famous Dutch painter What’s-His-Name are at the bottom [Hieronymus Bosch]. And then there’s the hint of the sumi-e circle of light again [the Lyra]. It’s like a Rorschach for MFA’s! ”

My own association is with Rodin’s Gates of Hell. I saw a casting in the garden at the Rodin Museum in Paris this spring. Maybe the memory of the Gates was lurking in my subconscious, waiting for a chance to emerge!

Related story: Multiple Exposures.

Multiple Exposures

I feel like showing the six images in my Multiple Exposures series (at least so far there are six) in one blog story. Thanks Marianne for the great title suggestion for the sequence! The models are beautiful women, but multiply exposed like this there is something definitely off-balance and dark about the ensemble.

Les Demoiselles © Harold Davis

Les Demoiselles © Harold Davis

Being and Becoming © Harold Davis

Being and Becoming © Harold Davis

Kali © Harold Davis

Kali © Harold Davis

Earthbound Angels © Harold Davis

Earthbound Angels © Harold Davis

Passion © Harold Davis

Passion © Harold Davis

Solace for the Wild Rest © Harold Davis

Solace for the Wild Rest © Harold Davis

Related blog stories: When is a photo not a photo?Multiple ExposuresKali and Les DesmoisellesBeing and BecomingSolace for the Wild RestDuos and Redos.

Also see Tender Dance and Sisters.

Flowers for Nicky

My twelve year old son Nicky (shown here a while back) was in the ensemble at Berkeley Playhouse for a teen production of the musical Shrek. For opening night, his Grandma sent him flowers.

Flowers for Nicky © Harold Davis

Flowers for Nicky © Harold Davis

He (and we) enjoyed the bouquet for a while. Then, a couple of days after the performance, I spread them out on my light box, and photographed the flowers for transparency.

For more information on my technique, check out my FAQ: Photographing Flowers for Transparency.

Sony Alpha a7R—Initial Impressions

I’ve been testing a new interchangeable lens camera, the Sony Alpha a7R, to see if I can happily use it. The a7R can truly be thought of as a new paradigm camera compared to the DSLRs I am accustomed to using, which are basically classic SLRs with an optical pentaprism and mirror, updated for digital. The full frame sensor in the a7R is the same as the sensor in the Nikon D800E (the Nikon sensor is made by Sony), with a full 36MP capture. This camera has great resolution, but no mirror or optical viewfinder—and weighs less than half of what a full-frame Nikon DSLR weighs.

Succulents (via Sony Alpha a7R) © Harold Davis

Succulents (via Sony Alpha a7R) © Harold Davis

It’s really interesting how the gear we use influences our imagery, and even what we see and how we see it! I shoot differently with a full-frame DSLR than when using an iPhone camera, and as I try the a7R, I am working differently yet again—and taking different shots.

This is a very smart camera, and a magnificently designed machine. It is a real pleasure to hold in my hands, and the light weight of the form factor considering the resolution is nothing short of astounding.

I shot the image shown above with a Sony-Zeiss Vario-Tessar FE 24-70mm lens at 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80 of a second and ISO 100 handheld. It’s not my usual way of working, but I set the camera on Auto, and let the camera do the thinking about focus and exposure. It did a pretty good job, I’d say. Auto-pilot, when it is as good as the automation in this camera, has something to be said for it because I can concentrate on seeing, and I don’t need to think about the technical aspects. Maybe this is the future, a little like being driven by a Google car!

I’m continuing to work my way through the sketchy documentation, explore my feelings about the non-optical viewfinder, see how easy it is to use manual exposure settings, find out whether it plays well with my wonderful collection of Nikon-mount Zeiss glass via the Sony E to Nikon F metabones adapter, test battery life, see how I can use the a7R with an intervalometer, and investigate other issues.

I’ve added a tripod quick-release plate to the bottom of the a7R, and I will be using it this weekend as my primary camera as I lead a landscape photography workshop at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The questions I now need to answer for myself don’t really relate to the camera per se, which is clearly a magnificent machine, but rather to how well I work with it, and whether my style of craft meshes well with the machine. Camera and photographer are a kind of cyborg. Does this Harold-Sony a7R man-machine cyborg work and play well? Stay tuned.

Full disclosure: Sony kindly lent me the Alpha a7R along with the 24-70mm lens.

Riders on the Storm meets Christina’s World

In the surprising uplands of Dordogne and Lot in the southwest of France high alkaline plateaus are bisected by deep river valleys. You’ll find medieval towns and castles, with markers from the history of the bloody 100 years war. The Brits may not have conquered back then, but today they’ve taken over, with everything from modest vacation bungalows to gated chateaus and estates.

Riders on the Storm © Harold Davis

Riders on the Storm © Harold Davis

Exploring the back country, in the smallest hamlets I could find, were also abandoned farms and ruined buildings. I paused in Saint-Romain, ahead of the storm, to photograph this farm house, intricate in its construction and picturesque in its decay. The wind whistled through the grass in the fields, with a sound as desolate as the abandoned buildings. The only thing missing was Christina, I thought, disassembling my camera and tripod and turning away as the first drops of rain began to fall.

Sainte Croixe de Beaumont

Way off the beaten track in the southwest of France, I stopped to photograph the ancient church at Sainte Croixe de Beaumont. This complex belonged to the Knights Templar, and is mostly abandoned. The interior of the church is still in decent shape, but the other buildings are heading for ruin.

Oncoming Storm over Sainte Croixe © Harold Davis

Oncoming Storm over Sainte Croixe © Harold Davis

All morning it had been threatening to rain, with swiftly moving clouds overhead. As I wandered through the fields with my camera on the tripod, the oncoming storm burst, and I made haste to take refuge in an abandoned building where I could protect my gear.

Photographic Odyssey to Japan with Harold Davis

Please consider joining me on a photographic odyssey to Japan in the spring of 2015. This is my dream trip to Japan, a once in a lifetime exclusive eighteen-day opportunity. This is an absolutely unique trip. Group size is limited to a maximum of twelve people. The dates are March 29 – April 15, 2015, selected so as to have the best chance of being in Kyoto for the cherry blossoms.

If you look at the detailed itinerary, I think you’ll be amazed at all we’ve managed to pack into this Photographic Odyssey to Japan, from big cities and luxury hotels, to temples on pilgrimage routes, rustic ryokans, 17th century castles, and much more. The route of the trip follows a meandering path south from Tokyo round Mt Fuji, the Japanese alps, and the mountainous Japanese interior.

Misty Mountains
We’ll pause for a few days in Kyoto and photograph cherry blossoms, then visit the ancient capital of Nara, and head on for the terminus of the famous Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. From there, a trip to Shikoku Island will feature the Naruto whirlpool, a washi paper making workshop at the famous Awagami factory, and a visit along the Shikoku 88 temples pilgrimage circuit.

Continuing south, we’ll stop to photograph Himeji Castle, pay our respects to the Atomic Dome in Hiroshima, and take our time photographing the giant Torii built over the inland sea on the sacred Island of Miyajima. From there we’ll fly back from Hiroshima to Tokyo (airfare included).

Please consider joining me in Japan! You can check out the detailed itinerary by going to http://www.digitalfieldguide.com/japan-workshop. I’ve included links to the hotels and ryokans where we’ll be staying. Also there are many links to locations on Google maps so you can get a better sense of the route.

Dawn in the High Fields © Harold Davis

When you look at the itinerary you may be surprised at how much we’ve managed to pack into this photographic trip, with excursions, night photography in Tokyo and Kyoto, temples and so much more. We’ll have the services of an English-speaking guide throughout the tour, and many meals are included in the trip. You can find pricing and registration information here: http://www.digitalfieldguide.com/japan-registration.

Group size is strictly limited (the maximum size is 12, with a minimum of 6 needed to run the trip). If a photographic tour of Japan under my guidance intrigues you, please take advantage of this offer, and don’t delay.

Click here for detailed information. Please drop me an email and let me know if you have any questions.

Gion at Night © Harold Davis

Scanning a Purple Flower

I was reminded of the very high resolution you can get from an inexpensive flatbed scanner recently when there was interest in a large print from one of my scanned flower images. With both the images shown here, the basic image was created on the scanner but I also photographed the flower, and blended the files from the camera and scanner.

Purple Flower Scan © Harold Davis

Purple Flower Scan © Harold Davis

Generally, flatbed scans can give you a very high resolution, but depth-of-field is very shallow. There’s no way to adjust depth-of-field, as you do by stopping down a lens. The ability to capture depth is also limited. If you try this technique, expect to spend a great deal of time spotting out dust, which almost always accompanies scanner images, particularly if you use a black (or dark) background. Combining a scan with a photo in some ways gives me the best of both worlds!

Purple Flower Dance © Harold Davis

Purple Flower Dance © Harold Davis