Category Archives: Photography

digital photography: techniques: thoughts: photographs

Flower at the National Memorial of the Heydrich Terror

Reinhard Heydrich was the second-in-command of the Nazi SS. Heydrich was charged with enhancing the Czech contribution to the Nazi war machine, and did his best in a terrible reign of terror. He was eventually assassinated by two members of the underground, who were parachuted into Czechoslovakia in a suicide mission by the Czech government-in-exile from Great Britain. Although somewhat faded, like this rose in a plastic bottle, flowers still mark the memorial to the victims of Heydrich on the busy Prague street where the church crypt in which the patriotic assassins met their end is located.

© Harold Davis

Flower at the Memorial to Heydrich Terror © Harold Davis

To capture the nostalgia and sadness of the place and what it memorializes, as well as the faded nature of the flower and bottle, I photographed the image wide-open with my Zeiss 135mm f/2 lens for shallow depth-of-field, and converted the image to black and white, leaving only a little splash of color in the dried-up rose.

Cesky Krumlov

This is a view of the southern Bohemia resort and touristic town of Cesky Krumlov, where I spent a few hours photographing. By the way, “Cesky” means a “bend in the river” in Czech. Many old towns in the Czech Republic are named beginning with Cesky, because these oxbow bends in a river lent themselves to natural fortification back in the days when defense against literal robber barons was required.

Cesky Krumlov © Harold Davis

Cesky Krumlov © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Square Tower

Inside Prague’s Old Town Square Tower they’ve constructed an elegant spiral ramp, with an elevator in the middle. Other than Prague’s TV Tower (I heard one guide call the TV Tower “the second ugliest building in the world,” and it certainly is very ugly and dominates the Prague skyline, for some reason it has grotesque statuary of babies climbing up the circular pillars holding up this hyper-modern structure, don’t ask me why because I haven’t a clue, and I also don’t really know what building is the “first ugliest,” there must be many candidates, but I digress), other than Prague’s TV Tower it is the only high-up viewing spot I’ve found in Prague you don’t have to climb. It certainly is nice riding the elevator in the core to the top, then strolling down the spiral ramp enjoying the somewhat unusual view, shown looking down from the top of the spiral, and from the bottom watching the elevator rise.

Inside the Old Market Tower - Looking Down © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower – Looking Down © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower - Looking Up © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower – Looking Up © Harold Davis

View of Prague from the Old Town Square Tower

There are six towers that I know of in Prague to go up with my camera. I’ve been up four out of six so far. Mostly, they are an issue of climbing several hundred narrow steps, but this one—the Old Town Square Tower—has an elevator in addition to a spiral ramp (more on this in a later story). Anyhow, ascending the elevator rather than climbing up left me feeling chirpy. So in contrast to the somewhat somber Spires of Prague I shot this nice, bright canonical city view with my extreme wide-angle Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 lens. Two towers to go!

Prague from Old Town Hall Tower © Harold Davis

Prague from Old Town Hall Tower © Harold Davis

Spires of Prague

I’ve never seen such a veritable cacophony of spires in a European city as in Prague. These wonderful spires, or towers, help to impart Prague’s unusual and distinctive flavor. What is it about upright towers reaching for the sky that appeals to the engineers among humanity? Wait, hold that thought!

Spires of Prague © Harold Davis

Spires of Prague © Harold Davis

This view is photographed from the Powder Tower, which I climbed today. Prague boasts more towers you can climb than is generally the case. Each tower has a circular spiral staircase, seemingly hewn out of the stone. It can be very interesting encountering a party coming the other direction in one of these small, claustrophobia inducing staircases!

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

Prague Sunset

Getting to Prague from the Bay area took a bit of travel time. I know, less than in covered wagon and sail ship times, but still it was into the next day, and the seat on the airplane was truly lived in. Alas, I made the change of planes in Frankfurt, but my suitcase did not—and flew on with Lufthansa into the unknown. So I arrived on a new day on a Prague afternoon with the clothes on my back and a single camera. Which I took out to explore right away. As I neared the Charles Bridge I saw clouds and maybe a rainbow forming, so I dashed up the spiral stairs in the bridge tower, added a polarizer, and snapped a few frames before my rainbow disappeared.

Prague Rainbow © Harold Davis

Prague Rainbow © Harold Davis

Degrees of Translucency

Transparency means something one can look through with clarity, like a sheet of glass or plastic. So what we are interested in is really translucency—the state or condition of being translucent, or partially transparent. But translucency is essentially an optical illusion, or trick of the human eye. When a light color contrasts with a dark color, and the light color is apparently “above” the darker color, then the human eye is trained to perceive degrees of translucency.

Degrees of Translucency © Harold Davis

Degrees of Translucency © Harold Davis

 

Salutation to the Sun

I am taking a little time to process some of the botanical images I’ve shot so far this year. Soon I will be moving on to photograph the old stones of the old world, but it has truly been fun to have the time this spring to do a great deal of floral photography! Herewith, a few new botanicals. Enjoy!

Also note that I’ve opened a 2016 weekend session of my Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop (March 5-6, 2016, here in Berkeley, California). Click here for details and registration.

© Harold Davis

Salutation to the Sun © Harold Davis

Peony #1 © Harold Davis

Peony #1 © Harold Davis

Peony #1 on Black © Harold Davis

Peony #1 on Black © Harold Davis

Two Botanicals

The other day I enjoyed photographing and presenting some local flowers cut from the neighborhood in a fairly traditional way so that the finished images appear at first glance much like old-fashioned botanical gouache paintings with plenty of detail, or maybe color lithographic plates from an old book. The first image is an arrangement of the African Iris Fortnight Lily, Dietes iridioides, which blooms plentifully around here, but only once every two weeks (hence the “fortnight”).

African Iris Fortnight Lily © Harold Davis

African Iris Fortnight Lily © Harold Davis

The image below is of Nigella Damascena, sometimes called “Love in a Mist,” shown elsewhere on my blog up close and very personal!

Nigella Damascena © Harold Davis

Nigella Damascena © Harold Davis

Photographic Tour to Romantic Southwest France in April, 2016

What: A week with a small compatible group of photographers in a 15th Century castle in the lush countryside of southwest France in the springtime.

Where: Mas de Garrigue, a 15th century fortified farm near the Lot River: gardens, gourmet French home cooking, ancient medieval villages and castles, and a photographer’s and walker’s paradise.

Mas de Garrigue

Mas de Garrigue

When: Thursday April 21, 2016 (leave US April 20) to Friday April 29, 2016 (eight nights and nine days).

Group Size: This exclusive, small photo workshop tour is limited to six photographers (non-photographer significant others are also welcome).

Valentre Bridge © Harold Davis

Valentre Bridge © Harold Davis

Details: The group meets at a luxurious hotel in Toulouse in the southwest of France on the afternoon of Thursday April 21, 2016. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, and the capital of the modern French aerospace industry. It is easily accessible by plane or train from Paris and other points in Europe. There are many photographic opportunities in Toulouse itself, and we will visit some of these with a private guided tour, followed by an introductory group dinner (included in the cost).

On Friday April 22 we will transfer by private mini-bus to Mas de Garrigue in Calvignac on the banks of the beautiful Lot River. This is a region of beautiful rivers and valleys, stark cliffs with ancient clinging villages, sacred pilgrimage routes, stone bridges, churches that date from the era of the crusaders, beautiful flowering gardens, and much more.

Morning on the Lot River © Harold Davis

Morning on the Lot River © Harold Davis

The Mas de Garrigue will be our home away from home for the next seven nights, hosted by Sarah and Steven. Here’s a description: “Mas de Garrigue, a 15th century former hunting lodge and fortified farm is a stunning and important historic house retaining many original features within such as vast stone fireplaces, arrowslits, a 15th century window, stone sinks, magnificent oak beams and pigeon coops. Sarah and Steven have lovingly and respectfully restored the house, with elegant taste and sometimes a contemporary twist. The marriage of Irish antiques and art with French architecture is harmonious and charming.

pig800

Noir de Gascon piglet

“Sarah and Steven provide warm Irish hospitality in the beautiful Midi Pyrenees of South West France. Sarah studied cuisine in Paris and Steven hails from the well known Irish culinary and hospitible Allen clan. Passionate about food and wine, they offer sumptious dinners of homegrown and locally sourced produce. Steve rears two “Noir de Gascon” pigs every year which Sarah transforms into delicious terrines, pates, saucisse and hams. Steven keeps the kitchen stocked with vegetables, tomatos, herbs and even Saffron.”

Dinner setting at the Mas de Garrigue

Dinner setting at the Mas de Garrigue

While at the Mas de Garrigue Sarah and Steven will provide us with three wonderful dinners and a number of box lunches (these are included in the tour cost).

Room at the Mas de Garrigue

Room at the Mas de Garrigue

We could happily spend our time photographing right around the location of the Mas de Garrigue (and if you choose to do so, no one will think the less of you!), but three extensive professionally-guided excursions are included in the workshop.

Excursion destinations by private vehicle with guide will include:

When (alas!) our time in the Lot River Valley draws to a close on Friday April 29, transfer by private mini-bus to Toulouse train station or airport for return to the United States or further adventures in Europe is included.

Cost: $4,695 per person (single supplement $675); $500 early-bird discount for completed registration by August 31, 2015.

Inclusions: Eight nights lodging (one night at a 4-star hotel in Toulouse, seven nights at Mas de Garrigue), all breakfasts (8), many meals (four dinners, four lunches), walking tour of Toulouse with licensed guide, transfers from Toulouse to Mas de Garrigue (Calvignac) on arrival, and from Calvignac to Toulouse returning, three extensive excursions including admissions and licensed guides, and service charges.

Exclusions: Airfare and transportation to Toulouse (Toulouse is easy to reach by plane or train from Paris and many other points in Europe), meals except as indicated, wine and spirits, and personal items such as souvenirs.

To Register: Please send us an email expressing interest right away; a completed registration requires a $1000 deposit.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie © Harold Davis

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie © Harold Davis

Views of Japan

Hokusai, the famous Japanese woodblock print artist of the Edo period, created many views of Japan that included Mt Fuji, but the one shown here was probably not in his contemplation as they didn’t have air travel back then. I made the photo on an internal Japanese flight from Tokushima on Shikkoku Island to Haneda Airport near Tokyo.

View of Mt Fuji © Harold Davis

View of Mt Fuji © Harold Davis

For my own homage to Hokusai in the context of San Francisco, check out my book 100 Views of the Golden Gate.

As part of a chapter in the new book I am working on, related to black and white photography, I’ve been looking through my photography of Japan. These are some of the iPhone photos I’ve found, mostly of subject matter that I also photographed with conventional, high resolution cameras.

Misty Mountains © Harold Davis

Misty Mountains © Harold Davis

For example, the view of misty mountains long the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage on the Kii peninsula shown above can be seen more extensively in Distant Japanese Landscape.

The somewhat bleak courtyard shown next is in Koya-san, where I stayed for a couple of rainy autumn days as a guest in a monastery.

Autumn in Japan © Harold Davis

Autumn in Japan © Harold Davis

If you’ve ever visited Japan’s ancient imperial capital of Nara, you’ll know that the deer of Nara are a big touristic deal—which is why they are portrayed in the attractive design on the manhole cover that I found on a Nara side street.

Manhole Cover, Nara, Japan © Harold Davis

Manhole Cover, Nara, Japan © Harold Davis

I liked wandering around Nara. There was a great deal to look at, such as Kofuku-ji, a Buddhist pagoda temple with origins dating to the 669 AD, once one of the powerful Seven Great Temples. Today, even monuments as important as Kofuku-ji radiate a palpable sense of time having moved on, and despite all the hustle and bustle in Japan Nara seems like a delightful backwater.

Pagoda in Nara © Harold Davis

Pagoda in Nara © Harold Davis

Sweet Pea after O’Keeffe

After seeing some of my photos mistaken for O’Keeffe’s luscious flower paintings, I took another look at the wondrous botanical art of Georgia O’Keeffe. The sensuous, indeed sexual, nature of the O’Keeffe portrayal of flowers is a pretty obvious characteristic of her paintings.

Flowering Sweet Pea © Harold Davis

Flowering Sweet Pea © Harold Davis

What wasn’t clear to me until I took this further look was the extent to which O’Keeffe plays with magnification and scale. Essentially O’Keeffe is often painting extreme macro compositions, although they do not always seem that way to the viewer because of how they have been magnified and sometimes distorted. In its own way, this is a very photographic approach to painting, as I like to think I approach photography in a painterly way.

Click here to see some of O’Keeffe’s sweet pea paintings (opens Google images in a separate tab/window).

Dogwood & Friends

A Matilija Poppy pokes out in the middle of a covert of flowering dogwood, cosmos, old-fashioned roses, echinacea, and climbing mallows. Enjoy!

Flowering Dogwood & Friends © Harold Davis

Flowering Dogwood & Friends © Harold Davis

Photographed straight down on my light box for transparency, and captured using my Zeiss 100mm macro lens, five exposures each at f/22 and ISO 64, exposure times from 1/5 of a second to 3 seconds; tripod mounted; exposures processed and combined in Nik HDR Efex Pro, Adobe Camera Raw, and Photoshop, with finishing touches added using Photoshop, Nik Color Efex Pro, Topaz Adjust, Topaz Simplify, Topaz Impression, and Nik Viveza.

Floral Fantasies

These floral fantasies are created and photographed as collages on the light box, then processing in Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop, Nik, Topaz, and using LAB color adjustments. What fun!

Bright As a Summer's Day © Harold Davis

Bright As a Summer’s Day © Harold Davis

Photographed with my Zeiss Otus 85mm at f/16 and ISO 64 in two panels, each panel with eight exposures ranging from 1/15 of a second to 15 seconds. First I combine the captures in each panel using the techniques explained in my Photographing Flowers for Transparency FAQ. Then I use Photoshop to combine the left and right sides of this floral panorama, for an extremely high resolution file.

Shadow of the Solarized Moon © Harold Davis

Shadow of the Solarized Moon © Harold Davis

The workflow for processing these images is laborious but a great deal of fun. Learn more via my books, my online webinar recordings, or in a Harold Davis workshop (there are only a few spaces left in my Flower workshop in Maine this August).

Flowers Will Reach the Black Empire © Harold Davis

Flowers Will Reach the Black Empire © Harold Davis