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- The Photoshop Doctor is in: take two webinars and call me in the morning
- My Best of 2014
- Making the Artisanal Inkjet Print
- Photographing Waves
- Working on the Kumano kodo portfolio prototype
- Travels with Samantha
- Drowning in a Plethora of Stuff
- Photographing Flowers for Transparency presentation Jan 27
- Kumano Portfolio: A Work in Progress
- Falling Water
- Come join me to photograph flowers in Maine this summer!
- Castelo Marvao
- Serendipity and photography
- Castle made of sand
- Star Magnolias in Bloom Again
- San Francisco Night Photography Workshop Feb 20-23, 2015
- Face of the Deep
- Making the Artisanal Inkjet Print
- Photographing Flowers for Transparency presentation Jan 27
- Night Light
- Serendipity and photography
- Prague, Vienna, and Budapest Photography Workshop
- Megaliths Modern and Ancient
- Castelo Marvao
- Come join me to photograph flowers in Maine this summer!
- Workshop Updates
- Drowning in a Plethora of Stuff
- Warm wishes for a joyous New Year!
- Not a Through Tree
- My Best of 2014
- Falling Water
- Photographing Waves
- Waterdrops via Otus 85
- Flash Craftsy Sale
- Seasons Greetings: Graced with Light!
- Katie Rose, Photographer
- Ruined Kasbah
- Terraces in Portugal
- Kumano Portfolio: A Work in Progress
- Market in Marrakesh
- Panorama from Morocco
- My prints in a New York loft
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Category Archives: Photography
On a cloudy late afternoon I stood on the Great Beach of Point Reyes, California, watching the roiling surf that had made its way across the empty miles of the open Pacific Ocean. Sky, spray, and waves seemed to blend tumultuously as the light faded.
“Darkness was upon the face of the deep” goes the creation story in the Book of Genesis. From the oceans came life, and the first to come may be the last to go. In this teaming world there is still plenty of mystery in the deep—threatened by greed and rapacity like all environments, but still wild and wonderful.
I like to make images that use photography to reveal things that are not normally seen. The deep—the ocean—has so many faces. At a fast shutter speed, with the camera diaphragm open for a very short duration, the spray of water is crisply stopped in mid-air, down to the droplets, flicking off the wave (click here for two example photos at the bottom of the linked story).
Lengthening the duration of time the shutter is open smooths out the waves. Fast moving, crashing rollers become dreamlike when the camera helps you “see” their motion “graphed” over a second or two. You can check out this effect, also shot on Point Reyes, by clicking here.
Things are not always what they appear. What is the face of the deep? There is void, there is fullness, there is wonder: more facets visually and conceptually than we can truly encompass. The world is an amazing and wonderful place. The camera is but a paintbrush to help us know the face of the deep and does not always reflect the eye of the creator.
So musing on these things, I experimented with really long exposures. As the light faded, I dialed my ISO as low as it could go, to ISO 32, stopped the lens down to its smallest aperture, and exposed these images for several minutes each. The waves become abstracted layers. We humans can look on the chaotic scene of breaking surf and spray and explore it as a serene manifestation of the rapture of the deep.
I was recently asked by an art gallerist I work with to help educate some clients regarding my printmaking. Essentially the issues come down to exploring how my prints differ from mass-produced inkjet prints, since largely the same equipment is used. In contrast to those you get from Costco or giclees from an art reproduction company, my prints require a great deal of hand labor. My FAQ: Prints by Harold Davis covers much of this ground, and I also think the following discussion helps put things in perspective.
What printer do you use?
We own a number of inkjet printers, and have worked extensively with both Canon and Epson printers. But I am happiest so far with my Epson Stylus Pro 9900. This is a behemoth of a printer that occupies the room in our house formerly known as the dining room! It is shown below a while back when it was first delivered.
Prints from a high-end inkjet printer such as the Epson 9900 go by a variety of names, including:
- Inkjet print —I think you’d rather suspect this term would be in use;
- Pigment print —the printer lays down pigment rather than altering an emulsion as in traditional photographic printing;
- Giclee —named after the French verb gicier, “to spurt,” a neologism specifically coined to avoid the “stigma” of being called an inkjet print; and
- Piezo print —named after the kind of print head that is in the printer.
Personally, I don’t think there is much in the name, and all these terms mean the same thing. After all, a rose by any other name is still a rose, and all that. Overall, I tend to favor “pigment print”.
The widespread confusion of terminology relates to the incredible spectrum of uses for this technology: You can buy inkjet prints at Costco, where they are honestly labeled, you can buy the somewhat pretentiously named giclee prints from companies that reproduce art, and you can collect one-off artisanal pigment prints from solo artists such as Harold Davis who make these prints one at a time in their studio.
The difference between these various uses isn’t really the gear that is involved, just as the difference between mediocre and great photography is rarely the gear the photographer uses. Quality in digital printmaking really comes down to knowing the quirks of the printer, understanding how to get the most out of digital workflow, how the technology is used, the vision behind the printmaking, and the care and time that is spent on each individual image.
I would emphasize the point that in my opinion just as much craft, skill, and artistry goes into making a good artisanal digital inkjet print as ever went into a print made in the chemical darkroom. The vision and care required are much the same, but the specific skills required are different.
What papers do you use?
I love paper in all its types and manifestations, and am constantly playing with and experimenting with paper from various sources. That said, I am mighty partial to papers by Moab from Legion Paper. (Full disclosure, I am a Moab Master and have a very cordial relationship with the great folks at Moab.) One thing Moab has going for its papers is that they do a great job of creating ICC printing profiles for specific printers, which helps me make the output files for the prints I want with a minimum of fuss.
I do try to match the paper I use to the image. It’s interesting, because sometimes an image will look good printed on multiple substrates, albeit with very different looks—and other times there is really only one good possibility.
How long does it take you to make a print?
This depends on many variables, and absent a specific image file and paper it is a little hard to say. Larger prints are usually (but not always) much harder to print than smaller prints. Prints with a great deal of black can be hard to print (because they show flaws easily), as can prints with a white background (because dust and other problems show up).
Some papers are simply tougher to handle than others. Examples of paper that have some delicate handling characteristics include Moab Slickrock Silver and Awagami Unryu. These substrates are unique and beautiful, but sometimes beauty has its payback—in this case, these papers require extra attention as they go through and come out of the printing process.
If you include output file preparation, printing, and post-printing issues, an average print might take something like five to ten hours, in some cases a bit less, and in some cases much more: Sometimes I have to print an image 20 times until it is right and I get that one good print.
The take-away should be that considerable effort and time goes into every print that I make. There is no such thing as “mass printing” in my studio. Of course, this leaves out the hours or weeks it may take me to make my images in the first place.
Are your prints in limited editions?
The concept of a limited edition comes from traditional non-photographic printmaking. In a tradition that evolved from the nineteenth century, first one made an etching plate, or lithographic stone, then ran off prints using the plate or stone. When the edition was complete with 100 prints or so, the plate or stone was canceled or destroyed so that no more prints could be made. The point of this kind of limited edition was that a given plate or stone could only support a certain number of copies on press before it started to deteriorate and wear out, and also of course to indicate the scarcity of the print.
To me, this kind of limited edition makes relatively little sense with photography. You could even say, “limited” sense, or no sense at all.
Unless one is willing to destroy the original image file (which I, and most photographers, are certainly
not willing to do), it almost smacks of deception. Here’s why: It has been common with a really popular images for the photographer to switch a detail slightly, for example make the image slightly larger or smaller, and then keep making prints when the original-sized edition runs out of print numbers. This makes no real sense to me and doesn’t seem right.
What I affirmatively do is keep track of my prints. That way, I can look up how many copies have been printed of any image. Knowledgeable gallerists and collectors I have discussed this with tell me that this provides them with all they really need—a good sense of how many of a given print have been made. From there they can derive information about how popular and/or scarce a given print is.
Note that on the other hand I do produce portfolios in limited editions. In the case of a limited edition portfolio, the fact that it is limited shows how much hand effort goes into each one made. Examples of limited edition portfolios include my Botanique, Monochromatic Visions, and Kumano kodo portfolios. It’s important to be clear with these portfolios that it is the portfolio—and not the prints—that is part of a limited edition.
Do you hand-sign or digitally sign your prints?
To digitally sign a print means to add a signature within the computer file used to make the print. Hand-signing means that each print is individually signed using either a pencil or pen. All of my prints that are intended for art galleries or collectors are hand signed.
I use an archival pigment stylus for prints on paper where the signature will work best with ink, and a nice sharp art pencil (usually HB grade) for substrates where ink wouldn’t be best, such as Japanese washi.
It’s very easy to tell the difference between digital signatures and hand signatures; usually one can spot the difference at a glance.
Is a certificate of authenticity available?
Yes, a Certificate of Authenticity is available for prints purchased from my studio on request at the time of purchase.
Sometimes simplicity is best, although simplicity can be hard to achieve. Both visually and technically, simple images give you no place to hide. In other words, complexity can hide problems, whereas simplicity does not. In a visually simple image, if you’ve done something wrong it usually hangs out for all the world to see. But when a simple image works—like these flowers shot for high-key transparency on a light box—the results can be compelling and have a special elegance and poetry.
Both images photographed in RAW at 36MP with Nikon D810 camera and Zeiss 100mm f/2 macro lens over the past weekend. Above: ISO 64, f/16, three blended exposures from 1/2 of a second to 2 seconds. Below: ISO 64, f/22, three blended exposures from 1/2 of a second to 3 seconds.
Late on a frigid November afternoon I checked into the Pousada Santa Maria—a converted convent—in the eagle-nest town of Marvao, Portugal. I was the only guest at the hotel. I dropped my bags in my room, dressed in every layer I had with me, grabbed my camera and tripod, and headed out into the oncoming evening to photograph.
High above the Iberian plain, and facing the Spanish border, Marvao has been a refuge from time out of mind. During the Roman era, star-crossed lovers are said to have fled the wrath of armies and settled on these heights. Their descendants added successive fortifications, leading to the castle you see in the photo, protecting a small white-washed village that clings nearby.
On the ramparts of the castle it was getting even colder, and the wind was picking up. I made my way to the top tower of the castle and watched the last of the sunset, and the lights of the village below come on, secure knowing I had my headlamp with me. The clouds swirled in, and I was alone in a white-out.
Back at the hotel, I warmed up in the lounge, waiting for the dining room to open. Its late hours were typical of dining in Portugal. Had it been light, and but for the fog, I would have been able to see hundreds of miles across Spain during my long and mediocre meal. My server wheezed and sniffled and told me, “We all are sick here, it is always cold, even in summer.”
As it was, I was grateful for my warm bed, and grateful that I had seized the last light to photograph this incredibly romantic landscape!
2014 has been an exciting year for me photographically, from many viewpoints, including the geographic and chronological. When I am not suffering from temporal displacement syndrome (otherwise known as jet lag), being lost in time and space has its virtues for a photographer—since so much of photography is about time and geographic locale, and feeling disconnected from each allows for much fruitful meditation, as well as consideration of the differences between cultures.
Compiling my annual best list of photos is a difficult exercise, but it helps me put the year in perspective, and last year’s Best of 2013 has remained one of the most popular stories on my blog throughout the subsequent year.
You are welcome to comment at the end of this story; also, please feel free to add a link in your comment to your own Best of 2014 photos. Editing is one of the most important aspects of the craft of photography, and compiling your own annual best list is a great way to exercise your editing skills.
This is my year in pictures. I am going to start with some flowers because, at home or abroad, I always enjoy creating botanical imagery. Here are some of my personal favorite flowers from the year, with other subject matter and places following the botanicals:
Related stories: Flowers Category on the blog; White Poppy; We Happy Flower Few; Trio of Tulips at Giverny; Harold Davis posters from Editions Limited; Photographing Flowers for Transparency; Flowering Quince; What Flowers Are These?
There’s a natural progression from photographing flowers to Paris in the spring. Rainbows seem a good place to start. I was lucky enough to be out on the Pont Solferino footbridge as a spring rainstorm was coming to an end, and to capture this double rainbow over Paris and the Seine River.
Underneath the Pont Solferino there was action as well. I thought it looked like a stairway to heaven:
On this trip to Paris my group stayed near the Seine, so photographing along the banks of the river and under the bridges was natural—generally using an exposure that played on time and motion. This one is a long exposure from Under the Pont de la Concorde:
Worth noting: for the first time, iPhone captures are creeping into my personal bests! I captured this image of Les Deux Magots, the famous St Germaine-des-Pres haunt of Hemingway and other literati back when one could afford to be bohemian in Paris, using my iPhone camera, and gleefully processed it using the latest apps to look old-fashioned to match the traditional costume of the waiter.
Back to the banks of the Seine River, in Behind the Wall I played with camera motion (rather than subject motion).
Any way you slice it, Paris is a great city for night photography. I enjoyed the chance to shoot the skyline at dusk again from the Tour Montparnasse in Paris Sunset.
Of course, the Pyramide in the central court of the Louvre is a wonderful subject for night photography, even if photographing Night at the Louvre does involve an occasional cat-and-mouse game with the tripod gendarmerie.
You can see more of my Paris photography in the Paris category on my blog. I do also love to photograph the gardens that are a short excursion from Paris. An iPhone capture, and a more formal version, of one of the famous green bridges in Monet’s glorious garden at Giverny are shown below.
The Parc de Sceaux is accessible from Paris via the RER (suburban railway). To understand the title of this image, Ghosts in the Enchanted Garden, you’ll need to look at it carefully!
It was a great pleasure in May to begin to explore the southwest of France. This is a region I enjoyed immensely, for the scenery and history—and, no surprise, the food. I hope to be back. Here’s the Pont Valentre in Cahors photographed conventionally, and captured via my iPhone and processed using the iPhone Waterlogue app :
Making my way to an overlook above a Bend in the Dordogne River on a misty day, I carefully shot the multiples needed to create a panorama.
Visiting Bourges, I was impressed with the still-unfinished grand cathedral, a World Heritage site and one of the most impressive examples of 13th century high Gothic style—but more impressed with the light on the cathedral as seen through my Window in Bourges!
Related story: France category on my blog.
Back home, I photographed the sacred and the profane; namely, San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral, a restored temple to Henry Ford’s assembly line, and models in motion. I particularly enjoyed choreographing in-camera multiple exposure techniques with models to create striking, painterly effects.
Over the summer I taught flower photography and digital black & white in Heidelberg, Germany. I had a great group of students, and a wonderful time getting to know Heidelberg and exploring the area.
The Old Bridge in Heidelberg was the first bridge across the Neckar River, and is still in much use today. It’s a great subject for black and white.
In contrast, the Great Hall at the old campus in Heidelberg is not much used except ceremonially; I was lucky to be able to take my time photographing in this historic place.
My hosts made sure I visited many local attractions, including Speyer cathedral in a city along the Rhine River not far from Heidelberg.
While I was in Germany, Germany won the World Cup. This iPhone still life composition of refracted wine glasses shows just a small bit of the celebrating that went on.
My next trip was to New York for some meetings and appearances related to a photography trade show. I’m of the general opinion that life in New York City has some resemblance to a stage show. At the very least, New Yorkers are definitely into appearances—so when I was able to sneak away from business and practice my craft of photography in Central Park at night it was fitting that New York seemed to me to be a stage.
In Barcelona, I shot straight up at the amazing ceiling of Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, and captured an almost endless internal spiral staircase in black and white.
Traffic and the lighting of a fountain on the Gran Via gave me a chance to practice photographing car trails at night in Barcelona, while the odd positioning of my hotel room gave a peculiar perspective for my 15mm lens in the crooked, old streets of the Gothic Quarter.
In Morocco, I enjoyed photographing the great outdoor marketplace, the Jemaa-al-Fna, in Marrakech at night and the sand Kasbahs on the far side of the Atlas Mountains. When it rained in Rabat, my iPhone was ready to help me capture the view through the bus window.
Related stories: Jemaa-al-Fna; Market in Marrakech; Castle Made of Sand. After delays at Casablanca airport, I snapped an iPhone shot of leaving Morocco both lyrical and indicative of some travel fatigue.
Back home, I settled in to prove that one can make photos of the mundane as well as the marvelous; hence this image of a Venetian blind in my kitchen, drawn to allow bright sunlight to creep through.
Giving a Waves workshop on Point Reyes, California in December I was lucky to find a break in relentless rains and a stunning day for photography along the open Pacific Ocean.
Related story: Photographing Waves.
Coming a full circle, as almost befits a spiral, my last photo is of a Nautilus Shell, shot in my studio. Apart from the iPhone images, my photography has greatly benefited from a high-resolution full frame DSLR sensor paired with some excellent glass from my sponsor Zeiss. In the case of this Nautilus, I used the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4.
Related link: Monochrome category on my blog.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this story, please feel free to comment. Please also consider creating your own best-of list, it is a great way to learn more about your work, and to practice your editing skills!
Recent winter rainstorms have battered the San Francisco area in Northern California with much needed rain. In a break in the weather I decided to hike to Cataract Falls on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. Usually when I visit this area following a heavy downpour the creek is running muddy and is heavy with run-off. This time, the rain had been persistent and long-lasting enough over many days that all the mud had run its course, and the creek was clear, with pure white cataracts. The lighting was bright and overcast, and made no significant shadows.
I set my tripod up beside the creek, on a spot where I could look up at the primary falls, and took a few establishing shots up the creek and down the creek. Then I stopped to simply be present in the magic of moment of time and place.
It came to me that I didn’t need to make another image of this waterfall as it stood in the reality of the world. Instead, I became interested in the ever-changed gesture of water that I saw, very simple, and always in black and white.
This kind of image is about the poetry of water in motion reduced to a minimum. Lengthening the exposure time—to a five to ten second duration—softens the water and allows the gesture the water is making to become the subject of the photo.
It’s not about a place, but is discovery of an archetype and an abstraction. As such, there’s a commonality in approach and technique to Photographing Waves.
Waves are a fundamental form of the universe. Light and sound come in waves. Wave formation underlies much that we know, and don’t know, about the universe around us. As manifest in our earth’s ocean, with the forces of gravity, topography and tide made real, they are both orderly and chaotic. Waves have a certain regularity, but no two waves are alike.
I like to photograph waves because they are a fundamental form that underlies what we know as physical reality. A moving wave also gives the photographer the opportunity to exercise the important creative controls inherent in a camera: focus, aperture (depth-of-field), shutter speed (duration of the exposure) and sensitivity (ISO).
Since waves are constantly in motion, what first comes to mind in terms of the camera’s controls is shutter speed. Shutter speed is badly named, because it refers to a duration of time, not a speed: the length of the exposure, in other words how long the photosensitive medium (the sensor) is exposed to light.
A long shutter speed in minutes causes waves to blur and become completely smooth. A very fast shutter speed, measured as a fraction of a second, such as 1/1000 of second, captures an instant of time, and stops the wave in its tracks in all its foaming glory in the moment before it peaks and crashes.
In many ways the most interesting shutter speeds represent an intermediate duration of time: long enough for the wave to blur so that its underlying shape becomes apparent, but short enough to register some of the details of the wave in its progress to the shore. The length of these shutter speeds depends upon the speed of the wave, but tend to be longer than 1/30 of a second and faster than ten seconds.
The wave images shown here were made on the great beach of Point Reyes, California, walking south from the South Beach parking lot in the late afternoon and at sunset, during a workshop I was giving about Photographing Waves.
My camera was on a tripod: even if the waves are in constant motion your camera doesn’t have to be. Each image is a “confection”: a composite, since I always bracket my exposures and capture every piece of an image that I think I might need. There’s always time enough when I am at my computer to figure out how to put the pieces together!
Photographing Flowers is the acclaimed online Craftsy course with Harold Davis. Sign up with a special 50% off today for yourself or as a gift!
ALL Craftsy classes (choose from an extensive catalog) for just $19.99 or less now through December 25th, 2014. Click here to take advantage of this special flash sale.
Best wishes of the season from myself, Phyllis and our whole family!
My Kumano kodo Portfolio is a handmade labor of love and a work in progress. But we’re making great progress! This portfolio is designed to showcase in form and content my photos of the Kumano kodo pilgrimage trail on the Kii peninsula in Japan, sacred to Shugendo Buddhism.
Here are some shots from the first prototype, soon to be renamed AP (artist proof) #1. Incidentally, the portfolio edition consists of 12 signed and numbered portfolios plus four artists proofs. Each portfolio is created by folding a single 4 meter long sheet of Awagami Kozo washi, so there are no fasteners, only folds. See Working on the Kumano kodo prototype for some more info about this unique artist-created artifact. Each portfolio is signed and numbered, with my Japanese chop hand-applied, on the title page.
This photo shows the spread in the center of the portfolio:
Here’s one of the long, long sheets of Kozo coming out of the printer:
A single one of the sheets in a roll before it is scored and folded:
Scoring the sheet of Kozo by hand with the waste paper shown:
Two more spreads from “inside” the portfolio, one in color and one in black & white:
The entire folded sheet of Kozo fits into a kind of outer sleeve with a panoramic print of the view from one of the sacred passes along the Kumano kodo. The sleeve is scored with flaps, and is also signed and numbered. We’re still working on a couple of variations, but this is the cover of one of the sleeves we are considering:
So far, numbers 1-4 of the portfolio are spoken for. Numbers 5 and 6 are on offer for $1,150 each. If you’d like one, we can offer a modest pre-publication discount, as well as thanks for contacting me directly.
This is an image made after dusk with a long (300mm) lens from above the Jemaa-al-Fna in Marrakesh, Morocco. I used five exposures at shutter speeds from 3/5 of a second to 5 seconds with the camera on my tripod, and combined the exposures using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro plugin in Photoshop and also with hand-layering.
This is a thirty-image panorama I shot in Boulmane Dades, an oasis in trans-Atlas Morocco, at sunset. Each image was 36 MP, so the entire panorama made for a very big file indeed. This version is reduced in size so that it can be viewed!
If the panorama doesn’t start moving automatically, you can move it with your mouse (or a gesture) to see all of it! Stop the motion by clicking in the image area; double-click to open it larger in its own window.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the New York loft apartment of a friend of mine who collects my prints. My prints were carefully selected and framed, tastefully arranged, and placed in positions that made sense in the context of the layout of the loft. Of course, I work frequently with my images and prints, but that doesn’t mean I really “see” them.
I know these snapshots are not great interior design photos, and that this is a lived-in space (which is a good thing!). But I think you’ll get the idea. What’s striking about seeing a substantial body of my work integrated into a living space is that there is kind of a glow—harmonious, serene and powerful—that emanates across my prints, regardless of the subject matter. One can have no idea of the power of the prints from looking at an online version of the image: they become so much more when they are made manifest as physical objects. Which is part of why I think it is so important for photographers to be closely involved in making their own prints.
Links to the images shown here as prints (from top to bottom): Star Magnolia Panorama (bedroom); Papaver and Iridicaea; Cherry Blossoms (two prints in the dressing area); Kira at Passy Station (over the dresser); Egg Yolk Separator, Story of O, and Lonely Islet (Dining area); White Irises; Temple Dragon.
Related story: Print prices to rise; special print offer.
When I travel I always try to select hotels that are likely to have interesting views, and to request a room with a view if possible. Of course, my idea of an interesting view doesn’t always coincide with the normal tourist vista! I do look around carefully to see what I might like to photograph when I get to my new “home away from home.” The photo below was taken out of the ninth floor window of my hotel room in Barcelona, Spain at the Avenida Palace Hotel facing south towards Montjuic. I like the collage of heating ducts as much as the details that show that the scene in is in Barcelona.
Some other examples of my passion for photographing from (or of) hotel room windows include this view out a back window of the pre-renovation Hotel Lutece in Paris showing (once again) complicated duct work, this view of my window on the cathedral in Bourg, France, as much about the lighting as about the incredible church (the related iPhone capture shows a bit more of the room itself), this view down on the Gothic Quarter in Barcelona from the Hotel Espanya showing an unusual angle on the medieval section of town, and the view from my room over the Bay of Tangiers at night in Morocco shown below.