Category Archives: Writing

Landscape at Sunrise

At sunrise on a hill facing the ancient town of Cordes-sur-Ciel I was out with my camera and tripod. This was a classical view. Probably the track you see in the photo had been traversed for millennia. Framing the image with the bare branches of the tree on the right, the emotional impact on me was slightly sinister but exciting. For reasons I didn’t fully understand (and still don’t) this seemed like a turning point.

Landscape at Sunrise © Harold Davis

Landscape at Sunrise © Harold Davis

The first step in the photographer’s paradigm is to understand that it’s not about the hardware: cameras don’t take pictures, people do. Next, if you want your images to be more interesting, place yourself in front of more interesting scenes. But ultimately it is about personal interpretation, so more deeply than traveling to interesting places, become a more interesting person. This is where things get interesting, and circular, because who one is can be impacted by the emotional impact of where you go, the travel not the destination, and even the act of making a photo. The pull is bi-directional.

I can think the emotional subtext of an image like Landscape at Sunrise is a conversion like that of Saul on the road to Damascus, but the bigger question is what is the impact on me, on my life, and my life as an artist, and how will I take this into other work?

Also posted in Photography

Sale on My Photography Books on Amazon

Three of my eBooks on Amazon are now on sale for $9.99 each (the normal price has been between $15 and $23 each for these eBooks). They are Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques (71 Amazon customer reviews, 4.6 out of 5 stars average rating); Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques (62 Amazon customer reviews, 4.3 out of 5 stars), and Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques (37 Amazon customer reviews, 4.2 out of 5 stars). I hope you enjoy the Kindle versions of my highly-rated and very popular books at this special new price!

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Coming to Life

Following up on the theme of transformation in Metamorphosis (waterfall into human) and Dark Angel (flower into human), and the thoughts I’ve expressed about the new role of digital photography as an art medium in Nude Descending a Ladder, Coming to Life and Spiral Convolution (both below) show another twist: a spiral shell becoming human, or vice versa, that is to say, a human morph and convolution into the spiral structure of a shell.

Coming to Life © Harold Davis

Coming to Life © Harold Davis

Spiral Convolution © Harold Davis

Spiral Convolution © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Dark Angel

In a previous blog post I wrote that “digital techniques have freed us from the orthodoxy of the camera, just as in the past the camera freed painters from the orthodoxies of representational art. But once you go down the road of a new art from, in which digital manipulation joins with digital capture, there are no limits. In a world loose from its moorings, there should be no rules about how images are created…”

In this spirit, and following up on Metamorphosis, I created Dark Angel, shown below.

Dark Angel © Harold Davis

Dark Angel © Harold Davis

To create this image, I started with Angel Anemone:

Angel Anemone © Harold Davis

Angel Anemone © Harold Davis

From Angel Anemone, I prepared Darkling Anemone in color and then in black annd white:

Darkling Anemone Color © Harold Davis

Darkling Anemone Color © Harold Davis

Darkling Anemone Black and White © Harold Davis

Darkling Anemone Black and White © Harold Davis

Meanwhile, I revisiting an earlier in-camera Multiple Exposure, Human Spiral-Nautilus, chosen because of its resemblance to a natural history object when seen from a distance:

Human Spiral---Nautilus © Harold Davis

Human Spiral—Nautilus © Harold Davis

With the aid of a few Photoshop plug-ins (Topaz Glow and Topaz Impression) and creative use of blending modes, Human Spiral-Nautilus became Wheel of Life:

Wheel of Life © Harold Davis

Wheel of Life © Harold Davis

I then converted Wheel of Life to monochromatic and blended it (in two versions, one flipped horizontally) to create my final Dark Angel. Note that my title has absolutely no relationship to the TV series, video game, or book of the same name.

For no apparent earthly reason whatsoever, I conclude with Cold is the colour of crystal:

“Cold is the colour of crystal the snowlight
That falls from the heavenly skies”—Annie Lennox

Upper White River Falls © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Congratulations to those folks who found the Easter Egg

There are some really sharp-eyed members of my photographic community! I posted a contest regarding an Easter Egg in a photo in my book Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer a short while back. Kerry Joy McGehee, Mark Mattson, and Mike Pomeroy have each won an 11 X 14 ($1,000 retail value) print of mine of their choice. Thanks everyone else for playing! The Easter Eggs are in the image End of the Berkeley Pier, shown below and on pages 76-77 of Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer, with the detailed answer to the puzzle below the image.

End of the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

End of the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

Easter Egg #1 (across, with first name and last name on a separate row): Harold Davis

Easter Egg #2 (in white characters, about 1/3 down the fifth full column counting from the left, you may need a magnifying glass for this one): LOVE YOU ALWAYS PHYLLIS ♥

Note: I’ve been asked by a number of people whether I tagged the fence at the end of the pier myself. You can’t go out there anymore because the pier is off-limits due to safety concerns, although you can still crawl underneath the Berkeley Pier. And, no, I didn’t engage in real-world tagging—this tagging is virtual, and is Photoshop work!

Contest: An Easter Egg in Achieving Your Potential

An Easter Egg is a secret; for example, in software often it is a hidden pop-up window with an animation. In software, usually the Easter Egg is activated using a combination of keyboard and mouse actions.

We’ve embedded an Easter Egg in one of the color photographs in my latest book, Achieving Your Potential: A Photographers Creative Companion and Workbook.

To be more precise, there is one photograph in the book with two hidden messages. One is easy to see, the other a bit less so.

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If you think you’ve found both parts of the Easter Egg, send us an email. The first person to correctly identify the two parts of the Easter Egg (by page number in the book, and contents of the Easter Eggs) will receive a signed, original 11″ X 14″ Harold Davis print of your choice, retail value $1,000.

Offer only open to United States residents, void where prohibited by law, and blah, blah, blah.

Frilly Tulip © Harold Davis

Frilly Tulip © Harold Davis

Learning to Photograph Flowers for Transparency (article on Pixsy blog)

I’ve written an article now posted on the Pixsy blog about my technique for photographing flowers for transparency on a light box:

What are the steps to mastering the process? Surprisingly, it combines classical photography and modern digital best practices. When applied with a dedicated, delicate, and skilled hand, the results can be luscious and luminous. Here’s how my Photographing Flowers for Transparency process works out, step-by-step:

  • Understanding the role of the light box
  • Selecting and arranging flowers on the light box
  • Photographing a high-key bracketed sequence of exposures
  • Combining the high-key bracketed sequence to express transparency
  • Finishing the image in post-production
  • Creating a high-quality print of the transparent flower image

Let’s take a look at each of these steps in order.

Read more of the article on the Pixsy blog.

Nature's Palette © Harold Davis

Nature’s Palette © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Presentation Matters: Why Book Publishers Should Care About Quality

Roger Horton is the CEO of Taylor & Francis (T&F), one of the world’s largest publishers of academic and professional titles. T&F is one of the companies in the Informa Group, a multi-national player with 6,500 employees world-wide and multi-billion dollar revenues. Here’s part of the Informa mission statement:

We operate in the Knowledge & Information Economy, delivering products and services to commercial and academic customers through an array of media, from digital to print to face-to-face. Through this engagement, we share knowledge, insight and intelligence in specialty topics, and we provide connectivity to expert communities.

T&F has bulked up via acquisitions over the years, with Routledge a major acquisition in 1998, and CRC Press acquired in 2003. More recently, Focal Press, one of my publishers, was acquired. Focal has a very long and distinguished history of publishing photography books since the 1930s, but now has essentially been gutted, with the imprint recast as a division of Routledge.

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Getting back to Mr. Horton (as you’ll recall, he is the CEO of the conglomerate that swallowed Focal Press, one of my publishers), in a financial presentation to shareholders, he has stated that “content quality is king: print, e-books, online are merely the delivery tools.”

In other words, content divorced from its presentation is now seen as the key to the publishing kingdom. This content can be sliced, diced, and resold at a profit without having to worry about the high production or inventory cost of decently produced physical books (or the production costs of well-produced e-Books, for that matter).

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I don’t want to pick on Mr. Horton too much. It’s hard to argue with the proposition that great content is, well, great. And T&F and Informa are hardly alone among big publishers in wanting to have friction-less profits based on content by itself, without having to worry about the headaches that come from producing and inventorying physical goods. To paraphrase the author Erica Jong, whose first book used the idea in a very different context, this is the dream of “zipless” publishing where virtual stuff—the ideas of experts and academics—becomes spun into monetary value for company shareholders in our physical world.

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My new book, Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook, was published just before Focal Press was gutted by T&F. I am very proud of the content, photographs, design, and production that went into my book. It is the last book that I will be publishing with T&F—despite a multi-book contract with Focal—because the reconstituted company simply doesn’t have a commitment to quality trade book production. My understanding is that the reason T&F has canceled my contracts is because they don’t want to live up to the quality book production standards I had written into the contracts before I signed them in 2014.

In Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer, I strongly urge readers to draw their own creative line in the sand to become the best artists that they can be.

I am the author and producer of 18 bestselling photography books that my wife, Phyllis Davis, has designed. So this is one place as an artist, photographer, and writer that I am drawing my own line in the sand. When it comes to photography books, the quality of the design, reproduction, and book production does matter—a great deal!!!

In fact, generally quality of design is a huge factor in this world, whether one is dealing in old fashioned domains or in high technology. Regarding technology, Steve Jobs’s Apple is a great case in point, showing how quality design and quality physical production add tremendous value to what would otherwise be fairly generic products.

I am committed to working as an artisan across the domains of content production. Whether I am creating books for trade publication, e-Books, fine-art prints, handmade books, or online learning tools, I will only do so with elegance, grace, and style. The timeless idea of quality can be appreciated and will be rewarded whether the mechanisms of production are the latest in high-tech printers, or as ancient as hand-made, one-off construction.

A publisher that willfully ignores the difficult issues of quality in production is definitely off-the-rails. They are looking at books and content in a very shortsighted way, and missing the forest for the trees. Yes, it does take time, money, and effort to get things right—but getting things right is always worth doing.

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Ringing Cedars Covers

Of all the assignments in my photography career, one of the ones I am proudest of is the cover imagery for the second edition of the Ringing Cedar Series in English. Check out the Ringing Cedar Series, and learn more about my involvement by clicking here.

Related story: Ringing Cedars Covers (from 2008).

Also posted in Photography

Prague Architectural Studies: Keeping Things Simple with 25 Squares

The assignment: Photograph a sequence or cohesive group of imagery using only one lens, aperture priority metering, and a single aperture and ISO. Process the resulting images using a uniformly-proportioned crop, and a single processing recipe.

The results: Twenty-five square-cropped monochromatic images in a series of architectural studies of Prague in the Czech Republic. The series includes the image below, photographed from one of the towers on the Charles Bridge. Click here to see all twenty-five images grouped in my Prague Architectural Studies gallery.

The point of the assignment: The assignment is a warm-up exercise for many of the exercises in Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook. The point is to practice keeping thing simple in a complicated world. I see the exercise as analogous to a concert pianist playing scales: the fingers are working, the eye is engaged, and it is an easy transition into the zone.

Stay tuned: Stay tuned for a downloadable PDF “Bonus Exercise” in the style of the workbook that accompanies Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook. The PDF will have all the assignment details, and some advice about how best to approach this assignment, so you can try it for yourself.

Prague Architectural Study 23 © Harold Davis

Prague Architectural Study 23 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Czech, Monochrome

Kreativ Fotografieren: Entfallen Sie Ihr fotografiches Potenzial

© Harold Davis

As you can see in the photo, I am very pleased with the German translation of Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook. This is a beautiful and well-produced edition, thanks to Vierfarben, the German publisher of my book.

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Click here for Kreativ Fotografieren: Entfallen Sie Ihr fotografiches Potenzial on the publisher’s website in Germany, and here for Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook on Amazon.

I can only give my heart

Words have a place as a companion to photography, as titles, in captions, in statements, and in books that combine words and imagery. It’s often a useful exercise to attempt to write about one’s own photographic process and goals, as well as writing to describe the narrative behind a specific image.

I can only give my heart © Harold Davis

I can only give my heart © Harold Davis

Regarding cryptic titles, such as “I can only give my heart,” modern painters have led the way with this, sometimes applying titles for abstract paintings that can seem far-fetched. But I believe that metaphorical titles can be appropriate and, when apt, do enhance the poetics of a photographic image.

Ian Roberts puts it this way: “Authenticity results from the depths of the artist’s feelings.” In other words, I only follow the labor intensive process of creating an image like this one because the subject and treatment move me, and because I speak from the heart. So, I can only give my heart.

From a formal perspective, “I can only give my heart” is about the relationship between soft petals and the “harder” flower core of the flowers with pistil, stamen and so forth. Compared to the fluff of the petals, all the flower really has is its core, or heart, which is another meaning for the title.

By the “poetics of a photographic image,” I am really talking about the subjective individual experience to the viewer. There’s no doubt that the image title can influence this experience (for better, or for worse). In your experience, doesn’t an allusive title like “I can only give my heart” lead to a more poetic viewing experience than the straightforward title “Echinacea” for the image shown below? Which kind of image titling do you prefer?

Echinacea © Harold Davis

Echinacea © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

Steven Pressfield on Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer

I sent Steven Pressfield, the author of The War of Art, a copy of my new book Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook.

Steve wrote back, “Harold, many thanks for sending ‘Achieving Your Potential’ and for the very kind note re ‘The War of Art.’ It’s an honor (and a giggle) to have helped a long-time pro like yourself, if even a little. By the way, the book looks great. What an accomplishment! I salute you. You’re gonna help a lot of people with this one.”

Thank you Steve—for your great contribution to my creativity (and that of many others), and also for your kind words about my new book!

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Recent News, Interviews, and Webinar

Caddy © Harold Davis

Chevy © Harold Davis

Please check out the following links!

Castle Shadow © Harold Davis

Castle Shadow © Harold Davis

Painterly Floral Triptych © Harold Davis

Painterly Floral Triptych © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, iPhone, Photography

New Interview with Harold Davis

harold davis new graphic

Check out this great new interview with me by Kathleen McCaffrey on the Picsastock Blog. The interview explores (among other things) my interpretation, style, and process: “Photography is a way of sharing what we see—a very important part of who we are—with others. I like to create images that relate to some kind of order in the chaos of the universe, and at the same time speak to the poetry in nature and humanity that is always around us.” Click here to see the whole interview.