Category Archives: Writing

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.


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.


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).


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.


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.



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!


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.

Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer is now available

My new book, Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook, is now available and shipping. Per our family tradition, Katie Rose is shown with the new book cover. In addition to my images and words of wisdom, Achieving Your Potential includes a 48-page tear-out section you can use as your personal photography workbook to enhance your creativity. A pre-publication review in Rangefinder Magazine put it this way: “The indomitable Harold Davis—fine-art photographer, author, educator, all-around oracle—[has] now added to his extraordinary canon an interesting fusion of photographic wisdom and down-home advice.”

© Harold Davis

Katie Rose with Achieving Your Potential cover © Harold Davis

For me, a trip down memory lane, here are some previous book covers with Katie Rose: Monochromatic HDR Photography; Creating HDR Photos; Photographing Flowers; Creative Landscapes; Photoshop Darkroom 2; Creative Portraits; Photoshop Darkroom; and Creative CompositionHa! Good thing Phyllis and I had Katie’s help with all these books, otherwise we never could have gotten ’em done.

Also posted in Katie Rose

Creative Flower Photography with Harold Davis Webinar Recording

If you missed my webinar on Creative Flower Photography (sponsored by Topaz Labs), or were on the webinar and want to replay it, here’s the link for watching the Creative Flower Photography with Harold Davis webinar recording on YouTube. This webinar covers my unique workflow and processing techniques for creating transparent flower imagery starting with photography on a light box.


Star Magnolia © Harold Davis

Star Magnolia © Harold Davis

Also posted in Workshops

Conversation with Harold Davis

Dominique James has published a Q&A with me on his blog, along with a cool curation of some of my images. Check it out! Thanks DJ.

Yesterday I photographed the Dahlia shown below hand-held and wide open so the flower center would be sharp with the petals becoming soft. This contrasts with the high depth-of-field, stopped down approach I used with flowers from the same plant a few days ago.

Dahlia Wide Open © Harold Davis

Dahlia Wide Open © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D810, Zeiss Makro-Planar 50mm f/2 at f/2, 1/500 of a second and ISO 400, hand held.

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Putting Paid to Purloining Picture Snatchers: Working with Pixsy

I am often asked how I deal with the issue of image theft, considering my extensive online presence on my blog and on my Flickr stream. My answer has been that I don’t release high-resolution files except to known reliable clients under contract, and that I expect some image thievery to be taking place with the low-resolution versions I post online. This, I explain, is a little like “spoilage” in a retail store: part of the cost of doing business. Without images online no one will find me, and over the years I have made many new clients via my blog and Flickr. Incidentally, I explain, I don’t watermark my online images because watermarks are ugly, and can easily be cloned out.

Wasp © Harold Davis

Wasp © Harold Davis

It turns out that I have substantially underestimated the prevalence of commercial image theft of my work. Sure, I was aware of quirky uses of my work like the woman who tattooed my cherry blossom branch on her back. But by and large, I didn’t look for examples of image appropriation, and I was unaware of the extent of the problem. For example, my photo of a wasp shown above, shot somewhat precariously on the ceiling of my living room while standing on a cardboard box (a diaper carton, fortunately we have past that stage, you can see this in the blog story about the photo, but I digress) placed on a chair, has been widely used without a license by many pest control companies.

The gentle image of waves on a shore shown below is used without license by several real estate companies located near one of the coasts.

Generally, image theft is as easy as right-clicking on the image, and choosing Save As from the context menu, then posting the photo without attribution. The fact that all my images are labeled as copyrighted, and that Flickr is set to “All Rights Reserved” seems to be widely ignored. I’m sure this is the situation for many photographers who post their work.

Waves on the Shore © Harold Davis

Waves on the Shore © Harold Davis

This information about the extensive use of my photos on the web came to my attention via a startup company named Pixsy that has some nifty technology to combat image theft, along with an innovative business model. Here’s how Pixsy works: First you register with Pixsy, and point their software at your online image stream, such as my website and Flickr. Pixsy then comes back with an automated image-matching search of the Internet, with matches showing suspected image theft. In my case, initially there were six-figures of matches (hence Phyllis and my internal designation of looking through these matches as “going down the rabbit hole”).

It’s up to the individual to go through the automated matches to determine which ones are legitimate, and which are image theft. For example, images I have actually licensed might show up on the Pixsy search, as well as all my book covers.

Road Trip © Harold Davis

Road Trip © Harold Davis

When you find an example of image theft, you submit it to Pixsy. For example, my image of an empty road in Nevada shown above seems to turn up without license on a great many travel websites.

Pixsy lets you know whether they’ve accepted or rejected the submission. It’s company policy to only accept image submissions where there is a good likelihood of collecting a usage fee. Image submissions that are routinely rejected include: uses in countries that Pixsy doesn’t police (some countries are on a list for future handling, others are simply too lawless when it comes to copyright); non-commercial uses; the general catchall that Pixsy doesn’t think there is a “statistical likelihood of recovery”; and malefactors like Pinterest who hide behind the noxious common carrier provisions of the DMCA. Phyllis has most often been going down our rabbit hole, and trying to take some care with what she submits so that the usage is likely to meet Pixsy’s requirements; our acceptance rate is running somewhere between 30% and 50%.

Wet Poppy Bud © Harold Davis

Wet Poppy Bud © Harold Davis

Even if Pixsy doesn’t accept the submission, now that we know this usage is out there we can of course send a take-down notice on our own. Depending on the user, this may or may not work—my image of wet poppy bud shown above seems to turn up (among other places) on X-rated sites, many of which seem not to be particularly cooperative.

With an accepted submission, Pixsy determines a rate for the usage and begins negotiation with the image thief (who may have made a mistake in ignorance rather than with bad intentions). The starting point for the license fee is an industry-standard database of usage fees. By signing up with Pixsy, the user commits not to contact the infringer directly, except to confirm that Pixsy is the authorized representative.

Pixsy’s business model is to take 50% of any fees collected. This is inline, or a little more favorable, compared with the percentage taken by a conventional stock licensing agency.

Pixsy has submitted numerous invoices on my behalf, a few of which have been paid. It is a little too soon for me to get a definite sense of the overall financial success of their approach, but I am highly optimistic.

Most of all, these commercial and professional users should have known better than to steal my images without contacting me, or paying for the usages. My hope is that when it is widely known that “crime doesn’t pay”—because Pixsy will come after them—these image users will decide to do the right thing, and pay for their usage upfront. This could reverse some unpleasant trends in the photography business—the general lowering of licensing fees because of widely available online content perceived as free, just as in the music business.

I’d like to see leverage restored to image creators whose work is in demand, and from this viewpoint Pixsy’s technology and business model is a very positive development.

Also posted in Photography