Category Archives: Yosemite

Harold Davis Postcard Books

We are very pleased to announce that Cameron + Company has released three postcard books of my work. Each of the three postcard books each contain twenty detachable postcards. They are high-quality productions on thick matte stock. These postcard books are sold through gift shops, card stores, and bookstores, and retail for $9.95 each.

Yosemite Dreaming: Postcards in this book show Yosemite in winter, Vernal and Nevada Falls, Mirror Lake, Yosemite Valley, the view from Inspiration Point, and more.

Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands: Postcards in this book show scenes from Point Reyes, Drakes Bay, Mount Tamalp;ais, the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate, and more.

Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands by Harold Davis

Classic California: The black and white postcards in this book show scenese from Big Sur, Joshua Tree National Park, Owens Valley, the Eastern Sierras, the San Francisco area, Yosemite, and more.

Classic California by Harold Davis

 

Yosemite at Night

On a balmy autumn night in early November I treated myself to a good dinner at the Yosemite Lodge restaurant. Then I headed out into the Yosemite Valley night with my camera, tripod, and intervalometer.

This image was made from the Swinging Bridge, facing back towards Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Village. I combined different exposures for the foreground and for the stars. Yosemite Valley was lit by moonlight, which helped make the foreground exposures possible.

The landscape in the foreground was made from an HDR blend of three exposures, shot at roughly one minute, two minutes, and eight minutes. The star trails in the sky were created from 21 exposures shot at one minute, and then stacked. I combined foreground and background in Photoshop using a layer mask and the Gradient Tool.

All exposures were at 15mm, f/4 and ISO 320.

It’s striking to me that the moonlit landscape in the foreground has as great a dynamic range as daylight shots. Looking at the eight minute exposure, bright areas like the cliffs and meadows that the moon lit touches are bright. But the shadows below the trees along the Merced River are still deep and inky in their blackness.

Sunset from Lembert Dome

Sunset from Lembert Dome

Sunset from Lembert Dome, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Lembert Dome lies in the upper reaches of Yosemite National Park, California, at the eastern edge of the Tuolumne Meadows. As I trudged up the trail to the top of the dome I wondered how I could capture both the wonderful glowing light of sunset and the more subtle gradations of darkness among the trees.

HDR was the answer! Using simple HDR techniques I was able to create an image fairly dripping in color and contrast, from the details in the tree roots at the bottom to the vibrant sunset colors in the clouds.

One thing that is not always understood about HDR is that it is not just about extending tonal range. The best HDR imagery also shows more texture, details, and contours than one could achieve using conventional photography.

Seven exposures, each exposure using 10.5mm digital fisheye at f/2.8 and ISO 400, exposure times between 1/800 of a second and 1/60 of a second, tripod mounted; exposures combined in Photoshop using the Nik Merge to Efex Pro plugin and hand-layering.

Star Trails over Half Dome

Star Trails over Half Dome

Star Trails over Half Dome, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Leaving Berkeley in mid-afternoon, I grabbed a quick bite in Mariposa and made it up to Glacier Point just after sunset. There was still some light to see what I was doing. I took advantage of the last light to establish my tripod and make some shots I could use to layer in foreground detail.

The night was balmy, and a surprising number of people showed up on Glacier Point to watch the night sky like a movie. One family even brought popcorn. As it grew darker, I switched from manual exposure control to my programmable intervalometer (a fancy word for a timer).

By about midnight, the crowds had gone home and I was the last one left to witness the immensities of Yosemite Valley and the night sky. Besides the stars and Milky Way I saw satellites and a surprising number of planes on a flight path across Yosemite Valley. I also witnessed several dramatic shooting stars—including the one captured in the frame below.

Using my 10.5mm digital fisheye, to capture these star trails I made 39 exposures, with each exposure open for a shutter speed of four minutes at f/2.8 and ISO 320. My total exposure time was thusly about 2 hours and 40 minutes. I combined the exposures in Photoshop using the Statistics script and a smart-object layer stack with the method set to Maximum.

When I thought I’d captured enough, I crawled into my van in the parking lot, and grabbed a few hours sleep—ready to photograph at sunrise in a few hours.

Want to learn to make photos like this one? Consider joining Steven Christenson and myself in November at Star Circle Academy.

Shooting Star over Half Dome

View this image larger.

Yosemite Falls Rainbow

Yosemite Falls Rainbow

Yosemite Falls Rainbow, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Walking over to Yosemite Falls in the morning there was darkness and light. I was ready when the rainbow came out. I had my polarizer already on. I used a fast shutter speed and underexposed to emphasize the chiaroscuro effect.

The funny thing is that post-processing echoed conditions of this shoot. I layered in multiple RAW versions by the chiaroscuro light of my headlamp as the kids slept. I suppose I really should profile the combination of an LED headlamp and my laptop!

Reflections from Stoneman Bridge

Reflections from Stoneman Bridge

Reflections from Stoneman Bridge, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I pulled this image from my archives: a semi-abstract of reflections in the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. Yosemite is a great place for reflections, both metaphysical and literal; see Winter Reflections, Tone Poem: Yosemite Afternoon, Yosemite Morning, El Capitan Reflections, Yosemite Dreams, Dawn Reflections, Mirror Lake, and the Yosemite category on my blog.

Yosemite View

Yosemite View

Yosemite View, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This photo appears in Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques on pages 118-119. Here’s what I wrote about the image:

Photographing during a clearing winter storm in Yosemite, I worked hard to find a slightly different angle to frame the marvelous vista that opened before me. It was hard to see this view without thinking of the sumptuous Ansel Adams photography of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountains, so naturally I wanted to create a photo that could be successfully converted to black and white.

To achieve this goal, I knew that I would need to have a sense of crispness across the entire image. This meant that I would need maximum depth-of-field. So I stopped my camera all the way down to f/22 and used a wide angle setting to achieve as much depth-of-field as possible.

Here’s the exposure data: 20mm, 1/40 of a second at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Speaking of Creative Black & White, the book has been a hit almost since the day of publication. It’s the #1 digital photography book on Amazon right now (see the screen capture below).

A very special thanks to everyone who has reviewed my book on Amazon. I particularly appreciate Jack Tasoff’s very flattering review “Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, and Edward Weston Made Digital” and Constance Halporn’s comment that “this book clearly and concisely shows the reader how to make excellent B&W images in the digital world. This has been a real revelation to me, as I didn’t think I would ever get the quality of B&W from my digital files. A must-have text for the serious photographer.”

Snow in the Forest

Snow in the Forest

Snow in the Forest, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: On a recent trip to Yosemite, snow was falling at the foot of the John Muir Trail heading up towards Vernal Falls. A short way up the trail, the snow ebbed and the sun started emerging—letting me snap this image of snow in the forest in mixed light.

Come Back to the Valley

Come Back to the Valley

Come Back to the Valley, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

It’s spring here in Berkeley, but winter still clings to the mountains. On a recent trip to Yosemite, coinciding with spring break, I took Julian and Nicky to Yosemite. We hiked up to Vernal Falls in a snow storm, and I shot this view carefully from the Vernal Falls bridge using a tripod. The scene was essentially monochromatic, with the sun just started to appear. When I processed the image, after converting to black and white, I added a very slight sepia tint.

It’s always great to visit Yosemite Valley—at any time of year.

Pinhole

Cathedral Spires and Bridalveil Falls

Cathedral Spires and Bridalveil Falls, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a view of Bridalveil Falls and Cathedral Spires in Yosemite Valley processed to simulate a pinhole camera: vignetting at the edges, softness, brightness in the center, high depth-of-field, and an overall antique look.

Digital simulations of “looks” from the back pages of classic analog photography are great fun!

Split Toning in a Winter Vista

Winter Vista

Winter Vista, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

To enhance this monochromatic winter vista of Yosemite, I used a split toning effect. I added a deeper sepia tone to the darker tones, and lighter sepia to the brighter areas of the image.

In the analog darkroom, toning was a function of paper, processing and chemistry. Split toning was achieved by altering the process so that highlights were handled differently from the dark areas of the photo; for example, by stopping a chemical bath at an earlier point than normal.

In the Photoshop darkroom toning and split toning are, of course, virtual—like the entire digital monochromatic process. Digital black and white is an aesthetic intention with soul, a willful abnegation of color, and an intentional and anachronistic reference to the historical craft of photography.

You can learn more about toning and split toning techniques in Photoshop in Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Technques.

Sharpening with LAB Color

Ice Storm in Yosemite

Ice Storm in Yosemite, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a photograph of an ice storm in Yosemite Valley. The lines in the ice on the trees could easily have looked “yucky” when they were sharpened. We’ve all seen oversharpened photos. Yucky. Now there’s a technical term for you!

Fortunately, there is a better way than conventional sharpening tools. I use the image of the Yosemite ice storm to demonstrate the sweetness of selective sharpening with LAB color for compositional purposes in my latest Photo.net column about creativity in the Photoshop darkroom.

Here’s the full description: This tutorial has nothing to do with turning blurry or shaky hand-held images into tack sharp masterpieces. Rather, the point of the article is to teach you how to sharpen selectively or compositionally using LAB color. This can be done to direct the viewer to certain parts of the image. Harold Davis walks you through how to convert to LAB color, and then how to apply a series of sharpen masks and layers to selectively and artistically sharpen your images.

Check out Sharpening in LAB Color, and then try your hand at sharpening your own images with this way cool technique.

Winter Reflections

Winter Reflections

Winter Reflections, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I converted this image of winter reflections in Yosemite Valley to black and white using one of the simplest conversion techniques from a RAW original. The Grayscale Mix on the HSL/Grayscale tab of Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) does it all in only a few clicks, and provides a fair amount of control over the conversion. You can get good results this way quite quickly.

Having It Both Ways

Yosemite

Yosemite, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

In my previous post I showed a photo taken a few years ago of Yosemite Valley—and noted that the work of a digital photography is never definitively done. It’s tempting, and often but not always an improvement, to rework the post-processing of older images; or to process images bypassed in the first edit.

You also don’t need to make an either-or choice between color and black & white. This image shown in this story was re-purposed into monochrome from the color photo in the last story. I created the dramatic black-and-white sky using a high contrast Red filter b&w adjustment layer in Photoshop, in case you are interested.

There’s some disagreement over on Flickr as to whether the black & white or color version is preferred (see the linked comments). I say, why not have both? A “two-fer”…

Yosemite

Yosemite

Yosemite, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Love may mean never having to say sorry—but digital means you’re never definitively done. This is a re-work of a RAW file originally shot in 2007 of Yosemite Valley in late February following a dusting with snow.