Flowers for Nicky

My twelve year old son Nicky (shown here a while back) was in the ensemble at Berkeley Playhouse for a teen production of the musical Shrek. For opening night, his Grandma sent him flowers.

Flowers for Nicky © Harold Davis

Flowers for Nicky © Harold Davis

He (and we) enjoyed the bouquet for a while. Then, a couple of days after the performance, I spread them out on my light box, and photographed the flowers for transparency.

For more information on my technique, check out my FAQ: Photographing Flowers for Transparency.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Sony Alpha a7R—Initial Impressions

I’ve been testing a new interchangeable lens camera, the Sony Alpha a7R, to see if I can happily use it. The a7R can truly be thought of as a new paradigm camera compared to the DSLRs I am accustomed to using, which are basically classic SLRs with an optical pentaprism and mirror, updated for digital. The full frame sensor in the a7R is the same as the sensor in the Nikon D800E (the Nikon sensor is made by Sony), with a full 36MP capture. This camera has great resolution, but no mirror or optical viewfinder—and weighs less than half of what a full-frame Nikon DSLR weighs.

Succulents (via Sony Alpha a7R) © Harold Davis

Succulents (via Sony Alpha a7R) © Harold Davis

It’s really interesting how the gear we use influences our imagery, and even what we see and how we see it! I shoot differently with a full-frame DSLR than when using an iPhone camera, and as I try the a7R, I am working differently yet again—and taking different shots.

This is a very smart camera, and a magnificently designed machine. It is a real pleasure to hold in my hands, and the light weight of the form factor considering the resolution is nothing short of astounding.

I shot the image shown above with a Sony-Zeiss Vario-Tessar FE 24-70mm lens at 70mm, f/5.6, 1/80 of a second and ISO 100 handheld. It’s not my usual way of working, but I set the camera on Auto, and let the camera do the thinking about focus and exposure. It did a pretty good job, I’d say. Auto-pilot, when it is as good as the automation in this camera, has something to be said for it because I can concentrate on seeing, and I don’t need to think about the technical aspects. Maybe this is the future, a little like being driven by a Google car!

I’m continuing to work my way through the sketchy documentation, explore my feelings about the non-optical viewfinder, see how easy it is to use manual exposure settings, find out whether it plays well with my wonderful collection of Nikon-mount Zeiss glass via the Sony E to Nikon F metabones adapter, test battery life, see how I can use the a7R with an intervalometer, and investigate other issues.

I’ve added a tripod quick-release plate to the bottom of the a7R, and I will be using it this weekend as my primary camera as I lead a landscape photography workshop at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The questions I now need to answer for myself don’t really relate to the camera per se, which is clearly a magnificent machine, but rather to how well I work with it, and whether my style of craft meshes well with the machine. Camera and photographer are a kind of cyborg. Does this Harold-Sony a7R man-machine cyborg work and play well? Stay tuned.

Full disclosure: Sony kindly lent me the Alpha a7R along with the 24-70mm lens.

Posted in Photography Tagged , |

Riders on the Storm meets Christina’s World

In the surprising uplands of Dordogne and Lot in the southwest of France high alkaline plateaus are bisected by deep river valleys. You’ll find medieval towns and castles, with markers from the history of the bloody 100 years war. The Brits may not have conquered back then, but today they’ve taken over, with everything from modest vacation bungalows to gated chateaus and estates.

Riders on the Storm © Harold Davis

Riders on the Storm © Harold Davis

Exploring the back country, in the smallest hamlets I could find, were also abandoned farms and ruined buildings. I paused in Saint-Romain, ahead of the storm, to photograph this farm house, intricate in its construction and picturesque in its decay. The wind whistled through the grass in the fields, with a sound as desolate as the abandoned buildings. The only thing missing was Christina, I thought, disassembling my camera and tripod and turning away as the first drops of rain began to fall.

Posted in France, Landscape, Photography

Trio of Tulips at Giverny

On a misty spring afternoon we left Paris, getting on the van for Monet’s famous gardens at Giverny. The pre-visualizations that I saw in my mind’s eye along the drive were of images like Monet’s impressionistic paintings, or that showed the bridges in the Giverny water gardens. But when we got to the garden the simplicity of individual tulips in the light rain was too much for me to resist!

Red Tulip, Giverny © Harold Davis

Red Tulip, Giverny © Harold Davis

The afternoon was cloudy, but extremely bright. I shot each of these three images handheld, wide-open (at f/2), with my ISO set to 100, taking advantage of the brightness and wonderful bokeh of the superb  Zeiss 135mm f/2 lens. Shutter speeds were 1/1600 of second for Red Tulip (above), 1/5000 of a second for Variegated Tulip (below) and 1/8000 of a second for White Tulip (bottom). There was almost no post-production work other than RAW conversion.

Variegated Tulip, Giverny © Harold Davis

Variegated Tulip, Giverny © Harold Davis

So ultimately this is one of the simplest photography scenarios imaginable. If there is no post-production, then Photoshop was irrelevant (not of course that there is anything wrong with Photoshop). The superb brightness of the lens along with its telephoto focal length isolated the portion of the flower that is in focus from the background. The brightness of the lens allowed me to shoot at fast shutter speeds, eliminating the possibility of camera shake. The technical requirement was to “see” the image, and to focus accurately—with nothing else intermediating between me and the flowers.

White Tulip, Giverny © Harold Davis

White Tulip, Giverny © Harold Davis

Sometimes in this complex world of ours it is hard to remember that simple may be best! When we over-complicate things we can lose track of what is important, and what is not—and also the joy in simple things, of family and friends, clouds and wind, and flowers in a garden.

Posted in Flowers, France

Sainte Croixe de Beaumont

Way off the beaten track in the southwest of France, I stopped to photograph the ancient church at Sainte Croixe de Beaumont. This complex belonged to the Knights Templar, and is mostly abandoned. The interior of the church is still in decent shape, but the other buildings are heading for ruin.

Oncoming Storm over Sainte Croixe © Harold Davis

Oncoming Storm over Sainte Croixe © Harold Davis

All morning it had been threatening to rain, with swiftly moving clouds overhead. As I wandered through the fields with my camera on the tripod, the oncoming storm burst, and I made haste to take refuge in an abandoned building where I could protect my gear.

Posted in France, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography

Photographic Odyssey to Japan with Harold Davis

Please consider joining me on a photographic odyssey to Japan in the spring of 2015. This is my dream trip to Japan, a once in a lifetime exclusive eighteen-day opportunity. This is an absolutely unique trip. Group size is limited to a maximum of twelve people. The dates are March 29 – April 15, 2015, selected so as to have the best chance of being in Kyoto for the cherry blossoms.

If you look at the detailed itinerary, I think you’ll be amazed at all we’ve managed to pack into this Photographic Odyssey to Japan, from big cities and luxury hotels, to temples on pilgrimage routes, rustic ryokans, 17th century castles, and much more. The route of the trip follows a meandering path south from Tokyo round Mt Fuji, the Japanese alps, and the mountainous Japanese interior.

Misty Mountains
We’ll pause for a few days in Kyoto and photograph cherry blossoms, then visit the ancient capital of Nara, and head on for the terminus of the famous Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trail. From there, a trip to Shikoku Island will feature the Naruto whirlpool, a washi paper making workshop at the famous Awagami factory, and a visit along the Shikoku 88 temples pilgrimage circuit.

Continuing south, we’ll stop to photograph Himeji Castle, pay our respects to the Atomic Dome in Hiroshima, and take our time photographing the giant Torii built over the inland sea on the sacred Island of Miyajima. From there we’ll fly back from Hiroshima to Tokyo (airfare included).

Please consider joining me in Japan! You can check out the detailed itinerary by going to http://www.digitalfieldguide.com/japan-workshop. I’ve included links to the hotels and ryokans where we’ll be staying. Also there are many links to locations on Google maps so you can get a better sense of the route.

Dawn in the High Fields © Harold Davis

When you look at the itinerary you may be surprised at how much we’ve managed to pack into this photographic trip, with excursions, night photography in Tokyo and Kyoto, temples and so much more. We’ll have the services of an English-speaking guide throughout the tour, and many meals are included in the trip. You can find pricing and registration information here: http://www.digitalfieldguide.com/japan-registration.

Group size is strictly limited (the maximum size is 12, with a minimum of 6 needed to run the trip). If a photographic tour of Japan under my guidance intrigues you, please take advantage of this offer, and don’t delay.

Click here for detailed information. Please drop me an email and let me know if you have any questions.

Gion at Night © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography, Workshops

Hohenzollern

Hohenzollern Castle, located in Swabia about 80 kilometers south of Stuttgart, Germany was home to the family that eventually spawned the emperors of Germany. Destroyed and rebuilt a number of times since its construction in the 11th century, the current version dates to the mid-19th century, where it was a conscious architectural folly and anachronism, modeled in English Gothic revival style, and after the chateaus of the Loire.

Hohenzollern © Harold Davis

Hohenzollern © Harold Davis

It had been raining all week. On a gray day, I parked in the parking lot below the castle, and paid my 5 Euros fee. I ignored the shuttle bus, and schlepped my camera and tripod up to the entrance to the castle, maybe a twenty minute walk. It was sprinkling lightly, and as I entered the lower levels I looked up at the swirling mist with a few beams of sunlight coming through, and proceeded to capture a number of views with monochromatic HDR in mind.

Posted in Germany, Monochrome

Scanning a Purple Flower

I was reminded of the very high resolution you can get from an inexpensive flatbed scanner recently when there was interest in a large print from one of my scanned flower images. With both the images shown here, the basic image was created on the scanner but I also photographed the flower, and blended the files from the camera and scanner.

Purple Flower Scan © Harold Davis

Purple Flower Scan © Harold Davis

Generally, flatbed scans can give you a very high resolution, but depth-of-field is very shallow. There’s no way to adjust depth-of-field, as you do by stopping down a lens. The ability to capture depth is also limited. If you try this technique, expect to spend a great deal of time spotting out dust, which almost always accompanies scanner images, particularly if you use a black (or dark) background. Combining a scan with a photo in some ways gives me the best of both worlds!

Purple Flower Dance © Harold Davis

Purple Flower Dance © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Creative Use of LAB Color Recording Now Available

Creative Use of LAB Color Webinar Recording

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Understanding the creative use of LAB color in Photoshop unlocks a vast treasure trove of under-utilized and under-explored possibilities. Truly one of the secrets of spectacular color in Photoshop, if you know how to work creatively with LAB color you will far ahead of the game in terms of getting the results you want from Photoshop.

This webinar explains the structure of LAB color, and demonstrates inversions and LAB equalizations for both image optimization and creative fun. You will learn how to combine Blending Modes with LAB equalizations for an unlimited and powerful palette.

This is information you will learn nowhere else. With access to the recording you can replay selected portions of the webinar recording as many times as you’d like.

Harold says, “When I discovered LAB color, and how to use what has been called ‘the most powerful color space,’ I knew I was on to one of the great secrets of Photoshop.”

The Creative Use of LAB Color with Harold Davis webinar covers:

  • Understanding LAB Color
  • LAB Color in Photoshop
  • LAB Channel Inversions
  • LAB Channel Equalizations
  • Downloading, installing and using Harold’s free LAB color action
  • Combining adjustments with blending modes
  • Creative LAB in a workflow
  • Examples and case studies

Here’s a comment from one viewer of the webinar: “Totally exciting creative process, Harold! I am looking forward to bringing these techniques into my own work.”

Click here to register for access to this webinar recording.

Posted in Workshops

When is a photo not a photo?

When is a photo not a photo? For many people in the photography and art worlds the answer to this question seems to depend on the aesthetics of the image and the intent of the creator—even when the technique of creation is overwhelmingly photographic.

Passion © Harold Davis

Passion © Harold Davis

In the eyes of important gatekeepers, the distinction is not merely semantic or taxonomic. I was reminded of this when I met with a very important photography collector a while back, who concluded our interview by telling me that “nothing you’ve shown me is a photograph.”

As many people who follow my work know, I consider much of my work “post-photographic.” It has rightly been said that I use digital painting, with photography as my source material, to create a new category of art that combines photography with digital technology, and also references artwork of the past (for example, Japanese art, impressionist and post-impressionist painting).

That said, Passion (shown above) is essentially photographic, and created using an in-camera studio multiple exposure.

Related images in the same series: Multiple Exposures, Kali and Les Desmoiselles, Being and Becoming; Solace for the Wild Rest, Duos and Redos.

Posted in Photography

Katie Rose and the ice cream cone

What fun to pick Katie Rose up at her pre-school, and wander down the coastal range by footpaths, steps and stairs. To watch her pleasure at an ice cream treat, and to sit on a bench in downtown Kensington, California near the big ice cream cone as she enjoys every last lick and crumb!

Katie and Cone © Harold Davis

Katie and Cone © Harold Davis

She starts Kindergarten in a matter of weeks, and it is always appropriate to remember her beginnings, and to be happy with gratitude for her compelling life force.

Meanwhile, Mathew isn’t exactly happy with his braces, but he understand the necessity, bears them with surprising fortitude, and enjoys showing off their color coordination.

Mathew © Harold Davis

Mathew © Harold Davis

Posted in Katie Rose, Kids

Photographing the Paris Skyline

Photographing the Paris skyline at dusk would seem to be pretty straightforward. The rooftop observatory on top of the Tour Montparnasse is open late, and there are gaps in the plexiglass allowing one to shoot without worrying about reflections. With a camera on a tripod, what then could be the big technical issue?

Paris Sunset 2 © Harold Davis

Paris Sunset 2 © Harold Davis

Not so much if all you need to do is display your images at a small size, but plenty it turns out if a large reproduction (print size 60″ X 40″ or 150cm X 40cm and up) is the requirement.

In the spring of 2013 I shot Paris City of Light and Les Lumières de Paris from the top of the Tour Montparnasse. By the way, the Tour Monparnasse is a hideous high-rise built in the 1970s that doesn’t fit in with the elegant Paris skyline in the slightest. The joke is that the best thing about the Tour Monparnasse observatory is that you can’t see the Tour Montparnasse from it. Bus loads of Chinese, Korean and Japanese tourists ride the elevators up to the Tour Montparnasse observatory, but most of them stay on the floor below the plein air top deck.

Anyhow, my 2013 shots were good enough for a couple of publications, but there was “trouble in Paradise” when an art publishing client of mine ran some really large test prints. These images just weren’t sharp enough.

What can cause lack of sharpness under these conditions? First, in any landscape shot that includes a distant vista diffusion due to atmospheric conditions is always a factor, and there isn’t much you can do about it except wait for a really clear day (not always possible). Paris is often moist, and has some pollution from cars and other sources, so this limiting factor is a real consideration.

From the viewpoint of photographic gear and the craft of photography, the issues are camera motion, optical sharpness, resolution (sensor size) and sensitivity settings.

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

As I’ve noted, my camera was on a tripod. But my observation and analysis was that the real problem was slight camera motion, caused by the wind coming through the gaps in the plexi, even using my tripod. Absent the ability to come back with a heavier tripod, which wasn’t possible, the fix in 2014 seemed to be to use a faster shutter speed.

So in the two images of Paris Sunset (far above, above and also shown here) I shot at 1/100 of a second for a relatively short duration shutter speed. This implied bumping the ISO, to 1250 in each case.

The good news: my files this time stand up to the blow-up that is required!

Posted in France, Paris, Photography

San Francisco Weekend Photography Workshop with Harold Davis August 23-24

Saturday August 23 and Sunday August 24, 2014

The San Francisco Bay area is one of the places on our planet most visited for photography. If you live here, why not spend a weekend photographing San Francisco as if you were seeing it for the first time for the wonder it is?

If you have always wanted to photograph San Francisco but are coming from far away, what better way to go about it with the guidance of master photographer and Bay area resident Harold Davis?

Click here to register for the Harold Davis San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

100 Views cover

Following a brief orientation, we will carpool and photograph around the Bay area in an exciting and fun weekend with locations depending on weather, lighting and group inclinations. Group size is limited to twelve photographers. There will be time for image review, and Harold will make suggestions for image improvement and creative thinking about image making.

There will be a night shoot on Saturday, and Harold will present material on photographing San Francisco in both color and black & white.

Why not get the imagery of San Francisco you have always wanted?

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

City as Landscape © Harold Davis

When: Saturday, August 23 and Sunday, August 24, 2014

Where: The orientation and classroom sessions of the workshop will be hosted in Berkeley, California. We will car pool to field shooting locations.

Cost: Tuition is $745 per person. Workshop is limited to a maximum of 12 participants.

Registration: Click here to register for the Harold Davis San Francisco Photography Weekend Workshop

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Full Moon Rising © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Workshop Demo on a Light Box

The Gloriosa Lily is a notoriously poisonous—and extremely beautiful—flower. We had the Gloriosa and many other exceptional flowers to play with at the recent  Creative Flower Photography workshop sponsored by the Heidelberg Summer School of Photography in Germany. I shot the image shown here as an in-class demo using the excellent Zeiss Makro-Planar 50mm f/2 macro lens. This was a great workshop with excellent participants, and much fun was had! Special thanks to Carl Zeiss for lending the superb lenses for participants to try.

Gloriosa Lily © Harold Davis

Gloriosa Lily © Harold Davis

Want to learn how to photograph flowers on a light-box, and process them for transparency? Please consider the October 4-5, 2014 session of Photographing Flowers for Transparency.

Gloriosa Bouquet © Harold Davis

Gloriosa Bouquet © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography, Workshops

Creative Use of LAB Color Webinar

Please consider joining Harold Davis for this exciting, new live webinar offering that will help you unlock the creative potential of floral imagery (and more)!

01-title-LAB

Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 3PM PTCreative Use of LAB Color (the cost is only $29.95, and includes unlimited access to the post-session recording)

Understanding the creative use of LAB color in Photoshop unlocks a vast treasure trove of under-utilized and under-explored possibilities.

This webinar explains the structure of LAB color, and demonstrates inversions and LAB equalizations for both image optimization and creative fun.

You will learn how to combine Blending Modes with LAB equalizations for an unlimited and powerful palette.

 The Creative Use of LAB Color with Harold Davis webinar covers:

  • Understanding LAB Color
  • LAB Color in Photoshop
  • LAB Channel Inversions
  • LAB Channel Equalizations
  • Combining adjustments with blending modes
  • Creative LAB in a workflow
  • Examples and case studies

Learn how LAB is structured in Photoshop, and how to use the incredible toolkit that LAB unleashes to add a world of practical and creative effects to your imagery.

Each live webinar session has ample time for questions and is limited to twenty participants, so seating is very limited. The $29.95 fee includes unlimited access to the recording of the session.

Photoshop layers throwing you for a curve? You may also be interested in our upcoming (Saturday, August 16, 2014) live session, Photoshop Layers 101with Harold Davis. Demystify Photoshop for once and for all.

Check out our webinar recordings ($19.95 each for unlimited access):

Click here for more info about Harold Davis webinar recordings.

Posted in Workshops