Search Results for: distant night

Distant Night Storm

Distant Night Storm © Harold Davis

Distant Night Storm © Harold Davis

I spent last week leading a night photography workshop high in the White Mountains on the California-Nevada border. This eastern California desert mountain range is home to the ancient Bristlecone Pines, known as the world’s oldest living things.

It was great to get to spend so much time in the Patriarch Grove of Bristlecone Pines, which is at an elevation of about 11,300 feet. These trees, and the entire high desert mountain environment, are incredibly beautiful and spiritual in feeling.

I set this shot up and let my programmable intervalometer proceed on automatic while I wandered the grove and met with workshop participants, who had spread out in the night. Everyone was having a good time. A distant storm to the east over Nevada added a frisson of excitement to the proceedings. We listened to the rumble of thunder and watched lightning flashes, wondering whether the ongoing multiple exposure process would capture the flashes.

In my case, there was not so much lightning in my photo because my camera was facing north and the lightning was on the periphery of its vision. But simply being there watching the night weather in this high mountain place surrounded by the gnarled and wonderful “Entish” trees was the experience of a lifetime.

To create this image, I stacked together 47 four minute exposures using the Photoshop Statistics script. Each exposure was made at 12mm, f/4, and ISO 400. I also layered in an earlier twilight exposure to create the detail shown in the foreground.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Days and Knights of Malta (Nov 3-12, 2018)

2018 Destination Photography Workshop with Harold Davis

Making this visit especially timely, Valletta, Malta will be hosting the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018! Trip includes Heritage Malta pass to most Maltese attractions for each participant. Click here for the detailed day-by-day itinerary (PDF) and here for the Reservation Form.

At the cross-roads of history and central to the Mediterranean, Malta is a romantic and uniquely situated island country. Ruled by Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Moors, Normans, Sicilians, Spanish, the Knights of St. John, the French, and (up until 1964) the British, Malta boasts some of the oldest free-standing structures in the world, numerous incredible fortifications, and a capital (Valletta) that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety. 

Valletta © Harold Davis

Because of its unique attributes, history, location, and size, Malta presents great photographic opportunities in a very manageable environment. We’ll walk the fabled cobble-stoned streets, stairs, and ramparts of Valletta with our cameras, explore locations known only to locals, and enjoy legendary Maltese hospitality. In the evening, when we’re not photographing sunset or the night sky, we’ll critique our photos and work on extending our range of photographic techniques.

St Ursula Street, Valletta © Harold Davis

Where: The country of Malta is a small archipelago in the Mediterranean roughly equidistant from Sicily and the North African coast. Malta is a member of the European Union. English is one of the two official languages (the other is Maltese). The workshop will primarily be based in Valletta, the capital of Malta, with several days to explore the smaller, more laid-back island of Gozo.

Blue Grotto, Malta, from above © Harold Davis

When: Saturday, November 3, 2018 (leave US Friday, November 2) to Monday, November 12, 2018 (nine nights and ten days).

Group Size: This is an exclusive, small photo workshop (non-photographer significant others are also welcome) with very limited space availability (the minimum group size is six and the maximum is twelve). We’ve heard quite a bit of excitement about exploring Malta with Harold, so this group is likely to fill quickly.

How to Register: Please send us an email expressing interest right away; a completed registration requires a $1000 deposit, the trip Reservation Form, and a copy of your currently valid passport page.

Details: The group will meet at a luxurious 5-star hotel adjacent to the main gates to the ancient fortified city of Valletta. We will explore Valletta and the surrounding areas such as Burgu and Silemma on foot over the course of several days with the assistance of professional guides as well as docents from the Malta Photographic Society.

Sea Cliffs of Gozo © Harold Davis

In addition, excursions will include:

  • A sunset harbor cruise of Valletta and the surrounding areas
  • Special boat tour of the Blue Grotto designed for us to allow for photography
  • The fabulous fishing harbor at Marsaxlokk
  • A sunset visit to the citadel at Mdina
  • Tour of the world-famous neolithic sites with a local archaeology expert

Besides our time on the main island of Malta, we’ll also travel by private bus and the ferry to the island of Gozo, where we will spend two nights. Gozo is likely the island famed in antiquity called Ogygia, where Calypso lived. Limerick poet extraordinaire Edward Lear described its coastal scenery as “ponskizillious and gromphiberous, being as no other words can describe its magnificence.” On Gozo, we will visit sea cliffs, salt pans, small villages, churches, and beaches.

Church and Lighthouse, Gozo © Harold Davis

When (alas!) our time on Malta draws to a close on Monday, November 12 2018, transfer to the airport for return to the United States or further adventures in Europe is included.

Cost: $5,850 per person (single supplement $875); $500 early-bird discount for completed registration by December 31, 2017.

Dome, St Augustine Church © Harold Davis


  • Nine nights lodging (seven nights at a 5-star hotel in Valletta, two nights in a 4-star hotel on Gozo).
  • All breakfasts (9).
  • Three dinners and three lunches.
  • Airport transfer to and from the hotel in Valletta.
  • Guided and docent led tours of Valletta and the surrounding areas.
  • Many excursions as indicated.
  • Transportation to and from Gozo.
  • Photographic guidance, discussions, and one-on-one tutorial sessions with master photographer Harold Davis.
  • Service charges.

Exclusions: Airfare and transportation to Malta, meals except as indicated, wine and spirits, admissions except as indicated, and personal items such as laundry and souvenirs.

Assisting with air travel arrangements: We’re happy to consult and advise regarding air travel arrangements to Malta on request. 

Travel Insurance: Very highly recommended. More info.

To Register: Please send us an email expressing interest right away; a completed registration requires a $1000 deposit, the trip Reservation Form, and a copy of your currently valid passport page.

Street Lamp, Xlendi © Harold Davis

Stacking Through the Night

Grandview Camp © Harold Davis

Grandview Camp © Harold Davis

Gradually I became aware of light, so much light that it woke me because I thought it was dawn. Actually, the crescent moon was rising above the trees. I knew that there was no point in further photography, because the brightnesss of the moon would overwhelm the light of the stars.

Earlier, before dark at Grandview Camp in the White Mountains of eastern California, I had set my camera up on my tripod, facing roughly north. I used a 10.5mm fisheye and a programmable intervalomter to control the Bulb exposures.

This image shows 106 exposures, each exposure at 4 minutes, ISO 400, and f/2.8—for a total combined exposure time, once the individual captures were stacked, of about 7 hours and 20 minutes.

The foreground portion of the landscape is mostly derived from a twilight shot. I was careful not to move the tripod after making this capture, so it would be in alignment with the night time images.

If you look carefully at the area of the image showing my van when it is blown up, you can see a bit of ghosting—which is me with my headlamp coming out to turn off the camera!

An image like this no longer captures what is directly seen, but rather renders that which is implied in two dimensions beyond normal sight. We don’t normally witness the stars as they move over time—but the extended duration of a star stack does demonstrate the almost circular motion of the stars relative to the position of the camera on the earth.

The extended dynamic range of the image—including a greater range of lights and darks—than would normally be seen in a photo also may not seem natural (as is sometimes the case with HDR in general). But it does correspond to what our vision does at night when we give it time to adjust. We can see extensive details in both the landscape and the sky, provided we protect our vision from excessively bright light sources.

Related stories: Ancient Music of the Stars; Distant Night Storm, My Favorite Tree.

Interested in making this kind of image and in night photography? There are still some places in the November Star Circle Academy workshop.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Twilight Turns to Night

Looking south from Arch Rock the twilight turned to night. Individual stars turned to the star-filled night sky and banks of fog shifted in the night wind. Down below, big rollers crashed on end of their journey across the Pacific. The remaining ambient light from the sunset over Point Reyes slowly faded.

Besides the stars, the predominant light source was now the city glow from distant San Francisco, coming around the massive cliffs of Point Reyes and the distant Marin Headlands. This eerie city light played at dancing with the swiftly moving banks of clouds.

I made this exposure for 300 seconds (five minutes) with the camera wide open (ISO 100, f/4, 12mm). Then I packed up my tripod and camera kit, taking care in the dark not to forget anything.

I picked my way carefully off my high platform, and headed back through the darkness of a forest passage to my car waiting on the other side of the coastal hills. Most of the time, I can see pretty well at night once I let my eyes adjust. But the Bear Valley trail runs deep in a valley under dense cover. Although it is a wide path, I didn’t fancy stepping into blackness, so I walked back by headlamp.

Once more it was drive drive drive back to a sleeping house and bed at half way to morning.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Point Reyes

Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse

This is an image captured at the Point Reyes lighthouse well into night, although the sunset appears to linger in the Western sky. Park Ranger Craig Morgan leads night tours down to the lighthouse the first and third Saturday of each month (provided the wind speed is less than 40mph). If you get the chance it’s really worth signing up for this unique experience.

Craig was kind enough to leave the light on, facing the land side of the lighthouse for me to photograph. This is the old, mechanical lighthouse (here’s a peek at the inside from an earlier visit of mine), not the automated light that is used for real.

I exposed the photo for five minutes. You can see the trail this time exposure made with the stars in the sky. You can also see Craig’s flashlight,motion of light captures as though it were solid, along the railing as he came up the stairs to stand by me as I took the photo.

Related stories: Point Reyes Lighthouse at Sunset; Distant Shore; Mountains on the Beach.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, Point Reyes

Timeless: The White Mountains

I have two prints in the exhibition Timeless: The White Mountains at Photo Fine Art Photography in Oakland, CA (one is of the Distant Night Storm image shown below). The exhibition runs from September 5 – October 12, 2013. If you are in the Bay area, please consider joining me for the opening reception on Saturday, September 7 from 2-4 PM (click here for directions to the gallery and more info).

Distant Night Storm in the Patriarch Grove © Harold Davis

Distant Night Storm in the Patriarch Grove © Harold Davis

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Nikon World Calendar and Popular Photo Feature Harold Davis

I’m pleased about some recent publications of my work. Ancient Music of the Stars, shown below, illustrates the month of December in the 2013 Nikon World calendar. Click here for my original story about the image, which was shot in the Patriarch Grove of Ancient Bristlecone Pines in eastern California’s White Mountains.

Ancient Music of the Stars by Harold Davis

Ancient Music of the Stars © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

Peter Kolonia writes, “Harold Davis’ ethereal floral arrangements have a purity and translucence that borders on spiritual” in a December 2012 Popular Photo Magazine article that features my transparent floral technique, Pure Petals: Make flowers look translucent. Click here for a PDF download of the full article.

Finally, my Distant Night Storm in the Patriarch Grove appears as a two-page spread in the HarperCollins UK book Astronomy Photographer of the Year.

Posted in Photography, Writing

Star Circles in the Patriarch Grove

Bristlecone Pines are the world’s oldest living things. They have witnessed thousands of passing turns of the earth in the heavens—and, therefore, the stars turning relative to the earth. I feel awe and thanks that I’ve got to share this cosmic show from the Patriarch Grove high in the White Mountains in eastern California near the Nevada border.

Star Circles int he Patriarch Grove by Harold Davis

Star Circles in the Patriarch Grove © Harold Davis

I shot this image while preparing for a workshop I was teaching in the Patriarch Grove. I positioned my camera to capture a north-facing landscape, and used an extremely wide-angle lens.

The foreground was shot before it got fully dark at 1/250 of a second, f/8, and ISO 200.  Without moving the camera on the tripod I waited until after dark and shot 35 images at 4 minutes, f/2.8, and ISO 400 to capture the stars.

To render the stars whirling in the skies I stacked all the four minute exposures together using the Photoshop Statistics action, then blended in the foreground image to make the Bristlecone Pines and the details of the Patriarch Grove visible.

For more about the Bristlecones and the Patriarch Grove see My Favorite Bristlecone and Distant Night Storm.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape

My Favorite Bristlecone

I am very excited to be heading back to the Bristlecone Pine groves of the White Mountains in California near the Nevada border next week. These trees, among the oldest of all living things, grow high in the desert mountain range east of the Sierras. They are very beautiful in their gnarled and twisted ancientness.

Communing with nature in the Patriarch Grove of Bristlecone Pines is one of my favorite activities, and the tree shown in the two images below is one of my favorite trees among the Patriarchs. In fact, one friend of mine has claimed that I was “in love” with this tree. Certainly, I have spent much time gazing at it and waiting for my long HDR exposures to complete. One could certainly do worse in picking an inamorata!

In the Patriarch Grove by Harold Davis

In the Patriarch Grove © Harold Davis

I am looking forward to leading a night photography workshop in the Patriarch Grove, and also of course pursuing my own work in this incredibly gorgeous landscape.

Patriarch by Harold Davis

Patriarch © Harold Davis

You may be interested in some of my other stories on my blog about the Bristlecones, most ancient of all trees. Check out Seeking Methuselah; Touching the Rainbow; Distant Night Storm; and When Workshops Collide.

A gentle reminder about my autumn workshops in Berkeley, CA:

An early-bird special is in place for these workshops until the end of August 2012. If you are interested in these workshops please consider taking advantage of the discount—particularly as based on past experience we expect the workshops may fill by mid-September:

HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography Bootcamp with Harold Davis: Saturday October 6

Digital Black & White Master Class: Full Day Workshop with Harold Davis: Saturday November 3

Photographing Flowers for Transparency with Harold Davis: Saturday December 1

Bamboo 2 by Harold Davis

Bamboo 2 © Harold Davis

Comments from those who have attended my workshops:

“He was very giving of his talents and time. The course was very organized and thorough. Loved it! Learned so much! ”

“Very creative and a marvelous instructor.”

“AWESOME…instructor and photographer.”

“Harold’s techniques as demonstrated through his many books have revolutionized my approach to photography and has accelerated my abilities in a very short period of time. I appreciate that he is so accessible and giving of his time.”

“I think that Harold’s passion for teaching about photography is only second to doing photography in a creative way. ”

“Harold is a peach. Great skill, without the ego of most master photographers.”

If you are in the Southeast near Richmond, VA please keep in mind my full-day workshop. The cost is $60 ($72 with lunch) and the goal is to inspire you to creatively take your photography up a notch. Click here for information and registration.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Workshops

Shortlisted in the Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2012 Competition

I am honored that my image Distant Night Storm in the Patriarch Grove has been shortlisted in the Royal Observatory Greenwich Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2012 competition. Click here to read my original blog posting about how I made this image.

Distant Night Storm in the Patriarch Grove by Harold Davis

Distant Night Storm in the Patriarch Grove © Harold Davis

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

My Favorite Bristlecone

Patriarch © Harold davis

Patriarch © Harold davis

This is my favorite tree in the Patriarch Grove of Bristlecone Pines. Even when we pretend neutrality (as with our kids) the truth is that we likely have our favorites.

All ancient Bristlecone Pines are beautiful, but some are more beautiful than others. I have photographed this tree over the years—and used a sunset image of this Patriarch on the cover of Creative Landscapes.

This is a stacked composite of thirty exposures, each exposure using my 10.5mm fisheye for four minutes at f/2.8 and ISO 400—for a total exposure time of roughly two hours. I also layered in a lighter exposure from before sunset to add some detail in the foreground.

Related stories: Ancient Music of the Stars; Distant Night Storm.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Ancient Music of the Stars

Ancioent Music of the Stars © Harold Davis

Ancient Music of the Stars © Harold Davis

The Bristlecone Pines were in their youth when Odysseus plowed the Aegean in search of a way home to his Ithaca.

These trees were already ancient when Julius Caesar crossed his Rubicon.

Old beyond our imaginations, these oldest of living things have stood watch through the decades, centuries, and millennia—mute witnesses to the music of the stars.

This image is a stacked composite. The stack contains an initial ten minute exposure, and thirty four-minute exposures for a total elapsed exposure time of about two hours and ten minutes.

Each exposure was shot using my 10.5mm digital fisheye at f/2.8 and ISO 400. I also used the ten-minute exposure to layer in some additional foreground detail.

Related story: Distant Night Storm.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Layers and the Landscape

In some ways, layers define the landscape at large. When a landscape consists of layers stretching out to the distant horizon, the details become abstracted, and we can imagine ourselves lost in the perspective of the infinite.

Landscape of Blue Layers © Harold Davis

I was reminded of my quest for the layered landscape with a recent print purchase inquiry regarding my Landscape of Blue Layers, shown above. I made this image on a road trip in the autumn of 2017 from above Westgard Pass, in the White Mountains on the California-Nevada border.

2017 was, I think, the first year of the really bad autumnal fires in California, leading to smoke and haze throughout the eastern Sierra. I used this otherwise horrible condition to create the atmospheric Poem of the Road, and later in the same trip several other layered landscapes, Down in the Valley and Red Dragon Sunset. Both images are shown below. Also on this trip, there was some cool night photography (and a broken lens), but that is a different story.

Down in the Valley © Harold Davis

Red Dragon Sunset © Harold Davis

Looking at my Landscape of Blue Layers as a possible print, I began to wonder what other images there might be in my unprocessed files from this trip. I pulled up the autumn of 2017 on my production computer pretty easily. My search was for layered landscape images, of which three are shown below. As you can see, this was a pretty productive trip. 

Blue Distance 1 © Harold Davis

Purple Haze © Harold Davis

Blue Distance 2 © Harold Davis

So layers in a landscape photo are not layers in Photoshop. These images are created in the camera, and I did very little to them in post-production besides cleaning up a few flaws and heightening contrast a bit. The trick to photographing layers in the landscape is mostly being in the right place, at the right time, with one’s camera already on the tripod. 

Posted in Landscape, Photography


The Garden of Wilderness

The garden of wilderness
was my heart’s delight:
gray dawn met alpenglow
in the long morning
of deep rivers
and distant mountains.

Windswept timberline tarns;
far away the machines and levers work.

Alas, the mechanism must be mastered,
all the law-and-order and social ranking

step by weary step down to the low lands;

So I came to leave the mountains.

Columbia River Gorge © Harold Davis


The days spent on the trail
fade in a flurry of miles as we speed

parallel to the mountains on Route 395.

All is forgotten in the exhilarating rush
of dotted white lines and speeds not attained over months on foot.

This compaction recalls memory:
the terrain of years disappears
leaving only peaks and valleys.

At first I am startled by the jolt of “civilization”;
later, recalling the calm of alpine meadows,
the last light on the tall peaks in the evening,
I understand that these memories last longest.

Ladyboot Arch © Harold Davis

Looking at a Map

A topographic map of the wilderness:
the contour lines denote height and evoke

distant valleys and mountains leading by rivers
to unknown forests; enchanted places all.

Alone in the dismal city watching gray snow fall
I envy cartographers and explorers of wild places:
the sun on their backs, the morn on their faces,
nights of brights stars and moon;
the wild, wild wind most of all.

Morning Fog © Harold Davis

Back to the Wilderness

When the gray spider web of the city
wraps its filigree around my heart
and the subway roars in my naked ear
and the lonely cold does its part;

When its been so long that the stars go unseen
and I’ve forgotten to go out and walk;
with phone calls and meetings
and all this empty talk;

It might be that it might be time to go back to the wilderness.

The wind that will blow around me
and the flowers that garland the trail
will make living worthwhile and my days young again.

Death Valley Campsite © Harold Davis

While We Were in the Wilderness

While we were in the wilderness
the sunset of humanity

We spent so long walking on the trail,
sleeping under the star-encrusted sky,
heeding the call of the marmot and water ouzel,
that we forgot about everyone.

So who knows precisely when it happened,
or what caused it.

We simply came down from the mountains
empty stomachs and badly needing a hot bath
to find: no one.

This could easily be the future, we say:
as we watch the sunset turn red then to blue evening,
distant valleys disappearing in the oncoming night.

Red Dragon Sunset © Harold Davis

Author’s note: I wrote these poems quite a number of years ago during what was obviously not the happiest period of my life. Always, periodic adventures and wilderness walking have been refreshing for me, and solace for my soul. In researching for the upcoming webinar presentation I will be making with William Neill in early September, The Solace of Nature, I remembered this cycle of poetry, and decided to look for the drafts among the many boxes of my papers and art work in our basement. I’ve edited the poems lightly from the original versions, with the advantages that distance in time can sometimes give.

You might also be interested in the webinar we have scheduled for October 3, 2020: Photography and Writing | Using Your Words to Become a Better Photographer.

Posted in Writing

Ancient Bristlecone Pine

These ancient trees—thousands of years old—thrive in the dry, alkaline soil of their high mountain range. They face the day and night and gradually grow old. Perhaps they are wise, in the way trees are wise. Still standing, the wrinkles and patterns in solid wood stands testament to millennia of survival.

Ancient Bristlecone © Harold Davis

Ancient Bristlecone © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 200mm macro lens, eight exposures at shutter speeds from 5 seconds to 1/80 of a second, each exposure at f/32 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures processed and combined in Adobe Camera RAW, Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop; converted to monochromatic using Nik Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop.

Click here for some more Bristlecone images!

Posted in Monochrome, Photography