Search Results for: effective aperture


Artichokes are good to eat. They are a real treat. You peel the leaves to the “meat” inside, in a spiral motion that echoes the visual path in this great, big edible flower as shown from above. 

The artichoke is shown here photographed straight down on a velvet background with some side lighting to bring out the spiral pattern. I bracketed exposures, and started layering using hand-HDR with the darkest exposure. The resulting low-key layer stack approaches life from the opposite direction than my more typical high-key layer stack. Poppy Dancer is another example of this technique, with some explanatory and tutorial links at the end of the Poppy Dancer story.

Artichoke on Black © Harold Davis

The lens I used for this image was my Nikkor tilt-shift macro (to even out the plane of focus) at an effective aperture of f/64. 

An inversion of the artichoke image is shown below, created in LAB color in Photoshop by applying an Invert adjustment to the L-channel.

Artichoke Inversion © Harold Davis

Click here for another kind of image of a thistle flower—a very close relative to the artichoke.

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

Honeysuckle and Monarda

Sometimes single blossoms are the most elegant. This Honeysuckle (above) and Monarda (below) are from our garden. I photographed the blossoms on a light box, and other than layering-in bracketed high-key exposures, there was minimal post-production.

Honeysuckle © Harold Davis

Honeysuckle © Harold Davis

Exposure data (Honeysuckle): Nikon D850, 85mm Nikor tilt-shift macro, five exposures at shutter speeds from one second to 15 seconds, each exposure at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 64; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Monarda © Harold Davis

Monarda © Harold Davis

Exposure data (Monarda): Nikon D850, 85mm Nikor tilt-shift macro, five exposures at shutter speeds from 1.3 seconds to 20 seconds, each exposure at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 64; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Posted in Flowers

Nearly Perfect Poppy

Waking up to a morning of partial sunshine, I saw this new, glowing, orange Poppy blossom in the plantings along our front porch. It was definitely dappled and dawn-drawn. Although I have met and photographed many fine Papavers in my life, this one seemed nearly perfect to me in every way.

Nearly Perfect Poppy © Harold Davis

Nearly Perfect Poppy © Harold Davis

If you are interested in how I photographed this flower, I brought it indoors and suspended it over a black velvet background. I used diffused sunlight for ambient backlighting, and added an LED macro flash for fill from both sides. The camera was my D850 on a heavy-duty RRS tripod. I used 60mm of extension tubes with my 85mm Nikkor t/s macro. A +4 close-up filter graced the business end of the lens.

I exposed for 30 seconds at ISO 64 and an effective aperture of f/64.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Something Fishy

One of my favorite characters in fantasy literature, J.R.R. Tolkein’s Smeagol, would have appreciated the nice, plump and juicy slab of fish I brought back from the store. The fish meat rested on skin on the back, and the skin and scales glistened with a rainbow of pastel colors in the light. I knew I had to photograph the fish scales up close and personal.

Scales © Harold Davis

Scales © Harold Davis

I used my 85mm tilt-shift macro with a 36mm extension tube at an effective aperture of f/51 and an exposure sequence at ISO 100 from 1/8 of a second to 8 seconds. This is extreme close-up photography, with a magnification ratio of about 15:1, meaning you are viewing the fish scales fifteen times actual life size. Magnified this way, the fish scales look almost soft, and could be barnacles, or schools of fish themselves.

Fish Scales in Black & White © Harold Davis

Fish Scales in Black & White © Harold Davis

Smeagol a/k/a Gollum would probably not have approved of my light source: directed sunlight (Gollum preferred dark caves, and the sun hurt his eyes). He also might have thought that the way it was prepared (by smoking) “ruined” my nice, plump and juicy raw slab of salmon. But I, to use Gollum’s vocabulary, thought my nice piece of smoked fish was “tasty” indeed—when I ate it after photographing it!

Posted in Bemusements

Tulip Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-sabi is a name for a Japanese philosophical and aesthetic movement with a key tenet of acceptance of the transient nature of all things. According to wabi-sabi, everything passes, and in that passage and imperfection lies the possibility of true beauty.

As I write in Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis, “in my work with flowers, I seek to understand how ephemeral life is, and to translate this sense into the emotion we associate with time passing—which is a deeper sense of true love than that associated with the first blush of early, often fickle and shallow, beauty.”

Tulip Wabi-Sabi by Harold Davis

Tulip Wabi-Sabi © Harold Davis

In other words, the syllogism goes as follows:

  • Expressing emotion is one of the most important things any photo can do.
  • Flowers are often a vehicle in art for projecting our feelings about love and beauty.
  • If we are to progress beyond the infatuations of shallow youth towards the meeting of true minds that is mature love, then flowers as they age with all their imperfections are as much a valid subject as blossoms in the first sensuous blush of opening.
  • Flowers in decay are therefore a valid subject for photographic interpretation.

With this composition of Tulip Wabi-Sabi, I watched my tulips over the course of a week as they gradually matured, lost a few petals, and curled—beautiful at every step of the way.

The resulting image, shot against black velvet, is a little mysterious and exotic, as though birds with colorful plumage were descending through the dusk. No birds, these are just my lovely tulips, subject to gravity and aging like all of us.

Exposure data: 85mm tilt-shift macro, nine exposures at shutter speeds from 1/60 of a second to 8 seconds, each exposure at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures processed via Adobe Camera RAW and Nik HDR Efex Pro, and finished in Photoshop.

Posted in Flowers

Steel Wool

Sometimes you don’t have to go far to find something exotic to shoot, like this close-up portrait of industrial-grade steel wool, purchased at Costco.

Steel Wool by Harold Davis

Steel Wool © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 85mm tilt-shift macro, 1.3 seconds at an effective aperture of f/64, ISO 100, tripod mounted; processed in Adobe Camera RAW, Photoshop, and Silver Efex.

Posted in Monochrome

Harold Davis on subtle HDR per the New York Times

New York Times reporter Roy Furchgott provides tips on High Dynamic Range photography techniques from Harold Davis on the New York Times Gadgetwise blog. The emphasis is on HDR that is subtle and looks realistic, rather than the garish HDR images that are all too common! I’m pleased that the article mentions my new book from Amphoto, Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography.

Succulent by Harold Davis

Succulent © Harold Davis

About the image: After giving a workshop, I spent a day relaxing in the hot spring baths at the Esalen community along the Big Sur coast of California. On the way back to my room from the baths I noticed a wonderful garden of small succulents. I wanted to create an image that showed all of the detail of the plant against a dark background. To accomplish my goals I shot seven exposures with my camera on my tripod using my 85mm macro lens. Each exposure was shot at an effective aperture of f/64 and ISO 200. The shutter speeds varied from 1/25 at the darkest end of a second to 4 seconds at the lightest end.

I combined the exposures using hand-HDR in Photoshop and Photoshop’s HDR Pro.

Posted in HDR, Photography

Heirloom Heart

Browsing the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables at Berkeley Bowl, this heirloom tomato called out to me for photography if not for my salad. There is no doubt that when positioned and lit correctly it resembles a sensuous heart.

Heirloom Heart by Harold Davis

Heirloom Heart © Harold Davis

I shot the tomato on a black velvet background using controlled natural light. The image you see is a hand-HDR blend of four exposures made with my 85mm tilt-shift macro lens. Each exposure was at ISO 100 and an effective aperture of f/64. My shutter speeds ranged from 1/30 of a second to 8 seconds.

Posted in Bemusements, Hearts, Photography


Succulent © Harold Davis

Succulent © Harold Davis

Briefly noted: I shot this succulent in the gardens at Esalen using my 85mm Nikon PC-E Micro-Nikkor f/2.8D tilt-shift macro lens. A tilt-shift lens helps correct lines of perspective when they might otherwise be distorted, and operates kind of like a view camera “lite.” In other words, the tilt-shift lens has some of the side-to-side and up-and-down movement of the bellows in a view camera, but not quite the full range of movement.

The tilt-shift capability is most often used in architectural photography, but I enjoy using it for macro photography as well. You can think of this capability as a non-virtual version of post-production warping.

To make this image, I took five exposures at a shutter speed range from 1/8 of a second to 2.5 seconds. My camera was tripod mounted. Each exposure was shot at ISO 200 and an effective aperture of f/64.

I combined the five exposures using Nik Merge to HDR Efex Pro and hand-layering (hand-HDR) in Photoshop. The monochromatic conversion was accomplished by using several Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 presets in combination.

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

Katie Rose in the Garden

Katie Rose in the Garden

I shot this photo of Katie Rose in the garden the other day with my new 35mm f/1.8 Nikkor lens. This is essentially a very high-quality prosumer lens, and surprisingly inexpensive (about $200 street price) considering its quality.

On a 1.5 sensor, such as the D300 I am using, this prime lens has an effective aperture of 52mm, roughly what we used to think of as a “normal” lens. The prime designation means that the lens does not vary in focal length (compared and contrasted to zoom lenses, which feature variable focal lengths). It does not mean that this lens is a cut of meat, or a number only divisable by itself or one.

To make this casual portrait of my daughter, I got low to the ground. I set the camera to aperture-preferred metering, with the aperture wide-open at f/1.8. I knew the wide-open aperture would let plenty of light in for a fast exposure, which would “stop” the motion of Katie’s jaunt in the garden. The flat depth-of-field would also contrast the in-focus child with the our-of-focus garden.

Then I focused on Katie’s eyes, and waited for precisely the right instant to release the shutter.

Exif data: 35mm, 1/1600 of a second at f/1.8 and ISO 200, hand held.

Posted in Katie Rose, Kids, Photography

Ranunculus Asiaticus

Ranunculus Asiaticus

Ranunculus Asiaticus, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

The Ranunculus plant came home with me for the garden. But first I snipped this bud. I photographed the blossom straight down in a small vase wrapped in black velvet using my 85mm perspective-correcting macro at a moderate aperture (f/16 by the lens, with an effective aperture of f/21).

The final result is a Photoshop composite (hand HDR) of three exposures, all shot on tripod at ISO 100: 0.1 second, 0.2 second, and 0.4 second.

Now in the garden, hopefully this plant will yield other blossoms for photography.

Posted in Flowers, Photography



Pinhole, photo by Harold Davis.

I took this photo of the Golden Gate with the pinhole plate attachment that is part of the Lensbaby Composer Optic Swap System. The effective aperture was f/177 (well, a pinhole is a very little thing!), and the exposure time at ISO 200 was 6/10 of a second, tripod mounted. Here’s the color version:

Golden Gate through a Pinhole

View this image larger.

It’s amusing to think that I went to some trouble to turn my relatively expensive DSLR into a toy camera with literally no optics—a pinhole is just that, a hole the size of a pin. But having interesting and unusual choices to play with, like those provided by the Lensbaby Composer and its Optic Swap System, is fun and a spur to creative visual thinking.

Other recent Lensbaby Composer images: Absence of Color; Calypso Orchids; Zebra & Jaguar; Portrait of Nicky; Hello, World.

Posted in Bemusements, Lensbaby, Monochrome, Photography, San Francisco Area

Water Drops in the Morning

Phyllis was kind enough to take the kids to school this morning. I spent my free time in the garden photographing water drops in the morning sun using my Kirk Low Pod and a new toy, a Nikon PC Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8 lens. This is an 85mm macro lens, roughly 127mm in 35mm terms. The “PC” isn’t short for “politically correct”; it stands for “perspective correction.”

In a way, this lens is back to the future for my thoroughly modern digital SLR. The Nikon PC Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8 provides some tilts and swings, like an old-fashioned view camera. But there’s no automation. Auto-focus doesn’t work. The light meter doesn’t work. This is a manual exposure affair (instant feedback via the LCD makes manual exposure a snap).

The lens doesn’t even stop itself down automatically. You set the f/stop manually, then press a lever to view and focus through the lens wide open (so you can see what you are doing). When you are ready to make an exposure, you press the little lever again first to stop the lens down.

The point of the lens are the tilts and swings, which (among other things) help with the depth-of-field problem of extreme close-ups. In addition, the lens is designed for maximum depth-of-field with an f/45 smallest aperture and an iris with more than usual blades, leading to an attractive bokeh on out-of-focus items at small apertures.

Using this lens does remind of those good old view camera days.

These images of water drops on our alstroemerias (Peruvian Lilies) captured with the rig I’ve described and and a 36mm extension tube. Each exposure approximately 0.4 of a second with the aperture set to f/45 for an effective aperture including the tilt and extension tube of about f/60.

Alstroemeria and Water Drops 2

View this image larger.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Working that Lens Baby Macro

Yellow Greeting Red, photo by Harold Davis. Click to view in large size.

A reader writes:

I’ve read your piece on photographing the lobelia flower with your lens baby, as well as the item you refer to with more information about this set up, and I still don’t get it. Could you please be a little more explicit?

OK. There’s nothing like a straightforward request, and the whole Lens Baby thing is pretty straightforward. But, before I get started, another photo:

Green Spikes

You get a Lens Baby from It costs $150 plus shipping for the Lens Baby 2.0, and you need to specify the lens mount (Nikon or Canon and some others). The Canon version provides some exposure automation (I think), but there is absolutely no automation with the Nikon version.

Here’s another photo:


The macro kit for the Lens Baby consists of two glass filters that screw on the end. One is +10 and one is +4 diopters, and you can stack them together to get within 2-3 inches of your subject. These filters will run you another $29 bucks and come with absolutely no documentation. They do arrive in a sweet little carrying pouch that says “Lensbabies” in a kool typeface. (You gotta love this kind of packaging, elevating form far over function, as all of us visual people do from time to time!)

Here’s another lens, baby macro:

Lobelia 2

The Lens Baby itself has no ability to focus. Essentially, you have a “sweet spot” towards the center of the thing that is more-or-less in focus, and all the rest of the image is sweetly and pleasantly blurred.

The exact location of the sweet spot is impacted by a couple of factors. First, the end of the Lens Baby is flexible and bellows-like, so you can bend it around. This changes both the size and location of the sweet spot (although I’ve found that the way the photo comes out looking does differ from the way I see things through the viewfinder, through-the-lens viewing or not). In other words, chance and its guardian angel Sarah Dipity (serendipity) play a role with Lens Baby photos.

Here’s another photo:

Under the Flower Sea

The other factor that influences focus also influences exposure. The Lens Baby 2.0 comes with a bunch of different magnetic rings that you plop into place inside the barrel of the Lens Baby lens. (The Lens Baby comes with a little tool that allows you to easily remove the rings.)

These rings set the aperture of the lens. The smaller the opening in the magnetic ring, the smaller the aperture, and–to some extent–the greater the apparent sharpness of the Lens Baby due to higher depth of field.

At best, how sharp are we? Not very. That’s not the point of the Lens Baby:


As a practical matter, once you have the macro filters in place, particularly if you are using both of them, you probably don’t want to be bothered with changing the aperture rings (you’d have to take the macro filters off to change the aperture ring). I find myself using the Lens Baby “wide open” with no aperture ring, since it’s not the point of the thing to be sharp, and with the widest aperture you are most likely to get acceptable results hand holding in the part of the image that is sharp (because the wider the effective aperture, the faster the shutter speed you can use).

Yellow Belly of the Flower Beast

So, all the photos that accompany this story were taken with my Nikon D70 mounted with the Lens Baby, no aperture ring, and both +4 and +10 macro filters. There’s no focusing, and no exposure automation.

What you have to do is set the camera to manual (M on the dial for those of you who are acronym tone-deaf). The only control you have over exposure is setting the shutter speed.

Flower V Dance

The photos that accompany this story were taken at shutter speeds between 1/60 and 1/200 of a second in overcast, but bright, conditions. But trial and error is required. You’ll also need to review the results on your LCD display as you take the photos, and give praise for the bracketing inherent in the Raw format.

Having set the shutter speed where I guestimate it ought to be, the process of taking one of these photos is pretty intuitive: I get close, wiggle the Lens Baby, and when I like what I think I see, press the shutter release.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Hardware, Lensbaby, Photography

New Photoshop Webinar Recordings Available

Want to be able to get the nuts and bolts of a subject and play it again as often as you’d like? Access to the following webinar recordings is available. Each webinar is approximately one hour with video and audio. Listen as many times as you’d like, and play back specific portions as often as you wish. The cost is only $19.95 each.

Click here for unlimited access to the Painting in Transparency Using a High-Key Layer Stack Webinar Recording (about 75 minutes, the cost is $19.95)

01-titleAre you intrigued by transparent flower photos? Ever wanted to know how to make them? Well, here’s your chance!

With photography on a light box, once you photograph a bracketed high-key exposure sequence, then the the next step is to assemble a layer stack.

As you build your layer stack, successively darker layers are masked and painted in to create the illusion of transparency. The results surprise and delight!

Digital artist and master photographer Harold Davis states, “My transparent botanical art has been greatly acclaimed and emulated. Flowers can create the most beautiful compositions. Photographers who are interested in photographing flowers should give this technique a try. Certainly, one of the most sensitive parts of the process is painting in the high-key layer stack.”

Here’s a comment from a viewer of this webinar: “I had read all I could about painting in transparency but only with your layer-by-layer demonstration did it all come together.”

Click here for more information about this webinar recording.

Click here for unlimited access to the Using Backgrounds and Textures Webinar recording (about 65 minutes, the cost is $19.95)


Have you ever wanted to turn your photos into fine art design pieces? With a little bit of Photoshop know-how, a few inexpensive tools, and the techniques explained in this webinar, it’s easy to create unique art imagery, guided by your vision and creativity.

Placing a photo on a background creates an image that looks like a botanical illustration. Adding a texture to a photo is can be used for an impressionistic and/or painterly effect.

Digital artist and master photographer Harold Davis states, “The two primary techniques that I use to turn straightforward photos into art are to add a photo to a background, and to add a texture to photos. These two techniques have a very visual different impact, and can be particularly effective with my botanical art.”

It’s easy to add a whole set of techniques to your creative use of Photoshop! Watch Harold as he explains the entire process of using backgrounds and textures, then shows how to use them in the actual context of his own work.

Here are some comments from viewers of this webinar:

  • “I have been using textures for a while, but watching this webinar filled in some gaps for me. Great information.”
  • “Up all night and enthused about textures after watching your video. Great info about layer masking. Thanks!”
  • “You hit the mark for me, Harold! Filled in all the gaps. Thank you!”

Click here for more information about this webinar recording

Click here for unlimited access to the Selective Sharpening with LAB Color with Harold Davis webinar recording (about 60 minutes, the cost is $19.95).

Selective SharpeningHave you ever over-sharpened an image? (We all have!) Have you ever wanted to to sharpen just one thing in a photo, not the entire image?

If you answer “Yes!” to either of these questions, then this webinar recording is for you!

This webinar recording shows how to use the properties of LAB color to selectively sharpen images for aesthetic effect, and teaches you a technique that should be in the toolkit of every photographer who uses Photoshop.

Master photographer and bestselling author Harold Davis says, “I use selective sharpening with LAB color to enhance almost all of my photos.” Sharpening with LAB is one of the true secrets of the masters.

Here are some comments from viewers of this webinar:

  • “Very informative. All my questions were answered.”
  • “It was great to see actual examples and Harold using this technique with his own imagery!”

Click here for more information about this webinar recording.

Current Live Harold Davis Webinar Offerings 


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.



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.


01-title-layers101August 16, 2014: Photoshop Layers 101 (World premier offering)

The ability to work with layers and layer masks in Photoshop is what unlocks the power of Photoshop, and separates it from more mundane image editors. Yet many people find working with layers (and the tools related to layers) daunting, both conceptually and practically.

This webinar aims to get you over this learning hump gently. It is intended for serious photographers—for example, those working in Lightroom—who want to take their work to the next level in Photoshop. We will go slowly, work through many examples, and reserve ample time for questions

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.


Please consider my interactive, online Photographing Flowers course (with Craftsy).

Class description: Learn how to use exposure, focus and creative techniques for spectacular floral photos. Join top photographer and bestselling author Harold Davis to explore the many facets of successful macro photography, starting with expert tips on composition. Delve into extension tubes and filters for an affordable way to master extreme close-ups, and navigate challenging lighting with ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Cultivate your artistic vision using selective focus, unexpected angles and depth of field to create imaginative, Impressionist-inspired shots. Plus, learn how to execute an indoor shoot and present your photos in a strikingly unique portfolio.

Posted in Photography