The Passion of the Rose

For me, photography is about passion, vision, and seeing the world closely. Oh, I could give you some technical information about how this image was made. For example, I could explain that I used a telephoto macro lens and an extension tube, that I focus stacked, and that the rose was lit obliquely by late afternoon sun through a window.

The Passion of the Rose © Harold Davis

But beyond a certain point, who but specialists and practitioners really cares about this kind of thing? Does anyone much care what brush a painter like Georgia O’Keeffe used? We care about the raw seeing, the passion and the romance, and the feeling that the image arouses within. As we should. This is the stuff that matters.

Related image: Kiss from a Rose, shown on my blog here and here.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

White Daemon Series

The idea of this series of photos, created in collaboration with the model A Nude Muse, was to create images that were simultaneously attractive, eerie, uncanny, and otherworldly.  Ignoring the Picasso-like displacement of body parts, the figure portrayed was to have one foot in this world, and one foot in another world—or perhaps some realm that is the realm of unearthly beings. Who knows what she can see of the future, or whether she is good or evil, or what the future brings. 

White Daemon III © Harold Davis

White Daemon II © Harold Davis

White Daemon 1 © Harold Davis

White Daemon IV © Harold Davis

The technique I employed was to use a series of 8-10 in-camera multiple exposures using strobe lighting for each exposure. The camera did the combination of the imagery. For several reasons, one of which is that one can see instant results in the camera, this works better for this kind of image than photographing individual exposures, and later combining them in Photoshop. We used a white lace nightgown and a white lace scarf to add the dominant “spirit walker” theme to the model; her impact and affect in these images varies from Madonna to Bride to Succubus to Cassandra to a visitation from Death.

Model credit: A Nude Muse. Related images: See my Multiple Exposures series. If you get the chance, please let me know what you think by adding a comment, or via email.

Posted in Models, Multiple Exposures, Photography

Poppies Dancing on Black

This image is an LAB inversion of the L-channel of Poppies Dancing, with blacks and white interchanged.

Poppies Dancing Inversion © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photograms, Photography

Visit Paris in the Spring with a small group of Photographers

Visit Paris in the Spring with a small group of photographers. Early-bird discount applies. Click here for more information.

Posted in Photography, Workshops

Vegetarian Homage to Anthony Bourdain

This is a breakfast avocado burrito that Phyllis made for Nicky, who is a vegetarian. Hopefully, Anthony Bourdain, who very sadly died yesterday, was quoted in his Washington Post obituary as having said (tongue-in-cheek): “Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food”  would make an exception for Nicky and Phyllis’s avocado burrito (which someone told me looks more like a crab anyhow).

Avocado Burrito © Harold Davis

Mordant wit being one of his fortes, Bourdain went on to say that even worse than the vegetarians, from a cook’s point of view, were the “Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans.”

Posted in Photography

Poppies Dancing

In the great light of the world flowers are creatures too, and love to sway and dance in the breeze. In extraordinary beauty there is humor and escape from the mundane of this world. With grief for Anthony Bourdain, a hero of mine: as someone who travels a great deal for creative work I can understand why it might have contributed to his feelings of dislocation and sadness. These flowers are for him.

Poppies Dancing © Harold Davis

Papaver © Harold Davis

Kissy Face :-X © Harold Davis

Anthropomorphization of flower arrangements is now a thing: Flower Car; Friendly Sky Dragon; Flying Dragon Study; Yum; Poppy Snake; Wet Poppy Bud. Well, for the most part these collages are not actually anthropomorphic—although there is a face or two. If you know the right word, please add a comment or drop me an email. Thanks.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Relaxation in Rural France

Somewhere in Rural France © Harold Davis

Down the path to the Lot River from the Mas de Garrigue are a few rural homes on the bluff. I could easily imagine sitting here, perhaps reading a good book slowly, snacking on Pâté de Campagne, and sipping some nice local wine.

Posted in France, Photography

Petals on Parade

This is one of the light box compositions I’ve made using the glorious spring weather in northern California since I’ve been home from Spain!

Petals on Parade © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

A Lens, Spirals, and a Selfie

On the boat ride around Menorca with PhotoPills camp, sitting up high on the upper deck, I saw a rig with a 19mm tilt-shift Nikkor. Cool lens. From the right angle, I could see internal colors and spirals, so I snapped an iPhone photo. Little did I know that I lurked in the reflections, so it was also a selfie!

Lens © Harold Davis

Posted in iPhone

The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency: A new book from Harold Davis

We’re excited to announce a new book: The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency by Harold Davis.

 Of course, my new book will showcase many of my botanical images. In addition, there will be extensive material explaining my process for photographing flowers on a light box. There will be a section on post-production, including a detailed guide to using LAB color for inversions of white-to-black, and for creative color effects.

The is a serious book in terms of its pedagogy, as the techniques I use in my transparent floral work are useful in many aspects of digital photography.

There will also be technical notes for the images in the book explaining how I made each image.

It’s a great deal of fun writing and designing this book. I have been working on this project for many years, so it is very exciting to me to see it progressing (my new book will be available in 2019)!

The images paired below are of poppies and mallow from my garden, captured, processed and inverted using the techniques I explain in The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency. If you’d like to learn more about these techniques before my new book is available, please check out my FAQs: Photographing Flowers for Transparency and Using a High-Key Layer Stack.

Poppies and Mallows on Black (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Poppies and Mallows on White © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Writing

Visit Paris in the Spring with a small group of Photographers

© Harold Davis

Visit Paris in the Spring with a small group of photographers. Early-bird discount applies. Click here for more information.

Posted in Workshops

Summer Grass

In the traffic island in the middle of our Morning Glory Circle, as spring turns to summer the grass is drying and turning a California brown. I cut and carefully arranged a few stalks on my light box, and used LAB inversion to add a black background.

Before I had left for my Camino, I started photographing grasses and “weeds”—I think this has become a whole, interesting sub-genre for me. After all, it is the wise botanical artist who knows the distinction between flower and weed is somewhat arbitrary, and in the eye of the beholder. The less-well regarded weed can often surpass in structural interest the hoity-toity flower.

Summer Grass © Harold Davis

More images of grasses and such: Oxalis; Street Grasses; Decorative Grass; Blades of Grass; no real flowers need apply!

Posted in Monochrome, Photograms, Photography

Cala Galdana

In 1969, Cala Galdana was a quiet and deserted sandy cove on the Balearic island of Menorca, off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. No human structures were in evidence, other than a footbridge over the small creek or slough that drained into the sea at Cala Galdana. You can see an iPhone shot of a print, from the lobby of one of today’s Cala Galdana hotels, at the bottom of this story—marred somewhat by reflections in the glass protecting the print, but you can get the idea of how this place was in 1969, which (historically speaking) is not so long ago. I mean, I can remember 1969…it was a very interesting year.

Today’s Cala Galdana is a European resort town. It’s not really unattractive, but it has been built up with vacation villas, restaurants, surf-and-sun shops, and a beach designed for cheek-to-jowl lounge chairs and umbrellas. For reasons unknown, the slough running into the bay has been moved to the right of the signature promontory (the creek was formerly on its left) and bridged with a massive structure. Several resort hotels sit like cruise ships on the land, with rows of identical balconies, and internal eco-structures (all-you-can eat buffets, a number of swimming pools and sunning areas) such that many guests never venture out of their front doors.

I do not know what the answer is. Tourism is the life blood of Menorca, and it seems unfair to ask the islanders not to have developed. Many resorts are created around the world with far less taste than Cala Galdana. Still, it sits badly with me that we rush to turn paradise into a paved parking lot, to chain the wonderful world that surrounds us, and to create ordered and iterative vertical grids in a land that once was wild and free.

Related: Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?

Balconies, Melia Hotel—Inversion© Harold Davis

Balconies, Artiem Hotel—Inversion © Harold Davis

Balconies, Artiem Hotel © Harold Davis

Balconies, Melia Hotel © Harold Davis

Cala Galdana in 1969 (iPhone capture of framed print)

Posted in Photography

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies is a good example showing one of the organizing principles I teach in my Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop and my books. The first premise is that there needs to be an organizing principle in a light box image (or in any photograph, or any image, for that matter!).

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies © Harold Davis

Taking the idea that one needs a compositional organizational principle as a given, it is then possible to create a taxonomy of possibilities. These include roughly circular, spiral, color field, another kind of color fieldhorizontal panoramic view, vertical panoramic view, leading off the frame, crossing the frame, and more (an example of each is linked). I’ve even essayed a paint-splatter effect with flowers!

This image (the Composition with Delphinium and Poppies) epitomizes what is probably the most common botanical organization: relying on a single, unifying stalk, in this case the delphinium’s, underpinned by the distinctive delphinium green leaves.  You can find many examples of this organizing principle in my work

Of course, the poppies don’t really belong attached to the delphinium stalk, and for literal-minded folks who notice this might be a distraction. But for a general audience, from a compositional viewpoint, the literal truth of the real world doesn’t matter so long as the composition looks holistically plausible.

One other point is that this composition is built around a strong diagonal. The entire delphinium leads the eye up and out to the right of the frame. It is important in this style of composition to have directed movement of a portion of the composition that contrasts with the more static elements (the poppies). It’s also worth noting that I photographed the image with the delphinium pointing up and out to the left, and reversed the direction by flipping the image horizontally in post-production.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Papaver Rhoeas

What joy to come home to my family and garden in Berkeley, and find spring still in bloom! These are two Papaver rhoeas—corn poppies—from our garden. I photographed each on a light box, and then inverted them in LAB color. You can find some info on these techniques in my website FAQs, and there will be a great deal more in the new book that I am working on!

Papaver Rhoeas 1 Inversion © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 1 © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 2 © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 2 Inversion © Harold Davis

The variation between specimens from the same flower cluster is pretty amazing: each flower is different, just as every person differs from each other, even when there are close genetic similarities!

Posted in Flowers, Photography