Star Magnolia

Star Magnolia—magnolia stellata—is one of my favorite flowers. In the past I’ve photographed magnolia stellata for transparency here, as an upright branch, and as a light box panorama.

The two photos in this story are made in the field. I photographed these new stellata blossoms on location down the block, with the idea of contrasting the center of each flower with the softness of the stellata petals.

Magnolia Stellata B © Harold Davis

Magnolia Stellata © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Central Park South at Night

Wandering around New York City about a year ago with my camera and tripod at dusk, on my way to a meeting with a publisher, I came upon the reflections of the Plaza Hotel and city lights coming on in the lake at the southern end of Central Park.

Central Park South © Harold Davis

I always feel so peculiar in New York since I know it so well from having lived there and grown up in “the city”: familiar, and at the same time a place that is utterly alien and has changed beyond recognition (kind of like our overall society). In any case, I am looking forward to a few days in New York between Maine and Germany this coming summer.

Posted in Digital Night, New York

From the iPhone files

Here are two recent iPhone images. I photographed the tree in the Walnut Creek area in the foothills below Mt Diablo. This was originally two iPhone captures, one exposed for the bright sun coming through the tree, and the other for the darker foreground. 

Tree © Harold Davis

I combined the two exposures using the manual option in the TrueHDR iPhone app, then finished it with DistressedFX and Snapseed.

I photographed the tulips (shown below) the other day at our local Trader Joe’s store. I processed the image in Waterlogue to create the watercolor effect with borders, then reprocessed the Waterlogue version with the original (using ImageBlender) to walk the Waterlogue effect back a bit.

Tulips © Harold Davis

I’m often asked how iPhoneography compares to “real” photography with my “Big Boy” cameras. It’s worth saying again that there is no right or wrong. Photography is about vision and seeing, not about gear. The craft of photography is always a craft of trade-offs, and there are things I can do with my iPhone camera and related apps that I cannot do with my Nikon D850 (and of course vice versa as well).

Posted in Flowers, iPhone, Landscape

Into the Third Dimension

I’ve had fun with a genre of light box work recently that involves arranging petals into abstract compositions. This is quite different conceptually from my botanical art—I use the petals like brush strokes to create an abstract composition such as a mandala, or something that is more a gesture than a flower.

Spiral Arm of the Petal Galaxy © Harold Davis

Not that my passion for botanical art is going away anytime soon! In fact, Phyllis and I are hard at work on a new book, The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency. We also have two spaces left in our hands-on June workshop that teaches the floral transparency techniques.

But it is always good to experiment, both to recharge those creative batteries, and also because experimenting can take one beyond one’s limits and open new horizons.

Up to this point my “petal constructions” have been essentially flat, or two dimensional. For example, Stars of Petals and its variations.  I’ve also painted with petals to create version of iconic symbols, using Celtic designs, the Shahada of Islam, and apotropaic symbolism. Apotropaic symbols are magical mechanisms for warding off evil.

Spiral Arm of the Petal Galaxy © Harold Davis

As noted, these designs depict two-dimensional space, e.g., perspective rendering is not part of the deal. With the Spiral Arm of the Petal Galaxy composition, shown in this story, I have ventured into the appearance of three-dimensions. This is a trend that I expect to continue. By the way, I encourage you to look at Spiral Arm of the Petal Galaxy in as large a size as possible (and to magnify the fractal heart of the spiral).

Now if I could only figure out how to render a fourth dimension!

Posted in Photography

Days and Knights of Malta Destination Photo Workshop November 2018

Please consider joining us for an exciting destination photo workshop to Valletta, the capital of the island country of Malta, and the Maltese island Gozo, thought to be Calypso’s island from the classical Odyssey. The dates are November 3-12, 2018. Making this visit especially timely, Valletta, Malta will be hosting the title of European Capital of Culture in 2018! Click here for more information, 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 countryMalta 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

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.

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.

Click here for more information, and here for the Reservation Form.

Valletta © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Photographing Flowers for Transparency Video at SVA

If you are interested in my photographing flowers for transparency images and techniques, you might like a video of my presentation about a year ago on this topic at the School of Visual Arts in New York. By the way, I am working a book with the detailed workflow and techniques, the title is The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency.

The video is on YouTube, and embedded below. If you can’t see the video in this post, you can click this link to view it on YouTube.

Masters in Digital Photography: Photographing Flowers for Transparency with Harold Davis at the School of Visual Arts in New York

Posted in Photography

A Trio of Tulips (and Macro Lenses)

Phyllis came home with a beautiful bouquet of tulips, and this morning I photographed them on the kitchen table. Warm morning sunlight lit the flowers from behind with a glow. I could control the light using the adjustable blinds on the kitchen windows, and also by moving the placement of the flowers so they were in and out of sunbeams.

Inside the Tulip C © Harold Davis

This is the tale of some pretty flowers, nice natural ambient light, and three different 85mm lenses. To start with, I had my heavy-duty RRS tripod on the floor so I could bring the ballhead to the right height to get into the tulip blossoms from beneath. I mounted a 50mm extension tube with a tripod collar onto the ballhead. 

My first image, Inside the Tulip C (above), was made using my Zeiss Otus 85mm at f/16, focused as close as it could go on the extension tube.

Inside the Tulip B © Harold Davis

To make the next version, Inside the Tulip B (above), I swapped my 85mm Zeiss Otus for the 85mm Lensbaby Velvet and photographed wide-open (at f/1.8). Essentially, I was trading optical perfection for perfection in impressionismo! The Lensbaby Velvet makes a very different image stopped down (to f/16) in Inside the Tulip A (below)—note that the point of focus was the same for both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ versions. It’s worth mentioning that this lens has macro capabilities, so (combined with the extension tube) I was definitely working at a greater magnification ratio than in the ‘C’ version.

Inside the Tulip A © Harold Davis

Since I’d already had fun with two different 85mm lenses, I decided to try a third, my Nikkor 85mm tilt-shift macro. As I’ve noted before, this is a fully manual lens, without even automatic diaphragm control—you need to press a button to manually stop the lens down when you are ready to expose.

Combined with the extension tube with the macro capabilities of this lens you can really get pretty much into microscope territory. But is too much ever enough? I added a +4 close-up filter to the front of the lens, focused on the small central indent in the tulip petals, and stopped down to f/45 (as an “adjusted aperture” this records in EXIF data as f/64 by the way).

Tulip Petal © Harold Davis

Since this is a monochromatic image (in orange) and more about the patterns it presents than the coloration, I decided to try a black and white conversion, shown below.

Tulip Petal in Black and White © Harold Davis

All-in-all, a fun morning was spent photographing tulips up close and personal. There were some other things on my lists to accomplish, but I have learned (when I can) to relax, let go, and let art!

Posted in Flowers

Garden Photography – Capturing the Great Gardens of Maine

Dahlia Mandala © Harold Davis

This year, I’ll be teaching a week long course in garden photography at Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine. The dates are August 5-11, 2018. Click here for a full workshop description, and for registration. Please consider joining me for a glorious week of photographing gardens and flowers!

Giverny © Harold Davis

The agenda of this workshop includes plentiful field sessions in a variety of kinds of gardens accessible to Maine Media in Rockport. August is a great time of year for flowers in bloom along the Maine coast! Classroom sessions will focus on specific areas of technique, and also the theory and practice of garden design in the context of photography, as well as working with individual participants to develop a cohesive and personal body of work. Click here for a full workshop description, and for registration.

Salutation to the Sun © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Chasing Tales

Chasing Tales on Black © Harold Davis

The tip of one petal to the tail of the other. Chasing narratives. Chasing Tales. From the same petals: Studies in Petals.

Chasing Tales © Harold Davis

Posted in Photograms

Studies in Petals

Study in Petals on Black © Harold Davis

This is a mandala-shaped arrangement of petals on a light box around a central Proteus.

Study in Petals with Proteus Center © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photograms, Photography


Proteus on Black © Harold Davis

Proteus Monochrome on Black © Harold Davis

Proteus Monochrome on White © Harold Davis

Proteus © Harold Davis

Related image: Osteospermum. Would you like to learn how to make images like this using a light box? We still have a few spaces left in our June session of Photographing Flowers for Transparency.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Dark of the Moon Night Photography Workshop September 7-10, 2018

Limited space is still available for the Dark of the Moon Night Photography in the Eastern Sierra with Harold Davis and Steven Christenson. September 7-10, 2018. Meets in Lone Pine, CA. Space is limited. Registration and more info:

Click here to see some work from last year’s participants. Please consider joining us for a great time in the dark!

More info and registration via Meetup (limited space available).

Posted in Workshops

Take Home a Wimpy

Wimpy was a name of a chain of burger restaurants that were popular back in the day in England (I believe the Wimpy chain began life in South Africa). Wimpy burgers could aptly be described as deplorable. There really is no way around the poor quality of the food at a Wimpy.

Take Home a Wimpy © Harold Davis

I took this photo around 1968 in front of a Wimpy in London, England. In the rear is my mom Virginia and my dad Martin. In the middle row, from the left, my brother Nathan, Monica Hughes, and Steven Hughes. The front row has three younger Hughes children. The Hughes were a family we spent time with. I can be seen as a shadowy reflection in the plate glass window of the Wimpy taking the photo.

My father says that when he brought all these kids (my brother and I and the five Hughes children) inside the Wimpy for a treat he was asked if all seven children were his and my mom’s.

Of course, he said “Yes,” and enjoyed watching the jaws drop.

The apple, they say, doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I have enjoying taking my four kids to a playground with a couple of other friends of the children along, and replying in the affirmative when asked if they were all mine!

Posted in Photography

Self-Portrait of the Artist in the Disco Era

Self-Portrait of the Artist from the Disco Era © Harold Davis

Starting to scan some slides. This one is circa 1980.

Posted in Photography

Petal Fractals

Petal Fractal 101 Inversion © Harold Davis

Petal Fractal 101 © Harold Davis

Some related reading (helps to explain where I am coming from): On Art and Beauty.

Related images: Floral Mandala; Petals of the Rainbow; It starts with a photo; It starts with a petal and ends with a twist of fate.

Posted in Photography