Clematis in Love

Clematis in Love © Harold Davis

Over my garden gate, the Clematis vine is thriving, provided we keep its “feet” moist. Two of the Clematis flowers bloomed together, and I cropped them to make this composition on the light box.

Over the years, I’ve got pretty good mileage from this Clematis “Bee’s Jubilee”), which does quite well—but not always in a predictable way in terms of when the flowers arrive.

The other flowers—including an Echinacea (cone flower) and Matilija poppy (this is a poppy of the Romneya genus, rather than the more common Papaver)—were all cut from the garden where I could find them.

My first thought was to create a horizontal composition, and I proceeded to do so. Actually, this is one of those somewhat unusual images that works in either orientation.

Since the two Clematis blossoms were so happy together “in the wild”, I’m happy I was able to keep them together in this composition.

Posted in Flowers

Perfect Dahlia Day

In the pre-dawn cool I walked around the house and down to our dahlia bed in the side yard. There was one perfect white blossom. I cropped it, and placed it in a vase, ready for its turn as a star in front of my camera after breakfast. I tried the traditional poses, and laid it flat on the light box, but when all is said and done this somewhat unconventional side view of petals works best for me.

Perfect Dahlia Day © Harold Davis

Dahlias are, of course, a favorite flower of mine to photograph. Click here for more.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Photographing Flowers for Transparency weekend workshop

We’ll be holding a full weekend Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop Saturday August 6 – Sunday August 7, 2022 here on the east side of the San Francisco Bay.  This is a complete soup-to-nuts photography and digital post-production workshop. This workshop will not be on my 2023 workshop schedule for the Bay area, and there are a few spaces left—so if you are interested in flower photography, or in light box photography, please consider joining our small group for a great weekend of fun in a flower-filled studio!

Click here for more info and the complete curriculum

Some Fine Poppies © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Workshops

Orchid

Phyllis brought a Phalaenopsis (“moth orchid”) home for a short visit to our sunny living room. Leaving the orchid in its decorative pot, I photographed the blossoms using a vertical light box setup (image below).

This genus of orchid was first brought to Europe in the mid-nineteenth century and collected by the Victorians. Today, it is widely sold for decorative purposes throughout the world because of its ease of propagation and cultivation. While the range of the genus in the wild includes Java and Australia, it probably originated in the Philippines (the tag on the Phalaenopsis that I photographed indicates that my specimen was grown in Salinas, California).

Orchid © Harold Davis

Next, I photographed a single flower up close and personal using my macro probe lens (below). Corn Poppy is another example of an image that uses this lens for a floral close-up.

The orchid close-up is actually a composite, with the lower half exposed using the ring light built into the lens, and the upper half exposed using ambient backlighting. With the camera firmly held in place on a sturdy tripod, the composition of the two images stayed the same despite the different lighting. I combined the two different images using a simple layer mask and gradient in Photoshop.

Phalaenopsis © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Campanulas

I cut a stalk of Campanulas (“Canterbury Bells”) from the garden. I laid the bunch gently on my light box for a sequence of high-key captures (below).

Campanula (Canterbury Bells) © Harold Davis

Often, photography of flowers on a light box destroys my models, and this makes me sad. However, in this case the Campanulas were completely intact following photography. So I placed them in a cut crystal vase, and brought them upstairs to enjoy.

It seemed to me that the flowers were pretty special in the vase, but how to capture them? The answer was to use two light boxes, arranged perpendicularly to each other—as in this Light Box Photography in Three Dimensions tutorial video (post-production for a three-dimensional light box image is shown in the follow-up video here).

My Campanulas in a Vase image is shown below following post-production.

Campanulas in a Vase © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Photograph on the Old Nakasendo Trail in Japan

Where will this path lead us? The town of Magome hugs the side of the mountain, and the Nakasendo Trail here is lined by inns, wood crafters, and small eating establishments. What waits beyond? The ancient signboards at the top of the town warn travelers the rules of travel with an admonishment to be on your best behavior in town. Now, as you head out of Magome, your journey really begins – views over mountain peaks give way to the ancient Nakasendo as it winds behind farmhouses and small shrines lovingly tended by their neighbours. You pass waterfalls, and stands of bamboo and you walk a section of old paving stones. The path is wide like a smile, welcoming you into the woods.Will you have long conversations with your friends, perhaps new, perhaps old? Will you listen as the cicadas or the crickets or the frogs sing to you?—Oku Japan

Step into the fabled Japan of myth and legend. Journey back in time to a Japan that few westerners are familiar with. Join a small group of compatible photographers led by Harold Davis and a professional guide for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Our in-country partner is the very well-regarded off-the-beaten track Japan travel specialist, Oku Japan.

Please consider joining us now that Japan is opening and our October 16-26, 2022 trip seems reasonably definite. We have a nice group ready to go, but there are a few spaces left. Please call or drop us an email right away if you are interested. This is a unique opportunity, and we will be privileged to make this journey.

Starting in Tokyo, we will end in Kyoto. Travel is by gentle trail (with luggage transport), train, and where appropriate private vehicle. We meet at our hotel in Tokyo, Japan. After exploring the new and old sides of Tokyo, we’ll travel back in time through the Japanese Alps via the ancient Nakasendo way. We’ll visit well-preserved villages in the Kiso Valley, Matsumoto Castle, the castle town of Takayama, and the World Heritage site of Shirakawa-go. Following a stop in the culturally important city of Kanazawa, we will wrap up the destination photo workshop with a dreamlike visit to the gardens and temples of Kyoto, where the tour will end.

Click here for more information, here for the detailed day-by-day trip itinerary (“Prospectus”) and here for the Reservation Form.

Posted in Japan, Workshops

Spine of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia

From the exterior, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia in Albi, France intentionally connotes the overwhelming power of a fortress rather than the spiritually of a place of worship (see image at bottom). Built in the aftermath of the bloody Albigensian crusade, the reference to the military might of the church is no accident. The surprise is the lavish and beautiful interior of the church, decorated largely with abstract paintings.

For a somewhat related story involving the historical Catholic church in France using architecture as part of a power play, see Sacré Coeur Passage.

Spine of the Albi Cathedral © Harold Davis

Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia – Painted Niches © Harold Davis

Albi Cathedral © Harold Davis

Albi Trompe L’oeil © Harold Davis

Albi Cathedral Exterior © Harold Davis

Posted in France

Under the Bridges of Paris

As I’ve previously noted, I seem to spend a lot of time photographing underneath bridges. The beauty of the scene from the deck of a bridge is often pretty self-evident. On the other hand, the elegance and grace—in a “form follows function” kind of way—of the practical constructions that are under and hold up the bridge are not always so clear. But I find myself moved by the humble engineering that holds the weight of the bridge span on its shoulders. I think what is underneath a bridge is often visually very sexy.

Pont D’Arcole © Harold Davis

In Paris, it is very easy to access the under parts of the bridges across the Seine from the paths beside the river. In previous times, I’ve made images in this way of Parisian bridges, including the Pont Solferino and the Pont de la Concorde.

Under the Pont de Grenelle © Harold Davis

This April’s collection of Parisian under-bridge spans began with the Pont de Grenelle, photographed from the Île aux Cygnes. Next, on a bright and breezy day we walked along the right bank starting near the Île Saint Louis past the Pont D’Arcole and the Pont Notre Dame, emerging from the river side just past the Pont des Arts.

Beneath Pont de Grenelle © Harold Davis

Pont D’Arcole © Harold Davis

Pont Notre Dame © Harold Davis

Pont des Arts © Harold Davis

I had a great time photographing these bridges, and am glad I can share my images with you.

From a general perspective, next time you are photographing something structural, consider how it works and what is holding the structure up. Often, visual analysis stops at surface appearance. But I also like to think about the under carriage and the mechanism, as this can be as profound and significant as the face that is presented to the world.

Posted in Monochrome, Paris, Photography

Florista

I’ve been experimenting with creating images that look a little like a wall of flowers one might see at a florist shop. From a set design viewpoint, an important challenge is how to establish multiple vertical “levels”—because a single row is basically boring, and not a good way to create a three-dimensional wall.

Florista (on white) © Harold Davis

With the version on black (below), I dealt with this issue by adding supports behind the black velvet background. I think this works pretty well, but if you consider the image there is a certain “I’m floating in air” aspect to the composition.

Florista (on black) © Harold Davis

I like the version on a white seamless background best (top). With this setup, I decided to try a “form follows function” approach, and use visible supports to raise the height of some of the individual floral arrangements. To achieve this, I used spine-side-out books, notably the large collection of New Yorker cartoons shown on the right side (Charles Dickens and Mel Brooks are somewhat hidden in the background).

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Harold Davis Water Lilies Poster

Browsing the Internet, I came across a copy of my Water Lilies poster for sale. The poster dates to 1980, and the image was probably my first widely published photo (it was also in American Photographer magazine, and used by Nikon). 

The poster was created using offset lithography, and advertised an exhibition of my work at Arras Gallery in New York City. It was published by Modernart Editions. The original retail price was, as I recollect, $25. I think there were about 2,500 printed (a few are in my flat files to this day). In this case, the seller is asking $150 for a copy that is in “Good/Fair Condition—[with] imperfections from age and handling (i.e. creasing, discoloration).” So I think my poster has basically kept pace with inflation!

Of course, being from 1980, this was an analog image. It began life as a Kodachrome 64 slide, photographed during a backpacking trip to the Wind River Range in Wyoming, probably in 1978. I worked on press directly with the 4-color separation films to enhance the graphic effect of the water lilies against the very dark background. Sure easier to do this kind of thing in Photoshop!

More of my posters from the analog era: Dance of Spring; New York New York (also here); and a few published by Editions Limited from more recent times.

Posted in Photography

Upcoming Workshop News from Harold Davis

Dear Photographers and Fellow Travelers: We’re very excited that the 2022 live-and-in-person Photographing Flowers for Transparency weekend workshop, here in Berkeley, California in August, is gaining momentum. There are still some places left. Click here for more information and registration.

Waving the Lobelia © Harold Davis

It is looking increasingly likely that our Off-the-Beaten Track Japan Photography Journey will be able to run. The dates are October 16-26, 2022. We’ve been cautiously optimistic all along that Covid restrictions on “tourists” visiting Japan will be lifted by the time of this destination workshop; and, indeed, it seems that this will be the case. We have a great group already committed to this trip, but there still are a few more spaces available. Click here for the complete Prospectus and itinerary (PDF), and here for the Reservation Form.

Dodecagram Papaver Pod © Harold Davis

Please visit our Workshops & Events page for a full listing. In addition to the two workshops I’ve already mentioned, you’ll find virtual workshops sponsored by the Heidelberg Summer School of Photography, as well as live events at Maine Media Workshops (a week-long composition workshop) and at the Photographic Society of America annual conference.

Confusion © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography, Workshops

Another View of the Astorga Cathedral

Here’s another view of the Astorga Cathedral, this one using my iPhone, and processed using the Waterlogue app.

Astorga Cathedral via iPhone © Harold Davis

Posted in iPhone, Spain

Too Many Tulips Are Not Enough

As an archetype, “James Bond” is deeply embedded for better and worse somewhere not far below the surface of cis-Males of my generation. But what if James Bond had liked flowers more than guns, gadgets, fast women, and cars? From that viewpoint, when faced with the challenges of recuperation, a light box, and a mass of tulips, I can only say, “Too many tulips are not enough!”

Too Many Tulips Are Not Enough © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Hospital Blinds

Imagine you are in a hospital bed. The bed is in a room that was meant to be a single, but now has two beds and two occupants. The other occupant is a nice man, but he coughs continuously. Ventilation is poor. The room window faces onto what is essentially an air shaft. At 6AM, the bright, florescent lights go on overhead, and a smiling phlebotomist comes towards you, needle poised, for one more blood draw.

At 6:30AM, a beam of sunlight finds it way down the air shaft and lights up the blinds, and the shadow of the blinds forms on the adjacent wall. This is a photographic composition with patterns, positive space, and negative space—and what else is an iPhone for? 

I pull out my iPhone and make the image. Then the beam of glorious light moves on and is gone, taking the notion of the dream world beyond the hospital with it.

Hospital Blinds © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

This pilgrim is home

This pilgrim is home early. After all, a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago who cannot walk is a fairly immobile oxymoron. It was a scramble to get out of rural Galicia and return to the Bay area. By and large, I don’t think much of wheel chair access for solo travelers after this experience. Air France at SFO did okay, but in Europe not so much.

I’m jet lagged and have started a minor medical mystery tour: although so far antibiotics aren’t doing much, I think basically the blisters are infected, and once the pus has been drained my foot will get better fast. I hope so.

They were always waiting © Harold Davis

What’s great is that the garden is here has lovely flowers to photograph, and Phyllis and my son Nicholas helped me with the mechanics of photographing this arrangement. Nicholas made the exposure sequence for me, because I physically couldn’t climb up to get in the right position.

Posted in Photography