This Too Shall Pass—and What Then?

This too shall pass. It will take some time. Perhaps far longer than we’d like, and there will be tragic losses. The changes that will be wrought will be more fundamental and wide-ranging than most people realize at this point in time.

Civilization © Harold Davis

Civilization © Harold Davis

A new society will arise from the ashes. Let’s not give into the forces of authoritarianism and evil. Let’s use this as a learning experience to implement:

  • Universal health care
  • Less of a gap between rich and poor
  • More, better, and different education
  • More reflection and thoughtfulness about the way resources are shared and distributed
  • Practicing kindness, empathy, and communal feeling, along with respect for the individual

Of course, not everyone will agree with me about the new world we should build. But let’s take the silver lining in the cloud, and create a new order that appreciates art, and is gentler and more thoughtful.

Related stories: Love in the Time of the Coronavirus and Shopping in the Time of the Coronavirus.

Cycle of Life © Harold Davis

Cycle of Life © Harold Davis

Posted in Coronavirus times, Writing

Relaxing Landscapes and Sunsets

Wants some pure escapism amid beautiful landscapes? Take a few minutes and check out my photos in a new video, Relaxing Landscapes and Sunsets. Please subscribe to my YouTube channel! Stay healthy and sane.

Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography, YouTube

Inflection Points and the Donut of Doom

Now that I have your attention! OK, the donut of doom does not refer to the Coronavirus pandemic, nor to Homer Simpson. Per the New York Times, “doughnut of doom” is an expression related to visualizations of black holes. And, is “doughnut” or “donut” the preferred spelling? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyhow, please stand by. Since I can’t teach in person and am restricted to home, we are preparing to roll-out a series of Livestream Webinar Workshops. The live webinars will be posted for free download after a time delay on my YouTube channel.

See you virtually and online, and stay healthy!

Skim Ice on the Merced © Harold Davis

Skim Ice on the Merced © Harold Davis

Posted in Coronavirus times, Photography, YouTube

Cute Puppies and Subscribe to My YouTube Channel

Please subscribe to my YouTube Channel (it’s free to do, and helps us, too!). We are adding content every day, so check it out. The emphasis is on teaching photography, a good thing to practice while socially isolating and sheltering in place. But there is also some fun stuff! Like critters. Like cute puppies. And froggies. You get the picture (o:

Recent additions include:

Cute White Puppies © Harold Davis

Cute White Puppies © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography, YouTube

Double Feature

The Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, California may be closed while we shelter in place, but I am looking forward very much to the double feature coming soon: The Death of the Coronavirus plus The End of Donald Trump. Can’t wait!

Double Feature - The Death of the Coronavirus and The End of Donald Trump

Photo credit: Gaylord Burke. Used with permission.

Posted in Coronavirus times, Photography

Shopping in the Time of the Coronavirus

Shopping in the time of the Coronavirus starts with questions. How safe is it to go shopping? What is the risk-reward profile? Where are we on the curve of the pandemic?

What will be in stock? How long will the line to get in be? Will the store enforce the mandatory six-feet of separation? And, most of all, will someone sneeze and infect me (infecting my family, with me as the unintentional vector)?

We are shopping for eight people.

The logistics of hygiene are formidable. We have N-95 masks in the car and a box of nitrile gloves. I leave everything at home that is non-essential to avoid having to wipe down anything extra.

We get up early and dress in clothes that will be easy to strip for washing before reentering the house. My wedding ring comes off, and stays home.

We are ninjas. Queue the Mission Impossible music. We will rise before dawn and get there before the line.

When we get there, the line already snakes around the parking lot. There’s confusion, cars trying to drive through the line of people, a few outliers trying to cut into line.

Inside the store there’s a drive like a cattle stampede or a quickly darting shoal of fish, most wearing strange masks and gloves, towards the paper products. We are there early, in the special hours for old people, but there isn’t any toilet paper.

Come the Zombie Apocalypse I would consider going for the chocolate and cognac. It’s not clear to me that extra-soft TP would be my top priority.

The wine aisles are ransacked. There are no beans of any sort. There’s one box of UHT milk, one chicken pack, and one nasal-spray pack per party.

We spend close to a thousand dollars, and consider it money well spent. We are of course lucky to have it to spend this way.

Like the folks that locked themselves in a deep mine for 5,000 years to survive catastrophe in Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, we are considering locking our garden gate behind us until this is all over.

Clematis with Friends (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Clematis with Friends (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Except this is probably a fantasy.

Before leaving the parking lot, car door handles get wiped down with bleach, and gloves come carefully off and into a trash can.

Dropping some of the food off at my parents’ house, I leave their case of wine in the carport. We carry the food up to the front door and wave through the glass, leaving quickly so as not to risk any contact when they open the door.

They are querulous. They prefer fresh fruit and produce to the frozen stuff (who doesn’t?), and have been avoiding tuna and swordfish up to now because of mercury. Later, I’m told the tuna tastes good (at least it doesn’t have good taste, as the ad from my childhood declaimed), but I am sure they still are concerned about the mercury and too polite to say so.

In their nineties, my parents have been thrust into this new, impossible world. I feel that a bit of grumpiness is perfectly appropriate.

As one gets older, I do think that change is more difficult, and that it is harder to be flexible.

The only places I’ve ever personally seen food shortages and lines like this are in Cuba and Haiti.

Next stop is home. We do the hygiene protocol in reverse. Doors were left unlocked on latch. We bring the stuff into the kitchen, being careful to not let the kids touch it to help carry, even though they are eager to help.

The 50lb bag of sushi rice feels like it weighs fifty pounds at least when I carry it in. Good thing I’ve been practicing those farmer carries.

We go round to the front and strip buck naked. Everything is off, including shoes.

Then it’s into the shower, wash everything including hair and under nails, back into the kitchen. Unload everything out of cartons, squash the cartons into recycle, wash down again, and package the food into fridge, freezer, and pantry.

The past has gone irrevocably. This is the present. The future hasn’t come into focus yet. There are forks on the road ahead.

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

Posted in Coronavirus times, Photography, Writing

Love in the Time of the Coronavirus

Two of the best books I know that involve pandemics are the well-known classics Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. Both involve great scourges of humanity through the ages, cholera and bubonic plague.

I think of Márquez’s book as an intellectual’s romantic parable about several kinds of love, in which the eponymous cholera plays a symbolic role to remind the reader that lovesickness is a disease, too.

But A Journal of the Plague Year has specific resonance with our times, and it gave me nightmares after I first read it many years ago. The narrative is apparently non-fictional, eye witnessed, and journalistic. When Defoe wrote his account in the 1720s, the last major bubonic plague was still within living memory in the late 1600s, although the narrator presents it as contemporaneous. In this fictional non-fictional account, grass grows in the once-busy streets of London, specific neighborhoods are traced as they succumb to plague, and the dead lie unnamed in vast Potter’s fields that remind one of the aerial views today of graves in Iran.

It’s more than possible that Defoe’s opus was propaganda-for-hire, intended to bolster the case in the 1720s for stronger protectionism and border controls. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

“May you live in interesting times” is apocryphally quoted as a Chinese curse, and these are truly times that would be more comfortable to learn about from a history book than to live through.

In this regard, as the Wizard Gandalf famously notes in the Lord of the Rings, we don’t really get to decide what time we live in: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Trying times bring out the worst in people. I am thinking right now of those who would bend the knee to the false God of money over the lives of people. But difficult times also bring out the best in people, heroes who care for others, such as the selfless front-line medical workers in the coronavirus pandemic, who are dying at an awful rate.

Tulips that Were © Harold Davis

Tulips that Were © Harold Davis

In a very real sense, nature just doesn’t care. Through years spent hiking in the mountains from Alaska to Maine, I’ve learned that, however much one loves nature and loves being in nature, you just have to take nature as an extrinsic force that cannot be reasoned with. A storm at sea or a fall in the mountains can kill you perfectly, and without an iota of consciousness.

Anthropomorphism of the natural life force is, I believe, a mistake—unless intended as a metaphor. I’ve seen small blood-sucking leaches beside the trail in the jungles of Vietnam, blindly casting about for any warm-blooded creature, not because the leach is mean and ornery, but because that is what the leach does. This is much like the coronavirus infectious particle. It just seems evil to us, but it is merely doing what it does.

We are sheltering in place, a family of six. My parents, in their nineties, are alone in their own isolation behind glass doors. We bring them groceries; leave them outside the doors, wave kisses, and depart. They know that because of their age if they are hospitalized they will be the first to be sacrificed to triage, and offered palliation only.

Shopping is an excruciating experience of mask and glove protocol. We are allowed out for an exercise walk provided we keep six feet away from other people. This turns into an awkward social dance where pleasantries about “hanging in there” are exchanged while we subliminally jockey to see who will yield the right-of-way first.

These are the worst of times, and the best of times. I am at home with those I love more than anyone else in the world, my family. And, this too shall pass.

Once long ago when I traversed the Brooks Range in Alaska solo in deep fear for my life I was granted a vision that let me know I would be safe.

I was reminded of this when a few nights ago, deep in an anxiety dream about a vast car crash in which I was a passenger, the car I was in on a freeway swirled round and round in slower and slower spirals. I kept waiting for the fatal crash, but it never came. Instead, I heard a voice: “You will be okay.”

We will be okay.

Tulips that Were (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Tulips that Were (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Posted in Coronavirus times, Writing

Reviving my ‘Zombie’ YouTube Channel

My YouTube Channel rises from the ashes. Thanks to my family helping (I’m watching Katie, my youngest, develop into one great project manager with great pride!) and sheltering in place, we are adding new content daily. It is free to watch, of course. Check it out!

Subscribing to the Harold Davis Photography and Digital Art YouTube Channel helps us make it better and add more content as we go along, in addition to the hours of free video instruction and inspirational material already there.

Enrich your photography and help us add more free content! So please subscribe by clicking the big red Subscribe button on my YouTube page. We are committed to building a large archive of inspirational and educational videos and information.

Clematis with Friends © Harold Davis

Clematis with Friends © Harold Davis

Stay well! Stay healthy! Have hope in these troubled times. We will survive. #weareinthistogether #artinthistogether #CantQuarantineArt

Harold Davis Photography and Digital Art YouTube Channel

 

Posted in Photography, YouTube

Out of Chicago LIVE! Online Global Photography Conference April 24-26, 2020

NEW EVENT! Please consider joining me at the Out of Chicago LIVE! Online Global Photography Conference taking place April 24-26, 2020.

Can’t make it to a live photography event? This may be the next best thing, or maybe even better! #weareinthistogether

For more information and registration, visit www.outofchicago.com/live.

Without leaving home, immerse yourself in photography inspiration and learning with three days of live presentations and 100+ interactive sessions, including panel discussions, tutorials, individual photo
challenges and group image reviews. Learn online face to face from over 60 world-class professional photographers that love to teach.

Highlights include:

  • Instructor guided learning, online over 3 days LIVE!
  • 150+ presentations and interactive sessions on a wide range of topics
    and photography fields including landscape, nature, travel, street,
    architecture, post-processing and more.
  • Thousands of dollars in prizes.
  • Access to presentations and recordings will be available after the
    conference.

For more information, visit www.outofchicago.com/live.

Live April 24-26 2020 Photo Conference

Posted in Photography

Abstract Expressionism and Photography

American photographer Aaron Siskind (1903-1991) used his camera to create essentially abstract expressionist imagery. In Siskind’s photography, the abstract composition of shapes integrated through effective uses of positive and negative shapes are the point of the imagery, rather than a rendering of the subject matter. For example, in one of my favorite Siskind images, Martha’s Vineyard 108, a silhouetted stack of rocks over an inner space can be visually read as either a shape in black (actually the rocks), or a shape in white (the sky and passage through the rocks).

Shadow on a Hill © Harold Davis

Shadow on a Hill © Harold Davis

When I saw my Shadow on a Hill (shown above) in the filmstrip mode of Adobe Bridge, I recognized that the camera is looking down a vast hillside (to get a sense of the scale, check out the shrub on the upper right in the sunshine). The entire image seemed a piece of abstract expressionism, more about formalism and positive versus negative space than about a specific subject.

Posted in Photography

Towards a Ham Sandwich Theory of Art

In his cryptic and chaotic first novel V, Thomas Pynchon describes the work of a painter named Slab:

Slab and Esther, uncomfortable with each other, stood in front of an easel in his place, looking at cheese Danish No. 35. The cheese danish was a recent obsession of Slab’s. He had taken, some time ago, to painting in a frenzy these morning-pastries in every conceivable style, light, and setting. The room was already littered with Cubist, Fauve and Surrealist cheese Danishes. “Monet spent his declining years at his home in Giverny, painting the water lilies in the garden pool,” reasoned Slab, “He painted all kinds of water lilies. He like water lilies. These are my declining years. I like cheese Danishes.”

Essentially, as Slab indicates, what does the subject matter matter? It’s all just grist for the artistic mill. Water lilies or cheese danish, what is the difference?

This bears some relationship to the current “ham sandwich” theory of politics, as in: “I’ll vote for a ham sandwich if it is the Democratic nominee.” To which, by the way, I subscribe.

Food metaphors are great!

My images of folds in the earth (below) from Death Valley’s Zabriskie point are a kind of ham sandwich, cheese danish, or water lily. I could go on photographing this kind of abstraction forever, regardless of scale, and its great that these textures add up to a magnificent and vast landscape.

Related stories: Death Valley Landscapes; Lost in the Hills.

Zabriskie View © Harold Davis

Zabriskie View © Harold Davis

Badlands © Harold Davis

Badlands © Harold Davis

Earth © Harold Davis

Earth © Harold Davis

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Flower Power

Flower Power. It’s hip to be square—as in the floral carpet image (below). Making space for conversations with flowers (middle image on white, bottom image an LAB L-channel inversion on black) is an important part of my life. Kind of like meditation with my petaled friends (most are from our garden). 

Flowers Squared © Harold Davis

Flowers Squared © Harold Davis

Speaking with Flowers © Harold Davis

Speaking with Flowers © Harold Davis

Speaking with Flowers (on Black) © Harold Davis

Speaking with Flowers (on Black) © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

What’s my line?

Sometimes an image is simply about a point, or a line. In this high-key image across the Bay on an overcast day, I created an image of a train bridge that is really about two close, parallel lines horizontally bisecting the rectangular frame.

Opening Train Bridge © Harold Davis

Opening Train Bridge © Harold Davis

The image of power-line towers (below) is the same idea, but a little more complex in composition, and vertically oriented. (Sometimes simplicity works better than complexity!)

Power Lines © Harold Davis

Power Lines © Harold Davis

Posted in Landscape, Monochrome

Spring Forest

This time of year there are so many wonderful flowers to photograph on my light box. Our rooms are filled with their wondrous beauty, and when I make compositions on my light box I can forget about whatever else is going on in the world at large, to celebrate nature’s largess that is now in front of my lens. 

Spring Forest © Harold Davis

Spring Forest © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Lost in the Hills

It’s easily possible to get lost in the folds of the earth viewed from Zabriskie Point: visually with a camera, and practically as well if one wanders in the valleys. The “social trail”—an informal path created by erosion due to foot traffic, and generally deprecated by the National Park Service—shown in Lost in the Hills helps add a sense of scale to the scene.

Without a human-size reference point, the landscape can become abstract and context-less: it could be big, it could be small (if rotated, the couch shown in this story could be an immense landscape after all, among other things), and who really knows for sure?

Lost in the Hills © Harold Davis

Lost in the Hills © Harold Davis

Posted in Landscape, Photography