Author Archives: Harold Davis

Vitruvian Woman

In honor of the quincentennial of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, there will be numerous exhibitions of the master’s work. His Vitruvian Man drawing in particular was subject to a lawsuit  to prevent it from hanging in the great show in the Louvre opening this month was recently rejected.  The grounds for the lawsuit were the fragility of the work, along with some snarkiness about France trying to “culturally appropriate” Leonardo from Italy. Does this kind of petty fighting ever end, or is it part of what it means to be human?

Vitruvian Man is famously a diagram of the proportions of the human body. I’ve wondered for a long time whether women have proportions too; hence my not-so-humble multiple exposure attempt at a “Vitruvian Woman”.

Vitruvian Woman © Harold Davis

Vitruvian Woman © Harold Davis

This image was originally blogged on March 18, 2018.

Posted in Photography

Garden Shrine

Garden Shrine © Harold Davis

Garden Shrine © Harold Davis

This a photograph of a niche shrine in a garden outbuilding—a rather elaborate shed—at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, also known as Green Dragon Temple (Soryu-ji). This Zen Center is a Buddhist practice center in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition offering training in Zen meditation and ordinary work, nestled in a valley next to the Marin Headlands.

Posted in Photography

Dandelions and the Rolling Stones

Dandelion don't tell no lies © Harold Davis

Dandelion don’t tell no lies © Harold Davis

These two images are extreme close-ups of Dandelions magnified to about twice life size using the Laowa FF 100mm F2.8 CA-Dreamer Macro 2X lens. Did the Rolling Stones get it right about Dandelions way back when?

Dandelion will make you wise © Harold Davis

Dandelion will make you wise © Harold Davis

Click here for an album of dandelions!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Lost Coast of California

Black Sands Beach, Lost Coast © Harold Davis

Black Sands Beach © Harold Davis

Some two hundred miles north of San Francisco, California lies a wilderness area known as the Lost Coast. In these ever-more-crowded times, the sobriquet “Lost Coast” is often used with some affection to encompass an almost entirely empty wilderness; but back in day when efforts to populate this stubborn, obdurate, and unyielding shore came to nothing, the use of the descriptive phrase surely was indicative of a measure of defeat and unhappiness.

This is the most wild, undeveloped, and remote portion of the California coast, and it is surprising that it lies so close to San Francisco.

Starting in Orange County, Highway 1 (California SR 1) doggedly follows the coast of California north, passing through Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, the Central Coast, and Big Sur. In Big Sur, a land almost as topographically rugged as the Lost Coast, Highway 1 came near to meeting its match, but finally barreled through in a series of bridges built between 1919 and 1937. (You can click here for some of my images of Bixby Bridge along the Big Sur coast.)

Further north, above San Francisco, Highway 1 follows the Mendocino shore until the town of Rockport, where it turns inland to avoid the steep mountains of the King Range and the Lost Coast.

Lost Coast of California © Harold Davis

Lost Coast of California © Harold Davis

Extending for about sixty miles, the Lost Coast region sits astride Mendocino and Humboldt counties, and administratively is mostly part of the King Range National Conservation Area (administered by the Federal BLM) and Sinkyone Wilderness Park (under the State of California). There’s one decent paved east-west road that more-or-less bisects the Lost Coast, ending in the settlement of Shelter Cove on a small plateau above the ocean (population 693 as of the 2010 census).

It is to be noted that the other roads in this area are often of the muddy, four-wheel-drive variety, and that “shelter” and “cove” are relative terms. There’s no such thing as a sheltered cove along this wild-and-woolly coast, no breakwaters, no piers, and no docking or anchoring in the water.

Needle Rock © Harold Davis

Needle Rock © Harold Davis

The Lost Coast Trail (LCT) runs the length of Lost Coast, although the most common backpacking trip is north from Black Sands Beach in Shelter Cove to Mattole Point. With constant ups and downs, this is not a hiking trail for the faint of heart; an eye to the tide tables is essential, as portions of the trail are impassable at high tide.

The ocean here is a hungry sea. You don’t turn your back on it. Rip tides, sneaker waves, and undertow come standard. Walking along Black Sands Beach, the waves rumble on small-sized gravel, hissing like a thousand snakes on their way back to the ocean as though they’d like to take you with them, and it would be nothing, and you’d be gone in a snap.

Seaward © Harold Davis

Seaward © Harold Davis

Backwoods communities of off-the-grid hippies have persisted in this rugged and inaccessible area. In the 1970s a lumbering operation that later failed to make inroads against the natural topography burnt an earlier generation’s homesteads to the ground to keep squatters out. This hasn’t stopped those who like living on their own at the world’s edge from keeping to a rugged lifestyle, and in recent years the area is apparently awash in marijuana money. How this will shake-out as grow-it-yourself small farm marijuana is increasingly ceded to pot agri-businesses is anyone’s guess. But this is a region used to booming and busting.

Windblown Weed, King Range © Harold Davis

Windblown Weed, King Range © Harold Davis

The Lost Coast is one of those quintessentially remote American areas with a flavor all its own, formed by the rugged topography of the King Range where it meets the ocean as much as by those who have tried to occupy the land. I’d certainly recommend a visit, and getting to know the area—but this is not an area that gives up its secrets lightly or easily. It’s not that the Lost Coast is playing hard it get: it is hard to get there, both geographically and metaphorically. It is elusive in every way.

Wrapped Pole, Mattole Beach © Harold Davis

Wrapped Pole, Mattole Beach © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Falling into Spirals

Falling into Spirals V2 © Harold Davis

Click here to view the image larger.

Just returning from a photography trip to California’s Lost Coast, with images to post after I get a chance to process them. But meanwhile…

Falling into Spirals is a new composition in two versions I finished as we were heading out the door to explore the Lost Coast with no time to upload a blog story, and I am only able to post it now after my return!

Which version do you prefer?

Related stories: Spirals of the Heart; Through the Rabbit Hole.

Falling into Spirals © Harold Davis

Falling into Spirals © Harold Davis

Click here to view the image larger.

Posted in Photography

Spirals of the Heart

The Spiral Heart © Harold Davis

The Spiral Heart © Harold Davis

Heart like a wheel, the heart is a lonely hunter, take another little piece of my heart, many are the songs, stories, and quotes and sayings related to the heart. This fantastic body organ that pumps and keeps us alive is a metaphorical stand-in for true feelings, love, romance, and the whole kit-and-caboodle. What a vessel for complexity, for misdirection, and for framing the contrast between true feelings and the rough steerage of the intellect.

I have heard many stories of the heart, but seldom have I seen one like this, constructed of spirals, and a veritable picture of the spirals of the heart.

I’ve been getting many questions about how my recent images are made, and can only say at this point that I am experimenting with some new techniques, and not ready to get into a technical discussion yet. But here’s a hint: to move from the Love of Spirals image shown at the bottom of Through the Rabbit Hole to this version, The Spiral Heart, I mostly used textures and background layers (more about these techniques in my course Photoshop Backgrounds & Textures).

Posted in Photography

Through the Rabbit Hole

Through the Rabbit Hole © Harold Davis

Through the Rabbit Hole © Harold Davis

It is easy to go down the rabbit hole when you love spirals! I have been dreaming of these stairs, over and over again, obsessively. And so I spend my “executive time” curling stairs virtually, twisting them to twist back on themselves, inverting them so that the inversions are overlays. Maybe once this is expressed and out on the virtual page, I will stop dreaming of spiral stairs!

On another note, at times I have felt I stood on the shoulders of giants and channeled great artists from the past such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Karl Bossfeldt. So this time it seems to be Escher!

Love of Spirals © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Gaillardia-gami

Gaillardia-gami © Harold Davis

Gaillardia-gami © Harold Davis

Carefully, I constructed this image. I composed it from two LAB color adjustments of a close-up photo of a Gaillardia flower (common name “blanket flower”). The finished composition was intended to resemble something you might see folded out of paper, with the idea of virtual origami. Hence the suffix: Gaillardia-gami.

Of course, if you look carefully, these folds would not actually be possible in “real life” (at least without a tear in the paper).

Posted in Photography

Play it again mit feeling

Sound of the Sea © Harold Davis

Sound of the Sea © Harold Davis

Click here to view Sound of the Sea larger.

These two composite images in pano format involve repetition of the same image in different guises: flipped back-to-back, flipped vertically, with LAB L-channel inversions, and more. The hope is to do this repetition, as the old saw would have it, musically, and with feeling.

Use of a single image, varied in this fashion, allows for the build up of pattern, echoes, and minor-key echoes of the major themes in the imagery.

Click here to view Petal Pano larger.

Petal Pano © Harold Davis

Petal Pano © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Dawn Chorus Unbound

Dawn Chorus Unbound © Harold Davis

Dawn Chorus Unbound © Harold Davis

Today I am thinking about a quote from Philip Pullman that I read in a recent interview with the author in The New Yorker Magazine: “Reason is a good servant but a bad master.”

Without tools of construction—and reason—it is hard to build an image like Dawn Chorus Unbound. But with too much reasoning in advance, one loses the Beginner’s Mind advantage: a sense of play, and being open to creative serendipity. 

In art, as in life, I try to keep a balance between analytic rigor and flexible thinking. One needs both modes, truly one does.

Posted in Photography

Out of Yosemite’s Winter Landscape Photography Conference

Photo credit: © Michael Frye

I am pleased to announce that I will be teaching at the Out of Yosemite Winter Landscape Photography Conference in the heart of Yosemite National Park, February 5–9, 2020.

Out of Yosemite will bring together a community of passionate photography enthusiasts. This means I will be teaching along with some of my favorite landscape photographers, including Michael Frye, William Neill, and John Sexton.

Please consider joining me for this unique opportunity.

Highlights of the conference include:

  • Staying in the heart of Yosemite National Park at Yosemite Valley Lodge.
  • Daily, in-the-field, hands-on, small group teaching excursions.
  • There will be classes, group critiques and post-processing help.

Space is very limited. To make sure you have a space, please register right away. To save $250, reserve by Monday, October 7, 2019 and use the discount code DAVIS.

For more information about the Out of Yosemite Winter Landscape Photography Conference, visit www.outofchicago.com/Yosemite.

Yosemite Dreams © Harold Davis

Yosemite Dreams © Harold Davis

Alone I Stand © Harold Davis

Alone I Stand © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Beginner’s Mind

Rollback © Harold Davis

Rollback © Harold Davis

Shoshin is a word from Zen Buddhism that is often translated as “beginner’s mind.” Beginner’s Mind means having an attitude of openness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject or working as an artist, even when working at an advanced level, just as a beginner would in the best case analysis with a capable and flexible guide.

In the context of my own practice, and the way I teach students to approach their own art and photography, I take Beginner’s Mind to mean to approach my art with humbleness, playfulness, and experimentation—and to be prepared to happily fail.

I am now engaged in playing with a new body of work that involves my photography of flowers for transparency, LAB inversions, photography of pure light though colored liquid in glass bottles, and post-production. 

Over on my Instagram Feed, I was asked about the image shown at the top of this story: “I love this and I am so confused. Please explain how?”

That’s okay, I’m confused too about how I got here, and where this ride is going to take me next.

I didn’t want to be rude, but I didn’t want to explain the technical side of this work yet (if I ever am ready to do so). I replied, “Thanks for your interest! This is a new set of techniques I have started playing with, and I am not ready to share the ‘how’ yet. In the meantime, enjoy the magic….xxxooo.”

So, yes, please enjoy the magic.

Related story: Tacked to a Virtual Wall.

Scrolling Around © Harold Davis

Scrolling Around © Harold Davis

Climbing the Columns © Harold DavisClimbing the Columns © Harold Davis

Climbing the Columns © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Tacked to a Virtual Wall

Curled Epiphany © Harold Davis

Curled Epiphany © Harold Davis

Starting with a light box image of flowers arranged vertically (shown below), I created an L-channel LAB inversion, as well as a variant using the Exclusion Blending Mode. I curled the Exclusion Blending Mode version to the verso of the virtual inversion, and added the curled combination to a background “wall.”

To add a trompe l’oeil effect and some verisimilitude, I photographed a thumb tack on black in three positions (every corner but the curl), and added the tacks to hold the virtually double-sided flower composition on the virtual wall.

Flowers Are © Harold Davis

Flowers Are © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Farewell to After-Hours Access at Giverny

Giverny Afternoon © Harold Davis

Giverny Afternoon © Harold Davis

Sadly, the Monet gardens at Giverny have ended their program allowing artists, photographers, and writers to access the gardens before and after the public admission hours. I don’t know why this decision was made. All things must pass, and the only thing constant is change.

If you have been with me and my Photograph Paris in the Spring groups over the years, wasn’t it wonderful to wander and photograph in these gardens without the crowds? This is an opportunity that will not easily come again, so it is important to savor the time we did have, the photographs we made, and the memories.

If you are considering joining our group in Paris in the spring of 2021, don’t worry: there are many wonderful gardens and excursions in and near Paris, and we will find our way into some wonderful gardens and photographic adventures.

And keep in mind (in life as well as in photography) that since all things change, it makes huge sense to carpe diem.

Flowers at Giverny © Harold Davis

Flowers at Giverny © Harold Davis

Willow Reflections, Giverny © Harold Davis

Willow Reflections, Giverny © Harold Davis

Giverny © Harold Davis

Giverny © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, France, Paris, Photography

Flowers on Black versus an Inversion

Orchids on Black © Harold Davis

Orchids on Black © Harold Davis

The image above, Orchids on Black, was created by photographing the flowers on a black background, with a bit of enhancement in LAB color. Flower Magic on Black, shown below, was photographed on a light box. The background of the image was converted from white to black using an LAB inversion of the L-channel.

Click here for my complete Creative LAB Color in Photoshop course, here for the FAQs on my website, and here for info about the 2020 session of the Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop.

Special thanks to Jack and Ellen Anon.

Flower Magic on Black © Harold Davis

Flower Magic on Black © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Photoshop Techniques