Author Archives: Harold Davis

Peony as big as a platter

Peony as big as a platter © Harold Davis

I’m proud of our bush Peony. For a toddler—I planted it close to two years ago—it certainly produced a huge and beautiful flower. It’s hard to get a sense of the size from this image, but it is at least a foot in diameter. I am hoping there are more blossoms this year.

The version above was photographed on my light box, and processed as a high-key layer stack. The version below, on a black background, is an L-channel LAB inversion of the upper image.

Peony Inversion © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Nice Little Review of Composition & Photography

This is from the February 2023 issue of the PSA Journal:

“The first clue that you’re about to read a unique book is on the Table of Contents page where all the chapter titles are written at a 90 degree angle from the page numbers. From there, Composition and Photography begins its first chapter entitled ‘Expect the Unexpected.’

“As the pages and chapters continue, Davis presents the reader with an assortment of intriguing photos, explaining the concept of this type of composition, what led to his photographing the subject and why he was compelled to do so. By doing this, he urges the photographer to seek different angles in digital imaging. composing a photo, to be aware of positive and negative space, and to notice the symmetry – or the lack of it – in everyday subjects. While the text is compelling, the photographs are stunning and invite the reader to read even more.”

Click here to buy Composition & Photography (use the discount code HDAVIS40 for a 40% discount at checkout), here for Harold’s upcoming webinar Composition Masterclass, and here for information about Harold’s in-person Composition workshop in Maine in August.

Posted in Photography, Workshops, Writing

Fantastic Iris and White Camellia

A great deal of our energy lately has gone into clearing my parents’ house to make it ready for sale. This is a thankless task and emotionally very difficult. Fortunately, we are almost done. But every time I think we’ve removed everything the house disgorges something new—this time a collection of small glass bottles, cowering in a corner.

I used these bottles to anchor some flowers from my garden, photographed with my 85mm tilt-shift macro on a white seamless background.

Fantastic Iris © Harold Davis

White Camellia © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Life and Death

This image is a composite of three photos: a scan from film of an image of a caribou skull that I made long ago on the north slope of Alaska’s Brooks Range; Animism, an in-camera multiple exposure made with a model in the studio (see the bottom image in Multiple Exposures and Models: Star of Brightness); and a version of Shell Spiral (in the eye sockets).

I’m not really sure what the image signifies, although of course I have been thinking a great deal lately about life and death, and what it all means. This image came together when I saw how the shapes of life (the model) fit together with death (the skull) as a composition, and the rest was just playing.

Life and Death © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Rose Pasta Rag

Fun to photograph things besides flowers on my light box! Rosettes of pasta are shown here, with an inner spiral added in Photoshop representing a reduction in the size of the overall image. The image on black (immediately below) is an L-channel inversion in LAB color of the original version (white background, bottom).

Rose Pasta Rag 2 © Harold Davis

Rose Pasta Rag 1 © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

The Essence of Simplicity

A single blossom from my garden is apparently the essence of simplicity. The power of these images of flower blossoms relies on this apparent simplicity: you are supposedly looking at the whole blossom and nothing but the blossom against a straight black background. 

To the casual glance, the only real photographic control involves lighting. Simple as these compositions seem to be, they do depend upon attractive overall lighting.

Sometimes the apparently simplest things are the hardest to pull off. It would be a mistake to underestimate the craft that goes into these straightforward compositions.

Related images: Frilly Goddesses; Topography of Camellia.

Camellia ‘Pearl Maxwell Blush’ © Harold Davis

Camellia ‘Elizabeth Weaver’ © Harold Davis

Ranunculus on Black © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Garden Party

I’ve been working with some wonderful colored Calla Lillies on my light box. Adding blue Irises to the mix seemed to create a great garden party!

Garden Party © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Composition and Photography Online Masterclass

Learn the fundamentals of composition in photography with internationally renowned artist and photographer Harold Davis

“To create exciting compositions, you must have a willingness to embrace serendipity and change as part of your artistic process. After all, composition is a process not a result” – Harold Davis

Good composition is a fundamental building block of photography. It is easy to recognize, but hard to achieve. In this live 2-hour online masterclass and Q&A, internationally renowned artist, photographer and best-selling Rocky Nook author Harold Davis well help guide photographers at any level to improve their compositions.

“Early bird” discount until March 31, 2023!

Click here to register for this Masterclass.

What will be covered?

  • Work with shapes such as lines, circles, and rectangles
  • Understand directionality, entering, and exiting in composition
  • Work with patterns and repetition
  • Recognize and use positive and negative space
  • Use the various kinds of abstractions in your own work


  • Learn the fundamentals of composition
  • Help to develop your own personal style
  • Inspire your creativity


  • This is an online course delivered via Zoom


  • Thursday, April 13th, 2023
  • 10.00am – 12.00pm Pacific Time

This online course will be recorded – As a participant you will be sent a password-protected link to the video recording to re-watch at your convenience.

Click here to register for this Masterclass.

Posted in Workshops

Memorial Gathering for Martin and Virginia Davis

Click here for remembering Martin and Virginia Davis.

Posted in Photography

Frilly Godesses

My flowers are like frilly Goddesses. But not in a fey way, or an overly cute way. The textures these blossoms provide could almost be fabrics or garments. The beauty I see in my viewfinder makes my heart pause, and regard the world with gladness despite the sadness that lingers.

Above: Ranunculus, photographed on black velvet, Nikkor 85mm tilt-shift macro, six exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 30 seconds; each exposure at f/64 (effective aperture) and ISO 64; mounted on tripod; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Below: Iris, photographed on a light box, Zeiss 50mm Macro, seven exposures at shutter speeds ranging from 1/15 of a second to 4 seconds; each exposure at f/22 and ISO 64; mounted on tripod; exposures combined in Photoshop.

Ranunculus © Harold Davis

Iris © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Topography of Camellia

In the wake of the death of my parents, I created a new garden on the shaded side of our house. This is a mostly ignored narrow strip between our house and the fence that separates us from the sidewalk on the San Ramon side. I anchored this “memorial garden” with three camellia bushes. The central camellia is an espaliered Camellia “Nuncio’s Pearl” (a full blossom is shown at the bottom of this story). 

I surrounded the camellias with anemones and campanulas, all flowering plants that should thrive in this part shade environment. Hopefully, they will eventually carpet the area with blossoms.

We have several hummingbird feeders in this area, and I plan to add a birdbath.

Topography of Camellia © Harold Davis

Topography of Camellia is an abstraction created from one of the first blossoms from this garden. As with a Rorschach, what you see in this image may depend more on you than on me.

Camellia Nuncio’s Pearl © Harold Davis

Posted in Abstractions, Flowers, Photography

Orvieto Passage

Recently I processed this image from Orvieto, in Umbria (Italy). In the morning the fog was thick. I took advantage of the evocative lighting, and framed an ancient, cobblestone passage by looking (with my camera) through an arch. The result is a composition that takes one to the place, and somehow seems to bring up the smells and feeling of being there.

Related image: Duomo in the Clearing Fog.

Orvieto Passage © Harold Davis

Posted in Italy, Monochrome, Photography

Proteus X-Ray

If you ask photographers what is most important to them about their photography you may well get an answer like “revealing things that are otherwise hidden” or “showing the world in a new and different way.”

If these are one’s goals, what could be more fitting than the x-ray, which literally records using a spectrum that is not visible to our naked eyes, and reveals hidden structures within. 

Proteus X-Ray © Harold Davis

In the spirit of revealing hidden structure, I used medical x-ray devices to capture this image of a Proteus in collaboration with my friend, the photographer and radiologist Julian Kopke.

Posted in X-Ray


I like to photograph found objects—“talismen”—that I can think of as magical objects with power. Those shown here are a mixed bunch: an enamel box with the apotropaic symbol for warding off evil (an example of this symbol on a door in Vietnam here), a collection of cookie cutters, and hearts within hearts.

Each image was photographed on a simple black background. I used bracketed low-key captures with exposure blending—the inverse process to photographing flowers for transparency using a high-key HDR layer stack.

Talisman © Harold Davis

Cookie Cutters © Harold Davis

Hearts Within © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Young James

This is my grandfather James Young Palmer at age eight in about the year 1900, found while going through things in my parent’s home. James was of course young once (as in this photo), but when I knew him he was relatively old: he lived well into his hundreds and the 1990s. I always thought it odd that a person who seemed so old to me should have a middle name like “Young”. But then, as we grow older, we learn that the world is full of ironies.

James Young Palmer © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography