Monthly Archives: October 2005

Mount Diablo Sunrise

Julian and I took a hike in Tilden Park yesterday morning. Julian surprised me by hiking five miles or so without complaint.

Here’s one of the photos from the walk looking towards Mount Diablo–with a little help from my friend Photoshop.

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Inside the Lily

It’s amazing how different things look really close-up! Here’s a photo from inside a lily, of its stamen.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Secret Life of Dandelions

Mostly, of course, I regard the dandelions as a pest in the garden. The kids love to blow them when they’ve gone to seed and make wishes. As a garderner, I dread the multiple propagation mechanisms inherent in this plant–although I’m mindful that the distinction between a flower and a weed is often largely a matter of definition.

Today the kids were playing in the garden, and this perfect dandelion gone to seed was in dappled sun and shade. How amazing the patterns and worlds inside the dandelion when I got really close with my lens! A whole universe filled with stars and worlds–the secret life of dandelions.

Dandelion 7

Dandelion 1

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Patterns, Photography

Photographing Lustrous Metal

Slinky 8, photo by Harold Davis.

A reader of my Digital Photography Digital Field Guide writes:

Thanks for your excellent book which has helped me learn about digital photography. My speciifc question is how to photograph stainless steel containers. (I work for a company that manufactures these vessels for the food and chemical idnustries.)

I can’t any information about how to do this in your book, or anywhere else.

As product photographers know, metal objects are among the hardest things to photograph. A small technical issues is that refelective surfaces will foil most autofocus mechanisms–so you should plan to focus your camera manually.

The overall pictures is that a very reflective surface is like a blank slate. How it looks depends on the color that you reflect into it. Also, if you are not careful, the reflections will show the setup you used to photograph the metal object–and even the photographer.

Here are some more suggestions for photographing metal:

To make shiney metal look its best, one usually has to reflect warm color into it. One way to do this is by placing a colored board just out of the camera view, but where it is picked up by the metal as a reflection. This has to monitored carefully.

Next, light source reflections are a huge source of problems when photographing something reflective (like a steel vessel). Perhaps the easiest approach without a very fancy studio setup is to photograph the containers outdoors on a cloudy but bright day with your camera on a tripod and using a high f/stop (like f/22 or f/32 or even greater) so that you get a great deal of depth of field.

Another approach is to combine natural light and an incandescent light source, still placing the colored boards just outside the area photographed to add an interesting color effect. (A tripod and a setting with high depth of field should still be used.)

I followed both approaches to light the metal slinky in the pictures that accompany this story, and I think the photos as a whole create a very interesting set of patterns.

Posted in Hardware, Patterns, Photography

Road Trip Wrap-Up

Road Trip, photo by Harold Davis.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that lately I’ve been to some lonely and lovely places that are surprisingly near to where I live in Berkeley. Here are links to the stories that tell in pictures and words about my autumn trip to Yosemite, the eastern Sierra, and Death Valley. In other words, the Table of Contents…or click here for the whole story (in reverse chronologic order).

Yosemite Autumn There and Back Again! Yosemite Valley in the autumn and a map of my trip
Vernal Falls Morning Light Dark is the Valley in the Morning Wandering feet in Yosemite
Rainbow A Rainbow of Light! Well, what other kind is there?
Valley Sunset Sunset from Sentinal Dome High above Yosemite Valley
Lake Tenaya Reflections Processing a Photo for Flickr …and Lake Tenaya reflections
Lake Tenaya Morning The Hitchhiking Millionaire Reflections in Lake Tenaya and on wealth
Hot Creek Risk Management Sharing Hot Creek with a volcano and a risk expert
Owens River Gorge The Deepest Valley Owens Valley
Westgard Pass Beyond Westgard Pass Gateway to the desert and Nevada
The Eye in the Ancient Forest Seeking Methuselah The Oldest Living Things
Rhyolite Under Moon Rhyolite and Ozymandias Ghost Town at Sunset
Death Valley Sunrise 2 Death Valley Sunrise Desert sunrise from Hells Gate
Zabriskie Point 2 Zabriskie Quilt Patterns in the desert
Lonely Road Lonely Road Stovepipe Wells to Lone Pine
Mount Whitney Sunrise Mount Whitney Sunrise Dawn on the eastern Sierra crest
Alabama Hills 1 Crossroads of the Cowboy Universe Alabama Hills
Autumn Sunset, Twin Lakes Homeward Bound Autumn in the eastern Sierra
Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, Road Trip, Writing

Digital Storage in the Field

I took this photo towards the beginning of my recent trip to Yosemite, Owens Valley, and the desert. It’s pretty similar to another image that I blogged at the beginning of my series of stories about this trip.

So here’s the thing. I was photographing for about a week and generated thousands of images. By the very nature of the thing, most of these images are discards. But many are not. I certainly can’t tell from the LCD display on my Nikon D70 whether or not I’ve hit the jackpot.

It’s not the point of this story, but the way I work, I don’t always know when I have a good image until second (or subsequent) passes through my files — as is the case with this Yosemite autumn image, which was not my first choice in its set. (You can decide for yourself which you prefer!)

A 1 gigabyte CF (compact flash) memory card stores something like 140 images for me in Camera RAW plus JPEG. A possible strategy for me would be load up on ten or fifteen of these cards. Drawbacks: somewhat expensive and still limited in the amount of storage (to the ten or fifteen gigabyte maximum). Also worth noting, these cards are magnetic medium and potentially fragile. Photographers in the field should protect them from sand, moisture, and not drop them.

I think I’ve come up with a better alternative. I use a little device called the FlashTrax with a 40 Gigabyte hard drive and a viewing screen from a company called SmartDisk. Here’s a picture:

The FlashTrax thing costs about $400 in the 40 Gigabyte model, so it is not cheap. It does have a hard drive in it, so you should protect it from unnecessary bumps and bangs. However, my experience is that the thing is quite sturdy. It’s survived a nasty backpacking trip, river crossings, sandstorms in the desert, and more.

The thing holds its charge a pretty long time, and you can also recharge it from a car lighter.

My process is pretty simple. I have two memory cards. When my first one gets filled, I slam it in the FlashTrax and press the copy button. By the time I’ve filled up the second memory card, the pictures on the first have been copied to the FlashTrax. I make a point of reformatting the flash memory card in my camera, not in the FlashTrax. When I get home, I use a USB connection to get the images off the FlashTrax and onto my computer.

I can conceive of a situation in which the FlashTrax would not provide enough field storage–three months in Antarctica, for example, with no access to the Internet. But for most purposes, it will do the trick.

In my research, the FlashTrax was the device that had been designed with photographers most in mind–the quick copy from a memory card is great, for example. But the FlashTrax is a multipurpose device, it plays movies and music and more. You can also use other media players, such as the Apple iPod, as a digital storage repository–and an iPod is probably a pretty good choice for this purpose. If you decide to use your iPod to store digital pictures from your camera, you need to buy the (inexpensive) iPod Camera Connector accessory for this purpose.

Posted in Bemusements, Hardware, Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Family Circus

It’s great to be back in the family circus. (Perhaps “family vaudeville” might be a better term.)

Seen top to bottom, and youngest to oldest, are the Marx brothers, er, Davis brothers:

  • Mathew “Groucho” Davis
  • Nicky “Groucho” Davis
  • Julian “Groucho” Davis

The Polaroid-style frames were imposed on the photos using the framing application that is part of fd’s Flickr Toys. Thanks to fd for the great Flickr API applications and to Jeff Clow for pointing them out with his neat billboard photo!

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography

Homeward Bound

I called Phyllis, and it was pretty apparent she was at her wits end. I don’t know how she managed the three kids for so long by herself. She is a miracle.

But it was time to come home.

Leaving the Alabama Hills behind, I headed north up Owens Valley. The fall colors were beautiful on the eastern slope of the Sierras:

Eastern Sierra Autumn

Sunset was special at Twin Lakes above Bridgeport:

Autumn Sunset, Twin Lakes

In the morning, temperatures were in the low twenties and ice was everywhere. I had a straight shot home over Sonora Pass and then across the central valley to Berkeley.

You can view a map of my recent travel towards the bottom of my first story in this series.

Posted in High Sierra, Landscape, Photography, Road Trip

Crossroads of the Cowboy Universe

The Alabama Hills lie below Mt. Whitney and above Lone Pine in Owens Valley.

You can view a map of my recent travel towards the bottom of my first story in this series.

If any of these Alabama Hills landscapes look vestigially familiar, it is because the Alabama Hills have been used extensively for filming by Hollywood. One dusty intersection has appeared so often in pre-1960 cowboy flicks that it is known as “the center of the cowboy world.”

Here’s a map showing where in the Alabama Hills some movies were filmed.

I spent a great deal of time photographing the Alabama Hills in the late afternoon, at sunset, at sunrise, and in the morning:

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Patterns, Photography, Road Trip

Mount Whitney Sunrise

Above Lone Pine, I camped near the Alabama Hills and directly below Mt. Whitney.

What a wonderful, glorious suprise to wake up just before dawn, clamber up a rock, and see the sun peeping over the east wall of Owens Valley and hitting Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States.

A little later, everything had become golden:

Whitney Portal Dawn

You can view a map of my recent travel towards the bottom of my first story in this series.

Posted in High Sierra, Landscape, Photography, Road Trip

Lonely Road

It’s a long and lonely road from Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley to Lone Pine in Owens Valley.

But the scenery in the rugged Panamint Range is worth it:

Panamint Range

You can view a map of my trip towards the bottom of my first story in this series.

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, Road Trip

Zabriskie Quilt

I arrived below sea level in Death Valley in the early morning after photographing sunrise from near Hells Gate.

You can view a map of my trip towards the bottom of my first story in this series.

The landscape at Zabriskie Point, with its folds and crevasses and cliffs, reminds me of a textile, or maybe even a quilt.

Zabriskie Point 3

Zabriskie Point

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Patterns, Photography, Road Trip

Death Valley Sunrise

After photographing sunset at Rhyolite, I spent the night in a motel-casino in Beatty, Nevada. This motel-casino was truly a disturbing place, with the constant clink of gambling machines invading the air made fetid and stale by old tobacco smoke. Here’s more about my feelings regarding Nevada culture (an oxymoron). View a map of the area towards the bottom of my first story in this series.

Before the sun was up the next morning I was on my way west on Nevade Highway 374. At the Hells Gate entrance to Death Valley National Park, I took a cutoff past the Wonder Mine. A little above the Wonder Mine, I pulled off by the side of the road to photograph the sunrise.

Death Valley Sunrise

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, Road Trip, Writing

Rhyolite and Ozymandias

Rhyolite is a ghost town at the eastern entrance to Death Valley. (View a map of the area towards the bottom of my first story in this series.)

Once Rhyolite was a bustling metropolis with a three-story shopping district, carriages, and fashionably dressed people.

Today there’s nothing but the whistling wind, and dusty signs warning tourists about rattle snakes.

Rhyolite Vista

When I visit places like Rhyolite, I am inevitably reminded of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley’s Ozymandias:

I MET a Traveler from an antique land,
Who said, “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is OZYMANDIAS, King of Kings.”
Look on my works ye Mighty, and despair!
No thing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that Colossal Wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Will our civilization–so grand and impressive to us–vanish like Rhyolite and Ozymandias?

Rhyolite Ruin

Julian, my eight-year old, and I visited Bodie, another famous ghost town, earlier in the year. Here’s the story.

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, Road Trip, Writing

Seeking Methuselah

Endurance, photo by Harold Davis.

Bristlecone Pines are the oldest living things in the world, and the largest group of Bristlcone Pines are high in the White Mountains on the eastern side of Owens Valley. (View a map of the area towards the bottom of my first story in this series.)

These trees grow best in harsh conditions where it’s hard for other species to compete with them:

Twisted Sistr

A hike around the Methuselah Grove, where the oldest of the old trees lives, is like a visit to God. If ever there were a real temple or church, this is it.

Methuselah itself is not identified by the Forest Service (the ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is part of Inyo National Forest). This lack of specific identification is intended to protect Methuselah, the oldest of all living things, from vandalism and souvenir hunters.

But hiking on the trail around the Methuselah Grove, I felt sentience — ancient, sleepy, wise — and that the eyes of the old ones were upon me:

The Eye in the Ancient Forest

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, Road Trip, Writing