Monthly Archives: December 2005

What about the Tooth Fairy?

As you can see, Julian has a very loose tooth. He’s very proud of it, and quite excited by it.

The other day as we were walking along he asked me, “Daddy, if they’ve explored Antarctica and the South Pole and the North Pole, and they didn’t find a Santa Claus, where does he live?”

It’s always hard to know how to answer this kind of thing. I punted with, “What do you think?”

Julian replied (this is a word-for-word quote): “My working hypothesis is that the presents come from you and Mommy and there is no Santa Claus.”

After a little quick soul searching, I confirmed his hypothesis (after all, he is eight). I added an injunction to keep the secret from his younger brothers, so they could continue to enjoy Santa.

“OK,” says Julian, “and what about the Tooth Fairy?”

I tried “What do you think?” again, although I knew where it was going…

Julian didn’t miss a beat. He said, “Of course you and Mommy are the tooth fairy, and now I can tell you what I want in exchange for my baby tooth.”

How soon we grow up!

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Lensbaby, Photography

Flower Warp Core

I’m thinking of this flower image as something like the wacky engine room in the Tim Allen comedy classic Galaxy Quest.

It’s the kind of image that I calleded expressive in Compare and Contrast. I think it works.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Lensbaby, Photography

Compare and Contrast

Flower Surprise, photo by Harold Davis. View this photo larger.

Back when I was in high school, I was often asked to write essays that compared and contrasted two things or concepts. As a professional writer, I find that “compare and contrast” remains often a good organizing principle. Or at least an easy one. If you can compare and contrast two things that are different, but have some similarities, then you don’t really have to think about the things in an original way. Compare and contrast is pretty much an algorithm that becomes a routine.

I found this white, blue-striped flower hiding under some leaves in my front garden. The blossom pictured is very, very small with a total diameter of about 1/4″ (less then one centimeter). If any reader can help me identify the flower, I’d appreciate it.

The photo above was taken with my 105mm Nikkor macro with 68mm of extension tubes, tripod mounted, stopped way down to f/32. In other words, conventional painstaking high depth of field macro.

In comparison and contrast, the photo below was taken with my Lens Baby mounted with the +14 macro filter kit and the macro portion of the Tokina .45X wide angle lens that Lensbabies sells (I can’t really find the specification for the diopters this thing adds, but obviously it is substantial). This was wide open (the equivalent of f/2.0), low depth of field, and handheld at 1/1600 of a second.

I like both version of this compare and contrast, and think both look better in a larger size (click here and here to open larger versions of each photo).

Which version do you prefer? In this case, I slightly prefer the conventional photo to the Lens Baby photo: I tend to think that Lens Baby are best when they are used expressively, and not to reproduce a conventional effect. Please let me know what you think.

Flower Surprise 2

View this photo larger.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Lensbaby, Photography, Writing

Spaghetti Worms

We made the kids plates of spaghetti. Then they demanded butter for their pasta, so I poured some melted butter on top. Then they wouldn’t eat any of it, so I lifted the spaghetti off–and these “worm trails” remained. Kind of gross, and also kind of funny.

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography


Snake, photo by Harold Davis. View this photo larger.

This snake seems much more ready to take a chomp than the friendly one I photographed earlier:

Giving Tongue

Posted in Bemusements, Lensbaby, Photography


Ladybug, photo by Harold Davis. View this photo larger.

I saw this ladybug, probably one of the last of season, the other day in Julian’s garden. Julian is my eight year old son, and he has a part of our back yard garden that he designed, and picked out the plants. I helped him plant them. Julian’s taste runs towards big, spikey succulent things (and also roses), and this ladybug was sitting on the biggest, spikiest thing in his garden.

I got up real close to it with my Lens Baby and macro lenses.

Posted in Lensbaby, Photography

To dSLR or Not to dSLR

I took this close-up using the macro setting of my Canon PowerShot G3 mounted on a tripod.

Although sophisticated enough in its own right, this camera is now a couple of years old, and no match for my Nikon D70 dSLR (“digital Single Lens Reflex”).

I have a couple of points to make here:

  • You don’t need to have hugely expensive camera equipment to take good photos. It’s the eye and feeling, and understanding of the craft of digital photography that really count.
  • In some ways, less expensive cameras can be better than fancy digital SLRs.

Besides being, well, less expensive, a camera like the PowerShot is also much lighter to carry. This means that you are more likely to have it with you when you need it.

The fact that a camera is not an SLR means that you can’t change lenses, or view directly through the lens. But special modes, like macro modes, can actually be better. In addition, the LCD screen is bigger than on SLRs, and can be used for composition, not just for reviewing photos (as with a dSLR).

So think carefully about how you intend to use your camera before springing for that expensive and heavy digital SLR. Something more portable, and, well, less like a digital recreation of a film camera, might just serve you better!

Posted in Flowers, Hardware, Photography

Bulbs de Noel

A couple of days ago I strung colored Christmas lights around the perimeter of our front garden for the kids. Of course, they love the lights.

But somewhat surprising to me: so do I!

Christmas Light 7

This set of photos is of individual bulbs. They are extreme handheld close-ups with my Lens Baby. Only routine Photoshop post-processing was used.

The lights may be hokey, but they are fun. Up really close, they look like strange flowers to me: very appropriate for a garden!

When I look at these pictures (and at the actual lights), I’m tempted, like Austin Powers but in a different context, to say, “Shag-a-delic, baby, shag-a-delic!”

Posted in Bemusements, Lensbaby, Photography

Flower Like the Sun

This flower photo, like an earlier Lens Baby flower photo, reminds me of hot sun held secret within the plant.

The poet, engraver, and mystic William Blake put it this way (I know the photo doesn’t show a sunflower):

Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!

Keep on Burning

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Lensbaby, Photography, Writing

Golden Gate Sunset

I took this picture this evening from upper Euclid Avenue in the Berekely Hills, not from Indian Rock where I usually go for my Golden Gate sunsets. (Here’s a photo from the slightly lower angle of Indian Rock, which shows the difference in view of the bridge.)

I’m really excited about some of the photos I’ve been taking over the last couple of days (including others from this set), but I’m falling behind on post-processing. I tend to think of this work as a “conversion”: the Raw image in my camera really is raw until I’ve converted it the way I want. By whatever name, more conversions to follow…

What I like most about this photo is the way the bridge approach on the left near the setting sun casts shadows on the water (you may find this easier to see in the larger version of this photo).

Meta information: Nikon D70 Raw capture, AF-S VR-Zoom-Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G IF-ED at 170mm (appx 255mm 35mm equivalence); tripod with VR (vibration reduction) turned off.

Exif: ISO 200, 1/800 second, f/11.

Focus: Automatic, at infinity.

Post: The Raw file for the photo was processed twice (once for the Bay and once for the bridge and sky) and combined using a layer mask and a gradient. Once the layers were combined, I added a dark blue gradient to the extreme upper right of ths image and performed routine level adjustments and sharpening.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

World Trade Towers

I took this photo of the World Trade Towers on assignment hanging out of a helicopter. Those were the days!

I enjoyed photographing the World Trade Towers between 1980 and 1990 when I lived in New York and worked as a photographer. I have scanned some of these images from film (in the scan above, as in many of these images, you can see the 35mm frame around the photo).

I’ve posted a set of my scanned World Trade images to Flickr, and you can see all of these World Trade Tower images on Flickr.

That is, if you want to cry. Everytime I think of the World Trade Towers it makes me sad about how our world has changed for the worse, but I truly think that those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

This photo is from Jersey City looking across the river:

World Trade Towers

Posted in Photography

Photoshop Not

Succulent, photo by Harold Davis. Click to view larger.

Despite what you may think, this photo owes nothing to Photoshop. I boosted the ISO late yesterday afternoon so I could take this image of a succulent in failing afternoon light at reasonable shutter speeds for hand holding.

With an ISO of 1,000, there was a great deal of noise added to the image (appearing as colored pixels if you look closely at the image in its larger size).

Also, light colored and lightly saturated areas in the subject went white–meaning they lost their pixels. In contrast to gaining the world and losing one’s soul, this pixel loss is a case of losing one’s pixels and gaining a pattern.

I am put in mind that all too often digital photographers think a photo can be saved (or essentially created) in Photoshop. Photoshop has many wonderful capabilities, which one should know about as one takes pictures. But there’s no substitute for properly visualizing at the time a photo is taken what the end result is likely to be.

A corallary: the built-in bracketing inherent in Raw conversion into Photoshop is just swell–but you’ll be happiest if you expose right smack dab in the middle of the range in the first place, instead of having to salvage an exposure that is at the tail end of the curve.

Meta information: Nikon D70, LensBaby 2.0 with +10 macro filter, ISO 1000, f/4.0 aperture ring, 1/250 second handheld.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Lensbaby, Patterns, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

The Fly and I

It all started this morning with this fly buzzing around my work room. After I’d captured the fly, I got out the Lens Baby transmogrification disintegrator reintegrator.

My wife said, “Not the Lens Baby, please! A bee is one thing but a fly is quite another. I’m taking the kids, and when I come back, I don’t want to see gross hairs coming out of your arms, at least any grosser than they are now!”

I put the camera on a tripod (portentous music), and photographed the fly on a cyclomen petal (which accounts for the lucious background color).

I photographed it conventionally with my macro lens and extension tubes.

So far, I’ve mostly been using the Lens Baby handheld. But I figured since I had the setup and the tripod, I might as well try different Lens Baby aperture rings as well. It worked best with the wide open aperture ring and the Lens Baby macro kit, exposed at about 1/60 of second.

You really don’t want to see too much of the fly. At least I don’t, and I don’t think my wife does either.

So to heck with being conventional, if you are going to trade places, er, I mean photograph, a fly, you might as well use the Lens Baby and its macro filters.

So why it is so upsetting to watch a head like my head appear on the fly, and fly hairs grow on my wings? I seem to be making a buzzing sound, and I won’t even mention my distressing food cravings. And that fly with my head has got my D70, and keeps saying, “Say Cheese!”

Help me! I’m turning into that which I photograph. And, oh yeah (more portentous music). That transmogrification disintegrator reintegrator is busted. I CAN’T CHANGE BACK! HELP ME! HELP ME! (Fade to black.)

Posted in Bemusements, Lensbaby, Photography, Writing

Happiness Is Happy Kids

Sometimes I forget about trendy and esoteric photography like Lens Babies and “focus” on my family. This corresponds to 99.9% of the photos that are ever taken, because most people feel that there is nothing more important than their families and kids–and nothing better than a happy family (even if, pace Tolstoy, they are all alike).

I savour the rare moments that all three boys are happy. Julian had eaten the inside of his bread pieces, and constructed something he called “Breadhenge” with the crusts (above).

Nicky was playing on the floor with Legos:


Mathew was enjoying his bath in the kitchen sink:

Mathew in the Sink

And, for a good measure of happiness, here’s a photo of Julian from a summer hike in Yosemite:

Julian in Yosemite

Posted in Kids, Photography


Wings, photo by Harold Davis. View this bee in a larger size!

Yesterday I picked Julian up from school and took him to his appointment with his reading specialist, Harriet. Harriet lives near the Berkeley Rose Garden, so while Julian was in-session I wandered around the Rose Garden taking pictures with an abbrievated kit.

This bee seemed to be on her last legs. Probably, thing are getting too cold for her, even in coastal California. I love the shimmer of her wings, and what looks like a fur muff.

Photographed hand-held with my Lens Baby macro setup, cropped but otherwise no special post-processing.

Posted in Bemusements, Lensbaby, Photography