Monthly Archives: January 2007

Golden Gate Sunset

Yesterday afternoon after days and nights of clear, cold, wonderful clarity there were magnificent clouds in the sunset sky. I thought it might turn out to be one of those wonderful sunsets when the sun as it goes below the arc of the Pacific lightens up the clouds with colorful glory.

I rushed over to Indian Rock, climbed to the top, got the camera on the tripod, and make a couple of exposures (including this one). Then the sun sank behind the clouds, and the colors became muted and grey. Awesome and beautiful yes, photographicable not really.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

From Filter Play to Layer Masking

Ever since I started working with digital photos, I’ve used Photoshop’s tools to create entirely new imagery from my photography. This is probably inevitable: with the goodie box of Photoshop toys available, who wouldn’t want to jump in and play?

But Photoshopped imagery is no-person’s land. With no rules, and no limits, accomplishment may be simply a matter of taste.

My own progression is this arena has been from early filter play, like this stylized version of a photo of a marble, with stops along the way for Warhol-like renditions of a butterfly, to more surreal and apparently photographic images like World without End and Dream Stairs. I’ve moved from seeing what Photoshop filters can do to somewhat more controlled use of layers, blending modes, and masking techniques.

I photographed the original version of the image that decorates this story at Embarcedero Center. The photo showed reflections of the Transamerica tower vertically along the left side of the image. I duplicated the image, and combined the duplicate using Differences blending mode, a Reveal layer mask, and a side-to-side gradient to create a stylized and patterned image.

By the way, if you are interested in delving into Photoshop layer anbd masking techniques, the best book I know on this topic is Katrin Eismann’s Photoshop Masking & Compositing.

Posted in Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Rose Petal Reflection

I never expected my photography blog to take on the life it has, and it is flattering to get all the email I do from people viewing photos and reading what I have to say about them. (Most of the two-way conversation about imagery goes on over on my Flickr photostream, not here on the blog.)

More than eighteen months later, there are over seven hundred stories and literally thousands of digital images. This is a large body of work to plunge into, larger probably than any photo book in the world. Many people just take a look at the blog home page to see my most recent images. But there are many other ways to approach this ouvre. For example, you could browse through the stories and images in one of my categories such as Photograms, the San Francisco Bay area, Yosemite, or Water Drops.

You could also browse my blog in chronologic sequence, using the month-by-month links on the right-hand navigation panel. If you have really a great deal of extra time (ha! ha!), you can start with my first story in the blog, Ducks, and click Next to sequence entry-by-entry through my whole blog. I think the progression reveals growth as a photographer and digital image maker. It also hits high and low spots of my life during the interim.

It’s good to look forward and create new work, but also sometimes good to look back with the perspective that time brings. So from time to time I’ll be re-publishing my favorite archived images, like this Rose Petal Reflection, which originally appeared in May, 2005.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography


In mid January, the camellia trees in front of our house burst forth in a riotous display of color. The middle, pink tree is particularly interesting. As the blooms mature, the center of each flower turns white.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

City by the Bay on New Years Day

Nice to welcome the new year with stunning light and a clear vista! Kirby Cove is the beach with the last rays of the angled sun in the mid-left foreground of this photo.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Pretty in Pink

Fun to see the city’s spires and bridges poking through the fog as I wandered the crest of the coastal range a few weeks ago. In both directions, the vista reminded me of Chinese brush painting of landscapes. I’ll be posted some more images from this session when I get a chance…

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Dream Stairs

“Dream Stairs” takes Stair after Escher to further (and possibly psychotic) places. As someone on Flickr said, “This is messing with my head!”

There’s also an issue of leaving well enough alone.

I think it fair at this point that I show the photographs that the Photoshopped “Dream Stairs”, Stair after Escher, and Endless Stair come from. “Dream Stairs” and Stair after Escher originate in this 10.5mm digital fisheye:

Spiral Stair 2

View this image larger.

By the way, Julian tells me that he was really worried I would drop my lens as I changed from fisheye to normal wide angle for the shot that is the origin of Endless Stair:

Spiral Stair 1

View this image larger.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Stair after Escher

Here’s another Photoshopped version of the spiral staircase in Embarcadero Center. This original was with my Nikon 10.5mm digital fisheye. I varied the iterative technique by flipping the image to get the symmetry.

The image reminds me a little of an impossible M.C. Eshcer staircase.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Endless Stair

On Friday Julian had a half day of school. I picked him up early, and we went into San Francisco where I took the photo of a spiral stairway at 2 Embarcadero that is the basis for this post-processed digital image of an endless stairway. The post-processing was similar what I used for the endless doorways in World without End.

The stairway at the Embarcadero Center was narrow and in a dimly lit spot, somewhat exposed to the elements. I used a wide angle to make the small space seem expansive. My camera was on tripod, with a long exposure for maximum depth of field. I wanted everything to be in focus so that there was a good sense of depth.

The lighting was very mixed, with a wide variation of color temperatures, predominantly flourescent blue at about 3500 Kelvin and ambient reflected daylight at about 5600 K, but also some incandescent from a nearby fancy watering hole. I’m not sure what the patrons of this restaurant made of Julian and me diligently photographing this dingy stairway, but some of them were certainly observing the spectacle through a plate glass window. And thanks for the rather elegant mensroom, we made good use of it when the photos were “in the card”.

My first step in post-processing was to open different exposures from the RAW, balancing each to a different color temperature light source, and exagerating the cast of the light.

After I combined the RAW conversions, I used a process that is essentially iterative, or maybe even recursive: I made successively smaller copies of the original image, and then pasted it on a layer of the original. Each new copy was smaller than the original roughly in the same proportion.

Once the layers were complete, I archived a copy, flattened the image, and then did minor retouching.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Mathew the Impossible!

Our two-and-a-half year old Mathew Gabriel was sitting on the living room couch with hair backlit by the sun and face in deep shadow. This would have been an impossible situation in color film photography. Exposing for the highlights would have plunged his face in shadow, exposing for his face would have blown out the highlights, and averaging the exposure wouldn’t have produced good results anywhere.

In traditional portrait photography, an answer would have been to provide fill lighting for Mathew’s face. But Mathew doesn’t sit still. Long before I could have organized the proper lighting he would have found a new activity.

There are a number of ways to fix this exposure problem using digital post-processing. My technique in this case was to combine various different exposures based on the range available in the RAW capture. (The original RAW exposure was biased towards underexposure, because the highlights are the hardest to revive once they’ve been blown.)

Another impossibility: Mathew had a noodle on his nose. No problem at all to de-noodle his nose using Photoshop’s Clone Tool.

Bravo for digital photography!

Posted in Kids, Photography

Marin Headlands at Dusk

Like some earlier photos taken on Point Reyes, these captures of the Marin coast (above) and the open Pacific with Venus setting into a fog bank (below) were exposed in almost pitch black conditions. The Marin Headlands image was a thirty second time exposure with my lens wide open. (View the EXIF data.)

The camera was on a tripod, of course, and Julian and Nicky were waiting in the car in the dark parking lot at the very end of the Point Bonita road that overlooks Muir Beach.

With these night time images exposed this way, the capture picks up light waves beyond those visible to people, and my Nikon’s LCD is absolutely incapable of rendering the image. So I didn’t really know what these looked like until I opened them in Photoshop.

I like the effect of the lights in the village on the rugged shore on the Marin coast. The image says “safety and hospitality” to me in a place of possible danger.

I also think these images illustrate the evolution of photography as a new, digital medium is born.

Venus Setting over the Pacific

View this image larger.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Golden Gate Moonscape

The moon was coming up and the lights of the Golden Gate Bridge were coming on as I explored Point Bonita with Julian and Nicky. How lucky to find these small daffodils (or narcissus in the Latin form) blooming in the early evening on New Year’s Day!

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

A great way to start the year!

What a great way to start 2007, with the preliminary cover design for my The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite and the High Sierras. This book will be published this year by The Countryman Press, and distributed by W.W. Norton.

It’s been really exciting taking the photos for this book. I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of it. But, of course, you don’t need to wait for my book to see some of my images of Yosemite. Here’s the Yosemite category on my blog, and my Yosemite set on Flickr.

Here’s more about my upcoming Yosemite book and about me (I know you probably know me if you are reading my blog, but I can’t help myself!) from the back cover copy:

The scenic wonders of Yosemite and the mountains that surround it—the high Sierra—attract visitors from around the world. If you are planning to visit Yosemite with your camera, photography will be important part of your trip to the area that John Muir called “the greatest temple” in the world.

The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite and the Sierras provides insider information about exactly how to find the most scenic vistas in Yosemite and the Sierras, and how to go about taking great photos once you are there. You’ll learn about weather, photography and phases of the sun and the moon, and the best times of year to visit and photograph specific attractions. You’ll find out about the logistics of visiting Yosemite and the Sierras off-season—and discover the stunning photographic payoffs that can reward off-season travel.

Even if you plan to travel no further than your armchair (beside a roaring fireplace) you’ll enjoy the luscious photography that fills The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite and the Sierras. Yosemite is iconic in the history of photography and The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite and the Sierras presents an all new, digital way of seeing Yosemite.

Harold Davis is a photographer and the author of many books. Harold’s photographs have been widely published, exhibited, and collected. Many of Harold’s fine art photography posters are well known, including some recent alternatively processed digital flower images published by New York Graphic Society. Harold writes the popular Photoblog 2.0,, which displays his photographs and covers a wide range of topics related to digital imaging. He has explored and photographed Yosemite and the High Sierra for more than thirty years.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Big Sticks

This is an image I captured last year in early March in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico. I like the way the strong lighting creates a stark and austere image from this grove of bare Aspens. In a very different way, this capture of forest reflections I did recently takes the subject-matter of the forest and creates an almost-abstract composition about color, shape, and form.

Posted in Landscape, Photography


On the cliffs high above Tennessee Beach I got out my fisheye lens. It was quite vertigo inducing to look through this lens while standing on a narrow platform hundreds of feet above the pounding surf.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area