Monthly Archives: March 2008



Resurrection, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Are cougars reincarnated as flying insects? Anything is possible. This illustration is a Photoshop composite based on my mountain lion skull and dragonfly series.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

After the Wedding

After the Wedding

After the Wedding, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

For me, this is a dream-like image of what it may feel like after the wedding is over and bride and groom face reality a/k/a the descending spiral of the stair.

Of course, there’s a ton of photography of weddings, brides, and grooms. But wedding photography is seldom as unintentional as this photo. Even “candid” wedding portraiture is likely to be stylized and mannered, far from truly candid or unintentional.

City Hall in San Francisco is a beautiful building from the 1930s in the classical mode. I spent some time photographing the interior of City Hall the other day on a break from my Mr. Mom duties (and I’ll be posting some of these photos in the due fullness of time).

It’s also a popular venue for getting married. While I was photographing, a number of these small, secular, and pragmatic ceremonies took place.

As readers of my blog know, I have a fixation on spiral stairs. I found the spiral staircase shown in this photo off to one side of the building. The photo was taken using a wide angle lens, and the real stairway is surprisingly narrow.

I got permission from building maintainence to go up the blocked-off top of the stair (I think it led to the engine room for a bank of elevators). I was photographing straight down the narrow spiral with my tripod precariously balanced.

The couple in the photo must have just left the marriage registrar’s office when they wandered into my photo and were rendering dream-like by the 2 second time exposure and their own motion.

[Nikon D300, 12-24mm zoom lens at 12mm (18mm in 35mm terms), 2 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100]

Posted in Photography


Skull on White

Skull on White, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a mountain lion skull, acquired from a taxidermist. The original photo was on a black background (far below), and the other three versions (including the version on a white background above) are Photoshop manipulations.

Red Skull

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Skull on Black 2

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Skull on Black

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[All images: Nikon D300, 85mm PC macro (roughly, 127.5mm in 35mm terms), 1.6 seconds at f/51 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Photography

Colors and Patterns

Red Cyclamen

Red Cyclamen, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Where the composition of a photo is about pattern, a single color often plays an important role. Cases in point: the photo of the cyclamen above is almost entirely red, with green accents, while the capture of water drops on a lupine (below) is essentially monochromatically green.

Related links: A Sense of Scale; Patterns category on Photoblog 2.0.

[Both photos: Nikon D300, 200mm f/4 macro lens (300mm in 35mm terms), and 36mm extension tube. Above: 3 seconds at f/36 and ISO 100. Below: 1/3 of a second at f/40 and ISO 100.]

Patterns of the Green World 2

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Posted in Flowers, Patterns, Photography

Rocky Shore

Rocky Shore

Rocky Shore, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is another grab shot from along the Big Sur coast.

[Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 62mm (93mm in 35mm terms) with image stabilization engaged, 1/125 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 100, hand held.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography


Nectar of Lily

Nectar of Lily, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Focus, in the sense of focusing the lens, is one of the primary variables in a photograph under the control of the photographer. Assuming, that is, that the photographer doesn’t rely on autofocus, and understands how focus relates to depth of field and aperture.

Focus in life means concentrating, and screening out distractions. Sure, as a technical matter, you focus the camera (or it focuses itself). A good photo composition emplys focus in the broader, non-technical sense as well. This kind of focus should tell the viewer what is important about a composition.

Ansel Adams put the gist of composition well: “I think in terms of creating configurations out of chaos.” Your composition shows what your photo is concentrating, or focusing, on.

This focus might be a broad, distant view as in my first photo of the lily in the green vase (below).

Lily in a Green Vase

In contrast, a photo might focus on an extreme close-up of a small part of the flower, like the image of nectar oozing aroung the stigma of the same lily (at the beginning of this story).

Using focus in this non-technical sense means deciding on a sense of scale, and more importantly, being clear about what story you want to tell.

[Nectar of Lily: Nikon D300, 200mm f/4 macro lens (300mm in 35mm terms), 36mm extension tube, Nikon 6T close-up filter, 3 seconds at f/40 and ISO 100.]

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Lily in a Green Vase

Lily in a Green Vase

Lily in a Green Vase, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Flowers in our house often do double duty, and this lily is no exception. Purchased as part of an arrangement of flowers to help cheer up a stuck-on-bedrest Phyllis, I decided the lily was so beautiful that it had to be photographed.

I used a black velvet cloth for back drop and sunlight to front light the flower. I placed a Lowel tungsten spot light covered with a diffuser to the rear right of the flower to add the highlights.

[Nikon D300, Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro lens (75mm in 35mm terms), 1/2 second at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Portrait of Mathew

Portrait of Mathew

Portrait of Mathew, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a portrait of Mathew taken recently at pickup time in his pre-school yard. I’m struck by how much more like a little boy Mathew looks with a haircut (compare the hirsute Mathew).

It seems to me that Mathew’s personality comes through this photo. This is a determined child who knows what he wants and is loud in both happiness and sorrow. The child is the father of the man, and Mathew’s larger-than-life personality will probably (and hopefully) not diminish as he grows.

[Canon Powershot G9, 44.4mm (210 mm in 35mm terms), image stabilization, 1/100 of a second at f/4.8 and ISO 200, hand held.]

Posted in Kids, Photography

Moby Dick

Moby Dick

Moby Dick, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Looking through the lens at the rain-drenched petals of this white cyclamen, I was reminded of something great and white…maybe even the jaws of Moby Dick.

Here’s a photo of cyclamen water drops in a row and a couple of more colorful cyclamens.

[Nikon D300, 200mm f/4 macro lens (300mm in 35mm terms), 36mm extension tube, 1/2 of a second at f/40 and ISO 100.]

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Blossoms and Sensitivity

I’ve written about using noise for aesthetic purposes. I’ve also explored the possibility that noise generated by boosting a camera’s sensitivity (ISO) will become a historical artifact and thing of the past. I’ve also explained my strategies for effective noise post processing.

It’s time to take a look at a technical challenge that decreased noise generation at higher ISOs solves.

The other day I went down the block to photograph apple and cherry blossoms close-up on a sun-drenched but windy afternoon following days of rain. The challenge here is that for these extreme macros I almost always want as much depth as I can get so that reflections in water drops and the surface of the blossom all are in focus. At ISO 100, my typical setting for quality work, this implies a long shutter speed even on a bright day. Shutter speeds longer than a second just don’t work when there is a breeze!

If I could get acceptable results in terms of noise, boosting the ISO would seem to be the solution. At higher ISOs it would seem to be easy to get the shutter speed up from the 5-10 second range to something like 1/25 of second. At 1/25 of a second, I would need the Gods of timing with me, but I could wait for a still moment and have a decent chance.

I think noise isn’t a detrimental issue in these photos, so boosting the ISO for maximum depth of field at faster shutter speeds works to make these technically “impossible” photos possible.

You can judge for yourself from these results. All were taken using my Nikon D300, tripod mounted, with my 200mm f/4 macro lens and a 36mm extension tube. The lens was stopped down as far as possible (with slight variations in recorded aperture, as noted), so the only significant exposure differences between the photos were ISO, shutter speed (and, on the other side of the exposure equation, the amount of available light at the time of the photo because natural light does not stay constant in the late afternoon).

ISO 1,000 at 1/25 of a second and f/36:

Blossom Within

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ISO 640 at 1/60 of a second and f/36:

Apple Blossom Behind

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ISO 640 at 1/60 of a second and f/40:


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For comparison, here’s a ringer, shot conventionally at ISO 100 and 6 seconds and f/45. The blossom was relatively steady despite the wind because of its position relative to the tree trunk. This was my last shot of the series as the sun set. I like the soft quality of the blossom in the sunset light, but you’d be hard put to say that the noise characteristics are significantly better than its high ISO bethren.

Cherry Blossom Sunset

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Posted in Flowers, Hardware, Photography, Water Drops