Monthly Archives: April 2008

Anemone and Bicycles


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

This is a close-up of an anemone, a flower in the buttercup (Ranunculus) family named after the Greek word for wind.

Technically, there’s a good comparison to be made with my extreme wide angle Lupine along the Trail, because both photos are composites of two exposures. So I was going with a story title like “an anemone is to a wide angle as a fish is to a bicycle” until I realized the whole title was too complicated, wouldn’t fit in the space I have for titles, and conveyed the wrong thought. So please consider “Anemones and Bicycles” a compaction of all that, even though there are no bicycles evident.

I exposed the anemone at 1.3 seconds for the background of the flower, and then layered on top a 4 second exposure of the flower core.

[Nikon D300, 200mm f/4 macro lens (300mm in 35mm terms), two exposures (one at 1.3 seconds, one at 4 seconds), both f/36 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Other anemone images: Anemone, Core of the Anemone, Anemone Japonica.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Shine a Light on Digital Photography

The time has come, the walrus famously said, to talk of many things (thanks, Lewis Carroll). Rather than shoes, ships, sealing wax, cabbages, and kings, I tend to talk about digital photography.

When I came back to photography, I had no idea that the techniques and aesthetics of this wonderful new medium would take over my life. I used a crazy-quilt combination of methods to communicate with literally thousands of you who are passionate about digital photography, by writing this blog, adding contacts on Flickr, sending emails to people who were interested, and by writing books (like Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers). During the last few years, I have literally written thousands of blog stories and emails about the aesthetics, techniques, and technologies of digital photography, and about lving the photographic life.

Just as kids grow up, so do interests and endeavors. The time has come where I’ve had to formalize my communications process (at least a bit!). So if you are interested in keeping abreast with what I’m doing in photography, the techniques I’m trying, my books, my workshops (not to mention the rest of packed life) I urge you to sign up for my photography newsletter. I promise back stories and information about my photos, delivered in a convenient email format. You’ll also receive special information, offers, and techniques just for readers of my newsletter.

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Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse

View this image larger. Read the back story featuring this image.

Posted in Photography

Each Apple Pear

Pear Blossom Special

Pear Blossom Special, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Obviously, I have a fondness for small aperture, fully stopped-down flower macros that use high depth of field to convey sharpness. (I explain the relationship of aperture to depth of field in Chapter 2 of Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers.) For example, take a look at Echinacea Harvest Moon, Rose Study 11, and Lily in a Green Vase.

But sometimes the high-depth-of-field approach won’t work, either for technical reasons or because having the entire photo sharp doesn’t give the desired visual and aesthetic impact. In fact, selective focus can be so attractive that there are special tools you can use, like the Lensbaby, intended for just this purpose.

The apple and pear blossoms in this pair of photos are espaliered along a fence with our western neighbor. These trees have multiple varieties (five in the case of the apple, three for the pear) grafted onto a single trunk, with the varietal branches spread across the fence. It’s an interesting tangent that any apple you are ever likely to eat will have come from grafted stock rather than seed. Apples seeds simply don’t reliably reproduce, so once you get a good eating apple what you do is reproduce it over and over again by grafting, which essentially means genetic cloning.

I do generally believe that a tripod is the photographer’s best friend. But in this case, the blossoms were high up the fence, so I wasn’t going to able to bring a tripod to bear. Besides, there was a steady breeze. So I made the best of it, and hand held these photos using image stabilization at a fast enough shutter speed so that the subject motion wasn’t much of an issue.

The trick here is to get the plane of the camera as parallel as possible to the area of the subject that you care about. Also, you need to press the shutter release at exactly the right instant, because even slight subject (or camera) movement can spoil the focus. But if all the stars line up, selective focus can make for very nice images.

Apple Blossom Special

View this image larger.

[Both photos: Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens, 36mm extension tube, +2 diopter close-up filter, ISO 100, hand held with image stabilization enagaged; Apple: 1/250 of a second at f/8, 95mm (142.5mm in 35mm terms); Pear: 1/160 of a second at f/6.3, 82mm (123mm in 35mm terms)]

Related stories: Cherry Blossom Special; Botany of Desire.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Lupine along the Trail

Lupine along the Trail

Lupine along the Trail, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Coming back from Alamere Falls, I photographed this lupine bush with two exposures, one for the sunset in the background, and one for the foreground which was already deep in twilight darkness. Within the curve of the sky, you can see the far end of the Point Reyes peninsula, silhouetted against the sunset.

Related story: Hike to Alamere Falls.

[Nikon D300, 10.5mm digital fisheye, 1/5 of a second (sunset background) and 3/5 of a second (foreground) at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Flowers, Landscape, Photography, Point Reyes

Alamere Falls Looking North

Alamere Falls Looking North

Alamere Falls Looking North, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Alamere Falls is sited dramatically, tumbling over a sheer cliff to the beach and ocean. My compositional problem was to show the waterfall in the context of the site: if you take a photo of Alamere Falls against the cliff, you don’t see the ocean or beach.

To solve this problem, in this photo I snuck up to one side of the falls, and got the waterfall and the curve of Point Reyes in one composition.

Related story: Hike to Alamere Falls.

[Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 18mm (27mm in 35mm terms), circular polarizer, 1/10 of a second at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Point Reyes

Door Knob Dome Scandal

Door Knob Dome Scandal

Door Knob Dome Scandal, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Everyone thought it a scandal when the door knob in my basement got together with the dome in San Francisco. But the dome and door knob were merely romantic, and invited a red rose, too.

Related image: Dream Stairs.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques



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

This is the interior of the dome of San Francisco City Hall. I lay on my back in the central space of the building, letting people flow around me. The wide-angle lens and straight-up point-of view combined to create the illusion of apparent flatness (actually the dome has considerable depth).

Related stories: San Francisco City Hall; After the Wedding.

[Nikon D300, 12-24mm zoom lens at 12mm (18mm in 35mm terms), 1.3 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, San Francisco Area

Hike to Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Alamere Falls tumbles down a cliff to the Pacific Ocean in Point Reyes National Seashore. This awesome waterfall lies north of the Bolinas plateau and south of Arch Rock. From the Bolinas side, it’s about four miles on good trails, then a half a mile scramble down to the falls and beach, so a total round-trip hike of about nine miles. The Point Reyes southern district trail map shows the route pretty well (look towards the bottom of the map).

Julian, my oldest son, and I started in mid-afternoon with a good lunch at Robata. For the record, Julian inhaled 18 gyoza (Japanese potstickers). Then we stopped in Mill Valley and picked up a slab of bread and some gourmet chocolate to take along for dinner, and headed for the trailhead. Our plan was to get to the falls an hour or so before sunset when the photography would be good, and hike most of the way back in the dark.

It was a pleasure hiking with Julian, who enjoyed the sights and sounds of birds, flowers, and bullfrogs. The only real disappointment was when the trail passed Bass Lake, a possible swimming spot. But poison oak made the approach to the lake too tricky to attempt.

When we got to the turn-off from the Coastal Trail down to Alamere Falls, Julian particularly took pleasure in the Park Service’s “Dangerous and Unmaintained” trail sign. This path does tunnel through poison oak in places. You reach the top of the falls by jumping across the creek as it approaches the falls, and are then standing 150 feet or so above a sheer cliff to the beach. It’s very dramatic and a bit vertigo inducing (photo from the top of Alamere Falls to follow).

From the top of the falls, we made our way down a crack in the cliff to the beach. This is a reasonably steep climb, and I decided I didn’t want to go back up it in the dark.

On the beach, the sun was heading down and a rainbow played in Alamere Falls (above). I let Julian take off his clothes for a dip in the creek (below) while I photographed.

On the trail home, as it got dark, we switched on our head lamps and talked about a wide range of topics. Julian said, “When I’m grown up, I’ll take my oldest son here.” Back in the parking lot, Julian was asleep almost as soon as I cranked the engine. There was no traffic, and we were home to a sleeping house by midnight.

Julian at Alamere Falls

View this image larger.

Posted in Hiking, Kids, Landscape, Photography, Point Reyes

Nicky Jumping

Nicky Jumping

Nicky Jumping, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

On a recent trip to Alcatraz, Nicky started jumping in the exercise yard.

I was mindful of Philippe Halsman’s famous portrait technique of asking his subjects to jump. As Halsman put it, “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.” For example, here’s a famous Halsman portrait of Marilyn Monroe jumping on the cover of Life Magazine.

So when Nicky started jumping, I viewed it as a photo opportunity. I had my little Canon Powershot G9 set on aperture-preferred metering at the smallest aperture (f/8) to take advantage of the magnificent depth-of-field implied by the small sensor size of the camera. (For more about this effect, see pages 56-57 of my Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers.)

I knew there would be shutter lag, a delay between when I pressed the shutter release button and when the exposure was actually made. So I waited until Nicky was just taking off, pressed the button, and caught him in mid-air.

Nicky’s comment on looking at the photo: “I was trying to fly.” Well, fortunately Nicky is not quite the Birdman of Alcatraz, but he certainly made a good stab at flight!

[Canon G9 fixed lens, appx. 45mm in 35mm equivalent terms, aperture-preferred mode, f/8 at 1/160 of a second and ISO 80, hand held with image stabilization engaged.]

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography

America at Home

Rick Smolan gave me a coupon for a version of his book America at Home with a custom cover, and I put Julian and Nicky in the design (see below).

Rick is famous for his Day in the Life series of photography books. Like many of Rick’s projects, America at Home is extraordinarily creative in concept. Essentially, the notion of a coffee table photo book has been extended in an unexpected way through the use of POD (print on demand). Each custom copy of America at Home is a colloboration between Rick’s team of professionals and the end users who put their own photos on the cover of their copy of the book.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography