Monthly Archives: January 2009

Masked Avenger

A long way this lepidoptra flew from the rain forest. The time had come to reset balance and right wrongs.

Masked Avenger

Masked Avenger, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

The world is a better place with this color shifter on the case.

Blue Butterfly

Blue Butterfly, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

But wait. To what fell form does it transmogrify? Can we learn from the flight of the butterfly?

The Wings of Man

The Wings of Man, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Tummy Tyme

Tummy Tyme

Tummy Tyme, photo by Harold Davis.

Katie Rose is learning to lift her head while she is on her tummy. She is helped in this endeavor by her mommy, and by Beth, who comes once a week from the Regional Center.

Lifting her head is fun, but hard. After a few minutes of tummy time, Katie Rose usually gets pretty tired.


The Birth of Katie Rose
The Day My Daughter Was Born
Speaking in Tongues

Posted in Katie Rose, Kids, Photography

Alstromeria Medley

Alstromeria Medley on White

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

Briefly noted: While photographing the Helleborus, I also placed these alstromeria blossoms on the lightbox; the black variation is a luminance inversion of the original capture.

Alstromeria Medley on Black

View this image larger.

Posted in Flowers, Photography


Transmogrification is the process or result of changing from one appearance, state, or phase to another.

This transmogrification starts with a relatively straight photo of a white hellebore, taken a few days ago. The original photo was straight down on a black velvet background. As you can see, the process of transformation has taken this flower a long way:

Green Variation

Green Variation, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

After taking the first photo, I let the hellebore flower soak for a couple of days in a sushi dish. The petals became extremely transparent, and I photographed the wet ensemble on a light box.

The green variation (above) and the blue variation (below) are further changes of state using Photoshop. These are LAB color space inversions with channels applied to the inversions in a variety of blending modes.

The blue version strikes me as very psychedelic, almost an emphatic presence in the flower, while the green variation is more concerned with textures. In the green transmogrification, the flower has become a textile.

Blue Variation

Blue Variation, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Related transmogrification: Pink Hellebore to Hidden Seeds.

Further note: in the interview that Hannah Thiem conducted with me on, we proposed a self-assignment: “Photograph a flower in a unique way—in a way that nobody’s seen before.” I think this series of photos shows that I may be working through my own assignment.

Posted in Flowers, Photograms, Photography

Hidden Seeds

Hidden Seeds

Hidden Seeds, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

After photographing the pink Hellebore, I let it soak for several days. When the petals were transparent to the point of translucency, I photographed it straight down on a light box. I converted the background to black in Photoshop working on the image in LAB color by inverting the L (luminance) channel.

Posted in Flowers, Photograms, Photography

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose

Mission San Jose, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

On a recent Saturday, Julian and I went to the Tech Museum in San Jose, California for the birthday party of Julian’s friend Sean.

On our way home we stopped at the Mission San Jose in Fremont, about fifteen miles away from downtown San Jose.

Mission San Jose was founded in 1797, the fourteenth of the twenty-one California missions. The mission is on the site of the town of Orisom, lived in for many generations by Ohlone Native Americans. Within a short number of years after the founding of the mission, the Ohlone who lived nearby were converted to the Spanish way of life—or were dead.

On a gray winter afternoon, the interior of the dark church was a challenge to this photographer. However, the thick adobe walls must present a dim, cool, and inviting interior during the hot months of the summer time.

Driving past endless strip malls and car dealerships from the hustle-and-bustle of modern downtown San Jose to the quiet piece of history that Mission San Jose remembers it is interesting to note how short the time is since the world moved to the beat of much slower music—and to consider, along with all the gains, what may have been lost in the rapid transition.

Related story: Mission San Juan Bautista.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, San Francisco Area

From Architecture to Fantasy

Between committments at Macworld at the Moscone Center I wandered over and indulged my dome photography habit by photographing the dome in the Westfield shopping mall in downtown San Francisco. I believe the dome itself is antique, but it’s placed in an entirely modern shopping mall.


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

It’s easy with most domes to capture the entire inside of the structure. The architecture of this one, with the modern shopping mall only a few floors below the mall, made it impossible, even with my fisheye, to capture the full extent of the thing (I may share a fisheye view later). So I got down on the center of the floor under the dome, and used a 12mm wide-angle lens instead to create a jewel-like effect.

Both Macworld and the Westfield shopping mall seemed to me examples of extreme consumption, with tech gadgets the theme at Macworld and shopping-until-you-drop the raison d’être at Westfield. Both the computer show and the shopping mall seemed to be in a bubble of denial (Westfield more so than Macworld).

I tend towards feelings of alienation at times anyhow. But there’s nothing like pulling out the tripod and getting down on the floor in the midst of glitzy stores, carts hawking cosmetics, and glazed shoppers to make one feel like a stranger in a very strange land.

In some even stranger way, this dome from a palace of consumptive capitalism became grist for my creative mill. I’m never sure what drives these things, it is kind of a compulsive emotional doodling. But I know that when my inner Photoshop doodler calls I need to listen.

Starting with my photo of the Westfield Mall dome, I stayed up most of the night and worked the image in Photoshop.

My first step was to convert the image of the dome to LAB color. Then I experimented with inverting and equalizing the LAB color channels. Here’s one of the studies that resulted:

Dome Study 2

I piled the studies on top of one another as layers. I combined the layers, using primarily Difference and Exclusion blending modes. These blending modes often produce striking colors when you wouldn’t expect it.

I layer masked the results and hand painted in the colors, coming up with something that looks more like a cameo jewel, or pschedelic watch, than architecture.

Too much is not enough for me when I’m under the spell of Photoshop. It was also hard to stop when I was on a sleep deprivation and good food binge fueled by Macworld, taking care of the kids, and my birthday weekend, so why not invert the inversions? When does it ever end?

To take the image further I resized it several times, changed the shape of inner bands using Transform commands, and combined the resized and transformed versions together.

Watchmaker Dial A

For more intermediate steps and variations, check out Watchmaker’s Dial.

Related story: Oakland of My Mind also shows my progression from relatively straight photos to fantastic imagery.

From top to bottom: Cameo, Dome Study 2, Watchmaker Dial A.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Written in Milk


Sharing, photo by Harold Davis.

It’s good to learn sharing early. When Katie Rose was in the NICU, Phyllis pumped large quantities of breast milk for her. The inventory far outstripped what our tiny preemie needed, so Phyllis donated the extra supply to the Mother’s Milk Bank of San Jose.

This was no casual donation, because breast milk is treated as a “blood product”. Phyllis had to have blood work done, and we had to arrange for a freezer-to-freezer transport with the nurse from the milk bank.

Over a period of time, Phyllis donated about 700 ounces of breast milk (about 5 1/2 gallons). Milk expressed for a preemie is specially formulated with benefits for premature babies, so Phyllis’s donated milk, pumped for Katie Rose, has been used to help other premature babes. And Katie Rose is now a milk sister to these infants.

Phyllis stopped pumping a couple of months ago, and Katie Rose is now ploughing through our “library” of breast milk bottles archived in the freezer (see photo below). We supplement Katie’s diet with the Similac Neosure product.


Looking at the frozen bottles of breast milk, Phyllis and I think they make a kind of diary. The date on each one brings us memories of what was going on over the summer in the NICU as they were pumped. The story of a great deal of stress and joy is written in milk.

Posted in Bemusements, Katie Rose, Kids

The Wrestlers’ Tomb

The Wrestlers' Tomb

The Wrestlers’ Tomb, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Some days I feel I’m channeling Vincent van Gogh, others it is M.C. Escher, and today I am channeling René Magritte and his painting The Wrestler’s Tomb.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Pink Hellebore

Pink Hellebore

Pink Hellebore, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I photographed this pink hellebore blossom—I think it’s a Helleborus x hybridus “Royal Heritage”—using the same technique as the White Hellebore.

Check out Hannah Theim’s interview with me on The interview covers alot of ground, and concludes with a flower photography “assignment” for members.

Posted in Photography

White Hellebore

White Hellebore

White Hellebore, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Hellebores are delicate flowers that bloom close to the ground in partial shade. They are one of our first flowers of the year.

This almost-all-white blossom was growing near our front gate. I cut it, and then Phyllis helped me mount it on black velvet using a pin.

I shot straight down, using my Zeiss macro lens, and combined four exposures from two to eight seconds (at f/22 and ISO 100) to capture the entire dynamic range in the petals.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Tugboats, Port Richmond

Tugboats, Port Richmond

Tugboats, Port Richmond, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

It’s well known that the California East Bay city of Richmond has serious crime problems. Less well known is the fact that it is home to a massive working port and a new national historic park that celebrates naval manufacturing during World War II.

Near the waterfront sit acres of unsold cars imported from the orient. In today’s prosaic world the fabled “riches of the orient” have been replaced with fungible vehicles that may be unsalable. At night, the vast parking lots look bizarre under mercury vapor lighting, with paper covering car hoods.

A narrow road follows the coast with the parked, imported cars behind a chain-link fence on one side and the working harbor on the other. Exploring this route the other night I came upon these tugboats and their reflections.

I made exposures at a wide range of times, but I like this relatively short four minute exposure best because it leaves the water dark and allows the colors of the reflections to stand out.

Posted in Digital Night, Photography, San Francisco Area

Green Artifact

Green Artifact

Green Artifact, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a photo of the Marin Fountain in Berkeley taken at sunset with my fisheye lens. I was surprised to see the lens artifact in the photo. Although I did stop the lens down all the way to f/22, in response to a number of questions, there were no filters used (I actually don’t have any filters that will fit over the complicated optics of the 10.5mm digital fisheye).

The lens artifact reminds me of a green alien fish sliding into the fountain.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, San Francisco Area

Flickr, Blurb, and Multiple Sclerosis

What do Flickr, Blurb, and multiple sclerosis have in common? How can the combination contribute to the fight against MS, and maybe change the face of publishing at the same time?

Several months ago I was contacted on Flickr by Sophie Addison, and asked to share my image Spirals in a book Sophie was creating titled It’s a Beautiful World. All proceeds were to support the MS cause.

It's a Beautiful World... - Photographers for a Cause - Blurb

The book is a bestseller on Blurb, and Sophie has repackaged it in a second edition.

It's a Beautiful World Cover

Obviously, this project financially benefits MS—to the tune Sophie informs me of between $10 and $20 per copy of the book sold.

It’s also clear that the book never would have been possible before POD (Publication on Demand). These books are produced as they are purchased. No one would ever have fronted the vast costs of producing a print run of thousands of these color books (as would have been required before POD). When she was putting together her book, Sophie did not have to worry about upfront production costs.

There’s also something that may presage the future of publishing in the use of Web 2.0 tools, the collaborative nature of the venture, and the mixed professional-amateur origin of the work in the book.

Besides the Blurb POD service, Sophie used Flickr groups and sets to organize photographers and the pages in her book. Contributors to the book ran the gamut from professional to enthusiastic amateur. Sophie used Flickr’s mail service to contact photographers and keep them posted about the project.

Sophie herself has no background in design, book publishing, or photo editing. She writes, “I started with a theme—our world—and went about finding captivating photos that would fit into that simple concept. It was a rather selfish process as I was able to choose whichever photos I liked best. Browsing through Flickr photostreams and discovering wonderful artists was a real pleasure.”

I asked Sophie to tell me a bit about herself, and she wrote back:

I’m a person living with MS. I’m a wife, a daughter, a friend, a volunteer and I’d like to do more to help fellow MSers educate themselves about this disease. I believe that within all of its tragedy, Multiple Sclerosis doesn’t have to be a hardship alone. It can also be a tool and a reason to be a better person.

Even though I have faced the emotional roller coaster that most people living with MS are familiar with, my relationship with the disease goes beyond my personal story. This diagnosis made me who I am today and although I would like to think that we do not need such hardship to learn from life, I wouldn’t change my past experience for anything in the world.

I believe in education and I’m a big fan of optimism. My hope for the future is that we will see treatments able to stop the progression of the disease as well as better life quality standards for those suffering from the progressive forms of MS.

Throughout the world, multiple sclerosis organizations are funding some of the most innovative research initiatives. But that’s not all they do! What people don’t always realize is that a significant part of the funds raised goes to provide support and services to people living with MS, their families and caregivers. Your money makes a difference TODAY.

Some related links:
It’s a Beautiful World (First Edition, Page layouts on Flickr)
It’s a Beautiful Word (First Edition, in the Blurb bookstore)
It’s a Beautiful World (Second Edition, Page layouts on Flickr)
It’s a Beautiful Word (Second Edition, in the Blurb bookstore)

Posted in Photography

Dear President Obama

My eleven-year-old son Julian was given a fifth-grade school assignment to write a letter to President-elect Obama. Julian composed his letter on his own, and I’m reproducing it here with his enthusiastic permission.

Dear Mr. President,

My little sister Katie Rose Davis was born prematurely at 24 weeks. Thankfully, my family has health insurance to pay for the hospital. My Mom and Dad pay alot for the insurance. Some people don’t have insurance. Everybody should have it. There’s even some states where they wouldn’t help people who need help.

We need to work together to stop this so every person has it. It is not right.

Also stop the war in Iraq. Remember you have the power to change things.

In best regard,

Julian Davis

Here’s a recent photo of Katie Rose smiling:

When Katie Smiles

Posted in Katie Rose, Kids