Monthly Archives: May 2009

Calypso Orchids

Calypso Orchid

Calypso Orchid, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

In mid-April the Calypso Orchid grows wild on the forested slopes of Mount Tamalpais.

I photographed these Calypso Orchids near Cataract Falls on tripod with a Lensbaby Composer. I used a +4 close-up filter and the plastic optic swapped into the Lensbaby to give the images a soft and dreamlike atmosphere.

Calypso Orchids

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Posted in Flowers, Lensbaby, Photography

Pods

Poppy Snake

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

It’s poppy popping time in my garden, otherwise known as full spring around here. Poppy pods are surprisingly short lived: once they start to give birth you only have a little time before the poppy is in full bloom, and fully born. Once the flower in out, the pod splits in two, and the flimsy halves are soon gone in the wind.

The photos above and below were both taken with my 200mm f/4 macro lens combined with a 36mm extension tube on tripod at ISO 200.

The image on top was backlit by the early morning sun, and I focused and exposed for the hairs of the opening bud (which were coated with morning dew). The exposure was 1/400 of a second at f/11, which was an underexposure of the pod itself and the background by at least a couple of stops. I like the graphic effect, and (per the title) think it looks a bit like a viper head.

The image below was front lit as the sun came up, and is more conventionally exposed (for a macro) at 1/50 of a second and f/32. I used my hands to create a shadow (and partial reduction of the strong, direct sunlight).

Now, that only leaves some questions: What if people were born using pods like poppies? Would we be pod people? Would the pods be our other mothers (it is, after all, Mother’s Day)?

Becoming

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Related stories: Little Shop of Horrors; Poppy Emerging; Papaver Birth; Wet Poppy Bud; Being Born; my Poppy set on Flickr.

Posted in Photography

Breaking Wave

Breaking Wave

Breaking Wave, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I shot this photo a few years ago, obliquely facing the rugged cliffs along the outer Marin Headlands. Here’s the color version and partial backstory; the photo appeared in color in my Light & Exposure book with the following caption:

I was struck by the contrast between the dramatic surf in the sunset and the dark shore in the shadow. I decided to create an interesting photo by exposing for the sunlit-breaking wave and letting the cliff go dark. Actually, you can’t even really tell that it is a cliff, and the mystery about the dark shore helps make the image compelling.

The entire image was in focus at infinity, so depth of field wasn’t an issue. I really didn’t care what aperture I used. I used spot meter mode to get exposure settings based on the bright wave, and made sure that the shutter speed selected (1/250 of second) in shutter-preferred mode was fast enough to freeze the motion of the wave. With the shutter speed in place, I allowed the camera to select the aperture without worrying about it, and concentrated on depressing the shutter at the crucial moment when the wave was crashing on the shore.

18–200mm VR zoom lens at 200mm, 1/250 of a second at f/6.3 and ISO 100, hand-held.

I’ve been on a black & white conversion kick lately, and this one struck me as a good candidate for monchrome. The conversion took eleven separate black & white adjustment layers, each with its own mask, and one LAB inversion used as a layer, but I think it was worth the trouble.

Posted in Landscape, Monochrome, Photography

Tears of the Poppy

Tears of the Poppy

Tears of the Poppy, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

The poppy weeps for the beauty of the world and the ephemeral nature of life.

Posted in Photography

Papaver Rhoeas

It’s poppy time of year in my garden. I can’t resist a poppy, they are among my favorite flowers to photograph. Ephemeral and architected to respond to even slight wind (so motion is always an issue at the slower shutter speeds often used for macro work), poppies are not the easiest flowers to photograph. Stunning colors and a kind of naive lack of pretension (decorative poppies are no hothouse roses bred for commerce) makes the effort worth it.

Papaver Rhoeas

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With this Papaver rhoeas I intentionally underexposed to help me get a fast enough shutter speed to avoid the flower-in-motion problem. I shot at 1/800 of a second on a tripod with my 100mm macro lens fairly wide open at f/5.6 and ISO 200.

My idea was to get the center in focus, and to minimize the focus degradation across the rest of the flower by getting as parallel to the flower as possible.

Naturally, the histogram bunched to the left (I was underexposed by a couple of stops), but I was able to salvage this in the multi-RAW conversion process, with only a little extra noise.

Recent Papaver story: Salutation to the Sun; More poppies.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Kicking Up Her Heels

Katie Rose’s chronological first birthday is fast approaching. Of course, she’s not really a one year old. Her “corrected” age, as they say, is about eight months (this counts from when she would have been born had she been full term).

Katie Kicking

Developmentally, depending on what specific aspect you are looking at, she’s roughly in the seven to ten month range. Her gross motor skills are the biggest single issue. Since she has no mobility, she’s either put down or carried everywhere. This is frustrating her, but she’ll be getting some physical therapy to help. It’s clear that she’ll be very happy when she can lift up her torso, and begin to crawl.

Still, any excuse for a party is good. I think Katie is kicking up her heels with glee because she knows it’s her first birthday party soon. Katie is so full of life.

For me, remembering back a year brings a frisson of acknowledgement of how thin the membrane is that separates life and death. Katie was poised on the razor’s edge between life and death for longer than I care to think.

Katie Rose is a miracle and stands for hope against all odds. But there’s an alternate universe out there in which I’m a widower with three boys, and Katie is dead, or a vegitable. So I am counting my manifest blessings.

Stories from a year ago: The Day My Daughter Was Born; The Birth of Katie Rose.

Posted in Katie Rose, Kids

Golden Gate in Black and White

We’ve been working on the section of The Photoshop Darkroom that treats black and white imagery, so how fitting that a client should ask for black and white images of the Golden Gate Bridge. I always love these projects out of the blue because they lead me in new directions.

Golden Gate Span

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Without getting into specifics (you’ll have to wait for the book for them), the ideas behind black and white imagery in Photoshop are pretty straigthforward. There are a number of ways of converting the RGB file created in a camera to monochrome—as Phyllis puts it, some good, some bad, and some just plain ugly—but here are the important concepts that transcend the technique specifics:

  • Don’t set your camera to take black and white photos. The only thing in-camera black & whites are good for is pre-visualization. You don’t want to drop the color information yet.
  • Pick images that work in monochrome. Usually, color isn’t really important to these images and they have a strong and graphic compositional sense. Often, these are high contrast photos with obvious directional light sources.
  • Use the tools of the creative Photoshop darkroom to add value to the image in color before beginning conversion.
  • Pick a black and white conversion technique that allows you to use the color information in the image as part of the conversion. Simply dropping the color channels is an awful idea. The Channel mixer and/or black and white adjustment layers work well.
  • Plan to use layers and masking to process different portions of the image differently. This increases tonal range, and allows you to have very black blacks and extremely white whites.

Here are some more black and white Golden Gate Bridge images.

Underneath

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Sunset on the Bay

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Golden Gate Crossing

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Golden Gate Clouds

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Sailing on the Bay

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Bridge Angle

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Golden Gate Shadow

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Related story: Nautilus in Black and White.

Posted in Monochrome, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Boat Drop

Boat Drop

Boat Drop, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

If I casually looked at this image without knowing any better, I’d assume it was a scan of a hand-painted print, or had been substantially worked in Photoshop. While I have absolutely no shame about creative post-processing or hand painting, this in fact is pretty much an in-camera creation.

During my recent night photography workshop, I was looking down from the second story of the historic Coastguard Boathouse straight out to sea at the tracks used to launch rescue boats. The window pane was covered with rain and salt spray. I put the focus to manual and set the camera to infinity. Placing the camera lens close to the dirty window, and exposing handheld with a wide open aperture, I came up with the serendipitous results you see.

Posted in Photography

Lighthouse in the Fog

Lighthouse in the Fog

Lighthouse in the Fog, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

In remote darkness we descended the stairs to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. Droplets of water hung to everything in the dense fog. Sounds seemed muffled; even the savage Pacific Ocean breakers could barely be heard.

My night photography workshop participants might have preferred a clear night, but we were privileged to be at the western most in the continental United States with the antique fresnel light turned on. The dense fog diffused the light and created an otherworldly sense of mystery and awe.

Being the leader has some advantages: I snapped this photo using a 1/2 second exposure before heading all the way down.

Workshop notes: My next Point Reyes Night Photography workshop is now definitely scheduled for Friday, October 9 through Sunday, October 11 (I originally thought the workshop was going to run later in October but ran into scheduling conflicts around using the historic Coastguard Boathouse as the base for the workshop).

No promises, but autumn can be a good time of year in terms of the weather on Point Reyes. If you are interested, I’d suggest early registration, as these workshops do sell out. To register, call Point Reyes Field Seminars at 415.663.1200, extension 373 (online registration isn’t available yet).

We’ve extended the early bird discount for my Saturday, July 18 – Sunday, July 19 creative Digital Post-Processing (Photoshop) workshop. Until May 31, 2009 the 10% discount applies, bringing the tuition down from $345 to $311. To receive the early bird discount, you must pay in full by check or using the online registration form.

Odds and Ends: In addition to my regular email newsletter, I’ve started a new email list intended for professionals who are interested in photography, digital graphic arts, and my work. I’m going to be sending out no more than three emails a year to this list, and they will be short and to the point. Please drop me an email with “Pro List” in the subject line and your name, company, job title, address, and phone if you’d like to be added to this list.

As Katie Rose approaches her first birthday, I’ve created a slide show of her miraculous first year. Go to www.photoblog2.com, and click the Katie Rose link on the left.

Posted in Photography

Salutation to the Sun

Salutation to the Sun

Salutation to the Sun, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: This newly opened poppy greeting the morning sun, with the lawn behind still in shadow. More poppies.

Posted in Flowers, Photography