Monthly Archives: October 2010

Bristlecone Pines in the Snow

Bristlecone Pines in the Snow

Bristlecone Pines in the Snow, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: This is the composition I was working on when rudely interrupted, as told in When Worlds Collide. As you can see, my shadow is pretty niftily camouflaged.

Exposure data: 18mm, circular polarizer, 1/15 of a seoncd at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted; multi-RAW processed four times from the original file to extend the dynamic range.

I’m sticking around to enjoy Halloween with the kids, then headed for some photography east of the Sierras—and to the Alabama Hills Star Circle workshop. So blog entries may be on the skimpy side for the next week or so, hope the photos and stories I bring back will be worth the wait!

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography

When Workshops Collide

White Mountain Sunset

White Mountain Sunset, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

On a break from scouting for our Alabama Hills Star Circle workshop, Steven and I headed up into the White Mountains of eastern California, home of the ancient Bristlecone Pines. Our thought was to get to the Patriarch Grove, which we’d heard was inaccessible due to snow.

Sure enough, about a mile from the Grove the road became impassable. We parked the van, and scrambled up a nearby hillside, hoping to take advantage of the Golden Hour light. My breath came fast as I schlepped my photo gear up the snowy hillside at 11,000 feet.

I found a nice piece of weathered Bristlecone wood low to the ground, and started to go into photo-trance mode. This is a state where I am aware of the subject, my vision for it, and my camera equipment—and nothing much else.

All of sudden, I heard voices. I looked around. Cars had parked down below next to ours, and were disgorging photographers and their tripods.

A distinguished looking man with silver hair in a yellow parka with a compact point-and-shoot in hand came up the hill near to where my tripod and I were set up. He was lecturing to a much younger sidekick.

Yellow Parka Man (to me): “Your shadow is going to be in your composition.”

Harold (a bit disgruntled at being interrupted, and at having to deal with all these other people): “I’ve been doing this long enough to know what is—and isn’t—in my frame, thank you very much.”

I hear Yellow Parka Man mutter under his breath, “I hope so.”

A few minutes went by. Then Yellow Parka Man says, “Quit hogging it here. You’ve been photographing quite long enough.”

I really didn’t know what to make of this, after all, I had been there first, and had only been there ten minutes at most. I said, “Sir, you are being quite rude!”—true enough, but it didn’t quite cover the situation.

I decided I wasn’t going to get any peace in the spot, so after I finished my exposure I started to pack up so I could find a less contested location, which resulted in the shot above. As I started to leave, the sidekick decided to speak to me.

Sidekick: “You’ve just insulted the most famous landscape photographer in America.”

Harold: “Oh, who is he?”

Sidekick (who for some reason won’t tell me the name): “You probably have many of his books at home on your shelf.”

I bit my tongue and didn’t mention my own books. My guess was that Yellow Parka Man was David Muench (guess subsequently confirmed). I think Muench was leading a workshop and thought I was one of his students—which got him annoyed when I ignored his initial advice.

If you visit the Muench website, you’ll see that he is a great photographer of the pre-digital era. I would have prefered to meet him some other way, and I’m sure this kind of exchange is not typical of how he operates.

Tempted by Steven and my workshop (November 5-7, 2010) in the wide country east of the Sierras? We promise to know who is in our workshop, and we won’t tell you that you are taking too long photographing the night! It’s not too late to register.

Some of my shots from previous visits to the Patriarch Grove: Touching the Rainbow; Day of Reckoning.

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography

Cherry Blossoms on Skin

Cherry Blossoms on Skin

Recently, I was sent a snapshot of a tattoo creating using one of my images as inspiration. It’s flattering to have someone like one of my photos enough to have it indelibly etched onto their skin, as in this version of my Cherry Blossoms on White (below) recreated by a tattoo artist on my correspondent’s comely back.

Cherry Branch on White

Posted in Bemusements


More Alien Doodles

More Alien Doodles, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

For thousands of years this rock has faced the sky with its mysterious cargoe of markings. Are these writings the musings of the oldest Native Americans, doodles drawn by space aliens, or something completely different?

Note: I’ve been asked not to disclose the location of this photo in order to better protect what you see.

Alien Doodles

View this image larger.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Fog City

Fog City

Fog City, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

No matter how socked-in and foggy the San Francisco Bay area is, there’s a good chance that the sun is shining on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais.

On a day that was cold and clammy at sea level, Mark and I walked the trail to the West Point Inn in balmy late afternoon sunshine. Other than for loading and unloading supplies, you can only get here by walking—fitting for a place preserved in time for about a hundred years.

I shot this view of the fog streaming over San Francisco just before the last light of sunset from the veranda of one of the cabins. Then we hurried back along the trail and to the car so we could reach the Pantoll Gate in time—notionally this barrier is closed half an hour after sunset.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area



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

A Passiflora vine twines around the No Parking sign in front of our house here in Berkeley, California. Nicky pointed out one particularly colorful Passion flower, and I snipped the blossom to bring it indoors for photography.

I placed the flower on an illuminated light box and arranged the bud so it was lit by the afternnon sun from behind. I used a white fill card to lighten shadow areas.

This image was created using a Lensbaby Composer with its fisheye attachment. One of the marvelous things about this fisheye-Lensbaby rig is how close it focuses. The lens was right up against the flower.

I used a tripod and shot four exposures without using an aperture disk (the lens was wide open at about f/2), each exposure at ISO 100. The exposures times were 1/5 of a second, 1/13 of a second, 1/25 of a second, and 1/50 of a second.

In Photoshop, I layered the exposures together, starting with the lightest (1/5 of a second) on the bottom. Once I was satisfied with the results, I converted the image to LAB and inverted the Lightness channel to turn the white background to the black you see in the final image.

Posted in Flowers, Lensbaby, Photography

Eros Art Exhibit


Kellie, photo by Harold Davis.

I have nine monochromatic prints (including the image of Kellie shown above) in The Eros Show, on exhibit (and for sale) at the Arthouse Gallery & Cultural Center here in Berkeley, California. Some details:

Preview (honoring Timothy O’Leary’s birthday): Friday, October 22, 7PM to Midnight

Eros Art Opening: Friday, November 5, 5PM-10PM, with live shows starting at 8PM; the Eros exhibit will run through mid-February

Where: Art House Gallery
2905 Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley Ca 94705
Info: 510-472-3170
Admission: FREE

The Gallery is near the corner of Russell and Ashby, just a block over from Ashby and Shattuck. Ashby BART is barely two blocks away.

Posted in Bemusements, Models, Monochrome, Photography

Whirl of Rose

Whirl of Rose

Whirl of Rose, photo by Harold Davis.

Briefly noted: This is one of the roses I brought to a recent Creative Close-Ups workshop. I photographed the blossom straight down using natural light (it was overcast, so the light was relatively dim and diffuse).

Taken with a 50mm Sigma macro lens, three exposures from 0.5 seconds to 3 seconds combined in Photoshop, each exposure at f/32 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Snake Skin

Snake Skin

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

On Friday, I drove out to the historic Coastguard boathouse on the tip of Point Reyes to give a weekend Creative Close-Ups workshop under the auspices of Point Reyes Field Seminars. I’d unpacked and organized when a park ranger came by and told us that there was a gas leak and the building was unsafe. So we all packed up again, got in our cars, and drove through the gathering dark to the Clem Miller Environmental Education Center on the other side of Drake’s Bay.

Despite this inauspicious start, it was a great workshop with very congenial and accomplished participants—the kind of group that makes teaching the weekend workshop a pleasure, not a chore.

The Clem Miller facility has any number of interesting natural specimens around, great for close-up photography. I shot this snake skin on a light box I’d brought along to demonstrate the technique of shooting for transparency. In Photoshop, I converted the image to LAB, and inverted the Lightness channel to show the contrast of the translucent snake skin against a black background.

I’ll be giving the close-ups workshop again on Point Reyes Friday, April 29 to Sunday May 1, 2011. It’s pretty far in advance, but my workshops do tend to fill up. Here’s the registration link.

Related link: My Creative Close-Ups book on Amazon.

Posted in Photography, Still Life

Stars over Bishop, California

Stars over Bishop, California

Stars over Bishop, California, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: This is a view northwest over Owens Valley from Sierra View, high in the White Mountains. The star trails were created from 15 stacked exposures, each exposure using my 10.5mm digital fisheye for 4 minutes at f/2.8 and ISO 320.

The trick in the dark of night to getting detail in the foreground is to shoot an image that has the detail, either by getting in position early (before sunset) or—as in this case—shooting a high ISO foregorund version. Here, I added foreground detail with a 30 second ISO 2,500 shot at f/2.8. I also did a little foreground light painting.

These and other secrets of night photography to be revealed at the Alabama Hills Star Circle Workshop in early November.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Alabama Hills Star Trails

Alabama Hills Star Trails

Alabama Hills Star Trails, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

OK. So it was hardly a gourmet picnic dinner. Steven and I stopped for a take-out sandwich at the Subway in Lone Pine, California. Then we headed for the top of a pinnacle in the mid-portion of the Alabama Hills in time for sunset and night.

I pointed a camera south (above) and roughly north (below). For the south camera I was able to use my 110 volt DC battery, described in my story about Lady Boot Arch. The north camera was party, party, party until the camera battery went dry. If you want the gory details, the south-facing photo consists of 25 stacked 241 second exposures (241 seconds is my D300’s idea of a 4 minute bulb setting) for an exposure time of roughly 100 minutes. I used a 10.5mm digital fisheye for these shots at f/3.2 and ISO 250.

For the north-facing shot, I was able to eke out 17 exposures (again, at roughly 4 minutes for each exposure) before the battery drained, for a stacked exposure time of about 68 minutes, all exposures using a 12mm lens at f/4 and ISO 320.

We were in position on the top of a pinnacle before sunset. As sunset faded to dusk, and twilight turned to full night, I was able to snap some exposures that I could later use to add foreground color and detail to these images. For example, the pop-top camper in the bottom photo would not have been visible in the darkness of full night.

Depth perception also changes when you are perched on a high place at night in the darkness of no moon. The cliff below me faded until it almost seemed like I could walk across the crags to the rest of the Alabama Hills.

Oh yes, the Subway sandwich tasted suprisingly good in the darkness on my small pinnacle perch listening to the syncopated snapping of shutters and interval timers.

Want to learn the techniques I used to make these images (and much more)? Come to the Alabama Hills Star Circle Workshop, November 5-7, 2010. The dates are selected to coincide with the darkness of the moon, and we should get vast and clear skies in the Eastern Sierra. Alabama Hills presents almost unlimited opportunities for night photography—I can promise you won’t be bored.

There are still some places left in the workshop, but note that tuition goes up from $500 to $600 on October 16.

Here’s the registration link; also you may be interested in many of the technique articles that Steven has posted on the Star Circle blog.


View this image larger.

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

East of Eden

Owens River Valley

Owens River Valley, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Exploring the high volcanic tableland in Owens Valley with Steven, I positioned my tripod on the brink. Far below, the Owens River meandered, with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada range of light in the background. Here’s a shot of Steven and Harold close to the position from which this photo was taken.

A great comment on Flickr from Davide Bedin about my photo: “The first thing came up to my mind as I saw this picture was the book East of Eden by Steinbeck. Salinas valley (the valley of the book) probably is very different; the contrast between the gentle river bends, the road and rocky detail in foreground, the magnificent mountain range in the back with looming clouds strongly, all in your picture reminds me of the spirit of that book.”

Salinas, of course, is nothing like Owens Valley in reality—but sometimes the spirit and poetry of a view overcome the mere details of boring and mundane reality.

The finished image is a composite of six captures, each capture made using a 20mm lens at f/22 and ISO 100. Shutter speed times ranged from 1/13 of a second to 1.6 seconds. I combined the images in Photoshop using the hand-HDR drudgery of layers and masking. Colors were further enhanced in Photoshop using some of the techniques that I explain in my latest column, Making Colors Pop in Photoshop.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Road Trip

Lady Boot Arch

Lady Boot Arch

Lady Boot Arch, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is an image of Lady Boot Arch in the Alabama Hills, located between Lone Pine, California and Mount Whitney. I created the star trails using 49 captures, each capture shot using a 10.5mm digital fisheye for 4 minutes at f/5.6 and ISO 200. I stacked the exposures using the Photoshop Statistics script.

Obviously, my camera was not pointing north—if I had been, the star trails would have appeared circular.

To be able to expose for a combined time of a little more than three hours, I used a direct current adapter plugged into a portable Vagabond II power supply from Paul C Buff. This lithium battery-plus-sine-wave-inverter is intended to power studio strobes and is at sixteen pounds is a bit heavy for wandering around the Alabama Hills at night. But it’s great to know I’m not going to run out of power.

Some “secret sauce”: In a couple of the frames in the composite, I light painted the arch using my LED headlamp. Also, I was in position before it was fully dark, and the tripod did not move, so I was able to Photoshop in some of the arch color from twilight.

This image was shot on a scouting trip to the Alabama Hills region with Steven Christenson in preparation for our night photography and star circle workshop in early November.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Forget-Her-Nots Cover

I was very pleased to see the way my photo turned out on the cover of Amy Brecount White’s Forget-Her-Nots. The publisher is Greenwillow Books (part of HarperCollins) and the gourgeous wrap-around cover (if I say so myself!) was nicely art-directed by Paul Zakris from my Transparency image of poppies (Papaver Rhoeas).

Forget-Her-Knots wrap cover

So, in the “Flowers and their meanings” at the back of the book, poppies mean “fantastic extravagance,” and the author, Amy Brecount White, is a gardener. This leads the way to recounting my pleasure when I learned that Forget-Her-Knots, while notionally addressed to seventh grade readers (and up), is about the magic and language of flowers. How wonderfully appropriate for my work!

Forget-Her-Knots cover

Posted in Photography



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

I finally got around to post-processing this rose photo, originally shot in 2007.

Like most active photographers I have a huge backlog of RAW images that I’ve barely glanced at, let alone processed. It’s fun sometimes to dip into my back pages and see what I was doing then. To some extent, the experience is like being a voyeur looking into someone else’s photographic mind—someone I know very, very well because the someone is, after all, my younger self. Or not, as Bob Dylan put it, “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.”

Posted in Flowers, Photography