Monthly Archives: November 2010

Alabama Hills at Night

Alabama Hills at Night

Alabama Hills at Night, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This was a shot taken during the recent Star Circle and night photography workshop that Steven Christenson and I gave in the Alabama Hills above Lone Pine, California. Actually, it is a sequence of shots (rather than a single capture)—stacked together in post-processing.

There were so many opportunities for shooting that they’ve begun to blur together, but I’m pretty sure this was from the second shoot Friday night—we designated the location as the “pointy things.” If you look carefully to the left of the image you can see Mount Whitney, rendered apparently close via the magic of wide-angle photography.

By the way, I think everyone who was there will agree that the workshop was a great success. From my viewpoint, it is a big plus that no one was bitten by a rattlesnake, or fell down a cliff in the dark. Furthermore, there was a tremendous amount of photography, as one particpant put it “a super learning experience,” and one that “exceeded expectations” (in the words of another workshop attendee). On top of the night photography, we even got a double rainbow as an added bonus!

You can see some of the work done at the workshop in the Star Circle Academy group on Flickr.

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

Bonus Rainbow

Bonus Rainbow

Bonus Rainbow, photo by Harold Davis.

During a break in the fantastic and magical Star Circles workshop, we actually did some daytime shooting in the Alabama Hills. Odd to be out and about in the daytime; sometimes night photographers are like a creative version of vampires because they blink alot in the sunshine. But the light was too nice to miss.

With sunlight and clouds, it was natural rainbow weather—with the second rainbow completely a bonus!

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Zabriskie Point in Death Valley is famous because of the eponymous 1970s film by Michelangelo Antonioni. It’s also a great place to photograph; I had a blast taking photos of Zabriskie Point during the day when I stopped here on my 2005 roadtrip back towards the beginning of my digital photography odyssey.

So why not try photographing Zabriskie Point at night? The logistics were easy, the weather was balmy, and it wasn’t far to carry my 19-pound behemoth battery from the parking lot to the observation overlook.

The view is looking roughly north and consists of sixteen stacked exposures. I was surprised at how many cars were headed down Route 190 towards Furnace Creek in the Death Valley night, but this may have been a good thing because the car headlights swept the Zabriskie Point formation as the cars rounded the bend and headed down for the valley floor.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Devil’s Golf Course

Devil's Golf Course

Devil’s Golf Course, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Speaking of golf courses in the desert, this is the Devil’s Golf Course in Death Valley. Slightly to the north of Badwater—the lowest point in North America at 282 feet below sea level—the Devil’s Golf Course is a formation of seemingly endless crystalized salt spires arranged, well, like a diabolical golf course. I say that you probably shouldn’t build golf courses in a National Park in the desert, but if you do, please make them like this one out of sympathy for El Diablo.

To make this image, I pulled up in the van along side the Devil’s Golf Course after dark. With the north-facing door of the van open, I plugged my camera into my big battery, and shot 77 exposures at four minutes each using my 10.5mm digital fisheye. The lens was wide open (f/2.8), and I shot at ISO 400. Using my intervalometer, I programmed four minute intervals between the exposures—so the total elaspsed time for this image was about ten hours.

During this time, I mostly slept in the van. From time to time the noise of the mirror clunking up or down every four minutes woke me, but there wasn’t much else to do but sleep. Turning on a light would have ruined the image.

I think the lighting in the foreground comes from the small sliver of the moon that was up by the time I finished. You can also see the road over to the west side of Death Valley in the distance if you look carefully.

Processing a stacked composite of 77 images is definitely go-eat-dinner-while-the-computer-chugs time. To create the image, I read all 77 files in RAW format into the Statistics action available in the extended versions of Photoshop, and combined them using the Maximum mode.

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

Creating Photo Books

My most recent column is about Creating Photo Books. Here’s the description from the newsletter. Enjoy!

Harold Davis knows his material when it comes to the topic of this featured column. To date, he’s produced four photography books published by mainstream publishers in 2009, three books this year (2010), and expect to publish four books in 2011. These books all feature Harold’s photography and writing. His wife, Phyllis Davis, collaborated as author on some of these books—and designed all of them. According to Harold, creating a sophisticated book is an incredibly complex process; one that involves creativity, writing, photography, editing, designing, production, and business and marketing concerns. He breaks the process of creating photo books down for us. If more info is needed, add your comments to the bottom of the article, and we’ll see if we can get him to do a series on this topic!

Read about Creating Photo Books.

Posted in Writing

Scotty’s Castle

Scotty's Castle

Scotty’s Castle, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: Anyone who knows me knows that I’ll flip for a good spiral stair—imagine my surprise and delight in finding this spiral staircase at Scotty’s Castle, a remote 1920s mansion now a tourist attraction in Death Valley National Park.

Related images: Spirals; Endless Stair; Edificio Cuervo Rubio; Nautilus in Black and White.

Posted in Bemusements, Monochrome, Photography

Death Valley Campsite

Death Valley Campsite

Death Valley Campsite, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

After shooting several night stacks, I plugged the camera into my big battery and went to sleep in my tent. You can see from the light in the tent that I read for a bit. This is about four hours worth of exposures, stacked together.

My tent was pitched in the walk-in area of Furnace Creek Campground in Death Valley. Since I’d been up a good portion of the night shooting, I was hoping to sleep in. But no such luck: heavy trucks started rumbling at 6AM seemingly not far from where I was sleeping. I still haven’t figured what they were doing. One theory: tanker trucks watering the 16-hole golf course. Don’t even get me started on a golf course in a desert in a National Park where they are urging visitors to conserve water. It just don’t make sense.

Posted in Bemusements, Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Race Track Playa

Race Track Playa

Race Track Playa, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

The Race Track is a dried lake bed in the back country of Death Valley, named because of the rocks that seem to travel across the surface of the playa, leaving tracks as evidence of their motion. No one has actually caught the motion of these rocks on camera. Geologists have a theory—involving freezing temperatures, near ice conditions on the lake surface, and massive, howling winds. Did I mention this place is really remote, and subject to savage weather? But come on folks—it has to be quite a storm to move a 100 lb rock.

If scientists seriously think that natural forces are moving these rocks, then come on suckers lets get some proof and documentation. Why hasn’t this been recorded? At least, the quants could do some decent modeling to make the whole thing seem plausible.

So my working theory is that the apparent rock movement—and paths this movement creates—are artifacts of a group of disciples of Andy Goldsworthy. As art, there’s not much out there that touches the Race Track Playa.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography