Monthly Archives: March 2011

No Vampires

Elephant Garlic

It’s hard to imagine that you’d have much to worry about in terms of vampira if you were a wanderer in the caves found in this clove of garlic!

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

The Photoshop Darkroom2 Discussions

One of our recent books, The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (Focal Press), continues to be the subject of somewhat heated discussion on Amazon, with 17 customer reviews to date. A special thanks to everyone who has said nice things about our book, we really appreciate it!

The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations Most reviewers like the book. One Amazon “Top 500” reviewer raves that [we] “demonstrate the only natural and pleasing example of an HDR image that I have ever seen in this usually-overdone genre…There is something to learn and appreciate in every page. The teaching methods are exquisite, and the authors’ love of their art and their craft comes through on every page and in every image.”

Another reviewer opines: “This book will improve some of your Photoshop skills and probably teach you a few and it’ll help make you a better photographer, but mostly, if you have any kind of eye at all, it’ll start you on the road to becoming an artist.”

In yet another reviewer’s words, “I’ve been using Photoshop for years, consider myself to be pretty doggone good with the software, but after only a week with this book, I’m better and that’s saying a whole heck of a lot. I’d go on, but I think I’ve pretty much said it all, except maybe to say, whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you’ll benefit from this book.”

Even the critical reviews admit that the book has some good points. One such review starts out by commenting that “Harold Davis excels with his backlit images of flowers which have all the delicacy of water color. His technique (he calls it ‘hand hdr’) of combining multiple exposures is covered in detail. He also describes his unusual compositing techniques, which have given him strange and beautiful images.” This reviewer continues by stating that I should be showing how to do things with the latest and greatest Photoshop techniques rather those that have been around for a while: [Harold] “shows too little faith in judicious use of the new context-sensitive features of CS5.”

Of course, we note clearly in the introduction to the book that (unlike many other books) we “don’t focus on the latest and greatest”—and our real-world experiences with features such as content-aware fill have been at times less than overwhelming.

Another of the less enthusiastic reviewers thinks our content is good—but doesn’t like the extravagantly different design and layout of the book.

If you are into Photoshop, why don’t you check out The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations for yourself?

Posted in Writing

Jade Drops

Jade Drops

Around the corner a huge Jade Plant, Crassula argentea, grows out over the street. This plant is an excellent waterdrop catcher, and I enjoy photographing it following the rain. This one looks to me like an alien life form, or else a waterdrop antenna dish!

Look closely enough, and you’ll find me in one of the drops.

Related image: Serendipity Rules.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Print of the Month: Poppies

Our March, 2011 offering is Poppies. In our neck of the woods, poppies are among the first flowers to bloom in the spring. So we feel it is appropriate to offer this lush and romantic image, printed large on 17″ X 22″ paper. Note: The actual image size is somewhat smaller, allowing for my hand signature and overmatting when you frame the piece.

Poppies is made by hand and giclee printed with tender, loving care in my studio on 325 gsm Epson archival Exhibition Fiber paper. This popular image is published in The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (Focal Press).

My normal, retail price for this archival print is $450.00. For the month of March, 2011, I am offering Poppies for the very special price of $195.00. This includes careful, custom packing and insured Fedex ground shipping within the United States. (For orders outside of the United States, please contact me for shipping costs.)


Purchase Poppies for the special Harold Davis Print of the Month price of $195.00

Poppies shows a bouquet of Papaver rhoeas. These flowers were grown in my garden. I photographed the bouquet for transparency using my hand-HDR technique explained in The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (Focal Press)and in Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley). This print will look gourgeous in a wood frame, and will transform any room with its glowing yet subtle colors. Here’s the blog story I wrote about Poppies.

We make our prints with a great deal of care with the best archival standards. Even the ink I use to sign our prints is acid free.

I’m not comparing myself with the great masters of photography, but consider that during the many years that Edward Weston and Ansel Adams were active, you could have bought one of their prints for a few hundred dollars (at most). These prints sell for tens of thousands of dollars at auction today.

If you have any questions about this print&#151or anything photographic for that matter&#151please email me (harold [at] or give me a call at 510.528.9977.

For those who’ve asked me: If you are interested in the February print Stars My Destination, it is still available while we have some on hand.

Posted in Print of the Month

Valley of Fire Star Trails

Valley of Fire Star Trails

From Death Valley I drove across the suprisingly wild and beautiful uplands of Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and photographed Hoover Dam (more on these locations in a later story). I stopped at Valley of Fire, a Nevada state park.

To make this image, the most important point was to find a north facing location where I wouldn’t be disturbed, and where the ambient light pollution from Las Vegas (some 50 miles away) would be blocked by nearby rock formations. This light pollution was surprisingly intense; indeed, I don’t think one can really find a truly dark night sky within a hundred miles of Las Vegas, even when shooting in the dark of the moon (as I was).

The lights of Las Vegas were one thing. As the night wore on, the cloud cover increased, which also amplified the Las Vegas light, because it bounced off the clouds. I began to be seriously worried that there wasn’t enough contrast between stars and sky to pull this image off.

The final image is a stacked composite of 129 4 minute exposures, roughly 8 hours and 36 minutes total exposure time. I shot each exposure at f/2.8 and ISO 400, with my 10.5mm digital fisheye. For me, this is an exposure that really blasts the photons to the right side of the histogram, verging on overexposure.

Like the Death Valley image, I processed the RAW files in Adobe Photoshop CS5 Statistics—primarily using Maximum mode. I processed a second stack through—it took all night—in Median mode (essentially using an average pixel value), and blended it with the first stack using Soft Light at low opacity to partially compensate for the crazy ambient light pollution.

If you are interested in learning how to make images like this, please consider joining me for the annual Star Circle Academy workshop and night photography fest in the Alabama Hills area of the eastern Sierras in early November.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Death Valley Star Trails

Death Valley Star Trails

Death Valley is one of the grandest and most expansive landscapes on the North American continent. Therefore, camping at Furnace Creek is something of a paradox because conditions are cramped and noisy. There’s precious little space for people who don’t travel in recreational behemoths replete with generators and air conditioning.

On a recent visit I was none-the-less glad to pitch my tent in Furnace Creek with its below-sea-level warmth after the bitter cold of higher elevations. I picked my spot carefully: across the service road was a bluff facing north. After reconnoitering, I felt like I could leave my camera unattended because it couldn’t be seen from below.

I used an AC adapter to plug my DSLR into a lithium ion power source most often used to fire studio lighting equipment on location. Next, I set my intervalometer with the camera on Bulb to fire an unlimited number of exposures. I used my 10.5mm lens, with the aperture set to f/4 and the ISO to 400. Then I climbed down the bluff, and went to sleep.

Back home, I used Statistics in Maximum mode to stack 75 of the four minute exposures, for a total lapsed exposure time of roughly five hours. Note, this took almost as long to process on the computer as it did to expose—definitely plenty of time for dinner and a nap while my fully loaded Mac Pro did its thing.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

The Story of Katie Rose: A Preemie’s Journey

Katie Rose was born prematurely almost three years ago at 24 weeks gestation, almost 16 weeks early. In the dark, hectic days in the NICU that followed, we would have been delighted to know how well she is doing today.

It was hard on all of us. I used photography as therapy to help me through it. I also realized that I had a unique opportunity to document the journey of a micro-preemie.

As Phyllis and I sat down with our boys and tried to explain what was going on with their new, very little sister in the hospital, the germ of an idea for a book about preemies for siblings was also born.

The book has had a difficult gestation itself. A major children’s book publisher almost picked it up, and then ultimately decided not to publish it.

We are pleased and proud that The Story of Katie Rose: A Preemie’s Journey is finally seeing the light of day. You can order a copy now from CreateSpace; it will be in the Amazon catalog and other distribution channels in the next week or so!

We’d really like to get our book with its message of hope to those who need it most: families with babies in the NICU.

The Story of Katie Rose: A Preemie's Journey

Here’s the book description from the back cover:

The Story of Katie Rose is about a premature baby who was born very early. This book follows her journey as she grows in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and is finally able to go home.

Often siblings of a preemie do not understand why their new baby brother or sister has not come home. The Story of Katie Rose is written for children and is perfect for reading aloud to help explain what is happening. Actual photos of Katie Rose in the NICU accompany the text and will help familiarize children with what they may see in the hospital.

The hospital machines, such as respirators, monitors, and incubators, can sometimes seem scary. These essential machines are explained in simple, easy-to-understand language that describes how they help Katie Rose.

The Story of Katie Rose is not just for siblings of preemies. Parents and grandparents, and anyone who is close to a preemie in the hospital, will find the simple, clear information about medical technology related to prematurity helpful and enlightening.

Follow the inspirational story of Katie Rose’s journey as she grows from a tiny, fragile baby who weighs less than six sticks of butter into a baby who is ready to come home.

  • Written in simple easy-to-understand language
  • Shows real photos of a premature baby and the NICU environment
  • Gives advice to parents on how to start conversations with the siblings of preemies
  • Includes a glossary of common terms used in the NICU
  • The Story of Katie Rose has been reviewed by neonatologists, special care doctors, and a child psychologist for accuracy and appropriateness

Publication Date: Feb 10 2011
ISBN/EAN13: 1460924797 / 9781460924792
Page Count: 48
Binding Type: US Trade Paper
Trim Size: 8.25″ x 8.25″
Language: English
Color: Full Color with Bleed
Related Categories: Juvenile Nonfiction / Family / New Baby
List price: $19.99—Purchase now.

Posted in Katie Rose, Kids, Photography, Writing

My New e-Friend

Wherever you go, there you are—and so, it turns out, is my new Verizon iPhone 4 camera. This shot of an old car is taken with my iPhone a few days ago in Randsburg, California—a cute place in a grungy kind of way (at this time of year partly covered with snow) in the Mojave desert.

Getting There

Part of the iPhone camera ideology is to do all your post-processing from within the phone. In keeping with this thinking, to create this image I used the HDR featue in the built-in iPhone camera app, then processed the image in the Lo-Mob app using the 6X6 TTV Noir Bar filter, described as “Digital shot taken through an old medium format viewfinder.”

Posted in Bemusements, iPhone