Monthly Archives: April 2011

Falling Flowers

Falling Flowers © Harold Davis

For a shot like this to work, everything has to fall into place. In a brief intermission between taking care of Katie Rose (she was napping) and getting a book proposal out the sun came out. Reconnoitering, I saw light glistening on a wet spider web (it had been raining earlier).

I got out my big, honking 200mm macro lens and mounted it on tripod via the lens collar. I added an extension tube between the lens and camera, and a +4 close-up filter at the end of the lens. Then I shot straight down on the web, with a Gaillardia (native American blanket flower) reflected and refracted in the water drops.

If you liked this image, you might also like Orbit; Interstitial; my Water Drops category on this blog; my Flickr Water Drops set.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Poppy Delight

Poppy Delight

To create this image of apparently translucent flowers, I photographed a bouquet of poppies—the flowers are Papaver rhoeas. First, I placed the flowers on a light box illuminated from behind. I used HDR multi-shot techniques to combine six exposures into this single, somewhat high-key image.

In shooting the images, I started with a mild over-exposure, and continued with bracketed over-exposures until the histogram was pinned to the right. In post-processing, there is no substitute for hand work to figure out how to combine an image like this one.

Exif data: 50mm macro, five exposures at shutter speeds from 1/10 of a second to 2 seconds, each exposure at f/11 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Painted Engine

Painted Engine

When I came upon this abandoned switcher engine near Petaluma, California I knew it was a perfect subject for HDR. I used a polarizing filter to bring out the contrast in colors between the orange engine and the stunning blue sky with swiftly scuttling clouds. In preparation for HDR processing, I bracketed the exposures, changing the shutter speed each time.

Back at my computer, I processed the RAW files twice using Nik HDR Efex Pro. One the first pass I applied the Realistic Strong preset (for the sky) and on the second pass I applied the Vibrant Scenery preset (for the engine and grass). I combined the two HDR versions of the image using layers, a layer mask, and the Gradient tool in Photoshop.

Exif data: 18mm, circular polarizer, seven combined exposures at shutter speeds from 1/20 of a second to 1/320 of second, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Posted in Photography

Using Photos to Tell the Story of Katie Rose

You’ll find my blog post A Preemie’s Journey: Using Photos to Tell the Story of Katie Rose featured on Rear Curtain, a fantastic new site devoted to storytelling in photography.

As I’ve previously noted, these photos won a Finalist award in the Worldwide Gala Awards for storytelling in photography. This Rear Curtain story explains why I began making these photos, as well as some of the technical and emotional issues related to creating them.

In the words of Sabrina Henry, “Wow. Received a story this evening that will make you cry”—tears of joy since Katie Rose is doing so well, and this is ultimately a message of hope and miracles.

Odd and Ends

Creative Lighting: Digital Tips & Techniques

Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques is at the top of the digital photography charts on Amazon. Special thanks to everyone who placed such thoughtful reviews. This truly makes a big difference to us.

Harnessing the Power of Flickr is my latest column in my Finding an Audience for Your Photos series.

There are still a few places in my Close-Ups and Macros workshop April 29 – May 1. You also have ten days and counting to register for the Alabama Hills Star Circle Workshop at a discounted price.

Finally, in the email version of my Print of the Month post about the Cherry Branch on White print, the image was inadvertently omitted. (It may be more than you wanted to know, but this shows the perils of using Unix relative paths rather than absolute paths in a blog post.) Herewith, the omission corrected:

Cherry Blossom on White

Purchase Cherry Blossom on White for the special Harold Davis Print of the Month price of $195.00

Posted in Katie Rose, Photography

Print of the Month: Cherry Branch on White

Our May, 2011 offering is Cherry Branch on White. This unusual high-key image of a cherry branch in full bloom is one of our most popular prints. The image is printed large on 17″ X 22″ paper. With its overall white and cherry tones it will add a light and festive air to almost any room.

Note: The actual image size is somewhat smaller, allowing for my hand signature and overmatting when you frame the piece.

Cherry Blossom on White 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 (Focal Press) and Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley).

My normal, retail price for this archival print is $450.00. For the months of April and May, 2011, I am offering Cherry Branch on White 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.)

Cherry Blossom on White

Purchase Cherry Blossom on White for the special Harold Davis Print of the Month price of $195.00

Cherry Blossom on White shows a vibrant cherry branch placed against a brighjt white background. I photographed the branch for a high-key effect 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 Cherry Branch on White.

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.

So I missed the boat in April…what with travel, photography, assignments, books, and four kids with two working parents I just didn’t get around to posting a print of the month. Herewith, making up for my omission, and available at a special price for the rest of April and all of May, I am pleased to offer you one of my favorite and most popular prints, Cherry Branch on White.

By the way, we’ve decided to offer the previous three month’s prints, Poppies, Stars My Destination, and Trees in the Fog, at the discounted price ($195) through the end of April—as of May 1, 2011 the price on these prints will go back up to the normal retail of $450.00.

Posted in Print of the Month

Calla Lily 2

Calla Lily 2

The Calla Lily’s shapes—tapered, curved, sensuous—echo other natural forms, such as the human body or the rock formations found in slot canyons. I photographed this flower to appear luminous against a black background, as a companion to an earlier shot of the same flower on white.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Blanket DNA

Blanket DNA

Picking compulsively at his beloved blanket, Mathew leaves these microscopic skeins of fabric everywhere. He and Nicky have dubbed them “blanket DNA.”

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography



Often when I’m out and about with the kids, and not specifically being a photographer, I carry a small camera such as my Nikon P7000. The shots I snap with it are easy and don’t take too much effort. Besides photos of the kids themselves, these are sketch book images, reminders to me of something, or “be here now” unedited versions of what I see.

This image of a shadow of a parking sign on an ornate sidewalk in downtown San Francisco falls into the last category, and sort of reminds me of two aliens talking, the shadow is an R2D2-type and the white marble inlay more the cosmic squid.

Photography is fun, and it is important not to forget it!

Posted in Bemusements, Patterns, Photography

Don’t Miss These Workshop Opportunities!

If you are like me, your life is busy with many challenges, concerns, deadlines, and obligations. A great thing about going to a workshop is that it lets one leave all this behind for a while—and focus on photography in a different and wonderful environment. In this light, I want to bring two opportunities to your attention.

The first is my Close-Ups and Macro workshop (Friday, April 29 – Sunday, May 1), held at the historic Coastguard Boathouse near the western tip of Point Reyes, California.

If you’ve picked up a copy of my best-selling Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), you’ll know that I am passionate about flower and macro photography. In this workshop, I teach many of the special techniques covered in my book, including photography for transparency, focus stacking, and creating still life compositions. I do not expect to give this workshop again, which has been highly successful in the past, until some time in 2012.

There are reasons to sign up for the Close-Ups and Macro workshop apart from me and what I have to offer photographically. The Coastguard Boathouse is an incredibly romantic location that you can’t normally stay at. It is located near some of the best areas for wildflower photography on Point Reyes.

Furthermore, the price is right. For $252.50 (plus a $35 membership fee in the Point Reyes National Seashore Association if you are not already a member) you get the weekend workshop as well as accommodations. Food is bring-your-own, with some meals shared communally. It is truly hard to beat the economics of this workshop, so what are you waiting for? Register today.

Please consider joining Astronomy photographer of the year Steven Christenson and myself for our annual night photography and star circle workshop in the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, California. The dates are Friday, November 4 – Sunday, November 6.

This is a great workshop, in a great and incredibly photogenic location, timed to coincide with the dark of the moon for best results in star circle photography. If you’ve ever wondered how to pull off this kind of shot, this is the workshop for you with thorough instruction and a plethora of great photographic subjects. We’ll thoroughly cover the techniques explained in my book Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley).

Here’s a recap of the 2010 Star Circle Workshop in the Alabama Hills.

I really want you to come to this workshop, and I also want to save you some money. There is a $100 discount on tuition if you enroll by April 30; the $575 tuition goes up to $675 on May 1. So don’t delay, register today!

I hope you can join me at one of these events. Here are some links for your reference: my workshop and events page; feedback about my workshops from people who’ve attended them.

Posted in Photography



This is an image of a formation in Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona. I shot six exposures at shutter speeds from 4 seconds to 1/60 of a second. Each exposure was at 18mm, and at f/22 and ISO 200, using a tripod. I processed the exposures first using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro, and then layering in processed versions of my own.

I obviously had plenty of dynamic range in this set of exposures to show full details in the cliff on the left, but I decided the image was both more real looking and more dramatic with shadow areas a bit cloaked in mystery.

I also prepared a monochromatic version of this HDR image (below). As with a recent image of a tree, sometimes I find it hard to choose between black & white and color. Digital means one can have both, and don’t necessarily have to decide, but if you have a strong preference for one or the other, let me know.


Posted in Landscape

Looking Up

Looking Up

One direction photographers often don’t think to point their cameras is straight up. Sure, we include sky and mountains at the horizon line in many of our photos, and tilt the camera upwards. But straight up? How many times have you actually shot this way? Not many, I’ll bet.

But as this photo shows, there can be surprising visual rewards in looking up. The unusual point of view can disarm viewers of this kind of image, and show them things in a new way—which is always one of my goals as a photographer.

Another straight-up shot that works well I think is the monochromatic image of a tree shown below.

In architecture, looking up with a wide angle lens can have the effect of flattening internal spaces—and, once again, presenting a view that is not often seen, as in this shot of the dome within San Francisco City Hall.

In the fisheye straight-up shot of Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona at the beginning of this story I had my camera on a tripod and fired a sequence of five bracketed shots, with the idea of combining the exposures to create an HDR effect.

The results you see a partly a blended HDR image created from the various exposures, but I also decided the image was more effective visually with a very dark border. Even though I had the entire scene captured within an easily usable tonal range, I intentionally decided to keep the top and bottom edges almost black—to create more of a sense of contrast, and (hopefully) wonder.


Posted in Landscape, Photography

Men’s Room at Hoover Dam

Men's Room at Hoover Dam

Smack dab in the middle of the Hoover Dam (see shot below) sits an elegant art deco men’s room. Our bathroom at home should only look so good. Well, maybe I won’t go there—but a single full bath in a house with four kids is sometimes not a pretty picture.

Anyhow, this bathroom as I said is about midway across the dam. So apparently if you use it you are peeing over thousands of vertical feet of reinforced cement—or over the stored waters of the Colorado River, depending on the angle.

The men’s room itself is a duplex affair. You walk into a vestibule, which is shown here, then ascend a curved stair to the business end of the bathroom. Coming back down the stairs I noticed a shaft of blue light coming in through the open door, nicely balanced by the yellowish light coming from a frosted window behind me, and voilà!

In the shot below, there’s a lot going on in this vertiginous fisheye view of Hoover Dam from the new bridge that bypasses the dam (the men’s room is in one of the fins that you can barely see), so you may need to check the photo out in a larger size:

Hoover Dam

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Storytelling Finalist: A Preemie’s Journey

A sequence of photos from The Story of Katie Rose: A Preemie’s Journey has been honored as a Finalist by the jurors in the Storytelling Contest under the auspices of the Worldwide Photography Gala Awards.

One of the rules of the contest was that a sequence of photos had to tell a story without using words. Here are my photos that won, and help to tell the story of Katie Rose and her journey as a preemie.

The Story of Katie Rose: A Preemie's Journey

You can learn more about Katie Rose and her journey as a preemie born very early in her book 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, Photography, Writing

Horseshoe Bend in the Dark of the Moon

Horseshoe Bend in the Dark of the Moon

Creeping on a dark night towards a thousand foot drop-off, in a place one has never been, with no clear path or trail, while lugging heavy gear is surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly) creepy. In both senses of the word. My going was slow, and I found contemplation of the dramatic and fenceless drop ahead to the Colorado River as it made a 270 degree loop around Horseshoe Bend oddly unnerving. Maybe fatigue had something to do with it. I’d driven all day, stopping to photograph at Valley of Fire, and already shot a night sequence on Navajo Bridge.

I seem to get myself into this kind of situation with a certain frequency. When I’m alone in the dark in dubious cirumstances with photography in mind I talk to myself. There’s the trudging sentiment after the character Dori in the Pixar movie Finding Nemo: “Just keep walking, just keep walking.” And more reassuringly, the Serenity Prayer, which for reasons that are unclear to me always calms me and helps me realize I am not alone as I walk by star or moon, or in sun and rain, whether or not the world around me seems empty.

Paradoxically, those moments that I feel most alone in a void are also some of the times I feel most at one with the universe.

At the brink of the abyss it was calm, but so dark down in the canyon of the Colorado that I could hardly see it. I shot a long exposure at a high ISO (ten minutes at ISO 1000) so my camera could pick up more than I could see, then shot a sequence to stack for the stars in the sky. After that, I made my way back to the van in the parking lot and got a few hours sleep before returning to shoot dawn (but that’s another story).

Edif data: All shots with 10.5mm digital fisheye, tripod mounted; foreground exposed for 10 minutes at f/2.8 and ISO 1000, sky a stacked composite of 12 exposures, each exposure 3 mintures at f/2.8 and ISO 320.

Posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Photography

Ceremonial Sword

Ceremonial Sword

Our good friend Mark recently retired from the armed services after 28 years. At his very special and moving retirement ceremony, Mark presented this ceremonial sword to his Dad—a World War II Vet and member of the “greatest generation.” There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

A few minutes later I asked Mark’s Dad to pose for me with the sword, and he mugged it up.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography