Monthly Archives: May 2011

White Iris

White Iris

Here’s another floral image, this one in a much more classical style than Floral Impressionismo.

I lit the white Iris from left and right, using diffuse sunlight controlled via shades and blinds. I added black foam core board to cut out any unsightly highlights. The fancy lighting term for this arrangement is that these boards were used as “Gobos”—meaning they go between the light and the subject.

Using my 85mm macro, I shot six exposures with the camera fixed on a tripod. Each exposure was at f/64 and ISO 100, with shutter speeds ranging between 1/2 a second and 20 seconds. In Photoshop, I used the 1/2 second exposure for the background, the 4 second exposure for the table and vase and much of the flower, and the 10 and 20 second exposures for a few highlights.

Posted in Flowers, Iris, Photography

Floral Impressionismo

Floral Impressionismo

My idea in making this image was inspired by the floral still life compositions of the great Impressionist masters. In particular, Cezanne, Renoir and van Gogh came to mind. Using flowers purchased at the supermarket supplemented by the lavish blossoms currently growing in our garden, I created a bouquet and placed it on a small table in front of a curtain with a somewhat Oriental feeling.

I shot many variations of the image, intentionally throwing the photo out of focus. In particular, I did not want the details in the curtain to compete with the subject of my photo.

Taking care not to move the camera on the tripod, I also added some diffusion on some of the shots with a +1 close-up filter. I took things a step further by adding a sheer black nylon cloth to the front of the lens with the close-up filter. Stopped all the way down, you could see the pattern made by the fabric as well as the flowers.

In post-production in Photoshop, I used four of the versions I had shot. One of these was a black fabric version, which I converted to LAB. Inverting the L-channel turned the black dots from the fabric to white, which made them much more usable.

The first step was to combine the four images to create the combination of out-of-focus and sharpness I was looking for. Next, I tried a variety of filter effects. I ended up using filters from Nik Color Efex, Topaz Adjust, and Topaz Simplify, as well as Photoshop’s own Artistic Palette Knife filter.

Finally, to add just a hint of that van Gogh divine madness, I very selectively used the Photoshop Liquify filter to “swirl” a few parts of the floral arrangement.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Floral Abundance

Floral Abundance

From my garden I cut some Papaver rhoeas, a single Papaver nudicaule, several varieties of Ranunculus, alstromeria in profusion, forget-me-nots, hardenbergia, a lupine, and a few Orlaya grandiflora “Minoan Lace” (an endangered wild flower originally from Crete).

I arranged these cut flowers on my large light box, and photographed straight down with my camera on a tripod using my 50mm Sigma f/2.8 macro lens.

This image was composed in Photoshop from six different exposures, each at f/10 and ISO 100. The range of shutter speed times was from 1/30 of a second (about what the light meter indicated) to 4 seconds (pinned to the right of the histogram as high-key).

I started layering this image, with the lightest exposure as the bottom layer, painting in the detail I wanted from each successively darker layer.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

I Am a Talking Head for Nikon

Recently it was brought to my attention that I appear on the Nikon website in a video conversation sponsored by the professional marketing arm of Nikon cameras. (I knew this conversation had been filmed about a year ago, I just didn’t know it was up on the web.)

Of course, I’m appreciative of the publicity, and of the times Nikon has licensed my work—for example, on the Nikon website in Night Photography with Harold Davis. However, in the workshops I teach I am completely agnostic in the Nikon-Canon religious wars. Both brands produce superb cameras—and cameras don’t make great images, people do.

But I do have a bone to pick with Nikon. I recently had a long chat with a Canon Explorer of Light photographer. There are roughly sixty top professionals in this program. Without going into the financial details, I can clearly say that these photographers are very well supported by Canon Professional Marketing. It’s clear to me that this has been a good investment for Canon, and it is shameful that Nikon doesn’t do more to support the top image makers that use Nikon equipment. Nikon, if you are reading this, do something about it, please.

Enough kvetching. I shot this image from a cliff high above Muir Beach in the Marin Headlands near San Francisco, California. Of course, my companion wanted to know why I would face one of the best views in the Bay area and choose to make a photo of a weed!


One answer is that good photographers look for the unexpected. When you shoot with someone who is a gifted image maker, you’ll most likely see them pivoting as if they had eyes in the back of their head, looking for strange details, and commenting on all kinds of unlikely things. At least this describes me! It’s really not that unusual for me to shoot a weed on the edge of a sumptuous view, or to find a new way to capture a classic view.

The weed in this image was blowing in a stiff sunset breeze, so I bumped my ISO (to 400) to hand hold the image. There wasn’t much point in using a tripod considering the wind and movement of my subject. I intentionally underexposed to make my background go very dark. I used a 36mm extension tube with my 105mm f/2.8 Nikkor macro lens—a superb and classic lens, by the way. I took this exposure at 1/250 of a second and f/13.

For a macro this close, my depth-of-field was shallow—so I tried to be as parallel as possible to the subject.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography



Near the Marin-Sonoma County line, not far from the Tomales Bay oyster town of Marshall, California, the wildflowers dotted the green meadows in bucolic profusion. I shot this image using a tripod, with eight exposures—bracketing the shuttter speed to capture the full dynamic range in the scene from light to dark. In Photoshop I used layers and masking to create this composite HDR image by hand.

Posted in Landscape, Photography

From Sunset to Sunrise

From Sunset to Sunrise

Relative to the earth, the stars wheel in the heavens every night, though we don’t see them that way. If we live in a city we hardly see the stars at all. And if we live somewhere outside the bounds of light pollution—rarer and rarer these days—we see the stars as stationary jewels in the sky. It takes a camera, and a long aggregate exposure, to demonstrate graphically that the cosmos is always in motion.

I made this image while teaching a Macros & Close-Ups workshop at the historic Coastguard lifeboat station on Point Reyes. Perhaps oddly, I am interested in capturing both the extremely large and the very small.

In heavy winds, there wasn’t much choice where to set up. It’s an absolute requirement in this kind of photography that the camera doesn’t move even a hair. I placed my tripod in the shelter of the building.

To make the image, I used a portable lithium battery with an inverter and an AC adapter to power my camera. I used an intervalometer to program the Bulb exposures, and started the sequence of captures going during sunset. In the morning, I turned the rig off as the sun began to rise.

I used my 10.5mm digital fisheye, and combined 139 stacked 4 minutes exposures for a total exposure time of roughly ten hours; each exposure was made at 4 minutes at ISO 400 and f/2.8.

Special thanks to workshop participant Harvey Abernathy, who stayed up with me Friday night shooting stars together, and whose light painting in the boat bay accounts for the apparently blue window you see in this image. (The image in this story comes from a second stack shot on Saturday night, meaning that between the workshop and the stars sleep was in short supply for me!)

Related image: from a previous workshop a star circle image shot from the other side of the building.

Posted in Digital Night, Photography