Monthly Archives: June 2011

Reviews of Creative Landscapes

As is probably typical of book authors, I’m pretty obsessive about checking the rankings and reviews for my books on Amazon. I wanted to share with you some of the great reviews of Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques. Thanks everyone for these thoughtful and positive narratives—I appreciate them more than words can say!

Creative Landscapes: Digital Tips & Techniques

“This is not another technical introduction to digital photography, but rather like taking some enjoyable long walks with a more-experienced photographer friend, one whose original training was in art and whose interests are wide ranging, and who tells you what he has distilled out of years of thoughtful practice and love of photography. The voice in the book is personal as Davis describes his views of landscape photography, discusses how to work in a variety of enviroments, tells the stories behind some of the images, and quotes other photographers whom he admires.”—Marianne Glosenger

“Harold’s book is one of the stepping stones, one of the tools for developing the craft that is of a Landscape Photographer.”—Kenneth G. Millett

“This is just a stunning book.”—Mary Darling

“What I appreciated from Davis’ work is his grounded understanding of what it takes to render a powerful and captivating landscape photo. From patience to vision, from technical knowledge of the equipment to conveying an emotion in you work; these are all ingredients to deliver a memorable landscape image. Underscoring all this is a critical understanding of the raw ingredients to make the image work, light. Davis gives you gift of understanding all these elements to enable you to strengthen your future photographic landscapes. Whether you are just getting started or seasoned like me, purchasing this book is a great investment in yourself. It will help you not only with your landscape photography, but will enrich your perspective as you pursue your own journey in self-expression through photography.”—Don Watson

“I can honestly say this is one of Harold’s best books. Many of the subjects were review for me, but I never felt bored by the presentation. The material is presented in a way that makes you think you are right there with him. I recommend this book to anyone looking to expand their knowledge of landscape photography. It’s easy to look past the information you already know, when you have a great teacher. I know I learned a few new tricks.”—Travis Forbear

“[T]his book covers everything from planning the trip, composing the shot, and post-processing. It has so many useful reminders, good ideas, and technical tips. This book to read and re-read to be informed and inspired to create wonderful landscape photographs. Perfect gift for everyone who is interested in photography.”—Grace Bourke

Check out Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques on Amazon.
Slot Canyon

Posted in Bemusements, Book Reviews, Writing

Following the Path: Print of the Month

Our June and July, 2011 offering is Following the Path. This unusual high dynamic range image of a country road in late afternoon light suggests the possiblities ahead if one thinks positively. The image makes a great print and is printed large on 17″ X 22″ paper. With its overall lively tones it will add an inspirational, light, and festive air to almost any room.

Following the Path is made by hand and giclee printed with tender, loving care in my studio on 325 gsm Epson archival Exhibition Fiber paper. This print is available only in a limited edition of twenty prints that will be signed and numbered, guaranteeing the unique characteristics of owning this work of art.

The special price for this archival print is $195.00. The normal retail price is $450.00, but you can save money and help support a living artist by buying directly from us.

Here’s the link for ordering your print in the Following the Path edition, and for more information about shipping and our discounted direct-from-artist print program. Purchase Following the Path now.

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.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Print of the Month


There’s much water under the bridge since I started blogging about photography in 2005. Photography, kids, books, and adventures have all happened in the time that has passed. Katie Rose was born.

If you’ve been with me for a while you’ll know that I haven’t readily changed the look-and-feel of my blog. For me, it is about photography and communicating passion and skills—not about being the latest and greatest.


In fact, until today the appearance stayed the same as in the first post, a Photoshop riff on ducks afloat in a bathtub. This was a fairly generic WordPress blog based on a slightly customized version of the famous (or infamous) Kubrick theme.

No matter that blog posts are now only one of the social mediums, and that one tries to deliver content to people the way they’d like it. My blog stores are reposted in excerpts on my Facebook page, tweeted, syndicated, and available as emails. Think of some other way to deliver this content that would work for you, and I’ll likely sign on.

I also think that I’ve grown and changed as a photographer and author since I started the blog—in ways that are probably the subject of another story—and I wanted a design that reflected these changes.

Anyhow, it was time for a facelift—not only was the old look a bit dated, but also functionally under some viewing conditions the text in my stories wasn’t as legible as I’d have liked it.

Notionally, changing the appearance of a WordPress blog is a matter of swapping themes in and out. So I went looking for a theme. There are plenty of nice photography portfolio themes, and some decent text-oriented themes that a newspaper (for example) might use, but I had real difficulty finding a simple theme that accomodated both my photos and my words. In the end, I chose Carrington Text, and modified it slightly to suit my needs.

Unlike life, changing the theme is retroactive: the skin surrounding my words and photos has been remodeled going all the way back.

I think this simple but elegant design works pretty well. Please let me know what you think!

Posted in Photography, Writing

Monochromatic Inversion

An inversion, in noun form, is a reversal. In verb form, applying an inversion is inverting, or even “to invert.” In Photoshop, you can invert an entire image, or a single channel.

Inverting means reversing the color values that the adjustment is applied to. The effect this has depends upon the working color space, and tends to have the most dramatic and useful results in the LAB color space where the channels are based upon a color-opponent model.

The implications of a applying a Photoshop inversion adjustment are perhaps seen most easily in a monochromatic image. Notionally, all the information in the image is either black or white—all though this isn’t really the case, as I’ll get to in a moment. Therefore, when I invert the image black becomes white, and white becomes black.

For example, take this Dandelion etched in white on a black background:

Dandelion Superior

Applying a monochromatic inversion gives me a Dandelion in grey tones on a white background:

Dandelion 3

Stepping back for a second, in modern digital practice monochrome—black and white—seldom really means dropping all the color information. (In a brief message from the sponsors of this blog, check out my book Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques for a more thorough treatment of this issue.)

So if black isn’t black and white isn’t white, how can you expect to get the clarity of results shown in the Dandelion example? The simple answer is to convert the image to LAB, and only invert the Lightness (L) channel. This applies the adjustment only to monochromatic information and completely ignores color values. If you like what you get, consider dropping the other channels entirely!

Don’t forget to convert back to RGB or CMYK when you are done. LAB is a theoretical model, meaning it can’t be output in the real world.

Interested in digital black and white? Then my October 14-16, 2011 workshop at the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, California may be for you. Here’s more information about the workshop, and a registration link.

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Monochrome, Photoshop Techniques

Papaver Somniferum and Papaver Dubium

Papaver somniferum and Papaver dubium

At Blake Garden they very graciously cut some poppies for me. I brought them back to my studio and photographed them on my light box, with the results you see here!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Green Temple

Green Temple

Want to try an interesting experiment in photography? Limit yourself to a single fixed-focal length lens shot pretty much wide open for minimal depth-of-field, and see what kinds of interesting close-up or macro compositions you can come up with.

The idea is to expand what one thinks of as subject matter by minimizing the photographic arsenal available to respond to conditions in the world. This limitation forces a change in the way you look at things.

Fixed focal length means that if you want to change the framing of a photo you’ve got to move the camera and your body—you can’t change the field of view by twirling a zoom lens knob.

Leaving the lens wide-open implies a single plane of focus. You’ve either got to get parallel with that plane, or accept that out-of-focus areas will be part of the finished composition.

In this case, I used my 50mm macro lens set to f/4. The shutter speed was 1/2000 of a second at ISO 320, and I hand-held the camera down on my belly amid the green spear-like leaves of a patch of Crocosmia hybrids.

Later in the season these flowers will produce showy, bright red flowers—but for now, in keeping with the spirit of minimalism of the photographic experiment, green was all I had to work with. There are indeed patches of out-of-focus leaves together with the sharply focused and backlit fronds, as well as the shadow of a flower on a leaf towards the bottom of the photo.

Posted in Photography

Structure of Time

Structure of Time © Harold Davis

Structure of Time © Harold Davis

Looking up through layers of rock makes me feel that I can see the structure of time moving at a geological pace.

Note: This is an exposure blend of five on-tripod bracketed captures. But when I saw the results, I decided I actually wanted to frame the view with outer bands of blackness, even though I had plenty of dynamic range to also show these areas had I chosen to do so.

The moral: good photography is about choices, and sometimes less is more. Just because we can do something—in this case, show details across the entire image—doesn’t mean we should. Composition can get interesting when areas of the photo cannot easily be made out, like the parts of this image that I intentionally left in shadow.

Related image: Falling Sand.

Posted in Landscape, Monochrome, Photography

Dragonfly Wing

Dragonfly Wing

Last week after a rainy afternoon a dragonfly settled in my garden. I was already out photographing, so I was able to make the most of its cooperation.

Up close, lit from behind by the setting sun—the photo shows a magnification of about ten times life size—this dragonfly’s wing reminds me of an architectural construction, perhaps the stained glass in a cathedral. How wonderful it is to see such a miracle in a living creature wrought so small!

Posted in Photography

Does every photo need to be in focus?

Lupine 1

Does every photo need to be in focus? Sometimes when I’m approaching landscapes or botanicals it seems that way. The convention is that landscapes are sharp and in-focus, usually across the entire image.

When the whole image isn’t sharp, selective focus can be used to draw attention to important areas in the photo because the eye goes first to these elements. Somewhat paradoxically, when selective focus is used—as in this shot of a dragonfly—the in-focus areas can seem sharper than they would if the whole image were in focus.

So both these uses of focus—to make an entire image sharp, or to emphasize specific elements within an image—make good compositional sense.

But it is also good to break rules, and to experiment with the unexpected. Why be normal? Trying new ways of approaching making photos enhances my enjoyment of photography and helps me be a more creative photographer even when I return to a more conventional idiom.

To make these images in my garden I put a macro lens on my camera, got down on my belly, and got up close to a Lupine. I pointed my camera at the flower. The strong, late afternoon sun lit the flower from behind and angled in the direction of my lens.

I threw the lens as out of focus as possible, and then experimented with the impact of using different apertures.

Both photos shot using my Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro lens, hand held. Top: 1/2000 of a second at f/2.8 and ISO 320; bottom: 1/40 of a second and f/13 at ISO 200.

Lupine 2

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

White Irises in a Vase

White Irises in a Vase

I photographed these Iris using a black velvet background and sunlight enhanced with reflectors and gobos. To make the image, I shot six exposures with my 85mm perspective-correcting macro set to f/64. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/30 of a second (for the black background) to 3 seconds, all at ISO 100.

In Photoshop, I layered the exposures with masks, using Overlay and Soft Light Blending Modes where these enhanced the texture in the Iris petals.

Related image: White Iris.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Photoshop Techniques