Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fellow Traveller

One way that digital photography differs from film photography is that you never are truly finished with an image.

Technologies may change and improve—and frequently do. For example, Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) is often improved in its ability to process RAW files each time there is a new release of Photoshop. Should I go back and reprocess images using the new, improved engine? Maybe.

Another example is our new printer, which can create prints with a far wider color gamut that was possible in the past—but only if the workflow one used to process the image files fortuitously anticipated this increase in gamut through a perspicacious choice of color space.

More widespread than these technologically-based reasons for going back to the digital darkroom is the client who indicates that they mostly like an image—but will buy it, use it, pay for many more like it only if I work some more on the image file. This scenario has kept me pretty busy on a number of different fronts lately.

Road Less Travelled by Harold Davis

Road Less Travelled © Harold Davis

I’m not always happy about going back to work some more on something I thought was finished, but it is usually a process that provides some artistic insight and inspiration—and hopefully pleases a paying client, and gets my work into print. It’s also wonderful to contemplate how one digital image can be multi-purposed in so may different ways with a few quick tricks with layers, blending modes, masks, and the Paintbrush tool in Photoshop.

Case in point: when I originally processed Road Less Travelled I assumed it would be converted to black and white, so I intentionally over saturated the colors. This was helpful, because it provided me with more information in making my monochromatic conversion.

I do like the way the black and white version, called the Choosing the Path, came out (check out the image midway down the story Where Does Inspiration Come From?)

But I also understand the art director’s thinking when he asked to see a more ethereal and foggy version of the color Road Less Travelled. The variation of Road Less Travelled that I prepared in response to this request is shown above.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Photographing Flowers at Wayside Gardens

We are very excited to have Photographing Flowers available at Wayside Gardens. Check my book out on the beautiful Wayside Gardens site—and as always on Amazon, where it has garnered 53 positive reviews.

Photographing Flowers by Harold Davis

According to the San Francisco Book Review, “For any photographer interested in floral photography—whether amateur or pro—this book will not only tutor them, but will inspire them.”

Posted in Photography, Writing


Against a darkling winter sky I stand adamant, seed pods crackling in the wind. Stubborn and mute with life hardly visible I know that my seeds will drop on the stony ground to rise again come spring.

Denial by Harold Davis

Denial © Harold Davis

I stand in denial of the chaotic forces that would mow me down without a second thought—and I stand for the poetry that is in the soul of each and every one of us no matter the storms of the world.

Posted in HDR, Monochrome, Photography

Shell Essays

It’s been a while since I’ve created really abstract images such as The Dictator’s Architect and my Tower of Babel and variations. Usually with these images I start with photographic elements and “play” using Photoshop to create entirely new visual universes. This kind of creation is largely the subject of our second volume in the Photoshop Darkroom series (the subtitle is “Creative Digital Transformations”).

Shell Essay 6 by Harold Davis

Shell Essay 6 © Harold Davis

Lately I’ve had a professional reason to be working with shells for a decor project. So it wasn’t much of a stretch to take one of my images of a Nautilus shell, photographed to emphasize transparency, put on my headsets—and play away until I finished these two digital collages.

Shell Essay 5 by Harold Davis

Shell Essay 5 © Harold Davis

I think it is best to view both these images larger. Here are links to the larger sizes: Shell Essay 5 and Shell Essay 6.

Posted in Bemusements, Photoshop Techniques

Cable Car Power

The highlight of the San Francisco Cable Car Museum is the wheels that power the cable cars. These have a somewhat Victorian steam punk look, despite the fact that they are actually powered by General Electric diesel engines. The constantly turning wheels pass through underground tunnels to power San Francisco’s famous cable cars.

Cable Car Power by Harold Davis

Cable Car Power © Harold Davis

I think the cable car wheels look good in black and white; however, in many ways this Victorian steam punk industrial environment is also a great subject for HDR.

To create the HDR image shown, I used a wide-angle lens (12mm) with my camera mounted on a tripod. I shot seven exposures, each exposure at f/9 and ISO 200. Shutter speeds ranged from 1/13 of a second to ten seconds.

I combined these manually bracketed images in post-production to create a single HDR image using tools provided by Nik Software, as well as hand-HDR layering Photoshop. The biggest single challenge was to retouch out a man in a red shirt, who appeared as a “ghost”—he was partially rendered—in two of the frames.

Posted in Bemusements, HDR, Photography, San Francisco Area

Architectonica Spiral

Commonly called the Sundial shell, Architectonica is small. The specimen shown in this photo is probably less than an inch across.

Sundial Seashell 1 by Harold Davis

Sundial Seashell 1 © Harold Davis

Turn the shell over, and there’s a tiny spiral formation going down into the core of the shell. This spiral looks like a staircase—but don’t forget how small it is. The version shown here is greatly magnified, probably twenty or thirty times life size.

Architectonica Spiral 1 by Harold Davis

Architectonica Spiral 1 © Harold Davis


Posted in Photography, Still Life

New prints from Harold Davis

I am writing this story to let you know about an exciting new development.  Thanks to new advanced technology, I am now able to create hand-crafted images up to 44 x 72 inches, printing them on new substrates, including washi rice paper and pearlized metallics.

This allows me to continue pushing the envelope of what can be manifested in the real world with my innovative new photographic and digital painting techniques. I am finally able to print what I see when I take a photograph and on my computer, with a wider color gamut and more subtle details than was ever possible before.

Cherry Dance by Harold Davis

Cherry Dance © Harold Davis

Many people who have seen my new work tell me that it is breathtaking and such a breakthrough that I should spread word about it. One of my key efforts right now is to connect with art galleries and dealers so that I can start showing the world these prints. Any way that you can help me achieve this goal would be deeply appreciated.

Structure of Time by Harold Davis

Structure of Time © Harold Davis

If you are in the San Francisco Bay area or visiting, I would be delighted to arrange a personal showing of my new work!

For more information about my prints, please visit my newly updated website and take a look at my About and Prints pages. You’ll find many of my images available through the Galleries page. Thanks for taking a look.

Lilies 2 Inversion by Harold Davis

Lilies 2 Inversion © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

On my way home from photographing in the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum I drove up the spectacular San Mateo coast (south of San Francisco). I reached the Pigeon Point Lighthouse about half an hour before sunset.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse by Harold Davis

Pigeon Point Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Pigeon Point Lighthouse marks a wind-and-wave swept shore of extreme beauty. The towering structure is badly in need of restoration. You can see in the photo that the building itself is largely fenced off.

As I parked the car, I realized that the high contrast between setting sun and the landscape would likely make photography a challenge. Then I noticed that there was one position, right near the southern edge of the cliffs above the ocean, where the lighthouse itself blocked the sun.

I scurried over to the cliffs edge, setting up my tripod in the shadow’s path with some difficulty. Achieving the right position meant going past the safety barricade. The path of the shadow was moving quickly, heading out over the cliffs edge towards the ocean where it would be impossible to utilize as a photographic element (without being able to hold still in mid-air, that is!).

I snapped the photo at 56mm, 1/2500 of a second, f/16 and ISO 100—and a moment later the shadow had shifted. These settings represent exposing for the sun, and underexposing the shadow portions of the image, which is what I had pre-visualized, along with a monochromatic conversion, to create an interesting backlit image.

This experience for me underscores the importance of improvisation in the field. You can do all the planning in the world—and fortune does favor the prepared mind. But in the end one needs to see—and seize—opportunities as they are presented, because photographic opportunities (like this one) are often fleeting.

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

2012 Harold Davis Workshop updates

Springtime rain brings flowers—and a sense of renewal and hope. It has been raining here in Berkeley, California all this week. Good for the garden, and good for the parched reservoirs of California. So I am glad of the rain. But still, it is trying weather for the photographer who would rather be outdoors.

Rainy Day Rapture by Harold Davis

Rainy Day Rapture © Harold Davis

Shooting creatively requires thinking outside the box no matter outdoors or indoors, no matter what the weather is like. That’s the point of my workshops: to help you jumpstart your creativity in a community of like-minded photographers. Here’s what I have planned for the remainder of the year!

2012.03.24 (Saturday)—Coming up soon on Saturday, March 24, here in Berkeley, California. In this workshop, I’ll teach my unconventional approach to HDR which informs almost all my work. This is a hands-on workshop, and you’ll leave being able to use HDR as part of your photographic toolchest. There are still a few places left. HDR (High Dynamic Range) Bootcamp with Harold Davis

Are you curious about HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography? Do you want to learn the gamut of techniques for extending dynamic range in your photos? Would you like to unleash the full power of HDR photography but don’t know the “secrets”?

If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” then HDR (High Dynamic Range) Bootcamp with Harold Davis is for you!

In this intensive, full-day workshop, Harold will show you how to shoot for HDR, how to extend dynamic range using multi-RAW processing, using automated HDR software including Photomatix and Nik HDR Efex Pro, and hand HDR processing in Photoshop.

In this workshop Harold reveals the secrets of HDR that you can’t learn anywhere else. With the HDR techniques taught in this workshop your photos will never be the same.

Information and registration for the HDR workshop!

Museum at Bodie by Harold Davis

Museum at Bodie © Harold Davis


2012.05.05 (Saturday)—Full Moon Workshop: Photograph the Golden Gate Bridge Like You Never Have Before. This workshop is sold out, but a waiting list is available. If enough people sign up for the waiting list I will run the workshop again later in the year.

2012.06.01 (Friday)-2012.06.03 (Sunday)—Macros, Close-Ups and Flower Photography (Point Reyes Institute)

2012.06.09 (Saturday)—Flower Photography Workshop.  This workshop is sold out, but a waiting list is available. If enough people sign up for the waiting list I will run the workshop again later in the year.

2012.08.03 (Friday)-2012.08.06 (Monday)—Tao of Photography Workshop at Green Dragon Temple (Soryu-ji).

Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, also known as Green Dragon Temple (Soryu-ji), is a Buddhist practice center in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition offering training in Zen meditation and ordinary work.

Green Gulch Farm Conference and Retreat Center is located in a beautiful coastal valley just a short drive north of the Golden Gate Bridge, in Marin County, CA. Surrounded by hundreds of acres of National Parkland and the spectacular heart of the Marin Headlands, its organic farm and gardens will provide a serene environment for our workshop. Muir Beach is just a 20-minute walk away, and the surrounding hills offer miles of trails up and down the coast and into nearby Muir Woods National Monument.

In the Tao of Photography workshop we will use the majestic and mystical landscape of the Marin Headlands and the Green Gulch gardens to explore becoming more in touch with the sources of intuition and inspiration in our photography.

Please note: The tuition for this workshop is increasing from the discounted price ($895) to the full price ($995) on March 31, 2012. If you are interested in the workshop I urge you to take advantage of this early-bird special price. Register Now!

Morning in the Hills by Harold Davis

Morning in the Hills © Harold Davis


2012.08.17 (Friday)-2012.08.20 (Monday)—Dark of the Moon Night Photography in the Ancient Bristlecone Pines (Point Reyes Institute). Registration is now open for this popular and exciting workshop; please register early as based on past experience this workshop is likely to fill up. Information and registration.

Join award-winning photographer Harold Davis, author of the bestselling Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), for a once in a lifetime adventure high in the White Mountains of Eastern California. Harold will have the assistance of Steven Christenson, a 2010 Astronomy Photographer of the Year, and co-founder of Star Circle Academy, and Eric Harness, faculty member Star Circle Academy.

The gnarled, ancient, and beautiful Bristlecone Pines are the oldest living things on planet earth—but their isolated location makes photography, particularly at night, logistically difficult. Locations in the White Mountains are among the least light polluted in the continental United States, and a frequent favorite destination of astronomers. The workshop is timed to coincide with the dark phase of the moon to maximize the possibilities of combining star circle photography with imagery of the ancient trees.

Duet of Daffodils 2 by Harold Davis

Duet of Daffodils 2 © Harold Davis

For 2013 we are trying something new, and taking expressions of interest for a workshop in Paris, France in the spring. The workshop will focus on night photography, black & white, and spring flower photography. Besides shooting Paris at night, we will shoot Monet’s Gardens at Giverny, and work to emulate the monochromatic visions of Paris expressed by Brassai and Atget.

We’ll stay in a quaint but comfortable hotel in the Latin Quarter, explore the neighborhoods of Paris, photograph the stairs of Montmartre, shoot the Luxembourg Gardens, and photograph along the banks of the Seine River.

If you think you might be interested in the workshop, please let us know so we can get you information once the details have been firmed up.

2013.04.28 (Sunday)-2012.05.04 (Saturday)—Photograph Paris with Harold: Night, Black & White and Spring Flower Photography.

Posted in Workshops

Harold Davis Postcard Books

We are very pleased to announce that Cameron + Company has released three postcard books of my work. Each of the three postcard books each contain twenty detachable postcards. They are high-quality productions on thick matte stock. These postcard books are sold through gift shops, card stores, and bookstores, and retail for $9.95 each.

Yosemite Dreaming: Postcards in this book show Yosemite in winter, Vernal and Nevada Falls, Mirror Lake, Yosemite Valley, the view from Inspiration Point, and more.

Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands: Postcards in this book show scenes from Point Reyes, Drakes Bay, Mount Tamalp;ais, the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate, and more.

Point Reyes and the Marin Headlands by Harold Davis

Classic California: The black and white postcards in this book show scenese from Big Sur, Joshua Tree National Park, Owens Valley, the Eastern Sierras, the San Francisco area, Yosemite, and more.

Classic California by Harold Davis


Posted in Landscape, Monochrome, Photography, Point Reyes, Yosemite

Cable Car Wheels

Wandering downtown San Francisco with two photographic companions we decided to visit the San Francisco Cable Car Museum. This turned out to be a great location for monochromatic HDR photography. The deck inside the museum overlooks the huge engines and always-turning wheels that run through underground tunnels to power San Francicsco’s cable cars. Who could resist this kind of subject matter?

Cable Car Wheels by Harold Davis

Cable Car Wheels © Harold Davis

To create this image, I shot four exposures, all at 62mm, f/32, and ISO 100, using my tripod. Shutter speeds of the four exposures were 4 seconds, 8 seconds, 15 seconds, and 30 seconds.

I combined the exposures using Nik HDR Efex Pro and hand-HDR in Photoshop. Within HDR Efex Pro, I used several custom presets that I have created.

I worked on the blended image in Photoshop, primarily using filters from Nik and from the Topaz Adjust filter set.

Once I was satisfied with the image in color, I converted to monochromatic using a layered combination of Photoshop B&W adjustment layers and conversions created using Nik Silver Efex 2 presets. As a final touch, I layered in a monochromatic HDR conversion from HDR Efex Pro at a low opacity.

How is digital workflow like a sausage? We want to enjoy the results, but perhaps we are not so enthusiastic about seeing inside the factory and how the sausage (or composite digital image) was actually made.


Posted in HDR, Monochrome, Photography

Natural Jewelry

Photography Waterdrops by Harold DavisIf you’ve been following my blog or my Flickr stream you may have noticed more than the usual proportion of extreme macro shots involving waterdrops. Well, I do love shooting waterdrops in the spring, so maybe this needs no explanation, but it is also because I’m at work on a book about waterdrop photography from Focal Press (the cover is shown to the left).

Here’s the story behind a recent shot I made for my book Photographing Waterdrops: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis.

Up early on a cool, drizzly morning I wandered the trails in the coastal mountain range near where I live. It was damp and cool and my major preoccupation was staying warm and keeping my equipment dry.

Then the sun came out and the moisture began evaporating over huge swaths of the land. I knew that to capture waterdrops I needed to move swiftly. I lay down on my belly in the rain soaked grass, and pointed my camera on its tripod up at these waterdrops with the sun bursting through.

Morning Jewelry by Harold Davis

Morning Jewelry © Harold Davis

I was careful when I made my exposure to error on the “dark side” by about 1.5 EV—because I knew that I could recover dark areas when I processed the photo, but if let the sunbursts blowout because of overexposure then the primary visual point of the image would be lost.

Exposure data: 200mm macro lens, 36mm extension tube, +4 close-up filter, 3/10 of a second at f/45 and ISO 200, tripod mounted.

Posted in Photography, Water Drops

Ginger Leaf

On a walk around the block with the kids yesterday I saw this translucent wild ginger leaf. I snipped it, brought it home, and shot it on my lightbox. This kind of close-up photography is a very different approach to high key than something like Floral Arrangements. Close-up, this backlit leaf looks like textural fabric, a feather, or maybe a distant, colorful landscape.

Ginger Leaf by Harold Davis

Ginger Leaf © Harold Davis

Almost always these days I am thinking about how images will print when I make them on our new printer, and what kind of surface or substrate will work best. I’m going to experiment with printing “Ginger”—and let you know the results!

Posted in Photograms, Photography

Duet of Daffodils

Traditionally, when daffodils bloom it is a harbinger of spring. In a famous poem, William Wordsworth described a group of daffodils encountered on a walk with his sister in England’s Lake District this way:

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.


I vividly recall being forced to memorize the four stanzas of this poem in elementary school. It was an easy poem to mock and an easy target for school boys to satirize. My feelings for daffodils were not as strong then as today!

Duet of Daffodils 2 by Harold Davis

Duet of Daffodils 2 © Harold Davis

Perhaps we would have been kinder to Dorothy Wordsworth’s somewhat more down-to-earth description of the flowers; this journal entry was apparently the basis for her brother’s poem:

I never saw daffodils so beautiful they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some  rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay ever dancing ever changing.

In any case, there’s no doubt the daffodil is a wonderful flower: early, ephemeral, glowing, and always dancing in the wind. This year I scoured the neighborhood, pruning shears in hand, and found an untended crowd of daffodils.

Once in my studio, these flowers were very cooperative—and filled the room with the wonderful odor of spring!

Duet of Daffodils by Harold Davis

Duet of Daffodils © Harold Davis



Posted in Flowers