Monthly Archives: October 2012

Midtown Babylon

Midtown Babylon is a digital collage created using thirty exposures shot through the window of my hotel room on a recent trip to New York City. I’ve printed it on canvas, and the substrate seems to work well with this image—better than photographic paper would as I was striving for a painterly effect.

Midtown Babylon by Harold Davis

Midtown Babylon © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

Like Storm in the Upper Bay and Ghosts of Grand Central my thought with this image is to convey some degree of the complexity of my feelings about New York—the place I grew up, and a city that I love and that drives me crazy simultaneously.

Certainly, no disrespect is meant regarding the recent hurricane. My hope is that my friends stayed snug and warm, and that things get back to normal as quickly as possible, if New York City can ever be said to have a “normal.”

Posted in Abstractions, New York, Photography

Signifying the Whale

I fondly dubbed my shot of a wet cyclamen “Moby Dick” because the flower looked to me like a white whale. I never expected the New Bedford Whaling Museum—surely an authority on whales and what they look like—to take up the refrain!

Moby Dick by Harold Davis

Moby Dick © Harold Davis

Signifying the Whale is an exhibition opening at the New Bedford Whaling Museum on November 1. The exhibit consists of crowd-sourced images (via Flickr) of signified (as in, to be a sign or symbol of something), documented, or artistically rendered whales. The images in the exhibition do not depict actual whales.

I am pleased to have my image lead the way into this singular and amusing exhibition!

Signifying the Whale



Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Land’s End

The past few days have been spectacular in the San Francisco Bay area. Night rain has alternated with crystal clear days. The days themselves have vibrated with clarifying autumn light, while exotic cloud formations have been on almost constant display.

Land's End by Harold Davis

Land’s End © Harold Davis

As a photographer with a great love for landscape as a subject I couldn’t ignore this opportunity even though I am supposedly heads-down getting a book done. So with my oldest son Julian out of school early, we drove over to the Marin Headlands.

A short, steep, and sweet hike to us to the top of Slacker Ridge. I mounted my camera on my tripod, and started shooting across the Golden Gate strait. Land’s End is in the mid-ground of this image, but the point of the image is of course the extravagant cloud show over the open Pacific.

In making the exposures that went into this image I want to be sure to get the sun fully resolved. So I underexposed relative to the overall scene (1/8000 of a second at f/9 and ISO 200, using a Polarizer). At these shutter speeds, at least one doesn’t have to worry about motion blur!

In processing the image I layered in lighter exposures to capture the cloud formations and highlights on the water—while making sure to leave the shapes of the hills in the foreground silhouetted and dark.

You can click on the image to view it larger.

Posted in Landscape, Monochrome, San Francisco Area

Brush Tool

I’m getting more interested in explicitly painterly effects in my digital imagery. At times I am presenting myself as a painter who uses digital photos for my materials (although of course I am not offended if you call me a photographer!).


Brush Tool by Harold Davis

Brush Tool © Harold Davis

I’m also experimenting with printing on canvas—and maybe even working the surface of my digitally-printed canvases by hand.

So things seem to have come round in full circle. It seems like a good time to break out the tools of my first love in art. Some of my old paint brushes are shown in this photo.

I don’t suppose I’m likely to go back and start doing a great deal of physical painting—I enjoy my virtual tools so much. Digital tools are powerful, and I have mastery of my craft.  But still it is good to acknowledge painting with paint and non-virtual brushes as part of what I do, and one of the disciplines at the root of my current work.

Posted in Still Life

Like a Titian

With this image featuring the travelling model Kellie my idea was to recreate something of the feeling of a Titian painting, particularly in the folds of red velvet draped on the couch. Besides the studio model shot I used a desaturated image of the setting sun (and bird). To complete the image, I add several layers of virtual textures (I will be writing about digital textures in a future story) and a small margin of background.

Kellie by Harold Davis

Kellie © Harold Davis

I’ve printed Kellie on canvas to reinforce the visual reference to historical masterworks, and am experimenting with adding by hand an actual (rather than virtual) coat of varnish that I can work to recreate the craquelure of an old oil painting.

Posted in Bemusements, Models

White Dalhias

Shot on a lightbox at the same session as When Dahlias Dream, my thought in processing White Dahlias was to create an image that showed its photographic heritage with a painterly aspect thrown in. In other words, if Georgia O’Keeffe had painted with photos.

White Dahlias by Harold Davis

White Dahlias © Harold Davis—click to view larger

Posted in Flowers

When is a river not a river?

It is called the “East River” but—technically speaking—this body of water is actually a tidal strait. The East River connects the Long Island Sound with New York harbor, and the Atlantic Ocean, via the Narrows. Subject to the vagaries of the tides, the not-a-river East River puts the “Island” in “Long Island.”

East River by Harold Davis

East River © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

In New York City I visited a very old friend of mine who lives high up and far to the east in the 70s. This image is shot from my friend’s balcony. I had to brace my camera and tripod against a very stiff breeze. This exposure was made at 24mm for 25 seconds at f/7.1 and ISO 200.

In post-production I worked to paint in the lights which were reflected in the East River. Without some enhancement that tidal strait would have looked mighty dark and dull!

Posted in Digital Night, New York

Storm in Upper New York Bay

The day I had for shooting on the water in New York was the one day it rained. But light during stormy weather can make for interesting images. Photographer Hank Gans and I braved the storm and proceeded as planned despite the seriously squally weather.

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (with texture) by Harold Davis

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (with texture) © Harold Davis

This image shows upper New York Bay, often simply called New York Harbor with the lower Manhattan skyline in the background. Upper New York Bay is fed by the Hudson River, which is connected to the shipping channels out to the Atlantic Ocean via the Narrows and Lower New York Bay, and to Long Island Sound via the East River (which despite the name is actually a tidal strait).

In this image you can see a Staten Island Ferry plowing through the waves in front of the inaptly-named Freedom Tower, which is going up near the World Trade Memorial.

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (black & white) by Harold Davis

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (black & white) © Harold Davis

The three versions of Storm in Upper New York Harbor in this story are shown in reverse of the order in which I made them during post-production. The actual RAW image file is fairly flat, so I processed the color image to add contrast and drama (below).

Once I was happy with the color version I used Nik Silver Efex 2 to convert the image to monochromatic (above). At that point, I thought I was done—but the idea of playing with textures called out to me, hence the painterly version at the top of this story.

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (color version) by Harold Davis

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (color version) © Harold Davis

Posted in Landscape, New York

When Dahlias Dream

Shopping for groceries at Berkeley Bowl the other day I came across these dahlias and asters that called out for photography. Taking the flowers home, I shot them on a light box (this version with a white background is second from the top) using eight exposures. Click here for more about this technique. To see a larger version of any of the images below, just click the image.

Dahlias and Asters by Harold Davis

Dahlias and Asters © Harold Davis

To finish the image and relieve the starkness of the white background I virtually “placed” the image of dahlias and asters on a paper scan and added a texture to warm the image (above, top version).

Dahlias and Asters on White by Harold Davis

Dahlias and Asters on White © Harold Davis

Next, I used a LAB color inversion to create a composition on a black background (bottom version). Since my idea was to create a painting on canvas with this version of When Dahlias Dream, I worked to add a textural feeling to the background.

As noted in Photographing Flowers, dahlias and asters are part of the same flower family. In particular, dahlias are named for Dr. Anders Dahl, a Swedish botanist who worked with Linnaeus and first classified this genus. Originally native to the new world, dahlias were a show plant for the Victorians because of their over-the-top visual attractiveness.

Click here for more of my dahlia photos.

When Dahlias Dream by Harold Davis

When Dahlias Dream © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

At Home in the Universe

My plan is to produce these abstractions in a large-size on linen canvas. With these images I am using my computer to create paintings, which is another way of saying that I am a painter who uses digital images as my media. While the imagery appears abstract—it is not hard to imagine that one is looking at outer space or DNA strands—it is also capable of literal interpretation. Hint: the water droplets in the middle right are a giveaway.

At Home in the Universe by Harold Davis

At Home in the Universe © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

To create this abstraction I used a macro lens to shoot twenty-one exposures of a wet spider web in the early morning sun. Most were underexposed to bring out the color saturation and to let the background go dark.

I combined the images using stacking, and was pleased to see that the composite had indeed become an abstraction.

At Home in the Universe Inversion Number One by Harold Davis

At Home in the Universe Inversion Number One © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

The variations were created using LAB color inversions. At Home in the Universe Inversion Number One is a simple L-channel inversion, and At Home in the Universe Inversion Number Two was constructed by inverting all three LAB color channels.

At Home in the Universe Inversion Number Two by Harold Davis

At Home in the Universe Inversion Number Two © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

Posted in Abstractions, Patterns

Upcoming Harold Davis Workshops & Events

Harold Davis Workshops in downtown Berkeley, CA:

Saturday, November 3, 2012: Digital Black & White Masterclass with Harold Davis

If you are interested in black & white photography and would like to take your work to the next level, this is a rare opportunity to perfect your technique and be inspired by a legendary monochromatic digital photographer and teacher! This workshop is primarily intended for serious amateurs and professionals who already have some experience with digital black & white photography.

Click here for information and registration.

Choosing the Path by Harold Davis

Choosing the Path © Harold Davis

Saturday, December 1, 2012:
Photographing Flowers for Transparency: Full Day Workshop with Harold Davis

In this unique workshop offering, master photographer Harold Davis shows the techniques he uses to create his floral masterpieces. Arrangement, composition, photography, post-production will all be covered, as will Harold’s special techniques for shooting on a light box.

Click here for information and registration.


Saturday, January 12, 2013:
HDR (High Dynamic Range) Bootcamp: Full Day Workshop with Harold Davis

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.

Papaver and Iridaceae by Harold Davis

Papaver and Iridaceae © Harold Davis

Besides mastering HDR techniques, and most important of all, Harold will help you develop your own style of HDR photography.

Click here for information and registration.


Center for Photographic Art,
Carmel, CA:

Friday, November 2, 2012:
Creating Natural Images using HDR

This is one of the sessions of the Center for Photographic Art’s well-known Exposure Weekend. I will show how HDR techniques can be used to create unique, subtle, and natural-looking images.

Click here for information and registration.


Point Reyes National Seashore, CA:

Saturday, November 17, 2012: Celebrating Water, Waterdrops and Our Wet World

This presentation is timed to coincide with the publication of Harold Davis’s new book Photographing Waterdrops: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis and benefits Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA). The presentation will focus on water and consider its relationship to our world. Particular attention will be paid to the tiny, encapsulated worlds of waterdrops. In addition, Harold Davis will discuss the techniques he uses to create macro photographs that are “both a sign and a symbol of all that is still in balance in our world.”

Admission is $10.00 for PRNSA members ($12.00 for non-members). Click here for registration.

Saturday, December 8, 2012: Photographing Waves Workshop

Waves are one of the great forces of nature and photographing them is a joy and a challenge. In this workshop, we will consider the role of patterns in composition and learn how to use short shutter speeds to stop the motion of a wave. We will let the motion of the surf create our images for us. We will start with an orientation that will explain wave photography techniques and then head to the field for at least two magnificent locations to practice these new skills. Then we will head back to the classroom for a review of the photos and a few insider tips.

Click here for registration.

Paris, France–2013 Spring and Autumn Workshops:

April, 2013: Photograph Paris with Harold: Night, 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 the arty and luxurious Hotel Lutetia 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. There will be ample time for each participant to pursue their own photographic dreams and goals.

We have only a very few places left in this workshop. Click here for workshop summary, detailed itinerary or online registration.

Basilica Mission Delores by Harold Davis

Basilica Mission Delores © Harold Davis

October, 2013: Photograph Paris in the Autumn with Harold Davis

Besides shooting Paris in the autumn and at night, we will work to emulate the monochromatic visions of Paris expressed by Brassai, Atget, and other great photographers. Autumn in Paris is a great time of year to capture the nostalgia of falling leaves and monochromatic patterns. The workshop will include two field trips to capture autumn landscapes near Paris.

Click here for more information or to express interest in the workshop.

Some recent comments about Harold Davis workshops & events:

  • “A great artist and speaker!”—W. Anglin
  • “Awesome! He patiently addressed questions from the audience which contained photographers of all levels , molding his answers to the level of understanding for each of us. His presentations covered a wonderful range of technical knowledge as well as emphasizing the need for images to have an emotional quality. The images he shares are breathtaking and he is generous in sharing many facets of how he captures such beauty.”—J. Phillips
  • “Not all photographers are good verbal communicators. Harold is someone who can DO and TEACH. A rare combination of talents.”—B. Sawyer
  • “Inspiring!”
  • “He was very giving of his talents and time. The course was very organized and thorough. Loved it! Learned so much!”—L. Beck
  • “Very creative and a marvelous instructor.”—Kay S.

Click here for more information about upcoming Harold Davis workshops and events.

About Harold Davis

Harold Davis is an award-winning professional photographer and widely recognized as one of the leading contemporary photographers.

He is the author of more than 30 books, including Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography (Amphoto), Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis (Focal Press), The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (Focal Press), and The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing (Focal Press).

Harold is the author of the Creative Photography series from Wiley Publishing.

“Harold Davis’s Creative Photography series is a great way to start a photography library”—Daniel Fealko, PhotoFidelity.

The Creative titles include: Creative Landscapes: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Lighting: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Portraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley). He’s also written a book on the fundamentals of exposure, Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O’Reilly Media).


Posted in Workshops

Editions Limited Publishes Two Harold Davis Posters

I’m pleased to announce that two of my images have been selected for publication by Editions Limited, a leading publisher and distributor of fine art reproductions. The two images are Aisle of Sight and The Destination.

Aisle of Sight poster by Harold Davis

Aisle of Sight measures 26″ X 36″ and retails for $40. The Destination measures 30″ X 27″ and retails for $38.

In some respects the publication of my work as fine art posters brings me full circle, as I created a number of well-known fine art graphic posters using my work in my first incarnation as a photographer and artist.

The Destination by Harold Davis

Click here to read the press release related to these posters.

Posted in Photography