Monthly Archives: January 2013

Bay Bridge Lights

In this image of the Bay Bridge the moon seems to be “captured” within the tower of the Bay Bridge. The image is a hand-HDR blend of six exposures at shutter speeds from 1/2 of a second to 8 seconds. During one of the exposures the lights for The Bay Lights, an art installation and project by Leo Villareal that will come on “for real” on March 5, 2013 appeared briefly (in testing mode I guess), and I painted them in on a layer at about 30% opacity. Note that this light show has nothing to do with the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge, which has come and gone—and is simply a rather wonderful art installation.

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge - Black & White by Harold Davis

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge – Black & White © Harold Davis

The sequence of exposures in this image was shot during Saturday’s smashing moonrise adventure workshop—which I feel was good photographically and a very successful workshop despite the break-in of my van. I started with color images, combined them, manipulated them in post-production to create an image with an extended range of tonal values—withthe results shown below. To finish the image, I then converted it to black and white, using layers and masking to control how each section of the image converted.

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge - Color by Harold Davis

Moon Captured by the Bay Bridge – Color © Harold Davis

Posted in Digital Night, HDR, Monochrome, Photography, San Francisco Area

Smashing Moonrise Workshop

The San Francisco Moonrise Adventure workshop on Saturday was a smashing success. Despite some unexpected logistical difficulties—due to a demonstration on Market Street—we settled into our Embarcadero waterfront location in good time. The moon rose mostly where it was supposed to, and is shown here over Port Oakland. The photo was shot under the Bay Bridge using my 300mm lens. I’ll be posting more photos of the moon interacting in complex and photographically interesting ways with the Bay Bridge itself!

Moonrise over Port Oakland by Harold Davis

Moonrise over Port Oakland © Harold Davis

Not to take away from the workshop and how much fun it was, but unfortunately “smashing” applies to what happened to my van, parked near the Embarcadero in downtown San Francisco while the workshop was transpiring. The rear window was smashed. The bad guys got a briefcase with my iPad and the prototype of Botanique—currently, the only existing copy.

Well, we’re assembling the actual copies of the edition this week, so there will soon be more copies.

It’s hard to imagine that the smash-and-grab thief has much interest in an archival box filled with oragami-like botanical art. So my fantasy is that it was immediately discarded, and will turn up in twenty years or so when the rest of the copies in the edition are in major museums. There will be much debate about the provenance of the prototype before it is auctioned for megabucks at Sotheby’s.

Returning to earth, if you happen to be wandering in downtown San Francisco and see a box of botanical art in the gutter pick it up! Let me know!

I’m not giving up on San Francisco photography, but will be more careful about where I park in the future. Please consider joining me in the Mission on Saturday February 23—I know it will be a fantastic shoot!

Posted in Digital Night, San Francisco Area, Workshops

Hot off the press

The pages of Botanique—my hand made, limited edition artist book—have all been printed. Some of them are shown here on the table formerly known as our dining room table. You can read about assembling the Botanique prototype by clicking here, and click here for the Kickstarter campaign that used crowd-sourcing to fund this unique project that uses cutting-edge technologies in combination with hand crafting in a made-in-the-USA cottage industry project. I also like the way the aesthetic combines the old with the new, and echoes both 19th century botanical prints and Asian art while looking towards the future of digital photography.

Botanique pages hot off the press

Botanique pages hot off the press © Harold Davis

The next step is to assemble the actual copies in the edition, and deliver the ones that have already been sold.

I am excited about the level of interest in Botanique. At the risk of being immodest I understand why, every time I take my prototype copy out of its box. It’s fun to show it to people and watch their jaws drop! We’re of course very pleased by how many of the copies in the edition have already sold—Botanique is already a huge success—and thank you to everyone who has supported my art via this venture.

There are only two copies left in the $750 price tier. Please contact the studio if you would like to reserve one of them.

I can’t wait to post some photos of the finished Botanique—probably early in the coming week.

Click here for more information about Botanique.

Posted in Flowers

Simple Compositions

Closely related to the question of “how low can you go” is the philosophical issue of, “how simple can you get?” Images like Story of O and Line Dance (below) examine this question. Story of O presents an arch and its reflection, creating a circular letter ‘O’ or zero, on a gradient monochrome background. Line Dance is slightly more complex in terms of composition. It shows an irregular upright line and its reflection in the upper-left quadrant, created by an old piling. The lower portion of the image is a smooth color gradient going from blue to orange, with gentle horizontal lines formed by waves and again in blue cutting across the vertical line of the piling at the very top of the image.

Line Dance by Harold Davis

Line Dance © Harold Davis

In both cases I used a long exposure to smooth the action of the ocean, and to create the sense of spatial isolation that simplicity requires. Story of O was a sixty second exposure, and Line Dance was exposed for ten seconds. The ten second elapsed time duration was long enough to smooth out the foreground while still leaving some detail in the horizontal lines formed by the waves at the top of the image.

Pulling off a simple composition can be surprisingly complex. For one thing, by its nature simplicity calls attention to itself, so the composition will be scrutinized. When you have one or two compositional elements, each will get a great deal more attention than when there are hundreds of things to look at. In other words, with the simple composition there is no place to run, and no place to hide.

The things that bring us most joy are not overly complicated. Perfection in an image usually involves creating a sense in the viewer of righteous simplicity. Partly for this reason, simple compositions are likely to be regarded as audacious, and as an attempt by the artist at the Platonic ideal and the perfect. If you would joust with perfection, then expect to be regarded with rigor. There’s no margin of error in the lineaments of  the simple composition.

Posted in Abstractions, Photography

Story of o

I walked along the trail beside San Francisco Bay near Richmond, California. My idea was to capture sunset on the mudflats of the Bay at low tide. When I traversed down to the water, instead of mud I saw an old girder sticking out of the Bay. A generation ago, this place had been a land fill and dump—and it still could sure use some clean-up.

Story of O by Harold Davis

Story of O © Harold Davis

Together with its reflection, the girder made a perfect circle, or letter ‘O’. I shot the image using a long exposure (60 seconds) to create the smooth, gradient background from the gentle action of the wavelets on the Bay in the setting sun.

Posted in Abstractions, Monochrome

Sunset from Sutro Baths

Sunset was spectacular here in the San Francisco Bay area yesterday. I shot west out to the Pacific Ocean from Sutro Baths, shown here with a long enough exposure (15 seconds) to calm the action of the waves.

Sutro Sunset by Harold Davis

Sutro Sunset © Harold Davis

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Assembling Botanique

I am very excited that Botanique is finally becoming real. Botanique is my limited edition, handmade book of floral prints, partially funded by Kickstarter (thanks Kickstarter sponsors so much!). The iPhone photo below shows some of the first pages just off the printer. The translucent cover wrapper, printed on archival vellum is shown, along with two of the Unryu washi pull-outs that are in Botanique.

Prototyping Botanique

Prototyping Botanique

Botanique is a limited edition, handcrafted book of original botanical prints by legendary photographer and master printer Harold Davis. According to Popular Photo Magazine, “Harold Davis’ ethereal floral arrangements have a purity and translucence that borders on spiritual.”

Botanique is strictly limited to an edition of twenty-five copies, plus five artist proof copies. Each book is hand-signed and numbered by the artist, and presented in an archival box suitable for display.

Botanique has been hand printed on an Epson 9900 StylusPro printer using archival Ultrachrome inks. Within the book there are twenty-one prints on archival substrates including archival vellum, Moenkopi Unryu Washi, Moenkopi Kozo Washi, Moab Slickrock pearlized metallic,and Colorado Fibergloss photographic paper. Each book is hand-cut, and hand-assembled in the artist’s studio. Bonus features include three foldout prints in over-sized panoramic format.

Each copy of Botanique ships with a signed 9″ X 12″ print of Harold Davis’ popular Red Poppies image, suitable for framing.

Botanique---Tools of the trade

Botanique—Tools of the trade

The first tier of five copies of Botanique has sold out at $500 each, we are now taking orders for numbers 6-10 at $750 each. Considering the number of prints in Botanique and how handsome the volume looks overall this is actually a great deal. Please contact the studio if you would like more information or to reserve a copy.

I’ll be posting more details and photos of an actual copy of Botanique in the next couple of days!

Click here for more information about Botanique.


Posted in Photography

Stanford Memorial Church

This is an HDR fisheye shot looking up at the ceiling of the Stanford Memorial Church and its rather wonderful mosaics.

Stanford Memorial Church by Harold Davis

Stanford Memorial Church © Harold Davis

Posted in HDR, Photography

Star Magnolia

This Magnolia stellata was clipped from a flowering hedge in my neighborhood that borders a major avenue and photographed for maximum translucency. It makes a great print on Kozo washi (rice paper).

Star Magnolia by Harold Davis

Star Magnolia © Harold Davis

We are busy prototyping our handmade limited edition book of floral images, Botanique, and a reproduction of Star Magnolia on Kozo will be included.

Posted in Flowers, Photography


In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle ice-nine is a crystal with the power to freeze all life on earth, perhaps as I did with these yellow roses. Not really! Nor were they shot through a wet shower door.

The roses were shot on a white background, and then I applied one of my images of waterdrops on windows (Window Study #3) as a texture overlay.

Ice-Nine by Harold Davis

Ice-Nine © Harold Davis

Other examples of texture overlays: Everything in moderation, Like a Titian, Venice of Cuba.

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Not a pretty face

Not far as the crow flies from the glamorous and scenic parts of San Francisco lies a moldering waterfront south along San Francisco Bay. The structures look like they belong more to Detroit and the Rust belt than they do to San Francisco.

Abandoned Industrial Building, India Basin, San Francisco by Harold Davis

Abandoned Industrial Building, India Basin, San Francisco © Harold Davis

An occasional luxury condo building appears within the zone of shoreline decay. China Basin, India Basin, Hunts Point—you can feel these areas holding their collective breath just waiting for the infusion of massive renovation funds. In the meantime, the ordinary affairs of the dislocated and the 99% continue. As evidence, the sign shown in my iPhone photo prohibits living (“habitation”) in one’s vehicle during the hours of the night (10PM – 6AM) “Everyday” [sic].

Shot with my iPhone 4 camera app using HDR, and processing using the Plastic Bullet app.

Posted in iPhone, San Francisco Area

Lombard Street at night

The idea of this night shot along the famous curves of Lombard Street in San Francisco was to use my shutter speed setting creatively to get the desired effect with the car trails. So the process was to first determine the duration that was about right for the tail lights of a car slowly moving down the curve to fill the frame horizontally.

Of course, there are going to be variations depending on the speed of the car, but the best effects were achieved using a shutter speed duration  in the 8-15 seconds range. With the shutter speed in place, it was easy to calculate the other two components of the exposure equation (aperture and ISO).

Lombard Street at Night by Harold Davis

Lombard Street at Night © Harold Davis

The exposure information for this frame was 12mm, 15 seconds at f/11 and ISO 200, tripod mounted. The exposure works in part because of the ambient light of the background scene, which is bright enough so you can see Coit Tower and the Bay Bridge in the background (as well as nearby houses), but not so bright that it is blown out at the settings that work for the cars.

I shot the image just before Christmas while hanging out with a friend and listening to Christmas carols sung by inebriated cable car passengers going by on Hyde Street.

Posted in Digital Night, Photography, San Francisco Area

Tennessee Beach Landslide

For many years one of the pleasures of the two-mile hike down to Tennessee Beach in the Marin Headlands has been to view the wonderful hole in the cliff on the north side of the beach. This dramatic formation as it appeared in 2007 can be seen in the photo below, which is lit by moonlight. A star appears through the hole in the cliff in the photo.

Tennessee Beach in 2007 (original title "Power of the Moon") © Harold Davis

Tennessee Beach in 2007 (original title “Power of the Moon”) © Harold Davis

Sometime during the tumultuous storms of the last few weeks this cliff collapsed, presumably brought down by rain and wind. The impact on the appearance of the north end of Tennessee Beach is tremendous and visceral, as you can see in the 2013 view of the scene below that I shot yesterday.

Tennessee Beach in 2013 (facing north) © Harold Davis

Tennessee Beach in 2013 (facing north) © Harold Davis

Looking at the fault line exposed by the landslide, it seems likely that erosion will continue. Perhaps the cliff jutting out into the sea is doomed to become an island sea stack in the course of time. But I am no geologist.

The cliffs looking north from Tennessee Beach are still spectacular, although I miss the unique formation of the hole in the cliff.

This slide in a beloved landscape is a reminder that nothing lasts forever, and that the only constant is change. Confronted with clear evidence that even something as apparently immutable as the iron-bound cliffs of the Marin Headlands are not static we have to conclude that our lives will change as well—in ways that are hard to expect or predict, and out of our control.

Change can be disconcerting, particularly when it is precipitated by exogenous events—the human equivalents to landslide. The way to survive in style is to eschew denial, and accept that the unpredictable is by definition unpredictable.

Posted in Bemusements, San Francisco Area, Writing

Art is where you find it

Art is where you find it. I found this light phenomenon—caused by the reflections off two parked cars—when I came out from a Costco shopping adventure with the kids. Shot with my iPhone camera, I think the effect looks something like an illuminated land jelly fish. Where have you unexpectedly seen interesting images lately?

Parking lot light phenomenon by Harold Davis

Parking lot light phenomenon © Harold Davis

Posted in iPhone, Photography

Fireworks to greet the new year!

An expression of joy and hope with the coming of a new year can be lavish in size, or small indeed. This dandelion, shot from below and skyward, exhibits points of exploding light like fireworks, but on a very small scale. Enjoy!

Dandelion Superior by Harold Davis

Dandelion Superior © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Monochrome, Photography