Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sacré Coeur Passage

La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre sits high on a hill overlooking Paris. Controversial from long before the start of construction, the design of Sacré Coeur was a response to the supposed “moral decline” of France in the century following the French revolution, with the more proximate cause the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.

If this defeat represented divine punishment, as asserted by Bishop Fournier, then Sacré Coeur was an iconic response by the hard right-wing allied with monarchists and the Catholic church to the democratic rabble of Paris and the commune. This was not the first, nor the last, time that the forces of repression and the church were on the same side against their common enemy, the people when empowered—but it still was a bitter pill for some to swallow standing tall above the city of light.

Sacré Coeur Passage © Harold Davis

Sacré Coeur Passage © Harold Davis

Visited by millions of people a year, Sacré Coeur gets surprisingly little traffic up in the passage that circles the grand dome.  Perhaps the narrow and twisting stairs—all 280 of them—inhibit guests. The views are superb, as you can see in another image of mine from the dome that includes that other Parisian icon, the Eiffel tower.

Up in the passage around the dome of Sacré Coeur, the “rabble” has had its revenge. On the one hand, it is sad to see the elegant surfaces defaced by layer upon layer of graffiti and a general patina of neglect over time. On the other hand, this defilement—at least in part a deliberate statement—stands as mute testament to the true sentiments of many of those who visit: as much as a holy temple, Sacré Coeur is a political symbol created by those who would keep the people in their place.

Patina of Time © Harold Davis

Patina of Time © Harold Davis

Posted in Monochrome, Paris

Does a sunset need color?

Photographing from Hawk Hill was truly one of those great moments in the life of a photographer. In front, the extra-large June “super moon” cleared the city of San Francisco and the Golden Gate as a bank of fog added picturesque accents. Behind, the sun was going down in a profusion of layered mist that made the Marin Headlands glow and appear to be a spiritual landscape. The air was warm and almost tropically balmy, in an exposed location that usually bears the brunt of Mark Twain’s famous quip about never finding a winter as cold as summer in San Francisco.

Sunset in the Headlands © Harold Davis

Sunset in the Headlands © Harold Davis

Does a sunset need color? Most people I’ve shown it to like the way I processed this image of a sunset, but I have heard the viewpoint that without color it “isn’t really a sunset.” Of course, it is an image of sunset, albeit reproduced in high-dynamic range black and white—as if one had sketched the sunset in pencil, or with black ink, rather than using color paints.

Is this any way to treat a sunset? What do you think?

Exposure data: 200mm, five exposures at shutter speeds from 1/50 of a second to 1/1250 of a second, each exposure at f/6.3 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures combined and processed using Photoshop CC, Nik HDR Efex Pro, Nik Color Efex Pro, and the Topaz plug-in; converted to monochromatic using Photoshop adjustment layers and Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Posted in Landscape, Monochrome, San Francisco Area

New Harold Davis Photonet column: Placing a Flower Photo on a Background

Please check out my new column on, Placing a Flower Photo on a Background. Stay tuned for the sequel, coming next month to, explaining how to add a texture to a flower photo to get painterly effects.

Have you ever wanted to turn your flower photos into fine art design pieces? With a little bit of Photoshop know-how, a few inexpensive tools, and the techniques explained in this column, it’s easy to create unique art imagery, guided only by your vision and creativity. Read more.

You may not be aware of the extensive archive of my columns available on on a wide variety of topics related to creativity, photography, Photoshop techniques, and marketing your photography. Links to this material can be found below the image.

Cherry Dance © Harold Davis

Cherry Dance © Harold Davis columns by Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photoshop Techniques, Writing

Happy Fisheye Family

Every once in a while a photographic gadget comes along that is simply so silly, and such a kluge, that I have to try it! After all, photography is about having fun, and not just about making “serious” images. In that spirit, I ordered a set of auxillary lens for the camera in my iPhone from the always-fun Photojojo.

Mathew with iPhone Fisheye © Harold Davis

Mathew with iPhone Fisheye © Harold Davis

The set of lens arrived via UPS in an envelope with a plastic dinosaur. I’m not sure what message the dinosaur was intended to send, but it was kind of fun—part of the point of the affair. The set comes with a telephoto lens, a wide-angle lens that unscrews to reveal also an extreme macro lens, and a fisheye lens. Note that the zoom facility within the iPhone itself is purely digital, and doesn’t provide any optical differentiation; hence, the desirability of a set of auxiliary lenses that do work optically.

Katie Rose with iPhone Fisheye © Harold Davis

Katie Rose with iPhone Fisheye © Harold Davis

The way this accessory lens set attaches to the iPhone is that you stick a magnetic disk that has glue on one side onto your iPhone around the camera optics. If the idea of gluing something to your iPhone gives you the creeps, then this isn’t for you!

Phyllis with iPhone Fisheye © Harold Davis

Phyllis with iPhone Fisheye © Harold Davis

Each lens is magnetized and snaps onto the magnetic side of the disk. This works reasonably well. So far, I’ve had most fun with the fisheye lens, shown in these images. The kids wanted their iPhone fisheye picture taken while they mugged for the camera, and I used a tripod to make a self-portrait.

Who knew that the audio cable of an iPhone can also double as a cable release? Maybe you do, but I didn’t. To make this trick work, with the camera app active and the ear buds plugged in, press the “up” volume button on the ear buds wire (indicated by the + symbol).

Well, if this all sounds pretty jerry-rigged, it is truly not the sturdiest setup in town. But it is fun while it lasts, and look at it this way: they laughed when Leica first introduced the 35mm camera, and also called it a “toy.” In photography, toys have a way of sometimes outlasting “serious” gear.

Self Portrait with iPhone Fisheye © Harold Davis

Self Portrait with iPhone Fisheye © Harold Davis

Wonder whether I’ll be using these photos as blackmail when my kids are older? Me too. Here are some other fisheye shots of Katie Rose and the family from a few years back, shot with a conventional camera and the Nikon 10.5mm digital fisheye.

Posted in iPhone, Katie Rose, Kids, Photography

What’s behind the door?

Walking back to the hotel from Les Invalides I stopped to put on my macro lens and photograph this incredible door knocker. I think this was on the Rue de Varenne. I got the one shot you see here, then a soldier with an automatic rifle guarding the building told me in no uncertain terms that photography was not allowed.

Door Knocker in Paris © Harold Davis

Door Knocker in Paris © Harold Davis

What lies behind the door?

Update: I’ve learned that this knocker is on one of the doors at 57 Rue de Varenne, the Hotel Matignon, the official residence of the Prime Minister of France.

Posted in France, Monochrome, Paris

Through a Window Lightly

I love to shoot through window glass when it is wet or has been raining. This transcends nationality, location—or anything else. As an artist, my imperative is to see beauty, and it is often to be found through a window lightly.

La Loire © Harold Davis

La Loire © Harold Davis

The shot above is through a very old leaded glass window looking out on a rainy day from a tower in the Chateau d’Amboise towards the Loire. Below, you’ll see a more abstract composition from my home, discussed on my blog in an earlier story, Patterns on my windows.

Steamed Window Glyph © Harold Davis

Steamed Window Glyph © Harold Davis

Posted in Abstractions, Photography

An iPhone in Paris

I like to say that the best camera to use is the one you have with you. I’ll swear that photographers, and not cameras, make photos! So my iPhone camera is always with me—and it is fun to use it to photograph and process with immediacy.

Moonight on the Seine © Harold Davis

Moonight on the Seine © Harold Davis

I shot this view in Paris of the Seine River by moonlight looking towards the Ile de la Citie from the Passerelle des Artes using my iPhone 5 and the Slow Shutter Cam app.  I processed the image on my iPhone using Snapseed, Plastic Bullet and Lo-Mob. I particularly like the tied-off barges along the quai on the right.

Posted in iPhone, Paris

Coming and Going

The entrance to the Chateau de Nazelles is shown in this image, photographed coming in through the tunnel beneath the primary structure. This kind of image is simply not possible to create without using HDR techniques, and it is a pleasure to present it in High Dynamic Range monochromatic. Today, the Chateau is a very nice bed and breakfast.

Chateau de Nazelles 2 by Harold Davis

Chateau de Nazelles 2 © Harold Davis

A companion photo, blogged in an earlier story and shown below, presents the backwards view to this image. In other words, it is shot looking back at the camera position of this photo, as though one were leaving rather than entering the compound.

Chateau de Nazelles 1 by Harold Davis

Chateau de Nazelles 1 by Harold Davis

Posted in France, Monochrome

Preview: The Way of the Digital Photographer

I am very pleased to be able to show you a preview adapted from my new book, The Way of the Digital Photographer. In this story: a special pre-publication discount offer from the publisher; the Table of Contents; material from the introduction to The Way of the Digital Photographer.

This is a special offer on pre-orders of both the print and eBook versions of The Way of the Digital Photographer directly from the publisher, Peachpit. I have arranged this discount as a way to say thanks for your support and reading my blog. To receive the 30% discount from Peachpit, be sure to use the discount code PP-DAVIS30 (this code is case sensitive) after you add my book to your shopping cart when you proceed to check-out. Click here to order The Way of the Digital Photographer now!

Way of the Digital Photographer

Book description: In The Way of the Digital Photographer, master photographer and digital artist Harold Davis shows you how to make digital photography an art form. Great digital photographs need both camera and computer to be truly extraordinary. Using detailed examples and case studies from his own work, Davis provides myriad ideas you can use in your own work, and he shows you how to unlock your own creativity to make those special images you have always dreamed of! Readers discover how to effectively use post-processing techniques and gain insight as to how the techniques and steps involved can inform their choices when making a photo and in post-production workflow.

Pre-order your copy of The Way of the Digital Photographer: Walking the Photoshop post-production path to more creative photography!

 Table of Contents

18 Digital Photography Is Painting
21 First things first
21 The camera to use
22 JPEG versus RAW
24 Photoshop prejudices
27 Seeing is about light
33 It all starts with a layer
38 Adjustment layers
43 Working with layer masks
44 Creating a layer stack
45 Combining two exposures with a Hide All
layer mask
47 Using a Reveal All layer mask to combine
two exposures
51 Using the Brush Tool
54 Selective sharpening
59 Working with gradients
60 Using the Gradient Tool to seamlessly
blend two layers
67 Drawing directly on a layer
71 Introducing blending modes
73 Screen Blending Mode
80 Using Screen for selective lightening
83 Multiply Blending Mode
87 Blending mode categories
88 Testing the blending mode categories
91 Comparative blending
97 Workflow
102 Do it on your iPhone: Slow Shutter Cam
104 Multi-RAW and Hand-HDR
107 Multi-RAW processing
108 Expanding tonal range with multi-RAW processing
109 Getting the widest gamut with
ProPhoto RGB
111 All roads lead to Photoshop: Smart
objects and Lightroom
112 Adjusting exposure selectively
117 Hand-HDR
118 Shooting a bracketed sequence for
120 May the force be with your florals
125 Automated HDR
126 Automated HDR programs
134 Do it on your iPhone: PhotoForge
136 Enhancement to Glory
139 Workflow redux
140 Checkpoints
143 Tripping the light fantastic
144 Why be average?
145 Multiply and Screen blending modes
146 Sharpening and blurring
147 Glamour Glow and Tonal Contrast
148 A second helping of HDR
149 Pushing the boundaries: Pixel Bender
150 Some other painterly filters
155 Using LAB inversions
156 Understanding the LAB color model
167 Black and white
175 Backgrounds and textures
176 Blending a background with an image
178 Using textures to change the scene
184 Do it on your iPhone: Lo-Mob and Plastic
186 Resources
188 Notes
189 Glossary
190 Index


Your digital camera probably resembles a film camera in both appearance and basic functionality. Like a film camera, your digital camera has a lens with aperture and shutter controls that can be used to decide how much light penetrates into the body of the camera for each shot.

But that’s where the similarities between film and digital cameras end. Despite the similarity in appearance of the hardware device used to make the exposures, digital photography is an entirely new medium compared to film photography.

Historically, chemical properties of film and developing were used to record light that entered the camera. Today with a digital camera, the light is captured as a digital signal by a sensor. Digital signal data recorded by the sensor can be processed by the computer in your camera. More powerfully, and here’s where the fun really begins, image data saved by your camera can be processed on a standalone computer after you upload your files.

People don’t fully understand this new digital medium that consists of the camera-computer partnership. They’re still hooked on the fact that their hand-held computer with a lens (a.k.a. a digital single-lens-reflex, or DSLR) looks like
a good old-fashioned film camera—and if it looks like one, it must work like one. Not so. For those who get over this misunderstanding the door is wide open for experimentation and new approaches.

Digital is different. Very different.

One of the main goals of The Way of the Digital Photographer is to show you how to take advantage of this difference to enrich your own work.

In The Way of the Digital Photographer, you’ll discover how to effectively use several of the post-processing techniques that I use to create the final versions of my own imagery.

These techniques are presented as case studies in the context of actual examples, so you can understand what each step does. More important, I want you to gain insight into how the techniques and steps involved can inform your choices when you make a photo and in your post-production workflow. (For a discussion of workflow and to understand how best to adapt your workflow to the digital world, turn to page 107.)

Digital photography and post-production techniques that are used to inform one another—how you take a photograph with an idea or pre-visualization in mind, knowing what you can do to it later in post-production—are the basis of this new digital medium. If you can see a photograph in your mind’s eye before you take it and know how you can process it later to achieve your vision, then nothing can hold your imagery back. Truly, the sky’s the limit!

Technique without heart is banal and useless. I’ve found in the workshops I give that many people come to digital photography precisely because they enjoy—and are good at—working with technology. Indeed, perhaps these folks work in technology related industries.

But even if you are a technocrat it is important not to lose the creative aspects of digital photography. Often the people who start with digital photography because they are comfortable with the gear find some resistance to fully engaging their creative powers. They may be more comfortable with measuring pixels and navigating software than with conveying emotion.

If this describes you, be of good cheer. Provided that you approach image making in the spirit that anything is possible, you may be amazed by what you can achieve.

Along with the post-production case studies in The Way of the Digital Photographer, you will find thoughts and exercises, presented as Meditations. These Meditations will help you with the conceptual and emotional side of digital photography and also guide you in pre-visualizing your photographs with the idea of post-production in mind.

As you walk down the path of the digital photographer, you will find that photography is about your creative vision and your notions about art. Digital photography is also a way to show others your very personal view of the world. By combining your pre-visualization with your photography and appropriate post-production techniques, you can fully render anything you can imagine.

Please keep in mind the 30% pre-publication discount from the publisher for The Way of the Digital Photographer. Use discount code PP-DAVIS30 (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Posted in Writing


Looking up at Chartres is a memorable experience! What a vast amount of effort, creativity, engineering and spirituality over what a long period of time went into building this structure. Whatever else may be said, the cathedral is a monument to human tenacity, and the tenacity of aspiration—an embodiment and statement in stone and masonry and stained glass of the importance of there being more than humanity when one is human.

Chartres © Harold Davis

Chartres © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 10.5mm digital fisheye lens, nine exposures at shutter speeds from 1/6 of a second to 13 seconds, each exposure at f/9 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; processed and combined in Photoshop and Nik HDR Efex Pro; converted to monochromatic using Photoshop, Nik Silver Efex, and the Topaz plugin.

Posted in France, HDR, Monochrome, Photography

72.5 Hours Left

Three days and change left to buy an original Harold Davis print at below market prices via Kickstarter and to help me out at the same time. Thanks for your consideration!

Monochromatic Visions portfolio by Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Les Lumières de Paris

The lights of Paris, laid out below in this photo, remind me of a geometric pattern, thanks to the energetic city planning of Baron Hausmann back in the 1860s. Hausmann, and his employer Napoleon III, liked order and regularity. They felt the wide boulevards were attractive, and would be good for marching troops into Paris to contain the rabble.

Les Lumières de Paris by Harold Davis

Les Lumières de Paris © Harold Davis

Be that as it may, from above the Parisian cityscape is special. I shot this view from the roof deck at the Tour Montparnasse as twilight turned to night. Behind la tour Eiffel, you can see the modern towers of La Défense. Napoleon’s tomb at Les Invalides is visible on the right, along with the Arc de Triomphe if you look carefully.

According to one recent email, “Enough of Paris already Harold. Come down to earth!” On this topic, I make no promises.

Please keep in mind the 30% pre-publication discount from the publisher for my new book, The Way of the Digital Photographer. Use discount code PP-DAVIS30 (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Wouldn’t you like to know my night photography processing secrets? Star Circle Academy is offering  for a limited time $5 off my Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis, which features a night shot from above the East River in New York City. Use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Posted in Digital Night, France, Paris


Work on the Eglise Saint-Sulpice began in 1646, and has never been finished. The second largest church in Paris (after Notre Dame), Saint-Sulpice is on the border of the 5th and 6th arrondissments, near the Luxembourg Gardens. The vast and romantic interior space of Saint-Sulpice shows its lack of meticulous maintenance—perhaps this, along with the unfinished quality, is part of what makes it so great for photography. A sense of mystery pervades within this church, which is rich in chiarascuro lighting, and extreme contrasts from light to dark. As I was taking my time shooting this image sequence, I even noticed pigeons nesting in the far reaches of the rafters.

Saint-Sulpice by Harold Davis

Saint-Sulpice © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 10.5mm digital fisheye lens, ten exposures at shutter speeds from five seconds to 1/80 of a second, each exposure at f/9 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and processed in Photoshop.

Please keep in mind the 30% pre-publication discount from the publisher for my new book, The Way of the Digital Photographer. Use discount code PP-DAVIS30 (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Also, Star Circle Academy is offering  for a limited time $5 off my Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis. Use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Posted in France, Paris

Lighting the Eiffel Tower

The normal night lighting for the Eiffel Tower up until midnight is pretty nice, but every hour on the hour after dark it is additionally lit up like a kind of LED firecracker. I have mixed feelings about this light show—it is a bit vulgar, but then Paris is famously the City of Light.

Issues of taste—or lack thereof—aside, the extraordinary light display does present an exposure conundrum for two reasons: the lights on the Eiffel Tower are much brighter than the lights of the surrounding cityscape, and also the LED lights are in constant motion, like a giant sparkler, so one needs a fast shutter speed to freeze things in place.

Eiffel Lights by Harold Davis

Eiffel Lights © Harold Davis

I was lucky that I was in the middle of an extended bracketing exposure sequence when the light show went off at 10PM from the roof of the Tour Montparnasse. Combining the exposures as an HDR sequence led to decent results, but I still had to work in post-production to treat the resulting image with finesse and creativity.

Creative Night Photography Post-Production by Harold DavisSpeaking of the craft of night photography post-production, you may be interested in the video recording of my recent Creative Night Photography Post-Processing webinar. Thanks to Star Circle Academy,  this video presentation is now available for download. The cost is $19, but readers of my blog have a (limited time) $5 discount. Click here for more information about the video, and here to purchase the video. Use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount.

Here’s the video description: Creative Night Photo Post Processing with Harold Davis Video: 1 hour, 15 minutes. Harold Davis, author, professional photographer, and workshop leader presents his approach to Post Processing Night Photos.

This video includes detailed discussions of:

  • Stacking using the statistics capabilities of Photoshop Extended;
  • An explanation of gamuts and color space – and why you do not want to work in sRGB (default space)—how to tweak your workflow to keep as wide a gamut of colors as possible
  • Creative sharpening of night images using LAB color
  • A look at a workflow to make an East River night scene in New York City stand out by applying multi-RAW processing, and a handful of filters and special effects.
  • Please bear in mind that this is not a video recording with Hollywood production standards. But, as one webinar participant put it, “There is information about processing night photos in this video you can’t get anywhere else!”

Click here to learn more about the Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis video, and here to purchase the Creative Night Photography Post-Processing Video with Harold Davis video. Don’t forget to use the coupon code 5$harold (case sensitive) to get your discount!Davis- The Way of the Digital Photographer

Also please bear in mind the 30% pre-publication discount from my publisher for my new book, The Way of the Digital Photographer. My new book has quite a bit of detailed information about working with layers, creative post-production, and how post-production possibilities should inform your choices at the moment of exposure.

Use the discount code PP-DAVIS30 (case sensitive) at checkout to get your discount. Click here for more information and to buy The Way of the Digital Photographer.


Posted in Digital Night, France, Paris, Writing