Monthly Archives: January 2016

What’s in Harold Davis’s Camera Bag?

Curious about what’s in my gear bag when I’m in the field? Check out this story from Zeiss! (Thanks Zeiss so much for the wonderful glass.)

Harold Davis - In My Camera Bag

Posted in Photography

Contest: An Easter Egg in Achieving Your Potential

An Easter Egg is a secret; for example, in software often it is a hidden pop-up window with an animation. In software, usually the Easter Egg is activated using a combination of keyboard and mouse actions.

We’ve embedded an Easter Egg in one of the color photographs in my latest book, Achieving Your Potential: A Photographers Creative Companion and Workbook.

To be more precise, there is one photograph in the book with two hidden messages. One is easy to see, the other a bit less so.


If you think you’ve found both parts of the Easter Egg, send us an email. The first person to correctly identify the two parts of the Easter Egg (by page number in the book, and contents of the Easter Eggs) will receive a signed, original 11″ X 14″ Harold Davis print of your choice, retail value $1,000.

Offer only open to United States residents, void where prohibited by law, and blah, blah, blah.

Frilly Tulip © Harold Davis

Frilly Tulip © Harold Davis

Posted in Writing

Last chance for an incredible trip-of-a-lifetime photo tour to Paris

We still have room for two more in my very small group photographic tour of Paris beginning May 1, 2016. This is your last chance to register for the trip since we need to confirm our reservations for the group soon.

In case you may still be considering joining me for this unique travel-and-photography experience to Paris in the springtime—or if you simply want to armchair travel instead of the “real thing”—I am providing a link to the detailed packet of logistics information that is going out to the lucky participants (PDF). Please let me know right away if you are interested!

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

Trip highlights include: Paris in the Spring, an inside tour of the Opera Garnier, photography of panoramic views of Paris from the Tour Montparnasse, Paris at night, Monmartre and Sacre Coeur, Monet’s Garden at Giverny with special after-hours access, and Paris, Paris, Paris!

Giverny © Harold Davis

Giverny © Harold Davis

We will be staying in the luxurious and discrete 4-star Hotel de l’Abbaye, which is located on a side street near the Luxembourg Gardens and San Sulpice, a peaceful home-away-from-home in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Who could ask for more?

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

Click here for registration information and here for the Registration form.

Here’s what some folks who have been with me on photo tours have said:

  • “Harold navigates foreign countries with astuteness and cultural sensitivity. His choice of guides, hotels, locations and restaurants is always impeccable. I returned from our trip with a much better sense of how to photograph in a diverse and wonderful array of locations, and had a great time with a compatible group while I learned.”
  • “Harold is a distinguished author of many books, educator, and photographer. It was amazing to spend so much one-on-one time with him in these great photographic locations.”
  • “Harold is a gifted artist, AND a great teacher! A rare combo, IMHO.”
  • “Harold has great skill, but without the ego of most master photographers. Travel arrangements were perfect.”
  • “One thing I really liked about the photo tour that Harold set up is that we had plenty of time to photograph in the best locations, and really prioritized when the light would be good.”


Posted in Workshops

Belying Apparent Simplicity

This image of Tulips in a Vase on White derives its power from its apparent simplicity. In fact, behind the scenes, I constructed the image with a certain amount of calculated deviousness. Let me explain.

Tulips in a Vase on White © Harold Davis

Tulips in a Vase on White © Harold Davis

Tulips in a Vase on White is actually two composited photos. The camera was fixed in position on a tripod for both exposures, and the tulips didn’t move between the photos. I used my extraordinarily bright 55mm f/1.4 Otus lens on a Nikon D800, and both exposures were shot at ISO 100.

Both captures were focused on the frontward tulip. One exposure was wide-open for minimum depth-of-field at f/1.4 (and 1/20 of a second). The second exposure was stopped down to f/16 (for high depth-of field). The exposure time for the second exposure was 1.6 seconds. Both exposures were made using natural light from the windows, with the vase placed on a roll of seamless white paper.

To make the final image, I used the low depth-of-field (f/1.4) exposure as the background. Using layers, a layer mask, and the Brush Tool in Photoshop, I selectively painted-in the tulip flowers (but not the vase or stem) from the in-focus, high depth-of-field exposure on top of the background.

The final effect, with the vase out of focus, and the rear flowers selectively in focus, is not optically possible in a single photo in the real world.

Fortunately, as artists we are not bound by the strictures of the real world. Part of my intent in constructing this image was to create something apparently simple and straightforward. The relative complexity of the construction—and optical impossibility of the results—should not be apparent to the lay person viewing my image.

Related images: Irises in a Vase (in Using Light for Emotional Impact) and Tulips on White (in We Happy Flower Few).

Posted in Photography

Learning to Photograph Flowers for Transparency (article on Pixsy blog)

I’ve written an article now posted on the Pixsy blog about my technique for photographing flowers for transparency on a light box:

What are the steps to mastering the process? Surprisingly, it combines classical photography and modern digital best practices. When applied with a dedicated, delicate, and skilled hand, the results can be luscious and luminous. Here’s how my Photographing Flowers for Transparency process works out, step-by-step:

  • Understanding the role of the light box
  • Selecting and arranging flowers on the light box
  • Photographing a high-key bracketed sequence of exposures
  • Combining the high-key bracketed sequence to express transparency
  • Finishing the image in post-production
  • Creating a high-quality print of the transparent flower image

Let’s take a look at each of these steps in order.

Read more of the article on the Pixsy blog.

Nature's Palette © Harold Davis

Nature’s Palette © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Writing

Steep Ravine

The past several years during the great California drought the waterfalls on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais have been fairly dry, even in the rainy season. So what a wonderful joy to hike up the Steep Ravine trail yesterday on the western slope of Mt Tam in a break in the El Nino wet weather to see the torrents flowing down the mountain’s flanks!

Steep Ravine © Harold Davis

Steep Ravine © Harold Davis

Special thanks to my friend Mark, who put up with me, my camera, and tripod along the muddy trail.

Posted in San Francisco Area

Stargazer Lilies

Stargazer Lilies © Harold Davis

Stargazer Lilies © Harold Davis

I photographed these Stargazer Lilies on a light box to show them on a white background. With one version (above) I added them in Photoshop to a scanned paper background. With another version, I used LAB inversions to show the flowers against a black background (below)

 Stargazer Lilies on Black © Harold Davis

Stargazer Lilies on Black © Harold Davis

Related resources (FAQs): Photographing Flowers for Transparency; Using a High-Key Layer Stack; Backgrounds and Textures.

Posted in Flowers

Pentaptych of Tulip Petals

Inspecting some pink tulips the other day, I noticed that the demarcation behind petals and leaves was not as clear as I had thought it would be. With this flower, the difference between the leaves and petals was gradual and a difference of degree rather than an absolute—the closer to the flower core the more petal-like it looked.

Pentaptych of Tulip Petals © Harold Davis

Pentaptych of Tulip Petals © Harold Davis—click to view the image larger

So some of these petals are leaves, and some of these leaves are petals. Be that as it may, and referring to all as petals, I noticed that the petals were wonderfully colorful when placed on the light box.

I photographed each of the five petals separately as a high-resolution vertical image, using a macro lens with an added extension tube to get sufficient magnification. I then combined the five horizontal images to make the single horizontal shown.

Obviously, this is a very high resolution file (although the reduced JPEG shown here may not give much sense of that). Putting it together in post-production strained the resources of my twin 6-core 128GB RAM high-end Mac.

You can view the image a bit larger by clicking here, or by clicking on the image itself.

My thought is to take advantage of the resolution, and make a really large print, perhaps twenty feet wide, which would let the viewer really see the details in the petals.

A triptych is a work of art divided in three sections, a tetraptych is a work of art in four sections, and a pentaptych is a work of art in five sections (the numerical prefixes come from the ancient Greek number words). So it seemed natural call my image Pentaptych of Tulip Petals—one “tych” for each of the five petals!

Posted in Flowers

Harold Davis Topaz Webinar on YouTube and Topaz Discount Code

Click here for the replay of my webinar sponsored by Topaz, Beyond Photography: Painterly Effects with Harold Davis.

Topaz Labs has generously provided discount codes as well (these codes are good through Sunday January 17, 2016). Use the code haroldweb3 to take 20% off all Topaz products, and the code haroldtexture to take $20 off the price of Topaz’s new product, Topaz Texture Effects. Click here for the online Topaz store.

Burning Off the Fog © Harold Davis

Burning Off the Fog © Harold Davis

Harold Davis - Flowers Gone Wild

Flowers Gone Wild © Harold Davis

Harold Davis - Saint Roman

Saint-Roman © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Blast from the Past: Travels with Samantha

Originally published November 24, 2014Editor’s update: After publishing this post, I received a number of inquiries as to what I was doing traveling with “another woman” (Phyllis seems to have many friends). Apparently these interlocutors had only skimmed the story, and not realized that Samantha was an “artificial intelligence” (e.g., nav system), rather than flesh and blood.

I’m normally a map, or a map-and-compass, kind of guy. But when I rented my car in Portugal I also rented a navigation system. Getting lost in obscure foreign parts where I didn’t speak the language was definitely getting old.

The man who set up the navigation system for me at Europacar wanted to know whether I wanted British or American English, and also whether I wanted the Jack or Samantha voice. I picked Samantha.

In some respects, Sam is a navigational prodigy, getting me places on a wing and a prayer that I would never have accomplished on my own. For example, the route Sam took me on to the door of my hotel in the historic district of Porto involved several one-way alleys, numerous roundabouts, the lower deck of the famous bridge in Porto, and—strangely—a vacant lot.

Porto at Night © Harold Davis

Porto at Night © Harold Davis

When she’s good, Sam is very, very good—but the price for her help is that she wants control. Occasionally she also gets things wrong, directing me up roads closed to traffic, or alleys that are only intended for foot traffic. In these cases, she gets repetitive, and there is clearly a shrillness to the directions, as if she’s asking, “Why can’t you even follow simple instructions?”

She’s also not very sympathetic to the stops I make for photography. She calculates an arrival time for each destination. Apparently, my photographic stops throw this off. “Recalculating,” she announces, and you can almost see the virtual eyeball rolling. “You are now fifteen minutes later than the original time-to-destination.” It certainly sounds like she gets more annoyed the more photographic stops I make.

Once today I reached a new highway that wasn’t in Sam’s database. Her display showed me and the car rolling across open fields, and her directions to correct my course were increasingly implausible, until at last the real world and her maps coincided again, and there was peace in the relationship once more.

Like any neurotic relationship there are communication problems, and as I mentioned, a battle for control. But I’ve grown accustomed to the strident, dulcet tones of my Samantha, telling me she is recalibrating, and to go right in 100 meters on a street whose name in Portuguese she has totally mangled—or often, turn in 250 meters on “Road” with no other name. It’s relaxing knowing I can blunder anyplace in this country, more or less, and Sam will get me to where I need to go no matter how lost I am.

Posted in Photography

Blast from the Past: Free Wrecked Blue Couch for House Guests You Hate

Originally published June 1, 2015. Editor’s update: Phyllis eventually had to pay to have the couch hacked into pieces and hauled away. The response to the Craig’s List ad quoted below did not garner any takers for the couch, but did result in a number of people contacting me to say how funny the ad was, and (in several cases) that they had a couch like the one described that could also send unwanted house guests packing.

Wrecked Blue Couch © Harold Davis

Wrecked Blue Couch © Harold Davis

Here’s an ad I wrote for Craig’s List recently about one of the two couches we are trying to get rid of:

Too many folks trying to crash at your place? Let them sleep on this couch and they’ll move on fast! All four of my kids have had their way with this blue couch, and wife now wants to upgrade. It’s not in great shape, note the tear on the right arm fabric, but with a throw over it it still looks half way decent, and I could see it in a man cave or something. Basically, you are getting a wreck—with a width of about six feet. Come take it away for free, and win our thanks!

Not very surprisingly, we’ve had no takers. But it was fun writing the ad copy…

Posted in Photography

Two to Achieve Their Potential, and Two to Photograph Paris, too!

I have two places left in Achieving Your Potential as a Photographer (March 12-13, and ongoing mentoring), and two for Paris Photography in the Spring. These won’t last long, so if you are interested in either please let us know right away!

Achieve Your Potential in 2016

The 2016 edition of Achieving Your Potential As a Photographer is an ongoing mentoring opportunity; this time round we will be following the structured exercises in the workbook that accompanies my new book as well as working over a period of six months to fulfill our potentials. The initial session is scheduled for March 12-13, 2016.

Hall of Mirrors, Prague © Harold Davis

Hall of Mirrors © Harold Davis

Achieving Your Potential as a Photographer—2016 Edition

A Multi-Modal Ongoing Six-Month Workshop with Harold Davis

This workshop presents a unique opportunity for mentoring by Harold Davis in the context of a supportive group environment. Each participant will conclude the workshop with a completed project such as a book, portfolio, or planned exhibition.

Harold states, “I am very fortunate to have met some extremely advanced photographers in my workshops and through my books. But many of these individuals are stuck and have not been able to move ahead. If this sounds like you, I believe I can provide you with the tools and structure to help take you to the next level.”

What some participants said in the past about this workshop:

• “Such a wonderful group. I am truly inspired! Thanks, Harold.”

• “Thank you for provided the tools I need to take my photography up not one notch, but many notches, to the next level indeed!”

• “The Achieving Your Potential workshop has had a substantial impact on my photographic journey. Thanks for the mentoring, assistance, and inspiration.”

• “I particularly liked getting feedback from the group and from Harold regarding my goals and progress each month. As opposed to workshops where you just meet for a fixed time and there is no follow-up, Achieving Your Potential provides a well-thought-out and concrete ongoing follow-up mechanism via the webinars.”

Click here for more information about the workshop, and how to register.

Workbench © Harold Davis

Workbench © Harold Davis

Photographing Paris in the Spring with Harold Davis

Click here to download the Reservation Form.

There’s nothing like photographing Paris in the spring! Let’s spend a week together this May making photos in Paris, and having a great time.

Photography begins with the medium of light, which the artist captures and applies to the canvas in endlessly surprising ways. And what better place to explore this medium than Paris, the City of Light?

Join acclaimed photographer Harold Davis for the experience of a lifetime in Paris, the birthplace of photography. There you’ll have the opportunity to experience firsthand the places and sights that have inspired artists for centuries.

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

Paris Sunset © Harold Davis

We’ll focus our lenses on Paris in bloom, Paris at night, and Paris in black & white, reinterpreting for ourselves some of the images that have been captured in paint and on film by many great artists, including Daguerre, Monet, Atget, Picasso, and Erwitt. We’ll have a grand time photographing and we’ll return home with many priceless shots to treasure!

Photo tour includes an excursion to Monet’s famous gardens at Giverny, with exclusive after-hours artist access.

Double Rainbow over Paris © Harold Davis

Double Rainbow over Paris © Harold Davis

Harold’s photographs of Paris have appeared in books, exhibitions, and been published worldwide on travel sites.

Here’s what some participants in past Photograph Paris with Harold Davis Workshops had to say:

Eiffel Tower from Sacré Coeur © Harold Davis

Eiffel Tower from Sacré Coeur © Harold Davis

  • “Had an awesome time with Harold and the workshop participants.  Itching to go back.  If you’re a photographer, Paris at night is a ‘Must Do!’.  Put it on your bucket list ‘cause you may not see this in Heaven.”
  • “Photographing Paris at night in the company of a group of fellow photographers had instant appeal.  Inspired by the scenes of Brassai, I imagined myself at the top of the steps at Montmartre, taking wonderful black-and-white images.  I already admired Harold Davis, and had confidence that he would lead us to fantastic places – and he did!  What came as a delightful surprise was the level of talent and variety of approaches that my fellow travelers employed to capture the marvelous churches, gardens, and people of Paris, Giverny, and Fontainebleau.  I learned from every one of them.  And what an agreeable group of travel companions they were! A once-in-a-lifetime experience that I plan to repeat next spring!”
  • “Harold has great skill, without the ego of most master photographers. Travel arrangements were perfect.”
  • “One thing I really liked about the photo tour that Harold set up is that we had plenty of time to photograph in the best locations, and really prioritized when the light would be good.”

Where: The group will be based the centrally located, luxurious and comfortable 4-star Hôtel de l’Abbaye. The Hôtel de l’Abbaye is on the left bank of the Seine, in the heart of the 6th Arondissment, and is located near many of the prime photographic locations such as the Luxembourg Gardens and San Sulpice..

When: Sunday May 1, 2016 (leave US April 30) to Saturday May 7, 2016 (six nights and seven days).

Group Size: This exclusive, small photo workshop tour is limited to ten photographers (non-photographer significant others are also welcome).

Pont Solferino © Harold Davis

Pont Solferino © Harold Davis

Click here for details and theDay-by-day itinerary and here for the Reservation Form. I look forward to photographing Paris with you!

Posted in Workshops

Painterly Effects with Topaz: Free Webinar

Beyond Photography: Painterly Effects with Topaz
Presented by Harold Davis
Tuesday January 12, 2016 at 2PM Pacific Time

SORRY – THERE ARE NO MORE SPACES LEFT. This will be recorded and rebroadcast on YouTube and the Topaz site. If you were able to reserve a space, I suggest you logon early!

Cost: Free
Registration link

2016 is a ‘Year of the Monkey’—so in honor of this new year in which we can expect the unexpected let’s kick it off with an exciting presentation from master photographer and digital artist Harold Davis. This webinar begins with the premise that elegant digital art can be made using photos as the source material and applying tools including Topaz Adjust, Topaz Glow, Topaz Impression, Topaz Simplify, and Topaz Texture Effects. The idea is to go beyond photography and create imagery that has the freedom and wild expressiveness of fine art painting. Harold Davis will show you how to use the Topaz tools to unleash the power and creative freedom of your unbridled imagination!

Beyond the blue light © Harold Davis

Beyond the blue light © Harold Davis

There will be time for a Q&A session following the webinar presentation.

This is a free webinar presentation sponsored by Topaz Labs, but pre-registration is required. Click here to register.

Manarola Painting © Harold Davis

Manarola Painting © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Blast from the Past: Noriko Tries to Poison Me

Originally published November 4, 2013

Well, not really. In actual fact, Noriko took me to a wonderful, varied and seasonal dinner at a restaurant with no external signage in the Gion district of Kyoto. The kind of restaurant, and meal, that tourists can generally only dream of having in Japan.

Fugu via iPhone © Harold Davis

Fugu via iPhone © Harold Davis

I was half way through a tasty dish of some kind of baked fish with a subtle barbecue sauce when Noriko said, “Don’t worry, they are licensed here.”

I must have looked blank, because she continued, “This is Fugu!”

I must have still looked blank, because she said, “You know, Blowfish. It’s also called ‘Pufferfish.’ The poison fish.”

Licensed to what? Licensed to kill?

“There’s no danger,” Noriko continued. “The poison is near the intestines. The only people who die are those who eat the intestines anyway, because they are greedy people and the intestines taste so good. The government licenses people who serve this fish.”

At which point she translated our conversation for the immaculately clad-in-white, smiling and bowing chefs behind the counter, who thought it was hilarious. I pantomimed doubling up and keeling over from the poison, which they thought was even funnier, then allowed as I trusted them.

I told Noriko I wished I’d known about the fish before I’d eaten it so I could have photographed the dish with my iPhone. She said, “In that case, I’ll order it prepared a different way. But after you photograph it, you must eat it, you know.”

You can see in the iPhone shot above that the slices in the second dish of Fugu are so thin they are translucent.

Thank you, Noriko!

Posted in Photography

Blast from the Past: Between Earth and Sky

Originally published September 22, 2008

Between Earth and Sky

Between Earth and Sky, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

On our way home from a sunset-to-night hike on the Tomales Point fork of Point Reyes, Mark and I stopped at the wreck of the Point Reyes fishing trawler. Many people like to photograph this trawler, which is easily accessible outside of Inverness, California.

The week before, at my Point Reyes night photography workshop, I’d been stymied in my idea of stacking photos to produce circular star trails (stymied because it was cloudy). But this time it was clear. The stars were bright, although a little less than on Tomales Point, probably because of the ambient light pollution.

I pointed the camera north, and used a digital fisheye lens to maximize the celestial rotation of the star trails.

First I tested the light with a one minute exposure at ISO 800 at f/3.5. Then I made an eight minute ISO 100 exposure (with in-camera long exposure noise reduction enabled) for the foreground. This image in its entirety is found below (I think it is interesting in its own right, with the still stars at the center and circular star trails around the edges).

Next, I turned noise reduction off, and programmed my Nikon MC-36 remote for twenty exposures, each capture at four minutes, ISO 100, and f/5.6.

It was damp and a bit chilly in the dark, and for a while Mark and I left my camera on autopilot and sat some distance away in my car, listening to the superb and eerie music of Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. After twelve exposures (about 48 minutes) our patience wore out and weariness won. Mark had a plane to catch in the morning for a business meeting, and I’ve been going on fumes since Katie Rose was born. I stopped the automated exposure process, and packed it in.

This morning, I combined the thirteen images in Photoshop using the Statistics script, choosing Maximum as the method for combination. An airplane trail in one of the captures made it into the stack, and I decided to keep this apparent visual anomaly. Finally, I layered in the longer exposure for the detail in the foreground and boat.

[Above: Thirteen captures, all captures Nikon D300, 10.5mm digital fisheye, tripod mounted; one capture 8 minutes at f/3.5 and ISO 100; twelve captures 4 minutes at f/5.6 and ISO 100; star trails created by statistical stacking of 13 exposures; foreground created by layer with the 8 minute exposure using a gradient and layer mask. Below: Nikon D300, 10.5mm digital fisheye, 8 minutes at f/3.5 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Point Reyes Trawler at Eight

View this image larger.

Posted in Photography