Monthly Archives: September 2017

Exploring Cathar Country: Detailed Itinerary Now Available

Exploring Cathar Country (April 28-May 7, 2018): A Photographic Journey with Harold Davis

The detailed itinerary for this photographic pilgrimage into the historic and spiritual world of the Cathars and southwest France is now available. Click here to download the PDF.

Click here for overview information and here for the Reservation Form (early-bird discount applies through November 15, 2017)

In the twelfth century in the part of the world that is today southwestern France, a new set of religious beliefs coalesced and came to be known as the Cathar heresy. The Cathars believed in a supreme being and god of light, utterly unconcerned with matters of this world, and in a direct individual interaction with this god with no need for inter-mediation by the hierarchy of an established religion.

As one would expect, this view was anathema to the Catholic Church. In the early 1200s the church unleashed the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heresy under the aegis of the notorious Simon de Montfort. Power, religion, spirituality, and politics mixed, and by the end of the crusade the formerly independent country of Languedoc was firmly under the temporal sway of the King of France and the religious sway of the Catholic Church.

Pont Vieux, Albi © Harold Davis

Against the backdrop of this romantic and dramatic history, we will explore the ancient centers of Catharism. In Albi, the birthplace of the artist Toulouse-Lautrec, we will walk across the bridge that spans the River Tarn and has been in continuous use for a thousand years, and marvel at the Basilica of Saint Cecile, built as a symbol of religious intolerance. In Carcassone, we will spend time exploring the incredibly romantic reconstruction of a medieval citadel by Viollet-le-Duc.

Carcassone © Harold Davis

Moving into the mountains, from a comfortable base we will explore the crags and remote fastnesses of the Pyrénées-Orientales. No one will ever forget a visit to the melancholy Montsegur, where following a devastating siege, hundreds of Cathars hurled themselves into the abyss or were burnt at the stake rather than renounce their faith, or to the Château de Quéribus, where the last of the Cathars eked out their wilderness survival against a world that seemed to have gone mad.

Château de Quéribus © Harold Davis

Wild, craggy peaks and deep canyon valleys dominate the Pyrénées-Orientales in scenery somewhat reminiscent of parts of the American West. The Pyrénées-Orientales and old Languedoc is a region where the wildness of the landscape and the flavor of Spanish cuisine mingles with traditional French culture to create a unique and very special world apart. 

While the primary emphasis of this journey will be photography, we’ll also take the time to learn more about Catharite beliefs, enjoy the unique culture, wild scenery, and cuisine of Cathar Country and the Pyrénées-Orientales.

Château de Saissac © Harold Davis

The detailed itinerary for this photographic pilgrimage into the historic and spiritual world of the Cathars and southwest France is now available. Click here to download the PDF.

Click here for overview information and here for the Reservation Form (early-bird discount applies through November 15, 2017).

Posted in Photography, Workshops

Light Box Floral Composition with Sunflowers, Irises, Alstromerias, and Glads

I’ve been taking advantage of my interlude at home (being at home for me has become increasingly rare in recent years and hence an unexpected pleasure) to photograph flowers on the light box. It’s fun doing this surrounded by family, as in “Don’t move, Daddy’s exposing!”

I photographed this relatively complex composition using my Photographing Flowers for Transparency set of techniques in two panels, with six exposures each. In post-production, first I combined the exposures, then I put the two panels together to create the composition.

Floral Composition © Harold Davis

I used an LAB color invert adjustment, and some fairly simple LAB tweaks, to created an inverted version of the original composition, on a black background rather than on white.

Floral Composition Inversion © Harold Davis

What do I do when I am at home fooling around with flowers? Here are some other recent stories: Black Dahlia; Rose Rose in Rose and Black and White; Pretty in Pink; and Flowers for Kwangsik. Also check out Of Beauty and Art, The Long and Winding Road Takes the Path Less Traveled; and an announcement of an upcoming exhibition of my work (opening November 9, 2017).

Posted in Flowers

Black Dahlia

Two Dahlias in black and white, photographed on the light box (above) and as an extreme macro (below).

Black Dahlia © Harold Davis


Dahlia Doodles © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Monochrome, Photography

Rose Rose in Rose and in Black and White

Patterns in these roses intrigued me, and I decide to photograph up close. My “Georgia O’Keeffe” red rose was something of a stylistic inspiration.

Rose Rose © Harold Davis

I started with a macro lens and an extension tube. This worked pretty well, but I soon decided I wanted a little more flexibility, of the sort you can can get with a focusing bellows. Who knew that my old Nikon PB-6 bellows on a rail still worked just fine? There’s nothing really changed about this photographic appliance with the advent of digital, and I have kept mine all these years.

White Rose with a Pink Blush © Harold Davis

I found the PB-6 bellows in a box named “Macro Things”—a surprisingly accurate categorization. After cleaning a little dust from the flanges, I attached  the bellows to a tripod, a macro lens to the front, and my D810 to the rear.

By the Light of the Rose © Harold Davis

This session with my roses was so much fun! I couldn’t resist converting some of the images to black and white!

Rose Rose in Black and White © Harold Davis


By the Light of the Rose in Black & White © Harold Davis

Which rose do you like best?

Posted in Flowers, Monochrome, Photography

Celebrating 2,000 Members in the Photography with Harold Davis Meetup

We are celebrating passing the 2,000 member milestone in the Photography with Harold Davis Meetup with a free book giveaway: “We are celebrating you—and all the wonderful, creative photographic education, travel, and fun we have had across the years on our way to 2,000 members…”

Click here to learn more, or to post your black and white photo to the event!

Pont Vieux, Albi © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

The Long and Winding Road Takes the Path Less Traveled!

To fully understand my art and the man behind the lens, one needs to understand the unique path I’ve taken—which is definitely a “Road Less Traveled”—and learn a bit more about who I am. The definition works both ways round: my work in part defines me, and who I am defines, energizes, and bounds my work, and gives my art the power that it has. 

In other words, since I have been at it a while, my work as an artist and photographer can be said to be the face I deserve. My work in large measure defines me, although of course I am also a husband, father, and lover of wild things.

Read Behind the Lens with Harold Davis on the Topaz Labs Blog, which I wrote to give some idea of the long and winding path less traveled that I’ve taken to become the artist and photographer I am today.

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

Posted in Writing

On Beauty and Art

Liz writes the Exploring Colour Blog from New Zealand. She used my image of the Blue Danube in a story on the color Indigo. Next, Liz was stimulated to start a series of guest pieces on What and Where is Beauty. She asked me to write the first blog on the topic, which I titled On Art and Beauty. I have been meditating a great deal about the role of beauty in contemporary art and photography, so the words just came tumbling out.

Salutation to the Sun © Harold Davis

What is beauty? What is the place of beauty in art? Surprisingly, these are contentious and difficult questions that involve some very slippery concepts. In the past couple of centuries, since the end of representational art as the ultimate goal of the artist, the role of beauty in art has become increasingly vexatious.

This is particularly troublesome in the context of photography, which necessarily has some representational components, and the rise of the hegemony of conceptual art.

Read more…

Posted in Writing

Please join me at the opening of my photography exhibition November 9, 2017

Please join me at the opening of my photography exhibition Thursday November 9, 2017 at Shoh Gallery in Berkeley, California from 6-9PM. I look forward to celebrating my vernissage with you!

Posted in Photography

Pretty in Pink

The upper image shows Anemones and Alstromerias (“Peruvian lilies”) from my garden, both pink flowers, and if you look carefully, two butterflies as well. I used a slightly modified technique for Pretty in Pink when I photographed it the other day, compared to my orthodox Photographing Flowers for Transparency approach, because I photographed the composition in three separate batches (anemones, alstromerias, and butterflies) and then combined the sections in post-production—which is also the approach I took with Practicum Perluciditatem, shown at the bottom of this story, although the visual point of the image (made back in 2015) is quite different since it is really about translucency.

Pretty in Pink © Harold Davis


Practicum Perluciditatem © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers

Bay Bridge

This is an iPhone photo from Treasure Island over the Bay Bridge towards San Francisco, taken during my recent (very much fun) San Francisco in Black & White extended field workshop!

Bay Bridge © Harold Davis

Posted in iPhone, Monochrome, Photography, San Francisco Area

Flowers for Kwangsik

Kwangsik came from Korea to attend our San Francisco in Black & White workshop this past weekend. On Friday, by special arrangement, he spent some time with me going over my Photographing Flowers for Transparency technique. This is the composition I set up for him on the light box to use as an exposure and processing demonstration.

Flowers for Kwangsik © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers

Where be the nestling dragon?

Castle Corvin, located in the center of the drab Romanian provincial city of Hunedoara (and sometimes called Hunedoara Castle), is one of the finest castles I have ever seen. Do you like castle porn? This one combines scale, creepiness, turrets, and that wonderful bridge across the moat.

Hunedoara Castle © Harold Davis

This is a hard castle to beat, and I was lucky to be in position for this photo with my fisheye lens near sunset as a storm cleared. The only thing missing is the nestling dragon, snoring away on the top tower!

Hunedoara Castle in black and white © Harold Davis

The photo doesn’t quite show the oddness of the castle’s location. There’s a bit of serious touristic development going on around the castle (a restaurant or two in renovated spaces), but mostly this is still a decaying industrial area, wrapped in a midsize city of communist-era block architecture. 

I really do think that a dragon or two (and maybe the “Mother of Dragons”) would totally add to the coolness factor!

Related story and images: Romania; Bran Castle; Two Views of Corvin Castle.

Posted in Romania

Blue Danube

The Danube River meanders from central Europe down through Budapest, finally to end in a Black Sea delta in southeastern Romania. The photo below shows the Danube at blue-hour-into-night looking towards the Chain Bridge and Hungarian Houses of Parliament as the river curves through central Budapest, Hungary.

Blue Danube © Harold Davis

The next photo shows the Elizabeth Bridge, also across the Danube in central Budapest, as dusk has deepened. The solid lines are boats on the Danube. I was helped to find locations by ace night photographer and guide to Budapest Miklos Mayer, who also helped me get into location on the following evening for the fireworks display for Hungarian National Day. If you visit Budapest with your camera, and want to make some special images, Miklos is highly recommended.

Elizabeth Bridge, Budapest © Harold Davis

Finally, the photo below is a three-exposure monochromatic HDR blend of the central part of the parliament building from right across the Danube River.

Houses of Parliament © Harold Davis

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

Welcome Home Flowers

It’s great to come home to tulips and lobelias from the garden to photograph. Thank you Phyllis! Not to mention such a lovely, warm, and wonderful family.

I photographed the tulips and lobelias on a white light box, then added the virtual antique frame and panel effect in post-production.

Tulips and Lobelias © Harold Davis

Here are some other flower compositions I’ve done this year. In the press of travel excitements and engagements—Vietnam, France, Malta, Romania, and more so far—it has been hard to find the time to post them up until now. Please let me know which is your favorite and what you think of the treatments! Prints of these images are available by request, please let me know if you are interested.

Shrub Mallow © Harold Davis

Bouquet of Neighborhood Flowers © Harold Davis

Garland © Harold Davis

One quarter (un-rotated) of the Garland image is shown in Tulips and a Clematis Vine. Here’s the top image I made today on white without the virtual frame:

Tulips and Lobelias on White © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Budapest Jewish Quarter

This huge designer advertisement is applied to the wall of an apartment building that stands to the side of one of the entrances to the old Budapest, Hungary Jewish quarter. While there is a synagogue in the quarter, there are almost no Jewish residents to be found—and probably nobody much else who is local lives here, either.

This is where folks come on cheap flights from western Europe to drink and do the bachelor-party thing. The authorities pretty much leave it alone at night when the parties get raucous, and local residents have fled, or rent out their apartments on AirBnb. 

Budapest Apartments © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography