Monthly Archives: May 2018

Visit Paris in the Spring with a small group of Photographers

© Harold Davis

Visit Paris in the Spring with a small group of photographers. Early-bird discount applies. Click here for more information.

Posted in Workshops

Summer Grass

In the traffic island in the middle of our Morning Glory Circle, as spring turns to summer the grass is drying and turning a California brown. I cut and carefully arranged a few stalks on my light box, and used LAB inversion to add a black background.

Before I had left for my Camino, I started photographing grasses and “weeds”—I think this has become a whole, interesting sub-genre for me. After all, it is the wise botanical artist who knows the distinction between flower and weed is somewhat arbitrary, and in the eye of the beholder. The less-well regarded weed can often surpass in structural interest the hoity-toity flower.

Summer Grass © Harold Davis

More images of grasses and such: Oxalis; Street Grasses; Decorative Grass; Blades of Grass; no real flowers need apply!

Posted in Monochrome, Photograms, Photography

Cala Galdana

In 1969, Cala Galdana was a quiet and deserted sandy cove on the Balearic island of Menorca, off the Mediterranean coast of Spain. No human structures were in evidence, other than a footbridge over the small creek or slough that drained into the sea at Cala Galdana. You can see an iPhone shot of a print, from the lobby of one of today’s Cala Galdana hotels, at the bottom of this story—marred somewhat by reflections in the glass protecting the print, but you can get the idea of how this place was in 1969, which (historically speaking) is not so long ago. I mean, I can remember 1969…it was a very interesting year.

Today’s Cala Galdana is a European resort town. It’s not really unattractive, but it has been built up with vacation villas, restaurants, surf-and-sun shops, and a beach designed for cheek-to-jowl lounge chairs and umbrellas. For reasons unknown, the slough running into the bay has been moved to the right of the signature promontory (the creek was formerly on its left) and bridged with a massive structure. Several resort hotels sit like cruise ships on the land, with rows of identical balconies, and internal eco-structures (all-you-can eat buffets, a number of swimming pools and sunning areas) such that many guests never venture out of their front doors.

I do not know what the answer is. Tourism is the life blood of Menorca, and it seems unfair to ask the islanders not to have developed. Many resorts are created around the world with far less taste than Cala Galdana. Still, it sits badly with me that we rush to turn paradise into a paved parking lot, to chain the wonderful world that surrounds us, and to create ordered and iterative vertical grids in a land that once was wild and free.

Related: Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?

Balconies, Melia Hotel—Inversion© Harold Davis

Balconies, Artiem Hotel—Inversion © Harold Davis

Balconies, Artiem Hotel © Harold Davis

Balconies, Melia Hotel © Harold Davis

Cala Galdana in 1969 (iPhone capture of framed print)

Posted in Photography

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies is a good example showing one of the organizing principles I teach in my Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop and my books. The first premise is that there needs to be an organizing principle in a light box image (or in any photograph, or any image, for that matter!).

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies © Harold Davis

Taking the idea that one needs a compositional organizational principle as a given, it is then possible to create a taxonomy of possibilities. These include roughly circular, spiral, color field, another kind of color fieldhorizontal panoramic view, vertical panoramic view, leading off the frame, crossing the frame, and more (an example of each is linked). I’ve even essayed a paint-splatter effect with flowers!

This image (the Composition with Delphinium and Poppies) epitomizes what is probably the most common botanical organization: relying on a single, unifying stalk, in this case the delphinium’s, underpinned by the distinctive delphinium green leaves.  You can find many examples of this organizing principle in my work

Of course, the poppies don’t really belong attached to the delphinium stalk, and for literal-minded folks who notice this might be a distraction. But for a general audience, from a compositional viewpoint, the literal truth of the real world doesn’t matter so long as the composition looks holistically plausible.

One other point is that this composition is built around a strong diagonal. The entire delphinium leads the eye up and out to the right of the frame. It is important in this style of composition to have directed movement of a portion of the composition that contrasts with the more static elements (the poppies). It’s also worth noting that I photographed the image with the delphinium pointing up and out to the left, and reversed the direction by flipping the image horizontally in post-production.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Papaver Rhoeas

What joy to come home to my family and garden in Berkeley, and find spring still in bloom! These are two Papaver rhoeas—corn poppies—from our garden. I photographed each on a light box, and then inverted them in LAB color. You can find some info on these techniques in my website FAQs, and there will be a great deal more in the new book that I am working on!

Papaver Rhoeas 1 Inversion © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 1 © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 2 © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 2 Inversion © Harold Davis

The variation between specimens from the same flower cluster is pretty amazing: each flower is different, just as every person differs from each other, even when there are close genetic similarities!

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Seriously Twisted

Twisted © Harold Davis

Here’s a four-panel construction based on the spiral image shown above using rotations and reflections:

Multiple Spirals © Harold Davis

Related stories showing the same staircase: Waiting for Escher and Triple-Spiral Stair.

Posted in Photography


To depart is to leave one place, but not to arrive as yet at another place. Departures are in-between. They are neither one place, nor the other. As such, departures signify hope, for one leaves on the journey with high expectations. And yet there is always melancholy, for leaving the familiar behind.

The lighthouse marks the path for leaving the safety of the shore, and the ship travels forward across the wide sea towards destinations unknown, hopes unfurled, and thoughts of future possibilities as yet only dreams, so therefore entirely possible.

Departure © Harold Davis

The Coming Dawn © Harold Davis

At Sea © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Pont d’En Gil

The Pont d’En Gil is a stunningly beautiful natural arch formation near Ciutadella on the island of Menorca.

Pont d’en Gil © Harold Davis

Silhouettes © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Lighthouse on the Hill

Back to the Far de Cavalleria, this time at night. Weather conditions weren’t ideal. The idea had been a Milky Way arch over the lighthouse, but clouds—with an occasional burst of lightning—covered the relevant portions of the sky. We waited in the wind, with hope against hope, and having some fun chatting, even if it was a bit breezy. In the meantime, when dealt a bit of lemon soup, why not make lemonade?

Lighthouse on the Hill © Harold Davis

This is a fairly technical image. I used sets of in-camera multiple exposures, ten captures per set, fired manually with my remote. The camera was steady on my tripod for the entire period of engagement, although I stood close-by to make sure there were no wind-related accidents!

I tried to time the capture for when the light beams from the lighthouse were in an ‘X’ formation. I experimented with exposures a bit, but roughly the EXIF per exposure was 1/3 of a second at f/1.4 and ISO 3,200 on my Nikon D850. 

I used my Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 wide-open to “scoop as many photons” in as I could. This lens is optically strong enough even at f/1.4 that it is great to use at night.

In post-production, I took four of the best in-camera composites (so this means I was working with forty images). With each of the four composites, I processed them twice in ACR—once for the light beams, and once in a lighter pass for the night sky.

I combined each of the two versions of each of the four composites using a layer mask, and primarily a simple gradient.

I then stacked the four finished versions, using Photoshop Statistics set to Maximum mode. This overdid things a bit, and added too much in the way of star trails. So I went back to one of the four layered composites, then layered on top of it bits of the other versions, and also a few elements from the stacked aggregation.

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

Far de Cavalleria

At the wonderful but somewhat exhausting PhotoPills Camp on the island of Menorca I photographed the Cavelleria Lighthouse this morning. 

Far de Cavalleria © Harold Davis

We rolled up to the lighthouse in our bus in the pre-dawn darkness. It was windy. I set up my camera and tripod, and made the image shown above. Then I helped a few of the Camp students who had questions. As dawn came, I took my camera off tripod, and photographed the beautiful clouds.

Dawn Clouds, Menorca © Harold Davis

How fun to go from a lighthouse on the Atlantic coast of Spain to one in the Mediterranean. Here’s the light and fresnel lens on top of Far de Cavalleria just as the sun was coming up!

Fresnel © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Atlantic Coast of Galicia

The Atlantic coast of Galicia is rugged. Sheer cliffs reach down to the ocean at the end of long peninsulas. Skies are often gray, and waves can be large. No wonder this was called the “Coast of Death” (Costa da Morte)—although nowadays the moniker is used primarily to sell souvenirs. No wonder that the end of land here where the ocean meets the sky seemed to pilgrims the end of the known world.

Faro de Cabo Villano © Harold Davis

Click here for the first story about my Camino to Santiago de Compostela.

Posted in Photography

Echoes of the Past

At La Mola, the immense fortress that guarded the entrance to the strategic port of Mahon, or Mao in modern rendering, on Menorca, it is easy to feel echoes of the past. 

Fortress La Mola © Harold Davis

As the temperate island wind buzzes over the solitude of fields of flowers, this stone edifice reminds one that Menorca was strategic in the battle for domination of the Mediterranean between France and Spain on one side, and England on the other. The island, its deep inlet harbor at Port Mahon, and its impregnable fortifications were handed over to Spain in 1783 by the British in the Treaty of Paris.

It’s easy to image Captain Aubrey and his essential friend Maturin looking down from the heights on the HMS Surprise in harbor at Port Mahon, as in Master and Commander, the first book in the inimitable naval series by Patrick O’Brian, not knowing this would soon be enemy territory.

Of course, it is possible to forget about history, and just fool around, as in the “selfie” below.

Selfie with Grandees © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Shadows of Color

This is an image of the color shadows cast by the late afternoon sun shining though stained glass in the Royal Chapel of the Hostal dos Reis Catolicos in Santiago de Compostela. You can see the texture of the wall that the shadows are projected on, and even a crack in the plaster.

Shadows of Color © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

I Hugged an Apostle

As I wandered about the interior of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, I noticed a sign saying “Embrace the Apostle.” There was a line of people waiting behind a rope barrier in single file beneath the sign. So I added myself to the back of the queue.

We inched forward, finally reaching the place where you went in to the Apostle’s area. By the way, in terms of Apostles, we are talking about none other than Saint James a/k/a “Santiago”, the first of the apostles to be martyred. His remains seem to have turned up in this area sometime in the ninth century, with the tale of how they got here shrouded in myth, legend, and the slaying of dragons (I kid you not).

There was a stoplight contraption, and when it went green the person at the head of the line went up a short and narrow flight of stairs.

When it was my turn, I went up the stairs, then stood on a small stone step, and following the example of the person ahead of me, put my arm around a wooden paint-and-gilt bust of St James. Unlike the person ahead of me, I didn’t kiss the statue (memories of a certain Isak Dinesen short story came back to me, with the thought that one might catch a disease, otherwise I might just have kissed the old wooden cheek).

So I hugged an apostle! Another first for a memorable Camino…not quite in the same transgressive league as the Katy Perry song, but still something.

Posted in Photography

Waiting for Escher

The previous images of the triple-spiral staircase were from below looking up, or from above looking down. This one is neither up nor down, it is in about the middle of the stair. I am looking forward to getting this imagery into Photoshop Transform compositing, and really doing some twisted stuff (so to speak!).

Waiting for Escher © Harold Davis

Today I rented a car, and went exploring the capes around Fisterra. The spelling is different in Galician, Spanish, Latin, and English, to name a few languages. But however you spell it, it was the end of land to the ancients, and marks an “add-on” pilgrimage beyond Santiago de Compostela. It’s a very beautiful area with a rugged coast; images and a story will follow in the due fullness of time.

Posted in Photography