Monthly Archives: December 2018

Abstracts and a Photographic Mystery

Here’s a photographic mystery for you! Can you reverse engineer these abstracts? As a hint, these were essentially created in the camera, with very minimal Photoshop processing in post-production (just a little cleaning up and enhancing colors slightly).

If you think you know how this series of abstracts was made, please comment with camera and lens, subject matter, lighting, and setup.

Abstract 1 © Harold Davis

Abstract 2 © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography


Wandering through the Sicilian village of Cefalu, I made my way to the harbor jetty. Looking back at the whitewashed village, it was clear that from a monochromatic perspective, the contrast between the white buildings and the black headland behind them was very interesting. I made a series of bracketed exposures that would enable me to take advantage of this contrast once I had converted the photo to black and white.

Cefalu © Harold Davis

Nikon D850, 44mm, 6 Exposures at f/29 and ISO 64, shutter speeds ranging from 1/10 to 1/160 of a second, tripod mounted; processed to monochrome using Nik HDR Efex Pro.

Related story: Accordion Player.

Posted in Italy, Monochrome, Photography

Correlation versus Causality

In downtown Palermo, Sicily, at the intersection of Via Maqueda and Via Vittorio Emanuele is an ornate and baroque piazza, surrounded by four symmetrical structures with statues in niches. Dubbed Quattro Canti—“Four Corners”—it is actually hard to give a sense of the overall ornamentation overload of the location. Often closed to vehicular traffic, usually with one or more street musicians performing, Quattro Canti was a fun place to hang out. I kept trying to pre-visualize how to make an image that captured both the over-the-top baroque ornamentation of the place along with the sense of place generated by the symmetry of the four buildings, but in practice none of my ideas really seemed to live up to the reality.

Correlation versus Causality © Harold Davis

This image consists of two photos. Both were taken from the center of Quattro Canti with my camera on the tripod, and both used my Nikkor 8-15mm fisheye lens. The outer image was made with the lens set to 15mm, so it is categorized as a rectangular fisheye. The inner image, which is repeated twice at different sizes, was photographed at 8mm, so it is a circular fisheye image. And, yes, LAB color inversions were used to create the final.

Regarding my title, Correlation versus Causality, I am mindful of a story about Picasso. Apparently, he hated giving his paintings titles, and thought they should speak for themselves. Sometimes his dealers forced him to come up with a title. He claimed to use the first thing that came to his mind, and enjoyed listening to critics hashing out the meanings of the titles he had given so heedlessly.

Posted in Photography

Door in Trapani

On my way into Trapani, a refugee from my hotel in Palermo, I pulled the car over to stop at a MacDonald’s on the outskirts of town to take advantage of their more-or-less public bathrooms. As those who are strangers in a strange land and at home abroad know, it is wise, as my Mom used to put it, to “Never miss a chance to p*ss”—and American chain stores tend to have the best readily available facilities.

Trapani is a dusty, mostly decaying seaport and provincial capital on the western end of Sicily. The population is about 70,000, with not much in the way of industry beyond fishing, canning the fish, and salt harvesting. It’s also an important ferry port, with routes to the Egadi Islands, Sardinia, Tunisia, Naples, and beyond. Tourism is of course also a significant revenue source, although tourists were not much in evidence in November despite the blue skies and wonderful, warm weather.

The city dates back to antiquity, when it was established by the Greeks as the port for nearby Erice, which perches on a mountain above Trapani (more on Erice in a future story). The Carthaginians conquered Trapani, and then were forced to cede it to the Romans in 241 BC, following the First Punic War. Succeeding rulers included Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantium, Arabs, and the Normans; the city flourished under the Normans as one of the primary Mediterranean ports used by the crusades.

In modern times, the elegant buildings along the vast, sickle-shaped harbor fell into various states of disrepair. I parked my car in the central town square, and enjoyed the long walk out to the end of the fortified jetty along the seafront esplanade, through back alleys, narrow winding labyrinthine streets, and elegant interior streets, many closed to vehicular traffic.

Via Garibaldi 71, Trapani © Harold Davis

Many of the buildings in Trapani are designed around an interior courtyard that is barely seen from outside. The entrances to this interior space can be formal, and grand, as the intricately detailed door shown in the accompanying photo. This image reminds me of an entrance to a secret garden: the magic that is inside is unknown, and perhaps in some sense unknowable.

Related story: Palazzo Berardi Ferro, Trapani.

Posted in Italy, Photography