Monthly Archives: December 2018

On the Coming of a New Year

The coming of a new year brings reflections on the year that has past, thoughts appropriate to the last day or first day of a year, and ideas about new beginnings for a new year. In other words, all the usual Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future. 

Big Bang Fireworks © Harold Davis

It will take me quite some time to digest and synthesize all that I saw and did in 2018. It was a year of growth as a person, and as an artist, along with some pitfalls and pratfalls, both literal and figurative.

I hope to carry this growth way of thinking into 2019, savoring the wonder, mystery, and magic of being human, and of fostering the creative spark that lives in all of us. My wish is the same for you, and for humanity in general.

If you are curious, I photographed the Big Bang Fireworks image (shown above) back when I lived and worked in New York on Kodachrome 64 at the fireworks party for the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. It was used as the last frame in the sequence of 109 images introducing the popular television show The Big Bang Theory. This well-known sequence brings the viewer from the origin of things (the cosmological Big Bang) up to current times (somewhat represented by my image of fireworks).

Posted in Photography

Optical Studies

My favorite comment on this series of images, on #3, found over on Instagram: “I’ve sat here a long time looking at this!”

Optical Study 1 © Harold Davis

Optical Study 2 © Harold Davis

Optical Study 3 © Harold Davis

Optical Study 4 © Harold Davis

Optical Study 5 © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Playing with Light

For the past few days of the break between Christmas and New Years, I have been playing with light. Of course, the word photography is derived from “writing with light”—and you cannot capture the physicality of an object, only the light reflected or emitted by the object. So, from the very beginning, light and photography are intimately related. But this series more literally captures—and plays with—light than most photography. Let me explain.

In the depth of winter, the winter sun traces an arc across a large, westward-facing window towards the front of our house. The arc is low in the horizon, and short, from about 10AM to about 3PM. The quality of the sunlight is fierce: bright and strong, but at the same time with a kind of innate gentleness. It is light as light should be light.

With a white-surfaced table, I use the sunlight to “paint” images by projecting the light through vessels with colored water of various kinds and shapes (some of these carafes are clearly shown in Transmutation, the third image below), and carefully arranging the light to create my compositions. This is work done in camera, with only very minor corrections and adjustments in post-production.

World of Wonders © Harold Davis

They Walk Among Us © Harold Davis

Transmutation © Harold Davis

Related stories: Cosmic MisunderstandingThe Making of the Abstractions; Abstracts and a Photographic Mystery; More Abstractions; Easy Travel to Other Planets; Life is Strange. Check out my new online Gallery of Abstracts.

Posted in Abstractions, Photography

Harold Davis—Best of 2018

2018 has been quite a year in art for me. Travel has included the Southwest of France, the Balearic Islands, a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, teaching at Maine Media Workshops, New York City, Heidelberg and Berlin Germany, Paris, Malta, and Sicily. My time at home has been productive as well. 

Below each image, I’ve added links to the relevant blog stories that include my selected images (where I blogged them). Self-selected entries from previous years going back to 2013 can be found here.

Study in Petals on Black © Harold Davis

Blog story: Studies in Petals

Red Anemone © Harold Davis

Blog story: Red Anemone

Devotional Pose © Harold Davis

Blog story: Devotional Pose

Vitruvian Woman © Harold Davis

Blog story: Vitruvian Woman

Egg © Harold Davis

Blog story: Egg

Papaver Nudicaule © Harold Davis

Blog story: Color Field of Flowers

Above the Gran Via © Harold Davis

Blog story: Above the Grand Via

Dandelion in Calvignac A © Harold Davis

Blog story: Dandelion in Calvignac

Bridge Fun © Harold Davis

Blog story: The Art of Being Alone with Oneself

Twisted © Harold Davis

Blog story: Seriously Twisted

Summer Grass © Harold Davis

Blog story: Summer Grass

Poppies and Mallows on White © Harold Davis

Poppies and Mallows on Black (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Blog story: The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency

Poppies Dancing © Harold Davis

Poppies Dancing Inversion © Harold Davis

Blog stories: Poppies Dancing and Poppies Dancing on Black

The Passion of the Rose © Harold Davis

Blog story: The Passion of the Rose

Papaver Pod from above © Harold Davis

Blog story: Papaver Poppy Pods Gone to Seed

Poem of the Road © Harold Davis

Lonely Road (Poem of the Road) © Harold Davis

Blog story: Poem of the Road

Sunflower X-Ray Fusion © Harold Davis

X-Ray, Sunflower © Harold Davis

Campanulas X-Ray on White © Harold Davis

Blog story: Revealing the Unseen with X-Ray Photography of Flowers; FAQ: X-Ray Photos of Flowers

Ladyboot Arch © Harold Davis

Blog story: Under the Wide and Starry Sky

Dawn East of the Sierras © Harold Davis

Rising © Harold Davis

Red Pitcher © Harold Davis

Bridge of Light – Color Version © Harold Davis

Bridge of Light © Harold Davis

Blog story: Bridge of Light

Heceta Head Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Heceta Head © Harold Davis

Crepuscular Coast – Black and White © Harold Davis

Crepuscular Coast © Harold Davis

Blog story: Crepuscular Coast

Earthlight © Harold Davis

Blog story: Earthlight

Paris from Montmartre © Harold Davis

Blog story: View of Paris from my room

Paris Paris © Harold Davis

Blog story: Goodbye Paris

Time Machine © Harold Davis

Blog story: Time Machine

Mosta Dome © Harold Davis

Blog story: Mosta Dome

Abstract 1 © Harold Davis

 

Check out my self-selected bests from previous years in Best Images Annuals!

Posted in Photography

Star Gazer Lily

The Star Gazer Lily is more correctly StarGazer Lily or Lillium ‘StarGazer’, with “StarGazer” crammed together in one word. This Asiatic Lily is a fairly recent hybridization (circa 1974) of the Rubrim lily. The thing is that the flowers of the Rubrim lily faced downwards.

Downward facing petals were not popular with consumers. Leslie Woodriff, a California lily breeder, spotted a Rubrium that faced upwards. From the single specimen, he created the new hybrid, an Asiatic Lily with a builtin bias towards upward-facing flowers.

His name for the hybrid was a marketing success, and the StarGazer Lily has been a florist-industry megahit for many years. Of course, it helps that the Star Gazer is a beautiful flower, with a wonderful—but sometimes almost overwhelming—fragrance.

I made the close-up and almost abstract photos of a Star Gazer Lily shown below using a macro lens and an extension tube.

If you are interested in flowers, gardens, and flower and garden photography, I have a number of related workshops coming up in 2019:

Star Gazer Lily 1 © Harold Davis

Star Gazer Lily Anther © Harold Davis

Star Gazer Lily 3 © Harold Davis

Star Gazer Lily 4 © Harold Davis

Related story: Anthers in Love.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Cosmic Misunderstanding

Somewhat in the spirit of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, maybe it is all a misunderstanding on the cosmic scale, with the universe a multidimensional freeway interchange where we’ve all forgotton our towels!

Check out my new online Gallery of Abstracts.

Abstract 15 – Cosmic Misunderstanding © Harold Davis

Related stories: The Making of the Abstractions; Abstracts and a Photographic Mystery; More Abstractions; Easy Travel to Other Planets; Life is Strange.

Posted in Photography

Life Is Strange—Further Abstractions and some Abstract Thoughts

Life is strange. We take inspiration, and the other self-actualization needs and desires that are high up the Maslow hierarchy, where we can find them. From within the prison of the ego, the globe of the world matters little—belonging and cathexis matter, even if only for a single night. Fire and ice, kindness and depravity, battle for the crystal palace of my soul.

Abstraction 12 – Life is strange © Harold Davis

Abstract 11 – Dome of the World © Harold Davis

Abstract 10 – Be Mine Tonight © Harold Davis

Abstract 9 – Fire and Ice © Harold Davis

Abstract 8 – Crystal Palace © Harold Davis

Related stories: The Making of the Abstractions; Abstracts and a Photographic Mystery; More Abstractions; Easy Travel to Other Planets.

Posted in Abstractions, Photography

Easy Travel to Other Planets

Related stories: The Making of the Abstractions; Abstracts and a Photographic Mystery; More Abstractions!

First Contact © Harold Davis

Red Planet © Harold Davis

Blue Planet © Harold Davis

Ice Planet © Harold Davis

Twin Planets © Harold Davis

Event Horizon © Harold Davis

Extinction Burst © Harold Davis

Silence of the Deep © Harold Davis

Posted in Abstractions, Photography

Exploring the Sacramento Delta

The Steamboat Slough Bridge, shown here from underneath, was built in 1924. According to HistoricBridges.org, this bridge is a good example of a Strauss heel-trunnion bascule bridge. Despite some repair work in 1953 and again in 2000, the bridge is much like it always was.

Beneath Steamboat Slough Bridge © Harold Davis

Something of the same sort can be said for the Sacramento River delta. This is an area that time forgot, almost a foreign country in the backyard of the San Francisco metropolitan area, and adjacent to Sacramento, the California state capital.

Murmuration © Harold Davis

Driving the hour or so from my home in Berkeley to California Route 160, also known as River Road, which bisects the delta, my friend Jim and I weren’t sure what to expect. We found a vast low country, only a few feet above sea level, formerly wetlands and marsh, now ranch and agricultural land. Wind turbines and transmission towers sit astride the low-lying landscape. 

Two Towers © Harold Davis

The innumerable channels of the Sacramento River have created a maze of islands, with a reedy fringe on the banks and agriculture inland. Small roads cross the channel on bridges like the one across Steamboat Slough, or one of the many operational car ferries.

Real McCoy II (via iPhone) © Harold Davis

There are a few towns in the Sacramento delta, principally Ryde, Walnut Grove, and Locke, along with trailer parks and vineyards.

Wonder Bread (via iPhone) © Harold Davis

Ryde’s principle tourist attraction is Foster’s Bighorn—a bar and lunch place featuring hundreds of stuffed big game heads. They were really gracious about letting me photograph inside with my camera and tripod, but I really can’t bring myself to process any of the images. I also don’t see how one could really enjoy one’s brisket sandwich with the myriad glass eyes of lions, bears, and elephants staring at one.

Locke was a Chinese community, which swelled with seasonal agriculture hands who worked the delta. Today it seems to be an outing destination from Sacramento, with Chinese restaurants, a Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, and even the “Locke Ness: Things Old & Odd” curio museum and shop. Nearby Walnut Grove is the largest town in the area, and features grocery stores with ads from the 1950s (when was the last time you saw a loaf of Wonder Bread?).

There’s a sense of strangeness and otherness about the delta, and also, in a weird way, of permanence. This is country that makes you think that AI, fake news, and all the other stuff we think about every day, can only be the invention of some dissonant, alternative sci-fi future.

Threatening this permanence is the Delta Tunnel Plan. This hypothetical project, beloved by Governor Brown, and mired in innumerable law suits, would build two four-story tunnels under the delta to carry water from the delta to the Central Valley, and the always-thirsty cities of California’s arid south. 

Businesses of all sorts around the delta have anti-Tunnel Plan placards prominently displayed. Should the Tunnel Plan ever come to pass, it will drain the delta of the one resource it has in abundance—good, clean, flowing water—and change the land more than any other human action since the marshes were drained in the years following the great California gold rush. As with any project that projects changes of this magnitude, the downstream consequences—to the great Bay of San Francisco and beyond—are hard to know.

Posted in Photography

More abstractions!

Related stories: The Making of the Abstractions; Abstracts and a Photographic Mystery.

Abstract 4 © Harold Davis

Abstract 5 © Harold Davis

Abstract 6 © Harold Davis

Abstract 7 © Harold Davis

Posted in Abstractions

The Making of the Abstractions

Abstract 3 © Harold Davis

This image and the two other abstracts shown in a previous story were constructed by allowing strong sunlight to pass through bottles filled with fluid (dark brown maple syrup and red wine). In the foreground I placed glassware (a wine cup stem in this image, flower vases in the previous two). A water glass made of blue glass added some reflected color to the images.

I photographing the setup extremely close with a very low depth-of-field, hand holding a Lensbaby Sweet 85 wide open (at f/1.8) with an extension tube, and using short duration shutter speeds (e.g., 1/2000 of a second). The result was extremely shallow focus and a painterly effect for everything out of focus, and clearly the precise point of focus was a crucial issue. I do think this would have been hard to pull off without an optical viewfinder.

Thanks to everyone who hypothesized in comments on my blog and on my IG feed!

Posted in Abstractions, Photography

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

Cefalu

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