Monthly Archives: July 2019

Nautilus Spiral Imagery

Nesting Bowls and a Nautilus Slice © Harold Davis

Nesting Bowls and a Nautilus Slice © Harold Davis

The graceful curve of the interior of the Nautilus shell is beloved by artists, and has often been a subject of my imagery. The other day, I placed a slice of a Nautilus shell showing its spiral within a series of kitchen bowls. 

X-Rays revealed the interior spirals within two intact Nautilus shells (below). An actual Nautilus shell before it has been sliced is pretty solid looking (as you can see in my photo of a whole shell on Flickr), but the x-rays don’t care about the outer, opaque casing, and reveal the inner spirals in all their glory.

Nautilus X-Rays © Harold Davis

Nautilus X-Rays © Harold Davis

One of my best-known Nautilus images, Nautilus in Black and White,  was captured on a light box, the back lighting accounting for the inner glow at the core of the spiral. In post-production, I inverted in LAB color, swapping white for black and black for white, and simulating a black background in the image (below).

Nautilus in Black and White © Harold Davis

Nautilus in Black and White © Harold Davis

Another very well-known image of mine is a Photoshop composite in which a spiral staircase (from San Francisco’s Embarcadero Center) blends, apparently seamlessly, into an enlarged Nautilus shell spiral at the bottom of the stairwell (Spirals, shown below).

Spirals © Harold Davis

Spirals © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Weaving with Light

Weaving with Light © Harold Davis

Weaving with Light © Harold Davis

Recently I was asked, “Ok. I have to know what these are and how were these lovely pieces produced?”

A fair question, but one I have some ambivalence about answering. Not (as might be supposed) because I fear giving away secrets. There are no secrets anymore. Actually, I’d rather have folks immersed in an image. Not thinking about me, and certainly not thinking about my techniques.

But it is a fact that I have been working on these images for a while now, about six months, and have amassed a considerable body of work. You can check it out using these links: Bottled Light Exploration; Easy Travel to Other Planets; Earthlight; Blue on Red; Homage to Rothko; A Point of Information; Approaching Indigo; Playing with Light; Cosmic Misunderstanding; Life is Strange; More abstractions!; The Making of the Abstractions; Abstracts, and a Photographic Mystery.

Mostly, this style of image making is “a hecka” fun! I am having a blast.

Natural Bridge © Harold Davis

Natural Bridge © Harold Davis

To get down to the nitty-gritty, I set the photography up using glasses and glass vases. There is liquid in the glassware, mostly (but not always) food color. Sometimes I use clear water in colored glass, and other times I use a fluid such as wine or maple syrup that has a color on its own.

The imagery is primarily created using strong back lighting, so each colored vessel of water casts a variety of colors on the vessels in front.

Finally, I use a macro telephoto lens, often with an added extension tube, handheld at a fast shutter speed and a wide-open aperture (f/1.8) to create very low depth-of-field photos focused very close, and capturing whatever phenomenon the light is creating.

I actually think you’d have to see the setup to believe it!

Blue Bars 1 © Harold Davis

Blue Bars 1 © Harold Davis

Mostly, these are single shots, pretty straight from the camera, and with almost no serious tweaking in post-production. I like keeping things simple, and it is fast and easy not to need to spend a great deal of time in Photoshop.

But in a couple of images—think Cosmic Misunderstanding and Weaving with Light, the image at the start of this story—I’ve added Photoshop post-production doodling, photo composition, and photo-compositing of an image with itself to the mix.

After all, why not?

Blue Bars 2 © Harold Davis

Blue Bars 2 © Harold Davis

Yellow Vase and Blue Vase © Harold Davis

Yellow Vase and Blue Vase © Harold Davis

This one was photographed on a mirror, into a standalone glass concave lens, with a smaller aperture and more depth-of-field than I usually use for these images:

Optical Wheel © Harold Davis

Optical Wheel © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Black and White Cookies: What’s in a Name?

Black and White Cookie © Harold Davis

Black and White Cookie © Harold Davis

The Black and White cookie, shown here in an iPhone grab shot converted to black and white in Snapseed, goes by many names. In New York City, where I come from, they are simply “Black and White” cookies. This makes sense to me.  But in New England they are “Harlequins” and in the Midwest “Half Moons.” In Germany, and most of the rest of the world, they are “Amerikaners.”

Even the origin of the name “Amerikaners” is controversial: it is rumored that the cookie was named after the post-World-War-II American soldiers who brought them to Germany. On the other hand, and perhaps less plausibly even if it is in the dictionaries this way, the name “Amerikaner” is said to be a corruption of Ammoniumhydrogencarbonat, the German for ammonium bicarbonate, a leavening agent used in baking the cookie.

Using yet another name, in a reference to racial harmony, President Obama dubbed them “Unity cookies” in 2008. And, in a Seinfeld episode, Jerry asks, if black and white mix together well on a cookie, why can’t they do the same in society?

Great question (and a tasty cookie) for these troubled times.

Posted in Bemusements, Monochrome, Photography

Featured on Macro Photography Live Chat Show

I am featured on episode #46 of the lively and entertaining Macro Photography Live Chat Show. Click here for the YouTube replay of the episode featuring my work recorded recently. 

Pale Garden © Harold Davis

Pale Garden © Harold Davis

On the hour-long show, my interlocutor, the enthusiastic Janice Sullivan, and I had a wide-ranging discussion. One topic covered was my Artist Statement, which I haven’t looked at in quite a while. It was so cool to take a look at this with fresh eyes and be able to say: Yes, this is me. This is what I aspire to be as an artist. Harold, you keep on truckin’!

Tulips X-Ray Fusion © Harold Davis

Tulips X-Ray Fusion © Harold Davis

If you haven’t seen any of the videos of my presentations of my work, here are some that might interest you:

The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency (B&H)

Black and White in the Digital Era (2017)

A Creative Palette of Possibilities Using Topaz (2018)

An oldie-but-goldie (from 2009): the KQED-TV segment showing me at work!

Degrees of Translucency © Harold Davis

Degrees of Translucency © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Angel’s Trumpets

Phyllis and Nicky came home with this branch from an Angel’s Trumpets shrub (of the Brugmansia genus). They had cropped it from an overhanging specimen in the neighborhood. Since Brugmansia flowers wilt almost instantly, I hurried to photograph it on my light box.

Angel's Trumpets © Harold Davis

Angel’s Trumpets © Harold Davis

Some interesting facts about Angel’s Trumpets: The common name of this plant and flower comes from the large, trumpet-shaped flowers that Brugmansia shrubs and bushes exhibit. A close relative of Datura, Brugmanisa is highly toxic, and is one of the most poisonous decorative plants. Although fairly popular in gardens, Brugmansia is extinct in the wild. It is believed that the extinction of some animal responsible for spreading the seeds of the Brugmansia became extinct, causing the plant extinction in the wild, although of course the plant continues to exist as a human cultivar.

In the past, several South American cultures have used Brugmansia to discipline naughty children, so that they might be scolded by their ancestors in the spirit world, and become better behaved. Mixed with other psychogenic agents, maize beer and tobacco leaves, it has also been used to drug wives and slaves before they were buried alive with their dead master.

Another beautiful but deadly flower: Gloriosa Lily.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

All this, and Heaven too!

It’s with great joy that I announce a full panoply of interesting workshops. What could be better than intriguing places, fun and interesting people, and the chance for exciting photography? Here is some of what I have coming up, in chronological order:

  • Photographing the Great Gardens of Maine, August 11-17, 2019 at Maine Media Workshop. This year we’ll have access to a great range of public and unique private gardens to photograph. In many cases, there would be no other way to get access to these locations. Click here for more information and registration. It is a great time of year to be in the heart of coastal Maine and photographing these luscious gardens, and there is still space available in the workshop.

Dahlia Mandala © Harold Davis

2020

  • Romantic Southwest France, April 29-May 7, 2020. Early-bird discount applies. Click here for information, here for a detailed itinerary (PDF), and here for the Reservation Form. The workshop is hosted in an exquisitely renovated fortified farmhouse in the Lot River Valley. This has been a  popular and successful workshop with very limited space availability, so please let us now as soon as possible if you’d like to come. This group is almost full. If you’d like to join us, please contact us ASAP to see if we can accommodate you! Early-bird discount through the end of August.

2021

Click here for my Workshops & Events page. I have a number of interesting upcoming conference and event appearances that haven’t been publicly announced yet, I will post them as soon as I can. You can also subscribe to my email list to get notifications.

I hope to see you with your camera in a workshop! If not now, when? 

Flowers at Giverny © Harold Davis

Flowers at Giverny © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Danse Macabre and the Tree of Life

Dance Macabre and the Tree of Life © Harold Davis

Danse Macabre and the Tree of Life © Harold Davis

Want more fantastic imagery? Check out Surreal Lady Fish, my Multiple Exposures portfolio of in-camera model photography, and a selection of Impossible composite imagery.

The Danse Macabre a/k/a “The Dance of Death” is an allegorical artistic genre of the late middle ages. The point is that no matter what our station in life, we all die. Danse Macabre images are a kind of momento mori, to remind folks of the vanity and ephemeral nature  of all earthly things.

This image is a Photoshop composite of five photos: two in-camera exposures of a model (each containing a number of exposures), a background canvas used as a texture, a skull from the Paris catacombs—and, of course, the Tree of Life from the slopes of Mount Diablo.

Posted in Photography

Fresh from the Garden

This relatively straightforward yet elegant (if I say so myself) light box composition uses flowers directly from our garden.

Campanulas, Poppies, and a Clematis © Harold Davis

Campanulas, Poppies, and a Clematis © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Storm in a Bottle

Carefully diffusing blue and yellow pigment into a bottle filled with water; related to Easy Travel to Other Planets.

Storm World © Harold Davis

Storm World © Harold Davis

Storm in a Bottle 1 © Harold Davis

Storm in a Bottle 1 © Harold Davis

Storm in a Bottle 2 © Harold Davis

Storm in a Bottle 2 © Harold Davis

“Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.”—Dust in the Wind, Kansas

Posted in Photography

More Food Play, and an iPhone Fragment

Here’s another food play image, constructed from olive oil, half-and-half (milk), and food color. I think it looks a little like stained glass.

Ink Blot 2 © Harold Davis

Ink Blot 2 © Harold Davis

Transferring a high resolution image onto my iPhone allows me to use all the creative iPhone apps on an image generated by a “big boy” camera. This one (below) is a San Francisco Reflection, photographed with my D850 and modified with the Fragment app on my iPhone.

Time Travel Fragment © Harold Davis

Time Travel Fragment © Harold Davis

Both images were a hecka lotta fun to make. That’s what it is all about to some extent: holding on to “beginner’s mind,” having a fun sense of play, and staying creative!

Posted in Photography

Paris in the Spring (April 24-May 2, 2021)

Click here for more information, and here for the Reservation Form!

Posted in Photography

Garden Photography in Maine: Special July 4 Discount

There’s still time to enroll for my week long course in garden photography at Maine Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine again this year. The dates are August 11-17, 2019. Click here for a full workshop description, and for registration.

Special July Sale: 20% Off. Use code JULY4PHOTO at checkout. Discount will be applied at final billing. July 4th at 7:00am through Sunday, July 7th at midnight.

Mandala with Clematis and Poppies © Harold Davis

Mandala with Clematis and Poppies © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Photographing Flowers for Transparency: Announcing the 2020 session

We’re pleased to announce the 2020 session of Harold’s acclaimed Photographing Flowers for Transparency weekend workshop, to be held in Berkeley, CA Saturday and Sunday June 20 and 21, 2020. Enrollment is limited. Registration is now open on a first-come-first-served basis.

Click here for more information about this workshop, here for the Photographing Flowers for Transparency FAQ, and here for Harold’s upcoming event, workshop, and destination photo tour schedule. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!

The Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop is a great deal of fun, and covers Harold’s light box techniques as well as related topics (see the partial list below). If you are interested in Harold’s unique approaches, this is the best way to learn. Each participant will produce their own fully processed images following Harold’s lectures and demonstrations, and with Harold’s personal hands-on supervision.

Flowering Dogwood & Friends © Harold Davis

Topics covered in the Photographing Flowers for Transparency Workshop include:

  • Floral arrangement and composition
  • Botanical art in the digital era
  • Shooting on a light box
  • Understanding high-key post-production
  • Working with Photoshop layers
  • High-key HDR
  • LAB color effects
  • Backgrounds and textures
  • Preparing to make floral pigment prints
  • Tips & techniques from Harold Davis
  • Implementing one’s own vision

Flowers at School © Harold Davis

Here are what some participants in Harold’s recent Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshops have said:

  • “Harold is unmatchable! An honor to be able to be able to have him as a mentor…. for photography and for life.”
  • “AWESOME!!! Harold has a great teaching style, and it was great to learn some new shooting and post-processing techniques.”
  • “Excellent!!! Recommend to anyone who wants to take their flower art to the next level.”
  • “Amazing teacher! Patient, knowledgeable, thoughtful and sharing, easy to learn from. Looking forward to many more workshops with Harold! What a total gem… “

Floral Composition © Harold Davis

From Harold’s introductory note to workshop participants:

My belief is that folks learn most when they are hands-on, and having fun. So we will be doing a great deal of flower arrangement and flower photography—and I think along with new ways of seeing, you will learn some techniques, and ways of using your camera, that may not have occurred to you before.

These new approaches are great with flower photography, but also go way beyond floral subject matter, and are really applicable to many kinds of photography.

Besides floral photography, floral arrangement, working on a light box, and various kinds of special lighting effects, we will be exploring high-key HDR, post-production in Photoshop, backgrounds and textures, and LAB color, and much more. As you can see, it will be a very special, busy, and creative weekend!

Click here for more information about this workshop, here for the Photographing Flowers for Transparency FAQ, and here for Harold’s upcoming event, workshop, and destination photo tour schedule. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions!

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops