Monthly Archives: May 2020

Photographing Bottled Light Challenge

Bottled Light photo challenge
My Capturing Bottled Light Photo Challenge is now available for viewing (without charge) courtesy of Out of Chicago.

You can also purchase access to the entire set of Out of Chicago Live online conference recordings, I highly recommend many of the sessions created with passion by highly talented photographers. Click here for more info.

They Walk Among Us © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Eye of the Tower

In mid-February of this year, I photographed at the massive Tower Arch in the back country of Arches National Park, in Utah. Time was short because the winter day was coming to an end, and the four-wheel road back out to Moab was demanding even in good light. This was one of my last images of the day, photographed using a fisheye lens, looking west and south through the opening in the arch.

Eye of the Tower © Harold Davis

Eye of the Tower © Harold Davis

When I processed this image, I was mindful that the scene seemed very dynamic at the time because the weather was rapidly changing. I wanted to keep this sense of natural movement in the final image, with the clouds as a contrast to the solidity of the rock.

Here’s the exposure information: Nikon D850, 8mm-14mm fisheye at the 14mm rectangular fisheye setting, seven exposures with each exposure at f/29 and ISO 64, exposure speeds from 1/15 of a second to 2.5 seconds; tripod mounted; RAW conversion using ACR, and exposures hand-blended using Photoshop. 

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Red Poppy

All the richness and wealth in the world cannot compare with the worth and beauty at the core of a single flower, and how the flower makes me feel!

Red Poppy © Harold Davis

Red Poppy © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Creative Black and White Webinar, Part 2: The Assignment

I’m teaching the second live webinar in the Creative Black and White series on Tuesday, May 26 at 10am PT. Here’s the registration link. I’ve decided to take a chance and try something different with this webinar. So I will make some images live on camera, using materials that are easy to find while sheltering in place. That way, you can see what I am doing, and ask questions if you’d like.

Next, I will show how I convert the captures I have just made to become monochromatic images. My suggestion (although it is only a suggestion of course, and you don’t have to do it to get information from the webinar) is that you prepare in advance by making your own photographs in line with the assignments. I find I always learn more by being active as opposed to passively listening.

Details follow below.

Please keep in mind that there a few spaces left in our Creative Bootcamp (limited to 12), with four classes, coming up in June. You can watch recordings of most of our webinars on the Harold Davis Photography YouTube channel.

Egg © Harold Davis

MEMO to participants in Creative Black & White | Part 2: Black and White Conversion, live webinar on Tuesday May 26 at 10am PT

The structure of this webinar session will be that Harold will use live cameras to demonstrate creating three images. The general assignment for the kinds of images, and the specific way that Harold intends to photographically meet this challenge are shown below. He will then process to monochrome each of the three images, using a variety of techniques as appropriate for each (very different) image.

The choice of assignment was made keeping in mind what is possible while sheltering place. Although there is no requirement to do so, Harold believes you will get the most out of the session if you complete these assignments on your own, in your own way, before the May 26 class.

Please post images made in response to this challenge to Instagram, with the tags @haroldldavis #harolddavis #blackandwhite #blackandwhitephoto #creativeblackandwhite #assignment2

Black & White #2 Assignments (should you choose to accept & etc.)

Create a High-Key Photo

            Harold will demonstrate photographing an Egg on a white background

Create a Low-Key Photo

            Harold will demonstrate photographing a flower on black velvet background

Capture a shadow

            Harold will use a light to make an interesting shadow using kitchen items, and then photograph the composition including the shadow

Chrysanthemum © Harold Davis

Chrysanthemum © Harold Davis

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

Birds of Paradise in a Glass Vase

Birds of Paradise in a Glass Vase © Harold Davis

Birds of Paradise in a Glass Vase © Harold Davis

Yesterday I photographed five Birds of Paradise flowers (Strelitzia reginae, a plant closely related to the banana incidentally) from our garden on a light box. Specifically, the flowers were upright in a vase and placed on one light box. A second light box was placed upright, perpendicularly to the first. You can see the set up in a iPhone capture my son Nicholas made for me, shown at the bottom of this story.

We’ve been having great fun and success with teaching Photographing Flowers for Transparency online using the webinar format. This doesn’t quite make up for not being able to have the live workshops, but it is something, and at least accessible to folks who can’t travel to my studio here in Berkeley.

You can find the recordings of our first four sessions on the Harold Davis Photography YouTube channel. The fifth class and last class in the series is coming up next week; here is the registration link for the live session.

Please also keep in mind our four-session Creativity Bootcamp: Awaken Your Inner Dragon scheduled for June. The class is limited to 12 participants so that we can get to know each other and have ample time for assignments and feedback. There are a few seats still available; here is the registration link.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Looking Backward

“It’s tough to predict things, particularly about the future,” as baseball catcher and American wit Yogi Berra said. And, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” in a quotation attributed with small variations to George Santayana, Edmund Burke, and George Orwell. To which author Kurt Vonnegut responded, “I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive.”

Deadhorse Point © Harold Davis (Feb 2020)

Deadhorse Point © Harold Davis (Feb 2020)

Looking Backward, a famous novel by Edward Bellamy, was not a look backwards, despite the title, borrowed for this blog story. It’s a Utopian attempt to look forward 112 years from 1888 via the protagonist-in-a-trance trope, when the United States was mired in an era of deep unrest, inequality, and economic insecurity, to the year 2000, when the country had become a socialist paradise (as if!).

For me, looking backward even three months, let alone 112 years, is very strange. Three months ago, in mid February, I was free-range traveling-the-American-west photographer. After enjoying teaching at a wonderful, and probably historically unique, photography conference in Yosemite, I spent some time in Death Valley with my friend Julian from Germany, then drove west, and met another friend, Eric, in Escalante, Utah. We spent some time exploring the back-country there, as well as Arches and Canyonlands around Moab, before taking the long road home.

Earth Ramparts © Harold Davis (Feb 2020)

Earth Ramparts © Harold Davis (Feb 2020)

I had no idea what was “coming down the pike,” as I think most of us did not. My forward plans were focused on upcoming travel to Europe and a trek on the Camino de Santiago (come to think of it, that would have been right about now in a hypothetical alternative universe in which the pandemic was contained and isolated in Wuhan).

So as I get around to processing some of my photos from only a short while ago, it is easy to see how much I didn’t know then. Knowing how little I knew then, it is still no less hard to know where things go now. After all, it’s tough to predict things, particularly about the future. I can hope for a better world, with more justice, equality, common sense, and a vaccine—but those of us who make it to the world of the future will see what actually has transpired.

Posted in Coronavirus times, Photography, Writing

Building a Photographic Community During Tough Times

Dear Fellow Photographers:

An important part of our idea in launching our live photography webinar series while sheltering in place (today is Day 50 since we’ve been locked down, by the way) is to help create photographic community. In the past, with my webinar recordings, we’ve given access to the recordings to folks who paid for the live webinar, and otherwise sold access to the recordings. In these difficult times, we decided to do it differently: In addition to charging a modest fee for some, but not all, of the live webinars ($19.95), we’d make the recordings available to all for free (with a time delay) on my YouTube channel

It’s not clear that this is the world’s best business strategy, to put it mildly. Of course, we could make more money if we charged for the recordings as well as the live webinars—and, at some point in the future, we might decide to do so again.

Both Phyllis and I feel strongly that the right thing to do right now in these incredibly difficult times, when so many people are suffering financially and otherwise, is to build a sense of photographic community so we don’t all feel so isolated. We do need to charge something to defray all the costs involved, which are considerable, while we shelter in place. We want the live webinars to build community, and we don’t want anyone ultimately denied access to at least the recordings over money. Perhaps someone is isolated, or a first responder, and our webinar recordings help add a little creativity to their lives.

In this context, I find myself beyond shocked to have recently received this email: “I feel cheated and want my money back. I have paid  59.85 Dollars for three Webinars. I do not accept that I had to pay money for webinars that are now free on YouTube.”

Of course, we refunded the money (as we always will to anyone who doesn’t feel that they have got their money’s worth). But, if you think about the complaint, this person seems upset (beyond upset, “cheated”) that others might get “for free” something they paid for. It’s not entirely a fair complaint: a live webinar is not just a recording on YouTube watched solo. Among other things, a live webinar is a living attempt to create contact and community among the participants.

I think Phyllis put this very well in her response: 

I am sorry you feel this way. This is, of course, your choice whether to attend live webinars or just watch a recording.

I have refunded your payments using PayPal which is the way you originally paid.

I know I probably won’t change your mind about this but, the pros and cons of the way we are doing webinars are as follows:


– You get to see what Harold is doing and ask questions in real time.

– You get to support a living artist who has 4 kids and bills to pay while we shelter in place (today is day 50 for us)

– Economic times are tough here in the US: We are putting the webinars up on YouTube in a reasonably timely way (depending on our schedule) for those who cannot afford to attend a paid webinar right now. We feel we are helping these people who are alone or cannot have access to creative content.

– You get to join a live community of photographers, instead of being alone watching a YouTube video

– You get to be one of the first to see these particular webinars

– You get to email us and ask questions.


– You see a recorded webinar (not live)

– You have to wait for us to get it up on YouTube when we can

– You don’t get to ask questions

– You are on your own. Bye bye photographic community.

Whatever. It’s your choice. You have been refunded. You could have been a bit nicer about the email you sent.

Times are tough, people are stressed. We’ll let it go.

I was perhaps a little terser:

[W]e have refunded your fee …. A polite request would have sufficed, without the idea that you are somehow being cheated.

Regarding your email, I strongly feel this is not a time to be selfish. The modest ($19.95) that we are asking per webinar helps us put them on, otherwise we would not be able to do so. Quite apart from our time, there are equipment costs, software licensing fees, and so on.

Our decision to offer the recordings for free on YouTube (rather than as in the past allowing access to paid viewers, then making some additional money by charging others for access) was based on the idea that in these times we wanted everyone to be able to have as much as access as possible without money being a barrier.

That said, there are potential benefits to paid viewers including timeliness (we get to posting recordings, which is time consuming, when we can), the ability to participate in a live event (think of it as a performance such as a concert), you can ask questions in real time, and in the webinars in the series coming up the opportunity for personal feedback and display of your work.

Your sense of feeling “cheated” is simply outrageous considering today’s world (what, because others might get to enjoy some of what you’ve had without paying a modest fee?). Please don’t bother replying, there is nothing you could say except “I’m sorry” that would interest me.

I bring this issue to your attention in detail rather than “letting sleeping dogs lie” because if one person feels this way about our posting the recordings for free, perhaps others do as well. So I wanted to clear the air, and explain why we are posting the recordings for free. As I’ve noted, this is our policy for now, it is not necessarily our policy for all times. We want to help right now as best we can, be as inclusive as we can, and build community. We truly believe that we are all in this together.

What do you think? Does our decision make sense? 

That’s all for now, thanks!

Harold & Phyllis

Bench © Harold Davis

Bench © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography