Category Archives: Bemusements

Rubin’s Vase Optical Illusion with Harold’s Profile

Vase or Profile Inversion © Harold Davis

Rubin’s Vase is a well-known optical illusion developed by Danish psychologist Edgar Rubin whose primary research field was figure-ground perception. When you look at the image above, do you see a vase, or a profile that is mirrored? As it happens, the profile is mine!

I was reminded of the Rubin’s Vase phenomenon when I was researching the “Positive and Negative Space” chapter in my forthcoming book Composition & Photography: Working with Photography Using Design Concepts.

To make this image, Phyllis used her iPhone to capture my profile (perhaps I am not at my handsomest in this portrait?!). Portrait with Vase (bottom) shows this profile view, reflected on the vertical axis.

Phyllis emailed my profile to Mitja in Slovenia (via his Etsy store), who used 3-D printing to make a vase that followed the contours of my profile, shown in the center of Portrait with Vase. The vase arrived at our doorstep in a neat international mail package complete with customs declaration.

I photographed the vase with it placed lying down on a light box, to intentionally create a high-contrast image with the camera-facing plane of the vase in deep shadow (see Vase or Profile, immediately below). The L-channel of this image (using LAB color) was inverted to give the Vase or Profile Inversion version shown at the top of this story. Both images were subsequently converted to black and white to make the illusion work better.

Vase or Profile © Harold Davis

Portrait with Vase © Harold Davis

Also posted in Abstractions, Photography


In common with many photographers, I like to collect visual oddities. Yellow Stanchion, below, is odd because of the prosaic foreground subject contrasted with the almost elegiac background of the big rocks guarding Westmanyar harbor in the fog.

Wrapped Hay Bales (far below) is visually odd for a number of reasons, including the threatening sky, and the absence of scale indications. If you aren’t aware of the Icelandic habit of wrapping hay bales in plastic against the frequently wet weather, then the whole composition probably seems improbable.

Yellow Stanchion © Harold Davis

Wrapped Hay Bales © Harold Davis

Also posted in Iceland

Night Photo Webinar Contribution to Alameda County Community Food Bank

Special thanks to Jeff Sullivan and the attendees of our Night Photography webinar yesterday! Thanks to you, we were able to contribute $972.57 to Alameda County Community Food Bank. According to their website, every $1.00 contributed to this organization results in seven times the amount donated in food given away. So that is quite a bit of food in these times that are so tough for so many!

We’ll be posting the recording of the event once it has been processed. Click here for the listing of our webinar video recordings, and here for our upcoming schedule.

Heidelberg at Night © Harold Davis

Also posted in Workshops

I Have Minted Two NFTs

I have “minted” two NFTs—non-fungible tokens. To break this down a little further, to mint an asset such as a digital file means to place it on the blockchain. Placing the asset—the NFT—on the blockchain also generally means in the case of digital art to associate it with ability to buy and sell it using cryptocurrency, most often with digital art, Ethereum. 

Just saying, you can make NFTs out of things that have nothing to do with art. Just saying, a JPEG file minted into an NFT recently sold for $69 Million via the Christie’s Auction House. Just saying, what can you do with this thing besides buying and selling it (you can’t hang it on your wall)?

My first NFT is Petal Pushing, a GIF file. The description reads “This is a hand-created artisinal GIF file forged in Photoshop from a series of LAB L-channel inversion light box petal images by free-range artist and photographer Harold Davis.” The “Buy It Now” price is 0.5 Ethereum (or about $850 at today’s exchange rate). You can check it out here on Rarible, and here on OpenSea.

Petal Pushing © Harold Davis

My second NFT is Harold Davis—Petal Circles.gif, another GIF file. The description reads “This is a hand-created artisinal GIF file forged in Photoshop from a series of  light box petal images by artist and photographer Harold Davis.” The “Buy It Now” price is one Ethereum (or about $1700 at today’s exchange rate). You can check it out here on Rarible, and here on OpenSea.

Harold Davis—Petal-Circles.gif © Harold Davis

They are such a bargain, compared to $69 Million at least. Just saying. And just to be clear, what are you buying? You can’t put it on the wall. You are buying the one minted copy, but it can still be digitally copied and displayed. And, you are not buying my copyright in the image or its components. So, this is literally a trading vehicle—which can be said for some art editions, and some original art, as well!

More thoughtfully, I did have a few minutes back in the 2000 aughts when I was just starting as a digital artist and photographer when I considered whether there really was a reason to make a physical manifestation of an image. Then I fell in love with physical printmaking, making books, and all the old-fashioned stuff. 

Phyllis came over to my work station as I was going through the software gyrations to load up my digital wallet with Ethereum and pay for the “minting.” She said, and I quote, “Just what do you think you are doing?”

She has a point. But I’m going to stick with it a bit, and so far have enjoyed my first venture on the blockchain, with cybercurrency, and with minting NFTs.

Also posted in Business of Art

Visiting a Garden of Cars

International Car Forest of the Last Church © Harold Davis

A while back, in the pre-pandemic era, I visited the International Car Forest of the Last Church. This so-called “Car Forest” is more like a car garden than a forest. Mostly wrecked, almost all painted, and largely “planted” front-end down in the desert earth, this installation is located near Goldfield, Nevada.

The county seat of Esmeralda County, Goldfield is a near-ghost-town and home to a few hundred people. Besides the International Car Forest of the Last Church, Goldfield also boasts the meanest bartender in Nevada. This observation is not based on my personal experience (never having encountered any bartenders in Nevada, mean or otherwise), but rather on the words of a sign near the Goldfield town center, shown in a photo below.

I regret to say that I missed checking out the meanest bartender in Nevada. If chance, fate, and a vaccine ever get me to the Goldfield area again I will not miss the opportunity a second time.

For some of my photography of more conventional gardens, please check out my new book Creative Garden Photography.

Nevada’s Meanest Bartender © Harold Davis

Roadside near Goldfield, Nevada © Harold Davis

Wheelee © Harold Davis

Installation in a Goldfield Parking Lot © Harold Davis

Bart Simpson Doll © Harold Davis


Pile-On © Harold Davis


School Bus © Harold Davis

Also 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.

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Last Gas

I found this signage advertising the “latest” bar on the Camino Portuguese shortly before the Spanish border where the great pilgrimage trail crosses the River Minho to Tui, Spain. By “latest” I’m pretty sure that they meant “last”—so this is one of those signs like “last gas in Nevada.” Does one really care? Are the bars in Spain so different from those in Portugal? Experience tells me: not so much.

Last Gas © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Our side door

We generally prefer folks use our front door, where there is a nice sheltered porch for Amazon to leave their near-constant droppings. But of course if you are a friend we don’t care what door you use, just as long as you visit! It is a little confusing, since our house is on a corner, with the address on San Fernando and both entrances (front and side) on San Ramon. Phyllis recently put up this sign on our side door, patterned of course after Bilbo’s notice from Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.

Our side door © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

French Signage

French signage found in small towns in “deep France” around the Dordogne: Enchanted Mushroom (for a speciality restaurant); Dog on a toilet (for a doggie run); and two pigs for a charcuterie shop.

Enchanted Mushroom

Enchanted Mushroom © Harold Davis

Doggie Do © Harold Davis

Doggie Do © Harold Davis

Pig 1 © Harold Davis

Pig 1 © Harold Davis

Pig 2 © Harold Davis

Pig 2 © Harold Davis

Also posted in France, iPhone

Don’t Even Think of Parking Here

© Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Vietnamese Viagra

When a guy in Vietnam feels the need for an increase in, shall we say, manliness, potency, and virility, he reaches not for a little blue pill but rather for a concoction of snakes fermented in alcohol, such as the blend shown in a glass jar in the image.

Vietamese Viagra © Harold Davis

Vietamese Viagra © Harold Davis

If you want to try this at home, note that King Cobras are best. Thanks to my friend and traveling companion Eric Ryan for his wit, and for this caption. To the best of my knowledge these are farmed snakes (the Vietnamese army runs a snake farm in the Mekong River delta, where we photographed this jar of snakes), rather than wild or endangered species.

Also posted in Vietnam


Ever since the era of Adam and Eve, there has been something enticing about an apple!

Apple © Harold Davis

Apple © Harold Davis

Hope is for hostages

Hope is for Hostages © Harold Davis

Incredibly Attractive Highly Repellant

Of course, this leads to a grammatical question: Is the implied subject female or fabric? Methinks it could be either, or maybe both.

Incredibly Attractive Highly Repellant © Harold Davis

Incredibly Attractive Highly Repellant © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone

Free Wrecked Blue Couch for House Guests You Hate

Wrecked Blue Couch © Harold Davis

Wrecked Blue Couch © Harold Davis

Here’s an ad I wrote for Craig’s List recently about one of the two couches we are trying to get rid of:

Too many folks trying to crash at your place? Let them sleep on this couch and they’ll move on fast! All four of my kids have had their way with this blue couch, and wife now wants to upgrade. It’s not in great shape, note the tear on the right arm fabric, but with a throw over it it still looks half way decent, and I could see it in a man cave or something. Basically, you are getting a wreck—with a width of about six feet. Come take it away for free, and win our thanks!

Not very surprisingly, we’ve had no takers. But it was fun writing the ad copy…