Category Archives: Coronavirus times

Painting of Coney Island Beach

This is a detail of an oil painting of Coney Island Beach by my grandfather Harry Davis, circa 1940. Clearly, no masks are being worn. Will we ever crowd together in the same way again? What will the new post-pandemic life look like?

Patterns and Repetitions are where you find them

Phyllis and I had “double date” appointments with the Eye Clinic on the U.C. Berkeley campus. Visiting the optometrist in a time of masks and social distancing was certainly a novel experience.

Bike Rack © Harold Davis

Bike Rack © Harold Davis

Anyhow, I finished first. While waiting for Phyllis, with my dilated eyes, I walked around the campus with the camera I had with me, my iPhone. Things were pretty much deserted, including the bicycle rack shown. I carefully lowered myself in between the “spokes”. It took a number of tries to get the image centered correctly to take advantage of the visual patterns, and the repetition of the empty racks.

The image below, of our nested kitchen mixing bowls with a nautilus shell slice, was photographed on black velvet, and originally presented in black and white. The other day, Phyllis requested a color version for a possible cover design.

Nesting Bowls in Color © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Skeletons in the Hood

This year, there seems to be plenty of pre-Halloween activity in the neighborhood. Perhaps in the same pandemic spirit as the many close-by home improvement projects: the psychology seems to be, we’re home, we’re bored, we have time on our hands, let’s have at the new patio or deck.

Or, along with boredom at sheltering-in-place, with some conscious or unconscious irony: what better time of year to consider how easily death might invade our daily lives than Halloween?

The schadenfreude hardly needs to be pointed out: we and our neighbors are here at the periphery of this plague to enjoy Halloween displays in the neighborhood, while others are dead, or sick, homeless, or unemployed.

Spectral Light © Harold Davis

Spectral Light © Harold Davis

Masks © Harold Davis

Masks © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone, Photography

Coming Up Soon! And, hanging in there…

I hope everyone is doing well, and hanging in there (as we are). We have four kids doing distance learning from home (two in college, one in high school, and our youngest Katie in middle school). They are doing surprisingly well in terms of academics, but I am concerned about the long-term impact on their relationships with the world, and with other people.

While this is no time to relax one’s vigilance, and my fingers are deeply crossed regarding the upcoming election, I do believe that we can see, if not the light at the end of the tunnel, at least the light at the end of the tunnel refracted on the internal curvature in the tunnel’s wall. In other words, I am hopeful that sometime towards the middle of 2021 we may be able to resume more-or-less normal life. 

Although, of course, it is hard to predict things, particularly about the future. These days, even my short-term crystal ball seems pretty cloudy.

This week, I want to call your special attention to the Patterns, Abstractions & Composition webinar on Saturday October 17, 2020. Click here for registration, here for more info, and here for our ongoing webinar schedule.

A special thanks to those who have reviewed our new book Creative Garden Photography. I am deeply appreciative, and these reviews contribute greatly to our ability to successfully continue with my work.

We are continuing to offer special edition prints to individual collectors for the duration of the pandemic at a very special price. Click here for details. Of course, if you’d like a larger size print, these are available as well. Please contact us to discuss the specifics, and for a quotation.

Finally, I want to call out and thank our great panelists Jennifer King and Alan Shapiro, and all of you who attended their webinar. Collectively, we were able to contribute a tidy sum to the NAACP.

Our next Master Photographer panel is on November 14, 2020 and benefits the Center for Policing Equity. With panelists the inspirational floral photographer Anne Belmont and legendary photographer and author Bryan Peterson, you won’t want to miss this one. Click here for registration, and here for more information.

Eureka Dunes 5 © Harold Davis

Eureka Dunes 5 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography, Writing

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.

Also posted in Photography, Writing

Ten things to make me happy come the Zombie Apocalypse

  • Toilet paper. Who really cares? I don’t. Folks will generally find a way to clean their you-know-whats. Feel superior (but still kindly and compassionate) to folks obsessing about TP.
  • In a Zombie Apocalypse you don’t have to drive the kids to school, or pick them up.
  • There’s no need to get dressed for meetings during a Zombie Apocalypse, at least below the waist. You can wear your bedroom slippers all day, if you’d like.
  • A Zombie Apocalypse is a great time to finish all those creative projects you have on hold.
  • Staying at home is good for gardening, and for flower photography.
  • Coffee. We have a blend from Scarlet City Roasting that is guaranteed to see us through the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Keto-friendly chocolate. I have a box of very low carb chocolate bars coming from the Good Chocolate Company. This delicious chocolate is actually pretty good for you even if you are staying away from sugar. Discount code: STAYHOMEWITHCHOCOLATE.
  • I know we won’t go nuts because we get nuts delivered quickly and in certified gluten-free style from
  • All the inspirational musicians playing from home on YouTube every day. Particularly Mary Chapin Carpenter.
  • Cleaner air. This is a wonderful thing, and should make us all plan to have cleaner air without a pandemic.

Okay, so there are actually eleven things: last, but hardly least, staying home and spending time with my wonderful family!

Point Bonita Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Point Bonita Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Also posted in Writing

This Too Shall Pass—and What Then?

This too shall pass. It will take some time. Perhaps far longer than we’d like, and there will be tragic losses. The changes that will be wrought will be more fundamental and wide-ranging than most people realize at this point in time.

Civilization © Harold Davis

Civilization © Harold Davis

A new society will arise from the ashes. Let’s not give into the forces of authoritarianism and evil. Let’s use this as a learning experience to implement:

  • Universal health care
  • Less of a gap between rich and poor
  • More, better, and different education
  • More reflection and thoughtfulness about the way resources are shared and distributed
  • Practicing kindness, empathy, and communal feeling, along with respect for the individual

Of course, not everyone will agree with me about the new world we should build. But let’s take the silver lining in the cloud, and create a new order that appreciates art, and is gentler and more thoughtful.

Related stories: Love in the Time of the Coronavirus and Shopping in the Time of the Coronavirus.

Cycle of Life © Harold Davis

Cycle of Life © Harold Davis

Also posted in Writing

Inflection Points and the Donut of Doom

Now that I have your attention! OK, the donut of doom does not refer to the Coronavirus pandemic, nor to Homer Simpson. Per the New York Times, “doughnut of doom” is an expression related to visualizations of black holes. And, is “doughnut” or “donut” the preferred spelling? Inquiring minds want to know.

Anyhow, please stand by. Since I can’t teach in person and am restricted to home, we are preparing to roll-out a series of Livestream Webinar Workshops. The live webinars will be posted for free download after a time delay on my YouTube channel.

See you virtually and online, and stay healthy!

Skim Ice on the Merced © Harold Davis

Skim Ice on the Merced © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography, YouTube

Double Feature

The Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, California may be closed while we shelter in place, but I am looking forward very much to the double feature coming soon: The Death of the Coronavirus plus The End of Donald Trump. Can’t wait!

Double Feature - The Death of the Coronavirus and The End of Donald Trump

Photo credit: Gaylord Burke. Used with permission.

Also posted in Photography

Shopping in the Time of the Coronavirus

Shopping in the time of the Coronavirus starts with questions. How safe is it to go shopping? What is the risk-reward profile? Where are we on the curve of the pandemic?

What will be in stock? How long will the line to get in be? Will the store enforce the mandatory six-feet of separation? And, most of all, will someone sneeze and infect me (infecting my family, with me as the unintentional vector)?

We are shopping for eight people.

The logistics of hygiene are formidable. We have N-95 masks in the car and a box of nitrile gloves. I leave everything at home that is non-essential to avoid having to wipe down anything extra.

We get up early and dress in clothes that will be easy to strip for washing before reentering the house. My wedding ring comes off, and stays home.

We are ninjas. Queue the Mission Impossible music. We will rise before dawn and get there before the line.

When we get there, the line already snakes around the parking lot. There’s confusion, cars trying to drive through the line of people, a few outliers trying to cut into line.

Inside the store there’s a drive like a cattle stampede or a quickly darting shoal of fish, most wearing strange masks and gloves, towards the paper products. We are there early, in the special hours for old people, but there isn’t any toilet paper.

Come the Zombie Apocalypse I would consider going for the chocolate and cognac. It’s not clear to me that extra-soft TP would be my top priority.

The wine aisles are ransacked. There are no beans of any sort. There’s one box of UHT milk, one chicken pack, and one nasal-spray pack per party.

We spend close to a thousand dollars, and consider it money well spent. We are of course lucky to have it to spend this way.

Like the folks that locked themselves in a deep mine for 5,000 years to survive catastrophe in Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, we are considering locking our garden gate behind us until this is all over.

Clematis with Friends (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Clematis with Friends (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Except this is probably a fantasy.

Before leaving the parking lot, car door handles get wiped down with bleach, and gloves come carefully off and into a trash can.

Dropping some of the food off at my parents’ house, I leave their case of wine in the carport. We carry the food up to the front door and wave through the glass, leaving quickly so as not to risk any contact when they open the door.

They are querulous. They prefer fresh fruit and produce to the frozen stuff (who doesn’t?), and have been avoiding tuna and swordfish up to now because of mercury. Later, I’m told the tuna tastes good (at least it doesn’t have good taste, as the ad from my childhood declaimed), but I am sure they still are concerned about the mercury and too polite to say so.

In their nineties, my parents have been thrust into this new, impossible world. I feel that a bit of grumpiness is perfectly appropriate.

As one gets older, I do think that change is more difficult, and that it is harder to be flexible.

The only places I’ve ever personally seen food shortages and lines like this are in Cuba and Haiti.

Next stop is home. We do the hygiene protocol in reverse. Doors were left unlocked on latch. We bring the stuff into the kitchen, being careful to not let the kids touch it to help carry, even though they are eager to help.

The 50lb bag of sushi rice feels like it weighs fifty pounds at least when I carry it in. Good thing I’ve been practicing those farmer carries.

We go round to the front and strip buck naked. Everything is off, including shoes.

Then it’s into the shower, wash everything including hair and under nails, back into the kitchen. Unload everything out of cartons, squash the cartons into recycle, wash down again, and package the food into fridge, freezer, and pantry.

The past has gone irrevocably. This is the present. The future hasn’t come into focus yet. There are forks on the road ahead.

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography, Writing

Love in the Time of the Coronavirus

Two of the best books I know that involve pandemics are the well-known classics Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. Both involve great scourges of humanity through the ages, cholera and bubonic plague.

I think of Márquez’s book as an intellectual’s romantic parable about several kinds of love, in which the eponymous cholera plays a symbolic role to remind the reader that lovesickness is a disease, too.

But A Journal of the Plague Year has specific resonance with our times, and it gave me nightmares after I first read it many years ago. The narrative is apparently non-fictional, eye witnessed, and journalistic. When Defoe wrote his account in the 1720s, the last major bubonic plague was still within living memory in the late 1600s, although the narrator presents it as contemporaneous. In this fictional non-fictional account, grass grows in the once-busy streets of London, specific neighborhoods are traced as they succumb to plague, and the dead lie unnamed in vast Potter’s fields that remind one of the aerial views today of graves in Iran.

It’s more than possible that Defoe’s opus was propaganda-for-hire, intended to bolster the case in the 1720s for stronger protectionism and border controls. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

“May you live in interesting times” is apocryphally quoted as a Chinese curse, and these are truly times that would be more comfortable to learn about from a history book than to live through.

In this regard, as the Wizard Gandalf famously notes in the Lord of the Rings, we don’t really get to decide what time we live in: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Trying times bring out the worst in people. I am thinking right now of those who would bend the knee to the false God of money over the lives of people. But difficult times also bring out the best in people, heroes who care for others, such as the selfless front-line medical workers in the coronavirus pandemic, who are dying at an awful rate.

Tulips that Were © Harold Davis

Tulips that Were © Harold Davis

In a very real sense, nature just doesn’t care. Through years spent hiking in the mountains from Alaska to Maine, I’ve learned that, however much one loves nature and loves being in nature, you just have to take nature as an extrinsic force that cannot be reasoned with. A storm at sea or a fall in the mountains can kill you perfectly, and without an iota of consciousness.

Anthropomorphism of the natural life force is, I believe, a mistake—unless intended as a metaphor. I’ve seen small blood-sucking leaches beside the trail in the jungles of Vietnam, blindly casting about for any warm-blooded creature, not because the leach is mean and ornery, but because that is what the leach does. This is much like the coronavirus infectious particle. It just seems evil to us, but it is merely doing what it does.

We are sheltering in place, a family of six. My parents, in their nineties, are alone in their own isolation behind glass doors. We bring them groceries; leave them outside the doors, wave kisses, and depart. They know that because of their age if they are hospitalized they will be the first to be sacrificed to triage, and offered palliation only.

Shopping is an excruciating experience of mask and glove protocol. We are allowed out for an exercise walk provided we keep six feet away from other people. This turns into an awkward social dance where pleasantries about “hanging in there” are exchanged while we subliminally jockey to see who will yield the right-of-way first.

These are the worst of times, and the best of times. I am at home with those I love more than anyone else in the world, my family. And, this too shall pass.

Once long ago when I traversed the Brooks Range in Alaska solo in deep fear for my life I was granted a vision that let me know I would be safe.

I was reminded of this when a few nights ago, deep in an anxiety dream about a vast car crash in which I was a passenger, the car I was in on a freeway swirled round and round in slower and slower spirals. I kept waiting for the fatal crash, but it never came. Instead, I heard a voice: “You will be okay.”

We will be okay.

Tulips that Were (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Tulips that Were (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Also posted in Writing