Category Archives: Flowers

Have you ever seen a poppy seed up really close and personal?

By way of background, check out Poppy Dancer and All Along the Watchtowers and the Papapver pod bouquet in Recent Images.

Looking at the close-up of the top of a Papaver pod in Crown of Papavers (below), I’d like to point a few things out. The ring of arches just below the “crown” is where fertilized poppy seeds come out once the pod is “ripe.” Somewhat like curtains, the “entrances” to the passages to the inside curl down. You can see these as curved pads below each opening.

The amazing part are the highly-magnified poppy seeds themselves. If you look at them closely (click the image on your computer to enlarge it, or use “haptic” motions on a phone or iPad to view the seeds more closely) you’ll see that these are not just the simple little black dots we associate with the poppy seed. At this intense magnification, they are patterned and almost honeycombed. There’s amazing detail and structure even in the smallest things in the natural world.

Crown of Papavers © Harold Davis

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Poppy Dancer and All Along the Watchtowers

Lately, I’ve been photographing poppy pods, dried poppies from our garden. In a few instances, these remains-of-the-day poppies look like fantastic figurines, as in Poppy Dancer, immediately below. 

Poppy Dancer © Harold Davis

For me, this image of a dried poppy resembles a lithe dancer, in a tutu and with a hat. Ironically, I once used in-camera multiple exposures to photograph a human dancer with “poppy” in her name as a model.

Many of the poppy pods are architectural, in the way of sculpture or pottery, when you look at them highly magnified—architectural forms from nature, like those used by Antonin Gaudi. Or perhaps All Along the Watchtowers (below) most resembles a portion of a Southeast Asia Opium Warlord’s palace.

All Along the Watchtowers © Harold Davis

Gear and post-production stuff: I photographed on a velvet background using my Nikon D850 on a heavy-duty tripod. The lens was the Nikkor 200mm f/4 macro, with a 50mm Nikon PN-11 extension tube between the lens and camera. For the images that resembled architecture, the biggest problem was to angle the perspective so the viewer can see the “arcades” and “arches.” To help with this, I added a +4 close-up lens. 

Exposure and processing were using a sequence of low-key HDR captures, as explained in my webinar video recordings Photography on Black and The Blossfeldt Effect.

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Recent Images

I’m pleased with my images from the last week or so, and am having trouble keeping up with my photography in post-production, and also as a blogger. But here are three of my recent images (below). There’s just so much going on the real world and with family…

On the Workshop front, the early-bird discount on Photography Flowers for Transparency ends soon. And, I’m off to Iceland for photography in two weeks!

Papaver Pods © Harold Davis

I never promised you a rose garden © Harold Davis

Gaillardia © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography, Workshops

A white poppy and a mandala

White Poppy © Harold Davis

Please keep in mind our in-person Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop the weekend of September 25-26 located in Berkeley, California. There’s a $200 early-bird discount until the end of June. Click here for more information.

Full Nelson (Mandala) Black version © Harold Davis

Full Nelson (Mandala) © Harold Davis

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Some flowers from our garden

The Way Things Were © Harold Davis

Papaver rhoeas © Harold Davis

Click here for our upcoming (September) Photographing Flowers for Transparency in-person workshop!

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Save the Last Dance

For this image, I framed essentially a portrait view of the mallow (upper left) and the poppy (along the right, purple and red).

For some reason, the Save the Last Dance song, melody and lyrics, went through my head as I composed and honed the image. So I used the song as the name for my image. Perhaps the poppy is addressing the mallow? Flowers are so ephemeral.

Save the Last Dance for Me © Harold Davis

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Fantasy in the Key of Campanula

Often when I am through with the primary photography in a light box design, I continue to experiment by adding lines, weaving botanicals, getting closer, and anything else that is fun that I can think of. Fantasy in the Key of Campanula is an example of this kind of improvisation, with the lines of the Campanulas (Bell flower) laid over the original design, then photographed close for a different kind of composition.

Fantasy in the Key of Campanula © Harold Davis

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Inside a Hollyhock

My inspection inside blossoms continues on from the Foxglove (Digitalis) to a beautiful, crimson Hollyhock (Alcea rosea) blossom.

Hollyhock © Harold Davis

Matilija Poppies

The Matilija Poppy (Romneya coulteri) is native to California, with a range from Mexico through northern California. This is a drought tolerant species that can be somewhat invasive once established—but, lordy, does one love being invaded by the Matilija with its big, translucent white flower petals, and yellow stamen cores that have been likened to a hard-boiled egg yolk.

Two other fun Matilija facts: the sap of the Matilija is highly poisonous, and the flower (genus Romneya) was named in the Linaean taxonomic system for Irish astronomer John Thomas Romney Robinson (1792-1882). There’s clearly an interesting tangent here, because Robinson was a good friend of Charles Babbage, and there is some evidence that a conversation between the two of them may have helped to spark the idea for Babbage’s Difference Engine (a forerunner of the modern computer).

Tangents aside, I love to create images on my light box that overlay the translucent Matilija with more colorful flowers, as you can see from the sequence below, and also in Matilija Poppies and Mallows and Matilija Poppies and Friends (among many others).

The Right to Assemble © Harold Davis

Matilija Poppy © Harold Davis

Let Poppies Reign Forever © Harold Davis

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Falling in Love

It’s hard not to fall in love with a poppy like this Papaver rhoeas ‘Falling in Love’ (a kind of “corn poppy” using the common term). Click here for more recent photos of poppies from our garden!

Falling in Love © Harold Davis

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Carpe Papaver

With the poppies (Papavers) blooming like crazy in our garden, I am sure the right thing to do is to “carpe Papaver.” In fact, photographically speaking—and perhaps in life as well—it is most often a good idea to take the opportunities one is offered and embrace them with both arms. 

Hence these three poppy bouquets, and a new close-up of the core of the poppy (at the end of this story). I say these close images of the center of the poppy are like marine creatures in appearance!

Bouquet of Poppies from the Garden © Harold Davis

Papavers in a vase © Harold Davis

Glorious © Harold Davis


Papaver hybridium ‘Danebrog’ © Harold Davis

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Inside Digitalis

Digitalis purpurea is commonly called the Foxglove, I suppose because a fox could slip the flowers on its fingers, at least in fairy land. In fact, the flower is long associated with the beauty and peril of faerie, and sometimes also called the fairy-bell flower.

Digitalis is known for its medicinal properties. Dried seeds and flowers are a powerful heart stimulant, although note that the plant is also toxic—so don’t try ingesting this at home, kiddos. Vincent van Gogh may have: this beautiful flower appears in a number of van Gogh’s paintings, and van Gogh was certainly no stranger to the psycho-pharmacopoeia.

Inside Digitalis © Harold Davis

The inflorescence of the plant is covered with the eponymous bell-shaped blossoms. Inside, each blossom is really more cone than bell. My photo shows the inside of one of these blossoms, with backlighting from a light box. 

You can clearly see the green flower ovary, rising from the floor of the flower, and the arched gate of stamen leading to the ovary. While the Digitalis spots are wonderfully colorful, we don’t quite get the disco light show that a pollinator would: the round dots are luminescent, emitting colors beyond the human range of perception. It would be a dull pollinator indeed that missed the message of where to go once inside this colorful passage.

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Flowers or Sea Creatures on Earth Day

Today is Earth Day 2021, and I present some close-up photographs of flowers. These are images of the core of a poppy (Papaver hybridium), but looked at as abstract forms they could also be, perhaps, sea creatures.

Have you ever looked really close at a flower or plant? Go ahead! There are worlds within.

When beauty makes me cry © Harold Davis

Cupcake Core © Harold Davis

One if by land © Harold Davis

The sequence above is shown from farthest out, to closest in—with the flower core looking most like a marine creature or insect at the highest magnification.

Corn Poppy is a related image, shown here.

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Corn Poppy

Sometimes when I photograph a broad composition on my light box I take a break when my primary composition is done. I leave my camera on the tripod. Then after a copy of tea or a wander in the garden I come back and look at portions of the whole, and even examine individual flowers as they appear back lit on the light box. Maybe it is time to get closer! This image of a Corn Poppy, Papaver rhoeas, is one result that I think is pretty special.

Corn Poppy © Harold Davis

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Peonies mon amour

This is a version of my Peonies mon amour image with a little space added above the upper flower at the request of the art director at a licensing client.

Peonies mon amour © Harold Davis

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