Category Archives: Flowers

Petals on Parade

This is one of the light box compositions I’ve made using the glorious spring weather in northern California since I’ve been home from Spain!

Petals on Parade © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency: A new book from Harold Davis

We’re excited to announce a new book: The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency by Harold Davis.

 Of course, my new book will showcase many of my botanical images. In addition, there will be extensive material explaining my process for photographing flowers on a light box. There will be a section on post-production, including a detailed guide to using LAB color for inversions of white-to-black, and for creative color effects.

The is a serious book in terms of its pedagogy, as the techniques I use in my transparent floral work are useful in many aspects of digital photography.

There will also be technical notes for the images in the book explaining how I made each image.

It’s a great deal of fun writing and designing this book. I have been working on this project for many years, so it is very exciting to me to see it progressing (my new book will be available in 2019)!

The images paired below are of poppies and mallow from my garden, captured, processed and inverted using the techniques I explain in The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency. If you’d like to learn more about these techniques before my new book is available, please check out my FAQs: Photographing Flowers for Transparency and Using a High-Key Layer Stack.

Poppies and Mallows on Black (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Poppies and Mallows on White © Harold Davis

Also posted in Writing

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies is a good example showing one of the organizing principles I teach in my Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop and my books. The first premise is that there needs to be an organizing principle in a light box image (or in any photograph, or any image, for that matter!).

Composition with Delphinium and Poppies © Harold Davis

Taking the idea that one needs a compositional organizational principle as a given, it is then possible to create a taxonomy of possibilities. These include roughly circular, spiral, color field, another kind of color fieldhorizontal panoramic view, vertical panoramic view, leading off the frame, crossing the frame, and more (an example of each is linked). I’ve even essayed a paint-splatter effect with flowers!

This image (the Composition with Delphinium and Poppies) epitomizes what is probably the most common botanical organization: relying on a single, unifying stalk, in this case the delphinium’s, underpinned by the distinctive delphinium green leaves.  You can find many examples of this organizing principle in my work

Of course, the poppies don’t really belong attached to the delphinium stalk, and for literal-minded folks who notice this might be a distraction. But for a general audience, from a compositional viewpoint, the literal truth of the real world doesn’t matter so long as the composition looks holistically plausible.

One other point is that this composition is built around a strong diagonal. The entire delphinium leads the eye up and out to the right of the frame. It is important in this style of composition to have directed movement of a portion of the composition that contrasts with the more static elements (the poppies). It’s also worth noting that I photographed the image with the delphinium pointing up and out to the left, and reversed the direction by flipping the image horizontally in post-production.

Also posted in Photography

Papaver Rhoeas

What joy to come home to my family and garden in Berkeley, and find spring still in bloom! These are two Papaver rhoeas—corn poppies—from our garden. I photographed each on a light box, and then inverted them in LAB color. You can find some info on these techniques in my website FAQs, and there will be a great deal more in the new book that I am working on!

Papaver Rhoeas 1 Inversion © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 1 © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 2 © Harold Davis

Papaver Rhoeas 2 Inversion © Harold Davis

The variation between specimens from the same flower cluster is pretty amazing: each flower is different, just as every person differs from each other, even when there are close genetic similarities!

Also posted in Photography

Dandelion in Calvignac

Wherever I am, I cannot resist a nice dandelion! This one was in Calvignac, in the southwest of France.

Dandelion in Calvignac B © Harold Davis

Dandelion in Calvignac A © Harold Davis

Apple Blossoms

From the median strip of nearby Arlington Avenue we clipped some branches from a beautiful, blooming apple tree. Arlington Ave is too busy for my taste, and one has to be careful of cars zooming by when one does this clipping business, but some of my best photographic subjects have come from this location—such as this cherry branch, and this blood-drawing thistle.

If you look closely, you’ll see a patch of lichen on the lower left of my light box arrangement. I particularly like this touch, because I feel it adds apparent verisimilitude to the composition.

Apple Blossoms Daze © Harold Davis

Apple Blossoms on White © Harold Davis

Apple Blossoms on Paper © Harold Davis

Apple Blossoms Inversion © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Oxalis

Oxalis is a modest plant, considered more weed than flower. The Oxalis shown here is Oxalis stricta, also known as yellow woodsorrel or sourgrass. In season, this Oxalis grows in profusion around here in vacant lots, underneath trees, and on hillsides. It’s quite edible, and great for chewing on with contemplation. When I am in “human cow” mode and chewing on my cud of Oxalis, it is pleasing that sourgrass does not really live up to its name. It is not sour, at least not so much.

Oxalis A © Harold Davis

Oxalis B © Harold Davis

Oxalis C © Harold Davis

Related recent images: Street Grasses, Decorative Grasses, and Blades of Grass.

Also posted in Photography

Garden Flowers with Proteus

Most of the flowers in this light box arrangement come from our garden, except the Proteus. We do have a beautiful Proteus bush in my garden—Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbons’—grown from infancy when my kids were also infants, to maturity now. But the Proteus in this image came from a store. The flower, that is, came from the store: not my kids!

Garden Flowers with Proteus © Harold Davis

Color Field of Flowers

Thanks for participating in my previous request for comments on Decorative Grasses and Blades of Grass. Today’s Which variation do you prefer? And, why? involves six images. What these variations have in common is the subject matter: the same floral arrangement was photographed in each.

Four of the images involve different processing of the full composition, with a version on white, an inversion on black, a version with a virtual “frame,” and a woodcut-like black & white version. I have presented these images as verticals.

The other two images, shown as horizontals, involve closer-in captures, with a different (stronger) magnification.

Which do you like best, and why? I particularly appreciate comments entered directly on the blog story (the comment box is below, or follow this link!). Thanks.

Color Field of Flowers on White © Harold Davis

Color Field of Flowers on White with a Deckled Edge © Harold Davis

Inverted Color Field of Flowers © Harold Davis

Black and White Field of Flowers © Harold Davis

Flower Friends © Harold Davis

Papaver Nudicaule © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Bouquet for Phyllis

Bouquet for Phyllis © Harold Davis

With love, gratitude, and appreciation to Phyllis for all she does to make my life complete, and for our family—and her patience, strength, and fortitude in the face of life’s vicissitudes. Thank you, Phyllis! I love you always.

FAQs on how I make this kind of image: Photographing Flowers for Transparency and Using a High-Key Layer Stack.

The Bouquet I left Behind

This is a handheld iPhone capture of a light box flower arrangement (the full resolution “big boy” camera version will follow in the due fullness of time). The light box in this capture is turned off, so essentially it is a white background with ambient front lighting. I processed the image on my iPhone using the Snapseed, Mextures, and DistressedFX apps.

The Bouquet I left Behind © Harold Davis

 

Also posted in iPhone

Red Anemone

Yesterday we decided it was time to do some spring planting so I would have flowers to photograph and so our garden would look pretty. We came home with a few bulbs, some poppy plants, and a red anemone. Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was to photograph a red anemone flower blooming on our small plant on my light box!

Red Anemone © Harold Davis

Anemones are named after the mythological Greek spirits of the wind, because of how nicely they bob around in a breeze.

If you love anemones as much as I do you might like to check out some of my other anemone photos. Here are some other anemone images of mine: An Amazing Amalgamation of Anemones; Anemone Fun; Anemones; Core of the Anemone; Anemone on Black; White Anemone; Anemone Japonica.

These images of course go back a number of years. You can see these and more via a keyword search for “anemone” on my blog!

Also posted in Photography

Star Magnolia

Star Magnolia—magnolia stellata—is one of my favorite flowers. In the past I’ve photographed magnolia stellata for transparency here, as an upright branch, and as a light box panorama.

The two photos in this story are made in the field. I photographed these new stellata blossoms on location down the block, with the idea of contrasting the center of each flower with the softness of the stellata petals.

Magnolia Stellata B © Harold Davis

Magnolia Stellata © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

From the iPhone files

Here are two recent iPhone images. I photographed the tree in the Walnut Creek area in the foothills below Mt Diablo. This was originally two iPhone captures, one exposed for the bright sun coming through the tree, and the other for the darker foreground. 

Tree © Harold Davis

I combined the two exposures using the manual option in the TrueHDR iPhone app, then finished it with DistressedFX and Snapseed.

I photographed the tulips (shown below) the other day at our local Trader Joe’s store. I processed the image in Waterlogue to create the watercolor effect with borders, then reprocessed the Waterlogue version with the original (using ImageBlender) to walk the Waterlogue effect back a bit.

Tulips © Harold Davis

I’m often asked how iPhoneography compares to “real” photography with my “Big Boy” cameras. It’s worth saying again that there is no right or wrong. Photography is about vision and seeing, not about gear. The craft of photography is always a craft of trade-offs, and there are things I can do with my iPhone camera and related apps that I cannot do with my Nikon D850 (and of course vice versa as well).

Also posted in iPhone, Landscape

A Trio of Tulips (and Macro Lenses)

Phyllis came home with a beautiful bouquet of tulips, and this morning I photographed them on the kitchen table. Warm morning sunlight lit the flowers from behind with a glow. I could control the light using the adjustable blinds on the kitchen windows, and also by moving the placement of the flowers so they were in and out of sunbeams.

Inside the Tulip C © Harold Davis

This is the tale of some pretty flowers, nice natural ambient light, and three different 85mm lenses. To start with, I had my heavy-duty RRS tripod on the floor so I could bring the ballhead to the right height to get into the tulip blossoms from beneath. I mounted a 50mm extension tube with a tripod collar onto the ballhead. 

My first image, Inside the Tulip C (above), was made using my Zeiss Otus 85mm at f/16, focused as close as it could go on the extension tube.

Inside the Tulip B © Harold Davis

To make the next version, Inside the Tulip B (above), I swapped my 85mm Zeiss Otus for the 85mm Lensbaby Velvet and photographed wide-open (at f/1.8). Essentially, I was trading optical perfection for perfection in impressionismo! The Lensbaby Velvet makes a very different image stopped down (to f/16) in Inside the Tulip A (below)—note that the point of focus was the same for both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ versions. It’s worth mentioning that this lens has macro capabilities, so (combined with the extension tube) I was definitely working at a greater magnification ratio than in the ‘C’ version.

Inside the Tulip A © Harold Davis

Since I’d already had fun with two different 85mm lenses, I decided to try a third, my Nikkor 85mm tilt-shift macro. As I’ve noted before, this is a fully manual lens, without even automatic diaphragm control—you need to press a button to manually stop the lens down when you are ready to expose.

Combined with the extension tube with the macro capabilities of this lens you can really get pretty much into microscope territory. But is too much ever enough? I added a +4 close-up filter to the front of the lens, focused on the small central indent in the tulip petals, and stopped down to f/45 (as an “adjusted aperture” this records in EXIF data as f/64 by the way).

Tulip Petal © Harold Davis

Since this is a monochromatic image (in orange) and more about the patterns it presents than the coloration, I decided to try a black and white conversion, shown below.

Tulip Petal in Black and White © Harold Davis

All-in-all, a fun morning was spent photographing tulips up close and personal. There were some other things on my lists to accomplish, but I have learned (when I can) to relax, let go, and let art!