Category Archives: HDR

Fire Engine Restoration

My Maine Media Workshops Composition & Photography group visited an antique fire engine restoration atelier housed in a large barn. I gather this is one of the few antique fire engine restoration workshops in the country.

Fire Engine Restoration © Harold Davis

Mostly, these vintage engines are used in parades. In the image below you can see a framed painting on the wall showing a horse drawn fire engine from the “good old days”—what some of these fire engines must have looked like in their own time.

Fire Engine Restoration 2 © Harold Davis

While the workshop seemed a bit chaotic, it is remarkable the care they were taking in restoring these old engines to their full glory!

Enough Is Enough © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photograms

Rooftops of Paris Redux

The appeal of a 2016 Rooftops of Paris image—besides the wonderful patterns of chimneys, dormer windows, and Mansard roofs—is an intentional, and vaguely anachronistic, antique look. In contrast, the 2018 Rooftops of Paris shown below, is a post-film digital high-dynamic range (HDR) image that is very modern in its aesthetic intentions. 

This was a tricky image to make from a garret window high on the Montmartre Hill, and time-consuming to process as well (see below). This perhaps explains why I only got around to processing the RAW files (the digital analog to developing and printing) just now.

Rooftops of Paris © Harold Davis

The captures for this image were made from a small window, with my tripod awkwardly perched to take advantage of the setting sun receding behind a cloud bank. There were seven exposures, with each exposure using a 28mm moderate wide-angle focal-length lens at f/22 and ISO 64 on my Nikon D850. Exposure times varied from 1.3 seconds (lightest, for the foreground) to 1/80 of a second (darkest, for the sun burst). I used a combination of automated HDR, manual RAW processing, and layers and masking to create the final image.

For another recently processed view of Paris as landscape, click here.

My hope is to get back to Paris as soon as possible for more photography. For that, of course, we need vaccinations to beat the virus—and we need to stay thoughtful and vigilant.

Also posted in France, Paris, Photography

First-Order Fresnel Lens at Point Reyes Lighthouse

This is an image of the first-order Fresnel lens inside the Point Reyes Lighthouse on the western tip of Point Reyes, California. According to the Point Reyes National Seashore website, “the Fresnel lens intensifies the light by bending (or refracting) and magnifying the source light through crystal prisms into concentrated beams. The Point Reyes lens is divided into twenty-four vertical panels, which direct the light into twenty-four individual beams. A counterweight and gears similar to those in a grandfather clock rotate the 6000-pound lens at a constant speed, one revolution every two minutes. This rotation makes the beams sweep over the ocean surface like the spokes of a wagon wheel, and creates the Point Reyes signature pattern of one flash every five seconds.”

First-Order Fresnel Lens at the Point Reyes Lighthouse © Harold Davis

First-Order Fresnel Lens at the Point Reyes Lighthouse © Harold Davis

On Saturday evening, my Creative Landscape Photography workshop on Point Reyes was lucky enough to have the lighthouse opened for us. I shot this image handheld with my Nikon D810 and a 16mm digital fisheye lens (the interior space was pretty tight). I used auto-bracketing and burst mode. There were nine exposures, each at ISO 1250 and f/6.3, with shutter speeds ranging from 0.5 of a second to 1/500 of a second.

I combined the exposures using Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop.

Some related images: Lighthouse in the Fog; Night at the Point Reyes Lighthouse; Inside the Lighthouse; Owl’s Head Light.

Also posted in Photography, Point Reyes

Old Train Bridge near Calvignac, France

I clambered up the steep embankment, and followed the faint path that ducked under the barbed-wire fence. Once on the train tracks, I headed onto the old bridge across the Lot River rural France.

© Harold Davis

Old Train Bridge near Calvignac, France © Harold Davis

Clearly, these tracks weren’t in use. Still, there’s something about being planted squarely in the middle of train tracks on an old, rusty bridge high above a rushing river that gets the blood flowing (almost as fast as the water below)!

Old Train Bridge near Calvignac, France (Black & White) © Harold Davis

Old Train Bridge (Black & White) © Harold Davis

Zeiss 35mm lens at f/16 and ISO 100, ten exposures at shutter speeds from 0.4 of a second to 1/500 of a second, tripod mounted. Processed in Adobe Camera RAW, Bik HDR Efex Pro, and Photoshop. Black and white conversion using Photoshop, Nik Silver Efex Pro, and Perfect B&W.

Related image: Old Train Bridge, Maine.

Also posted in France, Monochrome

Flowers on Black

I photographed these flowers just now on black seamless as a demonstration of a bracketed sequence for low-key HDR photography from my Maine Media flower photography workshop.

© Harold Davis

Flowers on Black © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

The end of the Berkeley Pier

The Berkeley Municipal Pier stretches almost a half a mile out into San Francisco Bay. Along the way out to the end there are views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate, Alcatraz, and Mt Tamalpais. The pier used to go even further, so the end is boarded up with the slats you see here, which look decorative in the sunset light. By the way, the view from under the Berkeley Pier is also pretty cool!

End of the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

End of the Berkeley Pier © Harold Davis

This image was shot on a tripod, and used three blended exposures. I used a Nikon D810 and Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 set to f/22 and ISO 64 (the native ISO for the D810). The shutter speeds were 2.5 seconds, 8 seconds and 25 seconds. Post-production included HDR blending and minor perspective correction.

Also posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Heidelberg Student Jail

Mostly aristocratic students at Heidelberg University were not under the jurisdiction of the normal authorities. The University handled disciplinary matters. Facilities in the old University buildings included a jail (now a museum), with one of the cells shown here.

Heidelberg Student Jail © Harold Davis

Heidelberg Student Jail © Harold Davis

For the most part, sojourns in the Heidelberg student jail were the result of frat-boy pranks, and treated as something that was part of the accepted tradition of student behavior. Part of the tradition was to add one’s name and maybe some art—so in later years as a “good old boy” one could come back and point to the scene of one’s incarceration.

It was all one big lark. But making things a little more poignant, note that I photographed the cell shown here in a state of “arrested decay” (just as I did with the California ghost town of Bodie in Arrested Decay and Gone with the Wind). At the Heidelberg Student Jail, “arrested decay” means most of the carvings and painting date from the decade before the first World War—where many of these pranksters must have perished.

Special thanks to Francis, who showed me the jail and explained its background.

Also posted in Germany

Craneway Pavilion

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce,” wrote Karl Marx. In that spirit, the photo shows the floor and windows of what is now called the Craneway Pavilion. It’s used today for weddings, rock concerts, and trade show exhibits. Its most important historical use was to make military hardware during the second World War.

Ford Richmond Plant © Harold Davis

Ford Richmond Plant © Harold Davis

The Craneway Pavilion is located in Port Richmond, California, and is the largest space in the old Ford Richmond Plant—incorporated into the ponderously named Rosie the Riveter / WWII Home Front National Historical Park. Back in World War II, this space—designed by famed industrial architect Alfred Kahn—was where the military hardware that won the war in the Pacific was built, with more than 100,000 jeeps and tanks coming out of the Richmond Tank Depot (as it was known then).

Information about the image: Nikon D800, 28-300mm lens at 42mm, circular polarizer, eight exposures, each exposure at f/25 and ISO 100, shutter speeds ranging from 1/20 of a second to 20 seconds, tripod mounted; processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro, Adobe Camera RAW, Photoshop, Nik Color Efex Pro, Topaz Ajust and Topaz Simplify.

Also posted in San Francisco Area

I spent the night in Edward Weston’s house

I spent a night last week in Edward Weston’s house in Wildcat Canyon at the southern end of Carmel Highlands in Big Sur. To be a bit more precise, I stayed in the guesthouse which the current owners—Kim and Gina Weston—rent out as in informal bed-and-breakfast. As a perk, Kim and Gina generously allowed me to photograph inside Edward Weston’s house, where they now live. I gather that for the most part the house is pretty much as it was in Edward’s day, with many of his touches still in evidence (more photos to come).

Weston Kitchen © Harold Davis

Weston Kitchen © Harold Davis

If I have a personal historical photographic hero whose work I admire, it would be Edward Weston. Weston died in penury in this relatively modest house, which was built for him by his son Neil Weston in 1938 for $1,000.

The guesthouse where I stayed—known as Bodie House—was used by Charis Wilson (Edward’s famous model and second wife) as her writing studio when she needed a little space. The whole place is like a museum, with incredible photographic prints on the walls, and personal touches of Edward Weston and the Weston family everywhere I looked. I felt very privileged to be there, and to be allowed to photograph.

Agave americana chez Weston © Harold Davis

Agave americana chez Weston © Harold Davis

Speaking of the Weston family, photographer Kim Weston is the son of Cole Weston, the youngest of Edward’s four children. Figuring out the familial relationships of the various descendants of Edward Weston to each other is as complex, twisted and convoluted as the giant Agave americana shown above in front of Edward’s Weston’s house. For help, check out the Weston Legacy site for some information about this complex and intriguing cast of characters. Clearly, photography runs in the family.

Edward Weston's Darkroom (iPhone) © Harold Davis

Edward Weston’s Darkroom (iPhone) © Harold Davis

Want to learn more about Edward Weston and his work? I recommend starting with Edward Weston’s famous Daybooks.

If you are interested, here’s the information about arranging a stay at Bodie House!

Also posted in Photography

Monochromatic HDR Photography publication announced

Focal Press, a leading publisher of media technology books, announced today the availability of Monochromatic HDR Photography by Harold Davis, an award-winning photographer and best-selling author of more than 30 books.

Harold Davis-Monochromatic HDR book cover

In this beautifully illustrated guide for all levels from advanced amateur to professional, Davis shows photographers how to work at the intersection of two hot trends of the digital revolution: Black & White and High Dynamic Range (HDR) imaging.

Click here to read the full press release on Business Wire, and here for Monochromatic HDR Photography on Amazon.

Also posted in Monochrome, Photoshop Techniques, Writing


Looking up at Chartres is a memorable experience! What a vast amount of effort, creativity, engineering and spirituality over what a long period of time went into building this structure. Whatever else may be said, the cathedral is a monument to human tenacity, and the tenacity of aspiration—an embodiment and statement in stone and masonry and stained glass of the importance of there being more than humanity when one is human.

Chartres © Harold Davis

Chartres © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 10.5mm digital fisheye lens, nine exposures at shutter speeds from 1/6 of a second to 13 seconds, each exposure at f/9 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; processed and combined in Photoshop and Nik HDR Efex Pro; converted to monochromatic using Photoshop, Nik Silver Efex, and the Topaz plugin.

Also posted in France, Monochrome, Photography

Beneath the Surface

To make this photo-collage, I shot a number of bracketed exposure sequences of individual shells on a white background. I then auto HDR processed each sequence, converting to monochromatic HDR within the software that I used (in this case, Photomatix).

Bringing each finished monochromatic shell into Photoshop as a separate image, I combined the images using layers, layer masks, and blending modes to create the finished image. Yes, a certain amount of warping, transforming, and distorting was also involved—but no shells were hurt in the process.

Beneath the Surface 2 by Harold Davis

Beneath the Surface 2 © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 100mm macro lens, fifteen bracketed sequences of five exposures each, each sequence shot at f/16 and ISO 200 with exposure times between 1.6 seconds and 1/25 of a second, tripod mounted; exposure sequences processed for monochromatic HDR in Photomatix, and combined to create a collage in Photoshop.

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Chateau de Nazelles

The Chateau de Nazelles is located a few miles from Amboise in the Loire Valley. Built by some of the same craftsmen that constructed Chenonceau Chateau, today it is a wonderful bed and breakfast that I used as a base of operations. This image, in monochromatic HDR, conveys the feeling that being there is like visiting old France—and is more like a line drawing, or lithograph, than a photo. However, color images to come will also show the incredible lushness of the Loire in spring.

Chateau de Nazelles by Harold Davis

Chateau de Nazelles © Harold Davis

Exposure info: Nine exposures, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 100, with shutter speeds ranging from one second to 1/200 of a second; tripod mounted; exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and processed in Photoshop, with monochromatic conversion using Nik Silver Efex Pro and Photoshop black & white adjustment layers.

Also posted in France, Monochrome

Smoking Gun

There’s one somewhat discordant element in this tableau of a metallurgic assayer’s desk, shot at Laws Railroad Museum near Bishop, California. What is the gun doing in the image?

According to the docent I spoke with, most assayers tended to deal in gold and other precious metals as well as to assay it. The natural tendency for miners hitting what passed for civilization out of their stakes in Death Valley or the Panamint Range was to want to get some ready money quickly—no doubt for some to spend on booze and women in wild boom towns like Bodie. These miners would often come to feel that they had been low-balled by assayers who had taken advantage of them; hence, a revolver to defend against disgruntled small mining stake-holders was standard equipment for most metallurgists.

Assay by Harold Davis

Assay © Harold Davis

Exposure data: 52mm, ten exposures at shutter speeds between 1/80 of a second and five seconds, each exposure at f/13 and ISO 200, tripod mounted; exposures combined using Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop, and converted to monochromatic using Photoshop, Nik Silver Efex and Topaz Adjust.

Also posted in Bemusements, Monochrome, Photography

Gnarled wood in the desert

In the desert life is harsh, and the intensity of light reflects the harshness of conditions. Photography is best at the fringes of the day—the “golden hour” leading up to sunset, the half hour just after sunset, and the half hour of comparatively serene light one finds at dawn.

Gnarled wood in the desert by Harold Davis

Gnarled Wood in the Desert © Harold Davis

I created this monochromatic HDR image shortly after sunrise in Glorieta Canyon, part of the Anza-Borrego Desert in southeastern California. To make the image I used my 200mm macro lens, and mounted my camera on a tripod. There were five exposures, shot at  ISO 100 and f/16. Shutter speeds varied between 1/13 of a second (darkest) and 1.3 seconds (brightest).

The images were processed from the RAW using Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) and Nik HDR Efex Pro, then combined in Photoshop using layering. I used Photoshop,  Nik Color Efex, Topaz Adjust, Topaz Simply, and PixelBender to enhance the image. Finally, I converted the image to monochromatic using Photoshop, Nik Silver Efex, and a “reserved” layer from the original HDR Efex monochromatic HDR processing.

Also posted in Landscape, Monochrome