Category Archives: Landscape

Wine Country

This image shows a rose-tinted reflection in the extension to the Chateau la Dominique vineyard near St Emilion, France designed by well-known architect Jean Nouvel.

Wine Country © Harold Davis

Wine Country © Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye

This is Le Moulin de l’Abbaye, the mill of the Abbey, and the hotel we will be based in Brantome, France for exploring the Dordogne countryside.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye © Harold Davis

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye © Harold Davis

Two different interpretations! Above: 28mm, 4 exposures at shutter speeds from 1.5 seconds to 8 seconds, each exposure at f/22 and ISO 50; tripod mounted; processed in Photoshop. Below: iPhone 6s, processed in Waterlogue.

Le Moulin de l'Abbaye (iPhone) © Harold Davis

Le Moulin de l’Abbaye (iPhone) © Harold Davis

Also posted in France, Photography

Hang En Campsite

This is the first campsite on the way to Son Doong, just within the entrance to the Hang En cave. The trail leads down the rock slide you see in the foreground to the wooden bridge on the lower right. To get to the campsite, you wade across the underground river.

Hang En Campsite © Harold Davis

Hang En Campsite © Harold Davis

In the rather elaborate campsite itself, if you look closely you can see the tents of the paying participants in a line on the left, the dining pavilion in the center, and the cooking cluster of the porters on the right. The trail onward and through the Hang En cave leads along the river the curves to the right, and into darkness.

I made this photo with the late afternoon light coming through the cave opening, on my way down to the campsite and to a much needed swim in the lake!

Exposure info: Nikon D810, Zeiss 15mm f/2.8, five combined exposures with each exposure at f/8 and ISO 250, exposure times from 2 seconds to 30 seconds; tripod mounted; processed in Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop.

Also posted in Vietnam

Regarding Scale and Wonderment

There’s something very tricky about creating images that capture a truly vast wonder of the world such as the Grand Canyon or the Son Doong Cave. The sense of scale is literally mind-boggling, so it is very hard to make a photo that allows the viewer to take in what is being portrayed; and, even if it can be taken in, it is hard to convey the emotional content of the scene when viewing it “for real”.

Scale and Wonderment © Harold Davis

Scale and Wonderment © Harold Davis

The typical way to deal with this scale problem is to forget about the wonderment. If you throw some people into the mix, the scale of the phenomena becomes visually obvious. Unfortunately, the resulting images are banal, commonplace, and usually look like travel brochure ads. 

My goal is to go for the wonderment and the sense of the spiritual. Although this image uses human scaling to some extent (if you look closely you can see the tents of our expedition, and the porters around their kitchen) the proportions and scaling would work without the human element. With or without the tents, this is an image that requires careful visual analysis to discern the clouds far below (the cave generates its own weather system) and the sizing of the distant mountains, valleys, opening to the sky, and other topographic features.

Also posted in Photography, Vietnam

Portals

Son Doong Cave—Wind River Cave—is located in the impenetrable mountainous jungles along the old Ho Chi Minh trail on the Vietnamese side of the Vietnam-Laos border. To get to the cave, you have to slog down a jungle mountainside, up a river bed, then through another vast cave. The exit on the far side of this first cave opens on the otherwise inaccessible valley that is the starting point for entering the Son Doong Cave. We were told by our expedition leader that fewer people have been to Son Doong than have been to space.

Portals © Harold Davis

Portals © Harold Davis

Within the cave, there are vast areas open to the jungle above. These never scaled heights let in shafts of light, unusual flora, and the occasional monkey descending on vines.

To get the picture, think one part Avatar, one part the glittering caves of Aglarond from the Lord of the Rings, one part Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan of the Apes (the original books, not any of the film versions)—with an added pinch of Eustace’s adventures on the Dragon Island in the third book of the Narnia series.

Also posted in Photography, Vietnam

Construction Fence, Halang City

This photo shows a construction fence in Halang City, Vietnam. The fence is hiding some of the mammoth construction that is going on here. Not only does the fence hide the construction work site, it also hides the waters of Halang Bay, replacing them with paintings of an insipid beach scene. Behind the fence, the viewer can see the incredible karst formations of Halang Bay and Cat Ba Island. The dramatic and distant landscape on the other side of the bay is still wild, but from this vantage point it is hard to know it as such, between the fence paintings and the orderly row of tame plants in the foreground.

Construction Fence, Halang City © Harold Davis

Construction Fence, Halang City © Harold Davis

Also posted in Vietnam

Cat Ba Island Sunset

The day started slowly. The drive from Hanoi to Halang City seemed interminable. We passed endless rows of the gritty Vietnamese version of strip malls, factories, and Soviet-era coal-fired power plants, all in an overcast haze compounded by the emissions of millions of motorcycles and diesel trucks. There didn’t seem to be a single green park, or anything untouched by development-in-a-hurry on the whole four hour drive.

Cat Ba Island Sunset © Harold Davis

Cat Ba Island Sunset © Harold Davis

Once in Halang City, the pace picked up and things got beautiful in a hurry. We loaded our bags over the drop on a jetty to a small speedboat, and crowded in. We were off across Halang Bay, and through the maze of karst rock formations to Cat Ba Island. Once settled into our hotel on Cat Ba, we took another boat (there’s an iPhone shot of Eric and myself on this boat at the bottom of this story), followed by a sort of ship-to-shore water taxi to Monkey Island. In my mind, the most striking thing I saw on this leg of the trip were the floating communities we encountered on the way back—cities of ocean dwellers in their own boats, tied together for a while then ready to go off on their own.

Commercial Fishing Pier at Night, Cat Ba Island, Vietnam © Harold Davis

Commercial Fishing Pier at Night, Cat Ba Island, Vietnam © Harold Davis

After dinner, when it was dark, Eric and I photographed the commercial fishing pier area on Cat Ba, looking for an impressionistic effect. All in all, a very fun day!

Harold and Eric at Sea © Harold Davis

Harold and Eric at Sea © Harold Davis

Also posted in Vietnam

Mountains near Meo Vac

The mountains near Meo Vac are in an area untraveled until recently that abuts the Chinese-Vietnam border. These mountains are unusual and spectacular, with high and narrow roads. A permit is still required to visit the area, and there is no public transportation.

Mountains near Meo Vac © Harold Davis

Mountains near Meo Vac © Harold Davis

I have many impressions of this dream-like landscape, and will be posting more images as I can. Right now, our driver and our guide have been plying me with a clear, home-made corn liquor that is very potent, and a spicey dish made from goat, so one image is all I can manage before I head to bed and get ready for more adventures tomorrow!

Also posted in Vietnam

Rice Paddies with Reflected Tree

Rice Paddies with Tree Reflection, Vietnam © Harold Davis

Rice Paddies with Reflected Tree, Vietnam © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Vietnam

Tuscan Road

Wandering the fields and byways of southern Tuscany, I came across this tree-lined road, and settled in for a photography session, enjoying the action of the high-flying clouds. I processed the image to look intentionally anachronistic, essentially like a kind of illustration rather than a photo.

Tuscan Road © Harold Davis

Tuscan Road © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy, Monochrome

City on the Hill

I find when I am traveling that misadventures often bring unexpected photographic dividends. A case in point: getting stuck in a muddy field in my rental car in Tuscany got me into position as the sun was setting to make this image of a classic ancient hill town, Pienza. Somehow, a bright city on the hill persists as the metaphor for the shining society we could have, if we were a little nicer and tried for it a bit harder.

Pienza, Tuscany © Harold Davis

Pienza, Tuscany © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy

Last Light

As the last light of day touches the sea-kissed cliffs, it is important to keep in mind that although night may follow day, day also follows night. Be of good cheer, and Happy New Year! There is always light beyond.

Last Light © Harold Davis

Last Light © Harold Davis

There is always light beyond © Harold Davis

There is always light beyond © Harold Davis

Sunset beyond the Bridge © Harold Davis

Sunset beyond the Bridge © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Big Sur Coast from Bixby Bridge Overlook

As sunset turns to dusk, and dusk to night, colors linger on the towering westward-facing Pacific cliffs of the Big Sur peninsula. Long after the landscape is a murky, dark gray to human eyes, the camera explores, captures, and records these gorgeous colors.

Big Sur Coast from Bixby Bridge Overlook © Harold Davis

Big Sur Coast from Bixby Bridge Overlook © Harold Davis

Photographed looking south from the overlook at the north end of Bixby Bridge about an hour after sunset with my camera on the tripod. Three combined exposures at 78mm focal length: 90 seconds and f/8 at ISO 64; 90 seconds and f/8 at ISO 200; 30 seconds and f/8 at ISO 64. Exposures processed in Adobe Camera RAW (ACR) and Photoshop, using Nik and Topaz filters, and my own LAB color techniques.

Related stories: Bixby Bridge; Bixby Bridge Blues; Bixby Bridge by Starlight.

Also posted in Photography

Abbazia di Sant’Antimo

Nestled in a valley in the Tuscan Hills, the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo—Abbey of Saint Anthony—dates originally from the eighth century. If you arrive at the right time, you can hear the monks chanting—but mostly this is a peaceful and silent place. Back in the day, the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo was a secular powerhouse as well as a religious community, and owned farms and churches from here to Siena. But all things must pass, the material world is vanity, and today other than when there is chanting, the Abbazia di Sant’Antimo is notable for the quietness of its pristine location.

Abbazia di Sant'Antimo © Harold Davis

Abbazia di Sant’Antimo © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy

Romantic Landscapes

There’s nothing I like better than to capture romantic landscapes. Of course, any landscape can be romantic in the right light, and almost any landscape can be grim in harsh light. Still, when I am in the heart of the mountains, my thoughts turn towards romantic imagery—and the same when there is a sweetly pictaresque tower or two, or maybe an ancient castle rampart.

Towers of San Gimignano © Harold Davis

Towers of San Gimignano © Harold Davis

Fundamentally, this is an anti-post-modern aesthetic on my part. Maybe this is catchier as “post-post-modern” imagery (abbreviated as “post-squared modern”). In other words, I like the lushness of imagery that shows us a world that is partially fantasy. A world that takes a certain kind of eye to see, and the very real skills of a post-squared modern digital artist to capture without overdoing it. I am aware of the possibilities of irony, but prefer the policies of optimism.

Dolomite View © Harold Davis

Dolomite View © Harold Davis

About the images: (Top) With sunset coming on in a light rain, I hurried to find a high vantage point in the fabulous towered confection of San Gimignano, Italy. From the little tower on the Rocca I had a great view across to the towers, and to the rain passing in the sunset. (Above) View east from the mountains above Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. (Below) This sunset view of Castelo Marvao in Portugal reminds me of the feeling in the San Gimignano image at the beginning of this story.

Castelo Marvao © Harold Davis

Castelo Marvao © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy, Photography, Portugal