Category Archives: Landscape

Gullfoss Rift

An unusual feature of the famous and spectacular Gullfoss waterfall is that the water flow makes an almost immediate 90 degree turn to the left at the bottom of the falls, down into the rift shown in the distance in this image.

It’s an almost surreal experience standing with one’s camera above the head of the turn of the flowing waters, trying to make an exposure through the intense, wind-blown spray, and enjoying the grandeur of the setting. 

Gullfoss Rift © Harold Davis

Also posted in Iceland, Monochrome, Photography

Godafoss

Godafoss—“Waterfall of the Gods”—is one of the largest and most visited waterfalls in Iceland. It is shown here at sunset (maybe midnight at this time of year!) from above. The waterfall gets its name from Icelandic history around the time of conversion to Christianity. This was about 1000 CE when the AllThing (Iceland’s parliament) adopted Christianity by decree, and Pagan idols were thrown into the Godafoss. I think maybe some Pagan idols were kept, and the waterfall is just named for a Diety because it is so beautiful.

Godafoss © Harold Davis

This image is created from five exposures, with each exposure at 28mm, f/22, and ISO 64. The camera was tripod-mounted. Exposure times varied between 1/20 of a second and 0.8 seconds. The trick was to wait for a moment without spray hitting my camera lens!

Also posted in Iceland, Photography

Serenity

Happy to recently process this Study in Blue, photographed a while ago at Crater Lake, Oregon. This early morning image gives me a feeling of peace and serenity.

Serenity © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Travels in the Inter-Mountain West

These are newly-processed images from travels in the inter-mountain American West in early 2020 just before the pandemic struck and we began sheltering in place.

As vaccinations proceed apace, I am looking forward to traveling with my camera again soon!

Old Tree © Harold Davis

Colorado River © Harold Davis

Death Valley Landscape © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Layers and the Landscape

In some ways, layers define the landscape at large. When a landscape consists of layers stretching out to the distant horizon, the details become abstracted, and we can imagine ourselves lost in the perspective of the infinite.

Landscape of Blue Layers © Harold Davis

I was reminded of my quest for the layered landscape with a recent print purchase inquiry regarding my Landscape of Blue Layers, shown above. I made this image on a road trip in the autumn of 2017 from above Westgard Pass, in the White Mountains on the California-Nevada border.

2017 was, I think, the first year of the really bad autumnal fires in California, leading to smoke and haze throughout the eastern Sierra. I used this otherwise horrible condition to create the atmospheric Poem of the Road, and later in the same trip several other layered landscapes, Down in the Valley and Red Dragon Sunset. Both images are shown below. Also on this trip, there was some cool night photography (and a broken lens), but that is a different story.

Down in the Valley © Harold Davis

Red Dragon Sunset © Harold Davis

Looking at my Landscape of Blue Layers as a possible print, I began to wonder what other images there might be in my unprocessed files from this trip. I pulled up the autumn of 2017 on my production computer pretty easily. My search was for layered landscape images, of which three are shown below. As you can see, this was a pretty productive trip. 

Blue Distance 1 © Harold Davis

Purple Haze © Harold Davis

Blue Distance 2 © Harold Davis

So layers in a landscape photo are not layers in Photoshop. These images are created in the camera, and I did very little to them in post-production besides cleaning up a few flaws and heightening contrast a bit. The trick to photographing layers in the landscape is mostly being in the right place, at the right time, with one’s camera already on the tripod. 

Also posted in Photography

Dancing Trees

The other day I went for a long walk in nearby Tilden Park, which lies about a mile from my home, on the farther side of the initial crest of the Coastal Range hills. On the trail, I stopped to put down my backpack and take out my camera. The photo shown below, Eucalyptus Forest, was the result.

Eucalyptus Forest © Harold Davis

Eucalyptus Forest © Harold Davis

As I looked at Eucalyptus Forest in post-production, I realized that there was a structural similarly with other images of trees I have made. The examples that came to mind were Along the Old Schoolhouse Trail and Aspens near Sonora Pass.

Along the Old Schoolhouse Trail © Harold Davis

Along the Old Schoolhouse Trail © Harold Davis

Of course, the species of tree are different. The chaotic and messy eucalyptus make it hard to see linear order, even among the vertical lines of the trees. And the California coastal oaks along the Old Schoolhouse Trail are not the aspens that I photographed near the summit of Sonora Pass in the Sierra Nevada.

Aspens near Sonora Pass

Aspens near Sonora Pass © Harold Davis

But all three images share similarities in formal composition. As I teach my students, one can diagram compositions using simple shapes like lines and circles, and making note of patterned repetition. With a line drawing of these three compositions, the underlying similarity of image structure becomes clear. 

My artistic intent was also comparable across the three images: I wanted to capture the spirits of the trees, Dryads if you will. In my mind, the spirits of trees are always dancing.

Original blog stories: Along the Old Schoolhouse Trail; Aspens below Sonora Pass.

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Eye of the Tower

In mid-February of this year, I photographed at the massive Tower Arch in the back country of Arches National Park, in Utah. Time was short because the winter day was coming to an end, and the four-wheel road back out to Moab was demanding even in good light. This was one of my last images of the day, photographed using a fisheye lens, looking west and south through the opening in the arch.

Eye of the Tower © Harold Davis

Eye of the Tower © Harold Davis

When I processed this image, I was mindful that the scene seemed very dynamic at the time because the weather was rapidly changing. I wanted to keep this sense of natural movement in the final image, with the clouds as a contrast to the solidity of the rock.

Here’s the exposure information: Nikon D850, 8mm-14mm fisheye at the 14mm rectangular fisheye setting, seven exposures with each exposure at f/29 and ISO 64, exposure speeds from 1/15 of a second to 2.5 seconds; tripod mounted; RAW conversion using ACR, and exposures hand-blended using Photoshop. 

Also posted in Photography

Towards a Ham Sandwich Theory of Art

In his cryptic and chaotic first novel V, Thomas Pynchon describes the work of a painter named Slab:

Slab and Esther, uncomfortable with each other, stood in front of an easel in his place, looking at cheese Danish No. 35. The cheese danish was a recent obsession of Slab’s. He had taken, some time ago, to painting in a frenzy these morning-pastries in every conceivable style, light, and setting. The room was already littered with Cubist, Fauve and Surrealist cheese Danishes. “Monet spent his declining years at his home in Giverny, painting the water lilies in the garden pool,” reasoned Slab, “He painted all kinds of water lilies. He like water lilies. These are my declining years. I like cheese Danishes.”

Essentially, as Slab indicates, what does the subject matter matter? It’s all just grist for the artistic mill. Water lilies or cheese danish, what is the difference?

This bears some relationship to the current “ham sandwich” theory of politics, as in: “I’ll vote for a ham sandwich if it is the Democratic nominee.” To which, by the way, I subscribe.

Food metaphors are great!

My images of folds in the earth (below) from Death Valley’s Zabriskie point are a kind of ham sandwich, cheese danish, or water lily. I could go on photographing this kind of abstraction forever, regardless of scale, and its great that these textures add up to a magnificent and vast landscape.

Related stories: Death Valley Landscapes; Lost in the Hills.

Zabriskie View © Harold Davis

Zabriskie View © Harold Davis

Badlands © Harold Davis

Badlands © Harold Davis

Earth © Harold Davis

Earth © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

What’s my line?

Sometimes an image is simply about a point, or a line. In this high-key image across the Bay on an overcast day, I created an image of a train bridge that is really about two close, parallel lines horizontally bisecting the rectangular frame.

Opening Train Bridge © Harold Davis

Opening Train Bridge © Harold Davis

The image of power-line towers (below) is the same idea, but a little more complex in composition, and vertically oriented. (Sometimes simplicity works better than complexity!)

Power Lines © Harold Davis

Power Lines © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome

Lost in the Hills

It’s easily possible to get lost in the folds of the earth viewed from Zabriskie Point: visually with a camera, and practically as well if one wanders in the valleys. The “social trail”—an informal path created by erosion due to foot traffic, and generally deprecated by the National Park Service—shown in Lost in the Hills helps add a sense of scale to the scene.

Without a human-size reference point, the landscape can become abstract and context-less: it could be big, it could be small (if rotated, the couch shown in this story could be an immense landscape after all, among other things), and who really knows for sure?

Lost in the Hills © Harold Davis

Lost in the Hills © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Canyonlands

Here are a few images from my recent trip to Canyonlands National Park. Canyonlands is divided in three sections by the conjunction of the Green and Colorado Rivers. The central section, nearest to Moab and easiest to get to, is sometimes called Island in the Sky. The southeastern section is the Needles, and the southwestern section contains the Maze.

On this trip, we were based in Moab, Utah and able to visit the Island in the Sky (central) and Needles (southeast) sections of the park. On a previous trip, years ago, I spent time exploring the Maze (southwest) section, which is little harder to get into than the other two areas.

I certainly hope to get back and spend some more time in the Canyonlands backcountry; all three sections of this wonderful and remote park are absolutely brilliant.

Related images: View through Tower Arch; View from Deadhorse Point.

Tree with a View © Harold Davis

Tree with a View © Harold Davis (Needles section, Canyonlands)

Snow on the Plateau © Harold Davis

Snow on the Plateau © Harold Davis (Island in the Sky)

Beneath the Rim © Harold Davis

Beneath the Rim © Harold Davis (Deadhorse Point)

Winter on the Mesa © Harold Davis

Winter on the Mesa © Harold Davis (Island in the Sky)

Also posted in Photography

Death Valley Landscapes

There are few more beautiful landscapes on this good earth than Death Valley. Here are a few images from my recent visit, with the photographs emphasizing patterns and folds in the vastness of this very special place.

Folds in the Earth © Harold Davis

Folds in the Earth © Harold Davis

How deep is my valley © Harold Davis

How deep is my valley © Harold Davis

Big Old Rock at Sunrise © Harold Davis

Big Old Rock at Sunrise © Harold Davis

Also posted in Patterns, Photography

Snows of Yesteryear

Yosemite Snowstorm © Harold Davis

Yosemite Snowstorm © Harold Davis

Thinking about the upcoming photography conference in Yosemite led me to browse through some of my archives of work of Yosemite in winter’s past. Digital means never having to say one is sorry, and that it is always possible to reprocess. Contemporary advances in software interpolation means that even fairly low resolution images can be enlarged and printed at decent sizes. So maybe it is worth going through one’s files to see what was captured at the dawn of the digital photography era!

The color version of the image above was originally blogged in 2006 in But Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear.

I think the three images below, of a snowstorm in Yosemite, ice on the Merced River, and a somewhat hair-raising view off the spine of Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park were never blogged—they do not appear in any of my books—and date to roughly the same time frame. The image of the Blizzard takes a little looking at in the larger size (and maybe squinting) before the shapes of the snow-laden trees become fully apparent.

Blizzard © Harold Davis

Blizzard © Harold Davis

Skim Ice on the Merced © Harold Davis

Skim Ice on the Merced © Harold Davis

View from Angel's Landing © Harold Davis

View from Angel’s Landing © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography, Yosemite

Paris Landscape

With the storm receding, from the top of the Tour Montparnasse near sunset, Paris looked like it could be any other rain-wracked landscape (of course, it is not, there is only one Paris), with La Défense clustered behind the almost-toy Eiffel Tower.

Paris Landscape © Harold Davis

Also posted in France, Paris

Apparently Home to Manatees and More

After my workshop in West Palm Beach, I had a morning to explore south Florida. I rented a car, and drove through scrub and pre-Everglades marsh inland to Lake Okeechobee—seemingly big enough to count as an inland sea with the further shore invisible in the distant horizon, and apparently home to manatees. Heading down the small road towards Canal Point on the shores of Lake Okeechobee, I was followed by a police car for miles, and meticulously kept to the speed limit as I passed through small hamlets. The dirt poor landscape was in striking contrast to the glitz and wealth of the high rises along the ocean shore.

Lake Okeechobee © Harold Davis

Of course, one is not going to get the gist of any landscape or place in a short visit. And I had to start thinking about getting to the airport on time for my connecting flight (through Atlanta) home. But I hadn’t yet seen the Atlantic Ocean in my days giving the workshop, only the inside of a studio and the classroom, and the stealth metropolis—the Palm Beach cities have about a million people—plunked in a place that would seemingly be uninhabitable without air conditioning, even in February.

Atlantic © Harold Davis

So I turned the car towards the Atlantic coast, and took a long look at the waves and cloud-wracked sky before returning to the world of airport lounges and the cramped steerage of the backs of airplanes.

Also posted in Monochrome