Category Archives: Landscape

Cordes-sur-Ciel at Sunset

Thanks to methodical planning, good luck with the weather, and helpful guides my photography group was able to photograph the ancient town of Cordes-sur-Ciel from across the valley at sunset. Thanks everyone for your patience and understanding!

I made a photograph from the same viewpoint many years ago at sunrise (it is shown beneath the recent vista).

Cordes-sur-Ciel at Sunset © Harold Davis

Cordes sur Ciel at Dawn © Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Walking by the Sea

Yesterday I went exploring with fellow-photographer QT Luong, the creator of Our National Monuments. Of course, we brought our cameras, and spent the afternoon through sunset along the beautiful San Mateo coast.

The first photograph was made in a grove near Davenport, California. The image below it was taken at  Waddell Beach as a squadron of pelicans flew in front of the setting sun. (What do you call a group of pelicans, anyway? I’ve heard “pod,” “fleet,” and “pouch”—but “squadron” seems to fit pretty well.)

Grove near Davenport, California © Harold Davis

Pelican Party © Harold Davis

Also posted in Monochrome

Bus Window Impressionism

Bus Window 5 © Harold Davis

Riding in a bus is not always exalted or exalting, but it does leave one time for conversation and for looking out the window. In my case, on my recent trip to Iceland, it also left me time for ICM (In Camera Motion) impressionistic landscape photography. 

I used the Slow Shutter Cam app on my iPhone, with a shutter speed duration of roughly two seconds. With this app, you start the exposure by pressing a button, and can stop the shutter as the image comes into being on the LCD by pressing the button again. Keeping the shutter open too long risks turning the composition into formless mud; not having a long-enough duration means having a too literal, and not very interesting, landscape.

As with any ICM image, there are many more misses than hits!

Using ICM (In-Camera Motion) and a long-duration shutter speed, I created this collection of impressionistic landscapes through a moving bus window while visiting Iceland.

Besides the two images in this story in the Bus Window Impressionism story; also, check out the three images in The Windows on the Beast.

Bus Window 4 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Iceland, Photography

Iceland in Monochrome

There’s something about the wild and stark landscapes of Iceland that compel me towards monochrome. Oh, there’s plenty of color in Iceland, depending on the time and place (as examples of color, consider my version of the Godafoss waterfall under the setting midnight sun, and this Highlands landscape).

But in my opinion, the spectacular landscapes of Iceland when rendered in color can verge on the “postcard” look; the high-contrast scenery that reminds one of the existential struggle to eke out survival over the last millennia is, for me, truly a study in black and white. 

Vestrahorn © Harold Davis

Haifoss Variation 4 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Iceland, Monochrome

Farewell to Iceland

It is bittersweet to say farewell to a destination as lovely and memorable as Iceland. But it is good to be home, and I have many images from our time in Iceland to process!

I want to thank and recommend our wonderful guides Jon Hilmarsson and Kaspers both photographers extraordinaire,  as well as the Iceland Photo Tours organization, which did an excellent job managing our logistics.

I think one group participant summed up the experience well when she wrote “I had the very best time in Iceland. What an adventure we had! The burgundy beast [the all-terrain 4wd converted truck-bus we traveled in], incredible cloud formations, terrain rich in color and textures and rain. Real rain. I could easily return for more! Looking forward to more travels in the future.”

Seljelandfoss © Harold Davis

Seljelandfoss Shadows © Harold Davis

Also posted in Iceland

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—“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


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