Category Archives: Monochrome

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 Landscape, Photography

High Key to Low Key and Back Again

Today Phyllis and I gave the second webinar in our black and white series. This episode showed conversion to black and white, starting from a few images that I made in advance the other day: a high-key image (the egg), a low-key image (the nemesia), and something in-between (the tea toy robot). You can view recordings of our webinars on the Harold Davis Photography channel on YouTube.

The next session will look at some special black and white effects, such as the Ansel Adams effect, solarization, and so on.

Please consider joining us for another webinar, or the upcoming Creative Bootcamp four-part course!

Egg White © Harold Davis

Egg White © Harold Davis

Nemesia Wabi-Sabi © Harold Davis

Nemesia Wabi-Sabi © Harold Davis

Tea for You © Harold Davis

Tea for You © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Creative Black and White Webinar, Part 2: The Assignment

I’m teaching the second live webinar in the Creative Black and White series on Tuesday, May 26 at 10am PT. Here’s the registration link. I’ve decided to take a chance and try something different with this webinar. So I will make some images live on camera, using materials that are easy to find while sheltering in place. That way, you can see what I am doing, and ask questions if you’d like.

Next, I will show how I convert the captures I have just made to become monochromatic images. My suggestion (although it is only a suggestion of course, and you don’t have to do it to get information from the webinar) is that you prepare in advance by making your own photographs in line with the assignments. I find I always learn more by being active as opposed to passively listening.

Details follow below.

Please keep in mind that there a few spaces left in our Creative Bootcamp (limited to 12), with four classes, coming up in June. You can watch recordings of most of our webinars on the Harold Davis Photography YouTube channel.

Egg © Harold Davis

MEMO to participants in Creative Black & White | Part 2: Black and White Conversion, live webinar on Tuesday May 26 at 10am PT

The structure of this webinar session will be that Harold will use live cameras to demonstrate creating three images. The general assignment for the kinds of images, and the specific way that Harold intends to photographically meet this challenge are shown below. He will then process to monochrome each of the three images, using a variety of techniques as appropriate for each (very different) image.

The choice of assignment was made keeping in mind what is possible while sheltering place. Although there is no requirement to do so, Harold believes you will get the most out of the session if you complete these assignments on your own, in your own way, before the May 26 class.

Please post images made in response to this challenge to Instagram, with the tags @haroldldavis #harolddavis #blackandwhite #blackandwhitephoto #creativeblackandwhite #assignment2

Black & White #2 Assignments (should you choose to accept & etc.)

Create a High-Key Photo

            Harold will demonstrate photographing an Egg on a white background

Create a Low-Key Photo

            Harold will demonstrate photographing a flower on black velvet background

Capture a shadow

            Harold will use a light to make an interesting shadow using kitchen items, and then photograph the composition including the shadow

Chrysanthemum © Harold Davis

Chrysanthemum © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Under the Yaquina Bay Bridge

Under the Yaquina Bay Bridge has become, somewhat to my surprise, one of my iconic images in the sense that there have been quite a few prints sales, image licenses and so on. Thanks to all who have made this image a success! Here’s the original blog story from 2016. In answer to the question posed in that story, the marketplace has voted pretty overwhelmingly for the black & white version.

Under the Yaquina Bay Bridge (B&W) © Harold Davis

Under the Yaquina Bay Bridge © 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 Landscape

Under the Dumbarton Bridge

For reasons I won’t go into at this time, I find myself these days often driving south to Palo Alto on the peninsula. It’s about an hour from my home in Berkeley with no traffic, and hell-on-wheels when there is traffic. One of the routes I use crosses San Francisco Bay on the Dumbarton Bridge.

Dumbarton Bridge © Harold Davis

Dumbarton Bridge © Harold Davis

There’s something about photographing under bridges that floats my boat. Perhaps it is that salty, sensual melody from “Under the Boardwalk” rattling around in my neurons, and I’ve mistaken a bridge for a boardwalk. In any case, check out Under the Yaquina Bay Bridge and Bridge of Light for examples.

So I was pleased to learn that the underside of the Dumbarton Bridge is pretty cool. The image above is a quick photo from the eastern end, where I plan to photograph again when I have more time. You can click here for a view of the underneath of the western side.

Also posted in Photography, San Francisco Area

Echinacea Seed Pod X-Ray

Echinacea Seed Pod on Black © Harold Davis

Very special thanks to the scientists in the Photon Science group at the Advanced Light Source, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs who used the Beamline when it was in maintenance mode to help with this capture.

Check out more x-ray photos of mine here.

Echinacea Seed Pod - Sepia © Harold Davis

Echinacea Seed Pod – Sepia © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, X-Ray

Under the Dumbarton Bridge

In 1982, a new Dumbarton Bridge replaced the old, cast-iron cantilevered span across San Francisco Bay from Hayward to Palo Alto. The hardest part of the construction was the giant cast iron footings deep down into the muck and mud of the Bay. This location was close to the first bridge crossing the Bay, an abandoned train bridge finished just after the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

Under the Dumbarton Bridge © Harold Davis

Under the Dumbarton Bridge © Harold Davis

Climbing down the side of the bridge to get under it reminded me a bit of an earlier adventure with Berkeley Municipal Pier. The footing was treacherous in stagnant salt water, mud, and detritus, and I made my way carefully around and through a bend in the dilapidated barbed-wire fencing. 

Once under the bridge, I found myself on a confronting the colossus of the cement footings of the bridge. These underpinnings were reflected in the inter-tidal zone mud flats. 

I put my camera (a Nikon D850) on the tripod and added a polarizing filter to amplify the reflections of the underbelly of the bridge. I made eight exposures using my 28-300mm Nikkor lens at 58mm. Each exposure was stopped down (at f/29) because I needed maximum depth-of-field to render sharply both the nearby reflections and the recession of pillars through the opening in the columns. The sensitivity was ISO 64. My exposure speeds were from 1/20 of a second to 6 seconds. 

I combined and processed the exposures using Adobe Bridge, Adobe Photoshop, Nik HDR Efex Pro, Nik Color Efex, Nik Silver Efex, Topaz Adjust, and Topaz Simplify.

I like to photograph the naked underbelly of bridges. Here’s another one of mine that has had considerable play: Under the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Also posted in San Francisco Area

Leek and Lichen

Leek & Lichen should perhaps be the name for a pub on the outskirts of London, somewhere past Elephant & Castle and nearby to the Queen’s Head and Artichoke. Alas, the reference here is to photos of two prosaic subjects (although hopefully the photos themselves are anything but prosaic): a cross-section of a leek that later became part of our dinner, and lichen scraped from a tree and then dried. It is interesting that one need not travel anywhere exotic to make photos; photography is about seeing, and vision is just as valid close to home as it is abroad.

Leek Cross-Section © Harold Davis

Leek Cross-Section © Harold Davis

Lichen © Harold Davis

Lichen © Harold Davis

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 Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Magic in Everyday Things

In the morning, Phyllis called me over. She had the vitamin bottle upended, looking inside for pills she noticed them on the circumference of the circle at the bottom spread out almost like a sparkling kaleidoscope.

Vitamin D3 Bottle from the Inside © Harold Davis

Vitamin D3 Bottle from the Inside © Harold Davis

To photograph the effect, Phyllis held the bottle up in the morning sun in our kitchen. I tripod mounted my camera, and used my macro probe lens, with the front optic pushed inside the vitamin bottle like an eyeball on a stalk.

There’s magic in everyday things! I’ve had guesses about what this photograph depicts ranging from the Eye of Sauron (in his cups, towards the bottom of the story) to an operating room light, a package of seeds, and an architectural dome. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. Or is it?

Also posted in Photography

Clematis that Remains

This spiral structure is what remains when you don’t deadhead a Clematis flower, and leave it on the vine. You can see how the core of the flower has expanded into the spiral, and the petals have dropped away. The view below is from the underneath, or back; the front view, the top of what used to be the flower, is shown here.

Clematis © Harold Davis

Clematis © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

The Story of a Cactus Flower

Cactus Flower © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower © Harold Davis

Phyllis told me she saw a giant cactus flower at about camera height near the small shopping area of Kensington, California about 1/2 mile from our house when she passed through the Kensington strip in the morning. So I went up with my gear, and in a small, arid strip next to a parking lot there was indeed a barrel cactus, possibly a Ferocactus cylindraceus, with a large, white flower. The cactus seemed to be nestling in the shade of a Yucca, also in bloom and dripping sap. The flower was perhaps a foot in diameter with a yellow center (see photo above) and exuding a strong, pungent odor.

I had hoped to use my tripod, but there was a fierce wind blowing the petals of the flower, hence no real point to the tripod. Most of the images shown in this story were made with my 150mm Iris ‘Dragonfly’ macro hand-held, with the aperture pretty close to wide open (f/2.8).

My thought was to come back in a few hours in the early evening, when the light would be softer, and perhaps the wind would have died down. But when I got back, the bloom was off the cactus. This indeed is an illustration of the ephemeral nature of beauty: the flower had a lifespan of less than a day.

Cactus Flower Detail I © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail I © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail II © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail II © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail III © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail III © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail IV © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail IV © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail V © Harold Davis

Cactus Flower Detail V © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Creative Black and White 2 Ed Now Available (with Discount Code!)

I’m very pleased that my new book, Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition, is now available. The publisher, Rocky Nook, is offering a 40% discount. Click here to buy Creative Black & White 2nd Ed directly from the publisher. Use the code “HDAVIS40” [no quotes] at checkout to apply the discount (you can also use my discount code for all other Rocky Nook books, by the way!).

Here are the links for my book on Amazon.com and on B&N as well, so the choice of supplier is yours.

If you like Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition, I would really appreciate a thoughtful review. Thanks!

Creative Black & White has been revised, substantially expanded, and brought up to date.  I’ve added entire sections, substantially enlarged the book (it is 80 pages longer than the first edition), and most of the photos are new. Every photo includes information about how it was made, both from a technical perspective, and also the story about my thinking behind the image.

As I note in the Preface to this Second Edition, “Of course, I was flattered to be asked to write this revised and expanded second edition of Creative Black & White. One of the goals of this new edition is to bring the tools and techniques explained in this book up to date. This is particularly important in the realm of Lightroom and Photoshop software, and with the plug-ins that are a necessary extension of the Adobe ecosystem.

“Beyond keeping current, I want to help you become a better and more creative photographer, whatever your interest level or toolset may be.”

It’s been great fun updating this book, making a good book even better, refreshing the images, and bringing the software explanations up to date. I hope my new book proves to be inspiring and useful to you!

Click here to buy my book from Rocky Nook (please use the HDAVIS40 discount code for your discount), here for my book on Amazon, and here on Barnes & Noble.

Also posted in Photography, Writing

Black and White Cookies: What’s in a Name?

Black and White Cookie © Harold Davis

Black and White Cookie © Harold Davis

The Black and White cookie, shown here in an iPhone grab shot converted to black and white in Snapseed, goes by many names. In New York City, where I come from, they are simply “Black and White” cookies. This makes sense to me.  But in New England they are “Harlequins” and in the Midwest “Half Moons.” In Germany, and most of the rest of the world, they are “Amerikaners.”

Even the origin of the name “Amerikaners” is controversial: it is rumored that the cookie was named after the post-World-War-II American soldiers who brought them to Germany. On the other hand, and perhaps less plausibly even if it is in the dictionaries this way, the name “Amerikaner” is said to be a corruption of Ammoniumhydrogencarbonat, the German for ammonium bicarbonate, a leavening agent used in baking the cookie.

Using yet another name, in a reference to racial harmony, President Obama dubbed them “Unity cookies” in 2008. And, in a Seinfeld episode, Jerry asks, if black and white mix together well on a cookie, why can’t they do the same in society?

Great question (and a tasty cookie) for these troubled times.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography