Category Archives: Monochrome

Orvieto Passage

Recently I processed this image from Orvieto, in Umbria (Italy). In the morning the fog was thick. I took advantage of the evocative lighting, and framed an ancient, cobblestone passage by looking (with my camera) through an arch. The result is a composition that takes one to the place, and somehow seems to bring up the smells and feeling of being there.

Related image: Duomo in the Clearing Fog.

Orvieto Passage © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy, Photography

Mirror Selfie

I took advantage of the mirrors in my dressing room in the hotel in Trieste to create a “recursive” image along the lines of the Droste effect (immediately below). This kind of image making has its own chapter in my book Composition & Photography.

Mirror Selfie © Harold Davis

Perhaps what brought the Droste effect to mind was an M.C.Escher exhibit I had just seen in Florence. In one fun, interactive feature, I was encouraged to snap an iPhone shot of myself (instead of Escher) in his famous lithograph of a reflective ball (below).

At the Escher Exhibit © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone, Photography

Dahlia X-Ray

This image is a pretty straightforward x-ray of a rather small Dahlia blossom. Julian and I made the exposure last week at his radiology practice near Heidelberg. In post-production, I converted to LAB color. Next, I used a series of curve adjustments to equalize the various densities in the image. Long live the Dahlia!

Dahlia X-Ray © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Photograms, Photography, X-Ray

The Curve at the End of the Country Lane

I photographed Country Lane (shown below) adjacent to a castle that is fairly close by. The overall lighting, mood, and feeling of the image reminds me of Road Less Traveled (shown at the bottom, and blogged here).

Country Lane © Harold Davis

While the feeling may be similar, there is a difference in the meta-story this pair of images convey. With Road Less Traveled, a choice is presented, presumably in the life of the viewer, or maybe—more autobiographically—in my life. The exhortation to myself was to choose a path less taken, and embark on the life of an artist, to pursue beauty, rather than to follow the easier direction of a more conventional career. The appeal to the viewer is to consider carefully what is really important, and to make choices that are commensurate with their best possible life.

In contrast, Country Lane presents no choices. It’s as if everything is preordained. The path has already been chosen. But if you squint hard, you can see there is a curve at the end of the road, where country lane meets the horizon and vanishing point, with a slight emphasis of brightness. 

What lies ahead, around the curve? That’s hard to say, and may be different for each of us. But my sense of the image is optimistic, as if it is saying that the best is yet to come.

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

Also posted in Germany, Photography

Himbachel Viaduct

Today I photographed a marvelous train viaduct, built in the 1800s using the same engineering principles that the Romans used. The Himbachel Viaduct is still in use by trains today. Photographically, a structure this huge and out of scale with the landscape offers a real challenge in composition—figuring out how to be harmonious while still conveying the immensity of the site.

Himbachel Viaduct (Monochrome) © Harold Davis

Also posted in Germany, Photography

Just Call Me Angel

Baden-Baden is a prosperous spa town at the edge of the Black Forest and near Germany’s border with France. A famous place to try to recuperate from tuberculosis in the nineteenth century, Dostoevsky lost his shirt at the casino in Baden-Baden. More recently, Baden-Baden has once again been favored by rich Russians.

Dark Angel from Baden-Baden © Harold Davis

Also posted in Germany, Photography

The Three Castles

A short trail through the woods leads to the ruins of the Three Castles—more like three towers, really—that are perched on a ridge above Eguisheim, Alsace, France. The structures date to the 1200s, and they were “destroyed in 1466 in the ‘Six Deniers War'” [according to the signage]. Memo to self: look up the Six Deniers War, it sounds very Game of Thrones-like.

Ruins of the Three Castles © Harold Davis


Also posted in France, Photography

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo is a World Heritage Site, and believed to be the oldest continuously inhabited structure in North America.  The core of the present adobe complex was probably initially built between 1000 and 1450 A.D. 

The church of San Geronimo de Taos, shown at the bottom, is the third church built on the site, and dates to 1850 (although the Spanish first assigned a missionary priest to Taos Pueblo in 1598).

Taos Pueblo © Harold Davis

Taos Pueblo 2 © Harold Davis

San Geronimo de Taos © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Steam Train

I was photographing some derelict factory buildings in La Jara, Colorado, when a natty gentleman came out of the mostly disused train station beside the overgrown train tracks. He was the city manager of La Jara, which is near the New Mexico border, and his office was in the train station. He told me about the steam-powered Cumbres & Toltec scenic railroad, and said that I could just about arrive in time for today’s departure from Antonito.

Steam Train © Harold Davis

I drove to Antonito, and arrived just as the train was “gathering a head of steam” and pulling out of the station. I drove ahead a bit, and parked by the tracks to grab a sequence of shots, including this one. It looked pretty good in color. I decided to try taking it to monochrome, and don’t regret it!

About the Cumbres & Toltec scenic railroad:

The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is a National Historic Landmark that moves.  At 64-miles in length, it is the longest, the highest and most authentic steam railroad in North America, traveling through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Rocky Mountain West.

Owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico, the train crosses state borders 11 times, zigzagging along canyon walls, burrowing through two tunnels, and steaming over 137-foot Cascade Trestle.

Also posted in Photography

The Eternal City: Albumen Print Simulations

I’m excited to be headed back to Italy this autumn, and have been looking through my archives. What work have I done in Italy, and how can I make progress from there?

These digital simulations of albumen printing are based on images I made in Rome. I had forgotten this series, from 2016, but now as I revisit it I am pleased (if I say so myself!).

Rome from St Peter’s Dome © Harold Davis

I briefly mentioned the image above in a blog story about a workshop I gave: “The sepia image of the eternal city (Rome) shown above was a classroom demonstration, with the file drawn from my recent trip to Italy.” I think what happened is that I liked the in-class demo so much that I worked through the other images (shown below) using the same set of techniques, and style!

Forum of Rome © Harold Davis

Sic Transit Gloria Mundi © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Long Live Monochrome Memories!

Here are a few of my favorite monochromatic black and white images that I haven’t posted in a long time.

Bolinas Beach by Harold Davis

Bolinas Beach (2012) © Harold Davis

Apparently, despite its success as a large-sized print, Bolinas Beach has been resurrected from my files once before!

Reflections in a Maine Pond (2015) © Harold Davis

My original blog story on Reflections in a Maine Pond quoted the journals of Thoreau:

“To be calm, to be serene! There is the calmness of the lake when there is not a breath of wind. . . . So it is with us. Sometimes we are clarified and calmed healthily, as we never were before in our lives, not by an opiate, but by some unconscious obedience to the all-just laws, so that we become like a still lake of purest crystal and without an effort our depths are revealed to ourselves. All the world goes by us and is reflected in our deeps. Such clarity!”

Chateau de Nazelles 1 by Harold Davis

Chateau de Nazelles (2013) © Harold Davis

The Chateau de Nazelles was a really fun place to spend a few days in the heart of the Loire Valley; more about my thinking in making this image here.


Artichokes are good to eat. They are a real treat. You peel the leaves to the “meat” inside, in a spiral motion that echoes the visual path in this great, big edible flower as shown from above. 

The artichoke is shown here photographed straight down on a velvet background with some side lighting to bring out the spiral pattern. I bracketed exposures, and started layering using hand-HDR with the darkest exposure. The resulting low-key layer stack approaches life from the opposite direction than my more typical high-key layer stack. Poppy Dancer is another example of this technique, with some explanatory and tutorial links at the end of the Poppy Dancer story.

Artichoke on Black © Harold Davis

The lens I used for this image was my Nikkor tilt-shift macro (to even out the plane of focus) at an effective aperture of f/64. 

An inversion of the artichoke image is shown below, created in LAB color in Photoshop by applying an Invert adjustment to the L-channel.

Artichoke Inversion © Harold Davis

Click here for another kind of image of a thistle flower—a very close relative to the artichoke.

Also posted in Photography

Under the Bridges of Paris

As I’ve previously noted, I seem to spend a lot of time photographing underneath bridges. The beauty of the scene from the deck of a bridge is often pretty self-evident. On the other hand, the elegance and grace—in a “form follows function” kind of way—of the practical constructions that are under and hold up the bridge are not always so clear. But I find myself moved by the humble engineering that holds the weight of the bridge span on its shoulders. I think what is underneath a bridge is often visually very sexy.

Pont D’Arcole © Harold Davis

In Paris, it is very easy to access the under parts of the bridges across the Seine from the paths beside the river. In previous times, I’ve made images in this way of Parisian bridges, including the Pont Solferino and the Pont de la Concorde.

Under the Pont de Grenelle © Harold Davis

This April’s collection of Parisian under-bridge spans began with the Pont de Grenelle, photographed from the Île aux Cygnes. Next, on a bright and breezy day we walked along the right bank starting near the Île Saint Louis past the Pont D’Arcole and the Pont Notre Dame, emerging from the river side just past the Pont des Arts.

Beneath Pont de Grenelle © Harold Davis

Pont D’Arcole © Harold Davis

Pont Notre Dame © Harold Davis

Pont des Arts © Harold Davis

I had a great time photographing these bridges, and am glad I can share my images with you.

From a general perspective, next time you are photographing something structural, consider how it works and what is holding the structure up. Often, visual analysis stops at surface appearance. But I also like to think about the under carriage and the mechanism, as this can be as profound and significant as the face that is presented to the world.

Also posted in Paris, Photography

Ready Pilgrim One

At the outset I must stipulate that a spacious room in a luxury 5-star hotel is a great place to organize for a longish walk on the Camino de Santiago. The Parador at the Convent of San Marcos in León, Spain, where I stayed before I began my Camino, meets this description of “luxury”. I stipulate to this luxury a bit abashed: the concept of a pilgrimage and the life of ease don’t mesh together so well. Traditionally, a pilgrimage involves penitence and pain—the blisters currently on my feet satisfy this requirement, alas.

According to the Wikipedia, the “convent of San Marcos is one of the great architectural jewels of the Spanish city of León.” It’s featured as the luxury stop the protagonist treats his Camino cohort to in The Way, the Martin Sheen and Emilio Estévez film that has brought so many pilgrims to the Camino de Santiago.

The Convent of San Marcos has been (as the name implies) a convent, a monastery, a hospital, and a way-station for pilgrims. My photograph of one of the interior cloisters is shown below.

Lower Cloisters, Convent of San Marcos © Harold Davis

In its current incarnation as a newly renovated luxury hotel, part of the Parador chain, there is something tawdry and abominable about the place. It’s geared for the luxury bus tourist trade. Easy listening American standards are piped via a too-high volume sound system into all the public spaces. They’ve gutted the classical atrium and replaced it with a modern interior structure, justifying this colossal design inanity with an exhibition of modernist Spanish art.

One can have second thoughts about privatizing a great historical structure for the benefit of well-to-do tourists. No second thoughts are possible about the awful design choices that were made during this renovation.

So, ready pilgrim one! Onward to the simpler life as a pilgrim-with-a-camera walking the Camino.

Also posted in Spain

Flower like a shell

I’ve been working on photographing a group of white Calla Lilies the past few days. With this image, I tried to abstract the flower so that it seemed almost like a shell, or perhaps the sensuous lines of fabric.

Calla Lily Study © Harold Davis

Also posted in Abstractions, Flowers, Photography