Category Archives: Monochrome

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

Did the Serpent Get a ‘Bum Rap’?

I think the serpent may have gotten a bum rap. At the very least, there is some indignity to an honest snake for being depicted as a kind of lizard with front legs, and knotted into a pretzel shape. Where is Eve in all this, and why would she listen to this critter?

Did the serpent get a ‘bad rap’? © Harold Davis

Also posted in Spain

X-Ray Floral Medley

Working with Dr Julian Kopke, I laid out this x-ray composition on a sheet of plexiglass above the sensor. The results you see are actually two x-rays combined, because there is falloff at one of the x-ray, so the second exposure was flipped to create a combined even image. We also used the plexiglass backing in registration to create a light box image of the composition, and I will try later to see what combining the x-ray (interior structure) with the external appearance of the flowers looks like. Check out my FAQ for more information about this kind of imaging.

X-Ray Floral Medley © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, X-Ray

Curves Ahead

Starting with sunlight coming through vessels with color, I pared down my abstractions. But lately we have been under a river of rain. Sunlight is scarce. But it doesn’t take much to create an image. Just a camera, really. Simplicity is best. There are curves ahead.

Curve #1 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Abstractions, Photography

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 Landscape

Cutting Corners

In Mounts Botanical Gardens of Palm Beach County, Florida an impressive exhibit of an installation by stick-work artist Patrick Dougherty was showcased when I visited recently. I’m always interested in doors, windows, and openings, particularly when they can be seen in progression one within the other, so it was great fun to photograph this stick work structure from within, emphasizing both the symmetry and repetition, and at the same time the anarchy and lack of linear structure.

Windows in a Willow Twig House © Harold Davis

To create this image with as much contrast and resolution as I could, with my camera on a tripod, I made nine exposures stopped down to f/25 at ISO 64. Shutter speeds ranged from 2.5 seconds to /50 of a second. I carefully focused about 1/3 of the distance shown in the photo to get as many elements as possible in focus. 

I combined the nine exposures in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, then processed to monochromatic using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and Photoshop Adjustment Layers.

Also photographed at Mounts Botanical Garden with my class from the Palm Beach Photographic CentreLooking down the frond—Been down so long it looks like up to me!

Also posted in Photography