Category Archives: Monochrome

Romanesco Broccoli

Broccoli that we enjoy on our tables is the blossom of a flowering plant, and this is nowhere more apparent than with Romanesco Broccoli, shown in extreme close-up below. 

The little spiral flowers on the Romanesco Broccoli are created with rotations. The number of rotations for each one is a number in the Fibonacci sequence. This is the famous sequence named after thirteenth century mathematician Leonardo of Pisa, better known as Fibonacci: each Fibonacci number is the sum of the two preceding ones, so 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, and so on.

Romanesco Broccoli © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

More about seeing in Black & White

Recently I’ve been thinking about black and white photography. One context is the landscape of Iceland, and the relative appropriateness of color and monochrome.

A comparison of black & white versus color ways of seeing also came up in correspondence I recently had with someone I shall call X. Without going into details, X has a medical condition which means that he cannot perceive color.

Black Sand Beach © Harold Davis

As someone recently enamored with photography, X wanted my opinion as to whether photography was viable since he could only see in black and white, and how much of a liability his perceptual challenges might present. At one point in our conversation, I asked X to consider if only seeing monochrome might not actually be a “super power”—and confer unexpected benefits.

In the course of our conversation, X brought up four issues that concerned him:

  1. How do you decide what is best in Black & White? I understand fundamentals like composition, light, contrast, texture etc. but is there anything else in your thought process?
  2. Have you found photographic subjects which simply do not work well in Black & White?
  3. Do you think your photography would be different if you never saw color?
  4. Do you think that even when viewing the most stunning B&W photograph, people still feel something missing?

Falling Water © Harold Davis

I answered X as follows:

First, asking about the subjects that work best in black and white, is fully answered in my book Creative Black and White 2nd Edition in the first part The Monochrome Vision (pp 16-83). 

Your second question, subjects that don’t work well in monochrome, is the obverse of the first question, and, as such, is also discussed in The Monochrome Vision section of my book. The short answer is that any image that is truly about color would not work in black and white. Some of the photographs of Ernst Haas and William Eggleston come to mind (and some of my own, for that matter).

Taking this into the wider world of art, the work of some of the impressionists (Monet and Gauguin most clearly) are really about color, and would not work well in monochrome. This list could go on, and (reductively)  the work of color-field painters (Arshile Gorky, Kennith Nolan, Mark Rothko, Mondrian, etc.) would not work without color. To summarize, when the subject is color, the image won’t work in black & white.

Two Towers © Harold Davis

Whether my photography would have been different if I had never seen color, the third question, is hard to answer, because it calls for speculation on a negative. But personally, color has always been very meaningful to me, and some of the earliest art that inspired me was about color, so I think my work would likely be different if I’d never seen color. But, you know, it is impossible to unsee things once they are seen; so I have no real idea how I would be different as an artist. I do know that I still could have made art even without any perception of color.

Finally, whether black and white is missing something, I don’t think so. Of course, people differ: but my own opinion is absolutely not, perceptive viewers do not feel anything is missing in a striking b&w photo. So long, that is, that the black and white is intentional, and it is not just a color image squashed to black and white. As an example, it would be a dullard indeed who thought anything was missing in the best of Ansel Adams or Edward Weston.

Spiral Stair © Harold Davis

A little about the black & white images that accompany this story: In Black Sand Beach a white line (of incoming surf) splits the dark beach from the storm-tossed ocean on Iceland’s south coast. Falling Water is a capture of water in motion, a subject of endless fascination, and often essentially monochromatic. There are spirals, but not much color to be found in Two Towers or Spiral Stairs. The towers are small-scale industrial silos on the Westman Islands off the coast of Iceland, and I found the spiral stair in a gift shop in downtown Reykjavik. 

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, 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, Landscape, Photography

Coming into Iceland

Coming into Iceland after a long-haul overnight flight, the land near the airport looked flat and green as a steady mist fell. Talking the shuttle bus in from the airport, I wandered around Reykjavik with my camera—this slight motion blur of the distinctive Hallgrims-Kirkja tower perhaps echoing my disoriented state of mind!

Hallgrims-Kirkja © Harold Davis

Also posted in Iceland

The Blossfeldt Effect webinar video recording

We’ve posted The Blossfeldt Effect video webinar recording. Here’s the description:

In this unique and creative webinar, Harold starts with a look at the characteristics of a Blossfeldian composition. What kinds of subjects did Blossfeldt choose to photograph, and why? What makes a particular botanical specimen visually exciting?

Next, Harold explores two possible places to start with Blossfeldian botanical compositions: the black background and the light box.

To cap it off, Harold demonstrates how he processes his Blossfeldt-like images using some surprisingly simple yet tricky steps.

I think you’ll enjoy this one, it is one of our best!

Click here for The Blossfeldt Effect video, here for a catalog listing of our video webinar recordings, here for my YouTube channel, and here for upcoming Workshops & Events.

California Live Oak © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography, Workshops

The Blossfeldt Effect Webinar coming up on Saturday June 12

Karl Blossfeldt (1866-1932) began his career at a decorative ironwork manufacturer. He was assigned the task of creating reference botanical photographs to use for wrought iron designs. Eventually, his iconic botanical images became celebrated in their own right, and today he is known as one of history’s foremost botanical photographers.

I’ve long been fascinated by Blossfeldt’s botanical imagery and have developed a set of techniques for emulating the beautiful photographs of this master.

Some of my work in homage to Blossfeldt has even been mistaken for the real thing on a certain art consolidation website that shall not be named!

You can check out a portfolio of my (genuine, authorized Harold Davis) prints after Blossfeldt on Saatchi Art

Click here to read more, and here to register for this webinar!

Queen Anne's Lace © Harold Davis

Queen Anne’s Lace © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography, Workshops

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 Landscape, Photography

Wayback Machine

Today we will journey to a labyrinth and church on the island of Gozo in the Malta archipelago, followed by the Île de la Cité along the banks of the Seine in Paris early in the morning of an autumn day. Both were photographed pre-pandemic in November, 2018, and first processed just now.

Maze and Church, Gozo © Harold Davis

Île de la Cité © Harold Davis

Also posted in Malta, Paris, Photography

From the Files

California Live Oak © Harold Davis

Here are two images from my files. California Live Oak (above) is from 2019, photographed in Walnut Creek, California. 

Arcade, Trapani (below) is from November, 2018, photographed in Trapani, a seaport on the western coast of Sicily, Italy.

Arcade, Trapani © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy, Photography

My Back Pages

I spent some time over the last few days going through my archives for 2019, and processing images that I had somehow overlooked. 2019 was, of course, the last pre-pandemic year, and it was interesting on several levels to review my photographic life as it was then.

In this story, a selection of these newly processed 2019 images, starting with a view of the Paris skyline (from a workshop I was leading), through a well-known (and much photographed) ship wreck in Inverness, California, to an impressionistic in-camera-motion (“ICM”) image of a grove of trees in Florida (again, while leading a workshop), and finally a Lensbaby studio image of the legs of a model.

Tour Eiffel and La Defense © Harold Davis

Wreck of the Point Reyes © Harold Davis

Grove © Harold Davis

Legs © Harold Davis

Also posted in Paris, Photography, Point Reyes

Monochromatic Visions Portfolio

We’re pleased to be able to offer my Monochromatic Visions Portfolio at a still fairly affordable price ($1200). There are only two portfolios left at this price.

Monochromatic Visions portfolio by Harold Davis

Monochromatic Visions portfolio © Harold Davis

The twelve images in the portfolio are shown above, and the actual prints curing from a portfolio we sold to a very nice collector over the summer are shown below.

Monochromatic Visions Portfolio prints © Harold Davis

Monochromatic Visions Portfolio prints © Harold Davis

Please contact us with questions, or if you are interested in acquiring one of these portfolios!

Also posted in Print of the Month

Announcing new Homage to Blossfeldt limited edition prints

We’re pleased to announce a new series of eight limited edition Harold Davis prints in homage to the great botanical photographic artist Karl Blossfeldt, now available for sale on Saatchi Art. Click here for the collection of Homage to Blossfeldt prints, and here for Harold’s Saatchi Art page.

Queen Anne's Lace © Harold Davis

Queen Anne’s Lace © Harold Davis

There are eight images in the series, with five number prints for each image in the edition. Here are some specifics for Queen Anne’s Lace:

“Queen Anne’s Lace” is a fine art archival photograph created in the Harold Davis Studio. This artisanal limited edition print is hand signed and numbered. The mode and style of this print was inspired by the great botanical artist Karl Blossfeldt.

Queen Anne’s Lace comprises five seed-flower heads of the species Daucus carota which is related to the wild carrot. The artist placed the flower heads on a back-illuminated light box and photographed the ensemble using a special multi-capture technique. He then inverted the image so that the flower heads appear on black, and applied a Blossfeldt effect to create an image that is at once exciting, serene, and moving.

This richly detailed photograph is printed on archival 100% cotton Moab Entrada Rag Bright 300gsm using archival UltraChrome wide-color gamut inks.

The print is shipped flat in its own custom presentation folder, protected with a vellum overlay. A Harold Davis Studio certificate of authenticity is included with the print.

Please note that the paper size for this limited edition fine-art print is 32″ W x 24″ H. I have printed this work in my studio to be attractive on the paper with a nice border. The actual image size is 23″ W x 16″ H.

Tulip Petal Detail after Blossfeldt © Harold Davis

Related stories: Tulip Petal Detail after Blossfeldt; Special Pandemic Prints.

Also posted in Print of the Month

X-Ray Bouquet

The upper photo is an X-Ray of a bouquet of dahlias, nemesia, and kangaroo paw flowers. It was made in May, 2019 using medical x-ray equipment, and processed yesterday while waiting out the foul air in the Bay area in Photoshop from the DICOM file. More x-rays can be found here, and I’ve also posted a photo of a recent print of one of my favorite x-rays, of a sunflower, below.

X-Ray Bouquet of Dahlias, Nemesias, and Kangaroo Paw © Harold Davis

X-Ray Bouquet of Dahlias, Nemesias, and Kangaroo Paw Flowers © Harold Davis

Print of ‘Sunflower X-Ray’ © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Photography, X-Ray

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