Category Archives: Monochrome

Abstracting Sacré-Cœur

High atop the hill of Montmartre sits the cathedral of Sacré-Cœur—which, as I’ve pointed out before, is emblematic (when constructed) of a hard-right quasi-fascism as encouraged by the Church. From a visual standpoint, it is kitsch and rococo, and just a bit weird.

Knocks against its politics of origin and the kitsch aesthetic aside, it is a hecka fun monument to photograph on the exterior (the interior not so much). The rear of the Sacré-Cœur exterior is shown here in an abstraction of wheels-within-wheels (arched arcades over arched arcades), and processed to look as much like a lithograph as a black and white photo.

Sacré-Cœur, exterior detail © Harold Davis

Also posted in France, Paris

Bridge of Light

Along the Oregon coast, hard by Heceta Head Lighthouse, we paused to photograph Cave Creek Bridge, lit by crepuscular rays in the morning mist.

Too often in this life we see the darkness, not the light. But just as often around the corner there is a bridge built of light—to take one ahead as a vessel of lightness. Shadow and light alternate, but we should attempt to take the bridge of light when it is presented to us. Too often we pause in mediocrity, or stare blinded by the darkness, when our best selves are better blinded by the light.

Bridge of Light © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Devil’s Postpile

Deep in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, down the drainage of the Middle Fork of the San Joaquin River from the Minarets, Mt Banner, and the Ritter Range, lies the formation of basalt pillars that is the basis for Devil’s Postpile National Monument. As it happens, a dead-end road leads from the ski resort town of Mammoth Lakes, over the Pacific Crest, and before the road ends at the Reds Meadow pack station passes within half a mile of Devil’s Postpile. 

Devil’s Postpile © Harold Davis

In September, on my way to the night photography workshop in Lone Pine, on a deliciously golden sunlit day, I took the time to travel over to Devil’s Postpile. With my camera on tripod, I made a series of abstract exposures, much more interested in the shapes of the formation than any larger sense of context.

Also posted in Landscape

X-Ray Photography and the Inner Form of Beauty

The process of making these x-ray images of flowers and shells is more like making a photogram—what Man Ray called a rayograph—than it is like using a conventional camera. The flowers are arranged on top of the capture medium, in this case a digital sensor and then exposed. But the exposure is to x-rays rather then to light in the visible spectrum, as in a photogram, where objects are placed on top of a photosensitive medium (historically, more oftern emulsion-coated paper rather than a digital sensor).

X-Ray, Sunflower © Harold Davis

The x-rays reveal the inner form and shapes rather than the surface manifestation of the object. It is possible to look at the petals of a flower as though they are gauze or veils, and to see the capillaries within a leaf.

Spray Roses X-Ray © Harold Davis

Rather than the surface of a shell, when the x-ray “camera” is pointed at a shell, the inner spirals, shapes, and forms of the structure is revealed. 

Shell Collection X-Ray © Harold Davis

More: Revealing the Unseen with X-Ray Photography of Flowers. Sometimes the seen and the unseen, the surface and the shapes within, come together by combining high-key visible light photography with x-ray captures: X-Ray and “Fusion” X-Ray Images of Flowers.

Also posted in Flowers, X-Ray

Rainbow Falls in Black and White

I hiked into Rainbow Falls in Devils Postpile National Monument. No rainbows this day, but a great waterfall in monochrome!

Rainbow Falls in Monochrome © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Papaver Poppy Pods Gone to Seed

When Papavers go to seed, they produce pods that hold the seeds. You can scrape out the pod to harvest the seeds. When one puts a  clump of these seeds into a mortar and pestle and grinds them into a paste then one is well on the way to refining opium. Of course, to be clear, you have to start with a Papaver somniferum rather than some other Papaver variety to get opium. Who me? Lest anyone is curious, mine are purely decorative, and I have absolutely no interest in growing my own opium patch in my garden. I swear…

Papaver Pod from above © Harold Davis

I think the Papaver gone to seed looks almost like a marine sea creature, perhaps more like a sand dollar than a flower!

Papaver Seed Stalks © Harold Davis

I photographed the specimens shown here on a black velvet background, and processed the images in Photoshop using my digital Karl Blossfeldt effect.

Papaver Seed Pod © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

Summer Grass

In the traffic island in the middle of our Morning Glory Circle, as spring turns to summer the grass is drying and turning a California brown. I cut and carefully arranged a few stalks on my light box, and used LAB inversion to add a black background.

Before I had left for my Camino, I started photographing grasses and “weeds”—I think this has become a whole, interesting sub-genre for me. After all, it is the wise botanical artist who knows the distinction between flower and weed is somewhat arbitrary, and in the eye of the beholder. The less-well regarded weed can often surpass in structural interest the hoity-toity flower.

Summer Grass © Harold Davis

More images of grasses and such: Oxalis; Street Grasses; Decorative Grass; Blades of Grass; no real flowers need apply!

Also posted in Photograms, Photography

Geometry

This is the ancient and magnificent Pont Valentre in Cahors, France and its reflections in the Lot River on a clear day with still water.

Geometry © Harold Davis

Also posted in France

Above the Gran Via

The grand hotels and stately buildings in Madrid have to be seen to be believed, and they are often best seen from above the ground floor. This image of the decorative balconies along Madrid’s Gran Via is a composite of eight images—to manage the extremes of the dynamic range—and was made on the fourth floor. Actually, the fifth floor by US designation (here in Europe what we’d call the first floor is floor zero, and one-off discrepancy between the continents).

Above the Gran Via © Harold Davis

Egg

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Coming downstairs on a school-day morning, I found a boiled egg that Nicky spurned alone in a small white bowl. The bowl was lit by beautiful ambient (but strong) sunlight from the kitchen window.

Somewhat groggily (it was before my first dose of caffeine) I contemplated my technical options from iPhone to full-court drill with camera, tripod, and Zeiss Otus. I went for the middle ground: the DSLR (Nikon D850) with a macro lens (Zeiss 50mm f/2), handheld, bumping the ISO to compensate for the lack of a tripod (I wanted to get to the cup of coffee sometime in this life!).

My interest was to use the available light to make the ovoid shape of the egg stand out above the shadows, and it is always fun to create an abstraction (or a semi-abstraction) from the everyday things around one.

Egg © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Devotional Pose

Devotional Pose © Harold Davis

Click here for a related image, and here for more in my Multiple Exposure series.

Model: Muirina Fae

Also posted in Models, Multiple Exposures

New print on Moab Entrada Rag Textured

As you can see here, I just made a new print on Moab Entrada Rag Textured. I’m pleased with the way this came out, and I think the moderate texture of the paper contrasts but works very nicely with the styling of the image—a rendering of a coastal oak tree, with the image shown at the bottom of this story!

New Print on Entrada Rag Textured © Harold Davis

California Oak Tree © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape, Photography

Point Bonita

At dusk the outer cliffs of the Headlands become shrouded in mystery. Point Bonita Lighthouse guards the approach to the Golden Gate, as it has since the days of steamships. A formidable approach indeed, who is to know from the rugged coast that the way is open to a vast inland bay?

Point Bonita in Black and White © Harold Davis

Point Bonita Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

So it begins

That Embarcadero Center and those back stairs get my juices flowing every time. This one is based on a single, handheld exposure using the Zeiss Milvius 25mm f/1.4, exposed at 125 of a second, f/1.4, and ISO 1250.

So it begins © Harold Davis

Some related images: Spirals, Endless Stair, and Calling Alice. By coincidence, in a life cycle spiral, I had my oldest son Julian with me yesterday when I made this photo, just as I did many years ago for the earlier versions.

Amaryllis Unfurling

I photographed this white Amaryllis unfurling using dappled and diffused sunlight for illumination, and a black velvet cloth for the background.

Amaryllis Unfurling © Harold Davis

The image is comprised of three exposures, each using the Lensbaby 85mm f/1.6 and an extension tube, with my camera mounted on a tripod. I varied the aperture (and adjusted the shutter speed to compensate) to take advantage of the different effects this lens has depending upon how wide open or shut down it is. The exposure at f/1.6 yielded the bright sunlit areas on the upper right, the exposure at f/4 covers most of the mid-tones, and the exposure at f/16 sharpened the inner unfurling.

Also posted in Flowers, Photography