Category Archives: New York

Lest we forget—9/11

These photographs of the World Trade Towers were made when I lived and worked as a photographer in New York in the 1980s. The upper two were made for an aerial photography assignment.

World Trade Towers aerial (vertical) © Harold Davis

World Trade Towers aerial (horizontal) © Harold Davis

New York Skyline with World Trade Towers © Harold Davis

World Trade Towers from Brooklyn © Harold Davis

World Trade Towers plaza © Harold Davis

For more about these photos, click here. For the story of my New York, New York image shown below, click here.

New York, New York © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Times Square

From high above Times Square, New York does indeed seem to be the “city that never sleeps.” A pulsing light show of humanity whatever hour of the day or night, reflected in the world of glass and girders. 

Times Square, New York © Harold Davis

Also posted in Digital Night

Central Park South at Night

Wandering around New York City about a year ago with my camera and tripod at dusk, on my way to a meeting with a publisher, I came upon the reflections of the Plaza Hotel and city lights coming on in the lake at the southern end of Central Park.

Central Park South © Harold Davis

I always feel so peculiar in New York since I know it so well from having lived there and grown up in “the city”: familiar, and at the same time a place that is utterly alien and has changed beyond recognition (kind of like our overall society). In any case, I am looking forward to a few days in New York between Maine and Germany this coming summer.

Also posted in Digital Night

Reflections in The Pond, Central Park

Walking south from Bethesda Fountain to get to my dinner appointment on West 57th Street, I stopped by a body of water at the southeast corner of Central Park to enjoy a few minutes of tranquility, and to get centered before I met a representative from the publisher of The Photographer’s Black & White Handbook. Alas, tranquility was not to be.

Reflections in The Pond, Central Park © Harold Davis

Reflections in The Pond, Central Park © Harold Davis

I climbed out on a rocky peninsula, and started getting my tripod set up. At that moment there was a huge urban caterwauling of emergency vehicle sirens. I never learned what the fuss was about, but the red lights across Central Park South added to my color palette during my longish (thirty second) exposure. The morals: One person’s firetruck is another person’s aesthetic element; and, quietness is a rare commodity in a major metropolis!

Also posted in Photography

Tunnel to Bethesda Fountain

The area around Bethesda Fountain is one of my favorite haunts in New York’s fabulous Central Park. During the day it is always crowded with happy folks, musicians, jugglers, and so on. At night, the area looks like a stage set. This is a fisheye view through the underpass under the park drive towards Bethesda Fountain, shown both in black & white and color.

Tunnel to Bethesda Fountain (b&w) © Harold Davis

Tunnel to Bethesda Fountain (b&w) © Harold Davis

Tunnel to Bethesda Fountain (color) © Harold Davis

Tunnel to Bethesda Fountain (color) © Harold Davis

Building Reflections

On my recent trip, I stayed in New York in the belly of the beast, in a nice Eurostyle hotel at the corner of Tenth Ave and 42nd Street. Literally scores of fifty and sixty story high-rises are going up all over that neighborhood, and the New York I grew up in is close to unrecognizable. Can there really be enough New Yorkers with enough money to populate these opulent rental buildings that are coming on line, many with mirrored windows (as in this iPhone shot) or other interesting architectural features? I wonders, I does.

Building Reflections © Harold Davis

Building Reflections © Harold Davis

About the image: Captured using the Camera app on my iPhone 6s, and fairly minimally processed using the Snapseed, Mextures, and DistressedFX apps.

Also posted in iPhone, Photography


The dictionary says that oculus is a fancy term for a round, eyelike opening. The term has been borrowed for a system of virtual reality headsets, and I have photographed a rock formation called the Oculus in Antelope Canyon. In New York City, the Oculus is the architectural sculpture above a transportation hub near the World Trade Center, designed by Santiago Calatrava, and shown here in all its eyelike glory!

© Harold Davis

Oculus © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

On the Brooklyn Bridge

Today I guest-hosted an informal Meetup of New York photographers. We gathered at the bridge tower on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge. There was a great deal of talk about photography, many nice people, and I answered all the questions I could. The sunset looked to be unpromising, but as you can see it had its moments.

© Harold Davis

On the Brooklyn Bridge © Harold Davis

Exposure data: Nikon D810, 16mm fisheye, three blended exposures, each at shutter speeds of 8 seconds and ISO 64; f/8, f/11, and f/14; tripod mounted. Processed in ACR and Photoshop.

Also posted in Digital Night, Photography

A Tale of Two Cities

I was in New York City just now for 48 hours, give or take an hour or two. It’s hard for me to visit New York without sensing a bit of personal dislocation. It’s as though there is one Harold who stayed in New York, where I grew up, and had a photography studio for a number of years. There’s another Harold who moved out of “the city” twenty-odd years ago, as in fact I did on the time line that feels most like reality. It is possible, of course, that all the hours on the plane getting to New York, jet lag, and internally being confused about the time zone may have added to my somewhat incoherent feeling that the universe had jolted, and that part of me was on one timeline (the Harold that stayed in New York) while most of (the happily married Harold with four kids living in California) never looked back.

Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade © Harold Davis

Manhattan from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade © Harold Davis

Incoherent tears in my personal space-time continuum to the despite, I had a great time in New York City, and it was a good trip both from a photographic viewpoint, and also the professional meetings I had went very well. I met with friends both old and new. New York City in holiday season can be a fantastic place, with great food, and wonderful things to see and touch. Breaking away from friends and business meetings, I photographed Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade (above). I made abstractions using the mirrored windows of the Hudson Yards construction. This massive project consists of twelve skyscraper towers, with the master plan designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, my photos will follow in a later story. And I visited upper Manhattan, where I walked across the newly reopened High Bridge to the Bronx at sunset, and made a photo of traffic jammed like a pinball game on the Cross Bronx Expressway (and, why isn’t “Cross Bronx” hypenated?), shown below.

Cross Bronx Expwy © Harold Davis

Cross Bronx Expwy © Harold Davis

My real sense of dislocation in New York doesn’t so much have to do with my personal history. Of course, today’s New York city is not the city I grew up in, or the city whose art scene I was a small part of, or the city where I was married and divorced, or drank and got sober. Of course the world has moved on. New York is one of the greatest cities the world has ever known, and as such of course it is both very beautiful and terribly ugly.

The dislocation I sense in New York is a tale of two cities, even more so than when I grew up here. In other words, it is the best of times, and the worst of times. There’s an infinite amount of luxury high-rise construction. Folks drop mind-blowing sums on fancy dining and clothing. The homeless sleep on the streets of New York. If you look carefully, homeless people are everywhere. Outside the gilded towers and a few fabulously wealthy areas, it is a hardscrabble existence, with most people running double-time not to lose their place on the ladder. It is the best of times and the worst of times.

Also posted in Photography

New York is a stage

I’m passing through New York with an appearance at PhotoPlus Expo on behalf of my sponsor Carl Zeiss, for whom I am a Camera Lens Ambassador. PhotoPlus is at the Javits Center. I am enroute to Barcelona, Spain, where I am headed tomorrow. My timing in New York overlaps with Halloween, and it seems that all the world’s indeed a stage!

Bethesda Fountain © Harold Davis

Bethesda Fountain © Harold Davis

So yesterday to get some air after being at the convention center all day I walked up to Central Park, and shot this image of the plaze behind Bethesda Fountain by moonlight. It does indeed look like a stage, but a deserted one at night!

Also posted in Digital Night

Avenue 6 1/2

Harry Potter has his platform 9 3/4 in King’s Cross Station and New York City has its Avenue 6 1/2. As you might expect, Avenue 6 1/2 lies between 6th and 7th Avenues. It runs from 57th street south to 51rst street. The image shown here was taken in the atrium that forms the block between 51rst and 52nd streets on 6 1/2 Ave, and is one of the many places in New York City that my tripod and I managed to get ejected from.

Time Machine by Harold Davis

Time Machine © Harold Davis

How this image was made: I used my 10.5mm digital fisheye lens, and shot nine exposures from 4 seconds to 1/125 of a second. Each exposure was made at f/13 and ISO 200. As I’ve noted, I used a tripod to keep the image sequence aligned. The images were processing in Nik HDR Efex Pro and Photoshop.

Want to learn to make this kind of image yourself? Check out my book Creating HDR Photos: The Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Photography, and consider attending my HDR Bootcamp workshop.

Midtown Babylon

Midtown Babylon is a digital collage created using thirty exposures shot through the window of my hotel room on a recent trip to New York City. I’ve printed it on canvas, and the substrate seems to work well with this image—better than photographic paper would as I was striving for a painterly effect.

Midtown Babylon by Harold Davis

Midtown Babylon © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

Like Storm in the Upper Bay and Ghosts of Grand Central my thought with this image is to convey some degree of the complexity of my feelings about New York—the place I grew up, and a city that I love and that drives me crazy simultaneously.

Certainly, no disrespect is meant regarding the recent hurricane. My hope is that my friends stayed snug and warm, and that things get back to normal as quickly as possible, if New York City can ever be said to have a “normal.”

Also posted in Abstractions, Photography

When is a river not a river?

It is called the “East River” but—technically speaking—this body of water is actually a tidal strait. The East River connects the Long Island Sound with New York harbor, and the Atlantic Ocean, via the Narrows. Subject to the vagaries of the tides, the not-a-river East River puts the “Island” in “Long Island.”

East River by Harold Davis

East River © Harold Davis—Click to view larger

In New York City I visited a very old friend of mine who lives high up and far to the east in the 70s. This image is shot from my friend’s balcony. I had to brace my camera and tripod against a very stiff breeze. This exposure was made at 24mm for 25 seconds at f/7.1 and ISO 200.

In post-production I worked to paint in the lights which were reflected in the East River. Without some enhancement that tidal strait would have looked mighty dark and dull!

Also posted in Digital Night

Storm in Upper New York Bay

The day I had for shooting on the water in New York was the one day it rained. But light during stormy weather can make for interesting images. Photographer Hank Gans and I braved the storm and proceeded as planned despite the seriously squally weather.

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (with texture) by Harold Davis

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (with texture) © Harold Davis

This image shows upper New York Bay, often simply called New York Harbor with the lower Manhattan skyline in the background. Upper New York Bay is fed by the Hudson River, which is connected to the shipping channels out to the Atlantic Ocean via the Narrows and Lower New York Bay, and to Long Island Sound via the East River (which despite the name is actually a tidal strait).

In this image you can see a Staten Island Ferry plowing through the waves in front of the inaptly-named Freedom Tower, which is going up near the World Trade Memorial.

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (black & white) by Harold Davis

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (black & white) © Harold Davis

The three versions of Storm in Upper New York Harbor in this story are shown in reverse of the order in which I made them during post-production. The actual RAW image file is fairly flat, so I processed the color image to add contrast and drama (below).

Once I was happy with the color version I used Nik Silver Efex 2 to convert the image to monochromatic (above). At that point, I thought I was done—but the idea of playing with textures called out to me, hence the painterly version at the top of this story.

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (color version) by Harold Davis

Storm in New York Upper Harbor (color version) © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape

Ghosts of Grand Central

Wandering around New York with my camera after an absence of many years was in some ways a dissonant experience. I grew up in New York City, but the New York of today is not the New York I remember from the years of my youth and as a young adult.

Of course, one can’t go home again and the only thing constant is change. But somehow this visit to my old stomping grounds made me feel particularly spectral, as if the photographer Harold of thirty years ago was also present and sensing my contemporary presence. To the Harold of the past I would have seemed like a ghost, inhabiting a future world that would have been almost unimaginable.

Past and present merged as one, and I tried to express this very odd feeling in my image of Grand Central Station and its ghosts.

Ghosts of Grand Central by Harold Davis

Ghosts of Grand Central © Harold Davis—Click for larger image

How this image was made: When I walked through Grand Central Station I knew that I wanted to show this vast public space filled with people, many of whom would be partially blurred and therefore “ghosts.” Obviously, to achieve this effect I needed a long exposure.

The first hurdle was that when I took out my tripod a gentleman in camouflage khakis carrying an automatic weapon came over and told me I couldn’t use it. This was in keeping with much of my experience trying to photograph in New York—pulling out my tripod often led to its prohibition.

So I found a balcony railing on which I could rest my camera.

The next problem was that there was too much light for a long exposure. I solved this issue in two ways. First, I added a neutral density filter that cut the amount of light coming into my camera by a factor of 8. I then made a series of exposures at 4 seconds, f/22 and ISO 100.

The second way to extend the exposure was to rely on stacking. Stacking is a post-processing method for effectively extending the length of an exposure by aggregating shorter exposures. A common use is to extend the effective time of night exposures to create circular star trails as in Stars My Destination.

By extending the exposure time using a small aperture, a neutral density filter, and stacking I accomplished the intermittent blur I was looking for. People who stood still appeared solid and “real,” while those who were moving became spectral and blurred ghosts.

In this image I used the technique of stacking a little differently from stacking star trails, in which one wants the brightest pixel in a stack to be the one selected: In Ghosts of Grand Central I made two stacks, each consisting of six images, for an aggregate exposure length of 24 seconds. In one of the stacks I elected to choose the darkest pixel at each point. This is accomplished in the Photoshop Statistics action by setting the stack mode to Minimum.

The second stack used the Range stack mode, which is a statistical method that renders the spread between the darkest and lightest pixel at every point.

I combined the two stacks using a gradient, so the background of Grand Central Station (created with the Minimum stack) looked fundamentally as it does in “real life. But the foreground and floor of the space, created in the Range mode, was spectral and ghostly with some figures rendered normally and others as negative space.

Also posted in Bemusements