Category Archives: Photography

digital photography: techniques: thoughts: photographs

Maine and Colorado

Here are two images from my recent trip to Maine and Colorado. The first image is of a stairway in Fort Knox, Maine. That’s right: there is a Fort Knox in Maine! Both the Fort Knox in Maine and the better-known Fort Knox in Kentucky were named after Henry Knox. Major General Knox, considered one of the United States “founding fathers,” was Chief of Artillery in the American Revolutionary War and the first United States Secretary of War.

Stairs at Fort Knox © Harold Davis

The image below was made while slogging up the sand slope in Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado near the New Mexico border. It’s a single RAW capture, processed three times using multi-RAW EV variations to account for the vast dynamic range between the clouds in the sky and the foreground in partial shadow.

Sea of Sand © Harold Davis

Great Sand Dunes NP is a wonderful location, and a kind of adult playground in the sand. I hadn’t been there since I was a youngster. I enjoyed photographing the location, and feel it is comparable to the wonderful austerity of the Eureka Dunes section of Death Valley.

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 Monochrome

Bottle Collection

Today we photographed many beautiful and magical things—like the glass bottle collection shown here, and continuing to a very wonderful and rather weird historical fire-engine-restoration workshop. I’ll show the fire engine images when I can process them, but for now here is my photo of a collection of glass bottles!

Bottle Collection © Harold Davis

Rockland Breakwater and the Endless Summer Flower Farm

Today my Maine workshop group photographed at the Rockland Breakwater, and also at the Endless Summer Flower Farm. The idea, borrowed from Composition & Photography, was to start with simple shapes. Such as lines, dots, and circles, and to build up from the simple shapes to create interesting compositions.

Dahlia at the Endless Summer Flower Farm © Harold Davis

Triangle on the stone causeway © Harold Davis

Coming into Maine

Coming into Maine in the cool of the evening, I spent my first night in Maine in a cabin off-the-grid on the verge of the great northern forest. I woke early to the dappled light through the trees. On my way as the sun rose, I stopped by the banks of the Penobscot River to photograph sunrise, a bridge, and grass along the banks of the water.

Richmond-Dresden Bridge © Harold Davis

River Grass © Harold Davis

Helichrysum bracteatum

I photographed this Helichrysum bracteatum (strawflower) blossom on my light box (far below), then inverted the image in LAB Color, and converted to monochromatic (directly below).

I’m headed tomorrow to Maine to teach a workshop in Composition & Photography. I am looking forward very much to the week on mid-coast Maine at Maine Media Workshops, where I haven’t been since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 (webinars are great, but they don’t take the place of in-person workshops!).

Should you be feeling nostalgic for 2020 and the early pandemic, you can also check out Love in the Time of the Coronavirus on my blog.

Helichrysum bracteatum © Harold Davis

Helichrysum bracteatum on white © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

Video Games Are Actually Good for Your Brain

A little more than fourteen years ago, my daughter Katie Rose was born very prematurely. Today, Katie’s Video Games are Actually Good for Your Brain has been selected to be showcased at the California STEAM Symposium in Anaheim, CA on October 1-2, 2022. Congratulations Katie!

Sleeping Angels © Harold Davis

Also posted in Katie Rose, Kids

Butterfly of Flowers

It’s fun to use flowers to create animistic shapes on the light box, like good-luck dragons and this “Butter-flower” shown below.

Butterfly of Flowers © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

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 Monochrome

Dancing with the Pasta Stars!

It’s amazing what one can do with pasta stars, a light box, and LAB color. Dancing with the Pasta Stars was created using LAB in Photoshop from the version of the pasta spiral photographed on my light box (below) and then inverted (bottom).

Dancing with the Pasta Stars © Harold Davis

Spiral Pasta Nebula © Harold Davis

Spiral Pasta Nebula Inversion © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photoshop Techniques

Seize the Day

Having been occupied by family matters lately, it is hard to make the time for flower photography. Work on a light box does not respond well to impatience. The time to slowly understand the composition that the flowers themselves would like is required. 

Seize the Day © Harold Davis

In this work, not all the time is spent arranging or photographing. Sometimes I find myself in front of the light box staring into space—or, more politely, meditating. 

The flowers in Seize the Day (above) were among those that survived from the recent and very pleasurable Photographing Flowers for Transparency workshop held here in Berkeley, California. Click here for upcoming workshops (they will be listed as they are scheduled).

Household Magic

When you look at everyday, household objects with fresh eyes, it is possible to see their magic. For example, someone told me the image below (Jaws Inversion) looks like a leg-hold trap. Actually, in non-magical life this is my daughter’s hair clip with the spring clip tied open. 

Jaws Inversion © Harold Davis

In this case, the non-living object has been imbued with a spirit, although possibly one that borders on the black hat rather than the white. The kitchen mixing bowls in the two images below are much more neutral.

Mixing Bowls © Harold Davis

Nesting Bowls and a Nautilus Slice © Harold Davis

Nesting Bowls and a Nautilus Slice © Harold Davis

Sometimes a shadow adds depth and purpose to the ordinary object, as in the Egg Yolk Separator shown below and Egg Slicer.

Egg Yolk Separator © Harold Davis

Egg Slicer © Harold Davis

Finally, domestic subjects can reverse the process of objectification. This approaches anthropomorphization: In Alter Ego, below, a squash becomes a dinosaur with a mystery about its shadow.

Alter Ego © Harold Davis

Related stories: Nesting Bowls and a Nautilus Slice; Egg Yolk Separator; Egg Slicer; and Alter Ego.

When Georgia O’Keeffe Met Gertrude Stein

In my fantasy, Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) traveled shortly after the first world war from Texas where she taught drawing to bored college students to New York to meet with her mentor and future husband, the photographer and gallerist Alfred Steiglitz (1864-1946). Steiglitz advised, “While you are an American original, your work needs the tapestry of historical confusion that only the old world can supply,” and provided her with letters of introduction, including one to writer and art collector Gertrude Stein (1874-1946).

Rose Is A © Harold Davis

Arriving in Paris, O’Keeffe, like so many other artists, beat a path to Stein’s duplex off the grand inner courtyard at 27 rue de Fleurus, in the 6th arrondissement a few blocks from the Luxembourg Garden. Stein, with her partner Alice B. Toklas, presided over a salon of lesbians, avant-garde artists and writers featuring the demimonde, bullfighters, macho bully boys like Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), and painters with an affinity for the bullfight like Pablo Picasso (1881-1973). Stein was not particularly impressed with O’Keeffe, and vice versa.

Rose Study © Harold Davis

When O’Keeffe showed Stein her gentle watercolor with an intimate view of a rose, Stein famously declaimed, “A rose is a rose is a rose,” and dismissed the art and artist. O’Keeffe was through with Europe anyway, and found an early steamer back home. While she made many great paintings of flowers in the course of her magnificent career, she never again created an image of a rose. 

Related story: When is a Harold Davis rose a Georgia O’Keeffe?

Kiss from a Rose © Harold Davis

Dahlia Daze

As summer becomes full and the days of July rush by, the dahlias are in bloom. Each dalia is different, a unique world unto itself. Some of them remind me of deep sea creatures, strangely beached into the garden.

Do Flowers Come from the Sea? © Harold Davis

For me, the question with dahlias in their infinite variety and explosion of color is where to begin—and how can I ever stop photographing them?

Dahlia Daze © Harold Davis

Dahlias in a Tray © Harold Davis

Inversion: Do Flowers Come from the Sea? © Harold Davis

It seems there are many ways to create art with dahlias, starting with a photo (click here for a keyword search on my website). However you count the ways, I love them one and all! Dahlias have zest, and they give me zest for living.

Also posted in Flowers

Artichoke

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 Monochrome