Category Archives: Photography

digital photography: techniques: thoughts: photographs


I like to photograph found objects—“talismen”—that I can think of as magical objects with power. Those shown here are a mixed bunch: an enamel box with the apotropaic symbol for warding off evil (an example of this symbol on a door in Vietnam here), a collection of cookie cutters, and hearts within hearts.

Each image was photographed on a simple black background. I used bracketed low-key captures with exposure blending—the inverse process to photographing flowers for transparency using a high-key HDR layer stack.

Talisman © Harold Davis

Cookie Cutters © Harold Davis

Hearts Within © Harold Davis

Young James

This is my grandfather James Young Palmer at age eight in about the year 1900, found while going through things in my parent’s home. James was of course young once (as in this photo), but when I knew him he was relatively old: he lived well into his hundreds and the 1990s. I always thought it odd that a person who seemed so old to me should have a middle name like “Young”. But then, as we grow older, we learn that the world is full of ironies.

James Young Palmer © Harold Davis

2022 Stamp Yearbook

Images created from my Tulip Pano and Sunflower Bouquet decorate the United States Postal Service 2022 Stamp Yearbook. I’m pleased with how my images look. Click here for info about my stamps.

2022 Stamp Yearbook – Slip Cover (Image credit: Harold Davis)

2022 Stamp Yearbook – Wrap-around Cover (Image credit: Harold Davis)

2022 Stamp Yearbook – Section Divider (Image credit: Harold Davis)

2022 Stamp Yearbook – Stamp Page

Memorial Mandala

I constructed this free-form mandala on my light box from flowers in the condolence bouquets that kind folks sent us for the recent loss of my parents. The practice of my light box work in this case helped to serve as therapy, although there is of course nothing that can make this loss whole.

Memorial Mandala © Harold Davis

Remembering Martin and Virginia Davis

My parents Martin and Virginia Davis both died on Sunday, January 1, 2023. They were in their nineties. My father had been sick for a long while and in a great deal of pain, so in some ways his death is a relief. Martin and Virginia had been married for 71 years, and Virginia said she didn’t want to live without Martin.

After the hospice nurse confirmed Martin’s death, Virginia kissed him and then went back to bed. A short time later she was gone. I think she died of a broken heart. Both were peaceful looking in death. It was as if Martin held out his hand to Virginia, and said, “Come on. Let’s go!”

Martin and Virginia in 2011 © Harold Davis

My parents soon after they met (circa 1951) 

Both my parents were remarkable and unconventional people. Here’s what my brother Nathan wrote about Martin’s professional career:

Martin Davis  was considered a pioneering figure in the history and development of the computer science field. In his last decade, he was regarded the primary world exponent of Alan Touring’s seminal work in logic and computability theory (they shared the same same thesis advisor at Princeton University—Alonzo Church—though my father attended a decade later). My father coined the phrase “computability,” per his first and seminal book: Computability and Unsolvability. His work towards the solution of Hilbert’s Tenth problem is another factor that places him historically in transitioning the theoretical mathematical field of symbolic logic to the advent of computer science.

You can learn more about Martin’s professional life here.

Virginia was a fiber artist who exhibited widely, was the recipient of many awards, and was dearly beloved by a wide circle of colleagues. Here’s how her website puts it:

After studying art in London and at the Art Students League in New York, Virginia Davis has had her work in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries, nationally and internationally. She uses ikat, a technique of applying color to threads before they are woven into a textile, not only for the dimension it gives her work, but also for its historical and ethnographic aspects. She teaches, lectures and writes on this and other subjects. Her awards include an Indo-American Fellowship to India, two fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, two individual Visual Artist grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, NEA sponsored residences at the Cité International des Artes in Paris and in Mexico City, and most recently, a grant from the Ruth Chenven Foundation. In addition to private collections, her work is in the collections of The Art Institute of Chicago, Cleveland Museum of Art, Museum of North Dakota, and Hewlett-Packard.

Martin Davis as a young man

On a personal note, while the past year has been unequivocally difficult, I miss them both tremendously. I keep find myself wanting to share something with one or both of them, and then having to remind myself that I no longer can.

Martin taught me to play chess, to program computers at an early age, to enjoy Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill, and what the Hegelian dialectic has to do with Karl Marx’s Das Kapital (on the last one, you can ask me if you are curious).

From Virginia I learned to trust my intuition, to explore art as play, and to appreciate some of the finer points of craft.

There are no tears deep enough, but it is some consolation to know they are together and at peace at last.

White Anemone © Harold Davis

Wrapping up the Year: Flower Close-Ups

White Anemone © Harold Davis

Heading into a new year, I always like to look back through my photography of the waning year to see what I might have overlooked. Here are a few candidates in the “flower: close-ups” category. 

Best wishes to all for a great 2023!

Poppy in Pink © Harold Davis

All things must pass © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

My parents soon after they met

This is a photo of my parents, Martin and Virginia, taken soon after they met, probably in 1952 or 1953, and most likely on the campus of the University of Illinois in Champagn-Urbana, where my Dad had his first post-doctorate teaching assignment.

My parents soon after they met © Harold Davis

Wishing you joy and light this holiday season!

2022 PSA Progress Award

The Photographic Society of America (PSA) gives their Progress Award annually to recognize “a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the progress of photography or an allied subject. The recipient does not have to be a member of the Society.”

I’m proud and grateful to be the 2022 recipient of this award, specifically cited for “the development of a high key digital HDR workflow and set of techniques involving specific kinds of back lighting that make it possible to create luminous translucent imagery.”

Given annually since 1948, previous recipients of the Progress Award include Walt Disney, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Eliot Porter, Robert N. Noyce, John & Thomas Knoll, and Ken Burns. I’m excited to be part of this august company (as you can see in the iPhone photo below, snapped by Nicholas Davis)—and look forward to moving creatively onward from here!


It’s great to be home. The image shows a ceramic bowl I bought as a gift for Phyllis in Orvieto, with lemons from our tree.

Lemon Bowl © Harold Davis

Mirror Selfie

I took advantage of the mirrors in my dressing room in the hotel in Trieste to create a “recursive” image along the lines of the Droste effect (immediately below). This kind of image making has its own chapter in my book Composition & Photography.

Mirror Selfie © Harold Davis

Perhaps what brought the Droste effect to mind was an M.C.Escher exhibit I had just seen in Florence. In one fun, interactive feature, I was encouraged to snap an iPhone shot of myself (instead of Escher) in his famous lithograph of a reflective ball (below).

At the Escher Exhibit © Harold Davis

Also posted in iPhone, Monochrome

The Second Creepiest Hotel Room on My Visit to Italy

Well, the “first creepiest” room was definitely the one in Orvieto that had a large reproduction of a painting of Death playing chess with his dying victim hung right over the bed. I hung a bedspread over this grotesque art so I wouldn’t see Death peering at me at night from the mirror across the room.

Storm, Trieste © Harold Davis

This room in Trieste is also creepy, more for what is outside the room than the room itself. The room is over-large, tasteless, and grandiose—but on the whole these are venal not mortal sins, and could even be fun, depending on whom one might be sharing the room with.

But I am on the fifth floor (sixth by American reckoning), and it is a long way down to Trieste’s harbor. In the storm the other night, this magnificent old building groaned and rattled. The balconies out the doors provide only a low railing, almost no protection. While potentially dangerous to the lonely and suggestible traveler, this eyrie also provides an enticing perch for photography.

Also posted in Italy

Sailing Yacht A

Sailing Yacht A (“Sy A”) is a super yacht belonging to a Russian oligarch that was seized by Italian authorities in Trieste harbor in March, 2022. Sy A remains anchored off Trieste; in the image below it is shown in yesterday’s storm, and in the bottom image today in better weather.

Ghost Ship © Harold Davis

Sailing Yacht A © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy

Florence Rainbow

A few days ago, my friend Julian and I walked up to the Michelangelo Piazza for a view above Florence. We were welcomed with a display of sun, clouds, rain—and a rainbow.

Some other rainbows: Strasbourg’s Petite France, Paris, Patriarch Grove, Prague, and the Alabama Hills (in the eastern Sierra). 

Rainbows always symbolize hope and beauty for me. I feel fortunate to have witnessed so many rainbows—photography is a great enabler of this.

I keep in mind the Ansel Adams dictum that if you don’t go out in the rain you’ll never witness the clearing storm. The same can be said of rainbows.

Rainbow over Florence © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy

Duomo in the Clearing Fog

The day dawned with a white-out fog blanketing the Umbrian hill town of Orvieto. I wandered through the maze of ancient, deserted streets and alleys with my camera on the tripod, making images in the evocative light. Rounding a corner onto the Piazza del Duomo, I saw for the first time the sun rising through the fog (my image is below).

Duomo in the Morning Fog © Harold Davis

Later in the morning, Julian and I climbed the many steps to the top of the Torre del Moro. We had this eyrie to ourselves in a world of whiteness, but decided to have patience, and settled in to wait. Over an hour later, after noon, the fog started to break, and when it moved, it moved quickly. I had only a moment or two to capture Duomo in the Clearing Fog (below).

Duomo in the Clearing Fog © Harold Davis

Also posted in Italy