Category Archives: Photography

digital photography: techniques: thoughts: photographs

Velvet Backgrounds

Good photographic composition demands paying attention to backgrounds as well as foregrounds. It’s a truism among photographic educators that beginners neglect backgrounds in favor of foregrounds. This is particularly the case with street photography; but really, it cuts across all genres of photography.

Recently, Phyllis helped me pick out a small “library” of colored velvet fabrics to use as still life backgrounds. These came from an online source, Prism Silks

In starting to play with my new velvet backgrounds (I almost said “work” instead of “play,” but truly this is playing) I photographed and processed these images with the backgrounds in mind just as much as the flowers in the foregrounds. Instead of letting the velvet backgrounds be mostly unnoticeable, I intentionally accented the curves and folds in the drapery of the fabric.

What fun!

Lilies on Maroon Velvet © Harold Davis

Lilies on Maroon Velvet © Harold Davis

Rose on Blue Velvet © Harold Davis

Rose on Blue Velvet © Harold Davis

Creative Projects for Wintering in Place on Saturday Nov 21, 2020

This coming Saturday, November 21, 2020, at 11am PT we will be hosting Creative Projects for Wintering in Place via Zoom webinar.

My thinking behind presenting this webinar now is that the light is clearly at the end of the tunnel, with the wonderful news about the effectiveness of the vaccines. But there are some dark days ahead before we get there. Now is not the time to relax our vigilance. Creative Projects for Wintering in Place is intended to help bridge this gap.

The webinar is intended to address three tiers of making the best of this in-between time. First, what are the habits of mind and attitude that will best help you enhance your creativity and encourage you to stay productive?

Next, as we’ve said, sheltering-in-place offers the opportunity for creating your own, personal artist-in-residency program. But an artist-in-residency works best with ideas, structure, and an overarching theme. I can’t write the great American novel for you, but I can help point you to an approach that will help you make work you can be proud of.

Finally—and this may be the real “meat” of the webinar—Phyllis and I will show you a number of specific projects: fun, creative, with substance, but also nothing that is “pie in the sky.” Our idea is to present projects that you can do while sheltering-in-place, with materials you probably already have.

We can do this!

Click here for registration and here for more information. Our currently scheduled webinars are:

Saigon Fine Art Museum Stair (Down) © Harold Davis

Saigon Fine Art Museum Stair © Harold Davis

We’re proud of superb panelists Anne Belmont and Bryan Peterson, and of all the registrants, because last week’s truly inspiring Master Photographer webinar raised a nice contribution to a good cause.

A number of folks gave been asking about the video recording of Patterns, Abstractions & Composition. It has now been posted on YouTube. Click here for Harold Davis Photography videos on YouTube.

Also posted in Workshops

Webinar contribution to The Center for Policing Equity

Thanks to the superb panelists Anne Belmont and Bryan Peterson, and all who attended, we were able to write a check today to The Center for Policing Equity for $1,620.95. 

I can’t say enough positives about the presentations, comments, and conversation about photography. So a good time was had by all, photographic insights abounded, and a contribution was made to a great cause. This falls into my category of win-win.

If you’d like to watch the recording (or if you attended, to see it again), it will be posted in the due fullness of time to the Harold Davis Photography YouTube channel (subscribe and turn on notifications to get a ping when a new video has been posted).

Click here to view our currently scheduled webinar offerings!

Let There Be Light © Harold Davis

Let There Be Light © Harold Davis

Also posted in Workshops

Patterns and Repetitions are where you find them

Phyllis and I had “double date” appointments with the Eye Clinic on the U.C. Berkeley campus. Visiting the optometrist in a time of masks and social distancing was certainly a novel experience.

Bike Rack © Harold Davis

Bike Rack © Harold Davis

Anyhow, I finished first. While waiting for Phyllis, with my dilated eyes, I walked around the campus with the camera I had with me, my iPhone. Things were pretty much deserted, including the bicycle rack shown. I carefully lowered myself in between the “spokes”. It took a number of tries to get the image centered correctly to take advantage of the visual patterns, and the repetition of the empty racks.

The image below, of our nested kitchen mixing bowls with a nautilus shell slice, was photographed on black velvet, and originally presented in black and white. The other day, Phyllis requested a color version for a possible cover design.

Nesting Bowls in Color © Harold Davis

Also posted in Coronavirus times

Dahlia. Just Dahlia. Dahlia, darling!

Here are three version of a light box image of a white dahlia from my cutting garden, photographed back in June. The simple monochromatic conversion is shown on top. Next, you’ll see an L-channel LAB inversion of the black & white light box version. The color version of my image is shown at the bottom.

White Dahlia Inversion © Harold Davis

White Dahlia Inversion © Harold Davis

White Dahlia © Harold Davis

White Dahlia © Harold Davis

Brookside-Snowball Dahlia © Harold Davis

Brookside-Snowball Dahlia © Harold Davis

Related story: Dahlia Solos.

Also posted in Flowers

Ruth Asawa and my crystal ball

The other day I was introduced to the rather wonderful work of the artist Ruth Asawa (1926-2013). She is perhaps best known for her intricate nature-inspired sculpture made of metal wires, many of them public commissions around the San Francisco Bay area. Her three-dimensional work makes for very visually interesting patterns when reduced to two dimensions, as you can see in this newly released set of Ruth Asawa stamps.

Crystal Ball 2 © Harold Davis

Crystal Ball 2 © Harold Davis

Overnight I had a dream. In my dream, I saw the designs of Asawa rendered into two dimensions (as in the stamp set), and decided to create an image in emulation of this “look”. In my dream, I saw myself making this image using my camera, and in Photoshop, and then printing it on textured paper.

In the morning, I got to work. I started with a light box photograph down on a crystal ball, nestled in a parfait glass. As an aside, I find myself saying these days that my crystal ball is definitely not clear these days!

Crystal Ball 1 © Harold Davis

Crystal Ball 1 © Harold Davis

Using my crystal ball photo, I went through various iterations, adding Photoshop compositing and LAB L-channel inversions, ending up with the two versions you see here. This took all day, and I don’t necessarily feel that I came up with what I wanted to come up with. The apparent simplicity and references to nature of the Asawa designs are missing. I wasn’t able (yet!) to recreate my work as seen in my dream. But I did come up with something.

Related stories: Tacked to a Virtual Wall; Play it again mit feeling; Spirals of the Heart; Falling into Spirals.

Also posted in Patterns

New Light Box Work

Happy to have fun playing with flowers on my light box. These recent compositions are partly made from”store bought” flowers, and partly from my garden’s flowers. We’re beginning to enter autumn here in coastal California, and it is looking like (at least in this location) we may be okay in terms of smoke and fire for the remainder of the season. Knock wood, of course—and since I have a little time this coming week I am looking forward to enjoying myself in the garden, and photographing on my light box.

Autumn Bouquet on Scanned Paper © Harold Davis

Autumn Bouquet on Scanned Paper © Harold Davis

Flowers of Autumn © Harold Davis

Flowers of Autumn © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

Up Close and Personal Flowers

For me, photographing flowers is a form of worship, and a way to be in touch with my own spirituality. This has ed to fairly straightforward photography. I use (carefully observed) morning sunlight. The camera is tripod mounted. I use a macro lens and extension tube, with the lens stropped down. Nearer my flower to thee!

Let the sunshine in © Harold Davis

Pom Pom Chrysanthemum Orange

Pom Pom Chrysanthemum Orange © Harold Davis

Pom Pom Chrysanthemum Purple © Harold Davis

Pom Pom Chrysanthemum Purple © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers

Spiral of Flower Karma

To create this image, I soaked some chrysanthemum flowers (just the blossoms) and alstromeria (Peruvian Lily) petals overnight to make the flowers pliable. The fuchsias come fresh from my garden. The spiral was as large as I could create using two old, used baking sheets as the background.

Spiral of Flower Karma © Harold Davis

Spiral of Flower Karma © Harold Davis

Skeletons in the Hood

This year, there seems to be plenty of pre-Halloween activity in the neighborhood. Perhaps in the same pandemic spirit as the many close-by home improvement projects: the psychology seems to be, we’re home, we’re bored, we have time on our hands, let’s have at the new patio or deck.

Or, along with boredom at sheltering-in-place, with some conscious or unconscious irony: what better time of year to consider how easily death might invade our daily lives than Halloween?

The schadenfreude hardly needs to be pointed out: we and our neighbors are here at the periphery of this plague to enjoy Halloween displays in the neighborhood, while others are dead, or sick, homeless, or unemployed.

Spectral Light © Harold Davis

Spectral Light © Harold Davis

Masks © Harold Davis

Masks © Harold Davis

Also posted in Coronavirus times, iPhone

Halloween in the New York that Was

I made the photos shown in this story in or around the Greenwich Village Halloween Parade in the 1980s in New York City. The versions of my images shown here were re-photographed using my iPhone from the reproductions in the book Masked Culture: The Greenwich Village Halloween Parade (Columbia University Press, 1994).

Mask of the Plague © Harold Davis

Mask of the Plague © Harold Davis

For the most part, to make these images I used Kodachrome slide film, with direct flash connected to the camera using an extension bracket. My habit was to talk to the subjects and ask their permission to make the photo (most were enthusiastic since of course a great deal of work went into their costumes).

I would also ask them to say what they were costumed as, which usually became my title for the image (although sometimes the costume was pretty obvious, and the caption became merely descriptive).

Punk Dog with Cigarette © Harold Davis

Punk Dog with Cigarette © Harold Davis

My kids are incredulous when I tell them that phone booths used to be a thing, so the photo (below) of the witch does double-duty as evidence.

Witch in a Phone Booth © Harold Davis

Witch in a Phone Booth © Harold Davis

As I noted, the original photos were photographed on Kodachrome, and I still have my archive and these slides (hidden in plain sight somewhere in my larger archive!).

One of these days I am going to go through the old images and make some high resolution scans. The problem, of course, is that I would rather look ahead and make new work rather than recycle the past. In the meantime, if New York City before the fall of the World Trade Towers interests you, you can check out this story.

Metamorphosis to Autumn

Even here in the Bay area, in a season rife with wild fires and air that is unseasonably warm, we can feel the shift towards autumn. Renewal, I am reminded, comes after the darkest time of year. So it is with hope that I look forward to the metamorphosis to autumn, and bring hope to the thought that come November we will collectively start to find a better way forward.

Metamorphosis © Harold Davis

Metamorphosis © Harold Davis

I photographed these beautiful sunflowers, dahlia, and roses—all a little past their prime in a wabi-sabi kind of way—using an old baking sheet as the background. To finish the image in Photoshop, I added some texture overlays and a frame. 

The title of my image, Metamorphosis, represents the change that autumn brings, followed first by the coolness of winter, then the reprieve of renewal.

Click here for our current webinar offerings.

Coming Up Soon! And, hanging in there…

I hope everyone is doing well, and hanging in there (as we are). We have four kids doing distance learning from home (two in college, one in high school, and our youngest Katie in middle school). They are doing surprisingly well in terms of academics, but I am concerned about the long-term impact on their relationships with the world, and with other people.

While this is no time to relax one’s vigilance, and my fingers are deeply crossed regarding the upcoming election, I do believe that we can see, if not the light at the end of the tunnel, at least the light at the end of the tunnel refracted on the internal curvature in the tunnel’s wall. In other words, I am hopeful that sometime towards the middle of 2021 we may be able to resume more-or-less normal life. 

Although, of course, it is hard to predict things, particularly about the future. These days, even my short-term crystal ball seems pretty cloudy.

This week, I want to call your special attention to the Patterns, Abstractions & Composition webinar on Saturday October 17, 2020. Click here for registration, here for more info, and here for our ongoing webinar schedule.

A special thanks to those who have reviewed our new book Creative Garden Photography. I am deeply appreciative, and these reviews contribute greatly to our ability to successfully continue with my work.

We are continuing to offer special edition prints to individual collectors for the duration of the pandemic at a very special price. Click here for details. Of course, if you’d like a larger size print, these are available as well. Please contact us to discuss the specifics, and for a quotation.

Finally, I want to call out and thank our great panelists Jennifer King and Alan Shapiro, and all of you who attended their webinar. Collectively, we were able to contribute a tidy sum to the NAACP.

Our next Master Photographer panel is on November 14, 2020 and benefits the Center for Policing Equity. With panelists the inspirational floral photographer Anne Belmont and legendary photographer and author Bryan Peterson, you won’t want to miss this one. Click here for registration, and here for more information.

Eureka Dunes 5 © Harold Davis

Eureka Dunes 5 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Coronavirus times, Writing

5-Star Reviews of Creative Garden Photography

I am very pleased and thankful for the positive reviews of our new book Creative Garden Photography on the publisher’s website and on Amazon. These reviews are tremendously helpful to us, and mean a great deal to me personally.

If you’ve written and placed a review, thank you very much indeed! If you are a considering writing a review, thanks in advance.

Here are a few of my favorite snips:

  • “One could never be disappointed looking through this book for ideas on what to try next. … I can’t wait to read it again.”
  • “The book is full of great information, inspiration and lovely photos. Thank you Harold for another fantastic work of art.”
  • “So many great ideas to try. A book of exploration and inspiration.”

Click here for Creative Garden Photography on RockyNook’s website (the publisher, use the discount code GARDEN40 at checkout for a 40% discount) and here for my book on Amazon.

Also posted in Writing

Contribution to the NAACP

Thanks to you—our photography community—and the very special panelists, photographers Jennifer King and Alan Shapiro, we were able to contribute $839.08 to the NAACP. Thanks again!

If you weren’t in the audience, I think you’ll find watching the recording very rewarding (and if you were there, you might want to take a second look!). The recording of the Master Photographer webinar panel will be posted to the Harold Davis Photography YouTube channel (subscribe to channel to be notified as we upload webinar recordings). 

Click here for a schedule of our upcoming webinars.

Black and White Cookie © Harold Davis

Black and White Cookie © Harold Davis