Category Archives: Photography

digital photography: techniques: thoughts: photographs

Self-Portrait of the Artist in the Disco Era

Self-Portrait of the Artist from the Disco Era © Harold Davis

Starting to scan some slides. This one is circa 1980.

Petal Fractals

Petal Fractal 101 Inversion © Harold Davis

Petal Fractal 101 © Harold Davis

Some related reading (helps to explain where I am coming from): On Art and Beauty.

Related images: Floral Mandala; Petals of the Rainbow; It starts with a photo; It starts with a petal and ends with a twist of fate.

A Sunset and Two Camellias

This year, 2018, has been a little sparse for me photographically so far (but see Red Tulips and New Year’s Day Design). I think of this as a “pause that refreshes” after the whirlwind that 2017 was for me, with some exciting plans for 2018!

I’ll discuss an additional reason for this sparseness, and also outline some of my 2018 plans, below a few images I have made already this year. One is a sunset from Indian Rock looking out towards San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate. But instead of the expected landmarks, what you see are bare branches, with the sunset behind. The other two images are of camellias in our garden, photographed using the Lensbaby 85mm f/1.6. We have an old-fashioned camellia bush that always flowers right around my birthday in January (lucky me!).

Sunset in Winter © Harold Davis

Birthday Camellia © Harold Davis

Camellia © Harold Davis

In my New Year’s Greeting, I wrote “with the world standing on the knife’s edge of authoritarianism, it is important to remember that a kindly civilization that values people and their differences is ultimately better for everyone. To paraphrase John Donne, no one is an island apart, and when one person is diminished so are we all. For the sake of our children and our children’s children, we should not passively accept a world that is less than it can be.”

I believe this fairly anodyne message is worth repeating because it brought me hate emails, and folks who wanted off my email lists. So I am herewith doubling down. As a patriot, and someone who loves his country, I cannot be silent, because silence is being complicit and borders on collaboration. I am entitled to my viewpoint on the events of our times and the festering evil of our “not my President.” I am prepared to accept that there are divergent viewpoints, but if someone cannot accept mine then I don’t want them on my email lists or in my workshops.

Here are some of my plans for 2018: In April I will be leading a small group of photographers in the southwest of France. Following this destination workshop I am going to spend some time solo walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. From Santiago de Compostela, I’ll head to Menorca as one of the Masters for PhotoPills Camp.

In June, I’ll be leading the only session of Photographing Flowers for Transparency in 2018 here in Berkeley, California (there are still a few spaces left).

In August, I’ll again to Maine to teach a week of garden photography at Maine Media, then to Germany to teach once more in beautiful Heidelberg.

Also please keep in mind the Dark of the Moon night photography workshop in the eastern Sierra (in September, with a few spaces left).

I also want to highlight my early November destination photo tour to the ancient country of Malta in the southern Mediterranean. 

My full upcoming Workshops & Events calendar can be found here.

Happy New Year from Harold Davis and family

Our very best wishes for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and creative 2018 from our family to yours! 

For a somewhat less anodyne New Year’s message: with the world standing on the knife’s edge of authoritarianism, it is important to remember that a kindly civilization that values people and their differences is ultimately better for everyone. To paraphrase John Donne, no one is an island apart, and when one person is diminished so are we all. For the sake of our children and our children’s children, we should not passively accept a world that is less than it can be.

A Palette of Petals

On Christmas Day, the guests had left. The presents were unwrapped and enjoyed. OK, I admit I’d heard the yodeling pickle (a gag gift that Julian got for Mathew) one too many times. The chocolate coins had been unwrapped and demolished. The kids headed for their headsets and computer games of galactic conquest.

Floral Mandala on Black © Harold Davis

In the peace that descended, I got out my light box and placed it on a low table in the living room. Phyllis helped me work through two bunches of Alstromeria, gently taking the petals off the flowers, and separating the petals into four categories.

Floral Mandala on White © Harold Davis

With my “palette of petals,” I arranged the mandala shape shown here. Nicky and Mathew helped me carefully lift the light box to the floor. With the added height I was now able to obtain, I photographed the composition with my Zeiss 55mm Otus using my Nikon D850, and processed a blend of photos for high-key HDR. The white floral mandala that resulted is shown immediately above.

Taking the image on white, I used an L-channel inversion in Photoshop’s LAB color to place the mandala on a black background, as shown at the beginning of this story.

Happy holidays to one and all, and may good will reign privately and publicly!

Also posted in Flowers

Romanian Portraits in Black & White

Alone © Harold Davis

Woman with Bucket © Harold Davis

Gypsy Boy © Harold Davis

Portrait of a Gypsy © Harold Davis

Roma Man © Harold Davis

Also posted in Romania

Seasons Greetings from Harold Davis & Family

We wish you a great holiday season, and may prosperity and the light of creativity shine forth for you in the coming year. Peace and goodwill to all!

Check out my “Best of 2017” by clicking here!

Harold Davis—My Best of 2017

Any compilation of one’s best work for a given time frame has to be somewhat arbitrary. With 2017, for me this is particularly the case. Once again, I’ve been at home abroad, and abroad at home (the latter particularly the case considering the illness in our body politic).

More specifically and geographically, I’ve spent time and photographed in Budapest, the Eastern Sierras, France, Maine, Majorca, Malta, New York City, Romania, and Vietnam (as well as in my studio, of course). Most of these places are well-represented in my archives from the year. But with all of my peregrination, I’ve hardly had the chance to look through, let alone edit, my work—and of course there is also a great deal of variety in subject matter and approach. I’ve made an eclectic selection based on my personal taste; you may prefer one kind of my imagery to another, and that of course is your privilege.

In case you are interested in learning more about the context of an individual photo, with many of these images, I wrote a blog story fairly contemporaneously with the photography. Where there is a blog story, which is much of the time, I’ve linked to it, below the image. (Images that I haven’t written about have a title below in italics that isn’t linked.) In cases where I have series of related images, I’ve typically only presented one of the images; if you want to see others in the series, you can click the link below the image.

The images are presented chronologically by date posted, which translates with some variations to more-or-less chronological order in terms of when made, starting in January 2017. 

Cherry Branches © Harold Davis

Cherry Branches

On the Brooklyn Bridge © Harold Davis

On the Brooklyn Bridge

White Rose with a Blush 2 © Harold Davis

Rose with a Blush 2

Long Bien Bridge © Harold Davis

Long Bien Bridge

Thap Rua (Turtle Tower) © Harold Davis

Thap Rua

Mountains near Meo Vac © Harold Davis

Mountains near Meo Vac

Lady in a Local Market © Harold Davis

Lady in a Local Market

Scale and Wonderment © Harold Davis

Scale and Wonderment

Portals © Harold Davis


Han River, Danang © Harold Davis

Han River, Danang

Entrance to the Warlord’s Palace © Harold Davis

Entrance to the Warlord’s Palace

Garland © Harold Davis


Hang En Campsite © Harold Davis

Hang En Campsite

Nets in Halang Bay © Harold Davis

Nets in Halang Bay

Perigueux Cathedral © Harold Davis

Perigueux Cathedral

Tables and Chairs, Valletta © Harold Davis

Tables and Chairs, Valletta

Blue Grotto, Malta, from above © Harold Davis

Blue Grotto from Above

Valletta © Harold Davis


Sea Cliffs of Gozo © Harold Davis

Sea Cliffs of Gozo

Sapa © Harold Davis


Matilija Poppies – Variation II © Harold Davis

Matilija Poppies—Variation II

Flower Petals © Harold Davis

Flower Petals

Mariposa Lily © Harold Davis

Mariposa Lily

Bouquet of Neighborhood Flowers © Harold Davis

Bouquet of Neighborhood Flowers

Design for a Stained Glass Window © Harold Davis

Design for a Stained Glass Window Made of Flowers

Pink Peony © Harold Davis

Pink Peony

Wisteria Leaves © Harold Davis

Wisteria Leaves

Purple Succulent © Harold Davis

Purple Succulent Flower

Magical Floral Medley © Harold Davis

Magical Floral Medley

Son Doong Cave © Harold Davis

Son Doong Cave

Gone to Seed 1 Monochrome on Black © Harold Davis

Gone to Seed 1

Summer Experiment 2 © Harold Davis

Summer Experiment 2

Mooring Lines, Rockport Harbor © Harold Davis

Mooring Lines, Rockport Harbor

Pink Dahlia © Harold Davis

Pink Dahlia

Disturbance in the Force © Harold Davis

Disturbance in the Force

Fireworks in Budapest © Harold Davis

Fireworks in Budapest

Budapest Apartments © Harold Davis

Budapest Apartments

Sunrise in Rural Romania © Harold Davis

Sunrise in Rural Romania

Alone © Harold Davis


Portrait of a Gypsy © Harold Davis

Portrait of a Gypsy

Bran Castle © Harold Davis

Bran Castle

Umbrellas over Bucharest © Harold Davis

Umbrellas over Bucharest

Nucleus 1 (on Black) © Harold Davis

Nucleus 1 (on Black)

Tulips and Lobelias © Harold Davis

Welcome Home Flowers

Blue Danube © Harold Davis

Blue Danube

Hunedoara Castle © Harold Davis

Hunedoara Castle

LAB Rose © Harold Davis

LAB Rose

Floral Composition © Harold Davis

Floral Composition

Chorus of One © Harold Davis

Chorus of One

A Simple Twist of Fate 5 © Harold Davis

A Simple Twist of Fate 5

Inside the White Rose © Harold Davis

Inside the White Rose

Rose Eye © Harold Davis

Rose Eye

Lonely Road © Harold Davis

Lonely Road

Autumn Poplars © Harold Davis

Autumn Poplars

Under the Sheltering Sky © Harold Davis

Under the Sheltering Sky

How Long Must Eye Wait? © Harold Davis

How Long Must Eye Wait?

Grizzly Falls © Harold Davis

Grizzly Falls

Down in the Valley © Harold Davis

Down in the Valley

Petals of the Rainbow © Harold Davis

Petals of the Rainbow

Spitfire Lily © Harold Davis

Spitfire Lily

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 6 © Harold Davis

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 6

Mottled-leaf Paphiopedilum © Harold Davis

Mottled-leaf Paphiopedilum

Amaryllis Unfurling © Harold Davis

Amaryllis Unfurling

Yellow Tulips on Black © Harold Davis

Yellow Tulips on Black

So it begins © Harold Davis

So it begins

Floral Mandala on Black © Harold Davis

Floral Mandala

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking through some of my images from 2017. If you are interested in comparing 2017’s crop with previous years, you can check out:

Two from the Western Slope

Here are two images from my visit to the Western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in November (click each image to view them larger).

Red Dragon Sunset © Harold Davis

Western Slope of the Sierras © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape

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, Monochrome, San Francisco Area

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, Monochrome

Mottled-leaf Paphiopedilum

This is an image of an orchid I made today with a new lens, the 85mm f/1.8 Lensbaby Velvet. This is a lens designed to create a glowing effect in the center, hence it has applications for portraiture. Since the lens is also fairly capable in terms of close-ups (it focuses to 1/2 life size), it also seems like an optic that has potential with botanical art. In any case, it is quite a bit of fun to play with!

Mottled-leaf Paphiopedilum © Harold Davis

I haven’t had fun with anything Lensbaby in quite a while (since 2010), but back in the day I used older Lensbaby optics quite a bit. You can check some of these out by clicking here.

Also posted in Flowers, Lensbaby

106 Birthday Candles

Yesterday was Phyllis’s mom Barbara’s 90th birthday, and our son Nicky’s 16th birthday. So Phyllis baked a cakes, and as you see in the photo put 106 lit candles on it (because 90 + 16 = 106, count ’em!). As Mathew put it, “Dad, Mom—do you have a fire extinguisher handy?” No, I replied—only my camera.

106 Birthday Candles © Harold Davis


It starts with some twigs…

It starts with some twigs © Harold Davis

My kids and I gathered some twigs in “The Grove” [of coastal redwoods] in nearby Tilden Park. I used the twigs to create a light box composition, shown immediately below as an LAB inversion and single channel. I like the simple impression of the bare twigs as an image on its own.

Twigs “line drawing” © Harold Davis

Next, I added some color using LAB equalizations, Photoshop blending modes, and gradients, shown below.

Adding some color © Harold Davis

The final image at the top of this story was constructed from the twigs using rotations and reflections. It is made up of eight copies of the version shown below, which itself involves four reflections.

The first reflections © Harold Davis

So this is the story of creating a complex construction from an extremely simple starting place—a line “drawing” of twigs gathered from the ground of a redwood grove in the California autumn.

Of course, the key issue with an image like this is not really the mechanics of photography and post-production, but rather the visual and aesthetic choices one makes along the way. Just saying!

Exhibition of my photography extended through December 1, 2017

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

My photography is on exhibit at Shoh Gallery in Berkeley, California has been extended through December 1, 2017 (Road Less Traveled, shown above, is one of the images in the show). This is the first time I’ve seen my work in one place across a number of years in many of the genres that I work in, and I think it is a very exciting and well presented exhibition (if I say so myself). Special thanks to Julie, the gallery director! I hope the extra week will give all of you who’ve asked chance to get to my show.

Come visit if you get the chance! Click here for information about Shoh gallery, its location and hours. Click here for the exhibition press release. Some photos of the installation are shown below.