Category Archives: Photography

digital photography: techniques: thoughts: photographs

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.

Three More Variations

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 6 © Harold Davis

This is the series that starts in an earlier story

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 7 © Harold Davis

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 8 © Harold Davis

It Starts with a Photo

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 3 © Harold Davis

Actually, in this case it starts with an arrangement on my light box, and eight high-key HDR exposures recombined in Photoshop. The resulting image is shown immediately below.

Stars of Petals © Harold Davis

An LAB L-Channel inversion puts the image on a black background, like so:

Stars of Petals on Black © Harold Davis

From here, it was time to play with post-production, using rotations, horizontal and vertical reversals, a variety of Photoshop blending modes, and more LAB processing. Which variation do you like best?

Stars of Petals Calligraphic Variation © Harold Davis

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 1 © Harold Davis

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 2 © Harold Davis

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 4 © Harold Davis

Stars of Petals on Black Variation 5 © Harold Davis

Also posted in Patterns, Photograms, Photoshop Techniques

Harold Davis Photography Exhibition until Nov 25 at Shoh Gallery—Come Visit!

Slot Canyon © Harold Davis

My photography is on exhibit at Shoh Gallery in Berkeley, California through November 25, 2017 (Slot Canyon, 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!

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.

Constructing an image from the materials of nature

Petals of the Rainbow © Harold Davis

In a recent article on art and beauty, I wrote:

I would rather think of myself as an inventor more than a discoverer of beauty. My hope is to use the echoes of beauty to reinforce the spiritual, and to create a sense of order that is not too orderly in all the romantic and ecstatic chaos of the universe.

This is the best role of the artist whatever toolset is used: to construct from the smallest and most eternal blocks and bits and pieces, and build up something bold and (dare we say it) beautiful from the nothing that always sits ready to engulf us.

If we can take and make beauty in this way with our art, then we’ve added to the sum of good that is in the universe, created beauty, and elevated the sense of the spiritual. This is the highest calling of the artist, and there is not much one can add to it except to do so without fear or favoritism, and to avoid pulling one’s punches because of the all-too-human desire to be loved.

I am not knocking photos that say “This is a waterfall.” There are exquisite images of waterfalls and other subjects that are representations by some excellent artists, and I often attempt this kind of imagery myself, where some of the emotional appeal comes from the viewer’s belief—or suspension of disbelief—that they are looking at something natural.

But the key word in the preceding paragraph is “representations”—as a two dimensional construct, a photo cannot actually be the three-dimensional waterfall. Most of the time, there is much more monkeying around with the pixels of reality than even this reductio ad absurdum argument implies.

The gist of my argument is that everything is a construction. So why not think expansively and expressively? Art, and digital photography in particular, is a big tent that reaches from apparently representational images of nature to constructs made from a variety of materials, including those supplied by nature, and includes myriad other genres as well.

Fortification on Black 2 © Harold Davis

In the spirit of constructing art using natural materials as the building blocks for the construct, the two images shown with this story are constructs made from flower petals, photographed on a light box on a white background, and converted to a black background using LAB color techniques and Photoshop blending modes.

To follow the path from petals on a white light to a colorful construction on black, check out It Starts with a Petal and Ends with a Twist of Fate!

How Long Must Eye Wait?

Wedged in a crack behind the aptly-named Ladyboot Arch in the Alabama Hills of the eastern Sierra near the Nevada border of California, I already knew this wasn’t going to be the perfect image. For one thing, the lens I was using, my dearly beloved Nikkor 16mm f/2.8 horizontal fisheye had blown over in an accident a few days earlier, with a nasty crack on the front optical element.

How Long Must Eye Wait? © Harold Davis

The focus of the lens was also jammed, stuck (fortunately) on infinity. That is, nobody wants focus to be jammed, but if an extreme wide-angle has to have a single focus, infinity would be the choice.

Ultimately, I had no idea whether shooting through this damaged lens would produce reasonable results.

I was also faced with a problem of topography: the crevice I was in would not let me set the tripod up normally, and I had to spread the legs and wedge them against the rock walls.

Finally, all was ready to start the timer on the intervalometer. But for reasons unknown, it simply wouldn’t work with the camera. 

Falling back on “Plan B” with grace under pressure is a normal part of any photographer’s toolkit. My Nikon camera has on-board intervalometer functionality, admittedly with an inscrutable user interface. The limitation is that the shutter speed maxes out at 30 seconds. 

Normally, my practice with this kind of photography is to set the camera to Bulb, and shoot a sequence of wide open (or nearly wide-open) captures at four minutes (using ISO 400). 

Dropping the shutter speed down to 30 seconds meant I was exposing for 1/8 the duration of time I normally would (because 30 seconds is 1/8 of 4 minutes). To compensate, I needed to boost the ISO by a factor of eight, from 400 to 3,200.

The final exposure data was 141 exposures, each exposure made at 30 seconds, f/2.8, and ISO 3,200. Post-production was in Photoshop, using the Statistics script with stack mode set to Maximum.

Here’s an image from the front of Ladyboot Arch, and another image from the rear of the arch (made with my other camera, a working intervalometer, and the Zeiss 15mm wide-angle lens!).

Night photography workshops are indeed a great deal of fun, and I am looking forward to a repeat engagement in Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, with my friend and distinguished night photographer Steven Christensen of Star Circle Academy as co-teacher in 2018. The dates are Friday, September 7 through Monday, September 10, 2018. Click here for more information!

Also posted in Digital Night, Landscape, Workshops

Grizzly Falls

Just off the road along the South Fork of the Kings River in Kings Canyon National Park, Grizzly Falls presented great contrasts of light and dark. I used a neutral density filter to make a long exposure (fifteen seconds) and to soften the flowing water. As I setup my camera and tripod, I glanced at the top of the falls. Someone, no doubt a good climber, had placed the Republic of California grizzly bear flag on a wood stick at the top of the falls, where it was fluttering in the breeze—and, as such, showed the only grizzly bear likely to be seen around Grizzly Falls, since the species is, of course, extinct in California.

Grizzly Falls © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape, Monochrome

If Jackson Pollock Dripped using Flower Petals

The great abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock created his paintings largely by throwing paint and ink to drip against the canvas. But suppose he had used flower petals rather than ink?

If Jackson Pollack Dripped Using Flower Petals © Harold Davis

Looking at Pollock’s art, I find a great deal of structure beneath the apparent abstraction, chaos, and anarchy. As I made my flower-petal Pollock I tried to imbue the piece with a comparable underlying structure, admittedly not always apparent amid the flower petals I “dripped” at random onto my light box!

Landscape in Layers

It’s fun to photograph a landscape that appears to be layered. Usually, this works best in the early morning or later afternoon (or even earlier at sunrise, or later at sunset), also when there is a little fog or haze.

There’s a small amount of optimization and tweaking one can do in post-production, but mostly this is an issue of being ready with one’s camera in the right place at the right time. Most of the art is being there with eyes open and camera ready.

Besides the image shown here, photographed from Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, looking towards the great California central valley, with fog obscuring most of the coastal range, in this genre check out Landscape of Blue Layers (the White Mountains of Eastern California),  Sunrise in Rural Romania, Mountains near Meo Vac (northern Vietnam), Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po (Japan), and Distant Mountains (Panamint Range of Eastern California).

Down in the Valley © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape

Please join me at the opening of my photography exhibition November 9, 2017

Please join me at the opening of my photography exhibition Thursday November 9, 2017 at Shoh Gallery in Berkeley, California from 6-9 PM. I look forward to celebrating my vernissage with you!

My New Nikon D850: First Impressions

While I was away practicing night photography in the eastern Sierra, my new Nikon D850 arrived. Today I got to open the box, configure the menus, figure out where a couple of  controls that had (inexplicably) moved from their placement on my D810 had landed, and generally get to know my new go-to photographic capture device. The path to knowledge is practice; hence, the two versions of a photo of a very small flower I made in my garden today with my D850. I also plan to use my new beast to photograph on my light box tomorrow.

Osteospermum in Black and White © Harold Davis

I haven’t grokked everything about this beast yet, but it is pretty clearly a powerful and well-designed tool. I like the added resolution in the RAW files. Compared to the D810, the sensor has gone from 36.3-megapixels to a whopping 45.7-megapixels, a gain of about 25% over an already high-resolution professional camera. I also like the new LCD screen, which is a bit larger, folds out into different positions, and is touch sensitive (yeah, I know, what took so long?).

Osteospermum © Harold Davis

In preliminary conclusion, if I weren’t a professional with the need to deliver very large prints to collectors and customers, would I have spent the considerable money to upgrade from the D810 to D850? Hard to say, but easy to say that this is a remarkable tool for pursuing the craft of photography.

Note: I have no professional relationship with Nikon, other than that Nikon has occasionally licensed my images for use in various publications and on the Nikon USA website. I paid for this camera with my own cash money.

PhotoPills Camp 2018

Please consider joining me and other Photography Masters at the PhotoPills Camp in May, 2018 on the beautiful island of Menorca. For more information, click here and register to get priority. If the link opens in Spanish (and you prefer English) click the Eng button on the upper right.

From the event description: 

And you’ll be experiencing the island the way we do, the way the islanders do. You’ll feel like a local, not like a tourist.

Simply mix Menorca’s gems with some of the best easy going photography masters, a jam-packed into the field and straight to the point class schedule (on creativity, planning, shooting, post-processing, social networks & business), multiple photo escapes to our secret locations, the delicious Menorcan cuisine, amazing beaches, hikes, horse riding and boat trips, night picnics, coffee talks, party moments and catching up with old and new friends, and finally add the distinctive PhotoPills fun flavour… and you get the perfect cocktail.

Your days will be full of learning, adventure, aha moments and meaningful connections

Also posted in Workshops

Landscape of Blue Layers

From the heights of the White Mountains, the ranges to the south looked blue in the haze. With very little intermediation from me, photographic capture turned these vast spaces into a layered landscape of a near abstract quality.

Landscape of Blue Layers © Harold Davis

Also posted in Landscape

Autumn Poplars

In the early morning light I photographed poplars in the golden hues of autumn. Then I experimented with longer exposures and motion. This impressionistic result was a 3 second exposure with the camera on a tripod; I moved the camera up and down for the last half of the exposure.

Autumn Poplars

Chorus of One

I worked with model Jin N Tonic to create a number of images in my Multiple Exposures series. In Chorus of One, I think Jin did a great job of positioning and placement (as well as having enthusiasm, and looking a bit like Marilyn). Jin’s ability to precisely place her body helped to create a sense of pattern across the eight times the strobes fired (each one being an exposure that was combined in-camera using its multiple exposure capability).

Chorus of One © Harold Davis

My Multiple Exposure images use choreographed, in-camera multiple exposures to create an almost stop-motion effect. I like what one can do with this approach, because it combines a technique as old as photography (in-camera multiple exposures) with the full power of modern digital technology. Why, I remember when…to make a multiple exposure on my old Nikon FM-2 you had to press a little button next to the wind lever, to fool the camera into thinking you had actually advanced the film to a new frame. Very mechanical, and yes it was possible to foul it up. Today, it is just a menu item.

Boys and girls, if you try this at home, remember to leave Autogain set to On; this is what balances the separate exposures together instead of letting brighter exposures prevail.

Also posted in Multiple Exposures