Category Archives: Still Life

Workshop Gods

Boathouse Still Life

Boathouse Still Life, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

The Workshop Gods were with me last weekend. The weather was stunning, never to be taken for granted on the tip of Point Reyes, and the spring wild flowers were lucious. The participants were strong photographers, and a socially compatible group—neither of which is a workshop given.

This workshop covered both improvised still life photography, like the grass in a vase shown against the background of the old Coastguard boathouse. The photo above is an example of simple still life photography using natural light and based on observation and placement, with beautiful afternoon sun coming through an antique window angled into a dusty room.

In terms of the outdoor macro flower photography—it was hard to miss with the carpets of flowers in a majestic landscape of rugged cliffs and ocean.

Point Reyes Spring

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Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Seven Peaches

Seven Peaches

Seven Peaches, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I like the comment on Flickr, where I originally posted this photo a few months back: “Yep…seven. I checked.”

Let’s hear it for literalism, an often overlooked and powerful way of thinking that goes against the prevailing tide of metaphoric mysticism that tends to inform art and photography!

I photographed the seven peaches on my garage floor using natural light with a white board to bounce some extra light into the peaches using my Sigma 50mm f/2.8 macro lens at 1/20 of a second and f/11, ISO 100, tripod mounted. For once, there’s very little post-processing here.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Butterfly Prize

Wings of Man

Wings of Man, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

My image Wings of Man (above) has won second prize in the NABA (North American Butterfly Association) 2009 art contest. Wings of Man is reproduced in the Fall 2009 edition of American Butterflies (Volume 17: Number 3), where it is described as “digital painting via Photoshop.”

Here’s my original story on the making of Wings of Man.

Also posted in Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Alter Ego

Alter Ego

Alter Ego, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I photographed this gourd in Joseph’s studio. It seems the inner gourd has the soul and shadow of a dinosaur—aided and abetted by some good sushi and a white eye added to the shadow in Photoshop.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Piperii Mori

Piper Mori 2

Piper Mori 2, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Photographer Edward Weston’s son Brett (also a gifted photographer) had the unfortunate habit of eating still life subjects—such as the famous peppers—before his Dad was finished with photography.

Learning from my classic photographic history, after I photographed these peppers I locked them away in the basement so that Julian couldn’t get at them. These days, Julian describes himself as an eating machine. So I wouldn’t have wanted to leave my peppers where he could get at them.

The result: wrinkled and slightly disgusting peppers. Old age in vegitables does not necessarily great photography make.

Piper Mori

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Also posted in Bemusements, Monochrome, Photography



Harvest, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

As a gardener with some ego invested in my garden, it is a little embarassing to admit that this pear is the harvest for the year from our pear tree. Well, there’s been a lot going on, and the garden has been neglected. Other years, more pears.

Photographed on a corrugated box with my 85mm perspective-correcting macro. Two combined exposures (10 seconds and 15 seconds); each exposure at f/21 and ISO 100; tripod mounted.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Red Pepper 2

Red Pepper 2

Red Pepper 2, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Like my first red pepper photo, this is a simple image from a composition and design perspective, executed in the camera rather than in Photoshop.

I photographed the red pepper on a background of dark green peppers, using a single bounced light.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography

Mustard Green

Mustard Green

Mustard Green, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

In color, this leaf looked like some green and luminous sea creature, complete with curling tentacles. It was with some reluctance that I converted the photo to black and white, adding in elegance what I may be missing in startling color.

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Ten Hanky Special


Allium, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a close-up of a red onion cut against the grain. I photographed the onion on a black background using a single spotlight bounced off the ceiling.

Here’s the exposure data: Nikon D300, 200mm macro, 36mm extension tube, three exposures (20 seconds, 30 seconds, and 60 seconds), each exposure at f/25 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Also posted in Photography

Channeling Edward Weston

Red Pepper 1

Red Pepper 1, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I photographed this red pepper on a black velvet background using a single focused spotlight bounced against the ceiling—and my sweet, old-fashioned manual 85mm macro lens (exposure data below). It seems like I am channeling Edward Weston—I’ve just finished re-reading his Daybooks, see the related story about radishes.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 85mm perspective-correcting macro, five combined exposures at times between thirty seconds and 3 minutes, each exposure at f/51 (the lens stops down to f/48, but the effective f-stop is adjusted for the magnification factor) and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

Also posted in Photography



Radishes, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

I’ve been reading The Daybooks of Edward Weston. Actually, I should say I’ve been re-reading; but way back these did not make such an impression on me.

Weston is a photographer I admire tremendously. There’s a great deal to be learned about photography from his words, and (more importantly) from his photos.

In my life situation, it is certainly amusing to read of his irritation at being “nurse maid and policeman” for his three boys—and the trials and tribulations of having his subject matter (like a couple of his famous peppers) eaten by his son Brett. And the pumpkins he photographed that ended up as pumpkin pie.

Of course, my love life is a great deal less exciting than Weston’s; the multiple involvements with his subjects, who all seemed to have danced for him in the nude, is part of the appeal of reading Weston’s diary.

And diary the Weston Daybooks are. Or perhaps proto-blog. I realize now that my blog, with all its fits and starts, rambles, and musings about photo technique, my kids, and photographic philosophy is really an electronic daybook.

Of course, we ate the radishes!

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography



Evolution, photo by Harold Davis.

This is a photo I created for my upcoming book Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques. One of the parts of the books explains both the Zen and the nitty-gritty techniques of the still life photographer.

I’ve had many requests for a description of how I made this photo, so here goes in a “sneak preview” from my book.

I placed a whole egg and the egg shell from a second egg on a slightly transparent white seamless paper background. The image was lit from behind the paper background by a strong late afternoon sun coming in through a window. I lit the eggs from the front by bouncing a 250 watt tungsten light off the white ceiling.

When I exposed the image, I was careful to focus carefully on the eggs and use a moderate aperture (f/8) for shallow depth-of-field, so that only the eggs would be in focus.

In Photoshop, I added the blue background seen towards the top of the image on a layer with low opacity. I used the Gradient Tool to blend the blue with the rest of the background.

Exposure data: Nikon D300, 200mm f/4 macro, 1/8 of a second at f/8 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.

The title I gave this photo, Evolution, also gets some comments, both positive and negative. As far as I am concerned, there is no great significance to this title. When I named the photo, I was following the example of surrealist Rene Magritte, who said that he had “no interest in making anything comprehensible” in his titles for his paintings. I was hoping to be evocative and mysterious rather than descriptive.

Also posted in Bemusements, Photography