Category Archives: Writing

Nice Little Review of Composition & Photography

This is from the February 2023 issue of the PSA Journal:

“The first clue that you’re about to read a unique book is on the Table of Contents page where all the chapter titles are written at a 90 degree angle from the page numbers. From there, Composition and Photography begins its first chapter entitled ‘Expect the Unexpected.’

“As the pages and chapters continue, Davis presents the reader with an assortment of intriguing photos, explaining the concept of this type of composition, what led to his photographing the subject and why he was compelled to do so. By doing this, he urges the photographer to seek different angles in digital imaging. composing a photo, to be aware of positive and negative space, and to notice the symmetry – or the lack of it – in everyday subjects. While the text is compelling, the photographs are stunning and invite the reader to read even more.”

Click here to buy Composition & Photography (use the discount code HDAVIS40 for a 40% discount at checkout), here for Harold’s upcoming webinar Composition Masterclass, and here for information about Harold’s in-person Composition workshop in Maine in August.

Also posted in Photography, Workshops

La Compsizione Fotografica

I’m pleased and excited to learn about a new Italian translation of Composition & Photography from ApoGeo in Milan. The title sounds sonorous and compelling in Italian: La Compsizione Fotografica: Dare struttura e forma alle immagini.

Gentle Adventures Are Us

As an inveterate traveler, I crave adventures. Not soul crushing desperate adventures, but life affirming, creative adventures. With this gentle style of adventuring, you come back having met many people, seen new things, and ready to view the world with fresh eyes.

Somewhere in Rural France © Harold Davis

So I am excited to leave for France next week, where I’ll spend a few days with friends in Paris. Then onward to the southwest of France, where I’ll spend some time with a wonderful group at the charming Mas de Garrigue

Next, I’ll spend a few weeks walking a portion of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

My plan is to post on Instagram and Flickr, and to blog—of course, only as I am able, because in travel “being there” always come first. I might have experiences to experience! But if I can, I will bring you along with me, so you can see the world through my eyes.

Garden along the Camino © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Really Singing

Over on my Instagram feed (@haroldldavis), I’ve been running through a series of what I’ve called “Retropolis” images: photographs from my past, usually ten years ago or more, that have really stuck with me. Some of this is personal preference. Some of it involves the process of iconization. In a long and productive career, which images really stick?

Even the greats—Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and so on—are primarily known for a handful of images. Admittedly, most of these iconic images are really special, but there is also randomness and chance involved. A great deal depends upon the vagaries of publication and distribution.

In this connection, I was pleased to find (and quote here) a remark of mine in the blog story associated with the first Retropolis I present here, Slot Canyon:  

It is easy to getting bogged down in the physics and physicality—the tyranny of the world of “things”—and forget to look for the ethereal magic that can make a photographic composition really sing.

Slot Canyon © Harold Davis

Cayucos Pier © Harold Davis

Cayucos Pier © Harold Davis

Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Chateau des Nazelles © Harold Davis

Chateau des Nazelles © Harold Davis

Here are the blog stories I originally posted related to these Retropolis images: Slot Canyon (2012); Cayucos Pier (2013); Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse (2007); and Chateau de Nazelles (2013).

As the old joke goes, enough about me: now, what do you think of me? If there are any specific images from my “back pages” that you think should be re-posted, I’d appreciate it if you let me know.

Also posted in Photography

Advance copy of “Composition & Photography”

I am very excited to get the first advance copy of my new book, Composition & Photography. I think this is a beautifully produced book that takes a unique approach to the subject. In keeping with family tradition, Katie Rose is shown here with our new, hot-off-the-press title. The publication date is June 21, 2022. You can pre-order Composition & Photography from the publisher (Rocky Nook) or Amazon.

© Harold Davis

Composition & Photography eBook now available; you can pre-order the print book directly from the publisher

My new book Composition & Photography:Working with Photography Using Design Concepts is now available for pre-order from the publisher’s website. The estimated publication date is May 31, 2022. The eBook is ready for download now. May I suggest the eBook and print book bundle, available at a nice discount to the unbundled price for each?

Speaking of a nice discount, please use the discount code COMP40 for a 40% discount at checkout (of course, this more than pays for the incremental cost of the bundle). This discount code only works on Rocky Nook’s website (the wonderful publisher of my new book).

My book has some unusual ideas from a wide range of disciplines, visual puzzles, and thought exercises, so please let me know what you think!

Also posted in Photography

Composition & Photography Index

I believe that you can tell a great deal about a book by reading its index. A good index should allow the reader to quickly find what they want to find in a book. To create such an index means understanding both the contents of the book, and also how readers will be using the book.

Click here for the index we’ve created for my new book, Composition & Photography. This index is preliminary, and is subject to revision.

With the index to Composition & Photography we have tried to be genuinely useful to the reader. However, according to a professional indexer who is a character in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle, one should never index one’s own book: “It’s a revealing thing, an author’s index of his own work…It’s a shameless exhibition—to the trained eye.”

Pre-order Composition & Photography by Harold Davis

My new, upcoming book Composition & Photography: Creating Structure Using Forms and Patterns is now available for pre-order from Amazon. I am very excited about this title, which will be published by RockyNook, and has a publication date of March 29, 2022. There’s a fuller description of our book below the cover image, but the key ideas behind Composition & Photography are to work with composition as a process (not a fixed endpoint), and to apply the concepts of two-dimensional design to the photographic image.

Please consider pre-ordering your copy today! Thanks.

Own composition, use composition, and make composition your own in your photographs!

Of all the magical elixirs that make up a successful photograph, composition is perhaps the most fundamental, and at the same time the most elusive. What makes a composition “good”? It’s hard to define exactly, but we instinctively recognize good composition when we see it. There is an undeniable emotional response when a composition resonates with and complements the subject matter of an image.

But traditional attempts to define “good composition” and to pass on rules for good compositional construction are often doomed to failure. The truth is, there are no hard and fast rules. Rules eliminate experimentation and spontaneity, which are crucial for creating compelling, dynamic, and exciting compositions. The best compositions contain an element of the unexpected. “Expect the unexpected!” is perhaps the only viable “rule” of composition. To create exciting compositions, you must have a willingness to embrace serendipity and change as part of your artistic practice. After all, composition is a process, not a result.

In Composition & Photography, photographer and bestselling author Harold Davis teaches you how to perceive patterns and abstractions and incorporate them into your image-making process. If one of the goals of photography is to show viewers things that are new, or things they haven’t seen before, or things they have seen many times but need to see anew, then it’s with the thoughtful and considered use of composition that you do that.

In this book, you’ll learn how to reduce your subject matter to the fundamentals, and to show familiar subjects in unfamiliar, novel ways. Harold covers topics and themes such as:

  • Lines and circles
  • Rectangles
  • Combinations and patterns
  • Repetition
  • Symmetry and asymmetry
  • Abstraction
  • Entering and exiting
  • Vanishing points and perspective
  • Emphasis
  • Designing within a frame
  • Creating order from chaos

Composition & Photography will help you find the tools and visual vocabulary to creatively design your photographs. Regardless of the genre and kind of photography you practice, you’ll learn to create powerful compositions that incorporate structure and form into your work in ways that best support your images. Along the way, Harold shows and discusses his own work relating to each compositional element or theme he’s exploring. And featured throughout the book are exercises about flexibility and process, designed to spur your creativity and help you begin an internal creative discussion.

“My goal as a photography teacher and writer about photography is to inspire and to help you become the best and most creative photographer and image-maker that you can be.”
―Harold Davis

“Harold Davis is a force of nature―a man of astonishing eclectic skills and accomplishments.”
―Rangefinder Magazine

Please consider pre-ordering Composition & Photography today! Thank you very much.

Also posted in Patterns, Photography

World Book Day March 4

In honor of World Book Day March 4—Hashtag #WorldBookDay—here are some of our books. Also, tomorrow is #PandemicFU day for me personally as I will be two weeks out from my second vaccination. #2shots2weeks

Some of our books #WorldBookDay © Harold Davis

Authors Guild Member Spotlight: Harold Davis

Authors Guild Member Spotlight: Harold Davis

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? Words and writing are fundamental to what it means to be human. Click here to read more.

Harold Davis’s Creative Garden Photography is out now with Rocky Nook.

Click here for Creative Garden Photography on the publisher’s website, here for Creative Garden Photography on Amazon, and here for Harold’s Amazon author page.

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, Photography

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 Photography

Using Your Words To Become a Better Photographer

This coming Saturday we’ll be hosting Photography and Writing: Using Your Words To Become a Better Photographer

Ansel Adams once wrote that the most important tool in his camera bag was his pencil and notebook.

In that spirit, this three-part webinar will start will a look at the role writing has played in the work of some great photographers, continue with how I have used the synergy of writing and photography in my more than twenty published photography books, and conclude with some suggestions about how to integrate the discipline of writing into your photography practice.

Click here for more information, here to register for Photography and Writing, and here for a schedule of our upcoming webinars.

Circumflex © Harold Davis

Also posted in Workshops

Nature versus Vision

Nature versus nurture, er, nature versus vision?

I love being in, and photographing, nature and the wilderness. But on the whole, I subscribe to the philosophy of artist, solographer, and photographer Man Ray (born Emmanuel Radnitzky in 1890) who wrote “I do not photograph nature. I photograph my visions.”

Agreed. Even when the visions are of nature. Indeed, if everything comes from nature then Man Ray’s statement is tautologically true. There is no such thing as an artistic depiction of nature, such as a photograph, without a vision of what the image is to be, to convey, and to portray.

Calling Alice © Harold Davis

End of Days © Harold Davis

End of Days © Harold Davis

Related: My “Impossible” album on Flickr; upcoming Finding the Mysterious in Photography webinar, scheduled for October 24, 2020 in time for Halloween. 

Trouble with Tracks © Harold Davis

Trouble with Tracks © Harold Davis


The Garden of Wilderness

The garden of wilderness
was my heart’s delight:
gray dawn met alpenglow
in the long morning
of deep rivers
and distant mountains.

Windswept timberline tarns;
far away the machines and levers work.

Alas, the mechanism must be mastered,
all the law-and-order and social ranking

step by weary step down to the low lands;

So I came to leave the mountains.

Columbia River Gorge © Harold Davis


The days spent on the trail
fade in a flurry of miles as we speed

parallel to the mountains on Route 395.

All is forgotten in the exhilarating rush
of dotted white lines and speeds not attained over months on foot.

This compaction recalls memory:
the terrain of years disappears
leaving only peaks and valleys.

At first I am startled by the jolt of “civilization”;
later, recalling the calm of alpine meadows,
the last light on the tall peaks in the evening,
I understand that these memories last longest.

Ladyboot Arch © Harold Davis

Looking at a Map

A topographic map of the wilderness:
the contour lines denote height and evoke

distant valleys and mountains leading by rivers
to unknown forests; enchanted places all.

Alone in the dismal city watching gray snow fall
I envy cartographers and explorers of wild places:
the sun on their backs, the morn on their faces,
nights of brights stars and moon;
the wild, wild wind most of all.

Morning Fog © Harold Davis

Back to the Wilderness

When the gray spider web of the city
wraps its filigree around my heart
and the subway roars in my naked ear
and the lonely cold does its part;

When its been so long that the stars go unseen
and I’ve forgotten to go out and walk;
with phone calls and meetings
and all this empty talk;

It might be that it might be time to go back to the wilderness.

The wind that will blow around me
and the flowers that garland the trail
will make living worthwhile and my days young again.

Death Valley Campsite © Harold Davis

While We Were in the Wilderness

While we were in the wilderness
the sunset of humanity

We spent so long walking on the trail,
sleeping under the star-encrusted sky,
heeding the call of the marmot and water ouzel,
that we forgot about everyone.

So who knows precisely when it happened,
or what caused it.

We simply came down from the mountains
empty stomachs and badly needing a hot bath
to find: no one.

This could easily be the future, we say:
as we watch the sunset turn red then to blue evening,
distant valleys disappearing in the oncoming night.

Red Dragon Sunset © Harold Davis

Author’s note: I wrote these poems quite a number of years ago during what was obviously not the happiest period of my life. Always, periodic adventures and wilderness walking have been refreshing for me, and solace for my soul. In researching for the upcoming webinar presentation I will be making with William Neill in early September, The Solace of Nature, I remembered this cycle of poetry, and decided to look for the drafts among the many boxes of my papers and art work in our basement. I’ve edited the poems lightly from the original versions, with the advantages that distance in time can sometimes give.

You might also be interested in the webinar we have scheduled for October 3, 2020: Photography and Writing | Using Your Words to Become a Better Photographer.