Category Archives: Writing

This Too Shall Pass—and What Then?

This too shall pass. It will take some time. Perhaps far longer than we’d like, and there will be tragic losses. The changes that will be wrought will be more fundamental and wide-ranging than most people realize at this point in time.

Civilization © Harold Davis

Civilization © Harold Davis

A new society will arise from the ashes. Let’s not give into the forces of authoritarianism and evil. Let’s use this as a learning experience to implement:

  • Universal health care
  • Less of a gap between rich and poor
  • More, better, and different education
  • More reflection and thoughtfulness about the way resources are shared and distributed
  • Practicing kindness, empathy, and communal feeling, along with respect for the individual

Of course, not everyone will agree with me about the new world we should build. But let’s take the silver lining in the cloud, and create a new order that appreciates art, and is gentler and more thoughtful.

Related stories: Love in the Time of the Coronavirus and Shopping in the Time of the Coronavirus.

Cycle of Life © Harold Davis

Cycle of Life © Harold Davis

Also posted in Coronavirus times

Shopping in the Time of the Coronavirus

Shopping in the time of the Coronavirus starts with questions. How safe is it to go shopping? What is the risk-reward profile? Where are we on the curve of the pandemic?

What will be in stock? How long will the line to get in be? Will the store enforce the mandatory six-feet of separation? And, most of all, will someone sneeze and infect me (infecting my family, with me as the unintentional vector)?

We are shopping for eight people.

The logistics of hygiene are formidable. We have N-95 masks in the car and a box of nitrile gloves. I leave everything at home that is non-essential to avoid having to wipe down anything extra.

We get up early and dress in clothes that will be easy to strip for washing before reentering the house. My wedding ring comes off, and stays home.

We are ninjas. Queue the Mission Impossible music. We will rise before dawn and get there before the line.

When we get there, the line already snakes around the parking lot. There’s confusion, cars trying to drive through the line of people, a few outliers trying to cut into line.

Inside the store there’s a drive like a cattle stampede or a quickly darting shoal of fish, most wearing strange masks and gloves, towards the paper products. We are there early, in the special hours for old people, but there isn’t any toilet paper.

Come the Zombie Apocalypse I would consider going for the chocolate and cognac. It’s not clear to me that extra-soft TP would be my top priority.

The wine aisles are ransacked. There are no beans of any sort. There’s one box of UHT milk, one chicken pack, and one nasal-spray pack per party.

We spend close to a thousand dollars, and consider it money well spent. We are of course lucky to have it to spend this way.

Like the folks that locked themselves in a deep mine for 5,000 years to survive catastrophe in Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, we are considering locking our garden gate behind us until this is all over.

Clematis with Friends (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Clematis with Friends (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Except this is probably a fantasy.

Before leaving the parking lot, car door handles get wiped down with bleach, and gloves come carefully off and into a trash can.

Dropping some of the food off at my parents’ house, I leave their case of wine in the carport. We carry the food up to the front door and wave through the glass, leaving quickly so as not to risk any contact when they open the door.

They are querulous. They prefer fresh fruit and produce to the frozen stuff (who doesn’t?), and have been avoiding tuna and swordfish up to now because of mercury. Later, I’m told the tuna tastes good (at least it doesn’t have good taste, as the ad from my childhood declaimed), but I am sure they still are concerned about the mercury and too polite to say so.

In their nineties, my parents have been thrust into this new, impossible world. I feel that a bit of grumpiness is perfectly appropriate.

As one gets older, I do think that change is more difficult, and that it is harder to be flexible.

The only places I’ve ever personally seen food shortages and lines like this are in Cuba and Haiti.

Next stop is home. We do the hygiene protocol in reverse. Doors were left unlocked on latch. We bring the stuff into the kitchen, being careful to not let the kids touch it to help carry, even though they are eager to help.

The 50lb bag of sushi rice feels like it weighs fifty pounds at least when I carry it in. Good thing I’ve been practicing those farmer carries.

We go round to the front and strip buck naked. Everything is off, including shoes.

Then it’s into the shower, wash everything including hair and under nails, back into the kitchen. Unload everything out of cartons, squash the cartons into recycle, wash down again, and package the food into fridge, freezer, and pantry.

The past has gone irrevocably. This is the present. The future hasn’t come into focus yet. There are forks on the road ahead.

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

Also posted in Coronavirus times, Photography

Love in the Time of the Coronavirus

Two of the best books I know that involve pandemics are the well-known classics Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, and Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. Both involve great scourges of humanity through the ages, cholera and bubonic plague.

I think of Márquez’s book as an intellectual’s romantic parable about several kinds of love, in which the eponymous cholera plays a symbolic role to remind the reader that lovesickness is a disease, too.

But A Journal of the Plague Year has specific resonance with our times, and it gave me nightmares after I first read it many years ago. The narrative is apparently non-fictional, eye witnessed, and journalistic. When Defoe wrote his account in the 1720s, the last major bubonic plague was still within living memory in the late 1600s, although the narrator presents it as contemporaneous. In this fictional non-fictional account, grass grows in the once-busy streets of London, specific neighborhoods are traced as they succumb to plague, and the dead lie unnamed in vast Potter’s fields that remind one of the aerial views today of graves in Iran.

It’s more than possible that Defoe’s opus was propaganda-for-hire, intended to bolster the case in the 1720s for stronger protectionism and border controls. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

“May you live in interesting times” is apocryphally quoted as a Chinese curse, and these are truly times that would be more comfortable to learn about from a history book than to live through.

In this regard, as the Wizard Gandalf famously notes in the Lord of the Rings, we don’t really get to decide what time we live in: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Trying times bring out the worst in people. I am thinking right now of those who would bend the knee to the false God of money over the lives of people. But difficult times also bring out the best in people, heroes who care for others, such as the selfless front-line medical workers in the coronavirus pandemic, who are dying at an awful rate.

Tulips that Were © Harold Davis

Tulips that Were © Harold Davis

In a very real sense, nature just doesn’t care. Through years spent hiking in the mountains from Alaska to Maine, I’ve learned that, however much one loves nature and loves being in nature, you just have to take nature as an extrinsic force that cannot be reasoned with. A storm at sea or a fall in the mountains can kill you perfectly, and without an iota of consciousness.

Anthropomorphism of the natural life force is, I believe, a mistake—unless intended as a metaphor. I’ve seen small blood-sucking leaches beside the trail in the jungles of Vietnam, blindly casting about for any warm-blooded creature, not because the leach is mean and ornery, but because that is what the leach does. This is much like the coronavirus infectious particle. It just seems evil to us, but it is merely doing what it does.

We are sheltering in place, a family of six. My parents, in their nineties, are alone in their own isolation behind glass doors. We bring them groceries; leave them outside the doors, wave kisses, and depart. They know that because of their age if they are hospitalized they will be the first to be sacrificed to triage, and offered palliation only.

Shopping is an excruciating experience of mask and glove protocol. We are allowed out for an exercise walk provided we keep six feet away from other people. This turns into an awkward social dance where pleasantries about “hanging in there” are exchanged while we subliminally jockey to see who will yield the right-of-way first.

These are the worst of times, and the best of times. I am at home with those I love more than anyone else in the world, my family. And, this too shall pass.

Once long ago when I traversed the Brooks Range in Alaska solo in deep fear for my life I was granted a vision that let me know I would be safe.

I was reminded of this when a few nights ago, deep in an anxiety dream about a vast car crash in which I was a passenger, the car I was in on a freeway swirled round and round in slower and slower spirals. I kept waiting for the fatal crash, but it never came. Instead, I heard a voice: “You will be okay.”

We will be okay.

Tulips that Were (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Tulips that Were (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Also posted in Coronavirus times

My life story in and out of photography along my road less traveled

Harold Davis: Self portrait with moustache

Self Portrait with Moustache © Harold Davis

In Guest Blog Post: Photographer as Poet Harold Davis I write that selfies are silly and that photography is poetry. I also tell some of my life story in and out of photography along my road less traveled. Check it out!

Road Less Traveled by Harold Davis

Road Less Traveled © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

PhotoActive Podcast Interview with Harold Davis

PhotoActive has featured an interview with me in their podcast, Episode 50: Harold Davis Creative Black & White. If you enjoy the chat I have on the podcast with my interlocutors Jeff Carlson and Kirk McElhearn (thanks guys!), you might also find their discussion with Michael Kenna of interest.

Podcast Description: Artist, photographer, and writer Harold Davis joins us to discuss his new book Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition, and we talk about the photographer as artist, and how to see the world in monochrome.

Clematis © Harold Davis

Clematis © Harold Davis

Click here for more about Clematis.

Nesting Bowls and a Nautilus Slice © Harold Davis

Nesting Bowls and a Nautilus Slice © Harold Davis

Click here for more spirals!

My book, Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition, is now available. The publisher, Rocky Nook, is offering a 40% discount. Click here to buy Creative Black & White 2nd Ed directly from the publisher. Use the code “HDAVIS40” [no quotes] at checkout to apply the discount (you can also use my discount code for all other Rocky Nook books, by the way!).

Here are the links for my book on Amazon.com and on B&N as well, so the choice of supplier is yours. I appreciate your positive and thoughtful reviews on Amazon!

Free Webinar: Creative Black and White Opportunities

Please join me for a free webinar about Black and White creative opportunities. The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday August 29 at 11AM PT, with free registration on a first-come-first-served basis. Click here to register for my webinar, which is sponsored by Rocky Nook, the publishers of my new book.

In this webinar, I will discuss tips and tricks related to digital black and white photography, and will include material on LAB inversions, solarization techniques, the Karl Blossfeldt effect, and x-ray imaging.

My new book, Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition, is now available. The publisher, Rocky Nook, is offering a 40% discount. Click here to buy Creative Black & White 2nd Ed directly from the publisher. Use the code “HDAVIS40” [no quotes] at checkout to apply the discount (you can also use my discount code for all other Rocky Nook books, by the way!).

Here are the links for my book on Amazon.com and on B&N as well, so the choice of supplier is yours.

Click here to register for my webinar, which is sponsored by Rocky Nook, the publishers of my new book.

Also posted in Photography

My Artist Statement

Mountains on the Beach © Harold Davis

Mountains on the Beach © Harold Davis

I haven’t reviewed the Artist Statement I wrote a number of years back for quite a while, and I recently had cause to take another look at my statement. I’m pleased that my Artist Statement stills speaks of me, and for me. Here’s the gist of it (you can read my full Artist Statement by clicking here):

My work lies at the intersections of many styles and disciplines: between east and west, classicism and modernism, photography and painting, and the new technologies of the digital era versus the handcraft traditions of the artisan. To understand my imagery, one needs to see where it fits within each of these dichotomies.

Before I explain, let me mention that my primary goal is not to evoke academic, scholarly, or pedantic understanding. I’d almost rather my work not be understood–so that the response is evoked on a primal level that has more to do with the heart and gut than the intellect.

A great deal of thought goes into my work, but it shouldn’t have to take thought to enjoy it. At the simplest level I am trying to evoke–at both conscious and unconscious levels–a sense of serenity, wholeness, and wonder. My work can be experienced and enjoyed simply and organically for its structure and beauty.

With many of my images, unwrapping the sense of wholeness that the work conveys is not immediate. I am asking someone experiencing my images to have the patience to contemplate–and perhaps resolve a visual puzzle–but I don’t necessarily let on upfront that my viewers will be confronting a conundrum. 

I believe that advances in the technology and craft of digital photography have created an entirely new medium. My years of contemplation have opened my eyes and my heart, and taught me to see more deeply. I use this alchemy of wonder to combine the traditions of painting and photography with new technology.

Read more.

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

Panorama of the Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

Creative Black and White 2 Ed Now Available (with Discount Code!)

I’m very pleased that my new book, Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition, is now available. The publisher, Rocky Nook, is offering a 40% discount. Click here to buy Creative Black & White 2nd Ed directly from the publisher. Use the code “HDAVIS40” [no quotes] at checkout to apply the discount (you can also use my discount code for all other Rocky Nook books, by the way!).

Here are the links for my book on Amazon.com and on B&N as well, so the choice of supplier is yours.

If you like Creative Black & White, 2nd Edition, I would really appreciate a thoughtful review. Thanks!

Creative Black & White has been revised, substantially expanded, and brought up to date.  I’ve added entire sections, substantially enlarged the book (it is 80 pages longer than the first edition), and most of the photos are new. Every photo includes information about how it was made, both from a technical perspective, and also the story about my thinking behind the image.

As I note in the Preface to this Second Edition, “Of course, I was flattered to be asked to write this revised and expanded second edition of Creative Black & White. One of the goals of this new edition is to bring the tools and techniques explained in this book up to date. This is particularly important in the realm of Lightroom and Photoshop software, and with the plug-ins that are a necessary extension of the Adobe ecosystem.

“Beyond keeping current, I want to help you become a better and more creative photographer, whatever your interest level or toolset may be.”

It’s been great fun updating this book, making a good book even better, refreshing the images, and bringing the software explanations up to date. I hope my new book proves to be inspiring and useful to you!

Click here to buy my book from Rocky Nook (please use the HDAVIS40 discount code for your discount), here for my book on Amazon, and here on Barnes & Noble.

Also posted in Monochrome, Photography

Creative Black and White 2nd Edition eBook Now Available

We’re very excited about the second edition of Creative Black & White.  The eBook is now available for purchase and download (the actual “book book” will follow in a month or two). Creative Black & White has been revised, substantially expanded, and brought up to date. You can buy the eBook now from Amazon or directly from the publisher. I’ve added entire sections, substantially enlarged the book, and most of the photos are new. Every photo includes information about how it was made, both from a technical perspective, and also the story about my thinking behind the image.

As I note in the Preface to this Second Edition, “Of course, I was flattered to be asked to write this revised and expanded second edition of Creative Black & White. One of the goals of this new edition is to bring the tools and techniques explained in this book up to date. This is particularly important in the realm of Lightroom and Photoshop software, and with the plug-ins that are a necessary extension of the Adobe ecosystem.

“Beyond keeping current, I want to help you become a better and more creative photographer, whatever your interest level or toolset may be.”

It’s been great fun updating this book, making a good book even better, refreshing the images, and bringing the software explanations up to date. I hope my new book proves to be inspiring and useful to you!

Click here to buy the eBook now from Amazon and click here to buy it directly from the publisher.

Radiating Beauty: Creating a new photographic form with fusion x-rays

The shapes and forms are recognizable, yet the level of detail is deeper than the human eye can normally perceive: Leaves appear minutely laced and surfaces are impossibly intricate, somewhere between translucent and opaque. Welcome to the captivating work of photographer Harold Davis and radiologist Dr. Julian Köpke, who combine their skill, passion, and vision to create stunning X-ray photography and pioneering fusion images. Read more on the Pixsy blog (article by Natalie Holmes).

Sunflower X-Ray Fusion © Harold Davis

Also posted in X-Ray

Creative Black & White—Revised and Expanded

We’re almost through authoring the second edition of Creative Black & White. It has been revised, substantially expanded, and brought up to date. You can pre-order my new book from Amazon (the official publication date is August 1, 2019).

As I note in the Preface to this Second Edition, “Of course, I was flattered to be asked to write this revised and expanded second edition of Creative Black & White. One of the goals of this new edition is to bring the tools and techniques explained in this book up to date. This is particularly important in the realm of Lightroom and Photoshop software, and with the plug-ins that are a necessary extension of the Adobe ecosystem.

“Beyond keeping current, I want to help you become a better and more creative photographer, whatever your interest level or toolset may be.”

It’s been great fun updating this book, making a good book even better, refreshing the images, and bringing the software explanations up to date. I hope my new book proves to be inspiring and useful to you!

Click here to pre-order Creative Black & White from Amazon.

Greetings from a peripatetic photographer and writer!

I’ve just returned from a voyage to Paris, then leading a group in Malta, followed by a week exploring Sicily. Prior to this, in October I was on a road trip up the California and Oregon coast. In September, I was photographing in the rugged land east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Over the summer I was in Maine, New York, and Germany. The spring found me first in the southwest of France, then hiking along the Camino de Santiago in Spain, and finally in the Balearic Islands.

If you are interested in the images from these travels of mine, I urge you to take a look at my blog. Words do matter to me, and many times the words in my blog tell the stories behind the photo, or at least my thinking making the photo. For your reference, here’s the Paris category on my blog, the Malta category, the first story from the coastal Oregon trip, and the story that marks the start of my Camino. My Flickr stream and Instagram feed have more images than could possibly be on my blog, and these photos may help to fill in some of the backstory.

For personal, familial, creative, and artistic reasons I am contemplating a future with less in the way of in-person workshops that I lead. On this good news and bad news paradigm, I still will be teaching via my books, video courses such as my Photoshop Backgrounds and Textures, and on this website. I have book revisions scheduled for the coming year, along with new books, and a new video course planned for early in the year. 

Poem of the Road © Harold Davis

Lonely Road © Harold Davis

It’s not easy to change course on a dime, and this will be a busy workshop year for me as well. For a long time, folks have been asking me to lead a workshop in Florida. I am finally doing so in February, at the Palm Beach Photographic Centre, with the topic being Garden and Flower Photography

In April, I am looking forward very much to once again to leading a destination travel workshop to Paris and Monet’s gardens at Giverny. If this intrigues you, this small group of photographers is edging towards completeness, so it might be a good time to sign up, particularly if you are interested in gifting yourself and/or a loved one with a lavish photographic Christmas present.

June brings once again our annual Photographing Flowers for Transparency master workshop, held here in Berkeley, California (a few spaces are still open).

In October 2019, I am planning to be the photographic “Golf Pro” on a destination photo workshop to one of my favorite parts of the world, Northern Morocco, with logistics spearheaded by a major travel organization.

I like to quote Yogi Berra’s witticism that “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” But of course we all make these predictions (and plans) regardless. As I look ahead at the new year, and contemplate both the needs of my family and how best to nurture my own artistic creativity, I do feel that cutting back on in-person teaching is almost certainly a step I need to take, at least for a while. 

The implication of course is that if you’d like a hands-on workshop with me, or to travel with me, this would be the time. If not now, when? Click here for my Workshops & Events page with the 2019 listings.

Bridge of Light – Color Version © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography

Understanding Exposure 101

By popular request, I’ve posted the informational slides from my Getting Your Camera Off Auto presentation in a new slideshow FAQ, Understanding Exposure 101.

What is an Exposure?

Also posted in Photography

Stories that weave through my blog

I’ve been writing this blog since 2005, which is to say over twelve years. Sometimes there’s more, and sometimes I have less to say, but the average is about ten stories a month. That’s quite a bit of material; back-of-the-envelope it comes to more than 1,400 stories.

Of course, some are more weighty than others. But it will probably come as no surprise that some stories are serial and sequential, and build on each other through an adventure or fraught life event. 

Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po © Harold Davis

The purpose of this meta-blog story is to point out a few of these embedded series, and to show you where you might start reading if you are interested.

The Birth of Katie Rose—My daughter was born very prematurely, and we didn’t know if she would survive. I photographed her in the NICU, and wrote about what was happening in real-time. You can start with First Look or The Birth of Katie Rose Davis (written after she came home and was out of danger).

Hands © Harold Davis

Hiking the Kumano Kodo—In 2013 I hiked the famous Kumano kodo pilgrimage trail in Japan. You can read about some of my adventures in Japan starting with Noriko Tries to Poison Me, and read about my hike starting with On the Kumano kodo.

Tree and Reflection, Nara © Harold Davi

Tree and Reflection, Nara © Harold Davis

Camino de Santiago—More recently, in the spring of 2018, I hiked a portion of this famous pilgrimage trail in Spain. My pilgrimage story starts with Beginning My Compostela.

Romanesque Bridge along the Camino © Harold Davis

Does the Wilderness Care About Me?—Back in 2005, I launched myself on an ill-prepared early season venture into the Ansel Adams Wilderness. I survived to tell the tale that starts in A Walk on the Wild Side.

Alone I Stand © Harold Davis

Vietnam—In 2017 I visited Vietnam with my longtime friend Eric. Our ostensible goal was to visit the largest cave in the world, Son Doong. Along the way, we saw many strange and wondrous things, starting with the Long Bien Bridge that was important during the American-Vietnamese war because it connects Hanoi by rail with the port of Haiphong.

Son Doong Cave © Harold Davis

Cuba—In 2009 I visited Cuba with a photography group. You can read some of my observations starting with Fifty Years after the Cuban Revolution.

On the Cover © Harold Davis

 

Also posted in Cuba, Japan, Katie Rose, Vietnam

The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency: A new book from Harold Davis

We’re excited to announce a new book: The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency by Harold Davis.

 Of course, my new book will showcase many of my botanical images. In addition, there will be extensive material explaining my process for photographing flowers on a light box. There will be a section on post-production, including a detailed guide to using LAB color for inversions of white-to-black, and for creative color effects.

The is a serious book in terms of its pedagogy, as the techniques I use in my transparent floral work are useful in many aspects of digital photography.

There will also be technical notes for the images in the book explaining how I made each image.

It’s a great deal of fun writing and designing this book. I have been working on this project for many years, so it is very exciting to me to see it progressing (my new book will be available in 2019)!

The images paired below are of poppies and mallow from my garden, captured, processed and inverted using the techniques I explain in The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency. If you’d like to learn more about these techniques before my new book is available, please check out my FAQs: Photographing Flowers for Transparency and Using a High-Key Layer Stack.

Poppies and Mallows on Black (Inversion) © Harold Davis

Poppies and Mallows on White © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers