Category Archives: Writing

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.

Announcing New Saturday Webinars

Phyllis and I are very excited to announce a new series of Saturday webinars! We hope to see you there.

Intimate Flowers on Saturday, August 15, 2020: August is here! We have flowers! Let’s forget about the world at large and make some intimate joy with intimate landscapes and colors of the flowers of summer! Read more…Click here to register for this webinar.

Intimate Iris © Harold Davis

Webinar Noir on Saturday September 19, 2020: Noir evokes black and white films of the 1940s with “dames”, private eyes in fedoras, low-key lighting, and harsh shadows. More generally, a sense of “noir” has come to mean a range of stylish black and white techniques. Read more…Click here to register for this webinar.

Chorus of One © Harold Davis

Photography and Writing | Using Your Words to Become a Better Photographer on Saturday, October 3, 2020: Writing has always had an important role in relationship to my photography. Not only have I “used my words” to introduce and explain images and techniques, but writing has also helped me to tease out the meaning in my own work, and to understand and explore what I need to do next with my art. Read more…Click here to register for this webinar.

Circumflex © Harold Davis

Patterns, Abstractions, and Composition on Saturday October 17, 2020:  In a very real sense, creating a photograph is an act of intentional design. The photograph presents a transformation of the subject so that it fits within a specific frame. Meticulous use of patterns, and understanding the boundary conditions where patterns begin and end, is crucial to this act of design. Read more…Click here to register for this webinar.

Patterns in Glass 3 © Harold Davis

Patterns in Glass 3 © Harold Davis

Finding the Mysterious in Photography on Saturday October 24, 2020: As nights grow longer and days shorter, and as we approach Halloween and All Saints’ Eve, separations between our world and that of the spirits gets thinner. Some of the very best photographs send a frisson of the spooky and the ineffable up our spine. Read more…Click here to register for this webinar.

World on Fire © Harold Davis

Also posted in Photography, Workshops

Creative Garden Photography eBook and pre-order now available from the publisher (with discount code)

We are very excited that Creative Garden Photography: Making Great Photos of Flowers, Gardens, Landscapes, and the Beautiful World Around Us is now available directly from the book’s publisher, Rocky Nook. Just to clarify, the eBook is available right now, and the book itself can be pre-ordered. Enter the discount code GARDEN40 for a 40% discount before checking out.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the publisher’s eBook comes in a number of formats, so you can read it on your Kindle, and also as a PDF (which preserves pagination and formatting) as you prefer. Also, many of my students how told me how much they enjoy having both an electronic version, for use in the field on their devices, and the “real thing”: a beautifully designed and produced 360-page book with flaps and printed images. I like to think our new book is one step away from the coffee table, but with a great deal of useful information.

The good news is that Rocky Nook offers a bundle so that (particularly if you consider the discount) there is really only a few dollars more for getting the electronic version in addition to the printed book. (If I had to only get one or the other, I’d advise the “book book”—but then, I am a book person!)

Click here to buy Creative Garden Photography: Making Great Photos of Flowers, Gardens, Landscapes, and the Beautiful World Around Us directly from the publisher.

Also posted in Photography

The Making of Creative Garden Photography | Free Webinar

Our new book Creative Garden Photography has been at least ten years in the making from conception to finished production files. In this free webinar, on Sunday July 5, 2020 at 11am PT, Phyllis and I will be joined by Rocky Nook associate publisher Ted Waitt. We’ll take a look at the images in the book, the ideas behind the book, the techniques the book covers, some of the stories told in the book, book production, how the book design relates to garden design as well as photography, and answer questions from the audience. A discount code for book and eBook purchases from the publisher will be provided.

The webinar is free, but registration in advance is required. Click here to register for the Creative Garden Photography webinar.

We have a number of technique webinars coming up that I hope you’ll find useful. You can find the complete list of webinars by clicking here, and below. Recordings of our past webinars can be found in the Harold Davis Photography YouTube channel. You’ll also find live events (I don’t currently have any scheduled until 2021 due to the pandemic) on this page.

I am particularly excited to be sharing stories and images from the Camino de Santiago on Saturday, July 18. This is a free webinar, but requires registration. Click here for more info.

  • Printing, Proofing, and all about Paper with Moab Masters Scott Barrow, Harold Davis, and Jim Graham [Benefits Equal Justice Initiative] | Thursday September 24, 2020 at 10am PT click here for registration. Seats are limited. Click here for details.
  • Master Photographer Panel with Jennifer King and Alan Shapiro, moderated by Harold Davis [Benefits NAACP] | Saturday October 10, 2020 at 11am PT click here for registration. Seats are limited. 
  • Master Photographer Panel with Anne Belmont and Bryan Peterson, moderated by Harold Davis [Benefits Center for Policing Equity] | Saturday November 14, 2020 at 11am PT click here for registration. Seats are limited. 
Giverny Afternoon © Harold Davis

Giverny Afternoon © Harold Davis

Also posted in Flowers, Photography

Looking Backward

“It’s tough to predict things, particularly about the future,” as baseball catcher and American wit Yogi Berra said. And, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” in a quotation attributed with small variations to George Santayana, Edmund Burke, and George Orwell. To which author Kurt Vonnegut responded, “I’ve got news for Mr. Santayana: we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That’s what it is to be alive.”

Deadhorse Point © Harold Davis (Feb 2020)

Deadhorse Point © Harold Davis (Feb 2020)

Looking Backward, a famous novel by Edward Bellamy, was not a look backwards, despite the title, borrowed for this blog story. It’s a Utopian attempt to look forward 112 years from 1888 via the protagonist-in-a-trance trope, when the United States was mired in an era of deep unrest, inequality, and economic insecurity, to the year 2000, when the country had become a socialist paradise (as if!).

For me, looking backward even three months, let alone 112 years, is very strange. Three months ago, in mid February, I was free-range traveling-the-American-west photographer. After enjoying teaching at a wonderful, and probably historically unique, photography conference in Yosemite, I spent some time in Death Valley with my friend Julian from Germany, then drove west, and met another friend, Eric, in Escalante, Utah. We spent some time exploring the back-country there, as well as Arches and Canyonlands around Moab, before taking the long road home.

Earth Ramparts © Harold Davis (Feb 2020)

Earth Ramparts © Harold Davis (Feb 2020)

I had no idea what was “coming down the pike,” as I think most of us did not. My forward plans were focused on upcoming travel to Europe and a trek on the Camino de Santiago (come to think of it, that would have been right about now in a hypothetical alternative universe in which the pandemic was contained and isolated in Wuhan).

So as I get around to processing some of my photos from only a short while ago, it is easy to see how much I didn’t know then. Knowing how little I knew then, it is still no less hard to know where things go now. After all, it’s tough to predict things, particularly about the future. I can hope for a better world, with more justice, equality, common sense, and a vaccine—but those of us who make it to the world of the future will see what actually has transpired.

Also posted in Coronavirus times, Photography

Photo Challenge: How to Capture and Photograph Bottled Light

I will be leading a photography challenge on behalf of the Out of Chicago Live! World Online Photography Conference on Tuesday April 21 at 10AM PT. This is a free event, and anyone can watch the livestream using this link.

Seeing Rothko through a bottle.

How to Capture and Photograph Bottled Light with Harold Davis

Tuesday, April 21st, 10am PT

How creative can get you get with colored liquid, sunshine, some glass bottles, and a camera? In this challenge, Harold will show you how he used these simple materials to come up with entire new worlds, recreations of Mark Rothko paintings, abstractions, highways at night, and much more! Even if you don’t have any food color sets around, you probably have colored liquid (soda pop, brandy, maple syrup, cherry juice, red wine, and blue Gatorade all work well). Be creative! What can you do while sheltering in place with these everyday materials?

Click here to watch the live stream at 10am Pacific Time on Tuesday, April 21st.

Harold Davis
Harold Davis is a bestselling author of many books, the developer of a unique technique for photographing flowers for transparency, a Moab Master, and a Zeiss Ambassador. He is an internationally known photographer and a sought-after workshop leader. To learn more about him, click here.

Out of Chicago LIVE! brings together over 70 world-class photographers online for one weekend to share with you what inspires them most. Be part of a very special event with 3 days of LIVE! instructor guided learning with 100+ interactive sessions, including panel discussions, tutorials, individual photo challenges and group image reviews. To learn more and register for the full conference and participate in all the challenges, click here.

Also posted in Photography

Ten things to make me happy come the Zombie Apocalypse

  • Toilet paper. Who really cares? I don’t. Folks will generally find a way to clean their you-know-whats. Feel superior (but still kindly and compassionate) to folks obsessing about TP.
  • In a Zombie Apocalypse you don’t have to drive the kids to school, or pick them up.
  • There’s no need to get dressed for meetings during a Zombie Apocalypse, at least below the waist. You can wear your bedroom slippers all day, if you’d like.
  • A Zombie Apocalypse is a great time to finish all those creative projects you have on hold.
  • Staying at home is good for gardening, and for flower photography.
  • Coffee. We have a blend from Scarlet City Roasting that is guaranteed to see us through the Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Keto-friendly chocolate. I have a box of very low carb chocolate bars coming from the Good Chocolate Company. This delicious chocolate is actually pretty good for you even if you are staying away from sugar. Discount code: STAYHOMEWITHCHOCOLATE.
  • I know we won’t go nuts because we get nuts delivered quickly and in certified gluten-free style from
  • All the inspirational musicians playing from home on YouTube every day. Particularly Mary Chapin Carpenter.
  • Cleaner air. This is a wonderful thing, and should make us all plan to have cleaner air without a pandemic.

Okay, so there are actually eleven things: last, but hardly least, staying home and spending time with my wonderful family!

Point Bonita Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Point Bonita Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Also posted in Coronavirus times

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