Yosemite Morning

Yosemite Morning

Yosemite Morning, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Coming down from a night spent photographing star trails on Glacier Point, I hit the Valley floor about 6AM. I tucked into my sleeping bag, inserted the ear plugs, and slept for a solid hour or so. At about 7AM a deep rumbling noise penetrated the ear plugs and woke me. It was followed by sirens (what’s this, bears dancing on cars setting off their alarms?) and then helicopters.

Sleep fled, and I pulled myself out to see what was going on. A big rock ledge had fallen off Glacier Point into the valley, and right into Curry Village. (Here’s the story. Very frightening if you were staying at Curry, but luckily no one was badly hurt, and the place has largely reopened.)

In the meantime, the Merced River beckoned in the morning light (you can see some of dust from the rock slide in the background of this photo).

To create this image I groggily shot six exposures, at times between 1/13 of a second and a full second. My initial plan was to process these together as an HDR image, using the Photoshop HDR automation. So I converted all six from the RAW using one ACR settings file, and then opening the six files using Merge to HDR. The results looked like garbage, Photoshop didn’t really know which areas to include from which exposure. Next, I tried merging to HDR using the pre-converted RAW files, with more-or-less the same ugly results.

So, it was back to hand combining the six captures using ACR setting variations, layer masking, gradients, and the Paintbrush tool. Computers are great, but sometimes automation sucks, and there’s nothing like doing it by hand.

Related story: Multi-RAW Processing versus Automated HDR.

[Nikon D300, 12-24mm Zoom lens at 12mm (18mm in 35mm terms), 1/13 of a second, 1/10 of a second 1/4 of a second, 1/2 of a second, and one second, all exposures at ISO 100 and f/22, exposures hand combined in Photoshop, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite



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

Briefly noted: I grew this delicious Sunflower for the purposes of photography. Putting it on a black velvet background, I made five exposures at shutter times ranging from 1/2 a second to four seconds. With the darkest exposure on the bottom of the layer stack to make sure the background was black, I layered each of the five lighter versions of the Sunflower on top one by one, moving from darkest (shortest exposure time) to lightest (longest exposure time).

More Sunflowers: Sunflower; Sunflower and Bottle; Sunflower (Sunflowr?); Sunflower.

[Nikon D300, Zeiss Macro 100mm f/2 ZF Makro-Planar T* Manual Focus Lens, five combined exposures from 1/2 of a second to 4 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Flowers, Photography



Multitasking, photo by Harold Davis.

Mathew, who just turned four, gets so engrossed in his computer that he needs to multitask. Which in his case means dragging his small wooden potty over to sit on it as he manipulates the mouse.

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography

Spoils of Victory

Spoils of Victory

Spoils of Victory, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: At two and a half minutes, this is my longest exposure from the shoot the other day at the abandoned naval base on Mare Island. Shorter than my usual night exposures, but then this is very different subject matter than star trails in Yosemite.

[Nikon D300 with a 12-24mm Zoom lens at 18mm (27mm in 35mm terms), 150 seconds at f/14 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

The Progress of Katie Rose

Katie Rose is progressing. The NICU at CPMC is organized into three different rooms: North is where babies are admitted, first treated and evaluated; East is where babies grow long term; and West is where babies who are going home soon stay. It’s a lower stress environment. There are no procedures and no really sick babies in NICU West, and it is even near the well-baby nursery.

The Quest for Milk

Yesterday when we visited Katie we took her temperature, changed her, let her breast feed, gave her a bottle, and just hung out for a while. Then we had to go home to pick up the boys from Fencing Camp.

We were on our way out when the charge nurse, Erin, came running in to ask if we would help move Katie to NICU West. You bet we said “yes” in a heartbeat!


Katie Rose was snoozing in her basinette. We collected her things and Erin unplugged her. Then we wheeled her down the hall in her progress towards a new life.

Katie Looking at Me

Posted in Katie Rose, Kids

Golden Gate Window

Wandering the dark mid-level tiers of Fort Point in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge I came upon a window without glass. This is the same window I photographed a couple of years back with dirty glass and a happy face. The photo below shows the span of the Golden Gate through the open window, and the bottom photo shows the bottom of one of the towers.

There was, of course, a dynamic range problem with these images. Even given the inherent dynamic range within RAW captures, I needed to take separate exposures for the scene through the window and the embrasures themselves. It’s important when combining images to extend the dyamic range to maintain the same f-stop in the images, so I shot both sets of exposures stopped down to f/22 to create a high depth-of-field effect in the foregrounds. There’s a twenty times difference in shutter speed between the exposure for the inside of the window and the exposures for the brighter Golden Gate span.

I used Liquid Mask to quickly pop out the window from the versions shot for the distance so I could slide it on top of the versions exposed for the window frame.

Golden Gate Window

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Speaking of the Golden Gate, if you are in the Bay area, I will be making a presentation about 100 Views of the Golden Gate on Sunday, July 27 at 2PM at Book Passage in the San Francisco Ferry Building (more info about the event). I’ll discuss the artistic connection with Hokusai and Japanese art and ideas, the aesthetic and spiritual dimensions of the bridge, the landscape of the Golden Gate in the context of the Bay area, and some of the photo techniques I used during the years I made the photos in this book.

Holding up the Bridge

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[Both images: Photoshop composites of two exposures at 1/20 of a second and at 1 second, Nikon D300, 18-200VR Zoom lens, f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted. Top image shot at 29mm (44.5mm in 35mm terms), image above shot at 22mm (33mm in 35mm terms).]

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, San Francisco Area

Bridge and Sky

I photographed this view of the Golden Gate at sunset from Wildcat Peak a few weeks ago during the same session that I captured the Eyes of a Newt.

When I reviewed my captures from the session just now, I liked this capture of the Golden Gate at sunset for the immense and wonderful gradient in the sky above the firm line of clouds. However, I worried that when I lightened the bottom of the image, the amount of noise that lightening would introduce would conflict with the pristine quality of the image.

A valid fear indeed! In Photoshop’s RAW capture conversion module, on the layer that I used from the RAW capture for the foreground, I pushed the slider for Shade to the minimum. The result was a ton of noise, digital’s analog to analog’s grain. Put another way, noise is to digital as grain is to film. By whatever name, in the context of this image, yuck!

I’ve had good luck using Noise Ninja’s Photoshop plug-in to reduce noise. This time it was clear to me that I needed radical noise reduction on the lower portion of the image, and none at all on the sky.

So I duplicated my background layer, and operated Noise Ninja on the duplicate layer. This gave me the opportunity to crank Noise Ninja to the max, and yet only apply it where I wanted in the underlying image through selective layer masking. I also applied Noise Ninja several times, the first time set high, and the second time using normal settings. On the second setting, I applied the noise reduction only to the luminance of the portion of the image I was modifying by using the Fade command and selecting Luminance as the blending mode.

On the whole, Noise Ninja worked pretty well!

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Photoshop Techniques, San Francisco Area


I photographed these trillium along the Steep Ravine trail under Mount Tamalpais this weekend, using a tripod, long exposures, and a stopped-down lens.

Trillium 1

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Trillium 2

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Posted in Flowers, Photography

Snow Crystals

Overnight in Yosemite, snow froze on trees and plants in weird crystal-like formations. When dawn came, the sun first touched the tops of the cliffs, then headed down into Yosemite Valley. As the sun started to warm the valley, and Julian played in the snow, I photographed this snow-and-crystal covered plant in Leidig Meadow.

Posted in Photography, Yosemite

Snow on Pine

In the early morning of Yosemite winter as Julian and I explored the valley, snow crystals hung on the branches of the trees, bending the branches towards the earth.

Posted in Patterns, Photography, Yosemite

Julian in Yosemite

Julian came with me to Yosemite, played in the snow, and woke me every morning so I could be sure to photograph dawn.

He had, I think, a very good and special time, although the immensity and ferocity of the winter landscape sometimes gave this child of California pause. What did he do while I was engrossed in photographing the Merced River or some other heroic landscape? He built ice castles by the banks of the Merced River, and enjoyed snowballs!

Julian and Snowball in Yosemite

Posted in Kids, Photography, Yosemite