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

I lay down at the bottom of the spiral staircase shown in After the Wedding. With my tripod fitting clumsily in a tight corner of the stair, I used my digital fisheye to take a vertiginous photo up the stair well. In Photoshop, I layered in an extension to the hallway and replaced the skylight at the top of the stairs. Finally, I duplicated the image and flipped it horizontally. I pasted the original and the flipped version together to create a symmetrical, but twisted, abstraction.

[Original photo: Nikon D300, 10.5mm digital fisheye, 5 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, Photoshop Techniques

Study in Camellia

Study in Camellia

Study in Camellia, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Sometimes simple is best. This is a straightforward, unmanipulated shot. I used basic lighting and a black background to photograph this heirloom pink camellia blossom from above. No tricks here, just a beautiful flower.

[All images: Nikon D300, 85mm PC macro (roughly, 127.5mm in 35mm terms), one second at f/51 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Book Imposition

This photo shows imposition proofs for my Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers. The book is due out in the next few months, published by O’Reilly, and is being printed in Italy. In the photo, these large proof sheets are laid out on our living room floor.

Each of the large sheets of paper represents a signature of 16 or 24 pages that will be bound into the final, printed book. This kind of proof is about how the pages will be ordered on press, and definitely not about color reproduction (there are other kinds of proofs that deal with color). When imposition proofs are done right (as these are), they show the printer has thought carefully about how the pages will be printed on press because images with strong color bias are located in “columns” on the same press form (each form represented by an imposition proof sheet).

Dennis Fitzgerald is the Production Editor at O’Reilly. Dennis was kind enough to bring these imposition proofs over last night in foul weather, and to be carefully and meticulously sheparding the book through the shoals of production.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

A Sense of Scale

Blue Feather, Boulder

View this photo larger. Read the back story featuring this image.

When a photo is about pattern, the thrill of composition can come from a dissonance in size. Is the subject big or small? What is the sense of scale?

In these kinds of photos, that which seems to be big is actually small, or that which appears to be small is actually big. The viewer gets a thrill when the actual scale is recognized. The thrill comes from recognition, from a sense of oneness with the photographer, and from enjoyment of the paradoxes of scale.

Cases in point: the photo (above) of a detail of a blue feather is a close-up macro exploring at most one inch, while the photo below of UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium covers hundreds of feet.


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Posted in Photography


This is a photo of the seating at UC Berkeley’s Memorial Stadium, notorious as the home of the California Golden Bears football team. The stadium straddles the Hayword earthquake fault, and is the subject of controversy between those who love groves of California oak trees and those who prefer fancy locker rooms. You can guess which side I’m on!

The other day afternoon light was wonderful. I had a Photoshop image in my mind’s eye of looking down on a stadium, with the center receding downward forever. So I decided to try my luck at Memorial Stadium.

The theme of the shoot was definitely you can’t always get what you want, but you just might get what you need, to quote the Rolling Stones. No way I was going to get a shot I could use for the basis of an infinity image like my Endless Stairs, or my Endless Doors. On the other hand, the patterns of the stairs and empty stands in the golden late afternoon light made a just swell abstract subject.

[300mm in 35mm terms, 1/160 of a second at f/6.3 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Bemusements, Patterns, Photography


We were proofing a 176 page book–Light and Exposure for Digital Photographers from O’Reilly–on our Epson 4800 printer using rolls of proofing paper. A time consuming, tedious, and exciting process. I took an art break, and captured these alstromeria petals (on white below), then played in Photoshop to come up with the version on black (above).

Alstromeria Petals

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Posted in Flowers, Photograms, Photography

How High Can You Go?

How high can you go? How low can you go? At least when the question is ISO…the answer depends on your hardware. In the case of my Nikon D200, high ISO (shown below) means ISO 1600. Low ISO (far below) means ISO 100, so there’s a 16 times difference in the amount of light being captured due to the sensitivity settings in the two photos, which were taken one after the other and post-processed in exactly the same way.

High ISO

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It’s important to understand that by increasing the ISO you are not really increasing a sensor’s ability to capture light, but rather just amplifying the signal with all the negative implications for Signal to Noise Ratio you might expect.

As a practical matter, bear in mind that noise shows more in dark areas than light areas (witness the lower left of the high noise version of this photo). The implication: in long exposure time and/or high ISO situations, where you know there will be plenty of noise, try to expose so dark areas don’t go really dark (at least if this doesn’t mean blowing out highlights).


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[Both images:142.5mm in 35mm terms, tripod mounted. High ISO version: 20 seconds at f/36 and ISO 1600; Low ISO version 30 seconds at f/11 and ISO 100.]

Posted in Photography

Faerie Rose on Black

This is a Faerie rose from a neglected part of our garden, first on white, then via an inversion of the Luminosity channel in LAB color, on black.

By the way, the original Photoshop files for these two images are huge, each a bit larger than 12″ X 24″ at 300 dpi (this leads to a file size of a couple of hundred megabytes, no wonder my hard drive space disappears so fast!).

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Faerie Bouquet

This is an intentionally overexposed photo of a spray of Faerie old-fashioned roses, taken with my new Canon G9. I placed the rose spray on a bright, white background, and lit the photo using a tungsten spotlight with an attached difuser.

The Canon is a little hard to use precisely, but certainly creates great files shooting in RAW mode, all 12.1 beautiful megapixels of each capture. Very impressive, considering the wonderful small size and low weight of the camera.

[Canon G9 at approximately 150mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 1/4 of a second and f/8 at ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Forest Floor

On an overcast but bright day in early October, my kids and I wandered the Yosemite Valley floor. By the side of the Merced River I set up my camera and tripod, and made a few exposures while the kids played on the river bank. Then I packed my gear up, and we walked along the banks round the bend, where a great bear was lumbering along side the river towards us.

[27mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 1/4 of a second at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite

Trawling for Moonlight

The fishing trawler was returning to port through the Golden Gate. As the boat headed for the channel of moonlight, I realized that a long time exposure just wouldn’t do. I wanted to capture the trawler in the moonlight, not an abstraction of the boat rendered into colored lines of motion over the exposure duration. So I boosted the ISO to 1,000 and opened the shutter for a brief (for night) period of 2/5 of a second.

Trawling for Moonlight

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[300mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 2/5 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 1000, selectively post-processed for noise, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Digital Night, Photography

Boy and Bug

We took the kids and their bicycles (always a production) to the Prospect-Sierra yard. Julian spotted this praying mantis, and the boy and the bug became fast friends. Before we left, he brought it gently to a nice bush.

Posted in Kids, Photography

Weight of Water

Back from my quick trip to Yosemite with the kids, Phyllis reminded me that I don’t need to go anywhere to take pictures. Sometimes one’s own backyard is more magical than any destination. Thanks, Phyllis!

This photo shows a translucent Dahlia petal with water drops resting on the petal and refecting a peony bush in California’s moderate autumn. The petal was blowing slightly in the wind. In order to get the depth of field I needed at a fast enough shutter speed to stop the motion (1/40 of a second), I boosted my sensitivity setting to ISO 640. Raise high the ISO, photographers!

In post-processing, I edited out noise from higher-than-my-normal ISO selectively. I didn’t do anything about noise in the petal or water drop areas, because diminishing the noise would have softened these elements, and I wanted them to stay crisp.

You’ll notice that I used quite a combination of macro equipment for this extreme close-up (see below). The Nikon 6T is a + 2.9 diopter close-up filter, and the 5T is a +1.5 filter. Since stacking these filters is additive, I get +4.4 diopters magnification using this pair, and relatively good optical quality in the bargain.

[200mm f/4 macro lens (300mm in 35mm equivalent terms), 36mm extension tube, Nikon 6T and Nikon 5T close-up filters stacked, 1/40 of a second at f/36 and ISO 640, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Photography, Water Drops

El Capitan Reflections

Julian, Nicky, and I left Berkeley after their visit to the dentist and lunch on a Thursday in early October. Despite road work, it was a fast trip, and we came into Yosemite Valley just before sunset. We stopped at a pull-out on the valley floor and made our way over to the Merced. The kids played on the banks and I set my tripod up and tried to capture reflections of El Capitan in a backwater.

I made quite a few exposures, but the ones with good reflections cut the top of El Capitan. For the heck of it, I tried some fisheyes. The horizontal compositions ended up looking pretty weird, a world-in-a-bubble effect, but I like the way this vertical fisheye shot came out.

We’d been planning to spend a few nights in the valley, and then head over Tioga Pass for the Eastern Sierra and Bodie. But mountain snows closed the route, so we came home early instead. Perhaps just as well. The kids had fun trekking around Yosemite, but they were ready for home.

[10.5mm Digital Fisheye, 1/4 of a second at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, Yosemite


I’ve never blogged this photogram of a Peruvian Lily (Alstromeria), and looking at it again I think it’s worthy.

Posted in Flowers, Photograms, Photography