Skull on White

Skull on White, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is a mountain lion skull, acquired from a taxidermist. The original photo was on a black background (far below), and the other three versions (including the version on a white background above) are Photoshop manipulations.

Red Skull

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Skull on Black 2

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Skull on Black

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[All images: Nikon D300, 85mm PC macro (roughly, 127.5mm in 35mm terms), 1.6 seconds at f/51 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Photography

Rocky Shore

Rocky Shore

Rocky Shore, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

This is another grab shot from along the Big Sur coast.

[Nikon D300, 18-200mm VR zoom lens at 62mm (93mm in 35mm terms) with image stabilization engaged, 1/125 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 100, hand held.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Harold Davis Night Photography Workshop

I’ll be leading a hands-on workshop on digital night photography from May 2-4, 2008 under the auspices of Digital Stop in Berkeley, California. Please consider joining me for a fun and exciting weekend.

Star Trails

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Course Description

Night photography has always been an area for creative experimentation. With the advent of digital photography, and its expanded dynamic range and light sensitivity beyond the visible spectrum, Harold Davis, the creator of, takes workshop participants into the digital night.

During an orientation session, techniques, equipment, and night safety issues are covered. Moving outdoors, workshop participants will create night-time captures. Regrouping the following day, digital post-processing of night captures in Photoshop will be thoroughly demystified. Work will be evaluated in the context of personal creative goals. A second night shoot gives participants the opportunity to put into practice the night skills they have learned. We will learn to make spectacular photographs of the San Francisco skyline at night, as well as quieter photos of the landscape of the night by starlight.

Night covers the globe half the time. Surprisingly to many, photographic opportunities with digital equipment are as exciting during night as the day. Awake to the freedom of the night! Bring your energy and creativity, and expect to have a great time. You’ll go home with great images and the skills to capture night photos while the rest of the world sleeps.

More info

Posted in Digital Night, Photography


The surf was crashing on the shore. Round the rugged coastline, I saw the keyhole above Tennessee Beach lit by the sun and pelicans in flight.

I exposed for the cliffs and pelicans in the sunshine, and let the remainder of the image go dark.

[300mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 1/80 of a second at f/5.6 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography

Incoming Storm

Yesterday at dusk I watched the setting sun race an incoming storm over the Golden Gate.

[300mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 30 seconds at f/25 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Tracking the Sun

Landscape photographers know that there is nothing more important than light. Learning to pay attention to light is a major job requirement. Tracking the sun is part of this job. That’s easy you say, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Well, no.

To quote the loquacious cob in E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan:

There are all those in-between directions: north-northeast, east southest, west-southwest. There’s north by east, and east by north. There’s south-southeast a half east and there’s west by north a half north.

Taking sunset, the point at which the sun hits the western horizon varies from north to south, from summer solstice (north) to winter solstice (south). I suppose this is probably reversed if you are on the opposite hemisphere of the earth (I’d like to hear from someone who can confirm this). At the equinoxes, the sun would be about smack dab in the middle of its setting range north to south along the western horizon. The extent of the north to south range, and the daily difference between setting points, is determined by latitude (how far north or south you are).

Photographs of sunset behind the Golden Gate are usually better when the sun is behind (or not that far from either side) of the bridge. This happens twice a year during the annual migration of sunset points, roughly speaking in November and February. Since I enjoy photographing the Golden Gate over time, it’s important to me to keep track of the sun in relation to the bridge. (A book of my photos of the Golden Gate, 100 Views of the Golden Gate , will be appearing in 2008.)

The photo above was taken in early February of 2006. The sun was setting just to the right of the bridge, as you can see in this photo earlier in the same set of captures.

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

San Francisco from Muir Beach Overlook

We parked Mark’s truck near the Pelican Inn behind Muir Beach and drove in my car over to the Tennessee Beach trailhead parking lot. There was a stiff wind blowing, with some roiling clouds to the north. The parking lot was full of high school kids running a race.

In our hiking boots, backpacks and tripods on our backs, we headed down the easy trail, and then up, to the north, towards the ridgeline and away from the crowds come for the race. A fairly short, but very steep, climb got us to the top of the line of hills marching down to the sea. We took a shortcut down to the Coastline Trail, and joined it just to the north of Pirate’s Cove.

By the time we’d hiked along the trail to the point above the south end of Muir Beach, the wind had picked up to over forty miles an hour. I took a handheld grabshot back at the spectacular coast, and was almost blown over the edge.

It was nearly 6PM, with sunset a little before 7:30. We decided that the best way to go was to get some dinner at the Pelican Inn, and then find a good place to photograph sunset. After crab cakes and apple crisp with ice cream (me) and fish and chips with beer (Mark) we headed out for the Muir Beach Overlook to the north of Muir Beach.

The wind had gone down a bit, but there was still plenty of windchill. We fumbled out in the dusk on the walkway, and I took some exposures in the 20-30 second zone in both directions. The clouds we had seen earlier had blown up from the north, and were now in position, reflecting both city lights and the last of the sunset. If you look closely, you can see the Coastline Trail to the south of Muir Beach where we had hiked earlier in the day.

By now, it was dark and a ranger came out to say they were shutting the parking lot, and we chatted a bit. Mark drove me back around to my car, and I headed home across the Bay.

A mild but fun adventure, and a good antidote for the “sitting at the computer too long” blues.

[150mm in 35mm equivalent terms, 25 seconds at f/6.3 and ISO 100.]

Posted in Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area

Mathew on His Third Birthday

We celebrated our youngest member, Mathew, and his third birthday yesterday at home with his siblings and grandparents (above). I managed to take his portrait between strenuous bouts of cupcake eating, candle blowing out, and present opening.

This morning we were at another party for Mathew at his pre-school, Step One, where Mathew wore a Thomas-the-Tank-Engine crown (below).

Mathew on His Third Birthday 2

Here are all of our family at the Step One party for Mathew:


I don’t feel I can take as much time post-processing photos of my kids as I can with photos that I’ll publish in books or sell as prints, but here are some general tips for kid photography.

Get down on level with the kids. Make the same effort to connect with a child who is your subject as you would with an adult whose portrait you are creating. Connection is easier to accomplish when you are down on the floor with the kid rather than way up there like some giant.

Consider boosting the ISO rather than using flash. This makes your photography less disruptive than with a flash going off in everyone’s face, and avoids problems with redeye and blown-out highlights, while still allowing you to capture motion. (And kids are constantly in motion.) ISO 640 is a good light sensitivity setting for indoor candid photos of kids.

Use noise reduction software in post-processing (Noise Ninja works well for this).

In the photos of Mathew, I reduced the noise on a Photoshop layer, masked the layer, and painted in his face. I did the same thing with a bit of luminance sharpening, using the Unsharp Mask on the L channel in LAB mode. This selective noise reduction and subtle sharpening creates a kind of halo effect around the face of the child. Sharpening only the luminance channel in a photo creates a more flattering and less harsh effect than using Photoshop’s Smart Sharpen filter. Selective layer masking restricts the effect to the child’s face.

Last, but not least, I candidly confess that I cloned the cupcake and cinnamon toast off Mathew’s face, and enlarged the catch lights in his eyes.

Most important of all, in Mathew’s words, “Me had good birthday!”

Related story: Dropped in His Tracks.

Posted in Kids, Photography

Spider from the Kitchen Window

Despite its somewhat frightening appearance, this is a harmless (to people) European Garden Spider, Araneus diadematus.

Julian spotted it hanging down past the open kitchen window. “Dad,” he came running, “you’ve got to photograph this spider from the kitchen window!”

I used my 200mm Nikon macro with a 6T close-up filter, and the macro strobe rig on a ring at the end of this rather long and heavy lens. The red in the background is from a begonia in a hanging basket. I processed the image three times from the RAW, once for the body of the spider, once (in a darker exposure) to control the highlights from flash reflection on the spider, and in a lighter exposure to bring out the colors in the red begonia.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

Dreamweaver Rose

Dreamweaver is a nice name for a rose, and I think this transparent, dreamy image lives up to the rose it depicts…

Posted in Flowers, Photograms, Photography