Sometimes Simple Works

Pink Papaver

Pink Papaver, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

On a bright, but overcast, spring morning I saw this pink Papaver rhoeas in the morning dew. I photographed it head-on at f/16 for depth of field on the center, but a little less sharpness in the petals. Then I processed the photo to enhance the diaphanous feeling of the petals.

Sometimes simple works.

[Nikon D300, 200mm f/4 macro lens (300mm in 35mm terms), 1/6 of a second at f/16 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Flowers, Photography



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

This is the interior of the dome of San Francisco City Hall. I lay on my back in the central space of the building, letting people flow around me. The wide-angle lens and straight-up point-of view combined to create the illusion of apparent flatness (actually the dome has considerable depth).

Related stories: San Francisco City Hall; After the Wedding.

[Nikon D300, 12-24mm zoom lens at 12mm (18mm in 35mm terms), 1.3 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Bemusements, Photography, San Francisco Area

Hike to Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls

Alamere Falls, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Alamere Falls tumbles down a cliff to the Pacific Ocean in Point Reyes National Seashore. This awesome waterfall lies north of the Bolinas plateau and south of Arch Rock. From the Bolinas side, it’s about four miles on good trails, then a half a mile scramble down to the falls and beach, so a total round-trip hike of about nine miles. The Point Reyes southern district trail map shows the route pretty well (look towards the bottom of the map).

Julian, my oldest son, and I started in mid-afternoon with a good lunch at Robata. For the record, Julian inhaled 18 gyoza (Japanese potstickers). Then we stopped in Mill Valley and picked up a slab of bread and some gourmet chocolate to take along for dinner, and headed for the trailhead. Our plan was to get to the falls an hour or so before sunset when the photography would be good, and hike most of the way back in the dark.

It was a pleasure hiking with Julian, who enjoyed the sights and sounds of birds, flowers, and bullfrogs. The only real disappointment was when the trail passed Bass Lake, a possible swimming spot. But poison oak made the approach to the lake too tricky to attempt.

When we got to the turn-off from the Coastal Trail down to Alamere Falls, Julian particularly took pleasure in the Park Service’s “Dangerous and Unmaintained” trail sign. This path does tunnel through poison oak in places. You reach the top of the falls by jumping across the creek as it approaches the falls, and are then standing 150 feet or so above a sheer cliff to the beach. It’s very dramatic and a bit vertigo inducing (photo from the top of Alamere Falls to follow).

From the top of the falls, we made our way down a crack in the cliff to the beach. This is a reasonably steep climb, and I decided I didn’t want to go back up it in the dark.

On the beach, the sun was heading down and a rainbow played in Alamere Falls (above). I let Julian take off his clothes for a dip in the creek (below) while I photographed.

On the trail home, as it got dark, we switched on our head lamps and talked about a wide range of topics. Julian said, “When I’m grown up, I’ll take my oldest son here.” Back in the parking lot, Julian was asleep almost as soon as I cranked the engine. There was no traffic, and we were home to a sleeping house by midnight.

Julian at Alamere Falls

View this image larger.

Posted in Hiking, Kids, Landscape, Photography, Point Reyes

Nicky Jumping

Nicky Jumping

Nicky Jumping, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

On a recent trip to Alcatraz, Nicky started jumping in the exercise yard.

I was mindful of Philippe Halsman’s famous portrait technique of asking his subjects to jump. As Halsman put it, “When you ask a person to jump, his attention is mostly directed toward the act of jumping and the mask falls so that the real person appears.” For example, here’s a famous Halsman portrait of Marilyn Monroe jumping on the cover of Life Magazine.

So when Nicky started jumping, I viewed it as a photo opportunity. I had my little Canon Powershot G9 set on aperture-preferred metering at the smallest aperture (f/8) to take advantage of the magnificent depth-of-field implied by the small sensor size of the camera. (For more about this effect, see pages 56-57 of my Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers.)

I knew there would be shutter lag, a delay between when I pressed the shutter release button and when the exposure was actually made. So I waited until Nicky was just taking off, pressed the button, and caught him in mid-air.

Nicky’s comment on looking at the photo: “I was trying to fly.” Well, fortunately Nicky is not quite the Birdman of Alcatraz, but he certainly made a good stab at flight!

[Canon G9 fixed lens, appx. 45mm in 35mm equivalent terms, aperture-preferred mode, f/8 at 1/160 of a second and ISO 80, hand held with image stabilization engaged.]

Posted in Bemusements, Kids, Photography

America at Home

Rick Smolan gave me a coupon for a version of his book America at Home with a custom cover, and I put Julian and Nicky in the design (see below).

Rick is famous for his Day in the Life series of photography books. Like many of Rick’s projects, America at Home is extraordinarily creative in concept. Essentially, the notion of a coffee table photo book has been extended in an unexpected way through the use of POD (print on demand). Each custom copy of America at Home is a colloboration between Rick’s team of professionals and the end users who put their own photos on the cover of their copy of the book.

Posted in Bemusements, Photography

My Three Suns

The sun in this photo framing the tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, and, for that matter, all suns in the photo other than the real sun, are caused by an optical phenomenon called double refraction. (Double refraction is also called birefringence).

In double refraction, each ray of light separates into two rays (the “ordinary” ray and the “extraordinary” ray) when the light heads through the lens. The extra suns are in my photo caused by the extraordinary rays. The birefringence effect is dependent on how the light is polarized.

Normally, you’d want to avoid something like double refraction in your photos (although, avoid as much as can, you’ll likely see some if you shoot directly into the sun with a long lens as I did in this photo).

But last night I was feeling bored, and I knew I had more than enough photos in my files for my Golden Gate project, so I amplified the effect by adding a polarizing filter in front of my lens, and rotating the outer ring of the filter to change the direction of polarization until the subsidiary “sun” was in position.

[375mm in 35mm terms, circular polarizer, 1/750 of a second at f/9 and ISO 100, tripod mounted.]

Posted in Bemusements, Landscape, Photography, San Francisco Area