Farewell to Iceland

It is bittersweet to say farewell to a destination as lovely and memorable as Iceland. But it is good to be home, and I have many images from our time in Iceland to process!

I want to thank and recommend our wonderful guides Jon Hilmarsson and Kaspers both photographers extraordinaire,  as well as the Iceland Photo Tours organization, which did an excellent job managing our logistics.

I think one group participant summed up the experience well when she wrote “I had the very best time in Iceland. What an adventure we had! The burgundy beast [the all-terrain 4wd converted truck-bus we traveled in], incredible cloud formations, terrain rich in color and textures and rain. Real rain. I could easily return for more! Looking forward to more travels in the future.”

Seljelandfoss © Harold Davis

Seljelandfoss Shadows © Harold Davis

Posted in Iceland, Landscape

In the Winter of 1477

In the bitter-cold winter of 1477, a foreigner stayed for a while at the community around the site of this church at the tip of Iceland’s rugged Snaefells peninsula. The mission was to find and read the diaries and navigation logs of Leif Ericsson, Erik the Red, and others who had sailed centuries before to Vinland (now believed to be the coast of North America). The name of the foreigner was Christopher Columbus.

Icelandic Church © Harold Davis

Posted in Iceland


In common with many photographers, I like to collect visual oddities. Yellow Stanchion, below, is odd because of the prosaic foreground subject contrasted with the almost elegiac background of the big rocks guarding Westmanyar harbor in the fog.

Wrapped Hay Bales (far below) is visually odd for a number of reasons, including the threatening sky, and the absence of scale indications. If you aren’t aware of the Icelandic habit of wrapping hay bales in plastic against the frequently wet weather, then the whole composition probably seems improbable.

Yellow Stanchion © Harold Davis

Wrapped Hay Bales © Harold Davis

Posted in Bemusements, Iceland

Gullfoss Rift

An unusual feature of the famous and spectacular Gullfoss waterfall is that the water flow makes an almost immediate 90 degree turn to the left at the bottom of the falls, down into the rift shown in the distance in this image.

It’s an almost surreal experience standing with one’s camera above the head of the turn of the flowing waters, trying to make an exposure through the intense, wind-blown spray, and enjoying the grandeur of the setting. 

Gullfoss Rift © Harold Davis

Posted in Iceland, Landscape, Monochrome, Photography


Puffin Portrait © Harold Davis

Winged Puffin © Harold Davis

Posted in Iceland


Godafoss—“Waterfall of the Gods”—is one of the largest and most visited waterfalls in Iceland. It is shown here at sunset (maybe midnight at this time of year!) from above. The waterfall gets its name from Icelandic history around the time of conversion to Christianity. This was about 1000 CE when the AllThing (Iceland’s parliament) adopted Christianity by decree, and Pagan idols were thrown into the Godafoss. I think maybe some Pagan idols were kept, and the waterfall is just named for a Diety because it is so beautiful.

Godafoss © Harold Davis

This image is created from five exposures, with each exposure at 28mm, f/22, and ISO 64. The camera was tripod-mounted. Exposure times varied between 1/20 of a second and 0.8 seconds. The trick was to wait for a moment without spray hitting my camera lens!

Posted in Iceland, Landscape, Photography

The Windows on the Beast

We call our bus on the Iceland circumnavigation “the Beast”—because the wheels are unimaginably high, the 4-wheel drive is potent, it bounces with a hard suspension, and it is red. A trip that involves bus travel means sitting on a bus, which at first glance can seem boring, but if you look out the window can prove magical, at least in Iceland.

These images were made out the windows of the Beast with my iPhone using the Slow Shutter Cam app, with the shutter speed duration set to 2 seconds, along the roads to the Highlands.

Bus Window 1 © Harold Davis

Bus Window 2 © Harold Davis

Bus Window 3 © Harold Davis

Posted in Iceland, iPhone, Photography


As is I suppose well known, the waterfalls in Iceland are superb, and seem to have a character of their own. They are not like waterfalls I have seen anywhere else, although it is a little hard for me to put my finger on the difference.

We spent a happy day in the Highlands that included photographing several waterfalls. This image shows a portion of the one named Haifoss. I used a +4 neutral density filter and exposure-duration bracketing to create the dramatic effect in this photo.

Haifoss © Harold Davis

Posted in Iceland

Coming into Iceland

Coming into Iceland after a long-haul overnight flight, the land near the airport looked flat and green as a steady mist fell. Talking the shuttle bus in from the airport, I wandered around Reykjavik with my camera—this slight motion blur of the distinctive Hallgrims-Kirkja tower perhaps echoing my disoriented state of mind!

Hallgrims-Kirkja © Harold Davis

Posted in Iceland, Monochrome

Fire and Ice, Sunflowers and Poppy Pods

Candy Mountain Sunflower © Harold Davis

I’m off to Iceland in a few days, and very excited about the adventure. I do find that my packing and travel preparation jujitsu has somewhat atrophied over the pandemic year, and there is much to do before I leave. I think it is likely that my next blog story will be from Iceland—unless I am having too much fun to write!

Meanwhile, please consider our current workshop and live webinar options:

  • Out of Chicago Botanic: Flower & Garden Photography Conference, August 29 – September 2, 2021. In person, near the Chicago Botanic Garden. Click here for information and registration.
  • Photography on Black | Saturday November 20, 2021 at 11am PT click here for registration. Click here for more info. This is a live Zoom webinar. Both images accompanying this story were created using the techniques that this webinar will explain.

Dried Poppy Pods – Longitudinal and Latitudinal Slices © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography, Workshops

Running Photoshop 2021 in Emulation Mode on a Mac M1

I don’t these days write much about computers, and I also like to say (when asked) that the only software I have written in the last decade is my LAB Action for Photoshop. That said, computers and software are a fundamental part of digital photography. One ignores them at one’s peril, just as ignoring chemistry in the wet darkroom didn’t work very well for most serious photographers in the film era.

But I break with my relative deprecation of the topic of computers and software in this story because finding a simple answer to a basic problem important to photographers was painful, and took far too long. Maybe I can spare someone else the grief.

If you are in the Apple computing world, as many photographers are, you’ll likely know that Apple recently changed its underlying chip-set from an Intel-based processor to the Apple-designed M1 (“Apple Silicon”). I don’t want to make your eyes glaze over too much, but the M1 is based on a RISC design—if you are interested, you can read more about RISC here.

From the viewpoint of the end user, what you need to know is that applications—such as Photoshop—need to be re-written to run on the new design. Older programs written for the Intel chips will still run on an M1 computer, but they need to run in emulation mode using a program that Apple calls Rosetta

Emulation means a kind of translation program, from commands meant for one set of chips to the comparable commands that the other set of chips uses, in this case from Intel to Apple M1. At least in theory, there should be some negative performance consequences to running in emulation mode (because instructions are passing through an additional processing layer).

So, what does this all have to do with me? (Or you?) I’m glad you asked.

Personally, I am a bit of a troglodyte when it comes to upgrading my computer gear. I subscribe to the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” school of life. But my old Macbook was definitely approaching the twilight years, and with the amount of presentation and travel in my calendar, a new laptop became compelling, and I went for an Apple MacBook Air that uses the new M1 chips.

So far so good. I migrated most of my old software over, and installed Photoshop 2021 from my Creative Cloud subscription. Photoshop ran just fine on the new computer, as you’d expect of software from a major vendor such as Adobe. But—try as I might—I couldn’t get my favorite third-party plugins—the Nik Collection from DxO, Topaz Studio, and On1 Software—to appear on the Photoshop Filters menu, or to run from within Photoshop.

Technical support from Adobe and the third-party vendors didn’t yield any helpful information (frustratingly, one of the vendors advised re-downloading the DMG file, and trying to install again, which did nothing). This dearth of information on the Internet about the very simple fix is what is leading me to write this article, and maybe spare you my frustration.

Put simply, Adobe may have re-written Photoshop to run in native mode on the M1, but the third-party vendors have not got there yet (if they ever do). For now, if you want the third-party software I mentioned from within Photoshop, the solution is to run Photoshop in Intel-emulation mode (with whatever performance hit this implies).

To do this on an M1 Apple computer, open a Finder window, and locate the Photoshop 2021 application. Right-click on the app icon, and select Get Info from the drop-down menu. When the Get Info window opens, check the Open using Rosetta box. The next time you start Photoshop, it will run in emulation mode, and you will see the legacy third-party applications on the Filter menu (they work just fine). It is that simple.

The broader question of whether (and when) these third-party applications will be rewritten for the M1 Apple Silicon, and whether they will then fit into Adobe’s nascent ecosystem of Plugins (a whole separate menu item and palette in Photoshop 2021) I am not really equipped to address at this point.

If you are interested in the Papaver pod images below, you can learn more about them in Have you ever seen a poppy seed up really close and personal? and Poppy Dancer and All Along the Watchtowers. Also, please keep our Workshops & Events in mind.

Ancient Towers 1 © Harold Davis

Ancient Towers 2 © Harold Davis

Posted in Hardware

Have you ever seen a poppy seed up really close and personal?

By way of background, check out Poppy Dancer and All Along the Watchtowers and the Papapver pod bouquet in Recent Images.

Looking at the close-up of the top of a Papaver pod in Crown of Papavers (below), I’d like to point a few things out. The ring of arches just below the “crown” is where fertilized poppy seeds come out once the pod is “ripe.” Somewhat like curtains, the “entrances” to the passages to the inside curl down. You can see these as curved pads below each opening.

The amazing part are the highly-magnified poppy seeds themselves. If you look at them closely (click the image on your computer to enlarge it, or use “haptic” motions on a phone or iPad to view the seeds more closely) you’ll see that these are not just the simple little black dots we associate with the poppy seed. At this intense magnification, they are patterned and almost honeycombed. There’s amazing detail and structure even in the smallest things in the natural world.

Crown of Papavers © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Poppy Dancer and All Along the Watchtowers

Lately, I’ve been photographing poppy pods, dried poppies from our garden. In a few instances, these remains-of-the-day poppies look like fantastic figurines, as in Poppy Dancer, immediately below. 

Poppy Dancer © Harold Davis

For me, this image of a dried poppy resembles a lithe dancer, in a tutu and with a hat. Ironically, I once used in-camera multiple exposures to photograph a human dancer with “poppy” in her name as a model.

Many of the poppy pods are architectural, in the way of sculpture or pottery, when you look at them highly magnified—architectural forms from nature, like those used by Antonin Gaudi. Or perhaps All Along the Watchtowers (below) most resembles a portion of a Southeast Asia Opium Warlord’s palace.

All Along the Watchtowers © Harold Davis

Gear and post-production stuff: I photographed on a velvet background using my Nikon D850 on a heavy-duty tripod. The lens was the Nikkor 200mm f/4 macro, with a 50mm Nikon PN-11 extension tube between the lens and camera. For the images that resembled architecture, the biggest problem was to angle the perspective so the viewer can see the “arcades” and “arches.” To help with this, I added a +4 close-up lens. 

Exposure and processing were using a sequence of low-key HDR captures, as explained in my webinar video recordings Photography on Black and The Blossfeldt Effect.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Recent Images

I’m pleased with my images from the last week or so, and am having trouble keeping up with my photography in post-production, and also as a blogger. But here are three of my recent images (below). There’s just so much going on the real world and with family…

On the Workshop front, the early-bird discount on Photography Flowers for Transparency ends soon. And, I’m off to Iceland for photography in two weeks!

Papaver Pods © Harold Davis

I never promised you a rose garden © Harold Davis

Gaillardia © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography, Workshops

The Blossfeldt Effect webinar video recording

We’ve posted The Blossfeldt Effect video webinar recording. Here’s the description:

In this unique and creative webinar, Harold starts with a look at the characteristics of a Blossfeldian composition. What kinds of subjects did Blossfeldt choose to photograph, and why? What makes a particular botanical specimen visually exciting?

Next, Harold explores two possible places to start with Blossfeldian botanical compositions: the black background and the light box.

To cap it off, Harold demonstrates how he processes his Blossfeldt-like images using some surprisingly simple yet tricky steps.

I think you’ll enjoy this one, it is one of our best!

Click here for The Blossfeldt Effect video, here for a catalog listing of our video webinar recordings, here for my YouTube channel, and here for upcoming Workshops & Events.

California Live Oak © Harold Davis

Posted in Monochrome, Photography, Workshops