Creative Black & White—Revised and Expanded

We’re almost through authoring the second edition of Creative Black & White. It has been revised, substantially expanded, and brought up to date. You can pre-order my new book from Amazon (the official publication date is August 1, 2019).

As I note in the Preface to this Second Edition, “Of course, I was flattered to be asked to write this revised and expanded second edition of Creative Black & White. One of the goals of this new edition is to bring the tools and techniques explained in this book up to date. This is particularly important in the realm of Lightroom and Photoshop software, and with the plug-ins that are a necessary extension of the Adobe ecosystem.

“Beyond keeping current, I want to help you become a better and more creative photographer, whatever your interest level or toolset may be.”

It’s been great fun updating this book, making a good book even better, refreshing the images, and bringing the software explanations up to date. I hope my new book proves to be inspiring and useful to you!

Click here to pre-order Creative Black & White from Amazon.

Posted in Writing

Explorations, projects, digital collages, constructions, and more

I confess: sometimes I lose track of my own work. Lately—over the past year or so—I’ve been working on related themes, groupings of images that are tightly, or loosely, linked. The very nature of blogging and social media, not to mention photography’s voracious ability to create imagery of all kinds, means these themes can get lost. In response, I decided to start an Explorations page with links to…explorations, digital collages, constructions, meanderings, and ongoing artistic projects—organized thematically.

This has been an enjoyable way for me to get a better handle on what I’ve been up to (sometimes this isn’t apparent even to the artist until some way down the road of creation). Maybe you will like some of the projects and ideas as well.

X-rays and Fusion X-rays (2018-2019); About

Camino de Santiago (2018-2019); Story

Monochrome Florals (2011-2019); Story

Bottled Light (2018-2019); Words

Curves Ahead (2019); Words

Homage to Rothko (2018-2019)

White Daemon (2018); About

Easy Travel to Other Planets (2018-2019)

Optical Studies (2018-2019); Story

Petal Galaxy (2015-2019); Story

Dancing with the Stars (2017-2018); Story

Blades of Grass (2017-2018); About

Posted in Photography

Homage to Rothko

Homage to Rothko © Harold Davis

Posted in Abstractions, Photography

My Left Foot

My Left Foot © Harold Davis

Posted in X-Ray

Paris from the 18th Arrondissement

I used my iPhone to snap this somewhat unusual view of the Parisian landscape from the heights of the 18th Arrondissement, a window high on the slopes of Montmartre, with the Eiffel Tour the only easily recognizable landmark. In a recent webinar for Topaz, I used the resulting iPhone JPEG to show the power of multi-RAW processing after turning the JPEG into a RAW (DNG) file using Topaz’s JPEG to RAW AI. I processed a darker verion for the sky, and a lighter version to bring out the detail in the foreground cityscape, and combined the two versions using a layer mask and gradient in Photoshop.

Eiffel Tower in Paris Landscape © Harold Davis

Posted in iPhone, Paris

Curves Ahead

Starting with sunlight coming through vessels with color, I pared down my abstractions. But lately we have been under a river of rain. Sunlight is scarce. But it doesn’t take much to create an image. Just a camera, really. Simplicity is best. There are curves ahead.

Curve #1 © Harold Davis

Posted in Abstractions, Monochrome, Photography

Free Topaz Webinar with Harold Davis on Tuesday Feb 19

Webinar with Harold Davis: Topaz As an Integral Part of Creative Post-Production

Tuesday February 19, 2019 at 2PM PT (4PM CT), 45 minute presentation with 15 minutes for Q&A. The webinar is free, but advance registration is strongly suggested. Click here to register for the webinar.

Webinar Description: In this all-new webinar, Harold Davis shows how he uses Topaz in conjunction with his digital workflow to polish and enhance his creative imagery. Davis will use some of his more popular recent images to demonstrate Topaz Studio, Topaz Adjust, Topaz Glow, and Topaz Simplify as an integral part of his creative Photoshop toolkit. Stand by for some tips, techniques, and post-production ideas that will knock your creative socks off!

Color Field of Flowers © Harold Davis

Harold notes that “iPhonegraphy is an important part of my professional practice. In this light, JPEG to RAW AI offers a new and very welcome way to process my iPhone JPEGs.” Harold’s presentation will conclude with a few examples of how JPEG to RAW AI can enhance his iPhone imagery.

About Harold Davis: Harold Davis is an internationally recognized digital artist and photographer, the bestselling author of many books about photography, and a notable photographic educator and workshop leader. He is a Moab Master and a Zeiss Ambassador. His website is www.digitalfieldguide.com.

Posted in Photography

Happy Heart Day

Heart Like a Wheel © Harold Davis

Posted in Hearts, Photography

Apparently Home to Manatees and More

After my workshop in West Palm Beach, I had a morning to explore south Florida. I rented a car, and drove through scrub and pre-Everglades marsh inland to Lake Okeechobee—seemingly big enough to count as an inland sea with the further shore invisible in the distant horizon, and apparently home to manatees. Heading down the small road towards Canal Point on the shores of Lake Okeechobee, I was followed by a police car for miles, and meticulously kept to the speed limit as I passed through small hamlets. The dirt poor landscape was in striking contrast to the glitz and wealth of the high rises along the ocean shore.

Lake Okeechobee © Harold Davis

Of course, one is not going to get the gist of any landscape or place in a short visit. And I had to start thinking about getting to the airport on time for my connecting flight (through Atlanta) home. But I hadn’t yet seen the Atlantic Ocean in my days giving the workshop, only the inside of a studio and the classroom, and the stealth metropolis—the Palm Beach cities have about a million people—plunked in a place that would seemingly be uninhabitable without air conditioning, even in February.

Atlantic © Harold Davis

So I turned the car towards the Atlantic coast, and took a long look at the waves and cloud-wracked sky before returning to the world of airport lounges and the cramped steerage of the backs of airplanes.

Posted in Landscape, Monochrome

Cutting Corners

In Mounts Botanical Gardens of Palm Beach County, Florida an impressive exhibit of an installation by stick-work artist Patrick Dougherty was showcased when I visited recently. I’m always interested in doors, windows, and openings, particularly when they can be seen in progression one within the other, so it was great fun to photograph this stick work structure from within, emphasizing both the symmetry and repetition, and at the same time the anarchy and lack of linear structure.

Windows in a Willow Twig House © Harold Davis

To create this image with as much contrast and resolution as I could, with my camera on a tripod, I made nine exposures stopped down to f/25 at ISO 64. Shutter speeds ranged from 2.5 seconds to /50 of a second. I carefully focused about 1/3 of the distance shown in the photo to get as many elements as possible in focus. 

I combined the nine exposures in Nik HDR Efex Pro 2, then processed to monochromatic using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 and Photoshop Adjustment Layers.

Also photographed at Mounts Botanical Garden with my class from the Palm Beach Photographic CentreLooking down the frond—Been down so long it looks like up to me!

Posted in Monochrome, Photography

Looking down the frond—Been down so long it looks like up to me!

What you may find a little different about this photo of a palm frond is the viewpoint: my macro lens is looking straight down the frond, so that it looks almost like a causeway of some kind, with the vanishing point down where the frond meets earth, although this junction isn’t visible, and everything other than the frond itself is pretty dark.

I find the effect a bit disorienting in the final image, as it also was when I finally maneuvered my camera and tripod into position and looked through the view finder.

Frond © Harold Davis

I photographed this palm frond at Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach, Florida. I used my 50mm Zeiss macro lens stopped all the way down to f/22, with the camera as I mentioned on a tripod positioned at the top of the subject looking down. The shutter speed was 1/4 of a second, with the ISO set to 64. I converted the image to monochrome using the High Contrast Red preset in Photoshop’s B&W adjustments, as well as Nik Silver Efex Pro.

Posted in Monochrome, Patterns, Photography

A point of information, not a point of honor

The triptych of photos shown in this story were made in my camera, not in post-production, with only small tweaks for slight retouching, exposure, and minor saturation adjustments. I say this entirely as a point of information, and not as a point of honor!

When all other lights go out 1 © Harold Davis

Personally, I like to learn about how an image was made as a matter of my own education. Perhaps learning about an artistic process will give me an idea for how to do something myself. But I care most about the final image, and it doesn’t matter to me if a photo was made using digital versus analog equipment, where it was heavily manipulated in Photoshop (or not), or even if the surface was painted upon. I’ve always had an eclectic attitude towards the art that inspires me, and feel photographers can learn much, and look with pleasure on (for example) paintings by Paul Klee as from any photograph.

When all other lights go out 2 © Harold Davis

Then again, photography has been burdened from the beginning as a mimetic discipline. It is naive to think that any kind of photography reproduces “real life”—but observers have made this mistake repeatedly. The reaction to this false equivalence was in the early years of the twentieth century the sappy aesthetics of “pictorialism”—which itself generated a counter-reaction in which only “straight” photography was morally acceptable to certain gatekeepers.

When all other lights go out 3 © Harold Davis

It has not generally been recognized how much the break with the analog photographic toolset brought about by digital photography has upended this perpetual debate. The photographic process is now, willy-nilly, a cyborg—with the computer portion of that equation residing in the camera, or in Photoshop, or in both. The entire production can be seamless, and bound only by the constraints of taste and meaning—which is, after all, the point of any fulfilling art.

All that said, it is fun to remember what can be done with simple photographic technique, control of the lighting, and a pinch of creativity!

Posted in Photography

Can you see color in black & white?

A client recently asked me to submit a series of monochromatic images of flowers. This happened after the client saw the black and white image of a begonia, shown below.

Begonia © Harold Davis

In the case of the begonia image, I originally pre-visualized the photo as monochromatic, and processed it to be a black and white image. With most of the others, the story was a bit different: I looked for floral imagery that I thought would work as back and white from my already processed color images. Then I either went back to the RAW file, or worked from the color version (or, in a couple of cases, picked up the workflow at a midpoint). The curves in the close-up of the center of a rose shown below remind me of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.

Rose Center Curves © Harold Davis

The interesting thing in my thinking is that we have strong opinions about flowers and color. So when a flower is presented in black and white, to some extent we see it in color. Since I made these photos, I know what the colors of the subject are. But to a hands-off viewer, are the imputed colors accurate? It is hard for me to say.

The camellia shown below was a light pink, but it also works in my opinion in black and white, and presents with a kind of luminescence.

Camellia japonica © Harold Davis

Verily, there are many kinds of floral imagery that work well in monochromatic, as well as in color.

Posted in Flowers, Monochrome, Photography

Free Presentation: Photographing Flowers for Transparency

I’ll be talking about my Photographing Flowers for Transparency work, showing images, and discussing the process at a free presentation at the North Berkeley Public Library Community Meeting Room on Thursday March 28, 2019 at 5:30 PM. Please join me for a fun and “floriffic” evening!

Illumination © Harold Davis

What: Harold Davis presents images, thoughts, and tips related to his Photographing Flowers for Transparency technique. Click here for the Photographing Flowers for Transparency FAQ.

The presentation is free, and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Where: Berkeley Public Library—North Branch, 1170 The Alameda, BerkeleyCA 94707.

When: Thursday March 28, 2019 at 5:30 PM. We will start seating at 5:15 PM. The presentation is expected to last about 45 minutes, with ample time for Q&A following.

About Harold Davis: Harold Davis is the bestselling author of many books, the developer of a unique technique for photographing flowers for transparency, a Moab Master, and a Zeiss Ambassador. He is an internationally known photographer and a sought-after workshop leader. His website is www.digitalfieldguide.com.

Library statement: Wheelchair accessible. Please refrain from wearing scented products to public programs.

PLEASE NOTE: This event is not sponsored by the Berkeley Public Library. Groups and organizations
may use meeting rooms when they are not being used for activities sponsored by the Library. Permission to use the meeting rooms does not imply Library endorsement of the goals, policies or activities of any group or organization. For more information on meeting rooms at the Berkeley Public Library, visit www.berkeleypubliclibrary.org.

Poppies and Mallows on White © Harold Davis

Posted in Workshops

Paris in the Spring! There is still time…

  • Photograph Paris in April with Harold Davis (co-host Mark Brokering), April 27-May 5, 2019; explore and photograph the City of Light; Destination Photography Workshop includes several excursions, including after-hours photography exclusive to artists at Monet’s gardens at Giverny. Click here for more information and here for the Reservation Form; what a great time of year to visit Paris with our cameras! I love photographing Paris, and am pleased to be able to offer this destination photography workshop to a select few and share my knowledge, tips, and secrets. There is still time to join us, but if you are interested please don’t wait much longer!

  • Garden and Flower Photography, Palm Beach Photographic Centre, Palm Beach, Florida, February 8-10, 2019; click for information and registration. Coming up very soon, and there is still space! This is my first workshop in Florida, and I am looking forward to exploring. Come join me for some great botanical photography!

Posted in Workshops