Lady in a Local Market

Driving the long route back towards Hanoi from Meo Vac there was a vibrant market going on in a dusty hinterland Vietnamese mountain town. Eric and I asked our guide and driver to stop our car, and wandered the market with our cameras. Evidently, this was not a place on the beaten track. We were as much curiosities as curious, photographic subjects as photographers. Several market goers wanted to take selfies with me, and Eric gathered a small crowd as his tattoos were much observed and admired.

Lady in a Local Market © Harold Davis

Lady in a Local Market © Harold Davis

As is well known, the camera is an instrument of flirtation, and I flirted shamelessly with a bank of women “of a certain age” standing along one wall dressed in their tribal colors. This mischievous lady enjoyed what I was doing a great deal, finally getting a little bashful with me, then asking to see the photos of her—and enjoying them very vociferously with gestures, since we spoke no language other than photography in common.

Posted in Vietnam

Romantic Roses on the iPhone at the Supermarket

I photographed this nifty display of roses at a local supermarket using my iPhone 6s, then processed them in my phone using different painterly effects while waiting on the checkout line. The upper version is processed in Photo Lab Pro, the middle is done in Prisma, and the bottom is a Waterlogue.

If you are interested in iPhone photography, check out my From iPhone to Art weekend workshop (the next session is scheduled for January 28-29, 2017).

© Harold Davis

Romantic Roses © Harold Davis

Roses via Prisma © Harold Davis

Roses via Prisma © Harold Davis

Roses via Waterlogue © Harold Davis

Roses via Waterlogue © Harold Davis

Posted in iPhone, Photography

Inside the Old Market Square Tower

Inside Prague’s Old Town Square Tower they’ve constructed an elegant spiral ramp, with an elevator in the middle. Other than Prague’s TV Tower (I heard one guide call the TV Tower “the second ugliest building in the world,” and it certainly is very ugly and dominates the Prague skyline, for some reason it has grotesque statuary of babies climbing up the circular pillars holding up this hyper-modern structure, don’t ask me why because I haven’t a clue, and I also don’t really know what building is the “first ugliest,” there must be many candidates, but I digress), other than Prague’s TV Tower it is the only high-up viewing spot I’ve found in Prague you don’t have to climb. It certainly is nice riding the elevator in the core to the top, then strolling down the spiral ramp enjoying the somewhat unusual view, shown looking down from the top of the spiral, and from the bottom watching the elevator rise.

Inside the Old Market Tower - Looking Down © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower – Looking Down © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower - Looking Up © Harold Davis

Inside the Old Market Tower – Looking Up © Harold Davis

Posted in Czech, Photography

Market in Marrakesh

This is an image made after dusk with a long (300mm) lens from above the Jemaa-al-Fna in Marrakesh, Morocco. I used five exposures at shutter speeds from 3/5 of a second to 5 seconds with the camera on my tripod, and combined the exposures using Nik’s HDR Efex Pro plugin in Photoshop and also with hand-layering.

Market in Marrakesh © Harold Davis

Market in Marrakesh © Harold Davis

Related images: You can get a better idea of my position in making this image from Jemaa-al-Fna and Wider View of the Jemaa-al-Fna.

Posted in Photography

Remarkable

It’s remarkable what you can do in post-processing. Compare my original conversion from the RAW of my Yosemite Dreams (far below) with a more recent version (immediately below) I created in Photoshop for a special project. (There’s actually no comparison to either version with the far duller look of the original RAW file that appeared when I first looked at it with default settings in Adobe Bridge.)

Yosemite Dreams 2

These file versions go a long way to confirm my contention that digital photography is an entirely new medium, one part photography and one part digital manipulation. Photographers who ignore the “digital painting” aspect of this new medium do so at their own peril, as do digital technicians who ignore the need to take great photos in the first place. Those who critique the new medium based on the aesthetic of the inviolate unmanipulated negative are truly lost in this brave new world.

Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge

For a long time I resisted the metaphor from silver halide photography that “the RAW file is the negative” and the final version is the print. A reason for my resistance is that the metaphor doesn’t completely work: a post-processed photo is not a print, it is a file that (theoretically) many literal, physical prints can be made from.

But there’s a significant kernel of truth in the metaphor: using the power of the “digital painting” it’s possible to make many different end-result images starting from a single RAW capture.

Posted in Photography, Photoshop Techniques

X Marks the Spot

I’m excited about these pictures from under the Golden Gate Bridge because the angle is unusual–and the patterns are interesting!

Under the Bridge 1

Under the Bridge 2

Posted in Bemusements, Patterns, Photography, San Francisco Area

Coming into Toulouse

Dreamlike, the landscape of France sped past at high speeds, as I viewed the earth from the windows of the TGV (the high speed train). Dreamlike in feeling, and what better time to create a soft composition of landscape and clouds using a bit of motion blur. Then onward to the bustle of Toulouse, and the hubbub of the nearly perpetual marketplace in the Place du Capitole (shown below from a window in my hotel).

Landscape © Harold Davis

Place du Capitole, Toulouse © Harold Davis

Posted in France, Photography

Really Singing

Over on my Instagram feed (@haroldldavis), I’ve been running through a series of what I’ve called “Retropolis” images: photographs from my past, usually ten years ago or more, that have really stuck with me. Some of this is personal preference. Some of it involves the process of iconization. In a long and productive career, which images really stick?

Even the greats—Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and so on—are primarily known for a handful of images. Admittedly, most of these iconic images are really special, but there is also randomness and chance involved. A great deal depends upon the vagaries of publication and distribution.

In this connection, I was pleased to find (and quote here) a remark of mine in the blog story associated with the first Retropolis I present here, Slot Canyon:  

It is easy to getting bogged down in the physics and physicality—the tyranny of the world of “things”—and forget to look for the ethereal magic that can make a photographic composition really sing.

Slot Canyon © Harold Davis

Cayucos Pier © Harold Davis

Cayucos Pier © Harold Davis

Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse © Harold Davis

Chateau des Nazelles © Harold Davis

Chateau des Nazelles © Harold Davis

Here are the blog stories I originally posted related to these Retropolis images: Slot Canyon (2012); Cayucos Pier (2013); Night at Point Reyes Lighthouse (2007); and Chateau de Nazelles (2013).

As the old joke goes, enough about me: now, what do you think of me? If there are any specific images from my “back pages” that you think should be re-posted, I’d appreciate it if you let me know.

Posted in Photography, Writing

First day of issue for my Tulip Pano and Sunflower Bouquet stamps

I am very excited to announce that today is the first day of issue for my Tulip Panorama “Forever” stamp, and also my Sunflower Bouquet stamp. Click here for the USPS press release for my Tulip Pano, and here for the press release for Sunflower Bouquet. To buy my stamps online, click here for the Tulip Pano, and here for the Sunflower Bouquet.

The note card set shown above includes both images as cards; you can order the set from the USPS by clicking here

First Day Covers are available for both my Tulip Pano and for the Sunflower Bouquet. Back in day, when I was a juvenile stamp collector, I don’t think they had these (I would have liked them!), but you can also order Digital Color Postmarks (Tulip Pano and Sunflower Bouquet).

Posted in Photography

Earthly Delights

My first love in art was color. It took me years to appreciate monochrome. As a (relatively and sometimes) mature artist, I understand that black and white lays open the bones of the composition, and I appreciate a good monochrome image as much (or more) than the next photographer.

Earthly Delights © Harold Davis

But as a young painter, I reveled in color. My affair with color began with the impressionists and post-impressionists, particularly Monet’s paintings of his garden at Giverny, Gauguin’s lush fantasies of the south seas islands and islanders, and of course Van Gogh. Soon, my horizons widened to infatuation with expressionists such as Emil Nolde, abstractionists such as Arshile Gorky, and color field painters, particularly Mark Rothko.

Life teaches us many things, not all of them lessons we wanted to learn. Color, I found out, is kind of a “cheap date.” Sure, color will entice and entrance you, but will it go the distance?

That said, when nature puts out its color finery, as in the bouquet I arranged for Earthly Delights, I am surely not above reveling in the simple and flamboyant pleasures of polychromatic imagery.

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Petals on a Plate

I have got a great deal of mileage over the years from Alstroemeria (Peruvian lily) petals. These petals are shown in this photo on a decorative glass plate on my light box. Compared to other flower petals, they seem to work particularly well with light coming through them, backlit on a light box. This is due to the translucency of the alstroemeria petal, their variability in color, and variegated patterns and markings.

Petals on a Plate © Harold Davis

It’s hard to know where to begin with my images that use these flower petals, but a few that I like are Floral Composition, Alstroemeria Medley, Petals on Parade, New Year’s Dragon, Spiral of Flower Karma, It Starts with a Petal and Ends with a Twist of Fate, Floral Tondo, and Flowers on Ebony and Ivory. Selected images from these blog stories are shown below.

Floral Composition © Harold Davis

Alstroemeria Medley © Harold Davis

Petals on Parade © Harold Davis

Petals on Parade © Harold Davis

New Year’s Dragon on Black © Harold Davis

Spiral of Flower Karma © Harold Davis

Spiral of Flower Karma © Harold Davis

A Simple Twist of Fate 4 © Harold Davis

Floral Tondo 1 © Harold Davis

Will You Won’t You Join the Dance © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

More about seeing in Black & White

Recently I’ve been thinking about black and white photography. One context is the landscape of Iceland, and the relative appropriateness of color and monochrome.

A comparison of black & white versus color ways of seeing also came up in correspondence I recently had with someone I shall call X. Without going into details, X has a medical condition which means that he cannot perceive color.

Black Sand Beach © Harold Davis

As someone recently enamored with photography, X wanted my opinion as to whether photography was viable since he could only see in black and white, and how much of a liability his perceptual challenges might present. At one point in our conversation, I asked X to consider if only seeing monochrome might not actually be a “super power”—and confer unexpected benefits.

In the course of our conversation, X brought up four issues that concerned him:

  1. How do you decide what is best in Black & White? I understand fundamentals like composition, light, contrast, texture etc. but is there anything else in your thought process?
  2. Have you found photographic subjects which simply do not work well in Black & White?
  3. Do you think your photography would be different if you never saw color?
  4. Do you think that even when viewing the most stunning B&W photograph, people still feel something missing?

Falling Water © Harold Davis

I answered X as follows:

First, asking about the subjects that work best in black and white, is fully answered in my book Creative Black and White 2nd Edition in the first part The Monochrome Vision (pp 16-83). 

Your second question, subjects that don’t work well in monochrome, is the obverse of the first question, and, as such, is also discussed in The Monochrome Vision section of my book. The short answer is that any image that is truly about color would not work in black and white. Some of the photographs of Ernst Haas and William Eggleston come to mind (and some of my own, for that matter).

Taking this into the wider world of art, the work of some of the impressionists (Monet and Gauguin most clearly) are really about color, and would not work well in monochrome. This list could go on, and (reductively)  the work of color-field painters (Arshile Gorky, Kennith Nolan, Mark Rothko, Mondrian, etc.) would not work without color. To summarize, when the subject is color, the image won’t work in black & white.

Two Towers © Harold Davis

Whether my photography would have been different if I had never seen color, the third question, is hard to answer, because it calls for speculation on a negative. But personally, color has always been very meaningful to me, and some of the earliest art that inspired me was about color, so I think my work would likely be different if I’d never seen color. But, you know, it is impossible to unsee things once they are seen; so I have no real idea how I would be different as an artist. I do know that I still could have made art even without any perception of color.

Finally, whether black and white is missing something, I don’t think so. Of course, people differ: but my own opinion is absolutely not, perceptive viewers do not feel anything is missing in a striking b&w photo. So long, that is, that the black and white is intentional, and it is not just a color image squashed to black and white. As an example, it would be a dullard indeed who thought anything was missing in the best of Ansel Adams or Edward Weston.

Spiral Stair © Harold Davis

A little about the black & white images that accompany this story: In Black Sand Beach a white line (of incoming surf) splits the dark beach from the storm-tossed ocean on Iceland’s south coast. Falling Water is a capture of water in motion, a subject of endless fascination, and often essentially monochromatic. There are spirals, but not much color to be found in Two Towers or Spiral Stairs. The towers are small-scale industrial silos on the Westman Islands off the coast of Iceland, and I found the spiral stair in a gift shop in downtown Reykjavik. 

Posted in Iceland, Monochrome, Photography

A Modern Pilgrimage: Kumano kodo portfolio video

A Modern Pilgrimage: Along the Kumano Kodo by Harold Davis is an artist book and portfolio of images that astutely blends old-craft hand traditions and materials with and cutting-edge new technologies to create an exquisite limited edition art book and art object that is completely unique.

Can’t view this video? Check it out on YouTube. Click here for more information about our artist books and portfolios.

Click here for the Monochromatic Visions video, and here for the Botanique video.

In his introduction to the project, Harold Davis writes: “It has always been one of my dreams to explore the rural and spiritual side of Japan. In 2013 I was lucky to get to walk the the Kumano Kodo spiritual trail,” the heart of Shugendo Buddhism. He continues: “Of course, in Japan it is impossible to explore the rural without also encountering modern, crowded Japan. Spirituality and modern Japanese life co-mingle in some very odd ways”—hence the “Modern Pilgrimage” portion of the title of his portfolio. But as Harold Davis remarks, “my main goal as an artist in this body of work as been to reflect my true sense of spiritual awe at the manifest gifts one can find as a pilgrim in this, our sacred earth.”

A Modern Pilgrimage: Along the Kumano Kodo portfolio, consists of thirteen images on a single 16.5 foot long sheet of Kozo washi, hand printed, scored, and folded into unique artist’s book. The outer-wrapper containing the Kumano Kodo portfolio is a created from special, mold-made paper that is hand scored and folded. Printed on the portfolio wrapper is a panoramic photograph titled Kumano Sanzen Roppyaku Po. Included with the Kumano Kodo portfolio is a descriptive numbered, initialed and illustrated pamphlet. This hand-bound archival pamphlet with a hand applied inkan was written by Harold Davis. It explores his photographic journey on the spiritual pilgrimage trail and its relationship to modern Japan. The pamphlet also includes detailed descriptions of each photograph.

For more information about the Kumano Kodo portfolio, including availability and current pricing, please visit digitalfieldguide.com/editions/kumano-kodo.

Posted in Photography

Creating Artists Books and Portfolios Webinar

Please bring your questions to Creating Artists Books and Portfolios, a webinar scheduled for Saturday March 13, 2021 at 11am PT. Or send your questions to us in advance. This is a complex topic with many aspects, and we look forward to a wide ranging discussion including issues of editing, presentation, marketing, and more. 

Click here for registration, and here for more information.

In this webinar, we’ll present my Botanique limited edition artist book, my Monochromatic Visions and Kumano kodo portfolios, and other work. 

We’ll also demonstrate the Moab Flint portfolio system for displaying one’s prints. (In full disclosure, I am a Moab Master and sponsored by Moab Paper, which takes nothing away from their way-beyond-great products).

Themes covered in this webinar will include how to edit one’s work with an artist book or portfolio in mind, printing and constructing unique artists books, paper and binding, edition sizing, how to use portfolios to present your work and put your best foot forward, and how to market portfolios and artists books.

I fully believe that one doesn’t really see one’s work until you have printed it. In that light, making artists books and portfolios is an extremely important topic that is often overlooked. I hope you will join us.

Monochromatic Visions Portfolio prints © Harold Davis

Monochromatic Visions Portfolio prints © Harold Davis

Click here for registration, and here for more information. Click here for currently scheduled Workshops & Events.

Posted in Photography, Workshops

Happy Valentine’s Day

In this pandemic year, amorous propensities may not be running high, and the ability to deliver romantic tchotkes is diminished. But I think Valentine’s Day is sweet. The world could always use more love.

I’d like to dedicate this heart-on-a-light-box to my sweetheart, Phyllis. 

Translucent Heart © Harold Davis

Translucent Heart © Harold Davis

Valentine’s Day is something of an ersatz holiday, with made-to-order Hallmark cards, chocolate, and roses. The historical origins are murky, to say the least: there were several martyrs named “Valentine” slaughtered by Roman authorities that the Catholic church elevated to sainthood. Also Roman: the festival of Lupercalia, roughly February 13 – February 15. This extended party involved animal sacrifice, drinking, sex, and flagellation. Pretty far from today’s canonical ‘Hallmark’ holiday!

In the 5th Century A.D., Pope Gelasius I probably laid the foundations for the modern holiday by combining commemoration for the martyrs (St. Valentine’s Day) with the old pagan holiday of Lupercalia.

To Hades with historical origins! Let’s love each other, and enjoy Valentine’s Day!

Posted in Photography