Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis

Overview

Capture stunning macro floral images with this gorgeous guide by acclaimed photographer Harold Davis. You'll learn about different types of flowers, macro equipment basics, and the intricacies of shooting different floral varieties in the field and in the studio.

Harold also shows you techniques in the Photoshop darkroom that can be applied to flower photography to help you get the most out of your images.

Beautiful and authoritative, this ...

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Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis

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Overview

Capture stunning macro floral images with this gorgeous guide by acclaimed photographer Harold Davis. You'll learn about different types of flowers, macro equipment basics, and the intricacies of shooting different floral varieties in the field and in the studio.

Harold also shows you techniques in the Photoshop darkroom that can be applied to flower photography to help you get the most out of your images.

Beautiful and authoritative, this guide to photographing flowers is a must-read for every photographer interested in flower photography. Photographing Flowers will also win a place in the hearts of those who simply love striking floral imagery.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this book Davis offers his knowledge and experience in the art of floral photography, presenting not only the results of his beautiful creations, but explanations of how each photograph was captured: the set up, the equipment and even the camera settings used for each brilliant image. The author takes you beyond the point of capture and discusses processing, both in a lab environment and digital post processing, as well as offers side-trips through history to learn a bit from the masters of art and photography, such as Van Gogh and O'Keeffe. Davis even goes so far as to share affordable and easy use studio setups which he has designed over the years. Using his techniques wonderfully artistic images can be created! For any photographer interested in floral photography - whether amateur or pro - this book will not only tutor them, but will inspire them."—San Francisco Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780240820736
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 10/15/2011
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 473,848
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Harold Davis is an award-winning professional photographer. He is the best-selling author of more than 30 books, including The Photoshop Darkroom 2: Creative Digital Transformations (Focal Press), Creative Porraits: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Black & White: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Composition: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips & Techniques (Wiley), The Photoshop Darkroom: Creative Digital Post-Processing (Focal Press) and Practical Artistry: Light & Exposure for Digital Photographers (O'Reilly). Harold writes the popular Photoblog 2.0, www.photoblog2.com, and is a regular photography and Photoshop columnist for Photo.net, a photography site with more than one million members.

Harold is a popular presenter on a wide range of digital photography and Photoshop topics. His workshops are sought after and often sold out.

In addition to writing and photography, Harold has been a software engineer, an enterprise technology consultant, and an Internet company executive. Photographic adventures and assignments have taken him across the Brooks Range, the northernmost mountains in Alaska. He has photographed the World Trade Towers, hanging out of a small plane, followed in the footsteps of Seneca Ray Stoddard, a 19th-century photographer of the Adirondacks, and created human interest photo stories about the residents of Love Canal, an environmental disaster area.

Harold is well known for his night photography and experimental ultra-long exposure techniques, use of vibrant, saturated colors in landscape compositions, and beautiful creative floral imagery. He is inspired by the flowers in his garden, hiking in the wilderness, and the work of great artists and photographers including M.C. Escher, Monet, van Gogh, and Edward Weston.

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Read an Excerpt

Photographing Flowers

Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis
By Harold Davis

Focal Press

Copyright © 2012 Harold Davis and Phyllis Davis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-240-82090-3
N

Chapter One

The Worlds of Flower Photography

Place and Scale

For a botanist, flowers are categorized according to a taxonomy in which individual species are grouped within a plant family, or genus. I'll be taking a look at understanding this system of categorization in the context of flower photography later in this book (pages 24–27). Plant identification according to genus and species is certainly important when it comes to understanding flowers, and also marketing photos. But the truth is that two other ways to categorize flowers are more important to me as a photographer than the botanical taxonomy and nomenclature.

When I plan a shoot involving flowers, the most important things I need to understand are where the flowers are located and the scale of my photography.

Flowers can be photographed in fields where no one tends them, in the wilderness, in a public or private garden, in my garden, indoors in an arrangement, and indoors in a controlled situation in a photography studio. The images of iris in a vase on a black background shown on pages 22–23 are examples of studio flower portraits.

Each of these very different environments leads to different scenarios about the equipment I can use, likely possibilities and issues having to do with lighting, the kinds of images that can be created, and potential problems.

Regarding pitfalls, as an example, think of wind. Outdoors, flowers are usually in motion because of wind—although on still days this motion can be slight. Motion limits the shutter speed one can use, which in turn has implications for the aperture and depth-of-field you can choose (this issue is explained further on pages 98–105). Of course, every photographic problem also has a potential creative benefit. Flowers in motion because of the wind can lead to a beautiful blurring effect (see example on pages 104–105).

Knowing that I will be capturing subjects in motion can lead me to leave the tripod at home, and focus on other aspects of the photographic craft besides creating an image that is end-to-end sharp.

By "scale" I mean how big is the portion of the flower I will be photographing, both in relationship to the flower as a whole and to the environment or landscape the flower is part of. I can photograph flowers in a way that shows the landscape they belong to; alternatively I can capture groups or bouquets of flowers, or a single flower. Moving closer in still, the macro details within a flower provide the possibility of creating images that show entirely new worlds.

As Ansel Adams famously declared, photos are made, not taken. When I begin the adventure of photographing flowers on a given day, I usually have an image I want to make in mind. Of course, the result often doesn't match my preconceptions, and I always need to be open to profitable detours.

Flower photography is great fun, and there is probably nothing I would rather be doing. But to get really good results, as the great microbiologist Louis Pasteur put it, "Fortune favors the prepared mind."

Before I can begin the process of pre-visualizing, and considering the equipment and techniques I will use, I need to understand place and scale. With this understanding I can have handy the gear I am likely to need, and start considering how to approach conditions in the field, garden, or studio to create the best and most appealing flower photos possible.

Different Families of Flowers

By some estimates, there are approximately 5,000 different garden plant genera. Genera is the plural of genus. Essentially, within each plant family there are a number of genera, and in turn a number of specific species within each genus.

For example, the general family of poppies is called the Papaveraceae (the suffix "aceae" is used to indicate a family). Most of the Papaveraceae are decorative with flowers, and therefore of interest to flower photographers. Although classifications do tend to shift a bit with time, there are about 26 genera and 250 species within the Papaveraceae.

One well-known genus of Papaveraceae is Eschscholzia, which contains twelve species. You may be familiar with Eschscholzia californica, a plant native to North America and commonly called the California poppy and named after Johann Friedrich Eschscholtz, the doctor on the Russian exploration vessel Rurik. A part of California's semi-forgotten early history, the Rurik explored California in the early 1800s. The expedition's naturalist was one Adelbert von Chamisso. Von Chamisso was Eschscholtz's good friend, which is why he named the genus after Eschscholtz.

However, the largest genus within Papaveraceae is Papaver. With somewhere between 60 and 100 species, Papaver contains such luminaries as Papaver nudicaule (Icelandic poppy), Papaver somniferum (the opium poppy), and—one of my favorites—Papaver rhoeas, also called the corn poppy. In the Linnaean classification taxonomy, these Papaveraceae are cousins to the Eschscholzia californica, not siblings.

Why should you care about these categorizations? Well, at some level you may not have to. You can take the attitude that you'll recognize something to photograph—such as a beautiful flower—when you see it. Sometimes this approach works for me, but in the long run I prefer to know as much about my subjects as possible, whether this subject matter is people or flowers.

I'm sure you get the idea that there are many different decorative and flowering plant species, but it is actually a bit difficult to pinpoint how many there are that you may be interested in. Of the 5,000 estimated genera, many don't have flowers that are of much interest to photographers—and others that do flower grow outside the garden. Of course, within each genus there can be quite a number of species. So one reason for focusing on a particular genus is to become familiar with the species within it and their interesting and individual aspects. Among other things, you'll be able to learn what these flowers are likely to do at various stages in their life cycle.

But don't settle down too quickly! Like human relationships, there is something to be said for playing the field before you specialize. The attractions and beauties of the different flower families can be quite different from each other—and you won't know what you prefer unless you've sampled more than one genus.

Understanding Flower Geography

Photography has its zone system—and so do plants. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) first began its hardiness zone classification system in the early 1900s. Starting with plant hardiness Zone 1, each zone is 10° Fahrenheit warmer than the previous zone in terms of average winter temperature. So areas in the Zone 1 geography have an average winter temperature of –50° F (–45° C) going up to Zone 11's average winter temperature of +40° F (4° C).

Although how cold it gets in winter and how hot it gets in the summer are the single most important limiting factors in determining what flowers will grow in a given location, temperature isn't the only issue. Water, altitude, health of the soil, and various other environmental factors also play a role. In my neck of the woods—San Francisco Bay in California—the climate is essentially maritime, with a huge role played by microclimates. You can move a little bit in one direction or the other, and if the shelter or direction of the sun has changed, you'll find that the USDA zone is also different.

But wherever in the United States you are, with just a little bit of research, you can determine the likely hardiness zone you are in. Outside the United States it is equally possible to get an idea of the hardiness zones involved, although the USDA definitions have been modified to fit local conditions.

With some exceptions—for example Papaver somniferum for opium, and some species of Echinacea for herbal remedies—flowers are cultivated for beauty rather than utility. This makes flowers pretty unique in the plant kingdom—sort of like a domesticated house cat of flora, with no mice around to catch.

To earn their keep, and to gain the privilege of reproducing and spreading across their potential range, flowers have to captivate us with their appearance and fragrance. Flowers also have to interest pollinators such as bees on an ongoing basis, but that's a different story. In fact, as status symbols and objects of beauty, flowers have spread around the world to the extent that their hardiness zone allows.

This means that—given a comparable temperature range—in today's global economy the same floral species grow on each of the continents.

One limiting factor is specifically temperature based: does the climate provide hard frosts in the winter? Some flowering plants including peonies and most lilacs simply cannot exist without this kind of cold. One can solve this issue with many bulbs by bringing them indoors to the refrigerator or freezer to "force" them. So there is a big contingent of flowers that require a cold winter; if other conditions are right, these flowers will grow without too much regard to summer temperatures.

Other flowering plants can't take it when it gets too cold. Outside of jungle environments, the single largest cohort of beautiful flowers probably falls into this so-called "Mediterranean" climate, which includes the Mediterranean Basin, coastal California, parts of Australia, central South America, and South Africa. Flowers that grow outdoors in Mediterranean zone climates are often grown elsewhere as indoor or hothouse plants, sometimes taken outside in the summertime.

Flower Commonality

Every individual flower is different from each other flower. An important statement worth repeating: no two flowers are exactly alike. The same thing can be said for people, but somehow we are more wired to accept the distinctiveness of Homo sapiens than we are of plant species.

An implication: Since flowers differ from specimen to specimen, an important job for the flower photographer is to pick out the most beautiful individuals—or at least to isolate interesting and unique features of each flower.

When I photograph a model with beautiful and unusual hair, it is very likely that my photo will include her hair. The same presumption applies to special and distinctive features of individual flowers—although perhaps my floral models don't respond to compliments in the same way as human models.

Besides differences between individual flowers, in some flower families—Ranunculaceae, for instance—the genera are so different in appearance from each other that you'd never know by looking that the flowers are closely related. Nor is distinctiveness limited to the genera level. Within a genus such as Dahlia there is an incredible amount of variety in color, shape, and form.

With all this variety, what do flowers have in common with each other? A great deal, it turns out, including:

* Reproductive organs: if a flower can't reproduce the species won't survive.

* Attractiveness to pollinators: most flowers need pollinators such as bees as part of their reproductive scheme, and therefore evolve mechanisms to appeal to them (see pages 138–149).

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Photographing Flowers by Harold Davis Copyright © 2012 by Harold Davis and Phyllis Davis. Excerpted by permission of Focal Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Photograph Flowers; Equipment and Lighting; One World Many Flowers; The Bee's Eye View; Flowers and Sensuality; Flowers in the Digital Darkroom; More About Flowers; Glossary; Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 17, 2012

    Very relevant book

    I thought flower photography would be easy! This book has helped me to understand the complexities of flower photography, how to produce beautiful photos in a more controlled environment, and how to choose the best lighting for each situation. The subject is researched well, the explanations are clear, and the illustrations are superb.

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  • Posted January 8, 2012

    One of Davis' best - must read for all lovers of flowers

    Photographing Flowers presents a great overview of the how-to of flower photography, and of all the photography books I've read over the past 25 years, this book has inspired my photography more than I expected. I'm an experienced flower photographer and I assumed that although the photos would be beautiful, there wouldn't be much in the way of new techniques or knowledge that I haven't already been exposed to. Wow, I couldn't have been much more wrong! I often go scouting for beautiful flowers and often have success, but Davis starts the book discussing the advantages in planning - "where" and "scale". Without giving away too much, I found his explanation and discussion on "scale" particularly insightful. If you are a fan of flower photos, the photographs in this book are an absolute delight. Not only does Davis give us visual treats to enjoy, he shares his thought process for each photo. I cannot emphasize enough that the sharing of his thoughts is probably one of the biggest benefits of Harold's book. Harold provides ample technical details on how he took the photos, but more importantly, he engages the reader on how to consider the potential subject, to think about what it is I want to see from a finished photograph (pre-visualization), Davis provides an excellent tutorial on how to choose a lens and his explanation on exposure is amongst the best I've read. Usually I'm not a huge fan of most photography books detailing info such as: focal length of the lens, ISO, etc... for each picture, but given that this book deals with macro photography, I found it helpful to know in these cases. Davis does a wonderful job of teaching the underlying fundamentals of proper exposure and the effects of shutter speed and aperture (depth of field). I feel a number of authors simply provide the "here's the settings I used" detail and skip over the basic concepts, which can leave the novice mistakenly thinking "do the same" and it will give him the same results. Davis' explanations and use of a controlled environment (his studio) along with the sumptuous results of his work particularly instructive. His use of a black velvet background and subtle vases to accent flowers in a still life composition, and photographing flowers on top of a light table resulting in back lighting that makes the blossoms translucent are wonderful. Harold's examples and explanations of the topics of: Focus, Sharpness, and Composition are first rate. The example photos reinforce the explanations of each concept and bring the instruction to a higher level. One example is where Davis shoots the same lily with two different backgrounds and asks the reader to compare how the background affects the mood and look of the subject. The last section of the book deals with Photoshop and the "digital darkroom." His expertise inside Photoshop is obvious, and although impressionistic versions may not suit everyone, I found his treatment of a number of flowers both beautiful and a nice introduction to "digital art" vs. minor editing and enhancement of "straight photographs." I wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about taking fantastic flower photos.

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  • Posted December 28, 2011

    valuable addition to your photo library

    As always Harold Davis delights, educates and inspires. Book is a visually splendid and text well written.

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  • Posted December 15, 2011

    Fantastic!

    Recently I had read Mr. Davis¿ Creative Close-ups: Digtial Photography Tips and Techniques and worked on many of the techniques discussed there. As a result of that book I was greatly anticipating his new book, Photographing Flowers. I have not been disappointed. In Creative Close-ups he goes into techniques and equipment for many different macro photography subjects. In Photographing Flowers he applies many of those ideas and concentrates specifically on flowers as a subject.

    If you are looking for a detailed list of equipment, you will not find it here. What you will find is a stunningly beautiful book brimming with inspiration and insight into his thought process while creating these works of art. The book is a pleasure to sit with simply as a visual treat, an art book. Even non-photographers could get lost in the images. Photographers will gain the additional benefit of Mr. Davis¿ considerable talent and experience in photography. Each image has accompanying side notes that explain what his intention was and how he created that image. It¿s the closest thing to working side by side with this teacher that many of us can hope to have.

    The book covers some basic scientific information about flowers. It does, indeed, help to understand your subject. He also has a basic discussion of technical considerations such as choosing a lens, histograms, exposure, focus, flash, natural light, and more. A novice will benefit from these discussions as well as an experienced photographer.

    There is much more to be savored and discovered in this book by all levels of interest and experience but the great strength, for me, is the feeling of standing next to Mr. Davis while he is working.

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  • Posted October 31, 2011

    What a Wonderful, Wonderful Book

    Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds With Harold Davis by Harold Davis

    From the technically exquisite photographs, the enlightening descriptions of the various flowers, the detailed photographic techniques used, through the digital darkroom enhancements, Harold Davis demonstrates why he is a master photographer.

    Mr. Davis takes us on a fantastic journey through the macro world of flower photography. At every step of the way, the author's passion for photography and especially flowers is on display.

    The book is divided into four main parts: The Worlds Of Flower Photography; Making Flower Photos; The Bee's Eye View; and Flowers in the Digital Darkroom. Each section is so full of information that it could be a book on it's own. Mr. Davis not only includes complete details of how he took each photo, but the why he took it also. The techniques he shares not only apply to flower macro photography, but to many other areas of interest.

    In Photographing Flowers Mr. Davis passes on not only very usable techniques, but also wonderful lessons in creativity. If you have even a passing interest in flower photography, you owe it to yourself to add this book to your collection. It is the type of book you will turn to time and time again for techniques and ideas. This book works for me, and I believe you'll find it works for you as well.

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  • Posted October 31, 2011

    Comprehensive and colorful

    My father first bought me a Harold Davis book a few years ago. Now I have more of his books than anyone else's. I'm a hobbyist that occasionally does paid photo gigs, and I'm always looking to learn new things. I like his books because they are clear, organized, comprehensive, and full of large, color photos. "Photographing Flowers" is no different, and does not disappoint.

    You can simply flip through the book for ideas, but if you take the time to read the text, you can really feel the passion that he has for the subject matter, and I think that's very important (and something you don't get from some photo books).

    The author starts from the very beginning, explaining why he photographs flowers, and what he enjoys about them, almost poetically. He then describes a lot of different flowers in detail, describes their origins, where to find them, and strategies for photographing them.

    Next he talks about the technical considerations to make, such as lens selection, how to get a good exposure outdoors or in the studio, and every pic in the book is labeled with his exposure settings. He uses light boxes quite often, and his techniques for giving the flowers a transparent look it pretty cool. He also talks about using lab color in Photoshop, which I never knew much about before reading his books.

    The best part of the book is probably the fact that it's full of full-page, color photos. This could double as a coffee table book, too.

    If I had to offer a criticism, it would be that I'd prefer to see more abstract or artistic photos flowers. While he does cover macro photography, and some useful Photoshop processing techniques, I just wanted to see a few more that pushed the boundaries of flower photography.

    All in all, this is the most comprehensive book I've seen on photographing flowers. It is highly recommended. Even if you're not a photographer, you will find this book interesting!

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  • Posted October 29, 2011

    Photographing Flowers is a must read...outstanding book!

    Anyone who follows Harold Davis' Photoblog 2.0 understands how passionate he is when it comes to photographing flowers. When he announced his plans to write a book on photographing flowers I knew the final results would be outstanding. No surprises here...this book has exceeded my expectations and I feel that Photographing Flowers should be considered his signature book on photography. Every page of this book contains at least one flower image. Harold left no secrets in this book. Each photograph includes a caption that lists the camera's settings (meta data). Also included is "creative information," why he chose the flower and how the image was set up to maximize its beauty. The layout of the book is very well done. The balance between the amount of text and photographs was carefully crafted making the book very easy to navigate. The quality of the paper and images are exceptional. The images have a three dimensional quality - they literally pop off the pages. This book could easily pass for a fine art photography book. The book finishes with Photoshop tutorials that will assist you in processing the flower images in the digital darkroom. Two popular plug-ins (Nik Software and Topaz Labs) are used in some of the tutorials. Any photographer who wants to learn about flower photography or wants to hone their flower photography skills should strongly consider purchasing this book. Full disclosure, I was provided a copy from the publisher for review.

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  • Posted October 28, 2011

    Creating Fine Art Flower Photographs

    Of all the subjects available to the photographer, flowers are perhaps the best. Harold Davis's book "Photographing Flowers" captures some of the best images that you will ever find - true fine art photography -- and he shares how he achieved the images. From the photograph on the cover through the introduction followed by beautiful images on almost 200 hundred pages and finally to the chapters on processing, it is obvious that Harold loves his subjects. It also becomes apparent that Harold has developed unique techniques to achieve affects that others have tried and failed to achieve.

    Harold has developed lighting, exposure, and digital stacking and layering techniques that produce magical images. The dynamic range of his photographs is unsurpassed. His ability to photograph the translucent nature of flowers is unprecedented. He is not afraid to use artistic filters and techniques to produce images in the styles of Georgia O'Keeffe, Vincent van Gogh, and 20th-century post impressionists. He introduces the reader to the LAB photo space and suggests techniques to produce new magical images.

    But this is not a book full of tricks and special effects, special lens and gadgets, and processes that no one will ever be able to use. Rather it is a book that teaches you about flowers, about pre-visualizing the effect you want to achieve with the flowers, and then outlining how you can achieve fantastic results.

    This is not a book for amateur photographers who have never used a macro lens, setup lighting and backgrounds, or used layering techniques in Photoshop. It does not go through the detailed steps but rather introduces the techniques and lets the reader work through the details. It gives the photographer new ideas about what he or she can accomplish, outlines the approach, and leaves most of the detailed steps as an "exercise for the student". If you don't have the experience to take the outlines and fill in the spaces I suggest you augment this book with one of the other Davis books that provide more step be step procedures and specific processes.

    A word about the paperback format. The book is not some cheap paperback with watered down, over exposed, flat images. The exceptional printing paper and process produces a book full of vibrant images every bit as good as a fine hard back book. This is a book to leave on the living room table for all to admire - right next to your new fine art images of your favorite flowers.

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  • Posted October 25, 2011

    A PHOTOGRAPHIC WORK OF ART

    Photographic instruction manual, coffee table book, course in artistic creativity and an entertaining read. Take your pick. It's all here plus so much more. When this book arrived at my doorstep I had just returned that day from a month long trip. I immediately sat down amid the mountainous pile of mail that had accumulated while I was gone and could not pull myself away until I had looked at every single page and image. I simply could not put it down.

    Harold Davis is one of the most energetic, enthusiastic, enlightening (not to mention talented) author/photographer I know. This book blew me away. The images are truly awesome. The instructional aspect has me reworking my schedule in order to have more time to experiment with some of the techniques he describes in detail. If you're interested in learning how to enter the world of photographing flowers close up, this is the book for you. If you're interested in spending hours looking as beautiful, compelling flora images and learning about their scientific names, this is the book for you. If you're interested in becoming more motivated to get out the door with your camera and macro lens in tow (don't forget your tripod), this is the book for you. If you're interested in all three - BINGO! You gotta get this book!!! It's all there and so much more.

    As a bonus, Mr. Davis includes a section on post processing - a subject that has always given me a headache just thinking about it. I am now ready to explore the world of Focus Stacking, Enhancing Colors with LAB (before this book I thought LAB stood for a place to send your images to be printed), filters, Photoshop, studio lighting, toothpicks and more.

    If you're not sure about this book, go to a bookstore, locate this book, turn to page 165 and take a look a the image, then read the description on page 164. I almost guarantee you won't be able to walk away without this book.

    A wonderful, innovating book. Thank You, Mr. Davis!

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

    A Rare Combo - Art Book & Techniques Book in One

    Usually you get one or the other in photo books - fine art photography or step x step how-to techniques. Photographing Flowers combines the best of both genres. The photos in this latest Harold Davis book are stunning & aspirational (you'll want to achieve what he did!). And, his techniques tips seem doable even by non-pro photographers. If I had to sum up the book in one sentence, I'd say it explores possibilities and options for photographing flowers in ways that make you think out of the flower pot (or, garden plot).

    This book covers the soup to nuts aspects of flower photography, including: what to capture, where to capture shots (outdoors or in studio), how to ensure shooting success, best ways to present your floral subjects (composition, focus, lighting - natural & artificial - and manipulation in the digital darkroom). It even throws in a smattering of how to simulate the style of famous artists and art movements that leant themselves to floral subjects. It is an artistic and practical field guide to flower photography.

    Harold Davis is clearly an enthusiastic fan of flowers. For those who are interested it's even possible to learn more about various species from the book. Hey, it's more exciting than you might think. Who knew I'd get a sex ed lesson in a photo book about flowers! But, it's like photographing any subject. The more you know about it the more you can do justice to it in your images.

    One last thing I'd like to point out is how beautifully Photographing Flowers is designed. I recently took a course on photo book design. So I'm very sensitive to the complexity of doing it well. The font is an ideal readable size & style, the layouts are clean (images complement text, the flow is logical & there's enough white space on each page), plus the color management is spot on (so many techniques photo books have muddy visuals - this one is clean, crisp and vibrant).

    I'm already pulling out my lightbox, some cheap clamp on the back of a chair strobes, a reflector & gobo, my tripod & macro lens to see what I can come up with using this book as a reference and inspiration.

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  • Posted October 23, 2011

    A Beautiful Book!

    This book is gorgeous. For those familiar with Harold Davis's work, they will not be disappointed. The pictures are as stunning as you have come to expect from this accomplished photographer: tight, sharp, beautifully exposed, creatively portrayed. The book is full of suggestions for subject selection, point of view, angle, lighting, and digital darkroom techniques. Stylistically, it reads as though the author was speaking to you in a workshop setting. Easy to understand and it inspires you to put down the book, shoot some images, and then return to the book for ideas on finishing touches on the computer. If you own a digital camera and photo manipulation software, this will motivate you to get shooting.

    Some of the images look too sophisticated to be accomplished by amateurs, yet I was surprised by how attainable they are given practice. When I worked in film format, practice involved expensive mistakes. Film, paper, and darkroom time could all get very expensive. If you already own a digital camera, computer, scanner, and software, you will be able to experiment with almost everything (see next paragraph) discussed in the book. And the cost of mistakes is insignificant now!

    Beginners will appreciate the exposure information. More advanced photographers will appreciate the information on darkroom manipulation, especially if they are currently using PhotoShop. I have been using Photoshop Elements, and have recently purchased Lightroom, but do not own PhotoShop. Too early to tell whether I will be limited by my software. I have not tried merging layers on multiple exposures of one image. Regardless, I would still recommend this book.

    As both a photographer and a Master Gardener, I appreciate Harold's notations for not only the exposure and manipulations of the images but also for the names of the flowers photographed! A bonus! - and a pleasant surprise, as this has not been the case with other books on the subject.

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Creativity and technique, a potent combination to help you develop as a photographer.

    "Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis" represents the third book I am reviewing by this excellent photographer and educator. Harold notes that there needs to be a balance between art and image taking strategies. You need to have a vision of what you want to capture in an image, and then you need to know how to get there. Such is the thesis exhibited in this interesting work by Davis. Basically, as Ansel Adams stated, it is about "making pictures not taking pictures." Beyond simple vision, good flower photography needs to convey emotion while making effective use of color and contrast. How do you do that? This is at the core of the book. Additionally, how do you take your vision and create a unique image. What techniques can you employ to deliver the results you want. Does black and white deliver the emotional connection you are looking to achieve even better than color? Consider using a light box as a background to present your vision in a brilliant way. Davis opens your mind to use lighting, angles, simple and sophisticated techniques to inform you how to reach your photographic potential In addition to encouraging creativity, Harold's instructional style is clearly presented to the reader. Of particular note, is understanding the factors influencing a successful macro image. The need to appreciate depth-of-field, true focus, and the components of making your work interesting is masterfully delivered in a most approachable manner. Davis has a gift of communicating photographic techniques coupled with the concepts of photographic composition that not only stays with the reader, but has the power to transform your approach to photography in a most effective and beneficial way. What I admire about Harold Davis' writing is his sharing of his photographic philosophy that gives the reader a greater depth of understanding in what he does and how to elicit your own approach to creating your particular photographic vision. Particularly with flowers, their beauty is temporal. As Davis notes in his explanation of "Wabi-Sabi," a Japanese philosophical and aesthetic movement accepting that everything passes and is incomplete. "All things pass, and in their passage and imperfection lies the possibility of beauty." Such is the essence of photographing flowers. But this work takes you beyond taking still life portraits of flowers, it literally goes deeper into the inner beauty of them in the macro world and transforms into timeless works of creativity.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2011

    Another Terrific Book from Harold Davis

    This book is a joy to read and a visual feast. Harold Davis loves flowers and shares with us his appreciation of the intricate structures and ethereal colors of his favorite species. He describes the behavior of flowers, such as the blooming of poppies, that you should know about if you are to be successful in photographing them. The text is sprinkled with factoids, such as tea roses got their name when they were imported from China to Europe on sailing ships, packed in the sea chests filled with tea leaves. Harold writes in a conversational tone and you feel he is taking you for a walk in his garden.

    Harold strives for sensitive, subjective, artistic renderings of flowers, as found in the field and in the studio. He is not making documentary photographs. The book is filled with wonderful images of bouquets, flower sprays and individual flowers. The macro (and ultra-macro) images of petals and reproductive structures at the center of a blossom range from representational to abstract. An image is accompanied by a description of how it was planned, how it was taken, and how it was post-processed in the digital darkroom when that goes beyond conventional workflow. Harold's goal is to produce images beyond the conventional and being led through so many examples gave me ideas and techniques to try in my own work.

    A moderate level of competence with DSLR and knowledge of Photoshop is assumed. The use of histograms is explained, consideration of depth of field and selective focus in macrophotography is discussed and illustrated. For many examples a screen shot of the Layers or Channels palette is shown so you can see the workflow but it is assumed you know about adjustment layers, masks and blending modes; LAB color is used to great affect. Harold likes to keep lighting simple, but there is discussion and illustration of natural light, studio light, macro flash and the use of a light box for transparency. This is a great reference to have on your shelf for inspiration and information.

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  • Posted October 18, 2011

    Great New Book on Photographing Flowers

    I have just gotten through reading Harold Davis's new book, Photographing Flowers. I've read a lot of books photography books and can honestly say that this one ranks among the best. I say this for the following reasons:
    1.) Inspiring Examples:
    The photographs, which are found on almost every page, are technically superb and artistically pleasing examples of this area of the craft. He obviously knows what he is doing. The photographs lend credence to his advice on how to obtain such results in your own photography. The explanations for each example contain much more than the normal lens, f/stop, and shutter speed information. He also includes details about what attracted him to the particular flower, his pre-visualization process, and the techniques he used to obtain the results. This is very helpful for inspiring you to go out and use these techniques in your own creative work.
    2.) Well Written, Understandable Technical Guidelines:
    Photography is an artistic medium which requires both creative and technical expertise. I always look at techniques as tools in the tool-belt of the master craftsman. The more tools you have, the better. Mr. Davis gives you many of these tools in his understandable guidelines. For instance, he explains how to creatively use your camera's histogram to control the result you want to obtain. He also covers such practical issues as focus stacking, creative use of HDR techniques, and special help with blending layers in Photoshop.
    3.) Interesting Information About Flowers:
    He also includes a small amount of botanical and anatomical information about flowers. You may think this part sounds boring, but it isn't. As he says, the more you know about your subject, the better images you can make.
    When you are photographing flowers you are dealing with one of nature's most beautiful subjects. You owe it to those around you to be as creative as possible. This book will give you tools to more fully use your creativity in this area of photography.

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  • Posted October 15, 2011

    Not only for photographers!

    It may seem strange for a non-photographer to write a review of a book on photography, but this book is not just for photographers! It's filled with wonder, showing us such unexpected beauty that you will likely be surprised and delighted over and over again. The photographs are often stunning in their focus on the very center of what makes a flower lovely, that center that often goes unnoticed in the lavish display of petals. Harold Davis has an entertaining way of explaining how he takes his photos that appeals even to those of us who are photo impaired. And, as inspiration for my own work, painting or poetry, I find myself returning again and again to the pages of his books. So, even if you cannot take a decent snapshot, this book will reward you with so much lovliness and wonder, you will be glad you did not leave it to only photographers. This book is a joy that you can open and that will open your eyes to some of nature's most wonderous sights. And, oh! the colors! Who knew such colors were hiding from us in plain sight? Or, perhaps not such plain sight, but brought to us by the camera lens and the skill behind it. I cannot speak to the photography instruction but if it's even a fraction as marvelous as the photos themselves, you photographers won't be disappointed!

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