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Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis Paperback – September 19, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0240820736 ISBN-10: 0240820738 Edition: 1st
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Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis + Creative Close-Ups: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques + Photographing Waterdrops: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis
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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Exclusive: A Letter from Harold Davis, Author of Photographing Flowers

Harold Davis

Dear Amazon Readers:

I love flowers, and I have always been passionate about photographing them. Flowers are uniquely beautiful, wonderfully colorful, and exhibit an elegance of line with a grace and style that is unique.

My house is certainly no Giverny, but like Claude Monet and other artists such as the expressionist Emil Nolde, I grow flowers and use them in my work. I’m also okay with photographing flowers from the supermarket. I sometimes quip that one good thing about photographing flowers is that you don’t need to get them to sign a model release.

As someone whose professional work includes shooting beautiful women and exotic landscapes, I can tell you that there is nothing I’d rather photograph than flowers. So, first, and foremost, Photographing Flowers is a collection of my best floral photography. But it is also a technique book. In my book, I show you how I go about capturing flowers, starting with ideas and conception, and continuing through to the digital photography itself. I’ll also show you the techniques I use to post-process and finish my flower photos in the digital darkroom.

Want to know more about macro lenses and how to use them? Then this is the book for you. Along the way I explain some important points about flower botany, and how flower sexuality works. You’ve heard of “the birds and bees, flowers and trees,” right? Well, from the photographer’s viewpoint, it’s a little different than you might think!

Photographing Flowers also includes the specifics of many of my special photographic techniques, including rendering flowers for translucency using a lightbox, and photographing on a dark, velvet background. In the digital darkroom, I’ll show you how to create monochromatic flower images, and how to make photos of flowers that look as if they might have been painted by Georgia O’Keeffe or Vincent van Gogh.

I truly hope you enjoy Photographing Flowers as much as I’ve enjoyed creating it.

Best wishes in photography,

Harold Davis

Images and Stories from Photographing Flowers [Click on Images to Enlarge]

Photographing Flowers

Cycle of Life

Left: This is a shot of corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) in my garden in early June. Many people do not know that “poppies” have their name because the flower literally pops out of its pod. This action takes place surprisingly quickly, and it can be a challenge to capture it photographically! The poppy in the center of the photo is mature, but the one to the upper right has just bloomed, shedding its delicate pod cover onto the petals of the more mature flower. The entire life cycle is compressed in this photo, but the pace of the action as it is captured seems languid and dreamy.

Photographing Flowers

Poppies and Irises

Right: This image of red poppies and irises combined flowers from my garden (the poppies) and a bunch purchased at the store (the irises). I arranged the flowers carefully on a light box, then shot straight down, aiming for a high-key (overexposed) effect. Using a tripod to keep the composition in synch, I shot ten exposures with my 50mm macro lens. Each exposure was made at f/11 and ISO 100, with shutter speeds between two seconds and 1/50 of a second. To get the results shown, I started by processing the brightest exposure first (the one shot at two seconds), and then pasted in details from the darker exposures in successive layers, using Photoshop layers and layer masks.

<Photographing Flowers

Summer Rain

Left: Following an unusual summer rain storm, the garden was heavy with waterdrops in the fragrant, still air. To capture these reflections of geranium blossoms, I used a telephoto macro lens (200mm) combined with a 36mm extension tube, and waited until the branch was absolutely still to make my capture.

Photographing Flowers


Right: With four kids, the bathroom in our old house could certainly use a facelift. But one nice feature is the frosted glass in the bathroom door, which has often caught my photographer’s eye. This frosted pane in the upper half of our bathroom door was probably added in the 1940s or 1950s. I found myself wondering what it would be like to photograph a flower through the glass. To try this out, I taped a Zinnia behind this glass, opened the door to maximize the light on the flower, and then set up my camera on a tripod. I used a 50mm macro lens to shoot the flower through the glass. This is a neat, impressionistic flower image that required no special fancy tools, or lighting beyond that available anywhere! If you keep your eyes open and look around you, you can find many floral photographic opportunities in unexpected places that can yield startling and exciting results without requiring any fancy equipment.


"[P]robably the most comprehensive guidebook ever written... Photographing Flowers is a detailed roadmap through all possible iterations of this specialized breed of macro photography.."---Rangefinder Magazine

"A superb book with excellent attention to detail and infused with the author's passion for his subject"---Digital Photographer Magazine, rated "Best Guide to Flower Photography"

"Photographing Flowers is filled with stunning, full-page color studying each photograph and reading the author's comments and technical information, the reader will gain an understanding of how to create their own shots....[H]e also lists the equipment and settings he used for each photograph, as well as the reason for choosing them. Offering tips and techniques to use in the field, and later in the digital darkroom, the author has compiled a book that's sure to please those who enjoy shooting flowers."---PSA (Photographic Society of America) Journal

"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

  • Paperback: 207 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (September 19, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240820738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240820736
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #411,572 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

For Harold Davis, a typical day's (or night's) work might involve photographing star trails from the top of Half Dome, investigating the close-up patterns of early morning dew drops with his camera, or finding a new location for photographing the Golden Gate Bridge.

Harold Davis is an award-winning professional photographer. He is the author of more than 30 books, including Photographing Flowers: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis (Focal Press), 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,

Harold is a popular presenter on digital photography topics. His workshops are often sold out.

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.

Harold lives in Berkeley, California with his wife Phyllis Davis, a graphic designer and writer who frequently collaborates with Harold on book projects. They have four children.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Curious on October 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
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 lend 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 it justice 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.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By C. O'Keefe on May 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is gorgeous but just not what I was looking for. There are many exquisite flower photographs and it would do well as a coffee table book. If you are a beginner or intermediate photographer I would not recommend this book for help in shooting flowers or macros. In addition to using macro lenses plus extensions plus close-up lenses all stacked together, Harold Davis uses rather complicated extensive post processing using Photoshop plus plug-ins. He also uses a light box for many of his shots. The results are breathtaking but require a lot of equipment and a lot of time. If you are looking to improve you close-up photography especially of flowers and hoping to get something decent out of camera I doubt that this book is for you either. I found Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Close-up Photography" to be very helpful, particularly in showing how to get the flower shots I envisioned with a lot less equipment, a lot less post processing and a lot less cross referencing
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Conrad J. Obregon VINE VOICE on October 20, 2011
Format: Paperback
Over the years, as I've read books by Harold Davis, I've been impressed by the flower photographs he sometimes used for examples. I've waited expectantly for this book.

The book begins with an introduction to the world of flowers, including a discussion of some of the main families (although not, strangely enough, orchids). This is followed by a section on actually making flower photos, including discussions of equipment and exposure. Next is a section on flower sexuality. Davis concludes with a foray into post-processing of flower images.

The most arresting part of the book was the actual flower photographs. Every page spread has at least one beautiful photograph of one or more flowers. Particularly striking are the pictures of flowers taken on either a light table or in a light tent. The white of the environments is replaced by the white of the pages and the flowers snake through the text. I did wonder if these photographs would appear as lovely in a frame, without text, and I was inspired enough by the technique to resolve to try it at the first opportunity. Each of these photographs is well annotated and there is as much teaching in the captions as there is in the main text.

Although Davis covers all the bases of flower photography many of his hints are general in nature. For example, in discussing outdoor flower photography, he suggests using either a Plamp or a McClamp to keep the flower from moving. Having both of these devices in my arsenal, I knew that there was more to say about them, but Davis moved on without further mention. Similarly, in describing the use of flash, he discussed a preference for macro flash units, but didn't discuss the possibilities of regular units, or perhaps even using multiple units to shape the flowers.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By B. Sawyer on October 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
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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