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Photographing Waterdrops: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis 1st Edition

41 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0240820729
ISBN-10: 024082072X
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Editorial Reviews Review

Waterdrop Photos and Their Stories, by Harold Davis

At Home in the Universe

To create this partially abstract image, I used a 50mm macro lens to shoot 21 exposures of a wet spider web in the early morning sun. Most of the shots were underexposed to bring out the color saturation in the individual waterdrops, and to let the background go dark.Using layer stacking in Photoshop, I combined these 21 exposures into the composite image you see here.

Some of the waterdrops in this image are quite clearly and literally waterdrops—for example, the droplet shown with a sunburst on the lower right. However, it is not hard to imagine that one is looking at something completely different, maybe outer space or DNA strands.

Moisture on a spider web is an endlessly fascinating subject for photography, and interesting images can vary from the abstract to extremely literal, with a great deal of visual and compositional interest no matter which way you decide to go!

Piggyback Waterdrop

Out to photograph after a sudden spring shower, I was struck by the way this waterdrop “piggybacked” on the leaf, presenting a complex but simple structure with outer framing, and also the framing of the leaf within the leaf. The very defined lines of the leaves contrasted nicely with the somewhat refracted and slightly curved lines shown through the largest waterdrop.

I shot this interesting composition with a 200mm telephoto macro lens, so I could get some distance from the subject while still making a close-up photo. That way, my reflection didn’t appear in the image.

Proteus Waterdrops

From a normal point of view, a wet flower in the rain looks sensuous, and smooth. With this extreme macro shot of a proteus “Scarlet ribbons”—the kind of flower you might often see at a high-end florist—you can clearly see little spikey hairs along with the red “ribbons” that give the flower its name. Close-up, the reality is different and a little more intricate than waterdrops seen from a distance. This is one of the reasons I enjoy photographing waterdrops on flowers.

To make this extreme macro shot, I used a 105mm telephoto macro lens with a 36mm extension tube, both mounted on my tripod. With my gear in place, I waited for a break in the wind so I could make a fairly long exposure (1.3 seconds) without the waterdrops or the flower moving in the breeze.

A Letter to Readers from Harold Davis

Dear Reader:

I want to tell you about my book, Photographing Waterdrops: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis. If you are thinking about ordering purchasing this book, it might help you to know how I came to create it, and what you’ll find in it.

The first thing that you should know is that Photographing Waterdrops is a true labor of love. For me, there is nothing in the world like a rainstorm. Water is nature’s way of refreshing and replenishing, and as I write in my book, without water, and waterdrops, we would have a barren planet devoid of life. As long as there are waterdrops, there is hope for our environment.

The poet William Blake wrote about worlds in a grain of sand, and waterdrops are tiny worlds not much larger than Blake’s grain of sand. These are wet worlds that follow their own rules. Inside a waterdrop you’ll see the play of light, shadow, color and focus. The skin of the waterdrop reflects our own world back at us.

I have been photographing waterdrops after the rain, and in fields in the morning dew, for many years. As I’ve said, this is because I love the way waterdrops look, the way they reflect sunshine, their brief lifespan, and the message of possibility the waterdrop conveys in a world beset by global warming.

Natural waterdrops, meaning those found outdoors in morning dew or following rain, are one of the most technically demanding kinds of subjects for macro photography.

First, they are often very, very small. Natural waterdrops are not photographed in a controlled environment. There’s only so much you can do about the lighting. If there is even the slightest breeze, the surface of the waterdrop is in constant motion. And here’s the clincher: the reflective, convex surface of the waterdrop means that if you are not very, very careful you, your camera and lens, and your tripod appear in the waterdrop, spoiling the naturalism of the subject matter.

All of this is described in Photographing Waterdrops, and I explain how to overcome these technical photographic hurdles when photographing natural waterdrops outdoors. Along the way, my book covers macro gear, exposure issues, depth-of-field, sharpness, and post-production. In other words, if you want to learn about macro photography generally you’ll find plenty of information here.

With Photographing Waterdrops, you get two books in one: an ode to the joy that is in each waterdrop world, and in-depth technical descriptions that show you how to go about making your own waterdrop photos.

I truly hope you enjoy Photographing Waterdrops: Exploring Macro Worlds with Harold Davis as much as I’ve enjoyed creating it.

Best wishes in photography,

Harold Davis


"This is a truly great book about an underrated subject."---Digital Photographer Magazine

"Davis uses a score of his most lavish images as case studies in the techniques of extreme macro shooting--from lens and accessory selection to artificial lighting, to dealing with
nerve-wracking challenges such as depth-of-field and shutter speed selection."---Rangefinder Magazine

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (June 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 024082072X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240820729
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 9 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #761,510 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

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Z on March 22, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was very disappointed with this book. I was expecting to learn something about photographing waterdrops and macro photography. Instead, I got one description after another of what was happening in the author's life when he decided to shoot a picture of some waterdrops on a flower.

After about 86 pages, when he FINALLY begins to get into some technical details...even then it's very vague and not particularly helpful. In fact, when it comes down to what is arguably the most important technical aspect of this work, the choice of lenses, Mr. Davis does little more than provide a lengthy chart of available macro lenses, without much in terms of actual recommendations.

Also, the sorts of waterdrops that he photographs are all pretty much variations on the theme of morning dew on a flower. This really should have been made more explicit. Specifically, there is zero coverage of stop-action photography of splashing waterdrops.

The physical quality of the book is very good. The pages are thick and the print is colorful. Many, but not all, of the photographs are quite excellent.

If I had known what I was getting into, I would not have bought this book. "Photographing Waterdrops" would make a good coffee table book. However, as an instructional text in photography, it fails miserably.
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Format: Paperback
I have never, previously, photographed waterdrops. I've seen some images of waterdrops, of course, but never had much desire to make any such images myself. That changed about 5 pages into Mr. Davis' new book, "Photographing Waterdrops."

The images in this book are just spectacular, and I think will serve as an inspiration for anyone with an interest in photographing waterdrops, and for any who, like me, was not interested in doing so until now. The images are accompanied by text that is well written and easy to understand, and Mr. Davis' enthusiasm is evident throughout, as is his obvious talent in this photographic genre. With an image on virtually every page, there are more than enough examples of waterdrop photography to give the reader a comprehensive view of what can be accomplished.

In contrast to some of Mr. Davis' other books, this is not an instruction manual, even though each image is accompanied by the "specifications" of its capture - lens focal length, ISO, etc. There is an interesting description of the life cycle of waterdrops, discussion of some of the problems encountered in photographing in different settings, and some discussion of the gear involved, but (unfortunately) there is not a detailed description of the specifics of capturing these images nor are there "setup" pictures as has become common in many photorgraphy books today. That being said, this book was not intended as an instruction manual, but rather and as a source of inspiration, and in that regard it performs admirably. Being a gear-head, I always like to learn what other photographers are using in their craft, and while this book is limited in that regard, I did learn the importance of extension tubes, which, of course, I now have to purchase.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Suvrangshu Ghosh on July 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
Being a semi professional photographer, I never ventured into the world of photographing water droplets and honestly I didn't knew what tools are required for this style of photography. Thanks to this book , now after reading , I have an understanding what things are required for this job.
One thing I can say that - it would be excellent if some pictures and processing steps are shown in the book along with the tools.
The book covers a wide area in photographing water droplets under natural light and conditions. It will definitely open your imaginative thinking and help you compose excellent images. In every chapter/subject of the book, the author describes the picture details and then provide a nice photo of what can be rendered with patience and persistence.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rosalyn Boarer on July 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
I am fairly new to photography and enjoy shooting landscapes and flowers. Recently, I purchased a macro lens and became fascinated with the art of macro photography and the beautiful abstract images one can create. Harold Davis' book, "Photographing Waterdrops" completely blew me away with some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen. This book is both inspirational and instructional. I felt compelled to grab my camera, go outdoors and search for water drops in the early morning when the dew is fresh and moist on the leaves and flowers in my garden.

First of all, Waterdrops is written in an easy to understand format;; anyone can pick up the book and immediately be drawn into Harold's almost poetic descriptions of the scenes he is shooting. Each page not only contains amazing photos, but a comprehensive discussion of the equipment used, camera settings, and solutions to some of the difficulties encountered in the highly dynamic world of waterdop composition and changing light conditions. The format is well-planned and broken down into three sections:
1. Waterdrop Worlds which defines the waterdrop environment for photography.
2. Making Waterdrop Photos, a discussion of the more technical aspects of exposure, settings used, lens and equipment.
3. Waterdrops in the Digital Darkroom, a discussion of the post-editing and processing modes.

I have three other books by Harold Davis in my library: "Creative Close-Ups, Creative Composition and Creative Night". All are written in the same easy to read style with beautiful photos and technical details with which to further one's photography knowledge base. I highly recommend "Photographing Waterdrops" to anyone who loves photography and seeks inspiration for exploring a new genre. It is a book for both the new photographer and experienced alike and a wonderful addition to my personal library.
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