The poet among the photographers
Harold Davis describes himself as a picture-taking poet and light artist. Harold recently tried out his new “paint brush”: the brand-new ZEISS Milvus lenses.
A poet that photographs – that’s the answer Harold Davis gives when people ask him about his profession. He paints with light and captures the world as he imagines it – he is the impressionist among photographers. Rangefinder Magazine has described Davis as a man with a remarkable range of abilities. Clicking through his portfolio on his website, it’s hard to believe that all the pictures you see were taken by the same photographer.
“A poet that photographs”
Harold Davis about his profession
This versatility is the reward for decades of being active in both the arts and technology. In the early 1990s, Davis stored his camera for a few years in order to start programming software and write books about technology. You can sense his abilities in both of these fields when he talks about his work. “A photograph only records the light reflected by the object,” he explains, “and with this light I try to be creative and make interesting patterns, or form light like a sculpture.” What he likes to do most is “paint” spectacular landscapes, flowers, old buildings and beautiful women. Painting can also be taken literally: Davis studied fine arts in the 1970s and sometimes resorts to traditional paint brush and canvas.
Working with the best equipment is important to him. A lens is to a photographer what a paint brush is to a painter. Davis’ “brushes” are from ZEISS. A ZEISS ambassador, he was one of only a few photographers who were allowed to test the new ZEISS lenses Milvus 2.8/21 and Milvus 2/100M before anyone else.
“Both lenses are remarkable tools that help me to carry out my visions – two wonderful lenses in top quality.”
Harold Davis about the new ZEISS Milvus lenses
Davis has tried many different lenses during his career. At medium settings, all are sharp. Not so with the extreme settings: true quality stands out from wide-open all the way down to a minimum aperture. And it is here that the new Milvus lenses do amazing things: “In particular the Milvus 2/100M is fantastic from f/2 to f/16.”
Almost as important as sharpness is the bokeh, i.e. the intended blur in the areas in front of and behind the focal plane. An appealing bokeh is a must-have for a macro lens, so that small objects can be separated from their background. “The bokeh of the 100-millimeter macro is really gorgeous,” says Davis. The quality of the bokeh can always be disputed – every photographer has his or her own taste. The way that a lens depicts light is also subject to opinion and hard to quantify. According to Davis, the Milvus lenses have a wonderful brightness. “They turn ordinary things into magic – which is exactly what I need for my photography.”
The capabilities of the macro lens are especially apparent in the pictures of the flower blossoms. Despite the different distances of each blossom to the lens, the colors are always consistently bright and very saturated, without appearing artificial. The lens depicts every pistil and grain of pollen as sharp, while at the same time painting the leaves of the blossoms in a soft, beautiful way.
Wide-angle lenses have to deal with other challenges than a macro lens: they must depict the world with as little distortion as possible. The new Milvus 2.8/21 achieves that brilliantly, whether in elegant colors or in dramatic black and white. “It’s a great lens for landscape photography that creates both subdued and dramatic images.”
About Harold Davis
Painter? Photographer? Author? Many descriptions would fit Harold Davis, but he doesn’t allow himself to be put into a specific category. After completing his studies in fine arts, he opened a photo studio in New York and became part of the colorful pop-art scene that hung out with Basquiat and Keith Haring in the1980s. Later, Davis put away his camera in order to develop software and write technology books. After moving to Berkeley, California in the early 1990s, he started his second career as a photographer, combining his knowledge of technology with that of painting to create a unique expression of artistic photography. Davis is not a traditional contract photographer. Instead, he takes pictures of things that he likes and sells his images to collectors, or licenses them to publishers and companies. He also gives courses and writes how-to books on photography. Davis’ most recent book is “Achieving Your Potential as a Photographer: A Photographer’s Creative Companion and Workbook” (Focal Press; https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138826366).