HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Only in Israel, I like to believe, would a photographer be asked to shoot an image with the primary criterion being the unique blueness of the sky as perceived by a longtime resident of Jerusalem's Old City. I also had to include a section of the wall, but the color of the early-morning sky was the principal concern of my client, who obviously has a powerful relationship with his environment. I am familiar with the special light in the Old City and there are a many places where the walls and buildings create narrow canyons that give emphasis to the sky above and make its color more noticeable. Still, fulfilling such a personal request was an interesting challenge.
The complexities of this image are very subtle. The silhouette – a blackened subject against a light background – was easily achieved by exposing for the sky in the background. As I walked along the edge of the wall near Jaffa Gate, I saw rays of sun spiking through a variety of openings. With my camera at my waist, looking up at the wall, I inched my way forward until I could see the sun peeking through an opening in one of the turrets just as it appears here. When I used film, I could create a similar sunstar by closing down the aperture to f-16 or f-22 and shooting directly into the sun. This effect doesn’t work as well with digital – you get an additional round flare of light that looks unnatural – unless you shoot through something like a small hole or a leafy branch. I chose the angular composition in an attempt to reduce the parallax distortion that results from shooting a tall object at a short distance. When you aim the camera upward at a tall object, vertical lines converge inward, distorting the image. Finally, the imbalance between the sky and wall adds tension and makes for an unusual look at this oft-photographed subject.