May 27, 2008

Photo of the Week: May 13, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: A macro or close-up lens is useful only if you first identify with your eyes the detail you want to photograph. The lens itself doesn't select the important content any more than a wide-angle lens keeps out unwanted scenery. I stumbled on this photo while en route to a reporting assignment in the Negev. I had left early to allow for a stop or two along the way and pulled onto the shoulder to admire a group of trees set amidst a vast, green wheat field. When I reached the edge of the field, I noticed this clump of stalks, my attention drawn to the light reflecting off the wet grass and the beads of dew clinging to the ears of wheat. I immediately shifted gears from a wide-angled landscape to a close-up. Monochromatic images like this sometimes lack punch, but in this instance I love the way the blades curve and spiral freely throughout the image. The extreme close-up accentuates the texture and more than makes up for any lack of color variety.
Dew is fleeting, and once the sun gets up, it melts away quickly. If you like this look, however, you can easily recreate it any time by grabbing the nearest water bottle and gently sprinkling the contents onto your subject. Water has a natural tendency to bead and adhere to the surface of flower petals, leaves, and even ripe fruit. In response to a recent photo of the old city walls, I received a comment from a reader in Italy, who wrote to thank me for vividly transporting him to Jerusalem. "The picture made me see the bright, early-morning light, feel the fresh air, and hear the morning noise of a city waking up." Photography really succeeds, I think, when a two-dimensional image can evoke this kind of deep, sensual response that doesn't exist in the actual photo at all, which is just paper or pixels. Sometimes a tiny drop of water or ray of sunshine is enough to set those feelings in motion.

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