HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Sabra is the Hebrew name given to a native-born Israeli Jew and also the prickly pear cactus, which grows abundantly throughout Israel, although, ironically, it is not a native species. The dual meaning of the term is meant to imply that Israelis, like their flowering namesake, feature a thorny and abrasive exterior that conceals a sweeter, gentler interior. Whether true or not about our native population, this photograph reveals the contrasting personality traits of the Sabra plant by juxtaposing the "softer" flowering side against the "harder" thorny spines. It would be impossible, I think, to depict in a photograph the plant's inner sweetness, so portraying it as it flowers is the best approximation. Over the years, I have become addicted to using back light – light which shines from the rear of the subject toward the camera – because of how beautifully it enhances the color and texture of flower petals. I brought this image home following a mid-August hike last summer near Beit Shemesh. I was very surprised to find anything flowering in the parched, brown hills amid the summer heat, but cactus thrives in the desert as well as the country's greener areas under some very difficult conditions. Not unlike Israelis, whether born on native soil or not.
August 25, 2008
HOW I GOT THE SHOT: The world is flat, or so it would certainly appear looking through my 12-24 wide-angle, digital zoom along Israel's central coast at HaBonim Nature Reserve. And because it really is flat, or at least the part of the earth that the camera is concerned with, it takes a bit of effort to compose an image that does justice to the beauty of this stretch of rocky shoreline. The best landscapes, especially those which lack dimension, are shot from high ground to increase image depth. In this location, however, my lateral movement was restricted in order to include the many pools spread out across the foreground. The best I could do was step up onto a rock about one foot off the ground. That helped raise the horizon line a little higher above the line where the rocks meet the water, but that thin strip of sea adds substantial depth to the image. I brought home my share of crashing wave shots, but none but this shot evoked the feeling of warm summer evening, relaxing in the sand, nothing to do but watch the sun go down.
HOW I GOT THE SHOT: On a midsummer's day hike lacking color and visual inspiration, I surprised myself with this photographic souvenir. After several rainless months and the accumulation of dirt and sand blown in from the desert or a closer source, much of Israel's August landscape is uninviting to the artist. Nevertheless, my professional pride pushes me to take on a challenge to find some subject of interest every time out, even if I have to resort to the abstract form as I have this week. I use the word "surprise" with total honestly because this is one of those pictures that I didn't get a feeling for while I was shooting, but discovered only when I emptied the contents of my memory card onto my hard drive. I took only two shots, another sign that I wasn't seeing well in the moment. The original is a paler version of this image, which I sharpened and added contrast, post production tasks that every image receives in some measure. In a landscape of dull browns and dusty greens, the pink berries of this unidentified tree caught my attention. The unanticipated bonus in this shot, however, are the blue, unripened berries, which, along with the green foliage, add a nice complement to the dominant pink color scheme. The shot was taken late in the day, so I was forced to use a wide aperture at ISO 400, choices I would have made in any case in order to narrow the depth of field. It used to take days before prints would come back from the lab, nearly long enough to forget what was in the bag. I guess a few hours delayed gratification is not such a bad thing.