March 24, 2009

Photo of the Week: Mar. 24, 2009

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: I still recall the first time I set foot in a back country forest in New England and my disappointment at the chaos and debris which littered the woods in every direction. Though the petals of a rose may appear flawless, nature often falls well short of a tidy perfection. It's important to keep this in mind when attempting to photograph the grandeur of the natural world. Even as the camera is sometimes able to remove from view what the photographer finds undesirable, it still must contend with the disorder of what remains within the frame.

I spent two days in the north of Israel earlier this month, hoping to record some of the annual spring renewal. I met with some good fortune on my first morning when a heavy squall drenched the landscape, and, more importantly, cleared away dust and pollution that are a nagging impediment to good landscapes. After taking shelter in my car for about 20 minutes, I emerged to a virtual Brigadoon, a moist and magical (and very muddy) yet short-lived sunshine and crystal-clear air. With the storm still visible on the horizon, I set up my tripod in the sodden ground and composed a shot that, more than anything, was an attempt to capture the clarity and brilliance of that vanishing moment. My wide angle zoom pulled all the way back to 12mm brings together in absolute sharpness the heavy clouds, the wet sheen on the rocks, the streaking yellow mustard flowers, and the blades of grass bent by lingering raindrops. My boots stayed wet for hours but my heart danced the whole day through.

3 comments:

Maya said...

personally, I love the messiness of nature, but I can see why it would be hard to capture in a photo. I just took a bunch of wildflower pictures in Gan HaSela over on my blog: howtobeisraeli.blogspot.com.

I have a question if you ever get a chance to answer-- do you ever adjust color levels (brightness, contrast, etc.) in Photoshop? Is that "cheating"? Lowering brightness and increasing contrast (just by 10 percent) seemed to make some of my pictures look strikingly better!

Yehoshua Halevi said...

I feel compelled to keep my comments short in the blog, so I omitted the fact that in this particular photo, the composition was forced by some unsightly dead branches and a barbed wire fence. I would have preferred to include a stronger foreground element, but I was racing against time to set up and get something decent before the light changed.

To answer your question, almost every digital photo I take undergoes some post production tweaking, which normally includes adjustments to the contrast and clarity (using Lightroom). I will on occasion make adjustments to the exposure, but normally not brightness levels. If color correction is necessary, I will adjust that as well.

The computer is a tool in the photographic process, and its use is no different from placing a filter over a lens or selenium toning a print. Ansel Adams said it best when he said the creation of the negative (or in our time a digital file) is akin to the composer who writes a musical score. The print is equivalent to the performance, which is open to a wide range of interpretation. I have no problem using whatever tools are at hand to improve my images.

Maya said...

Thanks for answering my question! That's really nice to know... I felt kind of like I was cheating.