April 29, 2008

Photo of the Week: April 29, 2008

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.

Photo of the Week: April 22, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Light, form, color, texture, pattern: Take any one of these and you've got the foundation for a great photograph. In my classes, we learn to identify these design elements, single them out, and then advance to images built around two or more of these concepts. The wild irises of Mt. Gilboa are famous enough to merit a trail in their name in Beit Alpha National Park, located along the scenic route that winds from the Beka Valley up to Afula. I finally managed a visit there in the early spring of 2006. While there was plenty of seasonal color, to my dismay I only spotted this single iris which happened to be at the peak of its flowering. When I encounter a subject with potential, I'll often walk full circle around it to study the light, but here it was immediately obvious that a backlit angle would provide the greatest drama. I fiddled a bit more with my camera, mounted on a tripod with a macro lens, to create a background that would both complement the colors in the petals while isolating the flower from anything overly distracting to its form. Back in my digital darkroom, I applied a few quick finishing touches. I cropped the bottom so the stem would appear shooting upward from the lower right corner and I darkened the background just slightly to add emphasis to the backlit petals.

Photo of the Week: April 15, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: More cameras in the world has led to more picture-taking restrictions. To gain entry to this makeshift matzah bakery in Jerusalem, I had to first ask permission of the owner and then meet two conditions before taking a single photo: I had to come in the middle of the night and get additional permission from everyone on that shift. Having survived the initial challenges, I was able to shoot the entire sequence of production before the baker tossed me out, albeit without the sympathies of his coworkers. This shot uses a technique I discussed in a previous email, in which the flash is delayed until the end of the photograph in order to allow movement to be recorded by the existing room light and then frozen with the burst of flash during the concluding microseconds of the exposure. Even though the exposure was longer than what I would normally shoot hand-held, there is no need for a cumbersome tripod because sharp focus is not the goal. The feeling of movement captures the frenetic energy of the bakery, which operates around the clock with the efficiency of a crew team and includes a coxswain-like leader, visible on the right edge of the photo, who sets the rhythm and pace of each round of baking.