May 27, 2008

Photo of the Week: May 27, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Israel's spring wildflower display recedes rapidly as the rainy season gives way to the hot and dry summer months. Nevertheless, there are pockets of color waiting to be discovered, most notably the lavender blossoms of the Jacaranda tree and the vivid orange buds and flowers of the pomegranate fruit. Both of these subjects are extremely alluring because of the stark color contrast between the greenery and the bright-colored flowers. I'm particularly fond of the pomegranate, which features a unique growth cycle in which the fruit bud appears first and later produces a flower from within the growing fruit. This photograph gains its appeal from the unusual angle of view. Finding an unusual perspective is an easy way to give a fresh look to even the most commonplace subjects. The upward angle also mimics the action of the image, which flows from bottom to top. By selecting a wide aperture, I narrowed the depth of field, which creates the surreal, blurred background – and foreground - with sunlight filtering through the leaves.

Photo of the Week: May 20, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Water is one of a photographer's best friends. I often look for water to add texture to an image, find interesting light, or include a reflection to broaden the composition. This image is a rare departure from the standard symmetrical reflection in that it includes only the reflection itself. Three factors dictated my decision to exclude the upper half. First, bright sun on the arch – part of Nimrod's Fortress on the Golan Heights – made it very difficult to properly expose both halves of the reflection in a single image. Secondly, the stillness of the water created a near-perfect reflection and made it a more inviting subject than its twin. Lastly, the clumps of algae floating on the surface provide depth and texture, making this composition much more appealing than the two-dimensional upper half. The inverted arch also creates a bit of confusion and curiosity, which helps engage viewers beyond the initial glance as they struggle to figure out they are looking at a reflection. Interestingly, flipping the image to its proper perspective deflates this entire process and makes the ruin look like one of those kitschy creations sitting at the bottom of an aquarium. Try it!

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.

Photo of the Week: May 6, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT – Israeli flags are visible everywhere in Israel, especially during the days leading up to Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. Yet Israel is the only country where I've seen so many dilapidated flags in every stage of decay, including some so worn and weathered they are barely recognizable. Several years ago I photographed a flag that had blown off its staff and was wrapped around a barbed-wire fence. It's a stark image and I've never known quite what to do with it. From that point on, however, I began to collect photos of flags in various states of disrepair. This image is part of that collection, albeit one that's still almost whole, having lost only a few pieces of its outer edge. I took this photo one step further by applying an artistic filter in Photoshop, which makes the image resemble a watercolor painting. As part of my personal visual training, I make mental notes of subjects that I like or conditions which prove optimal for capturing expressive images. By logging them in my memory, I begin to notice them more often, even when I'm not taking photographs. I like to think of these flag images as symbolic of the state of the nation at 60. Israel is far from perfect and the country has seen its share of problems in recent years. Nevertheless, like these tattered flags which continue to ripple proudly in the breeze, Israel at 60 remains strong and steadfast in its ability to meet the challenges of the future.