September 19, 2008

Photo of the Week: Sept. 16, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Can't you just taste 'em? If you can, you may be experiencing a form of synesthesia, the ability of one sensory input to stimulate another. A good photograph of a familiar subject, such as food, will often trigger the taste sense of the person looking at it, just as a photo with strong textural detail can be experienced as tactile. In this photograph of ripe grapes - a ubiquitous image of late summer in Israel - two things add dimension to an ordinary picture. First, by moving in close to the subject, I was able to isolate this bunch from the surrounding vineyard and capture the subtle color variations among the different grapes. One of my colleagues is fond of saying that a photographer's best zoom lens is his legs. If you're looking for instant improvement to your photography with one easy tip, it would be to move closer to your subject whenever possible.

Secondly, the soft back lighting helps bring out the color and detail of the grapes so that they attain a mouth-watering appeal. I also like this shot better than several others where there is a clear view of the entire cluster. The leaves in the foreground help direct the eye toward the most important part of the image and they add a bit of mystery to the photo as well.

Photo of the Week: Sept. 9, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Wander around Jerusalem long enough and you'll likely hear someone say that the stones are alive with history. The rock tiles that line the plaza around the Western Wall could tell of countless souls who trod on them while en route to pray at Judaism's holiest site. In this photo, the stones serve a dual purpose in transforming a difficult shooting situation into a distinct and powerful image. First, they provide an interesting yet simple background to offset the subject. Noticing the background of a photograph is a vital step toward eliminating distracting details that often ruin good photos. Secondly, the tiles act like a giant reflector, catching the sharp rays of early morning sunlight and bouncing them toward the camera.
Time after time I find the most dramatic photos emerge when I point the camera directly into the sun or another bright light source. The clincher in this image is the shadow fragment in the upper left corner. Without it, the silhouette would have to stand on its own, alone and moving aimlessly through the photo's empty spaces. The shadow gives definition to the space while providing a nice complement to the silhouetted figure's shadow because the two fit together to form an asymmetrical but balanced composition.

Photo of the Week: Sept. 2, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Until I began to study and use natural light more seriously, I was not able to see a photo like this. I say "see," because the photo looks very different from how my eyes saw this scene while I photographed it. I've noted in the past how much better our eyes are than our cameras at seeing detail in high contrast settings, when there are both very bright and dark areas in an image. This is one of the most common and difficult problems photographers must contend with. There is simply no way to expose both ends of the brightness spectrum properly, which forces the photographer to choose one end or the other. Whichever part of the image you choose to expose properly, the other end either goes very white or very dark. In order to make the proper choice, you have to be able to visualize both possibilities before shooting.
Here, it was an easy choice, as I knew letting the trees go dark by metering the sunlit area would add drama to the image. The Yemin Moshe quarter and adjacent park is one of Jerusalem's most beautiful neighborhoods, although from this angle it could be anywhere in the world. The feeling of peace and solitude – one of the area's main characteristics – is emphasized by the empty paths and vacant benches. Like other modern cities, Jerusalem has its share of traffic, noise and pollution, so it's comforting to know there is an oasis of quiet one can escape to, whether for real or via an image hanging on the wall.