October 28, 2008

Photo of the Week: Oct. 28, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Walking through the hills near my home earlier this week, I thought about how I find the visual clues that are the first sign of a good photo opportunity. Much of the visual hunting I do is simply honed instinct; I let my eyes wander and they come to rest at the place of greatest interest, usually a bright spot or an area with strong colors or patterns. When light and color and pattern come together, it's an easy task to merge them into a photographic whole. I stumbled onto this scene while hiking through a small forest in the Galilee not far from Rosh Pina at the height of last fall's color display. In the dark of the tree cover, a golden glow caught my eye and aroused my curiosity because the colors seemed unnatural. Most of the colors of fall are found in decaying leaves, such as the grape vines seen in the foreground. The intense yellow of this barren field is the result of the scattered remains of decomposing hay. Having found the photo's subject, I climbed up a small hill to get a better perspective and to add a strip of the orange vineyard, whose colors provide a nice complement to the green and gold that dominate the rest of the image.

Photo of the Week: Oct. 21, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Fall is upon us in the northern hemisphere and there is no better time of year to enjoy the splendor of nature. I am fortunate to have lived in New England for many years, and I can say with full confidence that Israel's fall foliage display – though on a smaller scale – is equally impressive and it lasts much longer here because winter is more temperate and slower to arrive. For the next several weeks, I'd like to feature photographs that show off the brilliant colors that shape Israel's magical fall landscape. In the last 10 years, vineyards have been widely planted throughout the country, including the Negev Desert, to support Israel's burgeoning wine industry. Many valleys and hillsides are covered with several varieties of vine, each of which produces a different leaf color, creating some dazzling patterns of color. This shot is exactly what I had been searching for when I found this section of terrace in a valley in Gush Etzion, south of Jerusalem. As with every landscape, timing is critical, so I planned a series of late-afternoon exercise walks through the hills with my camera slung over my shoulder, knowing if something interesting crossed my path, I'd be there to capture it. Walking down from the road where I had parked, I immediately noticed the strip of yellow and green vine that loops across the foreground, a perfect visual gateway to the contrasting orange and dark green leaves in the photo's center. I used a mid-range telephoto lens (135mm) to compress the depth, thereby bringing the two main subjects closer together. The long lens also narrowed the angle of view so it included just the top of the orange vine on the right while allowing a peek at the valley below in full glory.

Photo of the Week: Oct. 14, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: I love to explore the Mea Shearim and Beit Yisrael neighborhoods of Jerusalem this time of year to observe the color and festive activities as the community prepares for Sukkot, which begins on Monday evening, Oct. 13. One of the visual highlights is the impromptu market set up to sell the four species used in the rituals of the holiday and which must be purchased anew each year. Two years ago I came upon this odd assortment of etrogim, the Hebrew name for the citron fruits, and snapped this picture. In addition to the etrog, the four species are comprised of the lulav (date palm frond), hadass (myrtle) and aravah (willow branch). I have yet to see this unusual orange, Yemenite variety of etrog again, perhaps because the vendor wanted $200 each for these rare specimen.I chose this photo because it gives me an opportunity to share an image of something that most people have never seen and, through the wonders of the internet, ask if anyone may know where it comes from or how it was cultivated. Sukkot is our "zman simchatenu," the season of our joy. Wishing everyone a joyous and meaningful holiday.

Photo of the Week: Oct. 7, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Cotton has a bad rap in Israel because it is an intensive water consumer in a region short on water supplies. Israeli scientists are trying to develop high-quality strains that require less water, but in the meantime, we'll have to imagine the wads of fluff melting into the soil and replenishing our aquifers. I like this photo because it presents an unusual view of Israel from two perspectives. First, a foreboding sky is atypical in a country with a very mild climate. Secondly, this scene resembles winter more than late summer when it was taken, and certainly differs from the olive orchards that typify this country's landscape. Once again I had to venture off road to find this viewpoint. Passersby might not even notice the field as it is obscured from view by roadside vegetation. I did spot it and drove headfirst into the thick of it as I had never before stood in a cotton field and wanted the additional thrill of admiring it up close. There was nothing prominent on the horizon so I grabbed my widest lens in order to accentuate the vastness of the field. I raised the camera to its highest point on my tripod, which is over my head, so I stood on the doorsill of my car in order to focus and compose the image. To bring the closest plants into prominence, I pointed the camera down slightly and fired off the self-timer, a useful feature to avoid the shake that results from pressing the shutter release.

Photo of the Week: Sept. 30, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Following morning prayers at sunrise on a cliff above the Dead Sea, my hiking partner raised a shofar and delivered a few short blasts, as is the custom during the month of Elul, the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah. I knew that I wanted to shoot a silhouette to highlight the unique, twisted form of the long shofar made from the Kudu antelope horn. To my delight, the sun was still low on the horizon, and it was an easy matter of shifting my position until I placed it directly behind the hands and mouth, which were just large enough to block most of the direct light and prevent any lens flare. When we look at photographs, our eyes find their way to the brightest parts of the image. Here, the few visible sections of sun draw the eyes right into the heart of the image where they can pause and let the mind contemplate the image as a whole.

Photo of the Week: Sept. 23, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Ein Gedi (Spring of the Goat) Nature Reserve is one of the most popular hiking spots in the Judean Desert and a park I've explored many times. Because of my familiarity with the area, I've tried on recent visits to find a new way to convey the unique beauty found in this true desert oasis. Of the two main trails through the park, Nahal Arugot, where this shot was taken, is the longer and more difficult canyon, but rich in the wet rewards so comforting to the desert hiker. I spotted this pool on my way up the canyon, but passed by without shooting because the sun was high and the light unimpressive. Several hours later, after cooling down at Hidden Falls, I passed this spot again on my way out of the park. I was immediately drawn to the late afternoon sunlight reflecting off the high cliffs and flooding the lower canyon with beautiful, golden light. The success of this photo rests entirely on the creation of the arcing foreground, which both frames the main subject and creates an additional rounded form – in negative space - which balances with the two giant, circular boulders. The foreground is actually flat, although it appears to rise almost vertically in the photo, a distortion in perspective caused by the camera's position above the rock and tilted down at a 45-degree angle. To create the silky effect in the small waterfall, I set my camera on a tripod, programmed the self-timer, lowered the ISO to 200, dialed the aperture to its smallest opening and slowed the shutter to 1/3-second.