November 17, 2008

Photo of the Week: Nov. 18, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Anyone who encountered me toward the end of my recent three-day foray to the north would have seen the effects of rising three consecutive mornings well before dawn and schlepping my gear and ambition through dewy trails and prickly underbrush until darkness and exhaustion set in. After 583 km of travel by car and several more on foot and 652 shutter releases, I can reveal that I brought home five excellent landscapes. If I were a hunter, which I sometimes imagine I am when out in the wilds with my camera, I would have settled for bagging one lion. So five is a roaring success!

Just north of Kiryat Shemona, a few seconds before the itinerant Israeli runs out of country, is a small valley below the town of Metula, where farmers have planted groves of pear, plum, olive, and pomegranate, along with grapes and an assortment of other greenery. I had noted this bucolic spot in the past as a potential shooting location in the right season. That moment arrived on Nov. 6 at 3:42 p.m. Turning onto a rare paved road that descended into the valley and up the far side, I found a position looking across the valley and into the setting sun. I thought at the time I had missed the moment, because there were already deep shadows on the upslope and the sun was so low I had to shade my lens with my left hand to reduce the extreme glare. Staring into the sun as I composed, I could barely see what spread out before me and I was concerned that the shadowed areas would appear as black in the final image. In retrospect, the final result as shown above is nearly perfect. The shadows miraculously fall along the outer edges of the composition and provide depth and contrast while the golden sunlight paints a swath down the center of the frame. The play of light and shadow combine wonderfully to create a beautiful, warm autumn afternoon feel.

Photo of the Week: Nov. 11, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: In my hometown, I have identified numerous locations with excellent lighting and background conditions and I know just what time of the day and the year to bring my portrait subjects to these sites for the best results. When I photograph in a new location, the first thing I look for is a suitable background. It may seem counter intuitive, but letting the background be your guide to both what and where to photograph will guarantee your subject remains the focal point of your image. Wandering among the fall colors of northern Israel last week, I discovered a plum orchard growing along the banks of the Hermon Stream, not far from Kiryat Shemona. Having invested the first rays of daylight in a grander landscape, I honed in on the smaller details of the season as the sun rose higher. This shot afforded two opportunities for varying the background. By lowering the camera angle slightly, I could set the leaves against a shadowy area that would turn almost entirely black and provide a nice emphasis to the bright color splotches. The second alternative is seen above: I lowered my tripod a few inches and raised the camera angle to bring a nearby tree and its assorted color patterns into the background. The background is still well out of focus and dark enough to give a kick to the brightly colored plum leaves. But what I really like about this composition is that the hint of color in the background suggests a larger picture of what the orchard looked like with dozens of trees at their peak forming a sea of red, orange, and gold hues. Keep your eyes on the background and what's in the foreground will also be a lot more visible.

Photo of the Week: Nov. 4, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: During a recent workshop with a group of young students, we spent an hour exploring one of Jerusalem's old neighborhoods looking for the hidden treasures of great photography: compositional frames. Using water pipes, tree trunks, a street sign and a hole in a wall, I taught the group of teenage boys how to crouch and bend their bodies, and their vision, to see through layers of depth and compose images with foreground frames that isolate the main subject. This photograph of a vineyard in the hills near Alon Shvut in Gush Etzion is a slight variation on that lesson in that the frame is the main subject, with the distant hills offering just a hint of the majestic fall landscape. To accentuate the vibrant colors of fall, there is no better technique than shooting directly into the sun and letting the light pour through the multi-colored, translucent leaves. That can create difficulties with lens flare on a cloudless day, but one easy solution is to find something to block the sun from shining directly into the lens. This photo demonstrates how making a tiny adjustment in the camera's position placed one leaf directly in front of the sun, allowing only a few select spikes of sunlight to filter through. Once you catch on to how easy this is, you may find you are seeing frames even when your camera is safely stowed away for the day.