December 01, 2008

Photo of the Week: Dec. 2, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: I've probably burned a barrel of oil unsuccessfully chasing after rainbows during the fleeting moments between sun and storm. In this week's photo I did find a rainbow of sorts, on a scintillating fall morning when not a single drop of rain fell from the sky. Imagine for an instant a rolling hillside speckled with white rocks, neatly planted rows of fruit trees, a winding, dirt road, a distant cow shed and an electrical tower. Amid this collage of nature and industry, between the dusty road and the rusted carcass of a bus, lay a sea of colorful leaves that arced through my viewfinder like a rainbow bending its beauty across the horizon. I found a cluster of rocks which provided enough elevation to shoot down on the mass of leafy color and blot out the unsightly surroundings. A zoom lens allowed me to isolate my target and trim the strips of color into nearly equal parts.
This photo resembles a work of pointillism. The great impressionist masters understood that the interplay between color and light intricately represented on canvas brings the viewer's eye to a point of appreciation which is rarely matched, even by the physical world. Digital camera sensors and some modern printing presses, reproduce this technique using red, blue and green pixels in order to build the proper color relationships as seen by the human eye. At the right time and place, this trio of visual workhorses blend to reveal the ever-elusive pot of gold.

Photo of the Week: Nov. 25, 2008

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: One of the joys of teaching photography is giving a group of students the same assignment and afterward discussing their vastly different interpretations of the same subject. Invariably, it’s a learning experience for everyone present, including the teacher. I played that game with myself earlier this month while racing against the setting sun to find a viewpoint that captured the radiance of fall in northern Israel. This week's photo depicts the same valley shown in last week's photo, situated just south of Metula along Israel's northern border. Taken a few minutes earlier and looking to the south as opposed to the west and into the sun, it offers an entirely different perspective on this idyllic setting.
This is a more complex photo which defies a brief description. I had to crop this image very carefully to remove some ugly farm machinery and retain only the natural features of the land within the frame. Precise cropping can elevate an average photo to something exceptional, so I often experiment with different crops until settling on a final composition. In cropping this photo, I began by slicing off a small section of the olive trees from the bottom edge, which improved the photo in three ways. First, it allowed the orange plum leaves to flow more prominently into the frame by entering through the lower left corner and continuing up to the center, following the action of the photo. Secondly, a darker clump of olive trees fell into the right hand corner. Having a slightly darker area along the photo's edge keeps the viewer's eyes within the photo. Finally, trimming the clump of olive trees makes them about the same size as the photo's two other prominent features. The lack of a clear center of interest pits these equally-sized sections against each other in a tense competition to hold the viewer's eye. Likewise, the photo's odd assortment of colors fights with each other for prominence rather than blending harmoniously. Most of the time I build the composition around the main point of interest, but in this case, the clash of color and content adds tension and imbalance while serving to enliven the overall picture.