January 27, 2009

Photo of the Week: Jan. 27, 2009

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: After years of photographing people, I have no doubt that the best portraits emerge from the sessions in which I am able to forge a strong relationship with my subjects. The same holds true for landscape photography. The more familiar I become with the land of Israel, the better able I am to capture the qualities of her beauty with my camera. Does she look her best when she first wakes up in the morning or when the late afternoon sun settles over her mountains? Which camera angles are most flattering to a spring meadow or a rocky coast?

I whizzed past this shot at 100 km/hour on the road connecting Rosh Pina and the Golan Heights and drove another two kilometers before deciding to go back and shoot. The scene caught my attention initially because of the stark contrast between the bright green field and the dark patterns formed by the differently-shaped trees. Most unusual, and therefore most interesting, was the topography and how the crest of the hill juts out between two valleys and floats like a promontory in the middle of a vast plateau. At least that's how I made it appear in the final image by lopping off half the photo and cropping near the top of the front side of the hill. Shooting mid-morning, the background was very hazy, but I was able to boost the clarity by increasing the contrast. Often, a small tweak in lighting or an imaginative crop – like a slight tilt of the head or lowering of the chin –
is all it takes to elevate the average to the exceptional.

January 25, 2009

Photo of the Week: Jan. 20, 2009

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: While peace continues to elude residents of the Middle East, the intrepid traveler can easily find at least a few hours of silence and solitude in one of the country's spectacular deserts. Although Nachal Prat – the Prat Stream – is located less than an hour's drive from Jerusalem in the Judean Desert, I had not ventured there until recently. The canyon runs roughly parallel to the highway that descends from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, with springs that supply the stream with water year round. I brought my family to this spot during Chanukah. We had hiked about two hours into the canyon when we paused on a shaded rock to have lunch. Suddenly and without warning, we heard the clanging of bells as a trip of goats crested the ridge on the far side of the stream and descended en masse to drink and forage. Accompanied by their shepherd, who rode on a donkey, the goats ambled through our picnic site and up the opposite ridge, the last bell finally fading after about 20 minutes.

I jumped up from my meal and positioned myself midstream to allow both sides of the canyon to remain in the composition and to corral as many of the goats as possible within the frame. I pointed my camera up and down the valley, but prefer this shot in the direction of the sun, which adds a sparkle to the water and brightens the backs of the white-haired goats. I have spent limited time in the environs of the desert, so its landscapes and aesthetic remain fresh and intriguing to my photographic eye. In Biblical times, this stream marked the boundary between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Today, the desert remains timeless as the passage of a shepherd with his flock along ancient trails so easily proves.