May 04, 2009

Photo of the Week: May 5, 2009

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: In my ongoing pursuit of personally satisfying photographs, I encounter the same subjects over and over again. Sometimes I walk away uninspired, but on other occasions, I look for ways to build on what I learned from working with the subject previously. This small section of farmland outside Metulla on Israel's northern border has been a treasure trove of excellent photographs for me. On my first visit, I was enthralled by the colors of the trees in spring blossom, and worked on getting a shot that emphasized that small detail of the landscape. The air quality during that first visit was so poor, however, that pointing the camera anywhere above the foreground horizon revealed only a dull, detail-less white haze. Returning again a day after an air-cleansing storm and shooting from a slightly different vantage point, I tried to build something more complex that revealed the larger grandeur of this area, set in the foothills of the Lebanon mountains.

I like this shot because it works despite the challenge of bringing together two visually unrelated pieces. As the first light of the new day creeps over the ridgeline, the blossoms and new buds begin to glow. The mountains, on the other hand, are awash in a bluish, early morning haze and back lit by the sun, which is rising behind them in the upper right corner of the frame. Exposing for the foreground, I knew I'd lose most of the mountain detail but I also knew I could bring most of it back. After uploading my memory card, I opened this image in Photoshop and boosted the contrast while reducing the exposure of the upper half of the composition in order to reveal the various ridgelines as they appeared to my eyes as I took the photo.

The final trick to bringing it all together was my choice of lens: A 200mm telephoto, which compresses the depth and makes the distant peaks look closer to the foreground. The photo's clear division into two parts creates a visual tension but at the same time elevates its sophistication and appeal. At least it works for me, and that's the only goal a photographer should seek with his or her personal work.