February 03, 2010

Photo of the Week: Feb. 3, 2010

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: This week's photo falls into the category of "when life gives you lemons." Walking along the shore of the Red Sea in Eilat last month, I looked skyward and frowned at the thick clouds enveloping the region and scuttling chances for an eventful afternoon shoot. I paused to sit on a cement wall at water's edge and removed a persimmon from my camera bag, peeled away the skin with a pocket knife, and considered my options. Then I looked down at my feet.

I think the most successful artists are those who learn to see what's closest to them, and who are not in constant search of life's grandeur. I often tell my students good photographs can be found anywhere, and frequently within an arm's length of where they are standing at that moment. I hadn't thought about these thousands of colored rocks and I had no idea they existed until I chanced to spot them.

Glistening and clean in the tidal action, these rocks are a visual symphony, and it wasn't hard to find a grouping that included a pleasing range of colors, sizes, and shapes. And here's how I made the lemonade, with assistance from the clouds: Bright colors look richer on overcast days, when there is little direct sunlight to bleach their hues. Appropriately, I pulled my close-up (macro) lens from my bag, snapped it onto my D-300 and held it above this small sampling of beach, careful to keep the camera parallel to the ground to preserve edge to edge sharpness. Remaining open to something new led me to the gate of good fortune.

January 31, 2010

Photo of the Week: Jan. 28, 2010

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: The heavens finally opened up over Israel during the past week, bringing an end to a long spell of weather so mild that fruit trees began showing blossoms on the first of January. Because I live in the mountains, some 900 meters above sea level, winter storms don't pass over us, they pass through us. The tail end of one storm left the region shrouded in thick fog, and I had a vision of creating a sort of minimalist photograph with snow white blossoms set against a sea of white smoke. By the time I found an opportunity to shoot, the fog had lifted, but left behind remnants of the fallen moisture clinging to the blossoms.

As the calendar turns to the month of Shevat, so must the almond trees bloom in Israel. Choosing one randomly not far from my home, I set up my tripod and camera mounted with a macro lens for close-range shooting. Finding an appropriate subject takes a few moments of scanning the tree until my eye catches a candidate, which must also survive further scrutiny for blemishes, torn petals, or, most importantly, distracting backgrounds. It's a delicate process maneuvering the camera close to the subject and several times I gently knocked an adjacent branch, emitting shock waves that scattered the beads of rain and ruined my subject.

In the end, I did succeed with several images, including this one, which I chose because I like the way the background mimics the mottled look of the flowers holding drops of rain. With a macro lens, the subject is often mere inches from the front of the lens and the result is very shallow depth of field, perfect for throwing everything out of focus, except for the main subject. As the full moon rises in the sky this weekend, we mark Tu B'shevat (Jan. 29-30), the new year for trees in Israel. May we continue to merit the blessing of rain and seasonal renewal.