January 14, 2012

Photos of the Week: Jan. 12, 2012

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: For those of us who live in a winter climate, the first blossoms of spring are always a welcome sight. In Israel, the almond tree is the traditional harbinger of spring, as pink and white-tipped new buds and even full flowers often appear weeks ahead of other trees. To me, it's as if they are saying, "We know it's cold here in January, but we're going to bloom anyway." They flash their strength and beauty during the darkest days of the year, despite the cool air and limited sunlight.

Almond trees grow wild in Israel and are abundant in the Judean Mountains south of Jerusalem, where I make my home. I shot these buds and blossom 10 minutes apart on the same day after venturing out into a thick fog during a winter squall. It was midday, and these images convey the mood of those moments: dark and damp, yet powerfully fragrant and bursting with hope as the new growing season emerges. I used a tripod and chose a wide aperture to keep the depth of field to a minimum, which creates a soft, clean background and trains the viewer's eye on the drops of dew clinging to the delicate petals.

Upper photo: Nikon D-300, 28-105 mm macro at 105 mm, f5 @1/320th sec., ISO 400.
Lower photo: Nikon D-300, 28-105 mm macro at 98 mm, f5 @1/800th sec., ISO 400.

Photo of the Week: Jan. 3, 2012

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Many years ago I was privileged to join marine biologists on an excursion to photograph tail markings on Humpback whales off the coast of San Francisco. After travelling to a site in the open sea, we waited, drifting in the still water. All of a sudden, a giant whale flew out of the depths, twisted onto its side and crashed back into the sea. It's called a breach and it was the most exhilarating encounter I've ever had with wildlife, and that includes a few bear skirmishes in the Sierra Nevada and Tetons in the Western United States. I understood in that moment why humans have such a passion for these immense sea creatures.

Wildlife in Israel is slightly less dramatic, but there are a few locales where the native inhabitants don't immediately flee human visitors. Nubian Ibex, the wild goats which inhabit dry, desert mountainous regions, are familiar to visitors of Ein Gedi and Ein Avdat, the Negev canyon where this image of a large male was taken. Ibex are diurnal, which means they are active during the day, which greatly increases the opportunity to view one or an entire herd as they forage for leaves and grass or perhaps sip from a spring.

This head shot is no less a portrait than if my subject had been a person. I like this angle because it shows off the unique features of the animal, particularly the large, distinctively notched horns and the scraggly, two-colored beard. Although he was carefully eyeing me from about 10 meters away, I remained calm and moved slowly, enabling me to get several good shots before parting company.

TECHNICAL DATA: Nikon D-70, 70-300mm zoom at 180mm, f9 @1/125th sec., ISO 400.

Photos of the Week: Dec. 26, 2011

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: I've always loved travelling to new places and setting out on foot, directionless, with only my curiosity to guide my steps. Walking will always be the slowest means of moving about and always the best way to slow one's pace and observe. There is great adventure in photography, and it's not just the chance that you'll take a satisfying picture, but that you might just notice something you haven't seen before or maybe see things in a new light.

The Rova, the Jewish quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, where these two photos were taken, is at its glowing best on Chanukah. The exotic living spaces built of ancient and modern stones make wandering the alleyways an ever-rewarding adventure. The mitzvah of "pirsumei nes," publicizing the miracle, makes every menorah easily visible and accessible to the photographer. Some families have resorted to elaborate structures to keep the oil burning in cramped conditions. Others have modified their homes to accommodate the burning lights. Take a stroll. Take a picture or two if you desire. Or simply bask in the glow of a big miracle that is happening here.

Chanukah Sameach

Technical Data:
Upper photo: Nikon D700, 28-105 zoom at 105mm, f14 @ 0.4 sec., ISO 400.
Lower photo: Nikon D700, 50mm prime lens, f5 @ 1/125 sec., ISO 1600.