December 22, 2013

Photo of the Week: Dec. 19, 2013

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: There is the calm before the storm. There is also the calm during the storm, not in the eye of the hurricane, but rather in the silence of industrialized civilization sliding to an icy halt. And then there is the calm after the storm, as anxiety wanes and routine returns. The full moon rose over the white Judean Mountains on Monday evening, slowly and serenely and, not unlike Noah’s great rainbow, it shone a bright beacon across snowy hills, signalling that nature’s fury had subsided.

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For photographers, the biggest snowstorm to hit Jerusalem in 150 years provided ample entertainment as well as immaculate atmospheric conditions, following the storm’s departure, for wintry crisp and clear pictures. When it is full, the moon rises in tandem with the sun’s disappearance on the opposite horizon. It is well illuminated by the sun throughout the night – rising yellow or orange depending on the amount of atmospheric haze – and gaining brightness as it ascends in the sky. Though not apparent to the human eye, the moon moves quickly so that a fast shutter speed (generally 1/125th sec. or faster) is required to capture a sharp rendering of details.

This photo was shot about 20 minutes after the moon appeared on the eastern horizon using a 135mm prime lens to enlarge it and bring it a bit “closer.” I also waited for the moon rise higher so that it would cast some glow on the snow-drenched hills and perhaps even catch of glimpse of China’s Jade Rabbit crater hopping on high.
TECHNICAL DATA: Camera: Nikon D700, tripod mounted, manual exposure, evaluative metering mode. Raw file converted to Jpeg. Lens: Nikon 135mm DC, f/8 at 1/200th sec., ISO 400. Date: Dec. 16, 2013, 4:38 p.m. Location: Efrat, Gush Etzion.

December 11, 2013

Photo of the Week: Dec. 13, 2013

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Nothing illustrates nature’s ephemeral beauty quite like a snowstorm in the Middle East. Although temperatures frequently approach freezing during winter here, the conditions for snow accumulation only converge about once every three years.  And when snow does fall, it usually vanishes entirely within a day. The upside is most everyone loves the heck out of it, especially kids, who get to skip school and frolic outdoors.

From a creative perspective, snow transforms the landscape into something entirely new, full of promise and adventure as every rock, branch and leaf takes on a new personality. Over the past decade, grapevines have become the plant of choice for farmers working the hills of Gush Etzion, just south of Jerusalem. They drop their leaves in fall and require careful pruning to boost fruit growth. These vines have received their winter haircuts and the numerous spindly tendrils hold the powdery snow in tender balance. 

Snow is one of the trickier subjects for cameras to handle, because, in short, the camera doesn’t know that it’s supposed to be white.  Because snow is so bright and reflective, the camera underexposes the scene and snow will appear muddy, dull and gray. To override this problem, it’s best to force an overexposure – by using either exposure compensation or adjusting manually – by at least one stop, probably two, depending on how much of the scene includes white. Having mastered that, you can set your camera aside and get to work on the snowman. 

TECHNICAL DATA:Camera: Nikon D70, tripod-mounted, center-weighted metering mode. Raw file converted to Jpeg. Lens: Nikon 70-300 zoom at 180 mm, f/11 at 1/400 sec., ISO 400. Date: Dec. 28, 2006, 8:52 a.m. Location: Gush Etzion, Judean Mountains near Efrat.

November 29, 2013

Photo of the Week: Nov. 27, 2013

HOW I GOT THE SHOT: Visual communication is a complex language that few people ever formally train to use. Yet, intuitively, we understand imagery when it is directed at us, much as we might understand someone speaking to us in a foreign language even though we may recognize only a word or two. If I were to publish this photograph in July, it might take a few moments to identify the subject. This week, however, focused as we are on Chanukah holiday, even the abstract rendering of a familiar object is readily apparent.

The best visual communication is clear and simple. This photograph began with an empty canvas – a stone wall outside my home that lit up in the waning moments of daylight each afternoon. I positioned myself facing the light and spun a dreidel. I used a slow shutter speed (1/15th sec.) to reveal the spinning action. I knew the subject would not be captured in focus, which simplified my job because I didn’t have to worry about pinpointing the focus on the subject, which darted across the wall as it spun. The elongated triangular shadow cast by the dreidel serves the image perfectly by leading the viewer’s eye directly to my target.

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Although I could not see them while shooting, interesting light patterns formed on the handle and base as the silver reflected the sunlight. May we merit this Chanukah to be blessed with light shining on our lives and our nation from unexpected sources.
TECHNICAL DATA:Camera: Nikon D300, hand held, center-weighted metering mode. Raw file converted to Jpeg. Lens: Nikon 28-105 zoom at 98mm, f/29 at 1/15th sec., ISO 100. Date: Dec. 4, 2008, 3:3e1 p.m. Location: Efrat, Gush Etzion.

November 20, 2013

Photo of the Week: Nov. 20, 2013

HOW I GOT THE SHOT:This photo is nearly perfect. Why? Because when I look at it, I can feel the air and smell the pungent evergreens and hear the crunch of rock underfoot. Pictures of the special places or people in our lives speak powerfully to us and conjure strong emotions stirred by memories collected over a lifetime.

On the western outskirts of Jerusalem lies one of the city’s natural treasures, Sataf, a spring-fed, verdant hillside whose crowning attraction, for me anyway, is an eight-kilometer loop trail circling Mt. Eitan, which I walk about once a month. Sataf was one of the first parks I discovered when I arrived in Israel 15 years ago. The circuit trail that winds through a heavily forested section of the Judean Mountains features long views, stunning light and large doses of silence. I am acutely reminded of my days residing on the northern California coast near San Francisco. And while I prefer to exercise without a camera, I brought it along just once, because I had seen the light dance across the path and on this jaunt, I shot but one frame, having been to the spot on a previous visit and thus having already done the work except for taking the shot.

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This photo was made about 30 minutes before sunset as sunlight gently graces the path and trees. The soft winter sunlight illuminates the cluster of trees in the background with crystal clarity, just where the eye ends up after travelling the dirt path into the photo’s depth. Another perfect example of how even a common or, dare I say, cliche subject such as a path through the woods can be transformed by recognizing and utilizing the beautiful afternoon light.
TECHNICAL DATA:Camera: Nikon D700, hand held, center-weighted metering mode. Raw file converted to Jpeg. Lens: Nikon 28-105 zoom at 28mm, f/13 at 1/60sec., ISO 400. Date: Oct 20, 2013, 5:05 p.m. Location: Sataf, Judean Mountains near Jerusalem.