The Dead Sea, Israel
Time / Date:
4:47:57 PM / December 25, 2013
Camera Body: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon EF 35mm f/1.4
Shutter Speed: 1/125
Focal Length: 35mm
In December 2013, I spent ten days on a group trip to Israel as part of Birthright. For those not familiar, if you can prove that you have Jewish heritage/ancestry, you are eligible for a free trip to Israel through various groups. I had been putting off applying for the trip for years, but I am coming close to aging out of being eligible, so I finally applied and was accepted onto a trip before the end of 2013. During my time there, we were shuttled throughout the entire country, cramming in every sight that we could possible get. I used this free trip as an opportunity to photograph my surroundings and also the group I traveled with. Unfortunately we were running a bit behind and our time at the Dead Sea was pretty limited, but I still had time to not only cover myself in mud and float in the sea, but also shoot some images.
This image was taken right before the beach closed for the day. Before you enter the sea, there is a giant mud pit that they encourage you to enter and cover yourself in. The mud supposedly is not only great for your skin, but also apparently has the ability to ease muscular pain and joint issues. People often cover themselves head to toe in mud and then float in the sea for as long as they can. We were running short on time, so our group was rushing to wash off the mud before getting back on our tour bus. I loved the look of the shower intensely spraying while everyone was rushing to clean off. That combined with the grey, overcast day gave everything a nice soft look and my eye was immediately attracted to this scene.
I brought three cameras for this trip, the Canon 5D Mark II, a Mamiya 6 Medium Format Rangefinder, and a 35mm Yashica T4 (which unfortunately died on the last day of the trip, on my last exposure, of my last roll of film). For the 5D I was shooting strictly with the 24-70mm f/2.8 and the 35mm f/1.4 and occasionally using a Tiffen 77mm 1.2 Neutral Density Adapter (I bought an adapter so I could use it on my 35mm which has a 72mm thread). I knew I wanted to shoot as much as possible with film and digital, so I was often switching between different cameras and film to try and get as much as I could. Since we had limited time, I was shooting mostly with my digital camera at the Dead Sea.
Making the Shot:
This image was made during the end of the day as the sun was beginning to set. It was an overcast as well which gave a nice even, soft light to everything. My eye was drawn to this shower scene and I simply found a place to stand and a composition that I thought was nice and just rapidly took a bunch of images. I didn’t want to influence the scene and ask the subject to pose, so I simply fired off a ton of shots and hoped I got something I was happy with. Thankfully these were all people from my trip, so they were used to me taking photos of our surroundings and them constantly.
Editing & Processing:
I edit with Lightroom 4 and occasionally Photoshop CS3. My editing process is pretty quick and straightforward. I like warm, contrasty images. For this image I warmed up the color temperature a bit and adjusted the Tone Curve to bring out the lights and lower the darks. I frequently do this with the Tone Curve to exaggerate contrast instead of just messing with the “Contrast” slider since I feel like I get better results for what I am looking for. I also did a bit of a work in the “PostCrop Vignetting” section by bringing down the highlight priority amount just a touch. I do this to exaggerate the depth of field, especially when shooting with the 35mm f/1.4 lens. This image came out very crisp and sharp at f/2.2 and I just wanted to amplify that a bit more.
I chose this image since I felt it had the perfect combination of expression, background, and water spraying that I was looking for. According to my Lightroom catalog, I took 16 images in a row of this scene and this particular image stood out the most. I’ve been trying to push myself in my personal work to act more like a fly on the wall and this type of image helps me realize that I can get over my nerves and photograph people without being self conscious. It’s something I aim and strive for whenever I pick up a camera and getting an image like this that I am happy with only serves to reinforce that.
The biggest part of making this image was that I was able to see it in my head before I even pressed the shutter. I knew the image I wanted to get, so I went for it. Previsualizing a scene and knowing what you want to get out of it is a skill that I am still working on, but over the years I have realized its one of the most important aspects of photography. Whether I’m working on personal or paid work, I alway try to go into a shoot knowing that I want to get out of it. That being said, I’m always open to another setup or idea happening, but it helps to have an image in mind and push for that when you’re working. Thankfully for this image, it was pretty straightforward and the scene basically set up itself. If only it were always that easy all the time!
I am constantly looking at other peoples work to see who is shooting what, who is coming up, what I like, etc. I follow a lot of photo blogs and photographers on social media and just try to keep me ear to the ground. It’s great finding someone as they are starting out and really watching them evolve quickly and get better and better. Someone like Bobby Doherty is a great example of this. I stumbled onto his work a year or two ago and now he’s shooting incredible work on a weekly basis for NY Mag. I also think introspection is also incredibly important and I look over my old work on a regular basis to see how I can improve and what I should be working on.
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