Snow in Jerusalem

Almost every year now it snows in Jerusalem. Winters seem to be colder and colder, and this combines with Jerusalem’s altitude (about 850 meters or about 2800 feet above sea level), mean that it will be cold and blustery.

1/160 sec at f/11, ISO 100

But with every year, it becomes harder to shoot the city in the snow. First of all, the snow usually lasts about 1.5 days. The weather just isn’t cold enough to sustain snow and ice. And secondly, the city usually shuts down. Roads are closed, and people are cautioned to stay indoors. So, it’s hard to get anywhere and see anything. And third, most shots of the snow involve the Old City and snow. It’s been done a million times.

This snow storm was followed by a lot of rain, and so the snow didn’t last more than a dozen hours. On Friday afternoon, it was clear and most of the snow had melted only to be followed by another flurry in the evening. I woke up early Saturday morning and saw that the roads were clear so I immediately headed out to see if there was any snow in the desert.

1/200 sec at f/11

1/200 sec at f/11

And then I drove to Mt. Scopus (the Hebrew University) and then to the Mt. of Olives where there were some nice views.

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1/125 at f/11, 200 mm

1/2000 at f/4.0

1/2000 at f/4.0. 70 mm.

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1/500 at f/7.1, 200 mm

I then headed down to the Old City and to the Damascus Gate. For the first time in my life, I found parking directly opposite the city gate. I guess that it was too cold for the locals to venture out.

1/2000 sec at f/2.8, 25 mm

1/2000 sec at f/2.8, 25 mm

I continued to look around for some interesting angles.

1/640 sec at f/9.0, 90 mm

1/640 sec at f/9.0, 90 mm

1/500 sec. at f/9.0, 90 mm

1/500 sec. at f/9.0, 90 mm

Nahal Draga (נחל דַרְגָה) or Wadi Darja (وادي الدرجة)

This week we decided to use the pleasant winter weather and take a hike in one of the wadis (river beds) leading to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth (about 410 meters below sea level) and so the river beds which empty out into the sea are quite steep.

One of the most beautiful wadis is called Nahal Dragot and it’s about a 40 minute drive from Jerusalem. It is a 43 km long river bed and is fed by streams over a 230 sq. km. range as far away as the Golan Heights and from the Bethlehem area and is divided into three different areas. The local Bedouin tribes named each of the sections, and the part where we hiked today is the lowest part of the river bed, called Wadi Darja (وادي الدرجة), so named for its high waterfalls and high canyon walls. This section starts about 4 km. from the Dead Sea and is about 12 km. long (lots of winds and bends).

1/160 sec at f/11, 28mm

1/160 sec at f/11, 28mm

One of my favorite aspects of this hike is the different colors of the cliffs on both sides of the wadi. The reds stones and the white sands contrast with the blue skies.

1/200 sec at f/11, 28 mm

1/200 sec at f/11, 28 mm

However, the contrasts are even more striking against the deep blue of the Dead Sea.

1/800 sec at f/7.1, 90 mm

1/800 sec at f/7.1, 90 mm, looking east to Jordan

1/250 sec at f/11, 24mm

1/250 sec at f/11, 24mm

1/500 sec at f/11, 24mm

1/500 sec at f/11, 24mm

An interesting part of this river bed is a bit further inland, further from the Dead Sea. There, one can see some caves which were used during the Bar Kochba revolt (132- 136 CE).

1/320 at f/7.1, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/320 at f/7.1, 90 mm, ISO 100

This is a very dry part of the Judean Desert, and there is not a lot of flora to be found, the colors are yellowish, and there is an occasional bit of green, red, or yellow.

1/2500 at f/3.2, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/2500 at f/3.2, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/2500 sec at f/3.2, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/2500 sec at f/3.2, 90 mm, ISO 100

1/500 sec at f/7.1, 90mm

1/500 sec at f/7.1, 90mm

And, as always, my hiking companion, enjoyed himself and never complained.

1/600 at f/5.6, 100 mm, ISO 400

1/600 at f/5.6, 100 mm, ISO 400

Walls and angles

For those of us who live in Jerusalem, we see the Old City almost every day. For most of us, it still strikes us as being a sort of magical place. Kind of like being in a sort of time-travel, where cultures and religions mix, where there are constant noises and smells, and lots and lots of crowds.

Shooting the Old City is always challenging, since so many photographers have taken on the subject. I write here: “shooting the Old City” as opposed to “shooting in the Old City” since I like to try to think that the Old City is a character on its own accord. In this series of shots I tried to focus on the city walls: from the first few shots, I am standing on the Mount of Olives looking westward. This is a seldom used park, and for good reasons. You are in the heart of Eastern Jerusalem, and a bit exposed: I don’t think that I would want to shoot there unless I was in a big group (which I was).

The dominant part of the Old City is the Temple Mount or Haram El Sharif (Noble Sanctuary), as it is the home of the two prominent mosques: Mosque of Omar and El Aksa. All photos of the area include the two mosques, so I wasn’t too concerned with showing them, hence my use of a depth of field which would allow me to hint at the structures. You’d really have to know that they were there if you see the shots. So, first I’ll show the Mosque of Omar (or Dome of the Rock), and then I’ll let you see the abstraction.

(f/22, 1/60 sec, ISO 100, 80 mm).

(f/22, 1/60 sec, ISO 100, 80 mm).

I am leaving these in black and white, since I think that the mosque is so powerfully colored that I don’t want to distract from the overall scene.

(f/5.6, 1/640 sec, 100 ISO, 105 mm)

(f/5.6, 1/640 sec, 100 ISO, 105 mm)

As you get closer to the city, you can see the beauty of the walls. Many of the stones have been recycled over the ages, and I love the way they come together. I was luck this day, as there were some cloud (most of the year it is too hot for clouds).

(f/22, 1/5 sec, 100 ISO, 32 mm)

(f/22, 1/5 sec, 100 ISO, 32 mm)

Here, we’re walking from Jaffa Gate to the Zion Gate. Most of the walls were built during the Ottoman reign in Jerusalem. The walls were rebuilt between 1535 – 1538, under the orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. An interesting thing to note are the  arrowslits (or balistaria). If you notice, they are not correctly placed (they are too low and at incorrect angles): they were put in for show by the builders. They are purely ornamental.

(f/16, 1/60 sec, 100 ISO, 200 mm)

(f/16, 1/60 sec, 100 ISO, 200 mm)

Despite the monochromatic nature of the walls, there is often some color around them. The city has planted flowers where possible, and they always add some color.

(f/18, 1/40 sec, 100 ISO, 85mm)

(f/18, 1/40 sec, 100 ISO, 85mm)

In the future, I’ll add a lot more about the city walls: there’s a lot to show, and a lot of history.

When in the Old City or its environs, I don’t take Shooby: it’s too crowed and people are often not happy to see a big dog in crowded spaces. Besides, he’s always a bit stressed when in the Old City. So, no Shooby today.

Flooding in the Judean Desert

Image

This last week was one of constant rain. It began on Sunday, but it was short lived. By Wednesday, the storm was upon us, with heavy rain and gray skies.

Winters in the desert are probably the most interesting time of the year. The rain in Jerusalem naturally flows to the lowest point on Earth – namely, the Dead Sea basin. On the way eastward from Jerusalem, one passes many wadis (river beds), and as the rain in the mountains of Jerusalem pick up, the stream of water turns into a gushing river.

So, beginning on Sunday, I made it a point to travel to the Dead Sea as much as I could. I had a full schedule on Wednesday, but when I saw the heavy rains, I canceled my afternoon appointments, went home, collected my equipment, wrapped my camera in a plastic bag, got the dog, and put on my big rain boots.

My first stop was the area around Nabi Musa. This mosque named after the Moses (in Arabic: The Prophet Moses) lies on the ancient Jerusalem-Jericho road which was traditionally used by Muslims on the way to the Haj in Mecca. The current mosque was restored during the Ottoman Period in 1820.

I shot most of this series with my 18-35 mm lens along with my Lee Big Stopper. I made these into black and white for two reasons: (1) the desert is quite monochromatic and so the b/w works, and (2) being below sea level, the river beds bring down the trash from the city. Israelis and Palestinians are not too cognizant of the need to keep natural resources clean (to say the least!), so there were plastic bags and bottles. In the yellow desert, all of that plastic sticks out, but is “invisible” in b/w.

On the way eastward from Jerusalem, Nabi Musa is about 500 meters after the sea level marker (on the right).

You can see the flow beginning. In this photo we are looking westward - up the hill to Jerusalem.

You can see the flow beginning. In this photo we are looking westward – up the hill to Jerusalem. I shot this on Sunday November 15, 2014. I had originally intended to go do some chores, but saw the rain and realized that it would be a good morning for shooting. I grabbed my gear and went out (without the dog). In my haste, I forgot my Big and Little Stopper, so I had to try to slow things down (so I shot at f/22, 1/5 sec.)

A few moments of clear skies, you can see how strong the flow is in Wadi Og. (1.3 sec @ f/16, ISO 100). I love the way the Little Stopper keeps the motion. I didn't use the Big Stopper because the current was so strong.

A few moments of clear skies, you can see how strong the flow is in Wadi Og. (1.3 sec @ f/16, ISO 100). I love the way the Little Stopper keeps the motion. I didn’t use the Big Stopper because the current was so strong.

Coming back on Wednesday, and standing on the bridge, the flow is substantially stronger. Coming back on Wednesday, and standing on the bridge, the flow is substantially stronger. (1.5 sec @ f/11). I used the Little Stopper here as well.

Coming back on Wednesday, and standing on the bridge, the flow is substantially stronger. Coming back on Wednesday, and standing on the bridge, the flow is substantially stronger. (1.5 sec @ f/11). I used the Little Stopper here as well.

f/11, 1/20 sec. 16 mm, ISO 100

Shooby enjoys the water, and especially finding floating things to chase and play with. f/11, 1/20 sec. 16 mm, ISO 100