Israel is a pretty small country. Its length is about 700km and the average width is a few dozens of kilometers. Despite being quite small, Israel has a wide range of different and unique landscapes. From arid deserts in the south, through Mediterranean beaches in its center, to lush forests and snowy peaks in the north. I’ve been photographing Israel’s landscapes for a few years now. I usually use wide angle lenses to get deep perspectives and often use ND filters to achieve long exposure during daytime and graduated ND filters to balance bright skies and darker foregrounds. Driving a few hours in any direction can get you to very special places.
1) Visit the Highlights of Israel
Israel is famous in many locations, some are ancient and religious like Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee and some are geologically famous like the Dead Sea – the lowest place on earth and one of the saltiest seas in the world. The Dead Sea came close to being one of the 7 wonders of the world and it is undoubtedly one of the best and special places for landscape photography in Israel. This inland drying sea leaves extraordinary formations and textures of salt on its shores.
My main goal in this shot was to enhance the remarkable texture of the salt fingers surrounding the calm puddle inside with the sun rising in the background. Using a wide angle lens I shot about 50cm away from the puddle in order to enlarge it and the salt textures. Getting the small crack going from bottom right corner into the puddle and on to the sea also contributed for smooth eye flow from foreground to background. Shooting for 102 seconds enabled me to get the smooth and silky light in the sea.
2) Explore the National Parks
Israel is abundant with national parks and nature reserves with great landscapes. One of the best parks and a place known from the times of the bible is “Timna” park. This desert area in the southernmost part of Israel contains unique geological phenomenas. A mushroom shaped rock is its famous icon.
The greatest challenge in getting a good night shot is getting enough light. For this one I used high ISO, the widest aperture of my lens and 60 seconds of exposure. Shooting at ground level and a few meters away from the rock (while illuminating it with a torch) enabled me to direct the lens up and compose the mushroom and the Milky Way in the frame.
3) Camp and Enjoy the Best Light
You can camp almost anywhere in Israel. It is mostly free and when you get to national parks you always have marked camping grounds. Camping allows you to stay close to the best spots and photograph them in great light like sun rise/set. A great place to photograph and camp nearby is Nitzana. Located near the border with Egypt, This was once a settlement used by the Nabathaean people who were traders that established the “Incense road” between Asia and Europe. Today the area is a stronghold of one of the last large sand dunes in Israel.
As the sun was setting behind this large dune, painting the sand and the sky with great colors I took the shot standing on the edge of the dunes two sides. The main thing here was to compose the great guide line of the dunes edge going into the sunset and the great texture of the sand. To do so I came close to the sand in order to enlarge the foreground. It was necessary to use a narrow aperture to achieve large depth of field while focusing about 40cm ahead on the sand.
4) Rent a Car
There’s nothing like easily getting to wherever you want. You can drive almost anywhere in Israel right up to the best places. One of those places is Dor-Habonim beach, a 5km stretch of beach in the center of Israel where sandstone rocks meet the Mediterranean Sea and create fantastic rock reefs.
This little crevice in the rocks is much smaller than it looks. It is about 30-40cm from “fin” to “fin”. Again, using a wide angle lens I was able to emphasize the foreground by getting close to it. I also wanted to emphasize the rocks against the water so doing a long exposure with an 8 stops ND I managed to flatten the sea completely, making the water smooth and misty and also getting the movement of the clouds.
5) Go on a Hike
Some of the best places are only accessible by foot. Many are worth the effort, even if it’s a bit long. When spring arrives, flowers blossom at “Ella” valley. A place in the center of Israel that buffers between Mediterranean climate and the deserts in the south. It is abundant in seasonal blossoms.
Lupines have a spectacular blossom and can grow very dense. This shot was all about getting close and standing inside this carpet of flowers with a wide angle to capture as much as I can. The big challenge was to overcome the light differences between the sunset and the foreground for which I used a reverse graduated ND filter.