Photography Tips for Israel

Trip Start May 14, 2008
Trip End Jun 17, 2008

Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines

Flag of Israel  ,
Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Israel is a land of contrasts and from the perspective of photography, this is no exception.  You will be in dark shade in a marketplace and then bright light visiting an archaeological site.  Maybe you will be in dark shade, but part of the image will be in bright light as in a museum looking out to a courtyard.   And then there are those photos of the countryside taken from a moving car.  Yes, photographically Israel offers many challenges!

I am not a professional photographer, but someone who has a keen interest in photography.  There is no question that when I am looking through the viewfinder, I am 100% focusing on the present moment and what I see in front of me.  I love that.  When we are traveling, I take images intuitively.  I let the images find me and anything that looks interesting, I shoot.    Maybe an image takes 1/60 of a second in shutter speed to take.  When I get back home and look at the images, I can then spend as much time as I want to look at each image.  I am often surprised at how much more I see in a place we have visited when I can just sit and look at the images on the computer screen; I often see things I had not noticed at the time of capture!  What a way to continue to enjoy a trip!

I keep a reference sheet with me of basic settings and things to remember.  I refresh myself before a trip and upon our return; I update the list after reviewing the images.  In this way, I keep learning.  I offer this list to those amateurs, like myself.  If you have any suggestions or comments, I would appreciate hearing from you!   
        ISO 100 or 200         
        Expose for highlights so they are not blown out; check histogram; may need to use exposure compensation feature on camera and underexpose 1/3 - 2/3 stop.
        Can be tough to see the LCD display.  Hoodman loupe is helpful (see equipment below)
        In general, shoot with aperture of f/8 or f/11
Examples: Rosh HaNiqra grottoes, Marketplace in Jerusalem, Western Wall Tunnel Tour, Megiddo Tunnel, submarine in Haifa
        Without a tripod or monopod, you will need to hold your camera steady in very dark shade.  Image stabilized lens will help, but practice holding your camera steady and learn what shutter speed you need to get a sharp image in deep shade.  Practice this at home before your trip.
        High ISO.  Depending on the light, it could be 800, 1600 or 3200.  Know your camera and the ISO that it can handle without much digital noise. 
        Set Shutter speed.  Set camera to shutter priority and use the setting that you feel confident in as a result of your testing.  For example, I can use at least a shutter speed of 1/60 with an image stabilized 24-105mm lens and get a sharp image. 
        Try Program mode that allows you to scroll through different combinations of shutter and aperture; I will always choose a shutter speed that I feel will yield a sharp image.
         Set drive mode to Continuous.  If you have a high speed continuous mode choose that.  Shoot 3 images.  Usually the middle image will be the sharpest.  This is a handy technique and has yielded images that otherwise would have been discarded. 
        Use the histogram and to make sure you have enough detail in the left side which is the shadows.  Once you've gotten it right for the location, you can shoot with the same settings!
        Look at the image in the display and make sure that you have what you want in focus.  Blow the image up on the LCD so you can if things are really in focus.  Sometimes the shutter speed is sufficient to create a sharp section, but it really needs more depth of field for the entire image to be sharp (if that is what you want).  I was really disappointed in the number of images I had to discard at the Jerusalem streets leading to the Western Wall.  If I had done a few test shots when we first started walking through and checked the LCD carefully, I could have made the adjustments and had more keepers!  In this environment particularly, it is not only deep shade but you are also taking candid''ve got to be quick! An ISO of 400 didn't cut it. 
        Be prepared to play with the settings and see what you like.
Examples:  Tel Hazor, Rosh HaNiqra grottoes
        Bracket, taking 3 images, each with a different exposure.
        Continuous mode will enable these to be taken in quick succession.
        Choose ISO of 400, 800, 1600, 3200 depending upon the conditions and what need to get an acceptable shutter speed
        Consider that if you really like the images, then you can process them in Photoshop choosing the best exposed portion of each image and combine them into one image to reflect how the eye actually saw it
        Look at the histogram and the LCD and make sure that you have at least one image that is properly exposed for the highlights
        Be prepared to play with the settings and see what you like.
        Continuous mode, take at least 3 shots so if anyone is blinking, will likely have one keeper.  This approach will also give you a choice of expressions.
        Portraits.  At least an aperture of 5.6 so that the nose to the ears will be in focus.  If an environmental portrait, go for aperture of 8, 11 or 16.
        For an environmental portrait with the wide angle 10-22mm lens, don't use the 10mm extreme wide angle since people look distorted.
        Check histogram to make sure highlights are not blown out and the shadows still have detail.
        Remember to move around your subject to get the best background and lighting.
Take a quick snapshot of everyone you talk to.  Sometimes, it is not till after you have left the person that you realize how cool or interesting they were and how you wish you had their photo. 
Try to get a photograph of both of us together each day.  Be more playful and stage some photos; for example, it might have been fun to have one of ourselves in the Akko Turkish bath sculpture photo.
Remember to take a photo of signs so that it's easier when you are looking at the photos on the computer to know where they were taken; they also help to tell a story in a gallery.
Let the images find you.  If something attracts your eye, shoot!  Don't hesitate!  Shoot!
Examples: Jordan, Leaving Galilee
        Get the settings for the lighting and car speed by taking some test shots.  Make adjustments until your images are sharp.   Then you'll be ready to just shoot!
        ISO 400 minimum.  More likely the magic ISO will be 800 or 1600.  Aperture of f/8 or f/11. 
        If the front windshield of the car is dirty, be prepared to do clean up the images in the computer.
        Shoot from the side windows with the window down.  This way you will not have any window glare or dirt to contend with in post processing in the computer.
        The car is moving so quickly, that it is not possible to look through the viewfinder and shoot.  If you are driving through a town with lots of people, if they do not see you looking through the camera lens, they will not realize you are taking photos and the images will be candids.  Stabilize the camera as much as you can and point it where you want.  Recognize that you will have to do cropping and straightening in the computer, but you will have the shot!
        If the landscape is interesting, choose a period of time, say every 5 minutes, and take a photo as you are driving.  Whatever is there, will be there and you will have a record of your road trip.  Looking back at the photos from home, you may notice some cool things.
        Always look forward in the car to anticipate something of interest that you may want to shoot.  Get ready to shoot as you drive by! 
Change ISO: used 400, 800, 1600, 3200
Exposure compensation
Continuous mode
Program mode so that can scroll through shutter speeds/apertures, shutter priority or aperture priority

Digital SLR.  Canon 40D and 20D.  We had purchased the 40D for the trip and decided to bring the 20D so that we would not have to make as many lens changes, particularly in the desert.

Image stabilized lenses, 24-105mm, 70-300mm.  Also wide angle 10-22mm.

Dust on the lens was a constant issue, especially in the desert and dry hiking trails where we were kicking up dirt:  I carry a compact lens cleaner called Lenspen.

Dust on the digital sensor.  When changing lenses, make sure you turn off your camera and face it away from the wind.  Even so, I did get dust on the sensor on the 20D and had to manually remove it.  The products from Visible Dust are great for traveling. Make sure you watch the video and bring the instructions with you on the trip.

Hoodman loupe for seeing LCD display in bright sunlight.

Flash media cards.  I carry a lot of these!   On this trip, we took a total of 8,740 photos in 33 days.  That is an average of about 275 photos per day.  There were 5 days where we took less than 25 photos.  There was one day that we took 1,085!

Extra camera batteries

Battery charger and converter/plug for Israel

Camera manuals

Laptop.  I brought a Macbook Pro to upload our photos daily. 

Backup portable hard drive.  When I uploaded to the laptop, I also uploaded to the portable drive.

Adobe Lightroom for cataloging the images, processing the images (dust spot removal, straightening, recovering some highlights, opening up some shadows, sharpening, white balance) and creating web galleries

No off camera flash; actually used the on-camera flash rarely

No tripod or monopod!  I did however bring a strap pod, but kept forgetting to use it!

My quick & dirty reference sheet (that's the first part of this document!)
At least one extra power adapter for the laptop!
Waterproof disposable camera for the Dead Sea - film would be fine for this purpose.  Can always scan the images when get back home.
Waterproof digital point and shoot.  For canyons in Jordan and times we were in swimming pools.
Digital audio recorder for some of the music we heard as well as recording comments during the day.  We already have voice recognition software that will take those audio comments and convert them into text in a Microsoft Word.
Here are some alternatives for studying photography, no matter where you live in the world.  Isn't the internet just fantastic!
        On line photography courses at
o       The traveling photography course by Brenda Tharp is excellent!
o       There are a wide variety of course offerings and people from all over the world participate.  All you need is internet access and a digital camera.
        On line photography courses at
I took the course offered by Bryan Peterson on "Understanding Exposure" when it was offered on  It was excellent!  After that course, I still needed a lot of practice, but at least I understood what I was doing.
        Workshops by Vincent Versace have changed how I see.  He teaches workshops and also offers excellent DVD training that combines photography and Photoshop.  You can sign up for his newsletter.  Check out:
        John Paul Caponigro is also an excellent teacher and has a newsletter which you can sign up for on his website.  Check out
Report as Spam


freddies_world on

These are really great tips. I have been looking for something like this for a while since i'm getting more into taking pictures.


laorfamily on

Wonderful blog
Wonderful blog, sounds like you guys had a great time (and you sure did a lot).

painterlaura2 on

Wonderful tips - almost ready to leave and do want to have great photographs on my return. Thanks

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: