Of all the places Israel has got to offer in terms of photography, Jerusalem exceeds all of them and the old city is by far a Mecca for photographers, You can wander around endlessly and always discover something new. Be careful you might be affected by the famous “Jerusalem syndrome”, Since all your senses will be working over time and you will get a rush of adrenaline while exploring the different quarters and watching fascinating faces pass by.
In the city of god, religion is everywhere! The old city is only less than one square kilometer and probably has more religious sites in the world per meter than anywhere in the world.
Around the old city there are many interesting neighborhoods and locations to discover. In the recent years there has been a rise in the number of tourists due to cheaper airfares and less security problems- walking in the old city is safe!
Walk on almost any street in Jerusalem and you’ll find an eye-popping array of fascinating subjects. Along the streets of the Muslim and Christian quarters you’ll find people at work, pilgrims carrying crosses along the Via Dolorosa route, Hasidic religious Jews walking with a bible covering their faces. You’ll find the faded glory of Jerusalem's old buildings, colorful doors, and an abundance shops and fabrics which present a perfect backdrop for your street scenes. Another picturesque touch is the cobble stoned streets and lime stone brick houses lining the roads adding texture a pattern to the surroundings.
To capture these street scenes, it is best to work with just one lens, preferably a zoom lens (24mm to 70mm) this enables you to more easily frame a composition. I always advise people to think in terms of an overview or establishing a shot that gives a sense of the place, Since the streets and buildings won’t go anywhere, take the time to evaluate the light you’re working with and avoid high-contrast situations that you can’t correct even in after-capture. Or just stay on the shady side of the street.
As you walk along the streets, You’ll find people standing in doorways, sitting on the steps of houses, or performing various tasks. Try for a variety of shots, showing people in their surroundings and also close ups, even aiming for portraits. Be aware of what’s behind your subject so it doesn’t distract from your image . For example, you may want to blur out a busy scene so the person you’re photographing stands out in such a case you will need shallow depth of field.
Of course, you won’t want to limit yourself to static subjects and there’s plenty of movement to capture in Jerusalem. To capture motion of this kind, use a fast shutter speed (at least 1/500th second) if you want to freeze the movement or a slower shutter speed (1/60th second) to either capture a partial blur or to pan with your subject’s movement. Experiment with these techniques to see which results you like.
Wherever you go, you’ll find a wonderful array of people of all ages. These are often people whose faces have great character so make sure to work on your social skills. Generally, people are very approachable and cooperative so don’t be shy about getting close and personal. If you want, you can ask permission or just point to your camera and smile to make sure you have a willing subject. If you are lucky enough to have a guide, ask them to help you with breaking down any potential barriers. This really tends to work well where a guide is both known and respected. Having a local with you will really help to open up doors. And, if your guide does agree to help you to arrange some shots, avoid hiding behind your camera. Engage in the conversation with smiles and welcoming gestures that will make the person you are photographing feel more comfortable in your presence this will lead to more natural results. Whether you’re using a fancy DSLR or your phone, let these special people shots come to you. In other words, waiting for the right moment to ask for a photo will increase the odds of getting permission.
If you would like to photograph a person close up – always ask permission. Begin by trying to establish a rapport by engaging in conversation before you bring your camera up to eye level. Smiling and simple communication, if only with body language, works best. You are far more likely to get a yes this way. And, if the answer is no, smile and nod before you turn away to find your next shot.
The best time to shoot
Get up early and beat the crowds. There is no getting around the fact the very best time to shoot any of the major landmarks in Jerusalem is in the hours around dawn. Up until 8.30am the streets are relatively clear, when it gets busy look for the alleyways.
On a good day, the light is soft and golden but because of the narrow alleys and tallish buildings you will run into problems with contrast.
Jerusalem is an enigma, a beautiful, old city that can ironically, be hard to shoot. To get the best out of it, concentrate on one area at a time rather than trying to rush to as many locations as possible.
When the sun is harsh try and experiment – light traps. Meter the light from the lit pavement, and wait for your subject to be trapped in the light.
Some useful tips
Manual settings will allow the most creative control for the photographer. But don’t be afraid to put your camera to Aperture or Shutter Priority settings. I have found this especially useful whilst wandering the busy streets of the old city where photo opportunities can come and go very quickly. These settings will allow you to invest more time over composing your photograph, instead of spending valuable time balancing exposure.
# Follow the light! Scout for locations and return the next day with the perfect light desired.
# Check the calendar ! Almost every day is holiday For one of the 3 religions. Taking photos of Jewish people on Sabbath is a big no no.
# Learn some basic words in Arabic and in Hebrew.
# Be respectful! Spread good Karma and you will be rewarded.
# Instead of saying cheese, say batich ( watermelon in Arabic) to get a nice smile