Tag Archives: Israel

My Top Five of 2014: Dog Walking a Man

As I’m not going to be around over the Christmas period, I thought I’d share the five images taken this year that I am most happy of.

The idea came to me whilst on a train home at the end of a 61 hour work week: I was fighting not to fall asleep and so began going through some photographs on my iPad in an effort to stay awake. It worked as I found myself flicking back and forth between images trying to decide which I liked more.

I thought I’d share my choice of top five over the course of the week. I hope you enjoy them.

Tel Aviv – June 2014         


Is the dog keeping up with the man, or the man with the dog? I'll never know for sure but the question keeps making me smile...

Is the dog keeping up with the man, or the man with the dog? I’ll never know for sure but the question keeps making me smile…

This image was taken in Tel Aviv in early June. I was on a training course at the headquarters of one of our vendors. The days were long and we didn’t finish before 6PM each evening which, considering that sunset was just before 8PM, meant heading straight to the local push bike rental station and a mad dash across central Tel Aviv to the beach in the hope of a hour of photography.

If you ever visit Tel Aviv – and you should as it is a great city – the beach is a must: A long golden ribbon of sand stretching from the wall of Old Jaffa to the chic bars and restaurant by the harbour. What I loved about it most was the rhythm – the palpable thrum – of humanity that could be found along its length. The old, the young and the in-between. The athletic, the office worker, the card sharks, the musicians, the friends and the lovers. Everyone was making use of the beach and, as I have described it before, for me it was the heart of the city.

One of the nice things is the beach is also west-facing, so if you like the whole ‘sun setting over the sea’ thing then you’re in luck. But I was after something a little more – well to be honest I don’t know what I really wanted, but something that summed up Tel Aviv. And there was only one thing: Youthfulness. Not of body, but of spirit.

I found a great spot up near the harbour and it seemed that it was a popular path to get down to the beach. It had this great reflection of light coming off the cobbled stones so I set up an waited for the right moment but it became obvious that I may have chosen the wrong spot as there was a near constant flow of people either heading to, or coming back from, the beach. The resulting images were a mass of ill-defined silhouettes with no focus and no real story. Still I waited and people became curious as to why I was sitting in the middle of a path, camera on tripod and not actually taking photographs. So conversations ensued luck was wished. Then it happened.

A young couple appeared over the crest of the path carrying surfboards. It was what I had been waiting for – the essence of Tel Aviv in my mind. There were very few people around and I had a clear definition of them in silhouette (I love shooting people in silhouette). They knew I was photographing them and so we got talking and they liked the image so email addresses were exchanged.

I stuck around a bit longer and I was just thinking of moving on as the light was fading when these two appeared over the crest. It made me smile even as I pressed the shutter. And it made me smile again yesterday after a long and tiring week.

Posted in Frame by Frame Also tagged , |

Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Centre

I mentioned in recent post that when in Tel Aviv I found myself drawn to two places in particular; the beach and the Azrieli Centre. I’ve written about the beach so today I just wanted to share a couple of pictures from the latter.

The Azrieli Centre, the third tower of which was completed in 2007, stands out for a couple of reasons. The first, and most obvious, is the size. At 187m, 169m and 154m respectively the towers are a fair bit taller than the few surrounding skyscrapers and significantly taller than the majority of buildings in the area. Secondly there are three of them in a tight cluster, each with a different geometric footprint: One square, one circular and one triangular. Collectively the towers serve a number of purposes, commercial office space, a hotel, Tel Aviv’s largest shopping centre and an observation deck meaning that they see constant human activity – which is rather the point of architecture. The third is that they are rather elegantly lit at night – no fancy multi-coloured affair, no patterns and definitely no flashing lights.

Here are my favourite images from my short time with the Azrieli Centre. I hope you like them.

And yes, it is technically the Azrieli Center, but I simply cannot defer to American spelling.

Azrieli Centre


Azrieli Centre


Azrieli Centre


Posted in Architecture Also tagged , , |

Finding Tel Aviv’s Heart.

Well, after the hassle of industrial action at Ben Gurion airport meant that I was delayed arriving in the UK by six hours, subsequently missing the last train home and thus flying out on my all-expenses-paid weekend trip to Barcelona, I have begun the process of recharging my batteries and adjusting to normal life.

The trip saw me first spend a week in Tel Aviv, then off to Jerusalem for a week. I also spent some time in Palestine. Whenever I could I was out with my camera. The weather was unyieldingly hot which, whilst many people’s ideal, was far from mine. It may be my Scottish blood but I much prefer the cold. I found myself struggling to concentrate on my creative side – a process difficult at the best of times.

In Tel Aviv I had the added restriction that I was there on a company funded training course and so, as eager as I was to be out and about, that had to take priority. As my old boss once said to a friend and colleague of mine: “Work life pays for home life”. Yes, with the course finishing at 6-6:30PM and sunset at approximately 8PM, photography in Tel Aviv was a fast and furious affair. Whilst nothing focusses the mind like the tick-tock of a clock, there was still the practicalities of getting from A to B to consider.

As a city, and this is in no way a criticism, Tel Aviv is pretty much the same as many other coastal Mediterranean cities, which makes photography both easy and complex. Easy in that the same type of shots that work in one city will work in another – cookie-cutter photographs; complex in that it is difficult to take a photograph that is different. As my photography has matured, I have long since stopped taking photographs that (1) are the standard tourist fare and (2) similar to photographs that someone else has taken, unless I believe I can do it better.

I’m fascinated by street art (or graffiti if you prefer) and Israel has a thriving street art scene. I’m going to write a separate piece on street art in Israel, but as I arrived in Tel Aviv, my primary objective was to shoot the street art. The other objectives were more vague – having just returned from Iceland and work consuming my evenings and weekends meant little time for researching the trip to Israel. But, in the end I became fascinated by two locations in Tel Aviv.

The first was the Azrieli Centre; a complex of three skyscrapers whose geometric simplicity is quite striking. More on this is a separate post.

The second was the beach. The last time I was on a beach (a few weeks ago) it was in Iceland at the top of the North Atlantic with ice cold water and a biting wind. This was an altogether different experience with a warm, yet cooling breeze and the much more temperature waters of the Mediterranean. My immediate feeling when I saw the beach was the it felt like everyone was there; the young, the old, the in between. joggers, volleyball players, surfers, people lounging in bars, people sitting on the golden sands, people still dressed in office clothes. Name a demographic and it was probably on the beach somewhere. To me the beach was the heart of Tel Aviv, right on the edge where land had run out.

As the beach is generally west facing, the sun set over the sea, making for the classic tourist shot of the sun hitting the horizon. As this kind of shot is a bit of a tourist cliché, it was not one that I was interested in and, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think I could take a very good one anyway. But a west-facing beach did mean one thing – a chance to do something creative with silhouettes. I like silhouette photography. A silhouette in a photograph can hide the fine detail that humans automatically look for upon seeing another human such as eyes, mouth, skin colour and symmetry. A silhouette becomes everyone. It becomes you.


Taking photographs of people can be a great way to break the ice. 1/750 sec, f/11 ISO 100

Taking photographs of people can be a great way to break the ice.
1/750 sec, f/11 ISO 100

So I found a suitable spot, set up camera and waited. The problem was, as mentioned, the beach is so popular and finding an uncluttered shot was an exercise in patience. In the end it took about an hour and 40 or shot shots to get one I liked, but when it happened I immediately knew that it represented how I saw Tel Aviv; young, healthy and enjoying life.

Of course, people become curious when  you set up a camera and, unlike a regular tourist, don’t move on after a couple of minutes. Over the course of the hour I got talking to a number of people, including a wonderful older guy and the couple above.

So, yes Tel Aviv in many ways is no different from other coastal Mediterranean cities I have been to, but the relationship that the inhabitants of Tel Aviv have with their beach does appear more intimate, perhaps even symbiotic. After all, what good is a beach without footprints in the sand?


Posted in Destinations Also tagged , , , |

Time waits for no man…

Well, back from Iceland less than a week and by now I would be running through the first pick photographs. But I’ve spent five of seven nights working – or travelling for work – and I’m off to Israel in a week. So, as amazing as Iceland was, first pick has to wait as it is time to wrap up the trip plans for Israel.

First up is a pretty major change to the itinerary. Originally it was Tel Aviv (as the course that work has put me on is there), then straight out to Jerusalem for a couple of days before moving on to Ein Bokek at the Dead Sea. But, I have long had this nagging doubt about how wise the Jerusalem/Dead Sea time split was and so, when filling in the exit form that Isreali immigration requires I began to think about changing the plan. And so I have.

Essentially, after leaving Tel Aviv, I’m basing myself in Jerusalem, giving me five full days, plus bits on the arrival and departure days. The Dead Sea is easily reachable from Jerusalem being about an hour away, less if you hire a car. So I can still travel there pretty freely. But I feel the need to just spend a more leisurely time in the capital.

The main reason for this change is likely because of the leisurely pace of Iceland. It was just so useful to be able say “I can return tomorrow, or the next day” if the weather wasn’t giving me what I was after. Now I can. In Iceland, being able to return to sites meant that I got shots that otherwise would have been missed.

I have ideas on the shots that I want to take and I know my (photographic) limits. So the shots I want to achieve willl take time – and luck – to achieve. I’ve created the time, all I now need is the luck!


Posted in Travel, Trip Planning Also tagged , , , , , |

Humble Pie at 40,000 Feet.

There’s a running joke in the office about my feelings over budget airline EasyJet. I’ll make no bones about the fact that I am most definitely a British Airways fanboy. I like their up-front costs, I like their liberal carry-on policy and have yet to have a bad experience with their cabin crew. So when I perhaps overstated my dislike of having to travel with EasyJet when flying back from Aberdeen on business, the reaction was duly noted and now comes up whenever the conversation turns to air travel.

In truth, there is no reason for me to dislike EasyJet at all. They are a budget airline like many others and certainly better than some I can mention. Indeed, since the aforementioned Aberdeen trip incident, I’ve used them a couple of times, both domestic and international. Whilst they don’t rank alongside British Airways, they are catering for a different market. And, to be perfectly frank, now that I think about it, the ‘paying for what you use’ model does have its attractions. Still, I would not go so far as to say that they are my preferred carrier.

So when I had to sit down today and book flights for the forthcoming trip to Israel, you can imagine that British Airways was first on my search list. I’m pretty liberal when spending my own money – it is my choice as to whether I pay extra for comfort – but when spending other people’s money I have to be more conservative and British Airway’s prices fell well outside ‘reasonable expenditure’, especially as there is no customer paying for this trip. It also struck me that they didn’t have much in the way of non-stop options with the majority of flights being via a stopover in Madrid, adding ten hours to the total time.

Israel’s own El Al was next. Whilst cheaper they did have some odd options for flight times. Given that the course I am attending starts Sunday morning, El Al only had two options: Fly Saturday evening at 10:40 PM – meaning arriving on the day of the course at 5:30 AM, or fly Friday morning at 9:40 AM – meaning a 4AM start. And then there was the added oddity that I had to fly out Luton, way out to the north of London, but fly back in to Gatwick, to the south, meaning that I couldn’t drive to the airport. The final nail in that particular coffin was the carry-on restrictions: Whilst they have the maximum of 55cm by 45cm by 25cm, they limit you to 8Kg – heavier than that it needs to go in the hold. My camera gear comes in nearer 12Kg – and they’d have to prise it out of my cold, dead hands before it goes anywhere near the hold of an aircraft.

So it was that I found myself on EasyJet’s web site entering the travel details when a curious thing happened. They had a direct flight on Saturday at a reasonable time – 12:25 PM. They had a reasonable price, even after adding the surcharges for hold luggage and seating and most bizarrely of all, their carry on weight limit is defined as “as much as you can safely lift above your head”. They do have a ‘guaranteed carry on size” of 50cm by 40cm by 20cm, but there are a couple of ways that you can increase this to the maximum – one of which is by simply booking extra-legroom seats. As, for a five hour flight,  that is a no-brainer in any event, it looks as if my precious carry-on will be safe.

So the flights to Tel Aviv are booked. With EasyJet.

I’ve never hear the end of it…

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The Holy Land Awaits

In the UK we have a saying about busses that goes something along the lines of “You wait ages for a bus and then three turn up at once”. I’m sure that every culture has a similar saying and we can all probably think of at least one occasion we’ve been in a ‘three busses’ situation. In many cultures it is even seen as a lucky number. In fact, for a mild OCD sufferer who craves symmetry and order, my life is surprisingly full of the number three and now so too are my travel plans it would seem, even if unintended.

Obviously I’m off to Iceland. That’s the first bus.

The second bus is that the company I work for has an incentive weekend booked ‘somewhere’ in Europe. The destination is all very hush-hush and very few people know the specifics. If the previous incentive weekends are anything to go by there will be a shocking amount of alcohol consumed and likely end up with some terribly embarrassing moments. But, it will also be a chance to get in some urban photography and I have already got some shots lined up.

Bus number three came as a big surprise and one I only found out about on Friday. I’ve been booked on a course at the head office of one of our company’s vendors. So, it would appear that I’m off to Israel  – Tel Aviv to be precise – in June! Despite being there to work, the benefit of travelling there in June is that daylight hours extend well into the evening and so I’m guessing that, even if I were to only stay for the duration of the course, I would get plenty of photographic sightseeing under my belt. It does go without saying, however, that I immediately booked the following week as holiday and so I have some dedicated time too. And now that I have had time to think about it, this trip has some rather fortuitous side effects.

For a start, I’ve had the outline of a trip to Jordan planned for ages but have never quite got round to seeing it through, mainly because I am a cold-weather person and, let’s be realistic, Jordan isn’t exactly known for its cold climate. Whilst Israel is obviously not going to be confused with Jordan, nor any cooler, one of the key stops on the Jordan itinerary was the Dead Sea, which conveniently has the majority of its shoreline in Israel. The last time I was at the Dead Sea was circa 1982 and far too young to appreciate it – or really remember it to be honest.

The next point is that Jerusalem isn’t too far from Tel Aviv – about an hour by bus in fact. Again, last time I was there was over three decades ago and so I only have dim recollections of the experience. A cursory Google would suggest that, whilst time and ‘progress’ has meant  that Jerusalem has inevitably modernised, it does seem to be largely confined to ‘new’ Jerusalem, leaving the old city as was. In any event,  you really can’t not go if you are in Israel, can you?

So, I’ve busied myself this weekend getting accommodation booked in Jerusalem and at the Dead Sea. There is still a lot of planning to do; travel plans between places, and ‘A’ and ‘B’ site lists being the most pressing. Still, it is all very exciting…

Posted in Travel, Trip Planning Also tagged , , , |