Category Archives: Desert

In the Large Makhtesh

Unique to the Negev and Sinai deserts, a makhtesh has steep walls of resistant rock (limestone and dolomite) surrounding a deep closed valley that was created when the core of softer rock (in this case colored sandstone)  was eroded and carried away by a stream bed. Here are three photos that were taken in the Large Makhtesh, in an area that used to be called “Petrified Trees” but has been updated to the more scientific description “Quartz Arenite” rocks. Each photo was taken at the same time of year (in January), two on the same day. Photography is about capturing light – what I find so interesting is that the three scenes look so different and express such different moods.

Petrified tree, Large Makhtesh

The technical details – the photo was taken 10 years ago with a Nikon E4300 point and shoot camera in January (ISO 100, 8mm, F7.6 at 1/219 sec).

This month I did a photoshoot in the makhtesh with friend and photographer, Yehoshua HaLevi. We went to the same site and took photos. We had such a great time that we’re offering to take a small number of photographers there on a makhtesh workshop and tour.


This time a Nikon 5300 DSLR, ISO 400, 20mm, F11, 1/320 sec.


ISO 400, 28mm, F10 at 1/250 sec.

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Great Makhtesh Photography Adventure


Great Makhtesh PAdvSunrise to sunset photography workshop and guided tour

Professional photographer Yehoshua Halevi and licensed tour guide Shmuel Browns host this full day adventure tour of the remarkable Makhtesh HaGadol, the Large Crater, in Israel’s Negev Desert. Next date is Feb 21, 2016.

Our journey begins before dawn in order to arrive at our first destination for sunrise and the golden hours of first light striking the magnificent Colored Sands region.

We’ll mount our cameras on tripods and sip coffee while marveling at the colorful landscape as it comes alive at the optimal moment. Shmuel and Yehoshua will offer insight into the history, geology, and current importance of this region as well as guided instruction for capturing dramatic photographic images.

Our adventure continues with visits to the quartz arenite rocks, where we will photograph 200 million year old fossilized rock formations and an additional stop at Ein Yorke’am for a short hike and exploration of this desert oasis.

We’ll stay to photograph sunset in the makhtesh and then drive back to Jerusalem.

Details and Cost

This workshop is appropriate for all skill levels. Photographic instruction will cover a broad range of topics and techniques for nature and landscape photography as well as visual skill development, recognizing good light and how to use it and composition.

A tripod is recommended for this tour, but not required.

The workshop is limited to 8 participants in order to guarantee individualized attention and includes feedback and follow-up critique via email.

Fee for this full-day, 12-hour workshop and tour is specially priced at 650 NIS (about US $165.).

A 150 NIS deposit is required to confirm a place in the workshop. The balance is due the day of the workshop.

Registration Details

For additional details, you can call Yehoshua at 054 637-2170.

Seeing Red: Kalaniot in Negev

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die…   Ecclesiastes 3

AnemoneIn Israel the wildflowers follow a pattern. After the Jewish New Year, before the winter rains the squill and Sternbergia flower, then the Steven’s Meadow saffron, the Winter crocus followed by the kalaniot (anemones), the almond trees blossoming, narcissus, iris, lupine, wild tulips, poppies and many others. The red anemone (anemone coronaria from Greek Άνεμος ‘wind’, in Hebrew kalaniot) is a perennial in the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family.

The season for anemones is January-February and one place to find them is in the south, the Western Negev near Kibbutz Ruhama and Shukeda. In fact, seeing the anemones in bloom has become so popular that there is a festival, called Adom Darom (two Hebrew words meaning the Red South) to celebrate the spectacle. This week we drove down there for a photo shoot and though it is still a little early we found some areas covered with anemones. It was a lovely day.


Carpet of red anemones, ShukedaThese red anemones may be the most common ones seen in Israel but last year while touring up on the Golan I came across  anemones in other colors under the old oak trees at Hurshat Tal.

Flowers are visual, there is color and texture, some have fragrance but the kalaniot also have a poem written by Natan Alterman in 1945, music composed by Moshe Wilensky, sung by legendary Israeli singer Shoshana (in Hebrew a rose) Damari.

The evening comes,
the sunset on the hill burns
I am dreaming and my eyes see:
To the valley a small girl descends
and it blazes with a fire of anemones.

. . .

Yes, generations come and pass without end
but each generation has an anemone in a tune.

Photographs at Dead Sea


August 2008 when traveling to Kathmandu with my family was the first time I ever exhibited my photographs, in a show I called “From the Lowest Place on Earth”. At 420 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea lies in a deep crack in the earth, between Israel and Jordan, part of the Great African Rift.


In the past year the light that had accompanied me in my life was extinguished and my own light flickered. I return to the area by the Dead Sea and wrestle to capture the light. The sun works with an incredible palette of colors, emerald, turquoise, cerulean blue, ultramarine, pink and purple, yellow ochre, orange and dusty umber.

In a world that is sometimes hard to comprehend and rapidly encroaching on nature, especially in a small country like Israel I framed these photographs to capture the pristine beauty of nature. I wanted to convey the solitude you can find in the desert – a refuge through the ages for kings, prophets, Jewish sects and Byzantine monks. I find solace in the quiet and beauty of this area by the Dead Sea.






Many of the photographs display the contrasts in the landscape – between wet and dry, water and desert; the contrast between rock and vegetation and between the broad horizontal expanse of the Dead Sea and the cliffs and mountains that rise vertically above it. In some photographs, like the one below, I put aside the landscape to capture the colors and patterns in the picture to create an abstract composition.




Nahal Og


Decided to go for a photo shoot, so early in the morning I headed out of Jerusalem to drive down to the Dead Sea. After a half hour I arrived at the overlook above Nahal Og, pulled off the road just in time to see the sun breaking through the cloud cover above the horizon. I was looking for sunrise landscapes and although this part of the nahal is close to the highway and inhabited by a Beduin encampment you can capture the view of an ethereal sky and desert solitude if you look for it.


There are other views – it breaks the pristine beauty, but you can include the jumble and junk scattered on the hillsides, Beduin shacks, fences, stuff.

DSC_0497 (1)

While hiking around the hills taking these photographs I looked down and noticed the rocks at my feet, incredible colors. I’ve been thinking about how to take landscape photos that display the shapes, textures and colors of what I am seeing rather than being focused on the visual scene itself. Here are a few of these rock photographs.

DSC_0504 (1)DSC_0501 (1)DSC_0503DSC_0506 (1)

Later in the afternoon, on my way back I drove to the trail head into Lower Nahal Og and took photos, the closing bracket to the sunrise photos at dawn.

A great day!


For more information see my post about Hiking Nahal Og.



Ben Gurion grave, Sde BokerI’m thinking about the Negev. The Negev covers some 13,000 km² (4,700 sq mi) and makes up more than 55% of Israel’s land area. Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and statesman, saw the Negev as the key to a viable Israel. He joined Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev in 1970, lived the last 3 years of his life there and is buried overlooking Nahal Zin.

There are some remarkable sites in the area for hiking and photography : Ein Avdat, white cliffs, reflection pool and Griffon vultures (like angels) soaring overhead and a hike across a high plateau to a spring, Ein Akev, in a stream bed. This part of the Negev is a rocky desert, a melange of brown, rocky, dusty mountains interrupted by dry stream beds, in Hebrew nahal, in Arabic wadi. The photographs below are the view across the plateau from an early morning hike with Bonna in August 2013. This week, Rosh Hodesh Tammuz, we celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary.

In the first photo, there is a lot of foreground, brush, rocks, sand stretching to the distant horizon. In the second, there is little foreground and a lot of sky. The shift in the horizon line creates a dramatically different effect. I hope they capture some of the barrenness, expanse and spiritual power of the Negev. 

Rocky Negev

Negev sky

Photo of the Week – Wadi Qelt

There are deserts in Israel and exploring them with a guide is a special experience. If you’re interested in photography, you will get some great photo opportunities. In the Negev I’d recommend the Large Makhtesh and the Small Makhtesh, unique geological forms and farther south the mountains around Eilat. For an area close to Jerusalem the area to explore is the Judean desert. This morning we headed out at 5am to reach an overlook of Wadi Qelt in time for sunrise – first photo was taken 6:23am. Here are some of my photos.

The technical details, these photos were shot with a Nikon D90 DSLR camera with a 18-200mm Nikon zoom lens.

Sunrise Wadi Qelt 65mm, F9 at 1/160 sec.

Sunrise over Cypros ISO 200 65mm, F9 at 1/160 sec.

Overlook of Wadi Qelt ISO 250 18mm f/8 1/60 sec.

Overlook of Wadi Qelt ISO 250 18mm f/8 1/60 sec.

Green of Wadi Qelt ISO 250 42mm f/8 1/60 sec.

Overlook of Wadi Qelt ISO 250 42mm f/8 1/60 sec.

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Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.