Category Archives: Nature

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.

Two Tuviae, botanist and soldier

Iris Tuvia

Iris Tuvia

In 1947 Tuvia Kushnir, a brilliant young man, was a student at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. He was studying and researching the plants of Palestine (under the British mandate, before the State of Israel was declared). Tuvia was one of the first iris researchers in Palestine and identified an iris that bears his name Iris tuvia (also known as the King Uzziae iris).

And Tuvia also identified a kind of crocus that grows only in the desert that was named after him, Colchicum tuviae.

But 1947-1948 was a time when a botanist was also a soldier. On January 15th, 1948 with Gush Etzion just south of Jerusalem under blockade by Arab forces Tuvia was part of a group of Haganah soldiers under the command of Danny Mass given the task of carrying supplies to the defenders on the 4 kibbutzim in the Gush. They set out at 11pm, later than planned, on foot from Har Tuv, each man carrying 100 pounds of supplies on his back. They had to make a detour past the British police station so as not to be detected (as it was a capital offense for Jews to carry arms) and keep their distance from hostile Arab villages.


Har Tuv

Three soldiers turned back when a soldier twisted his ankle and was unable to continue leaving 35 – the Lamed-Heh (ל’’ה, two Hebrew letters that have the value 35). With the breaking of dawn the group was still about 5 km from Kfar Etzion.


Battle site of Lamed-Heh

They were discovered near the Arab village of Tsurif, the alarm was raised and hundreds of Arabs from the neighboring villages attacked the convoy. The battle went on all day, the Israeli soldiers fought until they had no more ammunition. All 35 were killed, including Tuvia.

In memory of the Lamed-Heh: Daniel Mass Yisrael Aloni Chaim Engel Binyamin Bugoslavsky Yehuda Bitensky Oded Ben-Yamin Benzion Ben-Meir Yaakov Ben-Attar Yosef Baruch Eitan Gaon Sabo Goland Yitzhak Ginzburg Yitzhak Halevi Eliyahu Hershkovitz Yitzhak Zvuloni David Tish Alexander Yehuda Cohen Yaakov Cohen Yehiel Kelev Yaakov Caspi Alexander Avraham Lustig Yonah Levin Eliyahu Mizrahi Amnon Michaeli Shaul Pinueli Moshe Avigdor Perlstein Binyamin Parsitz Baruch Pat David Sabarna David Zwebner Yaakov Kotick Yosef Kofler Tuvia Kushnir Daniel Reich Yaakov Shmueli יהי זכרם ברוך May their memories be a blessing.

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.

Photo of the Week – Nahal Katlav

This morning on an overcast, rainy day I went back to Nahal Katlav and took these photos. I love the colors and contortions of the strawberry trees.

Some technical details – the photos were taken with a Nikon 5300 digital SLR camera and Nikon 18-200mm lens. Clicking on the image will display it larger.

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


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.




Photo of the Week – Nahal Soreq

Early this morning we drove out of Jerusalem past Ein Karem and Sataf and followed the Soreq valley, the historical route of the train that joined Jaffa to Jerusalem. Suddenly the gauge on the car signaled that the temperature outside was 4ºC. As we looked to the right the valley was filled with mist. We pulled off the highway, parked and climbed the hill to get some elevation and take photographs.


DSC_0108DSC_0163Then we descended into the valley and mist and got some nice closeups using a macro lens.


Couldn’t find any spiders but saw their gossamer webs left behind.


We did a nice hike in Nahal Katlav, from the derelict Bar Giora/Dayr-al-Shaykh train station, and I figured that the time was right to find crocus pushing up through the earth and we did.