One shot, two ways

When you’re taking photographs and looking for the best shot you have a choice of whether to shoot the scene in landscape (horizontally) or portrait (vertically). When looking at landscape photographs you usually expect the scene to be horizontal. Sometimes a vertical shot gives a very different view.

I was driving down to the Dead Sea to take clients for a hike in Nahal Arugot to the Hidden Waterfall and we were talking about desert, water and sinkholes. Since they were also interested in photography I decided we should stop to explore and photograph some sinkholes I’d seen near the checkpoint.

Sinkhole at Dead Sea, Israel

Sinkhole at Dead Sea, Israel

I took the same shot, two ways. Photographs were taken on November 2, 2017 with a Nikon 5300 DSLR camera with 18-200mm zoom lens. Technical details – ISO 250,  F11, 1/500 sec, the horizontal photo, 24mm, the vertical one 20mm.

If you’re interested in having a guide who also knows where to take you for some great photographs contact me.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise).

Photo of the Week – Samaria

This week rather than driving up the Jordan valley on highway 90 I drove the Allon Road, an 87km long and winding road on my way to Bet Shean. This is the name given by Israel to routes 458, 508, and 578 in the West Bank, running roughly south-north along the eastern watershed of the Samarian and Judean mountains (I can also take you to Samaria-Sebaste). This is a view of the mountains along the route at sunrise.


The technical details – the photo above was taken with a Nikon 5300 digital SLR camera in October (ISO 400, 105mm, F10 at 1/250 sec).

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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.

Photo of the Week – Reflection on Sinkholes


These photographs are of reflections of the landscape by the shore of the Dead Sea that I saw by looking into a sinkhole that was filled with water. I am attracted to exploring the photographic possibilities of this strange and alien landscape. Because the water in a sinkhole is colored by the salts and minerals dissolved in it the reflection presents an image that is differently colored than the original.

Sinkhole I

Sinkhole II

Sinkhole reflection

The technical details – the photo above was taken with a Nikon 5300 digital SLR camera in October in afternoon (ISO 250, 29mm, F11 at 1/500 sec).

The third photograph is upside down! There is no clue of scale, so that is not a mountain. What looks like sky is water (in the sinkhole). At the top of photo is salt not clouds. About ½” from bottom you can make out a line which is the centre line of the reflection. Chosen as a Top Shot by the administrators of FB group Best Photographers.

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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.

Philip Evangelist at Ein Henya Spring

Today I bicycled about 6 km each way, from the German Colony (where I live) along the old train tracks to Ein Henya, a spring in the valley of Nahal Refaim, south of Jerusalem. Ein Henya is being developed as part of the new Jerusalem Park, 4 parks that form a greenbelt that extends over some 1,500 hectares (3700 acres), surrounding the city to the north, west, and south. They are still working on parking, landscaping, etc. at Ein Henya but you can visit.

DSC_0271I spoke to the supervisor and he said it would be about another 6 months before they’re finished and they are still discussing whether to fill the two pools when they are done (currently the water is flowing but rerouted and the pools are empty). So for the time being you will have to find other springs and pools in the area to enjoy.

DSC_0269The spring is typical of those found in the Jerusalem area, consisting of a dugout chamber on the side of the hill where the water flows through the water porous limestone layer and comes out when it reaches a layer of marl and clay that is more impervious to water.

DSC_0268A 39 meter underground tunnel channels the water to the ruins of a building, the apse of a 6th C Byzantine church, where it cascades down into a small pool in front of the apse framed by two pilasters. The apse gave the spring its Arabic name because henya is a round niche carved out of stone.


One tradition is that the church is named after Philip the Evangelist according to the story in Acts 8:26-40.

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

There he met a court official of the Queen of Ethiopia in charge of her entire treasury who was sitting in his chariot reading from the prophet Isaiah. He had come to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple and was returning home. The official/eunuch asked Philip to explain what was written and was so moved that when they came to the spring he requested that Philip baptize him there.

For another possible site where Philip could have baptized the Ethiopian see Ferrell Jenkin’s post.

Naharayim – Two Rivers

Driving along the Jordan valley between Jerusalem and the Sea of Galilee you pass a kibbutz called Gesher (Hebrew for bridge) because on the site of the original kibbutz was a bridge that crossed the Jordan river joining Israel and Jordan. Actually there are the remains of 3 bridges, one a Roman bridge built of basalt stone, one Ottoman train bridge and one British concrete vehicular bridge.

Old Gesher

The el-Mujami Bridge (Arabic for meeting, the meeting of the 2 rivers) built in 1904 holds the record as the earth’s lowest railway bridge at 257.5 metres below sea level. The line ran from the port at Haifa following the Jezreel valley (hence in Hebrew, rakevet haemeq), with the last stop at Hamat Gader before joining up with the main part of the Hejaz railway. [The line was unused for decades until 2011 when a new standard gauge rail from Haifa to Beit She’an along roughly the same route as the historic valley railway was constructed and began passenger service in October 2016.]

One of the stops was Naharayim, the station in Bauhaus style, constructed near the hydroelectric power plant built in 1927 by Russian Jewish engineer Pinhas Rutenberg. Rutenberg (1879 – 1942‎‎) was also a canny businessman and political activist. He was involved in two Russian revolutions, in 1905 and 1917 when he was imprisoned by the Bolsheviks. Freed in 1918 he travelled via Moscow, Odessa, Constantinople, Marseille to UK and on to Palestine. He was a contemporary and friends with Jabotinsky and Trumpeldor and founded the Jewish Legion and was sent as an emissary to the United States. While in the US, Rutenberg completed a detailed design for harnessing Palestine’s water resources for irrigation and electrical power production.

[This is an interesting question that I was asked. “When were residents of Palestine first given citizenship?” Rutenberg became the first Palestinian citizen after the British had enacted a law creating Palestinian citizenship in 1925.]

Palestine Airways - Lachs 1937Rutenberg endorsed the Labour party and cooperated with David Ben-Gurion. He was involved in the establishment of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary during the British mandate period. He founded Palestine Airways which flew between Haifa and Lydda (today Israeli-Arab city of Lod, 15 km. southeast of Tel Aviv) 3 times a week. Shortly after it moved its base to the newly built Tel Aviv Airport (in 1940 renamed Sde Dov) and flew the Tel Aviv to Haifa route, even on to Beirut.

After submitting a plan to the Zionist movement for the establishment of 13 hydroelectric power stations and securing financing for the plan Rutenberg was awarded a concession by the British Mandatory government to produce and distribute electric power and in 1923 founded the Palestine Electric Company (later, the Israel Electric Corporation).

This site was chosen because it is the juncture of two rivers (in Hebrew, nahar is river, naharayim would be 2 rivers), where the Yarmuk river which runs along the border between Jordan and Syria flows into the Jordan river.

Dam on Yarmuk

A zero degree canal connected it to the Sea of Galilee that could be used as a reservoir, to store excess water in winter to be released in drier summertime. Construction began in 1927 and continued for five years, providing employment for 3,000 workers. A model community, Tel Or, was built for the Jewish workers who supervised the plant on 6000 dunams of land in Jordan authorized by Abdullah in exchange for electricity.

Rutenburg's power station, Naharayim

Here is an incredible photograph of the Naharayim site taken by Zoltan Kluger in 1937 as part of a set of 40 aerial photographs of pre-state Israel commissioned by Zalmen Schoken for his 60th birthday.

Hydroelectric plant Naharayim - Kluger 1937

Hydroelectric plan at Naharayim – Kluger 1937. Credit: National Library Photo Collection

In violation of international law and a November 1947 agreement between Golda Meir and Abdullah, the Arab Legion’s 4th Battalion launched a mortar and artillery attack on the Tegart police fort and Kibbutz Gesher on April 27-29, 1948. After protests to the British Mandate administration the shelling was halted – Abdullah was reprimanded for “aggression against Palestine territory.”

When an Iraqi brigade invaded Naharayim on May 15, 1948, in an unsuccessful attempt to take the kibbutz and fort, the power plant was occupied and looted – it never functioned again. To prevent Iraqi tanks from attacking Jewish villages in the Jordan Valley, Israel opened the sluice gates of the Degania dam and destroyed the bridges that joined Israel and Jordan.

More Kalaniot, Red Anemones

Yesterday I did a tour of the western Negev to see the kalaniot, red anemones in bloom. The anemone (anemone coronaria from Greek Άνεμος ‘wind’) is a perennial in the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family.

The human eye can take in a scene much more broadly than a camera which makes photographing a wide expanse of flowers challenging. The deserts of Israel, both the Judean desert at the Dead Sea and the much larger Negev triangle are fascinating places to photograph – I’d be happy to take you to explore and photograph. Here are some photographs that I took that I think capture some of what we saw.





2016 in Review

This new year marks 9 years as a tour guide in Israel and as in past years this is an opportunity to review what has been accomplished. I managed to write 24 blog posts this year bringing the total to 331 articles in words and pictures (more than 1000 of my photos).

There were 65,313 page views by 37,160 visitors this year (mostly from US and Israel, some from Europe, Canada and Australia), down about 18% from last year. I am now less than 5000 views from reaching a half a million page views. The total number of people who interact with my website/blog increased, there are currently 390 (up from 325) people who have subscribed to my blog directly and another 528 (up from 430) people on Facebook who are notified when I post a new article. I also post updates regularly to my Facebook page, Israel Tours.

I had slightly fewer clients this year but those clients hired me for more days enabling me to effectively guide twice as much.

Again this year in the heat of the summer I hiked Yam l’yam, leading a family on the 3 day hike from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee.

Yam l'yam day 2

I guide both Bethlehem and Jericho and can report that the newly uncovered mosaics in the bathhouse at Hisham’s palace are really something to see.


I am happy to offer Photography Tours for people who are interested in my experience and expertise to help them get great photos. Here is a sample tour of the area at the Dead Sea and another tour south to the Great Makhtesh.

I did my longest tour ever, an indepth 17 days with a couple and her parents (in their 80s) where we covered Christian and historical and nature sites throughout the country, with some great food and wine along the way and even 2 days from Eilat to see Petra and the desert from Jordan.


Wadi Araba, Jordan

ostrichHere is what Mom wrote which I think sums it up:

Dear Shmuel. We write to tell you what a wonderful guide you are, with so much knowledge in so many areas. You were truly professional and were attentive to our interests and more. You were so genuine, friendly that we felt you became part of our family by the end of our two weeks. Thank you for a superb, learning experience done in your special way.