Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, is a golden opportunity for photographers to create beautiful and unusual photographs using only the light of a small oil lamp or candle. Photography, literally, means “light writing.” And what better medium to pen your next memorable holiday photo than the soft, enchanting light of the menorah, either as a subject itself or the golden glow it casts on anything nearby, especially the faces of young children.
Because the observance of Chanukah mitzvoth requires placing the menorah in a public place, in order to publicize the miracle, Chanukah photo opportunities are readily available and easily accessible. It is a joy to both light candles as well as witness the celebration of this holiday in Jewish communities around the world.
Here is a small gallery of some Chanukah favorites taken in and around Jerusalem in recent years along with some handy tips for improving your holiday images. Eight photos for eight nights, and one extra to help the others light the way.
Use your camera to reveal a world not visible to our eyes. To make the image fall out of focus, either use a manual focus mode or, in autofocus, point the camera at a distant object, set the focus, and recompose.
To freeze the motion of flickering flames, use a fast shutter speed in tandem with a wide aperture and high ISO to capture the ambient light of the scene as well.
Though a beautiful source of illumination, candlelight is soft and weak in comparison with electric light. Look for other light sources to embellish the subject and forms found in your composition.
Pop into a hotel lobby around candlelighting time where you will often encounter a dozen or more chanukiot.
The best source of light remains the sun. It’s free and plentiful and easy to use in a variety of colors and intensities to create dramatic holiday images.
The eighth night of Chanukah has special appeal as the number of oil lamps or candles is at its maximum. Some families use the traditional glass housing to light several rows of candles, multiplying the beauty of menorah.
A street scene in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Several families from one building light their chanukiot together, enhancing the spectacle and beauty of the tradition.
Jerusalem of Gold gets its name from the golden glow of sunlight on the ubiquitous Jerusalem stone. Here, the burning oil lamps throw light on both the stone and an adjacent wood door, adding warmth to the mood of the scene.
Look for interesting relationships between subject and environment. The turrets of the Old City are lit throughout the year, but on Chanukah, take on the appearance of a familiar winter ritual.
May the light of the menorah renew our faith in miracles and shed new light on all our creative endeavors.
Please join one of my Chanukah Photo Walks in Jerusalem on the 7th and 8th nights of the holiday. Full details, registration and a complete schedule of all future workshops at www.yehoshuahalevi.com or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Chag Urim Sameach.