HOW I GOT THE SHOT: I think I am not alone in admitting I can sit and stare for hours at a warm fire, simultaneously delighted and calmed by the artful flickering of flames. The firelight of the menorah adds a deeper dimension to that reverie, as the Chanukah candles serve to remind us – since we so often need to be reminded – of the miracles bestowed by God upon the Jewish people. Our sages argued over whether to increase or decrease the number of candles as the commemoration progressed. The debate was won by those who favored adding light. And that may be the greatest miracle of all: to know that no matter how dark the world may appear, it can always grow brighter.
I seem also never to tire of photographing the candles of the menorah. After exhausting my ideas for shooting the nine lights of the final night, I moved on to more abstract views, such as the one I chose for this week’s photo. Taken on the fourth night of the festival, the candles are nearly fully consumed, yet the mix of colors, sizes, and the position and direction of the flames all merge into a pleasing interpretation of an enjoyable subject. There is a “rule” in portraiture that suggests placing heads at different heights to avoid monotony and build a relationship among the group. That concept is illustrated here by the four flames. Additionally, a number of subtle details, such as the highlights on the top of the blue and red candles fall on the inside, serving to further weave the composition into a visual whole.
Finally, because the menorah is set in front of a window to fulfill the mitzvah of publicizing the miracle, the photo has the mysterious element of the flame reflections in the background, including that of the shammash. I don’t know how I got the air currents to blow in two directions at the same time, but hey, this is the season of miracles, so I’m not going to question it. Happy Chanukah.
TECHNICAL DATA: Camera: Nikon D700, handheld, manual exposure, center-weighted metering mode, f5 at 1/250th sec., ISO 800. Raw file converted to Jpeg. Lens: Nikon 28-105 macro zoom at 80 mm. Date: Dec. 7, 2010, 5:43 p.m. Location: Efrat, Gush Etzion.