9 Day photography workshop in Israel and Jordan | Ramon Crater – Petra – Wadi Rum – Dead Sea – Masada – Judean Hills – Jerusalem
Ancient Kingdoms of Judea and Edom: Experience unique landscapes of the Biblical Kingdoms of Judea and Edom in the southern regions of Israel and Jordan on this memorable photographic adventure. Our itinerary includes a journey through the largest erosional crater in the world, unique desert landscapes, salt deposits at the lowest point on earth, Jerusalem and a Nabatean city lost in time. This photography workshop is designed for private or small group trips. We have made a shorter 3 Day itinerary in the past, that is specific to Wadi Rum and Petra, at our sister company website: www.israelphotographytour.com however this workshop is an amazing choice for travelling photographers with 9 days to spare.
Day 1 Ramon Crater – Negev Desert
We begin our workshop by collecting our guests from Tel Aviv, located near the Ben Gurion international airport. During the drive to our first destination, we will become acquainted with the group, go over the days ahead and discuss what aspects of photography each individual would like to improve upon. As we head south through the Negev desert, you will see the dramatic shift of the landscape as it becomes increasingly arid and mountainous. The Negev covers Israel’s southern region and includes the fascinating ancient Kingdom of Judea.
The Ramon Crater is the largest erosional crater on earth, measuring 40km wide and 500m deep. The crater contains a diversity of rocks including clay hills known for their fantastic red and yellow colours and forms. Impressive mountains rise at the borders of the crater. A mix of sandstone, quartzite, basalt, hardened magma and other materials are the result of a landscape created hundreds of millions of years ago. After checking into our hotel, we will photograph the dramatic scenery during afternoon golden hour until sunset. Due to having Israel’s least amount of light pollution, Israel’s most powerful telescopes are located here. We unpack our tripods and return to the crater at night to practice techniques in astrophotography and light-painting.
Day 2 Petra
Our morning starts early with sunrise photography overlooking the Ramon Crater. The beautifully serene views are even more spectacular as the sun rises over the distant mountains and illuminates the cliffs of the crater. Photographers are often rewarded with Nubian Ibex entering their frame. On leaving the Ramon Crater, we head to Israel’s southern border with Jordan where we pass customs and enter Jordan’s gateway into the country’s arid, mountainous region. From here we head to Petra. A UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the seven wonders of the world, the legacy of Petra seems to have been frozen in time. This amazing city dates back more than 2,000 years, and was built and inhabited by the Nabateans, an ancient Arab civilization who were considered scientists, and admired for their ingenuity in architectural planning, construction and irrigation skills. Petra is located at the crossroads of ancient trading routes, and was of major importance for caravans passing through.
After checking in to our hotel, we explore a smaller ancient site of the area, known as Little Petra. Known locally as Siq Al-Barid, this site includes temples, tombs, cisterns and other methods in channeling and storing water. Various religious ceremonies were held here and festivals were hosted by the king of the Nabateans. Evidence of wine production is represented by a well preserved fresco depicting cherubs with grape vines. Here you will get an introduction to the stunning colours, patterns and textures of the manmade caves and facades that cover the area. In the evening we grab our tripods and head to the main site of Petra to photograph this ancient city by night. Walking down through the Siq with lanterns on the floor directing us and the cliffs of the canyons towering above us, stars emerging through the natural beauty of the rock, and the wonderful silence that beckons us to the Treasury, this event has to be one of the most spectacular and memorable nights you will ever experience. Arriving at the Treasury, with its floor covered in lanterns, the beautiful facade cut out of sheer rock is laid bare in all its glory. Even the best photographer could not create lighting of such beauty.
Day 3 Petra
In the morning of our third day, we will enjoy a guided tour with an expert on the ancient city’s heritage. Passing through the Siq [narrow slot canyon] we arrive to the Treasury, probably Petra’s most iconic structure, and the setting for the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”. We will spend a few hours touring the ancient city, as you try to absorb the scope of its size while photographing the fascinating scenes that unfold around each corner. As Petra has such a fascinating history, today we have incorporated photography at our own pace, together with learning about the site with the help of an expert guide.
The outstanding universal value of Petra resides in the vast extent of elaborate tomb and temple architecture; religious high places; the remnant channels, tunnels and diversion dams that combined with a vast network of cisterns and reservoirs which controlled and conserved seasonal rains, and the extensive archaeological remains including of copper mining, temples, churches and other public buildings. The fusion of Hellenistic architectural facades with traditional Nabataean rock-cut temple/tombs including the Khasneh, the Urn Tomb, the Palace Tomb, the Corinthian Tomb and the Monastery represents a unique artistic achievement and an outstanding architectural ensemble of the first centuries BC to AD. The varied archaeological remains and architectural monuments from prehistoric times to the medieval periods bear exceptional testimony to the now lost civilisations which succeeded each other at the site. In the evening we will return to the site with our tripods to capture more of Petra by night, such is the beauty of the rock and architecture, illuminated by the lanterns.
Day 4 Wadi Rum
Today we leave Petra and head to Wadi Rum. A protected desert wilderness covering over 700 square km of dramatic landscapes, this arid area contains sandstone mountains reaching a height of over 1,700 meters, unusual rock formations in sandstone and granite, narrow canyons known as Siqs, and rock carvings etched by its inhabitants dating back millennia. The residents of Wadi Rum are made up of Bedouins, a nomadic people that typically live in the desert and whose livelihood revolves around herding goats. Their hospitality is legendary in the Middle East.
After checking in to our luxury desert camp, we will enjoy a sunset tour by 4×4 vehicle to explore and photograph the stunning landscape. Sunset in Wadi Rum can reward the photographer images of exceptional light, colour, tones and textures. One of the most fascinating aspects of the area are the traces of human existence dating back 12,000 years, evident from 20,000 petroglyphs and 20,000 inscriptions on the rock faces. Even today, some nomadic Bedouin make their home here, along one of the migratory courses modern humans took out of Africa, providing a living portrait of our human origins.
Day 5 Wadi Rum
Today we head out early and take the 4×4 vehicle to visit some of the area’s most interesting and photogenic sites. Watching the sun rise between the sandstone rock creating subtle changes of light, textures in the desert floor changing as the sun rises and illuminates the wonderful rock formations. Some of the locations we will visit include the Red Sand Dunes, Little Bridge, Burdah Rock Bridge, Khazali Canyon, and Lawrence’s Spring – named after the British soldier, Lawrence of Arabia that resided here. Wadi Rum is made up of gargantuan rock formations formed over millennia by tectonic shifts. The whole area is a voyage through the geological evolution of the earth. It is this raw beauty that beckons the adventurous travel photographer to return to Wadi Rum time and again.
When the sun is high during the middle of the day, we will take the opportunity to go through our images taken to date. Selecting our favourite images to display for a group critique the next day will help us to improve on the image-taking process, by discussing which images stand out and why. In the late afternoon we will have some fun on a camel trek before enjoying a traditional meal prepared by our hosts at the desert camp. Wadi Rum is spectacular to photograph during morning and afternoon golden hour, however this martian landscape is equally photogenic to shoot at night. Due to a very low level of light pollution, and during a new moon, the stars look like you can just reach out and touch them. We will end our last night in Jordan in style with some astrophotography of the Milky Way.
Day 6 Dead Sea
After breakfast we will check out of the desert camp and return to the Wadi Arava land border. Here we will be collected by our driver in Israel and head north to our hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea. A landlocked salt lake, the eastern shore belongs to Jordan, and the southern part of the western shore is part of Israel. located 400m below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, and at it’s deepest point drops a further 400m to it’s basin. In Biblical times, only areas around the northern part were inhabited. Abraham, Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and other Biblical characters are associated with this part of Ancient Israel and are mentioned in the Old and New Testaments, and to some degree, the Quran.
Today, most visitors come to experience the health benefits of the area by enjoying the spa facilities and experience covering themselves in mineral-rich mud and floating in the Dead Sea. After lunch we will gather to enjoy a group critique of your selected images. Having a detailed assessment of your work will aid you in what elements work and why in any given image, and what compositions could be improved upon. We feel that being self critical and striving for quality over quantity is vital in order to grow as a photographer. After we unwind at our hotel, we will head out during afternoon golden hour to photograph the salt deposits and turquoise water on the shoreline, and the beautiful reflections during sunset.
Day 7 Masada, Judean Hills & Jerusalem
On day 7, we will head out early for some sunrise photography as the sun rises over the adjacent mountains and lights up the salt formations. After we check out of the hotel, we will drive north until arriving to the ancient mountain fortress of Masada. Located along the eastern edge of the Judean Desert and overlooking the Dead Sea, Masada is known for it’s stories of heroism and martyrdom. Just looking at where this fortress is located, you wonder how a people managed to survive at all in such a harsh environment, let alone fight off a Roman legion until their ultimate demise. Herod the Great built two palaces for himself on the mountain and fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. Due to the remoteness from human habitation and its arid environment, the site remained largely untouched by humans or nature for two millennia. Masada has a long and tumultuous history, and is a fascinating glimpse into the story of Ancient Israel.
After experiencing the fortress of Masada, we continue along the shores of the Dead Sea, stopping along the way to capture the landscape at higher elevations. Our last location on the itinerary is panoramic views over the Judean Hills – a mountain range where Jerusalem, Hebron and several other biblical cities are located. The Judaean Hills formed the heartland of the Kingdom of Judah (930-586 BCE), where the earliest Jewish settlements emerged, and from which Jews are generally descended. There is also a wonderful view over the Saint George Monastery, set in the side of a ravine. Established during the Byzantine period near Jericho, it was destroyed by the Persians in AD 614, rebuilt in the 12th century during the Crusader period, abandoned after their defeat, and rebuilt again by Greek monks starting at the end of the 19th century. The location of the monastery has been associated with the lives of Elijah and that of the parents of the Virgin Mary. That, allied with the Eastern Orthodox saints whose relics are kept in the monastery, both make it a site of intense pilgrimage. From the Judean Hills we will continue to Jerusalem – the fascinating city where layers of history literally lie beneath every step you take. On arrival we will check in to our hotel, before heading out in the evening to enjoy the wonderful Night Spectacular show with the backdrop of the Tower of David.
Day 8 Jerusalem
Today we will head out early for some iconic views over the Old City from the adjacent Mount of Olives. In the foreground, some 150,000 Jewish graves have spread across the hill since Biblical times, as well as the burial site for some of the most prominent Kings. The Mount of Olives is of major importance to both Jews & Christians, with numerous references in the Old & New Testaments. Jerusalem is a holy city to the 3 Abrahamic faiths. As the sun rises behind us, the Eastern wall of the Old City is illuminated, as is the shimmering Dome of the Rock, located on the Temple Mount. From this point you will witness the most contested piece of real estate in the world. Throughout it’s long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed at least twice, besieged 23 times, captured and recaptured 44 times, and attacked 52 times, until it’s reunification in the Six Day War of 1967.
From here we will head to the Zion Gate, one of the 7 historic gates into the Old City. During the 1948 War of Independence, the defenders of the Jewish Quarter staged a desperate battle against the Jordanian Arab Legion at the gate. The bullet holes that litter the facade remain as a testament to their sacrifice. A short walk from the Zion Gate, the Dormition Abbey is the supposed site that Mary, mother of Jesus died. This is also meant to be the site of Jesus’ last supper. In the same structure, lies the Tomb of King David – one of the most sacred sites for the Jewish people. Leaving the area, we take a short walk with panoramic views over the Arab village of Silwan until reaching the Kidron Valley. Also known as the Valley of the Kings, the upper part of this valley is known in the Hebrew Bible as Emek Yehoshafat.. It appears in Jewish eschatologic prophecies, which include the return of Elijah, followed by the arrival of the Messiah, the War of Gog and Magog, and Judgment Day.
From the Kidron Valley, we will enter one of the historic gates and explore the Jewish Quarter. Starting at the Western Wall, where the faithful come to pray, place notes in the cracks of the stones to the almighty, perform religious services and swear in IDF soldiers. The Western Wall’s holiness in Judaism is a result of its proximity to the Temple Mount. Because of the Temple Mount entry restrictions, the Wall is the holiest place where Jews are permitted to pray, though the site of the Holy of Holies – the most sacred site in the Jewish faith, lies behind it. We will also enjoy the fascinating Western Wall Tunnel tour, where you will begin to comprehend the immense building project by Herod the Great. Marvel at just one of the building blocks – the famous western stone which is 14 meters long and weighs almost 570 tons. During Blue Hour, we will unpack our tripods and head out for some night photography in the Old City. Witness the stone streets come alive with a mix of ambient and artificial light set against an electric blue sky.
Day 9 Jerusalem
On our last day we will head into the Old City to visit the Temple Mount. The holiest site in Judaism, this is the site of the First Temple built by King Solomon in 957 BCE, destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BCE, before the Second Temple was constructed under the auspices of Zerubbabel in 516 BCE, then renovated by king Herod the Great, then destroyed by the Roman Empire in 70CE. Since 516 BCE, the Dome of the Rock, with it’s shimmering golden dome has stood on the ruins of the Second Temple, and is the world’s earliest example of Islamic architecture. The site of the Dome of the Rock is of major religious importance to both Jews and Muslims. In Islamic belief, the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven on a winged beast, an event known as the Miraculous Night Journey. On the Temple Mount you will also notice the Al Aqsa Mosque on the south side. The Muslim quarter is particularly photogenic, where there is a more lively atmosphere as the locals go about their day. In contrast to the Jewish Quarter where the streets are less chaotic and more tidy, the muslim Quarter can often be an overload of sights, sounds and scents, resulting in a neighbourhood especially good for street photography.
Another incredibly important religious site we will visit is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the holiest place in the world for Christians. Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, the church is home to two of the holiest sites in Christianity – the site where Jesus was crucified, known as Calvary, and the tomb where Jesus was buried and then resurrected. Today, the tomb is enclosed by a shrine called the Aedicula. The final four Stations of the Cross, or Via Dolorosa are also located inside the church. This church has to be one of our favourite sites in Israel due to it’s architecture, lighting and opportunities for environmental portraits. Located just next door is the charming Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox church. This site has maintained a quiet presence in Jerusalem for more than 1,500 years, with some people claiming that there has been an Ethiopian delegacy in the Holy Land ever since the famed meeting of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon some 3,000 years ago. With it’s decayed walls and simplicity, the church and courtyard make for a quiet retreat and an excellent site to reflect on a memorable workshop as our adventure comes to an end.