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Archive for November, 2012


Meet me at the Efendi


Efendi Hotel, Israel, Travel, Acre

In my recent visit to Israel I had the opportunity to shoot one of the most ‘talked-about’ boutique hotels, The Efendi Hotel in Acre, North of Israel.

Travel + Leisure magazine was doing a book about some of the most beautiful hotels in the world and contacted me for a shoot. Since there was a big buzz around The Efendi already, I was curious to visit it myself, not to mention to photograph it as well as the opportunity to meet the owner Uri Buri was exciting.

Uri Buri is known for his prestigious seafood restaurant in Acre Port (as a little girl, my family always used to make a stop at his restaurant after a long trip to the North) and he is a well known character in Israel for his great restaurant, and now for his luxurious hotel as well. Let it be known that when someone is so passionate about great food and wine, like Uri is, he will be totally involved with aesthetic, good taste and the little details of the hotel he has envisioned.

I asked Merav, a good friend with a great taste in design to join me, so the shoot was even more enjoyable, beside the fact we got a personal tour by Uri Buri himself.

Before you dwell your eyes in the photos of the hotel, I highly recommend to read the history of the building that used to be two palaces and get the details of the restoration process that lasted for over eight years, in order to understand how special this hotel is, and how courageous and visionary Uri is.

The name Efendi by the waywas used in the Ottoman era to give respect and courtesy to a person. It is the equivalent to the English word ‘Sir’. No coincidence that The Efendi house is a combination of two buildings that were once glorious palaces, which served the rulers and rich Ottomans in the 19th century in Acre.

The Lobby

The Lobby of the Efendi and the entrance hall is dotted with blue color armchairs imported from Italy. There is a wine cellar and a restaurant on the lower level and a great Spa with an original 400-year-old Turkish bath, that has been preserved. The lobby, in my opinion, is just the beginning of the beauty you will see throughout the rest of the hotel.

Efendi Hotel, Acre, Israel, Travel, Design, Lifestyle

Central Communal Salons

The Efendi has twelve guest rooms spread out equally over three floors. On every floor there is a central communal salon (I love that idea) with appealing sitting areas for the guests to relax and recharge. Big windows overlooking the Mediterranean sea are the perfect backdrop for relaxation. Uri worked closely with an interior designer who chose specific chairs from Damascus, Syria, a wooden table that used to be a trough in Tibet and some heavy brown armchairs from England. The white ceiling is completing the scenery with original and restored Italian frescos. Quilted rugs give warmth to the rooms.

Efendi Hotel, Acre, Israel, Travel, Design, Lifestyle

Efendi Hotel, Acre, Israel, Travel, Design, Lifestyle

The Original Wall Painting

Another communal area on the third floor is well defined by its colorful ceiling and an original wall painting from the Ottoman time. The original wall painting was a gesture of the Efendi (the home owner) to Turkish emperor at that time. Uri explained us how difficult it was to restore this wall painting and how he gladly hired special Italian painters to do so. The outcome and the final restored wall painting is mesmerizing.

Efendi Hotel, Acre, Israel, Travel, Design, Lifestyle

The Rooms

Each room of the 12 guest rooms is different than one another and has a unique style and character. One of my favorite rooms was The Presidential (room number 10) which was actually the first room I shot. This is the biggest guest room with high ceiling decorated with the Italian frescos of course, marble floors and a stunning sea view. I loved the freestanding bathtub next to the window. Imagine taking a bath and looking outside at the sea?

The enormous bed is covered with Egyptian cotton linens and goose down pillows and blankets, quality towels, robes, and pampering slippers. Even though I am an outdoor person, during Winter time, I could stay all day in this Presidential room.

Efendi Hotel, Design, Lifestyle, Israel, Acre

The Royal Room (room number 1) was also one of my favorites, thanks to the beautiful blue view of the Mediterranean Sea from one window and the old city Mosque from the second. This room is quite big as well, with spacious sitting area, separate bathtub and a shower. I loved the colorful dishes in this room (in fact, in every room) from PIP studio. How creative of the interior designer to combine PIP elements.

Efendi Hotel, Acre, Israel, Travel, Design, Lifestyle

Efendi Hotel, Acre, Israel, Travel, Design, Lifestyle

The Terrace

The terrace of The Efendi is overlooking the sea, the Galilean mountains and the old city Mosque. Turquoise soft pillows are scattered on the marble floors, allowing the guests complete relaxation while inhaling the blue of the sea. A second terrace is located in the upper level, on the roof, where guests can enjoy a BBQ dinner, glass of wine and a great sea breeze, overlooking the old houses of Acre.

Efendi Hotel, Acre, Israel, Travel, Design, Lifestyle

Learning about the history of the hotel, and hearing all the details of its restoration made the shooting experience even more meaningful. I made it as a priority to capture all its beauty, even in its little details, so the story of The Efendi will be beautifully told.

Efendi Hotel, Acre, Israel, Travel, Design, Lifestyle


Window or Aisle: Arati Rao


Travel, Window or Aisle, Elephants, Arati Rao

I met Arati in a lighting class in ICP last Summer.

On the first day of the class the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves and share what we do, what we love shooting, where we want to go with our photography, etc. I’m not sure if it was me first who introduced myself to the class or was it Arati, but when the words of introduction were out there, we realized we both do sort of the same. But in a completely different locations. Whereas I shoot, write and blog to Travel magazines and website mostly in the US, Israel or Europe, Arati does the same, but for magazines in India and the area.

The more we talked, the more we realized we were sharing sort of a similar path. We both can’t really separate photography and writing and it comes naturally to do the two. According to Arati, ‘I have never been able to separate the two. A story to me, or any experience is necessarily vivid. And that means I have to portray it visually and verbally. It is beautiful to do both, and integral to me. I find when I am shooting, a burning urge to put words down too. Sometimes, when an image may not be possible, I fill it in with sketches or an infographic, if that is more appropriate. The story dictates the treatment and I let myself go with the flow when I am in the field

When I look at Arati’s images, I can’t even imagine  how much courage and boldness this woman has. I admire how she traveled to  Uzbekistan, or shot the rainforest of Bureno or chased elephants in Sri Lanka. And above all, capturing everything in such a delicate precise way. In fact, taking a class with Arati and watching the way she is preparing herself for a shoot, explains a lot about her explicit portfolio.

It has been a while since I wanted to introduce my readers and colleagues to Arati Rao and I’m so happy to feature her recent journey, where she captured The World of Elephants.

Thanks Arati. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

Where are you from? I was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India. That city is still very dear for me. My ancestral home is in southern India, in a lovely little city called Mysore. But I call neither place home anymore. I think I’ve turned turtle. Haha. That is to say, I carry my home on my back.

Where did you study photography? I’m largely self taught. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, but constantly  – and more recently very deliberately – refining and learning that craft. Am still teaching myself photography, and I taught myself graphic design while I was at Arizona State, for I felt it very central to visual storytelling.

What made you want to learn it? It was all organic. I kept wanting to add layers to my storytelling and each layer brought with it the need for these skills. And I am still adding to it. The goal is to keep telling richer and more engaging stories using all kinds of fantastic tools available to us these days.

If you weren’t a photographer what would you do? Aah, I dont think I’d be happy doing anything other than exploring, discovering, and telling stories. And writing, photography, etc. are all a means to that joy

Where do you get your inspiration from? So many things inspire me. Little graphics I spy somewhere, a story well told, a photoessay done refreshingly, people, their stories, places – the sights, a minaret, a river, a tree, a pitcher. So many things. places. Inspiration is everywhere. All I need to bring with me to every day is a curious eye and a wide open mind.

What do you mostly love shooting?  So many things, I am not sure I can hone in on any one thing I love to shoot. A good story? An intriguing face? A forest! But if I were forced to pick, I would say put me in a wild place, New York, Bombay, or in an ancient city and I’ll be happy as a peach shooting.

What’s is the place that really left a big impression. Aaah, there are a few. The old virgin rainforests of Borneo, the vast savannahs of east Africa, and the ancient cities of Istanbul, Lhasa, Bukhara, and Samarkand. I love wilderness and I love history. That is plainly reflected in these choices, right?

How do you usually approach a new project? Good, strong research always stands me in good stead. So I try to do that. Read everything on the topic, see what people have shot, and then – what is non-negotiable is, go there. Go and spend time with the subject, in a place. There is nothing like being there, and the longer I stay, the better the story turns out.

What are you working on right now? I have been shooting Asian elephants over the last two years in India and Sri Lanka. I will be continuing that work and working with researchers to document Asian elephant gestures and behavior. I also will begin work on a personal project where i will be documenting displacement of native people and changes in their lifestyles.

Where are you traveling next? I will be heading to a rainforest later this month, and then am slated to go to Namibia in December, to volunteer with an organisation that works with local communities and desert adapted elephants.

Window or Aisle? Oh my nose is stuck to a window, any day, everyday.

Travel, Window or Aisle, Elephants, Arati Rao

Travel, Window or Aisle, Elephants, Arati Rao

Travel, Window or Aisle, Elephants, Arati Rao

Travel, Window or Aisle, Elephants, Arati Rao

Travel, Window or Aisle, Elephants, Arati Rao

Travel, Window or Aisle, Elephants, Arati Rao

Travel, Window or Aisle, Elephants, Arati Rao


Hemispheres November Issue Cover


I am really excited to have one of my images of the iconic Agam’s fire and water fountain on the cover of November issue of Hemisphere Magazine. It was a great surprise to take a flight back from Tel Aviv to New York and see this picture.

In my recent visit to Tel Aviv I was contacted by the Photo Editor of Hemisphere, who wanted suggestions for Iconic yet graphic images, symbols and locations of Tel Aviv. There were variety of options; the coastline of Tel Aviv dotted with beach umbrellas, the Hamsa hands in Shuk Hakarmel, the colorful facade of Dan’s Hotel, the narrow alleys of Jaffa, you name it. They were all well received, but I guess the editor wanted something new he didn’t see before. I don’t know why but in the spare of the moment, I sent him an image I took with my iPhone of Agam’s fountain and he loved it. He asked me to go back and shoot it. Day light and Night time.

Day light was not a problem, Night time was more about finding the time to do so.

This shot was taken on the last day before the deadline. It was a Friday night, just after I had a Friday family dinner. I asked my friend to give me a ride to the center of Tel Aviv. It was already 11pm and we were quite tired. She was waiting for me in the car (finding a parking in Tel Aviv is crazy) and I ran with my camera to Dizingoff Square to take some night shots.

And this is one of them…

Hemispheres Magazine, Tel Aviv, Agam fountain, Dizingoff Center, Travel


Carefree Tel Aviv for EasyJet


I knew it would be just a matter of time for EasyJet to ask me to write a guest post about Tel Aviv.

Anything I can do to promote Tel Aviv, will always be a YES.

It was just in the nick of time and this post was published a few days before the misfortunate events in Tel Aviv and the missels attacks over the busiest city. Luckily there was no damage. The Tel Avivians were caught a bit unguarded but 24 hours later the city got back to become alive again. The title, Care Free in Tel Aviv, should forever be relevant.

To read the full post on EasyJet, please visit here.

Easy Jet, Tel Aviv, Israel, Travel


Carefree (in) Tel Aviv


Tel Aviv, Israel, Travel,

While Europe is getting ready for the coming winter and the temperatures are slowly falling down and the first snow storm is hitting Manhattan on the first week of November, the Tel Avivians keep their habits and enjoy another sunny day at the beach. I walk around with my summer dress in the streets of Tel Aviv (crazy, I know) as the weather is still warm (24-27 Celsius degrees) and the humidity is much more bare-able than the summer months in the city.

When you walk in the streets of Tel Aviv and see the masses of people filling the coffee places, sipping their coffee in a nonchalant way and talking loud to each other, using their hands (so Israeli of them) you instantly realize that Tel Aviv is a care free city.

Well…at least for now.

And therefore, it is the perfect time for a visit.

Yes. Tel Aviv seems to be a care free city, but a hectic one at the same time. Its famous slogan ‘The City that Never Sleeps’ goes hand in hand with the energy that runs in the streets. It is alive and contagious at times, but getting much quieter on the weekends.

I raved about Tel Aviv before and blogged about it last Summer, but when I have another opportunity to do it again, than I will do so, why not?

I was here for two hectic months for some family matters, three editorial shoots for Travel magazines, one opportunity to do an exhibit, some dating with Israeli guys and endless laps in a half olympic outdoor pool (Yes, even in November)

Here are some of my recent images of the city.

Tel Aviv, Israel, Travel, Sunny Weather, Beach

Tel Aviv, Israel, Travel, Sunny Weather, Beach

Tel Aviv, Israel, Travel, Sunny Weather, Beach

Tel Aviv, Israel, Travel, Sunny Weather, Beach




Window or Aisle: Pola Henderson


window or aisle, Pola Henderson, Travel, Photography, Chicago

One day in the middle of August I got an email from Pola. She was writing to ask if I would be interested to be interviewed in her blog Jetting Around, about my photography, ‘especially shooting cities‘ as she stated. I immediately checked her blog, which by the way, is a finalist in the Travel Bloggy Awards and of course I said Yes. Pola sent me a list of questions, and I must admit her questions really made me think! Made me think about my profession and made me think about the way I take pictures; intentionally and unintentionally.

When I read more about Pola and her blog, I realized we have a lot of things in common; we are both expats in the US. I’m an Israeli in New York and Pola is Polish in Chicago. We both Travelers by heart. We both blog about it and document our travels with our cameras, and we both leave room for serendipity when we travel.

In case you didn’t get it by now, Pola is also a Travel Writer and Photographer. She also loves cities (her blog really reflects that) and for times, she feels like she is somewhere between the two continents she loves (Europe and the US) and experiences city love on both sides of the pond’

So without further ado, here is an interview with great Pola. To follow her Jetting Around the Globe, you can visit her facebook page, or find her on Twitter.

Thanks Pola! Can’t wait to hear about your next adventures.

Where are you from? I grew up is Wadowice (pronounced Vah-duh-veet’-seh) a small city in southern Poland, about 30 miles southwest of Krakow. I always had close ties with Krakow and later lived there before moving to Chicago in 2002.

When did you start writing? I started writing in my teens – I published articles in several youth publications in my hometown, then wrote for the high school paper – and those years were my writing school. Also my mom, who is an excellent writer, was my first teacher and audience. As an adult, I enrolled in writing courses.

Where and when did you study photography? As far as photography, I took classes at a school in Chicago, did some self-study and have done photo outings with friends who are photographers. The best way to learn is to go out there and shoot as much as you can. That’s how you find out what works, what doesn’t, and what your strengths are.

What made you want to learn it? In both cases, the need came from within, I simply felt it. Writing came early – growing up, I was always encouraged to read and write, so it was natural. I discovered photography much later.

When visiting Toronto a few years ago, I went for a walk one morning. It was cold, windy, and it started to drizzle, but I didn’t want to go back to the hotel. Instead, I kept on walking and taking tons of pictures with my tiny point-and-shoot camera. I ended up having so much fun that I later bought a DSLR and enrolled in classes (the first one was actually a present from my husband, who had noticed my newfound passion). Eventually, I decided to combine travel writing with photography and started Jetting Around.

If you weren’t a Travel photographer what would you do? I have an alter ego already – my day job is marketing communications. It does involve quite a bit of writing, though…

Where do you get your inspiration from? Cities and the energy they give off. I’m inspired by their architecture, art, cultural activities – whatever surrounds me when I’m on the road.

What do you mostly love shooting? Views from above, cities at night, stadiums, coffee shops.

How do you usually approach a new project?  It’s a combination of planning and spontaneity. Whenever I travel, I have a mental list of places I want to write about and photograph, but I always leave room for last-minute decisions. Often, the best experiences are those that happen by accident. I may stumble upon an interesting café, performance, or neighborhood.    

What are you working on right now? I’m getting ready for a trip to San Diego, California and Mexico. I especially look forward to exploring and reporting on the Baja California Wine Country. I also have plans to grow the newest section of the blog – City Guides.

Window or Aisle? Window, hands down! I tend to get glued to it upon takeoff and landing…

window or aisle, Pola Henderson, Travel, Photography, Chicago

window or aisle, Pola Henderson, Travel, Photography, Chicago

window or aisle, Pola Henderson, Travel, Photography, Chicago

window or aisle, Pola Henderson, Travel, Photography, Chicago

window or aisle, Pola Henderson, Travel, Photography, Chicago

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