This and That

Random bits of my life

Beautiful Wales

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 1, 2014

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Northern Wales seems to have it all–stunning landscapes, waterfalls, picturesque buildings, placid sheep grazing on green hillsides, slate mountains, friendly people. Yes, it does get a lot of rain, but we were lucky. We experienced about half an hour of rain during a 10-day holiday in the UK in spring. That must be a record! We just missed a couple stormy days and landed when the weather was dry but the water levels were still high. We stayed in Betws y Coed (“Church in the Wood”), Wales’ most popular inland resort.

Betws y Coed’s tourist industry began in the mid-1800s, when an artists’ colony was founded at the confluence of four rivers feeding into the Conwy river (it’s no coincidence that it the railway was built the same year). The river in the photo above is the Llugwy.

We left Manchester Piccadilly station in the morning and took a 2-hour train to Llandudno. Manchester Piccadilly has lovely ironwork, so I took a couple quick shots while hauling a suitcase up the escalator. From Llandudno, it was a 45-minute bus ride to Betws y Coed.

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Souvenir shop with baskets.

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Even the soccer fields are picturesque. Located across the road from our hotel.

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Water falls near Betys y Coed, photographed from the Pont y Pair (Bridge of the Cauldron), over the Llugwy river. You can figure out the scale by the people standing on a rock. This was by no means the most spectacular waterfall we saw in Wales, just one of the most accessible.

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More Rainy Day Photos in the Old City

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 26, 2014

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I wish I could have photographed this man a second before, when he was positioned in front of the electricity box. Unfortunately, someone was in my way (definite disadvantage when you go on a photo walk–everyone wants the same shot). I thought the shot would look better with a sepia tone and hoped it would minimize the white box behind the subject with the graffiti.

Typical souvenir shop in the shuk. I wanted to create an Aladdin’s cave of treasures atmosphere, so I underexposed this image slightly.

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Hat display. Again, a lot of competition for the same shot, so you may see this elsewhere.

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Man in passageway. I rendered this image in black and white to increase the contrast between the dark arches and the light. Since it was a rainy day, there wasn’t a whole lot of light to work with.

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This photo of an alley in the shuk was taken at a low angle. It’s a good idea to wear old clothes if you’re shooting in a muddy environment because sometimes you do have to get down on the ground to get a certain perspective. I liked the contrast of the woman’s orange coat and the gray paving stones, as well as the lines of the ramp stones leading to the subject.

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Tower of David photographed from the roof of the Petra Hotel.

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Rainy Day in the Old City

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 26, 2014

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These photos were taken in mid-March during a heavy rain. The first four were taken at the Western Wall.

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A group of Nigerian Christian women wore skirts made of this orange fabric. Peter Obi, the man whose face is strategically positioned on the back, was governor of Anambra State in Nigeria. This photo was taken about a week before the end of his second term of office.

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre, photographed from the roof of the Petra Hotel near Jaffa Gate.

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I’m still around…

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 26, 2014

Selfie at Binyamin 10k race

My blog has been on hold because life got a bit busy. I ran in the Binyamin 10K race last month, during a heat wave, at Maale Michmash–no shade, lots of hills. I didn’t run as well as I’d hoped because I didn’t drink enough, but I got a 2nd place trophy. I actually placed third out of four in my category, but the first place winner was one of the overall women’s winners, so the rest of us got bumped up by one position; it’s too bad that the 4th place runner didn’t hang around. She would have gotten a 3rd place trophy by default! I took this selfie with my iPod.

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I finished the first row of the endless “Lady and Unicorn: Sense of Hearing” cross-stitch piece. Only a few thousand more stitches to go! :-)

A couple days ago we returned from our annual vacation, which we spent in Wales and London. Photos to follow. Before too long, I promise…..

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Jerusalem Marathon 2014

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 24, 2014

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I ran my first half marathon (21 km) in the Jerusalem Marathon 2014 last Friday. The photo above was taken on Jaffa Street, around 7:15 a.m. I looked a lot fresher at km 3 than I did at the end!

The photo below was taken on Hevron Road, near the Begin Center. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish because I didn’t sleep the night before (really!) and had a bad night’s sleep the night before that. I’ve always had a hard time sleeping if something exciting is happening the next day. But once the adrenalin kicked in I was fine.

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My race time was 02:27:35, which is respectable for a first-timer on this route. The Jerusalem Marathon is widely regarded as one of the most difficult marathons in the world, because of the relentless hills. (Blogger Karla Bruning describes it as a road race with a trail profile.) My rank was 46/69 in age/gender category, 580/888 in gender category, and 3325/3948 overall.

I can’t begin to describe the experience. Normally, pedestrians have to dodge cars, buses, and trams in the city center. During the marathon, you own the streets. :-)  There’s no one around at that hour except guards and waiters sitting in front of closed cafes and a few volunteers handing out water bottles. Jerusalem has a totally different character. The streets are quiet and empty, the air is fresh, and the sun casts long shadows behind you. Someone asked whether everything goes behind in a blur. I said that actually it seems to go by more slowly because you’re not in a bus and because you can see much more when the sidewalks aren’t covered with pedestrians and sales racks. We poured out of the Rabin Road tunnel and I ran with the human tidal wave up Bezalel Street with Joni Mitchell bouncing through “Chelsea Morning” on my iPod.

These photos were taken with the iPod, so they’re a little wonky and haven’t been edited. I considered taking a camera and then decided against it, in view of my fatigue and the length of the run. This is what the organization point in Gan Sacher looks like at 6:15 a.m. The sun isn’t up yet. Only the half and full marathon runners are around. The marathon was very well organized and the bathrooms were actually bearable and stocked with toilet paper (I hear it was quite different by the time the 10K racers showed up).

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People really do run in costumes! I’m not sure how far one can run dressed as a heart, but I did see a big guy in a granny dress and red puffy hat, a lot of Supermen, and a couple guys with paper bags on their heads.

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We headed to the starting line just as the sun was coming up.

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The half marathon began 15 minutes before the full marathon (7 a.m.). A group of African marathon runners blinded us with their dazzling gold Mylar capes. It was pretty cool to watch. I don’t know whether they ran with them or threw them off at the start of the race.

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At 7 a.m., there were far more runners than spectators and we passed a few drum ensembles playing on street corners. Later in the day, more people came out to watch. It was fun seeing runners being cheered by family members and neighbours while they ran through their neighbourhoods. At the corner of Yehuda and Emek Refaim, they were playing music through speakers and lots of people were cheering. It’s not Boston or New York, where you have thousands of spectators, but it makes you feel like a rock star!

Here’s a panorama I took with my iPod after I crossed the finish line. About 50 of us were on one side of the barrier, stretching, resting on the grass, and drinking water. On the other side were over 10,000 runners waiting to begin the 10 km run. I was quite content to stretch under a tree for a while (no phone!) and relax, before grabbing a medal and heading out to find my family.

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This video focuses mainly on the half marathon. The guy in the granny dress appears around 0:50. I appear very briefly at 1:10, behind the guy with the paper bag on his head. You have to look really hard because I’m in the shadows on the side opposite the camera. If you watch to the end, you get an idea of the carnival atmosphere.

Addendum: A couple people asked how long I trained. It took me about four months, with two short runs and one long run a week. I have been running (not very seriously) for about 12 years. Because I was able to run 7 km easily when I started, I chose the half marathon because the 10K did not seem sufficiently challenging.

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Středověká krčma (Medieval Tavern) in Mala Strana

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 17, 2014

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Back to Prague, and from the sublime to the ridiculous….

In addition to the State Opera and stunning Gothic architecture, Prague has a silly theme park side. Středověká krčma (literally “Medieval Tavern”) was very quiet when I visited it on Sunday morning. If you show up during the evening the web site advertises swordsmanship and “medieval” dancing (scroll down to the video of scantily clad fire dancers). I have no idea whether this tavern is really medieval. It has generally good reviews on Trip Advisor, but don’t expect the Prague State Opera. I wandered inside for about 3 minutes and took these photos at very high ISO because it was so dark.

I wish I had managed to get a better photo of this waitress. She was amazing.

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The decor is Neo-Torture Chamber. I think they used the same interior designer as the Red Keep. The room with the skulls in the ceiling is downstairs (I missed that somehow).

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I guess he wasn’t a good tipper…

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Ruchama Forest 3

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 10, 2014

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These photos of the Ruchama forest were taken during the afternoon. The light was very warm at that hour.

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Eucalyptus leaves.

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Back-lit sheep. All those little white dots are the bits of fluff from the flower seeds.

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Ruchama Forest 2

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 10, 2014

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More photos of anemones in bloom, anemones going to seed, anemones losing their petals….

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Great horns and facial expressions on these sheep.

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Cattle egret hopping between sheep. They hitch a ride on the backs of the sheep and eat insects that live in the fleece. The egrets are so white that they’re difficult to photograph well because the highlights tend to be overblown.

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Zoom blur. I had a tripod with me.

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Anemone in bud, in bloom, and gone to seed.

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Ruchama Forest

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 10, 2014

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Last week I took a half-day photo workshop in the Ruchama forest (near Sderot) led by Yehoshua Halevi. Eight of us spent half a day running around the Ruchama forest photographing the anemones (red, poppy-like flowers that bloom in winter). Yehoshua is a gregarious, patient teacher and an experienced photographer based in Efrat. I prefer to be left on my own while on photo tours, so that was OK as well. The lighting conditions were varied, from overcast to sunny.

The two photos below were taken in a commercial almond orchard. Very few of the trees were in bloom, so I concentrated on the tree trunks in the first photo and a bee on a flower in the second.

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I’m planning to break into the world of sheep portrait photography. Truly a niche market….

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The anemones were a bit past their prime, going to seed, but they were still plentiful.

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These anemones were growing around a charred log. Anemones are a challenge to photograph because the brilliant reds often turn out overblown, with little detail. I find that I have to underexpose them in order to see the edges of the petals.

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Dvořák’s Rusalka

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 24, 2014

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Dvořák’s lyric opera, Rusalka, was first performed in 1901. It remains one of the most popular Czech operas. (A rusalka is a water nymph or sprite who lives in a stream.) The heroine of this opera, Rusalka, is a water nymph who falls in love with a human prince and gives up her voice in return for being able to live on land as a mortal. Rusalks is the original Slavic “Little Mermaid,” which was adapted by Hans Christian Anderson. Disney gave the story a happy ending, but since this is opera, everyone dies at the end.

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The production was gorgeous and the voices were wonderful. I didn’t want to be too obvious about taking photos (we were sharing the box with a German couple), so most of these photos were taken during curtain calls. The first photo (above) shows the castle where they are preparing for the wedding feast. It was such a stunning set I had to photograph it.

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The curtain calls with the red curtain in the background were taken just before the intermission. The opera is three hours long.

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I found a video of short segments from this production, uploaded by the Prague State Opera. It’s a pity that the famous “Song to the Moon” is so difficult to hear over the orchestra, but the rest of the excerpts are quite good. It’s a pity that the dance segments were not included, because the wedding dance was  impressive.

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