This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for May, 2010

Time Lapse Video of Yosemite

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 28, 2010

And this is what Sean Stiegemeier calls a first attempt? Wow. Those night shots are amazing. This is the same guy who made the Iceland volcano time lapse video that I blogged about a few days ago.

In the comments he writes:

Settings were kind of all over the place. The night shots were 30 sec exposures every 2 minutes. Day was every 15seconds for some. 30 and 45 for others.

Cameras were 5D, 5D Mark II, 1ds Mark II. Panning shots were just with a cheap telescope head. It worked ok, but some motion blur with the long exposures.

Yea the HDR stuff is a nightmare with the color and shading crap that it pulls on me. I think as long as the light doesnt change dramatically like at sunsets it works but otherwise it gets crazy.

I’m not sure how one captures the movement of a shooting star with a 30-second exposure. One would expect a motion blur. Or maybe it is a motion blur, whizzing by so fast that the eye perceives it as motion.

All that and HDR, too? That’s an impressive amount of work. The processing could be done in batches with Photomatix, but it would still require really big cards (or possibly generated a faux-HDR from RAW) to handle those files!

The shot of the stars through the tree canopy at the end is haunting.


Posted in videos | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Photography: Never the Same River

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 25, 2010


Heraclitus of Ephesus (c. 535–c. 475 BCE) wrote, “You can never step in the same river twice.” I studied the pre-Socratics in an “Intro to Western Philosophy” course as a freshman undergrad. That saying, which Heraclitus applied to change in the universe, caught my imagination. It always makes me think of photography, because I tend to think of light as a river — always flowing and changing.

One morning I was photographing a pomegranate flower while I was waiting for the minibus to work. A coworker said, “Haven’t you photographed everything around here? You have your camera with you every day and you must have photographed every plant and stone in the area by now.” I replied, “Probably, but that’s no reason to stop photographing them. They grow and change. The weather and light are always changing.” So, my friends, that’s why I photograph the plants and rocks and fences hundreds of times (a slight exaggeration, but only slight).

This evening, after work, I went to pick up the mail because my husband is working late, so I walked to the front of the building instead of going up the path to the back. It was around 6:40 p.m., the hour when the desert light turns soft and golden. Because we have so few clouds (I’m so jealous of you people in England and the US with your great sunsets!), the light is consistently beautiful at this time of day in warm weather, unless there’s a dust storm.

I was halfway up the stairs when I glanced at the street-side landscaping by the mailbox, the same palm trees and cycads that have been there for years. The light was at a great angle and I thought, “I have to photograph this now because the sun will not be in the same place tomorrow.” (If you don’t believe me, look at my photos of Amman taken this year and last year. That experience really made me appreciate the importance of the sun’s position on a given day.) Or I might not be in that spot or there might be clouds or a dust storm. So I dropped my backpack and mail on the sidewalk and took the shot of the cycad above and the two shots of the trunk of a palm tree below.

The position of the sun is particularly important for these shots of a tree trunk because you can only change your own position. You can’t uproot the tree and move it to a better spot. The bark is deeply textured but only light at a certain angle is going to show the feathery details of the base of a dried out palm frond or the torn edge where a dead frond has been trimmed.

Palm Trunk

Palm Trunk

Just for comparison’s sake, here’s a photo that I took of the same cycad, five days ago, at midday. It’s pretty and green but the shadows are underneath the leaves (obviously, because the sun is directly overhead), not slanting at an angle from the side. The greens are much brighter and rather pale.

Moral of the story, in case it’s not obvious: If you’re bored with photographing what’s around you, try it in a new light.

Moral 2: If you find good light, go hunt for something to photograph. It’s a lot easier coming up with a subject than with good natural light. Almost anything will look beautiful if the light is beautiful.



Posted in photography | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Stunning Time Lapse Video of Volcano in Iceland

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 25, 2010

I’m a sucker for really good time-lapse videos. If I owned a timer, I would try to make one myself, despite the fact that it would probably shorten the life of my already somewhat abused Canon Rebel XSi. So for the moment I’m content to post the occasional really good one that I find!

This video was made by Sean Stiegemeier on May 1-2, 2010. He writes:

So I saw all of these mediocre pictures of that volcano in Iceland nobody can pronounce the name of, so I figured I should go and do better. But the flights to get over took forever as expected (somewhat). 4 days after leaving I finally made it, but the weather was terrible for another 4. Just before leaving it got pretty good for about a day and a half and this is what I managed to get.

Wish I had more time. I missed all the cool Lightning and the Lava of the first eruption. But I figure this will just be a trial run for another day.

Posted in videos | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Jerusalem Day Video

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 18, 2010

I made a video, uploaded it to YouTube, then decided I wasn’t happy with the editing, and deleted it. Yesterday morning I re-edited the footage and uploaded it again to YouTube.

My son (electric guitar, second from the left) and a neighbour’s son are playing in the Netiv Meir band. In the last scenes where the background (lit scaffolding over the gutted shell of the Palace Hotel) appears to be moving, I was walking and recording a moving float. I also took about 700 photographs, so it was a busy evening.

An hour after I said goodbye to my son at the Old City, I got a call from him on a borrowed cellphone, saying that the driver had taken off with their equipment and that the police wanted a license number. So I sat on the steps of the Mamilla mall and went through two cards of photos, until I found a photo with a clear shot of the license plate.  If you’re curious, here’s a link to the photo.

The driver returned the equipment in the morning but my son’s amplifier had been stolen during the night. Someone untied it from the truck and walked away with it. My son also lost his cellphone (he left it on the truck). We’re not very happy about this and are trying to get some kind of compensation for the amplifier but it’s a real headache.

Update (May 21, 2010):

A Google search indicates that the owner of the truck company spent 2.5 years in jail for embezzlement. My husband spoke to him on the phone last night and got nowhere. I think we’ll just drop the matter. It’s not worth the headache for a relatively small sum of money. The boy who hired the truck said his uncle had used this company to have something delivered and had no idea, at the time, that he was dealing with a criminal. Chalk it up as a learning experience!

Posted in Israel, videos | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

My Favourite Photos – April

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 17, 2010

I just realised that I never posted my favourite April photos. A lot happened that month — my DSLR’s autofocus died and I had to use point-and-shoot cameras for most of April. I got my first paying job, a bat mitzvah, and had to shoot that with a borrowed camera body. Just try getting someone to lend you a DSLR camera body on a holiday! Then I had to scrounge cards when I discovered that Ed’s old XT took CF cards and I only had SD. I was sick for almost a week in the middle, and that’s when I missed a day in Project 365 for the first time. Ironically, I’m fairly certain that I took photos that day, deleted them, and emptied the trash when I was editing the nearly 1000 bat mitzvah photos (final number was closer to 480 shots).

So some of my favourites this month are from the bat mitzvah. I had a tough time shooting Shira Rina’s portrait in a not-very-beautiful synagogue hall with scratched walls. I ended up shooting her portrait in a stairwell opposite the men’s room, which is why I couldn’t back up far enough to get a good distance. Luckily, she looked down, straight into the camera for this shot. I learned from the experience not to try a “looking up your nose” angle again.


I don’t know why I like this photo of Shira Rina with one of her friends so much but I just do. Maybe it’s the contrasting colouring — black/white clothing, brown/black hair. Or maybe it’s the way Shira Rina’s blue eyes show up. This photo really appeals to me.


This is one of those “Awwww, how cute!” shots. What could be more photogenic than a pretty girl in a flowered dress with a bunch of balloons balanced on her head? 🙂 Most of the kids in this family were very comfortable in front of a camera. That made my job a lot easier because I didn’t have to stalk them!


This photo of Shira Rina inviting her grandmother to dance was one of those chance shots that I almost didn’t get. I barely managed to get them both in the same frame before the circle of girls closed around them. I’m glad that the light was hitting their faces so that you can see the expressions.

Inviting Bubbi to dance

On Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Atzmaut), I dragged my cameras and tripod to the top of the hill to photograph fireworks. I discovered that if you take the photo in RAW, you can really push the colours a lot more in post-processing and see sparks that aren’t normally all that visible in the JPG.

Yom Atzmaut Fireworks

Yom Atzmaut Fireworks

Of course, I had to try a flag photo. This string of flags was hanging in front of the building where I work. I shot from below, towards the sun. It was too hazy to get a sun flare but I got the light above the top flag.

Yom Atzmaut (Israel Independence Day)

The last photos were all done with point-and-shoot cameras when my DSLR was in the shop. I don’t have a macro lens, so if I want really close photos, it has to be with the Canon PowerShot S5IS or my husband’s Samsung.

Mushroom Slice


Matzah River

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Jerusalem Day, 2010, or My Brief Career as a Groupie

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 13, 2010

My son plays in a band at his school. They performed at the Flag Dance (Rikudegalim) on Jerusalem Day (Yom Yerushalayim), May 12, 2010. I followed the band on a float through its entire route, from the start in Paris Square to the Dung Gate of the Old City, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Other photos of Jerusalem Day are posted in my Flickr Jerusalem Day set.

They haven’t started moving yet. I couldn’t get a good shot of the whole band because there were flags on the left and traffic poles on the right. I was standing on the raised plaza of the Sheraton. My son is the guitarist in the middle with the orange electric guitar.  Most of the time I was walking so close to the float (to avoid being trampled by hordes of dancers) that it was impossible to fit the whole band into a frame, even at 18mm. I walked the entire route, which took two hours.

Jerusalem Day, 2010

The float has just turned down Agron street. The Center for Conservative Judaism is behind them.

Jerusalem Day, 2010

The Palace Hotel, covered with scaffolding in the background, is being gutted. The interior will be completely rebuilt.

Jerusalem Day, 2010

They’re passing in front of Jerusalem’s newest shopping mall, the Mamilla Center. The first Gap store to open in Israel is in this mall.

Jerusalem Day, 2010

They turned around the corner towards Paratrooper’s Street. The Dan Pearl hotel is behind them on the left. I think the building on the right belongs to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

Jerusalem Day, 2010

Coming up to the Old City walls and the New Gate.

Jerusalem Day, 2010

That’s the Damascus Gate of the Old City, visible just over the backdrop of the float.

Jerusalem Day, 2010

Down the road between the Old City and the Mount of Olives. It’s getting quite dark. I was shooting at ISO 800 or 1600 by this point. Taking pictures while walking in the dark was an interesting challenge!

Jerusalem Day, 2010

End of the route, just outside the Dung Gate, which leads to the Western Wall plaza. The kids were exhausted. The Dome of the Rock is visible over the wall. We didn’t stay long at the Western Wall because the plaza was packed with people.

Jerusalem Day, 2010

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , | 6 Comments »

Russian Keyboard for Blonds

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 11, 2010

Russian Keyboard for Blondes

This is Masha’s new toy, a present from a visitor. Actually, she does use it for work. It’s the Russian version of the popular Keyboard for Blonds.

I want one, too! I would even be willing to bleach my hair. 🙂

Posted in uncategorized | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Mexican Chicken

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 11, 2010

Mexican chicken with peppers

I had some friends over for Shabbat dinner (belated Cinco de Mayo because we like Mexican food) and this was a big hit. The recipe is a marinade adapted from a friend’s cookbook. I cooked the chicken in a cast iron frying pan (not the enameled iron Dutch oven in this photo; that was for keeping it warm) but I don’t recommend that method with this marinade. The sugar burns/caramelizes and is nearly impossible to get off. I brought water to a roiling boil in the pan twice. I chiseled some off with a knife. Then I heated the pan to libun kal (VERY hot, the temperature you use for making a pan kosher for Passover) and that made the burned on bits flake off. So I recommend that you stick to baking the chicken or cook it in a heavy pot on top of the stove. Hmmm. Maybe I should have used this enameled pot in th efirst place.

Mexican Chicken

Serves 6

2 red peppers, seeded and sliced
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 tbs olive oil
2 or 3 large chicken breasts, sliced (= about 2 pounds)

3/4 c. water
2/3 c. (6 ounces) tomato paste
1/3 c. cilantro leaves, loosely packed
1/4 c. onion
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tbs. lemon juice
1 tbs. vegetable oil
3 tbs. chili powder
1 1/2 tsp. prepared mustard
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Blend marinade ingredients with a steel blade in a food processor. This will make about 2 cups, which is enough for a whole chicken if you prefer. Marinate chicken in sauce for 3 hours or overnight in the refrigerator.

Sauté onions in olive oil until starting to brown. Add sliced red peppers and sauté until tender.

At this point, how you cook the chicken is up to you. I removed the peppers and onions and cooked the chicken in the frying pan, but I don’t recommend that you do this unless you are using a good non-stick pan. It might be easier to throw the chicken, marinade, and vegetables into a baking dish and bake until done. If that works, please let me know!

Posted in Food, recipes | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Square Medallion Shawl Update

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 9, 2010

Edging of Square Medallion Shawl

I’ve completed 18 of the 35 teeth of the first edging of this shawl. Just over the halfway mark! The shawl is the Square Medallion Shawl from The Gossamer Webs Design Collection: Three Orenburg Shawls to Knit.

The yarn is a very fine unbleached linen. It’s on a cone with no label, so I suspect that I picked it up in a weaving supply shop at some point, perhaps on one of my first visits to London.

Posted in Crafts, knitting | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Sunrise over Amman, 2010

Posted by Avital Pinnick on May 5, 2010

Twin Towers of Amman

I woke up at 4:30 this morning. My alarm was set for 5:15 but I often wake up early if I have to get up for something. Last August, I photographed these towers with a Canon PowerShot S5IS, because I only had the 18-55mm kit lens. Since then, I’ve acquired a 55-250mm lens, so I set up my tripod and took the same photo again. And this time the sun actually lined up with the towers!

These photos were taken on Rehov haGilgal, Mitzpeh Nevo, Maale Adumim, Israel. The distance between Mitzpeh Nevo and Amman is about 70 kilometers.

In the cropped photo below (taken just before sunrise) you can see that they replaced the crane on the south tower, which collapsed almost a year ago (May 16, 2009), at a height of 200 meters. The buildings are still under construction. I have no idea how many stories they are now.

Twin Towers of Amman

Posted in photography | Tagged: , , | 13 Comments »