This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for February, 2011

Baby Steps with Adobe Illustrator

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 28, 2011

I’ve been trying to teach myself Adobe Illustrator from on-line videos. I highly recommend I managed to get my workplace to pay for a monthly subscription and have used it to learn Flash, ActionScript, Photoshop, and now Illustrator. Illustrator is a very powerful vector drawing program. I really am a beginner. This is my very first drawing. If I didn’t have a background in Photoshop or Flash it would have taken me much longer to get this far. My husband was visiting relatives in Manchester, so I had a long, uninterrupted block of time last night to practice.

Fruit Basket in Illustrator

Here’s the reference photo, for comparison:

Fruit basket reference photo

One of the neighbours has a little herb patch in his garden. This is French lavender. I never noticed before that the buds spiral. I will have to remember to take some close-ups of the buds before the flowers are finished.

French Lavender

Here’s a quick shot I took this morning from the minibus on the way to work. Usually the camels are on the other side of the road, if they’re there at all.

Camels on Commute

Last Friday I saw eleven, yes, eleven wild gazelles in the wadi. And I didn’t have a camera with me! I had hoped to go for a run, so I put on my running clothes and left the DSLR at home. A few running steps were all that it took to convince me that my foot wasn’t ready for that kind of stress, so I switched to a fast walk. I’ve seen two or three gazelles before, but never eleven. They were grazing and moving slowly, so I was able to count them twice. Gazelles are difficult to photograph because they keep their distance and their grazing habits are unpredictable. I went out with the camera early on Sunday morning but didn’t see a single gazelle. I did startle a fox and managed to grab a quick shot of him running away. He was a beautiful specimen — look at those ears and that bushy tail!

Fox Trot

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Lady with Unicorn Update

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 27, 2011

I know, I know — I posted an update on February 1, 2011. I’m only posting this one because it’s (almost) a milestone. I’m (almost) finished the second page of charts.

It’s harder to count the actual stitches now that I’m no longer working in blocks, but I estimate that I need to do another 200 stitches to finish this page. That means I’ve worked about 14,430 stitches, about 11%. Wow, I didn’t realise I’d reached the 10% milestone!

Miscellaneous data:
Purchased from Scarlet Quince
318 x 410 stitches (total: 130,380 stitches)
130 colours
18-count Aida (= 18 stitches/inch)
Started Nov. 23, 2009

Lady with Unicorn, Feb. 26, 2011, Update

Here’s the previous update photo, taken at the end of January:

Lady with Unicorn Update

The piece is going so much faster since I stopped “parking” my stitches. If you’re not sure what parking is, Scarlet Quince has a tutorial. I’m not saying parking doesn’t have its place in a needle-geek’s arsenal. It’s just that in this case it’s not necessary, probably because I’m working on 18-count Aida. If I were working on a much higher thread-count fabric (like Gary Schneider, who started Golden Kite’s “Picture Gallery, with Views of Modern Rome,” on 26-count linen, 1-thread over) I would probably need to park my threads. In my case, the results didn’t justify the extra work and needle-threading. And if you don’t have a clue what kind of needle-threading this technique (pun alert) entails, here’s a photo taken with the parked threads:

Lady with Unicorn, Nov. 7

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My New Tripod

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 24, 2011

Me and My New Tripod

I love my new tripod. 🙂 I was a bit worried about the extra weight but it fits into the side pocket of my backpack easily and the weight is scarcely noticeable on my shoulder. It’s a Manfrotto MK-394-H.

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Imploding Almond Flowers

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 23, 2011

I needed a break at work, so I took my camera outside and photographed some almond trees lining the parking lot. The first three were regular close-up flower shots. After I got those out of my system, I started doing zoom shots. One tip: zoom shots are not easy to do without a tripod. When I had my old 18-55mm kit lens, they were nearly impossible. The zooming action on my 18-135mm lens is much smoother. So if you’ve tried this in the past and been disappointed with the results, tell yourself: (a) it might be the fault of the lens and (b) digital photography is free. 🙂

Almond Flowers

Almond Flowers

Almond Flowers

Almond Flowers

Almond Flowers

Almond Flowers

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Virtual Caves of Nottingham

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 23, 2011

This video is a virtual fly-through through Mortimer’s Hole, one of 450 sandstone caves under Nottingham, England.

The Nottingham Caves Survey uses laser scanning to map many caves that are not accessible to the public. A laser scanner emits a beam of that bounces back when it hits something. The scanner calculates how far away the object is by measuring the length of time it takes for the light to return (isn’t that how bats find their way around, only with sound instead of light?). By sending out a lot of beams in different directions, like photographing a360 degree panorama, the scanner is able to build up a “picture” of these cave interiors. The points that are plotted are transformed by software into maps and 3D models.

Tthese caves are not natural. The softness of the sandstone makes it easy to work with hand tools and apparently it is very stable. The caves are safe to use as dwellings, even with buildings above them. Some of the caves have been dated to 1250. In the 1600s, they were known as “Pauper Holes,” evidently not one of the more desirable neighbourhoods. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the caves were used as basements and were ideal for storing ale. During the Victorian period, some caves were carved as follies. Caves were re-purposed as air raid shelters during World War II.

You can find other videos posted by the Nottingham Caves Survey on their YouTube profile, but this short clip is my favourite. I love its surreal quality, the way interiors dissolve into exteriors and vice versa. I’m a sucker for virtual reality, probably because I do some of my work in Flash and I’m trying to learn Adobe Illustrator. Someday I may see the caves in person, but in the meantime, this fly-through is wonderful!

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Sewing Buttons

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 22, 2011

My officemates, Masha and Yinnon, are the most willing models you can imagine. That’s why I have so many photos of them. No matter what they’re doing, they never mind being photographed.

Yinnon had to sew several buttons on his coat.

He’s smiling because Masha and I are telling him that our mothers said never to hold a needle in your mouth.


A little trouble finding the end of the thread on the spool ….


Threading the needle….


Tying the knot


The first button


My new tripod, the Manfrotto MK394, arrived yesterday. The one I had originally wanted, the 7321YB, is no longer being made. This model is its replacement. It’s a little bit cheaper, weighs 3.7 lb and holds 7.7 lb. It has a 3-way pan head, quick release plate, 4 leg sections, and measures 20 inches when closed and 56 inches when fully extended. I am a happy camper!

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Rainy Day Photos While Staying Dry

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 20, 2011

Rainy Day

What do you do if you want to take photos on a rainy day and you don’t want to get wet? These photos came about by accident. I had some time on my hands at work, it was pouring outside, and I wanted to take some pictures. Silly me, I didn’t think to bring an umbrella. Besides, not much is blooming in the courtyard and I’m tired of photographing raindrops in puddles.

I sat by a large window in the dairy cafeteria and watched the rain running down the glass in wide rivulets. When I noticed that the running water distorted the view of the olive trees and pampas grass outside, I switched to manual focus and focused somewhere between the trees outside and the glass.  These are some of the results of my experiments.

Rainy Day

Rainy Day

Rainy Day

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Bouquet for Pam

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 18, 2011

One of my most amazing cyber friends, Pam, wrote a lovely blog posting about me, so this bouquet of flower photos is for her. She’s also very modest. If you were to tell her to her face that she’s amazing, she would probably say, “Oh, no, I’m not amazing. My daughter, Diane, now she’s amazing!” Well, that’s certainly true. Diane Gilleland, aka Crafty Pod, is wonderfully talented and accomplished. They’re an amazing mother and daughter pair!

Pam’s Gingerbread Snowflakes blog is dedicated to crafts, especially winter seasonal crafts, but she also blogs about food, traditions, and decorating. She’s a professional photographer (I was blown away by the quality of the photos on her blog before I realised that she was a pro). Over the past couple years she has been a photographic resource, a font of information and advice, a shoulder to cry on, and an unfailing source of encouragement. Whenever I asked her whether I was ready to do something, whether it was taking corporate portraits or shooting a bat mitzvah or brit mila as a paid photographer, she would say, “Of course!,” and I just jumped right in. There were times when I wasn’t sure I wanted to continue blogging or taking pictures and Pam was right behind me, with a pep talk to get me through the hard times. Thanks, Pam! You’re one in a million.

I’ve been photographing a lot of flowers lately, mainly because they’re very easy subjects. They don’t run away or pout, they don’t have bad hair days, and they never, ever say, “Just hurry up and take the picture already!” My foot is slowly getting better but I’m not yet up to the physical level where I can  spend several hours on my feet taking pictures. These photos were all taken close to home — very close to home. Most of them are photos of a neighbour’s garden. I’m very lucky that Nahum’s hobby is gardening, that he lives close to the bus stop where I get picked up for work, and that he’s said I’m always welcome to photograph his plants.


Would you believe that this geranium photo was taken after I turned down the saturation on my camera? The reds/pinks are still pretty strong. I didn’t saturate it or change it in post.

Weeds at night

Dry weeds photographed at night, by the light of a street lamp. Handheld because I wasn’t walking around with a tripod. ISO 800.

Tecoma Stans (Yellow Bells)

"There's rosemary, that's for remembrance"

Rosemary is grown as an ornamental shrub in this part of the world. I never noticed before how pretty these tiny flowers are. The colours got a bit washed out because I took this photo in the middle of the day. I should re-take it when the light is better.

"There's pansies, that's for thoughts"

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Puncetto Valsesiano: Part 9 – Diamond

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 17, 2011

For some reason, people seem find the diamond a tricky design. I think it’s because if you don’t realise that the rows are worked diagonally, you might be tempted to work back and forth horizontally, increasing at each side, then decreasing on each side. That would give anyone hives. Fortunately, the diamond is not all that difficult, especially when you see the thread path in the animation that follows.

Puncetto Valsesiano: Part 9 - Diamond


The sample is worked on 10 loops (= 11 knots). The actual number is irrelevant because the diamond itself occupies a space that is 2 squares wide and 2 squares high. I am using a 3-knot square as my base, so this diamond covers 6 loops (= 7 knots).

Abbreviations: L to R: Left to Right. R to L: Right to Left

  1. L to R: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. R to L: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. Repeat. L to R: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. This forms the lower left block of the sample.
  2. Skip 2 loops of the base row of loops and make a knot in the the 3rd loop, leaving enough thread to form the diagonal side of the triangular space on the lower left side of the diamond.
  3. Skip 2 loops of the base row and make a knot in the 3rd loop, leaving enough thread to form the diagonal side and the right vertical side of the triangular space on the lower right side of the diamond. You are read to start the lower right block of the sample.
  4. L to R: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. R to L: Make 2 knots in 2 loops and 1 knot on the vertical thread. Repeat. L to R: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. This forms the lower right block of the sample.
  5. R to L: Make 2 knots in 2 loops.
  6. Start working the diamond. R to L: Make 5 knots on the right diagonal thread and 1 knot on the left diagonal thread. L to R: Make 4 knots in 4 loops. R to L: Make 4 knots in 4 loops and 1 knot on the left diagonal thread. Repeat the last two rows 3 times. You have finished the diamond. Continuing R to L: Make 2 knots on 2 loops (over top of the lower left block).
  7. Start the upper left block.  L to R: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. R to L: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. Repeat. L to R: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. This forms the upper left block of the sample.
  8. Make a knot in the top loop of the diamond, leaving enough thread to form the top edge of the triangular space on the upper left side of the diamond. Make a knot on the first loop of the lower right block, leaving enough thread to form the top edge and right side of the triangular space on the upper right side of the diamond. Work the upper right block: L to R: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. R to L: Make 2 knots in 2 loops and 1 knot on the vertical thread. Repeat. L to R: Make 2 knots in 2 loops.
  9. R to L: Make 2 knots in 2 loops. Make 3 knots on the thread over the right triangular space. Make 3 knots on the thread over the left triangular space. Make 2 knots in 2 loops (over top of  upper right block).

Posted in Crafts, Puncetto Valsesiano, tutorial | Tagged: , , , | 11 Comments »

Walk around the block

Posted by Avital Pinnick on February 13, 2011

I went for a walk around the block Friday afternoon after I finished cooking for Shabbat. My foot is getting stronger, so I hope that soon I can try longer walks and maybe even get back to running. On the other hand, it’s a lot easier to carry a big camera while walking than jogging. That’s some consolation for my more limited movement these days. If I ever go jogging again (and now it’s starting to seem remotely possible), I’m definitely going to consider buying a compact camera that will fit into a waist pouch. Maybe an S95? Any recommendations?

Hey, I finally ordered a new tripod! But I had a moment of panic. I’d ordered a Manfrotto M-Y 7321YB with a 3-way panning head. Yes, I know that the 7301 is sturdier and not much more expensive but the weight was the deciding factor. The 7301 weighs 3.7 lb, while the 7321 weighs 2.8 lb. With the lenses that I’m starting to haul around, I need as light a tripod as I can manage, one that will hold my camera and heaviest lenses securely. Since the body is such a featherweight, the total weight of my kit is easily within the range of the 7321. But back to my story…. After I clicked “Submit,” I saw that the picture on the site was a tripod with a ball head, which I didn’t want. So I called Camera Mia (I’ve used them for years, got my first kit lens from them) this morning and they confirmed that the tripod has the 3-way head and that the picture was a mistake. Whew! They said it would be shipped in a couple days, so I’m really looking forward to it.

The first animal I photographed was this old goat. His eyes were rather milky, so I wonder whether he might have been blind. He was pulling up weeds very close to the fence. I checked that there no Bedouin dogs around. Once I nearly jumped out of my skin when I was jogging up the road, didn’t notice a flock of sheep just below the fence (I was listening to music), and a couple dogs jumped out of nowhere and started growling and barking at me. So now I’m very careful about approaching flocks, even if they’re close to home.


Further up the hill I saw a lot of camels grazing in the wadi. I counted around 20, which is a sizable number, even for this area.

Lots of camels

At the top of the block, near the park and the yeshiva, I photographed this little hyrax conference. The hyraxes are almost always sunning themselves on the rocks when the weather is good, so this photo is nothing unusual.


The last photo is a bee on a rosemary bush. It was moving so fast that most of the photos were out of focus. This one wasn’t too bad.

Bee on rosemary flowers

Do you notice any difference in the colours? I finally got sick of having to tone down the reds and oranges in my photos, so I checked the “standard” picture setting. The saturation was set to 0, so I re-set it to -1. Now the reds aren’t quite as jarring, but the other colours still look okay, so I’m going to leave it that way. If I ever need screaming reds for some reason, I can get the same effect in post and this will save me a lot of time spent correcting overly saturated reds.

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