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Random bits of my life

Archive for June, 2011

Jerusalem Festival of Light: Tips and Advice

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 24, 2011

Jaffa Gate, Jerusalem Festival of Light 2011

The Festival of Light has been running for three years and looks like it will be an annual event. It features the work of Israeli and international artists, both performance art and installations. There is also a market where you can buy unusual and artistic light fixtures. Most of the exhibits are free. There is one act that you have to pay for, but I think it’s worth it.

Links to my previous postings on the Festival of Light:

Festival of Light, 2011
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Flickr photos, 2011

Festival of Light, 2010
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Flickr photos, 2010

Festival of Light, 2009 (first year)
Flickr photos, 2009
No blog postings because I didn’t have a blog in those days.

The official site of the Festival, in both English and Hebrew, is updated with the schedule and exhibits every year.

Logistics

  • If you are coming by car, the only place where you will be able to find a spot is probably the Carta parking lot by the Mamilla mall. No guarantees on how long it will take you to get your car out of there, though.
  • The municipality provides free shuttle bus service from various outlying parking areas (e.g., old railway station, Ammunition Hill). I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this arrangement.
  • The shuttle bus pickup point is at the entrance to the Carta parking garage.
  • If you are coming by bus, you can get back from the old city via the #1 at the Kotel (will be crowded) or the #20 by the Carta lot. Hopefully the situation will improve if they ever get the Light Rail running (but don’t hold your breath….)
Paid Performance
  • Every year there has been a performance that you have to pay for (55 NIS or $15), except for the first year, when it was free (you don’t want to know what that was like, trying to watch an act in the dark while hanging off fences). In my opinion the performance is well worth the money. If you are religious and have a problem with female singers or costumes that reveal legs and shoulders, this won’t be appropriate for you.
  • Performances are twice a night, usually around 8:15 and 10:00 p.m. They’re held in Gan haBonim, outside the Old City, between Jaffa Gate and Zion Gate
  • Tickets on the first night were sold on-site but I was told that on later nights it wasn’t possible to buy them except on-line.
  • You can buy tickets on-line from Bimot. You show your credit card at the counter and pick up your tickets.
  • Seats are not reserved and they fill up fast, so plan to show up AT LEAST a half hour before the performance, if not earlier.
  • Best seats are near the back because the Old City wall is the backdrop and it’s quite high. Also, acrobatic acts are way above the stage.
  • Very important: the performance takes about an hour, plus waiting time. It may be difficult to see the other exhibits the same night, so it is advisable to plan for a second night to walk the Old City routes.
Routes in the Old City
  • Maps of the routes are available in Hebrew and English. Look for students lit up like walking information signs. Sometimes they run out of maps near the end of the festival, so keep your map if you plan to go several nights.
  • There is so much available that you could spend three evenings there and not see everything. The street performances are particularly difficult to plan because schedules are not always posted in advance and some of the performers move around. Sometimes you just have to get lucky.
  • Expect crowds. If you don’t like crowds, start the popular trails (the ones through the Jewish Quarter and Christian Quarter are the most crowded) as soon as it gets dark, around 8 p.m.
  • Routes change from year to year but they’re getting better at crowd control (using wider streets, making some exhibits one-way). So if you were put off by crowds in the past, give it another try.
  • Wear good walking shoes.
  • Bring a light sweater or jacket because it can get cool and windy in the evening.
  • Bring water.
  • Bring snacks if you have kids.
  • The route through the Jewish Quarter has lots of steps, but you can do the upper parts (Armenian Quarter Road, Hurva square, Batei Mahsei) if you have trouble with stairs. The route is fine for strollers except for getting down to the Davidson Center and the City of David (lots of stairs).
  • The route through the Christian Quarter doesn’t have stairs (except a few on David Street, back to Jaffa Gate) but it can get very crowded around the Muristan. Fine for strollers, if you go early.
  • The route down to Damascus gate is busy but almost never crowded. However, Zedekiah’s cave is a long walk down shallow steps in dim light, so it could be difficult if you need to walk with a cane. The cave itself is not recommended if you have a stroller but the rest of the route is fine.
Photography
  • The policy for photographing the paid performance varies. In 2010 (“History of Light,” by Pyromania), visitors were asked not to photograph the performance. This year, nothing was said. The policy is probably determined by the group performing.
  • In any case, if you do photograph the paid performance, for heaven’s sake, TURN OFF YOUR FLASH. It just annoys other people and doesn’t illuminate the performers. If you happen to have a flash powerful enough to illuminate the performers, it will be bright enough to distract them and could be hazardous (but  if you have enough money for a pro-quality flash gun, you probably already know how to use your DSLR in the dark).
  • If you are photographing the paid performance with a DSLR, you will have difficulty using a tripod, because the seats are set up in rows, unless you get a spot in an open area. I usually shoot at a high ISO, shutter-priority, because there is a lot of movement in dim light.
  • A lot of people bring tripods for the Old City routes. These are useful for the low-light conditions, but just remember that many exhibits won’t have enough room for you to set up a tripod and you’ll be carrying it with you for several hours. (A cheap, 120 NIS tripod will be light enough to carry around but useless if you’re in a windy area or surrounded by jostling crowds.)
  • Bring extra cards if there’s a chance you might do a lot of shooting in RAW.
  • A lot of the installations are video or move, so if you have a video camera that can deal with low-light conditions, be sure to bring it
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Jerusalem Festival of Light, 2011 (Part 3)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 23, 2011

Bwindi Light Masks (Richi Ferrero, Italy)

One of the shortcomings of photography is that it isn’t very good at depicting motion or change. Video is much better. In this posting I’ve concentrated on a few exhibits that stood out in my mind on the last evening that I attended the Jerusalem Festival of Light. For more information about the artists and exhibits, go to the Jerusalem Festival of Light site. The photos in my Flickr set show other exhibits that I haven’t covered in this blog posting. There were just too many installations to post photos of all of them!

The Bwindi Light Masks in Zedekiah’s cave, a deep and ancient quarry under the old city, were fun to photograph. While music played, the lights changed colour and intensity, suggesting different expressions on the masks.

Bwindi Light Masks (Richi Ferrero, Italy)

Bwindi Light Masks (Richi Ferrero, Italy)

Bwindi Light Masks (Richi Ferrero, Italy)

Living Tiles is the name of the exhibit at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Christian Quarter. The tiles are created by participants standing under a camera. The church is in a very narrow alley, which makes it difficult to get a photo of the whole facade without an extreme wide angle lens. This was the best I could manage with 18mm.

Living Tiles (OCUBO)

When I got closer to the church I saw this man doing a funny dance. The square markings on the pavement show the range of the camera mounted directly above him.

Living Tiles (OCUBO)

The photo below is the man’s image, reflected and tiled.

Living Tiles (OCUBO)

Self-portrait: My husband is on the left, wearing a light blue shirt, medium blue backpack, and red kippah. I’m on the right, in dark colours, holding my arms out.

Living Tiles (OCUBO)

There was a lot more performance art this year, which made it almost impossible to see everything. You would need very good timing, a schedule, and luck with the crowds to see everything. We went on three nights and didn’t manage to see everything.

The two fire dancers below performed “Reflection” with large and small curved reflectors but I was at the side of the audience, not in a good position to photograph the reflections.

RAW, ISO 1600, 1/30 second, f/5.0, 18nn

Reflection

RAW, ISO 800, 1/3 second, f/5.0, 18mm

Reflection

The Fairy Tales Gate, a video installation projected onto the Damascus gate, was magical. I wish I could create something like this!

The Fairytales Gate (Joseph Meir Jimmy)

The Fairytales Gate (Joseph Meir Jimmy)

The Fairytales Gate (Joseph Meir Jimmy)

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Lunar Eclipse, June 15, 2011

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 21, 2011

Lunar Eclipse (June 15, 2010)

Ironically, I wasn’t able to photograph the progress of the longest lunar eclipse in years because I was at the Jerusalem Festival of Light. It was gratifying, I must say, to see crowds of people surrounded by glittering lights, staring at the moon. I wish I’d had a tripod with me! The photo above was taken when I got home, at 11:51 p.m., well after the full eclipse. The moon was quite dark, which made it very difficult to focus manually. Even Live Preview mode didn’t help because I just couldn’t see the dark moon in the screen. So I did the best I could with my not-very-good eyes and the viewfinder. 1 sec, ISO 800, f/5, 146mm, RAW format.

The photo below is actually a composite of two exposures, 1/30 sec to capture some details of the old city wall and 1/200 to capture some detail in the moon. These were done without a tripod, around 9:40 p.m., as we were leaving the exhibit. ISO 400 with some noise reduction in Adobe Camera RAW.

Eclipse over Old City Wall

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Jerusalem Festival of Light 2011 (part 2)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 20, 2011

Butterfly Effect

I’m jumping back a day, because these photos were on my work computer (yes, I work in high tech and I do not have a laptop, by choice. I was also the last person in the western world to have a dial-up connection). These photos are from The Butterfly Effect, an impressive acrobatic performance with light, music, and video.

Shows are at 8:15 and 10:00 p.m. every night of the festival, tickets are 55 NIS, available from Bimot or on-site. If you want to get a good site (preferably from the middle to the back, because the stage is so high), make sure you’re there at least 30 minutes before the performance. The performers are Y Circus, an Israeli group (I presume, because my son heard them speaking Hebrew last night when he was working as a guard at the site).

This opening scene was amazing. They staged a battle scene at 90 degrees to the wall. They were so convincing that after a while you could see the wall as the floor, and feel like you were looking down upon the heads of the performers.

Butterfly Effect

Much of the performance was done on ladders or scaffolding, high above two giant trampolines. I shot the photographs at ISO 400 with a 55-135mm zoom lens, Canon XSi (450D – yes, it’s an old model but it does the job), mostly at speeds of 1/15 to 1/100 seconds, handheld. If you want a challenge, try photographing acrobats at night. It’s almost as tricky as a dog show in the dark.

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

Some of the backgrounds were stunning:

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect

Butterfly Effect
More photos are on my Flickr set.

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Jerusalem Festival of Light, 2011 (Part 1)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 19, 2011

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

I originally intended to post my photos of the Jerusalem Festival of Light, but if I do that I might never get around to it. So they’re a bit out of order because my photos from the first night we went are on my computer at work. These photos were taken the second night. We covered the orange route.

The first photo (above) was a zoom photo of “Echinodermus and Pissenlit” (Tilt, France). Here’s a normal shot of the installation:

IMG_9338

The photo below is a panorama of three photos stitched together of Jaffa Gate.

Jerusalem Festival of Light 2011

The flower below was also part of “Echinodermus and Pissenlit,” taken just after sundown when the sky turns a beautiful blue.

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

Below: “Blazing Agelux” (Pitaya, France), along Armenian Quarter Road.

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

Below: “The Art of Listening” (Bernardo Scolnik). My son guarded this for 11 hours during the day. We took him out for dinner just before we went out to the exhibit. Needless to say, he went home to sleep.

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

I’m not sure what these feathers were. They don’t seem to be in the brochure:

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

“When Light Meets Sound” (Lichtpiraten), which encourages audience participation. I’m the shadow on the right.

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

I don’t know who the girl is but I thought she was an interesting addition to the photo, so I left her in.

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

“Field of Light” (Imagine Light Design Studio). The pillars changed colour and were sometimes pink rods, green rods, or like blue rain. I knelt by the fence in order to get a low enough angle to photograph the Hurva Synagogue through the pillars.

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

“Night Train” (Malki Shem Tov and Yoav David). Video mapping project on Batei Machsei. This was a night watchman looking through the windows.

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

“Popping Candy – Fantasy” (Itzik Iluz).

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

“OVO” (ACT Lighting Design & Ode au bois, Belgium). You can walk into this egg, which constantly changes colour and is reflected in a pool of shallow water around the walkway.

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

Inside the egg, looking up:

Jerusalem Light Exhibition 2011

“Light at the End of the Tunnel” (Ori Yardeni). I don’t recommend it. It’s a long walk from the City of David to Shiloah (Silwan, the entrance to Hezekiah’s Tunnel) in the dark, just to sit in a pitch-black sauna and listen to an archaeological melodrama in Hebrew. Not unlike trying to go to sleep in a sweltering Tel Aviv summer with the radio turned too loud. Those thirteen minutes seemed like forever. There is also a light show at the archaeological site of the City of David. If you saw the video projection last year, this year’s is very similar because it recycles the section at the beginning of the life cycle of the city and the middle section with the voice-over describing the archaeology. There are a couple new clips added, but not worth a special trip if you’re tired by the time you’ve finished the orange route.

"Light at the End of the Tunnel"

More photos on my Flickr set: Jerusalem Festival of Light 2011

 

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Linen Napkins

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 18, 2011

Finished Napkins

I used my new napkins for the first time today! They were wonderful. My husband and son kept commenting on how nice it was to have new linen napkins on the Shabbat table. I sewed them because it’s very hard to find cloth napkins in Israel. I did find one place in Jerusalem that sells them but they’re about $4 each and I’m not sure of the fabric (probably a heavy cotton/polyester). I bought the fabric at Bad Ratz and they ended up costing about $15 for 16 napkins. Quite a difference in price!

I’m not going to tell you how I made them because there are many good instructions on the Web, like this tutorial. If you have a rotary cutter, cutting out 16 napkins is a snap. I’m wondering how I managed so long without it! They’ll have to pry it out of my cold, stiff hands when I’m gone…. Here’s a pile of cut napkins, the edges turned and pressed.

Fabric Cut for Napkins

If you have the patience to sew mitered corners, I highly recommend it for several reasons. It will definitely alleviate the boredom of hemming all those napkins. It’s not a difficult skill to learn and worth having if you like sewing your table linens. Your napkins will look fabulous.

When I was halfway through the pile of fabric I started timing myself and found that it took me only 2 minutes per napkin, so we’re not talking about a major investment in time! If you want a tip on sewing fast, don’t use pins. I almost never pin anything, certainly not anything as fiddly as a mitered corner in heavy linen fabric. I use a sewing awl instead. If you have an old-fashioned ice pick, that will work. Some sites recommend using the point of a seam ripper but I worry that mine would break under the pressure. When I’m sewing fast and trying to get a bulky corner under the presser foot, I press down really hard, so I use the tip of a pair of really sturdy thread clippers, but you could use a small, sturdy screwdriver or anything that will hold your fabric firmly.

In a nutshell, a sewing awl is a long, skinny, steel finger, which you use to hold the folds of fabric in place while stitching with a machine (I’m not talking about the sewing awls with an eye for threading and stitching leather). Your left hand (or whatever hand is not holding the awl) guides the large piece of fabric, turning the edge, while your right hand feeds the fabric, using the awl, directly under the presser foot. I’ve been known to start my sewing machine by turning the head wheel with my left hand, which is a bit of a contortion, but it works. My sewing machine is a cranky old 1970s Singer that was given to me in non-working order. I had it repaired, sewed my maternity clothes, my son’s baby clothes, and it’s still going strong.

Mitered Corner

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High School Graduation

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 17, 2011

Graduation

My son (and only child) graduated last week from Netiv Meir Yeshiva High School in Jerusalem. There were 40 boys in his year. I was struck by how different his graduation was from my own, from the University of Toronto (BA and MA; by the time I finished my PhD at Harvard, I had already moved to Israel). I hadn’t expected to enjoy the evening much, especially because I don’t understand Hebrew very well, but I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

The speeches were brief, they thanked people (I was impressed that they called in one of the cafeteria workers to thank her), showed the obligatory slideshow of all the creative ways teenage boys can find to break the rules, including flooding a section of the roof with a hose to make a swimming pool. Wait a minute — a swimming pool on the roof??!! He told us he got thrown out for participating in a water fight!

This photo below is NOT my son, although he was one of the spectators. I saw the video on Facebook. Two boys stripped down to their boxer shorts and swam around a large aquarium that hadn’t been cleaned since it was donated to the school. The fish died. The boys bought new fish.

Graduation

Interestingly enough, there were no awards at this ceremony. (“The winner of the junior math contest, followed by the senior math contest, followed by the English award, the physics award, the basket-weaving award….”) No presentation of teams or sports awards. No clubs. No valedictorian. Just a couple hours of speeches and songs in a cafeteria decorated with balloons and blue cloth. The young man who spoke as a representative for the class had a noticeable stammer. I thought it was nervousness but my son said he always stammers. How brave of him to speak in front of 40 boys and their parents!

My son’s band played for the last time. Next year they’ll be all over the country — army, yeshiva, and mechinot (pre-army program). I haven’t heard them play much because they’re usually performing at bar mitzvahs or school functions to which parents aren’t invited. Believe me, you don’t want to see what your son gets up to at a Purim party. (Here’s this year’s Purim school performance. I didn’t shoot that video. My son’s band is playing but he isn’t on the stage because he’s one of the dancers in black and white, wearing masks.)

I have seen some videos where they were surprisingly good. This wasn’t one of their best performances because they were told at the last minute and had only two days to rehearse, while studying for exams (matriculation exams continue for another few weeks). The singer is standing at a 90 degree angle in the video below because he’s reading the lyrics from the screen.

This one’s cute (and very short, only 2 minutes long). The boys got up and started singing along with their arms on each others shoulders. Of course, a swarm of camera-wielding parents followed. And of course I was one of them, recording the video with a point-and-shoot while walking around the table.

So we’ve passed another milestone. I can’t say I was totally thrilled with the school but my son made good friends and turned into a mature (even if he refuses to cut his hair at the moment) and kind young man.

I made two other videos of their performance but I’m not posting them here. Instead, here are the links: Yotzei LeOr, a fast song where you can hear the performance of the individual members a little better, and Uf Gazal.

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Fabric Shopping

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 14, 2011

Stuff

When I was photographing Gail’s quilts, Gail suggested we meet at Bad Ratz (Ratz Fabrics). She works at Pardes, above the store. I can’t imagine being a quilter and working in the same building as a big fabric store! Great will-power and self-control.

I ended up buying a rotary cutter, a ruler (I already have a cutting mat), eleven cotton prints (1/2 meter each, 30 NIS/m), 1/2 m. of heatproof fabric for “platter” cover liners, and 1.5 m. linen for table napkins (I got a discount on the linen, normally 48 NIS/m).

I know I said that I don’t need a new hobby, but it isn’t really a new hobby. I started my first quilt (machine-pieced, hand-quilted) when I was 15 and finished it six years later. I also machine-quilted two small projects (portfolio cover and a cover for my Chicago Manual of Style, which had matching handles and an inkle-band bookmark). This would be a great way to use up my fabric stash. I could cover up some of the appliances on my kitchen counter, make bags to hold my lenses, etc. “Platter” covers make great gifts. You see the logic behind this? 🙂

Bad Ratz is in the building with Pardes and a Mazda dealership, on Pierre Koenig street in Jerusalem. They have a nice range of cotton prints from good mills in the US and UK, for 30 NIS/m. They also sell upholstery, evening-wear fabrics, linen, flannel, and a limited selection of quilt batting (Gail thinks the quality at Pissot is better, so keep that in mind).

The Israel Quilters Association (IQA, Hebrew site) is holding its annual retreat with classes and workshops at the Bayit veGan Guesthouse on Pisgat Street in Jerusalem, July 5-6, 2011. Non-members are allowed into the vendors’ hall, where Pissot and The Quilt Center (from Bustan haGalil) will have goods for sale. Hey, it wouldn’t hurt just to look, right? And to keep Gail company, of course.

Bad Ratz is accessible from the left side of the building, when you are standing on Pierre Koenig (address is Pierre Koenig 29, close to the new mall). It covers three store fronts and is quite a large store.

Bad Ratz (Ratz Fabric)

The bolt of DMC fabric leaning against the thread case is 14-count Aida. The rolls on the left are flannels (30 NIS/m). In the center one of the signs says, “Ultrasuede – 120 NIS/m”.

Bad Ratz (Ratz Fabric)

In the bottom photo you can see the corner with the cotton prints. The small display case in the center holds several models of Olfa rotary cutters, rulers, and packs of spare blades. That’s useful to know because apparently it’s not easy finding Olfa products outside quilting shops.

Bad Ratz (Ratz Fabric)

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Gail’s Quilts

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 13, 2011

Gail's Quilts

I’ve known Gail for years. She was our downstairs neighbour when we moved to Maale Adumim 17 years ago. Gail moved out of the neighbourhood for a few years, then returned recently and bought a house. I didn’t know she was an avid quilter until she posted a request for worn towels on our local chat list. When I asked her what she was doing with the towels, she told me that she makes quilted platter covers (“platters” are the electric warming trays on which we heat our food on Shabbat). She also makes lovely baby quilts and wall hangings. I went over the other day to photograph some of her quilts and we made a tentative date to go to Pissot together (because I really need another hobby, right?!).

Gail has been quilting for about four years. She got hooked by a friend in Memphis, TN, who took her to a local quilting group. Some of her quilts are based on kits but she tries to add something original, like beads and unusual quilting designs. She does the piecing and quilting on a lightweight Brother portable sewing machine.

Here is a wall hanging for her daughter Ilana: The orange and brown prints are stunning against the pale blue wall.

Gail's Quilts

This closeup shot shows the tiny flower beads that she sewed on the dresses.

Gail's Quilts

The crib quilts usually started out as kits. She machine quilts them with a darning foot, often in meandering patterns.

Gail's Quilts

Anyone remember Dick and Jane and Spot? This block quilt is based on prints from the old reading series. A quilting template of tissue paper is still attached to this quilt in progress.

Gail's Quilts

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Inside the Hurva

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 9, 2011

Hurva Synagogue

I was in the re-built and re-opened Hurva Synagogue in the Old City on Jerusalem Day. If only I had had my wide-angle lens with me! These photos were taken from the women’s gallery, which was nearly empty because mincha had just finished. This was the first time I had ever been inside. I have photographed the outside before. I will probably not be able to photograph the synagogue from the main floor because it has been turned into a beit midrash (study hall). Tours are given but I understand that visitors only have access to the women’s gallery and the dome gallery.

The Hurva, whose name means “destroyed,” was founded in 1700, destroyed by the Muslims in 1721, rebuilt in 1864, destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948, and rebuilt in 2010. When I came to Israel, it was an empty courtyard with an arch. The synagogue was reconstructed from old photographs. Here are a couple photos I took in the past.

Synagogue exterior during construction:

Rebuilding the Hurva Synagogue

Jerusalem Light Exhibit, 2010, with animation projected onto the facade:

"From Your Ruins I Will Build You"

Detail of corner painting of Rachel’s Tomb (Hebron):

Hurva Synagogue

Hall viewed from above. Note the elaborate canopy over the bima (raised platform from which the Torah is read).

Hurva Synagogue

Two-storey aron kodesh (Torah ark).

Hurva Synagogue

Hurva Synagogue

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