This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘Mitzpeh Nevo’

Torah Scroll Dedication (Oct. 9, 2011)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 10, 2011

Torah Scroll Dedication

I was on my way home from the grocery store yesterday after work, when I heard the music coming from Gilgal Street and remembered that there was a hakhnasat sefer torah/Torah scroll dedication that evening. Fortunately, I had my DSLR camera with me, so I stashed my groceries in my backpack and ran down with my camera. (Yes, I do love my new point&shoot and carry it everywhere but I really missed the speed and versatility of the DSLR, so I started carrying it with me again.) I really enjoyed the opportunity to photograph a challenging subject. Capturing photos of people moving around at night, without using a flash or tripod, can be tricky. The still photos were taken with a Canon Digital Rebel XSi (aka 450D), 18-135mm lens, no flash, RAW format. The Sefer Torah was dedicated by the Spector family in memory of Ziva Spector, z”l.

The photo above shows the Torah scroll being carried under a chuppah, since the scroll is like a bride. The bearded man facing the camera might be Rav Katz, the chief rabbi of Maale Adumim. I’m not sure. I’ll have to check the notice to see who was scheduled to speak. I liked the face of the little girl looking up.

They organized a children’s section with lit torches but it had become somewhat disorganized by the time I got there.

Torah Scroll Dedication

Torah Scroll Dedication

It’s not often that I get such a good view from above. I went back to my flat, dumped the groceries, and went out on the balcony to take a few photos from above.

Torah Scroll Dedication

I zoomed in to show the other Torah scrolls that are brought out of synagogue to “greet the bride.”

Torah Scroll Dedication

Torah Scroll Dedication

Here’s a short video clip of the procession. I’ve always wanted to try recording one of these events and now I finally have a camera that do a decent job of shooting HD video at night. This was shot with the Canon PowerShot S95. The strong yellowish cast is really how it looks. It’s very difficult to correct the colour of these streetlights, even shooting with tungsten white balance, which is why the colour correction is a little uneven. I was processing these photos quickly to get them up on Flickr. (If they were for a paid job I would have done a batch colour correction.)

Posted in Israel, Judaism, photography | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

ILAN Campers in Mitzpeh Nevo

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 2, 2010

Teenage Volunteers with Ilan Campers

In photo above: Amichai, Benjy, and Yuval. I took this photo from the front balcony. I liked the shadows.

This Shabbat two busloads of ILAN campers and their volunteer companions (two per camper) are staying in our neighbourhood. ILAN is Israel’s foundation for physically disabled children (more info here). My son is volunteering with the camp for a week. I just found out a few hours ago that the boy that he is accompanying needs a place to stay, so he will be with us. Ivan is 15 years old and originally from Russia. Since he walks with crutches, he was able to manage our stairs.

Binyamin, my son, is 16. He seems to be very good at helping Ivan manage the toilet and shower. At the moment they’re hanging out in the kitchen, drinking tea and chatting.

This evening the campers and volunteers will be eating in the Bnei Akiva building. Binyamin and Ivan will be sleeping in our spare bedroom and eating lunch with us tomorrow. Ivan doesn’t speak English but he speaks reasonable Hebrew, so we’ll manage!

Teenage Volunteers with Ilan Campers

Teenage Volunteers with Ilan Campers

Posted in Israel, photography | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Yom Atzmaut (Independence Day)

Posted by Avital Pinnick on April 21, 2010

Happy 62nd birthday, Israel!

Israel's 62 Years of Independence

In the evening we went to the Memorial Day/Independence Day ceremony held in our neighbourhood, Mitzpeh Nevo. According to the Jewish calendar, the day begins and ends at sundown. Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers is the day before Independence Day. A ceremony for both days marks the transition between the two days. It has a haunting rhythm, moving from sadness to joy on the same occasion. It starts with memorial prayers and ends with dancing and (in the main part of the city), fireworks.

Our neighbourhood ceremony is held in a basketball court, which has become much too small a venue! I took this photo before the ceremony began, because I really liked the light. I was facing east, so the sun had set behind me, and was perched on a ledge up high, with two cameras and a folded tripod.

Yom haZikkaron/Yom haAtzmaut Ceremony, Mitzpeh Nevo, 2010

The kindergarten children performed a dance. This photo is actually an export from a video, so its size is only 640×480 pixels. I wish it were possible to operate two cameras at once, but I haven’t yet mastered the knack.

Yom haZikkaron/Yom haAtzmaut Ceremony, Mitzpeh Nevo, 2010

Unfortunately, I left before the flag drill and torch-lighting because I wanted to photograph the fireworks in the central park of the city at 9 p.m. (Last year the 10:30 p.m. display didn’t take place and I didn’t want to miss the fireworks two years in a row). Oh, well, maybe next year I’ll hang around long enough to video the whole thing. I didn’t want to stay out too late because I was photographing a bat mitzvah the following evening. This video was shot with a hand-held Canon PowerShot S5, so it’s a bit bumpy. I spliced together bits and pieces from the first half of the ceremony, ending with the dance above.

I had no trouble getting close to the fireworks display, maybe even a little too close. It was tough to frame the shot at times. Here are a couple experiments with the focus blur technique. Maybe I’ll have better luck next year!

Yom Atzmaut Fireworks

Yom Atzmaut Fireworks

I also took some regular photos. For more fireworks and Yom Atzmaut shots, go to my Flickr set.

Yom Atzmaut Fireworks

Yom Atzmaut Fireworks

Yom Atzmaut Fireworks


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

Purim 2010 in Mitzpeh Nevo, Maale Adumim

Posted by Avital Pinnick on March 1, 2010

It was an unusually stormy Purim — strong winds, heavy rain blowing all over the place, cold temperatures. When my son got a phone call that morning asking whether he could lend a cable for the Purim street dance, I was sure it would be cancelled. Then I heard some teenage girls dancing in the street without music. I took this photo from my living room window on the 3rd floor (used a 250mm lens). The window faces west, so I got rather wet, the curtains were blowing all over, and my son complained about the water drops on the computer monitor.

If you want to see the whole set of photos, they’re in a Flickr set.

Purim dance in the rain

About half an hour later I heard recorded music playing in the streets and a few more teenagers had joined the group. So I put on boots, a heavy coat, and wrapped my camera in a shower cap. I was outside for about an hour.




I really wanted to get a video of the kids dancing in the rain, so I went back to get the Canon S5. I managed to shoot about two minutes of video before the batteries went dead.

Later in the day I saw a rainbow in the north. I went outside to photograph it (OK, I had had a couple glasses of wine by that point; we were well into the Purim meal), didn’t screw the polarizer on properly, and the wind whipped it off the lens. It bounced down two stories and landed on the patio on the ground level. It didn’t look like it was in pieces, so I put on a hat, ran downstairs, and knocked on the neighbours’ door to retrieve it. It’s a bit dented on the outside and I can’t get a lens cap on easily but it’s still usable. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve done on Purim in quite a while!

Just to show you that it doesn’t always rain on Purim, here’s last year’s video. 2274 hits so far! It was the first edited video I ever made. I was very lucky to catch this on video.


Posted in Israel, photography, videos | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Windy Sukkah

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 6, 2009

This is not during a storm. This is just a normal evening in our sukkah on a third-floor balcony in Mitzpeh Nevo, Maale Adumim, at the edge of the desert. The sound that you hear is the wind humming as it rushes through the boards, which, you’ll note, are taped to keep out the wind. My husband says that if you can build a sukkah here, you can build one anywhere.

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

Second Day of Sukkot

Posted by Avital Pinnick on October 4, 2009

I needed a break from guests and entertaining, so I went out with my camera and tripod to take a few photos on Saturday night.

One of our neighbours spends hours decorating his sukkah and he let me photograph it. He collects interesting things from junk shops and has found some amazing pieces among the trash.

Elaborately decorated sukkah

During the holiday we are supposed to try to live as much as possible in the sukkah. A family watches the “Wizard of Oz” on a laptop at night.

Movie night in the sukkah

I walked up Metsiltayim street and then up one of the staircases to HaNevel, to photograph Mitzpeh Nevo. This photo is not a panorama. It was cropped at the top to remove the expanse of empty sky and at the bottom to remove the water heaters and rooftops. One of these days I’ll try to put in notes about the lights on the horizon.

Mitzpeh Nevo at night

Actually, I had wanted to recreate a photo I took in December, 2007, when I had just bought a Canon PowerShot S5:

Mitzpeh Nevo Yeshiva at night

Here’s the version I took last night with the Canon Rebel XSi:

Mitzpeh Nevo Yeshiva at night

The lights have changed and the SLR has better focus.

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Video 2: Purim, 2009

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 15, 2009

This video is an anomaly. It is by far the most popular video I’ve made (1,349 views as of today), but it’s also the least ambitious. It was the second video I tried making, when I barely knew how to hold the camera straight (in fact, you can see that it is quite wobbly). Production was minimal — no editing except a starting point at the beginning of the song and a cut at the end.

The close-up shot of the kid handing a couple sticks of cotton candy to the bus driver was a lucky accident, but it turned into the central point of the video. The minute I saw that sequence, I knew that I had to turn this clip into a video. Most video clips of street festivals have the pacing of a live newscast — no plot or movement, just vignettes and short scenes. This video starts with the song, the young teenagers dancing, and then the bus enters the action.

I think the simple reason for this video’s popularity is that it makes people feel good. Jewish kids are celebrating a Jewish festival and giving mishloah manot to a patient bus driver. It’s one of those “Only in Israel” moments.

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Video 4: Bride’s Party at the Minimarket

Posted by Avital Pinnick on June 30, 2009

This video could be subtitled, “One of the reasons I like living in Israel.” In Israel, the owners of the local neighbourhood minimarket are like family. Meirav, the sister of the owner, has been ringing up our groceries for 15 years, since she was a soldier.

Some neighbours decided to throw a party for her on Friday, June 29, 2009, in honour of her wedding, which took place the following Sunday. It was held — where else? — in front of the minimarket on the busiest shopping day of the week. No, before you ask, she didn’t have to work at the cash register during the party.

Susan K. called me the night before, asking whether I’d be willing to film the party. I agreed, then realised after I hung up that I didn’t know whether she meant still photographs or video. What the heck — I showed up the next morning doing my Japanese tourist impersonation, with my old Canon Powershot S5 for video and my one-month-old Canon Rebel XSi with 18-55mm IS kit lens (light lens, but the two cameras weigh about 3 pounds of glass, plastic, and metal around my neck).

I’m jumping over videos 2 and 3 to talk about this one because last night my husband told me that Meirav really liked the video. That made me very happy. It’s short, only 2 minutes, but I think it captures the feeling of community spirit.


I don’t have any training and I’m learning as I go. Unlike photography, there seems to be little info on the Web about how to structure or edit a video. Lately I’ve been using a symmetrical structure because it seems to work neatly (I’ll abandon it when it gets boring). In this case, the structure is: (1) still photos with music, (2) video clips, (3) still photos with music.

The music was not easy to find, because I don’t have a large music collection and most of the wedding songs I found on the Web were either bands in the Hassidic Pop genre or soloists who were too intense (Nechama Carlebach, for example). I settled on an audio track that I ripped off YouTube, a concert performance by Naftali and Shlomo Abramson at Festival Kol Hamoed, Mivtzar Shuni, Pesach 2007 (hope they don’t mind!). It was light, sweet, and mellow. More important, it is divisible into 12- to 24-second segments, which is important when you want it as background for 4-second still shots.

There are 6 opening photos, with movement roughly from right to left:

  • Sign saying “Meirav, Mazel tov” in place of opening title
  • Table with refreshments, to set the scene of the party
  • View of the entrance of the minimarket
  • Checkout area of the minimarket
  • Cake shaped like a bouquet of flowers. I love the fact that the cake was stored in the freezer between the frozen pizza and corn. It was made by Atara, Bracha and Nachum S.’s daughter, who took a course in novelty cakes. Each of the “flowers” is actually a cupcake stuck in a styrofoam base.
  • Album where people wrote their greetings and blessings for the couple. Susan K. plans to mount the photos I took inside this album.

I shot 8 short video clips and edited 4 for inclusion in the video. The arrangement was symmetrical, a longer clip with singing, 2 shorter clips with talking, and a longer clip with singing:

  • Meirav arriving and hugging her mother
  • Meirav
  • Meriav’s father, Herzl
  • General scene with singing and people leaving the store with their groceries (I left out the more chaotic scenes with crying babies, car alarms, and people trying to get shopping carts through the crowd)

The video finishes with a photo of Meirav and of some of her family members (left to right: Micki, her brother; Herzl, her father; Meirav; Ronen, her fiance, now her husband). The last shot is the location information and date.

In general I was pleased with this video. I did a much better job of controlling the sound levels in the editing (QuickTime Pro), which was important because in some clips the people standing near me were recorded very loudly and might not have appreciated having their conversations preserved on YouTube.

I finally got the conversion settings under control, after degrading the quality in my last two videos by not doing the conversion properly. Moral of the story: do as much compression and formatting as you can because your results will always be better than what YouTube will do for you.

.mov to .mp4 conversion settings

I’m not happy with the fade-in of the audio track near the end of the video because it’s too abrupt. I should have cut the audio with a more generous allowance at the beginning to give me more room for the fade-in. I’ve been using MP3 Direct Cut, which is simple and does the job. I tried Audacity and found it terribly frustrating. However, it does allow multiple audio tracks and more sensitive control of sound levels, so I suppose I will have to learn how to use it eventually.


I shot 177 frames during a course of a 40-minute party (if that seems like a lot, consider that I was also shooting video; now I understand why most people don’t try to do both at the same time). My son asked why I didn’t use the same camera, the S5, for both video and still photographs. The reasons are, quite simply, the quality of the photos produced by a DSLR and the speed with which one can focus and shoot. The older S5 is a great little camera and takes very good photos, but it’s not in the same league as the Rebel XSi.

I selected 26 shots to give to Susan so that she could decide which ones to print and mount in the album. I saved only one for my Flickr collection. Meirav was an exceptionally good subject to shoot because she is so photogenic. There was hardly a single bad shot of her.


This photo was post-processed with Photoshop CS2 (photo data, since the final file doesn’t have the EXIF data: 45.0mm focal length, 1/60s shutter speed, f/5.6, ISO 200). There were a lot of people standing close to Meirav, which made the composition too busy. I wanted to convey a slightly giddy, joyous quality, while de-emphasizing the people surrounding her and making her stand out more.

I created two layers and did Filters > Distort > Motion Blur > Radial on the top layer. Then I masked the subject so that the unblurred layer was exposed, flattened the layers, and saved as a .jpg file. I seldom do this much processing on a photo but I felt that the blur would enhance the photo and solve the composition problem.

Posted in Israel, photography, videos | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »