Thursday, September 24, 2015

Malta fil Orizzont…

My flight date is getting closer. Yet, I'm so tired to even pack. Allergies rounded a severe attack on my body since I got back from Oman. Seems like I had an appointment with bad luck since I got back here. I can't wait to leave on a real vacation for good, and hopefully all this allergic reaction is over with it. I don't recall in my life ever that I did consume such amount of medicines (nutritional ones included). I hate pills, but allergy and cough left me no choice; I do suffocate and lose concentration because of them.

Meanwhile, my progress is slow with the current images from Oman (specially panoramas). This is related to my sickness nowadays. I feel the need to sleep most of the time. I've been preparing some 3D panoramas but they won't be displayed right now for some reason. I'll keep them for another occasion. In addition, most panoramas from Oman had been processed in the regular flat format. Some are interesting in such format and some are yet to be manipulated further in other styles.

In The Court of The Sultan

In reviewing some of these panoramas in a meeting for our group to sort out what is appropriate for exhibitions, those panoramas with a sun halo were not much favored. However, panoramas like In The Court of The Sultan were somewhat saved because the sun disk was not completely obvious from behind the structure, beside other processing tricks which reduced the artifacts in this area. But…

Architectural Journey

Polar projections for the same panorama, Architectural Journey, was much favored that it made other panoramas in the list more or less like a child's play. However, it needs some specific crop to enhance the visual impact, the leader said. There are more projections awaiting to be processed for this panorama specifically, and for the others in general. Doing various projections is a must to extract as much as possible from a single panorama (which keeps me afloat in presenting some work all the time).

Sultan's Eye

One of most beloved panoramas for me right now is the Sultan's Eye. It is the planet projection for the inside of Sultan Qaboos grand mosque. The plan, if printed, is to present it as it is in a circular format. The leader of the group commented that it does need some tilt fix, and this is normal since I was not exactly in the center of the mosque. However, using the guidelines in Photoshop, everything seems to fall in place and it is perfectly symmetrical! This asymmetry would be more obvious in case that parts of the chandelier were obvious in the scene, but those were removed here because of a highlights problem.


The time is drawing near. Malta is in the horizon with lot of opportunities to photograph. I'm not sure though how easy it is to move around with my stuff, but one thing for sure after my travel to Oman: I need to drop some items down. Malta is full of history and the language in particular is interesting for me. How much I wish to go there and, in some way, never come back. Well, dreams aren't always easy; I know.
I have in this short period of time till the 27th to invent some way still to fit gel filters comfortably at the back of the Rokinon fisheye lens. Some infrared shots from Oman turned so blurry because of the scratches on the filter. The only method (and not a practical one) I could think of so far is using a duct tape along in my kit.
This would be my last post before heading to Malta, and I'm not sure yet if I will be posting daily from there to document my activities like I used to do in Ireland. But I'll try anyway. I need to pack ASAP with this allergic attack. I just wish I'd come back 2 weeks later and find my reality is just different, just like that…

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Here we are, a week after a rigorous trip to Oman last week, and still waiting for the upcoming (real) vacation by the end of September. I have to say though, despite the rigorous nature for this trip it was a 50-50 adventure; I had fun despite "some" circumstances that might upset lot of people in such trips. The trip was a photography trip in the first place, but Oman is such a beautiful place that 4 days are merely enough for a single place to "document" - least to say.
We used to go out in early mornings (usually 8 a.m.) and come back to our "dwellings" after dusk, and sometimes spending more than 3 hours on the roads traveling from one city or village to another. In this rush it was hard to document the activities we were doing by writing or typing, and I barely had time to even upload the pictures I've taken during the day to my laptop (did that in the last night in Muscat only). Just to give an imagination about the rush we were in, we did in fact start doing photography at the night of our arrival in Muscat, the capital city of the Sultanate of Oman. It was a minor activity to "grease" our eyes a bit - yet I did come up with some shots that might be favorable for the group's activities later on!

Mohammed AlAmeen mosque. Muscat, Oman.
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/8, 1/4s, ISO400.

The architecture of Mohammed AlAmeen mosque was quite favorable but because of the tired body and mind it was hard to focus in doing much there. Yet, I did try my best and found my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens quite favorable for such place. I had to do some body-stretching though, as in Zenith, where I laid down on my back pointing my head to one of the entrances of the mosque and resting the camera on my chest. Three bracketed shots were taken in this position, but since I was breathing (surprisingly!), the first and last exposures were hazy and shaken and had no choice but to pick the lowest exposure (at -2EV) to edit in RAW format, which made up Zenith. Considerable work was involved here to enhance the exposure and sharpness and reducing the noise, but I doubt that it would be a good view in a large print.
The main gain in the trip goes to those who are interested in portraiture and documenting the rural life of Oman (unfortunately, international contests are always emphasizing these elements which leaves me empty-handed). Some members did indeed bring studio flashes and monolights, dragging them wherever we go; and the apogee of such activity was in Bayt Al-Safah: the home town of our guide which was an active center for the surrounding villages along many aspects of day-to-day life in the past. In that location specifically I didn't touch my camera and I really enjoyed myself in the rural life style and the traditional music which I love.
The Race
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/3.5,
8m10s, ISO400.
Compared to other members in the group, I would be probably at the end of the list in number of photographs taken, specially that I was concentrating on panoramas more than anything else (but I did take single shots yet I don't think they add much to my arsenal but a mere documentation). Probably the thing that I feel sorry the most for is the fact that I didn't do much night shots despite the dedication from the group to do a milkyway-shot from the top of the mountains on our second night in Oman. The wind was somewhat cruel with our summer clothing and no jackets (which caused me some severe pains in the wrists in the following days). Even though I'm accustomed to such atmosphere but being on the top of the mountain was quite a dangerous venture and yet somewhat annoying because the job was done by a group and not a single person, me. As you can see in The Race, which was a star-trail shot rather than milkyway-shot, there is a trace of car lights which passed through the frame just seconds before the exposure ended. I guess it is just my luck and it is supposed to be so. Probably it does add some dynamic touch to the overall look of the image. I've raised the ISO here to 400 instead of settling with 100 to shorten the time (it should have taken around 32 minutes with ISO100); spending so much time in that wind and with other members lighting their torches on and off to see their ways would be just a vain. After completing this shot (and the only good one I suppose), I've went down back to the hotel (on feet as the hotel was on the top of the mountain itself) with some members leaving the others there trying to find their luck. It was an amazing night, and in the morning the sun light exposed many aspect of the breath-taking terrain surrounding the area: we were on the top of a mountain, where we could see other mountains below us. Definitely this place needs more than just one-night stay. Unfortunately, that morning and because of the pain in my hands, I didn't risk doing anything; it was a time to rest.

Ya'aribah's Halo
Al-Ya'aribah Mosque, Nizwa. Oman.

Panorama-wise now. I was reluctant to do a panorama wherever I go; this is mainly because of the time limitation imposed on the group's activities overall. For this reason, I had to inspect in a whim and make quick decisions about whether or not a panorama should be done here or there. Well, this made me forget some points and precautions (typical even in normal conditions), but the great challenge with panoramas taken from Oman is not the architecture and the looks, but the surroundings and the people roaming the place.
As we were going around typically tourists attractions, it was inevitable to do panoramas with people roaming the place. At the time of typing this, I did not inspect all panoramas but so far so good with those done with the stitching already. The greatest challenge though is to see the yielding results of stitching Sultan Qabus mosque's panorama; the mosque is said to have the largest chandelier in the world and it is a tourists attraction, while taking photos is allowed only from 8 to 11 a.m.; I'm quite positive right now that there will be a great deal of Photoshop work and skills needed in that specific panorama, and I'm relying on the HDR ghost-removal techniques to reduce (not completely remove) some of the movements in the place. The HDR technique did some nice job in other busy places before!

Solar Jabreen
Jabreen fort and castle. Bahla, Oman.

Problematic as much as it is fascinating, those panoramas taken outdoors did have the glaring sun disk in them. Fascinating for the fact that exposures are done easily (in brackets), and also increasing the depth of field does not impose an immediate lag in the shutter speed after all; the sun light is rough! On the other hand, it is problematic because the sun disk does not provide a pleasant addition to the scene with just a glaring white spot in the sky. For this reason, I've found myself doing the tone-mapping for these HDR panoramas using Photoshop to control the tones curve freely - this way I could create the annular shapes for the sun as can be seen in Ya'aribah's Halo and Solar Jabreen. This work did extended in fact with some few other panoramas after these two even though there is no sun disk visible in the scene but because of the harsh contrast between the sky and the other elements in the scene. One thing I wish I did (but couldn't) is an infrared panorama like the one done in Ireland under a diffused sunlight (but here we got a strong sun light which should shorten the time of exposures). The time limit did not allow me to achieve this dream. My infrared panorama from Ireland did have quite a voiced support from some of the audience in the latest expo.

The Waterfront (IR)

QTVRs are early to talk about but they are doable. Despite the fact that I've taken shots for the nadir point under my feet with the intent to clone the tripod and other elements to make them adequate to be merged into panoramas, I've actually just cropped the bottom areas of these panoramas to remove the tripod without adding a nadir point. When it comes to making a QTVR later on, I'll be adding a label with the name and location for that QTVR. The only backlash here is when other projections are needed where the nadir point might be in the front instead at the bottom, which calls for heavy skills in cloning as usual. Hopefully I'll be posting more panoramas in the coming days just before my second travel to Malta on September 27th.


I do feel like a running horse right now; all work and no play. Work with my photos that is. We have a sorting meeting coming up next week and thus I must prepare as much as possible before coming Sunday. Meanwhile, I do feel like doing nothing. In fact, once my feet stepped on the soil of the homeland, I wished to go back to Oman; not to take photos, but to live - as simple as that. I think it is time to change the people around me, yet it is such a hard task to do nor visible in the near horizon. All I can do is just travel as much as I can, as long as my financial situation allows to. If one has a home that doesn't feel like home, and workplace that bears no respect, where one should be going next?

3D Fort
Bayt AlRideedah, Nizwa. Oman.
Click to Enlarge

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Gallería …

This post contains a QTVR, which needs QuickTime to be installed. It requires some time to load and probably won't show properly on mobile devices.

Here we go now with the gallery (or expo). It really made my week busy, and made my plans go on halt for the time being, despite the fact that attendance there was almost a zero for most days. Yet, I had to attend and be there for some time now and then (except on Friday, in which I was really tired and needed to sleep). In the beginning I was reluctant to do any documentation, but then I decided to do some simple documenting, specifically for my own work, and add a twist to it by using anaglyphs.

Section where my prints are kept (on the right side of the hall from entrance).
They should look hovering above wall level when viewed properly.
Click to enlarge.

Doing a panorama, too, was out of question, but then I thought again why not document that whole hall by doing a panorama? Specially that I didn't touch my tools for a long time now (while trying to work indoors at home to no avail). This panorama specifically was a unique experience on certain levels. I've discovered that empty spaces do have their magic at some point, this is for one. On the other hand, some features were not quite obvious on location until I started working with the shots, this is for two. As for the third, it was the usual pizza-behavior as I call it - panorama stitching gone erratic. Something weird is going on with this behavior, and I must try to figure out the reasons behind it before heading to Oman on September 9th.

The pizza!

I did the panorama shooting in one day, but since it didn't go well (as I said, pizza behavior!), I came back the second day to shoot. However, after inspecting some images, I could probably relate to the reasons for such erratic behavior in the stitching process; it could be the dirty lens which left some spots (probably causing the computer to calculate some control points for them), and to my surprise, I've found out that there is a whole angle or corner in the panorama which was left without shooting! It was definitely a job to be done again (and carefully this time), and after cleaning the camera and lenses thoroughly.

The Gallery

This panorama shooting was done in manual mode and I did some light metering around the set yielding 1sec exposure at f/11 and ISO100. This is the base from which I've expanded a bracket to take shots at -2 and +2 EV (that is 2 stops below and above the basic exposure time). However, the next day, the settings in the camera didn't change but I thought of reducing the f-number to f/9 while reducing the base exposure to half a second. This was done mainly for two reasons: a) reducing light source burst (star-like effect) which might corrupt the stitch later on and add unfavorable effect, and b) just to make sure that +2EV shots don't go way too bright but just enough to control the shadow areas later on. Moreover, I've used my white balance disk to pick up a Custom WB image, because the lighting conditions there were all mixed up (CFL and spotlights). A decision I didn't regret at all!

Initial tone-mapping settings before adding further adjustment layers.
I got to say that I like the shape of the final curve!

Tone-mapping the HDR panorama was done in Photoshop rather in Photomatix. This is because I needed some control over specific zones (to make the whole scene look as if it was a high-key shot), while suppressing some other zones; in a nutshell, Photomatix would be way too general to my needs here. The only mishap here is that the virtual reality (QTVR) would have an obvious seam between the left and the right edges of the panorama. Strangely, that did not happen, or maybe it did but my eyes are failing me! Photomatix supposedly is the only application that would make it possible to equalize the exposure and tones on the left and right edges. I was thinking of fixing that manually if I had to, but strangely, the QTVR was seamless!


 As I usually do nowadays, I don't play it hard with the nadir shots (even though I do take them in the process, just in case). Thus, I've made the usual tag or title nadir shot on my own, with information about this QTVR (location, event, …etc). As I've mentioned above, I was surprised that the QTVR did not have a seam line, OR it might be just my eyes failing me. The irony here is that I didn't notice the arcs in the ceiling on location, but only when I started to work with this panorama already! Anyway, it was a lovely addition which transformed my work from documentation to working for art.

For this panorama specifically, it is better to see it in a small size, as there are several stitching errors even in the second trial to take the panorama (however, they were minor). I do suspect that Moiré effect does have a relation to this. But I need to check my no-parallax point in the configuration as well.


This might be my last post for now before heading to Oman next week, on September 9th. Four days only, but surely they will be tiring. I've seen the proposed schedule for the shoot and frankly I'm not sure I will be able to cope with that but I'm hoping to do some panoramas there and night shots as well. Until then, I'll be wishing myself some good luck…

A surprise this week from m&m's. A heart-shaped chocolate legume!

Thursday, August 27, 2015


This is a quick wrap for the last week, since I couldn't post back then. It was a time of problems, and this is usual around my birthday (August 17th). Had to spend some days without AC in my room so I kind of moved to the guest room, and while at it I tried to work a bit with my camera and try new stuff. I couldn't complete the experiment in my room because of the heat (hotter than the outside even!). Under such annoying conditions I could do nothing more than taking selfies!


It was an idle time which vexed me a lot. I got my camera and some tripods and other stuff down in the guest room (and they are still there as I'm typing this). I've read somewhere that halogen lamps are good sources for IR and UV beams, thus I decided to try this out. The idea was also to remove the protection in the front but I was reluctant to do that. Removing that cover from the front is supposed to raise up the level of IR and UV, even though it is a pretty dangerous business!

IR Selfie
Canon EF 50mm, f/5,
0.5s, ISO400.
The halogen light I own is about 1000W. To take this infrared selfie, I had to keep it closer than 50cm to my body (~ 20in); a serious business here! I almost got myself blind for moments after the picture was taken! As you can see from the image caption, it was barely half a second with ISO400 even (and the worst yet to come!). This selfie on the left is actually the final crop; the original was half of my body, yet taking a selfie without a phone is a tricky business! It's a good thing though that the lens (Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM) does have an infrared marker for re-focusing, which helped significantly in ensuring the sharpness of the image (adding some sharpness later on in the process). Beside fixing the white balance in the image here, I've reduced the Clarity to give out soft complexions in opposition to what I usually do with masculine faces. But seems the infrared atmosphere is in favor for such touch!

UV Selfie
Canon EF 50mm, f/2.8,
10s, ISO2000.
The next shot was more aggressive. I can call the Die Hard type probably! Using the UV is way too demanding than the IR filter in terms of exposure time and ISO value. As you can see from the image on the right, I tried my best to be both, stable and in motion, to create some effect in the image. I did like this one after all because of the foggy look after all because of the body shake. What amazed me here is the blue sparkle in the eyes which appeared naturally after fixing the white balance. Here, just as in the IR images that I usually take, I did use a special profile developed specifically to expand the range of the white balance for infrared images. The UV shots are reddish in looks (but lesser in saturation than IR images). The image you see here is done using the profile for IR. You can get a sense of the hardships here by looking at the info of the image (10 seconds to complete the exposure at f/2.8 and ISO2000!). It is about time to own a converted camera.


That's all for now. In hope that I would be posting some coverage from the expo which is going on right now and in which our group is rolled in. The expo will last for 7 days, so I might snap (or take snaps from other snappers!) and post them here by next week. Moreover, I'm working on plans right now as I'm trying to make a setup for an idea.
I think I need to give my camera more trust and let it lead me through some hard times for now, just to forget some of troubles. It had been some hard 2 weeks lately that got me even to lose my appetite at large. Many ideas had been visiting, coming and going, while some are progressive, yet some are destructive; and yet I'm trying to convince myself it is all nothing but a mood swing… I so need summer to be over with, and my vacation to begin… so badly…

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Der Schädel…

A week just flew, and I'm not sure of this is a good or a bad thing yet! However, it was a busy week after all with chores related to work, Mom, the house, and the group; and needless to say not a quiet one because of all the renovation work at home, with a wave of heat and humidity in a time when AC engines had to be turned off. Yes… my life sucks at the moment.
Meanwhile, I've finally submitted my papers for a visa request to Malta, and now all I have to do is wait for a response. Things went quite smooth and we exchanged a chitchat. The lady said the Gozo (the island I'll be staying in for 9 days) doesn't have much and one day is enough. However, since I'm familiar with other people's opinions (who mostly like busy places and cities), I do take her opinion with as a grain of salt. Anyway, all what separates the 2 main islands is a ferry. Now it seems like a challenge to make out photos out of my visit to Gozo as much as possible; if it is a tranquil, then I'm sure it has much to offer!
Anyway, despite this busy schedule, I got the chance to do some tiny experiments in my fussy and messy room.


Source: B&H
I've mentioned in my previous post that I've purchased a UV filter, or to be precise, UV Pass Filter. Meaning it passes UV and blocks visible light in contrast with the conventional UV filters that are used to enhance images and lower down the UV bluish haze in images (landscapes specifically). One thing for sure here, this filter does need more requirements than Infrared Photography does. However, I did my reading a bit about the topic, and still tried with my simple capabilities for the time being to do a shot with UV. The target? A mug.

UV Skull
Canon EF 50mm +12mm,
f/8, 1s, ISO1600.
Using an extension tube, I've made a close-up composition for the shot. Even though I'm almost sure that the whole field was sharp, but the final result was sharpness in the eye region, while the foreground was lout of focus at f/8 (probably because of the focus shift which is normal with such filters that work out of the range of the visible light). Anyway, probably you do notice now that amount of ISO required here! This is while using 2 speedlites (580EX and 430EX). Both speedlites were on full power and at great proximity to the object (less than an inch away)! Go ahead and imagine how opaque the UV filter is! This makes me clear that converting a camera is essential when it comes to UV unlike IR filters, where one can work out somehow with speedlites and long exposures. However, I'm going to put down a summary of my own readings so far for things to watch for when it comes to UV photography:
  • Like IR photography, there are no real colors in UV photography, but the images seem to be mostly processed as B&W with high contrast (and sometimes sunscreens are used to make special effects as they block UV).
  • Beside converting the camera (adjusting the sensor by removing some filters), one would need a special UV source (e.g. adjusted flash tube), and a lens that has no UV protection coating.
  • The sun can be a good source for UV of course, but for indoors one would need a flash tube adjusted (by removing some protective parts) for indoors. Not sure though if such thing can be done with speedlites flashes or it's specific for studio flashes.
  • In my simple experiment above, with 2 speedlites and high ISO, the shutter time was irrelevant (typically in flash photography anyway); even a long exposure did not do any good.

IR Skull
Canon EF 50mm + 12mm,
f/8, 1s, ISO100.
I hated to end everything at that point so I pulled out my IR filter and placed it on the lens and started to try it out. The B+W IR filter I have is considerably "weak" but it does good job still; the threshold is 650nm, meaning it does pass some of the visible spectrum (IR technically starts around 700nm). Thus, it was an easy trial to set the aperture to f/16 and shoot with full power from the speedlite (only one used here and changing its position several times). My plan was to create some abstract but I think something is missing here but I can't quite put my finger on it. In processing this image, I simply reduced the saturation and adjusted the white balance slightly without converting the whole image to B&W (or bluish white). It does need that magical look though; a look only achieved by using the more opaque KODAK IR filter with threshold of almost 1000nm.
With these 2 experiments I'm thinking seriously now of having a converted camera; either converting my current EOS 7D and getting a new camera, or buy a cheap Canon model and work on converting that. It is just a matter of time and finance for now. Been thinking about that seriously since the announcement of Canon 5DR (or 5Ds R).


Next day it was the time for the real experiment; the reason why I borrowed this mug from a friend. A peel effect. It had been also a good target in teaching the members of the group some aspect about anaglyphs and 3D imaging!

Peeled Skull

For this project, I've decided to use the regular 30 degrees rotation periods for my VR-head (upon which I fix a disk to make a rotating table). In my previous experiment of such sort, I took lot of shots for the object at distances of 5 degrees. However, I deemed this unnecessary after all. With 30 degrees turns, the total number of shots was 12 (or 13 if we repeat the shoot for the initial point). I think this number could be even reduced down to 8 if I follow the 45 degrees scheme. The work was relatively easy, and I learned from my previous mistakes with previous mugs (specifically at which point to place the center of rotation). I think though the final image needs some work with puppet wrap (a tool I've discovered in Photoshop CS5!) where one can wrap specific point on the image and keep other portions stable. This is specifically needed for the left eye (to the viewer) as it should be aligned with the other eye. Broken lines were inevitable and had to spend considerable time cloning and merging them as much as possible. Question raises now though if this would be a good image for expos and contests!


Days are getting closer and closer for the beginning of my travels, specifically to Oman. My vacation will be split into 2, and I've done the bulk for it; the Maltese visa (I don't need a visa to visit Oman).
Vivid words visit my mind and go and I'm trying to pin them down in a poem, yet I can't gather my power to do it - specially with my mind being occupied with new ideas to do photography (I'm still running after the idea of a B&W panorama). It seems that I need to get back to brainstorming methods and try to make up new ideas for photography.
Deep inside now, there is a lost rhythm. A loss for direction... somewhat resulting in carelessness. Ideas of leaving everything behind me and start to "live" somewhere else are visiting frequently nowadays - in a heavy flux. I somehow reflect back with one of Phil Collins' songs: Everything That I Am. As usual, Phil nails it when expressing my own emotions…

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Toys Toys Toys!

Here are they! My new toys and gear! Well, forgot to mention anything about them in previous posts but I will dedicate this post to them. Up until this moment I'm trying to find some time to test what I got here and write a review for them on B&H website. However, this week has been hectic for many things (and believe it or not some of that because of work despite the dormant summer season). Add to that, a turmoil at home because of renovation work that I just can't swallow.


Now, to the business. All in all, beside the toys there is a side order of 2 books but I'll keep those for later down. Most of the items were actually from the wish list I've stored on B&H website and I've just realized that I was just "window shopping" for more than a year without thinking of upgrading anything in my arsenal of "toys!" Most probably it is all related to the downgrading financial situation worldwide.

Source: B&H
Anyway, first things first. A camera and lenses case or bag, from Think Tank. This item was on my wishlist for 2 years or even more! Now it is the time to get I thought, specially with the deteriorating conditions of my own bag right now. It has lot of pockets and the main inner body can adjusted to many positions to fit even a bazooka lens (sarcastic term for telephoto lenses; sorry photographers' joke). I can even fit my Rokinon barrel (mirror) 800mm lens in it instead of leaving out as I used to do before. The bag is supposedly made to accelerate your airport experience (a hassle every photographer might have encountered already). However, with many metallic stuff and batteries inside, I'm not quite sure if this will work with the increased security issues worldwide now. The best thing here even is that I could attach my tripod and I don't have carry it by hand... finally!

Source: B&H
One of the interesting items here, and I mean "very" interesting, is what I've discovered on B&H as I was surfing looking for some other items. A UV filter. Usually when "UV filter" is mentioned, people would think of that yellowish filter that enhances the colors of the scene by blocking the bluish UV haze. This one is completely different and acts like a cold mirror in the case of infrared: allows UV and blocks visible light. This is a completely new field to me and I still need to discover and try. One thing for sure though, Long Exposure. It does require film or converted sensor as well just like in the case of infrared photography, but the sources here can be different. One of the interesting facts here is that flash tubes (e.g. speedlites) can be used for UV photography but some protective layers must be removed (hence it would be a good idea to get a cheap flash and adjust it). Till the moment of writing this, I've tried the filter only once in the outside in my workplace just to test the length of the exposure and I have to say... it's long!

Source: B&H
Then we arrive at the next major toy! The Microfier from Vello. It is relatively cheaper than reversing rings from other brands and it offers the essential control over the lens when it is reversed and mounted on the camera for macro photography. It does offer somehow a greater magnification level more than extension tubes (by calculations) specially when used with 18-55mm kit lens (the smaller the length, the greater the magnification). There is still the issue of the closest focusing distance which I didn't experience or read about yet. However, I did take a simple shot for my fingerprint which does look good (with high ISO here though). Left to say that it comes with several mounting rings to accommodate for the various diameters for lenses.

My fingerprint taken with Microfier.

Now, the rest of the toys are simple accessories, and some of them are really needed though, specially as a replacement!
Source: B&H
First, we have here the Flex Lens Shade I guess the name says it all. Anyway, one can also argue that even lens hoods don't do the job perfectly in blocking the light flare (in the description of this item by the manufacturer, they state it can be attached to hoods themselves!). Anyway, this is not only for daytime photography, but also for nighttime to block the remnants of street lights. However, the real test would be with fisheye lenses and their excessive field of view (specially the Rokinon 8mm that I own). Seems a night shooting session is due, despite the horrible weather!

Source: B&H
The next in line is something I needed as a replacement. A step-down ring to fit a small filter on a large lens diameter (58mm onto 62mm). The comedy here is in the fact that I've only found one store which sells those here in Kuwait, and for my fantastic luck, they don't have this particular size. Please note the sarcasm when I said "fantastic." This ring though is better than the one I've lost already since it is made from aluminum alloy and not plastic. I've ordered 2 rings just in case!

Source: B&H
The last item in this list is just some Manfrotto 1/4' screws to keep as spare parts. I've kept this time in my wishlist for a long time, specifically when I noticed one of the screws in my Manfrotto VR-head was missing (and during that time I was using a spare screw from Manfrotto macro rail head). However, I did find that missing screw later on! But nevertheless, it would be a good idea to keep some of those available whenever needed for such "disasters!"


I don't know why I used a German subtitle for this section, but oh well. I didn't read photography books in such a long time I guess, and still I do have a queue of Arabic books that I need to go through still. I'm planning to stop reading a novel in Arabic in bedtime and replace it with one of the photography books I've recently ordered.

Source: Amazon
The first book on the list is by Bruce Barnbaum. This is the second book I have from him. The previous one was The Art of Photography; a very intellectual approach beside a long and detailed technical description for the chemical processes done for films development. It was/is such an amazing book and I thought this is the time to rejuvenate my eyes and vision in photography after such a dormant period. Thus, I'm hoping that The Essence of Photography would be like its predecessor. It is not only about the information in a book that one would stick to it, but also to the style of writing and the order and organization of the book itself that one might lose him- or herself reading it.

Source: Amazon
 The second book is supposedly about the art of using flashes (speedlites) in a creative way. I had other books about flash photography, specifically those by Syl Arena, but this one seems different in essence, since it discusses ways and methods instead of the technical aspects as it was in Syl's books. I will keep this book for later reading. I think I will be taking one of them anyway with me when I travel... I need something to pass the time with from time to time.


Things are done and ready, almost, for my travel. All what is left is... the visa! After completing my papers, I've set an appointment to "submit" the papers and complete the procedures - I heard an interview is involved. So, we'll see by next Monday, August 10th. Good thing that Mom has no dialysis session on this day. Because of all this hassle my ongoing Geltani documents are on hold, again. I just can't wait till I start my vacation and off the country. One thing though I do wish for... a specific someone to be with me on the way…

Thursday, July 30, 2015


Supposedly it should have been a quiet and an easy-going summer. Well, I was wrong. Things are going with speed, specifically after the announcement of some Expo for which our group was invited; and it is of a classy type as well. Photos must be chosen carefully. Beside this fact, I've been busy running errands to complete my Visa request to Malta. Quite pressed in time here and I've changed the plans already. Seems that I'm going to divide my was-to-be long vacation into portions of smaller ones to save days and also because of reservations problems in the chosen time. Hence, I'm going to have first a 3-day long leave (followed by a weekend holiday) for my travel to Oman with the group. Then after, I'm going to have to wait till 27th. I got a nice offer for staying in between this time and up till October 7th.
This Visa specifically is somehow weird for me to do, as it is a Schengen Area (Malta is a member in the Schengen). No online application, no fees, but a health insurance (!) and I have to fill it on papers. Needless to say that I had to go through a maze just to find the location of the embassy itself! (before this time, in 2010, the Visa request was attained via the Austrian embassy here). As of this moment of writing this blog post, tickets are purchased already via Turkish Airlines (Türkçe Hava Yılları), and I've taken a personal shot for the application. I'm left with the insurance and officially booking the place and, ahem, filling the Visa form!


Now back to our Expo story. As I said, we received a special invitation and hence the photo pick and sorting is a delicate matter. As of writing these words, the sorting meeting is not yet held, so probably the results will be available by next week's post. Meanwhile, I had to press myself a bit and try hard on fixing some photos and looking for those which I didn't bring to a sorting or filtering meeting before. There is one troublesome issue though: size.
Issues with size require a special crop and I do think that it is better to be done without interpolation; meaning: cropping to the required size without keeping the DPI resolution fixed. Keeping the DPI fixed will create extra pixels to compensate for the lost pixels in between. More to come about that below.


Some of the images underwent a critical fix, like Yggdrasil. This panorama was shot back in April in Al-Hamra mall and there were many projections made out of this one. However, one of the most dramatic projections of those was the one used in Yggdrasil. Previously, the panorama was deemed interesting if not for the group of people on the lower left corner which broke the symmetry. I decided to crop out this portion of the panorama ending up removing the whole ground; ironically, no one made a comment about the traces of cloning out the tripod on the ground!


The final look of the panorama became more as an abstract. Because of the colors tones and the severe chromatic aberrations on edges (mainly because of the high amount of stretch by the projection style), I've decided to change the image totally to B&W to get rid of all that hassle.
Most of the images to be sorted out are panoramas except for one single shot. I wouldn't list all the fixes that were involved with all of them, but let's hope some of them get a pass. The noise level is humongous and that lowers my expectations!


Printed and Varnished
Here it is finally, one of my favorite shots; printed and varnished! Well, I didn't print it in the original size, otherwise it should be around the size of A4 (210mm x 297mm). I've enlarged the image (keeping the DPI flexible here and not fixed) to the size of, around, A2 (420mm × 594mm). I wished I could enlarge it even further, but I feared the flaws. Keeping the DPI (dots per inch) flexible and not fixed, means that the size of the dots composing the image is changed, while keeping the DPI fixed means that the image had to be interpolated (i.e. follow a specific algorithm) to predict or generate the new dots (or pixels) which would fall in between separated dots (because of the enlargement). Notice that DPI is precisely a measure for the displayed dots on monitor, and for the printing process the resolution that must be used is PPI (point per inch), but eventually despite the difference in their concepts, the two are proportional; changing one will definitely change the other. Beside, controlling the PPI for a printer does require a special RIP (Raster Image Processor).
Changing the size from around A4 to A2 reduced the resolution or the DPI from 300dpi to around 160dpi. Doing the calculations this seemed a fair resolution to view the image from a distance of one meter or so. The print seems clean after all, and the contrast was increased by the varnish. The sepia tone seem to be vibrant even more after the varnish (was much closer to white without the varnish). All what is required now is to deliver this humble print as a gift to the celebrity! I'm not sure how to find him (and surprise him) but I will try to do this ASAP (adding to the burden on my back for this summer!).

Now with all that fuss going on about the vacation and the Expo, it feels like events are taking place in few days from now and not by the end of September (the Expo is in August though). Some are saying the situation is dangerous with all the crazy situation world wide. Well, I will be crazy myself (if I'm not already) if I stayed here without a change in scenery. It is astonishing how your bitter memories turn out to be the sweetest after all. It is time to be isolate, again…