Thursday, January 22, 2015

Galore…

Again, I'll try to wrap this quick. I'm seriously suffering this winter, with lack of enough sleep and the tiresome body, along with some weather conditions; I don't mind the coldness, but there were few rains here and there and the situation was not encouraging to explore the beach at night as I usually do.
Thus, not much was going on this week except for my usual work with shots and specifically panoramas from Ireland trying to do more experimenting with various touches and projection styles. Meanwhile, I devised a plan to invest my time in doing various things at work (since no real work is running). Thus, I dedicate some time to typing an article, and then to read some Irish grammar lessons as much as I can or reading a book, and finally spending the last hour at work watching some cartoons. I know, fancy workplace you might be saying right now but no, it's not. It's filled with stupidity to the neck and what I'm doing is just my methodology to payback and vent. As a rule: I don't respect those who don't respect me.

Now back to the images, and specifically panoramas. I'm trying to keep on the schedule with doing one single image a day, and one panorama day (both from Ireland's collection of 2014). Panoramas specifically had been a target for my "extreme Mercator" methods which I've mentioned in my previous post. There were some interesting results, specially after the help of Mr Photoshop in doing a bit of effects.

An Ais
(the axis)
One of the panoramas, An Ais, was easily shaped into a twirling surreal environment; probably what really helped here is the semi-conic structure of the tower inside. My hardships here, though, were the color adjustments and balancing (it had a greenish shade mixed with yellow).
There is a lot of empty space in An Ais and I was going to crop that down and make a square, but some features would be cropped as well and there was a great chance that it might look unbalanced more. Anyway, I had to exaggerate just a little bit in the twirl at center by using the wrap command in Photoshop and twirling the central points a bit. All that was done in HDR mode before tone-mapping. However, it wasn't always as easy and simple as that.

Gaoth agus Gaoithe
(wind and winds)

Some other panoramas like Gaoth agus Gaoithe were large, and definitely a simple wrap wouldn't work. Thus, the only solution available was to use the Twirl command under Filters menu. However, this command was not available for 32-bit (HDR) mode, nor 16-bit mode. It was all rolled back to good ol' 8-bit. Most of the adjustments were done in 16-bit mode of course, but to do the twirl command, I had to move back to 8-bit mode (which I will use anyway to save it as JPEG). This panorama in particular gained some popularity in 500px and the count went down after a day or so; I will never understand how this website works. Yet, the more difficult panorama was yet to come.

Is é ag titim Ashford
(Ashford is falling)

Along with the extreme Mercator trend lately, I've started also an off-the-center trend, mainly dedicated to tunnel view panoramas and planets. It is an approach to give a more dramatic look to the otherwise dull planets or tunnels, specially if there is no strong symmetry involved. In this panorama particularly, Is é ag titim Ashford, I wanted to add something extra other than just tilting the globe to the corner. Suddenly the idea of moving the clouds occurred to me. The perfect command for this was the Radial Blur, which can mimic an effect of zooming into (and thus adding some depth). The Motion Blur might be capable of that too but here, this command moves the pixels horizontal only without any "focal" point to direct the lines of pixels to. According to Christian Bloch (Blochi), the author of the HDR Handbook, such blurs are more beneficial if they were to be done in HDR format, because in HDR mode you don't control the pixels only, but also the luminance data accompanying them!

Source: Amazon
Well, the challenge here is how to do it? The square panorama after some tilting and cropping, was a bit more than 9000x9000 pixels! Selecting the sky portion was a bit lengthy work to do but it was done with some considerable effort and "eating" around some edges. Even with selecting a portion of the image (almost half of it), Photoshop machine couldn't apply the effect because of RAMs problem. Solution? Switch to the 64-bit Photoshop version. It has access to more RAM space to do the job. The only awkward thing about it is, no plugins are installed to be used for this version. Thus, I had to run this version JUST to do a radial blur! A radial blur of degree 5, took around few minutes to be done here.Saved the file (as PSB) and then back to the 32-bit version and the work was done the usual way; tone-mapping, enhancing, reduction!

Now, I've officially made another Instagram account for my Ayvarith (@ayvarith) and I'm posting a picture per day so far. I'm starting with the alphabet for the time being. Probably later I will get deeper with themes like "word of the day" or some grammatical issues? Who knows! The cumbersome point here is trying to log-in and out of my 2 accounts and posting here and there (and then re-posting from one into the other).

This is it for now and I wish if I can handle this weekend properly and do further out-goings at night. I just need to think of a proper location. Not counting on my luck here…

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Lazy…

OK I admit; I have been lazy in the past week. Well, 2 weeks. That's why no post last week. The temperatures here dropped suddenly with a chilling wind on and off. Truly a bone breaker. Not sure why, but I've been feeling tired and lazy lately to even go out at night in such weather which I like the most. Probably it is the erratic sleeping pattern (which persists even in working days). For this reason, I've been mostly editing and creating new panoramas, besides trying a bit of the new "observations" in the field of panoramas to some of the older panoramas. Moreover, there is one extra observation on the way as well!

An-Mór

I never thought of myself being so interested in such projection style which seemed so boring before like Mercator. The beginning with this projection was (as mentioned in previous posts) was to make a more plausible vertical panoramas because vertical panoramas are "slim" and cropping the sides would do more harm. Mercator was a solution because the vertical perception comes almost in a square ratio (height = width), and occasionally the sidelines make a nice curvature with no need to crop even! However, time had to come to push my views further with an extreme approach.

Ashford Domhanda
(global Ashford)

The beginning was about doing a vertical panorama (again) for Ashford castle in Co. Mayo, but with a twist or a swirl as it was with other panoramas recently. However, this approach didn't work out and I decided to play with the sliders a bit. All to be done was to stretch the viewing window or space to the extreme ends to show the full extent of the Mercator projection rather than compressing it, and the result as you can see in Ashford Domhanda; a global look like those maps which are also made using Mercator projection.
Casadh an tSúgáin
(twisting of the rope)
I was seeking a swirl like this
for Ashford castle panorama.
My personal impression about the implications of such projection style is that it gives sense of grandness, totality, greatness; probably these impression come from the back of my head as I used to see lot of Mercator maps (specially in school times). However, this projection style has one awkward disadvantage, even though a normal result: the stretched and blurred sides and corners. My intentions were to crop these portions out in the beginning, but that would corrupt the overall oval shape of the center, which is to be the main interest. For the time being, I would just call this style as Extreme Mercator. I'm still working on discovering the possibilities here, and specially with old panoramas.
When it comes to old panoramas, I made a trial to do the "twisting" effect again with one of the places I like and taken a panorama from back in 2013: The Arab Organizations Headquarter. Such a place with quite amazing wooden craft and Arabesque and Islamic designs. Anyway, it seems a twist here is not quite that attractive, for various reasons...

El Andaluz Bailando
(the dancing Andalusian)

Generally speaking, the hall is a mess. Despite the fact that it was wide and bears not many obstacles in view, yet it had many reflections, and twisting the panorama that way as in El Andaluz Bailando made some eyes "sore". I sort of came out with a conclusion that to do a twist, the roof of the place must be close and it is better to have the surroundings on the ground arranged in some systematic manner. In the case of El Andaluz Bailando, the roof was too high, and the surroundings on the ground were not giving out a sense of symmetry.

An Solas Sníomhta
(the twisted light)
The twisting effect appears stronger
and more concrete when the roof is at proximity

However, the work was not limited to Mercator, despite being big part of my work lately. The old tunnel projection (the reverse of the planet projection) was a target for some "surreal" editing. It is a surreal projection after all, but I mean here something out of the usual look for such projections. Something off-center.

An Cúinne Geal
(the bright corner)

Frankly, I was aiming at a sweeping movement for the landscape and the house and decided to make the tunnel projection as a starting point. However, things went out of hand a "bit". Why would I restrain myself for centralizing such panoramas anyway? Specially those which do no possess any degree of symmetry anyway! Call me an impressionist, but those curves can do a lot further when moves off the center; Curves = Emotions.
The main problem here is the cropping factor. No, not the sensor's crop factor. Here, the original panorama was 9000x9000 pixels in size (meaning a resolution of 81MP!). However, after some crops to adjust the portions of the panorama and the curves of lines (controlling those with coordinates is hard), the size came down to around 5000x5000 pixels (i.e. 25MP). Such a loss of size. Of course, I can stitch it again with a larger size to crop it back again, but that means more processing power. Imagine this: for a panorama coming down from 81MP to 25MP with such crop, then that means only 30% of the original size is used. If I'm going to do this on the usual size of 8000x8000 (64MP) like most squared panoramas before, then I would need to stitch to somewhere around 213MP in resolution, that would be somewhat around 14500x14500 pixels; this is just to crop it down to the size of 64MP.
Anyway, this is just the beginning, in hope that I would do more observations about this. One of my goals right now is to create something else with panoramas, specifically in a vertical format, but no success so far. All I can say about it right now is, it would be a diagonal panorama!

Geltani Again!

I know, I've been neglecting this project for a really long time and I've totally forgot about doing some representation for Omniglot.com as well.  However, I was working slowly for some time with this project before traveling to Ireland last October and I think I didn't post anything about these "inventions" and additions.
For a beginning, I tried to make a standard set for the "radicals"; those large strokes that contain other glyphs combinations. Usually those radicals are the last letter of the word. I wouldn't say it is a final set, but it is a trial to make it so.

A scan for some of the radicals designed already (from my Geltani notebook). Sorry for the bad quality here; I did barely make it through the technical problems! The asterisk here points to the position of the other glyphs relative to the general (larger) radical glyph.


On the other hand, there had been some tiny approaches to imagine out a general aspect for the grammar, and this was by some trials to form the passives, conditionals and perfectives. Not planning to complicate things here, so the general formula for such phrases would consist of a mix of the verb "to be" in a specific tense, with the original tense marker of the verb itself. This is the idea for now and seems it works (logically!).

Another scan for some grammatical constructions with the verb "to fly" which transliterate as "píj" (pron: peej, with "j" as in "jacket").
The top 2 columns of 4 lines discuss the direct tense (flew, fly, will fly, fly!) on the right column, and the passive form (was flown, be flown, will be flown) plus the modal (should fly) on the left column.
Next line is an example: would have flown, which literally here becomes (fly-will be-was)
Next example: he should have flown, literally here becomes (must-fly be-is)
Last example: would have flown (to...), which literally becomes (... to fly-was be-was)
As seen here in general, it is combination of two tenses of the main verb and the verb "to be"


Beside these forms, it seems that it would be necessary to merge some phonemes or sounds in Geltani when they come successively, like the sounds of "J" (as in Jacket) and "Ch" (as in Church), but I'm not sure yet of this theory right now. I hate to deal with a language like mathematics - this is not the way I learned English (even though it's not perfect anyway!), but it is important to "live" the language and make sense of it. Just get into the flow and only then things would fit into place, and this is what I'm trying to apply myself as I'm going through some Irish lessons online (sadly written and no audio available).
It is funny though how I got into formulating the grammar without even working on representing my work and the script. I've been overwhelmed with many things to do at the spur of the moment which effectively made my mind scattered in all directions.

Finale

Snufkin
The Moomins
Well, I won't be ashamed to say that one of the reasons to be lazy in the past week and this week is the fact that I was busy playing games, and watching cartoons. Old cartoons that is, like The Moomins. Well, I remember this cartoon long time ago (and played in Arabic back then of course and I'm watching this version specifically) and I used to get scared somehow every time it is played because it, simply, looked weird. However, now it gives another feelings when I watch it, specially after knowing that originally this Finnish comic and stories were dedicated to adults with some deep meanings. To me it resembles the simplicity and the life of adventure in simple terms, needless to say the imaginative stories and the countryside framework which fits my mood perfectly. I think my favorite character here is Snufkin. This is the English name of course. I like his role and I think it does have some aspects that I need, crave, or already have. This is not the only cartoon on the list; Golden Cities (or as dubbed in Arabic: Golden Dreams) is next on the queue line. However, I might not start it immediately after The Moomins. I need some time in between to reschedule my priorities!

On the other hand, I've been thinking seriously on having another instagram account for Ayvarith to post some aspects about it since there is no homepage for it yet. Another failure, I know. I have to admit, I do hate building websites! However, this will also mean added pressure, and with the technical problems I do have already with connecting to instagram and posting in it, it is probably better to wait and watch out for the next move. I'm so pressed in time with my photo-processing schemes and duties for the group, as well as my usual daily posts on instagram. In all of this, I'm giving my workplace my back, which I know it does sound dangerous a bit but I can't force myself to respect something that doesn't respect me back.

As I'm typing this, I've received an email informing me that one of my images submitted to HIPA (Hamdan International Photography Award) was qualified after the first round. The image was submitted for the Night Photography category. Meanwhile, my other images for other categories did not pass. The image submitted was Die Kuwaitische Mitternacht, but I had to translate the name into English as per the rules. It is funny that I've submitted my images in a haste just 2 days before the deadline. There was another event I wanted to role into, and also takes place in the UAE, which was an award for achievements done for the Arabic language. My aim was to submit my blog, but I had to back off. I think my blog is relatively new beside the fact that I was not sure of the regulations about electronic contents in that way. I had to let it go for now as I have more important issues to attend to (and ironically one of them is find a topic for my next article for my Arabic blog!).

Die Kuwaitische Mitternacht


Laziness in the meantime comes as an essential part of my life now. I feel that I need it strongly. I just realized that even when I play a game, it comes to me as a "duty" to do and not merely an entertainment to have. I think I've completely lost the definition of "entertainment" in my life…

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Hektisch II…

I'll try to wrap this quick. Well, happy new year first, and wish you all who read this (ONLY THOSE READING THIS!), ahem, a creative new year. A year that washes whatever pains that were there in 2014.
Currently, I've been celebrating my own triumph against one of the hardest panoramas that ruined my appetite for panoramas for some time, but now the appetite is all back of course! However, there remains the part where I MUST do the fixes for these newly generated panoramas, including the HDR tone-mapping which proved to be tricky - and we end the show with noise cleaning which proved to be an arduous task.

Casadh an tSúgáin
(twisting of the rope)

In fact, Casadh an tSúgáin is an Irish song title which I was listening to as I was doing the processing for this image, and seems it fits exactly the image's geometry! When I explored the variety of projections I've totally forgot about the usual flat panorama as it looked very regular and mundane. Hence, I've continued to explore the other styles. However, in Casadh an tSúgáin tone-mapping was troublesome and consequently it made for a hard time with the noise cleaning later. The leader of the photography group liked the small version of this panorama, and asked me to include it in the next set of images to be sorted out for future uses by the group (a usual procedure); however, I'm not sure how would the large version sustain the critique with such noise and spots that would need another round of cleaning. In this projection, I've noticed how the close pillars (to my left and right on location) could have formed a straight line. Originally this panorama was 90o counterclockwise but I decided to put it as seen above making the symmetry line horizontal and adjacent to the major pillars - while keeping the corridor up and down to form some sense of ground at least, specially with some of the buildings.

Herculis Cuniculum
(tunnel of Hercules)

Next on the list was the tunnel projection, Herculis Cuniculum. This one had even harder work done to it and yet it is suffering still, in the original large version at least. The main problem here was to cropping and distort to ensure some degree of symmetry. Anyway, it seems I did achieve some degree of symmetry along the central vertical axis but not the horizontal one unfortunately; and this is what you get when you screw things up on location with symmetry and centralizing the tripod in the middle of location! The noise level here was significant but not troublesome as much as it was in the previous projection with Casadh an tSúgáin, which is something I don't understand so far, but probably it is related to the degree of distortion that each projection bears. The main nuisance in this panorama specifically comes from the night sky and the buildings of the city; those are the main sources for the high noise level.

Planeta Laternis
(planet of lanterns)

At the end we have the typical planet projection, Planeta Laternis. Originally, this panorama was 90o clockwise. However, it did seem to be more balanced with keeping the buildings of the city up, while the corridor would spread left and right. Anyway, the rotation process was done later, after all the fixes and the trials to "gain the symmetry" back with a lot of distorting processes. Since I didn't shoot the nadir, I had to fill the space of that block with a solid color and seems it fits perfectly (after adjusting the hue and saturation to match its surrounding tiles). All of these adjustments of course were in HDR mode and before tone-mapping, but the hardest part was to distort such a large file in HDR mode and make it fit specific proportions and perfectly centered. For this reason I mostly do large stitches because I know I will crop them a lot later on, and the good thing about Planeta Laternis is that the edges (where the roof of the corridor itself lies in this projection) contains not many interesting details beside some stitching errors; Thus, cropping this area out was a big relief and a solution which shortened the processing time significantly.

How my Photoshop looks when working with these panoramas.
Notice the guidelines all over the place to ensure a symmetrical distortion and cropping.
click to enlarge

Finale

One year is over now and a new one coming even though I don't care much about it. After all, generally speaking, I'm not supposed to celebrate it! However, I do wish all readers a happy new year with all the best wishes to be fulfilled within.
My plans for now is to use the winter to my advantage as much as possible and go out at night often. I know when summer comes, it's all but a dead season. I just hope my body would cope a bit further with this, specially with the hectic life style and responsibilities thrown on my way.
As for my plans for the new coming year, all what I want for the time being is, to be more careless actually, and have further fun. Lot of fun…

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Hektisch, a panoramic story…

One word: Hectic. The week was so in fact, but this word describes more precisely the panorama that could not just give some easy time to be done. Been three weeks trying to fix this issue, and I won't be mistaken if I simply called a "panoramic adventure!" However, it was a case worth of a study, thus I'm hoping to dedicate this post for this panorama alone. I've made 3 trials already with this panorama and despite the hardships I'm having about it, I don't think I will be going there again to do it a 4th time!

The Beginning

The story begins not the in the current time. The idea of doing this panorama was actually planted in my head long ago before I even travel to Ireland at the end of September. Many factors were holding me down, but the number one factor was: Summer. The second factor was the security guys around the place. This place, Soug Sharg (Sharg Market) was specifically a scene of some confrontations in the past with security guys; day and night. Doing a panorama close to that place (and I guess belonging to it) might get the beehive disturbed. These two main factors held me back, and the rest was left for the proper timing and the capabilities of the body.
After coming back from Ireland in mid October I got busy with many things, and I need some time to settle my mind on how to do this panorama. I paid first a visit; just a plain visit without anything in hand, but simply walking around the place. Of course, the visit was nocturnal by nature, as this place actually shows more beauty at night with the "lantern" of lights glowing then. I did simple shots of this location long time when I was a beginner in photography and I did indeed, back then, made a simple vertical panorama for the face of this corridor in the outdoors. This time, however, the story was different.

The location under inspection,
right behind Soug Sharg's Marina.
The difference comes in many aspects: the time, the size, the intent, the procedure (the erratic part of the whole story). In this plain visit I had to check if there is a chance to do a centralized panorama in this place. The answer was positive; there is a distinctive center for the place. The lights in the place would provide sufficient light for simple exposure timing in case of catching up with the architecture of the place. However, long exposure is needed if the sky is to be given some color and not keeping it simply dark. Hence, HDR comes to the mind naturally. However, for the factors I've mentioned before (i.e. security people) I had to think thoroughly to work as fast as possible and hence "real" long exposures were not an option naturally, neither metering the light on location to find out a proper intermediate value (and it won't work because the difference in luminance is far greater than 2 stops).

Versuch Eins

The first trial was a failure by nature. I went out too late to the location thinking that too late is better to ensure not much activity around (people or security). One important point was forgotten here: lights are automated, and they switch off around 4 a.m.; Ironically, this is something I used to know from last winter's experiments with long exposures on the beach but my mind was completely absent.
The result was, a short trip, to say the best. In fact, I spent a significant time trying to centralize the set to make it in the center as much as possible. With places like this, symmetry is of the optimum importance and I had enough already with my left-handedness temptations, where everything looking normal to me with the naked eye is, in fact, tilted or skewed to some direction and not perfectly central. For this, my work was greatly done with the LCD of the camera. Shifting the tripod around was not an easy job too - moving a heavy set just for few centimeters with some delicacy is never easy, specially with the tripod been extended to its full length, as I was trying to have a slightly upper view than the normal level of the eyes.
After doing all of that and all this back-tiring work, I started to shoot. But first, I had to make one shot using the white balance disk to set it as a reference point for the camera's white balance point. The work then started and as soon as I reached the 4th angle in the process (and that would be at 120o), the lights simply turned off, leaving me in the dark. It was a mixture of anger and disappointment, naturally. But I guess I can blame myself because I should have been more attentive to such matters from previous experience.
Settings used here were f/9 (while using the hyperfocus principle), and bracketing (of exposures) to merge as HDR slides later.Metering here was set to Evaluative, which is meant to measure the light from different areas in the scene and then evaluate an average for the different zones of the scene, and naturally some exposures took 30 seconds already (because of the camera limit to this time in Av mode, otherwise it should have been longer).

Versuch Zwei

The second trial was set the week after the first. This time I've decided to head earlier than the previous time, and that was around 1 a.m.. Again, centralizing was essential and did take some time to do. The white balance was still saved from the last trial and the aperture too; all I had to do is shoot. This time, however, the tripod was lowered to around the chest level for easy control and viewing. No nadir (bottom) shot was taken as I would need extra work and careful planning for such a shot so I had to neglect it despite the fact that it bears a significant detail in the tiles underneath the tripod. I thought that I will manage to get over such a problem later. Almost same settings were used, except that metering was set to Center-Weight (thinking that the light areas are greater anyway from those dark areas in between).
Back home the surprise was on its way to shock me. It is regular practice for me now to work with modeling; i.e. using simple JPEG images to stitch a correct model of the panorama and apply the mold of this model on the HDR panorama, since the stitching program (as of lately) doesn't recognize much details from HDR images. To my surprise, the computer made a pizza out of my panorama!

The pizza made by the computer trying to stitch my panorama

I did not really understand what was going on here. Why did that happen? Did I miss some angles while shooting? Even optimization (i.e. correcting control points) did not work on fixing this "Pizza". I even tried to use Black and White images to make the model but the same issue occurred - a pizza! The thing is there was no problem generating control points at all (except for one or two slides beside the zenith slide and this is normal).
Investigating further down the road of making a panorama, the natural culprit to be suspected first here is the rotation axis, which if not picked out right, can cause the parallax error - an error that is a nightmare for panorama makers. Checking on some numerical values with a little research about the matter, I've found out that my camera and lens combination was indeed under a shift - This is my first full-panorama to be done after coming back from Ireland and apparently the VR-Head had some screws loose and there was a shift in the arms which I didn't check thoroughly.
Checking the images on computer to see if there is really any significant shift in virtual spaces between objects in the scene (when camera is rotated) I did indeed notice a really tiny amount of shift and change (e.g. the small green barricades and their background had some relative motion with respect to each other), but I was skeptical about the seriousness of this shift - Was really enough to do such a disgusting shock to my eyes, and even squander the computer's mind to the limit of losing control in that way?!!! Anyway, the shift of the rotation axis was fixed according to the numerical values I've obtained online and I was ready for a third trial.

Versuch Drei

For this trial, I was already tired of going to that place (and it had a non-pleasant stench to it), thus all what I picked was my tripod with the VR-Head, and my camera. This time I didn't wait for the weekend to come, but I did it in the middle of the week as my sleeping pattern was disturbed (after some headache issues which forced me to sleep afternoons!). All settings were already set (including the white balance from the first trial 3 weeks ago before this third trial). This time though I've returned to the Evaluative metering.
Back home I've converted the images directly to Black and White slides (thinking that colors can add to the confusion in connecting and stitching the images of the panorama) but again, to my surprise, the modeling process didn't work and just like in the second trial, the computer made a pizza out of my panorama! And again, the optimization process did not yield any useful result.

My third trial's pizza!

At this point I've realized that the shift in the rotation axis was not the only problem in paly here. There was something mysterious going on!
In a desperate move here, I've tried to apply templates (i.e. models) from other panoramas not related to this one at all. Specifically, I've tried to apply a model file for a panorama that I've somewhat faced some problems like this with: an taobh istigh an Waterfront (inside the Waterfront).

An taobh istigh an Waterfront

I have to say it was the first time I try such an approach; applying a model of completely unrelated panorama to another. Yet, the results were significant! However, the stitching errors did prevail and were hard to fix too.

Some of obvious stitching errors (and some were cropped from below) after trying to apply models not related to the same panorama itself. Just to note, this approach was done with the panorama done in the second try.

At least for this point here, I was able to discover the other projections and how well would they do and the results were astonishing (but not to be published now). This made me more eager to solve the matter of this mess. Despite the promising look of this approach but the main problem is that optimization cannot be done to correct for such stitching errors, and those stitching errors would need significant time to be fixed, if they were flexible enough to be fixed anyway!

Versuch Vier

At this point I was tired of the situation and really, really did not think of going further. There must be something related to this issue other than a simple physical attribute such as a shift in the no-parallax point and axis of rotation. Thus, my 4th trial now is to be done completely digital and on computer.
Despite the stress (yes, it was a real stress) the accompanies such unexplainable results when a panorama-making process goes erratic for no obvious reasons, I tried my best to organize my thought and work.

In the beginning, a general check up for the whole set of images yielded a fact that there is no problem in generating control points, and yet, optimization gives the "very bad" indicator. This usually means really bad control points (points connecting between two images) - that is, some points do not match or simply very distantly related. Anyway, after deleting these bad points, some images were left with no control points at all. In other words, complete images here were a major reason for the whole upset in the "pizza"! Now what to do?

First approach was to divide the work: dividing the panorama to 3 zones and work on the control points for each. I've reloaded the images anew, and canceled the repeated shots (those at 0o and 360o, keeping just one of them instead of the two). Then, I've generated (manually) control points between each 2 images in the first set of images which compose the middle zone of the panorama. At this point, optimization for this set of images alone was "good" or "very good" and them middle zone virtually out of stitching errors so far!

The same approach was done for the lower and the upper zone of the panorama (excluding the zenith point) with varied degrees of optimizations, but all were good so far! The tricky part now was in connecting these 3 zones together, as the panorama now was divided to 3 perfectly-matched zones! Thus, I've went on generating control points (again, manually) between vertically overlapping images in between the middle and the lower zones, and then again from the middle and the upper zones. It was tricky here as when optimizing any two sets of images after adding the control points, the third set gets corrupted and out of sync. Needless to say here there was a great deal of work regarding other options and properties needed to be controlled, mainly the Blending ratio for some slides in the lower zone. The situation was settled when I optimized the whole set of images from all zones; optimization then yielded "not so bad" - which was good for my purpose here at least and the three zones were matched with minimum of stitching errors. The zenith slide (topmost) was then matched with some images from the upper zone and optimized alone. Things look relatively perfect now except for few minor stitching errors AND some smudged zones resulting from luminance problems when merging into HDR (which is a resultant related to the exposures making up the HDR itself). Those are not a big nuisance for the time being but I guess they can be dealt with later.
Anyway, there was a minor problem of keeping the pillars at vertical lines which proved to be problematic. The beauty of the place is in fact in the vertical straight lines and such twist and tilt in those pillars is not a good compromise, so to say.

A model stitch. Notice the tilt of the pillars; some are slight and some are strong. Of course beside the other stitching errors.

This convergence of vertical line does effect the visual strength of the panorama as well as the ability to centralize the panorama and achieve a good symmetry (remember, the main reason for picking this location is the symmetry!). Trying to fix this problem with the usual approach (changing the roll and pitch angles) did not yield a proper solution to this problem. Thus, I've decided to go through the middle zone and assign vertical control points and some horizontal control points. These are special type of control points that tell the computer that such lines are (and should) be perfectly vertical or horizontal, of course depending on specific features in the scene. Thus, most of the pillars in the middle set of images was a target to this addition of control points, and optimization was done once again to apply these changes. The results were a joy to my eyes!

A final test stitch. The arrows point to the stitching errors and smudges caused by HDR problems. Compare the tilt of the pillars here with the black and white model above which was made before adding vertical and horizontal control points.

All what is left now is to apply this model to the REAL thing: the HDR set of images itself. After that, there will be a long journey through the different projection styles and the different tone-mapping (and each would need some degree of fixes of course).
I can feel the steam venting out of my brain. I've finally settled down with 3 weeks of work-failure-work relationship here! I have to say, I do consider it an adventure nevertheless.

Thoughts and Conclusion

The question now remains: Why did that happen? What went wrong here? Despite the simplicity of the situation, yet this panorama persisted in its stitching errors (even with the final results), and despite the reality that there was indeed a shift in the rotation axis away from the no-parallax point of the lens (Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye), yet fixing such problem did not bring any practical enhancement to the situation. This made me think of some points here that might have caused this problem and some of them if not all are kind of uncontrollable (to me at least):
  • Moving shadows. Because of the abundance of light sources on location there were multiple shadows in the place beside my shadow of course, which was moving and probably did appear in more than one slide. 
  • The symmetry of the place could be a culprit despite being the reason sought for creating this panorama. The resemblance between two images which are NOT related to each other could have possibly (just possibly) trick the computer on thinking that these two images ARE related. Hence, control points were generated to two unrelated images making a pizza out of the situation!
  • Just like the moving shadows, reflections on the ground might have a minor role here in "baffling" the computer and tricking it into generating what I might call False Control Points
  • By now, it is very common that repetitive patterns in the space do undoubtedly produce stitching errors; Galore! Thus, I was not really surprised to see stitching errors in the lower zone of the panorama where the tiles make a lot of lines crossing each other.

Finale

Well, after this long story (and hopefully not so boring one), I'm just glad and happy to see such an achievement. I didn't get such a feeling of accomplishment for a while (even though it wasn't far back behind when one of my panoramas was displayed in a luxurious coffee table book!).
I dedicate this post to "some" people who thought the work of photography is simple a deed of Photoshop and playing with the camera, specially when it comes to panoramas. I just hope this post would open the eyes to the hassles that we, photographers, must put up with just to come out with something - and most of the time, it is for our own satisfaction and no one and nothing else. For those work already with this venture of photography and reading this, I hope it is of some benefits to you all out there. There are some details that I couldn't mention here of course, but I'm sure you can figure them out on your own!

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating it, 
or as the Irish say: Nollaig Shona Dhaoibh.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mercator II…

Well, here we are with another week. Another "idle" week if I can call it so. Many of the plans that I've stepped up didn't progress as... well, as planned! It's a continuous trend since last week (hence no post for last week) and when I tried to break the humdrum of this routine I was simply knocked back to block one. Two main projects here failed to take progress: the long exposure portraiture and one night-time panorama. But I have to say I had my trials at least which didn't work out, and specifically for that night-time panorama, during which the lights were turned off as I was working! Talk about being pissed off about your luck, as ever.

The Waterfront panorama print taken with my brother's iPhone.

On the other hand, I've at least accomplished something, with the printing and varnishing, and then sending off my gift to the owners of the Waterfront (B&B). I'm just hoping the address is correct since it was hard to get a concrete address for the place; It was mostly instructional text for the directions to reach the place (from Galway city or some other places). With this, I'm sort of still trying to find and explore the "world" of varnishes here (as we lack proper inkjet varnishes).

Routinely

Since the majority of projects with the camera are put to an end for the past 2 weeks, I've spent the time available for me with my arsenal of photos and panoramas from my last visit to Ireland, trying to extract as much as possible and specifically doing more projections of panoramas that were done and stitched already. At this point, saving the project file (which usually I didn't care of much) proved to be a superb advancement; as it serves as a quick starting point for other projections, and later saving the project anew can be helpful for future work when needed. Projection files in PTGui don't take much space (few KBs only); they consist mainly of general data strings about the panorama and its elements.

Go dTí an Caisleán (to the castle)
EF-S18-55mm @30mm, f/8, 200-1sec, ISO200.

An Fhianaise (The Witness)
Sigma 70-300mm @300mm,
f/8, 30-1sec, ISO200.
Another reason for working up more with these photos (panoramas and regulars) is the fact that I'm working on my Arabic blog to describe my travels in Ireland this year, for which I do require some photos of the places; both artistic (as in An Fhianaise) and documentary (as in Go dTí an Caisleán). This pushed me further to spend more time with digging the folders and not think much about the artistic values of the photos (for the time being), but merely use them in descriptive terms. However, I'm trying to do my best with those images even if they are just for documentation purposes (e.g. Go dTí an Caisleán been through a series of edits to enhance the clouds and the grass, and make it sharp).
On the other hand, there is also the on-going work with panoramas, as I'm trying to prepare my arsenal of those for the coming event of an expo with the group (in which I was enrolled alone in 2012 and with the group in 2013). Meanwhile, I'm increasing my experiments with Mercator projection for vertical panoramas, for all the flexibilities it gives! Despite some commentary on some aspect of such approach by some observers but I'm somewhat giving a deaf ear to that...

Déthaobh (double surface)
I think I've posted Déthaobh in my previous post under a different name; anyway, I'm trying to enhance my knowledge with Irish here. However, someone commented on this as follows:
  • This is an edit. The image shouldn't (supposedly) be touched.
  • The "road" in the middle is taking the bulk of the image.

Well, I'm not going to explain the first point. I think it is related to the old debate of how much a photographer is supposed to use Photoshop in his work, beside the fact that this image is not a work of Photoshop, but it was used merely to enhance it and not to make it. Let's move to the second point here: the road (or asphalt) is taking the bulk from the image.
At some point, even though the one who announced such comments is unaware of the processes behind the make of such panoramas, yet such comment did bring my attention to a significant point: Location type plays a significant role. Here, probably, I didn't have much say in the formation of this panorama in this way, as the asphalt is already there, and I was not planning to let the house appear in the middle and split the asphalt into two halves; because this was not the main idea I was working after. However, it is a point worthy of some consideration when it comes to the nature of the place to be placed under such projection.

An Gotach Sníomhach
(the spinning Gothic)
Céimseata Meánaoiseach
(medieval geometry)
On the other hand, I personally do see the benefits of a vertical Mercator projection in other panoramas, like An Gotach Sníomhach for example. Here, we see the line of trees curving smoothly along the sides and not so stretched. I did not even think of cropping from the sides (only from the top and bottom after skewing the image to level the church). Probably, at this point, I would have faced the same situation as in Déthaobh with the asphalt that leads to the the church itself. The same goes with Céimseata Meánaoiseach, but in this case I've cropped the ground completely, making the panorama ground-less almost. I have to re-check some of these panoramas again and again to see what possibilities do the ground (or nadir) point provide of details before doing such projection. If things would end up like Déthaobh, then it would probably be better to simply do a normal spherical vertical panorama! That would let things be slender and thin with stretched sides that would need a crop mostly. This is not only for the current set of panoramas from Ireland; but I'm trying the trend for some other older panoramas as well.

Marijuana Galore!

What I really like about this projection is, not only it gives a new meaning to a vertical panorama, but it also tends to (almost) fit the panorama into the usual square dimension usually seen in planet and some other polar-type panoramas.

Finale

An Teach ag Deatach
(the smoking house)
Well, this is it for now, but I'm going to pray to finish what I'm planning for in this weekend! I won't rant about work just now since I'm getting sicker of it and it is a known fact by now I believe - but I'm seriously thinking of leaving it at some point and try to do something else. In the meantime I'm trying to roll back to poetry as I feel something is missing out in my life; like I do some way to drain what's inside. Needless to say, getting back to my other projects that were put on hold for a long time even before I get into the vacation mood.
Say, how was that feeling again, when someone is supposedly passionate?...

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Mercator…

Back to normal (and moderate) life again now after the Expo has finished. It's time now to shuffle my cards again and try to do some stuff that I've been postponing for a while. However, this is not the end of the story with Expos, as we are planning to get enrolled again in another Expo hopefully in March. I do have my own plans for this "show" with the group, but of course I have to discuss matters with them.

Failure No. 1

For some time I had this idea of doing some "portrait" shot with infrared. Yes, portrait. Not my cuppa tea I know, but this time it is combined with infrared, which means long exposure. I've seen some artist which use property for creating a soft touch for portraits, and I thought of experimenting with that as well, even though I don't remember if they did use infrared filters or just a regular long exposure. Anyway, since I have no model to bear with me, I had to do it all on my own.
I made up a simple setting for experimenting with this concept and I made sure that I can rest my head somewhere so it won't move much, but only little shakes (normal body movement). The idea was a table with stack of books (just an addition) and resting my chin on the table (while sitting on the ground). Focusing and directing the camera wasn't a problem, but the problem was majorly the VERY long exposure with ISO100. It required about 65 minutes! I wasn't sure I could rest my head that long! Thus, I tried to use ISO400 instead for a total exposure of about 16 minutes. Boy, did I not sleep while waiting for the exposure to finish!
Unfortunately for me, the final image was pretty much noisy and almost impossible to clean, as well as not being soft much. For this trial, I used the B+W 092 infrared circular filter with my Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 lens. However, I've began to understand IR filters further and one factor that this circular filter does not yield more interesting results is the fact that its cut-off wavelength point (the point after which waves are allowed to pass) is somewhere around 650nm. On the other hand, the KODAK IR gel filter which I use with my Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens usually, has a cut-off point of something around 900nm. This means that the circular filter from B+W does allow more amount of "visible" light to pass and hence the results aren't interesting as much as those results obtained by the gel filter from KODAK, which filters off more visible light. Of course, in the case of the gel filter, the exposure will be even longer!
The next step now is to try regular long exposures with the help of ND filters only, and probably using IR filters later, but with the help of some extra light source to light the scene (my face) further and help on shortening the exposure as well as "producing" more IR in the scene; I heard tungsten bulbs do produce a fair amount of IR.

Twisted and Vertical

My work is continuing with panoramas taken from Ireland, and this time adding to it some of the old panoramas from other places as well since the occasion of the Annual Book Fair last week. My attitude was a mixture of presenting panoramas and single shots when any process of sorting is scheduled by the group as I don't want to confine myself to a specific category. However, it turned out that panoramas from my side can play the "winning" card in many aspects - and for this reason I've developed some ideas for the next group's activity but they need to be discussed first. Anyway, this is not the matter to discuss here for now!

Talamh na Neamh
(Heaven's ground)
I've been working on doing more vertical panoramas lately, as I've figured that it was the lesser projection in my collection of panoramas, probably because of the lack of straight or longitudinal features in many of the scenes that I usually shoot for panoramas. Anyway, I thought maybe I should try to discover the possibilities in variety of places even those with no distinctive straight features (roads, corridors, ..etc).
However, one of the major problems in such projection is the quite stretched sides of such vertical panoramas which require a crop most of the time because they bear no distinctive or legible features. This is somewhat a minus point for this projection because the cropping limit can be hard to find, and the vertical panorama can be way too thin. But seems there is a promising solution to this in the atmosphere. Mercator.
Táim Suas ag Dul
(I'm going up)
Dhá-Taoibh
(double surface)

It never occurred to me to use Mercator projection, needless to say in a vertical format! I have to say here things came in as a coincidence. The Mercator projection is usually looked up as, simply, an elongated form of the cylindrical projection. However, when it comes to vertical panoramas, the difference is clear. With Mercator, the vertical panorama appears wide in the middle area (like a bulge outwards) and this gives for nicer views and more details. Cylindrical on the other hand, renders this area small and far. Probably vertical panoramas like Talamh na Neamh and Táim Suas ag Dul are more elongated (they are vertical panoramas from regular spherical flat panoramas), and the geometry of the place did help here as well in achieving quite the view without such a bulge. However, panoramas like Dhá-Taoibh had not many interesting features in the regular spherical panorama in vertical format. Mercator was more interesting here, despite the problem in the middle area of the panorama because of the distribution of the grass in the scene, which is a problem already in the spherical vertical panorama; because it renders the place unbalanced in this dimension. With this notice, I'm adding one more creative brush to my palette for the future rendering of more panoramas, and probably solve problems with some panoramas!

Finale

I'm here. Sweeping through life like a pinball game right now from side to side wondering what I really want. I'm planning to increase my activity within the group, thinking that it might give my life a further meaning with all the collapsible dreams that I've been watching fall down so far. I've been told once that things would look and turn for the better after 30; I wonder where from did they get this?.
In the meantime I'm giving work and home my back (almost) and all what I'm going to do is just work on my own projects, my own photos, and on my reputation as a panorama-maker. Say, what do they call a person who makes panoramas? Panoramer?
I leave you know with this musical which I fell in love with. Gentle as it may be, violent on my heart it is. Simply the work of a band of geniuses: The Chieftains...






Thursday, November 27, 2014

Book Fair…

Things had been busy a bit here, particularly for the matter of the Expo which accompanies the annual book fair (Arabic Book fair that is). Things went fast, as the organizers called the group's leader to get some photos ready for the expo, leaving the leader no choice but to "pick" directly instead of the usual sorting out process for the members - members that he chose and picked himself out of all of the around-34 members. They, the organizers, specified the number to be 10 photographers, with 2 photos from each photographer to be displayed, and thus the total would be 20 photos. To our surprise though when the expo started by last Wednesday, our group's position was apparently picked by the organizers in a haste or simply our group was thought of as the last solution for some problem they had! Other groups had the chance to get 30 photographers in, with two photos for each (i.e. 60 photos in total). Moreover to this, our group's photos were not gathered specifically into one booth, but spread over 2 places, with some photos of other groups into the booth containing most of our photos.

Our booth in the expo, with the right wall belonging to another group.
The photos of the leader and 2 other members are displayed on the partition,
and on the other side into the next booth.

Also, apparently other groups knew what was going on and brought stickers to put them on the names of their members. We didn't bring ours till next day. There were no signs showing which belongs to what, but they simply dumped the stock side by side.

Anyway, things are going fine and so far so good - we are considered by now the best contributors to this expo; testified by both: photographers and non-photographers. The distribution of the prints made me a trouble for how to document this event by a panorama. However, I decided to go ahead and do one panorama for the main booth. I did another panorama for a general view of the expo. The panorama for the main booth had to be done in HDR because of the harsh contrast coming from the windows above, and yet I didn't bother doing some metering here, since it was just for documenting after all. As for the general panorama, which I didn't stitch yet, it was a simple 360 panorama of single shots, as I didn't care much about showing fine details or making a dramatic look out of it.

This is all for now and till I get some free time from the expo, I might get back to writing this blog. I do have some ideas that I need to work on (at home and outside) but because of the time consuming expo, I can barely have some rest from work before going to the expo, or even barely having some time for myself. See you later!