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!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Quick…

Well, I think I'm going to wrap this quick for the time being. The time to turn back to work is close by and I think my soul is not yet ready for this! My time table and schedules are in a real mess, testified by the traveling luggage case that still laying around on my room's floor! But the real annoyance is yet to come; my first day at work is in fact my appointment day for some regular eyes examination - and I HATE those examinations.

Disaster

Meanwhile, I'd like to note what happened here as a "miracle." I was almost going to delete all the folders of images from my laptop since I've copied all the folders into my PC. In a glance, then, I've noticed that one folder which contains several single shots and one full panorama was not copied (specifically dating October 3rd). I'm not sure why and how this folder was copied with the rest, but I've noticed the folder of this date specifically had no shots, except for 2 selfies! (yes selfies, self portrait done back in Ireland). Anyway, this is a lesson for me right now as to go through the files and folders after any session or travel, and never to delete any file right away after copying. I think what mainly happened here was caused by the fact that I didn't change the time on my camera when I traveled to Ireland (I did later though) - this affects the way files are organized and to what folders specially if the shots were taken before and after midnight time according to the homeland time (Kuwait's time), while it's not midnight in the destination (Ireland's time), and thus making one apparent session be split in between 2 folders without knowing! The panorama in that folder, on the other hand, is kind of problematic because it was not centered correctly, but that would be another topic to be discussed later maybe.

Processing-wise now. The work with my new arsenal of images from Ireland had been somewhat slow this week; mainly because of the bad sleeping pattern and the busy mind with other things, which made me dull with inspiration and imagination when I work with photos. However, I've got into the second phase of processing my panoramas: surreal projections. Which means, mainly, planet projection beside other stuff.

Táim Suas ag Dul
(I'm going up)
However, my very beginning with the second phase of panoramas was actually a vertical panorama and not a planet projection. Saying this, there is already a panorama that I've neglected on purpose because I can't work my mind with it or decide how it should be, and that is the panorama from the lounge.
Anyway, it is typical of me to do a vertical panorama out of confined elongated places like corridors. The surreal view of up and down in one image just fascinates me (call me a psycho, I really don't care). Here, in Táim Suas ag Dul we can find the typical mistake that I do, always. A non-central position which shows drastically later on when the panorama is stitched (and there other panoramas which got it worse than this!). Despite all the trials to remind myself of the importance of centralizing the tripod on location in relation to a specific feature in the space, I just fail to adhere to my own advice. You can see the effect here clearly in the bad alignment of the lamp in the ceiling and the stair case: you make one straight the other would tilt, and getting them together in one alignment is impossible. However, the dramatic scenery that was done in planet projection brought me some condolences for this mistake…

Beidh Solas Tríd An Dorchadas
(there will be light through the darkness)

The panorama taken in front of the Waterfront, Beidh Solas Tríd an Dorchadas, was my first target for such planet projections where the clouds can be extracted for details. The hard part in processing this image is the color tint as a whole. The blue sky you see here was actually bluer than this but I had to put down the tint a bit just to make it reasonable (fearing "bleed" of saturation). Originally, the sky was white with some dark areas. At the end, I had to achieve somewhat a manual contrast control by dodging and burning specific areas. Of course all of that was done AFTER tone-mapping the HDR panorama. Luckily, I've saved a stitching file for all (or most) of the panoramas that I've done in flat format. Thus, all I have to do is change the perspective and few options and then stitch (no need to go on and create control points and align images all over again). However, the really dramatic view which I really liked is not here, but somewhere in Co, Mayo!

Réalta an Ashford
(star of Ashford)

I really love this panorama specifically, the one taken in front of Ashford castle (and hotel). Despite the fact that it wasn't quite centralized and it has some unbalancing elements, yet the atmosphere and the colors of this location specifically give me delight. Here, I've tone-mapped using Photoshop (like I did with Aughnanure's panorama) just to control the aspect of the sun. No worries about matching the left and right edges of course (i.e. the seam) since we are not going to make a QTVR out of this one. I've already tried to contact the staff by contacting them on Instagram (no response so far as I'm typing this) about using these panoramas - at least for contests. The situation would have been different if Ashford was a landmark managed by the state instead of being a property owned by some private companies. Anyway, I can do nothing but to wait and see!

Finale

Well, I've skipped here a lot. Some QTVRs were made but I think not much to be said or done about them, except of thinking of doing a specific page for large format QTVR maybe? Saying this, I look back at all the things that I'm supposed to be doing beside photography but they are on halt so far. Gives me a shiver down the spine.
In the meantime, I've been active with the group in preparations of an expo related to the Book's international fair here, some time around 23rd of November, beside running after Al-Thani contest. Let's hope no fuss this time with the catalogs (we didn't get the previous ones for Austria's contest yet!). But all of these activities don't keep my mind busy enough into other realms still, nor they are able to keep my nightmares away. My life is a real mess for sure and one thing is needed for sure at the moment: to travel again. Alas, this won't be any time soon…

An Caisearbhán Mór
(the grand dandelion)



Thursday, November 6, 2014

Ar An mBóthar…

This post contains QTVR environment and needs QuickTime to be installed. Please give some time to load.


I'm not sure if this is the idea I had in my mind for the term "vacation". Not that I'm bored, but quite the opposite; I'm overwhelmed. I technically can't have a rest and my sleeping pattern is not helping as well. At least I got to play some of the games I wanted to play.
Processing the images is still going on even though in a slower pace, specially that I wanted to play these games which made me stop the process for a while. But more to come about that later. Most important thing right now is, almost all panoramas were stitched, in flat format. Which means I, now, have to work further with other projections! and I've made some QTVRs indeed, so hope you have installed QuickTime already!

Pano

In the field of panoramas, there were some panoramas that I'm reluctant to work with further for various reasons; colors, mood, and even the structure. However, in the next round of panoramas (in other projections other than flat ones), I guess I will re-checking those. Particularly here, the panorama taken from the lounge of the Waterfront B&B. I'm sort of glad though that one of the panoramas, for which I've expected lot of hurdles, turned out to be finely stitched!

An Seomra Folchta
The Bathroom

I was expecting such panorama, An Seomra Folchta, to have problems because of the very narrow space I've taken it in. But it was finely stitched in HDR with the help of a model made out from JPG slides. The detection of the white balance on location with the help of the WB disk paid well here, as the atmosphere inside this small space was mixed, between a bluish tint (hence yellowish WB would be needed) and some hot colors on the ground from the carpets (hence bluish WB would be needed); but all was set just by using the WB disk. The main difficulty in this panorama specifically would be aligning the panorama and making sure that some lines are truly vertical. OK, now to the QTVRs.



QTVRs

Concerning QTVRs, I've been thinking lately if there is another way to represent them instead of the current methodology I'm following. I've had a peek into the matter and seems there are other methods indeed, but probably more rigorous in terms of application; yet they can be useful for viewers of this blog as some of them don't require installing QuickTime. I'm not sure how this would work actually since converting the panorama into a QTVR is already done through PTGui here and the file type would already be a MOV. Need some time for this!



In this QTVR you might notice a mistake. Well, more than one in fact. Anyway, it seems that when I tone-mapped this HDR panorama with Photomatix, I've forgot to tick the "360" option, which ensures that the left and right edges of the panorama are seamless and flow together without a cut. This is one of the problems with tone-mapping in Photoshop; there is no option to make the panorama seamless - not that I'm aware of any anyway! Despite this fact, sometimes I'm forced to use it for tone-mapping specifically as it comes...



This QTVR was made from a panorama which was originally tone-mapped in Photoshop. Fixing the seam here was relatively easy; just some cloning work and I guess it is not easy to notice the seam line when rotating the QTVR. The reason I tone-map with Photoshop sometimes is the fact that I can use curves to establish the tonal values for various luminance levels all around the image, and this is how I worked out the disk of the sun here and made it sparkling instead of having just white bright spot in the sky. Such specific control can't be done in Photomatix, unfortunately. Imagine the power if the two are merged: one application to control the light by curves (beside other methods) AND making sure the panorama is seamless. Awesome!
Left to say I'm kind of surprised for Aughnanure castle's QTVR, because here, I didn't add a nadir point as I was experimenting only about the seam line. However, it was seamless AND PTGui seems to have identified the vertical limitations of the panorama; in old QTVRs, these vertical limits would be black zones if the panorama is not in the format of 2:1 ratio. But here, the viewer would automatically stop before reaching the cut of the nadir point. It was experimental after all thus I left the watermark as is on the image.

Well, there are plenty of other QTVRs but maybe I will keep them for some other time, like Kylemore Abbey's QTVR and the one for the interior of The Waterfront, beside the exterior panorama too. In all of these, and despite the fact that it was easy to clone the nadir image, I've decided to use the classic method of putting a label at the nadir point to identify the panorama and work as a "watermark" of some sort.

Singles

Meanwhile, along with the panoramas, I'm doing more single shots in between. Even though people now started to look at me for panoramas and related fields (here at least), single shots, nevertheless, are equally important. The problem, or should I say the dilemma, I'm in is: am I just good because I do panoramas? Things in the group somehow agree with this statement, specially with the upcoming events.

Uaigneas Lúcháireach
(joyous solitude)
Canon EF 50mm, f/16,
25-1sec, ISO100.
I'm trying not to put all the egg in one basket as they say; whenever there is a sorting out for the group, I do pick up some old files along with the new ones from Ireland. However, chances are still low. I can't deny that there are some fatal mistakes in some images after all. Mistakes that just don't appear for the regular viewer (who enjoys colors and setting more than composition and clarity). However, there are images that did somewhat gain popularity (on the internet at least) but yet they were rejected, like Áilleacht Dhorcha which I've posted about last week.
 On the other hand there were images that I was glad to work with but then it turned out it's all a mistake. Well, I did like the color at least! Uaigneas Lúcháireach here is an example, but maybe I do have my excuse here at least. The boat was moving fast and I had to snap the picture fast before it's gone out of sight! The main problem here is the "guide line" which literally extends from the middle of the frame below to the extreme left side; such a wrong position. In addition to that, the leader said there are some distracting elements which makes it out-of-harmony. Well, my confidence is not shaken yet for this! At least I'm glad I didn't use polarizer here to clear the water which provided some reflection, and the whole atmosphere was mainly achieved by changing the White Balance without sorting to HDR technique. Maybe another version of the scene was better (despite the emptiness)...

Maidin Ghorma Aon (one blue morning)
Canon EF 50mm, f/16, 125-1sec, ISO100

Probably not better here with Maidin Ghorma Aom, but the annoying "wrong" guide line here is removed (this shot is taken before they reach that point). Lot of work here was involved (mainly dodge and burn) to control light and shadows, and specifically approach the image to a silhouette style.

Amharc Éagsúil
(different view)
Canon EF 50mm, f/8,
20sec, ISO400.
On the other hand there were desperate trials to create something out of... desperate shots, to say the least. Images like Amharc Éagsúil for example, were simply test shots in the dark (dusk time), but since the quantity of shots taken this year (single shots that is) is at low, I had to gamble a bit with shots that were intended as tests, like this one. It would have been some nice shot if only there was a full or partial reflection on water, but all I got is clouds and the tip of the house. Thus, to make things interesting a bit, I flipped the image upside down just to make out some interest! Controlling the tones later was just as desperate trial of creating vividness without oversaturating the image. I'm really not against rejecting this image at all. But there was something strange too...

Roimh an Dorchadas (before the dark)
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/8, 12m, ISO100.

Roimh an Dorchadas, an image which was on the list for sorting out for future events. There were comments about over saturating the colors but I believe there had been a problem with color calibration in that laptop (wasn't color-calibrated). However, what I consider the strangest comment was "you have better than this already". I'm not sure what was meant by that or what picture in particular was meant here. Maybe Through My Window? But if this was the case, I do consider Roimh an Dorchadas better-looking...

Through My Window
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/8, 7m, ISO100.


Yes, the clouds line is apparently better in Through My Window, yet Roimh an Dorchadas has probably more interesting elements in the image itself. The problem with Roimh an Dorchadas is that the air was almost static and hence the clouds didn't move much.

Finale

The coffee table book cover
It is finally here! My own copy of Coffee Table book of the luxury edition (2014) of Trierenberg Circuit contest, which contains my own panorama, Ludendorffs Wirklichkeit. The process of retrieving this book was something out of one of those adventure games: tasks, questions, investigations. Still, the case is not over yet with the (bad) post services here, as there are copies of the catalogs that did not reach us yet (supposedly sent back in June). There is a probability that they were sent back to Austria, but no news from Austria still. Many issues were here as why this has happened, like not providing a track number for receivers to see where the parcel stopped, and no phone numbers provided on the parcel so at least we would expect a call from the post service, and yet the post service here, of course, wouldn't do a thing (probably even with a phone number provided).
Ludendorffs Wirklichkeit as
printed in the book,
in a small corner.
I didn't go through the book yet but I do believe there is a lot to learn from other contestants' photos in the field of architecture and landscape photography. Yet, I can't hold my disappointment here. Let aside the fact that my "large" panorama was printed in a small corner (and the colors aren't as vivid as on monitor), the book itself is a demonstration of clear bias for specific "items". I'm not saying photos aren't great, but a quick look through the book made it clear that if you are a portrait photographer, and specifically into nude photography, your chances are dim. Sorry, but it somewhat feels like, and sorry for the wording here - like checking a brothel's catalog. I know what I will get for such a comment (retard, old-fashioned, know-nothing-about-art, ...etc). But seriously, I can't help it. Doesn't seem that you make a woman just a toy of cosmetics in such field of photography? Well, to me it does. On the other hand, other fields deserve some attention more than it is already.

Anyway, far from the book, I'm trying to cope with the busy schedule I'm getting with my group, as we have some activities going on. Majorly Al-Thani contest is a major concern, and despite the ideas for sending prints, but seems it is not a plausible idea by now. The contest ends on November 17th (my brother's birthday as well!), and we barely have time to submit the images online. On the other hand there is even a more urgent matter, concerning some expo here for which the group was personally asked to join in. I'm not sure what kind of expo is this, but the leader is also relying on my panoramas, and gave my number to one of the organizers to discuss the matter (still waiting for that call). Also, months from now, there will be some preparations for Mawahb expo (in which the group will be enrolled for a 4th time). I might get into it if I don't get the burden of organizing the booth or the prints; my time right now doesn't really allow for that!

In the meantime, I'm keeping my thoughts busy as much as possible, but this is not a good thing either. When my thought is active, my consumption (specifically for coffee) is also active. Despite all this activity, there remains something empty deep within. I can't deny the fact that I do feel like being lost; someone who doesn't belong to where he was planted. But I'm keeping on going, in a tunnel that I just can't realize where does it lead, or ends...

Bóthar na Scáthanna
(road of the shadows)



Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ag Dul (Going)...

It is a torn out vacation! Many things to do and so much little time, and sleep. I think I do need to organize my daily activity for now, as I have so much leisure stuff I "need" to do. Mom's sudden sickness and asthma got the bulk of my time for now, but I see things are kind of getting better (specially after buying an inhaling device to help her). Beside all of that, I do need to get back to the Arabic blog as well and talk a bit about my trip to Ireland. Where is time when you need it…

Ag Dul

Still working with the load of photos taken from Ireland this year. Well, not a surprise that I'm not able to work with lot of these photos. Not disappointing, for after all I had my vacation! But maybe I will find some ideas for some of these shots later on. Probably the most frustrating incidents are those related to infrared shots (specifically done with 8mm), as some of them are not sharp enough and I'm not sure if it was because of the focusing of the (manual) lens or is it because that infrared slide got scratched. This brings into my mind another topic, of how to fix a gel filter easily at the back of Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens. I can use, of course, a little duct tape. However, this is not practical on location so to say. Still thinking!

Ag Dul (Going)
Rokinon 8mm fisheye,
f/8, 28m, ISO100.
Probably one of the most beloved infrared shots to me is Ag Dul, which was shot on the bank of the lake not far from the Waterfront. I did already a black and white version of this image and sent in a mass email few days ago. However, the new edit was done with the help of the IR profile I've already made for my ACR. This processes usually tends to shift the general tint from Red towards Blue. The only annoying part about it is the slightly out of focus aspect. Not a big deal in a small size but it is so when viewed at 100% (and of course would be so in a large print). As for the grain and the noise, it is a typical story in infrared shots. Unfortunately, stock websites do not comprehend the struggle here! Anyway, such shots, I believe aren't much of use for their line of commerce.
This bluish streak actually makes the infrared gel filter (Kodak's) more desirable than my B+W infrared circular filter (58mm) because of this effect when adjusting colors. Infrared filters have many varieties depending on the threshold value; i.e. the value of the wavelength after which photons may pass (high pass filter of some sort). However, there is so much to learn about them. I wonder now if I can adapt this gel filter even to those lenses which are supposed to be using the circular B+W IR filter.

Áilleacht Dhorcha (Dark Beauty)
Canon EF 50mm + ET,
f/8, 160-1sec, ISO200.
In one of the weird incidents lately, one of the images which was easily discarded in my first group meeting here, was quite popular in other places. The main reason for the discard is the regularity of the shot I believe as it has nothing to add or no new attraction. This shot, Áilleacht Dhorcha, however, did gain some reputation in communities like Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. Áilleacht Dhorcha was mainly processed (and it is the lowest exposure in a bracket) in a way to mimic the effect of a painting. The main tint of colors was simply achieved by changing the white balance (the original color was pinkish). The rest is the usual job of layers in Photoshop. I do like it personally even though it was discarded from the main stream of reviews in the meeting; The shot gained some popularity in 500px too.

Panorama-wise now, I'm still working on flat versions of the panoramas and didn't start yet with QTVRs or any other projections. This is just a step to manage and control the pace of my work as to not scatter my efforts in various directions. I do believe that I made my mind now of the small "gift" that I should print and send to The Waterfront…

The Waterfront

Probably the blues should have been richer? Maybe. Anyway, I'm still working on the rest of the panoramas one by one and might add another target. The work with panoramas wasn't out of (bad) surprises and disappointments, somewhat. One of the panoramas that I was hoping for more vivacity in its appearance turned out to be hard to be managed and had to put (kill) it down. That is the inside of Inchagoill church panorama…

An Eaglais na hInis an Ghiall
Inchagoill's Island

I'm not sure where did things go wrong, and specially with the halo effect around the edges, but I've tried my best to make it better through tone-mapping but to no avail. Probably it would have been better to tone-map such a panorama using Photoshop, but the problem here the seamless edges; if I want to make a QTVR out of this panorama, the left and right edges must be equal in luminance and other aspects so that the QTVR would be seamless and smooth as one unique view (without any cut in the middle when wrapped). This feature is available in Photomatix when tone-mapping, but not in Photoshop CS5 (so far). I might come back to this panorama to make it better somehow, but not for now!

Back-In

Now that I'm back, I'm trying to regain some foothold on some aspects of my life, specifically those related to "social" activities to some extent. The group I'm a member of is working on preparations for Al-Thani photo contest and the sorting process is still going on. I'm thinking of joining in some workshops within the group as well in fields that are, usually, not in my immediate interests; e.g. sports photography.
Meanwhile, after stopping for several months, I'm back to uploading 500px website. I'm not sure really how special or what is the deal with it, but within the circle of the group they do talk much about it (as if being a circle of professionals). The irony here is that some images that were rejected in the group, do have their own fans on 500px! This said, I got into the trap again of renewing my Flickr account again (to Pro) despite removing my Paypal info long ago from the website. Just discovered that the Paypal info were there (again) somehow. I do realize now that having such Pro accounts in any website of this type isn't a big deal after all. Statistics? Sure, they might be important for some to some extent, yet I do not think it is worth the money. If, however, it is a group of photographers sharing a gallery online, it might be worthy to pay for such services. This is what I think.

I've been also trying to get back to poetry somewhat. I still need something to leak my feelings into. The poetic engine is not as greasy as before when things come easily, but I'm planning to try from time to time, or at least put on a specific time on my schedule to think of some words to pen down. This is not how it used to work though. However, the initial result was The Red Leaf. The biggest problem, in my case at least, is that feelings are there, words aren't.

Finale

I'm here now, trying to fill my life with things I'd love to do before I go back to work in mid November. It is not an easy task though, I tell ya.
For starters, Mom got ill out of a sudden; probably allergy-related condition. At least this is what I hope for her, so that by time things get adjusted. I have to do inhaling procedures for her (and she feels better by now at the time of typing this).

Then, there are some of the chores that I have to do, specifically checking out what happened to the parcels sent from Austria, containing the catalogs of the members (of Trierenberg Circuit's contest) and my Luxury Edition 2014 (where one of my images is displayed). I don't know why they still send to my home address even though I've changed my address to my UK inbox; the post services in this country are down the drain. Beside these chores, I do have a plan to go back on educating myself with Gaelic (Irish) a bit. It is a hard language, even harder than German I'd say, but it would be fun to try maybe! This tempts me to talk about all my projects that are on standby! So, I better stop at this for now...

I've said earlier that I'm trying to get a foothold in my life; but until that is done, this heart is going to be swinging in between the matters of life. It does feel like walking a tunnel, with no light burst at the end. Sometimes, it is but a dream, to let someone know how you feel…
Anyway, better start cleaning my camera now.

Uaigneach 's Ag Fanacht
Lonely, and Waiting...




Thursday, October 23, 2014

i dTús (In the beginning)…

Well, I'll try to wrap up this quick. This is my first blog post after coming back from Ireland and so much to be done still to get back to my normal rhythm. I still have problems with sleeping pattern - well, I always do, but this time it is far more an upset pattern. I have some chores planned which must be done in the morning time, and because of that I'm kind of paralyzed and unable to do them; because I prefer to sleep.

In the meantime, I've been working with a slow pace through some of the images and panoramas. For the time being, I'm doing just flat versions of those panoramas, and later I will twist them around and make QTVRs out of them too. I'm now living a dilemma too, as I've downloaded some games that I need to play as soon as possible, before heading back to work in November! On the other hand, I do need to work on the photos I've taken in Ireland. Many things to do to spend the rest of the vacation with, but unfortunately my body is not helping.

Work Arbeit Obair

I'm preparing now to send a group of images from my trip already through email, as I usually do. However, these images were done during my stay in Ireland and most of them were posted here in this blog, in posts I've written during my stay. Most of them are in B&W as well. I do need some time now to organize the email and send it over.
Meanwhile, I've been working randomly somewhat with the new photos, and depending solely on strikes of inspiration. Taking a photo on location, even in a place like the Irish countryside, is not the epitome of inspiration still. For me at least. A lot of inspiration and work is to be done later in processing.

Áit an Leipreacháin (Place of the Leprechaun) - IR
Canon EF 15mm fisheye, f/8, 3.3min, ISO400.

Cosán na Síoga
(The Fairies' Path)
Canon EF 15mm, f/8,
6min, ISO500.
Here we have an example in the image above. Áit an Leipreacháin is an infrared shot taken in the gardens of Ashford castle in Cong, Co. Mayo. What was really inspirational to me is the composition and the geometry of the path, but it takes another dimension in processing, specially that it is an infrared shot, which makes the image float; i.e. no right or wrong about how colors are perceived. This fact, encouraged me to add my own touch further outside the environment of the RAW file, by adding some glamor and motion blur to have the image resemble what I presume as "mystical". With this, I can state that inspiration is not just one instance. One thing can attract you on location, but the completion of the story is when you edit it yourself (i.e. develop the negative). Yes, I know this approach might be quite a contradiction to the purists' views, but this is how my mind work; it is a split mind.
Sunken
Canon EF 50mm, f/9,
25-1sec. ISO200.
In the case of infrared shots things might be afloat because of the nature of the shot itself, as infrared is no "real color" after all and sometimes you get the freedom of twisting the tones to your liking. In regular shots, on the other hand, the attack would be even fiercer and the opposition is stronger with any editing you might have to do (by purists that is). In images like Sunken, thanks to be given first to the polarizer here which made it possible to eliminate the top two tires (tyres). This image was shot in brackets to merge as HDR. However, one single exposure was enough to get most of the details out of it (remember to work in ProPhoto to get the maximal limits from the histogram). With this, there was something missing. Contrast. But I've increased contrast already, and nothing was interesting about the image still. What I admired on location was the composition (talk about abstract and contemplative approach), but this is not helping here with a dull image and apparently converting to B&W was not a choice. The way to do this was to increase the saturation instead and create a contrast of colors and not tones. The colors were there, they just needed a push in saturation. The result was a contrast between two complimentary colors: blue and yellow.
There are a lot of images done so far, and each one has a story of that sort. That's why my progress is slow for the time being; because I do talk to myself when processing each image.

As for panoramas, I've done a number of them and all in flat format so far. Later, I'd be doing the rest of the tricks on them and the QTVRs. The nadir point for some of these panoramas were easy to fix, but I did prefer cutting them out along with the tripod head in order to fix my own label later when I do the QTVRs. This would be better to show information about the scene for the viewer, I believe.

One of the best so far, in my opinion that is, is the panorama taken from the front of Kylemore Abbey (on October 8th). It had some problems, but the centralization of the configuration on location paid well. And despite the fact that people were filling the place, I didn't have much problems in aligning the images, fixing vertical lines (by adjusting the pitch value in PTGui), and keeping the panorama tidy without any trace for any humanoids!

Mainistir na Coille Móire (Kylmore Abbey)

There was a minor fix to be done though, which is my shadow in the panorama. It was a simple cloning process and could have been done in the origin slide before stitching; but I was so much excited about this panorama specifically that I've decided to stitch first! I think a planet projection for this panorama specifically would be a great render!

The Waterfront (IR)

One of the painstaking processes with these panoramas is finding the control point specially in a panorama that combines outdoors, and infrared. Because infrared filters with uncoverted cameras (i.e. adjusted for IR reception) make the exposures pretty long even in a sunny day. The result is a blank sky almost even if it was a cloudy day. For this reason and after days of trying out my luck with The Waterfront (IR) I had to neglect the idea of adding the top and bottom rows of this panorama and get satisfaction with only the basic mid row. Story did not end at this actually, as some stitching errors remained and, later, much work was needed in Photoshop to add contrast with dodge and burn. It would be a shame to leave this panorama without any work; I've spent around one hour or more under the rain working on it on location! However, the weirdest of panoramas is still to come...

An Taobh Istigh an Waterfront
(Inside the Waterfront)

The weirdest of problems occurred with a panorama taken inside the Waterfront. It was apparent from the beginning that I surely need a model for control points (made from JPG files) in order to apply it to the HDR slides and make HDR panorama. However, to my surprise, the JPG panorama itself was a mess and the computer could not stitch it properly. It was one meatloaf of images! After some work on analyzing the mistakes (and using the "mask" option for the first time for me), it appears that the patterned carpet had a great say in this mess, where the computer merged 2 far and unrelated images on the basis of the pattern in the carpet!
Things began to become easier when I used the "crop" tool in PTGui itself to restrict the generation of control points on the mid zone of each image. In the final result there was still some work to be done to correct some broken lines, but this is a daily soup by now!

I'm now in a dilemma and thinking which of these panoramas I must print and send as a gift to my host, Mary Welsh. Probably I shouldn't decide by now until I work on all panoramas from the Waterfront.

Finale

Medieval Etiquette
Now, my sole burden and work in real life is to get back to the humdrum of the daily life in Kuwait, with all its nerves burning. When I go out in a vacation like this and come back, it usually feels lonelier deep inside, and estranged somewhat - like I see the things for the first time; needless to say the mood swings that hit with every encountered problem. Probably that's why I do feel Ireland to be a second home? One thing I do miss from here is the food actually! Not say the food is bad there, but I can't eat meat outside. Anyway for the reasons mentioned before, as soon as I arrived, I did deliberately drive into some jams trying to get my engine greased and ready to work. This is beside my chores.
Probably you've noticed that I'm using Irish to entitle my images this time (which is a practice I've been following for some time). This actually awakened in me the love for the Irish language (Gaeilge) again, after stopping teaching myself for years. Now, things are easier I presume; the language is wide spread and many people know about it and the resources are available. Probably I should give it a try once more.
Wish I can do the same with matters of the heart though…