Thursday, September 6, 2018

Speedliting…

I have to admit now that I've been slacking off. In my defense: It was a holiday. Thus, I didn't type anything here for 2 weeks (neither for my Arabic blog either). Speaking of which, I really need to find a suitable topic for the other blog to keep it active a bit. Not sure what to write about though.
Meanwhile, my activities with the camera had been low as well, and my promises to myself about working about a new pinhole stuff did not go well and stopped. I've taken the chance though to do other shootings and experiments with my infrared filters and also had the occasion of shooting a family gathering during the holidays. I made some tiny discoveries - well not really discoveries, but rather a mistake that was shown up clearly while shooting with these infrared filters. Thus, in this post there might not be much for you but I'm trying! In the end, I'm set to talk about a poem I've written some weeks back and surprisingly, it was "appreciated"!

Familia

I did talk in the previous post about my trials to use my infrared filters on the speedlite instead of the lens during the shoot. This procedure has its benefits, as well as its drawbacks as will be shown.
In the beginning, I've used a "weak" infrared filter, as I like to call it. And that is the Night Sky H-Alpha filter, which passes some bands in the red range. I really wanted to shoot in the regular fashion with the filter on the lens. However, it occurred to me that I might as well place it on the speedlite, specially with me using a heavy lens like Sigma 70-300mm (and the speedlite on the camera body). Thus, focusing using the LiveView was not a good option (not using a tripod here). I needed to use the eyepiece and using the AI Servo which somewhat proved to be quicker in focusing than the Single Shot focusing. The Servo mode is usually used for moving objects like in sports and it was the case here with my niece!

Watch The Birdie

To add to my struggles, I had the power pack connected to the speedlite and on full power while hanging on my neck! I pointed the speedlite upward to bounce it off the ceiling which proved efficient with a bit of raise in ISO. The funny thing was, the red streak of light bouncing off the ceiling attracted my niece, and thus I've been taking a lot of shots for her as she was staring into the ceiling; Good poses I got to say!
Remember that I've been using the "weak" infrared filter, namely the Night Sky H-Alpha filter, and because of that, focusing was not a problem. The real problem occurred when I used higher and higher infrared filters on the speedlite. Not only because the speedlite can hardly pass through (which is expected) but also because the focus is shifted drastically, resulting in a soft image EVEN though the image was focused properly when looking through the viewfinder.

Despite the proper focus (with AF) the final shot here turned soft.
Shot with IR750 filter on speedlite and with vibrance increased.

This result is natural but it was really absent from my mind. Lenses are normally designed to be focusing under visible spectrum, and for this reason some lenses bear a red mark to note the focus shift for infrared (though I do believe that the shift might be more drastic as the wavelengths go higher). Here in the situation of placing an infrared filter on the speedlite and not the lens, we are asking the lens to focus for the visible and capture image with the invisible! Does that make any sense? Hope so. Anyhow, all this resulted in such soft images, like the one above (and others).
For several days after these infrared experiments I've been shooting normal shots for some family gatherings during the holidays. More like a documentation process for these moments and yet some good practice with my Sigma 70-300mm lens, since I didn't use much lately (and at all except for solar shooting). During these "sessions" the main play was with how to work with the speedlite(s). Most of these sessions were done with a speedlite on camera pointing upward to bounce the light off the ceiling. However, in the last session (or last day so to say), I thought why not make use of the wireless option, specially that the space is much less than 5 meters even, which means no problem (theoretically) is there when it comes to sending and receiving commands between the camera and the speedlite. Not to say, also, that such procedure would take off the burden of my neck with the power pack being hung on my neck or put in my pocket. Still, though, I had to deal with the problem of placing the speedlites because I need to put them in high places away from the reach of the kids who ran havoc around! This also would provide a perfect bouncing conditions somewhat since the speedlite would be closer to the ceiling as much as possible and this would enable me to make use out of most of the power of the speedlites' pulses. Finally, I've placed 2 speedlites opposing each other (almost) and moved around the place shooting. I have to say though that not all images would benefit from two sources of light, and there were moments when only one speedlite did fire (in fact providing a dramatic look for some shots). However, probably one of the most dramatic (and amazing) shots I've made was of my niece as she was struggling with her blanket (or maybe stole the blanket and running away?)…

أمل - Hoffnung

There are also lot of funny shots but I couldn't post them here actually. All the shooting was done at 1/250sec speed, with lowest f-number possible (which ranged from f/4 to f/5 depending on the focal length). It was a fun activity (and a tiresome one too) and maybe I do need to do some more of that. At some point in time, the core batteries of one of the speedlites did expire and needed to be changed with new ones which I didn't have back at the moment, thus I had to stop and examine the images at that point. If only there is a solution for these damn batteries…

Finale

I'll keep this post short and won't post about some other shots done for some flowers (probably not important after all) but I'll move on to this poem which, surprisingly, got me an award on Writing.com! I called the poem The Rosy; I was intending to change it but then made it the official one.

 Pour it down, reddish and swiftly,
like those passions, long have gone.
Fill it, friend, bitter and thrifty,
in sin, till the cries of dawn.
Drunkard, and lonely.
Clinking the one holy.
Fill me, with my laughter alone.

Pour the rosy and let us sip,
where my blood mixes with tears.
In ecstasy, smeared on this lip,
where merriness shied my fears.
Solid, shall be my grip.
No waste of a single drip.
Numbs my heart and so what it bears.

Leave me, O mate, to my sighing
How troublesome passion is.
Upon drunkenness, my relying,
for the ailing bosom's whims.
How a monk is doubting.
Solitude abiding.
Purgatory, within his sins.

Velvet, it settles in my glass,
showering my crimson heart.
To mend the gloom, from pass to pass,
and set this mind to depart.
Drunk by its shiny glance.
Set me to lose my stance.
Never, a love fiction has to start.

The poem had a 2nd place in one contest, and also I was awarded a "Merit Badge" within the website itself for "Poetry." Previously, my poem Aman Aman did win the first place in one of the contests as well and now this. Somewhat I feel overwhelmed with emotions; Well, just a bit. As I am trying hard to dedicate some time to write poetry now and then, I'm really seeing with my own eyes the fruition of such efforts. They are not really something big for the time being but at least some people do appreciate these, and think of them as a nice work of art. 
The poem, The Rosy, was written (typed) using a rhyme scheme that I didn't find much equivalent to when I did my little research (I did the research after finishing the poem actually). The major rhyming scheme would: ABABAAB; A somewhat weird I'd say since I didn't see much examples of poems made by seven-line stanzas (but mainly Sestains: six-line stanzas). On the other hand, the syllable count was set at (8,7,8,7,6,6,8), except for the last line in the poem, where I allowed myself to go beyond (8) and made it (9). Let's say, I was forced!
After finishing this poem, I was on the go as well to make another one but after typing two lines only, my mind got congested with many thoughts and chores and time has been pressing on me. Hopefully, I will be having some more time to write it down, as I do need some time as well to make sure of my own feelings about it; That is, to type it down. Probably, I need some time as well to turn some of these poems into photos as well! For all of that, I just hope that I can do some of what is on my mind by next week as I've signed for 9 days off work to get some rest. People here are getting ready for Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar and the saddest for us as well, as it commemorates the battle of Karbala. My leave would expand this period till the 10th day of Muharram (a.k.a. Ashurah). It is a time of sadness and listening to music is not welcomed, nor a polite thing to do. Thus, I really need to check on my attitude as music is becoming now an essential part of my life (I'm typing these words as I am listening to some as well). 


Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, August 16, 2018

InfraFestiva…

Well, I'm not sure if I should type this post but not typing it would make me absent for 2 weeks from this blog. My life had been a bit dormant lately despite the light work conditions and the lesser traffic jams currently - but thanks to the heat which leaves me exhausted most of the time and disturbed sleeping as well. Meanwhile, my mind has been kind of empty of ideas to work with except for few trials which I'm going to talk about here right now. I do deserve a little vacation though (on a personal level) since Friday is my birthday; So I'm signing for a day off on Thursday and I didn't want to type anything in this blog for this week specially for this! But oh well... let's see what horrible things I did the past 2 weeks…

Change of Perspective

Well, there had been some continuous work with texture-creating which I've posted about in the previous post (and this might continue for a time maybe) but I won't waste much time here talking about these abstracts and textures, but I prefer talking about something else.
I'm still on a roll trying some more experimenting with my new Neewer infrared filters, and specifically, the IR950 filter (which, supposedly, has a threshold of 950nm). I've showed some pictures in the previous post taken with this filter and how it did help on showing some veins in my hand (and foot to some extent), even though according to what I've found online, a threshold of 850nm is just as good for showing the blood vessels under the skin. Such shooting was done under the harsh sun to have a wide band of wavelengths in the range of infrared to get some nice results. Now it was time to change the perspective.
I was somewhat inspired by the medical field here, where some new inventions are coming out to help medics on checking the blood vessels under the skin using infrared beaming. Also, I did encounter some texts about using "infrared flash," where the flash is somewhat modified (or filtered) to issue only infrared radiation without the visible wavelengths! This is useful in a number of ways; Mainly, for not blinding people with my flash (my brother specifically!) when shooting for them in infrared, this is beside (and this is the greater advantage) using the camera and focusing in a normal regular way instead of struggling with the LiveView method which is a MUST when the infrared filter is placed on the lens (since it's opaque, it's impossible to use the viewfinder to check the scene). Using the LiveView has its (somewhat) disadvantages in my case because some functions do not work there and the metering method just changes drastically, in addition to the increase in handshake.
ExpoImaging Rogue Grid
Anyway, since my infrared filters here are circular and made to fit lenses, I had to come up with some way to fit them onto my speedlite here (while the gel filters are limited and I don't have a large enough piece to cover it). So, I thought of putting the filters inside ExpoImaging Rogue Grid System which I got long time ago (along with a full set of light modifiers). They fit with some gap but they do cover the bulk of the speedlite head. The main issue here, though, is that this method would direct the speedlite into a beam (because of the grid), and that might be problematic if the aim was for longer distances. Anyway, this would do for now.

Left: IR950.
Right: B+W 092.
Of course, the first target was to take a selfie using this method. The results were astonishing indeed. Color-wise, the results are similar to fitting the infrared filter on the lens actually, but there is a bit of difference here with the shot taken with IR950 filter. The one you see here had some increase in saturation but it's not quite the bright infrared shot I used to see when shooting a selfie (the eyes specifically); This result was weird but anyway I did put it to some good use!

Conriocht - Werewolf - مستذئب

The work was simple here: lighten the eye, and sharpen some more, and you got yourself a Werewolf. Anyway the question remains here as to why it showed like that while that did not happen exactly when using the B+W 092 infrared filter. After checking again and again, it seems that because of some gaps around the filter disk, some light from the speedlite itself did leak and thus giving some mix up between infrared and visible spectra (remember that we are using the filters on the speedlite and not the lens, so the camera really is catching everything on its way!). When I fitted these gaps, the resulting image was indeed like the one I usually get when placing the same filter on the lens, just like the case with the image taken with B+W 092. It's kind of a lesson here that being perfect is not always a good thing. The joy here was that it was all done without going blind because of the flash pulse into the eye or anything! That would help me greatly in some tasks (specially when I have my brother as a model; He is greatly annoyed by flashes).
Variety of spectra for various flashtubes.
Click to enlarge.
Source: Wikipedia.
My next target was to shoot the veins or blood vessels using a speedlite and IR950 filter. Even though it is somewhat common to use the threshold of 850nm for infrared beams dealing with blood vessels imaging, it seems that 950nm would add a bit more contrast to the matter. After all, I did try the IR950 already under the sun and it did show the veins of my palm! My trials, however, were in vain, and apparently, it is not the filter we are talking about here but the source of the infrared - And for that reason the sun works fine to show the veins but not the speedlite. According to little research I've done, Canon Speedlites use Xenon flashtubes, and the spectrum of such gas go downward (as seen in the diagram) around the value of 800nm (0.8 microns on the diagram). There are ups and downs in the graph but the bulk of the power seem to be in the range of 400nm to 600nm somehow. I'm not sure what is the intensity of the 580EX II speedlite compared to this diagram for Xenon flashtube, but the general scheme, as I believe, applies anyway; And probably speedlites are not the best infrared source to be working with when it comes to IR950 and some veins work! In fact, even IR850 which has a lesser threshold did not yield a clear image for the veins of the palm when used with the Speedlite. Thus in conclusion: Speedlites are not a good source for infrared when it comes to penetrating the skin to show the veins. Tungsten lamps, on the other hand, look promising from some test shots. Still though, I had some ideas to implement even with speedlites using IR950.

Der Erschöpfte (the exhausted)

Source
In the beginning, my aim was to picture the blood vessels in my face (got inspired to do this after checking some anatomical images online), and ironically, I can't remember if the IR950 infrared filter was placed on the lens or on the speedlite. However, judging from the direction of the light in Der Erschöpfte, I presume the speedlite was on the camera actually and I think the filter was placed on the speedlite with some extra stuffing (probably duct tape around its circumference) to fill the gaps and trap the speedlite light. Anyhow, after taking several shots I've picked the one you see above to be my target for processing even though all of the shots didn't show any signs for blood vessels. In processing this image, I tried to keep the histogram in the dark region as much as possible without being cut off, and thus having minimal details in the shadows BUT not lost details in that region.

Histogram for Der Erschöpfte, with Adobe 1998 color space.

I like to be somewhat delicate sometimes when processing B&W images. Pulling the histogram to the left further to an extreme made some interesting touches of light on the nose tip and the eyelashes. Notice that the image would look a bit brighter than it should on some displays (I work with a calibrated monitor to ensure correction rendering for colors and luminosity). As I work on a PC and a laptop, I can see there is a difference in the looks; My laptop is not calibrated and I can see the background of the image here, while originally it is dark and hard to see any significant details, giving the image dark and mysterious look. It is amazing how I got my white-ish skin to be so dark with a glimpse of infrared! This experiment needs to be redone probably under the sun for better details if any (or is my face skin that thick?!). There is a holiday coming and after a period of turmoil at home because of renovations, I can get out and shoot some selfies in the sun with these filters and check the results.

Finale

Originally, there was so much I wanted to talk about in this post, like my experiments with hand-made pinholes, but I'll keep that till I get more material and more thought about it. I've been also trying to push my mind into poetry again but the words did not really accumulate into a single verse to be posted along. I hope words and ideas come together in the coming week, though. Beside that, I'm trying also to check some older images to see what new processes can be done (specially to those neglected images deemed useless before).

An Chathair Dhorcha (the dark city)
Infrared shot for Kuwait city done in 2015 and processed this week only.
Shot from the 60th floor of Al-Hamra tower.

Arts away, I do have also some plans to "pamper" myself a bit, starting with a day off (today) as a gift to my own self for my birthday. I'm also planning to have some "adventures" of mystic nature, such as doing a palm reading (not the first time). Then, I'm off to a LOT of sleeping, and dreaming of some travels as well. I can have some days to myself just inside away from this harsh sun that cooked me alive already. Should my birthday be in such time? After all, I'm a Leo, and it's hard to complain about it…



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Plethora…

With Summer course coming to an end, things are becoming quiet in my workplace, which is good. Now, if only I can turn this oven off for such a weather. The quiet time has come over to my activities with the camera as well, as I've finished documenting most of the small shells collection and I'm trying to do some experiments regarding an "artificial aperture" if I can call it so. No need to talk about it for now, and somewhat I feel it will fail but I didn't finish experimenting still as I'm typing these words.

Shellelagh

Well, I know, the original word is "Shillelagh" but changed here on purpose. In this section, I just would like to list some of the latest shell shots I've made; And some of them seem interesting. I think I did have another collection elsewhere but can't remember where did I keep it. Anyway, for the time being, I'm going to satisfy myself with this one and, who knows, maybe re-shoot it again at different angles or with different magnifications... etc.
I did mention in my previous blog post here that I had a problem with my Bolt LED ring light, and that problem was that it could not be fitted on Vello's macrofier which helps me on reversing the lens and achieve greater magnification at the least effort, and with better focusing range. Well, as you can see here, the problem seems to have been partially solved with some electric tape. I had to tape the edges of the adapter ring to the macrofier (and secure that with another strip of tape on the circumference of the macrofier). Only then, I was able to click the LED ring onto the macrofier. The situation was shaky, and the main problem was the quality of the tape itself; IT SUCKED big time. That's why I needed to secure it with a strip across the circumference. Anyway, I did take some shots in this setting and things were interesting as well!

Aestrellae

Shell Fudge

The previous two shots were shot using this DIY solution with Bolt LED ring. Of course, at f/11, I didn't use the flash property of the ring, but rather kept it on (like a modeling light on regular speedlites and strobes) and each shot for the stack did take few parts of a second (still longer than 1/250s, the sync speed). Another problem rose up here is the bulkiness of the ring which sometimes made it cumbersome to do focus stacking at specific angles, but I blame that on the setting I'm having already to shoot these shells. As I get closer and closer to the shell, there is a chance that the LED ring light would hit the edge of the box or the table upon which the shell would be residing. All in all, it is a promising venue and I might find myself using it again to have somewhat balanced lighting around my subject, as well as some interesting luster as in Shell Fudge. The baby oil here did some good job. Anyway, after shooting these two, I was back to using my speedlite to shoot.

PanShell

The main reason for switching back to the speedlite (with light bender attached to it) was to add some unidirectional light to give a sense of depth to the subject this time. The grooves on this shell, as can be seen in the documentation shot above, called for some depth. Not saying it won't be beautiful under a flat light like the one from Bolt but it is just the role of the idea, and I wouldn't be able to judge for real until I see the final results and compare between the unidirectional and the flat light. Anyway, after the documentation, it was the time to do some work, as usual, with focus stacking.

MacroPiping

Because of the relative size of the shell, I didn't wish to go with extreme macro and lose sight of the fine lines here, so I just used extension tubes to get closer to the shell with my 50mm lens. Ironically though, it does seem to be quite a magnification (by looks) despite being less than 1x even! I think it is the power of Abstract. I can't remember how many shots were taken to do the focus stack for MacroPiping but the speedlite's main batteries were dying out already, and when I started to work with An Fathach later, it went down completely in the mid of my work. So, I had to satisfy myself with that much of shots and do the focus stacking for An Fathach at that level alone.

An Fathach (the giant)

It was a good thing that I used baby oil here but in a different technique. Instead of dipping the shell, I used cotton swabs (those used to clean the ears) to pass the oil on the shell in every possible way. Adding to that, the shell was left for a relatively longer time than other shells before to be exposed before shooting it, and that somehow made the oil get "absorbed" or something. Anyway, the luster was not harsh like before because of this AND because of diffusing (using a paper) and using a relatively lower power for the speedlite (and somewhat raising the ISO a bit).  Well, despite the lower power, still, the speedlite died out as I was working on An Fathach! Worth noting here that An Fathach was worked out using the LAB technique to enhance and pronounce the colors further. This is all for the work with shells so far but I might work further when I find more shells hiding in my room or something! I'm sure I did have more those small ones.

Stroll

As it is quiet in my workplace, I decided to take my camera gear with me (minus the tripod) just to try the new Neewer infrared filters which I got a while ago. I didn't have much in mind to do really, but the shots I've made proved to be "awesome" in their own way, as it came clear later on.

Hand Veins


One of the goals I had in mind, though, is to try to use the high IR filters (of thresholds starting from 820nm and beyond) to show the blood vessels. Showing the veins using IR is common now I presume in the medical field, but I'm talking here about mere photography using infrared filters. I tried to use the speedlites (well, more like the on-camera flash and high ISO) but seems it didn't work well. I thought, then, that we might need some higher intensity of infrared, and thus thought of shooting my own hand as you can see above, under the blazing sun around my workplace. Why my workplace? Well, this is the only time of the day that I have time, power, AND mood to work under the sun like that. After going back home I'll be completely exhausted and barely able to touch the camera even. Hand Veins was shot using IR950, which supposedly has a threshold of 950nm and the veins did show clear under the thumb (mount of Venus as they call it in palmistry) as well as some tiny veins around the index and the little fingers. The image above had been cleaned off noise a bit but still the veins look clear. 

Pedicuer Job Needed

I tried to shoot my own foot as well and see the veins, and they did show a bit actually but probably the distance didn't help here (using my Voigtländer 20mm lens here). The look was pretty interesting here; The black sandal turned white, the blue pants turned white, and the white nails turned black! I did take several shots trying out to adjust the focus (manual here, no AF) and eventually turned these shots into an anaglyph. The illusion of the depth is not bad either.

IR750 Test

The remaining of the stroll spent on trying various infrared filters as well as the H-alpha (dubbed as "Night Sky" filter!). I like to call this filter a "weak infrared" since it works in the range of the Reds and infrared. Worth noting that all these shots were shot without calibrating the white balance in-camera, and all was done while processing the RAWs. 

Alienizing

While processing these test shots for IR750 and the H-alpha filters, I've increased the Vibrance of the colors intentionally to show the faint colors. Well, they were not so faint with the H-alpha filter in Alienizing but it was for the better. Moreover, channel swapping gave the leaves that distinctive reddish look and turned the sky blue. If I want to talk about those artistic infrared filters with their colorful look, I would say that the H-alpha filter is the one to pick for this mission here! My old B+W 092 infrared filter (threshold about 650nm or so) did render some colors as well but probably not to this degree. My stroll at work did not end there, though, and there was some more to come, but not till I had to go back home and check these test shots again and again.

Plethora

In that stroll at work, there were many test shots for other infrared filters like the IR850 and IR950 again and again and they were rather random. Some of them were even out of focus a bit (ir's hard to focus using LiveView under the harsh sun). However, it was a chance to play!

تجريد ثماني - Octuplum Abstracta

I'm not sure how things started with this play, but probably I was under the influence of the Islamic geometrical arts (naturally, I'm fond of them but never practiced them). I've been reading about some of the details of these creations, particularly in Andalusia, and I do follow already some artists who perform such arts (and they are not Arabs nor Muslims). It is mesmerizing indeed, the way of combining those abstract lines and then create complex regular patterns out of such lines. Frankly, I could never understand it. Anyway, all I have here is simply Photoshop and a single photo in front of me, with which Octuplum Abstracta and other patterns or textures were made. In fact, I already envision Octuplum Abstracta as a design on a tile or ceramics of some sort and used for building. Not sure how this is done and how it's possible but if I can I would. This actually lead me further to more abstracts, starting with Octuplum Abstracta just to envision how a tiling using this design or abstract would look like…

تجريد ثماني - Octuplum Abstracta (tiling)

The result is mesmerizing. I wish now if I have a room (or even a bathroom) with this complexity (with maybe some vibrancy to the colors added). The possibilities are endless, and you can still get some regular shapes and lines with every setting you might think of; Just like in a kaleidoscope.  All of that was just from a single photo alone, but yet I had to check other photos as well (mainly those which I couldn't make out something out of).

Black Magic - سحر أسود

While Octuplum Abstracta was somewhat random in its creation, Black Magic was not. Not completely but I did have this idea of creating a 16-fold star or polygon out of the photo, unlike the eight-fold done in Octuplum Abstracta. I did read that 16 points stars in the Islamic geometrical designs are not common, and probably those of 24 points are even more scarce. Thus, I've set my mind on creating 16-fold polygon out of this photo and so the work on replication and arranging the copies of ONE image were all somewhat calculated and not random completely. I can't remember even what was the original photo! In Black Magic, I inverted the colors by the end of the work and it proved more dramatic than its original almost dull blue or cyan color (typical color for processed infrared images). I was not disappointed. Now this design, I envision it to be on some sort of fabrics as well as ceramics. I don't have a commercial mind unfortunately, but these 3 abstracts above are uploaded and accepted already in a number of stock websites like Canstockphoto, Dreamstime, 123RF, as well as Mostphotos. I might even consider working on some old photos to create abstracts and textures, but I also have to make sure not to forget about my camera and to do some original photos as well (which I'm trying hard during these days as well).

Finale

I've probably talked about this poem which I was thinking of jotting down in my previous blog post, and after some hard mental work (with the help of some randomness from some brainstorming websites) I did pin down something, which I've callled Smashed

Smashed
The poem was originally inspired by the looks of a shell as I was doing my work on documenting them (as you can see on the left). I loved its shape, its colors (channels swapped here) and the stripes, despite all the breaks and holes in it. I think it even lost its topmost tip. Yet, it still looks beautiful. I was moved and I have to say that I don't usually get moved by a static object like this and typically I would need more to ignite my writing appetite. But well, let's say challenge accepted. 

Smashed

Common as it appears to most
an apogee had never risen up
But how often obviously hidden
truth of matters out of a sudden
Beauty need not to boast.

Such as a Palestinian home
deprived, and setting off a ghost town
Attitude never deemed it hollow
on the struggles, it has to follow
A home sweeter than Rome.

A rider over the heart-breaks
mending it life-long as you are
By the cracking, the shimmering glow
elegance, of hope, of which you show
Despite the mistakes.

In swiftness pass over my cheek
the glamour, and all that keeps me warm
By the touch, which in holes is filled
and by sweetness which you've fulfilled
Smashed and so is unique.

The rhyming scheme here is ABCCA. I've stated before that I use Verse Perfect to write poems and it has many aids including rhyming styles, yet ABCCA is not one of them. I'm not sure why I picked this style really but probably things were initiated in that way from the beginning of the writing (typing) process. I did find some samples on the internet as I was searching for more information about this style, yet it didn't really have a name it seems and samples of such a rhyme are rare (in my case I've found only one). Yet, after reading it further and further, I might apology with some regret for the (B) part in the rhyming scale; Probably should have turned it into (A) to be AABBA. But is not that rhyming scheme so common? The rhyming here is not the end of the story actually. The hardest part for me was to keep a static syllable count for the verses as much as possible, and that was kept at (8,9,9,9,6). I'm not sure if readers usually pay attention to the count of syllables when they read poetry, but my thinking is that keeping them concrete and static does help the harmony in some way, specially if the syllable count was the same between supposedly rhyming lines.

Putting this now, I'm still working on some pinhole experiments, which unfortunately didn't work out well till now but in hope that I might be able to post about it in 2 weeks or so. We'll see. I do need to write a poem as well. Many feelings are there in the air but it's just the time needed and the focus to pick up one of these seeds and grow it in a soil of thoughts; Plus the work of course. 
In a bit more than 2 weeks from now, my birthday is coming and I'm turning 38. Ironically, at this age, I don't know where I'm going or heading. With all the blessings I have, despite the things that swing my mood like a golf club, I'm still unable to focus nor really enjoy what I have. Not sure why, but maybe I'm tired of everything? I know that I have a lot of things to be thankful for, yet I feel there is something missing that without it, all is nothing. Probably this is what they call Midlife Crisis? I don't know. Travel, travel, travel... if only I know when or how, or where to. A change of scenery is long due and I can't do anything about it yet…






Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Back to Normal…

Seriously, I really don't know how I'm coping with this weather, and these people I see daily in front of me wherever I go. I think I have the right to call myself a superman. Between headaches, migraines and renovations in the kitchen and other parts of the house (which leaves me coffee-less), I'm still trying to survive the summer through. My birthday (August 17th) will be coming on a Friday, which is a weekend, so I won't be having a real day off work as usual to, simply, enjoy my bed in a regular day. Ah well.
I believe I am in a transition era right now. I'm trying to release the load from over my back so that I might be able to do more photography (and with hope, more conlanging). For this reason, I've ended my membership in the photography group (club) after 6 years (since 2012) of working with them (or maybe for them?) - and that was back in the end of May - and now, lately, I've decided that I must stop using Instagram, as the app is getting ridiculous with its ads, its updates, and useless functions for me (in competition with Snapchat which I don't care about or use). However, I still have one active Instagram account dedicated to Ayvarith (which was the core reason for establishing this blog in the first place! Alas!). I really invested quite a time into this Instagram thing over the years; Preparing posts, thinking of what to post, even thinking of what to shoot for my next post (and this is a positive thing, I admit). However, with the latest updates (and the no-sense involving the chronological order), the place became despicable. Adding to that, the drop in the Likes and comments had been drastic with the latest changes (the friends I relied on do not give Likes already as it is). Apparently, this app is trying to make a business deal out of every user using algorithms to change the way of interactions (or even forcing interactions). That's all too much for me, and I better save my time doing something else for now. So, I'm back to Flickr (despite my disagreement about the new design and layout). At least, not many ads can be seen.

Shellology

As time goes by, and as I've abandoned my activities with the group and Instagram, I've reserved much time to rest and to work on my own pace with my camera. Many ideas come and go but well, not everything is applicable. But I'm having the time right now to document a small collection of shells that I've collected long time ago (some time between 2003-2005) and kept it for no use; Till now. On my pace, I'm trying to shoot one shell per day, and if I was lucky somehow, I'd shoot two a day. The results are quite astonishing and some serious thought is given to re-shoot some of them at different angles and/or at different magnification power.

Shining Shell

The series can be long and I don't think I will post it all here but the magnification ranged from 3.2X and down to 1X (point something). It all depends on the shape and size of the shell itself. The general theme of the work is abstract, as in The Shining Shell, but with some sense of documentation as well, as with Shill.

Shill

Going extreme with the shell sometimes is triggered by the presence of some fine grooves which can be felt with a fingernail but not by the eye! So, this is another factor (regardless of the size of the shell) which calls for extreme macro (that is, zooming more than 1x in general). One case is MacroSteps with those tiny dirt pieces which I left as some sort of a guideline. Even though I wanted the diagonal trace to be greater, but with the capabilities available and the cumbersome gear I have, I have to satisfy myself with this!

MacroSteps

The main struggle though, is to consider or not to consider the addition of oil to the shells prior to the shoot in order to give them some luster. In some cases, the situation was kind of disastrous (and can be fixed at times), as in the case with Bean Farraige. This luster problem is actually an extension of another problem which I used to work with anyway, and that is the lighting with a speedlite. Luckily for this one though, I did find the other half (I guess?) and I shot it without applying baby oil to it, to see the difference in Bean Farraige 2. The difference was huge, though the location of the speedlite did not change drastically.

Bean Farraige
Bean Farraige 2

It took me a while though to think of a way to drop the light on the sample from above, but that doesn't work all the time and I end up, as usual, lighting the shell from one side only. The rest is a process of adding Fill or dodging when processing the final image. The Size of the shell also plays a major role for whether lighting with the speedlite can be a success or not.

Striptoshella

In Striptoshella for example, which was a relatively large shell but shot with high magnfiication (3.2x) to focus on the abstract made by the stripes - In this shot, despite dropping the light from above (using Rogue light bender on the speedlite), yet the lower portion was dark and I had to light it a bit digitally during the process. The baby oil here made some nice luster but probably I should have diffused the light even further (as the luster appeared harsher when the final image was sharpened). It was not till later that I decided to use my Bolt LED ringflash or light, which I've left untouched for a long time, when shooting Áilleacht Bhriste just out of mere curiosity.

Áilleacht Bhriste (broken beauty)

Bolt VM-110
Macro Ring Light
Now, technically speaking, using this cheap substitute for a ring flash was a failure to some extent, but I still like the good distribution of light it did provide in Áilleacht Bhriste. Here are a number of things that this LED ring flash did not work well for me:

  • It does not work well with high f-numbers. In fact, in Áilleacht Bhriste, I used the modeling "light" property in this device and not as a flash. Meaning, it acted as an ambient light rather than a flash, and that required some exposure in the order of half a second (if not for the ISO200 here). Properly if it was an insect, it would be a problem for me to use it that way? Not sure. With a proper speedlite or ringflash, the exposure time would surely be in the order of milliseconds. This fact is related to how the power and duration of the speedlite work in relation to the shutter speed (and the sync speed as well), while Bolt's LED ringflash is merely but an external light source (almost).
  • By design, I couldn't attach the ring to the Vello Macrofier which I use to put lenses on reverse to achieve a good magnification AND focusing points easily. In Áilleacht Bhriste, I used extension tubes with 50mm lens just to attach the ring to the front of the 50mm lens. This combination is cumbersome when I work and in fact Áilleacht Bhriste is not made by stacking several shots; The original has its sides out of focus even at f/22, and I couldn't do focus stacking by moving the rail forward to shoot other shots and get one complete sharp image. The final image here was cropped (also to remove the black background). 

Vello Macrofier
Nonetheless, I'm impressed. I'm really thinking of a way to fit this LED ringflash (or light) onto the Macrofier somehow to work together. Even though the exposure time might not be a "quickie" but it is still manageable. I have to say, also, that working with LED would save me loads of energy problems with those speedlites (I had to change the batteries frequently as I worked with these shells!). There must be a way to work with Bolt's ringflash and Vello's macrofier; I just need some time to think about it and I might come up with some DIY solution of some sort! Once this is done, I can work happily with focus stacking again... unless another cumbersome problem occurs again.

Finale

I was going to expand this post further and talk about other experiments I'm working on (specifically the pinhole) but I'll keep that for later maybe as I didn't have much at hand right now. I'm still thinking of a way to fix that problem with Bolt's LED ring light on my Vello's Macrofier, and till I find a solution I might be able to do some ideas I kept at the back of my head for using my pinhole, AND creating some as well! Also by then, a new poem might be ready, if the words and the focusing serve me right. I've tried several times to pin it down but I got seriously distracted and couldn't compose a single line (heck! I didn't even pick a proper rhyming scheme, but I might make up my own here). This poem is supposedly triggered by a shot I made for a shell, and hopefully I will post it next time as well.

Some questions remain unanswered though, or partially unanswered, for the time being after leaving the group and Instagram. What I'm supposed to do next? Well, obviously the first step or answer would be: enjoy photography; Just like in the old days. Enjoy experimenting and invest more time with the camera rather than working on group's stuff or preparing posts for Instagram. Beyond that, I really don't know where I am heading. There might be some local activities (which I've encountered some already but did not participate) but just the thought of "socializing" with people in this circle give me the chills sometimes. Not because I'm an introvert, but because I can't act and put on a fake smile wherever I go, and it is often when my nerves got stepped on in such occasions.

With a weather like this, and a home like this, it is not only people that get on my nerves lately. To some degree, I would say everything; However tiny, however grand. Luckily, I've finally got my new passport after a struggle for months, but the question remains: Will I be able to travel? Traveling to me right now is a need rather than an activity of pleasure to be done after some hard work or relaxing. It is something to keep my sanity in check after spending my entire year (and more than a year for now) in one big asylum like this one. The irony though is, traveling makes me feel home, more than home does.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Breathing Still…

Flipping through my activities as the summer goes on and on... and on. With a sigh, I just can't wait for it to be over. It is just the beginning of July now, but we had our share of dust storms and humidity which leaves me wondering what is left for August and the rest of July already?! My body is typically exhausted more because of the change in temperatures between indoors and outdoors. Ah, and mentioning dust, I didn't let this opportunity pass without something to do. I remember one time I did shoot a panorama in a dusty weather, and this time I did use the dust to my "amusement" again; With the help of the microscope. The same old junky microscope.

Dusty

The frequent waves of dust lately reminded me of some of my studies back in the days when I was in college. In geology classes, specially those related to mineralogy, we used to work with reflective microscopes to check specific properties of the minerals. One of those most important features was to find the refractive index, if I remember correctly, which could help greatly in identifying the mineral at hand. That feature was investigated using polarized light. All of these information was somewhere there in my mind and I thought: Why not?
Things are not similar, of course, between the situation in classes with prepared mineral sample and the dust at home with an old junky microscope. However, it was an interesting encounter nonetheless. I started by collecting a dust sample from the outside during the "storm" (the wind is not always strong enough to be called a storm though, so I prefer the term "dust wave"). The collection was done using a paper cup (though I really wanted something bigger) and leaving it outside for about one day or a bit less. Tiny amounts of dust accumulated there, so I washed the cup a bit with distilled water (the type used for car maintenance) and poured a little on the glass slide. Couldn't wait for the water to evaporate, so I placed a lamp (tungsten) close to the slide to dry it out and leave the residue only. And that's it! The sample was ready! All is left is to secure it with a glass cover glued with nail polish.

Dust Sample - 40x
Mobile shot.

First, I wanted to mimic the method of the reflective microscope as we used it the labs back in the day, and actually this is somewhat done by force; Because having a light going through the sample yields nothing but silhouettes! So, I had to close the aperture below the stage and move the light source (desk lamp with LED) a bit upward to shine the light over the surface of the slide and it worked like magic! To my surprise, the dust sample was not made of... dust! There were strange particles looming around and some round objects which might be pollen (and this is quite natural); But what about those other hard stuff? I did check dust and mineral samples before during my studies and I can definitely say this is nothing like it! Now imagine we are breathing this...

Dust Sample (51.2x)
Canon EOS 7D

After a simple mobile shot, it was the turn for more serious work with the DSLR. My main interest was this portion of the sample where a spherical object appears; I'm guessing it is pollen. Not sure though. For beginners, I kept my the magnification power low since going deep would squander about lot of details. Thus, I worked first with my usual 50mm lens in reverse (providing about 1.28x magnification) in combination of 40x (total) in the microscope, thus yielding about 51.2x in total magnification. Then, it was time to move to a higher level.

Dust Sample (660x)
Canon EOS 7D

On the next level of magnification, I've changed the lens to Voigtländer 20mm, which gives a magnification power of about 3.2x when reversed alone (using Vello Macrofier), but there is a little catch here. Extension tubes.
Adding extension tubes with this lens on reverse yields about 6.6x. Now this, combined with 100x on the microscope, yields about 660x! Probably for a reader these number don't mean much, but for someone working with a microscope AND a digital camera, it does make a difference, simply because framing the object of interest (our spherical body here) would change because the scene is under more magnification power. Thus, even after fixing the scene in the microscope with the naked eye, it would be adjusted again in terms of focus AND framing (by moving the glass slide on the stage of the microscope), which is quite a tedious work to be done. As expected here, the image quality at such a high magnification is not quite "sharp" or interesting as it was in lower magnification but it was just about enough to show those details on the surface of this spherical object which looks like the surface of Mars! I'm not sure if any of the stack images were shaken a bit during the making of the 660x image, but surely the color aberration and other distortions have their own effect on the quality of the image. I tried to reduce as much as I can and sharpen the image (after minimizing it).
As I've stated earlier, I was trying to mimic the work of a reflective microscope with this old piece of junk. Thus, I gave it a go and tried using a polarizer BUT on the lens (which was hard to control while fitted into Vello's Macrofier). Anyway, nothing interesting appeared and no change in the light level at all. I think the polarizing effect must be applied to the light source itself rather than on the lens receiving the light rays. I have also tried to shoot in infrared (just a quickie one) but, again, nothing interesting happened and the image was just in B&W and no additional gains. Now after this "little" work with this sample, I'm somewhat feeling the urge to collect more samples of dust (since we are on a roll here) or maybe work further on this very same sample looking for other features in it; I did see some stuff that might be of interest!

Escaping Still

Just felt the need to add this section as a continuation for the post about the panorama I did few weeks ago. After completing the "regular" projection, I started stitching some other projections, and for the most part, I didn't bother myself in correcting the stitching errors as I'm not planning anything "big" with those projections; Yet.

Escape The Shining

I did a number of stitches but I won't bother listing all of them here, but I'd rather just show those which I think have some potential, like the one above, Escape The Shining. This one was done using Mercator vertical projection, with a twist, and I quite prefer it over the regular vertical projection. I still, though, regret the fact that I put the sofa to block the entrance which appears here in the upper left corner; It could have been all black and thus adding more to the symmetry and balance, I believe.

Planeta Effugium

But probably the most beloved of all the versions I've made out of this panorama is the little planet projection, Planeta Effugium. Originally, it was less interesting really, but yet more plausible than its predecessor, the tunnel projection (the invert of this one). However, once I decided to play a bit and see the results, I got shocked somehow when I inverted the colors and the whole scene became like a negative slide. To add a bit to the twist, I've eliminated this inversion effect from the hand and the black space, the whole scene is somewhat a mix between original and inverted colors. I've also tried to make the whole image as a pure B&W but after many changes and fluctuations, I decided to leave it as it is and hence it became a bit red and yellow when colors were inverted (originally it had a hint of blue).

IR950

Well, IR950 is the name of one of the infrared filters I've got lately; A product from Neewer. The set of 4 filters was pretty cheap that I still can't believe they do really do some infrared work! But well, seems it works well so far. Except that, apparently, the make is not tight enough and the glass is shaking by now. I'm quite interested in this filter specifically because of its presumed property: threshold of 950nm. Which makes even higher than Kodak's infrared gel filter (87B) which has its threshold at about 820nm (or 830nm? Oh well). The 87B class of filters of such threshold are sometimes called X-Ray Infrared filters (just a mockery) for how they sometimes expose features under specific fabrics (with certain thickness of course), and this name was actually used in Neewer's title for this set of filters. These filters can also yield interesting results when shooting the skin, as they can show traces of veins, and this is something I need to work on a bit.


Sample shots done with IR950.

I've been testing all the filters in this test but I had a keen interest in IR950 as I said before. For fun, I started shooting (with the camera!) family members using the on-camera flash and raising ISO to the max point (12,800), as well as a quick selfie. Despite the high ISO, cleaning the images (in small sizes) was reasonable and some sharpness was added as well. Usually high ISOs, specially with cameras of cropped sensors like mine, produce a muddy-looking images, but probably the case is also different when it comes to infrared photography (even though classically, infrared images are known for their grainy soft look). The interesting thing here is: Usually, calibrating the white balance in-camera would not quite fix the problem with Photoshop when editing the RAW file. I'd still need to change the camera profile in Photoshop to Infrared profile in order to compensate for the limitation in the color temperature and tint in Photoshop. However, RAW files of shots done with IR950 do not behave that way despite being clearly infrared. They do appear as they were shot in-camera without any modification. Saying this, I just realized that I didn't check how the image would appear shooting with this filter WITHOUT calibrating the white balance in-camera.

A Nose With Personality
Collage.


I like the tones of blacks and whites even before editing them in Photoshop; They attract attention, as well as fear at some point because of the contrast maybe, and that adds more surrealism to the subject I presume which triggered me to do this "funny"collage of my selfie and my brother's face in A Nose With Personality. In fact, some people did indeed state that it IS scary rather than just a funny surreal image! While bring on a roll, I didn't want to miss the chance to test this filter with a panorama of course.

The Pano-Work

Seeing how the sun shines through a window pane over the stairs at home, I got triggered to try to do something about this. I did in fact shoot many simple shots before and recently for this play of sun beams over the steps, but now it was time to put my IR950 to some good use and see. A panorama.
Now, because IR950 is a circular filter and must be attached to the lens front, I had no choice but to use my next option for panorama shooting; The Voigtländer 20mm lens. I've tested this lens before in shooting panoramas, and at the regular settings of my panorama-head (shooting at every 30 degrees and counting as much as 12 shots per circle) and generally speaking, not many stitching problems occurred. However, the displacement between one angle and another with such lens is quite large and for this, to avoid any mishaps in working in such narrow space like the stairs, I changed the setting on my panorama-head to 24 degrees, making a total of 15 shots per circle. This change is not only done to the horizontal swipe, but also to the vertical swipe as well; Instead of shooting at every 45 degrees up and down, this was changed to 30 degrees (thus shooting at 30 degrees AND 60 degrees, and finally 90 degrees if needed). Wander with your imagination and think of such amount of shots we need to complete one scene: (15x5)+2= 77 shots for one scene, and we are not speaking of HDR yet!

Ghosted

The first problem, in practice, was to settle the camera down on such stairs and make it balanced as much as possible. I can't say I've done this perfectly but I was hoping on fixing the issue later on when assigning the horizon line and fixing the vertical lines before stitching the panorama. However, another problem occurred here unfortunately; Many shots were featureless and could not be connected to others in the scene -and this somehow made me wish that I worked with the old settings of my panorama-head but it's too late now- and finally, I had to satisfy myself with some of the scene and cropping the rest that simply didn't work and stitch properly. You can see that I've added some sandals and shoes in Ghosted, as my main idea was actually confrontation but seeing how the tones turned out as typically as they are for this filter, I've changed my mind and let my mind wander to its darker side in assigning a title to this.

Ghosted II

Not being a full panorama means there are limitations in projections and looks I can achieve with this panorama. For a try, I've used the vedutismo style in Ghosted II which added depth to the center while, supposedly, keeping straight verticals. To add drama a bit here, I didn't convert the panorama to B&W like its first predecessor, but rather inverted the colors like I did before in Planeta Effugium with some twist in blending to keep some areas original without inverting their colors. Yet more, I added some touches to improve the spooky look, like applying radial blur to an extra layer and blending it with soft light.
This is all to it for the time being and after this experience and this number of shots involved in this work, I might consider switching back shooting in 30 degrees with Voigtländer 20mm despite the hazard of having misplaced features or features not connected between two successive shots. This is of course when need arise.
On the other hand, there is still some thoughts and ideas I need to check about this filter and I do not have the capabilities to test it with. Like, does this filter really have a threshold of 950nm? After my bad experience with Tiffen's hot mirror, I hesitate to trust whatever the specs from the manufacturer say about the product. There is also the issue of the infrared source. According to Neewer's guideline, they propose each filter of different threshold to be used for specific conditions (and in dedication to landscape photography) with IR950 to be used under the harsh sun. This, however, doesn't work with me that way for sure and I need to explore my options with infrared sources and how do they react with the subject at hand; Specifically, the skin and whether the infrared source under question is good to show the veins under the skin in a photo, or penetrate specific fabrics (or even night vision as some claim). So much to discover with this filter alone, not mentioning the others as well.

Finale

I could've made the story longer here and talk about my shell collection and going back to documenting them but I think it is enough for the time being. I'll leave the issues of these shells for another time. There are more shells waiting to be documented.
Meanwhile, as I'm typing these words, I'm thinking seriously of leaving the Instagram community and gain some of my peace of mind (and more time to do other things), but the main issue here is the ridiculous updates and changes that Instagram comes up with every now and then. I'm still considering the idea though and didn't decide for sure yet. There is the issue of exposing and displaying my images to the public but probably it is not much of an impact, since I'm not getting many Likes on Instagram as well not comments; Thanks to some relatives and random visitors who appreciate what I do (or simply do it as a duty when it comes to my relatives).
There seems to be so much on my plate; Ideas, projects, experiments… yet seems I'm not doing much with them. I blame it on the summer and the heat that brings down all my strength but let's face it; I'm lazy after all. During this time, I'm waiting for my new passport to be issued, but would I really travel? I don't know. No plans whatsoever.
In poetry, I do have some words visiting and going and I'm really trying to force myself on writing it down. I just need that glitch in time between work and home (and responsibilities at home) to focus on writing. Unlike photography, writing coherent words and translating feelings on a paper (or typing them down) is probably as exhaustive as shooting a photo, or even more at times. Mentioning poetry, I was surprised that one of the poems that I've posted on Writing.com did get the 1st place award and a ribbon (with some award points with that). It came as surprise to me since I'm not checking my email in that website regularly and totally forgot about that contest within the website. Probably I've posted that poem here before, but I'm posting here again to finalize the post and leave you with it for reading it at your own pace, if you like!

Aman Aman

Not black and white but splashing colors,
worldly, such a never ending course.
No left, no right, nor wrong or even just,
aman aman, nor my mind I can trust.

Aman aman, O trembling Bulbul,
tweeting loudly in a funeral?
How does your spirit work I wonder indeed,
for seldom a smile had been in my need.

Seldom does it shine, if would, it could,
for sorrows I never understood.
O Bulbul to whom the tweet and the dance?
or maybe a salute to some past romance?

Salute me by the morn or by noon,
whether under the heat or the moon.
Take this core where it never had befitted,
in hope! May my grinning face be permitted.

When the blooms of May may surrender,
and off life bereft be the tender.
Lull me O Bulbul, and put me to sleep,
Aman aman, my eyes need not to weep.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Greasing The Engine…

Here we are... Ramadhan is over, and my vacation is over as well and I'm back to work with the usual greasing my engine problem like after every vacation. A number of stuff I've been doing with my camera through this short vacation, and somehow was trying to catch my chances before I get back to the humdrum of the daily life and the tired body. Sleeping was a problem of course, and can't imagine how my life would have been if I didn't take that vacation as well! I'm grateful though for one last miracle, and that is my shipment is finally here after taking a long route and some extra expenses through the sick mailing system we have here. Anyway, I might talk about that later.

Out of The UV

It has been a while now with my thoughts about trying a portraiture or a selfie using my UV filter. I even got myself some CFL-type blacklights to try out and experiment in shooting such portraits (with some plans of painting with sun screen). However, after working a bit and some testing, it turns out that such blacklights are not quite practical and/or useful for portraiture at least (might be useful and practical for static objects for tabletop photography). Anyway, I had my own little experiment with a selfie using these blacklights…

UV Man I
Googling around, I didn't find quite the descriptive article that describes how dangerous are the blacklights, and what is their damage on the long or short terms. Anyway, I worked with them anyway fixing my exposure to one second only and raising my ISO to 640. I was wearing my glasses without really realizing it, but then I thought they would be a good protection for my eyes. I've worked before with these blacklights and I noticed that I get some irritation to my eyes when they are on. All in all, the glasses were a good addition to the shot I believe, as I didn't plan for these reflections off them.

UV Man II
One of the signs of a good UV filter (or a combination of UV filter and a hot mirror) is that glasses appear black or almost opaque when shot with these filters and this is how I exactly realized that the DR-655 filter was a good filter because my glasses got dark when I tried to shoot some selfies under the sun before (when I first got the filter). That worked well here making my glasses like a mirror reflecting off the blacklights under my face (placed into desk lamps).

Transmission chart for
Kenko's DR-655 Hot Mirror.
Click to enlarge.
However, when I tried my speedlite (though I know it's not a good UV source) the opacity of the glasses was gone and my eyes appeared from behind the glasses, proving that speedlites probably fire some infrared BELOW the limit of 700nm (which is the beginning of the blockade by DR-655 hot mirror according to charts). This effect for the speedlite over my glasses persisted even when I covered the speedlite with somewhat thick blue and purple layers of cellophane with the hope of blocking the infrared range; However, no use. I've made several shots (and UV Man II taken before UV Man I actually) and I guess only 2 shots were somewhat the best of them all. I've used excessive sharpening with UV Man II here to compensate for the little motion blur in the image (probably doesn't show clearly when in small size). For this, it seems that there is no escape of doing my future UV portraiture projects under the sun; The summer's sun. Speaking of "escape," I think it is time to move to the next title: Escape.

الهروب - The Escape - Al-Hurúb

Somehow I loved to call the next shot in Arabic rather than, typically, in English or any other languages. Hmm, this has been a trend in my mind lately. Anyway, this is all about a panorama shot which I've been planning to do for a long time; I won't be exaggerating if I say that the idea had been there for 2 years, if not more. Initially, the idea for this panorama was to be shot in "normal" mode, so to say. However, when time arrived for its execution, I decided to do it in infrared (with my modified camera of course) as this would add more drama, contrast and visual impact.

الهروب - The Escape

I did indeed a panorama (a simple one) in this location before and I remember it didn't go well (it was in HDR too). It was so simple, with only doors showing. The idea of adding an element like this hand was the thing that delayed my work. I was thinking of using my bro as a model to show his hand only out of the (bathroom) door, yet I couldn't fix the timing with him and I doubt he has the patience for such work. I went as far as thinking of getting a mannequin (or the hand alone at least), and again, I couldn't get to that. Thus, again, I'm all by myself.  Unfortunately, I didn't take single shots to explain some issues, so I will go explaining some of these issues by points:
  1. First things first: It's an infrared panorama, which means I need a good infrared source. Thus, I had to change the bulb in this small square space from CFL to tungsten bulb (150W!) to ensure my intake of infrared in the place (and I was not disappointed).
  2. It was perplexing to position the tripod in the first place, and it was obvious that it won't be at the center anyway, so I tried to place centered with respect to the bathroom door where the hand shall be exposes.
  3. Naturally, there would be overlapping of images when doing this panorama because of the added element (the hand). So, things has to be unchanged between the shoots as much as possible. For this, I opened the bathroom door and let it swing on its own to its own limit (the vent fan was on so the air sucks up the door a bit in addition to the door's weight). At this point, I've placed a marker on the ground (let's hope Mom didn't notice!). Later on, after shooting the panorama, I've gone inside the bathroom and extended my arm outside and tried my best to align the door with the marked line I did earlier. I took many shots with different poses for the hand and when stitching I really wanted to add them all in some sort of a surreal look, but because of the troublesome errors, I've satisfied myself with only one hand.
  4. Even with one hand, stitching errors prevailed and to be honest, I'm not sure if the final product here has all its stitching errors fixed! 
The working infrared filter here is Kodak's gel filter (#87B) which has a threshold of about 820nm. The tungsten bulb here provided with just what I need of infrared and I started shooting at f/10, 4 seconds each, at ISO 160. Of course, no HDR bracketing here, that would be a far fetch somehow. In fact, even with 4 seconds, my hand was not that stable but it might not show easily in the big picture. Yet, with such a strong infrared filter, 4 seconds of exposure is plausible indeed. To ensure the proper exposure time, I've shot the bathroom door some several shots and checked their histogram to decide for the proper exposure for all of the scene (because this door is the most important in the whole scene as well), and that worked well. The black space under the arch was not dark in reality, but this is the main hall which was lit mainly by LEDs and CFLs, and these two do not emit enough infrared to show up clearly in just 4 seconds of exposure with this filter - It was just perfect! Well, there were some tiny white dots which I needed to clear out. The white-gray space under this black space under the arch is just the sofa covered with some "black" cloth to hide the details of the sofa. But you know what? I'm regretting that and now I wish if I made it ALL black there.
I've made various projections so far and still working on more out of this panorama, so I might leave those for my next posts anyway, but the priority was for creating a QTVR out of this panorama. Unlike my previous posts where I would post a little QTVR here (which requires QuickTime to be installed), now I'm going to depend on 360Cities.net embed my QTVRs here. And this one has been published already as well!


Pinhology

During the last days of my vacation I started to get excited again about my pinhole (lens) and really wanted to do something about it. I was focusing on getting sharper image in the past but now, my focus is mainly surreal in essence. Thus, sharpness was not much of an issue for me this time. All I wanted to do is record some motion, and in B&W. Some of these images as I saw do have a mental effect on me at some level. Something out of this world, or simply psychological. With this though, I've dug deeper and learned further about pinholes and I'm seriously considering making one on my own for my camera (but first I need to clean my mental desk of some hanging tasks and issues).

المقرئ - The Reciter
Pinhole: 2m, ISO100.
My first idea was doing a bit of motion (as I stated already) and the idea was to make a moving silhouette. Easy said than done when the talk is about a pinhole lens. Using ND filters was out of question here (even though I do have some gel NDs and I could have easily stuck them on the pinhole). Originally, I wanted to have a light coming from above, but when I saw the window in this room of the house (specially in the morning) I really loved it. It was perfect for the job and in fact more plausible for a silhouette (even though more work was needed with dodge and burn when processed). The exposure of two minutes (plus 1 minute timer to prepare myself with the black cloth) was just enough to record this motion as I was flipping through the pages of my Quran (Koran). Maybe the background was not well organized but I can't complain. I've already had a problem with the camera to get enough distance in the room to get the framing I wanted (one more reason to think of some way to integrate pinhole work with my regular lenses). Converting to B&W saved the situation further, because I realized that my clothes showed up with all the fanciful colors and designs! 

Escape 2
Pinhole: 39s, ISO100.
The streak of "inspiration" did not stop with that room, as I'm starting to notice the light patterns wherever I go now and truly putting my mind into this pinhole work altogether. The room this time was the guest room and the light was coming through from the door that leads to the outside. Again, it did capture my sight (even though it was getting dusty by that time and got extreme after I've finished, luckily!). Had some go with simple poses like in Escape 2 (thought of it as a sequel to The Escape panorama). Even though my body was not completely stable during the 39 seconds exposure, but the image looked stable enough. During the post-processing phase I did decrease the clarity to give it the dreamy-like (or should I say psychological horror) look. Also, and again, there was some work with the dodge and burn to be done and I made a compromise here between showing little details in the blacks but not quite enough to figure out any shape. To keep things in black here, I had to wear my t-shirt turned around to hide those designs! Anyway, I couldn't stop thinking about keeping myself in motion, because motion in such long exposures, to me, resembles the life of the image and somewhat like resurrecting something within the viewer when he or she looks at it.

Escape 3
Pinhole: 39s, ISO100.
Thus moving to the next idea, with only one hand extending through (not behind the glass door) and this time moving my fingers only, and the result as you can see in Escape 3, it did have that motion effect somehow. However, instead of reducing the clarity when processing this image as in the case of Escape 2, I've increased it. That way the shades of the fingers appeared clearly further. These shades of the fingertips were made by the motion of the fingers actually. By the end, I still had one more shot to take and this time I did have some motion by head and hands but the end result was not much to be noticed, and the whole thing appeared as if some Anonymous person standing behind some glass. 
Anonymous
Pinhole: 39s, ISO100.
The focus on pinhole photography made me expand my thinking a bit; Somewhere behind the pinhole lens that I've purchased and in many occasions I would find myself senselessly digging myself into numbers and calculations trying to figure out or visualize the outcome of various light wavelengths, diameters, and even focal lengths (despite for me it has been fixed at 44mm). I think that shooting with the pinhole for some time would, naturally, push the photographer further to focus on the light and its quality, as was the case in the classical times with films. Of course, it is still digital and one can shoot and check it out later and fix it later, but still, the length of the exposure alone makes it worthy to invest some time in focusing and reflecting on the light available and what to do or how to do the shoot. All that, I believe, would reflect back and add to the experience of the photographer and his eyes and vision when working with regular lenses. Right now, I'm thinking seriously as well of merging speedlites with the work with this pinhole (in terms of a stroboscope). Needs a bit of thinking…

Finale

Neewer Set of Infrared Filters.
IR720, IR760, IR850, IR950.
A bunch of ideas are roaming my mind and with me being back to work doesn't make it any easier for me to work on them, but I shall try. I know it will be some long time. Miraculously, I got the shipment that was wandering the globe before my expectations and in my hands now a set of four infrared filters that need to be tested. I have some curious interest in the IR950, which supposedly has a threshold of 950nm; Such a high value for an infrared filter and I've been clicking around with it using high ISO (12,800) here and there. I might post these results later. But I need to go beyond that as well; I really need some scientific method to get a concrete idea of the capabilities of such filters, specially after being tricked with Tiffen's Hot Mirror before! All I can do so far is just click and test against known sources of IR like the sun and tungsten lights, as well as speedlites.
Seems I've been away from poetry for weeks now (again) but I do have these visits of some words which do not quite settle down in my head. I think I've been running with my pace in life lately specially with the end of my vacation, focusing on my camera work. I need to get back to that. I really don't know how to pass this summer, specially with no solid plans for traveling in the near future. Things are getting so narrow; So narrow that make me chest feel like crashing on its own, but as if nothing to be done. Sometimes, depression would not be clinical nor mere sadness, but simply feeling to be in the wrong time, in the wrong place, simply surrounded by stupidity. All I can do, then, is to keep myself amused, on my own…




Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy