Thursday, June 15, 2017


Well, so much had been going on with my camera as I'm trying to use every day of Ramadhan before it is over and I'd be back to work then! Well, I have to say that I can be lazy at times but I think I deserve this! Here, I will be taking off from where I stopped last time, as I was experimenting with High Speed photography. After finishing with dropping a cherry into some colored water, it was time to try out a bouncing ball!


I thought about this idea after applying the "cherry" experiment. I was trying to implement my old trigger (again)  but I ended up shooting all good shots with remote cable alone and changing the method of shooting in between sessions (the experimenting took about one week or more a bit): once using LiveView, and other times without it, and also using the Mirror-Lock option.

Splashing Boom I
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/20,
8000-1s, ISO200.
The results were majorly for splashes and droplets hanging in the air instead of the ball at the moment of bouncing, but many interesting shapes resulted with these water droplets. After my experiment with falling cherries, I've decided to increase the shutter speed to its max point (1/8000s) since that does not affect the power of the speedlites in general (the aperture does). I tried to apply another technique with sharpening when processing these images, as in Splashing Boom I and others, where I've applied sharpening to specific portions of the image only to pop out some features and make it look like a 3D image somewhat.

Splashing Boom III
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/20,
8000-1s, ISO200
I was lucky, after many, many, many trials, to catch the moment at which the ball was bouncing of the table (which was covered with aluminum foil and sprinkled with water), while running the camera on LiveView. Many successful attempts occurred later as well and they were rotated as is the case in splashing Boom III, but with variant beauty. In fact, even with Splashing Boom III, I noticed some slight blur in water droplets and the ball even though the shutter speed was at its maximum, 1/8000s. This made me search for ways to go around this speed in some way (technical or by technique) but I'll keep that for later. The ball here in Splashing Boom III might be blurred for being slightly out of focus after all, and for this reason I've decided to boost the f-number (to increase the depth of field further) in order to increase my chances of catching the ball relatively sharp. This, of course, forced me to change the speedlites sittings (all three of them) in terms of angle at least (all were working in full power after all).

Mirrored II
Canon EF 50mm, f/22, 8000-1s, ISO200.

As trials went on, I've changed the lens to 50mm to have more space and increase the chances to catch the ball within the frame (it was a bad choice somewhat though since water splash details are not clear at that zoom level). Anyway, at this point I decided to work with Mirror-Lock option (which requires pressing the shutter button twice to shoot the photo) as I was trying to reduce the time lag. In an email sent to Ubertronix about such lag, they explained to me that such lag is usually due the camera's shutter and it would be better to connect the trigger to the speedlite; but this is not possible in my case:
Hi TJ,

The lag is from the camera not the strike finder device or cable length. If you can set up your shot with the Strike Finder firing a flash instead of your camera, the  lag will be close to 0. Let me know what you are trying to shoot and I might have some specific setup suggestions.

Check out the information concerning shutter lag of the 7d in this link The other thing you can do is partially depress the shutter release and hold it before a shot. That will cut your shutter lag from 83 ms to 61 ms based on these specs.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance,
The Information here were kind of a surprise since working on LiveView does actually longer lagging time than working in normal mode! However, not that, and not even working with Mirror-Lock and a trigger, did time correctly with this bouncing wall, which at the end drove me to work, again, manually and by hand. I noticed that I did capture better results using the Mirror-Lock option and I got the camera within the frame more often, but probably the best of them all was Mirrored II here in which the ball was just taking off with a tiny trail of water underneath it. I will check with possibilities to work with triggering my speedlites instead of the camera later on, but that would require to work in complete darkness (and the camera shutter is kept open for a certain time). When everything failed, though, I've simply punched the table…

Canon EF 50mm, f/22, 8000-1s, ISO200.

I tried here again to picture the splashing water, but seems the water wasn't enough, and it is a good thing that I used 50mm lens; Otherwise, my fist won't fit in the frame. And apparently my skin needs some care! Now, all these shots (lot of them not shown here) need to be sorted out again and filled with information for uploading to stock websites.

Sitting for the bouncing ball experiment, with my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens. This was the initial position for speedlites, things changed later on as well as for the lens.


I could have gone further with this post, but I'll keep it short for now. There are other experiments I'm attending to at the moment, specially with my very old microscope with which I'm trying to shoot better and sharper images (so far images are kind of blurred). Along with the microscope experiments, I've been working on some various images ideas for our group's June project which is themed "Abstract." I might have some material to be posted by the next blog post.
Meanwhile, I couldn't keep my promise to myself for not placing an order right now, but I had to process an order for various items (and books) but I'm not in a hurry. Thus, all items were shipped for free (which takes nearly a week) and still to this very moment some items are being processed because they are not available. Some of these items are essential and I might talk a bit when this package arrives to me (which might be in July!). I consider this to be my own gift to my own self for my birthday, since no one I know around me would appreciate such gifts for me! Hopefully I'll cope with the finance later on.
As the financial situation is shaky; once up and once down, I'm still not sure about my plans to travel (and not sure where to). One thing is for sure: I need it. I need it like water and food. If only…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Well, Ramadan is here and boy ain't I happy to have a leave off work during this month! Despite my usual troublesome sleeping pattern during this month, yet I feel refreshed at some level and I'm eager to work with my camera more often than before (specially with me doing my experiments near my room). With May project with the group, which is about colors, I've started to re-kindle an old passion for high-speed. The work is still going on as I'm typing this, as there are a number of issues I need to fix still and some more ideas in hope I can try later.


The May project was a priority, so I spent some time thinking about what can be done in that venue. It is easier said than done, as colors are everywhere but it's hard to get some concrete and unique work of art involving colors. In the beginning, I was trying to follow my typical steps in creating an idea: Find a deep emotion inside myself, and cast that particular feeling on the subject at hand, be it color, shadows, or whatever. However this step seemed hard and technically I was so mentally confused that I couldn't realize my own feelings or how to organize my thoughts! Thus, I had to shoot for mere fun and I started mumbling with my props and gear to find something colorful.

Colorado I
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/29,
250-1sec, ISO100.
After playing around with some props and accessories, I decided to use the refraction power of water to create some colorful abstracts by using colored Popsicle sticks placed in a separate glass jar behind the glass of water. Later on, however, I've decided to add corn syrup into the water during the shot (putting the camera on timer while pouring already). This was just to add some action to the scene instead of plain silent colors. There was no need to high-speed mode as 1/250 of a second for the shutter speed was enough to kill the ambient light, but the greater hardship was in having a proper framing for the shot since I was working inside my room and could barely have a proper distance to stay away from the set with my 100mm lens, while using 50mm lens would require me to get closer beyond the nearest possible point of focusing.

Colorado II
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/29,
250-1sec, ISO100
Distributing the light was not so hard to do but it was rather hard to adjust (as I usually work in manual mode). I've used 2 white boards on the sides to reflect off the light and later on I've placed a shade on the top of the set to reflect any astray light from below and reflect it back (and it did a great job!). While shooting, there was always something going off which made the power sometimes excessive or too low without even touching any flash settings. Not sure what is causing this but the first culprit in my mind right now is the fact that I was working in LiveView mode. Some professionals always warn against using LiveView mode for serious shooting. However, with my back problems, I find myself often forced to work that way!

Colorado III
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/32,
250-1sec, ISO100
After shooting Colorado I I decided to increase the amount of action and pour even more corn syrup to fill the frame (while some were already accumulating at the bottom of the glass) which created such a mess as seen in Colorado II, but oh well, I guess this is much better than having much plain space as in Colorado I. There was one last shot I needed to try, and here, I've replaced the colored sticks with colored pencils and filled the glass with corn syrup instead of water as I loved the looks of the bubbles in the bottle of the syrup. To add something to the scene, I've placed a small cut from a branch of some plant I've found here (no animals were killed to try this!). At this level, I wanted to step further and try the risks of using f/32 with this lens which I've experienced some weird behavior before at this aperture value. However, after several shots I did get something stable as seen in Colorado III, and even created a 3D Anaglyph out of this scene. Now, I'm creating the habit of documenting the set every time I finish one experiment. I guess it is a good practice?

The set used for Colorado I and Colorado II. A reflector was placed on top during the shoot.

The set used to shoot Colorado III.
I used 2 small candles on the sides in hope to excite the fluid and produce more bubbles inside the syrup but that wasn't useful!

Cherry Boom

I thought I was over with the Colorado experiment above, but then I thought why not implement high-speed onto the project, specially that I'm trying to work in a space near my room (even though no proper table for me yet, as you can see from the sets above). Implementing the idea of colors here emerge from the concept of the color circle and complimentary colors. Thus, I simply googled "Cherry Red Color" and I got the code #a61f34, and starting from there I got the complimentary color which is some degree of cyan. I picked cherry specifically because it was available, and because of its distinctive red color and tiny branch which typically stems out of it. I could have gone with grapes but I think grapes do not have a distinctive shape or color (and the red variety would be typically larger than I need them to be). Thus, the choice for cherries seemed legit!

Final look for the set of the project.

Ubertronix Strike Finder Elite.
Source: B&H
I used watercolors here to color the water and later I've added a bit of milk to kill the transparency of the water a bit. As seen in the set above, I've used here only 2 speedlites (580EX II) and didn't want to use my third speedlite (430EX II). I used here also my UV filter over the lens front just to protect the front from water droplets. I should have protected the flash heads as well with plastic bags but I skipped that actually. The big hurdle was to get my old Ubertronix trigger to work, specifically with a laser-gate. Without detailing the troubles, at the end the laser-gate method proved useless to me because of the shutter lag and the cumbersome laser pointer I was using. Thus, for the rest of the experiment, I went on doing a manual job, holding the cable remote in one hand and dropping the cherry with the other.

Cherry Boom I
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 3200-1sec, ISO200.

It was apparent from the beginning that I'm having a problem and probably should have used a larger bowl of some sort since the white edge of the plastic dish was hard to remove. Some problems did not show up till later on as I was inspecting the images like Cherry Boom I. Beside the shallow depth at f/9 (which was not enough), it seems that 1/3200 of a second was not enough for the shutter to freeze the water movement! However, during the experiment, I've raised the speed a bit more without really knowing the final outcome that I will be getting later on. Good luck? Maybe!

Cherry Boom II
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 4000-1sec, ISO200.

The speed of 1/4000 seemed just enough to freeze such a fall! In total, out of 20+ shots, I got merely 2 useful shots and one or two shots for splashes without the cherry(ies) which I simply liked for their shapes but I don't think they would be useful as stock images or printed and displayed. As for Cherry Boom II, the cherry here fell upside down and my brain being in love with illusions, I've decided to rotate the image 180o and thus the water came up and the cherry down, but standing up. What annoys me about Cherry Boom II is, like the other shots, the white space from the plastic dish edge which cannot be removed or substituted. I continued the work further in the next day and going manual too with 1/5000 shutter speed, and changing the camera tilt little bit (and pouring some water into the dish) to hide the white edge as much as possible. Again, out of 20+ shots, I've one suitable shot here.

Cherry Boom III
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/20,
5000-1sec, ISO320.
Beside enhancing the looks, I went on enhancing the depth of field as well pushing it to f/20 (to have greater chance of having the cherry sharp wherever it falls), but that of course called for an increase in ISO, as I didn't want to use my third speedlite still. Water splashes now are more stable and live! In Cherry Boom III, seeing that the two cherries fell on their side, I've decided to rotate the image 90o clockwise to add a surreal feel to it.
In all of these shots of high speed, there was always a problem with the noise level when processing the images, despite the ISO being relatively low. With my Canon EOS 7D, I'd say that the ISO is somewhat easier to handle up until ISO 800 or around that, but in these images the processing was cumbersome and I do have my doubts about being accepted for exhibitions with the group (if they pass the aesthetic critique). However, some stock websites did already accept these images without a problem and they are up for sale!
Finishing from this cherry project I did proceed to another one, involving high-speed shooting as well, but I will keep that for a future post, as I'm still trying to work on it further.


After kindling my passion again for high-speed photography (adding to that the lack of locations and ideas for panoramas), and after the failure of my trigger, I've emailed the company asking about the reasons for such time lag and after some discussion, it seems that the reason is my shutter and not the trigger itself. I was advised to connect the trigger to the flash instead of the camera but in my working conditions this is not possible, as working with triggered flashes means opening the shutter in a dark environment while the flash becomes the only source of light. However, reading about some aspects of my camera, it seems that I do have also to adjust some of my photo-shooting habits to reduce the time lag in shutter release (depending on LiveView being one!).
Though I'm on leave without traveling but seems I do have a busy schedule here (beside taking care of Mom), but I feel some satisfaction that I didn't feel in a long time now since I could work with my camera and really think of something to do with it, without feeling exhausted like everyday after coming back from work through the traffic jam. Meanwhile, the idea of traveling is still ticking and tickling my mind, despite the fear of the hassles that I might have to face outside because of all the madness going in the world today, specially for a guy like me from the Middle East.
In the meantime, August is getting closer, my birthday that is, and I'm preparing to have some big order (well, not so big, but a bit big maybe?) of some gear and maybe some books. I would have to place the order before August I presume since there are some items that are considered "special order" (i.e. need time to be prepared and dispatched). This is to be a gift to myself, since no one around give such gifts except of perfumes! On my mind is a 4th speedlite (and probably another 580EX II if available still) and maybe some filters. I feel so excited that I want to place the order right away in the coming few days, but my financial situation and the course of Ramadan makes me hold it back and wait. Thus, I might be placing my order by the end of June or so! I need to miss my camera so much to work with it with passion…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Well, I'm struggling here to keep my mood swings off the ground a bit till the time for my vacation arrives. I'm trying to squeeze my mind to extract some more ideas for the project of the month of May which is about colors. Yet, however, when I tried to do something, I've gone out with a completely different experience and experiment. The bad thing about it is that I had to work with high ISO here since I didn't want to use speedlites. Explanation for not using them will come shortly.


I won't go over my original idea which was about colored sticks and a glass of water, but I'm going to move right away into the application of the second idea which came to live, even though it did not involve colors as I hoped so.

Vivid Dream I
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/2.8, 400-1s, ISO3200.

The idea was simply to display an eye image (ahem, my eye) on my tablet and cover the tablet with a lasagna glassware, then filling the glassware with water. The goal was to achieve some kind of movement, distraction, or any kind of action that could possible mimic the sense of a vivid dream with a fuzzy looking eye. However, to aid me with this, I had to add corn syrup (didn't have glycerine) to the water and use a milk frother to disturb the water and produce some action and bubbles. Any liquid works here I guess but I think anything else would add color and maybe unwanted level of foam (like soap for example); Thus, corn syrup was just about enough for me here.
In the beginning I did indeed use ND filter to lengthen the exposure time considerably, but that length in fact hid all the action; I guess I didn't learn my lesson from hunting clouds with long exposures yet! Thus, I've removed the ND and decided to shoot normally. The blur produced by the moving water did, in general, look like a motion blur of some unstable hand, which is not something I was aiming for. Meanwhile, I noticed how the bubbles were interesting enough to make some kind of vivacity in the scene. Capturing them needed some shutter speed (i.e. short timing). Not wanting to use Speedlites here because they might make the situation worse with refraction and highlight spots, I've decided to work with Tv mode, and set the ISO to Auto. A Kamikaze plan, I know. My little cropped Canon EOS 7D surely does not do well with high ISO and heat. However, so let it be.
I've shot most shots at 400-1s shutter speed, but seems even that was somewhat slow and I needed something faster at some point (but didn't discover that until the examination of these images closely). The ISO here ranged from 2000 to 4000. A Catastrophe.

Turbulent Dream
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/4, 30-1s, ISO400.

By the end of this experiment, I was back again to try and shoot something with motion blur which I did, and produced something surreal of some sort after winding the ISO back to 400 (still high to my measures) as seen in Turbulent Dream. Not sure why I stopped at ISO400 and not ISO100, but probably it would make the exposure so long that all turbulence would simply disappear. In total, there were 8 shots, so here are the other 6:

Vivid Dream II

Vivid Dream III

Vivid Dream IV

Vivid Dream V

Vivid Dream VI

Vivid Dream VII

Of all in this series, only Vivid Dream VII undergone a special treatment somewhat as I applied Pinch filter to make the bubbles' circles seemingly more directed to the center of the image around the iris. The effect was slightly applied and not in extreme way, otherwise it would be more like a graphic surreal design instead of a surreal photo!
Now, the critique about these images was fine but with one problem here: the noise. For this reason I might need to do the experiment again, and this time I have to go with another risk: using speedlites. However, I'll try to make speedlites as diffused as possible, despite the fact that I'll be using HSS mode which will reduce the power of the single flash lighting significantly. Anyway, all that is on hold for now, since I have to get busy (really busy) with my colors project for the month of May, as the month is getting closer to its end and I didn't achieve a single proper photo yet!


Well, this was a short trip into what I've been doing lately. Too bad I didn't capture any further images with the colors project yet, otherwise I would have posted them here. Meanwhile, I'm looking for a good topic to write about in my other Arabic blog as I didn't post any articles in some time now. I'm thinking about talking about High Pass Sharpening method. Anyhow, I should start ASAP to be over with it by next Thursday. That means, also, I won't be posting in this blog next week.
Good news here: I have to get ready to start my own vacation during Ramadhan, as I've signed for one. Remembering the hell I used to go through last summer with traffic jams at work itself, all that, makes me freak out thinking how things would be this Ramadhan in this summer. They say this would be the last Ramadhan to arrive at summer and will not fall during summer again till after 26 years from now! Something to joy about I guess? The question is though, would I be able to use that time to work more with my camera, as well as some of the postponed projects? Till then…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, May 4, 2017


It's a slowing down time, and summer is hovering heavily with its beginning here. Air breezes are slow and barely enough to breathe here, with waves of dust suspended in the air. I miss winter already. I didn't do much photography lately but few video shooting, again, as I'm waiting to settle down with a topic for the project of the month of May. We'll see what that would be. I had some work with macro shooting too as I was trying my old rail to do some focus stacking, which I have to say from now, it was a fail for many factors. However, I got still some nice out come as well.


Let's head first to the video. In my last post in this blog I've posted mainly 2 infrared videos done as I was driving. It was about time, however, to do the same while using my B+W 403 Black UV-Pass filter. I didn't want to use the old and cumbersome 18-55mm kit lens which fits this filter perfectly and I didn't have any wide angle lens better than my Voigtländer 20mm semi-manual lens, which has a diameter of 52mm, and thus a step-up ring is needed.


Without going into details here with the settings I've been using (basically automated), you might have noticed vignetting around the corners. I need to do a thorough check up and comparison with my other B+W 092 infrared filter and Voigtländer 20mm lens, as it seems that vignetting happens only with this lens, for which I use a step-up ring to fit those circular filters (all of them are 58mm in diameter while Voigtländer 20mm is 52mm). If vignetting appears with both filters then, of course, it has to be the step-up ring, but if not, then it has to be the filter itself and its nature and make. However, in regular single shots, fixing the vignetting is quite easy but with a video clip, I'm still not sure about my capabilities in that venue. 
Sigma 12-24mm for Canon.
I thought I was over with videos until I've noticed that some of the infrared images online are actually, and most likely, images taken with a converted camera but without any filter, which produced a strange hue of colors because of the full spectrum involved (specially when the sun is shining), and then colors would be converted (sometimes) and the resultant image is something "fantastical," so to say. This is what I planned to do then specially after acquiring a new lens (but an old one) from a friend who converted to Nikon. The lens is Sigma 12-24mm. It is a big and a bulky lens but the range of zooming here is quite useful for me specially for recording a video inside the car, and with the absence of any 18-55mm kit lens in my collection (it's there, but it's old and hardly used).


Again, sorry, I have to remove the audio here (for your own safety trust me). I was lucky and unlucky in the beginning of this video as you can see: I was trapped between my brother's car (which is red but turned blue with channel swapping) and our neighbor's car on the right, yet it was a good chance for some interesting footage! Anyhow, I think I'm going to like this new old-lens. There are some problems though which I'm hoping to find a solution for later:
Rokinon 800mm f/8.0 Mirror Lens
  • The lens with its case is too large for my camera bag, even if the case is to be removed.
  • The lens front is fisheye-like, meaning no filters can fit. But there is a special hood to cover the front of the lens and provide a base to attach filters, yet it can hardly be used for now since it's 82mm in diameter.
  • The rear of the lens is large as well and it might be hard to stabilize any gel filters at the back.
Nevertheless, I still think this old lens will be of great use in the future. If only I can find a proper place to store it. This brings me memories of my Rokinon 800mm mirror lens which I didn't use much as well and I have to see about using this lens as well and getting active with it too! As you can see from the video above, the colors are pretty close to, for example, many portraiture shots that are said to be taken in infrared. This makes me think that many of these infrared shots are actually, simply, taken with a converted camera without an infrared filter. I've seen some pretty colored infrared shots that are said to be taken with Hoya infrared filters, with threshold of 720nm; Yet, I don't understand the vibrant colors which I don't even get with my B+W 092 infrared filter of 650nm in threshold. This needs more research!


Min-Yoot; to be precise about the pronunciation. Along with my videos, I've taken my chances to work with my old macro-rail for a while, as some tiny plants are blooming at home and I didn't want to lose this "rare" chance without documenting some of them. Got to say that the aroma that spread around the place in the early morning hours is just refreshing (despite the bad weather of dust and humidity sometimes).

Beauty Explosion
Canon EF 50mm + 56mm ET, f/11, 10-1sec, ISO250.
Focus Stack

I have to say though that all my trials with the rail were a chain of failures. Yet, some people liked some shots despite the errors like Beauty Explosion, which was shot indoors (after moving the pot inside). Yet, I made a mistake for not using higher f-number. Despite being inside, the branch was still shaking because of the slight breeze from the AC! This was so obvious even with 1.12X magnification, so I can't imagine what kind of shake I would be witnessing if I went over this ratio of magnification even! The 20mm and 36mm extension tubes would be used for every railing experiment still. It can be noticed in Beauty Explosion how some areas are smudges; those are specifically some merging errors probably cause of the little shake of the branch and changing the position and also there might be some missing millimeters along the way as I was rotating the knobs of the rail (making more than 20 shots along the way). The colors here are, of course, a result of swapping Red and Blue (the shoot was done using my converted Canon EOS 7D but without any filters).

Canon EF 50mm + 12mm ET, f/22, 30-1sec, ISO100.

Away from that plant, outside under the blazing sun, I got some memories back of me doing some of my first 3D with onion blooms, and we have it again! I didn't want to skip the chance so I tried my luck with it, this time with my converted camera. In SpectraOnion, I've the 12mm extension tube just to get closer to the bloom, as the 50mm lens has a minimum focusing distance of 45cm, and I needed to get closer than this distance. My aim wasn't really going into the field of macro here, yet I got a nice close up, despite the back-breaking situation (very low) and the blazing sun. Of course,  I didn't forget to aim for a 3D rendition so I've taken several shots by nudging the whole tripod to the left gently.

SpectraOnion (3D)

I've examined doing the 3D anaglyph on both, colored and B&W versions and, despite the distractions with the colored version, it seems that it stands out more than the B&W version. Not sure why, but it is kind of weird to see such thing with my own eyes, because it is believed, typically, that B&W images are better for anaglyph rendering to reduce the color distractions in general! Anyway, it looks fine to me specially at the base of the little stems as they stand out when viewed with anaglyph glasses. Moreover, I had a go with swapping the channels as usual with such images specifically.

SpectraOnion (Red-Blue channel swap)

Being beautiful as well, but not favored over the original by some, probably because the original has a strong color contrast between yellows and blues (the two are opposites on the circle of colors). However, another trial took place and this time I've done it outside (for the same plant) in a somewhat quite evening with barely some breeze. The light outside was strong so I was relying a bit on the fast shutter to stabilize the image with the same settings for the previous experiment: 50mm lens and 20+36mm tubes.

Stacked Bloom
Canon EF 50mm + 56mm ET, f/22, 5-1sec, ISO400.

As it can be seen, I was wrong. Though I increased the depth to f/22 but the shutter slowed down significantly. For this reason, I had to time my shooting, holding the remote in one hand and trying to block the air current with the other, and shooting only when I feel the branch was stable enough. The ISO had to be raised significantly which meant more noise. However, I can say that the range of proper merging here is better than my first trial despite the fact that I was doing it outside in the fresh air. Here in Stacked Bloom we see that it's all blue after channel swapping unlike the very first trial, Beauty Explosion. This is probably related to the change in IR levels from indoors to outdoors (outdoors being more, naturally).

Crystal Bloom
Canon EF 50mm + 56mm ET, f/16, 10sec, ISO100.

In my final trial, Crystal Bloom, I've decided to cut a portion of the branch and it take it inside then stabilize it further by holding it with a paper binder. The length was small so AC air breeze wouldn't have an effect on it, which encouraged me to go mad with the exposure! At that moment I've remembered my problems with my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens, and thus decided to work with f/16 instead of f/22, as I thought it might be a factor playing in the mishaps with merging the focus stack. In average, the exposure for each shot in the stack was between 8 seconds to 10 seconds and the total was about 40 shots. Tried to be precise as much as possible with the rail this time and moved 1mm between each shot and the other. However, in merging the focus stack, things went OK except at some portions close to the edges away from the center of the image. This leads to me think that what is happening here is a change in the virtual size of the image beside the change in the focused area, and for this reason the stacking doesn't go well. There is, of course, some room for human error, always. Also, it might just be that using many extension tubes like that doesn't go well with the rail method? Not sure. Too bad I didn't think of doing reversing lens back then since I have the proper gear for that. According to calculations (which I hope are right!) if I'm to use Voigtländer 20mm lens in reverse, the magnification power is supposed to be about 2.5X. The question remains though about how practical the focusing distance would be (it is REALLY close already with extension tubes and 50mm at 1.12X magnification!). Seems we'll have another round with that. I didn't forget as well to render a 3D out of these images!

Crystal Bloom (3D)


This was a... brief (?) about what was going on with my life lately. Excluding the ups and downs and the mood swings. There was a bubble of eagerness to write a poem with all that mix of feelings inside me, yet I couldn't find the power nor the mental order to pin it down. I think my dreams of seeing Morocco must be kept for some other time. I've signed in for a leave for the whole month of Ramadhan and it will start by May 28th and will end by June 22nd. Thus, I'm not sure if there is any chance for a vacation this year either. All what is left for me here, I presume, is the company of my own thoughts, and projects…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, April 20, 2017


After having a vacation from almost everything for one week, I think it is time to pin down this blog, even though it is hard for me because things had been drastic a bit lately and my mood is in great swing lately. However, I'm trying to work on some stuff and I will try to post about some of my thoughts here. I wasn't going to type it but it is due after leaving it for a week!

Meanwhile I'm working on various things, mainly videos. It's just getting interesting with me exploring various filters and recording videos from my car as I used to do in the old days (with my small car back then). I'm working on that slowly and I've learned bits of videography already, but sure not like a professional anyway; I still don't have a shotgun mic even! But before delving into these videos, I've prepared a video some time ago for a hypercube (a.k.a. tesseract, 4D Cube) toy which I've created using playing straws.


The object is made by interlacing 2 cubes of straws and then connecting the corners, which was not to be done without bending the straws making what it looked like circles when viewed from the sides. I've created another model but it was not successful like this unfortunately, where 2 cubes are fit one inside the other, but again because of the bending in connectors between corners, the view was not "organized" so to say. Meanwhile, I'm trying to build a model of a hypercube using wooden pieces and some kind of glue (tried Tack-It already but didn't work properly). I'm planning to use such models for future photographic missions if possible. I might find inspiration there.

On the other hand, I got back to my habit of doing videos while driving but this time using filters to see the general look. surprisingly, fitting the tripod inside my Pajero is harder than fitting it into my small Seat before, probably because of the differences in design. My first trial was with B+W 092 infrared filter which has a threshold of about 650nm (or it might be 700nm). Such filter is supposed to let some color in when processing the images.


I'm showing here the video without audio track (meh, useless!). Luckily, the camera didn't flip with the tripod inside the car as I was roaming around. Hope you enjoy the marvelous views of how cars and trucks act like marbles thrown randomly on the floor! One of the concepts I've learned online about videography is that you must keep things in manual (to be more professional). However, in this video above, I've let things be automatic. I've used Voigtländer 20mm lens here which is semi-manual, thus I'm not sure if the aperture did change during the recording. Anyway, shutter speed and ISO are surely to be changing depending on the lighting conditions in front of the lens. I've increased the EV to +1 to be on the safe side while recording but I ended up reducing the brightness and adjusting the contrast because of that when editing the video in Photoshop (yes, Photoshop). I was dedicated though to record a video without any automated process, and I'm not sure if this rule would really be applied or could be applied to special video recording like this one under infrared filter (or UV). Anyway, I did it!


To shoot this video though, I had to change the settings for the tripod as well just because I changed the filter, since the filter is a gel filter which is placed at the back of my Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens, and thus I had to re-fold the tripod in such a way to get the camera to the front more to concentrate the view on the windshield as much as possible.
The filter in the second video is Kodak's infrared gel filter with threshold of 1000nm. You might notice how it looks more like a night vision video clip, but it was really shot in morning time. In this video, I've used complete manual settings and I had to make a compromise. The smaller version of the video here might look "clear" somehow and smooth, but the original had a significant noise level apparent while watching, since I was using ISO 4000. I had to reduce the f-number down to f/5.6 or less while fixing the shutter speed to 1/50s. I wanted to shoot at f/8 or f/11 to ensure the depth of field but that was out of question. The shutter speed here is related to the FPS rate which I've picked at 24fps, and according to some rules of thumb from the literature around the internet, the shutter speed should be equal to: 1/(2 x fps). But this point is actually sparking my interest and I want to try slower shutter speeds if possible to see how the video would look! However, probably these rules of thumb in the literature are more confined to normal video shooting and not for such conditions with special filters applied! There are a number of points I've noticed in this video though which I didn't really see in the previous video shot with B+W 092 infrared filter of 650nm threshold:
  • Some trees are bright and some are dark, so I think some plants were reflecting IR indeed and some were absorbing IR, the despite the general lack of sunshine!
  • Some car lights (brakes or signaling) were brighter than they are in reality! While some signaling from some cars didn't show up in the recording at all! I think this is related to the IR issued in each bulb type, maybe?
Away from the noise level which is somewhat annoying for me, I think the results were fascinating actually; to see a real difference in the light levels and light receptions between a video in IR and reality!
In the process, I've realized that whatever color space the camera is set to, the video is in fact recorded in sRGB. When loaded into Photoshop, it will adapt to the default working color space of Photoshop (which I set to ProPhoto) but the rendering of the video would not be "fit" if I can call it so. The colors would be so saturated and working around that is a tedious task (if it can be fixed anyway), and thus working with infrared videos I have the habit now to convert everything to sRGB first. The vivacity of the colors are not pretty much required anyway as much as it is so when working with HDR slides and tone-mapping in regular images, as I usually do!


I'm passing through some weird timing here as I'm slowing down the pace of my work with the camera (excluding the videos). I had to withdraw from the project of April within the group. After getting sick and getting slow recovery (some coughing remain though) my body and mind are not functioning well together. Despite the relative easiness or commonality of the topic for April's project (shadows and reflections), yet my mind could not come up with a good idea to perform or try.
with Ramadhan getting closer, it seems more likely I'm going to sacrifice some days from my leaves balance, and take a leave during the month or most of it after experiencing it last year with summer semester rolling in and record heat struck back then. I'm not ready to experience this at all. I'm not sure that I will be able to travel anyway but I was hoping for to more days in my balance instead of spending some right now. I have to pick the starting and ending dates still which I cannot decide and settle with yet.
I'm feeling detached, and working on detaching myself further in fact. I need to get back to my activity before. I think being a member in a group is slowing me down for the time being. When I see the number of experiments with my camera in the years before and after joining the group, I clearly see that I had more experimental work done before. Not to say they are good pictures, but I used to work, and work... I was in mood to work with my camera, as well as other projects, like my Ayvarith and other conlangs. As I'm reading more books about Arabic phonology and language to get more educated about my own native tongue, I get even more eager to work with conlangs, but yet I have to find the time for them…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, April 6, 2017

V and V…

Sickness had rendered me idle for the past week (still) and other matters kept me busy from writing in this blog. Meanwhile, I'm also trying to find a good topic to write about in my Arabic Blog. Not much had been going on,, except of some trials with vine leaves, and some videos. Yes, videos.


On the same lane as Pearology in the previous post, I was doing some experiments with vine leaves as part of March project with the group. I didn't post these images last time so I think now it is the time. My start, as usual was experimental, as I did not plan anything but I was sure that special filters like IR or UV do have something to offer; after all, foliage is the main target to set white balance (usually) when performing landscape IR shots.

Canon EF 100mm Macro + 092 IR, f/16, 250-1sec, ISO100.

My beginnings were random in fact. It is usually advised to examine the object with a magnifying lens before doing a macro job, but as usual with me I just rush things and "experiment" whatever there is to be offered. My start with Veins was to place a transparent (acrylic) board on top to make it flatter, and then try my best with speedlites to light the sides through the board alone; in other words, no light beams from the speedlites should escape and cross the lens' front. The result was interesting somehow and giving some depth with the play in highlights and shadows, making it look like a surreal landscape pictured from above. I'm aware of the tiny vessels or veins, so I was trying to emphasize these features as I was processing the RAW file. This image, Veins, being an infrared shot, did not undergo any channel swapping techniques to produce the colors seen here, but simply an increase in vibrancy and other factors.

Veins II
Canon EF 100mm Macro + 403 UV + Tiffen Hot Mirror, f/20, 250-1sec, ISO100

Then it was the time for trying out a UV filter (with IR-Cut filter), which in time I've taught myself to be more "graceful" and "accepting" for this combination of filters, as I will explain later. I think the result here was not interesting as much as the one done in IR, and moreover I was perplexed with the noise, as some blue spots made it hard to decide whether these are real noise artifacts or a by-product of using a UV filter!

100% Crop from Veins II. The blue spots cover the surface and it was not easy to remove them as well!

Reading further about UV photography, I've become more accepting to the gear I have, despite the fact that even my lenses do have anti-UV coating, but it seems we can compromise some aspects (like, doing a long exposure in a converted camera?). According to this website, most UV filters do indeed leak IR at some region and using hot mirrors (like I do here) is a must, though various hot mirrors exist and they vary in their blocking capabilities for IR band. Thus, with this little gap of about 50nm in IR region between the 403 UV filter and Tiffen Hot Mirror, it seems something acceptable. The question is though, what or where can I find a good UV source for lighting the scene (for indoors), which is something I'm still researching.
It was a time then I had to leave it like that and forget about it, and then come back to continue to work with the same vine leaf which now became dry. To my surprise, dryness provided more "creativity" than the original wet one!

Vine City
Canon EF 100mm + 092 IR, f/32, 250-1sec, ISO100.

At this level, the minor veins separating the cells on the leaf became more visible, specially after converting the image to B&W. The thing though, my problems with my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens had just began! Despite using f/32 and speedlites to provide much light (which they did), but f/32 seemed not sharp enough. Truth be said, I've totally forgot about the lens testing I've done for this lens long time ago, where the sweet spot in fact lies at f/8. It was time also to change perspective, which also, for a dried leaf, made a good composition after all despite the unexpected shallow depth from this f/32 problem!

Canon EF 100mm + 092 IR, f/32, 2m15s, ISO100.

At this point, when Arousal was shot, I've given up with the speedlites and decided to do it as it is with the available room light, and thus it took such a long exposure for more than 2 minutes. The upper left corner suffers from overexposure and generally speaking, the left side seems to be out of focus. I can't remember, at that moment, whether I was using the acrylic board on the top or not, but further experimenting proved that the lens is misbehaving at f/32, in terms of depth, as well as in measuring the proper exposure required! Whether this behavior is related to using the LiveView or not (though doubt it), or whether it is prevalent only with my converted Canon camera is something still under inspection (which I couldn't do further because of sickness). Anyway, that didn't keep me from going on with my plans and did more shots using my UV and IR-Cut combination…

Veins III
Canon EF 100mm Macro + 403 UV, f/8, 4m16s, ISO100.

This time, I've continued my work with a "fresh" (if I can call it so) vine leaf which was wet when spread over the table. After many shots and trials with and without speedlites, I've decided to go without any speedlite (even better to reduce the IR intake) and to remove the acrylic board from the top. The final UV shot, Veins III, made it in about 4 minutes and 16 seconds; Yep, a long exposure with this filter with a converted camera! After editing the RAW file a bit, I refrained from converting the image to B&W as I guess the bluish hue is more pleasant to the eyes. The final composition was enhanced using the Rabatment of The Rectangle method, making the main vein as a divider. At this point, all my ideas were exhausted and I was having fun with some videos with filters and checking my capabilities to edit them using Photoshop (yep, not Premiere).


The prime goal for me was to, have fun. Yes. I wanted to check the difficulty of recording a video with a heavy filter such as B+W's 403 Black UV in addition to Tiffen's Standard Hot Mirror, and then I continued experimenting further with IR filters. Notice that in the coming videos I had to reduce the size and quality for uploading purposes.


For your sanity's sake, I'd go with this video on silent mode! Here we have the original video made by 403 Black UV filter + Tiffen's hot mirror. The looks are quite similar to an infrared rendering in fact (and for this I'm always suspicious of the validity of such filter!). I had a minor problem first with editing the video and adjusting the colors as needed since I don't have Adobe Premiere, and though I know that Photoshop does open some video files, but I didn't realize at the time that I was actually working with the 64-bit version of CS5 (yeah, that old), which has limited features (Not sure why!); e.g. incapability of duplicating layers when working in HDR, and opening video files. Thus, problem was solved by switching to the regular 32-bit Photoshop CS5 (Extended), and the edit was as easy as working with a single shot! However, the drawback here is that no sound is rendered with the video, either while playing it in Photoshop or after exporting it from Photoshop. Thus, I had to go around this problem with a minor, no need to mention it here.


To adjust the white balance in this instance I referred to an old method which I use sometimes to fix color casts in JPEG images (remembering, editing a video in Photoshop is in terms of layers just as done with regular images). This method uses the Photo Filter adjustment layer and picking a color with the picker from a grey or a white surface (or any foliage form maybe?) and reversing the signs for the A and B channels in the LAB system. Without going deeper into details here, the video right up is the final product of such technique plus swapping the Red and Blue channels just like in singular shots. However, I've tried another method later on.


Without testing my humble B+W 092 Infrared filter, I've decided to jump right away to the extreme: Rokinon 8mm Fisheye lens plus Kodak's gel Infrared filter (with threshold almost equal to 1000nm). This filter is so opaque that with a regular camera and in a sunny day, it might require an exposure of 2 to 5 minutes. I was eager to see a video with such filter and how it would act. In fact, nothing abnormal about it. As it can be seen from the video above, the typical purple/magenta that come with such filters is there, and even after adjusting the colors it would be almost as it is in regular IR shots done with this gel filter.


Here in this video, I've adjusted the white balance using a manual method of "shifting" the histogram (by means of changing the Gamma value) for each channel: R, G, and B; and let them coincide with each other as much as possible. This method, even though manual, but has lot of potential because the range of possibilities is wider. Not to say that the LAB method is limited, but in the LAB white balance fix, we usually aim for something white or grey (mentally). As for the Levels method and changing Gamma value, the histograms for the three channels can meet at any point along the line. The video above looks close to B&W but it's not quite so, as it has a slight cyan tint, but after all this is natural because the threshold is quite high (1000nm); the higher the threshold, the closer to B&W an infrared shot would be.
Now, remains the big hassle which is the fact that any editing, whether using LAB signs reversing, or Levels to adjust the Gamma value, these two work as per a single frame from the video and their effects take all over the video; meaning a single frame would decide how the video should look! Now, I'm not an expert videographer, but probably there is a way to edit a cluster of frames in one video in various ways in Photoshop (pretty sure it is more complicated in other specialized editors like Premiere), but that might take a long time (and it takes long time already when rendering and adding effects to such small videos). Thus, my best bet is to look for a suitable frame and work on that frame to adjust the white balance in either method. I have some ideas running in my head now as I'm typing this but I'll keep those for later! Too bad that I could not find a UV-pass filter in gel format to fit with any of my fisheye lenses (and if there is, we would also need a gel IR hot mirror filter as well). I'll keep searching…


My sickness had gone down a bit for now but the cough surely tire my body off. I got some plans pending right now as well as the work for April's project, which involves working with reflections and shadows. I might get to merge this project with my own investigations about some geometrical shapes (hypercubes specifically).
Meanwhile, I think it is getting serious here and a plan for a travel must be made up ASAP. The idea of visiting Failaka island before getting too hot is also in the atmosphere but I would sure need to book a 1-week leave from work for this trip, beside arrangements before commitment. With the world going crazy it makes me feel a bit down whenever I think of traveling; I don't think I'm ready for the security hustles and bustles. The peace of mind is my main aim for traveling away from this place, not to exchange it with other annoyances. Anyhow, such activities are surely not for this summer, but for after summer, as usual; further away from the tourism season. Till then, I'll keep dreaming…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy