Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pearology…

Standing there at the end of a stress period, trying to have some breath to myself. Yet some more ideas and work is waiting for me to go through and test. Anyway, I've been working in the past weeks on March project, which is about shooting geometric concepts for fruit, fish or birds. I had to neglect some ideas for now, like working with fish skulls as it proved harder to get than I thought! Thus, I've been satisfying myself with pears and feathers so far!

Pear-ing

From the very beginning I was looking for some lines. And since regular lines might seem a bit boring, I've decided to look for curvy lines, and naturally my thought lead me to use pears! I've tried many settings and the start was pretty simple.

Linear Pear
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/16, 100-1sec, ISO100.

It seems in the beginning I was affected a bit with my previous work about tessellations, and fitting parts together. This is exactly what I prepared with 3 pears putting them side to side as in Linear Pear. Using f/16 to ensure enough depth drove consequently to use two 580EXII speedlites at full power. My preferred method in lighting had been mostly bouncing the light, thus I needed a free hand (and to rest my back a bit!), thus I've used the lateral arm over my tripod to hang the camera pointing down directly; this also assured that the camera is perfectly (almost) at 90o down. While putting the camera on timer, I've held a white cardboard over the set to bounce the flash from. I still needed to add some Fill Light when processing the RAW file and did some cropping as well. Can't say though I like it a lot, specially with curves not being, well, curvy! But I've tried.

Left Hand
Canon EF 50mm+B+W 920 IR, f/22,
200-1sec, ISO100.
After the first experiment in a while a bit of philosophy got twirling in, and I was back to the set and with pears again (but I could have used any fruit really). We can say the idea was about casting different opinions than the others, or simply being a left-handed person in a right-handed world. So, I needed to cast shadows in different directions and with a bit of precision. Using speedlites simply like that did not work of course and only two totally different snoots are available with different shapes. It was a time to improvise, and there is indeed an old method that I've tried before, back in time when I was a beginner with speedlites (and had only one). This idea requires: Pringles!
Pringles Snoots!
This is what I call a "light with flavor."
I'm glad that I've created these right now, as I come to think about it, there are a number of uses that might prove beneficial in the near future! The old method I've done this was by cutting the plastic lid to place the flash head, and remove the metallic bottom of the canister. However, I think this method was useless and it would be better to cut open the bottom and the place the head there, while using the plastic cover as a diffuser of some sort. We can add, for example, a white piece of paper to the back of this cover to increase the diffusion, or maybe add a black material or paper with a tiny hole to drastically decrease the radial dispersion of the outgoing light. There is quite a potential for this simple improvised tool, I think. However, I had some problems fitting the 580EXII heads and I had to tear some sides to enable the circular cross area to expand in an oval curvature.
Back now to Left Hand, I've decided to use my converted EOS 7D and my B+W 920 infrared filter to add a bit of mystery and move away from the traditional. The snoots worked fine, despite some gray areas in between the pears but I don't think it is disadvantage. Now, whether this shot is geometric in its means or not, this is something left to the critique to decide.

Zwischen
Canon EF 100mm macro + UV 403 + IR-Cut, f/22, 1sec, ISO100.

Then, there was a visit back to the first idea of using the negative space but by other means. Instead of using 3 pears, I've used 2 only placed side to side within some distance. To add to the atmosphere, I've used UV-pass filter (B+W 403) and adding Tiffen's IR-Cut filter on top (B+W's filter leaks a major band of IR at 700nm), and this of course needed great flash power, and I ended up using all my 3 speedlites, bouncing them off a white board placed on the top of the set. It seems with Zwischen I've become closer to the main idea of creating a negative space but there was something about the direction of the curves that somehow probably made it easily obvious for the viewer to know that there is a space between two objects; regardless of their recognition. It occurred to me that I might as well rotate the image; a common trick I usually tend to use to make an interesting outcome out of a regular/boring image. Quite useful for abstracts.

Zwischen II

It seems, to me at least, that rotating the image is the right choice when this image is to be displayed. I've also swabbed the Red and Blue channels in Zwischen II. Now in between the Red version and the Blue version, there is also a change of moods and feelings when looking at this. I think the Red version sparks with mystery, while the Blue version points to a calm atmosphere. This is my own sensing about it though and I can't generalize these feelings. Adding to that, I've start to develop my own ideology or chain of thoughts and style if I can call it so, but I will put these thoughts down in the Finale.

I moved then to work with feathers for a short while and I have to say it was sort of hard to work with them and create something geometric (despite the fact that they are linear in nature!), but I was aiming for something more than some macro shots like before. It was hard to think of something, but first thing to occur to my mind was order. I tried to arrange the feathers in sets on play-doh but didn't work in a good way, thus I've moved to using paper clips to hold the feathers stems firmly. Moving in between ideas, I've come out with shots, and some of them were discarded for being washed-out and over-exposed, and some few good ones needed great cropping.



Well, I won't go through the details of these shots, but all were taken with change of angles and such (and even after cropping, some image rotation was involved). Now, the critical "shot" was kept till the end. Despite using f/22, there was still some gaps in the depth of field and there was a call for a focus stack. However, I was so lazy to put the rail head, thus I relied on moving the focal plane manually by the lens back and forth.

Green Red

The final result, Green Red, suffered some errors nevertheless. Though might not be quite visible in this smaller version but it definitely is in the original size. The major setback is the fact that there are gaps in the stack and some areas remained blurred after the merge of these 3 shots. There was also a portion of a yellow feather which I was not paying attention to, which made quite a disturbance in the scene in the middle (between first red and second green feathers, from left). Worked it out with Healing Brush and Cloning but it doesn't seem quite right when viewed in the original. Anyway, it was an experiment to gain experience and I don't think this image would be any good for stock sites or for expos. If I get the chance to re-do it, I might do so with a bit of careful picking and placements with those feathers, with respect to their colors.
Finally, I've worked out some shots with maple (or vine?) leaves but I'll keep that for another post, as I didn't process much of these images and I still need to shoot further!

Finale

Coming to this project, March's project that is, I think I'm starting to become more conscious on how to work with ideas. This came to me as I was inspecting Zwischen all over again, and realized that working with negative space (or trying to at least) seems to be an unconscious reflect on a feminine body (pardon a single man's thought). However, if we change or switch the mindset to "conscious" instead of "unconscious" we might happen to arrive at some methodology to work in the future with still life and abstract projects, as in some kind of a translation machine for feelings into objects, and probably not necessarily objects of related topic. Sounds something psychologic in nature, but it is sparking ideas already.
Meanwhile, I'm sitting here waiting for summer with its scorching heat to come over and destroy the peace of mind (momentary peace of mind) that was there. Traveling is indeed a dream with one full year without any travel but I'm not sure yet what will happen within this house, and where I'm supposed to head to. Stress is stacking. All along, I'm keeping my ears amused by the voice of Sabah Fakhri and try to draw inspiration as much as possible from there… I was supposed to work with other projects with conlangs, wasn't I?

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mental Stack…

Finishing with February, and now March begins with the typical pressure and stress for the many activities I must get involved in. Now after the ending of the Italian Style contest, I think it is OK to post my work here. Beside that I've been busy with February's project, as well as working with March's project. Adding to that, a Comic Con expo which we got involved in, and submitting images and orchestrating our participation in Austria's International Photography Contest (Trierenberg Circuit). Just reading these titles makes me feel exhausted already.

Settimana Italiana

I've talked previously about this contest related to the Italian Style Week (or simply Italian Week). Every participant is allowed one image into the contest. I've posted one 3D rendering of a shot some weeks ago in this blog (in B&W) but nothing more I think, so I'm going to post more shots from a single place in which I've worked for this contest: The Scandinavian House. Well, despite the name, it does have Italian furniture!

A Game of Scopa


First comes my participation image. It was the first thing to work on as I got in, and I've spent quite a time to center and put on some props (clothing and Scopa cards), and by mistake, I've placed a traditional rosary (for men) behind the vase which made it mostly invisible from that angle. The image didn't win anyway, probably because that Italian elements are not prominent in it. Anyway, the work is still going on to render more projections out of this panorama, which I might post more of in this blog later on.

Planeta Scopa


Moreover, later after shooting this panorama, I've wandered around to see any opportunities. Just recently, I've discovered a shot that I've made with my converted camera without using any filters, which I've neglected previously for its lack of interest and other technical problems. However, I noticed that I've shot it a number of times and with some shift in perspective, which sparked the idea of creating an anaglyph out of it. Which I did!

Il Vaso (3D)

The white balance here was fixed during the edit which rendered the colors back to normal (almost) as if it was taken with a regular camera. It is a hard task to make a concrete anaglyph using a fisheye lens, thus some ghosting effect is still obvious at some areas, but probably focusing on the edge of the vase or the rosary would pop the effect out.
Another shot was taken raising my Rokinon 8mm fisheye high up above a long table, being on a tripod itself. Took several shots to pick one from and then the shot undergone a distortion fix process with DxO. Not quite to my liking though, but I tried hard to keep some lines straight and the bowl round perfectly but that didn't go well it seems. Yet the shot was too simple and I didn't submit it to the contest of course. It might serve as a concept for minimalism though!

I Biscotti


Then there is the previously posted in 3D shot, which I've re-processed from a single RAW this time. Looking at it right now, I wish that I've shot it with my Canon EF 50mm at f/1.4 or f/2.8 at least to have more of a blurred background. However, I've this shot using Voigtländer 20mm, at its widest aperture at f/3.5. Good perspective and sharpness (even though manually checked), but the background needs more blurring to reduce the distraction away from the glassware. I did crop a large portion from the sides just to reduce the distraction and balance the image more (but not perfectly).

L'Urna


In all, this might be all that have been interesting for me in this place. Now, I'm busy working with other projects still and preparing many other things.

Feabhra

February (Feabhra) was the month of the national days (Independence and Liberation days) on 25th and 26th. For this reason, the project for this month was to be about Kuwait in general. To roll back the memory a bit, our group now had established an activity with this year's beginning, by picking a topic (sometimes by vote) for every month, and members involved in this activity must shoot from 1 to 3 images in that picked up theme.

بلداً آمنا (Safe Place)
Canon EF 50mm, f/2, 250-1sec, ISO160.

Flag of Kuwait
My first trial for this project was with my mother and her colored rosary resembling the flag of Kuwait. I needed an old hand to resemble the old age which, for the time being, is often attached (mentally) to wisdom and faith; beside the fact that the rosary is hers given as a gift! I've taken several shots (and had some struggles with my speedlite). At the end I've picked this shot. In all shots, I was setting the focus point at the Arabic word [آمنا: safe] and as I was changing the angles to see a better view, the word just vanished from sight at times. However, I've struggled to satisfy myself with the depth of field, and finally decided to settle with f/2 here. The critical point though came after, when friends brought my attention to the fact that the rosary is encircling the specific phrase in the page (with a meaning almost the opposite of what I wanted in the line above); which delivers a meaning not what I really wanted in the first place. Anyway, now I've been busy with other things and I have no time to re-shoot this, but if need be, and if required after the critique, I might shoot it again.

Kuwait Print
Canon EF 50mm + ET, f/22, 250-1sec, ISO100.

My next shot was inspired by a logo. A logo which was used for the Martyrs Bureau; an institution which was established after 1990-1991 war to take care of the affairs of martyrs of Kuwait and their families. The logo was composed for a fingerprint sketch colored with the flag's colors. I've used face-painting colors here on my brother's index finger, and though I did a random sketch and splashing, it did seem appropriate to have a more organized set of colors (which he did paint later on). The  real struggle was with the bulky tripod and lens (with extension tubes). To add to my frustration, I've added a rail to the tripod, while pointing the camera 90o down (I wanted my brother to place his finger on a table top so his muscles would be relaxed). I thought of doing a focus-stack in the beginning but shooting at f/22 seemed just about enough (using one speedlite on the side). Even though I do own a simple LED ring light, but when it comes to f/8, its maximum power is barely enough, not to say at f/22! Thus, I needed to use a speedlite with its maximum power or so, at a close distance. Modifiers here were hard to use so I had to depend on changing the direction of the speedlite and play with its power a bit to get a proper exposure (with the help of the processing power for RAWs!). Looking at it now, I think I should have made it in portrait orientation instead.

Kuwait Eye
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 1/2sec, ISO400.

RoundFlash
Source: B&H
The last one in the list was the real puzzle. Using a high power flash made the flag's reflection disappear from the eye, while reducing the power did not help with the exposure (and eventually would need a longer exposure in parts of a second and that caused shake). In the beginning, my brother was my subject, and I used his iPad to reflect the flag from it on the eye, but he couldn't cope for long with the strong flash strikes. Thus, my sister took his place. Using light modifiers didn't help either. It was obvious that I needed to take the shot with ambient light and without using any speedlite but that was hard because of the shake. By trial and error, I've finally got a somewhat better view using the RoundFlash and raising the ISO. It was a compromise, since the reflection of the light ring did fall on the eye as well (naturally) beside the flag. Up till this very moment, I'm thinking about fixing this problem but no solution occurred to me yet. Many people insist that such effect is in fact a graphic editing, but I'm sure there is a way to do it (beside having the subject wear a contact lens with specific design, which is a harder option for me of course). I'll keep thinking about that and we'll see what will be the result!

Finale

Now, many things are weighing on my shoulders; at home, work, and the group. It seems to me that those psychological tricks to do things one by one and not thinking about the overall load - seems these tricks are not working with me here. I'm slowly saying goodbye to winter, which is a sad time for me actually.
Our group is participating in a Comic-Con expo for 3 days and I will be there helping other members for some time, so I might document the event; If I had the mood to. For the time being, I have to keep thinking of some more ideas for March project: Geometry via birds, fishes or fruit. Quite challenging, but I have some ideas already. The real challenge now is actually doing these ideas and having the materials available! I'm trying to keep my mind busy here; as busy as possible. But I'm not sure I would be able to hold that for long…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Retina…

Exhaustive week and actually I could barely find the time to type this blog down. Many activities (and mishaps) are going on and to add to the load, some photos need to be re-done. Anyway, I will try to go through this quickly if I can (and maybe have nap? well...). I was busy before this week with the writing for an Arabic articlefor my Arabic blog, for beginners with some lighting methods and names (specially to Arabize some technical terms). For this reason, I was not able to post any thing here.

Awareness Month

February of every year is named as Awareness Month for Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic disease that I suffer from already (beside an older brother and an older sister). I did one shot last year which took a lot of time from me but the result were not to the level I hoped for, but well, it was something done with gratitude.

Despite
February, 2016.


This year, I've remembered the fact by coincidence (via @rp_hub on Instagram), and decided to do something quickly because I had my load of work to be done already. Since the most significant feature about Retinitis Pigmentosa is the tunnel vision and the loss of peripheral field of vision (slowly to complete blindness in extreme cases), thus I've decided to depict that.
I've used here a small snoot (by impact) made specifically for speedlites. I had to unscrew the back of the snoot and fit my lens there. It was a matter of time to balance the camera, but as the problem prevails here, it was hard to center my eye (working alone as usual). In the beginning I was working with Voigtländer 20mm lens, but it occurred to me that since the lens will inside the snoot already, why not go big with a real fisheye: Rokinon 8mm; which it was.

Peripheral Damage
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/16, 100-1sec, ISO100.


Despite the hard conditions here (everything is dark and light hard to reach inside) but I had to work with f/16. I've used all my speedlites here (3 of them), putting 2 close to my face and one at the back in hope it slips some light inside the snoot. Did many shots and probably this was the best, and I've discovered that the dramatic impact can be improved (and also eliminating some color problems) by simply switching to B&W. At the final stages of processing, I've sharpened the central circle only. The leader of our group liked the idea but he preferred the eye to be at the center, and that's why I need to re-do it!

Rotundum

In a moment of boredom, inspiration seemed to strike me out of nowhere. Now I'm wondering how come I didn't think of it long ago!? The whole thing started with a cup of Turkish coffee on weekend. I've always wanted to take pictures for the inside of the cup, since I've been hooked to this type of coffee. The purpose? Well, cup reading. My silly thoughts lead me even to do a panorama in some way from inside the cup in some way, but with time, the idea died out in my mind. However, with my new mobile phone and its camera, I was ready to play around and got some good results!

Turkish Coffee

I have to say that I didn't expect such result from playing around with Photoshop. Probably, however, that the object (or cup) should be curvy and does not form a perfect cylinder from the outside to have some sufficient details as in Turkish Coffee. Anyway, the method was simply that of changing the the coordinates from polar to rectangular, and that way a circular object would be flattened. Yet, I had to experiment with other circular cross-sections.
This method, now, sparked me mind for more ideas as I'm looking around for circular objects to be shot from the top (and in fact this is not the first time for me to be fascinated by the Circle). On the list I have mugs of various liquids as well as ordinary objects, like a pack of coloring pencils!

Pencilorama

I'm not stopping at this limit though. I've been trying already to see if any QTVRs are possible or could produce some interesting results. The view was surreal...


Peripheral Damage in QTVR.


Source: Amazon
This technique is not something new in fact; it is indeed one of the earliest methods to establish panoramas and fake-planets (fake-planets as in a planet formed from a single image instead of a real stitched panorama). The thing here is about reversing the technique and converting the circle into a rectangular. The original technique involves shooting a mirror ball from various angles to form several images of the place and then converting these circular shots to rectangles. Such technique was discussed with some detail in Christian Bloch's The HDRI Handbook; I have an earlier edition but there had been updates to the book! Even though such technique for panoramas seems to be obsolete by now (not sure) but still such things and techniques are worth learning!

Finale

Now I've been busy with the arrival of Austria's International Photography contest (Trierenberg Circuit) and many things on my table, beside the monthly project. I had some ideas to shoot but unfortunately the time slipped out of my hand and I couldn't submit some of these ideas to the specific sorting meeting for images of members for this contest. Ah well... 
I still have things to be done and some images to be re-made in hope that they will pass the second sorting process. Working alone in this gives me many back pains. I can't wait to have some proper sleep. But seems I won't be having that until I travel out for some time…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Feathers…

Many things are going around lately and kept away from the blog for a week, beside preparing for a post in my other Arabic Blog too. I was going to cancel a post for this week too after a little incident and spraining my right foot, but things seem better now. Anyway, I will try to be quick here (and every time I say this I end up with a long post!).

Eanáir

I've stated before in previous post that there was a stack of projects on my desk (well, virtual desk that is) and I was going through them slowly. One of these projects is related to the month of January (which is Eanáir in Irish) with the group re-establishing this activity: A project for every month. This month's theme was Black and White with no specific limits to the subject to be involved. I previously had some ideas and after stating this theme, I thought I might merge the two together, specially after the lack of materials!

Entwine Series

I had some ideas already as I said, and I was looking already for white feathers, and then changed my mind to black feathers, but well, I couldn't find any. I was looking for the feathers for another project under a workshop entitled Art of Seeing which finished back in December! However, with the arrival of this project for January, I started to merge the two.
Since I couldn't find either black or white, and only colored ones (red, green and yellow), I thought it would be fitting now to shoot in B&W and mimic the black and white feathers! As thoughts were racing through, I made some abstract experimenting with macro shots as seen in Entwine Series above. I've made several shots and filtered them down to 3 only, and then asked for a vote from the group members to see which composition is, to them, feels better. Most of them picked #2 (the middle one), and this is the one which was submitted. I'm keeping the others for various projects as well; I like them still!

I went on working on some ideas and nothing worked out, but I had to move quickly from one to the other for the lack of time I was suffering with! A substitute idea was to throw some feathers on my Omani dagger and capture the moment in high-speed. Unfortunately, didn't turn as I wanted it to be for many factors, like space available and lenses, but I've sorted the shots into final 7, and again, asked the group to vote for one.

Aftermath Series

The vote picked #2 here too. I was hoping to record the motion of the feathers, but working alone didn't make things easier for me even with a 10-second timer. Anyway, I had to satisfy myself with these results after changing from the course of the main idea: A feather penetrating a knife; as I couldn't apply this idea in any possible way I could think of. My goal was impressionistic endeavor of how gentleness could come over sharpness and savagery. Thus, throwing feathers on a dagger merely has a potential for something or some idea. In fact, it was done completely randomly with no specific philosophical idea in mind! Anyway, image #2 was submitted as well.
I got special drilling bits later on, to drill a hole in a knife to apply the idea I was seeking in the first place, but it's too late now with my lack of time and I would, and should, be applying that some time later. However, for the irony, I loved the patterns and luster for those drilling bits, and decided to include it with my submission.

Golden Strips
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/32, 250-1sec, ISO200.

I took many shots at different angles, and had many problems with the flash systems (which I really find a solution for!). I was using 430EXII Speedlite here mainly, reflecting it off a reflector (silver car shade in fact). To my surprise, this speedlite specifically has no inlet for external power source, and thus I had to work solely on batteries, and in time, the power of the flash diminishes: The 1/1 power with full batteries is not as much as 1/1 power when batteries are low. I even made several shots in hope to make a focus stack (f/32 was not enough to include the whole depth of field!) but sorting through the files later on, I realized I didn't do the stacking right; it still needs a rail to do it correctly which was not at hand back then. Anyway, I'm satisfied with Golden strips, which was converted to B&W and tinted with golden hue (#ffd700). Originally, the bits got a slight yellowish tint but reflecting the flash turns them more into silver tint. This is the only shot which was not purely B&W shot but a tinted shot in my submission.

Art of Seeing

This was the title of a workshop that was over with in December and yet we had to work on a submission specific to this workshop. It took me a while to look for the feather as I've said above, and decided to apply cubism as I was urging to apply this concept in my future shots. I think I got just the chance here. Even though I'm not pretty convinced that what I did does enroll itself under the topic of "Art of Seeing," but I got the green light from the leader of the group to keep on going with this. Yet, it has to be judged and critiqued.

Version 1
Cubism in photography is mostly about shooting individual images for the same subject (with or without motion) and merging them together in some way, mostly resembling squares. This is at least what I've seen from examples online. As I shot my series for this project (as seen in Version 1), I tried to include the whole scene as much as possible; with a stack of feathers it's easy to lose track. It does resemble working with a panorama to some extent but my options to work outside Photoshop were limited here and I had to work in Photoshop itself. But first, I had to cut down the slides into squares. Then, fitting them manually and stacking them according to my vision alone.

Version 2
As I finished Version 1 manually, it occurred to me that Photoshop has some useful bundle of commands for panorama making that I could use. I'd love to discuss the results here but I have to conclude the final matter here with Version 2, which was composed using the Reposition option under Auto-Align Layers command. So far, I can say that these two, Version 1 and Version 2, are the ones that I like most. Merging these layers seamlessly doesn't look good at the end, and no need to mention how Photoshop consumes memory already, and with this number of large-size images, it was a hectic process. A question that still going on in my mind is: If any of these were accepted and must be prepared to be exhibited, am I going to print each slide alone and try to combine them physically as they appear in the image file? Or simply print the image as it is? Time would tell I guess.
The idea in the beginning was about killing peace, and that's why I wanted to use white feathers. Even though I always felt that the composition needed something extra. However, I've noticed that the grip of handle of the dagger is already white, so it is better to use black feathers to add contrast, and there came in the change in the original idea: Killing evil (instead of peace); and probably things has to be violent to reach the peace of mind at the end…

Finale

As it can be seen from this blog now, things are more drifting into photography rather than conlangs. Should I abandon my passion for conlangs just now? I'm not quite sure but I hate to think about it even. My life seems racing itself to nowhere. But I'll try to look into that matter later on. The only connection I do have with my beloved Ayvarith right now, is my instagram account (@ayvarith) which I post in weekly. I even managed to add new words to my lexicon.
From the events in this week, it seems I'm losing my grip on the handle slowly and the call for a vacation is even getting stronger. All incidents happening to me last Monday and my foot injury, all caused by a simple show of anger, and over a video game (yes, video game). I didn't play this type of games in a long time, probably since high school, but seems this anger is still roaming inside. I remember how it was when I used to get mad at such games back then and I didn't have this spark of anger for such stuff in a long time, and it's all back now. Makes me wonder if I'm really in need of anger management. But definitely, the thing that would sooth my ailments is, a travel.


Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Scrambled Eggs…

Been some hectic weeks, and somehow the process is still going on. Anyway, it seems I have some problems in focusing in general, as I cannot stand doing a single job without being distracted or, simply, drained. This will be a quick stroll about the latest stuff I've been working on, or will be.

TessellaQaddis


Of course, first, there is my interest in tessellations, which I've stopped running after for a while to do some other chores and projects. In my hunt for new "composites" for creating a tessellating panorama, I've returned back to block #1 as I was working with TessellaQaddis, and this time, it is probably not even quite flowing smoothly at some edges. However, I've made some thoughts and still flipping ideas in my mind to see if I can get back at it later.
One of the projects that were in my mind for a long time was a peeling effect for a human subject (no worries; no blood or violence involved!). I've finally got the chance to work with my brother about this idea, though it might be just a first trial and we might do it again later, but not sure about this possibility.

Peeling Bro

A great deal of cloning was involved here; I guess caused by the vertical movement of his body as he rotated. The rotation was clumsy if I can call it so, since no concrete method for measuring angles were used except the convention of using the big toe as a scale: two steps of a toe at a time is somewhat visually equals to about 30° or so. The hair was a big problem too; his was so rigid and random! I've done a mistake here to forget about the top shot (for the top of the head) and the chin shot (from below that is) which could be done easily by reclining the head back and forth, but I've forgot about that completely (since I'm more used to do simple horizontal rotations). Thinking about it now, I wonder how would I be able to fit these two shots into the composition. There might not be a big deal for the top of the head somehow, but as for the chin shot from below, that would definitely be a hard task. I'll leave it at that and see if I can get the chance to do this experiment again... with a better hair!
Another project which I was so proud to do was colorizing an old photo. I've seen lot of B&W images online which have been colorized, and mostly WWI and WWII images. After asking around, it seemed that colorizing was indeed a manual task most of the time! There might be some hidden technique out there using the original B&W slides to produce colored images but I'm not sure of such possibilities. Anyway, I set out to do my own project in this, using an old photo for Dad…

Dad
Left: Original, Right: Colored Version.

I think Dad had this shot done in his 30s and probably out of Kuwait, judging from the suit. Everything here is hypothetical, i.e. I made up the colors, except for the skin tone which I've tried to mimic to the best of my memory about Dad. There were some tiny "glitches" in some areas but probably not so obvious for the first glance until one would go on a thorough inspection, with the original size. These glitches are mainly caused by the fact that I was using Gaussian Blur over Layer Masks to smooth out the edges; otherwise, the image would look rigid and not natural with hard edges between areas of different colors. Here, I had to paint the white shirt even despite being white already, but my white was a bit gray-ish as I thought it is more realistic in looks. Same thing was done to the hair in black, but a "lighter" black instead of completely pure black. After adding a color to a specific area, it must be blended with the original photo. I didn't quite make a specific formula for blending and I've actually used many blends, from overlay to soft light and even multiply and hard light at times. It all depends on the final look to be achieved. For this reason, I had to make sure to convert the scanned image to a pure B&W, otherwise there would be problems in blending colors when there is a tint overall the image. This image was yellowish a bit (but far from being in sepia). Now, this is something I would love to do for some of the major pictures I have scanned from the family collection. But this work needs patience and also information about some details. I'll look after that later on.

On the other hand, there were some urgent matters that I had to stop everything and try to get along with, like the Italian Style contest which came contemporary to the Italian Week here in Kuwait. Our group is taking this seriously and a conference was held with the Italian ambassador, HE Giuseppe Scognamiglio, to explain related issues with this contest. The good thing here is, no models or human figures are allowed into the picture. A relief!



HE Giuseppe Scognamiglio and Mr Bahaadeen Al-Qazwini, leader and founder of BPF Group, during the Italian Style contest conference.

The leader of the group held two workshops to assist the participants if they like to. Personally, I attended only the first workshop which was held in The Scandinavian House, a furniture store belonging to Al-Khonaini Group (Instagram: @domus_scandinavia). The place has two exhibitions: one for office furniture mainly, and the other one for regular house furniture. As the office furniture section was all Italian, unlike the other, I hooked myself with this section alone. My main aim was a panorama in fact but since I'm advised not to post my participation image in the contest until the contest is over (February 27th), thus I won't be posting this now. Instead, I had some trials after doing the panorama there.

3D Urn

One of the ideas that occurred to me is this urn or big glass (whatever they call it) you see above. However, after insepcting closely, I realized that my idea is not clear; the contest required a merge of Italian goods, with Kuwaiti sense. My idea was kind of far from that concept. Thus, I decided to have fun on my own terms. I shot plain shots for this urn then found myself doing a 3D procedure on shooting and the result is seen above. In fact, I had to work it all together using HDR technique, but seems there are good slides with strong highlights that I might work on later as single images. All in all, the colors in the image are too distracting as it seems (and as I tested it with friends in the group) and the 3D effect does not show clearly. Thus, I had to make a B&W version of the image (going through the process again), and then it became a bit better when observed using the typical Red-Cyan Anaglyph (3D) glasses.

3D Urn B&W

There had been other shots for other sets but probably this (beside the panorama I've done and not shown here) are the best so far. I'm still inspecting though.
Now, even though there is a plenty of time to the end of this contest, I have to say I'm done with it and I've uploaded my participation (sent by email that is) already. I have so much burden of projects on my shoulders which need to be attended and no more time to waste!

Finale

Things are piling up and I'm feeling drained here. Is it my sleeping pattern? I don't know, though I don't think this is the reason. Something is making me lose my appetite to hold the camera and work.
I have to finish some projects urgently before the end of the month. I'm trying to be optimistic here and say that I will be posting some of my results by next week, but I think it's early to say that with my mood swings. I hate when this happens, specially in times like these when I'm overwhelmed with projects. I even forgot totally about my older passion: conlangs.
The need for a vacation is really, really, giving me more stress when it crosses my mind. I can't stop thinking about it but it is a need rather than a luxury. The noise and the troubles and problems in this house are just too much to my already-defused mind. But where to? Is it affordable? All of this and other matters are simply behind a curtain for the time being, and I hate to look behind it…





Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Tessella…

Happy (belated) new year. I really needed this holiday. Spent it mostly sleeping (on and off though) and almost doing nothing except of some trials. I was supposed to work with my camera for some project assigned to me, but I couldn't help it. I needed to sleep as much as I can.
On my list there were games, more games, and tessellations. Anyway, I didn't want to play all the games at once, so I kept some for the coming weekend!

Tessella

I've been following with the steps of Escher so far and trying to get as much as I can of inspiration out of his works. That, again, lead me to delve a bit into mathematics and geometry. After reading and even watching videos about tessellations, I've realized that I can easy do it with shapes (specifically random ones), but my case here is special: I'm working panoramas which I need to make seamless and flowing with fluency. For this, the typical methods for creating tessellations do not exactly work here.

Failed attempt with Kylemore Abbey panorama (2014).

A perfect tessellation is one that contain no gaps, supposedly, unlike the example above. I've spent some time strolling through many mathematics and videos trying to find some ground to start from, and somehow something appeared to me and I've finally made my first successful tessellation.

Tessellamore

If you go through Tessellamore (click to enlarge), you would find that sides and edges are flowing with each other as one image complete the other making one continuous pattern. This is one composition found, and I'm still experimenting with more composition or shapes for panorama slices to make other patterns, if possible! If nothing works, I might use the same method to merge other panoramas done before, specifically those from Oman and Malta.
Beside tessellation, there is also the matter of Impossible Objects and 4D Cubes or Hypercubes (a.k.a. Tesseracts). They are somewhat on the side for the time being as I look deeper into the matter of panorama tessellations, but nevertheless, I encounter them now and then (almost in the same manner and shapes). However, there was one impossible object which I intentionally worked out.

Impossible in Progress

The cube is made of slices from a panorama for the inside of Jabreen fort and castle (Bahla, Oman). There are some ideas to apply more tricks of that sort later on, specially forming a stack of cubes or sliding cube faces through each other. All that should be on hold for now!

Finale

So much had been going on specifically just before the year's end, and it is going on still. Winter is not as quiet as I hoped for it to be, but well, at least I'm not melting in Summer's stinking weather. But my urge for naps and sleep is growing by day.
My schedule is pressed in time right now. Workshops, meetings, discussions, and more work with my camera supposedly. What bothers me the most is the little daily stuff that just blacken my heart and sweep me away from really working on my own ideas and projects. Going to work everyday can be considered one of those. I'll just keep wishing for some quiet times in the coming weeks, and pamper myself with some classics…



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Painterly…

Winter is getting colder, that sort of thing I would call good news! Meanwhile, I'm trying to get involved more into my thoughts and myself, and my experiments; as it seems the only thing I'm good at currently, with the lack of go-outs to snap some pictures, or even working indoors. I guess I can say I'm investing more time into my thoughts rather than my work with the camera. In hope these thoughts will deliver me somewhere.

Escherism

Well, I've been interested in the art of this man long time before I even adapt myself to photography. I've been reading about him recently to see if I can get any clue to get me further with my experiments with the camera, and I was somewhat happy to see that he got his biggest spark of inspiration from the tessellations of the Moorish architecture in Spain. The aspect of tessellations is something I'm considering, specially after some experiments with some of my panoramas.

Which way did they go?

Probably my first successful trial with this trend of surrealism (which I like to call Escherism) was with a panorama from Aughnanure Castle, specifically from inside the small tower; a panorama done in my 2014 visit. Since a panorama is a merge of several images, what about merging several panoramas? Does that it make it a hyperpanorama? Anyway, I had this idea for a long time and my aim was actually to expand on the edges of a regular spherical (equirectangular) panorama, because these edges (zenith and nadir specifically) are usually compressed and so distorted. Thus, my trial was to expand on these edges and fix this distortion to have a normal view WITH a equirectangular panorama of 360x180 view.

Surreal Jabreen


In the beginning, merging was hard to do, since PTGui nor Photoshop were useful in this kind of process. Thus, things had to be done manually. Since it would be a manual work, I had to program myself and my workflow, and in return I've generated a workflow in forming these panorama of various projections. So far, only the spherical (equirectangular) projection is adequate for such a process, but I'm trying to experiment more. I've done experiments already in the field of Mercator projection, which was a lengthy process and a hard task while the end result was quite a shock! But well, some people liked it after all (on instagram); seems surrealism got an audience far more than I thought it would.

Let's talk Dadaism.
Using Mercator projection. The whole scene rendered incomprehensible it seems.


On the list of projection styles is, of course, the planet projection and maybe the circular. Not expecting much out of those, since the distortion is high, but it might be a plausible surreal work. Doing a single surreal work like this would require stitching 7 to 25 panoramas! Thus, my work so far is on a small scale (not exceeding 2000 pixels wide under best conditions), and all are in JPEG format; nothing in HDR like I usually like to do with my regular panoramas. However, for some technical issues, I might have to stitch small HDR slides and tone-map all the set with the same settings before working on merging them in Photoshop.

Methodology

I'll explain here the method (or some of it) which I've used to generate the images above. As I've stated above, I needed from 7 up to 25 panoramas, but I believe 7 is quite enough. To organize my thoughts on the order of the images, I've assigned coordinated points to each panorama and literally name each to its position (using the Cartesian system, i.e. X and Y) in relation to the center (0,0) point, and typically this point is given to the zenith (i.e. the panorama is centered around the zenith point, with 90 as a pitch value). Of course this is just my reference point; any point of view of the panorama could be used as a (0,0) point.

Imaginary points for organizing and setting order to stitched
panorama of different pitches and yaws.


With assigning that point and forward, the yaw value defines the "X" value, while the pitch defines the "Y" value. Of course these values are in degrees, and I thought that the value of 45° is just suitable for the rotations in pitch direction (i.e. vertical or "Y" values). This means, each 45° is a single unit. For example: starting from the (0,0) view (and after stitching the panorama at this view point), raising the pitch to 45°, that means arriving at (0,1), while raising it for another 45°, or going directly from pitch "0" to "90°" right away, thus the point would be (0,2); while doing in the negative direction, like -45° means going down to (0,-1) and so on. Same concept is applied to the yaw value but with the yaw it is the "X" axis which changes: going 45° in yaw would be (1,0), while -45° in yaw is (-1,0).
It is important to track the process and always turn back to the (0,0) point after few changes in yaw or pitch. I've made many wrong stitches at the wrong angles. This is one reason that I prefer to assign the (0,0) or center point to the zenith view since it is easier to recognize. Also, I started saving the stitched panorama with names reflecting their positions on the grid accordingly. Working with few panoramas right now, it seems that not all points are really required; mostly 15 stitched panoramas would be needed, from (X:-2,0,2) and (Y:-2,-1,0,1,2) mostly. Working with other projections, however, would require more, like in Let's Talk Dadaism above, which was rendered with Mercator projection, yet the scene is not pretty clear because of the distortion. Some people liked it that way though!
I've stated before that I blend these panoramas manually, but in fact it's semi-manual process, where I have to place the slides manually and overlap them over each other at specific points, and then use Photoshop's Auto-Blend Layer... command with Panorama and Seamless options on. Thus, the blending process is sort of random but turns fine with panoramas being in spherical projection (since distortion is far less than in other styles).

Kubismus

Been awhile now for me being interested in some of the artistic movements of the past (and which still exist and followed I presume). One of these movements is Cubism without doubt. It is considered one of the cornerstones of arts in the 20th century. I loved the idea and wanted to investigate how that is applicable (if it is) to photography. To my surprise, I've figured that one of the ideas I had in mind (but didn't achieve yet) was actually one form of cubism, namely shooting several shots of the same object at slightly different angles or distances and making a collage of them; some photographers did that already even back on film days! Well, maybe not new idea, but I was still going to try it when I get the time (and subject) to.

Cubic Selfie
Up until finding the good subject and the time, I've decided to edit and retouch some photos for a trial into cubism. I guess my favorite target was my selfie from 2015 (an infrared shot with a regular camera). The process was simple: open the image, copy the image into another window (or file) and make it small, then copy specific details from the large image onto the small image, with some addition of some details later (like shadows). Some people stated that it looks 3D-ish, and this is an important remark, because sometimes, all you need is just add a shadow to your work and you are at the steps of a 3D image!
Generally speaking, cubism is supposed to be about "neglecting" the perspective and considerations for light and shadow and simply capturing the essence of the subject, thus adding a shadow here does not "go under" the umbrella of cubism I suppose! But maybe things are different when it comes to photography and the way that a camera work; hope that point would plead to forgive my shadow addition when editing this.

Cubic Corrib

Things evolved a bit later, specially after discovering a set of photos from my 2009 visit to Ireland (my first) where I've shot several photos at different zooming levels for the lake and the boat. Thus, I've started taking details from the other images and paste them onto the first photo (with least zoom level). In addition, I've started adding more effects to the squares (cubes) like bevel effect, trying to approach some good level of a cube-like shape. Significant details here were scarce somehow, thus I had to tear down the basic image further into few squares to fill empty spaces. To me, Cubic Corrib is still not as much interesting as Cubic Selfie despite the effects put into it.


Cubic Pjazza

It is natural of course to think of panoramas and the cubic art, but instead of following the usual steps with the other regular shots, I've sliced panoramas and fit them into a cube (while making front layers transparent). The Cubic Pjazza cube was just an experiment. The main problem is not being able to show the inside or the back of the cube and lowering the opacity (by 50%) of the front layers (mainly front, right, and top layers) seems not quite a plausible solution since much details are somewhat lost. The next step was, of course, a hypercube!

Kylemore Tesseract

Again, we have a problem of opacity and unclear details, but further more there is a significant problem of filling the space between the two cubes (which are supposed to be planes connecting the two cubes, hence raising the dimension level). In Kylemore Tesseract not all the space is filled, but only the vertical planes connecting the corners of the inner and outer cubes. To add, I'm not sure how (or rather with what) to connect these 2 cubes: what kind of slides I should use? This thing is still in experimenting phase, but I do really think of making the experiment physical somehow by printing or creating models out of these panoramas (in slides), and try to put them together.
A funny coincidence occurred as I was working with these hypercube experiments, which seems to me that I've created my first Impossible Object!

Optika

It occurred to me as I was assembling a cube made out a panorama shot in Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman, in October last year. The bluish tint in Optika is generally caused by a shift in the color space but I kept it without fixing. Creating this by coincidence makes me consider photographic opportunities in the future. Not only that, but also considering other shapes and trends, like triangles and their properties, and, of course, circles as well.

Finale

It seems my brain is chasing its tail right now, specially with me dipping myself into math by the nose. Deep inside, the need for a vacation is increasing even further. All this indulgence in arts and math seems to be nothing but a trial to neglect myself and whatever tires my mind. In hope of creating something beautiful, though.
There are more ideas and even more sources of inspiration (from Sabah Fakhri as usual and even others - mainly Arabic songs and singers). I don't want to give excuses to myself, but having a quiet home and a good space to work in are now pretty much essential parts of having an easy flow of thoughts and work, yet, I'm lacking these two aspects which makes me reluctant and must think about every movement I do to move my camera gear here and there, beside the accessories. I guess I have to seriously start noting down any ideas that pass my mind, otherwise I will be at loss. Many of these ideas would require having a model as I can't (or rather it's advisable not to) be the model myself and the photographer in the same time. And of course, more props and accessories needed.
My next step in this life, so far, is to take each day as it is and suppressing, hard, my panic attacks and the fear for tomorrow. For in God I trust…


Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy