Thursday, May 24, 2018

Go Mall…

Ramadhan is in and the usual sleeping problems are back as well. I can't wait to start my vacation starting from the 10th day.  That's when the summer course would start around my workplace and things would get ugly as usual. I really don't understand how the mentalities around here work and what's their idea about "planning" but apparently they need a major brain surgery to fix that, and I'm almost hopeless about that too.

Thanks to Borderlinx and DHL, now the shipment that I was hoping to get before Ramadhan is definitely to be here after Ramadhan and who knows, I might not be able to get it even. Up till the time of typing this, no sign of my shipment which I'm supposed to get back into my Borderlinx box to be delivered in some other way other than DHL. Because of the dispute between the two, probably thousands of customers ran into havoc. I have to say, though, that prior to this order I was really thinking of shifting my interests into other stores around the globe rather than confine myself into US stores, for camera gear specifically. Anyway, I had to do this bit of shopping after some incident and a lengthy story; No need to bring it on here. However, let's see some of these delayed "joys."

Source: Amazon
I'm starting off here with 2 books, and the first one of them is not related to photography. Something related to two sectors I like: Archaeology and Linguistics. I'm not sure what will I find in this book (I didn't check the sample pages thoroughly), but despite my eagerness, I might have to put it aside for a while after its arrival because I do have some books on my stack of reading list, which were purchased 2 years ago from the Arabic Book Fair! *sigh* They are just some thick books…
Source: Amazon
The second one in this order is an interesting book (of course, otherwise I wouldn't order it, right?). It's about infrared portraiture, even though I'm not that interested in portraiture in the first place. However, since I'm inclined to the weird and strange or whatever is surreal in the world of photography, the topic of infrared portraiture seems plausible and I did it often (in the form of selfies, and a bit within my Scopa project which I've stopped). I'm guessing that the bulk of this book would be focusing on film, but we'll see when it comes (again, I didn't check the sample pages thoroughly).
Source:Amazon
The third item in the list was something that got me by surprise in fact. A set of 4 infrared filters (each with different threshold), just for $29.99? Too good to be true! I'm still not sure how to feel about this in fact; I do have a feeling that it is a low quality, but yet I'm willing to try them out when I get them. One of these filters is supposedly at a threshold of 920nm! Previously, I thought that my Kodak infrared gel filter has a threshold of 1000nm, but I was completely wrong (in fact 1000nm is the maximum a camera sensor can "see"). It is rather around 850nm, or what is usually dubbed as Wratten 87B. This threshold is suitable for what they call X-Ray Infrared (not a real x-ray but just a mocking term). Thus, I just can't imagine that I'm getting a 920nm threshold of a filter! How would the photos taken with this be like? Might be time to indulge my 20mm Voigtländer lens in some panorama work, in the future.
These are the main items which were ordered and which, unfortunately, cannot have them any time soon because of the postal problems. My hopes now are set to wish for the shipment not to be lost, as I didn't get any notifications till typing these words about the items being returned back to my box to be shipped to me by other means. Fingers crossed.

Working Re-Working

Meanwhile, as my plans are put to hold (at least till I start my vacation during Ramadhan) I spend my time checking my old photos and trying to come up with new solutions, specifically to those which I've forgotten or neglected for one reason or another. My main aid in this inspection is the LAB technique which I've been applying a lot lately (despite the troublesome aftermath to be cleared out later on). I have to say that I was surprised by some images like if they are new to me when cropped and edited all over again. I think that proves that the status of our mentality in time does affect our "vision" or how we see things and the world around us.

مدائن (towns)
One of these photos is [مدائن] (towns/cities); A photo I've shot back in 2013 when I first got my ever first infrared filter and I didn't know much about the technical aspects for this filter or this art in general. The dark and gloomy atmosphere was apparent at the moment I've fixed the colors (the typical blue tint was not quite visible after fixing the white balance). It really inspired me to write some poetry in Arabic but I didn't complete this task because of my, well, disturbed mind already.
I've intentionally sharpened a portion of the photo and keeping the rest soft to attract more attention and focus. With my calibrated monitor, the image should look dark with reasonable details (I edit while focusing on the histogram). However, as I noticed, on other devices the blacks can look brighter and even further noise artifacts would appear more prevalent (specifically at the bottom portions where rocks lie). This is why it's important to work with a calibrated monitor; Without any calibration, and with such levels of blacks, this photo would definitely be erratically printed! I can already see how it shows on my tablet and I'm not much impressed.

Sometimes digging out for old photos comes up with a bunch of ideas, creating anaglyphs is one of them, but what interests me more is the surreal chances, and that comes typically from trying to achieve the "mutli-exposure" look with some of my continuous/burst photos.

Surreale Tänzer

Doing those multi-exposures AFTER the shoot and even without a preparation beforehand makes it a difficult task somehow as to achieve the proper look which is typically assumed for multi-exposure images. Anyway, in Surreale Tänzer, I tried my best to merge a set of photos shot back in 2013 in more of a normal way (as I did once), keeping the colors as original as possible while showing a hint of movement. However, this didn't happen with Blending options. Thus, I tried another method, which was the focus stack blending in Photoshop. I tried this method before with some old images, and it did produce the same color spectrum as in Surreale Tänzer. There was some surplus of course which needed to be cropped out. I think I need to focus on this trend and look deeper into my old files, specially those from 2011 and 2012, which for me, were the very active years with my Canon EOS 7D.

Disturbed
Not only multi-exposure is part of my interests, but also some of those blurred images which, previously, proved useless somehow! As in Disturbed. I really don't know why I neglected this image from 2013, but the motion blur because of the wind during this relatively long exposure (13s) got my attention. I have to say that some of the images I've gone through this far did incite me to add some blur to them; Motion blur that is and not lens blur. Yet, I'm not sure it did look realistic for some of those images so I just ignored the idea for the time being. With Disturbed, the RAW was processed as any infrared shot would be processed (when the shot was taken I didn't know any of such processes). Generally speaking, I like it and it does give a sense of mystery to me but I'm not sure about the colors. Sometimes, I do wish I made it into B&W (which I might do after a while).

Finale

It is just the first week of Ramadhan and I'm really, really, wishing for my vacation to come by next week. I thought it would pass quickly but I was wrong. Chores, and bad time management and bad sleeping (more than before), all that combined made me wish if I just signed the whole month of Ramadhan as a leave! 
I'm living a somewhat strange transition, between hope and despair. Looking forward to life, and yet despising it. I'm not sure what is going on inside my head, but one thing for sure: I'm tired. Mentally, that is. I think lot of values need to be checked up and re-evaluated.

Ours,
till the end of time,
and beyond that.



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Micro Job…

Well they had been some easy-going weeks, relatively, but with me back to work there is also the lack of time and energy (typical) to do some of the chores or projects I set to myself. But after winning a gold medal, I think I need to get some rest, yeah?
Well, my rest is not a real rest here though, with many other chores I need to do. First things first, I had to print my winning panorama as a gift for an old friend, whose uncle is actually the deceased Kuwaiti Icon, AbdulHusain AbdulRidha; for whom the whole thing was done after his death as a tribute.


The image here (without the external margins outside the black border) was about 175x79cm, and that's way greater than A0; The largest size in the A-series of ISO 216 standard (the typical standard of papers here). Thus, my typical go-to printing shop was not an option since they don't print larger than A0. I had to go to the main branch of that printing shop (and I was surprised that it's now owned by another company in fact). Anyway, it took them some time to print it (which triggered a headache for the lack of sleep). I tried my best to keep this file at its best of clarity and resolution, so no wonder the file size was a monster! An almost 1GB 16-bit TIFF at 300 DPI! Such a gigantic file caused their system to crash (according to one of the workers there) and they had to re-open it on some other system and try again. Makes me wonder, really, how come they can deal with this file as I do while their PCs or Macs or whatever were connected to those big large format printers (dedicated to posters and other types of prints)?
I've chosen canvas as my medium here. Their canvas material had a finer and smoother texture than the one I usually print on and in fact, in some sense to the touch, it does feel like if the canvas had been already glossed. I didn't bother to apply any varnish on the print with this relatively-new material to me; I was afraid that it would ruin the looks and it's really not a good time for this! Thus, I went along and just wrote my dedications on the margins (after shooting the video above).

The Other-Wise

On the other hand, I've not done even a little with my camera, but still doing experiments on and off with my microscope. My shaky, microscope. There is a great hope here. First of all, I'm not afraid to use the 40X objective anymore (unless the beauty of the details calls for a lesser magnification). Then, it seems that I've somehow managed to have even a better position when shooting the eyepiece with even greater magnification (all by coincidence), but further investigation is needed here since I'm still unsure of how to calculate the magnification in that position. I'm aiming on achieving something beyond 1000X magnification; And somewhat I think I've done it (if my calculations are correct).

Aspergillus
~ 1280X

I was blessed with a friend who works in the biological field and offered me to prepare a sample of a fungus. He also toured me through some of the microscopes where he works and I was really impressed (though my eyes was problematic to view some samples through the stereoscopic eyepieces). Now for the image above, the magnification should be around 1280X (40X objective, 10X eyepiece, 3.2X reversed 20mm lens on camera). The original sample was blue as, according to my friend, the sample has to be stained to be recognizable in a good way. However, after the merge of 4 to 6 shots, I've corrected the colors (using the 3-point correction on Curve in Photoshop). The image is also, in fact, a third trial after 2 failed attempts. In one of these attempts I was trying to shoot using my Sigma 12-24mm in reverse! With that lens at 12mm in reverse, I could have achieved around 3300X theoretically! However, the images were quite unclear and I definitely need a more stable environment with a brighter light source.
The second attempt, also a fail, was using the 20mm lens in reverse and, by coincidence, discovering that I do not need to get so close to the eye piece to take pictures of it (only if I want the image to dominate and remove the black border of the eyepiece). Somehow, the concept is like a projector and a screen: the further away you put the projector from the screen, the larger would the image be; Only thing left is to re-focus the image. The only thing, though, I wouldn't know exactly what the magnification power would be with a distance between the eyepiece and the camera! But sure thing it would be something greater than what would be calculated usually. What is left now is, to do some infrared work as well to see if there is anything special about it.
With the help of my friend, we've taken some shots using my smartphone at high resolution, and from both eyepieces of the microscopes in order to merge them later (hopefully) into an anaglyph if possible. These shots were taken at 400X and I might post them in the future. When I compared some shots from the mobile and the image I've done above, it is apparent that the shallow depth of field exists even in such good microscopes (the details of the granules were not clear) and it's not very different from my own very old microscope - and I thought such a problem would have been solved already - So, I guess, there is a call for photo stacking EVEN when using an advanced microscope!

Trying to measure the width of the hypha (if this is what they call it), at about 2475X.


Shy Green

There is one poem which I've written few weeks back but I didn't post about on here. Since then, though, my mind got blocked with many events, chores, and responsibilities which I need to attend to. Words come and go, but I don't even have the time to push further. Anyway, I called this poem Shy Green after getting inspired by a photograph I've shot in Cahir, Co. Tipperary, back in 2010 - My second visit to Ireland.

Stormy seas, by the winding fear,
calmly standing in a shy green,
My heart in hope to set a clear,
gazing about a peaceful scene.
Miracles happen so it's seen,
but none to a beauty I know,
tranquil, alone, battling off the snow.

My sighs, that which all I could give,
a tear, a caress, or a thought,
But would my gentle one just forgive,
a wretch like me, happy in distraught?
By this grand asylum, I'm caught,
and the blooming shy abounds me,
when all that I dreamt of, not to be.

Charming in loneliness set,
what a rose had an ill such luck?
Take my palm and never get wet,
and thy green, may never get a pluck.
Thus, when the nightmares are struck,
my heart shall keep you by finesse
then on that headstone, chant me a bless.

Shy Green
In this poem, I've used a rhyming theme which I've never worked with before or heard of (probably challenging myself?) with the help of Verse Perfect. The form was called Rime Royal and goes: a,b,a,b,b,c,c. An odd number of lines is required, so it is kind of challenging to connect ideas that way, somehow. 
There had been many instances of inspiration in the past weeks, either from events or photographs which I've shot and edited myself, yet there was a lack of something that kept away from typing few words down. Not sure what it is, but maybe... motivation? praise? desire? I'm not sure really. Let's hope this blockade shutters off my mind soon. I need to write…

Finale


The past 2 weeks were quick and slow at the same time somehow. It's a weird feeling. Ramadhan is drawing near and I do feel the sleepless and tiresome nights already before its coming. I've signed for a leave already, but still I will attend to work for the first 10 days of Ramadhan. Traffic jams now are unbearable because of the stupid time management we have in this country where and when people all must go out of work at the same, making Ramadhan itself as worse in jams than regular days despite the shorter working hours during this month. I'm typing this with a sigh. Hopefully though, I will be able to work more with my camera and do something useful more than what I usually do in these regular days. Let's hope.
The whole story about the microscope and the works of the microscope made me think of seriously getting a more "advanced" one (since my friend been nagging on my head actually) but the idea was actually abandoned quickly; or was it? One thing for sure, I can't get this right now as I'm mingling with budget issues and other priorities. My friend's view was quite "profit-wise" as he looks chanced to get more money in any way possible. That's not me really. I still consider it a hobby and something that ignites that long lost childish curiosity in me. I did have my dreams about having a telescope and connect it to the camera as well, and this is such an old ambition which I'm not considering right now as well. 
As for the time being, as you can see, I'm still editing my old photos from time to time with some focus on weird crops and ratios to bring the attention of the viewer. Even lately, this activity has come to a perigee because of the other chores I need to do (including typing this blog which takes some time to do). On the other hand, I'm waiting for a new shipment of books and something that I think it is too good to be true but I can't judge till I see it with my own eyes (and test) - I'll talk about these books and "things" later in the future. Now... where did I put that pillow and blanket…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ór!

I did it! Came to me as a surprise really (and not expected) but it was done! A gold medal in Trierenberg Circuit (Austria's international photography contest) for my panorama from the theater of AbdulHussain AbdulRidha which was done back in 2017.


The thing got me by surprise for real and I'm fluctuating in feelings between happy, and indifferent. Naturally I'd be happy of course, but also indifferent because I didn't expect anything in return - my sole purpose for uploading this panorama to the contest in the first place was to show others our culture and what this great man means to us. Having my name in the beginning of the list also makes me hyper a bit! Anyway, check the end of this post (the Finale section) to see the winning panorama (which I've called "The Smile Giver" previously) embedded from 360Cities for more interactive viewing. Now, let's move on!

 Switch On

It was awesome to have a one-week vacation connected to 2 weekends, so totaling 9 days. But... Still in need of more. It is one of the strangest things, for me at least, that just when I had a vacation to have some rest (and sleeping without setting the alarm before I go to bed), I did indeed get more active (with the camera and in writing). If I had the chance to make it longer, I would. Probably I would be finishing lot of those "projects" which were hanging on my back (and still) without being touched!

One of the things that I've started in this short vacation is going back to my very old microscope and trying something a bit different from all the samples I've done before: an ant. In this trial, I've actually focused on the head, and the eyes specifically. Even though every part of this little insect is interesting for me, but I just focused on this part for the time being, and probably I might go back to this sample to discover other parts. But for the time being, let's just focus on this part; The head.

Ant Head (IR)
~ 138X
Right away, my first trial was shooting with infrared and with reversed lens technique (as I used to do). It took about 172 shots and when processed and combined, the final image didn't appear so clear actually, and I needed to put those tags on it just to let people identify the parts of the head. Notice that the mandibles are clutching to some grain.
Doing infrared here was somehow risky, because I needed to light a powerful tungsten bulb (150W) beside the microscope (literally sticking to the microscope's side) to provide me with a good infrared flux. My two 13W LEDs bulbs failed me and apparently not a good source for IR, obviously! The heat was enormous that I really was scared that the black paper covering (which I use to block stray light away from the camera lens) would catch fire. Things went safely though, yet the results as you can see above, were not good. In the image above, I've used 4X objective to keep the details of the head and the eyes visible in the scene; Otherwise, it would be hard to distinguish those features.

Ant Head
~ 136X
I can say, though, that my second trial (which was not in infrared) was successful. In my second trial here, I've changed the settings which I usually use to shoot, and instead of using the typical lens reversing technique, I've just used extension tubes (full set) in close proximity to the eyepiece. The eyepiece itself was tilted and not completely vertical as usual. This kind of setting kind of put me on ease, because the camera is not dangling vertically above the eyepiece which makes it easier for me to control (still some hardships in positioning is involved though). Here though, unlike my previous infrared attempt, I've used the 10X objective, and the total magnification power (if my calculations are correct) should be around 136X. Ironically, the work for this "normal" shoot took around 72 images (or maybe 90 I can't remember!); Way under 172 images! Yet, the composition is clear (made clear further with post-processing of course) and strangely, the microscope's own dirt or impurities which I couldn't clean off before (and show up in every shoot) didn't show up much in this slide specifically. Worth noting here that when viewed on a larger size, the details can be somewhat ambiguous to notice or understand. Probably it is always better to keep the image dimensions low for such images just for viewers to understand.
Seeing how things worked well with the new technique (using extension tubes and placing the camera on a tripod alone), I decided to try again and use an infrared filter over my 50mm and the tubes assembly. Well, didn't go well, again. However, then I thought why not using an extreme infrared filter instead of the typical B+W 092 filter (threshold=650nm)? This is what I did next as I have an untouched Tiffen 87C infrared filter (threshold about 800nm). Since it is a gel filter, I had to hang it on one of my adapter rings with some paper binders, and at this level because the front is protruding further to the front with the adapter ring and the filter on it (didn't want to scratch the brand-new gel filter), I decided to reduce the extension tubes a bit (removed the 12mm from the full set) and also I've used 4X objective to get proper view for the head.

~45X

The final image here was somehow acceptable despite, ironically, being careless about turning that fine-focusing knob - I've taken a total of about 39 images compared to the more precise work before that which lead to about 172 images! However, I guess the zooming-out played the role for how many shots to be taken actually. Nevertheless, the overall image is relatively sharper and clearer in some details and aspects (of course after the overall processing AND sharpening). It does look like as if it is an X-ray slide for an ant!

 I'm starting to think that some subjects out there are just, simply, not to be shot in infrared. Note that all the infrared shots done so far, are done with the light pupil under the microscope being shut completely to reflect off light from the object under the microscope (whether it is an infrared shooting or a normal one). Thus, I'm thinking if there would be any changes if I let that pupil open and literally let the light pass through it - I know the view is different when shooting in normal conditions, but what about infrared shooting? Any difference? I'll try, but probably with some other sample, as people are getting scared enough already because of this ant head I'm posting for them day and night!
Now a friend of mine suggested that I must get a new microscope, an advanced one, and start to work seriously and get Pro with microscope shooting as it might be a good income venue, but I'm still not sure this is a good idea as I'm still considering it a hobby and an experimenting enjoyment! We'll see...

Ultraivialait

During this short vacation, I had the chance to go and get me some Blacklights from ACE Hardware here, as part of my efforts for shooting ultraviolet with my old B+W 403 filter in combination with my new hot mirror DR-655. So far, however, my trials been limited to the outside, under the sun and I did some trials here and there (and selfies) which were hard to work with and shoot. Mostly required a higher ISO to quicken the shutter speed (beside using a wider aperture). When working with a tripod to overcome the previous problem, there is the problem of the breeze which became quite a challenge in macro settings.


UV Selfie 1
First trials (and every other trial in fact) were shaky and hard to capture without any shake. Raising the ISO was inevitable (sometimes reaching up to 3200). In these trials, I stood to face the sun in hope to get further UV reflected off my face. Noticeably here, the eyes luster typical for the infrared shots does not show up here (naturally). Also, the skin spots that I usually see on some videos are not visible on these selfies, but then I realized that it is probably because I'm a Middle Eastern and the skin structure might differ from Europeans or other ethnic groups which show such spots when shot in UV. But I have to say that I did have my doubt as well about the accuracy of my filters as well!


UV Selfie 2
One aspect of UV photography is the colors and their balance or setting the white balance. I find it quite perplexing and not sure if there is any ""preferable" point to set WB to it. However, it is a surreal type of photography after all and I can't say there is a right or wrong about it. However, I'm asking myself whether the shades of these colors (after fixing the WB) do indeed depend on the time of the day and the angle of the sun in the sky when shooting. Anyway, in most condition I do set the WB in-camera before shooting UV, but this is just to visualize the outcome before shooting, as Photoshop (or ACR that is) would not show the image with that WB because of its limits; I still need to do the WB expansion as I usually do with infrared shots. The results, though, from the in-camera view and what shows on the monitor can vary drastically. I can use my WB Disc to calibrate the WB in-camera, but the disc does take the "mean" or "average" of the available light after all, and not a single point like the case in Photoshop or ACR; and here lies the difference I guess.


UV Selfie 3
So, sometimes to cut it out with all that perplexing color, I would sometimes consider converting to B&W, and actually I do see most of UV shots and videos to be converted to B&W instead of being left in colors. Probably because it is more... dramatic? mysterious? contrast-y? If this is really the reason I have to say it does indeed do the job, but I do prefer to convert to B&W in Photoshop itself instead of ACR to have more control with the masks and other tools. As it can be seen in UV Selfie 3, the selfie looks almost like a "low-key" shot if not for the bright background. This literally gives me some ideas for the future actually, but for the time being let's just stick to the sun and how it works. The left side of the face (my right side) was actually too dark that I had to lighten it manually by some tools and stuff. Still though, the shaky is a killer and those selfies do look, maybe, fine in small sizes, yet in their original sizes they are some catastrophes!
Away from the selfies, I've also worked with flowers in the yard, or should I say whatever left of them? Well, shooting a flower almost, always, calls for a macro procedure and so I did. The struggle was to focus (checking the monitor) under the harsh sun; Not even a LiveView cover was useful to block the sun rays and put my eyes at ease with the LiveView. The other struggle was with the breeze, and for this I had to raise the ISO. After many clicking, I've finally got one (somewhat) suitable shot to process with "minimum" shake. 

UV Bloom I

As seen in UV Bloom I, the final image had been cropped in panoramic style just to remove the excess of unneeded details (specially from the background). The background also had a serious work to blur it as I was using f/8, and this is natural with most of the work in macro photography; In fact it is even advisable to use more than f/8 but since I'm having troubles with the shutter speed I thought I should just keep it at f/8, aiming also to keep the bloom in acceptable sharpness since my vision was shaky in that situation. Worth noting that UV Bloom I was also edited using LAB technique to enhance the colors, and consequently, I had to reduce the saturation for some of them. Anyway, starting from that point I began to test various editing techniques, like in infrared photography, with channel swapping. Of course I could've just turned everything to B&W but I think it would kill the beauty of the bloom somehow here. 


UV Bloom II
Red/Blue channel swap.

UV Bloom III
Red/Blue + Blue/Green channels swap.

Probably, if not in B&W, the last version of this processed image, UV Bloom III, would be the typical look for UV images. There are other techniques I wanted to try, like merging a normal shot and a UV shot, but goes without saying how many hurdles are involved here making the job next to impossible, specially with the breeze going on and off. I'll just satisfy myself with this trend right now. 
Now, I do have my hopes with the new acquired blacklights, and I've made a test already to see if they are reliable enough. I admit that I'm impressed, but still some practical work is needed here. Despite being faintly lit to the naked eye, but with the camera and the corresponding filters (and despite the lens being coated with anti-UV coating), the exposure times were relatively fast at relatively lower ISOs. Promising. Also, I've made a quick sun-screen test, and I've finally achieved the look that I was aiming for; The black skin under UV while looking normal in regular shooting (just like in the video below).  


With this, I'm already planning for a new shooting project, involving my poor brother of course. However, I might as well do it alone. With this now, I can satisfy myself with those selfies as no black spots or freckles show in my face (or my brother's), probably because we are Middle Easterners and our skin is just adapted to sun differently. I guess such freckles would show more on a fair skin like that for Europeans or so. The sun-screen test was just what I need to give my mind and heart a rest that I am indeed shooting UV (with the help of blacklights of course!).

Bulbul

Life was not all about photography in this little vacation I had. I had the chance to write a bit. But I don't want to post all the "eggs" in one "basket" so I'm posting here a poem I've written about 2 weeks ago (in fact it was finished along with my previous post here). This piece was inspired by our little Bulbul (probably related to the Nightingale), who despite being unable to fly because of its broken wing, it does give out melodies (and I would join sometimes) - specially for seeking some freedom out of the cage.

Aman Aman

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

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

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

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

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

This one went quiet, for the time being, even though I've put it in some contest on Writing.com to be reviewed. I've based the poem on simple quatrain style (a a b b) and tried my best to keep the syllables count at (9 9 10 10) successively. With the help of Verse Perfect of course. In this poem, beside all these metering stuff (which I don't quite understand because I'm not a poet myself and I didn't study those already), I tried here to take one word from the last line in each quatrain and include it in the first line of the next quatrain after. Mentally, I was performing a chaining up for ideas in my mind and that how it felt like.
It seems most, if not all, of my poems are either melancholic or nostalgic. After all, this is how I started writing them in my late teens. Should I change? Yet, how? What I write is really how I feel, and it was the main vent (and still is) for my feelings which I seldom take out of my brain and away from my tongue. Left to say, there is indeed a third poem which I've written this week but I'll keep it for the next post.

Finale

As I've promised by the beginning of this post, here is the panorama which got the gold medal in the Panorama theme on Trierenberg Circuit, embedded from 360Cities - so people with smartphones might be able to view this panorama while moving their phone to move around the panorama itself (I suppose, if not, check the main website for this one).


Now, after this gold medal, I'm not sure where to go. But I'm just satisfied with how things went on with this panorama specifically, since I've participated in the contest just for it solely and to show it to people outside to let them, at least, wonder who is this man in the portraiture and what does he mean to us. I consider this gold medal as a surplus and a sweet reward over my real intentions. As a next step, I might (just might) think of participating with this panorama specifically in other contests, and maybe get it exhibited as well. It's a rush of serotonin that I lingered for in such a long time now and I really need it amid my frequent anxiety and panic attacks; Something to tell me, that things will be alright, sooner or later, but let's hope so soon as I can't bear much to later…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Set Back…

Been weeks now and my health still on a swing. Though better than 2 weeks ago when fever struck me, but the remnant cough is taking its toll on my lungs already. I've been thinking seriously of checking back with the doctors to see if I should take Seretide; a steroidal inhaling powder that I used to take 2 years ago when my lung was apparently damaged or something because of some renovation in the house when apparently so much particles got stuffed inside my lungs. The case is different here since it is a remnant of some fever (apparently for the weather change), so I'm kind of reluctant to ask for Seretide for the time being. All I've been doing for it is having a herbal cough syrup which helps a bit, and sometimes having a spray of Ventoline; though it is not a case of asthma.

Rolling

DR-655
Been a while now since I got my new filter, the DR-655 hot mirror from Kenko, which is supposed to block IR for good in combination with my B+W 403 ultraviolet filter. Ironically though, I couldn't do a real test for the filter yet, as I'm aiming for capturing faces and flowers. Around 3 weeks passed already now and I still can't do a real shoot, except for a quick check-up. I did make a video indeed just to compare between Tiffen's hot mirror and DR-655, but of course it's not a photography project with depth.

First: B+W UV pass filter alone.
Second: B+W UV pass filter + Tiffen IR Cut.
Third: B+W UV pass filter+ DR-655 IR Cut.

As I don't have a good UV source for indoors work with the filter, I'm forced to try and work under the sun; And here comes the irony: For 3 weeks, I couldn't work outside with the camera, either because of the timing, the weather (haze and dust), or because of my health issues. However, I've realized the point that DR-655 is indeed a good hot mirror since the exposure time doubles or even triples in comparison to Tiffen's hot mirror. This typically would call for a higher ISO as well, that's why I'm planning ahead to work indoors with UV sources, such as blacklights, or maybe we do have some hope with regular CFL lamps. I thought seriously of bringing my camera to work and try to do something with this filter as there is a nice garden around my workplace and could be a good target, but first we have the weather that does not come in terms with my aims, and then we have the hassle and the fuss around this place (I don't want to be walking around with my gear while everyone is looking). 

(re-make)

Thus, for the most part, my work involves mainly some edits for ignored images from the past, or re-makes for old images (specifically with the LAB technique edit), and for some of those, the results were astonishing indeed. One part the sets it back though is the hard bleeding (too much saturation that could not be put down, or could be but with lengthy work), and/or the noise level that raises significantly. 

Għabex

Generally speaking, I find myself picking at those dark exposures (most of them were part of bracketed series to merge into HDR) and that explains, partially, the rising noise level when the exposure is adjusted in RAW editing and then in LAB technique. However, since I do not have any plans to print any of those and only for online displaying in small sizes, I didn't bother much on reducing these noise levels. But I have to say, though, that the idea of printing some of those newly/re-made photos does fascinate me.

Polladhearg

As I said earlier, my work with the camera now is minimal as I'm trying to do something about the newly-acquired filter, yet I did manage to take a "test" shot. This shot, Polladhearg, was actually a test shot during my work indoors with the DR-655; Taken before placing the filter on the lens. It is a macro shot using 50mm lens with a 35mm extension tube. The shot with the DR-655 filter turned into a fail since the image, which took 40 minutes to complete, was severely blurred and shaken. Not to go empty-handed, I decided to work on the regular test shots. Funny thing is that I didn't notice all those pollen dots on the petals when I was working behind the camera, but only when I was processing the image. No wonder my allergies are stuck to me still…

When I Was A Boy

It's been a while since I've written (typed) some poem, and lately there had been an urge besides some signs that I find along the way of my every-day that points to a fact that I must be a writer of some sort. Not sure how real or true these signs are/were, yet I did have this urge for some time and in on many occasion I've just dispersed the ideas for writing something, mainly because of my confused mind. Not long ago, I've written a little piece which I've called "The Ghost" and it was inspired mainly by one of my artwork with my photos in fact. This time, however, it is completely off my head. I've downloaded Verse Perfect again after abandoning it for a long time, in hope to help me with my writing. It is a good tool with many aids, yet I think it is better to sometimes "innovate" if I should call it so. The great thing about Verse Perfect is that it does provide a syllable count (or metric, whatever it is called), which somehow helps me on balancing the lines. I really didn't use such features a lot before, and maybe used another feature more; The rhyme code. Verse Perfect is actually implemented with a number of rhyming courses to help with the writing process.
Anyway, off with Verse Perfect, I've tried to write something completely out of the order here, in terms of rhyme or syllable counts. I called it When I was a boy, as it goes about my own reflections about my life and how complicated it got on as time passed by. Somehow melancholic, but I guess nothing new when it comes to my own writings:

Off by the lavender fields,
oh no mind for any needs,
And my winds set to sailing,
no time given to ailing,
Back in the day,
When I was a boy.

Those days Oh who remembers,
warming nights of those winters,
The wee heart that I had carried,
no thoughtful run ever rallied,
Such were my days,
When I was a boy.

Alas! my sails stopped rising,
under that moon uprising,
Had I not seek a clear mind,
but stabbed a stab in the hind.
Bye to those days,
When I was a boy.

Where are they and where is me,
beliefs stand as a lone tree,
Singing to the stars above,
the joy but for me thereof.
Gone are the days,
When I was a boy.

And when my days are over,
and the grains be my cover,
Someone, please, itch on my stone,
"Here lie the head and the bone,
of glorious days,
When I was a boy.

Writing this, I really wished to make it longer, but the words' generation just stopped, and to tell the truth: I even started writing the last verse first, then made my way up and down. The verses here are not connected in rhyme, but each one of them is made of (a,a,b,b,c,d), obviously with same d, or same ending line in each verse. I tried my best to keep the syllable count constant for each verse as 7,7,7,7, 4, 5. In fact, this count was mainly established when I wrote the last verse and somewhat I felt obliged to keep up that count for all other verses. Maybe it is the perfectionism in my blood still kicking. Just as a trial how does it go, I've enrolled this piece into a contest on Writing.com and it got some nice views, and even an honorary mention as well. Well, seems a good come back, if I can call it so. I think I should write more at this point since my urge for photography is kind of holding the brakes right now.

Finale

Linguistics
by Al-Husain Boum, PhD.
As my work with the camera is almost on hold for the time being, my mental processing is still pretty much active; Pretty much that it gets annoying in bed time specifically. Meanwhile, I'm trying to finish some of the books already, with one interesting linguistics book which a friend gave it to me (but I returned it to him after finishing it) for the lack of time for reading, as he said. The book is by the Moroccan author and PhD holder Al-Husain Boum [د. الحسين بوم]. My friend in fact got the book back in last November from the annual Arabic Book Fair from a Moroccan bookshop/store participating in the fair. The book delves so deep into simple matters (in the Arabic sentence structure) that things do not appear simple now when I see a simple Arabic sentence! Hope that makes sense. However, the most interesting part of the book is even at the end, when a comparison is made between some Indo-European languages (Latin, Greek, French, Farsi, and even Sanskrit) and Arabic concerning the concept of syntax and sentence building; Specifically speaking, the Nominal Sentence [الجملة الاسمية] as we call it in Arabic; that is sentences built upon connecting nouns without the verb (to be)! I didn't realize how complicated the matter is until I've read this book. In fact, with this text, I've got more insight on how and why Irish is the way it is as I'm learning it, and somewhat the real meaning of Copula, which is a widely used concept in Irish. I've been looking around for any way to contact Mr. Boum and send him something about Irish and check for his opinion about it. Unfortunately, no luck.
Finishing this book now, I'm trying to dedicate the same time and effort to other books which have been collecting dust here and there (at work and at home). I need to finish those ASAP, and most importantly, to find a way to store them as well. 
My life seems to be in a stalemate, with spikes of hope coming in and out of it. I wish if I can just leave everything behind me and fly away. I'm so tired and I'm thinking seriously of having a short vacation, for a week maybe, off work just to sleep properly and get some routine off my back. Yet, I tend to think about the coming Ramadhan, and how I might need every single day in my leaves' balance. Even my relaxation has to go through a complicated process of thoughts and math to check everything that fits in place. I can't help it even though I know it's not a healthy trait to try to fit everything in place and calculate for everything and every step. Sleep, at the moment, had become a frequent wish more than traveling is.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Brain Mess…

Things are starting to get on my nerves a bit. Everything seems to be on hold for some unknown time and I can't move on. It's been weeks now without touching my camera for a serious work on any of my projects; Either those I've set up to myself for the future, or those that are supposed ongoing. Which makes me think seriously of abandoning some of these, namely the "Scopa" project because of the lack of cooperation around me. Of course, some would advise me to get some models of some sort but this is out of question. I won't be paying some models to come home and do a photo shoot for 5 minutes only; Needless to say, the money talk involved in this is not something low and easy. Weeks pass and I'm still stuck in the same square without doing anything advanced. I hope some hopes though with my on-the-way shipment, and specifically the Hot Mirror filter that I've ordered. I can't wait to try it out with my B+W ultraviolet pass filter (under the sun). In preparation to further experimenting, I'm trying to somehow mimic or produce the effects of blacklight indoors but so far, all is failing. Those tricks I see on Youtube about converting the phone LED light into a blacklight seem all in vain so far but I still have something to try out and see for myself.


One of the videos about this trick

Meanwhile, I'm also thinking of getting some cheap flash unit (speedlite that is) of any brand (but I would prefer a Canon) and work on converting it to a source of UV light by removing the front Fresnel lens, which acts also as a protection and a blocker for UV light emitted by the flash tube inside the unit. I've watched some videos as well about this process which involve dismantling the unit piece by piece and removing that glass piece and then putting everything back together, but honestly, I don't think I do have the patience for such a process. I might use brute force with some tools that my brother acquired lately! But first, I need to check if I can find the schematics for such flash units just to avoid destroying the flash tube inside the unit.

Glas ar Ghlas (remake)

Meanwhile, all I'm getting busy with is digging my old files, from Ireland and Malta mainly, and trying to re-do some of them (or do new ones that I've totally not touched before) with the aim of creating a somewhat attractive looks by editing those images in LAB; An old technique that I used to use back when all my work was in sRGB (because I didn't know what color space is) in order to pump up the colors and make the image more vivid. Probably this is now kind of fixed with simply assigning the color space to ProPhoto, but still, the LAB technique has its own magic yet. The only problem here is that the artifacts produced with such a technique that sometimes gives me extra headache to fix the image further. But anyway, that would be some other tale to tell. 

Multi-Hashim
One of the surprises that I've encountered, though, as I was going through old files, was series of multiple shots of a fellow member in the club during our visit to Oman in 2015. I'm not sure why did I take these shots (probably I was light-metering in-camera before doing the panorama?). Anyway, I saw this as a good opportunity to create something surreal and new. It was just a matter of blending several shots (using Darken blend) and then cloning out some unwanted gear thrown all over the place outside. Apparently, the shots were taken with a tripod since the door of the mosque here was quite stable from shot to another and the only moving body was my friend's, which made things quite easier to work with. The shots were also taken with relative speed (1/250s at f/10; apparently the sun was shining hard!). It was a muse to my eyes and I really want to do something similar with old or new images or even think of something to do anew. My camera (Canon EOS 7D) has no Multi-Exposure option like full-frame professional cameras but still, things can be managed in Photoshop. Contest-wise, I'm not sure if this is considered as an edit to the image or a true photographic art, but in any case, I don't care much about this matter for now. There are some tiny details to be attending to though (depending on the image itself), like for example in Multi-Hashim you see here, the green bars or cage is penetrating and surfacing, while I guess it properly should be behind the moving body completely. All that depends on the nature of the image of course and the movements involved.

Speaking of contests, I did already submit my entry to Trierenberg's Circuit, or Austria's International Photo Contest. However, this time, I'm rolling in alone under my name only and not under the group's name. Generally speaking, I'm not expecting any win from this participation (as usual), but one important aspect for me is to show a specific work of art to the public, which is the panorama from AbdulHussain AbdulRidha Theater which I've done last September (after a great effort to get into that theater!).

فخر بلادي  (Pride of my homeland)


This panorama was one of the images that I've submitted to the special sorting meeting of the group for this contest (as it is usually done every year). This image, unfortunately though, was rejected and did not pass under the claim that judges will not understand it or understand its value to us. The claim was kind of strange to me because I've been always told that judges of such contests (i.e. those held in the Western hemisphere) are eager to see new sights, new ideas, and new cultures which are not so common there! With this, I've made up my mind that I must participate under my name as well as under the group name if any of my images makes it through the final sorting process of the group. I got only one image passing, but I got the news late as this image was already uploaded and paid for for my own participation; Thus, I'm saying bye bye to the group's participation this year. As for the photos I've submitted, here is a glimpse:

Schizophrenia
The Walk of RP.
The Darker Side of The TJ
فخر بلادي
InfraTowers
Before The Grace - Anaglyph
360 Mall - Vertical Gardens
Triq tas-Sema (remake)
Turbulent Dream
Il Fante (Detail)

Some of these images shown here were subjected to further processing before submitting so they are not exactly what they appear here. I hope Flickr's embed works properly with the boundaries of this blog!  Many of those images were actually some "additions" just to complete the theme as I don't feel easy at uploading one image only into the theme or category. Too bad for me, I've also forgot to upload one of the images I've done for Retinitis Pigmentosa Awareness Month (which was one of the images in the sorting meeting and passed the initial sorting process but not the final one); Namely, the Road of Hurdles.

Road of Hurdles
The B&W version of this image, though, was preferred more over the colored version and I'm thinking that both of them were canceled out (since I didn't attend that meeting, I don't know anything about the details of this sorting). But oh well, I might as well keep it for another occasion; An expo, or some minor contest.

Finale

L-Irdum
Feeling overwhelmed with many things to do, and nothing to do in the same time. It's a strange feeling. There are daily chores that I planned and set myself to do every day but in the same time I really want to break away from these chores and do something. Something to my delayed projects, or at least for my delayed long-waited holiday. Meanwhile, I must keep being busy as my nephew gave a new set of products to photograph and I'm trying to do them in some new method, some new way that I didn't do before. For this reason, I've spent like one week thinking and yet I didn't conclude anything for sure, but I'm preparing the set one by one and hopefully to be working with them ASAP. I feel it like a heavy a load over my back and I must get rid of it, though he didn't say he's in a hurry and told me to take my time. It is just how my brain works in organizing priorities. A complete mess.



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Discovery Galore…

Here we are again! I've been busy the past 2 weeks or so in writing Arabic articles for my Arabic blog but here I am again into this blog doing, amazingly, nothing. Yes, Nothing. Everything is on hold and I'm not doing much with my camera, BUT, I'm doing lot of thinking and I'm seriously planning to place my next online order soon. Hopefully I won't go bankrupt after this…

Kenko's DR655
One of the major things that I really need to get now is Kenko's DR655 filter, which blocks infrared (i..e it is a hot mirror filter). Despite having Tiffen's hot mirror already but after reading and investigating further, I've realized that Tiffen's filter is technically an open gate!!! It barely blocks any infrared, and thus working with this filter with my leaky B+W 403 Ultraviolet filter is not a good choice at all. I've discovered this as I was reading articles and posts in a page dedicated to Ultraviolet photography with some links to practical tests to various filters (IR, UV, HM), and there I've discovered the hideous truth: Tiffen's announcement about the effectiveness of their hot mirror filter do not coincide with the practical technical testing. The transmission chart even was such a horrible nightmare to me!

Tiffen's hot mirror transmission chart acquired practically and posted in the link above.

Thus, I can say with a degree of confidence: People, do not get that filter even if you want to use it on a regular camera to enhance the colors of your shot. The filter is not even effective at 750nm as I thought. Just for comparison, here is the transmission chart for the filter mentioned above, DR655.

DR655 Transmission chart

Well, we don't need to understand Japanese to really realize how perfect this filter is for my needs. As you can see, DR655 has a steep slope down at around 650nm and indeed blocks at around 700nm, while still allowing ultraviolet range (~ 300nm-400nm). Why I didn't figure this out years ago? Of course, there is the option of having a proper ultraviolet filter other than the one I have already (B+W's) but that alone would cost more than the combined price of a hot mirror and B+W filter. Besides, would shall I do with the B+W 403 filter then? Sell it? I don't think people here do realize this kind of art nor would be interesting in it, not to say what would they do if they discovered it is leaking IR. Yeah, getting a new hot mirror is my best bet for now, and I need to do it fast!
There are other items I would be ordering beside that, not related to photography, but I'll talk about it in some other time maybe.

Ath-Fháil Amach

Most of my activities in the past weeks were focusing on re-discovering some of the old images from Ireland and Malta. I was specifically looking for some chances to make out some more Anaglyphs. Along the way, I was able to identify some images with some potential after neglecting them before, mainly with some focus on enhancing the colors (using LAB technique generally). Well, the potential I mean here is not a potential of being classified as "Top," but I mean an image that can be enhanced and, well, be viewable; Instead of being neglected and deemed useless.

Yellow Caps

Shots like Yellow Caps made me, though, re-consider my approach with editing in LAB. In this image (and few others) I often had trouble with the saturation, so much that I did need to do some extra work to fix the problem. This is beside the "curves amendment technique" which is practically re-assigning the values for the Blacks, Whites and Gamma in the image to enhance the contrast and at some point fix the white balance. In Yellow Caps, it can be noticed how the background contains a large red spot, which is there originally but it got exaggerated in saturation with LAB technique, but then I had to do extra work to reduce the saturation, and yet it might feel a bit popping out still. I've reduced the visual impact further by using Lens Blur on the image (despite having a shallow depth of field already); My main goal with Lens Blur though was to pop out the front element further (with the help of sharpening).

Around Ashford

On the other hand, despite all the extra work that editing with LAB would issue, there are images like Aroound Ashford where the lengthy work paid handsomely with somewhat a mystical look in this ordinary shot with pale green hues (originally). The major thing about this image which made me neglect it is, actually, the spots of highlights between the trees. This is a problem in many of the shots along the years and right now I'm trying to fix some of these images by overlapping (not cloning) with other areas of the same image (sometimes from another image). Most of the time, it gets all natural-looking, and if not, there is the cloning tool to fix some minor issues about that.
Islamic Display Room

One of the things that I work on re-discovering them is the punch of panoramas done back in 2015 for the Al-Uthman Museum, which was a comissioned work. Since I've done these panoramas, I was asked to keep them "in hiding" and not show them, and it was not till 2017 when I started showing my panoramas on Instagram, apparently with no objection from anyone related to the matter. Anyway, right now I'm starting to re-discover other projections for these panoramas and specifically the planet and tunnel projection styles (technically they are the same but with a change in viewing point), and boy, what did I see!

Magnetum Marinum

Some of these panoramas were, well, nice looking. Some of them were, well, SUPER-looking. Examples here, the Islamic Display Room and Magnetum Marinum were both done in tunnel projection instead of planet intentionally. As for Islamic Display Room, I had to switch to tunnel because of some bar in the ceiling which broke the symmetry awfully, while for the other one, Magnetum Marinum, obviously it was the flooring boards which astonished me. I've been always a fan of lines; Harmonic lines specifically and those that just make up swift and smooth geometrical shapes. This is why I fell in love with this panorama in such projection so much that I didn't even dare to put a watermark on it so I won't disturb its harmony, even though that this would put the image in danger after all. I'm still processing these panoramas and still checking and I think there is some good potential. The problem is, though, whether I have the right to submit those for contests and stocks, away from the social media thing. We'll see…

Finale

Bloomless Bloom (3D)
There had been one or two experiments with some other infrared shootings but I'll keep that for later maybe, as they were minor experiments captured after a glimpse of idea, and yet I'm not sure if this idea will grow further. Meanwhile, I do need to get to my other projects that I've listed here already before, but I'm not sure where and how to begin. My mind is still stuck at completing my Scopa project which arrived to a stalemate with no model to shoot (and I'm not going to pay for a model of course). 
Life seems to be getting weirder as I go on now. I'm trying hard to understand myself in the first place and that makes me a bit more isolate than before at some level. It is weird how I get attached easily with people out of my reach and yet find it hard to get along with people close to me. The question of my mental capabilities and whether or not I'm right or wrong about my relations with people around is a continuous hurdle to my mind. It's just amazing how one can find someone similar to a great extent, even in simple things like handedness, and feel attach to, yet they are just out of reach not only by distance, but also by core beliefs; And despite that, things get along. At least from a distance. Meanwhile, everything close seems to collapse with no glimpse of hope about a bright future. I really need to get back to my camera and work non-stop if I can, and a vacation… ASAP…



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy