Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dreamer…

In a nutshell, I'm sick of summer. Can't wait to have winter around me here. In Kuwait, we don't have the typical 4-season scheme; It's either summer, or winter. Winter though is more or less like spring for us.
Anyway, there had been some good news around and some more experimenting with my camera as I'm feeling more free and out of my obligations. Yet, I'm trying to find the power and time to work on some projects.

Peeking

One of the projects I've started to experiment with here is the usage of my idle pinhole camera cap from Rising, which I've used only twice previously before this time. Now, I'm trying to get used to it and trying to be more creative about it, specially with its fuzzy and blurred images.

Rising Standard Pinhole
Source: B&H
The "adventure" of using such a pinhole to take pictures took me around with some simple mathematical ventures as I was trying to calculate what is the proper wavelengths and what are the proper sizes for pinholes, and I'm even thinking of making my own. Surfing around about pinhole photography, there is a plenty of text (or most of it actually) talks about analog rather than digital, and even though most people do state the fact that it is one of the features of pinhole photography to be blurred and fuzzy and create such a mood, but some others do also speak of infinite sharpness as well! Well, people in the latter type are few. This makes me think continuously of finding a way to merge such a small aperture with some lens. But what do I need to create a sharp image with such small aperture (and high f-number)? The answer is kind of complicated and involves lot of calculations but I'll leave it there at the moment.


According to the Specs mentioned for this pinhole (one of two types), it states that it is 0.22mm in size with f-number of f/222. However, I'm not sure how it was calculated since according to my own investigation here, this should be f/200, because the focal length or the distance from the mount to the sensor (a.k.a. flange distance) for EF and EF-S mounts is 44mm, and calculating the f-number using the relation: N=f/d yields 200, and not 222!

Visionem Infirmus (weak vision)
0.22mm Pinhole, 6m51s, ISO100.

Away from calculations what is supposed to be or not to be, I've managed to try it out and I really like some aspects about using a pinhole, specially when it comes to the flare as seen in Visionem Infirmus. Lot of people think those are light bulbs, but they are candles actually (long and short ones). Because of the perfect circle of the aperture here, the flare is more pleasant it seems and provided such a halo effect; How I wish my regular lenses would do the same! While doing Visionem Infirmus, I didn't really know what I'm doing exactly, it was a random setup just to test this pinhole. There is a mystic feel to it after all (probably because of the talisman too).
0.22mm Pinhole Selfie
6m51s, ISO100.
Even though the exposure times are pretty long (since I prefer using ISO100 most of the time), but I think this is what creativity is about after all; doing something unusual. Thus, I've decided to go on and do a selfie that took almost 7 minutes to do. I wouldn't mind the long exposure here as long as I'm cozy in my lazyboy. Hope you pardon my tired face and sleepy eyes! I could have done something more creative here even, like moving my head slowly or striking some pulses of flash or many things with such long exposure, but this is enough for now as I'm doing these tests and doing some calculations.
Calculations-wise, there might be a hope to create something sharp, or at least sharper than usual, if I just find a way to nudge the pinhole cap for about 5mm forward (or to be precise even further, for 4.8mm). Taking images with my Canon EOS 7D with a manual lens (e.g. Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye) or like this pinhole, it rigesters the value of 50mm as the default focal length of the camera, which I have to consider as the real focal length. However, my previous work with macro photography and shooting into the microscope, made it clear that the flange distance (or distance from sensor to the mount) which is supposed to be the pinhole focal length is indeed 44mm (all my calculations for the magnification ratios were based on 44mm and shown correct in practice). Mirrorless cameras do have a shorter focal length by the very nature of their design, but they might be more appropriate for pinholes because of this shorter focal length under the light of the relation: d=2√(fλ); where "d" is the diameter of the pinhole, "f" is the focal length, and (λ) is the wavelength of the light (typically fixed at 550nm). With some algebra here and solving for (f), it seems the proper focal length for 0.22mm pinhole would be 22mm. As far as I know, Canon's mirrorless cameras have 18mm flange distance; close.
Meanwhile, I'm expanding my experiment with the pinhole further to my converted Canon EOS 7D, as I'm trying various filters with the pinhole (taping it on the top of the pinhole). Pinholes though, under the light of the formula mentioned above, can be quite sensitive to the wavelength under inspection. However, thinking about it, it seems this is my only hope to get a proper UV image; since most of the lenses I have are coated with Anti-UV protective layer and might not be blocking essential wavelengths in UV range. Thus, I'm set to try this out soon (and of course using a hot mirror to block IR over my UV B+W 403 filter). Pinholes, of course, do not have coatings and thus might be the only way for me right now to shoot decent UV despite the fuzzy image I'm going to get.

Dream Coming True

For about a month or so I've been going around and trying to find a way to get a permit to shoot some pictures inside a theater. Not any theater. It is a theater that bears a memorial for the Giant of Kuwaiti acting field, AbdulHussain AbdulRidha, who passed on August 11th, and we are still mourning him almost every day since then. A rare man who witnessed the rise of this country, as well as its changes from old to modern (and not to say I do like the modern). The significance of this work is that, I dreamed about it, and it came true indeed. I couldn't apply some ideas I had in my mind prior to the work but at least I've done a masterpiece panorama for this memorial.

زارع البسمة وفخر بلادي
The Smile Giver and Pride of My Homeland.
 I will not get into much of the details of how I got into the theater, since it is a lengthy talk and took me around a month o talking my way through. Who cares for an amateur photographer trying to take a photo for a memorial on a wall? Anyway, let's get down with business about the panorama-making.
First of all, I paid a visit once I got a phone call that I can go into the place. This visit is to set some ideas straight and a get proper vision for the place. In fact, I once thought that there are two paintings: a mural and a portraiture painting. However, later I've discovered that it is actually one painting, and it is the mural that everyone was talking about. The mural or painting is a masterpiece painted by the artist Ahmad Muqeem. Not sure about its dimensions, but the height of the painting is surely somewhere beyond 2 meters (~ 6ft) and the width is around  2 meters as well. This changed some of my ideas as I was planning to pick my brother and make him read Quran in front of the mural, but since it is elevated off the ground, I think it won't be of much use here (or it might in fact but I didn't think that way back then). My main focus was the panorama.
Rear view of
Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
with its gel filter pocket.
In 2 days time, I was ready with my gear (spent the day before cleaning them and tidy up my scattered tools and cameras). Headed there around noon time with my brother (as a model). Despite the fact that I've picked my location in my visit before, but I noticed that the artwork would appear small relative to the whole scene, thus I've decided to do it up-close and climbed the stairs. However, much of the details of the place (which were important for me) would disappear and I decided to go back to my original place (after shooting some already) as it can be seen in the image above. In this panorama, I've used my UV gel filter for the first time in a panorama. It is a gel filter equivalent for the typical UV-reduction filters which are placed on lens, but this one is placed at the back of my Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens (in a special pocket for filters). In fact, thinking about it a bit, it might have helped a bit to reduce any bluish streaks, but since the job was indoors, it is unlikely that UV would affect my work here much. Nevertheless, it is an experiment and the panorama was clear with no problems.

My old light meter.
No ON and OFF button,
thus I have to remove the batteries
after using it. I'm literally sick of
changing batteries for it!
Source: B&H.
Typically, when I do such panoramas that involve merging people, I would do the whole panorama first, and then start shooting the model separately and merge the two in the stitching process. This plan makes me at least grant my chances for a regular panorama in case the merging of the model or there was some shake when the shot for the model was taken (the shooting was for HDR, i.e. bracketed shots, and I do not guarantee the stillness of the model during the whole 3 shots). Before shooting, I've started metering the light all around the tripod-camera set and made an estimate about the least EV. It had been my practice, when shooting bracketed shots for HDR and doing a panorama, to reduce 1 or 2 stops from the minimum reading possible by the light meter. This practice, so far, proved to be a great savior. Sometimes, stretching the dynamic range does make gaps in the HDR histogram and some details are lost for good. Here, even though I've used my White Balance disk before the work is done, during the process (specifically when tone-mapping), I had to adjust the WB further for a nudge or two, as the whole image was a bit bluish (and I don't mean the blue streak from the glass facade, but the wall of the mural and the white details in the mural itself). Posing my brother here as a model took place in the end after finishing the regular panorama shooting and I've tried several poses at the same angle, and seemed to me that the prefect pose (and size ratio) was for him to stand on the stairs instead of up close against the mural. Nevertheless, there is the problem which could not be solved whatsoever, which is the absence of the facial expression (and it is almost impossible to get anything clear with this lens and at that scale). Thus, I had to depend heavily on hand and body gesture and pose. For this, I asked my brother to change the gesture several times with the change in his position relative to the mural.

زارع البسمة
The Smile Giver
After finishing the work with the panorama, I've started planning for a single shot. I had plans prior to the visit to the theater, but as I've said before, I had to change, and because of the fact that I cannot re-visit the place again (for the lack of time and probably I won't be allowed to easily), I've decided to get my essential gear without any lighting gear (speedlites and power packs, plus some modifiers) which I keep in 2 traveling cases. Here, again, I had to rely on (and trust) bracketing for HDR to be able to control the light as much as possible. Again, I had problems with a proper angle. When shooting these single shots from a close distance as seen in The Smile Giver, I was in dilemma as to what lens I should use. However, because of some "wash" out or undesired light reflection on the mural, I had to think about using a polarizer, which eventually forced me to use my Voigtländer 20mm; the only problem here is my limited space to move backward a bit to include the whole scene and give some space around the mural. In The Smile Giver, I had to fix the distortion and straighten some lines (or rather make them parallel) and, of course, crop the surplus. The photo was tone-mapped from HDR twice, as the first time had some problems that I didn't notice in the first glance. Probably, The Smile Giver, so far, gained more popularity rather than the panorama itself, but I'm not sure is it because of the details that show up clearly, or for the nature of the shot (portraiture) itself.

Planeta AbdulHussain
كوكب عبدالحسين

Vertical AbdulHussain
Finishing from all that essential work, it was time to try out some surreal projections for the set. Here, again, comes the benefit of shooting without a model first and then merging the model. With such surreal projections, the model would be stretched extremely and would add such a disturbance to the general view. However, because of the nature of this panorama, and the concentration over the mural itself more than anything else, the geometrical play here was not important for me but rather how to pop-up the mural to the eyes of the viewer. Because of this, my choices for these various projections was limited. Generally speaking, I think I was lucky here with this architecture, as I noticed that the lines (floor lines and the surrounding wooden decor) do point somehow to the mural and act as a guide line to the eye. I didn't notice that in the first place when I was doing it till I had to process the panorama. Anyhow, I think my choices here are limited to vertical and planet projections; and the latter required some angular adjustments to displace the location of the mural in the scene.

VR

Of course I wouldn't pass the chance of creating a VR out of this panorama. Moreover, I think I will adapt to the practice of uploading my panoramas to 360Cities and get an embed link for my blog here. This way I can avoid many plugins issues I guess and they provide further options to view the VR as well. Unless the VR is not significant, I might upload it the old way (spawning the file somewhere and embedding the link here).


The Smile Giver

A good thing here is that 360Cities provides the option for viewing the VR with VR goggles (on smart devices) which enables the viewer to roam the place by moving his head (or the device that is) around instead of being static and roaming the place by the controls.
If you are reading this and do enjoy VRs, I'm asking you to, please, Like it and share it with people you know. Unlike the rest of my panoramas, this is a work and a job I'm proud of, as a tribute to a personality that means so much to me, personally. Thank you.

Finale

Well, I feel like a bulk of load is removed off my shoulders. Some issues at work are finally done for good, and I've finished the panorama that I've always wished to do, I think now it is time to dream a bit again and think of something else to do. I do have some ideas to experiment with, like the pinhole and UV photography, beside some other ideas of "regular" photography. The problem though, as usual, time, and further more, the need for help (from my brother mainly who has other responsibilities). I think detaching myself a bit from the photo-club which I'm part of did give me further motivation and time to try out my camera. Probably I'm the type of photographers who cannot work in a team and rather establish himself alone. Anyway, time to post this, and go on dreaming, again…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Light Me!

It has been a quick holiday, and I really need some more of it; to sleep, and to work with my camera a bit. Nonetheless, I managed to work a bit with my camera and specifically fixing an image that I've posted in my previous post, after getting some notes from my brother about it. As for the rest of the time, I've been either dozing off or working with selfies and filters, but with a twist!

Re-Make

As I've mentioned, I had to try out and fix an image that I've posted here previously since I got some notes about it. Without going into details, but the main aspect of change in the shoot is to change the light source, using the candle alone instead of speedlites as was previously done.

وفوق كل ذي علم عليم (1)
"and over every lord of knowledge He is knowing" (12:76)
Done with speedlites in HSS.
وفوق كل ذي علم عليم (2)
"and over every lord of knowledge He is knowing" (12:76) - II
Change in perspective and using candle light alone.

I have to say that I really like the second version; Not only for its dramatic appearance and the play of light, but the perspective (as per my brother's suggestion) did add to the difference, which I think is quite interesting. In fact, in my chase after landscapes and architecture I've realized the importance of shooting with non-ordinary angles of view to keep the image being interesting (somewhat excluding panoramas since it doesn't work all the time with this art). However, it seems I've totally forgot about this concept when it came down to still life images like this. I'll try to remember that next time (and I'll try to remember to remember next time); go figure! Being satisfied about this shot did not stop me from doing some other experiments with the same set as well.

وفوق كل ذي علم عليم (3)
"and over every lord of knowledge He is knowing" (12:76) - III
B+W 403 UV filter with hot mirror.

Since I didn't use the Ultraviolet 403 filter in a long time now, I've decided to put it in action here despite the fact that, after checking the typical spectra for candles, it seems that candles do not issue much of UV radiation (if any at all), but anyway, I've decided to try. To add some charisma here, I've decided to do some HDR bracketing which required me to raise the ISO a bit (to 400). Focusing the set was a tricky business since the filter was opaque. Anyway, I've managed to make the third shot above by bracketing 3 shots and merging them into HDR. The flare was quite hideous and even controlling the parameters in tone-mapping the HDR couldn't help in suppressing these artifacts. However, there are these blue lines which emerge from the candle (not really emerging here), and that is an artifact I've noticed its presence when using UV or H-Alpha filters, with or without hot mirror, when working in LiveView mode specifically. They disappear when I work in a regular way. Not sure what is the mechanism that works behind such artifact but in this instance it was quite desirable to add a bit of magic to the scene. The high ISO played a great role in increasing the noise which was hard to clean (but reduced a bit).



وفوق كل ذي علم عليم (4)
"and over every lord of knowledge He is knowing" (12:76) - IV.
B+W 403 UV filter with hot mirror.

In the third shot, the white balance was not calibrated in-camera but was left on Auto. In the fourth shot, however, I've managed to calibrate the white balance with such hard filter (even though I'm working with a fully converted camera here), and also put down the ISO back to 100. To eliminate those lines emerging above the candle, I had to work in a regular way without LiveView. With that sprung the idea of doing HDR bracketing but using long exposures like I used to do some years back during my regular visit to the seaside through winter nights. So I did, and started at around 8 minutes and halving the value with each exposure until reaching 30 seconds. The more exposures, the merrier, since that will provide a smoother "histogram" of data for the light levels. The result in the 4th seems more pleasing than the 3rd with the absence of these distraction lines above the candle, but nevertheless, I still had to crop a big portion out to remove the flare. The matter of flares was there in all attempts, but having a filter and a hot mirror on top of it increased the internal reflection which made the matter worse. Let's hope I would not have to shoot directly at a light source again!

Candle Selfies

It all started with testing the H-Alpha filter, and the easiest subject to think of when testing is, actually, my face. Things, however, evolved later on.

Hl-Alpha filter + hot mirror.
430EX II speedlite on camera left with oval diffuser.
Voigtländer 20mm.

Ovel (Globe) diffuser from Impact.
Source: B&H
My first experiment with the speedlite was fruitful if I can call it so, because it provided some insight into this simple light modifier, the oval diffuser from Impact. Anyway, this is not the core of this text right now, but shooting a selfie with speedlite is surely an easy task, because I got to speed up the shutter speed and kill the ambient light significantly (and hide the messy background effectively!). I think I just needed a reflector to the left of my face to bounce back some light and light the shadows a bit, but well, this is dramatic enough as it is and nicely sharp (later, while processing, I've sharpened the front eye specifically in Photoshop). But since I was going on with ِAugust project about books (which for I've taken the shots posted above), I've decided here to try and use the candle light only to light my face and check the general outlook. I have to say, I'm quite impressed despite the simplicity and the technical limitations for such light.

Candle Selfie 1
H-Alpha filter + Hot mirror.
Through out these selfies, I've always used Voigtländer 20mm lens, which is my favorite right now for many tasks, be it macro (on reverse) or other styles, even selfies. Despite being a wide-angle lens and, usually, such lenses are not used for proper portraiture shots. But the fact that I was so close to the settings and its capability of focusing at minimum distance of 20cm made it a plausible option; adding to that the fact that my camera is a cropped-frame camera and it eliminates much of the periphery (20mm on 1.6x cropped frame is equivalent to 32mm). However, my first trial was with the Night Sky filter, H-Alpha, and a hot mirror (Tiffen's) placed on top.
Using an external LCD monitor connected via the HD input of the camera, I was able to manage the focusing issue pretty easily with this filter. Needless to say, I had to do a white balance calibration before shooting the selfie (and it should be calibrated with a candle in front of the lens because this is the variety of light I will be using to shoot). The result? Mesmerizing. I really loved the looks. The candle light, despite being simple and kind of hard to deal with somehow (I had to work in completely dark room and find my way through the mess), but the light itself is not "pointed," that is, it is not concentrated into a beam as it is the case with speedlites, thus it can be considered as a diffused light on its own, even though it is a weak source. Placing the candle typically under my chin level produced the so-called "horror light" but in some diffused manner which it made it, let's say, less horrific.

Candle Selfie 2
B+W 092 infrared filter.
One observation about the usage of H-Alpha filter with a hot mirror is that images are slightly like infrared when processed but with darker tones and I've found out later, from checking various transmission charts for such filter, that using a hot mirror on top of it is actually not a good practice because this filter operates around the range of Reds and above (in sense of wavelengths) which extends to the infrared range. Anyway, The first shot inspired me to use the infrared filter, namely the B+W 092 infrared filter.
I picked this filter specifically because it has a low threshold (at around 650nm) which gives some colorful results at times, unlike the Kodak infrared filter which has a high threshold (about 1000nm); The higher the threshold, the closer the image to B&W it would look. In Candle Selfie 2, I had to get even closer to the lens and with some cropping I was able to hide the flame. Probably this selfie is the best, but this was not the end of the story.

Top Row: H-Alpha + hot mirror.
Low Row: B+W 092 infrared.
Left column: originals.
Right column: Red-Blue channel swaps.

I couldn't pass the chance of all this work with these filters without trying at least one swap; the most common being Red-Blue channel swap. That produced some interesting results as well as seen above. All images here (and those before) were processed to reduce some of the flare. As I've stated before, flares are quite common and natural when the light source is in front of the lens, and that's why my beard specifically in the infrared shot looks colored; this actually had been caused by a light spot which I've tried to reduce its presence in the process (it was more saturated and lighter). I've tried to take some selfies using the B+W 403 Ultraviolet filter plus hot mirror but this is another story, maybe for another post.
Conclusion: despite its weakness as a light source, candle light is a pretty interesting and a dramatic source of light. It provides a somewhat diffused light look, but not necessarily light shadows as it is with properly diffused light (from flash or others). I'm definitely going to consider candles in other projects when I get the chance to. One set back though, it would mostly need a dark room (unless the photo idea is not about using the candle light and its dramatic look).

Finale

My experiments are going on still and there is a lot going on at the back of my head. I'm keeping some material for the next posts in the weeks to come as I don't want to put all eggs in one basket here.
I think old age is creeping to me indeed as my body is not what it used to be and I'm getting tired easily; The light time I can find to work with my camera would be a hard time resisting a nap! Is it a lack of motivation or it is indeed my body which is hitting a low. Anyway, I'll have some quiet to myself in the next 3 days with the family going out to some resort, and hopefully I can manage to work more with my camera.
All this work with my camera, which is really some experimenting after all and not a trial to make a fine art, seems to be my way to escape my anxiety and my panic attacks. It doesn't work all the time but it is after all some productive. Things at work, despite being quiet at the moment, it is yet loathsome and sometimes I get a darkened vision about the future of this place, and again I try to get my mind back to the tracks and avoid believing in things that did not happen yet. I'm clinging more, as days pass by, to the past and the sweet memories of the old times. The present, and future, are quite repulsive to me right now. Many people I like and love are disappearing or simply leaving and I can't do much about it, except to watch it. It is the law of life, I know, but these things were, and are, the only lovely things as I remember.  I miss me, so much…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Post-Morten…

Well, I barely have any time to type this blog post, but after stopping for a week for mourning I think it is due right now even though I don't have much material to be posted here. The mourning is still going on though and many hearts have it as a heavy burden to see such a great man who created a big portion of Kuwait's history to pass away in a quick whim of destiny. May he rest in peace.
Not much have been going on in fact, except some trials now with my August project about books so I'm going to talk a bit about it here, and a little bit about some idea that I'm still working on.

Leabhair

As the month is going on, I'm still working with ideas for this project, and frankly, I'm not satisfied yet about any of these ideas, but I'm trying.

"Creativity"
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/11, 30s, ISO200.

My first trial was, typically, with a macro approach as can be seen in "Creativity" where I used Bruce Barnbaum's book, The Art of Photography, p.301, as my subject where this word exists in a paragraph. I was not sure what I was thinking, but my mind called me for an extreme macro just like the days when I used to shoot into my microscope some weeks ago. Here, with the camera dangling vertically over the book, I shot various segments of the word (which was extremely magnified at about 3.17X by using Voigtländer 20mm on reverse). My aim here was to create a collage like I did before with Killing Evil, but the circumstances and the fact that I'm zooming to 3X+ and the camera is stable on a lateral arm (while the book is hard to be moved around with ease), all that made it difficult to take various segments easily and randomly, and forced me to take the shots in a sequence and finally overlapping them to make one whole word. The only clue which I've added later to note various segments is the difference in gamma level, while the skew at the end of the word might be a clue as well. I couldn't use speedlites here so I raised the ISO and had to bear with the long exposure for 30 seconds!

Killing Evil
All in all, the idea of shooting a word in a book, as I think, do not resemble the real idea of the project about the importance books. It is merely a word, an element, inside a book - but not a book. Thus, the search did not end yet about something to shoot for this project. In fact, concerning this same word and this same book, I do have another idea to apply just yet, but without magnification up to that level. But I kept myself busy with other things lately that I didn't get the chance to shoot this.
Meanwhile, with the help of my brother, I got to shape a new idea out of scratch fed with some background "legend." And I say legend as I don't really know how accurate such news are (specially in this part of the world), but before explaining this "legend" let me first introduce the image.

وفوق كل ذي علم عليم
{and over every lord of knowledge He is more knowing.} (Quran: 12/76).
Canon EF 50mm, f/11, 1000-1, ISO250.

The legend says: At the time when Muslims ruled Andalusia, pupils who studied various arts and crafts come to the end of their studies with some ceremony or oath-taking, for which they invented the graduation cap as we know it today with a flat top, to place the holy book (Quran) on top while taking the oath and to apply the verse (and over every lord of knowledge He is more knowing: 12/76) from Quran. Anyway, I'm not sure about this story, but it was a spark in my mind to do this image.
Since I needed to kill the ambient light, as well as for the candle's light, I had to go on with the HSS mode (High-speed) to do this shot and compromise with the aperture a bit. Even though f/11 has a good depth of field for such small scene, but I like to always keep it on the safe side and push the f-number a bit further. However, I had to step back here and stop at f/11. One more reason to increase the f-number here is the desire to create a spark or a burst around the candle's flame, but that didn't happen! The real setback though was the need to place a dark yellow gel on the speedlite, and that alone takes 2.5 stops away from the power (as noted on the gel itself). Thus, even with full power, there was a need for some extra light, and at that point I've decided to use two other speedlites with no gels; that explains that mix in colors in the image above. Moreover, I've resorted to use the flash extender which I didn't put to practical use before this time in hope that I would give some strength to the pulse; which it did but slightly. I had to get my speedlite as close as possible to the set. It is evident from all these setbacks and problems that there is no escape but to raise the ISO as minimum as it could be (and I did have my struggle with the noise when processing the image above).
On the other hand, my brother had some remarks about the image and suggested some changes which I'm willing to try out as soon as possible (already did before typing this but the results weren't good). Here are some of his suggestions:
  1. Wait for the candle to melt down further, which is something I've done already.
  2. Shoot the set with the light from the candle alone. Tried that, but didn't really work, and the candle itself has a weak flame. 
  3. Get things closer together.
  4. Change perspective and move up further (i.e. shooting looking down to the set).
These are the major notes he made and I'm still trying to apply them (using Voigtländer 20mm lens instead of Canon EF 50mm) but still it didn't work out in a good way. Probably changing the lens was not a good idea after all and I would have to get back to 50mm. I'm envisioning the usage of my pinhole cover to shoot this set as well but I'll keep that for later.

Finale

As these words are going on, I'm pushing my way alone this time trying to get or grant a permission to shoot at a special place: A theater where a mural for the deceased artist was painted there with the opening of this theater after renovation (which now bears his name in gratitude to his services to the comedy and arts in general in this country). So far, official channels seem blocked and no one is giving a listening ear, so I'm resorting to some connections in hope that I will get this grant to shoot some ideas there. I'm doing this work solely alone without any help from anyone, as I'm trying to find a name for me somewhere out there rather than being dependent on my group.
Meanwhile, it seems that I'm giving myself a break from the group again and this time it might be for good indeed. I'll try to keep my activities minimum. There are more important things that still bug my mind, e.g. travel and creating ideas. I'm working on the latter, but not sure about the former. I'm getting nervous here... panic attacks had been frequent lately with insomnia. I need some good relaxation time before I lose my mind, and myself as well.


Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Saturday, August 12, 2017

RIP AbdulHusain AbdulRidha...

RIP
AbdulHusain AbdulRidha

It is such a sad day, as sad as the end of the world itself. The man who witnessed and taught us the meaning of Kuwait, and arts, and the meaning of laughter and smile, is gone. Gone, to a better life, to a better world. How we wish we are with you right now. Rest in peace fabulous man, for this world does not deserve angels like you. Rest in peace. Goodbye, AbdulHusain AbdulRidha, the man who defined Kuwait.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mí Lúnasa…

August is in, and the heat is in surplus combined with humidity. Well, the good part is, my birthday is coming and I'm planning ahead for this day to... sleep some more. If I'm lucky enough I might as well get the chance to have free lunch with friends! Let's pray…
I've been busy the past few weeks doing many things (and skipping many things), but mainly finished a whole post/article for my Arabic blog explaining how I shoot through my old microscope, in hope someone out there find it beneficial anyway. I was also busy working on July's project: motion and splashes. But since I've done splashes before (and they require a messy set-up) I've decided to confine myself to do motion images as much as possible. I think I've posted some trials in the previous post, and some of them were a great fail.

Waiting


As I've mentioned before that the lines from songs of Sabah Fakhri [صباح فخري] are still inspiring me for these shots. My first trials with stroboscopic function didn't go well majorly because of the nature of the clocks or watches I've been using as it seems, so it was inevitable to do some Photoshop work out of the context of photography a bit as in Waiting. However, because of the depth of field, which was not shallow enough, and the irregular gaps between the ghosts of the minutes hands, all that made me think of re-doing the shot again with some fixes.

Waiting II


As shown here in Waiting II, I've pulled the rose closer to the table edge toward the camera to increase the distance and hence enhance the look of the shallow depth of field. However, it seems that I've done it with a bit of extra spices since I doubt that movement of the clock's hands are obvious at this level, but I'll leave that to the viewers. This is not the end of the story as I will be back to this project in a bit.
In my trials to depict motion I arrived at an idea which I've encountered some time ago in fact. A method of merging various channels of various similar-looking images (mainly those containing a sort of motion in them). The method was described by Yuga Kurita, a Japanese photographer. Though his method is a bit different but the final result is essentially the same almost. It's about merging one channel from each shot, in a series. I was set to go and try this new method with some spin-tops!

Chromamotion
Voigtländer 20mm, f/11, 1s, ISO100

Unfortunately, I didn't take a shot for the set, but it was a simple set with camera dangling vertically over the set with a lateral arm. I used my Voigtländer 20mm lens here for its sharpness and quality, and to have more freedom in the field of view as I was planning to crop later on. I've set my Speedlite (580EX II) on second-sync on the camera and directed it to a white cardboard on the side of the set. With some angle it was possible to make elongated shadows for the spinners. All these measures later on, however, proved to be kind of useless! Anyway, the main task was to have a proper image for the motion and that was kind of possible at 1 second exposure. After spinning and shooting several shots, it was time to combine some of them. In Chromamotion, three images were merged by channels. Later on, I've decided to merge all of the shots in sets of threes (made about 6 groups).

Quarks
The sprinkling colors across the white space here reminded me of the quarks so I named it after them. However, despite the colorful look, the motion blur in the original shots is not quite obvious here so I was doubting about the ability of such work to deliver the idea of motion to the viewer; any viewer. Things, however, got into perspective with my next move when I thought about the first shots I've made for Waiting above. Why didn't I think of that before? I can merge those in the same way instead of stacking them together in a regular manner!

Waiting III

I think in Waiting III, the allusion of motion is better and more obvious than Waiting I and Waiting II because of the colors on an almost-black-and-white image in general. This beings me to a conclusion as to why Waiting III is depicting motion better than Quarks or Chromamotion, and I think this is mainly because the image itself has mixed elements of stable objects and those in motion, and in fact those stable objects are, somehow, more general than those in motion. In Waiting III, also, we have a center (the clock's center), something which the motion is going about or around - since it's hard to depict the motion blur in this method it would be better to have the moving object in some periodic motion (visually at least) or attached to a static object (e.g. waves and beach, or moving branches in the wind). This is just my observation for now, and we'll see what to do about it later!

Finale

Well, there had been so much on my table lately, whether it's photography-related or domestic. I've been learning new stuff about Anaglyph making and 3D illusions, specifically for videos. I've posted a video last time which was not very concrete in terms of its 3D effect, but it was a trial and now after learning new things, I might try to record a new video; However, it does require some work on prepping my gear first just a bit.

Source: Amazon
I've stopped my ongoing reading list to read and finish my 2 new books from Amazon, and I've already finished one by Syl Arena (which I've read books of his before) This book is quite easy to digest and the beginning bulk of this book is for beginners, but nevertheless what comes then is quite useful, specially when it comes to discussions about his projects and situations. He describes exactly the mental process as needed to follow on with creating the needed light (even though some professionals might disagree with his methods).

Source: Amazon
Now I've started reading the second book, Schaum's Outlines: Optics, which is supposedly and introductory to the world of optics. However, the book kind of looking weird, because I feel as if it is in fact an answering-model for another major book (or let's say a solution manual). Nevertheless, it gives good information still with some good explanations in paragraphs before giving questions and their solutions. It is in fact a good refresher for me so far because what I've been reading so far is what I've studied long ago in my physics classes and completely forgot about right now!

There are other stuff I need to test and examine too, but waiting for the right time as I'm pressed (and can barely type this blog even!). I have the focusing pyramid (to calibrate the focusing system for lenses) as well as the H-alpha Night Sky filter which I didn't examine properly for the night sky yet, except lately for shooting the lunar eclipse (image at the end of the post). It is a regular job (and imaging) with such a filter and when I ordered it, I was really aiming at using it to shoot at the sun, but seems I have to wait till summer is over or I will simply be a fried egg! As for now, I need to get myself involved in August project with the group, which is about "Books." So far, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do, but only glimpses and visions in my head waiting to get out to reality.
When it comes to travel, it seems that I have to delay my plans a bit further and probably skip this year as well. I guess things are going crazy in this world, too much that a travel itself is a stress that needs a stress-relief. Needless to say, I don't quite have any idea as where I should be going. Sometimes though I wish if I can meet some of those amazing people I knew online… Well, till that time comes, I better get back to my Irish lessons and learning, and maybe add another language to the list.

Lunar Chain


Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Quickie Quick…

It's getting busy at work (mainly related to reasons of stupidity) as well as an expo to attend to, so I'm not supposed to be typing this right now actually. I barely have the time! But anyway, just a quick stroll through things I've been doing lately.

First to mention is the project for July which seems I'm quite behind with. Despite my trials to create something but, so far, nothing is good. To me at least. The project for July is about Motion and Splashes. As I did splashes before (and it's messy) I didn't want to get into it right now (despite the fun!) and instead headed to try and shoot something for Motion. My first target was my watches.

Static

I was approaching this idea from various philosophies (past and present, old and new, stable and changing, you name it) but unfortunately the set itself was not appropriate and the watches were not as well it seems. The main technique was to use the Multi (Stroboscopic) properties of my speedlites to record the movement of the seconds hand on one of the watches (by flashing every second) but that never worked. My thought was that the size is not proper for this mission. Thus, after many failed trials, including Static above, I had to abandon this set and try it out with something else. Something bigger.

Waiting

My next approach was to set my wall clock with a withered rose (no worries, it's artificial one and burnt a little to mimic the effect as much as possible). In Waiting, my idea of motion got a blend of my passion for Sabah Fakhri [صباح فخري] and was inspired from 2 lines from one of his songs. As the title depicts, it is about waiting someone in vain. Here too, unfortunately, my speedlite's stroboscopic option failed to get the movement. It seems that the hands must and better to be in white for better reflection. Anyway, as I was working on this, and because of using a wide aperture (f/2, to blur the background), the lowest power in the flash were overloading the scene with highlights. Thus, I had to fix my B+W 092 Infrared filter on the lens (50mm) to lower the power down. Since the stroboscopic option didn't work here either, it was inevitable to mimic the multiple exposure effect using several shots taken in a periodic manner (using intervalometer); as Canon EOS 7D does not have the option for multi-exposure. The final image though, Waiting, is composed from some of these images (total 20) and not all of them since I wanted to make some more spaces between the movements of the minutes hands from one image to another. And for some reason there were some shots where the flash did not fire, probably because the speedlite (which was off-camera and triggered wirelessly) did not get the signal properly from the master on camera. Anyway, I'm still not so satisfied about this blend for the images and I might re-do it again with proper, shallower depth of field if possible and better blend.

However, in this mess with this project, in the last few days remaining of July, I suddenly got the urge to perform some new 3D anaglyph, starting with a selfie (well, no need to post it here anyway) and a video; since I do have two cameras already! But there were some preparations to be made for my converted camera of course, mainly using a hot mirror filter to block IR as much as possible as in normal cameras.

video

It was a sluggish work though but it is a beginning. The settings for the two camera were kept identical as much as possible, but for the white balance I had to use my WB Disk to calibrate both cameras to the same degree of color correction even with hot mirror filter being placed on the lens. I used here my Canon EF 50mm lens on my converted camera, while placing my very old kit lens (18-55mm) on my regular camera. I did shoot various videos after the first video (above) but seems the first one was the best. In editing phase, though, I had to minimize the size of one of the videos to fit the other one; quite a tedious task for me since I don't know much about video editing, but well, learning still. The 3D anaglyph video above is not that good though and it comes to me that it is probably better to use wide angles to record such videos at the moment, and lenses with focal length of 50mm and more would need closer spacing between the two lenses to have a good quality 3D anaglyph video. Just a thought and applying this would come later hopefully. Meanwhile, these spintops did indeed flip my brain back to the Motion project as I will try to do some experiments again with them, for the project this time. Yet, I guess I need to wait for the weekend to arrive as I'm busy with many things during weekdays now. See you later!

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Micron…

Here I am, back after a little vacation away from this blog for the Eid event (and actually not having time to type it down!). I've been spending Eid sleeping most of the time as I'm trying to fix my sleeping time, but I did some work with my camera and I will talk about some of it in this post. Moreover, I did receive my shipments and I'm trying to find an opportunity to try them out. Anyway, I might keep the talk about these stuff for another post, as most of them are actually accessories and spare parts.

Murder of Colors

This is the title of a little series I've made, again, with colored feathers as a part of June project with the group which was themed "Abstract." Initially, the idea was to take a shot for some feathers, set randomly, from below with a wide angle lens, in hope that the distortion would serve me here to create an interesting attraction. However, many difficulties occurred, specially with the method of lighting with the speedlites, and after trying many times, I had to give up the idea and do a typical abstract approach as my mind is usually set to go: Macro.

Murder of Colors I
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
Changing to macro required a change of in the setting of course, so I placed the speedlites below the set (feathers were sprinkled randomly on a plastic or acrylic sheet) while I shoot them from above using the wireless function in my Canon EOS 7D to control speedlites via infrared. As it is not a matter of HSS, then infrared function can be used with comfort (HSS is not active when controlling flashes via wireless, unless with a special trigger). In this series, I moved from using the usual extension tubes with whatever lens, to reversing the lens with my Vello Macrofier. This method is a saver indeed, as it doesn't add more weight to the camera (which I'm going to shoot with by hand and no tripod), and apparently it does not have all the complications that accompany extension tubes when it comes to the focal plane placement and whether or not the focusing point would be in front of the lens or behind it (which deems it impossible).

Murder of Colors II
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
I was set to use Voigtländer 20mm lens on reverse here, as according to my calculations (which I've found out they were wrong later) that it would give a magnification of 2.5X, while using 50mm lens would give about 1X. I needed something extra here to avoid the typical zooming level that I've used previously in most of my abstracts. Also, to get some extra details out of the lines in the feathers. In this series which consists of merely 3 shots (after sorting them out), I think I prefer Murder of Colors I the most, as it has this glow and vibrant coloration, and some strange color cast from one feather onto another (mainly on the yellow feather).

Murder of Colors III
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
Unfortunately though, I didn't document this simple set for Murder of Colors, and at the moment, I've just realized that there is a whole different series done with feathers which I've totally forgot about despite being uploaded to stock sites already (and accepted by most)! Anyway, I might try to post about that series later. Seems that my busy schedule (or let's say me getting myself busy schedule) made some gaps in my memory! However, I'm happy for one thing, which is finally having an exact calculation method to estimate the magnification level, but that did not come by while working on Murder of Colors series, but rather later, as I was working with my microscope!


Reverse Magnification

Vello Macrofier
Source: B&H
I talked about how I was wrong with some of my calculations regarding the magnification when using Lens Reversing method. Generally speaking, it is supposed to be just like the calculations done with Coupling Lenses technique, where two lenses are connected in reverse to each other and onto the camera; In this method, the magnification is measured by finding the ratio between first lens (attached to camera) and the reversed lens. I could not really find a concrete formula for magnification by reversing the lens directly onto the camera, but I presumed that the focal length should be 50mm or around that, as it is the "normal" focal length. By that, the magnification is to be calculated as 50/FL, where FL is the reversed lens focal length.
However, as I'm working with my old microscope, I got my interest back again and I started searching again, and all I could find is actually practical method to measure the magnification by shooting rulers and finding the ratio between millimeters in the image and the actual width of the sensor. Doing that practically with a ruler did break my believe about the ratio of 50/FL stated above, and I started to look for the source of that difference, as the magnification ratio with a reversed Voigtländer 20mm which is supposed to be about 2.5X, proved to be higher than that (around 3.2X!).
This made me investigate the specs of my camera again and trying to find the true distance between sensor and the mount (a.k.a. flange focal distance), and to my surprise, it was indeed not 50mm as I was thinking, but 44mm. Yet, this didn't explain the results and I just realized the fact that the Vello Macrofier does add some distance further away from the sensor and it should be added (which was about 20mm). By this, the total distance away from the sensor becomes: 44mm + 20mm = 64mm. Thus, doing the magnification ratio again with this value: 64mm / 20mm (for Voigtländer lens) that would yield 3.2X indeed as measured practically with a ruler (values had been approximated of course and rounded to one decimal place).

The flange place for DSLR (top) and
Mirrorless (bottom) indicated by Red.
Source: Wikipedia
With this result I'm more likely to rely on reversing the lens for my macro shots more than using tubes or lenses coupling, or even using my 100mm macro lens. Even though using a dedicated macro lens has its own benefits of course and its quality. Nevertheless, reversing the lens with Vello Macrofier makes the job easier (specially that it offers an aperture control) and better focusing distance than with extension tubes. To elaborate further, again with Voigtländer 20mm lens, as per calculations, using extension tubes to gain a proper 2X magnification or a bit more with this lens, would yield a focusing point behind the lens front (which is impossible); While using reverse lens method, this enables me to get 3.2X with proper focusing distance (in millimeters of course) in front of the lens. Also, I can add filters (UV at least) to the lens front when in reverse just to increase the distance to the sensor (which I did already and gained about 3.7X). There is a whole new world to be discovered with this method, which made me think of having a specially made hood for my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens to enable fitting adapters to the front of the lens. If this worked right, then I might be able to gain 8X just like a breeze!

Micro-Macro

Well, the upper part to explain the reverse lens magnification was ignited by this ongoing project of shooting objects under the microscope. I have this microscope since I was 14, and instead of leaving it to collect some dust, I've decided to put it to use with my camera, specially after surfing the net and finding new methods to shoot through the microscope without using a special mount and adapter. Mostly, a point-and-shoot cameras are used for this task (or webcam sometimes) but all I have here is two DSLRs with LOT of possibilities.

My set for shooting through my old microscope.
Using two 12W LEDs to light the set properly.
Well, the hardest part was (and still) making the set ready. My microscope is an old one with one eyepiece protruding upward and even though I can tilt the microscope but I have to keep it standing as it is because the samples I make are usually, well, not professional ones and can easily slide down. Here comes the hard part, with setting the camera (and rail) on the top of the eyepiece, and the small tea table did not make things go easier either. It's a matter of weight lifting and sometimes balancing the tripod with the lateral arm on top or it would fall over. Nevertheless, I made it with many samples and triggered me to do another research for better ways to stack focus my images (a single image won't do here).

Lamina

The beginning was with some of the colored feathers that I've already used many times for my abstract. There are many problems that are already there before I even think of shooting through the microscope. However, I'm not intending on producing Book-Quality images after all (otherwise, I do have a friend to help me with that). As can be seen in Lamina, which was shot from a red feather, such single shots do not bear much depth of field. Thus, there was a call for focus stacking, and this time by changing the focus in the microscope itself, not moving the camera and rail combination.

Hair Bulb

Typically, I would think of Photoshop as the main tool to focus stack my shots, but again, I've realized that however smooth I'd go with the focus, Photoshop would still give out some bad blends as can be seen in Hair Bulb. This shot was is probably one of the fewest that I did with 40X objective on this microscope (and thus reaching total magnification of about 1280X). Zooming so deep sometimes makes a loss of some good details, as well as it is hard to light even with external sources such as two LED bulbs. These discrepancies made me aware of the fact that Photoshop, and like the case with panorama stitching, is not the best solution for the task at hand. And again I go looking for other solutions.

Hair Bulb (Enfuse)
 
I've found many software dedicated to focus stacking and most of them were to be purchased, at the end I've found one freeware which is actually dedicated to blend HDR images, but according to some tutorials I've found, it can be used for focus stacking successfully: EnfuseGUI (the man deserves some donation there!). In the tutorials they use Hugin (another freeware for panorama stitching) to align images, but I've found that it is a command-line thing and needs quite a patience here! Thus, just for aligning my images, I used Photoshop back again (and cropping some excesses). No need to go to the details of the process here, but the results of using Enfuse can be seen on Hair Bulb (Enfuse), where the blend had been much better. I was not lucky all the time though, and most of the time with other stacks, I have to stack on stages (blending portions and then sub-portions, then sub-sub-portions... etc) which takes some time but the results are far more fit than what Photoshop could do. Did Adobe fix such issues in new editions of Photoshop? I really don't know, as I'm using CS5 and got no plans to go beyond that for the time being.

A Study of 20 Fils
"K"
320X
One of the struggles of focus stacking with microscope images is to achieve some 3D-ish look when shooting various specimens. Using external light sources got me the advantage of viewing metallic opaque objects, such as coins, specifically this 20 Fils which I did inspect long time ago by in-camera macro methods  (using lens coupling) and reached about 17X power. The story is different now and I'm able to few the metallic texture up and close! However, there is always the annoyance of artifacts from this old microscope but the fun lingers on. To this moment of typing this post there are still more work going on with some coins which I might post later.
As I've stated before, the fact that I'm using a lens on reverse enables me to add filters to the lens' front and consequently this would also increase the magnification ratio a bit because the distance to the sensor is stretched few millimeters. But to my own experience now, I have to say that having super magnification is not always what you want or need, simply because it might obscure details!

Banana Peel
320X

With filters, seems like I'm having different worlds to discover; Something I'm working on still. Probably the most astonishing view I had so far is that one with Banana Peel which was my first target to use infrared filter (B+W 092, threshold: 650nm). Things were dark and hard to see at first, and I had to raise the ISO to max just to navigate through, but I put it down when I saw something that captured my eyes…

Banana Peel under Infrared

The image you see above is of course the final product of focus stacking and infrared processing, as well as channel swapping. However, these marks were glowing in my LiveView while the rest of the peel (same peel posted above that) was dark while using this filter. I showed my friend this image and told him the story but we both were astonished and could not find a reason for this. The thing is, doing infrared shots for other materials did not yield such result!

Grape Skin (IR)
320X

Grape Skin (Normal)

I think this matter needs more picture taking to find if this thing is really significant for bananas only or there was something wrong with the microscope or my camera! However, I'll keep looking further for more samples to do. Despite being a tiresome job to do with this microscope and the heavy cumbersome gear that I have to deal with, it is still a good source of muse, specially with the arrival of my new H-alpha filter from Lumicon, which I'm dying to use (artistically and scientifically, if I can call it so!).

Finale

I guess this post is long enough as it is now and no need to talk about my new acquired stuff. This is beside not trying them out yet and having any thoughts about them. The Summer is scorching my head as usual and with me back to work after a long vacation during Ramadhan doesn't make things better for either mood or body, but I'm trying to muse myself with the camera and the new stuff. July project with the group is also ongoing right now and somewhat adds a bit of burden to my time which I want to dedicate further to my new toys and activities. Everyone, Everywhere I look, talks about traveling, I guess this is natural since it is Summer, a typical season, but it makes me drool and my mind is busy calculating to see and plan for some vacation outside, before I commit a murder or something. Anyway, my traveling is typically after the busy season, to have some "quiet" time. Yet, my mind is not set yet on a specific destination, nor I'm sure about my budget. Meanwhile, my only companion seems to be my headphone, and the heat…



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy