Thursday, November 19, 2015


Not much to be said right now, as the long awaited expo started this Wednesday and it will last for 10 days. My schedule would be busy in the afternoons as I will be heading to the expo everyday, as much as I can, even though the health have been shaky a bit lately.
For this expo (which accompanies the annual book fair) I've made 3D prints (i.e. images) in a gamble with how people would perceive this. So far so good, despite the problem with the lighting and the sunlight coming in daytime. Such images have somewhat greater sensitivity to the light level falling upon them which might alter or change the red and cyan level, which in return initiates a "ghosting" effect, where the eyes cannot merge the two images into one (using the glasses of course). I have also to keep track of the 3D glasses and keep them on check.

The guys in front of my 3D image print, which is a panorama from,
Sultan Qabus Grand Mosque. It comes as a surprise that my two 3D images
are from Oman, and displayed in this time which coincides with Oman's
national day!
Follow the group's Instagram's account for more updates and news:

The Minister's visit to our booth in the opening ceremony.

Despite this pressure, I did minor processing for some shots from Malta, and probably will display them in a later time. For now, my mind is running around for new ideas, to photograph and also to print. I'm thinking as well of doing more experiments in the field of 3D anaglyphs. I'm just hoping no more mishaps to come down my way as it is the situation with this passing week, as well as better health to be coming down my way… I hope.

Triq tas Sema (BW/3D)
Road of Heaven
طريق السماء

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Rant…

This is a quick wrap as I'm having a break from working on a new set of panoramas, in what is supposed to be my first commissioned work!
I got the job via a friend, but I will tell more after the whole thing has worked out. It is an interesting place and I'm already having the typical technical problems which accompany panorama-making usually. The work is needed by next Sunday, thus I'm trying to invest every second of my time, and every available space in the memory of my PC! As I'm writing these words the job is not over yet (that is the photo shoot) and probably more to come.

Architectural Anatomy
Meanwhile, I've been trying to dig more into previous panoramas, specifically those from Oman and Malta.One of the interesting projections I've "discovered" so far can be seen in Architectural Anatomy. A friend wondered why I didn't put the huge circle (originally an arc) down; the reason behind this is, when I formed this projection (planet projection), the view seemed to be like a head (and some did indeed comment that it looks like ET!), and hence the name. To imply this vision, I had to keep it that way as can be seen here.
Also, there are the panoramas taken from Sultan Qabus Grand Mosque still awaiting for their turn of projections (even though I did extract most of these). One style that was favored by a number of people was Backbone, which for me does somewhat give a sense of Gothic architecture (despite the purely Islamic nature of the architecture in normal format). I guess maybe that's why it was liked by many westerns? Who knows! It was done in 3D as well (and it was liked mostly in 3D anaglyph format). In this specific vertical panorama, I've decided to go with the typical spherical projection instead of the Mercator which I've been using lately for vertical panoramas specifically. For some reason not so clear yet for me, it seemed that having an elongated vertical panorama with this one adds more strength (and probably this is what increased the Gothic effect).


My timing is a mess lately because of many preparations with the group (and I really hate it when this happens) - always jobs done to the last minute. Surprisingly, some of my accepted panoramas (in sorting) for some contests, was later discarded (but I'm uploading it anyway), namely L-Orizzont and some others. My experience tells me that some judges are way too much of a burden for no right reason. Same judges did already exclude some of my most renowned panoramas, like Easnacha, which is not displayed in Trierenberg's Luxurious Coffee Table Book Edition (which is printed in a limited number of 500 worldwide). For this reason, I'm giving a deaf ear to these comments and judging, and to some limit, I'm uploading what I see appropriate.


This coincides with my e-mail to Bruce Barnbaum, an author or 2 great books about the art of photography (and currently in the process of reading the second). It was great to have him reply to my e-mail. I asked him about his ideas about Panoramas, and Photography contests. Somewhat, it didn't differ much from my view (excluding the panorama part). Here's his reply directly from my email:


I agree with you about panoramas: it seems that most people are doing them today simply because the CAN do them. I've seen virtually none that excite me.

Photography contests are utterly useless: It's much like asking, "Who is better, Rembrandt or van Gogh." The question, itself, is stupid.

Thank you for your nice comments about my book!

Bruce Barnbaum
I tried to let him judge some of my work with panoramas despite his disinterest in them, but he apologized about it for his busy schedule. No wonder. I do consider this man one of the cores of arts! Not only at the point of contests do I agree with him, but also in other stuff mentioned in his books (like he does not do much portraits and does prefer abstracts and landscapes). I'm greatly happy that he did answer my e-mail, and also having something in common with him somehow. Ironically, after sending this e-mail, I continued reading his book and I did read exactly what he expressed in his e-mail about photography contests.
I'm emphasizing this point because I do feel like I'm doing a job for others with one exception: it's not commissioned, but quite the opposite. I'm paying for these contests. Why? I know it's all about the reputation in the field and that makes a way for other relationships and revenues, but looking at the limit of the stress and the efforts done to get a single acceptable image (by the members of the group or myself), makes me feel that it is just unworthy and far from "art." We are, literally, spending hundreds of dinars every year just for such contests. Things are worse my way, since not much of them does understand or have some support to the art of panorama. They say you should do (or photograph) what you like most because it makes you indulge easily and get creative - and this is what I'm trying to do with my panoramas; yet, those who are supposedly to be the art-patrons, do not understand or simply neglect this art. That's it... ranting over.

Triq tas-Sema (road of heaven)
طريق السماء

Thursday, November 5, 2015


Things are going in a fast pace here. Expo, international contest, and work; it's all having a toll on everything in my life, even photography and specially my health. There had been days now that I've simply stayed home just for some extra hours of sleep away from work and the photography club I'm involved in. On the other hand, I'm trying to quantify my work pace with my photos (from both, Oman and Malta) in the rhythm of two images per day; at least for the time being. One would be a single shot and the other one should be a stitched panorama in some projection not done before (all flat versions are stitched already).

Sewing Matters

As the big day of The Book annual is approaching, comes with it the pressure to introduce some kind of new photography and new imagery within the group (or club) to be presented in the photography expo coming along the event. Many professional photographers and clubs are invited to participate in this event, and hence, the job is a tough one; to stand tall among the crowds.
Maltese Abstract (3D)
From my part, I've introduced the idea of printing 3D anaglyph images and the deal was to push the whole group to do this activity, but alas, at the end it was only me who kept on working on this project. Hence, there was a great change of plans.
Maltese Delight (3D)
In the beginning, some of my images and panoramas were sorted out for this expo, but then seeing the lack of 3D images presented, the plans had changed and I won't be presenting these images. But instead, I will present two 3D images. Having done 3D panoramas in Oman was a bonus here; the two images selected for this task were from Sultan Qabus Grand Mosque: a panorama, and a single shot with my Rokinon fisheye lens. No need to display them here for the time being as I will leave that for the expo later on. However, these two were among a dozen or more of 3D images I've been rendering from Malta and Oman (and Malta specifically). From a list of 17 images which I deemed "meaningful," six were chosen, and those were filtered down to two for the expo display. The last filtration actually took place after a test print in A3 size on semi-glossy paper - not a good quality actually and the contrast increased significantly (a critical factor in 3D images), but it did the job to make a quick comparison and decision. Despite the increase in contrast, the images did show little or no ghosting at all.

3D Prints

As for the time being, all these images which were supposed to be printed for this coming expo, would be probably moved to the stack for Al-Thani international photography contest (organized by Trierenberg Circuit, organizers of Austria's international contest, which I've forgot to state before that they published another panorama in their luxurious edition). The contest has only 2 major themes: General, and Travel. One of the items here that I wish for it to be printed is the Sultan's Eye [عين السلطان], which I have plan for it to be printed and framed in a circular form instead of the conventional rectangular shape. It would be something non-ordinary, here at least.

عين السلطان (Sultan's Eye)

Anyway, if I get the chance to, I would present this for Al-Thani contest as well. The decision is left at the end for the judges who sort out the group's stack of images. The art I do, or specifically the kind of photography I do, is not understood by many and when professional photographers are invited to judge for the group members, my panoramas are deleted quite often and for various reasons; but mainly all stem from the fact that they don't understand what is going on or the nature of this image (and mainly thinking it is a graphic design which is automatically out in contests of photography). I'm not mad or upset about it, but in some ironic way it does show the mentality of photographers, specifically those old professionals and how they look at it. In any way, what really upsets me is when all options are exhausted and I would not be left with an accepted image to submit for the contest, or when such judging takes place so late, a day or two before the deadline day of the contest.


Despite coughing is being down a bit for the time being and I've stopped taking a nebulizer for my "asthma" (and I'm not sure it is a real asthma really), yet my health is still dwindling up and down. Suddenly sneezing with a seizure, or waking up late at night with a harsh dry cough. In all situation, my lack of sleep is greater than before. As of late, I would be awake for about 19 hours in exchange of 4 hours of sleep only, on a course of several days. Can't wait for this weekend to come and have some long sleep (and play some spooky games too!). I just hope all that would disappear with the arrival of the real winter whose rain showers appear last week with heavy rains and harsh wind (yet humid weather!). I'm keeping hopes that this winter will carry out more activities for me despite this shaky health. It is my favorite season in the year, specially when it comes to photography…

Barra (Outside) - 3D
Despite the strong 3D effect, this image didn't pass the sorting process.
Taken inside my room back in Qala, Malta, when it was raining outside.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Għajnejn Miftuħiet Wiesgħiet…

Here I am, back to work and the daily turmoil; traffic jams, turbulent home, and turbulent sleeping pattern. Despite some of the problems I had in Malta, I do feel like doing back just to relax even more. I can get very lazy, I know, but who wouldn't be, with a continuous headache like this.
My sleeping pattern is not fixed and I've been going to work all week being awake since midnight or around that time (and sometimes before this time even). All that leaves me too exhausted and paralyzed with not much work done to my newly-acquired photos from Malta. The only time available for me in the meantime is after waking up in the middle of the night, and not much is done during these hours. I'm trying to organize my life a bit (starting with my room cleaning) but I think I will need few months to do this instead of some days or weeks!

it-toroq kollha jwasslu li Ġużeppi
(all roads lead to Joseph)
In the meantime, seems I've stitched all my arsenal of panoramas from Malta. What is left now is doing various projections of them. Some of those though won't have any other projections since they are just simple panoramas with few shots and not full space panoramas. Also, there should be a lot to be done in inspecting other single shots taken around Qala, where I stayed. I have to inspect these single shots thoroughly to find possibilities for 3D anaglyphs processing; some of those I did intend to make them into anaglyphs, but sometimes single shots taken from the same location repetitively can have a difference in perspective which would help in making a 3D image after all.

Kbir Qaddis Ġużeppi
Unfortunately for me though, the panorama taken in Qala Pjazza where the church of Kbir Qaddis Ġużeppi lies, and which I've shot twice intending to make it as a 3D panorama, did not work quite well for many factors, specifically the change in the lighting conditions and the movement of the clouds (the two reasons are interconnected anyway). Thus, I've abandoned this idea.

Infra Ġużeppi

One of the interesting panoramas that have been stitched lately as well is the infrared panorama taken from the same pjazza (or piazza) in front of the church. Despite the shining sun, I had to raise the ISO value to 400 to shorten the exposure time down to ~1m20s. In the beginning there had been problems in finding matching points between many slides specially those where the clouds line occupy a large area of the image. However, removing the zenith and the nadir points seems to have worked wonder somehow and the problems were reduced to only 1 or 2 slides that needed control points to be specified manually, and what caused this was mainly a difference in levels or tones between the two slides caused by the movement of the clouds in the sky which turned the sun on and off and probably the angle at which some features are shot with do affect the direction of reflection of infrared radiation towards the camera (but I'm not sure about that, but this is the case of using a polarizer, hence it's no good to use a polarizer to shoot a panorama). The hardships in this panorama though started with the processing endeavor; it's infrared, i.e. no real colors. I was fluctuating between having a reddish look or a bluish look; should I apply a channel swab or not? I've tried many aspects for this but at the end I've decided to settle down with the black and white look (adding a tiny bit of bluish tint). My work was not over at this, but I had to crop away some of the annoying features, which means the panorama is not 360° any longer. I had to do this mainly to crop away the flaring sun. A typical annoyance with panoramas shot outdoors, and the annoyance increases when doing an infrared panorama (with an unconverted camera which requires long exposures). Now all what is left with this arsenal is to be sorted out and to see which one can be uploaded to stock sites, and which ones would be beneficial for the group's usage in contests, and let's not forget my website which settles there, idle…


For this load and this sleeping pattern, not much could be done this week I suppose. Well, many images were processed already but I don't like to put all the eggs in one basket here. Beside this, there might be a re-visit to some of the shots taken in Oman back in September to extract more of them. The matter of QTVRs from my panoramas from Malta is abandoned in the meantime. Probably if I know of a good (web) location to host these and display them easily for regular users, only then, probably, I'd like to create more QTVRs, or upon request.
This is my life right now: work, chores, and more work. Probably my long sleep since I got back from vacation is just a trial to escape reality? I'm not sure; I'm no psychologist. Least I'm hoping for is an end for this damn cough, which seems to get better by now - a good sign on top of all the black endeavors…

3D Giovanna Debono

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wara Malta…

Here I am. After some long journeys and so much fuss and hassle in life! I think there's so much to be talking about right now, specially that I didn't write any blog posts when I was in Malta (from September 27th until October 8th), but thanks to my laptop, I couldn't do that and now many things and many details escaped my mind. However, processing images and some panoramas is ongoing.
I have to say that I didn't get into the maximum of my efforts in Malta, specially after being struck with a serial bad luck, starting with my laptop stopping to function in what it seemed back then to be a short circuit in the motherboard. Luckily I had my tablet to do some of my business and when I did a search about this problem it seemed that most people suffered from this problem owned a DELL like me! And it is noted that most likely it is a motherboard problem. However, when I got back to Kuwait, the laptop worked just fine as nothing happened at all! I'm still trying to figure out what was going on exactly and learn, so I can avoid this problem in the future! Malta's and Kuwait's electricity are almost the same (230V for Malta and 240V for Kuwait, and both run on 50Hz). It sure gave me a hard time, but thanks to the owners of Dar ta' Żeppi who allowed me to use a laptop to transfer my files from the camera to my external hard disk.
I'm not sure what came over me but something out there turned my ambitious venture around and made me dormant. In fact, I didn't go to the typical tourists attraction in Malta, and specifically in the island of Gozo (Maltese: Għawdex), and I had just my share of walks in the narrow roads of il-Qala, the town where I was staying. The weather is nice but it's not as cold as Ireland in October; a typical Mediterranean weather. Thus, walking around had its toll on my body. In fact, I was literally "climbing" in some of these roads!


As you can see in the video, this is just an example of some portion of the roads. There were scenic views however. The owners did indeed offer me a ride to some of these tourists attractions but I was on hibernating mode and all I could think of is relaxation. I got tired of carrying my gear with me wherever I go, hence after few days I've totally abandoned the idea of doing panoramas out of the periphery of the B&B. I took strolls like in this video above, simply carrying my camera and 2 lenses maximum (typically the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, and Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye). In the beginning I was wandering around with my full gear (plus the VR-Head for panoramas) but it proved to be a killer specially in such roads. Not only you will get tired going up a road walking but also going down from the same route because you will need some power and force (while you're exhausted already) to brake your body and avoid falling down!

Is-Sema li Jaqgħu
(the falling sky)
Canon EF 15mm fisheye, f/9, 18m, ISO100.

Beside regular shots and panoramas there were infrared trials of course. I wasn't always lucky in this matter in fact (seems luck was always down in Malta!). I tried to take an infrared shot with my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens in front of Kbir Qaddis Ġużeppi church, but the wind direction was always driving the clouds away from the scene giving me at the end a clear sky (those exposures took around 40 to 42 minutes!). I might though work on those later, but probably the best infrared shot I've taken was done with my Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens (the one I usually use for panoramas as well); Is-sema li jaqgħu. The clouds here served me well but the composition isn't quite right and somewhat "barren."  The sun provided a strong flare and had to be cropped out as well. For infrared shots with Rokinon fisheye lens (which has no socket at the back like the Canon EF 15mm fisheye), I've decided to do it the hard way by sticking it using a duct tape to the back of the lens. It is a long process and wastes time but I think it is worthy after all, specially with exposures lasting for long time like this. 

Fuq L-Għolja
(above the hill)
Sigma 70-300mm @300mm,
f/20, 4s, ISO100.
I didn't have to wander off far away just to snap some shots anyway. Some of the brilliant shots (to me at least) were snapped from the top of Dar ta' Żeppi itself. I noticed from the top of the roof how people are dependent on solar energy! However, I have to say that the lighting in the place was not giving me any easy time with my eyes. With this I have to say I'm not very optimistic about adapting to this technology! 
On the roof, I've waited specifically for the sunset time and I did take a lot of shots that need to be processed and checked for further manipulation. The one like Fuq L-Għolja was shot after the sun disk disappeared below the horizon. One thing I feel sorry for here is the fact that the sun disk was not going exactly behind the church (Nadur church here) but beside it. However, I did snap a lot of shots which I might work slowly on them later on after finishing essential key images.

Panorama-wise, I didn't wander off far to do them. The furthest point at which I did a panorama was at the piazza in front of Kbir Qaddis Ġużeppi church (a landmark of Qala town). Even though I processed this panorama (and I've planned it in 3D anaglyph format) but I'm still perplexed about its arrangement and is it really good enough to be a 3D image. In the meantime, I've worked on the rest, specially those taken inside Dar ta' Żeppi, mainly for writing a review in TripAdvisor, and to send a smaller version of those to the owners as a little gift. I doubt I will make any prints this time. To myself, two panoramas were really interesting for me.

Kamra tal-Banju
(the Bathroom)

One of these panoramas is Kamra tal-Banju, which had a dark atmosphere with those yellowish energy-saving lamps on the wall. I was baffled in the beginning whether I should do this panorama in daytime or nighttime (because of the window which leaks daylight into the bathroom). In fact, in daytime, the view is brighter to my eyes without even using the wall lamps. However,I've decided to do this one at night and depend on the wall lamps to make the lighting unique and avoid patterns of light on the walls. Thanks to the HDR technique, I was able to elaborate this more and also thanks to my white balance disk, I've calibrated the white balance before the work resulting in (almost) pure white tiles with brighter look.

(the horizon)

Probably the most brilliant panorama for me so far is the one taken from the roof (and in non-conventional panoramic way!). L-Orizzont was shot using my Sigma 70-300mm lens @225mm. No VR-Head was used here since it is not about doing a 360° but it's about catching a moment in the horizon and to show the elevations of hills and valleys against the bright horizon. The shoot was, of course, done in HDR technique, which allowed a lot of control. However, the sun disk was problematic that's instead of cropping it out (and the panorama then was already cropped after adjusting the tilt), I've cloned it out. In order to increase the contrast (after increasing it already with Curves and Vibrance layers), I've decided to add a Photo Filter layer to add a bluish streak, specifically to the lower part of the panorama and hence making a contrast on the basis of Complementary Colors (Blues and Yellows are at opposite ends on the color wheel).
L-Orizzont makes me feel happy when I look at it. In its original format, this panorama is 6.5 meters wide (~256in). I do wish if I can make a print of it in that size one day instead of shrinking it to few centimeters in one of those miserable exhibitions we have here.


That was briefly what was it like in Malta. Many details and events I've skipped actually, trying to keep it to the point. Strangely though I've got struck with some tearing feeling of loneliness more than I usually get when I travel alone. I get that feeling often, but not like this. For some days I was really pushing myself and forcing myself to go out and at least enjoy the weather (a weather type seldom I experience here in Kuwait). There had been few days when all I desired was to lay in bed and watch TV, specially music channels. They played a great variety to my liking. One of these songs got stuck in my mind up till this very moment.
It's a trip that made me shuffle my mind about many things and re-think of many things. It would be some time until I can go ahead and continue with whatever is there of unfinished projects in my list, but hopefully I've persist on. One thing I can't deny for sure, and that is, my life is such a great mess… I even can't imagine myself traveling again any time soon…

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Malta fil Orizzont…

My flight date is getting closer. Yet, I'm so tired to even pack. Allergies rounded a severe attack on my body since I got back from Oman. Seems like I had an appointment with bad luck since I got back here. I can't wait to leave on a real vacation for good, and hopefully all this allergic reaction is over with it. I don't recall in my life ever that I did consume such amount of medicines (nutritional ones included). I hate pills, but allergy and cough left me no choice; I do suffocate and lose concentration because of them.

Meanwhile, my progress is slow with the current images from Oman (specially panoramas). This is related to my sickness nowadays. I feel the need to sleep most of the time. I've been preparing some 3D panoramas but they won't be displayed right now for some reason. I'll keep them for another occasion. In addition, most panoramas from Oman had been processed in the regular flat format. Some are interesting in such format and some are yet to be manipulated further in other styles.

In The Court of The Sultan

In reviewing some of these panoramas in a meeting for our group to sort out what is appropriate for exhibitions, those panoramas with a sun halo were not much favored. However, panoramas like In The Court of The Sultan were somewhat saved because the sun disk was not completely obvious from behind the structure, beside other processing tricks which reduced the artifacts in this area. But…

Architectural Journey

Polar projections for the same panorama, Architectural Journey, was much favored that it made other panoramas in the list more or less like a child's play. However, it needs some specific crop to enhance the visual impact, the leader said. There are more projections awaiting to be processed for this panorama specifically, and for the others in general. Doing various projections is a must to extract as much as possible from a single panorama (which keeps me afloat in presenting some work all the time).

Sultan's Eye

One of most beloved panoramas for me right now is the Sultan's Eye. It is the planet projection for the inside of Sultan Qaboos grand mosque. The plan, if printed, is to present it as it is in a circular format. The leader of the group commented that it does need some tilt fix, and this is normal since I was not exactly in the center of the mosque. However, using the guidelines in Photoshop, everything seems to fall in place and it is perfectly symmetrical! This asymmetry would be more obvious in case that parts of the chandelier were obvious in the scene, but those were removed here because of a highlights problem.


The time is drawing near. Malta is in the horizon with lot of opportunities to photograph. I'm not sure though how easy it is to move around with my stuff, but one thing for sure after my travel to Oman: I need to drop some items down. Malta is full of history and the language in particular is interesting for me. How much I wish to go there and, in some way, never come back. Well, dreams aren't always easy; I know.
I have in this short period of time till the 27th to invent some way still to fit gel filters comfortably at the back of the Rokinon fisheye lens. Some infrared shots from Oman turned so blurry because of the scratches on the filter. The only method (and not a practical one) I could think of so far is using a duct tape along in my kit.
This would be my last post before heading to Malta, and I'm not sure yet if I will be posting daily from there to document my activities like I used to do in Ireland. But I'll try anyway. I need to pack ASAP with this allergic attack. I just wish I'd come back 2 weeks later and find my reality is just different, just like that…

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Here we are, a week after a rigorous trip to Oman last week, and still waiting for the upcoming (real) vacation by the end of September. I have to say though, despite the rigorous nature for this trip it was a 50-50 adventure; I had fun despite "some" circumstances that might upset lot of people in such trips. The trip was a photography trip in the first place, but Oman is such a beautiful place that 4 days are merely enough for a single place to "document" - least to say.
We used to go out in early mornings (usually 8 a.m.) and come back to our "dwellings" after dusk, and sometimes spending more than 3 hours on the roads traveling from one city or village to another. In this rush it was hard to document the activities we were doing by writing or typing, and I barely had time to even upload the pictures I've taken during the day to my laptop (did that in the last night in Muscat only). Just to give an imagination about the rush we were in, we did in fact start doing photography at the night of our arrival in Muscat, the capital city of the Sultanate of Oman. It was a minor activity to "grease" our eyes a bit - yet I did come up with some shots that might be favorable for the group's activities later on!

Mohammed AlAmeen mosque. Muscat, Oman.
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/8, 1/4s, ISO400.

The architecture of Mohammed AlAmeen mosque was quite favorable but because of the tired body and mind it was hard to focus in doing much there. Yet, I did try my best and found my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens quite favorable for such place. I had to do some body-stretching though, as in Zenith, where I laid down on my back pointing my head to one of the entrances of the mosque and resting the camera on my chest. Three bracketed shots were taken in this position, but since I was breathing (surprisingly!), the first and last exposures were hazy and shaken and had no choice but to pick the lowest exposure (at -2EV) to edit in RAW format, which made up Zenith. Considerable work was involved here to enhance the exposure and sharpness and reducing the noise, but I doubt that it would be a good view in a large print.
The main gain in the trip goes to those who are interested in portraiture and documenting the rural life of Oman (unfortunately, international contests are always emphasizing these elements which leaves me empty-handed). Some members did indeed bring studio flashes and monolights, dragging them wherever we go; and the apogee of such activity was in Bayt Al-Safah: the home town of our guide which was an active center for the surrounding villages along many aspects of day-to-day life in the past. In that location specifically I didn't touch my camera and I really enjoyed myself in the rural life style and the traditional music which I love.
The Race
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/3.5,
8m10s, ISO400.
Compared to other members in the group, I would be probably at the end of the list in number of photographs taken, specially that I was concentrating on panoramas more than anything else (but I did take single shots yet I don't think they add much to my arsenal but a mere documentation). Probably the thing that I feel sorry the most for is the fact that I didn't do much night shots despite the dedication from the group to do a milkyway-shot from the top of the mountains on our second night in Oman. The wind was somewhat cruel with our summer clothing and no jackets (which caused me some severe pains in the wrists in the following days). Even though I'm accustomed to such atmosphere but being on the top of the mountain was quite a dangerous venture and yet somewhat annoying because the job was done by a group and not a single person, me. As you can see in The Race, which was a star-trail shot rather than milkyway-shot, there is a trace of car lights which passed through the frame just seconds before the exposure ended. I guess it is just my luck and it is supposed to be so. Probably it does add some dynamic touch to the overall look of the image. I've raised the ISO here to 400 instead of settling with 100 to shorten the time (it should have taken around 32 minutes with ISO100); spending so much time in that wind and with other members lighting their torches on and off to see their ways would be just a vain. After completing this shot (and the only good one I suppose), I've went down back to the hotel (on feet as the hotel was on the top of the mountain itself) with some members leaving the others there trying to find their luck. It was an amazing night, and in the morning the sun light exposed many aspect of the breath-taking terrain surrounding the area: we were on the top of a mountain, where we could see other mountains below us. Definitely this place needs more than just one-night stay. Unfortunately, that morning and because of the pain in my hands, I didn't risk doing anything; it was a time to rest.

Ya'aribah's Halo
Al-Ya'aribah Mosque, Nizwa. Oman.

Panorama-wise now. I was reluctant to do a panorama wherever I go; this is mainly because of the time limitation imposed on the group's activities overall. For this reason, I had to inspect in a whim and make quick decisions about whether or not a panorama should be done here or there. Well, this made me forget some points and precautions (typical even in normal conditions), but the great challenge with panoramas taken from Oman is not the architecture and the looks, but the surroundings and the people roaming the place.
As we were going around typically tourists attractions, it was inevitable to do panoramas with people roaming the place. At the time of typing this, I did not inspect all panoramas but so far so good with those done with the stitching already. The greatest challenge though is to see the yielding results of stitching Sultan Qabus mosque's panorama; the mosque is said to have the largest chandelier in the world and it is a tourists attraction, while taking photos is allowed only from 8 to 11 a.m.; I'm quite positive right now that there will be a great deal of Photoshop work and skills needed in that specific panorama, and I'm relying on the HDR ghost-removal techniques to reduce (not completely remove) some of the movements in the place. The HDR technique did some nice job in other busy places before!

Solar Jabreen
Jabreen fort and castle. Bahla, Oman.

Problematic as much as it is fascinating, those panoramas taken outdoors did have the glaring sun disk in them. Fascinating for the fact that exposures are done easily (in brackets), and also increasing the depth of field does not impose an immediate lag in the shutter speed after all; the sun light is rough! On the other hand, it is problematic because the sun disk does not provide a pleasant addition to the scene with just a glaring white spot in the sky. For this reason, I've found myself doing the tone-mapping for these HDR panoramas using Photoshop to control the tones curve freely - this way I could create the annular shapes for the sun as can be seen in Ya'aribah's Halo and Solar Jabreen. This work did extended in fact with some few other panoramas after these two even though there is no sun disk visible in the scene but because of the harsh contrast between the sky and the other elements in the scene. One thing I wish I did (but couldn't) is an infrared panorama like the one done in Ireland under a diffused sunlight (but here we got a strong sun light which should shorten the time of exposures). The time limit did not allow me to achieve this dream. My infrared panorama from Ireland did have quite a voiced support from some of the audience in the latest expo.

The Waterfront (IR)

QTVRs are early to talk about but they are doable. Despite the fact that I've taken shots for the nadir point under my feet with the intent to clone the tripod and other elements to make them adequate to be merged into panoramas, I've actually just cropped the bottom areas of these panoramas to remove the tripod without adding a nadir point. When it comes to making a QTVR later on, I'll be adding a label with the name and location for that QTVR. The only backlash here is when other projections are needed where the nadir point might be in the front instead at the bottom, which calls for heavy skills in cloning as usual. Hopefully I'll be posting more panoramas in the coming days just before my second travel to Malta on September 27th.


I do feel like a running horse right now; all work and no play. Work with my photos that is. We have a sorting meeting coming up next week and thus I must prepare as much as possible before coming Sunday. Meanwhile, I do feel like doing nothing. In fact, once my feet stepped on the soil of the homeland, I wished to go back to Oman; not to take photos, but to live - as simple as that. I think it is time to change the people around me, yet it is such a hard task to do nor visible in the near horizon. All I can do is just travel as much as I can, as long as my financial situation allows to. If one has a home that doesn't feel like home, and workplace that bears no respect, where one should be going next?

3D Fort
Bayt AlRideedah, Nizwa. Oman.
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