Thursday, December 1, 2016

Projectoid…

Hectic weeks, and winter is finally here! I'm trying to absorb every single atom of this cold weather into my skin, as much as I can, before the arrival of the not-to-be-mentioned. Meanwhile, I was hanging on the tails of some of the last projects I was going on with, but I have to say the results are not what I've exactly expected; sort of disappointing. Thu, probably this would be a quick wrap about the latest. I didn't post anything last week since I was busy preparing and article for my other Arabic blog, so things here are a bit old stuff already that I didn't get the chance to post last week.

Heartoid
First of all, I wanted to redo the whole idea of essay photography (or photo story); just the first series of shots taken on the staircase. However, for some reason, things went erratic with my speedlite flashes beside having problems in positioning and managing the speedlite, while the location itself was not helping much really. The idea for redoing this was to stabilize the camera tilt and apply some of the notes after a critique from the founder and tutor (of the photo story workshop). I had to give up at the end, and rather quickly this time, because I had other plans in my head and also because of the frustration for working in this limited space! Needless to say, I had to return some of the items I've borrowed for long just for this project.



After finishing up with that project, I turned back to an old project which I've stopped temporary for the sake of the photo story project. That was about shooting transparent hearts and color them using Popsicle sticks.

Qtar 4


After successfully capturing some droplets from corn syrup with colored sticks reflected off it, I decided to work on a more meaningful idea instead of spreading droplets in a random way. Typically, for me, the object was a heart-shape; a transparent heart. I've tried hard to "draw" hearts using corn syrup itself, but that was not stable and could not be done technically. Then, tried ice (using heart-shaped molds for ice), but that way too fast to melt down. Freezing the corn syrup itself too was not good at all (it didn't freeze at all). Later, I tried mixing water with corn syrup and freeze the mix, which was a bit resistant to melting but still the mix was white and transparency was not enough. Finally, I've managed to work with gelatin and I have to admit that I made a little mistake here for freezing it after it was completely hardened, but the white layer on top was easy to break down with my finger and pushed away to get a relatively transparent heart but with some yellowish shade. This last solution was exactly what I need, since gelatin doesn't melt fast under room temperature. The problem with gelatin was its softness and it needs extra care to be extracted from the mold.

Single heart made by mixing water and corn syrup then frozen.


Instead of using one heart, I thought it is meaningful more to use two. Thus, I've completed a series of 6 shots for two hearts, each with a different color. I have to say though that some surplus on the sides of the hearts made it a bit awkward, but I didn't try to remove these additional parts in Photoshop (except for the purple hearts).

Two hearts made of gelatin. The red tones here are more flexible when suppressing the highlights reflections, unlike the water+corn syrup combination.

The purple hearts were cleaned on the left side removing some of the unnecessary parts on far left.


The final "product" was a cropped and cleaned (also darkened the background) hearts. For some reason I'm not sure of yet, it seems that the double gelatin hearts were stuck together even though each heart was a piece on its own! Anyway, all were uploaded to various stock sites, but to add some flavor to the process, I've made a collage of the 6 shots in a smaller size and uploaded to Canstockphoto website, only. Unfortunately, the status for all these images is pending for review. Things were faster on Canstockphoto. Some other stock sites, however, such as Dubistock (which is relatively new for me) did accept the series of hearts, but I didn't upload the collage there yet.

Hearts Collage


Mandaloid
I've been following some trend for mandala art on Instagram lately and I have to say that my love for symmetry (and probably my OCD-ish tendencies) pretty much like such art and shapes. It needs serious patience I suppose; something I disastrously lack. However, I tried my luck with such patterns digitally, once by converting some planet panoramas into line art (with specific technique) and once by working with typography, or doing art by letters. There is also one idea that I still didn't try yet which is drawing shapes by hand, scan them, and then repeating them in geometrical shapes digitally.
One of the doodles
turned into a vector
Scanning sketches and turning them into vectors is something I used to do from time to time, as I surprised myself for some of the doodles I used to do almost unconsciously in boring meetings and classes. Some of these are uploaded already to Canstockphoto (the only stock site up to which I upload vectors).
JOHN

The whole thing started when I was doodling in fact, and noticed how I can draw a heart by merging 2 J's, tip to tip. From that moment, I started to work digitally in Photoshop on combining letters, which later became full names combined in a complicated texture. The name "John" was first, then "Jesus." Well, I was thinking in advance here since Christmas season is coming and such vector might catch the eye and become trendy. Who knows! Finally, a whole complex design with the letter "J" alone. However, my real wish is to do an arabesque design some day, all out of geometry, just like that!
J
colors inversed
As for the time being, I'll try to think of more designs of that sort, with different names probably. All of the previous designs are converted to EPS, which should support vectors; it is the only format accepted by stock sites usually. Still, though, I think I'm doing something wrong here and I do need to re-check the processing of such files. I have to consider to if I should upload these vectors elsewhere, since Canstockphoto exclusive option had been removed, i.e. no special consideration or pricing for exclusive images, it seems.

Finale
I'm trying to push myself further with my camera now, trying different things other than my tendencies for panoramas, which, truth be said, I miss so much. Meanwhile, I still feel there is so much to be done with the music and songs of Sabah Fakhry (صباح فخري) and I keep having visits of thoughts and ideas by the lyrics of his songs, but the lot of them would be hard for me to do, specially those that might need a model. The only model I feel comfortable to work with, so far, is me. As for now, and finishing the experiments with gelatin, I've packed up my stuff which annoyed some people a lot for being there in the guest room spreading all over the place. Until I get another trend of thought and an idea to work, I might as well get my stuff down again... but I'll try to do it first in the small space available in my condensed room.
As days pass by, the mention of travels comes in my face wherever I go and head. People talk about it, even my horoscope talks about it, as well as tarot cards. Where to? Can I afford it really? Would I be able to manage things with Mom and the family before I go? Many things to think about before giving a concrete answer.

JESUS


Thursday, November 17, 2016

Phovel…

Been sort of a busy week and hence I didn't have the time to write a post for last week. The busy life is mainly about going to work and spending the day coping with tiredness (which usually becomes a fail). Weather is getting colder (perfect!), which means also more need for sleeping hours; seems I'm still stuck in the 5 hours range and that's barely enough!

RIP
Note: I don't own the image.
This week started off with some sad news; well, for some that is. One of the giants in the world of Cinema and TV passed away: Mahmood Abdul-Aziz [محمود عبدالعزيز]. Probably people who know me very well know pretty well that I don't spend my time in front of TV and didn't go to the movies in ages, not to say spending time watching them on TV. However, this man specifically had me hooked in most of the characters he played. I feel sad indeed, though I don't have a connection to him really or anything; I suppose it's the charisma he owned, and will own even when he is gone from our world. May he rest in peace, Amen.
As for me on the other hand, I had some tasks hanging in the air and was trying to make a good compromise between doing them and coping with life itself…

Phovel!

I was involved in the past weeks in a workshop with our group's leader about the so-called Photo-Story (a.k.a Photo Essay, Essay Photography, Serial Photography). In a nutshell, it is the making of a story from a series of photos (usually ranging between 5 to 12 images). Two weeks passed since the last day of the workshop (which was composed of 2 days with about 3 hours to each). At the end of the workshop we were supposed to give some results or samples of our work with this issue, which was something that took me around 2 weeks to complete. Not because I was lazy alone, but also I needed some accessories from my sisters to complete the idea I had in mind.
The main theme of the idea I had in mind was: a girl's life. Not sure why I picked this topic though but probably it was the first thing that struck me specially after observing some samples in the workshop; it sounds that chronological stories are somewhat the easiest. As per the leader's notes: it is not necessary to include a human in the photo, but it is enough to add a sign of that person. Thus, from that point on, I decided that I should work around it in this way, since I don't like portraiture much. Also, one of the basic instructions was to form the story and the basic elements for the shots and ideas by noting them down; everything should be in writing before catching the camera and starting to work right away. I have to admit though, I was lazy at this point specifically but I've formed all the imagery and ideas in my head and all I needed with the accessories. Meanwhile, I've developed another string of thoughts on implying this idea, and at the end, I've decided to shoot one series in regular camera, and the other to be done in my converted camera and IR filter on lens.


Photo Story One


Series One

This series was shot with a regular camera. My idea was to stabilize the background and keep moving the elements on the steps of the stairway, but unfortunately, because of the lens choice (50mm, which I picked mainly for its f/1.4 capabilities) and the narrow space which I have to work within - all that made it impossible to not tilt the camera upward as I continue shooting the series and going up the steps. Probably I needed something around 40mm or even 30mm, but such a choice is not available (and connecting a teleconverter to my 15mm was not a choice either). Anyway, it seems I was wrong in picking up that lens or even to have a concern about shooting at f/1.4. I guess, now after all this work done, that f/2 ~ f/4 would suffice as well, which makes me consider doing the whole experiment all over again with another lens!

Source: B&H
It was during this session that my Nissin power-pack fell down and got damaged, and now it is fixed with the help of my brother with gratitude. It is a reminder not to attach these stuff to my pants ever! Anyway, I continued to shoot regularly using the regular AA batteries inside the speedlite. I wanted a spotlight effect on every scene, and I've achieved that without attaching any light modifiers to the speedlite, but simply zooming the head to its maximum length (105mm). Remember: Light spreads out in a conic projection, and since I'm too close to my subject here, the cone is going to be short and hence it would act as a spotlight. Carrying the speedlite by hand or a lateral arm and pointing it down was a hassle though.

6 - Series One
Now among all these shots in the series, probably the last shot (6) was a bit philosophical and could carry on many meanings depending on the person who views it and his or her psychology. Personally, my idea with this shot was however a child grows, it remains a child in the view of the parents, and losing them will bring it back to childhood again however old the person is. Some people though might interpret that differently like being an orphan or the child is the king of the house at the end (since the little shoes are at the very topmost step), or even the cycle of life. Not sure if the variety of interpretations is a good or a bad thing, as opinions (as I read before) differ in this field: some say a good shot is the one that picks the right idea for the viewer and that is a sign of a thoughtful photographer, while others argue that the variety in interpretations for a single shot is a sign of creativity (given that composition is executed well). However the opinion is, it seems this series is liked by the leader more than the next one, but he stated it needs a bit of extra work, which I will try to do in the coming weeks!

Photo Story Two

Series Two


This series was more disastrous. It was done in one day and in a haste and had to change many ideas because I couldn't get the proper help back then. The idea for this essay or series is similar to the previous one but expressed differently, and shot differently. Submission of the final results was due the next day so I had no time. This series was done with a converted camera, and because of my haste, I did several mistakes:
  1. One image is not similar to the others in orientation, which somehow made it awkward when presenting and showing the series.
  2. Some of these images were taken with IR filter on lens, and some were taken without (because I simply thought it is there but it wasn't!). 
  3. The shoot was not organized and were not taken in chronological order (and that can cause confusion in the workflow, for me at least). 
  4. Not being able to find a young model made the second shot in the series even more awkward. 
When checking the series, the leader pointed out that he feels there is a gap in the story. Probably it is somewhere between (4) and (5), where (4) symbolizes marriage, and (5) symbolized old age, and probably I should have added something symbolizing Motherhood.

1 - Series Two

The hardest part of shooting with my converted camera is the fact that I can't focus using the viewfinder in a normal way because the IR filter is (typically) opaque, and I can see through only using the LiveView, and in LiveView, focusing was somewhat hard to be done for some reason. All that, was done handheld and without a tripod. Probably the toughest one to be done was 1 - Series Two, where I asked my brother to put his pinky finger into his daughter's hand. The quick movement of the baby and the troublesome focusing with the LiveView had me really, really exhausted. As for some of the shots which were taken without the IR filter on lens, things were fixed using Photoshop to mimic the IR look a bit; these shots after all were taken with a converted camera (i.e. with a full range of spectrum including visible AND infrared). Notably, a friend commented on this series, saying it is more likely to be related to a healthcare topic (e.g. hospital) rather than the life of a girl!

Conclusions

This type of art is promising and probably had more expansion in expressing moods and stories; because not everything should be fit into one picture. The leader of the group says it is one of the most desired fields in contests (but that's not really my concern for now).
It is necessary to write down the ideas and sections of the story (in points if possible) in order to organize the work. From the overall evaluation for the two series above, it seems that a stable background would give and serve a better story line, but of course that depends on the type and nature of the story after all. Also, it seems that a set of images with a constant orientation is better in presentation, or if there must be a change in orientation, I guess it is better to be done in a specific organized manner (e.g. landscape-portrait-landscape... and so on). I'm not sure if there is any generally accepted rule for the orientation in such field of photography, but this is my own observation after all.

Finale

So, this post is mainly dedicated for one of the workshops I've been involved in lately. Now with me being back to work it seems a bit harder for me to go further to more workshops in the future but I'll try, with this exhausted body.
There were other experiments but they failed and I'm still looking for a chance to repeat them but with different materials, with hopes that it might be better next time. Meanwhile, I'm getting my probes out trying to sense more and get inspired more for achieving further projects with my camera, indoors.
I can't keep my mind off the idea of having a vacation and travel. I seriously need it with a "great depression" era passing through this country, and yet ironically I can't take the risk just like that under such circumstances. It's like a going on cycle. All I can do for now is indulge in games and camera as much as I can.
Now, I'm sitting even a new goal for myself, after the death of the star, Mahmood Abdul-Aziz. I guess I need to sit for some long hours in front of Youtube and follow up with whatever episodes and series for him posted there (the last series he acted in were published on Youtube as well as being played on TV). May he rest in peace.
Would that be enough to keep my mind off my nostalgia, panic, and depression? We'll see…

The Magician
A Homage


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Mental Diaspora…

Some weeks passed without counting them. I had to stop writing in this blog for a while (and the Arabic one too of course) after some drastic downfall in my mother's health; something almost costed her her life. Even though she is in a better condition somewhat but it is far from being the normal-her, as she is mostly bound to bed here at home and I'm trying, with the rest of the family, to take care of her and most importantly of all, to raise her self-esteem and make her smile despite the painful times.
Meanwhile, I was in fact trying to prepare for some photographic experiments which eventually were put on hold after the events, and trying slowly to get back to the pace and even trying to force myself to work on some projects.
I know, though, that some photographers advise against forcing oneself to work with the camera and leave it to inspiration alone, and initially I'm in that line of thought, but circumstances right now require some special measures, and probably forcing myself might take my mind off from the domestic problems that plague my life for the time being.

Let's Cook!

I've attended (and will in the near future) a workshop with members of the group given by the leader of the group which was about the imagination of the photographer and how to develop it. Our main theme for the practical part of the workshop was "kitchen utensils."
The topic of the workshop was, in some sense, forcing your brain to think differently about ordinary subjects (with a side dish of planning beforehand).

Boring Cold
Canon EF 50mm + B+W 920 IR filter,
f/9, 320-1sec, ISO200.
Before the practical part, I've picked a box of utensils which I didn't really consider what was in it, and thus I had no time to explore or think about what to do until I reached the meeting place. Anyway, the first idea to pop in my mind was to use a friend with 2 ladles as hands and show some boredom, as seen in Boring Cold. To add flavor to this shot specifically, an infrared filter was placed on lens (using my converted camera here and 580EXII speedlite on camera with diffuser). I didn't feel comfortable with this one, and probably my friend here didn't gauge his expression perfectly (trust me, modeling needs skills). I changed to my second idea which was inspired by the Jolly Roger flag (and, let's not talk how I got the inspiration).

Kuwaiti Jack Nickolson
Canon EF 50mm, f/9, 250-1sec, ISO200.

Using the same converted camera but without any filter on the lens, and also a speedlite here, the Kuwaiti Jack Nickolson was supposedly to be looking like the Jolly Roger, but with the facial expressions here and the hardships in holding the ladles in proper positions, the idea drifted away from that. Anyway, I liked the looks here so I worked for some time on enhancing the sharpness and the colors (specially the eyes and the mouth) to make it look more like a maniac's profile shot! The sharpness here was exaggerated on purpose and it was not done with convenient plugins (e.g. NIK or Noise Ninja), but it was done manually using layers in Photoshop (implementing the High Pass command). After these 2 shots, seeing that I don't work well with faces, I decided to concentrate more on the abstract lane of my thoughts and started playing around with the same ladles to come up with something unusual.

Metallic Lane
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/14, 250-1sec, ISO200.

I've finally arrived at that idea when I made a contact between the bottoms of the ladles (and it was hard to stabilize the set). Usually in such situations, I automatically switch my mind to think about macro details and look for abstracts and shapes, just like in this situation with Metallic Lane. A twist to the WB was applied to give it that bluish luster instead of the dull metallic one.
Major problem with these experiments is that the ladles were scratched and not polished in a good way, and however I washed them the stains and scratches remained. The practical part of this workshop was not the final deadline to present some work but it was a practice under the guidance of the founder and the teacher of the group, and we agreed to give results one week later which unfortunately passed without doing anything, since I've been busy with my messy life. However, I got new ladles with good polish and worked on them later on, as I will explain later in Rain-Bubbles section below.

Nailed It…

Before the dramatic events with Mom, I was already working on a little project, related to my previous post, The Fakhroid Muse, which is about getting inspired from a song or songs from the Syrian master, Sabah Fakhry (صباح فخري). Might be a good idea to read that blog post if you didn't.
I've been working on this idea, as I've said, before the dramatic events, and even after Mom being out of the hospital, I couldn't put a mind to it and finish it until just recently. I have to say though that I did a lot, a lot, of testing shots. The main problem was that the set was on ground level and I had to find a way to levitate the camera up to a certain level from the set (beside finding the good lens and the good position for speedlites).

Lovely Pain
Voigtländer 20mm, f/4.5, 4000-1sec, ISO200.

Generally speaking, the idea was inspired from the same song discussed in the Fakhroid Muse post, but a different line:
أثاريك نسيتني مع الأيام
ورضيت تفوتني على الآلام

Just to find you've forgot about me along the days
And you were satisfied to let me through the pains

The second line of this verse is the one that ticked in my mind and decided to implement the idea here. I've spent some time drawing a valentine heart on a cardboard and pinning some nails in it as it can be seen in Lovely Pain. In the beginning, the idea was to use 15mm fisheye lens because its perspective would help on forming the valentine heart more clearly (because of the distortion), but the wide field of view made it problematic to use such a lens, specially with speedlites placed around the set. As it can be seen above, the shutter speed is high, because I wanted to kill the ambient light completely (and of course that requires working in High-Speed mode).
I wanted to work with red food coloring in the beginning too, but apparently that was hard to show on metallic heads and (since I had no model to work with except of myself) it would make a mess for me, thus it was safer to work with red gel filter placed on the main speedlite. One speedlite was actually enough, sort of, but added another one on its side (was planned to light the feet alone), and for this we have here light heads sparkling (and lighter red tone). At the end, I've changed to Voigtländer 20mm lens for it is not as wide as the 15mm fisheye lens. Working with this lens can be tricky somewhat since it is manual completely and I had to re-focus as I adjusted the elevation and the direction of the camera several times (beside changing the spot to be under the focus several times).
The tricky part here is after shooting: on camera's LCD view, everything was alright, but when the file is opened on PC with large monitor, the valentine heart is barely recognizable and would require longer time of concentration to realize that it is a heart. Maybe it was my mistake even to draw it in reverse like that!
I'm still on the lookout for more inspiration and probably from the same song still. I do have some ideas already as I'm typing this, but the vivid glimpse of this idea would require having a model - someone to work with; something I'm not good at, and not available as well for me (of course, unless I pay money for a professional model I believe). I'll keep that for later though.

Rain-Bubbles

As a continuation for the kitchen utensils project which was started with the workshop mentioned in the first section of this post, Let's Cook!, I've tried to work with new ladles I've purchased specially for this project, and they are with good polish (but completely though). Big, small, and some tiny metallic container; I liked how they looked in the store without really thinking what to do with them. It took me some time to wander and to look, and finally got the idea of shooting reflections in some way, since these utensils do look like half spherical mirrors (concave or convex). Anyway, I did reflections, but in some other way. Completely different way!

Qtar 1 (droplets 1)
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/10, 250-1sec, ISO100.

As for the title of the image above, Qtar, I somewhat miss the Maltese language so I decided to use Maltese to name this series of images. After roaming my mind about, I finally sought hanging the ladle on the edge of a table (using clamp) and putting some drops of corn syrup (as a substitute for glycerine); water won't help much here with its low viscosity. Of course a setting as plain as this seem boring, so we have to add some colors to add life to the abstract, and thus I got colored sticks (like those tongue depressors used by doctors) out of my accessories arsenal, and placed them on the top of the ladle making a small window for the lens to peak into the droplets.

Full setting used with 2 speedlites. As it can be seen, the tripod legs were opened wider to get lower and closer to the ladle. Upon the ladle sit a number of colored sticks. Click to enlarge.

The first problem to encounter is which proper lens to use and I have discovered that sometimes, lot of times, we tend to complicate things instead of going directly to the problem. After trying a lot of lighting methods, and lenses with extension tubes, I reached the decision that I should keep it simple: single lens, no tubes, and even speedlite without any modifiers. The only thing here, as seen in the settings, the speedlites were not pointing directly but almost lighting the edge of the ladle which in turn spread the light all around the droplets.
Qtar 2
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/3.5, 200-1sec, ISO100.

Qtar 3
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/2.8, 200-1sec, ISO100.

Qtar 4
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/10, 250-1sec, ISO100.

As it can be seen here with this series of 4 shots, each change in the aperture (i.e. f-number) or the direction or power of the speedlite can produce interesting results; all that without touching anything in the settings but only changing the parameters in the camera and speedlite. Not to say also, the order of the colored sticks can be changed or the colors themselves (or even use something else other than sticks). Such a simple experiment can have great variety of results and the expectations are limitless!
Probably of the 4 above, Qtar 3 is the most liked one. Processing these images underwent a number of cleaning processes and adding lens blur to remove some of the scratches in the background (except for Qtar 3).

Finale

My mind is scrambled right now after all the dramatic events. Somewhat the world doesn't mean much for me. I don't feel it. But in the middle of all this sway and trying hard to concentrate and to work on something I like, to take my mind off from my personal problems, despite the fact that my work of art would mostly reflect some of the personality side, as in Lovely Pain.
On the other hand, my addiction to games is increasing as well as a way to escape reality (and people), as well as my worries. What does the future hold? Would I be able to see the outside world again? I'm going back to work by next Sunday, just to add more to my mental struggles…

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Fakhroid Muse…

Well, schools are back here and traffic jams as well of course. The typical "normal" life I usually lead is here. What is not normal for me now is the fact that I'm not traveling this year anywhere. No plans so far.
My friends urged me to follow them to Germany for Photokina event (even if not from the very first day of the opening) but anyway I couldn't just skip everything on my shoulders and fly away; beside the budget that I'm trying to manage. According to news, our club did pretty well and the most astonishing part is the fact that we are the first "club" to participate in the history of the expo, and the first Arabian party to participate as well! Unfortunately, I don't have a proper coverage to post right now but I might try to get some for later.
Meanwhile, after ensuring that everything is going fine with the group, I asked for pardon from the founder to withdraw for a while from all the activities in the group, mainly to touch my camera more and create something.

Muse

My hands and mind are eager to work with some panorama, but the lack of locations in mind still put a block on my way. To find some rest, I decided to try to work on something at home and try hard to push my imagination further. For this reason, I've started to attend the theaters for a while, but the most significant effect took place via music, and specifically, Arabic classical music.



I've been fascinated lately with his voice: Sabáħ Fakhry [صباح فخري]. Even though I do remember watching him on TV when I was just a kid but I wasn't much into this art back then of course, and my mentality had changed drastically since then of course. His voice and the lyrics of the Syrian folk songs as well as the traditional classical Arabic Mowaššaħát do make a mesmerizing mix; specially the song posted above, with the title Send Me A Letter. I will type the lyrics at the end of this post if dear non-Arab reader wishes to know what the song is about.
Listening to Sabáħ would eventually form some ideas and created a sort of muse inside my head, but still lot of work is required to perfect this sense. My first trial is sloppy but I will post it here anyway, since this is all I could do for now; and probably I will try to make it better next time if I get any new "museful" input! 

إن كنت هويت ونسيتني
(if you have loved and forgot about me)
Sigma 70-300mm @120mm, 250-1sec, f/29, ISO100
In the beginning, I was thinking of something with a romantic look, but my mind doesn't wander much into that arena. I wanted to point out a break of heart, some emotional breakdown of some sort, and after doing some tiny brainstorming, I arrived at the idea of reflecting a line from the lyrics off a broken mirror; the envelopes and drops of color (mimicking blood) came out later to fill some of the emptiness which was abundant around the writing. The hard time was delivered for breaking the mirror, placing the mirror, and placing the speedlite properly.
I decided to work here with my converted camera, and with a calibration from the WB disk, the colors were almost back to normal (some bits of color fixing was required later). The shot above is in fact a tone-mapped HDR slide, which after all, probably, wouldn't differ much from editing a single RAW file in a proper manner, but it was an experiment I loved to make. Later on, it was time to take "real" Infrared shots with this converted Canon EOS 7D…

 (IR) إن كنت هويت ونسيتني
(if you have loved and forgot about me)
Sigma 70-300mm @120mm, 250-1sec, f/11, ISO100

Now, because of applying the infrared filter on the Sigma lens, I had to decrease the f-number a bit to allow more light in and make the exposure faster (even though the camera was on tripod). The fact that the camera is converted would still, at such high f-number such as f/29, require a second or so for exposing with the infrared filter on (threshold=650nm). The drop in the f-number proved drastic in terms of depth of field here as the envelopes and the cracks as well got blurred quite easily while focusing (using AF function) on the reflection of the writing itself. Processing the image later was quite easy but fixing the tilt (unlike the first version) made some out-of-ratio crop (i.e. 3:2) and produced quite a space on the left side. The first image was cropped as well but according to the ratio (3:2) and the tilt was not fixed there.
Now, generally speaking, it was sloppy idea as I said before and I had some imagination for it to be taken with a candle and some quill and ink. However, seems, to me, that such depiction is quite "soft" and doesn't reflect the meanings behind a broken heart.



Listening again and again to Sabáħ Fakhry has some hallucinating effect to my mind, if I dare say. For my break from the group's activity, I'm thinking of getting inspired constantly from his songs (though lot of them are actually traditional and Syrian folk). Thus, I might as well continue to think of something to create out of the lyrics of his songs, or at least the first song posted above. Sounds weird that despite the fact that I'm an Arab, I'm indeed discovering my own culture like I've never seen it before, and even deeper a bit to the limit of reading about Arabic musical culture and Maqams, beside calligraphy (which is a passion as well). Sad to realize that we have a rich culture, abandoned by its people…

Finale

Well, I won't go strolling about life matters for now and all my ups and downs and mood swings. As I've mentioned above, I'm going to put the lyrics for the song above (first Youtube post). The language is colloquial Syrian Arabic, and in translating I'll try to stick to the meaning as much as possible (and of course no rhyme). Notice that some lines and verses are repeated all over and over again and that's why one song takes such a long time. Each repetition is supposedly done in a different vocal style or Maqam. The lyrics are as the following (but without an order of stanzas or lines):

Send me a letter and let me rest*
if though it is a blame
but don't abandon me

Your absence has been long
and I'm waiting
and your heart is in rejoice

If you have loved
and forgot about me
and been cruel to me
without consideration
Just send me a letter
and let me rest*

Been patience with you
and tasted bitterness
and sent to you news and news
just to find that
you have forgot about me
along the days
and you were satisfied
to let me through the pains
but send me a letter and let me rest*

I have a God who knows me well
Who will bring justice
for the heat of my sighs
I cannot say you are the culprit
I'll be patient with my sorrows always
just send me a letter and let me rest*
* "rest" as opposite to worrying about something or someone.

Well, I hope dear reader enjoyed some of the music for this post. I'll just hope that I'll create more work and get inspired more to work on some of these projects!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Fantaisíocht…

The Eid came and passed already, with typical wishes to see the holiday go longer already! Meanwhile, I enrolled in a 3-day workshop with some members of the group in portraiture & fantasy.
I've stated through this blog all the way that I'm not a portraiture person and not into this kind of art (mainly because it needs a good contact with people or models to achieve a good expressive portrait shot). Anyway, I've found it somewhat obligatory to get along with such workshop with the founder of our group, Mr Bahaadeen Al-Qazwini, to move my imagination a bit and break the dullness and idleness regarding the work with my camera. I didn't touch it for a real project since my work with solar shots for more than a month.

video
Short coverage from the last day of workshop

Probably the most fascinating thing about these workshops is the team work involved and exchange of ideas, specially when the number of participants is small. I took the chance opportunity here to try out some real infrared and UV photography on human subjects. As can be seen in the coverage above, we contacted a model for a number of hours in the last day of the workshop, but prior to that we did some "training" shooting on a friend and a fellow member in the group.

Anger Halfie
Click to enlarge
Training with a friend did ignite some ideas about poses and facial expressions but yet it was hard to think of something. Many did argue that shots like Anger Halfie are not really "fantasy" but it is mainly a regular shot helped out by the fact of using a filter on lens (UV-pass leaking IR) to make the image look different. Anyway, since I'm not into portraits, I did really like this shot, and the colors produced here are simply made by fixing the white balance in RAW file.

Skullptonite
However, I tried my best to get out of the ordinary even though the shots were taken with my converted camera and some kind of filter. In Skullptonite, I've imagined a jaw bone and a row of teeth, and thus I've rotated the image. I have to say that the pose itself did force me to think in that way already because the facial expression was not appealing to me and I cropped a lot already. I loved the tones in Skullptonite, so it was hard for me to even think of disposing it. Both shots, Anger Halfie and Skullptonite, were taken with UV-pass filter fitted on Voigtländer 20mm lens. 
I wasn't using a tripod in this training, and Voigtländer 20mm lens is manual (except for the controls for the aperture), hence just imagine the hard time I had focusing in a close-up using an opaque filter like B+W 403! Luckily for me, the studio strobes were strong enough to light the subject while using this filter with high f-number. Without such a high f-number, I doubt the subject would have been in focus like that without seeing anything in the LCD of the camera.

Player

When it was the last day, it was the day of the "real" work with a "real" model. Frankly, I didn't even think of anything specific prior to that day, but everything happened at the spur of the moment. I had some x-ray slides in my car for my chest so I decided to use that, and then I thought of some dice to do a Hi-Speed shot using Profoto studio strobes. 
Each participant had 30 minutes to apply his or her vision and ideas and I was last (mainly because I had to use Profoto's instead of Bowen's like the others). Initially, my shot and idea with the X-ray slide failed dramatically; using infrared here was a grave mistake! Generally speaking, The idea was to fit the X-ray slide into the black t-shirt of the model standing against a black background, and I thought that the infrared technique and filter would actually create a good contrast for a black and white shot at the end; but all my calculations proved wrong, when the black t-shirt turned white! After that I started working with the dice as it can be seen in Player

Player II

Initially, my idea was to blow the dice from below, but the founder found it much easier to drop the dice from the top. The founder and I had the same idea for a concept in mind and he pretty much liked it; it's about someone playing with others like puppets. The culprit behind the scenes. 
Many shots were taken and it was hard to rhyme. In Player, one flash didn't go off and that caused a dramatic low-key effect. I didn't count for this in mind but this is one of the "happy" malfunctioning stories! While processing, I was fluctuating between colored and B&W versions, but seems I like the two above in that manner. I made even a "soft" version, but probably Player wouldn't benefit much of that, since the sharp look required harsh skin somewhat as well (softening too much might turn a male subject into something girlish).
After many, many trials for trying to catch the dice in front of the model's face, I passed my 30 minutes limit already, and thus had to stop. Probably, however, that we might be doing this again after a while.

Finale

This has been my life for the past 2 weeks almost, and now waiting for the news come about the participation of my group in an event abroad. Meanwhile, my health is getting low back again with unstoppable cough, and seems I have to check it out with the doctors again. 
As I'm canceling my plans for any vacation this year, and with the bad economy and corrupt in this place, I'm trying hard to enjoy myself in this short holiday of 9 days; a holiday spent at a home like mine is not really considered anything but a torture, but to a lesser degree. At least I had the chance to sleep as much as I like in some days, beside not going to work to check-in for attendance.
I'm working currently, as I'm typing this, on some vectors (or something like it in fact) by doing art by hand and scanning. It will be taking me a while to complete the task. Probably one thing I'm regretting in this holiday is my inability to dedicate some of my time to work with Geltani (and other conlangs I've set some plans to before). But as the degree of boredom and mentally-low status increase, I find myself eager more to play games non-stop, and I'm hoping that working with some art projects like the one I'm doing right now would take my mind off of some of my troubles…


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Quick Snap…

Been a while now since I posted here. I was actually busy with my other Arabic blog with two successive posts about filters and some of their various types and properties; all for beginners. With my time limitations and stress, and the lack of subjects or work with my camera, I couldn't have much to post here. This is just a quick wrap, hoping that I will get back to work with my camera soon.

One of the major reasons for this time stress is the work with my group as we are preparing for a great event outside of Kuwait, which will be announced soon during September hopefully.


video



They have been hectic two months but August was the worst, for being the month just before the event. We had some delays in the printing jobs and some awkward moments, but all is to be resolved by now hopefully.
After this event I'm willing to get my own rest and peace of mind. The economical situation in this country is getting below the ebb level and yet, despite being single, I just can't leave everything behind me with responsibilities hung over my shoulders. All I can do is pray for a better future, for those I care about. I need to work more on my photography as well as my other projects, like Geltani, which gathered mountains of dust by now. No traveling for me this year, but man I just need it so. I miss the Irish countryside and the cold breezes…

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Filter Galore…

The toys are finally here, and it is that time of the year! Even though it is hot outside but I have to cope a little and check the results of "playing" with my new toys.
As a brief for what I've ordered before, here is a list:
  • UV-cut gel (polyster) filter.
  • IR-pass gel (polyster) filter.
  • Solar filter.
  • Hot Mirror circular filter.
  • Motorized tripod head.
There are other stuff but no need to list them right now until comes to talk about them. This set of filters is the core of my testing this week, beside the motorized head. The hot mirror (or IR-cut) filter is of interest for me because I'm intending to use it with my B+W Black 403 filter, which passes Ultraviolet, but has a considerable leak in the infrared region as well, and here comes the hot mirror part: to block infrared from reaching the B+W filter.

Arbeit

In the beginning, I've tried to test a combination of various sets of filters against a tungsten lamp, but realized later after some research that tungsten lamps, despite being a good source for infrared, but are not good sources for ultraviolet. Moreover, and probably because I was shooting the source directly, the images of the tungsten lamp with stacked circular filters suffered internal reflections. It looked good though!

Consequences of internal reflections in between the filters stack (in the circle).


For this reason, I had to think of shooting a reflective surface, and under the sun of course since the sun is source #1 for ultraviolet. Even though most of my lenses are not specialized for ultraviolet and do have some coating, but I carried on the tests with both cameras; converted and unconverted (regular) one. The interesting part was done with the converted camera, while for the unconverted camera, I just wanted to see and check how UV-cut and IR-Cut filters do affect the image. We'll come to that later.

Converted

Since I barely have time to do what I want to do at home (specially after coming back home from work with a wrecked body because of the heat), I decided that it is best to pick my stuff with me to my workplace and try to test these filters by shooting some green foliage around the place. Even though none of my lenses is prepared for ultraviolet shooting but the results were somewhat significant. I decided to work without calibrating the White Balance (like I did when shooting the tungsten lamp) and to avoid any dragging (changing focus or zoom by mistake) I've used 50mm f/1.4 lens, affixed at f/11.

Click to enlarge.
Legend: Null=no filter, UVC=UV-Cut, IRC=IR-Cut, IRP=IR-Pass, UVP=UV-Pass.
Plain=camera and lens without any pass filter applied.

As can be seen from the comparison table above, I've organized the work by shooting with the camera and lens plainly, then applying the pass filters gradually, and by the end, applying both pass filters with each other. In every trial, the band-cut filters were applied; single and together by the end. As I stated before, the White Balance was not calibrated and it was not changed later when editing the RAW format, but I did some work with it later on to compare some results in particular. The color space was fixed to Adobe 1998 (unlike my usual way to work in ProPhoto). I'll try to navigate through some particular observations in order:
  1. Using the filters first on the lens directly, it is noticed that UVC doesn't do much, but IRC gets the image closer to the real colors, and adding UVC later probably makes it darker a bit and maybe closer further to the real colors. The image still reddish after adding the hot mirror (i.e. IRC), and probably this is caused by the fact that the hot mirror starts blocking infrared only at 700nm, while some considerable amount of infrared do in fact exist before this range as well (at around 650nm, in some instances).
  2. Using IRP on lens and then applying the filters again, probably emphasizes the fact that the hot mirror does leak a bit of infrared further. My B+W 092 filter starts its transmission at around 650nm. It is noticed that the image gets darker and redder as IRC was added. UVC did not change much features significantly, either alone or with IRC.
  3. Using UVP on lens and applying the filters again shows again that UVC didn't have much effect in fact, and the hot mirror blocked some infrared indeed and the image becomes darker. That doesn't mean we are looking at pure UV image though, since we have the coating on the lens and the UVP filter does leak IR a bit before 700nm, and thus in between that range we would still be looking at a tiny amount of infrared still.
  4. Combining the two pass filters here, IR and UV, and applying filters on them, provided some unique looks, specially with IRC. The whole scene turned into something like a X-Ray slide but in red, with edges being brightly the most. UVC didn't add much here though but it did contribute a little to the image brightness (i.e. reduce it a bit further). It's hard to notice with first glance maybe.
Away from these results, a quick inspection for all these sets after fixing the white balance in the RAW file, yielded some interesting results, such as that shots taken with IRC filter on (excluding the plain shots) tend to be yellowish in general, and shots where UVC is involved tend to remove some bluish streaks slightly and lighten the shadows a bit.

Unconverted

With my unconverted (i.e. regular) Canon EOS 7D, not much was noticed using UVC and IRC filters; not even the very old 18-55mm lens. However, of interest to me, was the UV gel (or polyster) filter which I've purchased specifically to be used with fisheye lenses, specifically Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens, which is my main tool for making panoramas.

Kylemore Abbey
Notice the bluish streak on the mountains.
 As it can be seen here with this example above, getting bluish streaks is common with my work, and beside the chromatic aberrations, these blue tints can be really troublesome to fix, specially when the work done involves HDR technique. For this reason, I was hoping that LEE UV-2B Resin Filter would be the solution for this. In fact, to my understanding, the UV-2B works on a range of wavelengths different than that of the circular UVC (scientifically, UV is divided to 3 bands: A, B, and C, but seems the naming is irrelevant to this). According to the description provided on B&H website, it is mentioned that it is "... useful for high altitude photography and eliminates almost all UV present..."


Click to enlarge
A: with UV-2B filter.
B: without filter.
Looking carefully at the two shots above, it can be seen that the grass and shadows are brighter when shot using the UV-2B filter. Notice that the two exposures are the same, at 1/200sec. Moreover, upon a close-up check, this filter greatly reduced the bluish haze around the branches; and this is a problem which I usually suffer from when shooting a panorama outside with trees or fine objects against the sky.

Click to enlarge
200% zoom of the branches.
Left: with filter
Right: without filter.

In zoomed portion above, notice how the blue streak around the branches on the right, is reduced on the left. Also, the shaded area of the tree or bush looks brighter with the filter. This blue streak around fine branches is a major problem when applying HDR technique and doing panoramas in general. Many panoramas had this strong bluish glow around fine objects set up against the blue sky. I'm hoping this filter will be the salvage for some of my problems with colors when doing panoramas. I've made a square piece for my Canon fisheye lens, and probably will make another one for my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens as well, even though I didn't test the filter with this lens yet, which has a stronger distortion. Would this filter be useful in reducing chromatic aberration as well? Though logically they are not connected, but since the filter acts in the blue range, it might help with its reduction.

100% crop of a panorama done in Cahir, Co. Tipperary, in 2010.
Notice the purple and blue streaks around the branches.
The situation became catastrophic further with sharpening!
Could the UV-2B filter enhance such panorama and make it better?

Now with all these results, it is time to pick up a project and work on something to discover more about these filters; specially the UVP and IRC combination, and also using the UV-2B gel filter for regular panoramas.
Along the line, I'm researching the possibilities of putting my old useless lenses to use back again by adjusting them for UV Photography, as it seems there is some specific way to remove the coating from the lens front element. Not sure if the rest of the elements do have special coatings as well but I might as well research that to see. There are 3 main lenses which are kept aside; two of them because of damage and one because of its old age and little malfunctioning: Tamron 70-300mm (broken), Canon EF 55-200mm kit lens (broken), 18-55mm kit lens (malfunctioning). Some "adventurers" talk about the use of chemicals to remove such coatings and some speak of rather physical activity (like using sandpaper?) to remove the topmost layer of the lens front. I think it is worth a try, since these lenses are just taking some place and I hate to throw them out just like that. I think it is the time now for them to be useful for little experimenting!

Finale

With these tiny experiments, still more to come, as I need to test the IR gel filters, and the solar filters (tried some but no success). The motorized head had gone some testing too, and it is a valuable tool but has some cumbersome sides to it, which I might address in a review on B&H.
As I'm typing these words, I've received a new email message telling me that another panorama was chosen as an Editor's Pick for 360Cities website. This is the second time in around a week or so since my other panorama from Oman was picked as well. This looks promising, even though the panorama didn't appear yet in the Picks section of the website yet.

 
Inside The Victorian (B&B)

There is a call which I hope I can discover or try soon,  and that is the aerial panorama. I'm not sure how it is done, but if it involves the usage of those new 360 cameras to take the whole space, I might as well skip the idea. A drone is out of question for the time being, but it needs a further investigation to see what's behind such a trend!

With summer getting on my nerves already, and the seemingly becoming-harder life in here, makes me wish to travel as soon as possible and putting a burden on my budget. There is a vacuum in the heart, yet I'm not sure how to fill it. I'm tired…