Thursday, September 25, 2014

Goodbye Kuwait, Fáilte go hÉireann...

Well, this is my last blog post before traveling by next Monday, in the early hours of it. As I'm typing this I'm just checking the latest arrangements specially that I'm planning to take my camera bag with me on aircraft (usually I stash it within luggage itself), and I'm not quite satisfied about it despite assurances from some people who said they did take their cameras too and it's all fine - but I doubt they had a camera plus more than 6 lenses and filters too! I've been calling the airlines offices for inquiry but to no avail. Seems I have to do it anyway and wish for the best with hassle as less as possible.

The plan for now is to settle in Dublin for one day to rest, then moving next day to Galway by train and rest for one day there too, then next day I'm supposed to head to Oughterard where I'm going to stay for 14 days. Meanwhile, I will try to post something in this blog as much as I can, but since I'm planning for long walks in the countryside with heavy equipments I might be so exhausted to the point that my fingers won't work at all on the keyboard! Well, we'll see about that in time.


Goodbye Kuwait, Fáilte go hÉireann...

Through Negatives


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Die Flucht…

Well, here I am, on a vacation. Finally!!! I was not going to do anything or post anything for this week, but decided on doing so after getting the chance to do some shots.
On the other hand, being on vacation is not so idle yet, but certainly more active and cheerful; even though I still have to pick Mom to and from the dialysis center. My flight is in around 10 days from now, and I'm preparing slowly for it. I'm still not quite sure if I should carry my camera bag on plane, or put it with the main luggage as I used to do in my previous travels. As for the former, it would be better for the total weight, but a havoc for the security procedures specially in times like these we are having now. As for the second choice, the weight will be more for the main luggage (and might pay extra), but I'll my head the usual security headache.

Die Flucht

I really don't know how this idea escaped, but I've suddenly noticed this small space, which according to some architects, supposedly working as a vent for the kitchen. Anyway, the space was tempting, but the steps later on were hectic and it was so hard to do a panorama in this small space, mainly for the amount of reflections involved - Something cannot be avoided!

Die Flucht

The panorama was done twice, and Die Flucht you see above was the result of the second. Many differences were there, and because of the mistakes that happened in the first, I had to reduce them in the second attempt. I will try to list some of these problems:
1. In the first trial there was a chair. It seems this chair caused lot of havoc (adding to my reflection on the glass). The chair was not completely stable and seems to have been shaking while working. Thus, I've decided to remove it in my second trial.

2. My reflection in the window is surely a cause for many distortions and misalignment. This is because of my body movement which, of course, acts like a moving body in continuous shots. However, this obstacle could not be eliminated naturally! Thus, broken lines and some misalignment remained in the second trial and I had to conduct dear ol' Photoshop!

3. White Balance wasn't much of a big deal, but I've decided to use my White Balance disc to calibrate the white balance of the place accordingly; which initially yielded better results (colors been changing as I changed color spaces and other things later).

4. Probably, but not for sure, I do need to calibrate my camera and lens combination with the VR-head again - or maybe it is the small space that tends to induce so many errors. I'm not sure, but I've done panoramas in narrower spaces than this and I don't remember so much errors like in this one!

Hello Word!
A panorama in an even a smaller
space than Die Flucht.
The only projection to hide some of the errors is the one you see above (deduced from Little Planet). Flat and others definitely won't work. The only problem here is the remains of the tripod head in the nadir point which I had to "craft" piece by piece in Photoshop and still didn't make it better, but, at least, it's not that obvious in this smaller version. For these reasons, this panorama, Die Flucht, is not to be uploaded to stock websites. The adventure inside this tiny place is not over yet though; I still had to come up with something...
Meanwhile, I do tickle the idea of using a wide angle lenses inside narrow spaces - the results are kind of unpredictable at times. Probably it is a result of the packing structures in narrow spaces, like this one. Thus, I've placed the camera on the floor (putting some plastic to protect the LCD first) and I tried to center the camera as much as possible. Using my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens, I've snapped some images in that space. However, it was not until the third trial that I got it somewhat right.

Der Flüchtling
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/11, HDR, ISO200.

The first trial, included that chair and it didn't sound right, specially that it was done in an opposite orientation to Der Flüchtling; which is an orientation that didn't give much space for the door on the right here. I believe that the door should have more space, and the chair in that first trial was simply wrong. The second trial was like the one above but plain. Then I got the idea to include myself. All trials were done in HDR format of course.
No flashes were used in this shot - the light was completely controlled using the HDR capabilities in the HDR slide before "baking," or tone-mapping the HDR (HDR was merged in Photoshop instead of Photomatix). Probably some halo is obvious around my body and in fact I intended to do that way for some reasons:
1. I wanted to guide the eye to two bodies here: the sky, and the body.
2. Darkening the rest of the shot was to hide some reflections on glasses (and had to do some cloning).

Using Exposure adjustment layer in HDR mode, I was able to control the light level in various areas with the help of layer masks, and with some blurring to the layer mask, I got the soft halo around my body. Ironically, I had some other ideas after I started working with this shot, which would require another trials - but probably this is enough for now. The rest of the work before and after tone-mapping the HDR was to clone some unwanted features (like a pipe and some reflections) and to adjust contrast as well as darkness and brightness of some zones here and there (while keeping the sky vibrantly blue). I have dropped the saturation for the whole image and increased that of the sky. Cropping though was a hard aspect specially that not shooting my hands full in the original made me a bit awry (yes I can be a perfectionist in such situations). However, I've decided to base my cropping on the center of the blue space of the sky (i.e. make the center of the sky is the center of the image). With this done (and after adjusting the tilt of the image), a large portion of the hands disappeared as well as my thighs, but I don't feel comfortable yet about it! Lesson learned now, hopefully.

Finale

It seems that the vacation is refreshing my appetite for shooting. An appetite that I will burst, hopefully, in Ireland in few weeks. My next move now is to stop worrying about Mom when I'm away. In the meantime, I can't stop asking myself would be there anything changed in my workplace after this long vacation? Typically, the answer is: No. But who knows.
I'm living some days with weird feelings, of joy and ecstasy merged with sadness and melancholy. Sorrow about lost days of youth, and fear of elderly conduct. I've started recording some cassette tapes that I've recorded while a teenager, in an attempt to digitize the whole set. Every song passes my ears ticks some memories and how beautiful my days were without knowing that back then. Along with that, comes memories of some hopes that, not surprisingly, been lost at most.
One particular song that I had some hard time looking for, and which really spark in me some weird feelings - probably it is the desire to live a love story - and big thanks to some users online who helped me find it on Youtube. Weird that there is barely some record for this song, and here I leave you with it…



Well, it would be appropriate to say R.I.P. Charles Pettigrew. Wonderful song, from a wonderful time.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Selfies Galore...

My vacation date is getting closer now. It seems some relief in the air. Next week, however, schools are supposed to be starting, which means we are back to the daily congestion. I have to deal with this for one week at least before I start my leave from work on the 14th, and with the start of this leave, I have to keep on preparing myself for the flight on the 29th. Meantime, I've been reckless with work a bit, specially in days when humidity was striking. If my workplace doesn't care about my well-being, I have to take care of myself somewhat I guess? Got to say though, I'm spending most of this time in sleeping more instead of doing something with some of my projects!

Good Galore

Some good news have been visiting me lately. Well, kind of needed such news in some long time ago. I even did notice a change in my general attitude just by "some" good news. I wonder what would happen with lot of news of that type, how my life in general would be?
Anyway, the first item of news is about the struggle going on in Iraq - yes, I have nothing directly involved about it, but I'm so sick of these groups who push nations back to block zero again and again. This time accompanied with atrocities as well. Iraq is full of history, and for someone with passion for Archaeology, these events and the destruction of many religious and historical places by barbarians like those did give me a shock as well as melancholy. Now the tide is turning as it seems, with the break of Amerli siege, and things look promising despite the political turmoil that still go on. In fact, it is one more reason to make me believe that in the Middle East, a so-called democratic system never works - people always believe in the leadership of one man. Parliaments are always a place for struggles and paralysis.
Anyway, with the second item of good news. One day I've received a surprising email from the Trierenberg Circuit, the committee responsible for Austria's International Photocontest, to inform me about picking one of my images (and another image for another member in the group as well) - picking it for the luxurious edition of a coffee table book, with limited number (500 copies worldwide). The winning image for this honor was the surreal panorama Ludendorffs Wirklichkeit.

Screen Shot from the email sent to me.
Click to Enlarge

Ludendorffs Wirklichkeit

Seems I made a mistake originally by placing an apostrophe as I can tell from their email to me! Anyway, as far as I remember, genitive case in German doesn't use ('s) as in English. Ah well. Who cares by now!
Now to get a copy of this edition I have to pay and so I did, and I asked to change the delivery to my UK mailbox (which is a first time for me actually, mostly I deal with the US one). This is in hope that I will get it faster that the regular mail as we didn't get the catalogs made for Austria's contest itself until now (after news that it will be here by July or August). The post services here suck big time and might even destroy the shipment without informing. Praise the service. Thus, the only guarantee for me to track it is using an external mailbox (and pay extra).

More Selfies

As I didn't have much to do lately, all I could think of is do more selfies (self portraits). In fact, my room is still a mess as I'm typing this and I'm way too lazy to recollect the gear. I'm thinking that I might get some idea to do at any moment.

Source: B&H
Anyway, I've been mainly trying to use some of the Impact Syl Arena light modifiers just to accustom myself with the way light is formed. I have to say it was hard to work and imagine  - probably because I don't have background in portrait anyway! - but I've found myself mostly using the Bulb diffuser. Most the images taken were kind of useless, but I tried to manipulate some of them anyway with the RAW editor, by fixing the exposure. Well, some of them turned interesting!
One of the things that really frustrated me is the inability to work on specific spots (like doing dodge and burn) in the RAW editor. I'm wondering why didn't they put that option? Or, is my RAW editor that old? I can't even remember its version...
Anyway, in a spur of some "madness" I decided to hit the Exposure value to the max and the result as you can see on the right, and seems like I like it that way! It has some "sketchy" quality to it, as if it was done by colored pencils I'd say. I can't remember which modifier was used here but most probably it was the beauty dish.
Source: B&H
As I've mentioned before, I've used mostly the bulb diffuser. I like this particular diffuser because of its resemblance to a real bulb, and it also provides the feathering that I need. However, when I think of it, I always think of it as a secondary light and rarely as a prime one (i.e. aiding and not key). The image on the left here is not a high-key attempt at all (it's wrong anyway!); it was simply using the bulb from the top with another light from below (or bounced). It was dark, till I manipulated it in the RAW editor. Now in conclusion, it seems that Syl Arena modifiers do indeed work best when ON camera, or at least this is how it felt for me. When I compare those with Expoimaging Rogue modifiers, I would say that Expoimaging set offers more flexibility when it comes to moving the light around and providing diffusion, Meanwhile, Syl Arena's kind of require a direct impact, face to face, and sometimes extra power (with distance and specifically with beauty dish). Right now, though, I do like using the Bulb diffuser in the Syl Arena set to light the hair.

Source: B&H
Just before I finish experimenting I decided to try the RoundFlash modifier. This is the first time to try it out with a long lens like Sigma 70-300mm here. In combination with the bulb diffuser it proved to be good somehow for softening shadows in general, but still I did need some work in the RAW editor (despite the high ISO, like the other images too). Seems that the RoundFlash is the best to add some light to the eyes somehow but I would need more work to get the light done properly. It seems that another speedlite is due at such situations, but I'm not thinking about it right now. If there is a real need for it, it would be using it for High-Speed shots, which for me, is more important than doing portraits! If only I can get some help, I would be using snoots properly directed to the eyes. In case you wonder why I concentrate much on it - well, for me, the eyes are all what portraits are about.

Agony
Since nothing worked perfectly as I wanted it to be, I decided to have some fun with one of the shots that didn't work out well. This is, of course, by some Photoshop manipulations. Agony didn't work out because of the bad light ratio (and position) between highlights and shadows. However, since I've been playing with the others, I've decided to play with this one and this time extend it further to Photoshop. In Photoshop, the usual fangs edit was done and some work then with Liquify command to enlarge the mouth and re-shape it and dislocate the nose and eyes a bit. Not quite satisfied with the fangs though and wish they were more "fierce" and standing out further.

Finale

Tick Tock. I'm counting every tick in the clock waiting for the 14th to start my vacation. My growing sickness of work is becoming unbearable and I'm throwing everything behind my back, despite the sensitive situation I've been placed in at work. Once I start it, I have to get on with preparations for my travel.
Meanwhile, the domestic front doesn't seem quite well, as always. Sometimes I can't help it but to stop and think "why am I alive?" It's like my purpose is just to help others (and how I wished to get some help back at times). I'm thinking and measuring the consequences to enroll in some M.Sc. program (again) after abandoning the idea for some years since my graduation. This time I'm thinking of something else other than Physics and Archaeology (which I tried to pursue outside). This is just to "do" something about my life and nothing else. Probably that way I can forget loneliness...



Thursday, August 21, 2014

Snail...

Activities to the minimum and I'm seriously growing sick of summer here. It was my birthday last Sunday, and to pamper myself a bit I had my last "casual" day - but that didn't keep me away from my duties with Mom of course. Next day directly, had a fight with the security in the damned place I call "work". Not bad for a new year of my life I guess...

Golden Crop

I was supposed to talk about this like 2 weeks ago but totally forgot about it, amid all the fuss in my brain going on. It is an Action which can be installed and used in Photoshop to help on with cropping in various methods; mainly, thirds, golden ratio, golden spiral, diagonal method, and triangular method (which is new to me!).

General view for all the methods posted on top of each other using Golden Crop action.

This action is to help people using Photoshop editions before C6 (or was it CC?). As far as I know newer editions have these methods implemented in the Crop tool. You can download it here from Damian Sepczuk's website. Damian provided instructions on how to install the action and use it, as well as a plea for a donation. I would encourage the reader of these lines to give a little - after using the action I do really appreciate Damian's work and sent out a little donation. He deserves it.
One note though worth mentioning here, that the guide lines (made by paths as in vectors) are flexible and do not have fixed ratio. Stating this, it is a fact that the Golden Spiral rule is based on φ:1 ratio for the frame, while most photos nowadays use 4:3 or 3:2 ratios (in landscape orientation, with WxH order). It might be a good idea to crop the canvas size (by using Canvas Size command, or directly by Alt+Ctrl+C) before doing the Golden Spiral when needed. Usually this is done by changing the height to some value that  makes the ratio to the width equals φ, or the Golden Ratio. Mathematically, that would be:

H = W÷1.618 ;

where H is the height we need to find, and W is the width of the image, and 1.618 is the first few digits of the golden ratio. I usually prefer to work in millimeters when doing these calculations to be more precise (and because dimensions in pixels do not accept fractions). This is only a suggestion of course, and the golden spiral would still work and stretch according to your own dragging.

After 34

Just as it was my birthday, I decided to do some selfies, to be the first self portraits done in my own year; my 34th. As most people in my circle know probably, I was never fond of portraiture; it needs some steep education for me. Anyway, decided to improvise something with my two speedlites (580EX II and 430EX II). I didn't have much options with settings within the room, thus I was forced to make the curtains as my background, and instead of using the usual 50mm prime lens, I had to use my Sigma 70-300mm, at 70mm mostly. Somehow the shooting was easy, but the tedious work was still to be done after upload. The speedlites on the other hand were a dilemma.

Schizophrenic
Sigma 70-300mm @70mm,
f/16, 250-1, ISO200.
Generally, the distance from the camera wasn't a big deal, nor the position was. All I had to do is increase the depth (f/16) and sit the focusing distance to some suitable number (which was between 2 and 3 meters here; ~ 6-9ft), and the position was set simply by standing in front of the yellow flashing light of the timer on the front of the camera. The trick was to place the speedlites. One speedlite was pointed to a car shade (with matte silver finish) on my left, and the second one was bounced off the roof to give some hair light. The location this second light was a bit cumbersome and felt it didn't give much bouncing - thus, I've attached it to a monopod and raised the monopod to the highest to make it as close as possible to the roof. There were some minor changes now and then and the majority of the effect was done in processing in fact and not solely by the speedlites, as you can see in Schizophrenic. Funny thing is, I was holding the car shade here as it fell down before the timer is over and the shot is taken.
Cyborg
My editing drill went further as to create a monster actually! The idea was simply to make black and white image with high contrast, but things developed slowly to be the way you see it in Cyborg. It wasn't planned at all. The green color was formed when I actually gave a slight blue tint for the black and white image, and then used the Selective Color tool to manage the grey level (and probably added some yellow there) and ta da! A monster is born! But I have to say that, in general, the shoot was a failure somewhat because I couldn't manage the speedlites correctly. This is mainly a result of not having a vision for the outcome ahead. On the other hand, there is a problem with light modifiers somewhat, like not having umbrellas and large soft boxes. Anyway, I'm not planning to get those as it is not my field of expertise at the moment. It was fun doing it anyway! And finally there was this one shot which was without any special effect, but the irony is, the light distribution wasn't good, and thus I had to balance it by processing.

TJ

Finale

Not much activities to be seen, and I'm not expecting it to change in the near future with this summer and busy mind. I'm really looking forward to just relax and chill with the increase in disrespect from my workplace. I'm trying to measure up my options with actions to take or possible with other sources of income to make. The scientific community in this country is absolutely a null and dull and worthy of nothing. I can't really find what is so special about my job, and any other administrative job around the place.
All what I'm waiting for now is my vacation, with some worries about Mom's care. I barely can bear with the idea of depending on someone else to do "my" job. Otherwise, I'm just hoping with this vacation things will be rejuvenated inside me, and maybe some of my problems are vanished...




Thursday, August 7, 2014

How do you see it?

It's Idle time here. I gave myself a "vacation" from blogging last week for the Eid holiday. Not much has been going on except for some shots done in the family gathering - and they were not as vibrant as the years before. I, in fact, spent many days in the holiday sleeping for long hours (8 to 10 hours a day!). I guess I'm compensating for all the sleeping problems I've faced during Ramadhan. Meanwhile, I decided to do a little study on some aspect of tone-splitting technique. This study is not scientific in any way, but it is mainly observational to take some notes. I wonder though if there is a way to "scientify" this process after all.

Vergleichung

Since I've been working in Tone-splitting techniques for some time, I wanted to test some matters related to it. Yet, I'm not sure how to make a scientific and bold approach to such matter, since they are artistic in the first place. Thus, the sole reasoning in this experiment is done by heart and feelings initiated by eyes vision. The task here is to investigate the relation between luminance colors and their usage in tone-splitting process; how would they appear and feel when used as one of the tones in the process. But before going through rummaging, I will talk a bit about the process.

Concept
In the beginning, the general idea here is to use 2 colors: a specific chosen color from part of the image, and its complimentary color. Now, these two colors can be bright and dull sometimes, according to how we see it, but the main question was, how to specify this? What makes a color lustrous more than the other? If we have two complimentary colors, they are just opposites on color circle, and the difference between the two is barely in the Hue value, while Saturation and Brightness (or Lightness) have the same value. After searching around and with the help of the colors websites I have at hand, I've found out that the most adequate tool to compare these two is by checking their CIE-LAB values (LAB for short) - and more specifically, the "L" value (which stands for Luminance).

Portion from ColorHexa website showing the LAB values (in Red). The Luminance value which I've used for comparison between colors marked in blue.

After doing some experiments and comparing various colors, seems my guessing was right: The "L" value is indeed responsible for how "bright" the color is as we see it. So, what now?

Work
The work now was to choose a specific color. In the beginning, I was kind of in dilemma for what color should I choose in each image, as I didn't want to make the whole set is based on two complimentary colors alone - but it should be something of general concept. In the beginning, I tried to use the Average Blur command which makes an average of all the pixels in the image into one color. Sounded a good idea, but unfortunately, the colors resulting from this process were mostly dull and with low L-value, and their complimentary colors have the same characteristics. Thus, I had to do it in the usual manner as I usually do the tone splitting process for some of my images; by picking a lighted area in the image itself and analyze its color, and then pick the complimentary for that color. The two are used then to do the usual job of tone-splitting for the image.
I won't go on with the manual procedure of tone-splitting with the images, but to make things standard as much as possible, the random-picked images were turned into Black and White and using Maximum White preset (which can be found in the menu of the command in Photoshop). This preset sets all values for all tones to 100. Usually in my regular work in tone splitting I would play around with these values to pronounce specific details more than the others, but since I'm going to test several random images here, it is better to make something as a basic procedure.
Now according to these procedures and after picking a color and its complimentary color from the available colors in the image itself, we are in front of two cases, which I called "AB" and "BA" for easiness and affluence, where:
  •  AB: The color of the higher luminance is assigned to the highlights, and the colors of the low luminance is assigned to the shadows.
  •  BA: The opposite of the above; the low luminance color is assigned to the highlights of the image, while the color of high luminance is assigned to the shadows.
Thus, for each image picked here, we have two cases; one for AB and one for BA.

The Images
The images for the test are picked randomly, from various folders and years. Nothing specific was set to be looking for; simply random. The images are below and they are minimized. You can click any for a bit larger view. The total is 12 images.














Observation
After checking for myself with these twelve images (which is not enough in fact), I've made a simple statistical count:
AB preferred:  58.3%
BA preferred: 16.6%
Undecided: 25%

I can't surely say that having a luminance color to be taking the place of highlights is a sure thing, but I would say that with the abundance of highlights in some image, and placing a luminous color when splitting the tones in place of the highlights, that would make pretty much a bright image to the extent that, sometimes, it eclipses the complimentary color given for the shadows - thus, probably in such instances of abundant highlight, the AB type is not advisable. On the other hand, the colors chosen would play a great role, but in this instance it is all the role of taste. Those 25% of the undecided, might be so for compositional factors I presume, or ought to a balance in the overall highlights and shadows in the image, making the eye sight torn in between elements of the image without really residing on a specific element. This is all I could think of in the time being, but sure it doesn't end here. I'm wondering what would the next step be? More experimenting? Notice that all of this experiment, from A to Z, is based on color and complimentary color relation - there are other schemes to be investigated as well. Anyway, for the time being maybe I can put a guide line for myself in the matter of tone-splitting which might go like:
In tone-splitting process, the color of the highest luminance, or "L" value in LAB system, is to be assigned to the highlights, and its complimentary would be assigned to the shadows, providing that highlights do not overwhelm shadows in the image. And that is a starting point for creating and contrasty and easy-to-notice image.
And more testing should be coming on the way.

Finale

I was supposed to have some rest in this month, regarding my workplace which made it easy with the fingerprint attendance process. However, on Wednesday, I've received some letter asking that I should be doing the fingerprint attendance again after being told that I do have a exclusion permit till the end of the month. Such news really rose my blood pressure levels and added 10 more points to the scale of how much I do hate administrators and this workplace specifically. This, specifically, is an addition for really disrespecting this place even more. I just wish it is September already and I'm ready to go away from this trash just to smell some fresh air in Ireland.

On the other hand, I've checked out for another appointment for my eyes examination instead of the one which was during Ramadhan and I didn't attend. Even though it could have been in the next week but I told the nurse to put it some time in November. The appointment is supposed to take place on November 16th. A special date if you ask me!

Source: Amazon
Book-wise, I've finally finished the optics book, which was small and old, but HUGE in its content of information. Of course most of the techniques mentioned in this book are, probably, obsolete by now, but the information mentioned here are nevertheless pretty much valuable. The book is direct and highly technical without much theory. I like such books. That doesn't mean I don't encourage reading theoretical books as well, but too much theory without a real scope on how to use such a theory in a proper and physical manner to be beneficial can almost be in vain.
Source: Amazon
Now, I've moved to the next book on the queue line, Archaeology Essentials. According to the introduction, it seems to be a "student" edition, or the type taught in colleges. Sounds good. I've gone through few pages so far and I like it. It is indeed concerned about Archaeology rather than sociological issues like the last book I've read. That book was somewhat a disappointment. I don't think I can finish this book in just a month, thus I think it will be my companion when I head to Ireland hopefully.

For now, I've stopped my extreme macro experiments. I still do have problems in lighting opaque subjects from the front, and I couldn't come up with a proper solution specially with my slow progress and my lessened attention to this matter. For this reason I've decided to stop it for now and think of some real photography to do in the few coming days, when possible.

My life looks like been punched with one big vacuum in the middle. Missing out some elements which are hard to be found any where, any time soon. All what I'm hoping for for the time being is to have one nice vacation. If someone doesn't feel bright about work, and doesn't feel at home in home, where would one go? I wonder...









Thursday, July 24, 2014

Extrema II

Not much is happening this week I guess. Except for some, maybe, panic attacks and fatigue? Well, temperatures are noticeably down these days, but still in the 40osC range. Probably this is happening because of the low traffic congestion during Ramadhan in general. I'm waiting for the month to be over with by next week to gain back my normal pace, and sleep (which then was screwed already!).
I've passed this week trying to find out  a good subject for my new macro "thrill" but didn't find much to do actually except of two substances which aren't much of "wonderful" nature, so to say. I can't deny the fact that I'm still greedy for more in terms of magnification. It would be a wonderful thing to work out with my old microscope (which has x100 magnification capability) and take pictures directly from there. For this reason, I do plan to look for some glass plates which are used to settle the samples for the microscope examination. I believe I can project the image on some white screen of some sort and take a picture then - this is beside the capability of rigging the camera with the microscope with some adapters but this is a costly solution for now I believe and not worthy the time consumption. Better start easy first. Now with the two simple subjects...

White cardboard.

The first attempt was by using a white cardboard or something of this sort. I usually use these as reflectors when I use my flashes. The subject is translucent and not completely opaque as it appears to the naked eye. I was afraid though that the heat from the 80W floodlight on its back with such a short distance would burn it, but things went well after all. The image was taken at ISO800 and for a second or two using Bulb mode. Nothing much to be done with the image anyway, since it is random and no value for colors even, but only a slight noise reduction. Yet, the challenge was not in at this particular moment.

Carbon Pill

The real challenge was to take a shot of this carbon pill (used to resolve some digestive problems). The pill here is opaque and no hope in lighting it through, which means dropping the light from the front. After tiresome trial and error process, I positioned the floodlight on the top with around 45 degrees angle which shined a bit. The problem is I don't have any carrier, so I had to hold the light with my own hands and also fixing the focus (by adjusting the macro rail that carries the sample). Thus, using both hands to do three tasks (lighting, focusing, shooting) was a complete mess. his triggers me to think of some way to carry this light when needed, and also to think of some way to hold the sample in front of the camera since I'm working horizontally now and not hanging the camera vertically like before (as a microscope).

This is all what I could come up with in this week, but there is a lot of work in B&W and Tone splitting on the side. Tone splitting specifically is opening a gate for me for studying colors and their relations with each other, and indeed, I do have an idea in my mind right now but I need to think it thorough to see how to apply and compare the results. The colors websites are opening a new venture and making things a bit easier. My main idea is of the relation between highlights and shadows, and the corresponding colors which are assigned to them in the process of tone splitting. Anyway, this might be in details for another post later.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Extrema…

Well, the matters had officially went into a disaster zone. It official now that I do have a sleeping crisis, which makes my "whole" life is idle. Well, in case I can call it a "life" anyway. Not only I've skipped my eye appointment on 13th, but I had to stop writing my Arabic blog for some time and I'm seriously considering making it on a monthly basis, for the lack of topics so far and the hardship in organizing my thoughts. Needless to say how that affected my other projects as well concerning Languages and Conlangs. All what comes to my mind right now is sleep, sleep, and more sleep.

Extreme

They say we had a "supermoon" this week, specifically on July 12th. It did sound like a good idea to try out my Rokinon mirror lens of 800mm, with two 2x teleconverters (for a total of 3200mm). However, and pardon me, just thinking about working in this weather and heat (even at night) with my cumbersome schedule now, did sound more like a fantasy! And with "fantasy" I mean something to be found in children's book or Hollywood movies.
Rokinon 800mm mirror lens.
Source: B&H
Instead of doing this astro-adventure, I thought for a moment about the possibility of doing an extreme macro experiment with this mirror lens like I used to do with other telephoto lenses before. If we combine 800mm with 2 teleconverters (2x each) then we are assuming that total focal length is 800x2x2 = 3200mm. Now, if we combine a 50mm lens in reverse to this combination, we are supposed to get 64x magnification (3200/50=64). Logically, this is supposed to mean that 1mm dot in reality, should be projected as 64mm on the sensor (or 6.4cm, 2.5in). Despite my trials, the situation was hard to achieve mainly because of the design of the Rokninon mirror lens. This lens resembles the catadioptric telescope in its design and the large difference in the diameter of the objective (the front of the lens) made it hard to combine another lens in reverse. Even though I tried to place the 50mm lens in front of it to some distance and covering the gab with black cloth to block the light. Here, I was working in horizontal manner instead of hanging the camera high up as before and dangling it over the specimen. Anyway, It was hard to work that way and technically nothing was to be gained from such setting. I had to go around it in some way. The answer to the problem then knocked into my brain with Tamron 70-300mm, which is damaged and lying around, and another (useless) lens in my pack; the old Canon EF-S 18-55mm.

The final setting. Teleconverters and not shown here.
Click to Enlarge.

I didn't want to use my Sigma 70-300mm here. It's relatively new and I didn't use it often. It has a better glass quality compared to the cheap Tamron, but I don't want to risk it in such setting. According to calculations, Tamron at 300mm plus two x2 teleconverters should yield a total of 1200mm. When combined with 18-55mm at 18mm in reverse, then the magnification should be (supposedly): 1200/18=66.66x, or approximately 67x. Meaning, 1mm dot would be projected on the sensor as 67mm (6.7cm, 2.6in), which is slightly more than what has been calculated in the previous proposed setting (of 800mm mirror lens and 50mm lens in reverse). This case was easier to be done as you can see from the image above. I had to spend some considerable time trying to improvise a way to hold the sample in this experiment and to provide a strong light source at its back (I tried to cast the light from the front but to no avail). Focusing is pretty delicate so I used the macro rail to move the sample in some way, and I ended up using the Bulb mode and managing the time empirically without doing any calculations. Just trial and error. Maybe with some considerable time, I can enhance this setting.
Manfrotto telephoto support
Source: B&H
The good thing about the horizontal position is that the weight and the pulling force on the camera's body (the lenses consequently) is significantly small, while the whole system was carried by Manfrotto's telephoto lens support. Usually it is a problem because in many occasions this support would make moving the focusing ring (or even zooming) cumbersome, but it's not a problem here because everything is set and the lenses are not supposed to be touched. The only thing to change here is the macro rail distance to move the specimen. I had some problems with the rail itself too, since the screw to move the rail was knocking on the lens' front - but the focusing required kept this screw away from the front for some considerable distance. Anyway, that doesn't mean it might not be a problem in the future!

Results

The results were not much of artistic nature nor a clear variety. But it's a beginning. Probably if the lenses' qualities were better the images would have been better? Who knows!

Sun Side
Shade Side

Shooting in RAW is absolutely a must here. Using a remote and a portable monitor is also a must. In using Bulb mode in the camera, the LiveView (which is transmitted to the portable monitor) mimics the light conditions a bit to see through what to focus on, but this is of course in no way the final result to be expected - Bulb mode is about arbitrary timing. This is one of the benefits for working in Bulb mode in such a situation because using other modes like Av would make it hard to mimic the light. ISO-wise, I think it's hard to expect something below ISO400. Long exposure can be done but it's not advisable I'd say - we need to do shots fast relatively to avoid any sudden shake.
It is a common practice in (regular) macro to use a stop around f/8 and more to gain some acceptable depth of field. Here, however, I don't think this rule of thumb holds - in fact I'm not even sure if a higher stop would do any good, but anyway I used the highest f-stop possible. It is recorded as f/72 but this is a false reading because Vivitar's teleconverter doesn't communicate information with the camera's body. Thus, by re-calculating the f-number under the new focal length (1200mm), the value should be around f/128. You can see from the images above that even such depth is not really strong enough which makes me suspicious about the usefulness of raising the f-stop here. If using a low f-stop would yield almost same results, then it might be fit for this experiment to allow more light in and make my life easier!!!

φ

Been some time trying to polish some simple mathematics in my brain. I didn't use my brain in a while! It had been a while now as I was trying to find some relation between the rule of thirds (ROT) and the rule of golden spiral (RGS) in terms of the difference between the two "power point" in both systems.
One of the major difficult points here is that the two systems are adapted for different ratios of frame. Previously, I've worked with a frame of 3:2 ratio, as it is the ratio usually adapted for most cameras nowadays. However, it was a bit cumbersome in terms of some mathematical identities, thus I've decided to work with φ:1 ratio and adapt the results I could get as an approximation. Numerically, the (3:2) ratio is equivalent to 1.5, while (φ:1) ratio is equivalent to 1.618, meaning a difference of around 0.1 unit; I guess something that can be neglected.


In the beginning I had to use an approximation for the power point in RGS, which I've found in this page. As can be seen in the page, the power point or the center of the spiral can approximated by two diagonals: one for the whole frame, and one for the smaller rectangle after rectangle rabatment (marked with the blue line). The ROT is marked with red lines. The segment I'm seeking here is SG and the angle θ. One of the good points about having such ratio for the frame is that the ratios AB:AG, and AG:AB is equal to the golden ratio: φ. This postulate makes it easier to do some mathematics here. Well, not going to list everything done here, but it turns out that:
  • The angle (θ) is equal to -31.72o. The negative sign is to mark it as going under the x-axis. This angle would of course change by changing the location and perspective (in relation to the x-axis); it would be positive if the power point under inspection is the top right one, and it would be 180±31.72o for the left side.
  • The segment under question, SG, is approximately equal to [(φ-1)√(1+φ2)], or it can be marked as [φ-1√(1+φ2)]. This is because (φ) as a numerical value is equal to (1.618), and consequently: (φ-1) and φ-1 are both equal to approximately (0.618). Going further with more decimals seems unnecessary in this occasion.
  • Numerically now, the segment SG is approximately equal to (1.176), or expanded little bit it would be (1.1755).
What I'm hoping for is to use this simple information item in various settings, like in the camera's LiveView for example, or in Photoshop itself, even though I heard that newer versions have several systems implemented for cropping. I'm not sure how I'm going to do this, specially in Photoshop, but it surely needs a lot of experimenting with various photos. Another interesting method would be the diagonal method, which was developed (or discovered) by the Dutch artist Edwin Westhoff. The Diagonal Method specifically is well suited for 3:2 frame. Would be interesting to see this kind of grid available for work in the coming generations of digital cameras.

Finale

Here I am, just waiting for the month of Ramadhan to pass. It's not something weird to happen in fact; I do suffer from insomnia and sleeping problems all year long and it doubles every Ramadhan almost, but the thing is different now with extra annoyances at work, and a tiresome body. I think this is what they mean by "getting older".
When this is all over, there is so much to do as well. Schedule a new appointment if possible, and prepare for my travel. Though I need such a travel to rest my mind a bit and enjoy my photography, I do wish if I was accompanied by someone. Someone special...