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…


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Θoughts…

Been awhile since I've posted something here. Seems summer is indeed a time to be idle whether I like it or not. I had plans to, at least, getting more into Geltani conlang project which had stopped completely for ages now, but my life pace in between mood swings and tired body because of the heat, all that left my activities dwindling. Yet, I'm still waiting for my new toys which had some delays and lags in placing their orders.
Anyway, things were not completely idle, but I've been busy somewhat trying to fix VR panoramas, old and new, in order to upload them to Facebook and 360Cities. I'm glad that Facebook enabled this feature already; I used to struggle with QuickTime VR photos. I have though to make a little twitching in the EXIF data of the image to trick Facebook machine into believing that my panorama image is taken with a dedicated panorama camera; a new trend apparently.
On the other hand, I'm a new comer to 360Cities, despite the fact that it is an old website for viewing and uploading VRs. I needed an easier medium to share my VRs, and after long hesitation, I've arrived to this one. I'm still learning to use the features in the website and it has some advanced viewing options (such as the architectural view) which expands the enjoyment range a bit.
Despite being a new comer, but one of my uploaded panoramas was an Editor's Pick and was displayed in the website's homepage! The VR is for a corridor just in front of the entrance to the main praying hall in Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman; a VR I shot during a photography trip with the group to Oman in September 2015.


The Corridor

This same panoramas was also a subject for various projections as well as 3D rendering in various projections. The good thing here about 360cities is the fact that I can embed my VRs into this blog without the need to follow my old procedures and without the need for the viewer to have QuickTime installed! It is such a relief indeed, though it might be a bit clogged with tags displayed.
This is an encouraging start, and now I'm checking old panoramas that I've neglected doing a VR for. Some of them are troublesome of course and might need a lengthy work (and yet fixing them wouldn't be assured); while some of them are tempting me to re-shoot.

Thought

 Meanwhile, with some of this tiny success and reaching the 100-viewers limit for the previous VR, I come to think about the future aspect and how things would evolve in the future specially with the advent of specialized panoramic cameras, like the Ricoh Theta.
Generally, for the public this seems a plausible solution and an amazing tool with some artistic potential. Even though I didn't use any of those specialized cameras or GoPro, but I know they do have specific advantages that my classic methodology wouldn't compete with:
  1. Such cameras provide (supposedly) an instantaneous 360o capture. Which means moving subjects are captured with relative easiness.
  2. Judging from the few samples I've encountered so far, seems that such cameras do provide a good exposure expanding the whole width of the panorama.
  3. Easy to carry and place.
  4. Some of them are able to make a VR Video and not only a stable VR Photo, which is more active.
These are just some of the points that crossed my mind right now. Anyway, I still don't believe those are a replacement for a "true" panoramic photography, or let's say the "classic" method of doing panoramas. This is for a number of points:
  1. The higher resolution (not only in numbers but in sensor size as well) that is involved naturally with using DSLR cameras.
  2. Even though it is not instantaneous, but it's a great deal for using the HDR technique.
  3. More stable with a tripod (but I'm sure the new technology has its own methods).
  4. More creativity in terms of using filters and converted cameras for shooting the panorama.
  5. Stitching freedom and flexibility for more creative endeavors.
It would be nice to have one of those to try out, even though I'm quite busy developing my own style with panoramas specially with the addition of a converted camera to my collection. However, this classical approach is quite what businesses would need to publish and promote themselves. Just a comparison, I do already own panoramas that might be printed on 3 meters (~ 9ft) width of paper under 72dpi. One might argue that the file size for these 360 cameras is relatively small, and I'd say this is natural; their resolution is supposedly low (in terms of sensor size and photoreceptors size). The resolution is directly connected to the capabilities of printing later on, as well as the noise level and how much the image should be cleaned and sharpened. Let's face it, even DSLR images require that at the end, but the degree of work needed would differ (and full-frame cameras are more resistant to noises for various reasons). All that, makes me believe that the classic panoramic ways are still valid. Those new technologies might be just a "traveler" level devices (if I can call them so), which are used to document the moment rather than making art, or let's say delve deeper into the art. I won't talk about the VR Videos here since it's out of my "appetite."

Dawwar tal-Qaddis
Infrared panorama done with unconverted camera, and stitched in tunnel projection.


Finale

Now with the upheavals, and the ups and downs in my life, all I'm looking forward to is getting the new gear and start to work on something; anything. Not sure where life is leading me, but bit by bit and slowly, I'm seriously forgetting my interest in this world.
Seems there will be no traveling for me this year as I'm trying to restrict my budget beside other domestic issues in my life. I'm eager though. The name of Morocco is still a frequent visitor to my mind. The architectural adventure there must and should be an enormous one.
Till that day comes (hopefully), I have to work my mind out on my projects here, specially those forgotten ones…



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Post-Ramadhan…

Ramadhan has passed, and so did Eid (The Feast), and now I'm back to my normal pace. Well, almost. If you can call my life normal anyway.
As much as it was idle, I had the chance to do some experiments during Ramadhan, and the majority of my work with photography was actually visiting old photos and doing effects or re-working panoramas I've done in the past (mainly from Malta). All this experimenting did actually trigger me to place an order, which I will explain later.

An Ghrian

An Ghrian, the sun, in Irish. I did try to take shots for the sun before (and almost got my sensor fried too!). However, this time it's a bit different, with my converted Canon EOS 7D and an ultraviolet-pass filter. Though I did some trials using my Rokinon mirror lens which I didn't use much, but most of my trials were done with my Sigma 70-300mm plus two teleconverters (yielding a total of 1200mm in focal length). Not only controlling the Sigma lens is relatively easily in terms of focusing (a must-be manual), but also most of my filters (ND, IR, and UV) are circular filters that fit the Sigma lens only (with a step-down ring). As for Rokinon's mirror lens, and despite the great zooming that could be achieved, the fact that filters can hardly be used here made it a dangerous tool and hard to control.

The sun shot with a stack of 4 filters.
Story about it here.

In the process of capturing better images for the sun (and the moon), I came into the swirl of the world of filters and not only for lenses, but also for telescopes and eyepieces, as I was looking for ways to get the desired look (scientifically) and checking probability for finding what I need in other categories; but without the need to get a telescope either.

Taken in UV filter.
The set can be found
in my stream.
In the process of learning more about the world of filters in relation to shooting the sun and astrophotography in general, I've encountered the sad fact that my B+W Black 403 UV Pass filter is not a pure UV Pass filter, but it does leak some great amount of IR. Hence, probably many images I've taken before using this filter specifically were actually formed by IR beams and not by UV spectrum specifically. Nevertheless, some of these were good, and weather in IR or UV, I was able to show some surface features for the sun, even though the usual filter used for such detail is the H-α filter (another filter on my wishlist). After researching a bit further for some way to enhance the performance of my UV-pass filter, I've found out that the only way to do this is by attaching a hot-mirror filter or NIR-cut filter (Near InfraRed). I'll talk about them a bit later, as it seems I couldn't get exactly what I wanted.
Beside the mess, I'm considering seriously to get some 30.5mm filters for the rear of my mirror lens, but that should be on hold for some time now since more important issues must be dealt with.

1200mm, f/128, 0.8s, ISO100.
Using UV-pass filter.
The dot on the sun is Venus.
June 17th, 2016.

Re-Work

During Ramadhan, the majority of work was actually re-working or editing my old panoramas and applying some techniques or effects on them (e.g. watercolor effect). The majority of this work is just to post these images on Instagram later on though. However, I was able to mingle a bit with some older panoramas to discover some new projections that I've never done before to them.

Qalaoid
Gruama
In fact, my work also included some old shots from 2013, like Gruama, which was shot using my then-new infrared-pass filter. It was just a re-process in some different way since I was not experienced back then with such filters (and it was taken with a regular camera). Back then I didn't appreciate the effect much but now I realize that my B+W infrared pass filter with threshold of about 650nm is in fact pretty useful for artistic uses. Increasing the threshold for infrared filters will approach photography more into the realm of monochrome rather than being colored infrared with the typical vivid and pleasant strange color cast. Kodak's gel filter which I usually use with my fisheye lenses has a threshold of 1000nm, and thus chances for producing vivid colors even with my converted camera is next to null; shots are always monochromatic, in between red and blue tints, as can be seen in Dawwar tal Qaddis and Planeta InfraĠużeppi.

Planeta InfraĠużeppi

Dawwar tal Qaddis

Toys

 Now to the fun part: new order placed and excitation in the air! Though I wished that I could expand the list of my items this time but all is placed in the wishlist waiting. I have a budget I'm trying not to exceed, and yet I'm trying to educate myself further in terms of filters and some aspects of astrophotography.

Source: B&H.
As I'm limited in terms of the budget, I've tried to limit myself to the very essential items, like this one: CamRanger MP-360 Motorized Pan/Tilt Tripod Head. This tripod head must be one of the MOST wanted items in my list since I'm having hard time controlling my lens when it is zoomed in (specially when it comes to shooting the sun or the moon). Tripod heads available for me now are just impractical, since at large magnification values for objects like the sun or the moon, the object would look to travel faster than it would appear to the naked eye, and I would have to adjust the knobs for the tripod head after each shot to follow up. This head should and is supposed to solve such problem quite easily by controlling the orientation by a cable remote.

Source: B&H.
One of the major items and one of which I've been hesitant to order is the Tiffen 58mm Standard Hot Mirror Filter. The idea was primary about using this filter to aid my UV-pass filter and stop the IR leakage in it. However, checking the transmission curves provided, things would seem shaky with this filter because it does block spectrum in the range of UV as well. Roaming the net around, I've learned more and I've experienced more on how to read transmission charts, but unfortunately, no perfect match for my need was found. Few filters were found with quite narrow band passage allowance in the UV, but the corresponding websites looked weird a bit and I couldn't even place an order! Anyway, if this filter didn't work well with my UV-pass filter, I'm planning to use it normally and directly with my lenses, since it helps on clearing the image and increase its sharpness as I read in some articles; so in essence, it has a clearing factor just like what UVC (Haze, or UV-cut) filters do, but in a different region of the spectrum. However, this is not the end of the story with filter, as the lens itself play a major part in UV Photography, because modern lenses are usually multi-coated for UV protection, and seems older lenses are more appropriate for the task!

Kylemore Abbey

Coming to mention UV-cut filters, I've noticed some bluish streak in the panorama done for Kylemore Abbey in 2014. Even though the panorama is tone-mapped from HDR, yet such bluish haze (in the mountains) might not be removed with HDR technique and would require UV-cut filter indeed. For this reason, I've started to look for gel (or polyster or resin) UV filter to be used specifically with my fisheye lenses. Ironically, I barely used my circular 58mm UV-cut filter!

Source: B&H
Another critical item which I've been postponing its purchase is the ring flash for macro photography. Since I don't delve deeper on a professional level with macro photography, I've thought that such professional ring flashes like Canon's are way too expensive for my simple use. Thus, I've decided to head to something more simple and cheap for occasional usage: Bolt VM-110 LED Macro Ring Light. It comes with various adapters for various diameters, and it uses LED instead of a flash tube. Moreover, this ring flash is universal and doesn't depend on TTL system, thus it works with any DSLR almost as the description reads. Some people would strongly recommend using TTL systems but I'm quite used by now on using manual modes in regular speedlites. Thus, handling this item should not be a problem supposedly.

Beside these major items, I've ordered some cheap infrared polyester filters and other stuff which I might talk about later. Also on the way but from another resource, some Baader filter sheet (or solar filter) to be cut and shaped freely for shooting the sun, and a book about Sumerians (been my fascination for some time). I can somehow consider this to be my own birthday gift to myself, but a bit early.

Finale

Up till this moment, my life is undergoing a storm, despite the calm appearance from the outside. Let's not delve into these matters of the heart for now. All I can say for now is I'm urging these new toys to arrive, as soon as possible, to get me started playing around. I need to put my worries onto something; the sooner the better…
 


Thursday, June 9, 2016

3+3=4…

I wasn't sure that I was going to type something in this blog for this week, but I'll try to pass this as fast as I can. Ramadhan is here already and my time is consumed greatly. By consumed, I don't necessarily mean "work" or anything else; but it could simply mean being tired and unable to do much.
After breaking the fast, I spend my time doing some usual chores and if I can get some time I would be working with my camera somewhat (if any idea was available). I'm observing this for the upcoming weekend, though I'm not optimistic about it with such family gatherings in weekends. I decided to fight sleeplessness and the upheaval in my sleeping pattern by reducing the amount of food I eat after breaking the fast, and I must take it at specific times. No fatty dishes, just dates and some bananas with milk (sour milk).

Meanwhile I was able to do some experimentation with some idea that I've been thinking about for a long time now and I'm finally on the move to do it. The idea is creating a so-called 4D image.
The problem here lies in the fact that I don't really have any imagination or any expectation for the outcome. I'm merely working by the concept and the theory of 4D space. That is, merging 3D shapes with each others would raise the dimension space further, to 4D.

4D Hexagon
an old experiment done by merging 2D hexagons with each other to form 3D Hexagon, then merging two 3D hexagons to form 4D hexagon, supposedly.
Probably this concept is best illustrated by the tesseract, or 4D-Cube. Anyhow, from this point and concept, comes the idea: what would happen if I could merge two 3D images? What I'm going to see, and what I'm expecting? Up till this moment, I don't really have any answer for this, and the main factor that keeps my mind busy is how to shoot, and how to merge?
As a principle, I've realized that I would need at least 4 shots. In the beginning I used my 100mm macro lens with a chess set, and using a shallow depth of field, but then I've realized that a shallow depth of field is not even a good thing to create a good anaglyph or 3D image. Thus, I've changed to 50mm and using f/8 (or around that). I've taken several lateral shots (sliding the camera to the side 1cm between each shot), and once again four other shots rolling the camera back to front. However, I ended up using the lateral shots alone. My idea was adding some depth somehow using back-to-front images, but it was puzzle that never worked out.

End Result

There were many trials and merging several layers by combining these 4 lateral shots. I won't go into details, but the major problem was how to merge or blend two 3D images? Not to say, upon which point (or focusing point) should I base the alignment of the two 3D images? I ended up using the front knight as you can see above, while blending the two layers by trial and error (ending with using the Darker blend).
For comparison, I've put the End Result above, which has a comparison between the regular 3D and the supposedly 4D, or the merge of two 3D. The two must be, supposedly, viewed using anaglyph glasses (red-cyan). I need some feed back on this, so if you can do this in the comments section I would appreciate it. I cannot rely on my own judgement alone on how this 4D looks or feels. As a beginning, it seems that the chess pieces were broadened and became thicker than the original, and as for the background it looks shaky. At some point in my experimentation before reaching this result, I've indeed made a version where the knight piece in the foreground was stable, while the other pieces looked shaky and blurred.

Finale

This is all I could put on for this week, and I'm not sure I will be posting for the rest of Ramadhan, but I would if I have any new ventures and experiments. Probably I should neglect photography a bit during this month and work more with my Geltani? Maybe.
Anyway, if you are reading this, and have the possibility to view the End Result above with red-cyan glasses, please leave your impressions in the comments. It would be a great help to understand how other people perceive this "trick"!
Time to manage my sleep now, again…

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Pre-Ramadhan…

After stopping for a week because of lack of time and the tiresome body, here I am again trying to put up with the latest. I'm lagging behind with some ideas and experiments I should have been working with lately, and my time management, to say the best, sucks. Yet, not sure if this is my problem or it's just my destiny to be so.
In the meantime, I think it is time to put some of my work done in 360 mall here in Kuwait, after the end of the contest specified for that mall. Of course, none of my work did win (3 photos maximum for every contestant). However, I did get an email about one of my images being shortlisted (i.e. qualified at some point). Not sure though which image is it!

I

The location itself was, despite its visual beauty, hard to find a good perspective in it. The third place in the contest was awarded to a friend in the group and I'm not sure at what location exactly was it taken. My three contributions were actually made of the same panorama in different projections. It was hard for me to find some interesting points or some harmony, and to add to my hardships, my light meter was out of power and I had to depend solely on the camera's light meter; which meant I must work in Av mode instead of the Manual mode. That contributed a lot to discrepancies in exposures. Not to mention the final weird color spots which I usually encounter from time to time in my HDR panoramas. However, it seems that I was either in the wrong section for the contest or, maybe just didn't find hidden corners like the others did.

II
After doing the panorama, I did indeed take single shots, but then reading the conditions thoroughly I've found that shots should be more into those Vertical Gardens. The single shots I've made were, unfortunately, not into these gardens and more into the architecture of the place. Also, they were taken with my converted camera and using an infrared gel filter at the back of Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens. Thus, I've found myself just changing the projection for this single panorama and submitting the images to fill in the 3 slots available. Of course, it is not necessary to fill in these 3 slots but I felt bad of uploading just one, the regular flat one (I). The vertical one (II)seems to be the messiest of all with many color splashes and a lost focus on the gardens themselves, even though I tried to make somewhat a swift movement for the gardens and the decor. Still, the element of harmony is lacking drastically in this one.

III

The planet projection of the same panorama had the same defects almost; lack of harmony, though maybe to a lesser degree than the vertical projection. In the planet projection, specifically, I tried to increase the cyan tones a bit to counteract the excessive red to magenta tones. Doing the panorama beside that long pillar was absolutely a wrong idea. But with such a place that lacks a specific center of mass (i.e. a center architectural focus to wrap the panorama around it), I had no choice there. Doing the panorama in the middle of the sets of tables of the cafés in that area wouldn't be any better too.

Upperways

As I've mentioned before, after doing the panorama, I tried to take single shots. These singles shots were done with my converted EOS 7D, and tried taking shots with and without the infrared filter. The difference here is that, the converted camera would record all spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet, as well as the visible spectrum in between. But using a filter on the lens, would filter the visible spectrum and other ranges to allow a specific band to pass. All single shots were taken with Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens, and some were in landscape while most were in portrait orientation. Shots like Upperways include the widest spectrum, and after a bit of twitching to the white balance value, some strange mix of colors is produced far from reality. Nice effect. In Upperways, I used DxO software to correct the fisheye distortion, and that resulted in cropping a large area of the image. One question occurred to me at that time which I'm still not able to answer: How to do the metering for infrared shots?

Infra360
Usually, when shooting infrared shots with a regular camera, I would in fact take several shots using high ISO value and checking the histogram. When the histogram is alright, I just roll back to the lowest ISO and do a long exposure. Things are a bit different when using a converted camera because (without a filter) metering is done for a whole spectrum (adding the focusing problems). With some filter on the lens, probably the method of trial and error can still be done though it would be lengthy somewhat; yet the concept of having a converted camera is to be able to work with such filters (UV or IR) with ease as if working around with a regular camera. Working in LiveView is a must in these cases, whether the camera is converted or not, and specially when the lens has no IR marker (and I've never seen a UV marker before at all!). While doing more shots like Infra360, I've discovered later that some shots were adjacent somewhat to each other with little perspective difference, which might be proper for making a 3D anaglyph later on. I wouldn't know exactly until I try though.

Finale

I'm trying slowly now to work on some of my projects; specifically the 4D experiments. I'm trying to formulate some ideas about it though. Meanwhile, I'm observing the arrival of Ramadhan by next week, and I'm not sure if I will be keeping up with this blog or not. However, one thing is for sure: I'm going to have sleeping problems the whole month. My activity, as well, will be down low because of this. I miss traveling, but looking at my budget at the current time, seems this year is not going to be mine. Ironically, it is the year of the Monkey in the Chinese Calendar, which is my Chinese sign as well… The Monkey.