Thursday, July 5, 2018

Breathing Still…

Flipping through my activities as the summer goes on and on... and on. With a sigh, I just can't wait for it to be over. It is just the beginning of July now, but we had our share of dust storms and humidity which leaves me wondering what is left for August and the rest of July already?! My body is typically exhausted more because of the change in temperatures between indoors and outdoors. Ah, and mentioning dust, I didn't let this opportunity pass without something to do. I remember one time I did shoot a panorama in a dusty weather, and this time I did use the dust to my "amusement" again; With the help of the microscope. The same old junky microscope.

Dusty

The frequent waves of dust lately reminded me of some of my studies back in the days when I was in college. In geology classes, specially those related to mineralogy, we used to work with reflective microscopes to check specific properties of the minerals. One of those most important features was to find the refractive index, if I remember correctly, which could help greatly in identifying the mineral at hand. That feature was investigated using polarized light. All of these information was somewhere there in my mind and I thought: Why not?
Things are not similar, of course, between the situation in classes with prepared mineral sample and the dust at home with an old junky microscope. However, it was an interesting encounter nonetheless. I started by collecting a dust sample from the outside during the "storm" (the wind is not always strong enough to be called a storm though, so I prefer the term "dust wave"). The collection was done using a paper cup (though I really wanted something bigger) and leaving it outside for about one day or a bit less. Tiny amounts of dust accumulated there, so I washed the cup a bit with distilled water (the type used for car maintenance) and poured a little on the glass slide. Couldn't wait for the water to evaporate, so I placed a lamp (tungsten) close to the slide to dry it out and leave the residue only. And that's it! The sample was ready! All is left is to secure it with a glass cover glued with nail polish.

Dust Sample - 40x
Mobile shot.

First, I wanted to mimic the method of the reflective microscope as we used it the labs back in the day, and actually this is somewhat done by force; Because having a light going through the sample yields nothing but silhouettes! So, I had to close the aperture below the stage and move the light source (desk lamp with LED) a bit upward to shine the light over the surface of the slide and it worked like magic! To my surprise, the dust sample was not made of... dust! There were strange particles looming around and some round objects which might be pollen (and this is quite natural); But what about those other hard stuff? I did check dust and mineral samples before during my studies and I can definitely say this is nothing like it! Now imagine we are breathing this...

Dust Sample (51.2x)
Canon EOS 7D

After a simple mobile shot, it was the turn for more serious work with the DSLR. My main interest was this portion of the sample where a spherical object appears; I'm guessing it is pollen. Not sure though. For beginners, I kept my the magnification power low since going deep would squander about lot of details. Thus, I worked first with my usual 50mm lens in reverse (providing about 1.28x magnification) in combination of 40x (total) in the microscope, thus yielding about 51.2x in total magnification. Then, it was time to move to a higher level.

Dust Sample (660x)
Canon EOS 7D

On the next level of magnification, I've changed the lens to Voigtländer 20mm, which gives a magnification power of about 3.2x when reversed alone (using Vello Macrofier), but there is a little catch here. Extension tubes.
Adding extension tubes with this lens on reverse yields about 6.6x. Now this, combined with 100x on the microscope, yields about 660x! Probably for a reader these number don't mean much, but for someone working with a microscope AND a digital camera, it does make a difference, simply because framing the object of interest (our spherical body here) would change because the scene is under more magnification power. Thus, even after fixing the scene in the microscope with the naked eye, it would be adjusted again in terms of focus AND framing (by moving the glass slide on the stage of the microscope), which is quite a tedious work to be done. As expected here, the image quality at such a high magnification is not quite "sharp" or interesting as it was in lower magnification but it was just about enough to show those details on the surface of this spherical object which looks like the surface of Mars! I'm not sure if any of the stack images were shaken a bit during the making of the 660x image, but surely the color aberration and other distortions have their own effect on the quality of the image. I tried to reduce as much as I can and sharpen the image (after minimizing it).
As I've stated earlier, I was trying to mimic the work of a reflective microscope with this old piece of junk. Thus, I gave it a go and tried using a polarizer BUT on the lens (which was hard to control while fitted into Vello's Macrofier). Anyway, nothing interesting appeared and no change in the light level at all. I think the polarizing effect must be applied to the light source itself rather than on the lens receiving the light rays. I have also tried to shoot in infrared (just a quickie one) but, again, nothing interesting happened and the image was just in B&W and no additional gains. Now after this "little" work with this sample, I'm somewhat feeling the urge to collect more samples of dust (since we are on a roll here) or maybe work further on this very same sample looking for other features in it; I did see some stuff that might be of interest!

Escaping Still

Just felt the need to add this section as a continuation for the post about the panorama I did few weeks ago. After completing the "regular" projection, I started stitching some other projections, and for the most part, I didn't bother myself in correcting the stitching errors as I'm not planning anything "big" with those projections; Yet.

Escape The Shining

I did a number of stitches but I won't bother listing all of them here, but I'd rather just show those which I think have some potential, like the one above, Escape The Shining. This one was done using Mercator vertical projection, with a twist, and I quite prefer it over the regular vertical projection. I still, though, regret the fact that I put the sofa to block the entrance which appears here in the upper left corner; It could have been all black and thus adding more to the symmetry and balance, I believe.

Planeta Effugium

But probably the most beloved of all the versions I've made out of this panorama is the little planet projection, Planeta Effugium. Originally, it was less interesting really, but yet more plausible than its predecessor, the tunnel projection (the invert of this one). However, once I decided to play a bit and see the results, I got shocked somehow when I inverted the colors and the whole scene became like a negative slide. To add a bit to the twist, I've eliminated this inversion effect from the hand and the black space, the whole scene is somewhat a mix between original and inverted colors. I've also tried to make the whole image as a pure B&W but after many changes and fluctuations, I decided to leave it as it is and hence it became a bit red and yellow when colors were inverted (originally it had a hint of blue).

IR950

Well, IR950 is the name of one of the infrared filters I've got lately; A product from Neewer. The set of 4 filters was pretty cheap that I still can't believe they do really do some infrared work! But well, seems it works well so far. Except that, apparently, the make is not tight enough and the glass is shaking by now. I'm quite interested in this filter specifically because of its presumed property: threshold of 950nm. Which makes even higher than Kodak's infrared gel filter (87B) which has its threshold at about 820nm (or 830nm? Oh well). The 87B class of filters of such threshold are sometimes called X-Ray Infrared filters (just a mockery) for how they sometimes expose features under specific fabrics (with certain thickness of course), and this name was actually used in Neewer's title for this set of filters. These filters can also yield interesting results when shooting the skin, as they can show traces of veins, and this is something I need to work on a bit.


Sample shots done with IR950.

I've been testing all the filters in this test but I had a keen interest in IR950 as I said before. For fun, I started shooting (with the camera!) family members using the on-camera flash and raising ISO to the max point (12,800), as well as a quick selfie. Despite the high ISO, cleaning the images (in small sizes) was reasonable and some sharpness was added as well. Usually high ISOs, specially with cameras of cropped sensors like mine, produce a muddy-looking images, but probably the case is also different when it comes to infrared photography (even though classically, infrared images are known for their grainy soft look). The interesting thing here is: Usually, calibrating the white balance in-camera would not quite fix the problem with Photoshop when editing the RAW file. I'd still need to change the camera profile in Photoshop to Infrared profile in order to compensate for the limitation in the color temperature and tint in Photoshop. However, RAW files of shots done with IR950 do not behave that way despite being clearly infrared. They do appear as they were shot in-camera without any modification. Saying this, I just realized that I didn't check how the image would appear shooting with this filter WITHOUT calibrating the white balance in-camera.

A Nose With Personality
Collage.


I like the tones of blacks and whites even before editing them in Photoshop; They attract attention, as well as fear at some point because of the contrast maybe, and that adds more surrealism to the subject I presume which triggered me to do this "funny"collage of my selfie and my brother's face in A Nose With Personality. In fact, some people did indeed state that it IS scary rather than just a funny surreal image! While bring on a roll, I didn't want to miss the chance to test this filter with a panorama of course.

The Pano-Work

Seeing how the sun shines through a window pane over the stairs at home, I got triggered to try to do something about this. I did in fact shoot many simple shots before and recently for this play of sun beams over the steps, but now it was time to put my IR950 to some good use and see. A panorama.
Now, because IR950 is a circular filter and must be attached to the lens front, I had no choice but to use my next option for panorama shooting; The Voigtländer 20mm lens. I've tested this lens before in shooting panoramas, and at the regular settings of my panorama-head (shooting at every 30 degrees and counting as much as 12 shots per circle) and generally speaking, not many stitching problems occurred. However, the displacement between one angle and another with such lens is quite large and for this, to avoid any mishaps in working in such narrow space like the stairs, I changed the setting on my panorama-head to 24 degrees, making a total of 15 shots per circle. This change is not only done to the horizontal swipe, but also to the vertical swipe as well; Instead of shooting at every 45 degrees up and down, this was changed to 30 degrees (thus shooting at 30 degrees AND 60 degrees, and finally 90 degrees if needed). Wander with your imagination and think of such amount of shots we need to complete one scene: (15x5)+2= 77 shots for one scene, and we are not speaking of HDR yet!

Ghosted

The first problem, in practice, was to settle the camera down on such stairs and make it balanced as much as possible. I can't say I've done this perfectly but I was hoping on fixing the issue later on when assigning the horizon line and fixing the vertical lines before stitching the panorama. However, another problem occurred here unfortunately; Many shots were featureless and could not be connected to others in the scene -and this somehow made me wish that I worked with the old settings of my panorama-head but it's too late now- and finally, I had to satisfy myself with some of the scene and cropping the rest that simply didn't work and stitch properly. You can see that I've added some sandals and shoes in Ghosted, as my main idea was actually confrontation but seeing how the tones turned out as typically as they are for this filter, I've changed my mind and let my mind wander to its darker side in assigning a title to this.

Ghosted II

Not being a full panorama means there are limitations in projections and looks I can achieve with this panorama. For a try, I've used the vedutismo style in Ghosted II which added depth to the center while, supposedly, keeping straight verticals. To add drama a bit here, I didn't convert the panorama to B&W like its first predecessor, but rather inverted the colors like I did before in Planeta Effugium with some twist in blending to keep some areas original without inverting their colors. Yet more, I added some touches to improve the spooky look, like applying radial blur to an extra layer and blending it with soft light.
This is all to it for the time being and after this experience and this number of shots involved in this work, I might consider switching back shooting in 30 degrees with Voigtländer 20mm despite the hazard of having misplaced features or features not connected between two successive shots. This is of course when need arise.
On the other hand, there is still some thoughts and ideas I need to check about this filter and I do not have the capabilities to test it with. Like, does this filter really have a threshold of 950nm? After my bad experience with Tiffen's hot mirror, I hesitate to trust whatever the specs from the manufacturer say about the product. There is also the issue of the infrared source. According to Neewer's guideline, they propose each filter of different threshold to be used for specific conditions (and in dedication to landscape photography) with IR950 to be used under the harsh sun. This, however, doesn't work with me that way for sure and I need to explore my options with infrared sources and how do they react with the subject at hand; Specifically, the skin and whether the infrared source under question is good to show the veins under the skin in a photo, or penetrate specific fabrics (or even night vision as some claim). So much to discover with this filter alone, not mentioning the others as well.

Finale

I could've made the story longer here and talk about my shell collection and going back to documenting them but I think it is enough for the time being. I'll leave the issues of these shells for another time. There are more shells waiting to be documented.
Meanwhile, as I'm typing these words, I'm thinking seriously of leaving the Instagram community and gain some of my peace of mind (and more time to do other things), but the main issue here is the ridiculous updates and changes that Instagram comes up with every now and then. I'm still considering the idea though and didn't decide for sure yet. There is the issue of exposing and displaying my images to the public but probably it is not much of an impact, since I'm not getting many Likes on Instagram as well not comments; Thanks to some relatives and random visitors who appreciate what I do (or simply do it as a duty when it comes to my relatives).
There seems to be so much on my plate; Ideas, projects, experiments… yet seems I'm not doing much with them. I blame it on the summer and the heat that brings down all my strength but let's face it; I'm lazy after all. During this time, I'm waiting for my new passport to be issued, but would I really travel? I don't know. No plans whatsoever.
In poetry, I do have some words visiting and going and I'm really trying to force myself on writing it down. I just need that glitch in time between work and home (and responsibilities at home) to focus on writing. Unlike photography, writing coherent words and translating feelings on a paper (or typing them down) is probably as exhaustive as shooting a photo, or even more at times. Mentioning poetry, I was surprised that one of the poems that I've posted on Writing.com did get the 1st place award and a ribbon (with some award points with that). It came as surprise to me since I'm not checking my email in that website regularly and totally forgot about that contest within the website. Probably I've posted that poem here before, but I'm posting here again to finalize the post and leave you with it for reading it at your own pace, if you like!

Aman Aman

Not black and white but splashing colors,
worldly, such a never ending course.
No left, no right, nor wrong or even just,
aman aman, nor my mind I can trust.

Aman aman, O trembling Bulbul,
tweeting loudly in a funeral?
How does your spirit work I wonder indeed,
for seldom a smile had been in my need.

Seldom does it shine, if would, it could,
for sorrows I never understood.
O Bulbul to whom the tweet and the dance?
or maybe a salute to some past romance?

Salute me by the morn or by noon,
whether under the heat or the moon.
Take this core where it never had befitted,
in hope! May my grinning face be permitted.

When the blooms of May may surrender,
and off life bereft be the tender.
Lull me O Bulbul, and put me to sleep,
Aman aman, my eyes need not to weep.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Greasing The Engine…

Here we are... Ramadhan is over, and my vacation is over as well and I'm back to work with the usual greasing my engine problem like after every vacation. A number of stuff I've been doing with my camera through this short vacation, and somehow was trying to catch my chances before I get back to the humdrum of the daily life and the tired body. Sleeping was a problem of course, and can't imagine how my life would have been if I didn't take that vacation as well! I'm grateful though for one last miracle, and that is my shipment is finally here after taking a long route and some extra expenses through the sick mailing system we have here. Anyway, I might talk about that later.

Out of The UV

It has been a while now with my thoughts about trying a portraiture or a selfie using my UV filter. I even got myself some CFL-type blacklights to try out and experiment in shooting such portraits (with some plans of painting with sun screen). However, after working a bit and some testing, it turns out that such blacklights are not quite practical and/or useful for portraiture at least (might be useful and practical for static objects for tabletop photography). Anyway, I had my own little experiment with a selfie using these blacklights…

UV Man I
Googling around, I didn't find quite the descriptive article that describes how dangerous are the blacklights, and what is their damage on the long or short terms. Anyway, I worked with them anyway fixing my exposure to one second only and raising my ISO to 640. I was wearing my glasses without really realizing it, but then I thought they would be a good protection for my eyes. I've worked before with these blacklights and I noticed that I get some irritation to my eyes when they are on. All in all, the glasses were a good addition to the shot I believe, as I didn't plan for these reflections off them.

UV Man II
One of the signs of a good UV filter (or a combination of UV filter and a hot mirror) is that glasses appear black or almost opaque when shot with these filters and this is how I exactly realized that the DR-655 filter was a good filter because my glasses got dark when I tried to shoot some selfies under the sun before (when I first got the filter). That worked well here making my glasses like a mirror reflecting off the blacklights under my face (placed into desk lamps).

Transmission chart for
Kenko's DR-655 Hot Mirror.
Click to enlarge.
However, when I tried my speedlite (though I know it's not a good UV source) the opacity of the glasses was gone and my eyes appeared from behind the glasses, proving that speedlites probably fire some infrared BELOW the limit of 700nm (which is the beginning of the blockade by DR-655 hot mirror according to charts). This effect for the speedlite over my glasses persisted even when I covered the speedlite with somewhat thick blue and purple layers of cellophane with the hope of blocking the infrared range; However, no use. I've made several shots (and UV Man II taken before UV Man I actually) and I guess only 2 shots were somewhat the best of them all. I've used excessive sharpening with UV Man II here to compensate for the little motion blur in the image (probably doesn't show clearly when in small size). For this, it seems that there is no escape of doing my future UV portraiture projects under the sun; The summer's sun. Speaking of "escape," I think it is time to move to the next title: Escape.

الهروب - The Escape - Al-Hurúb

Somehow I loved to call the next shot in Arabic rather than, typically, in English or any other languages. Hmm, this has been a trend in my mind lately. Anyway, this is all about a panorama shot which I've been planning to do for a long time; I won't be exaggerating if I say that the idea had been there for 2 years, if not more. Initially, the idea for this panorama was to be shot in "normal" mode, so to say. However, when time arrived for its execution, I decided to do it in infrared (with my modified camera of course) as this would add more drama, contrast and visual impact.

الهروب - The Escape

I did indeed a panorama (a simple one) in this location before and I remember it didn't go well (it was in HDR too). It was so simple, with only doors showing. The idea of adding an element like this hand was the thing that delayed my work. I was thinking of using my bro as a model to show his hand only out of the (bathroom) door, yet I couldn't fix the timing with him and I doubt he has the patience for such work. I went as far as thinking of getting a mannequin (or the hand alone at least), and again, I couldn't get to that. Thus, again, I'm all by myself.  Unfortunately, I didn't take single shots to explain some issues, so I will go explaining some of these issues by points:
  1. First things first: It's an infrared panorama, which means I need a good infrared source. Thus, I had to change the bulb in this small square space from CFL to tungsten bulb (150W!) to ensure my intake of infrared in the place (and I was not disappointed).
  2. It was perplexing to position the tripod in the first place, and it was obvious that it won't be at the center anyway, so I tried to place centered with respect to the bathroom door where the hand shall be exposes.
  3. Naturally, there would be overlapping of images when doing this panorama because of the added element (the hand). So, things has to be unchanged between the shoots as much as possible. For this, I opened the bathroom door and let it swing on its own to its own limit (the vent fan was on so the air sucks up the door a bit in addition to the door's weight). At this point, I've placed a marker on the ground (let's hope Mom didn't notice!). Later on, after shooting the panorama, I've gone inside the bathroom and extended my arm outside and tried my best to align the door with the marked line I did earlier. I took many shots with different poses for the hand and when stitching I really wanted to add them all in some sort of a surreal look, but because of the troublesome errors, I've satisfied myself with only one hand.
  4. Even with one hand, stitching errors prevailed and to be honest, I'm not sure if the final product here has all its stitching errors fixed! 
The working infrared filter here is Kodak's gel filter (#87B) which has a threshold of about 820nm. The tungsten bulb here provided with just what I need of infrared and I started shooting at f/10, 4 seconds each, at ISO 160. Of course, no HDR bracketing here, that would be a far fetch somehow. In fact, even with 4 seconds, my hand was not that stable but it might not show easily in the big picture. Yet, with such a strong infrared filter, 4 seconds of exposure is plausible indeed. To ensure the proper exposure time, I've shot the bathroom door some several shots and checked their histogram to decide for the proper exposure for all of the scene (because this door is the most important in the whole scene as well), and that worked well. The black space under the arch was not dark in reality, but this is the main hall which was lit mainly by LEDs and CFLs, and these two do not emit enough infrared to show up clearly in just 4 seconds of exposure with this filter - It was just perfect! Well, there were some tiny white dots which I needed to clear out. The white-gray space under this black space under the arch is just the sofa covered with some "black" cloth to hide the details of the sofa. But you know what? I'm regretting that and now I wish if I made it ALL black there.
I've made various projections so far and still working on more out of this panorama, so I might leave those for my next posts anyway, but the priority was for creating a QTVR out of this panorama. Unlike my previous posts where I would post a little QTVR here (which requires QuickTime to be installed), now I'm going to depend on 360Cities.net embed my QTVRs here. And this one has been published already as well!


Pinhology

During the last days of my vacation I started to get excited again about my pinhole (lens) and really wanted to do something about it. I was focusing on getting sharper image in the past but now, my focus is mainly surreal in essence. Thus, sharpness was not much of an issue for me this time. All I wanted to do is record some motion, and in B&W. Some of these images as I saw do have a mental effect on me at some level. Something out of this world, or simply psychological. With this though, I've dug deeper and learned further about pinholes and I'm seriously considering making one on my own for my camera (but first I need to clean my mental desk of some hanging tasks and issues).

المقرئ - The Reciter
Pinhole: 2m, ISO100.
My first idea was doing a bit of motion (as I stated already) and the idea was to make a moving silhouette. Easy said than done when the talk is about a pinhole lens. Using ND filters was out of question here (even though I do have some gel NDs and I could have easily stuck them on the pinhole). Originally, I wanted to have a light coming from above, but when I saw the window in this room of the house (specially in the morning) I really loved it. It was perfect for the job and in fact more plausible for a silhouette (even though more work was needed with dodge and burn when processed). The exposure of two minutes (plus 1 minute timer to prepare myself with the black cloth) was just enough to record this motion as I was flipping through the pages of my Quran (Koran). Maybe the background was not well organized but I can't complain. I've already had a problem with the camera to get enough distance in the room to get the framing I wanted (one more reason to think of some way to integrate pinhole work with my regular lenses). Converting to B&W saved the situation further, because I realized that my clothes showed up with all the fanciful colors and designs! 

Escape 2
Pinhole: 39s, ISO100.
The streak of "inspiration" did not stop with that room, as I'm starting to notice the light patterns wherever I go now and truly putting my mind into this pinhole work altogether. The room this time was the guest room and the light was coming through from the door that leads to the outside. Again, it did capture my sight (even though it was getting dusty by that time and got extreme after I've finished, luckily!). Had some go with simple poses like in Escape 2 (thought of it as a sequel to The Escape panorama). Even though my body was not completely stable during the 39 seconds exposure, but the image looked stable enough. During the post-processing phase I did decrease the clarity to give it the dreamy-like (or should I say psychological horror) look. Also, and again, there was some work with the dodge and burn to be done and I made a compromise here between showing little details in the blacks but not quite enough to figure out any shape. To keep things in black here, I had to wear my t-shirt turned around to hide those designs! Anyway, I couldn't stop thinking about keeping myself in motion, because motion in such long exposures, to me, resembles the life of the image and somewhat like resurrecting something within the viewer when he or she looks at it.

Escape 3
Pinhole: 39s, ISO100.
Thus moving to the next idea, with only one hand extending through (not behind the glass door) and this time moving my fingers only, and the result as you can see in Escape 3, it did have that motion effect somehow. However, instead of reducing the clarity when processing this image as in the case of Escape 2, I've increased it. That way the shades of the fingers appeared clearly further. These shades of the fingertips were made by the motion of the fingers actually. By the end, I still had one more shot to take and this time I did have some motion by head and hands but the end result was not much to be noticed, and the whole thing appeared as if some Anonymous person standing behind some glass. 
Anonymous
Pinhole: 39s, ISO100.
The focus on pinhole photography made me expand my thinking a bit; Somewhere behind the pinhole lens that I've purchased and in many occasions I would find myself senselessly digging myself into numbers and calculations trying to figure out or visualize the outcome of various light wavelengths, diameters, and even focal lengths (despite for me it has been fixed at 44mm). I think that shooting with the pinhole for some time would, naturally, push the photographer further to focus on the light and its quality, as was the case in the classical times with films. Of course, it is still digital and one can shoot and check it out later and fix it later, but still, the length of the exposure alone makes it worthy to invest some time in focusing and reflecting on the light available and what to do or how to do the shoot. All that, I believe, would reflect back and add to the experience of the photographer and his eyes and vision when working with regular lenses. Right now, I'm thinking seriously as well of merging speedlites with the work with this pinhole (in terms of a stroboscope). Needs a bit of thinking…

Finale

Neewer Set of Infrared Filters.
IR720, IR760, IR850, IR950.
A bunch of ideas are roaming my mind and with me being back to work doesn't make it any easier for me to work on them, but I shall try. I know it will be some long time. Miraculously, I got the shipment that was wandering the globe before my expectations and in my hands now a set of four infrared filters that need to be tested. I have some curious interest in the IR950, which supposedly has a threshold of 950nm; Such a high value for an infrared filter and I've been clicking around with it using high ISO (12,800) here and there. I might post these results later. But I need to go beyond that as well; I really need some scientific method to get a concrete idea of the capabilities of such filters, specially after being tricked with Tiffen's Hot Mirror before! All I can do so far is just click and test against known sources of IR like the sun and tungsten lights, as well as speedlites.
Seems I've been away from poetry for weeks now (again) but I do have these visits of some words which do not quite settle down in my head. I think I've been running with my pace in life lately specially with the end of my vacation, focusing on my camera work. I need to get back to that. I really don't know how to pass this summer, specially with no solid plans for traveling in the near future. Things are getting so narrow; So narrow that make me chest feel like crashing on its own, but as if nothing to be done. Sometimes, depression would not be clinical nor mere sadness, but simply feeling to be in the wrong time, in the wrong place, simply surrounded by stupidity. All I can do, then, is to keep myself amused, on my own…




Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Through and Through…

Here we are, time passed quickly and we are past mid-Ramadhan even. I'm trying to enjoy my leave from work but in the same time I keep in my mind that I must work with my camera a bit or anything else I have in my mind before I get to work again. Easy said than done anyway, because my sleeping pattern is greatly skewed and screwed during this month, and I'm almost putting behind my back everything related to morning chores or tasks (except for little shopping maybe). For the time being, I've been amusing myself with little work on the macro level; Or should I say, extreme macro level.

Microfy

After working for a while with my old microscope and achieving somewhat extreme magnifications (exceeding 1280X sometimes), I did realize at that point that sometimes, going extreme is not the solution nor does it show the details properly. I did indeed at some point reach a magnification of 2640X but the images were blurred and hard to figure out any details (add to that the shaky set I'm working with). Moreover, I think I do need to learn a bit more about sample preparation for microscopes and how to make thin slices. I hope I can find some suitable procedures over the net; We'll see.
Meanwhile, with the help of my Vello's Macrofier, I've flipped my Voigtländer 20mm and started to work with "extreme macro" and I couldn't find anything better to work with except of my old collection of shells. In fact, I'm thinking now, as I'm typing these lines, of documenting these shells for good.

Twirl
6.6x Magnification.

In the beginning, I thought that having a bigger magnification means a more powerful and more interesting shot. Of course, I was wrong. However, it was up to trial and error still, like in Twirl, which is a shot for the tip of a small seashell that is approximately 1cm long or even less. I shot this one without any flash just a LED desk lamp. Flipping a 20mm lens with Vello Macrofier would achieve, typically and according to calculations, a 3.2x magnification. To achieve a greater magnification, I attached all my extension tubes between the camera and the reversed lens (total: 68mm). According to calculations, this would give out a 6.6x magnification.

6x Shell

As usual, shooting with such magnification was not (and still not) an easy task. Mainly because of the limitations in the gear and other props available for me (and my eternal torture: a proper table). However, I tried after all. The topmost problem that happened to be here, though, was the light and how to deliver the light properly to the surface of the shell being photographed. On many trials, the flare was the main problem, causing a general reduction in contrast and the center being bright and detail-less. Tried to add a speedlite and changing its direction, and even a continuous light source (LED), no proper solution was found. Images like 6x Shell, which was shot using 68mm of extension tubes and a reversed Voigtländer 20mm, was done in fact using ambient light with 15s exposure at f/20. No focus stacking. To add, the image looks better in a small size as in this blog, but viewing at a larger scale a bit shows some ugly noise and somewhat blurry features (probably some movements occur during the exposure? Not sure). Anyway, in time, I've realized the real problem.

The set used to shoot extreme macro after the "little" fix.

The problem, as it seems, was the white foam on which I was placing my samples. The light reflected off this surface fooled me as to be of help, or so I thought, but once I put a black card on that, the images became clear. There was a slight problem still because the light would not reach a specific part of the shell, but the general view was better, and contrast was enhanced further when processing these final images (after merging the full stack together).

Bandaí (Bands)
(Left) 3.2x shot made by focus stacking.
(Right) The original shell, around 2cm long.

It can be seen in Bandaí how the light did quite reach the left side of the image (originally the image was horizontal so this dark area was down). This might call for a "real" ring flash but I'm not thinking about this right now. I do have 6 speedlites and it would be a shame if I cannot put these to good use in such stable environment (well, almost stable!) like shooting seashells. The matter that is left is, whether to cover the shell with oil or not. I've painted or covered some shells with oil (well, hair tonic oil actually) but the cotton balls were problematic for this task and some fibers got stuck, and yet it seems oil is not a good contributor. In Bandaí, I've covered the shell with corn syrup (as a substitute to glycerine) and it seems to have yielded some good result, providing some good luster. It's all sticky but it's alright till it dries up! However, sometimes, the shell is so small that I just neglected the idea of dipping it into anything!

الملوية (The Twisted)
(Left) The final image after focus stacking at 3.2x magnification.
(Right) The original shell with a length of 0.8cm (8mm) only hooked to a toothpick.

Would some syrup make The Twisted more lustrous? Not sure, but I think it would; Yet, with such a small size of 8mm I cannot risk it. My working environment around here is completely unstable and I could easily lose it, and with my eye problems, finding such a small piece of "artifact" would be a novel to read!

Sleeper

At some point while working on all of that macro job, I had a slight idea for a long exposure done indoors. It's not the first time I do such experiment in fact, but long exposures in somewhat dark rooms somehow fascinate me always for its unpredictable shapes and its surreal looks.

Laid
An Codlatán
(The Sleeper)
My work with these long exposures were done with 50mm lens (unlike my typical choice of 8mm fisheye lens) and that was for a reason actually. That was to fit my B+W 092 infrared filter on this lens (on a regular camera) and I was really aiming on the head only. Even though I do have a super ND, but I preferred to use this filter (and I would use a filter with higher threshold if I have one to fit this lens) mainly to see the strange strikes of color and/or contrast. The images you see here, Laid and An Codlatán, where not converted to B&W but were processed normally and eventually they reached a level of monochrome (but not completely B&W).
The exposures took about 21 minutes and some seconds, and I literally tried to nap indeed during the exposure. In Laid, though, I was actually checking my tablet, but I was trying to get to that sleeping mode in An Codlatán! The looks were surreal, and ghostly; Specially with Laid, which somehow made my mind spiral and wander into some thoughts, that can be called black or melancholic, yet I think they are legitimate and profound…
It is not a strange idea nor a seldom visitor to my mind. The idea of being dead and what will be happening after my departure is a frequent mind-occupier. This is the image, more or less, which comes to my mind when laid down, people look at me for the last time, before the dust takes what I owe to it. But will there really be anyone willing to give one final gaze? Will there be any visitors in the first place? Will there be mourners? Weepers and keeners? Or maybe cursers and some happy people for where I'm going to end? In essence, nothing of my current life is that different from the scene in this picture; All but a mimic of life, and death. Yet, I cannot grant to myself that my eyelids will be open in every morning that comes. As much as it might be a disturbing image, yet it is the ultimate truth. Nothing is granted; Not even my next breath right after finishing this sentence, and the more I live, and the more loved ones I lose, my belief in the mediocrity of life becomes confirmed day by day…
As I'm writing these words, I'm indeed thinking of doing the same experiment again but using my pinhole, I'm sure the exposure would be drastically long here. The only hassle here is setting up the tripod and the camera near my bed (I can't do this experiment elsewhere around here). I have a plan though, and let's hope it works later. We'll see…
 
Finale
 
By the time of typing this text, My shipment had arrived already in Kuwait, and yet I'm not sure as parcels or as EMS (each has a separate center for sorting, welcome to Kuwait). Would I be able to collect my items before Ramadan ends? We'll see.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to get as much as possible done before the vacation is over and being back to the usual routine and exhaustion.
Among the plans: Some ultraviolet, maybe ultraviolet panorama, an infrared panorama (which had been in my head for more than a year), beside the usual work with the microscope and the shells. Working with the shells seems more pleasurable for now, as the rest require some extra work which I'm usually too exhausted to do. One final question remains inside of me and that is: Would I really be able to kill my feelings and the fears inside of me by working myself out to exhaustion? I'm afraid that I don't have the answer for that yet. 

Circulus Sanctorum
 
Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Go Mall…

Ramadhan is in and the usual sleeping problems are back as well. I can't wait to start my vacation starting from the 10th day.  That's when the summer course would start around my workplace and things would get ugly as usual. I really don't understand how the mentalities around here work and what's their idea about "planning" but apparently they need a major brain surgery to fix that, and I'm almost hopeless about that too.

Thanks to Borderlinx and DHL, now the shipment that I was hoping to get before Ramadhan is definitely to be here after Ramadhan and who knows, I might not be able to get it even. Up till the time of typing this, no sign of my shipment which I'm supposed to get back into my Borderlinx box to be delivered in some other way other than DHL. Because of the dispute between the two, probably thousands of customers ran into havoc. I have to say, though, that prior to this order I was really thinking of shifting my interests into other stores around the globe rather than confine myself into US stores, for camera gear specifically. Anyway, I had to do this bit of shopping after some incident and a lengthy story; No need to bring it on here. However, let's see some of these delayed "joys."

Source: Amazon
I'm starting off here with 2 books, and the first one of them is not related to photography. Something related to two sectors I like: Archaeology and Linguistics. I'm not sure what will I find in this book (I didn't check the sample pages thoroughly), but despite my eagerness, I might have to put it aside for a while after its arrival because I do have some books on my stack of reading list, which were purchased 2 years ago from the Arabic Book Fair! *sigh* They are just some thick books…
Source: Amazon
The second one in this order is an interesting book (of course, otherwise I wouldn't order it, right?). It's about infrared portraiture, even though I'm not that interested in portraiture in the first place. However, since I'm inclined to the weird and strange or whatever is surreal in the world of photography, the topic of infrared portraiture seems plausible and I did it often (in the form of selfies, and a bit within my Scopa project which I've stopped). I'm guessing that the bulk of this book would be focusing on film, but we'll see when it comes (again, I didn't check the sample pages thoroughly).
Source:Amazon
The third item in the list was something that got me by surprise in fact. A set of 4 infrared filters (each with different threshold), just for $29.99? Too good to be true! I'm still not sure how to feel about this in fact; I do have a feeling that it is a low quality, but yet I'm willing to try them out when I get them. One of these filters is supposedly at a threshold of 920nm! Previously, I thought that my Kodak infrared gel filter has a threshold of 1000nm, but I was completely wrong (in fact 1000nm is the maximum a camera sensor can "see"). It is rather around 850nm, or what is usually dubbed as Wratten 87B. This threshold is suitable for what they call X-Ray Infrared (not a real x-ray but just a mocking term). Thus, I just can't imagine that I'm getting a 920nm threshold of a filter! How would the photos taken with this be like? Might be time to indulge my 20mm Voigtländer lens in some panorama work, in the future.
These are the main items which were ordered and which, unfortunately, cannot have them any time soon because of the postal problems. My hopes now are set to wish for the shipment not to be lost, as I didn't get any notifications till typing these words about the items being returned back to my box to be shipped to me by other means. Fingers crossed.

Working Re-Working

Meanwhile, as my plans are put to hold (at least till I start my vacation during Ramadhan) I spend my time checking my old photos and trying to come up with new solutions, specifically to those which I've forgotten or neglected for one reason or another. My main aid in this inspection is the LAB technique which I've been applying a lot lately (despite the troublesome aftermath to be cleared out later on). I have to say that I was surprised by some images like if they are new to me when cropped and edited all over again. I think that proves that the status of our mentality in time does affect our "vision" or how we see things and the world around us.

مدائن (towns)
One of these photos is [مدائن] (towns/cities); A photo I've shot back in 2013 when I first got my ever first infrared filter and I didn't know much about the technical aspects for this filter or this art in general. The dark and gloomy atmosphere was apparent at the moment I've fixed the colors (the typical blue tint was not quite visible after fixing the white balance). It really inspired me to write some poetry in Arabic but I didn't complete this task because of my, well, disturbed mind already.
I've intentionally sharpened a portion of the photo and keeping the rest soft to attract more attention and focus. With my calibrated monitor, the image should look dark with reasonable details (I edit while focusing on the histogram). However, as I noticed, on other devices the blacks can look brighter and even further noise artifacts would appear more prevalent (specifically at the bottom portions where rocks lie). This is why it's important to work with a calibrated monitor; Without any calibration, and with such levels of blacks, this photo would definitely be erratically printed! I can already see how it shows on my tablet and I'm not much impressed.

Sometimes digging out for old photos comes up with a bunch of ideas, creating anaglyphs is one of them, but what interests me more is the surreal chances, and that comes typically from trying to achieve the "mutli-exposure" look with some of my continuous/burst photos.

Surreale Tänzer

Doing those multi-exposures AFTER the shoot and even without a preparation beforehand makes it a difficult task somehow as to achieve the proper look which is typically assumed for multi-exposure images. Anyway, in Surreale Tänzer, I tried my best to merge a set of photos shot back in 2013 in more of a normal way (as I did once), keeping the colors as original as possible while showing a hint of movement. However, this didn't happen with Blending options. Thus, I tried another method, which was the focus stack blending in Photoshop. I tried this method before with some old images, and it did produce the same color spectrum as in Surreale Tänzer. There was some surplus of course which needed to be cropped out. I think I need to focus on this trend and look deeper into my old files, specially those from 2011 and 2012, which for me, were the very active years with my Canon EOS 7D.

Disturbed
Not only multi-exposure is part of my interests, but also some of those blurred images which, previously, proved useless somehow! As in Disturbed. I really don't know why I neglected this image from 2013, but the motion blur because of the wind during this relatively long exposure (13s) got my attention. I have to say that some of the images I've gone through this far did incite me to add some blur to them; Motion blur that is and not lens blur. Yet, I'm not sure it did look realistic for some of those images so I just ignored the idea for the time being. With Disturbed, the RAW was processed as any infrared shot would be processed (when the shot was taken I didn't know any of such processes). Generally speaking, I like it and it does give a sense of mystery to me but I'm not sure about the colors. Sometimes, I do wish I made it into B&W (which I might do after a while).

Finale

It is just the first week of Ramadhan and I'm really, really, wishing for my vacation to come by next week. I thought it would pass quickly but I was wrong. Chores, and bad time management and bad sleeping (more than before), all that combined made me wish if I just signed the whole month of Ramadhan as a leave! 
I'm living a somewhat strange transition, between hope and despair. Looking forward to life, and yet despising it. I'm not sure what is going on inside my head, but one thing for sure: I'm tired. Mentally, that is. I think lot of values need to be checked up and re-evaluated.

Ours,
till the end of time,
and beyond that.



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, May 10, 2018

A Micro Job…

Well they had been some easy-going weeks, relatively, but with me back to work there is also the lack of time and energy (typical) to do some of the chores or projects I set to myself. But after winning a gold medal, I think I need to get some rest, yeah?
Well, my rest is not a real rest here though, with many other chores I need to do. First things first, I had to print my winning panorama as a gift for an old friend, whose uncle is actually the deceased Kuwaiti Icon, AbdulHusain AbdulRidha; for whom the whole thing was done after his death as a tribute.


The image here (without the external margins outside the black border) was about 175x79cm, and that's way greater than A0; The largest size in the A-series of ISO 216 standard (the typical standard of papers here). Thus, my typical go-to printing shop was not an option since they don't print larger than A0. I had to go to the main branch of that printing shop (and I was surprised that it's now owned by another company in fact). Anyway, it took them some time to print it (which triggered a headache for the lack of sleep). I tried my best to keep this file at its best of clarity and resolution, so no wonder the file size was a monster! An almost 1GB 16-bit TIFF at 300 DPI! Such a gigantic file caused their system to crash (according to one of the workers there) and they had to re-open it on some other system and try again. Makes me wonder, really, how come they can deal with this file as I do while their PCs or Macs or whatever were connected to those big large format printers (dedicated to posters and other types of prints)?
I've chosen canvas as my medium here. Their canvas material had a finer and smoother texture than the one I usually print on and in fact, in some sense to the touch, it does feel like if the canvas had been already glossed. I didn't bother to apply any varnish on the print with this relatively-new material to me; I was afraid that it would ruin the looks and it's really not a good time for this! Thus, I went along and just wrote my dedications on the margins (after shooting the video above).

The Other-Wise

On the other hand, I've not done even a little with my camera, but still doing experiments on and off with my microscope. My shaky, microscope. There is a great hope here. First of all, I'm not afraid to use the 40X objective anymore (unless the beauty of the details calls for a lesser magnification). Then, it seems that I've somehow managed to have even a better position when shooting the eyepiece with even greater magnification (all by coincidence), but further investigation is needed here since I'm still unsure of how to calculate the magnification in that position. I'm aiming on achieving something beyond 1000X magnification; And somewhat I think I've done it (if my calculations are correct).

Aspergillus
~ 1280X

I was blessed with a friend who works in the biological field and offered me to prepare a sample of a fungus. He also toured me through some of the microscopes where he works and I was really impressed (though my eyes was problematic to view some samples through the stereoscopic eyepieces). Now for the image above, the magnification should be around 1280X (40X objective, 10X eyepiece, 3.2X reversed 20mm lens on camera). The original sample was blue as, according to my friend, the sample has to be stained to be recognizable in a good way. However, after the merge of 4 to 6 shots, I've corrected the colors (using the 3-point correction on Curve in Photoshop). The image is also, in fact, a third trial after 2 failed attempts. In one of these attempts I was trying to shoot using my Sigma 12-24mm in reverse! With that lens at 12mm in reverse, I could have achieved around 3300X theoretically! However, the images were quite unclear and I definitely need a more stable environment with a brighter light source.
The second attempt, also a fail, was using the 20mm lens in reverse and, by coincidence, discovering that I do not need to get so close to the eye piece to take pictures of it (only if I want the image to dominate and remove the black border of the eyepiece). Somehow, the concept is like a projector and a screen: the further away you put the projector from the screen, the larger would the image be; Only thing left is to re-focus the image. The only thing, though, I wouldn't know exactly what the magnification power would be with a distance between the eyepiece and the camera! But sure thing it would be something greater than what would be calculated usually. What is left now is, to do some infrared work as well to see if there is anything special about it.
With the help of my friend, we've taken some shots using my smartphone at high resolution, and from both eyepieces of the microscopes in order to merge them later (hopefully) into an anaglyph if possible. These shots were taken at 400X and I might post them in the future. When I compared some shots from the mobile and the image I've done above, it is apparent that the shallow depth of field exists even in such good microscopes (the details of the granules were not clear) and it's not very different from my own very old microscope - and I thought such a problem would have been solved already - So, I guess, there is a call for photo stacking EVEN when using an advanced microscope!

Trying to measure the width of the hypha (if this is what they call it), at about 2475X.


Shy Green

There is one poem which I've written few weeks back but I didn't post about on here. Since then, though, my mind got blocked with many events, chores, and responsibilities which I need to attend to. Words come and go, but I don't even have the time to push further. Anyway, I called this poem Shy Green after getting inspired by a photograph I've shot in Cahir, Co. Tipperary, back in 2010 - My second visit to Ireland.

Stormy seas, by the winding fear,
calmly standing in a shy green,
My heart in hope to set a clear,
gazing about a peaceful scene.
Miracles happen so it's seen,
but none to a beauty I know,
tranquil, alone, battling off the snow.

My sighs, that which all I could give,
a tear, a caress, or a thought,
But would my gentle one just forgive,
a wretch like me, happy in distraught?
By this grand asylum, I'm caught,
and the blooming shy abounds me,
when all that I dreamt of, not to be.

Charming in loneliness set,
what a rose had an ill such luck?
Take my palm and never get wet,
and thy green, may never get a pluck.
Thus, when the nightmares are struck,
my heart shall keep you by finesse
then on that headstone, chant me a bless.

Shy Green
In this poem, I've used a rhyming theme which I've never worked with before or heard of (probably challenging myself?) with the help of Verse Perfect. The form was called Rime Royal and goes: a,b,a,b,b,c,c. An odd number of lines is required, so it is kind of challenging to connect ideas that way, somehow. 
There had been many instances of inspiration in the past weeks, either from events or photographs which I've shot and edited myself, yet there was a lack of something that kept away from typing few words down. Not sure what it is, but maybe... motivation? praise? desire? I'm not sure really. Let's hope this blockade shutters off my mind soon. I need to write…

Finale


The past 2 weeks were quick and slow at the same time somehow. It's a weird feeling. Ramadhan is drawing near and I do feel the sleepless and tiresome nights already before its coming. I've signed for a leave already, but still I will attend to work for the first 10 days of Ramadhan. Traffic jams now are unbearable because of the stupid time management we have in this country where and when people all must go out of work at the same, making Ramadhan itself as worse in jams than regular days despite the shorter working hours during this month. I'm typing this with a sigh. Hopefully though, I will be able to work more with my camera and do something useful more than what I usually do in these regular days. Let's hope.
The whole story about the microscope and the works of the microscope made me think of seriously getting a more "advanced" one (since my friend been nagging on my head actually) but the idea was actually abandoned quickly; or was it? One thing for sure, I can't get this right now as I'm mingling with budget issues and other priorities. My friend's view was quite "profit-wise" as he looks chanced to get more money in any way possible. That's not me really. I still consider it a hobby and something that ignites that long lost childish curiosity in me. I did have my dreams about having a telescope and connect it to the camera as well, and this is such an old ambition which I'm not considering right now as well. 
As for the time being, as you can see, I'm still editing my old photos from time to time with some focus on weird crops and ratios to bring the attention of the viewer. Even lately, this activity has come to a perigee because of the other chores I need to do (including typing this blog which takes some time to do). On the other hand, I'm waiting for a new shipment of books and something that I think it is too good to be true but I can't judge till I see it with my own eyes (and test) - I'll talk about these books and "things" later in the future. Now... where did I put that pillow and blanket…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Ór!

I did it! Came to me as a surprise really (and not expected) but it was done! A gold medal in Trierenberg Circuit (Austria's international photography contest) for my panorama from the theater of AbdulHussain AbdulRidha which was done back in 2017.


The thing got me by surprise for real and I'm fluctuating in feelings between happy, and indifferent. Naturally I'd be happy of course, but also indifferent because I didn't expect anything in return - my sole purpose for uploading this panorama to the contest in the first place was to show others our culture and what this great man means to us. Having my name in the beginning of the list also makes me hyper a bit! Anyway, check the end of this post (the Finale section) to see the winning panorama (which I've called "The Smile Giver" previously) embedded from 360Cities for more interactive viewing. Now, let's move on!

 Switch On

It was awesome to have a one-week vacation connected to 2 weekends, so totaling 9 days. But... Still in need of more. It is one of the strangest things, for me at least, that just when I had a vacation to have some rest (and sleeping without setting the alarm before I go to bed), I did indeed get more active (with the camera and in writing). If I had the chance to make it longer, I would. Probably I would be finishing lot of those "projects" which were hanging on my back (and still) without being touched!

One of the things that I've started in this short vacation is going back to my very old microscope and trying something a bit different from all the samples I've done before: an ant. In this trial, I've actually focused on the head, and the eyes specifically. Even though every part of this little insect is interesting for me, but I just focused on this part for the time being, and probably I might go back to this sample to discover other parts. But for the time being, let's just focus on this part; The head.

Ant Head (IR)
~ 138X
Right away, my first trial was shooting with infrared and with reversed lens technique (as I used to do). It took about 172 shots and when processed and combined, the final image didn't appear so clear actually, and I needed to put those tags on it just to let people identify the parts of the head. Notice that the mandibles are clutching to some grain.
Doing infrared here was somehow risky, because I needed to light a powerful tungsten bulb (150W) beside the microscope (literally sticking to the microscope's side) to provide me with a good infrared flux. My two 13W LEDs bulbs failed me and apparently not a good source for IR, obviously! The heat was enormous that I really was scared that the black paper covering (which I use to block stray light away from the camera lens) would catch fire. Things went safely though, yet the results as you can see above, were not good. In the image above, I've used 4X objective to keep the details of the head and the eyes visible in the scene; Otherwise, it would be hard to distinguish those features.

Ant Head
~ 136X
I can say, though, that my second trial (which was not in infrared) was successful. In my second trial here, I've changed the settings which I usually use to shoot, and instead of using the typical lens reversing technique, I've just used extension tubes (full set) in close proximity to the eyepiece. The eyepiece itself was tilted and not completely vertical as usual. This kind of setting kind of put me on ease, because the camera is not dangling vertically above the eyepiece which makes it easier for me to control (still some hardships in positioning is involved though). Here though, unlike my previous infrared attempt, I've used the 10X objective, and the total magnification power (if my calculations are correct) should be around 136X. Ironically, the work for this "normal" shoot took around 72 images (or maybe 90 I can't remember!); Way under 172 images! Yet, the composition is clear (made clear further with post-processing of course) and strangely, the microscope's own dirt or impurities which I couldn't clean off before (and show up in every shoot) didn't show up much in this slide specifically. Worth noting here that when viewed on a larger size, the details can be somewhat ambiguous to notice or understand. Probably it is always better to keep the image dimensions low for such images just for viewers to understand.
Seeing how things worked well with the new technique (using extension tubes and placing the camera on a tripod alone), I decided to try again and use an infrared filter over my 50mm and the tubes assembly. Well, didn't go well, again. However, then I thought why not using an extreme infrared filter instead of the typical B+W 092 filter (threshold=650nm)? This is what I did next as I have an untouched Tiffen 87C infrared filter (threshold about 800nm). Since it is a gel filter, I had to hang it on one of my adapter rings with some paper binders, and at this level because the front is protruding further to the front with the adapter ring and the filter on it (didn't want to scratch the brand-new gel filter), I decided to reduce the extension tubes a bit (removed the 12mm from the full set) and also I've used 4X objective to get proper view for the head.

~45X

The final image here was somehow acceptable despite, ironically, being careless about turning that fine-focusing knob - I've taken a total of about 39 images compared to the more precise work before that which lead to about 172 images! However, I guess the zooming-out played the role for how many shots to be taken actually. Nevertheless, the overall image is relatively sharper and clearer in some details and aspects (of course after the overall processing AND sharpening). It does look like as if it is an X-ray slide for an ant!

 I'm starting to think that some subjects out there are just, simply, not to be shot in infrared. Note that all the infrared shots done so far, are done with the light pupil under the microscope being shut completely to reflect off light from the object under the microscope (whether it is an infrared shooting or a normal one). Thus, I'm thinking if there would be any changes if I let that pupil open and literally let the light pass through it - I know the view is different when shooting in normal conditions, but what about infrared shooting? Any difference? I'll try, but probably with some other sample, as people are getting scared enough already because of this ant head I'm posting for them day and night!
Now a friend of mine suggested that I must get a new microscope, an advanced one, and start to work seriously and get Pro with microscope shooting as it might be a good income venue, but I'm still not sure this is a good idea as I'm still considering it a hobby and an experimenting enjoyment! We'll see...

Ultraivialait

During this short vacation, I had the chance to go and get me some Blacklights from ACE Hardware here, as part of my efforts for shooting ultraviolet with my old B+W 403 filter in combination with my new hot mirror DR-655. So far, however, my trials been limited to the outside, under the sun and I did some trials here and there (and selfies) which were hard to work with and shoot. Mostly required a higher ISO to quicken the shutter speed (beside using a wider aperture). When working with a tripod to overcome the previous problem, there is the problem of the breeze which became quite a challenge in macro settings.


UV Selfie 1
First trials (and every other trial in fact) were shaky and hard to capture without any shake. Raising the ISO was inevitable (sometimes reaching up to 3200). In these trials, I stood to face the sun in hope to get further UV reflected off my face. Noticeably here, the eyes luster typical for the infrared shots does not show up here (naturally). Also, the skin spots that I usually see on some videos are not visible on these selfies, but then I realized that it is probably because I'm a Middle Eastern and the skin structure might differ from Europeans or other ethnic groups which show such spots when shot in UV. But I have to say that I did have my doubt as well about the accuracy of my filters as well!


UV Selfie 2
One aspect of UV photography is the colors and their balance or setting the white balance. I find it quite perplexing and not sure if there is any ""preferable" point to set WB to it. However, it is a surreal type of photography after all and I can't say there is a right or wrong about it. However, I'm asking myself whether the shades of these colors (after fixing the WB) do indeed depend on the time of the day and the angle of the sun in the sky when shooting. Anyway, in most condition I do set the WB in-camera before shooting UV, but this is just to visualize the outcome before shooting, as Photoshop (or ACR that is) would not show the image with that WB because of its limits; I still need to do the WB expansion as I usually do with infrared shots. The results, though, from the in-camera view and what shows on the monitor can vary drastically. I can use my WB Disc to calibrate the WB in-camera, but the disc does take the "mean" or "average" of the available light after all, and not a single point like the case in Photoshop or ACR; and here lies the difference I guess.


UV Selfie 3
So, sometimes to cut it out with all that perplexing color, I would sometimes consider converting to B&W, and actually I do see most of UV shots and videos to be converted to B&W instead of being left in colors. Probably because it is more... dramatic? mysterious? contrast-y? If this is really the reason I have to say it does indeed do the job, but I do prefer to convert to B&W in Photoshop itself instead of ACR to have more control with the masks and other tools. As it can be seen in UV Selfie 3, the selfie looks almost like a "low-key" shot if not for the bright background. This literally gives me some ideas for the future actually, but for the time being let's just stick to the sun and how it works. The left side of the face (my right side) was actually too dark that I had to lighten it manually by some tools and stuff. Still though, the shaky is a killer and those selfies do look, maybe, fine in small sizes, yet in their original sizes they are some catastrophes!
Away from the selfies, I've also worked with flowers in the yard, or should I say whatever left of them? Well, shooting a flower almost, always, calls for a macro procedure and so I did. The struggle was to focus (checking the monitor) under the harsh sun; Not even a LiveView cover was useful to block the sun rays and put my eyes at ease with the LiveView. The other struggle was with the breeze, and for this I had to raise the ISO. After many clicking, I've finally got one (somewhat) suitable shot to process with "minimum" shake. 

UV Bloom I

As seen in UV Bloom I, the final image had been cropped in panoramic style just to remove the excess of unneeded details (specially from the background). The background also had a serious work to blur it as I was using f/8, and this is natural with most of the work in macro photography; In fact it is even advisable to use more than f/8 but since I'm having troubles with the shutter speed I thought I should just keep it at f/8, aiming also to keep the bloom in acceptable sharpness since my vision was shaky in that situation. Worth noting that UV Bloom I was also edited using LAB technique to enhance the colors, and consequently, I had to reduce the saturation for some of them. Anyway, starting from that point I began to test various editing techniques, like in infrared photography, with channel swapping. Of course I could've just turned everything to B&W but I think it would kill the beauty of the bloom somehow here. 


UV Bloom II
Red/Blue channel swap.

UV Bloom III
Red/Blue + Blue/Green channels swap.

Probably, if not in B&W, the last version of this processed image, UV Bloom III, would be the typical look for UV images. There are other techniques I wanted to try, like merging a normal shot and a UV shot, but goes without saying how many hurdles are involved here making the job next to impossible, specially with the breeze going on and off. I'll just satisfy myself with this trend right now. 
Now, I do have my hopes with the new acquired blacklights, and I've made a test already to see if they are reliable enough. I admit that I'm impressed, but still some practical work is needed here. Despite being faintly lit to the naked eye, but with the camera and the corresponding filters (and despite the lens being coated with anti-UV coating), the exposure times were relatively fast at relatively lower ISOs. Promising. Also, I've made a quick sun-screen test, and I've finally achieved the look that I was aiming for; The black skin under UV while looking normal in regular shooting (just like in the video below).  


With this, I'm already planning for a new shooting project, involving my poor brother of course. However, I might as well do it alone. With this now, I can satisfy myself with those selfies as no black spots or freckles show in my face (or my brother's), probably because we are Middle Easterners and our skin is just adapted to sun differently. I guess such freckles would show more on a fair skin like that for Europeans or so. The sun-screen test was just what I need to give my mind and heart a rest that I am indeed shooting UV (with the help of blacklights of course!).

Bulbul

Life was not all about photography in this little vacation I had. I had the chance to write a bit. But I don't want to post all the "eggs" in one "basket" so I'm posting here a poem I've written about 2 weeks ago (in fact it was finished along with my previous post here). This piece was inspired by our little Bulbul (probably related to the Nightingale), who despite being unable to fly because of its broken wing, it does give out melodies (and I would join sometimes) - specially for seeking some freedom out of the cage.

Aman Aman

Not black and white but splashing colors,
worldly, such a never ending course.
No left, no right, nor wrong or even just,
aman aman, nor my mind I can trust.

Aman aman, O trembling bulbul,
tweeting loudly in a funeral?
How does your spirit work I wonder indeed,
for seldom a smile had been in my need.

Seldom does it shine, if would, it could,
for sorrows I never understood.
O bulbul to whom the tweet and the dance?
or maybe a salute to some past romance?

Salute me by the morn or by noon,
whether under the heat or the moon.
Take this core where it never had befitted,
in hope! May my grinning face be permitted.

When the blooms of May may surrender,
and off life bereft be the tender.
Lull me O bulbul, and put me to sleep,
Aman aman, my eyes need not to weep.

This one went quiet, for the time being, even though I've put it in some contest on Writing.com to be reviewed. I've based the poem on simple quatrain style (a a b b) and tried my best to keep the syllables count at (9 9 10 10) successively. With the help of Verse Perfect of course. In this poem, beside all these metering stuff (which I don't quite understand because I'm not a poet myself and I didn't study those already), I tried here to take one word from the last line in each quatrain and include it in the first line of the next quatrain after. Mentally, I was performing a chaining up for ideas in my mind and that how it felt like.
It seems most, if not all, of my poems are either melancholic or nostalgic. After all, this is how I started writing them in my late teens. Should I change? Yet, how? What I write is really how I feel, and it was the main vent (and still is) for my feelings which I seldom take out of my brain and away from my tongue. Left to say, there is indeed a third poem which I've written this week but I'll keep it for the next post.

Finale

As I've promised by the beginning of this post, here is the panorama which got the gold medal in the Panorama theme on Trierenberg Circuit, embedded from 360Cities - so people with smartphones might be able to view this panorama while moving their phone to move around the panorama itself (I suppose, if not, check the main website for this one).


Now, after this gold medal, I'm not sure where to go. But I'm just satisfied with how things went on with this panorama specifically, since I've participated in the contest just for it solely and to show it to people outside to let them, at least, wonder who is this man in the portraiture and what does he mean to us. I consider this gold medal as a surplus and a sweet reward over my real intentions. As a next step, I might (just might) think of participating with this panorama specifically in other contests, and maybe get it exhibited as well. It's a rush of serotonin that I lingered for in such a long time now and I really need it amid my frequent anxiety and panic attacks; Something to tell me, that things will be alright, sooner or later, but let's hope so soon as I can't bear much to later…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy