Thursday, January 10, 2019

Racing Time…

Here we go, with a new year, and... some new load of problems I guess? Anyway, life a problem in its core I presume, right?
Well, in my previous post I was talking about doing a self-challenge as I used to do before and head to work with one camera and one lens (did that already with 50mm lens) and this time to be using 20mm lens. Anyway, for some technical reasons, I had to delay this for a while until I finish some experiments at home. Why? Because I'm using the intervalometer in shooting some time-lapse at home, and I do need the intervalometer to shoot long exposures as I'm planning, at work, if possible. So, I'm waiting!
Mentioning time-lapse, there is one big deal which occupied me for a while and I was not able to post about it in the previous post because I was simply busy processing the images and the video. Let's see…

Frozen

Refreshen
Source
In this shot I've used a continuous
light source focused on the glass
and the ice cubes in a dark
room and with a considerably long exposure.
I was encouraged to do this experiment after my work with the incense sticks and capturing smoke as well as doing a short time-lapse. Thus, I thought, why not work with a melting ice block? I did somewhat similar experiments before, doing long exposure for melting ice and the results were so-so I'd say. This time, as with the case with the incense sticks, I've planned to work with speedlites and take several shots. Originally, though, I was planning to do a real long exposure actually, and triggering the speedlites by sound every 1 minute or some other specific time period, but re-thinking the procedures and the capabilities, I changed my mind and decided to shoot normally with the intervalometer and capturing many photos and by this I would be a winner on both sides: Merging images as in double exposure or more than that, as well as forming a time-lapse for the whole process.


The set where the shooting took place, with 3 speedlites at work.

The main problem though was to make the ice block and how to make it interesting! After thinking thoroughly, and after noticing some candy tins which were prepared specially for some occasion I'm not aware of. Anyway, my brother helped me remove the golden paint on the tin, but still some work was left since the tin had some design. Not willing to paint it all over again, I've used balloons to cover the tin and make it all red (after felling it with marbles). Then, I've prepared a cylindrical canister open from two sides and filled it with water with the tin inside (hence the marbles to sink it down). I did face some problems here but let's not delve into these details, as they were about to drive me nuts!

The shoot in action.

Before the actual shooting takes place, I did practice on a glass in the same position where the ice block would be. I got the 3 speedlites to work perfectly as I need, despite the cumbersome settings or light modifiers I'm using here. I used 2 speedlites on the side, and one speedlite with a snoot to cast some light in the background even though, initially, I didn't want to do that in the first place, but then I thought it would be a good idea to separate the ice block from the pitched darkness of the background; However, in all 3 speedlites, I tried to use the minimum power to give just a hint about the boundaries and not illuminate everything (and this is also useful to save power more because I was not sure how long this process will be), and thus all speedlites were on powers less than 1/8 of the maximum.

Frosted Love
Time-lapse

It took me around 5 hours (or maybe a bit more) for the ice to melt down to considerable and acceptable amount (but not completely!). The hardest part was to remove that ice spot on the surface of the heart which seems to be there for hours and I was afraid that it won't melt down at all. I did melt it down a little but not completely (using a kitchen torch).
I had my lesson now for working with ice. It is probably the most unstable thing on planet Earth! You will notice how the ice block in the time-lapse moves around; Unfortunately, something I couldn't prevent or avoid. The white powder scattered around the block is actually salt which I used to stabilize the block in one place, but even with that, the block would rotate around itself as it was melting. You might have also noticed some purple spot in the lower right corner (and there are two of them if you checked the photo of the set above). These were clay (play-doh) pieces which I used to raise the acrylic board just a little to balance the block, but even with that, the block kept on moving left and right and I realized I would need salt here. For this reason, it was such an exhaustive work for 5 hours or so, even though I thought I would rest a bit while the process takes its own pace; I was completely wrong! I had to run often to the set to check its process and to adjust the block manually in between the shots. I'm happy though that the lighting from the speedlites kept consistency and there is almost no change in the light level in the video.

Defrosting Love

Finally, I didn't forget my major aim for this whole "little" project here, which is an image (and not a time-lapse video). With such a huge amount of images (more than 580 shots), I was a bit puzzled at what I'm aiming for, or more precisely, what images do I need to mimic the thawing of the ice (the time-lapse was in reverse so it was like if the heart is frosting not defrosting). Thus, I've set my mind to pick one image with 100 shots apart in between (approximately). The resulting image, Defrosting Love, was formed by blending the images using Lighten mode mostly but later needed some work with layer masks to hide some unneeded artifacts. The hurdle though was with the red tones as their saturation and lighting were a bit troublesome to tone down and keeping a natural level. Anyway, seems (just seems) I got it right.
Now, I still need to add some keywords to the image and get it ready to be uploaded to stock websites. Though I finished this little project a while ago, but I was really busy with other things around which kept me (or rather made me forget) about uploading this image. As for the time-lapse, I'm still reluctant to upload to stock websites (some of them accept footage) as it doesn't seem quite perfect, but I'm keeping my options open for the time being. I'm typing these words as I'm working on another project which hopefully I'll be posting about soon when it's over, and also I need to get ready for another idea which is cooking at the back of my head! I'm having a rain of ideas, and probably I should thank winter for it!

Finale


AC-E6N
AC Adapter for some Canon cameras,
including Canon EOS 7D.
This was a quick journey through a little project which I've done lately, and somehow it got me keen on trying more time-lapses, if possible. It also sparked my interest in getting one of those AC adapters for the camera and thus I wouldn't have to change the batteries often during the time-lapse shooting; It's quite critical to keep the camera untouched as much as possible. I asked about it around and the shop owner said it might be available in 3 weeks or so and I didn't really find it in listings of other shops around. I'm not going to order that with international shipping as well, as it's not really worth all that money for this item alone (I don't have anything else to order along with it). So, I guess all I can do for now is wait! 
Many ideas are running through my mind right now, and just to name few: Reviving the Scopa project which I've stopped months ago, and maybe, just maybe, I might try to go out at night like I used to do before and shoot something (crossing fingers to not encounter any annoyances). This is beside challenging myself with the one-camera one-lens challenge. 
Because of all of this "indulgence" with ideas, I really had little time to connect with myself and write a poem. I'm breaking my own promise to myself of writing at least one poem a month. I didn't compose any poem in December, and now January is on its beginnings, yet I'm not sure if I will write anything.
Despite this enthusiasm and this mind running with ideas, I'm on the contrary to all of that, tired. So tired. Of everything. Overthinking is taking its toll on me and I'm fighting back with whatever power left in me. This aside, I've noticed how much I'm getting frustrated and angry and simply irritated by simple things. They say this usually happens when a person keeps so much inside without venting or dealing with these feelings; All that would show later as a burst of anger against the silliest of things. This is what is happening to me really.
Deep inside me, there is a perplexing mix of feelings of love and hate, eagerness and despise, but the greatest of all of these feelings, is the fear from tomorrow...


Thursday, December 27, 2018

An tSiúlóid…

As I'm typing this, there were some trials (and errors of course) on some little project which really consumed my time at home recently. Anyway, I'm still working on this and let's hope that I get something useful out of it! Frankly, I'm not sure what I'm doing or have done already, but we'll see. I'll explain things later when it is time to talk about this little idea in future posts, hopefully. Meanwhile, I'm actually living from one weekend to another and now waiting for the New Year's holiday here (which will be only one day). Not just to sleep more as much as I can, but to ease my mind a bit (specially about driving the damn car to and from work). Anyway, who's not sick of driving cars right now in this place with traffic jams taking up the roads for more than 12 hours a day?

Budgie

Since I was not doing much with my camera and as I was trying to kick myself a bit to move and do something, I've found some new target for me here: Our parakeet (a.k.a Budgie). We had this bird for a while and I truly hate to see birds in cages but, well, as usual, I don't have a say in this in this home of mine. I have to say though, he kind of have a weird character. I can feel it.

Nostralia
So, what I did, I just placed the cage on a table (as usual) and placed a speedlite beside it on another table and started to shoot a bit randomly; Why randomly? Well, it is an animal and I can't control its pulses, specially being inside a cage! Thus, my mind was set to do a lot of cropping work later on when examine the shots. To overcome the bars or the cage, I've used my 100mm macro lens (at f/8) in hope that the bars would not be too obvious; However, they helped me at some point as we will see! And for some reason, I've used my converted Canon EOS 7D here without any filters (no IR, nor Hot Mirror), and guess what? I was able to retain the original colors back with the adjustment of the white balance while processing the photos quite easily. Just as a remark: The main source of lighting here is the speedlite and not the ambient light, which means there is an abundant amount of infrared issued through, but without using any filtration system, I was good to go and I got the colors back (well, to be honest, I was hoping I would get something vivid or strange in terms of colors).

3D-Keet


Parastrakt
Taking many pictures on burst (successive) mode did help me as well to inspect the shots for some chances to make anaglyphs. They were not many in fact and apparently f/8 was not enough with this macro endeavor (the shallow depth changed as the bird moved and I was trying to follow him up!). Anyway, my main aim was to create abstracts actually and not anaglyphs, and this is why I was thinking of the crops from the very beginning of this random shooting, as you might have seen already up with Nostralia. I didn't name the pictures even prior to this post; I'm just putting the names now for easy reading and pointing!
Looking at some of these images, I've remembered some of the photos I've seen from some photographers here where they did use telephoto lenses with close objects like birds and horses and that really gives me an idea that I might try one day with my Sigma 70-300mm lens one day with this bird, as apparently this macro lens didn't block out much spaces, as can be seen in Parastrakt in the lower right corner (this image was flipped and rotated to be in that form by the way). The irony is, the first image I've shot in this series, was the latest to be processed and yet, probably so far, the most beloved to me! Behind Bars.

Behind Bars

Behind Bars was one of the first shots I've made in this series but for some reason, I didn't check it out till later after processing few images. I loved the lines formed by the ribs of the cage, with some of them being in focus and some blurred. Originally, I tried to work in color but then I realized that this image is more dramatic and more eye-catching in B&W and probably the emotions do show better in that way. I can see fear in his face (what about you?) probably because of what was happening around him with flash pulses striking his face. What I really like about this image, too, is the way that blurred lines of the ribs blend on the head of the bird like bands of inverse colors; This is definitely a trick I need to think of using in some of my future shots if possible. So far, there had been few images I need to check, and some I need to re-check in this series to see if there is any potential left in them.

The Stroll

With the "somewhat" lack of activities, and after watching some photography videos on Youtube, I got some passionate kindle going on inside of me to do some shooting outside (specially with the winter season right now). I do miss going out at night but anyway this is not the case here. I'm starting simple: A stroll around my workplace.
The thing was like a challenge and I used to do some challenges of that sort often and specifically around my workplace, where I would pick my camera with one lens only and go around my workplace trying to shoot something and come out with something unique. This time, though, I packed a camera with a lens (50mm), plus few items (2 mini-tripods which I didn't use anyway and intervalometer, beside a pinhole cap). As I started to work, an idea sparked inside of me to do some Anaglyph-dedicated shooting, which I did (despite the annoying flies!).

The strolling kit packed in a little camcorder bag.

In order to quicken my work a bit and also to get as much as possible out of the scene in order to be merged as an anaglyph later on, I put the camera on burst mode. It was partially cloudy day, but nevertheless, I could work in the range of 1/1000s of a second for the shutter's speed, and that made my work easier as all I had to do is just press the button and move gently to get a set of images with slightly different perspective. Working with 50mm lens here did not give me the choice to get closer (I didn't bring with me any extension tubes for macro jobs), and there were some instances where I wished I did bring those with me. However, the killing mistake was to use a very shallow depth of field (f/1.4, the lowest f-number for this lens). This aperture proved to be so sensitive to the movement that two successive shots can be so different in terms of the depth of field (and the location of the depth or the sharpness of the image). Anyway, I did escape with some useful images after all and some of them were good to be merged anyway!
 Some shots, I think, are better off to be in B&W as well because of the drastic and quite eye-attraction they cause away from their normal colored looks. I've discovered this by chance as I was trying to remove the color distraction from some images before converting them into anaglyphs. Sometimes, and for some images, the original colors can be quite an obstacle for a proper 3D Anaglyph viewing.

The Negative Bloom
Despite being like a negative or invert in colors, it is a direction conversion into B&W with a play in the tones.
One of my favorites.

But anyway, back to the main purpose of the stroll, which is regular shots, with some abstracts if possible. Escaping from the flies outside, I came back in into my office and started figuring out a way to use the pinhole cap this time (0.22mm) and shoot something towards the window. Actually, the idea for this shot was the reason I thought of bringing my camera to my work, because when the lights are switched off, the window becomes the main source of light; A majestic scene in winter time and the cold weather! Maybe because of the warmth that it provides? Seriously, I'm in this job for about 13 years now and I don't feel this, with such sun rays coming through the window, but only in winter alone. Well, it might have to do with the direction of the sun as well and how the rays enter the room, who knows?! In anyway, it was something to think of for a shoot!

My Dreams Window
The challenge, though, was how to I'm going to shoot this without a tripod? Even though the sun rays were strong enough to shorten the exposure, yet the exposure was in terms of seconds (ranged from 4 to 30 seconds depending on the angle). I almost gave up on that actually, but then I thought while use this relatively-long exposure to my advantage and create the abstract by moving the camera vertically in a line (as much as possible). Which I did, but then I did also add some motion blur when editing the photo later on. I wonder if such images are welcome in stock websites!

Doppel
Even though I was aiming to do a long exposure originally with this pinhole cap and through the window for the people who would usually walk outside, but the circumstances were unlike it. Not many people out there, and no tripod. Thus, I had to satisfy myself with this for now. However, I thought of one last exposure to make with the help of the whiteboard which is hanging in my office. So, I just stuck the camera by hand onto the whiteboard (pressing not too hard for stabilization) and took the exposure like that pointing to the same window, and hence we can see the reflection of the window in Doppel. To tell the truth, I was really thinking that I shot the two windows in my office for a moment! But then I remembered that the second window is covered in curtains still. Dementia at its best.
This was the end of the stroll and in fact up till this moment of typing this, I'm still checking and processing of these images. There is a plan to do it again and that time would be with my Voigtländer 20mm lens. This would be challenging somewhat because it is a wide angle and so many elements might be involved. The good part about this lens is that closest focusing distance is about 20cm which allows for some intimate moments with objects! This said, I'm already planning to upload some of these photos into my accounts on stocks websites and writing the info and keywording is surely a time-consuming task that must be done anyway, and pretty soon.

Finale

Well, because of the scrambled mind here I was not so fortunate to write down a new poem. I really wished to post one here to be my last poem for this year, but alas, my core couldn't stand it with imagination. I'm, though, mainly focusing on pinning down my thoughts about life and recording them for future reflections on my thoughts. It is all recorded in this open document, which I might produce another similar version of it for the year 2019 specifically.
I've been feeling some rage inside of me lately. It's not weird to be enraged, but this time it is a bit weird in a way I can't explain. I mean, a rage to the limit of despising the very thing about the human nature or let's say of those around me. Arrogance? I don't quite think so. Probably just tired. So tired. I'm missing the time when I would just sleep any time I want without worrying about anything. Anyway, let me hit this post button for now and go ahead and work with those images… in hope that I get something ready for the next post in 2 weeks. I leave you now with one of my favorite Muwashshahat by one of my favorite tenors, Sabah Fakhri...



Thursday, December 13, 2018

Chaotic Life…

Busy week, and busy health issues as well. I did not feel like typing this blog post really but I'm pushing myself just to get myself out of the circle. Car issues (not over yet with those) occupied my mind (and still) for the past few days and I was not able to work with my camera and incense sticks to apply some ideas that occurred to me.
My new Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM
Moreover, there was a bit of news I was lazy to post about last time, and that is my nifty-fifty lens (Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM) had gone dead with the focusing ring not responding; Not in manual, nor in Autofocus mode. This is one of the critical lenses I have, and having it ready is a must. Thus, I was anticipating in my mind to order a new one and this time it would a 50mm lens but from Canon's L-Series (higher quality and, well, pricey). Unfortunately, though I had to ignore this option when I discovered that the diameter of this lens is 72mm and not 58mm as its cheaper counterpart.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
This difference will make lot of troubles with my arsenal of filters which I usually purchase based on the 58mm standard, as most of my lenses do have this diameter and some do have step-down or step-up rings for them to attach these filters. Using a step-down ring for 72mm to 58mm is, as far as I know, does not exist and most probably I would need 2 step-down rings (72 to 62 and 62 to 58) and such a setting is not advised for because it might cause more vignetting and probably more flares because the body of the filter would be separated more than usual from the surface of the lens front. Thus, after checking it out, I've finally ordered the same lens I have from a local store (AABWorld) which Ironically offered the lens for $4 less than its price on B&H! I got it delivered on the same day. Man, I'm spending lot of money in this month...

Smoking Smoke

I've posted in my last post here about working with incense sticks and some plans about it but I didn't post any results from that experiment. In fact, my aim in the first place was to do a long exposure with periodic flash bursts from my speedlites and thus making a multi-exposure-like image within one frame and one single exposure (by working in a dark room). However, we are talking here about exposures that might extend to 30 minutes, and the stroboscopic feature in speedlites won't handle this situation properly. Therefore, I was looking for another solution to this. Meanwhile, I was busy the past week in writing a blog post in Arabic for my Arabic blog specifically about this experiment and how I did what I did. See, I was busy!

The set for shooting incense sticks.

Thus, since I couldn't work out my way with such idea, I had to do things digitally, by using the intervalometer and take shots automatically every 30 seconds (I worked with 1 minute as well) just like if I was doing a time-lapse, and then work hard digitally to compose and overlap the images and convey a sense of movement. Well, the end result was actually more surreal and far from being about movement! Yet, I still like it. For fun (probably posted this before?), I've created a reverse time-lapse out of the 80+ shots that I took of the burning incense sticks. I didn't bother to add sound or anything.



My first step in processing this amount of images (more than 80 shots) was to use the Blend technique, in which I would change blend for each layer to merge it in a somewhat similar look to the multi-exposure option in some cameras. Mainly, the Blend option to fit the usage here was the Lighten option.
Emerging Smoke
I have to admit though that the general look might be messy with Emerging Smoke, yet I do like such a mess with its abstract sense and randomness. Notice that the final image was rotated as well to add a bit of mystery to it. The coloring was done digitally of course and I used a simple gradient here close to baby-pink and baby-blue, but I think I should have made the grading softer some more as it appears as if the change was sudden from pink to blue. The smoke here also does have some metallic sense to it, and I think it would be good as a background of some sort. It is already accepted by some stock websites already with its counterpart coming next. One thing to notice here though, the Lighten blend does not work with all kinds of images; Sometimes, if the images are generally bright, the Darken blend would work better, or maybe at times a mix of the two blends would do!
Smokey Carnival
The next play or trick required some special sorting for the images: Only those with longitudinal smoke shapes would be picked for the process. And the process was simply assigning a channel from the RGB spectrum to each layer (consecutively), in addition to some tweaking in contrast, and at a later stage tweaking the colors with Hue/Saturation adjustment layer and voila! We have a Smokey Carnival. I'm not sure how many layers I've used here but it was somewhere between 70 and 80 shots. This combination of images, too, is now available on the stock, and I think it does make another background or backdrop image, or even a wallpaper. Things won't stop at these two, as there are single layers which produced some interesting shapes of smokes that I'm willing to experiment with and add some digital colors to keep things interesting (probably combination of gradations made of complimentary colors). Yet, because of the hectic life issues I'm having currently, I had to stop editing those images and even stop doing some plans with my camera. Let's hope this weekend gives me some breath of life to stand up again.
As I've mentioned earlier, I was thinking of some method to time the speedlite to shoot in specific periods of time with a long exposure (extending to around 30 minutes maybe!), and seems the solution is here finally but I didn't get the chance to try it out yet. Without delving much into the details, it seems that I need to dig out my multi-gate trigger (which works with infrared, laser and sound) and hook it with the system for this experiment. Let's hope I would be able to work with it this week or so and get some good results!

Finale

Well, as you can see here maybe this is kind of a short note of what I've been doing lately with my "life" - if I can call it so. Too bad my mind had been too busy to write or think of some words to jot down or even to look inside myself for feelings to express in a poem. However, in the mid of all of that, I'm keeping a record for some of my thoughts about life on Writing.com and I do post them as well sometimes on Twitter and FB. Anyway, probably not the time to post the link for that for the time being.
Times is ticking away and to be sincere about my feelings, I'm loathing and getting disgusted by every second the ticks while I'm in this place. A place that I call home, or maybe I'm forced to call home. Time passes and I feel more estranged and more isolated. Adding to my eyes trouble that makes driving such a hassle to be aware of, the hassle of dealing with the outside world and with such savage and barbaric creatures that call themselves human beings makes my anger deep inside incremental. So much that I feel like crashing everyone I see in front of me with my car, if I can get the chance to. Probably this is the effect for not traveling out for 3 years... Probably I'm on the verge of forgetting that once upon a time, I was a human being.



Thursday, November 29, 2018

Burning…

Things are becoming to overwhelming in this month. I was really going to postpone typing this blog post for another week, but here I am; Trying my best. Things are going slow to stand up again after the rain crisis and my room turning into a swimming pool. There remains some clutter to clear still though. With all of this and that, I'm trying to get my cameras going on again, as well as checking some of the photos in my arsenal to be uploaded to the stocks (and keeping some of them exclusive to some, as well). However, numerous things happening around me and inside me that all leave me just like paralyzed and unable to think clearly or even get the motive to work on anything I like at the current time.
Heavy-weight news are coming one by one, starting now with the change in policies for Flickr, after being acquired by SmugMug. The new change is to take effect in January, and in that time users with free accounts will be limited to 1000 images only (regardless of their sizes) - My account bears more than 2500+ images already. They are planning to delete old images till the limit is met, and thus more than half of my work will be deleted eventually. Registering as a pro-user is not an option as well. back when I used to pay for Flickr for a pro account, it was for $25/month, but now it is for $50/month (some even say it costs more than Photoshop does). For now, I've backed up all my albums on Flickr and compressed them and kept them safe in clouds, and I'm not sure where to go next to show my work. I've posted a Good-Bye note to my Flickr already and I've stopped posting anything new there already. And this happening only when I started to link my images from Flickr instead of posting them here directly, so I think I'm going back to my old methods of posting my photos here as I type my blog posts.

Goodbye Flickr

On the other hand, events are taking place in my workplace and some time by the next year, my workplace would be moved to another place. Other people (most of those I know) are excited about it because, as they see it, it is better; Yet, this is not the case with me, as the place is further away from home than the current location, and with me feeling my eyes' weaknesses taking the toll on me, the idea of moving further away to that area makes me gloomy a bit, specially if I would be needing to drive in the dark (winter mornings or rainy days like we are having right now mostly). Needless to say, I'm trying to cope with exhaustion (and failed already) as it is with my workplace now, what would be the situation with a location almost double the distance? And the traffic jams? All that lead me to think seriously of submitting a request for a "medical resignation" for my eyes problem with Retinits Pigmentosa. But then what? I just don't know…
Things are not any better on the personal and home fronts. Even though I didn't do any official diagnosis, but it seems I do have a touch (or maybe more than that) of depression. Mood swings, family affairs, flashbacks... all of that is just not doing any good and I'm really tired.
Usually I keep ranting till the end of the blog post but I couldn't keep it this time as it is at the core of being able to post this in the first place.

Burning

As I was idle with my camera for 2 weeks or more, with all the struggle with my mood, and the rain interference, I've finally managed to raise up and shake my head a bit to do something. Initially, the idea came about first time when I was burning some incense stick in my room (beside burning aromatic oils) to banish away the bad smell after being soaked with rain water in my room. In the mess, I just got perplexed with the view of these smoke lines going out of the incense. This is not the first time I work with smoke in fact, I've played before (burning some tissue paper though to get the smoke heavy and clear) but this time I had different ideas I wanted to implement.

Censer 21
Censer XXI
An old work with smoke photography.
The main idea this time with these burning incense sticks "was" to do a long exposure in combination with flash strokes; It does sound like the stroboscopic functionality, but I'm talking here about a really long exposure, in minutes, for the duration of the burning incense completely. In rough estimation, one of these sticks would need about 30 minutes to burn completely. This essentially was the first impression or idea that occurred to me (and it took me days to get myself to move and do something about it). However, things had to change drastically as I started the practical side of the idea here. Mainly, the idea swept from being a long exposure with stroboscopic effect, to a regular time-lapse-like shooting (frames at specific assigned time) and trying to combine all these, as much as possible, to get an overall effect.
Sample shot from the series
At time of typing this blog post, I didn't proceed with the merging process for all these shots (more than 80 number), but I'm offering here a sample shot.  To get some inspiration, I've checked Pinterest to get some ideas further and I've seen some photographers who did digitally colored their smoke shots, and I think this is what I will be doing even though it is a bit further away from the "authenticity" measure. The Censer series which was done long time ago had been colored using gels and it is definitely to work with. However, I need to think about my choice of colors to overlay over the final image(s), as most of the images of smokes I've seen been colored as a rainbow. You can see from the sample shot as well that I do need to work on my background as well and this black cloth is not suitable here (actually it got brighter as I processed the images to lighten the smoke). I just hope darkening the background would be easier later in the process.

The set used to shoot the incense sticks.
The shooting and its set is a story on its own, starting with my everlasting nightmare: Tables. Even though I got this table from my sister which is higher and with larger area (far better than tea tables I used to work with mostly), I did have this problem in setting everything in proper level, specifically the speedlites with the incense sticks which were pinned to this Styrofoam box. The camera level was also low and I had to bend my back for long times (by the end of the shoot I got a chair though). To add to my hurdles, my 50mm lens is malfunctioning now and I'm not sure what to do about it next. Probably I'll try to fix it if it possible at some workshop if any exists here! For now, I've combined my 20mm Voigtländer lens with a teleconverter which doubles the focal length to 40mm. This did it for now, but the downside is that the aperture cannot go wider than f/7.1 (i.e. the f-number cannot be less than f/7.1) and of course this is not quite useful if I'm planning to do any bokeh effect in the background. I'm checking my options now but I'm so overwhelmed that I think I will keep this for later to see.
Now, to business for those who would like to read what this set above is all about (I'm sure professionals don't need to know what I'm doing here):
  • Far left (the silver curtain): This is a car shade I've kept specifically to be used as a reflector. Frankly, probably didn't do much for the shoot here.
  • The white box at the center is the Styrofoam which I used to pin the incense sticks.
  • The speedlite on the table between the camera and the Styrofoam is connected to the camera by cable and worked as a master without triggering itself. I've used this first to be able to use the HSS (high speed) option and shoot beyond the sync speed because I've been told high speed shooting is required for capturing the smoke. Turned out to be not true and the HSS didn't help at all so I was back to normal sync speed (1/250s).
  • The two speedlites (only one obvious in the image) are the main source of light here. I was planning to use one, but then as I wanted to empower the light in HSS mode I've brought in a second one. But then went back to normal sync speed and left the second addition as it is. Took me a while to figure out a suitable technique and finally I've placed a white cardboard behind them and reflected their light from that surface. Their power was reduced as much as possible with the most significant effect; This is mainly to save power as much as possible with long continuous shooting, and to keep the flash light duration as short as possible. Working in Manual mode, 1/8 of power was enough for both. 
  • One cardboard was placed between the speedlites and the camera to block any stray light causing flare. Flare was a problem in the beginning and some annoying brightness was present when I started testing and this black "flag" solved the problem, initially.
It was a long shoot made on intervals of 30 seconds for 30 minutes (in addition to some manual shots done after the program on the intervalometer was fully executed). Processing the images in a haste collectively did make the background brighter than it originally was and the lines in the background showed clearly now, so I hope those can be eliminated later as I work on it. Initially and just for fun, I've created this short time-lapse in reverse.


Well, I didn't bother adding an audio. This said and done, I'm still looking for opportunities to do a long exposure using speedlites triggered at specific intervals of time, in stroboscopic manner, and thus creating a multi-exposure-like image in the same frame of these burning incense sticks. It needs a bit of research so let's hope I get the time to do this. I'm doubting that traditional methods would do here and probably controlling the speedlites with a third party device is required here.

Finale

Well, I guess after ranting in the intro of this blog post maybe I don't have much to state here, but I did in fact work on a short poem, which I've called Just Dance:

Just Dance

In whatever land there is to be
long forgone, or beyond many a sea
Dance!
In whatever Heaven there to be
or wherever gone that soul of me
Glance!

Pretty young to handle all the romance
sweet sixteen or eighteen set to dance
Be!
Sleepless nights all there is in the stance
That is the passion and its annoyance
See!

Praying though in distress or through the glee
however the soul of yours is free
Glance!
Solitude, watching is all to be
under the years and tears over me
Now, bye bye,
Just,
Dance
 
The rhyming scheme goes by A-A-B-A-A-B/B-A-A-B-A-A (which seems to be called, partially, Caudate) and with metering as (9,9,1,9,9,1) except for the last stanza, in which this order of meter was broken. I had a real struggle to complete this one though and I was somewhat lost in thought. To tell the truth, I'm not so convinced about it but I had to take it off my back and post it. So far, I got 2 positive feedback despite being clearly hard to understand as someone noted.
Now, it is clear from all these events and all that struggle (and some more to come concerning my cars), I do really need a vacation. A real one, with traveling. I know, I've kept saying this for almost a year now or more and still didn't do anything about it. I just keep asking myself, why can't I just have some rest on my own? 
I need to wind myself now and get ready to do some phone calls (I hate phone calls) to get some insurance work done (and paid) and finish with the annual check up for the cars, with one of them still in the garage for a month now... might be the time to get rid of it but I'm not sure yet. The idea of taking so many decisions all at once successively is just overwhelming that makes me want to go to bed and just sleep. A really long sleep, and giving the world my back with little care, if any…







Thursday, November 15, 2018

News Update…

Well, I was not sure of typing down this blog post for this week, but since I'm blogging almost bi-weekly and for almost a year or more now, I think I do have to put on something here and not leave it. The fact is, I do not have anything to post about since my activities had been in a turmoil for the past 2 weeks for many reasons, but majorly for the havoc in the country after the rains and which affected me. Even though I had a minor incidence compared to what other people here suffered, but it was enough still to put my life to paralysis, since everything is disorganized and I don't have the time to work on any project or do much.
They had been sad two weeks, and still, more to be expected by Wednesday and Thursday. I'm typing these words now on Monday and everyone is speaking about an upcoming monsoon and floods next Wednesday and Thursday (and even Friday) that would be even more severe than those encounter last week.
On a personal level, my window had been leaking and I have to admit I was slacking off and I didn't fix it before winter and now I'm paying back. I've installed now a shutter outside the window which I hope that it would do the job to block the water from each the frame of the window. I'm keeping many blankets near by just in case. As you can see with all this turmoil, my head had been really tired, and I'm not even sleeping well. So many things to think of. Saying this, I do indeed have some ideas at the back of my head but I'm waiting to settle down and make sure that this window shutter is quite sturdy and enough to block the upcoming waves of showers. Later, there is a long cleaning process is awaiting and probably then I will have a good time to start working with my camera with few things.
Meanwhile, I had been working slowly on old photos to upload them to the stocks; Some single shots and some panoramas. Poetry-wise, my poem "Rejected" had been awarded a second place in a contest as well as a merit badge on Writing.com. More words are coming to my mind to write but because of the struggles right now, I can barely focus on my inner self. All my emotions right now mostly lead to fear; The fear of many things, and not just heavy rains... So, I'm going to put this on automatic posting for Thursday, and let's see if I can check it out with the upcoming showers...

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Trending…

Finally! Something to call "weather" in this spot on planet Earth! Temperatures are going down and the breeze is chilling down. It is such weather that make me forget juuuust a bit about traveling and sit around enjoying my cup of green tea or coffee (and if there is rain, that would be better). We had some rains last week and, as usual, some areas had faced hard times despite the occasional rainfall in this spot of the planet. This said, I need to attend to the window in my room before another catastrophe happens like last year when rain water seeped through some cracks made a lake inside my room! Ugh... if I can just control my mood swings…

The Trend

Canister for shooting Argentum.
Well, my activity with the camera is minimum for the time being but I managed to test some aspects. The bulk of my work was posted 2 weeks ago as I was trying the "rim lighting" methods. Moreover, I'm trying further modifications on the canister which I use to cover up the subject to be photographed. So far, it seems that canisters with "slits" are better suited for the task of shooting non-flat subjects like I did with Argentum before already.

Argentum

The canister in which I've shot Argentum is relatively small in diameter, so probably I need to make another one with a larger diameter (when need arises). Just recently, I've made another canister with round holes instead of slits (using usual drill bits). My current simple experimenting with this canister did not yield good results, and this is probably related to the shape of the holes. Thus, I can say with some confidence that slits or flat openings are better suited for the task of "rimming" (well, I coined that, don't know if there is any real term for this kind of photography!).

Keyz

Beside working on Argentum with somewhat an innovated canister, I've worked on a little project on the side as well with a theme of security. I called the series Keyz. To make the series, I've shot individual keys, and to make sure that I get some realistic look, I've shot 4 different keys (in fact 5 originally but had to cancel one), as this will provide different serration (engraved side) for each key, and then combined the keys in Photoshop in the shape of a cross and then in a square formation. Originally, there were two versions in B&W; A cross and a square. However, later I got a spark of an idea that I would make them also in golden color, culminating with 4 images in total. Surprisingly, they were accepted quickly on Canstockphoto and Dreamstime! It seems that the security theme never dies out in time and always in demand! Hmm, that makes up for so much cliché I presume. As much as I want to study the trends and work along with it for the stock, as much as I feel empty and thoughtless when it comes to shooting a specific trend theme or subject (and not shooting models makes it worse I think). Again, mood swings and flying ideas like sparks of fire takeover the process of my mental attitude!

Complexionem (original)

Another composite was made by shooting the metallic surface of a bowl (the other half of Argentum). This time, I'm using the slit-canister again like in Argentum, but the difference here is that the bowl is concave and I was trying to shoot from upper slits to let the light somewhat shine into the bowl. I could have turned the bowl over but I really wanted to see how things turn out with a concave object like this. The result was so-so but the final result, Complexionem, was reached by extensive editing in Photoshop. Without going into the details, I had to in fact "patch" up the image and replicate it and then try to hide the seam lines as much as possible and finally convert the image into an outline (or a sketch if you will). As the title signifies above, this is just the original one, and several ones were made into various colors and they are already available on, again, Dreamstime and Mostphotos. Those uploaded to Mostphotos, though, are larger in size (original size) as those in Dreamstime were minimized a bit to fit into the rules of the website for maximum size allowed. The colors range from Ruby Red to Argentinian Blue, going through Roman Silver and, my favorite, Gold. Hope those arbitrary and somewhat random art make up for a good pattern and texture and gain some stance to be sold!

Rolling Back

In my effort to focus closely and more on the stocks that I have neglected a bit when I was a member in the photography group, I'm trying not to re-check and re-edit some of these photos, and eventually re-discover some old neglected shots or go around some of these images which I deemed unsuitable before. This is normal, since what was suitable for the activities of the group (the expos and contests) is seldom of the stock variety.

Planeta Lacuna

Shining Xewkija
Shining Xewkija
Exclusive to Dreamstime
I'm putting more focus on my photos from Malta, as I'm planning to put some of them exclusive to Dreamstime, under the category of travel and tourism. However, not all can be submitted, such as Planeta Lacuna, which I've re-discovered, so to say. This panorama was done inside Dar ta' Żeppi in Qala (Gozo) near the pool. I've done this panorama in flat (normal, equirectangular) format, as well as in Mercator format vertically, but to my surprise, I realized that I didn't make a planet out of this panorama (probably for some difficulties with the nadir point). Anyhow, I prepared a smaller version and sent it to the owner of the B&B and uploaded one to my Flickr. I can't submit this to the stocks because it requires a property release. Most probably I would be uploading to Mostphotos. As I'm uploading some exclusive images from Malta to Dreamstime, I'm trying to make Mostphotos as my base for panoramas, specially those surreal ones, since it does not strict the image size as most stock agencies do (I've uploaded some which exceed 100MB in size even!). On the other hand, photos from Ireland can be spread, probably, across various stocks. Unfortunately, some stock agencies, like Canstockphoto, removed their "exclusive" options. That makes Dreamstime, for me, the only target for exclusive images when I need to upload them (as I feel right however!). Let's just hope that my campaigns on Twitter to get more exposure will pay off soon... or later at least!

A Maltese Home (3D)

During this work of re-discovering my previous images (since I didn't travel in like 3 years now!), I'm also focusing on possibilities that I didn't pay attention to before, for making out some nice or acceptable 3D anaglyphs, as the Maltese home above. I did already upload some of these 3D anaglyphs to my stock on Dreamstime and Mostphotos (and few on 123RF), but it's a No-No to Canstockphoto. However, the anaglyph above is not to be uploaded, again, because it lacks the property release. Many of these anaglyphs, like the Maltese home above, were not planned to be merged into a 3D anaglyph, thus some of them can be a struggle to be working with and fit. Nevertheless, it pays off well!

Finale

I think I've posted in the previous post that I was working on writing a new poem. I was suffering from a blockade and words didn't come easily, even though feelings were there; Hovering. Finally, I did produce a piece, which I've called Rejected:

Rejected

Season, as per season, changing along,
then to number one goes the frozen heart.
A circle since the birth and never gone wrong,
carrying on the pain, like a form of art.
Encircling circle.
A daily Hurdle.
Then to the beginning, all had to start.

A last standing in the field of all time,
withered by the struggles, the ups and downs.
Innocent to be is the only crime,
A confused blind and poor, crowded by the sounds.
Innocent thug.
Urging a hug.
Dead, yet keeping the shoot on battling grounds.

Rosy, were the dreams dreamt on the summit,
but no rainbow shone nor the rain did fall.
Waiting for fate's mercy like a puppet,
and even beliefs dismissed the sacred call.
Fateful doom.
A weeping bloom.
And the rosy dreams are born to be small.

Rejected, this is all the offers to be,
what in the power that could have been done?
Then after, Death would be the only sea,
to swim in, calmly, away from the sun.
Dead, silently.
Joyful quietly.
Only then, the life of Life will be won.

One of the first problems that I've faced to link my thoughts together was what rhyme scheme to use. After all, I've decided (or rather felt) to use (ABABCCB) with a stable syllable-count for every verse as (10,10,10,10,4,4,10). Doing a bit of research, I've found that such rhyming scheme was already in use and probably called The Swinburne, but with more restrictions on the length of the lines and rhymes. So, maybe I can call my work here as Free Swinburne? Anyway, another question was raised in my mind here, as I read my own work after submission and posting: Where do I go with all of this? What is the chronological connection or logical connection between the verses? In a self-critique attitude, I think Rejected lacks such connection and it might as well be just a dumpster for my thoughts. The next question then arises: How am I supposed to organize my feelings and upon which basis? Trivial as it sounds, I'm sure there is some way to do this and if done correctly, the poems would be more concrete and strong, I believe.
Away from poetry now, I'm trying to take life on my own pace. My body is apparently growing old with some bones and muscles not functioning as they used to be, but well, we all grow old. Let's just hope this won't stop me from doing what I love to do. I'm growing accustomed to be living the life of an estranged person; No connection to anything, and almost no emotions. Where to does this lead me? I don't know, but one thing for sure: I'm tired. 



Thursday, October 18, 2018

Rimming…

Well, that was a break! A break from blogging that is, but a forced one unfortunately. I was preparing a post for my Arabic blog about "rim lighting" and things started to build up as my work demanded some work which required some dedicated time. I even worked on that during the weekend! Can you imagine? Doing a work-related work in a weekend? Pfft… Just to add to my misery, a car accident occurred which actually wasted my whole day (I had it as an off-day from work).

Meanwhile, because of that article I was preparing, or even before starting with it, I did prepare some images and probably would be working in the future about some more. But first things first!

Split

It all started with a comb. Yes, a comb. And not just any comb. A comb which might be used with beards or baby hair (I guess?)... and it's broken into pieces. Probably, as an INFP myself, metaphors and symbols do play an integral part of my expressions; Visually and linguistically. Thus, when I saw this tiny comb, I think something inside had been moved…

One By One

580EX II Speedlite covered and
leaving a small slit on the top only.
Now to business: Lighting. I knew from the beginning that lighting this shot is going to be somewhat picky. It needs to be dramatic, as well as directed to the comb itself alone as much as possible. The situation was settled by using a black paper on the speedlite to block all the light except of a tiny strip. This tiny strip was also somewhat wide for the comb but it did the job after all, and an increase in f-number (to f/8 actually from f/2 I think) was required to give it that dramatic look. I had to, however, paint the background in black myself because the black surface I used had a texture and with lighting on its side it gives out quite a visible texture behind the comb. This little quickie shot, triggered more work later on in fact.
I could not resist the temptations for trying out this method (of covering the speedlite) with a selfie, and so I did. This time though, I've covered 2 speedlites with black papers and made a vertical slit in the middle (almost) about 1mm wide or so (tried to make it as thin as possible and yet passing some light). The results were... interesting!

Split


I didn't have the time to fix the speedlites on tripods or anything and then level them up and down. I just held them both in my hands and extended my arms to the sides at full length. The looks are somewhat similar to the hatchet lighting style but with more drastic shadows I guess. Quite a strange look to me as if the light beam stopped at some limit on my face though! But the strangest thing was the black "hole" in my forehead is if my forehead had a bulge! I guess I won't know if this is normal or not until I have to shoot faces of other people (with the camera of course), and see the results for myself.

Rimming

A cylinder opened on both sides.
This is what I used for the next
few experiments with the speedlites.
These experiments with "slitting" the light beam reminded me of an old method which I've read in some books but didn't get the chance to apply it much. That method is specifically dedicated to shooting engraved flat objects, like coins or medals. Having a plenty of cans around (from consuming those delicious chocolate biscuit sticks!), I decided to go on and experiment further to see for myself what can be done with those. Thus, I picked one (and I have an arsenal of them!) and removed its bottom, and stuffed it with black paper (don't have a black paint). In the beginning, I thought of lifting the cylinder a bit with some coins but they were too slippery and shaky, so I used small paper clippers (and they would help holding the paper inside the cylinder firmly as well).

Golden Curves

The first trial was with a decorated golden tray. We use it here for serving coffee (my favorite Turkish style!). It was tricky somewhat for a number of reasons:
  • The tray was smooth and caused the metallic can to slide easily.
  • The tray was polished and that caused some reflection problems.
This is beside the common problem of lighting inside the cylinder when the camera is placed on top (and turning the inside of the cylinder into pitched dark), but that was a minor problem somehow because light was still seeping through and I could even use the AF function of the lens sometimes. For those situations where light is critically needed inside the cylinder with the camera on top, I would be using some LED light placed near the speedlites. However, the critical problem with those polished surfaces is the reflections of my hand and the camera's strip (the camera's body is black so that was not a big deal). The best I could do about these reflections is to try to let them be on the edges of the frame as much as possible and then crop them later. Usually in such situations, specifically when shooting glass (like those in museums), we would place the camera and lens into somewhat large black paper or foam board (just big enough to cover the actual frame to be photographed) and in that way the black color is reflected off the glass or in other words: clearing the glass. This is beside using polarizers too sometimes. However, all of these techniques are for the "macro" world and not for the macro shooting we are doing here with a lens going inside a cylinder! Anyway, to keep things a bit interesting, I've created a "texture" made out of the repetition of Golden Curves, and it's now available exclusively on Dreamstime.

Glowing 20.

There is one thing for sure in such shots and that is cleaning is a must. By cleaning I mean working on Photoshop to clean the image. Here in Glowing 20, I didn't work on cleaning the image (except of replacing the background with black), and adding some sharpening to that and the surface of the coin got bloomed with these small dots like digital noise! Now, the challenge still did not begin, yet.

Delicati

Shooting objects which are not flat proved to be difficult with such a cylinder. Mainly, of course, because the light is projected from below and we do need details of the top part. Thus, the light should strike at about the middle of the object or on its top (from the side to give a rimming effect). In Delicati above, I got desperate and I was back again to the black paper slits covering the speedlite head. For this reason, I've decided to "make" another cylinder with various slits on the sides, and holes as well. It's too early to talk about the results from these 2 as I didn't experiment with them much (and I would delay this blog post if I want to include the results here!), so I might keep this for another post. However, I did try a cylinder with slits with the same object in Delicati.

Argentum

Cylinder with slits, the one I used
to shoot Argentum. Covered
some slits with black pieces of
paper with the help a rubber band
so the light from speedlites would
pass through certain slits only.
The looks of Argentum look pretty impressive, more than Delicati. Well, to my eyes at least. But the mystical look as I believe is greatly emphasized in Argentum rather than in Delicati. But one problem here remains: Flares. By flares here I mean the harsh highlights reflecting off the metallic surface. Probably to solve such issue I would have to place some kind of a modifier to soften the light as it enters through the slits of the cylinder but this is another issue I need to test with in the near future to see how it would work out; Though I have my own suspicions about the usefulness of this. In Argentum I've worked around such strong flares on the metallic body in Photoshop doing some magic with the "Blending" options for the layers. Just to note, Argentum is also available on the stock, in 123RF
After working on Argentum, I did continue to do some work and little projects with this method of lighting and some of them are on the stock already indeed, but let's keep that for another post maybe.

On The Side

Beside all of this fuss going on with my speedlites, I couldn't hold myself further from capturing and making some new 3D anaglyphs. The target this time was some fossils in the Geology department in my workplace. The department was renovated and the display cases had been changed or re-organized and I have to say some of those was really, really, appetite-instigating for some 3D work. 

Fossil I

Fossil II

Even though I've noticed those a month or two ago, but I couldn't work out with them except in recent weeks, and I had to do it using my Huawei Mate 9 smartphone, and there is a word I'd like to say but let's end this 3D talk first. It would have been better if I could have shot those using my DSLR camera but the situation is not on my side here specially that I go to that department in the final minutes before leaving my workplace (to do the fingerprint scanning for leaving). Moreover, I would have probably used a polarizer or some black board to hide the glass flare but with a mobile phone camera there was not much I could do. Thus, though the illusion is good enough for pop up (at least to my eyes), but the flare and reflections from the glass case makes it a bit annoying.

Trilobite?

The case with the trilobite (if my memory serves me right here about the name) was a bit better but the probably the shit was too much between shots that it took me some time further to ensure that this illusion goes without ghosting effect. It is with this image that it was prevalent that higher pixel resolution does not mean necessarily a good image quality. The resolution for my Huawei Mate 9 is 20MP, while it's 18MP for my old Canon EOS 7D. Naturally, the file size for shots taken with a 20MP camera is larger than those taken with 18MP camera. However, the resolution when zoomed in at 100% proved to me that there is a critical factor related to the sensor and its size and not just its resolution which decides how clear the image can be. At close up, the shot for this trilobite was a bit muddy-like and not quite sharp. One might say it's motion blur or a focusing problem, but all that is (with time) can be quite easily distinguished when seen on the image. And that murky-looking details is absolutely a resolution issue and not anything else. Anyway, I'm limited with my options here and at the end, I do have to work with the mobile phone (I even look weird shooting several shots for these fossils with students roaming the place!). I still have some specimens in my mind and I might try to shoot them for 3D work in the coming few days!

Finale

Now, I was going, hopelessly, to write down a new poem but unfortunately, because of this busy schedule and pressed time and exhausted body, it was really hard to focus on the words and feelings I need to write, even though I do have a general concept in my mind about what I want to express. All I can hope for for now is that I would be able to do something about it in 2 weeks from this post!
The weather is getting down with its temperatures. Such a good tiding and announcement for the coming of winter. This summer really exhausted me as it is already. I can't believe how I'm coping with this for 3 years now without traveling. 
After quitting Instagram, I'm trying to focus my attention onto Twitter, as I'm using it as a platform to "advertise" for my stock images on somewhat a daily basis. Not sure how effective this is but this is the least I can do to publish my work. I am also publishing some weird panoramas (mostly planets) that I didn't think of uploading to the stocks before, but with a catch: Each stock website would be responsible (or exclusively offering) a specific type of images; From Malta, Ireland or even those tiny projects I do at home. Beside Twitter, I'm also publishing my work on Pinterest, even though it kind of feels weird and I'm not sure how it really works! This said, I'm also trying to cancel out my accounts in some stock websites as I deem them not useful at all. Who knows though, I might consider finding new venues as well.
Meanwhile, my time is passing in such a strange way as my life goes on. It is slow, yet so fast in the same time. Memories from the old days are frequently passing my mind and evoke emotions that I've been trying hard to hide in every single damn day that passes. I'm not ashamed to say even that some times I had to cry alone, but well, who cares after all. It's me, and it's my time and no one else's. The question remains though, how much time is left for me to live what I want to live, or maybe I'm not destined to live what I wanted to live…