Saturday, August 12, 2017

RIP AbdulHusain AbdulRidha...

AbdulHusain AbdulRidha

It is such a sad day, as sad as the end of the world itself. The man who witnessed and taught us the meaning of Kuwait, and arts, and the meaning of laughter and smile, is gone. Gone, to a better life, to a better world. How we wish we are with you right now. Rest in peace fabulous man, for this world does not deserve angels like you. Rest in peace. Goodbye, AbdulHusain AbdulRidha, the man who defined Kuwait.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mí Lúnasa…

August is in, and the heat is in surplus combined with humidity. Well, the good part is, my birthday is coming and I'm planning ahead for this day to... sleep some more. If I'm lucky enough I might as well get the chance to have free lunch with friends! Let's pray…
I've been busy the past few weeks doing many things (and skipping many things), but mainly finished a whole post/article for my Arabic blog explaining how I shoot through my old microscope, in hope someone out there find it beneficial anyway. I was also busy working on July's project: motion and splashes. But since I've done splashes before (and they require a messy set-up) I've decided to confine myself to do motion images as much as possible. I think I've posted some trials in the previous post, and some of them were a great fail.


As I've mentioned before that the lines from songs of Sabah Fakhri [صباح فخري] are still inspiring me for these shots. My first trials with stroboscopic function didn't go well majorly because of the nature of the clocks or watches I've been using as it seems, so it was inevitable to do some Photoshop work out of the context of photography a bit as in Waiting. However, because of the depth of field, which was not shallow enough, and the irregular gaps between the ghosts of the minutes hands, all that made me think of re-doing the shot again with some fixes.

Waiting II

As shown here in Waiting II, I've pulled the rose closer to the table edge toward the camera to increase the distance and hence enhance the look of the shallow depth of field. However, it seems that I've done it with a bit of extra spices since I doubt that movement of the clock's hands are obvious at this level, but I'll leave that to the viewers. This is not the end of the story as I will be back to this project in a bit.
In my trials to depict motion I arrived at an idea which I've encountered some time ago in fact. A method of merging various channels of various similar-looking images (mainly those containing a sort of motion in them). The method was described by Yuga Kurita, a Japanese photographer. Though his method is a bit different but the final result is essentially the same almost. It's about merging one channel from each shot, in a series. I was set to go and try this new method with some spin-tops!

Voigtländer 20mm, f/11, 1s, ISO100

Unfortunately, I didn't take a shot for the set, but it was a simple set with camera dangling vertically over the set with a lateral arm. I used my Voigtländer 20mm lens here for its sharpness and quality, and to have more freedom in the field of view as I was planning to crop later on. I've set my Speedlite (580EX II) on second-sync on the camera and directed it to a white cardboard on the side of the set. With some angle it was possible to make elongated shadows for the spinners. All these measures later on, however, proved to be kind of useless! Anyway, the main task was to have a proper image for the motion and that was kind of possible at 1 second exposure. After spinning and shooting several shots, it was time to combine some of them. In Chromamotion, three images were merged by channels. Later on, I've decided to merge all of the shots in sets of threes (made about 6 groups).

The sprinkling colors across the white space here reminded me of the quarks so I named it after them. However, despite the colorful look, the motion blur in the original shots is not quite obvious here so I was doubting about the ability of such work to deliver the idea of motion to the viewer; any viewer. Things, however, got into perspective with my next move when I thought about the first shots I've made for Waiting above. Why didn't I think of that before? I can merge those in the same way instead of stacking them together in a regular manner!

Waiting III

I think in Waiting III, the allusion of motion is better and more obvious than Waiting I and Waiting II because of the colors on an almost-black-and-white image in general. This beings me to a conclusion as to why Waiting III is depicting motion better than Quarks or Chromamotion, and I think this is mainly because the image itself has mixed elements of stable objects and those in motion, and in fact those stable objects are, somehow, more general than those in motion. In Waiting III, also, we have a center (the clock's center), something which the motion is going about or around - since it's hard to depict the motion blur in this method it would be better to have the moving object in some periodic motion (visually at least) or attached to a static object (e.g. waves and beach, or moving branches in the wind). This is just my observation for now, and we'll see what to do about it later!


Well, there had been so much on my table lately, whether it's photography-related or domestic. I've been learning new stuff about Anaglyph making and 3D illusions, specifically for videos. I've posted a video last time which was not very concrete in terms of its 3D effect, but it was a trial and now after learning new things, I might try to record a new video; However, it does require some work on prepping my gear first just a bit.

Source: Amazon
I've stopped my ongoing reading list to read and finish my 2 new books from Amazon, and I've already finished one by Syl Arena (which I've read books of his before) This book is quite easy to digest and the beginning bulk of this book is for beginners, but nevertheless what comes then is quite useful, specially when it comes to discussions about his projects and situations. He describes exactly the mental process as needed to follow on with creating the needed light (even though some professionals might disagree with his methods).

Source: Amazon
Now I've started reading the second book, Schaum's Outlines: Optics, which is supposedly and introductory to the world of optics. However, the book kind of looking weird, because I feel as if it is in fact an answering-model for another major book (or let's say a solution manual). Nevertheless, it gives good information still with some good explanations in paragraphs before giving questions and their solutions. It is in fact a good refresher for me so far because what I've been reading so far is what I've studied long ago in my physics classes and completely forgot about right now!

There are other stuff I need to test and examine too, but waiting for the right time as I'm pressed (and can barely type this blog even!). I have the focusing pyramid (to calibrate the focusing system for lenses) as well as the H-alpha Night Sky filter which I didn't examine properly for the night sky yet, except lately for shooting the lunar eclipse (image at the end of the post). It is a regular job (and imaging) with such a filter and when I ordered it, I was really aiming at using it to shoot at the sun, but seems I have to wait till summer is over or I will simply be a fried egg! As for now, I need to get myself involved in August project with the group, which is about "Books." So far, I have no idea what I'm supposed to do, but only glimpses and visions in my head waiting to get out to reality.
When it comes to travel, it seems that I have to delay my plans a bit further and probably skip this year as well. I guess things are going crazy in this world, too much that a travel itself is a stress that needs a stress-relief. Needless to say, I don't quite have any idea as where I should be going. Sometimes though I wish if I can meet some of those amazing people I knew online… Well, till that time comes, I better get back to my Irish lessons and learning, and maybe add another language to the list.

Lunar Chain

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Quickie Quick…

It's getting busy at work (mainly related to reasons of stupidity) as well as an expo to attend to, so I'm not supposed to be typing this right now actually. I barely have the time! But anyway, just a quick stroll through things I've been doing lately.

First to mention is the project for July which seems I'm quite behind with. Despite my trials to create something but, so far, nothing is good. To me at least. The project for July is about Motion and Splashes. As I did splashes before (and it's messy) I didn't want to get into it right now (despite the fun!) and instead headed to try and shoot something for Motion. My first target was my watches.


I was approaching this idea from various philosophies (past and present, old and new, stable and changing, you name it) but unfortunately the set itself was not appropriate and the watches were not as well it seems. The main technique was to use the Multi (Stroboscopic) properties of my speedlites to record the movement of the seconds hand on one of the watches (by flashing every second) but that never worked. My thought was that the size is not proper for this mission. Thus, after many failed trials, including Static above, I had to abandon this set and try it out with something else. Something bigger.


My next approach was to set my wall clock with a withered rose (no worries, it's artificial one and burnt a little to mimic the effect as much as possible). In Waiting, my idea of motion got a blend of my passion for Sabah Fakhri [صباح فخري] and was inspired from 2 lines from one of his songs. As the title depicts, it is about waiting someone in vain. Here too, unfortunately, my speedlite's stroboscopic option failed to get the movement. It seems that the hands must and better to be in white for better reflection. Anyway, as I was working on this, and because of using a wide aperture (f/2, to blur the background), the lowest power in the flash were overloading the scene with highlights. Thus, I had to fix my B+W 092 Infrared filter on the lens (50mm) to lower the power down. Since the stroboscopic option didn't work here either, it was inevitable to mimic the multiple exposure effect using several shots taken in a periodic manner (using intervalometer); as Canon EOS 7D does not have the option for multi-exposure. The final image though, Waiting, is composed from some of these images (total 20) and not all of them since I wanted to make some more spaces between the movements of the minutes hands from one image to another. And for some reason there were some shots where the flash did not fire, probably because the speedlite (which was off-camera and triggered wirelessly) did not get the signal properly from the master on camera. Anyway, I'm still not so satisfied about this blend for the images and I might re-do it again with proper, shallower depth of field if possible and better blend.

However, in this mess with this project, in the last few days remaining of July, I suddenly got the urge to perform some new 3D anaglyph, starting with a selfie (well, no need to post it here anyway) and a video; since I do have two cameras already! But there were some preparations to be made for my converted camera of course, mainly using a hot mirror filter to block IR as much as possible as in normal cameras.


It was a sluggish work though but it is a beginning. The settings for the two camera were kept identical as much as possible, but for the white balance I had to use my WB Disk to calibrate both cameras to the same degree of color correction even with hot mirror filter being placed on the lens. I used here my Canon EF 50mm lens on my converted camera, while placing my very old kit lens (18-55mm) on my regular camera. I did shoot various videos after the first video (above) but seems the first one was the best. In editing phase, though, I had to minimize the size of one of the videos to fit the other one; quite a tedious task for me since I don't know much about video editing, but well, learning still. The 3D anaglyph video above is not that good though and it comes to me that it is probably better to use wide angles to record such videos at the moment, and lenses with focal length of 50mm and more would need closer spacing between the two lenses to have a good quality 3D anaglyph video. Just a thought and applying this would come later hopefully. Meanwhile, these spintops did indeed flip my brain back to the Motion project as I will try to do some experiments again with them, for the project this time. Yet, I guess I need to wait for the weekend to arrive as I'm busy with many things during weekdays now. See you later!

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Here I am, back after a little vacation away from this blog for the Eid event (and actually not having time to type it down!). I've been spending Eid sleeping most of the time as I'm trying to fix my sleeping time, but I did some work with my camera and I will talk about some of it in this post. Moreover, I did receive my shipments and I'm trying to find an opportunity to try them out. Anyway, I might keep the talk about these stuff for another post, as most of them are actually accessories and spare parts.

Murder of Colors

This is the title of a little series I've made, again, with colored feathers as a part of June project with the group which was themed "Abstract." Initially, the idea was to take a shot for some feathers, set randomly, from below with a wide angle lens, in hope that the distortion would serve me here to create an interesting attraction. However, many difficulties occurred, specially with the method of lighting with the speedlites, and after trying many times, I had to give up the idea and do a typical abstract approach as my mind is usually set to go: Macro.

Murder of Colors I
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
Changing to macro required a change of in the setting of course, so I placed the speedlites below the set (feathers were sprinkled randomly on a plastic or acrylic sheet) while I shoot them from above using the wireless function in my Canon EOS 7D to control speedlites via infrared. As it is not a matter of HSS, then infrared function can be used with comfort (HSS is not active when controlling flashes via wireless, unless with a special trigger). In this series, I moved from using the usual extension tubes with whatever lens, to reversing the lens with my Vello Macrofier. This method is a saver indeed, as it doesn't add more weight to the camera (which I'm going to shoot with by hand and no tripod), and apparently it does not have all the complications that accompany extension tubes when it comes to the focal plane placement and whether or not the focusing point would be in front of the lens or behind it (which deems it impossible).

Murder of Colors II
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
I was set to use Voigtländer 20mm lens on reverse here, as according to my calculations (which I've found out they were wrong later) that it would give a magnification of 2.5X, while using 50mm lens would give about 1X. I needed something extra here to avoid the typical zooming level that I've used previously in most of my abstracts. Also, to get some extra details out of the lines in the feathers. In this series which consists of merely 3 shots (after sorting them out), I think I prefer Murder of Colors I the most, as it has this glow and vibrant coloration, and some strange color cast from one feather onto another (mainly on the yellow feather).

Murder of Colors III
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/22,
250-1, ISO100.
Unfortunately though, I didn't document this simple set for Murder of Colors, and at the moment, I've just realized that there is a whole different series done with feathers which I've totally forgot about despite being uploaded to stock sites already (and accepted by most)! Anyway, I might try to post about that series later. Seems that my busy schedule (or let's say me getting myself busy schedule) made some gaps in my memory! However, I'm happy for one thing, which is finally having an exact calculation method to estimate the magnification level, but that did not come by while working on Murder of Colors series, but rather later, as I was working with my microscope!

Reverse Magnification

Vello Macrofier
Source: B&H
I talked about how I was wrong with some of my calculations regarding the magnification when using Lens Reversing method. Generally speaking, it is supposed to be just like the calculations done with Coupling Lenses technique, where two lenses are connected in reverse to each other and onto the camera; In this method, the magnification is measured by finding the ratio between first lens (attached to camera) and the reversed lens. I could not really find a concrete formula for magnification by reversing the lens directly onto the camera, but I presumed that the focal length should be 50mm or around that, as it is the "normal" focal length. By that, the magnification is to be calculated as 50/FL, where FL is the reversed lens focal length.
However, as I'm working with my old microscope, I got my interest back again and I started searching again, and all I could find is actually practical method to measure the magnification by shooting rulers and finding the ratio between millimeters in the image and the actual width of the sensor. Doing that practically with a ruler did break my believe about the ratio of 50/FL stated above, and I started to look for the source of that difference, as the magnification ratio with a reversed Voigtländer 20mm which is supposed to be about 2.5X, proved to be higher than that (around 3.2X!).
This made me investigate the specs of my camera again and trying to find the true distance between sensor and the mount (a.k.a. flange focal distance), and to my surprise, it was indeed not 50mm as I was thinking, but 44mm. Yet, this didn't explain the results and I just realized the fact that the Vello Macrofier does add some distance further away from the sensor and it should be added (which was about 20mm). By this, the total distance away from the sensor becomes: 44mm + 20mm = 64mm. Thus, doing the magnification ratio again with this value: 64mm / 20mm (for Voigtländer lens) that would yield 3.2X indeed as measured practically with a ruler (values had been approximated of course and rounded to one decimal place).

The flange place for DSLR (top) and
Mirrorless (bottom) indicated by Red.
Source: Wikipedia
With this result I'm more likely to rely on reversing the lens for my macro shots more than using tubes or lenses coupling, or even using my 100mm macro lens. Even though using a dedicated macro lens has its own benefits of course and its quality. Nevertheless, reversing the lens with Vello Macrofier makes the job easier (specially that it offers an aperture control) and better focusing distance than with extension tubes. To elaborate further, again with Voigtländer 20mm lens, as per calculations, using extension tubes to gain a proper 2X magnification or a bit more with this lens, would yield a focusing point behind the lens front (which is impossible); While using reverse lens method, this enables me to get 3.2X with proper focusing distance (in millimeters of course) in front of the lens. Also, I can add filters (UV at least) to the lens front when in reverse just to increase the distance to the sensor (which I did already and gained about 3.7X). There is a whole new world to be discovered with this method, which made me think of having a specially made hood for my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens to enable fitting adapters to the front of the lens. If this worked right, then I might be able to gain 8X just like a breeze!


Well, the upper part to explain the reverse lens magnification was ignited by this ongoing project of shooting objects under the microscope. I have this microscope since I was 14, and instead of leaving it to collect some dust, I've decided to put it to use with my camera, specially after surfing the net and finding new methods to shoot through the microscope without using a special mount and adapter. Mostly, a point-and-shoot cameras are used for this task (or webcam sometimes) but all I have here is two DSLRs with LOT of possibilities.

My set for shooting through my old microscope.
Using two 12W LEDs to light the set properly.
Well, the hardest part was (and still) making the set ready. My microscope is an old one with one eyepiece protruding upward and even though I can tilt the microscope but I have to keep it standing as it is because the samples I make are usually, well, not professional ones and can easily slide down. Here comes the hard part, with setting the camera (and rail) on the top of the eyepiece, and the small tea table did not make things go easier either. It's a matter of weight lifting and sometimes balancing the tripod with the lateral arm on top or it would fall over. Nevertheless, I made it with many samples and triggered me to do another research for better ways to stack focus my images (a single image won't do here).


The beginning was with some of the colored feathers that I've already used many times for my abstract. There are many problems that are already there before I even think of shooting through the microscope. However, I'm not intending on producing Book-Quality images after all (otherwise, I do have a friend to help me with that). As can be seen in Lamina, which was shot from a red feather, such single shots do not bear much depth of field. Thus, there was a call for focus stacking, and this time by changing the focus in the microscope itself, not moving the camera and rail combination.

Hair Bulb

Typically, I would think of Photoshop as the main tool to focus stack my shots, but again, I've realized that however smooth I'd go with the focus, Photoshop would still give out some bad blends as can be seen in Hair Bulb. This shot was is probably one of the fewest that I did with 40X objective on this microscope (and thus reaching total magnification of about 1280X). Zooming so deep sometimes makes a loss of some good details, as well as it is hard to light even with external sources such as two LED bulbs. These discrepancies made me aware of the fact that Photoshop, and like the case with panorama stitching, is not the best solution for the task at hand. And again I go looking for other solutions.

Hair Bulb (Enfuse)
I've found many software dedicated to focus stacking and most of them were to be purchased, at the end I've found one freeware which is actually dedicated to blend HDR images, but according to some tutorials I've found, it can be used for focus stacking successfully: EnfuseGUI (the man deserves some donation there!). In the tutorials they use Hugin (another freeware for panorama stitching) to align images, but I've found that it is a command-line thing and needs quite a patience here! Thus, just for aligning my images, I used Photoshop back again (and cropping some excesses). No need to go to the details of the process here, but the results of using Enfuse can be seen on Hair Bulb (Enfuse), where the blend had been much better. I was not lucky all the time though, and most of the time with other stacks, I have to stack on stages (blending portions and then sub-portions, then sub-sub-portions... etc) which takes some time but the results are far more fit than what Photoshop could do. Did Adobe fix such issues in new editions of Photoshop? I really don't know, as I'm using CS5 and got no plans to go beyond that for the time being.

A Study of 20 Fils
One of the struggles of focus stacking with microscope images is to achieve some 3D-ish look when shooting various specimens. Using external light sources got me the advantage of viewing metallic opaque objects, such as coins, specifically this 20 Fils which I did inspect long time ago by in-camera macro methods  (using lens coupling) and reached about 17X power. The story is different now and I'm able to few the metallic texture up and close! However, there is always the annoyance of artifacts from this old microscope but the fun lingers on. To this moment of typing this post there are still more work going on with some coins which I might post later.
As I've stated before, the fact that I'm using a lens on reverse enables me to add filters to the lens' front and consequently this would also increase the magnification ratio a bit because the distance to the sensor is stretched few millimeters. But to my own experience now, I have to say that having super magnification is not always what you want or need, simply because it might obscure details!

Banana Peel

With filters, seems like I'm having different worlds to discover; Something I'm working on still. Probably the most astonishing view I had so far is that one with Banana Peel which was my first target to use infrared filter (B+W 092, threshold: 650nm). Things were dark and hard to see at first, and I had to raise the ISO to max just to navigate through, but I put it down when I saw something that captured my eyes…

Banana Peel under Infrared

The image you see above is of course the final product of focus stacking and infrared processing, as well as channel swapping. However, these marks were glowing in my LiveView while the rest of the peel (same peel posted above that) was dark while using this filter. I showed my friend this image and told him the story but we both were astonished and could not find a reason for this. The thing is, doing infrared shots for other materials did not yield such result!

Grape Skin (IR)

Grape Skin (Normal)

I think this matter needs more picture taking to find if this thing is really significant for bananas only or there was something wrong with the microscope or my camera! However, I'll keep looking further for more samples to do. Despite being a tiresome job to do with this microscope and the heavy cumbersome gear that I have to deal with, it is still a good source of muse, specially with the arrival of my new H-alpha filter from Lumicon, which I'm dying to use (artistically and scientifically, if I can call it so!).


I guess this post is long enough as it is now and no need to talk about my new acquired stuff. This is beside not trying them out yet and having any thoughts about them. The Summer is scorching my head as usual and with me back to work after a long vacation during Ramadhan doesn't make things better for either mood or body, but I'm trying to muse myself with the camera and the new stuff. July project with the group is also ongoing right now and somewhat adds a bit of burden to my time which I want to dedicate further to my new toys and activities. Everyone, Everywhere I look, talks about traveling, I guess this is natural since it is Summer, a typical season, but it makes me drool and my mind is busy calculating to see and plan for some vacation outside, before I commit a murder or something. Anyway, my traveling is typically after the busy season, to have some "quiet" time. Yet, my mind is not set yet on a specific destination, nor I'm sure about my budget. Meanwhile, my only companion seems to be my headphone, and the heat…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Well, so much had been going on with my camera as I'm trying to use every day of Ramadhan before it is over and I'd be back to work then! Well, I have to say that I can be lazy at times but I think I deserve this! Here, I will be taking off from where I stopped last time, as I was experimenting with High Speed photography. After finishing with dropping a cherry into some colored water, it was time to try out a bouncing ball!


I thought about this idea after applying the "cherry" experiment. I was trying to implement my old trigger (again)  but I ended up shooting all good shots with remote cable alone and changing the method of shooting in between sessions (the experimenting took about one week or more a bit): once using LiveView, and other times without it, and also using the Mirror-Lock option.

Splashing Boom I
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/20,
8000-1s, ISO200.
The results were majorly for splashes and droplets hanging in the air instead of the ball at the moment of bouncing, but many interesting shapes resulted with these water droplets. After my experiment with falling cherries, I've decided to increase the shutter speed to its max point (1/8000s) since that does not affect the power of the speedlites in general (the aperture does). I tried to apply another technique with sharpening when processing these images, as in Splashing Boom I and others, where I've applied sharpening to specific portions of the image only to pop out some features and make it look like a 3D image somewhat.

Splashing Boom III
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/20,
8000-1s, ISO200
I was lucky, after many, many, many trials, to catch the moment at which the ball was bouncing of the table (which was covered with aluminum foil and sprinkled with water), while running the camera on LiveView. Many successful attempts occurred later as well and they were rotated as is the case in splashing Boom III, but with variant beauty. In fact, even with Splashing Boom III, I noticed some slight blur in water droplets and the ball even though the shutter speed was at its maximum, 1/8000s. This made me search for ways to go around this speed in some way (technical or by technique) but I'll keep that for later. The ball here in Splashing Boom III might be blurred for being slightly out of focus after all, and for this reason I've decided to boost the f-number (to increase the depth of field further) in order to increase my chances of catching the ball relatively sharp. This, of course, forced me to change the speedlites sittings (all three of them) in terms of angle at least (all were working in full power after all).

Mirrored II
Canon EF 50mm, f/22, 8000-1s, ISO200.

As trials went on, I've changed the lens to 50mm to have more space and increase the chances to catch the ball within the frame (it was a bad choice somewhat though since water splash details are not clear at that zoom level). Anyway, at this point I decided to work with Mirror-Lock option (which requires pressing the shutter button twice to shoot the photo) as I was trying to reduce the time lag. In an email sent to Ubertronix about such lag, they explained to me that such lag is usually due the camera's shutter and it would be better to connect the trigger to the speedlite; but this is not possible in my case:
Hi TJ,

The lag is from the camera not the strike finder device or cable length. If you can set up your shot with the Strike Finder firing a flash instead of your camera, the  lag will be close to 0. Let me know what you are trying to shoot and I might have some specific setup suggestions.

Check out the information concerning shutter lag of the 7d in this link The other thing you can do is partially depress the shutter release and hold it before a shot. That will cut your shutter lag from 83 ms to 61 ms based on these specs.

Please let me know if I can be of further assistance,
The Information here were kind of a surprise since working on LiveView does actually longer lagging time than working in normal mode! However, not that, and not even working with Mirror-Lock and a trigger, did time correctly with this bouncing wall, which at the end drove me to work, again, manually and by hand. I noticed that I did capture better results using the Mirror-Lock option and I got the camera within the frame more often, but probably the best of them all was Mirrored II here in which the ball was just taking off with a tiny trail of water underneath it. I will check with possibilities to work with triggering my speedlites instead of the camera later on, but that would require to work in complete darkness (and the camera shutter is kept open for a certain time). When everything failed, though, I've simply punched the table…

Canon EF 50mm, f/22, 8000-1s, ISO200.

I tried here again to picture the splashing water, but seems the water wasn't enough, and it is a good thing that I used 50mm lens; Otherwise, my fist won't fit in the frame. And apparently my skin needs some care! Now, all these shots (lot of them not shown here) need to be sorted out again and filled with information for uploading to stock websites.

Sitting for the bouncing ball experiment, with my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens. This was the initial position for speedlites, things changed later on as well as for the lens.


I could have gone further with this post, but I'll keep it short for now. There are other experiments I'm attending to at the moment, specially with my very old microscope with which I'm trying to shoot better and sharper images (so far images are kind of blurred). Along with the microscope experiments, I've been working on some various images ideas for our group's June project which is themed "Abstract." I might have some material to be posted by the next blog post.
Meanwhile, I couldn't keep my promise to myself for not placing an order right now, but I had to process an order for various items (and books) but I'm not in a hurry. Thus, all items were shipped for free (which takes nearly a week) and still to this very moment some items are being processed because they are not available. Some of these items are essential and I might talk a bit when this package arrives to me (which might be in July!). I consider this to be my own gift to my own self for my birthday, since no one I know around me would appreciate such gifts for me! Hopefully I'll cope with the finance later on.
As the financial situation is shaky; once up and once down, I'm still not sure about my plans to travel (and not sure where to). One thing is for sure: I need it. I need it like water and food. If only…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, June 1, 2017


Well, Ramadan is here and boy ain't I happy to have a leave off work during this month! Despite my usual troublesome sleeping pattern during this month, yet I feel refreshed at some level and I'm eager to work with my camera more often than before (specially with me doing my experiments near my room). With May project with the group, which is about colors, I've started to re-kindle an old passion for high-speed. The work is still going on as I'm typing this, as there are a number of issues I need to fix still and some more ideas in hope I can try later.


The May project was a priority, so I spent some time thinking about what can be done in that venue. It is easier said than done, as colors are everywhere but it's hard to get some concrete and unique work of art involving colors. In the beginning, I was trying to follow my typical steps in creating an idea: Find a deep emotion inside myself, and cast that particular feeling on the subject at hand, be it color, shadows, or whatever. However this step seemed hard and technically I was so mentally confused that I couldn't realize my own feelings or how to organize my thoughts! Thus, I had to shoot for mere fun and I started mumbling with my props and gear to find something colorful.

Colorado I
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/29,
250-1sec, ISO100.
After playing around with some props and accessories, I decided to use the refraction power of water to create some colorful abstracts by using colored Popsicle sticks placed in a separate glass jar behind the glass of water. Later on, however, I've decided to add corn syrup into the water during the shot (putting the camera on timer while pouring already). This was just to add some action to the scene instead of plain silent colors. There was no need to high-speed mode as 1/250 of a second for the shutter speed was enough to kill the ambient light, but the greater hardship was in having a proper framing for the shot since I was working inside my room and could barely have a proper distance to stay away from the set with my 100mm lens, while using 50mm lens would require me to get closer beyond the nearest possible point of focusing.

Colorado II
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/29,
250-1sec, ISO100
Distributing the light was not so hard to do but it was rather hard to adjust (as I usually work in manual mode). I've used 2 white boards on the sides to reflect off the light and later on I've placed a shade on the top of the set to reflect any astray light from below and reflect it back (and it did a great job!). While shooting, there was always something going off which made the power sometimes excessive or too low without even touching any flash settings. Not sure what is causing this but the first culprit in my mind right now is the fact that I was working in LiveView mode. Some professionals always warn against using LiveView mode for serious shooting. However, with my back problems, I find myself often forced to work that way!

Colorado III
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/32,
250-1sec, ISO100
After shooting Colorado I I decided to increase the amount of action and pour even more corn syrup to fill the frame (while some were already accumulating at the bottom of the glass) which created such a mess as seen in Colorado II, but oh well, I guess this is much better than having much plain space as in Colorado I. There was one last shot I needed to try, and here, I've replaced the colored sticks with colored pencils and filled the glass with corn syrup instead of water as I loved the looks of the bubbles in the bottle of the syrup. To add something to the scene, I've placed a small cut from a branch of some plant I've found here (no animals were killed to try this!). At this level, I wanted to step further and try the risks of using f/32 with this lens which I've experienced some weird behavior before at this aperture value. However, after several shots I did get something stable as seen in Colorado III, and even created a 3D Anaglyph out of this scene. Now, I'm creating the habit of documenting the set every time I finish one experiment. I guess it is a good practice?

The set used for Colorado I and Colorado II. A reflector was placed on top during the shoot.

The set used to shoot Colorado III.
I used 2 small candles on the sides in hope to excite the fluid and produce more bubbles inside the syrup but that wasn't useful!

Cherry Boom

I thought I was over with the Colorado experiment above, but then I thought why not implement high-speed onto the project, specially that I'm trying to work in a space near my room (even though no proper table for me yet, as you can see from the sets above). Implementing the idea of colors here emerge from the concept of the color circle and complimentary colors. Thus, I simply googled "Cherry Red Color" and I got the code #a61f34, and starting from there I got the complimentary color which is some degree of cyan. I picked cherry specifically because it was available, and because of its distinctive red color and tiny branch which typically stems out of it. I could have gone with grapes but I think grapes do not have a distinctive shape or color (and the red variety would be typically larger than I need them to be). Thus, the choice for cherries seemed legit!

Final look for the set of the project.

Ubertronix Strike Finder Elite.
Source: B&H
I used watercolors here to color the water and later I've added a bit of milk to kill the transparency of the water a bit. As seen in the set above, I've used here only 2 speedlites (580EX II) and didn't want to use my third speedlite (430EX II). I used here also my UV filter over the lens front just to protect the front from water droplets. I should have protected the flash heads as well with plastic bags but I skipped that actually. The big hurdle was to get my old Ubertronix trigger to work, specifically with a laser-gate. Without detailing the troubles, at the end the laser-gate method proved useless to me because of the shutter lag and the cumbersome laser pointer I was using. Thus, for the rest of the experiment, I went on doing a manual job, holding the cable remote in one hand and dropping the cherry with the other.

Cherry Boom I
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 3200-1sec, ISO200.

It was apparent from the beginning that I'm having a problem and probably should have used a larger bowl of some sort since the white edge of the plastic dish was hard to remove. Some problems did not show up till later on as I was inspecting the images like Cherry Boom I. Beside the shallow depth at f/9 (which was not enough), it seems that 1/3200 of a second was not enough for the shutter to freeze the water movement! However, during the experiment, I've raised the speed a bit more without really knowing the final outcome that I will be getting later on. Good luck? Maybe!

Cherry Boom II
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 4000-1sec, ISO200.

The speed of 1/4000 seemed just enough to freeze such a fall! In total, out of 20+ shots, I got merely 2 useful shots and one or two shots for splashes without the cherry(ies) which I simply liked for their shapes but I don't think they would be useful as stock images or printed and displayed. As for Cherry Boom II, the cherry here fell upside down and my brain being in love with illusions, I've decided to rotate the image 180o and thus the water came up and the cherry down, but standing up. What annoys me about Cherry Boom II is, like the other shots, the white space from the plastic dish edge which cannot be removed or substituted. I continued the work further in the next day and going manual too with 1/5000 shutter speed, and changing the camera tilt little bit (and pouring some water into the dish) to hide the white edge as much as possible. Again, out of 20+ shots, I've one suitable shot here.

Cherry Boom III
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/20,
5000-1sec, ISO320.
Beside enhancing the looks, I went on enhancing the depth of field as well pushing it to f/20 (to have greater chance of having the cherry sharp wherever it falls), but that of course called for an increase in ISO, as I didn't want to use my third speedlite still. Water splashes now are more stable and live! In Cherry Boom III, seeing that the two cherries fell on their side, I've decided to rotate the image 90o clockwise to add a surreal feel to it.
In all of these shots of high speed, there was always a problem with the noise level when processing the images, despite the ISO being relatively low. With my Canon EOS 7D, I'd say that the ISO is somewhat easier to handle up until ISO 800 or around that, but in these images the processing was cumbersome and I do have my doubts about being accepted for exhibitions with the group (if they pass the aesthetic critique). However, some stock websites did already accept these images without a problem and they are up for sale!
Finishing from this cherry project I did proceed to another one, involving high-speed shooting as well, but I will keep that for a future post, as I'm still trying to work on it further.


After kindling my passion again for high-speed photography (adding to that the lack of locations and ideas for panoramas), and after the failure of my trigger, I've emailed the company asking about the reasons for such time lag and after some discussion, it seems that the reason is my shutter and not the trigger itself. I was advised to connect the trigger to the flash instead of the camera but in my working conditions this is not possible, as working with triggered flashes means opening the shutter in a dark environment while the flash becomes the only source of light. However, reading about some aspects of my camera, it seems that I do have also to adjust some of my photo-shooting habits to reduce the time lag in shutter release (depending on LiveView being one!).
Though I'm on leave without traveling but seems I do have a busy schedule here (beside taking care of Mom), but I feel some satisfaction that I didn't feel in a long time now since I could work with my camera and really think of something to do with it, without feeling exhausted like everyday after coming back from work through the traffic jam. Meanwhile, the idea of traveling is still ticking and tickling my mind, despite the fear of the hassles that I might have to face outside because of all the madness going in the world today, specially for a guy like me from the Middle East.
In the meantime, August is getting closer, my birthday that is, and I'm preparing to have some big order (well, not so big, but a bit big maybe?) of some gear and maybe some books. I would have to place the order before August I presume since there are some items that are considered "special order" (i.e. need time to be prepared and dispatched). This is to be a gift to myself, since no one around give such gifts except of perfumes! On my mind is a 4th speedlite (and probably another 580EX II if available still) and maybe some filters. I feel so excited that I want to place the order right away in the coming few days, but my financial situation and the course of Ramadan makes me hold it back and wait. Thus, I might be placing my order by the end of June or so! I need to miss my camera so much to work with it with passion…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, May 18, 2017


Well, I'm struggling here to keep my mood swings off the ground a bit till the time for my vacation arrives. I'm trying to squeeze my mind to extract some more ideas for the project of the month of May which is about colors. Yet, however, when I tried to do something, I've gone out with a completely different experience and experiment. The bad thing about it is that I had to work with high ISO here since I didn't want to use speedlites. Explanation for not using them will come shortly.


I won't go over my original idea which was about colored sticks and a glass of water, but I'm going to move right away into the application of the second idea which came to live, even though it did not involve colors as I hoped so.

Vivid Dream I
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/2.8, 400-1s, ISO3200.

The idea was simply to display an eye image (ahem, my eye) on my tablet and cover the tablet with a lasagna glassware, then filling the glassware with water. The goal was to achieve some kind of movement, distraction, or any kind of action that could possible mimic the sense of a vivid dream with a fuzzy looking eye. However, to aid me with this, I had to add corn syrup (didn't have glycerine) to the water and use a milk frother to disturb the water and produce some action and bubbles. Any liquid works here I guess but I think anything else would add color and maybe unwanted level of foam (like soap for example); Thus, corn syrup was just about enough for me here.
In the beginning I did indeed use ND filter to lengthen the exposure time considerably, but that length in fact hid all the action; I guess I didn't learn my lesson from hunting clouds with long exposures yet! Thus, I've removed the ND and decided to shoot normally. The blur produced by the moving water did, in general, look like a motion blur of some unstable hand, which is not something I was aiming for. Meanwhile, I noticed how the bubbles were interesting enough to make some kind of vivacity in the scene. Capturing them needed some shutter speed (i.e. short timing). Not wanting to use Speedlites here because they might make the situation worse with refraction and highlight spots, I've decided to work with Tv mode, and set the ISO to Auto. A Kamikaze plan, I know. My little cropped Canon EOS 7D surely does not do well with high ISO and heat. However, so let it be.
I've shot most shots at 400-1s shutter speed, but seems even that was somewhat slow and I needed something faster at some point (but didn't discover that until the examination of these images closely). The ISO here ranged from 2000 to 4000. A Catastrophe.

Turbulent Dream
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/4, 30-1s, ISO400.

By the end of this experiment, I was back again to try and shoot something with motion blur which I did, and produced something surreal of some sort after winding the ISO back to 400 (still high to my measures) as seen in Turbulent Dream. Not sure why I stopped at ISO400 and not ISO100, but probably it would make the exposure so long that all turbulence would simply disappear. In total, there were 8 shots, so here are the other 6:

Vivid Dream II

Vivid Dream III

Vivid Dream IV

Vivid Dream V

Vivid Dream VI

Vivid Dream VII

Of all in this series, only Vivid Dream VII undergone a special treatment somewhat as I applied Pinch filter to make the bubbles' circles seemingly more directed to the center of the image around the iris. The effect was slightly applied and not in extreme way, otherwise it would be more like a graphic surreal design instead of a surreal photo!
Now, the critique about these images was fine but with one problem here: the noise. For this reason I might need to do the experiment again, and this time I have to go with another risk: using speedlites. However, I'll try to make speedlites as diffused as possible, despite the fact that I'll be using HSS mode which will reduce the power of the single flash lighting significantly. Anyway, all that is on hold for now, since I have to get busy (really busy) with my colors project for the month of May, as the month is getting closer to its end and I didn't achieve a single proper photo yet!


Well, this was a short trip into what I've been doing lately. Too bad I didn't capture any further images with the colors project yet, otherwise I would have posted them here. Meanwhile, I'm looking for a good topic to write about in my other Arabic blog as I didn't post any articles in some time now. I'm thinking about talking about High Pass Sharpening method. Anyhow, I should start ASAP to be over with it by next Thursday. That means, also, I won't be posting in this blog next week.
Good news here: I have to get ready to start my own vacation during Ramadhan, as I've signed for one. Remembering the hell I used to go through last summer with traffic jams at work itself, all that, makes me freak out thinking how things would be this Ramadhan in this summer. They say this would be the last Ramadhan to arrive at summer and will not fall during summer again till after 26 years from now! Something to joy about I guess? The question is though, would I be able to use that time to work more with my camera, as well as some of the postponed projects? Till then…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy