Thursday, May 19, 2016

Back Home…

Just back from Dubai last week, and nothing is changed it seems. I had to get my engine clogged with problems as soon as I arrived. Anyway, meanwhile, I got myself into some activities and projects, and some of these are related to Dubai's expo somewhat. This is going to be a quick wrap.

Photography Live

This was main title of the expo. The one held last year was named PhotoWorld. Probably the organizing company had changed and hence the name was changed as well. Anyway, this event was a major gathering for all photography-related parties and companies. It was a quite professional gathering and I did finally find professional printing companies who know the meaning of ICC profiles!
Three days plus one day of preparations, all made it such an exhausting stay. Positive feedback was galore and many people had the urge to join the group. Unfortunately, the group is not yet quite open to the outside world with its limited options for delivering workshops. Anyway, this is left for the management of the group to decide.
On the other hand, I didn't do much documentation for the expo since I brought my camera with 2 lenses only. However, I did record some videos (yet I'm no videographer). The videos weren't that good anyway, but I'll post one below. This was taken as I roamed the grounds checking various parts of the event. The most interesting part for me was those corners for companies related to printing and printing materials.

video

I won't be exaggerating if I say that the real work started after coming back from Dubai. This is because of the ideas and information gathered during the event and which must be studied for a while to help on advancing further, specially in the printing field. However, I've been busy with other things lately…

360o

This is the name of a mall here. I'm going to spell it out from the very beginning: I hate it. I hate its location, and hate almost its internal design as well. Anyway, I was pushed to enroll in a special contest regarding this mall (by friends), thus I decided to pay a visit and check what I can do about it. The contest is dedicated to the so-called Vertical Gardens which is a prominent feature in a specific corner of the mall, which in return is filled with cafés. Visiting the mall prior to the shoot didn't change any of my opinions about the place; it's a waste of space. My choice was a panorama and I decided to go in the very early morning before the busy hours (realized later, that the mall is open even if the stores inside are closed, and some people jog or walk inside in the mornings!).
Doing a panorama there is really exhaustive, and to make things harder, the light meter died out, thus I had to depend solely on the camera's metering (which was fixed on Evaluative).

First Version

Despite the mall being without any visitors almost, there were the workers and the security, and all contributed to some blurry movements in the scene (which was hard to clone out in Photoshop too). After stitching and tone-mapping the First Version, the very old problem of colored spots (blue mainly) showed up further. Had to work lengthy hours just to clean these spots (and later in other versions I didn't).
After finishing from this panorama, I tried to shoot some infrared shots with my other (converted) camera, but checking the images, it seems that I've focused more on the decoration and international design (the ceiling specifically) which was one of the few nice things in the place, but forgot totally to include the gardens in the image!
Having the situation in that way, I've decided to produce other projections of that same panorama and submit them for the contest (3 images maximum). Anyway, I think I can do some other projects with these infrared shots. Anyway, I won't be posting more at this moment, and probably I will be waiting for the closure of the contest by May 21st. The awards sound nice, but the subject is next to null. Had some ideas for capturing a motion with long exposure somewhat, and suggested this idea to other friends, but it seems even if this is possible, the interior design and angles would be hard to find and work with. I'm not optimistic about any good results in this contest (typically), and I can imagine that the future winning shot, is merely a documentation of the place. Meanwhile, I'm attending more important contests, for the group and for myself; namely the Epson's first panorama contest. This is a contest that I'm eager to roll in, even though my chances are weak in the world of professional panorama-makers.

Finale

It's been a week now since I've got back from Dubai, and seems my schedule is overloaded with activities; work problems and contests, and also considering options and studying. The bird inside of me is clicking in need to travel and change scenery. Alas, summer is here scorching my body and mood, and Ramadhan is coming soon as well with my sleeping turbulence.
I know that I've forgot about lot of my life's pleasures, and I would need more time for myself. But what would I do with this time if I "create" it? I'm technically losing interest in many things as I grow older and older. It seems life is but a silly chain of events in my eyes, no more, no less…

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Die Spinne…

This is a quick wrap again for this week, just going over the latest on my schedule. My time is up almost and I will soon prepare myself to travel to Dubai for an exhibition. I didn't even think of what to pack yet! I just hope it would be easier for me to do some documentation.


Meanwhile, I got the chance to print (finally) a panorama from Malta and I've prepared it with varnish and then wrapped it. The plan now is to deliver this little gift to the Maltese embassy on Thursday (the day of posting this). Let's hope all goes smoothly. I know security can be a great issue around such places.


The print after the varnished had dried off.

The print is for L-Orizzont; an image that I've submitted to a number of contests already (and it was accepted like 50-50). However, it is a second version from the original, which I've processed specifically to make it look more normal, beside cropping the sides significantly.

L-Orizzont: version I


L-Orizzont: version II.



 
To my ill luck, I've forgot to sharpen the final image before printing it on canvas. I was lucky though that the print shop, the one I frequent for printing on canvas, was able to print this despite the size which was larger than A0; slightly. They charged the same price for A0 size in fact. Now, it is wrapped and kept in a box and waiting to be delivered.

On the other hand, I've been playing around with my only ultraviolet panorama so far and trying to extract some other projections. The fact that I was way off-center this time (more than the last time I did a panorama in this location), made it hard to accomplish much. Projections must be picked carefully in regard to the asymmetrical attitude of this panorama.

Die Spinne
(the spider)

The hardest part here was cloning out the remnants of the tripod at the nadir point, which was too obvious, and the ground was of mixed media and hard to be cloned out. Probably it looks fine in such small size, but definitely it won't be acceptable at large. I'm still working on this and yet have to discover new projections.

Finale

Everyday now sounds like it's a race against time. But for what? I'm not sure. Though everything is ready for the flight, yet I don't think I'm psychologically ready yet. This said, I had to put some stress on my budget to make this work. Mood swings have been severe lately, and it definitely is putting some blocks on my way of thinking, creating and working with what I'm planning to do. What can I say anyway; had not it been like that for years now? My last hope is to have some "fun" in this upcoming travel to Dubai, despite the hard work which I know is awaiting for me. Maybe a busy body, means a thoughtless mind…




Thursday, April 21, 2016

Ultra-Success…

Some good news for this week though short, as I was coping with sleeplessness and the wrecking sleeping pattern. I've been trying my best to do some chores that I've planned for myself, though I had to skip shooting the Monodrama event this year (and other members in the group had to cancel as well later on). Summer is coming, so I better plan some indoors activity for the time being.

Childhood Memories

Last week, on Tuesday specifically, a new exhibition was inaugurated for the work of Mohammed Sheikh Al-Faresi; An artist who used to present a TV show in 1980s about arts, and which I was quite fond of. Visiting this exhibition was important for me, even though I didn't pay much attention to artwork in other fields other than photography, as it was part of my childhood memories.
My favorite artwork in the exhibiition
His artwork is essentially based on Arabic calligraphy, entwined with other elements, majorly geometrical shapes. Some of these paintings did have 3D feel to it. I've found myself attracted to the black theme in general, and red comes next. Probably, typically, Arabic calligraphy is done with these 2 colors mostly.  However, in his artwork here, the calligraphy is a merge of random letters with no concrete words or sentence.
In my journey here, and allow me to call it a Journey Into My Childhood Memories,  I tried to document paintings that captured my attention the most, and in fact all the artwork here was appealing, but I was looking for something that was special to me. I also tried to capture some paintings from different angles in hope that I would combine them to make 3D images later on. I did also take a general video clip from the whole set of paintings in the exhibition.
My companion in this journey was the relatively-new Voigtländer 20mm lens, which has no auto-focus function. That was problematic a bit for my work specially when shooting video with my Canon EOS 7D. Never shot a video with a manual lens before, well not that long that is. However, the quality might be off a bit because of a slight out-of-focus render; I tried my best to focus on a single point manually and then walk as I take a video and keep my distance almost constant. Up till the moment of writing this passage, I'm still not finished with processing these shots, for reasons that I will explain below. My schedule was fully booked with tasks, meetings, naps, and testing.

video
A journey through the exhibition.



Ultra

After testing my Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 lens for doing a simple panorama last week, it was time to do a "real" panorama processing. Even though I was deprived of sleep that day, but I decided to head out after work while the sun was still high up and planned in a haste to do a panorama using this lens, my converted camera, and my UV-pass filter. The first location that occurred to me was the coast line; a spot which I've done a nocturnal panorama before (and eventually later on, got published in a luxurious coffee table book).

UV Columnae

Namely, this would be my first ultraviolet panorama ever! Despite some problems, things went smoothly, but it gave me some idea about what to expect and what to watch for next time I work with ultraviolet filter. Being in a haste, you can see that the panorama was not perfectly centered. Yet, I'm still trying out some other projections and style; just trying to digging for time. Anyway, some notes about this process are:

  1. The stitch was fair, despite the broken lines. Those broken lines or stitching errors, however, were not related to parallax-error, but rather to the fact that shadows were moving at that time of the day (the shooting process took some time), and some control points were not possible to generate between some slides. That caused broken and bent lines which were hard to adjust and would require more working time to fix properly.
  2. Focusing: Voigtländer lens has no marker for infrared focusing, there typically no lens (as far as I know) has a marker for UV focusing. This is important since we are shooting at beams out of the visible range of the spectrum, in which lenses are usually made and calibrated. I used here the hyperfocus principle as if I was shooting regular light (at f/11) and the sharpness seems fair. However, I have to read more about focusing in UV photography.
  3. As it was a test, I used Av mode to set the exposure automatically (while I fix the aperture). I worked without LiveView (because it would stop the metering mechanism), while setting my metering to Evaluative; I thought this would be the most proper for the situation we have here where light and shade are intermixed. However, that imposed great discrepancies in the exposure value between slides (and HDR technique is out of question). This suggests that next time a deliberate in-camera metering for various areas and averaging the exposure manually while using the manual mode is more like it, to avoid these averaging problems. 
  4. In digital processing the RAW files before stitching, I've used the Infrared profile already installed in my ACR to adjust the white balance for these Ultraviolet shots (pointing to green foliage and copying the change to all slides). However, I'm not sure if this is the right way to do it or there is some concrete and systematic way to set the white balance. Again, have to read further!
  5. This said, Voigtländer's usage for panorama making will be limited to this case; using UV filter. Yet, I need to test my Kodak gel filter with the converted camera to get a feel of how things would look like.

This said, I still need to test my converted camera in panoramas without even using any filter. Images taken that way would also cast some unexpected tints to the scene. Dropping HDR into the formula, and everything will be complicated. Yet, for the time being, I do not think of using HDR techniques when using filters on lenses. It's a dream to be delayed until time permits for slow motion again!

Finale

These were the two major event this week, and the rest was spent processing and trying to find time to sleep. There is a plan to go to Dubai by May with the group to attend a specific exhibition. Thus, I might not post much here until I get back home. Meanwhile, I'm busy organizing whatever I can with the group, and I'm thinking of doing some documentation to the situation there. I have to say that I'm pushing myself to do this, as my budget is under pressure in the current time.
I'm trying hard here to invest my weekend in working with my camera but seems I can't do this anymore. I have a strong urge to leave this house, but still unable to do so without proper means, and capabilities. The only thing that makes me calm down is playing games and playing music as loud as possible. Hard times are passing, and my self identity is at stake. Not sure how I'm going to snooze my worries or panic attacks, but it is apparent that I need some long rest. Yet, no vision for a possible vacation in the air this year…

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Quickie Testing…

This is a quick wrap as I couldn't do much with my camera or anything else, for many reasons. Anyway, I was capable to do one or two tests with my gear, so I decided to put them up here for this week.
I was waiting for a good opportunity to test Voigtländer 20mm lens for panoramas, but time didn't help me out and couldn't really search for a good location to work in. Thus, I've decided to test the panorama in a simple procedure in the guest room at home (which has been recently my operation room!).

Screen capture for the stitched panorama

I have made specific points here, and there are some advantages and disadvantages as it seems. I'll try to list them here in points:
  1. The panorama is a simple 360o, thus it might not be quite accurate for judgement but it gave good indicator I believe.
  2. There was no need to adjust or re-calibrate the VR-head to do this panorama, which is a good point!
  3. However, there was a need to adjust the rotation amount, to 24o instead of 30o. That means a single full rotation will take 15 shots instead of 12 as I used to have it. 
  4. Consequently, for the change of the field of view and the change in the angle of rotation per one shot, the total amount of shots to complete one spherical panorama will be: 15x5 (excluding zenith and nadir points) = 75 shots, compared to 36 shots with Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens. Needless to say, these numbers are multiplied by 3 in case of HDR.

For these points, the procedure includes good and bad points. It is good that I don't have to re-calibrate, but it is bad that I need to change the angles of rotation which will increase the number of shots (and working time) significantly. Thinking about it now, it seems that using the Voigtländer 20mm lens would be significant for panoramas only when the matter comes to using UV-pass filter; simply because I have no UV-pass gel filter to fit my Canon 15mm fisheye lens. The matter of infrared is also a fluctuating one, since I do have 2 infrared filters: one fits Canon 15mm fisheye (gel), and one to fit Voigtländer 20mm (circular), and each one has a specific threshold.
Coming to mention IR filters, I was yet to do another check with my converted camera. I had the chance to pick my gear to work, and voila, when I decided to do that, the sun got blocked out with some clouds. However, it wasn't a big problem, except for the UV photography; just a bit.

UV-Star
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/10, ¼ sec, ISO200.

Ultraviolet photography proved more problematic than I thought, unlike IR photography. However, shooting with a converted camera make it a lot easier. As it can be seen above in UV-Star, the exposure is merely 1/4 of a second, which is quite "long" in terms of handheld shots (I was using a tripod here). That is with rising ISO to 200. On a regular camera, the exposure time could easily be 5 minutes with ISO as high as 800. Anyway, other shots taken that day with UV-pass filter were shaky because of the breeze shaking the stems. One of the problems that one might face when doing UV photography is the fact that some lenses (if not most) are sprayed with a specific coating to reduce UV in order to enhance the image quality; a good feature gone bad! Anyway, I believe with a good sun, the exposure could easily be faster than just 1/4 second at the same ISO. The matter of UV photography is expandable further if we were to discuss artificial lighting and strobes, but let's not come to that right now!

InfraBlossom
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/9, 30-1sec, ISO100.

Later, I decided to try my B+W IR filter, which has a threshold of 650nm. This threshold means it is considerably a weak filter in terms of IR range, since it allowed some Red spectrum to pass as well. However, on a regular camera with the settings mentioned for InfraBlossom, the exposure time could easily be up to 1 minute if not more. Checking how InfraBlossom processing turned, it seems that such filter is exactly what one would need to do portraiture in infrared photography in general. Anyway, I can't have a final say until I get to test my other infrared filter; a gel filter from Kodak with threshold of 1000nm. This filter is so opaque and on a regular camera and a sunny day, a single exposure under ISO100 can easily reach 10 minutes in time.

InfraMore
Almost under the same conditions as InfraBlossom, but with f/8, the exposure for this shot was 9 minutes, on a regular camera and a sunny day. In comparison, InfraBlossom, would have been taken in 10 minutes at f/9 and a sunny day on a regular camera, when using the same gel infrared filter.

Anyway, I still need to test the gel filter (of 1000nm threshold) on my converted camera. Unfortunately, the only way to do this is with my Canon 15mm fisheye (or Rokinon 8mm fisheye with some improvising). The test is required for my eyes to see for myself the difference in color rendering and processing between 650nm and 1000nm thresholds. On regular cameras, the comparison is already made: with 650nm filter, the image after processing can regain close colors to reality, while with 1000nm filter, the image after processing can be quite bluish after processing.

Finale

This is it for now, and I still have some more going on in the current time. Preparations and events that I'm planning to role in, despite my decision previously of being dormant and have some breath. Yet, the group's activity can be quite pressing. 
On the list is testing a real full panorama using UV filter on Voigtländer 20mm, and in a sunny day. Not sure where the location should be, but most probably it would be at work if I can spare some time.
My schedules and sleeping patters are on shift now that I'm starting to fast, and probably it won't be long till I have to stop the fast for the month of Rajab. But it is a good try, and a money savior! However, my tiresome body wouldn't allow me to do much during the day and it would be late at night (after the nap) to work with such projects. Anyway, I'm going to try further, as much as I can.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Staidéar…

Two weeks with barely anything to write about. I was busy with many things, starting from games that I MUST play to lens testing that I MUST work on. I tried to prepare also for writing an Arabic article about lens testing for my other blog, but unfortunately things were not done in time. Thus, all is delayed.
They were stressful 2 weeks in fact, with contests and photos and home issues. I feel drained already and not sure how I'm going on with my everyday life. Anyway, I've finally made a lens test, which I cannot say it is a perfect one but I tried hard at least. My main aim was to test and compare between 2 lenses, the almost-new to my collection, Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 lens, and my old (trusted for panoramas) Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens. However, I've completed my tests as much as possible with most of the prime lenses I have: 8mm, 50mm, and 100mm. These tests are not the end of the story as I have to do more with the former two to check out further, mainly, the possibility of doing a panorama without doing further calibration for the VR-head (which is calibrated specifically for Canon EOS 7D + Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens).

For the following tests, I've used a simple chart provided in B&H website. However, I'm not sure how to extract more information from these charts but they were enough for my uses right now, like checking for chromatic aberrations and for the "sweet spot" in apertures range, and probably I would check out for any possibilities to measure the amount of distortion and correction needed (using DxO; but I doubt it's possible). Checking for vignetting is also possible as explained in the main text, but seems all my tests were prone to some error of some kind, and hence testing for vignetting is not assured. Mainly, it was lit from one side (and I preferred working in daytime since the sun beams seep through the door at this time and the exposure times are shortened significantly). According to the text, the chart must be printed on glossy paper (probably for increasing contrast), and that proved problematic with my lighting conditions as there were several harsh reflections off the chart and using speedlites was out of question (would complicate things further). However, the majority of the images taken seem to have proper balanced lighting anyway (with exception to the Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens).

The chart in use. I've printed it on A0 size, even though according to the text it is printed on a smaller size. Both sizes, however, are smaller than the real image size (when printed as it is that is).




Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5


Source: B&H
 The lens is not a fisheye lens, thus it has a rectified perspective (though not absolutely flat). The only wide angle lens I have which gives such a perspective is the very old and out-of-date kit lens, Canon EF-S 18-55mm. The lens is semi-manual, if I can call it so; meaning it is generally manual with no Auto-focus function, but it does apply some communication with the camera. One can simply turn the focusing ring slowly while pressing the shutter button half way and wait for the beep to confirm the focus. However, I've realized that it is a good practice to re-check the LiveView for the sharpness of the lines and fine-tune the focus.
To make things systematic a bit, I've divided my work to two parts: inspecting the center circle for maximum sharpness and best setting chromatic aberrations (mostly it is the same as the aperture of the sharpest image), and the second part is to do the same with the corners. Most of the time, the aperture that provides the sharpest image at the center does so as well to the corners; at least in my case here, but I don't think this is a general rule. More complicated charts (look for ISO 12233) would provide more information, specifically on the resolution power of the lens. Not sure this is possible in the chart above. In the following strip, the change in sharpness of the center circle is shown with varying the aperture. The view is supposed to be an original 100% crop, so please allow some time to load. I was mainly interested in the very central point of the circle where all these triangles meet:

Click the image for a high resolution version


Well, now to results! Upon inspecting the center of the chart, it looks that the range between f/7.1 and f/10 got the sharpest lines (that is, it is the "sweet spot"). Most probably f/8 would be the best, but since the lowest f-number here is f/3.5, I was going in full stops from that point up to f/22, and thus shots were made at f/7.1 and f/10 (instead of the more typical stops of f/8 and f/11). The amount of chromatic aberrations at the center are more or less linked to the same range of apertures. The chromatic aberrations are there at all apertures, but they "look" lesser at this range of apertures.

As for the corners, the results are around the same in fact. Checking the corners is essential since in optical design, the majority of calculations and considerations are done about the center region of the lens mostly, and hence checking the center of the chart and the corners for comparison is a must. However, with this lens I didn't find much difference in the values of sharpness.

Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye

Source: The Digital Picture
This is my usual and typical lens for panoramas and I rarely do use it in any other situations, for when I need a really wide angle, I would then switch to my humble Rokinon. This said, it doesn't mean I wouldn't pick it for specific situations anyway. This lens is stopped and not issued anymore from Canon which somehow put me in some troubles now and then when I try to find some specific information about it. Anyway it is still the darling which I prefer for panoramas (and the VR-head is calibrated according to its combination with Canon EOS 7D). The lens has a slot at the back for gel filters. Unlike the Voigtländer lens, it does support AF function, even though it has a slow mechanism. Anyway, with a wide angle, why the hurry! Of course as a fisheye lens, the distortion is, normally, not rectified. This of course makes it a challenge to fit the chart into the view, thus portions of the wall were included in the shots. In the same manner like the previous lens, I've focused automatically, then manually to check the sharpness, and then took shots at full stops of aperture (starting from f/2.8 and ending with f/22).

Click the image for a high resolution version

As for this center, I was fluctuating between f/8 and f/11 as the sharpest, but looking further to the center, I see that the center is less condensed with f/8, which I think it signifies that f/8 is the sweet spot for this lens. However, upon inspecting the corners, the story was a bit different, and I'm hoping that this difference is significant and not caused by a human error from my side.

Click the image for a high resolution version

Inspecting one of the corners here, I've realized that f/8 was not the sharpest but it was f/11. This means we have a difference in terms of sharpness in the various parts of the image. I think this might be considered normal since we are speaking of a fisheye lens which exhibits some distortion. But this observation is really significant when I bear in mind that I used to do panoramas all that time without realizing this fact. Could it be that such fact is the reason behind many failures of stitching in the past? Not sure…
In terms of the chromatic aberrations, it is the same all over and specially at the corners and edges, where it doesn't seem to change at all with the change in aperture; the red and cyan bands around the edges of lines are the same. The image can be sharp (visually), yet it does show aberrations.

Conclusions

From my humble observation, and I know I did make some mistakes in shooting the chart, but it seems that each lens has its advantage and disadvantage, specifically when compared having panorama-making in mind. For example, we can see that the Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 lens has an almost unified focus from center to the corners when it comes to the sweet spot. On the other hand, the Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye lens does change in sharpness from center to corner; Where the center is sharpest at f/8 and the corners are sharpest at f/11. Probably we are talking here about the focus shift phenomenon, in which the focusing plane is shifted as the aperture changes and that would require a slight change in the focusing distance.
Chromatic aberrations are apparent in both lenses. However, they are typically more at the edges rather than the center. In my observations, I've noticed that despite displaying chromatic aberrations at most apertures, the distance or the width of the aberrational bands are quite thicker in Canon's lens while being thinner in Voigtländer's lens. This would supposedly mean and easy treatment (digitally) for such a problem in the future for the Voigtländer's lens more than it is for the Canon's. For a fisheye lens, though, this is quite normal I believe, as the distortion at the edges of the frame would naturally be accompanied by such aberrations in high contrast situations.
As for vignetting, my test was quite simple: increasing the contrast for the image. However, no significant vignetting occurred in any lens, at any aperture value. This is probably quite normal since my camera (Canon EOS 7D) has a cropped frame. I think vignetting would be more apparent with full-frame cameras.
One main factor (divided into small factors) which I didn't get the chance to study yet at this point, is the capability of Voigtländer's lens to be adapted for panorama work without the need for re-calibration for the VR-head. Meanwhile, the Canon EF 15 fisheye lens, with its slot at the back for gel filters, is capable of carrying my Kodak gel filter of 1000nm threshold. I can fit my other circular IR filter on the Voigtländer's lens (with some step-up ring), but the threshold is only 650nm; meaning some Red spectrum would seep through still. In both cases the art is possible. An extra point for Voigtländer's lens is the fact that I do own also a UV-pass filter which I can fit it to this lens and do panoramas in UV for the first time (and yet I don't have a UV gel filter). All that work with filters is planned to be with my new converted camera of course (also Canon EOS 7D) and not the regular camera anymore. Another advantage for Canon's which must be pinned out, is the fact that it has a "red dot" to define the focus under infrared influence; Something that Voigtländer's lacks. The critical factor here is finding the no-parallax point for the Voigtländer's lens and see if re-calibration is needed or not. If a re-calibration is due, probably it won't be worth it, but I'll try.
Doing this does encourage me somehow to print the more elaborate and complicated ISO 12233 chart, with which I can do measurement for the resolution power of the lens (in simple terms, it is the power of the lens to differentiate between two closely-spaced lines).  But I don't think this idea will be applicable in the near future.

Finale

Even though I'm having my break from the camera yet I'm working still with the camera(s). Ironic, isn't it? I wish if I can even work further with other projects floating around like the the Geltani, but I'm trying hard to concentrate on one thing at a time. Though I was planning for a long break somewhat, yet it seems I'm much obliged to join the group in another "adventure" for shooting theater performances. This made me think as it would be a good chance to put my converted camera into practice and see how it would act in a dark atmosphere like the one usually offered by theater performances.
This busy schedule after all does not provide a protection from harsh mood swings now and then or simply rolling back with flashes of memories with a simple trigger; could be as silly as a sign on the road. Anyway, now I will be busy writing some articles for the group, and also writing an Arabic illustration for how to test lenses for my other blog, and till then, I'm not sure I would be able to post here soon…

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Diaspora…

Saying "Exhausted" is not enough to fulfill the description of the current situation. At some point, I thought I would need some dose of adrenaline, and some Prozac at other times, just to get me through the past 2 weeks.
Rolling over many ideas, I kept my gear and camera scattered around the place, and that would require one day indeed to be collected back again. Some ideas were simple, but I was hoping to get through the project with something acceptable.

Spotting Red

Many props and items have been purchased or improvised trying to establish some ideas for some photos. I have to say that this project, The Color Red, was beneficial at some point for making my mind run wild and made me connect to my world; trying to express feelings by using the power of still life and setups. Something I rarely do in fact.

Broken Love (I)
The first thing to do was to repeat the rose and ice heart experiment according to recommendations given by the leader of the group. The new instructions involve removing the random petals and including the rose into the ice mold. That proved to be challenging somewhat, since the rose went afloat and froze just like that. Breaking the ice mold (resembling a broken heart) caused the rose itself to "break!" You can see that clearly in Broken Love (I). The rose being afloat was not a good "view," so to say. Thus, there was a third (and a final) trial.

Frozen (I)
Frozen (II)
The last trial involved doing layers of ice to stabilize the rose inside the mold. This was done in two days of time by pouring a layer of water and wait for it to freeze, then pour another layer and wait for it to freeze and so on till the pan or cast is filled (almost). I had to compromise here with the idea of freezing a boiling water (to make a transparent ice) as I did in the previous 2 trials. However, the shape and the translucence of the mold was even better that way! I liked it shape so I snapped several shots as it is without breaking it first as can be seen in Frozen (I,II). I had to break the mold then to mimic the main idea in mind…

Murder

Breaking the mold was a challenge by itself. This is because the ice was formed into layers and not frozen all as once piece. This made cracking the ice out of uniformity and was hard to be done in a soft and easy way like the previous trials. Had to hammer so hard and then collect the scattered blocks into one position trying to make a heart shape (somewhat!). At this point I've removed the plastic piece underneath the block (which I used to give some reflections); this would help keep the blocks stable and not easy to slide off the table. I cropped the final image in somewhat panoramic format to give more direction for the water (blood) coming out of the heart.

Murder (II)

A friend of mine then suggested to change the colors (in fact he was pointing out to doing the experiment all over again), making the heart red if possible. Hence, I thought of using the typical channel swap method which is usually used in infrared photography, where the Red and Blue channels of the image are swapped. However, upon inspection by the leader of the group, Murder was favored more (probably for its calm atmosphere). According to him, this can go into contests as well. I'm happy that I've finally made something!

愛 (love)

The "Red" project didn't stop at that point still though. I kept on trying to do more ideas. Many ideas proved problematic, and more problematic even was to spend valuable time trying to achieve them instead of skipping to other ideas on the queue. Painting strawberries, for example, was one of those ideas which I've abandoned for good (but came back later in another form as will be shown). The next idea on the line was simple: a mother and daughter writing the word "love" in Chinese. I chose that word specifically for its duality: it is the word for "love" and it has a radical for "heart" used in it. You can see above that the word "heart" is painted in red. Well, my writing wasn't that good specially that the brush used is not calligraphic in nature (Chinese calligraphy uses special kind of brushes and special types of inks). Anyway, I used the help of my sister and her daughter to show their hands with the brushes as seen above. Setting the speedlites was a hurdle, as I was trying to depend on camera settings and light setting as much as possible to approximate the scene to a high-key. I've reflected 2 speedlites on the sides off large white surfaces (papers or so) while a third speedlite was held in one hand with a "bulb" diffuser. Lot of work had to be done in Photoshop though, to fix the colors and contrast and also flip my niece's hand to make it a left hand (but the edit was a fail and the I uploaded the original as it is to stock sites). The image anyway did not pass the sorting process, but it was accepted in a number of stock sites.

Artificial Nature
I stopped for a while from the project Red, and chose to work with something else. I thought I was over with it back then but I got struck with some idea, but it involved editing more than just mere photography. However, the concept is the same one I was thinking about with strawberries before, and in fact I was looking for strawberries first, but then I realized working with apples is more appealing because of the larger size. The idea about the food consumption in our modern world and how it is "edited" with genetics. Without going into the details of the make of such "design" but opinions were mixed between a pro and a con about this edit. Personally, I do feel there is something missing but I can't put my finger on it yet.
The funny thing about this shoot though is the improvised "cube" or "tent" for lighting. Three large white surfaces (or hard papers, or whatever) were placed as a background and on two sides, while placing 2 halves of a car shade on the top and at bottom. Using only two 580EX II speedlites and each one of them is pointing to the opposite side, the lighting was good enough and almost similar to that of a cube or a tent usually used for product photography. The idea is to bounce the light from one surface to another just like the beams inside the microwave would do. That way, the scene is supposed to be lighted from all directions.

Side Dishes

In between those "red" photos, there were some older ideas were put on queue to be done. Specifically, some ideas related to the marbles' images I've done before. As suggested by a friend, an image of an eye reflected into the glass marble would be a better idea. For this idea, I was going to use my brother to sit behind the marble, but a better idea and more stable one was to use my laptop as a background.

They Are Watching…
The drawback here was the inability to fit the eye image to be completely full screen, and because of that some white lines appear on its sides. I've simply loaded the image into Photoshop and put the window on full screen. I had to use some extra stack on the top of the keyboard and then put the marble on top of the that stack, upon an acrylic sheet I usually use for reflections. This was essential as the keyboard was getting into the final image and this was undesirable.
In the beginning I was trying to fit the marble or the whole scene into the frame but then I realized a crop is inevitable.In fact, adding more space to the image and cropping later would give more flexibility in terms of design and placement for the marble and its reflection. In the editing phase, despite cleaning that sheet, I had to work for long time on cleaning the area below the marble.

They Are Watching (II)…
As I was working I had this idea of doing an inversion into an inversion. That is, inverting the eye image, and then inverting the image while processing it in Photoshop. When that was done, I've rotated the image for 180 degrees upside down. Why? Not sure. But it looked more pleasant that way. However, the overall look still not so appealing, probably because of the blue and black combination. The eye reflection here is also weak and somewhat lost despite the simplicity of the image. I'm eager to show the first to be sorted, but not the second! I'm sure the second would not have any chances.


Another side dish was served to me on Wednesday is when I got the news for the arrival of my second camera (finally!). It is another EOS 7D which I purchased from a friend and then sent it to LifePixel for conversion to a full-spectrum; That is, supposedly capturing infrared and ultraviolet spectra. Just as a simple test, I've tried this selfie while standing next to a glass door allowing the sun to come in, and also using the on-camera flash to quicken the shutter speed a bit (at ISO400). Interestingly, as I was working on LiveView (essential for focusing precisely), with the absence of clear IR sources (e.g. sun, flash), the scene would be as it is in normal images (i.e. the shot is not reddish). My initial position was in front of a mirror with CFL lamp on top, and since such lamps do not issue any significant IR radiation (and has a coating inside that blocks UV), the image in the LiveView was plain normal. The IR influence did not appear in a clear way until I moved near the glass door. More ventures need to be explored in that field, specifically when it comes to panoramas. The selfie you see here is plain and direct from camera RAW without any modification (except for resizing of course).

Finale

Many things are going and racing through my mind, which makes me more serious about having a vacation away from my camera a bit. However, having a vacation from my camera doesn't mean not, supposedly, stopping the experiments. I do have special concerns as I plan to jump further with my panorama processing, and I'm thinking seriously of putting my relatively-new Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 lens into work with panoramas, and my initial checking tells that I wouldn't have to re-calibrate my VR-Head for this new combination of camera-lens. It needs time for further testing and inspecting and check that no parallax-error or minimal parallax-error is achieved with this lens without re-calibrating the whole set. If re-calibrating is required, I might give up the idea. The reason for going after this, is my belief that the optics quality is better with this lens more than my common and usual Canon EF 15mm lens. Another testing series should check for the amount of chromatic aberrations. In my previous shots like 愛 (love), which was shot with the 20mm Voigtländer at f/18, the aberrations were somewhat visible on close inspection. However, the final say is to be told only by direct comparison between the two lenses taking shots for the same scene under the same circumstances. On the other hand, I need to look after possibilities of doing HDR shots with my newly-converted camera, as well as shooting panoramas as I do with my normal camera.
I'm not sure when I would carry all these plans, because I'm thinking of resting for a while for real and try to organize my life all over again. Well, I think I'm failing at this already but I might do something at least. Heck, just thinking of my gear which I need to pack back into the proper places I get a shiver down my spine! It is not only the camera that is giving me some stressful times, but everything else around me seems to be doing so. I can almost swear that if I was a brick, I could have been cracked or smashed already for such amount of mental stress. Anyway, who cares… and I'm trying not to care, the best to my capability…



Thursday, February 25, 2016

Cold…

The engine is non-stopping and steam is venting from every ventilation route possible. Well, this is what I'm trying to do. My stuff are scattered around the house and I feel so pressured with time, and yet I didn't achieve much. I was hoping that I would be over with the project RED soon, but this wasn't the case, despite the encouraging feedback to my images.

Cold Love (II)

My first trials with the project resulted in Cold Love series. I had one idea in my mind and many liked the image but understood it as something totally different, but nevertheless, it's a good thing they liked it. What I like about this project is the push it makes (despite the pressure and stress) to make up the image, instead of waiting for a chance to make it. The first trial with this idea were good but not good enough and I was given some instructions; unfortunately though these instructions were challenging. First, the rose must be a cast inside the ice heart (which I made using bakery molds by the way), and the petals should be removed as they make a distraction. I tried 2 times more to make these instructions into fruition, but to no avail so far. However, I'm going to put on these results in the coming sorting meeting. If all fails, I think I will need to sort out to Photoshop to fix some of these problems (but not all). More ideas are waiting to be implemented and I've wasted enough time with this one and another idea involving strawberries (which will never see the light).

Black and white version from
a test shot from the project.
Meanwhile, my other trial for Selfie theme was also rejected for some technical problem (away from other problems in composition I believe). The focus is said to be on a portion of my back hair behind my ear rather than my eye. Well, with f/9 probably this is too obvious though on my monitor it wasn't pretty obvious. It's hard to do such a shot again because I'm doing it all alone. No one is going to set the focus for me!  Anyway, it's done and that's it. Now off to other projects to finish. This is getting really tiresome.

Little Universe (II)
 In the rush of projects and ideas, I've started to process a series of shots I've taken a while ago and totally forgot about them in such rush. A repetition for my previous trials with glass marbles and reflections. This time though I've changed the lighting method from dark field method to bright field method. The difference is obvious I presume. Here, however, I tried to get out of the typical scenery of reflection images by, first rotating the image, and then cropping the main subject and keeping the reflection, while cropping into a square (too much white area) and fitting the contact point between the marble and its reflection in one of the thirds' contact points. The reflection of the black boards on the sides is something I'm not sure of how to feel about really. Sometimes I see it as an ambiguous reflection and some other time I see it as something breaking the monotonous trend of such shot. I'll keep that for the next meeting to sort it out, though I'm not even 50% sure that such shot would pass. After this shot was published in the media, some friends suggested other variations to the main idea, so probably I'm not yet done with this experiment just yet.

Source: Amazon
As I go through my recent projects, I'm also reading this awesome book (which I've discovered it is volume 2 in fact). I'm trying to implement some of its tips in designing shots to my work with these projects. However, my reading pace is slow as I'm having no time to read except at work, and mostly at noon time just before I leave. The book discusses elements of design for the images in an abstract sense, as it connects between the human perception and basic elements of the image. At some point though I have to be careful about it because these interpretations are based on a Western view about the surrounding environment, and there might be critical differences between that view and our (Middle Easterners) view. For example, lines that slant to the right (/) in the image would give a sense of increment because eyes subconsciously follow the direction of writing and reading, thus making the line going up in direction from left to right. We, however, might see this line as a sign of going downward because our native writing and reading direction is right to left. This is just a simple example of the amount of information included in this book. The amount of information included makes me a slow reader as well.

Finale

Chain Reaction
Using Dark Field method.
Looking at my life now and all the things I want to do. I'm really running out of everything and time is such a huge pressure on my shoulders now. One of the projects that I've realized that I've stopped for long now is the Geltani conlang, which really saddens me to see it hanging there without a progress. I even thought, in moments of despair, to call it off and cancel all that progress, but I stepped back and said to myself "let's wait and see." I'm so taken away with photography now that it makes my life pace on brakes, and I don't know when I'm going to step on the acceleration paddle. Every time I try to manage my time and do some time management, things just slip out of my hands. Drastically. Makes me wonder now: do I need a long vacation away from my camera? Maybe…