Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ikaros 2014

Finally done. One more objective is off the list: A visit to Failaka (Ikaros) island. To avoid any rush, I had to book a ticket almost one week earlier and I was lucky to make it in the middle of the week; as the ferry schedules are becoming more congested in weekends. My travel set off on Wednesday, and I came back on Thursday after spending one night there.
Luckily this time the reception in Ikaros hotel didn't make a big deal of me being a single occupier. There are certain laws here that I just don't quite understand, but anyway, what to understand nowadays with many other laws?
The quantity of photography this year from the island wasn't as much as before, mainly because I was busy exploring rather than getting inspired; specially with me having a new car better acquainted for desert and rough conditions. There were some nice geographical features but artistically, they won't have much value in the eye of the camera, but they were something for the eyes to please.

Ίκαρος

The first day wasn't full of activities in fact. As I've stated above, I was mainly busy exploring. I've found the idea of recording some videos a fancy idea to include more about the atmosphere on the island - specially with some spooky sense at some specific places!
I won't be placing all the eggs in one basket for this post, since I'm still working on sorting out the images and trying to fix some of the images (specifically for the noise problem). Summer is coming, and my chances for a good long exposure are diminishing slowly as well...

video

The video you see above was taken in the court of an old mosque (now just ruins as you can see). These banging sounds prevented me from going further deeper inside, but I had the chance (and courage!) to climb up the narrow minaret(1). The bad thing is, I didn't have any shotgun mic, because the wind was blowing up there and my voice was barely apparent...

video


Though I had an idea to take a panorama up there from the top of the minaret, but the conditions were bad and dangerous. In fact, I couldn't even climb up to the top of the minaret with my gear, and I barely made it out with my backpack only on my back and the camera dangling from my neck. Up there, I knew there is no place to place my tripod and VR-head, specially that the location was not central. Since a panorama up there would (and should) be handheld and merely few shots to be stitched, I've decided it's not a big deal make the troubles for and a video up there is enough.

video

I had some troubles fixing the exposure in the video. As you can see, I had to stop every few steps to adjust the "shutter" of the video. I'm not a videographer, thus such concepts are somehow beyond my understanding. Probably because the lens here is Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens, which is completely manual, the camera didn't adjust to the lighting conditions automatically. Just a speculation!

I've left the mosque after taking one shot only (before doing these videos) and still till this very moment I'm wondering what was that banging sound that was coming from inside. The sound in the video isn't as loud as it was in reality (mainly because of the limitations of the camera's mic). I'm pretty sure, it wasn't the wind. The loud noises made by these bangs point to a staggering wind, yet it was breezy with a nice atmosphere - only up in the minaret, the breeze become a bit faster (but recorded in the camera loudly!).

As I've stated before, I won't be putting all the eggs in one basket; otherwise it would be a pretty long, thus I will just state the activities of the first day on Failaka. I'll leave the next post (hopefully) to discuss more thoroughly some of the panorama work and panaglyphs.
In the first day I've went deeper into the desert land, far away from the urban (uninhabited) side of the island. Lot of geographical features and nice green spaces because of spring, and lot of troubles too as my car got stuck at some point but I was lucky to pick it out! At the end of this journey I decided to take a shot of a lonely tree, with a twist...

Μονήρης
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, ISO100.

This tree, for some reason I'm not quite aware of, attracted me for its simplicity and loneliness. I tried to add some twist to it by shooting with infrared filter and in HDR bracketing. I've used here the 50mm lens with f/1.4 (widest aperture) which enabled me to work fast even with an infrared filter - helped by the sun in the middle of the sky as you can see from the shadow of the tree. In processing this image, I had to process each RAW file for infrared as I usually do with infrared images, and then convert the shots to TIFF. and only then HDR was merged from these files. Merging infrared RAW files is somehow, senseless. The surprise here is to see that the image retained its greens on the leaves of the trees after being relatively lowly saturated or almost black and white when processed in RAW! The rest was a job of fixing the vignetting and the saturation of colors, and of course, noise reduction.

The night hovered over Failaka and I was reluctant to go out in the pitch darkness on the island; there is no electricity except in few buildings in the periphery of the hotel. No street lights. Anyway, I decided to head out not far from the hotel and try some long exposures. The disappointment is, to find the sky out of any significant features; and needless to say that the periphery of the hotel wasn't much in features that help formulating a foreground to the images - the only thing I could think of is the ruins of some old clay house which I've taken shots of before several times.

Εδώ Είναι ο Ίκαρος
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/11, 18m, ISO100)

Surprisingly, one of the first problems was, what lens I should use? The 50mm made the features of the ruins somehow far away. I didn't want to use the sigma 70-300mm here simply because I was hoping that a prime lens would the image better - I'm expecting a load of noise already as the weather wasn't cold enough! Thus, my only choice as it seems was the 100mm macro lens (of course I can use it as a telephoto lens!), besides, the proportions when applying the law of thirds looked appropriate. To focus here, I had to keep my car's light on and pointing to the wall, then turn them off after auto-focusing was done. Several test shots in ISO12800 were due of course and then the work began with a 18 minutes exposure. However, before starting with the exposure, I had to do some testing for the White Balance. Even though at night times, the Tungsten WB is my usual choice, here I've decided to sway a bit from the typical and headed to Fluorescent WB (which I typically choose for dusk and dawn times). I didn't regret this choice afterward when the file was processed and gave out an astonishing blend of yellows, and blues! The only bad point here, the sky was featureless (not even clouds were present till next morning).

Υπήρχε
Canon EF 50mm, f/11, 9m, ISO100.

Just to show how much dark it was even near by the hotel, the other portion of the ruin was not visible until I took the previous shot and started to move backward with my car, when the car lights fell upon this feature, and thus decided to stop and do something about it. Because the focal length here is smaller and more landscape is included originally, the exposure time became almost half of what it was before, rounding to 9 minutes. Since the general atmosphere is not complex in terms of composition and quite normal, I've thought that the only way to get something interesting out of such settings is to produce unnatural colors, and here, again, I had to bet on the white balance change. This time though, it was set to Shade WB. This white balance made the image in general quite yellowish with a golden theme. Something magical a bit. The car's and my shadows were present in the foreground because of the lights not far away from some building - the shadows can be faint on location but they persist with a long exposure; something that you MUST be careful from. When processing the image, the noise level was hard to fix; the general noisy population on the image was reduced, but many hot pixels or hard spots remained. As for the shadows, I tried to clone them out but I chose the easy way out: crop the image into a square. A small sized image like Υπήρχε above, can be easy to look at and pleasant to see, but I wouldn't risk printing it on some large prints! Probably a canvas would be fitted the most for such printing method to suck in the noisy appearance as much as possible.
(1) Despite the fact that the word minaret is used now mainly to note the tower of the mosque, in most of English speaking word, the word itself is a misnomer. The word "minaret" is derived from the Arabic word Manárah [منارة] which means "the place of light" and used for the lighthouse. The proper name for the mosque's tower is Mi`thanah [مئذنة] in Arabic which means "the place of the prayer-call". It is probably one of these words and concepts that got lost in translation over time.

Finale

This is part one of Failaka's print, and hopefully more to come next week with more discussion about panaglyphs, anaglyphs and panoramas and some fixes to the ghosting problem (more like reduction in the fact).
I've started as well posting in Arabic in another blog. The blog is mainly for beginners in photography in hope that the language would make things easier for some people to understand and comprehend the photographic concepts. With this in mind, my schedule might be busier than it is already.
Trying now to enjoy what's left of days in my short vacation before I head back to work next Sunday. Just remembering this day makes me shiver with anger... Seriously, if only young people know what does it mean to be an adult, they would have probably ended their lives before reaching 25...

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Auf Arabisch... بالعربية

It seems like it doesn't matter how many hours I do sleep, there is always a need for more! One of the awkward things about having a vacation in the homeland! Anyway, I'm trying to catch on with time and I've already booked a ticket in advance for the ferry to go to Failaka island on Wednesday, for this reason, I'm typing this blog post on Tuesday - and hopefully as you read this on Thursday, I will be waiting for the ferry to pick me up from the island and get back home, with hope that I will have a load of new images (and panoramas!). Thus, I may not have done much with my camera in the past few days, but I will post about them anyway for the time being in hope that you will like them.

Auf Arabisch (بالعربية)

I've been thinking lately of starting to post in Arabic in this blog as well as I do in English. Some people liked the idea. For the time being, the posts are supposedly to be about basic photography stuff, and mainly dedicated to arabize the many terms used in the world of photography, which, unfortunately, I didn't find any current translations or contemporary language advancements. The reason for such thought is the desire to raise the linguistic awareness as much as possible for the technological terms that started to flood the arena and mainly being in English, leaving people with not much linguistic abilities almost paralyzed when it comes to learning new techniques or sciences.
Probably, the future posts would act as of some sort of dictionaries, but I do hope that it will help people who want to start at the beginner's level in photography, and yet can't get hold on the English language specifically, or any other languages.
The dilemma now is, whether to post it here, in this very same blog, or I'm supposed to create another blog for this purpose solely. My main thoughts now are, to post here, in the very same blog in which I post in English, to keep things concise and gathered in one place. This is what I think for the time being. Besides, I didn't specify a day in the week to post the Arabic article yet, but hopefully the decision will come soon. Probably, this step would be a first step in making a book even, as most books about photography in Arabic are in fact just translations of English books (and they do include a lot of English jargon inside as well). What I'm afraid of for the time being is the awkward and sluggish arrangement and format when typing such documents in Arabic. Arabic goes from right to left, unlike many other languages worldwide. This leaves much to be desired in the field of Arabic typing and writing in the digital world; Photoshop itself up to CS5, still issues a special version, entitled ME (Middle East), for those who would use the typing tools excessively in Arabic (and other ME languages like Hebrew). Not sure if newer versions after CS5 do combine the whole technology in just one pack and one version, but I'm hoping to see this any time!

Trust Me!

One of the humble trials to do something with my camera (and flashes) was an idea that had been cooking in my mind. Of course, since it is some sort of a portrait, the main subject is me myself, which increases the difficulty.

Trust Me
Canon EF 100mm, f/22, 250-1sec, ISO100.

The shot was edited later on with Photoshop to add final touches that can't be done on camera of course - like the teeth. The idea is to look after everything that looks nice in its appearance, but the core might be corrupted; e.g. the excessive freedom that might destroy the community with its unlimited boundaries.
Technically, I've planned the image to be in black and white with a tint or split tones, but probably the noise level that appeared later made me change my mind and stick to pure black and white. One of the mistakes I've done here is to hold the rose with my fingers covering the petals. Some people, after viewing the image, didn't realize it is really a rose, and some of them even thought it's some sort of food! The problem here, technically, was to use the Fill option in ACR excessively, which lightened the shadows, as well as the noise. Such noise, beside the original noise in the image itself without processing it, are one of the hardest things to smooth and work around.

Macranglyph

OK. I think I do sound ridiculous for inventing such words again and again, but this is really just for a title here. I'm not intending to coin it! The Macronglyph I'm talking about here is to make a 3D anaglyph image on macro level. Even though I've been working on some concepts yet in the panoramic anaglyph field, I thought how would such technique work in the macro field? The main concept is, of course, to take two shots resembling the two eyes. But the distance here is critical. On the macro level, a slight movement can prove to be a big leap!

3D Bad Teeth
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/22, 250-1sec, ISO100.

As a first trial, I tried my "bad" teeth here with my 100mm macro lens. Despite the fact that this is a macro lens, it is actually limited to x1.00 magnification power, or 1:1. This is, however, fair for most of macro purposes. Unless you want to go deeper, then a change of technique is due.
Anyway, in 3D Bad Teeth, I had to nudge my head a bit to the left and shoot again (using remote cable). The bad point here is that I've discovered when viewing the images that my lips muscles got lose in between the shots and thus deforming the stability of the shape (of the lips). However, when viewed with 3D red-cyan glasses it does look fair enough and pops out considerably.
Now, I'm not sure how much I did really nudge my head to the left (my left) when this shot has been made, but I doubt it would count as much as 7cm or even 5cm. And here comes the point that I need to do more research about...

3D 100 Fils (reverse)
Canon EF 50mm + 68mm ET, f/22, 30sec, ISO200.

To explain the point, in another shot made for the reverse side of a Kuwaiti 100 Fils coin, I've taken a shot for the masts of the ship (which filled the frame in fact), and the magnification factor here (using 68mm of extension tubes) counts as much as x1.36. In this shot, the difference between the right and left shots are just few millimeters in fact, but since it is a macro shot, the difference between the two shots was huge. If the engraving on the coin surface was deeper, probably the ghosting would have been more grave and more apparent.
Two thing for sure, but I can't still hold on to the mathematical concepts behind these facts:
  • Degree and value of magnification has a role in the distance that to be applied. More zoom, lesser displacement.
  • The distance of the subject from the image plane also plays a role. I'm not sure though if this is really significant to a great deal in macro shooting because, by virtue, in macro shots the subjects will always so close to the lens front and (relatively) to the image plane.
Note that the scales on lenses for focusing distances are actually measured from the image plane (sensor placement) and not from the front element of the lens.

Finale

This is for now. I'm looking forward to my Failaka trip tomorrow (Wednesday) - thus as you read this, I would be probably on the ferry coming back home, or still roaming till the scheduled time comes!
I have to get packing my stuff now and out this post on automatic "pilot" mode (i.e. to be posted automatically on time), and needless to say, get more and more sleep before I head over to the ferry! See ya...


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Anatomy...

Finally... a vacation from work. Well, not a vacation from home unfortunately, but in hope that this would happen this year, after summer (i.e. after the holidays season). The schedule is, or should, be busy with activities specially with my camera, but I also hope not to forget my Geltani project which has been on hold for some time. On the schedule as well, a trip to Failaka and spend one night there, if possible.

Continuation

In the previous week I've been working with some panoramas and "panaglyphs" from around my workplace. I've stated some problems in my previous post about the failures that I've met for doing a "panaglyph," or a panorama anaglyph. I've continued the work and tried to do other projections this time and as expected, not much of a success either, but I'd say better results than other previously done stitches.

Planeta Caela

My next stop was the planet projection for the panorama. The image you see above is the left side of the tried panaglyph. This panorama should have been posted last week in fact but because of some technical problems with my internet I had to finish my previous post ASAP. Anyway, after tone-mapping this version of the panorama, and then tone-mapping the right side of the intended panaglyph, I tried to overlap them both and create a panaglyph. The geometry of the projection helped me with some trick to align both planets together.

Planeta Caela (3D)
WARNING: DO NOT STARE FOR A LONG TIME.

The trick here, was to align one corner of the globe and then place the rotation cross-hair to that position and use it as a center of rotation for the whole image. This allowed for a better alignment, but that does not mean there are no ghosting. It's just more fitting that way because of the geometry. Ghosting here can be a severe matter because with this geometry we might have, instead of left and right portions with red and cyan, we can have also in addition cyan and red in up and down direction; i.e. orthogonal to the direction of the human eye! This, of course, is not good. In addition of course, the skies have changed in between the shooting of each of these panoramas thus both of them won't coincide at any point, which produce such strange ghosts and halos when you see them with Red-Cyan 3D Glasses.

The Big Sweep

Doppeldimension

On the list there was the vertical panorama and the wide-view projection techniques, and each with a purpose and an effect of course. However, the vertical panorama, Doppeldimension, was a bit further experimental. If you compare Doppeldimension with The Big Sweep you would notice the drastic difference in the tones; and this is not something done by tone-mapping in fact, since the values used in Photomatix are almost the same. However, some simple trick done to Doppeldimension here and I loved how it looks. The matter was simply to use the Channel Mixer adjustment layer in Photoshop and swap the Blue and Red channels (like how it is usually done in Infrared images) and then blended in with the rest of image using Soft Light blend. The beauty here is that it almost suppresses all the tones to some degree, but pronounces the Greens more; in fact I had to use Hue/Saturation controls to reduce the Greens just tiny bit and avoid Bleeding. Bleeding is when the color or tone is so saturated that it looks like it spills out of its regional container into other adjacent areas (imagine it as if water is spilled over a paper with some ink).
I think with this, it's time to say it's over and start thinking about another panorama and another location. I'm not sure where it will be, but this time I think I should make it an interior panorama rather than an exterior one, just to avoid the change in the atmosphere as much as possible. Of course, if the place has windows there would be some change in the light level but the change won't be drastic as there are now shadows from the sun inside the place. I have to think of some place. Think, think, think...

Anatomy

This week was a week of lesser activity; just before the vacation. In hope that I will increase the pace in the coming few days. For this reason, continued experimenting with my flashes like I did last week but this time not for a portraiture; but rather macro eye shots. I remember the last time I did a macro shot for my eye was done using the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 macro lens. This time, however, I've decided to use extension tubes to get even better results. But notice please that I DO NOT ADVISE ANYONE TO DO WHAT I DID.

Arabian Eye
Canon EF 50mm+20mm ET, f/22, 20-1sec, ISO200.

With macro mode now, of course we do need some small apertures, i.e. high f-numbers, and consequently, high level of illumination. I literally had to stick the two flashes I have, 580EX II and 430EX II, so close to my face that I did feel the heat gushing out with every shot. Lighting is difficult in such situations not only because of the narrow distance, but because I'm doing it all myself for myself; in such situations it would be better that someone would guide and help - but I have none in my case.
Anyway, the main two modifiers used all the way here are the snoot (with honeycomb grid to narrow further the light beam), and the Bulb diffuser (and you can see their reflection on the iris of my eye above).

Split Eye
Canon EF 50mm+20mm ET, f/22, 20-1sec, ISO200.

There were several good shots and the trick was to process them differently to give various impressions. In Arabian Eye for example, I've tried hard to make the light look gradient (it wasn't much of a gradient originally) to give the sense of mystery and power to the look, and also the noise reduction was done to some areas only and not to the whole image because it was too smooth to my desired look.
Seeing this problem with the gradient, I tried other shots using only the Bulb diffuser as in Split Eye, which still rendered it even in lighting somewhat and needed further processing. The reason this is called Split Eye is the fact it is not a colored image; but a black and white image and tone-splitting was applied which made it look like colored. Further Photoshop workout had to be done to improve the gradient effect here.

With Details
Just for fun here, I've picked one of the images and tried a crop for 100% close-up to the iris just to see the degree of the details. I have to say there were good enough, and this is only using a 20mm extension tube. This, in fact, encouraged me to shoot even higher: to shoot my eye with a greater zoom, using all my extension tubes (i.e. 68mm). But the task, of course, is not that easy at all. Mainly because of the position of the light sources relative to my eye, and my eye would be way too close to the front of the lens - way too close, more than it was already when using 20mm extension tube. After many trials, it was done even though not as clear as the ones done before...

More Details
Canon EF 50mm+68mm ET, f/22, 50-1sec, ISO100.

As you can see, I've reduced the ISO back to 100 instead of 200, with some increase in the shutter speed. The reason for this is, after situating the flashes in proper positions to light the eye, I decided to reduce their power by the camera instead of controlling their own power - it's easier that way. The final image you see above was subjected to several processing trends (beside converting to black and white to kill the chromatic aberration). The rest was a struggle to show more details and to equalize the light over different areas - with layer masks of course. Surprisingly, more veins popped out with the processing!
Now to the mathematics little bit: This shot was taken using 50mm lens attached to 68mm extension tubes; thus according to the equation (m=ET/FL), to get the magnification factor, we would get 68/50 = 1.36, meaning the image of the object is magnified by x1.36 times. In percentage as well this would be 136%; 36% more than the normal size.

The difference here with the last shot is, the details are as they are - no cropped image at 100% view to get the details clear. Quite promising at this level and no need for EXTREME macro shots with lens-coupling!

Finale

Well well well... a vacation for two weeks. All I'm hoping for is to have the real "fun" I'm planning for. Some worries still chase me though, but I'm trying to have a full relaxation as much as possible - of course including long hours of sleep in the days when Mom has no dialysis to do.
Seems like two weeks are not enough, but this is the beginning. I have to break the circumstances around me. As one of my teachers put it for me last week: if you can't help yourself, you won't be able to help your mother. And the question remains, how am I supposed to help myself if I live in a helpless atmosphere; where even home, is not a home... ?


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Snooze...

I think I'm reaching the climax of my endurance capabilities through the past 2 weeks. It is just the fact that nothing goes as planned, and more unexpected events.
People here (and everywhere) are happy for the arrival of spring. However, it is my weeping time. My nighttime photography had already ceased and almost no power is left for me to leave at night. I technically spent 2 weekends sleeping most of the days. With the arrival of summer soon, I'm left to do tiny projects at home, specially in the macro field.
In the meantime, I've already signed for a 2-week leave from work just to rest my nerves from the amount of stupidity that lurks in this workplace (and all workplaces in this country; let's be honest). Everyone thinks I'm traveling somewhere - my chances are slim. The best I might be able to do is to head to Failaka island, if possible, and maybe spend a night there. My leave should start on April 1st and extends till April 17th. The best part of a vacation is to see people go to work while you don't!
Anyway, despite the hibernating activity with photography, I still had some few trials with my camera (and flashes) and might be interesting to share...

Ego

Don't read it wrong; Ego here is the Latin form for I or Myself! For the past week (and also for the coming few days) I've been trying to test my flashes and light modifiers on a real subject this time and not against some slid subject: me.
The fact that I don't really do well with portrait with other people, and yet I don't have someone to help me with testing my gear, leaves me with me! Experts usually advise the photographer not to be the subject of their own self; this is related to the degree of concentration and the attention paid by the photographer to the light formation - it would be lesser in such situations. Anyway, I'm working with my own face here and I don't have much options. The funny part is, as it is supposed to be a check-up for my gear and lighting positions, it became also a trial for some Photoshop experiments.

With RoundFlash
All of the coming shots are taken with my Canon EF 50mm lens, not only for its sharpness or wide aperture (f/1.4, which in fact is not used or needed here), but for its perspective in regard to the distance available for me in the room, and for the scale on the lens' barrel which I used to adjust the focus range properly. The first thing to try out with my flashes is the RoundFlash, beside another flash for the hair light on my right and above my head, with a diffuser. The rest is a simple processing in ACR (Adobe Camera RAW). One of the fascinating aspects of using the RoundFlash is, like the ring-flash, creating an interesting catch light in the eyes. The post-processing included some simple fill light, contrast, vibration, and clarity adjustments.

After the initial (simple) post-processing, I couldn't hold my fingers from doing further editing like I usually do for some friends photos. I have to admit that the edit does scare me a bit! When it comes to black and white converting, there are two possible paths actually: Convert in RAW, or convert in Photoshop. Each one of those has its own benefits and limits in fact. The image you see above is converted in Photoshop (and it is just one image from the series of shots).

RAW Edit
I've picked one of the many shots and this time tried to convert it to B&W in ACR alone without the help of Photoshop. The results, to me, were astonishing. Te image you see on the left is completely edited in RAW without any enhancement in Photoshop. The difference here is, while in Photoshop you can convert to B&W using the Black and White adjustment layer, which in return has specific tonal ranges to fix the black and white tones depending on the colors - in ACR, the tonal ranges available are varied and more delicate than the simple black and white adjustment layer in Photoshop. For example, in the adjustment layer we have tonal sliders for Reds and Yellows; However, in ACR, there are tonal controllers for Reds and Yellows, with another one for Oranges in between. This latter addition can prove very useful. in specific situations, like my selfie here. Usually, in Photoshop, raising the Reds tones to brighten the eyes would brighten the eyes and the face altogether, calling for a need to use layer masks. In ACR, however, the two zones are somewhat easier to control by the Reds and the Oranges tones (and with some fill light increment). At this level, it all looks normal. For more eye-catching bright eyes effect, then, of course, Photoshop is needed again.

The second experiment with the flashes was to light the face from top and bottom, in something like the so-called hatchet lighting. Usually, a hatchet lighting is when lights are used on the left and the right of the subject, but here it's on the vertical plane. To achieve this, beside the head light above my head (with bulb diffuser), I've placed a white cardboard on the ground and bounced the flash from it.

Selfie #4
After many trials to check the position of the lights, I had some nice shots. It seems that this hatchet method is good to show the details of the muscles of the face; though it might not be so pleasant to look at! In Selfie #4, most of the editing is done in ACR as well, including desaturating. However, some editing was needed in Photoshop to boost the eye of the color. Also, some drama was added by sharpening the image excessively.
Unblinking
And there is a big benefit of having some high resolution to your camera; It is some way to make an abstract with suitable resolution out of the general image, like it is in Unblinking. Probably it won't be a good image for a large print after all, but nice to see online! In Unblinking, the image was converted to B&W in Photoshop (except of the eye), and was given a tint to have some drama.

There is a method of manipulating images that I've read something about, in a long time, and back then I really didn't pay much attention. Probably because the talk was technical more than artistic. However, now with the ACR, it seems that this method is opening a new window for the world of Black and White manipulations. This is the method of tone-splitting. The idea is simple: give one tint to the highlights, and another tint for the shadows. The result was somewhat perplexing I have to say!

Selfie #5
I applied this method to one of the selfies taken with the hatchet technique and the results appear interesting. After converting the image (and adjusting the tones accordingly) in ACR, I've applied the tone-splitting (also in ACR) giving the highlights a tint of violet, and the shadows a tint of green. There is in fact no limit for the choices as you can control the tints and their saturation and also the balance between the shadows and the highlights in general. However, it seems reasonable and more appropriate to work within the circle of the laws of the Hue Circle. The method is simple, after adjusting the tint for the highlights by picking a specific hue and adjusting its saturation, I picked a tint for the shadows then after by adding (or subtracting) 180o from the hue value of the highlights; For this reason, it got to violet highlights, and green shadows. I've adjusted the Balance control in ACR towards the highlights simply to reduce the weird look of the hair and black areas of being too green. Also, to add more luster to the eyes, I had to sacrifice the contrast for the whole image, and yes, I could have done it in Photoshop editing later on, but my goal was to produce an image edited in RAW only without much editing in Photoshop; and I think I've done it. This in fact taught me a lesson for the time being: It's not all about pronouncing the tones by adding contrast, but contrast must be added carefully in regard to what features of the image I'm willing to express and show more than the rest.
A note as well I'd like to add: it is a common advise when printing Black and White images, it would be a good idea to add a slight tint (most probably a yellow tint) even in a small amount just to give a color to the image and show some of the details that might be lost in printing. This is because in printers' language, White is almost synonymous with "do not print a thing here". Thus, it is advised to have a slight tint to give some color and life to the image. Anyway, experimenting with your images is always the rule I presume!.

Heaven is Watching

Out of the desire to break my daily routine and also to try to produce something before the summer is finally and completely here, I've decided to do a panorama near my workplace. I have to say though that I was in a fighting mood as well; I was willing to fight anyone who would be interrupting me and try to stop me from taking photos near my workplace. Anyway, at the end things went smooth, but I wish if I can say that to what happened later when processing the panoramas.

Heaven is Watching

That day, I've decided to have lunch near my workplace and head back when the road is less congested. I've walked up to the roundabout which overlooks my workplace (and specifically the building where I work) and started to shoot there, even though it was congested little bit but the road was giving way and getting easier. That was not a big deal for me in fact as the whole thing was an experiment and I'm not looking for perfect conditions, but I did some mistakes later which became both: a regret, and a lesson. Anyway, I was astonished for the clouds hovering over the place and reminded me of the time I spent in Failaka 4 years ago when I had some marvelous shots under clouds of the same type. Bad thing though that I couldn't (for time limitations and capabilities) do any long exposures in that location. Anyway, after shooting the first panorama, I've moved the tripod manually for few centimeters and started to shoot again. I've measured previously the distance between the centers my eyes, which was 7cm, but here I had to do things blindly and I'm sure I've displaced the tripod for no less than 10cm - can produce a big problem, and it did indeed as you will see...

WARNING: DO NOT STARE WITH 3D GLASSES FOR LONG TIME.

The image you see above is not a perfect anaglyph (or as I called it before: panaglyph), but it is one its kind and I'm hoping to do more experiments with this kind of panaglyphs; Because it is a full panorama and not a simple horizontal panorama turned into an anaglyph as I did some weeks ago. However, I've tried hard to give a good alignment for this panorama but it never worked - needless to say the stitching errors that plagued me in between the two panoramas for the left and the right scenes. Without going into details of the stitching errors, I shall discuss here the points that made this unbearable to look at!

  • The distance of the displacement of the tripod seems too large which caused the difference in between the two scenes, visually, large. This would cause hardships when aligning the two scenes at some points.
  • The center of the panorama should have been one of the palms, and this is a misjudgement from my side. Centering the panorama around the center of the roundabout would have produced a more interesting scene like above. This also played a role in the bad alignment between the two scenes - the scene should have been aligned around the palm that was my zero point (and to which the movement of the tripod was parallel), but I was trying hard to align the two scenes to a new point (which was theoretically parallel as well but not quite accurate).
  • The ground on which I was standing was not even. This produced a change in the elevation of the tripod and the camera configuration after the displacement, and henceforth, another problem was added to the alignment process.
With these problems in mind, I'm hoping that these can be avoided in the future for another experiment like this. I just need the good location with interesting architecture or landscape to work with.
There was a plan to produce and work with a planet projection of this same panorama, but because of some internet problems in the current time I decided to delay this research to be posted in a later time. This would give me also more time to investigate the matter and the other possibilities to produce an adequate panaglyph out of this panorama. Just remember please: DO NOT STARE AT THE ANAGLYPH ABOVE FOR A LONG TIME!

Finale

I have to finish this quick and post it. I'm living a life now where I'm expecting a problem wherever I turn and wherever I go. My only escape would be a vacation outside, which I'm already planning for, hopefully to be in September of October. But I have to wait and see the circumstances. Day by day, I feel my luck is draining, and needless to say, my home is throwing my out. What is home, if you just don't feel the respect you need in it? Would it still be called home?
Everyone is telling me that I need a vacation. Everyone is seeing my bent back and my burnt eyes, and they are advising me of some vacation, far away from home and the work environment. But what can I do with added responsibilities? The least to be done now is to have my short vacation for 2 weeks just to rest my body from the everyday traffic, as well as spend some more time with my camera, and if possible go to Failaka. So many hopes I have for such a short vacation in the homeland, but let's see what is going to be achieved after all...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Halt...

For some reasons I don't understand, this week had been a disaster somehow with lot of problems on my head - home, work, relations, you name it. For this reason, I can't post much for this week. I couldn't do much work with Geltani nor my camera, except for few self portrait to test my flashes (and some items got broken as well). Guess it is one of these weeks that you wish you are just on a vacation, or simply slept and never woke up till it is over.

I've noticed in the statistics of my blog that I've got many visits from Germany for posts when I posted my Alexander story, some 3 years ago or more. If this person is reading this now, I'd be glad to give a direct link for the whole story of Alexander here:


In this link, you will find the English narration arranged in six chapters, as well as an Ayvarith transliteration of the story with sound files after each verse to listen to the language. I'm not a story writer but Alexander was a project to form a dictionary and start making more words for Ayvarith. Unfortunately, the website for Ayvarith was pulled down after Yahoo! stopped supporting GeoCities. I do have the dictionaries still and might one day upload everything back in a new design; it just needs time that I don't own right now...

I'm going to post this for now and have some rest. Things are getting scarier...

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Panafraglypherous...

Well, I made the word in the title up out of boredom. However, it is somehow related to the coming body of the post. This week had been somewhat slow. I think this is related to the day becoming longer right now, and the Maghrib prayer (dusk time) which was due aaround 5 p.m., is now due some time after 6 p.m.. I'm just hoping it won't make for shorter sleeping times, as it is already short! Anyway, I got some ideas that had been partially done, in hope that I would continue the trend in the coming week(s).

Nocturnal

The winter is slowly disappearing, and along with it the chances for long exposures, specially at night. In fact, last weekend, I've been going out at late night (or should I say before dawn time) aimlessly just to grasp the sensation of the last nights of winter. In Kuwait, the spring is hardly a "spring," and unless it is windy and harshly cold, then no long exposures are feasible because it seems that temperatures above 15oC or 20oC have drastic effects on long exposures and the noise level in general; specially with a camera like EOS 7D.

Sternensturm
Canon EF 50mm, f/14, 15m, ISO100.
In one of these nights, I've tried some approach to Kuwait Towers; an area that I deemed as a taboo for some time. With my previous experiences, specially with security guys in some malls (day and night), I thought what makes me approach the towers? Anyway, I had a go with it and this time I planned my visit just one hour or less before the beginning of the twilight of dawn - because this is the time when the lights in the towers and the surrounding area are turned off.
First, I had a trial with Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens but anyway because of the distance and some light sources in the far horizon, the image was really out of composition after all. My main aim at this point was to capture the landscape, but I realized it is a failed attempt because, simply, there is no organization on ground itself. I wanted to leave after this failed trial but then I had the idea of using my 50mm lens and create some abstract with the towers (or maybe a minimalistic approach) with some long exposure, in hope that I get some trails like I did some weeks ago on another side of the beach. The final result, Sternensturm, contained some faint traces of trails but it would need some 100% view to show clearly. This in fact gave me some tiny hope in repeating the same experience but closer to the towers and using a different lens (could be 15mm), but I need to wait and see the weather this coming weekend, as we had some tiny rain showers.

Tick-a-Tick

It was about time to do this experiment, which requires somewhat a strong sun. Since I've been around the Towers area lately, I've decided to finally start with an infrared session shoot for a panorama around that place specifically.

InfraCuvaitum

The experiment was relatively successful. I say relatively because there are some issues I still need to think them through. The panorama, InfraCuvaitum, took around 2 hours and 15 minutes, literally; from 7 a.m. up until 9:15 a.m., excluding the time for setting up the configuration. The panorama, of course, was not shot for HDR processing, but only single RAW files of infrared images. Because my camera is not "converted", i.e. adjusted to allow more IR, by removing the hot-mirror filter on the sensor. For this, each single exposure in the 36-shot process took a time period ranging from 1 minute to 6 minutes. In other words, the whole panorama was done in Bulb mode; not Av nor Manual mode.This in fact was quite an experience!
During the process, I had many visitors; wanted and unwanted. However, because of the long exposure times, they were not recorded persistently on the sensor. In this panorama however, and because of my location relevant to the towers, I had to refer to the planet projection specifically because, otherwise, the towers would look too compressed and out of features. The only way to enhance the tower's look was to use this projection. The sun was harshly blown out (naturally) and hence I had to cut it out of the frame which distorted the square-shaped proportions I usually apply to such images. The sun's flare is still obvious on the right side of the image though.

This experience taught me something about managing the exposures and working in Bulb mode all the way. Mainly, I had to reduce the time of the exposure as the rotational motion of the camera would approach the areas where the sun persists. All that was majorly done by intuition and it was 90% successful, having in mind that these RAW files will be processed to recover highlights and shades. If this method was applied with HDR intention, at night time, I might be able to somehow reduce the rocketing dependence of raising the ISO up to 800 and 1000! Needs patience though, and calm atmosphere.

Panaglyph

This is my new term that I've been using to mark a panorama in 3D (or anaglyph) format. I've been wondering for some time about the possibility of such image because of some paradoxical concepts are involved: while panoramas are supposedly done with the least parallax error, anaglyphs seem to be using this parallax to deliver a 3D illusion to the mind! The solution was simple, and I just can't figure how come I didn't think about it before!

My first "panaglyph"
Click to Enlarge

The concept is, apparently, about creating a difference in perspective. Thus, all what we really have to do is move the camera along some axis to create a change in the perspective. In other words, move the whole set (tripod and camera) to some axis. This simple solution was hidden away from my thinking because I was thinking about the camera's movement alone and I didn't think about the core of the issue: perspective change.
The panorama above is a simple 360o panorama from the vicinity of my home. As you may notice, the separation between the left (red) and the right (blue) layers is increased at he edges of the panorama. However, ghosting artifacts, at least to my eyes, are not persistent even at the edges. If you are looking at this image right now, with 3D glasses (red/cyan) concentrate on the spikes on the top of the door and you will quickly get into the 3D sensation. There are several points though that I've went through and some of them needs more experimentation:

1.
First of  all, and to make things realistic as much as possible, I did  measure  the distance between the centers of my eyes. The distance was about 7 centimeters (~2.75 in). Thus, the displacement of the system should be around this value as you can see from the sketch on the right.

2.  Because we have to displace the system in a straight line for some distance, in any direction, then the center of the panorama, meaning the point that should be at the center when stitching the panorama, must be known beforehand. This is because, this point and angle that will be overlapping (and with the least difference between red and blue fringes). The displacement should be parallel to the plane of that surface or angle, as in the sketch.

3. In the stitching phase, the first panorama is stitched and arranged in the proper manner, then a template is saved from this stitch, and simply applied to the second panorama directly. This is what I've done in the panorama above, but more experimentation is needed specially with a full panorama. I won't be surprised if I get a lot of discrepancies and stitching errors in between the two panoramas.

Now critical questions remain: How would other projections behave under this procedure, specifically the planet projection? Would I be able to coincide an angle other than the one parallel to the displacement? Probably this is hard to do because objects in the planes orthogonal to the displacement direction would change in sizes; either get smaller or bigger. But it is worth a try after all.
Now this is one new field to experiment with - and with summer coming, probably it will involve a lot of indoors capture!

Finale

Now, it is the time that the group had been working with Austria's international photography contest and I've been somewhat busy with this issue in the past week; because I'm the one responsible for this account in their website. The payment will be from my own Paypal, and then I'm supposed to receive the cash money. Let's hope the process is done smoothly. The deadline to submit the images is March 17th and I'm waiting for the rest to upload.
I got some interesting messages and emails concerning some of my images, which made me think again about marketing further somehow to some specific users. Not sure how really but I'll try to flip the idea around my head and see where would I arrive. Apparently, even Flickr can be a good source for marketing when used properly! Furthermore, I'm not sure that the outcome would be something more than a reputation at this stage.
Furthermore, I'm trying to get myself a bit immersed in my work business and related matters despite my concrete knowledge about its futility. With the administration, just like the rest of administrations around this country, I'm not an optimist about creating anything useful, nor raising the awareness about our roles as scientists. I live where administrators who barely know algebra and barely write good Arabic are guiding the general assemblies of the working forces. Imagine the outcome...

They say the best cure for a weary mind is work and getting busy. I'm trying my best so far amid my exhaustion and time limits. Yet, I can't help but to get panic attacks, the fear from the future. Everyone is talking about the collapse of this country; people are getting sicker by the day from the deteriorating conditions, and the general control over people's lives by corporate people and estate owners. Life had stopped here almost, and people don't think of having families of their own. More people are thinking of immigration to a better place. With family pressure, I can't help but to worry more and more. Sometimes it does feel like I was born, just to carry out my injuries alone...




Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ebb Me...

This is one week further, one week steps forward, one week rushing through summer with all its momentum and inertia (says the physicist!). The temperatures are going up, up even to 30oC, and it is just the beginning of March. If you ask me, my photographic opportunities are waning. This week was turbulent somehow and I couldn't do much about it, but I did have some encounters that might be interesting.

Grill Me

In this week, I think I can consider myself lucky, and that I've encountered a miracle myself. This is because of a disaster that was avoided with minimum losses after all. Otherwise, my own camera would have been the price! Let's see the image below and then I will tell the story behind it...

Grilled!

Some people do know already what is this, and for those who do not know, I will tell the story in the following lines:

Source: B&H
I've tried, as you might have seen in previous posts, to take a shot of the sun with some gel ND filter. This time though, I was trying to take a shot of the sun with my Rokinon 800mm mirror lens, and two teleconverters, using infrared filter. Hence I don't have a proper infrared gel filter to fit in the front of the lens (for which the diameter is 105mm). For this reason, I've decided to deal with the matter like I've done with Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens (as well as Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens); that is, to fix the filter at the back of the lens. To do this, I've measured the diameter of the rear end (the exposed lens portion only) of the mirror lens and cut out an equivalent square piece of my Kodak's infrared gel filter (which I already have and cut out a small piece of it for my Canon fisheye). Putting the filter there at the rear of the mirror lens, and connecting to the two teleconverters, and mounted on camera and the whole system was mounted on my Manfrotto telephoto lens adapter, and off I went to the roof to capture the sun.
Source: B&H
On the roof, even though sitting on a chair and working with the camera, I did have hard time to focus and at the end, I couldn't focus at all. Once I get a glimpse of the sun disc, sharpening the image by rotating the focusing ring simply turns erratic and everything goes blank. I gave up after many trials and decided to head to my room and see the results on my monitor to better judge what I was doing.
As I stepped into my room, the aroma of some grill filled the air! Following up the smell a bit, I've found out that it is emanating from my camera! Quickly, I've disconnected the lenses, and smelled the camera up close, but the aroma wasn't there almost. To further check it out, I've connected my Canon EF 50mm lens, and did some check up and everything was fine and the camera wasn't damaged. Back to the lenses, I've gone thoroughly with each part of it, until I discovered the image you see above: a grilled IR gel filter!

Gracefully, no serious damage occurred here except of some blackening of the rear element of the mirror lens because of the soot. Some cleaning was enough. On the other hand, losing a piece of an infrared gel filter is somehow a considerable loss because this 3x3 inch gel filter is not cheap after all! I could have used this square gel filter for my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens in the future! I wonder if it had been better putting some ND in front of the lens like before in a clumsy manner and using the IR filter? For me now, I might never know as I don't want to sacrifice further!

Enlighten Me

With the lack of venting and activities in general from my side (for various reasons), and because of my experience mentioned above with "grilling" the infrared gel filter, I've got a spark of an idea for some experimenting. Macro shot of a light bulb, with infrared filter on. The situation isn't easy because of the heat of course, but the filter in front of the lens generally provided some protection.

Coil Me
Canon EF 50mm + 68mm Extension, f/22, 0.25sec, ISO100.

The experience was merely an abstractive one in general. Probably I can even state that macro shots for non-living objects can be almost categorized into an abstract class - unless, of course, it was for documentation; that would be another story.

Cold Heat
Canon EF 50mm + 68mm Extension, f/22, 0.25sec, ISO100.

Despite trying several angles around the bulb, also changing the length of the tubes, it seems that Coil Me and Cold Heat were the only somewhat attracting shots, in abstractive sense of course. In the beginning, I didn't try any extraordinary processing for the image in Coil Me but changed my mind with the second one, Cold Heat, and decided to do a channel swap.
In my schedule I had a plan for an infrared panorama, which would require lot of time, effort, and sun! However, no chance was delivered to my door steps...

Finale

I'm resisting an ebb. An ebb reaching almost everything in my life right now. Many setbacks on the domestic front. I even envision a violence outcome in the near future - probably that would be the only way to show or emphasize some respect to some people.
The question is, if home isn't home, and work doesn't feel like paying respect, where would one go?
I do have the urge to move elsewhere. Far away. Yet, I can't simply forget about the people I care for in here. All I can do is dream of a vacation. Isn't amazing how foreigners can know you (and appreciate you) more than your close circle?

Back to my plans. My mind is sparked for a revival for the idea of a 3D panorama, beside doing a 3D project for my work place (specially after receiving a set of 30 anaglyph glasses red/cyan). The idea I have in my mind for a 3D panorama requires patience and lot of work (in time aspect). Thus, I might try to do a simple 360o panorama instead of a full one.
In the meantime I've been working with the group as well to sort out some images for Austria's international photography contest. As per the leader's opinion, 8 of my images are now on the queue for the final sorting trial next Saturday, March 8th. I leave you now with the sorted images so far...

Click To Enlarge