Thursday, April 20, 2017

InfraVideo…

After having a vacation from almost everything for one week, I think it is time to pin down this blog, even though it is hard for me because things had been drastic a bit lately and my mood is in great swing lately. However, I'm trying to work on some stuff and I will try to post about some of my thoughts here. I wasn't going to type it but it is due after leaving it for a week!

Meanwhile I'm working on various things, mainly videos. It's just getting interesting with me exploring various filters and recording videos from my car as I used to do in the old days (with my small car back then). I'm working on that slowly and I've learned bits of videography already, but sure not like a professional anyway; I still don't have a shotgun mic even! But before delving into these videos, I've prepared a video some time ago for a hypercube (a.k.a. tesseract, 4D Cube) toy which I've created using playing straws.

video

The object is made by interlacing 2 cubes of straws and then connecting the corners, which was not to be done without bending the straws making what it looked like circles when viewed from the sides. I've created another model but it was not successful like this unfortunately, where 2 cubes are fit one inside the other, but again because of the bending in connectors between corners, the view was not "organized" so to say. Meanwhile, I'm trying to build a model of a hypercube using wooden pieces and some kind of glue (tried Tack-It already but didn't work properly). I'm planning to use such models for future photographic missions if possible. I might find inspiration there.

On the other hand, I got back to my habit of doing videos while driving but this time using filters to see the general look. surprisingly, fitting the tripod inside my Pajero is harder than fitting it into my small Seat before, probably because of the differences in design. My first trial was with B+W 092 infrared filter which has a threshold of about 650nm (or it might be 700nm). Such filter is supposed to let some color in when processing the images.


video

I'm showing here the video without audio track (meh, useless!). Luckily, the camera didn't flip with the tripod inside the car as I was roaming around. Hope you enjoy the marvelous views of how cars and trucks act like marbles thrown randomly on the floor! One of the concepts I've learned online about videography is that you must keep things in manual (to be more professional). However, in this video above, I've let things be automatic. I've used Voigtländer 20mm lens here which is semi-manual, thus I'm not sure if the aperture did change during the recording. Anyway, shutter speed and ISO are surely to be changing depending on the lighting conditions in front of the lens. I've increased the EV to +1 to be on the safe side while recording but I ended up reducing the brightness and adjusting the contrast because of that when editing the video in Photoshop (yes, Photoshop). I was dedicated though to record a video without any automated process, and I'm not sure if this rule would really be applied or could be applied to special video recording like this one under infrared filter (or UV). Anyway, I did it!

video

To shoot this video though, I had to change the settings for the tripod as well just because I changed the filter, since the filter is a gel filter which is placed at the back of my Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens, and thus I had to re-fold the tripod in such a way to get the camera to the front more to concentrate the view on the windshield as much as possible.
The filter in the second video is Kodak's infrared gel filter with threshold of 1000nm. You might notice how it looks more like a night vision video clip, but it was really shot in morning time. In this video, I've used complete manual settings and I had to make a compromise. The smaller version of the video here might look "clear" somehow and smooth, but the original had a significant noise level apparent while watching, since I was using ISO 4000. I had to reduce the f-number down to f/5.6 or less while fixing the shutter speed to 1/50s. I wanted to shoot at f/8 or f/11 to ensure the depth of field but that was out of question. The shutter speed here is related to the FPS rate which I've picked at 24fps, and according to some rules of thumb from the literature around the internet, the shutter speed should be equal to: 1/(2 x fps). But this point is actually sparking my interest and I want to try slower shutter speeds if possible to see how the video would look! However, probably these rules of thumb in the literature are more confined to normal video shooting and not for such conditions with special filters applied! There are a number of points I've noticed in this video though which I didn't really see in the previous video shot with B+W 092 infrared filter of 650nm threshold:
  • Some trees are bright and some are dark, so I think some plants were reflecting IR indeed and some were absorbing IR, the despite the general lack of sunshine!
  • Some car lights (brakes or signaling) were brighter than they are in reality! While some signaling from some cars didn't show up in the recording at all! I think this is related to the IR issued in each bulb type, maybe?
Away from the noise level which is somewhat annoying for me, I think the results were fascinating actually; to see a real difference in the light levels and light receptions between a video in IR and reality!
In the process, I've realized that whatever color space the camera is set to, the video is in fact recorded in sRGB. When loaded into Photoshop, it will adapt to the default working color space of Photoshop (which I set to ProPhoto) but the rendering of the video would not be "fit" if I can call it so. The colors would be so saturated and working around that is a tedious task (if it can be fixed anyway), and thus working with infrared videos I have the habit now to convert everything to sRGB first. The vivacity of the colors are not pretty much required anyway as much as it is so when working with HDR slides and tone-mapping in regular images, as I usually do!

Finale

I'm passing through some weird timing here as I'm slowing down the pace of my work with the camera (excluding the videos). I had to withdraw from the project of April within the group. After getting sick and getting slow recovery (some coughing remain though) my body and mind are not functioning well together. Despite the relative easiness or commonality of the topic for April's project (shadows and reflections), yet my mind could not come up with a good idea to perform or try.
with Ramadhan getting closer, it seems more likely I'm going to sacrifice some days from my leaves balance, and take a leave during the month or most of it after experiencing it last year with summer semester rolling in and record heat struck back then. I'm not ready to experience this at all. I'm not sure that I will be able to travel anyway but I was hoping for to more days in my balance instead of spending some right now. I have to pick the starting and ending dates still which I cannot decide and settle with yet.
I'm feeling detached, and working on detaching myself further in fact. I need to get back to my activity before. I think being a member in a group is slowing me down for the time being. When I see the number of experiments with my camera in the years before and after joining the group, I clearly see that I had more experimental work done before. Not to say they are good pictures, but I used to work, and work... I was in mood to work with my camera, as well as other projects, like my Ayvarith and other conlangs. As I'm reading more books about Arabic phonology and language to get more educated about my own native tongue, I get even more eager to work with conlangs, but yet I have to find the time for them…



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, April 6, 2017

V and V…

Sickness had rendered me idle for the past week (still) and other matters kept me busy from writing in this blog. Meanwhile, I'm also trying to find a good topic to write about in my Arabic Blog. Not much had been going on,, except of some trials with vine leaves, and some videos. Yes, videos.

Vinology

On the same lane as Pearology in the previous post, I was doing some experiments with vine leaves as part of March project with the group. I didn't post these images last time so I think now it is the time. My start, as usual was experimental, as I did not plan anything but I was sure that special filters like IR or UV do have something to offer; after all, foliage is the main target to set white balance (usually) when performing landscape IR shots.

Veins
Canon EF 100mm Macro + 092 IR, f/16, 250-1sec, ISO100.


My beginnings were random in fact. It is usually advised to examine the object with a magnifying lens before doing a macro job, but as usual with me I just rush things and "experiment" whatever there is to be offered. My start with Veins was to place a transparent (acrylic) board on top to make it flatter, and then try my best with speedlites to light the sides through the board alone; in other words, no light beams from the speedlites should escape and cross the lens' front. The result was interesting somehow and giving some depth with the play in highlights and shadows, making it look like a surreal landscape pictured from above. I'm aware of the tiny vessels or veins, so I was trying to emphasize these features as I was processing the RAW file. This image, Veins, being an infrared shot, did not undergo any channel swapping techniques to produce the colors seen here, but simply an increase in vibrancy and other factors.

Veins II
Canon EF 100mm Macro + 403 UV + Tiffen Hot Mirror, f/20, 250-1sec, ISO100


Then it was the time for trying out a UV filter (with IR-Cut filter), which in time I've taught myself to be more "graceful" and "accepting" for this combination of filters, as I will explain later. I think the result here was not interesting as much as the one done in IR, and moreover I was perplexed with the noise, as some blue spots made it hard to decide whether these are real noise artifacts or a by-product of using a UV filter!

100% Crop from Veins II. The blue spots cover the surface and it was not easy to remove them as well!

Reading further about UV photography, I've become more accepting to the gear I have, despite the fact that even my lenses do have anti-UV coating, but it seems we can compromise some aspects (like, doing a long exposure in a converted camera?). According to this website, most UV filters do indeed leak IR at some region and using hot mirrors (like I do here) is a must, though various hot mirrors exist and they vary in their blocking capabilities for IR band. Thus, with this little gap of about 50nm in IR region between the 403 UV filter and Tiffen Hot Mirror, it seems something acceptable. The question is though, what or where can I find a good UV source for lighting the scene (for indoors), which is something I'm still researching.
It was a time then I had to leave it like that and forget about it, and then come back to continue to work with the same vine leaf which now became dry. To my surprise, dryness provided more "creativity" than the original wet one!

Vine City
Canon EF 100mm + 092 IR, f/32, 250-1sec, ISO100.

At this level, the minor veins separating the cells on the leaf became more visible, specially after converting the image to B&W. The thing though, my problems with my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens had just began! Despite using f/32 and speedlites to provide much light (which they did), but f/32 seemed not sharp enough. Truth be said, I've totally forgot about the lens testing I've done for this lens long time ago, where the sweet spot in fact lies at f/8. It was time also to change perspective, which also, for a dried leaf, made a good composition after all despite the unexpected shallow depth from this f/32 problem!

Arousal
Canon EF 100mm + 092 IR, f/32, 2m15s, ISO100.

At this point, when Arousal was shot, I've given up with the speedlites and decided to do it as it is with the available room light, and thus it took such a long exposure for more than 2 minutes. The upper left corner suffers from overexposure and generally speaking, the left side seems to be out of focus. I can't remember, at that moment, whether I was using the acrylic board on the top or not, but further experimenting proved that the lens is misbehaving at f/32, in terms of depth, as well as in measuring the proper exposure required! Whether this behavior is related to using the LiveView or not (though doubt it), or whether it is prevalent only with my converted Canon camera is something still under inspection (which I couldn't do further because of sickness). Anyway, that didn't keep me from going on with my plans and did more shots using my UV and IR-Cut combination…

Veins III
Canon EF 100mm Macro + 403 UV, f/8, 4m16s, ISO100.

This time, I've continued my work with a "fresh" (if I can call it so) vine leaf which was wet when spread over the table. After many shots and trials with and without speedlites, I've decided to go without any speedlite (even better to reduce the IR intake) and to remove the acrylic board from the top. The final UV shot, Veins III, made it in about 4 minutes and 16 seconds; Yep, a long exposure with this filter with a converted camera! After editing the RAW file a bit, I refrained from converting the image to B&W as I guess the bluish hue is more pleasant to the eyes. The final composition was enhanced using the Rabatment of The Rectangle method, making the main vein as a divider. At this point, all my ideas were exhausted and I was having fun with some videos with filters and checking my capabilities to edit them using Photoshop (yep, not Premiere).

UltraVideo

The prime goal for me was to, have fun. Yes. I wanted to check the difficulty of recording a video with a heavy filter such as B+W's 403 Black UV in addition to Tiffen's Standard Hot Mirror, and then I continued experimenting further with IR filters. Notice that in the coming videos I had to reduce the size and quality for uploading purposes.

video

For your sanity's sake, I'd go with this video on silent mode! Here we have the original video made by 403 Black UV filter + Tiffen's hot mirror. The looks are quite similar to an infrared rendering in fact (and for this I'm always suspicious of the validity of such filter!). I had a minor problem first with editing the video and adjusting the colors as needed since I don't have Adobe Premiere, and though I know that Photoshop does open some video files, but I didn't realize at the time that I was actually working with the 64-bit version of CS5 (yeah, that old), which has limited features (Not sure why!); e.g. incapability of duplicating layers when working in HDR, and opening video files. Thus, problem was solved by switching to the regular 32-bit Photoshop CS5 (Extended), and the edit was as easy as working with a single shot! However, the drawback here is that no sound is rendered with the video, either while playing it in Photoshop or after exporting it from Photoshop. Thus, I had to go around this problem with a minor, no need to mention it here.

video

To adjust the white balance in this instance I referred to an old method which I use sometimes to fix color casts in JPEG images (remembering, editing a video in Photoshop is in terms of layers just as done with regular images). This method uses the Photo Filter adjustment layer and picking a color with the picker from a grey or a white surface (or any foliage form maybe?) and reversing the signs for the A and B channels in the LAB system. Without going deeper into details here, the video right up is the final product of such technique plus swapping the Red and Blue channels just like in singular shots. However, I've tried another method later on.

video

Without testing my humble B+W 092 Infrared filter, I've decided to jump right away to the extreme: Rokinon 8mm Fisheye lens plus Kodak's gel Infrared filter (with threshold almost equal to 1000nm). This filter is so opaque that with a regular camera and in a sunny day, it might require an exposure of 2 to 5 minutes. I was eager to see a video with such filter and how it would act. In fact, nothing abnormal about it. As it can be seen from the video above, the typical purple/magenta that come with such filters is there, and even after adjusting the colors it would be almost as it is in regular IR shots done with this gel filter.

video

Here in this video, I've adjusted the white balance using a manual method of "shifting" the histogram (by means of changing the Gamma value) for each channel: R, G, and B; and let them coincide with each other as much as possible. This method, even though manual, but has lot of potential because the range of possibilities is wider. Not to say that the LAB method is limited, but in the LAB white balance fix, we usually aim for something white or grey (mentally). As for the Levels method and changing Gamma value, the histograms for the three channels can meet at any point along the line. The video above looks close to B&W but it's not quite so, as it has a slight cyan tint, but after all this is natural because the threshold is quite high (1000nm); the higher the threshold, the closer to B&W an infrared shot would be.
Now, remains the big hassle which is the fact that any editing, whether using LAB signs reversing, or Levels to adjust the Gamma value, these two work as per a single frame from the video and their effects take all over the video; meaning a single frame would decide how the video should look! Now, I'm not an expert videographer, but probably there is a way to edit a cluster of frames in one video in various ways in Photoshop (pretty sure it is more complicated in other specialized editors like Premiere), but that might take a long time (and it takes long time already when rendering and adding effects to such small videos). Thus, my best bet is to look for a suitable frame and work on that frame to adjust the white balance in either method. I have some ideas running in my head now as I'm typing this but I'll keep those for later! Too bad that I could not find a UV-pass filter in gel format to fit with any of my fisheye lenses (and if there is, we would also need a gel IR hot mirror filter as well). I'll keep searching…

Finale

My sickness had gone down a bit for now but the cough surely tire my body off. I got some plans pending right now as well as the work for April's project, which involves working with reflections and shadows. I might get to merge this project with my own investigations about some geometrical shapes (hypercubes specifically).
Meanwhile, I think it is getting serious here and a plan for a travel must be made up ASAP. The idea of visiting Failaka island before getting too hot is also in the atmosphere but I would sure need to book a 1-week leave from work for this trip, beside arrangements before commitment. With the world going crazy it makes me feel a bit down whenever I think of traveling; I don't think I'm ready for the security hustles and bustles. The peace of mind is my main aim for traveling away from this place, not to exchange it with other annoyances. Anyhow, such activities are surely not for this summer, but for after summer, as usual; further away from the tourism season. Till then, I'll keep dreaming…



Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Pearology…

Standing there at the end of a stress period, trying to have some breath to myself. Yet some more ideas and work is waiting for me to go through and test. Anyway, I've been working in the past weeks on March project, which is about shooting geometric concepts for fruit, fish or birds. I had to neglect some ideas for now, like working with fish skulls as it proved harder to get than I thought! Thus, I've been satisfying myself with pears and feathers so far!

Pear-ing

From the very beginning I was looking for some lines. And since regular lines might seem a bit boring, I've decided to look for curvy lines, and naturally my thought lead me to use pears! I've tried many settings and the start was pretty simple.

Linear Pear
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/16, 100-1sec, ISO100.

It seems in the beginning I was affected a bit with my previous work about tessellations, and fitting parts together. This is exactly what I prepared with 3 pears putting them side to side as in Linear Pear. Using f/16 to ensure enough depth drove consequently to use two 580EXII speedlites at full power. My preferred method in lighting had been mostly bouncing the light, thus I needed a free hand (and to rest my back a bit!), thus I've used the lateral arm over my tripod to hang the camera pointing down directly; this also assured that the camera is perfectly (almost) at 90o down. While putting the camera on timer, I've held a white cardboard over the set to bounce the flash from. I still needed to add some Fill Light when processing the RAW file and did some cropping as well. Can't say though I like it a lot, specially with curves not being, well, curvy! But I've tried.

Left Hand
Canon EF 50mm+B+W 920 IR, f/22,
200-1sec, ISO100.
After the first experiment in a while a bit of philosophy got twirling in, and I was back to the set and with pears again (but I could have used any fruit really). We can say the idea was about casting different opinions than the others, or simply being a left-handed person in a right-handed world. So, I needed to cast shadows in different directions and with a bit of precision. Using speedlites simply like that did not work of course and only two totally different snoots are available with different shapes. It was a time to improvise, and there is indeed an old method that I've tried before, back in time when I was a beginner with speedlites (and had only one). This idea requires: Pringles!
Pringles Snoots!
This is what I call a "light with flavor."
I'm glad that I've created these right now, as I come to think about it, there are a number of uses that might prove beneficial in the near future! The old method I've done this was by cutting the plastic lid to place the flash head, and remove the metallic bottom of the canister. However, I think this method was useless and it would be better to cut open the bottom and the place the head there, while using the plastic cover as a diffuser of some sort. We can add, for example, a white piece of paper to the back of this cover to increase the diffusion, or maybe add a black material or paper with a tiny hole to drastically decrease the radial dispersion of the outgoing light. There is quite a potential for this simple improvised tool, I think. However, I had some problems fitting the 580EXII heads and I had to tear some sides to enable the circular cross area to expand in an oval curvature.
Back now to Left Hand, I've decided to use my converted EOS 7D and my B+W 920 infrared filter to add a bit of mystery and move away from the traditional. The snoots worked fine, despite some gray areas in between the pears but I don't think it is disadvantage. Now, whether this shot is geometric in its means or not, this is something left to the critique to decide.

Zwischen
Canon EF 100mm macro + UV 403 + IR-Cut, f/22, 1sec, ISO100.

Then, there was a visit back to the first idea of using the negative space but by other means. Instead of using 3 pears, I've used 2 only placed side to side within some distance. To add to the atmosphere, I've used UV-pass filter (B+W 403) and adding Tiffen's IR-Cut filter on top (B+W's filter leaks a major band of IR at 700nm), and this of course needed great flash power, and I ended up using all my 3 speedlites, bouncing them off a white board placed on the top of the set. It seems with Zwischen I've become closer to the main idea of creating a negative space but there was something about the direction of the curves that somehow probably made it easily obvious for the viewer to know that there is a space between two objects; regardless of their recognition. It occurred to me that I might as well rotate the image; a common trick I usually tend to use to make an interesting outcome out of a regular/boring image. Quite useful for abstracts.

Zwischen II

It seems, to me at least, that rotating the image is the right choice when this image is to be displayed. I've also swabbed the Red and Blue channels in Zwischen II. Now in between the Red version and the Blue version, there is also a change of moods and feelings when looking at this. I think the Red version sparks with mystery, while the Blue version points to a calm atmosphere. This is my own sensing about it though and I can't generalize these feelings. Adding to that, I've start to develop my own ideology or chain of thoughts and style if I can call it so, but I will put these thoughts down in the Finale.

I moved then to work with feathers for a short while and I have to say it was sort of hard to work with them and create something geometric (despite the fact that they are linear in nature!), but I was aiming for something more than some macro shots like before. It was hard to think of something, but first thing to occur to my mind was order. I tried to arrange the feathers in sets on play-doh but didn't work in a good way, thus I've moved to using paper clips to hold the feathers stems firmly. Moving in between ideas, I've come out with shots, and some of them were discarded for being washed-out and over-exposed, and some few good ones needed great cropping.



Well, I won't go through the details of these shots, but all were taken with change of angles and such (and even after cropping, some image rotation was involved). Now, the critical "shot" was kept till the end. Despite using f/22, there was still some gaps in the depth of field and there was a call for a focus stack. However, I was so lazy to put the rail head, thus I relied on moving the focal plane manually by the lens back and forth.

Green Red

The final result, Green Red, suffered some errors nevertheless. Though might not be quite visible in this smaller version but it definitely is in the original size. The major setback is the fact that there are gaps in the stack and some areas remained blurred after the merge of these 3 shots. There was also a portion of a yellow feather which I was not paying attention to, which made quite a disturbance in the scene in the middle (between first red and second green feathers, from left). Worked it out with Healing Brush and Cloning but it doesn't seem quite right when viewed in the original. Anyway, it was an experiment to gain experience and I don't think this image would be any good for stock sites or for expos. If I get the chance to re-do it, I might do so with a bit of careful picking and placements with those feathers, with respect to their colors.
Finally, I've worked out some shots with maple (or vine?) leaves but I'll keep that for another post, as I didn't process much of these images and I still need to shoot further!

Finale

Coming to this project, March's project that is, I think I'm starting to become more conscious on how to work with ideas. This came to me as I was inspecting Zwischen all over again, and realized that working with negative space (or trying to at least) seems to be an unconscious reflect on a feminine body (pardon a single man's thought). However, if we change or switch the mindset to "conscious" instead of "unconscious" we might happen to arrive at some methodology to work in the future with still life and abstract projects, as in some kind of a translation machine for feelings into objects, and probably not necessarily objects of related topic. Sounds something psychologic in nature, but it is sparking ideas already.
Meanwhile, I'm sitting here waiting for summer with its scorching heat to come over and destroy the peace of mind (momentary peace of mind) that was there. Traveling is indeed a dream with one full year without any travel but I'm not sure yet what will happen within this house, and where I'm supposed to head to. Stress is stacking. All along, I'm keeping my ears amused by the voice of Sabah Fakhri and try to draw inspiration as much as possible from there… I was supposed to work with other projects with conlangs, wasn't I?

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mental Stack…

Finishing with February, and now March begins with the typical pressure and stress for the many activities I must get involved in. Now after the ending of the Italian Style contest, I think it is OK to post my work here. Beside that I've been busy with February's project, as well as working with March's project. Adding to that, a Comic Con expo which we got involved in, and submitting images and orchestrating our participation in Austria's International Photography Contest (Trierenberg Circuit). Just reading these titles makes me feel exhausted already.

Settimana Italiana

I've talked previously about this contest related to the Italian Style Week (or simply Italian Week). Every participant is allowed one image into the contest. I've posted one 3D rendering of a shot some weeks ago in this blog (in B&W) but nothing more I think, so I'm going to post more shots from a single place in which I've worked for this contest: The Scandinavian House. Well, despite the name, it does have Italian furniture!

A Game of Scopa


First comes my participation image. It was the first thing to work on as I got in, and I've spent quite a time to center and put on some props (clothing and Scopa cards), and by mistake, I've placed a traditional rosary (for men) behind the vase which made it mostly invisible from that angle. The image didn't win anyway, probably because that Italian elements are not prominent in it. Anyway, the work is still going on to render more projections out of this panorama, which I might post more of in this blog later on.

Planeta Scopa


Moreover, later after shooting this panorama, I've wandered around to see any opportunities. Just recently, I've discovered a shot that I've made with my converted camera without using any filters, which I've neglected previously for its lack of interest and other technical problems. However, I noticed that I've shot it a number of times and with some shift in perspective, which sparked the idea of creating an anaglyph out of it. Which I did!

Il Vaso (3D)

The white balance here was fixed during the edit which rendered the colors back to normal (almost) as if it was taken with a regular camera. It is a hard task to make a concrete anaglyph using a fisheye lens, thus some ghosting effect is still obvious at some areas, but probably focusing on the edge of the vase or the rosary would pop the effect out.
Another shot was taken raising my Rokinon 8mm fisheye high up above a long table, being on a tripod itself. Took several shots to pick one from and then the shot undergone a distortion fix process with DxO. Not quite to my liking though, but I tried hard to keep some lines straight and the bowl round perfectly but that didn't go well it seems. Yet the shot was too simple and I didn't submit it to the contest of course. It might serve as a concept for minimalism though!

I Biscotti


Then there is the previously posted in 3D shot, which I've re-processed from a single RAW this time. Looking at it right now, I wish that I've shot it with my Canon EF 50mm at f/1.4 or f/2.8 at least to have more of a blurred background. However, I've this shot using Voigtländer 20mm, at its widest aperture at f/3.5. Good perspective and sharpness (even though manually checked), but the background needs more blurring to reduce the distraction away from the glassware. I did crop a large portion from the sides just to reduce the distraction and balance the image more (but not perfectly).

L'Urna


In all, this might be all that have been interesting for me in this place. Now, I'm busy working with other projects still and preparing many other things.

Feabhra

February (Feabhra) was the month of the national days (Independence and Liberation days) on 25th and 26th. For this reason, the project for this month was to be about Kuwait in general. To roll back the memory a bit, our group now had established an activity with this year's beginning, by picking a topic (sometimes by vote) for every month, and members involved in this activity must shoot from 1 to 3 images in that picked up theme.

بلداً آمنا (Safe Place)
Canon EF 50mm, f/2, 250-1sec, ISO160.

Flag of Kuwait
My first trial for this project was with my mother and her colored rosary resembling the flag of Kuwait. I needed an old hand to resemble the old age which, for the time being, is often attached (mentally) to wisdom and faith; beside the fact that the rosary is hers given as a gift! I've taken several shots (and had some struggles with my speedlite). At the end I've picked this shot. In all shots, I was setting the focus point at the Arabic word [آمنا: safe] and as I was changing the angles to see a better view, the word just vanished from sight at times. However, I've struggled to satisfy myself with the depth of field, and finally decided to settle with f/2 here. The critical point though came after, when friends brought my attention to the fact that the rosary is encircling the specific phrase in the page (with a meaning almost the opposite of what I wanted in the line above); which delivers a meaning not what I really wanted in the first place. Anyway, now I've been busy with other things and I have no time to re-shoot this, but if need be, and if required after the critique, I might shoot it again.

Kuwait Print
Canon EF 50mm + ET, f/22, 250-1sec, ISO100.

My next shot was inspired by a logo. A logo which was used for the Martyrs Bureau; an institution which was established after 1990-1991 war to take care of the affairs of martyrs of Kuwait and their families. The logo was composed for a fingerprint sketch colored with the flag's colors. I've used face-painting colors here on my brother's index finger, and though I did a random sketch and splashing, it did seem appropriate to have a more organized set of colors (which he did paint later on). The  real struggle was with the bulky tripod and lens (with extension tubes). To add to my frustration, I've added a rail to the tripod, while pointing the camera 90o down (I wanted my brother to place his finger on a table top so his muscles would be relaxed). I thought of doing a focus-stack in the beginning but shooting at f/22 seemed just about enough (using one speedlite on the side). Even though I do own a simple LED ring light, but when it comes to f/8, its maximum power is barely enough, not to say at f/22! Thus, I needed to use a speedlite with its maximum power or so, at a close distance. Modifiers here were hard to use so I had to depend on changing the direction of the speedlite and play with its power a bit to get a proper exposure (with the help of the processing power for RAWs!). Looking at it now, I think I should have made it in portrait orientation instead.

Kuwait Eye
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 1/2sec, ISO400.

RoundFlash
Source: B&H
The last one in the list was the real puzzle. Using a high power flash made the flag's reflection disappear from the eye, while reducing the power did not help with the exposure (and eventually would need a longer exposure in parts of a second and that caused shake). In the beginning, my brother was my subject, and I used his iPad to reflect the flag from it on the eye, but he couldn't cope for long with the strong flash strikes. Thus, my sister took his place. Using light modifiers didn't help either. It was obvious that I needed to take the shot with ambient light and without using any speedlite but that was hard because of the shake. By trial and error, I've finally got a somewhat better view using the RoundFlash and raising the ISO. It was a compromise, since the reflection of the light ring did fall on the eye as well (naturally) beside the flag. Up till this very moment, I'm thinking about fixing this problem but no solution occurred to me yet. Many people insist that such effect is in fact a graphic editing, but I'm sure there is a way to do it (beside having the subject wear a contact lens with specific design, which is a harder option for me of course). I'll keep thinking about that and we'll see what will be the result!

Finale

Now, many things are weighing on my shoulders; at home, work, and the group. It seems to me that those psychological tricks to do things one by one and not thinking about the overall load - seems these tricks are not working with me here. I'm slowly saying goodbye to winter, which is a sad time for me actually.
Our group is participating in a Comic-Con expo for 3 days and I will be there helping other members for some time, so I might document the event; If I had the mood to. For the time being, I have to keep thinking of some more ideas for March project: Geometry via birds, fishes or fruit. Quite challenging, but I have some ideas already. The real challenge now is actually doing these ideas and having the materials available! I'm trying to keep my mind busy here; as busy as possible. But I'm not sure I would be able to hold that for long…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Retina…

Exhaustive week and actually I could barely find the time to type this blog down. Many activities (and mishaps) are going on and to add to the load, some photos need to be re-done. Anyway, I will try to go through this quickly if I can (and maybe have nap? well...). I was busy before this week with the writing for an Arabic articlefor my Arabic blog, for beginners with some lighting methods and names (specially to Arabize some technical terms). For this reason, I was not able to post any thing here.

Awareness Month

February of every year is named as Awareness Month for Retinitis Pigmentosa, a genetic disease that I suffer from already (beside an older brother and an older sister). I did one shot last year which took a lot of time from me but the result were not to the level I hoped for, but well, it was something done with gratitude.

Despite
February, 2016.


This year, I've remembered the fact by coincidence (via @rp_hub on Instagram), and decided to do something quickly because I had my load of work to be done already. Since the most significant feature about Retinitis Pigmentosa is the tunnel vision and the loss of peripheral field of vision (slowly to complete blindness in extreme cases), thus I've decided to depict that.
I've used here a small snoot (by impact) made specifically for speedlites. I had to unscrew the back of the snoot and fit my lens there. It was a matter of time to balance the camera, but as the problem prevails here, it was hard to center my eye (working alone as usual). In the beginning I was working with Voigtländer 20mm lens, but it occurred to me that since the lens will inside the snoot already, why not go big with a real fisheye: Rokinon 8mm; which it was.

Peripheral Damage
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/16, 100-1sec, ISO100.


Despite the hard conditions here (everything is dark and light hard to reach inside) but I had to work with f/16. I've used all my speedlites here (3 of them), putting 2 close to my face and one at the back in hope it slips some light inside the snoot. Did many shots and probably this was the best, and I've discovered that the dramatic impact can be improved (and also eliminating some color problems) by simply switching to B&W. At the final stages of processing, I've sharpened the central circle only. The leader of our group liked the idea but he preferred the eye to be at the center, and that's why I need to re-do it!

Rotundum

In a moment of boredom, inspiration seemed to strike me out of nowhere. Now I'm wondering how come I didn't think of it long ago!? The whole thing started with a cup of Turkish coffee on weekend. I've always wanted to take pictures for the inside of the cup, since I've been hooked to this type of coffee. The purpose? Well, cup reading. My silly thoughts lead me even to do a panorama in some way from inside the cup in some way, but with time, the idea died out in my mind. However, with my new mobile phone and its camera, I was ready to play around and got some good results!

Turkish Coffee

I have to say that I didn't expect such result from playing around with Photoshop. Probably, however, that the object (or cup) should be curvy and does not form a perfect cylinder from the outside to have some sufficient details as in Turkish Coffee. Anyway, the method was simply that of changing the the coordinates from polar to rectangular, and that way a circular object would be flattened. Yet, I had to experiment with other circular cross-sections.
This method, now, sparked me mind for more ideas as I'm looking around for circular objects to be shot from the top (and in fact this is not the first time for me to be fascinated by the Circle). On the list I have mugs of various liquids as well as ordinary objects, like a pack of coloring pencils!

Pencilorama

I'm not stopping at this limit though. I've been trying already to see if any QTVRs are possible or could produce some interesting results. The view was surreal...


Peripheral Damage in QTVR.


Source: Amazon
This technique is not something new in fact; it is indeed one of the earliest methods to establish panoramas and fake-planets (fake-planets as in a planet formed from a single image instead of a real stitched panorama). The thing here is about reversing the technique and converting the circle into a rectangular. The original technique involves shooting a mirror ball from various angles to form several images of the place and then converting these circular shots to rectangles. Such technique was discussed with some detail in Christian Bloch's The HDRI Handbook; I have an earlier edition but there had been updates to the book! Even though such technique for panoramas seems to be obsolete by now (not sure) but still such things and techniques are worth learning!

Finale

Now I've been busy with the arrival of Austria's International Photography contest (Trierenberg Circuit) and many things on my table, beside the monthly project. I had some ideas to shoot but unfortunately the time slipped out of my hand and I couldn't submit some of these ideas to the specific sorting meeting for images of members for this contest. Ah well... 
I still have things to be done and some images to be re-made in hope that they will pass the second sorting process. Working alone in this gives me many back pains. I can't wait to have some proper sleep. But seems I won't be having that until I travel out for some time…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Feathers…

Many things are going around lately and kept away from the blog for a week, beside preparing for a post in my other Arabic Blog too. I was going to cancel a post for this week too after a little incident and spraining my right foot, but things seem better now. Anyway, I will try to be quick here (and every time I say this I end up with a long post!).

Eanáir

I've stated before in previous post that there was a stack of projects on my desk (well, virtual desk that is) and I was going through them slowly. One of these projects is related to the month of January (which is Eanáir in Irish) with the group re-establishing this activity: A project for every month. This month's theme was Black and White with no specific limits to the subject to be involved. I previously had some ideas and after stating this theme, I thought I might merge the two together, specially after the lack of materials!

Entwine Series

I had some ideas already as I said, and I was looking already for white feathers, and then changed my mind to black feathers, but well, I couldn't find any. I was looking for the feathers for another project under a workshop entitled Art of Seeing which finished back in December! However, with the arrival of this project for January, I started to merge the two.
Since I couldn't find either black or white, and only colored ones (red, green and yellow), I thought it would be fitting now to shoot in B&W and mimic the black and white feathers! As thoughts were racing through, I made some abstract experimenting with macro shots as seen in Entwine Series above. I've made several shots and filtered them down to 3 only, and then asked for a vote from the group members to see which composition is, to them, feels better. Most of them picked #2 (the middle one), and this is the one which was submitted. I'm keeping the others for various projects as well; I like them still!

I went on working on some ideas and nothing worked out, but I had to move quickly from one to the other for the lack of time I was suffering with! A substitute idea was to throw some feathers on my Omani dagger and capture the moment in high-speed. Unfortunately, didn't turn as I wanted it to be for many factors, like space available and lenses, but I've sorted the shots into final 7, and again, asked the group to vote for one.

Aftermath Series

The vote picked #2 here too. I was hoping to record the motion of the feathers, but working alone didn't make things easier for me even with a 10-second timer. Anyway, I had to satisfy myself with these results after changing from the course of the main idea: A feather penetrating a knife; as I couldn't apply this idea in any possible way I could think of. My goal was impressionistic endeavor of how gentleness could come over sharpness and savagery. Thus, throwing feathers on a dagger merely has a potential for something or some idea. In fact, it was done completely randomly with no specific philosophical idea in mind! Anyway, image #2 was submitted as well.
I got special drilling bits later on, to drill a hole in a knife to apply the idea I was seeking in the first place, but it's too late now with my lack of time and I would, and should, be applying that some time later. However, for the irony, I loved the patterns and luster for those drilling bits, and decided to include it with my submission.

Golden Strips
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/32, 250-1sec, ISO200.

I took many shots at different angles, and had many problems with the flash systems (which I really find a solution for!). I was using 430EXII Speedlite here mainly, reflecting it off a reflector (silver car shade in fact). To my surprise, this speedlite specifically has no inlet for external power source, and thus I had to work solely on batteries, and in time, the power of the flash diminishes: The 1/1 power with full batteries is not as much as 1/1 power when batteries are low. I even made several shots in hope to make a focus stack (f/32 was not enough to include the whole depth of field!) but sorting through the files later on, I realized I didn't do the stacking right; it still needs a rail to do it correctly which was not at hand back then. Anyway, I'm satisfied with Golden strips, which was converted to B&W and tinted with golden hue (#ffd700). Originally, the bits got a slight yellowish tint but reflecting the flash turns them more into silver tint. This is the only shot which was not purely B&W shot but a tinted shot in my submission.

Art of Seeing

This was the title of a workshop that was over with in December and yet we had to work on a submission specific to this workshop. It took me a while to look for the feather as I've said above, and decided to apply cubism as I was urging to apply this concept in my future shots. I think I got just the chance here. Even though I'm not pretty convinced that what I did does enroll itself under the topic of "Art of Seeing," but I got the green light from the leader of the group to keep on going with this. Yet, it has to be judged and critiqued.

Version 1
Cubism in photography is mostly about shooting individual images for the same subject (with or without motion) and merging them together in some way, mostly resembling squares. This is at least what I've seen from examples online. As I shot my series for this project (as seen in Version 1), I tried to include the whole scene as much as possible; with a stack of feathers it's easy to lose track. It does resemble working with a panorama to some extent but my options to work outside Photoshop were limited here and I had to work in Photoshop itself. But first, I had to cut down the slides into squares. Then, fitting them manually and stacking them according to my vision alone.

Version 2
As I finished Version 1 manually, it occurred to me that Photoshop has some useful bundle of commands for panorama making that I could use. I'd love to discuss the results here but I have to conclude the final matter here with Version 2, which was composed using the Reposition option under Auto-Align Layers command. So far, I can say that these two, Version 1 and Version 2, are the ones that I like most. Merging these layers seamlessly doesn't look good at the end, and no need to mention how Photoshop consumes memory already, and with this number of large-size images, it was a hectic process. A question that still going on in my mind is: If any of these were accepted and must be prepared to be exhibited, am I going to print each slide alone and try to combine them physically as they appear in the image file? Or simply print the image as it is? Time would tell I guess.
The idea in the beginning was about killing peace, and that's why I wanted to use white feathers. Even though I always felt that the composition needed something extra. However, I've noticed that the grip of handle of the dagger is already white, so it is better to use black feathers to add contrast, and there came in the change in the original idea: Killing evil (instead of peace); and probably things has to be violent to reach the peace of mind at the end…

Finale

As it can be seen from this blog now, things are more drifting into photography rather than conlangs. Should I abandon my passion for conlangs just now? I'm not quite sure but I hate to think about it even. My life seems racing itself to nowhere. But I'll try to look into that matter later on. The only connection I do have with my beloved Ayvarith right now, is my instagram account (@ayvarith) which I post in weekly. I even managed to add new words to my lexicon.
From the events in this week, it seems I'm losing my grip on the handle slowly and the call for a vacation is even getting stronger. All incidents happening to me last Monday and my foot injury, all caused by a simple show of anger, and over a video game (yes, video game). I didn't play this type of games in a long time, probably since high school, but seems this anger is still roaming inside. I remember how it was when I used to get mad at such games back then and I didn't have this spark of anger for such stuff in a long time, and it's all back now. Makes me wonder if I'm really in need of anger management. But definitely, the thing that would sooth my ailments is, a travel.


Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Scrambled Eggs…

Been some hectic weeks, and somehow the process is still going on. Anyway, it seems I have some problems in focusing in general, as I cannot stand doing a single job without being distracted or, simply, drained. This will be a quick stroll about the latest stuff I've been working on, or will be.

TessellaQaddis


Of course, first, there is my interest in tessellations, which I've stopped running after for a while to do some other chores and projects. In my hunt for new "composites" for creating a tessellating panorama, I've returned back to block #1 as I was working with TessellaQaddis, and this time, it is probably not even quite flowing smoothly at some edges. However, I've made some thoughts and still flipping ideas in my mind to see if I can get back at it later.
One of the projects that were in my mind for a long time was a peeling effect for a human subject (no worries; no blood or violence involved!). I've finally got the chance to work with my brother about this idea, though it might be just a first trial and we might do it again later, but not sure about this possibility.

Peeling Bro

A great deal of cloning was involved here; I guess caused by the vertical movement of his body as he rotated. The rotation was clumsy if I can call it so, since no concrete method for measuring angles were used except the convention of using the big toe as a scale: two steps of a toe at a time is somewhat visually equals to about 30° or so. The hair was a big problem too; his was so rigid and random! I've done a mistake here to forget about the top shot (for the top of the head) and the chin shot (from below that is) which could be done easily by reclining the head back and forth, but I've forgot about that completely (since I'm more used to do simple horizontal rotations). Thinking about it now, I wonder how would I be able to fit these two shots into the composition. There might not be a big deal for the top of the head somehow, but as for the chin shot from below, that would definitely be a hard task. I'll leave it at that and see if I can get the chance to do this experiment again... with a better hair!
Another project which I was so proud to do was colorizing an old photo. I've seen lot of B&W images online which have been colorized, and mostly WWI and WWII images. After asking around, it seemed that colorizing was indeed a manual task most of the time! There might be some hidden technique out there using the original B&W slides to produce colored images but I'm not sure of such possibilities. Anyway, I set out to do my own project in this, using an old photo for Dad…

Dad
Left: Original, Right: Colored Version.

I think Dad had this shot done in his 30s and probably out of Kuwait, judging from the suit. Everything here is hypothetical, i.e. I made up the colors, except for the skin tone which I've tried to mimic to the best of my memory about Dad. There were some tiny "glitches" in some areas but probably not so obvious for the first glance until one would go on a thorough inspection, with the original size. These glitches are mainly caused by the fact that I was using Gaussian Blur over Layer Masks to smooth out the edges; otherwise, the image would look rigid and not natural with hard edges between areas of different colors. Here, I had to paint the white shirt even despite being white already, but my white was a bit gray-ish as I thought it is more realistic in looks. Same thing was done to the hair in black, but a "lighter" black instead of completely pure black. After adding a color to a specific area, it must be blended with the original photo. I didn't quite make a specific formula for blending and I've actually used many blends, from overlay to soft light and even multiply and hard light at times. It all depends on the final look to be achieved. For this reason, I had to make sure to convert the scanned image to a pure B&W, otherwise there would be problems in blending colors when there is a tint overall the image. This image was yellowish a bit (but far from being in sepia). Now, this is something I would love to do for some of the major pictures I have scanned from the family collection. But this work needs patience and also information about some details. I'll look after that later on.

On the other hand, there were some urgent matters that I had to stop everything and try to get along with, like the Italian Style contest which came contemporary to the Italian Week here in Kuwait. Our group is taking this seriously and a conference was held with the Italian ambassador, HE Giuseppe Scognamiglio, to explain related issues with this contest. The good thing here is, no models or human figures are allowed into the picture. A relief!



HE Giuseppe Scognamiglio and Mr Bahaadeen Al-Qazwini, leader and founder of BPF Group, during the Italian Style contest conference.

The leader of the group held two workshops to assist the participants if they like to. Personally, I attended only the first workshop which was held in The Scandinavian House, a furniture store belonging to Al-Khonaini Group (Instagram: @domus_scandinavia). The place has two exhibitions: one for office furniture mainly, and the other one for regular house furniture. As the office furniture section was all Italian, unlike the other, I hooked myself with this section alone. My main aim was a panorama in fact but since I'm advised not to post my participation image in the contest until the contest is over (February 27th), thus I won't be posting this now. Instead, I had some trials after doing the panorama there.

3D Urn

One of the ideas that occurred to me is this urn or big glass (whatever they call it) you see above. However, after insepcting closely, I realized that my idea is not clear; the contest required a merge of Italian goods, with Kuwaiti sense. My idea was kind of far from that concept. Thus, I decided to have fun on my own terms. I shot plain shots for this urn then found myself doing a 3D procedure on shooting and the result is seen above. In fact, I had to work it all together using HDR technique, but seems there are good slides with strong highlights that I might work on later as single images. All in all, the colors in the image are too distracting as it seems (and as I tested it with friends in the group) and the 3D effect does not show clearly. Thus, I had to make a B&W version of the image (going through the process again), and then it became a bit better when observed using the typical Red-Cyan Anaglyph (3D) glasses.

3D Urn B&W

There had been other shots for other sets but probably this (beside the panorama I've done and not shown here) are the best so far. I'm still inspecting though.
Now, even though there is a plenty of time to the end of this contest, I have to say I'm done with it and I've uploaded my participation (sent by email that is) already. I have so much burden of projects on my shoulders which need to be attended and no more time to waste!

Finale

Things are piling up and I'm feeling drained here. Is it my sleeping pattern? I don't know, though I don't think this is the reason. Something is making me lose my appetite to hold the camera and work.
I have to finish some projects urgently before the end of the month. I'm trying to be optimistic here and say that I will be posting some of my results by next week, but I think it's early to say that with my mood swings. I hate when this happens, specially in times like these when I'm overwhelmed with projects. I even forgot totally about my older passion: conlangs.
The need for a vacation is really, really, giving me more stress when it crosses my mind. I can't stop thinking about it but it is a need rather than a luxury. The noise and the troubles and problems in this house are just too much to my already-defused mind. But where to? Is it affordable? All of this and other matters are simply behind a curtain for the time being, and I hate to look behind it…





Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy