Thursday, October 23, 2014

i dTús (In the beginning)…

Well, I'll try to wrap up this quick. This is my first blog post after coming back from Ireland and so much to be done still to get back to my normal rhythm. I still have problems with sleeping pattern - well, I always do, but this time it is far more an upset pattern. I have some chores planned which must be done in the morning time, and because of that I'm kind of paralyzed and unable to do them; because I prefer to sleep.

In the meantime, I've been working with a slow pace through some of the images and panoramas. For the time being, I'm doing just flat versions of those panoramas, and later I will twist them around and make QTVRs out of them too. I'm now living a dilemma too, as I've downloaded some games that I need to play as soon as possible, before heading back to work in November! On the other hand, I do need to work on the photos I've taken in Ireland. Many things to do to spend the rest of the vacation with, but unfortunately my body is not helping.

Work Arbeit Obair

I'm preparing now to send a group of images from my trip already through email, as I usually do. However, these images were done during my stay in Ireland and most of them were posted here in this blog, in posts I've written during my stay. Most of them are in B&W as well. I do need some time now to organize the email and send it over.
Meanwhile, I've been working randomly somewhat with the new photos, and depending solely on strikes of inspiration. Taking a photo on location, even in a place like the Irish countryside, is not the epitome of inspiration still. For me at least. A lot of inspiration and work is to be done later in processing.

Áit an Leipreacháin (Place of the Leprechaun) - IR
Canon EF 15mm fisheye, f/8, 3.3min, ISO400.

Cosán na Síoga
(The Fairies' Path)
Canon EF 15mm, f/8,
6min, ISO500.
Here we have an example in the image above. Áit an Leipreacháin is an infrared shot taken in the gardens of Ashford castle in Cong, Co. Mayo. What was really inspirational to me is the composition and the geometry of the path, but it takes another dimension in processing, specially that it is an infrared shot, which makes the image float; i.e. no right or wrong about how colors are perceived. This fact, encouraged me to add my own touch further outside the environment of the RAW file, by adding some glamor and motion blur to have the image resemble what I presume as "mystical". With this, I can state that inspiration is not just one instance. One thing can attract you on location, but the completion of the story is when you edit it yourself (i.e. develop the negative). Yes, I know this approach might be quite a contradiction to the purists' views, but this is how my mind work; it is a split mind.
Canon EF 50mm, f/9,
25-1sec. ISO200.
In the case of infrared shots things might be afloat because of the nature of the shot itself, as infrared is no "real color" after all and sometimes you get the freedom of twisting the tones to your liking. In regular shots, on the other hand, the attack would be even fiercer and the opposition is stronger with any editing you might have to do (by purists that is). In images like Sunken, thanks to be given first to the polarizer here which made it possible to eliminate the top two tires (tyres). This image was shot in brackets to merge as HDR. However, one single exposure was enough to get most of the details out of it (remember to work in ProPhoto to get the maximal limits from the histogram). With this, there was something missing. Contrast. But I've increased contrast already, and nothing was interesting about the image still. What I admired on location was the composition (talk about abstract and contemplative approach), but this is not helping here with a dull image and apparently converting to B&W was not a choice. The way to do this was to increase the saturation instead and create a contrast of colors and not tones. The colors were there, they just needed a push in saturation. The result was a contrast between two complimentary colors: blue and yellow.
There are a lot of images done so far, and each one has a story of that sort. That's why my progress is slow for the time being; because I do talk to myself when processing each image.

As for panoramas, I've done a number of them and all in flat format so far. Later, I'd be doing the rest of the tricks on them and the QTVRs. The nadir point for some of these panoramas were easy to fix, but I did prefer cutting them out along with the tripod head in order to fix my own label later when I do the QTVRs. This would be better to show information about the scene for the viewer, I believe.

One of the best so far, in my opinion that is, is the panorama taken from the front of Kylemore Abbey (on October 8th). It had some problems, but the centralization of the configuration on location paid well. And despite the fact that people were filling the place, I didn't have much problems in aligning the images, fixing vertical lines (by adjusting the pitch value in PTGui), and keeping the panorama tidy without any trace for any humanoids!

Mainistir na Coille Móire (Kylmore Abbey)

There was a minor fix to be done though, which is my shadow in the panorama. It was a simple cloning process and could have been done in the origin slide before stitching; but I was so much excited about this panorama specifically that I've decided to stitch first! I think a planet projection for this panorama specifically would be a great render!

The Waterfront (IR)

One of the painstaking processes with these panoramas is finding the control point specially in a panorama that combines outdoors, and infrared. Because infrared filters with uncoverted cameras (i.e. adjusted for IR reception) make the exposures pretty long even in a sunny day. The result is a blank sky almost even if it was a cloudy day. For this reason and after days of trying out my luck with The Waterfront (IR) I had to neglect the idea of adding the top and bottom rows of this panorama and get satisfaction with only the basic mid row. Story did not end at this actually, as some stitching errors remained and, later, much work was needed in Photoshop to add contrast with dodge and burn. It would be a shame to leave this panorama without any work; I've spent around one hour or more under the rain working on it on location! However, the weirdest of panoramas is still to come...

An Taobh Istigh an Waterfront
(Inside the Waterfront)

The weirdest of problems occurred with a panorama taken inside the Waterfront. It was apparent from the beginning that I surely need a model for control points (made from JPG files) in order to apply it to the HDR slides and make HDR panorama. However, to my surprise, the JPG panorama itself was a mess and the computer could not stitch it properly. It was one meatloaf of images! After some work on analyzing the mistakes (and using the "mask" option for the first time for me), it appears that the patterned carpet had a great say in this mess, where the computer merged 2 far and unrelated images on the basis of the pattern in the carpet!
Things began to become easier when I used the "crop" tool in PTGui itself to restrict the generation of control points on the mid zone of each image. In the final result there was still some work to be done to correct some broken lines, but this is a daily soup by now!

I'm now in a dilemma and thinking which of these panoramas I must print and send as a gift to my host, Mary Welsh. Probably I shouldn't decide by now until I work on all panoramas from the Waterfront.


Medieval Etiquette
Now, my sole burden and work in real life is to get back to the humdrum of the daily life in Kuwait, with all its nerves burning. When I go out in a vacation like this and come back, it usually feels lonelier deep inside, and estranged somewhat - like I see the things for the first time; needless to say the mood swings that hit with every encountered problem. Probably that's why I do feel Ireland to be a second home? One thing I do miss from here is the food actually! Not say the food is bad there, but I can't eat meat outside. Anyway for the reasons mentioned before, as soon as I arrived, I did deliberately drive into some jams trying to get my engine greased and ready to work. This is beside my chores.
Probably you've noticed that I'm using Irish to entitle my images this time (which is a practice I've been following for some time). This actually awakened in me the love for the Irish language (Gaeilge) again, after stopping teaching myself for years. Now, things are easier I presume; the language is wide spread and many people know about it and the resources are available. Probably I should give it a try once more.
Wish I can do the same with matters of the heart though…

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


I'm here now, typing this from the Travelodge hotel in Ballymun, Dublin. It's kind of weird here to live without AC but only a heater - while the window doesn't permit much cold air in, and permits lot of noise from the main street. Anyway, it is just one night and I'm off.
I think I will be heading to the airport early. My flight is around 11 a.m. but I will check out from here around 8 a.m. and who knows what kind of traffic jams waiting on the road anyway.
As soon as I arrived here I had to get some deodorants from a pharmacy adjacent to the hotel (lucky me!), as my socks and shoes and about everything in me just sucks big time after yesterday's adventure! I'm going to use those deodorants with them and hopefully it will work, temporarily at least.
Tomorrow is the goodbye day to Ireland...

Slán Éirinn, beidh tú a mheabhrú i gcónaí

Monday, October 13, 2014

Inis an Ghaill...

Wow! What a day! I'm so tired now that I can barely write this. Worse though, I can't have a nap before I finish everything for tomorrow; mainly packing.
Today I've head to Inchagoill island (Irish: Inis an Ghaill), which happens to mean "island of foreigners". I'm not sure why it is called like that, but surely I was like a stranger there today! As I've jumped on the boat I've got my camera ready already before hopping in, and fitted my Sigma 70-300mm lens and started to shoot as the boat was ravaging through the lake. It would have been good to use a polarizer in such situations but the shake of the boat would absolutely make this addition useless and helpless. However, I did take a number of images, and I won't be filtering them out probably.

Same house on the banks of the lake shot 5 years ago. This time in close up!

Upon reaching the island, of course we docked and headed down. My "guide," named Patrick, told me where to go: just follow the path. And he headed to other side in front of the dock (there was a rocky dock made) and he said he will be waiting there. Sure I said!

Where I landed. The trees (scotch fir trees) were Patrick headed waiting for me.

The entry to the church.
I followed the path, got lost for a while, but then I've found the church "complex"; well, if I can call it so! Anyway, I did take some shots from outside with 50mm (because it has the largest aperture I have already and helps with shallow depths when needed). My main interest was the designed gateway, which was so narrow for my, and my bag to pass through! After snapping those shots, I started right away setting up my tools to do a panorama outside just in front of the gateway. I'm expecting problems in terms of the exposure and showing details in the sky. Also, seems that using Daylight WB was not the proper choice, but that problem can be easily fixed later on. Strangely, this WB made the ground and some areas of the scene a bit bluish instead of yellowish as it usually does. For this reason, after that point, I had to use the Shade WB.

Things went great in the beginning; panorama outside, panorama inside, and then things started to get a bit wicked. Finishing from this location, it was time then to head to the Coffee House. I got lost again, and luckily I got back to the path again, from which I reached the church. Found some workers on the island (they were there when I landed and started my journey on the island). I asked for directions and they just told me to follow straight in that path. Strangely though, when I asked them about the coffee house, they don't really realize it, but when I describe it as "that little building on the top of the hill" they reckon the building and told me where to go. Again, on the way, I was about to get lost, and then found a gentleman who guided me further and turned me back to the church (apparently I was going in circles) and from there, he told me to follow the path and he left me at a certain point. From that point and on, it was one heck of a way to that building!



Strangely, forgot to take a general shot for the coffee house with my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens. However, I started my work directly with a panorama from the outside. I was thinking of doing a panorama inside this small building, but I neglected the idea for two reasons: One, not much details inside that would make up for an interesting panorama, and two, the buzzing sounds of flies, wasps or even bees. Whatever was there, the buzzing sound was really loud inside! On the top of the coffee house, there was a nice view, but again, it wasn't suitable for a panorama. However, I did take some shots for the stairway with my fisheyes. Now, the adventure is about to begin...

Finishing from the coffee house, now it is time to go back to Patrick. All what I did is just follow the path down the slope (and had a fall on the way). At one point, I reached what seemed to me like a dead point - no way further with trees filling the way. All what was there is a small outlet leading to the beach area, which seemed to be my only way out! So I did.
The beach was really rocky. REALLY. I can almost say, no sand is there but rocks. Rocks filling the shore and I had to walk on them. I didn't know my location but my pace was slow now and hurtful because of the twisting feet. A tripod on my shoulder, a bag on my hand, and backpack on my back, with a camera around my neck. I even used the tripod (with VR-head attached to it) as a cane to help me go through the rocks. At this point, I realized I'm on the wrong side of the island, but it's too late now to go back. I had to continue and "survey" the shores until I reach the dock!

Map of Inchagoill island (from Wikimapia) and the red circle is supposedly where I got lost I presume, but I'm not that sure about it.

After passing through some muddy ground and dipping myself in water to avoid some branches (heck, I've broken some branches with my shoulders even!), I've reached a maximum point of exhaustion. I literally tried to rest a bit on the ground but the weight of my body and my tools didn't help and I almost fell to the water if it wasn't for me catching the ground with my hands. My head started to twist around, and apparently I do need some glucose in my blood for now! In this journey I was so exhausted to take pictures but at certain point (and before I get so dirty in the mud!) I tried to a simple shot here.

On the rocky beach. It was at this point that I've realized I'm on the wrong side, because the dock is opposite to this piece of land of high scotch fir trees (check 2nd picture from the top).

After all, I made it! With all that exhaustion I did reach Patrick and we had a laugh together! It was a little adventure but surely a refreshing one. The amazing thing here is, in the beginning you feel miserable for getting wet, but when you get extremely exhausted, you would really enjoy the feel of water in your shoes! Later on the boat, the cold air and the splashes of water drops against my body did really help me cool down and enjoy the ride, but this time, I had to go on without taking photos on the way back - and that gave liberty for Patrick to speed up with the boat unlike the slow motion in getting to the island form the Waterfront. What a day.

All of that now came down to some loss. I have to get a new tripod as soon as I reach home because my tripod lost one of its rubbers in one of its legs, and my VR-head lost one of the screws; luckily it was the 3/4" screw designed for larger cameras and not the 1/3" screw which fits my camera. Now, I have to post this and start to arrange my things in order to leave the Waterfront tomorrow. Goodbye for now, and probably this might be my last post in Ireland...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Foggy Dew...

And yet another board game played with the weather! It was a real surprise to wake up this morning with mist filling the atmosphere, and I was barely able to see my own hand. It was apparent that my trip to Inchagoil island is to be canceled. However, it was a plan that whenever the fog is dispersed there is still a chance to reach the island. Anyway, instead of waiting, I've decided to head out and shoot in the fog.

In the middle of the marshes.
This time I've headed to the right side of the lake in front of the Waterfront, and technically, this means getting wet. What I like about shooting in foggy environment is the mysterious atmosphere surrounding it. However, in the marshes there are a lot of twisting to the feet, as well as dipping in the mud which would leave you exhausted for a simple 5 meters walk (well, that's a bit more than 15 ft); Needless to say how hard it is to extract things out of your own backpack without really putting the backpack on the ground (to avoid making it wet and muddy). All that increases the strain on the muscles! Follows then, some infrared shots as well.

Infrared shot with Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens. Notice the line of the sun, with an exposure of around 13 minutes.

It seems, however, that the infrared gel filter suffered enough scratches and probably the images produced won't be sharp enough. I just might have to make another one with special additives to make it easy to use with this lens. It is interesting that such long exposures done with this filter, like the image above, can produce interesting results with the sun!
In general, I've used my 50mm and my fisheye 8mm lenses the most, but there were some simple shots with Sigma 70-300mm. and, just for a change and experimenting, I've tried my pinhole. Surprisingly, despite being equaled with f/222 (i.e. very narrow aperture), the exposure done in this shot in the fog was just merely 2 seconds long under ISO 100.

The pinhole shot.

What I don't understand here, is the fact that the image is supposed to be sharp, because of the narrow aperture. However, the images done with my pinhole are not sharp or close to being sharp at all! Probably it has to do with the distance between the subject plane and the image plane (i.e. the sensor). In using the pinhole, and in order to frame correctly, I've used first my 50mm lens and framed the image, and then replaced it with the pinhole. However, using the LiveView, I was able to see the scene (even at ISO 100) with the pinhole on. Turned out that the pinhole field of view is a bit wider than that of 50mm (normal) lens.

After this little muddling in the mud, I've ran inside the house and my host told me that the boatman would still be able to pick me if the fog disperses before 3 p.m. local time. However, being exhausted and wet, I've decided to postpone this trip till tomorrow, Monday - which is my last day in here. Ironically, in less than hour after this conversation, the fog did disperse indeed and it is a shiny weather again like it is summer. Yep, Irish weather did it again...

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Weather Game...

Nice day here, if not for the pranks the weather was playing on me! Well, no going out for today, but we agreed that tomorrow, Sunday, I will go on a motor boat to Inchagoil, just like 5 years ago. Time is running out and I feel I didn't have enough walk around the Waterfront, and I'm thinking of one or two panoramas around the place still.
However, today I decided to head out and do some shots, specifically infrared shots. Luckily, I've found out that I do have a small IR gel filter cut already and it, with some twisting and twitching, did fit at the back of the Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens. Thus, I went on to have my chance a bit. I did many shots but I'm happy with the few IR shots.

The "hideout" in IR.
Rock on the banks of Corrib
The exposures, despite the relatively sunny weather in the beginning, did range between 20 to 30 minutes almost. The thing is, it was a nice weather and sun was shining (and almost barely could see a thing in its direction), but when I started to do one long exposure, the rain suddenly started to hammer! As the exposure almost ended the rain became quiet (but there) and then stopped. I picked my stuff and went inside and had something for lunch and uploaded the pictures. The weather, again, looked fine, so I went out again and did some macro shots this time, but again, it did rain and I had to run inside quickly! Seems to me that the Irish weather is in mood for lottery today!
There was some shots done with 2 teleconverters and my Sigma 70-300mm but they weren't much successful, making me wishing for my mirror lens of 800mm. It would be handsomely useful in these situations! Anyway, the nature around the place seems very encouraging for macro and abstract shots, which is something I need to do soon. I was going to keep Monday for arranging my tools in the suit case but seems I will still keep it for some work to be done in the garden and around the Waterfront. There is one particular spot on the right of the Waterfront which I really want to re-discover. However, I have to get prepared to get extra wet because this piece of land is shallow and wet most of the time (and muddy too). I guess I will have to deal with tiny bit of stress in the coming few days! But it's all in a good way...

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fáilte go gConga...

Just like someone waking up from a dream, I can't believe that I'm already on my 10th day in here and only 3 days are left till I move out and head to Dublin.
I'm checking things right now for a possibility to visit Inchagoil island, which might take place on Sunday or Monday. Because of the pressure somewhat here, I've canceled my plans to visit Brigit Gardens. It is a nice place but I do need some time to enjoy the nature around the Waterfront B&B too. I do need time too to put my tools down and arrange them in order to fit it all inside my suitcase before heading to the station.

Today, I've headed to Cong town, in Co. Mayo, to the north of Oughterard (which lies in Co. Galway itself). The town is the location of Ashford castle, which is now a 5-star hotel, and Cong Abbey. Thus, in the beginning we headed to the castle.

On the way to Cong

Things had changed a bit since 2009. Apparently, there is now a gate before the golf course and to cross it there is supposed to be some sort of payment. Anyway, we passed the gate without paying anything. My first target was the main fountain in front of the castle, and there I've placed my stuff to do a panorama. It was a fast rhyming panorama because the sun was shining today. After that I've started to search for that mysterious pathway around the premises which I've went through 5 years ago. I remember this path had a name,  a very specific name containing the word "Lady" - but this year I didn't find this sign; it was all entitled as "The Walled Gardens".

On the top of the entrance of the path.
Now, I think this path is supposedly to go around the "monk's fishing hut" or something like that, but I'm just going to call it "the path". This path also leads or circles the Falconry school in the premises. I have to say I kind of got lost there trying to find my way to the old path I've encountered before 5 years ago. I went back and forth until I've encountered a gateway which I remember clearly that it lead to the gardens and the path, and some of the details there which I didn't catch back then are now into my camera! Once I've found the way, I've encountered a shaded path made of tree branches which was the perfect spot for some shots; and specifically IR shots.


After taking few shots for this short pathway with my Rokinon 8mm fisheye, I switched to my 15mm fisheye lens (as it is the lens I can use infrared filter with). Unfortunately I didn't have the time to cut a little piece of the infrared filter slide (which I have in my bag) to fit my Rokinon 8mm. Maybe I would do that any time now or maybe I should leave it till I get back home!

Infrared shot for the shaded path.

Now, to take this infrared shot, I was supposed to expose for around 12 minutes. I was somewhat in a hurry and urging to move forward, specially that this spot was in the midway and I was expecting people passing by (the passage is narrow and I was blocking it). Thus, I've decided to shoot it at ISO400 instead of ISO100, which reduced the time from 12 minutes to 3 minutes only. And, they were really long minutes! Another infrared shot was made later in a different position, but at ISO500 to make it even a bit faster. That one took 6 minutes to be done! Those trees surely do provide a good shade.

Going back to the beginning...

On the way I took various shots for the forest and the path in different lenses (mainly the 8mm Rokinon fisheye). In general though, I think they are quite the normal shots like those I've done 5 years ago. In fact, they are even less in number. And here comes the problem which I will talk about briefly later.
After finishing I've just headed to the cab and since I was tired, I asked the driver to just skip the abbey. Thus, no pictures or panoramas from there, despite the magnificent architecture of that abbey. Even when I got into the car, I've left my camera at the backseat and didn't keep it with me to take pictures on the way. I was so tired, not only physically, but also emotionally.

It seems that I'm pressuring myself just to take pictures because everyone was expecting me to take a lot of pictures. This stress, probably, lead to my brain to switch off and I couldn't notice the beauty that I was hoping for like when I was a freshman to this area 5 years ago! I think I've missed the point big time and it is time for me to just enjoy my vacation without thinking about photography - and this is something I'm planning to do soon, just before I leave this place. As for now I've canceled my plans for Brigit Garden, and maybe I will do one night photography in the coming few nights for me here just before I leave…

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Finally it's here. The Kylemore Abbey! I didn't go to this place 5 years ago when I was here so I'm finally there. The road length is probably same as that one to Cong. Well, let's not talk about the expenses.
Before hopping into the car I prepared my gear, and specifically, kept my camera with the old 18-55mm lens around my neck, while the rest of the gear in the backseat. I knew already that I will encounter some nice scenery on this long way - and it was no disappointment.

One of the hills of Connemara taken from the cab.

of course shots taken from the cab aren't as good as stable shots on ground, but I would lose more time if I ask the cab driver to stop now and then. And despite my hate for the old 18-55mm, but it is the perfect lens so far that I have for this mission; shooting on the move. On the way to Kylemore Abbey, we passed through different towns and villages, and one of those was Recess (yeah, it is called "Recess"). This town has a statue of Conn of the Sea (or Conn son of the Sea), namely in Irish that would be Conn na Mara, and hence the region's name is Connemara. I'm not sure what's the legend behind Conn, but I should check it out some time later.

Conn na Mara
raised on 1999.

Now, on location. First I took simple shots for a statue of Jesus, but then headed to the big bite: the abbey. There and in front of the door, I went on working on a complete spherical panorama. Despite the sunny weather, I'm expecting lot of problems with this panorama already because of the moving shadows and the moving people - wish if there is a way to control people just like that! Anyway, we will see to that later on when I reach home hopefully. After finishing the panorama, I did a little "experiment" with my infrared gel filter and 15mm fisheye lens, which yielded and exposure of 9 minutes.

Kylemore Abbey

Unfortunately, I didn't head inside the abbey because of the "population" jam apparently. I wouldn't be able to walk around easily among people and taking photos with a backpack and carrying other stuff with me while the camera is hanging around my neck as well. So, I had to call it off and I shot some details from the outside of the abbey.

Statue decorating the top of the gate of the abbey.

For such details I had to use my Sigma 70-300mm and with a teleconverter at some point. Anyway, I continued my walk on the trail after the abbey and reached a simple decorative waterfall and did some tiny long exposure there (in fact holding the the shutter button with my finger instead of using the remote cable here). I didn't process this image yet but anyway because of the stack of ND filters, it became reddish and some WB fixes needed. I'll keep that for home as well. At the end of the way, another panorama was conducted in front of the Gothic Church, and some shots for some details there as well. The trail was going on further but at this point, I had to return (specially with my bladder getting full!).

Now I'm not sure what's the plan for tomorrow, but after tomorrow is supposedly the day for Cong. It is a long road as well. Probably I'll just have a long walk to the downtown again, to use the ATM machine! Anyway, time to post this and have some rest. My legs still aching after the long walks!