Thursday, November 9, 2017

Daruma!

Well, been a week or two (or were they three?) since I've made a blog post in either English or Arabic, but seems life got a new hobby right now, which is to put more stress on my way and laugh. I didn't do much with my projects with the camera, despite the fact that there are some ideas already circling around in my head, but  I just didn't get the chance, the time and the power to do them. On the other hand, my sleep deprivation doesn't help as well; since I try to compensate for all the tiresome time during the week on the weekend, at the time that I'm supposed to be working with my camera. Even that I'm not having enough of, since my weekends are quite noisy and annoying at home and I would spend it thinking of ways to escape it somehow and put my mind out of it.
I've done some "product" shooting for my nephew, but even that was kind of helpless and my inspiration was dim. I was trying to shoot against a black background unlike the previous times when I shot with white background, but working with black is quite challenging (and requires a lot of cleaning). Thus, I had to use excessive Photoshop powers here. But that's a different story for now. I'm going to list some of the few things that I've done so far…

Preaching

This is one idea I've envisioned for a while and in fact I've made these shots long ago. I tried to do it on my own but it was clear that this is not an option and I must do it with someone else, and of course, as usual, I picked my brother for the task to be a model.

Preacher I
Canon EF 50mm + B+W 092 IR, f/1.8,
250-1s, ISO100.
For the task, I thought that using my modified Canon EOS 7D would serve me well, which it did, but not the way I envisioned it. Typically, infrared shots would give out more contrast (depending on the lighting conditions of course). To my surprise later on though, the cloth did not remain black, but turned blue. I guess I didn't learn my lesson yet, as it is NOT the first time that such a thing happen. I should have forgotten about colors when I worked with infrared, because, they simply don't exist in infrared realm and it all depends on how much an object absorbs or reflects infrared. Thus, I guess this black cloth does reflect infrared; lot of it. Might not be a big deal when converting to B&W, but after all, the envisioned contrast can be disturbed and another route in processing the images should be taken.

Preacher II
Canon EF 50mm + B+W 092 IR, f/1.4,
250-1s, ISO100.
I've made several shots here, and all handheld and using LiveView on camera (not a good combination if you ask me). I needed the flexibility of framing, thus I dropped the tripod away, while the infrared filter (B+W 092) doesn't allow for inspecting through the viewfinder. Thus, I've found myself forced to do it that way. In lighting the scene, I've used a single speedlite (580EX II) with a bulb/oval diffuser which makes it act as a regular bulb somehow. My aim was to give a dramatic (close to low-key) look, thus I've used max shutter speed (sync speed that is, 1/250s). No cables here so moving to HSS mode was not an option.
Globe Diffuser
Source: B&H
In processing, noise always been an issue, even though I've used ISO 100. Some of the shots are out of focus and this is natural with handheld shots and using low f-stop such as f/1.4 and f/1.8. Thus, filtering our the images, my options were limited on which images I could process here. Eventually, I've found at least two of them; Preacher I and Preacher II. The reason for using such a low f-stop is the need to convey deceit and hidden motives, and thus keeping the dagger under the hand blurred and out of focus, while keeping the palm sharp as much as possible. At least, this is the theory I had in my head but applying was no easy task after all!

Selfies, Again

So, I took some time to shoot some selfies again using special filters, like infrared and UV-pass. It all started after a shaving session but then I continued the trend doing 3 main selfies using my main "surreal" filters: Infrared, UV, and H-Alpha. Stating that, H-alpha doesn't differ much from the infrared except that it allows more red. The infrared filter I used here though is the Kodak's gel filter with my fisheye lens (which has a threshold of around 1000nm).

Coconut Selfie!

The trigger to the series was this Coconut Selfie!, which I've decided to shoot right after shaving and dipping my face with coconut oil. I was aiming to find if there is any effect for the coconut oil on taking infrared shot. It was experimental really so there was no need to go hi-tech with it, so I've used the simple in-camera flash just to provide some infrared. The result? Well, not much really. The luster of the oil was barely visible and only with excessive sharpening to the image (and could be mistaken for digital noise as well).

UV Selfie
My second trial was with my UV-pass filter (B+W 403) with hot mirror on top to reduce the IR leak. Working with this filter had always been a hassle because of the nature of UV. I placed my 430EX II speedlite on camera just to provide some lighting but for sure this light source does not provide UV range. Using a wide aperture and a semi-manual lens here (Voigtländer 20mm) did not help that's why the selfie came out out of focus, and this is the best I could do. In this selfie though, I didn't try to dip my face in coconut oil or anything. It was a simple selfie. The good thing here is that my eyes are not glowing bright as it is the case with infrared shots which means, I suppose, that the hot mirror is doing a good job relatively for keeping most of the IR out. It seems brown eyes do reflect IR the most, but I'm not sure about other eyes colors. From simple inspection for portraits made with infrared filters online, it seems that brightly colored eyes like blue eyes do in fact absorb rather than reflect IR, and thus they become blackish in infrared shots. But this is only my suggestion I'm not sure what is going on out there really!

Daruma Selfie!

Daruma Doll
Source
The last selfie, is probably my favorite selfie in this series. I've called it the Daruma Selfie, after the well-known Japanese doll Daruma. This selfie was shot using the H-Alpha filter which actually acts like an infrared filter but with some surplus in the Red range. However, in processing this selfie, I've swapped the blue and green channels of the image, and that made the image greenish (with some white streaks in my hair). The funny looking billy is caused by the fact of using such wide angle lens (Voigtländer 20mm) at a close distance and slightly below my tummy level, and thus dimensions of objects near the lens are exaggerated (quite known trick in architecture interior photography). Again, no oil to be tested here, but still thinking of ways to use that in the future and maybe more creative selfies rather than boring ones like these.

Seachtain

"Seachtain" is the Irish for "Week." Seven days in the week, and seven images. All in Black and White. These were the rules of the little "game" which was posted on Facebook and I was tagged for the challenge. In addition to that, no shots of people, but only "stuff" from my daily life.
Despite the fact that I can hardly keep on such a challenge in a continuous way, but nevertheless, I've made it! I did take 7 images, one each day and to my own surprise, some of them are actually inspiring for me myself.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Probably from all the seven, the last one does inspire me the most with its eerie atmosphere somehow. It inspires me to do something similar somehow in the near future, providing that I get a proper idea to work with.
The challenge is unique and despite its simplicity it did put some strain on my brain. I had to think fast (because my day is full of things to do and with a tired body that needs some rest). Also, since all these images were taken with my mobile (Huawei Mate 9) it made the process somehow easier. My phone shoots in RAW but all these shots were done in JPG right away and then were edited on PC or Laptop. Doing all that with a mobile made the process flow easier somehow. I think doing it with a regular DSLR would have put some major block on my way or achieving it. Some of these shots were even taken at my workplace when I had no DSLR available. The quick usage factor is quite essential here and it is the main thing that pushed me to do what I did. Even though the mobile has its own flash, but I've never used it, which is something to think about for a while; One has to think whether or not the ambient light serves well. This was quite obvious doing my product shots for my nephew with black background. At the end, I've found myself using the ambient light and stopping all my speedlites, despite the somewhat flat look.

Finale

Now, there are so much going through my mind but little time and little power to chase after all of that. It's a good thing that winter is here and temperatures are down. This gives me a relief somehow. Sleeping problems though still persist and as days pass by I'm dropping my interests in life further. Not sure where life is going to lead me, but I'm hoping of some stress relief to arrive soon. Wishes of travel must be postponed now despite the urge. I don't know where my destination would be still, but I need to do some passport issues first and then think of something - who knows, maybe Ireland for a 4th time? Who knows… I'll keep dreaming about many places I wish to visit for the time being, till that time comes.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Post-Languorem…

Well, good things are never complete they say here. I guess it's true. I've stopped most of my activities for few days and thus not much material (photos or experiments) were done because of my sickness last week, with temperature soaring close to 40°C. I guess this is the tax I had to pay for the good change in weather and the coming of fall. I just can't wait for winter to be finally here!
Anyway, before all of that I did try some experiments on the go, if I can call them so, I will try to talk about them a bit here.

Quran: 18/9.

Impact oval diffuser.
Source: B&H
This shot is a remnant from August's project which was about books, but unfortunately, I could not apply the idea and work on it until the past 2 weeks or so. Anyway, the trick which I had in my mind did not work quite well here and I had to use two speedlites instead of just one. My main idea here was to strike the book with flash and make it reflect off toward the face, but many factors here did not help (face angle, paper not reflective enough, angle of the book... etc). Thus, I needed to use another speedlite (430EX II here) with an oval diffuser. I've changed the position of this one a lot until I've settled down placing it in front of my brother to the right a bit and lowering the power just enough to give a sense of reflection from the book a bit.
Now, generally speaking, the shot has many problems in composition; Majorly, the black space which I've used for my watermark but originally it has no use and adds nothing to to the image (unless maybe it can be used by stock customers to write something). My brother's shirt was problematic too but we solved that by throwing a black cloth on his shoulders  to cover it, but now looking at it, probably I should have cropped that portion too just under the chin (vertically). So, it was just an experiment and an idea that I had long ago and didn't want to let it go just like that without trying at least.

Lumicon H-Alpha Night Sky Filter.
Source: B&H
Now we come to the "funny" part; Well, if I can call it so. I was, and still, testing my filters for some time and trying to figure out more creative ways to use them. Specifically, my relatively new filter: Night Sky H-Alpha filter from Lumicon. To my understanding, so far, this filter is actually wider in range of wavelengths it passes than infrared filters (it passes infrared, and reds). However, the difference might not be so great actually. Just 10nm or 20nm more than my B+W 092 infrared filter, which has a threshold of 650nm (the H-Alpha filter has a threshold around 630nm according to some transmission charts). The H-Alpha filter though is said to reduce the night sky noise and light pollution; I have yet to test that for myself though. Now the fun...

The Surprised Ghost!
Sigma 70-300mm @70mm, f/5, 1/4s, ISO400 + H-alpha filter.

Again, my victim is my brother here. I did a minor calibration with my camera for the white balance and I was roaming the house with H-alpha filter on my Sigma lens, when I noticed my brother on his way out (all that on LiveView) and how his body looks bluish against a reddish background. Not sure though what causes such extreme contrast and difference; is it the heat? I doubt. However, In order to increase the shutter speed just a bit and stop the shake, I've used the on-camera flash quickly. This did stabilize the image a bit but not completely, as there are still some shake marks (the head and his right shoulder on the left). The reddish tint of the background was reduced as well by this stroke of flash. Despite calibrating the WB in camera, this is almost useless because in Photoshop (more precisely, Adobe Camera RAW) this range cannot be defined and special camera "profile" which I've made before for Infrared photography has to be used to stretched the WB range while processing. Now, though, it is time to think of more interesting things to shoot at with this filter; things more dramatic.

Finale

Here it is, just a quick wrap for whatever I was doing before getting sick. And despite having some ideas that are almost ready to be applied yet I can't have the time to do them nor the hand to help me with as they require so, and needless to say, a proper place. But I'll keep that for later.
Meanwhile, as I'm still looking for a good subject for my Arabic blog, I've received an enlightening email from the Jordanian Arabic Language Assembly replying to my months-old email, asking for a proper definition for "anaglyph" in Arabic. Notice that my English spellchecker still does not define "anaglyph" as a proper word! However, according to my description and their research, they did finally put on a word into the system and in case I need to, I'd be using it in the future! Now that, I call achievement.
As days pass by, I'm trying to find more peace of mind around me here. Passion for Ireland is ignited again. Would I be traveling to there for a 4th time? I'm not quite sure yet. Winter is in and this is not typically the time for my travels, usually. The weather is cooling down slowly and can't wait till I feel that cold breeze in early mornings. I'm seriously growing sick of the weather, and other things…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Dreamer…

In a nutshell, I'm sick of summer. Can't wait to have winter around me here. In Kuwait, we don't have the typical 4-season scheme; It's either summer, or winter. Winter though is more or less like spring for us.
Anyway, there had been some good news around and some more experimenting with my camera as I'm feeling more free and out of my obligations. Yet, I'm trying to find the power and time to work on some projects.

Peeking

One of the projects I've started to experiment with here is the usage of my idle pinhole camera cap from Rising, which I've used only twice previously before this time. Now, I'm trying to get used to it and trying to be more creative about it, specially with its fuzzy and blurred images.

Rising Standard Pinhole
Source: B&H
The "adventure" of using such a pinhole to take pictures took me around with some simple mathematical ventures as I was trying to calculate what is the proper wavelengths and what are the proper sizes for pinholes, and I'm even thinking of making my own. Surfing around about pinhole photography, there is a plenty of text (or most of it actually) talks about analog rather than digital, and even though most people do state the fact that it is one of the features of pinhole photography to be blurred and fuzzy and create such a mood, but some others do also speak of infinite sharpness as well! Well, people in the latter type are few. This makes me think continuously of finding a way to merge such a small aperture with some lens. But what do I need to create a sharp image with such small aperture (and high f-number)? The answer is kind of complicated and involves lot of calculations but I'll leave it there at the moment.


According to the Specs mentioned for this pinhole (one of two types), it states that it is 0.22mm in size with f-number of f/222. However, I'm not sure how it was calculated since according to my own investigation here, this should be f/200, because the focal length or the distance from the mount to the sensor (a.k.a. flange distance) for EF and EF-S mounts is 44mm, and calculating the f-number using the relation: N=f/d yields 200, and not 222!

Visionem Infirmus (weak vision)
0.22mm Pinhole, 6m51s, ISO100.

Away from calculations what is supposed to be or not to be, I've managed to try it out and I really like some aspects about using a pinhole, specially when it comes to the flare as seen in Visionem Infirmus. Lot of people think those are light bulbs, but they are candles actually (long and short ones). Because of the perfect circle of the aperture here, the flare is more pleasant it seems and provided such a halo effect; How I wish my regular lenses would do the same! While doing Visionem Infirmus, I didn't really know what I'm doing exactly, it was a random setup just to test this pinhole. There is a mystic feel to it after all (probably because of the talisman too).
0.22mm Pinhole Selfie
6m51s, ISO100.
Even though the exposure times are pretty long (since I prefer using ISO100 most of the time), but I think this is what creativity is about after all; doing something unusual. Thus, I've decided to go on and do a selfie that took almost 7 minutes to do. I wouldn't mind the long exposure here as long as I'm cozy in my lazyboy. Hope you pardon my tired face and sleepy eyes! I could have done something more creative here even, like moving my head slowly or striking some pulses of flash or many things with such long exposure, but this is enough for now as I'm doing these tests and doing some calculations.
Calculations-wise, there might be a hope to create something sharp, or at least sharper than usual, if I just find a way to nudge the pinhole cap for about 5mm forward (or to be precise even further, for 4.8mm). Taking images with my Canon EOS 7D with a manual lens (e.g. Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye) or like this pinhole, it rigesters the value of 50mm as the default focal length of the camera, which I have to consider as the real focal length. However, my previous work with macro photography and shooting into the microscope, made it clear that the flange distance (or distance from sensor to the mount) which is supposed to be the pinhole focal length is indeed 44mm (all my calculations for the magnification ratios were based on 44mm and shown correct in practice). Mirrorless cameras do have a shorter focal length by the very nature of their design, but they might be more appropriate for pinholes because of this shorter focal length under the light of the relation: d=2√(fλ); where "d" is the diameter of the pinhole, "f" is the focal length, and (λ) is the wavelength of the light (typically fixed at 550nm). With some algebra here and solving for (f), it seems the proper focal length for 0.22mm pinhole would be 22mm. As far as I know, Canon's mirrorless cameras have 18mm flange distance; close.
Meanwhile, I'm expanding my experiment with the pinhole further to my converted Canon EOS 7D, as I'm trying various filters with the pinhole (taping it on the top of the pinhole). Pinholes though, under the light of the formula mentioned above, can be quite sensitive to the wavelength under inspection. However, thinking about it, it seems this is my only hope to get a proper UV image; since most of the lenses I have are coated with Anti-UV protective layer and might not be blocking essential wavelengths in UV range. Thus, I'm set to try this out soon (and of course using a hot mirror to block IR over my UV B+W 403 filter). Pinholes, of course, do not have coatings and thus might be the only way for me right now to shoot decent UV despite the fuzzy image I'm going to get.

Dream Coming True

For about a month or so I've been going around and trying to find a way to get a permit to shoot some pictures inside a theater. Not any theater. It is a theater that bears a memorial for the Giant of Kuwaiti acting field, AbdulHussain AbdulRidha, who passed on August 11th, and we are still mourning him almost every day since then. A rare man who witnessed the rise of this country, as well as its changes from old to modern (and not to say I do like the modern). The significance of this work is that, I dreamed about it, and it came true indeed. I couldn't apply some ideas I had in my mind prior to the work but at least I've done a masterpiece panorama for this memorial.

زارع البسمة وفخر بلادي
The Smile Giver and Pride of My Homeland.
 I will not get into much of the details of how I got into the theater, since it is a lengthy talk and took me around a month o talking my way through. Who cares for an amateur photographer trying to take a photo for a memorial on a wall? Anyway, let's get down with business about the panorama-making.
First of all, I paid a visit once I got a phone call that I can go into the place. This visit is to set some ideas straight and a get proper vision for the place. In fact, I once thought that there are two paintings: a mural and a portraiture painting. However, later I've discovered that it is actually one painting, and it is the mural that everyone was talking about. The mural or painting is a masterpiece painted by the artist Ahmad Muqeem. Not sure about its dimensions, but the height of the painting is surely somewhere beyond 2 meters (~ 6ft) and the width is around  2 meters as well. This changed some of my ideas as I was planning to pick my brother and make him read Quran in front of the mural, but since it is elevated off the ground, I think it won't be of much use here (or it might in fact but I didn't think that way back then). My main focus was the panorama.
Rear view of
Canon 15mm f/2.8 fisheye
with its gel filter pocket.
In 2 days time, I was ready with my gear (spent the day before cleaning them and tidy up my scattered tools and cameras). Headed there around noon time with my brother (as a model). Despite the fact that I've picked my location in my visit before, but I noticed that the artwork would appear small relative to the whole scene, thus I've decided to do it up-close and climbed the stairs. However, much of the details of the place (which were important for me) would disappear and I decided to go back to my original place (after shooting some already) as it can be seen in the image above. In this panorama, I've used my UV gel filter for the first time in a panorama. It is a gel filter equivalent for the typical UV-reduction filters which are placed on lens, but this one is placed at the back of my Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens (in a special pocket for filters). In fact, thinking about it a bit, it might have helped a bit to reduce any bluish streaks, but since the job was indoors, it is unlikely that UV would affect my work here much. Nevertheless, it is an experiment and the panorama was clear with no problems.

My old light meter.
No ON and OFF button,
thus I have to remove the batteries
after using it. I'm literally sick of
changing batteries for it!
Source: B&H.
Typically, when I do such panoramas that involve merging people, I would do the whole panorama first, and then start shooting the model separately and merge the two in the stitching process. This plan makes me at least grant my chances for a regular panorama in case the merging of the model or there was some shake when the shot for the model was taken (the shooting was for HDR, i.e. bracketed shots, and I do not guarantee the stillness of the model during the whole 3 shots). Before shooting, I've started metering the light all around the tripod-camera set and made an estimate about the least EV. It had been my practice, when shooting bracketed shots for HDR and doing a panorama, to reduce 1 or 2 stops from the minimum reading possible by the light meter. This practice, so far, proved to be a great savior. Sometimes, stretching the dynamic range does make gaps in the HDR histogram and some details are lost for good. Here, even though I've used my White Balance disk before the work is done, during the process (specifically when tone-mapping), I had to adjust the WB further for a nudge or two, as the whole image was a bit bluish (and I don't mean the blue streak from the glass facade, but the wall of the mural and the white details in the mural itself). Posing my brother here as a model took place in the end after finishing the regular panorama shooting and I've tried several poses at the same angle, and seemed to me that the prefect pose (and size ratio) was for him to stand on the stairs instead of up close against the mural. Nevertheless, there is the problem which could not be solved whatsoever, which is the absence of the facial expression (and it is almost impossible to get anything clear with this lens and at that scale). Thus, I had to depend heavily on hand and body gesture and pose. For this, I asked my brother to change the gesture several times with the change in his position relative to the mural.

زارع البسمة
The Smile Giver
After finishing the work with the panorama, I've started planning for a single shot. I had plans prior to the visit to the theater, but as I've said before, I had to change, and because of the fact that I cannot re-visit the place again (for the lack of time and probably I won't be allowed to easily), I've decided to get my essential gear without any lighting gear (speedlites and power packs, plus some modifiers) which I keep in 2 traveling cases. Here, again, I had to rely on (and trust) bracketing for HDR to be able to control the light as much as possible. Again, I had problems with a proper angle. When shooting these single shots from a close distance as seen in The Smile Giver, I was in dilemma as to what lens I should use. However, because of some "wash" out or undesired light reflection on the mural, I had to think about using a polarizer, which eventually forced me to use my Voigtländer 20mm; the only problem here is my limited space to move backward a bit to include the whole scene and give some space around the mural. In The Smile Giver, I had to fix the distortion and straighten some lines (or rather make them parallel) and, of course, crop the surplus. The photo was tone-mapped from HDR twice, as the first time had some problems that I didn't notice in the first glance. Probably, The Smile Giver, so far, gained more popularity rather than the panorama itself, but I'm not sure is it because of the details that show up clearly, or for the nature of the shot (portraiture) itself.

Planeta AbdulHussain
كوكب عبدالحسين

Vertical AbdulHussain
Finishing from all that essential work, it was time to try out some surreal projections for the set. Here, again, comes the benefit of shooting without a model first and then merging the model. With such surreal projections, the model would be stretched extremely and would add such a disturbance to the general view. However, because of the nature of this panorama, and the concentration over the mural itself more than anything else, the geometrical play here was not important for me but rather how to pop-up the mural to the eyes of the viewer. Because of this, my choices for these various projections was limited. Generally speaking, I think I was lucky here with this architecture, as I noticed that the lines (floor lines and the surrounding wooden decor) do point somehow to the mural and act as a guide line to the eye. I didn't notice that in the first place when I was doing it till I had to process the panorama. Anyhow, I think my choices here are limited to vertical and planet projections; and the latter required some angular adjustments to displace the location of the mural in the scene.

VR

Of course I wouldn't pass the chance of creating a VR out of this panorama. Moreover, I think I will adapt to the practice of uploading my panoramas to 360Cities and get an embed link for my blog here. This way I can avoid many plugins issues I guess and they provide further options to view the VR as well. Unless the VR is not significant, I might upload it the old way (spawning the file somewhere and embedding the link here).


The Smile Giver

A good thing here is that 360Cities provides the option for viewing the VR with VR goggles (on smart devices) which enables the viewer to roam the place by moving his head (or the device that is) around instead of being static and roaming the place by the controls.
If you are reading this and do enjoy VRs, I'm asking you to, please, Like it and share it with people you know. Unlike the rest of my panoramas, this is a work and a job I'm proud of, as a tribute to a personality that means so much to me, personally. Thank you.

Finale

Well, I feel like a bulk of load is removed off my shoulders. Some issues at work are finally done for good, and I've finished the panorama that I've always wished to do, I think now it is time to dream a bit again and think of something else to do. I do have some ideas to experiment with, like the pinhole and UV photography, beside some other ideas of "regular" photography. The problem though, as usual, time, and further more, the need for help (from my brother mainly who has other responsibilities). I think detaching myself a bit from the photo-club which I'm part of did give me further motivation and time to try out my camera. Probably I'm the type of photographers who cannot work in a team and rather establish himself alone. Anyway, time to post this, and go on dreaming, again…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Light Me!

It has been a quick holiday, and I really need some more of it; to sleep, and to work with my camera a bit. Nonetheless, I managed to work a bit with my camera and specifically fixing an image that I've posted in my previous post, after getting some notes from my brother about it. As for the rest of the time, I've been either dozing off or working with selfies and filters, but with a twist!

Re-Make

As I've mentioned, I had to try out and fix an image that I've posted here previously since I got some notes about it. Without going into details, but the main aspect of change in the shoot is to change the light source, using the candle alone instead of speedlites as was previously done.

وفوق كل ذي علم عليم (1)
"and over every lord of knowledge He is knowing" (12:76)
Done with speedlites in HSS.
وفوق كل ذي علم عليم (2)
"and over every lord of knowledge He is knowing" (12:76) - II
Change in perspective and using candle light alone.

I have to say that I really like the second version; Not only for its dramatic appearance and the play of light, but the perspective (as per my brother's suggestion) did add to the difference, which I think is quite interesting. In fact, in my chase after landscapes and architecture I've realized the importance of shooting with non-ordinary angles of view to keep the image being interesting (somewhat excluding panoramas since it doesn't work all the time with this art). However, it seems I've totally forgot about this concept when it came down to still life images like this. I'll try to remember that next time (and I'll try to remember to remember next time); go figure! Being satisfied about this shot did not stop me from doing some other experiments with the same set as well.

وفوق كل ذي علم عليم (3)
"and over every lord of knowledge He is knowing" (12:76) - III
B+W 403 UV filter with hot mirror.

Since I didn't use the Ultraviolet 403 filter in a long time now, I've decided to put it in action here despite the fact that, after checking the typical spectra for candles, it seems that candles do not issue much of UV radiation (if any at all), but anyway, I've decided to try. To add some charisma here, I've decided to do some HDR bracketing which required me to raise the ISO a bit (to 400). Focusing the set was a tricky business since the filter was opaque. Anyway, I've managed to make the third shot above by bracketing 3 shots and merging them into HDR. The flare was quite hideous and even controlling the parameters in tone-mapping the HDR couldn't help in suppressing these artifacts. However, there are these blue lines which emerge from the candle (not really emerging here), and that is an artifact I've noticed its presence when using UV or H-Alpha filters, with or without hot mirror, when working in LiveView mode specifically. They disappear when I work in a regular way. Not sure what is the mechanism that works behind such artifact but in this instance it was quite desirable to add a bit of magic to the scene. The high ISO played a great role in increasing the noise which was hard to clean (but reduced a bit).



وفوق كل ذي علم عليم (4)
"and over every lord of knowledge He is knowing" (12:76) - IV.
B+W 403 UV filter with hot mirror.

In the third shot, the white balance was not calibrated in-camera but was left on Auto. In the fourth shot, however, I've managed to calibrate the white balance with such hard filter (even though I'm working with a fully converted camera here), and also put down the ISO back to 100. To eliminate those lines emerging above the candle, I had to work in a regular way without LiveView. With that sprung the idea of doing HDR bracketing but using long exposures like I used to do some years back during my regular visit to the seaside through winter nights. So I did, and started at around 8 minutes and halving the value with each exposure until reaching 30 seconds. The more exposures, the merrier, since that will provide a smoother "histogram" of data for the light levels. The result in the 4th seems more pleasing than the 3rd with the absence of these distraction lines above the candle, but nevertheless, I still had to crop a big portion out to remove the flare. The matter of flares was there in all attempts, but having a filter and a hot mirror on top of it increased the internal reflection which made the matter worse. Let's hope I would not have to shoot directly at a light source again!

Candle Selfies

It all started with testing the H-Alpha filter, and the easiest subject to think of when testing is, actually, my face. Things, however, evolved later on.

Hl-Alpha filter + hot mirror.
430EX II speedlite on camera left with oval diffuser.
Voigtländer 20mm.

Ovel (Globe) diffuser from Impact.
Source: B&H
My first experiment with the speedlite was fruitful if I can call it so, because it provided some insight into this simple light modifier, the oval diffuser from Impact. Anyway, this is not the core of this text right now, but shooting a selfie with speedlite is surely an easy task, because I got to speed up the shutter speed and kill the ambient light significantly (and hide the messy background effectively!). I think I just needed a reflector to the left of my face to bounce back some light and light the shadows a bit, but well, this is dramatic enough as it is and nicely sharp (later, while processing, I've sharpened the front eye specifically in Photoshop). But since I was going on with ِAugust project about books (which for I've taken the shots posted above), I've decided here to try and use the candle light only to light my face and check the general outlook. I have to say, I'm quite impressed despite the simplicity and the technical limitations for such light.

Candle Selfie 1
H-Alpha filter + Hot mirror.
Through out these selfies, I've always used Voigtländer 20mm lens, which is my favorite right now for many tasks, be it macro (on reverse) or other styles, even selfies. Despite being a wide-angle lens and, usually, such lenses are not used for proper portraiture shots. But the fact that I was so close to the settings and its capability of focusing at minimum distance of 20cm made it a plausible option; adding to that the fact that my camera is a cropped-frame camera and it eliminates much of the periphery (20mm on 1.6x cropped frame is equivalent to 32mm). However, my first trial was with the Night Sky filter, H-Alpha, and a hot mirror (Tiffen's) placed on top.
Using an external LCD monitor connected via the HD input of the camera, I was able to manage the focusing issue pretty easily with this filter. Needless to say, I had to do a white balance calibration before shooting the selfie (and it should be calibrated with a candle in front of the lens because this is the variety of light I will be using to shoot). The result? Mesmerizing. I really loved the looks. The candle light, despite being simple and kind of hard to deal with somehow (I had to work in completely dark room and find my way through the mess), but the light itself is not "pointed," that is, it is not concentrated into a beam as it is the case with speedlites, thus it can be considered as a diffused light on its own, even though it is a weak source. Placing the candle typically under my chin level produced the so-called "horror light" but in some diffused manner which it made it, let's say, less horrific.

Candle Selfie 2
B+W 092 infrared filter.
One observation about the usage of H-Alpha filter with a hot mirror is that images are slightly like infrared when processed but with darker tones and I've found out later, from checking various transmission charts for such filter, that using a hot mirror on top of it is actually not a good practice because this filter operates around the range of Reds and above (in sense of wavelengths) which extends to the infrared range. Anyway, The first shot inspired me to use the infrared filter, namely the B+W 092 infrared filter.
I picked this filter specifically because it has a low threshold (at around 650nm) which gives some colorful results at times, unlike the Kodak infrared filter which has a high threshold (about 1000nm); The higher the threshold, the closer the image to B&W it would look. In Candle Selfie 2, I had to get even closer to the lens and with some cropping I was able to hide the flame. Probably this selfie is the best, but this was not the end of the story.

Top Row: H-Alpha + hot mirror.
Low Row: B+W 092 infrared.
Left column: originals.
Right column: Red-Blue channel swaps.

I couldn't pass the chance of all this work with these filters without trying at least one swap; the most common being Red-Blue channel swap. That produced some interesting results as well as seen above. All images here (and those before) were processed to reduce some of the flare. As I've stated before, flares are quite common and natural when the light source is in front of the lens, and that's why my beard specifically in the infrared shot looks colored; this actually had been caused by a light spot which I've tried to reduce its presence in the process (it was more saturated and lighter). I've tried to take some selfies using the B+W 403 Ultraviolet filter plus hot mirror but this is another story, maybe for another post.
Conclusion: despite its weakness as a light source, candle light is a pretty interesting and a dramatic source of light. It provides a somewhat diffused light look, but not necessarily light shadows as it is with properly diffused light (from flash or others). I'm definitely going to consider candles in other projects when I get the chance to. One set back though, it would mostly need a dark room (unless the photo idea is not about using the candle light and its dramatic look).

Finale

My experiments are going on still and there is a lot going on at the back of my head. I'm keeping some material for the next posts in the weeks to come as I don't want to put all eggs in one basket here.
I think old age is creeping to me indeed as my body is not what it used to be and I'm getting tired easily; The light time I can find to work with my camera would be a hard time resisting a nap! Is it a lack of motivation or it is indeed my body which is hitting a low. Anyway, I'll have some quiet to myself in the next 3 days with the family going out to some resort, and hopefully I can manage to work more with my camera.
All this work with my camera, which is really some experimenting after all and not a trial to make a fine art, seems to be my way to escape my anxiety and my panic attacks. It doesn't work all the time but it is after all some productive. Things at work, despite being quiet at the moment, it is yet loathsome and sometimes I get a darkened vision about the future of this place, and again I try to get my mind back to the tracks and avoid believing in things that did not happen yet. I'm clinging more, as days pass by, to the past and the sweet memories of the old times. The present, and future, are quite repulsive to me right now. Many people I like and love are disappearing or simply leaving and I can't do much about it, except to watch it. It is the law of life, I know, but these things were, and are, the only lovely things as I remember.  I miss me, so much…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Post-Morten…

Well, I barely have any time to type this blog post, but after stopping for a week for mourning I think it is due right now even though I don't have much material to be posted here. The mourning is still going on though and many hearts have it as a heavy burden to see such a great man who created a big portion of Kuwait's history to pass away in a quick whim of destiny. May he rest in peace.
Not much have been going on in fact, except some trials now with my August project about books so I'm going to talk a bit about it here, and a little bit about some idea that I'm still working on.

Leabhair

As the month is going on, I'm still working with ideas for this project, and frankly, I'm not satisfied yet about any of these ideas, but I'm trying.

"Creativity"
Voigtländer 20mm (R), f/11, 30s, ISO200.

My first trial was, typically, with a macro approach as can be seen in "Creativity" where I used Bruce Barnbaum's book, The Art of Photography, p.301, as my subject where this word exists in a paragraph. I was not sure what I was thinking, but my mind called me for an extreme macro just like the days when I used to shoot into my microscope some weeks ago. Here, with the camera dangling vertically over the book, I shot various segments of the word (which was extremely magnified at about 3.17X by using Voigtländer 20mm on reverse). My aim here was to create a collage like I did before with Killing Evil, but the circumstances and the fact that I'm zooming to 3X+ and the camera is stable on a lateral arm (while the book is hard to be moved around with ease), all that made it difficult to take various segments easily and randomly, and forced me to take the shots in a sequence and finally overlapping them to make one whole word. The only clue which I've added later to note various segments is the difference in gamma level, while the skew at the end of the word might be a clue as well. I couldn't use speedlites here so I raised the ISO and had to bear with the long exposure for 30 seconds!

Killing Evil
All in all, the idea of shooting a word in a book, as I think, do not resemble the real idea of the project about the importance books. It is merely a word, an element, inside a book - but not a book. Thus, the search did not end yet about something to shoot for this project. In fact, concerning this same word and this same book, I do have another idea to apply just yet, but without magnification up to that level. But I kept myself busy with other things lately that I didn't get the chance to shoot this.
Meanwhile, with the help of my brother, I got to shape a new idea out of scratch fed with some background "legend." And I say legend as I don't really know how accurate such news are (specially in this part of the world), but before explaining this "legend" let me first introduce the image.

وفوق كل ذي علم عليم
{and over every lord of knowledge He is more knowing.} (Quran: 12/76).
Canon EF 50mm, f/11, 1000-1, ISO250.

The legend says: At the time when Muslims ruled Andalusia, pupils who studied various arts and crafts come to the end of their studies with some ceremony or oath-taking, for which they invented the graduation cap as we know it today with a flat top, to place the holy book (Quran) on top while taking the oath and to apply the verse (and over every lord of knowledge He is more knowing: 12/76) from Quran. Anyway, I'm not sure about this story, but it was a spark in my mind to do this image.
Since I needed to kill the ambient light, as well as for the candle's light, I had to go on with the HSS mode (High-speed) to do this shot and compromise with the aperture a bit. Even though f/11 has a good depth of field for such small scene, but I like to always keep it on the safe side and push the f-number a bit further. However, I had to step back here and stop at f/11. One more reason to increase the f-number here is the desire to create a spark or a burst around the candle's flame, but that didn't happen! The real setback though was the need to place a dark yellow gel on the speedlite, and that alone takes 2.5 stops away from the power (as noted on the gel itself). Thus, even with full power, there was a need for some extra light, and at that point I've decided to use two other speedlites with no gels; that explains that mix in colors in the image above. Moreover, I've resorted to use the flash extender which I didn't put to practical use before this time in hope that I would give some strength to the pulse; which it did but slightly. I had to get my speedlite as close as possible to the set. It is evident from all these setbacks and problems that there is no escape but to raise the ISO as minimum as it could be (and I did have my struggle with the noise when processing the image above).
On the other hand, my brother had some remarks about the image and suggested some changes which I'm willing to try out as soon as possible (already did before typing this but the results weren't good). Here are some of his suggestions:
  1. Wait for the candle to melt down further, which is something I've done already.
  2. Shoot the set with the light from the candle alone. Tried that, but didn't really work, and the candle itself has a weak flame. 
  3. Get things closer together.
  4. Change perspective and move up further (i.e. shooting looking down to the set).
These are the major notes he made and I'm still trying to apply them (using Voigtländer 20mm lens instead of Canon EF 50mm) but still it didn't work out in a good way. Probably changing the lens was not a good idea after all and I would have to get back to 50mm. I'm envisioning the usage of my pinhole cover to shoot this set as well but I'll keep that for later.

Finale

As these words are going on, I'm pushing my way alone this time trying to get or grant a permission to shoot at a special place: A theater where a mural for the deceased artist was painted there with the opening of this theater after renovation (which now bears his name in gratitude to his services to the comedy and arts in general in this country). So far, official channels seem blocked and no one is giving a listening ear, so I'm resorting to some connections in hope that I will get this grant to shoot some ideas there. I'm doing this work solely alone without any help from anyone, as I'm trying to find a name for me somewhere out there rather than being dependent on my group.
Meanwhile, it seems that I'm giving myself a break from the group again and this time it might be for good indeed. I'll try to keep my activities minimum. There are more important things that still bug my mind, e.g. travel and creating ideas. I'm working on the latter, but not sure about the former. I'm getting nervous here... panic attacks had been frequent lately with insomnia. I need some good relaxation time before I lose my mind, and myself as well.


Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Saturday, August 12, 2017

RIP AbdulHusain AbdulRidha...

RIP
AbdulHusain AbdulRidha

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

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Mí Lúnasa…

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

Waiting


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

Waiting II


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

Chromamotion
Voigtländer 20mm, f/11, 1s, ISO100

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

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

Waiting III

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

Finale

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

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

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

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

Lunar Chain


Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy