Thursday, March 22, 2018

Brain Mess…

Things are starting to get on my nerves a bit. Everything seems to be on hold for some unknown time and I can't move on. It's been weeks now without touching my camera for a serious work on any of my projects; Either those I've set up to myself for the future, or those that are supposed ongoing. Which makes me think seriously of abandoning some of these, namely the "Scopa" project because of the lack of cooperation around me. Of course, some would advise me to get some models of some sort but this is out of question. I won't be paying some models to come home and do a photo shoot for 5 minutes only; Needless to say, the money talk involved in this is not something low and easy. Weeks pass and I'm still stuck in the same square without doing anything advanced. I hope some hopes though with my on-the-way shipment, and specifically the Hot Mirror filter that I've ordered. I can't wait to try it out with my B+W ultraviolet pass filter (under the sun). In preparation to further experimenting, I'm trying to somehow mimic or produce the effects of blacklight indoors but so far, all is failing. Those tricks I see on Youtube about converting the phone LED light into a blacklight seem all in vain so far but I still have something to try out and see for myself.

One of the videos about this trick

Meanwhile, I'm also thinking of getting some cheap flash unit (speedlite that is) of any brand (but I would prefer a Canon) and work on converting it to a source of UV light by removing the front Fresnel lens, which acts also as a protection and a blocker for UV light emitted by the flash tube inside the unit. I've watched some videos as well about this process which involve dismantling the unit piece by piece and removing that glass piece and then putting everything back together, but honestly, I don't think I do have the patience for such a process. I might use brute force with some tools that my brother acquired lately! But first, I need to check if I can find the schematics for such flash units just to avoid destroying the flash tube inside the unit.

Glas ar Ghlas (remake)

Meanwhile, all I'm getting busy with is digging my old files, from Ireland and Malta mainly, and trying to re-do some of them (or do new ones that I've totally not touched before) with the aim of creating a somewhat attractive looks by editing those images in LAB; An old technique that I used to use back when all my work was in sRGB (because I didn't know what color space is) in order to pump up the colors and make the image more vivid. Probably this is now kind of fixed with simply assigning the color space to ProPhoto, but still, the LAB technique has its own magic yet. The only problem here is that the artifacts produced with such a technique that sometimes gives me extra headache to fix the image further. But anyway, that would be some other tale to tell. 

One of the surprises that I've encountered, though, as I was going through old files, was series of multiple shots of a fellow member in the club during our visit to Oman in 2015. I'm not sure why did I take these shots (probably I was light-metering in-camera before doing the panorama?). Anyway, I saw this as a good opportunity to create something surreal and new. It was just a matter of blending several shots (using Darken blend) and then cloning out some unwanted gear thrown all over the place outside. Apparently, the shots were taken with a tripod since the door of the mosque here was quite stable from shot to another and the only moving body was my friend's, which made things quite easier to work with. The shots were also taken with relative speed (1/250s at f/10; apparently the sun was shining hard!). It was a muse to my eyes and I really want to do something similar with old or new images or even think of something to do anew. My camera (Canon EOS 7D) has no Multi-Exposure option like full-frame professional cameras but still, things can be managed in Photoshop. Contest-wise, I'm not sure if this is considered as an edit to the image or a true photographic art, but in any case, I don't care much about this matter for now. There are some tiny details to be attending to though (depending on the image itself), like for example in Multi-Hashim you see here, the green bars or cage is penetrating and surfacing, while I guess it properly should be behind the moving body completely. All that depends on the nature of the image of course and the movements involved.

Speaking of contests, I did already submit my entry to Trierenberg's Circuit, or Austria's International Photo Contest. However, this time, I'm rolling in alone under my name only and not under the group's name. Generally speaking, I'm not expecting any win from this participation (as usual), but one important aspect for me is to show a specific work of art to the public, which is the panorama from AbdulHussain AbdulRidha Theater which I've done last September (after a great effort to get into that theater!).

فخر بلادي  (Pride of my homeland)

This panorama was one of the images that I've submitted to the special sorting meeting of the group for this contest (as it is usually done every year). This image, unfortunately though, was rejected and did not pass under the claim that judges will not understand it or understand its value to us. The claim was kind of strange to me because I've been always told that judges of such contests (i.e. those held in the Western hemisphere) are eager to see new sights, new ideas, and new cultures which are not so common there! With this, I've made up my mind that I must participate under my name as well as under the group name if any of my images makes it through the final sorting process of the group. I got only one image passing, but I got the news late as this image was already uploaded and paid for for my own participation; Thus, I'm saying bye bye to the group's participation this year. As for the photos I've submitted, here is a glimpse:

The Walk of RP.
The Darker Side of The TJ
فخر بلادي
Before The Grace - Anaglyph
360 Mall - Vertical Gardens
Triq tas-Sema (remake)
Turbulent Dream
Il Fante (Detail)

Some of these images shown here were subjected to further processing before submitting so they are not exactly what they appear here. I hope Flickr's embed works properly with the boundaries of this blog!  Many of those images were actually some "additions" just to complete the theme as I don't feel easy at uploading one image only into the theme or category. Too bad for me, I've also forgot to upload one of the images I've done for Retinitis Pigmentosa Awareness Month (which was one of the images in the sorting meeting and passed the initial sorting process but not the final one); Namely, the Road of Hurdles.

Road of Hurdles
The B&W version of this image, though, was preferred more over the colored version and I'm thinking that both of them were canceled out (since I didn't attend that meeting, I don't know anything about the details of this sorting). But oh well, I might as well keep it for another occasion; An expo, or some minor contest.


Feeling overwhelmed with many things to do, and nothing to do in the same time. It's a strange feeling. There are daily chores that I planned and set myself to do every day but in the same time I really want to break away from these chores and do something. Something to my delayed projects, or at least for my delayed long-waited holiday. Meanwhile, I must keep being busy as my nephew gave a new set of products to photograph and I'm trying to do them in some new method, some new way that I didn't do before. For this reason, I've spent like one week thinking and yet I didn't conclude anything for sure, but I'm preparing the set one by one and hopefully to be working with them ASAP. I feel it like a heavy a load over my back and I must get rid of it, though he didn't say he's in a hurry and told me to take my time. It is just how my brain works in organizing priorities. A complete mess.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Discovery Galore…

Here we are again! I've been busy the past 2 weeks or so in writing Arabic articles for my Arabic blog but here I am again into this blog doing, amazingly, nothing. Yes, Nothing. Everything is on hold and I'm not doing much with my camera, BUT, I'm doing lot of thinking and I'm seriously planning to place my next online order soon. Hopefully I won't go bankrupt after this…

Kenko's DR655
One of the major things that I really need to get now is Kenko's DR655 filter, which blocks infrared (i..e it is a hot mirror filter). Despite having Tiffen's hot mirror already but after reading and investigating further, I've realized that Tiffen's filter is technically an open gate!!! It barely blocks any infrared, and thus working with this filter with my leaky B+W 403 Ultraviolet filter is not a good choice at all. I've discovered this as I was reading articles and posts in a page dedicated to Ultraviolet photography with some links to practical tests to various filters (IR, UV, HM), and there I've discovered the hideous truth: Tiffen's announcement about the effectiveness of their hot mirror filter do not coincide with the practical technical testing. The transmission chart even was such a horrible nightmare to me!

Tiffen's hot mirror transmission chart acquired practically and posted in the link above.

Thus, I can say with a degree of confidence: People, do not get that filter even if you want to use it on a regular camera to enhance the colors of your shot. The filter is not even effective at 750nm as I thought. Just for comparison, here is the transmission chart for the filter mentioned above, DR655.

DR655 Transmission chart

Well, we don't need to understand Japanese to really realize how perfect this filter is for my needs. As you can see, DR655 has a steep slope down at around 650nm and indeed blocks at around 700nm, while still allowing ultraviolet range (~ 300nm-400nm). Why I didn't figure this out years ago? Of course, there is the option of having a proper ultraviolet filter other than the one I have already (B+W's) but that alone would cost more than the combined price of a hot mirror and B+W filter. Besides, would shall I do with the B+W 403 filter then? Sell it? I don't think people here do realize this kind of art nor would be interesting in it, not to say what would they do if they discovered it is leaking IR. Yeah, getting a new hot mirror is my best bet for now, and I need to do it fast!
There are other items I would be ordering beside that, not related to photography, but I'll talk about it in some other time maybe.

Ath-Fháil Amach

Most of my activities in the past weeks were focusing on re-discovering some of the old images from Ireland and Malta. I was specifically looking for some chances to make out some more Anaglyphs. Along the way, I was able to identify some images with some potential after neglecting them before, mainly with some focus on enhancing the colors (using LAB technique generally). Well, the potential I mean here is not a potential of being classified as "Top," but I mean an image that can be enhanced and, well, be viewable; Instead of being neglected and deemed useless.

Yellow Caps

Shots like Yellow Caps made me, though, re-consider my approach with editing in LAB. In this image (and few others) I often had trouble with the saturation, so much that I did need to do some extra work to fix the problem. This is beside the "curves amendment technique" which is practically re-assigning the values for the Blacks, Whites and Gamma in the image to enhance the contrast and at some point fix the white balance. In Yellow Caps, it can be noticed how the background contains a large red spot, which is there originally but it got exaggerated in saturation with LAB technique, but then I had to do extra work to reduce the saturation, and yet it might feel a bit popping out still. I've reduced the visual impact further by using Lens Blur on the image (despite having a shallow depth of field already); My main goal with Lens Blur though was to pop out the front element further (with the help of sharpening).

Around Ashford

On the other hand, despite all the extra work that editing with LAB would issue, there are images like Aroound Ashford where the lengthy work paid handsomely with somewhat a mystical look in this ordinary shot with pale green hues (originally). The major thing about this image which made me neglect it is, actually, the spots of highlights between the trees. This is a problem in many of the shots along the years and right now I'm trying to fix some of these images by overlapping (not cloning) with other areas of the same image (sometimes from another image). Most of the time, it gets all natural-looking, and if not, there is the cloning tool to fix some minor issues about that.
Islamic Display Room

One of the things that I work on re-discovering them is the punch of panoramas done back in 2015 for the Al-Uthman Museum, which was a comissioned work. Since I've done these panoramas, I was asked to keep them "in hiding" and not show them, and it was not till 2017 when I started showing my panoramas on Instagram, apparently with no objection from anyone related to the matter. Anyway, right now I'm starting to re-discover other projections for these panoramas and specifically the planet and tunnel projection styles (technically they are the same but with a change in viewing point), and boy, what did I see!

Magnetum Marinum

Some of these panoramas were, well, nice looking. Some of them were, well, SUPER-looking. Examples here, the Islamic Display Room and Magnetum Marinum were both done in tunnel projection instead of planet intentionally. As for Islamic Display Room, I had to switch to tunnel because of some bar in the ceiling which broke the symmetry awfully, while for the other one, Magnetum Marinum, obviously it was the flooring boards which astonished me. I've been always a fan of lines; Harmonic lines specifically and those that just make up swift and smooth geometrical shapes. This is why I fell in love with this panorama in such projection so much that I didn't even dare to put a watermark on it so I won't disturb its harmony, even though that this would put the image in danger after all. I'm still processing these panoramas and still checking and I think there is some good potential. The problem is, though, whether I have the right to submit those for contests and stocks, away from the social media thing. We'll see…


Bloomless Bloom (3D)
There had been one or two experiments with some other infrared shootings but I'll keep that for later maybe, as they were minor experiments captured after a glimpse of idea, and yet I'm not sure if this idea will grow further. Meanwhile, I do need to get to my other projects that I've listed here already before, but I'm not sure where and how to begin. My mind is still stuck at completing my Scopa project which arrived to a stalemate with no model to shoot (and I'm not going to pay for a model of course). 
Life seems to be getting weirder as I go on now. I'm trying hard to understand myself in the first place and that makes me a bit more isolate than before at some level. It is weird how I get attached easily with people out of my reach and yet find it hard to get along with people close to me. The question of my mental capabilities and whether or not I'm right or wrong about my relations with people around is a continuous hurdle to my mind. It's just amazing how one can find someone similar to a great extent, even in simple things like handedness, and feel attach to, yet they are just out of reach not only by distance, but also by core beliefs; And despite that, things get along. At least from a distance. Meanwhile, everything close seems to collapse with no glimpse of hope about a bright future. I really need to get back to my camera and work non-stop if I can, and a vacation… ASAP…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, February 22, 2018

RP Go Leor…

Well, I'm officially stuck in a rut. All I'm doing right now or thinking about right now is taking selfies, and putting other projects behind my back (well, beside doing a post for my Arabic blog). Megalomania? Not really, but it all initiated with the Schizophrenia project which I talked about last post, this is beside doing a project for this month, February, as it being the Awareness Month for Retinitis Pigmentosa and I'm used to do a shot every year for this occasion. I even designed an icon with a purpose, but nothing official about it but only some ideas. Let's talk about these a bit shall we?


This is actually an old idea that I had in my mind, as I used to ask myself: What if we, people with Retinitis Pigmentosa, do have a special sign to make people aware of our condition as we go around, either walking (or even driving though it's dangerous)? I know though that where I live, people are close to savagery and probably won't care much about such a sign as they didn't care before for traffic signs and related stuff. But would people in other (normal) places would consider such a sign? Care for it? Considered something official? Such thoughts came back to me as I was tickling my mind to think of a substitute for my ideas for shooting something for RP (since I couldn't find a blind-cane in the WHOLE country). Thus, it was time to work!

RP Icon/Sign

The idea of the icon is simple: An eye (inside a frame) with two vertical bars cutting through the body of the eye signifying the limited sideways vision or peripheral vision. However, RP has various levels of course and some patients might be legally blind; so, I'm not sure if this icon would really be adequate to represent them. I've used blue-yellow combination here depending on contrast relationship between the two colors on the color wheel. Thinking about it now, I might as well upload it as a vector to some stock websites but I would need to fix some stuff. The two vertical lines should have probably been thicker and somewhat equal in thickness to the outline of the eye. We'll see about that later. I think the outer border as well should be considered in terms of thickness to match the eye. Would I live to see this sticker hanging on someone or stuck to some car? Maybe…

RP Blend

As you already know probably, and as I've mentioned before already, I had to cancel my main idea for this project about Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) Awareness Month, because I couldn't find a blind-cane or stick with any major provider for medical supplies. NOTHING, in the whole country. Of course, I could have ordered it online, there are a plenty out there. However, this will take a long time relatively for the delivery, besides costing so much in shipping for such a simple item like this! Thus, I had to go around this problem and create something new. Well, not exactly new, but let's say an old idea with a different scope…

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Road of Hurdles

Peripheral Damage
I'm posting the image from my Instagram page so it would be easier to view and check the B&W version instead of posting them both here. Anyway, as I said, the idea is old but the "vision" is new let's say. The idea is similar to last year's Peripheral Damage somehow when I photographed my eye from inside a snoot. The idea is about the limited peripheral vision which RP patients like me have (and some patients do go blind completely as time goes on). For this shot I've used my chess board (no, not a chess fan and I don't like it and I don't play it and I would never ever think of playing it) - It is a set that I've purchased a year or two ago specifically for that purpose. In fact, a friend of mine has more elaborate set with pawns or pieces (or whatever) made of metal and are closer to the human figure. However, I got this set so I would stop borrowing stuff from other people!
The process of shooting was problematic and I had to do a lot of trial and error and it was not possible to shoot it alone. After some help from my brother and my sister, Ive finally managed to pin the focus and the composition. The final composition, though, had to use some crop to remove my forehead which I could not hide whatsoever! And truth be said, all trials had my eye dim somehow and lacking that luster. That thing had to be fixed in processing the RAW files and then in Photoshop. The thing I'm worried about so much is the noise level which seems so robust to be removed with my typical approach in noise reduction plugins. Right after finishing this little quickie project, a new idea struck my head and I started working on it right away. This idea was in fact inspired by a previous project, Schizophrenia, which I've talked about in my last post.

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The Walk of RP

Despite its simplicity, though, I did have a struggle with The Walk of RP and I had to shoot it on 2 occasions (on 2 days). Going around with the speedlite, I've found out that fitting the speedlite with a globe diffuser on the camera did provide the unique, spooky and mysterious look I need. I tried to pin down the focus the first time (as I was using Voigtländer 20mm lens which is a semi-automatic lens) by estimating the distance to my face. However, on the first day, all shots were actually blurred! It was so upsetting (however, I used some of those for 3D anaglyphs later on). On the next day (I remember that I've overslept after fixing my alarm on the wrong time, so I skipped work and used that time with my camera), I tried again but this time I was forced to use the external monitor to check the focus more precisely.

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Eventually out of these shots, later on, I've extracted few stuff. I was aiming at creating a 3D Anaglyph at first but then I thought, why not doing this thing as a regular image on its own. Thus, I've created Werewolf and in both, colors and B&W. I've done various things as well with those infrared images (specifically the Schizophrenia project) but let's skip that for the moment, as it is only a change in colors and looks. Maybe later. But let's see one 3D example…

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And I've made a handful of those anaglyphs, and still aiming to do more in the future. After emailing some stock websites it seems some of them do accept such art, so I thought I might put this forward and try to do more 3D anaglyphs to upload. I just need the good subject though.

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Behind The Scenes
one of the blurry shots taken on the first day merged into an anaglyph!


Well, seems things will be getting busy the next few days, but there is no trace of hope for my Scopa project. I've gone through a a "sorting meeting" with the group which was to sort and pick images for the upcoming contest, Austria's International Photography Contest, or commonly known as the Trierenberg Circuit. I was kind of disappointed to see one of my panoramas which I'm proud of beside a single shot to be just dropped down and for somewhat absurd reasons not related to composition or quality. Thus, I might consider uploading them separately on my own. This is not because I do encourage or like contests, but this panorama and that single image have so much in it; something cultural and a heritage, thus I want to show it to all.
On the other hand, I've been somewhat disappointed by some behavior on Instagram, as I see many of my so-called "friends" and members of the group do give Likes and comments generously to others but not to me, the one who posts daily. Most (not all) of my Likes are actually given by strangers who probably searched using a specific hashtag or maybe visitors from Explore? If my images made it there anyway (not sure how an image would be displayed there). I think I need to adjust my behavior online, and I'm starting that off by giving Likes for Likes only.
Some poetry are sparking a little in my head but I didn't get the chance to pin down the words. Mainly, I got moved by Werewolf which I've posted above but unfortunately, my mind was so much in a mess to just write anything down. As I'm reading and exploring the world of INFPs (after doing the MBTI lately), there is some emphasis on writing, so I might need to push that further. I do write some thoughts on a daily basis though (and translate them into Irish as a way to practice the language a bit) but that wouldn't be much of a writing, would it? We need poetry there.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Selfies Go Leor…

Well, seems my stalemate is still going on with my Scopa project on hold for the lack of resources (well, models). I'm trying to work on other projects as much as possible, but with the back of rush hours and schools, I'm literally drained out of power every time I'm back home from work and now I need to cope with afternoons naps mechanisms! Yet, this is not the only frustrating thing to deal with, more to come later below.


This is one of the ideas I've probably put in a list in my last post. Some idea to reflect the inner struggle, and I was turning around this idea in my head some time before even discovering that I'm an INFP-T type according to some tests. Yet, looking at it at some specific angle, it does look like reflecting on one side of that personality type. Anyway, I preferred to call it Schizophrenia


The blending work with this work was not a big deal and somehow done quickly (compared to what I used to do with the peeling effect). However, there are a number of mistakes that I've realized after finishing this work, and even after doing my final touches to this little project. But let's first see some aspects of "behind the scene:"

  • Four speedlites were used here: Two reflecting from a cardboard below and two bounced off the ceiling. This system is often called the Clam shell lighting.
  • To kill the ambient light as much as possible, I needed to use HSS mode to go over the sync speed (shot at 1/400s), at f/8 with ISO 160.
  • Technically, my brother is the photographer but since I'm the one who directed everything and all he has to do is press the button, I think I have to say it's my own work ^_^ - Anyway, he is still having a problem with focusing properly!
  • Shot using Voigtländer 20mm with B+W 092 Infrared filter. I definitely had to work with infrared here since it provides quite and interesting contrast and looks (and not just turning my eyes blue!).
  • I had to satisfy myself in the beginning with the background, which I wished for to be completely black (and black substances are hard to work with in infrared as well).
After finishing with all the work with the camera, it was the time then for processing the images. It was here essentially that I've found out about my mistakes but it would be hard to go back and re-do the whole thing, but let it be a lesson to learn from. 

  • Initially, I wanted to show each face on its own, but then I've found myself attaching the eyes together as it looked more proper and smoother in transition in blend between the different faces. This issued the problem with the expressions: facial expressions are not clear for the lack of the eye compliment.
  • Among the faces, where I tried to mimic fear, anger, sadness, and absence of mind, I've found myself forgetting about one of the basic expressions: Happiness and smiling.
  • Using a wide-angle lens was a grave mistake. I was aiming at cropping the images from the beginning and this is why I used a wide-angle lens (to have more space to cut). However, looking at it now, probably I should have used my 50mm lens for this project. The final finish is actually such a small image that would be barely suitable to be printed on A4 size!
  • Despite using ISO 160 which is proved to be my native ISO, yet the noise frequency was somehow higher than the usual unlike the tests I've done! Could it be because of the sensor being overheating? Not sure.
The background here had to be done in a special process, since I wanted to add a dark atmosphere to the scene. I used Lens Blur for the background and added some vignetting to the whole scene as well. The eyes, specifically, needed some push in exposure as well so I dodged them a little to let them shine. This little work now in fact gives me further ideas to think about doing later on as well. Maybe I could have done something extra to this same project, like taking more images and find a way to merge them, with more mouths and more eyes - but then it wouldn't be much about Schizophrenia probably!


I've been fascinated for some time by the portrait done for Che Guevara (the portrait, not the person). I've been dubbing this type or form of art or effect as a Seal Effect, as it resembles somehow the shape of the wax seal when stamped. However, I'm not aware if there is any good name for this, and probably I should just called it the Che Effect! In my previous post, I've posted a selfie which I've edited in a similar way somehow. I'm aware though that Che's portrait is most probably a work of art, meaning not a manipulation for some photograph of him; I'm not really not sure. Anyway, I tried my best with that selfie of mine to mimic the effect with whatever tools I have available for me in PS. 
Selfie Seal
Generally speaking, I think this effect would do better if the selfie is shot with one flash or speedlite; In other words, one-directional light. Techniques like the Low-Key would do better here. It's all about the play of light and shadows, and the dramatic look. However, this is just my own notes about it, and in fact I've tried to work with another selfie (part of the Schizophrenia project above) which was lit on two sides instead of one, and I still did get some reasonable final result as will be shown in few.

Original selfie, which was in fact a
screen capture rather than a saved
file from the original shot!
The Ghost
 I've taken this selfie and with some clicks and effects I've ended up with the desired result. I've found myself forced to use excessive sharpening as well before doing the whole work to provide some enough grains to be merged later as black areas of some sort. Anyway, after finishing the image, I felt there was something missing. Without much feeling about it, I've got into the Liquify command in Photoshop and just started splashing things randomly and the result was something more of... a Ghost peeking at me. Doing such work with my selfies does in fact inspire me to do more ideas with myself, since it's hard to find anyone willing to work with me, even for few minutes. Some suggested to hire a model, which it possible of course. However, under the current circumstances and finances, it is better to be off away from this option for the time being, and needless to say, I do not consider myself a professional portrait photographer and not even someone who has a keen interest in this subject. It is just random ideas kicking in and out of my head and I feel myself compelled to do them. What is amazing about this last work, The Ghost, it did in fact kick in some desire for poetry back and without knowing it I was there typing a poem. Though random probably with scattered feelings, but it was something to be done.

The Ghost.
There he was,
and there he is.
A gazing figure,
an apprentice.
Pale in horror,
a figure of shame.
Terror, he served me,
by terror, him I tame.
Friendly Ghost,
and black is the color.
Timidly a Ghost,
fierce in angst and valor.
Opposites rhyme,
only in his caress.
Touching my heart,
set me in abyss.
Awful, how he looks,
such a beauty in misery.
Gazer I was upon that,
Alas, in that mirror,
That Ghost was just me.

The poem was also posted on, which I didn't use in a long time now. There is a great urge to go back to writing, specially after reading how my typical INFP-T personality would act and react, which I find 95% of it is correct indeed. That personality report did give me some confidence which I was lacking, and restored my image of myself to myself, after believing that I was abnormal in some aspects. But this is who I am indeed...


There is an increasing feeling of leaving everything and just isolate myself, there in my room, and preferably doing nothing. I'm literally getting tired of everything. As for my Scopa project which I need to finish, and it should be finished with because some people are waiting for the results, I'm so tired for chasing after some people to shoot for this project. Re-doing any shot is a catastrophic aftermath as well, if there is any need be. This rest might include blogging as well; I have to admit that blogging does indeed put some stress on me to finish it in time. Probably I would invest all that time in shooting photos and sleeping! If only I don't have to go to work anyway...
One of the disasters that I've found out lately, as I'm planning to do my Retinitis Pigmentosa Month project, is the fact that in this country NO blind stick or cane is to be found any where by any vendor!!! I was advised to call major pharmacies for some private hospitals and clinics to check with them, but seeing how things did go with some major companies of medical supplies here, I'm not optimistic that I would be able to find any. I have now 2 options, and as we say in Arabic: "The sweetest of them is bitter." Option one, is to mimic the looks of the cane or maybe use a regular cane instead. Second option, is to change my whole idea for this project and try to find some other idea to implement which requires no cane. I'm inclined to pick the second option but I have to think quick. Not sure if brainstorming would do here either. Can you imagine a country with no blind-canes around?! I can, of course, order these, but I really have no time to waste waiting for such a shipment, so I've neglected this idea. However, I might indeed order such a cane in some other time as I find it interesting to train myself using it. After all, I'm a person with some eye disease, and not sure when all that is visual simply stops working for me…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, January 25, 2018


Sounds it's been ages since I've typed anything here. Actually I was busy with my other Arabic blog putting up an article discussing the "Native ISO" as a concept, and how to find it out practically for the camera under question. It seems anyway that most, if not all, Canon cameras do have a native ISO of 160. I used to mix up the concept of the lowest ISO and the Native ISO, but it turned out this is not correct. After testing, I find it indeed as it was mentioned in many websites and discussion threads, the Native ISO of 160 for Canon has less noise than ISO 100 (the lowest)! Not only that, but even one full stops from ISO 160 (e.g. 320, 640) do show lesser level of noise from those less and those more in one third stop for each value. This is one major step of knowledge in fact, as gaining 2/3 of a stop without sacrificing the quality to the noise can do wonders, specially when working with speedlites and high-speed photography. Thus, from now on, I'm going to set my ISO on 160 by default!


It feels like being in a head-lock with this Scopa project. Been days now, or rather weeks, without doing anything about it. This is mainly for the lack of people (models) who are willing to take the step with me, as I've finished all the regular cards, and now it is time to shoot the court cards which must contain a person. 

Fante di Denari
My first trial was to shoot the Fante di Denari with my nephew; A shot that needs to be re-done apparently. The shot was taken with my Voigtländer 20mm lens which apparently proved to be a bad choice here, not because of the distortion (barely visible here), but because of the extra spaces that I needed to deal with and which resulted in some space above the head, and that, should not there. Adding to that, my nephew's devilish looks were not, well, devilish enough! After this shot, I've decided to shoot next with my 50mm, which is in fact the correct choice for portraiture photography on cropped sensors like my camera's, because it approximate the perspective of 80mm lens on full-frame camera. So I moved next to do the Fante di Spade, and this time the victim is the usual brother of mine. One day I think he would be killing me but I can't find any better replacements! 

Fante di Spade
Beside changing the lens to 50mm when doing the Fante di Spade, I've also changed the position of the speedlites. Instead of striking from below on the side as in Fante di Denari, I've placed them right in front of my brother in Fante di Spade. Because of the lack of space inside the frame, I've changed here to a dagger instead, as placing a sword in such narrow space would eventually cause it to protrude outside the frame. Can't say I'm satisfied about his hand placement with the dagger but I need to satisfy myself with it for the time being, after directing his pose myself (ahem). He had some hard time wearing all these stuff already! With him, a devilish face was achieved, and I pretty much liked it that I've made his head shot into a separate image by cropping from the original before converting the whole image to B&W.

Il Fante

It's a good thing that I've been doing all this project's shots in infrared, as it opens such a wide gate for creativity instead of sticking to the original colors, and not to mention the fact that our eyes turn bluish in such images making them a bit more interesting!
Exactly how my chess horse looks like.
Now to add to my obstacles and problems, we have the issue of the Cavallo, the Horseman or Horse card. Of course I will not be shooting a real horse, but it was time to think further of some substitute. Initially, my idea was to find a horse head costume, but seeing how it was hard to get a crown for my Re (king) shooting later on (and I'm not sure if they will fit properly even), so I had to think of something else. It seems inevitable to do some photo editing and montage and the idea was there for me: Superimposing an image of a horse over the original shot. Thought of downloading the image from some photo stock website, but then I thought why not shoot it myself. My first target was my chess pawns, but that thing did look like a Scottish terrier more than a horse!!!


Since my Scopa project is undergoing a stalemate, I've decided for a big part to dig up and check old photos and apply some techniques that I've not used in a long time, namely the  LAB Editing technique, in which colors are enhanced or modified by converting the image to LAB from RGB (and back to RGB later). Meanwhile, I did indeed discover some stuff, and also I did process some pretty old images that I've totally neglected because of various reasons (mainly being of bad exposure or shaky) - so old were they that some of them actually date back to 2009 with my first visit to Ireland with my old Canon 350D and 2 kit lenses! Moreover, there were some "artistic" editing to some images, doing effects and all these stuff... you know.

Tranquility by The Pond
It started well with some neglected shots from The Chinese Scholars Garden on Staten Island; shot back in 2012. I've neglected some of these shots mainly for not being "interesting" enough or simply because I was not able to think outside the box of HDR rendering. Thinking about HDR, sometimes, made me neglect those images with one shaky exposure. Moreover, some overexposures were and could have been fixed in certain techniques, and I failed to see through it back then. That's why I always hold the believe to always keep the "apparently" not so good images. You wouldn't know when it will be good, at least for the social media!

By The Pond

For many of these shots, the LAB Editing technique comes to the rescue even though the angle can be somewhat "boring." Indeed, I didn't even imagine that people would express their liking for Tranquility by The Pond or By The Pond at all. Worth noting here as well that reflections off the surface of the water were enhanced further by doing such technique and enhancing the colors in general (I didn't have a polarizer back then and I doubt I would be using it if I had it back then even). Probably it would have been even better with a polarizer for sure but at least something is saved and shown! Important thing though is: Editing the RAW file to enhance the shadows and show some details there, specially if it is the darkest exposure of some HDR bracketing trial.

Tríd an Triantán
(through the triangle)
When it comes to overexposure for some areas, and to be specific to the sky, where there are no details, like it was the case with Tríd an Triantán, a simple masking and adding a background would do the trick. I could have added some background from another source, but I always preferred to add from the same image, mostly by duplicating the layer and adding a layer mask to it, then moving it (while detaching the layer mask from the main layer). Some cloning work might be due though, just to add few touches or fix something. In Tríd an Triantán, which was shot in 2009 in the periphery of Ashford Castle (with 18-55mm kit lens), I tried to apply another effect to mimic the shallow depth of field; Say, just to keep it interesting. I've applied this effect before to another image from Staten Island, The Moon Gate, but probably it fits Tríd an Triantán more because of the angle of view (it goes straight, while it is somewhat upward in The Moon Gate).

The Moon Gate

To apply this effect, I had to use Lens Blur instead of the usual Gaussian Blur, and it had to be applied on 3 layers with 3 different levels of blurring. This is essential as in reality the shallow depth of field starts light and ends up heavy in the horizon (or at infinity). Moreover, such an effect is better off with Lens Blur because the algorithm used in this effect mimics the shallow depth of field for the lenses, while Gaussian Blur effect does not (and more systematic). Thus, to keep things real: Please use Lens Blur!
However, with all that work to revive some old forgotten shots, I'm doubtful about their "Printability" - Yes, that's word I've made up just now. Many of these shots look good in small sizes making them good for social media posting and all, but the original ones are unlikely to be printed in large sizes, say like A3 or A2 for any expo to come. This is mainly because of the noise level which, if cleaned, might take off more details than it should. But I wouldn't know for sure till I try, so we'll see!

Panoramic Endeavor

This is something I've been trying for a while since I'm not doing anymore panoramas; So just to create something new out of my previous work. This thing is mainly creating animations out of panoramas, and specially those planet or circular panoramas. Sometimes though, instead of animations, some tessellation-like patterns are made (and uploaded to the stocks!). The main target was Instagram in fact, but with those large files of tessellations or patterns, it did sound feasible to be uploaded (after reducing their dimensions) to the stocks.

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As for the animations, the main problem was the reduction in resolution with the ongoing rotation with each frame (rotating each frame 5°). To minimize this effect, I had to work on larger file sizes and in 16-bit TIFF if possible. However, later on and after reading some threads online, it seems that such a reduction is caused mainly by Photoshop itself for some algorithm-related problem it seems. Meanwhile, rotating an image to the main cardinal points (90°, 180° and 270°) does not reduce the quality of the image. Then it occurred to me, to do four specific layers of the image with each oriented to one of these cardinal directions and rotate each for 5° (making up for 17 frames per copy). This way, the quality loss will be lesser. Adding to that, I still do work with a large file and reducing it to a small size (with a crop) and then rendering the video for Instagram at even a smaller size. All that work is done with JPEGs images and not TIFF anymore, so sparing me the memory crisis! With the addition of Actions, the work now is even a piece of cake; All I have to do is click a button several times and now I have 17 frames rotating with 5° each.

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For the time being, the favorite size to render these animations to is 600X600 pixels. However, it seems that I have to uplift the limit a bit and try 800X800 pixels, as it might look a bit stretched on some devices. And speaking of animations, there is another useful usage for them for regular horizontal panoramas, where I used to cut these into 3 slides (most of the time) and post them in a Swipe or Album manner on Instagram. Posting them like that did make up for some awkward alignment and that's why I would need to add a 4th slide to put things in a proper perspective. Now though, doing animations, this is not necessary anymore. I can simply move the panorama horizontally and it is played back as a video in the same window and no need to swipe!

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There is a tiny problem with these horizontal animations though, which is how to divide the horizontal movement on equal number of pixels that matches the width of the panorama. Thus, unlike with polar/circular images, with displacement measured by degrees, the movement on the horizontal plane is measured by pixels. Hence, it does look sometimes as if the animation has jumps and not going smoothly. The loss in quality during these displacements though seems close to null apparently, which is good!

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Vertical twisted panoramas as well appeal more to me for making textures like those above and I'm planning to do more of them soon. Those can make up for really huge files, but unfortunately, no stocks would be accepting them (maximum as far as I know, is around 30MB). It would be a great addition to have such files uploaded online at sizes of 100-300MB! To end this matter for now, here is a funny story:
As I was digging my old files looking for old panoramas and old neglected shots to do some art with them or animations, I've noticed that I didn't make a planet panorama from inside the Chinese Scholars Garden; specifically around the pond. I've made only a flat version of that place. Probably I've neglected this option because of some of the hardships and errors, I don't know! But looking at it now, it does sound good enough to be displayed.

Planeta Fenestra

To add some spices to "my discovery," I've edited the image with LAB technique again and tried to enhance some colors as well as reduce the overexposure (which is probably why I've neglected this panorama for long). And with this, we have a happy ending for this story and who knows, I might discover another neglected panorama!


Selfie Seal
With this long post, it does seem like I'm having a lot of activities in my life, while the truth is the opposite in fact, as I didn't touch my camera much and most of my work is about re-working old photos and trying to create something out of old things (even out of my selfie on the left). My mind is busy, and so is my schedule and body unfortunately. I do have a number of ideas I need to do, specially with February approaching; the Retinitis Pigmentosa Month. Just so to see, let's list these ideas down for the moment:
  • Doing something for RP month as mentioned above.
  • An old idea inspired by Sabah Fakhri, and still cannot do because I do need special arrangement and a narrow space.
  • Infrared panorama indoors which would involve a hand (of a human or mannequin, whatever).
  • Photo shoot for some selfies to be combined later on with Photoshop, reflecting schizophrenia or multi-personalities disorders.
  • Photo series with chairs reflecting on corruption and old mentalities at work.
  • Shooting through the microscope (again).
  • Doing a photo shoot reflecting my personality as I deducted lately from some personality tests, where I got the classification of INFP-T (The Mediator type). 
All of these are just some ideas for now and all on hold, with my Scopa project on stalemate as well. Probably I'm dreaming too much? I guess. My life do look like being on a roller-coaster and I can't stop it. Everything around me is changing, and I don't see it to the good side. I pray that I will be able to travel for some time, away from this place, just to get things out of my mind for real. I feel like my mind and body are overflowing with those things they call "bad vibes." For some reason, I really don't feel like following onto that path of "positivity talk;" Deep inside, I feel it as seeing the world with pink-colored glasses and losing touch with reality, and the end result is a hard slam. If I'm thought of as a pessimist, then I guess I am with no shame in that. Probably my camera has done its job to its fulfillment, and the need to travel for some time is long due. When? I don't know…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy