Thursday, December 7, 2017


Well, the work is started and still going on with my "lil" project, the Scopa cards. As I've foresaw already, the process will not be easy, specially with no adequate place, nor proper help, and no proper props. However, I've done some cards already, and I'm using some of these basic cards (specifically the Ace or Asso cards) to create cards of multiples (up to seven supposedly). Not all the time of course, and in many occasions I would have to re-shoot.

Asso di Spade - versione 2.

Each suit of cards (that is, cards of specific sign) had its own problems, but mainly, the major problem is finding a proper prop or item to act for that specific suit. Talking about aces, which is the most simple and basic shot that should be there, ended up using various items far away from their "real" counterpart: a censer for a cup, a sugar bowl lid for a coin, and a scabbard for a club or baton. However, for the Ace of Swords, I did indeed get a sword (a heirloom of the family). The swords suit specifically is putting me in dilemma somewhat as I made already several cards by merging previously made ones, but I'm not sure if I should continue like this or not, as I initially had an idea of involving my dagger (which I brought from Oman) for this mission as well.

Quattro di Spade
Quattro di Spade (Four of Swords)
made with repetition of a specific shot taken solely for that purpose.


I've done, so far, almost all the "two" cards for each suit.  Some of them are probably on my "re-do" list, but I'll need to figure out some time for them. Basically, however, the "two" card is composed or made out of a single shot which was taken for this purpose previously. I was aiming to keep things simple in fact, to quicken my pace. However, I couldn't resist the idea of using some extra elements when it was about shooting Due di Coppe, that is the Two of Cups. Then I thought, why not merge some High-Speed into it?
Speedlite 430EX II.
Things came along together here in fact. The time this idea popped up in my mind was contemporaneous with the selling of some 430EX II Speedlites by a friend, who is converting to Nikon (as usual) and needed to get rid of his gear, and among them these two speedlites for some cheap value! It was a bargain I could not miss, and so I got them, and now I own 6 speedlites - what a High-Speed photographer wouldn't wish for?! Well, Syl Arena in one of his books made it clear that he owns about 13 speedlites for his "missions." So, having 6 speedlites is nothing really. The problem with 430EX II model though is that it does not accept external power supply like the 580EX II, and cannot be set to a Master like the 580EX II, but only as a Slave. However, in combination with what I have, it just does the job perfectly. Notice that 430EX II is a very old model by now, and Canon issued 430EX III-RT probably a year ago (RT signifies it works with Radio Transmission), and that was after actually issuing the high end speedlite, 600EX-RT. Unfortunately for me, I can't work with 600EX-RT since all my collection of speedlites work with infrared wireless beaming, I would need some extra measures to let the new and old speedlites work  together then.

My playground with 6 Speedlites.

Probably the shot here did not need to work in High-Speed, but I couldn't risk it with the movement of the water. I wanted to freeze it. Thus, I've pushed my shutter up to 1/2000s. When we talk about High-Speed, it does not necessarily mean shooting with such a high speed for the shutter, but it simply means we need to surpass the limitation of the sync speed (which is 1/250s for my camera here). I use High-Speed shooting often just to kill the ambient light, which otherwise, would be visible at the sync speed of the camera.

Due di Coppe

Now, despite the simplicity of the idea: pouring water into a grail-like bowl; yet there had been some delays to do it. Mainly because I needed a model (my brother of course) to work with me while I stand behind the camera. I tried to do it alone as with the rest of the shots before, but unfortunately, that was awkward and completely clumsy which made my concentration shatter. I had to wait for my brother till he had the time to do it with me. The first thing to do then, was to change my lens from Voigtländer 20mm (with which I've shot most of my shots in this project so far) to my old 50mm; This is to get a proper field of view. Also, f/11 was reduced down to f/8 and then further to f/6.3 to allow for more light to pass in: High-Speed mode reduces the speedlite power, so imagine bouncing it off as well, which makes it weaker further (bouncing here is essential to reduce the flare off the metallic surface) . Initially, I wanted to use only 5 speedlites on the side but the dark shadows pushed me to run the 6th one which was used as a commander only, fitting a globe diffuser on it. The rest was a work for Photoshop, which was lengthy as well, but doing panoramas and fixes to them I guess makes this nothing to compared to them.

Due di Denari

And since we are talking about Twos, probably I should put on this which I've shot for the Two of Coins card, but there is a strong probability that I would need to re-do it again, since the lid which I've used as a coin is off the center on my palm. I've struggled in fact to fix it to my fingers with a rubber band so I can open my palm while shooting this. What it did not occur to me at that time is the fact that I could have done that easily (relatively) by simply shooting down at my palm instead of standing in front of the camera! What was I thinking? I simply do not know...


 Well, my mind now is having a surge of ideas and I'm trying to keep concentrating on this one project right now, the Scopa project, but probably it is about time that I might have to take a break from this one and work on another idea, then go back to Scopa. Well, just to avoid being bored I guess? Maybe. Or maybe I just need to do these ideas before they rotten in my head and I lose interest. I'm already having an idea for doing a panorama and another one for a single shot dedicated to my urge to travel. Now, on the stack, there is another idea for a panorama in a narrow space (talk about claustrophobia again). I might do this latter panorama first as it is, relatively, easier to do and does not need any help (i.e. a model or so). We'll see by this weekend, with my queue line of games to play!
Winter is getting colder, with a nicer weather (to me), but maybe I should find some time to get some new winter clothes? Well, not fond of shopping in general but maybe I should make time for this. A new jacket might be good. However, it doesn't seem I would be going out this winter to shoot. Many things are there that trouble my mood and mind, so I better keep it all to myself for now. Besides, my need for sleep is growing by day as well. Sometimes I feel like having a 2 weeks vacation, for nothing but merely sleeping. I will keep my hopes for that though for the new year's eve, as I'm planning to have some long weekend by then!

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, November 23, 2017

I Progetti…

Weather getting colder here, with some rains; A time to rejoice. The only thing I'm hating about this is the traffic jams. They are there all the time in this place of course, but with a tiny spit of rain and the whole scene turns like if it is a snowstorm in Siberia. I quite realize the need to drive safely but no need to create a "soap opera" about it. Such conditions, specially at night, tend to put more pressure on my vision as it seems. Let's see if we are able to go out and shoot at late nights as in the old days during this winter. Though, thinking about it, I really can't think of a proper place that would deserve my attention right now. Most of my projects and inspirations are done indoors, and specifically my home, and with my body being split between work, traffic jams, and home, I really started to hate the idea of driving just to do a shoot. Unless it's for money of course. Meanwhile, I'll keep trying to do my thing with my own head and my own ideas with little projects…

Let's Play

I've done a session about 2 or 3 weeks ago with my brother doing the preacher gesture. Out of 8 or 9 shots, I've settled with 2 shots mainly that were relatively good. I've discussed these in the previous post anyway if you like to read about it. However, I've decided to take this one step further with a little edit.

Due del Predicatore

Due del Predicatore (Two of Preacher) is formed by one of these shots done previously, with duplicating the image and rotating it. Some delicate masking work was involved here as well. It was an experiment just to see how it would look like, but this experiment did trigger something else. An idea.
This idea is still waiting to be completed, but I've managed to put a plan or a general view for it by writing them down, and all I need now is some props, and a model. As usual, I might need the services of my poor brother again!
The idea is about creating a set of Scopa game cards, but in images; Real ones. Thus, I will need some disks or coins for real, swords or knives, for real, and many other things that I'm still not sure how I will be getting those.

Notes and plans for the next project.
In a nutshell, I'm supposed to end up with 40 images, one for each type of cards in the Scopa game. Sounds too much work, and I think it is indeed, but I think simplifying things further would help on quickening the process. For example, I'm set on using a single speedlite for all images and probably I would be using the globe diffuser on it for most of the shots. I've decided also that all shots should be with my modified camera and using the infrared filter (B+W 092), but later on, the images would be converted to B&W completely, and maybe with some reduced contrast like in the case of Due del Predicatore. I think the lighting should be dramatic, but with some sense of mystery, and I believe nothing mimics the feeling of mystery better than the gray tones. In Scopa, the "faces" cards, or cards with human figures are three: Donna, Cavallo, and Re (queen, horse, and king respectively). I'm planning to keep the shooting for these cards to the end since they require a full body shot, and it would be nice to have various figures instead of working, again, with my brother alone. Thus, for the time being, I might get on working with the "normal" cards. There is a problem with the Donna though, as I don't think I will be able to get a female figure to help me here (not ready to pay for a model, pardon me), so a little research here revealed that in some Italian versions of the game, the Donna is called "Fante" instead; soldier, or foot soldier, and sometimes this would be translated into English as "The Knave." So, there are other routes around this problem I guess; we'll see.
Lens-wise, there will not be a single lens to work as I might range my shots from macro to normal, but I believe the work won't be out of 3 main lenses I have: 20mm Voigtländer, 50mm Canon, and 100mm Macro Canon. The last one though seems to be acting weird lately so I might use extension tubes if I have to with my 50mm lens. For a beginning, I'm already planning on setting the aperture to f/11, always. Talk about more flash power! There is some thought ahead about how to represent this set (and how to upload it to stock if it is feasible to be sold like that) but such thoughts are kept for later in the meantime, and it's important to get it done first. Till the time to complete this comes, I need to get busy with another simple project that I've decided to do and might post about it later!

An Taobh Níos Dorcha

"The Darker Side," this is what the title is about. However, to be honest, this idea was not the core of this shooting session with myself, but rather the idea was completely stemming from a technical aspect, and a desire to create something that would be suitable with the Swipe property on Instagram. In other words, an image made specifically for Instagram in the first place. There was nothing to think of, naturally, except of my face. Beside the fact that selfies on Instagram seldom appear as slides to swipe through; it's either regular shots in a slideshow or a panorama (which I post regularly on Instagram). Thus, a selfie sounded the perfect idea!

The set (and mess) for this little project.
The idea of "the darker side" of the personality sounded cliché to me. I think the idea had been used since early sci-fi times, but thinking about it, I really couldn't think of anything better to put to proper use with this shoot. However, I was already planning to do this using some Photoshop editing, since I can't make myself look like a wolf or something on location, specially with such sensitive shooting!
As can be seen here with the set, I've placed 2 white paper boards or sheets of cardboard behind the camera with one speedlite pointing to one of them. The idea was to give an effect of two speedlites with the power of one higher than the other, all that using just a single speedlite (which kind of worked here after a struggle with the settings, and the power supply!). The shoot is pretty sensitive because I have to stay still in front of the lens without moving a muscle, except of changing my facial expressions from angelic, to demonic! Of course, my old portable monitor had been put to some good use here. Since I wanted some "dramatic" look and unusual ones, it was natural to think of shooting infrared again. I didn't want to deprive the image of colors this time, since I believe colors here, the slight addition of them, makes greater impact on the viewer. I'll save the B&W when it comes to absolute facial expressions and skin wrinkles!

The Joker Side of The TJ

The work is to take 2 shots, as stable as possible, in the same position as much as possible. Thus, it requires high shutter speed, but indoors, however, the sync speed (1/250s) is just enough to dim the surrounding. You can see or imagine part of the mess that my room is if you checked the set above, thus it was important to dim my surroundings, or in other words, kill the ambient light. I mentioned above that I used a single speedlite reflecting it off 2 boards in V-shape to mimic the effect of 2 speedlites, one more powerful than the other. After mingling with some settings I've created the effect needed but it appeared in reverse order: left of the picture is darker. I have to admit though, the monitor kind of tricked me into believing that the test shots were properly lit (I didn't check the histogram) and when it was the time to process the RAW files, I had to pump the Exposure drastically. There was a trial also to use a second speedlite (430EX II) to add light to the hair somehow, but I've neglected the idea and I'm glad I did so!
Because of the way that Instagram slides work (swiping to the left) and I want to show the "angelic" side first, I had to reverse the image and go on with my work. The rest was some Liquify tool job with some masks to complete the demonic figure on the right. There is some tiny work that had to be done to the size of the image as well since I need to divide it to two equal parts, and hence The Joker Side of The TJ appears in somewhat panoramic ratio.

A post shared by TJ.Photography (@tj_q8) on

On Instagram, it seems that many people liked the idea and considered it something new. This is encouraging to think of something similar, to be going around the various options that Instagram offers like the Swipe option here. It is an open door to surrealism. Nevertheless, I do wish if Instagram enables or do something about 360 images which might make my life a bit easier. However, this swipe display on Instagram does indeed spark for me some ideas about displaying the images in a special way physically, when the time allows for that. Anyway, the idea is still not concrete and I'm trying to focus on other projects right now.

Saved By PS

I've talked before about doingsome product photo shoot for my nephew and his Rubik cubes (though cubes is not a precise term for that anymore). Since I do not own a dedicated product photography gear (e.g. a tent or light cube), I usually try to improvise, and discover as well.

On two occasions, I've used a white themed set, something close to high-key environment to shoot such products, specially that most of them are contained in white. In all these occasions though, the plastic or acrylic piece underneath was the main problem. It did provide some reflections nicely, but it showed a seam line behind the products. Though I used this seam to fix the horizon tilt, but that doesn't work all the time and not necessarily correct. Quite a considerable time was spent to eliminate and do a surgery to remove this line in Photoshop. What came after, made this a child's play.

On the third occasion, I tried to change my approach and headed to use black themed set; Not close to low-key though as I'm supposed to use more than one speedlite here in various directions. I tried to keep it simple as well, but that didn't work out unfortunately, and I had to go for the plastic sheet for reflections again, as the look was flat and quite simple (in looks that is). Despite moving the speedlite off-center and away from the camera but it did make the image look flat (and I used a bit of on-camera flash to fill the front). Generally speaking, something was missing and I was working in a haste. Anyway, I had other things to finish, so I uploaded these images and showed them to my nephew who was pleased about them but he is no artist - I told him that I was in a haste as I didn't want to keep him waiting for more than week but he said it's fine to wait. Thus, I went through another trial and this time using the plastic sheet underneath for some reflections, but again, problems happened!

To begin with, I had to change the viewing angle (or camera angle that is) and lower it further. I think that way is more interesting to look at than a typical view from the top. After shooting few trials, it was obvious that speedlites are not doing any good for me here in this situation with much flare and unwanted stray lights and even shadows. Thus, I've decided to go ambient and it proved to be quicker in terms of the workflow, and reliable. I think I fell a victim to what Syl Arena described in one of his books as: the eagerness to create light and forgetting the available possibilities. Meaning, the ambient light can be good enough, but still you might try hard (and waste time) to create an interesting light thinking that a good look is only achievable by external lighting, or modified lighting that is. This is wrong, and probably I should have considered the ambient light from the very beginning of the whole thing.
Another problem prevailed though, and it is a lesson for me to learn: Black is quite sensitive to dirt. While shooting on white, dust particles can get overwhelmed by light and eventually disappear from the scene, or almost. However, with black set, the situation was drastic (specially that I didn't wipe the plastic sheet before the work) and that pushed me to work my fingers around with Photoshop again to save the situation and this time using Lens Blur for the lower part of the set, i.e. the reflections. This created a diffused reflection, almost close to reality as if some "matte" material was been used for reflections, and eliminating the dust particles that were spread all over the place. It was then a work for Layer Masks with a delicate brush to specify the areas where it should prevail and where it should be hidden. Gaussian Blur on the other hand would have made quite a mess, so it is better to avoid it in such situations.

I was lucky though with some shots that the dust was not quite spread over the place so a tiny work of cloning or spot healing was just enough to clean the image. However, since the whole process here was shot using my 100mm macro lens (from a distance), I did notice some weird softness in the images despite using high f-number (f/16 here). I'm not quite sure here, is it something has to do with the nature of the lens or indeed my lens is malfunctioning. If it is malfunctioning, then why? Is it fixable? I'm not sure. But sure thing that I have to think of my 100mm lens as my last resort when it comes to normal shooting that is. As for the images, the softness do not have a great impact since they will be used on Instagram in a small size after all, and that will suffice anyway. Now, is it the time to get proper product photography gear? Maybe... specially with this acrylic or plastic piece causing a problematic seam sometimes. I need to finish some stuff first…


Well, at the moment my mind is racing through to go through some of these projects I've described above and I'm already tired of looking for props. I've at least shot a single shot for the "Scopa" project at the time of typing this. However, I need to be faster, and I must get some proper props ASAP!
On the other hand, I was hoping of getting one image done at least from another project in my mind, inspired by another (folk) Arabic song of Sabah Fakhri [صباح فخري] which involves a globe miniature. All I need to do is shoot just a single picture, but it requires some work with the lighting I presume which would make the process long. Anyhow, I didn't find the proper place I need to shoot it so the whole thing is postponed till I can think of something or some place to do it. That's why I switched to the Scopa project instead and done at least one image from whatever prop I have available at hand.
Meanwhile, I'll keep dreaming about being outside enjoying my time away from the fuss in this mess of a country. I'm getting to the point of being cold, senseless, and careless; careless to the point of not judging my actions or what I say sometimes. We have a bit longer weekend coming by next week, let's see if I can put that to some good use... doubt it.

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

Thursday, November 9, 2017


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…


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
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" 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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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!


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).


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