Friday, January 15, 2010

What a vacation...

What a busy week. It was a good thing that I've decided to take a leave from work for one week to do all the business related to my car leasing back again. I hate cars, this is for sure.
After 3 days of struggling I managed to lease the same car for one extra year and this time no automatic deduction via the bank but I have to do it myself, manually, either personally or by online. I hope their online service is as reliable as they said! The bad thing is, when I tried to pay for the first pay by visa, the card didn't work there and I had to pay by k-net (i.e. directly from my account). Judging from later events and how I used the visa card many times in many places afterwords, I got a feeling that I was fooled by the guy behind the counter. The visa card worked perfectly in several occasions and never failed to!

However, I had this little semi-vacation for myself; sleeping as much as I want, but yet I had to wake up early most of the days in this passing week. I had a plan to go to Miskan island alone yesterday but I didn't feel like it and I preferred to stay home (and in fact I slept afterward), plus the weather was (and still) windy. Might not be a good time for cruising in a ferry.

However, yesterday was not a completely idle day just like that in fact. I woke up in the morning and went out of home just right after the morning prayer and up to Soog Sharg. Don't remember that place? Well, here it is:

Soog Sharg
I had a plan earlier to take a photo for the parking lot just in front of this mall. I liked the view of these columns carrying light lanterns with a background of purple hue at dawn, and for this, timing was so very important.
I speeded up my way to there and parked some where as much isolated as possible and went on clicking with my camera in many angles and then finalizing my work with a hasty work of panorama. All shots were taken with bracketing exposures between -2 and +2, and I was flipping the aperture size here and there. The light was strong since I was close to one of the columns so I think those images taken with a large aperture were not so much what you would call, innovative. While those with smaller aperture made a star or a sparkle around light sources.


Large aperture (small f-number)

Forest of Lights.
Smaller aperture (high f-number)

The disaster in fact was, when I got back home I discovered that all my shots were taken with ISO 800, and that gives a big amount of noise or grains, so I had a hard time combining the images for HDR (which increases the grains almost like triple) and working on cleaning them and such (which is never perfect anyway specially with such large number as ISO 800). Photomatix was not much of a help in fact because the noise levels became so much exaggerated and its internal "noise reduction" did not make any wonder. Thus I had to refer to the typical HDR merging in Photoshop, which I don't like much, but I had to.

As for the panorama, and because of the problems mentioned afore, it was also a hard task to make one and also it is not perfect at all with many errors. After all, I gave up the idea of combining HDR images (in OpenEXR format) and stitch them together, but I got a hold of the +2EV sequence and that, to my eyes, was the best solution. As for the errors, I tried to do my best with Photoshop but yet, it was not much of a good work. It is sad to see nice colors gone that way with erratic stitching (and mainly because of my lack of proper tools);

Forest of Lights - Panorama.

The funniest thing in all of that was the security guys in the place. In Kuwait, you can't take a photo of your own house I believe without a permission of some sort. When I finished shooting the panorama and was on the go and collecting my stuff, this security guy came to me asking me where do I work and whether these photos for some magazine or for some newspaper, but I just replied with "I'm a hobbyist, and this is for myself". The guy couldn't do anything and just wished me good luck! I went into my car blasting with laughter!
You might think that a permission is needed indeed because it is a private property, but it is not. It is a public parking lot and a permission should not be necessary, specially that no trade marks are shown in the image or anything. However, I got away with it this time, I don't know if I can do it another time though! Imagine yourself being a hobbyist and required to make a permit for everything that your eyes see as beautiful... this is ridiculous.

In the mean time I'm still not finished with Ireland and the Irish beauty. There are still some issues not settled about some of the images and panoramas. Panoramas taken from Ireland are a critical matter since I can't go back and take the pictures again, so I try to spend more and more time with my images and try to make them as much acceptable as possible. At least to some viewers.

Aughnanure Tower. Co. Galway, Ireland.

The Smaller Tower of Aughnanure (Close-up). Co. Galway, Ireland.
Some of these images are repeated as I added them beforem but this time I think they got more enhanced colors. Not all people appreciate the weird-looking tone-mapped HDR images, so I try to keep them as much natural as possible.
On the other hand, there was a great deal of a chance to make my first spherical panorama (i.e. 360x180) but again because of stitching errors and technicality, I had to reduce this dream to simple 360 panorama. The panorama is for the small tower in Aughnanure castle from the inside. The panorama makes the space looks so wide open, but the truth is, I could barely move inside with my camera!

360 Chamber - Aughnanure Small Tower. Co. Galway, Ireland.
Also, while flipping through many of the effects and coordination systems, I discovered that I would get some nice effect with a "circular" panorama (not spherical);

Chamber Ball - Aughnanure Small Tower. Co. Galway, Ireland.
It has that nice look for peeking through a keyhole I guess! Now this panorama is what I call a hard stitching process. It took overnight to be done. I know for prefessionals this time is nothing, but to me and for my humble poor PC, this is too much really.
With this, I should try to examine all my choices when I do any panorama even if not a 360 one.

As I'm not going to go out today, I might write some words in my diary which I didn't write anything in it for long time now (since my back from Ireland!). I shall see to it if I can do something about the translation work with Alexander's story... if I had the power (or urge) to. I'm almost close to finishing it and I hate the feeling of laziness just when the work is about to be done. But this work, when done, will open the gates for a heavy load of work to be done later, specially with the awaiting website for Ayvarith conlang.

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