Thursday, March 24, 2011

3D Hunting II...

Been a slow week somehow. The week began with heavy headaches, starting from Friday. It was not a pleasant beginning for my last weekend at all. It was one of the rare times that I would sleep for 12 hours (not in a row though); from Thursday afternoon, until Friday's morning. Woke up then with a pain in the shoulder and neck (and the back of course), but the most annoying thing was, the headache. This headache reached its "climax" whenever I do some activity that would cause my blood pressure to raise up; my head would feel like blown out and I almost wanted to scream from the pain.
I waited for 2 days, because I thought it is what usually is; the regular pains of long sleep. Unfortunately, the headache did not calm down. The only way to calm it down was to have some pain-killers. I decided then to check with a doctor in case it is something serious. However, with some blood analysis that I just got its results on Wednesday, it turns out that there is nothing serious. I did such analysis back in November or December and this enabled me to make some comparison between the two. My cholesterol level is lower (but still bitty bit high) than the previous time and also my salts level. The doctor didn't add much to the general recommendations; sports, diet, and being away from salts as much as possible. My headache now is gone and I don't get it whenever I do some activity, but I have to keep an eye on my body now. I think I have to change my bed or do something about it.

Been carrying my tripod and camera wherever I go in hope of catching something; just anything. Life had become a bit dull, and with this daily traffic jam from work, the situation is a complete set of misery. I find it hard even to stay awake in the afternoons after coming back from work. I hate to nap at this time in regular week days but my fatigue wouldn't allow me to stay awake, and with my concerns about my blood pressure, I had to reduce my intake of caffeine for now. No redbull in early morning and no coffee at home or in the office, but I keep telling myself that this is just a temporal procedure. I already had a nap in the office twice this week!
Back to the camera. I've started to take my stuff with me almost anywhere I go, trying to find something to catch. I still have images to process from Ireland, but I don't come closer to them anymore. I think I'm exhausted for the time being and might get back later. For the time being I'm looking around the places I go to. In fact, it is indeed your eyes that see what is beautiful and make it, not the place itself. I experienced that when I paid a work-related visit to Anjafa Beach. It is somehow a quiet beach, quieter than the usual beach where I take my photos from, The Corniche or Salmiyah seaside. I intend to take some pictures from there, despite the location is somehow sensitive because of some villas around the place. Villas, for people I don't want to interrupt!
Nevertheless, I've been taking some pictures from the beach. The usual beach. After I left the clinic on Monday, having my blood taken for tests, I headed to Burger King on that beach to break the fast. I noticed some features that I did like to take some pictures of, although the sun elevation in the sky is not quite what I desire, and the weather is not cold any more like it was in those "lovely" winter mornings before...

Beach Shed

Despite the harsh sun here, I've used Fluorescent WB here to reduce (somehow) the sun's flare. Amazingly, it kind of gave out (with HDR tone-mapping of course) some sense of a night scene. I took several shots for this scene from different angles but I guess this one was the most appealing, and also after doing that, I remembered that I need some items into my 3D collection, so I went for it as well. This time I didn't use the fisheye lens, as I wanted to concentrate on the structure of the so-called "shed" here. It is the main subject that interested me in the first place for such 3D play-around. Fisheye also proves problematic for some structures as will be shown later...

 Beach Shed (3D)

It was one of my interests really to make 3D images (anaglyph) with fisheye lenses, and even I'm thinking of expanding this ambition to do it with panoramas, but it's early to talk about that for some reasons. I believe in case of a fisheye 3D image, the aim must be a a landscape or a wide area in the first place and not one specific structure (and I believe this is natural and obvious because of the nature of a fisheye lens). Now, what happens sometimes is that the structure itself, doesn't help at all to be a good 3D under a fisheye lens. This makes me a bit picky with when to use a fisheye lens. In the following example, it's my work place in 3D trial, but the problems occur with the pillars. The nature of the fisheye lens, to bend the scene on the edges, makes the difference between the left and right portions (i.e. the left and right images) at extreme on the edges while minimum in the center (that is if we were focusing on the center like I did here)...

 Work Place (3D)

Maybe the only thing, in my eyes, that did really pop-up as a 3D object was the bushes or trees behind the cars (that silver one on the left is mine by the way :) ). There is a lot of "ghosting" in this image specially at the edges (like the top of the pillars or the top of the building on the right side). Ghosting here is not like ghosting in HDR processing. In HDR, usually, we say "ghosting" about some phenomena that causes some blurring in the final HDR slide when combined from original bracketed images because of some moving object in the scene which the software that combines these bracketed images, in order to minimize the differences between the images before merging into HDR, tries to eliminate and replace the pixels, and the end result is some blur or a light shadow of some object. In 3D images, Ghosting means the fact that the red and blue (or Cyan or Green) portions in the image itself are so wide that the eye of the viewer can't combine them anymore to form one image in the spot. Ghosting in 3D images is somehow normal and like there is no really perfect 3D image (to some extent) but there are limits I believe to really settle down with such defections. Sometimes the ghosting effect can overwhelm the whole image making it meaningless! I have to admit though, my HDR tone-mapping for this image might have been a bit "over done".
Anyway I kept using my fisheye lens in the location that day (Wednesday) and focused on one of the trees. At this point I think I'm sort of made a mental point for myself on how to use a fisheye lens to do a 3D image...

Surreal Tree (3D)

I made this one here in Black and White to avoid the noise coming out from the shades of green and blue, and in fact, they say Black and White images make the best anaglyphs because there are no color confusions that might disturb the view. This sample in fact (with a previous one) made me almost sure that to use a fisheye lens for making a 3D image, your focus should be on the edges (left and right in case of landscape orientation or top and bottom in case of portrait orientation). This will leave of course the rest of the image and specially the opposite side of the focus point highly venerable for ghosting effects, but nevertheless, these ghosting are far away (relatively) from your focus point and maybe won't catch a glimpse at all!

3D Infinitum
Focusing on the lower center rock

Seems so much notes to keep in mind right now. However, with working a lot around this matter, it will eventually become like a second nature. More work needed here.
Now, to the matter of panorama in 3D. This is something I've been thinking about for some time but I didn't settle down with an opinion of my own and I just don't know how to achieve something like that! The main problem here is that when doing a proper panorama you actually use VR-heads to rotate the camera around the no-parallax point of the lens+camera combination (to avoid stitching errors resulting from parallax errors of course). Now, isn't 3D processing is generally made by overlapping 2 images with a tiny parallax error in between them? Because this is how our eyes work in the first place! 
Exercise: extend your arm in front of your face with your thumb up. Now, look with one eye for a moment, then close this eye and open the other. How does it feel? Isn't the background, sort of, moving? This is exactly the parallax error that happens in the camera and prevents the PC from stitching!
If I take a panorama in the old way before getting my VR-head, i.e. using a tripod alone, that means stitching errors and a bad stitch (and I already get bad points of stitching even when using VR-heads!), while the parallax error is somehow the main factor for achieving some good 3D image at some point (concentrating on a point and letting the other differ in portions of red and blue). The process here is quite complicated and maybe can be achieved only with using 2 cameras altogether at once and not only one, and these two cameras should be leveled horizontally in a perfect manner while pointing in opposite directions with difference in few degrees. For the time being, the only cheap solution I have in my mind is to overlap 2 layers of the same panorama and shifting one of them a little bit to the left or right and do the process of combining into a 3D. OR, as an option, is to lengthen the process of taking a panorama a bit and take the whole scene in one spot and then do it again after shifting the tripod itself few inches or centimeters (or whatever units).
I'm, myself, still not sure on how to exactly take two images for 3D processing (handheld): should I shift the camera itself to the left or right a bit, or should I rotate the camera some few degrees. Logically, seems rotating is the good solution, and again, this solution won't work with panorama processing because you are in fact rotating your camera already! Unless... you re-take the whole panorama not by shifting the tripod this time, but by starting from a different angle, few degrees away from the first starting point. So many ideas that I need to test!

I've took the chance to take some pictures for the moon, or what they called the "super moon" as it is the closest distance for the moon to Earth in the past 18 years! So they say, anyway. However, my main goal was actually some time-lapse movie for the moon moving along. Anyway, I did take the chance to do some bracketing for HDR slides and I think I did learn a lesson or two from this experiment...

The shoot was done by Tamron 70-300mm with its full zoom at 300mm. The short time lapse was done on the roof of my house with some breeze, and as it is well-known, with great zooming a little shake in the tripod is noticeable, and hence some images were a bit shaky but with minimizing the size of the frame they are barely visible. The shoot almost took around 30 to 45 minutes with a shot every 5 seconds, and the little clip was combined with 10 fps. Now, for the HDR trial. HDR here proved to be hard to be tone-mapped because of the noise level that occurs in the black areas around the moon. The idea I had in my mind was that to show more details of the moon's surface, then HDR is a normal choice, but I think it didn't really matter in this situation...
Normal (WB: fluorescent)

Tone-mapped HDR (with some artifacts)
I used the fluorescent White Balance here to reduce some of the white bright areas in this glowing moon and to help on pronouncing more of its details a bit. Lot of people like the normal version more than the HDR version and I don't blame them for that. I myself don't like the HDR moon very much, but yet, I do feel the need of more power in my zoom, and for this reason I'm thinking of getting one of those "focal length extenders" (probably one made by Vivitar) to extend the zooming power behind the current limits.

Right now I've began recording videos while driving (2 days now) in the early morning. Just trying to catch a nice moment or so, and that makes me stabilize the tripod in the car most of the time and remove it only when really need it. This thing now kind of keep scattering my tools, in the car and at home! Oh well... isn't it worthy?

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