Thursday, March 10, 2011

3D Hunting...

Been a lazy week on one frontier and a busy one on the other. Lazy in the sense of my own projects, and sort of my photography, and busy with my work place somehow. I've been roaming around looking for chances to get a scholarship, again. I stopped looking for some time because many events took place and I was not in the mind for it but I'm in again and trying to find my way around. Still, there are many places to ask in. All of that gave me no time to write a poem, which is annoying really because I do have a sort of a wave of feelings, but yet, I can't write them down for the lack of words. A line or two and that's it. Also, been looking around for some other host to build my Ayvarith page, since the discovery I've made, which is: Fortunecity, sucks. I can barely upload some images there; no audio, no clips, no MOV files and probably no SWF (flash) files as well? The thing is that publishing the Ayvarith transliteration of Alexander's story online via WDC is on hold, because I need to add these vocal samples, which I need to dumb online first. I'm still looking and didn't make a decision yet. There are lot of webpage-building websites with ready-made templates, but those don't suit my needs.

Grabbing my backpack wherever I go, trying to get my eyes on anything I can catch, but with not much to be done. I'm trying to get back to the 3D realm, that time when I used to take pictures and convert them into 3D anaglyph (red-blue) images, but so far, I couldn't find good subjects. Only once though, with that scene from the beach...

3D Infinitum

I'm on the look for more appropriate subjects, and taking my backpack of cameras and lenses and the tripod wherever I go almost, even to work. At home too, trying to come up with something, but the trials aren't always successful. Not successful in the means of having my own satisfaction with it. You can tell I spend so much time alone and have nothing to do, yet my mind is in turmoil and barely able to do anything. It's like being paralyzed "ethically". However, doing more trials with my Tamron 70-300mm telephoto macro lens, I remembered that I do have an old collection of seashells that I've collected from the nearby shore, and it was a thought, long time ago, to take a close-up for some of them. I had to settle it down somehow (and it hard, because I didn't want to use glues) and went on shooting (with brackets of course)...


I had to stay away from my self-made softbox for about one meter or so (~3 ft), and I think the zooming factor is good, having in mind that the shell is actually the size of my thumbnail (or less). One of the hardest things in the image above to settle down, was the White Balance (WB). With HDR tone-mapping you can change the WB as you wish but also the original WB used plays a role, and I think the original was Daylight WB. I figured that Daylight WB is more flexible to change when doing tone-mapping after doing HDR. Having Tungsten or Fluorescent WBs (i.e. cool temperatures for the images) makes the original images bluish and when tone-mapped and changing the WB to something close to "hot colors," usually the images end up with a violet or purple hue that, most of the time, won't be suitable for the general mood of the image. However, doing this, will still require some extra work for boosting the contrast and tweaking the general temperature or fixing the color balance, and all done after tone-mapping in Photoshop. I tried to do some 3D effects here but, unfortunately, the fact that the subject is in a softbox and not much of an interesting background makes it really dull and useless to do it in a 3D anaglyph image.

How to do a 3D Anaglyph? 
Just some steps that you might want to try out to make these things, but remember it doesn't work all the time because it all depends on the composition of the image and also depends on the visual capabilities of the viewers themselves. Have in mind that you will need some editing software like Photoshop. I believe some other freeware stuff can do. So, here we go:
  1. In this process you will need to take 2 images of the scene to mimic the human vision; one left-eye image and one right-eye image. You can do this by 2 cameras if you like, but for me I always go with one camera and after the first shot I would pan the camera (or rotate it around its body axis) for few (not much). This distance in few degrees is just to mimic the distance between the two eyes. You can as well simply, while standing in the same position and being stable, move the camera's viewfinder (if you are using it) from your left or right eye to the other eye and focus on the same subject. Remember, there should be one object at least that is the center of the focus in the image, because this point of focus is important for later process. Having this idea in mind, you can go around with your tripod if you like for more stability, if you like.
  2. Now processing. You got your images correctly hopefully (and maybe you'd better be shooting in JPEG rather than RAW but the choice is yours). In Photoshop (or any other software) you should open your images and layer them one upon the other. You should mark carefully which one is for the right-eye and which one is for the left-eye. You can check for yourself easily as you notice the relation between the focus point and the background; things tend to shift to the right when viewing with the left-eye, and vice versa. Put the right image on top.
  3. Reduce the transparency of the top (right-eye) layer to 50%, or to whatever suits your level of vision, and now drag your layer around to make the focus point coincide with the focus point in the lower layer. Remember, it is not necessary to make it 100% perfect, as there might be some difficulties coinciding the two foci. The major idea here is to make the distance between the two images as minimum in that particular area of the image (parallax error?), while neglecting (somehow) the rest of the image for the time being. Once this is done, get the transparency back to normal (100%).
  4. Now, the setting is Right on top, and Left is below. Now take the Right image and suppress the RED component (I'm supposing you are working in RGB color system). This can be done in Photoshop by pressing Ctrl-L (or by using the menus to get to Levels command, or by adding an adjustment layer of Levels over the Right image). Once you get the dialogue box of "Levels", change the drop down menu from "RGB" to "Red". Now, move the White arrow at the bottom (not the one below the histogram which corresponds to highlights, but the lowest one) to the far left (or simply put "0" in the number box). Thus, you will have the black and white arrows all together in one place and your image will look bluish. Make a mind connection here: Right <=> Red channel. For me, I got the habit of using adjustment layers and I don't edit the images directly, thus whenever I use them in this case, I make sure I use the clipping (right click the adjustment layer itself and it's there). This will make sure that this effect will affect the layer just below the adjustment layer and nothing else. Just in case.
  5. As you did with the Right image, you will do with the Left image below, but this time you have to suppress the Green and Blue channels, and your image will look reddish.
  6. Change the blend mode of the topmost layer (Right image) to Screen. You image now should look something similar to what I've done above. Crop the excess on the sides as you wish, though I prefer you do it with respect to the aspect ratio between the height and width. To crop with respect to the aspect ratio of the image itself, pick up the crop tool and mark the whole area of the image. Then, move the corners as you wish but while pressing the SHIFT on your keyboard to ensure that the ratio is preserved.
  7. After cropping and everything, your 3D image should be ready. Try it out and view it through the special glasses if you have any. Remember, you might want to try it more often to get some satisfaction and not every scene is capable of producing some astonishing results. To my experience, I think spherical objects have the potential of giving out great 3D view.
 On the beach still, trying to go out there specially in the times of low tide to fish for some chances. I was lucky one time which kind of sparked my mind on another purchase on the list of my endless dreams...

The Observing Heron

I was working on my monopod (because the tripod was fixed inside the car to take some videos while driving) and it was sort of flexible with me, with its 3 mini-legs expanded. The monopod was collapsed o its minimum height and using the full zoom of Tamron 70-300mm and switching to Macro focusing as well, I had some how a nice shot of this fella. I took so many images (of course not bracketed) trying to get everything i can from his own movement over the surface just before he flies away, and then I would sort them out back home. The weather was dusty and didn't help much in this, but at home I picked one image and did the "magic" to eliminate the yellowish hue and enlighten the body of the heron. Herons by the way are immigrants, but by time they somehow settled down in Kuwait. This is what I've been told by someone in the know. Despite the dust that day, HDR imaging somehow improved some images as well...

Infinitum II

Processing the previous image was not an easy task for the level of noise that was present with tone-mapping. This is one awkward point in doing HDRs. You have to develop some strategy to overcome this somehow and after all, several ways might not work at all. Been receiving some attacks on HDR images and that it is not a real photography, and I'm tired of explaining myself that my goal is doing something beautiful and HDR is merely a technique for me to extract as much details as possible out of the scene. Strangely, in the last image, I did things unconsciously. After I got back home I remembered the advice of Alain Briot in his book, when he talked about capturing interesting lines and shapes, and specially the S-curved lines.

Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity, and Personal Style

Also, this short trip to the seashore in the last weekend made me find out a fact about the Tamron lens I have; it has a tendency to show some strong chromatic aberrations. Now, this is somehow contradicting my own belief that wide lenses are the ones that exhibits such phenomena the most. I've read somewhere that it's a common feature for wide lenses and fisheye lenses to have chromatic aberrations specially if the object is back-lit. You would find some thin lines of red (or magenta), blue, cyan and yellow around the edges of the object. This is exactly what showed up in some of the images I've taken with this lens. Fixing it should not be hard task but when HDR technique is involved, it is worse than solving an equation in physics. HDR, and because you are combining several exposures, tends to somehow intensify the effect of the aberration and adding some contrast. Hence, it's hard sometimes to remove it with the usual "lens correction" procedures provided in Photoshop or any other software. I did go around it sometimes, but still it is not a practical mean nor successful all the time. One of these procedures is using the Hue/Saturation adjustment layers to suppress the magenta or cyan channels and confine these changes to the edges of subjects in the image. Photomatix, my favorite so far, got an option to remove chromatic aberrations from the RAW files as it combines them into HDR, but this option seems not quite the useful one here. It doesn't work most of the times. Maybe the best thing is to give up the RAW (and the stored dynamic range in them) and fix these aberrations in RAW then convert the images to TIFF16 format, and start the HDR from that point. One of the ways to go around this, is what I did with this image. Simply, converted to Black and White:

Terra Algae

The sun reflection from the water surface was strong even in a dusty haze, making all kind of aberrations around the edges of the rocks on the ground. Final solution I had in my mind is to give up colors and go Black and White! So much green in the image anyway and it sort of lost its magic in my eyes.

Currently, I've been worried about my tendency to be an "addict" to chocolate. Now with my life style like a single guy trying to do his own food most of the time, I do tend to eat some snacks rather than "real" food, and most of the time, it is chocolate. Well, I do change to candies but that's seldom. It's chocolate all the way. To be more specific in fact, it's only one brand that brings me joy: Kinder Bueno! Can't have my enough of that!

I do cook sometimes, say thanks to the microwave. The guy who invented the microwave got to be
a single guy as well. Turkey sausage wrapped in egg (stuffed with cheese, tartar sauce and cucumber with some spices). 
All done in microwave.

Majorly now, all what I have in a day is one meal, and the rest is just bits of this and that and some snacks. In fact, once I get back home I don't feel like eating (probably because I've already filled myself with chocolate and candies in my work place). Most of the time this one meal is a dinner; be it a simple corn flakes dish, or some cooking I do when I have the mood for it, or simply and order or a take-away.

It's Thursday now, TGIT. Hopefully, I will try to take a second try on shooting the Chinese restaurant from the inside as I was planning. Few days ago I was there as early as 7 P.m. just to reserve that corner of the restaurant for my work but unfortunately, there were already some people there in that specific corner. Maybe I should work late, despite the fact that the owner wanted to show the dishes on the table to add "life" to the image. However, that night I got several shot from several angles for the restaurant from outside, but none was what I aimed for. The long exposure time and the large f-number (small aperture) made it hard all the way.

Golden Chopsticks

Although I used somehow a small aperture to make a star effect as you see, but seems my choice was wrong. I think the star shine effect is not good in such a scene, or maybe it was way too hard on the scene. As you can see, the cars didn't spare me here. Some of them even had the mind to come forth and then go on reverse in front of te camera (the big white beam on the left). Unintentionally, the speed-lights covered the number plates of the cars in some nice effect. I don't want to expose these numbers to the public!
I took images with my 15mm fisheye and 18-55mm, but this one was the most appealing to me so far despite all the wrong-doing in it. It's taken with the fisheye, as you can tell from the edges of the image. The WB here is set to Tungsten, but the scene didn't go bluish in an ugly way. I should memorize this lesson now as I might as well use it for shooting inside, which has a reddish atmosphere as well. The WB here emphasized the bluish trend for the spot lights at the top while keeping the main building within its hot colors atmosphere (reducing the red a bit of course). Next time, I will try using a larger aperture (small f-number) for fast shutter speed, and to avoid the star shine effect which is not appealing here. I hope I can do this tonight.

I leave you now, with two videos. First one is one of my trials with time-lapse photography, with me going back home from work. The camera was programmed to take a shot every 2 seconds, and to minimize sizes and make sure that the memory card will take it all, I've changed the settings to shooting in medium sized JPEGs only. In the traffic jam who knows when will you be reaching home!?

The FPS (frames per second) here is 10, and I made several versions to check for the speed, and probably this is the best one. At the end it gets fussy because of turning around like a bee trying to reach home from the other end of the street. However, the generally quality is reduced of course for web purposes.
Secondly, I leave you with something I got addicted to at the moment. Old stuff (relatively), but addiction-trigger, to me...

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