Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dear Camera, See You Later...

ayħav húþ ğašar mí e-harrá yaw e-dum yi hú báy
lávin anná húþ baZú daynúr majŧún?
šá ąél kil mší yixwan gavvá liQiliváy?
mat hú zmén e-ranáħah, liZú ąayun?

Some "Ayvaric" thoughts has been around, trying to change or edit the literature that I've been inventing for some time now. This time, it occurred to me that usually in English, the word "between" is used usually in combination of two objects, while "among" is for objects more than two. Thinking about it, there is the same thing almost in Arabic and Hebrew (I guess), but it's not a number-related. There is "bayn" [بين] and "ma bayna" [ما بين], but I'm not sure of their exact classical use. To me, I seem to say them fluently according to the speech but without knowing the grammatical reasons for this! In Ayvarith, there is a similar situation even though I've made up some explanations for this without really noticing them myself: (bayun) and (mabyun); clearly close to the Arabic version, but as far as I remember the Hebrew and Aramaic versions are not far from this either. I'm thinking of upgrading the meaning to make (bayun) used for two objects while (mabyun) for further numbers above two. Just a thought.
I've renewed my account on for another year. Doing that sort of gave me the pinch to keep up with my other projects. A very bad habit of mine: starting things and never finish them up. I'm looking forward for more tiresome days specially during the summer and the heat here, with the expected renewal of my duties into field trips. Field trips, games, photos, daydreaming, a conlang and poetry (specially poetry. I didn't write in some long time now with all the gush in emotions in my mind). My life truly is a mess that went out of control. Trying hard to keep up and organize my time and even exercise to enhance my physical vitality to cope with my own requirements and my own projects, but even that require time, and to screw things completely, sometimes I'm ready to screw up the world and sleep. Just sleep, like I always wanted (but that never really happened).
I think I do need a vacation from my camera. I don't know why I feel the need to take pictures so often. It's becoming like an addiction, and every addiction is simply bad, be it drugs, drinks or even a hobby like photography. But what you know, once I'm dropping down the camera I'm going to head to that Ayvarith project and web page that I didn't work on for some months now.
I'm back now with my own research about myself, my brain, my skills, and how everything works together. Most of such research is done at work actually not back home, because simply back home I don't have time now to sleep, and if I did, I'm going to screw up the day and just do nothing at all (probably only play those games I want to). With this said, I'm back to some of those free tests online (yep, another addiction), and along with that a belief of some thread of ADHD in my (neurological) blood. While reading The Playful Brain, I'm paying more attention to my simple actions and notifications and trying to analyze them under the light of what I've understood lately. I've noticed what is said to be an "easy puzzle" can take me a longer time to solve more than what is supposed to be a "hard puzzle" of the same type or rank. Also, I've been fluctuating my attention from one object to another (looking at a book to pick it up, and an agenda lies in the way between me and the book, thus I remembered something suddenly for that agenda and picked it up totally forgetting what I wanted to do with the book). Looking at some videos on Youtube about ADHD cases makes me feel superior though. It's not like that with me and yes, I don't think I do have ADHD at all now, but why do I lose my focus that easily? Why I keep flipping channels in my mind? Is it the damned Maladaptive Daydreaming again? I know that I've not been the hard fighter lately against this habit, mainly because I'm exhausted and in fatigue.

Decision is made now. A break from the camera for some time.

I should add to that a break from chocolate and coffee as well. Speaking of my mental status as well, in fact, I don't care much anymore about what people think of it now, but I like to explore my mind little bit further. I'm doing some EIQ (Emotional IQ) tests but I don't count on such results as the questions tend to be highly relative to the culture I guess, but anyway, my score was low. Not surprised though. I'm a loner after all.
On the other hand, I'm back to my senseless sketches as the attacks of boredom do visit me at work from time to time and makes me unable to read the book at hand...

The Devil's Automobile
The idea was to create a head with some brain popping out of it, but with such epileptic art form, expect the unexpected.

Sensory Man
This sketch was done horizontally (90 degrees to the left or CCW), and my mind didn't make sense of it as usual except later when I changed the angle of view and rotated it 90 clock-wise to realize it looks like a man's face.

Now back to my camera before I leave it alone for some time. I did my experiment now for catching a flowing water with the help of ND filters, and hence I couldn't use my Tamron, but instead I've used my old Canon 55-200mm, because I do have an adapter ring for the diameter of this lens (Ø52mm). The result was not exactly what I wanted, specially when it comes to the angle of view, but it was some trial that I hope I've learned something from...

Aqua Viridis (Green Water)

The whole problem is about doing the right exposure under the green flood light. One of the techniques that I've came up with is to use the (M)anual mode completely to achieve this. The (M)anual mode gives you the ability to change the shutter speed and the aperture (f-number) as desired and with a half-press to the shutter button the camera would give out an estimation of the light level in EVs. Everything was fine, except of 2 points that I was puzzled with:
  1. Where to focus? to the furthest edge or to the nearer one? Here, I tried to focus in between (I focused without the water flow in the beginning thus it was an approximation).
  2. What aperture size should I use? I used maximum f-number (narrowest aperture size) but probably I should have applied the principle of Hyperfocal distance? Though I think this concept is mainly used in landscape photography and not in close-up photography.
The main important thing is that I've fixed the shutter speed. Few seconds were enough to make the water flow in a blurry way like a dream effect (in fact it looks like milk to me!). After setting the shutter speed to 3 seconds, and the aperture to f/29, I did simple half-press, checked the EV and then put on some filters corresponding to the mount of EV I want to reduce. The EV reading without putting the filters on was close to +3, thus I've fixed three ND filters: ND2, ND4, ND8. They correspond to a reduction of -1, -2, and -3 EVs respectively, and thus totaling -6 EV putting the scale down from +3 to -3 (3+(-6)=-3, simple calculus). However, even though the picture was fine to some extent, I had to edit the RAW file as well and adjust some sliders and finally, with the help of adjustment layers in Photoshop, I've removed the green color from the background and kept the water and the mug in green only. I'm not satisfied with the sharpness of the water flow itself.

And still dwelling in the bathroom trying to catch up a panorama for this narrow place. I think it's around 2x2 meters (~ 6.6x6.6 ft). It is indeed a challenge to do a panorama in such space. The only panorama, probably, that I did in such a narrow place (and without the VR-head back then) was for the inside of the little tower back in Aughnanure castle in 2009...

The inside of the little tower in Aughnanure castle field, Co. Galway, Ireland.
But, this panorama, taken without the VR-head and definitely a narrower place than my bathroom, but after all I minimized it to 360 panorama (horizontal line only). The hardships of the bathroom were different, specially that I wanted to take the panorama from a level higher than my head, and this time I used my new tripod and not my monopod.
  1. With a tripod, the base was stable, but the tripod's head itself was shaky a bit making a small tilt for the VR-head on top of it.
  2. The narrow space of the bathroom made the lower angles, where the tripod's legs show usually, a serious issue.
  3. Tried shooting with flood lights and not my usual bathroom lights, but the ceiling's plugging point was narrow and the flood light could not be fixed there. In order to solve this problem I had to think of some way to lengthen or extend the plugging point further. Luckily, I got some converting heads (for light bulbs) in the family shop near by and connected two of them to extend the plugging point. I had to work on smoothing the edges a bit because they didn't fit in the first place so I had to widen one converter and narrow the other. I have to say I was working for more than one hour taking the panorama and afraid of this bulb to be falling down on my head at any moment!
  4. The usual problems with the stitch in PTGui, but this time accompanied with a glitch from Photomatix when merging all in HDR format. Seems that the new Photomatix has a glitch in batch processing bracketed images. Usually I see such errors and broken lines when different images are merged by mistake, but this time I double checked my images' sequences and there was no mistake. Simply, this one particular slide which showed a strong error had to be done again alone separately. Only then, the HDR slide for that angle appeared perfect.

The flood light with extension made of converting heads (or plugs). The arrow points to where drilling was used (with a special head to soften the area and not drill through it)

The right side of this HDR (tone-mapped here) slide became partially white with broken lines even though the bracketed sequence is correct! It wasn't the only slide, but it was the worst...

The whole point of using flood lights here and not the regular light bulbs that were already there is that I wanted to avoid the WB (White Balance) problems that I had before in my first experiment in this bathroom. If you read my post last week you'll find an explanation of the problem and how it was hard, somehow, to choose a particular WB with such lights. Here, after fixing the flood lights, I've simply shot the panorama with Daylight WB.
As for the glitch in Photomatix, I thought it might be because I was setting the options for reducing the "ghosting" artifacts to "high" while the camera didn't shake so much and there were no moving objects to eliminate, thus I processed the package again in a batch process but turning of the "ghosting" correction off. Yet, the weird artifacts kept on coming.
It is always hard to set control points for the make of a HDR panorama, probably because of the exposure data embedded in such files that makes PTGui unable to set the control points properly. However, I've tried the old trick which seems to be working fine for now (but that didn't spare me the troubles): tone-map the HDR slides under certain settings, then stitch them and save the file as a model. Then, open the HDR panorama file and apply that model. That way, all the control points that were applied perfectly for the tone-mapped images will be applied to the HDR panorama in the same systematic way (providing the control points are perfectly situated in the tone-mapped model). I've stitched the HDR panorama then without even optimizing. All the errors that occurred while trying to align the HDR images disappeared simply depending on the tone-mapped counterpart. Why not simply tone-map and then stitch? Here you go:
  • HDR panorama will have exposure information rather than a tone-mapped version (even in 16-bit TIFF). This option gives you more control over the light effects.
  • There are occasions when you think it is better to manually edited the HDR file for some reason (changing hue before tone-mapping, changing exposure of certain areas only before tone-mapping, ...etc).
  • If you are thinking of making a QTVR (QuickTime Virtual Reality) file, it is important to match the exposure of the left and right sides of your panorama, otherwise in the QTVR file you will notice a strange straight line while rotating your QTVR. This option, to match the two sides in exposure, is available when you tone-map in Photomatix (and other programs), while stitching already tone-mapped images won't give you such an option and you might have to find other ways to solve the problem.
  • PTGui got an option to fix the exposures for the whole HDR panorama before stitching. Useful sometimes to make an average of all the slides' exposures.
After stitching the HDR panorama, there was a heavy load of work with Photoshop to clone out lot of the undesired objects to make the panorama normal as much as possible. Parts of the VR-head did appear so much in this panorama specifically, and it is hard to simply remove by cropping; I have to clone out instead. I think it is time to re-consider the way I work with vertical angles, as it seems a 45 degrees up and down is causing me problems! Beside these parts, some weird artifacts in red appeared as well, and still I can't explain what are these as there is simply no reason for them to occur!

My bathroom, and still you can see some red artifacts in a larger view. I had to cut out the roof because the green light was subjected to "poster" effect, or banding artifacts.

And one of  my biggest mistakes, again, is using a large f-number (narrow aperture) causing a lot of sparkles caused by the lights. If I remember correctly, it was f/20.
After this panorama, I think I will get back to the sweet old Photomatix instead of the new one because there are many issues now that I've noticed that are caused for no specific reasons. Such glitches didn't appear in the old Photomatix (version 3). The only problem with the old Photomatix was the weird squares that appear on the viewing window (I think related to the insufficient memory as my PC runs for long times). So just to be systematic:
  • The new Photomatic (version 4), has a problem in tone-mapping window. As you work according to what you see while you tone-map, once you hit the "Process" button, the final image would come different to what you have seen in the tone-mapping window.
  • The new Photomatix has a problem with batch processing RAW files. As it turned out, some HDR slides were merged with strange white bands or broken lines (like what happens when two different or so much shaky images are merged), while when these specific slides done as a single process, this problem doesn't occur. Talk about time-consuming!
  • Related to the problem mentioned in the beginning, some weird artifacts, in form of colors or shapes, appear after tone-mapping (e.g. in my example above, red areas appeared and had to be cloned out, and banding of some colors making gradual change appear as blocks of pixels).
I don't think, however, I'm going to do it all over again with the old Photomatix, but I learned my lesson I'd say. I have to check further with my VR-head and the best way to deal with low angles to avoid including the body of the VR-head itself into my panorama. It's not completely evadable, but at least the effect can be reduced somehow.

Finally, my order(s) had been processed and I'm waiting for their arrivals. I'm doing it slowly so that I'd have more time reading The Playful Brain. Three photography books, one teleconverter, and a sound trigger. Did I say I need a break from my camera? hmmm......

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