Thursday, May 19, 2011


Well, it was a busy and a quiet week in the same time. Quiet for my camera work (as I tried to stay away a bit from my camera for the sake of working with my Ayvarith project), but it has been busy for driving here and there doing some chores. With chores, comes responsibility, as I received my shipment finally from DHL after being held for around 5 days in customs! Well, might be 4 days...
The final result is that, I had to work with my camera in order to test my new Vivitar x2 teleconverter (2XMC7), which doubles the focal length of your lens. Hence, I worked less with my Ayvarith project, and to top it all, my daydreaming addiction is drifting me away...

Vivitar Teleconverter for Canon EOS series (2XMC7)

As a test for this new tool, I directly had in mind a shot for the moon, because it is something I did before and I know the capabilities of my lenses with this object. The best image I've created for the moon was done with my Tamron 70-300mm lens. I was lucky now to have the full moon at this time, although I was a bit unlucky on Tuesday when it was exactly a full moon time, because we had some rains and I was not able to go on the roof to shoot. Thus, I had to wait for the next day, Wednesday, to do this.
I was lucky here once again, to have a full moon, that by 8:00 or 9:00 p.m., was not directly above me as it is usually whenever I want to try my luck with it! But instead the moon was above the horizon a bit (and that made me think of another shot for it). As a comparison now, I've combined 2 shots, one with Tamron lens alone at maximum  length (@300mm) and one with Vivitar's teleconverter and Tamron @300mm as well.

Two images taken for the moon at same focal lengths; one without teleconverter (left) and one with it (right). The two images were overlapped and cropped, then size reduced to 16.7% of the original. I had to focus manually here, thus the right image might be a little bit blurred. Blame it on my eyes!
One of the problems here though, is the connection. Vivitar's teleconverter do support AF (autofocus function) but, with Tamron being already slow in AF, expect to have more slow action. Well, with time now with my lenses, I've become sort of less reliant on AF functions, but it is essential after all of course.
After finishing from this shot, some scene captured my eyes specially that the moon is above the horizon and not on zenith (above my head), making a good catch for some composition there. I have to admit though, that the structures in front of me did not really impress me. The houses in a countryside or villages would be more fit for such a scene (to my eyes) rather than the houses of the urban areas here. In case we talk about cities, yes, the moon fits there as well I think to be pictures above NY or LA for example with all these big stuff covering the horizon. However, I was not going to miss this chance anyway and went on trying to "HDR" the scene. But that was not as easy as I thought...

Nox (A Night)
In the beginning, I tested my simple Canon lens of 18-55mm, but I didn't like the portions and ratios even @55mm. The moon was so distant and it won't be easy to show its details here. Thus, I changed to my other Canon lens, 55-200mm. I think I've found the perfect view I want @90mm. But problems are yet to come.
Before attending to this scene and while shooting the moon in its single form in the beginning (for comparison) I was already trying to get a bracketed sequence of (-2,0,2 EV), but that was not easy because the moon moves so fast. The further you zoom away from the moon, the more it looks like a stable object, but in a close up as @600mm or even @300mm, you will notice that an exposure of 30 seconds is enough to blur your shot. I usually shoot for HDR on Av mode (Aperture value priority), where you fix the aperture and the camera takes the rest for the shutter speed fixing. Thus, I had to put the aperture at maximum (i.e. small f-number) to increase the shutter speed reasonably.
Even @90mm though, the moon tends to move faster for the lens. The first bracketed shot at -2,0, and 2, was not enough because they seem to put the moon so bright without any details. Because of this I thought I might combine up to 6 shots for this HDR, and pulled down my EV scale to take another bracketed shot at -62/3, -42/3, -22/3. In case you are asking why I did fix the interval with (2/3) additions, this is mainly to avoid having 2 images with -2 EV, because Photomatix (or any other HDR merging software) will give you a message about this overlap, and probably won't merge (Photomatix gives you the chance to assign the values of EV manually for each image, which is also not an easy task if you ask me). Having some dark images here, I thought I'm ready, but this wasn't the case. Probably the problem could have been resolved with proper training with metering, but with my lack of training about this matter, I really didn't know where it is most proper to meter for the light for such a scene. I think metering for the moon (the brightest object in the scene) would make the rest of the scene dark. However, HDR is there to resolve such problems, presumably.
On PC now. As I started to work with these images to merge them into HDR slide, I figured out that the images are hard to be merged because the moon did indeed change its position significantly even @90mm zooming. I tried the manual ghosting removal provided with Photomatix, but no use as it proved to be worse (giving black spots around the ghosting place). For a moment, I gave up the HDR idea and tried to do something similar to what I did with several tone-mapped images for the sun one day...

Several tone-mapped images for the sunset at fixed intervals were combined and blended together automatically by Photoshop, resulting in completely eliminating the sun disk and keeping vivid colors for the sky.

I was hoping for something similar to the image above in the beginning, but no, that did not happen. Finally, I had to resort to one final trick that I didn't want to use really but I had no choice. After merging the first 3 brackets, the result was fine but only the moon disk was so bright with no details. After that I simply layered one of the dark images (with some details of the moon) on top of my tone-mapped slide, and erasing everything, but keeping the moon disk (and blending it with Overlay). The result is what you see above (after some polishing of course) for the intensity of colors. The original image was intense in the reds and yellow, and I had to put it down a bit. One final thing I have to say here about this image and this process, is that the blue-to-red gradient in the sky is not a result of the HDR processing. This gradient was there INDEED in the sky, but the HDR only put on some saturation to it. I had to crop a little bit from the left side with aspect ratio just to remove a shed on the roof of the other house.

Now, beside my Vivitar teleconverter, I got also 3 books that I'm starting to read now (can't wait to post this and head to read one of them now), and a sound trigger from Hiviz. This tool is essential for high speed photography, but unfortunately I couldn't try it so far because I need something called a PC-terminal head to connect it to this circuit and hook it to my flash unit.

PC terminal in Canon EX580 II (the lower circular port).
Thus, until I find a head to fit this port in the flash, I don't think I'll be able to use it! I have to roam the hardware shops again (did search one already).
A little break to my vow for giving the camera a break (yeah, just a little), I've decided to go on and do some photo shots of myself, but this time with the help of my brother. Some people wanted to see me after the hair cut. Yeah, TJ had a hair cut, can you believe it? The change of the world as we know it. What to expect next? ... TJ is a human being? hmm...
Anyway, with several shots (which my brother screwed up with focusing), I've started to do him several shots, and finally I got to test my Tamron 70-300mm macro lens on his eye.


First of all, I had to do some of my favorite adjustments to his eye here; like adding pupil lines and brightening the eye little bit and whitening the eyeball (his eye had some hard red lines or veins). After all of that, I've finally converted the whole thing to black and white. Most of the images I've taken for him were converted to black and white in fact because, I find them more expressive that way and put more emphasis on the expressions or the drama that I desire to add to the scene or the look. Here though, despite adding a black and white adjustment layer, I didn't want to leave it like that. I think mainly because the light direction in the first place didn't add much drama to it. To go around it, I thought of adding a "tonality" or a "tint". The tint here was a bluish hue. To my eye, the color fluctuates between silver, gray and light blue. Now depending on your monitor and how you look at it, the pupil can be brighter or darker. Finally, and to give some sharp look, I've used the Liquify tool in Photoshop to pulls the sides of the eye a bit. To my simply experience with the eyes, some eyes give a strong stare when they are sort of half closed and when they are so, usually their sides are pulled little bit, specially the inner side of the eye (closer to the nose). I have to mention at the end that before doing all of these adjustments, there was already a work done to the RAW file originally, specially with Clarity option, to soften the skin and hide some of unwanted features!

With this little tour with my camera, and with me neglecting more of my duties toward my beloved conlang, Ayvarith, I'm trying to force myself to believe I have a beautiful life. Such optimistic trends were never my thing, but trying hard to adjust something, and along with that comes a lot of daydreaming. Hard to resist the temptation here, and hard to settle down. I have what I need, or so I convince myself, I just try to be happy with what I have at hand. As for what I don't have yet.......... ?


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