Thursday, June 2, 2011

Dancing Under The Rain...

A smooth week, in some ways. Nevertheless, it was not out of minor troubles that I hope they would be resolved soon. One of these problems is the delay in recording the Ayvarith text for Alexander's story. I'm going to restart recording in 32bit format (or sometimes called "float-point audio"). I've noticed some glitches when recording in 16bit, and I thought I might better use the 32bit format now. However, the glitches are still there. Some weird stops occur in the middle of the recording out of sudden, as if the mic do not catch any sound at that particular moment and then back to normal. Seems it is another memory issue with this "lovely" PC. Please note the sarcasm! Anyway, let's hope I go on with this project as it is weighing heavily on my shoulders now. I feel dull sitting without doing something about it and the least I need now is, a technical problem like this.

I've not worked much with my camera this week, except of a tiny experiment that I will explain later. Seems the vacation session is on, but nevertheless, I'm still working on photos from Ireland. I've remembered for a moment that there were two albums that I needed to complete; the sixth album and the black and white album (for the images from the sixth album). The process was slow but since I'm not working with my camera, I worked on boosting the process till finally finishing them off, and been sent already in a mass email message. The idea here, I think, is to create a turmoil of emotions in the eyes of the viewer by sticking the black and white version next to its colored-likeness. The gap in emotions between a colored image and a black and white version of the same image can be a huge one; personally, I do think it can be from a happy top then down to a melancholic one. Usually, the black and white images (majorly of landscapes, architecture) make a sense of mystery to melancholy somehow, because black and white is usually linked to history and old times (thanks to the history of camera developments). Anyway, the creation of emotional turmoil was not an aim from my side, but in the early beginning it was simply a notification of some image that I had different feelings for it, when every theme meant something to me, and from the moment I decided to make a separate folder for the black and white images specifically for these images in the sixth album.

Realistic with increased blackish tone reflecting the dramatic death I suppose.

Mysterious. Desaturated just before being totally black and white. Gives me an impression of Egyptian tombs and secrets of the past. It adds a sense of antiquity.
Cruelty of death. The plain truth and end. Black and white, no other options available.
I have to say that all of the three images are originated from a single HDR image which was tone-mapped and then enhanced in Photoshop later on. Please, if you are a purest and see HDR simply a toy and not an art, then remove this blog from your list. I create what my emotions tell me to do. Left to say that this gravestone is actually old, but not antique. It dates back to 1800s era, and most probably from the time of the Irish famine. Maybe the change in colors would create some dating way before this era, so I have to state this. There are other graves around Cashel town, in Co. Tipperary, that date back to the 1700s and even 1400s. This town has a fermented history scent to it.
Finished now with these two albums (which you can check them out here and here), and started already a seventh album for pictures around Co. Tipperary. Frankly, I'm not sure what will be there, as it seems I've used all tricks in my sleeve. The choices I had in Tipperary are not as much as those in Galway in 2009. Probably because I have a passion to the water and the lake there more than simply farm lands. However, each one of them is fascinating in its own way.
The picture that started the album made a nice catch for me in two ways. Two things that I've achieved by coincidence with this image. Well, not really achieved, but noticed by coincidence.

Tower in Vane
A tower in Cahir castle in Cahir town, Co. Tipperary.

The story of this image can be listed in two points:
  1. In the beginning, this image was merged into HDR. The bracketed sequence was not catastrophic and I've noticed some nice portions of each slide of the 3 images composing the HDR; mainly, the -3EV and 0EV brackets. It wasn't until later that I've realized that a bracket of -3,0,+3 does not necessarily make a good bracket for your HDR. However, I've tried in the beginning to set the images into layers and trying to substitute the layer masks around, trying to cover some portions of here and there to give a nice tone for the overall look. Didn't work. Tried merging into HDR within Photoshop, but as usual, Photoshop has the archaic problem with memory requirements when it comes to such operations. I had in my mind some manual tone-mapping because the image with its natural look is nice and I don't need to add weird tones to express my emotions, at least for the time being! Anyway, I had to merge in Photomatix and save the file into Radiance format (.hdr) and then open it back in Photoshop.
    After opening in Photoshop, I worked with an adjustment layer of Exposure and fixed some shadows and some highlights manually without harsh effects, and with a soft brush. After that was done, it's time now to the real manual tone-mapping and converting into a 16bit image. This was done also without grand breaks in the histogram curve, just darkening some portions and lightening some others a bit further and so on. Cool so far.
    The thing that I've noticed here is, the noise level is way below what I'm used to see when I tone-map in Photomatix. Does that means Photomatix is responsible for ADDING a certain noise level to the image? I was technically satisfied with the level of the noise when I zoomed to 100%, but for the sake of some sharpness, I ran NeatImage with "slightly blurred" profile in use, to make the image slightly sharper. This noise level notification makes me think further of how should I do things with HDR. This comes at a time that I'm indeed trying to reduce my "HDR intake" and depend on the best shot I can get within a bracket and adjust its RAW.
  2. Then there was a surprise. The trick that might solve my problems with color spaces. I've always wondered about the difference between "Assign Profile" and "Convert to Profile" under the Edit menu in Photoshop. Seems this made it clear to me, somehow, or at least I know what to do next time I work in ProPhoto space and preparing an image to be uploaded to some website that doesn't identify such a color space.
    The whole thing started with me, by mistake, using the Convert command, instead of the Assign command. I've converted the space into Adobe 1998; the usual. I've noticed that the colors didn't change or coming dull as it usually happens. I've undone the command and used Assign this time, and the colors were put down. The sky you see above, literally, turned purple-like and the image was darker. I've undone this command again, and used Convert to convert the image into Adobe 1998, and there was no change. Now, checking the general space of the image yielded Adobe 1998 indeed, but the looks are those of ProPhoto space! Awesome! When the image was uploaded to some websites, there was no change in colors as it happens usually. Great! Now, I have to keep a mental note:
    Assign: moves the whole set of colors into the destination space and putting down those out of range to some specific limits.
    Convert: converts colors from one space to another (and tags the image with the space of the destination) while keeping its visual looks as much as possible.
Back now to my tiny little experiment with my camera. I did that yesterday in fact in a hurry, but the results were as I expected. I was able to turn the light on and off "digitally". I did this experiment before (in the bathroom) but the results were not so good for various reasons, but now I can say that I've did it.
This time I used a desk lamp, and I made sure that the light bulb was transparent and not translucent. I think the translucent characteristics achieve some kind of diffusion in the light coming out of the tungsten filament inside and that might give me hard times. However, after fixing the setting, I shot several bracketed sequences in the range of 2-stops only (-1,0,1), and then moving the sliders all the way from -7EV to the max I could get (6EV). Tedious, yes. All of that was to ensure a smooth transition in the luminance data when the HDR slide is to be done. With any sudden cut in the luminance (can be checked in the HDR histogram) then I can say my experiment would fail and I can't "turn on or off" the lights as I want.

The histogram after merging the RAW shots (Photomatix)

The shots were all taken in RAW format of course, since this format keeps as much data about the scene as possible. When merged there were some messages about a duplicate exposures (i.e. some files had the same EV value), so I had to drop down those and merge the different ones only. The histogram above is concentrated in the middle of the graph (a good sign) and without any severe cuts on the sides or in the middle, but there is a smooth transition. The thing I'm wondering about is, why there is 2 peaks in the graph? The only explanation I could think of is, probably, the right one is corresponding to the luminance level of the light bulb itself, while the left one corresponds to the luminance of the cone or the reflector around the bulb.
I've saved the HDR file and opened in Photoshop just to play around with the exposure and test the turning off and on of the light bulb myself, and I can say I've done it! All I had to do is play with the exposure slider at the bottom...

Recorded from my own monitor after a struggle! However, notice how the shadows form inside the cone around the light bulb, and also, when the brightness go extreme; it looks real on the monitor even though the real setting and scene did not have such view or level of brightness. Seems it is embedded within the HDR image the data to predict the luminance of a certain scene behind the real limits of the scene itself at the time of the shoot.
Don't you get the feeling that this bulb is dimmed by a real dimming switch and it's not an image on a monitor? Personally, I got that feeling. This is the power of HDR. Real HDR and not tone-mapping HDR images. This makes me think about possible and interesting uses for such criteria and if there is any way to simplify it. It is this tool that can make you a super visual artist. Visual digital artist, if I should say. You can control the light as you like, all what you need now is... imagination.
Of course in this rush of joy with such results, I couldn't resist tone-mapping and uploading such an image of this beauty bulb. The tone-mapping here though was a mix between the Photomatix and the manual tone-mapping in Photoshop (because Photomatix produced high noise level in the black area around the cone and I wanted to remove that). Add to tht, some few hue changes and contrast addition.

Tone-mapped tungsten bulb
On the other hand I'm busy reading my books and Amazon is waiting for a review. Writing a review for something I have is like a duty to me, and that makes me stressed little bit. However, the two books are bout portrait photography (which has loads of technical information about light and tools), and the other is a book by George Barr; Take Your Photography to the Next Level. I have to say that this book made a jolt to my mind somehow. I'm walking around places and trying to figure out patterns of lights and lines that usually don't get my attention enough. The book has practices on how to THINK as a photographer and what to SEE as a photographer. The book is also fun to read as the author has his own sense of humor!

Take Your Photography to the Next Level: From Inspiration to Image

I've been pushing my mind so hard to write something. It is a damned feeling to have a lot of emotions to talk about yet, you can't express or write them. I was thinking of some lyrical form but anyway, I created a simple thing just to get myself satisfied, thinking that I did something at least. I called Dance Under The Rain. Maybe it's my way of saying "Screw up the world." Who cares anyway...


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