Thursday, September 22, 2011


A fast paced week somehow. Nothing new on my camera level except of visiting a mall with my class to do some practice, but otherwise, no new panoramas, except of working with old ones. I keep looking at my Ayvarith papers and my microphone connected to the PC and ask myself when I'm going to work with it. Hope soon. For the time being, there are games on my list I need to finish. Games, are important to me. For the time being I'm trying to finish a game called Gray Matter. A nice one with sci-fi theme and magic stuff; oh, combined with some psychology as well! After that, I'll be in hunt for Jonathan Boakes' games Bracken Tor, and TLC3. These corners of the UK that really need a visit one day. Mystery, is what keeps the mind alight. But I might not be able to play all those until the time of Hajj comes, by mid October. I'm busy, somehow, sorting my schedule and my leaves to do the pilgrimage. My work place is somehow giving me a headasche for the time being with their stupid laws and regulations.

I. Failaka Re-Visited:
Under the light of considering further possibilities with panoramas and changing the viewing angle, I've re-visited older panoramas, and specially the one for the "Ghost Bank" taken for a deserted bank building in Failaka island back in November 2010 (after my return from Ireland).

Ghosts Bank

This time the twist was for other projections as well, which I've never thought of back then. Anyway, the tone-mapping is quite different of course. I knew beforehand that Photomatix will give me a headache with some errors related to the size of the final image, but after all I didn't make it smaller and went on with it. For some weird reason, when Photomatix v4.0 encounters HDR images as large as 8000x9000 pixels, it would give an error for memory issues. Doing a "batch single files," which does not require a visual examination, would still not work. Photomatix v3.0 on the other hand, it might show some errors related to memory limitations, but batching single files would work fine (and of course takes a long time). For this reason, the planet projection of this Ghost Bank panorama was tone-mapped in Photomatix v4.0 in the beginning, and the tone-mapping parameters were saved, then loaded into Photomatix v3.0 and the HDR image was tone-mapped accordingly in "batch single files" process. I don't know what's the deal, but it might be a time-consuming process.

Dark Aspect

One of the aspects of this panorama is the fact that I was working with the monopod. Shaky, but with cloning out the remnants at the end, not much of a headache. If the monopod was raised to a low level (to the level of my chest almost) that approximately raises the VR-head and the camera to my chin level. At this level the shake might not be so apparent (but there is some of course). I had to use back then because I didn't have the appropriate tripod.
The second venture after this was a vertical panorama. I made a mistake here but might be considered a surrealistic look after all.

الحلم الكئيب
The Gloomy Dream

For some reason I just named it in Arabic. However, the viewing angle was tilted and hence the tilt on the top part of the panorama is apparent, and that, caused me to name it a "dream" because it has some surrealistic look.
This vertical view was cropped (typically) from the sides and the edges to remove the remnants of the VR-head and the colors were altered a bit by adding a Photo Filter adjustment layer before tone-mapping the HDR. The Photo Filter was Deep Emerald, to give a creepy look. Also there was Exposure adjustment layer to pull back the exposure values accordingly to the whitest spot in the place (the entryway at the bottom).
Maybe the most beloved aspect (point of view) for me was the WV or the Wide View angle. I had to work a bit with adjustment layers a bit before tone-mapping in Photomatix.

Cold Alone

I had to crop little bit in the beginning just to bring things to the center a bit. In this image, and instead of fighting back against the purplish hue (because WB was set to Fluorescent back then) and make out the whole thing in vibrant yellow and red, I've decided to move to the next neighbor of purple; Blue (remember the rainbow? ROY G BIV rule?). In my work with HDR slides in Photoshop so far, I've rarely used the Hue/Saturation adjustment layers. Most of the color adjustments were done actually by Photo Filter adjustment layer. I find it giving more realistic looks and adds to the color instead of shifting the color. That does not mean I don't use Hue/Saturation layers, it is just I don't find them useful all the time.
In Cold Alone, and after fixing the Exposure as usual, I needed two Photo Filter adjustment layers. The first one is to add the general bluish cold look to the whole scene. In this layer, I used a layer mask to remove this effect from the yellow-reddish ceiling here. The second Photo Filter layer was added to increase the vibrant color of the ceiling (by using one of the "warm" presets) and also using a layer mask with it, but of course it is the inverse of the previous layer mask used before (just a copy paste of the layer masks). Weirdly though, in HDR mode in Photoshop, you can't use the inverse command (not from menus nor with the short cut "Ctrl+I"). To do the inverse of blacks and whites, I would use the Levels command (Ctrl+L) and flip the black and white arrows at the very bottom of the dialog box. To avoid any fuss, I would remove the black arrow to the middle first then the white to the other end, then push the black to the place of the white arrow. Sometimes it becomes so hard to know what to click when the two arrows overlapping each other.
Just imagine the blue ink you will be losing for printing such an image!
For the time being, I'm considering visiting Failaka again, specially that summer is on its way out, but I can't decide which time. Since I'm preparing for Hajj journey, I might not have the needed time yet to go there. It would be nice to take a tour with my camera on video inside the car like I used to do on the mainland. We'll wait and see...

II. 360:
Last Sunday it was another workout session with my Photography class. This time we headed to a mall here called 360. As you might have inferred from the name already, the mall is circular in shape. I spent around one hour and 30 minutes trying to find that place, moving from one jam to another.
Architecturally speaking, I didn't find much of interesting in fact. Although we had the freedom to go into shops to take shots from there but as it is with me always, I hate to contact people or ask for permission, so I got stuck to my ground; roaming around the mall trying to find some interesting angles. We had around 2 hours of time but personally I spent only one hour or so and decided to head back home before the darkness hovers over. However, it was a spark for an abstractive mind. I had to bear little bit with annoying people as usual, but the main point in the whole practice, as I think, is to learn how to concentrate in the middle of a fuss (quite the point if you are a journal photographer).
Although most shots were taken in bracketed exposures for HDR later on (except of few ones taken in long exposure), but a lot of those were uploaded after some processing in RAW then converted to JPG.

These are some abstracts, and there were plenty of others that I just need some time to reflect upon. As I said most of the images were uploaded directly after processing the RAW file, but there was a trial at least once for a HDR. But tone-mapping the HDR (in Photoshop) didn't spare me from using extra adjustment layers.

Wooden Arches - Processed RAW

Wooden Arches - Manual Tone-mapping (Photoshop)

Wooden Arches II - Photomatix

The contrast was a bit enhanced when tone-mapping but the major blue shade on the top was added by a Photo Filter adjustment layer after tone-mapping, and then adding a layer mask to avoid touching the lower portion of the image. I tried in tone-mapping to do the best to lighten the wooden pillars a bit but I guess it didn't work out well. I still have Photomatix which, as usual, proved to be superb to Photoshop and my manual tone-mapping. My main concern, in fact, to do the HDR slide was my hopes in eliminating some movements on the ground from people going around (yeah, so annoying, no one would even try to respect you *sigh*. OK, I'm kidding...). However, after merging into HDR it turned out that procedure didn't help much and I had to clone out the movement myself.
We are left then with some long exposures. Long exposures here is something longer than 2 seconds for me. Accordingly, depending on the lighting inside the mall, a single exposure at around 0EV takes around 8 seconds. Enough time to make a water line look silky with its flow. For this reason, my first target was the fountain. I took several shots in fact, but maybe the best angle was from the top.


The vertical line in the center is a matter of the fountain itself and helped me much to achieve a sci-fi look. I tried to calculate the time it takes for the fountain to spur the water vertically high up, but seems the process was completely random! I had to depend on luck little bit here (isn't photography, majorly, a matter of luck after all?). I had to crop the image little bit because I didn't realize that originally, I didn't include all the fountain, and the edge was cut from the right side, so just to go around it I've cropped more to concentrate the body of the fountain on the lower right corner. Hope this visual trick helps.

General view of one side of the mall and the fountain.

In the image above, it is more like documenting in fact rather than being an abstract itself, but it was taken in a long exposure as well (around 13 seconds). The long exposure here, specifically, helped on removing the excessive movements going down there on the ground. You would think the mall is empty, but no, it wasn't. This is one of the benefits of long exposures in such situations (beside the night photography thing). Sometimes, people might occur like ghosts passing by, however, this is a nice effect too in my opinion. The fisheye distortion was fixed to straighten the wooden pillars (and that makes the image smaller in looks).
Now, for all these pictures you see... I've forgot my flash memory at home when I went to my class to discuss the images and finding my errors. Now, doesn't that suck? Yes, big time. My memory sucks, and I suck...

Been days now since I wrote something, and been weeks since I worked with my Ayvarith recordings. Seems my fatigue is slipping me the chance to do anything (well, except of using my camera maybe). I'm not sure when I will start recording again. I've arrived at chapter 4 so far. Chapter 6, will be the great burden on my back. As for now, I just wish if the Hajj season comes like a blink...

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