Thursday, April 5, 2012

Against The Wind...

Almost 2 weeks passed now since the expo was over with. There is a heavy load on the mind and body that I just don't know how to manage, or what to do about. Work, inspirations, ideas, ambitions, and last but not least, scattered emotions.
I've stopped for some time, as I've stated in previous posts, that I've stopped working on my shots from Failaka island from my last visit back in March. I'm back now working on some of them, even though this return is somehow shy, as I don't feel like indulging myself too much with this work for the time being. My mind is preoccupied with ideas that make me think non-stop about the future of images, career and prints. I need to promote myself, but I still don't exactly know how.

I. Apocalypse:
Images wise now. I'm still struggling with my panorama shot from the Ikaros hotel. For some reason I don't understand yet, this panorama has lot of stitching errors and hard-to-align lines. Mainly, as I did try many times to align the images and change the Blend of images to get a "close to perfect" image, I've realized that the main hardships come from the upper part (or row) of images, beside the zenith shot itself of course. As I'm typing these words I'm trying to stitch and experiment with the other 2 rows of images (i.e. the one taken at 0 degree, or the horizon, and the one taken at -45 degrees). I have to test and see if the looks are fine. I might use these images in some contact-making, thus I have to be careful about such silly errors.

On the other hand, there was another image that caused chaos for my mind and my PC. The Apocalypse.


The idea for this image originated at the moment of capturing the panorama itself in fact, but the application didn't come until later, after the expo was over. Many problems occurred on various stages of making this image:
  1. The final HDR stitch produced weird colored spots. Not something new, and apparently I was wrong to presume that the method of interpolation when stitching has anything to do with it. The fact is, I've stitched this panorama many times but all yielded the same weird noise. I think it has to do some luminance data embedded into the HDR, yet I'm not sure what. To fix it, I had to work for long time with Hue/Saturation adjustment layers and also the Cloning tool; However, I'm far from doing it perfectly I guess.
  2. There was also weird noise and color patches caused by special editing in HDR (i.e. before "baking"), and that made me abandon some plans for specific saturation and hue for the general outlook (the sky would appear dark blue instead and the rest is darker yellow, adding a sort of hard contrast). 
  3. After tone-mapping (by a miracle), I had a problem applying the Twirl effect on the image (in 8-bit format as it can't be done in 16-bit format). To do this, I had to actually minimize the image from its original 8000x8000 size, to 5000x5000.
  4. A minor problem was there because the Twirl effect do the twirling from the inside out, and not starting from the edges of the image as I wanted it to be. This problem might be solved with some extra steps to go around this limitations but with the memory limitations I had to get myself satisfied with the look (and with layer masks, I've stabilized the center as it is without twirling).

For these problems, I'm thinking of serious renovations to the whole system. I want to make bigger panoramas and feel easy when doing tone-mapping for such large files. I guess it is just a matter of time to upgrade the whole thing, with LOADS of RAMs to accomplish this. The dark side is, as usual, building the PC from scratch and installing everything back again (beside other settings). This, I have no time for right now.

II. Chasing Rainbows:
Another task I'm active with and taking some of my time is the run after color profiles and finding methods to proof my images. So far, nothing achieved. Print shops are not capable of even understanding the meaning of Color Management and what profiles I mean, and the type of papers in use (even Canvas papers) I could not dig information about online, and probably locally made. One of the shops, which lot of photographers go to for printing and very well known for quality prints, did not give me much information and I wonder now if they really know what they are doing or not. Having good prints doesn't mean you did proof well. One of the simplest methods I presume is to convert the space into sRGB, and that way you are sure and safe that the printer (whatever type would it be) can produce the colors intended for the image, but that might alter the image a little.
I got a 32GB CF card (Lexar) from this last store and it was expensive indeed. Ordering it online and delivering it to here would have saved me some money! But oh well, I was in a hurry and I'm not ordering stuff online in the near future, and this card had been waiting for long. I need it to be on the safe side when I shoot so much RAW.

III. Cluster:
One of the ideas that occupy my mind right now is how to form a unique body or a cluster aimed at enhancing the level of Photography on the lands. This body is not at controlling anything but I believe if a group of photographers formed a high-ranking body for the care of the artistic means of photography, it would be possible then to ensure the quality of photos and the art coming from that venue, and also to press on advancing the art forward specially when it comes to printing photos.
Such ideas occurred to me as I saw many photographers in the expo. Good and bad, unique and repetitive, there was, generally, a sense of chaos in the process.
Another matter I'm looking forward through this body, if it can be founded, is to introduce and identify the aspect of color management. After all the hassle I've faced so far trying to do a simple color management for my simple printer, I think I've realized by now that people here don't take the matter seriously enough, and maybe those shops who do the high quality prints try to keep the secret to themselves. It is a problem that people don't read books enough and spend most of their times in front of the TV sets!
I'm calibrating my monitor right now with a simple colorimeter, but the process is far beyond this simple task. I don't even know whether should I use D50 (Daylight 5000K) standard or D65 (Daylight 6500K) standard. Also, what kind of lights are usually present in the showrooms? All these aspects should be raised to the next level and dealt with accordingly.

IV. Business:
I do think, that such clusters or bodies like the one mentioned above, can and would help the new comers on many aspects, and also set some guide line for pricing the prints, and a guide for legal matters like licensing the image(s) and how to deal with clients, as a freelancer and/or as an employed personnel.
The flip of ideas in my mind is still going on about the prints that I've made for the expo and were not sold. I'm still insisting on the same prices, but it made me think further about other prints and art-work. In the mean time as well, I'm trying to find a venue for proposing and give services in architectural photography, as well as find an outlet in some gifts shops and souvenirs shops maybe.
I'm still having a dream, of owning my own HP DesignJet or something like it from Canon, but I'm sure no place for this right now.
There are other issues that dwell under the same criteria, like maintaining and registering my own logo and look for any chance to deliver my prints abroad by any means, and for this I have to check with the various services available. Busy time ahead, and I'm not sure how well I will do, but at least something to take my mind off from other problems.

I guess I have to stop here. Stop writing this blog post for now, and also stop spending with my credit card. Despite all the urgent things I really want to do for the time being, I need to slow down with my pace on the financial front. It is not a disastrous situation, but, you cannot be too careful...

Against The Wind

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