Thursday, May 31, 2012


If it wasn't for the frequent headache that have been striking me now and then from the beginning of this week, this week should have been fair deal with me. I've started this week with a severe headache (or migraine, call it whatever you like) that almost kept me paralyzed, but even with that I went to work on Sunday (weekend: Friday, Saturday), and didn't feel like going to work on Monday. This break from work in fact allowed me to do many things (since I've been awake in the morning). I think now, I do need a vacation just to do my own business!

I've started now recording the 6th chapter of Alexander's story, and in hope that the engine won't stop. In average, I'm planning to vocalize 4 verses a day, if possible. The break I had on Monday made me do lot of things, including the recordings, and also some images and panorama preparations from my session on Saturday (will discuss below).
The vocalization is now available for verses starting from 121 to 432, here. Of course you can always refer to the English version here, in the same website.

I. Scientific Center Workflow:
On Saturday, I had to push myself out of bed and head to the Scientific Center; a plan that I've been delaying for about a month or so. This trial now is different, specially with my 2 relatively new lenses compared to the last time I've taken pictures from there (April, 2011). After some negotiations with the receptionists I was able to get in. The difference here, beside the lenses, I went in with my VT-head and tripod. Heavy sum of tools that I had to carry through the corridors, and actually beside the panoramas and few simple shots with the macro lens, I don't think I needed the tripod after all.
One of the mistakes that I've made here is to bring the ball-head for the tripod instead of the pan-head. Despite the theoretically-easy movement of the ball-head, its lock system and fine-tuning for the shots proved to be a failure. I guess I will always stick to my old pan-head; it is easier to control.

Velbon pan-head (owned)
Source: B&H
Inside the aquarium, I've been mostly using my new macro lens (100mm) which works well as a telephoto lens as well. There were few instances where I would have changed the lenses for some particular locations, but the main lens was the 100mm.
The new lens has f/2.8 which theoretically works better in the darkness rather than lenses of f/5.6 and f/3.5 (that is, the maximum aperture). However, that did not avoid me from using high ISO ranging from 800 to 1600 at some instances. In fact even at ISO1600, there were problems following some movements and most of the images were blurred, which is normal in my case.

At some points, certain points, I've used my 15mm fisheye lens, to take panoramas of course. The panoramas were hard to take, and at a certain point I had to wait for 45 minutes just to shoot a simple 360 panorama. At the end, and with my last supposed panorama, I had to stop in the middle of the process after the arrival of some people, who eventually did not have any intentions to budge. Some panoramas, like the last one, was done in single shots in order to finish as soon as possible.

Rokinon 8mm fisheye f/3.5 t/15 ISO1600
 One of the earliest shots to be processed was the shot taken between water tanks at the end of the aquarium almost. The play of light was enough to catch my eyes, but I had to wait for a significant time just to get this shot done (I think 15 minutes). I've taken this shot in portrait and landscape orientations but at home, I've realized that the landscape orientation fits better for showing more curving, and also for the planned DxO corrections. Starting from this image in fact, I've made up my mind for a new approach and a new workflow, specially when it comes to pictures taken with high ISOs.

Canon 100mm f/2.8 t/160 ISO800
This approach involves using DxO first as the main RAW editing tool, followed up by using ACR for final touches. I realized that I might do better if I reduce the noise levels gradually. First by DxO (beside editing other aspects like contrast and saturation), which has ready-made profiles for a wide range of lenses and helps with reducing the luminance and chromatic noise significantly. Starting from this point of automatic correction (if available) I would reduce the amount of correction leaving some noise left in the image still. Finalizing the edit, the file would be saved as DNG (Digital Negative).

Fish Profile
Canon 100mm f/2.8 t/25 ISO1600
ACR has some advantages over DxO, as I believe. On one side it has easier controls, and it has direct editing tools on the other hand. DxO is complex and good, but sometimes you need simple touches like fill light to just add the right amount of light in the shadows; something you can struggle with somehow with DxO. Also, in ACR editing, the color space can be assigned directly, while in DxO it involves loading profile files and save it to the file. For this reason, I never assigned color space while working in DxO, but only when I open the DNG file in ACR.
The workflow continues with reducing the luminance and chromatic noise a bit further in ACR too. The sharpness amount is not touched though. Finally, a final noise reduction is achieved using NeatImage or Noise Ninja. Noise Ninja is preferred though since it can make a profile from different spots in the image and also the sharpness can be controlled easier than in NeatImage.
This lengthy workflow might not be practical in sense of speed but it did yield some good results I think. Also, it cannot be done for HDR processing. Aquacurvatic itself was originally captured in brackets for some HDR processing but I realized one of the slides was enough to achieve the desired look.

II. Too Cool?
Ever had an image, that after the first step of processing, you just find out that the image is so good that you just don't know what to do about it or how to process it because of the many possibilities and the racing ideas in your mind?
At least I know this is what was happening with me when I reviewed and tried to correct an image of a horned viper from the Scientific Center. The image was taken with Fluorescent WB (and mounted on tripod). Turns out that the image came out bright and not as contrasty as I hoped. With simple correction to the WB, the image became another story and I've realized its potential for different settings. However, I limited my editing to two versions only.

Tarnung (disguise)
Canon 100mm f/22 1.6sec ISO400

Tarnung - BW

The black and white version specifically was delicate to achieve, with many contrast and level adjustment layers to achieve the look. I thought of adding a tint of light blue to reflect a silver-ish look, but that would be even another path, another story.

III. Pano Pano:
As I've stated before, I took the chance inside the Scientific Center to take some panoramas. Not all of them are good I have to admit, since lot of visitors were there and in some places I had to work as fast as I can, but I did have some peace in one particular location despite the visitors: The Greenhouse; as I call it. It is the place where the penguins are and some birds are left to fly freely beside fish tanks and snakes, and some green cover. It looks indeed like some tropical forest, but with controlled air circulation!

Greenhouse #3
When stitching this panorama, I've tried to get out of the conventional box of certain ideas, like doing a vertical panorama using a flat spherical projection. Instead, I've tried the Mercator projection and converted the image into a vertical upside down panorama.
The main reason for this is that the empty space in the middle (or the ground where I stood) pushed all the interesting features on the side and a flat spherical panorama done vertically won't give much attention to such details (while stretching this space in the middle and make it look like an ellipsoid). Tone-mapping, on the other hand, was done in a simple form and not depicting any dramatic emotions, but I've tried to convey a natural feeling to it as much as possible (by using the Compressor option in Photomatix instead of the DetailEnhancer).
I've stitched this panorama 4 times, each time in a different projection style. I'm planning to present my work to the people responsible for the gift shop inside the center, in hope that I might get a deal out of such images if possible. As for now, I have to prepare all my papers and pictures before calling the main principle.

I've made simple stitches for other simple panoramas but did not proceed with processing. Some of them would be hard to represent, specially those captured in single shots and not in HDR. Yet, there is at least one panorama that is not touched yet at the time this post is written.

IV. Trends of Business:
Till this very moment I didn't hear anything from the Marina Mall desk which was supposed to call me back (after an optimistic conversation). However, and because I've been busy with other tasks, I didn't try to recall and check again.
The latest for me now is that I've been trying to make a layout design for a request paper that includes some prices for some services. Still not finalized, but the major aspect of it are set. I think I do need some help in creating this form (and also a help to measure its legal consequences).
On the other hand, and away from this request paper that I'm trying to create, I'm preparing a set of images that I've taken from the Scientific Center in order to make some sort of a proposal (in a form of a wholesale) that they might be interested in. The idea is to offer posters of some sort as a souvenir item for visitors, but that depends on their views and whether they think visitors would be interested in such an item or not. One step at a time...

This is some of the work done this week, and yet the image processing is still on its way and more to come. I didn't even put everything I've done here.
I do want so much to write some poem but my feelings are swinging so much and the work load is over, making it hard to concentrate on proper words.
Yet, I do ask myself, what's the worth of all of this... ?

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