Thursday, July 26, 2012

Das Lichtenspiel...

First week of Ramadhan now, and things are relatively, slow. For me, it's not a big deal in fact to fast from dawn to dusk everyday; I've already been fasting for more than a month before Ramadhan, but it is all about the people around you that sometimes make your life harder. Up till this moment, my schedule didn't change despite the change in the general timing of... everything. The life here almost shifts two hours forward. My work begins 9 instead of 7, and needless to say that shops and other places don't start till late in day. but guess who's being active and in his office by 7 a.m.!

This said, I'm waiting for my visa interview next Tuesday, 31st, and I just wish I'm over with this sooner than this date. The problem is, my mind is in chaos for the time being and I'm worrying about many stuff all in the same time: the visa procedures, the traveling arrangements and my camera and tools, my various pending projects. Mentioning projects, I've made some adjustments lately to my website, adding a tab for Services and a tab for Guestbook. Things are slow, but I hope they're steady...

I. Das Spiel:
As part of my effort to push myself forward with my camera and fighting idleness as much as possible, I've been pushing myself around trying to pay close attention to light and light patterns and, of course, shadows. This calls of course for more abstract shots.

Ohne Licht (Without Light)
Canon EF-S 18-55mm @39mm
f/14, 1/15 sec., ISO 100
Canon EOS 7D
Shots like Ohne Licht might have nothing in special, except of its simplicity, and a show of pattern. Despite the timing of the shot (around 10 a.m.) yet this portion of the yard caught my attention as it was lit under the shade.
Such shots were somehow a test, as well, for the proper metering away from the complications of light meters and gray cards. After reading Bryan Peterson's book: Understanding Exposure, I've realized it is mainly about the reflectance and how close to 18% gray after all. To take this shot, I've came closer to the switch (since it is the gray thing in the whole scene) and took a (spot) metering there using Manual mode. It is a habit with me now to work in Manual mode; it gives more flexibility. However, I've changed the f-number a bit and changed the shutter speed accordingly and took many shots of the same scene in burst mode. Later, I had to sort out which one was more stable than the others.
I do believe that simplicity of design can be relaxing to the eye, and despite the fact that I hate the color yellow (!) yet, there is a golden hue that makes the morning sun rays pleasant to see. The image underwent some check up with DxO optics to remove the slight barrel distortion usually caused by the 18-55mm lens. It was not a big deal in fact, but I wanted to have the chance here to see the difference, since DxO Optics comes with profiles ready made for this lens, and making fixing such distortions a piece of cake!

Loch (Hole)
Canon EF-S 18-55mm @34mm, f/8, 1/80 sec., ISO 100.
Canon EOS 7D

The funny thing about Loch is that I was aiming at the pattern of the shadows that are cast by the little old bush on the yellow wall. I took my metering off the shadows following the old advice used in the old days of film: expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. After examining the shot in my PC, I've discovered that the shot was centered around a hole (hence the name). Well, it might not be exactly a hole, but it is rounded more than any other pattern around it! Call it luck, it might work as an illusion, maybe?

Schattenspiel (Play of Shadows)
Canon EF-S 18-55mm @55mm, f/8, 1/15 sec., ISO 100.
Canon EOS 7D

Another shot, but this time I was lazy about a bit. Schattenspiel. This shot was taken from the top of the stairs. I've noticed the play of light and shadows as I was going up and down to my room. Instead of using a lateral arm and a tripod to fix the camera, I've decided to go ahead and just.. shoot! I made many shots and most of them are shaky (if not all). Maybe this one was the best so far, even though it is still a shaky image. There was some cropping of course to adjust the vertical lines, and sharpening the image didn't help much to eliminate the shaky lines. Ironically, it didn't occur to me to raise the ISO at least to 200! In this image specifically, metering was done for the shadows, but this metering had blown out the highlights (beside the shake), so I've changed my mind and metered off the lighted steps. Some Fill Light during the RAW processing was done to enhance the shadows little bit. Distortion fixes were done in DxO Optics as well.

II. Signs:
Tamron 70-300mm @168mm,
f/18, 1/15 sec., ISO 100.
Canon EOS 7D
The irony prevails when you suddenly discover something that had been in front of your eyes for the past... seven years? No. More than that even.
Signs is a shot that was taken from a road that I'm used to take daily heading to my work place. I think reading about Contemplative Photography was not in vain after all. Things just sparkle in your brain out of sudden! One day I've just noticed how the traffic signs line up and condensed on this particular road. Another irony is... I've never cared for traffic signs! (Yeah, I'm a bad driver).
I've decided to head to this location in the early morning, as early as I usually go in regular days, but now it is Ramadhan and people won't be ready to head to their work places until 8 a.m. probably! I was on location at around 6:30 a.m.. Spreading my tripod up high made it hard to look into the view-finder and I didn't like to attach my new portable monitor to check the image; I didn't want to spend more time than it should be in front of the private properties. I know how and what people might think of me if they see me in front of their homes, here.
Again, on the steps of Bryan Peterson, I've metered the sky (and realized later that I've done a mistake) and settled down with some composition. I've changed the composition many times, but as it was hard to see, I almost took several shots blindly and decided to check them later. The shoot ran for bracketed sequence of 1-stop interval, just in case a single shot might not be that good (and I have to say that I've picked the +1EV shot rather than the 0EV). However, generally speaking, the composition for all the shots was not to my liking for various reasons, specially the tree behind the signs.
The mistake I've done with metering here was that, as Bryan stated, I should meter a blue sky, but the sky at that time was simply, white! I could've metered the green cover from near by bushes or palm trees, but my concentration in the first place was about the signs, and not to include green covers. The tree branch was hard to clone so I've just left it there.

Source: Amazon
You might say that I'm following blindly what Bryan Peterson said in his book, but I'm experimenting still, and I don't agree with everything. For example, he mentions that most of the time he uses the Cloudy WB because it gives more vibrant colors. It is true, but unfortunately, and probably because of the type of the weather we have here, I've found this largely inadequate. Sign, for example, was shot with Cloudy WB but I had to change it to lighten the image a bit as the image gave out a severe yellowish tint. Maybe there is something I've missed, but anyway Bryan himself stated that he would change the WB later when needed. The only point is that Cloudy in my case under this weather won't be as beneficial as Bryan stated for the type of weather he would usually work in.

III. Speed of Lite:
Source: Amazon
Now, as I go on and read my second book: Speedliter's Handbook, I've been pouring some attention into the flash and how it works by doing some small experiments. I'm still reading the book in it's beginning, which comprises lot of information known to me already, yet it works as a refresher. So far, Syl Arena, the author, played it good in this book; good text, nice to read, and organized thought process, beside the light humor in his words!
In fact, reading along, though I'm still in chapter 6, it made me wish that I do have some more flash heads, at least the 430EX, along with TTL cord or even a ring-flash. So much stuff to think about for the time being, beside my corrupted tripod which I need to fix or get a new one instead, beside considerations for a new case for my camera and tools. Talk about financial burdens!
Quote Cup
Anyway, in the course of teaching myself (and my eyes) how to notice the light patterns and embrace them, I've decided to bring my camera bag to my work place and work a bit on some issues. Quote Cup was a subject of my trials where I did change the position of my Speedlite from one position to another. Finally, I've aimed on creating a rim light composition, where the light spreads on the edges of the subject from the back creating some sort of a definition. I don't think I've done it the right way, but anyway, I guess I had some nice results, specially using my Canon 100mm macro lens, which provides a good shallow depth. It was a good decision not to clean the table, which provided me with all these sparkles in the scene! The on-camera flash provided some fill light to the front, and after some trials and changing the WB, I think Tungsten was the best choice. I have to think of more work to do with my flash to grasp more of its capabilities, but I'm not sure how. Time will reveal, I presume.

IV. Long Exposures:
Last week I've been trying to get some nice long exposures, but I think my trials failed. It was a good thing to catch some glimpse of the clouds movements at night, but there was a big problem with the noise level and the composition was not to my liking after all. I'm planning to try again but this time using some telephoto lenses probably instead of the usual fisheye lens trend, or probably my simple 18-55mm lens in one way or another. No pictures available for this trial as I didn't upload any, but for sure it was a noise image with lot of blown highlights because of inclusion of cityscape lights into the scene. Even long exposures timing is affected by Ramadhan, and naturally, the beach won't be quiet as it is before (it is already annoying in some specific locations during weekends).

Now, after a messy week, it sounds like I'm losing a bit of control over my life pace. Even though I've finished my Alexander project, I just can't force myself to work on other relevant projects, like the Geltani language and script. I think I need some time just to relax after a lengthy project like Alexander's story, or maybe I'm just too moody to work on that too.
This said, I do have a lot of things to think about prior to my supposed travel (in case my visa is granted anyway). I didn't prepare anything regarding the bookings; not even the plane's tickets. Needless to say, I can't stop thinking of the stress I would have to put up with regarding my luggage and tools with me. To make things worse, my backpack is sort of stuffed and I do need a new case sooner or later. One more lens and the backpack will explode!
On the other hand I'm worried about the functionality of my tripod, and I do need to find a solution for the lost rubber in one of the legs ASAP. Might sound not a big deal, but in doing panoramas, this can cause disasters! I have to resolve this issue, before traveling.
If only there is someone who can hear and bear what's in the heart of beats...

This said, I'd like to share with you all an inspirational post, by a fellow photographer (whom I follow), Jeff Lynch. I believe this post, is a spirit booster indeed. Go ahead Jeff; hearts with you.

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