Thursday, September 27, 2012

Architectural Amuse...

(Some large files in this post, please give some time to load!)

The days are running fast, and the travel time is getting closer, and yet I'm not sure what to prepare first. I feel lazy and sluggish in these days and now I do wish if I signed for my leave from work earlier than I did already. My leave starts only 3 days before my travel on October 10th. However, I'm trying to use my time there with reading the books that I've received already and I'm digesting them now slowly. It is just the matter of sleeping more that makes me wish for an earlier leave.

After some struggle and almost dipping myself in water, I've managed to take a full panorama from the gazebo, of the secret spot. Upon reaching the place, I've realized that I cannot expand my tripod over the diameter of the fountain, thus, the best choice I had is to stay close to the edge; a dangerous situation for sure. Talk about stress, people looks, clumsy movement (and I'm renowned for that) and fearing to dip the camera into the water... all in all, it was an uneasy process. Why close to the edge? Of course, to have the dome centralized as much as possible.


Working with this panorama alone was tedious, or maybe I should say more tedious than I've previously encountered. Because the location was a delicate one, I had to think about shooting the nadir point. The ground bears interesting details that can't be missed like any other place - we have  fountain there. For this, I've brought my monopod and my lateral arm.
Now, the rewards of doing a panorama is several sets of projections. But, initially, some parameters must be set right. In this workflow, I've tried to centralized the camera and align it exactly with the fountain's outlet. However, I've realized later that my alignment was not really precise and I had to adjust some angles when checking out the panorama stitch. For each projection I try, I save the file as is for later stitching - because my mind was burning for visual stimuli and I didn't want to stop it for a long process (that would take 6 or 7 hours sometimes).

Well, I'm not going to talk much about the stitching errors here. If you are a follower, I guess you already know the tedious part; not to mention the fact that I'm stitching a nadir here beside a zenith. Taking the panorama itself was a struggle by itself because I had to wear my backpack and move my monopod and lateral arm from one side to another (because I kept it prepared for the nadir before I proceed with the usual shoot); all of that to keep the scene clean from my stuff. The nadir was taken at the end with a slightly different point of view (of a different elevation from the original position of the camera during the panorama shooting) but seems PTGui took good care of perspective fixing.
One of the good decisions I've made here is to raise the camera above my head level for this panorama. One of the bad decisions? Well, it was to raise the camera above my head level! We'll see about that later.

Radiosus Rectus

As you would notice here, I've made 2 flat versions of this panorama (originally 3 but stitched only these 2); Radiosus and
Radiosus Rectus. The main reason for the former is a flat panorama that shows some details of the dome and the fountain together, while the latter is a simple regular flat spherical panorama, to be used later for QTVR rendering. I like the wavy columns in both versions after all! However, 3 projections that I've considered, personally, as masterpieces.


The first masterpiece (to me) to be created was Radiatio. It is a typical tunnel view like I did before with many other panoramas. I was going to name it as Spaceship or Mothership, but to keep it consistent with the rest of the panoramas, I've decided to name as Radiatio; Radiation.
I've mentioned previously that one of the good decisions I've made here is to raise the camera above my head level, and it is also bad in the same time. It is good because by raising the camera's level I would include some space for the nadir point and also it helps the perspective in such projections - the bad point is operating the camera at such level is difficult - specially when I have to look at the number of degrees on the rotating plates for the camera's tilt.

Planeta Columnium

The other projection, which I had visions for since the early beginning of my work is the planet projection, as you can see in Planeta Columnium. In this projection, I had to crop the outer zone to remove the remnants from the dome and leave the columns dangling in the air in a surreal form. It was not possible to remove the dome by changing the perspective alone, but however, in PTGui itself, I can set the limits and boundaries for the zone to be stitched.


 The last piece is what I called Astracolumnae. It never occurred to me to use the circular projection in PTGui. However, I do wish if it was rendered in some other way other than this. I think it would be great if the symmetry was sustained on all axis of pillars pair. Anyway, I have to satisfy myself here with this result for the time being, and I'm happy that I've discovered some new point of view! such points of course would be more interesting if the panorama was taken under a common central point (hence I think it is more useful indoors rather than outdoors). In Astracolumnae, I've removed the background and saved the file in JPG and PNG for web usage. However, some websites don't identify the transparency in the background and replaces it with white tone. The embedded image here is PNG and needs some time to load (~2MB).


The QTVR was rendered from Radiosus Rectus, and luckily for me the nadir point was stitched gently despite the difference in the perspective. Some cloning was needed of course to hide the legs of the tripod (which I used to support the monopod holding the camera with the lateral arm).

The original Radiosus Rectus produces a larger QTVR of course which sized up to 9MB, and it has more details than the smaller version (and more crisp). The smaller version of Radiosus Rectus is soft somehow because of the noise cleaning process which was done more than once. I didn't care much about details at this small size anyway! Most of the details relate to some dust particles or faint cracks in the floor, and some cavities in the pillars which can be hardly seen anyway!


Source: B&H
Source: B&H
The toys are finally here. Namely, the Canon 50mm (normal) USM lens, of f/1.4. I'm already thinking of some work to do with this lens before traveling. As a fun activity (and a challenge), I'm thinking of taking my camera with this lens alone - no accessories, no other lenses, no tripod. Just me, camera and 50mm lens - and head out looking for some photos to catch on the way. In hope that this activity would spark some imagination and enthusiasm for more productivity. The 50mm lens is called Normal usually because at this focal length the lens matches almost the human vision (in terms of the field of view). However, with a cropped sensor like mine, it is not exactly normal. Anyway, it is a prime lens after all and  I should satisfy myself with the quality that can be produced from such lens.

The other toy is the ExpoImage Rogue Master Lighting Kit, which consists of some light modifiers for speedlites. So far so good, and the modifiers are nicely designed. However, for each type of modifier there is only one piece, so you won't be able to use the same modifier on two speedlites in the same time - but I don't think it is a big deal right now.
Just as a simple test for the kit, I've tried to take a head shot for my brother using some reflectors and a diffuser on my two speedlites (580EX II, 430EX II) and formed an oyster-like formation - with 580EX II on-camera, and 430EX II held by hand below the camera's level. 

Canon 50mm, f/8, 500-1sec, ISO 400.

You might have noticed here that I've used a shutter speed exceeding the typical sync speed (250-1sec for Canon EOS 7D). I was simply using the speedlite in High-Speed mode, to kill the ambient light and light the face with the speedlites alone. The overall goal was to give a soft light to light the face, and brighten the eyes as much as possible. Well, we are Middle Easterners and typically our eyes are dark brown and hard to be lit in that way I presume. I would say I'd need another speedlite with a snoot directed to the eyes. I tried here not to adjust too much in Photoshop - only few edits in the RAW editor (e.g. contrast, clarity) and in Photoshop some noise cleaning and sharpening without trying to lighten the eyes (as I usually do in my spare time with girls' head shots!).

Source: Amazon

Then come the books with the arrivals in the last shipment. They are two books and I'm trying to read them both in -somehow- scheduled manner. The first book is Build a Better Photograph by Michael Stern. This book is relatively thin and I think I would finish it in a course of a week or so! In the first chapter there was somehow a heavy load of Photoshop talk and making composite images - interesting but not quite what I was looking for, as I think right now I'm in a developmental stage where I care for aesthetics and ideas more than I do care for working around Photoshop. However, the technical aspects mentioned here are good and can be kept for a reference. The surprise was on the second chapter, when Stern talks about 3D scanning and how to make some art through regular desktop scanner! Inspiring for some ideas (specially that I wanted to do a scan for my ring long time ago!). So, the book really is not about camera work specifically, but about visual artistic talents in general, if I should say.

Source: Amazon
The second book is The Art of Photography by Bruce Barnbaum. I was surprised, sort of, for the size of this book and its weight! I'm reading this book slowly now (dedicating the last hour in my working time to read some of it). This book now is heavily about aesthetics and how to see a photograph. It is about the philosophy behind photography - exactly the type I was looking for. I think I will be taking this book with me when I travel to read some, if I got the time to (or maybe at night to force my eyes to sleep!).

This has been the journey for this week. There are some thoughts other than the travel and the camera that had been occupying my mind, and they do cause a huge unrest. I need to travel for now for the necessity of a vacation, but also for the necessity of going on with my life - there had been a lot of plans in my head that I've postponed because of this travel. 
My sight for the coming future is shrouded and unclear - if only I can sleep as I like right now. Without nightmares...

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