Thursday, November 15, 2012


This week started off with a busy schedule. Well, probably before its beginning even. I'm trying to re-activate myself and re-schedule my time to join the group back and be part of the various activities they are involved in. However, this is coming slowly, as I'm also careful not to flood myself with images that I need to process while I'm having still images from my travel to the US that need to be processed.

However, I did have a short stop from processing images from the US to work on some urgent load, if I can call it so. First, our group gained a permission for photography inside Soug Sharg mall; the place that I used to struggle years ago to take pictures from, and always blocked by security guys all over the place. Now, I had the chance to do some magic on my own!

Welcome to Sharg Mall

After meeting friends there, I've began directly working on a panorama by the entrance. The place was active with people, but thanks for HDR merging, the moving objects, at large, were removed. This is one of the benefits for working with HDR. It's not always about the colors! There are people who were stable relatively and didn't walk around, so for those, their bodies were shown in place with some moving parts.

One of the things that I've been struggling with recently (again) is the weird spots of colors that appear from no where into the scene. However, I've tried to make some notes about this matter seriously now since such thing is endangering my panoramas from the US. I can't go back there to do them!!!
Anyway, I've made some points here:
  • Usually appears accompanied with or because of the flare.
  • Apparently it has to do with a gap in the dynamic range in some HDR slides when merging.
  • The problem could also be related to merging into high color space like ProPhoto, and/or using Radiance format (.hdr, or RGBE format). According to this Link, Blochi (i.e. Christian Bloch) describes something related to the color space and how OpenEXR format excels in this over the typical old RGBE format. For this reason I will start merging into OpenEXR using sRGB space and see if this brings me to the safe side!

The panorama of the mall above had some of these spots and I worked hard to hide some of them, but not all.

Tranquil City

Beside working with a panorama I did take some few shots in the outside facing the marina where the yachts are kept. Unfortunately for me, that time I was awake for more than 12 hours already and I couldn't help myself much to do another panorama elsewhere. As for Tranquil City which is tone-mapped from a HDR slide, my original plans for it was to be in black and white to give such a drama. Yet, and after changing the white balance before merging into HDR into fluorescent WB, I've discovered how calm and tranquil the scene is - and hence the name of course!

Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/8, 125-1sec, ISO 200

One benefit though of working with a group in one location is the freedom, somehow, of moving without being looked upon by people as a weirdo. This is how Straffung was taken, when I saw this large pillar in the middle of the court, I've just laid down on my back and started snapping the images. Even though originally bracketed, I thought one image is enough to work out this shot.

Greenery Lines
Tamron 70-300mm @300mm, f/11, 6-1sec, ISO 200

And of course there were abstract shots but this one was a far fetched one. In Greenery Lines I've spotted a far building in the horizon which actually had been a target before for my shooting trials with no luck, but now with a tripod and my Tamron, I thought I could do some abstract around it. The shot was originally bracketed but finally I've picked only one slide to work it out. I've used cropping and skewing to adjust the lines in a proper perspective, and with some Vibrance increasing, voila, it became from dull to green!
There are other shots that I might work on later. As for now, let's move to where the excitement was...

Constitution Day

November 10th. What a historical day. Well, I don't want to act as an ultra-patriotic individual, but after roaming some portions of this world and coming back here and after moments of meditating, I've discovered that it is here where I belong to, and here where I want to be.
The Constitution Day, a day celebrating the issue of the first constitution for Kuwait after independence in 1961, has come now again in a golden jubilee; 50 years passed since its first announcement. Such a celebration comes in a time when this country was (and probably is still) divided - and believe me if I say, I don't know what for the people were divided. Speaking for myself, with all my hurdles and troubles, I still lead a proper life compared to people in my position in other places. This celebration, not only added happiness upon the faces, but also a sense of pride; specially after enrolling Kuwait in Guinness book of records for the highest number of Fireworks used and shot in this celebration. Here comes the excitement.

After a meeting with the group leader, I've headed out directly to Soug Sharg because I knew the traffic jam would be humongous. However, I did face some jam and finally I've parked in front of Soug Sharg itself and I didn't get inside; I thought it is better that way when I want to go out of there. I've reached the place at around 3:00 p.m., while the real firework display won't start until 8:00 p.m., but getting there early is always better!

Map of the locations
Green: my parking place
Blue: where I took photos
White: Kuwait towers, where I walked to.

After parking in my place in front of the mall, I've picked my stuff and got into the mall itself waiting for others to arrive to see what are their plans. However, I've met only one friend and I had to meet him on the bridge, and then we walked to the towers (the white circle) - something like 30 minutes of walking. Here and there taking pictures as much as possible. For a moment, I wished I was one of the volunteers like I did long time ago in college time.
Then we headed back to the mall for another 30 minutes walk or more. After resting, meeting other friends and then walking around to check for the different angles and possibilities - we headed to the roof.

Himmel, Türfe, eine Fahne
Tamron 70-300mm @300mm, f/4.5, 500-1sec, ISO 400

It was hard to pick a proper angle, specially that most members of the group were thinking specifically about Kuwait Towers and how to include them with the firework. After some negotiations, I've remained with one friend on the roof (The blue spot) even though the towers do not show clearly from that spot, while the others spread to other locations - and then later we were accompanied by a lady from the group as well. Before the fireworks show, we worked on the exposure and metering and made out plans of how to work around with the show. And the play began, some time after 8:00 p.m..
Generally, beside changing the lenses, there were 2 major techniques that I've followed (on two phases):
  • Shooting on Manual and changing the time accordingly as I check the brightness.
  • Shooting with Bulb mode, fixing the aperture and controlling the shutter with the cable remote accordingly to the timing of the exploding fireworks.
There are other techniques involving covering the lens while working on Bulb mode, but anyway it was not in my capabilities to do this. However, I find the second technique above is more useful in my case and changing the time period in matter of seconds was not critical to the overall exposure. The fireworks display provided enough to lighten the sky and the buildings too sometimes!
At some moments, there were series of fireworks that a single still image would be slow and awkward to catch - at such moments I did switch to video mode and captured a glimpse. I think I've taken a total of 4 videos - but the greatest in my opinion was the one just 10 minutes before the end of the show.
 Anyway, I'm really surprised for some people who have really weird opinion that such fireworks is a waste of money. I have to say I don't really care much about this story, and I do feel proud to be part (even a tiny one) from this event, and it is a facade of the whole country we are talking about; some millions are not much for this.
I leave you now with a slide show for some of the images I've prepared from this event, with Kingdom Hearts, a music composed by Utada Hikaru (and you can find it on youtube here).

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