Thursday, November 8, 2012

Roaring Engine...

Attention: QTVRs ahead - give some time for this post to load, please!

Amid the political dilemma in this country, I'm cooling down my head and trying to carry a grin wherever I go. Despite the fear in the eyes of everyone I meet, I just feel delighted. I'm on a vacation until November 17th and I'm going to enjoy my time even if the sky is falling down on Earth.
I'm coping still with my sleeping time and somehow I managed to fix it little bit. But I know myself, I'm going to screw it up again soon. It is amazing how time flies, as I've prepared already my first album of 20 images from New York (and Staten island specifically). I remember when I used to work on images from Ireland, it did take me more than just 2 weeks to prepare a single album (of 20 images). I have to prepare a mass e-mail with all 20 images now.

There are lot of panoramas here to deal with and naturally, lot of problems to deal with. Unfortunately, some of them have problems that are not resolved so far; mainly problems in flare and exposure settings, but less problems in terms of alignment of slides and broken lines.


Working with panoramas is a weird business indeed. Hardships can arrive at any point, and easiness might come from points that you thought were hard - or vice versa. The panorama taken from the Chinese Scholar Gardens on Staten Island, Enlightenment, can be an example for this phenomena; if I can call it so!
This panorama had no need to add a zenith point (topmost slide) because the upper range slides make up a closed region on top making the panorama perfect. As for the nadir point (bottom) it was relatively easy to work it out with a logo. The hardest point in the panorama, however, was the White Balance (WB) and I've struggled with the color cast and the shade in general. I think I've learned my lesson here: a gray space is not as easy as it seems! I had to do many editions in HDR mode before baking (tone-mapping) the HDR here. One of the fixed things is selective exposure reduction which helped adding a halo around the lanterns.

The Porch

I'm trying hard to make a QTVR out of any panorama I've taken already but some of those just don't make it as good as the flat version, just like the The Porch panorama; taken from the porch of the Victorian B&B. I would describe my struggle with panorama as a moderate one, but the magenta tones and the dramatic noise level made the QTVR a bit of a non-pleasant experience. Anyway, I've added the QTVR below. This particular QTVR was limited with its downward tilt because the logo got really awful after tone-mapping - which taught me a lesson here: Add the logo AFTER tone-mapping.

The Victorian B&B

Just before leaving those panoramas from the 1st set or album, I'd like to bring here one panorama that is already to 2nd set. The Victorian B&B panorama was/is one of the hardest panoramas that I've worked with so far. In fact, it was stitched and re-done twice. In the beginning, I stitched the panorama making the middle line of the house (the partition between the first and the second floor) in the middle, which makes it a horizontal line. Why? Because at this point I was able to clone the tree branches on the top and I would no need a zenith slide to be placed there. However, after making the QTVR I've found out that the result is weird a bit and the view does not resemble how the scene is viewed with perspective of a standing man.
On the other hand, the clouds and the exposure related to them were a major problem and even though I've reduced the effect of the plain color patches by changing blending priorities, yet there was some cloning job waiting for me in Photoshop. Tone-mapping this HDR panorama was done in such a way to emphasize the green factor in the scene, which required Photoshop processing too.

Bent Not Broken
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/2.8,
800-1sec, ISO 100
Of course, not all my work had been on panoramas, but I try to spread my efforts equally between single shots and panoramas by doing some single shots in between panorama projects, but there are times when I just didn't feel like touching anything at all. Bent Not Broken was already done when I was on Staten island, but I've re-done it when I arrived back home and I've increased the sharpness dramatically to make it more pronounced. The crop is made into a square as I felt it is more pleasant for the eye and serves the bending stem perfectly rather than a wide empty space on the left side (even though such space can be used for some text if any need arises) - yet, I've felt I should make nature speaks with silence and no need to give much unnecessary space.

Happy Halloween
However, not all single shots were easy. I mean by single shots, shots that are not prepared for a panorama here. Most of them though are bracketed shots for HDR merging - even though I frequently see my chances with single RAW file editing before proceeding to do the HDR - unless I'm pretty sure and know exactly what I want to do with the HDR, then it is the time to head directly for merging. A shot like Happy Halloween pronounced to me that I need more dramatic light here. After mangling with Photomatix for several minutes if not one complete hour, the effect I really need to do was not available just like that - so, I had to approximate and carry the job into Photoshop to take care of the rest. I can't remember how many adjustment layers did I add, but two words can tell it all: Too Many!

Basket Maker House

Basket Maker House (BW)

There are also some instances where it is hard to decide which to upload to the stock images websites like the Basket Maker House sample. The Black and White version was done back in Staten island with my laptop (since I was planning to to work with color with my PC alone for better resolution and view). Both versions are tone-mapped from HDR and to me, I like them both. I leave it for you to decide which one is closer to your feelings!


Now, to the real stuff. Well, skip this section if you don't have QuickTime plugin installed already. I've prepared small QTVRs for posting here but also some of them were prepared in large format.
To reduce the size, I've started not to render the QTVR using 100% quality, but something between 70-90%, even for large format panoramas sometimes depending on what I'm aiming for. I've noticed though at 100% large format QTVRs tend to be crisper and sharper more than the original sharpness - I hope this is not an eye trick.
First we have the temple place at the Chinese Scholar Garden:

You can get the large format from here.

In this QTVR I tried to do an elegant move by putting the text in a circular form around the nadir point instead of just putting the text in the middle as I did before. I think it works nicely that way - but the mistake was that I didn't put the nadir point after tone-mapping, but I did it in HDR Mode and tone-mapped the whole image making the text, sometimes, illegible.

The porch's QTVR isn't really something I'm happy about, but I did try after all. The weird textures and patches of colors in such a small size QTVR makes it weird looking and doesn't really reflect the comfort reflected in the flat image itself. I didn't prepare a large format QTVR for this one though.


Then comes the irony with the hardest panorama but the easiest one to fix its nadir point: The Victorian B&B from outside.

And you can find a larger format in here. You can see that the nadir point was easily fixed by cloning the concrete ground. I love such grounds! But alas! it's not always that easy!

With these panoramas, I've done mostly all of phase one concerning my panoramas, which is supposed to be about flat presentations of these panoramas, and QTVRs along with that when possible. Only few panoramas like my room's remains to be checked, and also the pond of the Chinese Scholar Garden which is prepared already but unfortunately, has a flare and changing colors problem that can't be easily fixed in Photoshop. Probably I have to work hard on this one. Phase two, however, can be anything; Litte planets, wide-view, tunnel view, I really didn't decide yet.

Thoughts and Condolences

Despite my short stay in the US, on Staten Island, I think my experience and interactions with people there was rich - richer than it was in Ireland I presume.
One of these interactions were not physical, nor even direct, but something ethereal, if I can call it so. It was Saturday, October 20th when I headed with my friends from Staten Island to a nursery where Mr Harrison is kept for extensive care, specially for his condition of Alzheimer. It was a quiet little family gathering and I've been introduced to the members, but not directly to Mr Harrison. However, I've remained and took some pictures, and in one weird moment, this old man, who was celebrating his 91st, raised his head with a smile looking at me for some reason that I couldn't realize until this moment I'm typing this - yet, after being paralyzed for a moment and looking into his eyes, I've started to shoot some pictures of him with that look.
Now, after Sandy hurricane that swept through the eastern parts of the US, and which devastated Staten Island, and after 2 weeks and getting back home, I got the news that Mr Harrison had died. Maybe we should be happy for him because he didn't live in torments for long and now he is in a better place. But the fact that such a connection was made between us, without even a chat or a touch, that, is something to be revived and remembered.
Now, I do have a firm belief, that everything that was done -my travel, my stay, meeting friends, and getting back home before the storm, and being there with the family of Mr Harrison, and being with Mr Harrison- all of that, was done and planned in my fate for a reason and a goal. Now, it is the time for me to think and recognize the lessons. R.I.P. Mr Harrison.

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