Thursday, December 13, 2012


After a staggering stormy week, seems this week is pacing down a bit as I'm trying to hold on to my horses and getting my life to normal, specially with photos. On the marital front, not much news and my waiting seems to bore the hell out of me, but there is nothing I can do for now. On the other hand, I'm trying to finish the load of books I've purchased some 2 weeks ago. These books are all in Arabic and I got them from the 37th books fair here, and I have to say, somehow and probably because of how the language is processed in my head, I do find myself faster and easy when I read these books. I would even forget my world while reading! Too bad not much technical books are there in Arabic though and still I do have to go back to English (and any different language if I have to).
Funny thing was, when I finished this book, in Arabic, about The Great War (WWI), I wanted to make some comments about it to the author, Omar Al-Dirawy [عمر الديراوي], but then I've discovered while surfing the net, that he died 45 years ago! R.I.P.

Cover of The First World War (Arabic)
By: Omar Al-Dirawy
This is an older press release.

Maybe if you are reading this, you might be wondering what do I have to do with WWI or WWII. The fact is simply, I like history, specially these two events. I believe our current political entities and all the mess in this region specifically, is a direct result of something that happened almost a century ago, the WWI. However, despite the gruesome facts about this war, I do believe that there are lessons to be learned from the past. Anyway, let's get back to the photography vent right now...

Flora and Flickr!
Two weeks ago, I've been into some greenhouse selling plants and other planting accessories. There is one complete block that is full of such stores and my photography group organizers worked on gaining a permission from one specific greenhouse to have a photography session.
I've said it before and I'm going to say it again and again, floral photography is not really my thing. However, I just went with the rest of the group because I didn't indulge in much activities with them lately and even though I brought almost all my tools (specially the speedlites and the modifiers), yet when I got inside the greenhouse, I've just brought a tripod and my camera backpack with one modifiers that can serve as a reflector - yet, I never used it and gave it to a member as a help.
So, where does Flickr come in? Simply, 4 images were added to Flickr's Explore pages (and one of them is not from the greenhouses anyway). Those and other images made me think about lot of things lately...

The Gentle Crown
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/2.8, 640-1sec, ISO 400.

Peaceful Solitude
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, 400-1sec, ISO 200.

Zu Meinem Herz
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/5.6, 30-1sec, ISO 200.

Raining Tenderness
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/2.8,
500-1sec, ISO 100.
Thoughts: The fact that floral photography is not my type of thing and still getting stuff into Flickr's Explore, makes me think of how much I can do if I would really concentrate on a topic that I do really like (mainly architecture and panorama). However, on the other hand, seems it is just people nature that floral arts attracts them for its gentle approach. It is a happy thing as well because, in a world that we live in right now, who has the time to meditate at the beauty of a flower or a rose? To see people commenting and liking these images even though I prepared them without a prior thinking about the settings that I want to use, made me feel that people, even those solid types, do have emotions but probably they are just suppress them in some way and don't show it off, or probably don't know how to show it off - and all of that is exploited in a simple photo of a flower. I won't talk about my emotions right now in these lines, since they are already a mess. But yes, I do tend to suppress my own emotions and never show them off easily.

More Flora:
Other snap shots from inside the greenhouse are abundant and I'm still processing some of them. There is not much space to put them all in here, but there are some significant ones that provoked my thoughts a bit.

The Lonesome
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, 800-1sec, ISO 100.

The significance of The Lonesome does not come from the composition or the beauty of the image (that is if it has beauty in your eyes) but from a simple event that took place during shooting this simple isolated branch.
In fact, when I went into the greenhouse, I used my tripod a bit but then I started to take most of the shots handheld, simply because it made me feel free to compose, and (even though I was using low f-numbers, i.e. wider apertures) I was using higher ISO (200-400) most of the time. Also, despite the fact that I've brought my speedlites, I've never used them in the whole session there.
As for the shot above, my teacher criticized me (or let's say advised me) for not using a tripod and for the high ISO, and for my composition with this branch. In fact, I didn't reply directly, but what I was aiming for here is simplicity of design and a form of minimalism with an expressive mode in mind. It is true that I was using low f-numbers and the shutter speed was enough to eliminate the handshake (most of the time not always) - yet I always like to play the assurance deal. I pay less attention to the shutter speed when I work in Av mode, thus raising the ISO from the beginning makes me safe as my work and thought line go hand in hand. Another thing about the high ISO is the fact that I might need to change the f-number (increase it little bit to have more depth) thus a high ISO (but not so high) would ensure that I'm still in the handshake compensation region without having to look and do some measurements. I've became now more confident with my plugins and the way to eliminate most of the noise in my images which made me comfortable somehow to raise the ISO.

Thoughts: What my teacher told me about is true. He even mention stuff about a proper background (because other photographers in the group brought their own black board). However, I do see that I didn't use my speedlites like others did, and while I was working on giving an isolation by means of bokeh effect and shallow depth, my teacher on the other hand was thinking mostly of a solid background. While I was thinking more about abstract and simplicity (minimalism), my teacher was more aimed at the conventional composition aspects and having more elements in the scene. All of these opposites make me think if I am right in my approach. In art, there is no right or wrong, this is something I do believe in, but is it possible that my teacher is not aware of these aspects? Or maybe he doesn't want other members to "leap" into a next level without having their feet firm in a specific ground? From comments, and likes, seems photos like The Lonesome is gaining the expressions that I was working for when I took the shot in the first place - but how am I supposed to respond now to the criticism (or advices)? 
It is clear for me now that I can't use the speedlites randomly without thinking prior to their use. In other words, if I didn't plan before leaving home on using them in a certain and specific way, then taking them out with me is fruitless (as well as with the light modifiers). This, I've discovered by now in practice when I went to the greenhouse for shooting on flowers. Even though other members did use speedlites (ring and regular ones), yet my brain could not comprehend how to shape the light with a speedlite and my sole concentration was on using the light that is already there and available to make dramatic and emotionally effective images. This proves to be a challenge now: how to brainstorm an idea on location using speedlites?

Blanco y Negro:

Source: Amazon
Black and White is not something new to me of course, but after reading Bruce Barnbaum's book, The Art of Photography, I've became more influenced and more in hunt for capabilities of black and white scenes. Bruce's book is a treasure trove and so heavy with technical information concerning films and how to develop films, which made me really eager to do film photography like in the old times. Unfortunately though, this is almost next to impossible for the time being - it needs lot of chemicals and a special room to be prepared besides lot of expertise (which takes time to develop). One great advantage for film (black and white films that is) is their wide dynamic range which exceeds that of a sensor. This is one of the reasons that established HDR photography with digital cameras generally, but it is not always feasible and possible.

Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/4, 40-1sec, ISO 200.

Gentle Flame
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4,
1000-1sec, ISO 200
Despite these (digital) limitations, I've been concentrating my effort on creating effective and dramatic black and white - but I have to make an announcement here that "dramatic" is not always an ultimate goal, but merely an expression to some images that I feel they need to be so.
Even though I worked before with Black and White, but after reading Bruce's book, I'm now more aware of the capabilities and the expressions that I would be able to implement using black and white photography. Right now, it is job to be done beyond the simple Curves adjustment layers to add some contrast; it is something to be thought in a whole domain of processing just like colored images, and as it was before, using burn and dodge to bring out the details from highlights or shadows, it is now thought of dodge and burn as a dramatic and a selective contrast tool.

Living from The Dead
الحي من الميت
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4,
800-1sec, ISO 200
And of course beside the Black and White comes the tinted Black and White (not necessarily sepia) which is a weird amalgamation of colored images but in a black and white suit. I've found it that it is really hard to choose and decide for your mood when working with some images. Even though I could have done Living from The Dead in two ways, but I was determined to decide on one and only one version. Thus, I've found myself more inclined to accept the sepia version for it gives me a depth of mood and sense to the image. it might not necessarily be so for other viewers of course, but the initiating point, i.e. my feelings, should be set aright from the early beginning.

Off To Work!
As the past week was bitter in the home and personal front, I've decided to take my camera with me to work more often. Even though I did take it with me several times (along with the speedlites and the tripod) but I didn't necessarily work with them single day - simply because there were not many ideas in my mind. I've tried deliberately to work with it after my work time is over if possible, just to have some time with myself without the need to get back home so early.

Passing By
Canon EF-S 18-55mm @21mm, f/22, 60sec, ISO 100

However, it wasn't until December 5th, when I've noticed the abundance of the cloud in the sky which sparked an idea for a long exposure. I had a plan to do such clouds long exposure long time ago but never got the chance to and I didn't find any other place better than my own work place.
In the beginning I was aiming with my Canon EF 50mm lens but then I've changed my mind and changed the lenses. I wished to use the 50mm lens first for a reason: a) the stable focus ring which can make me attach filters with no external shake, and b) it is a prime lens that would provide a sharp image; sharper than zoom lenses. However, because of my location I had to change to 18-55mm to control the framing accordingly. From the early beginning I wanted to make this shot in Black and White.
Anyway, because of the bright sun, and after doing some calculation, I figured I would need 10 stops for 2 minutes only. I do have a 11.7 stops welding glass, but I didn't want to use it here and increase the time significantly (that would be more than 4 minutes). To be on the safe side, I've done 3 exposures as well: 2 minutes, 1.30 minutes, and 1 minute. Ironically, the one that worked best was the 1 minute exposure; not because of the level of brightness or overexposure, but because it recorded a nice movement blur in the sky (while the others were too washed away).
However, because of my level and the tilt of the camera, I had to correct the perspective and stretch the image. I've used DxO first but for some reason it didn't match my view, thus I had to do the perspective fix with my own hands, manually, in Photoshop. The rest is a well-known story I guess - adjustment layers, turn black and white, crop into square...etc.

Canon EF 50mm, f/8, 25-1sec, ISO 100

Stinging Memories
Canon EF 50mm, f/7.1,
50-1sec, ISO 100
After finishing my long exposures and just before I pack my stuff into the car, I've noticed the shape of the little trees around the building. They were cut recently and the branches inclining upward made a good target for some abstract work. In the beginning, I didn't really know how to shoot at these trees and didn't know with what lens - beside being attached more to using 50mm. However, I've figured that the best strategy here is to shoot from various angles and sort the ideas out at home. Thus, Entflammbar and Stinging Memories came into being. Entflammbar specifically been processed heavily and I tried as much as possible to make it look like a sketch made of linear strokes from a pen. I used some burning and dodging too, and I had in my mind a vision of a banded tree top, but that didn't work well and I had to get back to the original with little burning and dodging for some areas that need some details back.

Now, with a heavy head, I'm trying to progress through my projects slowly one by one. I've even been trying to put a daily program for myself with processing 2 images daily. I'm not sure I can keep up with this program strictly, because I know that there will be moments when I have to break this routine. I hate routine in the first place!
Ayvarith, Geltani, and even more now with the monthly competition of the group for December; pictures of coffee-related topics. Too much to blend into my brain, needless to say, into my heart too...

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