Thursday, January 31, 2013

Festum Culturalum

It had been a slightly busy week, but a tiresome one too. I'm typing the opening of this post at the location of the expo of Kuwait University, entitled Cultural Festival, and in hope that I will get some time later to do the rest.
The situation in the morning is quiet relatively but it was a busy at the time of the opening ceremony despite the humble preparations. The time was not on our side, and we had to do everything in the haste; even the TV set the I've planned to use for our advantage to display videos of the group and maybe some QTVR directly from laptop, all these ideas were abandoned facing the technical problems and the unavailability of technical items (specific wires and cables).
However, the opening ceremony was nice and I was the first to explain my photos for the vice president of Kuwait University. My photos were already framed and printed since last year for last March's expo; Mawahb 2.
Back at home, during the second day of expo (and I told the group members that I can't be there afternoons in the rest of days), I've noticed that on TV they showed the expo, and then to discover that I was shown while I was explaining my photos to the vice president. No interview was done with me (but with other members of the group) and I was shown with background music playing... better if you ask me, as I hate my own voice!
I'm currently looking for an online source of this program but so far, nothing useful.

I leave you now with some coverage of the event. The total number of images is huge and I need some time to sort them thoroughly, but I've sorted out some snap shots. Of course such shots are documentary and not aesthetic in any way: Please give some time to load as some of the images are 1-2 MB in size.

The main part where and when the bulk of the documenting took place was at the end of the ceremony when the TV musical band started doing some folklore songs and dances on stage outside (beside a swimming pool). The main problem was that I couldn't get any help and everyone was putting responsibility over my head. I needed someone to shoot videos while I work on documenting with still images, but none wanted this job and I went on doing videos and still shots. Videos were shaky of course since I didn't bring my tripod there, but only a camera and 2 lenses: 50mm, 18-55mm; while the guys who got tripods already, didn't use the tripod and didn't want to shoot videos as well! However, I was fluctuating between the two missions and I've recorded some short movies (but large in size).


The video above is just one of a total of 7 videos. However, away from the technical thoughts, there was also a mental process on the side that sparked my thinking about the local folklore and music. My mind was completely absent from such arts and always concentrating on foreign music and arts, specially the Irish folk. It's just amazing how it sounds and looks like I've discovered something new and exciting, while the fact is, it is my OWN culture.


The new logo for the group
With the expo at Kuwait University more pressure is building up and weighing down on my shoulders, specially after the last meeting with the group. A new system for the membership as well as a new logo and a whole load of some protocols. Further more, I was appointed as a responsible persona for competitions and organizing for them. Also, after asking the leader about giving some info to the members about the concept of the workflow and the color space in order to enhance their work (after serious and bad surprises in preparation for Kuwait University's expo). He asked me if I'm able to give a lecture about that, and I agreed. I've created some outline for the type of lecture I would be giving but of course it's only a draft so far and I would need to check up with him further in order to make it efficient. Yet, more expos and events are coming on the way and another load of pressure shall be prevalent soon! I'm afraid that the group is spreading itself too thin in all directions.
A main issue at hand right now is to organize for a library with ready-made prints for any coming expos in the future in order to avoid all the hassle and the technical problems.

Mr Coffee!

A History of Coffee 2
Canon EF-S 18-55mm @40mm,
f/5.0, 1000-1sec,
ISO 100.
Last week I've been working on some shots for some local coffee brand as part of a competition for making an ad. After making some of the shots with an old map as a background (posted in my last week's post) I've worked out on some photo with my brother as a model.
One of the hard things to work out with a model who is a relative (or a friend) in the same time would be the inability to control the situation as it would please you. A professional model, for example, would just do whatever the artist (photographer) want him or her to do without interrogating about the usefulness of the pose. One the other hand, the fact that I'm not owning a proper place or studio props and tools, made my work pace sluggish.

Mr Coffee
Canon EF 50mm, f/5.6,
400-1sec, ISO 100.
One of the first things to ask from my brother was to wear black clothes in hope that the steam would show in contrast to his clothes (however, the effect was weak as it showed later), as well as wear a turban made by my scarf and beanie for more comical look of a guru-like appearance. My idea in the beginning was to have flying books but he emphasized the idea of adding a table and books. An idea that proved to be a focus of criticism from some criticizing groups on Flickr - and I agree with them as well. My brother looks like in a balancing act instead of levitating in the air!
Technically, the problems were abundant starting with the speedlites. Apparently, two speedlites aren't enough right now and I do need a third (and even a fourth). I can imagine this now in high-key technique - something hard to be achieved with only 2 speedlites, if not impossible.
After taking a shot of my bro with a mug and beans bag, inclined on two chairs with pillows to make an angled tilt (to break the usual levitating look), I asked him to remove the chairs slowly out of the scene and I took a shot of the scene being empty except of the books and the table. The rest was a Photoshop work to layer the two shots and clean the chairs off while enhancing the lights of the background and contrast of the foreground (my brother's).
On the side there are other problems, like the floor and some light spill on the right, the harsh shadows a bit on some areas, the tiles and lines on the ground are not so proper for the scene as well. I'm going to submit the image anyway - if any time limits is extended, I might re-do it again without the table and the ground.
I wanted to do another idea expressing the eruptive energy of the coffee, which required some splash to be happening in some unusual way - not the usual dropping something into liquid. I was trying to use a paper cup and blow some air on the side with a thin hose but this idea is not secure enough and water would keep dripping on the side. Finally I've tried using a vacuum cleaner which can be flipped back to be a blower, but I got stuck with my speedlites not being able to direct enough and suitable light beside making harsh shadows. It is times like this that make me think of another speedlite!


It was last Friday's morning, January 25th, and the fog was so dense that I could barely see for 50 meters in front of me while driving. It was a surprise in fact as I was supposed to go to Al-Salmy for some star-trailing the night before but the plans got canceled. However, they say the fog was only close to the seaside, but the sky is clear far from the sea side.

Canon EF 50mm, f/16, ISO 100
Despite the apparent fog, I've decided to head out since I've been sleeping on and off all night and found myself quite awake in the early hours of the morning just before the sunrise. I headed to seaside to the (usual) gazebo. As I was walking to the gazebo, I've noticed some scattered clouds even though faint ones, and I thought they are a good target for long exposure with the gazebo in the foreground.
Ironically, however, as I was settling down with my stuff, the fog accumulated by the time I've finished the configuration for the camera. Slowly, my thought developed and decided to do a HDR but in a long exposure format. The configuration was as follows:
  • White Balance is set to Fluorescent, to add that bluish-pinkish atmosphere. My favorite WB for early hours of the morning and evening.
  • A polarizer was used to darken the sky (t this point I didn't notice the fog was accumulating).
  • An adapter ring for filter was fit upon the polarizer and a 3 stops ND filter was fixed on top. I've used only one slice of ND filter in order to avoid any unnecessary color tints with such experiment.
  • Several shots were taken with different exposure times: 5, 10, 20, 40, 80, 100 seconds.
Banding while tone-mapping
Source: B&H
When merging this HDR, however, I had to face other technical problems. It seems that the usage of a polarizer with HDR is not a good idea of some sort. As tone-mapping process went on, the image showed some hard banding in shape of circular or semi-circular lines all across the image. Having in mind that my new polarizer is of a circular type (as the specs say), I do feel that such banding is caused by the polarizer and not the rising sun behind the fog (and it was faint light after all!). To overcome this problem, I had (and probably for the first time in my life ever) to use the Highlight Smoothness slider in Photomatix when tone-mapping; and to the max.
This image, Eerie, after being over with, did send a chill through my spine. Maybe lot of people would call it a failure because of the blurred appearance, but the atmosphere and the blur itself made me remember the mysterious aspects of life, those Agatha Christie's novels, and Jonathan's The Last Crown game. I was simply not in Kuwait for moments. I'm in love with winter even more.


The work, or should I say, the thought, is still going on to digest and produce some aspects of the new conlang. I've decided that since Ayvarith, as a conlang, is already a conalang based on memorization of words at most, so may Geltani be. This is the resolve the issue of confining the word into either one or two characters altogether. It would take a trial and error to find a suitable division for the characters I believe - and both might be suitable as well. Also, I'm not intending on explaining how I did derive these strokes of lines from Arabic, thus I think there is no need to systemize the conlang in the eyes of foreigners.
One big issue now, which stands off like one big rock on my way that baffles my thoughts, is Arabic words of similar letters and different vowels. As an example:

Root: R J L
RaJoL = Man
RiJL = Leg

The vowels are in minuscules here, since usually they are not written in a regular Arabic text in modern times except in times where some elaboration is needed. Since Geltani is based on the letters (consonants) without the vowels, how am I going to implement a method of differentiation between the two words? I might go around this problem by substituting one word for another that has a similar meaning but how long I can keep this practice with a vast language like Arabic? Digging for answers in my thoughts seems to be a hurtful process for the mind!
Another idea occurred to me is to add sounds to Geltani that are Semitic in nature, and this might help a bit for making more diverse sounds giving chances for more different dual-letters (as I called Leading and Driving in previous posts) combinations. It might also create a weird sounding language and might, just might, attract some attention when the language is Chinese sounding but with Semitic sounds in between.
Plural, for the time being, might be composed by a repetitive mean of the last syllable in the word. Meanwhile, on the grammatical front, I think the first step is to start a sentence with a verb only. 


Source: Amazon
A book that I've ordered since 2011, has finally arrived few days back. There were some delays in its publication which was supposed to take place in 2012. Anyway, the new book arrived in a time with so much pressure on my schedule, and since I'm a book-worshipper, I find it as just another obligation. I'm trying hard to divide my time at work to read and to work on Geltani, and sometimes chasing after some other duties, specially those for the group.
Seems, however, that being busy most of the time is good somehow. Making my mind busy with ideas and plans rather than daydreaming, or even using daydreams to organize my thoughts and enhance my planning - even though I get those limitations with my exhaustion and my body's behavior. It is, however, times like these that I'd wish for a patting hand or a supporting shoulder. Even a German engine needs some rest from time to time...
Sometimes though, I would stop and look back and see all the things and the steps taken alone. An ecstasy of pride occupies my mind at times, with a sense of pity deep at soul in other times. How would it sound or feel, if I did have achieved what I've achieved already, with someone holding my back? Am I really strong enough?...


  1. I love the pictures from the opening cerimony. You can see the joy on the faces of those participating. I hope I have the ability to visit the middle east someday!

    1. Thanks for comment :) you might as well do it one day :) Not all ME countries the same: some are deep in conflict, and some are deep in mere inner political turmoil (like most countries I believe).
      I had friends in the US, on Staten Island, NY, whom I've promised to visit since 2009 probably. Frankly, I never thought I'd be able to do it, but I've finally did it in October 2012. It happens, if you want it to :)