Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kämpfe der Maschinen...

And I thought this week I will have a nice vacation for 3 days for the National Day celebrations. I was wrong; dead wrong. Honestly, I had some plans for my own in this holiday - I wanted to clean my room which is now a real mess; a REAL mess.
However, my plans got altered severely and I had to go after some tasks for the group as Mawahb 3 expo is approaching in March and there are lot of things to do yet. I'm praying things go well with this expo; we've put a heavy load of effort on it, beside so much stress to be coping with - beside grumpy members to go along with (or to quit working with).


In the mess and the fuss I was trying to work a bit more on my previous arsenal of images that I've taken and didn't touch, but also I had some unfinished story with some panoramas.

Esfera Andaluza

And back to the Arab Organizations Headquarter (AOH) where I worked on more panoramas. It seems that it is just my luck that I can't be situated under the center of the ceiling every time I head for a panorama, and in our case in AOH, it is because of the fountain. However, it seems that Esfera Andaluza with its circular projection, is visually almost at the center; but it needs a keen eye to notice the nudge off the center a bit.

Planeta Andalusia

However, before working on Esfera Andaluza, there was one weird aspect that I had to be over with yet: The little planet projection.
The story here is weird because the final image is not a typical little planet like I used to do with some interior panoramas. Rather, it is a mix or something in between the two levels of a planet projection and the wide view (which highly distorts the sides and pushing the center deep backward giving more depth to the image as in a fisheye lens).
When I first applied the little planet projection in PTGui, the whole image was not to mz likings for many reasons, but the main reason was the unpleasant view and stretch in the wooden decoration. For this reason I've shifted the nadir point (bottom point) by changing the pitch (i.e. the tilt of the view) nudging the center of the planet panorama off the center down a bit. In a wide-view panorama, the nadir point should be closer to the bottom edge of the image but here, the nadir point is just nudged little bit off the center. What I really like here is the wings formation for the hall in such projection. Anyway, I couldn't find a name for such projection and I'm not completely convinced it is something totally new other than the wide-view and the little planet, I've named the image after Planeta Andalusia referring back to the little planet projection fact.
Amazingly, with some work and some cloning, the nadir point that I've taken before and did not work in the original stitching process worked easily here (specially that it was taken with a great distortion). I had to do some resizing for the nadir image after the stitch was over and like working with tiles in a new building, I've fitted it there and done some cloning to the edges and also some toning to match the colors of the marble surface and lines between the nadir image and the rest of the stitched panorama. All of that process had to be done in HDR format, hence I was not able to use the Color Match command that is normally available under 16- and 8-bit formats.
I think at this point, all my extractions out of this panorama is done completely. I might visit back in case I had a new idea in mind. I've already inspected the possibilities of a tunnel view projection for this panorama but the overall look didn't sound so good I presume, so I've just skipped stitching this panorama for now. However, I might do it later just for the fun of it!


Last week (or even before) I've received a request from the department upstairs in my workplace to take some pictures for the building (and I assume the images they have already were not as good). The whole story began with Kuwait University's Cultural Festival, when the director of the Biotechnology department upstairs was one of the invited guests and she noticed me in the last ceremony for the TV band.

A shot from the festival

However, I was busy a bit with the group (and still) and most of my tools (and thoughts) were scattered. I thought it is a great thing that such request came in winter. I was hoping for some clouds to come in and make my life a bit easier. However, many technical problems occurred! (typical, isn't it?).

Rokinon 8mm, f/8, 0.6sec, ISO100.

As you can see in the image above, the clouds mainly accumulate in the morning and I had some idea for doing a long exposure with such a fisheye lens to have most of the building in view with clouds passing over - but things aren't easy yet. Even though I've developed some ND gels to fit into the rear end of Rokinon's lens, the floodlights won't turn off until the sky is brighter, and probably the clouds are gone.
Rokinon with ND filter in its rear.
It was apparent that my luck was not lucky enough! I've been going to work for several days trying to capture a glimpse of the building and the clouds without floodlights AND cars, but seems the two options just can't be together. However, I kept on trying day after day trying to capture some glimpse of the building at different times and I had to give up the idea capturing some clouds formation because this might take such a long time to deliver the images to the director.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm @37mm, f/11,
25-1sec, ISO100.
One of the shots that I really liked is the one taken from the side aiming at making the pillars and wall lines parallel vertically. However, I was hoping to take this shot with my 50mm lens to reduce the distortion as much as possible but because of thel imitations in the space (another building at my back and some obstructions) I had to get back to my old EF-S 18-55mm; the lens that I hate so well!
After taking this image (on the left), I've first processed the image with DxO to correct the slight tilt and also to fix the barrel (typical for this lens even though not noticed) and then help on making the image more parallel (forcing parallel lines). After reviewing the image in Photoshop then, I've noticed a tiny part of the metallic shade holder popping out and it kind of irritated me because everything looked perfectly parallel but this line was sticking out.

The front and the metallic shade apparent here.
Canon EF-S 18-55mm @24mm, f/8, 8-1sec, ISO100.
Cloning out the remnants of the shade was not a good option, thus I had to spend some time copying other parts of the image and sticking them into place and smoothing out some parts to hide the edges. It was quite a piece of cake, but if only I knew that this would work out like that I wouldn't waste my time working on cloning!
The image on the right here was also a riddle to be solved because, with the help of DxO, I tried to fix the horizontal lines and make them perfectly parallel, but when this is done, the vertical lines turn non parallel. And the situation is vice versa! I couldn't settle down with one thing after all the fixes so I just watched out for the horizontal lines, I think, to make them parallel and that's it.

Canon EF-S 18-55mm @18mm, f/8, 84sec, ISO100.

Since we are at it, I've figured some experimenting with the IR filter won't be harmful, just in case this image or technique (despite being black and white) can be interesting to them. Originally, I've approached this image in different manners, in both, Photoshop and Canon's DPP, and initially I've created what it seemed to be artistically interesting photos (with red shades or with blue shades after swapping channels). However, I thought they won't be that interested in such artistic flow (specially that there is already a fisheye shot). This shot (above) was also subjected to DxO to fix certain parallel lines problems (with the usual tilt in the image because of my bad tripod!). Weirdly though, the right top corner of the building was skewed in a strange way and needed some special treatment!

Canon 15mm, f/16, ISO100.

Finally, I've decided to do a panorama outside and after the working hours. Since there are no clouds I might get out with something useful here like a high resolution panorama. The panorama is around 180o initially, but lot of the sides was cropped. Probably the building itself occupies less than 90o of the field view. I've done a previous panorama for the same building but it was done with a regular tripod and no VR-head and there were some stitching errors. Even though I wished for some sky here but lot of people are happy with the blue sky initially. The goal after all is just to give some printable material for the future uses; and in such cases, the bigger, the better. That way, resizing can be done with relative ease without any fear for loss of details (i.e. critical details).
The course of action was over a period of 2 days, and during that time, I was able to catch a glimpse of how spectacular my mission was:

Canon EF 50mm, f/2, 30-1sec, ISO100.
 And yes, it was placed in front of my own workplace building. Had to crop here and there to emphasize the subject...
At the time of typing these words, the CD containing these photos is not submitted yet to the director and might not hear back from her soon. I know she's a busy person and probably won't have enough time to look at those few pictures thoroughly.

Nocturnal Nostalgia:

Nocturnal Abstract
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, 400-1sec, ISO100.
Before proceeding with the nostalgia part, I have to say that I barely found some time to work on with some of the images taken from Ahmadi around 2 weeks ago. After going over the images again probably I didn't find much, but there were some images that were saved in layered TIFF format but I didn't complete the editing process to be posted last week in this blog.
Some images were hard to be liked, but I thought maybe some cropping would do the job and change the image into something likable, like Nocturnal abstract. I've converted the image here to black and white to emphasize the looks of the light and neglect the importance of the colors (they were red, yellow and orange). I'm not sure this image would be liked by anyone but I like it after all for its simplicity of lines.

Counter Clockwise
Canon EF 15mm, f/16, 30sec, ISO100.

However, there were some images that I've neglected for some time, probably because of the pressure over me with the group's activities hovering over. One of those images was Counter Clockwise which was taken at a roundabout (before the arrival of some hooligans). I could've made the exposure longer than 30 seconds but the circumstances there made me stop at this point and I thought 30 seconds is just fair enough - all what I would have to do is time it with the arrival of some cars. Initially, I wanted to take this shot with Rokinon's 8mm fisheye lens but the view was so wide that the clock tower in the roundabout seemed so small and far away and this is exactly the opposite of what I wanted in the first place. My best choice was the 15mm lens (and better than my EF-S 18-55mm of course!).

Round Around
Canon EF 15mm, f/22, 30sec, ISO100.
Gates of Light
Tamron 70-300mm @119mm,
f/16, 30sec, ISO100.
Still with the 15mm fisheye lens when Round Around was taken and in this shot I didn't really care much about the composition as much as I cared for the simple movement of the merry-go-round. I had to crop a lot from the top to remove the black sky and I've darkened the triangular part near the top edge which so bright and shiny because of the floodlight behind me here. Not an image I would submit usually but it simply has some motion that I like. Some images however could not be fixed even after cropping hard. I like some movements in them like Round Around and Gates of Light, which stopped my cropping at a certain point because of gated lights, yet I have to say I simply like some aspects of the images and not completely like the images themselves. I think it is important to have some hope in every image you take even if you don't like or love the total aspect of the image. I've met some people so far that desire and wish to make a masterpiece of every shutter click, but this is simply not possible, and not even Ansel Adams would have dreamed of something like that! The point here, I do photography because I like it, not because I want people to be impressed with it - and when I share my images, I share my interests with the world. I'm not showing people how a good photographer I am, because simply, I'm not.

You might be wondering, where does the nostalgia part comes in. It comes from the fact that during this holiday (National Independence and liberation days), I've decided to visit the area that I've lived in for 23 years of my life. I was born and raised there and back then I've never imagined myself being out of this area. But life has its own measures and (bad and good) surprises for us. Things changed a bit since I've left this area in 2003, but the general plan and shape of the roads is mostly the same. 

Electric Sakura
Glowing Kuwait
Smiley Lighty
I won't be discussing the matters of these images and how good or bad they are (and I think most of them aren't that good), but I just wanted to say that that night sparked some memories about places that maybe I was supposed to be in till this very day if not for legal and financial problems that the family had been through. 
They told me the light decoration in the area is magnificent and they were to some extent but not as brilliant as the light decoration and miniatures in Ahmadi. Yet, I tried to enjoy my time taking some snap shots. A lot of the light decorations were raised up high and were regular in patterns making shooting them with a camera a bit of a hard task and monotonous.
I didn't write up any technical details on each image here. All what I want to do personally is just stare at these images and remember the old days. Who cares what lens I've used in these shots?


Had been a time of stress lately. Not only for the numerous activities that I have to cope with, but also for matters of the heart - which I'm trying to have a foundation of.
In the mean time, I'm keeping some thoughts to myself after the pressure over members of the group and myself. To me, I don't care much about contests and expos (or let's say my interest is minimum), but to some other members it seems not so - specially after what seemed to them it is a harsh judgement over their images. With me, being responsible for the printing process and following-ups in this field, I've realized many hardships that members face. I have a list of points that I'm keeping for myself right now but probably would expose them at the right moment:
  • Neglecting expos and contests and stop pressurizing the group's activities. If you want to bake a cake, quick baking is not the way.
  • Giving a period of time for free activities for the group and not putting stress on their shoulders for some months.
  • Opening up a discussion on a weekly basis for the pictures taken randomly by members every week. We have to emphasize the emotional connection to the images and not only to think in an abstract manner about beauty itself. This is not sorting out by critics, but a discussion.
  • We must drop down the spirit of competition inside the members of the group; photography is a philosophy, not a fight. Won? good, lost? I'm happy about my pictures.
  • A workshop to produce images would not necessarily give out the results right away. Mastering a technique after a workshop or a chain of thoughts (if the workshop is about certain field of photography) can take up to months of hard work - this is if such field is really appreciated and rises curiosity inside the photographer.
  • Judgements and criticizing images should be done under the light of the available gadgets and knowledge of the photographer. A beginner photographer should not be criticized up to the same level as an advanced photographer. In Kuwait, landscape photography is a pure example of such differences in creative powers in such field of photography. It's hard to make out an astonishing image from a landscape in this country; why would I ask so much from the photographer for things out of his or her control?
  • The activities should be divided in between the group members. In other words, not all (or most) group members should get involved in contests or expos, but the load should be divided and shared. Moreover, it would be better if the leader of the group picks certain members to submit some of their images for certain contests, since the leader knows better about the capabilities of certain members. I think this is far better than trying to seed ideas and waiting for the plow by all members.
  • Technical advices concerning working with RAW format and color spaces is a must.
Ironically, I wish if I can make out some ideas to organize myself as I'm trying to organize some aspects of the group.

I'm not sure where am I heading, but from time to time some dreams tickle my heart and mind. Age seems to be something not to be forgotten - or not so easily I would say. Walking alone, working alone, and sleeping alone. Wondering still if my life is appreciated by anyone. In the meantime I'm digging hard and trying to grasp my poetic abilities back again. Wrote something but might keep it for the next post, next week. It was an image that inspired the whole piece, a short one though, with hardly squeezed words out of my mind. Would I be able to use photography and photos to inspire for poetry? Who knows... I need something to steam off the anger, the melancholy...

Gelb und Weiß

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