Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dubai Back and Fro...

Well, been to Dubai for 3 days this week and I couldn't have much time to take some photos or work on some pictures. I received and invitation (as I've mentioned in previous post) from HIPA to attend to the ceremony of awards giving.
The stay was fine and Dubai is a nice place to stay (I couldn't imagine there was no traffic jam!), but unfortunately way too expensive for my budget. In just 3 days I've spent what I would've spent in Ireland for 5 days or more!
Despite the beautiful atmosphere it was hard for me to take any pictures from there, and the sum was a total of 3 images only and 2 of them were, well, fine.

Dornige Schönheit
Canon EF 50mm + 20mm tube, f/22, 160-1sec, ISO100.

I went strolling outside of the hotel after breakfast on the 18th, first without any camera just to check my surroundings, but then I went back to my room and got my stuff and went out again to catch some weird looking plant (but then I've realized it is abundant in UAE). Weird for me at least as I'm no botanist! In here, I've used an extension tube (20mm I think) and took several shots with and without flash, but I think after all Dornige Schönheit was the most stable of all. I did took shots from above but I needed a larger zoom to hide my other hand which was holding the stem. Lately, I've been using the extension tubes a lot with my 50mm lens as I see it a nice and fast substitute for the heavy 100mm macro lens and would give a single hand the power to control the camera body properly more.

Columns and Columns
Tamron 70-300mm @300mm, f/8, 500-1sec, ISO100.

I've walked and wandered further away and took some shots (mainly of abstract nature) but lot of them didn't turn well, and finally reached a construction site where I've noticed some raising columns under construction - probably the only thing that really caught my attention.
That night there was the ceremony which I went to Dubai for, the HIPA awards ceremony. Nicely done and I got the chance to see such amazing photos indeed. I'm checking with HIPA to see if the ceremony will be published on youtube.

I do realize that lot of people are surprised for the fact that I didn't take much pictures and I didn't go out a lot in Dubai - but this is back to the simple fact that I don't really consider it a vacation (or completely a vacation let's say). I would spend a vacation in a calmer place like the countryside or a sea village probably, but not in a big city. Also, I'm not a shopping person and I didn't go there for shopping in the first place, and photography-wise, the urban scape is not greatly inspirational for my mind. However, it is a nice city with nice people and there were lot of things to think about by observing my surroundings - Culture, attitude, and arts. Dubai is a big city but not within the same reputation line as other big cities like New York or London. This would seem hard to explain but probably easy to observe in Dubai itself!
Anyway, after a fast roll over Dubai events, I'm back to my previous regular work with my own humble photos the week before.

Flora Mood:

Well, they say it is spring already but years of living here as a native, I sort of realized that Kuwait has no spring. It's simply: Winter, Summer. It's an On-Off case, so to say. However, some blooms and flowers had sprung already and I didn't want to miss the chance. I think after my last workshop with my teacher about geometrical plays in floral arrangements, it seems that I'm (or my mind is) more aware of floral arts and the inside arrangements of floral lines.

Canon EF 50mm+ tube, f/16, 50-1sec, ISO400.

These images were taken the week before I travel on two days, when I started packing my camera and taking it with me to work. This time, however, I decided not to take my tripod. In fact, a tripod can be a hassle in such situations specially for one heavy and cranky tripod like mine!
Canon EF 50mm + tube, f/20, 60-1sec, ISO400.
As you may notice from Aglow above, that even f/16 can have a shallow depth of field in such situations (with extension tubes in used). Lately, I've been using the tubes a lot (I've mentioned that already above) because it is fast and easy to get a close up and ALSO because I can use 50mm lens which has a maximum aperture of f/1.4. This is of course a very shallow depth of field and when you compare it to f/16 which still has a shallow depth, f/1.4 might not be that good as an option. However, adding this value to the range of stops available is pretty valuable and I wouldn't know when would I need it. Anyway, in both shots here, Aglow and Quinquenia (and also shots that would come later) I was forced to raise the ISO little bit and use the on-camera flash. Here comes another advantage for using extension tubes: the length of the 50mm lens with an extension tube (be it 12, 20 or 36mm) is shorter most of the time (I'm talking here about connecting only one tube) and it gives a good close-up abilities. This relatively shorter than 100mm macro lens length makes it feasible and possible to use the on-camera flash easily because if the lens is too long like the 100mm lens, then a shadow cast is most likely to occur. A cast from the lens itself that is. Of course, we are talking about on-the-go photography and not the precise and making-art photography in which a photographer would spend many minutes if not hours studying the situation and settling the tripod and picking the lens and then choosing the appropriate moment.

Green Ankh
Canon EF 50mm + 12mm tube,
f/22, 200-1sec, ISO100.
The on-camera flash solved lot of problems, and mainly allowed me to use the manual mode on the camera to speed up the shutter speed as much as I like. I would say though, if I was to use my 580EX II speedlite here, I would need help or something to stabilize the plant's stem at least. In most of these situations, both of my hands were busy and the on-camera flash seemed the appropriate solution for such situation, even though a slight shadow might burst out as in Quinquenia or to a lesser degree as in Green Ankh. The on-camera flash as well helped to create that translucent look and glowing atmosphere in Aglow; but the talk about the ISO noise is something else of course.
Yes, the on-camera flash does eat out some of saturation of some colors specially if no gels are used as it is the case with Green Ankh where the plant's stem was faint in color and I had to reduce the highlights and boost the vibrancy of colors (not the saturation) to some degree. But such situations are easy to deal with in general.

Canon EF 50mm + 36mm tube, f/20, 20-1sec, ISO400.

As I've said before, using the on-camera flash allowed me to work with manual mode but this is not always the case. Like in Quadraspinasphere, I was not so sure where to begin with my shutter speed so I've just turned the the dial to Av and let the camera choose the shutter speed for me (in combination with the flash). Here, I was lying on the ground after putting the car shade on the floor out of my work place (and thank God no one was there to watch me do it!), thus it was reasonable to concentrate on my approach to the plant in such a low level, rather than work or think about the shutter speed. I had to crop Quadraspinasphere to make it as a quarter of a sphere as I envisioned it, but one of the hardest points in taking this picture is the fact that I have to work in manual focus most of the time. A fact that had been persistent with using extension tubes, as the auto-focusing function seems to be baffled when it comes to extension tubes, probably!
One of the tricks that I usually do in such situations with manual focusing (and with such bad eye vision like mine), and with a shaky situation (like a plant in the wind or breeze or a shaky hand) is to do a scanning with continuous shutter speed clicks. Meaning: with relatively high shutter speed (20-1sec seems fast enough but slower with flash turned on), I set the camera with continuous (or burst) mode/drive and check out a point where the sharp focus is most likely to occur (all within the viewfinder). After that, I get closer to the subject little bit (not much!) and press the shutter button and keep holding it while moving my head slowly to the back getting further away from the subject. This way, I get load of pictures of course, but at least my chances for getting a sharp image in between are more. It is a talk of probability and statistics if I should say. 


There is a hard mix in thoughts right now, specially after this trip to Dubai, and regarding many aspects. In Dubai, it seemed to me that people talk about arts wherever you go, and galleries of art are displayed in public - it was like a public education concerning arts. How was this done? What elevated the level of consciousness of the people of Dubai, at least those I've been meeting on the way, about arts. Such level of thought that I didn't encounter so far in here. Needless to say, that such big city get a traffic jam only in the rush hours time (morning and evening), unlike us with 12 hours a day.
I remember back in the 1970s and 1980s Kuwait was something like that, and the simplest form of art appreciation would be seen in the National Day celebrations, when people and schools used to go out on the streets in an organized parades with props and stuff made memorizing and emphasizing the history and the identity of this country. Where did all that go? All these parades are now replaced by a bunch of sanitarium inmates going freely outside and splash each other with water and foam and traffic jams blocking the roads. Is this the identity we are commemorating?
It is clear and evident that the foreign policies and the openness of Dubai to the world made it a global center with an elevated level in most aspects of life - but do we really need to be open that much as much as to indulge in (mostly) western culture to be elevated in the level of consciousness? Logically and from the perspective of history, Arabs did conquer such place in time and now it is gone, hence, I think building over what was achieved and not merely adapting to the western way is possible; thus, creating a self-identity awareness. The thing is, where and how to start and what could spark people about such advantageous endeavor? One particular clue lies in the ruling family of the UAE and Dubai specifically. I was surprised that HIPA (which stands for Hamdan International Photography Award) was established by the crown prince of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan and he, himself, was a contributor. He is a young man, and I thought he was old, or not-so-old type of person. I realized at this point that the upper class and those under in a community like UAE's is really entwined to some extent and the leaders themselves push people in that direction and encourage the openness of thoughts and arts. He should be an example to be followed in the region, and the ME in general. This is what I believe.

Writing this now, with a call from the main organizer in the group about another fair or expo that they want me to get involved in. I have to say frankly that I'm getting tired of this. At the time that I want to raise consciousness and arts appreciation in the group members and make them stronger in spirit facing the criticizing of their images, needless to say raise their technical skills, the management of the group on the other hand concentrate so much on the aspects concerning the group's reputation and pronouncing its name. I wonder now, how this can be done with members that don't even shoot in RAW format?!
I've been chitchatting with a friend on dinner last Friday and he made a note that he felt that the group and its responsibilities are pulling me down, and I'm pulling or carrying the heavy load of the group's well-being on my shoulders like Hercules. He suggested that if it didn't quite work well, I should quit.

I'm not memorizing all those beloved projects that I've established some time ago along with Ayvarith conlang, like the Bulughman and the Betenic for example. I need to continue and I need to spend more time with these projects that suddenly stopped in time. My Geltani project is also postponed and can barely touch it with all these responsibilities over my head. I have to say NO to many stuff just to sit down and complete some of these fantasies of my own. That might mean, for some time, saying "Goodbye" to my camera and have some rest from all the mess and confusion that I've got myself into with photography world - specifically here in Kuwait.

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