Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mawahb 3

Finally it's over. What a stress and what a scramble and entangle of times and schedules it was. This year, however, I didn't have the mood to go around and take photos of various booths around the expo, even though there were some nice people and some nice talents. I was just too tired to do all of this now.
I did take photos after all from various locations around the expo just for trials and not as documenting. But because of the ongoing event I didn't have enough time to work on these photos once I've taken them - add to that, a panorama of the booth took over my little available time between my work and the expo.
The location of the expo this year was changed and I have to say it was a miserable location for parking places were shared between students, participants and visitors (and later I've been told that the expo location itself was on a parking lot making huge harassment for students there!).

We'll come to the panorama and the QTVR later in its own section, but for now I guess I'll just list some of the images that I've processed so far, and maybe a little story behind some of them!

The Sax
Tamron 70-300mm @209mm,
f/5, 200-1sec, ISO1600
In the beginning there was the stage which I thought of snapping at for several times on several days (the expo was for 5 days). It is a good target because of the lights and the atmosphere - a real test for the camera and the lenses, but a bad atmosphere for my ears!
The situation was good for all sort of light tricks but it needs concentration and a good lens, and apparently Tamron 70-300mm is not that good but it did some nice job. I say it's not that good, but I'm not saying it's bad! The lowest f-stop could be achieved is f/4.5 and it increases to f/5 with increasing focal length. Moreover, the zooming ring can get jammed a bit and hard to move (this can be good and bad in the same time). Probably the cold weather and air at night does affect this lens but I'm not sure of that. With lowest f-stop being f/5 in zooming situation, it was essential to raise the ISO severely in lot of shots taken with this lens, as is the case with The Sax, which was done with a fast metering for the highlight areas on the stage and stopping down the shutter speed (make it faster) to make a slight touch of light on the bodies. Notice how the shutter speed is barely 200-1sec while focal length is 209mm, and all at ISO1600.

Happy Drummer
Canon EF 10mm macro, f/2.8, 250-1sec, ISO800

Just to give an impression how it is to work with such f-stop as f/5 in the darkness, it is enough to look at the other image taken with Canon EF 100mm macro lens at f/2.8 (smallest for this lens). At ISO800 it was barely light enough to catch the drummer's happy moment. Probably the red lights made it worse for the noise-cleaning process. The ISO value was cut to one half.

The Lonely Sax
Tamron 70-300mm @176mm, f/5,
60-1sec, ISO1600.
Cropping images is a prevalent feature in such images taken from the stage and I think it is a must. It's hard to control such a chaos on the stage but you have to keep your eyes open for specific expressions and/or specific light patterns on the performers' bodies and faces. I wasn't a fan of such type of photography but I think it did change my mood a bit by trying something out of my comfort zone (with architecture and landscape). Amazingly, as well, images like The Lonely Sax did give me some sad feelings and touch, most probably because of the light and red lights and the dark atmosphere, while on the stage, the musical play was a happy Latin tune.
Old laptop and monitors users careful here as the colors might appear smudged and/or banded.
Now, this picture really sparked some thoughts in my head about the possibilities I do have out there, spiritually and mentally that is. What are the possibilities of changing the emotions of the scene intentionally? Is it really easy to change a happy scene into a sad one? Or maybe it is easy to change a sad scene into a happy one? Of course the light plays a major role here in the formation of the feelings surrounding the image, but I'm pretty sure it is not the only factor. I'm already aware of color-to-B&W conversion and its power in conveying emotions through an image, specially those that are intended to invoke mystery or melancholy. Yet, I feel there is a general formula for all this turmoil. Probably my scientific-based mind is largely getting involved here; where it doesn't belong?

The Player of The Sun
Tamron 70-300mm @176mm, f/5, 400-1sec, ISO1600.

Doing silhouettes is another possibility for objects on the stage with so many lights rolling around, but behold, it's not that easy as well - since stage lights were circling around. I think The Player of The Sun was just a hit of luck for me when all lights on my side went off at the moment and only those on the far side kept on - a must for silhouettes. There had been other silhouettes other than this but I think the one above is the best of them all. The spot light on the far end did help the look I guess to make it something outdoors-like rather than indoors-like and on stage.

Stephanie McGeehee
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, 80-1sec, ISO800.

Our booth was visited frequently and sometimes by some celebrities. One of the major characters to me, however, was Stephanie McGeehee. Stephanie is the owner of METALfusion - a shop for printing on aluminum and one of our major sponsors for this expo. The shop itself can be a target for a panorama and I've thought seriously about sending an email to her suggesting the idea with reduced prices in exchange of a self-advertising by adding my own logo and website to the panorama. Not sure how it would turn out, but I didn't advertise for myself seriously since I decided to start a website of my own back in 2012.
Planeta Columnium
 She was amazed with my panorama Planeta Columnium and was wondering why did I crop it. When I've told her that we have our own critics in the group who decide what to put on the expo and contests and what to crop or not she replied that that this panorama is better be symmetrical as it is intended to and the crop did really take a lot out of the panorama.
Maybe you did notice the shutter speed and the ISO just to make a sense of the lighting conditions there! Yet, the images I've taken of her were mostly out of focus - the darn f/1.4 is so shallow that a slight move can take the whole scene out of focus!

Happy Birthday!

By the last day of the expo I was surprised to know that it was my teacher's birthday! Out of sudden the Birthday chants started and everyone was gathering around the cake singing and wishing. I didn't have time to react here but I just grabbed my camera and started to shoot in Manual mode. Naturally, lot of these shots was out of focus mainly because of the crowds in front of me who interfered with the focusing points and the camera focused on them instead!

Glowing Bahaa!
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, 640-1sec, ISO400.
Magic and Magician
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4,
1000-1sec, ISO400.
Just to note, these images were processed accordingly with my calibrated monitor of my PC, hence the luminance level (and so the visual impact on the viewer) can be different that what I intended!
In a fast rhythm, I've started to do some metering in a hurry and change the shutter speed accordingly. I was trying to work as fast as possible before the fireworks go off. I didn't even pay attention to the ISO (which proved to be hard to clean later)!
In Glowing Bahaa I had to emphasize the luminance on the face manually and then work out more with dodge and burn. I have to say here that this image look better in small size rather than large size, yet I'm not sure how the print would go on with this one. On the other hand, Magic and Magician was completely done by luck. As I've mentioned above, objects interfering with the focusing points dragged my focus sometimes away from Bahaa himself and this is exactly the situation here; except that I got a lucky effect. Notice that in this event the lights were on and it wasn't dark in the expo! Well, probably someone turned off the lights of the booth itself but generally speaking, the light conditions were normal. It is all a play of the shutter speed (and no flash).

Booth and Panorama with QTVR

The panorama for our booth was taken around the third day of the expo and to do it I had to leave my work place earlier and head to the expo location. Despite the fact that the campus was stuffed with cars, but I've been told that in such time visitors to the booth are almost none - and it was so! I needed the least disturbance I could have to complete this work.

BPF Booth - Mawahb 3
Version 1

What I didn't get from disturbing people in this panorama I got it from other sources. As I got into the location the AC was turned on and the roof of the big tent started to wave; giving me a clear warning of a hardship to come. This would be exactly the same situation when I've shoot a panorama in the main court of Ikaros hotel on Failaka island last year.
It took me some time to settle down with my tools and to check to what elevation level I should raise my tripod and the VR-head. The main issue here was the reflections from the TV and the rest of the aluminum prints. As for the TV it was turned on so I can relax a bit about it - not much reflections going to come from that direction. As for the prints, I've decided to lower my stuff and myself down to avoid direct reflection (angle of incidence equals angle of reflection).
After settling with the level it was time to decide on my exposure. With my simple light meter I've taken (incident) readings from various angle and distances from the camera and the values varied between 42/3EV and 5EV; and of course I've put my favorite f-stop to work in such situation: f/8. The result was an exposure of 2 seconds and working with brackets of -/+2 made the exposure as: 2 seconds (0EV), 0.5 second (-2EV), 8 seconds (+2EV).
You might be asking why it is called Version 1. Well, the problems that rose when doing this panorama made me stitch for 3 times! Yes,  t h r e e. Maybe I should sort this out in form of points:
  • In the beginning, the HDR stitch was hard to be done because (it seems) the slides were too dark to establish control points in between them. I had to tone-map all the slides, and align them then save the panorama as a model to stitch the original HDR panorama.
  • When tone-mapping the original HDR panorama after the stitch, the usual weird color spots appeared and it was hard to fix this time. This time, however, instead of getting the usual blue spots, they were accompanies by highly saturated red patches on the wooden surfaces around the booth, and some harsh blue reflections out of the aluminum prints.
  • After looking at this problem with the original HDR, I decide to stitch the model that I've made out before from the tone-mapped slides - and this was Version 1. Since I've tone-mapped them on the basis of showing details to the stitcher to create control points, the effect is surreal somehow and I thought other group members won't like it, hence I thought of creating a normal one.
  • To create the normal panorama I had to convert the RAW files of the 0EV exposure (i.e. 2 seconds exposure) to TIFF files (since my old PTGui doesn't read EOS 7D RAW files) and start from there with the stitching process (which was relatively easy). 

BPF Booth - Mawahb 3
Version 2

Of course in all cases there were the broken lines that I had to deal with by cloning out. I have to say I was lazy here to work with Blending Priority in PTGui to cover up for such broken lines, but it seems that the shake in the roof of the tent which was caused by turning on the AC could have probably affected other slides and caused broken lines elsewhere. Usually in such situations I would check if I can emphasize the Blending Priority of the middle band of the panorama (i.e. the first row of images in the panorama) so these slides would overlap the upper and/or lower portions of the panorama to cover up for such broken lines.

Despite the easiness of cloning for the ground here (because it's all unique in texture and almost unique in light level), but I've decided to use my logo as a nadir point. Later, however, group members asked to have the group's logo as well as this QTVR and panorama could be used officially. Hence, I had to work around this situation by combining both logos and put them as nadir point. Generally, two QTVRs were made for both versions of the panorama.

Version 1

Version 2

However, in Version 2, the seam line could not be matched while it came naturally as is in Version 1. Also, the TV in Version 2 was a bit off and I didn't fix that, while in Version 1 I did some work to darken the TV a bit. All of that seems to make Version 1 better and superior to Version 2 when it comes to QTVRs, while it's vice versa in the case of flat panoramas.
This said, there is much more to be done with these panoramas, but I need to process some files and some work to be done first before having fun with projections in panoramas!

Going Crazy

From time to time, I do like to get some venting out from the conventional photography and aesthetics topics and just do what my fingers exert. Literally, going crazy with a style that is not my usual style. During Mawahb 3 expo I think I've found my typical target - Cars.
Cars are a typical target for HDR madness. I say madness here meaning the abnormal tone-mapping and the grunge style (which is mistakenly named HDR). 

Going Crazy 1
Going Crazy 2
Maybe I've taken a lot of HDR shots (i.e. bracketed exposures) but I've chosen to work with 3 of them only so far. Probably more to come later. The sole purpose for working in such mode (and mood) is a sort of a stress release, if I can call it so.
Amazingly though, even though I don't like cars and I've picked them specifically for this task (to work as crazy as possible!) - there are still people who do like such colors and hues and shades. This proves my point about the rationality of style and photography. I'd rather sell an art piece to someone than having a critic trying to adjust my style with the assumption of making my skills and work better in the future. I don't mean to be materialistic here, but rather I like to be realistic. The main point here is, do your best and there will be always people who like your work - and there will be always people who hate your work (critics are included on both sides).

Going Crazy 3

I think what critics should do is to help photographers do a better job and not really criticize their work. Yes, there are technical issues that a critic might alert the photographer for, but trying to change the style and the sole purpose and chain of thoughts of a photographer? This is like self-projection and shadowing over the photographer's thoughts and philosophy in photography. This is exactly what happened with my Planeta Columnium panorama which was cropped just to please the critics. Many people were amazed to know that such panorama was cropped while the main idea of it was keeping symmetry. If my idea was to resemble a rising sun, I would have done it already, but simply, this is not what I was thinking of!


BPF Group

It was a stress time that flew away for now. I'm just hoping that we learn from this experience and from the many mistakes that happened in the preparations phase. Most importantly, I'm just hoping that group members look forward and be careful with the technical aspects of photography (like shooting in RAW format!). On the other hand, I just wish of critics to be more realistic in their expectations (and stop projecting their own style and fashion on their judgements). One of the critical information that I'd like to apply in the future how to tie the viewing distance with the print size (which in return has an impact on the resolution). Such information is available online and can easily be implied, but at the time of the preparations we barely thought about it!

Now, I'm trying to get back to my normal phase since my camera became cold because of the work with this expo and I'm trying to find new ideas yet and new exciting stuff to do with my camera. On the side as well, my thoughts are still going through my archive of Ayvarith and Geltani, while keeping some space of thought for other conlangs that I've created a script for but no concrete language still; like Betenic. Amazingly, I've discovered that some of the words that I've implemented already are already real words in Akkadian and Sumerian - some of them with the same meaning even! Example for this is shá which means "which" or "that" in Ayvarith (for masculine) and also in Akkadian; but in Akkadian it is probably not related to a gender.
I'm writing these words now as I've booked a ticket and a hotel in Dubai. I've always told people that I won't be going to there since it's a city; one big city. Not the atmosphere I want to spend a vacation in! However, the situation here is different not really a vacation by itself. But I've received an invitation to attend a ceremony by HIPA. I've, with some group members, enrolled in their photography contest back in December 2012, and totally forgot about it! However, I've received an email from the committee inviting me to attend the ceremony, and when I checked with other members of the group they stated that they didn't receive anything. I'm not sure what does that mean but maybe I can take some fresh air for one week (and go to Failaka?). I just hope things go smoothly in such big city.  For this reason, I'm not sure there will be a post by next week, but we'll see!

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