Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sorry, No Photo...

As the title for today's post says it. No Photos. Well, not exactly no photos, but I've merely tried something with my camera, while I've spent the rest of the week simply, thinking.
What I'm thinking of might be a long talk, and probably I would shed some light on that later on. But first, let me just talk a bit about one image I've prepared last Friday after many many trials with my speedlites (580EX II and 430EX II).

Das Licht:
I did take a picture of some light bulbs before and this time I was trying to do it again. This time, however, is a bit different because of my latest reading for Cyrill Harnischmacher's book Tabletop Photography. In his book, Cyrill described some aspects of shooting glass surfaces and what kind of background and props that might be needed, beside some tricks - all of that with concentration on low costs and some DIY aspects with the help of two speedlites only. Exactly my situation.

Das Licht
Canon EF 50mm, f/5.6, 4000-1sec, ISO200.

Usually, I've been taking some shots for regular light bulbs before in different situations, and this time I did take some shots with a translucent (i.e. not completely transparent) light bulb. Unfortunately, the translucent was not good enough to show the filament inside the glass. Later on, I've decided to exchange this bulb with a typical spotlight which was half transparent and half dyed with some reflective silver-like material. The filament might not be so clear, but with Fluorescent WB, the color compo seems to be work in a surreal way!
I did take zillions (figurative speech of course!) of pictures but this one seemed the best (and it was the last in the series). I've tried to change the WB but Fluorescent WB kept showing up as the best for such situation. The critical change and test from one shot to the other is changing the shutter, aperture and the reflectors settings, beside changing the direction of the speedlites. Maybe a diagram would explain a bit.

Simple schematic diagram of the basic setting.

What I like here about Harnischmacher's book is how he used regular speedlites (not studio flash or strobes) and few tools to make perfect glass shots without the need to use any polarizers, but only reflectors. This is what I was trying to do however but seems my luck is not as good as Cyrill's!
I've changed the reflector position to many places trying to achieve a somehow gentle light streak on the glass but, as you can see above in Das Licht, the hard spots of light were there anyway but in that specific image, they were the slightest I could make out from this experiment. My teacher, after seeing this image, said I should have stroke the black background with the flash to light the edges of the bulb, which sounds somehow a weird advice to me (specially that the black paper gives a blue streak with flash strikes).
One of the problems when using a spotlight is the fact that because of the shape of the surface, the extension or plug under the bulb was reflected upon the glass of the bulb itself! At this point, I've cut a piece of white board and fixed the light base in it and connected it in hope that this white would help on illuminating the bottom part of the bulb. Well, it did, but unfortunately, because of the glass shape, it acted as a fisheye lens reflecting much more space than the white board itself. Thus, I have to give up the idea of reflecting more light in the bottom part, and get myself satisfied with suppressing light there by replacing the white board with a black one. The filament after all appeared merely as a line because it falls approximately between the transparent part of the bulb and the reflective layer. All in all, I do like the shape of the bulb itself but working with such types of bulb is a hard task and a regular bulb seems easier to work with. But, there is a lot of innovation in the spotlight bulb if you ask me. Who knows what I might think of next...

Give Me Wings!
Last Saturday was a time for one of our meetings in the photography group and we ran through the regular check ups for some updates and the usual complaint about the moderate efforts from the members. I think I will come to discuss this in details later but at this point I want to mention the Red Bull contest.
Almost at the end of the meeting, a representative of Red Bull arrived into the meeting to discuss a contest established by Red Bull company, and despite the fact that he mentioned it is specified for the group, a quick check up to the website made me realize it is not so and it is open to all various contestants.
The theme of the contest is Kuwait (not a weird topic in a country where most people are patriotic AND idiotic in the same time) but with a twist of a story - that is under the category of Series Photography. Every contestant is meant to give 5 images that tell some sort of a story, and I've began to think about it seriously. The deadline is the 20th of May, which somehow gives me a little time to work. Eleven days are just not enough to create such a thematic approach unless you do have an arsenal that can make up a story, which is not my case here.
I've been trying to seriously brainstorm my imagination and get out of some theme for the story, but to no avail. Or let's say, not much advantage was there in such methods but I got out with 2 main ideas for the whole thing:
  1. A Day in Kuwait: This theme should reflect a typical day in Kuwait, from the early hour of morning time up till the evening and then night time. I might have one or two images already under such story theme, but the rest needs to be worked out. Also, it sparked my imagination for some idea but unfortunately such an idea needs lot of work and probably a permission to do it near the Towers.
  2. Progress: This theme would be more problematic and I would need to capture a glimpse of the past and present, and the destruction done by 1990-1991 war and then the re-building. 
After some reflecting, I think I would choose the first approach. I just need to work out what to present. Initially, I had an idea of representing 5 portrait shots, but I've changed my mind later when I realized that I can represent one of my panoramas as the opening of the theme.

Towers of The Rising Sun
The Opening?
One of the points that I'm thinking of taking care of while establishing such series is to include the sun in every shot when possible (of course no sun at night time!). My theme should progress as follows:
  1. Morning time. This is reflected by the sunrise beside Kuwait towers. The only available image so far.
  2. Rush time. This image should include the traffic jam that all Kuwaitis suffer from everyday. In fact, the rush hour can be significant for morning time, or (after)noon  time when people get back from work, but I don't want to duplicate images.
  3. Afternoon time. This time is mysterious to me as I don't know what should be in there. An image of some nap? (typical in the life of Kuwaitis) or should I reflect on family gathering? Or maybe a stroll in some malls having lunch? That would require permission to take a picture in some public places!
  4. Evening time. This time is more like it for a family gathering and visiting. It is also the time for visiting the typical Diwaniyas (beside late night time as well).
  5. Night time. This shot specifically should reflect the peace and tranquility. I have a crazy idea but I would need a lot of help with it thus I'm reluctant to go ahead with it. This image is also a public one supposedly near the towers.
These are the main ideas and all what is left is work on them and even dig in my arsenal, as I might save some time with some shots (like the morning time shot). Here we go with one more burden to carry around!

My mind had been strolling on some sensitive topics lately, specially those concerning the group that I'm supposed to work with. After Mom's problem, I've somehow lost contact except for few notifications and activities that keeps me updated from time to time. However, in the same time, I do hate being idle.
However, after our latest meeting, I've discovered that some members were "kicked" out for not being active and/or not paying their membership fees. The fees, however, are a flexible matter from the point of view of the group's management but the thing was, some of these members didn't give any explanations nor replied back to any inquiries. These events made me think for real about the validity and the usefulness of the group's activities.
From my side, I've tried to help the members a lot by trying to transfer my technical knowledge to the members (most of the members) to help them out with their images and produce a high quality images and files. A lot of the members are good photographers, but unfortunately, not so good in processing (developing) their own images, needless to say that some of them hold the point of view of Purests; photographers who believe in submitting and printing their images as they are and any editing would disturb the beauty of the moment, as some say.

The lack of such technical knowledge did already blow us into troubles with expos and other activities, and despite my work and recommendations, nothing was done in that field. It seems to me, my name is remembered when there is some job to be done, but not when my recommendations are considered. On the other hand, all what is asked is photos photos photos, work work work and contests contests contests, and boy how much do I hate contests. I had a vision for this group to be a scholastic star, but now it seems to me it is just a media player with economical revenue. I do miss those days when I was free to think and act with my own slow pace from week to week, rather than being rushed with some extra dose of hard work.

On the other hand, another discussion was opened for the third time and I have to say it made me a bit sick. A contest is sparked for the third time in, what it seems, apparent desperate trial to achieve something for someone, or so I think. The contest is one for the group members and after a weak participation from the members in the first round, it was recalled again and this time with some incentives: 60 K.D. and a patronage of a famous local coffee house; a coffee brand that I've realized later that it belongs to an honorary member and a critic in the group. In this second round, I did, or tried, my best, yet the result was a complete failure; the supposed judges announced that the level of images was way under the hoped or expected. This made me angry in fact because this is a contest among group members and the judges are also, group members - they do realize our capabilities in tabletop tools and studio instruments, don't they?
Now, it is sparked a third time with the same incentives and with a special discount for a workshop about coffee photography for those who attended the previous workshop (and I'm one of them). Besides, what is 60 K.D. (~US$210) in today's day-to-day living here in Kuwait? I know some people who recharge their calling card or pay their phone bills for such an amount. Is it possible that the group members are dragged for virtually free ad campaign, and the sponsors are dying to have a job done for free? The situation, in my eyes, seems like it. I had some time thinking about it and I've decided to not participate this time, and if asked why, I think I will have to steam off a bit. If you are a businessman and own a brand of your own products all over the country, I'm pretty sure that 60 K.D or $200 or even $1000 is not much of a big deal, is it?

After finishing Cyrill Harnischmacher's book about Tabletop Photography, I've started directly with Lens Design Fundamentals by R. Barry Johnson. It is a heavy book with lot of geometry and mathematics and it seems even my background on mathematics is not quite enough while some parts need refreshing. Anyway, I'm reading on with somehow slow pace. It is not a book to finish that fast and I guess it is one of those that you must have a tutor to explain it for you - after all, it is an academic book.
In the meantime, as I've posted before, I'm planning to make a note ready for my conlangs and any additions to them. Frankly, I didn't do this so far, but my concentration now is dedicated less to this avenue, specially with the new books. I lay hope that these activities will be on my schedule soon. It's my life's problem: time management.

Now, I'm finishing this post with heavy eyes and hands, as I feel the fever creeping through my body... perfect timing...

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