Thursday, August 8, 2013

Pine-O-Rama

Here we are. Finally, the last week of Ramadhan (and writing this 2 or 3 days before its end). Not to say that it was a heavy burden, but people and life in general are so during this month. Fasting was not a problem for me (or let's say a minor one) back in regular days when I used to fast before Ramadhan, but the time shifts that occur during this month, and the sluggishness of people aided with my not-enough-sleep syndrome, all of that, can make up for one month long of defocus.
As a consequence of this turbulent time, I couldn't post anything last week. I didn't prepare any material; Not with Geltani, nor with my camera, for the lack of ideas and will. Even though I did some "brainstorming," if I can call it so, but that didn't help, specially that I don't have what it takes to do some of those ideas.
Mom's situation remains the same and I can't see a glance of hope of, at least, reducing the dialysis times per week. I guess I have to live it that way. Isn't it amazing when you have such a large family? Meanwhile, she almost got me into a heart attack last week when her blood pressure refused to "calm" down and at the end I had to give her one full pill to reduce the blood pressure (and she used to take only half a pill when needed only). Knowing Mom, I'm almost pretty sure that her pressure raised up because of someone and/or something that she either saw or heard. The typical worrisome heart of a mother.

Still
Out of despair, I've picked my stuff downstairs into the guest room where there is a plenty of space to move around and do some "acrobat" and tried to shoot something. Anything. The first thing that my eyes fell upon is my can of marbles (which I've used before for some trigger testing).
I didn't know what I wanted to do with the marbles but as an initial thought, I wanted to make a still life image with some water droplets on the surface of one of the marbles. However, that didn't work because of, I presume, the surface tension which doesn't hold perfectly. I heard that photographers who are into flowers and macro do make use sometimes of glycerine to mimic the water drops or dews on leaves. I guess I needed that here, and one more thing on the list to try to get!

Planeta Marble
Canon EF 100mm macro + extension tubes, f/22, 320-1sec, ISO400.

After realizing how water drops failed, I've decided to just work and test my speedlites and just make it another ordinary experiment to familiarize myself more with my speedlites. I've realized also that working with 50mm and extension tubes is far easier than working with 100mm macro lens AND extension tubes (and also I was working with Tamron 70-300mm tele- and macro lens with extension tubes).
Even though I've brought several reflectors and been trying to create some interesting light pattern over the marble but I've found out that probably the easiest way is to roof the marble with the big reflector-diffuser which was connected to the 580EXII speedlite.

Position of reflector-diffuser over the marble.

Of course this is not a substitute for a good light tent to photograph such objects but it was a quick quirk. The result of this can be seen on Planeta Marble above where the tissue of the diffuser is reflected on the surface of the marble (a light tent is not supposed to give such a reflection). Anyway, since the surface is a sphere, I didn't really mind that. Also, to create the rim light from behind, I've placed my 430EXII with a yellow gel at the back of the marble (not shown above) with a snoot.
As I was going in and out from my room I've noticed another object that I could be working with: my pine cones, which I've brought from Ireland in 2009. The awesome texture of the pine cone surface is perfect for abstract shots and it can push the inspirational attitude forward I would say. It just needs meditation...

Blooming Pine
Canon EF 100mm + Extension tubes,
f/32, 320-1sec, ISO400.
Touch of Pine
Canon EF 100mm, Extension tubes,
f/22, 250-1sec, ISO400.
Even though when shooting for the pine cone I've used both speedlites (580EXII and 430EXII) but the major light source in shaping the final image came from the 430EXII which was handheld with a reflector and a yellow gel, and controlled by wireless. I've taken several shots while changing the position of the 430EXII speedlite by hand and checking the results. If I'm asked about which one I like the most, that would be Touch of Pine because it bears some mysterious sense within the touch of light on the tip of its wooden shards.I wouldn't say it would be suitable for other purposes though as I'm sure that for contests it has no meaning, and for stock agencies it, possible, has no meaning as well nor any potential customers. Probably someone would like to see it as a background or printed?
The same thing applies as well for the marble shot, which I do consider somehow as a minimalistic approach (and I'm pretty sure that it doesn't attract many people). I have to say that the original marble was dark green and almost opaque but with the change in the color temperature while processing the RAW image, the surface turned blue, which goes along well with the yellow rim light.

Source: B&H
Reflections: With this work, with the marble and the pine
Source: B&H
cone, I've really started to think again about having some kind of ring-flash or a beauty dish. I'm not sure I do need the high-end tech stuff like the Canon's Ring Lite or Canon's Twin Lite flashes, and for this reason I'm planning to look for some "remedies," if I can call it so; Stuff under the DIY category. The beauty-dish would be a start as it is easily constructed but the problem is, it cannot be held by the lens to light the object from the front in macro situations, and here comes the part where we need ring flashes. The two items displayed on the right are expensive and yet not into my budget range (specially after buying my new PC). I need some time to recollect my finances and be firm again before buying such luxurious devices. Also, before getting such devices, I have to develop my sense for still life shots and products photography (or I should say, tabletop photography in general). My mind is still hanging in the arena of landscapes and architectural venue.

Pine-O-Rama
The observations mentioned above about the pine cones dragged me to do another experiment directly after finishing with the macro shots. Peeling.
This time, I didn't use the typical flash from the top of the object like I used to do before, but I depended directly on the available light in the room beside increasing the exposure time a bit more to create a high-key-like image. Anyway, however I would try to place my object in the middle of the rotation plate, it seems to slide to the sides after some angles. Probably because the body itself is tilted!

video

Notice how the right and left margins change as the pine cone rotates as if it is dragged to the right during the rotation. Anyway, after many trials to stitch the shot images I've came about a compromise which needed lot of work to be done to clone out the stitching errors; Some of them, but not all. I'm lucky now that I do have such a fast PC to stitch larger panoramas and in less than 10 minutes. The fortune that I've spent on this PC instead of the car's cooling compressor paid off I would say!

Pine Roll

In my trials, I've stitched the peels in various ways but I think the best way was to use the spherical projection as that enabled me to correct the fan-shape of the original stitch by changing the "virtual" pitch of the image. In other words, I had to drag the final result upward over the canvas and PTGui would do the job to stretch and stitched image. However, it was not perfect of course and some work had to be done in Photoshop to do some cropping and some perspective corrections, and the bulk of cloning out irregularities. By this method, the stitched image lies in a sea of "black" or empty background, thus to preserve the original resolution of the stitch, I had to stitch with maximum dimensions that sometimes exceeded 65K pixels wide (and the file had to be saved on PSB, or Large Document Format, and not on TIF). The resulting size was in the range of 1 to 16GB!! Of course that was reduced radically after cropping and correcting perspectives to something around 650MB (not something weird for a panorama on 16-bit).
To reduce the load of work I had to do some sacrifices with some details, or maybe some of these stitching errors were beyond fixing as well! However, I've noticed that the largest portion of stitching errors and smudges were concentrated on the upper part of the image (middle point and above). Thinking about it in the terms of the laws of rotational motion, I think it is because the upper part formed a wider circle while rotating more than the base would do.

C = θxR,
where C is the curve of the rotation (or portion of the circumference), θ is the angle of rotation, and R is the radius from the center of the rotation to the surface at a specific height. Well, it doesn't need any brains of course, unless you really suck in maths like I do! However, because of this, the virtual change in the features of the pine (or any object that is) as it rotates for every 5o would be greater when C is greater. The question raises then of how to make this value as minimum as possible and would it have been better if the pine was up straight (providing that the center of rotation is exact)? The pine cone can be resembled with a cylinder, but what about other irregular objects? I can't have any thoughts about this until I try more and more of irregularities. 
In my work with such peels, I've started to attack the problem without much calculations sometimes and depending solely on changing the number of pixels for the crop factor (from which PTGui would read the control points). It doesn't work all the time and often I find myself tracked back to do the regular degrees-pixels calculations, but done in various of ways in hope that a better stitch would result (with minimum of errors). 

Finale
I'm exhausted. That says it all. I wish if I can find a word that expresses me better than this. Thursday is an official holiday (either for the last day of Ramadhan or for Eid), yet I'm not going to see any resting point soon, as I still have to pick up Mom to do her dialysis. Talk about having a family without being a family. God knows what dwells in the heart, but I shall try not to complain anymore.
Goodbye for now Ramadhan, I've got to prepare myself to the usual munching-engine mode again. Probably I can do more in the near future if I just have the right amount of strength. I need to play more games for now...



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