Thursday, September 19, 2013


Hectic week. Or maybe I should say hectic 2 weeks. I thought that allergic reactions have long gone from my body, but with the wake of last week, I've realized that this is not "completely" true! Itchy nose and sneezing continuously with a red face and eyes. It seems that it is related to the dust wave that we've encountered that day. Everything is calm now, except of some sneezes here and there.
Anyway, this gap of a week without a post did accumulate some materials to be posted here, so this post might be lengthy a bit! I'll try to follow some chronological order though.

Back to Flora
With my sister's delivery, flowers hammered in the house. Not so many in fact but it was a chance anyway to do some macro and some other types of magic. The flowers (and roses), however, are typical and seen them before and took pictures for such types before. Thus, it was my task to find something new about these flora.

Comrades in Beauty
Canon EF 50mm + ET, f/22,
400-1sec, ISO100.
Typical in such floral situations I would go into macro level because the floral arrangement is and might be a good thing for still life, but this is something I'm really not going into for the time being. However, the floral arrangement might be inspirational as I will show later - but not in the case of the first bouquet, thus going macro, to me, was a natural choice as can be seen in Comrades in Beauty. I've named it Explosive Beauty in the beginning but, let's say I didn't like the violent name for such gentle shades and hues along with the soft stems. I've taken pictures like this before in a workshop with the photography group and experimented with the same flower indeed (Lily, or is it lilly?). I see that using a speedlite in such approaches is a must to add some flavor and atmosphere. Otherwise, the shot under the ambient light might be plain and flat. In Comrades in Beauty, the speedlite was adjacent to the lens and to the flower's stems. Because I was using high f-number and High-Speed (to kill the ambient light), I had to get the speedlite by hand so close to a "ridiculous" distance! Probably using 2 speedlites would have solved the problem, but no need to add more stuff to an occasional work.

Canon EF 100mm macro, f/16, 100-1sec, ISO100.

Then, the idea of doing macro and infrared visited me again (I've done the same 2 weeks ago). However, this time, it would have more abstract sense since it is to be taken from the top of the rose and not from the side like I did before, two weeks ago. Originally, the shot would be highly overexposed but with the IR filter on the lens it retains the details back (and might be underexposed sometimes!). In the processing of InfraRose the red hue (the rose was white) was swapped and turned blue. Red was beautiful as well, but it was so typical, for roses that is.
InfraRose specifically, stirred some weird criticism by some people (and some others do like it as it is). Not something new to me actually, but it is the type of criticism that was handed to me that made me re-think of what or how do people think about such images. Probably I should list these points:
  1. Some people said they like the general color, but everything was off and there is a loss of details. My answer is: what details? It is indeed a macro shot, but the general theme is abstract and I don't see any details are to be preserved in the original shot in those white petals.
  2. Halos. I didn't pay attention to those in the original shot and I'm not quite sure if they are the result of extreme sharpening, or simple because of the speedlite light (which was used in taking this shot). Yet, I don't understand still, how come such thin halos to make a big deal of the general view.
  3. Some people edited the shot already (without my permission) and fixed the general tint and retained the original white color of the petals. OK. Some people did like the white version more, yet I didn't send any invitation to edit my own photo. I know how to make it white, IF I wanted to do so!
This is some of what has been said already about this shot. Anyway, enough with this bouquet, and let's get to the next bouquet which was delivered later. As I've mentioned before, the arrangement of the flowers in a bouquet can be inspirational by themselves. I know, lot of photographers do arrange their own shots specially if they are into still life photography, but this is not the case with me. I work mostly by rules and lines, and if not, I deal with what life throws at me.
The floral arrangement in this bouquet specifically inspired me to show uniqueness and separation from the rest of the herd. Simply, by pushing the central rose upward above the rest, and shooting from the top. It was time for using the lateral arm again!

Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, 15-1sec, ISO100.

Probably in shots like Eigen I should've zoomed in further, but since the 50mm lens is a prime lens (no zoom) and I'm completely relying on the lateral arm and the tripod to get closer or further from the rose, it was better to settle down at this level and work with some cropping later when required. I did some cropping indeed to remove some edges and to shift the center of the image to the center of the rose, as it was a bit off-center. Another self-note is, probably f/1.8 or f/2 was better just to include the edges of the central rose further into the focus. However, personally, I do like the dreamy sense of it that way in general.

Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, 15sec, ISO100.

Of course, the idea of the IR filter visited me again, and I've applied it. I think it does give a mysterious (and maybe melancholic) feel to it that way. Even though InfraEigen seems like a black and white shot, but there is a slight tint in the image. I can't really remember if I swapped the channels like it is customary with IR shots, but judging from the light bluish tint at some part, I guess I did indeed swap the channels!
After taking the first shot with a shallow depth, I thought it's a good chance to try IR with really sharp focus and a lengthy exposure (because I seldom try this!).

InfraEigen II
Canon EF 50mm, f/22, 6min, ISO100.

InfraEigen II (soft)
Canon EF 50mm, f/22, 6min, ISO100.

In many occasions, and while processing the shots I take, I find that increasing and decreasing the Clarity when dealing with the RAW file can produce many chances for interesting outputs. When dealing with InfraEigen, the situation was the same but probably because of the already-shallow depth of the scene, softening the edges did not have a strong impact on me, but when dealing with InfraEigen II the softening effect was apparent. The green tint in some areas in the soft version (after swapping channels and processing) is due the fact of increasing the Vibrance. Of course, in all infrared versions, dealing with the noise was a hectic matter, but no need to go into those details for the time being!

It was about time till I get the chance to do some photography project that I had in my mind long ago. Photography on the top of a pedestrian bridge.
I've delayed this project mainly because the bridge is somehow close to some sensitive buildings and my mood was (and still) not open for more conflicts with some authorities. Anyway, this time I had some spare time so I decided to head to that bridge and work a bit just before dusk time. Finding where to park my car in the first place was a big deal by itself!

Rokinon 8mm, f/22,
6-1sec, ISO100.
As I climbed up, the first thing to try was my Rokinon fisheye. I was quite sure that it will make up something interesting when it is combined with such straight long lines tending (or seems to) go to infinity. I think this is what classical artists would call Vedutismo. I've taken some shots on one side of the bridge and tried the best I could to place the tripod and camera exactly at the center (but typically my trials failed anyway). Later, I've headed to the center of the bridge, almost, just to check the view from that point. I've realized how hard it is to judge your position in the air compared to the ground, and while I thought I'm at the center of the bridge because the ground below me looked so (!), but the fact is I wasn't and I didn't know this fact until I've shot Arabestract. In this shot, I've literally laid myself down on the ground and lowering the tripod as much as possible while pointing the camera upward. It was hard to look at the viewfinder or even the LiveView, thus I had to use a high f-number with focus to infinity to ensure the depth encompasses the roof of the bridge. Anyway, there were no other details, but only the roof, so I guess no need to worry about the hyperfocal distances. My only fear was to be lying down there while some passers would decide to "pay me" a visit!

Originally, I didn't really plan for a panorama even though I did take my VR-head with me (usually I take it just in case some idea pops up). However, after checking the result of Arabestract I've realized there is a great potential for some amazing geometrical plays, judging from the abstract of Arabestract. Thus, I've settled as fast as I could (because the light was changing and dusk is getting closer) and started taking the panorama.

I Dream
Before doing this panorama, I tried some weeks ago to re-calibrate the Manfrotto 303SPH with my EOS 7D and Canon 15mm fisheye lens and make sure about the no-parallax point. However, I've realized that because of the distortion originally inherit in such lenses, it was almost impossible to achieve such point, but rather we can reduce it, as I came to believe. Anyway, after doing the panorama I wasn't disappointed, despite the many stitching errors that I had to conceal or fix in one way or another. Lot of these stitching errors are somehow hard to notice in a small size scale. With my new PC I was able to stitch relatively large HDR panoramas in relatively a short time, and I've stitched almost two versions of each projection just for comparison. At times, it is even hard to judge which projection is the best. The vertical projection for example produced two nice panoramas, with each giving some specific feeling to it: Hungover and I Dream. To tell the truth, I do feel that I Dream is closer to my heart.
One of the major problems here though is the tone-mapping of such panoramas. There were many factors that made this a hard task to do somehow:
  • I've used the Fluorescent WB which typical for me in such time of the day, but probably the tones of the place were not forgiving for such white balance.
  • Photomatix tone-mapping was hard to control with its aspects, thus I had to turn to Photoshop itself to tone-map the tonal curve point by point. Photoshop versions after CS4 really amazed me (currently I'm using CS5) with its tone-mapping capabilities. They have improved significantly.
  • Under such circumstances, it was hard to decide whether the color cast should be corrected or left as it is. Lot of work with layer masks was required to control this aspect.
This was just some of the problems, excluding the original hard time in stitching the panorama in the first place, where the computer was unable to generate lot of control points for some reason I'm not aware of still. However, my amazement was still to come in two projections that I did not even think of or even had a vision for...

Planeta Arabesqueia

Swept Away
The planet projection was an amazement for me. I didn't realize this fact until I've worked it out in PTGui. These lines make an intriguing atmosphere. Ironically though, the tunnel-view projection which is the reverse of the planet projection (i.e. aiming upward from below) did not make an interesting figure, to me at least. This made me make up some theory about the visual attractions and panoramas, which I will mention below. Another interesting projection which was made completely by mistake as I was trying to settle down with I Dream above. This time, probably, I should name such style as the "tilt" or "twist". Without complicating the text, when I try to change the point of view of a panorama I usually work with specific and fixed amount of degrees, like 45o or 90o and so on. Sometimes though, I mix things up unintentionally, as it happened in Swept Away, which has an irregular vertical axis (relative to the bridge of course). This image and Planeta Arabesqueia were published in my group's instagram's gallery and received some applause from the viewers.

Canon EF 15mm fisheye, f/16,
5-1sec, ISO200.
Not only the panoramas themselves were interesting, but there was one specific point in the whole set where I loved to see alone and separate from the rest of the panorama. Talk about must having an attentive eye while working with more than 40 slides of HDRs. I rarely use the 15mm fisheye lens for anything else other than panorama shooting, but this time as it is in Arabesquette the 15mm fisheye lens made as if by virtue, all the lines vanish into the lower right corner. This point of view, I think, could have been so hard to achieve with Rokinon's 8mm fisheye because the field of view would be wider, and more details would be included. This tight point is just fine as it is.

Rokinon 8mm, f/22, ISO200. HDR.

After finishing the panorama above, I've decided to give it one last try with my Rokinon 8mm lens and shoot the bridge from the first point where I started originally, but this time, from the ground level. To stabilize my camera here I've used the battery charger under the lens hood itself! Well, shaky, but with a 10sec time, all was fine. The only problem was to check for the center of the image (which I was somehow lucky here to have the center in a proper place almost). Even though I tried to flatten and fix the distortions in such images taken with Rokinon's 8mm lens, yet I've figured that such step would take all the amusement and the visual interest out of the image, and it is better as it is; all lines converge into the horizon. Vedutismo! I loved this perspective more than the ones I've taken in the beginning of the journey from that same point exactly, in which I've used a tripod and the camera was above the ground (around 1m high, ~3ft). For this reason, I didn't really touch those taken at the beginning. In between also, there was some trials with my 18-55mm lens (yes the old kit lens) with the infrared filter but I was aiming at the road below and the general cityscape. I have to say it was just experimental as the lines did not appeal to me very much.

Gazing on and about the panoramas that I've already made here, made me think of some visual aspects and how to render or expect an outcome from a panorama. Leaving Swept Away aside for the time being as I need to check it more (probably doing old panoramas in this way and see for myself), the main interest for the time being is the planet and the tunnel projections. It seems to me that the interesting projection for some space is highly relevant to the direction of the interesting feature in the scene. As you can see above, the main feature in the bridge is the roof, which has elaborate designs. Doing a tunnel projection would bring this feature to the middle of the scene, and that specifically rendered it dull and idle. I see that Planeta Arabesqueia, in which the view is from the roof, has a more interesting render. I would lucky of course if the place I'm doing panorama for has more than one interesting feature, like the case in the panorama of the Grand Mosque of Kuwait, done back in 2011. The main interesting in the mosque was the dome and the ceiling in general beside the floor which was covered with laminated carpet. For this, a tunnel and a planet projection (beside a wide view projection) all had some interesting feature displayed - this feature should be exactly the point of the view (i.e. as if we are standing at that point and looking in the opposite direction). This might sound like a paradox; as to how I'm supposed to make an interest by standing or viewing the scene exactly at the point which I'm supposed to be interest in? The answer relies on geometrical plays and the abstract sense of the scene. If there is an intriguing design in my scene, I'm supposed to represent that design in the strongest possible way. This can't be done if I simply put this feature in the middle of the scene (as it is the case in the tunnel projection). I have to stretch or change the perspective of that feature specifically to make it an attraction to the eye. I think I didn't think in details about this point specifically but only this time I'm trying to approach the topic analytically.

For Sale

Some days ago my brother advised me to get rid of those prints that I've framed (and did cost me a plenty) by offering them for sale on instagram. I'm trying to do this slowly in the current time even though I know there won't be anyone who would like to buy them despite the price reduction to almost 50% of what it was. I need to get rid of them in fact, because there is no use of leaving them lying around in my room like that; occupying space and collecting dust. Yet, all what I can do is just wish for some luck to get these sold at such prices. Also, I'm planning to add some more new images to my website, specially those taken recently. I need, however, to check on the panoramas and fix them the stitching errors properly, which will be a very time-consuming activity!

Source: Amazon
On the other hand, because of the lack of the new books, I'm turning back to some of the older books (as I've mentioned in previous posts). This time, I've decided to read The Practice of Contemplative Photography by Andy Karr and Michael Wood again. I felt the need to re-connect with that magical feeling deep inside me, away from trying to make a set-up and planning for shots ahead. I need to awaken that feeling of seeing as the book put it. Probably I need more books like this one in the near future. With the rush in my life and the mess, with all these contests that I've been trying to put up with and the rest of the obligations; photographically and domestically, I think I need to get back to my camera and treat it as a companion, rather than a tool. Specially with an empty heart like this one.

In my work I've signed for a little leave just to get some rest from all the damned traffic jam in everyday. Mom told me that I've should taken this to travel out. My reply was: where to go mother? I didn't like to tell her directly to the face that I'm actually trapped, for taking care of her because, simply, there is no one I could rely on for such a mission. I don't think that would make her feel any good. Anyway, despite the dialysis timing which will still keep me active in the morning and out of bed 3 days a week, I'm hoping that such a resting time would do me a favor and make me produce some more images, beside sleeping more, and dreaming more...

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