Thursday, October 17, 2013

Digging In The Past...

Here we are. Almost gone with my vacation and back to work. I'm going back to work by the 20th, just after the Eid holiday. Enjoyed it? Definitely no. Had some rest? Sort of, but not completely.
With such holiday all I could do is work with old photos and photos that I've long forgotten to work with and process. I'm not sure what happened, but it's like nothing works out as planned, or at least to ease itself out. Just to list some of the hassles...
  • Mom's dialysis schedule really made it feel like no real vacation.
  • My car never got fixed and I'm still waiting; and probably will never be.
  • My new shipment faced some delays in reaching my US box originally, and eventually it reached here (and paid extra for express service) and yet, it didn't pass the customs before the holiday - so I'm waiting for the holiday to be over with to get it. In other words, I paid extra, for nothing.
  • Just with the start of Eid, my AC went off as usual with any slight humidity in the air. I'm passing the time in my room typing this with a fan on my side. Does a nice job though. Only problem: it's noisy somehow and I can't hear sounds from my monitor easily.
  • With such harassment from fate, I really lost the capability of receiving some inspiration and the appetite to hold my camera; even though the weather outside is relatively nicer.
My only joy, as it seems, for the time being is to play games. Games, games, and games. It's a sport for the lazy but at least enjoyable. No new books to read and no new gear to try and no ideas to photograph; what else could be done except of playing games.

As I've mentioned before, I've been spending my time going through some old shots mostly, specially those that I didn't process before; and others that I've processed before but tried to do them differently. This is all beside playing some games of course!

Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/??, 30-1sec, ISO200.

One of the images that I've been struggling with was Sonnenuntergangsstadt, which is a shot that I've taken some days after my return from the US in 2012. The struggles with this shot is mainly the composition and the distortion because it was taken with Rokinon's 8mm fisheye lens. Probably the strongest reason that I didn't want to upload this to the stock sites in the first place is the view of my tripod near the fence along with my backpack! Anyway, just to amuse myself and not to upload it to the stock sites, I've started to fix the distortion with DxO as much as possible, and adjusting the WB (which gave me some hard time as well) and then trying to centralize the view (with cropping). Without cropping, the left and right portions of the image would be highly stretched because of the distortion fix earlier in DxO.However, cropping was to centralize the horizon and the central line within the wooden boards and make an almost perfect symmetrical image. The colors anyway were a problem to settle with!

At The End of The Tunnel
Rokinon 8mm fisheye,
f/??, 250-1sec, ISO200.
Another shot that I've re-processed was a shot taken inside one big pipe in a marble factory that belongs to Sadeem. This shot was processed previously with DxO to fix the distortion of the fisheye lens, but now with new vision and new ideas, I've decided to make it a simple circle inside a square frame. I think back then I was a beginner with DxO and I was thinking about each shot taken (specially those by the Rokinon fisheye) within the framework of DxO. This process kind of gives me a lesson for not getting swept by new findings and try to keep control on the process of the thoughts when seeing through the photos. I particularly like the new simplistic touch rather than the "undistorted" and stretched version (which looked like panoramic view in fact for its width). I'm fond of Minimalism.

Waiting A Prey
Waiting A Prey (selective)
An Fhuinneog
Then There were some few images from Ireland (2009 and 2010) for which I've paid a visit and got some astonishing results, like the spider on some leaves, snapped on my way back from the Swiss Cottage back in Cahir town, Co. Tipperary. That was in 2010. Anyway, the original is the full colored one of course and now with more understanding for the nature of the color spaces I've decided to play around to pronounce the green tones more in a vibrant way.Then, and just by coincidence during the process I've got a hint that a selective coloring would make it a good idea and helps the spider to be more eye-catching with its yellow tones. I was lucky here mainly because of the tones and with the help of the Color Range command in Photoshop which helps on selecting specific tones exclusively. It is bad enough that I didn't have a macro gear back then in 2010. What a loss. Anyway, with EOS 7D's 18 megapixels, a crop can be made in a suitable manner to get a closer look at the spider with somehow a reasonable resolution, but of course it is not expected to yield large prints if such thing is needed one day. This made me arrive to another visit to a very old challenge: An Fhuinneog.  An Fhuinneog (Irish for The Window) is a fenster or a window-like structure (forming an arc) in the fields of Aughnanure Castle in the outskirts of Oughterard, Co. Galway. Back then, I barely had any knowledge about panoramas or even photography and perspectives. However, I had fun with this structure with my 18-55mm kit lens (and back then I only had 2 lenses: 18-55, 55-200). As I was rushing through the old folders I've found out that there are 66 HDR slides already there and not deleted (like I usually do with old HDR slides, to save some space). I've stitched this naive handheld panorama many times with my old PC and that was a big struggle and a time-consuming process (and mostly with Photoshop) and I did have some progress but the main challenge with this panorama is the sluggishness of the process itself by which the panorama was taken. It's handheld, and it's not a spherical but a composite of a flat object (with focal length at 52mm) and, to my bad luck, there was apparently a gap in the sequence thus the prime stitch would appear as if the image was torn at certain spot. My love for architectural details pushed me to some hard lines! I really wish to visit this place again with the gear I have right now!
Anyway, the new An Fhuinneog is somehow an exact opposite of Waiting A Prey (selective) because we didn't eliminate green but I kept it and eliminated everything else. I arrived at such process and look after getting tired trying to find my feelings through tone-mapping the stitched final panorama from the original HDR slide. Green was vibrant in a pleasant way yet other colors were wither too dark and stealing the eye-view, or simply too bright and competing. Thus, I decided to silence all and keep the pleasant green. I'm fond of the Green after all!

One day, some weeks ago, I've decided to do some strolling outside like I used to do in colder days before. The weather was not cool enough though (like this week) and I ended up sweating a river. Because of the lacking of the seeing capabilities and not being in harmony with my mind, as it seems, things didn't go well but this is understandable anyway. One should not expect to have a load of good shots in every outing, or in every photographic experience.

Tie A Knot
Canon EF 50mm, f/5.6,
800-1sec, ISO200.
In the urban nature, abstracts and images of vivid thoughs (or let's say not-so-clear thoughts) are abundant. Unlike the photographic experience outdoors in natural trails, probably the urban structure has more of a linear style. At least to me this is how I see it. I think nature has more of a curvy form and probably abstracts are not easily obtained in the open area - but the mind has to be clogged with some scenery composed of lines. Anyway, this is just a thought that I'm not quite sure of.
However, as soon as I've noticed a trashed car in one of the neighborhoods I just realized that I have a strong chance for some abstracts. Well, even though I've tried to imply some ideas from the contemplative photography book but probably I've failed in the part where it says that my mind has to be clear from any prejudices prior to the photo shoot. In other words, I must not think of concepts but see things as they are without relating them to ideas or words! This part sounds tricky to me and hard to achieve. As soon as I saw the trashed car my mind was going: Aha! Abstract!!!
After many shots inside and outside the car, I've finally settled with Tie A Knot which was shot at a low level and thus needed lot of work to correct the perspective (keystone correction) and even harder time trying to settle down at the crop. The crop had to be a square to hide the outer frame of the tire, but how and where to place the knot. finally, I've settled down with the upper right corner of the center for the knot (and used some bits of cloning on the edges of the frame to hide some outer features). The total vibrancy and saturation were increased to get rid of the dull look that was caused by the harsh light at noon time. I do like the combination of the yellow, blue and green tones vibrating through the image.

Green X Green
Canon EF 50mm, f/11,
160-1sec, ISO200.
Not far away from the trashed car, there were some trees (yes, trees, in Kuwait). Such trees are not as impressive as the oaks and hollies in Ireland, but what I liked here is not the tree itself, but the graduation of the green shades as you see in Green X Green. Yes, this shot is abstractive in nature but I was not thinking lines or shapes back then. More like it, I was thinking of color and light regardless of the lines and shapes. I think such shot can be used as a brush for Photoshop as well! This shot as well was cropped into a square, probably because it gives more harmony to the overall view?

Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4, 1250-1, ISO200.

Lines and Bars
Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4,
1250-1sec, ISO200.
My stroll went on and on and took many shots in fact but I barely came out with something that I can say pleasant to my eyes at least. Two shots were taken almost at the end of my strolling around in the children playground, not far from my home. Both of these shots I used the really shallow depth of my 50mm lens at f/1.4 for various reasons. While in Network my aim was to mimic a great depth and to concentrate the view on one of the pucks only, in Lines and Bars my aim for using such shallow depth was to blur the bicycle tire that was in the background - anyway, the tire was eliminated after all when the image was processed with DxO to straighten the lines and make them more parallel (i.e. the 2 vertical bars in the image). The cropping afterward simply eliminated what was in the background. Anyway, they are simply ideas of abstract and I can't say I'm so fond of them but, well, they got accepted in some of those stock websites.
After that day, I'm trying to go out again but to no avail. I would be either tired, or simply busy - sleeping sounds more like a work that must be done as well right now! You might have noticed that all of these shots were taken with my 50mm lens and at ISO200. This is mainly for the fact in strolling I like to be light without my equipments and I have to choose one lens only. The 50mm lens is the best for such occasions mainly for the wide range of apertures available in such lens as well as it is a normal lens; it's perspective almost matches that of the human eye. It is also advisable in practices of contemplatives photography that you use such a lens because it matches the human vision. The ISO200 is fixed at this rate mainly from the last session before the stroll but I didn't change it back to ISO100 as I was thinking of situations when I would need to take a shot in the shade and I might need a little raise in the ISO eventually. I didn't raise it further to avoid excessive noise level (specially with such heat that day at noon time) and didn't lower it down so I won't be busy fixing the ISO while I'm thinking and seeing the shot. It is a good thing to work on the shutter and the aperture (and preferably the shutter speed only) in case an idea or some inspiration is just revealed in front of you and struggling with the ISO can be a bit of a distraction (because in my EOS 7D, controlling the ISO is not done directly by the dials like the aperture and the shutter speed). Let's see if I can do another strolling outside at any time soon...

Since I have no mood or mind to work on my conlang, Geltani, I've been playing games here and there as I've mentioned before. One of the latest games I've played was The Raven which is composed of three chapters or parts. I'm specifically mentioning this game here because I did indeed like the storyline and the action in it. It's an adventure game and not a real action game but with a sense of Agatha Cristie's touch. In fact, even the main character in the game has some similarities to the typical look of Hercule Poirot in Agatha's novels - specially the twisted mustache. Anyway, the main character in the game, Constable Zellner, is a Swiss, while Hercule Poirot is Belgian. The difference is, though, Zellner is no psychologist and his story take a dramatic twist in chapter III, but I'll keep the surprises for me right now! It is a game that you MUST play if you like surprises and appreciate a good storyline. Click the title of this section to go to the page where you can view, buy and download the game.

Screenshot (source: The Adventure Shop)
Constable Anton Jakob Zellner

Here we are then. A life that is barely going on, a vacation that I barely used and had fun with. I'm expecting right now to have some financial drainage because of the many expenses building up on my shoulders, like fixing the car that took like eternity right now, and like the AC that suffered some short circuit as it seems and I'm not expecting myself to be that lucky to have it fixed in the easy way - most probably there will be whole parts to be changed and 100s of dinars are involved.

Voigtländer Heliar
Ultra-Wide Angle
12mm f/5.6
Source (B&H)
FotodioX PRO
Canon EOS Adapter
Is this the adapter I need?
Source (B&H)
Seems that my ideas of getting a new lens, preferably a wide view lens with flat perspective rather than a fisheye, all of these ideas should be postponed for the time being. Further more, I'm having some crazy ideas for getting out of the circle of Canon lenses (and their equals). I've been thinking seriously of having some rangefinder lenses or at least lenses from some other brands for other types of cameras and use it with the help of a special mount on my EOS 7D. Not experienced in such field but it seems from my little research that it did work for some people and it is very common in fact. The thing is, I'm still not sure what mount to use specially for those rangefinder lenses that are assigned to Leica M mount, or Bayonet M, and I'm not sure if these two types are the same with two different names. I need to ask more about this so I can get a proper mount along with the lens. Anyway, rangefinders are expensive lenses and probably this is a long term plan, which I don't know if it will come true one day! I can keep dreaming though for the time being. Such lens with such quality and flat perspective, and combined with panorama processing can prove very powerful, so I believe. I can think of another 50mm lens along the line as well.

Dreams, dreams, dreams. I'm going to keep dreaming, at least this is the thing that I can do well beside playing some games to sooth my nerves and ease my mind. But for the time being I'm going to have one dream in front of my eyes - have my car back. Simple dream, but dearly missed. Traveling? This is a delayed dream, probably for eternity...

Tranquil Ireland

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