Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Nadir...

Well, here we are. A first week in the working force of this country and technically, doing nothing for the time being. But I'm expected to do a lot in the coming few months. Field trips mainly, beside some lab work probably. With Mom's schedules, I think I won't have a day of free time the whole week (weekends are not counted in).
I've started the procedure here to make an appointment for a general eye check and to see if I do suffer any "extra" stuff - mainly, the retinitis pigmentosa, which is a hereditary problem in the family. It's funny how I'm doing all of that when I'm back to work already and didn't do them when I was free already!

No signs for fixing my car any time soon. However, the garage people keep giving me hopes about it which makes me not sure yet to either believe or disbelieve in such spirits. On the bright side, I've finally managed to get my shipment which was held in the customs all the holiday's period and now I have 2 books to read (almost finished one already!) and some tiny stuff for my camera work. Anyway, this week, I've decided to do some bits of a project and put my thoughts in a single lane instead of thinking or waiting for inspiration to hit. More of that below.

I had this idea in my head for a while in the past week and didn't come to work with it till this week in fact. I don't remember exactly what inspired me to think of such a project but probably it is George Barr's blog post which included some photos taken at a hill or a cliff. Anyway, probably I should explain a bit what is Nadir.
The word Nadir is usually mentioned in the context of panoramas. The nadir point is the point directly under the photographer and generally it is the hardest to take in the process of shooting a panorama. Now, to the historical part. The word Nadir is derived from the Arabic word Nadheer [النظير] which means "the opposite (point)". Arab scholars (mainly astronomers and astrologers) used this name because this point is the opposite of the Zenith (Arabic: Al-Sumt [السمت]), which is the point directly above the viewer's head.

Liquid Solid
An old shot that probably inspired me beside George Barr's post?

So, what this is all about? The whole process is actually simple. In one time in my life, I was obsessed with panoramas and I would think of a panorama wherever I go and try to do a panorama wherever I settle. Same thing went on for HDR (even though HDR making is now a habit or a second nature to me). I though, since I'm not getting much inspiration for any photography plans maybe I would just concentrate on a trend and try to see through it. This might as well would help me to somehow master a technique or two. This new trend is taking pictures from above like if I'm taking the nadir point in panoramas but with elevated camera. How ironic that I've just read a chapter in my new book about Aerial Photography!

Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/11, HDR, ISO100.

The results can hardly be predicted, for the time being. You will see below that there are some images that I just didn't like but I enjoyed the experimenting. One of the first images, however, was Nadir. The technical aspect for the shot and stabilizing the camera is a terrifying experiment - at any moment the camera can simply slide out of the grip and go down. This shot specifically was taken from the top of the roof of my home looking down from one side which has a brick tiling roof (happens to be above my room's window). I've taken several shots at some different elevations by changing the central column of the tripod itself and because the lateral arm and the camera combination can and would flip the whole tripod over, I had to have a firm hand at the tripod and the camera's belt.

Flat Perspective
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/11, HDR, ISO100.

The Rokinon fisheye (and generally, fisheyes) are my favorite choice when shots from elevated space are considered. They add depth and encompass more scenery into the view, and with the help of DxO nowadays, the distortion can somehow be adjusted as in Flat Perspective. The shot for Flat Perspectve is different than Nadir; the former was done with the central column raised higher while the latter was done with the central column was down. Raising the central column high actually helped me to crop safely without cropping much from the body of the roof, this is because when the lens is raised higher, more adjacent spaces for the roof gets included in the view, and with flattening the image, these parts will eventually be cropped and deleted. One of the hardships of taking pictures in such manner is that you can't really plan for a center. Just take it and manage whatever you can manage later. If I had or have a helping hand, I would surely connect the portable monitor as the camera is dangling in the air and try to adjust the position, while the other person is holding the gear firmly. Adding weights is an option but working with them would be hard and impractical when moving from one place to another.

Bird In My Yard
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/11,
30-1sec, ISO100.
My next target then was the balcony, overlooking the yard of the house. The shot was taken in the morning time. After waiting for a day to check for the shadows at different times of the day, I've realized that no interesting or pronounced shadows are produced in the yard, and thus I though that the morning time is the best as there are virtually no shadows in the yard.
The situation in the balcony was shaky because the ground was a bit slippery and the legs of the tripod did slide a bit (and had to use a brick I've found there to hold it firm). The tripod itself was going to trip over as well because the lateral arm was extended to its full length almost; this is just to try to put the camera as far away from the rail as possible. Even though I did shoot for HDR (with the help of a timer of course) yet I chose only one shot from the bracket to process. The image needed lot of work with DxO and yet it's not to my liking but I did like the experiment anyway. I did crop to align some lines to the frame accordingly.

Geometrical Coma
Canon EF 15mm fisheye, f/11,
0.5sec, ISO400.
The main hall was also a target and I was ambitious about it, but unfortunately, my current gear didn't help me with it and I do have to improvise as it seems. The idea is to hang the camera (safely) onto the light fixture and trigger it either with the cable remote somehow, or even better with the IR remote (but it would give a shorter timer period). Anyway, after the fail, I headed elsewhere. The stairs. The situation at the stairs wasn't any better; dangling my camera from the third floor's staircase to look at the lower floor staircase has its own dangers as well. I tried to improvise a way to stabilize the camera but no avail. Finally, I've found myself holding the camera and dangling it by holding its strip firmly. In this experiment specifically, I've tried several lenses to encompass the right elements but probably the best I liked were the 15mm fisheye lens (after rectification and cropping) as you can see in Geometrical coma and the shot done with my 50mm lens, Dementia.

Canon EF 50mm, f/11, 0.6sec, ISO400

As you can see from the shots on the stairs, the ISO is raised here to compensate for the shake, and the camera's mode was set to Av. I've put my trust in the camera here to get the right exposure time (which was relatively slow but enough). In close-up, there is still some shake in the images but probably less noticeable when in small size. Both images, Geometrical Coma and Dementia needed some rectification to make the lines as straight as possible. Both of them would be classified as abstracts I presume.
Many places run through my head right now but first of all I need to get some proper gear to hang the camera when it is required to do so. As for the time being, I have to rely on improvising. Even though there are some DIY solutions to such problem, but it requires some time and a space to achieve the purpose and build the gear.


Source: Amazon
At the current time, I'm digesting the first book that arrived finally: The Wild Side of Photography. This book in fact didn't bring much new things to me and doesn't go deep into the topics. It is a collection of articles written by various photographers, each to his or her own field. Ironically, there is an article about aerial photography and the use of kites at the time that I'm planning for more nadir or bird-view shots. This field of photography is out of my reach and probably will never do it but it is inspiring after all. My nadir shots are mostly in confined places and without winds, quite the opposite of aerial photography, in which winds and spaces are critical. Interesting topics and I've almost finished the book in 3 days only - only few is left to read.
I need some more time to test my other gadgets, specially the RoundFlash which is a substitute for the ring flash somehow (and it can be used for portraiture as well). The other critical gadget is my IR gel filter from Kodak, which looks darker and more opaque than my round IR filter (from B+W). I'm hesitant to cut this gel filter into a small square to fit into the 15mm fisheye lens but I guess sacrifices have to be done here. I'm just afraid that it won't work as I wish because of the opaqueness of the filter.

The nice weather now is fixing a bit of my spirit that got shattered during the summer and the problems of the summer. I have my wish now to see my car fixed again, as my financial situation is, not shaky, but not advancing either. Mom keeps asking me from time to time, whether I'm going to travel or not, or why wouldn't I travel. All what I have as an answer is: I can't. Life is weird, but even weirder, are the people living in it.

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