Thursday, March 27, 2014


I think I'm reaching the climax of my endurance capabilities through the past 2 weeks. It is just the fact that nothing goes as planned, and more unexpected events.
People here (and everywhere) are happy for the arrival of spring. However, it is my weeping time. My nighttime photography had already ceased and almost no power is left for me to leave at night. I technically spent 2 weekends sleeping most of the days. With the arrival of summer soon, I'm left to do tiny projects at home, specially in the macro field.
In the meantime, I've already signed for a 2-week leave from work just to rest my nerves from the amount of stupidity that lurks in this workplace (and all workplaces in this country; let's be honest). Everyone thinks I'm traveling somewhere - my chances are slim. The best I might be able to do is to head to Failaka island, if possible, and maybe spend a night there. My leave should start on April 1st and extends till April 17th. The best part of a vacation is to see people go to work while you don't!
Anyway, despite the hibernating activity with photography, I still had some few trials with my camera (and flashes) and might be interesting to share...


Don't read it wrong; Ego here is the Latin form for I or Myself! For the past week (and also for the coming few days) I've been trying to test my flashes and light modifiers on a real subject this time and not against some slid subject: me.
The fact that I don't really do well with portrait with other people, and yet I don't have someone to help me with testing my gear, leaves me with me! Experts usually advise the photographer not to be the subject of their own self; this is related to the degree of concentration and the attention paid by the photographer to the light formation - it would be lesser in such situations. Anyway, I'm working with my own face here and I don't have much options. The funny part is, as it is supposed to be a check-up for my gear and lighting positions, it became also a trial for some Photoshop experiments.

With RoundFlash
All of the coming shots are taken with my Canon EF 50mm lens, not only for its sharpness or wide aperture (f/1.4, which in fact is not used or needed here), but for its perspective in regard to the distance available for me in the room, and for the scale on the lens' barrel which I used to adjust the focus range properly. The first thing to try out with my flashes is the RoundFlash, beside another flash for the hair light on my right and above my head, with a diffuser. The rest is a simple processing in ACR (Adobe Camera RAW). One of the fascinating aspects of using the RoundFlash is, like the ring-flash, creating an interesting catch light in the eyes. The post-processing included some simple fill light, contrast, vibration, and clarity adjustments.

After the initial (simple) post-processing, I couldn't hold my fingers from doing further editing like I usually do for some friends photos. I have to admit that the edit does scare me a bit! When it comes to black and white converting, there are two possible paths actually: Convert in RAW, or convert in Photoshop. Each one of those has its own benefits and limits in fact. The image you see above is converted in Photoshop (and it is just one image from the series of shots).

RAW Edit
I've picked one of the many shots and this time tried to convert it to B&W in ACR alone without the help of Photoshop. The results, to me, were astonishing. Te image you see on the left is completely edited in RAW without any enhancement in Photoshop. The difference here is, while in Photoshop you can convert to B&W using the Black and White adjustment layer, which in return has specific tonal ranges to fix the black and white tones depending on the colors - in ACR, the tonal ranges available are varied and more delicate than the simple black and white adjustment layer in Photoshop. For example, in the adjustment layer we have tonal sliders for Reds and Yellows; However, in ACR, there are tonal controllers for Reds and Yellows, with another one for Oranges in between. This latter addition can prove very useful. in specific situations, like my selfie here. Usually, in Photoshop, raising the Reds tones to brighten the eyes would brighten the eyes and the face altogether, calling for a need to use layer masks. In ACR, however, the two zones are somewhat easier to control by the Reds and the Oranges tones (and with some fill light increment). At this level, it all looks normal. For more eye-catching bright eyes effect, then, of course, Photoshop is needed again.

The second experiment with the flashes was to light the face from top and bottom, in something like the so-called hatchet lighting. Usually, a hatchet lighting is when lights are used on the left and the right of the subject, but here it's on the vertical plane. To achieve this, beside the head light above my head (with bulb diffuser), I've placed a white cardboard on the ground and bounced the flash from it.

Selfie #4
After many trials to check the position of the lights, I had some nice shots. It seems that this hatchet method is good to show the details of the muscles of the face; though it might not be so pleasant to look at! In Selfie #4, most of the editing is done in ACR as well, including desaturating. However, some editing was needed in Photoshop to boost the eye of the color. Also, some drama was added by sharpening the image excessively.
And there is a big benefit of having some high resolution to your camera; It is some way to make an abstract with suitable resolution out of the general image, like it is in Unblinking. Probably it won't be a good image for a large print after all, but nice to see online! In Unblinking, the image was converted to B&W in Photoshop (except of the eye), and was given a tint to have some drama.

There is a method of manipulating images that I've read something about, in a long time, and back then I really didn't pay much attention. Probably because the talk was technical more than artistic. However, now with the ACR, it seems that this method is opening a new window for the world of Black and White manipulations. This is the method of tone-splitting. The idea is simple: give one tint to the highlights, and another tint for the shadows. The result was somewhat perplexing I have to say!

Selfie #5
I applied this method to one of the selfies taken with the hatchet technique and the results appear interesting. After converting the image (and adjusting the tones accordingly) in ACR, I've applied the tone-splitting (also in ACR) giving the highlights a tint of violet, and the shadows a tint of green. There is in fact no limit for the choices as you can control the tints and their saturation and also the balance between the shadows and the highlights in general. However, it seems reasonable and more appropriate to work within the circle of the laws of the Hue Circle. The method is simple, after adjusting the tint for the highlights by picking a specific hue and adjusting its saturation, I picked a tint for the shadows then after by adding (or subtracting) 180o from the hue value of the highlights; For this reason, it got to violet highlights, and green shadows. I've adjusted the Balance control in ACR towards the highlights simply to reduce the weird look of the hair and black areas of being too green. Also, to add more luster to the eyes, I had to sacrifice the contrast for the whole image, and yes, I could have done it in Photoshop editing later on, but my goal was to produce an image edited in RAW only without much editing in Photoshop; and I think I've done it. This in fact taught me a lesson for the time being: It's not all about pronouncing the tones by adding contrast, but contrast must be added carefully in regard to what features of the image I'm willing to express and show more than the rest.
A note as well I'd like to add: it is a common advise when printing Black and White images, it would be a good idea to add a slight tint (most probably a yellow tint) even in a small amount just to give a color to the image and show some of the details that might be lost in printing. This is because in printers' language, White is almost synonymous with "do not print a thing here". Thus, it is advised to have a slight tint to give some color and life to the image. Anyway, experimenting with your images is always the rule I presume!.

Heaven is Watching

Out of the desire to break my daily routine and also to try to produce something before the summer is finally and completely here, I've decided to do a panorama near my workplace. I have to say though that I was in a fighting mood as well; I was willing to fight anyone who would be interrupting me and try to stop me from taking photos near my workplace. Anyway, at the end things went smooth, but I wish if I can say that to what happened later when processing the panoramas.

Heaven is Watching

That day, I've decided to have lunch near my workplace and head back when the road is less congested. I've walked up to the roundabout which overlooks my workplace (and specifically the building where I work) and started to shoot there, even though it was congested little bit but the road was giving way and getting easier. That was not a big deal for me in fact as the whole thing was an experiment and I'm not looking for perfect conditions, but I did some mistakes later which became both: a regret, and a lesson. Anyway, I was astonished for the clouds hovering over the place and reminded me of the time I spent in Failaka 4 years ago when I had some marvelous shots under clouds of the same type. Bad thing though that I couldn't (for time limitations and capabilities) do any long exposures in that location. Anyway, after shooting the first panorama, I've moved the tripod manually for few centimeters and started to shoot again. I've measured previously the distance between the centers my eyes, which was 7cm, but here I had to do things blindly and I'm sure I've displaced the tripod for no less than 10cm - can produce a big problem, and it did indeed as you will see...


The image you see above is not a perfect anaglyph (or as I called it before: panaglyph), but it is one its kind and I'm hoping to do more experiments with this kind of panaglyphs; Because it is a full panorama and not a simple horizontal panorama turned into an anaglyph as I did some weeks ago. However, I've tried hard to give a good alignment for this panorama but it never worked - needless to say the stitching errors that plagued me in between the two panoramas for the left and the right scenes. Without going into details of the stitching errors, I shall discuss here the points that made this unbearable to look at!

  • The distance of the displacement of the tripod seems too large which caused the difference in between the two scenes, visually, large. This would cause hardships when aligning the two scenes at some points.
  • The center of the panorama should have been one of the palms, and this is a misjudgement from my side. Centering the panorama around the center of the roundabout would have produced a more interesting scene like above. This also played a role in the bad alignment between the two scenes - the scene should have been aligned around the palm that was my zero point (and to which the movement of the tripod was parallel), but I was trying hard to align the two scenes to a new point (which was theoretically parallel as well but not quite accurate).
  • The ground on which I was standing was not even. This produced a change in the elevation of the tripod and the camera configuration after the displacement, and henceforth, another problem was added to the alignment process.
With these problems in mind, I'm hoping that these can be avoided in the future for another experiment like this. I just need the good location with interesting architecture or landscape to work with.
There was a plan to produce and work with a planet projection of this same panorama, but because of some internet problems in the current time I decided to delay this research to be posted in a later time. This would give me also more time to investigate the matter and the other possibilities to produce an adequate panaglyph out of this panorama. Just remember please: DO NOT STARE AT THE ANAGLYPH ABOVE FOR A LONG TIME!


I have to finish this quick and post it. I'm living a life now where I'm expecting a problem wherever I turn and wherever I go. My only escape would be a vacation outside, which I'm already planning for, hopefully to be in September of October. But I have to wait and see the circumstances. Day by day, I feel my luck is draining, and needless to say, my home is throwing my out. What is home, if you just don't feel the respect you need in it? Would it still be called home?
Everyone is telling me that I need a vacation. Everyone is seeing my bent back and my burnt eyes, and they are advising me of some vacation, far away from home and the work environment. But what can I do with added responsibilities? The least to be done now is to have my short vacation for 2 weeks just to rest my body from the everyday traffic, as well as spend some more time with my camera, and if possible go to Failaka. So many hopes I have for such a short vacation in the homeland, but let's see what is going to be achieved after all...

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