Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ikaros 2014 II

QTVRs ahead, please give some time to load. This post won't be viewed properly on iPhone or Android systems. A proper QuickTime plug-in must be installed to Quick Time Virtual Reality (QTVR) scenes. QuickTime plug-in for your browser shall be installed automatically when you install the free QuickTime player. 

Now, this post is supposedly the second part for last week's post with the rest or some of what's left so far from my photo shoot on Failaka island, and specifically on the second day of my stay there, and just before leaving the island.
First things first they say, but I will discuss what I've done secondly on that day, since the first thing done back then is the complicated and the lengthy part of this post! But as a hint, it includes a panorama.

Στην Κορυφή
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/?, HDR, ISO100.

In the past two weeks and during my vacation the clouds were persisting only in the morning time, thus I didn't want to miss the chance of shooting some dramatic views that morning from the island, as I once did almost 5 or 6 years ago! The problem was, I didn't have a clear vision of what I really wanted to shoot that morning (after finishing the panorama first in the court of Ikaros hotel). I just started the engine and drove a little; everything was quiet, such a beautiful breeze and weather that literally made me hate the idea of going back to the mainland (except for the fact that there is no wireless service at all in that place unless you have your own!). Anyway, I've just noticed the first place I wanted to shoot here, which is the same spot that I've been doing long exposure the night before, but this time, getting even closer since I'm using my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens to include as much scenery from the sky as possible. I've changed my position several times and got many shots, and not until sorting out the images back home I've decided that the angle of Στην Κορυφή is the best for my intentions.
Processing-wise, there had been many hassles with Στην Κορυφή. Generally speaking, the issues were related to noise, color cast, sharpness and softness of some details, saturation and vibrancy; but the most persistent problem I had to cope up with, surprisingly, was the crop. Cropping had to be done elegantly and carefully – because as I was trying to keep the perspective of the image (3:2), I had to remove some undesired details or parts that may get attached to the corners or the edge of the frame. The problem rose when I couldn't match the two requirements, thus I had to do one on the expense of the other, hence you can see a small green bush or grass on the lower edge. As for the noise cleaning, there was no way I would do it without losing a great amount of details thus I had to get to the layer masks, not only for cleaning the noise, but also to sharpen some details in the image. Generally speaking, the noise filtration was done to the skies (and sea), while sharpening was done to the landscape features, including the wall of course.

Φοβία (Phobia)

I have to say that my later strolling on the island was somehow in vain trying to look for inspiration, but as I've stated before, my strolling was more like exploring. One of the spots that I really wanted to catch (again) was a spot where I did shoot some images before, of some calcified rocks in low tide time; like Φοβία (Phobia). Unfortunately, I didn't find that specific spot, besides the fact that the tide was high apparently. Anyway, I kept on shooting but this time, I had an idea of trying some scenes for 3D anaglyphs (and lot of that will come when we talk about panoramas in a while).

3D Ruins

3D Trash

Usually, it would be one of the hardest tasks to do a 3D anaglyph with images taken with fisheye lenses, mainly because of the great distortion. There were, however, some successful attempts in the past. This time, I got the idea that we as humans do see the difference in displacements in closer distances to our eyes, and as the distance gets further away from our eyes, the lines would converge to some point in the horizon; technically this is what they call the vanishing point, and it is one of the basics for artists. Thus, in some of these shots taken with Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens, like 3D Ruins, I've decided to align the further away features (the desk). To my eyes, the effect is handsome and truly 3D - though I regret now that I didn't do a panorama in that small space (don't trust a fisheye in judging the space!). On the other hand, 3D Trash which is taken just few meters away from the first location, has most of the features almost in the same image plane, for this, I kind of had the freedom to align any feature in this anaglyph, which in here, was the heap at the center almost. 

Canon EF 50mm, f/1.4,
640-1, ISO100
After going back to the hotel and sorting the images out (and packing some stuff) I just noticed the simplicity of my room's door - and I just couldn't neglect it. Despite the shot being bracketed, I've chose only one shot and worked it out in RAW editor (ACR). There were some branches of some plant beside the door, but they were relatively easy to close out. The main obstacle in 10 was to show that the board with the number "10" is not part of the white wall! This is a mistake from my side with the exposure (and I didn't want to open another image of this door and do the whole adjustments again). A good exposure is a must, and a photographer should not rely on Photoshop to fix his images. Bad exposure, is equal to a wasted shot.
For the time being, I would stop at this - there are other shots that are still under investigation (from this day and the night before even), but I'll stop here to move to the major even that day - a panorama in Ikaros Hotel.

Panorama Ikaros

I have to admit that when I asked the receptionist about taking photos inside the lobby, he said that I do need a permission. Anyway, the panorama here was done in the court (which probably required a permission too!) but since I'm not doing any commercial benefits from this, I think it would be OK. It might be even a free advertisement through my blog! 
Anyway, to organize this matter now, I think I will start with the regular stuff: regular panorama(s).


That morning, and since the place was relatively quiet, I decided to work out a double panorama (so later I would try, again, doing a panaglyph). Here in the regular part, most of the panoramas that you will see ahead are the right portion, because this was the first panorama to be taken anyway. 

Ikaros Hotel (flat)

The right panorama, or the first one to be taken is special because of the light quality. Both panoramas, anyway, were taken with fluorescent WB; but I guess the magical atmosphere is more apparent in the right panorama rather than the left (second) panorama simply because of the light level and the position of the sun (which was still rising then). To tell the truth, the flat version of the panorama was NOT the first panorama I did stitch, but quite the opposite - it was one of the last ones done. Yet, it is just the "protocol" I guess. The first one to be stitched was in fact a tunnel projection panorama...

Ikaros Loop (tunnel)

The reason that made me jump directly to this projection is, the checkered ground; besides the fact that the nadir (as usual) was something hard to eliminate here. Where there are crossed lines (squares and the like), a flat perspective is not artistic enough!
I was reluctant to work on other projection of this panorama because of the nadir point and the hardships that I already knew will happen to eliminate the parts of the tripod showing in the panorama (something normal in panoramas really). However, I had nothing to lose in fact (except of time on expense of other images), thus I decided to work out a wide view panorama this time (planet projection looked boring!).

Doors and Windows (wide view)

The beauty in Doors and Windows here lies in the vanishing point tendency and the repetitive patterns on left and right; well, the helix stairway disturbed the symmetry a bit but the extension of lines going to the horizon straight are a stronghold. Probably the colors, specially the blue tones, are the magic in this image after all. If the sky was to be obvious in this scene with details in the clouds, I would have probably thought of doing a black and white version of this scene - yet it is something to be tried still!
The hassle in removing in the tripod parts by patching parts of the flooring was, to some extent, successful, despite the apparent disturbance in the ground if you have noticed that already. To patch this part, I had to lasso-select (selecting using Lasso tool in Photoshop) the tripod parts (which formed a semi-trapezoid) and then stretch this selection to make it larger with the same ratio of dimensions. After that, the selection was moved to the area under that space and the tiles were copied from that space and then dropped and minimized according to what's needed. The lines didn't match up exactly (and probably more work was needed with distortion tools at this point) but after all, I have to say this result is far better than previously done. It is always easier to take panoramas on a seamless ground which has patterns that can be cloned out easily prior to the stitch even, but such grounds rarely do make an interesting artistic look! Well, unless, of course, the roof is the one we're talking about.


Typically, the issue with panaglyphs, or panorama anaglyphs were not an easy task with this type of panorama, specially that it's not only a 360o panorama, but a full spherical panorama. This means the arousal of one specific issue: vertical misalignment.

Ikaros Hotel Panaglyph (I)

Notice here in Ikaros Hotel Panglyph (I) how the blue shades (which are supposedly viewed by the right eye with red-cyan glasses) go below the main object; and of course this displacement increase as the distance from the main center of interest (the focal point of the panaglyph) increases. In the beginning I lost hope and thought it can't be done. However, it simply ticked in my mind that the alignment is actually centered around the focal point (at the center of the image) - the plant pot here. This means, I can divide the image into two halves: left and right, and work on solving this problem. After all, it's only a problem of displacement or shifting of perspective; and the Skew transformation was the right tool for this task.

Skewing method around the center of the image.

Ikaros Hotel (Corrected)

The corrected version of the panorama proved somewhat promising with reduced ghosting effect and more reasonable depth just by pulling the "wings" of the panorama up a bit to match their corresponding features. This, however, won't be perfect for all the features in the scene and I do believe that this is natural, even in regular anaglyphs. The important point after all is, to reduce the vertical misalignment as much as possible; and it happened!

Ikaros Loop Panaglyph

The situation was repeated then for the tunnel view panorama, and the same correction was applied even though the situation is a bit tricky here since it is a polar panorama and not a flat, spherical one. Thus, technically, I can't really state that the misalignment was on the vertical axis, but nevertheless, the method worked just fine, to some extent. However, the wide-view projection (Doors and Windows) was the most persistent and despite applying the same method, yet the ghosting effect was not enhanced further as in the ones mentioned here. Probably another type of distortion was due; more investigations are due.


At this occasion I had several trials of QTVRs done, since we are talking about panorama, and panaglyph. As you may know probably, QTVRs are done only with flat panoramas, thus there is no more talk about other projections - but there is a further talk about anaglyph QTVR. 

This QTVR was done smoothly with not much hassle, and the nadir of course (if you can see it) is an added simple logo to the panorama.
At this point, and after doing the first panaglyph (without correction), I got encouraged somehow to do another QTVR and see what will come out. I was sure though that it won't be aesthetic!

As you can see if you rotate for 180o from the starting point (towards the door behind the pillars, opposite the plant pot), you will see that the cut is obvious, as this is the two ends of the original panorama, and the shift between the Red and Cyan made it worse. No surprise here. But then I've worked out around the shifting problem as I've mentioned above (by skewing the panorama) and tried to do the QTVR. I'll put it here for comparison as well...

I'd say the seam line is almost hard to notice with normal view, but it gets obvious when viewed with 3D glasses (red-cyan) - and yet, this is the best it could get I believe. Much better than the previous version at least. 
You might have noticed how the original QTVR is dark a bit with vibrant colors while the other two are light in color. This is normal since the second panorama (for the left eye that is) was taken with a change in light level from the first one, and the court yard was getting much brighter during the second take.
I don't know what to consider an anaglyph QTVR; is it really a 3D environment? or would I call it a 4D environment (supposedly that a QTVR is originally a semi-3D representation of space)? Anyhow, the name is not that important right now nor the philosophy behind it - the experiment just adds a new dimension to my experience...


Click to Enlarge
This week we got the news that our group, BPF, won one of the gold medals in Austria's international photo contest, or the so called Trierenberg Circuit. We have to wait now for July to come to receive our copies of the catalogs, and a ceremony is supposedly to come in October. I'm not sure how the awards are distributed but it's like there are many subcategories and fine details for which gold medals are rewarded. I'm proud to say as well that a number of Kuwaitis (other groups and individuals) did win various gold medals as well in other categories. The full list can be checked out in here
In the meantime, as I'm typing this, my shipment is ready for pick-up; I've ordered some books and items that I might post about here but it's just not the time for this. I do have a plenty of photos that I do need to work out and talk about in the future. I've been pretty busy writing this blog (which I'm trying to finish as early as possible) and my other Arabic Blog which is dedicated to beginners. Despite the fact it's in Arabic, the word flow is not a match for my flow in English when typing this blog post! Anyway, the fact is I'm trying to "arabize" as much as possible to enable those who see foreign languages hard to read (because of many reasons) would be able, as much as possible, to learn. I do have higher level topics like HDR in my mind, but the time for this isn't up yet. Been days now I'm taking 2 laptops (old and new) with me to work just to work on the text for both blogs. Don't know how long this will take, but it is surely better than sitting bored and sick of the maltreatment in this work place...

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