Thursday, May 8, 2014

Secret Spot...

QTVR ahead. Give some time to load and be sure you install QuickTime to view it

My vacation is over, and I'm already dying to start a new one. The summer is hovering over making it harder to breath even at some point. Fasting is putting my down a bit; it's the month of Rajab and like the previous 3 years, I usually start fasting in this month, and if I can, I would add the next month, Sha`ban, to it. Then comes Ramadhan. However tiresome I might get, Ramadhan will always get me down further even though the working hours are shortened.
Anyway, today I'm going to talk a bit about a special place that I planned to shoot in for a year or more even but never had the chance till few weeks back.

Secret Spot

This is not completely a secret spot, but I like to call it so because it is somehow deep and isolate. It is a piece of land from the beach isolated from the rest of the urban features around it with an artificial cliff of rocks. In high tide time, the water level gets really high that it is almost impossible to stand there and work for a long time (even though I did that already in fact!).

Das Licht Der Dunkelheims
The secret spot is not far from this location fair straight and down.

As stated in the image caption, that location isn't far from there. First of all, I paid a visit to the place with my regular intentions to study the location and see what I can do with it. This simple visit paid well with my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens!

Washing Shore
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/8, HDR, ISO100.

My single shot there back that night, Washing Shore, seemed to get the attention of the viewers. I planned it in such a way to make a curvy line leading the viewer from the bottom right corner to the top portion of the image in a curve. Two bad parts here though:
  • The building on the left, which seems to weaken the image for me.
  • The noise and processing later on.
 Because of the temperature, the noise was unavoidable with this HDR image done completely with long exposures (ranging from 8 minutes down to 30 seconds). The final result was some complicated smoothed and sharpened details all over the place, with some banding in the sky (after using Hue/Saturation adjustment layers and Selective Color adjustment layers). I'm still not sure how suitable this would be for printing but I won't be sacrificing money for the time being just for experimentation! 
The most terrifying aspect here was, not surprisingly though, the white balance. I admit; it was my mistake to not use the white balance disk to fix the white balance properly before shooting. I had to relay on many layer masks to adjust the colors in one place rather the others and so on which made it a lengthy work and process.

Seeing how things turned around for this single shot, I've decided to head the week after with somewhat an adventure mood. It's not easy for me to be in that mood, I tell ya! But first things first; I had to check the low tide timing and I was lucky to get it accordingly for the weekend after midnight. The hardest step though was to get down through this rocky slope, which might be an easy task for a sportsman, but not for me, specially in the darkness. Retinitis Pigmentosa hits severely in the darkness.

Mare Lunare

The work began when my feet hit the ground. It wasn't easy as I didn't carry my LED lights and only my bulky flashlight. Also, setting up the tripod and the bulky VR-head on such soft sand was troublesome and did consume a considerable time. I've found out also that the VR-head needed some tightening in some positions as some screws were getting lose! Pretty dangerous working conditions if you ask me - imagine losing one of those small screws in such soft sand!

The Hanging Cliff
(Hour Glass)
The work was done completely using the Bulb mode, and took around two hours. Yes, and all of that was done without having a book to read during these long exposures; which ranged from 2 to 4 minutes. Believe me if I say, going around the tripod in such soft sand is not an easy task, and needless to say that walking around must be done carefully so that the level of the tripod doesn't change while shooting the panorama.
Things went smoothly, but very lengthy (and at some point, pretty boring I have to say!). The rewards were as you can see in Mare Lunare and The Hanging Cliff (Hour Glass), and more to come in few. In somewhat a strange turn of events, the Nadir point wasn't that easy to merge into the panorama but that was fixed in a hurry with some cloning. In fact I had to do some cloning in each panorama projection I've made so far.
Processing-wise, there was a lot to do; really a lot to do. This is because every single RAW file (total 41) in this panorama was checked for the histogram to ensure it's alright histogram-wise at least and no cut in highlights or shadows. All the files were converted to TIFF and the stitching process started from there. The final result in each projection needed also lot of work in Photoshop because the colors needed to be emphasized; the pure output was simply dull with not much strong contrast. Probably you've already noticed the green water surface in the panoramas. To do this, I had to use some layer masks and plenty of delicate work in selecting the water surface only. This is because without any change in the color of the water, one would deem it all as one with the sky. The water itself looked faintly green and hardly noticeable, thus the color cast was increased using Hue/Saturation adjustment layer.


Probably my favorite projection of all, is the tunnel view projection; Skyscope. The texture of the sand acted naturally as a guideline somewhat to the center of the image. Here, specifically, I didn't change the water color cast to make it merge with the sky a bit and form semi-circle. I think adding a third color to this combination of yellow and blue (and bit of magenta is already in the clouds) would make things diverse in a bad way.I've tried, as well, to create a slight twirl in the outside rim of the image to make a feeling of something sucking into the depth of the image (and to do this you have to work in 8bit format rather than 16bit), but the process got complicated and I decided not to waste more time with this.

Planeta Litus

The planet projection of this panorama wasn't much dynamic like its cousin Skyscope, except for some faint clouds lines which somehow acted as field lines around some planet. In case you were wondering about the long white line in all of the panoramas above, this is just a light trail and flare from the lamp posts as it seems. 

Schwimmend am Höll

The last projection in the series is a wide-view projection, Schwimmend am Höll, which appeared to me as a floating island in a surreal view with a sky that seemed like burning in flames. Originally, I've stitched this panorama in a large format (11,000 pixels wide) in order to be cropped later into a suitable size. However, after looking at it for few minutes, it did appear to me as if the sides were essential despite the featureless space there. I think without such space, the look won't be that of a floating island balancing itself on a tip of a hill... am I exaggerating here? Ah well.
Ironically, all of these panoramas were refused from some stock website for "too much processing" - probably these people never heard of something called panoramas ever, and processing is the core of panoramas. Anyway, at the end of my work, the sun was starting to cut out through the horizon and the atmosphere began splashing with violet hues, and I didn't want to miss that chance...

Good Morning Kuwait (VIII)
Rokinon 8mm fisheye, f/8(?), HDR, ISO100.

The exposures ranged from 2 minutes and down for one stop each time till 1 second. This was somehow essential because of the city lights and balancing the atmosphere with these lights is somehow impossible with a single exposure. The final image had strong artifacts caused by chromatic aberrations (one thing that I really hate about Rokinon 8mm in such situations) - but after a tedious work in Photoshop I did somehow reduce the effect of these colored lines at the edges of the buildings.


With this hard work that lasted for two hours, it would be a shame not to do a QTVR for this place, specially that the nadir point was relatively easy to fix.

If you look to the top above (zenith point), you will notice some strange mark in the sky, and the truth I'm not sure what is this either. However, as I didn't really use a zenith slide in the panorama (even though I did take it), probably this mark is the result of cloning the gap in the original flat spherical panorama, which is Mare Lunare. The gap was so small to even think of adding the zenith slide to the whole panorama (and cause a mess to the whole set!).


I keep telling myself that I will be facing my projects soon but I'm not sure how much soon is soon in my own timing. There is Geltani, and IPA check up for Arabic (which is pretty important for me). In the meantime, the nearest thing I could think of right now is at least to try and translate UDHR (Universal Declaration of Human Rights), which is usually used with most languages on Omniglot (both constructed and natural). With that, I would probably do a voice recording to see and examine closely how the (new) conlang of Geltani does sound; needless to say, it is a real test for the transliteration system (or codification so to say) that is to be used or transcribing this conlang as well. Time management is one major leak in my personal life, which is full of leaks already...
On the other hand I've been testing some sounds of Arabic and trying to figure out precisely where my tongue resides in some of them and how the air articulates in and out of my mouth. Well, been acting (more) as a maniac while doing this while driving or being alone in the office. Still I didn't catch the whole concept completely in fact. The major difficulty resides in two letters: [ض] and [ظ], which, sometimes, are both transliterated as "Z" from the fact that many "dialects" of Arabic today do so. The IPA version provided in Omniglot seems to be on the same trend and hence, it's not convincing for me as an Arabic speaker - Yes, I don't speak the standard Arabic in my everyday life, but it is the supposedly lingua franca between all Arabs, and yet, it is the formal and the prestigious form of Arabic for letters, communications, and the media. My other blog is in standard Arabic as well and I cannot ever imagine myself writing something to the public in one dialect of Arabic, and say this is Arabic.


One book is off my list now. The Extraordinary Everyday Photography by Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring is somehow just another version of another book I had before; The Contemplative Photography. It is in fact a mix between contemplative aspects and technical aspects about the camera and some tips and tricks to do some shots. Never the less, I did like reading it, and specially the last few chapters which are related to dusk and dawn, and night photography.
Source: Amazon
Source: Amazon
Source: Amazon
The book on the queue line is Optics and Optical Instruments, which looks from the few pages I've read so far - looks that it is a students' book; and this is good! Exactly what I was looking for. My previous reading about lenses and their design made me somehow in a status of stalemate; I couldn't comprehend much of what was there, specially the mathematics involved. It is an engineering book of the advanced type which requires some background. However, Optics and Optical Instruments might look old from the shape of the graphics in it (obviously handwritten) but so far so good with the body of text. But that doesn't mean consuming the context is going to be an easy task, specially without someone forcing me to "study" so to say.
Away from books, I've been carrying a load; a load of emotions and responsibilities. Probably more of the former than the latter. I'm taking it seriously in my mind now to spend a vacation, a real one, abroad. Ireland for a third time is in my mind as well. Not sure when exactly but the usual timing would be between September and October if I can. I have to settle things down first, and inform everyone about my plans so they would prepare to take care of Mom. My mind is fluctuating between a new location or visiting the first location I've been to back in 2009. I think the latter is my choice for now, because I have better equipments now, and I don't want to miss the beauty of Lough Corrib (Loch Coirib).
I'm starting to feel numb to almost everyone now. Asking myself, why should I care...

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