Thursday, September 4, 2014

Selfies Galore...

My vacation date is getting closer now. It seems some relief in the air. Next week, however, schools are supposed to be starting, which means we are back to the daily congestion. I have to deal with this for one week at least before I start my leave from work on the 14th, and with the start of this leave, I have to keep on preparing myself for the flight on the 29th. Meantime, I've been reckless with work a bit, specially in days when humidity was striking. If my workplace doesn't care about my well-being, I have to take care of myself somewhat I guess? Got to say though, I'm spending most of this time in sleeping more instead of doing something with some of my projects!

Good Galore

Some good news have been visiting me lately. Well, kind of needed such news in some long time ago. I even did notice a change in my general attitude just by "some" good news. I wonder what would happen with lot of news of that type, how my life in general would be?
Anyway, the first item of news is about the struggle going on in Iraq - yes, I have nothing directly involved about it, but I'm so sick of these groups who push nations back to block zero again and again. This time accompanied with atrocities as well. Iraq is full of history, and for someone with passion for Archaeology, these events and the destruction of many religious and historical places by barbarians like those did give me a shock as well as melancholy. Now the tide is turning as it seems, with the break of Amerli siege, and things look promising despite the political turmoil that still go on. In fact, it is one more reason to make me believe that in the Middle East, a so-called democratic system never works - people always believe in the leadership of one man. Parliaments are always a place for struggles and paralysis.
Anyway, with the second item of good news. One day I've received a surprising email from the Trierenberg Circuit, the committee responsible for Austria's International Photocontest, to inform me about picking one of my images (and another image for another member in the group as well) - picking it for the luxurious edition of a coffee table book, with limited number (500 copies worldwide). The winning image for this honor was the surreal panorama Ludendorffs Wirklichkeit.

Screen Shot from the email sent to me.
Click to Enlarge

Ludendorffs Wirklichkeit

Seems I made a mistake originally by placing an apostrophe as I can tell from their email to me! Anyway, as far as I remember, genitive case in German doesn't use ('s) as in English. Ah well. Who cares by now!
Now to get a copy of this edition I have to pay and so I did, and I asked to change the delivery to my UK mailbox (which is a first time for me actually, mostly I deal with the US one). This is in hope that I will get it faster that the regular mail as we didn't get the catalogs made for Austria's contest itself until now (after news that it will be here by July or August). The post services here suck big time and might even destroy the shipment without informing. Praise the service. Thus, the only guarantee for me to track it is using an external mailbox (and pay extra).

More Selfies

As I didn't have much to do lately, all I could think of is do more selfies (self portraits). In fact, my room is still a mess as I'm typing this and I'm way too lazy to recollect the gear. I'm thinking that I might get some idea to do at any moment.

Source: B&H
Anyway, I've been mainly trying to use some of the Impact Syl Arena light modifiers just to accustom myself with the way light is formed. I have to say it was hard to work and imagine  - probably because I don't have background in portrait anyway! - but I've found myself mostly using the Bulb diffuser. Most the images taken were kind of useless, but I tried to manipulate some of them anyway with the RAW editor, by fixing the exposure. Well, some of them turned interesting!
One of the things that really frustrated me is the inability to work on specific spots (like doing dodge and burn) in the RAW editor. I'm wondering why didn't they put that option? Or, is my RAW editor that old? I can't even remember its version...
Anyway, in a spur of some "madness" I decided to hit the Exposure value to the max and the result as you can see on the right, and seems like I like it that way! It has some "sketchy" quality to it, as if it was done by colored pencils I'd say. I can't remember which modifier was used here but most probably it was the beauty dish.
Source: B&H
As I've mentioned before, I've used mostly the bulb diffuser. I like this particular diffuser because of its resemblance to a real bulb, and it also provides the feathering that I need. However, when I think of it, I always think of it as a secondary light and rarely as a prime one (i.e. aiding and not key). The image on the left here is not a high-key attempt at all (it's wrong anyway!); it was simply using the bulb from the top with another light from below (or bounced). It was dark, till I manipulated it in the RAW editor. Now in conclusion, it seems that Syl Arena modifiers do indeed work best when ON camera, or at least this is how it felt for me. When I compare those with Expoimaging Rogue modifiers, I would say that Expoimaging set offers more flexibility when it comes to moving the light around and providing diffusion, Meanwhile, Syl Arena's kind of require a direct impact, face to face, and sometimes extra power (with distance and specifically with beauty dish). Right now, though, I do like using the Bulb diffuser in the Syl Arena set to light the hair.

Source: B&H
Just before I finish experimenting I decided to try the RoundFlash modifier. This is the first time to try it out with a long lens like Sigma 70-300mm here. In combination with the bulb diffuser it proved to be good somehow for softening shadows in general, but still I did need some work in the RAW editor (despite the high ISO, like the other images too). Seems that the RoundFlash is the best to add some light to the eyes somehow but I would need more work to get the light done properly. It seems that another speedlite is due at such situations, but I'm not thinking about it right now. If there is a real need for it, it would be using it for High-Speed shots, which for me, is more important than doing portraits! If only I can get some help, I would be using snoots properly directed to the eyes. In case you wonder why I concentrate much on it - well, for me, the eyes are all what portraits are about.

Since nothing worked perfectly as I wanted it to be, I decided to have some fun with one of the shots that didn't work out well. This is, of course, by some Photoshop manipulations. Agony didn't work out because of the bad light ratio (and position) between highlights and shadows. However, since I've been playing with the others, I've decided to play with this one and this time extend it further to Photoshop. In Photoshop, the usual fangs edit was done and some work then with Liquify command to enlarge the mouth and re-shape it and dislocate the nose and eyes a bit. Not quite satisfied with the fangs though and wish they were more "fierce" and standing out further.


Tick Tock. I'm counting every tick in the clock waiting for the 14th to start my vacation. My growing sickness of work is becoming unbearable and I'm throwing everything behind my back, despite the sensitive situation I've been placed in at work. Once I start it, I have to get on with preparations for my travel.
Meanwhile, the domestic front doesn't seem quite well, as always. Sometimes I can't help it but to stop and think "why am I alive?" It's like my purpose is just to help others (and how I wished to get some help back at times). I'm thinking and measuring the consequences to enroll in some M.Sc. program (again) after abandoning the idea for some years since my graduation. This time I'm thinking of something else other than Physics and Archaeology (which I tried to pursue outside). This is just to "do" something about my life and nothing else. Probably that way I can forget loneliness...

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