Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wara Malta…

Here I am. After some long journeys and so much fuss and hassle in life! I think there's so much to be talking about right now, specially that I didn't write any blog posts when I was in Malta (from September 27th until October 8th), but thanks to my laptop, I couldn't do that and now many things and many details escaped my mind. However, processing images and some panoramas is ongoing.
I have to say that I didn't get into the maximum of my efforts in Malta, specially after being struck with a serial bad luck, starting with my laptop stopping to function in what it seemed back then to be a short circuit in the motherboard. Luckily I had my tablet to do some of my business and when I did a search about this problem it seemed that most people suffered from this problem owned a DELL like me! And it is noted that most likely it is a motherboard problem. However, when I got back to Kuwait, the laptop worked just fine as nothing happened at all! I'm still trying to figure out what was going on exactly and learn, so I can avoid this problem in the future! Malta's and Kuwait's electricity are almost the same (230V for Malta and 240V for Kuwait, and both run on 50Hz). It sure gave me a hard time, but thanks to the owners of Dar ta' Żeppi who allowed me to use a laptop to transfer my files from the camera to my external hard disk.
I'm not sure what came over me but something out there turned my ambitious venture around and made me dormant. In fact, I didn't go to the typical tourists attraction in Malta, and specifically in the island of Gozo (Maltese: Għawdex), and I had just my share of walks in the narrow roads of il-Qala, the town where I was staying. The weather is nice but it's not as cold as Ireland in October; a typical Mediterranean weather. Thus, walking around had its toll on my body. In fact, I was literally "climbing" in some of these roads!


As you can see in the video, this is just an example of some portion of the roads. There were scenic views however. The owners did indeed offer me a ride to some of these tourists attractions but I was on hibernating mode and all I could think of is relaxation. I got tired of carrying my gear with me wherever I go, hence after few days I've totally abandoned the idea of doing panoramas out of the periphery of the B&B. I took strolls like in this video above, simply carrying my camera and 2 lenses maximum (typically the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, and Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 fisheye). In the beginning I was wandering around with my full gear (plus the VR-Head for panoramas) but it proved to be a killer specially in such roads. Not only you will get tired going up a road walking but also going down from the same route because you will need some power and force (while you're exhausted already) to brake your body and avoid falling down!

Is-Sema li Jaqgħu
(the falling sky)
Canon EF 15mm fisheye, f/9, 18m, ISO100.

Beside regular shots and panoramas there were infrared trials of course. I wasn't always lucky in this matter in fact (seems luck was always down in Malta!). I tried to take an infrared shot with my Rokinon 8mm fisheye lens in front of Kbir Qaddis Ġużeppi church, but the wind direction was always driving the clouds away from the scene giving me at the end a clear sky (those exposures took around 40 to 42 minutes!). I might though work on those later, but probably the best infrared shot I've taken was done with my Canon EF 15mm fisheye lens (the one I usually use for panoramas as well); Is-sema li jaqgħu. The clouds here served me well but the composition isn't quite right and somewhat "barren."  The sun provided a strong flare and had to be cropped out as well. For infrared shots with Rokinon fisheye lens (which has no socket at the back like the Canon EF 15mm fisheye), I've decided to do it the hard way by sticking it using a duct tape to the back of the lens. It is a long process and wastes time but I think it is worthy after all, specially with exposures lasting for long time like this. 

Fuq L-Għolja
(above the hill)
Sigma 70-300mm @300mm,
f/20, 4s, ISO100.
I didn't have to wander off far away just to snap some shots anyway. Some of the brilliant shots (to me at least) were snapped from the top of Dar ta' Żeppi itself. I noticed from the top of the roof how people are dependent on solar energy! However, I have to say that the lighting in the place was not giving me any easy time with my eyes. With this I have to say I'm not very optimistic about adapting to this technology! 
On the roof, I've waited specifically for the sunset time and I did take a lot of shots that need to be processed and checked for further manipulation. The one like Fuq L-Għolja was shot after the sun disk disappeared below the horizon. One thing I feel sorry for here is the fact that the sun disk was not going exactly behind the church (Nadur church here) but beside it. However, I did snap a lot of shots which I might work slowly on them later on after finishing essential key images.

Panorama-wise, I didn't wander off far to do them. The furthest point at which I did a panorama was at the piazza in front of Kbir Qaddis Ġużeppi church (a landmark of Qala town). Even though I processed this panorama (and I've planned it in 3D anaglyph format) but I'm still perplexed about its arrangement and is it really good enough to be a 3D image. In the meantime, I've worked on the rest, specially those taken inside Dar ta' Żeppi, mainly for writing a review in TripAdvisor, and to send a smaller version of those to the owners as a little gift. I doubt I will make any prints this time. To myself, two panoramas were really interesting for me.

Kamra tal-Banju
(the Bathroom)

One of these panoramas is Kamra tal-Banju, which had a dark atmosphere with those yellowish energy-saving lamps on the wall. I was baffled in the beginning whether I should do this panorama in daytime or nighttime (because of the window which leaks daylight into the bathroom). In fact, in daytime, the view is brighter to my eyes without even using the wall lamps. However,I've decided to do this one at night and depend on the wall lamps to make the lighting unique and avoid patterns of light on the walls. Thanks to the HDR technique, I was able to elaborate this more and also thanks to my white balance disk, I've calibrated the white balance before the work resulting in (almost) pure white tiles with brighter look.

(the horizon)

Probably the most brilliant panorama for me so far is the one taken from the roof (and in non-conventional panoramic way!). L-Orizzont was shot using my Sigma 70-300mm lens @225mm. No VR-Head was used here since it is not about doing a 360° but it's about catching a moment in the horizon and to show the elevations of hills and valleys against the bright horizon. The shoot was, of course, done in HDR technique, which allowed a lot of control. However, the sun disk was problematic that's instead of cropping it out (and the panorama then was already cropped after adjusting the tilt), I've cloned it out. In order to increase the contrast (after increasing it already with Curves and Vibrance layers), I've decided to add a Photo Filter layer to add a bluish streak, specifically to the lower part of the panorama and hence making a contrast on the basis of Complementary Colors (Blues and Yellows are at opposite ends on the color wheel).
L-Orizzont makes me feel happy when I look at it. In its original format, this panorama is 6.5 meters wide (~256in). I do wish if I can make a print of it in that size one day instead of shrinking it to few centimeters in one of those miserable exhibitions we have here.


That was briefly what was it like in Malta. Many details and events I've skipped actually, trying to keep it to the point. Strangely though I've got struck with some tearing feeling of loneliness more than I usually get when I travel alone. I get that feeling often, but not like this. For some days I was really pushing myself and forcing myself to go out and at least enjoy the weather (a weather type seldom I experience here in Kuwait). There had been few days when all I desired was to lay in bed and watch TV, specially music channels. They played a great variety to my liking. One of these songs got stuck in my mind up till this very moment.
It's a trip that made me shuffle my mind about many things and re-think of many things. It would be some time until I can go ahead and continue with whatever is there of unfinished projects in my list, but hopefully I've persist on. One thing I can't deny for sure, and that is, my life is such a great mess… I even can't imagine myself traveling again any time soon…

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