Thursday, December 31, 2015

Firsts of 2015…

Been a long week (by feeling that is). I can't wait to get my share of holidays; well just one day for the new year, but it's worthy. I've been having sleeping problems again but this time because issues with the retracting health. Despite all of that, I did have some fun with my camera and I'm trying to come up with more ideas to work with it.


Source: Amazon
As I am close to finishing my last photography book in hand at the moment with few pages left to read (in fact cutting out reading it to type these words), I've decided to work on some tiny project 2 weeks ago when I was around the beginning of the book. I didn't post the images in my previous post because they were not processed and not ready. However, I had to change my initial plans drastically for the time being, until I find a suitable set of Chess. Yep, Chess.
Those who know me well, probably know that I hate chess (and checkers); not my typical games for fun. Anyway, I had an idea I wanted to imply which consists of showing a contrast between luck and planning, or maybe you can call it: Fortune and Strategy. I'm thankful to my friend who provided me with a chess set which he got as a present from Iran. Anyway, found out that the chess set is not the typical set as I wished, but the pawns were small miniatures made of metal. The board, though, was beautifully intricate with oriental design. I didn't want to say No to the chance!

Last One Standing
Canon EF 50mm + ET 12mm, f/10, 320-1sec, ISO100.

I have to say, though, that setting up the gear and the set is much of a hurdle! For this reason, and after setting up everything, I left the scene or set as it is and continued the work on several days, trying to find a new perspective in every day visiting the scene along a 3-day period. I've made many shots but probably 2 or 3 were to my liking, like Last One Standing above or Battlefield below. In Last One Standing, and due to the proximity to the set, I had to switch to extension tubes which cause a shift in the focal point of the lens to help the photographer get even closer (and zoom further as well).

Canon EF 50mm, f/7.1, 320-1sec, ISO100.

The general activity is in fact to help me understand flashes more (and I didn't use them in a long time). Thus, there was a plenty of changing positions for the flashes (580EX II and 430EX II) and switching between TTL (Through The Lens) and Manual work. In fact, I find most professionals advice with using TTL mode except in few delicate situations (few of them depend completely on manual mode). Despite the easiness when working with TTL, I've found myself more inclined to switch to manual when my work starts to involve 2 flashguns. Anyway, I started to follow the advises and build up the lighting in the scene one step at a time with test shots (many of them!).

The lighting diagram approximately (the camera as at an angle with the flashgun on the left, and the reflector was closer to the table)

As I was building my lighting setup, one of the points I kept in mind is how to reduce the usage of flashes by re-distributing the beam using reflectors. The reflector I used here is not the "real" professional one, but simply a car shade (cut into half). This reflector is essential to reduce the harshness of the shadows, even though I did raise the 580EX above the tabe level a bit to get a softer touch (a process called "feathering"). Finally, I decided that I needed an overall increment in exposure, specially to light the topmost parts of the pawns. Thus I used the 430EX wrapped in a flag (black modifier) and pointed it up to bounce it off the ceiling. The flag of course is essential to block light coming to the scene. This last addition was put on full power as the ceiling was a bit high up (the table was low-level). As for the camera settings, I've found myself prone to use high-speed or HSS and that means a speed over sync speed. Despite the general low ambient light level, the background was not dim enough and it happened that the flash power in HSS mode was just perfect. It's not necessary to use HSS mode ONLY for moving and freezing objects you know! After all, the depth of field was the main decision-maker and I had to depend extensively on viewing the scene by pressing the DOF button; Not only to ensure the main figure is within range completely, but also to have a nice background blur (not too fuzzy, not too sharp). My main idea was to have a golden atmosphere as to add warmth to the scene (better than the cold look of the metallic pieces). Thus, I've switched the WB to manual and set it at 10,000K (Flash WB would balance the flashgun output only).

The Stand

My last trial was inspired by my brother who helped me with shooting a series from above the set (using the same diagram above but without the flashgun pointing up). Unfortunately, that series wasn't to my liking but I'm still viewing it from time to time and try to extract a good shot from it. My brother suggested that I would capture the set as you see above in The Stand; to have the focus on the far end instead of the near end as in Last One Standing and Battlefield. Here though, and because of the angle of view and the distance I've positioned my camera in, I've thought of using the stacking method. more than 33 shots were taken while moving the camera backward for 1mm at a time. Unfortunately, the initial position for the soldier here didn't help to put it on focus in the beginning (might look good in a small size version but not the original). I ended up using only a fraction of that collection (probably 10). This roll back of the camera also helped in shaping the blurred figure better (if the soldier is in focus, the other pawns in front of the camera are way too blurred to have any recognizable details). Well, that was the last experiment here and I had to pack my stuff after that… such a tedious process!


 As 2015 is about to end, I've decided to have a little fun and look back at the pictures I've taken this year. It would need a long time to go through and study back my own work for the whole year and find out my mistakes to learn from them. However, I decided to look for the first things I've done this year.

Cold Fire

I remember Cold Fire was taken when the family was gathering outside when the weather was nice in February (yep, not January). I'm not sure what I was aiming at exactly or what was the initial idea (yes, initial ideas can change in my mind and be something else like the chess experiment above).

BPF in Al-Hamra Tower

Then we have the first panorama done this year: A panorama inside Al-Hamra Tower with BPF group as we were doing a workshop there. It was such an architectural attraction. I wished though no people were around but I had to do it that way. Still a delight to my own eyes. The first panorama this year was stitched in May.

The list ends with the first QTVR, which was done from a panorama taken inside a summer photography gallery by the end of August The panorama and QTVR were done in the last day of the exhibition (which was so quiet back then).

Then, we have the first infrared shot which was a simple setup for a simple idea and using a single flashgun (580EX): Esir. Many shots of this set and many processing methods were done to the photos but probably this edit is my favorite. The infrared filter used here is the circular B+W filter with a threshold of 650nm (weak filter allowing some visible spectrum in the reds to pass).

By this, the list ends. I can't think of "first" stuff to add here for the time being but each shot is typically a new thing for me which makes me think and try to find something new about it. There is some UV shots made but they were all experiments and not quite favorable; they do need a converted camera for real!
I'm currently busy with a workshop in HSS and probably I would share some results here by next week if I could process the images I've taken. It's quite a fun time away from home with some group members doing things together and having a laugh.

I wish for dear readers a happy new year and a more peaceful one than 2015 was. Also, one with low prices as well and more simplicity to our lives. Though I don't usually make resolutions for new years (as it is something that doesn't belong to my own culture) but probably if I was to make a resolution probably it would be to have a simpler life, and courage to work more with my camera.

Happy New Year
Bliain Nua Sásta
كل عام وانتم بخير

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