Thursday, March 10, 2016


Saying "Exhausted" is not enough to fulfill the description of the current situation. At some point, I thought I would need some dose of adrenaline, and some Prozac at other times, just to get me through the past 2 weeks.
Rolling over many ideas, I kept my gear and camera scattered around the place, and that would require one day indeed to be collected back again. Some ideas were simple, but I was hoping to get through the project with something acceptable.

Spotting Red

Many props and items have been purchased or improvised trying to establish some ideas for some photos. I have to say that this project, The Color Red, was beneficial at some point for making my mind run wild and made me connect to my world; trying to express feelings by using the power of still life and setups. Something I rarely do in fact.

Broken Love (I)
The first thing to do was to repeat the rose and ice heart experiment according to recommendations given by the leader of the group. The new instructions involve removing the random petals and including the rose into the ice mold. That proved to be challenging somewhat, since the rose went afloat and froze just like that. Breaking the ice mold (resembling a broken heart) caused the rose itself to "break!" You can see that clearly in Broken Love (I). The rose being afloat was not a good "view," so to say. Thus, there was a third (and a final) trial.

Frozen (I)
Frozen (II)
The last trial involved doing layers of ice to stabilize the rose inside the mold. This was done in two days of time by pouring a layer of water and wait for it to freeze, then pour another layer and wait for it to freeze and so on till the pan or cast is filled (almost). I had to compromise here with the idea of freezing a boiling water (to make a transparent ice) as I did in the previous 2 trials. However, the shape and the translucence of the mold was even better that way! I liked it shape so I snapped several shots as it is without breaking it first as can be seen in Frozen (I,II). I had to break the mold then to mimic the main idea in mind…


Breaking the mold was a challenge by itself. This is because the ice was formed into layers and not frozen all as once piece. This made cracking the ice out of uniformity and was hard to be done in a soft and easy way like the previous trials. Had to hammer so hard and then collect the scattered blocks into one position trying to make a heart shape (somewhat!). At this point I've removed the plastic piece underneath the block (which I used to give some reflections); this would help keep the blocks stable and not easy to slide off the table. I cropped the final image in somewhat panoramic format to give more direction for the water (blood) coming out of the heart.

Murder (II)

A friend of mine then suggested to change the colors (in fact he was pointing out to doing the experiment all over again), making the heart red if possible. Hence, I thought of using the typical channel swap method which is usually used in infrared photography, where the Red and Blue channels of the image are swapped. However, upon inspection by the leader of the group, Murder was favored more (probably for its calm atmosphere). According to him, this can go into contests as well. I'm happy that I've finally made something!

愛 (love)

The "Red" project didn't stop at that point still though. I kept on trying to do more ideas. Many ideas proved problematic, and more problematic even was to spend valuable time trying to achieve them instead of skipping to other ideas on the queue. Painting strawberries, for example, was one of those ideas which I've abandoned for good (but came back later in another form as will be shown). The next idea on the line was simple: a mother and daughter writing the word "love" in Chinese. I chose that word specifically for its duality: it is the word for "love" and it has a radical for "heart" used in it. You can see above that the word "heart" is painted in red. Well, my writing wasn't that good specially that the brush used is not calligraphic in nature (Chinese calligraphy uses special kind of brushes and special types of inks). Anyway, I used the help of my sister and her daughter to show their hands with the brushes as seen above. Setting the speedlites was a hurdle, as I was trying to depend on camera settings and light setting as much as possible to approximate the scene to a high-key. I've reflected 2 speedlites on the sides off large white surfaces (papers or so) while a third speedlite was held in one hand with a "bulb" diffuser. Lot of work had to be done in Photoshop though, to fix the colors and contrast and also flip my niece's hand to make it a left hand (but the edit was a fail and the I uploaded the original as it is to stock sites). The image anyway did not pass the sorting process, but it was accepted in a number of stock sites.

Artificial Nature
I stopped for a while from the project Red, and chose to work with something else. I thought I was over with it back then but I got struck with some idea, but it involved editing more than just mere photography. However, the concept is the same one I was thinking about with strawberries before, and in fact I was looking for strawberries first, but then I realized working with apples is more appealing because of the larger size. The idea about the food consumption in our modern world and how it is "edited" with genetics. Without going into the details of the make of such "design" but opinions were mixed between a pro and a con about this edit. Personally, I do feel there is something missing but I can't put my finger on it yet.
The funny thing about this shoot though is the improvised "cube" or "tent" for lighting. Three large white surfaces (or hard papers, or whatever) were placed as a background and on two sides, while placing 2 halves of a car shade on the top and at bottom. Using only two 580EX II speedlites and each one of them is pointing to the opposite side, the lighting was good enough and almost similar to that of a cube or a tent usually used for product photography. The idea is to bounce the light from one surface to another just like the beams inside the microwave would do. That way, the scene is supposed to be lighted from all directions.

Side Dishes

In between those "red" photos, there were some older ideas were put on queue to be done. Specifically, some ideas related to the marbles' images I've done before. As suggested by a friend, an image of an eye reflected into the glass marble would be a better idea. For this idea, I was going to use my brother to sit behind the marble, but a better idea and more stable one was to use my laptop as a background.

They Are Watching…
The drawback here was the inability to fit the eye image to be completely full screen, and because of that some white lines appear on its sides. I've simply loaded the image into Photoshop and put the window on full screen. I had to use some extra stack on the top of the keyboard and then put the marble on top of the that stack, upon an acrylic sheet I usually use for reflections. This was essential as the keyboard was getting into the final image and this was undesirable.
In the beginning I was trying to fit the marble or the whole scene into the frame but then I realized a crop is inevitable.In fact, adding more space to the image and cropping later would give more flexibility in terms of design and placement for the marble and its reflection. In the editing phase, despite cleaning that sheet, I had to work for long time on cleaning the area below the marble.

They Are Watching (II)…
As I was working I had this idea of doing an inversion into an inversion. That is, inverting the eye image, and then inverting the image while processing it in Photoshop. When that was done, I've rotated the image for 180 degrees upside down. Why? Not sure. But it looked more pleasant that way. However, the overall look still not so appealing, probably because of the blue and black combination. The eye reflection here is also weak and somewhat lost despite the simplicity of the image. I'm eager to show the first to be sorted, but not the second! I'm sure the second would not have any chances.

Another side dish was served to me on Wednesday is when I got the news for the arrival of my second camera (finally!). It is another EOS 7D which I purchased from a friend and then sent it to LifePixel for conversion to a full-spectrum; That is, supposedly capturing infrared and ultraviolet spectra. Just as a simple test, I've tried this selfie while standing next to a glass door allowing the sun to come in, and also using the on-camera flash to quicken the shutter speed a bit (at ISO400). Interestingly, as I was working on LiveView (essential for focusing precisely), with the absence of clear IR sources (e.g. sun, flash), the scene would be as it is in normal images (i.e. the shot is not reddish). My initial position was in front of a mirror with CFL lamp on top, and since such lamps do not issue any significant IR radiation (and has a coating inside that blocks UV), the image in the LiveView was plain normal. The IR influence did not appear in a clear way until I moved near the glass door. More ventures need to be explored in that field, specifically when it comes to panoramas. The selfie you see here is plain and direct from camera RAW without any modification (except for resizing of course).


Many things are going and racing through my mind, which makes me more serious about having a vacation away from my camera a bit. However, having a vacation from my camera doesn't mean not, supposedly, stopping the experiments. I do have special concerns as I plan to jump further with my panorama processing, and I'm thinking seriously of putting my relatively-new Voigtländer 20mm f/3.5 lens into work with panoramas, and my initial checking tells that I wouldn't have to re-calibrate my VR-Head for this new combination of camera-lens. It needs time for further testing and inspecting and check that no parallax-error or minimal parallax-error is achieved with this lens without re-calibrating the whole set. If re-calibrating is required, I might give up the idea. The reason for going after this, is my belief that the optics quality is better with this lens more than my common and usual Canon EF 15mm lens. Another testing series should check for the amount of chromatic aberrations. In my previous shots like 愛 (love), which was shot with the 20mm Voigtländer at f/18, the aberrations were somewhat visible on close inspection. However, the final say is to be told only by direct comparison between the two lenses taking shots for the same scene under the same circumstances. On the other hand, I need to look after possibilities of doing HDR shots with my newly-converted camera, as well as shooting panoramas as I do with my normal camera.
I'm not sure when I would carry all these plans, because I'm thinking of resting for a while for real and try to organize my life all over again. Well, I think I'm failing at this already but I might do something at least. Heck, just thinking of my gear which I need to pack back into the proper places I get a shiver down my spine! It is not only the camera that is giving me some stressful times, but everything else around me seems to be doing so. I can almost swear that if I was a brick, I could have been cracked or smashed already for such amount of mental stress. Anyway, who cares… and I'm trying not to care, the best to my capability…

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