Thursday, March 9, 2017

Mental Stack…

Finishing with February, and now March begins with the typical pressure and stress for the many activities I must get involved in. Now after the ending of the Italian Style contest, I think it is OK to post my work here. Beside that I've been busy with February's project, as well as working with March's project. Adding to that, a Comic Con expo which we got involved in, and submitting images and orchestrating our participation in Austria's International Photography Contest (Trierenberg Circuit). Just reading these titles makes me feel exhausted already.

Settimana Italiana

I've talked previously about this contest related to the Italian Style Week (or simply Italian Week). Every participant is allowed one image into the contest. I've posted one 3D rendering of a shot some weeks ago in this blog (in B&W) but nothing more I think, so I'm going to post more shots from a single place in which I've worked for this contest: The Scandinavian House. Well, despite the name, it does have Italian furniture!

A Game of Scopa

First comes my participation image. It was the first thing to work on as I got in, and I've spent quite a time to center and put on some props (clothing and Scopa cards), and by mistake, I've placed a traditional rosary (for men) behind the vase which made it mostly invisible from that angle. The image didn't win anyway, probably because that Italian elements are not prominent in it. Anyway, the work is still going on to render more projections out of this panorama, which I might post more of in this blog later on.

Planeta Scopa

Moreover, later after shooting this panorama, I've wandered around to see any opportunities. Just recently, I've discovered a shot that I've made with my converted camera without using any filters, which I've neglected previously for its lack of interest and other technical problems. However, I noticed that I've shot it a number of times and with some shift in perspective, which sparked the idea of creating an anaglyph out of it. Which I did!

Il Vaso (3D)

The white balance here was fixed during the edit which rendered the colors back to normal (almost) as if it was taken with a regular camera. It is a hard task to make a concrete anaglyph using a fisheye lens, thus some ghosting effect is still obvious at some areas, but probably focusing on the edge of the vase or the rosary would pop the effect out.
Another shot was taken raising my Rokinon 8mm fisheye high up above a long table, being on a tripod itself. Took several shots to pick one from and then the shot undergone a distortion fix process with DxO. Not quite to my liking though, but I tried hard to keep some lines straight and the bowl round perfectly but that didn't go well it seems. Yet the shot was too simple and I didn't submit it to the contest of course. It might serve as a concept for minimalism though!

I Biscotti

Then there is the previously posted in 3D shot, which I've re-processed from a single RAW this time. Looking at it right now, I wish that I've shot it with my Canon EF 50mm at f/1.4 or f/2.8 at least to have more of a blurred background. However, I've this shot using Voigtländer 20mm, at its widest aperture at f/3.5. Good perspective and sharpness (even though manually checked), but the background needs more blurring to reduce the distraction away from the glassware. I did crop a large portion from the sides just to reduce the distraction and balance the image more (but not perfectly).


In all, this might be all that have been interesting for me in this place. Now, I'm busy working with other projects still and preparing many other things.


February (Feabhra) was the month of the national days (Independence and Liberation days) on 25th and 26th. For this reason, the project for this month was to be about Kuwait in general. To roll back the memory a bit, our group now had established an activity with this year's beginning, by picking a topic (sometimes by vote) for every month, and members involved in this activity must shoot from 1 to 3 images in that picked up theme.

بلداً آمنا (Safe Place)
Canon EF 50mm, f/2, 250-1sec, ISO160.

Flag of Kuwait
My first trial for this project was with my mother and her colored rosary resembling the flag of Kuwait. I needed an old hand to resemble the old age which, for the time being, is often attached (mentally) to wisdom and faith; beside the fact that the rosary is hers given as a gift! I've taken several shots (and had some struggles with my speedlite). At the end I've picked this shot. In all shots, I was setting the focus point at the Arabic word [آمنا: safe] and as I was changing the angles to see a better view, the word just vanished from sight at times. However, I've struggled to satisfy myself with the depth of field, and finally decided to settle with f/2 here. The critical point though came after, when friends brought my attention to the fact that the rosary is encircling the specific phrase in the page (with a meaning almost the opposite of what I wanted in the line above); which delivers a meaning not what I really wanted in the first place. Anyway, now I've been busy with other things and I have no time to re-shoot this, but if need be, and if required after the critique, I might shoot it again.

Kuwait Print
Canon EF 50mm + ET, f/22, 250-1sec, ISO100.

My next shot was inspired by a logo. A logo which was used for the Martyrs Bureau; an institution which was established after 1990-1991 war to take care of the affairs of martyrs of Kuwait and their families. The logo was composed for a fingerprint sketch colored with the flag's colors. I've used face-painting colors here on my brother's index finger, and though I did a random sketch and splashing, it did seem appropriate to have a more organized set of colors (which he did paint later on). The  real struggle was with the bulky tripod and lens (with extension tubes). To add to my frustration, I've added a rail to the tripod, while pointing the camera 90o down (I wanted my brother to place his finger on a table top so his muscles would be relaxed). I thought of doing a focus-stack in the beginning but shooting at f/22 seemed just about enough (using one speedlite on the side). Even though I do own a simple LED ring light, but when it comes to f/8, its maximum power is barely enough, not to say at f/22! Thus, I needed to use a speedlite with its maximum power or so, at a close distance. Modifiers here were hard to use so I had to depend on changing the direction of the speedlite and play with its power a bit to get a proper exposure (with the help of the processing power for RAWs!). Looking at it now, I think I should have made it in portrait orientation instead.

Kuwait Eye
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 1/2sec, ISO400.

Source: B&H
The last one in the list was the real puzzle. Using a high power flash made the flag's reflection disappear from the eye, while reducing the power did not help with the exposure (and eventually would need a longer exposure in parts of a second and that caused shake). In the beginning, my brother was my subject, and I used his iPad to reflect the flag from it on the eye, but he couldn't cope for long with the strong flash strikes. Thus, my sister took his place. Using light modifiers didn't help either. It was obvious that I needed to take the shot with ambient light and without using any speedlite but that was hard because of the shake. By trial and error, I've finally got a somewhat better view using the RoundFlash and raising the ISO. It was a compromise, since the reflection of the light ring did fall on the eye as well (naturally) beside the flag. Up till this very moment, I'm thinking about fixing this problem but no solution occurred to me yet. Many people insist that such effect is in fact a graphic editing, but I'm sure there is a way to do it (beside having the subject wear a contact lens with specific design, which is a harder option for me of course). I'll keep thinking about that and we'll see what will be the result!


Now, many things are weighing on my shoulders; at home, work, and the group. It seems to me that those psychological tricks to do things one by one and not thinking about the overall load - seems these tricks are not working with me here. I'm slowly saying goodbye to winter, which is a sad time for me actually.
Our group is participating in a Comic-Con expo for 3 days and I will be there helping other members for some time, so I might document the event; If I had the mood to. For the time being, I have to keep thinking of some more ideas for March project: Geometry via birds, fishes or fruit. Quite challenging, but I have some ideas already. The real challenge now is actually doing these ideas and having the materials available! I'm trying to keep my mind busy here; as busy as possible. But I'm not sure I would be able to hold that for long…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

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