Thursday, April 6, 2017

V and V…

Sickness had rendered me idle for the past week (still) and other matters kept me busy from writing in this blog. Meanwhile, I'm also trying to find a good topic to write about in my Arabic Blog. Not much had been going on,, except of some trials with vine leaves, and some videos. Yes, videos.


On the same lane as Pearology in the previous post, I was doing some experiments with vine leaves as part of March project with the group. I didn't post these images last time so I think now it is the time. My start, as usual was experimental, as I did not plan anything but I was sure that special filters like IR or UV do have something to offer; after all, foliage is the main target to set white balance (usually) when performing landscape IR shots.

Canon EF 100mm Macro + 092 IR, f/16, 250-1sec, ISO100.

My beginnings were random in fact. It is usually advised to examine the object with a magnifying lens before doing a macro job, but as usual with me I just rush things and "experiment" whatever there is to be offered. My start with Veins was to place a transparent (acrylic) board on top to make it flatter, and then try my best with speedlites to light the sides through the board alone; in other words, no light beams from the speedlites should escape and cross the lens' front. The result was interesting somehow and giving some depth with the play in highlights and shadows, making it look like a surreal landscape pictured from above. I'm aware of the tiny vessels or veins, so I was trying to emphasize these features as I was processing the RAW file. This image, Veins, being an infrared shot, did not undergo any channel swapping techniques to produce the colors seen here, but simply an increase in vibrancy and other factors.

Veins II
Canon EF 100mm Macro + 403 UV + Tiffen Hot Mirror, f/20, 250-1sec, ISO100

Then it was the time for trying out a UV filter (with IR-Cut filter), which in time I've taught myself to be more "graceful" and "accepting" for this combination of filters, as I will explain later. I think the result here was not interesting as much as the one done in IR, and moreover I was perplexed with the noise, as some blue spots made it hard to decide whether these are real noise artifacts or a by-product of using a UV filter!

100% Crop from Veins II. The blue spots cover the surface and it was not easy to remove them as well!

Reading further about UV photography, I've become more accepting to the gear I have, despite the fact that even my lenses do have anti-UV coating, but it seems we can compromise some aspects (like, doing a long exposure in a converted camera?). According to this website, most UV filters do indeed leak IR at some region and using hot mirrors (like I do here) is a must, though various hot mirrors exist and they vary in their blocking capabilities for IR band. Thus, with this little gap of about 50nm in IR region between the 403 UV filter and Tiffen Hot Mirror, it seems something acceptable. The question is though, what or where can I find a good UV source for lighting the scene (for indoors), which is something I'm still researching.
It was a time then I had to leave it like that and forget about it, and then come back to continue to work with the same vine leaf which now became dry. To my surprise, dryness provided more "creativity" than the original wet one!

Vine City
Canon EF 100mm + 092 IR, f/32, 250-1sec, ISO100.

At this level, the minor veins separating the cells on the leaf became more visible, specially after converting the image to B&W. The thing though, my problems with my Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens had just began! Despite using f/32 and speedlites to provide much light (which they did), but f/32 seemed not sharp enough. Truth be said, I've totally forgot about the lens testing I've done for this lens long time ago, where the sweet spot in fact lies at f/8. It was time also to change perspective, which also, for a dried leaf, made a good composition after all despite the unexpected shallow depth from this f/32 problem!

Canon EF 100mm + 092 IR, f/32, 2m15s, ISO100.

At this point, when Arousal was shot, I've given up with the speedlites and decided to do it as it is with the available room light, and thus it took such a long exposure for more than 2 minutes. The upper left corner suffers from overexposure and generally speaking, the left side seems to be out of focus. I can't remember, at that moment, whether I was using the acrylic board on the top or not, but further experimenting proved that the lens is misbehaving at f/32, in terms of depth, as well as in measuring the proper exposure required! Whether this behavior is related to using the LiveView or not (though doubt it), or whether it is prevalent only with my converted Canon camera is something still under inspection (which I couldn't do further because of sickness). Anyway, that didn't keep me from going on with my plans and did more shots using my UV and IR-Cut combination…

Veins III
Canon EF 100mm Macro + 403 UV, f/8, 4m16s, ISO100.

This time, I've continued my work with a "fresh" (if I can call it so) vine leaf which was wet when spread over the table. After many shots and trials with and without speedlites, I've decided to go without any speedlite (even better to reduce the IR intake) and to remove the acrylic board from the top. The final UV shot, Veins III, made it in about 4 minutes and 16 seconds; Yep, a long exposure with this filter with a converted camera! After editing the RAW file a bit, I refrained from converting the image to B&W as I guess the bluish hue is more pleasant to the eyes. The final composition was enhanced using the Rabatment of The Rectangle method, making the main vein as a divider. At this point, all my ideas were exhausted and I was having fun with some videos with filters and checking my capabilities to edit them using Photoshop (yep, not Premiere).


The prime goal for me was to, have fun. Yes. I wanted to check the difficulty of recording a video with a heavy filter such as B+W's 403 Black UV in addition to Tiffen's Standard Hot Mirror, and then I continued experimenting further with IR filters. Notice that in the coming videos I had to reduce the size and quality for uploading purposes.


For your sanity's sake, I'd go with this video on silent mode! Here we have the original video made by 403 Black UV filter + Tiffen's hot mirror. The looks are quite similar to an infrared rendering in fact (and for this I'm always suspicious of the validity of such filter!). I had a minor problem first with editing the video and adjusting the colors as needed since I don't have Adobe Premiere, and though I know that Photoshop does open some video files, but I didn't realize at the time that I was actually working with the 64-bit version of CS5 (yeah, that old), which has limited features (Not sure why!); e.g. incapability of duplicating layers when working in HDR, and opening video files. Thus, problem was solved by switching to the regular 32-bit Photoshop CS5 (Extended), and the edit was as easy as working with a single shot! However, the drawback here is that no sound is rendered with the video, either while playing it in Photoshop or after exporting it from Photoshop. Thus, I had to go around this problem with a minor, no need to mention it here.


To adjust the white balance in this instance I referred to an old method which I use sometimes to fix color casts in JPEG images (remembering, editing a video in Photoshop is in terms of layers just as done with regular images). This method uses the Photo Filter adjustment layer and picking a color with the picker from a grey or a white surface (or any foliage form maybe?) and reversing the signs for the A and B channels in the LAB system. Without going deeper into details here, the video right up is the final product of such technique plus swapping the Red and Blue channels just like in singular shots. However, I've tried another method later on.


Without testing my humble B+W 092 Infrared filter, I've decided to jump right away to the extreme: Rokinon 8mm Fisheye lens plus Kodak's gel Infrared filter (with threshold almost equal to 1000nm). This filter is so opaque that with a regular camera and in a sunny day, it might require an exposure of 2 to 5 minutes. I was eager to see a video with such filter and how it would act. In fact, nothing abnormal about it. As it can be seen from the video above, the typical purple/magenta that come with such filters is there, and even after adjusting the colors it would be almost as it is in regular IR shots done with this gel filter.


Here in this video, I've adjusted the white balance using a manual method of "shifting" the histogram (by means of changing the Gamma value) for each channel: R, G, and B; and let them coincide with each other as much as possible. This method, even though manual, but has lot of potential because the range of possibilities is wider. Not to say that the LAB method is limited, but in the LAB white balance fix, we usually aim for something white or grey (mentally). As for the Levels method and changing Gamma value, the histograms for the three channels can meet at any point along the line. The video above looks close to B&W but it's not quite so, as it has a slight cyan tint, but after all this is natural because the threshold is quite high (1000nm); the higher the threshold, the closer to B&W an infrared shot would be.
Now, remains the big hassle which is the fact that any editing, whether using LAB signs reversing, or Levels to adjust the Gamma value, these two work as per a single frame from the video and their effects take all over the video; meaning a single frame would decide how the video should look! Now, I'm not an expert videographer, but probably there is a way to edit a cluster of frames in one video in various ways in Photoshop (pretty sure it is more complicated in other specialized editors like Premiere), but that might take a long time (and it takes long time already when rendering and adding effects to such small videos). Thus, my best bet is to look for a suitable frame and work on that frame to adjust the white balance in either method. I have some ideas running in my head now as I'm typing this but I'll keep those for later! Too bad that I could not find a UV-pass filter in gel format to fit with any of my fisheye lenses (and if there is, we would also need a gel IR hot mirror filter as well). I'll keep searching…


My sickness had gone down a bit for now but the cough surely tire my body off. I got some plans pending right now as well as the work for April's project, which involves working with reflections and shadows. I might get to merge this project with my own investigations about some geometrical shapes (hypercubes specifically).
Meanwhile, I think it is getting serious here and a plan for a travel must be made up ASAP. The idea of visiting Failaka island before getting too hot is also in the atmosphere but I would sure need to book a 1-week leave from work for this trip, beside arrangements before commitment. With the world going crazy it makes me feel a bit down whenever I think of traveling; I don't think I'm ready for the security hustles and bustles. The peace of mind is my main aim for traveling away from this place, not to exchange it with other annoyances. Anyhow, such activities are surely not for this summer, but for after summer, as usual; further away from the tourism season. Till then, I'll keep dreaming…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

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