Thursday, June 1, 2017


Well, Ramadan is here and boy ain't I happy to have a leave off work during this month! Despite my usual troublesome sleeping pattern during this month, yet I feel refreshed at some level and I'm eager to work with my camera more often than before (specially with me doing my experiments near my room). With May project with the group, which is about colors, I've started to re-kindle an old passion for high-speed. The work is still going on as I'm typing this, as there are a number of issues I need to fix still and some more ideas in hope I can try later.


The May project was a priority, so I spent some time thinking about what can be done in that venue. It is easier said than done, as colors are everywhere but it's hard to get some concrete and unique work of art involving colors. In the beginning, I was trying to follow my typical steps in creating an idea: Find a deep emotion inside myself, and cast that particular feeling on the subject at hand, be it color, shadows, or whatever. However this step seemed hard and technically I was so mentally confused that I couldn't realize my own feelings or how to organize my thoughts! Thus, I had to shoot for mere fun and I started mumbling with my props and gear to find something colorful.

Colorado I
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/29,
250-1sec, ISO100.
After playing around with some props and accessories, I decided to use the refraction power of water to create some colorful abstracts by using colored Popsicle sticks placed in a separate glass jar behind the glass of water. Later on, however, I've decided to add corn syrup into the water during the shot (putting the camera on timer while pouring already). This was just to add some action to the scene instead of plain silent colors. There was no need to high-speed mode as 1/250 of a second for the shutter speed was enough to kill the ambient light, but the greater hardship was in having a proper framing for the shot since I was working inside my room and could barely have a proper distance to stay away from the set with my 100mm lens, while using 50mm lens would require me to get closer beyond the nearest possible point of focusing.

Colorado II
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/29,
250-1sec, ISO100
Distributing the light was not so hard to do but it was rather hard to adjust (as I usually work in manual mode). I've used 2 white boards on the sides to reflect off the light and later on I've placed a shade on the top of the set to reflect any astray light from below and reflect it back (and it did a great job!). While shooting, there was always something going off which made the power sometimes excessive or too low without even touching any flash settings. Not sure what is causing this but the first culprit in my mind right now is the fact that I was working in LiveView mode. Some professionals always warn against using LiveView mode for serious shooting. However, with my back problems, I find myself often forced to work that way!

Colorado III
Canon EF 100mm macro, f/32,
250-1sec, ISO100
After shooting Colorado I I decided to increase the amount of action and pour even more corn syrup to fill the frame (while some were already accumulating at the bottom of the glass) which created such a mess as seen in Colorado II, but oh well, I guess this is much better than having much plain space as in Colorado I. There was one last shot I needed to try, and here, I've replaced the colored sticks with colored pencils and filled the glass with corn syrup instead of water as I loved the looks of the bubbles in the bottle of the syrup. To add something to the scene, I've placed a small cut from a branch of some plant I've found here (no animals were killed to try this!). At this level, I wanted to step further and try the risks of using f/32 with this lens which I've experienced some weird behavior before at this aperture value. However, after several shots I did get something stable as seen in Colorado III, and even created a 3D Anaglyph out of this scene. Now, I'm creating the habit of documenting the set every time I finish one experiment. I guess it is a good practice?

The set used for Colorado I and Colorado II. A reflector was placed on top during the shoot.

The set used to shoot Colorado III.
I used 2 small candles on the sides in hope to excite the fluid and produce more bubbles inside the syrup but that wasn't useful!

Cherry Boom

I thought I was over with the Colorado experiment above, but then I thought why not implement high-speed onto the project, specially that I'm trying to work in a space near my room (even though no proper table for me yet, as you can see from the sets above). Implementing the idea of colors here emerge from the concept of the color circle and complimentary colors. Thus, I simply googled "Cherry Red Color" and I got the code #a61f34, and starting from there I got the complimentary color which is some degree of cyan. I picked cherry specifically because it was available, and because of its distinctive red color and tiny branch which typically stems out of it. I could have gone with grapes but I think grapes do not have a distinctive shape or color (and the red variety would be typically larger than I need them to be). Thus, the choice for cherries seemed legit!

Final look for the set of the project.

Ubertronix Strike Finder Elite.
Source: B&H
I used watercolors here to color the water and later I've added a bit of milk to kill the transparency of the water a bit. As seen in the set above, I've used here only 2 speedlites (580EX II) and didn't want to use my third speedlite (430EX II). I used here also my UV filter over the lens front just to protect the front from water droplets. I should have protected the flash heads as well with plastic bags but I skipped that actually. The big hurdle was to get my old Ubertronix trigger to work, specifically with a laser-gate. Without detailing the troubles, at the end the laser-gate method proved useless to me because of the shutter lag and the cumbersome laser pointer I was using. Thus, for the rest of the experiment, I went on doing a manual job, holding the cable remote in one hand and dropping the cherry with the other.

Cherry Boom I
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 3200-1sec, ISO200.

It was apparent from the beginning that I'm having a problem and probably should have used a larger bowl of some sort since the white edge of the plastic dish was hard to remove. Some problems did not show up till later on as I was inspecting the images like Cherry Boom I. Beside the shallow depth at f/9 (which was not enough), it seems that 1/3200 of a second was not enough for the shutter to freeze the water movement! However, during the experiment, I've raised the speed a bit more without really knowing the final outcome that I will be getting later on. Good luck? Maybe!

Cherry Boom II
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/9, 4000-1sec, ISO200.

The speed of 1/4000 seemed just enough to freeze such a fall! In total, out of 20+ shots, I got merely 2 useful shots and one or two shots for splashes without the cherry(ies) which I simply liked for their shapes but I don't think they would be useful as stock images or printed and displayed. As for Cherry Boom II, the cherry here fell upside down and my brain being in love with illusions, I've decided to rotate the image 180o and thus the water came up and the cherry down, but standing up. What annoys me about Cherry Boom II is, like the other shots, the white space from the plastic dish edge which cannot be removed or substituted. I continued the work further in the next day and going manual too with 1/5000 shutter speed, and changing the camera tilt little bit (and pouring some water into the dish) to hide the white edge as much as possible. Again, out of 20+ shots, I've one suitable shot here.

Cherry Boom III
Canon EF 100mm Macro, f/20,
5000-1sec, ISO320.
Beside enhancing the looks, I went on enhancing the depth of field as well pushing it to f/20 (to have greater chance of having the cherry sharp wherever it falls), but that of course called for an increase in ISO, as I didn't want to use my third speedlite still. Water splashes now are more stable and live! In Cherry Boom III, seeing that the two cherries fell on their side, I've decided to rotate the image 90o clockwise to add a surreal feel to it.
In all of these shots of high speed, there was always a problem with the noise level when processing the images, despite the ISO being relatively low. With my Canon EOS 7D, I'd say that the ISO is somewhat easier to handle up until ISO 800 or around that, but in these images the processing was cumbersome and I do have my doubts about being accepted for exhibitions with the group (if they pass the aesthetic critique). However, some stock websites did already accept these images without a problem and they are up for sale!
Finishing from this cherry project I did proceed to another one, involving high-speed shooting as well, but I will keep that for a future post, as I'm still trying to work on it further.


After kindling my passion again for high-speed photography (adding to that the lack of locations and ideas for panoramas), and after the failure of my trigger, I've emailed the company asking about the reasons for such time lag and after some discussion, it seems that the reason is my shutter and not the trigger itself. I was advised to connect the trigger to the flash instead of the camera but in my working conditions this is not possible, as working with triggered flashes means opening the shutter in a dark environment while the flash becomes the only source of light. However, reading about some aspects of my camera, it seems that I do have also to adjust some of my photo-shooting habits to reduce the time lag in shutter release (depending on LiveView being one!).
Though I'm on leave without traveling but seems I do have a busy schedule here (beside taking care of Mom), but I feel some satisfaction that I didn't feel in a long time now since I could work with my camera and really think of something to do with it, without feeling exhausted like everyday after coming back from work through the traffic jam. Meanwhile, the idea of traveling is still ticking and tickling my mind, despite the fear of the hassles that I might have to face outside because of all the madness going in the world today, specially for a guy like me from the Middle East.
In the meantime, August is getting closer, my birthday that is, and I'm preparing to have some big order (well, not so big, but a bit big maybe?) of some gear and maybe some books. I would have to place the order before August I presume since there are some items that are considered "special order" (i.e. need time to be prepared and dispatched). This is to be a gift to myself, since no one around give such gifts except of perfumes! On my mind is a 4th speedlite (and probably another 580EX II if available still) and maybe some filters. I feel so excited that I want to place the order right away in the coming few days, but my financial situation and the course of Ramadan makes me hold it back and wait. Thus, I might be placing my order by the end of June or so! I need to miss my camera so much to work with it with passion…

Stock photography by Taher AlShemaly at Alamy

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