Coming in Waves

Where did the last year go?  For that matter, who released the whirlwind that has blown by like a freight train 4 years long?

As my thoughts gather themselves and argue about what order they will come to the surface and find their way onto your screen, the one that invariably makes it to the top first is how many times in the past I have taken breaks at something only to begin feeling guilty at some point that I’ve let so much time pass and permitted the excitement I once felt fade away.

It seems that for some people, creativity and the ability to focus on something comes easy. That hasn’t really been my experience. I tend to wander, to get so lost in one thing  completely and then that at some point I stick my head up and see that I’ve neglected other things.  I won’t promise that won’t happen again but I will say that the things that do grab my interest generally compliment each other. So, it’s not that I’ve been doing nothing for the last 10 months, it’s just that I didn’t feel it would be of interest to many. 

  I’ve been taking more Photoshop courses….I even got a new Gaoman drawing screen after having worn out my last drawing pad. That I had managed to scratch the pad beyond use became painfully obvious when I began taking a drawing class.  Though I’ve not yet finished that class, I have found the new screen changing the way I work with images in photoshop.   I struggled with the pen tool initially but it has now become quite natural and I’ve found myself using it even when it wasn’t necessary. However, being able to draw a line or curve precisely on the drawing screen feels so much more natural. As a whole, I feel my images becoming half photograph and half painting…which is exactly where I want to go even if to most other observing eyes, the difference may not be noticeable. In the end, I want to believe that creativity takes the easiest and most natural, meandering paths for me.

Beyond the images, I’ve also been giving a lot of thought to the story I began writing nearly two years ago. The bits from that effort earlier than this post were an exercise on my part.  I felt that would be a learning experience for me and boy was it! I’m now toying with the idea of rewriting that offline from the beginning but addressing issues I noticed in the story so far. There will of course be images to go with the story but not tied directly to simultaneously published chapter.  I found the story to be a great catalyst  for images ideas and I’ve missed that. I am ready to dive into that world again though uncertain of where it may lead.

 

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Peaceful Morning

Peaceful Morning
Peaceful Morning

Luane’s world presents so many photo opportunities that I am certain you will see more.  This image is barely a composite…barely.

It also marks a small departure. As I’ve become more comfortable using the Black Dragon viewer, I’m becoming more reliant on it’s abilities – especially the poser. The down side is that when using the BD poser, the actual image is visible only to the person running the viewer. This means that this image wasn’t actually taken by me but by Christi since she is the only person in the photo.

I completed the post processing – small fixes for the most part with the single most time-consuming portion being the addition of the ground fog.  For the most part, she gets credit for the composition and light.

With that I should point out that was no easy feat.  She actually took her first image for this setting a week ago. However, once back in the shop it was obvious that her face just wasn’t right.  This round of images was the introduction of my character named Louise and I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake as the very first image of Louise..which did not fit the character I had in mind.

So, after the first round of images, a new head and painful searching for a skin (of which I am still not satisfied with), she returned only to find that it wasn’t possible to return to the same exact pose and angle because the horse in the foreground had moved!

So, rather than a frontal shot of Louise in which I had wanted to reveal some of her attributes, we settled for this side shot.

Still, I am happy with what she brought back.

To finish this, I set the image to some music that I hoped would reinforce the peaceful silence of a misty ground fog as the heat of the sun touched the wet grass on a cool spring morning.

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A Night Out

Kyashi Hits The Road
Kyashi Hits The Road

The last couple of weeks have kept me busy chasing down free heads and bodies that have come available in SL during this period of global lockup. Collecting freebies was the easy part. Trying to decide on what skin to use on them was more difficult – especially since I now have more heads than I expect to need to illustrate my story.

So, when the weekend was nearly over, it was time to relax and it seemed that Kyashi had been locked up for a while – even her last trip out of the closet was a working one. The result was that she took off and had a great evening listening to music and dancing her feet off.

Not all was play, though – she did stop to allow me this one photograph as she was leaving Taox Tattoo…

This image was another exercise in Black Dragon. I think I’m slowly getting a handle on it which is somewhat ironic because this week I also decided to start uploading poses that I have created to my marketplace store. The problem being that Black Dragon eliminates the need to create poses in world and unfortunately, is not able to export the poses you create in browser.

Back to the image, though. There were two glaring issues I noticed while taking the photographs. The first was that while using depth of field to blur the background – the viewer did not initially blur what was behind the windshield. As I considered how I was going to address that, I found there was an option to leave alpha channels out of DOF consideration.  Great!  That eliminated that problem.

When I toggled that option, I noticed that something changed around Kyashi’s head. I toggled it a couple more times and saw that there was alpha in the edges of her hair and it was causing problems I hadn’t noticed. Unfortunately, no matte which way it was toggled, there was still a problem.  I opted to turn the alphas off and tend to the blurry hair in photoshop because it seemed that would be less noticeable and easier to fix.

I’m sure the second issue is also related to the alpha channel. Kyashi’s dress is full of alpha and it was playing havoc with the shadows being cast on it. The shadow was so dark that it was nearly black. Additionally, the shadow edges were sharp and jagged but that has always been an issue for me with Black Dragon.

I ended up using the stamp/clone tool in photoshop to soften the shadow edges and a curves/blend-if solution to reduce the super dark shadows on the dress to something more reasonable if not still a bit on the dark side.

In closing, I’ll praise Black Dragon for it’s poser. Actually setting poses without twisting something into a pretzel – especially fingers – is a challenge. The flexibility is just so awesome that I’m sure I will keep working at it long enough to get the knack of it.

Finally, I used this image in the following video – Are you coming back…

 

 

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Spring Is In The Air

Spring Is In The Air
Spring Is In The Air

I’d like to say that the three sims I saw on the map were some of the most beautifully put together that I have seen…except I can’t. I can’t say that because I never made it to the third sim. Instead, upon stumbling across a patch of tall giving birth to multitudes of flowers which were busily serviced by as many butterflies, I knew this was the place to take a photograph.

I’m still struggling with the Black Dragon viewer but should have caught that Noel’s face was a bit brighter than I wanted it. I suppose i was too busy trying to catch more butterflies in the image as they flew into and out of the view.  Unfortunately, I feel I failed at both and perhaps the over exposed face wasn’t a bad thing but simply a reflection of the strong sun that day.

Yes, the dandelion and it’s seeds were added in post processing.

To complete this image, I had searched and found, I feel, a perfect piece of music to accompany this photo so I was intent in publishing a video with it.  After struggling to get the encoders to work because Serif has stopped supporting my video editor, I finally got it in place.  Hope you enjoy.

Secondlife Location: Luane’s World

 

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Heart to Heart

Heart2Heart
Heart2Heart

This image was intended to be the introduction of Louise, one of the characters from the story I am working on in the background. She is wearing a Genesis Head in this image which, in full light, doesn’t look bad but I simply could not get it to look like the image of Louise in my head. The bone structure – especially in the nose – was just not working for me.

However, I hadn’t yet come to that conclusion when I took this shot. The heartfelt moment between the horse and Louise was sincere and since we can’t really see her face, we’ll leave it at that for now.

This image was created in the Black Dragon viewer but I still haven’t managed to grasp full control of the ability to blur the background in Black Dragon so it was done as a composite – derendering the closest horse and pulling Louise out of view to photograph the background.  Tone and color adjustments, as well as highlights were completed in photoshop.

Image born in SecondLife at Dya’s Abandoned Vacation spot
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Tea Party

Tea Party
Tea Party

This image turned out to be a huge effort…bigger than I had imagined. To begin, I needed to find a location for the shot. We explored several places but finally settled on Dim Sum Gardens in SL. Next, Kyashi and Pattie had to find Kimon’s they were happy with. I wasn’t too concerned about Robert.  I knew he had one available though I forgot how old it was and how terribly it fit.

Then there was the search for the tea set that I could place individual items where I wanted them. To make it more difficult, I was initially turning things away because they had handles, unlock traditional cups I had seen for tea servings. After many trips and actually purchasing several sets only to find they would not fill my need, I finally bought some full perm, mesh cups and saucers. They came with textures so I new I could texture them to match the tea pot. I created the textures in photoshop and they looked perfect.

There was also the table – I wanted an empty table to set the tea serving on. Again, I wasn’t able to find what I was looking for but was able to wipe the table clean in photoshop.

I had noticed white things floating in the air but figured photoshop would take care of that. Additionally, I had a cat to add. My list was long but not overwhelming.  Similarly, while shooting, I noticed that I would have to  fix Pattie’s kimono but this was all manageable. So, I took the shot.

Original Tea party Image
Original Tea party Image

It took me a while to notice the tea cups and saucers. I recalled reading complaints about Balck Dragon and transparencies but i didn’t fully appreciate them until now. If you zoom in to the cups you’lll see my problem.  I had created the textures with a transparent layer (in .phg) for no good reason and now I had unrecognizable cups and the only option at this point was to repair them by hand while they played tricks on my eyes.

There were wardrobe issues that I had to address, the building being lit in the background.  Missing ring, fence mending, and tending to the cat to ensure he was sat the right light.  The list of repairs goes on and on.

Finally, there was added lighting and shadows and…and flying tea.

Adding splashing/spilling liquid was a new effort by me. All the videos I found made it look simple and had I not cared what it looked like, it was simple. but I did care and struggled to get the correct settings. Finally, i had to say ‘enough’.  I could have spent a lifetime on this one but I was ready to move on.

I am quite happy with the finished result though. Yet again it was a great learming experience…but hope to do some easier shots for a while.

Onc

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