Returning To Oneself

Returning To Oneself Image
Returning To Oneself

I’ve resisted the temptation to mention where I’ve spent much of my time over the last couple of months but now that it has been publicly released, I think it’s safe to bring light to it here also.  “It” is the introductory video for Trina’s “Returning To Oneself” effort.

My contribution was simply  recording the footage taken in Secondlife and of course, helping to bring her back up to speed in SL since so much has changed since she was last there. The story, all of the real life video, the video editing and production and of course, the inspiration are all Trina’s. I am very excited for her and hope to continue working with her as this develops.

For my part, this has been a great way to become more familiar with OBS Studio and the 3D Connexion Space Mouse that I purchased shortly before learning that we would be working on this together. Of course, there is no better way of learning what you don’t know than to try to share what you think you know with someone else. This really has been a great experience and I’m looking forward to learning more.

In fact, learning more is already in process. Since this first video is now behind us and we have a myriad of proposed projects to choose from, we settled on one and have begun putting things together. Everyday is a learning experience. I don’t know that SL can every get old when most anything is possible – if you but know how to do it.

Currently my major effort is in creating poses and animations for our scenes. After many starts at Blender – some more successful than others – I have come back to it with the Avastar plugin. In previous images, I relied on in world tools such as Anypose along with body and head animations available. Sometimes they were too constraining and the Black Dragon Poser was a lifesaver.  With Avastar, I now have another tool that I believe will play a larger and larger part as I learn my way around that.

..and returning to Blender creates so many other possibilities too.

This isn’t “returning to myself” but it is the re-opening of a half-closed door.

On the subject of “opening doors”, do yourself a favor and visit Trina’s site, Returning to Oneself.

 

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Windmills Of Your Mind

Windmills of your mind.
Contest Contribution
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It has been some time since I created anything I felt worthy of adding here.   I have been busy but simply not doing anything that I felt anybody would bother to read about.  Then came Noel. When I first read of the photo contest being run by Focus Magazine, I felt I should participate but then found reasons not to…there are just so many other things I am working on. One more thing on the list was the last thing I needed. However, Noel’s enthusiasm is contagious.

She immediately came up with the popular tune, “Windmills on your mind” which is filled with images and suggested we collaborate on it.  How could I pass up the opportunity?  We traveled to several sims looking for the ‘right’ windmill then Noel spent even more looking for the best objects that are mentioned in the tune. After taking the time to locate them, she took lots of photos of these in various lighting conditions and presented them to me.

In all of her hard work, I somehow got off track and mentioned visiting the beautiful  Cammino & Vivo Capovolto, knowing that she would be amazed by the things she would see there. As expected, she was (and has many more photos to prove it). While admiring the art there, we discussed poses we might use for this photo.  I pointed to a specific sculpture thinking it would be “perfect”.  She agreed. At that moment, neither of us knew what a challenge it would be for me to re-create that pose and so that we could become that sculpture.

True to form. after several days of me creating this image, I found myself editing things that nobody would likely notice and she started feeling that I had put so much time into it that it had become ‘mine’, was no longer a collaboration, and that she would contribute the photo she had already begun working on before this one emerged from our discussions.

Though she is very much the inspiration and responsible for this image, I appreciate that she wanted to create something that she had more control of.  The fact is that this image would not exist without her.

“Windmills Of Your Mind”
(originally by Noel Harrison)

Round, like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel

Like a snowball down a mountain
Or a carnival balloon
Like a carousel that’s turning
Running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it’s face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Like a tunnel that you follow
To a tunnel of it’s own
Down a hollow to a cavern
Where the sun has never shone

Like a door that keeps revolving
In a half forgotten dream
Or the ripples from a pebble
Someone tosses in a stream

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes on it’s face
And the world is like an apple
Whirling silently in space

Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Keys that jingle in your pocket
Words that jangle in your head
Why did summer go so quickly
Was it something that you said?

Lovers walking along the shore
Leave their footprints in the sand
Was the sound of distant drumming
Just the fingers of your hand?

Pictures hanging in a hallway
And a fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong?

When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel

As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

Pictures hanging in a hallway
And the fragment of this song
Half remembered names and faces
But to whom do they belong

When you knew that it was over
Were you suddenly aware
That the autumn leaves were turning
To the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever spinning reel

As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

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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