Take a Ride Image

Take a Ride

Take a Ride Image
Aww...come on, I just wanna sit on it!
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Even though I hadn’t updated the site here for a month, that doesn’t mean I stopped creating new images. It only means that November was very busy at RL work with lots of site moves going on and there was still some adjustment for me to make the change from illustrating a story and just wandering.

This was one of those wandering images. Sadly, I even failed to take note of where I was so looking back a month later now….I don’t remember!

As I pulled this from my folder of completed images – along with the originals and the photoshop document, one thing in particular struck me. This didn’t necessarily need to be a composite image. I was there, the lighting is from windlight using the firestorm browser. The only reason that I created it as a composite image – aside from my enjoyment of doing that – is for the blur or field of view effect.

I’ve not had much luck with FOV in the Firestorm viewer. No matter what I’ve tried, when I select FOV, though it may look good on screen, I notice a small amount of blurring to my subject also. So, in the interest of keeping sharp what I wanted sharp this is actually three images. Two are without Aedan in the photo ( I used a white screen behind him to pluck him out into a separate image) then took one photo of the scene without him and duplicated that.

One of those was then blurred as I felt needed. After that, they were recombined using a mask to permit the blurred image to come through for the background…including between the spokes of the wheel.  Finally, Aedan was placed back into the image along with his shadow.

Yes, it was actually several hours worth of work. Several hours of unmasking and fixing little bits.  Several hours of relaxing concentration.

This is why I am enjoying this so much.

 

Homeword Bound

Bring it on

Well, that was a long ‘spring break’!  I should also add that it was a very educational experience for me.  I learned a few things that work well or at least as expected and more instances that didn’t.  Though I am sure I will always stumble I’m determined to keep getting up and keep in mind that the goal here is the journey and not the destination.

Besides feeling more comfortable (though oh, so much to learn yet!) in Photoshop I have also come to the conclusion that publishing scenes or chapters of a story as soon as it and the image are ready is not something I am going to try to do going forward.  Working this way prompted me on several occasions to get something published because it had been a couple weeks since I had posted anything.  I feel this wasn’t guiding the story and reversing my priorities. Whether I wait until the story is done to publish images from it or not is yet to be determined.  In the interim, I’ll be working on images not directly related to the story.

Today’s image – actually from last week – is one of those – Aedan is headed home from his vacation but the prologue has been closed. This is incidental…as may be stops along the way while headed home.

Of course, other things learned over the summer is that I have so much to learn about writing.  Characters also need to be developed – which will certainly bring more pics.

Stay tuned!

Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.

All Things Must End

Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.
Aedan enjoys the last sunset before he leaves Cuba.
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The ride to the airport seemed to take forever. Thankfully, the driver wasn’t particularly talkative which was fine by Aedan because his mind was busy considering why Noel might have left without saying a word when she seemed full of excitement about going out sailing with him and the Carlson’s the evening before. Never letting his guard down, he had been holding some internal reservations about their chance meetings among all the extraordinary events since leaving Seattle for this trip. However, those concerns were washed away in the many hours they had spent together yesterday. Now he found himself wondering if she had possibly become a target because of the secondary reason he was in Havana – to collect information about the case he was trying.

It seemed the taxi every red light during the 15 minute trip to the airport but each time the driver looked into the rear view mirror to check on his passenger, Aedan was looking out the window, deep in thought. When the taxi pulled up to the curb, before the driver could say a word, Aedan had already stuck his hand over the seat back to hand him the money for the fare while simultaneously opening the door.

Aedan jumped out of the car and headed immediately through the glass doors. Once inside he stopped and scanned left to right looking for a flight information board. He quickly spotted one down the hallway in front of him. He was looking for flights that had departed early in the morning since Noel had checked out so early. He saw nothing. Nothing on the boards went back that far.

On his way to read the board, he had passed a counter for the airline that he had arrived by earlier that week. Knowing that the attendants there spoke english very well, he approached the counter and asked the young attendant if she could tell him any flights that left between 5 and 8am. The attendant looked curious but without going into details he told her enough that she typed onto her keyboard and within seconds had a list of five flights that had departed during that window. Four were to various locations in Central and South America. One was to Miami.

Aedan stopped the attendant when she mentioned Miami. “Which airline was the flight to Miami on?”

“Oh, that was our flight, Senor” she quickly responded. “It left at 5:25 this morning and was right on time.”

“Can you tell me if there was a Noel Jensen on that flight?” Aedan took a long shot. He figured he knew the answer but had to ask, anyway.

“No Senor, I’m not allowed to give that information to you.”

Aedan was putting together his angle of attack, family…emergency…call for a manager. There must be a way to find out if she was on that flight. As he sifted through the possibilities his phone rang.

He pulled the phone from his pocket and saw Noel’s number. Thanking the attendant, he stepped away from the counter even as he was pushing the button to accept the call.

“Noel, where are you?” The concern was evident in his voice.

“Aedan, I’m sorry. I tried to call but…”

“Are you OK? Where are you?” He didn’t realize he didn’t let her finish her sentence.

“I’m at the airport in Phoenix, waiting for my mother to pick me up.”

Knowing she was safe, Aedan felt a weight lift from his shoulders. He made his way to the door to find a quieter spot to continue the conversation.

Noel had tried to call several times after she got a call from her mother telling her that her sister wasn’t expected to make it through the day, but the calls went straight to voicemail which told her his inbox was full. She hadn’t considered texting. Even while she waited to transfer planes in Miami there was no answer.

Aedan nodded as he listened to her. He was probably just waking by the time she reached Miami. He would look into his inbox being full after they talked. He hadn’t received any calls at all today.

Noel didn’t know the full extent of her sister’s condition yet. She had been ill for several months now but everyone thought she was doing well with the treatment. Noel promised that once she knew more she would call again.

The next two days were full of relaxation and exploration. Aedan enjoyed another relaxing evening with Ms. Romero, her family and others that came to relax and play games. The following day, he made it out sailing with the Carlson’s. The relative silence and power of using the wind to propel a sailing vessel through the water is mesmerizing and once again whetted his appetite for finding his own boat

On his last day in Cuba, Aedan found himself on the beach taking inventory of all that had happened since he left on vacation which felt like months ago. He had all but forgotten the huge change in his physical appearance. Or perhaps he hadn’t. Somewhere along the way he had decided to let his beard grow out as a possible way to distract attention from looking 20 years longer than when he left. He knew it wouldn’t be that easy but it was all he could do for now. Then there was the matter of the key and cryptic message from the theater and what that could possibly mean for the case he was trying.

He had come to Cuba to get an answer. Whether he found that answer or not he couldn’t know yet but he knew that he was possibly returning with more questions than answers.

 

Sail Away

Aedan tries yet again to call Noel before the boat leaves
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The sun hadn’t been up long when Aedan first opened his eyes. He laid flat on his back and thought about the coming day. He hadn’t been sailing for a while so there was a bit of excitement along with good memories that found their way to the surface. The couple he met two evenings ago, the Carlsons seemed competent and friendly. Since he was always keeping his eye out for his next boat he was anxious to see theirs. He was familiar with the model but had never been aboard one.

Beyond all of that though, what he was most excited about was having Noel along. Assuming the weather cooperated, sailing with another couple would be a great time to relax and have fun with no pressure and for sheer pleasure it is difficult to beat a beautiful sunset at sea. The thought of the long day ahead reminded Aedan that he needed to gather a few things to take along to eat while they were out. He built a list in his head of what he would take along,

Curious of the time, Aedan reached for his phone in the charging cradle but it was empty. He rolled over and found the phone beside his pillow. He must have fallen to sleep while catching up on the news. He muttered to himself and pressed the button on the side but nothing happened. Again he pressed but the screen remained blank. With words reserved only for himself when he does foolish things, Aedan set the phone on the cradle and immediately it began charging…from 0%.

Fully awake now, he glanced across the room to the clock radio and saw that it was nearly 8am. He had woken 30 minutes later than intended but there was plenty of time for a shower. He would call Noel after the phone had recharged to make sure she was up and getting ready.

 

With anticipation of the day ahead and the shower behind him, Aedan went through his normal morning routines. Shaving, brushing teeth, crunches and push-ups were all routine though truth be told, he did extra today. Noel would be there.

Once he was ready to hit the road and dressed, he grabbed the now partially charged phone, went to his call history and called the last number – Noel’s. After three rings, it went to voicemail. He would try again later.

The homeowner, Ms. Fernandez was busy in the kitchen when Aedan came down the stairs. Always pleasant, she offered Aedan coffee and breakfast. He took her up on the coffee and a couple pieces of fruit. They talked about his plans and other things to do in the same area of Havana. Aedan was anticipating spending some time with Noel after they returned to port.

An hour had passed with no response from Noel so he called again and again ended up in her voicemail.

“Noel, it’s Aedan. I just wanted to be sure you’re up and will meet us at the marina at 11. I’ll grab some things to eat while we’re out. Just bring yourself and plenty of suntan lotion. It looks like a beautiful day. Oh..and call me when you get a chance.”

Ms. Fernandez was smiling when Aedan put the phone down. “Please take some of this fruit with you! It will go bad tomorrow and I need to get more.”

Aedan suddenly felt a little embarrassed.

“Thank you but I can’t do that!” He responded.

“Nonsense“ was her reply. “It will go bad soon.”

Sensing this was a losing argument, Aedan agreed to take a few pieces and she nearly emptied the fruit bowl into a bag as he watched.

For thirty minutes more, the two of them sipped coffee and talked until Aedan decided he needed to get moving. He was concerned that he had not yet heard back from Noel but knew she was excited about going out. Perhaps she too had forgotten to charge her phone.

As they neared the bottom of the coffee cup, Ms. Fernandez called for a taxi for Aedan. He noted that she truly did bend over backwards to make him feel comfortable. Ten minutes later, a horn sounded from outside. Aedan grabbed his own bag in addition to the one that Ms. Fernandez had prepared for him, wished her a good day and headed out the door to the waiting taxi.

Along the way, Aedan asked the taxi driver to stop at a grocery store where he grabbed a few more things to take along. The Carlsons had already volunteered that they had plenty to drink so he grabbed more water before returning to the taxi and completing the trip to the marina.

He was an hour early but that was by design. Walking the docks to look at the assortment of boats has been something he has done frequently in the last few years. It is said that the best days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. He had experienced both and though he often tells himself it is foolish, he still looks for ‘the boat’ that will draw him back.

While walking the piers, Aedan tried again to call Noel but once again got her voicemail. He was now starting to worry a bit. He hadn’t known her long enough to know if being late was a habit. Of course, she wasn’t late yet but why hadn’t she acknowledged his calls?

As he neared dock “D”, Aedan saw the Carlsons toward the end unloading their cart that sat at the end of the finger pier. Mr. Carlson noticed him and waved.

“Oh, great! You’re early so you can help me load the boat!” His laugh was unmistakable. Aedan assured him he was eager to help.

Together, the two of them pulled grocery bags, beach bags, a coolers and a plastic gas can from the trunk of the car. The walk from the car to the boat was over a quarter of a mile which gave them plenty of time to talk about the day’s plans. The weather forecast was near perfect. It would be a bit warm but there would be enough breeze to keep them moving well and cooling the cockpit. They would anchor for a bit to eat and swim and be back to the mouth of the port to see the sun set before returning to the slip before it got too late. It had been several years since Aedan had been out and he was eager to experience the power of the wind that could simultaneously bring a calmness encapsulated by silence yet create moments of excitement if one let their guard down too far.

Once everything had been loaded onto the boat and put into it’s place Aedan offered to help with rigging the mainsail but to no surprise, Mr. Carlson thanked him and suggested he relax while he and Mrs. Carlson completed their preparations. This was not unlike Aedan himself – there is a connection between a boat and it’s captain. Some things the captain wants to know are done a certain way while others just fall into part of a routine and upsetting the routine during preparations inflicts a bit of uncertainty. To be fair, Mr. Carlson did offer a few small errands for him to take care of while he watched.

With little else to do and it now less than thirty minutes from the time that they intended to get underway, Aedan called Noel’s number once more but again his call went directly to voicemail. He was growing more concerned by the moment.

“Have you heard from your friend, Noel yet, Aedan?” Mrs. Carlson may have seen Aedan looking at his phone or perhaps she was simply noting the time also.

Aedan signed and shook his head. “No, I haven’t. The hotel is just around the corner – well, maybe two corners but in any event it’s only about ten minutes away. I’m going to go check on her. They all agreed that at this point he should. Perhaps she had just gotten lost and was walking the docks.

Aedan looked in every direction as he made his way out of the marina hoping to see her on the wrong pier. There was quite a bit of activity this morning as people were taking advantage of the beautiful forecast and getting out on the water or simply spending time on their boats doing maintenance and socializing. In all the activity though, Noel was nowhere to be seen.

Arriving at the hotel, Aedan scanned the lobby both for platinum blonde hair and the check-in desk. It was a small hotel that was decorated comfortably but not lavishly. The desk he found easily but still no trace of Noel. At the desk, he made his best effort in Spanish to ask for Noel’s room number. The look of frustration and confusion on his face prompted her to repeat her answer in English.

“I’m sorry sir but I can not give you that information.”

Aedan explained that she was supposed to meet him, that she was late and that he hasn’t been able to reach her by phone.

The clerk shook her head and was about to say more when Aedan pulled his wallet out.

Please sir, I can not tell you her room number but“. she hesitated and looked to either side of her. Only she and Aedan were in the room. “Ms. Jensen checked out very early this morning.”

Only confusion remained on Aedan’s face.

“Checked out? Are you sure?”

“Yes sir.” She looked back at the book behind the counter “At 4:30 this morning she turned her key in.”

“Did she say why? Was everything OK?” Aedan was grasping for an explanation.

“It was before my shift, sir but I think Maria is still here, she would have been working the desk then. I’ll be right back.”

A couple minutes passed that seemed much longer to Aedan. The clerk returned alone.

“She had to catch a flight and seemed a little rushed but that’s all I know.”

Aedan still couldn’t believe what he was hearing.

Did she say where she was going? Was she alone?” He asked.

“No, I don’t believe she did and there was nobody with her.” she replied

The front door opened and both looked to see a couple loaded with suitcases coming in.

“I wish you luck sir. Please excuse me.” Her attention shifted to the newly arrived guests “Bienvenido!”

Aedan thanked the clerk and stepped away from the counter. He pulled his phone out and tried to Noel again. This time he received a voicemail box full message.

Still confused and wondering what he should do next, he called the Carlsons and told them that he wasn’t going to make it out with them today. Perhaps they could go out another day but he was going to to see what else he could find out and didn’t want to keep them waiting. Mr. Carlson expressed his understanding and that the offer still stood when he was ready. Since the boat was ready, they were still going out.

Outside the hotel, Aedan flagged down the first taxi and headed for the airport.

Still Here!

Cracked Display

In first world terms, life has been a bit hectic lately and kept me from updating my ongoing story for several weeks….but I am still here

Changes at work mean I am now working from home full time – except when I need to travel to go onsite to address issues that can’t be handled remotely.  That meant a redo of my office which mandated removal of everything in there. I’m happy to say it looks so much better and that makes me happy since I’ll now spend an additional 8+ hours a day in this room.

Unfortunately, during the process of moving out and back in, I damaged my 3 month old 4K monitor.  When I picked it up I noticed a smudge on the screen and when I tried to wipe it off, I realized there was a ‘bump’ sticking out.  I didn’t actually know it was cracked until I powered it up. Broke and Dell doesn’t offer to repair cracked screens though they were happy to sell me a new one for $130.00 more than what I paid for this one from Amazon.  It is physical damage not covered by the warranty.

Initially I couldn’t even think of how I might have damaged it. The bump pressing out suggested  that something inside went wrong and had a mini-explosion.  The Dell rep pretended to not even hear my suggestion.  After accepting that they weren’t going to fix it, I later recalled that with everything sitting on a rug on the floor, I moved he rug once and the monitor – which was sitting on it’s stand on the rug, fell forward and landed on the PC case.  At most, the spot on the screen where the crack is located – which is in the lower half – must have moved 6 inches.  Mind you this was not a drop but merely tipping over on it’s stand. If this display is THAT fragile I really had to think about whether I wanted to throw any more money at it.

With that thought in mind, I hauled it to the street for pickup and reconfigured my workspace to use my trusty Viewsonic monitors. A little bit of testing and I’m not sure why I bought the 4K monitor. I marked this off as the universe encouraging me to take one more step at simplifying.    Then I mentioned my problems to a co-worker who suggested I could purchase the screen and replace it myself.  Of Course!

I located a replacement screen. $140 + $96 shipping is still less than half of what Dell wanted for a new one.  Since realizing I didn’t need that screen and appreciating the extra space on the desk, I have held off from ordering the part yet but am sure I will at some point.

In the interim,  I’ll get back to my work…or play.   The next image is ready to share and the story that goes with it is 98% complete.  I have yet to settle on the music to go with it so that may be the most difficult part…but I will manage 🙂

The Process

Call me a late bloomer but the idea of focusing on and enjoying the process, or the journey rather than the goal is somewhat of a new idea for me. Though I’m sure somebody muttered words to that effect many times in my 59 years it was a bit less than two years ago when I stumbled across a book in a quaint bookstore in Boulder, Colorado.  The book is titled “The Path Is The Goal” by Chögyam Trungpa.

When I began this project and built this site it was to be specifically about my new found interest in creating digital images that were given birth in secondlife.com.  Yes, I considered that I might find other worlds to also create images. The virtual worlds being created are truly amazing and beautiful – all that one can imagine.

While looking for inspiration from others in the secondlife community in flickr, the idea of writing a story and creating images to illustrate it burst from some hidden corner full of wants.  From my earliest days in secondlife I imagined that it would be a great place to tell a story. This is certainly a part of why I came to enjoy role play so much. 

The possibility seemed magical when I thought of it this time. Not only could I travel all over secondlife (from here after, known as SL) to get beautiful images but I could build sets when I couldn’t find the right spot.  Soon, I came to see that I needed specific poses – there’s an app for that – called anypose.

Next came the curiosity of how some were creating specific lighting in their scenes and when I learned of LumiPro – I had to have it.  Mind you both of these have features that take a little study and effort to really use them effectively.

I was ‘ok’ with gimp as an image processor but a little envious of what I saw being done with photoshop.  I actually made the photoshop jump once before but after reading rumblings about Adobe’s marketing techniques I jumped back to GIMP and I think, have become fairly comfortable with doing things that I struggled to grasp 6 months ago.

Recently, I’ve struggled with Gimp for several reasons. I have to vastly different monitors. The newest and favorite is 4K and call it age or whatever but the largest font of the UI for Gimp is still too small for my eyes. However, when I drag stuff to the older, HD monitor, Gimp fails to compensate correctly and suddenly the letters are inches tall and the window edges are somewhere off in space.  It’s not conducive to work flow at all.

There have been several other minor issues including most recently  artifacts that began appearing just as I was about to finish the Havana Sunset image. I struggled to find and get rid of them but in the end converting the image back from 32 bit to 8 bit did it.

In summary, while watching Natsumi Xenga doing her magic in Photoshop; seeing how smoothly she works and how she massaged things in ways that I don’t even think Gimp is capable of yet, I gave in again.

This “Spring Break 2019” series was intended as a learning process for me and it truly has been that.  Not only have I learned much graphically (and will now be stepping back just a bit to relearn in photoshop what I had mastered in gimp) but I’m also learning that writing a story is much, much more than spewing a few words out that link together nicely. 

Ok!  I wasn’t that naive but only by doing does one fully appreciate what it takes. Character development, story line and all the twists and turns of writing have now planted a seed of interest for me too.

I will soon finish this Spring Break series and put it to bed. It has given me much fodder and yes, the characters created there will carry forward into the larger project but that will be handled differently than this ‘Spring’ series.

I hope you will enjoy that but in the interim I hope we will enjoy taking this path together. In any event, I am enjoying the process and the learning along the way.

 

—Aedn

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