Monthly Archives: July 2012

Some thoughts on Second Life and Video Game Photography

The Monastery in Cerridwen’s Cauldron by Elicio Ember, in Second Life

The other day I read an article in the Huffington Post called The Art of In-Game Photography.  The article originally appeared on Video Game Tourism and was also mentioned here.  Naturally, I was quite interested in it as photography in SL is what keeps me busy in-world a lot of the time.

It’s cool to see this getting some exposure, and in viewing the photos from various sources, it is clear that some careful time, effort and a keen eye has gone into creating the images.  The article also seems to be generating some talk in some of the comments about whether or not this can or should be called Photography.


For myself, I can say that I learned a lot about the composition aspects of photography, all stuff I picked up from certain websites and sometimes browsing the photography aisle in my local bookstore.  I wouldn’t know how to operate a real camera to save my life, but I think I do know a little something about elements of composing an interesting photo.  I wouldn’t know any of that if it wasn’t for how I have spent my time in Second Life these last couple of years.

It’s great to see amazing photos from other virtual worlds and video games and I think the whole area of video game and virtual world photography is mostly not recognized.  I think it’s also safe to say that when this new form of photography (or whatever you want to call it) does get some attention, it is largely ignored and dismissed by the masses as some kind of cute little hobby or pastime with no artistic or creative value at all.  I do realize that real world photography is very complex and takes great skill and years to master, but then, so does learning how to navigate the SL viewer, haha.

Personally, I find myself feeling rather indifferent about the discussion and questions being brought up by this topic.

The question of “should this be called Photography or not?” is not that different from the discussions about what is Art, who is and isn’t an Artist, or a Creative.  It’s a discussion that frankly, I am tired of and is starting to feel oh so pass
é.

The way I see things, it’s really just about labels.  It’s about labels that make it simple to put people, places and things into easily digestible categories.  Sometimes these labels may be helpful, but other times they may cause you to miss some wonderful and beautiful creations that do not fit into those neat and tidy little packages.  And that, I think, is a real shame.

What do you think?

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Dazzlers Inc. Dancers in Second Life

Travelling and exploring Second Life is kind of an addictive activity, and sometimes it seems like there isn’t enough time in the day to see and take pictures of everything.  I suppose there will never be enough time to see it all, but that doesn’t stop me from trying.  


But sometimes it’s good to set down my pixel backpack, relax and enjoy the scenery, attend and event and not look at everything “through the lens”, so to speak.  


Yesterday I got invited to attend a performance by the Dazzler’s Inc dancers, which a friend is a part of.  I was pretty excited to check it out, as I have not attended many dance performances in SL, if any.  I’ve been to many different types of events such as plays, spoken word, particle shows and music events most commonly, but dance performances?  Not really. 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I tp’d in, and everything was grey at first.  But once everything rezzed and my music player stopped cutting out, I was quickly drawn into the Dazzler’s performance.  

The costumes and the set designs were really amazing and it was all quite impressive to watch.  I can only imagine how much work went into putting this production together.  

My photos today aren’t the greatest.  I have recently started having some problems with textures fully rezzing, but I went ahead and snapped some shots because I wanted to blog about this.  

I think they may have covered just about every genre of music and dance in the performance!  The set designs were beautiful and the transitions between sets were really smooth.  I personally, didn’t have any problems viewing the performance and there was a pretty good size audience on the sim.  

Yesterday’s performance was part of the DQ Dance Festival, which seems to be over now.  The landmark I had for it is no longer working.  But you can join the inworld Dazzler’s Inc Fan Group for notices of future performances.


This is from the group info:


“This is a group that supports and loves to watch dance and creativity in SL.  We will update the group of our performances and any info of our happenings…Please check our blog for cool stuff about The DAZZLERS Inc. Dancers.”


You can also find more information on the Dazzler’s Inc blog.


It was a fabulous performance and I’m looking forward to attending future Dazzler’s shows. 

Looking for solitude? Visit T Town in Pixel Dreams

I visited a lovely and peaceful place called T Town last night.  Again, I don’t remember where I got this landmark.  I might have seen a photo on Koinup or Flickr for it, or someone might have passed me the lm for the shop Pixel Mode which is also located on the Pixel Dreams sim.  I had the landmark in my inventory and headed over to check it out. 

When you arrive, there are two teleport doors to choose from.  One is for the Pixel Mode shop and the other is for T Town.  Upon clicking the door, I was landed in a beautiful field of flowers with winding dirt roads running through it.  It was so peaceful that I just wanted to park my av in the wild flowers and bask in the sunset.
 

But the winding dirt roads looked too inviting to ignore, so off I went.

It’s really quiet here, yet there are signs of life and human activity all around if you look closely.

You will also find pose balls and other interactive objects you can use, either by yourself or to chill out with a friend.

I used the Region Settings for todays photos, but I did tweak the time of day and the scene gamma just a little for some of these shots. Particularly, for the one below because it was way too dark to view the textures and the wild flowers.

 
I really loved T Town and I’m looking forward to going back again, this time with a friend, to chat while enjoying the quiet peacefulness all around this sim.

The PhotoHunt Challenge and my photo entry that almost never was…

I’m making an effort to try new things in Second Life.  I generally keep myself occupied map hopping and looking for destinations to explore, but that is mostly a solitary activity.  Once in awhile I might get a friend who comes with me but I’m not always great company because when I crank up my graphics to take high res photos, my computer slows down and chatting is hard to keep up with.  

I feel like I need to get out and be more social, so last night when I logged in, I received a group notice for the weekly PhotoHunt Challenge that was starting in ten minutes.  I  tp’d over right away.  I joined the group months ago and tried to participate once, but I had to log out and couldn’t complete the challenge.  So I was happy to make it over and get in on the challenge last night.


The PhotoHunt Challenge is a game where participants are given a theme, and/or location and are given 60 minutes to take your best photo to submit for voting.  The entries are voted on by the other participants.  You are allowed to use windlight, but you dont have to, and no outside manipulations are allowed.  Your photo must be straight from Second Life.  

I was up for the challenge.  

We were given three landmarks to take one photo.  I spent most of my time flying around the destinations looking for a spot.  I spotted a skull at the top of a volcano that caught my eye.  I started zooming in and trying out different angles and then cranked up my graphics and…I crashed.  And I crashed over and over again!  Talk about bad timing for system issues.  

Finally, I was able to set my graphics to ultra and take a few shots on different angles.  This was going to be my entry:

But then while my finger was going crazy hitting ‘snapshot’, someone walked into my shot! I was just about to get all mad but then thought “hey, that actually makes the photo look way better!” and after a couple more crashes, I parked my av at the end of the wooden plank and got my shot:

I think I will call this one “Contemplation”.  I like the toothy skull.  His dentist would have been proud!

So, in the end I got my shot submitted with one minute left in the challenge.  Hell yeah!  I like to live on the edge!

And best of all, I tied for third place.  I’m really not a competitive person at all, but the game was fun and my sense was that everyone was just there to enjoy the challenge and admire everyone’s different perspectives of the locations.  

The PhotoHunt Challenge takes place on Mondays at 11:30 am SLT and Wednesdays at 6pm SLT.  If you are interested, I suggest heading over to the gallery now and joining the group so you will get the notices to remind you on those days.  You can also pick up the notecards with contest info and view the gallery of past entries and winners.  There are a lot of fabulous photos to view.  



I had a great time and I will definitely be returning for next weeks challenge.  Maybe I will see you there. 🙂

Landscape Photography is my Second Life Passion

I’ve had this blog for almost three years.  When I started it, I thought it would be just a place to write about my adventures and misadventures in the virtual world.  I had no idea that it would evolve into mostly a travel blog of sorts, with opinions and personal posts here and there. That’s fine with me because a SL travel blog is an excellent excuse to keep on doing what I love most in Second Life – capturing virtual world landscapes to share here with you.

I never knew I had it in me to create anything visual and I think I might have fallen in love with SL landscape photography more than my first love, writing…

On second thought, maybe that’s a bit of an overstatement, but it’s pretty close!

I love the challenge of scouting inworld locations, exploring the terrain, playing with windlight and finding the best angle that gives the perception of depth to a shot.  I want to create images that will make the viewer want to step into the scene and explore.  I hope that comes across in my photos.

One thing I am not great at is taking shots where my avatar is the focal point in the picture.  I’m not great at poses and props because I hate tinkering with them, and figuring out how to use the fancy pose huds is a huge pain in the ass. But then, I once felt the same about windlight settings and I eventually figured that out.  So there is hope for me yet.

I am always willing to improve and learn new things, which is one of the reasons why I am really excited about Whiskey’s and Botgirl’s new Single Frame Stories challenge.  This challenge gives me good reason to step out of my comfort zone, try something different and learn something new.

Botgirl and Whiskey have been doing their own Single Frame Stories(Botgirl’s Visual Tweets and Whiskey’s My Tweets as Pictures series) for awhile now and have created some amazing images on their blogs.  Go check them out if you haven’t already.

I have no idea if I am going to suck at it or not, but that has never stopped me before from trying something new and I’m willing to give it a go.  I hope you are willing too!


Have a great day! 🙂

“Sometimes size does matter. What’s the size of your footprint?” 

Misconceptions about Art and Creativity, and what is Art anyways?

Nurture and Cultivate your Creative Spark
Twitter is a great place for finding resources and information, having discussions and finding inspiration for blog posts…

So yesterday I read some tweets from Chestnut about her dislike for the use of the word “Creatives” to categorize people, as if only some people are creative and others are not.

What she said really hit home with me and triggered a lot of thought about my own creative expression and misconceptions about what it means to be an artist and live a creative life.

I will try to organize my thoughts on this so that it makes sense…

I have seen the word thrown around here and there and it has never really felt comfortable to me. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I think that in categorizing some people as Creatives, it implies that only certain people are creative and that creativity is some kind of precious commodity that only few people have access to.  Now perhaps it is my own misconceptions and insecurities that cause me to feel irked when I hear that word, but I do believe that living a creative life and producing “art” IS NOT some kind of elitist country club that only a chosen few have the privilege of being a part of.

I happen to believe that we are all Creative by nature.  Every one of us has the ability to express and create whether it be through writing, painting, photography, music, linking prims in virtual worlds, or whatever medium we choose and feel comfortable with.  Some of us are better than others.  Who am I to say that I am a “Creative” and some other person is not?  Perhaps the only difference between the so called “Creatives” and “non-Creatives” is that the latter may have not yet discovered their own desire to create and the means and skill to express it.

And while we’re on the topic, I also really dislike the Tortured Artist stereotype.  It just feeds into the misconception I already stated above – that only certain people are creative, and that suffering is a prerequisite to create good art.  I think this is bullshit and I refuse to buy into and perpetuate such a misnomer.  I’m not saying that hardships in life don’t inspire works of art.  It certainly does. I’m just saying that you do not have to live a dysfunctional life strewn with heartache in order to create and be considered an Artist or, there’s that word again, a Creative.  There are writers, painters, photographers, musicians and all kinds of artistic people who live quiet, “normal”, and overall happy lives and DO NOT suffer for their art.

Personally, I had not attempted any kind of creative expression in several years until I found Second Life.  I didn’t even really know I had the desire to do anything creative until I started exploring the grid and saw all the amazing works of art that people were making.  It made me want to do something too and Second Life actually made me feel that I could conjure up something beautiful and worthy of sharing with others.  I try, and whether my output is good or not, doesn’t really matter.  I get feedback once in awhile for my photos that I share here, and from time to time I make attempts at creating something “arty” in Second Life (see photo above).  I truly appreciate the positive feedback (thank you!), but that’s not why I do it.  I choose to create because it is an internal process and it makes me feel good.  Whether I am working through (or trying to forget) some emotions that I do not understand, trying to capture a feeling, essence or concept and convey it in a photo or in words, it is my personal creative process that matters most.

The finished product, fabulous as it may be, is really secondary to the Creative Process.  To me, that is what art and creative expression is all about, the process, the journey that leads the artist to their completed work. Every one of us, even me and you, has it in us to make our own path, create something beautiful and meaningful and call it Art.

A dark and lush forest known as Isle of Wysteria Lane

I don’t recall where I picked up the landmark for Isle of Wysteria Lane (rated Moderate).  I’m thinking that it must have been at Fantasy Faire 2012 because the lush landscape in this sim looks familiar to me. 

There is a lot to see and do here.  It could keep you busy for hours.  I normally am not really into taking tours like balloon or pod tours as I prefer to explore “on foot” or to fly.  However, this is one place where I highly recommend taking the dragonfly tour.  You will find a dragonfly to hop on in the landing area.  It’s a pretty cool tour and especially awesome in mouselook.  



I’m kind of a minimalist person, and in this sim there are a lot of things and I get easily overwhelmed.  But the dragonfly tour is a great way to get a view of the area and to also see what is up in the sky, because there is a lot to see.  I took the tour and then went back to the landing spot and used the teleporter to get around.  This worked well for me. 



Once again, I used the recommended region windlight setting.  I really do appreciate this feature as it gives an opportunity to view a build the way the creator intended.  However, my one complaint is that the windlight is not always optimal for photography.  It’s great for general exploring, however I found this one to be quite dark.  In my effort to take photos while changing the environment as little as possible, I found myself quite frustrated when my photos all came out too dark.  This is a shame because you can’t see and fully appreciate the details and textures in the plant life and builds because the scene is too dark.  I finally broke down and tweaked the scene gamma a little bit, and in the photo below, I had to adjust the lighting in post processing.  I’m still not happy with it, but I’m letting that go (my inner perfectionist is screaming!)



Even though I love it, I actually don’t miss playing with windlight settings.  It saves a huge amount of time when I can select ‘region settings’ and in most places (not all) there is complimentary windlight to the builds.

The photos that I am choosing to share here are only just a tiny slice of things to see in Isle of Wysteria Lane.  When you visit, bring a friend and be sure to explore up above.  There are some nice areas to just hang out, dance or have a cuddle with your special someone.  


Enjoy!