Papermakis at MiC-Imaginarium

I recently read about an exhibit at MiC-Imaginarium called Papermakis. According to the SL Destination Guide it’s a tribute to text, words, books, newspapers and other communications by Romy Nayar. As Second Life, or my SL at least, is very much text based because I rarely use voice so I thought it quite fitting and decided to pop over for a look. It was so much more than I expected. Again, simplicity in concept, but I spent hours exploring it. I really loved that it was interactive with things to click on, sit on, and several moving parts of the exhibit.

Papermakis

It really made me start thinking about the written word as a communication method and how so much of what we do today, especially related to Second Life, really comes down to words. Whether it’s a group chat or private IM, a forum post or tweet or plurk, an email, or a blog, we are forming impression about people, entire relationships sometimes, based on written words. I know, I know, I’m about to get accused of overthinking or called cerebral again aren’t I?

It’s true though, how often has someone moved you or angered you based on a word choice or turn of phrase? How many of us have chosen not to say certain things that were in our minds. and yet how often have words not spoken still managed to hurt you? I’m certain I’m not the only one who has actually laughed out loud based purely on something I’ve read, nor am I the only one who has cried. I’m certain that a good majority of what I’ve learned in life, and continue to learn, comes from things I’ve read and I know I’ve had countless hours of entertainment and recreation from reading books and roleplaying.  The notion that words are powerful is hardly new, but I think this exhibit really helped me look at it in a new way.

Picking Up the Words

In another of those far too common moments of serendipity in my Second Life I found myself staring at all the words at Papermakis and I remembered that the free low lag avatar given out at Fantasy Faire.  It included mesh hair and a skin that was covered in words. It was meant to be! I had to change into the skin and photograph it in it’s natural habitat.

Print

The Papermakis exhibit opened on April 10th and I’m not sure how long it will be open so make sure you stop by soon.

Papermakis at MiC-Imaginarium
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/MIC/57/145/21

Last day of Fantasy Faire 2012 is May 1st
Fantasy Fair http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/The%20Tides/185/129/43

Written all over my face

Art Screamer Spirit by Claudia222 Jewell

In the previous post where I was so excited about my first ever picture that turned out exactly how I envisioned, I mentioned that the sim was Spirit and the complete avatar a FREE gift when you visit.  I wanted to show you a few more pictures to give you a hint of how creative this build is.

Spirit in Art Screamer

It’s a tricky sim to photograph, only in that there is so much to see. I’ve visited four times now and each time I notice something new. A subtle change of camera angle or lighting and it takes on a completely different feel.

Spirit in the Sky

Some of the builds are really big and grab your attention immediately. Others are tiny, and you have to cam in to see them.

One thing I noticed as I was touring around wearing the free avatar, was that I kept losing myself! The plants are made of the same moth wing texture the avatar wears. I wanted to play with the idea of camouflage.

Spirit in Hiding

Perhaps inspired by Gray because of the color challenge this week I decided to play around with another more abstract feeling photo like I did in the last post.

Gray Spirit

I love the concept I captured, but the photo has a strange line down the center which is because of lighting or something as it’s not a flaw in the avatar. Unfortunately I don’t know how to get rid of it because I don’t have the skill level yet in post processing. Oh well, I’m just as eager to post my “not quite right” photos as I am the ones I love and hopefully in the next six months or something I can look back and know how to fix it!

Drop by and see if the Spirit inspires you.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Art%20Screamer/151/20/20

 

Capturing Spirit

If you’ve followed this blog project since the beginning, or browsed my Flickr Stream, I think you’ll agree my SL photography has improved quite a bit.  I still don’t own Photoshop, and know how to use many three tools in GIMP, but I’ve taught myself a lot about composition, pose choice, windlight, depth of field and a variety of other basic photography skills.

I’ve taken thousands of pictures these last few months, hundreds have ended up on this blog or Flickr, many of which were pretty good but none that really captured the vision I had in my head.  I came close a few times, but there was always something missing.  The Zombie Bride , the Headless Doll, even the Psycho shots I took for the Papillon Contest had hints of the Eerie Sensuality, the contrast of Feminine and Frightening, a subject that was both Disturbing and Vulnerable, each so close I could taste it but I was never fully satisfied.

Then last night, it finally happened.

Capturing Spirit

My hands were shaking, I actually had tears in my eyes. Me. I did this. Other than my son I’ve never made anything beautiful before.

I can’t stop staring at the lines of the neck and the slight awkwardness of the shoulder.

If you’ve never struggled trying to take the perfect picture, I’m sure this all sounds overly dramatic. That’s fine LOL I can admit that it probably does, but this has been almost… cathartic. (I was going to say orgasmic but that might be overstating) To FINALLY see a photograph that is exactly what was in my head is an experience that has made all those hours of practice and thousands of deleted attempts worth while.

Of course, all the real credit goes to Claudia222 Jewel who not only created this build called Spirit in Second Life, but the complete avatar I’m wearing in that photo is a FREE gift when you go there.

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Art%20Screamer/31/66/20

Thank you Claudia for giving me the opportunity to use your talent to explore my own creativity and express something that I’ve been struggling to for so long.

NOTE: There is basically no post processing on this photo. I cropped it, dabbled with the contrast slider a smidge, but that’s about it. This is pure Second Life.

Shuttle Gray and Pravda’s Terracotta Army

Continuing with the idea I had for the Turquoise challenge, where I didn’t photograph clothing, I decided that for this week’s Shuttle Gray challenge I wouldn’t photograph my avatar at all.  Instead, I chose one of the incredible Terracotta Warriors by Pravda.

Profile of a Warrior

I must say, I think I’ve finally nailed Depth of Field but it’s the incredible detail in this creation that really deserves all the credit here.  I’m just the messenger.

The only negative thing I could possibly say is that if you hadn’t read about it in blogs or Flickr you might not have known to explore down in this cave.

Excation Entrance

One of the greatest things about Second Life is being able to explore most anything and anywhere, from the fantasy recreations pulled from books and movies,  to quirky fun builds that delight the senses and are drawn completely from the creator’s imagination, to replicas of real life places.   The Second Life Destination Guide describes the Pravda Terracotta Warrior Army location in SL as follows:

In the spring of 1974, farmers digging a well in the eastern suburbs of Xi’an, Shaanxi province China, were startled to discover an intact terracotta head. From there archeologists began to unearth an astonishing scene — a cavernous vault containing an entire army of warriors meant to guard the Emperor Qin Shi Huang as he made his journey into the afterlife. View the incredible sight for yourself.

http://secondlife.com/destination/terracotta-warrior-army

Terracotta Army Excavation in SL

I’ll probably never get to visit China in real life so I really appreciated the opportunity to spend a few hours exploring this in a virtual way.  It’s eloquently beautiful in it’s simplicity of concept, and yet the scale and repetition somehow make it awe-inspiring. I think I might add that to my SL bucket list, exploring more historical recreations from RL in SL.  If you know of any please let me know.

The store just beside the excavation, Pravda, has these Terracotta Warrior status for sale in sets and individually.  I think they’d be an excellent addition to someone’s home or roleplay sim.

Pravda's Terracotta Army in SL

Visit Pravda’s Terracotta Army Excavation and Store

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Tenth%20Rua/76/172/1272

Turquoise

I fell out of the habit of doing Luna Jubilee’s 52 weeks of color challenge but I’ve really been meaning to get back into it.  The challenge was great because it provided me with reasons to practice and experiment with my photographs, which I desperately need, as well as inspiration and motivation to get out there and do something.

This week the color is Turquoise so I spent the last few days trying to find an outfit that was not only that color, but spoke to me in some way.  Inspired me.  I think of my photos as mini characters I create, like short stories told in images not words.  This time, I had nothing.  There is a lot of great clothing out there, don’t get me wrong, but you know when you HAVE to find something for an event and you just can’t find the right thing?  Yup, that was me.

So I sat back tonight and seriously pondered just skipping this week and starting again next week when the idea hit me.  It’s a color challenge, but I don’t really have to photograph clothes do I?

Turquoise 3

When I think of turquoise the first thing that comes to mind is the Caribbean. You know those amazing pictures of the sky and the ocean, how they seem almost to touch? Where your eye is fooled and can’t find the line between sky and sea because they reflect one into the other? The beauty and simplicity of shades of the same color palette. The ones where you want to just jump in and have the ripples from your movement chase away any clouds reflections in the water?

Turquoise 1

You know the pictures I mean?  Well… I wasn’t able to capture those.

I’m a bit disappointed that the pictures aren’t exactly what I had in my head but maybe I was setting the bar a little too high, beyond my abilities for sure, and maybe even beyond my computer’s or SL’s capabilities.  I know I think too much sometimes, but in this case I may always have been thinking too big.

Still, they aren’t bad. They certainly do showcase the color challenge for this week so I’m going to submit them but I’ll be revisiting this idea because I haven’t quite captured what I was hoping to.

Turquoise 2

In the end, even if the pictures didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped, it was a lot of fun to do.

You meet the most interesting people when you are wandering around naked looking for vacant waterfront land while distracted with poses and lighting!

Mesh: Death of the Upskirt

Mesh.
It’s not quite as volatile a subject as politics or religion, but it’s certainly up there with appropriate hotdog toppings.
Don’t even get me started on people who put ketchup on hotdogs. If there isn’t mustard and onions, it isn’t a hotdog.

Mesh has a lot going for it. My limited budget doesn’t allow me to buy very many of the new mesh clothing items, but when Jane’s had a sale a while back I treated myself to a few dresses and I’m thrilled with them. The absolute best part of wearing mesh is how it moves with your avatar. No more funky stretched or twisted textures when your AO moves, no more showing glitchpants when you sit or dance in a dress. Pictures can’t really capture how great mesh looks in motion, I should have taken a video. If I’m walking around wearing a mesh dress, guaranteed I’m looking at my own ass. It’s freaking fabulous. Having said that, there were a few complications.

If you haven’t worn mesh yet, I can’t stress enough that you should try on demos. Even if other mesh has worked for you, even if other items from that creator fit, always always try a demo. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration and buyer’s remorse.

Mesh clothing also usually has to be worn with an alpha that basically makes your body invisible on the parts that will be covered. This doesn’t make sizing perfect though so many mesh items are sold with several size options. Still, even then it’s not a guarantee any will fit you properly.

Many sizes are too small, and even with the alpha, you’ll have body parts sticking out.

Mesh too Small

If mesh is too big, you get weird gaps. Normally, in real life, a gap in a shirt isn’t so bad. Free boob flashing right? Not in these cases though because remember you are wearing the alpha. All you get is a void.

Mesh too Big

If you aren’t using a mesh viewer, and honestly I can’t even think of any current ones that aren’t mesh enabled so it would have to be one of the older versions, but if you aren’t using a mesh enabled viewer it will just look like a mishapen blob to you. I remember once I standing on a sim taking photos and this guy kept bumping into me. So I said excuse me, and moved out of his way. Speaking must have gotten his attention because he quickly apologized and said he had been trying to sit on me because he thought I was a cube. Now, that might have been the lamest pick up line in Second Life, or maybe I did look like a cube, either way if you are using a viewer that can’t see mesh I suggest you update to avoid these potentially uncomfortable social situations.

Having said that, it’s becoming more and more common that I meet people who ARE on viewers that should be able to see mesh, but they don’t. All they see is a void. I recently had that experience myself. The mesh is just missing, all you see is the alpha. Something like this.

Missing Mesh

If this happens to you don’t panic. There are a few solutions that can help.

1) Make sure basic shaders are enabled. I know for some with older computers this will kill their FPS and SL will become difficult, but on some of the viewers you will not see mesh if your shaders are not on.

2) Go to Advanced – Debug Settings and find MeshMaxConcurrentRequests and increase this. Your default is probably 32 and you want to double this to at least 64. I’ve heard of one person who set it to 300, but I keep mine at 100 and haven’t had a problem since. I’m no technical expert, but my understanding is your viewer’s ability to see mesh can get “full”, like a cache of sorts I guess. As more and more mesh hits the grid,  the default MeshMaxConcurrentRequests is proving to be too small to handle what we see and sooner or later our viewer just stops showing us mesh.  Increasing this helped me a lot.

3) Relog.

This has worked for most of the people I recommended it to, at least for mesh clothing. There have been a few exceptions, but those seem to be for those on Phoenix. You can have similar issues with mesh objects, like buildings, but the suggestions above usually fix it. If it doesn’t, another suggestion I was given is to update your drivers.

Now that you can see mesh again, we’re back to the sizing issue. I don’t consider my avatar very big, in fact the one I use most often to do this blog is the thinnest of all my characters, but even so the smallest sizes never fit me, not even with shape tweaks. The largest often have gaps that distract me, but other times they don’t fit either.  Honestly I give SL a momentary dirty look when I have to wear sizes called “Plump” and it still doesn’t fit. Come on, can we just call the sizes A, B, C, D? Anyway, too big, too small, none are ever just right. I sound like goldilocks now don’t I?

My solution is to find the closest fitting size that isn’t too big and then adjust my shape. Usually this just means shrinking my boobs and butt a little bit, just until they don’t poke out of my clothes. It’s not that big a deal I guess, no different then when I had a skirt shape with no butt. I just keep copies of my shape for the different meshes.

Ta-da! Just right.

Mesh Just Right

For all the great things about mesh, there is one that I don’t think we’ll ever solve. One that my partner mentions regularly.

It’s killed the upskirt view.

Mesh aka Death of the Upskirt

The fabulous dress I tortured in this post is called tankdress.crush.marine from Jane  http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Zyrra/116/150/23

The hair? I know it’s cute right! It’s called Bunny and was a gift from the Truth Subscribo over Easter while I was out of town. I cried when I came back and saw it on the feeds. I have 50 billion pigtails and yet as soon as I saw this style I knew it was the one I *had* to have. Luckily it’s still in the subscribo at Truth, just go to the store, click to redeliver. You get a box with the whole fat pack, every color, but be careful when you rez it. Open, don’t buy. For some reason it’s set to 1750L even though it was sent as a gift.