Illumination Repurposed

I started this blog, and the whole Renoobed project, in order to find ways to fill some gaps that existed in my Second Life. It’s worked quite well in that I’ve discovered many new interesting things to do as well as met quite a few incredible people, but as I approach the one year mark of this project I can’t help but notice I’m in a chicken and egg situation. I log in to SL in order to have something to blog about, and I blog in order to have a reason to log into Second Life.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve decided to take some time away from both to think about where I want to go from here. Do I want to continue the blog, and if so, will it keep the same purpose or shift direction? Do I want to continue in Second Life without the Renoobed project as my primary activity and purpose, and if not what will I do instead?

These aren’t easy questions but I do know I’m not likely to solve them by overthinking, so while I’m waiting for serendipity to show up and give me a direction this is a really good time for me to cut way back on the online time anyway for a variety of reasons that aren’t really appropriate to discuss here. I know, you thought I was an emotional exhibitionist, but there actually are some things I don’t talk about.

Other than five minutes every few days to clear messages and check on my Papillon Breedables, I only logged in once this last week, Wednesday for the photohunt challenge. We were given a landmark for the Purple Sim, an hour to take our best photo and come back to submit it, and told there was no theme.

No theme? That turned out to be considerably harder than it sounds, too many options, and decision making isn’t exactly my strong suit lately. Unconsciously I must have had the Single Frame Story Challenge subject of Illumination in the back of my head, because I was instantly drawn to the buoys around the bay. I snapped each of the different types in a variety of lighting and angles, but in the end settled on this one to submit for the challenge.

Illumination Repurposed

I didn’t even place, though I’m not surprised, it’s a complicated dark image that I’m honestly not even sure if I like but it captured the frame of mind I was in and felt right at the time. Voting was difficult too, with no set theme for the challenge the group really brought back a wide variety of photos and with no comparison factor it was hard to pick a favourite.

As Friday rolled round, the deadline for the Single Frame Story hit and I still hadn’t been back in Second Life so rather than log in I just chose to use the same photo I did on Wednesday since it was still on my desktop. It was clear that I must really have had Illumination on the brain when I did Wednesday’s challenge and took these, because the caption just wrote itself when it came time to make it a story.

I may try to pop in for the Photohunt challenges on Wednesdays, as I really do enjoy them and it’s only an hour once a week, but I’m not planning to be around much more than that so I won’t likely have anything further to blog in the coming weeks.  If I don’t plan to have a chicken there can’t be any eggs, or is it that I don’t have eggs so there won’t be a chicken?

Either way, I’ll see you in September and I wish you well.

 

PS – Don’t worry, this isn’t an emoflounce, I WILL be back in Second Life if not blogging.  The Happy Clams have secured an excellent spot for Burn2 and I have full intentions of finding myself a hooping animation and prop between now and then so I can dance on the speakers.

[-p-] Lil Witch Goes Off The Wall

I recently decided it was time to tackle my bloated and chaotic inventory.  At one time, I prided myself on keeping it perfectly organized and under 10K (I once heard somewhere this was optimal for performance but I have no idea if that’s true).  Hair:  Long, Short, Up, Ponies, Pig Tails and subfolders within those by creator.  Camisks:  Torn, Working, Dancing, Modest, and subfolders within those by color.

However, since I’ve started this project it’s become a minefield!  I keep folders for each hunt, but within those folders are items I’ve never opened, and everything should be placed in their proper spots like Dresses or Jewellery once the hunt is over.  I have hundreds of items in my object folder, never opened, group gifts and random things I’ve picked up in my travels I guess.  I saw the dial click over 19,000 and though some of it can be attributed to the cocoons from my breedables, and some is because I keep all 5 sizes of every mesh item I own, I know a lot can be purged.

I managed to get rid of about 2k easily enough by deleting notecards, landmarks and items I know for sure I’ll never wear again.  Then I started opening things,   I’m now over 20K and it was starting to look better organized, but I got distracted when I found this head called Lil Witch.

Blogging For Chocolate

I must have picked up this head when I got and blogged the Glados Doll group gift from [-p-]ixels and never tried it on.  I immediately fell in love and set about putting together a look to go with it.

I’m always impressed and amazed by the beautiful near real looking creations in Second Life, but the charming and whimsical will always have a special place with me.  Sure, it’s nice to put together a pretty or sexy avatar, but there is nothing like roaming the grid as purely silly.  I wore this head for three days, and I can’t believe the number of comments I’ve gotten from strangers.  It’s the best conversation starter I’ve ever had.

I then had to find the right location for pictures, her natural habitat, but the usual sims I look to wouldn’t seem right for my Lil Witch so I headed to the Destination Guide (have I mentioned I hate SL search?)

When I saw a picture of Off The Wall I knew it would be perfect.  I spent the first half hour or more laughing about all the interesting games, gadgets and accessories in the store, then set about exploring the landscape.  The combination of my avatar and the setting made me feel like I was in a completely different environment, I could almost forget it was Second Life for a moment.  It’s wild that a build can do that, trick my brain in that way.

Keep Calm and Blog

It seemed a perfect opportunity to use Adorkable’s Blogger Bubble gift that includes several poses and a caption bubble with a menu.  I’m really thrilled with how this turned out, even the sayings on the captions seem to work with the theme.

It was only afterwards, as I was putting this post together, that I re-read the description on the Destination Guide.

 Beneath the giant toys is a sensory overload of fun quests to complete for prizes, constructed by equally colorful characters. Don’t miss the many crazy references to geek culture, video games, Internet memes, and more.

Quests?  Prizes?  I was so overwhelmed with how fun it felt, I never noticed this.  I’ve done a quick google search and found that Off The Wall has been around for years, so maybe the quest is over and the description not updated?  Either way, I think a return trip is in order.

[-p-] Lil’ Witch Head (w/Hair_STYLE2) and [-p-] Lil’ Witch Skin group gifts from [-p-]ixels
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Pengo%20Bay/212/34/2571
Dress:  Pammy Dress  Candy Corn 3 – Old Halloween Hunt prize from Cupcakes
Shoes:  Gloss Doll Platform Jane Safety Orange from +DV8+ (no longer available)
Happy Duck Ring gatcha from ::LEO-NT::
Panda Necklace former hunt gift from Izzie’s
Very Berry Striped Socks lucky board at *katat0nik*
Poses and Caption Bubble Gift at Adorkable
Location: Off The Wall
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Off%20The%20Wall/72/151/9

Art, Photography, and the Joy of Creation

I haven’t had a chance to blog all week, but that doesn’t stop posts from rattling around in my brain.  Sometimes it’s like there is a cage match in there and I have to wait to see which topic wins before I can write it.  I know already that this one is going to be long, this is what happens when I don’t write for a few days I guess.

The subject on my mind most these days started when I read Whiskey Monday’s thoughts on Art, specifically whether or not the images we create in Second Life can be identified as such.

I have no issue calling my work at. It’s created in much the same way my best writing is created – from a place in me that feels rather than sees. While I’ve turned those feelings into words quite easily, creating a visual just takes the process a step further. I like to think that the image enriches the story I’m telling, and offers a dimension that words don’t always reach. And for me personally, there are times when the feelings I want to express are too difficult to share with words.

She captured how I feel about what I’ve been doing in Second Life this past year so much better than I ever could.  Like Whiskey, I’ve traditionally used my writing to express myself, either through roleplay or even ramblings like I do here.  When I turned my hand to using SL visuals to express myself it’s like something clicked inside me (no pun intended).  Some things are hard for me to say or talk about, and I’m learning that an image can express it better than I can, or at least, it feels like a safer medium in which I can do so.  My favorite part of what I do is when people tell me how those images make them feel “Oh she looks so sad” or “I wonder what she’s up to in that picture”.  Sometimes they see what I intended to convey, other times they see or feel something very different, but those are actually the times I’m most intrigued.

Debates about “What is Art” have been around since basket weaving and cave drawings I’m sure, and sorry to disappoint you but I’m not going to provide any insight that you haven’t thought about before.  What I wanted to delve into, and where I differ from Whiskey, is that I’m reluctant to call my work Art.

It’s possibly just a lack of confidence, or a personality trait, but I feel a bit like a faker when I call anything I’ve done in Second Life art.  I have no issue calling other people’s work art, but I’m quite aware that I’m not on the same playing field and that I have a long way yet to go.  Years ago I took some water color classes and succeeded in making mud pies with holes in the paper when I tried to rub off the masking, I told myself then that I wasn’t cut out to be an artist.  I’m fortunate that Second Life provides the venue and tools that allow someone like me, with no artistic ability, an opportunity to explore our creative sides, but there is still a significant skill level involved.

I’m constantly aware that my post processing skills are non-existent, and although I do like to play with picmonkey I do realize it’s the software and not me making the interesting effects.  I also know I need a lot of work on basics like composition, and I haven’t yet found my niche.  Looking through my Flickr account it’s really apparent that I’m still on this journey, experimenting with landscapes or editorial shots, close ups and abstracts.  If the images I do are my voice, I appear to be speaking in tongues.

My mind knows that art isn’t about quality; a child’s fingerpainting is as much Art as the greatest masters, so I need to put those nagging thoughts behind me.  I’m guessing as the world, and our language, evolves to encompass digital technology and virtual worlds I’ll be more comfortable recognizing that what I do is in fact Art.  It might not be good Art, but there will be less ambiguity or discomfort when I use the term.

Recently a friend made an unrelated comment to me about how Artists are fragile and need a lot of encouragement, and even with feedback tend to be perfectionist and their own worst critic.  I had to laugh, because if that’s true then I’ve been wrong all along and I am an Artist after all.

Cliches are cliché for a reason, and since I rambled on quite a while and you’ve likely glossed over by now, let’s prove the point that an image can be used to convey a message better than words.

Art is in the eye...

So now that the Art dispute is settled, what about words like Photography?  The conversations on these topics have continued on some of my favourite blogs, and I particularly like Honour McMillan’s wonderfully tongue in cheek take on it.

I have enough trouble reconciling the fact that the content is created by real artists and I just capture it. The fact that I can move around a 3d environment with my camera-like functionality and worry about composition, lighting, and mood makes me cringe at the idea that somehow there’s nothing of me in the result. However, I don’t want to continue pretending that I’m a “photographer”. It’s not right.

Like Whiskey, Honour goes on to describe how she feels about the word far better than I could, particularly her reluctance to call these images screen captures.  To me, screen captures are using the print screen button, or something  like snagit, to capture error messages for the IT staff or application screens for a manual.  I really, really, don’t want to call what I do screen captures and I feel that anyone who uses that term to describe what I do is being dismissive towards me and the fabulous Artists of Second Life.

Language is so fascinating isn’t it?  We, all of us, have near visceral reactions to some words, both positive and negative.  If I want people to understand that calling what I do screen captures brings up negative feelings I should be respectful of the fact that by calling it photography might have the same reaction in them.  So, ever eager to learn more and open to changing my opinion, I posed the question to SLU.

As I suspected, the word art is a non issue.  I don’t think there is anyone in the world who feels art can be defined, but there are some interesting thoughts on the word photography.  I think the ship that housed the actual film vs. digital camera argument sailed long ago, so that argument doesn’t sway me much.  Post processing can’t be the bar because many real world photographers edit their shots now.  I’m not convinced by the argument that photography requires RL subject matter either.  The fact that there is no physical camera is a pretty valid point though.

If we stop to consider what the camera does, since that seems to be the deciding factor here, I do feel there are similarities in Second Life.  First, you have to frame the shot as you would in a view finder.  Trust me, this one I’m well aware of as I sometimes spend hours setting up the shots.  Next comes lighting, and where the mechanisms to create the right lighting differ with a RL camera and in Second Life, they are both equally important.  Choosing the subject and then staging the subject both apply, though which is more difficult is again debateable.  True, you can’t tell a RL animal to move, nor a tree, but with a model you can.  In Second Life, you might be able to move that animal or tree, but the limitation of poses is a big issue, at least for me.  I realize there are thousands of poses in Second Life, and without those pose makers we couldn’t do a fraction of what we do, but even still there are times I wish I could move my subject just a teeeny bit, tilt her chin, bend her elbow, things that are far easier to control and direct in the real world.

So while I’m still uncertain exactly why using the word photography for our Second Life creations would be insulting or offensive to RL photographers, I  accept the fact that for some it diminishes or detracts from how they identify themselves as much as terms like screen captures or snapshots does to me.  So where does that leave us?

New terms have been proposed, machinography or pixography for example, awkward mouthfuls to be sure but I’d use it if that was the actual term.  It’s not though, we don’t have  a term, language hasn’t caught up to what we do.  I’m perfectly willing to use Virtual Photography, but in all honesty I bet there will be times where I forget and shorten it “Check out this photo I took”.  Do I need to constantly self edit, to be sure there isn’t someone somewhere who is offended by what I call my hobby?  The parts of me that are sensitive to others feelings, empathetic even, tell me that I should, but I have to say in practice I don’t know if I can do this at all times.  I by no means want to negate the skill and talents of RL photographers, but knowing that similar skills and talent goes into virtual photography, I don’t see how or why the comparison would be an insult.

My favourite quote from that discussion comes from Chip Midnight.

Artists of all stripes can be an insecure lot, quick to dismiss what others do in the name of their own self-aggrandizement. In the end, who really cares? The joy is in the creating. If other people like and accept or are moved by what you do, that’s just a nice bonus.

I already have a well known tendency to over think just about everything, but I’m not going to let a term like photography, one I certainly don’t use as an insult to another’s work, be the barrier to finding joy in what I create or keep me from pursuing this newly born passion.

I took up virtual photography in Second Life for purely practical purposes, to add images to my blog.  I quickly learned that I enjoy it, I even enjoy the struggles I’ve gone through as I learn various techniques and practice my skills.  I discovered that I might very well be a creative or even artistic person after all, something that I never would have considered until this.  My attempts here have even given me the confidence to register in a very basic introduction to Digital Arts class at my community college this fall.  It’s just one little class, but it’s far more than I’d ever have considered a year ago.  My images have become an ever present companion to my words, the left hand to my right, an integral part of not only my online experience, but how I identify myself.

Felicity Francois – Dorky Second Life Explorer, Retired Roleplayer, Artist and Virtual Photographer – or for simplicity sake, just a pancake.

Perspective

When I started contemplating this post, I knew I needed visuals, and I wanted to play off the “Art is in the eye of the beholder” phrase with the word Art actually in my eye.  I thought this would be a good project to learn to build so I spent two days trying to create letters.  I managed to make a T, yay me, but the rest was a mess.  As I often do when I’m stuck I asked SLU for advice on making letters, or places to buy letters, and was quickly met with offers to custom make something for me.  The mesh letters and pose in the first image are courtesy of The Laverne Unit of Hello Spacegirl .

Fellow SLU’er Soen Eber whipped up a set of prim letters for me, the ones shown in the second picture, before I even really had a chance to explain what I was thinking.  When I saw them I knew they would work perfectly with the pose and camera from Del May.  I’m constantly amazed at the skill level, talent, and generosity of the Second Life community.  Thank you all for helping me with this, I couldn’t do any of what I do, regardless of the term, without you.

Tranquility at World’s End Garden

It’s rare that I’m in Second Life on a week day, but as I was pouring my third cup of coffee and debating what to do with that last day of my long weekend I remembered that the Virtual Artist Alliance’s PhotoHunt Challenge has a Monday event at 11:30 SLT.

I logged in and arrived just in time for them to announce the theme would be tranquility and to receive the landmark for World’s End Garden.

World's End Garden

What a fabulous location.  I don’t think I’d ever been there before and my camera finger was clicking like crazy.  Everywhere I turned I found a new wonderful sight that embodied the theme of Tranquility.

At one point I cammed in on this set of candles in a gazebo and though the entire sim lends itself to beautiful landscape shots, a close up of an object is not something I normally do so I felt this would be a good challenge for me.

As I was playing with lighting and trying to frame the shot just right since we can’t crop or use any post processing, we got the 10 minute warning to return and upload our pictures.  So I headed back and took a few minutes to look over all the selections on my desktop and decided on the candles.  Surprisingly, I tied for second place.

Tranquility

I’m certainly pleased with that, but my goal in these challenges isn’t so much winning as it is pushing myself and I keep looking at that picture and wishing I could have had a little more time to tweak the lighting, and I certainly wish I could have cropped it.  Perfectionist?  Not necessarily, but it’s frustrating when I have a feel or concept in my head and the images just don’t fully capture that.

With the contest over, I went back to World’s End Garden to redo the shot.  Ok, maybe a bit of a perfectionist.  Though the contest time constraints and rules about no editing are really good for me, I do normally prefer to spend a few lazy hours experimenting with every possible angle and lighting before I take a shot.  It’s a form of relaxation to me.

As I once again stood by the very same candles and experimented with lighting, I stumbled on one that cast this shadow of me on the curtains behind.  This was it, this is what was missing from the first attempt, what I had been trying to say with my photo and just hadn’t realized it.  A tweak of the depth of field and the picture was set.

Tranquility Revisited

I did do a bit of post processing, a tad of softness and muting the colors down a bit, but since I had a really good raw shot to work with it didn’t take much.  I must say, I think it’s my best work to date and it wouldn’t have been possible without these photohunt challenges.

World’s End Garden
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Worlds%20End%20Garden/50/116/21

Virtual Artist Alliance’s Photo Hunt Challenges every Monday and 11:30 am and Wednesday at 6 pm.
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife//176/167/2667

Not Tonight Honey, I Just Did My Nails

I recently read about a new blog and photo challenge starting up called Single Frame Stories.  I obviously don’t have enough on my SL plate so I decided to jump right in.  This challenge is PERFECT for me because it will not only give me much needed practice with the technical part of my photos, but it’s going scratch my roleplaying itch to create stories and help my writing too.  You see, the goal is to create a story using only an image and up to 140 characters.  Moi?  Need to learn brevity?  Say it isn’t so.

The subject for this week was “Last Words”

Last Words (Single Frame Story Challenge - Week One)

I originally hoped to come close to reaching the level of depth and profound messaging that Whiskey captures in her “My tweets as pictures” series, but I am who I am, and when I saw this pose prop I knew I had my one frame story.

Any double entendre is completely accidental, of course.

Credits:

Nail Polish Bottle with four poses:  “Pretty in Pink” pink ribbon hunt prize from Nani poses
Nails:  “Killer Queen Nails” pink ribbon hunt prize from Adoness
Mesh Bikini: “Barbie Bikinis” pink ribbon hunt prize from Sakide
Read more about the Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer awareness and fundraising Fair and Hunt here.
http://pinkribbonfair.blogspot.ca/
http://pinkribbonfair.blogspot.ca/p/prf-hunt.html

Skin:  Isla Medium Peach from *League*
Hair: Rhonda w/roots Barley from Truth

Vintage Jonquil From ColdLogic

This week’s colour challenge is Jonquil and though it feels to me that we’ve had a lot of yellow, I didn’t mind this color at all because the name alone makes me smile. Jonquils remind me of being a kid, probably because that’s what my parents actually called them. I think I was in my teens before I heard the word Daffodil and to this day I’m not entirely sure if the two are actually the same plant, but these yellow bursts of spring will always be Jonquils to me. Though I’m hardly feeling springish, I originally planned to do an Easter like photoshoot complete with bonnet or white patent shoes because that’s how the word makes me feel. Nostalgic.

There was a dramatic change in plans when I saw the ColdLogic collection for Vintage Fair.

Vintage Jonquil

I had originally planned this as a preview, but I was having a massive creativity block. I did three separate sets of photoshoots with this dress, and only had 100 pictures in my desktop trash to show for it. Something wasn’t clicking, whether it was the struggle of trying to capture both a nostalgic and a vintage vibe, or not finding the right location, I don’t know but my mojo was just off and I know to take a break when that happens. I went blog surfing and found a post on Ziki’s Blog called Black Kite and as I’d never been there before I decided to go touring until my muse came back. Guess what I walked into? A patch of Jonquils. I can’t even make this stuff up guys.

Jonquil

With the color challenge out of the way, it was time to get down to serious business. Serious being, squeeing like a maniac that Chic Management’s Vintage Fair was finally open! I don’t normally blog about Fairs, though I do attend them, but most have a list of official bloggers who do a great job covering it and there isn’t much I can add. Vintage Fair feels a bit different to me, maybe it’s the roleplayer in me that finds it fun to dress up in different eras.

Except the 80s, and I can’t even believe the 80s are vintage now. I have this little rule you see, if I wore it the first time around, I probably shouldn’t wear it the second. I’m going to apply that to my virtual life as well. I have school photos with 80s hair, one shoulder exposed and big earrings, I sooo don’t need to see myself like that again. There’s only so much nostalgia one can take. Luckily for me, ColdLogic’s collection has a distinctive seventies flair and with 7 new mesh dresses with names like Partridge and Brady, I just had to …

ColdLogic Collection for Vintage Fair

As I start to wear more and more mesh, I’m becoming better acquainted with what works well on me, and what details to look for. Now I’m not one to criticize anyone’s creations, I could be given a rigged template, a texture, and a step by step youtube video and I still couldn’t make a thing.  That said, I am learning to recognize those extra details that add to a superior piece of work and from my untrained eye I do believe ColdLogic is really one of the leaders in the field of mesh clothing. It’s hard to tell in my pictures, but the folds in the mesh line perfectly to the shading, adding so much definition. The details are incredible, from the clasp on the belt to the zipper pull at the back of the dress. They are also lined, which I love, and they include a leg darkening tattoo layer that I much prefer to having nude legs that suddenly vanish into invisible. The lining and the tattoo create more a shadow effect under the clothing. I’m really excited to see how far mesh has come, and where we’ll be with it in another six months or a year.

You can get all seven dresses, in various colors at Vintage Fair which opened today (August 4th) and continues through to August 29th. With over 250 creators featuring new creations from the 1920’s through 1980’s you’re sure to find something interesting, and not just clothing. Have a look at the official list of particpants, complete with maps and slurls.  There is also a Vintage Fair Flickr Photo Contest with over 115,000L in prizes.  I haven’t decided if I’m going to enter or not, if the right picture comes along in the next few weeks I’ll enter, but if not that’s ok, I’m going to focus on the weekly photohunt challenges for now.

Credits for First Two Photos:
Dress: Cleaver in Butter by ColdLogic available at Vintage Fair
Skin: Isla Medium Peach from *League*
Hair: Betty Jupiter from Truth
Poses: !Bang
First two photos shot at Black Kite
http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Black%20Kite/132/182/21

Collage Set:
Dresses from the new Vintage Fair collection by ColdLogic
Skin: Isla Medium Peach from *League*
Hair: Kirby w/Roots Champagne from Truth
Poses: Olive Juice, Adorkable and Fri.Day