Showing posts with label scenic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label scenic. Show all posts

Friday, July 18, 2014

Le Botanique

Liara (Kemicq) Okiddo has once again created a marvelous scenic landscape, perfect in nearly every way. In this lush section of forest a perpetual rain is actually as welcome as a fuzzy blanket for the atmosphere it creates. One can almost smell the greenery and feel the warmth of Le Botanique (SLurl). As with Isla Okiddo (see here), Liara has carefully added elements one-by-one to be form an extraordinarily cohesive environment. A visual treat from every angle. Here are a few pictures I shot today but I highly encourage you to visit Liara's Insights into building 'Le Bontanique' Flickr group for not only more pictures but for detailed commentary on her building process.

My photographer, Zyx, enjoying a break after the morning's shoot.
Click any image to embiggen them or see them on my Flickr feed here. My graphics were set to High and Advanced Lighting was off as it slowed the rain effect to a crawl leaving just streaks of light as if I had used a flash attachment.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Spring Meme

If I had a choice, I would be able to have a lovely Spring landscape at all times and I don't mean in Second Life. Though I don't mind the cold nearly as much as I mind heat, Winter is still depressing. Fall is my second favorite season thanks to the colors and the cooler evenings. Summer I can do without almost entirely. I'm definitely a Spring girl so I was pleased to see Strawberry Singh's meme challenge this week (see here).  My first thought for today's pic was Forest Floor (SLurl) a lovely shop with the same name and one of the most natural forest edge landscapes in all Second Life. This is one of those spots that when I just want to relax or have some lovely scenery too look at on the compute when I'm occupied near by but not actively engaged in Second Life, I park my avatar here (usually one of my pixies) and look in once in a while.

Meme Instructions: Share a spring-themed picture and/or answer the following questions about the season. Don’t forget to leave a link to your post in the comments and share your picture in the Blog Memes Flickr Group.

What is the spring season like where you live?

I live in Southern Maine, USA so our Spring is often variable, but for the most part I don't see green leaves until mid- to late-April. One flowering tree in our back yard is trying to bud right now, but frequent frosts have been deterring it. Here on April First I still have snow on the ground with a 50ºF air temperature.

Our front yard trees are always the last to show leaves come Spring and the first to shed them come Autumn. The ubiquitous evergreens (Maine is "The Pine Tree State") make my state beautiful all year long, however, so when I need to see greenery I don't have to go very far at all.

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think of spring?
Growing things. I'm far too lazy to do any gardening in Real Life, but I do so love new plants and budding trees. The bright green of Spring is so cheerful compared to the dark greens of Summer. When I can I try to get lost in some wooded area or an actual forest to experience the season. When I lived in Pennsylvania my brother and I would usually drive up to Maine to see family every May and I'd insist that we go through central New York State and southern Vermont just for the forests.

Which spring-themed sim in Second Life is your favorite at the moment?
Forest Floor probably isn't specifically Spring-themed (I can see elements of late Summer and early Fall) nor do I know of any region intentionally dedicated to the season. Try the Calas Galadhon regions (SLurl; Web) as they change seasonally. My home in Nangrim, the Lydia Rose Memorial Park (SLurl) is always Spring-like and I'm often lounging in the pond or in the hot tub there.

Here's to Spring! A time of renewal, color, and growing things.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Windlight Blog Challenge

Looks like Strawberry Singh has been laboring on American Labor Day because she released her weekly blogger challenge in her Monday Memes series today, this time asking questions about the use of Windlight settings in Second Life. Six questions with interesting answers (see here) though I'm not sure mine will be as interesting.

Before I get started, though, I think Strawberry might be psychic by coming up with this week's topic as just yesterday I was talking with a few people about how pictures I've seen on the MySL feeds and on Flickr can almost be used to identify the photographer because the images have consistently distinctive styles. This observation ties into a project that I swear I will get to one day: Take the exact same photo with the exact same settings with different viewers to judge how the various algorithms and other stuff I don't understand influence the qualities of a photo.

Meme instructions: Answer the following questions about windlight settings and share some that you’ve created yourself. Don’t forget to leave a link to your post in this meme’s comments.

Do you use windlight while taking pictures? If not, why not?
Yes, and no. For most snaps I post to MySL (see here) I don't turn on Advanced Lighting and the Sun settings are usually just Default Noon. I consider most MySL pix as casual shots one might grab with their camera phones or a simple point-and-shoot camera. For my blog or for my Flickr feed, I at least activate Advanced Lighting and more often than not actually think about using Windlight settings other than the Region Default or Default Noon.

This is Zyx Resident.
One of the first things I like to do when I have a new character (alt) "dialed in" is to make a Profile picture for them. I also use it as the texture for their basic Inventory storage boxes. As part of a new "birth" is the creation of a cube which then get is tucked into a safe part of the character's Inventory as a sort of date maker.
When taking a closeup snapshot for a profile picture, which windlight preset do you use most often?
That depends on the scene. Likely some of the background is visible so that is an influence, but generally I play with the sun position of the Default Sky to see what looks nice. As I've copied all the non-standard Windlight settings I have from various Third Party Viewers into the Official Viewer's directory, I can use specialized modeling options, but I can't recall the last time I did so.

When Zyx Flux was kitted out as a Petite pixy I had to do a full body portrait. No Windlight here as the shading on the rose was perfect and the tone of the mesh avatar body was nicely textured. Still one of my favorite pictures.
Which windlight presets do you use for full body portraits?
I don't usually do full body portraits, but in thinking about it, I suppose I have the same answer as I did for the previous question.

My scenic pictures have greatly improved in the five years since this shot of the Lesbos Mall was taken. Back in 2008, though, I was more interested in building, like big parts of this place.
If you do landscape photography, which windlights do you use for that most often?
Quite often it is a saved variation of Places Las Legunas that I made and I liberally mess with the East Angle and Time of Day. This goes against everything I learned in years of Real Life photography classes. I'd scout locations at different times of day, look up sunrise/sunset times in almanacs and the direction of the sun during different seasons, and then some. I had long debates with myself about whether it would be alright to move a branch or some natural debris in a scene. "Capture reality as it happens" was my mantra. One of the outdoor photography magazines I read at the time had a running debate on this among it's contributors from month-to-month and I'd write in with commentary. Very thought provoking but I'm not sure it did my work any good. Sometimes in SL when I de-render an object or do very unnatural things with Windlight this dispute comes to mind, but then I shoot anyway.

Do you have any tricks or tips that you could share for using Windlight effectively?
Play, experiment, shoot a lot, and then play some more. Look at what other people are doing and try to figure out how they did it. Don't be afraid to ask. Most photographers in Second Life are not as secretive as many Real Life photographers. In one Real Life photo class we learned retouching skills so that we could mask the reflections of our lighting setups in our model's eyes so others couldn't reverse engineer the final shots.

Have you created any windlights that you would be willing to share with us?
I've created a few Windlight settings, but none are really "ready for primetime" and I seldom use them. I tend to stick with mods I've created from other well-known settings. I'd be more than happy to share "finished" ones, however, and will post information about them on this blog if and when they become available.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SL10B: Some Photos

Without getting into a lot of hoo ha, I'm not involved with SL10B this year. Yes, I was for a short time, but it seems I'm not really welcome there. I had planned on some photo essays and had a head start, but it's just not going to happen. Here are some photos that I've already stocked up and I may well sneak back in for more photos. There are some exhibits that weren't finished when I was ejected and would like to see in their completed glory. Without much comment and no SLurls, here are some highlights. I encourage you to explore, ask Greeters for gifts, compliment anyone you see with a Sim Coord tag, and generally have a good time.

This picture of the Turtle Stage was published on this blog earlier, but at the creator's request I removed it. You might have seen it, though, as it has been on the official event Flickr since then. I guess no one else was asked to remove theirs. Since this was taken some waterfalls have been added and quite a few details. Flea Bussy and Toady Nakamura have created one of the most wondrous places in all of Second Life and I truly wish The Lab would find a way to preserve it as a "national" treasure. You can't see me in this picture as I had hidden myself, but I would have been a tiny speck on the snout of this massive creature.

Bear Island is back, largely thanks to Marianne McCann, I suspect, as most of the bears are hers. This picture was originally posted on MySL so you may have seen it.

Another picture of Bear Island from MySL. You can grab copies of some of the bears.

The Lake Stage is one of many venues for DJs and live performers. Its beautiful is a bonus.

Another view of the Lake Stage.

New England is represented again this year. I visited often and felt right at home.

Another view of the New England Exhibit.

Now & Then is a brilliant art project that fuses portraits of a Resident's oldest avatar with their current one into a single piece. Several of my friends have their portraits here and I was lucky enough to be asked to pose, too.

The first floor of Now & Then is a gallery while the second floor has several studios so that you can create your own dual portrait and add it to a free frame.

Some of the best exhibits this year are from the kid community in Second Life. Soken Kids beautifully fits the event theme of Looking Back, Looking Forward and is fun to explore. Oh, and lots of gifties.

Oldbies ... well, people of my SL generation, too ... will recognize The Cornfield.

I always enjoy Transgender Lounge's exhibit. This color-shifting umbrella is fun to watch as you read through the informational displays.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Getting My Lazy Bahookie in Gear

No, I haven't blogged much of late. Only 13 posts in May after 15 posts in April, both well below my average, if you look at the Archive. I've just been totally lazy. Lots of things have not gone well in Second Life for me of late and it's just disheartening, taking away the fun and my desire to be in Our World. The other night I was actually thinking of just tossing in the towel.

Once, long ago (probably six years now), I saw something wondrous. It made me cry. I had been wandering around a shopping center documenting Lucky Chairs for a group I was in at the time when I saw some stylized obsidian dragon statues, all bedecked in Eygyptian-inspired finery. I wandered over to look at them more closely and suddenly one turned it's head to speake to me.

Mind you, I don't usually have my Preferences so that I always seen name tags over people's heads so I didn't realize that these were avatars ... Daryth Kennedy's Isle of Wyrms Anubis dragons, to be exact. The surprise and the beauty and the novelty overwhelmed me until I cried. For the longest time I couldn't respond to these marvelous creatures as I was too stunned to even move. It was pure, wondrous Second Life magic.

Eventually, I acquired my own complete set of the Anubis dragons (as seen in this older picture of me giving Angela a ride around on my back). I was part of the magic and I eagerly shared it with others, often parking myself in Ahern, Waterhead, and other places that attracted new Residents so they could experience the wonder, too. Since then I've added many other dragons to my collection including some truly massive ones that are stunning from not just size, but also from detail though none have the unique beauty of the Anubis.

In the last month too many disappointments piled up and took the enchantment out of Our World for me and led to those thoughts of finding other things to do ... then I saw something else truly marvelous.
I was flying around the Second Life 10th Birthday regions, just getting the lay of the land, when I crossed some lovely landscaping lush and green and filled with exotic ruins. Everything was well above average for even the higher quality of landscaping that has been appearing in SL of late but it was nothing to lift my mood. Then I turned a corner ...


... and I cried. My hands trembled so badly I had to just sit in my seat, staring at my monitor. It was wondrous. Mind you, my first look was in the standard Noon light of a Default day but the entirety of the experience was still so breathtaking. Some time passed before I could do anything but look. Since then I return often just to savor the view and relive my first visit.

On one such trip the other day I set to work to create an image for my desktop that would let me enjoy the moment even offline. This enhanced* picture only hints at the full majesty of this build from Flea Bussy and Toady Nakamura and it doesn't even give a clue as to the scale. Before hiding my avatar for this shot, I was a mere twig on the [redacted]'s [redacted body part], that's how big this is "in person." Far bigger than is needed for a mere event stage, this build is a joy to explore as well as look at from afar. When you visit, be sure to explore the hidden magic. I drop in every day now for a few minutes or more and still haven't seen everything.

Flea and Toady have rekindled at least some of the wonder that SL held for me at one time and it strengthens each time I see their work. It is helping me get off my bahookie and "get back in the game," as it were. There is magic out there. We just have to find it.


* Combined elements from many different shots with different Windlight settings in an attempt to capture all the magical nuances.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Enginehouse

For your consideration, another wonderful Linden Department of Public Works (LDPW) build, The Enginehouse in Pavonia (SLurl) by Garden Mole. Apparently the LDPW has a fair fixation on creating power plants, but unlike those you'll find in the Protected Waterway (SLurl) or the various dams and similar projects throughout Our World, The Enginehouse is warm and quaint and a delight to explore. Traveling southeast away from the build is a platform from which you can rez your own train and then a cozy little bar a bit further down the tracks. But visit those after you wander around and enjoy this little treasure from our Mole friends.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What a Difference a Day Makes

I just finished reading Honour McMillan's fabulous blog post "On Mainland & Fences & Rusty Toilets in Second Life" about her visit to Tatty Soup (SLurl) and a rumination about land in Second Life. After seeing her pictures I thought the location would be perfect for a writing topic that came to me as I was drifting into a turkey coma yesterday. Basically, how important is hyperrealism to the suspension of .... no, wait. Let's save that for another day.

As I was composing the first picture that I needed to illustrate the topic I thought about the Region Default Windlight settings. Normally when I explore I keep the Region Default set so I can enjoy the area as the buildscaper intended. Tatty Soup is set to what appears to be a modification of "Alchemy Immortalis - Fog Lifting" Fixed sky option (I peeked in the Environment tab of the Region/Estate tools .. it comes installed on some Third Party Viewers or can be found with a bit of Googling). The effect of this pre-set is perfect here. Actually, it is perfect most places, but I like fog – just this morning in Real Life I was up early, glued to the window to watch the densest fog we've had in some time. But that's all aside at this point. Here's what the region looks like (maximum draw distance plus everything but Depth-of-Field active in the graphics settings):

At this point, I was ready to break down the tripod, pack up the ol' Tamrac camera bag, and head back to the Lydia Rose Memorial Park (SLurl) to grab the next shots I needed for my original idea. Then another idea hit me ... Moar Shadows!! The picture was a bit flat. Well, snow, fog, overcast, lack of greenery, etc. So I thought "Sunrise!" and started a whole series of pictures, totally shelving my original idea. So let's look at the same shot above but changing its character via some different pre-sets.

Midnight: In the Garden of Frost and Snow. Pretty much as you might imagine it would be, but no fog. No weather at all, actually, so it is rather dull if you ask me.

Sunrise: Here Comes The Sun. As you can see, East is behind me and slightly to the right of me. This is the standard sunrise, though the East Angle and the time of day can be changed in the Environment Editor. I like how the cabin catches some of the first rays of the sun. Looks cozy.

 Midday: Checking out life in the park (thanks, Yusuf). Crisp, clear, and I have my shadows. A careful photographer with time on her hands would watch a complete cloud cycle to pick the best sky/water reflections, but one cycle can take nearly an hour before it repeats.

Sunset: Hopin' to promote a dream somewhere along the way (thank you, Mike). I did watch the clouds for a bit here to catch the faint rainbow that sometimes appears (never noticed that we had those, did you?). Still a little warm, but the over all feeling is still chilly. And far different from the region default, you'd have to agree, but all within the bounds of "normal" weather.

And that's where Day Cycles come into play. Look for them in the Environment Editor. Unlike the usual Windlight pre-sets, Cycles work with the flow of time as Second Life skies regularly do, but have some color and weather effects.

This is the Default cycle, the one that is synchronized with the Mainland. Based on the coloration and the extent to which the sun's rays reach, it looks like the time is a few minutes past the 6:22AM time where default "Sunrise" is fixed. So in effect I was in Tatty Soup at about quarter till 7:00AM, I'd guess (I could have looked at the clock at the time, but I forgot and I'm writing this about an hour later, so close enough). The subsequent pictures were taken with different cycles no more than 10 minutes after this picture, so all are morning images.

The Dynamic cycle differs little from the Default cycle, but if you look closely (and your monitor allows) you can see there is a slight increase in color saturation. As clouds and sky can color the land and water, there may be some change due to wind shifts, as well. After this, things can become strange.

The Colder Tones cycle is dark this time of day and the sun is either in the West or that is a really bright moon. Not one of my more favored settings, I seldom use this cycle for pictures.

The Pirate's Dream cycle is very, very nice for this shot. It looks quite similar to Midday, but the contrast is amped up and the sky has a slightly violet hue and that, of course, colors the water and the shadows. There is also a bit more haze in the atmosphere and that picks up the same hue.

I'm wondering if we can just assume that Torley Linden is responsible for the Psycho Strobe! cycle? I can hear the meeting now ... "What's wrong with pink and green? The Residents love it. They love ME! They'd want a pink and green cycle. What? Oh, well. Orange clouds and deep purple-blue skies. Go Broncos *sheesh*"

The Tropicalia Cycle sometimes works in tropical locations, but not often, and it certainly doesn't work here. The contrast is just too harsh. Notice the azure/topaz water, though. Cycles change how water looks as much as fixed presets do, but and the way the sun's coloring and general coloring is set gives the default water this more tropical look. You can always use different water pre-sets to change any cycle effect.

The Weird-O Cycle is just that ... weird. It always strikes me as some post-apocolyptic, radiation-enhanced thing. That's about all I can say about this one.

I've made some fixed Windlight pre-sets for places I frequent and for various photographs but sometimes I'll slip out the Dynamic Cycle just to be different. So even if you have a hyperrealistic setting like Tatty Soup, you can easily suspend ... oh, that topic again. Maybe in another post. Now go explore!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Garden Game [UPDATE]

Much to my surprise I was given an invite to do something as a Second Life blogger. Fashion designers almost never send samples and major events tend to ignore me yet a folder with information for The Garden Game (SLurl) popped up so I had to look inside to see if it was a mistake.

Whether it was or not, I don't know, but I was given a chance to preview one of the most lush gardens in all Second Life and it actually is a HUD-based exploration and puzzle-sovling game.
The Garden Game is a clue-based puzzle that incorporates gathering, exploration, and logic. Your goal is to seek the seven Guardians and their Artifacts to collect clues and solve the current puzzle round by discovering which Guardian committed which Sin and what Penance they suffered for their actions.
Admittedly, experienced builders and explorers-in-the-know will recognize almost all of the elements used in landscaping as being from familiar sources, but the vision behind the design and the skill in the layout make the region seem to be endless. I flew up to get a bird's-eye view and looked at a map in the press kit and couldn't believe what I just walked through was just one region. Truly gorgeous.

And it really is a game. You can try a demo HUD at the entrance and then pay L$299 for the full HUD should you get hooked. This is a genius move as too many games make you commit before even exploring. There is no set lore to the game but it is instead loosely held together with a simple story.
The Garden is a mysterious respite full of whispers and secrets. Within its boundaries stand seven lost spirits, once charged with protecting and tending The Garden itself. Each of these fallen spirits committed a sin of betrayal against that they were bound to serve and each was sentenced to a penance for their transgression.  By discovering their fates, you can help lead the spirit Guardians toward peace and Forgiveness.
Speaking to a scarecrow (okay, clicking it) yielded a clue I could use to click various elements in the HUD to track my progress. It reminded me of the board game Clue (Web).
The Watcher:: My sin was not Pride or Wrath and my penance was not Pain of the Flesh. I know that the guardian whose sin was Lust suffered Weight of the World.
Not being much of a gamer I found myself concentrating on the landscape during this first trip but I was intrigued enough to want to visit again and soon, especially with my wife for the game can be solo or multi-player, either in partnership or in opposition. While I was confused at first, game play became much clearer once I watched the video tutorial (YouTube).

I can see myself getting lost in this landscape quite often and it may run the risk being run-over by non-players during the preview weekend. Afterward I suspect it will be open only to players, but I can't confirm that. Of course, the game can be played over and over as there are limitless variations. Once you gather clues, figure out which spirit committed which sin and which penance is required of them, you can offer forgiveness to only one. To help the other spirits you must play again. The clues and various artifacts to same will require new searches and new applications of logic.

The Garden Game's creator team consists of Grace McDunnogh, Trav Rexen, and Salome Strangelove. Whichever one is responsible for the haunting melody that occasionally pops up should be congratulated. Not many games use sound at all so this was a joyful surprise.

I had one problem, however. When I hid the HUD so I could better enjoy the views the button to again reveal the HUD was invisible and off-screen. I had to edit another HUD and zoom to see the game HUD and then bring it back. This happend with the demo unit and one given to me in the press kit so I don't know if the full piece have the same issue or not.

Now go visit or check out some tips for game play.

  • Upon entering the region you'll be offered a demo HUD and a note card that is will worth reading. It has a picture of artifacts important to game play if you miss the "physical" examples in the playing area.
  • Pay attention to the clues each spirt give you. They not only give information about themselves but they dish on the sins of the other spirits. Clearly a very dysfunctional family in this garden.
  • Don't click on anything unless you are within 10 meters of it as you may not "hear" the information the item imparts in main chat.
  • Your mouse pointer will turn into a hand for any item that is clickable, but not all items are worth clicking on. I can think of some candles that I found that proved to be very obstinate so I left them alone.
  • The female forest spirt appears to be wise but may not be of any help at all.
  • Keep an eye open for the randomly appearing artifacts.

The biggest tip is Relax! It's for fun even if you don't compete for scores, bragging rights, and whatever wagers you can make. It's a frickin' garden so enjoy it!!

I completed a game and it turns out that the whole thing is not a complicated as it initially seemed to be, but as I mentioned, I'm not a gamer. I play solitaire on my iPad and desktop (Web).

The Naiad is easy to not find so be sure to poke in the bushes.

Take advantage of the tally function of the HUD. Once you know the two important bits about each spirit, "x" out the unimportant ones. That will make it easier to see what you don't know.

Visit each spirit a few times, but you can't just keep clicking on them. Once they talk to you go find another and work your way around.

Additional resources:

The Garden Game Website
Honour McMillan's blog post about her visit

Note: All pictures taken with Lighting and Shadows enabled with region Windlight defaults.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Looking Glass Revisited

Several times last year I visited Horizon Dreams, a beautiful region that is home to The Looking Glass Store, but never really explored the place despite writing about it (here). It is part timeworn village and part fantasy landscape and completely gorgeous. I watched over my brother's shoulder (we share a computer) as he explored several of the prefab structures he was considering to replace the treehouse on our land. The landscape is fabulous, truly. Magnificently shaped and textured then filled with stunning plants in such a fashion you'd think it all just grew that way.

The meadow outside the tree trunk house is perfect for pixies.
Later, when I could get my hands on the computer, I returned with my adventurer pixy, Zyx Resident, and she landed just outside a perfect place for pixies, a tree trunk house (SLurl). Surrounding the house is an abundant meadow (where Zyx gorged herself on pollen and other delectable treats) with a nice garden table and chairs. Cross the stream via the fallen log and you'll find little hollows with more meadows.

Meadows, meadows everywhere, just what a creature of nature needs.
As you explore, watch for little details and eventually you'll find a cave entrance (very cleverly done ... it looks so natural that you might miss it). Inside you'll follow a dark, winding tunnel (take off your face lights!) and eventually end up at ...

A very elegant and tastefully simple ruins.
I can only imagine the backstory the builder had in mind when working on ruins within the cavern. It is easy to sit in this chamber and picture what it must have looked like in it's heyday, with bold tapestries,  dutiful courtiers attending the court, and a buzz of life typical of a thriving kingdom. Or maybe, a darker theme filled the space during it's peak, with demons and sacrifices and ... *shudder*

Traveling on through more tunnels, a magical cavern appears ...

Impressed? The picture doesn't show the life in the cavern's lights.
You must see this cavern to believe it. The maker, Marcus Inkpen, sells a copy of the pool (in-world one on the Web) but the installation goes well beyond what you can buy. The execution is simply stunning. Gather with friends (there are four single poses in the pool) and savor the effect. You won't regret it.

Actually, you won't regret visiting any part of Horizon Dreams. Whether you stick to the village and the shops or hit the trails to see the forest and meadows or explore deep within the mountain, your time will be well spent.