A trek through the Taiga

When I first hopped over to Taiga after coming across it in the Destination Guide, I think the region may still have been under development, as there was a small lake in the middle surrounded by trees – and not a lot else.

It’s changed rather a lot in the couple of months or so since. The coniferous forest, common to the region’s real world namesake is still there, but the land has been a little more terraformed, and the lake now has a couple of buildings on the shore, an arrival point has been added and there are various other points of interest to explore.

Awesome - Taiga
Awesome – Taiga

Walk outwards from the arrival point and follow the banks of the lake to where a small river leads into it, and you’ll find a bridge upstream and a track you can walk along and into the forest. Or you can walk around the lake to the buildings on the far side and then on to a campsite with sleeping bags ready, tents pitched and a pot of coffee simmering over the flames, all ready for a night under the stars. And keep an eye out for the local wildlife!

Object rezzing is open here, so those who wish to add their own items to a scene – props for a photo session, say – are free to do so. The return time is set to 300 minutes, so make sure anything you do put out is taken back before you leave. It may eventually come back to your inventory anyway, but my explorations were a little spoiled as I walked under the trees and tripped over three abandoned clothing and shoes packs someone had left behind after unpacking.

Awesome - Taiga
Awesome – Taiga

The Russian / Siberian feel to the place isn’t limited just to the landscaping either; the primary language used in the introductory notecard is written in cyrillic script, as was much of the text in open chat. I’ve no idea if the region is the hub for a Russian / Balkan / Northern Eurasian community – but seeing it did add to the ambience of the place as I wandered around.

There are some rules within the note card which should be read – the region is General rated, so the owners request no nudity or adult activities (which include portrayals of drug use, violence, etc.), or the use of adult poseballs  / gestures. All quite reasonable enough and a mirror of the ToS for General-rated areas.

Awesome - Taiga
Awesome – Taiga

I’m not sure how frequently items and objects might be put out by the group operating the region, but at the time of writing a steampunk flying boat was hovering over the lake, offering some interesting photo opportunities for those so inclined, and the sim surround gave a real feeling of flying over a wild and largely untamed land when standing on the deck.

For those of a photographic inclination, this is the kind of region where playing with Vincent Nacon’s natural cloud maps (either self-installed or by using Firestorm) can be an interesting experiment. I flicked between the various options and settled on Altocumulus for a number of shots.

Those looking for a natural, open region will probably enjoy Taiga. Things can occasionally get a little busy around the arrival point, but there are plenty of places to wander and simply enjoy. For my part, I finished my trip with a quick “flight” on the flying boat.

Awesome - Taiga
Awesome – Taiga

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(view slideshow full-screen)

Viewer release summary 2013: week 17

This summary is published every Monday and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Viewer Round-up Page, a list of  all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware) and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy
  • By its nature, this summary will always be in arrears
  • The Viewer Round-up Page is updated as soon as I’m aware of any releases / changes to viewers & clients, and should be referred to for more up-to-date information as the week progresses
  • The Viewer Round-up Page also includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.  

Updates for the week ending: April 28th, 2013

Discontinued Viewers

  • Phoenix – Development and support officially ended December 31st, 2012
  • Zen – Development and support officially ended January 27th, 2013.

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Firestorm clouds

One thing I neglected to mention in my recent review of Firestorm 4.4.0 is the inclusion – by Cinder Roxley – of Vincent Nacon’s alternative cloud maps, which can be used to change / enhance the rendering windlight clouds.

The default cloud layer seen over Extropia, using the
The default cloud layer seen over Extropia, using the AnaLutetia-outdoor windlight setting and the sun adjust to around 10:00.

I’ve no excuse for this, given Cinder actually nudged me on the matter prior to the release; just blame it on me having a blonde moment…

So, what is it all about? Quite simply, Firestorm now includes additional cloud maps made by Vincent Nacon, and which Cinder has added to the Preferences > Firestorm > Windlight tab for easy selection.

The Windlight cloud options
The Windlight cloud options

This presents you with four basic cloud types – the default map, Altocumulus (a middle altitude cloud, usually characterised by globular masses or rolls in layers or patches), Cumulonimbus (the familiar towering cloud formations associated with thunderstorms) and a “Layered” map. Do note that selecting any option other than the one already in use appears to require a viewer re-start in order to take effect.

Exactly what effect these different maps will have on your in-world view is a matter of experimenting with the various available windlight settings within Firestorm (a task made easier thanks to William Weaver’s Phototools). However, they can be used to produce some stunning effects – the images here are simply to provide some form of comparison.

Extropia seen under the same windlight setting as the first image in this article, but using the Layered cloud map.

What’s more, as Cinder indicated in her little nudge to me, you can create (or obtain) cloud maps of your own and add them to Firestorm to create your own unique cloud looks. “Drop any 8-bit grayscale tga with a power of 2 size you make or find under app_settings/windlight/clouds,” she comments, “And they’ll be automatically added to the list.”

For those wishing to try the cloud maps on other viewers, Vincent provides forum thread in which his discusses the maps and provides guidelines and caveats on their usage in viewers. Links to download the maps are also provided.

The Cumulunimbus map applied to the sky, using the same windlight setting and time of day - note the "stacking" effect visible in the formations on the right of the image
The Cumulonimbus map applied to the sky, using the same windlight setting and time of day – note the “stacking” effect visible in the formations on the right of the image, given the impression of some additional vertical height

The maps appear to be particularly well-suited to sunrise / sunset images, where the combination of sun and clouds can be particularly dramatic and result in some incredible images.

Why not have a play yourself?

With thanks to Cinder Roxley.

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