Berry’s windlight challenge

Berry offered another Monday Meme on … umm… Monday (September 2nd). I didn’t take a look then, as I thought she’d be off enjoying Labor Day (even if it is spelt “l-a-b-o-U-r” ;-)). But, she did. And while it is rare for me to respond (this is only the third), I thought I’d give it a go – if only to win the most boring response in the world award :).

She asks six questions on the theme of windlight settings and photography. So here’s my replies.

Do you use windlight while taking pictures? If not, why not? Yes, and usually most of the ALM bells and whistles – occlusion, shadows, etc. Admittedly, this pretty much killed my old GPU stone dead at times, but I like to at least think there’s an element of realism in my shots as a result.

When taking a closeup snapshot for a profile picture, which windlight preset do you use most often? The only profile pictures I ever took were pre-WL (seriously). Since around 2008, I’ve only ever had someone who knows what they’re doing take my profile pictures and I certainly wouldn’t try to take a shot for someone else’s profile; not if I want to keep them as a contact / friend …

Which windlight presets do you use for full body portraits? See above.

If you do landscape photography, which windlights do you use for that most often? Hmmm. I like the late afternoon, so windlights built around that get used a lot; I also like ambient lighting so anything which gives that kind of feel gets used and tweaked. Jackson Redstar, Chic Aeon, William Weaver all see a fair amount of use. There are a couple of Bryn Oh’s which I particularly like and enjoy tweaking quite extensively to get some results (I like her Mayfly as I can twiddle around with the sun position, sky colours, etc., and get some nice “night-time” effects); I’ve also recently started juggling with some of Torley’s windlights.

As I've recently (;ast 3 or so months) started into post-processing some images, I look for WL settings which help set a more dramatic tone  to a piece and work with simulating something like an oil painting.
As I’ve recently (the last 3 or so months) started into post-processing some images, I look for WL settings which help set a more dramatic tone to a piece and work with simulating something like an oil painting.

Do you have any tricks or tips that you could share for using Windlight effectively? I’m not sure I’m in any position to offer practical advice. My rule of thumb is actually “suck it and see”; I tend to cycle through the windlights according to what I think might work, depending on where I am. This usually involves taking up to 6 or 8 shots from the same angle and seeing what looks “right” (I find what’s on the screen doesn’t always faithfully transfer to a still image – but that could simply be my eyes). I have a notepad I keep where I will jot down what works and what tweaks I make at times, but most of it really is finger-in-the-air.

Taking multiple shots from the same angle and different WLs probably sounds like a, “well, duh!”, statement (I mean, film is free in SL, so who wouldn’t? :)). However, I find it useful as I tend not to blog immediately about a place all the time, so the snaps can lie dormant for several days (or weeks), so having multiple shot allows me a greater spread of ideas when I do finally start writing-up a review; particularly if I suddenly get the idea for a set of “vignette”-style image captions. It also means I have a fair library of images should I need something to go with a future piece. At the very least, I hope that by having a range of “looks” in snaps I’ve taken, I can present a region under different lighting, “weather” and time of day and so hopefully add depth or interest to a write-up that way.

I often take multiple shots of the same angle to play with later
I often take multiple shots of the same angleunder multiple WL to play with later

I think a lot also comes down to not just windlight, but use of other tools – the camera controls, etc. In this, I find Will Weaver’s phototools invaluable (as I avoid faffing with debug settings: he’s gathered them all up and presented them in a series of excellent tabs on a floater), as are the additional floaters in Exodus. Also, I’ve started getting into post-processing images (in a basic way), so I look for windlights which lend themselves to this. I also make use of Firestorm / Vincent Nacon’s clouds – if you don’t have these installed in your viewer for landscape / outdoors work, you should. They add a lot of depth to the sky without always having to dial-up the cloud coverage excessively.

Have you created any windlights that you would be willing to share with us? No! They’re mine, I tell you, mine! Mine!

No, seriously, I tweak and play, and because what I do is all a variation on someone else’s work, rather than anything original from me, I don’t often to save anything, and those that I have, I wouldn’t dream of sharing for the reason above – they are purely derivative. When I have the skills to create something worthwhile, then I’ll share :).

Frolics in an autumn mist, in a land called Honah Lee

I’ve been flying out of Hollywood Airport on-and-off for a good while now, and frequently putting down at Honah Lee field as well, so you’d think I’d be familiar with the majority of Blake Sea and the vicinity. But it wasn’t until a recent flight that I spotted the huge dome of Palomar Observatory on the horizon (how I’d missed it before is probably down to having draw distance turned down to assist flying – or that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!). It immediately went down on my list of places to visit as and when time allowed.

However, plans changed when I received an IM from MarkTwain White extending an invitation for me to pay a visit to the observatory, based on our common interest in astronomy. So I took advantage of another lull in real life and dropped-in on the Honah Lee group of islands (specifically Honah Lee Point), to the south of Blake Sea and had a little bit of an explore.

Palomar Observatory, Honah Lee islands
Palomar Observatory, Honah Lee East

Now, it has to be said that these islands are steeped in legend, so when you visit, it’s really worthwhile taking time to follow the trails on foot or horseback – you can obtain a horse at the start of the trails – and avail yourself of the signs along the way; they’ll tell you a lot of about the legend, which may well have been handed down over the years until it reached the ears of Peter, Paul and Mary…

The trail leads around the main island, made up of six regions, taking you first south along one side of the central mountain ridge, offering a chance for the traveller to visit a number of famous and sometimes mysterious landmarks along the way.

The first of these is Puff’s Lagoon, where it is thought that large land and sea creatures may once have been seen, far back in ancient times, giving rise to the legend of the magic dragon referred to in song.  Just off the coast of the lagoon is a strange artefact, apparently millenia old, carved in stone, yet strangle unaltered or weathered in the passage of time. Facing out to sea, the Dragon Mother has no identifying tale associated with it and its purpose remains as much a mystery now, as when first discovered; and no-one knows whether it is somehow tied to the legends of the ancient creature said to have once roamed here, or something else entirely…

The Dragon Mother
The Dragon Mother

Further to the south of the island sits the Honah Lee Marine Nursery. Once a major tourist attraction and centre for marine studies, it has over the years become a much smaller facility than in its heyday, and marked by a small church and a wooden pier. Between it and Puff’s Lagoon are a number of places where tourists can rest awhile and watch the boats out on the water – but do be aware that there is also a private house sitting between the lagoon and the nursery.

The nursery is also where the trail divides – you can carry on around the island, or climb up to the plateau above and ride to the observatory. Taking the former option will bring you around to the east side of the island, past a couple more private residences and to Puff’s Meadow, an upland area of long grass again immortalised in song. A gazebo at the headland of the meadow offers a view out over the broad ocean.

Continuing my ride
Continuing my ride

Continue reading “Frolics in an autumn mist, in a land called Honah Lee”

Firestorm at three: party, kitties, pendants!

firestorm-logoJune 2013 saw Second Life celebrate its tenth anniversary as a publicly accessible grid. Now September marks the anniversary of SL’s (and OpenSim’s?) most popular viewer as Firestorm turns three.

Anyone who takes time out of their lives to sit down and work on a viewer, providing code and capabilities to enhance our times in-world, and the support so often needed by users, is an unsung hero of Second Life and virtual worlds. It’s no easy task, as I’m sure everyone at Firestorm and other TPVs – even at the Lab – can attest; get one thing wrong and you’re liable to get chased up the nearest tree by a group of users who, if not actively bearing pitchforks, tend to have pretty barbed tongues!

In this, it’s easy to forget that every TPV, including Firestorm, is built, maintained and managed by volunteers. They don’t get paid for their efforts; they don’t consider themselves to have any better grasp of Second Life and virtual worlds than the rest of us – they, like most people, just want to have fun and at the same time they want to make SL more fun for the rest of us. I think that sometimes, in calling for this feature or that feature in a viewer and then getting the hump when it doesn’t appear, we all lose sight of that simple fact.

Join the Party!

So it’s good when an opportunity comes around which lets us celebrate the work that goes into a viewer to take the time to say “thank you” to the folks behind the work. Firestorm users will have just such an opportunity to do so on Tuesday September 3rd, as the Firestorm team throw a Firestorm Third Birthday party at the Phoenix Firestorm support island. The kick-off time is 13:00 SLT, and there is an open invitation from the team to their users to come along and join the fun (well, region limits allowing!).

If you do want to attend, please keep in mind:

  • It is only the one region, so headcount will be limited. Sadly, with over 200,000 users, the team can’t host a party for everyone. However, people are liable to be coming and going throughout the celebrations, so if you don’t get in the first time – keep trying
  • As the party is liable to be very popular, please go along as script-light as possible; it’ll help the region, it’ll help others and it’ll help you. Detach anything you can do without when dancing / chatting – HUDs, scripted attachments, etc.

The Firestorm Kustom Kitty and a Special Pendant

firestorm-firekitty-adTo further mark Firestorm’s third birthday, Jessica and the team have joined forces with KittyCatS to develop a special, limited edition non-breedable custom Firestorm Kitty. The offer is limited to one per avatar, and the kitties are No Transfer. The kitty is fully functional & rumoured to be the cat that dined on the Phoenix. Whether this is true our not, the folks at Firestorm aren’t saying!

The collectables will be available from 09:00 SLT on September 3rd through until 09:00 SLT on September 10th, via vendors in the following locations:

The Firestorm pendant (see left)

Note that If demand is high, you may experience delivery problems. If a vendor faisl to deliver, please follow these instructions to initiate a re-delivery.

In addition, Zuri Rayna has produced a beautiful limited edition Firestorm 3rd anniversary pendant. This is available from the Phoenix Firestorm Support island until midnight SLT on the 3rd September  – and it is stunning!

So Happy Birthday, Firestorm, and many thanks to Jessica, Ed and the rest of the developers, testers, helpers and the support volunteers at Firestorm. Here’s to many more birthdays and celebrations!

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