Where a Dark Moon offers a garden of delight

Dark Moon
Dark Moon

Dark Moon, a Homestead region owned by Nepherses Amat, is both enchanting and something of a mystery – and well deserving of your time to explore.

The theme of the region is prone to change over time – Nepherses has no fewer than nine images of the region in its various forms, covering her time of occupancy from 2009 through to today – and each iteration brings something new and unusual to see and share.

Dark Moon
Dark Moon

You’ll need to set aside time when visiting, as there is much to see here, both above and below ground. The region is a fabulous mix of caves, tunnels and hidden comforts as well as a rich garden of flowers and trees and the home of a carnival and circus.

Your journey through and around the region starts at the main teleport point, and the entrance to the caves. You may want to dress appropriately, as it is a little wet ;-). While you can opt to skip the caves entirely and hop up above to the gardens (if you cheat and use fly override, that is), doing so would be a mistake, as the caves themselves are an adventure of discovery – and invite the imagination to make up adventures as you investigate them.

Dark Moon
Dark Moon

Wandering through the tunnels, it’s hard not to picture yourself in an Indiana Jones-esque adventure, seeking a lost treasure; or perhaps you’re involved in some great spy mystery, exploring the hidden lair of your arch-nemesis.  Whatever your mood of adventure, you’ll come across many strange delights as you explore – places to dance with a loved one or sit and chat with a companion, an unlikely study complete with bookcases and deep, comfortable armchairs, works of art and more, all carefully placed to guide you along your way.

Dark Moon
Dark Moon

Some routes will lead you out of the caves at ground level (or near to it), offering you the chance to explore the waterfront, crossing over bridges and perhaps taking a rest amidst a small ruin. But (at least so far as I can tell), only one route will lead you up to the gardens topside, and that you’ll have to seek out for yourself, no clues here! Just be prepared for a bit of a physical climb…!

Colour is used to great effect throughout Dark Moon, and you’ll need to be running in deferred mode in order to fully appreciate it, especially when underground. Even up in the garden, once you reach it, things are best seen with lighting and shadows active to really see the care with which the region has been developed.

Dark Moon
Dark Moon

If the caves are a blend of adventure and discovery, then the garden above them is a mix of fantasy, colour and mystery with a splash of surrealism. Under a lowering sky – perfect for the region, so make sure you accept the windlight settings if prompted – sits a rich sea of colourful flowers and blossom-filled trees admidst which sits a carnival / circus, complete with big top and posing elephants. To reach them, you walk under carved arches around which thick vines curl, both the arches and vines creating an almost elven feel to the path beneath them.

Here sits a Ferris wheel, reached by climbing stone stairs and available to ride, standing like some kind of sentinel above the surrounding garden and the sea beyond. From it you can see the carousel, also waiting to be ridden, while between the two sits the tall form of the big top. Here, in the dimness of the tent you can dance amidst Meeroos and watched over by elephants, or make yourself a part of the Greatest Show on Earth.

Dark Moon
Dark Moon

It is around the big top and carousel that new stories suggest themselves and add to the mystery of the place. The ticket master as the carousel may well where clown’s paint, but not all clowns are funny, while inside the big top things seem a little run-down, as if better days have come and gone. Or perhaps it is just the artistry of the selected windlight and the overly bright eyes of the Meeroos giving wing to my imagination.

But that is what makes Dark Moon so appealing; the very fact that it does stir the imagination so and prompt one to create stories as one explores. And for those who choose to visit the region with a close friend or lover, Dark Moon is equally appealing, with the aforementioned places to dance, rides to share and nooks and places to while away the hours.

Dark Moon
Dark Moon

If you love exploring Second Life and/or enjoy SL photography, or simply like to find new places where you can sit for a time on your own or with a friend, then I cannot recommend Dark Moon highly enough. It is a magical garden of delight atop meandering caves of wonder. Altogether a superb visit – just please do respect the privacy of the house up in the gardens, and don’t forget the donations sign down at the main teleport point!

Dark Moon
Dark Moon

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Farewell, Scribbled Hearts

Update August 19th, 2013: Scribbled Hearts has returned to Second Life in its own region. Find out more in my review!

Ziki Questi alerted me to the fact that one of the most photogenic regions in SL will be closing its doors to visitors on December 27th.

Scribbled Hearts at Water Reserve has become a something of a place of renown among SL explorers and photographers for being a haven of peace, tranquility and beauty. It is somewhere I only recently discovered for myself late-on in 2012, and it became an instant favourite with me; a place I returned to a lot during Autumn / winter, and which I blogged about in October.

WR-27_001
Scribbled Hearts at Water Reserve

The reason for the closure is related to one of the people behind the region, Meme, having decided to take a break from Second Life. She announced the decision in a post to her Flickr feed, which reads:

Meme's note on the closure of Scribbed Hearts
Meme’s note on the closure of Scribbled Hearts

This was followed on December 24th with a further note stating Meme has decided to take a long-term, possibly indefinite, leave of absence from SL while she deals with rl issues – news which will come as a sad blow to many who have admired her work and enjoyed Scribbled Hearts, as well as to her friends in SL.

While the note above quotes December 27th as the closing date for the region, other than the landing zone, it is in fact effectively closed as of today. Those wishing to take a last look around at Scribbled Hearts in all its winter glory can still do so for now – but the clock is ticking, and some of the builds have already gone.

Scribbled Hearts at Water Reserve in winter
Scribbled Hearts at Water Reserve in winter

I’ve loved my all-to-brief acquaintance with Scribbled Hearts, and to Meme and all who have made it so memorable to so many, all I can do is add my thanks to an already long list of admirers.

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(view slideshow full-screen)

A walk in the snow, an expresso and a slice of Cheeky Tiramisu

Watchtower is a sim which can change to suit the seasons. Right now, given the time of year, it has a winter / seasonal feel to it, with snow heavy on the ground and lights strung among the trees, making it an ideal stopping-off point for those seeking quiet seasonal scenes.A full region, Watchtower is largely open to the public and offers plenty of opportunities for exploration – although there are private homes in the sky, and visitors are asked to respect privacy aloft.

Cheeky Tiramisu, Watchtower
Cheeky Tiramisu Cafe, Watchtower

The region is home to the Cheeky Tiramisu Cafe, which offers paths to follow, a bonfire by which you can warm your hands, boats to take out on the water and a “library grotto” where you can cosy up in the warm.

Water is very much a part of this region at the moment – another reason why I’m drawn back to it right now – with waterways separating several of the parcels, making the boats available at the landing near the cafe a worthwhile trip.

tira-6_001
Cheeky Tiramisu Cafe, Watchtower

Across one stretch of water from the cafe is a watermill, marking the location of Yasyn Azemus’ store (1200 metres overhead). Yasyn built the cafe and is often landscaping the region. He makes a wide range of products which are sold through his store, including hair, shapes, skyboxes – so a visit while exploring the region is well worth the trip up there as well. For those feeling stressed there is also a game of whack-a-mole for tension relief.

Also across the water sits Nykio’s Home – the house is open to the public, who are welcome to make themselves at home, but again, please respect her privacy when it comes to her house in the sky.

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Nykio’s Home, Watchtower

There is a windlight for the region, but with the auorae lighting the sky to the north and south, I like wandering through it with a night setting on my viewer; to me this enhances the atmosphere of the region and, right now with all the snow on the ground, gives it a very romantic feel – ideal if you are exploring with a close friend or loved one.

Follow the path away from the cafe and you’ll eventually find your way down to the library grotto – a wonderful retreat to snuggle, chat and to watch the world go by. South facing, this currently has its very own aurora in the sky for those inside – or sitting out by the bonfire – to enjoy.

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Cheeky Tiramisu Cafe, Watchtower

Not all the land in the region is developed, but all of the parcels are open to wandering, so there are lots of opportunities to roam and take snaps and simply enjoy your surroundings. The Cafe itself is a great place for meeting people; such is the ambience of the region that many pop-in for a sit down when they’re on-line, so you can generally be sure of meeting someone while sitting and admiring the view. It’s also a great place to walk back to once you’ve finished your meanderings as well; you can always be sure the expresso machine is on and a reviving shot of rich black coffee is just a touch away.

So why not sit awhile and enjoy a cup with friends – and help yourself to a slice of Cheeky Tiramisu?

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Cheeky Tiramisu Cafe, Watchtower

Of Whispering Wind, potato soup and moving in Second Life

Update November 2013: Tatty Soup is no longer on Whispering Wind, but has been replaced by a private parcel with limited access. Tab Tatham’s store, Junk, can now be found in a sky setting at Tagus.

When I was growing up, winter was always marked by one thing in our household: the return of Mum’s home-made potato soup. Nothing was more warming or comforting to me when I was very little, than knowing that when I got home from school on a particularly cold day, or after I’d been running round in the snow and frigid air at weekends, Mum would invariably deliver up a hot mug of potato soup. Even today, potato soup, made to Mum’s recipe, is still very much a winter feature.

Coming across the name “Tatty Soup” within Second Life, therefore, had me intrigued; finding it to be a region themed for winter had me instantly in love with the place. For the last two weeks I’ve been back and forth snapping away, capturing the region for a blog post and posting thoughts to my feed in the form of images captured in the region.

Tatty Soup as was

Today, Tatty Soup is no more. The sim extenders have gone, the region is largely underwater, Tab Tatham’s store in the south-east corner – all gone. Not that Tab herself has quit SL or stopped marketing or anything like that; she’s just used the magic of Second Life to move to territories new. To Whispering Wind, in fact, a region she now shares with the L2 Studio group.

Tatty Soup, Whispering Winds
Tatty Soup, Whispering Wind

As with the old store, the “new” Tatty Soup sits within a beautiful, wintry region where the snow lies deep and one is invited to wander freely on both sides of the region – Tatty Soup and L2 Studio, which is owned by Lindini2 Lane – both being open to the public.

Tatty Soup
Tatty Soup, Whispering Wind

The entire region is beautifully put together, and for her part, Tab has retained the windlight settings from her old location for both sky and water, as well as having done much to recreate the look and feel of the original, all of which encourages one to explore and enjoy.

I’ve written elsewhere of my love of the winter time and snow, so I’m not going to repeat comments here. Suffice it to say that it does bring out something of the romantic in me, particularly when thinking back to my early childhood years and all those snow-filled winters I remember and the wonder of seeing (sometimes at least) snow on the ground actually at Christmas…

Tatty Soup, Whispering Wind
Tatty Soup, Whispering Wind

One of the things I love about Tatty Soup is the windlight; it reminds me so much of long wintry walks through the January / February snow, often early in the morning (so I could catch the snow in its “virgin” state before footprints appeared everywhere), with perhaps a hint of fog or mist still lifting in the air, and the snow that perfect, fresh-fallen blanket which would give just a hint of resistance with each step before the crust crunched underfoot and collapsed almost with s soft sigh…

Tatty Soup, Winter Wind
Tatty Soup, Winter Wind

Over the hills running along the centre of the region, the L2 Studio lands continue the winter theme, but the windlight presents you with and more “winter’s afternoon” feel, with the snow bright on the ground, and the sun warm on your back.

L2 Studio Group, Whispering Wind
L2 Studio Group, Whispering Wind

Both invite you to play with windlight and see what effects can be created – although I admit, I tended to stay with the Alchemy Immortalis sky setting Tab uses, mixing it occasionally with Blizzard and Torley’s  Ice-like for the water.Night settings also enhance the winter magic of the region.

L2 Studio Group, Whispering Wind
L2 Studio Group, Whispering Wind

Photographers in particular should have fun with Whispering Wind right now, and the snow and places to sit make it something of a nice place to visit and sit awhile either on your own or with a friend. Tatty Soup store and the L2 Studio builds are more than worth a visit as well, and you might even find Christmas purchase or two in Tab’s store.

If you do get too cold in your wanderings, you can always warm yourself up….

Tatty Soup, Whispering Wind
Tatty Soup, Whispering Wind

I’m actually not much of a “Christmas” person if I’m totally honest; I wouldn’t say I’m Scrooge’s wife in any way, but overall, Christmas as a holiday is something I can take or leave. Snow on the ground and a crisp freshness in the air, however, well that’s something else entirely. Give me snow-filled fields, trees with branches sprinkled white and places to explore and wander, and I’m yours.

If you enjoy snowy walks, photography and capturing moments in time, Whispering Wind is more than worth a visit. For now, however, I’m off for a hot bowl of – yes, you’ve guessed it, potato soup.

Tatty Soup, Whispering Wind
Tatty Soup, Whispering Wind

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When a Sleepless Night is worth it…

My favourite time for exploring Second Life is after dark. Not after dark in SL, you understand, but after dark in RL. At the end of the day, with the house quiet and little chance of being disturbed, I can cozy down in my little study / office and go a-wandering to my heart’s content. Sometimes doing so leads me to staying up well past silly o’clock.

Sleepless Nights
Sleepless Nights

Fortunately, I work from home most of the time, which allows me to large set my own schedule; I also have a weird body which is generally satisfied with around 5 hours sleep a night before it decides I need to be up and about (and bits of it are given to complaining if I don’t get up) – although occasionally it will demand a good, solid 8-9 hours under the duvet. Even so, there are times, generally when staring at the bathroom mirror first thing after getting up, when I ask myself  just what the heck I thought I was doing sitting up to 4:00am in the morning, and whether I’m completely, certifiably bonkers.

Sleepless Nights
Sleepless Nights

Most of the time, however, it is worth it. There are so many beautiful, creative and inspiring places to visit in SL that trying to catalogue just a small selection of them in my own way makes the late nights worthwhile.

Sometimes I stumble upon a place, sometimes it is recommended to me or I stick my finger into the Destination Guide and see what comes up, sometimes reading other blogs piques my curiosity and off I trot to poke a nose into things. Whatever I find, there has to be a certain something which “clicks” with me. If I’m honest, it doesn’t always happen; there are many places in SL I’ve visited and not blogged about because, while they are in their own way amazing or fun or immersive, I personally don’t find that indefinable something which grabs me.

Sleepless Nights
Sleepless Nights

Sleepless Nights, the home of :Fiction and Chaos and [House of Usher] is one of those places which definitely has “it” for me. I first came across it in Honour McMillan’s blog, and her images were enough to convince me this was a place I had to visit. Honour is someone I read daily and whom I admire for her skills with both the written word and with SL photography. She’s also someone I tend to find I’m frequently following around SL, as there are times when we are drawn to the same regions even within me finding inspiration in her blog pages, and Honour is invariably 3 or 4 steps ahead of me, so I invariably put a planned post back on the shelf for a bit, so posts don’t clash :).

Sleepless Nights
Sleepless Nights

I love regions with a focus on water wat the best of times, and so in some ways, it’s hardly surprising Sleepless Nights appeals to so much. It has been brilliantly and evocatively framed, and I confess to having gone a little snap happy the other week during my visit, pumping out shot after shot to my profile feed. Pity I initially made such a pig’s ear of things.

A couple of weeks back LL finally got the snapshot tiling issue somewhat fixed. It’s not a perfect fix, as issues can still occur if you push your graphics card too hard, but it does allow those impacted by the issue to take snaps at significantly higher resolutions than perhaps they’ve been able to for quite a while.

Sleepless Nights
Sleepless Nights

I’d spent the days following the release happily bimbling around SL, revisiting old favourites and seeing how much better things look at 3500×2134 compared to the maximum of 1440×900 I’ve had to use pre-fix. So it was with huge delight that I arrived in Sleepless Nights, whapped up my snapshot floater to 3600×2195 and started posting away to my feed. The problem being that at the time I was using Firestorm – which doesn’t yet have the tiling issue fix.

Cue curses and a number of feed reposts, followed by a late-night revisit to re-work the images also saved to disk.

Sleepless Nights
Sleepless Nights

Leaving that crisis aside, there really isn’t much I can say about the region. Not because there isn’t anything to say about it, but simply because it speaks very eloquently for itself, as anyone arriving will immediately see for themselves. Suffice it to say that is it one of the most evocative I’ve visited, and I look forward to the day when I have a viewer / PC combination (and the skill) to really do it justice through photographs.

The region is minimalist in style and water-focused (something which will immediately attracted me, as I love water-based regions). The default windlight is enough to generate a deeply atmospheric feel and is absolutely ideal for SL photography. Together they combine to present a place which demands you simply experience it and let your thoughts roam free.

Sleepless Nights
Sleepless Nights

It’s also a place which can be quickly tweaked using viewer-side windlight options to create some truly remarkable frames – as I hope some of my offerings here go some way towards showing.

If you’ve never visited Sleepless Nights, I really recommend you do.

A song of ice and fire
Sleepless Nights: “A song of ice and fire”

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“SL is like a box of chocolates…”

Update: It appears this region has closed / been renamed.

It’s been a funny few days, bouncing around SL. Things haven’t been helped by members of my family paying their usual pre-Christmas visit for a few days. They say it’s to see friends in the area so they don’t have to rush around over Christmas; I’m of the opinion it’s to ensure my stress levels are in good shape for the Xmas / New Year fortnight, the end of which tends to see them departing once more with me clinging to their legs – trying to gnaw their ankles off…

Anyway, whether it was the impact of having relatives in and out and in and out of the house for four days, or whether it was just me not paying attention, I found that areas I’d lined up as targets for exploration weren’t turning out quite as expected, something which left me feeling as if I should be holding a box of chocolates sans the little card which tells you what’s what, and waxing philosophical. Possibly while sitting at a bus stop.

DDLE2
DDLE2

One such place is DDLE2. The entry in the Destination Guide describes it as “This spectacular location leads visitors along bridges and pathways up into the clouds for some lovely scenic views. Along the way, check out the giant pirate ship and big trees, then take a chair lift back down to the neighbouring region with its verdant forest, gushing waterways, and steaming volcano.”

It’s clear that things have changed since the Guide entry was made; the “neighbouring sim” has either gone or appears to be under new management. However, the bridges are still there, as are the stairs, sconce lights and other things to see and poke around at :).

DDLE-11_001
DDLE2

This is a region which somewhat defies description, coming across as a combination role-play, machinima and photographic environment which contains enough to present the imagination with a lot of options – as those following my feed on my.sl.com will already know, as it one of those regions which lends itself to the telling of a story :).

One thing to bear in mind should you opt to explore the region – make sure you look below you as much as you do up. Some things are hidden in plain sight, but can go unnoticed.

DDLE2
DDLE2

This is another of those regions which lends itself to fiddling with windlight options – and I spent a good deal of time trying out William “Paperwork Resident” Weaver’s new presets on Firestorm through their paces, gaining some surprising results along the way which really added to the overall atmosphere of the region.

If I have any complaint at all, it’s in the fact that some parts of the build seem a little rushed – or perhaps they are being reworked; finding a section of all hanging in the air while climbing the steps up to the top of the main peak was a little disappointing, as was looking up and seeing untextured plywood overhead.

DDLE2
DDLE2

I’ll be honest in that after reading the description of DDLE2, I had expected something a little different as I had with several of the places I picked randomly from the Destination guide to go take a look at. That doesn’t make it  – or them – any less interesting; just that the flavour turned out to be different to that which had been anticipated.

So maybe the man was right after all. (Second) Life is like a box of chocolates … just don’t take the cover picture too seriously ;-).

DDLE2
DDLE2

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