Snowy scenes in Second Life

It All Starts With a Smile, December 2013
It All Starts With a Smile,click any image to enlarge

Back at the beginning of the month, I managed to drop-in to Kaelyn Alecto’s and Maxxster’s It All Starts with a Smile, which I last visited in May, when things didn’t appear to bode well for the region’s future. Fortunes rapidly improved, however, and right now It All Starts with a Smile offers a winter scene of composite parts, with a small village / town element on one side of the region, and more rural scenes across the rest of the island.

It All Starts With a Smile, December 2013
It All Starts With a Smile,

It’s an interesting mix of scenes, with the little town area offering small shops, a coffee-house and a light-hearted touch to car registration (license) plates – this place is clearly popular with those of an IT persuasion :-). If you’re tired of all the snow and cold of the northern hemisphere, you can pop into the IASWAS travel agency and book a vacation in warmer climes …

While the snow has been cleared from the town area, elsewhere in the region it lies deep and blankets the landscape, offering-up many opportunities for the SL photographer. Fortunately, the roads have been cleared, so you needn’t worry too much about deep snow – although the tree-lined paths make for a relaxing walk.

It All Starts with a Smile
It All Starts with a Smile

The landscape naturally lends itself to a lot of tweaking with windlight, as some interesting effects can be obtained. I settled for trying out some monochromatic efforts, or – as with the top image – what are more unusual colours for me to settle upon.

If you like your Second Life uncluttered, but with a rich feel of winter and plenty of snow to enjoy, you may well find it very worthwhile hopping over to It All Starts with a Smile and having a look around. And if it gets too cold outside, don’t forget there are at least a couple of places where you can get a hot drink and warm-up again!

It All Starts with a Smile
It All Starts with a Smile

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Calas in winter

Calas Galadhon Parklands, December 2013
Calas Galadhon parklands – click for full size image

It’s no secret that I love the parklands of Calas Galadhon; I think Ty and Truck do an amazing job with the park, providing it for all to enjoy, changing it to match the seasons, offering a wide range of activities, seasonal or otherwise, throughout the year and presenting a host of entertainments throughout.

Not only that, but they also manage a special theme region, SilverMyst, currently the setting for this year’s One Christmas Night,  which I was able to visit just before Truck and Ty were about to open it to the public, and which also hosts their Halloween delights.

When writing about One Christmas Night, I promised a visit to Calas itself to try to capture some of the winter magic there. However, plans change; Saffia Widdershins contacted me and asked if I could expand upon the One Christmas Night piece to provide an article on both it and Calas Galadhon in winter for the next issue of Prim Perfect magazine. Of course, I was happy to oblige.

So, rather than spoil that article by writing about Calas here, I’ll simply say Prim Perfect should be out at the end of this week, making it ideal reading for Christmas with or without my wibblings :). You can find it at any of the in-world Prim Perfect vendors, or grab it on-line from the Prim Perfect website.

In the meantime I’ll leave you with a poem by Robert Frost that came to mind as I explored the Calas winter regions on horseback, together with a few paintings I hope will whet your appetites for a visit there yourselves if you’ve not already done so!

Calas Galadhon Parklands, December 2013
Calas Galadhon parklands – click for full size image

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

Calas Galadhon Parklands, December 2013
Calas Galadhon parklands – click for full size image

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

– Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost

Calas Galadhon Parklands, December 2013
Calas Galadhon parklands – click for full size image

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Winter everso Slightly Twisted

Slightly Twisted
Slightly Twisted (Flickr) – click any image for full size

I like whimsy; I like to smile. Sometimes I don’t feel as if I smile enough. In fact, there are times when I can be pretty dour in SL (we’ll leave the other life out of this, OK?); yet when I think about it, most of what I see and do in SL does bring a smile to my face. Otherwise, why would I be here?

One of the things that I do enjoy about exploring SL is that so much of it contains the whimsical and the lyrical, making exploration and blogging a joy. So when I saw that Katz Jupiter had reworked her region, Slightly Twisted, into ” a whimsical but  serene and peaceful  landscape filled with art, animals and fun elements,” I had to hop over and take a look. Truth be told, a visit was long overdue; the last time I had dropped in was nigh-on 18 months ago, when the region was hosting The Gathering of Sky Women in July 2012.

Slightly Twisted; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrSlightly Twisted (Flickr)

Katz’ profile gives a little more information on the region’s winter design, stating: “Slightly Twisted reflects the beauty and serenity of winter in BC, Canada, as well as the special time of the approaching holiday season. Of course there is always a few twists to make it more fun.”

You might want to wrap-up warm for this one as well; winter is very, very much the theme here – the arrival point is even inside a frozen cave, complete with a huge statue of the Snow Queen by Fuschia Nightfire. Fuschia has worked with Katz on various art projects, and more of her sculptures can be found throughout the region, together with pieces by other artists such as Kicca Igaly and Chuckmatrix Clip.

A welcome poster, complete with seasonal greetings from Katz provides a list of activities within Slightly Twisted and a note on the default windlights. You can also grab a pair of cross-country skis to ease your travelling. If you take a set, do make sure you disable any AO you’re wearing or conflicts may result.

Slightly Twisted; Inara Pey, December 2014, on FlickrSlightly Twisted (Flickr)

Once outside, the full beauty of the region becomes apparent. The default windlight settings work well with the environment. Combined with the seasonal lights on trees, etc., the overall effect presents something of a winter’s evening feel, with a slight mist in the air. However, as I’m a bit of an awkward so-and-so, I opted to take the majority of my pictures using a combination of Annan Adored’s 2013 windlights (which I adore  – no pun intended – and so tend to use a lot), together with Jackson Redstar’s windlights, which have long been favourites and are probably the settings I use and play with the most.

A large frozen lake offers plenty of space for ice skating – grab your skates from the little kiosk on the other side of the lake from the arrival cave. This is flanked on either side of the region by a large house and equally large frosted glasshouse. Around the lake are snow-covered paths, frosted trees strung with lights, horses and wildlife to be observed (and photographed!) and more.

The whimsy in the region comes in many forms; some of the art pieces have a certain whimsical feel, such as Kicca Igaly’s Musical Conductor, happily overseeing an invisible orchestra and their music as you skate across the ice, or the innocent (and rather cute) snowman by Trigit Amat, complete with felt top hat and scarf, standing with his back to the path, but who will deftly turn around and lob a snowball or two at passers-by. The polar bears busy with their ice ballet in the frosted glasshouse put me in mind of an advert we used to have for a certain chocolate bar (even if the ad did involve pandas and rollerskates, rather than polar bears and ice – but that’s the way my little mind works).

Slightly Twisted
Slightly Twisted (Flickr)

The pleasure of a build like this is in the composition and the detail, and Katz has done a fabulous job in bringing pieces together from a wide range of creators and artists to present a scene which really does encourage exploration and offers a lot of entertainment; so do take your time when wandering, you never know what might lie around a corner or among the trees. If you do tire of walking, there are balloon and horse rides to be found, adding even more enjoyment for explorers. If you feel like a break, there are places where you can sit and cuddle or watch the world go by. And if you get too cold outside, don’t forget the big house, which contains more art in both images and sculptures, to appreciate.

Above the lowlands, atop the hills there is more to see, including a cosy barn where Katz has some of her own artwork  on display.  There’s even a roaring log fire outside where you can warm your hands. Getting back down the hills after a visit is easy as well: simply grab a sledge and push off down the slope!

There’s more to see beyond this, but for me to say more would be to spoil things. Why not pay Slightly Twisted a visit and see what’s there for yourself?

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A dream of Japanese snow

Yuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrYuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island (Flickr) – click an image for full size

Wherever Jac Mornington builds, I follow. It’s an immutable law of Second Life. True, I may not be right behind him (fortunately for him!), and in following him, I may well be treading where others have trod ahead of me (because his builds are to SL photographers as magnets are to iron filings: an irresistible force). Nevertheless, wherever he builds, I will surely gravitate.

Already this year I’ve covered three of his region-wide builds: Black Basalt Beach,  Baja Norte and Sol Existence, all of which have been stunning in their presentation, look and feel.

Yuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrYuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island (Flickr)

Now comes Yuki No Yume – A Dream of Snow. A homestead region, it presents to the visitor a winter scene of rural Japan, which is both simple in style and stunning in execution, with some marvellous attention to detail and lots of opportunities for the SL photographer.

The arrival point is located in the north-east corner of the region, atop a rocky outcrop, upon which sits the ruins of an old temple. with a forlorn bell, the rafters from which it was once suspended having long since split and collapsed, walls holed and partially boarded-up and with doors broken , one might think the temple deserted but for the lamp burning outside and the game of ban-sugoroku apparently in progress inside the temple shell.

Yuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrYuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island (Flickr) – click an image for full size

A path winds its way down the side of the rock face and past a small shine, down a snow-covered slope to the temple gate. Here sits a small spring, doubtless a place where pilgrims travelling up to the temple would have once stopped to refresh themselves in warmer days before starting on the steep climb. Now the water is frozen, and the gate stands as the entrance to the rest of the region.

Three other buildings occupy the land; a hot spring bathhouse and two small, traditional houses, neither of which is used as a residence so visitors need have no fear of invading anyone’s privacy. All three sit amidst a snow-covered landscape of trees, rocky outcrops, winding paths, streams, waterfalls and lakes (both frozen and with open water), all arranged to create a very natural environment surrounded by tall mountains, so suggestive of a highland rural region in Japan.

Yuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrYuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island (Flickr) – click an image for full size

Where the visitor goes from the temple gate is entirely up to their own muse; paths are available, but most of the region is open land, inviting people to wander where they will. There is plenty to occupy the eye here, both indoors and out, so it’s worth taking time in any exploratory and picture-snapping forays into Yuki No Yumi.

If you follow the stream up towards the waterfall, you’ll likely come across a group of Japanese macaques, otherwise known as snow monkeys, doing what they do best: sitting in a hot spring bath as the snow falls around them. Elsewhere, deer take advantage of an overturned crate of apples, seals sit on a snow-covered sand bank, apparently wondering who the hell has been messing the with water to make it solid, and red-crown cranes dance upon the partially frozen lake; all of which make for some excellent photograph opportunities.

Step into one of the houses, and you’ll find an opportunity to play a hand of Hanafuda (koi koi), listen to music on an old gramophone,  sit and warm yourself by an open fire, enjoy a cup of tea or rest for a while on a bed – assume the fox and rabbit will allow you!

Yuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrYuki No Yume, Sand Bar Island (Flickr) – click an image for full size

This really is another wonderful build from Jac and his partner, Rie Silverfall, one which is every bit worth the time taken to visit as his other in-world creations. For those who like taking photographs of the places they visit, there is also a Flickr group where images of Yuki No Yumi can be shared.

And as I mentioned Japanese macaques earlier, here’s little film of them in real life :).

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A garden of delight in Second Life

Crystal Oak Falls, Tobias; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrCrystal Oak Falls, Tobias (Flickr)

Melinda Palianta recently revamped her private home with an autumnal build and graciously opened it to the public for a short period. I’m glad she did (open it, that is!); it’s one of the most stunning and natural builds I’ve seen in Second Life; a perfect blending of season, landscape, influences and more.

The essence of the build may well be New England in the fall, but there is also an oriental theme and look running through it, touched here and there with and almost English country feel, all of which is beautifully blended into a whole which really is marvellous to witness. It is also perfectly framed through the use of water to create streams and rocky channels which cleverly and very naturally break the garden into individual areas that flow into one another via footpath and bridge, providing a feeling of continuity as you wander and explore while also allowing the various aspects of the garden to exist on their own as more intimate, quiet spots one can enjoy in their own right.

Crystal Oak Falls, Tobias; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrCrystal Oak Falls, Tobias (Flickr)

Crystal Oak Falls is another tour-de-force demonstration that one doesn’t need to own an entire region in order to produce something really amazing. Yes, the parcel may be a little larger than the average offerings supplied by estates, but it’s still well under a 1/4 region in size and has a lower land capacity than a Homestead. Nevertheless Melinda has packed an incredible amount into it, and with nary a hint of lag for the visitor.

From the ocean side arrival point at the front of the house, you can explore the garden at will; simply let the paths, bridges and steps lead you around, and drink in the settings. Part of what makes Melinda’s design so alive and rich is the way in which the garden changes as you wander through it; rather than being entirely pristine and looking like every minute available is spent tending it, this is a garden where  – just like in real life – things can get a little wild if left alone for a while. There are tall wild flowers growing near the stables; further towards the back of the garden, the steps leading up to the tent and camp are looking mossy and starting to get a trifle over-grown, all of which adds to the charm and realism of the build.

Crystal Oak Falls, Tobias; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrCrystal Oak Falls, Tobias (Flickr)

With its oriental touches and use of water, this is obviously a place which very much appeals to my personal sensibilities, something which might be taken to mean I’m a tad biased in my point-of-view. However, I’ll wager a pound to a Linden dollar than Crystal Oak Falls is a place that can capture the eye and imagination of all but the hardest of hearts, and is a place that SL photographers will delight in seeing and snapping.

However, those who wish to see for themselves will have to move quickly; Melinda will be closing her land to public access on December 8th, after which she will be working on her winter build. I hope she’ll consider opening that to the public for at least a few days as well – it is bound to be as equally as gorgeous.

Crystal Oak Falls, Tobias; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrCrystal Oak Falls, Tobias (Flickr)

If you do visit Crystal Oak Falls, do keep in mind that it is a private home;  while the gardens are free to explore, the house may not necessarily be so.  If you do enjoy your visit, consider leaving a small donation at the arrival point.

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Crystal Oak Falls, Tobias; Inara Pey, December 2013, on FlickrCrystal Oak Falls, Tobias (Flickr)

A radiant wintertime in Second Life

Dawn of Radiance
Dawn of Radiance

I’ve had Dawn of Radiance on my list of places to visit for a while, but have only just managed to move it up the list and hop over to take a look. A Homestead region, held and landscaped by Silvermoon Fairey, it’s a place which changes looks to suit the season, and right now is in the grip of winter, presenting a gorgeous world of show-covered hills and valleys, rustic scenes and much to see and discover, be it the Romany encampment, the cottages with their steeply-pitched roofs laden in snow, the frosted sands of the beach or the rugged coastline, to name but a few of the picturesque spots to be found here.

As you arrive in the centre of the region, everywhere is within easy reach – but do remember that there is a lot of “everywhere” to be seen and enjoyed. A lot of care has been put into Dawn of Radiance to create a series of individual settings ripe for appreciation and photos, all interlinked with footpaths, avenues of trees, tracks and wooden board walks.

Daen of Radiance
Dawn of Radiance

This is once again a very photogenic region, as many before me have already discovered, and it is worth taking time to look around as you wander, as there are some very subtle touches which help to bring it to life. It’s a place which looks good with the windlight preset, and which can also come to life under and range of viewer-side windlight settings – I personally found that those offering an early morning or an evening look and feel worked really well, but as these are my favourite times of the day in winter, I am a tad bit biased.

Being wintertime, the beach is looking a little forlorn. The shutters on the beach shop might be open, but a sign outsides tells visitors it’s closed (presumably for the season), and the coastal snow is piling up on the sands. Up on the hills overlooking the beach is a frozen pond – keep an eye out for the skates dispenser if you fancy going for a spin on the ice.

Dawn of Radiance
Dawn of Radiance

One of the clever aspects of Silvermoon’s design is in her use of hills to break up the region, allowing her to create the individual scenes found across the landscape. This enables each scene to be individually present to the visitor and to the photographer when walking through the region.

In many respects, I’m sad I didn’t visit Dawn of Radiance sooner, I would have loved to see it dressed for autumn and Halloween; the photos I have seen from the pre-snow period have been stunning. As it is, I’ll be sure to be coming back again and again to see how Silvermoon dresses the region through the year.

Dawn of Radiance
Dawn of Radiance

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