Saturday, January 29, 2011

Touching up a skinmap ... adding in tattoos

As promised -- a look at something a little bit special I just did for Fabian Black -- a new story which was asking for something very different. The idea for this one just came to me out of the blue, and it's all about the way the shadows fall and how the blood-red rose blends into the background. Thanks so much to Fabian Black for the opportunity to do this! (Check out Fabian Black Romance right here.)

And -- yep, I got the opportunity to put the Delta Dragons tattoo onto Mick Vidal's cheek:

Didn't get the chance to do the Daku tattoo for his chest -- work was full-on today, and it was hot. I'm about halfway caught up right now, though, and should be able to get that tattoo designed for his chest -- the open-headed ankh of a politico-spiritual sect in the Deep Sky, six centuries from now. Hellgate. I love this stuff. This character got Mel Keegan's stamp of approval yesterday, and with the addition of the Daku symbol, he's done. Nice!

The tattoo was added to the skimmap, not painted onto the images in post. Basically -- find the skinmap images, open them in GIMP or something similar. Zapp on the tattoos or whatever you need to paint on, resave the image under a new file name, somewhere you can easily find it. Then, apply it to Michael 4 in the Surfaces tab -- this one is the SkinFace image. So long as you don't mess about with the contrast, gamma, brightness or color controls, and only paint on the tattoos, the new skinmap image will apply seamlessly, and it's part of the M4 model so it moves around with the character ... nothing to do in post.

Jade, 29 January

Friday, January 28, 2011

Michael 4 becomes Michael Vidal ... wow!

Just a brief post to keep up to date with things. This was supposed to be my day off, but stuff happened, so I got a break for a couple of hours rather than an off-day ... besides which, the temperature is hiking now. It's going to be 105, 107 degrees in the shade for the next few days, and honestly, that's not the weather for going outside for long, much less taking off for the wilds and trying to find a cool patch somewhere!

So there's a couple of things I'd like to share today, and the character above is one of them. I just got the stamp of "Wonderful" from Mel Keegan, so it's official: Mick Vidal -- Major Michael Wasim Vidal. The only thing missing is the tattoos, and I wanted to get the character designed before starting to paint skinmaps! If you remember from the books, he ought to be wearing the Delta Dragons unit tattoo on his cheek, and the Daku "open-headed ankh" on his chest. Now that the character is fully designed, I'll paint the skinmap specifically, and the next time you see him, he'll be in the full-on Delta Dragons mode. (In case you're wondering what goes on here, Vidal is one of the central characters from the Hellgate novels, which are quite a rush, and which it's my great pleasure to be illustrating for an upcoming website and multimedia presentation.)

The face and body morphs are designed by me; he's wearing the Marco skinmap, which is due for a tweak, to incorporate the tattoos; and that's the Mature Mark hair, which has been morphed way, way back from a "corporate suit" style into a military type cut. That hairstyle is very good to work with, because it has so many morphs, you can do so much with it. In fact, it's the same toupee you see on the Gene Cantrell character, though you'd never believe it!

Second thing for today. One of my New Year's resolutions was to really get my head around Bryce ... not let it take me for a ride. Well, the tutorial for the Bryde 7 Pro Materials Lab is over 240 pages out of a 1,300pp manual ... help! ... so in the short term I treated myself to the first of the Seriously Real materials packs, when DAZ was having a sale a few weeks ago. The result:

I'm so pleased with this, because I designed everything, down to the water and the sky ... and I know how I did everything, so I can do it again literally at whim. I've uploaded this at 1:1 size, so if you're also trying to wrap your head around Bryce, you can see it at Very Large Size, and maybe see what's going on. That's three separate terrains, plus a water plane, plus a custom-designed sky, and the only post work on it is the birds, which I zapped on in GIMP. I really am delighted with this -- the richness of the colors and so on. Nothing was changed after the render -- colors and all, that's just as she comes. And the coolest thing about it is (hee hee hee) I know what I did, the program didn't take me for a ride!

Join me tomorrow -- I want to show you a new book cover I just did for Fabian Black, and which is a bit of a dazzler the kind of art that just "happens," and you wonder where it came from...

Jade, 28 January

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Australia Day, 2011!

Just touching base here ... it's been a busy, busy day when everyone else was having one off: Australia Day! So here's quick one ... couple of bronzed Aussies in their natural environment. The background is a digital shot (one of mine) taken from Seacliff looking down toward Brighton (South Aus in the middle of summer) ...

And now -- dinner! Happy Australia Day!

Jade, 26 January

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Visual clues -- or, reverse-engineering from art to plot

As an illustrator who's also a bit of a storyteller myself, I'm always fascinated by the way different people see different images. Almost no two people see the same picture the same way.

Have a look at this series of images ... what do you see? Is he a warrior mediating on the eve before battle? Is he a prisoner in this fortress? Is that a look of longing or of pain on his face? Has be been horribly abused and is dreading his captor's return? Is he longing for a lover who's been away too long? Or is that a splitting headache, because this is the morning after?!

It looks like a fantasy, but -- who says?This could be a resort in Romania catering to people who like a bit of the exotic. Bu notice the other features in the shots...

The candle. The moon in the window. The large area of empty space at the top of the shot.

The empty space serves to make the figure look overwhelmed, or lonely, or abandoned, maybe lost. The candle could indicate a time in the past, pre-electric ... a time in the future after the fall of technology. Then, what about the moon? The significance of this to a lot of people is -- werewolf, shapeshifter. But try this:

It's hundreds of years in our future, after something massive crashed civilization on Earth, and only Luna survived as a technological society. The hunk on the fur rug is a pilot whose ship crash landed not far from this fortress. He's been injured ... he can't remember who he is or where he's from. Trying gives him a headache. He suspects he's more a captive that a guest here, and he doesn't trust the people who brought him here, even though they pulled him out of the wreck and saved his life. Looking at the moon makes him halfway remember. The question is, can he get out of here? And if he can, where would he go?

Bet your bottom dollar his memory comes back in time -- but not before there's been a sizzling romance with a local who helps him get away. The transmitter on the wreck can be salvaged, he can fix it and call for help, but the locals are launching a witch hunt, he's in deadly peril, running for his life and watching the skies. The local who helped him (a girl if it's a straight story, a guy if it's a gay story -- you choose!) is close to death, wounded, when the ship drops in from Luna and whisks them out of there, but will s/he live or die? Our hero might be rescued and bereaved in the same ten minutes.

And there's a dozen more stories that could spin off the visual clues in a couple of simple images. Isn't it amazing, what your imagination can do? Someone needs to discover an alien machine that takes ideas and turns them into novels without a writer having to slog through the next month at a keyboard. Like a lot of people, I get ideas ... like a lot of people, I don't have the time to write, which is why I like artwork so much, because you can tell a story in a few moments.

Jade, 25 January

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bookcovers and Monday miscellany

Just a grab-bag today -- a bit of this, a bit of that. Here's a first look at an ebook coming out from DreamCraft next week. This one was a delight ... if you fancy Australia, or like a laugh, or a kind of "puberty blues" story about a young lad growing up gay in a fly-speak town in the middle of nowhere, this would have to be your book. It's not long -- something around 13,000 words, as I remember -- and it's pure joy from the first line to the last. Coming out in Coopers Crossing, from Jayne DeMarco, and remember that name, because I think this writer will be going places.

The background on this piece is one of my own photos ... shot through the car window while traveling at high speed, somewhere in the southeast. It could be somewhere around a place called Reedy Creek, which is even smaller that the "town" in the story. That's rural Australia, through to the bone. All I had to do was turn up the contrast a bit (to counteract the fact it was shot from inside a moving car), and slap a bit of GIMP painting over the lower part for two reasons. One, because I wanted the title to show up clearly, and two, because (!) that part of the image is actually blurred because of the fact the car was going about 100kph at the time! And no, I wasn't driving. Riding shotgun has its advantages.

Here's the full shot, sideways-blur on the foreground and all:

See? Moving car. When I'm laying out covers for DreamCraft books, the format is 6x9, so it's always a challenge choosing which part of the image to use. This time around it was easy, and very easy to set up the figure. The only real challenge was to match the lighting to the background, so it doesn't end up with the photomontage effect. I only put two lights on this: a pale blue one to simulate the sky, and a pale gold one to undo some of the blue. Set shadows for both and render. I'd actually expected to take two or three shots at it, which would be usual, but it was right first time. Then it was over into GIMP for some painting, then into Serif to have the text overlays done. (The model is obviously Michael 4, wearing the HZ Victor skinmap and the Danyel hair from Neftis, set to black, and the M4 Real Jeans. Couldn't be much simpler -- or more effective.

On another topic, here's the effect I was trying for yesterday:

It wasn't going to work then, and it wasn't going to work today! I went another nine rounds with it (crash, crash, crash...) and then said, "Forget it." This one is a simple render of the figure (raytraced) with one of yesterday's renders used as a backdrop. *sigh* Ah, well. Nice picture, though. Not what was in my imagination, but -- nice.

Jade, 24 January

Welcome to Shangrila ... thank you for not burping...

Just a couple of pieces today because believe it or not, it took most of the afternoon and some of the evening to get these! There are images that just refuse to be rendered on this system -- in the above, I can have either shadows or reflections, I can have either opacity or reflections. Try for both, and the result is a crash to the desktop. Very annoying. Notice, in the top shot you have reflections, in the second shot you have shadows -- not both together! Grrrr.

Anyway, the idea for this came out the Pure Blond beer commercial that's screening down here at this moment. You're going to love this -- it also looks great full-screen, so click on the icon. I scaled it down to 400 wide to get it to fit the Blogger page, but it definitely deserves to be seen full screen:

... as I said in the post title, "Welcome to Shangrila ... than you for not burping."

And I dream dreams of having a computer with a whole lot more power, so I can render scenes which are in my head, but which just can't be done on this machine. I watched The Making of Avatar a couple of weeks ago, and it was amusing -- James Cameron was talking about how he and Weta Digital devised new special effects technologies which pushed the hardware further than it wanted to go. The result? Crash! Even for Weta Digital. So I'm in good company!

Jade, 23 January

Friday, January 21, 2011

"On the Full Moon of September..."

On the Full Moon of September
by Mel Keegan

One night I went a-roaming –
I braved the woods, so dark.
My friends swore I was crazy;
I thought it such a lark.
Up came the full moon – silver –
The trees all crowded round,
And as I tiptoed through them
I thought I heard a sound…
Upon my heel, I spun, fast,
All wide-eyed, full of dread.
If I’d had the sense I was born with
I’d be tucked up safe in bed,
Not roaming in the wild wood
With a jump at every crack,
Spinning – who’s that behind me?
Always looking back –
Till there, at last, I saw him,
Leaned up against a tree,
With his long, green pointed ears…
And he was looking right at me.
Says he, “You goin’ my way?”
Says I, “Not half a chance.”
Says he, “Now, that’s a damn’ shame,
“Cause I’m going to a dance.
“Tonight’s the night they all come –
“The faer, trolls, goblins too.”
Says I, “So, which are you, then?”
And he said, “Which are you?”
I told him I was human.
He shrank back, full of fear.
I never though being human
Would be seen as quite so queer,
But this one was a goblin –
I saw him clearly, then,
His green skin and his long ears,
His pointed hood – again
I said, “I’m just a human,
“A long way from my bed.
“I went a-roaming. Got lost.”
He peered at me and said,
“Well, if you can forgive me
“For being goblin-kind,
“I s’pose I can forgive you
“For bein’ human. Mind –
“You’ll have to swear an oath, now,
“Ne’re to tell a soul
“That on the full moon of September
“Out comes every troll –
“Goblin, pixie, brownie,
“Faeire – all the crowd,
“To dance, all wild and carefree,
“Obnoxious, rude and loud.”
“All right,” says I, “I promise.”
“Not good enough,” says he.
“You'll have to swear in blood
“Before it’s good enough for me.”
And, like a fool, I gave him
My tender, left-hand palm.
And out he brought a dagger,
And, quite without a qualm,
He took a drop of bright blood…
He quaffed it on his tongue…
I felt a soul-deep shiver and
Was glad that I’m still young –
Cause heaven help the oldster
Tryin’ on what I did then:
I trailed him up the hillside,
Beyond the world of men.
And there I saw the gathering,
All kinds of folk, all free…
The only people missing
Were the humans beings, like me.
But no one saw a human
When they looked into my face.
No one shrieked and ran away
When noticing my race –
And like the perfect idiot
It ne’er – to me – occurred
That the goblin in the woodland
Had never said one word
Of what would happen to me
If a goblin knife should spill
A drop of blood from my hand –
My palm was smarting still –
Or what becomes of humans
Who stray beyond the glen
On the full moon of September;
But oh! The world of men
Just faded out and vanished
Like mist upon the sea.
When I regained my senses,
Sprawled out beneath a tree,
They all sang, “Welcome, stranger,
“Come, dance with us, be wild!
The woodland makes you welcome!”
They all sang this, and smiled.
So, nothing loath, I leaped up
And showed that I can dance.
We whirled around till dawn rose,
And there was not one chance
Of me becoming human –
Or mortal, e’er again…
For this is how we humans
Slip through the world of men.
And if you walk the woods when
September’s moon is round,
Your friends won’t be astonished
When your bones are never found.
They’ll guess that you turned into
A fairy – “But,” they’ll say
“He’s surely dancin’ somewhere!
“May his revels all be gay.”

-Words by Mel Keegan, Art by Jade

See also The Voice of the South Wind

Jade, 22 January

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Taking Samson for a test-drive ... and choosing the right skinmap for your characters

First, my apologies to all: I've been sick this last week. Again. My health went down the tubes about eight months ago, and I'm just making the best of the situation. You knew this blog hadn't been abandoned or something dramatic ... you knew I was just a lump on the couch under the tartan rug. I'm feeling better today, and here's what I've had on the back turner!

A few months ago DAZ was having a fantastic sale -- one of those crazy sales where it's up to 80% off everything in your cart, so you go through your wishlist and dump in everything you've been dying to get, and generally go broke saving money!

This skinmap was one of the goodies I picked up for about $7, and I'm just now getting the opportunity to take it for a test drive. This is the Samson skinmap, and I like it a lot. Highly recommended.

In the top three images I also loaded up the Samson face morphs, which are pretty good; but in the fourth one, the closeup, I changed to one of my own characters to see what the Samson map would do for him.

Now, this is one of my favorites from among my own characters. I use him a lot, in all kinds of roles -- the first place you saw him was as Achilles, in the "Achilles and Patroclus" humor pieces, where Patroclus was being your typical teenage twerp...

...then the same character showed up in a vast variety of places. I mostly use the Lee skinmap on him, and you can easily identify Lee by the mole on the chin, right under the lower lip. But occasionally I change out the skinmap on Achilles, and every time this is done, the face changes a bit. The Achilles face is very, very distinctive ... also very, very delicate, meaning, it changes a great deal if the brows, eyelids and lips change.

All of which got me to thinking about writing a little bit about how to choose a skinmap for your characters, and how the skinmaps change the face you just worked so hard to create.

Here's the poop, in living color -- and this was uploaded at 100% size, so if you click on this bitty little Blogger thumbnail, you'll see the whole thing...'ll also see that it's not just the face that changes, nor even the skin tones. Skin texture, veins, body hair, nipple color and texture ... the whole thing changes, and this is how changing the skinmap changes the face you just designed. It’s not just the skintones that change.

A skinmap is a faithful reproduction of real, live human body, so you get eyebrows, lip and eyelids that are unique to the gentleman who was imaged. Some models (victims?) have pronounced veins in the arms and chest; others have heavy brows or close to no brows at all. Once you’re finished designing your face and physique, the next critical thing is choosing the right skinmap so that it all comes together properly. Skin tones can always be changed (for instance, Remendado has a golden cast, chase has a pinkish cast, both of which can be enhanced right out of the maps, if you need to do this), but getting in there and painting eyebrows, or painting out veins is probably not something the average 3D artist wants to get into. You can do it ... But since skinmaps are so cheap, why would you want to? So, once you have your character designed, run through your skinmaps and get the right one — hairy or not? Veins or none? Eyebrows? Lip tones? Some skinmaps come with hairy or smooth options, and quite a lot have good sets of tattoos, too, which you can toggle on or off at whim.

NOTE: don’t be concerned at the white specks in some of these skinmaps. This just tells you that in your final render you need to go into the surfaces tab and turn the lighting model to MATTE. The white spots, or flecks, go away — but for the purpose of this test I wanted to change just one thing in each render — the skinmap itself. Nothing else would change.

So where do you get these skinmaps, how much do they cost, and exactly what are they?

You can get them from DAZ, Renderosity or Content Paradise. Almost all work with both DAZ and Poser, but read the Read Me documentation and make sure before you shell out your hard-earned cash. They can cost as must as $29.95, if you buy an Elite map at full price, or as little as $5 if you buy a non-elite map in a sale. $10 - $17 is a great "normal" price range to look for.

What are they? They're sets of JPEG images at ultra-high resolution, which reduce the human body to (and I know it has a high yuck factor) a flayed skin albeit in images. Then this skin is then wrapped around the Michael 4 (etc.) model you're using, and it assumes all the body and head morphs that you set up with your Morphs++.

There are literally hundreds of skinmaps out there, and more are being done all the time, so you might need some recommendations about where to start! All I can do is run down the list of the ones I have, so here goes:

Albane -- albino with red eyes. Great for Halloween shots.
Alexandre - great skinmap, Italian or Spanish ... no genital map is provided, so you'll have to mix and match with another map to get around the dangly bits. Problem with the "fit" of one JPEG with another ... you might have to paint out some seams.
Chase -- a very good northern european skinmap with hairy or shaved options, and a moustache if you prefer the lip caterpillar! The only downside to this one is the extreme thinness of the eyebrows, which might not suit your character -- but if you have the need for this, it's perfect.
Falcon -- Native American; very nice tones, bit heavy on the veins, and you can't turn them off. Several sets of warpaint are provided, which can be turned on and off at whim, and they really are spectacular.
Ferendir -- lovely skinmap, described as "elven" -- body is 100% shaved or waxed etc., and alas no option for body hair is provided. However, there's quite a set of tattoos to play with so you can get some interesting results.
Jagger -- very good skinmap with an olive tone, like a solid suntan. Problem with the "fit" of one JPEG with another ... you might have to paint out some seams in post.
Lee -- the only Elite map I have. Marvellous resolution -- does need to have its lighting model set to MATTE to get rid of the white flecks. The mole on the chin is so unique, it waves a flag saying, "Hi, I'm the Lee skinmap!" So you'll find yourself painting this out in post -- a lot. Otherwise, a beautiful fair skin type, actually Chinese, but looks great on anything from Scandinavian to Celtic!
Marco -- Nice northern European map -- reminds me of a Russian skin type. No need for post work. Some veins, but nothing over the top.
Mario -- Great European-style map with a light tan, good eyebrows which are not too heavy or too light. Chest hair or shaven -- your call. Not fit problems or white fleck problems that I'm aware of.
Matthias -- Beautiful olive skintones, perhaps Mexican in appearance, and great fit. No need for post work.
Samson -- Lovely skinmap -- western European with a dark tan, rather than olive, with great resolution and very nice eyebrows.
Remendado -- Lovely European skin type, with golden tones. Looks a treat on many faces -- the only problem being, the eyebrows are so light, they might not suit your character. You might also need to change the eyeballs for something like The Eyes Have It, because Remendado's eyeballs have a lot of capillaries showing. Bearded and clean shaven options, and some tattoos provided.
Victor -- fantastic Italian or Greek or Mexican type skinmap -- olive, rich tan, no fit problems, no white flecks, and lovely resolution even in extreme closeup. Tattoos to turn on and off at whim. Great eyebrows -- in fact you might find them a little bit too heavy, and if this is the case, switch back to Matthias, which is very similar in many respects and has lighter eyebrows.
Zareb -- lovely African skinmap; several sets of warpaint provided. Beautiful, rich brown tones.

I haven't done a tremendous amount with the Victoria 4 skinmaps yet. I think I have four, and they seem to do the job!

Hope this helped. Remember, guys, I *do* answer questions, and I've thrashed out all but a very few of the answers at this level of DAZ Studio 3. I don't have the processor power to run the Advanced version, much less the Reality render engine, so for the moment -- probably like most of you! -- I'm kind of "stuck" at this level of software complexity and driving it as hard as I know how to get the most out of it. If you have questions -- shoot. If you ask something I can't answer, I'll be like a dog with a bone till I find out! Can't bear unsolved mysteries.

Jade, 21 January

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Starlight and shadows

Just a little artwork today ... no great discourse on matters artistic or 3D. Am really under the weather again (read: if I were a dog, they'd have shot me already) and not in any condition to do much except turn into a lump under a blanket on the couch. Sorry guys.

Hope to be recovered (or recovering at least) tomorrow, and will be back with more goodies and at least a bit more coherence. Or at least as much coherence as I can usually muster! Am going to hunker down and watch movies tonight. Ack.

Back more with soon. Or something along those lines...

Jade, 17 January

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Busy with bookcovers...

Just a swift post to touch base today, and share what I've been up to. Book covers again -- and this one is for a new Sara Lansing novel, "The Haunted Coast." Ir's a ghost story 9with a vengeance) set in Whitby on Bonfire Night of 2009. It's a very good read, which deserves a good cover, sooooo...

It started with a backdrop, which is a photo of the location taken by our own Doctor Mike who was over there a few months ago. The first step was to turn a beautiful image into a background laden with drama. I brought up the purple tones, dropped out a lot of the green, which shifted the color pallet entirely. Then zapped on some eerie weirdness using Photoshop brushes, in GIMP, and then burned in the periphery of the image to give it a border ... it also creates a kind of "tunnel vision" effect, which is strange enough to suit the material well.

Then this was shipped into DAZ as the backdrop, and the challenge then was to design the two characters and get the costumes right. The big challenge here wasn't the faces (those were surprisingly easy) but the costumes. There isn't a lot of call for the Victoria 4 model to be ... well, dressed! Most costumes for V4 are along the lines of wispy bits of gauze and costumes that will fall off if they're not actually glued on.

But this story takes place on a freezing November night, and both characters are bundled up -- proper coats, sweaters, the works. The fact is, I don't own the 3D wardrobe to dress Victoria 4 properly this way ... so I actually used costumes designed for Michael 4, tweaked them as far as was possible in the morph controls, and hand-painted the rest. Turns out, M4 costumes don't really fit V4, no matter what you do with the doll inside them. But you can get a result that'll hold up for a static image which can be fixed in post.

Which probably means the reverse is true. Picture Michael 4 in a little black dress...

Jade, 16 January

OK Mel, let's have another go! Neil Travers, Take Three...

You might remember that last week I developed a couple of character designs that were pretty close -- pretty darned close -- to "right" for the Hellgate characters of Neil Travers and Curtis Marin. I got the word back from Mel Keegan...

Marin -- great, spot on. Don't change a thing. Travers -- still looks too close to Stoney (Capt. R.J. Stone, Raven 7.1, commanding NARC-Athena ... the, uh, NARC novels. But you knew that, right?)

So, could I have another go at the character and come up with something that fits the same physical description (six-three or four, black hair, blue eyes, fair complexion, drop-dead gorgeous, built like an apartment block) but is very different from Stone.

It's not as easy as you might think! One of the reasons is that to a very great extent, the skinmaps you can apply to a new Michael 4 face morphology you've created decide what the eyebrows, eyelids and lips are going to look like, and so on. So I started with a whole new face -- and a whole new skinmap. This is the Lee skinmap -- it's actually Chinese, so it's very fair, very pale, suits the black hair and blue eyes, which is an Irish combination.

This is a radically different character, but still answers the same physical description of Stoney! Early 30s, tall and built, same colouring, the lot. And I bounced this off Mel Keegan earlier today. Verdict: Yes! Also, it turns out that with a bit more work, the "second generation" design I had for Neil Travers will very probably turn into Mick Vidal. If the jaw were softer and the nose were sharper, and the eyes a little wider, etc., etc., we'd have Vidal too.

This is one of the parts of CG art I enjoy the most -- designing the characters. Used in these shots are Powerage's Power Cargo, plus Dystopia City Blocks 6x6, plus DM's Big Floor, plus the Billy T Real Jeans, the Beowulf slacks and Jacket, the M4 Basicwear T-shirt, the Utilitize gloves, the Lockwood shoes set to black, Neftis's GQ Event hair, Neftis's Danyel hair, the Lee skinmap, the HZ Victor skinmap, the Eyes Have It eyeballs, a hillside made by me, a smoggy, polluted sky painted by me, and a whole lot of my textures on the clothes, plus about six lights.

If I'd had more time, I'd have added an atmospheric layer behind Travers and in front of the city and spaceship, but it's been migraine time again, and I'm both out of time and seeing out of one eye, so ... later. An atmospheric layer would have made the shots very, very "deep," but if I'd stopped to do that I wouldn't be uploading anything at all today. Migraines are a real bummer.

Jade, 15 January

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Junkyard hero, take two ... and the Queensland floods

First, thanks to all the people who have expressed their concern for the Queensland flood crisis -- and to those who asked if this group is in any danger. To set your minds at rest, we're in South Australia, in and around the fair city of Adelaide, and we're a couple of thousand miles away from the seventy-foot-deep water. Yep, there's a submerged areas five times the size of the entire British Isles, or like Texas, New Mexico and Arizona all added together, or like all but a fraction of Alaska. Three quarters of Queensland has gone under, and all by itself, Queensland would be the 25th largest country in the world, so that tells you the extent of the disaster. But this group (self, Dave, Doctor Mike, Mel Keegan, Aricia Gavriel, and several of the DreamCraft regular contributors) are far away from the floods, and are just watching it on TV, aghast as the rest of you.

The one good thing I can say about this: the emergency services in this country (including the armed forces) acted like greased lightning, and the federal government is picking up the tab in real time ... it's not a replay of Hurricane Katrine, nor even of Cyclone Tracey. But the worst thing is that Queensland had some of the most delicately-poised environment in the world, and some of the rarest wildlife. The devastation goes way beyond brand-new homes and heritage-listed buildings that are now standing in twenty-meter-deep muddy water. Bull sharks, which are estuarine and don't mind fresh water, are swimming in city streets. The silt is hitting the reef. Has anybody but me wondered where the koalas and wallabies went to?

I can't think of another disaster to rival this one, unless you cite the 1982 and 1983 fires, when we were burning across the entire corner of the continent, and from space it all looked like it had to be special effects ... and I think, in the long run, these floods will turn out to have had more impact. *sigh*

Art-wise today, just the answer to a question.

A few days ago I was trying to explain to someone the concept of cropping a picture for effect, to cut the "best" picture out of the overall image. Not sure I made my point well enough, so -- here's an example. Returning to yesterday's Junkyard Hero, let's go around to the front of the building and shoot a few more pictures.

Compare the top one in this post with this one...

... and the difference is, one is a picture of a yard with a guy and a car in it, while the other is a picture of a guy and a car in a yard. Similarly, compare this one, below, with the second-top image in this post:
Here, you have a picture of a yard with a hunk standing in it, whereas the top one is a picture of a hunk standing in a yard. Make sense?

Which are the "best" pictures? Well, it depends which you wanted or needed. If you were showcasing the yard, perhaps to sell the property or point out the value of pre-WWI architecture, you'd go with the long shots. If you were aiming for male glamor shots, you'd emphasize the hunk, not the yard. Both have their uses, and if you were a photographer on assignment, you'd have a clear idea before you started of what was needed.

But, yes, you can start with a whole image that might even be a big blah and crop some radical stuff out of it. This picture is about the car, not the hunk:

In this one, Horace J. Knight is having a serious mano-a-auto soul-to-soul with his best friend, the talking car, who goes by the name of Kitty. The camera closes on the car as she says, "Really, Horace, have you lost your shirt again? Good thing I keep a dozen spares on board."

And he says, "Good girl, Kitty. Just let me pop your trunk."

And she says, "Get fresh with me, Muscles, and I'll run over your foot."

And the director shouts, "Cut! Print! Kitty, that was was brilliant, you'll get a Golden Globe for this. Oh, Horace, did you want some aloe on that sunburn?"

Jade, 13 January
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