Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pirates look delicious in the moonlight...

click to see all images at large size...

It's not that I'm actually "on top of the job" and have time for artwork ... but I've managed to do something baaaad to my back. There's several jobs waiting, but they're going to have to wait a little bit longer, because I can't sit still in front of a computer for very long. So --

Pirate. A rendezvous in the moonlight. And I leave you to decide if he came to the bridge to meet a friend, foe or lover ... if this is a tryst or a business meet ... and if it's the girlfriend or the boyfriend he's here to meet. You call it! It's delicious, either way. How about if she were the foe and he were the lover? That'd be far enough out of the routine mold to make it interesting, and you can have a sword fight before you get to the kissyface part.

The skinmap and face morph are Yannis (from Renderosity) -- and those are the Yannis Rasta dreads, which I use a lot. You surely recognize them by now. The costume is the Leon costume from DAZ, but I changed every texture, which makes it look quite different. The standing props are from the AS Tortuga set (also from Renderosity), and quite a bit of post work was done in Photoshop. 

The backdrop is one I painted a few months ago for a piece called The Wood Goddess; it works well here, too. The bandanna is part of the hair prop; but the texture on it is ... well, it's my crochet purse! And I must say, it looks a treat on him. I made a bump map to give it some extra oomph, and it works well. Incidentally, on some of the textures, you'll have to see the images at much larger size than these thumbnails for them to become apparent. 

And now ... as promised ... the 12 Apostles:

The last two images: Cave Gardens in the heart of downtown Mount Gambier, and the trawler fleet heaving at their moorings at Carpenter Rocks. Just a few more pix from our trip last weekend. Ooooh, wouldn't I love to love down there? Not that it's going to happen, y'understand, but one can dream. Ye gods, it's April tomorrow! What happened to March??

Jade, March 31

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The camera's eye-view

click to see images at large size...

Digging my way out from under the blizzard of work -- more images from or road trip, to take up the slack while I chisel away at the job. I'm packaging More Than Human at this time ... just giving myself a break before I go back to the work. The next thing I need to do is build the book's webpages, and I'll have a live link for you very soon. Till then ...

Top pic: The Great Ocean Road. See it on a map, and it looks like it's about a hundred kilometers long, and I guess the road itself is, but the section of it that actually sits right on the coast and affords overlooks and viewing platforms for the great iconic sights is only about 32k. However, on that 32k, something amazing happens about every 300m down the road, and you'd need all day to see the lot, so it's probably a good thing the whole Great Ocean Road isn't like this! The rest is a scenic drive through Victoria's rural countryside -- mostly dairy, some sheep, very pretty in its own right.

Pic #2: a kind of cormorant, sunning himself (herself?) on the rocks at Beachport -- back on the South Australian side of the border. In this neck of the woods I've seen at least three different kinds of cormorants in all kinds of water, fresh and salt, lakes, rivers and the ocean. 

Pic #3: pine plantation at Tantanoola ... yes, Virginia, there really is a place called Tantanoola. They have a fantastic limestone cavern (pics 7 and 8), a pine plantation where the air smells like wilderness Canada or Alaska, a pub called the Tantanoola Tiger Hotel (not named after a real tiger) ... and a football club, the (!) Tantatoola Tigers, which are more likely to be named for the pub than for the creature of local legend that wasn't a tiger at all. The pine plantations straddle the border and spread on and on into Victoria; crest a ridge in the road, and all you can see is pine forest, to the horizon. Stop the car for a while and take a deep breath. Ahhhhh. 

Pic #4: There's three flightseeing companies running fleets of these helicopters from fields within 20k of the 12 Apostles on the Great Ocean Road. They're small, zippy, noisy, and I suspect that if you wanted to get a ride (expensive!) you'd have to book weeks in advance. You would not believe the crowds at the 12 Apostles! It looked like the footy finals ... you were literally shoulder to shoulder in places (in the middle of the wilderness, no less), waiting to get a chance to get your photos ... and these red choppers were thundering around the whole time. All part of the experience, I know. 

Pic #5: Mount Gambier's Old Town Hall, in the heart of downtown. "Downtown" is where retail meets local government meets the Cave Gardens sinkhole, which is right behind the town hall. At 9:30 each night, they illuminate the sunken garden and run a silent movie, historic footage of the region, projected on the wall of the town hall. Actually, it was quite good, but not quite as good as the movie footage of erupting volcanoes and cave diving they project on screens in the huge windows of the town hall!The town is built on and around an extinct volcano -- it's 4,500 years since it erupted, and the cater is now a bunch of lakes, one of which is the Blue Lake itself (see yesterday's post).

Pic #6: charge! Young herefords on the hoof in a paddock under Mount Schank, another extinct volcano ... and if you turn around and look in the other direction, you see the deep, green sinkhole that's set up for swimming, which you saw in yesterday's post. Mt. Schank is just out of the frame in this image, but I did photograph it, and you'll see it before this blog reverts to artwork!

Pics #7 and #8: Tantanoola limestone cavern. What more can you say? It was fantastic ... you kept looking for the dragon that was guarding the treasure. Smaug had to be around there somewhere.

Pic #9: Another frame from the sunset I photographed ... from a car moving at about 110kph, incidentally. We were on the road back to camp after spending way too long photographing falling cliffs from one end of the Great Ocean Road's actual oceanic bit to the other. And --

Pic #10: The 12 Apostles, the iconic site itself. To get this, I'm hanging over a railing, trying not to get stampeded by about 1,000 tourists from every part of Asia, plus France, Germany and Canada -- I was listening to accents and languages, and heard Pakistani, Indian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, plus the few from Europe. We were the only ones talking English, with the exception of one Canadan group, and one English group. The helicopters were thundering in every direction ... I wondered what it would be like to visit this site in the early morning, before the tourists get there, when the parking lot is EMPTY, and the helicopters are all on the ground. Maybe next time...!

More tomorrow...

Jade, March 30

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Have camera, want to travel...

click to see all images at large size...

As promised, more images from our road trip, while I get caught up with work, which has piled up on me, as I expected it would. I have a book to package in the next few days, and I'm already so far behind schedule, the mooted launch date of next weekend has turned into "sorta kinda maybe Easter weekend." Which is not such a good idea, because a lot of people travel at Easter, and I'd really wanted to get the book out ahead of time. This helps sales, because people go shopping for reading material to pass the hours on the train, bus or plane. By the time you get to Easter itself, it's too late. But today is Thursday, and ... wellllll, we'll see. As you know, the book is More Than Human, by Keegan and DeMarco -- you saw the cover last week, before Dave and I took off on the trip. 

So, boy, am I going to be busy ... and you'll understand if I post photography for a while instead of CG art. Photography is an art form too! 10-20 years ago it was my art form. I know: excuses, excuses, right? But when photos are really beautiful, I think they're their own excuse. So here we go:

Top pic: stormy skies over Rivoli Bay -- Beachport, in South Australia's SE. It was warm with a soft wind, gulls and cormorants. Beachport is famous for its jetty, which is looooong like you wouldn't believe. You're almost on the Coorong coast here ... huge skies, miles and miles of peace and quiet and mostly empty roads. Mind you, it makes for a drive on which you could fall asleep. (Hobo Jim and Johnny Cash to the rescue.)

Pic #2: It was a glorious sunset, Sunday night, when we were on our way back from the Great Ocean Road. We actually stayed way too long at sites like the 12 Apostles and "London Bridge" and so on. The lower the sun fell, the more vivid the colors on the rocks. Result: we got back to camp hours after full darkness. Gotta keep your eyes peeled for kangaroos hopping across the road (they're nocturnal), because it can get dangerous -- you don't want to hit one. Alas, we saw a lot of dead ones, due to collisions with cars and trucks ... and one very live one, crossing the road about a hundred meters ahead of us; and a wallaby standing on the roadside, watching us go by. And a couple of small wombats just standing in the middle of the road like maniacs. Rest assured, both of us were watching out with wide eyes. 

Pic #3: the wetlands on the river, at Robe, in the SE of SA. I'd expected the mud flats to be stinky, but they weren't. There were dozens of white herons working the area, but even with a 730mm lens, I couldn't get close enough to them to image them well. I got lots of shots, but not the "full professional work" you expect from me here. Just shots for my own amusement. I take a lot of those, too.

Pic #4: road trip! Road. Lots of road. Looooooots of it. We put about 1,600k on the car ... if you're interested, the trip was done in a Hyundai i30, and I really recommend this car, if you're in the market for something at this time, and can handle about $25,000. We rented it ... Europcar is a terrific company to deal with, and four-day hire was very inexpensive, even including the full-on insurance. (The point is, if you're going to abuse a car, abuse a brand new one, with full insurance, not your own poor car. This is the first time we've done one of these trips in a rental, and it was such a good decision. Full marks to Europcar. And I give myself a pat on the back for thinking of this way to go.) Anyway, this stretch of bitumen is part of the Great Ocean Road ... you're on your way from one astonishing bay to another ... come back tomorrow, and I'll show you some of them!

Pic #5: limestone caverns at Tantanoola Caves, South Australia. You're on the Limestone Coast now -- south of Naracoorte. It's cattle and sheep and wine country, with fantastic ground water. Literally an underground ocean of fresh water, deep beneath your feet, and -- caves. This one here was discovered by a kid who was hunting for rabbits. He put his ferret into a hole, and when the ferret didn't come back, the boy lifted out some rocks and went to find him (her?) and ... this is what he saw. It was amazing. Warm! A little bit humid, and room temperature, with a fantastic echo. If you're interested, check this out... I got scores of good images; I'll show you some more tomorrow.

Pic #6: big skies. Huuuuuge skies. I love to watch the sky, and photograph it, and I must have taken a couple of hundred shots of it on this trip. In town, you don't see the big skies -- also, we live surrounded by the Adelaide Hills, so again, you don't see the huge skies. In the SE of the state, and over the border in Victoria, the land is very, very flat, and the skies are vast. Irresistible, when you're holding a camera.

Pics #7 and #8: the Blue Lake at Mount Gambier ... the lake itself, and the "reverse shot." What's behind you, as you stand there gosh-wowing about the lake. It's ... so ... blue, even on an overcast day. The water is that color about half the year due to its chemical composition -- it's not just reflecting the sky, as witness this shot, which shows how cloudy the day was. Incidentally, this is also Mt. Gambier's reservoir, and the tap water tastes great. Every place else, including home in Adelaide, we use filtered water or bottled; the tap water is so good in Mt. Gambier, we just filled up the jugs and thermos right off the tap. Nice.

Pic #9: a sinkhole between Mount Gambier and another extinct (dormant?) volcano in the area, Mt. Schank. They say it's been 4,500 years since these volcanoes erupted -- regional Aboriginal oral history goes back far enough to have recorded it and passed down the stories. The place is full of sinkholes due to the geology ... when they hit the water table, they fill up, like this one. It doesn't seem to have a name, but it's fitted out with stairs and a platform, for swimmers. Peaceful and beautiful. This shot was taken from the platform at the bottom of a very, very, very long stepway down.

Pic #10: Piccaninnie Ponds, about one mile west of the border. Bottomless lake, with a limestone cavern deep, deep down, which is a scuba diving destination. Me no dive. Me like peace and quiet and fresh air. The ponds are like a microcosm, a whole world in themselves. I could have stayed there all day, but we were already late (gotta pick up and run!) and the Great Ocean Road was waiting. I'll show you some of that next time...

That's all for today. More tomorrow! 

Now, I have to get to work on that book...

Jade, March 29  

Life imitates Vue: images from our road trip

click to see images at 1200 pixels wide

Well, to quote Samwise, we're back. Tired and sore, and dying to plan another one of these trips ... it was fantastic. I came back with about 3,500 images ... Mount Gambier (waaaah, I wanna go live there!) with its Blue Lake and extinct volcanoes ... the Great Ocean Road, Twelve Apostles and all ... the tiny fishing towns and crashing surf ... the limestone caverns and wetlands, bird sanctuaries ... endless pine "plantations" (call them tree farms, if you like) that make the air smell like Canada, or a place in Alaska that I'll never forget, Trapper Creek. 

Don't worry, I won't inflict  them all on you, but for the next few days, while I catch up with WORK, after having been away, I'm going to upload a few of the trip pictures. A few. I promise, just a few. Starting today. Here are 10 to give you something like an overview of where we were...

It's coastal. Biiiig surf. Mountainous seas. Incredible colors... 

Top pic: Bay of Islands on the Great Ocean Road. It really is that color in the afternoon when the sun's shining. I didn't do anything to the colors here, just resized the image (I shoot at 12MP; these pics are all uploaded at 1200 wide, and 72dpi). We were on our way to the iconic landmark, the Twelve Apostles -- yup, we got there, and got fantastic photos. Stay tuned. 

Pic #2: Huge surf at Carpenter Rocks ... that's the Southern Ocean. The sea was green and glorious on the day. It wasn't even cold, and we had the sun for an hour (as well as a picnic right above the beach). But iIcan just imagine this place in an Antarctic storm. Remember The Perfect Storm? Uh huh. 

Pic #3: The beach at Piccaninnie Ponds, about one mile on the South Australian side of the border. (Victoria was nice; the folks were very friendly. But it was also nice to get back into SA.) The beach there is vast; the seaweed is crimson, and the cliffs in the distance are shrouded in fog ... the sea is heaving and roaring. Amazing place.

Pic #4: change in the weather. Again. Huge skies at Port MacDonnell, west of Mount Gambier ... it was also coming on towards evening, so the shadows were long and when the sun shone, which it did on an "on again, off again" basis, the colors were gorgeous. 

Pic #5: I think it's a swamp hen, or mud hen, among the reeds and grasses at Piccaninnie Ponds -- more about this location later  ... it was beautiful beyond description. I fact, it's a cave diving destination. There's an enormous limestone cavern about 120 feet down under this bottomless lake...

Pic #6: Wind-tossed reeds on the edge of Book Lagoon, south of Mt. Gambier. Looks are deceiving: it was actually almost dark with threatening rain and a wind you could lean on. Ten minutes later, the rain was dumping and it was coooooold! Which was too bad, because the migratory birds were there, and if it had been sunny I could have photographed many species. [Grumble.] 

Pic #7: The Blue Lake, Mt. Gambier. It's a volcanic crater, and you never saw anything so blue as the water in this lake. It's also the town's water supply. Fantastically lovely place. We were staying at a holiday park just over the hill -- actually about 200 meters away from the lake. We were there for three nights, and it was a great place to stay, in a self-contained cottage.

Pic #8: Roses at Cave Garden in the heart of downtown Mt. Gambier. It's a sinkhole that's been turned into a beautiful garden, right behind city hall. You climb down into it ... it gets quiet and humid and warm, the further down you climb; there's a deep cave right in the bottom, and the air is buzzing with the wild bees that nest in the rock faces. Come back tomorrow to see the gardens themselves...

Pic #9: a worm's eye view of the landscape at Bool Lagoon. Well, actually it's the parking area (!), but the colors were gorgeous, and the sky was inky blue-black with this one finger of sunlight picking out the reds of the hundreds of fallen pine cones. Couldn't resist this.

Pic #10: work boats moored in the bay at Carpenter Rocks. Real, genuine trawlers, these -- none of your fancy sport fishing boats and pleasure craft. These boats work hard for a living. Carpenter Rocks is a good-sized town, but it's all about commercial fishing. The local catch is rock lobsters and abalone. Very, very secluded place, almost off the radar, but not quite. 

More images tomorrow, while I catch up with work. I'll try to give a good range right across the places we've been, and eventually will zero in on the iconic stuff on The Great Ocean Road itself...

Jade, March 28

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Thursday renders and packed bags

Just a couple of rather nice images (experiments; but they turned out well! View at full size to see the nuance ... nice, eh?) before I sign off and go finish packing. I'm going to vanish on you till Tuesday ... that roadtrip I've been mentioning once or twice. The bags are just about packed, and the road is calling. 

What am I experimenting with in these images?? Having exhausted the possibilities of what you can do with lighting, and the render engine in DAZ Studio, now I'm playing around with the skinmaps themselves, to see what you can squeeze out of them. Since you don't have the sub-surface scattering and the ambient occlusion to work with, you have to get up to every trick in the book. 

Suffice to say, I have a bunch more ideas, and as soon as we get back I'll be looking into them all. Then, it really is a question of having to install Poser Pro 2010 on my boot drive, and cross fingers that the computer will be okay with only around 25% of the drive left open ... on account of the fact the base figure models won't even install in Poser, if Poser ain't running off the boot drive. *sigh* And it turns out that Poser's own figures leave a lot to be desired. Understatement.

So -- see you next week with some nice images. And now? Bags. Packing. Yes!!!

Jade, March 22

Later that same day...

click to see at full size...

This is actually the same character you saw a couple of days ago -- but blond. And it looks like the plot is thickening here. It's a mystery ... it's all about that dagger. Is it the murder weapon? Has some rite of alchemy been worked on it, which makes it find targets on its own? You remember that dagger from The Shadow --? 

Basically, I was very pleased with the character design on this figure, and I wanted to use it again, do something more with this guy. These pieces are quite complex, with a couple of dozen lights and masses of textures on everything. the props are a wild mixture of items from DM's sets (find them at Renderosity) and the brazier is from the Mage's Study (also Renderosity), and the big urn is from The Old Patio (I could be wrong, but I think this one came from DAZ).

The costume is the kirtle from The Wood God (from DAZ), with textures changed --

And if you'd be interested in seeing a little more of this character, well ... I re-rendered these shots with the kirtle made of gossamer. In other words, it's insubstantial enough to have those other renders labelled "Serious Male Nudes!" And you're going to see "the little more" that counts, I guess. On the understanding that you knooooow you're heading into territory that'd give Auntie Maud a coronary -- here's your link. Don't blame me when you discover you can see right through the costume! You were warned, right? Right.

So here's the question. Do you prefer blond or brunette on this dude...

...and I'm having a hard time choosing. He looks a little bit more "sinister" as a brunette. You can see a guardian and protector there, when he's blond, but the dark one -- ooooh, yeah, he's trouble. 

I'll see if I can get back tomorrow with another post, before we vanish the next day. Roadtrip!

Jade, March 21

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Romance in hyperspace. Like one needs a reason...!

click to see all images at large size... 

As promised, I'm back with more art to share, and ... yes!! I found the original files for the character of Tonio Teniko. Here's the original Tonio:

And here's what DAZ Studio saved as the .dsb file (the character preset, which you merge onto the basic Michael 4 doll):

Well ... looks are actually a bit deceiving, because changing the hairstyle a little bit in today's renders, and changing the expression, certainly makes Tonio look a lot closer to the character you saw yesterday, so ... maybe the .dsb file was right after all. Maybe what I was remembering is a trick of the hairstyle and expression and lighting? Could be. One thing's for sure: Johnny Depp knows all these tricks, and this is sixty percent of his craft. The magic of the actor. Compare Jack Sparrow with Barnabas Collins with -- ye gods, have you seen the first look at Tonto? Remind yourself, it's all the same face under that make-up, the wigs, and the bird he's wearing on his head in The Lone Ranger.

Soooo ... when I found Tonio Teniko, I couldn't resist setting up a couple of renders with Tonio and the object of his utter fixation, Richard Vaurien. Then, I couldn't resist playing with Richard's hair. The original toupee was the Mon Chevalier wig, which doesn't actually let you "pull" it into long styles so well, and -- if you know your Hellgate, you'll know Richard has a mane of  red hair.  So I switched the hairstyle for the Aether Hair, which actually looks pretty magnificent on Richard.

The only downside to this was, I realized both Richard and Tonio were now wearing the same basic hairstyle. So next, it was a question of reorganizing the hair on Tonio -- hence, the difference between the former appearance of the character, and today's renders. It's the wig. Ask Johnny Depp!

I love the Richard Vaurien face. This one was such a challenge, so rewarding. Richard is not a young kid, and bringing the extra years, the maturity, to the face was very rewarding. Note to self: do more with this character.

Well ... having posed Tonio and Richard, how could I resist bringing in the new version of Neil Travers to pose with Richard? Fair's fair -- Neil was the one Richard spent all those years waiting for, only to lose out at the last minute, when Neil met the love of his life aboard the Intrepid, Curtis Marin. (You know Hellgate, right? You know what all this is about, yes? Cool. If not, check this out!) The difference in Neil Travers is the skinmap. I tried a new skinmap on him in February, because I've never been really happy with previous skinmaps I've tried on Neil. This one is "Bart" by H3D, and it does seem to work nicely on him:

The only thing I might see if I can change is the eyebrows. They look a little bit "pencilled on," and I might get in there and see if I can paint something that looks a tad bit more natural. This skinmap was designed to fit on a Brad Pitt clone (see this post), and these brows were probably designed to dovetail with the character from Interview with the Vampire. That's the only reservation I have about this skinmap on Neil Travers. That experiment comes next. Soon as I have the time, right? Right.

As promised, here's the bookcover I've been wanting to share for a couple of weeks:

And here is is without the text objects overlaid...

The book is a fantastic read, and due out in April. I'll tell you a bit more about it closer to the launch date, but ... yes, the character you see here is the big beauty you saw a few weeks ago -- and that link will also take you to the post were I d├ębuted the spacecraft and ringed planet art, which were done in Bryce.

More soon -- there's a good deal more to share before Dave and I vamoose on that road trip I mentioned yesterday.

Jade, March 20
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