Category: graecyn

Seeing Creatively and Photo Composition

Get the eye for a good photograph in Heritage Key Virtual!As artists and photographers, we are constantly striving to see the world through different eyes… always looking for another perspective of the beauty we behold everyday. There is always something else to see, another angle to try, another ray of light casting shadows on a prospective work of art.

Let me tell you something I ask myself every time I take a photo: Is there another way to see this picture?

When taking photos of people, perspective is going to be something you will have to toy with quite a bit. The angle of your shot contributes to a certain realm of emotion within the image. Landscapes, still life photos, and other artistic shots can sometimes take a completely different turn depending on the angle you capture them from. And let’s face it, some angles, depending on your subject, are just better than others. Try playing with angles of the sun, looking up or looking down… get incredibly close, or incredibly far away.

The important thing to remember when taking photos is to always look for the “right” angle. If something feels wrong to you, change it! Don’t take a photo in the hopes that you will be able to “fix it” later. While you can crop a photo until your heart’s content, the angle you take the photo at will never change. So take your time to find the right one!

Essentially, the way you, the photographer, see your world is how the people you present your photos to will see it. Be creative. Never stop challenging yourself and above all, never stop looking for a different perspective. That next shot could be your masterpiece.

Composing YourShot

Another common thing I see with many photographs is this: a lot of open space centered around one central view point. Now, while I’ll get to the rule of thirds and cropping a photograph later, I’d like to point out here that when you’re taking a picture in a virtual space (or any other space, for that matter), your screen size is likely, and more often than not, much bigger than you will want your picture to be. Because of this, it is important to “crop” your image while you’re taking your photo as well. You don’t want to take a high resolution photo only to end up with an 800×600 cropped shot when you’re done, right?

Let me explain what I mean by this.

Ask yourself — what is my subject? What/Who am I trying to capture in this photo? For example, if you are trying to capture a romantic scene of a couple dancing in the moonlight, you’re obviously going to want to get some of the surrounding scenery in order to create a sense of mood and romance. However, as with most places in a virtual space, there is likely a lot of “noise” around that you will not want in the photo (pose balls, dead space, other people, etc). Do your best to eliminate these things from your shot when taking it. A photo of a couple dancing in the moonlight is fantastic… as long as those bright blue and flourescent pink pose balls aren’t eyesoring their way into your view! You all know what I mean.

Once you have a clear image in your mind of what exactly it is you want to achieve, then you can begin to compose your shot. Consider this step the grand piano to your Beethoven. See it. Shoot it. And above all, fill the frame with what you do want to capture, not what you want to crop out later.

Cropping and the Rule of Thirds

As I stated in the previous lesson, it’s very important to do any cropping you can during the photographing process. Obviously, because this is a virtual world, the amount of cropping you can do in world is fairly limited. This is where the “post-cropping-cropping” and the rule of thirds comes in.

By definition, the “rule of thirds”, also known as the “golden rectangle” or the “golden section”, is a compositional rule of thumb in photography and any other visual arts. The rule states that an image can be divided into nine equal parts by two-equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Think Tic-Tac-Toe for photographs. What this rule does is address the placement of your subject and help you determine where your strongest and weakest points of focus are.

Now, when you take a photograph, keep in mind that what you see is what you get — your snapshot tool will capture your subject, your lighting, your props… and any other excess “noise” in the frame. This is where the rule comes into play.

Once you’ve opened your photo in your post-processing software, you realize that you have all of this clutter in an otherwise fantastic photo (if you’re lucky… you don’t, but let’s say for the sake of learning, that you do). So you can do one of two things… you can either draw your “thirds” grid physically over your photo or you can imagine it drawn over your photo.

The key is to use the “thirds grid” to both position your photo subject and find the best crop for your photo. The rule is not set in stone, and as with many rules, it is meant to be broken at times. Consider it more of a guideline to an even greater composition and a tool to use to make your photo the best that it can be.

That’s all for this week!Have you started putting the rules to practice yet?Post a photo in the comments!We’d love to see it.

Virtual World Photography: Tips & Tricks

Virtual Photography tips and and tricksIn continuing my tutorial series, I’d like to take today to point out some useful tips and tricks for taking photographs on the Heritage Key and Rezzable grids! These are sure to help you in your quest to capture the perfect moment while visiting the ancient heritage sites within the realms of Virtual Experience, so take note!

Gearing Up to Take the Photo:

This is one thing that too many Virtual World photographers overlook, including myself when I first started out. An old friend of mine sat me down one day and explained the importance of snapshot resolution when it comes to VirtualWorld photography, and her very short and sweet advice was this: multiple your monitor screen resolution by three, and that is the resolution you should take your snapshots in.

The difference between your normal screen resolution and the higher resolution shots is DRASTIC. Higher screen resolutions result in less jagged edges (or more anti-aliasing) and just a smoother, cleaner image to work with. You’ll often hear photographers saying how much they HATE jagged edges (and Lord knows, we all do – they’re every photographers nightmare), and it is unfortunately a necessary evil to reckon with in Second Life. While multiplying your snapshot resolution by three will not eliminate them ENTIRELY, it will make them easier to work with, not to mention MUCH less noticeable.

Basically, if you don’t like the little “jagged edges” that appear on your photos after you take them, tripling, or at least doubling, your screen resolution will work wonders for your photographs. Keep in mind that your snapshot time will be slightly longer when taking higher resolution shots, however, trust me… you will be thankful for it.

Freeze Frame is the Second Life photographer’s best friend.

Let’s say you have the perfect snapshot in mind. Your scene is set. Everyone’s in position.

But you can’t seem to capture the snapshot without accidental movement, blinking, etc! How do we fix this? Why, we click the Freeze Frame button, of course! Freeze frame is the check box located at the very bottom of the list of five available checkboxes in the snapshot tool. If you see something you’d like to lock in place, check “freeze frame”! Essentially, by clicking the “freeze frame” check box, you will be giving yourself free range of a static, 3d scene that you may then use your camera to rotate around to find your perfect angle. Use of the freeze frame tool is vital to capturing avatar facial expression, prim movement and frozen avatars without too much hastle.

I would also recommend turning off “Auto Snapshots” while using freeze frame — this feature, when enabled with freeze frame, will cause some rather unnecessary frustration and confusion, not to mention it could make using your camera hugely annoying. Give it a try… you’ll see what I mean!

With all of that said, keep in mind that freeze frame will NOT effect the rotation of the sun or the moon or particle effects. These things will continue to move as usual even with Freeze Frame in use.

Zooming In Closer:

Press Ctrl+0 as often as you like to zoom in on an object/avatar
Press Ctrl+9 to reset your camera

By using Ctrl+0, you are essentially capable of filling your screen area with nothing but avatar flesh, should you so choose. This ability is great for taking face shots, close-ups of jewelry or other items being worn, among other things. Give it a try: press Ctrl+0 a few times on your keyboard, and watch yourself get closer to your avatar than ever before. But the usefulness of this trick doesn’t stop there!It is also handy in slightly changing perspective and depth of the snapshot. Try it out!You’ll see. But don’t forget to reset your camera when you’re done! Do this by pressing Ctrl+9.

Whew!That’s a lot of things to try! Using all of the techniques above, combined with a little post-processing in your favorite image editor, you will be able to get photos such as this from your virtual experience (shot taken in the upcoming Stonehenge Virtual VX!):

The important thing to remember when taking photos in Virtual World is to always look for the “right” angle. If something feels wrong to you, change it! Don’t take a photo in the hopes that you will be able to “fix it” later. While you can crop a photo until your heart’s content, the angle you take the photo at will never change. So take your time to find the right angle!

Essentially, the way you, the photographer, see your world is how the people you present your photos to will see it. Be creative. Never stop challenging yourself and above all, never stop looking for a different perspective. That next shot could be your masterpiece!

Tune in next week for the rule of thirds and compositing a photograph!

Preview: Terra Cotta Warriors at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC

Last night, I had the amazing opportunity to join other fellow bloggers and photographers at the sneak-preview of the Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor exhibit. It is an amazing and awe-inspiring collection of detailed weaponry, life-size figures, limestone armor, and intricate details I’ve never had the priviledge to see first-hand before.

I was immediately taken by the sheer size of the figures. On first entering the exhibit, you’re immediately met by a massive horse and calvary man that looms large in the entry room.

The entire exhibit is bursting with the essence of ancient China from the paintings and artifacts adorning the walls, to the low ambience of oriental music, to the lush reds, oranges and browns used in the colour scheme.

What follows from the entryway is at least an hour’s walking-tour (or audio, if you prefer!) of weaponry, armor, currency, bronze figures, incredible clay sculptures and architecture of ancient Chinese culture.

Photography unfortunately is not allowed inside the exhibit once it has opened to the public, however, I fully encourage you to check out the Heritage Key Flickr pool for photographs of this exhibit!

Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor, opened to the public on 19th November, 2009, at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC. The museum is the final venue of the exhibition’s four-city U.S. tour. Tickets are sold for $12 USD per adult, $10 USD per senior citizen, and $6 per child between the ages of 2-12. A group discount rate of $8 USD per person applies to groups of 10 or more.

This really is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the Terracotta Warriors in the U.S. With 55,000 advance tickets sold before opening day, I can only imagine the excitement among those ready to see the figures live and in colour and hope to encourage you to join the crowd!

More photos from the Terracotta Warriors Exhibition by Graecyn:

Are you planning to visit this amazing exhibition? One of those 55.000 people who already bought their ticket? Or already been there? What’s your opinion on these travelling warriors? Is the exhibition doing them justice? Would you advise going?

Terra Cotta Warriors Exhibit Coming to the National Geographic Museum

The Terra Cotta Warriors, guardians of China’s first emperor, are headed to Washington, DC, USA! I will excitedly be among those with a first look at the largest Chinese cultural and historical exhibit ever to come to the United States! An excerpt from the website:

Soldiers. Charioteers. Archers. Musicians. Generals. Acrobats. Nearly 2,000 years ago, thousands of life-size clay figures were buried in massive underground pits to accompany China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuangdi, into the afterlife. Their discovery outside the city of Xi’an in 1974 is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20th century.

Now, you will stand face-to-face with these terra cotta warriors. In November 2009, National Geographic Museum will host Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of Chinas First Emperor, an exhibition featuring treasures from the tomb complex including 15 life-size figures, weapons, armor, coins, and more. Don’t miss this chance to see the largest collection of significant artifacts from China ever to travel to the United States.

Tomorrow, after my visit to the exhibit’s exclusive blogger and photographer day, I’ll be posting a detailed blog with lots of photos and detail. This really will be a treat, as photographs will not be allowed inside the exhibit after the exclusive preview day. It is truly exciting! Don’t miss this opportunity to see China’s most beautiful and biggest exhibits brought to the UnitedStates.