Sunday, 28 April 2019

King Kong V: On the Run

Agnarr Fast running from a very large predator on Skull Island.
It is obvious in the King Kong movies that humans have lived on Skull Island for a very long time. There are people living there when the protagonists arrive. There is the great wall that is obviously very old, and there are ruins all over the place.

So, I got to thinking about what Skull Island must have looked like a thousand years ago, when the wall was much newer, and still maintained, when an advanced civilization flourished on the Island. From time to time, groups of seafaring people must have found the island.

What if a group of vikings did? What if those vikings included Alice of Sandby and Agnarr Fast, from the Alice: Demon's Gate storyline?

Up until now, most of my King Kong pictures have been closely related to scenes in the movies. While I still have a couple of movie-inspired scenes in my head, this picture is where I start to mix in elements that were not in the movies at all, and that is where creativity begins.

Be seeing you!

Saturday, 27 April 2019

King Kong IV: In the Forest

King Kong IV: In the Forest

I wasn't happy with the gorilla model I used for the first two pictures with King Kong. It was based on an first generation Genesis 3D model. That meant it was limited in movement and expressions, and, even worse, it did not have realistic fur! The fur was just a texture map. It worked when I repainted images, and severely reduced the amount of detail, but it was nowhere near a photorealistic gorilla.

Yesterday, I bought a Genesis 2 based gorilla model. The model is designed for use with the 3DLight renderer, which I normally do not use. Initial tests look pretty good though. The hair is Look At My Hair (LAMH) based, and looks pretty good. It is not Hollywood movie quality, but I believe it will suffice for my purposes.

It might become necessary to convert the gorilla model from 3DLight to iRay, but this is usually a simple procedure. I have tried it out on some other models, and I believe it will work for the gorilla too.

Back to work on more pictures. See you!

Sunday, 21 April 2019

King Kong III: Showdown

My main focus for this image was the action. I wanted to get close, while at the same time getting a decent view of what is going on, so I went wide angle, and forced perspective.

This is certainly an image that could be tweaked a bit, but I'll leave it for now, and move on to the next idea.

My goal is to have enough King Kong storyboards for a Kong-themed photo shoot.

Why not check out the previous two pictures in the series?

Friday, 19 April 2019

King Kong: A Visit to Skull Island

King Kong I: Sacrifice
I am continuing to build a set of storyboards that I will eventually use to create more photorealistic pictures, with real, live models.

Right now, I am working on two themes: King Kong, and 50's Horror movies.

The picture above is influenced not only by King Kong, but also owes a lot to pictures from the Cavewoman comic by Budd Root.

King Kong II: Hide and Seek
The second picture, Hide and Seek, is inspired by a scene from Peter Jackson's 2005 version of King Kong. King Kong isn't in the picture, but he is nearby, and about to make a truly smashing entrance.

That is all for now. More stuff soon. It'll be interesting to see if I can stick to Kong and 50's horror without making any deviations.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Under an Alien Sun I

When I was in my teens, I read the John Carter books by E. R. Burroughs, The Planet of Adventure series by Jack Vance, and other books about Earth men (rarely women, I am sorry to say,) stranded on alien worlds, and forced to rely on their wit, cunning, and fighting skills, to survive.

I feel like I grew up on those other worlds, among Tschai, Pnume, and Tarks.

This is another one of my intended-as-a-storyboard pictures. I will probably do a couple more iterations before I have a final storyboard. I need to find a way to simplify the composition a bit, while still having a lot of things going on in the picture. In a version with live models, I would also like them to be a little bit more in focus in the picture.

I need to think a bit about how to do that. I have some ideas.

Be seeing you!

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Guardian of the Keep

Guardian of the Keep. Kyla faces off with a T-Rex.

Lately, I've had more ideas for pictures than I have time to create. I can't even keep up with making storyboards. As for photo sessions, and making photographic versions...I haven't done anything since February.

The reason is mainly that I have focused on work. I like my day job a lot, and I like the people I work with, so quite naturally, I prioritize it, even over making pictures.

Still, I need to do at least one picture per week, or I'll go bonkers. All those Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels I used to read...they refuse to be quiet. They whisper to each other in the back of my brain, creating new characters, new worlds, and new adventures.

As if working a lot and making pictures wasn't enough, I have started to write again. I am starting up my old management blog, and I have started making research notes on a new book. If I ever get that book done, it'll take a very, very long time, but that does not matter. The important thing is that I get to scratch my writing itch.

Bee seeing you!

Sunday, 24 March 2019

The Leader of the Pack

The Leader of the Pack
The inspiration for this picture came from three main sources:

I recently posted in a Time For Photo group that I was looking for models. One of the models who answered told me she likes the Horror genre. I asked her if werewolves was something she could sink her teeth into. (Well, I did not phrase it that way. I'm to slow for witty realtime repartee. Works much better when I write.)

She said yes, so a Werewolves On Weels themed photo shoot is in the works.

Why werewolves, and why biker werewolves? I collect inspiration pictures on Pinterest. One of the things I collect are pictures of old movie posters, and one of those posters depict the old 70's movie Werewolves On Weels.
The poster above stoked the fires of my imagination. The idea of werewolf bikers on the hunt...that actually could be a great idea for a movie, if done well. Alas, judging from the trailer, "done well" is not a phrase commonly associated with Werewolves On Weels. Still, I like the idea, and if there is ever a remake, I just might watch it. Okay, so I had an idea for a picture, but the picture needed a title. The Shang-Ri Las came to the rescue with their song Leader of the Pack. Perfect! All I had to do was put the pieces together.
The picture above is what I consider the finished version. It is in 2.35:1 format because of the movie-related inspiration. I like the format a lot, but it works best on very large screens. Click on the picture to enlarge it, and see the difference it makes. More werewolves on Wheels inspired pictures soon. See you!

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Going Native

He fell in love with a world not his own, and abandoned the stars to live with an alien woman.
For the past two years, an idea for a series of photos set in the 1950's have percolated in the back of my head.

All that time, I have collected ideas on a Pinterest board. I have also made experiments with staples 50's Science-Fiction and Horror from giant spiders to nuclear explosions. I can't make a decent nuclear explosion yet, but I still have some ideas I haven't fully explored. The giant spider works just fine.

One of the ideas is the one you see in the storyboard above: About an gay alien coming to Earth, and liking it so much here, he goes native, and leaves his old life behind.

The idea could easily be expanded to a whole series of pictures. It would require a bit of planning and care though, and a set of props from the 50's, including clothes, hairstyles...

A lot of work...and it will be slow going, because I work a lot. We'll see...

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Glory Road - Sometimes, You Just Need to Get it Out of Your Head

Star and Rufo - Censored to suit Facebook and other social media.
If you want to read the article, scroll down.

Be warned: There is an uncensored version of the picture above in the beginning of the article.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Desert Trek II: How to publish 360 panorama pictures. The Good, the Bad, and the Just Sad

Note: Google has screwed up its support for third party 360 panorama viewers. Thus, you may not be able to see the panorama  at the beginning of this article. I am working on a fix. It may take some time.

Panorama 360 pictures are easier to create than you might think. If you are into photography, you can do it by taking several pictures and stitching them together in a program like Affinity Photo or Photoshop. You can also use dedicated panorama software like Hugin.

If you want to make it really easy, and have the money to spend, you can buy a 360 panorama camera.

 If you are into 3D, programs like Daz Studio, Blender, and many other 3D programs have the capability to render 360 panoramas. That's the easy part, but...once you have a360 panorama, where and how do you publish it?

Facebook: Painful, but it works

Facebook has had 360 panorama support for some time now. It works well, but uploading a panorama picture is a kludgy, slightly painful process.

Facebook uses metadata in pictures you upload to decide whether they are panorama pictures. This, of course, hinges on the pictures actually having the correct metadata from the start.

Unless you are using a 360 panorama camera, chances are, your 360 panorama won't have that metadata.

However, you can add that metadata to the picture yourself. The following description is for Windows 10:
  1. Make sure that you have a real 360 panorama picture:
    • The width is twice the height.
    • The picture uses equirectangular projection
  2. Right-click on the picture, and select Properties from the pop-up menu. The Properties dialog opens.
  3.  Select the Details tab.
  4. Scroll down until you see the Camera maker and Camera model properties.
  5. Enter RICOH in the Camera maker field.
  6. Enter RICOH THETA S in the Camera model field.
7. Click the OK button.

That is it!

Facebook will believe the picture is a 360 panorama shot with a Rico Theta S camera, and will handle it as the 360 panorama it actually is.

Google: How to get it, but get it wrong

The blog site I use to publish my blog, Blogger, is a Google owned sight. You may have noticed that I am using the Orb Panorama Embedder to display the panorama painting at the beginning of this article. That is because Google truly sucks at handling panoramas.

You would expect that Google, with its support for 360 panoramas in Google maps, would have an excellent way of embedding panoramas on its blog site, and have panorama support in Google Photo, and its other products, but no.

Google does offer 360 panorama support for web developers, but not for ordinary users.

The problem, I believe, is that Google has been so focused on using 360 panoramas in Google Maps, that they forgot all the other ways 360 panoramas can be used.

ArtStation: 360 panoramas done right

One site that gets how 360 panoramas should work, is ArtStation. When I upload a panorama to ArtStation, I just tell ArtStation that it is a panorama that I am uploading.

Then, everything works. No hazzle. No metadata to set manually.

Funny how ArtStation has managed to implement 360 panoramas in a much simpler way than Facebook and Google.

Instagram: Just a heap of bad news

Sadly, Instagram does not support 360 panoramas!

There is a workaround: You can publish panorama photos by slicing them up into square pieces, and publish them using Instagram's multi-picture upload feature.

Unfortunately, this works only on cylindrical panoramas. 360 panoramas are spherical. Think of the camera as placed in the center of a sphere. In order to project the spherical image to the flat surface of a picture in your camera or computer, a mathematical model called equirectangular projection is used.

I havent yet seen a piece of software that handles equirectangular projection when slicing a true 360 panorama.

There is another possibility: Convert the 360 panorama to a video, and upload that. You can probably do it with Pano2VR, but I haven't tried that yet.

For the time being, Instagram just isn't a good platform for publishing 360 panoramas.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

The Rescue - and a few words about cropping pictures

 What do you see in the picture above? I see a big, muscle bound dude in chains, about to get ripped to pieces by female werewolf.

We can deduce from the hair color that the big dude isn't Conan. Could possibly be Doc Savage, but the hair is too long.

Not a major hero, which means he can be sacrificed on the altar of dramatic storytelling.

Looks like he is a goner. Farewell, unknown muscle bound guy!

Except...that I cropped the picture.

Let's look at a version that reveals a bit more.

 Okay...this is different. Woman with bloody sword lurking in the shadows. The bloody sword indicates that she is a fighter, and a competent one. At least more competent than the person whose blood is on the sword.

If she intervenes, muscle guy has a fighting chance, even if it's not his fight. A bit of a nail-biter for him, except he can't bite his nails because...chained to two pillars.

If you have followed this blog, you may recognize the woman: Alice of Sandby. Well, one of the versions of Alice that I have used in other pictures. You may also notice that something is written along the side of the blade. So, the sword is Illi, Alice's not-so-nice-but-oh-so-lethal rune blade.

Suddenly, it looks like it is the werewolf that is in serious trouble.

So, the story changed completely because of how the picture was cropped. Cropping is about the simplest thing you can do with a picture, and yet, it is also one of the most powerful things you can do.

Try it! Whether you are a painter, a photographer, a 3D artist, or something else, have a look at your pictures, and see if you can change the stories they tell by cropping them.

One last thing:

Facebook blocked my previous blog post, The Importance of Reading. Check it out if you wonder why artists can benefit by reading.

Be seeing you!

Monday, 21 January 2019

The Importance of Reading

Kyla: T-Rex Hunt

The picture above is inspired by another picture I found in Words for Pictures, a book about writing comics by Brian Michael Bendis.

The picture in the book depicts The Hulk fighting a T-Rex, and smashing its head with a single blow. As you can imagine, it is a very dramatic picture.

The picture is also very well drawn. It uses foreshortening and a dramatic angle to create a sense of movement and action. There is unrestrained power and savagery.

I can't even come close to matching the skill that went into creating the picture in the book.

However, that does not stop me from trying!

I read, I study pictures, and I try to improve. The first step is to try to replicate what I see. I usually do not try to replicate characters straight off. Instead I focus on composition, movement, lighting, all the elements that create the mood and evoke emotions.

Here is another picture inspired by artwork from the same book:

Kyla: Close Combat

The inspiration is from a page spread with pictures of Hulk and Thor fighting, made by different artists. Even though all the pictures depict battles between the same characters, they are all very different.

And, the Hulk vs. Thor pictures, while they have some things in common with mine, like close combat between characters of uneven size, are also different from my picture.

The point is that without me reading that book by Bendis, neither of these two pictures would exist.

Reading, looking at pictures, and analyzing what I read and see, enables me to create things I otherwise could not.

Here is a third picture I could not have created without reading:

This picture is from a fashion photo session. I took the opportunity to also shoot a few portraits.

In order to create this portrait, I needed to know how to light a person, how to use my camera, how to do background replacement with Affinity Photo, how to do frequency separation, and a host of other things.

How did I get to know all those things? How can I go from Fantasy comics to fashion photography to portraits?

The answer is easy: Reading!

...and, of course, tons of practice. All of the practice I have done would not have mattered much though, if I had not read books on photography and post-processing, and discussed it with other photographers.

One of the most common mistakes I see in people who want to develop their artistic abilities, is that they learn a few things, then keep repeating them, with minor variations, without trying to learn and practice something new.

You can't do all new stuff all the time, because then you never master anything, but you can keep adding something new to the pictures you make, so that when you practice the things you know, you also keep learning new things.

Reading books is not the only way to learn something new, but it is one of the easiest, most effective, and definitely one of the most enjoyable.

So, decide what you want to learn next, then go pick up a book about it. You won't regret it!

I sure don't!