Wednesday 31 January 2018

Social Media Bubbles

If you think you do not live inside the Matrix, it is because you are asleep inside your bubble.

We all live inside information bubbles shaped by the algorithms that choose what information to give us on social media.

Facebook, Youtube, Google, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Linkedin...They all use algorithms designed to provide us information we like, and filter out whatever we do not like.

The information we get, shape our perception of the world. Due to the design of the algorithms, the information keeps narrowing down.

The more it narrows down, the more difficult it becomes to understand other viewpoints than our own. Our points of view are whatever the masters of the algorithms design them to be.

If you think you do not live in the Matrix, it is because you are asleep in your bubble.

Tuesday 30 January 2018

The Disciples and the Light

I was thinking about how we tend to follow leaders blindly, a lot likes moth drawn to a flame that burns them. Happens in politics, in wars, and in our daily lives, at work, and at home.

This series of pictures is supposed to be relatively tranquil though. The drama is in the light, not in the action. Doing it this way is an important exercise for me, because I usually tend towards making dramatic, action filled pictures. I want these ones to be different. I want to use them to develop a different part of me.

I use a lot of digital composition, so when taking photographs, I often light with that in mind. In this series, I simplify: naked bodies, a naked environment, and very simple light setups.

Last night I wrote down a list of ideas for this series. We'll see how many of them will get done. There are some other projects I am also working on...

Friday 26 January 2018

Perpendicular I

Have you ever had the feeling that you live on a plane perpendicular to everyone else, even the ones you love?

You can touch, but no matter what you do, you can never share.

Thursday 25 January 2018

Triangles IV: Shape and Story

Triangle IV is a variation on the picture I published a couple of days ago. I have added one element, the man walking towards the woman. I also changed from portrait to horizontal format, I changed the lighten a little bit, and I lowered the viewing angle.

The previous picture was all about form, the triangular composition, the symmetries, and curves. Note how adding the man walking towards the woman changes the picture completely. Now, there is a story there:

The man is walking, so obviously something is happening, but there is more. Why is he walking towards her? Why is he so small? Or, is he normal sized, and she is gigantic? We can't tell. All we can say is that their relative sizes are very different in relation to each other. Without a reference outside the system, we know nothing about the size of either of them.

That's Einstein and relativity, right there.

Actually, there is a reference point outside the system: You, the viewer. When you saw the picture, did you think she was normal sized, or that he was? Or, did you conclude that without a fixed reference point, you can't conclude anything about their sizes in absolute terms?

So, in a way, while the picture itself just is a starting point for your imagination, your reactions to it, and the assumptions you make, can tell you a lot about you.

Because of that, while I have serious doubts about me being anything resembling an artist, I suspect that this picture, may actually be art. It is not because of what it tells you, it is because of the questions it makes you ask.

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Triangles and Thelephobia

“Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”
― Cesar A. Cruz 

How many triangles do you see?

I am fascinated by triangle composition. Fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta often used triangle composition to create striking images for book covers. In photography, it is much less common. In 3d art, I may have seen it once or twice, but no more.

Personally, I am striving to use triangle composition more, because I like the way the eye is drawn to the image. I am still not quite used to it though, so it takes some thought to design pictures that work.

The picture above is a 3D render done with Daz 3D Studio. For this one, I used a Genesis 8 Female 3D model, with some slight modifications.

I built a virtual studio consisting of nothing more than two planes, and added a single light.

The light is a bit interesting. I used a 2x2 m plane, added a light emitting shader, and placed it 3m above the floor the model is sitting on. It was my first try with this kind of lighting, and I am very pleased with it. With a bit of practice, this may well become my preferred method to create studio lighting, and indoor lighting.

It is interesting that you can create professional level studio lighting, with a perfect model, at zero cost.

Perhaps the most interesting thing in the picture above is what you do not see: Nipples.

I cloned them out because of the thelephobic social media rules. (Thelephobia = Fear of nipples.)

If you are thelephobic, please don't look below this line of text, because the uncensored version of this picture is coming up.


Here they are. Why anyone would find them offensive, I do not understand. Especially considering that male nipples are considered okay to show.

There is a big nipple-related problem though: Social media services, for fear of offending anyone, and thus lose customers, are imposing very strict rules against nudity, and other controversial topics. (Though violence is considered less dangerous, for some unfathomable reason.)

At the same times, they use algorithms designed to feed us more of what we were interested in the last few times we looked at something.

The result is that we get locked into very narrowly defined information bubbles. We are fed only what the algorithms decide we should be fed. We lose diversity, we lose other people's viewpoints.

This inevitably leads to evermore rigid thought control. We are trapped inside rapidly shrinking bubbles. At the end of the process is...nothing. No original thought. No room to be different.

Without variation, no progress is possible.
― Frank Zappa

What follows, eventually, is collapse. The world changes, but we won't, and then we go extinct. Even if our bodies continue to move for awhile, there will be no one there to have an interesting conversation with.

Thelephobia is not the cause, but it is a symptom.

Note about the art quote: The "art should comfort the disturbed..." quote is a variation on a quote by Finley Peter Dunne, and was originally about newspapers. The version about art has been attributed to a number of people, including Banksy. However, as far as I know, Cesar A. Cruz came up with it.

Tuesday 16 January 2018

The Dark Pyramid (a.k.a. Pyramid of Evil)

 I got the idea for Pyramid of Evil from a fake news story about a tweet made by Buzz Aldrin. According to the story, Aldrin was on an expedition in Antarctica, when he tweeted:
We are all in danger. It is evil itself.
The tweet included a picture of a massive pyramid in a snow covered landscape. According to the story, Aldrin deleted the tweet after a few hours.

The story was fake. Aldrin made no such tweet. The original picture was of Pyramid Peak, an oddly shaped, but otherwise normal mountain. (Thanks to Petri Olderhvit, for sending me the Pyramid Peak link.)

Making a picture like this is fairly easy. I used Bryce, a landscape generator, to create the landscape. I took care to use several terrain objects at varying distances from the camera, in order to give the picture a bit of depth. I did not add any mist, because the environment is a bit cold for that.

I added two people to the landscape for a couple of reasons. One was to indicate scale. Another was to give viewers someone in the picture to empathize with, to feel a sense of wonder, slightly tinged with fear of the unknown.

There is nothing overtly scary in the picture of course. I did not want it to be. The fear and horror comes later, when the people are trapped inside the pyramid with...something. Perhaps one of the beings that built the pyramid, perhaps something else. Something that killed them, and has been laying dormant in the frozen waste since then.

Aaah, back to technique: I didn't have cold weather clothing for the characters, but because they are seen from a great distance, all I needed was bulky clothing, or, as I just happened to have...a spacesuit. If you enlarge the image, you may be able to see that the characters are wearing spacesuits.

I composited the pictures in Affinity Photo. I wasn't happy with the texture I used for the pyramid - there was no snow, so I painted the snow on. I used a paint brush to give the snow a little bit of structure, and sampled the color from the snow on the ground.

One noteworthy point: I painted the snow on a separate snow layer, and I used Affinity Photo's Blend Range function to ensure that the snow would stick only to the brighter parts of the pyramid. This made it look as if snow and frost had stuck to some parts, and been blown away by the wind in other parts.

The snow looked a bit dark, so I flipped the blend mode to Screen.

More Dark Pyramid pictures? I don't know. For now, it's just this one. I have another project I am working on with a few friends, and I want to focus on that.

Saturday 13 January 2018

Vulnerability, Danger, and Courage

 More storyboards. This time about vulnerability and courage in the face of danger.

This time, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Wednesday 10 January 2018

Digital Painting: In the Asylum

In the Asylum is a prestudy for Demogorgon, a piece I haven't done yet. I got the idea while working on the Dinosaur Rider series of pictures, and just had to break off and do something different.

Being a photographer is very different from being a cartoonist or painter. Cartoonists and painters usually create their work from scratch. A photographer finds things that already exist, modify them if necessary, and put them together in interesting ways.

This is a simplification, of course. Painters and cartoonists often work using photo references, or like a photographer, with live models. I sometimes create 3D environments as backdrops for my photographic images. The lines are blurred.

Me, I am interested in the results. If I can find a simple way of accomplishing what I want, then that way is the way I go. I constantly strive to learn more, but as a means to an end.

I created In the Asylum by setting up a scene in Daz 3D Studio. I used a stock model, the Genesis 8 Female as a base, and changed skin color, the shape of the ears, and the proportions of the body. Some of the modifications are easy tweaks using pre-built controls, for others, I changed the mesh directly, using scaling transformations. I experimented with a D-Former, but found that, for what I wanted to do, the scaling transformations gave me better results.

The backdrop is a room from the Daz Asylum package. I threw out the pre-packaged lighting, and replaced it with my own lights.

Notice the shadow on the floor to the left of the woman? That is from the window. I placed a light outside the window to get the shadow, and also to control where the light would fall on the floor.

I also added a point light, for ambience, and gave it volume to soften the shadows.

When I had a render, I opened it into Affinity Photo, and used a paint brush with the Paint Mixer tool.

I also tweaked the contrast, and changed the white balance to give the light in the room a greenish cast. I wanted the light in the scene to match the green skin of the woman.

Storyboard or finished picture? I don't know. I could shoot this using a live model, and even a real environment, but I am actually quite happy with the picture as is.

I'll probably move on to Demogorgon instead, unless something else just pops into my head.

Sunday 7 January 2018

Dinosaur Rider V - Context is King!

Chomping down, or just carrying? Without context, it is impossible to know.

Because it is a human figure in the jaws of a T-Rex, we could make a good case for chomping. On the other hand, there is a woman riding the T-Rex, which implies she is in control, which makes what will happen next more ambiguous.

Two things that may be of interest:

This started out as an indoor scene. You'll find out what that scene is if you have a look at the next picture in this series. While I worked on it, it struck me that if I changed the camera angle, and removed all walls and the ceiling, I'd get an interesting outdoor shot that would fit into the overall story told in whole series of pictures.

The other thing is that I have composited two renders of the same scene, but with different brightness. In the original render, the spacesuit and the T-Rex skin where about equally bright, which made the suit difficult to see. So, I used a render 3 f-stops brighter for the suit, and mixed in with the base render of the suit to make it show more visually distinct.

Here are the two original renders I combined.


Here is a link to the previous picture in this series.

Wednesday 3 January 2018

Dinosaur Rider IV - An Unexpected Encounter

Who do you think is more surprised?

As I get more comfortable with Daz 3D Studio, I can focus more on story elements. What is the story I want to tell? How are the pictures in the Dinosaur Rider series connected? What will happen next? What will the conclusion be?

If I was working on a story, I'd have all this worked out already. Because my main objective is learning, I am creating new ideas and connecting them to old ones as I go along.

In other words, I am following the Conceptual Spiral, that I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

Here is a link to the previous picture in the Dinosaur Rider series.

Tuesday 2 January 2018

Dinosaur Rider III

One more Dinosaur Rider storyboard. The idea is to create storyboards that are as close to the final result as possible. I'll create the final pictures by shooting live models, rerender the base images without the human 3D model, and then add the real live model by compositing.

I can get camera angles and lens properties directly from the 3D scene. This means I should be able to duplicate them fairly closely during the real shoot.

I am writing this while I am rendering another base image. It'll be fun to see how it turns out.

Here is my previous  Dinosaur Rider post.

Dinosaur Rider - And some reflections on Fine Art Nude

Dinosaur Rider II - A storyboard for a picture I plan to shoot in 2018.

I have wanted to make Fine Art Nude pictures for a couple of years now. I have done it only once or twice, because it is a difficult genre, both technically, and emotionally.

Fine Art Nude is not quite what you expect if you just look at some Fine Art Nude pictures, even very good ones. If you look at FAN pictures at, for example, you will see almost exclusively women, in aesthetically pleasing poses. Quite often, light and shadows are used used to accentuate shapes.

Creating FAN art this way works very well, and that is why that style is so popular. However, if we look at a definition of Fine Art Nude, as a genre, it becomes obvious that there are many other ways of creating FAN art, without breaking the genre boundaries:
Fine art nude photography is a genre of fine-art photography which depicts the nude human body with an emphasis on form, composition, emotional content, and other aesthetic qualities.
- Nude Photography Art, Wikipedia
Note the complete absence of anything in the definition that prevents dinosaurs from being in the picture. As with many other things, what is not there, may be at least as important as what is there.

Emphasis on form and composition? Well, if you look at the composition of the picture above, you will notice two things: The picture does use triangle composition, and there is room for improvement. That is okay. I'll let this picture rest for a bit, work on some other stuff, and then go back to it, to see what I can improve. That's okay. I am focusing on learning new tools at the moment. Integrating the new things I learn with everything I already know, comes later.

Emotional content? Well, we interpret what we see differently. I see a woman strong and skilled enough to control the (at least symbolically) strongest and fiercest predator that has ever walked the Earth. And, she does it naked, with no tools, no constraints on the T-Rex, other than the bond she has created by training it, and her will.

To me, that carries a lot of emotional content.

BTW, here is an earlier version of the same picture.

Brighter, and toned to give an afternoon, rather than evening feeling. I prefer the darker version, but that is a matter of taste and context.

I am working on more Dinosaur Rider pictures. I have four planned so far, and there might be more. The second one is already done, and the third is rendering as I write this.