Thursday 24 May 2018

Walkabout (a.k.a. How to apply The Art of War to Photography)

Cheng/Chì (Ortodox/Unortodox) is an idea from Sun Tzu's book The Art of War, that says that to win a battle, you need two things: Ordinary military forces, doing the tried and true things, and unorthodox forces, creating an element of surprise. The principle can be applied to any other art, as well as the art of war.
I used to do a lot of street photography. It is an easy way to get started in photography, but it is also one of the most difficult photographic genres for the simple reason that most of the time, there is nothing noteworthy to shoot.

I followed the rules when shooting street photos, but I also started doing other kinds of photos. Still with a city environment as background, but with a dinosaur, or a spaceship, slipped in to make the picture more interesting.

I haven't done that in awhile, so maybe I should start doing it again.
Technically, this picture is mostly an exercise in tone mapping and saturation mapping. I started using the techniques recently, and I am not entirely happy with them yet. Next time, I intend to work in 32 bit mode all the way through the process, to see if that makes a difference.


Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.
Anton Chekhov
You may wonder, "why so many nudes lately?" Good question. I wish I had a really good answer, but I don't. Here is the closest I can come at the moment:

When I started with photography, I shot a lot of flowers to learn the basics of composition, and how to handle my camera in various lighting situations. I mean a lot of flowers! I shot more than 8,000 the first year, and more than 13,000 the second year. I was out shooting three times a day, every day.

After that, I was kind of done with flowers, but I had learned a bit about photography. After that, I did street photography, model photography, macro photography, levitation photography, flesh manipulation photography, portrait photography, some art photography, even tried my hand at pin-up photography.

Now, with nudes, I have found something as interesting to me as horror, Science-Fiction, and Fantasy photography. I want to learn more, and I want to integrate the nudes with the kinds of photography I've done earlier.

I have always been that way. I used to be a programmer, so I learned programming languages, then techniques of Object-Oriented programming, then design patterns, then project methodology, then systems thinking, queueing theory, Theory Of Constraints, statistics, military strategy, Chinese and Japanese military strategy...

And, I integrate it. I synthesize.

While I do not intend to do 21,000 nude pictures, there will probably be quite a few more, before I have integrated them fully in my repertoire.


“Engage people with what they expect; it is what they are able to discern and confirms their projections. It settles them into predictable patterns of response, occupying their minds while you wait for the extraordinary moment — that which they cannot anticipate.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War
If you read the picture caption, you already know that Cheng/Chì (Ortodox/Unortodox) is an idea from Sun Tzu's book The Art of War, that says that to win a battle, you need two things: Ordinary military forces, doing the tried and true things, and unorthodox forces, creating an element of surprise.

The principle can be applied to any other art, as well as the art of war. So, in the picture above, the street with all the ordinary people is the cheng, and the nude woman is the element of chì.

So, now you know how to apply the Cheng/Chí principle from Sun Tzu'z The Art of War.

Get out there and practice!

PS. The GDPR Thing!

You might wonder whether a picture like the one in this article breaks the new General Data Protection (GDPR) law. It does not. Journalistic images and art are exempt from the rules. That means it is okay to do street photography, it is okay to create digital paintings from street photographs, and it is okay to manipulate a photo taken in a street, if the purpose is to create a piece of art. You can read up on GDPR here.

Tuesday 22 May 2018

The Moon Maiden II (with the Brom Twist)

Slightly brighter version of the original, and without the toning.
 I could not resist adding the Brom twist to the picture I made yesterday. If ypu compare the versions in this post with the original, I am sure you will figure ut the difference...and wgat it means.

This version is much closer to my original version in color tone and brightness.

Sunday 20 May 2018

The Moon Maiden

As you can see, I am taking a somewhat passive-aggressive approach to the nude-art-is-bad ridiculoussness on social media sites.

If you have issues with nude art, or, in my case, attempts at creating nude art, please do not scroll any further.


There is a fantastic painting by Gerald Brom called Moonlight. (Do click on the link. Brom's painting is incredible.) I wanted to see if I could recreate, in a small manner, some of the sensuality of Brom's painting. I am not even close. Still, for me, pretty good.

If you check out a large version of Moonlight, you will see that Brom added a horrific twist. I left that out, for once. Maybe another time.

A Hairy Problem

When I started using 3D elements in my photos, and making entire 3D scenes, there was one problem I did not anticipate: While the 3D models I use are very realistic, and created by incredibly skilled people, they do lack certain anatomical features.

This is normally not a problem, since, well, clothes. So far, when I have created nudes, I have positioned the characters so that their lack of anatomical detail in certain areas is not a problem.

This particular picture was a bit problematic though, because the picture it is based on, Moonlight, is a full frontal nude.

While I have deliberately (and also accidentally), made a lot of things different in my version, I did not want to change the basic posture of the model too much. The viewing angle is a little bit different from Brom's painting, but I did not want to change that too much either.

Lucky for me, I had a serendipitous solution: Grass!

Some time ago, I practiced making a simple landscape painting. The picture sucks, but it has one feature that turned out to be useful: Lots and lots of grass!

You may note that the grass in the picture has a certain resemblance to hair. It occurred to me that if I changed the color of the brush, shrank it down a bit, changed the brush dynamics to increase the variation in direction of the strands...I just might be able to paint the kind of hair you do not have on the top of your head.

First, I tried to brush up (bad pun, I know), on theory. that is, with blushing cheeks I searched for a tutorial on how to paint the kind of hair that covers Lady Parts.

It turns out there is no such tutorial. At least not on Youtube.

Instead, I turned to one of my favorite digital artists, Aaron Blaise, to get a few pointers on improving my hairbrushing technique. (If you want me to stop with the punning, you got to pay me, okay!)

After watching the video, still slightly blushing, I took the grass brush from my grassy plains project, tweaked it a bit, and practiced making a patch of hair in the right shape. When I was satisfied I could do it, I performed my delicate task.

I think it worked. Phew!

I don't know why my stupid brain gets embarrassed by things that should not be embarrassing at all, but it does. That, I think, is a good reason to keep embarrassing it, until it gets more sensible about it.

Help from a Friend

The picture shown above is not the first version. If you want to see some of the earlier attempts, check them out at ArtStation. The differences are minor, but they have great impact. I am sure you can spot what I changed.

I had very valuable help with the final version from my friend Petra Brewitz. I asked her if she would have a look at an early version of the picture, and help me compare it with Brom's picture. As it turns out, Petra has a book about Brom's art, and it contains a picture of Moonlight that is much better than anything I have seen on the Internet.

That picture, and Petra's insights helped a lot. We tried to mimic the position of the woman in Brom's painting, and we discovered a couple of things.

Long arms, Bloody Fingers

For example, the woman in Moonlight has very long arms. Her upper arms are almost a decimeter longer than normal, and that matters a lot. Replicating the exact position with a live model is not possible.

It can be done with a 3D model of course, by making the arms a bit longer, but I decided not to do it. For this one piece, I wanted to stick to reasonable human proportions.

Another thing, that Petra saw before me, is that Moonlight is not just chock full of sensuality. Under the surface lurks thinly veiled horror.

Look at the fingers on the left hand of the woman. Look at how pointy they are, and look at the thick, sticky, red fluid covering them. That is not strawberry jam.

Finally, here is Brom himself, talking about his art.

Saturday 19 May 2018

Kyla: The Most Dangerous Game

I saw a simple sketch by the comic book artist Frank Cho recently, where he created an amazingly dynamic composition with a (for him) very simple sketch.

It got me thinking about composition, and circular composition in particular.

Frank Frazetta sometimes used circular composition, for example in his Winged Terror. More often, he used very strong triangular composition, as in his Conan picture Chained and in Luana from 1973.

Frazetta was a master at capturing movement. Look at his sketch Pellucidar. Note the similarities to Frank Cho's sketch. (You did click the link, didn't you?). Frazetta uses triangular composition in his sketch, and Cho used circular, but look at the way they have captured the movement!


So, why does my picture use triangle composition instead of circular composition? Because I realized that to make the composition circular, I would need to rotate the body of the guy in the space suit so that his body is more or less perpendicular to the viewer.

I goofed! I should have sketched everything out more carefully beforehand. Instead, I pushed on with the picture, and did not consider the whole until it was too late.

A contributing factor was that I wanted to use portrait format. The ideal format for a circular composition would be a square (I think...I am fully prepared to change my mind once I learn a bit more.)

In the end, I decided triangular composition is good enough for me, right now. Maybe I'll go circular next time...or not.

I used the DAZ Studio default HDRI image set at 0.3 strength for ambient lighting, one spotlight behind the characters to light contours, and a second spotlight straight above. I used spotlights with large surface areas, to get fairly soft shadows.

I brightened the green suit quite a bit in post. The trouble with camouflage spacesuits is that...well, they are camouflaged.

Finally, I painted the whole thing in Dynamic Auto-Painter.

Thursday 17 May 2018

Kyla: The Hunting of the Snake

The title of this piece, The Hunting of the Snake, is a horribly bad pun. I got the idea from Lewis Carrol's poem The hunting of the Snark.

There are many different interpretations of the poem. Lewis Carrol was once asked if it was an allegory for the search for happiness, and he wrote in a letter that it was.

I have always been fascinated by the last two verses:

 They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
   Not a button, or feather, or mark,
By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
   Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
   In the midst of his laughter and glee,
He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
   For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

Happiness is a Snark. We hunt for it, but when we catch it, it may well turn out to be a Boojum.

Well, unlike the Baker, at least most of the time, we can survive the Boojum, and live to hunt another Snark. Some of us even find it.

In case you wonder, I made the picture first, and came up with the title, and thus also the interpretation, afterwards.

I suppose, it is a case of cause following effect.

Technically, I created the original picture in Daz Studio.

I used three lights for this picture:
  • The default DAZ HDRI environment, set at 0.3 strength. This gave me a basic low level ambient lighting. The level you can see in the background.
  • A spotlight with 10x10 m area, placed 10 m straight above Kyla and the Constrictor. This gave me a fair amount of light on the trees beyond the large fallen one, and brightened Kyla and the constrictor a bit.
  • A smaller spotlight, 5x5 m, 8 m up, with a more narrow beam of light, focused on Kyla and the constrictor.
The end result is that the further away you get from Kyla and the snake, the darker the picture becomes. Some of my recent pictures have had to flat lighting, and I wanted to fix that.

I painted the picture using Dynamic Auto-Painter.

Here is the first version. I wasn't quite happy with it. I think you can see why:

In this version, the background trees are almost obliterated by the muddy, brown underpaint. I had decided to leave reduce the detail in the background, but the DAP default was a bit too much.

Simple solution: I did a bit of post brushwork in DAP. The reason I mention it, is because if you do the same, do set the opacity of the brush down a bit. The postprocessing brushes have higher default opacity than the same brush used while DAP is autopainting. This can trick you into making postprocessing effects too strong.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

An Evening in R'Lyeh - Intermediate version

An Evening in R'Lyeh. I am experimenting with 360 panoramas again. This is an intermediate version. I am analyzing it, to figure out what to fix, and how.

More to come...

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Kyla: Interrupted Service

I noticed that I was slipping back into my old habit of showing a scene either before, or after, something happens, but not during. So, I decided to break the habit.

My previous Kyla blog post showed her facing off with a giant Deep One, built more like the Abomination than the creatures H.P. Lovecraft describes.

I wrote that I would trim the Deep Ones down a bit, and that is what I did. I kept the bodybuilding one, but all the others are a more normal size. As you can see, I also made sure that particular Deep One won't bother anyone again.

I do have a couple more ideas for a large Deep One though, so he just may reincarnate...eventually.

The title Interrupted Service is a joke. My son would tell me it is a very lame joke, if I asked him about it, so I won't.

If you look to the left, you'll notice a foot and a pair of legs. I won't tell you who it is, but it is the same guy who is in trouble over here. Click the link if you are curious. Some people just won't stay rescued.

I had quite another idea in mind when I started out with this picture, but I got into trouble, and decided to simplify a bit. I haven't given up on the original idea though, so I might do some more work on the same theme.