Sunday 17 November 2019

The Triceratops Rider - Collaborating with Miss Cacci, Part 1

Triceratops Rider
Some time ago, Miss Cacci and I had our second Cavewoman genre photo session. This time we mixed it up a little. We shot mostly new stuff, but we also went through some of my old 3D scenes, and decided to recreate part of my Kyla series of photos.

Kyla Rising, Digital Painting version

Kyla Rising is based on an earlier version that was done all in 3D. When I did the original, it wasn't my intention to use it as a storyboard, but I am very glad we did.

Over and over again, I find that working with a live, real person, who brings her own experiences, personal preferences, opinions, and style, brings immense value to the whole experience.

Kyla Rising, Photo Composite version
I mean that quite literally. For example, ever since I began doing photo composites, I have struggled with a number of things, not the least of which is perspective.

When you are creating a new image out of two or more source images, matching perspective can be a real challenge.

Working with Miss Cacci helped me develop a new technique for matching the perspectives of a 2D photo with a 3D scene. It is a simple technique, but I have never seen it described in a book, video, or blog post before.

I'll describe the technique in more detail later in the shooting with Miss Cacci series of blog posts.

Until next time:

Be seeing you!

Sunday 3 November 2019

Jackie O'Lantern: Come a Little Closer

Jackie O'Lantern: Come a Little Closer. Cropped version.

I was a little late with my Halloween picture, but I choose to consider myself very early with my 2020 Halloween picture instead.

I came up with the idea for Jackie O'Lantern partially because I studied Halloween pictures at ArtStation, and partially because I wanted to do a Halloween picture with some cross culture connections. In this case, Halloween -Voodoo. The Voodoo influence is not nearly as strong in the finished picture as it was when I started. Well, maybe next time around.

Jackie O'Lantern: Come a Bit Closer. Uncropped version.

Here is the full, uncropped version. This version wont be on Facebook, because if you look closely, you may spot a werewolf nipple. Because it is a female werewolf, Mark Zuckerberg, and presumably a large number of Facebook users, would go bananas if they spotted it.

I built the basic scene in Daz Studio, as I often do. You probably aren't interested in what the image produced by Daz looked like, but I'll show you anyway.

Image rendered by Daz.
As you can see, the original looks quite different.

I am an amateur photographer, not a 3D artist, so I do not build 3D models from scratch. On the other hand, I do a fair amount of kit bashing.

For example, look at the throne Jackie sits in.

The original throne is from Mort Augur, A commercially available 3D scene. I combined the original throne with a new stone texture, then layered three algae and moss textures, added vines, a rock, and a couple of skulls.

The throne has skulls carved from stone in the armrests, but I wanted more detail, and more control over the textures.

Just adding the skulls actually looked fairly good, but I wanted a bit more.

I added a layer of blood, and then a layer of moss on top of that.

When I render a scen in Daz, it usually comes off as looking a little too clean, a little too perfect.

Rendered 3D images often look a little too clean.
After compositing the image in Affinity Photo, where I also added the fire to the pumpkin head, I saved the image.

Then, I used Dynamic Auto-Painter to turn it into a painting.

Image painted with Dynamic Auto-Painter.
I like the painted version a lot. Sometimes, I like the painted version more than I like the more photorealistic end result.

In this case though, I added the painted version as a layer on top of the photo realistic version in Affinity Photo, and blended them together.

Final image, with painted image blended in.
That is it, for now. Be seeing you!

Saturday 10 August 2019

The Planket Photo Exhibition

"Is it okay if I take photos of your pictures? I want to show them to my daughter." Of course it was okay, and I asked if it was okay for me to take a picture while she was taking pictures of my pictures.
I was an exhibitor at the Planket photo exhibition today. Planket is a large, outdoor photo exhibition. This year, about 130 photographers showed off the results of their hard work.

There are many excellent photographers at Planket, and the quality of the pictures seem to go up a little bit each year.

With so many photographers exhibiting at the same time, there is something for everyone. This year, there was just about everything from awesome squirrel photos to stunning pictures from the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert.

I met several photographer friends, some of which I haven't seen in a long time. I also ran into a colleague from a place where I worked some years ago.

I went with tree of my pictures printed on canvas. I must confess, I was half convinced my pictures were so weird no-one would be interested in them, but that proved to be an unfounded fear.

Of course, pictures like these depend on teamwork. They would not exist without 3D model makers, software developers, and the very talented models who have bravely stepped in front of my camera.

The models in the pictures are:

  • Petra Brewits and Peter Markusson, fighting off a giant spider with the Borgholm Castle in the background.
  • Zanna Höglund, who gets in deep trouble when a sabre-tooth tiger (more correctly, a Smilodon) decides to play a deadly game of cat and mouse with her.
  • Noor Model Noor, who faces off with an awakening Old One in the city of R'Lyeh.

Planket would not be Planket without rain. As usual, dark skies loomed threatening, but the rain actually held off until after 4 PM.

Of course, to a photographer, rain is just an opportunity to get shoot interesting pictures.

On the other hand, when a torrent of water looks like it will wash the pictures away, it is time to pack it up and look for a place to dry off a bit.

I packed my stuff up, and made it to Condeco, a café within walking distance. (Depending on how far you are willing to walk, of course.)

Petra, who modeled for one of my pictures above, joined me for a cup of coffee. When she left, I wrote this blog post.

Be seeing you!

Wednesday 24 July 2019

King Kong IX: Protector - A different Angle (but Still Dirty)

This is the second storyboard for the Protector picture. Storyboards allow me to make see and fix problems, and try out various improvements before committing to a photo session.

In a blog post yesterday, I wrote about the importance of improving a picture through iteration. There were some things in the image I created that I wasn't entirely happy with, so I decided to make a new storyboard.

In the first version, the gorilla's arms obscured the legs, which made the animal look a bit strange. It wasn't a major problem, but it did warrant thinking about.

The first version of the storyboard had the camera much closer to the T-Rex, and the gorilla was seen from the front.
By moving the camera, and the arms, I could fix the problem. When I did that, unfortunately, the camera moved away from the T-Rex. The T-Rex was also outside the viewing angle of the camera.

I moved the T-Rex much closer to the gorilla, but unfortunately that positioned it even further from the camera. The picture still works, but the T-Rex does look smaller, which reduces the impact a bit.

On the other hand, I pushed the white balance even more to yellow, and I made a painted overlay with stronger colors, so the overall light looks a little bit better. I did increase the contrast even more than in the original picture, and made it a little bit brighter.

The ground is greener, and more uneven. I also changed the background, adding a mountain range behind the trees, and a sky with clouds.

I also added depth of field in order to blur both the foreground and background a little bit. In retrospect, adding saliva to the T-Rex mouth was maybe a little bit too much.

I can stop here, and use one or the other, or maybe both, storyboards during the photo session, or, I can make a third version. I haven't quite decided yet.

Be seeing you!

Tuesday 23 July 2019

King Kong VIII: Protector, or How to Create a Dirty Picture

King Kong VIII: Protector is a storyboard for a future photo session. Creating storyboards allows me to catch and correct errors, and to communicate ideas with models and other people who help me create the pictures.
As you know, I draw inspiration from many different sources when I plan and create pictures. The picture above is a good example:

The basic idea and composition is from the 2005 version of King Kong. As discussed in earlier King Kong/Skull Island posts, I am taking a look at what the island might have been before Kong, during the 3,000 years humans and gorillas have lived on the island.

I do have a tendency to trip over my own love of the movies though, and recreate scenes from them, rather than using them to jump start my imagination.

Why an albino gorilla? Well, it could have been because I watched Rampage a little over a week ago, but it wasn't. The real reason was contrast. In the King Kong movie, Ann Darrow is blond, and wears clothes that are mostly bright in color. That means she shows up in bright contrast to Kong, when she stands in front of him.

My protagonist in the storyboard is much darker, and would be almost invisible against a dark background. Something had to change, and I chose to change the color of the gorilla.

Another difference is that the character in my picture is armed, and prepared to fight back. This suggests a slightly different relationship with the gorilla than the one Anne Darrow had with Kong. More of a cooperative partnership, where they help each other survive.

Getting Dirty!

There is one important thing i got from Rampage: Dirt! If you look closely at a picture of George, the giant albino gorilla in Rampage, the fur is matted an full of dirt, little twigs, and generally icky stuff that can get caught in long gorilla fur.

The gorilla model I used is excellent, but it is also squeaky clean, so I dirtied it up quite a bit. for the gorilla, I created a layer for the dirt, and then used a couple of different texture brushes to paint the dirt in. I changed the blend mode to Soft Light and reduced the opacity to 50%, to make the dirt blend in with the fur. I then created a second dirt layer and repeated the process.

Speaking of dirt, 3D images tend to have a look that is way to clean to look realistic. I tried to fix the overall look by taking the picture rendered in Daz Studio, repaint it in Dynamic Auto-Painter PRO 6, and then use the painted version as a Soft Light overlay. This dirtied up the trees and the ground a little bit, while also adding a smudge of dirt here and there to all three characters in the picture.

Growing Grass

I used only a few trees for the background, but I created many instances, to make them look like a whole forest. You can create instances manually in Daz Studio, but I had great help from Scatter Pro. Scatter Pro made it easy to create lots of trees, distribute them over and area, with random variation in placement, size, and rotation.

I did the same thing with the larger tufts of grass, but the ground still looked too flat and sterile. To combat that, I added a grass mesh. When that still did not help, I painted in some extra grass in post.

Frankly, the ground still looks to flat and sterile. I am considering reworking it in two ways:

The first is to simply use a photo of a meadow. That would give me the most realistic results, but it will be a challenge to mask the gras, so I can put objects behind it.

The second solution is to experiment with the new hair system in Daz Studio 4.11, to see if I can use that to create reasonably realistic grass.

There is a third option: Blender 2.80. However, Blender will probably take me about a year to learn, and only if I put in a lot of effort, so if I go that route, there won't be any quick results.

The Original

For the purpose of comparison, here is the original render, straight out of Daz Studio.

The Daz render had a transparent background. I used an old photo of a forest to provide background for the image. Note how much cleaner this picture looks than the finished version. Way too clean.

In addition to the changes already mentioned, I increased the contrast, reduced the saturation, and changed the color temperature to make the light a bit more like evening sunlight.

I also cropped the picture from a 2:3 to a 1:1.85 aspect ratio, partly to get rid of unnecessary foreground, and partly to give the picture more of a movie look.

Getting It Right the Last Time

I almost never create a great picture on my first try, and if I do, it has as much to do with luck as with skill.

It is very difficult to correct your mistakes unless you see them, and you won't see them until you have created a picture. Thus, the first version of a picture is usually not very good in and of itself, but it is an excellent aid to creating a better picture.

Painters often recreate the same basic picture over and over again, continuously changing and improving it as they go. Sometimes there are big changes, sometimes just minor tweaks, but the willingness to iterate is the key to improving.

I am, I must confess, a bit lax in this regard. I tend to get new ideas faster than I can create storyboards for them, and much faster than I can organize photo sessions. The result is a certain sloppiness, that ultimately can hold me back from developing as a photographer and as an artist. I tend to be too happy when I express an idea, to worry about details.

This is a weakness, and this time, I'll try to fix it. I'll make a new version of this picture correcting the things I am not happy with, just like a painter would do. There are plenty of things that can be improved, but there is one thing in particular that I find annoying about this version?

Can you guess what it is? If so, comment!

The first version may not be perfect, but I am determined to get it right the last time.

See you!

Wednesday 3 July 2019

Arachnophobia VI: The Bone Collector

Just a couple of minutes ago, as I was sitting (in a café, as usual), working on the next picture in this series, two kids, about 6-7 years old, asked me what I was doing. I told them I was working on a picture with a giant spider in it. The new picture does not look like much yet, so I showed them this one. They liked it. Then, an older woman, probably their grandmother, called them away. She showed no interest in what had her grandchildren so intrigued. That, and a conversation I had yesterday, with two friends, made me reflect on the nature of imagination and curiosity.

Why is it that so many adults seem to have lost their imagination? Is it a biological phenomenon? Is it the environment? A bit of both?

I can tell you what I do to keep my creativity alive:

I feed the creative engine by reading, by watching movies, listening to music, looking at art made by others. I actively seek out new experiences when I can.

I process the creative raw material by thinking about it, by talking about it with my friends, and by writing this blog.

I express it by writing, photography, and by dabbling with other media, like the 3D image above.

I was over forty when I started with photography. Today, I'm 56, going on 57. In many ways I feel younger than I did when I was 30.

Maybe I ought to just be happy that my crumbling brain has retained a few, occasionally firing, creative neurons. I can't help but be a bit bothered though, when I see so many people younger than me, who seem to have lost their curiosity and imagination.

Over the years, I have tried to help others fan their creativity, hoping that they, in turn, will do the same for me. I have gotten a few very good friends that way, and they mean a lot to me, so in that sense it has worked.

My failures greatly outnumber the successes though. Granted, I do not know everything that goes on in the lives of the people I encounter, but I do get the feeling that in many cases, there is not a lot going on.

Then again, perhaps I am just projecting my own emotions on other people, when I imagine that there is an ember of creativity in there, just waiting to get fanned into life, to become a self-sustaining fire.

Perhaps most adults are happy just the way they are, living a life where each day is like any other day, and the highest ambition is to spend a day on the beach, doing nothing. (I shudder as I write it. To me, a day on the beach doing nothing is sheer hell, an unendurable punishment, and something I flatly refuse to subject myself to.)

Better then, if I want company, to look to the creative fires already burning out there, than to try to build fires by fanning ashes. By the way, alone or not, I need to do something about the lack of contrast in my pictures. Sigh! They still look a lot better in my head than they do when they are finished. I got some frank and forthright advice yesterday, when I met my friends. I am going to do my best to follow it.

Monday 3 June 2019

Camping with Dinosaurs (a.k.a. Guess Who is coming for Dinner?)

Cassandra Högfeldt in the Cavewoman genre picture Camping with Dinosaurs.
Camping with Dinosaurs is my first Cavewoman genre photo composite. I have made a number of pictures in the genre before, but they have been all 3D, with 3D characters I have customized using Daz Studio.

Thanks to a recent photo session with model Cassandra Högfeldt, it was possible to create the picture photographically.

I had created a storyboard for the picture that we used when discussing the picture before we shot it.

Dakotaraptor Attack, the storyboard for Camping with Dinosaurs.
Where do you get the idea for a picture like this? Well, Edgar Burroughs, the creator of Tarzan started it with his 1913 novel The Cave Girl.

The Cave Girl is available as a free download at The Gutenberg Project.
The Cave Girl features brutish stone-age cave-men, and prehistoric monsters on a remote, very isolated island. No dinosaurs though. for those, we'll jump to 1993, and the comic artist and writer Budd Root.

In December 1993, Basement Comics released Cavewoman #1, featuring the heroine Meriem C. Cooper. The comic was created by Budd Root, who has credited the comic Little Annie Fanny, and paleontological artist William Stout as the inspiration for Meriem and her adventures.

It is worth noting that the director of the 1933 King Kong was Merian C. Cooper. It is funny, but I have never seen anything written about the similarity to Meriem C. Cooper. It seems like Budd Root paid homage to a major source of inspiration, and then didn't talk about it much.

Meriem Cooper was born in 1980, but through time travel, she ended up alone 65 million years back in time. Well, not completely alone, there is Klyde, a 5m tall genetically enhanced gorilla with an extremely bad temper.

Thus, the scene was set for a series of comics about a young woman adventuring in the Cretaceous period. Eventually, more time-travellers arrived, and the stories got a larger gallery of characters.

Burroughs and Root are the most direct influences on Camping with Dinosaurs. Of course, every Lost World genre book I've read, from Arthur Conan Doyles's The Lost World to Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, and movies from King Kong and onwards, have also been strong influences.

If you want to see how the scene was built up using a mix of photography and 3D, have a look at my post at ArtStation.

Now, I'm going back to making more pictures.

Be seeing you!

Monday 27 May 2019

Hide and Seek: From Storyboard to Final Image

Cassandra Högfeldt is hiding from a T-Rex, less than successfully.

Hide and Seek is a picture in the King Kong series of pictures I am working on. The idea is to show scenes from Skull Island, Kong's home.

There is a bit of a twist: Some scenes are more or less related to the King Kong movies, but not all of them. In the movies, Skull Island is populated by a primitive people that worship Kong. There are also ruins, remnants of a more advanced civilization. There is also the great wall that runs across the island, keeping the humans who live on one side safe from the terrors that roam the island on the other side.

That means the island has been discovered by humans at least twice, and maybe three or more times. According to Wikipedia, people from Southeast Asia reached the island about 3,000 years ago, and it was they who brought Kong's ancestors to the island.

The storyboard I created for the photo shoot. Note that the direction of the light is different from the finished picture.

Skull Island is located west of Sumatra in the movies. Sumatra may have been reached by the ancient Greeks. Thus, it is possible that Greek seafarers also reached Skull Island.

If the Greeks did it, why not others? Romans? Vikings? The crew of the Nisero in 1883? George Edward Challenger? There are plenty of possibilities.

I've got plenty of material to work with, or invent as I go along.

If you want to see the first picture from the shoot with Cassandra Högfeldt, click right here.

Sunday 26 May 2019

Rite of Passage: From Storyboard to Final Image

Rite of Passage: Final Picture vs. Storyboard
I have a set of storyboards that I have been building up for more than a year. Recently, I did a photo session with photo model Cassandra Högfeldt, which gave me the opportunity to create photographic versions of some of those storyboards.

Cassandra did a great job. I do the best I can. Sometimes that means working on the same picture over and over, until I get it just right. Sometimes I have to settle for not completely wrong, but since nobody but me knows what the picture looked like inside my head, I can usually get away with it.

Actually, being insecure about your work, is beneficial, up to a point. It makes you strive to improve, to push yourself to be better, no matter how good you get.

Of course, if the insecurity gets the better of you, you can lose the confidence you need to finish a piece, but when that happens, I discuss the problem picture with a friend or two, and that helps.

Cassandra and I were well prepared for the photo session. I had storyboarded everything, and she had looked through the storyboards and selected the pictures she wanted to do before the shoot.

Before the shoot, I printed all the storyboards and laid them out on a table in the studio. (The "studio" is actually a room meant for parties and meetings that I hire for photo sessions. Works very well, and it is alot cheaper than having a studio of my own, or renting one.)

We went through the storyboards and determined which ones to shoot, and the shooting order. Then we got to work.

The picture you see here, Rite of Passage, is the first of the pictures from the photo session. There will be more. Lots more.

Be seeing you!

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!