Monday, October 22, 2012

Expiry Date

So yesterday was my birthday. I’m mentioning that because my email inbox is always very interesting on that day. I got all the usual Happy Birthday emails, cheesy animated gift cards, Facebook notifications and the annual birthday spam from all the various online forums and communities I have joined over the years.

I’ve had an online life for quite some time now. Before I was married with children I was involved in some political activist communities, and then after my first born I was all about the Mommy forums and online chat groups because I was a bumbling new mother who didn’t know what the hell to do with her baby. Going through my emails yesterday was like a quick history of my online activity over the years. It was kind of cool, but what really struck me is that it seems that my online engagement seems to have a lifespan of about three years. With each of those places I was heavily involved in, around the three year mark, I eventually started to step back and quietly faded away before finding other interests to keep me busy. I’ve kept a few friends and contacts from each of those communities along the way.

I have been thinking about Second Life and this blog. I have not felt at all inspired to explore or blog anything SL related. I still log in, mainly to visit with a couple of friends but my engagement in the virtual world has been getting less and less. At this point, SL feels to me like just another social media platform where I keep in touch with friends, as opposed to the immersive parallel reality that I once escaped to. There are still cool things going on and people continue to do and create amazing things. Second Life has not changed in that regard, but my life is different now and I have changed. It’s time for me to move on.

Second Life did a lot for me. It helped me find my creative spirit, experiment with it and try out some new things. The walled garden of the virtual world was a safe place for me to do that. There was a time when the thing I loved most about SL was the endless possibilities it had to offer. I never thought I would ever feel limited in that world, but that’s exactly how I feel today. I’m not an artist and I’m not creating anything really profound in the world. I’m just a person who enjoys taking pictures of the world around me and expressing how I relate to it and how it makes me feel.

In pursuing my new found passion for photography, I have discovered that the “escape” I once craved so much and was searching for in the past 3.5 years in Second Life, is just as easily attainable when I go down to Lake Ontario every weekend to capture the sunrise with my iPhone camera, or when I'm exploring the beauty of the world around me. One day I will get myself one of them "real cameras".

All this is to say that I will not be updating this blog anymore. I still plan on participating in Single Frame Stories and maybe some other events in-world. Any images I create in SL will be posted to my Flickr feed or perhaps my other blog. I invite you to follow me on my RL blog, if you like. I have no guarantees of where that blog will lead me, but it would be great to have some company from familiar faces along the way.

Cheers, it’s been a blast.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Armed for Peace

My entry for Single Frame Stories this week. The challenge prompt is "Surrender".

Armed for Peace. I surrender.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Branching out

A funny thing happened to me over the weekend. I went to a birthday party and discovered that one of my friends follows me on Twitter and discovered this blog…and she reads it, still talks to me and still wants to be my friend!!!

Imagine that! :p

It was an interesting little bit of information, and I also found out that my other friend knows of Second Life too and has actually spent some time in the virtual world.

It started me thinking about my blogging journey in these last few years. I almost can’t believe it’s been three years since I started this blog. At that time, I started it as a completely anonymous endeavour and it’s interesting to me that now I don’t feel the need or desire to keep that veil of anonymity. And I don’t mean that as in revealing my real name or details like that, I mean as in sharing about my life, and opening up more. I didn’t start this blog to egotistically publish post after post about me, myself and I. I started it out of a genuine desire to connect with other people. I may not get thousands of page views per month, but I have a steady flow of traffic, and the occasional comments I get from readers remind me why I enjoy blogging so much. For me, it’s all about sharing ideas and making connections.

You may have noticed that I have not been blogging here as often lately. I haven’t felt much inspiration to publish anything related to Second Life. It could be just a slump I’m going through, or maybe it’s more. I don’t know. It’s not that I have no creative inspiration at all, it’s just that I feel like doing creative things outside of Second Life and I don’t think this blog is the right place to share that. So I started another blog that I have been trying to get into the habit of posting on and I think I am finally starting to gain momentum on it. You can find that blog at callmeSheBear. Please follow me if you feel inclined! Just a little note, I change the wordpress theme often since I have not found the "right one" yet. So the blog might look different from time to time. I have been posting some of my Instagram photos, along with fleeting thoughts and quotes that inspire me. I think that blog is heading in the direction of being mainly for my iphone photography, but who knows, I may write some longer pieces if I feel inspired.

When I log on to Second Life and I try to take some pictures, I don’t feel the same joy I used to. It has nothing at all to do with the latest bonehead moves from Linden Lab, Jiras, lag, system issues or anything like that. I don’t know what happened, but lately if feels like Second Life merely placates my need to do something more, creatively speaking. I've tried taking pictures inworld and when I look at them afterwards, they feel flat and lifeless to me. Please don't mistake my words as dismissing anyone else's work in SL - this is about me and my creative process. I’m interested in learning more about photography outside of SL, having a deeper connection with the world around me and expressing how I see and experience it.

I’m not saying this is the end of SLifeFantastic! There’s still so many amazing and beautiful things to see in Second Life and opportunities for creative expression. I just don’t know what the future holds for me in that regard. 

I guess what I am saying is that I’m branching out to try other things and to explore new territories. So if you’re wondering what's up when things are quiet around here, know that I am most likely out seeing my city with new eyes, snapping pictures, and trying out new ways of expressing my creative vision.

Friday, September 14, 2012

19th century, Nouveau Steampunk in Steelhead

Steelhead is a Pacific North-West themed region, inspired by the history of the Oregon/Washington regions before they applied for statehood to the union. 

There is quite a bit to see in this region. My five pictures here just barely give a taste of what you will find in Steelhead. 

You will arrive at the train station, where you can pick up a notecard with information about the Steelhead community, a destination guide for the various builds around the sims, and also events listings. I was told by a community member that they have weekly dances and events that are open for visitors. There is a complete events listing at the Steelhead website. 

Steelhead bills itself as a "light, optional roleplay" community, with public areas and residential areas as well. I came across a couple of parcels for rent, so if you're looking for a tight knit, historically themed community to be a part of, Steelhead might be right for you.

Or if you just want to visit, explorers and visitors are welcome to explore the many detailed builds and sites to see. 

I love exploring roleplaying regions in Second Life, however I have come across some that are very strict in their rules for visitors. I can't imagine what the rules must be like for the roleplayers! 

Steelhead did not feel like that at all. It felt welcoming, and the few community members I met were very encouraging and helpful. 

Steelhead Shanghai was an interesting place to explore. It is currently under re-construction, however it still looks great and offers a new twist on the steampunk theme that I have not seen before. 

The Steelhead regions are rated moderate. Again, there is a lot of things to see here and places to explore. Be sure to grab the notecards at the landing spot so you can get the full scoop on the history and roleplay. And if you like taking pictures, get your camera fingers ready!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I have pictures to share but no words...

I hope you all don't mind if I just post some pics here for now, because I have pretty much nothing to say about Second Life at the moment. I'm totally out of the loop, once again.

Honestly, I've been more interested in taking photos out in the atomic world. I just use my iphone but I've been trying some new apps that make for a lot of editing choices for shots. I'm enjoying it. I've been sharing my shots on Instagram and Flickr. Check 'em if you feel like it. Click my Flickr widget in the sidebar.

For now, here are some SL pics I took at Tatty Soup, the popular furniture shop. Aside from the cool furniture items available, the surrounding scenery on the sim is really pretty and very photogenic.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Summer vacation...

Ferris Wheel at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds

I'm in vacation mode right now. I have been off work since last week, sort of unexpectedly, as my kids finished summer day camp and my daycare is temporarily closed. Given I had no other choice, I used my vacation time that I was saving for a winter getaway to someplace tropical, so I could be home with my kids during these last days of summer.

Not regretting it at all. We decided to make it a "stay-cation" and be tourists in our own town. Everyday we have been doing something in the city and it has been a memorable vacation so far. We have plans to do some road trips this week, and find some new places to explore that we have not been to.

I have a ton of Second Life pictures sitting on my desktop that have been piling up for the last couple of weeks. I may get around to sorting and posting them soon...or I may not. It depends how busy our tourist itinerary is.

Either way, I'll be back to exploring Second Life sooner or later. :))

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Better late than never. My late entry for Single Frame Stories this week.

This week's prompt for Single Frame Stories was "Grave Mistake". I found myself drawing a blank for this one all week, until late last night. I came up with an idea while I was reading bedtime stories with my kids. I think I was thinking about it too much and ideas weren't flowing. Seems like the moment I relaxed and forgot about it, I had a little light bulb moment.

I planned on going back downstairs to make my image after they were sleeping but I fell asleep first! I woke up at about 3am in my son's car bed with a crooked neck! Ouch.

Anyway, here's my take on "Grave Mistake".

A forest clear cut. A grave mistake.

Check out this week's gallery at Single Frame Stories.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Circo Loon - Origami Editions by Pallina60 Loon

It's been a busy week and I haven't had much time to take pictures or blog this week. Blogging has become like a habit for me, and one that I love, so when days go by without updating here, something feels kind of off. 

So last night I was looking through my Flickr groups and saw this picture and I knew I had to head over to explore right away. 

Circo Loon - Origami Editions is by Pallina60 Loon and it is an enchanting and beautiful place to explore. You will find paper cranes and other origami creations all over the area, and some of them are interactive. 

There are areas where you can relax, meditate or cuddle with your sweetheart. It's a really pretty, meditative and fun place to experience. I think you should head on over and check it out. I loved it!

(click this link, copy SLurl and drag into your Second Life viewer for the landmark)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It's all about Love (and RL camera envy) in the Noweeta Grasslands...

Yes, it's all about Love in these peaceful grasslands...

But Noweeta is not just for couples and romance. I met a couple of people like myself who were there to explore, enjoy some solitude and take pictures of the beautiful landscape. It's a SL photographer's dream.

So this morning while I was zooming around the sim, framing my shots, I realized that I rarely, if ever use the ctrl 8 camera feature for my SL photos. I often use ctrl 0 to zoom in on objects, and the rare close up pics I have of my avatar face. But ctrl 8 for zooming out, is not a function I have ever made much use of. I figured it was a good time to give it a try. As you can see from the two photos above, this function gives your SL camera somewhat of a fisheye effect and changes the entire look and feel of the scene. I plan on experimenting more with this "fisheye lens" for future shots.

I'm kind of addicted to Depth of Field shots. Honestly, I don't know what the hell I am doing with the DoF sliders in the Dolphin Viewer. I couldn't tell you what F Numbers, Focal Length, or Circle of Confusion means. I just slide them all around until my screen looks good to my eye,  and then I snap a picture. Maybe I'm doing it all wrong, but it works for me. 

As much as I love taking photos in my Second Life, it gives me a bit of RL camera envy. I would love to have a "real camera" besides my iphone to snap pictures around the city on my daily walks and weekend bike rides. I'm not kidding myself. I realize that landscape photography in the atomic world is FAR different from what I do in SL. But I would love, LOVE to spend more time out in nature, hiking through trails, exploring landscapes and waiting all day for the right light for that one perfect shot. This may seem crazy, but the thought of this makes me dreamy. 

The trouble with this day dream is not that I don't have the camera and equipment. I can get those things. The trouble is finding the time for it. Between my 9 to 5 job, managing my husbands business, two children, shopping, appointments and shuttling them to lessons, playdates and all that, I am left with very little time to spend an entire day in the country taking pictures. Maybe one day I can make this happen, just not right now.

But hey, that's life right? I'm not complaining. I enjoy my life the way it is and I get to do all kinds of fun things with my kids. But it's good to dream and to want certain things so you can work towards it and have something to look forward to.

Until then, I'll enjoy the opportunity I have to live out my day dreams in the virtual world. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Svarga: An ode to the simple prim

If you have never been to Svarga, I think you should probably put this destination on your list of places to visit in Second Life. First appearing on the grid in 2006, Svarga was described by Philip Rosedale as coming close to his original vision of Second Life. 

It mysteriously disappeared in 2009, and then two years ago returned to Second Life when Linden Lab purchased it from the owner and creator, Laukosargas Svarog. 

I heard of Svarga before, but only visited it for the first time this week after reading Inara's very informative blog post about the destination. I was pretty amazed to learn that everything in this sim is made from basic building tools and simple prims, before sculpties and flexi prims. It's pretty cool.

There is a tour system in place that you will find at the landing point. Hop on the giant bee and tour around while learning about the artificial eco-system.

Svarga is definitely a must see "historical" destination in Second Life and I highly recommend a visit. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Challenges, taking risks, and possibilities

Here is my entry for this weeks Single Frame Stories Challenge. The theme this week is "Illumination"...


Brown sugar flecks of melanin
speckled across my face,
lights up pale skin
like sunshine
from the

Three years ago when I first arrived in Second Life, did I ever think I would be posting extreme close ups of my face on the internet, with no make up and untrimmed eyebrows? Hell no! Yet here I am!

I felt totally insecure and vulnerable about posting that for the Single Frame Stories this week. When I read the theme for this round, I knew right away what I wanted to do...except I wanted a picture of my freckled face avatar.  But my graphics issues prevented me from doing that picture because my avatar skin looks too pixely and blotchy close up. I also wasn't sure if anyone would get my single frame story. In the end I decided that it means something to me and that's really all that matters. I think it turned out better this way anyways, untrimmed eyebrows and all.

I really love the Single Frame Stories Challenge and I love seeing everyone else's photos and their takes on the weekly theme. There is still time for you to take part! Check out Single Frame Stories for the details.

Another weekly challenge that I have been participating in is the Virtual Artists Alliance Photohunt Challenge, which I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. This is a lot of fun, and the photo above was my entry for last night's challenge.

I've never really taken part in such challenges in Second Life and I'm learning about how positive these kinds of group activities are for my confidence in expressing myself creatively. It's also great for drawing inspiration and encouragement from my peers. They are a challenge in the sense of coming up with new ideas, thinking up ways to express that, and sometimes taking risks in doing so. 

The old me would probably have shyed away from taking part in these challenges. Instead I would have choosen to sit back and observe, while feeling slightly envious of everyone's creative talents. 

Now, I'm realizing that in stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new, you gain an opportunity to do your very best at something. Expressing yourself creatively involves taking personal risks sometimes, but the true risk I think comes in the possibilities you lose when you fail to at least try.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Update: Please see bottom of post! Experience a Nordic summer in Finlandia

Funny, after I whined and complained yesterday about the graphics problems I am having, I logged in last night and everything seems to look fine for high res photos.  The sky and my skin still looks pixely in mid-graphics though, but at least I can still take landscape photos in high graphics. For now.

I don't know much at all about Finland, to tell you the truth. Snow comes to mind, and long cold winters. Finland definitely would not come up in my thoughts when thinking of summer getaways. But based on my explorations of Finlandia, the virtual world representation of a nordic summer in Finland, I think my assumptions about the country are inaccurate. Or, they are incomplete. 

It's so pretty and peaceful here, I could have spent hours more in the sim.  It's ripe with landscape photo opportunities. I will be going back to this place and adding more photos to my Finlandia set on Flickr.

There are several areas where you can hang out with friends, in a treehouse, around a campfire, swimming, or swing on the tire swing and take in the tranquil mood of the landscape. 

Follow the paths from the landing point, that will lead you on a quiet walk through the countryside.

This flagpole intrigued me. I did a bit of research and learned that it is called a Juhannussalko - a flag pole that the Fins put up in their midsummer celebration. The celebration takes place between the 20th and 26th of June, which to us in North America is Summer Solstice.

Finlandia is certainly a very pretty place to explore and take pictures. There is a tip jar at the landing spot if you would like to donate to this sim. 


Visit Finlandia in Second Life

ETA: Please see the comments below for information regarding the Juhannussalko flag pole. It's actually Swedish and not Finnish.

Also, the owner of Finlandia, Daniela Finchy has a new blog for Finlandia. Click here to check it out! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Mulling over system issues while exploring Lost World

A couple of weeks ago, I started noticing some graphics problems when I logged in to Second Life.  At first it was the sky, skin and clothing textures that didn't seem to be fully rezzing.  They looked all pixely, like I could see little squares in the textures.  This was occurring when I had my graphics set to mid range, but wasn't happening when I turned graphics up to high.  I've still been exploring and taking pictures and my photos didn't seem to be too affected by these problems. 

When I turn on Atmospheric Shaders and turn my graphics up to High or Ultra, depth of field still works great, water and reflections have been fine, and my FPS has stayed the same as usual...

I'm not getting any significant lag issues and Ultra settings are not causing me to crash. I always thought that when my Macbook died, it would do so in a dramatic fashion, like slowing down to an FPS of 2 in SL, overheating and exploding or something, or just shutting down and giving me the evil blue screen with that little sad face that says "I've had it, I'm done, have a nice life" (because that's how my last laptop died).

This time, it seems to be dying a slow death.  I'm noticing pixels and odd streaky lines on my screen.  These are most noticeable in the sky, skin and clothing textures and when my graphics are set to mid-range. Now, these graphic defects are starting to show up more frequently and are putting a real damper on things. 

You probably can't tell from these photos, but I notice pixels, mostly in the clouds and in the water. But like I said, it looks better with graphics set on high or ultra, but it is too slow for general exploring with these settings. 

I've tried all the usual things like clean installs and different viewers but the problems are consistent throughout. I am not a tech person at all, so the only thing I can think of is that my graphics card is too old and has had it's time for graphics intensive programs like Second Life. My Macbook is a late 2008 model which I have had since early 2009. 

Unless a miracle happens, like I win the lottery or a rich relative that I never knew of dies and leaves me a fortune (I know, that's a terrible thing to say but in my defence, I don't have any rich relatives anyways), getting a new computer at this time is a luxury that I can't afford.

It seems that my days of taking photos in Second Life are numbered and I'm totally bummed out by that, among other things.

P.S - Here's the SLurl for Lost World, the location in my photos. It's a totally cool place to explore and I feel bad for not giving it the proper attention it deserves in this post. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The difference between a screenshot and a Virtual World Photograph

If you're bored of my ruminations about photography in Second Life and blah, blah, blah, feel free to skip these self indulgent blog posts about it.  

I'm going through a rough time in my life and work right now, and my pursuit of places to explore and things to take pictures of in Second Life are a welcome relief from the stress that has been occupying my mind for quite some time now. At least I'm not turning to drugs and alcohol...

Honour posted this yesterday. I totally relate.  Here are my thoughts on the topic:

Screenshot/screen capture:

I teleported into this place and this is what I saw.

Second Life Photo:

I explored this destination, it made me feel a certain way, and this is how I saw it.

That pretty much sums it up for me. 

The Photohunt Challenge is tonight. I'm looking forward to it. Maybe I'll see you there.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My entry for the Single Frame Stories Challenge and a few things I learned about building in SL

Last words on death row: "Heh. I thought Hell would be different from this..."

When I logged in yesterday to work on my image for the Single Frame Stories Challenge, I had a vague idea of what I was going to do. I knew it was going to be an office scene, involving the dreaded cubicles that I despise so much. This weeks theme is "Last words".

The above photo is what I ended up with.  

It was fun to put the scene together, and in the process I learned a few things:
  1. Prims add up damn fast.
  2. There is a limit to how many objects and prims you can link together. I exceeded both of them.
  3. Modifying poses/animations is a BITCH.
That last one is why it took me longer than anticipated to get the shot. The leaning back pose I used for my chair was great, except my legs were up too high off the desk. After some tinkering and a few curse words here and there, I found this item on the Marketplace which made adjusting the pose a snap. I used it to alter an existing pose, however it says you can make your own poses with the hud. I was confused by it at first but I quickly figured it out.

The Single Frame Stories challenge is totally fun and I'm really looking forward to the weekly theme challenges. The deadline for this weeks challenge is Friday, August 10th and the theme is "Last words". Have you joined in on the fun yet?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Crystall Dunes, a beautiful private home is open for visitors but only for a short time

I was reading the mysecondlife feeds yesterday and learned that Second Life Designer Neva Crystall has just finished her latest sim design. Crystall Dunes is her private home, however, she has graciously opened it up to visitors for a limited time.

You have until August 8th to visit.  Read more on Neva's blog.

Also, I would like to direct you to my Flickr widget in the left column of this blog.  I had it there before but the API expired and the widget stopped working.  I finally searched around to find out how to fix it and now it works!  Please check out my Flickr feed and add me to your contacts if you like.  I post all my images from this blog and also the extras that I don't use here.