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.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Cerridwen's Cauldron by Elicio Ember

Just a quick post today of some pictures from Cerridwen's Cauldron by Second Life creator Elicio Ember.  Fabulous, fabulous place to visit with endless photo opportunities. 

The sim bills itself as a "light fantasy roleplaying" area, and it also houses the mainstore where you can purchase the famed plant life that Elicio is known for.  He is also responsible for the builds Siren's Secret and Nu Orne at Fantasy Faire, which I blogged earlier this year. 

Cerridwen's Cauldron is rated Moderate, and I used the Region Settings for my photos.  I may have changed the time of day to get some better lighting in some of these shots, I don't remember. 

Hop on this dragon that is located in the landing area for your personal tour around the sim.  It's quite fun and I liked going into mouselook for this tour.

After your tour, you can head inside to the mainstore and have a look around at what is available for sale. 

You'll find this dragon in the Ivory Tower, among other hidden delights.

And down below, there are vast caverns and jungle bridges to explore, as well as waterways beneath.

There is a handy teleport system at the landing point that you can use to get around the sim. 

I love environments like this in Second Life and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.