Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Faerie Folk Assignment #7 Pictures

The latest crop of FF photos:

Assignment #7:  Flowers & Partners
This was our first partner assignment - there were six of us left, and each person had to choose one of six flowers (plus the flower's meaning) to represent.  We were to portray both the flower we chose and also the flower our partner chose.  Even though not everyone was happy/satisfied with their shots, these were some of the best this competition has had to offer thus far.  Definitely worth checking them out.

My partner was Sun, and she chose the Bluebell for her flower.  Bluebells represent humility, and coming up with an 'evil' spin on humility was damn hard...I didn't pull it off the way I wanted, and I don't love this shot, but I may go back and re-work it in the future.  I had a few ideas that would've taken far too long to pull of (if even possible).

Bluebells have long been symbolic of humility and gratitude. In mythic legends it is said that faeries use the bluebells to trap passersby, particularly children, or cast spells upon any who dare to pick, damage, or destroy the delicate flowers. The nickname "Dead Man's bells" originates from this tale.

Does an evil faerie, tasked with the burden of leaching the sorrow from weary mortal souls, ever truly grasp the notion of humility? Such is Ennui's province after all, and she treks the mortal lands in search of those in the most desperate and dire need. Atop her isolated altar, Ennui occasionally receives patrons - those mortals brave and despairing enough to make the impossible pilgrimage. The intrusion rattles her to the core, summoning to light the true and pure darkness of her taint, and regardless of the circumstance, the misery, the desperate hopeless pain, the Fae of Sorrows turns them away in callous, cold succession, banishing them back to the empty void from whence they came.

The flower I chose was the Yellow Hyacinth which represents jealousy.  I didn't think it would be too hard to come up with an idea for a jealousy theme, but it was much more difficult than I thought.  Even when I finalized the idea, the execution was absolute torture.  A frikkin nightmare.  I can't say that enough -- gave my hand a reeeeeeally good whacking while punching the computer desk out of frustration...o_O.  It wasn't even worth all that....the photo came out pretty well, but it was a lonnnnng time coming in a way-too-lengthy process.  Long and difficult and aggravating as absolute hell.  I really could've used some magical sim fairy dust or something...anyway....

The legend of the Hyacinth flower begins in antiquity: Hyacinthus, a beautiful young male companion of the Greek god Apollo, was murdered in a jealous rage by Zephyr, the god of the West Wind. Zephyr desired Hyacinthus for himself, and the sight of of the lovely men playing a discus game together was too much to bear. The blood that spilled from Hyacinthus turned into a flower, and in mourning Apollo named the flower after him.

The tragic young faerie Ennui lingers dolefully against her window, her weary eyes peering out of her dim quarters into the warm golden evening. In longing solitude she watches, listens to the rustling leaves and the joyous play of her sisters, all of them enchantingly beautiful with full and glorious wings. There is a peace in the quiet of it all, and a sorrow...Ennui's meager wings and disfiguring scar liken her to a hermit, outcast, receding, fading, recoiled in silent and sparse isolation. She aches to be among them, reveling in the splendor of the new yellow blossoms, kissed by the lazy sunlit air. How she reveres them, and how she resents them...the bitter sour of jealousy languishing on a parched tongue. And so she lingers until night envelops the golden evening....

Neither picture was very heavily edited, but I definitely spent more time working the Yellow Hyacinth picture (the candles are flameless, hence the lack of lighting on her face from them).  Assignment #8 will be yet another big challenge, but I'm going to try my best.  That's all I can do.  And I'm aiming for very little or no editing...we'll see how it goes.  Thanks for lookin'. :)

*and Sun, thank you for being so cool and being a great partner.  both of your shots were beautiful*

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Recent Competition Pictures

I'm really behind in posting these, BUT here are my latest photos from Faerie Folk.  I'm still hanging in there, but our current assignment is a mutha -- lol I'm horrible at making more than one pic at a time (which is required for this assignment), so we'll see what happens...o_O....anyway.......feel free to check out the actual comp threads to see all of the amazing shots from the competitors (well worth the time, kid you not) and read my accompanying stories - I linked each in the titles below.

Assignment #3:  Fairy Tales
We had to come up with our own fairy tale, and adjust it to be a Good or Evil story depending on the orientation of our model.  Ennui is evil and she has an Asian-inspired background, so I chose a Japanese-influenced setting for the photo and story.  I never was completely happy with this pic and I swear I'm going to re-shoot it someday.  It was a lot of fun to work with though, the setting in particular.

So often we make extras for our pictures, and many times they are barely seen in the shots.  That was the case with Queen Sen - I spent a good amount of time (read = forfrikkinever) creating her in CAS, but she doesn't show up very well in my submitted picture.  This was an outtake shot of her that was sharpened a little in Photoshop


Assignment #4:  The Five Senses
This theme has been done in a few other comps, and it always seems easy from the start, but coming up with something really good or unusual is really difficult.  Again, this wasn't any sort of spectacular pic -- and oh GAWD was my real life a mess during that time -- but I love the soft glow on the male model.  Much of that effect was with in-game lighting.  This is another photo that I wanted to do over again SO badly, and some of my outtake/unused shots were better than what I submitted, so I really want to work with some of those in the future. And oh yeah - I chose Sense of Touch.

...wish my hair was that doggone shiny...

An outtake picture that I edited a bit in Photoshop...I had waaaayyyyhayyhayyyy too much fun working with this guy... ;)


Assignment #5:  Switching Roles!
The concept for this assignment seemed easy enough:  our faerie models had to switch their orientation, so Good faeries had to be Evil, and vice-versa.  I had intended for Ennui to be 'Good' in the first place, but the Good Faerie slots filled up fast and she went eeeeevil.  The execution of the assignment was another story -- there were nearly limitless possibilities of what we could do with our models and pictures, so focusing in on one idea was a huge challenge.  After the previous picture, I wanted something a little more lighthearted, so I thought 'hey, why not go to jail!' or something along those lines.

The rails, ceiling, and top half of the right-hand wall are edited in, and also the "stripe" on the ground, made to look grungy


Assignment #6:  Chakras
Yee-haw -- there were several comments all around about how difficult this theme was in Blair's last cycle of Faerie Folk, and boy were they right.  The research was absolutely fascinating and I came away from it learning a great deal; coming up with the right image, however, was absolutely INSANE.  I had no idea what in the world I would do for this one.

We were allowed to choose from the seven Chakras, and by the time I saw the assignment thread there were only 3 left:  Manipura (fire/navel), Anahata (air/heart), and Vishuddha (ether/throat).  A couple of Chakras that I would've wanted to try were taken, and I wasn't sure I could do much of anything with what was left.  I decided to go with Anahata because of the air element, and by the time I made my decision and tried to reply, someone had taken it.  Vishuddha sounded a little more difficult, but also pretty intriguing....the element of ether particularly.  After reading a quick bit about it, I knew that's what I wanted to go with.  It was a pain in the ass to get just the right angles and lighting....you have no idea....but I was actually (for once) pretty happy with the final result, and I got a good avatar picture from the outtakes also.  I think my total time working on this from start to finish was around....17 hours or so?  Give or take a couple of hours (and over the course of three days).  That's pretty normal for me -- anywhere from, say, 12 to 20+ hours per shot.  Takes a long time when you barely know what the hell you're doing, no joke.

I laughed out loud when I finally found the right (and very unlikely) pose for this...it's hard to see, but I added the Vishuddha symbol into the vapor coming from Ennui's mouth. Also, the animal symbol for Vishuddha is the elephant, hence the tiny, almost invisible elephant statue in the bottom right corner.

I ended up with a great forum avatar from an outtake face shot

Two more plays a tweaking the coloring; the color for Vishuddha is blue so I experimented with a few other color options (too many to post now, heh)

Midsummer Night's Trance

Hypnotic Stardust


Annnd I guess that's all for now.  We're on Assignment #7 currently (pictures representing two flowers of our choosing), and I'm literally shaking in my Cat in the Hat slippers -- I'm clueless as to what to do for these shots, and not in a good 'meh, I'll get a burst of inspiration at the last minute' sort of way...it's pretty scary.  BUT hopefully they'll be good enough to survive another round.  There are absolutely no guarantees with competitions.

If you made it this far, thanks so much for browsing!  There are so many more pictures I want to post....I think I'll end up making a companion blog to showcase outtakes, CAS pictures, and the like.  I usually take a couple or few hundred shots per project/assignment, and there's pretty much always something funny or cool that results from the masses.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tribute to my Mean Little Pleco

Thursday night my Pleco was acting like a madfish -- he was thrashing all over the aquarium and swimming around like crazy.  It's not completely unusual for him to do that, but those little 'episodes' usually last 5 or 10 minutes or so.  Not this time -- the poor guy thrashed around like that for HOURS, pretty much all night long.

He's always been a bit of a character.  I bought him over 7 years ago as a tiny little thing not much longer than my thumb.  I had just purchased and set up a 20 gallon tank a few weeks prior, and he was a perfect little addition.  I've had that dude longer than any fish I've ever kept, and he sort of grew into the role of grandpappy of the tank.  Plecos are bottom feeders (related to catfish) and are mostly put in aquariums to eat algae.  They're pretty notorious for abandoning the algae-eating when they get older, and that's what this guy did, favoring veggies and fish flake food over the fuzzy green stuff.  In the beginning he was shy like all Plecos, only coming out at night and darting into the first cave or bush of plants he could get to when anyone walked by the tank.

 Chillin with my Gouramis Cotton and Candy

As he got older, I guess he got used to us.  And he outgrew his two favorite hiding spots.  After a while, he just started hanging out on the bottom of the aquarium and would stick himself (via his sucker mouth) to the glass.  Over the past few years he started getting fairly aggressive when it was time to eat, sometimes knocking my other fish out of the way just to get to a pinchful of tasty flakes (or at least I imagine that stuff must be tasty - they all go to war over it at feeding time).  But he liked to float partially on his back at the top of the water and let me drop food directly into his mouth.  He was barely spooked by people anymore and seemed to like having his picture taken.  Vain son-of-a-gun....

Whenever we visit pet stores, particularly our favorite, I like to look at the Plecos and compare their size to my guy.  At last measurement (a couple of weeks ago) he was right around 12 inches long and meaty as hell -- he's always had a good weight to him; I know this from the time we had to transfer him in to the larger aquarium, and one time when I accidentally netted him - he displayed his catfish heritage BEAUTIFULLY, splashing water frikkin EVERYWHERE and thrashing around like a real trooper.  Strong as hell.

  Waiting for food with Candy

I blogged about him back in April of last year, and he really enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame (har har)!  He's always had him moments -- seemingly loving to be gawked at, then going all diva and refusing any attention.  It's crazy, but we never could come up with a name for him; his personality wasn't as well-rounded and obvious as all of the other fish I've had (you'd be surprised how much personality fish can have o_O), and we just never could come up with anything that seemed suitable.  It didn't really matter...we've still always loved the guy.

  Taking a breather from playing in the bubble curtain...they LOVE that thing....

So it really bothered me Thursday when he seemed so agitated...he's been moving around a bit slower lately, but he's no spring chicken (those guys can live 10 to 15 years in captivity, and even up to 20 in extraordinary conditions).  One of his eyes was a little cloudy, but we decided to change & test the water the next day and monitor it to see if he would need meds.  I took some pics and video of his thrashing around because it was so bizarre....

Unfortunately, that would be his last moment in the spotlight.  We woke up Friday late-morning to find him dead in one of his favorite spots in a corner.  He's always still (when he isn't swimming around like his tail is on fire), but looking at him, you could tell it just wasn't...right.  My hubby prodded him gently with a net, and sure enough, he was gone.

We had been going back & forth for a while over what to do with him because he was simply outgrowing our 55 gallon aquarium.  He deserved to have a nice big open space to swim and nice nooks to hide in.  Even Friday night we discussed it because his wild behavior that evening was terrifying my other fish.

He was much much MUCH too big to dispose of down the porcelain throne (has been for a long time), so we gave him a proper aquatic 'burial at sea', setting him in the pond out back.  I think he would have LOVED it out there when he was living, so it's the most befitting place for him to make the journey to fishy heaven.

It was shocking at first, and then really sad.  It's still strange going up to the aquarium and not seeing him lounging around, sucking on some gravel, or shooting up to the front with his mouth wide open for food.  He was an excellent pet, beautiful, strong, hardy, sometimes quirky, and a real conversation piece -- not one person that has ever come in here and seen him has walked away without gawking at his size.

I'm really gonna miss ol' grandpappy.  May he rest in fishy peace....

The pic I uploaded in my April blog post - awesome blue lighting on the Pleco one night