Video Wig Review: Brittaney by Envy in Amaretto and Cream

First of all, I didn’t spell the name right in the video – but honestly, of all the spellings I’ve ever seen of this name, “Brittaney” is not one of them. So kinda not my fault. Moving on.

This was the second video I shot using a different camera, settings, etc. and for whatever reason, it came out a lot better than Madison did. I am nothing when it comes to video if not inconsistent. Double negatives and all!

Anyway, this is a pretty wig but not much like the promo photos. The more I look at it the more it reminds me of Carrie by Noriko, but with the added monofilament top.

Video Wig Review: Madison by Envy in Amaretto and Cream

Filming video will vex me forever.

I am constantly trying to improve the quality of my videos, even though no one cares but me. The best I ever got at it was using my Canon 7D and specialized settings I meticulously researched online; but at the time getting the proper focus was a nightmare because I have no way of seeing what I’m filming with that camera (no articulating screen like my crappy little Sony has) and it didn’t have auto-focus while filming. I think my SL1 has autofocus, but I literally just thought of that right now and will have to look it up and see. It’s always like that with me when it comes to filming – I am torn between wanting to do it properly and just getting the damn video made, already, and in the end I usually land somewhere in the middle of those two.

Part of me thinks if I would just stop trying so hard, turn the damn camera on, and hit record everything would be fine, because that’s what everyone else seems to do and I swear their videos look better than mine – but then there’s always something that bothers me when I go to edit and I get frustrated. Color balance, for example. This is something I think most wig reviewers don’t think much about, but it is something I’m always determined to get right, and since I don’t know what I’m doing I think I make things worse rather than better. I always end up looking too warm no matter what I do, even with the auto white balance I think other people use. It will bother me forever. Grr.

And a lot of people ask me why I use these backdrops when I film instead of just shooting with the room around me. There are a lot of answers to that question, but the main one is that there aren’t many spaces at all in my house that are good for filming, for various reasons, and the one space that’s most convenient is the same space where I’ve been hanging backdrops for photo shoots for years, and the honest truth is that the wall is a damn MESS. So many backdrops hung up there and different racks and rods and stands have banged up against it, that it’s really horrible looking – just loaded with holes of all sizes and scraped paint and metal smudges everywhere. I just can’t bear for it to show so I cover it up; it has some sort of backdrop draped over it all the time now, even when I’m not shooting!

Which leads me to the ridiculous backdrop I am using here – I bought yet another type of backdrop stand that I wanted to test out, but before I invested in an expensive muslin I decided to try a cheapie out to be sure I liked the stand and wanted to keep it; this one was the cheapest and could ship quickly, so I bought it even though it’s dorky. I like the new stand, so I’m going to invest in some better backdrops for it eventually.

OK, enough about all of that. Here’s my video of Madison by Envy, filmed using some new software that allows me to use a live view mode on my laptop with my 7D while I film, instead of my old Sony camcorder. I’m still too orange, and overall I’m not sure the quality came out any better this way than it does with the Sony, but what’s done is done. And it has a dorky backdrop. Oh well. The wig is fine, by the way but I doubt I will keep it – so let me know if you’re interested in the comments. ūüôā

The Art of the Spiel

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That title only slightly makes sense in relation to this post, but coming up with clever titles is hard, y’all. I’m sure you feel my pain.

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If not, then feel this photo instead.

First of all, I wrote a really long post yesterday about an experience I had with a former blogger-friend of mine a few years ago, left it up for a few hours, then decided it wasn’t a good idea to say all that I did publicly about someone else even though most likely no one would have known who I was talking about anyway and took it down. So, if you read that post yesterday and are wondering where it went, then no, you have not lost your mind. I moved it back to draft status while I decide whether or not to let it stand (I am leaning towards not re-posting it). Moving on.

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No, the dingo didn’t eat your baby. I did.¬†

I also had a ton of new photos in that post, so I will be working them in to this one now, and they most likely will not relate in any way to the topic at hand, but so be it. Everybody up to speed now? Then let’s get started.

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So let’s discuss this instead: A while back, I posted about some more art opportunities that sort of came my way. I say sort of because, as was the case with art opportunities I’ve had in the past, these new ones also involved a bit of work on my part to make them happen, mostly because there was an assumption on behalf of the opportunity-provider that I know way more about all this photography stuff than I actually do. Because what I know is next to nothing. Which will become evident to you by the end of this post if it isn’t already.

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Green-eyed monster, anyone?

I recall another opportunity that came to nothing a few years ago, wherein the art gallery owner ranted on and on to me about how photography wasn’t real art (not really surprising, then, that this opportunity never came to fruition). Her observation was that, basically, the technology of photography is such that one doesn’t have to have much real talent or skill to be a decent photographer, and that in the end photography is just a matter of ‘standing around long enough with a camera until something interesting happens and then clicking the shutter.’

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Oh, THE DRAMA…

Not gonna lie, but this description, rude as it was, was also shockingly close to describing my entire creative process, so I had to give her credit for that while still considering her pretty bitchy and losing interest in working with her immediately. But I digress.

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Which leads me to a similar experience I had after being given the opportunity to submit a proposal to a local arts organization for possible inclusion in their programs, as I wrote about here and here. When I met with this woman initially, she was super-enthusiastic about my work and had lots of ideas of what I could do with it. I told her I’d mull her ideas over and see if I couldn’t work something up that fit into this organization’s structure, and over the weeks which ensued I tried my best to come up with something I liked.

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I sent her a few versions of my ever-changing proposal, and occasionally asked questions, but I tried to learn from past experience and not ask for help from her too terribly much. But in the end, two things happened to put a stop to the whole thing before it ever got off the ground anyway.

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First of all was the familiar fading of enthusiasm for my lack of experience. Sure enough, after the first round of questions or two, she started taking longer and longer to respond to my messages – which again, I tried not to make too constant – until eventually she stopped responding altogether. No surprise there.

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But the other thing that happened was this: I finally realized, after well over a month of trying to take what I do and fit it into what this arts organization did and failing miserably, that I actually did not want to work with them at all. I had no enthusiasm for it, and was simply trying to make it happen because, once again, I’d fallen prey to the belief that if I’m good at something, I have to turn it into a thing – a career, a job, a moneymaker, a thing that I do instead of the other things I do to make money that other people see as less glamorous or fulfilling or interesting.

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This happens to me quite often. I’m not talking about people who see my photos and, as a simple compliment, say that they think I could/should sell my work professionally and own my own photography business. I understand that when people say those things, they are being complimentary and nothing more, and I take it as such.

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But there are other people who take it a bit further, by comparing the job I actually do work at and comparing it to my art, and finding my work lacking. Why are you an English tutor and not a photographer? they will say. Why are you wasting time being a teacher when you could be a full-time, paid artist?

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I’ve noticed that the people who want to guide me away from teaching and into photography as a career are of two types, generally: people who absolutely HATE their own jobs, and people who absolutely LOVE what they do. The people who hate their jobs look at the way I have this totally separate thing that I do that looks so creative and fun and think, man, this woman must be crazy to do a boring old working-class job like teaching all day when she could go out and just take pictures instead; if I had a hobby like that I could easily turn into a full-time job, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

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And the people who just LOVE their jobs look at my photography and can’t imagine how something like teaching could be as awesome as taking photos, and they feel sorry for me because they imagine I must only feel passion for the thing that looks super-fun and relaxing without understanding that the fact it isn’t my day job is a big part of WHY it’s super-fun and relaxing¬†in the first place.

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Found this dress at Goodwill for $25, and it was SO TINY I almost ripped it in half just trying to get it on. It did not survive the shoot.

Again – to any of you who have complimented my photos and said you thought I could have a career at it if I wanted one, please do not think I am talking about you. I am not. I’m talking about the people who see what I¬†have chosen as a career as some sort of cop-out because I’m chicken or something, or lacking in motivation, or selling myself short because I lack confidence. Because that truly is not the case. Knowledge I may lack, but confidence I do not – or at least, no more than the next person.

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It became painfully evident to me while I tried to force myself to work up a proposal for this arts organization that it simply didn’t speak to me at all, and that I was only trying to force myself into it because I was giving in to the voices that told me I was doing myself some sort of disservice by not pursuing it. The woman who originally came to me with the idea – and she was a very nice person, who no doubt was trying to do me a favor – even told me that day that I wasn’t “hanging out with my people” and that I really needed to get connected to this local art community of which she was a member. Which was – odd, to say the least.

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See the wide neckline of the dress? It was NOT wide before I put it on.¬†In fact, it came all the way up to my neck. I had to rip myself into it! Also, I couldn’t get the side zipper more than halfway up, but I think I concealed it well here.

I mean, really this woman didn’t know me at all, but the fact that I had artistic talent meant she somehow knew with whom I should have been hanging out. Interestingly enough, one of her biggest contacts she felt I should definitely be getting to know was the owner of the other art gallery, the one who insulted photography all the while knowing she was talking to a photographer. I disliked that woman immediately and immensely, yet because she was into Art-with-a-capital-A of course we should be hanging out and getting along.

Sorry, but I just HAD to include this

When I wrote poetry back in the 90’s, I often found myself at odds with what I was doing. I loved to read poetry, but I never cared much for reading it aloud, or hearing others read it. I wanted to hear it in my own head, and I really needed to see the words because the visuals were important to me (line breaks, etc.). But being a “poet” meant being a part of the poetry community – and while workshops always floated my boat because I loved picking poems apart and getting feedback about my own – listening to people at poetry readings or hanging out in coffee shops talking about how important poetry was always a bit boring to me.

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To love reading and writing poetry is one thing – but in my opinion, to feel that poetry is essential to life and that it held within it all of the secrets of the world was just too much. It was fine if someone else felt that way, but I didn’t, so eventually, my connections to the poetry community faded and dissolved (for this and other reasons not mentioned because they have nothing to do with the subject), and after a stint in the 00’s writing poetry online with a fair amount of success, I discovered photography, and that became my much-preferred creative endeavor.

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OK, I’m rambling here, so what is the point of all this? My point is this: number one, I am not only a good photographer, but I am also actually a very good teacher, and i very much enjoy tutoring. I am not only fine with it being my job, but I have actively chosen to make it so, and I continue to stick by that choice. It is rewarding and worthwhile and I am quite good at it. So, there’s that. And number two: just because I am good at photography does not mean it has to become my job or else I’ve wasted my talents. My art is my passion, but it’s mine, and no one owns it but me. It has nothing to do with how I pay my bills, and that is just the way I like it. When I shoot, I do exactly what I want, when I want, and how I want to do it. There are no demands – not on my time, or my level of effort, or my results. And often times, my results just suck, and that’s okay (good Lord, if I knew I had to get good results out of a shoot, it would be the end of me). The more people try to put my art into boxes that make them comfortable, the more I learn about where my own boundaries are around it. I don’t even feel much like I’ll ever want to take photos of other people at this point – for whatever reason, ¬†I like using myself as my model, and so be it.

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And one more thing – I am just not a ‘joiner.’ I’ve found this in the current political climate, too. As I think I’ve made very clear, I did not vote for our current president. And after the election, I was as motivated as anyone to get more politically involved. However, what I’ve found is loads of groups that, while they do good work organizing and focusing on very valuable issues, also have a huge social component I just don’t care for. I struggled with this at first, until I realized that I just simply don’t need these big groups of people with whom I have some common bond, especially when that common bond results in large gatherings of people sitting around talking about the subject.

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When these groups go out and do things, I am game for coming along, but I don’t really want or need to have dinner with them once a month, or meet at their houses for lectures and meetings. So what that makes me is a much less active member in these communities, which before I really thought about all this made me feel like a slacker who wasn’t doing her part. But now I see it as being a ‘doer’ instead of a joiner. Let’s face it, if all that’s going to happen is a meeting where people talk about issues over dinner and drinks, I’d rather be at home in a wig taking pictures anyway. And so it is.

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Wig Vid Pics! Evanna, Sonoma, and Zuma by Rene of Paris

Well, color me embarassed (which I guess means some shade of red) but when I posted my video of Zuma earlier today, several people commented on how disappointed they were to see the vibrant blue of the photos and then see how much more subdued the color is in the actual video. And I kind of can’t believe I never gave this any more thought.

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When I take pics of a new wig, I’m primarily thinking about it from a photography perspective: is the color interesting? Does the wig have nice movement? Can it create interesting shapes when I fling it around? How many different ways can I use it and style it? How easy is it to alter the color so it works with different outfits or concepts?

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And then, when I do take photos of a wig just because I’ve already got my lighting set up and the wig on my head (as I did this last time), I of course want to play around with the results, and test the limits of what I can create visually with each new color and style.

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But of course people who are viewing that blog post to get a look at the video do not care about any of that stuff – they want to see photos of the wig as it is really going to look on a real person who would wear the wig out of the house during the day. It’s actually kind of crazy that I never gave that much thought before.

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I mean, if people want to see what these wigs looks like after they’ve been altered and photoshopped, they can just look at the stock photos! And here I’ve been all this time, wondering why when I post my fancy edited photos in wig groups they don’t get as much attention as the crappy iPhone photos I usually upload real quick right after I get a wig in the mail. That’s because – DUH – they are much more interested in seeing it without editing so they know what it really looks like. How did this take me so long to figure out? LOL. Who knows.

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So, I pulled these pics from each of the video review posts and am putting them all here instead, so they don’t confuse anyone about what the wigs really look like in person. Or, for that matter, what I really look like in person, since my face gets as much editing as the wigs do once I fire up the Photoshop. The real me is in the videos, and that’s the only place you’re gonna see it unless you run into me on the street, so deal with it.

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So, of these wigs only one is in a color I would actually wear out of the house, and unfortunately it’s the one wig with a style I can’t pull of in real life (the short curly Sonoma). That pastel blue is hard as hell to photograph, and it doesn’t look good on me in reality – something about the silvery blues doesn’t work on me at all – but I really want that style in a normal color. Then the longer beachy waved Evanna is a great style, but that brunette-in-the-front, blonde-in-the-back haircolor is bananas.

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Although it does – say it with me – take cool pictures!

So honestly, now I’m just rambling to try and squeeze more words in between the photos, which needs to stop. I’ll just post the rest down below and call it a day.

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And next time I post videos (probably when I get a new Zuma and a new Evanna) no edited photos in those posts, I promise. You’ll only see the real me and the real wig! ūüėČ Happy weekend, everyone!

Video Wig Review: Evanna by Rene of Paris in Honeycomb Brown

So here is the last of the three new Rene of Paris wigs I bought from their new styles; I totally wish I’d bought each of these wigs in different colors, so I may be filming another round soon. The Honeycomb Brown is just too strange for me, so I’d probably like Evanna in the Caramel Brown, and since the Sonoma is too wild for me to wear out of the house but is great for photos, I should probably get that one in a crazier color (although I’m going to avoid the pastel blue as it washes me out – maybe Sonoma comes in Plumberry Jam?). I’ll have to see if there’s any other new colors I want to try out for my next Zuma, I guess, or go with a color I already know and love, since I think I’d like wearing that one around, too.

As I say in the video, I do think Evanna is a great style. Probably better on me with a bang, and definitely in a different color, but the beachy wave is perfect and the cap is comfy and light. It’s a nice one.

Video Wig Review: Zuma by Rene of Paris in Pastel Blue-R

 

I really didn’t think Zuma was cute until I saw some other photos and reviews of it; and even though I didn’t like it on me at first, the more I played around with it the better I liked it. I got it in a crazy color because I figured I wouldn’t have wanted to wear this one out of the house anyway, but now I wish I’d gotten Sonoma in the blue and this one in the caramel brown. Oh well.Neither one is expensive so if I decide to get this one in a normal color, it’s not a big deal.

The pastel blue is not great on me, however. It’s very silvery, like Illumina-R, and Illumina was not good on me either. Something about the silvery tone washes me out – the more vibrant fun colors ROP has come out with lately, like Plumberry Jam, look way better on me. But this is a pretty pastel color and it is very well done, when ROP does decide to do something funky, they do a nice job of it.

Video Wig Review: Sonoma by Rene of Paris in Caramel Brown

Rene of Paris has come out with some more cute styles that are economically priced and well-made. They also came out with more new colors, quite a variety of them in fact. Of the three I decided to try, I was most excited about Sonoma. This is such a cute style and although I really want it to work on me, in reality it’s just too big. However, it takes GREAT photos, so all is not lost!

 

In the video I talk about how much I dislike the back, but in looking at the photos I actually think it’s fine. This style is definitely tricky to pull off, but on the right person it would be really fabulous. I do like the new color, too – the two new brunettes I tried both had ashy blonde highlights and undertones to them, instead of the usual warm/auburn ones browns tend to have. I’m not sure why it is that so many brunette wigs have warmer tones, but that does seem to be the case, so it’s nice to see ROP include some cooler tones this time around.

And back to price – this one has no lace front or monofilament part, so it was really economical; I paid about $108 for it at Name Brand Wigs.

Anyway, here’s the vid! It’s been awhile since I filmed anything, so I am standing a bit too close to the camera; sorry it looks like my face has taken over the entire screen. And I swear that lipstick looked better in person than it does on film – my lips just look yellow, I promise the lipstick is more of a copper color in reality. Not sure what went wrong there…oh well.

Lessons Learned

Lots to discuss. Mostly photography nerd stuff, but some other odds and ends as well, so let’s get to it.

On the tutoring front, things are going well. Surprisingly, I have enjoyed working with my two new elementary-school students (grades 4 and 5), so much so that I plan to pick up more younger clients down the road – I just haven’t done it yet as I currently have 5 clients total and am happy with my workload for now. But when I am ready for another wave of networking, I am going to send out my information to the elementary schools in the area, which I have not done yet, and offer my tutoring to the older-level kids; I don’t think at this point I want to work with emerging readers at all, but by fourth grade kids in general are definitely reading on their own, which is the point at which I can step in and help.

And on the art project front, a longtime blogger and follower Charlotte Hoather presented an idea to me in a way that really made sense to me, and gave me a path to follow with some of the opportunities that are on the horizon.Not that I’ve actually put a package together yet; I am still working out the kinks of functioning productively with my new schedule (meaning for the most part, I am still wasting WAY too much time goofing off as opposed to working on projects) but even that is getting better. It’s been almost a year now since I left my former school, after all, so at some point I was bound to get used to my new life; it seems to finally be happening.

So now, on to the photos:

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I have been in a SERIOUS photo-taking mood lately; partly because I have had whole days to myself here and there, partly due to making some cool purchases lately I’ve been excited to work with (of the prop, costume, and software variety), and also due to learning some new techniques I am still perfecting. The results of all this have been mixed for various reasons, but the photo above is one example of a slam-dunk I’ve pulled off recently. Everything about that shot just works for me, and I’m really happy with it. Let’s get down to the specifics, for those that care. Or if you don’t, stop reading and just scroll and view the pics.
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There’s two wigs on my head in this shot

As far as props and costumes, back in December I purchased a few of these face crystal sets from Free People and I loved them, but they ran out and didn’t replace the few styles they had with anything new. The brand name FP was selling was called Body Baubles, and a quick Google search turned up a website where I could buy more sets to work with. I had a hard time choosing, but in the end I picked up 3 or 4 more sets to use (I can’t recall off-hand exactly how many). These first two shots above are using some of the “baubles” from that purchase. They are really great little accessories; the adhesive is pretty tacky (although I haven’t found them wearable more than once, and haven’t researched if there’s a way to extend their shelf life) so they definitely stay on for the duration of a shoot. I do wear them with a ton of makeup on, so maybe with lighter makeup they last for more than one wear. When editing photos, they are really easy to manipulate and move to different areas of the face, which is fun – I can put them on once and use them for several different looks, then change up where they are placed on my face via editing later. Sweet.

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A processing issue I’ve been addressing lately is my ongoing struggle with skin retouching. It’s so difficult to get it right, and for the most part the skin in my portraits has always come out too soft. It’s been bugging me for forever, but a few weeks ago I finally decided to do some internet research to try and add something to the skills I’ve already acquired via YouTube that could up my game. I found a pretty easy, albeit tedious, technique from another photographer that was pretty astounding in its simplicity – basically, you take a section of the skin that has good texture, copy it, run it through a few filters, and then paste onto sections of the skin that have lost texture and look too smooth. Not sure why I didn’t think of this before, except for the fact that it is very time consuming and boring to execute.

The idea is for the skin to be retouched so that unwanted wrinkles, shadows, and pores are minimized, which is what loads of filters will already do, but to keep the texture that makes skin look like, well, skin. Here’s an example of really amazing skin retouching, of the sort I still cannot do:

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And here is an example of ‘bad’ retouching ¬†– no offense to the lovely ladies in the photos, of course. This is also what most skin smoothing filters will do to your skin, such as the ones you can use in a phone app or a basic photo editing program.

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I always say that portraits like this look like the subject has been sculpted out of butter; when you lose all the skin’s texture, and yes, even all the lines and pores, you end up with a photo that looks unnatural and blurred. So how to keep the lines and shadows and textures that you want, while still getting rid of the wrinkles, blemishes, and large pores that you don’t want? Well, that’s been my question forever; usually I end up somewhere between the good photo and the bad ones, but still too close to the latter for my liking.

The first thing I realized was that I needed to soften the photo less when working with the raw file, so I have more texture to work with from the beginning. The tendency is always to soften a portrait because in general that’s more flattering, but if a RAW file is softened too much you can end up without enough texture to use later. So, in my last batch of shots I was sure to keep the original sharper than I usually do, even though that means my original shots of my 47 year old skin are less complimentary than I would like. No one but me ever sees those, anyway.

The second thing I’ve been learning to do is add the right sort of texture back into the skin after attempting to retouch OUT the textures I don’t want. As I said, this can be tedious, especially if I have only really small patches of texture to work with and re-distribute over the face, but once I get this down I think the end results are going to be worth it.

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Some early attempts; I keep them bigger so hopefully you can see the skin. I think the second one is better than the first. I actually really don’t care for either one of these shots all that much. Nothing wrong with them, I just think they’re both kinda boring.

By the way, back to props: in the two photos above I am wearing this faux alpaca-fur scarf I saw a while back at Nordstrom; it really is that bright, and it is huge – when throwing it over my shoulders it looks more like a big, long fuzzy vest than a scarf. I saw it at the Galleria store and was dying for it, but it was too pricey for me at the time; later on I saw it on sale half off online and snatched it right up. I am glad I did, even though we have had NO winter here this year and I have had no reason to wear it out of the house.

All of this skin retouching stuff got me excited about working with portraits, so last Friday I decided to try another shoot and give myself some newer stuff to work with. I’ve got my Portrait Pro software down to the extent that, in most of these photos I’ve already shared, I had nothing but foundation, highlight and contour, and powder on my face in the actual shots. ALL of the color on the face, including the mascara and the eyebrows, has been added digitally. This really helps me with prep-time for taking self-portraits, as so often the amount of time putting on a full drag face is so long that by the time I am done applying, I don’t much feel like doing the work of posing for the shoot. Now I can slap on the basics fairly quickly and get to work, although applying more makeup on the front end is always going to be preferable ¬†– something I REALLY learned in this last shoot.

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So, my basic idea was this: I’ve had some luck in the past taking half my face from one shot and layering it over another face to get the “perfect”look – in one case, for example, I loved the movement of the hair in a shot, but there was so much hair in my face it wasn’t usable as it was. I figured out how to take a section of my face from another shot and paste it over the hair-covered one, and not only did it solve the problem, it actually created a new-looking face that didn’t much look like me, but was still cool:

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You’ve seen it before, but here it is again

I am always looking for ways to make me look less like me, so I got this idea to take a bunch of shots of myself standing in the same exact position, wearing exactly the same thing, but making a ton of different faces, with the plan being to use my facial features like a digital Mrs. Potato Head during editing and just steal a nose here, a mouth there, and create all these different-looking people out of them. However, this did not end up being nearly as cool as it sounded.

The basic ‘pose’ was like the one above where I have on the head scarf: I wanted to be looking straight ahead as that is the easiest way to edit using Portrait Pro as well as being the easiest way to pose in general, which I thought would help me keep all the different shots uniform. It didn’t though – you’d be amazed how much you actually move your damn head around even when you think you’re being perfectly still! So, there was actually a lot of variation among the different shots as far as exactly where my head was positioned, which altered the light and shadows hitting the faces, too.

But that could have been worked with – here was the real problem: these shots, even though they served their purpose of having at least somewhat interchangeable facial features to play with, were basically, well, boring. I am not sure why I decided to go with a head scarf instead of a wig, except that I must have thought the presence of wig hair would either be too limiting visually or just get too much in the way of the face. That makes sense, but then I should have gone on to do some shots looking at the camera wearing some sort of hair, because while it was interesting to mix up my facial features on different shots, the end results were just lame. Just me staring at a camera with a head scarf on, period. Very little color and no point of interest, unless like me you are able to look at them and appreciate the subtle differences in my face taking the Potato Head approach renders. Which, honestly, wasn’t even THAT interesting to me! So, I found myself spending a TON of time Potato-Heading myself only to end up looking at a pretty boring photo. As a result of that, I started to add a ton of weird textures and overlays just to cure my own boredom, which isn’t really something I care to look at in the end. I love filters and overlays, but I prefer to use them subtly so that the end result still looks somewhat ‘natural’ – in other words, the filter enhances the photo without overtaking it. In these shots, I got so bored that I let the filters take over.

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You’ve already seen this one, but I’m showing it again because it’s the best example of the problem I created for myself. Although, I WAS briefly interested in the fact that I inadvertently made myself look like Ivanka Trump.¬†

One other thing I did during the shoot to liven things up, but that also didn’t work out all that well: a few times I held up some props to my face, thinking I could edit those elements out of the shots and apply them to my experimental faces as well – sort of like Mrs. Potato Head bonus features, if you will. But even that was primarily a fail; even though there wasn’t much going on in the initial shots that I had to deal with when compositing later, there was enough that it made it hard to use the props without them being obviously pasted onto my face. For example, I thought sticking a peacock feather over my eye would be kind of awesome; on its own it’s not such a grand idea, but if the peacock feather could look like it was actually growing out of my face it could be kinda cool. Except, when I held the feather up to my eye I didn’t center it properly, and when trying to move it around on another head shot, all the places in the original photo where the head scarf and parts of my face showed through the spines made it impossible to work with without looking totally ridiculous and I am not talented enough to highlight and copy something this intricate without screwing it up royally. To compensate for that, I filtered it to death, and what I ended up settling for in the final version was pretty much laughable and lame – when I look at this, I just think, and why does this photo even exist, exactly? It literally serves no purpose whatsoever, except to confuse the viewer as to why the photographer even wasted her time on such foolishness:

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So, Ivanka Trump, in what appears to be a swim cap, sticks a peacock feather in it and then, what, takes a shower? Gets caught in the rain? WHY AM I LOOKING AT THIS?! And why is that peacock feather looking so much like a fish skeleton – I NEED ANSWERS!

Then there’s this beauty – that’s a Christmas tree ornament I held in front of my face in one shot, that once again I failed to put properly over the eye and had to adjust for that error:

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For fun, I actually took the pink center of the star, stretched it out into a lip-like shape, and stuck it over my real lips. Then I stretched it out even more and put the glitter pattern of it into the head scarf. All of this took a crazy amount of time, and in the end helped the photo not one bit. Still boring. Although, I continue to be impressed with how good I can make fake makeup look.

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Over-edited heavy filter compensation photo. There are actually elements of this one I like, but still, they don’t go together at all. Once I got the idea to use these different wall textures on it, I wished I hadn’t worked so hard to get that star placed on my face, because it literally makes no sense with what else the picture has going on.

Now, this next one I think was somewhat more successful. The placement of the silver tree branch was more workable, and the end result of putting it up against my face in a different shot is more interesting. My goal was to make it look like the branch was actually growing out of my face, but I’m not skilled enough at Photoshop to have made that happen in any convincing way, so I kind of abandoned the idea and decided to just say, hey, here’s me with a silver branch in my face. Enjoy.

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At the time of editing, though, I wasn’t as satisfied with this as I am now, because I actually kept going with the filters until I’d gone WAY too far. Remember, I’m still getting used to the novelty of being able to use all my software on my new laptop, so I do tend to get carried away. Thankfully I saved a copy of the version above and didn’t totally trash it without having a backup to that previous, much less chaotic version.

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Sinead O’Connor hiding out in the forest? Stop, already. Just stop.¬†

However, all hope was NOT LOST! Apparently I’ve learned something over the years I’ve been doing this (well and now, I’ve actually learned more, namely, that taking 50 photos of myself standing in the same spot wearing a swim cap is a bad idea) because I did take the time to throw on a few wigs, and some of the new Goodwill costume purchases I’ve made lately, and get some interesting shots before I packed it in for the day. So at least I can have fun editing those. Although – I can’t say editing this one was an easy ride:

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It seemed I was just determined to make life hard for myself on this day, because right before I called it quits I decided to throw on some crazy makeup and take a few shots with it – I managed to draw those thick black lines onto my face PERFECTLY, then decided to try and blend them out a little with black eye shadow and effed that one over the eyebrow COMPLETELY. I was able to fix it in Photoshop, but it was a huge pain in the ass and took forever, so I’m not sure I’ll edit any more shots from this part of the shoot. That’s probably fine, though, because this is a pretty distinctive look, and I don’t think anyone needs to see more than one of this. Not sure I should have kept the brick wall effect on the orange and yellow eye shadow, but I am a bit obsessed with that particular texture and how I can cleverly incorporate it into shots without allowing it to take over. And that top is AMAZING for photos – it’s big and sheer and very caftan-y and it was only $3.99 at the Goodwill up the street.

Now, last but not least – from the ashes of a basically failed photo session comes this lovely Phoenix!

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BOOM! Take THAT, Mrs. Potato Head! In reality, this wig is a dishwater-looking blond with a very drab green, although a bit of teal and yellow shows up in the underneath side of it. But using Photoshop I was able to draw out a ton of beautiful color, plus I feel like I really got the skin texture right here, if maybe a bit TOO textured. All of the makeup was added in PS, and the hair is actually taken from two different shots of it while I was blowing it around with a fan (the bit where it’s curling up towards the ceiling is from one shot, as well as the bit that is swooping over my forehead and back over my shoulder; that big swoop at the top is from another shot where it was almost falling back off my head, as well as all the strands coming forward onto my shoulders). Even the cheap cotton-knit yellow dress I’d just picked up at Goodwill and put on backwards (since that’s where the interesting detail was) really worked with the wig far better than I thought it would. I absolutely love this shot, at least as much as the very first one I posted in this long-ass thread, so, lesson learned – when it comes to portraits, I really need to start with some color, and some movement and interesting poses that I can enhance in Photoshop, rather than starting so basic that I have to rely on editing to do ALL the work. A little bit of PS magic is fine and fun for me, but if it’s ALL the photo has to work with to make it successful, it just isn’t my bag. Some people are really great all of that image manipulation, but it turns out that I do have my limits. So, onward and upward; more wigs it is!

Speaking of wigs, I did buy three new Rene of Paris ones over the weekend – a Zuma, a Sonoma, and an Evanna. I got one of them in the new pastel blue, then the others are in some of the new brunettes they came out with. The prices are very nice, which helped me decide to make the purchases. I should have them in to review soon!

Valentine’s Fray

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For starters, I’ve been sick with one thing or another since January 1st, and it’s getting old. First there was the shingles, which was miserable, and after that there’s this recurring UTI I can’t get rid of that I’ve dealt with twice already, ¬†and then this week I picked up a wicked head cold that has me sneezing and snuffling and feeling generally miserable. My tutoring business is finally picking up, and there are a few potential projects I’d like to be focusing on right now, so constantly feeling like crap is both slowing me down and pissing me off. Not to mention the ongoing daily Trump assault that often finds me darting out of the house in no time flat to go protest some new executive order President Steve Bannon shits out over breakfast.

Speaking of projects, I’ve had this thing that keeps happening to me and it’s starting to work my last nerve. Someone will contact me about my photography – either offering to put me in a show or asking me to participate in some project – and when I express interest but request assistance because I’ve never had a gallery show or engaged in a photography project, the person who proposed the idea will be super-helpful for a day or two, then steadily lose interest in working with me until communication is cut off entirely and the whole idea fizzles. I am not sure why this keeps happening, but I can only assume it’s because these people don’t want to work with me if I need a lot of help to meet the requirements of their project, and while I can understand being hit with a bunch of questions over something you thought you could just throw out to someone and have them run with it is annoying, I hardly feel like the questions I’ve asked or the assistance/information I’ve needed has been excessive.

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For example, several years ago a friend of mine contacted me about possibly having a show at this gallery of which she was a board member. I was excited about the idea, but never having had a show I had no idea what it entailed, so I asked her how such a thing would come together. She informed me that when the gallery worked with artists, the framing (or in the case of photography, the printing and framing) of the pieces would be taken care of by the artist and delivered to the gallery. OK, so what are the requirements for printing? She didn’t know, but directed me to another photographer who’d had several shows at her gallery and said this person could probably help me. So, I contacted that person and after hearing back from her I asked several questions, such as – what size prints do you use, and how do you frame them, and what service do you use to get these things printed? She answered me noncommittally – something like, well I think I’ve done it this or that way, but I don’t really remember – and then she disappeared. I had a lot more questions for her, but after emailing her two more times I figured she wasn’t so game to help me out, and by that time, neither was the friend who’d originally made the offer. So, that was a dead-end.

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Now I feel like the same sort of thing is happening again. Three weeks ago, someone I follow on Facebook contacted me to ask if I ever did anything professional with my photos, and a conversation struck up around that. She was very enthusiastic about my work and asked if we could meet for lunch. We did so, and during that lunch this person was¬†insistent that there was a market for my photographs through this nonprofit that offers art workshops to places like women’s shelters, halfway houses, nursing homes, etc. That may sound strange, but a perusal of their website shows that artists get hired by these places to offer workshops about, say, sculpting or poetry writing, where they teach the participants to do these things over the course of several hours. There was a wide variety of workshops offered, and it sounded like a cool thing to do that not only could pay me well for my time and provide me opportunities to photograph people other than myself, but that it was performing a nice service for people in need as well.

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My ‘workshop’ would have to be a bit different, though, because instead of having the participants make something, they’d just be posing for a portrait; a portrait I would work my Photoshop magic on and give to them as a fun picture of themselves looking in some way unusual and fun. It’s a nice idea, but I’ve struggled a bit with how to structure such a thing, and I’ve had some questions and I’ve been trying to put a proposal together for my friend to show to the organization. Logistical stuff, mainly, like how long can I really spend with each client if there’s just one of me and I have to shoot 10-12 people in a session, and how do I get their makeup done too without it taking forever to pull off? And how can I personalize these photos so that when I work with them I can incorporate the subjects’ personalities into them? Should I provide some sort of lesson or lecture about my portraits, portraiture in general, or sit down with each person and get to know them a little so I can include what they tell me in the final product? How much input do I want these people to have in the final result, and how much input is realistic given the time constraints?

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I also had questions about the proposal itself – how much should I charge, what additional fees should I include? How does any artist put a proposal like this together? How do you package and promote your artwork for different audiences without your art becoming something you no longer enjoy doing? OK, that last question is more just for me, but all of the others are genuine confusions I have about putting something like this together, so on occasion I’ve asked my friend some of them to see what she thinks. Keep in mind she was very, very enthusiastic about my chances of finding a niche with this organization when we met for lunch, so I’ve assumed she’d be willing to help me out as far as getting things together, but I may have been wrong about that, because in the last week or so I haven’t been hearing from her much, and her responses have been pretty brief. I’ve only contacted her with questions twice¬†since we met, although I could definitely have asked her more, but I’ve been trying not to overwhelm her with requests for assistance.

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Still, I think I may have derailed this project somehow anyway, without meaning to do so, and I’m not sure why this keeps happening. Maybe because they like my photos people assume I know more about marketing, promoting, or even just printing my photos than I do, or that any 47-year-old woman should be able to figure this shit out for herself without needing help – I dunno. It’s not like I’ve been sitting around dreaming of the day I was able to work for a nonprofit taking portraits of people in nursing homes or shelters, and had an entire proposal at the ready ¬†in case I was ever asked. It’s not like I’ve been preparing for the day someone gives me a gallery show, either, so when someone asks me if I want to do such a thing I’m all ready to do that, too (in fact, when it came to the gallery show, I did learn that I hadn’t even been editing my photos properly for printing anyway, and nothing I had up to that point would have worked).

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Come to think of it, though, I bet that’s exactly what these people have assumed. They see me as a photographer, not a hobbyist, so they do assume I already know these things and are ready and waiting to jump at the first offer I get. In fact, that’s probably what they would expect of any artist, since for many of them they are ready and waiting for someone to ask; I just never have been. I’ve never given these sorts of propositions any thought at all, so when someone presents me with an opportunity I expect them to help me get my shit together to pull it off – which I guess isn’t really the deal.

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On the flip side of that, though, is the thought that I’m not really sure this nonprofit thing is something I want to do. I’m not sure what I do is as right for their purposes as my friend thinks ¬†it is, although she herself gets work through them and thinks I am a good fit. I just feel lost trying to put something together for it for one reason or another ¬†– one reason, for example, is the fact that I think I’d have to bring a makeup artist with me to these sessions, and I don’t know any makeup artists. I’d also have to supply all the costumes, which includes accessories and wigs, and I’m not real sure how to package all of this stuff into a workable, time-efficient program. I feel like I need someone to bounce the whole thing off of, and my friend clearly isn’t going to be that person (one recent feedback she gave me was that my prices were “VERY reasonable,” which I took to mean I wasn’t charging enough money for my services, but she didn’t tell me what she would have considered reasonable).

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Lordy, I just don’t know, but I feel like my window of opportunity for this is narrowing, and I still don’t have a clear picture of how it should work. And this is on top of being sick in one form or another for a month straight, dealing with a sick father-in-law who is in the hospital, the daily Trump outrage, and juggling new clients, so that days go by right now where I haven’t even given the project any thought and don’t much feel like doing it, either. I don’t feel I’ve got any sort of grasp on it at all, which knocks it down to the bottom of my to-do list on a daily basis. You know how that goes.

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Anyway, in other news, I’m excited for Rene of Paris to come out with several new wig styles this month. There are several I’m waiting to try, and the company has some gorgeous new colors they’re adding to the line also (a pastel blue that looks fabulous and several delicious new brunettes). And as usual, they are keeping prices reasonable, which is great. I really want to try Sonoma and Evanna¬†even though, being Rene of Paris wigs, they will probably be waaaaay too huge on me; ROP really goes overboard on the curls and swirls, but whatever. I haven’t made any videos in quite a while because I haven’t bought anything lately, but I will definitely be trying these two out and filming them in the future.

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As you can tell from these photos, I’ve been enjoying playing around with some of the Photoshop plug-ins I purchased but just couldn’t use with my old laptop; the Topaz Glow, Impressions, and Textures plug-ins in particular are really floating my boat right now, and I’m so happy to be able to use them again.

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I think this about catches me up for now; hope your February is moving along nicely and that you are having some sort of winter wherever you are. It was 85 degrees here today, which is depressing; aside from one weekend of freezing temperatures we’ve had no cold weather here at all this year, and I can’t remember the last time winter was so warm (that’s actually because it’s never happened; we’re breaking records for highest winter temps almost daily, it seems).

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