Stripe Jumps

As I mentioned in my last post, my foul mood over losing out on plane spotting this weekend was partly alleviated by getting dressed up a bit and taking some photos in my little studio. Always good for getting me out of a funk.

I didn’t bother with too much studio makeup, just put on enough to make my features stand out in the photographs as I was in a hurry and also wanted to snap a few pics of a new wig for a blog review over on RLW. Here’s one quick wig snap, since I took them at the same time:

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Can you believe that thing was $230? What a mess! Not that I paid that much for it, but still. It’s pretty awful. However, my Photoshop skin-smoothing skills are getting pretty awesome – check out a little B & L:

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Before
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After

Still me, just a little better. And it didn’t take me all day to do this, and I didn’t have to go view the video tutorials a thousand times to pull it off, so yay for that. And now on to the jumping, which also involved a little photo editing magic:

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This one, I think, is the best I’ve edited so far – mostly because I got the technique down by the third photo and didn’t feel like going back and re-editing the first two. I was actually standing on a wicker ottoman here that I covered with a black blanket, but I also took a background shot of the black backdrop and then pasted this photo over that background as a layer, and then erased the stool. I think this photo is the most crisp and clear, and in spite of the fact that I pretty much hate that wig (it’s the new one from the portrait posted above) it moved well and looked good for the photos. Doesn’t make it worth $230, but still.

I edited this one using the same basic technique, but here I used the photo of me on the stool as the background, and made the photo of just the black backdrop the layer I pasted over it – I don’t think this worked quite as well:

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It’s not bad, and it could be that the movement of the first photo is what makes it more effective, as it really looks like I’m doing some sort of weird squat-jump in that one while here it’s more obvious I was standing on something that got edited out. But working this way, rather than trying to cut myself out of one photo and paste myself onto the backdrop shot, eliminated at least some of the issues I was having before with shadows, and I didn’t have to totally re-create them this time. Also, this black backdrop creates one hell of a vignetting problem when editing and I’m not sure why that is; I feel fairly certain no one else cares about the little color rings that form around the edges but me, but it bugs me to no end and always has. Not sure what to do about it, although for jumping pic #1 I did figure out to go into Pixlr and use one of their “smoke” borders to conceal it a bit.

Also, that dress, which I’ve had for a couple of years now, is amazing for jumping and movement photography! It’s been hanging in my costume closet all this time, and although I’ve used it twice already, it’s been a long time since I’ve put it on, and I hadn’t thought of using it again until recently – my parents have rented a beach house for this coming weekend, and I am going down there Saturday, so I’ve been thinking about bringing this dress to use for some shots on the beach (either myself wearing it or someone else). When I decided at the last minute to take some movement photos, I guess that’s why it sprung to mind, and I’m glad it did, because it reminded me how great this thing moves. And to think I bought it at some fairly cheap clothing store while wandering around aimlessly, waiting for my nail appointment to begin – I bet it was $40 max if it was a dime. The only thing I don’t like about it is that it has one of those awful skirt linings that only comes to mid-thigh, making the rest of the full-length skirt transparent (God how I LOATHE this whole maxi-skirt-lined-only-to-the-thigh trend and want it to DIE already) which is really distracting in photos. So, I had to put on full-length black tights to conceal the lining a little, otherwise my legs would have shown through the skirt. Last one for now:

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My issue with this one is that the lighting and focus were off, and the subject doesn’t look as well-lit and defined as the other two. But that dress! It created such an amazing shape, I just had to process it. I actually went ahead and created a Pixler version too, and I’m not sure which one I like better. Perhaps you could view them both and then let me know:

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I was trying to detract from the fact that my face isn’t in good focus and came out kind of flat; but I’ve lost the attention-getting color aspect of the material, so I don’t know if this one is better or not. I’m now leaning towards the color one. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

More to come from this set, did some for-real jumping and may process one or two more levitation ones. And no, I haven’t forgotten about the aviation history museum photos, although at this point when I finally do upload them they’ll be anti-climactic.

Happy Monday everyone!

Phoga

Phoga = Photography + Yoga. Lame but I tried.

In uploading a few more pics from this weekend’s shoot, I wanted to comment on how much my yoga practice is helping me with my jumps and movement. It’s not that I am necessarily getting shots I couldn’t have gotten before, but that in doing the amount of leaping and moving I must do to get them I am feeling more free and loose. Usually after a shoot of any length I’m sore for a day or two, and on occasion my back (where I have a tendency to get really tight) will be extremely tender. But lately that hasn’t been an issue. And as I am moving and leaping it requires less effort, I’m less tired, and my joints and muscles feel more flexible. The entire experience has a more effortless quality to it than it had previously.

I think this shot best sums it up – again, it’s not that I couldn’t have pulled this off without yoga practice, but I actually got a lot more of these shots this time, as well as having an easier time pulling this stuff off. It’s as if my body is one long spring that used to be tightly coiled, and now it’s loosened so there’s more space between the coils with which to move.

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I’ve found that the important little details like keeping the feet pointed and the hands looking graceful are getting easier too (one of my yoga DVDs actually has exercises for fingers and toes).

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And most of all there’s improvement in my back. As someone who spends a ridiculous amount of time sitting at a computer typing blog posts and processing photos, my sciatic nerve can get really tight, especially in my lower back. My neck and shoulders feel it, too, to the point that I always now have to wear an arm brace when I’m on the computer; it’s more like tennis elbow than carpal tunnel, but it’s pretty much a bitch. Not that it’s going to stop me from my online endeavors though, so I just learn to deal with it. But, my lower back is definitely the biggest issue; many yoga moves I’ve been doing deal with slight backbends and spine twists that help to loosen those muscles up. This next photo isn’t anything close to backbend, of course, but I guarantee you I could not have pulled even this off a month ago (I’ve been doing some sort of yoga, even if it’s as little as 20 minutes, at least 5 nights a week since I started).

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Sure, I possibly could have gotten that much arch in my back,  but not while keeping myself on my toes and the rest of my body in alignment so the move looked graceful. And I probably would have been grimacing. Even as I was taking this shot, I was noticing the difference in how it felt to move this way. And, I not only pulled this off once, I did it about five times – again, without strain or struggle. This one just looked best.

So far, I’ve been cautious with the yoga and am just now starting to push myself with difficult moves. But I’m enjoying it immensely. It’s a very peaceful way to work out. I can’t say I’m seeing any improvement in muscle tone or definition at this point – something that after a month of regular weight workouts I would be seeing – but whatever. I’m enjoying this too much right now to care about that. Maybe later I’ll need to incorporate some of the free weight work I’ve done in the past and had gotten so bored with, but perhaps as the workouts get more challenging I’ll start to see some of my old body come back without that stuff, as I just burned out on it entirely. Or maybe I won’t care about that and can just enjoy being fit even if it doesn’t result in cut abs like I used to have. I haven’t had those in a few years now anyway, so I’ve started to get used to being a little softer. My husband certainly doesn’t care, and I still look good in my clothes and am wearing the same sizes, so it’s not like I need to go around built like Madonna. Overall I just need to get healthy again, and this is a good start to that.

I Should Be Dancing…But I’m Not

I edited several of the shots I took a few weeks ago where I looked up photos of dancers on Google images and tried to imitate their movements (much safer and more appealing than photos of me actually attempting to dance) and worked them into a collage because on their own, I thought most of the shots were kinda boring.

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I picked which shots to use intuitively, with the idea from the beginning that I would put them into a collage and therefore each shot would be small, so I didn’t think too much about my facial expression in them, or that my hands and feet were as close to perfect as I usually like them to be. Basically, I wanted interesting shapes that were varied from photo to photo but still complimented each other, and that was all.

However, several people on Flickr asked to see each shot on its own, and while I’m not going to use up my one photo a day upload over there posting these shots individually, I’m OK putting them up in a post here. Maybe I can Pixlr them later and then I’ll feel they’re worth sharing other places, but for now, it makes for an easy blog post since it’s late and I don’t have time to say much more. So without further ado, here they are, in no particular order:

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The purple series

Oh Lord have mercy, I have a ton of these I want to edit. I think I might actually do it this time, instead of saying that then getting bored after processing 4 or 5. I’ve already processed 14 of them – using a backdrop that required no editing and sticking to the basics when processing helped to move things along for me. Plus, when I’m all dolled up in costume I feel no one wants to see 30 pictures of me in the same outfit just moving my arms a different way; with the purple sheers, it’s more about the shapes the fabric make than anything I might be wearing, so I think that gives this set more longevity. If that makes sense.

And by the way, I woke up with sore shoulders from all the steaming I had to do the night before to get the wrinkles out of both the backdrop and the sheers. I did get my husband to move the backdrop all the way up to the ceiling, and after all the work I did on it I am just leaving it up for now. No way am I folding it back up right away and creating more wrinkles! So, when I turned my studio back into an office I left the backdrop up and kept the pictures that usually hang there off the wall. The more I get into this photography stuff, the less office-like my office looks, and the more it transforms into some crazy photographer’s messy, chaotic work space. Oh well.

For reference, here’s how wrinkled everything was right out of the boxes – I took some test shots Saturday night, and yes I was in a pair of swim shorts because it was so freaking hot that day – but you can see how much better everything turned out after steaming (although according to my husband I have damaged the sheetrock by steaming the backdrop right up against the wall; didn’t have the heart to tell him I’ve been doing that regularly for the past two years):

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This entire set needs Botox.

I did do a few outfit changes, although they were slight, so perhaps I’ll try to upload over the next few days by collecting the different looks together – but in many of them, you can’t tell what I’m wearing anyway. For today’s installment, I didn’t have much of a ‘costume’ on with the sheers at all, just black tights and a black leotard, and a black wig cap to hold my hair in place. (Moment of vanity here – the leotard was a weird fit on me, as things like that always are due to my long torso/short legs body type. The way it was pulling on me made me look much thicker around the middle than I actually am; my waistline was pretty much disguised, and I readily admit that there are a few cool shots I passed over because I looked, well, chunky. And yes, I did try to edit my waist into the shots, but you could tell. Moving on.)

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I love how tall this one made me look, and the balance of the feet peeking out on one side, and then the opposite hand. Totally accidental on my part, of course.

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Love the shape this one created.

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This reminded me of an octopus, or a flower. The two do have things in common, you know.

For fun, I’ll go ahead and throw this B&W in here. The photo itself wasn’t all that thrilling, but I did like how I came out looking like some sort of sad, gothy sea-creature, so I thought a little monochrome might add to that mood. Throw in some overlays and textures via good old Pixlr, and there you go. Nice and spooky for Halloween.

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I did make a collage of all these with the idea of sharing them in one shot, by the way – but I do not like how small it makes each picture. I prefer to share these full size, or as full size as they ever are when I post them on the blog. For a true high-quality copy you can check out my Flickr page, but I only post one photo there per day.So much more to come from this set!

Tutu shoot

After my disappointing grocery store trip that yielded little in the way of decent photos, I decided to throw up a backdrop and try out some more jumping shots Saturday night, with the intention this time of flipping them to look like I was falling. It’s a different sort of jumping this requires – I am used to facing the camera as I leap, and trying to get my legs as high off the floor as possibly to add to the effect of height, but for these flipped shots I just need to look like I am falling backwards or forwards, so I can make smaller leaps with my feet staying closer to the floor. It’s also a fairly different process to edit the shots, but in spite of the differences I think this was a successful experiment.

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I also noticed how different it is to jump without all the fabric and hair to worry about as I usually do. I’m normally concerned with getting the hair and the clothing to move in a certain way, but here, it was just my body I had to concern myself with. The tutu wasn’t going to flow in any other direction but outward no matter what I did, and since I had no wig on I didn’t have to concern myself with flinging it about. The end result was a lot of really nice jumps that didn’t have some of the usual bloopers such as wonky hands or weird faces, although that did happen on occasion. But all I had to think about was keeping the toes pointed and the fingers from going crazy and I think that’s why I got so many good shots in such a short time. Not that this means I’m ready to reject my usual layers of flowy clothing and long hair, because I will always love that stuff. But sometimes it’s nice to change things up.

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Of course, the occasional weird face did make it into the set. I still liked this one enough to process it in spite of the strange expression.

Because I didn’t get started until later in the evening (I usually set up and shoot in the morning and early afternoon) I did not bother with stage makeup or an elaborate outfit; I also didn’t much feel like putting on a wig – I just wanted to jump around.

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I used one of the fabulous headscarves I bought from BeauBeau headcovers – these things are great if you are like me and can never successfully tie a real scarf around your head. They’re pre-tied and just slip over your head like a cap. I love the look of a good scarf over my hair, and even though they are marketed towards women with hair loss I have a ton of them and wear them quite often – but I digress.

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I also incorporated another plastic mask I got from Party City, a white one this time, but I’ve found that after trying masks out twice, I really don’t care for what they do to a photo. I guess I like faces and facial expressions too much, or maybe I need to buy better masks instead of the $3 cheapies at the party store. Not sure, but neither time I used them was I pleased with the effect. So I most likely won’t be doing that again.

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Um, no.

For the tutu pics, such as those I’ve shared above, the lack of stage makeup didn’t bug me too much, but I also wanted to test out this idea I’ve had for quite awhile and keep forgetting to try, which is layering myself in petticoats and letting them all fly about in jumping shots. I did put a wig on for these, and I really felt the lack of proper makeup later when processing them. I am not criticizing my appearance without loads of war paint or anything – it’s just that in photos, with the amount of bright light I use, facial features disappear if they’re not exaggerated. My eyebrows in particular won’t show up at all, and my eyes appear to sink back into my skull. I’ll have to try this again when I have time to apply a full face. Also, I need to fluff up the petticoats some more, that bottom green one wasn’t moving about as much as the blue one and it kept leaving a “gap” in the material.

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Love that wig! It’s a Gothic Lolita, of course.

I have tons more of the tutu ones to process, and a few more with the petticoats I’d like to work with also; this isn’t even everything I worked on the past two days. In fact, I sat at my computer processing shots from 10 AM to 3 PM Sunday, which would be pathetic if it didn’t produce something I consider to be art at the end of it all. But it did, so I am happy. Also, while I usually work with different filters and textures for each shot I edit from the same shoot, this time I kept the process the same for all the tutu shots (except for the mask ones) which feels a little odd to me, but I thought it created a better sense of consistency. I am always changing up what I do and how I do it, so that’s what I went with this time. Here’s a quick collage of everything I’ve edited so far:

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By the way, I use good old Pixlr for my collages. Is there anything that program can’t do?

And that one in the middle occurred right before I tore down the set; Sprocket had made himself comfortable on the fleece blanket I’d laid down on the floor, so I decided to do a few leaps over him for fun. Here’s the one I ended up processing:

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Photoshoot Round 2

After working on deer portraits, I decided to change costumes and do some jumping. Unfortunately, my office/studio gets really hot during the day when it’s hot outside, so I couldn’t leap for long as I timed things badly and was jumping about at the hottest part of the day. I still got some good shots, just didn’t get as many as I usually do. I’m learning to take less anyway, since I can only process so many photos from the same shoot before I get bored. There’s no need for me to take 300 shots each time, it’s just I have so much more to work with when I do; but when it’s 100 degrees outside, and about 80 degrees in my studio, well, I just can’t handle too much bandying about in a hot wig and layers of costumery. So I made this part quick and kept the fan on high to try and reduce the heat.

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Is this a fab dress or what? It’s like a cross-dressing costume for Peter Pan.

I wanted to play around with different movement and camera focus some, since I tend to rely a lot on fully zoomed-out full-body jump shots. I thought it might be interesting to bring the focus in and just capture parts of me in motion; it irritated me a little as I feel I probably missed cool movement this way and am still more interested in the shapes the entire body makes, but still. Gotta change things up a bit when I can.

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I felt this one needed to be B&W for some reason. And that little shot of the floral tights bugs a bit; it takes away from the seriousness of the shot, but cropping out the leg entirely ruined the movement of it so I had to keep it.

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I love this one – I look like some freaky combination of a My Little Pony and a day-glo extra from Cats. The wig is another Gothic Lolita one; not sure you can tell but it transitions from purple to pink on the ends. 

I also wanted to play around with leaping in such a manner that I might flip the photo on its side and look like I was falling, or flying, or something. This hasn’t gone so well for me in the past but I thought I’d give it another shot by trying some jumps with a falling motion to my body. Interestingly, in the leaps where I tried this, I kept visualizing me flipping the photos over to the left, so when playing around with editing I kept flipping everything that way and it wasn’t working. Then I got the idea (duh) to flip to the right and it looked a little better. Still not sure this works but maybe that’s because I know I was leaping straight up and can’t stop “seeing” it when I look at it. Who knows. Also, it’s a bitch to edit the floor out of the shot but that has to be done or the effect is ruined, so I probably won’t try this with too many photos just yet. Or maybe I will, who knows. I just know it took twice as long to edit this one, and I had to use several extra layers of texture to conceal lines that would indicate what was really going on.

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Click on this one to see a better shot with more clarity. For some reason it looks crappy when inserted into the post.

Tomorrow I’ll share the last “look” from this shoot, although I’ve got lots more of both these and yesterday’s costumes to edit. I’ve also kept my studio set up in case I want to shoot anything else on the holiday. I do have lots of grocery store pics to share at some point since that’s what I did Sunday.

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Kinda cheesy background but I thought the movement of the stars worked well with the shape my body made. 

Outtake Awkwardness

I set up for a weekend shoot Thursday afternoon, and while I was at it I threw on a crinoline and attempted some sofa-jumping pics (I worked in the interior design industry in the 90’s, and to this day I cannot use the word couch when referring to that particular piece of furniture; it was considered in poor taste to do so, which is one of those completely random, useless factoids from a past career that has never vacated my brain). Anyway, most of the shots were crap, but I did snag this one, which I enjoy:


I have very veiny feet, and until my mid-20’s I had hair on my toes. My nickname in high school was “hobbit feet” because of this. True story. 

I took this one shot where I hit the sofa hard and the face I made was so awful, I deleted it directly from the camera. The second I hit the delete button I realized it would have been perfect to upload in an outtakes post on my blog, and actually shouted “Nooooo!” but it was too late. So, the best outtake I cannot upload. But I did find a few lovelies to share.


This one illustrates the importance of being sure one’s Hobbit Feet are pointed


Nice framing


Believe it or not, I’m making an even worse face in the shot I deleted. But at least my Hobbit Feet are pointed.

I always watch a Rifftrax or old Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode while shooting. Weird, I know; but I can’t sit still to watch anything, so I use my shooting time as movie time. Sometimes between that and the industrial-strength fan I have blowing, I have a hard time hearing the timer count down This was one of those times I couldn’t hear it, and realized it was about to go off too late. I tried to scramble into some sort of pose, but I didn’t have time to come up with anything, so I punted:


When in doubt, make this face

I’m going to try out some new costume stuff this weekend, which will require a trip to Party City tomorrow. Time to buy more cheap crap! Maybe I can get my hands on some Hobbit Feet slippers or something. But it would probably be better to get my feet on them (or in them).

Where Have I Been?

I’ve been working with photography exclusively. Right now it’s the only thing that occupies the creative space in my mind. Since I got my Canon 7D I have been able to do so much more with my self-portraits than I ever could have imagined, and I am consistently energized and excited by the possibilities.

I’ve also accepted a job as a school counselor at a small private school, even though I don’t get my master’s degree until December. It kind of fell into my lap so I figured I couldn’t pass it up. But between a new job, grad school, and photography, there’s just no time for poetry.

Anyway, here are some of my latest photos. If anyone is still paying attention, I think you can see a pretty big departure from what I was doing before with the old camera. I’ve become fascinated by bodies in motion, and I’m starting to work more with textures and other editing techniques I’d always eschewed before. And I still intend to start up a photography website but just haven’t had the time to get that together yet.

mareymercy’s Flickr page

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