Quick Silver

As I mentioned in my last post, I finally got a chance to put on the full face and take some portraits while I was on vacation last week. So here they are:

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That wig cost about $35 and is called Elveen, by Janet Collection. After a few hours of shooting, the synthetic fiber was starting to frizz and dry out noticeably; I have to comb through a wig every few shots when posing in them because they get thrown around and messed up so much, and brushing isn’t good for even a high-quality synthetic fiber, much less a cheaper one like this. On the plus side, though, the fiber here is heat-friendly so I could probably use a blow dryer or curling iron to smooth out some of the frizz. I wasn’t looking for longevity anyway; I was just so curious about this lovely color that I decided to try one. It is gorgeous; at least for photos. Although as a so-called “ethnic” wig, the lace front is way too dark for me. Moving on.

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Many people who’ve seen these photos have commented on the interesting makeup choice I made here; truth be told I didn’t intend to take all my photos in this wig and had several other costume changes planned, involving far more colorful stuff that would work better with all that orange and gold. However, I got the wig on and started snapping, and everything was just working in it so well that I decided to stick with it; I didn’t end up shooting much in the other wigs and costumes I’d picked out at all.

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This was one of the others I intended to use more – glad I didn’t

I was really surprised that even the makeup application process went smoothly; I found a stock photo online with makeup that inspired me and decided to copy, and even though i didn’t completely go in the direction of the photo, everything from contouring to shading and even applying false lashes went off without a hitch, turning out almost exactly as I planned and without any major screw-ups to correct.

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The photoshoot went the same way; well, at least until I took off the silver Elveen and tried some other hair choices – nothing else worked as well, and I was starting to get tired and bored by that time so my heart wasn’t in it. I tried a few leaping and levitation shots, but I’ve only processed one so far because by the time I got to that point in the shoot (I always save the jumping and movement stuff for last, since it tends to mess up the makeup) I was way too sloppy in my execution for anything to look stellar. Plus, it was really the silver stuff I was interested in processing, and I knew that by that time, so I probably shouldn’t have bothered. I did process one though:

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But back to the silver wig. After some straight up makeup and hair shots, I wanted to play around and create some holiday looks, so I dug out the Christmas stuff I bought last year at Pier One and decided to mess with it a bit:

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When I processed this one, I was annoyed with all that orange and gold glaring at me – although it did really work visually, I wanted to compliment the silver hair and sweater more than all that bright color was able to do. So, I actually used a black and white filter to change the makeup and layered it on over the original shot. Notice I even managed to pull off the stripey eyebrows – yeah I told ya, the makeup all worked out well for some reason this time.

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I was just goofing around here, obviously; I don’t think you can tell but I used Pixlr to add in a bunch of patterns to the ornament. If you look closely you can even see tiny birds flying around in there – those came compliments of a Pixlr filter. And yes, my nails were fabulous.

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One thing I noticed when working with these photos was how nicely neutral the silver was; I could really manipulate color in all sorts of ways and create different looks entirely. The only issue that created was skin tone; I struggled in most of these to keep my skin from going too gray, and in some shots I don’t think I pulled it off very well, but hey, I tried. Skin tone is always a bitch in photos anyway. Here I obviously added a lot of blue, and I even stole the sparkle from the center of the magnolia in my hair and placed it over my real eyes.All that glittery-goodness was added to the sweater in Photoshop, although in real life it does have a bit of shimmer.

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This one wasn’t working for me at all, mostly due to the skin tone issue, until I pulled it into Pixlr and attempted to cover it with some sort of overlay that might disguise the splotchy, odd-colored skin that was bothering me. I often do that with photos I can’t get quite right (I did the same with the one photo with the short blonde hair); I figure if Pixlr can’t save it for me, it probably isn’t worth saving. This overlay was from a very geometrically-shaped collection that I almost never use, but lo and behold this one gave me exactly what I was looking for. It added just the bit of interest I felt it needed, as well as covering up my skin a little and distracting the eye so perhaps no one will notice it’s weirdness.

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I also struggled with lips in this set; mine are quite thin and dry (I often widen/thicken them in post) so this is nothing new, but I made matters worse by choosing to use gold glitter lip liner as lipstick and then outline it with orange – you can see it in the first shot above where I didn’t edit that mess out. For most of my other shots, I changed it in some way, because it looked pretty sloppy. In the photo directly above I just did my best to change the lip color to orange all over, and then soften it. This photo is my favorite, by the way – it’s a composite of three different shots of the wig since there’s no way it has near this much hair. And the wreath wrapped around me is a Pier One prop I used last year, too.

As always, there’s more from this set I want to edit, and it looks like my red dress from China is set to arrive today, so there will, of course, be more coming soon. Although I may not get to the red dress photos until Christmas break. We’ll see!

Quick Pics of My Stitch Fix

Helloooo everyone, I know it’s been a minute, but I’m busy as usual and only have a little sliver of time in which to catch up. I’ve taken a lot more Oh My Gauze shots, both posing and leaping, and the Wings Over Houston Airshow was last weekend and I took about 2,000 shots at that. But for now, I’ll pop in here to share a few photos of the clothes from my October Stitch Fix box, then upload some of the other photos later. Let’s get to it:

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The wig here is the Robin by Noriko in Chocolate Swirl; the shoes are the “Fang” flatform sandal from TopShop (cute, but sadly, not comfortable, so I only wear them in photos for the most part)

So what we have here is the Kut From the Kloth “Kate” boyfriend jean, and the Collective Concepts “Lidy” poncho cardigan. The jeans are nice; when I took them out of the box they felt really stiff, but they are 1% spandex and do have some give, so when I got them on they were comfy, just a little heavier than my usual denim. There was nothing wrong with them, but no real reason for me to keep them, since I have all the jeans I might need at the  moment and these look exactly like a few pair of those. Plus, as you can see, they were a touch too big on me. The poncho cardigan was a keeper; it’s fairly light and will go everything. So that piece stayed.

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This is the Crescent “Spooner” Cross Back Top, and I can certainly see why my stylist sent me this shirt, since it’s khaki and loose and a little hippie-ish with the fringe trim, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I think the fringe around the bottom might actually be too heavy for the fairly sheer material of the rest of the top, making it hang a bit awkwardly when it should just flow. Plus, that fringe hits me at an awkward spot and accentuates my widest area more than I’d like. Cute, but no. And yes, it’s very wrinkly, but remember it did come in a box. Moving on.

Last shot:

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Snake-print slips-ons from Vans. And sorry about the weird face I’m making here.

Another pant by Kut From the Kloth, this one’s called the “Siena” Cropped Pant, and although they’re a little snug around the hips (making the side pockets stick out a bit), they are very light and comfortable and with the spandex in them should stretch a little with wear. I may take them to the tailor and get the pockets sewn shut, which I often have to do with chino-style pants that have them. It’s a minor detail, but it makes a big difference in how the pants fit and look once they stop poking out like that. The jacket is not from Stitch FIx, but it is another Oh My Gauze piece – it’s called the Rome jacket and it actually had two very long “tails” in the front that were just begging to be tied into a waist knot, which is something I refuse to do. So, I had my tailor chop the long bits off to create a shorter jacket all around, and I really like it now. Tailoring makes a big difference, people! #themoreyouknow

That’s actually all the shots I have from this shipment; you may have noticed I only took pictures of four items when they are always five things in each Fix, and if so, good for you for being observant! But the fifth item was a chambray, long-sleeve, button-up top, and since I’ve not once liked myself in any top like that I’ve ever tried, I didn’t even bother to put it on. Plus, it was buttoned all the way up, so I would have had to unbutton it to get it on, and it wasn’t worth the effort. Yep, I’m that lazy.

Here’s to the end of another busy week. More pics later!

Hair-itage

Ugh, terrible title, sorry. I’ve written so many posts with hair-pun titles, it’s either start to repeat them or just go for awful. I think you can see which route I chose.

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And now you can also see that I finally got my hair cut and colored into some sort of STYLE. With the exception of the roughly 4-6 months I enjoyed having a perm, I’ve not had hair I actually liked for almost 5 years now. My initial goal was to keep growing until it was at least mid-way down my back; but as it grew I began to realize that my baby-fine hair was never going to look on me like one of my Angelicas or Brandis, and that going beyond shoulder-length was not the best use of what I’ve got. Then, once I decided to bob it off, I also decided I didn’t need to keep worrying about damaging my hair with a dye job, because it’s short enough that any damaged ends can just get trimmed off without too much trouble. Getting this effect took two tries, though; because the first time the dye didn’t take and the stylist left too much length (not her fault, I originally chose a style that was a bit too long). I went back two days after the initial cut and color and we tried again – and I have been thrilled with the results so far.

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Finally I eliminated that awful shoulder-length hair-flip I had going on, and my hair actually looks like a real style. Chopping off a few inches really gave my hair the little bit of bounce it needs (and the dye helps as it makes my hair a little more coarse) and the color, I think, is going to satisfy all my wig-friends who are constantly reminding me that even though my bio hair really is that dark, when I choose wigs that closely match it the effect isn’t the best. In other words, your natural hair color may be dark brown, but natural just doesn’t look that good on you. It was really miss Robin by Noriko that sealed the deal for me – I loved those highlights in the Chocolate Swirl so much that it was the day I got that wig when I decided to color my hair again for certain. Moving on.

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I have a few more edited photos to share, but not many – it seems that in the last full week of my summer vacation, I finally decided to get out of the house and venture out into the world, so I’ve spent this week meeting up with friends all over town and even doing a little shopping. This seriously has not happened all summer – for the most part, I’ve stayed up super-late (4 AM at most) and slept in late (getting up around 9:30) then sat around in my pajamas all day catching up on documentaries and editing photos or videos. Seriously. I’ve never done so much nothing for so long in my life, but I guess I really needed that sort of rest, because it hasn’t bothered me at all. Obviously I also filmed a TON of videos and took lots of pictures, but still – both of those things can be done in at least half of my pajamas (I may be wearing a lovely top in my wig vids, but below the waist it’s strictly sweatpants, trust me. And bare feet. With a rock plopped down on the floor between said feet, so I don’t start shifting while I’m talking and turning around to show the wig, which would move me out of focus because my camera has no autofocus. Ah, the glamour of the wig reviewer).

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I did film reviews for my new Angelica, Seville, May, and Code Mono, so those will be uploaded soon. And I still have a Stevie by Amore that I got in the mail Monday and have not even taken out of the box – which proves I’ve been busy because usually, I will rip into those boxes as soon as they arrive. I think being happy with my real hair now is part of the reason, too, since I’m less consistently inclined to cover it up right now.

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How short my hair was when I started

My birthday came and went without much fanfare, as usual, except as I pointed out to Lana I’ve been basically buying wigs with abandon all month and claiming “birthday present” with each purchase, as well as putting yet another Fendi Spy bag on layaway. And in case I forgot to mention it, another Stitch Fix came and went without so much as an iPhone photo, because I decided not to keep anything and I didn’t think I’d have enough time to take decent photos before my three-day window to ship them back passed. It was a nice enough fix with only one thing I didn’t like (a mini-dress), but with all the wig-shopping I’ve done this month I decided to just let the whole thing go. I do kind of regret the olive-green lace biker jacket I sent back though; it was really cute.

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Modified version of an above photo – not sure why I like this weird edit, but I do

I’ll be honest, I don’t have too much more to add here and am just throwing in words as filler between photos. Thank you for reading.

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This was not a leap – just Photoshop levitation trickery

Drag Days of Summer, Part Two

OK, here we go with the actual photos! The ones I’ve had a chance to edit, at least, from Wednesday’s shoot. But first:

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I actually have some shots to share from June that I never posted. First up is a few more with this fab striped skirt I got from The Gap – it really photographs well!

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That was actually what I call an “unjump,” meaning an attempted jump shot that I timed wrong and did not capture properly. Both the unjump above and the next one are also composites – the top half of me is from one shot while the bottom half is from another:

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In both cases, I just didn’t like something that was going on in the top half (I think in one my hair was completely covering my face and in the other I just didn’t look too graceful) so I did my best to layer two different shots together. Took a long time, but I think I pulled it off OK.

Also, not gonna lie – in the shot directly above, the shadows were hitting my face in an unflattering manner, causing my nose to look unnaturally big. So, I used Photoshop to make it thinner. Then, I realized my eyes looked wonky with the thinner nose, so I worked some more magic to move them a leeeeetle father apart from each other, and thus  balancing them with the nose. Have you ever heard how if you try to get plastic surgery on one part of your face, you often have to alter another to make it look right? Well, that’s kinda what happened here, only, not permanent. Still, in the end I look a bit less like myself than normal, but whatevs. I already had a torso from one shot and the legs of a different one, so why stop there, right? Moving on.

Here’s another shot I took of Robin when I was messing around with her after making my video review:

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As in the last shot I shared, this one is also two different pics of the wig combined to give it more interesting movement. And lately I’ve been experimenting with some softer light filters than I’ve ever used before; I’m in a phase of feeling less insistent on absolute clarity and trying out softer looks. Who knows why. Always something to change up.

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This is a shot I took of Brandi during the same shoot where I took the Robin pics (obviously, since the clothing is the same). Brandi is much more full, so I didn’t need to layer two photos together to get that much movement. One more from this set, this time ridiculously Pixlr‘ed:

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The original pic was out of focus, but I really liked how it looked in spite of that; there was a really nice shape to the flowing hair, so I chose to work with it anyway. I think I may have over-done the Pixlr overlays, but they have added so many cool ones lately I kind of can’t stop tinkering (I love the ‘mermaid’ and ‘candyminimal’ ones in particular). Speaking of overdoing it with Pixlr:

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I’d really started to get bored with June’s shots by this time, and dug back into the ol’ archives to find something else to edit. In the end it felt a bit boring, so I ran it through the Pixlr grinder also. Another old one I worked with that I did NOT Pixlr-fy was this one:

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That’s one of my favorite photo wigs, even though I tried to trim the bangs myself and really jacked them up. Not too noticeable when I’m throwing the wig around, fortunately.

Okay, so now on to the most recent stuff:

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I already mentioned the makeup process I went through for this shoot, so can we talk about this sweater now? I got this from my favorite online store for vintage costume-like goodies, The Kissing Tree. Whenever I’m feeling a little bored with my current stash of costumes I go check them out (usually at their eBay store), and when I came across this thing I knew I’d found my next purchase. It is perfect for portraits because there’s so much going on, it can be used in many different ways even within the same shoot without it really looking like it’s the same sweater every time. It has a great feathery collar, and I love love LOVE clothing with texture; the sleeves are not only striped BUT they have little fabric balls AND beads AND rhinestones – fabulous! Just moving my arms around in interesting ways make very unique pictures – like this:

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Then, for added fun, it also has that huge heart right in the middle. I didn’t actually use this sweater in nearly as many ways as I could have in this set, but I love any article of clothing that lends itself to a lot of different looks just by positioning the body in different ways. And at $34 it was a steal. The only downside is that it’s a sweater, and a heavy one at that, so for taking photos under bright lights in July in a small studio with tons of windows, it can get pretty hot, but I just stuck on some shorts and did the best I could – most of the shots I took were portraits; I spent two hours on that makeup and I was determined to get the most out of it! So for most of the shots wearing shorts that in no way matched the top was fine.

To maximize the shoot, I also made as many wig changes as possible:

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See what I mean about that sweater? This photo doesn’t even look like it’s from the same shoot! And there’s that softer lighting again. One thing I did differently this time was really neutralize a lot of the color in the RAW files so that I didn’t get some of the blown-out brightness and discoloration I tend to get when processing, but I think that resulted in my face looking too white later. That, and the fact that I used too much highlighting on my face when applying the makeup. Anyway, that led to me having to add some detail into the shots using shadows and filters, and I think I leaned towards softer light effects to help soften the face overall. If any of that makes sense. Also, my blending wasn’t great so I spent a lot of time smoothing out that eyeshadow, and I messed around with my nose a lot in most of the shots. I found that enlarging my nostrils just a bit really changed how I looked, so I did a lot of little tweaking like that here and there just to accentuate the drag-effect I was going for. Kind of the same technique I used for this one:

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My face came out REALLY white in this one so again, the softer light helped to add some dimension and detail back to my face. And who knew that Rene of Paris Caitlyn would make such a great photography wig? I almost sold it, but in the end I decided against it because t was inexpensive and I thought it MIGHT be good for photos – that sure was a good call, because I LOVE how it looked in this set. I’ve been gravitating towards short wigs lately for photoshoots anyway, especially when I’ve just spent two hours on my makeup; they are so much easier to work with when posing, and they stay out of the face. I can’t get all that good flowy motion I love, so there’s always a tradeoff, but especially with the summer heat the shorties are definitely a good option to have.

They don’t look as good for jumping, though,but it was pretty hot in the sweater already so I stuck with Caitlyn for my leaps – which really weren’t leaps but levitations:

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For this one I was leaning over a stool, then I layered that over a blank shot I took of the background so I could erase the stool out of the shot. This was mainly tricky because of the hand I was leaning on in the original:

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That hand was a real giveaway; it did not look at all natural when I was “floating” and made it obvious I’d been leaning on something, so I went back to my other shots from this point in the set, and found a hand I thought I could layer over the original one. However, THAT hand had all my fingers spread apart, and it was an absolute bitch to essentially cut and paste properly without the edges of the fingers looking really unnatural and obvious. I am not sure why it took me so long to give up on that hand and just go find another one; I think I spent something like four hours working on this photo and a good two of those hours were dealing with that stupid hand! In fact I gave up for the night eventually and returned to it the next day – at which point the solution became obvious, which was, duh, go find another hand.

Funnily enough, the hand I used ended up being the original hand from the next shot I processed; I didn’t notice that until I was editing this shot and working to erase the stool and had to maneuver around the hand again and thought, hey, this is as easy as it was working with that hand in my other shot – oh hey! It’s the same hand! Hi, Hand!

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So now you can scroll up to the first levitation shot and see the same exact hand in that one as is here. Isn’t that completely uninteresting? And aren’t you glad I spent an entire paragraph and half talking about it? Of course you are. And in this shot, I was once again posing on a stool in the original, and used the same blank backdrop shot to layer over. My lips were also wonky in the shot, and in trying to fix the wonkiness I made them huge, then decided I kinda liked how they looked and kept them. Oh, and shadows. They’ve been a bitch for me ever since I started trying to edit them into levitation shots to make them look real, and I finally figured out a strategy that works for me. Instead of using the burn tool with a fairly small brush and drawing an outline around myself, I just make the thing HUGE and slap it over the entire subject several times, then erase the shadows from my body and reduce the opacity, and BAM. A nice shadow every time!

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I was playing around with lighting throughout this set, too (remember, I spent two hours on that makeup and was determined to get as many different looks as I could out of this shoot!). In most of the shots I had my Speedlight attached to the camera and bounced off the ceiling for some nice soft light, but occasionally I’d attach a light bender to it and aim bright light directly at my face for a different look:

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Much harsher shadows behind me, and a lot less shadows on my face with a much brighter light. It’s a harsher look, and overall I don’t care for this effect as much as I do the softer ones, but for something different it’ll do.

And to sum up for now (who knows how many more of these I’ll edit – I have a few wigs and looks I haven’t even processed yet) here’s one last wig change:

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That wig is called “Sava” and I think it was made by Vanessa Wigs. I’ve gotten more photographic use out of that $20 wig than many of my costlier ones; it’s interesting, it’s easy to wear, and it works with so many different looks, believe it or not. Great wig. And those are some older Zenni Optical glasses I got and kept even though they are no  longer the right prescription, because they’re awesome.

Whoo I am all out of words! Which is great, because I’m also all out of photos for now. More to come though, as well as some new wig reviews: Camille by TressAllure (which is really Shilo by Noriko, but with a lace front); Miranda by Amore; Stevie by Amore; Kenzie by Noriko; an updated Code Mono by Ellen Wille; a Seville in Macadamia-LR by Noriko; a May by Noriko; and another Noriko Angelica (also in Macadamia-LR). Sheesh, did I really just admit to buying all of those?! As I may have said before, it’s my birthday this month, so I partied it up a little early with my purchasing. School starts in two weeks anyway, and I know my wig reviewing will either calm WAY down or possibly grind to a complete halt, so I’m getting it all in while I still can! Never fear though – I still have oodles of old vids to upload, so that should continue to either annoy or entertain you through the first semester, at least.

Oh and also – my July Stitch Fix will be here Wednesday, so that’s happening too. What can I say, folks – stay tuned!

Shot Talk

I’ve been so engaged in making wig reviews that I haven’t updated with any photography posts in awhile – I’ve not edited many shots since my Stitch Fix post, since most of my editing time lately has been used up on videos, but I do have a few to share.

But first, speaking of wigs, check out this hilarious description of a wig called “Bailey” by Belle Tress (not familiar with the company):

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Written by former employees of the J. Peterman Catalog

It’s awful enough on its own, but when you see the wig it becomes both awful and completely illogical:

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So, she’s a badass?

The wig is actually kinda cute; may have to try her someday and see if she does, in fact, inspire me to don a leather biker jacket and go out pool-sharking.

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Remember when I said I took some jump pics while shooting for my Stitch Fix post? Well here’s one of them.

And also speaking of wigs, I’ve spent the last week or two trying to learn how to really use my 7D for video beyond just hitting ‘record’ and standing in front of the lens. So far it’s mostly been a failure. I’d like to be able to acheive the clarity and color balance I can now easily do with my photos,  but it still eludes me. I spent all day Saturday (yes it was July 4 but I’m not big on heat, crowds, or fireworks so I stayed home) watching a 9-lesson 7D Video Basics course, making notes, and practicing out loads of test videos to get exactly the look I’ve been wanting – but when I put on my stage makeup and got in front of the camera around 4 PM today it all went to hell. Everything I’d practiced fell apart, for some reason, and I ended up looking like a giant grainy Cheeto in a wig, so I gave up and called it a day.

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I may suck at shooting video, but I’m a Bailey-style badass at photography

It wasn’t until later when expressing my frustrations to my husband and he asked me why I wasn’t just using the Auto settings for videos that I realized I’d not even once considered the idea. I’ve never used Auto settings with a DSLR in my life when taking photos, so the option just never popped into my head (although it’s true that the 7D, as a semi-professional camera, only has one Auto mode, and it isn’t technically “full” auto). I want to continue to figure this whole video shooting thing out, but until I do I will most likely start filming in Auto, because my last few videos have been pretty crappy looking due to my experimentation. I need to experiment with camera settings and picture styles when I’m not also attempting to film a wig review, because nothing sucks worse than taking 20-30 minutes to film one 5-minute wig review and discover after uploading that it looks awful (see my Code Mono review as an example – I think that’s the worst video I’ve shot on the 7D so far; but since it was an already ugly wig the bad camera choices didn’t bother me too much – can’t make that one much uglier than it is in real life). Moving on.

This next one is my favorite of all the Stitch Fix jump shots I took:

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I knew that skirt would be good for photos, which is mainly why I bought it, but it actually wasn’t a flowy material and I had to manipulate it a lot to get it to look right when leaping. Mission accomplished with this one though – I like how the geometric lines of the skirt’s stripes are mirrored by the fairly perfect triangle my body made here. I have many movement shots taken in this skirt that I want to process, but I’ve not had time to look at them yet.

Here’s another jump shot that took some fancy editing:

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Well, not too fancy really; but my left hand in the original shot looked wonky and distracting, so I took my arm from a different shot and layered it over the original. Allow me to explain via before and after (you know how I love those B&A’S):

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And yes, if you’ve ever wondered what a poorly-timed jump shot looks like, there it is on the right.

You can see how my hand in the original looked too big and flipper-like and just generally not appealing, at least not to me. So, I used the left arm of that second shot to replace it. Magic!

That’s all I have for leaping right now, so let’s move on to the baby shower one of my nieces had last weekend.

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In another one of my “wow, you mean there’s an easier way to do this that I should have thought of a long time ago but didn’t” moments, my sister asked me to bring my camera to the shower to take photos for them – something I always dread doing. I don’t have much interest in processing shots such as this,  especially when it takes me so long just to perfect one shot in post and people generally want tons of photos as soon as possible after the event, which leaves me feeling rushed and frustrated. After the shower I immediately came home and set to work editing all the shots I thought were good ones, and after editing the second shot and starting on a third I realized, wait a minute, no one cares about these photos being color balanced, or well-focused, or vividly colored. They just want the shots as a record of the event. So, I stopped editing, converted all the photos from RAW to JPEG using a photo converter I found for free online, and took them straight from my camera and posted them on Facebook for my sister and her daughter to see. Done! Why didn’t I think of that before? It is OK to just shoot in JPEG when the circumstances support it, so I’m glad I did that here. They got to see the photos in a timely manner, and I didn’t die of boredom processing a bunch of shots that didn’t excite me (no offense towards my sister or my niece, of course, but you know what I mean. Eight thousands shots of a woman unwrapping baby gifts gets old FAST). Oh ,and also I took my Canon SL1 to the shower instead of the 7D and it performed nicely once again. I haven’t used that little camera in months, but I’m still glad I bought it (I bought it around this time last year, in fact) and probably should use it more often.

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Now this is what you call attention to detail – yes, my sister did color in the “her” and the “she” on those candy wrappers by hand

Annnd to wrap this up (candy wrappers, get it?), I did get the Urban Gypsy wig in Saturday; i attempted to review it but that’s when I experienced my camera video settings disaster that turned me blurry and orange, so I ended up chucking it and deciding to film it over later. You may or may not be happy to hear that UG has way more hair than the Kell wig by FY I reviewed last week, so it’s much more wearable and not a piece of crap, at least – but it IS a bit cray cray on me:

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That was a very grainy video test shot, so I edited the hell out of it to make it look better; unfortunately getting rid of the noise meant over-smoothing the image, but I did it anyway. As you can see, Urban Gypsy is a LOTTA hair, and pretty wild, but it’s heaps better than Kell and on the right person, and some styling skills, it’s workable, and even fun.

The photo was not all that fun, however, so I zipped on over to Pixlr and jazzed it up:

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As I said before, I should be able to get a decent review of her sometime early this week. We’ll see. And now it’s time to perform my annual dear-God-it’s-12:30-AM-so-why-the-hell-are-you-idiots-still-shooting-off-fireworks ritual of peering out the front windows straining to see which drunk morons are incapable of telling time, then cursing them silently for an hour or two because I’m too chicken to go confront them about it. Because, you know, fireworks involve fire, and usually also involve drunk morons, at least on our street – so I’m not willing to risk it.

Perhaps while i wait for them to calm down I’ll pull up one of my favorite new weird video obsessions: please hit play and enjoy Vitas performing his insane, manic-depressive-space-alien-on-Ecstasy song “The 7th Element.” You will not be able to get this craziness out of your head. And no, Vitas is not the most handsome serial killer the world has ever seen; he’s actually an oddly talented Russian singer who’s some sort of God in his home country, and – not surprisingly – China. He has a beautiful five-octave voice, and if you look him up on YouTube you can find video of him singing a hauntingly beautiful version of Ave Maria while dressed as a freaky space alien. He also performs fairly normal songs while looking like a completely normal human being, but I guess he was going through some sort of wacked-out David Bowie/Pee Wee Herman stage when this was filmed. But for now, just enjoy the madness that is The 7th Element (and in spite of the fact that the poor video quality makes it appear this performance was filmed in the 1980’s, it was actually done in 2000. I love the internet).

Phoning It In

I took some pictures on Saturday that I want to show you, but first I want to share my dumb mistake with you so you hopefully won’t make it too* (see update at the bottom of this post – I heard from the company and they assisted me with the issue after posting this).

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Earlier today a friend of mine told me about this new service she was trying out called Plate.com (not gonna link to it, sorry). Think of it as Stitch Fix for food. Kind of. You sign up and get an assortment of meals sent to you based on your preferences. I’m summing up here, but my friend is a real foodie so I figured if she was liking the service it was probably legit. I went to their website and found I couldn’t even snoop around a little without giving them my email address and registering – not my favorite practice in the world, but some online stores I like do this, so it’s not totally foreign to me. I give them my email and hit ‘register,’ and the next page that pops up asks immediately for my credit card number – this is still before I can view anything on the site except a brief explanation of how the process works. Knowing that it’s a bad idea, I am curious enough to ignore my instincts, enter the card info anyway, and click the ‘next’ button, where I am asked to check off boxes about what I like to eat (the choices were only poultry, seafood, beef, pork, or vegetarian). I click all the appropriate boxes and then BAM – I’m instantly taken to a shopping cart where three meals have been entered in the basket, with a delivery date and everything.

I didn’t pick these dishes, and one of them in particular didn’t sound like something I’d want to eat. But now I could go to their menu, which was surprisingly small although the meals sound fancy; the cheapest one was $12 a plate. Then I found out I had to order a minimum of 4 plates to place an order, so the total here was pretty high. Compared to Stitch Fix, where I pay $20 a month for the service and even that gets deducted from anything I buy, not to mention that I don’t have to buy anything out a shipment if I don’t like any of it, this was sounding like a very different sort of service indeed. Almost $60 just for one week’s worth of food, that I still have to cook after it comes to the door. No thanks.

Then I finally get to read more of the details, and discover that I’m going to be scheduled for weekly shipments unless I clarify that I want to receive them less, and if I cancel an order once it’s been created I’ll be charged $72 to do so. But wait a minute – hasn’t an order already been created for me? Uh-oh.

As things begin to sound more and more shady, and I realize I don’t even care for much of what they’re offering anyway, i decide to cancel my account and get the hell out of there. In total I was probably on the site less than ten minutes. I got an email that my account was canceled, but was also informed that, since I had already scheduled one order, I would be receiving that shipment and then no more. Seriously? I didn’t even want was in the order in the first place. I clicked back to the site where I tried to cancel the order, and you guessed it, a dialogue box informed me that if I did cancel it I’d be charged $72. To cancel an order I didn’t create and didn’t want. In the span of less than ten minutes I’d managed to get charged by this company basically for the privilege of viewing their site.

Except I was the one feeling stupid, because I should have known better. I started to write up a lengthy email complaining, but then I saw where because it was my first “order” I was given a discount, and the total charge was $24 (which they’d deducted from my bank immediately, of course). Rather than deal with the hassle, I am going to let this one shipment come in and chalk it up to a lesson learned. I went and read a lot of Yelp reviews (after giving them  my card information, yep) and found a lot of stories similar to mine, as well as instances where people canceled their accounts only to mysteriously start getting shipments and charges again months later that they have to deal with all over again, so I’m definitely going to cancel this debit card now and get a new number, so they can’t get shady with me in the future. Sigh. It’s always something. Moving on.

Saturday night our art students opened a show at a gallery owned by St. Thomas University in town, so I ventured down there with my boss to check things out. She is from another state and hasn’t been in Texas too long, so while we were there she wanted to wander around the campus and we took a little tour (I also took photos of the students and their artwork, but I’ll be sharing those on my private blog with friends instead of publicly). I didn’t have my camera with me, so I did the best I could taking shots with my phone. Here’s just a few (many of them didn’t turn out all that great):

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Mandala next to the chapel

I didn’t feel like the color in these looked very good, so most of them I processed in black and white.

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Chapel of St. Basil

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It was a nice day as it’s yet to reach the blistering temperatures we’ll probably be enduring by the end of the month, and it has been a long time since I’ve wandered around this part of town myself, so it was fun to see all the changes that have been made to the place (way back in the day, UST sponsored the Houston Poetry Festival when I used to attend – it has since moved to the UH campus downtown).

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Reflection shot, with some chapel detail in the background

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This was the first time in quite awhile that I stopped and thought about taking pictures while out somewhere; lately it hasn’t even occurred to me to do so. I’ve been pretty busy and my mind has been on other things most of the time, so perhaps the fact I finally thought of it again means things are starting to open up again. There are only about 4 more weeks of school until summer break, so that could be it – but these next 4 weeks are pretty brutal, so this could be just a temporary thing. Once summer’s here for real though, I’ll be ready to take more (and better) shots.

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As far as the campus goes, it’s lovely; I don’t know much about it and am too lazy to look anything up, but it’s in a pretty part of town with old houses converted into school buildings, including one former residence of Howard Hughes, and old trees everywhere. So there you go.

I went shopping with a friend on Sunday and took a few more cool pics (with the phone again), but I ran out of time to process them and will have to share them later. Happy Monday everyone, and try not to get ripped off by any food services this week!

*UPDATE: I don’t know if someone from Plate.com read this post or if they were just responding to the little comment I left them when I canceled my account, but their customer service department emailed me today and said they’d refunded my $24 and would not send me a shipment. They were very polite and reassured me that I would not receive any more charges from them. Just wanted to let you all know!

Just Shoot Me

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I have a few more new shots to share, and for some reason I’ve got a lot that have two or more different edits and I can’t decide which I like best. So I’ll use you all for that, if I can. The one above, though, just got one edit and I was done, so no choosing to do there. That top is a Free People long duster that I put on backwards,and the wig has always been a favorite. It’s by Forever Young, a company that makes pretty nice costume-type wigs that you can still get away with wearing as your real hair as long as you have the right attitude, and they don’t cost very much (they average around $40). While wearing this getup, I was shooting without the softbox, so the light was a bit softer on my face, and it was a pretty straightforward and easy photo to edit; I didn’t have to do much more than sharpen and brighten things to get it how I wanted.

Some of these photos, though – I still can’t decide which edit I like best – like these (click to view larger):

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The one in the middle is the basic edit; I’m pleased with the lighting I managed to pull off here (I moved a light stand with a fluorescent bulb attached up over my head and had the external flash on my camera set pretty low) but, because of the low light it came out pretty grainy, and in processing it to remove the grain I lost a lot of clarity. Because of that, I thought I’d add some texture or an overlay to detract and/or conceal the softness (which isn’t bad, and a lot of people like soft shots like that, it’s just not my thing). I actually like all three in their own ways, but can’t decide which is the “best,” or the final one. The one on the left just has some texture added, while I used a Pixlr overlay for the one on the right. Let me know which one you like better so it can help me decide!

I also need help deciding which of these two I like better – the difference is so subtle you might not even notice it, but I can tell:

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The only difference is the subtle texture on the right-hand edit. I thought the original (left) might need just a little something extra, but I don’t know – maybe it doesn’t. Does it matter? Does it add anything? Let me know what you think. Also, let me just add that there was about twice as much flyaway hair in my face than you see in the these shots; it was an absolute bitch to edit out and took a long time; eventually I ended up using some filters that added a ton of light to the face to also help reduce the visibility of not only the hair but some of the editing I did to get rid of it, which started getting sloppy. That’s why there’s such a green tone to it; it was a filter that really worked to reduce the appearance of the flyaway hairs for some reason so I went with it.

Here’s the one shot I got of the Thugmaste tee I talked about in my last post; it was actually difficult for me to get the entire slogan into a shot, because the words at either end of the tag line were disappearing in most of the shots. I ended up taking one of the few shots of my torso where the whole slogan showed and layering a better head over it. So there’s really TWO wigs showing in this shot because when I layered the different head into the shot I kept what hair was sticking out from the bottom one. I liked this one with the black and white treatment, too, but so far everyone I’ve shown has liked the color better. Thoughts?

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Also, although I really liked this shot when I took it, in looking over this section of my set I realize I didn’t have the right attitude for this shirt. I should have done something with more attitude and probably a bit of humor, since as has already been pointed out to me my ability to project “thug” is pretty limited. Just standing there staring at the ceiling really isn’t what this shirt called for, which is probably why when I sent a copy to the woman who made the shirt she just said ‘thanks’ and didn’t do anything with it, LOL. Oh well. You win some you lose some.

As a closer, I’ll share the other shot I had processed that didn’t have any different edits to it; it’s another one where I experimented with a harsh light above my head and off to the side, and I like the way it worked out even though I did have the same noise issue to contend with:

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I used a RadLab texture to rough up the softness a little, but other than that just some color punches and things like that to get this where I liked it. I considered using some of Pixlr’s space-y overlays on this one, but they all detracted too much from the lighting, which I really liked and wanted to keep prominent in the shot.

That’s all I have from the new shoot for this time, but I know there’s more to come – at least of the curly wig and the space dress. The t-shirt section of the shoot I’m pretty much done with, and there was a bit at the beginning of the shoot where I tried to get close-ups of my makeup, but they ended up a little boring so I may not share any of those. However, I still have a few from the edits I’ve done of old shots to share, so I’ll throw them into a little collage for you here:

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Picture Perfect

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I haven’t had much to say this week. but perhaps that’s because things are clicking along smoothly. My father-in-law has managed to stay out of the hospital for almost two months now, which is great, and work is humming along without much trouble also. I need to do exercises for my knee, but it appears there’s no serious injury there, which is good (and of course I’ve yet to start the exercises; I have read the instructions though, so that’s a start). I don’t have much to say here but I do want to share some photos I’ve worked on this week, so let’s get started and I’ll try to say a few things that are interesting.

First of all, the photo up top comes courtesy of Pixlr; they sent out a new batch of overlays to members with a lot of geometric/graphic things going on, so I took one of my makeup test shots from my last shoot and worked it over using their program. Not my usual style, but I do like the results, and I am continuing to get a feel for their layer masking so I can utilize it better.

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I’ve been quite pleased with how many good shots I got during last weekend’s shoot; I’m not sure what I did that generated so many interesting images, but there are a lot I’d like to edit eventually. Perhaps it’s just that I hadn’t done a full shoot in quite a while so it didn’t feel too repetitive, or something with the makeup or lighting that made things work.Whatever it was, I’m loving the results so far, and rather than allow myself to get bored after processing three or four I really want to commit to creating a full set of photos from this shoot. I always feel people will get bored after seeing two or three shots from the same set, but when I think about it, I know loads of people on Flickr who work on photos with the same theme for weeks at a time, and I never get bored of looking at them. In fact, I like the unity it creates, so I want to try that out for myself instead of moving on too quickly. We’ll see if I actually accomplish this or abandon it as soon as something new comes along. I still don’t have a ton of time for shoots right now, so something new might not come along in time to throw me off anyway. Moving on.

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This is one of my many “happy accident” shots. Something you may not know about me is that I am completely challenged kinesthetically; an instruction as simple as “raise your right hand” actually takes me several seconds to process (you should have seen me getting my knee x-rayed earlier this week, the poor lab tech finally just started grabbing me and placing every body part exactly where she wanted it to go, as if I were a mannequin). This is why you almost never see me in self-portraits where the camera is in any position other than dead-on; even turning the camera into vertical mode screws me up and half my shots end up cut off somehow. Well, in this shot, I’d actually raised the camera up higher than right at face-level, then aimed it down a little, just for something slightly different. And as usual when I try something like this, well, I could not get myself placed properly into the shot. It’s actually a little frustrating how difficult it is for me to figure out where to place myself (hard enough for me to do when the camera is in the usual position, believe it or not) but at this point I am used to my complete inability to navigate my body through space effectively, so I just settle for a lot of off-centered pictures and make the most of it. Even though the intention here was to get my entire face in the shot, I actually like how this turned out, so we’ll all just pretend like I intended it to be framed this way and move on.

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This was another makeup test shot; I always find a few I like to process, and I thought I looked very unlike myself in this one, which is why I decided to work with it. It was kinda boring though, so I added a wet plate filter using my Nik software and lots of light and texture to give it some interest. Looking at these shots reinforces for me, once again, how transformative false eyelashes are to a person’s face; I wish like hell they didn’t make me insane and I could wear them every day. But every time I decide to use them in photos, it’s a major ordeal. I decide to use them, open up a pair, steel myself for the application process, attempt to put one side on, screw it up, get the lashes stuck to my fingers, peel them off, re-apply glue, screw up the application again, then yank them off and throw them back into the box and stomp off angrily, refusing to ever even attempt false eyelashes again. Then 30 seconds later, come back and try the other eye, barely get it applied, spend a good minute mashing it into place and settling for however weird it looks and/or feels as long as it actually doesn’t fall off. Then do the same with the other eye. Then, realize how awesome they look and feel sad that there’s no way i could go through this hell on a daily basis (I’m lucky to make it in to work with my foundation and lipstick on; I apply a quick coat or two of mascara and some eyeliner once I get there). I do not know HOW Carol Brady wore these things every day while dealing with six kids. And I sure don’t have Alice around to help me.

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While we’re talking about the prep process for my shoots, I’ll share this part as well: without fail, every time I finally finishing applying all my makeup (false lashes or not), two things will happen almost immediately and simultaneously: my dogs will need to go outside to pee, and I will realize I am hungry. Eating is not something you want to do right after spending an hour putting on stage makeup, so I usually end up ignoring it (I don’t even like to drink anything while shooting no matter how thirsty I get, because lipstick). The dogs I can take care of, but depending on the weather standing outside in my newly-painted face isn’t all that great either. And last time, right after applying all this makeup, I took the dogs out as I always have to do and immediately stepped in a pile of Penny’s poop (she is weird, and sometimes chooses to poop in odd places we don’t expect, like the deck). So there I was all gussied up washing poo off of a shoe in the backyard…good times.

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Another thing that always, always seems to happen is whatever wig I’ve decided to wear for the shoot cannot be found, and I have to literally dump out every bucket full o’wigs I have in the house to find it – where it will always be at the very bottom of the last bin I dump on the floor. Every time this happens, I kick myself for not planning ahead and finding the wig sooner, when I am not already face-prepped for shooting, but every time I forget. It can actually turn into quite a crisis if I really start to feel like I won’t be able to find the wig and have already planned an entire shoot around it (this does happen; so many costume wigs come through my door that I often think I have wigs which I long ago sold or gave away). Bottom line is, after all my prep work and the stress that comes with it just by nature of me being, well, me, by the time I am actually fully costumed and ready to go I’ve already decided at least twice to blow the whole thing off because it’s too much trouble, and am almost ready to do so again. Plus, I’m hungry and can’t eat. In fact, I start almost every shoot from a place of frustration for all the things that have already gone wrong, and trepidation that I won’t actually get anything decent out of the set, in part because of all the things that have gone wrong. So, every shoot begins with a bad attitude and a general sense of being pissed off at the world. See, doesn’t it all sound like fun? This is why I choose to work alone.

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This picture was taken in November, but the sky is from January. There were no clouds on Airshow day, which is death to a plane photo, so I stole the sky from one of my IAH plane shots and Photoshopped it into this one. Voila! 

One other thing I’d like to mention regarding photography is this: I’ve definitely noticed a difference in how certain photos are received on different social media platforms. For example, on Flickr it’s my self portraits that get the biggest response, but when I upload that stuff to Twitter, no one much cares. However, if I post a plane photo I get a ton of love. I’ve gotten more re-tweets and new followers off one plane photo than I’ve ever gotten off any selfie over there; it does seem that loads of aviation geeks are hanging out on Twitter so perhaps it’s just a larger pool of people to access there than on Flickr. For whatever reason, it’s clear the Twitterverse prefers me to share plane photos, so I’ve been doing that and getting connected with a whole new group of people, and that’s kinda cool. I’m hoping maybe some of them can eventually give me tips on how to get shots from places other than the observation areas – something I’m not brave enough to try yet but will have to do soon; the  few observation areas I go to always create the same shots since I’m always standing in the same place (albeit with different planes). Anyway, it’s nice to know that all of my shots can get love from somewhere, even if it’s not always at the same place.

All Dolled Up

When searching eBay for more dolls to shoot, I came across a few that I had when I was a child. My mother used to buy me a Madame Alexander doll every Christmas and birthday, and my favorites were the ones created to represent different countries. As an adult, they often seem ridiculous, having the same European baby-face with little more than an eye and hair color change, but for nostalgia’s sake I picked up a few. They were pretty cheap, and in mint condition – which is a bit of a dilemma now, since my idea was to abuse them a bit for photos (dunk them in water, disassemble them and put them back together in weird ways, etc). I ended up buying a small lot of really trashed ones so I don’t have to be conflicted about destroying the pristine ones I picked up.

I don’t have the trashed dolls in yet, though, so Saturday I decided to take one of the nicer dolls and keep things simple, photographing her against a basic black background and just trying to make her levitate a bit without getting fancy. I wasn’t expecting much out of these shots aside from getting a feel for how to photograph them in a manner I would like. One of the biggest difficulties I had was getting the lighting right; I only managed it on some of the shots as I experimented, while in others things were too bright and flat. But I’m learning. Also, I had her perched on a clear plastic stool, and while it was a decent height and had a nice shiny surface for her to stand on, it required me to squat and crawl around a lot which isn’t good for my already bad knees, so I may have to work on getting something to put the dolls on that is higher and allows me to stand upright.

But first, let’s just check out the doll:

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This is Spain, looking a little constipated for some reason

The Spain doll was always a favorite of mine; as the girliest girl who ever girled, I was gaga over all the ruffles and lace, especially the mantilla on her head. I never did much with these dolls except admire them, since that’s really all one was supposed to do. Their bodies aren’t very bendy and the fussy costumes limit movement even more – not too much of a problem when sitting them on a shelf to add to a collection, but much more so when trying to pose them in odd ways for photos. I guess that’s not what Madame Alexander had in mind for them when she designed them.

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So here’s attempt number one; Miss Spain here is sitting atop a crystal honeypot because I thought it would provide good balance without scrunching up her clothes too much. The only reason I have a crystal honeypot is because when Doug and I got married apparently someone thought I might have use for such a thing (I’m sure this was someone in Doug’s family, as my non-crystal-owning relatives wouldn’t dream of purchasing something like this). Anyway, after much editing here’s the final result:

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Obviously I flipped the picture, since it seemed to work better this way. I’d used an on-camera softbox for some of the shots to hit light directly to her face, since I felt the Speedlite bounced off the ceiling was creating too many shadows there, but in the end I don’t care for the result. The image is too flat, especially in the face, so in the future I’ll stick with just the Speedlite and worry less about shadows. On the plus side, I’m getting better with layer masking, and didn’t have too difficult a time cutting out the image from the original shot and layering it into a shot of the black background. I futzed around a lot in RadLab and Topaz to get the right textures and tones, and in the end added a bit of motion blur to her skirt to give a better effect of movement. Not a great shot, by any means, but since these were just practice shots anyway, it went  better than expected, at least.

I like the next shot better – but let’s start with the original:

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I’d aimed a lot of light behind her here, to help provide an outline against all that black when I had to crop her image out of the picture later, and as you can see without the softbox she has much more dimension and appears softer overall. Again I futzed and edited with RadLab and Topaz, and added texture to the background to disguise some of my sloppier cropping spots (although I really didn’t have too many glaring errors anyway), and well, here you go:

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The goal was to make Miss Spain look like she was floating, obviously, but I don’t think it worked for a couple of reasons. First of all, the subject is a bit too large and takes up too much of the frame, and secondly, she’s already an inanimate object so it’s much less unusual-looking to see her hanging out this way. I hope that makes sense – even though there’s clearly nothing holding her in this position, it appears to be nothing more than a photo of a doll standing that’s been flipped on its side. Again, I think if I’d had more negative space around her body that would have helped, but still, a doll floating against a black background really isn’t that interesting, and I think for these doll shots I may need more setting or context to make them work. Something she’s floating above or in front of, for example, might have made this more effective. In the end, I punted and flipped the shot, and I think it helped a bit:

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For some reason, when flipping it vertically it’s more apparent that the doll isn’t standing on anything, and it looks more like she’s floating or leaping. It bugs me a bit because I filled in all the shadows with the assumption that she’d be laying (lying?) on her back and they aren’t placed properly for this orientation,  but I added enough texture to the background that I think it isn’t too noticeable. And again, much nicer without the fill flash/softbox; the doll looks much more three-dimensional here than in the previous photo.

In the end, both of these were pretty silly shots, really, and were nothing more than some experimentation to get started working with the dolls and seeing what I can do with them. I’m not sure how interesting any of these pics are going to be to anyone else, and it’s possible just a few of my followers will be willing to to go down this road with me, but it’s a subject that interests me right now, so I’m moving forward anyway. I do plan to use myself in some doll shots, too – I’m particularly excited about the Madame Alexander angel and devil dolls I got off Amazon earlier in the week – but as I’ve said many times here, taking self-portraits has gotten a bit boring, and I need something else to occupy my photography-time. Not sure I’ll stick with this long, or even at all, but if it ends up being a bust I still think it’ll lead me somewhere better in the long run. Which is how it always goes with creativity.

Now, allow me to close this out by leaving you with a more horrifying image in relation to my current doll obsession. In searching for MA dolls on eBay, I came across a lot of the company’s baby dolls as well. I have always found baby dolls particularly creepy (and a lot of people apparently find the regular MA ones creepy as well) and at some point got the idea to find THE CREEPIEST BABY DOLL POSSIBLE and splurge on that one, too, just to tap into everyone’s doll fears with some disturbing baby shots at some point in the future. Turns out the person who listed the auction on the doll I purchased had decided to do some of that work for me, as one of the photos of the doll in the auction was probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen:

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SOLD!

Everything about that shot is horrifying: the shadows, the weird angle, the chipped paint on the door hinge – everything. And if you look closely, you can also see that SOMEONE IS CHOKING IT. Honestly, I’m not sure I can ever re-create the horror of this shot, but be prepared to see this little guy haunting you (and me) soon. The auction says it’s a girl, but I think it’s a dude, and for some reason I’ve already named him Sherbet. But that might be sharing too much of the inner workings of my weird mind, so I’ll stop talking now.

Happy Sherbet Sunday!

Doll Shots

I’d planned to do a more elaborate shoot this weekend, but when I woke up Saturday morning and sat down at my computer with my wake-up cup of tea I noticed something: I couldn’t see. Well I could see, really, but the text on the screen was a bit blurry, and with a little experimentation I realized it was only in my right eye. And things weren’t blurry so much as shadowed – I had a touch of double vision, with the second faded image sitting below the real one. I decided to try and get in to see an eye doctor that day, since I had the time, to get an update on my prescription and see what was going on. I called around and found an open appointment at 2:15 at the LensCrafters in  our local mall. Of course,a mall on a Saturday two weekends before Christmas isn’t my favorite place to be, but I wasn’t sure when I’d have time again to get to an optician and I was a little concerned about what might be going on with my eyes, so I braved the crowds and headed out.

Turns out my astigmatism in my right eye has gotten a little worse – not enough to cause alarm, but just enough to create the double vision I was noticing that morning. Who knows how long it’s actually been going on; I guess my eyes were too tired to compensate first thing in the morning and that’s why I finally noticed it. So by 3:30 I was out of the mall with a new prescription – wouldn’t you know this happens just two weeks after I buy two pair of glasses from Zenni? Ah well. They weren’t expensive in the first place, so I bought two more pair with the new prescription and they should be in soon.

All that to say that I ended up taking photos that required less setup. I got out my macro lens and decided to take pictures of this old Madame Alexander doll I have sitting around. Of course, I had to edit the hell out of them afterwards:

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Of all the types of photography I’ve tried, macro has to be the most difficult. Lighting is a real challenge when getting so close to a subject, and the new ring light I bought from Amazon on Black Friday turned out to be a total bust – it wouldn’t even turn on. So, I had to try and use my Speedlight to aim light at the doll, and I was crouching into all sorts of uncomfortable positions, and the lens was terribly heavy, and I had two very warm lights beaming down on me while I crawled all over trying to get decent shots – not to mention that focusing is a bitch too. I only took about 45 shots, and couldn’t tell if any of them were going to be worth anything until I got them loaded onto my computer. Fortunately, there were some keepers:

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I had a hell of a time getting the lens to focus on that little cameo pin; I probably took more shots of it than I did anything else. But I think I got good detail out of that one – Topaz Clarity and InFocus helped with that.

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The doll, of course, doesn’t have skin nearly as pale as my edited pictures, and the lips are a much brighter red, but I liked the ghostly effect of the desaturated tones. I use RadLab’s Dirty Pictures to add texture, since most of the shots seemed to call for a bit of weathering.

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I really wanted a good shot of the doll’s hand reaching out, but in the end I couldn’t get the focus quite right. To disguise that I used Topaz’s Lens Effect to create the split screen you see here.

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I don’t know what to say about this, except that I like it – especially how the texture in the lower left corner looks like it’s smoke or something coming out of the doll’s mouth. I really did get some very nice closeups out of this, considering the doll itself is pretty small. In fact, these shots inspired me to go to eBay and buy a cheap lot of fairly worn-down Madame Alexander dolls, just to see what else I can come up with for  them photographically.

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I’m thinking about trying to make them levitate, and other bits of weirdness like taking them apart and putting them back together wrong, or creating some sort of doll/me photo hybrid. Oh, and drowning them. But we’ll see how much of that I ever actually pull off. It’s a weird experiment and one I’ve never tried before, so I have to prepare for a lot of frustration and disappointment. But sometimes, that’s easier to deal with when you’re not also in a wig and ten pounds of makeup. I think this is it for doll shots and the macro lens, though. Until I get a functional ring light that sucker is too difficult for me to deal with.

Mid-term exams are the next three days, so it may be crazy, but the holidays are almost here! Happy Monday everyone.