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!

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.

Peer One Portraits

Stupid title, but it’s a play on Pier 1, which is where I got all these props. Moving on.

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My initial plan was to wear one of my silvery gray wigs in this getup, but it ended up getting tangled in the garland so I put a thick silver headband on my head, on top of my wig cap, and pinned the poinsettias to that instead. Ended up working out great; I forget how much more difficult long wigs make taking self-portraits. They’re a bit hot under the lights, they get in the way constantly (snagged up in the costume or in my eyes while I’m trying to see what I’m doing or set up a shot), plus they tangle a lot when I’m flinging them around. Believe it or not, having 4 poinsettias clipped to my head was actually easier than putting on one wig! And yes, the poinsettias came with clips attached – I’m sure they are meant to clip to Christmas tree limbs or something, but that’s why i snatched them up, because I knew they’d be super-easy to pin to my head. And they were, except on one of them the clip broke off after about 20 minutes – kinda chintzy for a $5 decoration if you asked me, but then again, I’ve always found Pier 1 to be overpriced. Moving on.

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I was on my way to the register with some other stuff when I spied this white, sparkly garland shoved into a basket and snagged it instead. It was really fun to work with and created some very cool looks – the downside was that it was terribly itchy (then again, it wasn’t created to be worn by a human, so there you go). I loved the shots I got with these props, so much so that I’ve already edited – including the pics I shared yesterday – ten shots! That’s way more than I usually process from a shoot where I didn’t change costumes all that much. But the garland really added interest to the photos, and I found myself struggling to decide which shots to process.

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Remember when I said yesterday how I changed the colors up in every shot? Here I went for an icy blue that’s probably more green than I inteded.

When deciding what shots to edit, I try to find pictures where either my pose or facial expression isn’t so typical, but I do just have one face, after all, and I do tend to make the same faces over and over (which I discussed in a previous post). I think this is where the props can help a lot; to add some visual interest to the photo besides my face. I had very similar expressions going on in all the shots I took with the garland (about 200, in case you wanted to know), but the garland created a lot of interesting shapes and was fairly easy to manipulate. In fact, I totally want to work with it again – it’s very sturdy, and the wires are thick and strong so I can move it into a shape and it will hold it for several poses before it starts to collapse. I could have done a lot more, but as I said, it was terribly itchy and my skin was starting to get irritated, so I had to stop playing around. Plus, there’s only so many shots I need of me in this particular look with the same garland no matter how much I can manipulate it, so I figured I’d stop while I was ahead and leave more to the imagination for a future shoot where I can look completely different.

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Another favorite

As far as the technical stuff, to change things up a bit I used my 70-200 telephoto lens that I normally reserve for plane shots in this shoot. There was no real reason for this other than wanting to try something different and see how the photos turned out; it was nice to have more room to work with while I posed since I could keep the tripod pulled quite far back instead of needing to keep it closer with my 50mm or 85mm prime lenses, but I didn’t get the lovely focus and camera blur those lenses would have provided. Still, it did a good job and for the most part  the auto-focus was dead-on – easier than either one of the prime lenses, in fact, but I guess that finicky focus is why they create such nice portraits in the first place. Another benefit I’d never considered was that I could stand much farther away from the black backdrop, so there was very little light from the flash reflected in it to alter the solid black effect – another thing I probably should have known by now but never did.

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Because I used my Flash Bender on my Speedlite for this shoot, I got a lot of sharp, strong shadows that created some nice black and white shots as well, so there’s quite a few I converted to B&W when processing. I also kept my cheap ring light handy (and managed to knock it over and break it as well, so it’s time to buy another one of those) and for the most part had it set up behind me on a tripod to give my head and shoulders a bit of an outline against the black backdrop; occasionally I also placed it right in front of me to get some catchlights in my eyes. Unfortunately, in some of the tighter close-up shots the ring light tends to create a lot of chromatic aberration that I forgot to edit out (you can see it in the close-up shot from yesterday and the one above), and my eyes came out looking a little pink. I may go back and edit that before uploading to Flickr, but for the blog, pink eyes it is. And by the way, super-easy Photoshop technique for fixing chromatic aberration is located here – a two-minute YouTube tutorial that is simple as pie to do. Has saved my butt on many occasions when working with bright lights and getting all those purple rings around high-contrast areas.

These next few are pretty experimental and I don’t care for them quite as much as the more straightforward shots, but there was so much I wanted to work with here and I started feeling the need to change things up a bit.

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When this shot was taken, the Speedlite failed to go off, so the resulting photo was really dark. This happens several times throughout any shoot, and sometimes I try to process one of the pics to see if anything interesting can come of it. Usually nothing does, and I don’t think this one is very successful either. I pulled it into Pixlr to try and generate some added interest, and honestly I can’t remember what all I did to it there, but in the end, I still don’t think I like it very much. But hey, I tried.

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Mostly I just liked the way the garland was framing my face here; this is another shot I Pixlr’ed like crazy, but I think it worked better here. I used some of their graduated color filters as well as a space filter to make the costume sparkle; I just discovered that Pixlr’s desktop app can utilize masks so I was able to apply the stars without having to add them to my face, which is cool. I love textures and filtered effects, but for the most part I don’t like them to muck up faces, and it’s nice to be able to erase that out now.

Well, that’s probably all I have from this shoot, although I have one or two more I’m still eyeing. But I pretty much marathon-edited this weekend, partly because I had the time, and partly because it’s been a long time since I just worked with portraits and had forgotten how much fun it is. Busy week coming up at work – the week before any vacation is always stressful, and this one is shaping up to be the same, so I may be MIA until the holiday starts next weekend. Happy Monday everyone!

Catting About

Well here it is the middle of the month, and already I am overloaded with photos. I’ve been shooting, if not every day, at least every other day, and the backlog is insane. But I may only have a few weeks off this summer, so I might as well shoot and edit and blog while I can. So let’s get to it.

While jumping about in new clothes Saturday, Simon eventually decided to try and get into the act. Well, he wasn’t trying to get into the pictures so much as he was trying to: a) crawl behind the backdrop and create a big visible lump in it, b) steal the remote after I pressed it and tossed it on the floor (mission accomplished on that one – one of my two remotes is now MIA), and c) attack my skirt and/or feet while I jumped about. I figured if he was doing to get into so much mischief while I tried to shoot, he could at least do me the courtesy of a little modeling.

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He somewhat complied

And yes, I know those little white specks (which are mostly glitter from a previous shoot and Simon’s cat hair) are on the floor again in these photos; I noticed it after I re-sized these and saved them to the blog, so although I went back and edited the originals, I didn’t bother to edit them in the re-sized versions. Sorry. And, lesson learned about the need to seriously clean the black backdrop before shooting. Moving on.

As far as the photo goes, I’ve been learning a little about the burn tool in Photoshop, and how I can use it to enhance shadows; I think it made the movement in the skirt more pronounced here. Those little half-sock thingys are from, of course, Free People, and they are great for photos. I think they are considered some sort of yoga sock, but I wouldn’t really use them for that – I got them because I really don’t think my bare feet look good in my jumping photos (I am not a dancer, so really it’s that I don’t know how to point my toes very well while trying to leap about and I they often come out looking sloppy) so I thought this little half-sock might help distract from my less-than-perfect toes. I think they worked out great for this purpose. Damn that Free People, they really do have absolutely everything I want right now (I also bought some yoga socks with little cut-out toes in them [!], they look great in photos also. I’ll show some pics I took wearing them later).

Let’s talk about this next shot a little. I actually got two shots of me leaping while holding Simon; in the one below, I managed to get some nice height while carrying him, so it was definitely the better shot:

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He looks thrilled, doesn’t he?

But as you can see, my hair was all in my face and the expression I was making wasn’t that great either. I much preferred my head in the other shot I took while holding the cat…

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…but the leap was unimpressive. So, I pulled both shots into Paint Shop Pro and layered one over the other to combine my top half with my bottom half into one perfect jump.

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I know this is the sort of thing a lot of people can do easily, but for me it’s still a chore to pull off, which is why I don’t do it more often. If it didn’t take me so long I’d have more perfect jumps out there, for sure. But I really have to care enough to take the time involved to do this. In this case, it was worth it, even though Simon looks like he’s about to bail on me (he was perfectly fine after the leaping, I promise).

This skirt, by the way, is NOT from Free People; it was purchased at this cheesy boutique called “Everything Bling,” or something like that – a store that is always blaring country music and has loads of rhinestones and lace. Yet every time I go in there I find something cool, so perhaps I shouldn’t be so harsh on the cheesiness of it. Clearly it caters to me on some level. I bought this one in both black and beige and I do wear them everywhere because they are tiered and twirly and fabulous. I always wanted to get photos of it and hadn’t had the time until last weekend.I took a bunch of photos in this skirt, but the focus was off in most of the shots and I felt like they came out soft, so I didn’t process many of them.  I did edit this next one, but I don’t really like how it came out; still not sure if I like it at all. What I do like is how it shows the great movement of the skirt.

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I added blur since I felt it was a little soft and figured I’d make it look intentional. I even tried pulling this into Pixlr to see if I liked it better, but I’m not sure I do.

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I dunno – I’m still meh about it. I did like this next one, though, if for no other reason than because it’s a particular leap I’m always trying to pull off and not accomplishing, and I managed to kind of do it here – kind of a little ankle-kick while leaning slightly forward (my technical dance terms, don’t you know). It would have been better if I’d been in profile, but when you’re as uncoordinated as I am you take what you get.

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I hope you all noticed, also, that I took all these jump shots in  my natural hair. We’ll talk about the four months’ worth of regrowth at the roots later, mmm’kay? Anyway, more yoga toes tomorrow!

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:

Mila1

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:

Mila2_Snapseed
Before
Mila2a_Snapseed
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:

MilaJump3a_pxr

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:

MilaJump2_Snapseed

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:

MilaJump1_Snapseed

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:

MilaJump1_Snapseed_pxr

 

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!

Groceries! Part whatever.

I’ve captured a few interesting shots here and there lately, so it’s time to share. I’m gonna save my fave for last, but let’s start with this one, found in the cheap wine section:

single
That pretty much sums up the attitude of people who buy box wine. YEP.

I’ve been wanting to capture this little mixed message for several trips now, but located as it is at the front doors to the store, and given the fact that I never remember about it until I’m on my way out and my phone is already stored away, it’s been a hard one to catch. But on a recent quick trip where I was just picking up a few things I remembered to leave my phone out, and although the shot’s a little blurred I think you can still make out the quandary this might put a shopper in if she or he is too literal-minded:

comeheregoaway
I’m not sure what to do here.

I passed by these pastel-colored booze bottles on the way to the checkout line one day (didn’t pay attention to what sort of booze they contain) and couldn’t resist a quick snap. On its own the picture wasn’t worth much so I gave it the Pixlr treatment:

bottles
What happens to your vision if you drink too many of these.

This is one of my favorite iPhone captures of recent memory. This little heart post-it was stuck to the parking lot concrete right behind some dude who was getting out of his car when I stopped to take the photo; he looked at me like I was bonkers, but he did keep his feet out of the shot.

heartlot
When searching for art in the everyday, be sure to look down on occasion.

Outtakes

Still really sick. Haven’t felt this crummy in several years. Too sick to write in complete sentences, obviously. Who needs subjects anyway? Predicates rule.

Found this broken piece of ornament on the pavement by the school’s bell tower. No idea why it’s there in the middle of August, or what sort of ornament it might be other than a Christmas one. Anyway, great colors.

ornament

I also found a little graffiti inside the tower; being a good employee I was sure to tell the facilities manager it was there so they can clean it up. Hey, love graffiti is still graffiti, after all.

love

This is the shot I referenced in my previous post about taking these photos; my friend had the idea to shove the crepe myrtle branch over so it would show up in the shot and I was focused too far out, capturing her hands in the shot. I don’t know why, but this really cracks me up (we did get a much nicer shot when I focused in more closely; she’s still pushing the branches over so they show up in the picture).

025_Snapseed

OK, this last shot I love. We were taking some photos from the school’s balcony when I noticed this weird mannequin head in the window of a teacher’s classroom. I have no idea why the teacher owns this thing; who knows – I popped off this shot really quickly and loved everything about it, even in the LCD screen. The shadows and reflections are just perfect, at least in my opinion. Not exactly what the advancement director wanted for her school brochure, but this is definitely the shot that made the whole day worthwhile for me.

face

That’s all for today…back to bed.

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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