Posted in Daisy, doll adventure, doll photography, Fashion dolls, graphic novel, Lily, miniature adventure, miniature photography, photo novel, Rosie, toy adventure, toy photography, Wildflower dolls

Episode 26 – Uncovering the Past

In Lily’s last episode, she held a picture of Daisy and painted her standing outside the Secret Garden shop. We continue her story later that same day.

Outside the Secret Garden flower shop
Inside the flower shop
Through the flower shop curtain
Lily and Daisy look at old photos
Lily calls James
Young daisy encounter
Toddler Daisy and baby Rosie rescued by hero librarian

*****

I had a lot of fun with the transitions this week – panning through the shop, doing the split screen call, and following James’ story of finding Daisy for the first time (with an intentional throwback to the picture of Daisy, terrified, in the Cado/Camellia fight scene). The one thing I’m really struggling with is that it feels more like a technical exercise than an artistic one – interesting, but none of the wow feeling I get when something seems a little magical. I’m assuming that I’ll learn how to blend the technical with the artistic and get back to wow.

I also used the puppet warp trick to get James to hold a phone. James, like most male Barbie-type dolls, is barely bendable. I can line up his arm with his ear, but it’s a good inch or so away from it. So, I selected the arm and choose Edit – Puppet Warp. Then I put in a few pins to define the areas I wanted *not* to warp, and then put one pin in his hand to grab for the warping. Then I dragged that pin into position to move his arm. Not nearly as realistic as Lily’s Made-to-move Barbie arm placement, but better than what I started with.

And I used the Overlay blending mode one more time to overlay the Hero Librarian story on the picture of Daisy and James.

Next week, I follow one of my other stories. If the weather holds out, I’ll let the two sisters in the Up Above treehouse adventure go and plan out where they’re going to start building. Fortunately for me, we had a real bang up wind storm here a few weeks back, so I’ve got lots and lots of branches to choose from to find the right tree 🙂

Posted in Daisy, doll photography, Fashion dolls, general discussion, graphic novel, Lily, miniature photography, Photography, Photoshop, toy photography

The sequential art of dolls – Scott McCloud’s Making Comics

I read Scott McCloud’s “Understanding comics” years ago, when I was thinking of making an adventure game. It’s a high-level look at the art of comics – well worth a read if you’re doing anything in the realm of sequential art. I’d missed his more practical guide – “Making Comics” – which is totally fantastic for what I’m working on now.

I’m only through the first chapter, and I’m already overwhelmed (in a good way) with great ideas.

Here’s just one really useful way of looking at sequential art – what are the transitions between the panels? He lists six different types, and what they’re useful for.

* Moment to moment: A single action portrayed in a series of moments. Creates a movie-like effect, and is useful for slowing the action down. I notice I use this a lot for Camellia’s episodes, like the slow approach of the panther in Episode 13: Danger afoot or dolls in danger
* Action to action: A single subject in a series of actions. Efficient, and moves the plot along at a brisk pace. I tend to use this in my “plot-ty” episodes, where I’m trying to drive the plot forward, for example in Lily’s second episode where I have to communicate both that she has some special ability to paint lost objects, and that something has happened to her daughter.
* Subject to subject: A series of changing subjects within a single scene. Also drive the plot forward, but are used more for dialog. Since I don’t have dialog in my doll adventure, I don’t tend to use this much, although I did do it when I wanted to pick out what each one of Daisy’s friends was working on in Episode 15: Putting the pieces together
* Scene to scene: Transitions across significant distances of time and space: Help to compress a story by leaping across time and space. The most obvious examples of this in my doll adventure is the movement between Rosie’s real and dream states, like the distance between Episode 6: Rosie’s Doll Adventure, Part 1 and Episode 10: Rosie’s doll adventure, part 2
* Aspect to aspect: Transitions from one aspect of a place, idea, or mood to another. These create a sense of mood by making time stand still and allowing the eye to wander. Interesting idea, and I don’t think I’ve ever used it.
and finally
* Non-sequitur: A series of unrelated images and words.Because . . . why not. It may seem like I’ve done this, but I haven’t 🙂

And that’s just three pages worth of ideas.

I worked a lot on transitions this week. One that I’ve never really done is using framing shots to place an event. This is a kind of aspect-to-aspect that you see all the time in movies (start with a shot of a city, jump to a shop, focus in a single character), and it works to place the subject within a context. I used it this week to explain something that I’d have to explain in words otherwise (and, again, spoiler alert) – what’s the relation between the Secret Garden photo that Daisy has and the places where we see Lily?

So, spoiler, Lily owns the shop. Her apartment is behind it and out back from her apartment is the garden I often picture her in. Easy to tell if I were making a movie, but not so easy in a doll adventure. I was originally going to build a flower shop for her, but it just seemed like a ton of effort for a tiny piece of information. Instead, I’m using the aspect to aspect to tie the places together.

The curtain in the back of the shop is actually a separate image that I placed over what used to be the front door of the flower shop in the original image, and then I use it as a layer in the final shot and set the layer blending mode to “overlay” to make it so that you could see the picture of Lily and Daisy behind the curtain.

Anyway, Friday’s episode is going to be full of transitions – I even use a split frame in one to create a kind of dialog between two characters who are separated in space.

Posted in BJD, doll photography, Fashion dolls, miniature photography, Photography, Photoshop, toy photography

Through the miracle of Photoshop – changing your doll’s expression

I love my dolls’ faces – all of them – but in the midst of an episode I’m often struck by the unanimated expressions of inanimate objects. I hit this most often with Daisy, who has a decided happy expression on her face through all manner of unsettling experiences. (Oddly, Camellia’s expression is suitable to just about any adventure.)

I’ve played around with changing expressions before, by going and fiddling pixel by pixel, but in the midst of my Photoshop tutorials over the weekend, I ran across the “liquefy expression” tool.

Before I show you the details of the tool, here’s the effect.

First, here’s my Strawberry doll (one of the doll in the Up Above treehouse adventure) with her normal expression:

Adorable, but she’s going to have all kinds of adventures that make her smile. Here’s a 30 second adjustment to change her mood

And here’s a similar transformation with Amy. I’ve taken her from her normal, somewhat curious expression:

To a slightly shocked response

If you want to try it out with your own copy of Photoshop, here are the steps.

First, start with a head on (or mainly head on) shot. The tool works by automatically recognizing the parts of the face, which it can only do if you photograph head on.

Then, click on the layer containing the dolls face and choose Filter -> Liquify.

If Photoshop recognizes the face in your image, the Liquify tool will come up with the Face tool automatically selected and you’ll see white markers around the region it identifies as the face.

Then, it’s just a simple matter of playing around the possibilities. You can either drag the handles on the face itself, or use the slides in the panel.

For Strawberry’s smile, I just increased the Smile slider.

For Amy’s shocked look, I decreased the smile, widened her mouth, opened her mouth slightly, and increased the size of her eyes.

There are more freeform ways of making these kinds of changes. Under the Edit menu, there’s something called “Puppet warp” that lets you identify any area and then warp it into new positions. I played around with this for about 10 minutes and successfully changed the position of Daisy’s arm in one of her shots. But, it’s easier to get things wrong with the more complex tools. The liquefy tool, OTOH, is super simple. Just drag the sliders until you get the effect you want.

One thing I did notice is that neutral-faced dolls (like Amy and Strawberry) are easier to change than smiling/frowning dolls. With Daisy’s natural smile, even a “full frown” setting just makes her mouth neutral.

For this week’s episode – one of Daisy’s – I’m going to continue my Photoshop lessons, and I have a book from Scott McCloud (of Understanding Comics) to really explore the panel nature of telling stories.

Posted in doll adventure, doll photography, Fashion dolls, graphic novel, miniature adventure, miniature photography, photo novel, Photography, Photoshop, Rosie, toy adventure, toy photography, Wildflower dolls

Episode 25: Rosie’s bird adventure, part 2

In our last episode, a falcon appeared in the garden while Rosie slept. Rosie’s story continues.

The faclon flies away with Rosie
Rosie, the raven, and the falcon in Klimt’s garden
Rosie meets the king of the birds
Rosie and the king of the birds
Rosie receives a nest
The falcon flies Rosie back home
Rosie is back at home

*****

All paintings from Gustav Klimt, who lends himself to birds :). I’d wanted to use Chagall, whose dream-like worlds fit the dreamy nature of Rosie’s adventures, but he’s already crammed so many objects into his paintings I couldn’t find a place to stick in a bird adventure.

Goodwill came through again for me yesterday, with the most fabulously ornamented peacock to serve as the king of birds.

Next week, we start on the 8th sequence in our adventure, and I have to decide whether I’m going to spend the week casting bricks for Lily’s garden.

Posted in doll photography, Fashion dolls, miniature photography, Photography, Photoshop, Rosie, toy photography, Wildflower dolls

Angles of motion and selecting in Photoshop

I’ve been working on the first photograph from Rosie’s bird adventure – the photo where she’s flying off with the bird.

Here’s where I started.

Just me, holding Rosie and the falcon above my head while I photograph upwards.

For Rosie’s dream shots, I always use a painting in the background. For this episode, I’m using Klimt’s paintings.

To replace the background, I need to use Photoshop to select out Rosie and the falcon, which is always a hassle because Rosie has that crazy hair. This time, after finishing my training on selecting objects in Photoshop, I use the magic wand instead of the quick select. I’d never tried the magic wand before, but it turns out to be perfect for this kind of thing because it selects all pixels of similar colors. Since the sky is blue, but there’s no blue in the main objects, I click the magic wand on the sky and everything but Rosie, the bird, and the trees is selected. Then I invert my selection (to select everything but the sky) and copy it to a new layer. Finally, I select the trees with the quick select tool and delete them, since they’re going to be hard to match to the new background.

For the background painting, I use Bing to search for images. Bing isn’t my usual search tool, but it has a filter for image size, so I use it when I need to search for a high resolution background image (which I need if I’m going to fill in the background in a high resolution shot). I end up using the one which looks most similar to the background in the shot – a painting called “Fruit trees.”

Based on the cinematography book I’m reading, the bird is approaching from the wrong side of the shot. This is the “difficult climb” angle (from bottom right to upper left). I want an easy climb, so I flip the image horizontally in Photoshop, and then use transform to slightly increase the climbing angle. I also use transform to change the angle of the background image, to match the angle of the trees in my original shot.

My last step is to blur the background a bit to give the impression of flying. I’m using a motion blur filter (just on the background) at about 45 degrees.

I spent a long time trying to get the strands of Rosie’s hair to look right, but I haven’t figured out how to paint a bit of blur – I guess I’ll get that in a later lesson.

Anyway, here’s the finished shot.

Now I just have to match up my bird figures with my Klimt paintings and see how the story shakes out. For Rosie’s dreams, I only plan out the subject and the gift she receives at the end. The rest of the frames are dictated by what objects I have and what paintings I can find.

Posted in doll photography, Photoshop

Lots of learning about photography, but no pictures

One of the benefits of my new backwards weeks is that I can sit down and learn new things, instead of rushing through a photoshoot.

That’s what I did this weekend.

I’m working through two books. One is a Photoshop training guide. Nothing exciting, but I’ve learned a ton of things about selecting objects and a bit about creating filters. All very useful. And that was my task for Sunday – learn more about selecting objects. Especially, figure out how to select them without grabbing all kinds of bits of the background I don’t want in the object I do want. I think I’ve learned a lot – we’ll see how it plays out in Rosie’s episode.

The other book is much more exciting. It’s called Cinematic storytelling, and it’s all about the kind of visual language used in movies to convey ideas through images alone. I’ve looked through two chapters so far, and I’m going to try to put at least one of the ideas into practice this week.

The first chapter is about arranging objects along the X, Y, and Z axes. Sounds dull, but it’s really interesting. Because we read left-to-right, top-to-bottom, movement in different directions along these axes elicits different emotions. According to the book, a cinematic standard is to introduce good guys from the left, and bad guys from the left. Another idea that falls out of this is the sense of ease in motion. An object moving from the top left to bottom right has the feeling of easy movement, while the most difficult movement is in the reverse direction – bottom right to top left.

I’m not sure how all of this will play out in Rosie’s next episode, but I realized that I could really have used one trick of moving along the Z axis in her first episode. Instead of suddenly introducing the very large bird right beside her, it would have been more interesting to introduce him as a small object in the background first, where you could imagine he was a normal sized bird – and then move him closer to reveal his size.

The second chapter had to do with composition. One trick I’ve used already is directing the eye with light and shadow. They also suggest playing around with orientation (like characters pictured upside down) and balance and imbalance.

So, that’s been my weekend. Lots of movement, but no photos so show for it. Here’s an unrelated picture I took over the weekend – Jinjur with her new bulldog

He’s absolutely perfect for her, and altogether one of the most satisfying small expenditures I’ve made. He’s solid and sturdy and has oodles of character.

I’m planning on taking some shots on Monday and Tuesday, so I should at least have most of my non-Photoshopped images taken by my next post on Wednesday.

Posted in Camellia, diorama, doll adventure, doll photography, Fashion dolls, graphic novel, miniature adventure, miniature photography, photo novel, Photoshop, toy adventure, toy photography, Wildflower dolls

Episode 24: Camellia finds a friend

In our last episode, Camellia received a gift of clothing and food.

The next morning, she leaves the camp to gather fruit. The panther doesn’t follow and stays in camp.

Camellia leaves the camp to gather fruit
Camellia gathers fruit

When Camellia returns to camp, she sees the panther standing by a stranger . .

Camellia returns to camp to find the panther standing by a stranger

Together, they work on building a hut . . .

Until they’ve completed a rough structure

The stranger builds a fire . . .

. . . while Camellia starts to tell her story.

 

******

So, hey, who found the “render clouds” filter on Photoshop? 🙂

I ended up learning a lot about all of Photoshop’s filters. I also spent a long time standing in the dark in my workshop garage waiting for my camera to gather another light from the LED tea light to expose a photo. I’m really happy with the result – warm light, and I accidentally managed to make the whole crew one-eyed!

I’ve really enjoyed my backwards week – it’s given me a clear task to work on each day, and given me enough time to really work out some kinks before I post my story.

We’ll see how it works next week, when Rosie’s bird adventure continues.