How is it that more than one year after beginning this column, I am still finding new Second Life photographers whose work takes my breath away. I was at The Velvet last Sunday spinning my weekly Jazz set when I was asked to DJ a show opening at Elephant & Seadryke Gallery on short notice. Since I was free, I happily agreed. I was even happier when I arrived and discovered the fabulous art of Stephen Venkman, landscapes and portraits that show true mastery of light and texture. I have to confess that the gallery was stunning as well, an outdoor natural stone theater that felt almost druidic in its naturalistic simplicity.
Consider Sea Salt, one of Stephen Venkman’s works on display. You can get lost in the rich dark shadows and get burned by the sunlight. There is such contrast between the light and the dark that you feel as though every possibility is captured in the picture. With so much of the land in shadow, the detail that is still revealed with complete clarity is stunning. In terms of composition, the horizon follows the Rule of Thirds. He also cunningly creates and ess-curve with the land and water that draws us in toward the horizon. This is a masterpiece and worth going to the gallery all by itself.
A Dream of the Past, also by Venkman, is another masterful example of light and shadow in the hands of someone who is not afraid of extremes. The contrast is high so the white is white and the black is black and there is no muddy middle. By layering texture overlays, he adds the impression and depth of brush strokes taking this from a photograph to digital art with a very painterly feel. This picture makes me think of two wildly antipodal forms of painting, antipodal not just because they are so different, but because they come from nearly opposite sides of the globe. The light makes me think of Hudson River School paintings from Thomas Cole and Asher Durand while the silhouette and simplicity make me think of Japanese sumi-e. Wherever the inspiration, I love the somber tones and milky skies and look forward to many more works from Venkman in the future.
I like this vendor photo, When the King’s Away, by posemaker DeeDee Deepdene. I am always struck by how beautifully she casts light and shadow on her avatar. Her hair is always so wonderfully back-lit it seems on fire with light. The light trails along her skin, highlighting her curves and her pose. I also love the way she adjusted the hue to make this a duotone so all the focus is on the subject. That’s a very smart choice when the details of the rich brocade chair could overwhelm the picture. By simplifying the colors, the avatar remains the most important element.
Through the Shadows, a portrait by Socrates Saher, has powerful immediacy with his body leaning forward toward the viewer. While centering a photo can often make it appear static and lifeless, that does not happen with this picture for several reasons. There is movement suggested by his body position, his head jutting forward, one shoulder higher than the other. There is also the dynamic element of the light coming so powerfully from one side while enveloping the other in shadow. Altogether, this creates a portrait with intensity and magnetism that will demand you stop and look at it.
This photo by Petra Messioptra for Vitabela is amazing. I love the light on her hair, how natural it looks. She makes her photo dynamic by cropping part of the head away, forcing us to interact with the picture by completing it. She also follows the rule of thirds, the head taking two-thirds and the background one-third and the eyes falling at two-thirds of the way up. This gives the picture focus and makes our synapses snap with pleasure.
With the advent of mesh breasts, my contacts on Flickr have been overrun with breasts. While I admire the enthusiasm and appreciate the new innovation, I have not been an uncritical admirer in large part because the breasts just don’t look right in most pictures. When I saw this picture from Clark Bowenford, I finally saw one that I thought worked well with the shape and slope of the breasts. Notice how her shoulders and back arch. That position is one that would make the breast slope so wide apart so they look right and appropriately shaped for this pose. I love the way she cropped the photo and the feeling of tension in her pose from her arched shoulders to her splayed fingers. You might also notice that she follows the rule of thirds, placing the breasts so the nipples fall two-thirds of the way up the picture – on a sightline that will draw our eyes more effectively. (As if one were needed!)
This picture from Citta Wiskee has all the charm and intimacy of a snap taken among friends hanging out on a sunny day. It feels fresh, immediate and spontaneous with no sense of planning,composition, posing, lighting and fiddling with settings and depth of field and windlight and every other thing that went into making it appear so easy and spontaneous. I love it.
I like this photo from Gogo for JuicyBomb. She is using the rule of threes with the placement of the horizon, the sheep and the subject. She also uses the Rule of Odds, having three sheep in row behind her. The picture is clever and though she is wearing a bear suit, it still makes me think of the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” idea with the fleecy fur she has on.
This photo from Estela Parx is another striking portrait that works despite being centered in the frame. Of course, since it is a profile, it has a sense of movement forward in the first place. That is strengthened by the pose, particularly with the subject looking upward. It is striking in its simplicity. The details are so sharp and defined and there is just the tiniest bit of vignette darkening the edges of the portrait to focus our eyes inward.
I like this photo by Kidman Latte for Kidman’s Palette. I like the use of lighting to highlight her outfit. I love how the shadows cast lines that add not only light and shadow, but repeating diagonal lines – something our eyes have been conditioned to respond to. You can see the railing in the background forming a horizon of sorts at one-third of the way up. The subject is off center and looking into the frame. With the many repeating lines and angles, this picture gives us a lot to respond to without being busy or complicated.
I love this picture from Hybie Mynx for It’s Only Fashion. This seems like a portrait done by one of the pre-Raphaelites with its romanticism, love of nature and mythic folklore. There’s a fairy, a forest alive with flowers that glister and it is all perfect and beautiful. Even the skin seems lit from within like a pre-Raphaelite masterpiece. In term sof the composition, not only does it have beautiful contrast of light and dark, but notice how the flowers and grass angle toward where she is standing, creating a frame for the subject who is centered one-third of the way from the edge. It’s beautiful, simple and the stuff that dreams are made of.