Boudicca Amat is an amazing SL photographer, among other things, and I am glad that she kindly accepted my invitation to write a post in collaboration with me, aiming to discuss photography in Second Life. The idea came to my mind as I checked the comments, on Flickr, on a variety of photos taken by SLers. As always, people would generally say “wow, well done, congratulations, fantastic pic”. I love when someone says stuff like that about my photos. Still, I missed comments – including by myself – explaining why they liked this or that particular picture, or a discussion on how a certain result could be achieved.
With that in mind, I contacted Boudicca. This is the game that I suggested: I would choose two pictures by her on Flickr and would comment on them, and she would choose two pictures by me and do the same. As I mentioned, she said yes. So, what we will do here is to share with other people what goes through our minds when we observe the selected photos. Maybe this will also reveal a bit of what we, ourselves, think about when we are taking our own pics. I hope readers enjoy it.
BA – ouch, photo by Boudicca Amat
Comment by Ricco Saenz: First of all, what calls my attention on this picture is its theme. I don’t know if it was Boudicca’s intention or not, but, in my mind, this photo relates to the dancers painted by Edgard Degas in the late 19th century and early 20th century. The photo here and Degas’ paintings seem so perfectly linked that I hadn’t immediately noticed that the ballerina, in Boudicca’s image, wasn’t wearing a tutu. But Boudicca’s picture has its own merits, it’s not just an image that reminds me of a famous painter. It’s also very human and extraordinarily ordinary – and let me elaborate on that.
Unless one is taking a picture in a party or registering a casual moment with friends, of course our avatars are posing specifically for our shots. I mean, avatars have to jump on a pose ball or activate a pose animation in order to adopt a certain position. There is no other way in Second Life. Still, Boudicca’s photo doesn’t seem to depict a model in a model pose – like many others do. Quite the opposite, it shows a dancer in a somewhat mundane situation: taking care of her sore toe. This is powerful, because it makes the virtual scene look more real.
On a technical note, light is warm but delicate, what enhances the feeling of intimacy and empathy with the subject. There are two light sources (which often happens in the atomic world as well): one on the left side and one before the dancer – and that’s why we can see shadows in two directions, towards the right side and towards the wall on the background. Also, the composition is very well-balanced, with no element exactly on the very central point: the ballerina is on the lower center-left zone of the picture; the chair, on the upper center-right area. They interconnect: our eyes can easily follow a way that starts on the dancer’s right foot, goes up along her leg, reaches her torso, her left arm and smoothly moves to the chair. The darkened edges help directing our attention to the subject. Finally, noise on the photo emulates the granularity of fast analogical films, reinforcing the impression of a shot in a closed, limitedly illuminated room.
Caravan at night, photo by Ricco Saenz
Comment by Boudicca Amat: This picture has long been a favourite of mine. The saturated colour, the dark – almost silhouette – figures and the pale glowing moon really sing out to me.
An image of just three colours – a perfect shade of blue to complement the black and white. Overall it seems, at first glance, to be a somewhat simple image. But the expanse of the dunes, and of the sky, perfectly balance the details in the figure groups.
The composition as a whole has a flow that transcends the horizon ‘rule’ of placing it almost anywhere but central. It’s horizon is not flat, or boring, it gently undulates and serves to link land and sky. The flow of the dune at right of the image leads the eye to the foreground figures which, in turn, draw the eye upward to the rumpled edge of the horizon, the largest breaking into the sky ‘space’.
Land and sky are perfectly balanced. The pinpoints of scattered stars serving to break up the blue field, and there is just enough texture in the dunes to make them interesting, but never distracting.
This picture has a soothing quality, but also an underlying strength. It’s an image I would happily hang in my virtual gallery!
BA – Amo, photo by Boudicca Amat
Comment by Ricco Saenz: This picture is touching image, besides being a very well-succeeded technical experience.It is a close-up and, as such, it takes the observer closer to the subject, to the guy being photographed. Such a closeness always has the potential of increasing the emotional involvement with the photo.
It’s also a black-and-white photo – and black-and-whites may be either about shapes or contrast. This one, I’d say, is more about contrast, which is soft on it. There are no hard lights on the image, and shadows are not so dark. That characteristic prevents disparities and reduces the scene’s dramatic impact – another positive point, for it ballances both the already mentioned involvement brought by close-ups and the other deeply emotional element on the guy’s face: the tear drop.
The tear drop is the well-succeeded technical experience that I was refering to. Boudicca reveals on the pictrue description, on Flickr, that tears, on this image, are projected textures. I assume she means that she projected a texture on the guy’s face by means of a secondary light source coming from a prim. It is possible to do that without changing so much the whole contrast scheme created by a primary light source, which could be the sun as defined by Windlight settings. If that’s what she did, it’s a very imaginative solution for adding elements to the shots. Wow!
Also, the tears are probably the most meaningful single item on this scene. They really change what the guy’s face expresses. In that sense, too, his face works somehow like a screen where the tears evolve in their beauty and strength.
Villa Spain, photo by Ricco Saez
Comment by Boudicca Amat: Another deceptively simple image. Almost – but not quite – symmetrical, it appeals to our love of all things ‘neat and tidy’. But look closer and it is rich in colour and texture, balancing light and shade, with lines and angles that the human brain finds so pleasing. It is an image of parts that form a cohesive Whole.
Every part of the picture has much to interest the viewer. Not just in it’s colours and tones, but in the glimpses of tiled floors, carved pillars and balustrades – they move the eyes across the image. And their shadows, provide a foil to the brightness of the lighting.
Perfectly framed by the lines of the roofing, the eye is drawn to the intricate central tile design. The shadows to its left – and the only real element in the picture that has a curve – almost drags the eyes to the central motif. The shadow falling across it adds yet more interest, the straight lines of the shadow’s edge echoing and highlighting the overall composition.
This is a new picture taken by Ricco, but one destined to linger in my mind for a long time to come. Yet another ‘space’ on my virtual gallery wall has been filled.
On how the pictures were chosen
Boudicca Amat: Well, that was hard! Choosing just two pictures was agonising and took me quite a few tries […]. I whittled and whittled until I had maybe 6 left. But throughout the entire process the Caravan kept drawing me back. Choosing its partner was the issue. And then I read [Ricco’s] posts about architecture… and saw the accompanying Flickr pictures and my search was over!
I’ve never thought of myself as a lover of abstract art. But both of the images I have chosen have very strong abstract characteristics about them – a controlled palette, simple lines. So maybe [Ricco has] converted me somewhat!
Ricco Saenz: I opened all the pictures that I thought I would like to write about, and allowed them to “touch me”. I ended up with three pictures. I slept on them and, the following day, I had made my choices. Actually, the opposite describes the process better: the photos chose me.