Monday, March 23, 2009

Undead Bloodsucking Orchids from Outer Space

My wife looked at me and asked me if I wanted to go with her to an orchid show.

"Do I want to?" I asked.

Sheree (my much better half) sighed and waited patiently. A hundred excuses came to mind, but when I looked into those clear blue eyes, I realized that an orchid show with her would be much better than sitting at home. So I went.

I hated it.

I don't like flowers and I have seem SO many freaking flower shots on flickr that I could cough up a petalball. But I decided to make the most of it. I took out my camera, sucked on my teeth (a thing I do when I am asking myself what the hell I am doing where ever I happen to be while I am sucking my teeth) and looked around for something that poked the creative muse.


I decided to settle for something...anything...even distantly interesting.


So I sighed and started shooting.

I didn't even cut the images off my card for three weeks. When I did, it was to get at some other pictures I had taken that I WANTED to work on.

Then one afternoon, I started poking at the stupid flower pictures. Have you ever done that? No idea what you were going to create...just...well poking at the things. I took a LOT of orchid images that night. I started thinking about orchids. I started thinking in terms of opposites.

How about vampire orchids? Hmmm...the idea made me smile.

I have been having a wonderful time ever since then playing with these pictures.

The one at the top of the blog is a composite, built inside Photoshop, and was built almost entirely out of plug-ins. The planet is done with Flaming Pear's Lunar Cell, the stem is a photo I took of a flower my wife had hanging around the house. Linking it to the planet is a simple star.

The motion was added using Alien Skin's Motion Trail. The only actual photo is of the orchid. The entire process took me about thirty minutes.

This one was even faster: I shot a close up of one of the fricking orchids and turned it upside down. The trail of dust was done FINALLY using Alien Skin's Fairy Dust plug-in from one of the all time BEST plug-in sets: Mystical Lighting. (This one is difficult to use...but well worth the investment of time.)

I am currently doing a series on my flickr site featuring these images, coupled with shots we took on the trip to Brazil. It's written as a Sherlock Holmes story with a twist toward the absurd. Here's the link if you want to know more:

So what's the point of this blog?

Three things, I think.

1) There's always something to photograph, even in places that otherwise really suck.

2) Plug-ins can do very cool stuff very quickly. It doesn't negate the skill of the user. I am all in favor of long as I can get the exact effect I am looking for. It's true that sometimes you need to spend as much time learning plug-is as you did learning some aspects of Photoshop.

3) You can get wonderful results if you try HARD to look at something from a completely new viewpoint.

I really appreciate the emails, folks. Don't sweat it, okay? Sheree and I are about two weeks away from the next trip (this one goes to England, Ireland and many places in-between) and we are in the process of moving our company from one place to another.

We're very busy.

But I still think about all you folks. Often.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bad Ideas and How to Avoid Them

The other day my wife, who ordinarily gives jaw-dropping gifts, gave me a new toothbrush. It was a battery powered jobbie that does the heavy tooth stroking for me. Not only did it clean my teeth with a minimum of effort from me, but it also played the classic Queen hit "We Will Rock You."

It's a clever idea. Each time I bend the toothbrush against my teeth Freddie Mercury starts singing. In my mouth. And since my mouth is usually closed while brushing (to minimize dripping white crap all over my shirt) it sort of sounds like he's singing from a great distance. The words are muffled and there's just this boom boom BOOM rhythm in my mouth.

I am sure some genius somewhere in the vast toothbrush industry rushed breathlessly into a bigger Someone's office with this idea: people could brush their teeth and listen to music at the same time. (I can only assume said genius has never heard of a radio or an iPod.)

It's a cool idea that turned tragically stupid in execution.

There are a lot of things like this. Not far from where I live, the desperate Allies in World War II launched Operation Habukkuk -- an idea to build battleship firepower into iceburgs. This turned out to be a disaster because they forgot that iceburgs melt and there wasn't a lot of combat activity where the polar bears live.

For years the US government was working in a plan for "Dehydrated Water." Think about it.

Why am I talking about Bad Ideas?

We all get them.

Think about the last Great Graphic you were working on. If you are like me (and who isn't?) you spent several hours chopping and selecting, re-coloring and filtering what was essentially a piece of crap to start with -- all the while trying to convince yourself it was, in fact, under all that drool -- an amazing graphic.

Nah. Remember the David's Ten Rules of Photoshop created here in this very blog? One of them is "Thou shalt not attempt to pass off thy poop as art for yea verily, poop is poop."

Here are Five Tips for Avoiding Wasting Effort on a Bad Idea:

1) HAPPY ACCIDENTS are rare. This is why they are called "accidents." We're talking about trying to do something, when something else happens and it's way cooler than your original idea. They happen, of course...but don't depend on them. You'll know with half a second if this works or not. Don't waste your time trying to talk yourself into the notion that it's good when it's poop.

2) HAVE AN IDEA BEFORE YOU START. Every good image has an idea behind it. They are good ideas because the creator and the graphic hold hands and become greater than the sum of their parts. You should have some plan for where you are going. Try doodling on paper, rough out the image and jot down some ideas that might work.

3) THINK ABOUT IT. We are often in situations where the clients or deadlines are hanging over us...or we're putting pressure on ourselves to produce "something." We tell ourselves that as long as we are actively working, this is a good thing. Not true. Take some time to THINK.

If you launch into a visual without clear vision, you are going to get poop.

4) FOLLOW THE TRAIL. Almost without exception, the good stuff I have done is a direct result of getting excited about a GOOD idea and refining it. Photoshop lets you work on multiple layers so if you mess something up, you can delete the layer and try again without ruining your whole image. Like a detective following clues, you need to follow the trail of processes that lead to a finished graphic.

5) GET EXCITED WHILE YOU WORK! Bland people turn out bland stuff , otherwise known as "poop." Excited people create new trails and new ideas. Having been both, excited is MUCH better than bland. Trust me.

You may be wondering why there is a ship's prow at the top of this blog. That ship took us down the Amazon River. And I remember thinking that this ship could take us anywhere. We could see ANYTHING. We were on a journey. In the graphic, I'm not showing any of the surrounding countryside. The journey is the thing.

Jump onto the boat, steer around the bad ideas and set a course for the Cool Stuff.
In the immortal words of one of my childhood heroes, Stan Lee, "Nuff Said."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Stuff I Think About

Here's some stuff I have considered over my past 51 years and Really Believe Is True:

1) There's no hand signal for "I'm sorry." We have MANY ways of accusing...many ways of insulting with a single hand gesture. But none of them says "Whoops. I'm sorry. My mistake."

2) AC/DC hasn't done an absolutely COOL album since Back in Black.

3) Once musical artists or writers hit it big, they usually sit back and churn out poop for a really long time.

4) Advertisers lie.

5) When children laugh, they REALLY laugh.

6) Most of the photographs I take for no good reason suck.

7) The government ultimately gets its cut of my matter what I do. So there's no good reason to lie.

8) Libraries are awesome places. Always.

9) Marriage to the right person is a blessed thing.

10) Most people take themselves WAY too seriously.