Saturday, January 8, 2011

Mariko Magic: Russian Snow Princess, Encore

Russian Snow Princess at Lemania Indigo Designs

The highlight of winter in Second Life are the gorgeous winter scenes found on many of the sims, islands, and properties in the virtual world. They provided me a welcomed opportunity to create a new set of photos of my favorite winter fashion - Russian Snow Princess. This outfit is a wonderful period piece that seems inspired by Tolstoy's Russia. Last year, I featured Russian Snow Princess in my fashion blog, and it continues to be one of my most popular posts. But, I was so pleased with these new pictures that I wanted to share them with you. Well, I thought, why not bring back Russian Snow Princess for another performance? She deserves an encore and another bow. So allow me to present once again for your enjoyment, Russian Snow Princess

Click on the pictures to enlarge them to their original size for better viewing.

Mariko Nightfire as Anna Karenina

Russian Snow Princess was designed by the marvelous Lemania Indigo, prolific designer and owner of Lemania Indigo Designs. Russian Snow Princess comes with corset, pants, gloves, stockings, footwear, a fur hat and a number of fur pieces, a flowing flexy skirt, and a prim skirt. It currently sells for L$495. You can create a number of different looks with this outfit. For a more complete description of Russian Snow Princess, please visit my original Russian Snow Princess post.

First Snowfall

About the pictures. Usually, when taking pictures for a fashion post, I use default settings so that the fashions are presented as most people will see them in Second Life. However, with these pictures, I wanted to use the winter backgrounds to create moods. To manipulate the color shading, lighting, and contrast of the backgrounds, I went off the default settings. But, in none of these pictures do I use windlight. By windlight, I am referring to atmospheric shaders.

Windlight is used by Second Life photographers to create sumptuous atmospheric and lighting effects. It's great for landscape photography. But, when the picture's subject and center of attention is avatars, I rarely use windlight especially when I want realism. Windlight does not favor avatars. It's harsh light can remove up to fifty percent of the details of a finely crafted skin. That is why avatars will look like cartoons or plastic dolls under windlight. We are all familiar with that flashlight-in-your-face plastic look that we see in many SL pictures. Now, I understand that some people do like a cartoony look for their avatars. But, in general, avatars under windlight are cold and lifeless, just like a store mannequin. In these pictures, I applied various sky settings in the environmental settings, just like using windlight, but with atmospheric shaders turned off. I am also wearing a soft facelight with a narrow range. I get the mood creating backgrounds that I want. And my avatar is warmer and softer and light falls on me more realistically than under windlight.

Windlight or not, Russian Snow Princess is magical isn't it? Get it at Lemania Indigo Designs while it is still in season. And experiment taking portrait pictures of your avatars without windlight. You may be surprised at how lovely your avatars really are.

Lamania Indigo Designs Main Store

Pictures were taken at Ocelot Valley, designed and owned by Painter Meriman, at Cap Estel, a wonderful public park designed and owned by Maurice Messme, and at the residence of my dear friend, Jaysun Dagger.

Ocelot Valley

Cap Estel

Original Post for Russian Snow Princess

My take on people who walk with windlight



  1. I have to say I disagree with you here in terms of your view of SL photography and windlight. I think it can actually enhance the avatar and highlight the design of the outfit. Its all about adjusting the settings to minimize shadows and unrealistic lighting. I never photoshop the lighting in my photos and if I do edit its only to soften a harsh elbow or funky looking knee.

    I did enjoy writing are very good and have a wonderful way with communicating your thoughts. Keep it coming!

  2. Thank you for your comments Elle. Yes, there are many SL photographers that are masterful in their use of windlight. And seeing the pictures in your blog, I place you in that group. Wonderful pictures.

    In general, avatars that are highly stylized - SL fashion models, for example - will photograph better in windlight. But, my aesthetic trends toward realism, and this post is about achieving realism in avatar photography. I have seen many fabulous SL fashion pictures; but,I have yet to see an avatar photographed under windlight with the warmth needed for realism. Granted, the objective of fashion photographers is stylization and not realism. And the subject must be an avatar designed for realism.

    To make my point, consider the 3 pictures in this post of the Russian Snow Princess in the snowy thicket. I attempted realism and the look of a fine oil painting. These is not achievable with windlight because windlight's harsh light would have effaced the delicate coloring, details, and translucent quality of the avatar's skin (Leena Ying of DrLife designs skins for realism). This is true even for so-called optimized windlight settings. Russian Snow Princess would look more plastic than real. However, I think we would agree that to use or not use windlight depends on the objective and skill of the photographer.

  3. A possible point of interest. The picture 'Mariko Nightfire as Anna Karenina' is a homage to the great illustrator, Howard Pyle. I am a frequent visitor to the Brandywine River Museum and the Delaware Art Museum where his work is featured. I particularly love his illustrations of stories about pirates and of early America.

  4. I would argue that realism is a relative construct in a virtual world. I know many who use Caliah Lyon's windlight setting since it is a standard now in such viewers as phoenix and imprudence. I also would use the "high" setting at least when doing your photos since "medium" in a photos is a much lower grade than medium in SL - the image is flattened quite a bit in photos.

  5. We can conceive of avatar realism in Second Life as a continuum. Of course, realism depends greatly on the avatar. I am assuming an avatar designed for realism such as those created by my dear friend Leena Ying of DrLife. At one end of the continuum, we have Plastic Barbie Doll and at the other end, Photorealism. Initially, windlight moved us left of center into the plastic range. Windlight’s harsh light will render the best of avatars plastic. Windlight settings that are Optimized for Avatars have moved us back to right of center. But, even the best of these optimized settings (Analu Avatar Opt Calia Whiter) are inferior to the windlight free default setting (I’ll demonstrate that in a future post). And they are not versatile (the setting remain set) and, so far, can only take us so far along the continuum. To achieve greater warmth and softness, work with the environmental settings with atmospheric shaders turned off.

    Extreme photorealism is not really the goal. That would be too shocking (Leena had some avatars that came close, and they really were too shocking). But something like a fine oil painting, Victorian artist John William Waterhouse comes to mind, would be something to shoot for.