Recently, I was assigned to do a photography project based on a central theme, to which I selected the idea of reflections. While the scope of this project by most standards is not as deeper level as say, the concentration projects I had to create back in high school, such experience has helped me form my vision for this project which ultimately turned out for the better!

With that said, let’s get to it! Image by image, I will detail the story, intended meaning (if any), and how it connects back to the idea of reflections. When I had presented it, I had quite a positive reception apparently, but there were also things I noticed along the way that I could improve upon.

Sequentially, the images are laid out in a very specific and continuous format, one that years of concentration and breadth projects have helped me develop an eye for, even unconsciously (that I will expound upon later). Most images were shot in Camera RAW, and then manipulated minimally in Photoshop to adjust certain flaws and highlight focal characteristics. I used two brands of DSLR cameras: Nikon and Canon, both 50 millimeter lenses.


The Sky’s Mirror

The first image here is actually a puddle within a small denture of a stone block that lines the roads across the heart of campus. I got real close and took several shots across all angles but I ultimately chose this one mostly because this specific close up emphasize the central, literal idea of reflections: the projected image of the sky perpendicular from the camera is reflected off the surface of rainwater. The orange tone of the stone surrounding the subject is excellent contrast to the deep blue of the sky peeking through the stratus clouds. The tip of the evergreen tree also casts an interesting, negative space with its silhouette. I often used low depth of field for my images because most of them tended to be close ups like this one; the focus is once again then emphasized on the reflection or subject matter itself so that there is no question as to what the theme is.

This one was also metaphorically, in a slight way, represented as the reflection of the sky through nature’s “mirror” so to speak. When I was younger I came up with an idea that the ocean is simply the sky’s mirror, so that’s why “the sky is blue.” 🙂 I basically extended that idea to a smaller scale: a puddle of rain water. Thank goodness for the rainy week right before this project was due, seriously saved me more than once.


Daylight Riding Time

This image was going to be more of a filler image but it has it’s interesting perks. I manipulated with this one much more so that the image has a very crisp and definitive appeal to it, almost to the point where I feel that I am back in Korea. The simple reflection of bikes was shot from this specific composition frame, where the real bike tire pokes out from the top so that the viewer has no question about what they are exactly looking at. The reflection itself is intended to have curving, smooth lines with the white of the bike rack, which then leads the eye out onto the bright, white concrete ground. I manipulated this a lot more in Photoshop than other photos due to the original, boring color – HSV values were adjusted to achieve an unnatural blue color, and contrast aspects (Levels) were utilized to erase all the noise within the concrete ground. The one thing I found interesting with this one was the fallen leaf that originally does not look brown, but it seems to have captured my eye being so alone.



The third image was also intended to be a filler image, but somehow a lot of people enjoyed this one. I recall one mentioned that it looked as if it were an underwater scene; however, in the print, the image turned out a lot more “bleedy” because it was not shot in Camera RAW, so the color printer could not read beyond the limited color space of the .jpeg file. This one was more fun and visually interesting despite the lack of focus within any subject matter/focal point. The dappled fade of the leaves at the bottom of the stairs looked pretty cool to me, and the stairs leading into the array of leaves, particularly in the dark spot, seemed almost wondrous to me. It almost gave me a The Secret World of Arrietty feel, although the ATEC stairs, not as much. Still, what blew my mind was that a couple of folks pointed out that the reflected red-orange light streaks would soon lend itself an excellent artistic transition into the next image.


Bleeding Lights

Bleeding Lights was one of the photos that I had to take in a flash (although I cannot say literally here lol, as I turned off flash… wasted pun opportunity there). I remember hurrying to get the camera started and callibrated to the light meter while my sister and I were at a stop light one late night driving home. This basically meant I had one shot to do it, and it came out so fascinating. The dew from the drizzle can be seen in the top section, and I hid the traffic lights at the top well enough so that I could only focus on the reflection. Again, I wanted to make it very clear so that there was no doubt in any of my pieces, which I suppose the “clarity” portion lends itself to the theme as well in that far-fetched sense. The transition note that the couple people made is also present here: the far distance carries also vertical streaks of green, the complement of the previous image. Paired together, there this nice reverse synergy and I was just seriously mind blown when they brought that up, never having thought about that prior to sequencing my images (which was intentional). While I had mentioned just that, the prof did say that I chose these images in this sequence for a reason, hence ultimately my decision. That was awfully kind of her to say, and I took that as a great compliment.

In this, the reflection is not so much an actual subject matter but the idea of reflecting the color of the light itself. I highly emphasized this by intentionally increasing slightly the Saturation values, and then adjusting the contrast accordingly. I titled this Bleeding Lights as almost this subtle, dark warning of what this signifies, beyond the theme’s scope.

Dancing Lights

Dancing Lights

The fifth piece is also full of story. I wanted to do a piece where the focus was a sort of metaphor on the idea of “dancing lights.” That phrase came to mind specifically because in one of my blog posts, I recalled one night while working on a digital painting that I was watching the night lights from my tall window, the lights of passing cars, flash such entrancing dancing lights across the bedroom walls. I wanted to replicate that in some way, but dark light settings are such a pain so I took a shot using (cloudy) afternoon daylight.

I looked around in my older sister’s room, and I noticed she had a lot of knick-knacks or items laying around. I would inspect for something shiny and reflective until I came across this and the idea blossomed right then and there; her dancing trophy from so many years ago, maybe more than a decade I mean, was the perfect subject. I quickly cleared her night table (as I had used that area before for other photos) to create as clean of a background as I could. Placing her trophy at the edge, I opened the blinds of the nearby patio(ish?) door, which I then had to maneuver into staying a specific position so the light rays would hit the subject at just the right angle. Only problem was, it was a cloudy day (which would later rain heavily that evening), and every few seconds I would have to painstakingly wait for the light source to reappear. Because of this, this also became a shot where I had to take the image swiftly and efficiently. Unfortunately, as I look back on it, I realized there is a slight stain that I could have moved the table lace a bit so cover that up… and I realized trying to Photoshop it looked very artificial. So I was stuck with that splotch of color that now diverts my full attention (now that I have brought it up). The other thing that bothered me was that looking closely I can still see the dust on the trophy! Because this was a high light setting in an unlit room (so pure natural light), I was distraught to see the dust details.  But, perhaps that adds some character or something, I don’t know. It is very distracting to me personally. These things become very noticeable once I or someone mention it (although no one seemed to have comment during the review session, whew).

This one was one of the pieces that had a great reception. One mentioned that upon reviewing this image that the series had a cinematic feel to it, which I had not thought of but was pleasantly surprised to hear. I absolutely love the mood of the piece because the original still had great lighting and not much change, but once I had added some adjustments to it, it seemed to have this warm glow that made me feel happy. So satisfying to see an image with natural lighting and really shine.


Summer Halcyon

While this one may reiterate the literal translation of reflection, the title of the piece probably says a lot more about it in a more expansive way. This is probably one of my more favored pieces just because of how vibrant and clear the subject turned out. It was shot at an extremely low aperture of 3.8, giving it the shallow depth of field. I love focusing on the subject matter itself for that air of simplicity, although it was pointed out to me that better positioning or camera settings may be able to clear up the left side of the sunglasses a bit more. The area seems like a beach scene, but it is actually a recreational park on the side of the road that leads to a lake I used to exercise and take a stroll around with my family when I was younger. Funny thing was, I took this shot moments before the heavy downpour of rain; so this too in a sense was taken in haste. I knew it would be raining that day and it was just a matter of time – thank the Lord I was able to finish right on time before it started pouring on our way back home (after grabbing a bite to eat from a bakery <3).

I am so glad my sister is a fashionista because these sunglasses look superb, stylistically. They have a special tint to them, although most of the color correction (or should I say distortion since I “enhanced” it) was done in Photoshop. I amped up the HSV, to which the sky became this unnatural shade of crisp, cerulean blue with a violet tint. The shallow depth of field gives me this sense of relaxation and a “daze.” I like that feeling.

I definitely wanted to shoot something with glasses though. They are easily tied to the idea of reflection through careful thought. But with sunglasses, they are perceived as relaxation, hence the title Halcyon. It often takes tranquility for inner reflection though, and to be gazing out to the sea or ocean (or in my cheap small suburban town world, the pond) deep in thought.


Watching Glass

Again, literal idea of reflection. I’m glad everyone was able to identify my theme even though I would kind of like a more extensive body of work.

I absolutely wanted to incorporate a watch or a clock into the frame of the mirror but I simply ran out of time and inspiration. I also justified that the general blankness of the reflection seemed to lend a negative space that gave me the feeling of emptiness. Not so much in negativity emptiness, but just hollow nothingness that made me think… simply deeper.

The extreme simplicity of this made itself popular with me, personally. I love pieces that invoke feelings of such emptiness, and this one had some preparation involved as well. Actually, prior to the start of my actual project delivery, I was shopping at Daiso with my sister for home and personal stuff. I was already thinking ahead of my idea for this first semester project, and so I spotted an item I could potentially use: a hand mirror. It is actually too bad because the back of the top side has this fake but beautiful sapphire gem embedded onto the entire area. The light source made it difficult to position it interestingly while still spotlighting the entire theme of this project.

Watching Glass is meant to be more of almost a inceptive approach to reflection. We see the reflection of the mirror onto itself, but we cannot see ourselves. The mirror reflects the other side, and gazes at each other in empty unity. The shape of the mirror as an antique hand clock also gives form to this idea. You have no idea how fun it is to press that spring.

Finally, I would like to wrap up detailing the final image of the project. Because it is an image with the subject being my sister, I cannot post it in a public platform such as here even if I’m the one mostly reading and writing content anyway… However, it is meant to be the most deepest form of reflection: Contemplation.

I love that I placed this last because it is a progression of surface level to a deeper, more metaphorical level. This was the entire reason why I selected this theme because I had a clear end point that I wanted to reach.

In the image, my sister wears a plain blue ruffled dress with a white laced under-blouse. She holds a mirror to her face, which is placed at maybe about a 45° angle in order to reflect the cloudy, more illustrious sky behind me. However, behind her is a storm of gray clouds that is more heavily populated across the right side of the photo, with the left side slightly more brighter and whiter. To me, this is the ultimate form of reflection that combines both literal and metaphorical weight: the mirror that reflects that sky is also reflecting her own face to which she gazes upon — we cannot see this but it is implied. The wind, supposedly from the clouded thoughts upon which she contemplates, billows the skirt of her dress in ripples (parallel to the lake). I chose this one specifically because of that, so that there is a bit more dynamic action, with the rest of the composition being highly placid. The colossal lake water behind her is unfortunately a grayish-blue-green, but the ripples are highly defined with shadows stroking the waves. While the water and houses that line in the far distance to the right are completely still, minus minimal action; the waves, the wind, her hair, and the clouds all form this unique dynamic of a gentle yet pushing action to prod her into her still central figure of her strong left arm holding firmly the mirror upon which she reflects on, literally and figuratively.

Aside from the same adjustment types, I had to correct the camera angle/tilt using Transform’s Skew tool. I basically aligned the proper horizon alignment of the water in order to make up for the lack of a tripod for a stable foundation. Even with one however, imperfections of the ground may have caused a slight tilt; thus, I aligned it properly using a ruler in Photoshop to measure a perfectly straight horizontal line. This very much satisfied my OCD nature.

In the end, I am proud to present the Reflection series to you, with a more behind the scenes analysis here. I am beginning to find these very fun, although I sort of worry that I may come off as indulgent or arrogant. To me, I kind of look at it with neutral eyes, detailing what I’ve been told in terms of feedback and years of artistic knowledge. Writing about these things, is also a form of expression of art to me.

While this was the first serious photography project, I was very surprised that I enjoyed the outcome of it. I honestly dreaded this, thinking I would not do well. After all, my older sister is the pro at this specific genre of the major, not I. But, I suppose that also lends itself to my advantage — she advised me a lot throughout the course of this entire class after all.

And somehow, a small part of me is starting to enjoy photography recreationally. 🙂

A Temporary Good-Bye

So last week during Spring Break on March 14, 2016 –  Seraphemia became a Monk, and then finally a Bladeforged pure Paladin. I wanted to make this post at that time, but clearly I was too busy to play and get her up to cap, which at this moment she is sitting at 28. Lots of things to write about! ❤

I think what I might do is write a post about each life, what I liked and disliked, etc. At least that would give me something to talk about haha.

However, since she is not level 30 yet, will delve more about the emotional experience of relinquishing a 16th life character on a Favored Soul life that I would think is “good enough.” Well, the ambition to improve even further has taken charge!

I have to admit, when I was telling a friend somewhere along the lines that I wasn’t going to be that attached or clingy to this life as I’ve TR’ed (not the same as ETR) multiple times before (see in game bio, bwaha), I did feel a strong emotional attachment to the character moments before I hit the log out and Reincarnation button. I hesitated, wondering of many doubts and worries that I internally had about this choice: Would the game shut down before I finish the triple completionist project? Would I be able to stomach triple lives of each class, as I recall my previous TR project being excruciating as I neared my “final” Favored Soul life? Should I attain triple epic completionist first? And a more lesser concern, what if I got attached to another class – what would happen to all that time and investment spent into perfecting and testing out gear choices, enhancements, build, etc?

Nonetheless, part of the plan in avoiding this “clinginess” relied on my friends – I didn’t tell people I was going to be starting a triple heroic completionist in a smug, braggart way for that reason. Rather, it was sticking to my word, and making sure I did what I said what I was going to do – it was for my own conscience. It sounds a bit weird, but that is how I thought of it, haha. And here I am – 2 levels away from cap.

But this is no quick grind to get all triple past lives – I have an intrinsic motivation in this project. One of the major reasons I decided to embark on this project was to learn the classes, and learn them thoroughly, even though I skipped one Monk life via a +20 LR heart. More often than not, people ask for class/build advice, and I can’t answer them in depth as I would like to (or can with Favored Soul/divine casters). To be familiar with all the other classes, even though I know bits and pieces of certain characteristics, I feel is something crucial in order to better myself as a player. Maybe I’m taking this game way too seriously, like a sport, but haha, I wouldn’t be playing this game if I didn’t spend that much investment of time to learn it. I suppose that is just how I am as a person (why can’t it be like this for school!?).

I calculated how many past lives Sera has to go – about 19 more to go, what a grind. At least that’s what I initially thought. I’m hoping for one to one and a half weeks to finish a life, possibly in two, and three at the absolute most, for when I’m loaded with university work, probably more so towards May for finals. And if they are all in Iconics, that would equal 798 seeds – I am so, so proud/thankful that I was able to gather enough for that in the time I spent in epics (currently about 600 on Sera, 200 on each playing alt). This means I won’t ever have to worry about grinding the seeds or tokens, and I can directly TR as soon as I’ve reached cap and attained other important items off the TR checklist. I am so glad that in the history of my playtime in epics vs. heroics, it all somehow managed to work out. I know so many guildies and friends who grind each life with tokens and seeds, and it just pains me. Staying in end game helps. A lot.

Anyhow, I feel very sentimental about leaving that “perfect” Favored Soul life. But I remind myself that there is always room for improvements, and this is the greater step. I also think that it isn’t about the ultimate goal of achieving a triple heroic completionist title so my bio doesn’t get too long (well, maybe haha – I am running out of space) or the extrinsic reward of achieving the Completionist feat – in that manner, I have planned out lives to be done “in order,” as in, running each class consecutively rather than achieving single completionist.

Why? I had a friend ask me that before – the biggest issue for me is space, and I like to destroy gear that I won’t be using anymore and not hold onto it for too long. As much as I like to joke around as the guild hoarder packrat who’ll bare fangs at someone who even thinks about going near my gold pile of junk, I also have a completely polar side of me who wants to make the most of what I can use, toss out everything else I don’t need. So as much as the other option of achieving single completionist first seems much more efficient… for me, that is inefficient, and speaks more so about the extrinsic reward of attaining the feat (which I don’t think is necessary for builds at all – just a neat extra tidbit).

So even the way I plan out the lives is pretty meticulous, at least in my book. I haven’t exactly figured out how I want to do things, as I am fighting between whether I should just run classes and builds I want to try out (similar to how Sent does things) or stick with a class and try out combinations, move on, etc. The latter is how I did things in the last TR project, but that exhausted me as it was very strenuously designed. But, it did work, so we shall see.

Now time to end this essay with some sentimental last screenshots of Sera so I can cry my eyes out years from now about this.

Err, one last thing. In the future, when I do come back and read this, consider changing Sera’s eyes to the new pair that I tried out for the heck of it and kind of liked. They are certainly pretty, even if it doesn’t shout clarity like the usual set does.

😀 ❤

Embarking Yet Another New Journey

It’s that time again. DDO’s 10th Anniversary – and that means downtime.

I am sort of taken aback by how long DDO has been up and running. 10 years. I think I’ve been playing for almost 5 now – I can’t believe how much time has passed and to think that I’m still here now.

When it comes to the question of why I am still playing, I have a hard time coming up with an answer. First thing that comes to mind are friends, but playing for five years or so devotedly, I have seen many good friends come and go, maybe some come back, some don’t. So if not friends, game play? I cannot say that DDO has the best game play or design since I’ve never really played any other MMO. DDO isn’t also the most prettiest MMORPG either – of course, Japanese or Korean MMO’s take the cake on that one (I can imagine with the overly fluffy aesthetics and anime like feel). So why am I still here?

I guess the biggest thing that ties me to the game is a mix of many things, not just one: friends definitely have shaped me to be the kind of player I am now, and being OCD in always setting new goals for myself and achieving them has a never-dying sensation of satisfaction. Whether it be helping a friend or guildie achieve 5K favor, or pulling yet another Mysterious Bauble for a character, there is always something I try to pull a positive out of. The game population for my taste is almost perfect – many of the elitists who were here years ago are long gone, and small enough to where it’s pretty tight knit, but large enough for grouping (during prime time that is). I find it almost hilarious that the gold spammer report function isn’t even needed anymore in such a small MMO like DDO.

And it’s the one game that is the most captivating to me – I love being able to now not only demonstrate knowledge over quests I used to be so lost in, but also to help teach others who are in the same position I used to be in. Teaching, I feel, is very fun because of the fact that I had to learn so many things the hard way – so I teach in a way that I would have liked to learn things. Even now I am learning new things from everyone; there can never be such a thing as fully knowing everything. Opposed to the real life me, who avoids challenges as much as possible because I was once (and perhaps still) a very conscious, prideful, quiet, and reserved person, the in game me is entirely different – always seeking to learn new things, taking on challenges, social butterfly, and headstrong. That isn’t to say that the two don’t overlap between each “worlds,” but I find it interesting how split yet integrated my personality has become. It’s obvious that my shyness is revealed when I have to talk on mic though. 😀

Anyhoo, off topic! So that’s my 10th Anniversary spiel. I’m really proud of DDO that it lasted for a decade (last long enough until I get out of college to work with you guys! xD), and I hope the Anniversary event’s (even though I heard bits and pieces of it) reception will be good. Lately, a friend and I talked about how negative some people can get and while I may not always be happy go lucky Miss Positivity, there is only so much before I get irritated with constant negativity.

I titled this post about embarking a new journey, and so far I’ve been rambling about 10th Anniversary, which doesn’t really match up. I guess that’s what happens when I just log in and start typing haha – totally forgot about the 10th Anniversary even when I was logging in! (Aaaaannd just checked DDO client… worlds are up, better finish this post fast LOL!)

I’ve decided to start another TR project on Sera – this time a much longer, devoting project than the first. Originally, I only planned for caster past lives and Barbarian for the extra HP. I thought that this would be my last and final life, but after thinking deeply about what else Sera could benefit from, I think I will go for triple heroic completionist. It all started with me thinking she could use some heal amp, but she couldn’t fit it into her gear or enhancements really. It’s not essential, but I figured it would be nice –  I didn’t buy Bladeforged for no reason either, so I reasoned why not just do those lives. But knowing the OCD me, I cannot start something without finishing it all the way for maximum benefits – I started thinking about the other classes and what it would be like fitting in a Completionist feat for extra +2 stats. It was only a matter of time when I decided to start this and the triple epic completionist project – Sera only has maybe 7+ or so lives left for epic TR’s anyway. I say this now because I want to see if I really do stick to it – how long it will take, etc. Sera definitely has at least 2 more excruciating epic past lives next (last two Arcane Alacrity stacks) but after that… I think I will start it then. I also do have conflicting schedules such as my decision to craft Alchemical weapons, but we’ll see how that goes. All in all, I’m a bit surprised at myself for not just stopping now – it’s not that these lives would improve Sera way more than she is now, but even I can get bored a bit with Favored Soul. I want to see how she fares in other classes, and learn the ones (Artificer, Monk) the traditional way. In a sense, it goes back to me being able to help others with build advice – the updates to certain classes has lessened my current knowledge of mostly martial classes. From another point of view, it means I can finally destroy any useless TR gear – space is such an issue, ugh.

I kind of wonder if had I started years back if I would be done by now. My only hesitations are if the Favored Soul class gets an update while I’m still in that TR project zone and if DDO shuts down before then. Yeah, that’s a fear in the back of my mind as I play. 😦 Only a matter of time before Turbine pulls the plug, I feel. I desperately hope not.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Maybe I might change or edit my decisions in the future when I do TR or the moment right before. I’ll sorely miss being able to run with my epic buddies all the time, but knowing the quiet and reserved side of me, I could use some solitude. Or from the other perspective, get to meet new people! 🙂

First 2016 Post…

Can’t believe I didn’t have a New Year’s Resolution post or anything like that to kick off 2016, but here it is! Then again, not really a New Year’s kinda person, although I did accomplish something… my goal to stop hoarding in game, LOL. It’s finally coming around, but let me tell you… it was so gawsh dang hard!! xD 2 days after my birthday, I decided to hold a “Garage Giveaway” event for guildies and friends on open invite, and it took a total of maybe 2-3 hours? It ended up being more of an “everyone’s giveaway” as we had people offering up stuff too – it was very hectic, but fun!! And super kind of others to offer things up too, takes a bit to give away antiques and items near and dear to our hearts.

Well, I finally cleared up ONE bank toon for rerolling. The much despised (sorry haha) Velvettarte will be rerolled, but I’m a bit wishy washy in what she will end up as. I’m kind of locked into a point where she has to be an Elf Paladin (I hate having double races among the new toons, so for consistency and flavor’s sake…) but that doesn’t exactly sound viable or at least optimal for a tank build; I was wanting to create a Paladin tank for raiding if we ever needed one. But now, I’m kind of rethinking this after last night – if I’m able to turn Sylvette into a quasi-tank two handed fighting Warpriest… then maybe I have room to create Velvettarte into something else.

So some of the options… perhaps a two weapon fighting Elven Paladin (pure), or an Elven Sorcerer build – although that doesn’t really work out that well, since I was thinking at the very least, having a Displacement Dragonmark clickie would be something for a melee type character (unlike an arcane who can cast the spell). There is always the reason for nothing but pure flavor, but I like to have some utility…

Or perhaps I could make use of the Elven Arcane Archer tree and choose a unique class blend, maybe that pure Spellsinger AA build I’ve always wanted to try. Or a Favored Soul Arcane Archer build, ooh! So many choices, le sigh.

Either ways, at least I know which options to rule out: Celesteine will be the Sun Elf Cleric, Ashimerelle the Halfling Ranger, and Rinnybon the Half-Elf Warlock (all pure). All I know is that Velvettarte will be Elven something, haha!

There is one thing I’ve also been tossing and turning about: their last names. It seems I only have Rinnybon’s and maybe Velvettarte’s surnames down (and Velvettarte will be renamed to Velvenillah), but the other two I’m still stuck about what theme I have in mind for them. Ashimerelle could keep her surname (Amberstorm) but I feel like there might be something cooler out there. Celesteine’s surname was the one I fretted about for who knows how long: Glitterglow? Cloudheart? Somehow it doesn’t sound right.

There is also the opposition theme I have in mind for Celesteine the Sun Elf and Velvettarte the “Vanilla” Elf – probably making Velv’s appearance in mind of a Moon Elf to reciprocate the theme I have for Celesteine, but that would mean I have to make Celesteine’s surname stronger, something with fire, sun, and the like.

All in all, at least this post kind of directs the route I want to take with these bank toons. I still have an extra slot to create, and I have no idea what I will do with that! This is kind of just me blabbing, but sometime I’ll have to sit myself down and figure it all out! Of course, given how long it took just to clean out one bank toon for rerolling, I have a feeling this can’t be done in one go. But at the very least, I can do this while DDO is on downtime. LOL.