Thoughts On Taking Good Landscape Photos

ImageHi gang!  Some time ago, I tried to put together a tutorial on landscape photography in Second Life.  I kept promising myself I’d come back to it and I finally got all my ducks in a row, so- let’s try and show you my process.  I went back to Sandalphon, where I’ve taken you before, to give us a simple straightforward ‘model’ for my experiments. Step 1: find the image you want.

I do this in low graphics, typically.  Now, this can be harder than you think!  Sometimes, low graphics are hard to discern anything in, because the sim’s environment settings can make it hard to see what you’re doing.  Here’s what the above photo looked like when I first saw it, in fact:

sandalphon sim environment

All dark and brooding and ominous and… murky, isn’t it?

Step 2: adjust Advanced Lighting Model

So my first step before even deciding it would be a photo to take was to up the local light a bit by tweaking with graphics.  I’ve found that at mid-level graphics settings, with advanced lighting going, a night-time sim is often far better lit, and Sandalphon is no exception. You get to mid-level graphics using preferences in your viewer.  type ctrl-P on your Windows or Unix box (Apple-P on Mac, if memory serves), and you’ll see roughly this menu.  I’m using Singularity here, though you will see a very similar menu using Firestorm or any other viewer.


See that slider in the middle? the one where I’ve slid things up to ‘mid’?  Here’s how the same scene looked with brighter lights going on:


Now that I could actually see what i was doing, yes, this looked like a good photo.  So I started playing with settings on my way up to Ultra.  One thing I’ve noticed people don’t think about that they really ought to is the advanced sliders (at bottom right on the menu).  Look at the picture above. Do i need to spend time on avatar rendering? What about trees? water? Landscape?  With a little thought you can easily keep your graphics card from melting down and dripping out of your laptop and into your lap.  For this picture, here’s how I adjusted things when I got up into ultra:


And here’s the way the same photo looked after making those changes!


Too dark really to bother with the photo yet.  So now we move on to

Step 3: Find the Right Windlight Setting

Finding the right Windlight setting can make or break your photo!  In Singularity you adjust these by going to the ‘World’ button at the top, and selecting the ‘Environment Editor’ option, which will give you this menu:

Image‘Advanced Sky’ is what you’re after for adjusting the amount of light that is given off by the sky. There’s a little popup window there that allows you to choose different Windlight settings by name.

Seriously, windlight will make or break your photographs some settings are terrific for an oversaturated look,

Annan adored Light Explosion II ultra

(this Windlight setting is named Annan Adored Light Explosion II).  Not so terrific for a landscape picture, in my opinion, but terrific for a portrait where you’re showing off the details of what your subject’s wearing.  The real trick of windlight settings is figuring out wihch ones are good for what you’re trying to photograph.  A dusky dimly-lit setting isn’t helped any by a really foggy windlight setting, to my view, as you just lose details into the gray-on-gray-on-gray-on-black of it. But just as we take photos in the studio of a model in a fashion shoot with spotlights, surely a bright and unshadowed lighting technique helps with that photo.  Explore your windlight settings, there’s nothing you can break.

After trying that option I went on to try a different setting, ‘[TOR] HORROR – Land of rising ‘:

[TOR] HORROR - Land of rising ultra

Not quite the effect I was going for, though it did look nice… how about ‘places terre des mortes’?

places terre des mortes ultra

I rather liked this one, and decided that was probably the right one, but I tried a few other tried-and-true favorites on for size, just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. Which is always a good idea- I quickly discovered that ‘[TOR] SUNRISE – Barcelon 2’ gives things a nicely dream-like air.

[TOR] SUNRISE - Barcelon 2 ultra

Now, that kept me busy for a good 30-40 minutes, and I don’t normally take photos of every intermediary step along the way, mind you!  People wondered how I get good photos, so I figured I’d share my input on how to do that.

In the interests of showing you how photography works (as opposed to how post-processing works), nothing above was photoshopped. If your computer can run Second Life, you can take photos just like these.  It just takes some practice.  Go ahead and practice! The world won’t end if you screw something up.
And that’s what’s fresh in SL today!

10 thoughts on “Thoughts On Taking Good Landscape Photos

      • It was very useful, I’m a SL photographer (beginner) and this is very helpful to me 🙂

      • Truth be told, there’s very few folks taking photos in SL who aren’t amateurs or beginners: don’t let being new to it make you feel inadequate! If I was ‘really good’ I doubt that I would look back at photos I took a half a year ago and grimace: we’re all still learning. 🙂

      • With new meaning, I still have lot’s to learn about different features, how to make it look good etc. I’ve come a long way from when I started 🙂

  1. Appreciate your tutorial. It takes me a good hour to set my windlight as well. Recently I’ve started to play around with my own just to see how far I can ‘push’ the ole’ gcard.. Thanks for sharing !

    • If your graphics card is protesting at higher settings, it’s WELL worth it to look at the stuff in advanced settings and decide what you don’t need. I can actually crank unused stuff down enough that rendering at Ultra can be a fluid frame-rate rather than looking through a flipbook that’s getting pages flipped too slowly. 🙂

    • Happy to help- and I do suspect the Horrible Noises may have been the graphics card trying to keep cool. So yeah, do use the advanced sliders and tone down what you aren’t trying to focus on / what isn’t in frame when you’re going to high-end graphics. If you’re up at 3000m and taking photos of clothes on an avatar, ALL you need to have cranked up graphicswise is avatars and flex prims, everything else can be adjusted down to 0. Also, since you’re only photographing the one avatar, why not reduce the number of avatars to render down to 1? And of course, draw distance can come way down too, if you’re up close to said avatar you don’t even really need 32m of draw distance, or particles…

  2. Pingback: Gleefully Fresh! | Cozey SL

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