Saturday, October 31, 2020

Laird my Hamilton II

 I'd been dreaming of PhotoShopping Hamilton into a trot ever since the first cries of pain arose over the fact that Saddlebreds are not shown in Parade at the rack.   I knew it was going to be a difficult undertaking.   When Hamilton was released in palomino, and later on when I obtained one, the project crept closer to reality.   But it was the Mares In Black Spooktacular Fun class, "Look Ma, PhotoShop," that finally pushed me over the edge.   Thank you Jackie & Heather!

I saved this entry 'til last, even though I'd worked very hard on others.  It was, without doubt, the most difficult of all of my show entries.  In the end this image took me 2 days.  I used all my skill, hard-fought over many years, and (as is the way with PhotoShop) I learned a lot more in the process.  Also, as is the way with PhotoShop (and many other complex projects), what I thought would be hard was easy.  What I thought would not be much work turned out to take most of the time.  Hah!

I started out knowing that the rearmost hind leg would be the one facing the viewer.  Why?  Because my skill did not at all extend to re-sculpting an entire folded-up haunch!   It would be hard enough bending that hoof around.  Here's the start:  a normal Hamilton.

First step:  flopping.  I'm only dimly aware of why I didn't do this entire project from his off side.  I think I was aiming for a saddled horse, that's why.  Even more dimly, I had a preconceived mindset that saddled horses were approached from the near side... proof will be shown later!

I would be looking at this picture for a long time.  Shamefully, there were very few 'saves' that occurred in the intense flow of this process.  But the one below did get caught.  I had done so much at this point:  moved the near hind hoof, moved and bent the hock (a LOT of work), moved the canon, stifle and hoof of the off hind, and filled in the cloth background.  You can also see how I thinned the stifle bend.

That background was what I'm referring to when I say "what I thought would not be much work."  It was truly a beast to fill in the missing textures.  You can see in the final version how bad it is.  In hindsight I suppose I should've just clipped him out entirely and put him on a new background, but I wasn't thinking of that at the time.  I was so deeply consumed, so carried away, that only another artist will know what I mean.  It's been quite a while since I was swept off like that:  It was marvelous.

Ready for the next step:  bifurcation!

Since a trot has parallel-canon opposite-corner legs, I'd known from the beginning that I'd be cutting him in half, flopping a half and trying to blend the result.  I'd been doing this in my head from day one.  If you try to include a saddle, it would indeed be almost impossible.  And yet here are some pix I took in the early stages of my dream.  These should stand as proof that a complex project enforces its own triage, and winds its way to completion down ever-narrowing paths.  Including a saddle rapidly became a dumb idea.

I had thought it would be hard to turn and twist his front half to match.  Silly me.  It was easy.  Here's a normal Nearside shot:

And here I cut him in half and erased the near hind hoof.  I was after a front half with a standing foreleg on the off side.  I didn't have to flop it; that had already happened, with the haunches.
Here was the last, and most challenging, step:  blending the halves.   This is where the background work took forever.  There was a lot of select, edit, copy, move and paste... and a LOT of blend and smear!  I'd learned that with the digitization of the Guide in 2016.  NOTE that what you see here is a re-make of what actually happened, so the halves don't quite line up the same as the finished one does.
It was at this step that whatever mistake with his spinal alignment was made.  Viewing the finished product, I do sometimes think (with the criticism of the artist, ever present) that his back is a bit arched.  But it was rather inevitable.

The finished view lowered the off fore hoof (compare with above).  I did what seemed like hours of blending, then ran out of spunk and decided to leave the dark upper corner for the signature.

Even now, he still shimmers from all the effort I put in.  I named him Laird Crown Imperial II, even though he is not a real horse.  Maybe he'll give somebody ideas.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

12 + 4 Haiku: Spooktacular entries

This is really two posts, a long one featuring my Spooktacular Online Photo Show entries and a short one on 'life now.'  A couple days before the first presidential debate (Sept 29), three haiku rather suddenly insisted on appearing in my Notebook.  A fourth was born during the night of the debate.  Poetry of course is not unknown to me, but to have them pop into existence like that, without warning, was a little surprising.  I suspect quarantine life has something to do with it.  Those first four can be found at the end of this post.

Subsequently I decided that each of my entries for the Mares In Black Spooktacular online photo show was going to have its own haiku.  (I know, obvious connection!)  The entries suggested themselves in twos and threes; each time I successfully completed one, one or two others would arise in my imagination.  This went on until the deadline!  Twelve haikus later, I decided to publish them here.  The poem is above its photo each time.  I'm going to present them chronologically:  earliest entered first.

 Up to this point I'd used mostly photos I already had.   The prompt Your Horse is Weird, Dude was one of the few that really set me dreaming.  My original vision was of two people pointing at each other's not-so-normal equids.  But once I actually set up the scene, it took on a different interpretation. 

This poem makes more sense once you know this horse took a dive off the computer and scratched up his near side something awful.  I still need to repair him.

With Babysitter I wanted to emphasize that no matter how outlandish the coat color, Mom still knew best.  She was outlandish herself.  I got to make up a breed for her ("Celtic Decorator") but the poem is really a subtle comment on skin color.

This is as good a place as any to discuss Altynai/Talisman's gender.  I first encountered the word 'risling' in Mary O'Hara's My Friend Flicka series.  I was slightly confused, pairing it with Truman Capote's biting comment 'Gertrude Stein suffered from undescended testicles.'  Only recently, with Honor A. P. running in the Kentucky Derby and being listed as a 'ridgeling,' did I do more research and realize these two words refer to the same thing.

Altynai is so narrow and slab-sided.  Upon turning him over, I decided 'he really only has one.'

 The last line refers to George Orwell's famous quote from Animal Farm, 'None of you have ever seen a dead donkey..."

The only word you might need help with is 'desfile' which means parade.  But here's a full translation:  A festival parade is a happy occasion for the horses.

 Truly this next one deserves a blog post of his own.  He took 2 days to create.

Being the artist, I focus more on what went wrong, or what I think didn't go so right.  Yet he is everything I wanted.  My vision came true.


The following haiku can only be described as reflecting the current societal and political climate.  The first came before dawn on the 28th of Sept.  I'm pretty sure it refers to marriage: coexisting with someone 24/7 for months at a time.  Stress either cracks you apart or presses you closer together.  Also I'd gotten hold of James Nestor's book Breath.

These next 2 were written during the day.  The last line of this one could've been arranged several ways.

I was really struggling with not being able to see my parents.  Mom had finally, miraculously, come home from hospital and rehab after 7 weeks.  The first line refers to the springing distance, the space between predator and prey. 

This one was written after listening to about 10 minutes of the Sept 30 debate and not being able to stand any more.  I didn't know how the debate would end; I could only imagine what I wanted.  I'm quite pleased by the two ways to read the last 2 lines.

Quarantine poetry is a bottomless subject and I shan't go any deeper into it here.  Still I can't resist a grateful hug to the mask-makers of the world and a fond wave to the medical specialists who saved my life back in 2010.  They made it possible for me to be happily entering photo shows today.  Good luck to the judges of Spooktacular!

Friday, October 16, 2020

Behind a Scene

I had so much fun creating Talisman's photo for the Mares In Black Spooktacular online Photo Show that I can't resist sharing some of the additional shots which were taken.  I also want to share how I tinkered with the final result.  The shoot was a miniature adventure, grand all on its own.

Where to photo model horses outside, on appropriately in-scale bare earth?  On a vacant lot about 1km from the house I discovered a scooped-out miniature box canyon, where some bulldozer had done its thing.  Perusing the classlist, the What Could Possibly Go Wrong prompt was combining in my head with Altynai and runaway obstacle driving.  I had vehicles with very long shafts.  Visions from Lightning McQueen out west and from Star Wars pod racers must have danced behind my eyes when I saw that canyon.  On October 9, one week from deadline and one of the last sunny days, I loaded up my stuff and drove over to it.

A very personal significance was that this was my first solo car trip without a mask around my neck, and also for so short a distance.  (I couldn't carry the tub for 1km.)

My point was that a standing driver was a driver out of control, and to make everything worse, his driving robe, supposed to be around the waist, was slipping down to his knees.  That he was a cowboy was both totally illegal (no one wears chaps during combined driving events) and charming (he happens to be my favorite doll).

My first set-up of the scene put the cones behind the cart, as having already been driven through.  Of course he'd knocked over a cone (!).  I had to assume viewers would believe the second guy on the ground behind him was a dumped passenger, as I intended, and not an official standing by.  This point would be emphasized by the haiku.  (A separate post on the haikus is planned.)

Who should show up but George, out for a walk. 
This explains how I was able to get photos of myself.  He said he was concentrating on my expression.

This pleasant interruption over, it occurred to me that "what could go wrong" was more properly interpreted by the cones being in front of the horse. 

Here's the haiku:

Luke fell off; so did

the dog; whip's broken, robe's down,

And you say you're fine??!!?

The difference between the above shot and the one below, which wound up as my final choice, was the head angle on the driver.  I didn't like him staring up at the sky.  I wanted him to be looking where he was going.  Only one shot showed that, plus both cones.

It was only now that I realized I'd left the tub in full view.  Oh, man, what a lot of PhotoShopping that was going to take...!   I could just barely see how to manage it...

I've used PhotoShop for decades, at first under George's instruction and later from a book.  Although it is the most empowering and creative program I've ever used, it also holds the record for 'that part of the computer which most often made me cry.'  Tears of frustration and rage!!  It's taken years for me to learn how to do everything I need for tack, horse and blog pictures.  Looking back it's amazing I kept going.  The clash between an impatient, stubborn, forgetful one-layer-deep artist and a complicated, sophisticated, multi-layered program was profound.  Yet there were enough successes to keep it sweet.

P.S. For those times when I was on the road and couldn't access my own PhotoShop, there is a marvelous free equivalent out there:  Photopea.

Every photo I take is downloaded from the camera (I don't have a smart phone) and organized in folders by date and subject.  Once chosen for posting, every shot is resized, signed (that is, initialed and dated), and then named and saved.  That's the minimum!  There are, of course, tons more possibilities, starting with cropping;  adjusting exposure lightness, adjusting color and fixing dust on a horse are just the beginnings.  This process explains why my posts are as rare as they are.  I have often been jealous of people who could so swiftly post their photos straight from a phone.  I couldn't figure out how they did it so fast.

The glorious lure of Spooktacular was that there was a place for this skill.  My formal entry in the Look Ma PhotoShop prompt deserves his own post too!  But back to Talisman and his standing-up driver.  In my eagerness to enter and in my pride and ease of accomplishment, what should have been rigid lines around manipulation of data started bending.  It took a FB comment by a Mare to open my eyes.  (I try to listen to the Mares In Black podcasts in order and have gotten to 33, but have also gotten 48; other recent ones are planned).  In the end only two of my 12 show entries have a significant degree of post-production processing, the golden Hamilton (he was born for it) and this one.

Here's the original, followed by my ultimate entry.  Notice not only the elimination of the box, but the addition of the white hat (it was hidden behind the cart) and the dog being made slightly more noticeable (enlarged).  Not much as it turned out!

Another place I fixed up was the bit shank angle.  I couldn't keep the long lines' weight from dragging them back, and I hadn't brought extra sticky wax.  I also wanted to practice rotation of a selection, because I knew I'd be using that on Laird my Hamilton.


In the end this was too small to notice much, but I acquired the valuable practice of rotating selections in PhotoShop.  That practice would yield truly splendid results when it came to changing Laird's rack into a trot,... something I'd been dreaming of since very early on after I saw him.

But that's another story.