MMS 173 Virtual Photography Activity: The Witcher 3

This is probably the first time I actually participated in this activity. I got a new video card a few months ago and wanted to see how far I could go with the settings of The Witcher 3 with it. I was so happy with the results I decided to post them here.

Instead of relying on game mods and regular screenshot function, I made use of Nvidia Ansel. You need an Nvdia-based card with it, and it won't work with all games. But it does for this one, and I took full advantage. I was tempted to capture cutscenes, but that would be sort of cheating. So everything was shot in-game.


Kaer Mohren Sunset

The shot obviously follows the rule of thirds, with the castle as the main subject. But it also shows a lot of rhythmic elements thanks to the mist covered trees, clouds and the mountain range. The depth of the landscape also provided a lot of overlapping elements.

Natural lighting also had to be deliberate, the position of the sun depended on the time of day, as in real life. Late afternoon provided the quality and direction of light I needed for this screenshot.


Shrine at Skellige

The branch and stern of a longship falls within the golden spiral. They, in turn, create a frame within a frame for the altar and background landscape. The stern and altar themselves, if you choose for them to be the subject, follow the rule of thirds.

This is another afternoon shot with the camera shooting against the light. I managed to frame this in such a way that the lens flares were prevented. But you do see a dirty lens effect, which I find a little annoying (luckily, I found a way to turn it off for the succeeding shots). I find this more interesting, with lighting from behind the subject, rather than up front.


Silver For Monsters

Nvidia Ansel also allowed me to pause midway through Geralt's attacks and let the camera go up close. The level of detail is amazing. Again, rule of thirds prevail here. Yet, it is the sword, with its rhythmic elements up front which is given emphasis. I wish depth of field was shallower here, but it is noticeable enough, to bring about many overlapping parts -- the silver sword, Geralt, his sheathed steel sword and the background lansdcape. Unity is strong in this one (if you can forgive that tip of an enemy's weapon that got awkwardly included in the frame, covering one of Geralt's hands.




This one's a little morbid, but has a LOT to offer design-wise. Again, rule of thirds is followed by Geralt (more specifically his spell casting hand) and his opponent. The enemy's body also creates a frame within a frame for Geralt. The fire bursting out of Geralt's hand in all directions relative to the frame creates a radial composition, but it is clear that it also has a strong directional force moving towards and even through the enemy as he is engulfed in them. The shooting flames also accentuate the overlapping layers found in the frame.


Yennefer in Toussaint

This is probably the one I spent the most amount of time with. I realized that with Nvidia Ansel, it becomes possible to do a portrait shoot like never before, it least for this game. I took so many shots but eventually settled with this one, because this is where I managed to move the camera finely enough to make it look like she's looking at the camera. In-game her eyes follow Geralt, so I had to carefully place Geralt so that Yennefer faces opposite an acceptable background, which the immediate area does not provide much of, sadly. Not very intuitive, I know, but it works.

So... rule of thirds with lots of overlapping layers in the background, of course. With her seemingly looking at the camera, I could give emphasis to those violet eyes. In the end I figured those eyes were more important than that leather and lace outfit of hers (yes, I just fanboyed over one of the most beautiful women in video games). Again, I made use of the afternoon sun, for the added warmth of colors.


The world of The Witcher is now my favorite virtual world for this activity. This has been so much more fun than Second Life.


Uncertainty with Aidan in Taichung City

Taichung City, Taiwan, March 2016

I brought my family to Taiwan. We offered to help out a friend who was working on an art installation in the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts in Taichung City. It was a relatively short trip that had its share of ups and downs. But what loomed over my head insidiously was an unmistakable change in the behavior of my son that started a month prior. It was something I tried to dismiss, but really couldn't. It wasn't until much later when the pieces were put together that I had a better understanding of what was going on.

On our walks in the city, he had this penchant of walking ahead of me with no regard to anything around him. He never looked behind to check if either of his parents was still nearby. He tried to break free every time I tried to hold on to him. I always found myself having to catch up to him in corridors and walkways as he kept moving. The pictures below will offer you glimpses of what I dealt with.

We also spent time with an artist couple who had a daughter roughly the same age  who I understood had her own little developmental issues. But even then, she was significantly ahead in many aspects and was more conscious of her surroundings.

At nearly two years old, close friends and his grandparents were already noticing how he actively avoided eye contact and wanted no part of anybody other than his mother. Even I had a difficult time interacting with him. It was a stark contrast to the baby boy that always smiled and laughed to the delight of everyone around him.

Little did I know back then that autism had become a distinct possibility for him.

Perhaps my ignorance back then was a blessing in disguise. It would be months before I was adequately educated of my son's condition. By then I could already look back at the pictures below with amusement. Otherwise, I'd be picking up a very different story immediately after taking these pictures.

These seemingly symbolic scenes of him walking alone in the huge expanse offered by the parks in the city evoke strong emotions that haunt me, which I am sure some of you can relate to. I still choke up a little bit as I type this post.

The difference seen in the pictures here and our Hanoi trip more than eight months later was dramatic. It was almost like he was in his own world in Taichung. Hanoi saw a boy significantly more engaged with his surroundings and the doting people around him.

Nearly one year after, I am relieved to say that things have improved significantly. The doctor still doesn't want to completely rule out autism, and he continues to attend therapy sessions to address his issues. But at this stage, the possibility of the condition that I dread for my son has become highly unlikely.

There is still a fairly long trail that lies ahead. But at least now, I am confident that the worst of this issue is over and things will be looking up.


A godsend of a repairman for photographers

Being into a number of hobbies can be a curse sometimes. For most people, myself included, the likelihood of doing extremely well in one of them can be quite low. But right now, the biggest problem entailing them is the amount of money one can spend because of these hobbies.

It was particularly bad for me, I think. Thankfully, I easily gave up on cars well before the real spending started. It would’ve been too much for a teacher on government salary to support. For the most part, I’ve already given up on being a computer enthusiast. I wouldn’t even know what I’ll do when my Nvidia Geforce GTX460 video card finally dies on me. Unfortunately, that still left guitars and photography.

I’ll be writing about the latter.

I had a lens cleaned for the very first time back in 2010. My Nikon 18-200 was growing a lot of fungus from the inside. I had no idea where to have it serviced. Eventually, I stumbled upon the Pinoy Photography forums. Someone named Mang Ady was starting to make a name through word of mouth over there. I admit to feeling anxious about entrusting a P33,000 lens to someone I’ll be meeting for the first time somewhere in the TriNoMa food court. But I felt I had little choice, so I took a leap of faith. So, I made the trip, met Ady Balce, the man and talked a bit. I found him soft-spoken and amiable, and felt comfortable with the whole thing at the end of the day. I met him again a week after, with my lens handed to me impeccably clean. So, I happily paid for the very reasonable service fee and went my own way.

One year and several trips after, the same lens got dirty again. But by this time, I heard that Nikon finally had an authorized service center in Manila, care of Columbia Digital Service Center (CDSC). Now, I wouldn’t have really minded going back to Mang Ady, but I was curious about the new service center. Being in SM Megamall, it would be easier for me to go to, and I could go there anytime I want (Mang Ady only meets up at Trinoma on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons). And I wanted to see the results of authorized servicing first hand. It felt appropriate, anyway. I was excitedly anticipating my very first trip to Europe and was willing to pay for the best service. That perceived best service ended up costing me P3,500. The technician assured me that the cleaning will be done in two weeks and I should expect a call or SMS from them by then. That cost nearly thrice as much with a waiting time twice as long as it would be with Mang Ady. But that was still ok with me. I waited two weeks and no word from CDSC. I had to follow up on them repeatedly at that stage with my flight to Holland looming over me. At this stage I was getting concerned and a little mad. Is this the vaunted Nikon service, overpriced and unable to keep their word regarding timetables?

I was eventually notified they were done with me lens by the third week or so. In the shop, I immediately inspected my lens. It didn’t look any cleaner than it would have with Mang Ady. It’s not a knock on CDSC’s quality of service per se. They were late, but the lens really was cleaned well. So, I didn’t leave the shop angry or anything. My lens made it in time for my trip to Europe, which is what was important. Still, I do not look forward to going back to them.

True enough, when it was time for this easily-dirtied lens to be cleaned again, there was no one else for me to consider. I sort of heard before that clients can send lens to him by courier, but I wasn’t sure. Besides, I thought it would be good to meet Mang Ady in person again. It wasn’t just the 18-200, but also my wife’s Nikon 18-105 too, which required servicing. So I did. I also told him about my experience with the service center in Megamall and he smiled. We agreed it would be more convenient for him to just send me back my lenses by courier and I pay him through his bank account when he’s done. Both lenses made it back to my office desk within five days and cost me P3,000 total, including shipping cost. Not bad at all, no?

Nope. Unless absolutely necessary, I’m never going back to CDSC. Ever. Not as long as I have a better option.


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