Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Photographers of Second Life I – Michael Romani






You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.

Ansel Adams





Welcome to a new series in my blog!

In this ongoing series, I will meet the photographers of Second Life (SL) and discuss their lives and work. 

Since first rezzing inworld several years ago, I’ve noticed that there are experienced professional photographers from Real Life (RL) working in SL as well as many talented amateurs.  Their body of work is quite large, diverse, and impressive. 

This series will call them out individually and introduce them hopefully to a wider audience. I’ll talk about their backgrounds, their influences, and naturally their work! 

My first subject is Michael Romani, an old SL friend of mine whom I actually met at his poetry reading somewhere back in the mists of virtual time.  Michael is a photographer in RL among other things and has recently passed the 14,000 pictures mark on flickr with his work. 

Let’s meet Michael!

For this story, I met Michael and wife and partner in SL, Ally Romani, at their home
next to his gallery inworld. 

Michael goes by Michael Romani inworld which he feels is an extension of his RL persona where he is known as Michael but with similar interests.

He had a collection of 14,000 plus photographs in RL, mostly nature, buildings, landscapes, and surfing.  Unfortunately, all of these came to be destroyed.

So, when he was pulled into SL, he was brought here and given an avi that looks like a younger version of him and his intention was to play live music.  He was going to not play so much the progressive hard rock that he played in RL but more like a beachy acoustic thing comparable to Jack Johnson. 

Michael was a serious musician in RL, playing multiple instruments and had been in a wide range of bands since he was eleven years old.

So, Michael was/is a musician, photographer, poet, and a surfer in RL he hastens to add. 

Michael says some people come inworld to escape reality.  He came to be a musician because so many friends wanted him to do that.  It sounded fun to him

However, a few weeks into getting here, Michael became very ill.  Spending eight days in an ICU and nearly dying.  Long story short, despite recovering, he could no longer sing as he once did. Instead, Michael became someone who photographs SL and writes passable poetry.  (His words not mine, I actually like Michael’s poetry!) 

Michael’s reason for coming to SL in the first place is one of the more interesting stories I’ve heard since I started blogging.  (Trust me, I’ve heard a lot!) 

Seems Michael was in a pirate game, Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean Online.  He led two guilds there.  While doing that he realized that many of those in these guilds, about one thousand people were also part of SL.  Disney's game was ending and his fellow guild members wanted him to come inworld and perform live music.

The rest is history now!

I next ask Michael about the challenges of being a photographer in SL.

He replies that there are several. 

The first challenge was realizing that he had no camera.  Michael had to learn how does the computer camera work in the SL environment.

The next challenge was learning about windlights and how they can blend to make for more interesting photographic compositions.

His third challenge was learning that there are ways to make shadows and so on to create a more natural feel in this artificial world we are in.

Ally adds that Michael doesn't photoshop his work. 

Michael agrees and adds that all of his photos are what he sees here inworld. But, he will tweak the lighting and so on for nuances. 

He emphasizes that none of his work is photoshopped as many inworld photographers apparently do. 

I ask Michael what are the themes of his work?

He replies that he’s himself in every world that he’s in adding that if one looks at the photos in his flickr account, one'll see that he has photographed a great deal of SL, a wide range.  Michael prefers to look for the beautiful, noble, good things and play with their windlights. 

He says that playing with windlights is perhaps his main theme, and after that nature.

I ask if it's suitable subjects with a strong technical challenge for him in his work inworld?  Michael answers that would be a fair description. 

He says that what he really loves is when a RL photographer tells him that many of his photographs look as though they are in  the real world. 

Michael adds that for the last year there has been one main recurring theme and that’s been his wife inworld, Ally.  (Who blushes at her mention.)

Ally protests kiddingly that Michael doesn’t pose her, he just shoots! 

Michael explains that he doesn’t like to have people pose either inworld or in RL.  He likes his photography to be as candid as it can be. 

My next question is always a tough one for creative types, which of his works is his favorite?

Michael says that’s like asking which of his children he loves best!  (Told you it was a tough one!)

Michael turns the question on me and says that if he had to limit it to which photographs he loves best he’d select pictures done by Ansel Adams. He particularly likes how he worked in black and white.  Turns out, Michael actually had the opportunity to meet Ansel while working on an environmental campaign in California. 

I ask about any projects that Michael currently has underway inworld.

He replies that presently he is working more in the poetry world now that he’s reached his goal of 14,000 photos inworld.   At the moment, he’s concentrating on the photos SL14 Birthday Bash. (Second Life’s fourteenth anniversary celebration inworld.)

Michael will also do multiple series based on visiting different sims and doing photos that either go with a story or poetry line.  For example, he’s doing a series in poetry based on the old The Twilight Zone series.  He will take the photos that people like most and write a short poem for each so that they can be on the photograph.  Michael may do a couple haikus or things like that. 

My final question is about whether RL influences SL for him or vice versa?

Michael thinks for a moment and replies that RL influences SL and SL influences RL.  He finds that especially so when it comes to his writing, but true is also about photography and how he sees things.  For example, when he photographed a lot in RL he would not filter or anything like that.  He wanted what the world would see was what he saw then himself. 

At this point, our interview ends and we walk over to the nearby gallery where Michael has some of his work on display.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors will notice a statue of woman on horseback.  This a
memorial to Michael’s RL sister who passed away after a nine year battle with breast cancer. 

The gallery is two floors with a small area for receptions on the second.  Walking out the back door on the ground floor reveals a waterfront path with spectacular views.

At this point, I thank Michael for his time and candor, and take my leave.

What draws me to Michael’s photographs, besides the depth and breadth they reveal of SL, is how they capture the ordinary places and events inworld and some how make them feel special. 

I’m not much of a photographer. (Significant Other nods in violent agreement.)  Just look at my own crude efforts accompanying this blog and you’ll see what I mean.

But, I do know great photographs when I see them and that’s what I see when I look at Michael’s work.

Michael is a prolific and talented photographer who is documenting the story of SL.  Someday, all we may have left of this world we share, will be the efforts of photographers like him.  He contributes to the cultural and social life of SL as few do. 

Check out his work!

Fortunately for us, Michael’s work can be found in many places.

There’s his inworld gallery (Only the gallery, the house is off limits!), his flickr page, and his blog. 

Also, he does poetry readings Mondays at 5:00PM SLT at this location. 

Now, you may wonder why I haven’t plastered Michael’s photographs all over this story.  After all, he did give me permission!  The truth is there are so many wonderful
pictures that I just couldn’t do his corpus of work justice.  But, I have included one which is my favorite for your enjoyment.

Which one of Michael’s photographs is your favorite?

I’d like to thank Michael for allowing me into his home and life to meet him and Ally, and taking the time to answer my questions and to share his life with us!  

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

More pictures from my interview with Michael can be found on this flickr page.

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Helping Others in Second Life XI – Are You Going to the Oasis?




The desert sands lead on, but look ahead -

a palace of bright tents and green date palms

where camel backs can crumple knee bones down.

An oasis waits beneath the desert moon.

Join us for poetry, the feet of dance, sweet wine

and live with us this night outside of time…

Caravanserai Notecard





Recently, Singh, an old friend in Second Life (SL) reached out to me to say “Hello”. 

We’d first met on Book Island several years ago and had been in touch on and off during that time.  (I keep telling everyone that as an SL friend, I do tend to come and go!)

Singh has recently completed his PhD in Real Life (RL) and now teaches Creative Writing in Southeast Asia. 

(Significant Other is amazed that anyone with these credentials would actually hang around with me.  I reply that he needs good examples of how not to write.)

Singh told me about an event he’s running to aid a charity in RL and asked me if I’d be interested in blogging about it.

Do I ever need to be asked twice?

Here’s the story, maybe you can help us!

The event is entitled Caravanserai – Crossroads of the Arts. 


Its purpose is to raise funds for Feed a Smile, a charity which assists needy school children in Kenya. 

Caravanserai will be an hour of storytelling, poetry reading, song and dance, theater and machinima screenings, followed by a panel discussion about the value of the arts in education. (This part of SL MOOC 2017.)

Middle or Central Asian dress or Asian fusion style is encouraged t get with the spirit of the event. 

There will be plenty to see and do!

There’s a flying carpet ride, a Tarot card reader, Palaces of the Moon and Sun, a pilgrim camp, a Bedouin oasis, and an impressive caravanserai which is the center of the activities. 

One of the most impressive aspects for me in my years wandering around SL is how people come together to help others in RL.  There seems to be no barrier to what is possible when people put their minds to it inworld.

So, please come out and walk around the great sim put together by Singh and contribute if you can and help some children far away who struggle to make it through their first lives let alone having second ones like we’re fortunate to have.

Caravanserai – Crossroads of the Arts is going to be a fun and worthwhile event!

So, please come, enjoy yourselves, and please contribute if you can!

BTW Did I mention that this is Singh’s first event inworld? 

Let’s come out and give him some moral support!

The event will take place on Saturday, June 24th, at 7:00AM SLT and can be found here. 

More information can be found here on their blog. 

Their YouTube trailer is here.  This is especially well done, check it out! 

Additional pictures from my visit can be found on this flickr page.


As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!



Saturday, June 10, 2017

What Makes You Happy in Second Life?






Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.

Robert A. Heinlein







Recently, I’ve received a series of good news in Real Life (RL.)

Accordingly, I’m happy!

Not to worry, I’m normally pretty happy in RL but lately my smile’s been a bit broader.  (Significant Other is bouncing around merrily too, I’m happy to report, and is nodding enthusiastically as I write this.)

Then, this got me thinking.

(At which point, Significant Other exits the room claiming I’ll only spoil the mood.)

What about Second Life (SL)?


(Are you surprised, after all, this blog is pretty much only about SL!)

What’s being happy about inworld?

(I’m being an optimist here and assuming that we can be happy in SL.  Further, I’ll stick my neck out and say that being happy inworld can also make us happy in RL!)

What are the things that can make us happy inworld?

Friends are just as valuable inworld to our happiness as they are in RL.

Some go further and fall in love inworld.  Enough said about that!

Communities can make us happy in SL.  Friends and neighbors sharing a common purpose are a wonderful thing wherever they are.  And, let’s not forget the socializing!

Solitude is what does it for some and SL is a great place for that. 

For some, building and exploring are what makes them happy inworld. 

Have I missed anything?

I’m sure I have because the ways to be happy in SL are countless.

(Trust me on this, I’ve tried counting!)

What about me?

What makes me happy in SL?

Actually, it’s changed over the years.

Originally, just rezzing in, exploring new places, meeting new friends, and having new
experiences was enough for me inworld.

But, now, I think I’ve grown.  (I ignore Significant Other’s comment that it’s about time.)

The friends I’ve made over the years, I look forward to meeting and sharing with.

There are communities that I enjoy returning to and participating in their daily life.  (I won’t get into whether they enjoy me returning.)

However, the lure of the open road inworld still makes me happy.

Discovering and exploring an exciting new build makes my day!  Even if, sadly, these are fewer and farther between. 

But, what about you?

What makes you happy in SL?

Anything that I’ve listed here or do you have your own source of happiness?

Please share it and let us know!

There are many ways to be happy inworld and we all benefit when we learn about them.

SL can be an extension of our RL and we can be happy in both?

For after all, have you ever met anyone who comes inworld to be unhappy?

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Are You Going to Silk Road Hunt VIII in Second Life?




Writing for children is as easy as describing the history of the Byzantium in three words.

Mo Willems







Another year has flown by!

Yes, my misadventures in Real Life (RL) have contributed to this.  (Significant Other nods for emphasis here.)  But, I didn’t really appreciate this until my old and good friend in Second Life (SL), Perryn Peterson, dropped me a line reminding that it was time for Silk Road VIII inworld!   

True to form, Perryn and his Merry Band in Mieville have come up with another
marvelous theme well suited for SL.

This year’s theme is Byzantium!

Yes, the ancient and long-lived successor to Rome is next in Perryn’s homages to long, lost empires and forgotten treasures! 

Past Hunts have had Xanadu, the Roman Empire, and Ali Baba as their themes. 

(I suspect that when Perryn runs out of known ancient empires for his themes, he’s going to start looking for some lost even to the history books.)

In a way, Mieville reminds me of Byzantium.  A corner of creativity, commerce, and orderly life surrounded by the chaos of an encroaching anarchy.  (Significant Other’s eyes roll at the analogy.  But, hey, have you wandered around SL lately?)

As usual, Mountain Rose is a major contributor and participant in the Silk Road Hunt.  Its Imperial, Byzantine palace alone is worth making the journey inworld to see.  The
grandeur and attention to detail here remind me of earlier, long lost builds in SL.  The sim is a major stop along the Hunt’s way!

Mountain Rose can be located here. 

Dozens of other merchants are participating this year and there gifts for intrepid hunters can be found here.  Look for their mini-hunts as well! 

Silk Road Hunt VII runs from June 1st to 30th.

            Inworld, the Silk Road Hunt begins as it did in previous years at the Asian Victorian Garden in Mieville.   (Before going into the pavilion and starting the Hunt, take some time to stroll the beautiful gardens created by Mike Olbracht, Mieville’s floral wunderkind.  His garden layouts have to be seen to be believed!)

            Perryn’s purpose with hunts like the Silk Road Hunt is to showcase the merchants of SL and their wares, to help residents (hunters) meet merchants, and to get out onto the Grid
and have fun!               

            Hunter information is available here. 

            I heartily recommend all dropping by and having some fun!

            Who knows?

            You might set the record for completing the Hunt!  (Or, ever run into me!)

            I’d like to thank Perryn for his time and assistance in helping me to prepare this story, not to mention, his choreographing another spectacular event inworld! 

            Additional pictures of the Hunt can be found here.

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.

            Open roads and kind fires!



Saturday, May 27, 2017

How Do You Emote Subtly in Second Life?




Is it really possible to tell someone else what one feels? 

Leo Tolstoy







Recently, I had a misunderstanding with a good friend in Second Life (SL). 

(Significant Other asks why should SL be any different than Real Life (RL).  I won’t digress here.)

We were having a conversation and I was joking.  A little later, I noticed my friend seemed a little withdrawn and terse.  (Significant Other is amazed that I noticed.  I may quit blogging when Significant Other is around.)  I asked what was the matter not thinking I was in anyway involved. (Significant Other says, “Typical!”)

To my surprise, my friend said they were offended.  What I had taken as kidding they had taken seriously, very seriously!  (I’m deliberately masking my friend’s identity and not
because they’re embarrassed to be associated with me!)

My friend and I discussed the matter and I apologized.  (Significant Other does give me points for this,)

But, this got me thinking about how limited our ability to subtly express our emotions and feelings inworld is.  (I’m not copping out here and blaming SL.)

How can we do this especially when we move from bland, everyday greetings into closer personal relationships in SL? 

Let’s discuss this for a bit!

The problem starts with how we communicate our feelings in RL.

We have a rich variety of methods available to us. 

Besides our words, there’s our voice, facial expressions, eyes, and body language.  Not to mention all the possible combinations thereof. 

(Sex has many other expressions of feelings and emotions in RL too.  But, since I’m still not that kind of blog, I won’t go there!)

Now, in SL, on the other hand, our options are somewhat more limited.

We have text and, for some, voice.

That’s it!

And, yes, we can use primitive late Twentieth Century emoticons too if we want.  (e.g., :) ;) Get the picture?)

There are animations inworld but these pretty much have minds of their own. 

We’re trained from an early age in RL how to express our emotions and feelings.  Most of us figure it out reasonably well.  Some even make a living make a living out of it as actors and actresses. 

However, inworld, the RL options are closed to us and we’re pretty much left to our own devices.

So, what happens?

Confusion, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings can result when we try to express ourselves beyond simple greetings and conversations.  Even voice can only take us so far.  Just ask anyone who’s ever played the party game telephone.

What about you?

Has the inability to satisfactorily emote feelings inworld ever caused you difficulties? 

How do you subtly express your emotions or feelings inworld?  Do you even try?

Please drop me a line and let me know!

If I get enough replies then I’ll do a follow-up story!

But, for now, just keep emoting!  

As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives. 

My Twitter handle is @webspelunker.  Please feel free to follow me and I’d be happy to follow you.

I can be found on Google+ as webspelunker Ghostraven.

My flickr Photostream is located here.

On Skype I’m webspelunker Ghostraven.

I welcome feedback from readers, please either comment on my blog or e-mail me at webspelunker@gmail.com . 

            If you would like to read about my other adventures in Second Life
 please click here.
            Open roads and kind fires!