Windlight and Weather: the value of not being in control

'Black Basalt Beach Lighthouse' in Second Life, photo by Tizzy Canucci

I followed a link the other day to Ricco Saenz’s blog where he discusses Virtual photographing and windlight tips. I’d been discussing windlight earlier in the day and come to a quite different conclusion. What follows is not intended as a contradiction, but a continuing discussion on windlight; in the end, there is no wrong or right way, just different artistic preferences. I am making an assumption here that rl photography and sl photography or image capturing are comparable, which side-steps the other issue in the blog post. I’ll return to that another day.

Maybe my view is influenced by living in Great Britain, a bunch of islands that has weather, not climate. The day before yesterday, New Year’s Day, it rained all day and barely got light. I stayed inside and left the outside world to get on with it. Yesterday was my Rezz Day in Second Life, a full six years since I first rezzed in (just for a weekend, I thought. Ha!) and I usually gorge myself on screen all day. But the outside world was rushing clouds and a glorious clear light that gave depth and colour to everything. I got to the top of the rise, and instead of coming back to the computer, I did the full walk round with the dog. I saw shadows, colour, a decaying gatepost, a farmer looking at his stock, new tree guards being built, blue sky, white and grey clouds, sun, reflections in puddles, wrens in a hedge, and so on. I felt alive, inspired, stimulated – it was an experience.

Tomorrow I will see something different again. The same things will be there, but the light and my mood will change what I see, and how I see it. Experiencing the outside world as an artist, or a photographer, or a writer, is a mindful practice. But there is something unique about photography – as David Bailey said: “It takes a lot of imagination to be a good photographer. You need less imagination to be a painter because you can invent things. But in photography everything is so ordinary; it takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary”.

Being mindful is about being open and receptive, and going beyond mere recognition. I can recognise a wren or the farmer instantly, but each day they are doing something different – they are both the same and not the same. Mindfulness encourages inventiveness, adaptability and an outward looking position. It contains the unpredictable joy of serendipity – of finding the unexpected, often in the familiar. As Dean Keith Simonton said; “Creativity involves the participation of chance processes both in the origination of new ideas and in the social acceptance of these ideas by others”.

I think of Windlight as Weather, as chance as far as I am concerned. It creates an environment where I have to use my imagination around what is already there, to find the extraordinary in what the creator built, rather than paint it with a different windlight that is based on my own internal ideas or preconceptions of what I think I should find. This also links to my earlier point on mindfulness, of looking for the unexpected by looking outwards, outside of one’s self.

Technology and innovation play leapfrog. It’s my perception that sim owners are more conscious about the windlight setting than they used to be, at least in part because the rendering of objects and light has got so much better over the years. Mesh and advanced lighting with ambient occlusion allows much more scope for artistic intent to be expressed than prims and flat lighting. Many more users regard this as normal rather than novel, which reflects the social acceptance aspect referred to by Dean Keith Simonton. I admit that there is a danger in over-reading artistic intent – but then artists are not always aware of the connections they subconsciously make within their work!

Second Life is a collaborative process; that is part of the wonderful culture of Second Life, and why I am still there six years on. My personal view is that the further I can go with someone else’s creativity before I add my own, the further I can reach.

But art is not a dictatorship. You choose. I love to see other people’s approaches and interpretations!


Dean Keith Simonton, ‘Creativity, Leadership, and Chance’, in The Nature of Creativity: Contemporary Psychological Perspectives, ed. by Robert J. Sternberg (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 368.

2 thoughts on “Windlight and Weather: the value of not being in control”

  1. I understand your point, and I think it’s an interesting approach to WindLight. As I said on my post, I respect those who prefer not to change the original WindLight settings chosen by the sim creators – and for the reasons you pointed here as well. And maybe moving forward and back from both possibilities (changing and not changing WindLight) on the same sim could be an intersting exercise too. I think I’ll try it sometime.

  2. Pingback: Windlight and Weather – the value of not being in control | Second Life Exploring Destinations

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