Artist Michiel Bechir talks about his artistic process while capturing landscapes and provides helpful tips and advice for beginners delving into the world of photography.
Michiel Bechir started his long virtual journey into Second Life as a photographer in 2009. His main purpose was to share the beauty and creativity of the diverse landscapes and creations people create in the virtual world. During his trips across many incredible regions, he ended up meeting a lot of people from all over the world. He learned a lot about their backgrounds, passions and interests from them.
Over the years he has discovered many tricks of the trade from various tools available which have helped him improve his captures. By editing them he tries to give each of his images a personal touch.
Michiel loves to experiment with colors and lighting in his images and more recently, he is trying to bring forth the details within a landscape by working with high resolution photos.
I had the chance to interview Michiel last week regarding his photography and in particular, his work with landscapes.
Hi Michiel! It is always a great pleasure to chat with you. Every photographer has their own zone in which they are most comfortable and for you, I believe it is landscapes. What do you think are some key features that make or break a landscape?
Hi Frank! For me personally, the point of view makes a huge difference. The position of the photographer’s camera is what primarily determines your view of the landscape. After one determines his or her viewpoint, they can go about using lights, shades and colors to enhance the image and make it more interesting. It is always a challenge to find a unique view on a landscape that differs from the standard.
What are some common mistakes you see people make while approaching landscape photographs and how can they be rectified?
I don’t want to call it a “mistake” but more perhaps a lack of knowledge. Sometimes people are not aware of the highly customizable options their viewer offers in terms of the settings, graphics or rendering. If you don’t take advantage of these options, then your image tends to look plain and will not stand out.
According to you, when it comes to editing – how much is too much? Do you prefer to keep the image natural or edit it heavily?
For me, it is very important that the sim or region that I am documenting through my photography is recognizable and not so highly edited that a visitor is not able to recognize the place at all. Some people have tried mixing elements of RL into the image in the past, but I prefer not to do that and keep it all SL. As for keeping the image natural or editing it heavily, I believe there is a balance to be maintained there. You want to retain the natural feel of the region, while also improving the aesthetics of your image. While doing this balancing act, sometimes you do tend to sway one way or the other and I have personally done both.
Many people begin clicking pictures with landscapes to document the beautiful lands they have come across. What advice would you have for beginners taking their baby steps into the world of photography?
I think practice is the key to everything. I would advise them to move around with their viewer and experiment by taking images from various angles. As I said, point of view is everything in an image. Along with this, it is important for beginners to also explore the different sky settings. I sometimes end up taking 30-40 captures from many angles and with different skies before I finally select one I would like to publish. Photography is a long process.
In short, my advice would be to take a lot of photos. You can delete the ones you don’t want later, but it never hurts to click many before selecting the best of the best.
How can beginners develop their skills with photoshop or post processing in general?
With post-processing, trial and error goes a long way. You do something, try it out and see how you like it. You can always undo stuff and that is a good thing in post-processing. As you experiment and try out stuff more and more, it comes intuitively I think. Another advice: ask other artists. I have also given some people inworld advice about how to use various features. Exchanging knowledge about photography or post-processing is really fun, and the best way to learn it is by doing it!
Which viewer do you use to take your snapshots in – Firestorm or Black Dragon?
I use Black Dragon, because of its better manipulation of light and a much higher resolution (up to 12k). It offers a totally different view on things as compared to Firestorm. It sometimes feels like 3D, a kind of diorama. I mainly use standard, built-in presets of sky settings and manually edit the light positions.
Who are some other landscape photographers whose work you admire?
There is a lot of talent in Second Life. I admire people like Sabine Maruti. Her work is very natural and “clean“. Other than that, I like Olympes Rhode for her sober colors, Doddy and Loverdag for their perfection, Vivena as well; but I am sure I have forgotten to mention many names.
And I am interested in all kinds of SL photography other than landscapes too. There is a lot of creativity and imagination in this world, and the improved quality of the software (both the viewer and software to edit) helps photographers to do it even better.
You also run your own gallery – the Michiel Bechir Gallery – which hosts many different artists. Can you tell us a bit about the current presentations there?
About the actual event at my main gallery: there are expositions of Monty Brunswick and his partner Serenitee, Megs Candles and Vanessa Jane. They are all examples of high quality SL photography, of people who have their own style.
The Brunswicks show a mix of portraits, Vanessa Jane is a very talented landscape photographer and Megs Candles is involved in a Costa Rica sim and shows her images of this beautiful region.
All images in this article have been provided by Michiel Bechir