2006 News Updates
- I hope you all are enjoying your holidays. We had a great Christmas this year, with Ian anticipating Santa Claus for the first time. Now we have a parking lot of trucks and tractors to deal with...
- I added "Tropic of Capricorn (2006)" to the gallery this morning. The image wasn't designed as an update to the original "Capricorn". Sitting here trying to think of a title (usually the very last thing I do before posting an image) it occured to me that the scene was very similar (sunset to the right) and would make a nice revision. Hopefully it will provide some (simulated) warmth if it is cold and grey where you are.
Happy New Year!
- I've finally finished the dual and triple screen versions of both "Snowy Creek" and "Snowy Creek Christmas". Enjoy!
- In response to some of the comments regarding colored lights in "Snowy Creek Christmas": I tried multi-colored lights and I felt it looked quite garish and too busy. I eventually settled on all white lights and I think it works nicely. Thanks so much for the great feedback you all have been leaving in the comment sections!
- Late Update: Many of you have commented that the snow in the new "Snowy Creek Christmas" doesn't look quite right. Easily fixed. A revised version is now up on the new images page. The original will remain in the Pickle Jar.
- Sorry it's been so long since I have posted here. After posting "Snowy Creek" I recieved a number of suggestions that the image would work well as a Christmas image. I thought it would be an interesting challenge. It was quite a bit more difficult than I had envisioned at the outset. The next paragraph is technical in nature (skip if you aren't interested)...
Since the trees were placed using Vue's "Ecosystem" method, I couldn't alter their geometry and ensure the same placement as in the original image. If I wanted to add lights to the trees I would have to do it using the geometry already in place. I finally figured out a way to make it work using Vue's "Mixed Materials", but it took many days to tweak the luminosity, glow and atmosphere to where I was happy with the results (renders took between 8-12 hours each). Of course, the longer I spent on it the more I wanted the image to look perfect (sort of a vicious circle). To be honest, I'm still not 100% satisfied (the hi-res version looks much nicer than the thumbnail). But I think it is time to move on.
To sum up, what I thought would be a simple conversion took much longer than intended. The Christmas version of "Snowy Creek" is now up on the new images page. I will have multi-monitors of both the day and night versions up shortly. Thanks for being patient!
- I added "Snowy Creek" to the gallery this evening. A snow scene sounded like a good idea a few days ago, when the temperatures were in the 60s here in Illinois. Now that a monster winter storm has rolled though the area (knocking my power out for most of last night and today) I am feeling a little less romantic about snow and ice. Still, Ian seemed to enjoy playing in it so it wasn't all bad. Enjoy!
- I've added dual and triple screen versions of both "Morning Mist" and "Metropolis". I had to tighten up the framing for Metropolis because widening the frame caused too much perspective distortion at the edges (which is not good for vertical structures). Some of the distortion is still visibile but it is not as bad as it could have been.
- I was looking at my Cafepress store this morning and I noticed that they are having a sale on calendars. Both the oversize and regular calendars are discounted ($4 off the regular calendar, $4.80 off the oversize). Just F.Y.I.
- My experiments with the new Vue 6 beta continue. The software is somewhat more stable now since they've updated it, and I've manage to dig a little deeper into the features. This past week I wanted to see how it would handle a lot of imported Lightwave objects. I thought now would be a good time to update "Metropolis", one of my favorites from 1999. The new version is now up for your review. I hope you like it!
Regarding the noise in "Morning Mist". There's good news and bad news. The good news is that I think I can render a version without the noise. The bad news is that I think it would take at least a week for the render to complete. I'm going to investigate Vue's network rendering features (which were broken until the aforementioned software update) and see if I can maybe render it faster.
My last bit of news is for you gamers out there. I've partnered with a company called "Func Custom Gear" to produce some high quality gaming mousepads (or "mousing surfaces" as I believe they are called). They have a rather nifty utility which will allow you to choose the type of surface you want and then choose one of my images to print on it. You can also upload your own logo to lay over the top of my work or add your own custom text. PC Gamer just gave them an "Editors Choice" award in the current issue. Have a look here if you are interested.
- Added my first Vue d'Esprit 6 image to the gallery this evening. "Morning Mist" (thanks to Jessie for coming up with the title) is an experiment testing out Vue's new "spectral" atmosphere model and volumentric clouds. It's a pretty simple image, and there are some issues I have yet to work out, but I thought it looked nice enough to share. More to come!
- A couple of items to mention this evening. I received my copy of the "Oversize Wall Calendar" which is now for sale on Cafepress. It's the best looking DB calendar yet. The print quality is excellent. It helps that I rendered each image for the calendar at poster size resolution. There is quite a bit more detail present than in the largest digital files I have available online. If you bought calendars from Cafepress in the past and are concerned about print quality, let me put those concerns to rest. The new calendar looks awesome.
Which leads me to my second item. I rendered the calendar images at poster size so I've added them to my Zazzle collection. There are 8 new prints available, including "Reverie" and "Desert Snow". Have a look.
Lastly, I've been playing with the new version of Vue d'Esprit for the past couple of days. There's quite a bit to digest, and the going is slow because it's "pre-release" (buggy) software, but I'm learning.
- Added "Nanocyte" to the gallery this evening. I had a little trouble deciding which gallery this should go in, but in the end felt it should go with the abstracts. What is it? I have my idea. You are welcome to come up with your own. One thing for sure, this was the first image I've done which pushed my new workstation beyond what my old one was capable of (it required move than 2.5 GB of RAM for Lightwave 9 to render it). I realize it might be a little too funky to use as a wallpaper for those of you used to "Reverie's" and "Sakura's", but it was a fun exercise for me.
Landscape lovers should be happy in the weeks to come. The fine folks at E-onsoftware finally came out with Vue d'Esprit 6 and I purchased (and downloaded) my "pre-release" copy last night. I've only had the chance to open it up a couple of times and briefly look around, but it definitely looks like it was worth the wait. Stay tuned!
- My 2007 wall calendars are now available. This year I am offering an oversize 11" x 17" calendar (created with ultra hi-res renders) for the first time. Both calendars have the same images, all created since November 2005.
- I mentioned last time that my next wallpaper would be a Halloween theme. A few of you wrote me asking that I update one of my old designs, but instead I decided to try something new. The wallpaper, "Forest of the Shades", is now up on the new images page. I have included a "Shadeless" version in the Pickle Jar for those of you prefer it that way. Happy Halloween!
- I know some of you are waiting for a multi-screen version of "Crimson Season". Unfortunately, I don't think I will be able to render one until Vue 6 comes out. My workstation has 8 GB of RAM installed, but Vue 5 can only use 2 GB of it and "Crimson Season" is right up against this limit. When Vue 6 is released I hope to go back and do quite a few multi-screen renders which were not possible using Vue 5. Thanks for being patient!
- Jason is 5 months old today (time flies!). Some of you have asked how he's coming along. Here's a pic.
- After posting "Crimson Season" yesterday, quite a few people left comments and emailed me with idea on how to improve the image (I wasn't completely satisfied with it when I posted it). Thank you! I've gone back, reworked it and the new version is now up on the new images page. Yesterday's version will stay in the Pickle Jar for the folks who liked it. I'm happy with it as it is now though and look forward to moving on.
- I've added dual and triple-screen versions of "Containment". I've also added a couple of color variations in the Pickle Jar.
- Thanks to everyone who has been using the new comment system. I've really enjoyed reading all the posts! To answer a question I read: No, I haven't been depressed lately (quite the contrary). Blue is just my favorite color and I prefer darker wallpapers (to provide contrast for your open windows and icons).
- I've decided to try out a comment system for the images. I'd love to hear what you think so don't be afraid to be first to comment.
- My new wallpaper, "Containment", is finally up on the new images page. It took somewhat longer than I intended to finish it and I apologize for that. The 2560 x 1600 render took around 15 hours (as opposed to probably 60 hours on my old machine) and I rendered it no less than 5 times before I was satisfied with the result. I hope you like it.
Jessie kept telling me that I should just post it and move on. She prefers my scenery images (and judging from the rankings I've observed in the galleries, most of you do too) and wonders why I "waste" my time on abstracts. I do abstracts because they allow complete creativity. Sceneries all have rules which must be followed (or it doesn't look "real"). Not so with abstracts. Abstract art lets my brain wander freely and I think they are necessary exercises. That's why I will continue to do them, even if I know they aren't the most popular images in my collection.
That having been said, I do think it is time to move on to some scenery. Expect something Autumn related...
- Sorry I've been out of touch for the past week or so. My nose has been stuck in my Lightwave 9 manual trying to learn its new features. I do have a new wallpaper in the works (it's rendering now) and I hope to have it up in a couple of days.
- I've added dual and triple screen versions of "Reverie". I've also updated the widescren versions of the image to correct a rendering error. If you downloaded them before today, I would ask that you re-download them. Sorry!
- Added "Reverie" to the Night Scenery gallery this evening. I hope you don't mind two wallpapers in a row with silhouettes.
- I've added an updated version of "Flight of the Hammerheads" this morning. Quite a few of you felt that the render I posted yesterday was too dark and commented that the silhouette view of the sharks lent them a 2D appearance. I've lightened things up ever so slightly so you can see the 3D contours on the sharks and a little more detail on the ocean floor. Yesterday's version remains in the Pickle Jar. Which do you prefer? The image with the higher rating after a week will remain in the gallery.
- I added an RSS feed for the free gallery yesterday and created a page with widgets which allows you to add the feed to your favorite web based feed aggregator. Here is a version of the page for the members gallery feed. I would recommend that all members subscribe to the Members Gallery feed (rather than the Free Gallery feed) to stay up to date on the newest additions to the gallery and other news.
- Some of you have asked for an update on Jason. He's three months old now and growing steadily. He get cuter every day (in my biased opinion). Here's a pic.
- Added multi-monitor versions of "Serenade" to the gallery today.
- We celebrated Ian's third birthday yesterday (here he is blowing out his candles). Hard to believe it's been three years already. He starts preschool this week!
- My new machine arrived yesterday and I've been working non-stop to move all of my essential tools over. I'm also finding out the hard way that some of my software and hardware just won't work with Windows XP 64. I guess I will have to adjust my ways.
On the upside, the machine is a real screamer. My latest wallpaper, "Serenade", took over 20 minutes to render on my old machine. The new machine renders it in under 5 minutes. Happy me! The render is up on the new images page for your review.
- Added dual and triple-screen versions of "Neuronet" (the blue version) to the gallery this morning.
- I received happy news last night. It looks like my new workstation shipped yesterday and is due to arrive Wednesday. Now if e-onsoftware will just hurry up and release Vue 6 Infinite (64-bit) I will be able to use all 8GB of my RAM...
- After posting "Neuronet" yesterday, quite a few of you wrote me asking if I could change the colors to blue. Easy enough. I tried it and I think that blue does look better. The blue version is now up on the new images page, while yesterday's version will remain in the Pickle Jar. Thanks for the feedback everyone!
- I finally started playing around with Lightwave 9 a couple of days ago. It looks pretty solid so far and renders a bit faster than version 8. There's still quite a bit more to explore, but I did take the time to create a new wallpaper. It's called "Neuronet" and it's available on the new images page.
- Added "Toward Daylight" to the gallery this morning. I hope you like it.
- I've changed the thumbnails on the New Images page so the widescreen versions will be displayed. For the past two years all of my new work has been designed as a widescreen 16:10 image. I then crop the image to fit 4:3 and 5:4 screens. This means that if you never visit the widescreen gallery then you are not seeing the images as I designed them. Now when you first glimpse my newest work it will appear as it was created.
- It's been a long week for the Bliss family. Last Wednesday my grandfather's wife of 25 years passed away (after a long illness). We had intended to leave Friday for Arkansas to visit with Jessie's family (who had yet to meet Jason) and have him baptized in her brother's church (he is a Catholic priest). We made the trip but cut it short by a day to be back on Monday for the funeral (in which I served as a pallbearer).
Tuesday I got back to work tweaking "Ring of Fire" (as I mentioned last time). I made a few changes (gave the water a more tropical color, added some flowers in the foreground, adjusted the palm fronds so more of the volcano is visible, and a few others). As the changes are not really that drastic, I have decided to overwrite the original rather than keep it around in the Pickle Jar. This means I have cleared out the ratings for the original. Please feel free to vote again if you like.
Shortly after I posted "Ring of Fire" last week I received a number of requests for a night version. You'll find both the updated day version and a new night version on the New Images page. I hope you enjoy them.
I had some trouble rendering this project on my current workstation (there's over 13 billion polys), so I think multi-monitor versions may have to wait until my new machine arrives (hopefully sometime in the next couple of weeks).
- Now that I'm finished tinkering with the website (for now) it's time to get back to the creating wallpapers. My latest render is called "Ring of Fire" and it is now up and available on the new images page. To be honest there are a few things about it that I would still like to tweak, but some family business (some of it planned, some unexpected) is going to keep me away from the computer for the next few days. I hope you like it!
- A quick note about the ratings. Since I keep track of which images you have rated (so you can only vote once), I had a decision to make about what to do with that record after (heaven forbid) your account expires. If I delete the records, then if you renew again you will need to vote on all of the images again in order to view the rankings. If I don't delete the records, then if someone else signs up and uses your old username they won't be able to vote on the images you had voted on.
Jessie suggested that I give a 30 day grace period, but that doesn't solve the unlikely problem of someone signing up during that time and picking your old username.
In the end, I decided that the records will be deleted along with the expired account. The ratings you gave will remain, but the record that says that "username x voted for image y" will be deleted. If you renew again you will be free to vote again (whether that is a joy or a burden is up to you).
Thanks everyone for voting. It's been very enlightening for me!
- Some of you have written asking for updated pictures of my children. I really need to make a page just for them so I don't need to post here. In the meantime however, here's one of Ian I took this evening (he will be 3 next month) and here's one I took of Jason taken a few days ago (he will be 2 months old next week and doing great).
- There's been enough votes that I can now add "Top 10" pages for each year (check the gallery links to the left) and and "All Time Top 10". Thanks for all the votes so far!
- By popular request, I've extended the image ratings to the "Pickle Jar" versions. I'm not sure what I will do if the Pickles rate higher than the images in the gallery though. I guess we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
- If you are familiar with my free gallery you know that I ask users to rate the images on a 1 to 10 scale. This morning I added the rating system to the members gallery. Now you can rate your favorite (or least favorite) images and when enough ratings are compiled I will be able to add a "Top Rated" page to track the most popular images in the gallery. I will also be looking at the least popular images as examples of what not to do in the future.
As with the free gallery, you get one vote per image (so be certain before you hit the submit button). Unlike the free gallery, however, you don't need to load the full size image in order to vote (each thumbnail has a rating button). If you've never viewed the full-size image, however, I would appreciate it if you check it out before voting. Sometimes the thumbnail doesn't do justice to the full-size image.
Please drop me a line if you have any questions. Thanks for helping out!
- Added "Cosmic Dawn" to the gallery this morning. Jessie and I were watching "2001" on HDNET Movies a few nights ago and I was inspired to create a new planetscape. Multi-monitor versions will be available shortly.
- I spent most of last week catching up on my multi-monitor renders. I've posted dual and triple screen versions of "Flora", "Enclosure (2006)", and "Undiscovered". "Episteme" will have to wait until a new version of Apophysis allows me to render at 4800 x 1200 (I get out of memory errors with the current version). "Verdure" will have to wait until my new workstation arrives (see 6/27 post). A tri-screen render on my current machine would probably take 2 weeks to complete.
For you single monitor users I've added a night version of "Undiscovered". I know some of you mentioned that the day version was a little bright, so hopefully this one will work better for you.
Happy 4th to all of my American members!
- Added "Undiscovered" to the gallery this evening. I hope to have a multi-screen version available shortly.
I must apologize to those of you running mult-monitors. For whatever reason, I haven't been very good about rendering wallpapers for you recently. I plan on doing multi-screen versions of "Flora", "Enclosure" and "Verdure" ASAP. "Episteme" will have to wait until a new version of "Apophysis" which can handle higher resolution renders. Thanks for being patient!
- As I mentioned last time, I wanted to make some changes to "Verdure". I didn't feel the original was green enough so I tweaked some of the textures (made the leaves more translucent and the undergrowth more green). I also increased the volumetric quality a little. What had been a four day render became a seven day render. Ouch! Anyway, the new version is up now on the new images page. I hope it was worth it.
I think I will probably work on something new now, rather than wait another week for a multi-monitor version to render. Hopefully I can get to it soon.
Happy Fathers Day to all you dads out there!
- Things are slowly falling into a new rhythm in the Bliss household. Jason seems to be thriving (he gained a pound in the past week). I wake up a few more times every night, but it's not the jarring transition that it was when Ian first came to live with us. I've been spending more time with Ian to make up for Jessie's being unavailable but neither of us seem to mind too much. He's adjusting pretty well and loves his new baby brother.
I've even had a chance to work on a new wallpaper. It's called "Verdure" and it is now available on the new images page. I was trying to create a volumetric light effect similar to my World Builder renders and I'm pretty happy with the result, except for the fact that it took 3 and a half days to render. Maybe it's time for a new workstation...
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the new wallpaper. I may update it later this week so be sure to check back in a few days.
- Added "Episteme" to the gallery this morning. Between diaper changes and dealing with Ian I have been trying to figure out the inner workings of the Apophysis fractal renderer. So far I've really only scratched the surface. This image was created using the new beta which adds some new features and speeds up rendering considerably. I hope you like it!
- I'm proud to annouce the birth of our second (and probably last) child. Jason Tai Bliss was born at 8:28 this morning. He was 8 lbs 10 oz and 20" long. I'm told he is the spitting image of his daddy. Jessie's doing fine, but is pretty tired. I'll try to post some more pictures (with eyes open hopefully) when I get the chance.
- I did a little tinkering with "Enclosure" last night and posted a revised version. The original version will remain in the Pickle Jar.
- I've made some minor changes to "Flora". The updated version is on the new images page, and the old version will remain available inside the Pickle Jar.
- My latest wallpaper, "Flora", is now up on the new images page. I had hoped to have it finished this morning (flowers for Mother's Day) but I held onto it a little bit longer to try some different things. I hope you like it.
- 10 days left before the new baby arrives. I'm going to try to get another wallpaper done before then, but if I am unable to I hope you will understand.
- After posting "Enclave" and stepping back from it, I decided that I wanted to try one last change. I rendered the new version today and Jessie gave it the thumbs up. I've replaced the version posted Sunday (though it will remain available in the Pickle Jar). I hope you like it!
- I was in the middle of working on a new springtime image a few days ago, when I opened a new project to design some rocks. One thing lead to another and I ended up abandoning (for now) the image I was working on, and developed something completely different using the rocks I had designed. The result is up on now the new images page. I call it "Enclave". Perhaps I will finish the original image now. . .
- I've finally finished and posted the day version of "The Vault". Seeing as this render too somewhere around 10 days (no foolin!), I don't think I will be using Vue for radiosity renders any time soon. I can't figure out why this one took so long. I rendered "Desert Snow" using similar radiosity settings the render took less than a day. Anyway, I think the final product looks nice (I hope you like it too), but I don't think it was worth the time it took to render. Lesson learned.
I've also added "Radiance", a little fractal abstract I managed to come up with while my main machine was busy.
I've had some ideas for springtime images that I've been anxious to try out, so I'm going to get busy on new stuff here shortly. I will probably hold off on multi-monitor versions of "The Vault" for at least a week or two.
- A little status report. I've designed a day version of "The Vault" and back on the 20th I started it rendering. I was going to use "radiosity" for the day time version. Radiosity produces some stunningly realistic lighting, but the render times can be appalling. I didn't know just how bad the render times would be though (thought it might take 48 hours at most).
It's been over six days now and the render is only around 20% complete. It has sped up a little since the water part has been rendered, but I think it still has a few days left. I'm kind of to the point now where I've put so much rendering time into it that I need to see it finished. As soon as it is done I'll have it posted and be moving on to other projects.
Just wanted you all to know.
- I just did an interview for a website called "Inner Traveler", you can check it out here if you are interested.
- Someone wrote me a couple of weeks ago asking if I was going to make any night sceneries. Thanks for reminding me! I've added my first night scene of the year, entitled "The Vault", to the gallery. I usually render these sorts of images in Lightwave but this time I wanted to see how Vue d'Esprit would handle imported geometry. I think it turned out nicely and I hope you like it.
- Added a new abstract to the gallery this evening. "Echoes" is now available on the new images page. Another dark images for the folks who liked "Pathways" (I hope the rest of you like it too though).
- It's been a few months since my last space image so I think I'm due for one. My latest journey to the stars is called "Cosmogony" (definition) and is available now on the new images page. I'll try to have multi-monitor versions available shortly. Hope you like it!
- After four scenery images, I thought it was time to do something different. My newest render, "Pathways", is now available for downloading. I hope you like it!
- I've finally finished rendering the multi-monitor versions of "Chikusei" and "Borealis '06". You can download them from the new images page. "Chikusei" didn't take very long to render (18 hours) but "Borealis" was a killer. It took nearly 5 days to finish (plus a day to compose the scene). Anyway, they're now available and I can move on to new projects.
- Added "Chikusei" (definition) to the gallery today. It's been fun learning how to use Vue d'Esprit. Six out the past eight images have been sceneries, which pleases Jessie to no end (sceneries are her favorites). I may go back to doing some other types of images soon though. I hope you enjoy this one.
- Lately I've been getting a lot of questions about using my images for "Myspace" backgrounds. In case you are wondering, my policy is this: You may use images from the free gallery as a background on your profile, but not images which are only available to members. You must also host the image yourself (rather than linking directly to files on my server). Thanks!
- I've finally gotten around to adding a "Lost Password" utility to the members gallery (wish I would have done it a lot sooner!). The form will allow you to reset your password, but you need to have access to the original email account you gave me when you first signed up (or the address you gave when you last renewed). If you would like to change the email address I have in my files you can do so here.
- I didn't set out to remake "Borealis", but halfway through putting my new scene together I decided that there was enough similarity to give it the title. "Borealis (2006)" is now available on the new images page. I hope you find it an improvement on the original Bryce render from 1998 (which I still like by the way).
- Happy New Year! Just wanted to let you all know that I've added some more images to the widescreen gallery.